Tag Archives: Christianity

The Raccoon Trap

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

I’ve always heard that the best way to catch a raccoon is to create a trap with a shiny coin dangling, and then put a small hole in the side. A raccoon will reach in, grab the coin, and not be able to get his hand out because it’s in a fist. The simple way to get out is to let go, but the raccoon won’t because he wants the coin too badly. I’ve laughed at how stupid a raccoon must be, but then had to stop when the mirror was turned to me.

Each time I hear the story of the raccoon, I wonder what things I’m holding on to that I need to let go of. There was a young man who approached Jesus in Mark 10, and he asked Him what he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus rattled off several commandments, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother” (MSG). This got the young man excited because he had kept all of those. Just then, Jesus added one more to the list.

Jesus said, “There’s just one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor.” The young man’s face dropped, and he went away with a heavy heart. Verse 22 says, “He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.” He got caught in the raccoon trap. He was holding on to things God was asking Him to let go of. In the end, he lost it all because he couldn’t let go. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

What are you holding on to that God has asked you to let go of? It could be hurt, regret, pain, bitterness, or something physical that you own. Whatever it is, it’s best to let go of it before God pries it out. Don’t let those things trap you and keep you where you are. Release them, no matter how important they may seem. You’ll find that God’s freedom is greater than whatever you’re holding on to. I’ve also learned that I have to let go of things before God can give me new and better things. The choice is ours. What’s it going to be?

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Platinum Override

I’ve stayed at a certain hotel chain enough that I’m Platinum Elite with them. One of the privileges that comes along with that status is called a Platinum Override. If I try to get a room in one of their hotels and it’s full, I can request a Platinum Override. They usually keep one or two rooms open for that, but if those are gone, they can bump another guest to make room for me. I’ve had to do that on a couple of occasions when I really needed a room and all the hotels were booked. When I apologize for asking for it, they remind me that I’ve earned that privilege with them.

I love how Philippians 2 talks about Jesus. It reminds us that He is God’s Son and had the privileges that come along with that. Verse 8 says, “Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion” (MSG). Jesus could have played His Platinum Override card when the time came to die, but He didn’t. He endured the suffering because of His love for you and me.

Philippians 2 also reminds us to be like Christ in this manner. We are to live selfless lives that aren’t intent on getting ourselves ahead at whatever cost. Instead, we are to help others get ahead. Verse 4 says, “Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Each of us have the ability lend a helping hand to someone else. There’s always someone else who is worse off than we are. Look for them today, put down your Platinum Override card and help them get ahead. In doing so, you’ll exhibit selflessness like Jesus.

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Using Words Wisely

When I was in the Fifth grade, my lunch time consisted of a group of boys gathered around a table. We would have put down contests and Yo Mamma joke contests. Each day two boys would be chosen, one from each side of the table, and they would trade put downs until one ran out of them or one of them started crying. When one boy won, two more would be chosen and it would continue. I learned to be quick witted from that, but I also learned that putting down others was funny.

We were just kids, but we were finding out how powerful words could be. Just by saying certain things, you could make someone laugh or cry. We were too immature to understand the power of those words and the ability of them to stay in someone’s mind with the potential to define them. I don’t know what happened to the rest of the boys at that table, but I hope they learned how to use words to build others up instead of tearing them down. The words we speak to others are so powerful that we shouldn’t treat them lightly.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you” (GNT). This should be the standard we use when talking to others. Before we speak, our filter should ask, “Will these words do good or cause harm?” God is in the business of building people up. As His followers, we need to be doing the same. I’ve still got work to do in this area, but my prayer is that God would help me to use my words wisely so that they provide what is needed, do good to those who hear them and build others up.

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Unselfish Generosity

Organizations, teams, relationships and people groups function best when people look out for each other as much or more than themselves. Problems arise when people are selfish and trying to get their own instead of helping others succeed. A culture of selfishness breeds greed, distrust, back stabbing and division. It’s unhealthy and stunts growth. I believe that’s why one of the characteristics God desires for Christians to have is selflessness. It promotes growth, healing, unity and trust.

God’s desire for you and I is to help others in our journey through life. If you look around you, there are people in your life every day that need a word of encouragement, a helping hand, someone to share their burdens with or your time. If you haven’t seen them, you’re too busy being focused on your own needs. God gave us His selfless love and wants us to show selfless love to others so that we can point them to Him. If you struggle in this area, ask God to open your eyes to the needs of others and to help you show His love. If you pray that way, you’ll not only change the life of others, your life will change too.

Here are some Bible verses on unselfish generosity.

1. So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior–a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another in [unselfish] love.

EPHESIANS 4:1-2 AMP

2. And God, who supplies seed for the sower and bread to eat, will also supply you with all the seed you need and will make it grow and produce a rich harvest from your generosity.

2 Corinthians 9:10 GNT

3. But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.

Isaiah 32:8 NLT

4. Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

Luke 6:37-38 MSG

5. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

GALATIANS 5:22-23 AMP

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Live Forgiven

To me, one of the saddest things anyone has said is, “I can never forgive you for what you’ve said and done.” That’s a pretty strong statement and it’s usually spoken out of hurt and anger. It’s meant to hurt and cut to the core the way that person has been hurt. If you’ve ever spoken them or had them spoken to you, you understand. The problem is it creates bitterness and hate within a person. Pain mixed with a grudge is an incubator for anger. Nothing good comes from situations where one side isn’t forgiven.

If you’ve had those words spoken to you because of something you’ve said or done, and you’re truly sorry, it’s also difficult to handle. Every one of us makes mistakes. Every one of us hurts other people whether intentional or not. When we’ve said or done the unforgivable, and the other person won’t release us, we can either spend a lifetime trying to prove how truly sorry we are or we can walk away knowing we’ve done our part. Either way, there’s an incompleteness to being unforgiven.

In Matthew 12, a Pharisee said some hurtful things to Jesus. He accused Him of being demon possessed and that His power came from Satan. After Jesus explained to him how a house divided can’t stand, He then addressed the sin inside the man. In verse 31, Jesus said, “There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven” (MSG). That’s a powerful statement that you and I need to grasp and meditate on today. Read it again.

There is nothing you can do or say that can’t be forgiven by God. No matter how bad or how wrong, He’ll never say He can’t forgive you. If you’ve been holding back asking forgiveness for something, I want you to release it today. Get rid of that incompleteness that’s created from unforgiveness, and be made whole at the cross. God isn’t human. He doesn’t hold grudges or harbor resentment against us for things we’ve said or done and been forgiven of. Give it to God and be set free today.

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A New Heart

I go through phases on the music I listen to. Recently, I was on an old school, Christian music kick and was listening to Keith Green. On the live version of “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”, he told the story of how he wrote it. He wrote God a letter asking God for a soft, spiritual heart. He wanted baby skin on his heart because his heart was getting old and calloused. He said, “It’s not because of anything I’m doing. It’s because of a lot of things I’m not doing.” Those words resonated within me. I began to pray for a new heart too.

Keith is right. The longer we are Christians, the more our heart gets calloused within us. It’s such a slow process that we often don’t realize it. We quit praying for certain things because we “know He won’t answer that.” We see the excitement in a new believer and think, “That’ll wear off soon.” Over time, we lose our childlike faith, but I believe God wants us to keep that. Praying for a new or soft heart is a great way to rekindle the fire that once burned bright.

When Samuel met Saul, he told Saul he was going to be king of Israel. He then gave him three signs of things he would encounter on his way home to prove it. I Samuel 10:9 says, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day” (NLT). We know that over time Saul’s heart hardened again, but there at the beginning, God gave him a new heart. I believe God wants all of us to have a new heart with childlike faith. If it’s been a while since God gave you a new heart, pray today that He will. I know He’ll answer that prayer.

Click here for a YouTube video of the Keith Green song.

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Earning Heaven

In Mark 10, there’s a man who runs up to Jesus and asks, “What do I need to do to receive eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart, so He listed off the Ten Commandments and said to obey them. The man replies back, “I’ve kept those my whole life!” Then jesus changed things up in verse 21 and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (GNT). The man left upset because he wasn’t willing to do that.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story a hundred times, but I want us to look at it a little differently today. One of the things I notice is that this man wanted to know what he could do to receive eternal life. We have to be careful not to think our salvation is based on anything we do. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” This Man was trying to figure out what boxes needed to be checked off to get to Heaven because he wanted man’s approval and not God’s.

We live in a performance based society. If you do certain things, you get promoted and make more money. We have to be very careful to not let that infect our faith. Jesus’ response to the man was reminding him, and us, that God looks at our heart, not at our works. We cannot earn salvation or favor with God By doing certain things. He loves us because of who we are. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. If you are truly thankful in your heart for what Jesus did on the cross, it will show up in how you live your life.

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