My father’s dusty, heeled-over, cowboy boots rest on the floor of my study, daily reminders of the kind of man he was.
Among other things, he raised and trained cutting horses—equine athletes that move like quicksilver. I loved to watch him at work, marveling that he could stay astride.
As a boy, growing up, I wanted to be just like him. I’m in my eighties, and his boots are still too large for me to fill.
My father’s in heaven now, but I have another Father to emulate. I want to be just like Him—filled with His goodness, fragrant with His love. I’m not there and never will be in this life; His boots are much too large for me to fill.
But the apostle Peter said this: “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ . . . will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). He has the wisdom and power to do that, you know (v. 11).
Our lack of likeness to our heavenly Father will not last forever. God has called us to share the beauty of character that is His. In this life we reflect Him poorly, but in heaven our sin and sorrow will be no more and we’ll reflect Him more fully! This is the “true grace of God” (v. 12).
The troubles of life can make us cranky and out of sorts, but we should never excuse these bouts of bad behavior, for they can wither the hearts of those we love and spread misery all around us. We have not fulfilled our duty to others until we have learned to be pleasant.
The New Testament has a word for the virtue that corrects our unpleasantness—gentleness, a term that suggests a kind and gracious soul. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us, “Be completely humble and gentle.”
Gentleness is a willingness to accept limitations and ailments without taking out our aggravation on others. It shows gratitude for the smallest service rendered and tolerance for those who do not serve us well. It puts up with bothersome people—especially noisy, boisterous little people, for kindness to children is a crowning mark of a good and gentle person. It speaks softly in the face of provocation. It can be silent, for calm, unruffled silence is often the most eloquent response to unkind words.
Jesus is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). If we ask Him, He will, in time, recreate us in His image. Scottish author George MacDonald says, “[God] would not hear from [us] a tone to jar the heart of another, a word to make it ache . . . . From such, as from all other sins, Jesus was born to deliver us.”
We had a West Highland Terrier for a number of years. “Westies” are tough little dogs, bred to tunnel into badger holes and engage the “enemy” in its lair. Our Westie was many generations removed from her origins, but she still retained that instinct, put into her through years of breeding. On one occasion she became obsessed by some “critter” under a rock in our back yard. Nothing could dissuade her. She dug and dug until she tunneled several feet under the rock.
Now consider this question: Why do we as humans pursue, pursue, pursue? Why must we climb unclimbed mountains, ski near-vertical slopes? Run the most difficult and dangerous rapids, challenge the forces of nature? Part of it is a desire for adventure and enjoyment, but it’s much more. It’s an instinct for God that has been implanted in us. We cannot not want to find God.
We don’t know that, of course. We only know that we long for something. “You don’t know what it is you want,” Mark Twain said, “but you want it so much you could almost die.”
God is our heart’s true home. As church father Augustine said in that most famous quotation: ”You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.“
And what is the heart? A deep void within us that only God can fill.
We have an ancient cherry tree in our backyard that had seen better days and looked like it was dying so I called in an arborist. He checked it out and declared that it was “unduly stressed” and needed immediate attention. “Take a number,” my wife, Carolyn, muttered to the tree as she walked away. It had been one of those weeks.
Indeed, we all have anxious weeks—filled with worries over the direction our culture is drifting or concerns for our children, our marriages, our businesses, our finances, our personal health and well-being. Nevertheless, Jesus has assured us that despite disturbing circumstances we can be at peace. He said, “My peace I give to you" (John 14:27).
Jesus’s days were filled with distress and disorder: He was beleaguered by His enemies and misunderstood by His family and friends. He often had no place to lay His head. Yet there was no trace of anxiety or fretfulness in His manner. He possessed an inner calm, a quiet tranquility. This is the peace He has given us—freedom from anxiety concerning the past, present, and future. The peace He exhibited; His peace.
In any circumstances, no matter how dire or trivial, we can turn to Jesus in prayer. There in His presence we can make our worries and fears known to Him. Then, Paul assures us, the peace of God will come to “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Even if we’ve had “one of those weeks,” we can have His peace.
The “big browns” are spawning in the Owyhee River—brown trout beginning their fall nesting ritual. You can see them excavating their nests in the gravelly shallows.
