December 16

TODAY IS…

a perfect day to pray for our leaders.

“Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.”  1 Timothy 2:2 NLT

Perhaps many of you have noticed that prayer seems to be a recurring theme this month. It is appropriate since this is the month in which we celebrate the birth of Christ. If you have noticed the theme of prayer, you have also noticed that it is a theme of prayer for other people. This, too, is appropriate since, with the birth of Christ, God gave us the greatest gift the world has ever known. Therefore, this special time should be one of giving to others, and nothing makes a better gift than our prayers for them. Prayer is a gift that can be given to as many people as we can think of, and yet it is a gift that will fit easily into any budget.

So we continue to pray for others by pointing out the need to pray for our leaders – those who choose to run for public office, are appointed, hired, or otherwise placed, or born, into positions of public “service.”

It is very easy to be cynical when we talk about our elected officials. Perhaps some of us have noticed that we rarely meet anyone who admits that they like Big Macs, and yet McDonald’s is the largest restaurant company in the world. Our politicians are treated the same way. Rarely do we ever encounter anyone who thinks they are doing a good job, or anything even remotely resembling the job they were meant to do. It’s almost impossible to find someone who voted for any of them. But someone did. A lot of someones did.

As Christians, we should know that prayer is a powerful tool. Prayer to God asking for help for another person carries a lot of weight. Perhaps rather than always being critical, we all need to pray long and hard for those with whom our nation’s well-being is entrusted.

The writer of Hebrews noted the need for prayer for our spiritual leaders, but the words he wrote most definitely apply to our government leaders as well.

“Pray for us. We are sure we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” (Hebrews 13:18 NIV).

While that certainty will bring cynical comments, we must set aside that urge and pray that they do exactly that.

In a society that seems to push, publicly, further and further from God, we need to pray to God to push back and guide those who will decide issues that will affect our lives. We must also pray that our choices are based on character and performance rather than party lines and politics.

Political leaders need all of the help they can get. What better source of help can we offer than using the power of our prayers to ask God to help them make better decisions and set better examples?

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

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December 15

TODAY IS…

a great day to remember that looks can be deceiving.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”  1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

When God became unhappy with Saul as King of Israel, He gave Samuel instructions on where to find the one who would be anointed to replace him. He sent Samuel to Bethlehem to find a man named Jesse and his sons, one of whom God had selected to be Israel’s next king. When Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, he instantly thought that he knew, just by looking, which one God had selected.

“When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’” (1 Samuel 16:6 NASB).

Samuel’s assumption proved wrong because he was thinking the way human beings think, even today. Far too often we are more concerned with how someone or something appears than we are with who they are, or what the truth is.

When it comes to physical appearance, we are constantly shown people with beautiful exteriors on television and in newspapers and magazines. It is entirely possible, and likely, that at least some of these individuals have hearts that reflect the character of God, but this is not what we are “sold” or taught to emulate. Society’s focus is on appearances and we are programmed to reject that which is not physically attractive or appetizing.

A famous actress, who was quite attractive physically, once played a role which required her to wear a “fat suit.” The “suit,” along with facial make up changed her outward appearance dramatically. She decided, one day, to wear the “suit” and makeup out in public to gauge the reaction of people. What she discovered, while not surprising, was rather sad and certainly did not show society in a good light. This woman claimed that in her “normal” appearance, men opened doors for her, men and women both smiled and said “hello,” were pleasant, and were drawn to her. But in her “role” as a fat woman, she admitted that she was stunned, ashamed, and embarrassed at the difference in the way people responded to her. She claimed that it was almost as if she had ceased to exist. No longer were doors opened, and no longer was she greeted with smiles. Instead of being drawn to her, people stayed away from her.

And the whole time, the part of her that God sees never changed.

How many opportunities for true friendship have you missed because your opinion of someone’s worth to you was based on appearances? How many opportunities for honesty, humor, caring, compassion, and laughter have you passed up because a person’s physical appearance was not up to your standards?

Today, and every day, we must look for God in everyone we meet and remind ourselves that outward appearances can be deceiving.

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

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December 14

TODAY IS…

the day to pray for those who prey.

“They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shot at him suddenly without fear.”  Psalm 64:4 NIV

Those who treat others the worst require the best we have to offer.

The world does not suffer from a shortage of people who prey on others. Some do it in very small ways, and some do it in ways that remind us that true evil surely does exist on this earth.

How do we deal with people who would prey upon others?

We have all read the newspaper stories and seen the television shows and newscasts that reveal the depths to which humanity is capable of sinking. Each and every one of us has been exposed to stories that have angered us, upset us, and caused us to condemn someone for some heinous crime they have perpetrated upon society. We are most likely to lose our composure and our compassion when a crime is committed against a child, someone suffering from a physical or mental disability, or an elderly or invalid individual.

