November 19

TODAY IS…

a perfect day for giving thanks.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to Him in song.”  Psalm 28:7 NIV

November is traditionally the month in which a day is set aside specifically for giving thanks. In a way it is a shame that a day has to be set aside specifically for this purpose. At the same time, it can be a blessing that we do have this day to remind us of just how much we have to be thankful for. People should certainly be encouraged to continue to celebrate this traditional time of family togetherness.

But we all need to try to remember the many reasons we have to be thankful every day.

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (1 Timothy 2:1 NLT).

If we are to truly be thankful for all that God is, we must be thankful for all of His children. While we recognize that many of them are lost, we should thank God for each and every one of them and ask God to watch over them, and to help us find ways to help them find their way in this difficult world.

Certainly our spouses should be at the very top of our lists of things that we are humbly thankful to God for, and we should let them know that we love them on a daily basis. Equally important is turning to them frequently and reminding them that, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” (Philippians 1:3 NLT).

The same can, and should, be said to our children. Our spouses and our children alone should prove to us that we need to give thanks every day for them, and not just reserve it for one designated day, or season, each year.

But it does not stop with family.

Each one of us can make lists of people and things that we should be thankful for on a daily basis. If we did this, we would be surprised at how long the list is.

God has given even the poorest of us much to be thankful for. We need to be focused on telling Him how grateful we are.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NASB).

Make today, and every day, a day of Thanksgiving to the One who gives us so much to be thankful for!

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

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November 18

TODAY IS…

an excellent day for new shock absorbers.

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God…”  Romans 4:20 NIV

Most of us give very little, if any, thought to the importance of the shock absorbers on our cars.

The simple fact is that the ride would be intolerable in some situations without them. Shock absorbers keep our cars riding smoothly by absorbing the bumps, vibrations, and sudden jolts caused by potholes, uneven road surfaces, and other things that would cause us to bounce and waver from side to side if we didn’t have them.

Simply put, shock absorbers keep the ride of our automobiles steady, safe and comfortable.

Faith acts as “shock absorbers” for our lives. If our faith is strong, we will experience a generally smooth “ride” through life. Undoubtedly there will be some bumps in the roads of our lives that faith cannot absorb completely. There are bound to be some “potholes” that will overcome our faith briefly, but strong faith, like new shocks, will recover quickly and will minimize the damage we would experience compared to if we had none at all.

Even new shock absorbers cannot protect us from the jarring effect of some of the potholes we drive through at times. We need to pay attention as well, and be alert to sudden obstacles that can materialize seemingly out of nowhere.

How do we keep our “spiritual shock absorbers” fresh and able to withstand all but the most extreme “road hazards”?

By having faith like Abraham’s.

“And being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:21 NASB).

Job was another one who had excellent “spiritual shock absorbers.”

God allowed Satan to test Job severely – far beyond what many of lesser faith would have been able to endure. But by keeping his faith strong and fresh, he was able to deal with losing his family, his home, his health, and all of his wealth. Had his “car” had weak – or worse – no shock absorbers at all, the road that Satan laid before Job would have destroyed him. But through it all, Job never gave in.

Did he feel the “jolt” of losing all that he had, including his children, whom he loved dearly? Of course he did.

But his faith was strong so, “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels and 1,000 yoke of oxen and 1,000 female donkeys. He had seven sons and three daughters.” (Job 42:12-13 NASB).

Pick up the Bible today and put new life into your spiritual shock absorbers for a smoother, steadier ride through life.

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

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November 17

TODAY IS…

a spectacular day to look through the eyes of Jesus.

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Matthew 9:36 NLT

To look through the eyes of Jesus, one needs to possess compassion that is borne of humility.

Of all the characteristics that enabled Jesus to be who He was, live like He lived, and care for humanity to the degree that He did, the humility with which He gazed out at the world allowed Him to see the needs of each person He looked at. His humility enabled Him to care about other people and it made Him aware that not all pain was visible to the naked eye.

Christ knew that a lot of what we see in a person in a purely physical sense is a result of pain that they have suffered and sins that they have committed and for which they carry the guilt. When people are mistreated as children, when they are neglected instead of being nurtured, when they are hit and never hugged, when they are taught to fight rather than make peace – when any, or all, of these and other negative things occur, what we see as a result is an angry, hateful, arrogant, abusive, uncaring and insensitive adult.

When we look upon these people with the compassionate eyes of Christ, rather than ignore and avoid them, we will try to reach out to them, and into them, by demonstrating our understanding of who Jesus Christ was and what He expects of us. We will try to show people who find it easy to hate that Christ’s humility only allowed Him to see people with love, no matter how badly they mistreated Him or others.

To look at people through the eyes of Christ is to be concerned with each and every one of them. It is to humbly place their needs before our own, because in doing so we know we are demonstrating our understanding of what it means to see things the way that Christ did.

When we look at things through the eyes of Christ our humility will make us do that which is right, and not that which is expected or expedient. We will seek to make another person’s life better rather than trying to make our own easier.

When we view the world through the eyes of Christ, we will see a place filled with God’s children who, like a flock of sheep with no shepherd, are lost and confused and we will use the compassion that arises from our humility to look for ways to calm them and help them find their way safely home.

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

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November 16

TODAY IS…

a fine day to break down barriers.

“Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. ‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘This man certainly performs many miraculous signs.’”  John 11:47 NLT

The correct answer to that question, of course, is “Believe.”

Unfortunately, pride got in the way of many who refused to believe even after witnessing for themselves the incredible power of Christ’s deity. Not satisfied with simply dismissing Him, these same individuals participated in plotting His death.

“So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” (John 11:53 NASB).

Caiaphas was the high priest at the time and the idea of Jesus as the Messiah was unthinkable. The Sadducees were an elite group of wealthy and educated men and Caiaphas was their leader. Messiah or not, they perceived Jesus as a threat to their lifestyle. The idea of a leader who served rather than being served was something their pride would not allow them to accept.

Even when faced with the proof that Christ had risen from the dead, they refused to accept it and threw up barriers to belief by bribing the guards to cover up Christ’s resurrection.

“When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers money, telling them, ‘You are to say,’ ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’” (Matthew 28:12-13 NIV).

Pride not only creates barriers to the facts, it also creates barriers that prevent us from seeing our faults. Pride makes it difficult to admit when we are wrong or when we need help. Both situations can create major problems for us, and for those around us.

God is aware of all of the negative effects of pride.

“The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5 NIV).

We all know someone whose pride throws up barriers all around them. They are difficult to talk with, reason with, and refuse to admit or acknowledge any capacity for being wrong. The words, “I was wrong” never seem to quite make it out of their mouths. Perhaps it is someone you work with, go to school with, worship with at church, or live with.

Maybe it is you.

No?

Impossible?

Is that pride talking, or is that truly an honest assessment? Ask those around you if you throw up barriers because of your pride, and if the answer is, “Yes, you do,” ask God to help you break them down today.

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

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November 15

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to implement a “Neighborhood Watch” Program.

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”  Matthew 24:43 NASB

We have all seen the signs that have the names of different security companies on them which are posted in peoples’ yards. The homes that have these signs have been equipped with security systems that protect the people inside from harm while home, and protect the home and its contents while the occupants are away. The sign lets those who would cause harm to come to the home or its occupants know that they are prepared. This type of protection requires a commitment to the security company as well as regular payments.

People in neighborhoods throughout the country also get together to form “Neighborhood Watch” programs. Signs are posted letting would-be intruders know that the people in this particular area watch out for one another. While no payments are required, people make a commitment to watch out for each other.

As Jesus pointed out on the Mount of Olives, if a homeowner knew when an intruder was going to come, it would be a simple matter to sit there and be ready for them. Unfortunately those types of incidents are never announced in advance, so the homeowner must be ready at all times.

Christ was using the homeowner protecting his home as an example to impress upon people the fact that we would all face judgment one day.

“But of that day and hour no one knows not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36 NASB).

In other words, live your life in a manner in which you are ready to stand before God at any time.

One way to help ourselves be prepared is to reach out and help others be prepared as well.

It is good advice to follow Paul’s admonishment to Timothy when he wrote, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2 NIV).

In other words, it is not enough to be prepared yourself – help your neighbor prepare as well.

Consider it a “Neighborhood Watch” Program for your soul and that of your neighbor.

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

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November 14

TODAY IS…

a terrific day for a little R&R.

