October 11

TODAY IS…

a great day to consider the dangers of being a Christian.

“I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;”  2 Corinthians 11:26 NASB

In Paul’s time, simply trying to live a “normal,” “quiet,” “unobtrusive” life was fraught with danger. There was no highly trained police force or fire department; there was no “911” to call for help in an emergency; there were no hospitals and little in the way of real medical care.

It is difficult to imagine living without all of the resources that are available to most of us today.

Add to all of those very real dangers, the danger posed by being a follower of Christ, and it is easy to believe that life for the Apostle Paul, and others like him, was very dangerous, indeed.

For many people, the matter of faith is a difficult one. It is extremely hard for many to believe that Jesus Christ did, in fact, walk this earth and was the Son of God, come to offer salvation to all, to die on the cross to atone for all of our sins, and to enable any person to approach God in prayer.

Those of us who believe without reservation have many different reasons for our belief, but examining the life, and the death of Paul – and the dangers he faced as a Christian – presents us with compelling reasons to believe.

Before changing his name to Paul, the name of the man who would become one of the strongest voices in the history of Christianity was Saul. Saul, as we all know, was a staunch non-believer. In fact, he was an ardent persecutor of Christians.

After encountering Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul was directed to a home in Damascus to await a believer named Ananias, but Ananias had heard of Saul’s reputation and was leery of approaching him.

“But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’” (Acts 9:15-16 NLT).

And suffer he did.

Paul was given 39 lashes 5 different times, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and spent a whole day and night adrift at sea.

And still, he believed. In spite of the dangers that being a Christian added to the numerous dangers of daily life in his time, Paul never stopped believing.

If this man, who once stood by as Christians were persecuted, could believe in spite of the dangers he faced, those of us who find it difficult should be able to believe because of the dangers Paul faced and the suffering he endured to teach others about Jesus Christ.

And today is a great day to think about that.

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

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October 10

TODAY IS…

an incredible day to take care of your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life.”  Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Our heart is, literally, the “machine” that keeps us alive.

It pumps our life-giving blood throughout our bodies and re-oxygenates that which has done its work. It is a remarkable organ which is absolutely critical to our ability to live on this earth.

If we stop and think about it, our heart is even more important to our lives on earth in a spiritual sense: our heart is the seat of our emotions, thoughts, love, affection, courage, and conscience, among other things.

Not a day goes by that we are not reminded to be conscious of what we eat and the exercise we get in order to maintain the physical health of our heart. This is all important to us and we should definitely take heed. Without our heart beating faithfully within our chest, we will die.

It is equally as important to take care of our heart on an emotional and spiritual level as well.

We have all heard the expression, “He (or she) is heartless!” None of us wishes to be that person.

We have also heard “He (or she) has a heart of gold!”

That would be more like the person we all should wish to be viewed as.

For the physical health of our heart, it is a good idea to follow the advice of a doctor. Do all that is suggested to keep your heart beating strong, and staying healthy.

For the spiritual health of your heart, turn to God. Ask Him to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NASB).

Look to His Word to find ways to strengthen your heart and fill it full of the things that reflect the true nature and character of the Lord. Ask God for His guidance in making you a good person because, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 NIV).

And how true that is: What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Therefore, search the Bible and pray for God’s guidance, to fill your heart with only those things that are good in the eyes of God. It will take some effort to replace all of the little things that are lurking in there which do not meet with His approval.

Be that as it may, our overall life on earth will be much improved if we take care of our heart in a spiritual sense as well as in the physical.

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

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October 9

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to be proud of the glow God gives you.

“…they saw that his face was radiant.”  Exodus 34:35a NIV

The story of Moses teaches us that his meetings with God gave his face a radiant glow. This was an actual physical condition that Moses would cover with a veil in between his meetings with God.

“Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went back in to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:35b NIV).

While it is not perfectly clear why Moses covered his face, it is safe to assume that he did not cover it because he was ashamed.

As our relationship with God becomes deeper and more intimate, our understanding of just how special that relationship is will grow and our faces will reflect the happiness that comes out of that relationship. While we may never develop the same radiance of Moses, none-the-less, the glow will be real..

As we proceed with our lives, those around us will become aware of that glow and invariably some will ask what it is that makes us so cheerful, so content, and so easy to get along with and willing to help others. The responses we get will vary when we tell them the source of our inner peace and happiness is our relationship with God. Some will undoubtedly want to know more.

Others will look at us as if they regretted ever asking the question.

It is the negative responses to our joy in the Lord that makes some of us reluctant to speak out and proudly tell others that the source of our happiness is our relationship with God.

