January 15

TODAY IS…

the day to be a living example of goodness for our children.

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”  Proverbs 1:8 KJV

What do our children see when they look at us?

Is what they observe in our actions and behavior a reflection of the goodness that should be a part of our relationship with God?

Are the signals we send them clear signals of morality, integrity, and Christian priorities?

Do they see us “…living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”? (Romans 14:17 NLT).

Do they hear us praising God for His help in filling our hearts with the desire to “…do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”? (Hebrews 13:16 NIV).

God has given each of us some extraordinary gifts, as well as some considerable responsibilities. It is important that we understand that no gift from God is more extraordinary than the gift of a child, and no responsibility is greater than being a living example to that child of the goodness of God and the importance of God in our lives.

It is simply not enough to tell a child how he or she should relate to other people and to God Himself. We must be the living example to follow. Therefore, we must regularly ask ourselves, ‘What do my children see when they look at me?’

There are many of us who struggle just to find the time to keep up with the swirl of daily obligations and commitments we have surrounded ourselves with. We become so busy trying to build better lives on earth for our children that we end up teaching them that it is acceptable to put God on the back burner because He is not as important as newer, bigger, better, or faster.

We deny this, of course, but this becomes what our children see, so this becomes what they learn.

We must make time every day for God. We must teach our children, by example, that pleasing God is important. And not only is it important we do that, it is not very difficult to do. We simply must take time with our children daily to learn God’s lessons of love, peace, joy, caring, and goodness. Then we must apply these lessons to our daily lives and teach our children that this is how we please God and thank Him for all He gives us.

We must step in front of the mirror and ask ourselves another question: “Am I a reflection of the goodness that should be a part of my relationship with God?”

If the answer is yes, thank Him. If the answer is no, ask Him for help in changing it to yes and become a living example of goodness for your children.

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

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January 14

TODAY IS…

the day to thank God for His gift of grace.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”  Ephesians 2:8 NLT

We cannot earn our salvation.

It comes from God as a gift through His grace. His divine love, mercy, and forgiveness are free. Understanding just how important and precious His grace is to us will help us to understand just how important and precious we are to Him.

To receive this gift of grace we must acknowledge that we cannot save ourselves. Only God can do that. As Paul teaches us “If you declare with your mouth, ’Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

Since God’s grace is a gift, there is no charge for it; there is nothing owed; there is no debt. But we should certainly be grateful for it and give thanks for it. Accepting this gift into our hearts should instill in us a need to share the joy this gift can bring with those around us.

If we have accepted Christ and received God’s gift of grace, we should make ourselves available to God with an attitude of compassion and joy. The desire to share our peace, happiness, and contentment should grow, as should our desire to serve the One who has given us such a priceless gift.

Frequently, many of us find ourselves so caught up in our own existence that we find it difficult to make time for ourselves or for our families, let alone for anyone else. However, just as physical exercise actually increases our energy, so too does service to others in the name of God help us to increase the quality of our own lives.

When we show someone else kindness, love, and compassion, we thank God for His gift of grace to us. Helping someone else discover the gift of God’s grace is one of the kindest things we can do for another human being and for ourselves.

Thank God today for His gift of grace by helping someone else receive it as well.

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

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January 13

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to give.

“Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”  2 Corinthians 8:12 NLT

When we awake each morning, do we thank God for His gift of the new day? Do we stop and look around us in awe and wonder at all of the individual gifts that each new day contains? We needn’t look far for these gifts. We only need to open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds and realize that everything we can see, hear, smell, and touch exists because it is a gift from God.

There are so many things around us that we take for granted as we rush through our lives: the sun; the stars; the clouds that drift soundlessly overhead; dew drops on the petals of a flower or a blade of grass; the sound of a bird singing its own song of life. Simple things. Everyday things. These are all things that we should stop from time to time, take notice of, and thank God for.

When we give pause to show our appreciation for the One who makes everything in life possible, and when we give thanks for all of His countless gifts, we are one step closer to giving back and showing our love for, and commitment to, God and all that He created.

The best way to demonstrate that love and commitment is to give back to God in a manner that reflects His spirit within us. Believers in Macedonia, while not financially well off themselves, gave “…according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord…” (2 Corinthians 8:3 NASB).

