September 18

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to prosper.

“He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.”  2 Chronicles 26:5 NASB

It is simply not possible, nor practical, for every single person on earth to have great material wealth. When it comes to material possessions, this world will always consist of the “haves” and the “have nots.” What is important for each of us to remember is that simply because you “have” does not mean you are successful. Conversely, simply because you “have not” doesn’t mean that you are not successful.

Following this same train of thought, material wealth, while probably nice to have, does not necessarily mean we have God’s approval, and the bsence of it does not mean that we do not have God’s approval.

Certainly, the Lord is aware that it costs money to provide food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, and places of worship to the many millions of people throughout the world who are lacking these things. Obviously the resources will have to be found to help those who cannot help themselves. It is also obvious that many, many people, who enjoy much material wealth, do so with no regard to the hardships that millions face each day.

Perhaps it is God’s purpose for some of us to be financially successful in order that we may reach out to those who need it the most, but it is important to know that an absence of money does not mean that we are unable to help, and offer hope to those in need.

The Lord gave Joshua the key to success when He said, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all that you do.” (Joshua 1:8 NLT).

Reading God’s word will help guide each one of us to our own individual path of success in the eyes of the Lord. When we reap the wisdom in the Bible, a variety of different ways to serve God will be found. Praying and meditating on what we have read will help us discern our path to prosperity, but it is of the utmost importance that we understand that our individual “prosperity” may be discovered in ways that do not provide us with grand mansions or expensive automobiles.

There is no better way to prosper on God’s earth than to make ourselves available to do the will of God. With our efforts to help where we can help, and serve where we can serve, we may find that the ‘only’ way we will prosper in this life is by gaining God’s approval.

Fortunately, God’s approval is the one thing we can take with us when this life ends, and that is worth more than all the gold in all the world.

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

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September 17

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to make your guilt disappear.

“Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”  Psalm 32:2 NLT

It is impossible to read the Bible without seeing one glaring truth: God wants to forgive sinners. Time and time again, He makes it clear to us that He has an unlimited capacity for forgiveness and He wants us to look to Him to ask forgiveness for our sins so that we may experience the joy that David wrote about in Psalm 32.

Many of us know how trying it can be to raise children.

Sometimes they do things, both innocently and intentionally, that are wrong. Frequently, these things hurt us as parents. They cause us to feel inadequate perhaps, but they also cause us to feel pain for our children because we know that what they are doing is a mistake, and we know it will hurt them in the long run.

But we forgive them each transgression because we love them.

That is the relationship God has with us, only He can see with much greater clarity the negative impact that our sinful nature and disobedience will have upon us. Nehemiah, leading his people in prayer, recalls the sinfully disobedient nature of the people Moses led out of Egypt.

“They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; and You did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17 NASB).

“A God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate.”

We can all derive reassurance from these words that no matter how foolishly, irresponsibly, or immorally we may live our lives; no matter how much we ignore God; no matter how rebellious we may be – when we have had enough of ourselves and are ready to admit that we were wrong, God is right in front of us, with open arms, ready to forgive.

Making our guilt disappear is not a magic trick.

It is the miracle of love from the One who knows no other way but to love. It is the gift of forgiveness that makes our guilt disappear and it is a gift that is available to us anytime, anyplace, and no matter what we have done.

Some of us may find it awkward to ask for God to forgive us because we think we have been so bad. But in the history of mankind, God has seen many people ask for forgiveness, and many of them have done much worse than we might have. Ask God for His gift of forgiveness and the gift of joy that comes when He works His “magic” and makes the guilt disappear will be yours.

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

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September 16

TODAY IS…

a superb day to embrace the flaws of your church.

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”  Acts 6:1 NLT

Embrace the flaws of your church? Why in the world would anyone want to embrace flaws?

Some of us search constantly for the “perfect” church, but the simple reality is this: as long as humans are involved in anything, perfection is impossible because we are flawed.

No perfect people means no perfect church.

Every church in every town, in every country, has problems. Granted, the problems each church faces are different because the people in each one are different. While it is important to find a church that we are comfortable in, it is equally important to make sure that we focus on the qualities and attributes of a particular church rather than on what we may perceive its flaws to be.

Our search should be about what is right and not what is wrong.

Do the members welcome strangers and help them feel like ‘insiders’ as opposed to eyeing them, basically ensuring that they remain the ‘outsiders’ that they are?

A church does not have to be built of expensive materials or be brand new, but does it reflect love and care in its level of maintenance?

Can it be readily ascertained that one of its primary functions is to serve others?

