August 30

TODAY IS…

a superb day to put first things first.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”  Exodus 20:13 KJV

“That’s an easy commandment to obey,” you insist. “I would never worship anyone or anything but God.” Surprisingly even for many of us who believe our faith is great, it is not as easy as we may insist.

Most of us are also aware that this is the first commandment. But why should it be first? Simply because without God, we are nothing. God created us, God gave us life, and God should be the most important part of our life. We should turn to God first no matter what our mood is or needs are. Just imagine for a moment what the world would be like if everyone accepted Christ and did what He told the Pharisee: “And He said to him, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” (Matthew 22:37 NASB).

“But I do that!” you cry. Be patient, because some of us will learn a disturbing truth.

Jesus also told the Pharisee lawyer what the second most important commandment is: “The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:39-40 NASB).

If we all really understood, and practiced, what Christ was telling the lawyer, we would definitely put God first, but we would also put other people before ourselves. Still think that you do this?

How many of us can honestly say that our desire for material possessions doesn’t sometimes drive our actions? How often does what we do take precedence over our relationship to God and who we are? How often do we put God on the back burner to take care of ‘me’? Why do we find it so difficult to believe Jesus Christ when He said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33 NLT). No matter how much we try to kid ourselves, money and material things often become our primary focus, and the Bible clearly teaches us that. “Who but a fool would make his own god – an idol that cannot help him one bit?” (Isaiah 44:10 NLT). Money – fame – power; these are all modern day idols. They achieve god status for many of us without consciously making them so.

In today’s world it is easy to forget what truly should come first in our lives, but we must endeavor to put things in their proper order. God must always be our first priority, and the only focus of our worship. When we put God first and involve Him in everything else we do, our lives will achieve a fullness and a richness beyond anything we could ever imagine.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 29

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to make sure we are still on the right path.

“Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”  Hebrews 12:13 NLT

“Recalculating, Recalculating.” In this day and age of rapid technological advances, when it comes to traveling, it is very difficult to get lost. With the navigation systems available for automobiles, even if we intentionally stray from the course we have set, we will hear the system inform us that it is recalculating our path.

When it comes to our journey through life, the Lord desires that we all arrive at the same destination, but He also knows that the routes traveled to get there will be very different. Some will be quite direct, while others will require constant “recalculating.” Unlike the systems in our cars that will automatically do this for us, we must show some responsibility and reach out to God for His help in keeping us headed for our glorious final destination of eternal life with Him in His Kingdom.

Since the very nature of our journey should be one of excitement, joy, and anticipation, it stands to reason that we will want others to share the journey with us, or at least follow us. With other people following our lead, we want to make sure that we are constantly “recalculating” to make sure that we have not strayed off course.

This is accomplished by awareness of who we are and what our relationship with God is. Are we including God in all aspects of our lives? Are we relying upon Him to carry our burdens? Do we spend time with Him daily through prayer and by reading the Bible? Do we look to the Lord for guidance and blessings in our decision making? Do we thank Him and praise Him for clearly marking our path so that we walk towards Him with confidence and encourage others to follow?

While navigation systems for cars, boats, planes, and walking are inexpensive and readily available, they will only show the directions from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. They will not tell you how to deal with problems and difficulties that will occur along the way. Fortunately, these are exactly the sorts of things that a relationship with God will provide: guidance, wisdom, advice, comfort, counsel, strength, confidence, and much, much more.

By all means, use your navigation system when taking that trip to grandmother’s house. But for your journey through life, rely on God to do your ‘recalculating’ for you and keep you on the right path.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 28

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to be used.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.”  2 Corinthians 2:14b NLT

Much is written about allowing God to use us for His purposes. The Bible itself instructs us to allow ourselves to be used, informs us that God will use us, and gives examples of how He uses people and things to accomplish His purpose.

Our responsibility is to willingly submit ourselves to being used by God as He sees fit. We are a tool that we must make available to Him to use when He wishes and for the purpose He best feels we are suited for. If we have special talents or abilities, we must recognize them as gifts from God and ask for His guidance in using them to suit His purpose and not our own. After all, “Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, or like a rod lifting him who is not wood.” (Isaiah 10:15 NASB).

Perhaps our belief is that our talents and abilities are too simple for God to use. Some of us may feel that we have not been blessed to the degree, and in the same way, as others. We may feel that we are not of much use to God. There are numerous examples in the Bible of God using very average people and very simple things to achieve very great purposes.

