Sunday, May 31, 2009

Promoting Unity

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” John 17:20-21

New York City has been nicknamed the melting pot. The term describes the ethnic richness of the city. New York’s metropolitan region has a plethora of residents from a diverse pool of nationalities.

Without question God’s love extends to each and every one of these individuals. In the Christian church, a variety of denominations and flavors of worship exist. We do not all hold to the same beliefs. We differ in style and in Scriptural interpretation. Some of us are more traditional, while others enjoy a contemporary approach to worship. But can we agree on some things?

Perhaps we can unify around the basic essentials of our faith. Do we agree that salvation can only be found by placing one’s trust in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? Do we believe that the Lord is one God who exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Do we believe that the Scripture is the inspired word of God?

If believers can agree on such fundamental truths as these, perhaps we have a basis for unity. We do not have to compromise our beliefs, but we can learn to focus on what we have in common.

Jesus prayed that we would be one as he and the Father are one. Let us also pray for this to be a reality as we take the necessary steps to promote unity within the Body of Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Teach me to embrace the entire body of Christ. With your help I choose to love those who are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ, but who approach worship differently than I do. Make us one Lord as you and Jesus are one. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Mountain

Great rocks spiring, pierce the sky
A head of snow, a torso of granite
Its massive feet anchored in the valley
This mighty mountain, the handiwork of God, mirrors its Maker
Strong and tall, adorned with unshakable beauty
Bold, unashamed truth bathed in beauty
As a cataract flows down its frame
Melted ice gushing from the precipice
Warmed by a heart on fire with extravagant love

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

God's Power Released

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father just you are in me and I am in you.”
John 17:20-21

When the 120 believers came together in unified prayer, the power of Pentecost fell. There is great power in unity. The psalmist spoke of the preciousness of brethren coming together as one (Psalm 133). He said it was like the oil poured upon the head of Aaron the high priest. Oil in the Bible is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Moses poured anointing oil on Aaron to prepare and equip him for the Lord’s purposes.

As the oil poured down Aaron’s beard, it flowed over his twelve-jeweled breastplate. Each gem represented one of the tribes of Israel (Exod 28: 15-21, Lev 8:7-12). This symbolized the power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on unified followers of God.

As we love one another, God releases His power within and upon us to help us accomplish His will. Jesus prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:21). It is only through a spirit of unity that Christians will be able to adequately fulfill the great commission.

Many of us have experienced God at work on outreaches and short-term mission trips, where a spirit of unity prevailed. The Lord moves mightily when his body comes together around his purposes. Let’s expect God to do extraordinary things as we strive to prefer one another in love.

Dear Father God,

It is my desire to honor my fellow believers. I choose to relate to them in a spirit of unity. As I do this, I trust that your power will work on my behalf and that your Spirit will cause wondrous things to happen for your glory. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remember the Cross

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for the will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18-19

Though I believe it is every true believer's desire to walk in the Spirit, the truth is we all fall short of God's best. It's important to know that the Lord's mercy extends to each of us at our point of need. At the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin - past, present, and future. His mercy is enough to wash us clean and to set us back on our feet. Proverbs 24:16 says a righteous man may fall seven times, but he rises again. In the Christian life, we will fall, but when we do we can remember the cross.

Jesus has already forgiven us. To receive His forgiveness we must confess and forsake our sin. Then the Lord will hold us in His arms of love and give us the ability to get up and walk free from our besetting sin. Let's remember the cross. Doing so will not only secure our forgiveness, it will help us to walk in victory. The Scripture calls believers overcomers (1 John 5:4-5). Let's receive that title by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to walk more and more steady - always mindful of the cross.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for the cross. Thank you for your suffering. Thank you for choosing to die for me when you did not have to. Forgive me for my sins. Cleanse me and wash me, and help me to follow you ever more closely. Teach me to walk steady in the Spirit. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Judge Not

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. Matthew 7:1

It’s an easy thing to spot sin in another. How quickly we’ve learned to point our fingers. But Christ taught us to be circumspect, to discover our own shortcomings. When we yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he shapes us as vessels of reconciliation. God can then use us to influence others toward upright living.

