April 6

TODAY IS…

a good day to think about the spiritual side of retirement.

“They shall bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing.”  Psalm 92:14 NKJV

Doctors say that staying mentally and physically active is good for our health and is particularly important when we reach retirement age.

For too many of us, our work consumes so much of our time and energy that when we retire, we feel useless and unneeded; lost in ourselves; unable to function. For while we may have planned financially for our retirement, many of us have neglected to plan spiritually for our retirement.

This is truly something that must be done because it will give new breath to older lives as our time, wisdom, patience and spiritual maturity all come together to work for good as we work for God. Not only will we be refreshed, recharged, renewed and restored, the positive impact we can have on others our age, our communities, our churches, and on our children and grandchildren will enhance our remaining time on this earth.

A spiritual plan for retirement may not add years to our lives (although it is quite possible that it could), but it will certainly add life to those years.

“When Joshua was an old man, the Lord said to him, ‘You are growing old, and much land remains to be conquered.’” (Joshua 13:1 NLT).

At the time God said this, Joshua was between 85 and 100 years old! God wasn’t done with him and if we make ourselves available to Him, there will be plenty of work for us to do as well. With people being people, sin being sin, and the devil being the devil, we need not worry about whether or not there will be work for us when we retire.

The only question will be, “Have we spiritually prepared to do the work?”

The answer, of course, will be “Yes!” if we start today building ourselves spiritually.

And how do we do that?

It’s quite simple really: Get involved, be involved and stay involved in the spiritual health and growth of yourself, your family, your friends and your church. Start making “deposits” into your spiritual “bank” today and when your time comes to retire, you’ll be able to make “withdrawals” and use them to do God’s work.

Your regular investments will pay off in your ability to make a positive difference in the lives of those around you and your golden years will prove to be rewarding in ways you had never dreamed.

Retirement should only mean that now we are ready to go to work full time – for God.

*******

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

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April 5

TODAY IS…

an outstanding day to open up.

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”  Psalm 25:9 NIV

God wants to use us to teach others how beautiful life can be when we are safely wrapped up in His love. It is impossible to teach what one doesn’t know, so today, let’s all open up our hearts, our minds, our ears, and our eyes and receive all that the Lord is trying to teach us.

Like David, we must each ask God to, “Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths…” (Psalm 25:4 NIV).

If we are open to receiving God’s message, we will find that He delivers it in many different ways. That is why we must open up our entire beings to be ready to receive His message.

The Bible, of course, is one way of receiving His message. No matter how we do it, it is important that we all take time each day to fortify ourselves, to fill ourselves with His love, and to get a glimpse of the beauty and power of the Lord and take advantage of His desire to teach those of us who are willing to learn.

Some of us may have Bibles that are organized into daily readings that enable us to read the Bible in a year. Others like to read a Bible that has been organized chronologically. Still others pray for God to guide their eyes then open up the Bible and read whatever is before them.

The method each individual chooses is a personal decision and preference. The only thing that each of us should open in exactly the same manner is our hearts and our minds to whatever message the Lord has placed before us.

In addition to the Bible, we must also be open to God’s teachings delivered in other ways: through people encountered throughout our day; through Christian radio programming that is available; and in newspapers and magazines that contain stories that reflect the positive side of mankind and the Glory of God.

With everything open, we will find it easy to pick up on all of God’s messages and develop an understanding of how He wants to use us to teach others what we have learned.

So use the gift of this day to open up to what God wants us to learn today.

*******

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

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And On The Third Day

”….He Rose From The Dead”

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” (John 20:11-18 ESV)

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24:1-12 ESV)

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8 ESV)

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’” (Matthew 28:1-10 ESV)

What more can I add to that?

HE IS RISEN! PRAISE GOD!

(Originally posted in 2015)

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April 4

TODAY IS…

a superb day to say, “I Love You”.

“He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.”  Colossians 1:8 NLT

“I Love You.”

Three little words with a true meaning that is so large it cannot be adequately described. They are three of the most overused words in the English language, and yet they are also three of the most under-used words in the English language.

The ability to love is most assuredly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. More valuable than all of the silver and all of the gold that can ever be found on earth. More precious than all of the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds put together.

Love is more durable than the mightiest of oaks that has endured decades of wind and sun and has survived the most brutal of storms. And yet it is fragile, like a delicately blown piece of glass.

