February 25

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to keep it simple.

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy.’”  Mark 1:11 NLT

Many of us have been blessed by God with the birth of a child.

Any of us who has been present at the moment our child takes his or her first breath of life outside the womb can recall that swelling of our heart with love as our child’s lungs swelled with new life. We can also recall the joy we felt as we witnessed – in a wrinkly, wailing, writhing little package – the future come to life before our very eyes.

As the years go by, our love for our children makes us want the very best for them that this world has to offer: We want them to learn; we want them to grow, physically and spiritually; we want them to be happy; we want them to be healthy and safe from harm. We want nothing but good things for our children because God gave us the ability to give them life and we love them.

It is relatively simple.

God loved His Son too. He loved Him so much that He filled Him with the power to offer salvation to the world; to save it from its sins and to heal and mend those who were sick and those who were broken.

At the same moment He filled His Son with the Holy Spirit, giving Him the power to do all of these things, God filled Him with the knowledge that His life on earth would end with His death at the hands of those He came to save.

But Jesus also possessed the conviction of the Father’s love for the Son. For He knew that the end of His life on earth would enable Him to be raised from the dead to join His Father in a glorious eternal life of love.

It was God’s love that gave life to the Son.

It was God’s love that gave the Son’s life for the world.

And as the Apostle John wrote “…love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7b-8 NLT).

And it really is that simple.

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

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February 24

TODAY IS…

a good day to look forward.

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14 KJV

The world is full of stories of restoration and reconciliation.

Many people have fallen, only to have allowed God to pick them up, dust them off and move them forward. When we welcome Him into our hearts, He then stands everywhere for us.

He stands in front of us, beckoning us and encouraging us to walk steadily towards Him.

He stands beside us to hold us firmly on the path and remind us to keep our eyes looking forward.

And He stands behind us to block out the past, for He knows that it is not as important to know where we have been as it is to know where we are going and what awaits us when we get there.

The only thing that is important about the past is that we walk away from it and replace it with a future of knowing Jesus Christ. Paul said, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8a NLT).

Everyone has a past.

Some are proud of theirs while others may very well be ashamed of at least something they have done. Good, bad or indifferent, it does not matter. All that matters is moving forward into a life of knowing Jesus Christ and helping others to fix their gaze on the prize as well.

We have to give up the past in order to stay focused on the future. Like athletes training to excel in their field, we must train as Christians, disciplining our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Prayer, worship and studying the Word of God are all things we must do to properly prepare for our heavenly reward.

With God on all sides, we can look forward with purpose, hope and determination. When we reach our destination, we will find that the prize that awaits us is an eternal one, and one that was well worth looking forward to.

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

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February 23

TODAY IS…

the day to adopt the attitude of Christ.

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  Philippians 2:5 NLT

Speaking at his inauguration, John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In speaking these famous words, President Kennedy was trying to instill in people an attitude of service. He wanted people to give of themselves to collectively make their country better rather than sit and wait for someone to do it for them.For a member of any community, an attitude of service is a good attitude to have.

For us, as members of Christ’s community, it is the only one to have.

Jesus came to lead the sinners of the world to salvation and to those who followed Him, He repeatedly demonstrated that the way to lead others is with an attitude of service, “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NASB).

The Apostle Paul learned this lesson well and repeated it in his teachings to others: “…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7 NIV).

Service to others often requires sacrifice to ourselves.

In a selfish world where the voice of “me” speaks louder than the voice of “all”, it is sometimes difficult to develop and maintain an attitude of service. We must endeavor to keep the very nature of Jesus in our minds at all times: He came into being, He lived – and He died – all in service to others.

Speaking to the crowds and His disciples, Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant.” (Matthew 23:11 NLT). Jesus lived as He spoke, and He was the greatest servant of all time. The attitude of service possessed by Jesus Christ is an attitude every Christian should strive to adopt today.

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

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February 22

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to consider the Source.

“In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.”  Genesis 5:1-2 NKJV

No matter the color of a person’s skin, the shape of an individual’s eyes, the language that passes from someone’s lips; no matter what characteristic may set one person apart from another, the blood of all humanity flows from a single Source.

