August 23

TODAY IS…

the day to ask God to help you put your heart into it.

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”  Nehemiah 4:6 NIV

Rebuilding the wall surrounding Jerusalem was a very formidable task. When it was made known that Nehemiah was organizing the Israelites to do just that, they were mocked and made fun of. Nehemiah prayed to God and then everyone put their heart into their work.

At some point in our lives, each one of us more than likely will face our own daunting tasks. We will all find it necessary to “rebuild a wall” of our own in some form or fashion.

It doesn’t matter what looms before us. Possibly it is as simple as an unpleasant chore around the house that we have been putting off. Perhaps it is the knowledge that the time has come for us to seek new employment. Our personal “wall” could be something we can do ourselves or may involve the aid of others to help us.

No matter what it may be, there is always one starting point, as demonstrated by Nehemiah: Praying to God and asking for His help. After that, knowing that the Lord is involved, we should be able to put our heart into whatever it is and enthusiastically go about the process of “rebuilding our wall.”

Not everything we do will loom before us as a formidable task, but no matter what we do, we should do two things:

1) Get God Involved. A good relationship with God will have us looking to Him automatically, before we do anything, and praying for help and guidance;

2) Put Your Heart Into It. Taking the first step makes the second step easier. God can help inspire us and create the spark that will ignite the fire of our enthusiasm.

The more we rely on God for everything that we do, the more He will do through us, and this should help to ignite the fire in our hearts in the same way that it did for Paul, as he demonstrated when he wrote, “So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.” (Romans 15:17 NLT).

Enthusiasm is contagious, and that is one ‘disease’ we should all desire to spread, especially when our enthusiasm is for service to God. No matter how large or how small the task may be that lies before us, when we get God involved and put our hearts into it, before we know it, as with Nehemiah, our ‘wall’ will be built and, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized this work has been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:11 NIV).

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

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August 22

TODAY IS…

a superb day to aspire to be a good leader.

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good.”  Titus 2:7a NIV

Some of us may say. “But I don’t want to be a leader. I’m not cut out for that.”

The reality is, we are almost all leaders of one sort or another and probably do not even realize it. The real question is, “Am I a good leader?”

One of the most common forms of leadership can be found in parenting.

Certainly a mother or a father is a leader. After all, one of the primary definitions of ‘lead’ is “to influence.” There can be no singularly more important leadership position than parenting. How we carry out that responsibility has effects that are far-reaching and long lasting. To be good leaders we must set good examples and nowhere is this more important than in the raising of our children and in their preparation to be the individuals God intended them to be. It is a leadership position that far too many of us take lightly because we are too busy, too wrapped up in our own lives, or are too unsure of exactly how to carry out our responsibilities.

Leadership is not limited to raising children, of course, but it is one of the most common forms of leadership and the one that is most often performed poorly.

Other than parenting, we are leaders whenever anyone looks to us for guidance or direction. Even as ushers in our church, people look to us for the correct direction to move in, or the proper time to break out our wallets. Anyone in any sort of a management position, of course, is a leader as well, as are foremen, shift managers, coaches, teachers, priests, pastors, and ministers.

The number one responsibility of any leader of any type is to set a good example. If we are raising children, we must portray a good example of what the finished product should be like. If we are a leader in our church, we must present a good example of how God expects us to live our lives and conduct ourselves.

We have all been leaders without thinking about it. Now it’s time to look at ourselves and the various ways in which other people look to us and ask ourselves if we are providing the best example for those we are leading. If the answer is no, then a “makeover” is necessary, for those we are leading are looking to us for answers. The best place to get the answers we need to be great leaders is in the Bible.

Now that we are aware that we are leaders, even if we didn’t think that we were, we can focus on becoming the best leaders that we can be.

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

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August 21

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to make the most of what you have.

“So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.”  Proverbs 1:19 KJV

One of the sad truths of life in this world today is that so much of what we learn from the time we are young comes from the wrong sources. Not only are the sources wrong, but the messages delivered, and then learned, are destructive to us as individuals and to our collective societies.