Through Elisha, God used a simple jar of olive oil to fill many other jars of olive oil to assist a widow who owed money to a creditor and was in danger of losing her sons to slavery. When all the jars she had and her sons could find were full, “She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’” (2 Kings 4:7 NIV).

With simple horns, God enabled Joshua to break down the walls of Jericho; He used a clay jar to enable Jeremiah to provide an object lesson of God’s wrath; with the water from a river God enabled Elisha to cure a man’s leprosy. And, of course, with only five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus fed over 5,000 people.

The mother of Jesus was a simple peasant girl, and yet she was told, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.” (Luke 1:31 NASB).

It may be beyond our ability to comprehend just how God wishes to use us. It is only important that we willingly, and joyfully, make ourselves available to Him and pray for Him to use us as He desires.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 27

TODAY IS…

not a good day to play with fire!

“Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?”  Proverbs 6:28 KJV

“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). This is one of God’s commandments that the vast majority of us obey. But what is the motivation for that obedience? Are we afraid of God? Or are we afraid of the laws of man? Perhaps we are just decent people who cannot conceive of taking another person’s life.

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14 KJV). As we all know, this is another of God’s commandments. Unfortunately this one is broken far too frequently. Why is that? Are we not afraid of God? Are we not decent people? Can we only be trusted to do the right thing when humans make a law?

A considerably higher percentage of people wear seat belts because it is man’s law than the percentage who honor the sanctity of their marriage in spite of the fact that it is God’s law.

Aesop said, many years ago, “Familiarity Breeds Contempt.” It would take contempt for someone to violate the trust and fidelity that should exist in a marriage. It is true that the more familiar we are with someone, the more apt we are to see those aspects of their personality, character, and plain old humanness that are negative or unpleasant. So many of us today, men and women alike, have succumbed to that other old adage, “The Grass is Always Greener On the Other Side of the Fence.” More than likely this appears to be true, but if it is looked at closely, we can see that it is that way only because it is not our grass.

Marital infidelity and sexual sin are such a part of our lives and our society today that we hardly give any of it a second thought. Every popular television show must contain some sort of sexual impropriety or it would undoubtedly fail. The only time the flames of passion are fanned are when the fire is consuming an adventurous or otherwise inappropriate relationship. We have been warned by God that if we play with fire we will get burned. “So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 6:29 NLT). The same goes for a woman who sleeps with another woman’s husband. Yet we ignore God’s warning, God’s law, and God’s promise of punishment.

We ask a lot of God, but what about what God asks of us? Does it really make sense to fasten your seat belt, but ignore God? Probably about as much sense as it makes to take your shoes off and stand in the fire.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 26

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to remind ourselves that God loves even the worst of us.

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”  Matthew 20:15 KJV

Many individuals live their entire lives in the light of the Lord. They spend time each day reading the Bible and meditating on its message. They offer praise to God for all of their blessings and they pray for their own souls and for the souls of others. They worship at their church regularly, participate in the many missions of the church, and give time and money to help others who are less fortunate. They are good husbands and wives, good parents, helpful and considerate neighbors, and loyal friends. Always sharing a smile and a good word, the impact that Christ has had in their lives radiates from within and is an inspiration, as well as a motivation, for others. They have sacrificed much in service to the Lord, but have also been richly rewarded.

Other individuals come along who are as unlike the individuals described above as night is to day. Their lives have been lived in a way that demonstrates the power of evil. They have lied, cheated others, and stolen from anyone they could. Cloaked in darkness, they have sinned in almost every way imaginable. They have lived lives of sexual immorality, greed, lust, and violence. Thinking only of themselves, these individuals drank and carried on with no regard for who they inconvenienced, who they hurt, or who they dragged down into the darkness with them. Never once did they go to church, pray to God, or read the Bible. The only time they mentioned God was when His Holy Name was taken in vain.

One day, late in life, they had fallen so low they could not go any further. From somewhere within a spark ignited a small fire. That small fire lit the fuse of their faith, which exploded in a sudden understanding that something had been missing. From that understanding came a need for God and standing there ready to show them the way was Jesus Christ.

