February 13

TODAY IS…

an ideal day to recognize the true value of what Jesus offers us.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Acts 3:6 NIV

Imagine yourself begging beside the gate to the Temple in Jerusalem. People carried you there, as they did every day, in order that you could seek the charity of others to survive. Unable to walk since birth, you were dependent upon others for the means with which to live. There were no government programs to fall back on. There was just the good will of those going into that Temple.

Two men appear that you have never seen before and you ask them for money. One of them tells you he has no money to give you, but he has something better: A gift from Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And suddenly, you can walk!

Undoubtedly, the use of his legs was a truly remarkable gift for the man who had never known what it was like to use them. Giving him that ability was done to garner people’s attention, which it obviously did, for, “While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.” (Acts 3:11 NASB).

Now that he had their attention, Peter proceeded to tell those gathered that the power to do what they did was not his, but came from Jesus of Nazareth, who was the long-awaited Messiah. He then told them of the greater gift of salvation and restoration that would be theirs if they accepted Jesus as their savior.

Peter and John went to jail for teaching others the value of what Jesus offers us all. The Sadducees were upset with what they were preaching.

“But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about 5,000.” (Acts 4:4 NIV).

The value of what Jesus offers us is beyond calculation in mere monetary terms. The restoration of our souls and the promise of everlasting peace and joy have no price. It cannot be bought nor can it be sold. It is given to us freely if we will only accept it and we can give it to others by sharing the Good News with them and leading them to their own realization and acceptance of this incredible gift.

The ability to walk was a wonderful gift for the beggar who asked for gold or silver. The greater gift, for all of us, is the offer to walk in the Light of the Lord for eternity.

And that is priceless.

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

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February 12

TODAY IS…

a great day to become a peacemaker.

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”  James 3:18 NLT

Jesus Christ is known the world over as the Prince of Peace. God, therefore, must be the King of Peace since, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God…” (Hebrews 1:3a NLT).

Each one of us is a child of God and as God’s children, we must aspire to reflect the full force of God’s character in ourselves and endeavor to be children of peace.

It is not required that we become statesmen on a quest for world peace, although that would be a blessed thing. Peace begins internally and before we can even think about leading others to peace we must be led ourselves by the Prince of Peace Himself, who came, “To give light to them that sit in darkness in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79 KJV).

If we follow the simple teachings of Christ, we will see our path illuminated brightly before us and it will become abundantly clear that peace is found in the Word of God. Prayer and meditation help us to gain wisdom and understanding from His Word and use it to create quiet and calm within our own hearts. When we have obtained peace within ourselves, it becomes easy to reach out to others and help them, “Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” (Psalm 34:14b NLT).

Like the ripples caused when a pebble is dropped into still water, the peace within our hearts will flow outward, affecting those around us in our homes, places of work and worship and in our communities.

Every time we smile at a stranger, show them a small courtesy or assist them in some small way, we plant the seeds of peace.

When we show love and affection to our families, we plant the seeds of peace.

When we refuse to spread gossip or work to resolve conflicts around us, we plant the seeds of peace.

And when the planting is done, we will nourish the seeds of peace with the life-giving water of the Word of God and then we will reap the harvest of righteousness promised by God.

For, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 KJV).

Use the gift of this day to let God help you find peace and become a peacemaker.

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

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February 11

TODAY IS…

a fine day to fill your spiritual “basket”.

“They put their faith in the Lord and in His servant, Moses.”  Exodus 14:31b NLT

The people of Israel escaped the Egyptian army by walking through the Red Sea when Moses, using the power God had given him, parted the waters of the sea to make a path. After safely reaching the other side, the people of Israel watched as the waters closed over the advancing Egyptians who tried to follow, wiping out the entire army of Pharaoh.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

So goes the old saying and it is probably sage advice when related to a financial portfolio. But when the people of Israel stood in awe and watched their pursuers vanish before their eyes, one can easily understand that they then placed all of their spiritual “eggs of faith” in the “basket” provided by God and the person He chose to lead them.

Safer than any stock, any mutual fund or any bond, “investing” our faith only in God can bring rewards beyond any we could possibly envision.

In one of the most powerful and overwhelming displays of faith to be found in the entire Bible, Abraham is instructed by God to sacrifice his son. As they walk up the mountain to the place God has directed Abraham, one can only imagine the complete trust and reliance on God Abraham must have had. Abraham built the altar, arranged the wood and tied his son, placing him on the altar.

“And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.” (Genesis 22:10 NLT).

If this was Hollywood, this would be the point where the image would be cut to a commercial break. But this was a man who so loved and trusted God and had unbelievable faith in His wisdom and judgment that he was prepared to do something most of us would find impossible to do.

Talk about having all of your spiritual “eggs” in one “basket”.

