September 10

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to thank God for your tears.

“Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.”  Lamentations 2:19a NIV

One of the greatest gifts that God has given us is the gift of our tears.

Many will wonder how tears can be a gift, but how else can we present ourselves to God and ask for forgiveness if we are not weeping as we do so? While it is the blood of Christ that washes away our sins, crying has a way of helping us to wash away the pain of our sins.

But our tears serve many more purposes than that and have much greater significance in our lives.

For many people tears flow freely during times of joy.

Men and women alike will get all misty-eyed at the birth of a child. While it is true that sad movies make people cry, the same holds true for some that end joyously. Tears through our joy produce rainbows in our hearts in much the same way as sun through the rain produces rainbows in the sky.

Weddings produce tears from many different people: fathers, mothers, maids of honor, guests, and the brides themselves – perhaps even the grooms.

Graduations, recitals, concerts, plays, sports competitions and on and on. Milestones in our lives and the lives of those we love all produce tears that signify happiness or extreme joy.

And, of course, tears also signify our pain.

Tears at the loss of a loved one wash the grief from our hearts. Men and women alike signify their sorrow by shedding tears. We console each other, and we weep together.

Tears reveal our humanity.

How unfortunate are those individuals who are raised to believe that tears, especially tears from men, are a sign of weakness. How sad that people go through life without rainbows in their hearts; without washing away sin or pain; or without being able to express that depth of joy that only tears can reveal.

Sadly, many young men are raised to believe that “real” men don’t cry.

Jesus Christ was the greatest man to ever walk this earth, and not least among all of the gifts His Father gave Him was the gift of tears. When told that Lazarus had died and had been placed in a tomb, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NASB).

There are gifts to thank God for each and every day of our lives.

Today is an excellent day to thank God for the gift of our tears.

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

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September 9

TODAY IS…

a superb day to pray, “Lord, take from me my anger.”

“…for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  James 1:20 NASB

It is difficult for any Christian to not feel anger when confronted with sin and injustice in the world.

How can we not feel anger when we read about the estimated 50,000 Cambodian children sold into sexual slavery each year?

How can we not feel anger when we read about 48,000 women a year being raped in the Congo?

How can we not feel anger when we read about the millions of children who go to bed hungry throughout the world, including in the United States?

How can we not get angry when we see so much time, effort, and money being spent producing and watching some of the filth that bombards us daily on our televisions?

But James was not speaking of this type of anger. That type of anger should ignite righteous indignation which should also spark us to action to contribute somehow to correcting those things we see that are wrong and are contrary to the teachings of Christ.

The type of anger James was referring to was selfish anger. Selfish anger is ‘all about me‘ anger:

My feelings got hurt!”

“No one listens to me!”

I am jealous!”

I don’t like what that person said!”

“You didn’t cook my dinner the way I wanted!”

That type of anger ignites selfish indignation and almost always results in someone being hurt in a physical, emotional, or spiritual way.

People have pointed to Jesus Himself and said, “But Jesus got angry!”

Using Christ to excuse our own inability to control our temperament is almost as childish as not being able to control our temperament in the first place.

Jesus never got angry because someone hurt His feelings. He never got angry because His meal was cooked wrong. He never got angry because He was jealous.

Jesus got angry because of the sin He felt in peoples’ hearts, saw in their actions, and heard in their words. Jesus got angry because He saw people being mistreated, abused, or taken advantage of. It is important to note that He used His anger to teach.

His anger produced indignation that moved Him to take corrective steps.

So let us all become moved to take action when our anger is over things we see that are sinful or harmful to others.

But when it comes to selfish, self-centered anger, let us pray, “Lord, take from me my anger.”

Amen.

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

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September 8

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to hold on for the last half hour.

“So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.’”  Numbers 14:4 NASB

Someone said, “The greatest challenge in receiving great things from God is holding on for the last half hour.”

Many of us often make this statement very true. Let’s look at the Israelites, for example. They followed God’s direction and endured several years of hardship to arrive at Kadesh, at the very edge of the land promised by God.

Twelve men were sent to look around and report back. They were gone for 40 days and when they returned, only Joshua and Caleb were in favor of proceeding to conquer the land God had promised.

Caleb spoke confidently of entering Canaan, “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’” (Numbers 13:31 NASB).

God had promised them that the land would be theirs, but insecurity, fear, and doubt overcame them at the last moment. Their faith in God deserted them in “the last half hour.”

