March 23

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to start a fire.

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”  Psalm 16:7 NIV

Here is a little prayer that might help to put us all in a fire-starting mood:

If it is God’s will,
I will!
If it is His desire,
It will be my fire!

Determining what God wants us to do isn’t as difficult as some of us make it. All that is required is to ask Him.

“Yeah, right,” you say. “I do that all the time, and am still never sure if what I am doing is what He wants me to be doing.”

Reading the Bible, meditating on what we read and listening with our hearts for His answer are important. Far too often we ask questions and immediately get wrapped up in our busy lives, never taking the all–important time to look, and listen, for His response.

Many times we set off with the intention of carrying out plans we have made and then, as an after-thought, take a moment or two to ask the Lord to bless those plans. Horses do not push carts, they pull them, so we mustn’t put the cart before the horse. We must ask God what He would have us do. By placing God first in our lives, we will learn to identify what His will is, and if we are doing His will, He will give us all the help we will need.

After teaching a crowd while standing in Simon’s boat, anchored a little off the shore of Lake Gennesaret – also known as the Sea of Galilee – Jesus instructed Simon to go out in deep water and drop his nets.

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.’” (Luke 5:5 NIV).

Of course we all know that the result of doing the Lord’s will was nets so full that they began to break. They needed to get help from another boat and both boats were soon so full, they were on the verge of sinking.

Even in the middle of all that water, the fishermen were on fire!

They were rewarded for doing what the Lord wanted them to do. When the lives we lead are led by the will of God, the excitement we will experience will have a combustible quality to it; we will feel as if we will burst into flames of joy at any moment, so intense will be our desire to do God’s will.

Perhaps it will never be as easy for us, or as clear as it was for Simon. The Lord may not be physically standing in front of us, but He is there, calling us forward, and He is in our hearts. It is there that our ability to “hear” Him resides, and it is important that we always listen.

Pray, meditate, and listen and then make today the day you light the fire of your passion to do God’s will.

*******

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

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March 22

ODAY IS…

a great day to be good for goodness’ sake.

“They celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.”  Psalm 145:7 NIV

Consequences.

We’ve all experienced some of them at one point in our lives or another. More than likely, as children we have all heard someone explain that bad behavior would trigger some sort of negative response or punishment and this is what was commonly referred to as “facing the consequences.”

Those of us who are parents have probably employed the same techniques of sitting a child down and explaining that what he or she had just done was “wrong” or “bad behavior” and that any repetition of that behavior would carry consequences of one type or another.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that this method of steering individuals, young or old, to proper behavior is used often.

Use seat belts or the consequences will be a ticket (or worse).

Do not drink and drive or the consequences will be jail (or worse).

One has to wonder sometimes if we are capable of doing the right thing for the right reason and not simply because something bad will happen if we don’t.

The old adage, “What would Jesus do?” can only be answered one way: Jesus would do the right thing.

Of course, since the rest of us do not have the distinction of being Jesus, how are we to know what the right thing is? How can we change the way we look at things so our goodness is driven by goodness itself rather than by the consequences of our actions?

By being positive and by constantly thinking about the benefits of doing something (or not doing something).

For example, we should want to wear a seat belt to protect us in the event of an accident because we are important to our friends and family.

By the same token, we should not want to operate a motor vehicle if we have been drinking for those same reasons plus the additional positive reasons of not wanting to risk causing harm or tragedy to befall others.

The same process or principle can be utilized in every aspect of our daily life.

It is simply the act of letting the Bible guide us and thinking about how what we do affects others. And those of us who are parents can begin teaching our children to think less about consequences and more about other people because it is the right way to live, the right way to act, and the right way to do exactly what Jesus would do.

We can live, and raise our children, by the principle that we are good simply for goodness’ sake.

*******

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

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March 21

TODAY IS…

the day to think about where God stands.

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”  Psalm 145:18 NASB

Much is written in the Bible about how God is always there for us as we do our best to navigate the sometimes stormy seas of this life.

Our human frailty sometimes causes us to forget this in times of our most profound troubles or sorrows, but it is precisely during these times that we must refresh our spirit with the following truths:

  • God stands over us to remain vigilant on our journey through life;
  • God stands in front of us to call us forward giving us encouragement and hope;
  • God stands beside us to keep us steady and on the path to Him;
  • God stands behind us to block out the past that we may focus on today and look forward to tomorrow.

With this kind of protection, guidance, and encouragement, the low spots in our lives become opportunities to thank God, for while He will never totally remove trouble from our lives, He will be near to us so that we can lean heavily on His Word and learn from all we face as we move closer to our final reward.

