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Insights & Encouragement

Why Devotions?

I want to tell you why I'm excited to share these devotions with you.

There’s a special time, usually in the morning, when mist rolls into a valley and rests like a thick and heavy blanket over a sleeping landscape. It is beautiful and serene to behold, but it is fragile, so you have to rise a little early and stare out, not speaking, soaking in the view. As the sun comes up, the mist disappears and the world awakens and begins to buzz with work and activity, just as it was created by God to do. You can’t stop this advance and you aren’t meant to, but you can enjoy the calm before it and look forward to the following morning.

Similarly, there’s a special time for our soul, usually in the morning. Our body and soul have been quieted by sleep and rest, which we need so badly. It sits like a blanket protecting us for a few minutes before the world awakens and rushes in on us, with work and activity buzzing around us. You can’t stop this advance and you aren’t meant to, but you can enjoy the time alone with your Lord and look forward to the following morning, with eagerness, though few of us do.
Why do we call the time we spend alone with the Lord, reading and praying, doing “devotions”? Have you ever thought about that? This is one of the words that have become part of our Christian vocabulary, it is familiar and conjures up some kind of picture in your mind when I say it – devotions. I believe that word stuck because it is rich with meaning.
In 1828, Noah Webster completed his twenty-eight-year work, the American Dictionary of the English Language. “To evaluate the etymology of words, Webster learned twenty-six languages, including Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Greek, Hebrew, and Latin…Noah Webster was a Christian and famously said ‘Education is useless without the Bible.’” (Noah Webster. 2020, February 9,
Here are his definitions for the word “devotion” from almost 200 years ago. Don’t rush through these.

  1. The state of being dedicated, consecrated, or solemnly set apart for a particular purpose.
  2. A solemn attention to the Supreme Being in worship; a yielding of the heart and affections to God, with reverence, faith and piety, in religious duties, particularly in prayer and meditation; devoutness.
  3. External worship; acts of religion; performance of religious duties.
  4. As I passed by and beheld your devotions. Acts 17:23.
  5. Prayer to the Supreme Being. A Christian will be regular in his morning and evening devotions.
  6. An act of reverence, respect or ceremony.
  7. Ardent love or affection; attachment manifested by constant attention; as, the duke was distinguished by his devotion to the king, and to the interest of the nation.
  8. Earnestness; ardor; eagerness. He seeks their hate with greater devotion than they can render it him.
  9. Disposal; power of disposing of; state of dependence. Arundel castle would keep that rich corner of the country at his majestys devotion

Webster, N. (1928). An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Devotion is (or at least was) an absolutely incredible word. It captures the disposition of a heart and life in a multi-faceted, powerful way. When we are devoted to a person, it must come from very deep – we view them differently than every other person in some way, they are set apart to us. They capture our attention and we yield our own will to them, but not only that, we yield the very affections of our heart. But while devotion must spring from the heart, it isn’t merely a feeling. No, it is the heart intertwined with action. When you look at a person who is devoted to another person, it is obvious. Note that I didn’t say “it should be obvious”. If it isn’t obvious, then they aren’t truly devoted. You can’t hide earnestness, ardor, and eagerness. It is evident when someone lives in a state of dependence (compared to independence) and prioritization of another person.

Is this what my “devotions” look like with God? To Mr. Webster, you can’t properly define the word without speaking of faith, prayer, meditation, and worship to the God of the Bible. Am I truly devoted to God? Do I even want to be devoted?

If the answer to this last question is “Not really” then it is very likely that I am not real follower of Jesus, as the Bible defines it. A real Christian is a person who has come to the place where they want to yield completely. This happens only when we come to God and raise empty hands and say, “I want to be loved and accepted by you, but there’s nothing I can do to erase my mountain of sins or to change my heart, which is predisposed to worship myself instead of you. I believe that this has created an impassable wall between us. But I also believe that Jesus suffered the agony of separation from you that I deserve and in so doing, traded places with me, cleansing me and placing me in his place – enveloped night and day by the unfiltered love and fellowship of the Triune God, forever. This means that when you paid for me, you purchased me, you own me. So, it is my delight to live for you and no longer for myself. You are my Savior and my Lord.”

