January 27

TODAY IS…

a good day to find courage in God.

“…for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, ‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid’.”  Mark 6:50 NASB

No one makes it through life without experiencing fear.

There is no shame in it, nor is it a sign of weakness. It is a human response to something unknown or dangerous. Fear – like all who encounter it – comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it is small and comes in the shape of a spider. For others, it may be as large as, and in the shape of, an airplane. It can be fear of a specific thing or of a particular situation such as a job interview, moving to a new city, speaking in public or starting in at a new school.

The question is not the size, shape or source of our fear.

The question is how do we confront it? Where do we draw the courage to deal with it?

Let’s place ourselves in the boat with the disciples in the middle of the Sea of Galilee as they rowed toward Gennesaret. They were more than likely discussing the incredible events of the day. They had just witnessed the man they had chosen to follow – a man they did not fully understand, or believe yet – as He fed thousands of people from a meager supply of five loaves of bread and two fish.

As they discussed this miraculous event in the darkest of night three or four miles from shore, a fierce storm descended upon them, tossing their little craft about and filling them with fear. Suddenly, out of the darkness, they see this same man walking toward them – on the water!

Full of fear just moments before, now they must have been terrified. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

But Jesus told them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

Whereupon He climbed into the boat then calmed the wind and the sea. With calm restored, the disciples took courage from the presence of the Lord.

And so it is with each one of us. We can all take courage from the presence of the Lord.

We must know that we can all rely on the Lord for courage no matter what fear we are facing and no matter what sudden storms crop up in our lives. And although new things can be exciting, they can be frightening as well.

Imagine the trepidation Joshua must have felt when he succeeded Moses as Israel’s leader. How would any of us feel if our new job description included leading two million people into a strange land? A land that would need to be conquered to boot.

As Joshua looked out on that sea of expectant faces, one can imagine the fear he might have felt were it not for the assurance of God when He told Joshua, “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:5-7a NLT).

The rest of the Book of Joshua in the Bible chronicles the fulfillment of Joshua’s obligation and God’s promise to him to help fulfill it. The reading of it reveals the courage Joshua exhibited as he faced the daunting task before him by trusting God and following His direction.

When we are afraid, we need to look to God.

When we think we are alone to face our fears, we must turn to God.

When we have momentarily lost our way and are afraid we cannot find our way back, we must rely on God.

Take your courage from God and you will have everything you need to face your fears. He will not fail us and He will never abandon us.

*******

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

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January 26

TODAY IS…

a good day to set the world on fire.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Romans 12:2 KJV

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

With these words, St. Catherine of Siena summed up the purpose of the life of each and every human being. But how do we know who God meant us to be? The best place to look for that answer is in the Holy Bible, of course.

The Bible tells us first and foremost that, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB).

Since God has no physical body, when Moses was telling the story of creation to the people of Israel, he was trying to teach them that God created us to reflect the goodness of His character. We do this by showing others the love, patience, kindness, compassion, faithfulness and forgiveness that God has placed in each of us.

Up to the latter part of the 1800’s, the ability of any one individual to influence large numbers of people was limited by the primitive modes of travel and communication that were available. Since then, that ability has grown exponentially until, in today’s world, what we say, what we do, and who we are can have an almost instantaneous impact around the world.

This capability makes it crucial that we take the time to reflect on what our behavior tells others about who we are and what we believe.

If we are dedicated to being who God meant us to be, our behavior will mirror the true character of God and our ability to ignite the desire in others to reflect that character will be assured. As neighbor sees neighbor reflecting the character of God, the world will be set on fire with the passion of everyone striving to be who God meant them to be.

A world inhabited only by people who live, act, and behave as God intended us to would surely resemble heaven on Earth.

Impossible?

As the angel of the Lord informed Mary, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37 KJV).

It is very easy to look around us and become discouraged. But it is just as easy to look within at what God has placed inside each one of us and be who He meant us to be. If each of us becomes that person, we will be amazed at what we can do.

We could very well be the match that sets the world on fire with a passion for God.

*******

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

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January 25

TODAY IS…

a good day to pursue godliness.

“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  1 Timothy 6:11 NASB

Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “pursue… godliness” was no casual use of words, nor should it be taken as such by those of us seeking to grow in our faith as maturing Christians.

We should aspire to become living examples for others to follow and if we expect that to happen, we must actively pursue the knowledge, wisdom and guidance that the Bible contains and apply all that we learn to our daily lives.

Learning is not a passive act, nor is it possible to attain godliness without actively pursuing it.

A nationally published survey once estimated that 75% of all American households were in possession of at least one Bible. While it is a definitive first step, owning a Bible is only the first small step in what ideally will turn into a lifelong walk with God.

One need only look around, read the newspaper and popular magazines, watch the news and examine what constitutes the highest rated television programming, to get a very real sense that the first small step is the only step that many of us have ever taken.

