December 2

TODAY IS…

a splendid day for some words of comfort.

“When doubts filled my mind,Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 94:19 NLT

Only God can comfort us when we have doubts. Only God can reassure us when human insecurities cause us to second-guess our faith. The one we need to turn towards is often the very one we are turning away from.

It is a rare human being who doesn’t require the comfort and reassurance of God on more than one occasion during the course of a lifetime. God knows this. After all, He knows all about the trials, tribulations, and temptations that affect our lives. This is why He is always there when we need Him, and even though we may doubt – or be tempted to doubt – our love for Him, at times, His love for us is never in doubt. He understands and is ready to help us when we face those infrequent moments of uncertainty.

If we are faced with an unexpected tragedy or loss, we may very well think that God does not love us or that He has turned away from us. The sudden loss of a spouse or a child through an accident or an unforeseen health problem can shake us and leave us feeling weak, battered, lost, and alone. It is important to remind ourselves when we are not facing these problems that life is always full of surprises and they are not always pleasant.

But how do we prepare for things that might never happen to us?

When we seek out others who are faced with situations that we can only try to imagine facing, we can reach out to them and offer them words of comfort, encouragement and hope. This requires that we spend time reading the Bible so we become familiar with different verses that will help. As we do this, we are not only learning to help others, but we are taking steps to bolster our own faith and learning where to seek comfort ourselves should the unfortunate need arise.

As Paul explains, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).

We can all sympathize with Jacob when he thought his son, Joseph, was killed. His grief was overwhelming and, “All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘In mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.’ So his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35 NIV).

We all know that Jacob should have sought comfort from God, for as it turned out, God had things under control and it worked out beyond Jacob’s wildest hopes. When he was reunited with a very-much-alive Joseph, Jacob wept until, “Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.’” (Genesis 46:30 NLT).

Let God’s comforting words help you deal with anything that may cause you to doubt and let Him restore your hope.

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

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December 1

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to mean it.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”  Psalm 50:15 NASB

We should all turn to God for help, and many of us do.

Unfortunately, there are also many whose relationship with God is a little one-sided. While these individuals do not hesitate to ask for God’s help, the thanks that are given in return ring falsely to the Lord, for the subsequent actions of those people reveal their true nature.

In his Psalm, Asaph writes of God’s displeasure with those who offered Him sacrifices or thanks that were empty of any true meaning. He tells Israel that the sacrifices they offer are for their benefit, not His. He points out that offering Him any animal in sacrifice is not something He needs from humans since He already owns the world and everything in it.

“If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains.” (Psalm 50:12 NASB).

So if He really doesn’t want, or need, sacrifices or burnt offerings, what does He want for helping us?

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” (Psalm 50:14 NLT).

It is quite simple: He wants us to thank Him and mean it. How do we show Him that we mean it? By living our lives in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

There is no question as to God’s opinion of those who think they can use Him to help them and then carry on with sinful lives.

“Repent, all of you who forget Me, or I will tear you apart, and no one will help you.” (Psalm 50:22 NLT).

Many people who call upon God for His help and then carry on in their old sinful manner after offering empty words of thanks do not realize the danger they are in, for God will take notice in silence and His judgment will come later.

“These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” (Psalm 50:21 NIV).

We can rely on God for His help as often as we need it. All we need to do is thank Him.

The most important thing about thanking God is remembering that He will know if you mean it.

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

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November 30

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to take off the blinders

“Then the magicians said to Pharaoh,‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said.”  Exodus 8:19 NKJV

Horses that were used to pull carriages and wagons were often equipped with “blinders.” These devices were secured to the heads of the horses and blocked the vision of the horse from the side. This prevented the horse from becoming distracted or frightened by things that it saw out of the corner of its eye, allowing it to focus on moving straight ahead.

While blinders may be a good thing for horses, they are not usually good for humans. When we are of singular vision, we often grow stubborn and refuse to see the bigger picture.

Very often the bigger picture contains the truth.

Pharaoh had his “blinders” on when Moses repeatedly demonstrated to him that God was using Moses to convey a message to him. God enabled Moses to repeatedly start, and stop, plagues against Egypt to let Pharaoh see God’s power and to convince him to let the Israelites leave Egypt.

Ten different times, ten different examples.

A plague of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts and others. Even Pharaoh’s own trusted advisors could not sway him, so stubborn was he. His stubbornness exacted a toll upon the people of Egypt that culminated in the deaths of all the firstborn of the people and cattle in Egypt, except for those of the Israelites before that stubbornness was overcome.