God’s patience is greater than that of any human being, but the Israelites were certainly testing it here. They had complained all the way from Egypt. They had expressed their doubt more than once. Even though they were now poised at the edge of the land they had endured much hardship to reach, they were now seriously considering going back the way they came rather than take the final “leap of faith” and enter the land God said He would give them.

How could they doubt Him now?

The same God who parted the Red Sea so they could pass safely and then destroyed Pharaoh’s army had promised victory over their enemies, and they could not hold onto their faith for just a little longer?

Something similar has probably occurred in the life of many of us. We have prayed for something and followed God’s direction, believing that what we have asked for has met with His approval. We have believed that we have God’s assurance that we will reach our goal. We have prayed in faith and we have gotten within sight of achieving what we have worked for.

And at the last moment, the shadow of doubt is cast over us, and we stop moving toward our goal. We somehow convince ourselves it is God telling us that we cannot do what we believed we could do.

But it is not God.

It is fear placed within us by the evil one and we must conquer that fear through prayer and faith and continue boldly forward until we have reached our own promised land.

All we have to do is ask God to help us hold on for “the last half hour”.

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

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September 7

TODAY IS…

an ideal day to be successful.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

Jeremiah served as God’s spokesman to Judah for 40 years. He was poor, was taken into prison, was thrown into a cistern, and was rejected by family and friends alike. Yet he spent his life courageously proclaiming the Word of God even though no one listened. He was largely ignored because the messages he delivered foretold of the bad things that would happen because God was becoming tired of people not doing what He required of them.

In the eyes of the world, Jeremiah was viewed as being a failure. Surely those with greater material wealth had more blessings from God than Jeremiah. Why would anyone follow, or listen to, someone who was poor?

The Bible teaches us that material wealth is not a sign of success in the eyes of God.

Obedience and faithfulness are what make us successful to God, and it is God’s approval only that should matter. On many levels, life today is not all that different than life in Jeremiah’s time. People don’t seem to learn, and don’t seem to listen. The people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been exiled to Babylon for their sins, and the people in the Southern Kingdom of Judah were headed for a similar fate.

But still they refused to open their eyes and see disaster coming, and they refused to open their ears to hear Jeremiah’s warnings.

It is the same today, if not worse. After all, we have the benefit of all of the teachings of the Bible and some of us still insist on measuring success in dollars and cents instead of obedience and faithfulness to God.

Even knowing, as we do, that there are many people with tremendous wealth who are lost and lead sad, miserable lives, we still fall short of understanding. We fail to see that many people with very few material possessions live their lives with joy because of their love of the Lord.

Being obedient and faithful to God makes us successful in His eyes.

Look to the Bible to guide you to success.

“The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey His voice and keep the commands and decrees in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:10 NLT).

There is no greater measure of success than the approval of the Lord.

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

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September 6

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to go where you always feel safe.

“You are my hiding place: You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”  Psalm 32:7 NIV

Many of us know that feeling of total comfort when we go to our mother’s or our grandmother’s house. We just walk through the door no matter how long we have been away or how old we are and are immediately welcome, always loved, and instantly comfortable.

In other words, we are safe. We are wrapped up in an environment of love and it simply makes us feel good.

That is exactly the type of relationship that each one of us should desire, and strive for, with the Lord. It is the type of relationship He wants for us, so the responsibility is ours to do everything necessary, and live our lives in a manner that will bring about the knowledge that being in the presence of the Lord will give us those same feelings of being welcome, instantly comfortable, and always loved.

God wants us to know that our relationship with Him gives us all we need to feel safe.

“I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like grass and disappear?” (Isaiah 51:12 NLT).

Perhaps there are those of us who simply have not yet established a comfortable relationship with God. There could be many reasons, but there is no excuse. All that is required is the acceptance of Christ as our savior and then a desire to learn about God, live in a manner that honors Him, and seek His comfort and the safety He offers.

It is difficult for some who have lived extremely sinful lives and have felt alone, isolated, and lost as a result, to grasp the concept of God’s love. When we have surrounded ourselves with lust, greed, anger, hate, hypocrisy, dishonesty and other sinful acts and activities, it may take some getting used to for some of us to believe that anything so wonderful could be so easy to attain.

Satan knows that if we can be manipulated into living lives of sin, we will soon find it difficult to love even ourselves. Inability to love ourselves will translate to an inability to love others, or to love God. Do not give the evil one the power. Wrap yourself in the loving arms of the Lord. Turn to God when you are afraid, unsure, hurt or lonely.

