September 23

TODAY IS…

a superb day to exceed all expectations.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  Ephesians 3:20 NLT

One of the greatest mistakes we can make as followers of Christ is to have low expectations.

Thinking strictly in human terms, it is relatively easy to understand why we might limit ourselves and our expectations, but God does not function with those restrictions. We all know this, of course – or we should – but sometimes we need to be reminded of what our expectations should be.

First of all, we should always expect the unexpected.

In His short time on earth, Christ never ceased to amaze people by exceeding their expectations. When the disciples all wanted to send the crowd home because they did not have enough to feed them, what did Christ do? He took the five loaves of bread and two fish that a young boy gave Him and fed over 5,000 people with more left over than He started with.

He exceeded everyone’s expectations and, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world,’” (John 6:14 NIV).

When the widow had accepted her only son’s death, Jesus’ heart filled with compassion.

He told her to stop crying and, “Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, ‘Young man, I say to you get up!” (Luke 7:14 NIV).

We all know from reading God’s Word that there were many things that could be expected from Christ: His humility, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and His love for all of mankind. But there are numerous examples which serve to point out that Christ could always be counted on to exceed what was expected as well.

Ordinary people can exceed what is expected of them as well, and God works in us to help us do just that if we allow Him.

Boaz allowed Ruth to collect the grain that his workers missed while harvesting his fields. This was called “gleaning” and it was expected that the poor could pick over the fields for those heads of grain that were missed.

But God worked in Boaz’ heart and Boaz went beyond what was expected for, “When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. Also, you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.’” (Ruth 2:15-16 NASB).

The Bible teaches us that we must not underestimate God. In fact, we should learn to expect great things from Him. After all, He has promised great things. But we also need to learn to allow God to work within us so that we too, can look to ourselves, and each other, to always exceed the expectations we have.

Today is a superb day to open up your heart to God so you, too, can exceed all expectations.

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

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September 22

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to conquer our fear of death.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…’”  John 11:25 NASB

For many people throughout the world, the fact of everlasting life is a difficult thing to accept.

The inability, or unwillingness, to accept that fact keeps many people living in darkness, and the inability, or unwillingness, to believe what we cannot see presents a barrier many non-believers cannot overcome.

Unfortunately, many individuals who have accepted Christ as their Savior struggle with this as well. Far too many Christians fear death, and this is in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24 NASB).

Far too many who say they are believers still live their daily lives on earth as if this is all there is.

Living for Christ means not being afraid of death in this life. It doesn’t mean we should live in a reckless or dangerous manner. It means that we should live our lives to serve Christ and if doing so places us in dangerous situations, we need not be afraid.

It means that when there are fewer days in our future than in our past we are at peace because we know that the end here is just the beginning.

It means that we accept what we cannot see because of our belief that the death of Jesus Christ conquered death for all of us.

Our belief that this is so should eliminate our fear for, “The way of the godly leads to life; that path does not lead to death.” (Proverbs 12:28 NLT).

At one time or another, many of us have probably thought about how amazing it must have been to be one of the many people who stood next to Jesus as He spoke; who followed Him and watched Him demonstrate the depth of His love for those who needed it the most. How fortunate those individuals were who were blessed enough to have lived at the same time and who had the opportunity to gaze into His eyes and listen to His voice as He spoke.

This is what awaits us all, because Christ conquered death for us. King David believed this when he wrote, “Because I am righteous, I will see You. When I awake, I will see You face to face and be satisfied.” (Psalm 17:15 NLT).

How many of us would not be satisfied to see Christ face to face? How many of us live with no fear of death because of the guarantee of life we received from Christ? Imagine yourself looking into the eyes of Christ and thanking Him for conquering death!

Use the gift of this day to contemplate that.

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

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September 21

TODAY IS…

an ideal day to “go find something to do!”

“But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently for it.”  Romans 8:25 NLT

When we are little, one of the most difficult things to learn is to wait patiently for something that we anticipate with tremendous excitement.

When we are small, the size of the prize doesn’t have to be very big to set us keenly on edge waiting for whatever it is we have been promised. Whether it was a bicycle for our birthday, or something as small as going out for ice cream “when daddy gets home,” whatever it was loomed larger than life in our minds and that was all we could think of. More often than not, we wound up driving Mom, Dad, or both, a little bit crazy and inevitably we would hear them tell us to “go find something to do” to occupy our minds and our bodies until it was time for whatever had been promised to be delivered, received, or attained.

God promises us a new heaven, a new earth, and new bodies. He promises us an absence of sin and He promises an absence of suffering. Although we were saved the moment that we accepted Christ as our Savior, the full benefits of our salvation – the best – is yet to come.

As Christians, our lives are supposed to be lived in a manner that makes us more like Christ each day, but we will not fully understand this until we come face to face with Him.

Paul tells us, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).

We are anxious for that, and for all of the promises God has made us to be fulfilled. Sometimes we are like children ourselves in our excitement and anticipation.

Perhaps what we need to do is take a page from our own books on parenting and “go find something to do” that not only takes our mind off of our anticipation of things to come, but to help us prepare for them as well.

We cannot make this world perfect at the present time, but if we each strive to be more like Christ in anticipation of coming face to face with Him, we will not only make our anticipation easier to handle, we will also contribute to making this world a better place for those around us. We can work on the things that make Christ the model for us all – we can strive to be more humble, more compassionate, kinder, gentler, and more loving. We can work on showing others the joy that comes from accepting Christ as our Savior so they can then look forward with mounting anticipation to all that God has promised.

And when they start driving us a little crazy with their impatience, we can tell them to “go find something to do!”

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

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September 20

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to move forward in faith.

“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.’”  Joshua 8:1 NIV

Most of us know the feeling of those days when the presence of the Holy Spirit can be felt, strongly, within us. We have a great day and we feel an extraordinary closeness with God. Everything goes right; things we have prayed for come to be; we give thanks to God over and over for His blessings, and we would like nothing better than to live every day of our lives exactly like this one. We love feeling this way and the Lord loves it when we do. We go to bed that night looking forward to what the next day will bring us.

The morning comes and we arise and immediately notice something is different. It is almost as if the very air around is crackling with negative energy, and that may very well be the case.

“Where did it come from?” we ask ourselves.

“What could I possibly have done while I was sleeping for things to turn so negative compared to yesterday?”

The truth is – and it is important that we all remember this – we didn’t do anything. Unfortunately, just as God notices our happiness, joy, and positive energy, so does satan. Our powerful love for God causes us to praise Him and thank Him for our blessings, which pleases Him. It does not, however, please the evil one. Instead, our love of God creates intense jealousy on his part causing him to attack the very source of our love – our faith.

What a difference a day can make.

But fear not. We know where the real power is. We know where to go for protection. We know who will always be there for us when we come under attack. We just need to constantly remind ourselves that when satan is trying to push us back, away from God, that we must overcome the temptation and the negativity that he bombards us with and we must move forward boldly in faith.

It may be a little frightening at first, because our human insecurities, combined with satan’s evil, will work together to create the illusion that we are alone in the battle.

But we are never alone in battle against evil.

When Samaria was under siege, Elisha spoke to the king’s officer about the victory God would provide for the people.

“The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, ‘That couldn’t happen even if the Lord opened the windows of Heaven!’” (2 Kings 7:2a NLT).

The king’s officer had obviously succumbed to the negativity of satan. However, things did happen just as Elisha had said.

“So it was true… just as the Lord has promised.” (2 Kings 7:16b NLT).

Move boldly forward in faith today, and every day, and don’t worry, it is true.

Just as the Lord promised.

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

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September 19

TODAY IS…

the day to put your hope in God.

“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.”  Psalm 39:7 NLT

David began his walk through this life as a shepherd.

He also ended his walk through this life as a shepherd. After displaying talents as a musician and a poet, David went on to become a soldier and eventually became the greatest king that Israel has ever known.

As a leader of his people he was, in essence, still a shepherd.

Throughout history, many leaders in the world have proven themselves to be narcissistic individuals who depend solely on their own abilities to lead, and rely on no one but themselves. David knew that his time on earth was temporary and any success he had was due to his faith in the Lord. He also knew that his hope for the future came not from his own abilities, but was a gift from God.

Each one of us shares the same level of importance in the eyes of God, and each one of us would do well to follow David’s example and acknowledge that we must put our hope in God as well.

Paul tells us what we can expect when we follow David’s example. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Placing our hope in God is not a passive act, however. As Paul points out in his letter to Timothy speaking about our quest for godliness, he said, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” (1 Timothy 4:10 NASB).

The Lord promises us that no matter what our circumstances, we can place our hope in Him. When we actively trust in God and seek to do His will, we will learn that any pain we have endured, and any troubles we have experienced, will not have been endured or experienced in vain. When we place our hope in God, we are taking the first, and most important, step in a walk of joy and peace. Even if we have drifted off of that path we can return and be welcomed back with God’s open, loving arms.

“Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.” (Zechariah 9:12 NLT).

Now – just think of all of the troubles you have had in your life. Can you imagine how blessed you will be when you put your hope where it belongs?

Make today the day you put your hope in God.

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

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September 18

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to prosper.

“He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.”  2 Chronicles 26:5 NASB

It is simply not possible, nor practical, for every single person on earth to have great material wealth. When it comes to material possessions, this world will always consist of the “haves” and the “have nots.” What is important for each of us to remember is that simply because you “have” does not mean you are successful. Conversely, simply because you “have not” doesn’t mean that you are not successful.

Following this same train of thought, material wealth, while probably nice to have, does not necessarily mean we have God’s approval, and the bsence of it does not mean that we do not have God’s approval.

Certainly, the Lord is aware that it costs money to provide food, clothing, housing, medical care, education, and places of worship to the many millions of people throughout the world who are lacking these things. Obviously the resources will have to be found to help those who cannot help themselves. It is also obvious that many, many people, who enjoy much material wealth, do so with no regard to the hardships that millions face each day.

Perhaps it is God’s purpose for some of us to be financially successful in order that we may reach out to those who need it the most, but it is important to know that an absence of money does not mean that we are unable to help, and offer hope to those in need.

The Lord gave Joshua the key to success when He said, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all that you do.” (Joshua 1:8 NLT).

Reading God’s word will help guide each one of us to our own individual path of success in the eyes of the Lord. When we reap the wisdom in the Bible, a variety of different ways to serve God will be found. Praying and meditating on what we have read will help us discern our path to prosperity, but it is of the utmost importance that we understand that our individual “prosperity” may be discovered in ways that do not provide us with grand mansions or expensive automobiles.

There is no better way to prosper on God’s earth than to make ourselves available to do the will of God. With our efforts to help where we can help, and serve where we can serve, we may find that the ‘only’ way we will prosper in this life is by gaining God’s approval.

Fortunately, God’s approval is the one thing we can take with us when this life ends, and that is worth more than all the gold in all the world.

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

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September 17

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to make your guilt disappear.

“Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”  Psalm 32:2 NLT

It is impossible to read the Bible without seeing one glaring truth: God wants to forgive sinners. Time and time again, He makes it clear to us that He has an unlimited capacity for forgiveness and He wants us to look to Him to ask forgiveness for our sins so that we may experience the joy that David wrote about in Psalm 32.

Many of us know how trying it can be to raise children.

Sometimes they do things, both innocently and intentionally, that are wrong. Frequently, these things hurt us as parents. They cause us to feel inadequate perhaps, but they also cause us to feel pain for our children because we know that what they are doing is a mistake, and we know it will hurt them in the long run.

But we forgive them each transgression because we love them.

That is the relationship God has with us, only He can see with much greater clarity the negative impact that our sinful nature and disobedience will have upon us. Nehemiah, leading his people in prayer, recalls the sinfully disobedient nature of the people Moses led out of Egypt.

“They refused to listen, and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; so they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness; and You did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17 NASB).

“A God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate.”

We can all derive reassurance from these words that no matter how foolishly, irresponsibly, or immorally we may live our lives; no matter how much we ignore God; no matter how rebellious we may be – when we have had enough of ourselves and are ready to admit that we were wrong, God is right in front of us, with open arms, ready to forgive.

Making our guilt disappear is not a magic trick.

It is the miracle of love from the One who knows no other way but to love. It is the gift of forgiveness that makes our guilt disappear and it is a gift that is available to us anytime, anyplace, and no matter what we have done.

Some of us may find it awkward to ask for God to forgive us because we think we have been so bad. But in the history of mankind, God has seen many people ask for forgiveness, and many of them have done much worse than we might have. Ask God for His gift of forgiveness and the gift of joy that comes when He works His “magic” and makes the guilt disappear will be yours.

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

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September 16

TODAY IS…

a superb day to embrace the flaws of your church.

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.”  Acts 6:1 NLT

Embrace the flaws of your church? Why in the world would anyone want to embrace flaws?

Some of us search constantly for the “perfect” church, but the simple reality is this: as long as humans are involved in anything, perfection is impossible because we are flawed.

No perfect people means no perfect church.

Every church in every town, in every country, has problems. Granted, the problems each church faces are different because the people in each one are different. While it is important to find a church that we are comfortable in, it is equally important to make sure that we focus on the qualities and attributes of a particular church rather than on what we may perceive its flaws to be.

Our search should be about what is right and not what is wrong.

Do the members welcome strangers and help them feel like ‘insiders’ as opposed to eyeing them, basically ensuring that they remain the ‘outsiders’ that they are?

A church does not have to be built of expensive materials or be brand new, but does it reflect love and care in its level of maintenance?

Can it be readily ascertained that one of its primary functions is to serve others?

Are its messages Gospel-centered and do they teach God’s Word rather than preach man’s opinions or interpretations?

Answering ‘yes’ to these few questions should provide you with all you need to feel comfortable in a particular church. If it has the ‘yes’ factor and it is convenient to your home, don’t complicate things by looking for flaws. There will be flaws, so be prepared to embrace them.

