September 29

TODAY IS…

a splendid day to make sure that we are readily identifiable.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”  John 13:35 NLT

A disciple is defined as “a follower.” While the term “disciple” is a noun, it requires the action of following to bear the name. Following is not a passive act. We are not followers of Jesus Christ if we sit and do nothing. Through the instruction of Christ Himself, we are told the action we must take that will make us readily identifiable as His followers.

At the Last Supper He turned to His disciples and said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV).

How, exactly, did Jesus demonstrate His love for those who followed Him? In ways that are too numerous to fully list here, but let us examine some of them.

He protected them from harm.

He calmed the waves in the Sea of Galilee when they were in danger. “Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished…” (Mark 6:51 NASB).

He taught them to show compassion to people, and to treat all others as brothers and sisters.

He demonstrated the kindness, gentleness, and humility that made Him who He was and tried to instill in them the need for them to act in the same manner when dealing with others.

Jesus tried to demonstrate the need to serve others and made sure to practice what He preached. When He washed the feet of His disciples He said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15 NIV).

Jesus clearly wants us to be active followers. Throughout His teaching, He leads us by examples that He then wants us to demonstrate for others. We are to serve others, and always remember that He was a servant to all He came in contact with.

What better example could there possibly be of what is expected of us?

It is important that we each take time to pray, to read the Word of God, and meditate on that Word. It is also important to spend quiet times with our Lord as well so that we can hear Him when He speaks to us.

But we must also be very active in our faith, as Jesus demonstrated, by looking for ways to involve ourselves in the improvement of the human condition here on earth because Jesus Christ said that is what we must do.

It is not enough to say that we belong to God.

We must actively demonstrate, through our love for one another, that we are followers of Jesus Christ, and today is a splendid day to focus on that.

*******

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

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September 28

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to celebrate the triumph of Christ.

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”  John 17:30 NIV

We do not normally consider the death of anyone as a triumph.

Most of us have known someone who has left this life and, depending upon who they were and the degree of closeness we shared, their passing was usually tinged with sadness at the very least. Perhaps we have known an elderly person who has suffered for a long time with illness. In many instances, we view their passing as a blessing for them even though we may still be saddened by their loss. Rarely, though, would we refer to anyone’s death as a triumph.

However, Jesus Christ certainly was not just anyone.

At the time of His death, most of those who had followed Him; who had heard Him preach to the masses and who had the unbelievable honor of speaking to Him in private; who had seen the sick healed and the hungry fed; these men who had claimed to believe and proclaimed their faith all viewed His death as something far less than triumphant. Even having been told three times what would happen – that Jesus would be crucified and would rise from the dead – they still failed to understand or comprehend the significance of His death.

“But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.” (Luke 18:34 NASB).

They would not come to understand until He was with them again after His resurrection, but it is important to understand that the triumph of Christ was realized not when He rose from the dead, but at the moment of His death.

As horribly as He was treated before He was hung on the cross, and as horrific as being nailed to it must have been not only for Jesus to experience, but for those who loved Him to witness, it was at the moment when His spirit was released that His work for His Father; that His service to all of humanity; that His purpose here on earth was complete.

With His death, the debt for the sins of all of mankind was paid in full.

With His death, the complex laws of sacrifice were over, since He became the supreme sacrifice for us all.

With His death, we now had the ability to freely approach God, making it possible for each one of us to get rid of our burdens, ease our pain, give thanks, ask for guidance, and much, much more.

As painful as the thought of Jesus hanging on that cross can be, His death represented victory over sin, the offer of salvation to us all, and redemption, restoration and renewal for all who seek it.

Today, and every day, we should celebrate the triumph of our Lord, Jesus Christ when He died for each and every one of us.

*******

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

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September 27

TODAY IS…

a fine day to consider how you will answer God.

“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”  John 17:4 NASB

The day will come when we will stand before God and we will have to give an accounting of how we used the knowledge, talent, and abilities that were a gift from God while we were on earth. Christ had accomplished, or finished, the work that God had given Him to do, and was able to say exactly that.

Will we be able to answer in the same manner as Christ?

Each one of us must ponder that question for ourselves. It is deeply personal and can only be answered by us.

In the very beginning of this collection of daily thoughts on the gifts that God gives us is the statement, “I have also tried to demonstrate that we are never too old to take our place as a child of God and seek His love, comfort, guidance, and protection.”

It is of the utmost importance that those among us who have come to know Christ later in life also understand that it is never too late to fulfill God’s purpose for us and to make use of our talents and abilities.

Anyone who is concerned about how they will answer the question because they have lived a long life wandering aimlessly through forests of immorality, deserts of sin, and mountains of disobedience, need only understand that if we have since accepted Christ as our Savior and have tried to live in a manner that demonstrates our love for those around us and our love for God, then we can answer confidently that we have used all that we have for the glory of God.

When we discover the beauty of salvation and all of the benefits that come from knowing God is not what is important.

God will use all of your experiences wandering through those forests, deserts, and mountains to refine your faith and to help you understand the pain, problems, and doubts of others. Armed with the wisdom that can be obtained through faithfully reading God’s word, we can draw upon our own experiences – no matter how painful or unpleasant – to help others in ways that we never thought possible.

Humans have a bad habit of leaning toward comparisons.

