Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy New Year!

See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare before they spring into being. I announce them to you. Isaiah 42:9

With the new year comes the prospect that we can begin again. The old has past and the new has come. God offers to us that which is fresh and alive. He wants to renovate our lives and fill us with every good and perfect thing. Our Lord has precious plans for us – new things for each and every one of us.

The often quoted verse from Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Our Lord wants to bless us. He longs to fill our lives with every blessing. He also desires to changes us and use us to be a blessing to others. Let's spend time in the Lord's presence so we can hear His voice. He wants to announce to us His plans for our futures. He will help us to make the necessary adjustments so that we succeed in every God-appointed endeavor. He desires to breath His life upon our forgotten dreams.

As we draw near to Jesus, He will also come and heal us of every hurt and disappointment from our past. He will minister to us and turn our ashes into beauty. He will transform us as a caterpillar morphs into a marvelous butterfly. The Lord desires to renew our lives.

As we ponder about the changes we would like to incorporate into our lives this coming year, let's seek after God's input. Let's hear what He has to say through His word and through the Holy Spirit's still small voice. Let's allow Him to whisper His fresh revelation into our hearts so that we can be doers of His will upon the earth.

May you have a wonderful and prosperous New Year! May it be a year of new beginnings for you and your family.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walking With God

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:13

Before the fall, Adam and Eve walked with God. They enjoyed sweet fellowship and close communion with the One who created them. When they sinned, they tried to hide from God, because of their great shame.

Since the fall, mankind's intimacy with God diminished. But some drew near to Him in a limited way. Moses saw His form and heard His voice. David had a special relationship with the Holy One and became a fervent worshiper of God. However, it was not until Christ went to the cross that the veil of separation was torn. Those that have accepted the Savior's sacrifice as payment for their sin can draw much nearer to God. We can enjoy the same intimacy with God that Adam and Eve experienced before the fall.

We can hear His voice. We can enjoy sweet fellowship with the Master. We have access to the Spirit's council, and we can bask in His abiding love.

Let's draw near to the Lord. When we do, He promises to draw near to us. Let's not take our Father God for granted. He longs for intimate communion with us. He deserves our full attention. And he invites us to walk with Him in the garden of our own hearts.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending Jesus to provide the way for me to have a relationship with You. I want to know you more. Draw me close to You. Dear Lord, I surrender my heart to You and ask you to fellowship with me. I love You and thank You for Your great love for me. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


You came to earth on Christmas night
To save the world, to set things right
You lived and preached the gospel story
You are exalted, full of glory

You healed the sick and raised the dead
You set your face like a flint
To give Your life
The reason you were sent

You stretched Your arms and suffered
While on the cross You uttered
Father forgive them for they know not what they do
This sacrifice for me, for you

He is Emanuel
God is with us
His truth we tell
Glory be to Christ the risen King
It's Him we praise, to Him we sing

Hallelujah to the One
Who sits upon the throne
Hallelujah to Jesus
We worship You alone

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Story

At eighteen years of age, I was finishing my senior year at high school, while looking ahead to the future. I still had not decided on which college to attend, and I felt disheveled due to the numerous decisions I had to make. What school should I go to? What should my major be? In addition to these questions, I had a nagging ache inside of me. Raised Greek Orthodox, I was familiar with Christ and the Scriptures – at least I thought I knew God. There was developing within me a hunger to find out if there might be something more to my faith. I turned to the church for answers and began to check out books on spirituality from my parish's library. These books only confused me. They were ridden with lessons that encouraged extreme self discipline and the practice of good works to gain God's approval.

I attended church faithfully, and viewed the Lord as a powerful Judge, who I could never please. One of the colleges that interested me was Wheaton College, and I decided to attend a three-day “Get Acquainted Weekend” to learn more about the school. I stayed in a dorm along with two students and attended classes to learn about the school. One of the events on the agenda for me was to attend a free concert. The performer was Leon Patillo, who was a former singer with the band Santana. Being rather musical myself (I play the guitar and sing), I was interested to experience this.

The concert was nothing like what I expected. My understanding of Christian music was limited to ancient Byzantine chanting and Christmas Carols. Leon's concert was contemporary, professionally done, as well as profoundly inspirational. He took time to share his story of how he embraced Christianity. He spoke of Jesus so freely. It was as if Christ was His closest Friend. He shared the simple truth of the gospel. I learned in my heart that knowing God was not a matter of what I do, but of what Jesus had already done for me.

Jesus' death on the cross paid the price for my sins to be forgiven and for me to receive the free gift of salvation. When I was younger, I attended a summer camp that was also put on by Wheaton College. A counselor shared the gospel message to me then, but I was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. I was afraid. As Leon Patillo shared, I remembered that day at summer camp. I became gripped with the reality of my own sin and my need to accept the Lord's forgiveness. I realized that my experience with Christianity had been rooted in ritual, but God desired for me to have a relationship with Him.

At the end of the concert, an invitation was given to come forward and accept Christ's free gift. I was hesitant, but a man asked me if I wanted to go forward. I slowly made my way towards the foot of the stage. Then I prayed along with others to receive Christ into my life and heart.

I began to see changes in my life. I found my fears being replaced by God's love, my confusion with confidence, and my sense of distance from God with a rich intimacy with my Heavenly Father.

If you haven't embraced Christ in this way, know that you can – even today. The Scripture says,”For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. “ (Ephesians 2:8-9) I learned that night at a concert that all my striving was futile. All Jesus wanted me to do was to surrender and receive His free gift of salvation. Why don't you do the same, if you haven't already. Just pray a prayer like the one below.