Running out the door in the morning, or in hurried telephone conversations, we sincerely, but casually, murmur “Love You!”, turning three powerful words, that should be filled with our most honest and heartfelt emotions, into two words added to the end of a sentence with the banality of “Goodbye” or “See ya.”

Your spouse faces battles with you.

They share not only your bed, but also your pain, worries, sorrow, joy, laughter, and tears. If you have children, you participated in the creation of life with the abilities given as a gift from God. You have seen your spouse at his or her best, and at his or her worst. They may be as comfortable and familiar as a favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans, but if you look close, you will see that bright spot of newness that was there when first you fell in love.

Take that person’s face in your hands, look them in the eyes and tell them how much you love them. Let them see how deep your love is and let them know that you are thankful to God for being able to love them as much as you do.

Take the time, too, to make sure your children understand that while you may not always agree with them, and while you may not always like the choices they make, you do always love them with a fierceness and a protectiveness that comes from God.

Make them understand how important they are.

And for everyone else around you, show them the love that God has placed inside you by the way you walk, talk, and act. Everything you do and say should be telling others that you love them.

There are different ways in which we love everyone around us, but that love – that ability – comes from the same source.

“I Love You.”

Three words God wants us all to use wisely, and to use often.

*******

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

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The Day In-Between

“Sitting In Stunned Silence”

Try to imagine what was taking place in the lives of those who loved Jesus and had witnessed his brutal execution one day earlier.

Much has been written about that day as well as the third day, when Christ rose from the dead, but what was life like for those who were the closest to Christ before His death on the day in-between His brutal murder and His glorious resurrection?

Most of us have dealt with the death of someone we love; deaths which come about simply as a result of old age, as well as those that are sudden and unexpected. Those of us who have experienced the sudden and untimely loss of someone can probably recall how we were stunned into silence borne of disbelief.

I remember when my best friend, Tommy Meister, was killed driving home after an evening of partying at my house. Awakened by a phone call at around 3 AM by another friend who informed me of the news, I was stunned into silence for several minutes before I broke into uncontrollable sobbing. For days and days – perhaps even weeks – following his death, there would be periods of sobbing, but there were many more times where all I could do was sit in that stunned silence of disbelief.

How could God allow this to happen? Tommy Meister was a very good person. He was only 17 and had his entire life before him. He was kind, compassionate. gentle and soft-spoken. He was capable of making those who were not generally accepted or well-liked by others (yours truly, for example) feel special.

Tommy was a young man people gravitated to, much like Jesus. In fact, Tommy, with the long hair and beard popular in the 70’s, even looked like the illustrations of Jesus Christ we have all seen.

So what about the thousands and thousands of people who had the unimaginable privilege of seeing Jesus and hearing him speak? What could have gone through their minds upon witnessing or hearing of his death?

And what about those who were closest to him? How did they deal with the aftermath of His execution in-between the time of His death and His resurrection? Certainly there were the sounds of weeping and the wails of grief, but there also must have been blank stares of disbelief and stunned silence at what had transpired the day before.

Did they blame God?

I watched Mel Gibson’s “The Passion Of The Christ” again yesterday, as I wrote I was going to. I must be honest and tell you, I was rather taken aback by how intense my reaction was as I used the vividness of Gibson’s film to help my mind connect with what actually happened that day. I was alone in my room and sobbed uncontrollably at several points as I thought about the pain and suffering He endured on our behalf.

And I paused the DVD several times and sat in stunned silence, contemplating the truth of His crucifixion.

The women who portrayed His Mother and Mary Magdalene appeared stunned and disbelieving throughout the film. How horrible it must have been for the real women who loved Him to witness His brutal murder.

How empty the day after must have been for them as they tried to accept the fact He was gone.

Think about the other things that occurred the day before which must have contributed to their collective disbelief: Judas’ betrayal and consumption by guilt leading to his suicide; Peter’s denying His Lord three times out of fear for his own personal safety; the abandonment by the rest of His apostles and others who had followed Him; the realization that He had foretold of the events they had just witnessed and what must have been the certain knowledge of their personal failures of faith.

Each person, stunned into silence by the murder of the Son of God.

Before we move forward into the glory of the Third Day and that perfect ending to a shockingly painful story, perhaps we could all use the day in-between to spend a few moments in our own stunned silence and give thanks to the One who took on an unbelievably heavy burden so that the opportunity to be free of our burdens is there for the asking.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of this “Day In-Between”.

Amen.

(Originally posted in 2015)

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April 3

TODAY IS…

a perfect day to take no chances.