It took inconvenience, pain, discomfort, and death before he finally took off his blinders.

To be stubborn is to be unreasonable or unyielding. It is easy to see, for most of us, how this can be damaging to our relationships, especially our relationship with God. Paul’s words to the Romans should serve us well in understanding how being stubborn can affect our relationship with God and bring about less than desirable consequences.

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” (Romans 2:5 NASB).

Being stubborn can also have very adverse effects on our relationships with our spouses, children, friends, and co-workers. Being stubborn can blind us to ways that we are mistreating those we love, and are sinning against the Lord, who loves us.

Today is the perfect day to pray for God’s help in removing your blinders so that you may see all that there is to see.

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

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November 29

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to see through his disguise.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11 NLT

Somewhere along the line, someone decided to turn satan into a “cute” cartoon figure.

Many people conjure up images of an “impish” person with horns, a cape, and a trident who sits on one shoulder while another cartoon figure of an angel sits on the other, both whispering in our ears trying to get our attention. Many people even find it clever or cute to dress up as the devil at Halloween. Children and adults alike tend to come away from these depictions of the devil with the impression that he is an imaginary person and, as such, is not to be taken seriously.

This is a serious mistake to make that can have disastrous consequences.

We must see through satan’s many disguises and recognize him for who he is: The evil one who would see all of us denied an everlasting life of joy, peace, love, and happiness. When we don’t view him as the source of evil that he is, we help him to achieve his goal.

Paul, in his Second Letter to the church in Corinth, addressed the subject of those who would disguise themselves as apostles of Christ to deceive people and lead them away from Christ instead of toward Him.

“No wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14 NASB).

There is nothing cute, impish or cartoon-like about satan’s efforts to lead us away from the gift of salvation held out to us all. It can be confusing sometimes because the voice of satan disguised as the voice of an apostle of Christ can be loud and convincing. How many good “Christians” were duped by satan into joining the Ku Klux Klan, an organization of alienation, segregation, hate, destruction, and death that presented themselves as “Christians?”

How many cults have proliferated throughout history that are, ostensibly, formed as a way for us to become members of a “select” group handpicked by God’s own personal prophet, but are nothing more than satan’s fan clubs set up to serve a sexually immoral and isolationist leader who is actually an emissary of satan himself?

History is riddled with those who have tried to twist the words of the Bible to fit their own personal agenda. There can be no greater sin than to lead God’s children away from the truth and into a life that promotes immorality, hatred, superiority, or the need to isolate from the rest of the world or pass judgment on others.

We must all wipe the cartoon image of satan out of our minds and see through his disguises and know that, given the chance, he will push us to deny ourselves the very promise that Christ made with His death on the cross.

We must see through the many disguises of evil, and today is an ideal day to start.

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

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November 28

TODAY IS…

a fine day to remember that it is not what you think.

“Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God – the words He gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant?”  Isaiah 40:21 NLT

Do you think that you are too old for God to use you in a significant way?

Do you think that you have lived your life so sinfully that God has no use of your talents and abilities?

Do you think you don’t have talents and abilities that God can use?

If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, then they should know that the real problem is that you think! How can any among us place what we think ahead of what the Word of God says?

So what, exactly, does the Bible have to say on each of those subjects?

For anyone who may think they are too old to be of any use to God, David makes it very clear that, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming ‘The Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’” (Psalm 92:14-15 NIV).

No matter how old we may be, at the very least we can teach other. We can use our voice and the wisdom of our years to help others find their way to God and to the salvation He gave us all through Jesus Christ. There may be some physical limitations that accompany increasing years, but we will never be too old to “bear fruit” for God.

For those who question exactly what their talents and abilities may be – or that they even exist, the Bible says, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT).

There are those who have the gift of leadership, the gift of teaching, the gift of gathering clothing and food for the needy. There are those who can help with mailing things, building things, there are those who can sing in church choirs. Big things, little things, it doesn’t matter as long as we use what abilities we have to serve the Lord and to help each other.

Finally, there are those who may think that they have sinned “too much.” Perhaps the feeling is that “bad” people are not worthy of serving God. For those of us who may think this way, God made the strongest statement of all when He sent His Son to suffer and be sacrificed for us. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and we show repentance for the sins we have committed, we are made worthy. In fact, in his Letter to the church in Southern Galatia, Paul reminds us all of just how bad he was before he became one of the greatest voices Christianity has ever known.

