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


Encourage Someone Today

I have often thought that 1 Samuel 30:6, in the King James Version, contains one of the saddest lines in all of Scripture: "David encouraged himself in the Lord." He was being blamed for a tragic situation, and his own army talked of killing him. The lonely leader had to encourage himself; no other would do it.

We all need someone to make us feel okay. When Paul was nearing Rome, where he would face prison and trial, some of "the brothers there" came out to meet him and walk the last miles with him. Luke writes, "At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged" (Acts 28:15). His own countrymen had falsely accused him and sought his death. But these men, who were strangers until this time, made him feel good about himself.

If we all need that, surely we should all do that. Somewhere there is someone that you can encourage today. Perhaps the person lives with you, or works with you, or schools with you. Be alert to the hurt, and offer the words and the deeds that will lift their spirits and restore to them a healthy self-esteem.

Receiving encouragement is great; giving encouragement is equally so.

Someone to Swallow Whole

When I was a boy a common boast of bullies was, "I could eat you alive." A stock reply of those taunted was, "Then you would have more brains in your stomach than you do in your head."

To swallow someone whole was also a way of describing the gullibility that believed every claim made, however wild. It was akin to swallowing someone's statements "hook, line, and sinker."

To "swallow" another whole would radically change a person's life (as the fish discovered who swallowed Jonah). Depending on the person who was believed, it could be good or bad. Many victims have lost money and health by believing a crook or a crackpot.

Some have character, purpose, and wisdom that make them safe to swallow. Paul wrote, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). To be like Christ is the Christian's highest goal. To "swallow" Him whole, to live by His words in all situations, is to become a better person.

Christ Has No Secrets

A fictional agent "in her Majesty's service" made 007 a number known all over the world. "Bond, James Bond" became a pattern introduction. He out-thought and out-fought the evil forces that menaced civilization. Books and movies made author and actors rich and famous.

The morality of any secret bond is dubious. On trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus said, "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple....I said nothing in secret" (John 18:20). He was not one person in public and another in private. On trial for his life, Paul said of his work, "it was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:27). Before the same judge he said, "The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child..." (v. 4). His life and ministry were not secret.

Christ has no secrets. The church is not a secret society. What He teaches us in private is to be shouted from the housetops. A false teacher tries to keep his doctrines confined to followers sworn to secrecy. For the world's sake, and before the world's eyes, are hallmarks of true Christian service.

Laughter Can Be Dangerous

Be careful whom you join for a laugh. There are books and plays that Christians would shun without hesitation had the writers and actors not been funny. The devil learned that he can get folks to accept the obscene and blasphemous if he mixes it into a comic script or scenario.

A speaker once addressed a service club I belonged to. He thought he he had to tell dirty jokes to get and keep attention. The club president apologized for the low moral content of the visitor's speech. The apology angered the speaker but the speech had angered the president more.

Scripture strongly exhorts us to "purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). When the world's garbage is designed to make us laugh, it is still garbage. We consume it to our own destruction.

Humor is a gift of God. Like all His gifts, it can be perverted and abused. You wouldn't curse away your faith; don't laugh it away either.

Monkey Around a Little

Psalm 104:26 intrigues me. Speaking of the sea, the Psalmist says, "There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there." Scholars are unsure of leviathan's identity. Guesses range from whale to crocodile. What intrigues me is that God created something to "frolic" in the water. God is evidently not opposed to fun.

Bert Lahr used to say, "Monkeys are the cwaziest people." Their antics can be amusing. With a friend I used to visit a small zoo and watch the monkeys. Soon we would be relaxed and laughing. We gave them names and titles, because they reminded us of certain persons in the church, especially among its leaders. We even saw ourselves in some of the monkeyshines.

It's okay to monkey around, to frolic, to play at times. He is a foolish man who plays all the time, even in retirement. He is equally foolish who never plays, who indulges no sense of humor at any time. . Life is grim enough without making it GRIM.

Union for Christ's Sake

The chemical formula for water is H20. Water is basic to human life; without it everything dies. To join someone to produce something of real value is to form a worthy alliance.

The ultimate such union is described by the apostle Paul: "For we are God's fellow workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9). He describes himself and other apostles as colleagues, not competitors, in the work of the gospel. They had different functions but "one purpose"--the spiritual harvest that builds the church.

Christ gives the water of life (John 4:14). Apart from Him all would perish. Uniting to make Him known as Savior and Lord is the finest expression of Christian faith and love. To cause or encourage crippling divisions within the church is demonic. Paul wrote: "Watch out for those who cause divisions.... For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites" (Romans 16:17, 18).

Join your brothers and sisters to inform others about Christ. He is their greatest need. Your witness may be their best hope of finding Him.

Hopping Mad People

Never has the world been so jumpy. People live with frayed nerves, trying desperately to live out TV commercials. From rush hour traffic, endured ten times a week, they plunge into frantic weekend activities for "relaxation." They crowd so many miles and so many activities into so few hours that Monday mornings find them more exhausted and edgy than Friday afternoons. After a while they are snarling at each other like angry dobermans, or retreating into sullen silences intended to express contempt without words. A few years of this and divorce courts add more names to their crowded dockets.

The only answer to the rat race is inner peace. That comes from Jesus. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened," He invites, "and I will give rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29). He gives peace; the world only gives sedation.

A Moment of Sin, A Lifetime of Sorrow

How quickly one can be scarred for life! Many a tempted soul responded, "Just this once." But once is enough for sin to wreck a person for life.

I knew a young man who went "just this once" with some insistent buddies to what was then called a juke-joint. A lot of drinking took place and an argument broke out that quickly became a brawl. In the melee this young man, who didn't drink and wasn't enjoying the place, got stabbed. For weeks he hovered on the edge of death, and long months elapsed before he recovered sufficiently to resume a normal life.

Jesus' last words to the devil should often be our first: "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matthew 4:10). A firm, decisive and sustained "No" to temptation is our only safety. You cannot safely toy with sin any more than you can safely play with nitroglycerin. Reject everything incompatible with the worship of God.

Close to God is far from sin. Close to sin is far from God.

Look Deep or Be Fooled

O likes to tease X about his crooked appearance. Sometimes O looks like nothing to X. The old adage about appearances being deceitful is often true.

When Samuel saw Eliab he thought he was looking at a future king. But God said, "The Lord does not look at things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). The Lord's chosen man was David, a teenager who tended sheep and wrote poetry!

To the critics of His ministry Jesus said, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (John 7:24). To them, brain-washed by false teachers, He looked like a sinner, not the messiah.

Paul warned some Christian friends against "those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart" (2 Corinthians 5:12). The inner life is the essential life.

Learn to look for the signs that betray the quality of inner life. Don't be easily duped. Gullibility is not a fruit of the Spirit.

Pretense Can't Last Forever

Split personality is a mental illness. It can also be the deliberate strategy of a con artist, pretending to be a different person in order to exploit others.

Jacob disguised himself as Esau to hoodwink a father whose eyes had failed. When the ruse was detected he fled from home under a death threat. On the trail he encountered God, who desires "truth in the inner parts" (Psalm 51:6).

God placed the Gibeonites under sentence of execution. They duped the Israelites by disguising themselves as travelers from a distant land. They made a treaty with the unsuspecting Israelites which protected them when their cover was blown (Joshua 9:3-21).

Taken apart and rearranged, X could appear as vertical parallel lines. In rare instances an assumed persona might be a safety device, as was David's pretense of madness (1 Samuel 21:10-15). More often, it's a deliberate attempt to defraud others. However, sin cannot escape detection and judgment forever. "God cannot be mocked" (Galatians 6:7).