July 16

Today is…

a superb day to whistle while you work.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord, rather than for men…”  Colossians 3:23 NASB

It is unfortunate that many people think that we are defined by the type of work we do, how “important” our position is, or how much money we make. Far too often we worry about how others perceive us, and we also spend an inordinate amount of our time concerned about the other person: what they do, whether they make more money or are more “important” than we are.

As Paul wrote to the people of southern Galatia, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t have to compare yourself to anyone else.” (Galatians 6:4 NLT).

We are each unique.

No one looks, acts, thinks, talks or works quite the same way we do. No one can be us, and we cannot be anyone but us. Nor should we want to be. But we are all the same in the eyes of God, and our duty is to realize that, thank Him for it, and use the knowledge to motivate and inspire us on a daily basis. No matter how mundane our jobs, or how incidental and inconsequential the task before us is, we should approach it with a joyful spirit, humility, and the commitment to do the absolute best that we can.

Our attitude determines the importance of our job, not another person’s opinion.

When we work reflecting the joy of the Spirit and put energy and effort into what we do, God will know. The environment we are in may not permit us to physically whistle while we work, but performing our jobs with the right attitude will create the same feeling within us.

Why is this important? Because those around you will wonder why you are always so positive, happy, and diligent. When they ask, doors are open to tell them our relationship with God is what does it. In this way, everything we do can be seen as working for God.

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT).

As a matter of fact, when we stop doing what we do for a paycheck, and start doing it for God, our entire presence in the workplace will change and people will hear us whistling while we work, even if all we are doing is smiling.

*******

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

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July 15

Today is…

the day to know what you are prepared to do.

“I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  John 10:11 KJV

“What are you prepared to do?”

In the movie, “The Untouchables,” Sean Connery and Kevin Costner played dedicated government law enforcement officials fighting against Al Capone and other “bootleggers” during prohibition.

In the film, Sean Connery’s character was marked for death by Capone, was attacked in his home, shot multiple times, and left for dead. Kevin Costner, as Elliot Ness, found him just before he died and his last words were, “What are you prepared to do?”

In 1963, in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the following challenge to the world: “If a man hasn’t discovered something worth dying for, he isn’t fit to live.”

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King was murdered as a result of his fight for the rights of all mankind.

Jesus Christ lived His life knowing how it would end. He is the only person to have ever walked the earth who knew what He was prepared to do from the very beginning of His life: He was prepared to die so that each one of us could live.

People frequently focus on the ways in which society, and the people who make up that society, fail. Certainly, things that can be made better need to be identified; situations that need fixing require attention; areas that can be improved upon have to be brought to light before that can happen. Yes, those things that are wrong must be part of the public conscience in order that they may be corrected.

Be that as it may, it is equally important, at the very least, that we spend time identifying the things that are right which we can find all around us, and recognizing those individuals who make them so with their sacrifices.

In each of the instances mentioned, the individual at the center of the message died. Not for themselves, and not of natural causes. Each person died in service to others. Each person proceeded on a journey that they knew was dangerous. Each was aware that the potential for harm was very real, and very great. Not only were they aware of the potential for bodily harm, two of them were aware of the possibility of death.

One was aware of the certainty.

In light of all of this, and on the subject of service to mankind, what are you prepared to do?

Surely, each one of us can do something.

*******

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

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July 14

Today is…

a great day to enjoy God’s gift of music.

“Speak to one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”  Ephesians 5:19 NIV

The Bible is full of references to music and singing. God gave many of us the ability to play different musical instruments. He gave others the ability to sing beautifully. We all also probably know someone to whom God gave the desire to make music but no talent for instruments or singing. But it is usually someone we love, so we grit our teeth and pretend we are smiling with joy as they sing and play for God.

God loves music, and especially loves to hear us joining together to sing spiritual songs. It demonstrates to the Lord that we are filled with the Spirit and we are “under the influence.” It is easy to get carried away when we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It is easy to be filled with a lightness of heart and a happiness that simply needs music in which to be properly expressed. Being under the influence of the Holy Spirit can produce a long term effect on our personalities, unlike being under the influence of alcohol which can make us want to sing as well, but can carry with it very negative consequences.

So, “Do not get drunk on wine, which can lead to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speak to one another with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:18-19 NIV).

When should we sing to God? Pretty simple, really. We can sing to God whenever we want to and no matter what is happening around us. We sing to God when we are happy. We can sing to God when we are sad. Paul and Silas sang in prison.