“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I was to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it…” (Galatians 1:13 NASB).

So always remember that it doesn’t matter what you think.

It is what the Bible says that is important.

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

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November 27

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to pump a little “Spiritual Iron.”

“He remembered us in our time of weakness. His faithful love endures forever.”  Psalm 136:23 NLT

Most of us are familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a Governor of California after having been a major star in action movies. His formidable physique made him difficult to beat. Many of us are also aware that before Arnold became a movie star, he was known around the world as a major body building champion. He has an incredible build composed of muscles, many of which are in places most of us don’t even know we have places.

Of course, Arnold was not born that way.

His development took place over time as the result of a lot of hard work “pumping iron.” Arnold lifted weights for hours every day to exercise his different muscles and his hard work paid off with three phenomenal careers as bodybuilder, movie star, and governor.

Our faith is like those muscles Arnold worked to develop.

His muscles started out weak, as does our faith.

We must exercise our faith by pumping some “spiritual iron” to build it up so that our spiritual “physique” is as formidable as Arnold’s body. It is important that we take note of the fact that the process is on-going and takes a lifetime. We don’t work on it for a little while, build it up, and then forget about it.

If Arnold did not continue to exercise his muscles, they would atrophy – they would get smaller and he would grow weaker.

The same principle applies to our faith. We must constantly exercise it to ensure that it remains as strong as possible.

The Israelites were always forgetting their “exercise program,” whereupon their faith would weaken. Even though they had the Law of Moses to guide them, “The Law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.” (Romans 8:3a NLT).

Our faith can save us, and it is incumbent upon us to do all that we can so that we are able to be like the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with rare perfume.

“And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 7:50 NASB).

Our faith can save us as well, but it requires regular exercise in order to be ready for anything that might require it. The only way to exercise our faith is to rely upon God for everything, to worship Him, pray to Him, and search the Bible daily, for by reading the Word of God we are “pumping Spiritual Iron.”

We may never be known the world over as Arnold is, but we will be known to God, and that is recognition of inestimable worth.

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

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November 26

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to let it go.

“I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for My own sake and I will never think of them again.” Isaiah 43:25 NLT

After the Titanic sinks in James Cameron’s epic film by the same name, the movie’s two stars are adrift. Unfortunately there is only room on the piece of debris they found for one of them. Of course, “Jack” lets “Rose” lie above the water while he floats alongside, holding onto their makeshift “raft” in the frigid North Atlantic. Before too long, the temperature of the water finally gets the best of Jack and he cannot hold on any longer.

In a scene that had many eyes brimming with tears in theaters everywhere, Jack lets go and sinks down and away from his beloved Rose.

Letting go is sometimes painful and poignant.

There are, however, times when letting go can be uplifting, unshackling, liberating, and joyful. When we reach out to God with a repentant heart and ask for His forgiveness, we are able to “let go” of the burden of pain, shame, and guilt, that has been holding us back and pulling us down.

The lesson the Lord is teaching us in Isaiah 43:25 is this: “Once I forgive your sins, I forget them. I do not hold on to them or hold them against you. I let them go.”

And we must do the same.

This is not a license to sin, be sorry, and repeat. This is not an automatic dismissal of our sins. Repentance is required, and it must be sincere. Of course, this also does not mean that God will not forgive us more than once for the same transgression.

We are weak, and we are human.

The Israelites repeatedly turned away from God. Each time they repented, however, they could always count on God’s forgiveness, and they demonstrated this understanding when they prayed, “You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19 NIV).

At the same time, if we find ourselves repeatedly going to God asking forgiveness for the same thing (or things) then we know where the focus of our prayers for strength needs to lie.

It is important to remember that any sins for which we have been truly repentant and have received God’s forgiveness have been forgotten by the only one who matters. If we are constantly nagged by the burden of guilt or shame for those sins, we are succumbing to an act of Satan – not a reminder from God.

Always turn to God for the strength to resist temptation in the first place, but when it comes to forgiven sins, we must do what God does, and “Let It Go.”

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

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November 25

TODAY IS…

the day to get God in your corner.

“O Lord, oppose those who oppose me. Fight those who fight against me.”  Psalm 35:1 NLT

Many of us often feel as if it is us against the world.

Somehow we allow ourselves to become self-sufficient and begin to rely on ourselves instead of on God, and it usually doesn’t take us long to figure out that we simply cannot fight our battles alone.

If this is the case with any of us it is time to get God back in our corner.

