Where Were You?

After Job and his friends had argued at length about the reason for the calamities that befallen Job, God spoke to finally set the record straight.  As God began speaking He directed His attention to Job and asked him a pointed question.  In Job 38:4 God said, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.”

This simple question drew Job and his friends back to the basics.  While they had argued long and hard about Job’s condition and God’s attitudes toward mankind, they had lost sight of the most important aspect of all.  They were not God.  They had done nothing to create or to sustain the world about which they had so forcefully spoken.  Neither did they no much about God Himself.  

God’s discourse over the next few chapters put them all in mind of who He was and is, and what He had done to create and sustain the world in which they lived.  When the Lord finished speaking, Job confessed, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of course can be thwarted.  Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge  Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2-3).

Job’s confession demonstrated the personal character about which God bragged to Satan at the beginning of this book (Job 1:8).  Job, in this simple fashion, acknowledged the awesome power and majesty of Almighty God.  He declared that God, alone, is great and that the musings of himself and his friends were weak and pitiful in comparison.

This incident calls to mind the proud declarations of unbelievers today who seem to go out of their way to discount or call into question the power of God.  In places of natural beauty, such as the Grand Canyon or the lonely buttes of Monument Valley, AZ, they speak glibly about the lengthy processes of wind and rain erosion which created these marvels.  If one raises the prospect of God’s hand in making such things, the response is regrettably negative.  

So also for the stars in the heavens and the wonders of human life.  The unbelievers argue forcefully and arrogantly about “Mother Nature” and the “fact” of human evolution.  They browbeat those who attribute these things to the hand of Almighty God.  And one wonders if God the Father, looking down on us, isn’t saying, “Where were you?”, when He did them all.

King David wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” (Psa. 14:1).  The leaders of the Jews attributed the signs of our Lord Jesus to the power of Beelzebul (Mt. 12:24).  Sadly, there are still such people around us today.  One cannot deny the power and work of God and be pleasing to Him.  One may not believe in the hereafter, but God’s word declares its reality.  


Tomorrow Is Another Day


The climax of the classic movie, Gone With the Wind, shows Rhett Butler leaving Scarlett O’Hara, presumably for good.  After momentarily breaking down at this development, Scarlett then resolves to return to her home, Tara, and to start again.  She also exclaims that she will find a way to win Rhett back.  Her final words, which imbue her with hope, are, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

This phrase apparently did not originate with Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, but her use of it certainly cemented it into American culture.  Part of the inherent optimism of Americans is that whatever may have happened today, tomorrow is another day.  We presume that the new day will bring with it new opportunities to succeed in whatever we may have failed today.  In this application it is a worthy attitude.  We need not accept momentary defeat.  We can try again tomorrow.

Christians often appropriate secular ideas or attitudes and apply them to their walk of faith.  “Tomorrow is another day” is certainly among them.  A major tenet of our faith is that what happens today need not be the final word on one’s life.  Part of the grace of God is that forgiveness and renewal are always at hand, if we seek them from Him.  Great men such as King David, and Paul the apostle aptly illustrate this truth.  When David sinned with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, he sank to the depths of sin.  Psa. 51 is his admission of guilt and his plea with God for restoration.  This restoration is attested by the fact that David is still called “a man after God’s own heart” when Paul used this phrase to describe him in Acts 13:22.  David absolutely took advantage of his new day.

Paul also demonstrates the validity of the “tomorrow is another day” principle.  When he was Saul of Tarsus, he was zealous for God to the point of persecuting the church more than any others of his contemporaries.  If this were the end of his story, it would be a tragedy, but God had other plans for Saul.  After meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus, Saul went into the city and the preacher Ananias told him that God had chosen him to be His instrument in preaching the gospel.  He then told Saul, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).  The rest of Saul’s life was spent in God’s service as Paul the apostle.  We today owe much of our New Testament content to the pen of this great apostle.  Tomorrow was another day for Saul of Tarsus, as Paul the apostle’s life would readily attest.

There is another aspect to this concept, however, that bears consideration.  My dear wife likes to express it this way: “After all, tomorrow is another day.  But if it isn’t, then I won’t have to worry about it!”  The power of that statement captures both the grace and redemption offered by God’s love, as well as the confidence of a true child of God.  It alludes both to the opportunity to try again when we’ve come up short, and to the fact that our lives are, as James said, “A vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14).

The truth is that we are not guaranteed “another day”.  We have this day.  We may have another one tomorrow, or we may have hundreds more for many years.  But, we also may not have another tomorrow.  James’ words remind us that life is fragile and it may pass away at any moment.  As much as we might wish for it, we may not have an opportunity to do better tomorrow than we did today.  In addition to this, the Lord warned that one day He will return for judgment, but no one knows when that will be (Mt. 24:36).  Because of this, He warned that we must be ready at all times (Mt. 24:44).