Are its messages Gospel-centered and do they teach God’s Word rather than preach man’s opinions or interpretations?

Answering ‘yes’ to these few questions should provide you with all you need to feel comfortable in a particular church. If it has the ‘yes’ factor and it is convenient to your home, don’t complicate things by looking for flaws. There will be flaws, so be prepared to embrace them.

Be prepared to do your part to correct them if possible, as well.

Differences of opinion will occur in any situation where there is a decision to be made and more than one person involved. Paul worked diligently to encourage the members of the Corinthian church.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 KJV).

Accomplishing what Paul was stressing is easier said than done, but differences are what create opportunities to see other ways of looking at things.

The important thing is to not allow minor differences to be construed as major flaws in the church as a whole. It is the responsibility of each of us to pray for guidance and to pray for those around us. Asking God to help fix the flaws is preferable to jumping around from church to church.

So, instead of jumping around, jump in and embrace the flaws of your church.

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

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September 15

TODAY IS…

a great day to do nothing.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  Romans 12:19 KJV

When we are wronged in today’s world, it has become disturbingly commonplace to pick up a phone to call a lawyer, to pick up our fists to retaliate physically, or to pick up a gun or other weapon for the ultimate in revenge.

In days gone by – days that are sorely missed in many ways – children used to run through neighborhoods playing in others’ yards and homes, experiencing the thrilling moments – and the not so thrilling moments – of childhood. Accidents invariably happened: Billy ran and slipped, falling through the glass in the storm door cutting his arm; Bobby fell down the stairs next door and broke his arm; Mary took a tumble off the swing-set at her friend’s house and was taken to the hospital to make sure she was OK.

None of these things was unusual or earth-shattering. Typical unfortunate accidents that happened. The child is “repaired,” usually mended by the homeowner’s insurance where the accident occurred, and then the kids were right back at it with an admonition to “be careful,” with all concerned knowing it was just a matter of time before the next accident occurred, only this time in their yard or home.

That was then.

Now there is far too often a lawsuit filed, claiming negligence and we all know that lawsuits are not limited to accidents involving our children at play. Every time we are wronged, or hurt (usually through our own carelessness) we seek revenge. We want to go beyond what is reasonable to expect – that the cut be stitched or the broken bone be set – and we want “punitive” damages to help teach a lesson to, well, to anyone we can file suit against and exact revenge from.

Of course, there are other, more serious “offenses” that spur thoughts of revenge: a man sleeps with his neighbor’s wife and the neighbor wants to “get even”; one person cuts another off on the highway; a young person is bullied at school. All of these incidents, and dozens more like it, push people over the edge and cause them to strike out to exact revenge at a time, and in situations, when the Bible is very clear about what we should do: Nothing. At least, not anything negative.

In fact, if we’re going to do anything at all, the Lord says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20 NIV).

In other words, you will shame them by the love in your response.

The Bible is very clear on what our reaction should be. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV).

God doesn’t miss a thing and each person will have to answer for his or her actions, so if someone wrongs you in any way – do nothing. At least, do not exact revenge.

That is for God to take care of, and He is very clear on that.

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

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September 14

TODAY IS…

perfect for seeing the joy in each day.

“And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful.”  Proverbs 8:32 NLT

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

“Jump for joy!”

No matter how you want to say it, today is the perfect day to be joyful! What’s so special about today? Because every day is a gift from God, and each new day becomes the new today.

Too many of us waste too many days always being mentally prepared for the clouds that do, indeed, creep into each and every life. There are inevitable events that occur that may bring moments where we are hurt, feel pain, or experience loss. These clouds that pass over cannot be stopped just as the clouds that cross the sky cannot be stopped.

Be that as it may, we all are aware that beyond those clouds, the sun still shines brightly and is only momentarily blocked from our view while we receive some much needed shade or rain, which gives life to everything on earth. So we welcome the clouds and the storms that they bring, knowing they will pass.

It is no different with the “clouds” that bring the “storms” of our lives.

The storms may be unpleasant, but they bring us the ability to learn about ourselves and to grow. The important thing to remember is that God, like the sun, is always there. Even when the pain in our heart or the trials we are experiencing block us from the joy of knowing God, we can still be joyful knowing He is there.

Sometimes it can be difficult to be joyful when surrounded by sadness. Imagine the tremendous sadness that befell Jesus’ disciples when He was crucified. These were individuals who were the recipients of teaching and reassurance from the mouth of the Lord Himself, and even though they were forewarned of His crucifixion, and in spite of the fact that Christ foretold of His resurrection, they were still unable to be joyful knowing that He was going to return.

