I, Sinner

TODAY IS…

a great day to remember the price Jesus paid with His birth.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 NIV

As Christians, we take this time during advent to celebrate the coming of Christ. We also look forward to the festive nature of the season, the exchanging of gifts, and spending time with family and friends.

It is right, and appropriate, that we be full of joy as we celebrate the birth of the One who came to provide us all with victory over death, and show us the path to grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

When I pray, I always ask God’s forgiveness for the many ways in which I have fallen short. I ask forgiveness for the sins of my words, my actions, and my thoughts. I am a sinner, as we all are, and I am very far from perfect, as we all are. I take comfort in knowing that when -and that definitely is when, and not if – I give in to temptation or fail to ask God for strength before giving in to temptation, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9 NIV

I am not trying to rain on anyone’s parade here, or bring anyone down, but I do think it is necessary that we all temper our joy at the birth of our Lord and Savior with a reminder of the price He would pay for our forgiveness at the end of His time on earth.

As we all gather round to watch our favorite holiday movies (personally, I like the “Rudolph” one with the “Island of Misfit Toys” because sometimes that is exactly where I feel I am) I would suggest adding another to the list. I think we should all pause for some serious reflection and watch “The Passion of the Christ” for the vivid reminder of the sacrifice that was made, and the suffering that was endured, on our behalf.

I have posted the following image before because it is a powerful reminder to me of that suffering, and I pray it is for you as well. Make part of this joyous season serious and watch the movie again. Then hug those around you and thank God for the grace, mercy, and forgiveness we all have because he sent His only begotten Son to us to offer us salvation, and allowed Him to pay for that salvation in such a horrible way.

the-passion-of-the-christ-05

As for me, perhaps posting this picture above my desk will help me ask for forgiveness a lot less than I do.

 

 

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December 7

TODAY IS…

the day to teach others how to use what you can’t take with you.

“For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.”  Psalm 49:17 NLT

Temple assistants wrote Psalm 49 to help people understand that worldly wealth and possessions will not accompany them after death, nor will they act as a ticket to everlasting life. Wealth cannot keep us from death, and we know this.

Since we can’t take it with us, then we should be concerned about who we are leaving it to, because God surely will be paying attention. Individuals who are welcomed into heaven have accepted Christ as their savior, have worshiped only God, and have treated others with love and kindness. Not all become financially successful during their lifetimes, but a good number of them leave behind great amounts of wealth.

Unfortunately, what they may have overlooked was the preparation of those who would be the recipients of their wealth upon their death, and while it may have been important to the individual leaving this world that his good fortune be generously shared with those less fortunate, that same individual may have forgotten to teach his or her children how to receive the gift that is left and what to do with it once they have it.

We must make sure that our children learn the importance of sharing what good fortune they may have with others. Teaching them about the sins of greed and the rewards of generosity is crucial to their development. We must teach them, as Paul instructs Timothy, that any material wealth we have should be used for the betterment of those around us, and he explains to Timothy what real wealth is.

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NLT).

Of course, many individuals can’t see beyond the value of material wealth sitting in front of them and are reluctant to give it away. How does one determine when we are to give it away? How does one determine when we have “enough”?

Paul says, “So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8 NLT).

We want to make sure that our children learn to love people more than money, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NIV).

Start spending time today preparing your children to receive what you cannot take with you when you die. Teach them to share what you leave and tell them that, “In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:19 NIV).

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

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December 6

TODAY IS…

a good day to acknowledge that God’s word is final.Add

“Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!”  Numbers 23:20 NLT

Beginning from the time we are children, when we get an answer we are not happy with we seek out someone from whom we can try and extract an answer that is more to our liking.

As children, how many of us have asked our mothers a question, not been happy with the answer, and gone to dad to seek a more favorable response? Or been told “No” by dad only to seek out mom’s view on the subject. It’s called “working your parents.”

As parents, how many of us have been “worked” by our children?

In legal situations, if we get a result that is contrary to what we desire, we can “appeal” to have the decision changed to one we agree with.

In life, there are many ways and many situations in which decisions may be appealed to be changed, but when it comes to the word of God, it starts, and ends, right there.

God’s word is final.

We may look for excuses for behavior that is contrary to what we know God expects of us, but that is all they will be – excuses. If we sleep with our neighbor’s wife, we can say that “everybody” does it; we can say that it is not against the laws of man, and we can probably even find those who will applaud our behavior.

