January 19

TODAY IS…

the day to rejoice!

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24 KJV

Don’t feel like rejoicing today?

All we need to change that feeling is a good attitude. Let’s face it, hardly a day goes by that something doesn’t happen which would cause us to grumble if we didn’t maintain a good attitude and if we weren’t thankful to God regardless of what was happening in our lives.

George Matheson was a blind preacher from Scotland who lived in the latter half of the 1800’s. He once wrote, “My Dear God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You thousands of times for my roses, but not once for my thorns.”

The thorns in our lives are there to test and purify our faith.

In his letter to encourage suffering Christians, Peter wrote, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is more precious than mere gold.” (1 Peter 1:7a NLT).

So should we rejoice because of the trials we face in life?

Not exactly.

We should rejoice in spite of the trials we face, knowing that God is with us and will not abandon us. We should rejoice with the assurance that we will emerge from whatever trials we face as stronger, more confident, and more courageous Christians who are better equipped to do God’s work here on earth.

We can all learn a lesson in facing trials with the right attitude by reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In it, he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 KJV).

Considering that Paul was in prison when he wrote that, it is difficult to understand how he could be encouraging others to rejoice. However, if we examine the situation closely, we will learn that Paul is teaching us that our attitude does not have to reflect our physical circumstances. Paul knew – and we must too – that God was with him so it did not matter where his body was.

That is trust.

That is faith.

And with that trusting faith, the ability to rejoice is always at hand.

Today was made by God and it is His gift to each of us. Let us rejoice in it, regardless of our circumstances, and use it as an opportunity to serve Him and to glorify His name.

*******

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

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January 18

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to listen to Jesus.

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Matthew 13:9 NLT

We have all encountered many different people who have offered us their opinions on how we should talk, how we should act, and how we should live our lives. While some of what we have heard may have been helpful, much of it probably was not, leaving us wondering why we listened to them in the first place.

This is not to say that we should not accept counsel and advice from those around us, but we need to be sure that what we are being told agrees with what was taught by the one person God said we should listen to.

And who was this person?

Peter, James, and John made up the ‘inner circle’ of Jesus’ disciples and God gave them a very clear answer to that very same question: “…This is My beloved Son: hear Him.” (Mark 9:7 KJV).

Most of us are accustomed to automatically crying out to God in times of trouble.

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

We want God to hear our cries of pain, sorrow and distress. We want Him to listen to our needs and our requests. And He loves to listen to it all.

But God wants us to listen as well.

He wants us to listen to the words that Jesus spoke when He walked among us and He wants us to spend our time on this earth working to understand those words and follow what He was trying to teach us.

Doing that requires a commitment many of us are not truly willing, ready, or able to make. In order to follow the simple teachings of Jesus, we need to put others before ourselves. We need to resist temptation and avoid situations where we know in advance we will be tempted. We need to devote ourselves to our spouses and our children and use the words that Jesus spoke to light the path that leads to a joyful eternity in God’s Kingdom.

“… not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 NIV).

Spending time each day with our family and friends learning the simple truths that Jesus taught will enrich us and ensure that we move in the same direction: A direction that leads to service to others in the name of God.

Every word that came from the mouth of Jesus was uttered with the sole purpose of making each one of us more like Him.

We should all ask for help in hearing the words that Christ spoke and understanding what He meant by them. If we listen with open hearts and minds, the true meaning of His words will fill us with a desire to be kinder, gentler, more understanding, and more compassionate.

The incredible thing about the words that Jesus spoke is that He always spoke the truth. How many of us can say that? The truths that He spoke can be used immediately in decisions we make in virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives. If we are ever in a situation in which our actions contradict His teaching, then we haven’t been listening closely enough to what was being said.

What Jesus said might be inconvenient to our human way of thinking or our personal desires, but He was never wrong.

No matter how we try to justify our actions, we cannot make it right if it means that something said by Jesus was wrong.

We need to listen to Jesus, and today is the perfect day to start.

*******

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

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January 17

TODAY IS…

the day to eliminate sin.

“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all of the Law of Moses.”  2 Kings 23:25 NIV

An eight year old boy became king of Judah and reigned for 31 years.

His name was Josiah and he was known for his obedience to God. When he was 26 years old, Josiah sent his secretary, Shaphan, as a messenger to the Lord’s Temple to see Hilkiah, the High Priest. His intended purpose was to arrange payment for the workers who were restoring the temple, but when Shaphan returned to his king, he brought with him a scroll given to him by Hilkiah. When Josiah read the scroll, he discovered that Hilkiah had given him something that had been lost for many years…..God’s Word.

As he read this incredible document, he realized with shame that his kingdom had drifted far away from God. Josiah set about enacting sweeping reforms throughout the nation to conform to the Law of Moses.