You don’t have to use all those words, of course. It isn’t the words that save you and change you. It is what God did through Christ for you that saves you as we read in Ephesians 2:1-9. But until you acknowledge that truth and begin to live a life that shows you really believe it, there is no use or value in trying to be more “devoted” to God, as we read in James 2:14-26.

Responding to Jesus’ loving act of sacrifice for me, suffering in my place, is the most important and life changing event in my life and in every human being who is willing to admit their low estate in order to be lifted up and permanently given the title and full benefits of son or daughter of God. There is nothing I want more for you, and I pray that God use whatever means are necessary – even taking away all that you love today – that you might live in his love forever.

Let’s return now to our first question, “Am I truly devoted to God?” and its counterpart “How can I grow in my devotion to God?” The answer is simple – we need to think differently and want God more than everything and everyone else. Romans 12:1-2 speaks to this process and I’ve personally experienced 35 years of being transformed. So, I am living proof that it’s a slow process, not a single thing you can do! But I also look back with sadness and see that the selfishness and stubbornness of my heart has greatly slowed down the process. In so doing I have missed out on the deeper joy and richer peace of knowing God that could have been mine. I have also hurt many people, people that I love, because I was unwilling to be more devoted to God, preferring to remain mostly devoted to myself. And there’s the catch! There is only one throne in the throne room of every heart! And our flesh, the fallen part that we carry around even as believers, is quick to put us on the throne and God in the corner.

That is why I’ve written these pages. I want to help you put God back where he belongs every day and to dethrone yourself. I know you are already trying to do this, but if it mostly feels like work; if you mostly feel guilt and shame about your devotion, I want to free you. You may feel like the man or woman whose car is stuck in deep mud – frustrated with slow going or no going, strain and push as you might. I want you to feel like you’ve been pulled up onto the pavement again and how fast you go is a matter of how much fuel you’re willing to put into the engine.

Allow me one short story to close. A few weeks ago, as I was preparing to do a devotion with my three kids, I asked them what the word “devotion” means - when we’re not talking about a few verses and a thought from the Bible. They had pretty good answers and we looked up a definition on my phone to amplify. Then, as I looked at each of my own children, my heart was moved. I asked them, “What if I was to ask if you are devoted to me as your dad, but you were really busy and only had 10 minutes to spend with me each morning? What if the attitude that you brought to meet with me was 5 minutes of dry duty to sort of listen to something I wanted to tell you for your day, followed by 5 minutes of you asking me for some things that would make your day easier? Then, with a bit of relief, you walked away without a hug?”

That picture makes me cry. First, because I love my kids and thinking of our relationship reduced to that level breaks my heart. Second, because I often have felt that way when meeting with my heavenly father – if I have even given him any time at all. But that picture also makes me smile and cry tears of joy! The shame and the guilt wash away! Why? Because I realize that God is my perfect father! Every day for the last 35 years he’s been sitting there, 100% available and devoted to me of all people, because I’m his son! That means he’s eager, earnest, with ardent love and affection. And he’s also all-knowing and all-powerful, so that means that if I sit down and ask him to speak to me through his Word, he will overflow with wisdom and insight, so good and deep that I’ll probably have to ask him to help teach me what it means and how to apply it correctly to my own life. And if I tell him about my life, I know he cares – even if I say it wrong, even if half of what I say doesn’t make sense, he wants to hear me! He wants to spend time with me. He’s not distracted with everything else he has going on. He wants to take care of me – he promised he would and he has never failed me! He has allowed hard things into my life, even deep suffering. I don’t deny that, nor do I want to. You know why? Because when I accept those as from his hand instead of out of his control, they teach me my weakness, my great need, and how willing and able my Father is for everything in life.

At the end of my time with the Lord, however long that is today, I want to be changed like that. I want to be more like him because I love him and I spend time with him, just like a good friend. I want to have a thrill of excitement as I sit down with him, because of the relationship I have with him. When my heart and mind view devotions as a means to experience God’s devotion to me, then I grow in my devotion to him. It is easier to see and reject the flesh’s false and hopeless efforts and to hear and follow the Spirit’s voice leading me, when my focus is on walking with him. May the words on these pages aid you in your own transformation. May we all treasure and look forward to that special time for our soul.

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him…I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Selections from Philippians 3:7-11, New Living Translation)