Dear God,

I realize my need for you. I am a sinner and You are holy. Thank you Lord for sending Jesus to die for me to pay for my sins and forgive me. Jesus, I ask you to forgive me of the things I've done that have hurt you. I accept your sacrifice on the cross as payment for my own sin. I receive your free gift of salvation. Help me to know You as You really are. I choose to follow You. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer for the first time or if you have rededicated your life to Christ, let me say congratulations! The Lord is singing over you with joy and the angels are rejoicing. I encourage you to tell somebody of your decision. You may email me at, I would love to support you in your new walk with Jesus.

It's important that you begin reading the Bible - it is like food for your spiritual life. Read a little each day. I encourage you to start with the book of John, which is found in the New Testament.
Also, take time to pray each day. Give God thanks, tell Him Your frustrations, and surrender to Him your worries. Then be sure to pray for others. Also, begin to tell others about Christ – you will find great joy in doing this.

Finally, attend church regularly. Go to a place where the Bible is preached without apology in a way that you can understand it. Look for a place where the people truly love God and each other, but remember there is no perfect church.

Your journey with Jesus has just begun. Know that one day you will see Him face to face. Until then, let's follow after the One, who loved us first.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Prayer About Prayer

I was reminded today that prayer is essential
To who I am
To who I ever hope to be

Help me Holy Spirit to intercede for others
Let it be the substance of what makes me
Fused into my DNA
Teach me Lord to pray

Alone with You
And when I'm in a crowd
While I do my daily work
When I'm happy
When I'm sad
When I'm frustrated
When I'm mad

Let prayer motivate me to love
To act on another's behalf
Let me be a blessing to those around me

A reflection of the Father to others
As I pray, make me sensitive to the diverse needs around me

Use me Lord
May I be one flawed clay vessel
Full of You
And overflowing with prayer

Monday, December 7, 2009

This Great Night

A guiding star sailed and settled atop the place where He lay
Wise men searched for and followed the supernatural sign

Mary held the God-child with gentle arms
The Savior smiles, as Joseph pats Him on the head
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us

The eastern Monarchs arrive
Ornately clothed
They bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh
They bow, they kneel, and give their treasure
As worship to the King of Kings
This great night in Bethlehem

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Because of His Love

My wife and I recently added a puppy to our two-member family. It's a boy, and my wife has decided on the name - Muy-Muy (pronounced Mew-Mew). She insists that its a French name, though she doesn't know what it means. I voted for the name Rocky and lost, but I am beginning to become used to his unusual name. We picked him up from the breeder recently at eight weeks of age. He is a handsome little Maltese.

Our new pet was tiny, cute, and quiet when we first brought him home. Now he can be rather feisty at times. He is teething and loves to nibble on just about anything. He likes to play, but he sometimes gets out of hand. And yes we are doing our best to teach him to go to the bathroom in the right place. We now see the weighty importance of training our dog. If we don't start now, he could become a monster. If we are consistent in our discipline and positive reinforcement at this time, we will reap the rewards later. A friend of the family kindly told me that if your dog becomes unruly you have only yourself to blame. So we are ready to correct, ready to praise, ready to give rewards to our puppy to teach him the way to behave.

The whole process reminds me of how God deals with us His children. The Scripture says He disciplines us because He loves us. My wife and I want a well-trained puppy not only for our dog's benefit, but also for our own. We desire order in our home and peace of mind. But God has no selfish motives. He disciplines us because He truly knows it is the best thing for us. The Lord is persistent at teaching us the lessons He knows we need to develop His character in us. The Lord uses His written word along with the promptings of the Holy Spirit to steer us in His direction. Let's cooperate with Him. Let's not fight back like a wild animal, but let's allow Jesus to guide us gently along His path for our lives. When we follow Him, He is quick to reward us and to use us for His kingdom purposes. When we yield to His correction, we find peace and sweet fellowship with the Master.

One major difference between our challenges with our new pet and God's dealings with us, is that the Lord changes our natures from within so that we can obey Him. As we surrender to the Master in the light of Christ's work at Calvery, the fruit of the Spirit develops within us. By His grace, the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to follow Christ. Our dog does not have a transformed nature within Him. We can only foster changes to his outward behavior, but the Father disciplines us in love and enables us to conform to the image of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.

Let's yield to the Holy Spirit's direction for our lives. Let's obey God's flawless word. When we do, we we will draw closer to the Lord and shine for Him in the dark places. When we allow God the Potter to mold us like clay, we begin to reflect the One who made us. He desires to make us His masterpieces and put us on display. He desires to change us for one reason alone – because of His great love for you and me.

© Copyright 2009 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

His Glory in Our Harmony

Fragrant oil flowing down. Harmony's the sacred sound. Unified by Christ's own blood. Power and blessing follow love. As we cherish one another, we release His life forever.
This short poem was drawn from the verses found in Psalm 133. Here David sings of the beauty of believers dwelling together in unity.

Packed within this scripture-song are benefits offered to those that work to maintain peace within the Body. The manifestation of the glory of God is one of the blessings promised here. An individual, family, church, or organization that learns to guard and honor peaceful relations will experience God's power. The psalm says it like this, “For harmony is as precious as the fragrant anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head.” (Psalm 133:2)

God desires to pour His manifested glory all over us as a Body. If we will individually and corporately practice the law of love, we'll wreak havoc on the kingdom of darkness and, more importantly, find ourselves in the midst of God's glory – while enjoying one another.

© Copyright 2009 by Tom Toya. All rights reserved.