January 21

TODAY IS…

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

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

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

All talent possessed by any one of us is a gift from God. On loan, you might say, to use in service to God while we are on this earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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January 20

TODAY IS…

a good day to avoid self-sufficiency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is impossible for us, as humans, to love God as much as He loves us. But if we love Him with all that we are, and thank Him daily for His love and for all that He is, we will avoid any temptations to take credit away from God and claim it for ourselves. We must always give credit to God and thank Him for everything. Without Him we are nothing, but with Him we have everything we need.

*******

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

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January 19

TODAY IS…

the day to rejoice!

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24 KJV

Don’t feel like rejoicing today?

All we need to change that feeling is a good attitude. Let’s face it, hardly a day goes by that something doesn’t happen which would cause us to grumble if we didn’t maintain a good attitude and if we weren’t thankful to God regardless of what was happening in our lives.

George Matheson was a blind preacher from Scotland who lived in the latter half of the 1800’s. He once wrote, “My Dear God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You thousands of times for my roses, but not once for my thorns.”

The thorns in our lives are there to test and purify our faith.

In his letter to encourage suffering Christians, Peter wrote, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is more precious than mere gold.” (1 Peter 1:7a NLT).

So should we rejoice because of the trials we face in life?

Not exactly.

We should rejoice in spite of the trials we face, knowing that God is with us and will not abandon us. We should rejoice because we will emerge from whatever trials we face as stronger, more confident, and more courageous Christians who are better equipped to do God’s work here on earth.

We can all learn a lesson in facing trials with the right attitude by reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In it, he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4 KJV).

Considering that Paul was in prison when he wrote that, it is difficult to understand how he could be encouraging others to rejoice. However, if we examine the situation closely, we will learn that Paul is teaching us that our attitude does not have to reflect our physical circumstances. Paul knew – and we must too – that God was with him so it did not matter where his body was.

That is trust.

That is faith.

And with that trusting faith, the ability to rejoice is always at hand.

Today was made by God and it is His gift to each of us. Let us rejoice in it, regardless of our circumstances, and use it as an opportunity to serve Him and to glorify His name.

*******

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

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“Still Another Step On The Path”

“Raising the White Flag”

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

There is a tendency to associate ‘surrendering’ with ‘losing’ or being a ‘loser’. While this certainly might be a proper viewpoint when discussing the outcome of warfare between two armies, it is definitely not the case when we talk about surrendering to the victory won by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross.

Considering the death of anyone by crucifixion on a cross as a ‘victory’ might seem a difficult concept to embrace. Indeed, it certainly would have been for me not too many years ago had I stopped to consider it at all, but understanding the full impact of that statement is crucial to illuminating our own personal path to freedom.

Even though it is not the death of Christ by itself that secured us this victory, His brutal death set the stage for what would prove to be a turning point in the history of mankind. After the Roman soldiers determined Jesus was truly dead,  his bloody, lifeless body was removed from the cross and placed inside a tomb. Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead by God, and it is the combination of Jesus’ dying and being raised up from the dead that secured victory for all of mankind. However, understanding exactly what that victory was and what it means to each one of us individually is difficult for many to understand.

The Gospel Of Jesus Christ lays out that victory and is stated by my church quite simply:

“The Gospel is the joyous declaration that God is redeeming the world through Christ and that He calls everyone everywhere to repent from sin and trust Jesus Christ for salvation.

Each of us has sinned against God, breaking His law and rebelling against His rule, and the penalty for our sin is death and hell. But because of His love, God sent His Son, Jesus, to live, for His people’s sake, the perfect, obedient life God requires and to die on the cross in our place for our sin.

On the third day, Christ rose bodily from the grave and now reigns in heaven, offering forgiveness, righteousness, resurrection, and eternal blessedness in God’s presence to everyone who repents of sin and trusts solely in Him for salvation.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before being betrayed by Judas, Jesus was telling His disciples about what would soon take place and  “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.’”  (John 17:1-4  NIV)

In my book, “Today Is….A Gift From God”, I state that I am ‘not a pastor, preacher, minister, priest, or biblical scholar ‘, and I am certainly none of those things. I am simply a man whose eyes began to open to the meaning of that victory, and an understanding of Christ’s ‘finished work’, on a beautiful morning in August of 2009 which began in a particularly ugly way.

