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


Don't Put A Price Tag On Friendship

Sometimes a third party sours a deal. Jell-O becomes Jell-OX, and who wants that--whatever that would be?

The girl who was forced to take her kid sister along on a date; the boy who was compelled to drag his little brother along when his pals went swimming; the man or woman who had to share a dream vacation with a mother-in-law-all these will say, "I could have made a sweeter deal without the third party along."

The church's first great missionary team split up because Paul wanted to exclude John Mark but Barnabas wanted to include him (Acts 15:36-41).

We are tempted to jettison inconvenient friendships. But "A friend loves at all times" (Proverbs 17:17). Christians cannot make their own pleasure and advantage the price tag of a friendship. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10). Don't forsake a friend, even for a sweeter deal.


Companions, not Competitors

Everybody, it seems, needs to feel superior to somebody. If they can't compete in one area they will try to excel in another. And the area of their competence will be the most important--in their own judgment.

The need to best another is felt early in life, even if it requires a proxy. Little fellows boast, "My daddy can whip your daddy"? I like the chap who said, "Big deal! My mama can beat my daddy."

Something bigger, something better, something costlier--we require this to prove ourselves to ourselves and to others. That's silly and childish.

How different was Jesus. He said, "I am among you as one who serves" (Luke 22:27). How different was Paul. He termed himself "less than the least of all God's people" (Ephesians 3:8).

A wise person will not be puffed up by compliments or puffed down by criticisms. Instead of bragging on ourselves, let's encourage others to be at their best. The Lord doesn't require us to be record holders. We are companions, not competitors, in the Christian life.


With the Bad for Good Reasons

You can treat every person right, but you can't be comfortable in all company. You will count the silverware if you know your guest is a thief. You will guard your lips in the presence of a known gossip. You will avoid asking a hypochondriac, "How are you feeling?" You just feel "fishy" when you're with people you dislike or distrust.

Life would be easier if we could always choose our crowds. We would spend all our social hours with those we like, enjoy, and approve. But we must often be with those we dislike and cannot enjoy. Then what?

Be consistently Christian. Don't avoid conflict at the price of moral compromise. No one's approval is worth the loss of your integrity and your soul.

Regard bad or unpleasant company as an opportunity to witness for Jesus. "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some," wrote Paul (1 Corinthians 9:22). Let's adopt that attitude and share that motive.


Humor, a Dangerous Asset

The Bible exhorts us to live "self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12). Among the things we must control is any propensity to foolishness. "Foolish talk" and "coarse joking" are "out of place" in Christian life (Ephesians 5:4). This does not mean that we must be grave in looks and serious in words all the time. Joking per se is not condemned; foolish and coarse humor is proscribed.

Foolish jesting is jesting that serves no valid, no serious purpose. Humor, especially self-deprecating humor, can be useful. It can cheer the morose, defuse tense situations, and get points across gently when other strategies cannot.

People without humor are hard to be with. Equally difficult are those for whom everything is a joke or calls for one. Poking fun at the sadness and sickness of others is cruel. The rule for all speech is "the truth in love." Keep a watch on your mouth today.


You Can Help Others

We sometimes feel that we can help only those who know less than we do. This is untrue. By being our best as Christians we can contribute something of value to anyone who is willing to receive it.

A person who refuses counsel from the less educated isn't wise; he is a snob. I've never met a person from whom I could not learn something of value. From humble, earnest followers of Christ I learned as many discipleship lessons as I did from erudite scholars. And I believe that I have been of help to some whose learning is vastly superior to mine.

Priscilla and Aquila were, in many ways, inferior to the brilliant, eloquent Apollos, but they "explained to him the way of God more adequately," and thus enhanced his effectiveness for Christ (Acts 19:24-28).

You can help others. A teacher learns from pupils. A pastor learns from parishioners. Share what you know about serving Christ.


Self-contained Is Self-destructive

We speak of aimless and unfulfilled life as "going around in circles." That wouldn't hold true for a race car driver, of course. Circling the track is his way of life, his bid for fame and fortune.

O counters the quip of X by claiming to be an end in himself. His life has purpose and progress for he is its goal. When life is no bigger or better than oneself, it is ultimately useless and baneful.

The self-contained are failures. They may be rich failures, "successful" failures, and failures envied by thoughtless neighbors -- but failures they are. God created us to live for His glory and for one another's good.

Jesus describes such a failure in Luke 12:13-21. He was a farmer who had bumper crops and overflowing barns. He could retire early to "eat, drink and be merry." He regarded others as tools and disregarded God entirely. Death swept him to judgment and God labeled him "Fool."

Self-centered life in a God-made world cannot finally succeed nor satisfy. We should live as did Jesus, who "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38).


Differences, Not Divisions

An X is not an O but both are letters. Each is used for a variety of purposes, but both are used mostly in word-formation to communicate feelings and ideas. What they have in common is just as important as how they differ. And sometimes they are equally needed and valued. You couldn't spell oxygen with either of them missing. If you think that doesn't matter, try living for a spell without oxygen! Nothing justifies arrogance and snobbery. Nothing excuses failure to cooperate for the common good.

The church is "the body of Christ" and "The body is not made up of one part but of many" (1 Corinthians 12:14). The function of each part enhances the health and strength of the whole body. That means none is unimportant and none is independent. True Christians are not rivals. They love, work, and believe together to help complete their mission. Like Xs and Os, we need each other, and magnifying our differences is foolish. Our differences should not become divisions.


Stand Tall, Christian!

The Marines encourage a man to stand erect and earn respect. They have a proud tradition that each recruit is challenged to honor in his own character and behavior.

No one should stand straighter than a Christian. He or she belongs to the only institution on earth that prepares for heaven.

The honor of Christ and the church is upheld or betrayed in the daily lives of Christians. For this reason Scripture exhorts, "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2). Unholy lives dishonor the holy God. Unloving lives dishonor the loving Christ. Selfish living brings reproach upon the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Christ does not coerce us. We must volunteer to obey, trust and love Him. Give yourself completely to Him and He will make you a better person. Stand tall!


Christ Makes Us Whole

People are coming apart everywhere. "Road rage" compels drivers to kill others on our highways. Angry teens spray classrooms with bullets, killing and wounding in mindless passion. Mothers kill their children to escape the frustration of raising them in undisciplined environments. "Exes" kill former mates to avenge rejection. Whole communities are awash in fear, anger, and grief. Obviously, our coping skills are deficient.

The world says, "Pull your self together," and offers books, seminars, and talk shows to tell you how. And whatever helps should be welcomed, however insufficient and temporary the relief.

The real answer is Jesus. He invites, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (John 11:28). He is adequate for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. "Cast all you anxiety on him," Peter urged, "because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). He will lighten the load or He will strengthen our backs. He can make us whole.


Break Jail!

Spell it jail or spell it gaol, it's still confinement. Our prisons overflow with society's losers. Others are caged within invisible bars, and their confinement is terribly real. They go to their jobs and come to their homes imprisoned by fear, guilt, ennui, sorrow--you name it! Their frustration exacts a severe toll upon their minds and bodies.

Jesus came "to proclaim freedom for the prisoners" and "to release the oppressed" (Luke 4:18). He creates inner freedom that outer bars cannot diminish or destroy. Paul and Silas could pray and praise God in jail at midnight because they were inwardly free. When God shook the prison open, they were free to stay and serve others rather than flee to save themselves (Acts 16:23-34).

Prison doors are hinged on sin; freedom's gates swing from the cross of Christ. Jesus said, "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

Freedom from sin is freedom for God. This is our ultimate freedom, the only one that will finally matter. Is Christ your liberator today?