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, andwith 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. Then, we are always ready to take the stairs.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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 full of food, staring at its contents long enough to draw the attention of parents or spouse and then closed the door and walked away declaring, “There is nothing to eat!”

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.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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 though 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 sometimes 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 accept 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.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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. 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, right? 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 they 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 it 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.”

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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, too, 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 job 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?”

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I, Sinner

TODAY IS…

a great day to remember the price Jesus paid with His birth.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 NIV

As Christians, we take this time during advent to celebrate the coming of Christ. We also look forward to the festive nature of the season, the exchanging of gifts, and spending time with family and friends.

It is right, and appropriate, that we be full of joy as we celebrate the birth of the One who came to provide us all with victory over death, and show us the path to grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

When I pray, I always ask God’s forgiveness for the many ways in which I have fallen short. I ask forgiveness for the sins of my words, my actions, and my thoughts. I am a sinner, as we all are, and I am very far from perfect, as we all are. I take comfort in knowing that when -and that definitely is when, and not if – I give in to temptation or fail to ask God for strength before giving in to temptation, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 NIV

I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade here, or bring anyone down, but I do think it is necessary that we all temper our joy at the birth of our Lord and Savior with a reminder of the price He would pay for our forgiveness at the end of His time on earth.

As we all gather round to watch our favorite holiday movies (personally, I like the “Rudolph” one with the “Island of Misfit Toys” because sometimes that is exactly where I feel I am) I would suggest adding another to the list. I think we should all pause for some serious reflection and watch “The Passion of the Christ” for the vivid reminder of the sacrifice that was made, and the suffering that was endured, on our behalf.

I have posted the following image before because it is a powerful reminder to me of that suffering, and I pray it is for you as well. Make part of this joyous season serious and watch the movie again. Then hug those around you and thank God for the grace, mercy, and forgiveness we all have because he sent His only begotten Son to us to offer us salvation, and allowed Him to pay for that salvation in such a horrible way.

the-passion-of-the-christ-05

As for me, perhaps posting this picture above my desk will help me ask for forgiveness a lot less than I do.

 

 

Posted in Scenic Turnouts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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.

Since we can’t take it with us, then we should be concerned about who we are leaving it to, because God surely will be paying attention. Individuals who are welcomed into heaven have accepted Christ as their savior, have worshiped only God, and have treated others with love and kindness. Not all become financially successful during their lifetimes, but a good number of them leave behind great amounts of wealth.

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 may have been 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 they 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 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).

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 tell them 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).

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

December 6

TODAY IS…

a good day to acknowledge that God’s word is final.Add

“Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!”  Numbers 23:20 NLT

Beginning from the time we are children, when we get an answer we are not happy with we seek out someone from whom we can try and extract an answer that is more to our liking.

As children, how many of us have asked our mothers a question, not been happy with the answer, and gone to dad to seek a more favorable response? Or been told “No” by dad only to seek out mom’s view on the subject. It’s called “working your parents.”

As parents, how many of us have been “worked” by our children?

In legal situations, if we get a result that is contrary to what we desire, we can “appeal” to have the decision changed to one we agree with.

In life, there are many ways and many situations in which decisions may be appealed to be changed, but when it comes to the word of God, it starts, and ends, right there.

God’s word is final.

We may look for excuses for behavior that is contrary to what we know God expects of us, but that is all they will be – excuses. If we sleep with our neighbor’s wife, we can say that “everybody” does it; we can say that it is not against the laws of man, and we can probably even find those who will applaud our behavior.

But God will not be one of them.

He will never approve of it, He will never change His mind, and there is no higher authority to appeal to in order to get a different answer.

God’s word is final.

How, then, do we justify this behavior in our minds? If we do anything contrary to God’s laws how do we justify it?

God says don’t judge others. That job is reserved for Him. Still, we pass judgment on others. God says we are not to lie, and yet the truth is a very difficult thing for many “Christians.” God says we are not to covet anything our neighbor has, but how many of us worry more about what others have that we do not than about what God says on the subject?