The attitude is more important than the amount. A gift given with enthusiasm and a cheerful spirit will have more of a positive spiritual impact than one given out of grudging obligation. It is true that our churches require funds to operate and provide assistance to those who need it, but far too many of us write the check and then write off any further obligation to their fellow man and to God Himself.

Giving of ourselves – with a cheerful heart and a willing spirit – is often more important than giving financially. For those who simply cannot afford to give financially, giving of themselves may be all that they can give. But what a thing to give! Philemon was a perfect example of how attitude and temperament can refresh the spirit of others, replenishing and stimulating them.

In his letter to Philemon, Paul said, “Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” (Philemon 1:7 NLT).

Be a Philemon.

Be someone who lifts others up and makes their burdens – be they financial or spiritual – lighter.

Give back to God who gives us – everything.

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

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January 12

TODAY IS…

a good day to deal with doubt.

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”  John 20:27 NLT

How strong is your faith?

How confident is your belief?

Publicly, you may proclaim that your faith is unshakeable; that your belief is without reservation. Privately, there may be times when a shadow of doubt crosses your heart as a cloud sometimes crosses in front of the sun, blocking its light and its warmth.

The disciple Thomas not only needed to see Jesus’ wounds, he needed to feel them for himself before he was completely ready to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.

Simon Peter’s faith was strong enough to trust Christ and step out of the boat onto the water.

“‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:29 NLT).

However, his fear created doubts that caused him to start sinking making him cry out to Jesus for help. His doubts would surface again when Jesus was taken into custody and Peter denied three times that he even knew who Christ was, just as Jesus said he would.

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know Me.'” (Matthew 26:34 NLT).

God does not condemn us for our moments of human weakness that result in doubt provided we use our struggle with it to strengthen our faith.

Since we are merely human, we should not allow it to shatter us if we have an occasional moment of doubt. It is during these times that we must rely on the Word of God to help us reach out and ‘touch the wounds of Jesus’ for ourselves and find the wisdom to strengthen our belief.

The apostle Thomas became known as ‘Doubting’ Thomas. Still, he went on to become one of Christ’s most fervent apostles, traveling to India and founding the first Christian church there in A. D. 52 in the town of Parur. Ultimately, Thomas traveled farther than any of the other apostles including the indefatigable Paul who traveled much of the area bordering the northern and eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Simon Peter was originally Simon the fisherman. Jesus changed his name to Peter which meant ‘rock’. In describing Peter, He said “…upon this rock I will build My church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18 NLT).

Peter did, indeed, become a ‘rock’ for Christ: he was the first to invite non-Jews to join the early church; he became the recognized leader among Jesus’ disciples; he was one of Jesus’ inner group of three; he went on to write 1 Peter and 2 Peter.

So, do you sometimes have doubts?

If you do, then you are in very good company. Use the Word of God to overcome your doubts, strengthen your faith, and do great things for the glory of God!

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

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January 11

TODAY IS…

the day to seek the wisdom of God.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  James 1:5 NASB

Wisdom is knowledge, understanding, insight, and good judgment.

It is not just intelligence – it is using intelligence correctly. Throughout the Bible, the importance of wisdom and its part in our relationship with God is stressed many times.

Wisdom allows us to apply the things that we have learned from the Word of God in a manner that makes us more Christ-like. Wisdom helps point us to a purpose for our lives on earth that benefits all of mankind and not just ourselves. Wisdom guides our decisions, our hopes, our prayers, and our love for others and enables us to be leaders, healers, helpers, and friends. Wisdom also prepares us to be good parents, productive and involved members of our churches and our communities, and helps us be looked to as sources of strength and counsel during times of trouble, tragedy, or disaster.

When told by God that he could have anything that he asked for, Solomon did not ask for great wealth or fame. Instead, he asked God to, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10 NIV).

We are not all kings.

We are not all rulers.

Most of us are simple people trying to find our way in a world that seems to become more confusing and dangerous every day. No matter how well-intentioned we may be, sometimes the correct direction often eludes us. It is important we understand that studying the Word of God, spending time getting to know Him, and asking for His divine wisdom will help us determine exactly what that direction is.

Wisdom is a God-given gift, but it is only given to those who actively seek it. We must ask for it and then we must trust God as He shows us that all of the wisdom we will ever need can be found throughout the Bible.

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6 NIV).

Wisdom gives us the ability to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.

When we are faithful to God and ask for – and use – wisdom for God’s purpose, He will reward us with true happiness.

