May 25

TODAY IS…

an awesome day to think about the goodness of Christ.

“When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left Him until the next opportunity came.”  Luke 4:13 NLT

As Jesus lived His life, He was exposed to temptation time and time again, just as we are today. But at no time was the onslaught of temptation as intense as it was when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness north of the Dead Sea.

For 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. For 40 days Jesus ate nothing. Satan’s offers became increasingly more appealing. He offered Him food; he offered Him riches; he challenged His birthright and pressured Jesus to test God’s love. Jesus turned to God instead for strength to resist the temptations before Him during His time in the Judean wilderness and at the temple back in Jerusalem.

When the devil was finished – when he had given the temptation of Jesus his best shot – he left Him. But he would come back time and time again throughout Jesus’ life. And time after time, the goodness of Jesus would help Him to resist temptation.

Every time.

How many of us can make the same claim? The answer is simple: none of us has resisted temptation every time. There are most definitely those who are better at it than others, but we have all given in. The results of our giving in to temptation have probably not been as devastating as the results of Eve’s bite of the apple, but every time we give in to temptation, Satan wins a little victory.

It is outside the scope of our power as human beings to deny Satan every victory. But it is our responsibility as Christians to do our best and deny him as many times as we can. We must strive for the incredible goodness of Jesus and we must turn constantly to God for strength to fight back when we are attacked.

Only Christ is perfect.

The rest of us are sinners. Looking to the goodness that is Jesus can help us to deny victory to Satan. It will never be easy, and sometimes denying victory to Satan will require sacrifice on our part.

But through it all, God will help us stand strong, if we follow the example of Jesus and turn to Him when faced with temptation.

*******

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

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The Storms in Cancer

May 24

TODAY IS…

the right day to thank God for the storms in our lives.

“And it was only right that He should make Jesus, through His suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.”  Hebrews 2:10b NLT

The fact that Jesus had to endure the suffering that He did is a difficult concept for many people to comprehend.

In fact, the whole issue of suffering is a major sticking point for some, and the question is always asked, “How could God stand by and watch the suffering of His own Son?”

We all know that God did not stop it. What we spend so much time contemplating is “Why did He not stop it?”

The suffering of Christ was His final display of perfect obedience to the Father. His suffering made Him the complete sacrifice, earning salvation for the rest of the world. His suffering at the hands of those He came to save demonstrated to the rest of the world that storms enter the lives of even the very best of us.

But out of those storms, things of beauty arise, just as Christ rose from the dead before ascending to heaven.

During storms, things around us often look harsh, dark, dangerous, and emit a sense of foreboding. But we usually see soon after that the storm has created new life and things of beauty. The suffering that we endure as a result of the storms in our lives will produce within us a greater understanding of the pain of other human beings. It will enable us to be greater providers of comfort to others during the storms in their lives.

No one likes to suffer, and God does not enjoy watching us stand and face our storms. Obedience to God can lead us into stormy weather, but the Lord will lead us safely out again, and we quite possibly will be pleasantly surprised at what is revealed after the storm has passed.

Instead of questioning God’s intentions, we should thank Him for the storms in our lives and ask Him to reveal the beauty that can be produced as a result.

*******

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

May 24, 2020

Author’s Note: While preparing today’s devotion for posting, it quickly became obvious that it was a perfect candidate for the “In Cancer” series. After all, cancer certainly qualifies as a storm in the lives of those afflicted, doesn’t it?

More important is the proximity in which it places us to others whose storms are raging with an even greater intensity than our own.

Sitting in the waiting room at the radiation treatment center, or sitting in the infusion center while receiving chemotherapy, one needs only to open one’s eyes to see that there are those whose suffering is truly greater than that we are experiencing.

It certainly is true that I don’t always feel great, and while the inflammation in my throat is wreaking havoc with any attempts to eat normally and actually enjoy eating, it is obvious that my physical discomfort at this point pales in comparison to that experienced by others.

So where is the ‘beauty’ in all of this?

When we are awakened to the pain and suffering of others, our eyes are opened in a way that is truly pleasing to God, and that is beautiful is it not?

When that awareness moves us to pray for others, that concern and love for our “neighbors” is pleasing to God, and this, too, is beautiful, is it not?

There will always be cynics, skeptics, and doubters who will think that it is a bit masochistic to find any sort of beauty in pain and suffering, but then they are individuals who have not come to know the beauty that arose out of the pain and suffering of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Whether we have cancer or not.

Whether our lives are currently in the midst of storms or basking in the warmth of a sunny day.

No matter the condition of ourselves or those close to us.

When we take the time to pray for, and demonstrate love and concern for those we see around us who are experiencing stormy weather, we show the Father that we understand His command to “Love thy neighbor.”