Of course, we know the Lord did not allow Abraham to go through with killing his beloved son, but because he exhibited such profound faith in God, “…he has become a wealthy man. The Lord has given him flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, a fortune in silver and gold, and many male and female servants and camels and donkeys.” (Genesis 24:35 NLT).

Our material wealth on this earth may never equal that of Abraham. In fact, for most of us, our earthly material wealth will not even come close. Far too many people mistakenly identify the prosperity and riches of the Bible with material possessions here on earth, and while some may be so blessed, that is not the foundation on which we build our faith.

But if we do put all of our faith in God, our lives will be full of the richness of God’s love, peace, joy and grace and we will be rewarded with an eternal life of happiness and joy beyond description afterwards.

So gather up the “eggs” of your faith today and place them all in God’s spiritual “basket.”

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

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February 10

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to show that your faith is alive.

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  James 2:26 KJV

Evidence of faith that is bursting with life is all around us.

Individuals abound who give of themselves daily for the betterment of their fellow man. Sometimes they can see the recipients of their faith, while other times those recipients may be in a distant place, unseen and unknown. But they prove that their faith is alive on a daily basis through their contributions of love, time, labor and money, and those contributions are made not out of obligation or in attempt to earn God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, but because of a heart that has been changed by God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness.

If one were to focus only on the news that is printed in newspapers and shown daily on television, it would be easy to succumb to the notion that faith is truly dead on this earth. It would be easy to believe that violence, poverty, immorality, dishonesty and pain are the order of the day and are the conditions that rule this planet.

Thankfully, this is simply not the case. It is an unfortunate fact that all of the above conditions do exist in shameful abundance all around us. This is, after all, the devil’s “playground” and he is constantly scouring the earth seeking out new “playmates.”

Just imagine how wonderful it would be if those same newspapers and television stations that bombard us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the worst of what man is capable of were to only feature stories of people reaching out to help other people. Just imagine how it would be if the worst of people was the infrequent story that was shown instead of the occasional “feel good” story that the media squeezes in now.

The fact that we are constantly shown how bad humanity can be only serves to make things worse. It provides us with negative behavior as examples for our children, and even us, to follow. It serves to quell the flames of hope that could be fanned to burn brightly, if only we were shown more of man’s humanity towards man.

More examples of faith that is vibrant and alive would help to teach the world that faith alone is simply not enough. One cannot truly have faith in, and an understanding of, God without being changed inside. The change within us then creates a need to reach out to others and share our good fortune, our good health and God’s Good News. It creates a burning desire to bring life to our faith.

Perhaps what is needed is for people of living faith to turn off the news and throw out the newspapers and go out and demonstrate to others that “Talk is cheap…” (Ecclesiastes 5:7a NLT) and that faith is a living thing that requires the good works of all of us towards others for sustenance.

Keep your faith alive by turning off the bad news and turning on the “Good News!”

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

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February 9

TODAY IS…

a great day to allow God to use you.

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in a tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him.”  Matthew 9:9 NASB

There is something in each of us that God wants to use.

There is something we have learned through our experiences in life that we can share with others to benefit them or help them grow as Christians. Many of us are prone to diminishing our usefulness to God, thinking that we are just common people with average everyday experiences. Others, perhaps, have experienced tremendous trials, tribulations or sorrows that we may feel are too deeply personal or embarrassing to share with others. Possibly we feel that our sins have been too great to enable us to be of use to Him. We may think that these are private matters that are ours alone, but if we allow God free reign over our hearts, we may find Him using our experiences to assist others in their time of need. These things we wish to keep to ourselves may be just the thing needed to help someone else find the correct path before they have wandered too far down the wrong one.

It is not our place to question God’s needs, His motives or His methods. It is our place to trust Him to use us in a manner that will please Him and allow us to fulfill our obligations to Him and to ourselves; to reach out to others that they may benefit from the truth of our experiences.

It is a well-documented fact that God has made great use of those who may be considered common, ordinary or average. It is also a well-known fact that He has made great use of those who have suffered and those who have sinned.

God used Joseph, who was a slave, to save Egypt and his family.

God used Moses, a shepherd as well as a murderer, to lead Israel out of its bondage to Egypt.

God used David, a shepherd boy, to be Israel’s greatest king.

God used Esther, who was a slave girl, to save her people.

God used Peter, a fisherman, to be an Apostle and a leader of the early church.

God used Matthew, a tax collector (an altogether despised occupation even then) to be an Apostle and Gospel writer.

God used Mary, a peasant girl, to be the mother of Christ.

And God sent His Son, Jesus, a humble carpenter, to provide salvation to the world.

If we open our hearts to God and allow Him to use us, we will be able to add our names to this list of incredibly common people.

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

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February 8

TODAY IS…

the perfect day to say something nice.

