August 18

TODAY IS…

the day to listen to your “inner donkey”.

“Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.”  Numbers 22:31 KJV

Balaam should have trusted his donkey, but he didn’t.

The donkey saw danger ahead and, to protect Balaam, refused to move forward. Balaam chose to beat the donkey three separate times rather than consider why it was refusing to go forward. God did two things: first, He gave the donkey the ability to speak, enabling him to point out to Balaam what should have been obvious to him.

“’But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,’ the donkey answered. ‘Have I ever done anything like this before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam admitted.” (Numbers 22:30 NLT).

Now, at least, Balaam was starting to think that perhaps there was a reason for the donkey’s behavior. Second, at this point in time the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, allowing him to see the danger that the donkey had seen and tried to protect him from.

Our conscience is just like Balaam’s donkey.

It will always try to prevent us from going where we will encounter danger or will face harm. Our “Inner Donkey,” if you will, lets us know that the Holy Spirit is in us and is trying to speak to us. How often have we ignored our “Inner Donkey” only to wish that we hadn’t? Taking a moment to listen to our conscience can alter the course of our lives.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy about “…holding on to faith and a good conscience, some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19 NIV).

Some of us have experienced a “shipwreck”” in our lives as a result of not taking heed of our conscience. That split second where we ignored the warning was all it took to succumb to a temptation that created a major problem in our life or altered its course completely.

Perhaps we have committed adultery and seriously damaged or destroyed the relationship we had with our spouse. Possibly we have crossed lines we shouldn’t have in our behavior while on the internet and have succumbed to temptations that have changed the course of our future. Some of us may have used drugs or driven a car while intoxicated and had an experience that could have been avoided if we had only listened to the donkey.

For those of us who have experienced “a shipwreck” or two – or even three – we must work diligently to correct what we have wronged and to ask God daily to give us the strength to do so and to never run our ship aground again.

For those who have not, you must maintain a constant vigil, listening for the sound of your “Inner Donkey” trying to warn you of impending danger. With a strong relationship with God, we will be the proud owner of a very stubborn donkey that will always warn us of trouble ahead.

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

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August 17

TODAY IS…

a fine day to stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.

“And He called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; go and serve the Lord as ye have said.”  Exodus 12:31 KJV

The story is told about a man who sees someone hitting them-self in the head with a hammer.

“Why are you hitting yourself in the head with a hammer?” he inquires

. The individual stops and smiles, responding, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

Of course, the story is rather silly. After all, who would do something as obviously harmful as hitting themselves in the head with a hammer? Let’s face it: while it is true that it would feel good to stop inflicting pain upon yourself, it would be better to not inflict it in the first place, or to learn our lesson quickly.

Pharaoh kept hitting himself in the head with a hammer.

He repeatedly ignored Moses when Moses told him what would happen if Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to leave. He let Pharaoh know that God would do horrible things to Pharaoh’s land and people if he didn’t let them leave. For him to scoff at what Moses was suggesting the first time may be understandable, but once Moses had demonstrated that God truly had given him the ability to do as he said he was going to do, his refusals then became the same as hitting himself with the hammer.

It wasn’t until Moses had sent plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, and flies against Egypt, followed by plagues against Egypt’s livestock, a plague of festering boils, plagues of hail, locusts and darkness, and the ultimate death of every firstborn son of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s own son and the firstborn of all of Egypt’s livestock that Pharaoh finally stopped hitting himself in the head.

At long last he appeared to capitulate and let the Israelites leave.

And then what did he do? He hit himself one last time when he sent his army after Moses and the Israelites. God parted the Red Sea, through Moses, and the Israelites crossed safely. And when Pharaoh’s army chased after them, the hammer struck once more.

“And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh who came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” (Exodus 14:28 KJV).

Many of us are like Pharaoh.

We keep ignoring God’s instructions and when our sinful nature continuously creates problems in our lives, we cry out to the Lord. We may change for a while, but then the memory of the pain caused by our actions fade, and we pick up the hammer once more.

How many plagues will we bring upon ourselves and those we love before we learn the lesson and never forget it?

Let us resolve to stay turned toward God for all time. Let us ask Him to help us put down the hammer and never pick it up again unless we are going to use it to build something.

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

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August 16

TODAY IS…

a superb day to look for a smile on God’s face.

“May God be merciful and bless us. May His face smile with favor upon us.”  Psalm 67:1 NLT

One definition of the verb “smile” is “to express favor or approval.” One of our primary goals each day should be to ‘see’ God smile down upon us.

There can be no greater feeling than to know that we have found favor with God.

The importance of finding favor with God can be traced all the way back to Noah. God was unhappy with the people He had created to inhabit the world. He was disappointed in the way they treated Him, and the way they treated each other.

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8 NIV).

Will God smile on us only if we are perfect?

Of course not. Noah was not perfect, but somehow in a world plagued with corruption and sin he loved God and did his best to please Him and obey Him.

It is strange how we often view pleasing God as if it means we have to somehow compromise ourselves. Obviously, quite the reverse is true and we are only compromising ourselves when we are not pleasing God. Somehow life has gotten twisted and loving ourselves and each other has become an inconvenience that seems to put a damper on our quest for things we think will make us happy and provide us with fulfillment. Just as Noah did, we live in a world full of evil and in which far too many people are more concerned with meaningless pleasures than with God’s approval.

God can lead us to happiness and contentment beyond anything our limited minds can imagine. All that is required is that we live lives of love, dignity, decency, compassion, and respect for ourselves and those around us. When we put others first, we put God first. When we put God first, He will smile upon us, showing His approval. Fortunately, there are many individuals who know this.

“Many people say, ‘Who will show us better times?’ Let Your face smile on us, Lord.” (Psalm 4:6 NLT).

Those of us who do not “see” a smile upon God’s face directed at us need to take an honest look at the way in which we live our lives. If we are not happy, perhaps it is because part – or all – of our lifestyle does not meet with God’s approval.

The smile of God can be felt.

Those who live their lives seeking His approval know this. Let each of us learn to work daily to do what is right in God’s eyes.

“And may the Lord our God show us His approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” (Psalm 90:17 NLT).

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

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August 15

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to realize that the blessings come before the battle.

“Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.”  Mark 1:12 NASB

Have you ever noticed how sometimes we will have days where we feel exceptionally close to God? On those days, it seems as if we are blessed more than usual. Even though we know that He is always with us, some days we feel so close that we are certain that all of His attention is focused on us. We feel that we are full of the Holy Spirit to the point of overflowing. Our day ends with us thanking God with more emphasis than normal, and we go to sleep.

During the night, things begin to change. We toss and we turn. We have disturbing dreams and we wake up in the morning feeling disconcerted and ill at ease. Perhaps this unsettled feeling continues for the remainder of the day. Our mood is not anywhere near as upbeat as the day before. We feel like we are under attack by the forces of darkness and we ask God to help us fend off the attack. Our minds somehow identify our buoyant feelings of yesterday as being the target of Satan’s attack of our sleep and today.

But is this the case?

If we think about it for a moment, we remember that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit before He went out into the desert and was tempted by Satan for 40 days. He was blessed before He went into battle so that He could more readily resist temptation and win the battle. God knows when we are headed for battle and is there to strengthen us beforehand.

Peter and John prayed for God’s blessing to help them battle doubt as they preached the Word of God.

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31 NASB).

Whenever we know we are going to have to face difficulties, it is reassuring to know that all we have to do is turn to God and seek His blessing beforehand. Our “battles” may be small, like asking for a raise, or speaking in public. Others may loom large before us. Perhaps we have an addiction that needs to be confronted. The situations that can come before us in which God’s blessing will come in handy are numerous and quite varied, but each battle is better fought with God’s blessing.

There will be times that the Lord Himself will see what we cannot. We will experience a closeness that we weren’t expecting. We can bask in the glow of God’s benevolence and then carry the blessing with us as we face any attack Satan may mount.

And after we have won the battle, we must remember to thank God for His blessing.

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

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August 14

TODAY IS…

a great day to teach what you don’t know.

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Philippians 4:9 NASB

How can we possibly teach what we don’t know?

Teaching another person about Christ is one of the greatest things that we can do while on this earth. Unfortunately, so many of us think that our knowledge is too limited to be of much use to another person.

We have read about the importance of memorizing scripture, but we can’t seem to memorize easily. Perhaps that holds us back.

We have only been living in the Word of God for a short time. Perhaps that holds us back.

The truth is, if we wait until we become the perfect teacher, we will never teach.

While the Bible itself can be somewhat overwhelming to us at first, the willingness to explore it makes us a student. The joy in helping someone explore it makes us a teacher, even if we cannot quote chapter and verse.

If we know that the answer to any question that we can ask about how to live our life can be found in the Bible, we can be a teacher.

If we trust God to help us help another person find the truth that they seek, we can be a teacher.

If we don’t mind saying, “You know, I’m not sure, but let’s see what we can find together” you have demonstrated the qualifications to teach what you do not know.

The simple reality is that if God were to depend on “certified scholars ‘ to spread His message, it would never have spread very far. Teaching others about the salvation that Christ offers each one of us is something that comes from our hearts, and not from a diploma or a degree.

The study of the Holy Bible is a life-long personal commitment. It is not a two year or a four year degree. It is a daily program for problem solving. It is a treasure chest that can be reached into without looking with the knowledge that whatever we grab will be valuable beyond measure.

We are better teachers than we allow ourselves to believe.