Jesus ultimately stood before them and allowed them to touch Him and see Him and finally “… they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.” (Luke 24:41a NLT).

It is not always a simple thing to see the joy that can be found in each and every day, but it is there. Perhaps a storm cloud has moved in front of it, but it is still there, just as God is always there.

Even though it may be difficult sometimes, we must always remember that knowing God brings joy to our daily existence, and even though there may be times when God and the joy He gives us may be blocked from view, both are still very near to us.

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

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September 13

TODAY IS…

a fine day to be strong and courageous.

“Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”  Psalm 31:24 NASB

Many of us are familiar with the famous movie lion who sought courage. He went on a journey with Dorothy and her dog, the man made of tin, and the man made of straw. Following the yellow brick road to a whimsical city, each one brought their request to the powerful wizard who they were told could help them.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

We do not need wizards in whimsical cities to overcome our fear, and President Roosevelt was correct in his assertion. But if wizards can’t give us courage, where do we find the courage to face the fears that President Roosevelt spoke of?

Almost every person reading these words will immediately answer, in their own minds, “God! We get our courage from God.”

We know where to go to find the courage we need. We really do.

Why then do we seem to be so afraid to say and do the right thing so often in our lives? It is true that we are merely human beings and we are flawed, but “As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the Lord is flawless; He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 18:30 NIV).

Far too often we shrink away from things we see around us that are wrong. Our justification is that “It is none of my business.”

In many cases, if we are to search our hearts for the truth, we will discover that at the root of our inaction lies fear. We are simply afraid to speak up or to step in. It is safer to “not get involved.”

What we should do is make God our shield and do the right thing.

The Lord gives us the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, so we can see when there is something that we should do something about. It is our faith in God that fills us, “So we can say with confidence, ‘the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man to do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6 NIV).

Sometimes it takes courage to simply have faith. We turn to God and ask for the courage to believe, and with that belief we boldly confront whatever it is that we are afraid of, knowing that God is with us.

Our strength and our courage come from God and He is always ready to stand with us, to help us speak up, and to help us step in.

Put your hope in the Lord. The courage you need is in you, and He can show you where to find it.

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

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September 12

TODAY IS…

a good day to use well what you are given.

“’Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.’”  Luke 19:26 NLT

We are not all flashy people, forceful people, or famous people.

Some people are born into a situation where they have much, in terms of material things, from the very beginning, and some are born into high-profile political or social families, guaranteeing them a certain amount of notoriety.

A far greater number of people enter this life with relatively little fanfare and not much in the way of material possessions, but they have talents and abilities and the personality to rise up to a level where they are known, listened to, and hold a certain amount of sway or influence over others.

But by far, the overwhelming majority of us come into this life quietly and our lives remain relatively quiet and unobtrusive.

Not everyone who is born is destined to capture the public’s imagination or attention, and this is perfectly alright.

We can still capture the attention of God, the only One who matters, by using what we do have in a manner that reflects His character.

Service to humanity does not require writing a check for one million dollars when a natural disaster occurs somewhere in the world. This is a wonderful gesture, mind you, but the person who lives each and every day of his or her life using the gifts and abilities provided by God to do little things will receive a far greater reward from God for doing so.

We should all give thanks for those who are in a position to write those large checks, but we should also give thanks for the many millions of individuals who work with the tens of thousands of organizations who serve the needy in communities throughout the world on a daily basis.

In the eyes of God, it is not a question of how much one person has compared to another.

The only thing taken into consideration is how well each one of us uses what we have been given. Many people are frozen into inaction because they don’t think that the little time, knowledge, talent, or money that they have will make a difference.

This is not true.

One coin in a kettle looks rather lonely, but when everyone uses what they have in a way that pleases God, that kettle is soon overflowing.

Use God’s gift of today to use your gifts from God in a manner that reflects His character.

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

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September 11

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to thank Jesus for His prayers.

“I pray that they will be one, just as You and I are One – as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe You sent Me.”  John 17:21 NLT

The Bible encourages us to pray for one another as a part of God’s requirement that we love one another and look out for one another.

James, Jesus’ brother, made this clear when he wrote, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT).

Praying for someone who is hurt or hurting; has experienced pain or has a painful experience; has lost a job or found trouble of one kind or another is a wonderful way to demonstrate our love and concern for each other.

Paul prayed that the hearts of the Ephesians would be flooded with light and in his letter to them, he said, “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him.” (Ephesians 1:19a NLT).

The power of prayer is at the center of Christian life.

