A few years ago, I wrote a short, little book called “364 Days of Thanksgiving.”

If I’m honest, it was more of a journal than a book. The point of the book was to encourage the reader to write down one thing each day for which they were thankful to God. The only catch was that they could never repeat. They had to think of something new or different every day.

After a few brief chapters explaining the concept, the rest of the book was simply a journal – empty lines on which you could write down each day what you were thankful for.

A friend quipped at the time, “If I knew I could write a book with a bunch of lines in it and it would become a best-seller, I would have done it.”

In my defense, the book also did include 26 short devotions interspersed throughout the journal which were meant to help the reader to recognize all the good things God had given them. At the time, a number of people asked why I didn’t write a devotion for each day of the journal.

I thought to myself, “It would take forever to write 364 devotions.”

It turns out it only took me eight years. So now I am about to release my second book “364 Days of Devotion,” which, like my first book, is a daily thanksgiving journal. This one, however, also includes a devotion for every day of the year. Suffice it to say, my friend can no longer complain that I wrote a book full of empty lines.

But as I compiled the 364 devotions for the book, it got me thinking about that word “devotion.”

Devotion can mean many different things. According to Webster, devotion can be “an act of prayer or private worship,” “religious fervor,” “a religious exercise,” or simply “being ardently dedicated and loyal” to someone or something.

What would 364 days of devotion look like?

What would it mean to live a life of devotion? Well, first of all, a life of devotion is a life in which “prayer and private worship” are a daily routine. Devotion to God means devotion to his Word and prayer. Taking time every day to read and meditate on a part of God’s Word – taking time to talk to God every day in prayer – is actually what my book is all about.

But, devotion is more than simply taking a few minutes each day to read and pray. Devotion is also “religious fervor” or “religious exercise.” In other words, devotion is the desire to live what you learn from God – to stretch and exercise your faith throughout the day and throughout the week.

Devotion is “being ardently dedicated and loyal” to our Savior God. It means appreciating how devoted our God has been to us. Jesus was so ardently dedicated and loyal to us that he gave up everything to live a humble life and die a terrible death in your place. Jesus was so ardently dedicated and loyal to us that he suffered the punishment we deserve for our half-hearted devotion to him.

In the end, devotion means living every day of our lives for him who lived and died for us.

You can order my new book 364 Days of Devotion at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Northwestern Publishing House. NPH is also offering both books as a package deal for 20% off here.

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Be Still

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My heart hurts today.

It aches for the people of Ukraine. It especially hurts for a group of pastors and Christians in Ukraine who are closely tied to my church body. I know their names. I’ve followed their stories.

Now many of them find themselves barricaded in their homes or hiding in subway tunnels. Some are desperately trying to make their way west toward Poland.

Bombs are exploding around them. People are dying. Their nation is desperately trying to fend off a foreign invader. Few of us can imagine what it must be like for them. The world is literally crashing around them.

If I had the opportunity, I would read to each of them the words of Psalm 46. If you have a chance this week, I encourage you to turn off the news for a few minutes, put down your phone, and read for yourself the comforting words of this psalm.

In it, the psalmist describes the world falling apart around us – the mountains crumbling, the seas surging, the earth giving way. But he says again and again that we do not need to be afraid. God is our refuge and strength. He is with us. He will help us.

A Mighty Fortress is our God.

In verse ten, God calmly and firmly speaks. “Be still, and know that I am God,” he says. “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Many Christians take those words as God speaking to us – as God speaking to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. “Be still. Take a deep breath. Remember that I am God. I will take care of you. I will protect you. I am the King and Creator of the universe. I am your Savior and Father and Friend. Do not be afraid.”

Those words echo promises and encouragements God gives us throughout the Bible. But, as a fellow pastor pointed out to me years ago, the words of verse ten most likely aren’t directed toward us.

In the verses right before God speaks, the psalmist says, “Come and see the works of the Lord … He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear.” In other words, when conniving kings and evil empires wage war against us, we can know that, in the end, God will bring those conflicts to an end.

He will protect his people. All wars will eventually end. Evil cannot win.

In that context, when God says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” it seems he is speaking to those who wage war against the innocent. He is saying, “Stop. Remember who is really in charge. I am in control.”

One way or another, this conflict in Ukraine will end. God will be with his people, providing and protecting them. No matter what happens to them here, they will dwell in the safety of heaven forever. One day, those who maliciously attack them will have to stand before the God of the universe and give an account.

I don’t know how long this conflict in Ukraine will last.

Many of us are openly wondering whether the world will once again delve into a multination war. Only God knows.

My prayer today is that everyone in our world – both God’s people who are suffering and those who wage war against them – take to heart God’s powerful encouragement and warning.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

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