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.” (Proverbs 2:10 NLT).

We only need to keep asking God for His wisdom in our prayers, and seeking it in His Word.

“For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8 NLT).

Open the door today to reveal the gift of God’s wisdom.

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

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January 10

TODAY IS…

a great day to love others.

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Matthew 22:39 NIV

God gave mankind many gifts, many talents, and many skills.

He made us seemingly without limit in our ability to develop technologies and products that are extremely complex and require a tremendous amount of education, thought, and expertise. He gave us the ability to develop an almost incomprehensible array of vehicles with which to traverse the land, the oceans, the sky, and even space itself. In spite of all of these God-given gifts, talents, and skills which enable us to achieve ever-increasing levels in science and technology, manufacturing and production, education, medicine, and building, we sometimes seem at a loss to fully comprehend the simple concept of loving our fellow man.

Perhaps the concept itself is so simplistic in nature that we automatically diminish its significance and deny its importance.

Jesus Christ did not think it was insignificant or unimportant. In fact, when asked by the Pharisees what He thought was the most important commandment in the Law of Moses, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV).

If that, in and of itself, is not enough to demonstrate the importance of loving your neighbor, Jesus went on to say, “The entire law and all of the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:40 NLT).

So, not only did Jesus say that loving your neighbor is important, He placed it second only to showing love to God Himself in terms of importance and significance.

Jesus was not referring only to those who live in close proximity to us, of course. To God, the entire world that He created is a very small place and all of mankind should consider all other inhabitants of God’s creation to be his neighbor regardless of where they live, or whatever their race, creed, or social background.

We should all reach out in love to anyone we see who needs assistance.

Often we become so wrapped up in our own little corner of the world and become so overwhelmed with our own lives and problems that we fail to lift our heads up and look around us. When we do that, we realize that there is always someone in greater need than we are. When we take the time, and make the effort, to reach out to another human being, we not only learn a little about ourselves, but we learn a little more about God’s love for us. When we help someone else with their problems, God helps ours seem to diminish just a little, and those that remain seem easier to handle.

Loving our neighbor is a simple concept with far-reaching impact. It is a concept that is important to the Lord. Make it important to you as well.

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

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January 9

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to seek the light.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  John 1:5 NLT

Under cover of darkness, we may allow ourselves to do things or live our lives in ways that are contrary to the will of God. When we are shrouded in darkness and ‘safe’ from prying eyes, it becomes far too easy to indulge in sinful acts and selfish pleasures and give in to immoral thoughts that can have a negative impact on how we view ourselves and could cause others to view us differently if those thoughts and actions were to come to light.

Carrying around the burden of sinful living takes its toll on us and can drain us of our joy and our peace. It can deny us the true pleasures available to us that can be found in righteous living.

Accepting Christ as the true Light in our lives exposes us to the rest of the world making it more difficult for darkness to consume our thoughts and actions. The Light illuminates the path before us and leads us out of the darkness and away from the pain and the suffering that lurks there.

Living in the Light helps us to want to live as better children of God and allows us to reach out to others and point them to the light as well. Living in the Light helps us to demonstrate our faith to others and live in a manner that will reflect the goodness of God to them.

With so many sources of temptation in today’s world, it is difficult for many of us to embrace the concept of living in the Light of Jesus Christ, but giving in to temptation by taking the easy way out and making excuses for our sin is not advised.

“Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey Him.” (Ephesians 5:6 NLT).

Many of us have experienced the almost physical heaviness that we feel upon entering a darkened room. We have also experienced the tremendous relief that turning on the light brings as that oppressive weight is lifted from us. With the light on, we can see clearly in front of us and are forewarned of any obstacles that stand in our way and could cause us harm as we move through the room.

It is the same when we accept the Light of Christ into our lives. The heaviness of sinful living is lifted from our hearts and minds and temptation is exposed in order that we may avoid it and move in the right direction in our lives.

There will be obstacles and pitfalls in every life that cannot be avoided completely, even in the Light of Christ, but we will be much better prepared to deal with them when we live in His Light.

The darkness of evil can never overcome the Light of the Lord. Use the gift of this day to step out of the darkness and into the Light.