I believe that the chief purpose of God-given discernment is to encourage us to pray effectively for others. When God removes the log in our own eye, we can – through prayer – remove the sliver in our neighbor’s eye. At times, the Lord may lead us to gently speak to the individual, but confronting others should never be our mainstay.

We are not called to become instruments of condemnation, but as God leads us we can peaceably bring restoration to another. We are to do this with care so that we do not fall into temptation ourselves (Gal 6:1).

Dear Lord,

Help me to spot the sin in my own heart before I judge others for their shortcomings. I am sorry for pointing my finger at others, when all the time you wanted to refine my character. Teach me to pray before I speak into other people's lives. Don't allow me to bring words of correction to individuals unless I am being led of your love and your Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Feather

She stretched her wings
That great bird perched on a brick chimney
One quill found freedom
A wisp of air set the feather sailing

Over housetops
Through the valley
Then it rested on the lush green grass

But a gust launched it again into orbit
It fluttered back and forth, ever yielding to the wind

Blessed are those born from above
Who move with the gentle tide of the Spirit
Who listen to His stirrings
Who surrender to the daily call
To follow

May I every fly for You Lord
May I always hear and obey your promptings

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Love Never Fails

“Love never fails.” (1Corinthians 13:8)

Love is a mighty force for good on the earth. It is a weapon that trumps the hordes of hell. God’s love draws the sinner to the Savior. When believers love those lost in sin, they release the Holy Spirit who can win the unsaved to his kingdom.

Faith, hope, and love will remain for eternity. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:13). Love is eternal. When we choose to love others, we act according to the divine, immutable will of God.

We can not guarantee the reaction of those we love. Some will respond kindly towards us. Some will hate us, but when we love in return we can not fail. We stand unblemished and untainted by the darkness of this world. The love of God inside the human heart causes men to triumph in the midst of horrific realities.

This is how every faithful martyr has died. They chose to love even their enemies, and that love, which can only come from God, never fails. Saul stood in approval as Stephen was stoned to death. Stephen publicly glorified God at this time and expressed forgiveness to those that stoned him. The witnessing of Stephen’s killing may very possibly have been a seed that drew Saul to embrace Christ.

Dear Father God,

Let your love so fill my life that others are drawn to you. May my love walk witness to those that do not know you. Teach me to love even my enemies as Christ forgave me on the cross. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Like a Palm Tree

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. Psalm 92:12

When we truly understand that we have been made righteous through our faith in Christ, we can withstand anything. Just as a palm tree survives the attack of hurricane winds and rain, we who are rooted in Christ will find the strength to overcome life's trials. The palm tree is flexible and is able to bend without breaking. We too can find inner stamina to bend and get back up.

We must learn to meditate on Bible verses that tell us who we are in Christ. We have been declared righteous through the gift of God – it is not through our own effort. The Scripture says that Jesus took upon Himself our sin and exchanged our sin for His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Understanding that we are righteousness before God empowers us to withstand life's storms. We have been declared righteous through the gift of God – it is not through our own achievement (See Ephesians 2:8, Romans 4:3). His gift of righteousness in us must be worked out into our daily walk, but God declares us righteous from the time we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

His view of us as “right before Him” does not fluctuate with our sometimes unsteady performance. The Lord sees us as righteous because of the blood of Christ. When we sin, we experience guilt and separation in our fellowship with God, but when we confess our sins to the Lord, He forgives us and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). Our standing before the Lord, however, never changes; we remain continually righteous in His eyes.

Does this mean that we are not sinners? No, Paul the Apostle called himself the chief of sinners. We are each capable of great sin, but because of the grace of God we can live a life of freedom from sinful habits. How can we be both righteous and be sinful? We are righteous in our spirits – the part of us where the Holy Spirit resides. Our souls (mind, will, and emotions) and our bodies still experience the effects of the sinful nature (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are to work out the righteousness of God into our soul and bodies – this process is called sanctification.

