January 1, 2022

God First

If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, you must not yield to or heed any such persons.
Deuteronomy 13:6, 8
Family first—we hear that a lot these days. And what an admirable sentiment ...except that's not what the Bible says. God first, the Bible says. And when loyalty to God collides with loyalty to family, the Bible still makes it clear: God first.

Family first, Jesus was told—by both his family and all those around him. God first, Jesus replied. Who is my family? he continued. And he answered his own question: I'll tell you who my family is: 
Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
 Mark 3:35
As I take my first steps into a new year of my Lord, may I remember this simple lesson from the Bible, regardless of the temptation to order my life in other ways. 
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
Be with me, Lord, as I step out on the untrodden way of this new year. I know not what it may bring of joy or sorrow, of temptation or service; but I humbly commit myself and my way to you. Make the best that you can of me for your glory.
 F.B. Meyer
✙ 
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.

From the cell of a Nazi prison in December 1944, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his family a poem for the new year. It has been set to music in several languages (in English it's called By Gracious Powers), but this is a video of a choir singing it in the original German. Here's my translation:

By good powers, faithfully and silently surrounded, wonderfully protected and nurtured, I long to experience these days with you, and go with you into a new year.

By good powers wonderfully sheltered, we confidently await whatever may come. God is with us by evening and by morning, and most certainly into a new day.

Yet the old year still torments our hearts, evil days still press upon us their heavy load. O Lord, give our frightened souls the wholeness for which you prepared us.

By good powers wonderfully sheltered, etc.

And when you pass the heavy and bitter cup of suffering to us, filled to the brim, we will take it thankfully and without trembling from such a good and beloved a hand.

By good powers wonderfully sheltered, etc.

But should you wish once more to grant us us joy and sunshine in this world, then we'll remember the past, and our whole lives will belong to you.

Interlude

When the silence deepens, let us hear the full chorus of the world expanding invisibly around us: the high song of praise of all your children.

By good powers wonderfully sheltered, etc.

By good powers wonderfully sheltered, we confidently await what may come. God is with us by evening and by morning, and most certainly into a new day.
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Text selection ©2021 Evangelische Brüder-Unität. All scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.
*This stanza is the first in Bonhoeffer's original poem, but is omitted in most English translations.
†This stanza (the first in most English translations) is used as a refrain between each stanza in the song in the video.