Once our eyes have been opened to the pain and suffering of others, we will learn a simple concept: When your life is in the middle of a thunderstorm, pray for someone whose life is in the middle of a hurricane.

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May 23

TODAY IS…

a good day to get back on course.

“’My people have forgotten how to do right,’ says the Lord. ‘Their fortresses are filled with wealth taken by theft and violence.’”  Amos 3:10 NLT

God selected Amos, who was a shepherd in the southern part of Israel, to see a vision of the Lord’s judgment that was to be passed on the people in the northern part of the country. Amos proved he was a man of God by traveling to the north and warning them of what was to come if they didn’t correct their ways.

Many of the people Amos spoke to had been doing the wrong things for so long, they had forgotten what the right thing was.

In many ways, things are not so different now than they were those many centuries before the birth of Christ. Just as they grew complacent in their faith, so have many of us. For many, rather than look honestly at themselves, defensive walls go up and indignation sets in at the mere suggestion of complacency on their part. This is nothing to be embarrassed about, or to get defensive over. It happens to many people more often than we may think. In a world that moves faster and faster every day, it sometimes becomes easy to forget what the right thing is.

“Not for me!” many of us claim, and for some this may be true.

But far too many of us fall into patterns of behavior, or thought, that are in direct violation of the things that God teaches, and we do so with no evil intent and oftentimes no real purpose.

We just “drift off course.”

As a ship moves through the ocean, currents will pull at it and if the captain of the ship does not pay attention and make corrections as he goes along, he will find the ship winding up in a totally different place than originally intended even though it may appear as if the ship has always been pointed in the same direction.

We must all avoid the “currents” of temptation that will attempt to pull us off course without our even being aware of it. We must avoid complacency and stay focused on our destination. Each one of us needs to take out our Bible, which is our ‘map,’ and see if we have drifted off course.

If we have, we need to take the steps required to correct it so that we arrive at the correct destination.

*******

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

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May 22

TODAY IS…

a terrific day to pray for others.

“I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”  Romans 15:30 NIV

Prayer is a gift from God.

It is the ability to communicate directly with Him and seek comfort, ask for help, and – hopefully – to give thanks to the One who makes so much of value available to us.

It is an opportunity for reflection, and it is a way to ask for guidance and direction in our lives. Prayer is also the first place we should turn when we are confronted with temptation.

And we will be confronted with temptation.

But prayer is also a great way to fulfill the Lord’s instruction that we love one another and look out for one another. We can accomplish this by using prayer for the benefit of others.

Asking God to help us heal in times of great sadness or sorrow is perfectly alright, but asking God to help someone else find the strength to deal with a terrible loss or tragedy is a great way to help a friend, neighbor, or family member, at times when we may feel unable to do anything. God can get to places in a person’s heart that we cannot, and He loves to hear our voices imploring Him to help.

We also need to consider the many people throughout the world that we don’t even know who work tirelessly, sacrifice much, and risk their very lives to share the Word of God with others so that they may experience the joy of a life that has been changed by knowing, and accepting, Christ Jesus.

In their struggles to spread the Good News, these brave men and women need our prayers of support. Just as Paul reached out to others in his day to pray in support of his struggle, we should all pray for the many thousands who continue that struggle today.

There are many good reasons to pray. Our personal problems are among them.

But it is also a beautifully Christian thing to take time to pray for all who need God’s help, and today is a terrific day to do just that.

*******

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

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May 21

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to encourage young people.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.”  1 Timothy 4:12 NIV

God makes it clear that it is never too late to look to Him for the answers that we seek for our lives.

The well-known saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” simply does not apply when it comes to discovering the joy of salvation and eternal life with God that can be ours when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior.

This certainly is wonderful to hear for any of us who might be arriving late in life at the simple truth that our time on earth should be lived with God’s purpose for us in mind.

By the same token, while it is never too late to learn, it is also never too early.

For those among us who waited until later in life to find our way, we know how much richer and fuller our lives would have been if we had discovered the joys of knowing Christ at an earlier age. We know how much happier we would have been and we know how much good we could have done for those around us.

We must encourage those who are young to take advantage of their youth and to experience the love, grace, and blessings that are a part of knowing God.

Many young people already have found the Lord, accepted Christ, and live lives of service. Individuals like that must be encouraged to speak even if they may be reluctant because of their youth.

God has a use for each of us and we only need make ourselves available to Him to discover what that use is. It is easier for young people to council other young people that a relationship with God, and service to others on His behalf, is a much more rewarding way to live than to spend all of their time playing video games, watching television, or engaging in behaviors that can only lead to pain and suffering.

Reach out to those who are young and encourage them to reach out to others. Help others find what you have found, and show them how it can change their lives for good.

*******

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

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May 20

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to heed God’s warnings.

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”  Genesis 6:22 NIV

Millions of people claim to have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior and further claim to believe that He is the light that will lead us to life everlasting if we follow simple rules of decency and morality.

And then we go on with our daily lives as if we never spent one minute reading the Word of God:

We approach a homeless person on the sidewalk or in our car and we cross the street or roll up the window so we don’t have to deal with them.

We search the internet for juicy tidbits of wrongdoing by someone we know and then gossip about them with others.

We hide secrets of sinful behavior from our friends, our families, and our spouses.

We ignore opportunities to do the right thing, we engage in inappropriate conversations, we sin in a lot of little ways, and maybe a few big ways.

But sin is sin and not heeding God’s admonishments to avoid sin is not wise.

Has it really become so difficult for us to live decent, moral, loving lives? Has the world become so decadent that immorality is the accepted norm? Do the repeated instructions issued by God fall on deaf ears?

Do we think God is making it up when He tells us that the final judgment He will pass, on the way each one of us lives our lives, is coming? Sometimes we act like we don’t believe that we will be judged, but God makes it very clear throughout the Bible that this will happen.

So why do we ignore His warning?

Are we so spiritually immature that we think God’s warnings apply to everyone but us?

Disobedience to God might be understandable in some way if God’s instructions to us were complicated or unreasonable. But how complicated is the instruction to love each other and treat each other as we would wish to be treated? And how unreasonable is it to ask people to exhibit maturity and decency in their words and their actions?

God instruction is neither unreasonable nor complicated. If there are complications in our lives, we probably put them there or invited them in.

Live happier, healthier lives with fewer complications and a lot more joy by heeding God’s warnings and following His instructions and today is the ideal day to start.

*******

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

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The Kindness in Cancer

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

The cards have been coming from people I know well, people I know a little, and some I don’t know at all. Cards that encourage me to be strong, keep the faith, and trust in the Lord. Cards that make me smile, and some that make tears form, but always good tears.

The cards are sent out of the kindness of peoples’ hearts. People who have taken a moment and set aside the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty of their own lives during this pandemic to focus a little bit of something positive, encouraging, and uplifting on another human being. People whose love of God is demonstrated through their efforts to take the time to place another person ahead of themselves for a moment to help that friend, family member, or stranger face this thing called cancer.

I could not do this without God.

But I also couldn’t do it without the demonstrated love of God that is evident in the scripture people choose to offer, and the personal notes of encouragement they write.

Would you like to see what kindness looks like?

I have a really tiny room in a house in Washington, DC, so I do not have the space to display the cards all the time and all at once, so I took a picture of them all.

“Kindness, Defined”

That picture was taken in front of my computer monitor, and now that picture is ON my computer monitor so I can see the kindness of fellow Christians displayed whenever I want (or need) to.

Why would a complete stranger care enough about me to take the time to do this?

Possibly because they remember when Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35-36

Of course, in order to be aware of another’s condition, people have to use one of the greatest gifts God gave us – the gift of sight. While I was incarcerated I wrote a poem I think is appropriate to the current topic. I took a picture of it to include here, but if you look closely at the picture above, you can see it hanging in the upper left hand corner next to my monitor.

So there you have it. Kindness as defined by people who use the eyes God gave them to see an opportunity to use the heart He placed within them in order that a guy with lung cancer can understand that there are gifts in this disease.

We just have to use the eyes He gave us to see them.

To those who have sent, and continue to send, cards – I cannot thank you enough or adequately describe how grateful I am that you care enough to exhibit such kindness to me.

I am not worthy of the love God gives me through other people.

But I will take it.

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May 19

TODAY IS…

an excellent day for company.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”  Revelation 3:20 NASB

Well? Are we just going to leave Him standing there on the doorstep, or are we going to swing the door open wide and welcome Jesus into our lives?

Some of us have welcomed Him into our hearts, our minds, and our lives and are living happier, more fulfilling lives as a result. But far too many of us either have not heard Him knocking and calling out to us or we are afraid to let Him in.

Perhaps we feel we do not need Him.

If any of us are in the group that does not hear, we need to start listening more closely, because Jesus calls to us constantly. He wants to come in and be a part of our lives. He wants to help us and to teach us. He wants to help that which is good within us totally supplant anything that is bad within us. He wants us to be spiritually healthy, wealthy, and wise. If we are faithful in prayer and in our reading of the Bible, we will hear Him knocking and we will hear Him calling to us.

Then all we need do is open up our hearts and invite Him in.

