Thursday, July 30, 2009

Strength in Our Weakness

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

Temptation beckons to the weak areas of our nature. If we are given to jealousy, Satan will fashion our circumstances to provide us with an opportunity where we could become jealous. If we struggle with lust, our enemy will furnish ways to tempt us. The good news is, if we offer our weaknesses to God, they become the doorway for the Lord to exhibit His strength. As we depend on him, we find the Lord’s overcoming power in our lives in the area where failure normally prevails.

We cannot muscle our way out of temptation. Our self-willed ways can only take us so far. When we humble ourselves and submit to the Holy Spirit’s ability, we triumph in the midst of temptation’s onslaught. James 4:7 says that if we submit to God and resist the devil, our enemy will run for the hills.

Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth,

I thank you for your strength in the midst of my weakness. May your character shine through my weak areas by the power of your Holy Spirit. When I am tempted, help me to trust in you to give me the overriding ability to say no to sin and yes to right living. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lord of Heaven

Lord of Heaven
Pull me into You
Help me to know you intimately
Authentic God
You are never plastic
You tell it like it is
Yet you are so loving
Like a mother with her newborn child

I am full of sin
I waver daily from the straight and narrow
Heal me Lord
Forge your path for me
Help me to walk faithful and true
I am lost without you
So prone to my own ways

Forgive me for my backsliding
Cleanse me from my waywardness
Let my ears hear Your still small voice
Let me listen to your heartbeat
Strong and steady

Let Your word instruct me in the way I should go
Help me to abide in You always my Majestic One
You are my Peace, and You will forever be my Song

I know You are the God who answers my prayer
I thank you for keeping your promise
I delight in You Oh Lord of Heaven

© Copyright 2009 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Second Blessing II

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? They answered, “No we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:1-2

When we ask Jesus to baptize us with the Holy Spirit, the initial manifestation that many experience is the ability to speak in other tongues. This is nothing to be afraid of. The experience is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, 14 and Acts 2, as well as in other places in Scripture. When we surrender completely to the Lord and ask for the outpouring of his Spirit in our lives, he fills us afresh with his wonderful presence. The Lord will often give us words to say that we do not understand. At this time, we can utter these words in faith, believing that they come from God.

No matter what gifts we receive from God, our focus is to be on the Gift-giver and not the gifts. The gifts are distributed to help us and to enable us to help others, but our attention must always be on God.

Many people in various Christian denominations have experienced this second blessing. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a requirement to go to heaven; it is an equipping for our life here on earth. God loved us enough not only save us, but also to offer us this infilling of the Spirit.

If you would like to receive this second blessing, pray a prayer like the one included below. Spend some time worshiping God, and receive this second blessing for your life.

Dear Jesus,

I want this second blessing experience in my life. I ask you to baptize me in the Holy Spirit. I ask you to fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I can be a more effective witness for You and so that I can help others. I desire to know you in a deeper way. Lord come and fill me. I receive this gift not on the basis of how I feel, but on the basis of your promise to me. I believe that you have now filled me with the Holy Spirit. Thank you Jesus. I love you. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Second Blessing

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.....Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen on none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:5-6, 14-17)

If salvation or being spiritually reborn is the first blessing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (different from water baptism) is the second. This is the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the believer. Any individual that has asked Christ to be their Lord and Savior becomes a candidate for this outpouring.

Jesus told his disciples that, when he left them, the Lord would send to them the Holy Spirit, who would be with them forever. The Holy Spirit is a Person - the third Person of the Trinity. Any individual who has invited the Lord to be their Savior has the Holy Spirit living inside him or her. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is simply the release of the Holy Spirit’s power upon the believer for the purpose of empowering him or her to more effectively minister to others.

This infilling of the Spirit is freely given to the believer; it can not be earned, but must be asked for. In 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Paul the apostle expounds on the wonderful gifts of the Spirit that work in the life of the believer who has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He mentions nine distinct gifts that are imparted to believer as the Holy Spirit wills. These gifts are: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of faith, the gifts of healing, the gifts of miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in various tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.

We can never earn these special endowments of the Spirit. When we ask Jesus to baptize us in the Holy Spirit, he does this not on the basis of our performance, but on the basis of our faith in him. In Luke 11:9-13, Jesus tells us that God will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask him to.

With this precious outpouring of the Spirit comes a deeper intimacy with the Lord. With this second blessing comes greater power to be his witnesses and to heal the sick (see Acts 1:8). With this infilling, comes an increased sensitivity to the Spirit as well as a heightened ability to hear God’s voice and to see into the Spirit (visions and dreams – see Acts 2:17-18).

Dear Lord,

Let me hunger for more of your Spirit. Fill me to overflowing with your holy presence, so I can be a more effective laborer in your kingdom. In Christ's name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Higher Law

Wilber and Orville Wright thrilled the world as their airplane took flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. This was the first time a heavier-than-air aircraft flew in a sustainable and controlled manner. The 600 pound airplane seemed to defy the laws of gravity.

