April 12

TODAY IS…

a great day to realize that grace is amazing!

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.’”  Luke 1:30 NASB

Grace is God bestowing favor upon a sinful humanity.

We cannot earn it, He gives it freely. We can thank Him for it, in fact, we should do so. We can ask for it, and we will receive it, but sometimes He picks people to bestow His grace upon, as was the case with the choice of Mary as the mother of the Messiah.

It would be years before the enormity of that honor would become evident. At first, Mary had much to endure: those around her would reject and ridicule her; her fiancée would come to the brink of leaving her in disgrace; and the child she gave birth to would grow up to be rejected by many and, ultimately, be murdered by those who did not believe His message.

But in the end, through her Son would come salvation for the world. Through her pain would come the one who could help the world ease its pain. Through the grace God bestowed upon Mary, the entire world was given hope.

One of the world’s most enduring and recognizable spiritual songs is “Amazing Grace.”

It is a beautiful song and was written by John Newton who used to be a captain on brutal slave ships. Newton not only found favor with God, he thanked Him by not only writing one of the most recorded pieces of music in history, but also by encouraging William Wilberforce, as a member of the English House of Commons, to fight to end the slave trade in England.

Maybe our individual purpose in this life is not as remarkable as that of the mother of Christ or the man who gave us beautiful music. But God’s grace is available to us all, and today is a great day to realize just how amazing His grace can be.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 11

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to let it all go.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”  Philippians 3:13 NASB

There is probably no better example of God’s ability to transform a person’s life than the example of Saul’s transformation to Paul. As Saul, he stood by and watched the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death.

“When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58 NASB).

Following Stephen’s death, Saul was a dedicated persecutor of anyone proclaiming to be a follower of Christ. After his encounter with Jesus, Saul… now Paul… would go on to be second only to Christ Himself in importance to Christianity.

“Who are You, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied.” (Acts 9:5 NIV).

Talk about a wake up call.

Hopefully, none of us has been as bad as Saul, but many of us have done things that we are ashamed of and some of us may find it difficult to let go of the past so that we can move forward. This is, in fact, a common struggle, especially for those who have good hearts and are essentially kind, gentle souls. Those who have hardened hearts are not nearly as troubled as those who do not.

Regardless of where any of us fits in, each one of us has a part to play in the transformation of humanity.

If you have sinned and have trouble moving forward, you must study closely the transformation of Paul. If God can overlook his past and use him as His most ardent supporter, then surely He can overlook anything you or I have done.

Those who think they have lived decent Christian lives and have had a good relationship with God through Jesus Christ, must encourage, support, and forgive those who are trying to find their way to the Lord, for we are all sinners. Far too many of us look at other individuals’ transformation with skepticism, cynicism, and doubt. We must remind ourselves that if God can forgive and fill someone with His spirit, who are we to doubt, ridicule, or stand in the way?

And all of us must pray for God to work to soften the hearts of those whose hearts are hardened and resisting transformation. We must all work to let it all go so we can move forward on the path God wants us to walk.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 10

TODAY IS…

a good day to agree with God.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and You forgave the guilt of my sin.”  Psalm 32:5 NIV

Why do we need to confess if God is already aware of everything that we do?

Is it even necessary that we confess our sins to the Lord?

The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!”

Confessing our sins to God is not revealing to Him something that He already knows. It is acknowledging that we have sinned and it is confirming our agreement with Him that what we did was wrong. When we do this, we are also acknowledging our awareness and understanding of God’s desire to forgive us and our need for that forgiveness.

When we confess, we are also asking God to help us strengthen our resolve to forsake sin and follow Him. We are admitting to being human and seeking the Lord’s wisdom, strength and courage in resisting sin in its many forms.

Confession has the same cleansing effect on our soul as using soap and hot water does in removing dirt and filth from our bodies.

While it is true that the number of rules God wants us to live by is relatively small, those simple rules manifest themselves over and over throughout our daily lives, weaving their way in and out of everything that we think, say, or do. It is only through intense focus on God’s simple truth (and even then it is pretty much impossible) that we are able to get through any 24-hour period without having something that we need to bring to God and confess.

In other words, life in a world in which evil roams presents us with hundreds of opportunities each day in which it is possible to sin. When we are aware that we are doing something that is sinful, we need to acknowledge it to the Lord and agree that we need to work harder and rely more upon Him to help us be better followers.

We wash our hands many times a day. Our souls could use a healthy scrubbing often as well, and that should be something we can all agree on.

*******

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

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Today is my sister’s birthday, so please join me in saying, “Happy Birthday, Kathy!”

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

April 9

TODAY IS…

the right day to stay away from people like that.

“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!”  2 Timothy 3:5 NLT

After being imprisoned for what would be the last time, Paul wrote what would be his last recorded words. Before he was executed by Emperor Nero as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, Paul wrote his second, and final, letter to Timothy, encouraging him to continue Paul’s faith and remember his teachings as pastor of the church at Ephesus.

One of the things he wrote about in this impassioned letter was the need for Timothy, and others, to be wary of individuals who would use Christian doctrine and traditions for their own benefit. This danger is as real today as it was then, and Paul’s admonition needs to be heeded now more than ever.

We all know someone who goes to church, knows the words, praises the Lord, and espouses Christian values, but upon close examination we realize this individual is using Christianity and the church for their own selfish purposes. We all have read about individuals and groups that have done the same thing.

Twisting the words of God, they take advantage of people and situations. They have elevated themselves to a lofty position and condemned – even killed – those they have deemed “lesser” than them. These individuals use God’s forgiveness, or out-of-context Bible verses, as a ‘green light’ for bad behavior.

On the surface, they may appear to be stalwart members of the Christian community, but close examination (and sometimes the examination doesn’t even have to be very close) of the way they live their daily lives will reveal them for the deceivers they are.

Do not be fooled, or mislead, by people like this. Smooth talk is a skill they have mastered and with it they will prey upon the weak, disadvantaged, and confused.

Even cloaked in prominent religiosity, they will be easy to spot. They will be a little too attached to their money; a little too boastful of their accomplishments; a little too eager to betray their friends or gossip.

It is important that we not be seduced, swayed, or influenced by these individuals and that we help others avoid the incorrect teachings that will come from them.

Follow the instructions that Paul gave to Timothy when he said, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 NLT).

Today is the right day to do the right thing in the right way. Avoid anyone who would try to persuade you to do otherwise.

As Paul wrote, “Stay away from people like that!”

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , | Leave a comment

April 8

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to remind ourselves that anyone can change.

“Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them.”  Joshua 2:8 NLT

There are many lessons for us all to learn by examining the changes that took place in Rahab, who was a prostitute in the city of Jericho. She was willing to risk her life to help the spies the Israelites had sent ahead before invading the city. She sensed that this ‘God’ that the Israelites relied on was worth trusting, so she allowed them to hide on her roof and lied to the king’s men who came to look for them.

Going up on the roof before the men went to sleep, Rahab talked with them about what she had heard about the power of the God of the Israelites. Her faith that the Israelites were correct proved to be well founded.

“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (Hebrews 11:31 NASB).

Rahab’s life after the fall of Jericho became one of significance. She married Salmon and gave birth to Boaz. Boaz grew to be a man of tremendous character. Rahab was the great-great grandmother of King David, and as such, was in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ.

Most of us would tend to shy away from a prostitute. We would try to maintain distance from people we considered to be of low moral character. We would tend to want to keep criminals and other such “undesirables” separate from those who are “decent”.

But what if every one of us were to embrace all of mankind with the same love that the Lord does? What if we all viewed the worst that society had to offer as having the potential to be the best that the world has ever seen?

God has taken some of the worst people who have walked the earth and transformed them into hardworking, dedicated individuals who have been filled with His spirit.

“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.” (1 Samuel 10:6 NIV).

We must never allow ourselves to think that people cannot completely change their lives with the help of God. After all, if He can create the world and everything in it, surely He can help change a person’s heart.

We must constantly remind ourselves not to judge other people. That is God’s place, not ours.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  Luke 6:37 NIV

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5 NIV

There are many more examples, but we all know this. The problem enters when we say, “I know I’m not perfect, but I didn’t do that!”

Perhaps not, but sin is sin to God. It is only when we are in the flesh that we tend to assign different levels of severity to it. This helps us always remind ourselves that, “I am really a good person.”

As difficult as it may be sometimes, our responsibility to others is clear. When we see a human being attempting to change, it is our obligation to God to help them, support them, and encourage them, and today is the perfect day to remind ourselves of that.

