October 6

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to be last.

“Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.’”  Mark 9:35 NASB

Leadership that is born of arrogance is not leadership at all. Nor is leadership that is accompanied by an attitude of superiority. These attitudes deliver the wrong message and speak more to an individual’s need for power and self-gratification than to a genuine desire to guide people to a better place in life, or to help people attain their goals.

True leadership was demonstrated perfectly by Christ, who constantly exhibited humility and a desire to serve the needs of others. He not only used His example to teach others, He was also very specific about what was required to be a leader.

After making the observation that, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people,” He went on to tell His disciples, “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you must take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” (Luke 22:26 NLT).

A true leader does what is best for all, not what is desired by themselves or what is expedient. One who wants to assume a position of leadership must be prepared to forsake their own needs or desires in order to focus on the needs of those they wish to lead.

When service to others is our motivation, we may discover ourselves attaining a position of leadership that was not sought. It may not even be particularly welcome or wanted, but true service to others sets such a Christ-like example that those who are being served will grow to look up to and, ultimately, follow us as time goes on. We must not shrink or shy away from this. We must ask God to be our guide and continue to serve others with humility and the love that exemplifies those who follow Christ.

For those who seek to be leaders, it is important to remember the teachings of the greatest leader to ever walk the earth. Christ’s method of leadership has to be perfect because He was perfect, so if Christ was compassionate, and if He was just and good, then those should be considered good traits, should they not?

As the King of Creation, Christ could have employed any style of leadership He chose, and He chose to be a humble servant to those He led. We must put ourselves last, but if it is good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for any one of us.

*******

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

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

October 5

TODAY IS…

a superb day to begin at the beginning.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18 NIV

If we are preparing to leave on a journey, we all know that it is impossible to begin that journey at any other place than at the very beginning. After all, if we live in New York and are driving to Los Angeles, we would not even contemplate starting in Oklahoma City.

Obviously that is silly in the extreme.

Paul tries to teach the importance of prayer to all he encountered. In his Letter to the Ephesians, he tried to impress upon them that prayer should be such an important part of their lives that prayer was how they should start anything they were doing.

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayer and requests.”

Many people limit their prayers to “last ditch efforts,” instilling an attitude voiced by David when he wrote, “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; He saved me from all my troubles.” (Psalm 34:6 NLT).

Prayers born of desperation are certainly heard and many of us can attest to the effectiveness of those prayers of desperation. What we need to do though, is examine some of those situations and ask ourselves if the prayers of desperation we had invoked at the end of a situation would have been necessary if we had prayed in the beginning to be sure that what we were embarking upon had God’s blessing beforehand.

After all, the Word tells us, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8 NASB).

In order for that to happen, we need to have the lines of communication open, and we need to consult with God before we do something and be listening for His response. Perhaps we don’t always do this because we know what His answer will be, and we think it will not be the one we want.

If that is the case, then there is all the more reason to pray.

Given the opportunity, God can help us avoid situations where we are forced to cry out to Him in desperation. While He will always hear our cries for help, He would prefer to first hear our voices in prayer asking for His advice and His blessing.

You can get to Los Angeles. But if you live in New York, you really have to start there.

Begin every journey, every task, every undertaking, and – especially – every day with prayer. Today is a superb day to ask God to always help you to begin at the beginning.

*******

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

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

October 4

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to acknowledge the things people do.

“Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them.”  Exodus 39:43 NIV

Most of us know the feeling of gaining the approval of someone for something we have done. Demonstrating our approval by giving credit where credit is due is no less than we would want done for us.

When our children show consideration for someone else, we should make sure and acknowledge it. Giving them credit for doing the right thing makes them feel better about doing it. Soon they begin to experience the feeling even when no one notices what they have done. When we show our approval to our children, it helps them to grow in a positive manner and helps them to acquire traits that will enable them to be better parents later on. Just as important is the fact that it helps teach them how to interact in a more positive manner with other people around them as they grow: fellow students; teachers; fellow employees; employers; members of the church they belong to; and even strangers that they meet.

As Christians, Paul teaches us to serve Christ and live lives of goodness, peace, and joy, “For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:18 NASB).

People working together for Christ need to be acknowledged. When someone does a good job they should get the credit for it, and the approval of others. This recognition goes a long way in helping to keep people enthusiastic about what they are doing.