“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  James 3:8 KJV

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”

Most of us learned this when we were little. Our brother or sister, neighbor or schoolmate would call us a name and we would run to our mother or father full of tearful indignation and hurt and would then be told this little rhyme as a way to make us feel better.

As innocent as it may appear and as sincerely helpful its intent might have been, the truth is, injuries caused by words that are thrown like daggers can be as debilitating and hurtful as injuries caused by a real dagger.

Words or names can cut; they can sting; they can bruise and make one bleed, just not in the conventional sense such as physical objects that are wielded as weapons and used to physically strike someone and cause pain or injury.

In a sense, from the time we are little, we are taught that physically striking another person is wrong because we can hurt them. But we are free to say whatever we want because words are just air and can cause no harm.

We were taught – and we teach – to toughen our skins, rather than soften our tongues.

The truth is, if words were harmless, if what we said had no effect on others, and if God didn’t care what we said or when we said it, there would not be so much emphasis in the Bible on using caution, compassion, care and kindness when opening our mouths to speak. Jesus’ brother, James, thought that the words coming from our lips were extremely important.

He said, “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” (James 3:2 NLT).

How much better to teach our children that, “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24 KJV).

And what better way to live our own lives than controlling our tongues when speaking to strangers, neighbors, friends, and especially to our spouses and other loved ones.

How much better to use words to heal rather than to hurt?

How much better to use words to help rather than to harm?

How much better to encourage rather than disparage?

Having God in mind before we open our mouths will benefit both the speaker and the listener. “The words of the godly encourage many…” (Proverbs 10:21 NLT).

Perhaps what is needed is an updated version of the old rhyme for us to remember, and to teach our children. How about:

“Sticks and stones can hurt someone,

But words can do the same.

People hurt deep down inside,

When they are called a name.”

Use the gift of today to say something nice.

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

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February 7

TODAY IS…

a good day to remember to turn to God first in times of adversity.

“In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge.”  Psalm 31:1a NASB

Can anyone think of a better place to take refuge in times of trouble than in the Lord? The truth of the matter? There is no better place. But unfortunately, as humans, some of us are initially inclined to feel abandoned by God during times of adversity or crisis.

“In panic, I cried out, ‘I am cut off from the Lord!’” (Psalm 31:22a NLT).

David was often quick to feel as if he was facing his troubles alone; quick to wonder why God had left him when he needed him the most; quick to question why God had failed to immediately rescue him from his difficulties. David did have faith in God and that faith always enabled him to trust God in the end. He invariably set aside his claims that God wasn’t responding rapidly enough on his behalf and would ultimately praise God and affirm his faith in Him.

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. I will rejoice because You have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6 NLT).

As our faith grows and our bond with God becomes stronger, turning to Him during times of adversity will become second nature. God will become our first thought and not an afterthought.

Like David, we may sometimes become impatient with God. Other times, we may wonder where God is when bad things happen. We may even find ourselves wondering why He allows bad things to happen at all. We forget that living a godly life does not guarantee that things will not go wrong in our lives or that we will not suffer. What it does guarantee is that we have God to turn to when those things do happen.

Often, whether we care to admit it or not, there is a direct relationship between the bad things that happen to us and how we live our lives. Many times our sinful nature leads to our problems. A closer relationship with God can minimize the effect our sinful nature has on us. We will sin. We will never be sinless, but when we are constantly working on our relationship with God, we will sin less.

The power of the Lord is formidable. There is no greater source of forgiveness, love, peace, joy, gentleness, kindness and compassion in existence. When faced with adversity, regardless of its origins, the first thing we should do is thank God that He is right there with us to free us from the anxiety we would feel facing our problems alone.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, once wrote, “Adversity is the first path to truth.”

The Lord is truth and He once said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 KJV).

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

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February 6

TODAY IS…

the ideal day to make your weaknesses become your strengths.

“…for when I am weak, then am I strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:10 KJV

In much the same way that exercising our bodies can turn weak muscles into strong ones, exercising our faith can turn our human weaknesses into strengths.

The more we worship, the more we read the Word of God and the more we pray, the more we build up the “muscles” of our faith, enabling God to then display His power through our weaknesses.

As we recognize our human limitations, we are able to rely less on ourselves and more on God.

In his second letter to the church of Corinth, Paul refers to “…a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV).

While it is not known conclusively what that “thorn” was, it is widely presumed to be a chronic illness that periodically kept Paul from working. Even though he prayed for the removal of this “thorn”, God refused to do so, stating that, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV).

God wants us to be confident in our faith and know that He will provide us with the courage and strength to tell others about His Word and how they can obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. That confidence must come from the strength God gives us when we recognize that without Him, we are nothing. In acknowledging our weaknesses and exercising our faith, we then strengthen ourselves as Christians.

