Wednesday, January 04, 2017

DB2017: New Beginnings

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
If you've been following the blog much in the last year, you know I've been working my way through a daily devotional based on the writings of George MacDonald, Consuming Fire: The Inexorable Power of God's Love. Well, I finished the book last week, and I enjoyed it so much that now, with the new year, I'm starting a new daily reader: I Want to Live These Days with You: A Year of Daily Devotions, taken from the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

If you aren't familiar with Bonhoeffer, he was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian in the 20th century (1906-1945) who was eventually executed by the Nazis for his work to oppose Adolf Hitler. Many of his writings have become classics in the decades since his death, like his book The Cost of Discipleship: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die..."

I want to begin the new year on the blog by sharing one of the first readings in I Want to Live These Days with You. Even in Bonhoeffer's day, folks saw the new year as a chance to start over, to do things differently than they did the year before. But he asked,
How can we make a fresh start? "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back..." (Luke 9:62). One who guides a plow does not look back - or into the immense distance - but to the next step that must be taken. Backward glances are not a Christian thing to do. Leave fear, anxiety, and guilt behind. And look to the one who gives you a new beginning.
Bonhoeffer doesn't believe we can carve new beginnings out of our regrets, our guilt, or even our good intentions. Instead, we should look for our new beginnings from the Lord, like David asking God to put a new and right spirit within him (Ps 51:10). We can't let the past control who we are or who we can become with God's help. Obviously, sometimes moving forward does mean making amends for old wrongs or trying to heal relationships that have been broken for a long time, but we shouldn't let the past weigh us down, because in Christ "The old life is gone; the new life has begun!" (2 Cor 5:17 NLT)

When you decide to make a change, whether it's a New Year's resolution or just a Wednesday morning resolution, don't let your mistakes or shame drive you. Let your hope and trust in God propel you forward, because all our "new beginnings" are a chance to embrace the new life God has for us, the transformation the Holy Spirit can work within us.

And for big change, maybe we need to think small: about the next step that must be taken, and then the step after that, then the step after that. Instead of being discouraged when we don't see a miraculous, instant make-over for our heart or our habits, maybe we need to seek after (and acknowledge and give thanks for!) the small miracles, the little changes that God creates in us along the road on our journey of faith. If we take it one step at a time, we may come to realize that God has been slowly, incrementally turning our lives upside down. The Spirit may be quietly working right under your nose to give you a new beginning.

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