“From the Hart” Devotional for Jan. 4, 2024

“I Am No Long My Own, But Thine”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.
Jeremiah 31:31 –34

Happy New Year! I am writing this devotional on the first morning of the first day of 2024 — a year full of possibilities. I love all that a new year brings: new calendars, new goals, new dreams, new surprises. Do you remember how Pastor David started last year? Well, you may not have noticed, but both the first and last Sundays of 2023 included a covenant renewal.

On the first Sunday of 2023, he talked about predictions. In fact, he made four predictions of his own. His predictions were: that sometime throughout the year he would preach something in a sermon that would embarrass Geri, that something was going to happen throughout the year that would surprise us, that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series, and that we would grow in our faith and our faithfulness. Well, three out of four is not bad, right?

It’s safe to predict that, just like last year, 2024 will no doubt bring surprises. As I look back over 2023, I had surprise visitors, surprise friendships, surprise opportunities, and surprise nudges from God. I even surprised myself a few times! I suspect the same is true for you. Along with many of you, I too spoke the words of the Wesley Covenant Prayer on that first Sunday. Actually, I keep the words to that prayer on my phone and in my prayer book and try to say it daily. I need a lot of reminding! I guess Pastor David felt it was important too since he decided to start and end the year with it.

God has made some pretty big promises to us. A promise to always be with us, to lead us, to guide us, to forgive us, to help us to grow, and to welcome us into the kingdom one day. The Covenant Prayer is full of our promises back to God — promises that help us to love our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So how about those promises? As you made your list of goals and resolutions for the coming year, did you take some time to consider how you were going to accomplish them? And how you will be faithful to the promises you have made to yourself and to God? I was reading that one of the best ways to make new resolutions stick is to write them down in a place that you will see them and be reminded regularly. If you want to set yourself up to keep your promises to God, try writing the words to the covenant prayer down in a book or place that you will see regularly. If that is too much to write, memorize or pray, how about just the first 8 words: “I am no longer my own, but thine.”

So just one question this week:
What do you think might happen if you say that simple 8-word prayer every day this year?
Hint: I can tell you what happened to my life when I did it last year.

Here is the version of the Wesley Covenant Prayer that Pastor David had us pray on Sunday:

“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”