October 17

TODAY IS…

a great day for watching the clouds.

“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.”  Numbers 9:17 NIV

Much of our daily life is controlled by signs and signals. If we are driving a car, signs tell us where things are, what to look out for ahead, and control our direction as well as our speed. Traffic lights tell us when to stop and when to go. Things would be chaotic without guidance and every sign or signal has a purpose that we need to pay attention to in order to navigate our streets and highways in safety and arrive at our destination as planned.

As the people of Israel moved away from Egypt on their way to the land promised them by God, it was necessary for them to have signals as well. While it is true that there was very little “traffic” in the middle of nowhere, they still required direction and instruction which God provided in much the same way as we use traffic signals.

A pillar of cloud formed over the tabernacle after it was set up. At night, the cloud would take on the appearance of a pillar of fire which would provide light for the Israelites and would help to keep them safe. During the daylight hours, it would revert back to a pillar of cloud. When the cloud began to move, that was the signal for the Israelites to move as well. All they had to do to know they were heading in the right direction was follow it. When it stopped, they were to stop.

Green light, go. Red light, stop.

Very convenient and very safe for all of them. There was no guess work. As to what they should be doing other than watching the cloud, God provided Moses for instruction. Even when they were stopped, God had a purpose for them and Moses led them to it. Signs and signals.

“So they camped or traveled at the Lord’s command, and they did whatever the Lord told them through Moses.” (Numbers 9:23 NLT).

We have no cloud other than the ones God paints in the sky to bring us rain, to shield us from the sun, or simply to demonstrate the beauty that He creates. We have no Moses to give us instruction. So where do we look for direction and instruction?

We pick up the Bible, we clear our minds, we open up our hearts and we read. Every instruction we need is there. Every turn we should take in our lives is in there as well. With determination and focus, the Bible will tell us when to move, which direction to go in, and when to stop and rest.

And then we can take a little time for cloud watching.

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

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October 16

TODAY IS…

the day to step into the fire.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!’ Then, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire.”  Daniel 3:26 NASB

We will be tempted, taunted, and teased as followers of Christ. Unless we live in total isolation, in a bubble, or in a box – which few of us do – our faith in God will come under pressure on a daily basis.

Most of us will insist that our faith is strong enough to withstand the toughest test. But what if we were confronted with the same situation that Nebuchadnezzar put in front of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

When Nebuchadnezzar ordered that everyone should bow down and worship the 90 foot tall gold statue he had erected in the province of Babylon, those three men refused. It is safe to say that Nebuchadnezzar was incensed and gave them one more opportunity to do as he ordered. Their refusal would result in the three of them being bound and thrown into a furnace.

When that final refusal came, “Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.” (Daniel 3:19 NLT).

The furnace was so hot that the soldiers who had been commanded to throw the three bound men into it were killed by the heat as they did so.

Nebuchadnezzar looked on as the three men walked around in the furnace, unfazed and unaffected by its heat. After he called them out, everyone who was watching noted that they had not been touched by the fire.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.’” (Daniel 3:28 NIV).

Many people chose death, or the prospect of death, rather than cave in to the pressures brought to bear as followers of Christ, and in some parts of the world, people still die because of their faith in Christ and their refusal to worship or serve anyone other than God.

It takes complete trust in God to face what all of these brave men and women face with no fear. Those three men were confident that God would save them from the furnace.

“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.” (Daniel 3:18 NASB).

Let us all pray for a faith so strong, and a trust so great that we, too, can face whatever challenges to our faith may come before us and be able to step into the fire. You will find that God will keep you safe so you can step back out again.

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

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October 15

TODAY IS…

a splendid day to remember that God doesn’t forget.

“Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”  Psalm 77:9 NIV

God simply does not forget. He cannot forget.

It is true that, at times, we might encounter periods in our lives where we will think that God has forgotten about us. During those times, we will feel helpless and alone and we will call out to Him and ask Him where He is.

It is human nature to experience periods of insecurity and loneliness, but it is during these times that we must find some way to remind ourselves that the Lord is never far away from us, even if He is silent, and even if we are encountering difficulty feeling His presence and hearing His voice in our hearts.

There could be a number of reasons for this, but none of them is the one that stands out in our mind: “God has forgotten me.” It is not God who forgets, but us. We forget that God may not always look at things in the same way that we do. We forget that God’s time table may be different from what we would prefer.

But God does not forget.

The Hebrews were slaves in Egypt longer than many of them would have liked, but it was not because God had forgotten them. The Israelites continued to groan under the burden of their slavery, “And God heard their groaning, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” (Exodus 2:24 KJV).