“But around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25 NASB).

Imagine that, singing hymns praising God in prison! Of course, we don’t have to go to prison to sing songs of praise to God, and we can sing to Him without accompaniment, or we can include the sound of musical instruments.

“Make music to the Lord with the harp, and the sounds of singing, with the trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the Lord, the King.” (Psalm 98:5-6 NIV).

Use the gift of today to enjoy God’s gift of music. Sing to yourself, sing to friends and sing to God.

If you are a little (or a lot) off key, don’t worry – it all sounds perfectly fine to God.

*******

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

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July 13

Today is…

a fine day to equip ourselves to do God’s work.

“God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:17 NLT

Professional football players would not think of going out onto the field for a game without the proper equipment. The players themselves may not always know which type of equipment is best for their particular needs, but they are guided by individuals who are well trained and are a good source of information.

The same thing applies to those of us who participate in all sorts of sports activities, but also in our jobs, as parents, and productive members of our churches. It is important to be properly trained to do the task before us. We must have a source of information to help us make the best use of our equipment and training.

And, of course, we need the equipment itself.

As Christians, we all know that the Bible is our source of information. Our “training manual,” if you will. As Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT).

With our training manual in hand, we turn to our pastors, ministers, preachers, and priests. “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

We are all aware that Christians are all members of God’s army. We have an obligation to fight not only for all that is good in the world, but also against all that is bad, or evil. It is surprising how many of us may not feel up to the task, but we would all be equally surprised how effective we can be as an army if we use the “training manual” God has provided for us, along with the instructors that lead our church. Combined with the proper equipment, the combination is formidable, and properly equipped, even the smallest among us can be a giant for all that is right in God’s eyes. And where do we obtain the proper equipment? Paul tells us, in detail, in his letter to Timothy.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV).

And with prayer, we are now properly equipped.

*******

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

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July 12

Today is…

a fantastic day to think about our reflection.

“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.”  James 3:9 NLT

Most of us know someone who is exceptionally nice to everyone he or she meets. Whether at home, in the work place, in a store, or at church, the demeanor is always one of kindness, concern, and general happiness. It would be unusual to hear a mean word spoken by them about anyone. No matter what the situation, they always speak kindly about others.

We are also familiar with the reverse side of that coin. Most of us know someone who is never happy and whose general attitude is one of meanness. These individuals never have anything nice to say about anyone, they always gossip in a malicious manner and go out of their way to create problems.

Their speech reflects their true identity and we can thank God for the first one and pray to God on behalf of the other.

But what about another type of individual? Consider Eddie on “Leave it to beaver.”  Perhaps we all know someone like Eddie. Perhaps it is even fair to say we are like Eddie. Eddie speaks very politely and comes across as very well behaved, kind, and considerate in the presence of adults. But outside their presence, we see him as mean spirited, inconsiderate, and a bully who cares about little beyond himself.

Which reflects the true character of Eddie? Is he playing up to the adults when he is nice or is he showing off for his friends when he is not?

Which leads us to the question, “What does our speech and behavior reflect about our character?”

Are we humble, considerate, and respectful when we address God? Are we the same with everyone or does our character reflect something different?

The way we speak to people and the way we act towards people is as much a reflection of who we are as an image we see in a mirror is a reflection of what we look like. We all need to examine our behavior and speech and make sure it is considerate, and it is a reflection of the goodness that comes with our relationship with God.

Eddie never fooled Beaver’s parents.

It is not likely that any of us can fool God, either. Make sure that what people see in you reflects what is pleasing to God.

*******

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

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July 11

Today is…

a good day to put God first.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33 NIV

Putting God first does not mean that we are putting our families, work, or ourselves last. Quite the reverse is true, actually. We demonstrate heightened concern for everyone and everything else in our lives when everything in our lives flows from God.

God’s instruction helps us to develop the sort of character we need to be the best husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, friends, employers and employees that we can be.

It is a source of puzzlement why we always seem to take those who are most important to us for granted. Familiarity may or may not breed contempt as the old saying tells us, but it often breeds complacency. We see it all the time in people’s attitude towards their spouses, children, friends, and unfortunately, to God.

When we focus first on God, we will constantly be reminded of the importance of our family. When we focus first on God, our hearts will never harden towards those for whom it should always be the softest. When we focus first on God, we will read His instructions on how to be better people, how to be more considerate of others, how to control our tempers, how to express our love, and many other aspects of our lives that will enable us to love those around us more and enrich our lives.

