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
Together
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
Options

Devotionals

Stay Teachable

The very young are naturally teachable. Curiosity sees to that. Two-year-olds never seem to run out of questions. They are eager to learn something about everything they see, hear, taste or otherwise experience.

As we grow older we become "set in our ways," less curious, less questioning, less teachable. This is, in part, a defensive posture that has its origin in sad, hurtful and disappointing experiences. You can lie or be lied to so often that the very existence of truth becomes doubtful.

Jesus has more to teach us than we have learned. We must remain teachable to be His disciples. Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry as a teacher (Luke 4:14). He closed it by forming His disciples into a Bible class and teaching them scriptural truths about himself (Luke 24:44-48).

Jesus declared that "the kingdom of God" belongs to "the little children," to the teachable (Luke 18:17). The closed mind leads to an empty life. The mind open to the words of Jesus will be endlessly enriched.

Not All There--a Common Failing

"He's not all there" can be an unloving way of telling the truth about a mentally deficient person. Christians are charged with "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). What cannot be said lovingly should be left unsaid even when it's true.

"Not all there" can also describe a person who is not attentive to what you are saying. He is present to your eyes and present to your voice, but his mind has wandered to someone or something of greater interest to him. He isn't all there for you.

We can even be "not all there" when God is speaking to us from His word or during our prayers. We need to listen and respond with the full attention our Father deserves. Jesus said to His disciples, "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you..."(Luke 9:44). According to 1 Peter 3:12, the Lord is "attentive" to the prayers of "the righteous." We should give the Lord the same attention He gives to us. Be all there to Him and others.

The Popular, a Dangerous Hook

Everyone has a natural desire to be accepted and even admired by others. This desire is not wrong per se, but it can easily lead to wrong. We can allow the "in crowd" to determine our morals and fashions and activities, although their value systems and lifestyles oppose the will and word of God. This is why Scripture warns, "Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men" (Proverbs 4:14). This is why Scripture warns, "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong" (Exodus 23:2).

"Fifty thousand Frenchmen can't be wrong." This old saying means that the majority's thinking and doing are always right. Christian ethics are not decided by human consensus but by Jesus' teachings. The crowd can not only be wrong, it nearly always is. The disciple of Jesus doesn't fit in with the world, for the world is bent out of shape by sin. When Jesus straightens us up we no longer fit the old crowds and situations.

Don't get hooked on the popular. Follow Jesus.

Neither Kicker or Kickee Be

To regard anyone as something you can kick around at will is to wrong them and offend God. Other people do not exist as objects for us to exploit for our own pleasure. To treat them as persons means to live by the Golden Rule. We treat them as we want them to treat us. We don't want to be kicked around like a football for the joy it gives some bully. And if we don't want to be kickees, we shouldn't be kickers.

I once received a novel introduction in the opening service of a revival meeting. "Here's Dr. McCumber," the pastor said to the congregation, "he's as old as dirt." He was joking and I didn't resent it. But I would resent being treated like dirt. I am not something, I am someone, and that's how I want to be viewed and treated.

When you're tempted to boot someone, listen closely and you will hear Jesus saying, "in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..." (Matthew 7:12).

Like and Unlike

O and Q are much alike in some ways, but the difference obvious to even a casual observer.

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is often that obvious. Much of the time, however, it may not be easily discerned.

Two men, dressed alike, may sit in the same pew, sing the same hymns, pray the same prayer, hear the same sermon, and even drop twin offerings into the collection plate. Outwardly, there is no obvious difference, but inwardly there is "a great gulf fixed." One may be a politician who is there as a sincere worshiper of God. The other may be a politician, also, but present in the service to favorably impress the people and hopefully garner some votes.

"A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly," said Paul (Romans2:29).
The same is true of a Christian. "In your hearts," urged Peter, "set apart Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15).

What is special about a Christian is heart-deep, not skin-deep.

Our Ultimate Honor

Time flies and fame is fleeting. To my generation Oscar Robertson was a sports hero. Nicknamed "the big O," he played with style, intensity, courage and skill that set him apart, even among the pros. To appear on his jersey would have been the ultimate "high" for a letter O.

O's situation is that of most persons; any claim to greatness derives from association with someone great. Would we have heard of Onesimus had he not been an associate of the apostle Paul? That is what made him a big O in his day.

Jesus said to His disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15). To be His friend is the highest honor one can receive.

Only a few of His first disciples were outstanding. Most of them are mentioned in the New Testament and then lost to history. And most of us will not be cheered by crowds or wear gold medals. So what? How can any person feel insignificant and go unrewarded who is a friend of Jesus?

Ancestor Worship Is Vain Exercise

Many people like to boast of where they're from and who their ancestors were. They feel superior to those from less renowned or less colorful places and persons. Since no one chooses either ancestors or birthplace, such boasting is utterly vain -- but vanity never has deterred the insecure or the overbearing.

Some Jews were immensely proud of having descended from Abraham. Jesus told certain critics, "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). That's the real test! If your ancestors could see you, would they be glad or embarrassed and ashamed?

My father's forbears were from Scotland. A woman from the old country told him once, "I knew the McCumber clan in Scotland. They were a bunch of thieves." So much for ancestor worship!

Live so that your ancestors could be proud of you. That beats all claims to blue blood or superior wealth.

Obvious Turnabouts

O looks the same facing toward us or facing away from us. That isn't true of all letters, and it isn't true of any humans.

A waitress once said to me, "You look better going than you do coming." I forget what inspired this criticism of my physiognomy. I've also been told, "If your face were your fortune you'd be on welfare."

Turning around is the root meaning of repentance and conversion in Scripture. When a sinner repents he is changed. The change becomes so evident in his lifestyle that his family, friends and foes all know that he has turned around. "Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts," cried Isaiah. "Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).

When we forsake our ways for God's way, the turnabout will be obvious to all who know us, even to the family dog.

Be Led, Not Driven

No one wants to be driven. Being driven means that someone or something else controls our direction, activity, and pace. A district superintendent used to tell me, "Push your work and your work won't push you." It's a matter of driving or being driven.

Luke tells of a time when demons invaded a herd of pigs. "The herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned" (Luke 8:33). When demonic forces are in control people are driven to destruction.

Jesus leads, He doesn't drive. He is "the good shepherd" whose sheep follow Him. They know His voice and receive His life (John 10:14, 27-28). We are freed and fulfilled by Him. The sheep trail beats the hog race.

The King James Bible describes the swine as rushing "violently" down the hillside. The world's driving forces result in violence. Jesus offers peace, deep and inward and enduring.

Don't be teed up and smacked away by demonic pressures. Rest in the Lord who loves you perfectly.

Fight or Flight?

Facing trouble head-on sounds admirable and brave. There is a time to "stand against the devil's schemes," armored by God for spiritual battle
(Ephesians 6:11-13). There is a time to "Fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:12); a time to "resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:9).

But there is also a time when wisdom dictates flight. Sometimes "discretion is the better part of valor." Paul urged Timothy to "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace" (2 Timothy 2:22).

When to fight? When to flee? Circumstances and consequences determine the appropriate strategy. Our safety lies in the guidance of the Lord. He guides through His word and by His Spirit. He will stand with us wherever paths converge and confusion threatens, whispering, "This is the way; walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). He is readier to lead than we are to be led. Trust Him.