In those times when we might be about to entertain thoughts that God has forgotten us, perhaps we need to pause and look honestly at our situation. It is very possible that the situation we are crying out for rescue from contains a lesson that God wants us to learn first.

To truly live life to its fullest, we must embrace every situation we encounter as if it were a food which contains nourishment. God wants us to take all of the “nourishment” out of every situation we encounter so that we can then use it to shape our character into something useful to others.

God will determine the point at which He will step in on our behalf. It is His decision and His alone. Our responsibility is to try to understand what can be learned from what we are facing. It is our responsibility to draw the nourishment for our character from whatever the situation may be. And it is our responsibility to remember that God has not forgotten us, nor will He ever do so.

Actually, there are some things that God does forget. He forgets our sins because He forgives us, but that is all He forgets. Today is a splendid day to remember that.

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

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October 14

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to be thankful for the breath of God.

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  Genesis 2:7 KJV

It was not enough for God to form man. He also had to give him life with His own breath. With the breath of life, He also gave us the ability to become the vessel through which life is created again, and again, and again. From that very first breath, the world has increased in population until the number of people exceeds a staggering seven billion inhabitants of the world God created.

There is no person who walks this earth who is not alive as a result of that first breath of God and that is something we should all be thankful for. Every breath we take is a gift of love from God made possible with that first breath of man.

The breath of God not only gave us life, it has saved the lives of those who follow Him. As the Israelites were pursued by the army of Pharaoh, God intervened. In their Song of Deliverance, Moses and the people of Israel sang, “At the blast of Your breath, the waters piled up! The surging waters stood straight like a wall; in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.” (Exodus 15:8 NLT).

God did not create us to abandon us.

Those who obey His simple instructions for life will always be able to count on the breath of God. Just as the Israelites saw the power of God’s breath when He parted the Red Sea so they could escape Pharaoh’s army, they saw His breath destroy those who would harm those who obeyed Him.

“But You blew with Your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.” (Exodus 15:10 NIV).

When He sent His Son to suffer and die so that our sins could all be forgiven and we could look forward to eternal life, He gave Him the power to fill His disciples with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them He was sending them out as His Father had sent Him.

“And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22 NASB).

It was the breath of God that gave life to all of mankind. It is the breath of God that fills us all with the Holy Spirit. It is the breath of God that saves us when we are in danger.

Every single time we take a breath, it is a gift from God, and we should take every opportunity to tell Him how thankful we are, and today is the ideal day to do just that.

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

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October 13

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to get involved.

“And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him ‘Go and do the same.’”  Luke 10:37 NASB

When asked to explain exactly who his “neighbor” was by an individual who was testing Him, Jesus told the story of the Jewish man who was robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho. A priest came along and passed him by, as did a temple assistant. It was only the Samaritan who stopped to render aid. This was unusual since Jews and Samaritans despised each other. Not only did the Samaritan attend to his wounds on the spot, he took the Jew to an inn and paid the innkeeper to look after him until he had recovered.

It was then that Jesus asked the one who was testing Him, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Luke 10:36 NIV

It is from this parable that the term “Good Samaritan” is derived. The Samaritan who stopped to render aid did not look the other way because what had happened did not involve him. He did not pass him by because he was a Jew. He did not ignore the man’s needs because to stop and render aid would be inconvenient.

He stopped to help a fellow human being who was hurting and in need.

In other words, he did what God expects of us all – he looked out for the needs of his neighbor. We all are neighbors in the eyes of God. Helping someone in need should be something we do without hesitation, but so often in these times, just like in the times when Jesus told the parable, it is too inconvenient, too much trouble, or not our responsibility to come to the aid of our fellow man. We find it difficult to bring ourselves to “get involved.”

Examples of the reluctance to be a good neighbor – or to be a Good Samaritan – can be found all around us on a daily basis. While it is true that there are also examples of people going out of their way – even risking their lives – for others, our focus should be on why so many of us choose not to get involved.

It should be unthinkable to any follower of Christ to pass by someone who needs help or to refuse to get involved because it is inconvenient. We can make all of the excuses we want, and many of them probably sound pretty good. But none of them are good enough when we ask ourselves this simple question: “How inconvenient was it for Christ to be beaten, humiliated, scorned, and killed so that we may be saved?”

If we look at it that way, there is no excuse for refusing to get involved and help our neighbors. Today is a gift from God and it is the perfect day to help someone who is hurting and in need.