With God in all of these positions around us, we can also call on Him to show us how to help others when they encounter troubles in their lives. By reminding them of just how close the Lord is to us at all times and no matter in which direction we look, we can help them to learn from their troubles and become a source of friendship, strength and love for others.

Knowing that God is everywhere we look will give us a confident outlook and will produce a glow from deep within us that those around us will notice. Perhaps they will want to know what your secret is and you can tell them that it’s really not a secret at all.

We just have to know where God stands.

*******

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

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March 20

TODAY IS…

a great day to practice artful avoidance.

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.”  2 Timothy 2:23 NIV

As Christians, we have a responsibility to others to help them see the truth that God has shown us exists in our hearts. Sometimes we don’t consider ourselves to be equal to the task of demonstrating or teaching about the love, peace and joy that we have discovered in ourselves through our reading of the Word of God.

Maybe we don’t think we are ‘qualified’ to speak with authority on the subjects of salvation, redemption, forgiveness, grace, and mercy.

Perhaps if we look at it differently we can find it easier to set aside whatever feelings of inadequacy we may have. We are, after all, talking about teaching others about the Creator of everything that we can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. We need to just look at it as giving others a glimpse of what is in our soul by opening up and sharing the contentment we derive from our relationship with Christ.

And once we overcome our hesitation and actually do start to share with others, not everyone is going to be quick to respond in a positive manner. Some may, in fact, respond in a particularly negative manner. We have all known individuals who seem to want to take discussion to an elevated level. Some will refer to this as “spirited discussion,” and that is well and good, but it is important to avoid allowing ourselves to be drawn into such discussions where anger threatens to erupt.

Some of us may have the ability to remain calm, quiet, subdued and in control at all times. Then there are those of us who need to practice “artful avoidance” because it is not a natural part of our personality. This does not mean that we should be afraid or embarrassed to speak of our love of God and our belief that Jesus was sent here to offer us all salvation and the promise of an everlasting life with God.

Quite the contrary.

What this means is that when we encounter an individual who is not ready to accept the Good News that we are to share, it may be necessary to artfully and respectfully end the conversation before the conversation becomes a confrontation that escalates to anger.

We may be excited about the Lord and care deeply for the souls around us. We may bubble with enthusiasm for sharing the love and joy God has placed in our hearts. But we must be respectful of others and accepting of their right to not be as enthusiastic as we are.

So remember: Don’t allow your bubbling enthusiasm to boil over into the anger of confrontation. Artfully avoid the quarrel and demonstrate the peace that God gives you.

Your actions of control and contentment will speak just as loudly as your words.

*******

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

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March 19

TODAY IS…

a fine day to do something wonderful for yourself.

“When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  2 Corinthians 1:4b NLT

Offering comfort to someone who is in poor health, experiencing the loss of a loved one or going through some other personal tragedy, having a hard time financially, or just having an all-around bad day could be the most wonderful thing that any of us could possibly do for ourselves. Lending a hand, a shoulder, a dollar or an ear could be all that it takes to help another human being endure trials or suffering in their life.

Some of us have suffered more than others, but we all have suffered. Some of us have endured more hardships than others but we all have endured hardships.

As Christians, we have looked to God for comfort during those times and He has always been there to make whatever it was that we were facing more endurable. More than likely our difficulties did not miraculously disappear, but God helped to open our eyes to the lessons we were to learn, or to open our hearts to allow our feelings freedom of movement so they could flow both out of us and into us.

We are certainly not God, but part of what God was doing when He comforted us was preparing us to help others.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4a NLT).

You may ask, “But what if I am having a bad day myself?”

Perfect!

No, it is not perfect that you are having a bad day but that presents the perfect opportunity to do something wonderful for yourself! Simply find another human being who is just like you and take your focus off of yourself, put it on the other and you will find that the comfort you have offered someone else has not only made their day better, but it has likely done the same for yours as well.

While the Bible teaches us to take the focus off of ourselves, there are exceptions to many rules and this would qualify as an exception approved by God. Doing something wonderful for yourself by helping another is exactly the way God would want it.

Of course, after you have left that other person feeling better about their situation, feeling more optimistic about life, and perhaps feeling just a little closer to God, you could always treat yourself to a little chocolate as well.

God probably wouldn’t mind that at all.

*******

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

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March 18

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to drop everything and go fishing.

“And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”  Matthew 4:19 NASB

No need for fishing poles, hooks, line or sinkers. All we need to go fishing is the desire to help others find the salvation, restoration, forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace, and joy that we have found through our relationship with the Lord.

Andrew and his brother Simon – also called Peter – were getting ready to go fishing with nets when Jesus made them a better offer. Andrew had heard John the Baptist talking about Jesus and “…found first his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah (which translated means Christ).’” (John 1:41 NASB).