Turn to God whenever you want to feel like you just arrived at your grandmother’s house. Will there be warm chocolate chip cookies waiting?

Perhaps not, but then…you just never know.

*******

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

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September 5

TODAY IS…

the day to make sure we get nourishment from the vine.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 NASB

Napa Valley, California is one of the best grape growing regions in the world. It is beautiful country with the right climate, the right conditions, and the right people. The wine produced from grapes grown there is among the best that can be found anywhere.

We won’t find vineyards just anywhere in the world, but in those places where grapes do flourish, we find that grapevines are very prolific plants and each vine supports many, many branches, which in turn yield many bunches of grapes.

Successful vineyards do not simply occur.

They require a lot of care and attention. Branches that are dead, which do not produce fruit, need to be cut off to make room for those branches that do produce fruit. Those productive branches must also be pruned to enable them to then produce even more fruit.

Christ compares Himself to the vine.

Each one of us represents a branch that is attached to the vine. Unlike the grapevines, the vine of Christ can – and does – grow everywhere in the world where there are people. Like the branches of the grapevine, we are dependent upon Christ, our vine, for nourishment. God, the master gardener, watches over every branch. Like any good gardener, He wants everything to bear fruit, but He sadly recognizes that sometimes certain branches just seem to resist nourishment and die.

Having received the message about the salvation offered to us by Christ on the cross, we must now do all we can do to continue to draw our nourishment from Him. Jesus tells us, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4 NIV).

We require a constant connection with Christ in order to receive the spiritual nourishment we need that will allow us to bear the fruit that will glorify God.

Remain rooted in the Word of God, continue to grow and flourish as a Christian and help others find out how they, too, can grow with the spiritual nourishment that comes from having a constant connection to the vine that is Jesus Christ.

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

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September 4

TODAY IS…

a fine day to get rid of the old you.

“…throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.”  Ephesians 4:22 NLT

Harsh words, indeed, and there will be many who will insist, “I wasn’t that bad.”

Most of us, though, will acknowledge the truths contained in that little bit of scripture. Most of us know that we did have a sinful nature; that our lives were corrupted by lust and lies. When we lay it all out on the table and look at it one last time before we get rid of it, we can see our behavior for what it was.

Our sinful nature is hidden by darkness, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible…” (Ephesians 5:13a NIV).

Once we have decided to embark on the journey that will change our lives on earth and guarantee us a place in the Kingdom of God, we will begin to see tremendous changes in everything we think, see, hear, and do. While we will always be sinners (there is simply no escaping that), we can leave our sinful nature behind us if we reach out to Christ and ask Him to help us do so.

Accepting Christ as our savior and “getting rid of the old me” does not make us perfect, of course, but it does bring us closer to the perfection of the Lord, and by maintaining that closeness through prayer, meditation, fellowship, and worship, we can continuously reflect that light which we have allowed to shine in our lives.

Even if someone has lived a lifetime with no love for God and has only one day left in life, it is better to “get rid of the old you” and live that one day in the light of the Lord than to never have experienced His love at all.

In other words, no matter how long we have worn the cloak of sin, we can shrug it off and rejoice at how good we look and how good we feel wrapped up in our new cloak of light.

For some of us, taking that step is difficult. After all, that cloak is comfortable – well-worn and broken in. But that is the nature of sin. That is satan doing his job, packaging his product to make it appealing. But do not be fooled. It’s time to change your wardrobe and discover just how wonderful you look in a wardrobe of God’s love.

Get rid of the old you today, and discover the joy that awaits in the new you.

And for those who have already done so, today is a fine day to pray for those who haven’t and thank God for His love for us all.

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

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September 3

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to clean up your temple.

“In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.”  John 2:14 NIV

Jesus was justifiably upset upon entering a place built to worship God and discovering that it had been turned into a marketplace where people gathered to make a profit. The temple was intended to be a place where people could go to feel closer to God and worship Him but it had become difficult for those who wished to use it for its intended purposes to do so.

Humans being human, that was not the only time that Jesus discovered it being used for something other than prayer. He certainly was angrier another time as He knocked over tables “and said unto them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’” (Matthew 21:13 KJV).

There are those who use church as a place to “see and be seen.” For some it is more of a place to make a business contact than it is to make contact with God. The lesson Jesus was trying to teach was that the temple should be kept clear of sin, corruption, and greed and only be used for the spiritual benefit that is derived from fellowship, prayer, and worship.