We probably have all known someone in our lives who takes credit for things that he or she did not do. The Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t do that and demonstrates the negative things that grow out of taking credit as opposed to giving it to the one who deserves it. Letting pride take control of our lives can only create problems for us, as Saul found out. Saul’s son, Jonathan, defeated the Philistines at Geba, but Saul took the credit for it.

“So all Israel heard the news: ‘Saul had attacked the Philistine outpost…’” (1 Samuel 13:4a NIV).

We must also remember to acknowledge God for the things that He does to help us get through each day. Giving credit to Him also helps us to see those around us who are deserving of our approval and our encouragement for the things they do.

Keep your eyes open and always watch for ways in which you can encourage others by acknowledging the things that they do.

*******

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

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

October 3

ODAY IS…

a good day to make promises you can keep.

“And she made a vow saying, ‘O Lord almighty, if You will only look upon Your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’”  1 Samuel 1:11 NIV

Hannah was despondent because she and Elkanah had been unable to produce children. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her mercilessly because she had children and Hannah did not.

When Hannah first took her concern to God, she had the right idea: pray. Ask Him for His blessing; ask Him for His help; ask Him for anything at all. But then she took a step that we should never take. She made a promise that was tied to the fulfillment of her request.

When Samuel was three years old and had been weaned from his mother’s milk she did something that must have been very hard for her to do: she brought Samuel to Shiloh and presented him to Eli to fulfill the promise she had made.

God will not respond to our prayers because of a promise we have made, but He may grant our request in spite of the promise. It then becomes incumbent upon us to keep that promise and sometimes our promises prove very difficult to keep.

Hannah remembered her promise and kept her part of the bargain. “So now I give him to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:28a NIV).

What about the vow that Peter and the rest of the disciples made to Jesus on the way to Gethsemane? Jesus knew what would happen when He was arrested and He tried to tell them, “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.’ And all the other disciples said the same.” (Matthew 26:35 NIV).

We all know that the disciples all scattered in fear when Jesus was given over to His captors by Judas.

A promise, or vow, is an important statement. A promise should never be made without thinking of the price for following through. God doesn’t want us to make promises to Him when we ask something of Him. There is no place in the Bible where it is stated that making a promise is a condition of prayer. When Christ died for us, He made access to God possible for all, so the only thing we need to do is ask.

Most of us would never promise anything close to what Hannah or Peter did, but no matter what our promise is, it should be kept. If we can’t keep our word, we shouldn’t give it to anyone – least of all to God.

We should remember that attaching a promise to a request from God will not determine whether or not that request is fulfilled. If it is God’s will, and the request is made in faith, then it will be granted.

We need to make fewer promises, and make sure we keep them. Promise your children a trip to the ice cream parlor when you get home from work, and then keep that promise.

Keeping your promises to them will please God.

*******

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

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

October 2

TODAY IS…

the day to see the nose on your face.

“If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.”  Proverbs 9:12 NLT

The truth of Proverbs 9:12 should be obvious to us all. Who can argue with the fact that people benefit from wisdom? It would be difficult to argue with the second part as well. After all, it just stands to reason that if we can benefit from wisdom then scorning it will only hurt us.

It is as plain as the nose on your face, right?

It is obvious. It is common sense. But it was Voltaire who pointed out that, “Common sense is not so common.” He made that observation in 1764 and demonstrated that he was wise, indeed.

Wisdom never gets old or goes out of style. It is something that should be sought after and the thought of scorning it should not even enter our minds. The acquiring of wisdom can only improve the quality of our lives, especially when it is the wisdom of God. The fact that there are those who would scorn it, or scoff at it, makes no sense.

Enter Voltaire again.

The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom that should be devoured and absorbed with enthusiasm and avarice. We can close our eyes and let our fingers drop to any point in Proverbs and, when we open our eyes, discover something that is worth understanding and that can enhance our lives, or make us just a little wiser.

Much of what we can discover in Proverbs will strike us as being incredibly simple and easy to understand. No one ever said wisdom was complicated. Much of what we can discover will appear to be very obvious. No one ever said wisdom was hidden away and required special skills or tools to acquire.

Sometimes it is as plain as the nose on your face.

For instance, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23 NIV).