Because they were familiar with Jesus they dropped everything when He called to them and went off with Him. While they knew that Jesus was the Messiah; while they knew that Jesus was special; and while they knew that the journey they were embarking on was an important one, they had no idea that the next few years would change the entire world forever.

What a fish story they would have to tell.

Even today, Jesus Christ extends an invitation to each one of us to join the longest, most productive fishing expedition in the history of mankind. He invites us to join Him in throwing out the fishing line of the Word of God that has the hook of truth tied on the end and is baited with the promise of salvation.

If we respond to the invitation to “Follow Me”; if we practice the teachings of Christ that are found in the Bible; and if we share what we learn with others and let them see the changes in ourselves, we should have some pretty good fish stories of our own to tell as well.

Fishing for souls is not a contest. There are no prizes for first, second, or third place. Everyone who joins Jesus in fishing for souls is a winner, just as each soul ‘caught’ is one as well.

There is no messy clean up either, for the cleansing of the soul is a task performed by the Lord.

There is no expensive equipment needed to join Jesus on His fishing expedition. A Bible, a warm smile, and a desire to “reel someone in” for a better life here on earth, and the everlasting life that the promise of salvation holds, is all that is needed.

Today is the perfect day to go fishing, so drop what you are doing and become ‘fishers of men.’

*******

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

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March 17

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to stand on the side of good.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21 NASB

Let’s face it, there are many of us who have come to Christ after spending many years in conflict, believing that standing with evil was where we were happy, where we were comfortable, and where we had fun.

We offered many different reasons for not believing that we are, indeed, children of God and that He placed us upon this creation of His, for which there are simply no adequate words with which to describe its majesty, wonder and beauty. Many of us lived our lives believing that “life just happens” and that while alive we could say, do, and think anything we liked.

It was easy to rationalize, justify, and excuse our behavior. It was not difficult to refuse to accept that the reason for our being created in the first place was to love one another, care for this world He created and for one another, and to worship God and use the time given us in this life to prepare for the everlasting life promised to us.

Many of us found it remarkably easy to accept the message of the evil one, who was telling us that we were foolish to believe a loving and benevolent God. After all, where is He when children die of starvation around the world? Where is He when human monsters roam the earth preying upon the weak, the young, and the elderly? Where is He when loved ones of ours die in accidents or when our children succumb to cancer or some other disease that He could have prevented?

Fortunately, at some point, we discovered, deep within – right where God placed it upon our birth – the ability to see the truth. We discovered the ability to deny the constant pressure placed upon us all to continue listening to the lies that would keep us from enjoying our time on earth and using it in the manner our Creator desired.

We discovered the salvation that was offered to us all when Jesus Christ fulfilled the promises of long, long ago. We experienced the joy; the sense of relief; the feeling of belonging to something beautiful, glorious, and uplifting.

We became part of a family. God’s family. And from that point forward, we have accepted the responsibility that comes with being a member of that family.

And the responsibility is this: We must conquer evil by doing good.

We must love others in the same way that Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for us. We must cast off the evil that speaks to us daily telling us to judge this person or hate that person. As Christians, we must remember that each one of us was forgiven when we asked for forgiveness no matter how solidly we had stood with evil before we accepted the glory of living in the goodness that is God.

Therefore, we must forgive others and welcome them into the family.

This is difficult for some of us, because we tend to think another person’s offenses are worse than ours. In addition, we sometimes question another person’s sincerity when they say they are tired of listening to the evil one and wish to now open their heart and their mind to God.

But we must resist the temptation to think like that.

There is no fence to straddle between good and evil. A wall separates them. If we allow even a little evil to occupy our hearts, then we are standing on the wrong side of that wall and we need to quickly step around it and stand firmly on the side of good.

Use the gift of this day to take a good look at which side of the wall you are standing on, and if you find you’re not standing where you should be, that’s OK.

Today is an excellent day to change sides.

*******

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

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March 16

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to thank God for His gift of resilience.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven!’”  Matthew 18:22 NIV

That answer was given by Jesus to Peter when he asked Jesus how often he should forgive someone.

Jesus could only answer one way because He knew that the capacity of God’s forgiveness knew no limits. But this limitless forgiveness of the wrongs that we do to each other, to ourselves and to God is just part of the resilience that He equips each of us with at birth.

While all of us succumb to earthly temptations in varying degrees throughout our lives, God has placed within us a tremendous capability to bounce back. This resilience that God gives us is also helpful in times of tragedy, sorrow and misfortune, but to utilize this resilience in its most effective way, we must look to God for the spark that will ignite it.

