May 16

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to think about “everything”.

“’What do you mean, what’s the matter?’ Micah replied. ‘You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!’”  Judges 18:24 NLT

When the stock market crashed in 1929, there were numerous stories of people committing suicide, many by jumping out of the windows of tall buildings. Why did they do it? The reason given is the same in every instance: they killed themselves because they had lost “everything”.

Oh, really?

Everything?

When our lives are built around the wrong things, it is possible to feel that way. If money is what we live for, if money is what we “worship”, then it is understandable that a stock market crash that takes it all away could be mistakenly viewed as having taken ‘everything’ from us.

But those who live only for money, gold, jewelry, cars, houses and whatever other material possessions money can buy are living for the wrong reasons and are definitely worshiping at the wrong altar.

The simple fact of the matter is that as long as we worship only God; as long as we keep Him in our hearts; as long as we do all that we can to demonstrate our faith and our love, there is no way that anyone or any situation can take “everything”.

God can never be taken from us.

If we are unwise; if we are foolish; if we believe the wrong things, we can reject God, but He can never be taken from us.

Obviously, losing a job or a dramatic downturn in the stock market could create serious problems for us financially, but these are all only temporary problems of this world. Bad financial news is not worth a life. Our secure relationship with the Lord will see us through any difficult period in our life – financial or otherwise, and it is of the utmost importance that when life turns against us, we turn immediately to God.

When we have a good relationship with God, we have everything we really need, and it is nice to be able to live each day in confident assurance that no one can ever take “everything” away from us.

*******

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

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May 15

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to follow the example set by Jesus.

“I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”  John 13:15 NLT

We are all familiar with the lesson taught by Jesus that instructs us to, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12a NLT).

Many of us learned this, and teach it to our children as to our children as “The Golden Rule”.

Some may consider what Jesus said to His disciples after He washed their feet as simply another way of saying the Golden Rule, but it is far more than that.

Think about our relationship with the Lord compared to our relationship with those around us. We probably treat God with more respect than we do our next door neighbor. We are all very likely to fall all over ourselves to please God, but are only mildly concerned with what those around us think.

Of course, this makes sense since we ask so much more of God, right?

Actually, this is far from right. What Jesus was teaching His followers is that if we are to ask for God’s mercy, then we must show mercy to others. If we are to ask God for His love, then we must take the love He gives us and share it.

How can we ask the Lord to treat us right if we treat others wrong?

Where do we find the nerve to ask God to hold out His arms for us if we are not willing to hold out our arms for others?

How can we ask God to give us eyes with which to see and then not use our sight to notice another person’s tears or pain?

It is a good thing to treat others the way we want them to treat us. This is important, because Jesus said it was. But it is even more telling of our understanding of what Jesus said if we treat those around us the way we want God to treat us.

We must learn for ourselves, and teach our children, that we must never ask the Lord for anything we are not prepared to willingly share with those around us.

*******

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

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May 14

TODAY IS…

a superb day to keep our promises.

“But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them.’”  Joshua 9:19 NASB

Joshua, and those who had advised him, discovered shortly after making a treaty with the Gibeonites that they had been duped into believing that the Gibeonites were from a distant land. They were seeking to avoid being destroyed by Joshua’s armies in battle, so they engineered a detailed deception.Joshua failed to consult with God before making his decision to enter into a treaty with the people of Gibeon to protect them. He consulted only with his advisors and they were fooled.

To say that Joshua and those who encouraged and advised him to proceed were angry at being tricked is probably an understatement, but they had given an oath to protect the Gibeonites and there was no way out of it.

A promise is a promise.

No promise should be made lightly. If there is doubt that we will be able to keep our promise, then we should not make a promise in the first place. Particularly with our families, it is important that we are as good as our word. This teaches our children to be reliable, responsible, and honorable. Nothing is worse to a child than to have a mother or father promise to be at a recital, sporting event, concert, or some other event that is important to them and not show up. We do not want to be responsible for that level of hurt and disappointment. If we cannot do something or are not positive that we can, we must never make a promise.

The truth may cause sadness, but we at least have taught them to be honest.

It is no different with spouses, other family members, friends, or co-workers. When we promise something, it should be a guarantee. It is important in all our relationships that people are able to take us at our word.

Our word should be a bond. Giving our word – fulfilling a promise – shows good character, so remember: If you can’t do something, just say so.

But a promise is a promise.

*******

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

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May 13

TODAY IS…

a great day to remind ourselves to trust God even when we don’t understand.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’”  John 2:5 NASB

When Jesus’ mother gave that instruction to the servants, she had no understanding of how He could solve the problem. She just believed that He could. She gave the problem over to Jesus and then let Him take care of things. She probably was not expecting Him to perform a miracle, and things undoubtedly worked out better than she had anticipated.

This is something that is very difficult for so many of us.

We have the best of intentions when we speak of our faith in God and we give our problems to Him and ask for His help, but we often then sit back and expect Him to do things the way we would do them. It doesn’t always work that way and sometimes we simply cannot understand the approach that the Lord is taking to our problem.

Do we know, better than God, how any situation should be handled? Is it wise to even harbor the notion?

