X & O Devotionals

X&O Index

Have A Heart for the Hurting
A Guide For Confused Days
Making Ends Meet
Care and Share
Keep An Open Mind
The Flat Days
Stay Cool!
A Dumb Ox
Name Calling is Inexcusable
Choose Good Advisors
Big Head, Small Soul
Be A Friend
Fighting Our Monsters
Holy Warfare
Be Sincere, Not Sly
You Aren't A Clothes Hanger
The Right Shape
At Your Best
A Costly Ministry
Indolence Is Taboo
Running for Life
The Crown Awaits
Be A Barnabas
Fallen Angels
Take Hindrances in Stride
Negatives? Si! Positives? Si, Si!
Enduring the Unknown
What Do You Spell?
Don't Make a Case for Wrong
Don't Put A Pricetag on Friendship
Companions, not Competitors
With the Bad for Good Reasons
Humor, a Dangerous Asset
You Can Help Others
Self-contained Is Self-destructive
Differences, Not Divisions
Stand Tall, Christian!
Christ Makes Us Whole
Break Jail!
Rescue Comes From the Outside
Brace Others
A Long Time
Stand By Your Friends
Loved and Loving
Chosen and Unchosen
A Costly Virtue
Love Is Courageous
Tell the Truth
Centered In God
Do What You Can
Anger Isn't Cute
Service or Sacrifice
Popularity Is Perilous
An Inside View
Adversity Conquered
Be Smart, not Smart-Alecky
Don't Debate with God
Keep In Touch with God
Good Reason for Bad Company
Encourage Someone Today
Someone To Swallow Whole
Christ Has No Secrets
Laughter Can Be Dangerous
Monkey Around a Little
Union for Christ's Sake
Hopping Mad People
A Moment of Sin, A Lifetime of Sorrow
Look Deep or Be Fooled
Pretense Can't Last Forever
Stay Teachable
Not All There - a Common Failing
The Popular, a Dangerous Hook
Neither Kicker or Kickee Be
Like and Unlike
Our Ultimate Honor
Ancestor Worship Is Vain Exercise
Obvious Turnabouts
Be Led, Not Driven
Fight or Flight?
The Noblest Sacrifice
Forbidden Judgment
Radical Change
A Mighty Defender
Multiplied Influence
Living Flexibly
Limitations and Encouragements
Christ Shares the Heat
Your Accent Identifies You
We Need to Be Needed



Together is a key to "Mission accomplished" in the church. What cannot be achieved by working solo becomes possible when we pull together. An ox team has more strength than two oxen toiling separately.

For good reasons Jesus sent His disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1-2), and urged the intercessory power of "two of you" agreed in His name (Matthew 18:19-20).

The early chapters of Acts show the Christians together in prayer (1:14), in receiving the Spirit (2:1), in meeting human needs (2:444-45), and in study, worship and eating (2:46). Thus united they were invincible.

Together we offset one another's weaknesses. Together we inspire one another's labors. Galahad could claim the strength of ten because his heart was pure. We can exercise the strength of many because our hearts are joined. In the mathematics of the kingdom of God, one and one are more than two.


Running for Life

We are in a race. It's not a dash, but a marathon. The finish line stretches across a gate into heaven. The author of Hebrews exhorts, "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (12:1).

The race is cross-country. The pace changes as terrain and climate change. Downhill slopes are easiest, though balance is required as we gather speed.

No trial runs have prepared us for the course. We just keep running, trusting Him who marked it out. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). He will lead us to final triumph.

Like O, athletes choose only those contests they are best suited for. All believers, however, must run the Christian race. We won't make the Guinness Book of Records, but our "names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation 21:27). That's far better! Heaven awaits! Get on the track. Follow the Leader. He knows where He is going.


The Crown Awaits

Some run for sheer joy, others for name and fame. Some run to get in shape or to stay in shape. Running birthed a whole industry in our culture.

Like O, some are built for downhill races. Like X, some are better equipped for uphill running, where more traction is required. Those who run the Christian course must "take it as it comes." Uphill and down, smooth going and rough, we keep running, and cheer one another along as we go.

Paul exhorts us, "Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:24). He reminds us that in track events "only one gets the prize." In the Christian race, however, all who stick it out are rewarded. Endurance calls for courage and faith.

The apostle urges, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Where did that lead him? Hear his dying testimony: "I have finished the race…Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:7-8). The crown is worth the training, the struggle, the race.

Go for it!

Be A Barnabas

Anyone is abler and better when someone stands beside them, giving encouragement and support. Indeed, the self-made person is a myth. Others have contributed to whatever knowledge and success are achieved. Only a heartless ingrate, a "glory hog," would deny this truth.

In the early church thousands knew Peter who never heard of his brother Andrew. It was Andrew who brought Peter to the Lord. Paul's brilliant career was launched by Barnabas, a man who played "second fiddle" so well that he earned the nickname "son of encouragement."

