August 2

TODAY IS…

a good day for the best form of flattery.

“For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you.”  2 Thessalonians 3:7 NIV

Most of us are familiar with the expression, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Of course, we always want to be sure the behavior being imitated is good behavior. This means, if we are following the behavior of someone else, their behavior should be such that it would meet with God’s approval. The same thing goes for our behavior. We want to make sure the examples we set are good ones.

In 2 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul was writing to the members of the church of Thessalonica. He wrote on behalf of Timothy, Silas, and himself to remind them of the examples of service the three of them had set while in Thessalonica. He praised those who had learned the lessons they were trying to teach and encouraged them to continue to work tirelessly doing things God would find pleasing and would strengthen the church and their faith. Those who exhibited laziness or unwillingness, he tried to motivate and he reminded them of the examples they had been given.

Leisure time is not something God frowns upon, but laziness is. So many of us feel once we have finished work for the day, the time left is ours. The truth is we need to give some time in service to God by working to help those around us and setting a good example for them to follow.

“But I work hard all day!” we claim.

Perhaps we should remind ourselves that people all over the world spend their entire day just trying to get enough to eat and drink and stay safe from harm. For many people the term “leisure time” does not exist.

Many of us have a hard time pulling ourselves away from our television sets and our computers and other gadgets with all of our connections to other people through “social media.” Hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry and we sit and fixate on the petty goings on in other peoples’ lives, most of whom we don’t know and will never meet. Somehow, what they have to say in 150 characters or less is more important than living lives of service trying to help other people just trying to live another day.

Somehow, adding our name to their list of followers is more important than following the examples of Jesus Christ.

It is the responsibility of the people who develop these “social media” outlets, video games, and television shows to take your attention away from things you could be doing to alleviate another human being’s pain and suffering. They have a responsibility to their shareholders to sell you shallowness, self-centeredness and self-indulgence.

We have a responsibility as Christians, to imitate the behavior of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, and work to make God’s world a better place for all to live in.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

August 1

TODAY IS…

the day to stop making excuses and recognize the power of sin.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  Romans 7:15 NIV

For many of us, the ability to make excuses is far greater than we should be comfortable with.

How often have we cried out, or thought, the same thing that Paul wrote in his letter of introduction to the Romans? Yet, even knowing that we are weak and the power of sin and the pull of temptation are strong, we will often try to make excuses for our behavior.

We can almost see Satan’s footsteps as he leads us into temptation, helps us to succumb to the power of sin, and then tries to cover up his tracks as he slips away by helping us to make excuses.

Paul’s cry is not an isolated one.

It is the cry of Christians everywhere, and it is important we all understand that it takes strength to admit we are weak, and the strength to do that comes from our relationship with God.

Each one of us conducts daily battles with temptation.

Some of them are small and don’t present us with much difficulty. Others can be enormous and cannot be faced alone. Human willpower is not enough for prolonged exposure to temptation. The power of sin is quite simply more than we can face alone. That is why God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to call upon to help us resist. The power of the Holy Spirit takes our desire to do the right thing and turns it into the power to actually do it.

Even though Jesus died on the cross to free us from sin, we are still subject to temptation, just as He was.

“Then Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1 NASB).

Time after time, Satan tempted Jesus, and each time, Jesus used His relationship with God to resist.

“Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.” (Matthew 4:11 NASB).

It is important to remember that even though Jesus is the Son of God, He was also flesh and blood like us. At the time that He faced Satan, He was tired, hungry, and alone. These are situations in which we are all weak and susceptible, and we can always count on Satan to try to capitalize on our weakness.

It is not enough to simply say, “We must be strong.”

We must look to God for help to be strong and we must rely on the Holy Spirit to remind us from within that it is not sin that makes us happy. It is the goodness that we get from God that does that. We can make excuses if we want to, but it is better to recognize the power of sin and call upon God to help us resist the temptation that leads us there, and today is the day to do just that.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 31

Today is…

a great day for asking God to help us tie our shoes.

“Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  Philippians 3:12 NIV

We have all watched children struggle as they learn a new thing: their first steps; tying a shoe; buttoning a shirt, and so on. We have observed their frustration, and even felt the pain of their tears as they experience repeated failure. We have all encouraged them, wiped away their tears, maybe even helped them a little bit perhaps, but we have always stressed the importance of “pressing on.”

Even after an initial success, sometimes they miss a step, miss a button, or forget how to make that last loop in a shoe string. And again and again, as often as it takes, we encourage them to “press on” to reach their goal.

We know they can do it, but without encouragement -and a little help – they might be inclined to give up.