The truth of the matter is that with faithful and diligent reading of the Word of God, we must know in our hearts that whatever God decides is truly what is in our best interests in the long run. It is of the utmost importance that we accept the fact that, far too often, we base our decisions on what we think is best for today.

God is concerned about tomorrow – and the day after that.

If we are truly paying attention to what the Lord tells us in the Bible, we simply cannot harbor the thought that we are not satisfied with the way He is handling a situation we have given over to Him.

There is no safer place for our problems than in the hands of God. There simply is no possibility that we can know, better than the One who created us and gave us life, what is best for us.

We must all give our problems to God, and then trust in Him even when we cannot understand.

*******

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

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May 11

TODAY IS…

a good day to look at the clock.

“You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to You; at best, each of us is but a breath.”  Psalm 39:5 NLT

In the backs of our minds, we are all acutely aware that the clocks of our lives start ticking down from the moment we are born. At that moment, only God knows exactly how much time is on that clock. The best we can do is pray that we live long, “normal” lives. Beyond that, it is out of our hands.

When we are young, we feel like we are “immortal,” and we live like we are “indestructible.” Of course, a sense of mortality enters after we have been exposed to death, but even then, we consider a short life with an abrupt ending to be something that happens to other people, not to us.

We wind up spending a good many years chasing after the material pleasures, comforts, and rewards that can be found in this life. Yet far too few of us devote enough time preparing for an eternal life with God. Even as we proclaim our faith and let those around us know that we await our time to be with God, many of us spend all of our time focused on the here and now with very little attention paid to the hereafter.

Many of us know, or have known, people who have developed a terminal illness such as a cancer that has proven to be incurable. Those of us who have gone through the process have noticed the change in the sick person as they focus on what is next.

Their priorities change.

They want to spend more time with family and friends. They want to spend more time with God. Many of them are afraid because there are doubts that they have lived properly and in a manner that will guarantee them an eternity of peace and joy in the loving presence of God. But their focus is all on preparation. They see that the end, for them, is near and they realize that what comes after is far more important than the here and now.

Each one of us has been “terminally ill” since the day we were born. Time is short, even for those of us who will live what we think is a very long life.

None of us knows when our clock will run down, so it is important to know what is important and live each day in readiness for the tomorrow.

It may just turn out to be the first day of our eternity.

*******

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

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May 10

TODAY IS…

a terrific day for a walk.

“…for we walk by faith, not by sight…” 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB

If we were to observe a blind individual walking with the aid of a service dog, we would see someone moving through life with no fear because he or she knows they can trust their highly trained animal in all circumstances. There is no hesitation in movement and they move fearlessly forward guided only by their trust in the dog. While they cannot see the dog, they can hold on tightly to the special handle, but if they were to let go, they would have 100% confidence that the dog would remain at their side and be there for them instantly.

So it is with God and our faith.

We all know that we are required to have faith in God and walk consistently forward in that faith with no hesitation and no fear. It is true that this may seem a little more difficult than the challenge facing someone who is sightless. After all, they can feel the dog, they can call out to the dog and hear and sense a response, and the dog leaves no movement open to question. When it is not safe to proceed, the dog stops. When it is safe, the dog moves. When there is an obstacle, the dog will guide the person to a path that safely avoids the obstacle.

Sounds considerably more clear cut and definitive than walking by faith, doesn’t it?

But is it really that much different?

When a sightless individual first depends upon a dog for guidance on streets that once held danger, it is safe to assume that there is some initial trepidation. It is only natural to be a little timid at first. But as the relationship between the two grows, and they become familiar with one another, confidence builds.

And so it is as we walk by faith toward the future God has planned for us. As we walk, we know God is with us every step of the way. As we pray and read the Bible, our relationship gets stronger and we grow more confident and trusting. We learn that God will forewarn us of dangers if we will only listen. We learn that God will guide us around obstacles that are in our path if we only trust in Him.

Walking by faith does not need to be scary at all. It just takes a little getting used to, and it just takes a little practice. But in time, we will find ourselves walking confidently through life knowing God guides our every step.

*******

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

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May 9

TODAY IS…

an ideal day for spiritual supplements to help our faith grow.

“The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 1:8 NLT

The nutritional supplement industry is massive, taking in many billions of dollars a year as we purchase vitamins, minerals, liquids, and pills with which to supplement our diets and improve our overall physical health. Nutritional supplements are also used widely to help our children grow up strong and healthy. Used wisely, these products can be very beneficial in promoting strong growth and vibrant health.

We should want our faith to grow strong and vibrant as well and if we look to Peter, we can find guidance to help us do exactly that.

“Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” (2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT).

The list may appear long and intimidating, but look at the label of ingredients on your bottle of multi-vitamins. Our bodies require a considerable variety of nutrients to remain healthy, and so it is with our faith. There are many things needed to help it to grow, flourish, and help us be stronger in our faith.

Unlike vitamins, however, there is no pill that contains all of these “spiritual supplements.” These are things which require effort and hard work on our part. But the end result will be a Christian who is strong in faith whose knowledge will be useful to God in making others aware of the great promises He has made.