I had lived for 40 years in willful disobedience to God (although I had yet to learn and acknowledge this), angry with Him for allowing life on earth to exist the way it did, full of personal pain and sorrow as well as the pain and suffering of those around me; people I knew as well as those I would never meet. Since I was never taught to turn to Christ when I was in need of comfort, strength, compassion, love, or support, at the age of 14 I learned instead to turn to alcohol as a way of lessening the pain of growing up. Followed closely by my discovery of the pain-numbing ability of drugs at the age of 16, the stage was now set for what would follow over the next 40 years.

Living a selfish, self-centered, and self-destructive lifestyle where drug and alcohol abuse were a significant component of daily life led me to a seedy, sleazy, rundown motel in south Florida where, on the morning of August 18, 2009, the full effects of my sinful life came crashing down on me and I made a nearly successful attempt on my life.

Lying on the floor of the shower stall in my room of that motel, bleeding from self-inflicted wounds to both sides of my neck, I finally ‘raised the white flag’ and surrendered. Granted, the full life-giving, life-changing impact of what transpired there would take some time to reveal itself to me, but the effects were immediate.

I should not be alive today, and it is only through the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the victory He won for us all that I survived the attack on myself and am able to write these words.

That victory made it possible for the four words I finally whispered as I hovered near death to be heard by God. Those four words were, “God, please forgive me.”

It is amazing how quickly God responds when we finally raise the white flag and surrender ourselves to His victory. In my case, I was found by individuals who should not have found me until long after I was dead. I was transported to a hospital where I awoke the next morning. While I am still very new in my relationship with God, I knew who had saved me the instant I opened my eyes and I have devoted my life to growing in my relationship with Him ever since.

There is a beautiful hymn titled “It Is Well With My Soul”, and I recently discovered the awe-inspiring story behind that hymn:

Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. Spafford was  a devout Christian and his circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody other well-known Christians of the day.

At the height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He was to join Moody on an evangelistic campaign in England. Faced with some unexpected last-minute business, Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had been involved in a collision.

All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England and it was while on this trip that he wrote “It Is Well With My Soul”.

The incredible burden of all those things would have broken many individuals, but Mr. Spafford, having surrendered himself to victory long before, knew exactly where to turn in his greatest times of need.

The hymn is performed beautifully in this video featuring Bill and Gloria Gaither with Guy Penrod and David Phelps:

https://videopress.com/embed/HpSs2oNu?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0
“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

He has shed His own blood for you, and for me, and through His sacrifice, our sin was nailed to the cross so that we are able to raise our white flags, surrender ourselves, and claim the victory that leads us to the path of freedom.

May God bless you, keep you safe, and continue to light the way for you.

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January 18

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to listen to Jesus.

“Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Matthew 13:9 NLT

We have all encountered many different people who have offered us their opinions on how we should act and how we should live our lives. While some of what we have heard may have been helpful, much of it probably was not, leaving us wondering why we listened to them in the first place.

This is not to say that we should not accept counsel and advice from those around us, but we need to be sure that what we are being told agrees with what was taught by the one person God said we should listen to. And who was this person?

Peter, James, and John made up the ‘inner circle’ of Jesus’ disciples and God gave them an explicit answer to that very same question: “…This is My beloved Son: hear Him.” (Mark 9:7 KJV).

Most of us are accustomed to automatically crying out to God in times of trouble.

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.” (Psalm 5:1 NLT).

We want God to hear our cries of pain, sorrow and distress. We want Him to listen to our needs and our requests. And He loves to listen to it all.

But God wants us to listen as well.

He wants us to listen to the words that Jesus spoke when He walked among us and He wants us to spend our lifetimes working to understand those words and follow what He was trying to teach us.

Doing that requires a commitment many of us are not truly willing, ready, or able to make. In order to follow the simple teachings of Jesus, we need to put others before ourselves. We need to resist temptation and avoid situations where we know in advance we will be tempted. We need to devote ourselves to our spouses and our children and use the words that Jesus spoke to light the path that leads to a joyful eternity in God’s Kingdom.

“… not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 NIV).

Spending time each day with our family and friends learning the simple truths that Jesus taught will enrich us and ensure that we move in the same direction: A direction that leads to service to others in the name of God.