“And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”  Matthew 8:2 NASB

Anyone who is familiar with the military knows that ‘R&R’ stands for “Rest & Recreation.” When our sons and daughters are away fighting to preserve our freedom or that of people in another country, periods of R&R are necessary to relieve the stress of war and to help our soldiers rest so that they may return to battle as refreshed and strong warriors for freedom.

Speaking in terms of spiritual R&R, we are not talking about “Rest & Recreation.” Rather, we are talking about “Restoration & Renewal” as sinners in order that we may be better soldiers for Christ.

As Jesus came back down the mountainside after giving the Sermon on the Mount, He responded to the leper who asked for help.

“Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” (Matthew 8:3 NASB).

We are all sinners.

It is a fact that some work much harder than others at not sinning, but we are all sinners and therefore we are all in need, just like the leper, of the Restoration & Renewal that can only come from God.

In order to seek Restoration & Renewal, we must ask Jesus to “stretch out His hand” and touch us to make us clean again. And in order to do that, we must admit that we are sinners. Once we have asked God to forgive us and to restore us, we become stronger soldiers in His army who are then better equipped to fight temptation that might lead us into additional sin. But we also become better equipped to work with others and then help them to seek restoration for themselves.

We also need to be renewed, or rested, in order that we retain our ability to fight on our own behalf and on behalf of others. Renewal comes from spending some quality time alone with God, praying for guidance, courage, wisdom, and strength as well as listening for whatever He may be trying to tell us.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (Mark 6:31 NIV).

The forces of evil that tempt and taunt us on a daily basis continue to get stronger. Fighting temptation and helping others to fight it as well requires strong, well-rested soldiers. Unlike in the military, however, R&R with God is available as a gift for us as often as we need it – even every day. Take advantage of this gift of Restoration & Renewal today.

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

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November 13

TODAY IS…

an ideal day to follow God’s example.

“And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’”  Mark 1:11 NIV

One of the reasons that Jesus was baptized by John was to set an example for us.

As Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and His Father told Him that He loved Him and was pleased with Him. God set an example for us all that should play a big part in how we raise our children and live our lives. The example is a good one to keep in mind even for those who do not have children. It is an example of who God is, and it is an example of who He wants us to be.

Whether or not we have children ourselves, we all were children at one time and much of who, and how, we are came about as a result of what we heard and saw as children.

Many of us know people, especially men, who have some degree of difficulty expressing their love. Some find it difficult to say the words privately and as far as saying them in public? Forget it.

But God always wants us to learn from His example and Jesus was certainly not alone when God told Him that He loved Him and was pleased with Him.

Many parents are disappointed when their children do not exhibit the same interests as theirs. Rather than encourage their independent growth and development, the child is led to believe he or she is doing something wrong merely because they are not being us. They must be loved and appreciated, for who they are, not who we would like them to be.

If we teach them kindness, respect, integrity, honor, compassion, fairness, generosity and tolerance, combined with demonstrations of our love, verbal signs of our appreciation, and knowledge of God, we should be able to sit back and watch them mature into beautiful men and women with good hearts who are eager to make a place for themselves as productive members of God’s family.

If we love them enough, they won’t be just like us. They will be even better. If we follow God’s example and tell them we love them on a daily basis, it becomes a part of who they are.

And when we teach them that we tell them we love them because God told Jesus the same thing, then they also learn to follow God’s example.

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

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November 12

TODAY IS…

the day to grasp every opportunity.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Ephesians 5:16 NLT

It is an indisputable – as well as an unfortunate – fact of life that opportunities abound on a daily basis to give in to temptation of one kind or another and put a smile on the face of the devil by sinning against God.

It was Paul who was instructing the Ephesians in the above referenced Bible verse. One can only imagine what Paul would say about today’s world if he thought that his day was filled with evil. It would probably be safe to venture that he would be stunned at just how decadent, disrespectful, disinterested, and destructive man has become.

But at the same time, it would be interesting to see the look on his face as he realized just how far Christianity has come. He would more than likely be very pleased with the number of people who make it a part of their daily lives to grasp each and every opportunity that passes their way to do good.

It is true that evil walks this earth with boldness and disregard for human life that increases almost daily. But it is also true that there are millions of people who are kind, gentle, and loving who are willing to fight for the souls of their fellow man.

When our singular objective is to look only for the opportunities to do good, we will discover a closeness with God that will amaze us. When we are looking for opportunities to do the right thing, we are following Paul’s instructions for “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 NASB).

Then we are ready to follow Paul’s admonishment to, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11 NIV).

Focusing on opportunities to do good things keeps our focus on God, where it should be. It is easy to be caught up in the ways of the world, especially in the world of today. Television, the internet, and even our telephones bring us face to face with choices that we must make. The need is great for spiritual strength to resist all that we are tempted with. Our human desire to ‘belong’ is great. Our need to be ‘a part of the action’ can be overwhelming.

However, we must constantly remind ourselves that the only ‘action’ we need to be a part of is to live our lives in a way that makes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ worthwhile. Grasping every opportunity to do good is one way of helping us keep that focus. Look for those opportunities to do good today, and every day.

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

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November 11

TODAY IS…

a great day to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you.

“Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips.”  Joel 1:5 NIV

We are all most likely familiar with the expression, “Good things come in small packages.”

Joel’s contribution to the Bible is very small in content, being only three chapters, but it is enormously important in its message. Joel was a prophet who wrote about complacency to the people of Judah, the Southern Kingdom. As is too often the case even today, the people had grown prosperous and had developed a sense of self-sufficiency that displaced their reliance on God, causing them to become complacent where God was concerned.

God had sent a plague of locusts to discipline them, and Joel called upon them all to turn from their sinful ways and go to God and seek His forgiveness before something even worse happened.

It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or watch the news today without coming across a story of someone in a high position of trust and responsibility who has grown arrogant and self-reliant through complacency. Many of these people we read or hear about have claimed a relationship with God, but that relationship did little to protect them when their self-sufficiency caused them to cross the line and violate the public trust.

The reason for this is not complicated and is one which the Bible has pointed out repeatedly for those who take time to absorb the message. Quite simply, people become complacent. When complacency settles into our lives and displaces our reliance upon God, our humble thanks to God, and our constant seeking of God’s approval, we become weak, and we become willing.

Weak and susceptible to the temptations of the world, and willing to set aside our relationship with God in favor of these things.

No matter how high in life a person rises, if the climb to that height was not done in accordance with God’s will and in the light of God’s approval there will be a price to pay. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but it would be wise to heed Joel’s advice and turn back to God and ask for forgiveness before the price must be paid.

Joel’s short book ends on a high note as he reassured his people of God’s readiness to forgive them.

He tells them God says, “I will pardon My people’s crimes, which I have not yet pardoned; and I, the Lord, will make My home in Jerusalem with My people.” (Joel 3:21 NLT).

Make sure that each day is spent on guard against complacency, so the effects of it never happen to you.

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

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November 10

TODAY IS…

a splendid day to understand that the truth cannot be locked away

“So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”  Matthew 27:66 NIV

The Pharisees and leading priests remembered Jesus’ declaration that He would rise from the dead. They convinced Pilate to seal His body in a tomb after His death and post a number of guards to make sure that His disciples did not steal His body to make it appear that He really did rise from the dead.

Of course, we all know that no tomb and no number of guards were capable of locking away the truth. The truth cannot be denied, it cannot be hidden, and it cannot be denounced.

In today’s society, there are new attempts to “lock away” the truth. It becomes increasingly difficult to speak of God without offending someone. Objections are raised about “civil rights,” but if we recall, forces have always been at work to deny the truth.

Forces have always been at work to lock the truth away.

When Paul and Barnabas were trying to spread the Good News, certain Jews tried to deny the truth. First they spoke against Paul and Barnabas.

“Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town.” (Acts 13:50 NLT).

This did not stop them, of course, they simply moved on and preached elsewhere. Danger existed all around them as they traveled, but they never stopped preaching. They knew the truth and it was important to them that it be shared with others.

In Corinth, Paul said, “For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:8 NASB).

Of course, Jesus knew that all of His disciples would have their moments of doubt. He knew that they would all be shaken terribly by the reality of His death, but He had told them, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 11:6 KJV).

He would have to rise from the dead and stand before them to finally get His message to register and take firm hold with the people who then began to show the world that you cannot lock away the truth. You cannot seal it away in a tomb and guard it to keep it from people.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility to the truth. How well we fulfill that obligation will be demonstrated in how we live each day that God gives us as a gift. The truth cannot – and must not – ever be locked away, for the truth is freedom.

“…and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32 NASB).

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

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