We have all read about or seen the anguish and pain of persons who have lost a child and we have more than likely joined with them in wishing nothing but the worst for the individual who would harm someone so vulnerable and innocent. These are natural human responses and our primal instincts kick in and the desire to see pain inflicted upon the predator is perfectly normal and acceptable, correct?

Unfortunately for our human emotions, this is not correct. These types of individuals in these types of situations present us with one of the biggest challenges that faces followers of Christ. If we follow our human instincts we go against Christ’s instructions that we are not to judge or condemn others, we are to love everyone, and we are to practice forgiveness.

We are also supposed to pray for those who need it the most.

This concept is a difficult one for so many of us to accept, but it is important to note that nowhere in the Bible does it offer us exceptions to these instructions. It simply is not our place to judge others. It is our place to pray for others, and who could argue with the fact that people who are consumed with evil need our prayers more than someone who is a staunch believer in, and follower of, Christ?

The ability to pray for the worst that the world has to offer demonstrates a true understanding of God’s word. It is the Lord’s responsibility to judge.

It is our responsibility to pray, even – and especially – for the worst who walk among us.

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

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December 13

TODAY IS…

a superb day to take the stairs.

“Then He said, ‘I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.’”  John 1:51 NLT

There are many people who, given a choice between an elevator and a few flights of stairs will take the stairs. It gives them a little bit of exercise and is good for them. These are physical stairs that provide us with real physical benefit.

The stairs that Jesus was speaking to His disciples about were spiritual stairs and could only be seen with the help of spiritual insight. It only stands to reason then that they can only be climbed by those who are in good spiritual health.

Many of us spend a considerable amount of time, effort, and money on our appearance and on our physical health. It is important to our families that we take care of ourselves physically so that we may be able to take care of them. We want to be strong and healthy because we love them.

We also love God, and we have an obligation to our families regarding Him as well. We must be strong and healthy spiritually so that we can follow Jesus’ instruction when He said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NASB).

Becoming spiritually strong and healthy and maintaining that spiritual health and strength is a lot easier than we think. It certainly doesn’t require the physical exertion and sweat that strengthening our body does. Exercising to build and maintain our spiritual health can be uplifting, rewarding, pleasant, and exciting as we follow Jesus as He practices, heals, and serves the people He loved so much and came to save.

How can anyone complain about exercising to improve our spiritual health when it involves reading the words, and “hearing” with our hearts, the voice of Jesus as He tried to show everyday people that each and every one of them was special to Him? What a terrific sweat-free hour can be spent exercising our faith as we read about Christ setting a perfect example for us to follow.

If we do not exercise, if we do not take care of ourselves, if we do not eat right, stair climbing can be a very painful experience for us. If we are out of shape, there simply is no way that we can ever make it to the top.

It is the same climbing the stairway to heaven. We must exercise faithfully and regularly so that we are always in the best spiritual health possible so that we are always ready to take the stairs.

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

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December 12

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to stop looking.

“Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing…”  James 2:15 NLT

How many of us have stood in front of an open refrigerator, staring at its contents long enough to draw the attention of parents or spouse and then closed the door and walked away? Certainly, if we haven’t done it ourselves, we know someone who has.

How many of us look at life in the same manner?

We stare at it, seeing all of the pain, hunger, homelessness, hopelessness, and need and then “close the door” and go back to our televisions, video games, or computer screens.

How often do we do something mindless, or nothing at all, because we are bored? Like standing in front of the refrigerator staring at 20 cubic feet of food and saying, “There is nothing to eat,” we look at a world with 7 billion souls and say, “There is nothing to do.”

God can help us see what we are looking at.

God can help us become people who will turn to other people and say, “There is so much to do, won’t you please help?”

An attitude of service to others is very much in keeping with the teachings of Christ. Jesus’ brother James, who at one time found it difficult to even believe that Jesus was the Messiah, ultimately came to not only believe in Christ, but he also came to understand that along with that belief came a changing of the heart that would not only help us see those who are hungry, homeless, and in need, but would also make us very aware that seeing is not enough.

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (James 2:14 NLT).

Would we even want to be saved by a faith that allowed us to remain unseeing to the plight of those around us?

If we are truly people of faith, we will be so busy happily serving other people and looking for ways to help people to help themselves, that boredom will be a word long forgotten. Apathy will be something we fight instead of a term that can be used in a description of us.