Our bodies are also temples in the eyes of God.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NASB).

So the lesson we learn from Jesus clearing the temple is one we need to apply to ourselves as well as our church. We all need to ask ourselves, “Is my body a worthy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit?” Are the things we use our bodies for in keeping with what God intended? Do we treat our bodies with respect? Are we clean and groomed, yet not obsessed with our physical appearance? And what about the inside of our temple? Is it a place where we can feel closer to God? Is it a place that is kept clear of sin, corruption and greed? Do we ‘sweep’ it out regularly with prayer and confession? Do we “scrub the walls” of our hearts and our minds with the Word of God?

We are human after all, and as such we are constantly and relentlessly exposed to temptation and opportunities to set up a “flea market of sin” within our very own hearts, minds and bodies. We must all look to clean up and clear out our own temples and continually inspect them to ensure that they remain worthy of the presence of the Holy Spirit sent by God.

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

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September 2

TODAY IS…

a great day to ask God to help set your goals.

“Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15 NIV

Can we really claim to love the Lord and then turn around and completely disregard His instruction?

Perhaps we think this statement does not apply to us, but let us consider it for a moment: When we set goals for our lives, on what are we basing them? We should be looking to God for guidance when we set goals, but many of us don’t do that. We succumb to the pressures and the temptations of society and far too frequently we allow greed and envy to control our objectives. We allow advertisers on television, radio, and in print to convince us that our goal should be to buy this car or that TV or this particular phone.

Our goals slowly become more material based and less spiritual based and as a result our time is committed to the efforts to acquire these material possessions.

Jesus’ brother James warned Jewish Christians living outside of Palestine that they should exercise caution in making plans without including God in the process.

“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15 NIV).

For many of us it is difficult to allow God to be responsible for the direction our lives take. Our confidence is not always what it should be because our ability to see things as God sees, and to understand things as God does, is simply not adequate and our trust is not great enough to take God at His word and accept His promises.

“For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” (Psalm 84:11 NLT).

And what is right is to ask God to light the way for us and to help us determine our goals.

We would all do well to remember that God put us here for His pleasure, for His glory, and to achieve His purpose. Those material things that we focus on, which cause us to lose sight of many of the teachings of Christ, will not necessarily be denied us if we are living our lives and working towards goals that have been blessed by God. He loves us so He will deny us nothing, but it would do us all well to step back and examine our goals and the influence behind them.

It is acceptable to desire to use your talents and abilities to enrich your life materially, as long as you have God’s blessing, and you can receive that quite easily. All that is required is that you ask God to help you set your goals in the first place. When you do that, everybody wins, and the Lord is happy.

And if God is happy with you, how can you be unhappy in life?

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

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September 1

TODAY IS…

a good day to know where to go when you are hurting.

“Never abandon a friend – either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.”  Proverbs 27:10 NLT

We are all aware that a life full of the glory and the grace of knowing God does not mean there will be no times of hardship. It does not mean that we will never know the suffering that accompanies the death of a loved one. It does not mean tragedy will not befall us, nor does our relationship with God mean we will never lose a job or have a car accident.

It is not written anywhere that we are safe from any of these trials, as well as others, and there certainly are no guarantees made to that affect anywhere in the Bible. Quite the contrary, in fact. That subject is addressed throughout the Bible, as in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians when he described what was taking place at the churches in Macedonia.

“They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:2 NLT).

So in spite of all of their troubles, they appeared to be full of joy. How can this be? Because of their relationship with God. They obviously knew to turn to God first in time of trouble, but they seemed to also have learned another valuable lesson: To look towards each other for strength and support.

The Lord is the first person we turn to for anything in our lives. God also wants us to turn to our families for support. Spouses, children, brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, our brothers and sisters often live far away, and our troubles may concern the health – or even the death – of a spouse or child. While our spiritual comfort can certainly be found in the Lord, He wants us to turn to our friends and our neighbors who are close to us and can offer the physical comfort that we all require from time to time.

While God can listen to our hearts, and our distant family can listen to our voices, our next door neighbors and close-by friends can give us a much needed hug, hold our hand, cook us a meal, sit with us for a while, take us to a movie, go for a walk with us, watch our children, or any one of dozens of other things that can mean so much to us in our times of need.

In your time of need, always look to God first. And by all means go ahead, pick up the phone and call a relative far away. Then seek out those friends and neighbors who are close-by and always available to help when you are hurting.

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

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