As perfect as the first group of individuals sounded, there developed a jealousy for they knew something that the others were just beginning to understand: God loves us all unconditionally – even the worst of us. No matter how we have attempted to disrupt or destroy our lives, when we cry out to Jesus, finally, for help, we will find the same love, in the same measure, as those who never strayed. If you are in the first group and have ever known someone in the second group who has finally cried out to the Lord, do not be jealous. Be happy that another stray has found his or her way back to the Shepard.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 25

TODAY IS…

a fine day to pray for more.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.”  Philippians 1:9 NLT

What is being suggested here is that today is a fine day to pray for more love and understanding between fellow Christians and for Jesus Christ on behalf of ourselves and those around us.

Paul stressed the importance of praying for others, especially for knowledge and understanding. In his letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul let them know how great he thought their faith was and he told them. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16 NIV).

We should pray like Paul and give thanks not only for those members of our family that we love, but also for those around us we love in Christ. We should take our cue from Paul when he says, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” (Ephesians 1:17 NIV). One can almost feel the joy that Paul felt in praying for others and knowing that he was helping them to know the love of God.

One of our goals, as we serve Christ, should always be to pray to bring others out of the darkness in which so many live. We can do this, again, by looking to the words of Paul when he went on to say, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called – His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:18 NLT).

God hears us when we pray on our own behalf. He wants us to talk to Him, to confide in Him, and to rely on Him. But He also wants us to learn the lessons found in the Bible, particularly those concerning service to others, and a very effective way to serve others that we can make no excuses for not doing, is to pray for them. It costs us nothing; it can be done at our convenience; it can be done anywhere; and it can be done often.

It can also be done without their knowledge, so when we give someone the gift of our prayers we are following Christ’s instructions to “Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:4 NLT).

So go ahead and pray for more. Ask for all of the love and understanding you want for yourselves, your family, your friends, and everyone around you. This is one of those times when asking for more is not only alright, it is encouraged.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 24

TODAY IS…

to accept the possibility of success.

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  Psalm 34:4 KJV

What great thing are we not attempting to do because there is a possibility that we might fail? For that matter, what not so great thing are we not attempting to do because there is a possibility that we might fail? Some of us may not even be attempting very small things for that very same reason.

The possibility of failure has loomed large in our lives since we were children. Every single thing that we have ever attempted to do for the very first time carried with it the possibility of failure. Some things, like learning to ride a bicycle or roller skate carried with them the possibility of bumps and bruises, but generally at the age we attempted them we had encouragement to get up and try again.

The possibility of failure never goes away. It is one of those annoying facts of life that we must learn to accept, and deal with. The best way to deal with it, is by turning to God. If we are attempting to do something new, but are concerned about what the result might be, we should remind ourselves that turning to God first will not guarantee us success, but it will help us accept whatever the outcome may be.

Let’s face it; not all people are cut out to be all things, but how many of us have held back from trying something because we were afraid we might fail? If we are honest, most of us will raise our hands. What is required is the attitude of Jonathan when he turned to his armor bearer and said, “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether He has many warriors or only a few!” (1 Samuel 14:6b NLT).

Does praying to God and asking for His help guarantee that we will not fail at what we are attempting? It does not. But it guarantees that we will be able to give it our best and overcome our fear of failure. No matter the outcome, we will have learned something about ourselves and our abilities. Perhaps some other discovery about ourselves will be made in the process. At the very least, we will discover that there is one thing that will never fail, and that is the love of God. “Let Your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in You alone.” (Psalm 33:22 NLT).

Big things, little things, anything. When we put our trust in God, we will not only be able to face the possibility of failure, but we will also be able to accept the possibility of success.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 23

TODAY IS…

the day to ask God to help you put your heart into it.

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”  Nehemiah 4:6 NIV

Rebuilding the wall surrounding Jerusalem was a very formidable task. When it was made known that Nehemiah was organizing the Israelites to do just that, they were mocked and made fun of. Nehemiah prayed to God and then everyone put their heart into their work.

At some point in our lives, each one of us more than likely will face our own daunting tasks. We will all find it necessary to “rebuild a wall” of our own in some form or fashion.

It doesn’t matter what looms before us. Possibly it is as simple as an unpleasant chore around the house that we have been putting off. Perhaps it is the knowledge that the time has come for us to seek new employment. Our personal “wall” could be something we can do ourselves or may involve the aid of others to help us.

No matter what it may be, there is always one starting point, as demonstrated by Nehemiah: Praying to God and asking for His help. After that, knowing that the Lord is involved, we should be able to put our heart into whatever it is and enthusiastically go about the process of “rebuilding our wall.”