But God will not be one of them.

He will never approve of it, He will never change His mind, and there is no higher authority to appeal to in order to get a different answer.

God’s word is final.

How, then, do we justify this behavior in our minds? If we do anything contrary to God’s laws how do we justify it?

God says don’t judge others. That job is reserved for Him. Still, we pass judgment on others. God says we are not to lie, and yet the truth is a very difficult thing for many “Christians.” God says we are not to covet anything our neighbor has, but how many of us worry more about what others have that we do not than about what God says on the subject?

It seems that since there is no way to appeal God’s word, it must be OK to just ignore it.

Of course we know this is not true. We should instead take comfort from the fact that of all the things in the world that change, God’s word is not one of them. His word is final.

And that is final.

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December 5

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to make the right choices.

“Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!”  Deuteronomy 11:26 NLT

It would appear on the surface to be a “no brainer” when confronted with the options God gave to the Israelites. How could anyone willingly choose a curse over a blessing? Who would make such a choice?

Honesty would require that many of us raise our hands and admit that we have willingly made the wrong choice. Perhaps we have even done so many times.

Making the wrong choice can have a wide range of negative consequences from very minor to extremely severe and unpleasant. While it is always possible to learn from making the wrong choice, it is best to learn how to make the right ones and avoid the wrong ones completely.

The very first choice that God gave to mankind was in the Garden of Eden.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17 NIV).

One choice, one temptation. Mankind’s score: Good Choices – 0; Bad Choices – 1.

We certainly did not get off to a good start, and sometimes it doesn’t look like we ever learned a thing. Whenever we try to make our choices based upon what we think, or on what we feel, or because of what we want, the chance of making the wrong choice increases exponentially.

It is pretty difficult to make the wrong choice in any given situation and then lay the blame at God’s feet. We have His Word to help us determine what the correct decision is. With the wisdom contained in the Bible, it really is rather difficult to choose the wrong way to go, to think, or to act.

“A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2 NLT).

Sometimes making the right choice leaves us standing alone. Those who are thinking only of themselves may try to make us feel at odds, or try to make us feel guilty for our decision. But Paul assured us, “Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.” (Romans 14:22b NLT).

If we have truly accepted Christ into our lives, our hearts will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and it will always be our heart which will help us make the right decision. Many wrong choices will have minor consequences, but our goal should always be to make the right choice each and every time. This way we will be less likely to be caught off guard and make a wrong choice that has devastating consequences.

The choice is yours.

Do you choose to be blessed or to be cursed?

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

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December 4

TODAY IS…

the day to do the right things for the right reason.

“They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.”  Psalm 35:12 KJV

Answer this question: “Are you nice to others?”

Most of us probably answered “Yes.”

Now answer this one: “Why?”

Perhaps most of us answered, “Because God wants us to love one another.”

That would be the right reason and each one of us should strive to do things that are not only the right thing to do, we should also desire to do them for the right reason.

Sometimes pride gets in our way, though.

Perhaps if we think about it, we can remember being a little irritated when we did something nice for someone and it went unnoticed, or worse, it appeared to be unappreciated. David expresses dismay at not being treated in the same manner he treated others.

“Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.” (Psalm 35:13 NLT).

Poor David.

He did the right thing, but the others did not. Should that be a concern of his?

Certainly we can only go through this life living our lives in a manner which is acceptable to God, correct? We cannot be – nor are we – held responsible for someone else. If we treat someone the way we wish for them to treat us – as the Bible tells us – and we get upset when they do not act the same way in kind, then we have let our pride get in the way and it makes what we did unacceptable to God because it was done for the wrong reason.

People will not always respond to the things that we say or do in a manner that we like, or would expect. If this occurs, we need to pray for them, not be angry, or upset with them.

Jesus was very, very clear on this subject when He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 NASB).

The things that we do for others should be done because of who we are and what is in our heart. Pride should not be allowed to expect payment or reward for them. If we have truly learned what God wants us to learn, the way we treat others and the kindnesses we display will be automatic and who is watching, noticing, or in a position to reward us will never be an issue.

We probably all know someone who regularly does things for others, but makes sure that other people are aware of what they do. Jesus said, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” (Matthew 6:3 NASB).

