May 7

TODAY IS…

a good day to teach our children to accept responsibility.

“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger or discipline me in Your wrath.”  Psalm 38:1 NIV

Part of being a good parent is teaching our children that our behavior carries with it consequences.

The consequences of good behavior are recognition and rewards. Conversely, the consequences of bad behavior include discipline. While we never want to discipline our children in anger, we do want to teach them that they must accept responsibility for all of their actions, and that includes those that carry with them the need for some form of discipline or punishment.

IN Psalm 38, David cried out to God in the same way a child cries out to a parent. David knew he had done wrong, he just didn’t want God to discipline him while he was angry, and this is a good lesson for us as we raise our children: do not discipline a child in anger. Discipline should be used as a tool to teach a child, not simply as punishment, and never as a way of venting our anger or demonstrating our dissatisfaction.

Our objective should be to teach our children to accept responsibility for the things they do. If we can get them to do that, we have a better chance of getting them to think before they act. We must instill in them a love of God, and respect for themselves and other people and we must start from an early age making sure they understand their responsibility to God, themselves, us, and people around them.

David knew that he had done wrong and knew that God was angry. Just the anticipation of punishment and his feelings of guilt caused him to be physically ill.

“Because of Your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me – it is a burden too heavy to bear.” (Psalm 38:3-4 NLT).

Through conscious effort and the Bible’s help, we can teach our children to recognize for themselves when they have done wrong, accept responsibility for it, and ask God’s forgiveness.

Teach your children that being responsible means being accountable and being accountable includes being accountable to God.

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

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May 6

TODAY IS…

a great day to think about the problem with prayer.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16b NIV

It is not difficult to imagine many of us reading the title of today’s message with alarm.

Problem with prayer?”

There is no problem with prayer, right? Prayer is a gift from God. It is among the greatest of all gifts because the ability to take our hopes, dreams, requests, and our problems directly to God is a gift that was paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a remarkably exceptional gift it is, too. The results of our communion with God through prayer can be so much greater than anything we could possibly imagine.

So where is the problem?

The problem with prayer is that far too often, and for far too many of us, it is the last thing we do instead of the first. Many of us “resort” to prayer only when all of our woefully inadequate human efforts fail.

It is important to not misunderstand.

God will never turn a deaf ear to one of His children crying out for help. He has brought many of us back from the brink of self-destruction or even death because of our cries of help when everything else has failed.

But He wants us to learn that there is a better way to pray.

How do we pray “better”? Pray first, pray often, and pray with faith.

Pray first.

Give your life over to God and ask for His guidance before creating anything resembling a “last resort.” When we ask God what we should do and how we should do it, and then wait for His instruction – which will come – we will often be amazed at the results.

Pray often.

Prayer is a wonderful way to begin and end each day, but it is also very easy to take mere moments throughout the day to thank Him, to ask for continued help, or just to say hello.

Pray with faith.

When we ask God for help, advice, or guidance we can be assured of His attention to our problem when we pray with faith. Our belief that God hears us must be beyond question. Our understanding that He may not reply or show us the way to go as quickly as we may like, is important. Asking for things that we know in our hearts are the right things to ask for demonstrates our love for God. It also demonstrates the faith we have that He will hear us and, when it is His will, we shall know His answer.

So the question we must ask is this: “Do I have a problem with prayer?”

If the answer is “yes”, then just remember these three things:

Pray first.

Pray often.

Pray in faith.

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

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May 5

TODAY IS…

the day to realize that you can run, but you can’t hide.

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.”  Genesis 3:8 KJV

How often have we done something that we know is wrong and attempted to solve the problems created as a result of our action by running away from them?

Perhaps we don’t really run away, but we turn from our difficulties and pretend they don’t exist. This is the same thing as running away, and while we can simply ignore our problems, we cannot hide from them. They are not going anywhere unless we deal with them. When we finally open our eyes to them, they will still be right there, right where we left them. Unfortunately, the time we spent ignoring them generally has allowed them to become worse.

When Adam and Eve hid as God approached, they did it out of embarrassment over their nakedness. The ability to instinctively know that they had done wrong was due to the conscience God placed inside them.