Wise fishermen know that fish are spawning and try not to disturb them. They avoid walking on gravel bars where they might trample the eggs, or wading upstream from the nests where they might dislodge debris that can smother them. And they don’t fish for these trout, though it’s tempting to do so as they rest near their nests.
These precautions are part of an ethic that governs responsible fishing. But there is a deeper and a better cause.
The Scriptures stress the fact that God has given us the earth (Gen. 1:28–30). It is ours to use, but, as the old angler Izaak Walton put it, “We must use it as those who love it.”
I muse on the work of God’s hands: a partridge calling across a canyon, a bull elk bugling up a fight, a herd of antelope far off in the distance, a brook trout and its kaleidoscopic rose moles, a mother otter playing in a stream with her pups—I love all these things, for they have been given to me for my delight, out of my Father’s great love.
And what I love, I protect.
Author and pastor Erwin Lutzer recounts a story about television show host Art Linkletter and a little boy who was drawing a picture of God. Amused, Linkletter said, “You can’t do that because nobody knows what God looks like.”
“They will when I get through!” the boy declared.
We may wonder, “What is God like?” “Is He good?” “Is He kind?” “Does He care?” The simple answer to those questions is Jesus’ response to Philip’s request: “Lord, show us the Father.” Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).
If you ever get hungry to see God look at Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God,” said Paul (Col. 1:15). Read through the four Gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Think deeply about what Jesus did and said. “Draw” your own mental picture of God as you read. You’ll know much more of what He’s like when you’re through.
A friend of mine once told me that the only God he could believe in is the one he saw in Jesus. If you look closely, I think you’ll agree. As you read about Him your heart will leap, for though you may not know it, Jesus is the God you’ve been looking for all your life.
John Newton wrote, “If, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving it another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something. I should be glad to do greater things; but I will not neglect this.”
These days, it’s not hard to find someone in need of comfort: A care-worn cashier in a grocery store working a second job to make ends meet; a refugee longing for home; a single mother whose flood of worries has washed away her hope; a lonely old man who fears he has outlived his usefulness.
But what are we to do? “Blessed is he who considers the poor,” wrote David (Ps. 41:1
We can let people know we care. We can treat them with courtesy and respect, though they may be testy or tiresome. We can listen with interest to their stories. And we can pray for them or with them—the most helpful and healing act of all.
Remember the old paradox Jesus gave us when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Paying attention pays off, for we're happiest when we give ourselves away. Consider the poor.
Each of us is an original from God’s hand. There are no self-made men or women. No one ever became talented, buffed, or bright all by himself or herself. God made each of us all by Himself. He thought of us and formed us out of His unspeakable love.
God made your body, mind, and soul. And He isn’t done with you; He is still making you. His single-minded purpose is our maturity: “He who began a good work in you will carry it ion to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God is making you braver, stronger, purer, more peaceful more loving, less selfish—the kind of person you’ve perhaps always wanted to be.
“[God’s] love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Ps. 100:5
You’ve been given a love that lasts forever and a God who will never give up on you. That’s a good reason to have joy and to “come before him with joyful songs”! (v. 2).
If you can't carry a tune, just give Him a shout-out: "Shout for joy to the
I remember my father's face. It was hard to read. He was a kind man, but stoic and self-contained. As a child, I often searched his face, looking for a smile or other show of affection. Faces are us. A frown, a sullen look, a smile, and crinkly eyes reveal what we feel about others. Our faces are our "tell."
Asaph, the author of Psalm 80, was distraught and wanted to see the Lord’s face. He looked north from his vantage point in Jerusalem and saw Judah's sister state, Israel, collapse under the weight of the Assyrian Empire. With her buffer state gone, Judah was vulnerable to invasion from all sides—Assyria from the north, Egypt from the south and the Arab nations from the east. She was outnumbered and outmatched.
Asaph gathered up his fears in a prayer, three times repeated (80:3, 7, 19), "Make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (“Let me see your smile.”)
It's good to look away from our fears and search our heavenly Father's face. The best way to see God’s face is to look at the cross. The cross is His "tell" (John 3:16).
So know this: When your Father looks at you, He has a great big smile on His face. You're very safe!