All we have to do is call out to our Lord Jesus and ask Him to show us how to help. All we have to do is be willing to serve others with joy and in the name of Christ and we will never again stand in front of the refrigerator and say, “There is nothing to eat.”

Not only will we see the food, we will see those with whom we should share it.

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

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December 11

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to remove the obstacles.

“For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”  John 7:5 NASB

New believers are fragile and must be treated gently, with consideration, and with care. It is important that we point out to them that often times, the biggest obstacles to overcome in seeking salvation thru Christ and a relationship with God do not lie within our own hearts, but within the hearts of those who are the closest to us.

“Blood is thicker than water,” goes the cry of family loyalty.

But while it is true that God wants us to love and respect our mother and father as well as our brothers and sisters, He knows that sometimes their skepticism can create obstacles to our faith and when this happens we must overcome that obstacle.

How do we go about doing that?

With prayer, but first we may have to separate from our family in order to give our lives to God and learn how we can help them through prayer. Jesus Himself knew that His presence on earth would divide entire families.

“From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of Me, and two against – or two in favor and three against.” (Luke 12:52 NLT).

Perhaps it will be just you who is seeking salvation and no one else. Is this dishonoring our parents? If our intention is to seek the salvation offered by Christ and you are alone in seeking it, the answer is no.

For Christ said that, “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:53 NASB).

Jesus knew that in order to bring a family together it might be necessary to split it apart for a while. After all, it took some time for even Jesus’ family to fully come to grips with who He was. But the fact remains that His brothers and His mother were present with the disciples when Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection.

“They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” (Acts 1:14 NLT).

If you, or someone you know, are seeking to receive the salvation that Christ offers us all but the skepticism and unbelief of your family or others close to you are presenting obstacles, do not be disheartened or discouraged. It may take a little time and a lot of prayer, but the changes that take place within those who accept Christ can be quite convincing to even the most skeptical, and prayer for those who do not believe can help unite divided families in Christ once again.

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

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December 10

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to give credit where credit is due.

“You answered me, ‘What you propose to do is good.’”  Deuteronomy 1:14 NIV

There are many aspects to humility.

One of them is not requiring credit, or recognition, for things that we do. It also stands to reason that one cannot be very humble if we are taking credit that does not belong to us in the first place. At the same time, a part of being humble is making sure that we give credit where credit is due.

But wait a minute.

If that person is humble, they do not require credit or recognition either. So if everyone is humble, does this mean we would live in a world where no one received credit or recognition for the things that we do?

Not at all.

It would simply mean that those things worthy of receiving credit or recognition would be done because it was the right thing to do. Yet, while no credit or recognition is expected or needed, it is absolutely acceptable to let someone know that what they did was noticed and appreciated.

This in turn gives the person receiving the credit the opportunity to pass the credit along to God, who created the atmosphere and attitude of service for which the credit is given, and provided the ability to do it.

Daniel demonstrated this when King Nebuchadnezzar tried to give him credit for being able to explain the king’s dream to him.

“…but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind are these:” (Daniel 2:28 NIV).

So Daniel, in his humility, gave God the credit for his ability to interpret the king’s dreams in the first place.

And that is how it is with each of us. We are using what God gave us to use, so any credit given to us should be passed on to the Lord.

When we accept recognition in God’s name, we are being gracious. But we are also demonstrating humility. We are also giving credit where the credit is due because God deserves all the credit.

This, of course, does not sit well with those who have not yet learned how to be humble. There are those who think that the approval of men will gratify them and make them whole. Some thrive in public accolades. But the one who is truly motivated for the right reasons simply goes through each day trying to make it a day of significance in the eyes of God, since God’s approval is all that matters.

So when someone tells you that you have done a great job, or offers recognition for some deed you have performed, thank them, and then say, “But I couldn’t have done it without God.”

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

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December 9

TODAY IS…

a fine day to speak up.

“Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others He has redeemed you from your enemies.”  Psalm 107:2 NLT

God works for all who invite Him into their lives.

Many of us have had long, wonderful relationships with Him and our list of things that we have to thank Him for is quite long. Still others have perhaps only just come to Christ recently and have not quite the same length list, but perhaps they have a truly amazing story of redemption and restoration to share with others.

“Some wandered in desert wasteland, finding no way to a city where they could settle.” (Psalm 107:4 NIV).

Perhaps this describes us. Maybe we have not been literally homeless, but we have not felt “at home” spiritually and have wandered aimlessly. If this tells your tale, then you need to share with others and teach where you were able to get the help you so desperately sought.

“Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains…” (Psalm 107:10 NIV).