“How does my house compare with the neighbor’s?”

“How does my job compare with that person’s job?”

We compare the way we look, televisions, bank accounts, lawns, husbands, wives, even children.

God doesn’t compare us with anyone, so neither should we. If you’re worried that the length of your service won’t stack up when compared to that of someone else, you need not be concerned, for that will not be a comparison God will make. He will look to the quality of our love for Him and for those around us, and He will look to see how we used what He gave us once we figured out what those gifts were for.

The question will never be, “When did you come to know God through Christ?”

The question will be, “What did you do once you had the knowledge?”

Be sure you can stand before Him and say, like Christ, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

*******

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

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September 25

TODAY IS…

the day to understand where true happiness comes from.

“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord.”  Psalm 119:1 NLT

Many of us are familiar with the song that tells us to, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”

While it is a wonderful song, as well as a very good idea, happiness proves to be elusive for many people.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm of all, but it is also the longest chapter in the entire Bible. Contained within that Psalm are clear signs that point us to where true happiness can be found.

In a world where material wealth is held up before us in unrelenting displays everywhere we look, there lies a very real danger of succumbing to the temptation to believe that we can only be happy if we, too, are surrounded by everything we see on television, and in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet.

The allure of many of these meaningless things becomes too great for many of us to resist.

Unfortunately, in order to obtain many of these things, we wind up compromising our integrity, and we damage our relationship with God because we have chosen the wealth of this world over the joy of knowing God better.

Certainly, many of us have known people in unfortunate relationships nd marriages that are based on the material things that are possessed, rather than on love for each other that flows from a love of the Lord. How sad to think that anyone would prefer the temporary, false pleasure that a new piece of jewelry or a new car can offer over the happiness that fills our heart when we live our lives for God and follow His instructions for serving others and living honest, loving, and compassionate lives.

Each one of us should ask the Lord to, “Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart.” (Psalm 119:34 NASB).

We need to also ask Him to, “Make me walk along the path of Your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” (Psalm 119:35 NLT).

When we realize that our only hope for true happiness begins with putting our trust in God and following His instruction, we will find that He is there for us when the pressures of this world bear down on us.

“Trouble and distress have come upon me, but Your commands are my delight.” (Psalm 119:143 NIV).

The important thing to remember – the only thing to remember – is that true happiness cannot be found in a new watch, a new car, new clothes, or a new television. True happiness can only be found in a relationship with the Lord which will fill our hearts with joy.

Not as flashy as a new car, perhaps, but infinitely more meaningful, longer lasting, and far, far more valuable.

*******

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

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September 24

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to ask, “Can I really refuse or reject Jesus?”

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”  Matthew 25:45 NIV

Wouldn’t it be an incredible honor to have Jesus standing right in front of us?

There is probably nothing that He could ask of us that we would refuse to do. Let’s face it, if the Son of God asked us to get Him a drink of water, or a little something to eat, we would do it instantly, right? We would wait on Him hand and foot. We would probably offer to wash His feet because we read in the Bible that He did it for others to serve them and we would want to serve Him and demonstrate that we learned the lesson He was teaching.

Why, then do we cross the street when we see some poor, unfortunate soul up ahead who appears to be begging for money?

Why do we roll up windows at the stop light when the filthy, crazed-looking person with the “will work for food” sign approaches our car?

Why do we turn the page in the newspaper or magazine when an article featuring starving children stares at us?

Why do we pretend we are not aware that volunteers are needed to help feed, clothe, and house those less fortunate than ourselves?

How can we say ‘no’ to Jesus Christ? How can we refuse Him? How can we reject Him?

“What? Reject or refuse Jesus?”

“I would never do that!” we cry.

Unfortunately, when we turn away from the unpleasantness of the unfortunate, we are definitely rejecting and refusing Christ. Would we slap Christ in the face? We would all certainly like to think that we would not, but rejecting, avoiding, or refusing to help people who are broken is the same as slapping the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who died so we all may live, right across the face.

The message of Christ is clear: We are to love one another, and we are to help one another.

We are to put others before ourselves.

“There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” (John 12:48 NIV).

There is no better day than today to reach out to those who are less fortunate than we are.

We must all pitch in and do something more than just say that we believe. We must show that our heart is behind our words and if our heart is true, then our actions will speak out and we will see the face of Christ in every human being. We will look for opportunities to help the helpless, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to help heal the sick.

These are the things that Christ wants us to do, and we simply cannot refuse to do them.

*****

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

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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, if we allow Him to, God works in us to help us do just that.

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.

*******

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

Author’s Note:

In my roll as manager of Mission Muffins, a workforce development program of Central Union Mission, I always try to impress this message upon the men I am privileged to work with. There is a sign in our little bakery that reads:

‘The question is not, ‘Is it good?’

The challenge is, ‘Can it be better?’

This applies not only to the delicious muffins, scones, and cookies the men of Mission Muffins produce, but to our lives, our behavior, and our relationships as well.

Giving our best to God is one of the things we strive for in our work, and if we are, indeed, doing that, then we will always be looking to God for His guidance in helping us to always exceed expectations in every aspect of our work lives, our home lives, and our spiritual lives.

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September 22

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 absence 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.

*******

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!”

*******

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.

*******

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, for 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 the 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, but 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.

*******

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

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