“She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. ‘Lord, see my misery,’ she cries. ‘The enemy has triumphed.’”  Lamentations 1:9 NLT

Jeremiah was writing about Jerusalem’s refusal to listen and ‘her’ insistence on giving in to immorality and sin. The warnings were all given, repeatedly, but they were ignored. The temptation of sin proved too great and all of those who chose to ignore God’s warnings paid the price.

It is important that each one of us heed God’s warnings and turn our backs on immorality and sinful pleasures. Perhaps we have crossed the line once; twice; three times or more, and gotten away with it. No one said the price that we would pay for our behavior would be paid immediately.

But it will be paid.

Sometimes the freedom to do whatever we want becomes the desire to do everything, regardless of the consequences. In succumbing to those desires, we allow ourselves to become slaves to sin, and when we become salves to sin, we can no longer be servants to the Lord. When our focus is taken off of God, and placed on things we know are in direct conflict with what we have been taught, then we stop living in Christ.

“No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6 NIV).

None of us wants to pay the price for the pleasures of sin that Jerusalem paid. God has proven His patience time and time again, but it is not wise for any of us to continue to test it. The Lord has His limits and we do not want to push beyond them until we are “in the gutter” with no one to lift us out.

Take no chances. Minimize your risks. Follow the Word of God diligently and faithfully. If you stumble, God will surely help you to regain your footing.

But let there be no mistake.

If you decide to ignore the Word of God and pursue immorality and sin, there will be a price to pay. It is best to not chance finding out what it is.

*******

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

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A Very Good Friday

“Defeating Death”

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. (John 19:15-17 ESV)

Jesus had been silent throughout most of the proceedings and as they led Him away, He continued His silent acceptance of what was about to happen. Even though He knew He would shortly suffer a horrible death, He also knew that His blood had to be shed to wash away the sins of the world.

In the spring of 2005, my sister Kathy, and her husband, Larry, arranged a vacation at a beach house in Myrtle Beach, SC. At the time, I was living in Hollywood, FL taking care of our mother and our step-father, who had suffered a stroke several months before. I drove them to Myrtle Beach, where we were all joined by several other family members for a relaxing week at the beach.

Everyone else went off on an excursion one day, and I remained behind, claiming I just wanted to relax. The truth is, I wanted to snort some cocaine, smoke some pot, and drink a few beers. You know….’relax’.

I did all of those things, but I also did something else. I watched Mel Gibson’s “The Passion Of The Christ”, which someone had left lying next to the TV. I was still very, very far from considering myself a Christian at that point, but I was curious as I had heard so much of the controversy surrounding the film. Admittedly, I was mesmerized by it even though I was still fully engaged in my private, undeclared ‘war’ with God.

Gibson’s interpretation simply has to be as correct as the human imagination can possibly make it. When I watched it back then, I watched it without devoting any thought to the real events of that day. I will be watching it again today, but from a different perspective: I will be watching it as one who has experienced the saving power of the blood shed by the One who really died that day.

This time there will be tears of gratitude in my eyes for the pain He endured on my behalf. I will also be watching it with sadness at the pain He experienced, but at the same time, I will be watching with joy for the reason He experienced it. I was the reason. You were the reason.

All of us. He died for all of us.

But do “all of us” know what that means?

For me, the shedding of His blood washed away the blood that covered my body in August of 2009 as I lay dying on a shower floor. The blood He shed as His life left His body enabled me to ask God for forgiveness and receive new life for myself.

Jesus defeated death for all of us by dying on the cross. Whereas my death that morning in south Florida would have affected only those who knew me, the death of Jesus Christ that day affected, indeed changed, the entire world.

I pray we all think about that today.

the-passion-of-the-christ-05

And thank Him.

“5 Minutes and 16 Seconds”

If you are a Christian,

The video below contains the most difficult 5 minutes and 16 seconds of film you will ever watch. The accompanying song, “Carry My Cross” is performed by Third Day and somehow helps to transform the tears generated by the graphic imagery of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” from tears of pain and grief at the way our Lord and Savior was savagely beaten to tears of joy and triumph at the end when His words in John 10:17-18 are displayed and we are reminded that He died willinglyobediently, and for each and every one of us because He loves us.

(Originally posted in 2015)

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April 2

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to comfort and encourage others.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  1 Thessalonians 4:18 NASB

One of the Apostle Paul’s first letters was written to the church he had established at Thessalonica around A.D. 5.