Not everything we do will loom before us as a formidable task, but no matter what we do, we should do two things: 1) Get God Involved. A good relationship with God will have us looking to Him automatically, before we do anything, and praying for help and guidance; 2) Put Your Heart Into It. Taking the first step makes the second step easier. God can help inspire us and fill us with the fire that will ignite our enthusiasm.

The more we rely on God for everything that we do, the more He will do through us, and this should help to ignite the fire in our hearts in the same way that it did for Paul, as he demonstrated when he wrote, “So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.” (Romans 15:17 NLT).

Enthusiasm is contagious, and that is one ‘disease’ we should all aspire to spread, especially when our enthusiasm is for service to God. No matter how large or how small the task may be that lies before us, when we get God involved and put our hearts into it, before we know it, as with Nehemiah, our ‘wall’ will be built and “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized this work has been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:11 NIV).

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 22

TODAY IS…

a superb day to aspire to be a good leader.

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”  Titus 2:7a NIV

Some of us may say. “But I don’t want to be a leader. I’m not cut out for that.” The reality is that we are almost all leaders of one sort or another and probably do not even realize it. The real question is, “Am I a good leader?”

One of the most common forms of leadership can be found in parenting. Certainly a mother or a father is a leader. After all, one of the primary definitions of ‘lead’ is “to influence.” There can be no singularly more important leadership position than parenting. How we carry out that responsibility has effects that are far-reaching and long lasting. To be good leaders we must set good examples and nowhere is this more important than in the raising of our children and in their preparation to be the individuals God intended them to be. It is a leadership position that far too many of us take lightly because we are too busy, too wrapped up in our own lives, or are too unsure of exactly how to carry out our responsibilities.

Leadership is not limited to raising children, of course, but it is one of the most common forms of leadership and the one that is most often performed poorly. Other than parenting, we are leaders whenever anyone looks to us for guidance or direction. Even as ushers in our church, people look to us for the correct direction to move in, or the proper time to break out our wallets. Anyone in any sort of a management position, of course, is a leader as well, as are foremen, shift managers, coaches, teachers, and religious leaders.

The number one responsibility of any leader of any type is to set a good example. If we are raising children, we must portray a good example of what the finished product should be like. If we are a leader in our church, we must present a good example of how God expects us to live our lives and conduct ourselves.

We have all been leaders without thinking about it. Now it’s time to look at ourselves and the various ways in which other people look to us and ask ourselves if we are providing the best example for those we are leading. If the answer is no, then a “makeover” is necessary, for those we are leading are looking to us for answers. The best place to get the answers we need to be great leaders is in the Bible.

Now that we are aware that we are leaders, even if we didn’t think that we were, we can focus on becoming the best leaders that we can be.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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August 21

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to make the most of what you have.

“So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.”  Proverbs 1:19 KJV

One of the sad truths of life in this world today is that so much of what we learn from the time we are young comes from the wrong sources. Not only are the sources wrong, but the messages delivered, and then learned, are destructive to us as individuals and to our collective societies.

One of the most commonly delivered messages that we receive from the wrong sources – television, magazines, newspapers – is that greed is socially acceptable, and the results of greed are to be coveted by all.

We seem to not be able to get enough of those who have unbelievable wealth and squander much of it on ostentatious homes, cars, jewelry, yachts, jets and anything else that most of us will never have and none of us truly needs.

What family of three requires 50,000 square feet of living space? What person requires an automobile that costs more than most people will earn in a lifetime?

It can be argued that it is their money to do with as they please. Somehow, in the minds of some, it is a sign of compassion to spend $25 million dollars for one of several homes in different parts of the world and then let it be known that this same individual wrote a check for $100,000 to some disaster relief fund. The reality is that it is a decidedly empty gesture that only shows the depths of greed that we are capable of.

The examples we see – that we consume with an almost masochistic fervor – only fuel our own desires to “have more.” We can see on a daily basis the many ways people are willing to compromise their own souls to obtain it. “They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse.” (2 Peter 2:14 NLT).

Most of us are richer than we think. We simply do not take the time to look around at our spouses, our children, our friends, and our lives. We always think someone has more, or better, and is happier because of it.

Opening the Bible and exploring its pages makes us wealthy beyond compare. Sharing the wealth we discover with others makes us generous in God’s eyes. Make the most of what you have and you will find that you have more than enough.

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Taken from “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”, (C) 2013 Tony Casson

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