Most of us know that the first three words of the Holy Bible are “In the beginning…” If we are to know God and appreciate how much He has loved us from the beginning , we must start there, for in the beginning, after God had created a world of beauty and wonder for His children to inhabit, He created the first man and the first woman.

Every living person has descended from that man and woman. To believe in God is to believe in the beginning, and to believe in the beginning is to carry in our hearts the firm knowledge that God is the Source of all life on earth.

People may look differently than we do, but we should remind ourselves that their heart beats in the same way as ours. People may act differently than we do, but we must remain aware that they are thinking the same things about us. People may speak a language that we cannot understand, but it is important to remember that God understands us all.

Therefore, we must all look to God for a common thread from which we must then weave the fabric of humanity. We must look to God, who is the Source of all life, to help us learn how to live ours with others, no matter what our differences may be.

The Source of all life is loving, kind, patient and forgiving. When we consider how we should live with others who appear to be very different from us, we need to consider the Source and we will have our answers.

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

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February 21

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to be ready for what God has prepared for us.

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”  Matthew 24:44 NIV

“Am I ready?” On the surface, it would appear to be a simple enough question, but in those three words reside eternal consequences. Each one of us needs to ask if we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ and the judgment that will accompany His return.

The Scriptures state that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV).

While it is obvious that people possess vivid imaginations, none of us can accurately picture in our minds what awaits us if we have properly prepared for our eternal futures. It is difficult enough for many of us to try to foresee what awaits us in this life, but one thing is certain: The Lord has said, “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17a NIV). The Apostle John said, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth…” (Revelation 21:1a KJV).

The place that God has prepared for us in heaven will be determined by how well we care for the people who inhabit this earth with us. How we look after others reflects our true feelings towards God. Jesus Christ taught us repeatedly to love one another, to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and provide shelter for the homeless. These are not idle instructions for how to occupy our time on this earth. Rather, these teachings form a map leading to the most special places in God’s house reserved for those who are truly ready for what has been prepared.

Our time could come long before the time of the whole world. We simply do not know. It is best to live each day so that, at a moment’s notice, we can stand confidently before Jesus Christ in judgment of how we have fulfilled our obligation to the Father.

While we may not know exactly what awaits us, our daily lives can be enriched through the simple act of preparation for the eternal life that God has prepared for us.

Live each day of your life so that you can stand before God and repeat, confidently, the words that Jesus spoke in John 17:4: “I glorified you on earth having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Live every day so that if you ask yourself, “Am I ready?” the answer is “Yes!”

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

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February 20

TODAY IS…

a great day to be confident, even without all the answers.

“So they said to him, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’”  John 9:26 NASB

The man whose sight Jesus had restored could not answer those questions put to him by the Pharisees. How could he? He knew only that he had been blind since birth and now could see. The man knew that Jesus had healed him and he was not afraid to tell others about it. His heart told him that “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:33 NASB).

And so it is with each of us.

Not knowing all of the answers should not deter us from sharing with others the peace and joy that was unlocked when we opened our hearts to Jesus Christ. Many of the questions that we will ask ourselves, or others may ask of us, can be answered by looking in the Bible and examining what God had inspired to be written on the subject.

There will be times, however, when the only answer will be that there is no answer; that God has not revealed it to us yet. In time we may understand why a particular thing happened or why a particular event occurred. But that knowledge may not be revealed to us until much later in this life, if at all.

To possess all of God’s knowledge would be a burden that none of us would truthfully like to bear.

It is best to trust Him and to know that He loves us and is always doing for us what is right. Even when we may ask Him, “Why is this happening to me?”, while we may not understand why something is happening, we can be confident that God will use it to His purpose if we trust Him with all our heart.

When we are speaking with someone who is a new believer or not a believer at all, we must not allow ourselves to be shaken by questions that we do not immediately know the answers to. We can tell them cheerfully that we will look in the Bible with them for the answer and see what God’s Word has to say on the subject.