Every word that came from the mouth of Jesus was uttered with the sole purpose of making each one of us more like Him.

We should all ask for help in hearing the words that Christ spoke and understanding what He meant by them. If we listen with open hearts and minds, the true meaning of His words will fill us with a desire to be kinder, gentler, more understanding, and more compassionate.

The incredible thing about the words that Jesus spoke is that He always spoke the truth. How many of us can say that? The truths that He spoke can be used immediately in decisions we make in virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives. If we are ever in a situation in which our actions contradict His teaching, then we haven’t been listening closely enough to what was being said.

No matter how we try to justify our actions, we cannot make it right if it means that something said by Jesus was wrong.

What Jesus said might be inconvenient to our human way of thinking or our personal desires, but He was never wrong.

We need to listen to Jesus, and today is the perfect day to start.

*******

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

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“Another Step”

“The Obstacle in the Path”

The biggest single obstacle blocking any individual’s progress on the path to freedom will always be themselves.

Any person who has difficulty accepting the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died a horrible death to atone for our sins, was buried and then was raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God, must first find within themselves the ability to believe this truth.

For many of us, this is a difficult truth to accept.

For many of us, the story is just too far-fetched to believe.

I know this because for most of my life I refused to accept it myself. From my mid-teens to my mid-fifties, I lived with no belief in God and no understanding of what the death of His Son on the cross meant for me personally. As you will see, I came to accept that truth in a particularly painful and violent way which almost cost me my life. It is my fervent hope and prayer that the recounting of that experience and my personal discovery of the path to freedom might be of value to others.

Perhaps the thoughts posted here might help others to  pause and consider their own faith, or lack thereof.  As a result of reading these pages, if just one person begins to follow the path made freely available to us all by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then God has truly blessed me in a magnificent way.

I was initially raised as a Roman Catholic, but any involvement with the church or its teachings was merely blind obedience to parental instruction. There was never any family discussion centered on the Bible, on God, or on the life and death of Jesus. Ultimately, what I was left with was the impression that God was to be feared and obeyed or we would go to a really, really bad place upon our death. While this is truth in this, that impression leaves us terribly ignorant to other, more important truths about God.

Truths such as His abundant and unfailing love for us, His incredible capacity for mercy, grace, and forgiveness, as well as His amazing ability to restore us and renew our lives when we live them in willful disobedience to Him and finally decide to return to His ‘flock’, as I did.

If you are uncomfortable again as a result of the words you are reading, I understand. I was very uncomfortable back in August of 2009 as I lay in a pool of my blood on the floor of a motel shower stall, hovering near death from self-inflicted wounds to both sides of my neck.

But how did I wind up on that shower floor?

Following is an excerpt from an article I wrote in “The Oakdale Chronicles“, a blog which was lovingly maintained for me by family and a friend while incarcerated at the Oakdale, LA federal correctional institution. The article, titled “unspoken“, was written as a ‘speech’ that I would love to give to high school students:

“It has taken tragedy, self-degradation, the embarrassment of myself and my family, loss of respect from others and from myself, a nearly successful suicide attempt, arrest and imprisonment for me to find answers for myself. To find the answers, I needed to discover certain truths about how a life – my life – became so completely and disastrously derailed. I point the finger of blame at no one for anything I have ever done. I hold no one responsible for the multitude of bad decisions I have made in my life, nor do I hold anyone accountable for me being where I am today instead of where I could have been. No one, that is, except for myself. But now, finally, I can see clearly some of the things that were broken early on in my life that could have been fixed and probably would have resulted in my train staying on the track. Oh, I probably would have still been rerouted a time or two, or paused in a siding temporarily, but I quite possibly could have avoided the complete derailment that caused so much damage, created so much havoc and endangered – and cost – so many lives.”

Those broken things I mentioned in that article constituted the first step on the path that I used to be on. It was a selfish, self-centered, and self-destructive path that almost delivered me to a horrible death which would have left painful memories for those who loved me despite the fact I could not love myself. As we continue this journey together, I will attempt to offer clear, concise directions to all who may discover they, too, are headed the wrong way.