So what should we take from these truths?  First, we must not put off our obedience to the Lord’s commands.  Ananias told Saul to get up and be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16).  Saul immediately did so.  He did not wait for “another day”.  Had he waited, he might not have had another opportunity to be saved.  We must not put off getting right with God by obedience to the gospel.  We must not put off doing the best we can do in His service.  After all, tomorrow death or the Lord may come, and in either case, we will have no more “tomorrows”.

Those who have obeyed the gospel and who are walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7-9) have the confidence of my wife’s expression.  Those who belong to the Lord by the blood of His Son can face today and tomorrow without fear.  If tomorrow is another day, they will use it fully in the Lord’s service and to His glory.  If it is not, then they will rejoice either in Paradise or at the return of their Savior.  If we live with this perspective, we’ve already won.

I Desire Compassion


There is a tension between the need to obey all that God commanded us, and the reality of human nature.  Some people, after all, are just rebels.  If they are restricted in any way, or for any reason, they chafe against the restraints in open disobedience.  Others are so zealous in their insistence on obedience that they become unsympathetic toward any who falter in any way.  Some in this category interpret obedience so narrowly that it is nearly impossible for anyone, except themselves, to be obedient.  This is where the Pharisees were during the Lord’s ministry on the earth.

On at least two occasions they complained about the actions of the Lord and of His disciples.  Once, when the Lord attended a dinner at Matthew’s house, they condemned Him for associating with “sinners” (Mt. 9:10-13).  On another occasion, the disciples plucked heads of grain and ate them as they passed through some grain fields on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:1-7).  The Pharisees considered this to be a violation of the Sabbath prohibition against work, and condemned them for it.  The Lord’s reaction in both instances shows us that there is more to our relationship with God than check-list obedience.

In each situation the Lord quoted scripture, saying, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice”, and told the Pharisees that if they understood what this meant, they would not be so condemning.  Had these teachers of the Law understood the scriptures, they would have known that it was their attitude, not the Lord’s or the disciples’ actions, that violated God’s will.  They had become so arrogant in their adherence to the Law that they had forgotten God’s grace and mercy.

This is where the tension arises for us.  We recognize that we must obey God’s word in order to be right with Him.  From the earliest times God has required this.  This principle was so important that Moses drew special attention to it in Deuteronomy.  He told Israel that they must diligently keep God’s commandments, saying, “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord you God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left” (Deut. 5:32).  He repeated this command in Deut. 17:20 and in Deut. 28:14.

There is no question that this principle is true because even the Lord stressed it in His own teaching.  In Mt. 7:21, at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”  He underscored this truth in vs. 22-23 by telling of well-intentioned, sincerely religious people who would be turned away at judgment because they had failed to obey God’s will.

Even so, the scriptures are also clear that we are incapable of perfectly obeying God’s will.  Here is where His grace and mercy come in.  This is what the Lord tried to get the Pharisees to understand.  None of us can so perfectly keep God’s will as to earn our salvation.  We all depend upon His grace and mercy to be saved.  Therefore we must treat each other with compassion and mercy as we try to obey God’s will.

Compassion toward those who sin does not mean that we condone or excuse their sin.  It simply means that we recognize that without compassion no one will be saved.  Having received God’s grace and mercy ourselves, we cannot withhold it from anyone who is seeking God’s way.  In Jas. 2:13 James said, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy”.  Therefore, let us be compassionate and merciful toward each other in all that we do.

Upon Reflection. . . .


I have been a die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan as long as I can remember.  When they won their first World Series championship in Los Angeles in 1959, I burst out the door of our house shouting to the world that the Dodgers had won!  I have lived and died with the Dodgers until this very day.  There was a brief period in the early 1960s when the Dodgers were always near or at the top of the heap in the National League.  They won three World Series championships from 1959 through 1965, including a memorable four-game sweep of the hated New York Yankees in 1963.

After a dry-spell of twenty-nine years, the boys in blue made it to the World Series this year.  My expectations were high.  And then the roof fell in on them.  Lacking the consistency and killer instinct that carried them to the World Series, the Dodgers fell in seven games to the Houston Astros, who proved themselves to be the better team.  Hats off to them.

I’m reflecting on this history and on these recent events because I’m unhappy with the results of the series.  That’s always the case with the losing side in any contest.  However, as I have mourned this latest disappointment from my beloved home-town team, and as I have tolerated the joyous celebration of Astros fans, I suddenly realized how out of kilter all this madness is.