When Paul was converted and wanted to "join the disciples" many were skeptical. "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles" (Acts 9:26-29). Barnabas also brought Paul to Antioch, and from there they launched a missionary ministry that changed the course of history (Acts 13:13).

We may never have the abilities and opportunities to be a Paul. Fret not--being a Barnabas is a useful and happy way of life! Stand by someone and help make him or her a nobler, greater person. Be a Barnabas!


Fallen Angels

A bearded friend once told me that a small boy had asked him, "Are you Jesus?" Knowing how unlike Jesus he was, I couldn't refrain from asking, "Has anyone in your family ever made that connection?" He was quiet for a long time.

"Angel" programs have become a television fad. Some of the "angels" are blatantly sacrilegious and immoral in their personal lives. Such entertainment can please only the anti-Christ element of a depraved society.

There's a huge difference between Hollywood angels, Anaheim angels, and heaven's angels. Scripture says, "No immoral, impure, or greedy person …has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you…God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient "(Ephesians 5:5-7).

Ironically, some who portray these pseudo-angels are often people who would deny the existence or service of biblical angels. Scripture speaks of angels who fell. I think some of them landed in movie lots and television studios.


Take Hindrances in Stride

Short people get lots of ribbing but little respect. Being short myself, I speak from experience. Some short people can't handle the treatment. They become bitter and belligerent. They are out to bring others "down to size." Many gangsters and criminals have been little guys with large chips on their shoulders.

I was preaching in a church where the pulpit was built for a six-foot-five speaker, not a five-foot-six one. I stood to one side of it to deliver my message. The next Sunday I found a box behind the pulpit, placed there by two tall scamps. I stood on the box and preached, treating it as a harmless and clever joke on me, and got a favorable response from my hearers.

Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?" (Matthew 6:7, margin). Fretting is a waste of time and energy. Take hindrances in stride. The Lord has mightily used some short servants. True respect is earned by character, not by stature. Earn it!


Negatives? Si! Positives? Si, Si!

Being positive is a good thing, but always being positive is unnatural and foolish. The Bible is a better guide than a school of positive thinkers and writers on this matter. The word of God is full of "yes," but also contains a lot of "no." God framed some important messages in negative terms. A classic example is the Ten Commandments, where "you shall not" occurs ten times.

These commandments, however, are prefaced with a glorious positive statement: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (Exodus 20:2).

We need positives and negatives, but the positives should dominate. The "greatest" commandments are "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-38).

Two dogs met on the street. One asked, 'What's your name?" The other replied, "I think it's Down Boy." Those who receive no positive reinforcement, and hear "don't" and "can't" constantly are miserable. Be positive, and when you must be negative, be negative for positive reasons.


Enduring the Unknown

X always stands for the unknown factor in algebra--a question to be answered, a problem to be solved.

Life is full of such Xs, and many of us are not adept at algebra. We are like the college freshman who signed up for algebra as a language course.

Useful and happy living, however, doesn't depend on having all the answers and solving all the puzzles. It depends on doggedly following Christ when we cannot understand or resolve the apparent inequities and injustices we encounter.

When Jesus told Peter that he would one day become an unwilling martyr, Peter responded by nodding towards John and asking, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus replied, "What is that to you? You must follow me" (John 21:18-22). Our business is to follow Jesus no matter what is happening to us or happening to others. We are not given explanations of present suffering. We are given promises of ultimate victory. In the face of mystery that is enough.


What Do You Spell?

Things are not evil in and of themselves. The bad is usually the good out of place. Dirt that soils the carpet would be okay in the flower bed. Temptation is the appeal to satisfy a legitimate appetite in an unlawful way.

Jesus was weak from fasting. The devil said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus replied, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:3-4). Feasting is wrong when fasting is God's will. Fasting is wrong when feasting is God's will. In other circumstances Jesus ate and was grateful and glad.

On one side of HELL, little O formed a greeting. On the other side he formed profanity. We need to be careful what our lives spell out to others. "The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch" (Acts 11:26). That is what our lives should spell--"like Christ."

The company we keep is not wrong per se. How and why we company with others is the test of character. If it spells obedience to God, the company is good. If it spells disobedience, it is bad. God's will is what matters.


Don't Make a Case for Wrong

X is trying to be witty with a pun on "case" and "box." Truth is, however, we become adept at making cases for sin and then making excuses for having sinned. The deception is as old as Eden. The serpent made a case for disobedience to God's command. He argued, "You shall not surely die....your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5). He lied and they died.

Paul refuted those who made a case for continued sinning. "Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase? By no means!" (Romans 6:1-2). Their argument sounded logical: If showing mercy glorifies God, give Him more sin to forgive! "Let us do evil that good may result" (Romans 3:8). To Paul the notion was blasphemous.

Christians should make a case for one thing only--obedience to God's will as expressed in His word. We should flatly refuse to justify and then alibi wrongdoing.