And so it is with us and our goal to know Christ and to do all we can to be like Him. Our steps are tentative, we sometimes forget the next step in tying the shoe string, and we sometimes miss a button. We can become as easily frustrated as a child as we attempt to grow in our faith. We can fail as often as we succeed until we have fully matured in our faith. And even then we will require a little encouragement, and a little help. We must remind ourselves daily that God is there to give us a hand, or to offer encouragement, but we must avoid frustration and learn to reach out for His hand, and to listen for His voice.

As humans, we all make mistakes, and one of the biggest mistakes we make is in telling ourselves; “I can’t do this.” We forget the lessons we learned as children and the lessons we have taught our own children. As Christians, we can look to those who cleared the way and we can find encouragement in the words they wrote and the words they spoke. We cannot dwell on past failures and mistakes. Paul offered his own view when he wrote to the Christians at Philippi.

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13 NLT).

God is patient with us.

“For He knows how weak we are; He remembers that we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14 NIV).

God knows our hearts, so even if we fall down again and again, if our hearts speak the truth, we can reach out to Him time and time again.

“I will obey Your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!” (Psalm 119:8 NLT).

Fortunately for us, while we may sometimes be discouraged and feel like giving up on ourselves, God never will. Keep looking to Him for help and one day you will learn how to tie those shoes.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 30

Today is…

a wonderful day to not get tired of US.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9 NIV

Serving others rewards us in ways that are sometimes beyond our ability to comprehend, but one thing is certain: God looks for us to help each other and to use our time – and talents –  on earth in service to one another. For many, the concept of service to others takes on intimidating proportions. Sometimes people see service to others as something complex, or complicated and, indeed, some service most certainly is that. An example  would be organizing a mission to a third world country to build a school or a church. That certainly is a complicated endeavor and while that type of service is very much needed and appreciated, let’s face it, the average individual does not have the time to dedicate to something like that.

But there is always time for “US”, which stands for “Uncomplicated Service.” Virtually every man, woman and child has the ability to learn about and perform “Uncomplicated Service.” Never heard of “US?” Sure you have, although maybe you just weren’t aware of it.

Have you ever helped an elderly person carry groceries to their car? Have you ever dropped off a bag of canned goods at the local food bank? Have you ever bundled up old clothes to be picked up by a local charity? These simple things are all examples of just how uncomplicated service to others can be. Remember the story of the little girl throwing the starfish back into the sea to save them? Trying to do it alone made her task complicated (although she was undaunted and did her best). But what if 100 people stopped by and picked up one or two and threw them back?

See where this is going?

If we set small “goals of goodness” for ourselves and others to do something simple, uncomplicated and possibly even convenient, we will find that we are always doing little things for others and never tiring because the task is too big or cumbersome.

“Uncomplicated Service” keeps us motivated and energized.

While it may be true that we are not saving the entire world, it is also true that we are making one little part of it better with each act of kindness or generosity we perform. Then others will do the same, and as they do still more will follow. The more “US” there is, the better off the world is.

Start out by making a list for “US” that is just for you. It won’t take long to realize what an impact you can have on those around you and you will be amazed at the impact that has on you.

Spend a little time each day thinking about “US”. You will never get tired of it and it will make quite a difference in you.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 29

Today is…

an awesome day to say “I love You, Lord!”

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.”  Psalm 18:1 NASB

And then there were the times when David got it perfect from the beginning.

The entirety of Psalm 18 is a beautiful display of David’s gratitude to God for victory over his enemies. We can all learn an important lesson in how our relationship with God should be from that beautiful opening in Psalm 18.

“I love You, Lord; You are my strength.” (Psalm 18:1 NLT).

Perhaps each of us should remember that line and use it every time we speak to the Lord. Some of us may already do that, but it is likely that many of us fall short when it comes to actually telling God that we love Him. Some would even have to admit to feeling a little awkward verbalizing our love for God. We all know that many among us have difficulty expressing feelings to spouses and children, so how can we expect those individuals to say out loud, “I love You, God.”?

If this presents a problem, then this is something that God can help to overcome.

While it may seem unusual to use prayer to ask God to help us learn to tell Him that we love Him, if this is a problem for us then it is exactly the sort of thing that prayer is to be used for. God knows that by helping us express our love to Him, He can help us unlock the ability within that will help us express our feelings and show our love to others. The fact that He can help us learn to express our love should come as no surprise.

After all, He can help us face our enemies, even when the ‘enemy’ is the fear that resides within us.

If this is the perfect way to begin a conversation with God, why didn’t David use it all the time? There is no way to understand it other than to point to the fact that David was, after all, just like us: Human. Unlike God, who is always consistent, human beings often have difficulty. We are tossed about by our daily lives. We are also prone to cry out in despair or distress without stopping to consider how we really want to address Him.