Putting God first will also mean that we will pray to Him and search the Bible for answers and guidance when we are confronted with decisions that will affect our lives and the lives of those we love. We will look to Him for comfort when we are faced with tragedy or sorrow.  We will look to Him to help us determine how to live our lives in harmony and with joy, being sure to put our emphasis on things that are truly important. He will also give us the strength we need to see those things that are detrimental to our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

He will help us avoid becoming like Micah and the other people of Israel at that time, for “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6 NASB).

Putting God first will help us see things through His eyes, make better decisions for ourselves and our families, be better friends and co-workers, and live happier, more fruitful lives.

Put God first and see your happiness last.

*******

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

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July 10

Today is…

a wonderful day to think about how to get even.

“And don’t say, ‘Now I can pay them back for what they have done to me!  I’ll get even with them!’”  Proverbs 24:29 NLT

We all know, from reading the Bible, that revenge is not God’s way. When someone wrongs us, we are not to repay wrong with wrong.

No pay backs.

But how about those who do good things for us? How about people who go out of their way to show us a kindness or help us when we need it? Is it alright to pay them back? Would God approve if we tried to “get even” with kindness, love, fellowship and friendship?

We should already know that God wants us to help people who are in need. But how many of us know that we should do something special for someone who is always thinking of others? How about the leaders of our church? Our priests, pastors, ministers, and elders?

Paul tells us to, “Hold them in the highest regards in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13 NIV).

He was a little more forth coming in his letter to the Corinthians when he asked, “Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink?” (1 Corinthians 9:11 NLT).

The answer of course is, “Yes!”

Invite your spiritual leaders to your homes for dinner, or take them to a nice restaurant now and then. Try to do something to “get even” with them for all they do for others.

And what about those hard working volunteers that give so much of themselves to feed the poor, or work on houses for the homeless or who tirelessly serve the needs of individuals who are less fortunate than themselves? Sometimes it is difficult for us to make the time to help, and we give financially, but how about this: how about doing something nice to “get even” with those who are in the trenches by sending a nice gift basket to their homes, or inviting them out for lunch, or giving them a gift card to a store that you know they like to frequent?

And then there are people who are doing nice things for you specifically: co-workers, neighbors, friends and family.

If we think about it, we could probably spend a lot of time thinking of ways to “get even.” We all need to sit down and make a list of all the various people we know who give so much of themselves to us and to other people.

And then we need to get started “getting even.”

*******

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

(AUTHOR’S NOTE:

Just the other day, a couple who exemplify what being children of God means, invited another couple and myself to go out on their boat and cruise down the Potomac to a riverside restaurant. Diane wasn’t feeling well, so it was just the four of us departing on a perfectly gorgeous summer day that was a true gift from God in and of itself.

Since coming to Washington, DC 4 years ago, both of these couples have been extremely supportive and generous towards me and Mission Muffins and I thought to myself, “Today is the perfect day to ‘get even’ with them, so I will buy everyone’s lunch.”

I was out of my geographical area and had used my card a couple of times earlier in the day and after I gave it to our server, she brought it back telling me it had been declined. I checked my phone and saw there was a “Fraud Alert” on it, and BofA had restricted my debit card use until I could clear it up. Having no other cards and no cash, my friends came to my rescue and paid the bill.

With that in mind, I would like to amend the end of this post to read:

“And then we need to get started ‘getting even.’

And bring cash!” 🙂

God bless you, Deedee, Buzz, and Don. It was a fantastic day. Bad food, bad service, bad bank, but great atmosphere, and the best of fellowship and fun!

 

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July 9

Today is…

the ideal day to remind ourselves that it is not polite to point.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”  Romans 2:1 NIV

“Oh, no!” We say, “Not me! I don’t do that!”

Perhaps we don’t do exactly what we point out that another is doing, but humans have an uncanny ability to excuse any behavior, as long as it is their own. When it comes to other people, however, our tolerance doesn’t stretch to anywhere near the same distance. Besides, even if what we are pointing out in another is a sin, it is not our place to judge.

For some reason, we need to be reminded time and time again that judgment is reserved for God, and while we are to condemn sin, we are clearly prohibited from judging or condemning the sinner.

It is important to remember that there is a world of difference between pointing a finger at someone and caring enough about another human being to point out potentially harmful or sinful actions or behavior that they may be engaged in. At the same time, we must take care that our motives for pointing something out are a result of sincere concern for another human being. Any other reason is self-serving and a sin in itself.