Be prepared to do your part to correct them if possible, as well.

Differences of opinion will occur in any situation where there is a decision to be made and more than one person involved. Paul worked diligently to encourage the members of the Corinthian church.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10 KJV).

Accomplishing what Paul was stressing is easier said than done, but differences are what create opportunities to see other ways of looking at things.

The important thing is to not allow minor differences to be construed as major flaws in the church as a whole. It is the responsibility of each of us to pray for guidance and to pray for those around us. Asking God to help fix the flaws is preferable to jumping around from church to church.

So, instead of jumping around, jump in and embrace the flaws of your church.

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

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September 15

TODAY IS…

a great day to do nothing.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  Romans 12:19 KJV

When we are wronged in today’s world, it has become disturbingly commonplace to pick up a phone to call a lawyer, to pick up our fists to retaliate physically, or to pick up a gun or other weapon for the ultimate in revenge.

In days gone by – days that are sorely missed in many ways – children used to run through neighborhoods playing in others’ yards and homes, experiencing the thrilling moments – and the not so thrilling moments – of childhood. Accidents invariably happened: Billy ran and slipped, falling through the glass in the storm door cutting his arm; Bobby fell down the stairs next door and broke his arm; Mary took a tumble off the swing-set at her friend’s house and was taken to the hospital to make sure she was OK.

None of these things was unusual or earth-shattering. Typical unfortunate accidents that happened. The child is “repaired,” usually mended by the homeowner’s insurance where the accident occurred, and then the kids were right back at it with an admonition to “be careful,” with all concerned knowing it was just a matter of time before the next accident occurred, only this time in their yard or home.

That was then.

Now there is far too often a lawsuit filed, claiming negligence and we all know that lawsuits are not limited to accidents involving our children at play. Every time we are wronged, or hurt (usually through our own carelessness) we seek revenge. We want to go beyond what is reasonable to expect – that the cut be stitched or the broken bone be set – and we want “punitive” damages to help teach a lesson to, well, to anyone we can file suit against and exact revenge from.

Of course, there are other, more serious “offenses” that spur thoughts of revenge: a man sleeps with his neighbor’s wife and the neighbor wants to “get even”; one person cuts another off on the highway; a young person is bullied at school. All of these incidents, and dozens more like it, push people over the edge and cause them to strike out to exact revenge at a time, and in situations, when the Bible is very clear about what we should do: Nothing. At least, not anything negative.

In fact, if we’re going to do anything at all, the Lord says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20 NIV).

In other words, you will shame them by the love in your response.

The Bible is very clear on what our reaction should be. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 NIV).

God doesn’t miss a thing and each person will have to answer for his or her actions, so if someone wrongs you in any way – do nothing. At least, do not exact revenge.

That is for God to take care of, and He is very clear on that.

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

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September 14

TODAY IS…

perfect for seeing the joy in each day.

“And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful.”  Proverbs 8:32 NLT

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

“Jump for joy!”

No matter how you want to say it, today is the perfect day to be joyful! What’s so special about today? Because every day is a gift from God, and each new day becomes the new today.

Too many of us waste too many days always being mentally prepared for the clouds that do, indeed, creep into each and every life. There are inevitable events that occur that may bring moments where we are hurt, feel pain, or experience loss. These clouds that pass over cannot be stopped just as the clouds that cross the sky cannot be stopped.

Be that as it may, we all are aware that beyond those clouds, the sun still shines brightly and is only momentarily blocked from our view while we receive some much needed shade or rain, which gives life to everything on earth. So we welcome the clouds and the storms that they bring, knowing they will pass.

It is no different with the “clouds” that bring the “storms” of our lives.

The storms may be unpleasant, but they bring us the ability to learn about ourselves and to grow. The important thing to remember is that God, like the sun, is always there. Even when the pain in our heart or the trials we are experiencing block us from the joy of knowing God, we can still be joyful knowing He is there.

Sometimes it can be difficult to be joyful when surrounded by sadness. Imagine the tremendous sadness that befell Jesus’ disciples when He was crucified. These were individuals who were the recipients of teaching and reassurance from the mouth of the Lord Himself, and even though they were forewarned of His crucifixion, and in spite of the fact that Christ foretold of His resurrection, they were still unable to be joyful knowing that He was going to return.

Jesus ultimately stood before them and allowed them to touch Him and see Him and finally “… they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.” (Luke 24:41a NLT).

It is not always a simple thing to see the joy that can be found in each and every day, but it is there. Perhaps a storm cloud has moved in front of it, but it is still there, just as God is always there.

Even though it may be difficult sometimes, we must always remember that knowing God brings joy to our daily existence, and even though there may be times when God and the joy He gives us may be blocked from view, both are still very near to us.

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

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