God insists that we all worship Him and love one another. With the temptations and dangers that humanity creates and surrounds us with, He knows how difficult it can be for us sometimes. But just as we encourage our children to get up when they fall, God encourages us to do the same.

The path of righteousness often seems narrower than we would like and it can be quite easy to veer off it just by looking away for a moment. Thanks to the gift of resilience that comes from the gracious goodness that is the Father, we can get right back on it and continue to move forward. This is not a board game where we are penalized and have to start over or lose a turn.

The resilience that God has filled us with is useful in other aspects of our lives as well, not just when we sin, give in to temptation or wander off the Lord’s path.

When tragedy enters our life through the death of a loved one; when we lose a job and are not sure what we are going to do; when we experience lethargy or depression – in any situation where we may falter, God’s forgiveness, God’s strength and God’s love are there in the gift of resilience to help us bounce back time and time again.

How many times?

Seventy times seven, and then some. God doesn’t count and neither should we. Each of us should thank Him for His gracious gift of resilience and remind others that they have the gift as well.

*******

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

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March 15

TODAY IS…

a good day to bear in mind that not everything is good for you.

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’ – but not everything is good for you. You say ‘I am allowed to do anything’ – but not everything is beneficial.”  1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT

We all need guidelines for decision-making and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is filled with sage advice on questions to consider when making decisions that may be sensitive or affect another person, particularly a Christian who is new to the faith.

Strengthening the faith of another believer should always play an important role in decisions we make. Paul sets the example when he writes, “I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:33b NLT).

Paul gives instruction for introducing others to the Good News throughout his letter. He stresses the need for making the other person or persons feel accepted; making them feel equal; and exercising caution and sensitivity in our attitude toward others in order that we don’t come across as thinking we know everything.

Paul also stressed that while we have freedom in Christ, we should never place our freedom above that of another. This is a critical aspect of maturing as Christians. Far too often in today’s world, people living in a free society mistakenly think that their rights and freedoms come before those of anyone else. While we have the right to do as we please, exercising that right should never harm another person or deny them their rights.

As Christians, it is our responsibility to consider the effects of our actions on others.

Our responsibility to others should be the most important thing to us – more important than our own freedom. God’s glory is the most important thing of all and everything we do should reflect that.

We need not become overly sensitive to what others may think, but it is a part of good Christian action to consider the feelings of others, especially those new to the faith.

Many of us can remember our nervousness as new Christians.

There is a lot to absorb; a lot to learn; a lot to reflect on that can be almost overwhelming at first. It is our responsibility to listen, to support and to encourage new believers and doing so requires patience and consideration.

Doing something that is your legal right to do is wrong if it creates a problem for another person. This is just another way of reminding all of us to look out for others.

It is what God expects of us, so it should be what we expect of ourselves.

*******

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

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March 14

TODAY IS…

an ideal day for God to tell you a secret.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”  Jeremiah 33:3 NASB

God knows what we are going to say before we say it, what we are going to do before we do it, what we are going to think before we think it.

Well then, He certainly must know when we are about to say, think or do something that we shouldn’t or that will get us in trouble or cause us to harm ourselves or others, right?

Then why doesn’t He step in and prevent all the negative things from occurring in our lives? At the very least, why doesn’t He tell us what to do to prevent all of the negative things from occurring?

Actually, He will do both, but not without our asking.

And after we have asked comes the hard part: we have to listen to Him and obey Him. This is where the problem comes in for many of us. Far too often we develop a sense of entitlement and we simply expect things of God because we think we are leading the lives of good Christians. Because of that, God should step in and solve all of our problems and prevent us from doing harm to ourselves and others.

We become complacent and fail to recognize our duty to ask of God what we seek. This is our acknowledgement of need. When we admit to God that we cannot do things without His help, then we humble ourselves before Him. Like the proverbial proud male driver who is lost and will not stop and ask for directions, far too many of God’s children think that this thing we call life is easy and that we can negotiate our own way through it without Him.

To a certain degree, this is true. We can get through life without God.

The question is, without God, where will we wind up at the end of this life? There is also the quality of the journey through life to consider. While many of us may take the gifts and abilities given to us at birth and build a comfortable life for ourselves with many wondrous things around us to amuse ourselves and our friends, if we do not ask God how to use what He has given us for His glory, our lives will be empty, unfulfilling, and lead us to disappointment in the end.

The tragedy is that we won’t even know it until it is too late.

Avoiding tragedy is simple: ask God to light your way, point out the pitfalls blocking your path and show you how to make the most of the life and the talents He has given you and He will reveal “…remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” (Jeremiah 33:3 NLT).

*******

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

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