And while our conscience may not be able to prevent us from running away from, or attempting to ignore our sins, it does prevent us from being able to hide from them and, more importantly, it reminds us that we cannot hide our sins from God.

It would be far too easy to lay the blame for all of our troubles at Adam and Eve’s feet. After all, if they had not disobeyed God, we would all still be living in paradise, right?

The fact of the matter is that each one of us has pretty much the same choice as Adam and Eve. We can choose to obey the Lord, or not.

Hopefully, we will all strive to make the right choice. Praying for strength to resist temptation is always more preferable than asking forgiveness after the fact. But should we give in to sin, the important thing to remember is to stand before God, admit it, and ask forgiveness.

Ignoring the signals that our conscience sends us will not work. When it comes to the Lord, as much as we may try to run, we can never hide the truth from the One who is the Truth.

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

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May 3

TODAY IS…

the right day to stop looking for the worst in people.

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”  James 4:12 NIV

In this day and age, information is at our fingertips.

Much of that ability to obtain information can be used to enhance our lives, to educate and enlighten, and to help us grow spiritually.

Unfortunately, there is a disturbing trend to utilize our access to information as a means of “digging up dirt” about our friends, neighbors, and even those we love or are interested in getting to know better.

Arguments are presented justifying this activity out of concern for our personal safety, or the saftety of our loved ones, and that is a legitimate concern. The problem is that far too often, the black marks in a person’s past are used to formulate our opinion of someone today. We become their judge, and we take it upon ourselves to assume a role that we are repeatedly instructed in the Bible is God’s role and God’s alone.

No matter how an individual has lived his or her life; no matter what laws of God or laws of man he or she may have broken: no matter how immoral, promiscuous, or dishonest a person has lived their life in the past, all of these issues are matters for God to consider when passing judgment on a person’s life. As children of God we are specifically forbidden, as James told his audience, from taking it upon ourselves to judge another.

If someone has led a difficult and misguided life and finally comes to know and love the Lord and accept the salvation of Jesus Christ, what right do we have to judge their character and deem them not worthy of our time, our friendship, our fellowship, and our love? Perhaps our doubts that another person can change are a reflection of our belief that we, ourselves, are incapable of undergoing a major transformation.

Let us not forget what the Bible has to say about a person’s ability to change:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

There is a severe penalty to be levied on anyone who would claim to know God and then proceed to pass God’s judgment: the penalty for this hypocrisy will be determined when we stand before the One True Judge.

Our responsibility to God is to love our neighbor.

To do this, we must look for something other than their worst. We must look at everyone and find the face of God in them.

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

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May 3

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to motivate one another.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  Hebrews 10:24 NIV

Sometimes it is difficult to get ourselves geared up to do anything at all.

Occasionally we need help and most of us know to turn to God for that help. Most of us know that if we are caught up in a period of lethargy or indecision, asking God to help us is always the right thing to do.

But what about those of us who are timid or whose indecision has frozen them and disabled their ability to even reach out to God?

Part of our responsibility as followers of Christ is to be aware of the needs of those who are around us. It is important to keep our eyes open for those who may be in need of encouragement and motivation. God wants us to turn to Him whenever we have needs, but He also expects us to take care of one another and fuel the flames of each other’s faith, spur each other on and lift each other up. If someone is withdrawn and seemingly unmotivated, try to determine the cause and find a way to help.

It may be that the ‘only’ thing we can do is to pray for them, but if the opportunity lends itself, pray with them and try to get them to join you in an activity of service to someone in even greater need.

There is one certain way God helps us get our minds off of our troubles or helps us to step outside our comfort zones, and that is by helping us focus on another individual. How energized we can become when our goal each day is to energize and motivate those around us. To serve God in this manner is a perfect way to thank Him for all of the blessings in our lives. To use the power of the Spirit within us to exert a positive influence on another of God’s children is to show the Lord that we have received His message loud and clear.

Spread God’s word by spreading His love and help others around you do the same.

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

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May 2

TODAY IS…

a good day to look closely at the face in the mirror.

