December 6

TODAY IS…

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

“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 mother 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.” And once we became parents ourselves, 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 many believe that since there is no way to appeal God’s word, it must be OK to simply 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.

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

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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 an obviously wrong choice? However, 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. Man’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?

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

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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 have been 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.

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

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December 3

TODAY IS…

a great day to show what is written in our hearts.

“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thought either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”  Romans 2:15 NLT

Exactly what is it that people see when they look at us?

Are they seeing who we are, or are they seeing only what we want them to see?

We have all heard stories about people who live in abusive relationships. Very few, if any, people can tell that there is abuse based upon what is seen in public. In many cases, when the fact that a man is abusing his wife comes to light, it is often a shock to many people because “He’s always so nice.” The abused person puts on a happy face in public out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

As for the abuser, it would be the rare individual who did not know that their behavior violates not only societal law, but God’s law as well. Some of these abusers actually will use God’s name when inflicting their pain and their “punishment,” but if they truly felt it was OK with God, why is this behavior always hidden and kept secret? Because in their heart they know that what they are doing is wrong. If we all could see what was truly written in their hearts, we would know that they are far from righteous in the eyes of God. “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13 NIV).

The same applies to any “secret life” we may have which displays anything other than what is truly acceptable to God.

With the advent of the internet, sexual sin has increased by leaps and bounds and the degradation of the human spirit has become a way of life – a secret way of life – for countless individuals. The viewing of pornography is among the most common of these sins and the number of lives that this “harmless” pastime has affected, and destroyed, is incalculable. It is an unfortunate safe bet that, as you look around at the members of your church on Sunday, a disturbing number will be carrying this secret with them. Many classify its viewing as a harmless, private pursuit. But if it is so harmless, why would so few would be willing to stand up in church and announce that they do it, that they like it, or that they do not think it affects their relationships.

Fewer still would stand up and try to convince us that it is acceptable in the eyes of God.

The truth is that it is a destructive pastime that serves no purpose and takes valuable time away from our friends, families, and other loved ones. It also wastes valuable time that we could be spending doing the work of God helping those who are in need. In addition, it damages our relationship with God which affects every aspect of our lives.

If you engage in behavior – any behavior – that you would be embarrassed, or ashamed of, if it became public knowledge, then you need to ask God to help you rewrite what is written in your heart.

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

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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 learn 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 when we need it, 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 reveals 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 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 Pharaoh’s 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.

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 28

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” cartoonish figure. Many people conjure up images of an “impish” person with horns, a cape, and a trident who sits on one shoulder while another cartoonish 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 disastrous mistake to make.

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 cartoonish 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?

How many cults proliferate that ostensibly are 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.

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

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November 27

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 others, 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 is not 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 26

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 also are 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 can 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.

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

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