The only thing we can do is practice. All we can do is try to remember that every time we speak to God, try to begin – and end – with four words. “I love You, Lord.”

Even with practice, we can never come close to being perfect, but expressing our love for God on a daily basis could have a profound impact on our daily lives.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 28

Today is…

an excellent day to ask, “Is this me?”

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?”  Psalm 13:1 NIV

The list of memorable individuals who are mentioned in the Bible is quite long.

Through its many insightful pages we encounter hundreds of individuals, dozens of them whom we come to know rather intimately. The times in which they lived are different; the experiences they had are different; the lessons we learn from each are different; and yet each one of them had one thing in common: with the exception of Jesus Christ, not one person we meet in the Bible is perfect.

Each one has his or her flaws, as do each one of us.

One of the greatest figures in the Old Testament is King David. There are many lessons to be learned from King David’s life. Many of them are positive, but there are lessons to be learned from the less-than-perfect side of King David as well.

As we know, King David is responsible for the writing of many Psalms; almost half of the 150 found in the book of Psalms, in fact. Often, David would begin a Psalm by saying that God was not there when he needed him or that He took too long to react or respond to David’s plea for help. In each case, David first resorts to doubts and fears but ultimately ends by asserting that God always helps and is always there.

From this, we must learn not to be like David when we are first confronted with problems in our lives.

Do we initially think that God is not aware of our situation? Do we jump to the same conclusions David often did initially, that the Lord is not concerned about what happens to us?

What is our answer if we ask ourselves the questions, “Is this me? Do I do what King David did?”

We should endeavor to always trust that the Lord is aware of our situation. We will not always understand why certain things happen, but we must always take care to pray to God for His help in understanding and coping with whatever we are confronted with.

Faith in God is not a faucet to be turned on and off at will. Faith should flow in a constant stream from us. Paul reassured the Corinthians that we are never alone.

“We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get mowed down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9 NLT).

Work daily to strengthen your faith so that if you ask, “Is this me?” the answer is “No! I know that God is always with me!”

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 27

Today is…

a fine day to choose.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today who you will serve…”  Joshua 24:15a NASB

When Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem, he did it to remind them to always make a conscious choice to follow God. He made sure they understood that his personal belief was to follow God and encouraged them not to be misled by man-made idols. He stressed the importance of believing in the One who had always been there for all of them from the time He first told Joshua, “Moses My servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them.” (Joshua 1:2 NLT).

Joshua had proved himself to be a very capable leader and a superb military tactician. He also followed the Law of Moses and worshiped only God and delivered the Israelites into the Promised Land. And now that he was nearing death, he found it necessary to remind people of the reasons they should worship only God.

Many times in our lives we ask God for His blessing on plans that we have made or hopes that we have. God hears us and helps things work out the way we wanted, but somehow we often fail to give Him credit and forget that He makes everything possible. We begin to take the credit ourselves. We get caught up in our own success and soon we are not worshiping God anymore.

Instead we pay homage to what we have and focus only on what we need to do to keep it, and to obtain even more.

Joshua made it clear to the Israelites what his position was and what the position of his family was.

“…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15c NASB).

He made it known publicly that all he had and all he was had nothing to do with himself or man-made idols and everything to do with the Lord he had trusted from the moment he took the reins of leadership from Moses.

No one can force us to do anything we don’t want to do, or to believe anything we don’t want to believe. But if we pay attention to what great leaders like Joshua tried to teach those who followed them, we may learn a very important lesson.

Joshua challenged the Israelites to make a choice.

After listening to all he had to say, “The people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice.’” (Joshua 24:24 NASB).

The choice is yours, of course, and it’s a fine day to make the right one.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 26

Today is…

the perfect day to think about where our seed landed.

“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.”  Matthew 13:18 KJV

The story of the farmer sowing his seed is a wonderful example of the different ways in which people receive God’s message.

Some people simply pay no attention at all. They do not understand. Perhaps they have been raised in an atmosphere of non-belief or have somehow lost what belief they had because of tragedy in their lives that they blame on God. This may cause them to stop listening to God’s message altogether or disregard it. The world is full of people whose seeds have “fallen on the footpath.” We certainly do not want this to be us, but if it is, there is hope. One of the beautiful things about God is there is always hope. If this does not describe us, perhaps we know someone who is in this group.

Those of us who are not in this group have an obligation to pray for those who are.