Perhaps we have known what it is like to be immobilized by fear, anxiety, tragedy, and loss – any one of numerous things can make us feel as if we are prisoners, and in a way we are. Those of us who have turned to God and asked for His help have seen what He can do if we allow Him to come into our hearts and take over our lives. We owe it to others to speak up and share the source of our joy, peace, and happiness.

Perhaps this better describes our particular situation before we came to Christ: “Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins.” (Psalm 107:17 NLT).

Maybe we were immoral, self-centered people who sought only our own pleasure and concerned ourselves only with our own appetites. If God has intervened and shone His light on a new path that has taught you morality and selflessness, you owe it to those around you to share your experiences and hold out the same offer of hope to them.

Redemption and restoration are wonderful gifts that are available to everyone. We may go through life thinking that everyone knows this but we would probably be surprised at how many do not know, or are not convinced.

Perhaps our speaking out will be the impetus that they need to take the steps that will change their lives in ways they never fully understood.

Your voice can show others that, “With God’s help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes.” (Psalm 108:13 NLT).

Even when we are our biggest foe.

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

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December 8

TODAY IS…

a superb day to ask, “Do I have enough faith?”

“’You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them.”  Matthew 17:20a NLT

Jesus was a very patient man who exhibited a tremendous amount of control over His thoughts and emotions when teaching His disciples or when speaking to large groups of people.

There were times, however, when His words would show a little edge of impatience or frustration, such as when the man brought his son to Jesus for help healing his seizures. The man had tried Jesus’ disciples first, but they were unable to help.

When he asked for Jesus’ help, “Jesus said, ‘You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to Me.’” (Matthew 17:17 NLT).

After Jesus healed the boy, the disciples asked Jesus in private why they had been unable to do it. Jesus did not hesitate to point out that it was a matter of faith.

“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:20b NLT).

So the question for all of us is this: “Do we really have enough faith?”

Stop and think before answering, because most of us will immediately answer, “Yes!” Peter had enough faith when he stepped out of the boat, but a moment of doubt caused him to falter and to sink. How many of us start out with that same level of conviction but let little cracks appear the moment something seems to be impeding our progress, or creating a distraction?

It is in our moment of doubt that our faith must become the strongest. As soon as we feel the first little tug at the threads of our confident trust in God, we must eliminate that loose thread by calling upon the Lord to help make our faith stronger and then we must trust that it will be so.

It is important to remember that when satan observes our faith getting stronger, he is most likely to attack with fear, doubt, anxiety, hesitation and other weapons of negativity that are designed to make us take our eyes off the Lord, like Peter, so that we will then “sink.”

We must never become complacent and we must always be on guard.

Undoubtedly we will be met with things that will test our faith as we follow Christ. It is our job to keep our eyes focused on the Lord because it is satan’s sole objective to take our eyes off of Him.

Daily prayer, daily effort, and daily commitment will combine to help you answer positively when you are asked, “Do you have enough faith?”

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

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December 7

TODAY IS…

the day to teach others how to use what you can’t take with you.

“For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.”  Psalm 49:17 NLT

Temple assistants wrote Psalm 49 to help people understand that worldly wealth and possessions will not accompany them after death, nor will they act as a ticket to everlasting life.

Wealth cannot keep us from death, and we know this, although many people of great wealth spend enormous amounts of money trying to figure out ways of preserving or prolonging their ability to enjoy that wealth.

In the end, we all will pass from this life, and since we can’t take our wealth with us, then we should be concerned about who we are leaving it to, because God surely will be paying attention. People are welcomed into heaven because they have accepted Christ as their savior, have worshiped only God, and have treated others with love and kindness, not because of how successful or how much wealth has been accumulated while living. Still,  a good number of people leave behind great amounts of wealth because they were good financial planners and worked hard.

Unfortunately, what they may have overlooked was the preparation of those who would be the recipients of their wealth upon their death, and while it was important to the individual leaving this world that his good fortune be generously shared with those less fortunate, that same individual may have forgotten to teach his or her children how to receive the gift that is left and what to do with it once they have it.

We must make sure that our children learn the importance of sharing what good fortune we may have with others. Teaching them about the sins of greed and the rewards of generosity is crucial to their development. We must teach them, as Paul instructs Timothy, that any material wealth we have should be used for the betterment of those around us, and he explains to Timothy what real wealth is.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NLT).

Of course, many individuals can’t see beyond the value of the material wealth sitting in front of them and are reluctant to give it away. How does one determine when we are to give it away? How does one determine when we have “enough”?

Paul says, “So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8 NLT).

Also, we want to make sure that our children learn to love people more than money, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV).

Start spending time today preparing your children to receive what you cannot take with you when you die. Teach them to share what you leave and this way you can leave this earth knowing that, “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19 NIV).

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

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