November 16

TODAY IS…

a fine day to break down barriers.

“Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. ‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘This man certainly performs many miraculous signs.’”  John 11:47 NLT

The correct answer to that question, of course, is “Believe.”

Unfortunately, pride got in the way of many who refused to believe even after witnessing for themselves the incredible power of Christ’s deity. Not satisfied with simply dismissing Him, these same individuals participated in plotting His death. “So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (John 11:53 NASB).

Caiaphas was the high priest at the time and the idea of Jesus as the Messiah was unthinkable. The Sadducees were an elite group of wealthy and educated men and Caiaphas was their leader. Messiah or not, they perceived Jesus as a threat to their lifestyle.

The idea of a leader who served was something their pride would not allow them to accept.

Even when faced with the proof that Christ had risen from the dead, they refused to accept it and threw up barriers to belief by bribing the guards to cover up Christ’s resurrection. “When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers money, telling them, ‘You are to say,’ ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’” (Matthew 28:12-13 NIV).

Pride not only creates barriers to the facts, it also creates barriers that prevent us from seeing our faults. Pride makes it difficult to admit when we are wrong or when we need help. Both situations can create major problems for us, and for those around us.

God is aware of all of the negative effects of pride. “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5 NIV).

We all know someone whose pride throws up barriers all around them. They are difficult to talk to, reason with, and refuse to admit or acknowledge any capacity for being wrong. The words, “I was wrong” never seem to quite make it out of their mouths. Perhaps it is someone you work with, go to school with, worship with at church, or live with.

Maybe it is you.

No?

Impossible?

Is that pride talking, or is that truly an honest assessment?

Ask those around you if you throw up barriers because of your pride, and if the answer is “Yes, you do,” ask God to help you break them down today. And if you know others who may fall into that category,

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

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November 13

TODAY IS…

an ideal day to follow God’s example.

“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’”  Mark 1:11 NIV

One of the reasons that Jesus was baptized by John was to set an example for us.

As Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and His Father told Him that He loved Him and was pleased with Him. God set an example for us all that should play a big part in how we raise our children and live our lives. The example is a good one to keep in mind even for those who do not have children. It is an example of who God is, and it is an example of who He wants us to be.

Whether or not we have children ourselves, we all were children at one time and much of who, and how, we are came about out of what we heard and saw as children.

Many of us know people, especially men, who have some degree of difficulty expressing their love. Some find it difficult to say the words privately and as far as saying them in public? Forget it!

But God always wants us to learn from His example and Jesus was certainly not alone when God told Him that He loved Him and was pleased with Him.

Many parents are disappointed when their children do not exhibit the same interests as theirs. Rather than encourage their independent growth and development, the child is led to believe he or she is doing something wrong merely because they are not being us. They must be loved and appreciated, for who they are, not who we would like them to be.

If we teach them kindness, respect, integrity, honor, compassion, fairness, generosity and tolerance, combined with demonstrations of our love, verbal signs of our appreciation, and knowledge of God, we should be able to sit back and watch them mature into beautiful men and women with good hearts who are eager to make a place for themselves as productive members of God’s family.

If we love them enough, they won’t be just like us. They will be even better. If we follow God’s example and tell them we love them on a daily basis, it becomes a part of who they are.

And when we teach them that we tell them we love them because God told Jesus the same thing, then they also learn to follow God’s example.

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

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November 12

TODAY IS…

the day to grasp every opportunity.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Ephesians 5:16 NLT

It is an indisputable – and unfortunate – fact of life that opportunities abound on a daily basis to give in to temptation of one kind or another and put a smile on the face of the devil by sinning against God.

It was Paul who was instructing the Ephesians in the above referenced Bible verse. One can only imagine what Paul would say about today’s world if he thought that his day was filled with evil. It would probably be safe to venture that he would be stunned at just how decadent, disrespectful, disinterested, and destructive man has become.

But at the same time, it would be interesting to see the look on his face as he realized just how far Christianity has come. He would more than likely be very pleased with the number of people who make it a part of their daily lives to grasp each and every opportunity that passes their way to do good.

It is true that evil walks this earth with boldness and disregard for human life that increases almost daily. But it is also true that there are millions of people who are kind, gentle, loving and are willing to fight for the souls of their fellow man.

When our singular objective is to look only for the opportunities to do good, we will discover a closeness with God that will amaze us. When we are looking for opportunities to do the right thing, we are following Paul’s instructions for “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 NASB).

Then we are ready to follow Paul’s admonishment to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11 NIV).

Focusing on opportunities to do good things keeps our focus on God, where it should be. It is easy to be caught up in the ways of the world, especially in the world of today. Television, the internet, and even our telephones bring us face to face with choices that we must make. The need for spiritual strength to resist all that we are tempted with is strong. Our human desire to ‘belong’ is great. Our need to be ‘a part of the action’ can be overwhelming.

However, we must constantly remind ourselves that the only ‘action’ we need to be a part of is to live our lives in a way that makes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ worthwhile. Grasping every opportunity to do good is one way of helping us keep that focus.

Look for those opportunities to do good today, and every day.

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

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November 11

TODAY IS…

a great day to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you.

“Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.”  Joel 1:5 NIV

We are all most likely familiar with the expression, “Good things come in small packages.”

Joel’s contribution to the Bible is very small in content, being only three chapters, but it is enormously important in its message. Joel was a prophet who wrote about complacency to the people of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. As is too often the case, the people had grown prosperous and had developed a sense of self-sufficiency that displaced their reliance on God, causing them to become complacent where God was concerned.

God had sent a plague of locusts to discipline them, and Joel called upon them all to turn from their sinful ways and go to God and seek His forgiveness before something even worse happened.

It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or watch the news today without coming across a story of someone in a high position of trust and responsibility who has grown arrogant and self-reliant through complacency. Many of these people we read or hear about have claimed a relationship with God, but that relationship did little to protect them when their self-sufficiency caused them to cross the line and violate the public trust.

The reason for this is not complicated and is one which the Bible has pointed out repeatedly for those who take time to absorb the message. Quite simply, people become complacent. When complacency settles into our lives and displaces our reliance upon God, our humble thanks to God, and our constant seeking of God’s approval, we become weak, and willing.

Weak and susceptible to the temptations of the world, and willing to set aside our relationship with God in favor of these things.

No matter how high in life a person rises, if the climb to that height was not done in accordance with God’s will and in the light of God’s approval there will be a price to pay. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but it would be wise to heed Joel’s advice and turn back to God and ask for forgiveness before the price must be paid.

Joel’s short book ends on a high note as he reassured his people of God’s readiness to forgive them. He tells them God says, “I will pardon My people’s crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the Lord, will make My home in Jerusalem with My people.” (Joel 3:21 NLT).

Make sure that each day is spent on guard against complacency, so the effects of it never happen to you.

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

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November 10

TODAY IS…

a splendid day to understand that the truth cannot be locked away.

“So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”  Matthew 27:66 NIV

The Pharisees and leading priests remembered Jesus’ declaration that He would rise from the dead. They convinced Pilate to seal His body in a tomb after His death and post a number of guards to make sure that His disciples did not steal His body to make it appear that He really did rise from the dead.

Of course, we all know that no tomb and no number of guards were capable of locking away the truth. The truth cannot be denied, it cannot be hidden, and it cannot be denounced.

In today’s society, there are new attempts to “lock away” the truth. It becomes increasingly difficult to speak of God without offending someone. Objections are raised about “civil rights,” but if we recall, forces have always been at work to deny the truth.

Forces have always been at work to lock the truth away.

When Paul and Barnabas were trying to spread the Good News, certain Jews tried to deny the truth. First they spoke against Paul and Barnabas.

“Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town.” (Acts 13:50 NLT).

This did not stop them, of course, they simply moved on and preached elsewhere. Danger existed all around them as they traveled, but they never stopped preaching. They knew the truth and it was important to them that it be shared with others. In Corinth, Paul said, “For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:8 NASB).

Of course, Jesus knew that all of His disciples would have their moments of doubt. He knew that they would all be shaken terribly by the reality of His death, but He had told them, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 11:6 KJV).

It would take His rising from the dead and standing before them to finally get His message to register and take firm hold with the people who began to show the world that you cannot lock away the truth. You cannot seal it away in a tomb and guard it to keep it from people.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility to the truth. How well we fulfill that obligation will be demonstrated in how we live each day that God gives us as a gift. The truth cannot – and must not – ever be locked away, for the truth is freedom.

“…and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32 NASB).

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

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November 9

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to prioritize relationships.

“The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”  John 4:18 NIV

For those of us who are parents, one of our greatest responsibilities to our children should be centered on relationships. We should teach them the value of relationships with friends, family, co-workers, strangers, members of our church and – of paramount importance – we should be teaching them about relationships between spouses.

How does someone who has been married 3, 4, or 5 times and has had numerous relationships outside of marriage teach a child about the value of the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage?

Certainly there will be those who are reading this who will begin to bristle defensively. Excuses, or reasons, will be offered: “She was unfaithful.” “He was abusive.” “She was a drunk.” “He spent all his time looking at pornography.”

And on, and on.

Instead of teaching our children the importance of our relationships with each other, we inadvertently teach them that a relationship with God is not important.

For those who would disagree, consider this: If we are secure in our relationship with God, none of the above “reasons” will be a factor in our lives. When the most important relationship in our life is recognized as the relationship we have with God, then – and only then – are we prepared to engage in a relationship with another person.

Who would argue that the predominate reasons given for divorce are the result of sin?

Paul had the answer for that: “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (Galatians 5:16 NLT).

A strong, loving relationship with God brings us everything that is required to enable us to engage in strong, loving relationships and marriages.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

Read that over and over. Who can argue with the fact that those things are the basis for a strong, loving, healthy relationship?

No one, of course.

To obtain these things without God’s help is impossible. There are simply too many obstacles in the way. These obstacles are called “sin” and the temptation that leads to it. A strong, active, loving relationship with God gives us the ability to overcome any obstacle.

If our relationship with God comes first, our marriage will last. And what a lesson that is for all of us.

Especially for our children.

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

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November 8

TODAY IS…

a superb day to pray with the confidence of Elijah.

“And Elijah said unto Ahab, get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.”  1 Kings 18:41 KJV

When Elijah told Ahab to go get something to eat and drink before the rainstorm hit, Ahab probably thought he was delusional. There was no evidence of rain anywhere to be seen. Still, Elijah had put on a pretty good demonstration when he prayed for God to send fire to burn up the bull that was offered in sacrifice, so perhaps his suggestion should be followed.

Elijah, meanwhile, climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and prayed. He had brought his servant with him when he went there. “’Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’” (1 Kings 18:43 NIV).

The servant did as he was instructed, of course, but around the sixth time that he went to look, he was probably a little skeptical that anything was going to happen at all. “The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea’” (1 Kings 18:44a NIV).

The servant probably didn’t think much would come from such a tiny cloud, but Elijah certainly felt otherwise.

“So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” (1 Kings 18:44b NIV).

Sure enough, “In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower and Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.” (1 Kings 18:45 NASB).

You see, the entire time that Elijah was praying he knew that the prayer would be answered. He just did not know when. The reason he had his servant keep checking was not to verify that a storm was coming because Elijah already knew that. He simply wanted to give Ahab ample time to go to Jezreel so he did not get caught in the worst of it.

Jesus spoke very plainly and very clearly on this very subject to His disciples when He said, “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24 NASB).

When you pray, remember the confidence of Elijah and the words of Jesus Christ.

“’Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered.” (Mark 11:22 NIV).

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

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November 7

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to avoid the lion’s den

“Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.”  Daniel 6:3 NLT

When good things happen to other people around us we should be happy, right? We should congratulate them and help them to enjoy the moment. Our love for everyone dictates to us that this is what our response should be.

The key word here is “should,” and even though we “should” be happy for another person’s good fortune, we all know that is not always the case. Sometimes we are not only not happy for them; we are actually envious, jealous, or resentful.

The Bible tells us we should avoid these feelings, and deep down inside we know we should, but there are times when it seems difficult to avoid them. Being bypassed for a promotion, an appointment, or a job may produce those feelings because we think we are more qualified, capable, or experienced. We may not be in possession of all of the facts, of course, and it is our own hurt feelings that are really producing the negative feelings. It is very important to not let those negative feelings make us do something that will hurt us in the long run.

In Daniel’s case, when the king contemplated putting him over the entire empire, the other administrators and high officers began looking for flaws in his character and for ways to discredit his work. They could find none, so they worked out an elaborate plan to trick the king into getting rid of Daniel. The king unwittingly signed into law an order stating that no one could pray to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days.