Never let pride keep you from doing the right thing for the right reason.

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

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December 3

TODAY IS…

a great day to show what is written in our hearts.

“They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thought either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”  Romans 2:15 NLT

Exactly what is it that people see when they look at us? Are they seeing who we are, or are they seeing only what we want them to see?

We have all heard stories about women who live in abusive relationships. Very few, if any, people can tell that there is abuse based upon what is seen in public. In many cases, when the fact that a man is abusing his wife comes to light, it is often a shock to many people because, “He’s always so nice.” The abused woman puts on a happy face in public out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

It would be the rare individual who did not know that their behavior violates not only societal law, but God’s law as well. Some of these abusers actually will use God’s name when inflicting their pain and their “punishment,” but if they truly felt it was OK with God, why is this behavior always hidden and kept secret? Because in their heart they know that what they are doing is wrong. If we all could see what was truly written in their hearts, we would know that they are far from righteous in the eyes of God.

“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13 NIV).

The same applies to any “secret life” we may have which displays anything other than what is truly acceptable to God.

With the growth of the internet, sexual sin has increased by leaps and bounds and the degradation of the human spirit has become a way of life – a secret way of life – for countless individuals. The viewing of pornography is among the most common of these sins and the number of lives that this “harmless” pastime has affected, and destroyed, is incalculable.

It is an unfortunate safe bet that, as you look around at the members of your church on Sunday, a disturbing number will be carrying this secret with them. Many classify its viewing as a harmless, private pursuit. But scant few would be willing to stand up in church and admit that they do it, that they like it, that they do not think it affects their relationships, and that it is acceptable in the eyes of God.

The truth is that it is a destructive pastime that serves no purpose and takes valuable time away from our friends, families, and other loved ones. It also wastes valuable time that we could be spending doing the work of God by helping those who are in need. In addition, it damages our relationship with God, Himself, which affects every aspect of our lives.

If you engage in behavior that you would be embarrassed, or ashamed of, if it became public knowledge, then you need to ask God to help you rewrite what is written in your heart.

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

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Advent

ad·vent

/ˈadˌvent/
noun
  1. the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.

Phillip Xmas Card 001

While the word ‘Advent’ has a secular meaning, Christians know that Advent marks the time leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas, which is today. Of course, even just using the generic definition, who could be more notable than Jesus Christ, and what event could be more notable than His birth?

The picture above is actually a hand-drawn Christmas card made by Philip Womack, a former fellow inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, La. where I spent 4 years, 2 months, and 20 days of my life. I came across it the other day, and when I opened it, I saw the messages written by 20 individuals I had come to know during my time there.

Some have since been released. Others have more time to serve.

Still others will die there.

The birth of our Savior occurred as God’s way of offering salvation to men like us. Men whose lives had descended to depths of such darkness that it appeared there was no way to ever see light again.

Today we mark the beginning of the celebration of the birth of that Light, so as you go through the busy days that lead up to your individual celebrations of that special day, remember that there is Hope for us all, thanks to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And join me in praying for men like Philip, David, Stacy, Jeffrey, “Red”, Dan, Billy, “Icy”, Will, Derek, and the many others whose sinful lifestyles have led to incarceration and separation from their families at this most special, and Holy, time of year.

And let us all give thanks that there is Hope, through Jesus Christ, for all of us, and it is His birth we will soon celebrate.

God bless us, everyone.

 

 

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December 2

TODAY IS…

a splendid day for some words of comfort.

“When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 94:19 NLT

Only God can comfort us when we have doubts. Only God can reassure us when human insecurities cause us to second-guess our faith. The one we need to turn towards is often the very one we are turning away from.

It is a rare human being who doesn’t require the comfort and reassurance of God on more than one occasion during the course of a lifetime. God knows this. After all, He knows all about the trials, tribulations, and temptations that affect our lives. This is why He is always there when we need Him, and even though we may doubt – or be tempted to doubt – our love for Him, at times, His love for us is never in doubt. He understands and is ready to help us when we face those infrequent moments of uncertainty.

If we are faced with an unexpected tragedy or loss, we may very well think that God does not love us or that He has turned away from us. The sudden loss of a spouse or a child through an accident or an unforeseen health problem can shake us and leave us feeling weak, battered, lost, and alone. It is important to remind ourselves when we are not facing these problems that life is always full of surprises and they are not always pleasant.