If anyone ever seems put out by us not knowing it all, we can simply respond, “I know I love God and I trust Him. I know where to look for answers, but I also know that there are some questions that only He knows the answers to.”

No matter what our level of knowledge may be, it is confident faith in God that is the answer to every question.

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

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February 19

TODAY IS…

a good day to practice humility.

“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.”  Psalm 149:4 NIV

When God decided it was time to fulfill His promise to offer salvation to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, He could have introduced Him in any manner He chose, for He is the creator of all that we see. Producing a “king” riding in a chariot of fire, throwing lightning bolts and demanding submission and obedience under threat of immediate death would have been a simple matter for the One who created everything and most likely would have been quite something to see, wouldn’t it?

We all know that this is not the way it happened, although many wished that it was.

Instead God selected a peasant girl of pure heart to deliver His beloved Son to the world. He was raised simply until it was time for Him to begin His work and to fulfill His purpose. He remained humble. He was gentle. He was kind. He exhibited a love for humans that far exceeded the love they showed one another or themselves.

Since God could have given the world a king who better fit the image of a king, why do you suppose He didn’t?

Because “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God…” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT). Therefore God’s very own character, the essence of our Creator, is that He is loving, kind, gentle and humble. It would only stand to reason that He would want all of us to be that way as well.

Humility is not the act of making oneself less than everyone else. It is simply the act of not making oneself more . Humility is recognizing that whatever talents or abilities we have that are unique to us are gifts from God and should be used for the betterment of those around us. Humility is service to others and it is the ability to see the image of God in every man and woman we meet.

Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV).

In the church at Ephesus, Paul urged them to “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV).

And so, we should all take heed of what the two most powerful teachers in the history of Christianity had to say. Being humble does not make you less of a person. It makes you more like Jesus Christ.

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

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February 18

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to make time for a one-on-one with God.

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.”  Matthew 6:6a NLT

It is important that we all set aside time to pray with our families, friends and members of our church. It pleases God for people to come together in all different combinations to worship, pray and practice the fellowship that is a big part of being a Christian.

Joining hands in thanks at the dinner table with our family, praying with a friend who is in poor health or in need, time spent with our Bible study group and celebrating the grace and glory of God with fellow members of our church are all excellent opportunities to praise God, to ask for His help and to worship Him and offer thanks for all He gives us.

Even though the chaos of daily living can make it seem as if we don’t have time for any of that, it is imperative to our spiritual health as members of God’s family to incorporate prayer with others in our lives.

It is equally important that we all recognize how much we need private moments with our spouses, our children, our parents or other important people in our lives; moments we can use to tell them how much we love them; to let them hear from our lips how much we appreciate them and moments in which we can share our concerns, fears, joy, sorrow, our hopes and our dreams. And during these times, we need to listen to them as well.

We can never know their hearts if we don’t take the time to listen to what they have to say.

And so it is with our personal relationship with God. We need to set aside time to be alone with Him. We need this time to express our thanks, to ask for wisdom and to seek direction for our lives.

Then we must wait quietly and listen for Him.

If we have truly humbled our hearts, we know that God often makes Himself known in a gentle whisper. His message to us is more likely to be heard when we are patient, when we are silent, and when we are still. While He will be present at the table, in the church or wherever else we may gather to worship Him, praise Him and ask His blessing, He needs us to listen for Him in private moments to ensure that His message is heard loud and clear, even though it may be delivered very quietly.

Our spiritual health will be improved greatly with a little regular one-on-one with the Father. Our objective will be clearer and our ability to add to the spiritual well-being of those around us will be increased significantly.

Elijah stood on the mountain listening for God.

He wasn’t in the wind. He wasn’t in the earthquake. He wasn’t in the fire. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12b NIV).

Elijah was ready for his one-on-one with God. Follow his example, take the time and get ready for yours.

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

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February 17

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to embrace your suffering.

“…for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.”  Acts 9:16 NASB

The subject of suffering comes up a lot in the Bible.

It is a significant theme and it plays an important role in many of the lessons we must learn in order to grow in our faith. No one escapes unscathed. Suffering is present in everyone’s life to some degree. How it is viewed and how it is dealt with are important matters to consider in a Christian’s life.

Sometimes it is allowed to be a cause of doubt that creeps into our minds, casting a dark shadow on our hearts. “Why me, Lord?” some of us may ask. Or we may think that if God were truly kind and loving, He would not allow us to suffer at all. The importance of rejecting these and other negative thoughts cannot be stressed enough.

The truth of the matter is that regardless of what we experience in this life, it can be used for good; it can strengthen our faith and it can prepare us for a life of service to God. Rather than feel sorry for ourselves or doubt the Lord, our God, we should embrace our suffering, pray to God for strength to see us through it and ask Him to give us wisdom to learn from it and use what we have learned in service to Him.

We have all suffered. Some have suffered more than others and sometimes it is difficult for us to understand why we, in our faith, experience so much suffering while others of little or no faith at all seem to experience none. We cannot always understand why God does what He does nor is it always possible to fully appreciate why He allows certain things to occur in one life or another.

One of the most important people in the history of Christianity was the apostle Paul. His efforts to spread the Word of God are an amazing testament to his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ. Paul endured indescribable persecution, pain and suffering as he traveled extensively, trying to show the way to the salvation Christ gave the world when He died on the cross.

Paul was stoned and left to die.

He was whipped several times, beaten with rods, set adrift at sea and was shipwrecked three times.

He spent time in prisons, was faced with robbers, dangerous weather and was often thirsty, hungry, cold and tired.

He asked for nothing material from anyone. All he wanted for the suffering that he embraced in Jesus’ name was for the people he spoke with to open their hearts to Jesus Christ. “…I don’t want what you have – I want you…” (2 Corinthians 12:14b NLT).

Paul embraced his suffering because he knew what he was suffering for.

He knew that the salvation of his soul and an eternal life in the presence of God was worth infinitely more than the inconvenient pain or sorrow of mere human suffering.

Embrace your suffering, even though it may be difficult to do so.

Use your suffering as a tool to help you serve the Lord and you will turn that suffering into a gift of love for God. In so doing, you will thank Him for the suffering that Jesus endured as a gift for eternal peace, joy and happiness for you.

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

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February 16

TODAY IS…

a good day to accept the gift of God’s peace.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7 NASB

World peace would be a nice thing to experience, wouldn’t it? A world without conflict is difficult for us to imagine. A world where the rights of others are respected and everyone looks out for each other would be – well, it would be heaven!

Heaven, indeed, for until Satan no longer rules the world, the above scenario cannot exist. Until the day Satan is removed from the picture, sin will continue to tempt all of us and mankind’s weakness will lead to selfish pursuits that will most assuredly cause others to suffer or create tension that results in war or strife somewhere on this planet.

So what, then, is God’s gift of peace?

It is the gift that Christ promised His disciples that they would receive after He was gone and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV).

This same gift is offered to all of us and if every one of us accepted it, we would have peace throughout the world. Unfortunately, far too many of us allow the forces of evil to rule our hearts and our minds, making the acceptance of this gift impossible. Those of us who do accept Christ and His gift of peace have His assurance that we can “…be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). We have His assurance that we need not fear today or any day in the future. We have His assurance that the peace we will have in our hearts and minds will give us the strength to fight those forces which create doubt, uncertainty and apprehension within us and we have His assurance that God is in control.

If God is in control, we are safe.

That does not mean that we will be exempt from the pitfalls of life, but when filled with the gift of God’s peace, we shine the light of God on those pitfalls and we can then accept them, deal with them, learn from them and grow as better Christians as a result.

All of this springs from the acceptance of the gift that was offered to the world when it was offered to the disciples by Christ. At the time, it is likely that none of them were fully able to comprehend the importance or significance of the gift itself. Nor could they completely appreciate the love with which it was promised. But once Christ had risen and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they surely must have felt the love and the strength that God’s peace instilled in them, for it enabled them to face rejection, ridicule, ignorance, hostility, persecution and even death as they worked tirelessly to share that gift of peace with the world.

Take time today to thank God for this gift and make every effort to share it with others.

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

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