The secret of airplane flight is revealed in the design of the wing. Its curved top and straight bottom allows for airflow that creates an upward pull or lift on the aircraft. The distance for air to travel is greater on the curved portion or top of the wing than on the bottom. This greater distance for air to flow causes weaker air pressure than the underside of the wing. When the plane is in motion, the greater air pressure on the bottom of the plane causes the plane to lift off the ground. In this way, the plane is able to override the law of gravity, which would dictate that the plane could not travel above ground.

In the Christian walk, we struggle to be free from the control of the flesh. It’s only when we apply a higher law that we are able to overcome sinful actions. Romans 8:1-2 says, “There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Here we see that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus frees us from the law of sin and death. Galatians 5:16 reads, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

We live by the Spirit when we surrender to the Holy Spirit’s desires, and when we yield to His control. We also live by the Spirit when we saturate our lives with the written word of God and give ourselves over to obeying Scripture. The word and the Spirit are always in agreement and it is through yielding to the Holy Spirit and God’s word that we take flight above the natural tendency to sin that we all struggle with.

In Galatians 5:22, we find the passage about the fruit of the Spirit. It states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” The following verse declares that against such things there is no law. The fruit of the spirit consists of the attributes that the Lord wants to impart to us. They are ours when we yield to Him and choose to follow the Lord in His power. And when we follow the Lord in this way, we find that His Spirit triumphs over our fleshly natures. We have the victory over sin and Satan, for greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

We can live above our sinful natures. The Holy Spirit is the wind that gives us the lift to soar above our sinful ways. When we fall we can get back up and soar again. In our own strength, we are weak and incapable, but in His power we can overcome. Gravity no longer has to dominate our life, for we have found a higher law.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Never Compromise

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Psalm 51:6

Never compromise your God-given convictions. This may mean that you look foolish to others who see nothing wrong with the action in question, which may involve an unscrupulous business practice or the temptation to cheat on your taxes. Whatever the situation obey the inner prompting from the Holy Spirit to do what is right in the given situation.

This will save you great heartache, and it will keep you from developing a dull conscience. If we ignore the inward voice that is harmonious with Scripture, we run the risk of growing callous. The longer we run in that direction the less likely we will be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice.

As we spend time in God's word, our conscience better reflects the will of the Lord, and our ability to discern the voice of God matures. Let us cultivate a God-centered conscience by obeying God's written and spoken word in every choice we make.

Dear Savior,

I love you. Help me to obey my conscience as it agrees with your written word. Teach me by your grace to say no to all ungodliness and evil behavior. Give me wisdom and courage to obey the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Tongue

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. James 3:2

The tongue is like the rudder of a large ship. This small instrument steers the entire vessel. When we bridle our tongues through God’s ability, we can control any evil appetite. By speaking God’s word over our areas of weakness, we tap into the Holy Spirit’s power.

In the face of anger, I can say, “Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). As I meditate on God’s word and speak it aloud from a believing heart, the wake of sin in my life begins to part, and I can walk through without sowing seeds of strife.

Jesus spoke God’s word when he was tempted by the devil. The devil cannot read our minds. That is why we must speak aloud the word of God. By doing this, we wreak havoc on the enemy of our souls. He is unable to stand against the force of the word of God spoken by a believer.

Verbalizing Scripture has a positive effect on our entire being. When we do this, we enable the Holy Spirit to order our lives accordingly. After all, this is how we entered into the Kingdom of God. Romans 10:8-9 describes it this way: “’But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Dear victorious Lord,

I choose to speak your word over the iniquity in my life. I thank you for your overcoming power that enables me to walk free from sin and spiritual darkness. I thank you for your liberty. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Upper Hand

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 1 John 5:4

The pull of sin weighs heavy on every man. Its power can submerge us to the depths of depravity. The enemy wants to drown us in its wake. But God has given us the upper hand. Those of us who have found new life in Christ have been crucified with Him. We can now walk in victory by trusting in Christ’s finished work at the cross.

We can count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). When Christ died, we died. When he rose from the dead, we were resurrected with him. We have been granted supreme victory over sin. We must receive this truth by faith. Through faith in him, we can walk out the triumph wrought by Christ alone at Calvary.

Thankfully, we walk this line with a safety net. When we fall, the Lord is there to forgive us, cleanse us, and set us back on our feet. Overcoming sin is often a process, but in Christ we already have been given the victory.

Dear Father God,

Thank you for the victory I have in you over sin. By faith I claim your triumph over the tendency I have to stumble spiritually. I declare that you have made me more than a conqueror through you. I believe that your work at Calvary defeated sin's strength in my own life, and I receive your overcoming power in my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sin's Cure

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:24-7:25a

We all fall short of God’s glory, yet in differing ways. Some feel the pull of sexual temptation while others struggle with an inordinate passion for money. Some think too highly of themselves, while still others are given to self-condemnation and depression.

No matter what our weaknesses are, there is only one time-tested cure for the tendency to sin – faith in Jesus Christ. As we surrender to Him, we find forgiveness and freedom. Forgiveness comes as we confess and forsake our sin. We then receive a spiritual bath from the hand of our loving Lord.

Victory is secured when we declare the promises of God. The Bible expresses that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). Scriptures like this show us that we are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We can also find verses that specifically address an area of temptation we are facing. When we speak such verses aloud, we follow the pattern of our Lord who spoke the word of God in the face of the devil’s temptation.