Some of the seed that farmers scattered about fell in rocky soil. This seed represents those who hear the message and are immediately filled with joy, but that joy is not sustained for their roots are not deep. At the first sign of trouble or when problems arise, they feel abandoned so they abandon their faith. If this is us, we need to pray and remind ourselves that God never abandons us. He may not guarantee us life on earth with no trials to endure, but He does guarantee that He will stand with us to face them all.

If this is not us, we need to pray for all who are so affected.

If our seed fell among the thorns, it will bear no fruit, for we are too busy worrying about things that may never happen. We should be busy celebrating God’s glory and learning how to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God. Hopefully, this group won’t find us among its members, but if it does, we need to pray for God’s help in getting away and moving on to fertile soil.

And if we are not in this group, we need to pray for all of those who are.

The fourth group that Jesus taught about in the parable is the farmer planting his seeds right where we want to be, for Jesus said, “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23 NIV).

To hear God’s message is one thing, to understand is another. To plant the seeds of our faith in good, fertile soil so that our faith grows strong and abundant is extremely important.

Where did your seeds of faith land?

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 25

Today is…

the ideal day to learn when to walk away and when to run.

“No temptation has over taken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13 NASB

A once-popular song contains the phrase, “Know when to walk away, know when to run.”

While the use of the phrase in the song wasn’t speaking to the issue of temptation, this is actually excellent advice for each one of us and it is very important we understand its meaning.

Every person faces temptation. The type and severity may differ, but we all are confronted with it, and there is no sin in the temptation itself. How we deal with it differs from person to person, but we must each determine for ourselves how best to do that. Some temptations may be “little” ones that we are strong enough to simply walk away from. Others may present a greater challenge and we may find it necessary to run away.

As Paul tried to teach the members of the Church in Corinth, “God…will provide the way of escape….” He will be there to provide us with the strength that we need and the speed that we need to quickly and safely remove ourselves from the reach of temptation’s grasp.

But we need to learn to turn to God first when we are tempted.

Evil is very seductive. Evil comes to us wrapped in attractive packages. Evil presents itself as harmless. Evil has one objective and one objective only, and that is to get each of us to succumb to its temptation and compromise our honor, our integrity, our character, and our relationships with our spouses, families, friends and – of the utmost importance – God.

When Jesus’ brother, James, wrote to Jewish Christians who lived outside of Palestine, he was very clear in stating the potential for disaster when we don’t walk, or run, away from temptation.

“But each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NIV).

When we walk – or run – away from temptation and ultimately, sin, we actually turn towards God. The more we focus on God; the more we ask for His strength; the more we proclaim our faith and love of the Lord and all He stands for, the less we will be threatened by the seductive nature of evil and the temptations that exist all around us.

The more we learn about the power of God, the easier it is to recognize those times when we can feel safe simply walking away, or when we had better run.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

July 24

Today is…

a superb day to get help for our belief.

“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’”  Mark 9:24 NIV

When Christ first began His mission on earth, He certainly had His work cut out for Him. After all, people were expecting a king, and He gave them a carpenter.

“Unbelief” was the belief of the day.

“Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And His sisters live right here among us.’ They were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him.” (Mark 6:3 NLT).

Christ found it necessary to include miracles along with His teaching to demonstrate that He was, indeed, who He said He was. Of course, the very nature of Christ was miraculous and He did not have to conjure up magic potions or say magic words to heal the sick and the lame or to cast out evil spirits. The faith of people – their belief – grew steadily as He walked the countryside and talked to the people He encountered.

He helped people to overcome their ‘unbelief.’ He helped people to believe in Him.

The problem for many people today is that their expectations are not realistic. Christ does not walk the earth today. He is present and He is among us in Spirit, of course, but He does not physically walk the earth healing people and casting out demons.

But do not for one moment think that He can no longer help us overcome any “unbelief,” or doubt, that we may have.

When Christ lived among us, His actions and His words eventually formed the basis for the entire New Testament of the Bible. It is rich in eyewitness accounts of the miracles and the work done by Christ as He brought His message to as many people as He could. The advantage that we have over all the people of His day is enormous. While we cannot physically share in the incredible privilege of walking next to Christ and watching Him teach and heal the sick and lame, we can relive those moments time and time again by picking up the Bible and traveling the countryside with Christ.

When our belief needs a boost, we can obtain it through the wonderful God-breathed words found in the recounting of Christ’s life, and in the retelling of the circumstances of His death and His resurrection.

What an honor it would have been to be in His presence and witness firsthand the tremendous impact that He had on people. But through our faith we are saved and have gained the right to sit with Him one day, and by turning to the stories of His life, His death, and His resurrection to help reinforce our belief in the power and the glory of Christ our Lord, we will remain strong and true in that faith.

The help we need each day lies within the pages of the book that tells His story. Open it today and get a boost for your belief.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment