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 preorder 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.

Time to Get Back in Shape

Well, I did it again.

I told myself I wasn’t going to let it happen ever again, but this summer I let myself get out of shape.

I honestly enjoy exercise. For me it’s a stress reliever. It helps keep my life in balance.

But, as has happened at times throughout my adult life, this summer I got so busy that I let myself get out of the habit. I went a number of weeks without exercising. I wasn’t as careful about what I ate. My midsection started getting soft.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get back to it. So I went for a run.

It was horrible. It was frustrating. I couldn’t run as fast or as far as I could just a few months ago. I felt like throwing up. The next morning, my body hurt everywhere, which made my second day back even worse than the first.

Exercise is once again becoming a part of my daily routine and I am feeling better. I tell myself I will never let this happen again, but, deep down, I know I will. I’ll let it slide for a little while and then struggle terribly to get back into the routine – to get back into shape.

Sadly, that pattern also repeats itself in our spiritual lives.

We let ourselves get so busy. The devil whispers in our ears, “You can get back to church and reading your Bible when things calm down.” You tell yourself you’ll go back eventually.

But then one missed Sunday becomes four. The vacuum of time fills the places in your schedule which had been reserved for God. You stop thinking about God as often. You stop talking to him in prayer as much. Your spiritual midsection becomes soft.

All the while you tell yourself that you will get back to it. At times, you lie awake at night feeling guilty. You know need to get back into the habit. But for some reason, it’s so hard.

In order to go back to church, you have to get up on Sunday morning – the only morning during the week in which you can sleep in. You have to fix yourself up. You have to get the kids ready. Then when you get there, people ask you where you’ve been. They talk about how much they’ve missed you. It can be awkward.

It’s just easier to stay in bed.

But making God a part of your weekly and daily routine will help you keep balance in your life much more than exercise ever will. When our spiritual midsections get soft, we start to stress more often. We begin to make poor choices and fall into bad habits. We struggle in our marriages and personal lives.

We need God regularly.

We need his Word and Sacraments to keep our faith fit. We need to be reminded often of the forgiveness Jesus won for us and the heaven that is waiting for us.

So, if you’ve gotten out of the habit, it’s time to get back into it. I know it’s hard at first. It takes work. It can be painful, but it is worth it.

And watch out for the lies of the devil who is constantly trying to get you out of the habit in the first place. He knows that once he gets God out of our daily and weekly routines, it’s a struggle for us to get him back in.

You can now preorder my new yearlong devotional, 364 Days of Devotion here.