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


Rescue Comes From The Outside

Everyone has been in prison or is there now, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Sin builds its own prison of fear and guilt. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Sin is a death camp filled with slave laborers.

"Leave your life of sin," Jesus commanded a fallen woman (John 8:11). She could, for His words effect what they demand. His forgiveness is truly liberating.

Some miners were trapped underground by an explosion. As their air was running out, they tapped out a poignant question: "Is there any hope?" They couldn't dig out to freedom. Help could only come from the outside. That is the situation created by our sins. From the outside a Rescuer came! "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18). In Christ there is freedom, peace, and joy!

Brace Others

Like X, some people are built to brace themselves. Some, like O, are not. When misfortune gallops into their lives, brandishing its sword, they don't have the inner strength to cope, to fight, to endure the shocks.

The strong should not despise the weak. It was said of Jesus, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Matthew 12:20). Instead of crushing the discouraged, Jesus "propped them on their leaning side."

That's how we all should live. Paul wrote, "We urge you, brothers, to...encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). So far from despising those who cannot brace themselves, we should heed another admonition from Paul: "Do not cause anyone to stumble" (1 Corinthians 10:32). And again, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). Brace someone today.

A Long Time

There are places I wouldn't want to stay for an eon. There are people I wouldn't want to live with for an eon.

A great thing about heaven will be its eternity and its company. In heaven I will associate with the best of people, and no time constraints will be placed upon our opportunity to know, love, and enjoy each other.

I've been in places I couldn't get away from fast enough! On the other hand, I have visited in places where I wanted to be a resident. My work did not permit the move, though my health would have been better served and my longing for beauty more fully satisfied.

"We shall be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This hope sustains us when days are dark, nights are long, paths are rough and people are wicked.

Time drags in a bad situation. In heaven an eon won't be nearly long enough!

Stand By Your Friends

There are bystanders and those who stand by. Bystanders just happen to be on the scene, and often refuse to get involved if trouble breaks out. Those who stand by are intentionally there to give whatever help they can to the victim of trouble.

"Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother" (John 19:25). She was more than a bystander. She could not save Him from that cross; she could only hurt and pray and watch. Standing by Him in silent grief was a testimony to her undying love that offered some measure of comfort in His dying hours. His earthly mother was standing by when it seemed that His heavenly Father had become a bystander. That must have meant a lot to Jesus.

We cannot always take pain and grief and injustice from others' situations, but we can stand by them with caring, involved, demonstrated love. What seems the least we can do may mean the most to them.

Loved and Loving

Unlike O, we have not always been in love, but we have always been
loved. The apostle Paul wrote: "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:4-5). We were loved from eternity, for "God is love" (1 John 4:8)! There are many people not loved by their next of kin, but none unloved by God.

"We love," John wrote, "because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He loved us when we were unlovely and unloving. Responding to His love, so powerfully displayed in the death of Christ for our sins, we began to love Him. And, the Bible insists, because He has no needs our hands can meet, we show our love for Him by loving and helping people around us who are "in need" (1 John 3:16-18).

Know that God loves you. Show that you love God.

Chosen and Unchosen

You are in some things by joining. You are in some things without joining. Paul addressed a letter "To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1).

The saints were in Christ by joining Him through a conscious act of faith. They believed into Him. He became their chosen sphere of life. Becoming a Christian involves decision. He invites, we accept. He gives, we receive. We take deliberate steps to join Him who first loved us and sought us.

But the saints are in Ephesus, like it or not. Our world is a given, not a chosen matter. It becomes our temptation, our challenge, and our mission field. Jesus said of His disciples, "They are still in the world....They are not of the world....I have sent them into the world..." (John 17:11, 16, 18). In the world by birth, not of the world by choice, but into the world as missioners -- that's what it means to be a Christian.

Live from Christ and for the world today.

A Costly Virtue

Loyalty is easy to profess but often hard to express. A man once said to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Luke 9:57-58). Following Jesus could mean lonely, friendless, threatening situations. What then?

Loyalty to Paul got some helpers flogged and jailed. Not all of his helpers could take it: "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…" (2 Timothy 4:10).

Loyalty is measured by love. Demas loved the world and forsook Paul and the gospel. Paul loved Christ and endured prison, torture, and death for Christ's sake. Weak love, weak loyalty. Strong love, strong loyalty.

If loyalty to Christ is to be fact, not bluster, we must love Him with all our hearts. His will must be the supreme law for our lives. Half-hearted Christians aren't going to reach whole-hearted sinners.

Love Is Courageous

Courage is a rare quality, universally admired but infrequently emulated. Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." The other disciples concurred in his brave-sounding statement (Mark 14: 31). But when Jesus was arrested and execution was imminent, "everyone deserted him and fled" (Mark 14:50).

Later these same men would face prison and death rather than be silenced about Jesus (Acts 5:40-42). What made the difference? For one thing, the resurrection of Christ, for it proved He was stronger than death. For another thing, they had been filled with the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit is love," and these Spirit-filled disciples now loved Jesus enough to brave anyone or anything for His sake. Love cast out their fear and released their courage.

Talking brave is cheap. Being brave is costly. He is worth our lives. Whatever He commands, let's "go for it." We've nothing to lose but our lives, and He gives eternal life.

Tell the Truth

It's not being caught in a lie that's wrong--it's lying itself. Whoever said the eleventh commandment was "Thou shalt not get caught" captured the spirit of the world. God says, "Don't lie." The world says, "Don't get caught lying." There is a world of difference.

When presidents are caught lying they defend it as "national security."
When merchants are caught lying they blame it on market competition. When workmen are caught lying they plead low wages as an excuse. When senators are caught lying they call it campaign strategy. When preachers are caught lying they move to another church.

There is no O in lie, but that doesn't make O truthful. There is no U in
lying, either, but that doesn't make you truthful. Scripture enjoins, "Let each of you put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor," and urges "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:25, 15). Loveless truth can often hurt as much as lies. Speak the truth lovingly.

Centered In God

True reverence means centering our lives in God's will.

In His darkest hour Jesus prayed, "Not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36). He prayed thus at the cost of His life. To be in the center of God's will at any cost, and all the time, is the living definition of reverence.

I had a professor who disliked the phrase, "in the center of God's will." "That's a piece of spiritual geography I cannot find in the Bible," he would snort. One day I asked, "Aren't we are told in Scripture to abide in the Lord and to abide in His love and to abide in His words?" He readily answered, "Yes." "Well," I asked, "can we abide in God, His love and His words without abiding in His will?" He grudgingly responded, "I reckon not." And I cautioned him to be sure his dispute was semantic and not a defensive reaction to being centered in his own will.

Our center will be God or self. To be centered in God is authentic living. To be centered in self is self-destructive.