For your physical growth, go ahead and pick up your bottle of multi-vitamins. But for your spiritual growth, pick up your Bible. It contains all of the supplements your faith needs.

*******

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

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May 8

TODAY IS…

a fine day for patient endurance.

“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.”  Hebrews 10:36 NLT

God has made us some wonderful promises and there are not a lot of burdensome conditions attached to those promises. We must accept Christ as our savior, we must worship only God, and we must love one another, but nowhere in those promises are any requirements that cost us any money or inflict any pain.

While they may be inconvenient to the world’s way of thinking in many cases, none of those conditions cause any physical pain or cost money.

Unfortunately for many of us, His promises do require the patience of faith. Patient endurance is our way of showing God that we trust in Him without equivocation. It is our way of demonstrating that our belief is unshakeable, undeniable, and unchangeable.

There are times in our lives that this may be difficult for us.

We will likely find there are times when we allow negativity to nibble at the edges of our faith and create an opening through which the darkness of doubt can enter and cast a shadow over the light of God’s promises. In times of stress or trouble we may allow ourselves to entertain the notion that we require proof of God’s promises.

If we should discover that this scenario fits us at times, we need to dig in and stand fast and stretch our faith so that it covers the cracks created by momentary lapses in our patient endurance.

We must never allow the darkness of doubt to totally block out the light of God’s promises.

Times of trial may test our patience, but a strong relationship with God and faithful reliance upon prayer will help us remain strong during those times when we need to be the strongest.

When we turn to God first, the ability of our patience to await God’s promises will last. Patient endurance is a commitment to our belief, and a powerful statement of our faith.

Negativity may nibble, but we must all strive to make sure it is never well fed. Patient endurance will always deny it the sustenance it needs to live.

*******

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

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May 7

TODAY IS…

a good day to teach our children to accept responsibility.

“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in Your wrath.”  Psalm 38:1 NIV

Part of being a good parent is teaching our children that our behavior carries with it consequences.

The consequences of good behavior are recognition and rewards. Conversely, the consequences of bad behavior include discipline. While we never want to discipline our children in anger, we do want to teach them that they must accept responsibility for all of their actions, and that includes those that carry with them the need for some form of discipline or punishment.

IN Psalm 38, David cried out to God in the same way a child cries out to a parent. David knew he had done wrong, he just didn’t want God to discipline him while he was angry, and this is a good lesson for us as we raise our children: do not discipline a child in anger. Discipline should be used as a tool to teach a child, not simply as punishment, and never as a way of venting our anger or demonstrating our dissatisfaction.

Our objective should be to teach our children to accept responsibility for the things they do. If we can get them to do that, we have a better chance of getting them to think before they act. We must instill in them a love of God, and respect for themselves and other people and we must start from an early age making sure they understand their responsibility to God, themselves, us, and people around them.

David knew that he had done wrong and knew that God was angry. Just the anticipation of punishment and his feelings of guilt caused him to be physically ill.

“Because of Your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me – it is a burden too heavy to bear.” (Psalm 38:3-4 NLT).

Through conscious effort and the Bible’s help, we can teach our children to recognize for themselves when they have done wrong, accept responsibility for it, and ask God’s forgiveness.

Teach your children that being responsible means being accountable and being accountable includes being accountable to God.

*******

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

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May 6

TODAY IS…

a great day to think about the problem with prayer.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16b NIV

It is not difficult to imagine many of us reading the title of today’s message with alarm.

Problem with prayer?”

There is no problem with prayer, right? Prayer is a gift from God. It is among the greatest of all gifts because the ability to take our hopes, dreams, requests, and our problems directly to God is a gift that was paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a remarkably exceptional gift it is, too. The results of our communion with God through prayer can be so much greater than anything we could possibly imagine.

So where is the problem?

The problem with prayer is that far too often, and for far too many of us, it is the last thing we do instead of the first. Many of us “resort” to prayer only when all of our woefully inadequate human efforts fail.

It is important to not misunderstand.

God will never turn a deaf ear to one of His children crying out for help. He has brought many of us back from the brink of self-destruction or even death because of our cries of help when everything else has failed.

But He wants us to learn that there is a better way to pray.

How do we pray “better”? Pray first, pray often, and pray with faith.

Pray first.

Give your life over to God and ask for His guidance before creating anything resembling a “last resort.” When we ask God what we should do and how we should do it, and then wait for His instruction – which will come – we will often be amazed at the results.

Pray often.

Prayer is a wonderful way to begin and end each day, but it is also very easy to take mere moments throughout the day to thank Him, to ask for continued help, or just to say hello.

Pray with faith.

When we ask God for help, advice, or guidance we can be assured of His attention to our problem when we pray with faith. Our belief that God hears us must be beyond question. Our understanding that He may not reply or show us the way to go as quickly as we may like, is important. Asking for things that we know in our hearts are the right things to ask for demonstrates our love for God. It also demonstrates the faith we have that He will hear us and, when it is His will, we shall know His answer.

So the question we must ask is this: “Do I have a problem with prayer?”

If the answer is “yes”, then just remember these three things:

Pray first.

Pray often.

Pray in faith.

*******

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

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