Unlike Josiah, we do not have to wait.

The Word of God is available to us on a daily basis and we should follow Josiah’s example and strive to bring our lives in line with it. One of the first things we must do is eliminate sin. In order to do this we must first recognize it, and then attack its causes. While we may think that recognizing sin is easy, our behavior sometimes speaks differently. Given the permissiveness in today’s society and the downplaying of the role of God in our lives that seems to constantly test our faith, we sometimes allow ourselves to become comfortable with improper thoughts and actions. We then rationalize these thoughts and actions with a litany of excuses.

We blame our human weakness.

We blame everyone else.

We blame satan.

We even blame God.

A big part of being a good Christian is taking responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, praying for God’s forgiveness, and asking Him to help us identify and resist sinful temptations.

Jesus’ brother James said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation…” (James 1:12a KJV).

A good relationship with God is tantamount to eliminating sin in our lives. Only when we are in constant communication with Him can we steadily draw upon His strength to help us identify, resist, and attack sin. Some of us may think that this type of relationship with the Lord is too arduous and time-consuming – too ‘high-maintenance’, if you will – yet we think nothing of spending hours every day maintaining our automobiles, our homes, our yards, and our physical appearance.

It would be wise to remember that all of these things are temporary and superficial when compared with the eternal benefits of striving to maintain a sin-free life and a strong relationship with God enables us to do that.

By all means, wash your car. Paint your house. Mow your lawn.

And talk with God as you do all of these things and ask for His help in eliminating sin from your life.

*******

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

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January 16

TODAY IS…

a good day to eliminate worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6 NIV

George Mueller was an author, a preacher, and a founder of Christian orphanages during the 1800’s. Mr. Mueller offered this perspective on worry: “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

Several different teachers throughout the Bible instructed us not to worry. In Philippians 4:6, Paul stresses the importance of turning our worry over to God in prayer and with thanksgiving.

Peter tells us the same thing when he says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV).

The most powerful statements come from our Lord, Jesus Christ, when He spoke at length on the subject in Matthew 6:25-34.

In part, He said, “And who of you by being worried can add a single day to his life?” (Matthew 6:27 NASB).

His solution to worry?

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33 NLT).

Many of us probably tell ourselves that it is easier to talk about not worrying than it is to actually stop. While it may not be easy to totally eliminate worry, it is important to recognize that worry is the passive act of making ourselves anxious about something over which we have no control. When we allow ourselves to worry, we run several risks: adversely affecting our health; immobilizing ourselves, making us ineffective in other tasks; affecting our ability to relate to loved ones and other people in our personal and professional lives; and – most importantly – worry can tear at the very fabric of our trust in God.

Fully trusting in God will help us to avoid the pitfalls of worry and be happy and content knowing God is in control. As humans, we have a tendency to try to be the driver when in actuality we are the vehicle. Letting God drive allows us to get where we need to go via a road less bumpy than one we are likely to select ourselves.

Worry is evil whispering in your ear.

Worry is evil eating at your heart and your mind.

Worry is stepping backward from the light into the darkness.

It is important to remember that our ability to eliminate worry is in direct proportion to two things: 1) The strength of our faith; 2) How much we pray.

Strengthen your faith by reading the Bible daily and pray for God to take your burdens from you.

Let God drive. He knows the Way.

*******

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

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January 15

TODAY IS…

the day to be a living example of goodness for our children.

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”  Proverbs 1:8 KJV

What do our children see when they look at us?

Is what they observe in our actions and behavior a reflection of the goodness that should be a part of our relationship with God?

Are the signals we send them clear signals of morality, integrity, and Christian priorities?

Do they see us “…living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”? (Romans 14:17 NLT).

Do they hear us praising God for His help in filling our hearts with the desire to “…do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”? (Hebrews 13:16 NIV).

God has given each of us some extraordinary gifts, as well as some considerable responsibilities. It is important that we understand that no gift from God is more extraordinary than the gift of a child, and no responsibility is greater than being a living example to that child of the goodness of God and the importance of God in our lives.

It is simply not enough to tell a child how he or she should relate to other people and to God Himself. We must be ta living example for them to follow. Therefore, we must regularly ask ourselves, ‘What do my children see when they look at me?’

There are many of us who struggle just to find the time to keep up with the swirl of daily obligations and commitments we have surrounded ourselves with. We become so busy trying to build better lives on earth for our children that we end up inadvertently teaching them that it is acceptable to put God on the back burner because He is not as important as newer, bigger, better, or faster.

We deny this, of course, but this becomes what our children see, so this becomes what they learn.

We must make time every day for God.