Our knowledge is first hand, heartfelt, and deeply personal. Teaching about Christ helps us to learn about ourselves. Seeing the changes we help instill in another brings about remarkable changes within ourselves. We teach by being an example for others to follow and we discover that not only are we good at it, but our desire to teach still more people grows.

Teach without fear of what you don’t know and you’ll be amazed at what you do know.

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

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August 13

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to take back what has been stolen from us.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”  Romans 16:20a NIV

Every single one of us has had something stolen from us by Satan.

No one has escaped except for Christ. We have all given in to temptation and each one of us has sinned and every time we have sinned, we have allowed Satan to take something else from us.

We have been his willing victims.

He has stolen dignity from some of us. From others, he has stolen decency. He has stolen our faithfulness to our spouses and our faith in God. He has stolen our truthfulness, and he has stolen our integrity. We have let him slip away in the darkness with our morality, and we have let him get away unnoticed with our kindness. He has pocketed our happiness, and smashed the windows to our souls and left the space empty. He has cheated us out of our love for ourselves, leaving us unable to love anyone else. He has conned us out of our certainty, leaving us with our doubts.

When we weren’t looking he walked away with our compassion, and left disdain in its place. While he distracted us with self-indulgence, he swiped our desire to help others and replaced it with selfishness. He has stolen our tolerance while trying to convince us that hostility and impatience were better suited to our personalities.

He has stolen our sight, making it impossible to see the pain of others and he has taught us to lie, cheat, and steal while we have hungrily pursued the education.

More than likely, what Satan has stolen from you is somewhere on this list. If not, it needs to be added, because everyone has lost something. Some of us have lost more than one thing, and perhaps more than a few have lost it all. He will try to prevent you from calculating your exact losses. He will try to cloud your judgment, distract you, or take something else from you. He pretends to be the best friend you ever had, but he is – in reality – the biggest danger you have ever faced. He will suck everything good out of you until there is nothing left but your last breath and then he will take that as well.

But the Good News is that today is not going to be like yesterday.

Today we are going to take it all back. God has been waiting for today for a very long time, and He is glad that it is here. We must reach out and ask God to take our hand and tell Him we want everything Satan has stolen from us.

Today is the perfect day to take it all back, and God is the Perfect One to help us all get it.

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

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August 12

TODAY IS…

the day to trust God in our suffering.

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”  1 Peter 4:19 NASB

God does not want us to suffer. He wants us to trust Him in our suffering. God is not a sadist. He does not take pleasure in our pain, but at the same time, He wants us to use our pain to learn, to grow, and to become more trusting of Him.

Many people use the suffering of innocent children as “proof” that God is less than benevolent and loving. These same people point to atrocities around the world and claim that He can stop them and put an end to all pain and suffering.

God wants us to trust Him.

He wants us to work together to end pain and suffering. He wants us to learn from the mistakes we have been taught in the Bible. He wants us to follow a very simple code of conduct as His children that will put an end to much of the pain and suffering in the world but we refuse.

It is always easy to point a finger at God and blame Him for our mistakes and our shortcomings.

Each and every day people come to the realization that most of their own suffering was brought on by themselves. How much pain, sorrow, and suffering do we bring upon ourselves and others because we drink too much? Because we take drugs? Because we are unfaithful to our spouses? Because we give in to the temptation of Satan who loves nothing more than to have us bring pain, loss, and suffering into our own lives because we gave into temptation instead of asking God for help?

While we cannot escape it all, much of our personal suffering can be avoided if we trust and rely on God.

God allowed Jesus to suffer horribly at the hands of men who were cruel. He did not make those individuals torment, torture, and kill His Son. Did He allow it? Yes He did. But Jesus trusted the Father and was rewarded with a life that will never experience pain and suffering again.

It is always easier to blame God than it is to accept responsibility.

It is always easier to turn away because we feel abandoned than it is to step closer because we trust.

We can pray for those who suffer without mercy and without reason at the hands of others. We can trust in God who sees those who cause the suffering and we can trust in God who welcomes home those who have been harmed by others.

The power of evil on earth can only be broken by the power of trust in God.

Pray for those who suffer at the hands of others and trust God who will always do the right thing.

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

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August 11

TODAY IS…

the ideal day for reminding ourselves of our own imperfections.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”  Titus 3:3 NIV

Our efforts to follow Christ have borne fruit and we feel good about the progress we have made in our lives. We are thankful to God for His patience, compassion, and understanding. We are also grateful for those individuals He has blessed us with who have helped us in our struggle with our former selves as we have broken the bonds that once held us captive to a life of sin.

We are refreshed, renewed, and restored. We have accepted Christ and received our free gift of salvation. We can look comfortably in the mirror and be pleased with the image looking back at us. We can feel clean and know that we emit a glow of contentment when we walk among others.

The journey to this point has not always been an easy one. There have been rough spots in the road and we have stumbled, perhaps repeatedly, but each time that happened we knew to look to the Lord for a steady hand and an abundance of love and forgiveness. No matter what we have come face to face with, God has never left our side.

What a wonderful feeling we have and how blessed we are that we have learned that using our freedom to do the right things is what makes us truly free. It is suddenly so wonderful to be alive! “Praise God!” we say, “Praise God!”

And we mean it, and we do love Him, but then we do something that is very human, very easy to do, and very wrong: we judge someone else and look down upon them for what they do, say, or believe.

This is very common.

In no way does that make it right. It is simply another obstacle in the path that we must walk if we are to be righteous in the eyes of God. We must overcome this obstacle, so what must we do? We must remind ourselves that not only are we not better than the one we are looking down on, but we must also remind ourselves we were that person and without God’s steady influence in our daily lives, we could be that person once again. We must avoid, at all costs, the “holier than thou” position that so many seem to take.

Instead of looking down on other sinners, we must embrace them and encourage them. We must be a beacon of light for them and to do this we may have to share with them how we came into possession of that light. We must not be afraid to show others, or to remind ourselves, that we are not perfect, but with God’s help we are better every day.

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

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August 10

TODAY IS…

a superb day to notice that we are noticed.

“O Lord, what are human beings that You should notice them, mere mortals that You should think about them?”  Psalm 144:3 NLT

Who are we that God should care what happens to us?

Let’s face it, in today’s world there are so many human beings inhabiting the earth, why should the Lord take notice of “me”? How can He take notice of me with all that is going on around this vast planet?

Sometimes it seems as if people think God is so busy that He doesn’t notice what we do. It is almost as if some of us begin to believe He doesn’t care about us, so an attitude is adopted that, “If He doesn’t care how I act, why should I?”

And yet, the Bible is very clear on that very subject.

God does notice each and every one of us and He does care. In fact, Jesus told His disciples God would know if even one tiny sparrow fell from the sky.

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31 NIV).

Since God makes it clear that we are valuable to Him, should we not then act as if we understand that? Perhaps we think that God is only aware of us when we pray. Who among us acts badly while talking with God? Is that not when we are on our best behavior?

“Oh Lord, thank You! Oh, Lord forgive me! Oh Lord help me!”

We seem to have no problems remembering to be good, to be repentant, to be humble, and to behave while God is in the forefront of our thoughts, but what about after? We fail to realize that even though we may get caught up in the swirl of life around us and forget about the Lord He never forgets about us.

We should all strive every day to understand that God notices everything we do. Nothing escapes His attention and any doubts or feelings of insignificance should be erased from our minds immediately.

Besides, if we are living our lives in the right way, then we are in constant communication with God, so we can rest assured that we do not escape His notice.

No matter our reason, if we are feeling as if God is too busy to notice “me,” we must alter our way of thinking. If we pretend He doesn’t notice we do things we shouldn’t, we are wrong. If we feel we are too insignificant and small for Him to notice, we are wrong. We are important to the One who gave us life. What we do is important to Him as well.

Use the gift of this day to sit up and take notice that nothing escapes the notice of God.

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

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August 9

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to seek common ground.

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone doing everything I can to save some.”  1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT

The Apostle Paul not only ministered to people that he met in his travels, he spent a lot of time teaching them to minister to others. He said, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:12 NIV).

Someone wrote, “Salvation doesn’t enroll you in a club for the religious elite. It enlists you into the Army of the Lord.”

Part of our responsibilities as members of this army is to help enlist others as well. In order to accomplish this, we must do many things, just as Paul taught. One important thing to remember is to never present a know-it-all attitude. Another is to be friendly and easy to approach. Still another is to establish common ground with the person we are talking with or helping.

For instance, if we are volunteering at a place that provides meals for those who are hungry, we would not want to show up expensively dressed or displaying expensive jewelry. We wouldn’t want to distract anyone from what we are attempting to do, nor would we want to create the impression that we are better than they are.

If we are speaking with someone on the subject of sin, we would not want to create the impression that we have never sinned. We would not want to give someone the idea that we are free from temptation.

It would be difficult for most people to identify with someone like that.

If we want to bring someone closer to God, we must walk with them and show them we do understand their perspective and we do appreciate their circumstances.

As the Son of God, Jesus was capable of exhibiting awesome power. Although He did perform some wondrous miracles, His humility was an extremely important part of who He was. He tried to show that He was just like us in many ways. He loved the people He came to save and He never failed to connect with common, everyday people.

No matter what situation we find ourselves in, it is always desirable to seek common ground with those around us. It is the surest way to helping others understand what we are trying to share with them, and while we will not be able to save them all, we will certainly be able to save some.

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

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