When God created mankind He gave us the freedom to make choices.  The Bible offers an excellent definition of freedom and how God intended that freedom to be used: “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)

On a low wall on the Penn State University campus is this inscription: “Use Thy Freedom Well”. Like many people, I failed to do that. How about you? How are you using yours?

Until next time, may God touch your heart and help you stay on the “Path To Freedom”.

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January 17

TODAY IS…

the day to eliminate sin.

“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all of the Law of Moses.”  2 Kings 23:25 NIV

An eight year old boy became king of Judah and reigned for 31 years.

His name was Josiah and he was known for his obedience to God. When he was 26 years old, Josiah sent his secretary, Shaphan, as a messenger to the Lord’s Temple to see Hilkiah, the High Priest. His intended purpose was to arrange payment for the workers who were restoring the temple, but when Shaphan returned to his king, he brought with him a scroll given to him by Hilkiah. When Josiah read the scroll, he discovered that Hilkiah had given him something that had been lost for many years…..God’s Word.

As he read this incredible document, he realized with shame that his kingdom had drifted far away from God. Josiah set about enacting sweeping reforms throughout the nation to conform to the Law of Moses.

Unlike Josiah, we do not have to wait.

The Word of God is available to us on a daily basis and we should follow Josiah’s example and strive to bring our lives in line with it. One of the first things we must do is eliminate sin. In order to do this we must first recognize it, and then attack its causes. While we may think that recognizing sin is easy, our behavior sometimes speaks differently. Given the permissiveness in today’s society and the downplaying of the role of God in our lives that seems to constantly test our faith, we sometimes allow ourselves to become comfortable with improper thoughts and actions. We then rationalize these thoughts and actions with a litany of excuses.

We blame our human weakness.

We blame everyone else.

We blame satan.

We even blame God.

A big part of being a good Christian is taking responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, praying for God’s forgiveness, and asking Him to help us identify and resist sinful temptations.

Jesus’ brother James said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation…” (James 1:12a KJV).

A good relationship with God is tantamount to eliminating sin in our lives. Only when we are in constant communication with Him can we steadily draw upon His strength to help us identify, resist, and attack sin. Some of us may think that this type of relationship with the Lord is too arduous and time-consuming – too ‘high-maintenance’, yet we think nothing of spending hours every day maintaining our automobiles, our homes, our yards, and our physical appearance. It would be wise to remember that all of these things are temporary and superficial when compared with the eternal benefits of striving to maintain a sin-free life and a strong relationship with God enables us to do that.

By all means, wash your car. Paint your house. Mow your lawn.

And talk with God as you do all of these things and ask for His help in eliminating sin from your life.

*******

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

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“The First Step on the Path”

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the actual first step taken in my attempt to lead others to the beauty of the place I have arrived. While this is not the first blog post I wrote after being released from prison, it is the first one written here, the others having been posted in the original Oakdale Chronicles and being intended for an audience either incarcerated, facing incarceration, or their families.

This should have been where I started yesterday, but – well, never mind. Here it is, and I believe it contains some thoughts worth pondering. I hope you agree.)

“The Beginning of the Journey”

In ancient times, the crucifixion of murderers, bandits, or other enemies of the state was commonplace and the public display of such an extraordinarily cruel and presumably painful method of punishment would likely have provided a deterrent to many who might consider similar actions as those condemned to that fate. It is easy to imagine that such an event drew large crowds, much like the hangings popular in the wild west of this country in the 1800’s.

A little over two thousand years ago, one man in particular was nailed to a cross, along with two robbers, and he hung there until it was determined there was no longer any life in his beaten and bloodied body. This man was different than the men on either side of him,  he was different than all those who were crucified before him, and he was also different from all who would come after him. It is probably safe to assume the crowds for this particular execution were bigger than all others. After all, this was no ordinary robber or murderer. This was the man they called Jesus of Nazareth who was purported to be the long-awaited Messiah.

This was the man who claimed to be the Son of God.

The fact that a man named Jesus died on a cross has never really come into question. Conversely, his claim to be the Son of God has been debated, disputed, and denied ever since. However, if this man’s claim were untrue, I would be unable to type these words you are reading. If this man’s claim were untrue, I would still be a prisoner.