We must teach our children, by example, that pleasing God is important. And not only is it important we do that, it is not very difficult to do. We simply must take time with our children, on a daily basis, to learn God’s lessons of love, peace, joy, caring, goodness, and service to God and those around us. Then we must apply these lessons to our daily lives and teach our children that this is how we please God and thank Him for all He gives us.

We must step in front of the mirror and ask ourselves another question:

“Am I a reflection of the goodness that should be a part of my relationship with God?”

If the answer is yes, thank Him.

If the answer is no, ask Him for help in changing it to yes and become a living example of goodness for your children.

*******

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

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January 14

TODAY IS…

the day to thank God for His gift of grace.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”  Ephesians 2:8 NLT

We cannot earn our salvation.

It comes from God as a gift through His grace. His divine love, mercy, and forgiveness are free. Understanding just how important and precious His grace is to us will help us to understand just how important and precious we are to Him.

To receive this gift of grace we must acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves. Only God can do that. As Paul teaches us “If you declare with your mouth, ’Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

Since God’s grace is a gift, there is no charge for it; there is nothing owed; there is no debt. But we should certainly be grateful for it and give thanks for it. Accepting this gift into our hearts should instill in us a need to share the joy this gift can bring with those around us.

If we have accepted Christ and received God’s gift of grace, we should make ourselves available to God with an attitude of compassion and joy. The desire to share our peace, happiness, and contentment should grow, as should our desire to serve the One who has given us such a priceless gift.

Frequently, many of us find ourselves so caught up in our own existence that we find it difficult to make time for ourselves or for our families, let alone for anyone else. However, just as physical exercise actually increases our energy, service to others in the name of God help us to increase the quality of our own lives.

When we show someone else kindness, love, and compassion, we are thanking God for His gift of grace to us. Helping someone else discover the gift of God’s grace is one of the kindest things we can do for another human being, and for ourselves.

Thank God today for His gift of grace by helping someone else receive it as well.

*******

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

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January 13

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to give.

“Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”  2 Corinthians 8:12 NLT

When we awake each morning, do we thank God for His gift of the new day?

Do we stop and look around us in awe and wonder at all of the individual gifts that each new day contains? We needn’t look far for these gifts. We only need to open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds and realize that everything we can see, hear, smell, and touch exists because it is a gift from God.

There are so many things around us that we take for granted as we rush through our lives: the sun; the stars; the clouds that drift soundlessly overhead; dew drops on the petals of a flower or a blade of grass; the sound of a bird singing its own song of life; the quiet beauty of a snowfall.

Simple things.

Everyday things.

These are all things that we should stop from time to time, take notice of, and thank God for.

When we give pause to show our appreciation for the One who makes everything in life possible, and when we give thanks for all of His countless gifts, we are one step closer to giving back and showing our love for, and commitment to, God and all that He created.

The best way to demonstrate that love and commitment is to give back to God in a manner that reflects His spirit within us. Believers in Macedonia, while not financially well off themselves, gave “…according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord…” (2 Corinthians 8:3 NASB).

The attitude is more important than the amount.

A gift given with enthusiasm and a joyful spirit will have more of a positive spiritual impact than one given out of grudging obligation. It is true that our churches require funds to operate and provide assistance to those who need it, but far too many of us write the check and then write off any further obligation to their fellow man and to God Himself.

Giving of ourselves – with a joyful heart and a willing spirit – is often more important than giving financially. For those who simply cannot afford to give financially, giving of themselves may be all that they can give.

But what a thing to give!

Philemon was a perfect example of how attitude and temperament can refresh the spirit of others, replenishing and stimulating them. In his letter to Philemon, Paul said, “Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” (Philemon 1:7 NLT).

Be a Philemon.

Be someone who lifts others up and makes their burdens – be they financial or spiritual – lighter.

Give back to God who gives us – everything.

*******

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

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January 12

TODAY IS…

a good day to deal with doubt.

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”  John 20:27 NLT

How strong is your faith?

How confident is your belief?

Publicly, you may proclaim that your faith is unshakeable; that your belief is without reservation. Privately, there may be times when a shadow of doubt crosses your heart as a cloud sometimes crosses in front of the sun, blocking its light and its warmth.

The disciple Thomas not only needed to see Jesus’ wounds, he needed to feel them for himself before he was completely ready to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.

Simon Peter’s faith was strong enough to trust Christ and step out of the boat onto the water.

“‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:29 NLT).

However, his fear created doubts that caused him to start sinking, making him cry out to Jesus for help. His doubts would surface yet again when Jesus was taken into custody and Peter denied three times that he even knew who Christ was, just as Jesus said he would.

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know Me.’” (Matthew 26:34 NLT).

God does not condemn us for our moments of human weakness that result in doubt provided we use our struggle with it to strengthen our faith.

Since we are merely human, we should not allow it to shatter us if we have an occasional moment of doubt. It is during these times that we must rely on the Word of God to help us reach out and ‘touch the wounds of Jesus’ for ourselves and find the wisdom to strengthen our belief.

The apostle Thomas became known as ‘Doubting’ Thomas. Still, he went on to become one of Christ’s most fervent apostles, traveling to India and founding the first Christian church there in A. D. 52 in the town of Parur. Ultimately, Thomas traveled farther than any of the other apostles including the indefatigable Paul who traveled much of the area bordering the northern and eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Simon Peter was originally Simon the fisherman. Jesus changed his name to Peter which meant ‘rock’. In describing Peter, He said “…upon this rock I will build My church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18 NLT).

Peter did, indeed, become a ‘rock’ for Christ: he was the first to invite non-Jews to join the early church; he became the recognized leader among Jesus’ disciples; he was one of Jesus’ inner group of three; he went on to write 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

So, do you sometimes have doubts?

If you do, then you are in very good company.

Use the Word of God to overcome your doubts, strengthen your faith, and do great things for the glory of God!

*******

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

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January 11

TODAY IS…

the day to seek the wisdom of God.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  James 1:5 NASB

Wisdom is knowledge, understanding, insight, and good judgment. It is not just intelligence – it is using intelligence correctly.

Throughout the Bible, the importance of wisdom and its part in our relationship with God is stressed many times. Wisdom allows us to apply the things that we have learned from the Word of God in a manner that makes us more Christ-like. Wisdom helps point us to a purpose for our lives on earth that benefits all of mankind and not just ourselves. Wisdom guides our decisions, our hopes, our prayers, and our love for others and enables us to be leaders, healers, helpers, and friends.

Wisdom also prepares us to be good parents, productive and involved members of our churches and our communities, and helps us be looked to as sources of strength and counsel during times of trouble, tragedy, or disaster.

When told by God that he could have anything that he asked for, Solomon did not ask for great wealth or fame. Instead, he asked God to, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10 NIV).

We are not all kings.

We are not all rulers.

Most of us are simple people trying to find our way in a world that seems to become more confusing and dangerous every day. No matter how good our intentions may be, sometimes the correct direction often eludes us. It is important we understand that studying the Word of God, spending time getting to know Him, and asking for His divine wisdom will help us determine exactly what that direction is.

Wisdom is a God-given gift, but it is only given to those who actively seek it. We must ask for it and then we must trust God as He shows us that all of the wisdom we will ever need can be found throughout the Bible.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6 NIV).

Wisdom gives us the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.

When we are faithful to God and ask for – and use – wisdom for His purpose, He will reward us with true happiness.

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.” (Proverbs 2:10 NLT).

We only need to keep asking God for His wisdom in our prayers, and seeking it in His Word.

“For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8 NLT).

Open the door today to reveal the gift of God’s wisdom.

*******

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

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January 10

TODAY IS…

a great day to love others.

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:39 NIV

God gave mankind many gifts, many talents, and many skills.

He made us seemingly without limit in our ability to develop technologies and products that are extremely complex and require a tremendous amount of education, thought, and expertise. He gave us the ability to develop an almost incomprehensible array of vehicles with which to traverse the land, the oceans, the sky, and even space itself.

In spite of all of these God-given gifts, talents, and skills which enable us to achieve ever-increasing levels in science and technology, manufacturing and production, education, medicine, and building, we sometimes seem at a loss to fully comprehend the simple concept of loving our fellow man.

Perhaps the concept itself is so simplistic in nature that we automatically diminish its significance and deny its importance.

Jesus Christ did not think it was insignificant or unimportant. In fact, when asked by the Pharisees what He thought was the most important commandment in the Law of Moses, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).

If that, in and of itself, is not enough to demonstrate the importance of loving your neighbor, Jesus went on to say, “The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40 NLT).

So, not only did Jesus say that loving your neighbor is important, He placed it second only to showing love to God Himself in terms of importance and significance.

Jesus was not referring only to those who live in close proximity to us, of course. To God, the entire world that He created is a very small place and all of mankind should consider all other inhabitants of God’s creation to be his neighbor regardless of where they live, or whatever their race, creed, or social background.

We should all reach out in love to anyone we see who needs assistance.

Often we become so wrapped up in our own little corner of the world and become so overwhelmed with our own lives and problems that we fail to lift our heads up and look around us. When we do that, we realize that there is always someone in greater need than we are. When we take the time – and make the effort – to reach out to another human being, we not only learn a little about ourselves, but we learn a little more about God’s love for us. When we help someone else with their problems, God helps ours seem to diminish just a little, and those that remain seem easier to handle.

Loving our neighbor is a simple concept with far-reaching impact. It is a concept that is important to the Lord.

Today is a great day to make it important to you as well.

*******

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

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