“You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.”  James 1:24 NLT

The Word of God contains powerful messages that we must learn in order to live our lives on earth in a manner that demonstrates our understanding of exactly what it is that we are looking at.

When James was speaking to Jewish Christians residing outside Palestine, he exhorted those who were listening to demonstrate that they were paying attention to God’s Word by obeying. Merely going through the motions of reading the Bible or listening to a sermon in church is of no value if we are just doing it out of habit or obligation. James told his listeners that there was action required.

“For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.” (James 1:23-24 NLT).

We should probably all take a look at how and when we study the Bible, pray, meditate, and read daily devotionals. Are we focused on what we are doing? Are we intent on using the time to feel God’s presence and ‘hear’ God’s voice? Do we pause and reflect on what we are reading and look for ways to apply what we are reading to today? Do we take time in the morning to ask God how we may be of service to Him today? Do we turn off the radio and television and seek the things that we will need to make this day a significant one for God?

Serving God requires constant, purposeful, focused attention.

Not only is it important that we set aside time just for God every day, we must take a moment several times throughout the day to thank Him or ask for His continued guidance.

Each and every day of our lives is a wonderful gift from God.

Using each day with God’s purpose in mind is pleasing to Him. Applying what we learn through reading the Bible and by listening for His ‘voice’ will show the Lord that we are not just giving a glancing look at what we see.

We will show that we are looking closely and we will work on what we see until we can also see what we have learned looking back at us.

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

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May 1

TODAY IS…

a fine day to see possibilities through our fears and our tears.

“So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month of Elul, in the fifty and two days.”  Nehemiah 6:15 KJV

A child struggles with the task of learning to tie his or her shoelaces.

Failure breeds frustration which unleashes a torrent of tears. We quietly comfort and gently encourage, trying to instill confidence. The frustration brings out an angry “I can’t!” followed by our gently positive response, “You can. It just takes practice, patience, and focus.”

Growing up is accompanied by repetitions of this scene with the only thing different being the ‘it’ that can be done.

Though the Jews had been back in Jerusalem for many years after being exiled, the walls surrounding the city, which had been torn down in many places, were still in need of rebuilding. The walls were intended to provide security and safety as well as a source of beauty to the city. Its many gates, which were massive, had been burned and were in need of rebuilding as well.

To many people, the task was so enormous as to be an impossible one.

Nehemiah knew that the answer could be found in prayer. He knew that seeking God’s approval and asking for His guidance would result in a plan that would restore the wall, the gates, and the beauty, safety, and security that they represented.

Many of us will give vocal acknowledgement that prayer is a powerful tool to employ in any task that may loom before us, but simply saying it doesn’t make it so.

The power of prayer to seek the approval and gain the assistance of God is real and it is only our faith that can unleash its power. It is not enough to mouth the words or go through the motions, but true faith will produce a prayer that is sincere. God will hear it and we will find the path to our objective stretched before us with all that we need to arrive at our destination or to accomplish our task.

Remember the words of Jesus when the father of the boy who was ill expressed doubt. His response could not be any clearer:

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes.’” (Mark 9:23 NLT).

The challenges confronting us on a daily basis may be considerably more difficult than learning to tie our shoes. But if we pray with faith, God will turn the seemingly impossible into possibilities to be realized and will give us all that we need to realize them.

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

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April 30

TODAY IS…

the day for self-examination.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts…”  Psalm 139:23 KJV

We examine the outsides of our bodies in many different ways and for many different reasons. We painstakingly keep an eye on blemishes to see if they change size or shape; women are encouraged to examine themselves for lumps that might be an indication of cancer; we examine our stomachs, our hair, our teeth; we poke and prod and do everything but look at ourselves through a magnifying glass – and sometimes we do that!

But what about a self-examination of our soul? How often do we examine our spiritual health?

The truth is, many of us do not perform this important task on anything resembling a regular basis, and that is a serious mistake. It is important that we ask God to help us perform a “spiritual spot check” frequently. In our busy lives it is all too easy to let ourselves go spiritually in much the same way that some of us allow ourselves to slip physically. Just as neglect can cause us to put on physical weight, we also put on “spiritual weight.” This comes in the form of burdens of sin that accumulate inside of us, weighing us down spiritually. And just as allowing ourselves to put on physical pounds slows us down and has a negative effect on our moods, the weight of our sins affects us in the same manner.

