It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but for most of my life, I have been “lukewarm” about using a daily devotional. Instead, I just read a few paragraphs of Scripture. Over time, I’ve used over a dozen versions of the Bible and have read them, cover to cover, several times.
Maybe it’s just me, but I have always felt that most devotional aids are too academic, impersonal, and not very engaging. Then one day, years ago, I was challenged to host a daily Christian radio program promoted by Ambassador Advertising in California. They were the group that produced Christian radio programs hosted by the best, well-known Christian leaders in the country. The program, called The Church Doctor, aired on more than 250 stations in the United States and England. It also was broadcast worldwide over the international Christian broadcasting agency from Quito, Ecuador.
My producer at Ambassador was a tough, demanding, wonderful, no-nonsense woman who was an expert in quality Christian communication. For me, it was the most intimidating, grueling, quality education in communication I could ever imagine. This discipline multiplied my writing skills and speaking abilities.
The idea for the Church Doctor radio program was birthed by a group of amazing Christians in northern Michigan. Our Church Doctor Ministries board agreed that the radio influence could lead the ministry to help more congregations to become effective to reach more people. After several years, the ministry dropped the program because it didn’t lead us to help more churches. This “experiment,” however, was not a failure. It dramatically improved my communication skills, including my writing.
A Daily Spiritual Injection
It was long after the radio adventure that we decided to provide a yearlong—365-day—devotional that was unique, short, engaging, and focused on the everyday challenges Christians face. It is called An Apple a Day: A Daily Dose for Everyday Faith. In the first few pages, the title is unpacked. The word “apple” is not about fruit. It is a uniquely spiritual term in Scripture. The Bible calls believers “the apple of God’s eye.” It represents the pupil of the eye—the most precious part. Of course, anyone who wants to learn more about God is a “pupil” of a different kind—a learner!
The subtitle, A Daily Dose for Everyday Faith, reflects that this approach is a prescription from Church Doctors. In other words, every believer should want to grow spiritually, not only from worship and Bible classes, but from a daily infusion of God’s wisdom. A “dose” is like a shot in the arm. We get shots to stay healthy. A “shot” can also be like a pill, taken to remain strong. Who wouldn’t benefit from a daily spiritual boost?
Think about it. What if each member of your family, your relatives, those at work or school, became more spiritually healthy from a shot of God’s wisdom applied to the challenges of their lives? What if it was a short shot that only took a few minutes to read? What if it was organized around real-life challenges? What if each topic was spread over seven days, but covered from seven different angles? Most importantly, what if each daily dose ended with a pertinent Bible verse from a translation that communicated with greatest impact?
For the project, the Bible verse at the end of each daily reading was selected from a search among 11 modern translations of Scripture: the Living Bible, the Good News Translation, the New International Version, the New Century Version, the New Living Translation, The Message, J.B. Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English, the New King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Contemporary English Version, and the New American Standard Bible.
So, the long process of developing 365 “short shots” of real-life challenges and God’s antidotes became the passion of the Church Doctors. Each one begins with a challenge anyone can understand from real life. Then there is a section called “Here’s Our Prescription.” After that comes the “medicine” from Scripture: a short verse selected from the Bible.
Confession of an Author
Writing the book An Apple a Day: A Daily Dose for Everyday Faith was a process that took years. Each “day” can be read in approximately five minutes. The daily material fits on one page. This approach required the discipline of scrutinizing every word, phrase, and sentence.
The manuscript, including all 369 pages of content plus 28 pages of introduction (for a total of 397 pages), was reviewed and edited 13 times. The last three times it was read by two of us, my wife and I, and the final time, it was read by a professional proofreader.
So, what is my confession? When the book was published and became available from www.churchdoctor.org and amazon.com, I received a copy—and put it on the shelf in my home office. I’d like to use the real excuse I had: By the time Apple a Day was in print, I was involved in writing two other books—one about sharing your faith (The Amazing Power of God Stories) and another about church politics (Church Politics: Pain-Free Decision-Making).
In truth, I just needed a break from the intense process of getting An Apple a Day to market. I still read my Bible regularly. However, as excited as I was about the Apple book, I just needed a rest. Then, one day, I was talking to a man who was going to prison. He was repentant and had come to faith in Jesus. I decided to give him a copy of An Apple a Day before his sentencing. He was so grateful, and I have heard that he reads it daily.
That event triggered a thought for me: “Maybe I’m ready to start the daily routine of reading Apple a Day.” The timing proved to be just right. In fact, each daily segment seemed new and fresh to me! Fast-forward: Today, as I prepared to write this, I read one of the daily segments, as I do every day.
Here is what I have learned: The engaging content of Apple a Day has to be a “God thing.” It’s so much better than I could ever write. I have had people tell me before that I am a fairly good writer. However, as I read these daily devotions, I must admit: I’m not that good!
I’ve personally discovered what I hoped for when writing it. Each short daily segment and Scripture passage is so helpful! And, since there is one for each day, it takes a year to get through it. Of course, we’ve heard from others who love it as well. But no one is more critical than the author. In all honesty and sincerity: It’s that good! And it’s a God thing!
Since Apple a Day has an entry to read each day for an entire year, I’ve come to the conclusion I could never have imagined. When I finish #365 (sometime next year), I am going to start over. I’ll do it for another year—not because I am somehow enamored with my writing, but because the challenges of life and the power of God’s Word continue. After my first year of reading, it will look fresh again when I start over.
I’ve also come to three realizations. (1) Most people don’t read a short spiritual message attached to a Scripture verse every day. I know this from consulting 1,800 churches from 78 denominations, as well as many nondenominational and independent congregations. We interview a cross section of the members. Most admit they don’t get spiritual input between worship services. (2) Many Christ-followers find devotional aids too academic. (3) They likely would read spiritual materials if they were focused on the challenges of real life.
Become a Spiritual Multiplier
Most people give gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and at Christmas. Some even gift others in their social network as a mission effort: to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus. I’ve given copies to friends and relatives, those with whom I have worked, and a few of those I have been praying to encounter Jesus through a taste of meaningful Scripture. What other gift can you give that lasts 365 days? What can you give to believers that will connect their faith to everyday life? What about a gift that gently introduces the God who means everything to you?
If I was reading this and had a notion to touch the lives of others in my social network, I’d want to see a sample of the daily readings. So, here it is, a sample chosen at random: