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


Do What You Can

Have you noticed how often humor is cruel? It pokes fun at handicaps and hurts. It gets a laugh by ridiculing people's disabilities. The only sane humor, it seems to me, is self-deprecating.

O cannot hike, but he can roll. His response to X should be, "I'll reach the goal in the best way I can." Blessed are they who do what they can and refuse to get uptight or downcast over what they can't do.

When he was small, one of my sons couldn't pronounce an "r." Rocks were "wocks" and rabbits were "wabbits." One day he rushed into the house talking about a "big wed twuck." I said, "Son, can't you say red?" He broke into a grin and replied, "No, Daddy, but I can say gween." His attitude taught me a valuable lesson--do what you can, and don't fret what you can't.

"She did what she could," Jesus said of a woman (Mark 14:8), and He pronounced it "beautiful." Remember, He is the final judge of what we are and what we do.

Anger Isn't Cute

Anger isn't cute to those who are being hurt by it. The person given to anger always hurts himself. The emotion can be self-destructive. Often others are hurt also, for under the sway of anger we say and do things ruinous to relationships.

There is a righteous anger. The psalmist wrote, "God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day" (Psalm 7:11). Jesus looked at some religious leaders "in anger...deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts" (Mark 3:5). These are exceptions. Most human anger is selfish and it carries terrible power to inflict suffering.

Paul exhorts, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:31-32. Displacing anger with forgiving love is the work of the Holy Spirit. Let Him do His work in your heart, for anger can be deadly.

Service or Sacrifice

Oxen no longer pull plows in America. Deeres have replaced them. From biblical times, however, oxen have been used throughout the world for plowing and for pulling carts.

God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor. Elijah found the young man "plowing with twelve yoke of oxen" (1 Kings 19:19). Two of the beasts were killed, cooked and fed to family and friends at a farewell dinner. There would be no turning back. Elisha would prove "as stubborn as an ox" about pursuing his new career.

The Old Testament speaks frequently about oxen being sacrificed in burnt offerings to the Lord. At the dedication of the Tabernacle, for instance, each of the tribal leaders in Israel sacrificed oxen (Numbers 7:88).

The plow and the altar, with an ox standing between them, appeared on ancient coins. This is how true Christians live--always ready for service or for sacrifice as the Lord commands.

Popularity Is Perilous

X may have overrated his popularity. As expensive as X-rays are, they are probably outsold by O-shaped bagels and doughnuts.

Desire for acceptance and popularity is natural, but it can be harmful, even fatal, to the soul. God warns, "Do not follow a crowd in doing wrong....do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd" (Exodus 23:2).

Pilate, "to satisfy the crowd," freed Barabbas and remanded Jesus to brutal men for crucifixion (Mark 15:15). Felix, though he was convinced of Paul's innocence, left him in prison as "a favor to the Jews" who thirsted for his blood (Acts 24:27).

Right is not determined by opinion polls. Justice isn't done by mobs. The "in-crowd" is usually out of step with God. Their favor can cost you His. To be popular at the price of a butchered conscience and a bankrupted eternity is a poor bargain.

An Inside View

An old "gospel song" says, "I'd rather be on the inside looking out, than on the outside looking in." The song was prompted by Noah and the Ark. In his situation it was certainly best to be inside and looking out through the upper window. I doubt if Paul and Silas would have chosen this song in the jail at Philippi, however.

Sometimes an inside look is needed. X-rays allow doctors to be on the outside looking in, and these diagnostic aids have saved multiplied thousands of lives since they were discovered in 1895.

We live from the inside out. The heart is "the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). From time to time, therefore, we need spiritual checkups and spiritual X-rays. This is why the psalmist prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

An inside view of our hearts will prompt us to pray for forgiveness, cleansing, strength and peace. Our heart-knowing God will grant them.

Adversity Conquered

Mrs. Croft was a sweet, cheerful, uncomplaining woman. Her legs had been amputated and she was confined to wheelchair and bed. Like O, she turned away well-meant expressions of pity with unfailing humor.

Ona Belle Parrish, her daughter, was widowed while young. She cared for three children and her mother while working hard to earn a living. She was the soul of courage and commitment, refusing to become a victim of self-pity. She and her mother were beautiful Christian women. They had plenty to kick about, but refused to take that direction.

Some folks spend their whole lives consumed with rage or self-pity because of tragic events or constant pain. Others rise above adversity, saying with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" (Job 13:15). They endure the worst that life can bring but remain loving, trusting, forgiving persons. Their lives are confined and pain-ridden but they make our lives bigger and better for knowing them.

Be Smart, not Smart-Alecky

Here is sound advice from an inspired apostle: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment..." (Romans 12:3). Low self-esteem is a problem for many. Their fear of failure leads them to attempt nothing, a sure way to achieve nothing.

Many others have the opposite problem. They are vain and arrogant. They pride themselves on their blue blood and blue ribbons. They have it all, know it all, and flaunt it all.

Paul recognized but one acceptable yardstick, "the measure of faith God has given you." John the Baptist said, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). God's gifts are for service, not for strutting. They are bestowed on us that we might help others, not inflate ourselves. Truly smart people are humble and helpful. J. B. Chapman likened men to growing wheat: "Full heads bend over."

Be smart if you can, but don't be smart-alecky just because you can.

Don't Debate with God

In a scathing passage, Paul writes, "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" He closes the passage exclaiming, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 9:20; 11:33).

The message is, When you argue with God you don't have a leg to stand on. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, "as the heavens are higher than the earth" (Isaiah 55:9). Job complained when God didn't explain His ways. God responded with a salvo of 71 questions that sent Job reeling. The questions had a single thrust: "If my wisdom and power exceed your understanding, why should you be telling me how to run the world and rule your life?" Job humbly confessed, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know" (Job 42:3).

God knows what He's doing, and He's doing it in love. Submission, not argument, is our wisest course

Keep in Touch with God

Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10).

How do you think God feels if our prayers are always SOS calls? The Lord's Prayer begins, "Our Father..." It includes petition, and God welcomes our cries for help. But even an earthly father would weary of children whose every approach to him began, "Gimme."

A father wants communion with his family. Too many ignore God until trouble comes then they call Him over to bail them out. When trouble passes God is forgotten. They pray like tourists ringing for room service.

911 is not God's only number. If you never push the other buttons you are robbing yourself of the greatest blessings life can contain. In constant touch with God you will be a happier and holier person. The Lord is a Friend in need, but He is still a Friend when need is not pressing.

Good Reason for Bad Company

If you're going with the group, you had better know where they're headed and how they'll behave. In a group, and eager for acceptance, we are more easily tempted to compromise our consciences. That's why Scripture declares, "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Jesus was often with bad people. His critics muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Luke 15:2). They were saying, in effect, "A man is known by the company he keeps." No. A man is known for the reason he keeps company. Jesus was with sinners in order to save them.

A Christian can't live in isolation from all wicked people. He or she is needed as a witness to Christ. But he or she must refuse to adopt the values and goals of unbelievers. Paul warned Timothy, "Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure" (1 Timothy 5:22).

Old McDonald's farm is not off-limits. Old McDonald's honky-tonk is. Be sure you have a good reason for bad company.