Behind His Back

Isaiah 38_17_Behind His Back

He had received great news, so he wrote a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  In Hezekiah’s prayer were these words:

In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.  (Isaiah 38:17)

Hezekiah was one of those kings who “did what was right” in the eyes of the Lord (2 Chronicles 31:20).  However, he was far from perfect, failing on numerous occasions.  Yet, Hezekiah understood two important truths about the Lord: 1. God does not remove His love when His children fail; and 2. God is willing to put ALL our sins behind His back!

I love the imagery of that truth.  It’s not as though our sins never happened – they have.  But for those who know Christ as their Savior, God no longer looks at those sins!  It’s as if He volunteers to lose object permanence when it comes to our transgressions!  He simply refuses to see our sin when He looks at us.

Elsewhere we’re told that God is faithful to forgive all of our sin and unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), removing it as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  Friends, if a Holy God places our sin behind His back, what do you suppose we’re to do with it?  That’s right; confess what we need to and then put it behind us as well!

How much it must grieve God to watch us dig up what He has buried – our sins, and the sins of others.  We must learn to forgive both ourselves and those who have wronged us.  God has the final word on sin, and for those who have accepted His grace through faith in Christ, His word is this, “That’s behind us; now let’s move forward, together.”

Are you bringing back before your eyes what God has put behind His back? –Dave

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Appealing and Appalling

Matthew 23_26_Curb Appealing Rear Appalling

Sadie and Abe are dogs belonging to the neighbors behind us.  Recently they discovered a gap in the fence and made themselves at home in our yard.  We’re animal people and it was actually fun playing with them.  Yet as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Being unable to convince the dogs to go home on their own, my wife stepped through the hole in the fence and coaxed the pups back into their yard.  That’s when she called me to look at our backyard from that perspective.  I must say my neighbors have been very patient!  From their vantage point, my yard is UGGGGGLY!

Overgrown trees, weeds growing through the fence, piles of old yard waste, a leaning swing set, etc.  It was pretty appalling.  While I’m not super meticulous about any of my yard (too many other things I prefer doing), I at least give the front yard some attention – in large part because so many people see it.

The reality is, my personal life is somewhat like my yard.  There are parts that are “front facing” – the public “me,” and there are more parts that are “rear facing” – the private me.  Like my home, I pay more attention to the curb appeal while ignoring the rear appall.  The truth is, I have some cleanup to do.  Some things just need to be cut down, pulled up, and thrown away – both in the back yard and in the closets of my life.

How about you?  Have you concerned yourself so much with your public image that you’ve ignored the larger back yard?  Any “yard work” you need to do?

First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:26)

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Better Than Expected

Mark 9_2_4_Better than Expected

If you’re like me, you may have thought Moses got “jipped” by not being allowed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.  After all, he had faithfully led those difficult people for 40 years, listening to their frequent griping and complaining.  But during a moment of frustration, Moses hit a rock instead of speaking to it, and was forbidden to enter Canaan.  The punishment seemed harsh relative to the crime.

However not long ago, Scripture completely rearranged my thinking on God’s treatment of Moses.  Moses’ death on Mount Nebo wasn’t the end for him – God wasn’t finished.  Listen to Mark’s words:

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (9:2-4)

How I’d failed to connect the dots for so long is beyond me.  The Transfiguration described above is believed to have occurred on Mt. Tabor, in the heart of Israel.  And in every Gospel’s account of the event, we read that Moses was present.  You see, Moses did get to set foot in Israel, and his experience had to exceed his wildest imagination!

Moses was actually blessed to enter Canaan without 2.5 million complaining people behind him.  In addition, God spared him a decade of bloody battles displacing the nations which inhabited the land.  Moses didn’t get what he originally wanted, but he got something MUCH better.  He enjoyed Israel with the best tour guide of all time – the Lord Jesus Christ – in all His glory.  He just had to wait.

Friends, sometimes we’re asked to wait, but God is perfectly fair and good to His faithful children. –Dave

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Our Strength and Salvation

Sunday_Isaiah 33_2_Strength and Salvation

Knowing God is our strength and our salvation allows us to face each trial of each day.  Thank you, Lord!