As we meditate on God’s word, we renew our minds to kingdom realities and righteous living. By hiding God’s word in our hearts, we ready ourselves for the struggles of the flesh and the onslaughts of the evil one.

By depending on Jesus and his word, we experience ever-increasing victory. This does not mean that we always get it right. The road to overcoming bad habits can often be characterized by a baby who takes a few steps forward and falls only to get back up and repeat the cycle. But God will enable us to overcome.

It is also helpful to gain strength from a fellow believer who can provide encouragement and accountability. If we will pursue the Lord, he will take us through the process, making us stronger and stronger as we journey on to become more like Christ.

Dear Lord,

I count myself as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. I know this is how you see me in Christ. Lord I thank you for the victory I have in you. Your word says that I am an overcomer! I choose to speak your word in the face of temptation. Teach me to gain the victory through every battle that I endure. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Favor Flows

Favor flows
It trickles down
Cascading from the mountain tops in springtime
Received by those trusting in Jesus
The gift of grace perpetually offered

Never earned
A twin of faith
Grace follows where faith begins
Grace produces fruit
Born from roots planted
Deep in the Source
Not by self effort
No perspiration

The stream becomes a river
As we gaze upon the Grace-giver

© Copyright 2009 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Light Dispels Darkness

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

The door swung open; wind’s invisible hand grabbed the handle and pulled. Rays of light revealed debris scattered where darkness reigned just a few seconds before. Cigarette butts and empty beer cans peppered the cement floor. And from behind an old paint-splattered ladder that leaned against the wall, peered two eyes. They belonged to a large rat that had tunneled its way into the dingy space. Rays of light shimmered on dirt and dust swirling in the air. The unkempt closet reeked of alcohol.

The light of the Son reveals sin hidden in the depths of our hearts. The Spirit’s wind unmasks us. His truth brings conviction, and with his presence comes deliverance and healing. His blood scours our every sin-stain so that we may rejoice in the liberty we were created for. God loves us too much to leave us in our present condition. The road to greater holiness begins with a prayer. Lord, search our hearts, cleanse us, and make us more like you!

Dear Lord,

Search my heart. Reveal to me the sin that lives inside me. Convict me and lead me on your path of righteousness. Make me holy as you are holy. Create in me a clean heart oh God, and show me how to practically live out your will. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

For Freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1

On July 4th we celebrated our nation's independence from British oppression. The American victory in the revolutionary war secured for us the freedom to establish a democracy founded on Christian principles. Many men lost their lives in pursuit of this triumph. Their blood bought our national freedom. Similarly, Christ won the pivotal victory for the souls of men when he died and rose again. He disarmed the kingdom of darkness and made an open spectacle of the devil and his forces on the cross (Colossians 2:14-15). When we allow ourselves to be governed by Jesus the King of Kings, we experience spiritual and emotional freedom.

Surrendering to Christ liberates us from the shackles that bind us. The word of God is a declaration of our independence in Christ. The Scriptures are replete of great and precious promises for the believer whose allegiance is with the Sovereign of the universe. Jesus bought us our emancipation by dying for us in our place. He set us free for our own sake – for the sake of our freedom. Let's remember what Christ did for us and look to those who have not yet been spiritually awakened. Let's pray for those lost in darkness and share our faith with them, when we have the opportunity.

Dear Lord,

I surrender all to you. I thank you for dying for me in my place. I choose to follow you all of my days and I ask you to forgive me of my sin. I understand that you bought my freedom for me on the cross. You have delivered me from darkness and You have translated me into the kingdom of your dear Son. Help me Lord to live to see others find freedom in You. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2009 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Agree with God

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” 1 John 2:8

There is no greater enemy to our relationship with God than self denial. When confronted with our sin, we should agree with God. Confession of sin is simply the practice of agreeing with what God has said about our failures. And it is a turning away from practices that are harmful to our spiritual life.

King David fell into sin by lusting after and commiting adultery with Bathsheeba. Then he murdered Bathsheeba's husband. When Nathan the profit confronted David regarding his sin, David responded with meekness. He repented of his sin and allowed God to cleanse his soul. Even though David commited two horrible sins, God completely forgave him and David was later called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). David did, however, have to experience the consequences of his actions.

If we, with a heart of humility, confess our sin to God, he will be faithful to forgive us and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We must kneel before we stand. We do not need to confess our sins to a person; we can go directly to the Lord. There are times, however, when it is beneficial for us to share our shortcomings with someone mature in the Lord. This can serve as a means of accountability and encouragement for us.

When we agree with God concerning our sin and seek to repent of our behavior, we find: forgiveness, restored fellowship with God, and spiritual freedom. Let’s be quick to run to Jesus when we stumble. He will never condemn us; instead he will open up his arms to us and offer us the grace we need to overcome.

Dear Holy Lord,

Shine the spotlight of your glory into the recesses of my heart. Reveal to me any hidden sin I may have. Wash me in your precious blood and enable me to live in a way that pleases you. Lord I choose to follow you wholeheartedly. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

© Copyright 2008 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.