*******

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

 

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 7

TODAY IS…

a wonderful day to enjoy some fresh bread.

“I am the bread of life.”  John 6:48 NIV

Everlasting life. That is what Jesus offered the world. There was no hinting around about it; the Lord came right out and said it.

“I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 NIV).

What a remarkable gift was given to us! Many of us have “eaten” the living bread, which means we have accepted Christ into our lives. We have experienced a tremendous uplifting feeling that comes about from the Holy Spirit flooding into our bodies and sinful desire and immorality flowing out. We have known the joy of feeling safe and secure, confident that the Lord was with us, watching over us constantly. We have read our Bibles daily, taken refuge in the Word of God, and used it to inspire, guide and motivate us.

How glorious has been the feeling that consumes us and how relaxing it has been to be filled with peace, joy, and a desire to be a good person; a desire to help those less fortunate than ourselves; a desire to share our happiness and our belief in the Lord’s promise of everlasting life with others.

Yes, how spectacular life on earth became when we accepted Christ and “ate” the bread of life.

And then life got in the way.

We felt good about ourselves and the way things were going. God had blessed us and everything was going our way. Our lackluster lives picked up momentum and as we gained speed moving forward, we found we had precious little time to accomplish all of the things that had come about due to our relationship with God.

Things were going well, but we found that the things of this earth were requiring more and more of our attention. The time had to come from somewhere, so we “borrowed” it from God, figuring we would pay it back later.

But later never came. In fact, more and more time was needed, so it came from the time we spent reading the Bible and praying; from the time we spent in fellowship with others; and the time we spent helping those less fortunate.

It also came from the time we had to love our spouses and families.

If this sounds like you, today is a wonderful day to enjoy some fresh bread. It is a wonderful day to renew your relationship and reaffirm your commitment to the Lord and to His service.

There is nothing better for us in all of God’s creation than to eat the Bread of Life.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 6

TODAY IS…

a good day to remind ourselves to not be ashamed.

“So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.”  2 Timothy 1:8a NLT

Whenever something spectacular occurs in our lives, the first thing we do is tell others all about it. When we become engaged, or get a new car or a new job, we can’t wait to get on the phone, to send an email, post on social media, or to see someone in person to share what we have learned that has made us so happy.

In these increasingly difficult times, forces seem to be at work to deny us the right to speak freely and proudly about our love of God. Those who would speak against Jesus Christ and would insist that the cross be removed from all public view seem to always be capable – and willing – to insist loudly that their “right” to not believe should supersede another person’s right to believe, and to proclaim that belief.

Many of us cringe in the face of the negativity espoused by others, but it is important to heed Paul’s admonishment and never be ashamed, or reluctant, to tell others about our faith.

Jesus tells us that there is a price to pay if we allow ourselves to be ashamed: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 NASB).

Of course, when we think about it, what in the world could we possibly be ashamed of?

Are we ashamed because the spirit of God has filled our hearts with love for other human beings?

Are we ashamed because the promises of God give us a future and provide us with hope?

Possibly we are ashamed because the message that we have received from God guides our actions and our thoughts and helps us avoid sinful temptation, immorality, hateful actions, and harmful behavior?

Applying rational thought to it, there is absolutely no reason to be ashamed of our relationship with the Lord. In fact, it is something that we should be proud of; something that we want to share with others; something that fills us to overflowing, requiring us to share with others.

“So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.”

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 5

TODAY IS…

an outstanding day to open up.

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”  Psalm 25:9 NIV

God wants to use us to teach others how beautiful life can be when we are safely wrapped up in His love. It is impossible to teach what one doesn’t know, so today, let’s all open up our hearts, our minds, our ears, and our eyes and receive all that the Lord is trying to teach us.

Like David, we must each ask God to “Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths…” (Psalm 25:4 NIV).

If we are open to receiving God’s message, we will find that He delivers it in many different ways. That is why we must open up our entire beings to be ready to receive His message.

The Bible, of course, is one way of receiving His message. No matter how we do it, it is important that we all take time each day to fortify ourselves, to fill ourselves with His love, and to get a glimpse of the beauty and power of the Lord and take advantage of His desire to teach those of us who are willing to learn.