Christianity was young and for many there was a high price to pay (just as in parts of the world today) for being a follower of Christ. Paul’s letter was meant to reassure them, for there was confusion among them as to when Christ would return. Many thought that His return would be sooner, rather than later, and Paul sought to reassure them that while there was no way to know when, it would indeed happen, just as the Lord had said.

In his letter he sought to comfort and encourage them and he stressed the importance of each one of them being there to comfort and encourage each other.

In today’s world, more than ever before, it is important that we all heed Paul’s words and offer comfort and encouragement to those around us. Today, and every day, we should offer ourselves as living examples of the strength, the joy and the peace that comes with the knowledge that Christ will return as promised. In the meantime, we must follow the example of Jesus and the words of Paul and reach out through our actions and our own words and offer comfort and encouragement to others.

Many new believers (and perhaps some who are not-so-new) have a very tentative grip on their faith.

Absorbing the beauty of God’s teachings can be overwhelming and those individuals may need the support of one who has had time to fully appreciate all that God expects of us and all that He has promised us.

In a letter to the church at Corinth a few years later, Paul stressed the importance of teaching others, and of reaching out to them.

“But everyone who prophecies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV).

Some of us may think that we are not up to the task of teaching, but one doesn’t have to stand up in front of a group in a classroom to teach the lessons of Christ. All one needs to do is reach out to others in love and friendship and offer support, comfort and encouragement.

When we do this, we will not only be helping other human beings, we will be helping ourselves to fulfill God’s wishes.

*******

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

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April 1

TODAY IS…

a good day to not be fooled.

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  1 Timothy 6:10 NASB

Do not allow yourself to use material success as a sign of God’s approval. Many people equate one with the other when they actually have very little to do with one another.

Some individuals of extremely modest means live lives that are devoted to following God’s instructions, living in a manner that pleases Him, and work tirelessly to help others live and grow with the Spirit of the Lord inside them.

These individuals definitely have God’s approval.

Conversely, there are many individuals who have experienced tremendous material success who do not have God’s approval.

In order to not be fooled or influenced by anything other than the truth, we must always look to the individual and not the material for signs of that approval.

Happiness is not the only thing that money cannot buy. It cannot buy God’s grace, peace, love forgiveness, joy, or a place with God in Heaven. The only currency accepted by God is the currency of faith. The only payment that will cancel our debt to the Lord is belief. The only check that can be written to satisfy our obligation to Jesus Christ cannot be written against funds we have in the bank. It must be written against the love we have in our hearts for the Lord, and for our fellow man.

Many of us experience frustration from time to time due to the success of others and mistakenly attribute that success to God showing more love to them than to us.

Do not be fooled; do not be tempted; do not be swayed.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to escape the emphasis that is placed on having more, buying more, living grander, and chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But don’t be fooled. The real treasure is in the rainbow itself, which is a gift from God.

Live a life that is true to the teachings of the Lord; give of yourself to others; be thankful to God each day for the very air you breathe; smile for the benefit of others, and you will find out one day that those who have lusted after money and compromised their very souls have been the ones who have been fooled.

*******

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

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March 31

TODAY IS…

the day to believe what you are hearing.

“Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.”  Jeremiah 32:8c NASB

Trust does not come easily for many of us.

Given our suspicious human nature, how can we be sure that what we are hearing is really coming from the Lord? Will any of us encounter a voice in a burning bush? It would be foolish to say that would never happen, but there just aren’t that many recorded instances of it occurring.

It is also not likely that we will get a letter, an email, or a phone call from Him either.

Asking God to fill us with the Holy Spirit enables us to “hear” what He has to say to us. When we are full of God’s spirit, it is the same as having all of those direct lines of communication open and operating. Some may think that this is silly, but those who “hear” God talking to them regularly know that it is anything but silly.

Since direction that comes from God is given through the Holy Spirit, it is important that we allow ourselves periods of peace, calm, and tranquility so we will be able to receive our direction clearly. Let there be no mistake; God has promised us that He will guide us. He has promised us that He will help us.

We should follow the example of Abraham who “…was fully convinced that God is able to do anything that He promises.” (Romans 4:21 NLT).

Not only do we have to be willing to believe what we are hearing, we must be ready to believe. For God will answer when the time is right.

“But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.” (Galatians 4:4 NLT).

We must trust, we must listen, and we must be ready.

When we have properly prepared our hearts and our minds, and when the right question has been asked and God feels we are ready for His response, we will truly “hear” His answer.

It is up to us to believe what we are hearing.

*******

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

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