Bringing our hopes and fears to God is one of the things we are encouraged to do without any embarrassment or reservation. Our ability to seek grace, mercy, and forgiveness, through prayer, for our sins and our mistakes is a gift from God that is beyond measure.

Yes, prayer is a wonderful blessing and we should spend more time making use of it, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others. When we do that, we are doing nothing less than following the example of our Lord, Jesus Christ who prayed for us.

How unbelievably special is that? Jesus Christ prayed for you. He prayed for all who believe, and what did He pray for? He prayed, “Father, I want these whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they can see all the glory You gave Me because You loved Me even before the world began!” (John 17:24 NLT).

Jesus Christ knew that He was going to die, but He knew that His death would mean everlasting life with Him in Heaven for all who believe in Him. He prayed to the Father His desire to share the glory given Him with us.

He prayed for us to join Him in Heaven.

Can any of us think of a more powerful person to pray for us than Jesus? And can anyone think of any request that can be made of God that is filled with more love?

Take time today and thank Jesus for His prayers.

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

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September 10

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to thank God for your tears.

“Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.”  Lamentations 2:19a NIV

One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is the gift of our tears.

Many will wonder how tears can be a gift, but how else can we present ourselves to God and ask for forgiveness if we are not weeping as we do so? While it is the blood of Christ that washes away our sins, crying has a way of helping us to wash away the pain of our sins.

But our tears serve many more purposes than that and have much greater significance in our lives.

For many people tears flow freely during times of joy.

Men and women alike will get all misty-eyed at the birth of a child. While it is true that sad movies make people cry, the same holds true for some that end joyously. Tears through our joy produce rainbows in our hearts in much the same way as sun through the rain produces rainbows in the sky.

Weddings produce tears from many different people: fathers, mothers, maids of honor, guests, and the brides themselves – perhaps even the grooms.

Graduations, recitals, concerts, plays, sports competitions and on and on. Milestones in our lives and the lives of those we love all produce tears that signify happiness or extreme joy.

And, of course, tears also signify our pain.

Tears at the loss of a loved one wash the grief from our hearts. Men and women alike signify their sorrow by shedding tears. We console each other, and we weep together.

Tears reveal our humanity.

How unfortunate are those individuals who are raised to believe that tears, especially tears from men, are a sign of weakness. How sad that people go through life without rainbows in their hearts; without washing away sin or pain; or without being able to express that depth of joy that only tears can reveal.

Sadly, many young men are raised to believe that “real” men don’t cry.

Jesus Christ was the greatest man to ever walk this earth, and not least among all of the gifts His Father gave Him was the gift of tears. When told that Lazarus had died and had been placed in a tomb, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NASB).

There are gifts to thank God for each and every day of our lives.

Today is an excellent day to thank God for the gift of our tears.

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

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September 9

TODAY IS…

a superb day to pray, “Lord, take from me my anger.”

“…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  James 1:20 NASB

It is difficult for any Christian to not feel anger when confronted with sin and injustice in the world.

How can we not feel anger when we read about the estimated 50,000 Cambodian children sold into sexual slavery each year?

How can we not feel anger when we read about 48,000 women a year being raped in the Congo?

How can we not feel anger when we read about the millions of children who go to bed hungry throughout the world, including in the United States?

How can we not get angry when we see so much time, effort, and money being spent producing and watching some of the filth that bombards us daily on our televisions?

But James was not speaking of this type of anger. That type of anger should ignite righteous indignation which should also spark us to action to contribute somehow to correcting those things we see that are wrong and are contrary to the teachings of Christ.

The type of anger James was referring to was selfish anger. Selfish anger is ‘all about me‘ anger:

My feelings got hurt!”

“No one listens to me!”

I am jealous!”

I don’t like what that person said!”

“You didn’t cook my dinner the way I wanted!”

That type of anger ignites selfish indignation and almost always results in someone being hurt in a physical, emotional, or spiritual way.

People have pointed to Jesus Himself and said, “But Jesus got angry!”

Using Christ to excuse our own inability to control our temperament is almost as childish as not being able to control our temperament in the first place.

Jesus never got angry because someone hurt His feelings. He never got angry because His meal was cooked wrong. He never got angry because He was jealous.

Jesus got angry because of the sin He felt in peoples’ hearts, saw in their actions, and heard in their words. Jesus got angry because He saw people being mistreated, abused, or taken advantage of. It is important to note that He used His anger to teach.

His anger produced indignation that moved Him to take corrective steps.

So let us all become moved to take action when our anger is over things we see that are sinful or harmful to others.

But when it comes to selfish, self-centered anger, let us pray, “Lord, take from me my anger.”

Amen.

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

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