It is almost as if some of us are embarrassed or, worse, ashamed of our reliance upon God. That’s what a good relationship with God is, isn’t it? It’s a reliance upon Him for strength, courage, wisdom, peace, joy, love – all that is good, all that has purpose, and all that is just.

Perhaps people cringe or stay away because they feel they have opened the door to receive a lecture or sermon that they may not be ready for, and that is OK. But do not let the fear of a negative response keep you from letting someone know the truth should they ask. We should all be extremely proud when our love for God, and His for us, creates a noticeable “glow” in our physical presence.

You never know; being proud of the answer just may bring this response: “Oh? Tell me more.”

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

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October 8

TODAY IS…

the day to learn that ignorance is no excuse.

“For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”  Galatians 6:5 NLT

A child of ours comes home from a neighbor’s house and pulls a toy out of his or her pocket that we are certain is not one of theirs. Upon asking about it, the child admits readily that it is the neighbor’s toy and you point out that it is wrong to take things that don’t belong to us. Since this is the first time something like this has happened, there is no punishment, of course, but we must still make sure that the toy is returned and that our child understands the lesson.

Being unaware of a sin or a crime, or a relatively innocent incident such as the one above, does not relieve the individual of the responsibility for whatever the action was. Once made aware, corrective action must be taken and responsibility for our actions must be met.

God gave Moses instructions for the Israelites that made taking responsibility very clear.

He said, “If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, he is guilty.” (Leviticus 4:27 NIV).

There are those who think that this is unfair and believe it is impossible to hold someone accountable when they are unaware, and to a degree this is quite understandable. What about someone in a remote corner of the world who has had no exposure to the Word of God, and no opportunity to learn what is right and what is wrong in the eyes of God? All we can do is pray that God will take that into consideration when it is time to judge.

However, most people are aware and, once exposed to God’s laws, are most definitely accountable. It is our responsibility to pursue the knowledge that God has made available to us once we are aware of its existence. We cannot claim ignorance as an exemption from our responsibility. We cannot claim ignorance as an exemption from our guilt. It is important to understand the Bible contains all of the guidance we need to live lives that are acceptable to God and cancels any claim to ignorance we might wish to make.

The Lord expects each one of His children to do all they can do to live in a manner that meets with His approval, and He knows that we know where to look for the information we require to do just that.

If we do not study God’s word to receive the information we need, we will remain ignorant.

But ignorance is no excuse.

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

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October 7

TODAY IS…

a fine day to take your medicine.

“…follow my advice and save yourself, for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased.”  Proverbs 6:3 NLT

While these verses may pertain to avoiding overextending ourselves financially, an important lesson to be learned is to not let our pride get in the way of doing what is right.

People often become confused when talking about pride.

It is important to take pride in the work that we do; to take pride in our appearance; to take pride in the maintenance and upkeep of our vehicles and our homes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with solving a difficult problem or completing a task and stepping back and basking in the glow of that accomplishment, particularly when the accomplishment is one of service to God or to those around us.

But pride that is the result of a self-righteous or arrogant attitude is destructive and keeps us separated from people around us and from God as well.

There was once a jingle that contained the words, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Many of us have experienced the bitter, unpleasant taste involved with the taking of certain types of medicine. Unfortunately, in many cases, this unpleasantness must be endured in order to help us heal.

Swallowing our pride can be a much more difficult challenge to some of us than taking the worst tasting medicine that we can imagine, but if our pride has created discord or unhappiness in our relationships, our homes, with our friends, or with those we work with or worship with, we must do whatever it takes to swallow it in order to help the situation heal.

“Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.” (Proverbs 6:4 NLT).

Waiting will not improve the situation or make it easier. Adding stubbornness to the arrogance and self-righteousness can, in no way, help the situation. It can – and will – only make it worse.

Consider the following verse from Proverbs: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (Proverbs 8:3 NIV).

Our pride is bunched together with some pretty shady company, so it cannot be a good thing.

No matter how much sugar we need to add, we need to take our medicine today and swallow our pride.

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

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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 people who considered themselves leaders “Lord it over these 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 them 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 ever 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 humble and 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.

Therefore, we must put ourselves last, but if it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for any one of us.

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

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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, but what we need to do 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 think we know what His answer will be.

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.

Today is a superb day to ask God to always help you to begin at the beginning.

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

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October 3

TODAY 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, taunted her mercilessly because she had children and Hannah did not.

When she 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. Fortunately, 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 of 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. Like promising your children a trip to the ice cream parlor when you get home from work. Keeping your promises to them will please God.

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

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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 of that 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, in the Bible, 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. But then, 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. We are doing something that should be obvious, and it is as plain as the nose on your face.

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

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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 you do! You need to thank God that everything is OK and let Him know that you appreciate the calm in your life.

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.”

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

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