Devotion

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.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The year was 1988.

It was my freshman year in high school. “Die Hard” was the big summer blockbuster. Roseanne Barr was becoming a household name. George H. W. Bush was elected president.

And there was a song which everybody was singing, whistling and humming. It was called, “Don’t worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin – the first a cappella song to ever reach number one on the Billboard charts.

Though a feel-good hit, some protested the song’s simple message. If you’ve ever been stressed or depressed, you might understand the problem certain people had with Bobby McFerrin’s lyrics.

When you are worried or stressed, it can be frustrating when someone says, “Just don’t worry about it.” When a person is hurting or depressed, simply telling them, “Be happy,” definitely doesn’t help.

But interestingly, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians chapter four. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he says. “I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). In other words, “Be happy.” And then just a verse later, he says, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). In other words, “Don’t worry.”

Don’t worry, be happy.

That is the Apostle Paul’s simple advice to you and me. The difference is, Paul tells us why. He tells us how. First of all, he says, “Don’t worry. Pray.” When you are hurting, when you are depressed, when you are stressed out, take it to God in prayer. He is listening. He can help. He promises to always answer your prayers for your good.

And when you pray, Paul says to do so with “thanksgiving.” Tell God about your pains and problems. Ask him for help, but then look around and say “thank you” for all the good things he has given you. One of the tricks the devil uses when we are down or hurting is to get us to put blinders on so that all we see are our pains and problems.

So, when you pray about your problems, make sure to also look around and say “thank you” for all the good God has given for you. If we are honest, the good always and overwhelmingly outweighs the bad. Even in the hardest times, our cups are overflowing with blessings.

That perspective alone will help you as you deal with worry or depression.

But then also remember that prayer is only a part of our conversation with God. To have a conversation, you need to do two things. You have to speak and you have to listen. Prayer is us talking to God, but we also need to listen to God speak to us through his Word.

Do you struggle with stress?

Do you find it difficult to find joy in your life? Go to church. Open up your Bible. Read a Bible-based devotional book. God speaks to us through his promises, giving us strength, courage and peace. He reminds us why we don’t have to worry. He tells us how we can choose to be happy.

For those who suffer from anxiety or depression, it is a daily struggle to not worry. It is hard to choose to be happy. To simply tell them to do so does not help. But God doesn’t just tell us, “Don’t worry, be happy.” He invites us to talk it to him in prayer. In his Word, he reminds us why we don’t need to worry. In his Word, he gives us the strength and perspective we need to choose joy.

And through your conversations with him, he promises that “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).