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The Welcome Mat

Ephesians 4_26_27_The Welcome Mat

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Today we’ll wrap up our little look at a big issue – anger.  Last time, we studied the first part of the passage above, concluding that our anger tends to take a sinful turn when we focus on punishing the offender versus addressing the offense.  Today we’ll tackle the rest of this important passage.

Paul’s admonition to not allow the sun to set while we’re still angry is a good one; however, he’s likely not insisting that every dispute be settled by sundown.  After all, many of our “best arguments” don’t even begin until long after the sun has set!

God is much more concerned with the position of our heart than He is the position of the sun.  Instead, this verse teaches us to resolve our issues quickly, not allowing unresolved anger to turn into wrath.  Some translations actually say, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.”  Wrath is related to anger, but involves setting up a vengeful plan of action.

So while we may not be able to resolve an issue or dispel a feeling of anger before bedtime, we CAN decide NOT to plot vengeance against the offender by then.  If, however, we choose to nurse our anger and plot our revenge, Scripture warns we’re giving the devil a foothold.  The word Paul used here simply means “place.”  Our brooding anger is a tent where the devil loves to camp.  He can get really comfortable there.  He can fix his meals, plot his cunning schemes, and cause all kinds of torment, because we’ve rolled out the welcome mat to him.

Nothing says “Welcome Home” to Satan more than our angry spirits.  Don’t give your greatest enemy a place to camp, throw him out along with your anger. –Dave

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The Offense and The Offender

Ephesians 4_26_27_The Offense and the Offender

To this point in our “mini-series” on anger, we’ve focused primarily on avoiding it.  As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  But what are we to do when anger has already set in?  Thankfully, God addressed that situation for us too.

In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

First, let’s acknowledge that anger is a God-given emotion.  In and of itself, anger is not sinful.  Jesus experienced anger when He encountered the hardheartedness of the Pharisees (Mark 3:5).  God understands how He made us.  He knows that we can be provoked to anger.  So BECOMING angry is not the issue – what we DO while we’re angry is.  God’s admonition: 1). Don’t sin.  2). Don’t let anger set in.  We’ll look at the first today, and the second next time.

The Greek language has two main words for anger.  One (thymos) deals with the initial heat that boils up quickly within us.  The one used here (orgidzo) describes a settled opposition or indignation.  Unlike thymos, this type of anger is a choice we arrive at after some thought.  This anger can be positive if inspired by God (i.e., “righteous anger”), but it’s always negative when it arising from us.

As one Greek dictionary defined it, this type of anger becomes sinful when it focuses on punishing the offender rather than the moral content of the offense.  Think about it for a moment.  Isn’t it generally the case that our anger turns a sinful corner when we begin to focus on punishing the offender rather than addressing the offense?

Dealing with an anger-producing situation?  Avoid sin by focusing on the offense without attacking the offender. –Dave

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Our Anger & His Righteousness

James 1_19_20_Our Anger His Righteousness

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

I suppose no look at anger would be complete without these words from Jesus’ brother, James.  We’ve all heard them, and most likely we’ve heard them applied to the broader context of interpersonal communication.  In other words, it’s good for relationships if we’re quick to listen to the other person instead of always wanting to be heard.  Certainly, I’d not argue against that.

However, given the surrounding context, some commentators think these instructions deal with our reaction to God’s Word (and not to other people).  Time won’t allow us to unpack that context, but I believe James was telling us how to respond to Scripture.  We should be quick to listen as God speaks.  We should be exceedingly slow to argue against it – instead, let it sink in and take root before we speak against it.

Lastly, we should avoid becoming angry with what we read within Scripture.  Let’s be honest, some of the things we come across can push our buttons.  Nobody likes to be told they’re selfish, or they’re not good enough on their own to enter heaven, etc.  Scripture frequently tells us to “do this,” or “stop doing that,” and the reality is we frequently don’t want to change.  The natural reaction in those situations is to become angry.

Whether James was speaking only to our reaction to Scripture or about relationships in general, the warning at the end of verse 20 still applies – anger interferes with growing in righteousness.

Are you eager to take in God’s Word?  Do you take time to understand what it says before you say anything?  Do you fight against its messages you don’t like?  Is your anger getting in the way of His righteousness?  –Dave

(To receive these free daily devotions via email, sign up at:  https://theteachableheart.com/classrooms-%26-devotions.  For more information about the ministry, or to order the devotional books, visit: https://theteachableheart.com/books.)

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