It does no good to proclaim to being in possession of the Word of God unless it is being used to help us find God’s hand in order that He might hold tightly onto ours and show us where to walk safely and in a manner that reflects His gentle, loving manner.

To help us know if we are pursuing godliness, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

Do I live my life in a manner that reflects my desire to share my faith with others?

Do I live in a manner that enables me to proudly hold my life up to others as an example of the peace, joy, happiness and fulfillment that comes from living a godly life?

Am I an individual that others look to in times of trouble to provide comfort, strength, compassion, fellowship and understanding as only godliness can provide?

Hopefully our answers are all “yes.” But if not, we need only be more active in our pursuit of godliness.

Read the Bible daily for the help it will provide and pray to God asking for guidance, for the Bible says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7 KJV).

*******

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

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January 24

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to celebrate God’s gift of Hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

The dictionary offers one definition of “hope” as, “a desire supported by confidence of fulfillment.”

God offers each one of us hope as well as a future. With God as the One offering it, we can definitely have confidence in its fulfillment.

The question is, do we really desire what God is offering?

We must also ask ourselves if we are ready, willing and able to pay the price.

First of all, we need to clearly understand what is represented in the hope that God plans to give us. It is the hope for our salvation and eternal life in His Kingdom. The future is one of indescribable peace, joy and happiness if we are only ready and willing to accept it and are able to pay the price. Part of the price for the salvation of our sinful souls and an eternal life of indescribable peace, joy and happiness is blood.

But the blood was the blood of Jesus and it has already been paid on our behalf.

Since Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, what sort of payment, then, is required of us?

Belief.

Our payment is the belief that Jesus Christ is our savior and only Jesus can lead us to a good relationship with God. Our payment is our faith.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NLT).

That’s it? We simply need to believe?

Yes

That is all we need do to receive God’s gift of hope and His plan for a future. It is not hard, expensive or complicated. It can be a little overwhelming at times, though, because once we accept that Jesus Christ is Lord, we will find that the desire to change the way we think, act and live will be powerful. What we must do, then, is become faithful followers of God.

Read the Holy Bible daily to look for God’s guidance on how to fulfill His plans for us. Pray for His wisdom and ask Him to guide you on your new path. Think about what you read and listen for the sound of His voice.

Faith is not always easy and the path we have chosen is not always smooth and obstacle-free. We will stumble, we will stagger, we may even fall.

Not to worry, though. God’s patience is legendary. He will help us with our struggles and support us through our trials. He promises to give us hope and a future and we can be assured that He will fulfill that promise.

Enjoy God’s gift of Today and thank Him for the hope and the future that He is holding out to all of us who are ready to accept it.

*******

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

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January 23

TODAY IS…

a good day to see God at work.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…”  Romans 8:28 KJV

God has a hand in everything that takes place around us.

Nothing escapes His attention. His eye is constantly on His purpose, and not necessarily our happiness, so we might not always be completely satisfied with everything that happens in our lives.

If we are fortunate enough to have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior and are willing to place our very existence in God’s hands, we will know that regardless of what may happen around us, or to us, God is working for the good of all who love Him and trust in Him.

Perhaps we need to hang a sign in our homes to remind us:

“GOD AT WORK – PATIENCE REQUIRED”

As true children of God, we must accept the fact that what we want may not be what is good for those around us and may not fit in with God’s plans. We must constantly remind ourselves that God works for the good of everyone, and what He sees is often different from what we would like to see.

As Christians, we have freedom, but we need to be sensitive to the freedom of others as well.

It is part of our nature as human beings and as God’s children to ask for things from the Father, but as maturing Christians we also need to realize that we need to ask God for guidance in helping us see how we fit into His plans, and how we fit His purpose.

We should also be aware that evil is all around us in today’s world.

It should come as no surprise that occasionally some harm may befall us. It is during these times that we must fully trust God and know that He can make good things come from evil. As evidence of this, we only need to look to the Bible and read the story of Joseph and the hardships he endured.

Betrayal by his brothers; being imprisoned for doing the right thing when he resisted sexual temptation. It would have been easy for him to throw up his hands in frustration and ask, “Why me?”

But Joseph always looked forward and tried to hold God’s hand in order that God would lead him through his troubles. When he finally came face face with his brothers many years later, they feared retribution by him.

Instead, Joseph showed them love and told them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20 NLT).

We need only have unshakeable, unwavering faith in God’s wisdom and trust His love for us. That way we will know that He will always be working for the good of all of us.

It may take some effort on our part now and then to understand, but if we ask God for the patience to wait for His purpose, we will see that His purpose is good and He is working for the good of everyone.

God is always at work in the lives of those who have faith, and today is a good day to see that.

*******

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

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January 22

TODAY IS…

a good day to praise God.

“Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people.”  1 Chronicles 16:8 KJV

Very often, our prayers to God are filled with requests for help for ourselves and others, and that is perfectly acceptable to God. He wants us to give Him our troubles in order that our reliance upon Him may grow.

It is equally important to,“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” (1 Chronicles 16:9 NIV).