Daniel’s faith in God did not permit him to obey the law and he prayed anyway. The ones who plotted against Daniel made sure he was caught. The king had no choice but to throw Daniel into the lion’s den. The next morning, much to everyone’s surprise, Daniel was still alive.

“Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23 NASB).

Not only was the negative energy of those who had set him up wasted, the king had all of them and their families thrown to the lions for falsely accusing him.

None of them survived.

Do not waste your time or energy being angry, upset, jealous or envious of another person’s good fortune. God wants you to be happy for others when good things happen. Stay faithful to God, and be happy! You may not wind up in the lion’s den, but why take the chance?

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

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November 6

TODAY IS…

a great day to avoid getting caught up in the excitement.

“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Crucify Him!’”  Matthew 27:22 NASB

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of things sometimes. The holiday season is infectious, birthdays, festivals, family reunions, and so-on, all tend to grab us and we get swept along in the rising tide of emotions.

In many cases and in many instances that is most certainly not a bad thing, but we must ALWAYS be careful that we don’t get so carried away that we fail to exercise caution and common sense. We also need to always be sure and not get caught up in the excitement of something that is wrong or could prove to have negative consequences or a negative effect on our health, welfare, and well-being. The same goes for those we love as well. We want to make sure that they exercise caution and judgment also.

Regret sometimes follows actions taken in the heat of the moment. If we are not careful, sometimes getting caught up in the excitement can have irreversible negative consequences.

In the most powerful and emotional display of people getting caught up in the excitement of the moment followed by the profound feeling of certainty that something terrible had just occurred due to that uncontrolled excitement of a crowd, Jesus of Nazareth was savagely beaten and then crucified.

Pilate tried to dissuade them. “And he said, ‘why, what evil has He done?’ But they kept shouting all the more, saying, ‘Crucify Him!’” (Matthew 27:23 NASB).

“Kill Him! Kill Him!” they screamed in their frenzy. Untold numbers of everyday people caught up in the moment and on the verge of murdering the Son of God!

Jesus was nailed to the cross. The sky went dark in the middle of the day for three hours. Jesus cried out and He was given some wine soaked in a sponge.

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” (Matthew 27:50-52 NIV).

It was then that the realization began to set in.

“The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, ‘This man truly was the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:54 NLT).

Take a moment to think about what you are about to do so you do not need to spend the rest of your life trying to forget what it was you did. Use that moment to pray and ask God for His guidance and avoid getting caught up in the excitement of something that you will instantly regret.

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

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November 5

TODAY IS…

a perfect day to do everything for God because He does it all for you!

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4 NASB

Are we comfortable with God? Do we enjoy having God in our lives? Are we at ease when we talk with Him, and is our relationship such that we do not hesitate to involve Him in every aspect of our lives? Do we know Him and are we satisfied with what He knows about us?

To “Delight yourself in the Lord” is to answer, “Yes!” to all of those questions. To delight in the Lord, we must know Him and we must enjoy the relationship we have.

Psalm 37 was written by David to encourage us to trust in God and wait patiently for Him to act. If we are capable of doing that, “He will give you the desires of your heart.” David stresses this by saying, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Psalm 77:5 NASB).

In other words, God is prepared to give us His best. Shouldn’t we give Him ours? Heads are nodding ‘yes’ and there are murmurs of ‘Amen!’ but how do we go about giving Him our best?

We can all start by giving more of ourselves to learning from Him, by spending more time in service to those around us, by redirecting ourselves so that more of our day is spent being less self-centered and more  focused on being someone who thoroughly enjoys God.

As parents, many of us know what it is like as our children grow up and grow away from us. They need us in their lives less and less as their own lives become more and more demanding. The degree of separation and independence varies, but we want them to enjoy time with us and we still want them to rely on us.

As the Father of us all, God wants us to always stay in touch with Him and He always wants us to take pleasure from His involvement in our lives. Daily communication and consultation with God may seem like taking from Him, but by relying on Him, we are giving Him our trust and this pleases Him.

Our relationship with Him should always be easy and relaxed. If we are uncomfortable with Him, we need to examine how we are spending our time and living our lives. It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect God to do His best for us when we are unwilling, or unable, to give Him our best.

God loves to do things for us, and He wants to give us His best. We need to make sure that we each do the same for Him every day.

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

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