Some of us may have Bibles that are organized into daily readings that enable us to read the Bible in a year. Others like to read a Bible that has been organized chronologically. Still others pray for God to guide their eyes then open up the Bible and read whatever is before them. The method each individual chooses is a personal decision and preference. The only thing that each of us should open in exactly the same manner is our hearts and our minds to whatever message the Lord has placed before us.

In addition to the Bible, we must also be open to God’s teachings delivered in other ways: through people encountered throughout our day; through Christian radio programming that is available; and in newspapers and magazines that contain stories that reflect the positive side of mankind and the Glory of God.

With everything open, we will find it easy to pick up on all of God’s messages and develop an understanding of how He wants to use us to teach others what we have learned.

So use the gift of this day to open up to what God wants us to learn today.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 4

TODAY IS…

a superb day to say, “I Love You”.

“He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.”  Colossians 1:8 NLT

“I Love You.”

Three little words with a true meaning that is so large it cannot be adequately described. They are three of the most overused words in the English language, and yet they are also three of the most under-used words in the English language.

The ability to love is most assuredly one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. More valuable than all of the silver and all of the gold that can ever be found on earth. More precious than all of the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds put together.

Love is more durable than the mightiest of oaks that has endured decades of wind and sun and has survived the most brutal of storms. And yet it is fragile, like a delicately blown piece of glass.

Running out the door in the morning, or in hurried telephone conversations, we sincerely, but casually, murmur “Love You!”, turning three powerful words, that should be filled with our most honest and heartfelt emotions, into two words added to the end of a sentence with the banality of “Goodbye” or “See ya.”

Your spouse faces battles with you.

They share not only your bed, but your pain, worries, sorrow, joy, laughter, and tears. If you have children, you participated in the creation of life with the abilities given as a gift from God. You have seen your spouse at his or her best, and at his or her worst. They may be as comfortable and familiar as a favorite sweatshirt or pair of jeans, but if you look close, you will see that bright spot of newness that was there when first you fell in love.

Take that person’s face in your hands, look them in the eyes and tell them how much you love them. Let them see how deep your love is and let them know that you are thankful to God for being able to love them as much as you do.

Take the time, too, to make sure your children understand that while you may not always agree with them, and while you may not always like the choices they make, you do always love them with a fierceness and a protectiveness that comes from God. Make them understand how important they are.

And for everyone else around you, show them the love that God has placed inside you by the way you walk, talk, and act. Everything you do and say should be telling others that you love them.

There are different ways to love everyone around us, but that love – that ability – comes from the same source.

“I Love You.”

Three words God wants us all to use wisely, and to use often.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

April 3

TODAY IS…

a perfect day to take no chances.

“She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. ‘Lord, see my misery,’ she cries. ‘The enemy has triumphed.’”  Lamentations 1:9 NLT

Jeremiah was writing about Jerusalem’s refusal to listen and ‘her’ insistence on giving in to immorality and sin. The warnings were all given, repeatedly, but they were ignored. The temptation of sin proved too great and all of those who chose to ignore God’s warnings paid the price.

It is important that each one of us heed God’s warnings and turn our backs on immorality and sinful pleasures. Perhaps we have crossed the line once. Perhaps we have crossed it twice, even three times or more, and gotten away with it. No one said the price that we would pay for our behavior would be paid immediately.

But it will be paid.

Sometimes the freedom to do whatever we want becomes the desire to do everything, regardless of the consequences. When we allow ourselves to become slaves to sin, we can no longer be servants to the Lord.

When our focus is taken off of God, and placed on things we know are in direct conflict with what we have been taught, then we stop living in Christ.

“No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” (1 John 3:6 NIV).

None of us wants to pay the price for the pleasures of sin that Jerusalem paid.

God has proven His patience time and time again, but it is not wise for any of us to continue to test it. The Lord has His limits and we do not want to push beyond them until we are “in the gutter” with no one to lift us out.

Take no chances. Minimize your risks. Follow the Word of God diligently and faithfully. If you stumble, God will surely help you to regain your footing.

But let there be no mistake.

If you decide to ignore the Word of God and pursue immorality and sin, there will be a price to pay. It is best to not chance finding out what it is.

*******

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

Posted in "TODAY IS....A Gift From God" | Tagged , , | Leave a comment