We must reach out to Him and ask Him to,“Put on your armor, and take up your shield. Prepare for battle, and come to my aid.” (Psalm 35:2 NLT).

How do we allow ourselves to slip from relying fully on God to self-sufficiency that usually ends in a distress call to God? Since God’s work is silent and unseen, we allow ourselves to forget that we had asked God to help us and when He answers our prayer, it then is just a short step to taking credit for something we didn’t do. Before too long, we forget to ask God for His advice or His help and we wind up calling out to Him in a panic when it suddenly becomes crystal clear that we cannot get through life without getting God in our corner.

We must keep God in our corner by drawing close to Him. We must do everything we can to make sure our loyalty and reliance is on God and not ourselves or anything of this world.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8a NIV).

Drawing near to God – getting Him in our corner – means getting Him involved in our lives. We cannot possibly ask Him to help us and get close to us without getting Him involved in our plans.

“Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16 NLT).

Our strength to fight off evil comes from God, and He wants to give it to us. To receive that strength from Him we must humble ourselves before Him. James said, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV).

If it is God who is lifting you up, nothing can knock you down. If it is our own self-sufficiency that holds us up, we can expect to be attacked by temptation, difficulties, problems, and challenges.

Without God in our corner, our ability to withstand any attack for long is doubtful.

But with God in our corner, victory is assured, for, ” If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b NIV

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

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November 24

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to be thirsty.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, O God.”  Psalm 42:1 NASB

How wonderful it is to have a relationship with God that always has us longing for more. How truly blessed we are when we can honestly say, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…” (Psalm 42:2a NASB).

Those of us who are parents know that the dependence our children have on us diminishes with time. Their growth, maturity, and need for independence all take over at some point and while we will always play an important part in their lives, our role will change and will surely grow smaller.

Not so with our relationship with God.

If we are truly following Christ, our need for God never diminishes. In fact, it will actually grow. Paul wrote about the tremendous difficulties he faced in Asia. His letter to the Corinthians indicated that he, and those with him, thought they would not live through it.

“In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raised the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9 NLT).

When we learn to rely on God, we will find ourselves constantly turning to Him over and over again. As Paul went on in his letter, “And He did rescue us from mortal danger, and He will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10 NLT).

But more than His ability to help us out of bad situations, we will discover a thirst for the wisdom and knowledge that can only be quenched by actively pursuing a relationship with God.

If we are truly letting God direct our lives, we will not be able to get through an entire day without spending time in prayer, worship, and meditation. We will wake up and God will be in our thoughts and as we go through the day, we will constantly look to Him for guidance. At the end of each day, as we lie down to sleep, we will thank Him for the day He has given us.

The salvation that comes with knowing Christ is available for all who are thirsty for it. “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17b NKJV).

There is no charge no matter how thirsty we may be. There is no limit to how much we can drink. The thirstier we are, the more God likes it, and we can rest assured that no matter when we are thirsty, there will always be something to drink.

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

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November 23

TODAY IS…

a great day to get comfortable.

“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”  Psalm 1:6 NIV

Today there is some good news, and there is some bad news.

The good news is that God is always watching over us.

The bad news is that God is always watching over us.

OK, maybe that is not really bad news. But the truth is that many people are uncomfortable with the knowledge that God is always watching.

Don’t be shy. He has seen it all before. There is nothing any of us can do that will surprise Him or shock Him. He knows the heights, and the depths, of mankind all too well.

If we are uncomfortable with the knowledge that God is always watching us, perhaps we should ask ourselves why.

What is it about the way we conduct our lives that we are uncomfortable with God seeing? If this knowledge makes us more acutely aware of what we are doing, how we are acting, and how we are living our lives, perhaps we will be less likely to live, act, or do things in a manner that is contrary to the will of God.

If that is the case, then the “bad” news has suddenly become very good indeed.

We should welcome the fact that He is always watching and, being aware that He is, when we are about to do something questionable, we need to ask ourselves, “What is God going to think?”

When we really give it some thought, this little exercise could save many of us a lot of pain, trouble, money, heartache, loss, aggravation – well, you get the idea.

The fact that the Lord is always with us, watching over us should never make us uncomfortable. It should bring us only comfort to know that He is always there. As a matter of fact, many of the reasons that we should feel comfortable with God always being with us and watching over us can be found in David’s Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23 KJV).

God’s watchful eye may make you uneasy when you do something you know doesn’t meet with His approval. But the knowledge that He will always be right there when you need Him should make you very comfortable.

So use the gift of today and make yourself comfortable.

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

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