Thanking God for all that He does, and all that He is, helps to take the focus off of ourselves and put it on Him, which is where it should be.

Praising God is easy if we have a good relationship with Him. In a good relationship, we have come to fully rely on God to provide guidance for all aspects of our lives. In a good relationship with God, our love for Him overflows our hearts and we should therefore be excited to share with others the way we feel.

It is very likely that most of us find it easy to praise God when the sun is shining in our lives and everything is going the way we want it to. It is equally important to remember to praise Him during the thunderstorms in our lives as well.

We may find it very difficult for our human minds and hearts to accept some of the trials and tribulations that befall us, but these times are when it is most important to praise God and let others know that even though we may be experiencing great sorrow or hardship we still trust God’s love, wisdom and guidance. We must let others know that we will not let anything undermine our trust in Him nor will we let anything shake the foundation of our faith.

Try to imagine how Paul and Silas must have felt when they were apprehended in Philippi. They were beaten, stripped, and placed in stocks deep inside the prison there. Despite the brutal treatment they received for trying to teach others about Christ and the salvation that He made available to everyone, they still sang praise to God.

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” (Acts 16:25 KJV).

In good times; in bad times; at all times, Praise God!

*******

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

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January 21

TODAY IS…

a good day to use your spiritual gifts for the glory of God.

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.”  1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT

A well-known radio talk-show host introduces himself using the expression, “With talent on loan from God!”

While that introduction is viewed as egotistical and controversial, it is actually a very true statement, as all talent possessed by any one of us is a gift from God. On loan, you might say, to use in service to God while we are on this earth.

Each one of us has a special God-given talent. Some of us may not even be aware of what our special talent is, but God will help us determine its form and its intended function.

These talents that are all “on loan” from God are provided to us, “…to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12 NIV).

It is God’s intention that we use our gifts together to build up each other in Christ.

Throughout the Bible, examples can be found that teach us how we are to use the unique spiritual gifts given to us. One of the most difficult things for us to adhere to seems to be God’s design for us to help one another, but let there be no mistake, God leaves no doubt as to His intentions.

Peter tells us that, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).

Far too often, individuals with remarkable abilities in many different areas will see only their own desires being fulfilled. It is commonplace to witness exorbitant wealth being used selfishly and sinfully with no regard for others. Not a day passes us by that people who ‘have it all’ seem to worship what they have rather than worshiping God, who gave them the ability to obtain what they have in the first place.

We are not all superstars of sports, entertainment, or business, but we all do have gifts to use for the betterment of our fellow man. God knows who uses the gifts He gave them in the manner in which He intended, and while it may be frustrating to us sometimes, to observe other people squandering money on meaningless luxuries and items of instant gratification, we must ask God to keep us focused on His plan for us and the gifts He has blessed us with.

Remember, “The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.” (Proverbs 10:16 NIV).

No contribution in time, effort, or money is too small when made for the right reason. To build up God’s people, to make God’s creation a better place in which to live, to build up God’s church – these are the reasons God ‘loaned’ you your talent.

Use your spiritual gifts for God’s glory and you will be a superstar in an eternal life beyond your wildest imagination.

*******

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

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January 20

TODAY IS…

a good day to avoid self-sufficiency.

“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying ‘My own power has delivered me.’” Judges 7:2 NASB

When God convinced Gideon that it was he, Gideon, whom God wanted to rescue Israel from the armies of Midian, Gideon’s army numbered some 32,000 men. God had assured Gideon a victory, but was concerned that once the victory was won, Gideon and his army would attribute the victory to their own strength and not God’s, so He called upon Gideon to send all but 300 of his warrior’s home.

With an army so small, victory could only come with God’s help.

“The Lord said to Gideon, ‘I will deliver you with the 300 men…’” (Judges 7:7 NASB).

Far too often we pray to God for His help with a particular problem or situation then take the credit for ourselves when it is resolved or taken care of. We seem to forget that we asked God for help and somehow conveniently seem to think we were the source of the solution. We must never allow self-sufficiency to cause us to believe that we can do what must be done without help from God.

Before entering into the land promised to the Israelites by God, Moses cautioned them to “…then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 6:12 NASB).

Moses feared what would happen when the Israelites discovered the prosperity of the Promised Land, “…a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant…” (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 NIV).

He was afraid that they would then feel self-sufficient and fall prey to the desire to acquire more of everything except God, who had delivered them to that land of plenty.

As creations of God, we should all be thankful to Him for each new sunrise, for each breath that we take, and for everything that we have, yet we often get caught up in feelings of pride. Self-importance leads to self-sufficiency and that leads us away from God.

It is impossible for us, as humans, to love God as much as He loves us. But if we love Him with all that we are, and thank Him daily for His love and for all that He is, we will avoid any temptations to take credit away from God and claim it for ourselves. We must always give credit to God and thank Him for everything.

Without Him we are nothing, but with Him we have everything we need.

*******

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

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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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