It seems that since there is no way to appeal God’s word, it must be OK to just ignore it.

Of course we know this is not true. We should instead take comfort from the fact that of all the things in the world that change, God’s word is not one of them. His word is final.

And that is final.

*******

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

December 5

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to make the right choices.

“Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!”  Deuteronomy 11:26 NLT

It would appear on the surface to be a “no brainer” when confronted with the options God gave to the Israelites. How could anyone willingly choose a curse over a blessing? Who would make such a choice?

Honesty would require that many of us raise our hands and admit that we have willingly made the wrong choice. Perhaps we have even done so many times.

Making the wrong choice can have a wide range of negative consequences from very minor to extremely severe and unpleasant. While it is always possible to learn from making the wrong choice, it is best to learn how to make the right ones and avoid the wrong ones completely.

The very first choice that God gave to mankind was in the Garden of Eden.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17 NIV).

One choice, one temptation. Mankind’s score: Good Choices – 0; Bad Choices – 1.

We certainly did not get off to a good start, and sometimes it doesn’t look like we ever learned a thing. Whenever we try to make our choices based upon what we think, or on what we feel, or because of what we want, the chance of making the wrong choice increases exponentially.

It is pretty difficult to make the wrong choice in any given situation and then lay the blame at God’s feet. We have His Word to help us determine what the correct decision is. With the wisdom contained in the Bible, it really is rather difficult to choose the wrong way to go, to think, or to act.

“A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2 NLT).

Sometimes making the right choice leaves us standing alone. Those who are thinking only of themselves may try to make us feel at odds, or try to make us feel guilty for our decision. But Paul assured us, “Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.” (Romans 14:22b NLT).

If we have truly accepted Christ into our lives, our hearts will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and it will always be our heart which will help us make the right decision. Many wrong choices will have minor consequences, but our goal should always be to make the right choice each and every time. This way we will be less likely to be caught off guard and make a wrong choice that has devastating consequences.

The choice is yours.

Do you choose to be blessed or to be cursed?

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

December 4

TODAY IS…

the day to do the right things for the right reason.

“They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.”  Psalm 35:12 KJV

Answer this question: “Are you nice to others?”

Most of us probably answered “Yes.”

Now answer this one: “Why?”

Perhaps most of us answered, “Because God wants us to love one another.”

That would be the right reason and each one of us should strive to do things that are not only the right thing to do, we should also desire to do them for the right reason.

Sometimes pride gets in our way, though.

Perhaps if we think about it, we can remember being a little irritated when we did something nice for someone and it went unnoticed, or worse, it appeared to be unappreciated. David expresses dismay at not being treated in the same manner he treated others.

“Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.” (Psalm 35:13 NLT).

Poor David.

He did the right thing, but the others did not. Should that be a concern of his?

Certainly we can only go through this life living our lives in a manner which is acceptable to God, correct? We cannot be – nor are we – held responsible for someone else. If we treat someone the way we wish for them to treat us – as the Bible tells us – and we get upset when they do not act the same way in kind, then we have let our pride get in the way and it makes what we did unacceptable to God because it was done for the wrong reason.

People will not always respond to the things that we say or do in a manner that we like, or would expect. If this occurs, we need to pray for them, not be angry, or upset with them.

Jesus was very, very clear on this subject when He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 NASB).

The things that we do for others should be done because of who we are and what is in our heart. Pride should not be allowed to expect payment or reward for them. If we have truly learned what God wants us to learn, the way we treat others and the kindnesses we display will be automatic and who is watching, noticing, or in a position to reward us will never be an issue.

We probably all know someone who regularly does things for others, but makes sure that other people are aware of what they do. Jesus said, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” (Matthew 6:3 NASB).

Never let pride keep you from doing the right thing for the right reason.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment