July 14

Today is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 13

Today is…

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

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

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

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

And, of course, we need the equipment itself.

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

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

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

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

And with prayer, we are now properly equipped.

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

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July 11

Today is…

a good day to put God first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Put God first and see your happiness last.

*******

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

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July 10

Today is…

a wonderful day to think about how to get even.

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

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

No pay backs.

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

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

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

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

The answer of course is, “Yes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 9

Today is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 8

Today is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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July 7

Today is…

a good day to ignore what people say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old habits, old dogs and new tricks.

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

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

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

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July 6

Today is…

a superb day to help God find favor with you.

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

The story of Noah should not only serve as a lesson to us all, it should serve as an inspiration.

Of all the people on earth, God found favor with Noah. So much so that He chose Noah and his family as the ones selected to give the world a second chance. Noah was not perfect, but he lived his life in a manner that pleased the Lord. Even though he was surrounded by people who worshiped idols, committed acts of violence, and indulged in sexual sin, Noah still managed to be a righteous man who walked in faith with God and sought to do the right thing.

We should always ask ourselves, “What can I do to find favor in the eyes of God today?”

Is it really so difficult to do? It is possible that it is not as easy as we may think, but it may not be as complicated as we sometimes make it. Of course, another question to ask is, “Do I really want it?”

God’s favor does not automatically mean life is going to be a beautiful, smooth, trouble free existence.

Noah was charged with building a huge ship, rounding up thousands of living creatures, residing in that animal-filled environment for over a year, then having him, his family, and all the living creatures that remained on earth deposited on a strange mountain.

Not easy going for one who had found favor with God!

And what about Mary? God found favor with her as well.

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.’” (Luke 1:30 NASB).

God’s favor caused her to have to explain to the man she was to marry that she was pregnant. Not only that, but she had to try to make him comprehend how this could have happened at all since there was no man involved. Once Joseph was convinced that she had been chosen to give birth to the one who would save the world, together they had to endure the looks, comments, and attitudes of the people in their community.

So if God’s favor is not going to lay down a smooth super highway to heaven, why in the world would we want to live our lives in a manner that actively seeks it?

Simply because that is what God wants us to do.

He tells us to obey Him and, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4 NASB).

Look for ways today, and every day, to help God find favor with you. If you go out of your way to please God, everyone around you will notice.

And that can’t be all bad.

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

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July 5

Today is…

a great day to fan the flames of faith.

“So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.”  Acts 16:5 NASB

There are over one billion Christians in the world today.

By any standards that is a huge number of people. It has taken a long time to get to the point that we are now, and it has not always been an easy journey. Many people have gone before us with untold thousands giving their lives making their way through unknown territory. While the flames of faith burn brightly around the world today, it takes the commitment of each and every one of us to continually fan those flames, to keep them burning brightly, and to help them spread.

In 1846, a group of pioneers set out to California from Illinois. The distance they traveled can now be covered in a car in a matter of days, regardless of the weather, the time of day, or the time of year. What would become known as the “Donner Party” fought for months to arrive at a point where there was one obstacle to overcome before arriving in the place that held all of their hopes, and dreams.

After their long journey, the eighty-seven members of George Donner’s party were delayed almost a month by an ill-advised “short cut” that resulted in them being caught high in the mountains in a raging blizzard. They were only a few miles short of the path that would give them access to the final leg of their journey. But it would take them over five months and cost 47 of the 87 members of the group their lives before the last portion of the journey ended. Today one can travel through what is now known as “Donner Pass” in a manner of minutes by car or truck over the highway that closely follows the route of those pioneers.

There are still individuals “blazing trails” in the wilderness as they fan the flames of faith by spreading the word of God in remote places of the world that are not unlike the rugged, untamed country faced by the Donner party. These men and women are determined to bring the word of God to as many individuals as they possibly can and work tirelessly in less-than-ideal conditions to follow the same instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples before ascending into heaven: “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15 KJV).

We do not all have to run off to remote corners of the world to fan the flames of faith, but if that is your calling, people are certainly needed to join the ranks of those who do so. If it is not possible, one only need look around. No matter where one may look, lost souls are waiting to hear some really Good News.

Today is the day to give it to them and in doing so, you can help fan the flames of faith.

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

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July 4

Today is…

a glorious day to enjoy freedom.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV

It would probably be difficult to find somebody who enjoys being in prison.

To have our movements restricted; to be deprived of the ability to go where we wish, when we wish; to be surrounded by negativity and the ever-present possibility of danger; to be frightened and alone – thoughts of those things make us shudder and be thankful that we are not in that situation.

And yet, in a way, many people are in that situation, or worse, and haven’t figured it out yet.

When people live without Jesus Christ in their lives, they occupy a “spiritual prison.” They are chained by their sins, and kept prisoner by their sinful words, thoughts and actions. Before Christ died on the cross, we were all slaves to sin and were held prisoner by it.

But now, by accepting Christ and following His light, we can enjoy freedom, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2 NASB).

Many people have not accepted the Truth that is Jesus Christ, and are still held prisoner. We must all work to reveal the truth to those who are not aware so that they, too, can enjoy the freedom that Jesus offers to everyone.

Some of us, even knowing the truth, still voluntarily live our daily lives in a spiritual prison. Held there by the darkness of our sins, we forget that with Christ in our hearts, the shackles that bind us just fall away. Allowing ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit frees us from a self-imposed ‘jail cell’ that limits our ability to love others and live in a world inhabited by honesty, truth and sincerity.

We rob ourselves of happiness and we deny it to those closest to us.

Freeing ourselves from self-inflicted bondage should be something each of us desires more than anything else, for it is only when we are absent of a chained spirit that we are truly free to do the things that God expects from us.

If you are feeling a little closed in, it might be because you are allowing your sins to deny you your freedom. Ask Jesus to come into you and help you to change that.

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

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