For many of us, too much time is spent searching our exteriors for imperfections when our attention really needs to be focused on the inside. When we ask God to regularly help us give ourselves a spiritual checkup, we are taking an important step in ensuring excellent spiritual health.

We have mirrors to help us examine our skin, hair and other exterior components of our physical makeup. We have God to help us examine the inside. Unfortunately, the mirror does nothing beyond helping us to see flaws. God, on the other hand, not only helps us to see the things that are wrong with us spiritually, but He is there to help us fix whatever needs fixing.

Ask God to help you give yourself a “spiritual spot check” today.

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

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April 29

TODAY IS…

a superb day to thank God for His gift of friends.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13 KJV

There is much that has been written, and said, about friendship throughout history

We can probably all remember times in our lives in which friends have played a critical role: a spouse passes suddenly, or a tragedy befalls one of our children; we have a car accident and are injured; we go through the unfortunate unpleasantness of a divorce. The list goes on and on but the action taken by friends in times of need is always the same: a friend is immediately and unquestionably there for us when we need them.

Hopefully none of us will be required to lay down our life for a friend, although this very thing has been done many times and in many places. The world truly is filled with individuals who place a high value on the friendship of another human being.

Do we include ourselves in that group?

Friends are there for us even when we may not think we need them. Our friends will tell us when we are wrong. They will speak up and try to help us to avert disasters that we refuse to see looming before us. In fulfilling the obligations of friendship, sometimes the truth will hurt. However, our friends will never tell us anything but the truth.

After all, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6 NLT).

Jesus spoke very powerfully about friendship, and the love that is required for it to flourish and grow. His instructions were clear and left no room for misinterpretation.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NIV).

After He spoke of laying down one’s life for a friend, He offered His friendship to us. “You are My friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14 NIV).

What an incredible gift He is offering to us. Not only has He blessed us with the gift of friendship from those around us, He blessed us with the gift of His friendship for being friends to others.

Offer the gift of your friendship to those around you. Live your life in the manner directed by God, and thank Him for the gift of friendship that you receive.

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

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April 28

TODAY IS…

a great day to think about where you are.

“So I say, live by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Galatians 5:16 NIV

Whatever the condition or circumstances of our lives, we arrived at this point under the watchful eye of the Lord.

Some of us are not going to be very happy with that knowledge because we are not in a good place. We might develop a tendency to blame God, but God did not place us where we are, He simply watched over us and allowed us to choose the path that brought us to this point.

If life appears to be wonderful, we have used the talents God gave us to our personal advantage. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But God is watching to see what we will do with our good fortune and how we will use it to help others. He will watch over us to see that we work diligently at understanding His word and applying the wisdom and guidance found there to our daily lives.

He looks into our hearts to see if we are in the correct place there.

If life has not been so good to us; if we find ourselves surrounded by storm clouds, trials, and tribulations; if nothing ever seems to go right and all the world seems to be against us: this journey as well has been made under the watchful eye of the Lord. It is at this point that many will wring their hands in despair and look to heaven and ask God, “Why me?”

Perhaps the answer is not as complicated or mysterious as we might think. It is possible to live into our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond believing that we are “basically” good people. OK, so maybe we drink a little too much, or we might take illegal drugs “once in a while” or abuse prescription ones; we might spend some time on the computer looking at pornography, but “only after everyone has gone to bed”; perhaps we just spend a lot of time watching television or playing video games. But we’re “basically good,” right?

God did not place us where we are.

He allowed us to get there on our own. If we have a “good” life God expects us to share what we have and know that the means of our success came from Him. If we have an abundance of negativity in our lives, God is right beside us, waiting for us to reach out to Him for guidance. All we must do is ask and be sincere in our efforts to know Him and to live in a manner that is guided by the Holy Spirit within us, and the wisdom contained in the Bible.

Each one of us must ask ourselves, “Am I in the place that God wants me to be in or am I in a place of my choosing?”

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

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