October 21

TODAY IS…

a fine day to believe the unbelievable.

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Luke 1:45 NASB

Unfortunately for mankind, belief does not come readily, or easily, to a great many people. It is a sad fact of life on earth that millions of people will not discover the joy of everlasting life because of a conscious decision to not believe that which they consider to be unbelievable.

God sent the Angel Gabriel to visit a man, Zechariah, and – later – a woman, Mary. The reception he received was a little different each time.

Zechariah was a priest, as we know, and both he and his wife, Elizabeth, had devoted their lives to obedience to God. They were childless and were getting on in years, but God sent Gabriel to inform them that Elizabeth would give birth to a son who would have the power of Elijah, would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and would prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

Because of their ages, Zechariah, even though he had devoted his life to God and was a priest, did not believe that this would happen. His failure to believe God’s messenger did not change what would happen, but he told Zechariah, “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when this takes place, because you did not believe My words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” (Luke 1:20 NASB).

When Gabriel visited Mary when Elizabeth was about six months pregnant with John, she was certainly surprised that such a thing could happen to a woman who was a virgin, but Gabriel assured her that she had found favor with God and had, indeed, been chosen to be the one who would present the savior sent by God to the world.

“’I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answers. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.’” (Luke 1:38 NIV).

Obviously Zechariah was convinced as soon as Elizabeth became pregnant, but he remained unable to speak until the child who would prepare people for the arrival of Christ was born. Mary, on the other hand, believed the unbelievable as soon as she was told.

God has placed within each one of us, the ability to believe that which, at first glance, might be a little difficult for us to accept. Many, many people are fortunate and find that ability early in life. Many – too many – others never find it.

Then there are those of us who take a while, but after years of searching finally unlock the place that holds our own ability to believe in the unbelievable.

If you know someone who has not quite found that ability yet, encourage them to keep on looking.

It is there just waiting to be found.

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

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October 20

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day for a dinner party.

“When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”  Mark 2:16 NIV

Much like today, a tax collector in the time of Christ was disliked. In Jesus’ time, there was rampant corruption among them making them even easier to despise. Levi, a tax collector who later became Matthew, was called by Jesus to follow Him and went on to write the first of the four Gospels covering the teachings of Jesus Christ.

When he was first called by Jesus, Levi got up from his tax collector’s booth and joined Him. Later, he invited Jesus and the other disciples to a dinner party at his house. In addition to Jesus, the disciples, and Levi, there were many of the friends of Levi who were tax collectors as well as others simply classified as ‘sinners.’

The teachers of religious law thought it odd that the man everyone was saying was the Messiah would sit down and eat with such people. Apparently their idea of a ‘savior’ and a ‘king’ was quite different from the truth. By their thinking, Christ should avoid “riff-raff” and only associate with those who comprised the upper echelon of society in that day.

An ancient ‘A’ list, if you will.

“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Mark 9:17 NIV).

Jesus came to offer us salvation. To show us how to establish a relationship with God that would help us to live our short time on earth in a manner that reflected God’s loving and benevolent character. He came to lead us from the darkness of our lives into the light of service to others and to God. He came to sacrifice His life for our sins so that we could all have the opportunity for a renewed and restored relationship with God that will lead us to His promise of everlasting life.

He came to fix those who were broken, not to socialize with those who thought they were above the need for His help. He came to demonstrate His love for all of God’s children, not just for those who felt they were special.

There is an extremely valuable lesson to be learned from the story of that dinner party. It shows the Messiah to be a truly humble, loving, and compassionate man who loves everyone, not just those who think they are special. He wants us all to treat each other as He treated those He ate with. We should all keep these lessons in mind the next time we have people over for dinner.

Reach out to those who know they need it, not to those who think they deserve it.

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

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October 19

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to show that you belong.

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”  Ephesians 4:25 NLT

There were men who were so afraid of the truth Jesus represented, that they were willing to bear false witness against Him knowing that their dishonesty and complete lack of integrity would result in His death.

Since lies are always harder to keep track of than the truth, the false witnesses talked with each other in an attempt to ‘get their stories straight.’

“Yet even then their testimony did not agree.” (Mark 14:59 NIV).

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “He who permits himself to lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him.”

Perhaps some of us know an individual whose lies are so frequent that no one even bothers to look for the truth in what they say anymore.

Our actions also take the form of the truth. No matter what we say, our actions will always give us away if we are lying.

“Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” (1 John 3:19 NLT).

Many times, people seem to forget that even if our lies are not detected by those around us, God always knows when we are lying. This fact should not be our motivation for being truthful. While it is definitely something to be aware of, honesty and truthfulness are a reflection of the character of God within us. Honesty and truthfulness are a result of the light of Christ on our lives. If everything we do or say takes place in the light, there is no room for the darkness of lies.

A lie reveals a lot more about our character and our relationship with God than most of us would care to think about. But think about it we must, because we should all be striving for the best relationship possible with God. We should all cherish and protect the positive changes that come over us as a result of a good relationship with the Father.

The words of Thomas Jefferson should speak loudly to us even all these years after his death. We do not want ‘liar’ to be the word that pops into peoples’ heads when they hear our name.

Make truthfulness a living part of who you are. Let your words, and your actions show the world that you belong to the truth.

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

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October 18

TODAY IS…

the day to reach out to others.

“When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.”  Genesis 14:14 NASB

If we open our eyes and look around us it is not difficult to see someone who is in need of help. When Abram’s nephew, Lot, was captured, Abram wasted no time getting involved and going to his rescue. Even though Lot’s own greed and sinful nature had gotten him in trouble in the first place, Abram didn’t hesitate to get involved.

There is a saying familiar to many of us that goes, “He made his own bed, now let him lie in it.” This is not a very Christian attitude to take, of course. That aside, why SHOULD we reach out to help with another person’s problems? Why should we care? Perhaps Abram’s only motivation was Lot’s relationship to him.

Nevertheless, “He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.” (Genesis 14:16 NASB).

Do we have to be related to someone to reach out to them? Do we even have to know them? Although there are undoubtedly those who fall into those categories who need our help, there are also those we don’t know who are all around us and are hurting or in need.

While it is true that we do not want to become known as “busybodies” who always seem to be in everyones affairs, we do not want to become known as being unwilling to help someone who needs it. Perhaps we think our time is too valuable to ‘waste’ it worrying about someone else.

But as Paul stated in his letter to the Galatians, “If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” (Galatians 6:3 NLT).

Of course, perhaps reluctance is not an issue. Quite possibly many of us know what it is like to feel pain, to need help and to not know where to turn.

“Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things.” (Hebrews 10:33 NLT).

No matter who is hurting, or what the cause of their pain may be, there is just one thing that we must keep in mind, and that is our obligation to our brothers and sisters everywhere to notice when someone needs a helping hand, and once we notice, we must be willing to reach out to them, and offer our help.

And today is the day to start.

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

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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 setup 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 steadfast 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 have chosen death, or the prospect of death, rather than yield to the pressures brought to bear as followers of Christ. In some parts of the world, people still die because of their faith in Christ and their refusal to worship or serve any god other than God.

It takes complete trust in God to face what all of these brave men and women faced, and continue to 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 doesn’t forget. He cannot forget.

It is true that, at times, we most likely will 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 man 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.

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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 a man 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?”

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 his needs because to stop and render aid would be inconvenient.

He stopped to help a fellow human being in need. In other words, he did what God expects of us all – he looked out for the needs of his neighbor.

We are all 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.

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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 pending 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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