One of the most commonly delivered messages that we receive from the wrong sources – television, magazines, newspapers – is that greed is socially acceptable, and the results of greed are to be coveted by all.

We seem to not be able to get enough of those who have unbelievable wealth and squander much of it on ostentatious homes, cars, jewelry, yachts, jets and anything else that most of us will never have and none of us truly needs.

What family of three requires 50,000 square feet of living space? What person requires an automobile that costs more than most people will earn in a lifetime?

It can be argued that it is their money to do with as they please. Somehow, in the minds of some, it is a sign of compassion to spend $25 million dollars for one of several homes in different parts of the world and then let it be known that this same individual wrote a check for $100,000 to some disaster relief fund. The reality is that it is a decidedly empty gesture that only shows the depths of greed that we are capable of.

The examples we see – that we consume with an almost masochistic fervor – only fuel our own desires to “have more.” We can see on a daily basis the many ways people are willing to compromise their own souls to obtain it.

“They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse.” (2 Peter 2:14 NLT).

Most of us are richer than we think.

We simply do not take the time to look around at our spouses, our children, our friends, and our lives. We always think someone has more, or better, and is happier because of it.

Opening the Bible and exploring its pages makes us wealthy beyond compare. Sharing the wealth we discover with others makes us generous in God’s eyes.

Make the most of what you have and you will find that you have more than enough.

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

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August 20

TODAY IS…

a good day to choose words over actions.

“But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.”  Psalm 38:18 NLT

We’ve all heard the expression “Actions speak louder than words.” This is usually said when someone is talking about what a great job they can do. What it means is, “Don’t talk about it, do it! – Prove it by your actions, not by what you say.”

Our actions also speak loudly when we are doing the wrong thing.

Sometimes it becomes a good idea to stop our actions and choose the words carefully that we will use to ask God for forgiveness for our actions. Fortunately for us, God is always willing to offer forgiveness if we ask for it, and the Bible is full of help to find the words to do so.

Forgiveness is available to all who are sorry for their sins and are willing to repent. Christ, Himself, made this abundantly clear.

“It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’” (Luke 24:27 NLT).

Some of us have a difficult time with the entire concept of forgiveness. Perhaps this is so because we have a difficult time forgiving others. This is something that needs to be addressed, for God’s only condition for our forgiveness, besides repentance, is that we forgive others as well for sins they have committed against us.

“But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14 NIV).

Do not doubt for one moment the Lord’s willingness, or capacity, for forgiveness.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5 NASB).

In today’s world, the message almost seems to be that if one wants to be noticed, he or she must be a “bad boy” or a “bad girl.” The actions of many of these individuals are held up before us as being acceptable in the eyes of man, which may be very true. But quite often, the actions which society glorifies and rewards are not acceptable in the eyes of God.

We should all strive to do things that are righteous in the eyes of God. Our actions should speak louder than our words when it comes to reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves, when helping to collect food or clothing for those who don’t have adequate supplies of either, or when assisting groups that build homes or provide shelter for those who need it.

These actions speak loudly, and if they are yours, then keep ‘talking.’

But if your actions are not right in the eyes of God, then choose words instead and ask the Lord for His forgiveness.

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

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August 19

ODAY IS…

an excellent day to follow good God advice.

“O Israel, stay away from idols! I Am the One who answers your prayers and cares for you. I Am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from Me.”  Hosea 14:8 NLT

There’s good advice and then there is God advice.

It is always a sign of intelligence, wisdom, and maturity to follow good advice and instruction. We would possibly all agree that good advice is valuable and we would be foolish to ignore it.

How much more valuable is God advice and instruction?

There simply is no price to attach to its worth. It is always perfect, always in our very best interests, and always intended to show God’s love for us and help us arrive safely at our life’s destination.

Why, then is it so difficult for us to follow God advice consistently?

Why does it seem almost impossible, sometimes, to stay on the course that God sets for us?

If we were to set out upon the ocean and set our course for a certain point, it would not be enough to head constantly in the direction of one position on the compass. Currents would work against our vessel and we would be surprised at how far off the original course we would travel without making constant corrections. If we didn’t make those necessary adjustments, our final destination would be totally different than what we had intended originally.

It is the same in life.

God provides the necessary advice, guidance, and instruction to keep us on a steady course to salvation, but temptation is always pressing against us, like an ocean current, trying to steer us off course. We may not even be fully aware that it is happening, but one thing is certain: we do not want to wait till the end of our lives to find out we have been heading for the wrong destination.

So what can we do?

We can ask God to give us the benefit of His infinite wisdom and help us stay on course. We can read the Bible each day to see what God has to say that will help us correct our course if we are drifting. We can certainly let those around us give us advice and instruction, and if it is good advice it, too, can help us stay on course.

Following God advice may make perfect sense, but we don’t always automatically do it. In fact, some of us fail to do it with disturbing frequency. This is dangerous, and if this describes us we need to start listening to God advice today. It’s never too late to correct our course, and God is always available to help us do that.

Good advice is always good to get.

God advice is perfect and should never be ignored.

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

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Celebrating My Death

TODAY IS….

a fantastic day to celebrate.

“ And people from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali brought food on donkeys, camels, mules, and oxen. Vast supplies of flour, fig cakes, clusters of raisins, wine, olive oil, cattle, sheep, and goats were brought to the celebration. There was great joy throughout the land of Israel. ” (1 Chronicles 12:40 NLT)

On August 18, 2009 I died.

Well, I died to myself anyway.

Lying on the floor of a shower stall in a cheap motel in south Florida covered in blood from self-inflicted wounds to both sides of my neck, I spoke the four words that would bring me back from the brink of a death I was certain was the only way to rid myself – and the world – of the evil that had taken up residence inside of me.

“God, please forgive me.”

And He was right there waiting for me to ask for help, and within minutes I was discovered by individuals who should never have found me until long after I was dead.

But that’s not the story.

It’s a story, believe me. But it’s not today’s story.

Today’s story is intended to celebrate a God who is so great that He would care about someone so small and insignificant as me. Today’s story is intended to celebrate a God who is so merciful and full of grace that for my 40 years of willful disobedience and my selfish, self-indulgent, self-centered lifestyle He would give me………..forgiveness.

Instantly.

Just like that.

Because I asked.

Like the people of Israel who were celebrating their freedom from the suffering they had endured under Saul because of his disobedience to God, today I celebrate 10 years of life I tried to steal from myself and from those who love me.

I am grateful and I am humbled that He could care about me when I could not, and I am grateful for the new life I now live, the new heart that now beats within me and is full of the Holy Spirit, and the new eyes He gave me to help me see the pain, suffering, and hopelessness of those around me.

And I am grateful for the people he has surrounded me with who show me everyday what it means to faithfully serve our great God.

“Lord, today I celebrate 10 years of life that would never have happened were it not for the fact that You love us infinitely more than we could ever love ourselves. Today I celebrate your awesome power, which gives You the unfathomable ability to know each one of us better than we know ourselves and to care about us all individually. Today I celebrate Your constant willingness to forgive me every day, as I am still a sinner in need of your grace, mercy, and forgiveness every day. Today I celebrate the Hope that only You can provide. Today I celebrate you, almighty Father, because You are worthy of all that I can give You and so much more.

Today I celebrate the new life You gave me, and I thank you for the strength, courage, wisdom, and desire that make me want to live each new day You give me for Your glory.”

I have a lot to celebrate, and today is a fantastic day to do so.

How about you?

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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 themself 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 for any reason, let alone because it felt good to stop? 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.

Pharaoh is a good example of one who 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 allow them to leave and follow Moses. 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 the blessing He gave us before the battle..

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

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August 14

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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