If we are afraid, we need only know that He knows. For some of us, opening up and allowing Jesus to come in can be a frightening thing. It truly shouldn’t be, but accepting Christ into our homes and our hearts can be scary because change is scary to many of us. But accepting Christ is the best kind of change and there is no need to fear. He is gentle and He is kind, and He will help us be the same way.

Some of us simply do not feel that we need Him because life is wonderful and we have everything we want. We mistakenly feel that all we have gotten, we have gotten on our own, through our own efforts. Well, if that’s the case, I can only say that standing on the other side of the door, knocking and calling out to us is the epitome of patience and persistence. He will wait as long as it takes for us to realize that the talent we used to accumulate our wealth, material possessions, and good fortune came as a gift from God. He will wait as long as it takes for us to discover that it was His blessing that gave us our fortune. He will wait patiently while we figure out that He has a use for us and He gave us our talents to benefit others and not only ourselves.

No matter where we fit in this picture, we must all open the door and allow Him to come in. Jesus is excellent company and today is an excellent day for company.

*******

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

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May 18

TODAY IS…

the right day to ask, “How do I see things?”

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”  Titus 1:15 NIV

We are all familiar with the question, “Is the glass half full or half empty?”

No matter who is looking at the glass, the amount of water in the glass is the same, so what could possibly account for people seeing things differently? Is not the human eye basically constructed the same in all humans? The color of our eye doesn’t change what we see; the shape of our eye doesn’t change what we see; and the gender of our eye does not change what we see.

What, then, does cause us to see what should be the same thing, in different ways?

Obviously the difference must come from within. Our education definitely influences our perception, but so does the environment in which we were raised.

How we were raised spiritually also affects how we see things.

Some of us look around at the world and manage to see good things everywhere, in spite of the evil that exists. Some of us look at the same thing and see mostly that which is evil. When Paul wrote his letter to Titus instructing him how to organize the churches on the Isle of Crete, he pointed out that people see with their eyes, but how they interpret what they are looking at is determined by what is in their hearts.

This is not to say, necessarily, that if we see only evil, or mostly evil, that we are evil. This only points out that the negative things in the world are what we focus on internally.

With Christ in control of our lives and with our focus daily on the lessons He taught, we can learn to fill our hearts with the things that are required to see more of what is right with the world.

Of course, we don’t want to be blind to the pain of others or the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, but we must focus our “…thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

This will enable us to see more of what is good in the world and it will also enable others to see the good in us. And with everyone seeing more good, the world can slowly become less evil.

The question for today is, “How do you see things?”

Ask Jesus Christ to help you answer in the right way.

*******

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

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The Freedom in Cancer

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” Psalm 118:5

It could be relatively easy to allow my lung cancer to imprison me. To let it put me in a box, sort of like the one in that famous mime sketch, where there appears to be no way out.

Learning of the existence of the disease within my body definitely created one of those forks in the road of life where a decision had to be made. A decision bearing major consequences, not one of the daily inconsequential ones we make like, “Which shoes shall I wear?”

The choice here was, “Do I give up to the cancer, or do I give the cancer up to God?”

Do I get in the box, or not?

I have learned that simply having cancer defines a life to a certain degree. It most definitely impacts that life, and the lives of those who are close to the afflicted individual, in a major way. It can even be said that it does confine one in many ways, since there is the treatment that will surely restrict movement and will likely even dictate a lot of what can, and can’t, be done in the weeks and months to come.

But it doesn’t have to become a prison.

I would suspect there are many who might be prone to thinking that cancer has imprisoned them, and looking at it as one whose life has undergone dramatic changes, I can understand the mindset that allows that to happen.

I can understand it.

But I cannot accept it.

What I can accept is that the direction of my steps has changed several times in the last eleven years, and each time that direction changed, it was definitely a radical change. Being like most people, change – particularly radical change with an uncertain or unclear outcome – made me nervous.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

So, with the onset of my lung cancer and its initial treatment, the direction of my steps has changed again. Quite drastically, it’s true. Fortunately, because of the changes in the past eleven years guided by a new relationship with the Lord, I am better able to view this nature of the change in a clearer, more positive light.

When it comes to prison, I am – fortunately, or unfortunately (there is an argument for both) – somewhat of a subject matter expert. I also am well-versed on the subject of freedom in prison, so if freedom exists, then the bars do not.

The translation of all of this quite simple, really.

While this cancer has, in fact, created limitations on my life – much like the physical bars and fences around Oakdale FCI, where I was imprisoned – the cancer is totally unable to contain my spirit, because I know the Lord.

And when you know the Lord, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

So while I am pretty certain I will not enjoy the cancer I have, I know I will enjoy the freedom I will experience in it.

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