Certainly there is nothing complicated, complex or convoluted about this statement, but we all probably know someone who is all talk and no action. Hopefully that person doesn’t stare at us when we look in a mirror.

Like all things of value, wisdom requires a little bit of work to acquire, but locating a great source to use for discovering it is as easy as picking up our Bible. While Proverbs itself is focused on wisdom, the entire Bible contains wisdom in great abundance. When we pray to God to help us in our search, and pick up the Book containing His Word, we are exercising common sense, doing something that should be obvious.

And it is as plain as the nose on your face.

*******

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

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

October 1

TODAY IS…

a great day to be a squeaky wheel.

“Never stop praying.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

In the 1800’s, a man quite a few of us have never heard of, wrote something that most of us have. Josh Billings, who wrote under the name Henry Wheeler Shaw, penned the familiar words, “The wheel that squeaks the loudest is the one that gets the grease.”

This is, by no means, a suggestion that we all raise the level of our voices when we pray. The Lord has an incredible ability to hear us even when we pray silently, or when we whisper.

It is, however, an admonition to each one of us to make sure that we do pray frequently. Some of us may say, “But everything is OK; I don’t need anything.”

Yes we do.

We need to thank God that everything is OK and let Him know that we appreciate the calm in our lives.

We need to praise Him and tell Him how much we love Him.

We need to confess our sins, letting Him know that we are aware that not a day goes by that we all fall short in some way.

We need to pray for others and let Him know that we are concerned about them.

The list goes on, and on.

Prayer is how we communicate with the Lord, and communication with someone we love should consist of everything that is happening in our lives, good, bad, or seemingly inconsequential.

Paul summed it up perfectly in his Letter to the Philippians. He said, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT).

It is really pretty amazing when we take the time to consider it: at any time, night or day, and in whatever place we may be – at home, at work, at play, even in jail – the Lord will hear us when we speak. It gets even better than that, because not only will He hear us, but He will never tell us that we are silly when we express doubts, concerns and fears. He will never laugh at us if we say something that is incorrect. We will never be ridiculed for confessing something we have done wrong. We will never be looked down upon, frowned upon, or ignored.

No matter how large or how small our request; no matter how sad or distraught we are; no matter how lost we may feel; each and every time that we pray, we have the complete attention of the One who gave us life on earth and the promise of eternal life to come.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, God is available to hear what you have to say. He never takes vacations, never goes out to lunch, never sleeps, and He is never too busy.

So go ahead.

Be the squeaky wheel today, tomorrow, and every day. It’s a safe bet that God will hear you.

Remember Paul’s three simple words. “Never stop praying.”

*******

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

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

September 30

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to give God your very best.

“Now if his offering is a sacrifice of peace offerings, if he is going to offer out of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without defect before the Lord.”  Leviticus 3:1 NASB

Moses tried to teach the people of Israel to offer only their very best to God. Before Christ eliminated the need for animal sacrifices, it was always stressed that each person should sacrifice the best they had to show their love for God.

With the death of Jesus on the cross, it was no longer necessary to offer sacrifices to atone for our sins. The blood of Christ washed them away. His death did not, however, remove what should be our joyful obligation to give our best to God.

Obedience to God is a good way to give Him our best. When speaking to Saul, “Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.’” (1 Samuel 15:22 NASB).

Each day should begin with our giving thanks to God for all that He does for us. When we begin our day offering our best attitude to God, we demonstrate to Him that He is important to us and we also show Him how much we need Him.

Speaking through Hosea, the Lord said, “I want you to show love, not sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 NLT).

God wants each one of us to know Him. He gives us so much that most of us never think to be grateful for. Instead of giving Him cheerful gratitude, we often offer grumbling dissatisfaction with our lives, and instead of being humbly thankful, we are selfishly demanding.

Each one of us was blessed at birth with more than many of us are aware of. When fed a steady diet of the Word of God, we can take full advantage of the beauty that life contains, and can be found even in situations that we may think are less than beautiful.

When we give a smile to someone who needs one; when we help, in some way, to feed those who are hungry; when we offer words of comfort and solace to someone who is sad or has experienced loss – when we do any of these things or any of hundreds of other little things that demonstrate our understanding of God’s hope for His children, we are giving God our best.

The best that we have to offer God is not fancy or expensive.It is simply sincere, and honest. It comes from our heart and then it becomes the best that we give to God.

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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