Those of us who have embraced God's free gift of salvation have been declared righteous. Strength comes as we grow in our understanding of this truth. When the difficult times of life come, we can remain standing. This does not mean we will live free from suffering; it does mean that in the midst of our pain the Lord will give us victory. He is able to bless us with peace in the middle of the storm, and He will help us to eventually overcome.

Thank you Lord for making us righteous through Your sacrifice on the cross. Thank you for enabling us to flourish like palm trees in any kind of weather.

If you haven't accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you can receive God's free gift of salvation by praying a prayer like the one below...

Dear Lord,

I realize that I am a sinner. I have failed you in many ways. I thank you for sending Jesus to die for me and to take away my sin. Lord I receive your forgiveness and I receive Your gift of righteousness. I thank you for saving me. I choose to follow you all the days of my life, with the help of the Holy Spirit. I believe that one day I will see you in heaven. Amen.

If you just accepted Christ for the first time after reading this, or if you renewed your commitment to Him, please email me. I would like to touch base with you to help you in your walk with the Lord. My email address is Remember that God always loves you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Tree

The ancient tree abounds with branches stretching to the sun
Its trunk gray and sturdy
Its roots dig deep into the fertile soil
They anchor the oak immovable

The Christ follower lifts his hands to praise the One who made the heavens
Arms like grateful boughs arise
His strength is found within the secret place
And in the power of God's abiding word
It is the living truth that nourishes him
Providing sustenance for the daily walk

God calls His little ones oaks of righteousness
The woman who meditates upon God's word
For the purpose of obedience, flourishes
Her roots grow deep in Christ's hope eternal

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Love's Command

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.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus didn’t give us the great suggestion, but the great commandment. He taught us by word and example to love God extravagantly and then to love people. Christ loves every individual equally. He shows kindness to the good and the evil alike. Jesus said of God that, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). This means God blesses the good and the bad. We are also commanded to love friend and foe alike. A love like this can only come from God, and the Scriptures reveal that God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus modeled sacrificial love when he washed the feet of Judas, even though he knew full well that the disciple would betray him.

The Lord asked us to do the same – to extend the grace of God to others regardless of their response. God has pursued us with boundless, unconditional love; we are now to love others, as we have been loved. It is true that we may need to distance ourselves from certain people who are abusive in their actions. Nevertheless, Christ taught us to forgive and love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44). In our own strength this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Dear Father God,

Teach me to love as you love. Fill me with your Holy Spirit so I can love all people regardless of how they treat me. When I fall, graciously forgive me and help me to love again. Thank you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Priestly Prayers and Praises

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God though Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

The Lord calls those who know Him a holy priesthood. We are given the task of offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God. When we intercede for someone, we bring a spiritual offering to the Lord on behalf of another. Our prayers communicated in faith and love are pleasing to the Lord. In Psalm 141:2 David says, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”

Another way that we please the Lord is through our praise. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Worship delights the heart of God, and praise lifts up the one who worships, by drawing him or her into God's presence.

One of the functions of the priests in the Old Testament was to present to God different types of offerings. They did this to worship the Lord and as a type of intercession for the Jewish people. The priests led the Israelites by their godly example, they oversaw the worship in the temple, and they regularly prepared sacrifices in the temple on behalf of others.

Now we all as priests of the New Covenant are to continually praise God and pray for others. We are to pray without ceasing. We may not be able to verbally worship and pray all throughout the day, but with the Holy Spirit as our Helper, we can stay in an attitude of prayer and praise.

Some may question my use of the term “priests” in describing Christ followers, but this is what the Scripture says we are. Certain denominations give their leading ministers this title. This is fine, but in the New Testament every believer is given the title of priest because all of us share in the responsibility of offering spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God.

Let's comprehend Christ's calling on our lives with fresh eyes. Let's pursue His face in worship and let's offer our the Lord our time in praying for others. God will not only hear us, He will answer our cries. The Lord will move mountains for us as we offer priestly prayers and praises to God.