We are frequently able to identify another’s misgivings simply because we engage in the same, or similar, activity. This happens quite often and we should be extremely careful.

As Paul wrote, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:3 NIV).

Of course, the reason that any of this occurs in the first place is due to the fact that we have an unfortunate tendency to look for the negatives in each other. In many ways, pointing out another person’s flaws and failings is our only way of making ourselves feel better about us. We should all develop the confidence that Paul exhibited in other people.

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct other people.” (Romans 15:14 NIV).

Looking for the goodness in people will help us to serve God better. When following His example, it shows that we are learning the lessons He is trying to teach. After all, God sees us all in the same way: we are all His children and we all make mistakes, but we all have His unconditional love.

We can do no better than to look at each other the same way God looks at us.

Those of us who have raised children have likely told them on at least one occasion that it is not polite to point. It is something we should all bear in mind next time we have the urge to do it ourselves.

*******

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

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July 8

Today is…

the perfect day to reflect on the burdens of Jesus Christ.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

We all know what the burden of our sin feels like.

No matter how much we try to ignore our sins, they can place an almost palpable weight on us that affects how we act, and who we are. Left unchecked, the burden of our sin can become so heavy that it crushes us – if not physically, certainly spiritually. Many times, we become so burdened with our own sin that we simply do not know how to get out from under it.

God, knowing what the burdens of sin can do, gave us His only Son to help us. Jesus was the only person ever to walk this earth who did not sin and yet His purpose in coming here was to take our burdens from us, and allow us to become reconciled to God. Those of us who know how oppressive the burden of sin can be cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to willingly accept that burden from each and every person on earth.

Christ takes our burdens and gives us His. When we give our burdens of sin to Jesus, He gives us a “burden” of love, healing and peace. But He assures us that ours is the better part of the bargain.

“For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 KJV).

The “yoke” is a tool utilized by oxen to accomplish hard work. The yoke that Jesus would have us carry, in exchange for what we are giving Him, indicates that we cannot expect that our lives will be free of responsibility or work. It does mean that we are working together with Christ instead of trying to do things on our own. It means that we are working in a spiritually productive manner and striving to live purposeful, meaningful lives of service to God. It means whatever weight our burdens have is nothing compared to what we gave Jesus, and with our closeness to God the burden we do have is carried with joy and thanks.

Before we know it, our smiles are broader, our steps are livelier, and our ability to deal with the obstacles that do come our way becomes easier, and with all of this comes a surprising eagerness and an ability to then reach out to those around us.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

When we get rid of the negative burdens of sin and accept the burdens of being a responsible Christian, our lives can only change for the better.

Think about what you are asking Christ to take from you, and then thank Him for taking it.

*******

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

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July 7

Today is…

a good day to ignore what people say.

“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.”  Proverbs 15:14 KJV

Someone defined insanity as “Doing the same things and expecting to get different results.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what many of us do.

When we make our decision to follow Christ, we must change.

Once we are convinced we want to accept Christ as our Savior and seek forgiveness for our sins, we must then set about getting rid of old thoughts, habits, and situations that do not reflect the way we want to live the rest of our lives. Most of our lives are influenced by the information we absorb and expose ourselves to. If we surround ourselves with people who gossip, tear others down, or criticize and demean other people, we must put an end to it.

We must stop listening and learn to ignore people when they have nothing to offer but foolishness.

We must map out a course for ourselves that includes instruction from the Word of God. We must make use of the time we once wasted in foolish idleness to seek knowledge not only in the Word of God, but other useful knowledge that can be used to help those around us. Find a church where you feel comfortable and welcome and try to become involved in the many different ways in which that particular church tries to reach out to those in the community.

It is important to remember that becoming better, more responsible people is not something we do or work on for God. It is a very important part of what we do for ourselves. The inner satisfaction and the resultant feeling of worth and sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves is our goal.

It is what God wants us to see, but it needs to be the way we want to live.

It all hinges upon changing all of the information that flows into us through the people we listen to, the things we read, and what we see. All of these things can be controlled to a great degree so that we are soon doing different things and obtaining results beyond anything we ever thought possible.

Old habits, old dogs and new tricks.

God is aware of every obstacle we can put in our way. When we recognize the importance of other people, and we ask God daily for His help and His direction, we can overcome old habits and those of us who are old dogs can learn new tricks.

But we first must learn to know when to ignore what people say.

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

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