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

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October 12

TODAY IS…

a good day to say, “It will not be me, Lord!”

“Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”  Matthew 26:22 NLT

Throughout history there have always been those who have been sentenced to die and who have sat in a jail cell awaiting their fate. Living each day with that knowledge cannot be an easy thing to do, no matter what it was that an individual did to “earn” such a sentence.

Now, try to imagine living your life knowing that it would end with your being brutally mistreated and then crucified – and being innocent of wrong doing. Imagine you are sitting down to dinner with twelve of your closest friends, knowing this would be the last time you would all be together. As you look around at the smiling, unsuspecting faces of people you love, your gaze comes to the one you know is going to place you in the hands of those who will ultimately take your life.

The pain that Jesus must have felt is never discussed. He is very calm and simply points out that the betrayal is coming, and it will be by one of the twelve enjoying this last supper together.

“As they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.’” (Matthew 26:21 NASB).

One has to wonder why, rather than steadfastly stating that “It will not be me, Lord!” each of the twelve, in turn asked, “Am I the one?” Of course, we all know that it was Judas who handed Jesus over to those who wished Him harm.

But we also know that the other eleven disciples vanished to avoid the same fate, so in a sense they all betrayed Him.

Their faith was shaken by their failure to understand what Christ had been trying to teach them about His imminent death and its role in fulfilling God’s Promise of a Messiah, and the Salvation the Messiah would bring. Even after spending all that time walking with Christ, talking with Him, and listening to Him preach and witnessing the numerous miracles He performed while healing and helping those He came to serve – even after all of that, they all had their individual moments of doubt.

It was not until His resurrection that their faith became unshakable. It was not until they saw Him alive after they witnessed His death that they finally were able to fully give themselves over to Him as His apostles.

We do not have the unique honor of being able to have Jesus Christ sit at the same table with us and share supper. We must operate strictly on our faith. We must, in a way, be more confident of Christ than even those who walked with Him.

Our faith must be pure, it must be strong, and it must be true. We must look at all the Bible tells us and become convinced beyond all doubt so if we hear the voice of Christ say “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me,” we can stand up and say, with fierce conviction, “It will not be me, Lord!”

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

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October 11

TODAY IS…

a great day to consider the dangers of being a Christian.

“I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;”  2 Corinthians 11:26 NASB

In Paul’s time, simply trying to live a “normal,” “quiet,” “unobtrusive” life was fraught with danger. There was no highly trained police force or fire department; there was no “911” to call for help in an emergency; there were no hospitals and little in the way of real medical care. It is difficult to imagine living without all of the resources that are available to most of us today.

Add to all of those very real dangers, the danger posed by being a follower of Christ, and it is easy to believe that life for the Apostle Paul, and others like him, was very dangerous, indeed.

For many people, the matter of faith is a difficult one. It is extremely hard for many to believe that Jesus Christ did, in fact, walk this earth and was the Son of God, come to offer salvation to all, to die on the cross to atone for all of our sins, and to enable any person to approach God in prayer.

Those of us who believe without reservation have many different reasons for our belief, but examining the life, and the death of Paul – and the dangers he faced as a Christian – presents us with compelling reasons to believe.

Before changing his name to Paul, the name of the man who would become one of the strongest voices in the history of Christianity was Saul. Saul, as we all know was a staunch non-believer. In fact, he was an ardent persecutor of Christians.

After encountering Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul was directed to a home in Damascus to await a believer named Ananias, but Ananias had heard of Saul’s reputation and was leery of approaching him.

“But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’” (Acts 9:15-16 NLT).

And suffer he did.

Paul was given 39 lashes 5 different times, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked and spent a whole day and night adrift at sea.

And still, he believed.

In spite of the dangers that being a Christian added to the numerous dangers of daily life in his time, Paul never stopped believing.

If this man, who once stood by as Christians were persecuted, could believe in spite of the dangers he faced, those of us who find it difficult should be able to believe because of the dangers Paul faced and the suffering he endured to teach others about Jesus Christ.

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

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October 10

TODAY IS…

an incredible day to take care of your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life.”  Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Our heart is, literally, the “machine” that keeps us alive. It pumps our life-giving blood throughout our bodies and re-oxygenates that which has done its work. It is a remarkable organ which is absolutely critical to our ability to live on this earth.

If we stop and think about it, our heart is even more important to our lives on earth in a spiritual sense: our heart is the seat of our emotions, thoughts, love, affection, courage, and conscience, among other things.