I was deliriously happy when my team won games, and totally bummed when they lost.  My spirits would rise and fall with each pitch, each home run, each out.  The day after each game my mood could be measured by the final score the night before.  I found myself frustrated and annoyed with things which might otherwise not concern me, and deep in my heart I realized it was all because of the outcome of a game.

As I reflect on this realization, I suspect that I have let sports have an undue influence in my life.  In all fairness, I don’t think I’m as immersed in sports as some are, but comparison is always a tricky thing. Someone else’s excesses do not excuse my own.  I am embarrassed and ashamed to have let this happen.

Upon further reflection, I cannot help but consider my devotion to sports in light of my profession of faith in Jesus Christ.  Is it possible that my love of sports has robbed my Lord of the devotion I should give to Him?  Has my worship been hindered because my mind has been distracted by the anticipation of an upcoming sporting event, or by the progress of that event?  Am I more passionate about my favorite team than I am about the Lord’s church and His gospel?  Do I allow the results of a sporting event to rob me of the joy of being in Christ, even if only momentarily?  All of these are worthy questions, and each person must answer for himself or herself.

I’m not saying that it is sinful to enjoy sporting events, to attend games, or to passionately follow one’s favorite team.  I’m simply asking if we haven’t allowed our priorities to get out of order.  Whether my team ever wins the World Series pales in comparison to the sacrifice of my Lord on the cross.  I should mourn the necessity of that sacrifice far more than the loss of a championship.  I should rejoice more at the gift of eternal life through His blood than a victory on a sporting field.

Until I restore my priorities to what the Lord wants them to be, I’ll continue to fall far short of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ (Phil. 3:14).  The Lord calls us to put God first in all we do (Mt. 6:33).  This includes our passion for sports.

P.S.  These reflections would still be true, and even more so, if my team had won.

God bless you!

A Lily Among Thorns

The Song of Solomon is a love song.  It extols the virtues and joy related to marital intimacy in a series of alternating declarations of a husband and his wife.  The song is filled with beautiful imagery drawn from nature that describes both the wife, and the anticipation and exhilaration of marital love.  This imagery is presented in a discreet manner that raises this song far above the crude and tawdry expressions of ungodly people.

One of the most profound statements in this love song is also one of the most simple.  In SS 2:2 the husband declares, “Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens.”  This brief statement encapsulates the essence of marital fidelity.  In the eyes of this godly man, his wife is the most beautiful of all women.  To him she is so beautiful that all other women are unsightly in comparison.

This does not mean that this godly man does not see or appreciate the physical beauty of other women.  Instead, it affirms the place that his wife occupies in his heart.  He is so focused on her, and is so committed to her, that no other woman can draw his attention or his desire.  His devotion to his wife is so deep and pure that he cannot conceive of being unfaithful to her.

This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of marital relationships.  When a man and a woman decide to marry, they must become as singular in their vision of each other as the godly man in Solomon’s song.  The typical marriage vows contain the promise that the couple will forsake all others and keep themselves only for each other.  Unfortunately, many make this solemn promise only to begin breaking it within a short period of time.  What most would be unwilling to admit is that infidelity usually begins with nothing more than a look.  When a man no longer sees his wife as a “lily among thorns”, he is opening up his heart to the kind of impure thoughts that can lead to unfaithfulness.  He is dishonoring his marriage vows, and dishonoring the woman to whom he made those vows before God.

Solomon’s song is not the only place in scripture where marital fidelity is extolled and enjoined upon us.  From the very beginning, when God made Eve and gave her to Adam, it has been God’s divine plan that one man and one woman should be married for life, and faithful to each other until death.  When the Pharisees asked Jesus about their traditions concerning divorce, the Lord replied that such things were not a part of God’s plan (Mt. 19:3-9).

When Paul wrote about the qualities that should characterize elders in the church, one of the key elements was that an elder must be the husband of one wife (1 Tim. 3:2).  The force of Paul’s statement, however, is not just the number of times a man might be married, but rather his attitude of heart about his wife.  The Greek construction that Paul used literally means that an elder must be a “one-woman-kind-of-man”.  In other words, he must be a man who sees his wife as a lily among thorns.

This is a high and noble and worthy standard.  It is a divinely ordained attitude that must be taken seriously.  The temporal blessings for doing so are great, as Solomon’s song clearly suggests.  On the other hand, the temporal consequences of not doing so are terrible.  The physical and emotional wreckage caused by marital infidelity cannot be overstated, and the spiritual and eternal consequences are even more severe.  Solomon warns that one who pursues such will not go unpunished (Prov. 6:23-29).  Therefore, to keep ourselves from sin and from condemnation, and to properly honor the woman he married, let each of us always look upon his wife as a lily among thorns.