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

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January 8

TODAY IS…

a great day for forgiveness.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB

Christ forgave even those who spat on Him, mocked Him, beat Him, whipped Him, forced a crown of thorns upon His head, made Him struggle under the weight of His own cross, laughed at Him and called Him names, nailed Him to His cross, pierced His side with a sword and watched Him die.

What is it that someone has done to you that you find yourself incapable of forgiving?

God knows your pain.

He sees how much you hurt and He knows how angry you can be with those who may have caused your pain. Letting go of grudges and forgiving others is hard work, but accepting the love of the Lord into your heart and exhibiting true faith in the power of God to heal you is part of being a child of God.

We cannot pray for God to forgive our sins if we have not developed the love and peace in our heart, through our faith, which enables us to forgive others.

Sometimes it may seem almost impossible to imagine forgiving something another person may have done to us. We may have been beaten, robbed, raped, sexually abused, or had any number of serious sins, crimes, or injustices committed against us. The last thing our hardened human hearts want to do is give up our pride and our desire for vengeance, but true faith changes us; it allows us to open our hearts to love and force out the hurt, the grudges, and the need for vengeance.

As Christ hung on the cross, bleeding from His wounds, knowing that His life was about to end, He looked down upon those who had tormented Him, tortured Him, and were now gambling for His clothes while waiting for Him to breathe His last breath.

Under the worst conditions imaginable, He still looked upon His murderers with compassion, love, and kindness and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

With Christ as the perfect example; with Christ as the perfect source of love and strength; with Christ as the perfect Light illuminating our path, may we all learn to ask God to help us look upon others with forgiveness for what they have done to us in order that we may then ask God for forgiveness for ourselves.

Amen.

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

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January 7

TODAY IS…

a perfect day for peace with God.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 5:1 KJV

Disagreements among people on earth too frequently have led to devastating wars. The road to peace and reconciliation has inevitably been cleared through the shedding of the blood of hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of men and women in service to their countries.

The road to peace and reconciliation with Almighty God was cleared through the shedding of the blood of just one man in service to all of mankind. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross cleared that road and gave us a way to establish a relationship with God that is free from sin.

Jesus is the way to the Father. The only way. Our faith allows us to trust that Christ died for our sins. His death gave us the ability to ask God for salvation through Jesus Christ and obtain forgiveness for ourselves.

The ability to be at peace with God – to be reconciled with Him – is the gift that Jesus Christ gave us when He died. It is a valuable gift; a precious gift; a gift of love and everlasting life so wonderful as to defy any true mortal comprehension.

At the same time, it is a gift that is often taken for granted or not accepted at all.

So many of us live in spiritual darkness, locked in a continuous battle that we try to fool ourselves we can win without God’s help. If we haven’t accepted the gift already, it is time to reach out and accept that which was given with such love and selflessness so long ago.

Today is the perfect day to come to God through Christ and find the clear path to reconciliation and peace with God.

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NIV).

Enjoy the gift of a sin-free life paid for with the death of Jesus Christ. Make His death mean something by making your life an everlasting one. Enjoy the gift of peace that comes from being reconciled to God.

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

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January 6

TODAY IS…

a good day to thank God for the gift of freedom.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  Galatians 5:1 KJV

A carpenter from Nazareth changed the world.

His life gave the world Hope, and His death gave the world Life. His teachings instill within us the basic Christian values that provide us with the foundation for social morality and human decency.

Jesus died to set us free, but it is important to understand that the freedom He gave us is not the freedom to do whatever we wish. Rather, He gave us the freedom to do the right thing; the freedom to live unselfishly and with purpose; the freedom to live without sin; the freedom to serve.

Chiseled in a low wall on the grounds of Penn State University is the following message:

“USE WELL THY FREEDOM”

Wise words indeed, and if we look to the Bible, we find Paul explaining exactly what those words mean:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT).

How completely this sums up our responsibility to the One who gave His life so that we may live ours free from sin. And how perfectly this demonstrates why we should give thanks to our great God who is “…so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” (Ephesians 1:7 NLT).

While it is true that we should constantly praise the Lord and give thanks, it would be a far more meaningful way of showing appreciation if we reject the bondage that accompanies sin and rejoice in our freedom by serving one another in love. Just as any parent experiences a warm feeling when a child of theirs is observed in an act of kindness, generosity or love, God is also pleased when His children act towards one another in a similar manner.

A better way to thank God for our freedom simply does not exist than to be kind, to help another human being, and to serve one another in love.

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

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