Some of us may suffer from chronic illness, physical ailments or other disabilities. God wants us to understand that it is not necessary for Him to remove these obstacles to our physical perfection in order to be perfectly suited to doing His will and spreading His Word.

Rather than look at these illnesses and ailments as weaknesses, we can give them all to God and be strengthened spiritually.

As Christians, the “thorns in our flesh” should not act as a deterrent in our service to God. As Christians, our weaknesses can help us obtain God’s strength and, after all, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b KJV).

So today, let God make you a stronger Christian despite any physical ailments or limitations you may have, or think you have.

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

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February 5

TODAY IS…

a superb day to appreciate the gift of creation.

“So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed.”  Genesis 2:1 NLT

The world has known many extraordinarily talented sculptors and painters, individuals who possess an eye for beauty and detail that borders on the incomprehensible to those of us who have trouble drawing a stick figure or sculpting anything beyond a snowman.

Michelangelo was phenomenally talented as both a sculptor and a painter. His larger-than-life sized sculpture of “David” is known the world over as a classic work of grace, beauty and power. The Biblical scenes he painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are unsurpassed in their intricate depth and detail.

Of course, the wondrous talent of Michelangelo and the many talented sculptors and painters who came before and after Michelangelo’s time, came from God who was the creator of the first, most intricately detailed work of art ever known.

Gazing up at Mt. Rushmore or at the pyramids of Egypt, man’s ability to create things of beauty on a grand scale is realized. But one need only to gaze down into the Grand Canyon or look up at the dizzying heights of Mt. Everest to realize who the real master is. The talented hand of God is visible everywhere we look.

But the physical surface of the earth is just the “canvas” itself. Just think about the details that God considered when He “painted” life onto it.

Consider the intricate beauty of an orchid or a rose; the majesty of a giant Sequoia towering above the earth; the vibrant life found in a coral reef below the surface of the ocean. Think of all the different varieties of fish, animals and birds that share space on this “canvas” in the trees, on the ground and in its oceans, lakes and rivers.

For example, in Africa resides the Honeyguide Bird. This amazing bird has a unique way of “communicating” with humans by making a sound similar to pebbles being shaken in a box. Using this sound to get the attention of humans it has seen, it will lead them to a beehive. It is then the responsibility of the humans to smoke out the bees and remove the honey, leaving the beeswax and larvae to the incredible creature that provided the directions to the sweet bounty.

Who else but God could “paint” such details?

Everywhere we look, there is evidence of God’s masterful “brush strokes” and the precise strikes of His “chisel”. His attention to detail abounds and, when we take the time to stop and appreciate it, the work of art that surrounds us will overwhelm us in its complexity, beauty and powerful glory.

To both appreciate this incredible place of beauty and to take care of it as well, God created man. Each human being is unique and a thing of beauty, indeed a masterpiece unto itself.

“By the seventh day, God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day, He rested from all His work.” (Genesis 2:2 NIV).

He deserved it and He must have been tired. We should show our appreciation daily and say, “Thank You, Lord. Thank You very much!”

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

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February 4

TODAY IS…

an excellent day to avoid complaining.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.”  Philippians 2:14 NIV

Cicero, the Roman statesman, once said, “A perverse and fretful disposition makes any state of life unhappy.”

If we allow ourselves to be consumed with complaining about things that are not perfect in our lives, we will soon find that there is very little in our lives to be joyful about.

The time that we will spend walking on this earth is but the blink of an eye compared to the eternal lives that will follow if we have prepared the way properly. Most of us are aware of the expression “life is short,” but are we using it in a way that will allow us to shine as examples of the joy being children of God brings?

When we spend time complaining about people or situations in our families, at our places of work or in our places of worship, we are not showing the world the best that we can be. A little of our luster rubs off when we should be shining brightly, letting the rest of the world see the positive effects of living in God’s Word.

Complaining usually only serves to create feelings of anxiety, discord, stress and negativity. Most of us will find that, if we pray and then just be still, the things that we wanted to complain about will seem to work themselves out or their ability to affect us adversely will be greatly diminished.

We may even discover that the very situation has created a new opportunity for us, or that we have learned a valuable lesson.

After traveling in the desert of Shur for three days without water, the people of Israel came upon an oasis, but discovered that the water was bitter.

“And the people murmured against Moses saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” (Exodus 15:24 KJV).

Complaining is often our initial response to a situation we perceive as negative. When we find ourselves drawing in the deep breath we will use to carry our complaint, we should simply expel that air instead and turn to God for patience, guidance and assistance.

“Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.” (Exodus 15:25 NIV).

Trusting God to care for us at all times is an important step in eliminating our need to complain. Having faith that God is always with us and always watching over us helps us to shine brightly as Christians, creating a beacon for others to follow.

There will be times in our lives when the water will be bitter. Complaining cannot make it sweet, but trusting in God and asking Him for His help certainly can.

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

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