Not a day goes by that we are not reminded to be conscious of what we eat and the exercise we get in order to maintain the physical health of our heart. This is all important to us and we should definitely take heed. Without our heart beating faithfully within our chest, we will die.

It is equally as important to take care of our heart on an emotional and spiritual level as well.

We have all heard the expression, “He (or she) is heartless!”

None of us wishes to be that person. We have also heard “He (or she) has a heart of gold!”

We should all wish to be that person.

For the physical health of our heart, it is a good idea to follow the advice of a doctor. Do all that is suggested to keep your heart beating strong, and staying healthy.

For the spiritual health of your heart, turn to God. Ask Him to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NASB).

Look to His Word to find ways to strengthen your heart and fill it full of the things that reflect the true nature and character of the Lord. Ask God for His guidance in making you a good person because, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 NIV).

And how true that is: What you say flows from what is in your heart. Therefore, search the Bible and pray for God’s guidance to fill your heart with only those things that are good in the eyes of God. It will take some effort to replace all of the little things that are lurking in there which do not meet with His approval. Be that as it may, our overall life on earth will be much improved if we take care of our heart in a spiritual sense as well as in the physical.

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

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October 9

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to be proud of the glow God gives you.

“…they saw that his face was radiant.”  Exodus 34:35a NIV

The story of Moses teaches us that his meetings with God gave his face a radiant glow. This was an actual physical condition that Moses would cover with a veil in between his meetings with God.

“Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went back in to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:35b NIV).

While it is not perfectly clear why Moses covered his face, it is safe to assume that he did not cover it because he was ashamed.

As our relationship with God becomes deeper and more intimate, our understanding of just how special that relationship is will grow and our faces will reflect the happiness that comes out of that relationship. While we may never develop the same radiance of Moses, the glow will be real none the less.

As we proceed with our lives, those around us will become aware of that glow and invariably some will ask what it is that makes us so cheerful, so content, and so easy to get along with and willing to help others. The responses we get will vary when we tell them the source of our inner peace and happiness is our relationship with God. Some will undoubtedly want to know more. Others will most likely look at us as if they regretted ever asking the question.

It is the negative responses to our joy in the Lord that makes some of us reluctant to speak out and proudly tell others that the source of our happiness is our relationship with God.

It is almost as if some of us are embarrassed or, worse, ashamed of our reliance upon God. That’s what a good relationship with God is, though, isn’t it? It’s a reliance upon Him for strength, courage, wisdom, peace, joy, love – all that is good, all that has purpose, and all that is just.

Perhaps some  people cringe or stay away because they feel they have opened the door to receive a lecture or sermon that they may not be ready for, and that is OK. But do not let the fear of a negative response keep you from letting someone know the truth should they ask. We should all be extremely proud when our love for God, and His for us, creates a noticeable “glow” in our physical presence.

You never know; being proud of the answer just may bring this response: “Oh? Tell me more.”

And today may be just the day that happens.

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

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October 7

TODAY IS…

a fine day to take your medicine.

“…follow my advice and save yourself, for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased.”  Proverbs 6:3 NLT

While these verses may pertain to avoiding overextending ourselves financially, the key lesson to be learned is to not let our pride get in the way of doing what is right.

People often become confused when talking about pride.

It is important to take pride in the work that we do; to take pride in our appearance; to take pride in the maintenance and upkeep of our vehicles and our homes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with solving a difficult problem or completing a task and stepping back and basking in the glow of that accomplishment, particularly when the accomplishment is one of service to God or to those around us.

But pride that is the result of a self-righteous or arrogant attitude is destructive and keeps us separated from people around us and from God as well.

There was once a jingle that contained the words, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Many of us have experienced the bitter, unpleasant taste involved with the taking of certain types of medicine. Unfortunately, in many cases, this unpleasantness must be endured in order to help us heal.

Swallowing our pride can be a much more difficult challenge to some of us than taking the worst tasting medicine that we can imagine, but if our pride has created discord or unhappiness in our relationships, our homes, with our friends, or with those we work with or worship with, we must do whatever it takes to swallow it in order to help the situation heal.

“Don’t put it off; do it now! Don’t rest until you do.” (Proverbs 6:4 NLT).

Waiting will not improve the situation or make it easier. Adding stubbornness to the arrogance and self-righteousness can, in no way, help the situation. It can – and will – only make it worse.

Consider the following verse from Proverbs: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” (Proverbs 8:3 NIV).

Our pride is bunched together with some pretty shady company, so it cannot be a good thing.

No matter how much sugar we need to add, we need to take our medicine today and swallow our pride.

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

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