But I am alive today because of his death on the cross, and I am freer than I have been in my entire life. Simply put, my ability to type these words comes from the fact that He is who He claimed to be, and over time I will demonstrate how I have come to believe  this to be true. It is my prayer that, also over time, those who do not believe Jesus of Nazareth truly is the Son of God will come to search their own hearts and discover their own ability to trust that our only Hope is in God, and believe in the truth that He loves each one of us so much He allowed His only begotten Son to die in a horrible manner in order that we all might gain eternal life.

My name is Tony Casson. I am glad you have decided to visit and I hope you come back. I look forward to getting to know you, to all of you getting to know me, and all of us getting to know God.

Come along and discover just how beautiful the path to freedom can be.

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January 16

TODAY IS…

a good day to eliminate worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6 NIV

George Mueller was an author, a preacher, and a founder of Christian orphanages during the 1800’s. Mr. Mueller offered this perspective on worry: “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”

Several different teachers throughout the Bible instructed us not to worry. In Philippians 4:6, Paul stresses the importance of turning our worry over to God in prayer and with thanksgiving.

Peter tells us the same thing when he says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV).

The most powerful statements come from our Lord, Jesus Christ, when He spoke at length on the subject in Matthew 6:25-34.

In part, He said, “And who of you by being worried can add a single day to his life?” (Matthew 6:27 NASB).

His solution to worry?

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33 NLT).

Many of us probably tell ourselves that it is easier to talk about not worrying than it is to actually stop. While it may not be easy to eliminate worry, it is important to recognize that worry is the passive act of making ourselves anxious about something over which we have no control. When we allow ourselves to worry, we run several risks: adversely affecting our health; immobilizing ourselves, making us ineffective in other tasks; affecting our ability to relate to loved ones and other people in our personal and professional lives; and – most importantly – worry can tear at the fabric of our trust in God.

Fully trusting in God will help us to avoid the pitfalls of worry and be happy and content knowing God is in control. As humans, we have a tendency to try to be the driver when in actuality we are the vehicle. Letting God drive allows us to get where we need to go via a road less bumpy than one we are likely to select ourselves.

Worry is evil whispering in your ear. Worry is evil eating at your heart and your mind. Worry is stepping backward from the light into the darkness.

It is important to remember that our ability to eliminate worry is in direct proportion to two things: 1) How strong our faith is; 2) How much we pray.

Strengthen your faith by reading the Bible daily and pray for God to take your burdens from you.

Let God drive.

He knows the Way.

*******

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

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“Following the Path to Freedom” – Part I

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am thankful for the individuals who take the time to read my daily devotionals. I pray that others find them helpful, or at least thought-provoking in some way.

But this morning I was looking at the header at the top of the page and I saw where I had originally subtitled this blog as “Following the path to freedom” and I was reminded that there was an original purpose for occupying this space other than simply sharing what God had helped me to write while I was incarcerated.

I had hoped to share a little of the journey of discovery that is available to all who seek the Truth.

I had hoped to help others find their way from the darkness into the Light.

I had hoped to help others follow their own path to the freedom that lies in accepting Jesus Christ as our savior and allowing Him to set us free from our sin.

For those reasons, I have decided to re-post some of those early writings.

If you have never read them, I hope you take the time and I pray you find them helpful. If you have read them before, perhaps you’ll take the time to read them again and discover something new in them.)

“The Crumbs on the Path”

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.”  Isaiah 42:16 ESV

J. Paul Getty once said, “If you look after the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.” This means that we take care of the big things by paying attention to the little things – the details.

And who is more detail-oriented than the One who created everything?

If our eyes are open to the victory won for us on the cross by Christ, we constantly marvel at the world that our great God created.

The majesty of  mountains takes our breath away,

God's Creation

we are mesmerized by the power and splendor of the oceans He created,

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our bodies shake at the roaring of powerful waterfalls,

God's Creation 2

and He reveals the universe to us in indescribably beautiful ways.

Pillars of Creation

But this is not where the awesome power and sovereignty of God is best displayed, for He orchestrates His symphony of creation down to the smallest detail, and it is in the little things where we can best appreciate His work.

From the delicate perfection of a butterfly,

Butterfly-2

to the perfectly balanced life surrounding a coral reef,

Tropical-Harmony-tropical-harmony-fish-sea-ocean-underwater-1600x1200

to the incredible array of creatures roaming the surface of the earth,

Giraffes_African_Friends_1MD

God looks after ‘the pennies’.

Sometimes, after we are finally compelled to wave our ‘white flag’ (see: “Raising The White Flag”), we begin to expect spectacular miracles to take place in our lives. Many of us fail to recognize that our very lives are miracles. Once we acknowledge this simple fact, we are then better able to understand how the miracle which is our life contains a litany of details which could only be managed by someone of indescribable power.

And it is in those details where we find His trail of ‘spiritual breadcrumbs’.

It is by identifying, and following, these spiritual breadcrumbs that we are able to stay on the path to freedom. We must open our eyes to the existence of these ‘crumbs’ in order for us to fully appreciate the awesome power of God.

The Bible tells us, repeatedly, how detail-oriented God is: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10: 29-30 ESV)

My own eyes were finally opened to the trail of ‘crumbs’ in my life while in federal prison. I began to notice things around me, as if I were seeing for the very first time. In a sense, I was, for my new relationship with – and reliance upon – God caused the eyes of my heart to open and allowed the eyes in my head to see things differently.

I began to see God’s hand in everything around me. I recognized individuals as being placed in my path by God, for His purpose. The manner in which my prison life unfolded was such that I was able to feed my growing need for knowledge of God’s Word. The cell I was placed in and the person I wound up with as a roommate – ‘cellie’ in prison jargon – was an individual who helped me along the path. (Author’s note: Read about him in “Letters To Heaven: In Memory Of Peter Becker”)

Even walking in the recreation yard, my eyes were opened to the presence of God and the victory won on the cross by Jesus. I saw old wooden power poles that appeared to me as a reminder of His sacrifice and I shared that vision with others. One friend of mine, Richard Roy, enlisted the aid of another inmate named Will Mattingly to use his artistic talent to draw a depiction of what I saw:

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I titled the drawing “Through The Eyes Of The Heart” and published an article called “With Eyes Wide Open” in the original “Oakdale Chronicles”.

Following are excerpts from that article:

“With the newly opened eyes of my heart, the fences became transparent and the transformers and power lines disappeared. What I DID see was Jesus Christ hanging from the center cross looking down at me. What I DID see was a man taking the burden of my sins, and the sins of every other person in the world, and replacing that burden with freedom.

With the eyes of my heart, I could see what had been missing in my life. I could see forgiveness for what I had done wrong and I could see what I needed to do to correct those things. I could see the pain that I caused others, and I could see the pain that others caused me, and I could see the pain in the eyes of Jesus as He implored me to give all of that pain to HIM.

I could see the look of suffering on His face as He relieved me of my burden, but at the same time, I could feel His joy at the knowledge that His suffering was not in vain.

Now, with the eyes of my heart wide open, I could see the future and the hope that had been promised to ME. I could see that I was now truly free to do the RIGHT thing, for the RIGHT reason, and in the RIGHT way. I was now free to rid my heart of the darkness that had filled it so completely for so many years and replace it with the light that comes with the unshakeable faith I now had that no matter where I might walk from that day forward, I would never be alone, I did not need to be afraid, and I would never be without purpose.

I began to realize that I was no longer in prison at all. In fact, from that moment forward, I was more free than I had ever been in my life.”

and,

“God has opened wide the eyes of my heart, and He can open YOURS as well. With our eyes wide open we can see many things we could not see before: We can see hope; we can see peace, happiness, joy, love, and forgiveness; we can see the goodness that lives and breathes all around us. And with our eyes wide open we can also see the hunger, the pain, the suffering, and the desperation of other people. But these are not bad things to see, because once our eyes are open, we can also see our place in God’s plan to HELP those who are afflicted. Seeing our place will allow us to take the action necessary to improve the condition of our brothers and sisters who are all God’s children.

And THIS, my friends, is freedom.”

Things happen in our lives everyday that many people attribute to ‘coincidence’, ‘chance’, ‘good luck’, or ‘bad luck’. More than likely, all of those things are attributable to God, and what is necessary for us to steadfastly follow the path to freedom without straying off of it is to constantly look at everything around us, because the people we meet, the situations we encounter, and the things we see all contain the details that are God’s spiritual breadcrumbs for us to follow.

Today is a good day to start looking after your ‘pennies’.

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