The ‘Chewing’ Years

My wife recently gave me a Labrador retriever puppy we named Max. One day when Max was spending time with me in my study, I was concentrating at my desk and heard the sound of paper ripping behind me. I turned to find a guilty-looking puppy with a book wide open and a page dangling from his mouth.
Our veterinarian tells us that Max is going through his “chewing years”. As puppies lose their milk teeth and permanent ones grow, they soothe their gums by chewing almost anything. We have to watch Max carefully to ensure he isn’t gnawing on something that could harm him, and we point him to healthy alternatives.
Max’s urge to chew—and my responsibility to watch him—cause me to think about what we ‘chew on’ in our minds and hearts. Do we carefully consider what we are feeding our eternal souls when we read or surf the web or watch TV? The Bible encourages us, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2–3). We need to fill ourselves daily with God’s Word and truth if we are to thrive as followers of Christ. Only then can we grow to maturity in Him. James Banks - Daily Bread

From Lament to Praise

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Monica prayed feverishly for her son to return to God. She wept over his wayward ways and even tracked him down in the various cities where he chose to live. The situation seemed hopeless. Then one day it happened: her son had a radical encounter with God. He became one of the greatest theologians of the church. We know him as Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
“How long, Lord?” (Habakkuk 1:2). The prophet Habakkuk lamented God’s inaction regarding the people in power who perverted justice (v. 4). Think of the times we’ve turned to God in desperation—expressing our laments due to injustice, a seemingly hopeless medical journey, ongoing financial struggles or children who’ve walked away from God.
Each time Habakkuk lamented, God heard his cries. As we wait in faith, we can learn from the prophet to turn our lament into praise, for he said, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (3:18 italics added). He didn’t understand God’s ways, but he trusted Him. Both lament and praise are acts of faith, expressions of trust. We lament as an appeal to God based on His character. And our praise of Him is based on who He is—our amazing, almighty God. One day, by His grace, every lament will turn to praise. Glenn Packiam - Daily Bread

A New Beginning

“Christian consciousness begins in the painful realisation that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie,” Eugene Peterson wrote in his powerful reflections on
Psalm 120. Psalm 120 is the first of the “psalms of ascent” (Psalms 120–134) sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. And as Peterson explored this in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, these psalms also offer us a picture of the spiritual journey towards God.
That journey can only begin with profound awareness of our need for something different. As Peterson puts it, “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. . . . [One] has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”
It’s easy to become discouraged by the brokenness and despair we see in the world around us—the pervasive ways our culture often shows callous disregard for the harm being done to others. Psalm 120 laments this honestly: “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (v. 7). But there’s healing and freedom in realising that our pain can also awaken us to a new beginning through our only help, the Saviour who can guide us from destructive lies into paths of peace and wholeness (121:2). As we enter this new year, may we seek Him and His ways. Monica La Rose - Daily Bread

Good News for All

Mary Sumner (1828–1921), founder of the Mother’s Union, was so nervous about speaking at her first meeting that she asked her clergyman husband to step in. But his gentle encouragement and her passion to help mothers from all kinds of backgrounds helped her overcome her fears. The meetings helped mothers support each other while Mary taught them how to know and live well for Christ.
A prayer she wrote and prayed daily reflects her heart: “All this day, O Lord, let me touch as many lives as possible for You.” Mary’s prayer affirmed her belief that the good news of Jesus is for all people. In this she followed the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). While staying true to Jesus, Paul accommodated himself to the various people he engaged with: Jews, God-fearers or unbelievers; the confident, broken or demoralised (see vv. 20–23). Compelled by Christ’s love, Paul gave generously of himself all for the sake of the gospel (v. 23).
Seeing individuals as Jesus sees them inspires us to reach all kinds of people: those we don’t usually associate with at work. The neighbour who’s still a stranger. The unknown friends we could make in the group we’ve just joined. No matter how different we might feel, we can share the blessing of Christ with them. Anne Le Tissier - Daily Bread