But how do we prepare for things that might never happen to us?

When we seek out others who are faced with situations that we can only try to imagine facing, we can reach out to them and offer them words of comfort, encouragement and hope. This requires that we spend time reading the Bible so we become familiar with different verses that will help. As we do this, we are not only learning to help others, but we are taking steps to bolster our own faith and learning where to seek comfort ourselves should the unfortunate need arise.

As Paul explains, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).

We can all sympathize with Jacob when he thought his son, Joseph, was killed. His grief was overwhelming and, “All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘In mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.’ So his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35 NIV).

We all know that Jacob should have sought comfort from God, for as it turned out, God had things under control and it worked out beyond Jacob’s wildest hopes. When he was reunited with a very-much-alive Joseph, Jacob wept until, “Finally, Jacob said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen your face again and know you are still alive.’” (Genesis 46:30 NLT).

Let God’s comforting words help you deal with anything that may cause you to doubt and let Him restore your hope.

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

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December 1

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to mean it.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”  Psalm 50:15 NASB

We should all turn to God for help, and many of us do. Unfortunately, there are also many whose relationship with God is a little one sided. While these individuals do not hesitate to ask for God’s help, the thanks that are given in return ring falsely to the Lord, for the subsequent actions of those people reveal their true nature.

In his Psalm, Asaph writes of God’s displeasure with those who offered Him sacrifices or thanks that were empty of any true meaning. He tells Israel that the sacrifices they offer are for their benefit, not His. He points out that offering Him any animal in sacrifice is not something He needs from humans since He already owns the world and everything in it.

“If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains.” (Psalm 50:12 NASB).

So if He really doesn’t want, or need, sacrifices or burnt offerings, what does He want for helping us?

“Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” (Psalm 50:14 NLT).

It is quite simple: He wants us to thank Him and mean it. How do we show Him that we mean it? By living our lives in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

There is no question as to God’s opinion of those who think they can use Him to help them and then carry on with sinful lives.

“Repent, all of you who forget Me, or I will tear you apart, and no one will help you.” (Psalm 50:22 NLT).

Many people who call upon God for His help and then carry on in their old sinful manner after offering empty words of thanks do not realize the danger they are in, for God will take notice in silence and His judgment will come later.

“These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” (Psalm 50:21 NIV).

We can rely on God for His help as often as we need it. All we need to do is thank Him.

The most important thing about thanking God is remembering that He will know if you mean it.

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

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November 30

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to take off the blinders

“Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had said.”  Exodus 8:19 NKJV

Horses used to pull carriages and wagons were often equipped with “blinders.” These devices were secured to the heads of the horses and blocked the vision of the horse from the side. This prevented the horse from becoming distracted or frightened by things that it saw out of the corner of its eye, allowing it to focus on moving straight ahead.

While blinders may be a good thing for horses, they are not usually good for humans. When we are of singular vision, we often grow stubborn and refuse to see the bigger picture.

Very often the bigger picture contains the truth.

Pharaoh had his “blinders” on when Moses repeatedly demonstrated to him that God was using Moses to convey a message to him. God enabled Moses to repeatedly start, and stop, plagues against Egypt to let Pharaoh see God’s power and to convince him to let the Israelites leave Egypt.

Ten different times, ten different examples.

A plague of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts and others. Even Pharaoh’s own trusted advisors could not sway him, so stubborn was he. His stubbornness exacted a toll upon the people of Egypt that culminated in the deaths of all the firstborn of the people and cattle in Egypt, except for those of the Israelites before that stubbornness was overcome.

It took inconvenience, pain, discomfort, and death before he finally took off his blinders.

To be stubborn is to be unreasonable or unyielding. It is easy to see, for most of us, how this can be damaging to our relationships, especially our relationship with God. Paul’s words to the Romans should serve us well in understanding how being stubborn can affect our relationship with God and bring about less than desirable consequences.

“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” (Romans 2:5 NASB).

Being stubborn can also have very adverse effects on our relationships with our spouses, children, friends, and co-workers. Being stubborn can blind us to ways that we are mistreating those we love, and are sinning against the Lord, who loves us.

Pray for God’s help in removing your blinders so that you may see all that there is to see.

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

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