Dear Lord,

Help me to fix my eyes on You continually. Forgive me for getting distracted with other things. Keep me in an attitude of worship and prayer. Teach me to pray for others and draw me into your presence day by day. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Ring

A ring is round it has no end
Two rings spell infinity
When two become one

A pair of rings symbolize ceaseless love
Devoted fidelity

They pledge to honor one another
Till death do us part
True love stemming from God the Father's heart
He who has no origin and no termination

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In the Father's Care

“But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2

The baby cried and wiped her eyes. She kicked her feet, while she lay restless in the crib. Instinctively, her mother lifted the baby to her breast. The infant’s frown inverted to a calm smile. Soon the child fell asleep in her mother’s arms.

Those who have accepted Christ as their Savior are children of God. When we abide in Him, we live with a sense of peace; we rest in the care of our heavenly Father. However, when we fall out of step with the Lord, the peaceful waters within our soul stir. Unrest replaces the tranquility that once ruled our hearts.

True contentment can only come as we find respite in the arms of our merciful God. He is our safety, our rest, and our refuge. Even during the storms of life we can learn to abide in Jesus the Prince of Peace. If we have strayed in any way from the path He has set for us, we can draw near to him and confess our sin. He is faithful to forgive us and restore us to a place of harmony with him (1 John 1:9).

Dear Father God,

Thank you for taking such good care of me. I choose to rest in your love. I give to you all my fears and worries. I lay every problem at your feet. I place my trust in you like a child trusts its mother. In Jesus name I pray Amen.

© Copyright 2008 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Are You Available?

Are you available? This sounds like a cheesy line used by men to get a girl's attention. But what if God is asking the question? Are we available to Him, for His purposes? Today I had a choice to make. I just bought a drink from a Subway restaurant situated inside a Walmart store, and I was maneuvering my way to my car, when a man and his son approached me. He asked, “Could you please give me some money so my family and I can eat?” I paused. I told him that I would not give him money, then I thought for a second and said, “But I can buy you some sandwiches from Subway.” He said, “Thank you, that would be great.”

While a gentleman was preparing the sandwiches, I ran into an old friend. She handed me money to help the man and his family. The man's name is Marty and his son's name is Isaiah. They are Christians, but Marty confessed he was backslidden. After I purchased the food, I walked him back outside. He told me a little of his story. He said he was on disability. He said he could not work because he had a severe attitude problem. I told him that the Lord could take care of that. I prayed for him there in the parking lot, and I believe the Lord brought deliverance to that man and his family. I believe he is a new man, because of the power of Almighty God.

We are just vessels that the Lord uses. We are nothing in and of ourselves, but the Lord can use us, if we are available. Let's purpose in our hearts to look for opportunities to make a difference in this world, to be lights in the dark places. Let's listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and obey. He will fill us with His Spirit, so we can bring the Bread of Life to starving souls.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

If You Abide in Me

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7

Jesus gave many promises to us. In one of these statements, he said the Father would give us anything we asked for. His only condition was that we abide in him and that we allow his words to abide in us.

The Lord calls us to abide in his presence and in his promises. He desires that we cultivate a relationship with him founded upon obedience to his word. He desires for us to allow the Scriptures to transform our actions so that we conform to his image. As we do this, our desires begin to reflect his heart. Then, when we ask for a particular need to be met, he will grant us what we ask for.

Dear Lord,

Help me to hide your word in my heart. As I meditate upon your precepts and as I think upon your promises change me. I ask you to grant me the desires of my heart which contribute to your ultimate will for my life.

© Copyright 2008 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

The Chair

It's a place of rest
Supporting the back
Cradling the rear

From this place we often work
We create, we study
From this spot we may close our eyes
For a time of reprieve

But He sits enthroned as Supreme Magistrate
He rules with justice, void of duplicity
We who belong to Him
Are seated with Him in the heavenlies
Only by the costly gift of grace
Since He paid the ransom for us
And one day we will judge with Him
Who sits – resting from creation's labor

© Copyright 2009 Tom Toya. All rights reserved.