A Bright Future

A Bright Future

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

As America inaugurated a new president in Joe Biden earlier this year, I have to say that most of the attention was not on the new president but on a young woman named Amanda Gorman. She read a poem entitled ‘The Hill We Climb’ and the words encapsulated the reality of many who heard her.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.

We braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

 

Her words asked the question for tomorrow, not just for those who have been on top but to everyone under the sun. When will we find the victory?

When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.

The new dawn balloons as we free it.

For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

 

As Christians, these words could not be more true. God doesn’t just want us to accept the light which he’s offering us but to be the light for those around us.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Matthew 5:14-15

We are not just to embrace the future of light that God has given us, but to become that light and share it with others. God has a future for everyone of us. Let us embrace it.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Growth

Growth

 A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.

Psalm 17:22

Anderson Ruffin Abbott was born in Toronto on April 7, 1837. Although his parents were both black and from Alabama, they were ‘free people of colour’ who after moving north were given the space to grow, and grow they did. Through the purchase of real estate within Toronto, they became prominent in the community and even became active in politics. This prominence allowed Anderson to have an excellent education where he only grew the more, being an honour student in school and college. He became the first Canadian-born black Canadian to be a licensed family physician, became a coroner and even surgeon-in-chief.

It is not the colour of your skin, age, height or weight that determines what you can be in this life. Unfortunately, it also isn’t simply skill that you may or may not have. In most cases it’s the opportunity and chance to grow. A plant that is left in a small pot will reach a height and stop because it cannot extend its roots any further. Should you move it to a bigger pot, it will continue to grow higher and stronger.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

What is holding you back? Is it God? No. He is ready to open the doors to let you grow. He wants you to have life and have it more abundantly. Is it others around you? Possibly. We live in a world of greed and discrimination and it can be hard to grow when others try and build walls around you. But God is greater than those who are around you. There is no wall that they can build that God cannot tumble down. Depend on Him and you will not have to be limited by those around you.

Are you holding yourself back? That I can’t answer you but it is the only hurdle that God cannot, or better, will not break down. God will never go over your free will. He will always wait for your choice and accept it. Are you the source of your stunted growth? Is fear what drives your decisions? If yes, again, God is your solution. He will not go above your decision, but if asked, he can take away the fear that hinders you from making the right decision. Pray to God, be planted anew, and watch yourself grow beyond your wildest imagination.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Freedom and Pains

Freedom and Pains

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1

William Peyton Hubbard was born to parents who escaped slavery and the plantation where they were forced to labour in Virginia. Through the Underground Railroad, they reached Canada in the 1840’s. While many people were expecting the Second Coming of Jesus and would later become Adventists, they were fully focused at simply staying alive and finding a place to be free. Everyone has a unique story and just because they might not follow your path, doesn’t mean that God isn’t still with them. God want’s that we all should be free. He wants that we have life and have it to the utmost.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

John 10:10

Let’s not judge one another for the goals we have made. Were we in their shoes, we would probably make the same decisions many times. This life is hard for all but harder for some. Fact is, if you look, you will always find someone worse off than yourself. But don’t let those differences, whether more or less, lead to judgement or condemnation. Let it lead to a response of love and help.

Jesus didn’t differentiate between those who were more in need or less. He helped everyone at all levels of need. He loved all, with all their personal pains.

When you decide to judge another person’s suffering I would ask you to remember the glaciers. What you see above the water is only a fragment of what is underneath. What you see in people is only what they are allowing you to see. Most keep their true pains inside.

William Peyton Hubbard was born in a little cabin in the outskirts of Toronto. It was all his parents could provide. He grew up and became a baker. From there he joined his uncle’s horse-drawn livery taxi service. By acts of God, Hubbard later became the driver for Mr. George Brown and through a growing friendship challenged Hubbard to seek public office.

In 1894 he was elected, one of the first men of African descent to gain a political office in Canada. He was re-elected 15 times in his career.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Unity

Unity

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

John 14:7-8

What Jesus says here is a powerful testimony of the relationship he had with his father. As people got to know Jesus they were also getting to God the Father. Jesus was a perfect representation of his father.

Can you say the same about your parents or your family? Do you represent them in all things or are there big differences between the people in your home?

People might think that Jesus’ words mean that he wasn’t unique or had his own mind but that is not true. You can be a unique individual and still be a representation of your family. Paul was very different from Peter or John and yet all three were representatives of Jesus.

As church members we are all different and unique. We all have different skills and characteristics but that doesn’t mean we can’t be united in our representation of Christ. Think of it this way. Jesus is the Son of God and therefore infinitely more complex than any one of us. Jesus is actually more actually represented by the joining and unity of our differences than any single person by themselves.

What’s interesting is that Philip was with Jesus for so long and still hadn’t seen the connection between Jesus and the Father. We too, even after many years in church, can be blinded to the representation of other members to Christ. We believe Jesus is just like us and not like other members who are different from us. To this, Jesus has a response.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

John 14:9-11

We cannot judge people who are different as lower than us. Just as there are four gospel stories, each unique and yet all representing Jesus, so to in the church. Each of us should be a living gospel to who God is. Let us not see differences between us but simply different faces of Christ.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Hard Choices

Hard Choices

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

This is one of the most famous verses in the Bible about choice. They are powerful words from a leader who is completely sure of his choice. He will serve the Lord. If you look closely at the statement you realize that Joshua is doing something very important and clever.

There are three groups that he highlights- three types of ‘gods’. The first are those from the past ‘from the other side of the river. It’s not by accident that he uses the words ‘which your fathers served’ because they truly were slaves, who served those on the other side of the river, in Egypt.

The second group that is mentioned is the here and now, the gods ‘in whose land you dwell’. Again he perfectly chooses his words. He tells them that they are the gods of the Amorites, the same people that they conquered and took their land from.

Without saying it outright, he is calling all the people there fools for their choices in gods. Why would you worship the gods of your slave owners? What did you ever gain in Egypt except broken backs and poverty? Why would you want to worship the gods of such horrible people?

Likewise, why would you want to worship the gods of a conquered people, especially if you were the ones doing the conquering? They lost and proved their gods worthless. Why choose what the losers have?

Then there is the third choice. Notice he says, ‘if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD’. What was going on at that time that Israel, the people of God would think it evil to worship him? It’s amazing how we can become so confused in what is right and wrong, good and evil.

If they truly listened to the words of Joshua, they would see that God is the one that delivered them from Egypt and he was also the one who helped them conquer the Amorites. God is not the loser or the evil one. He is the winner and the good and only God.

Joshua knew this and that is why he could stand up without wavering to his devotion to God. How about you? Are you completely sure in who your God is and what he’s done for you? If you are, stand up and proclaim it, just as Joshua did.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Our Daily Acts

Our Daily Acts

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

This verse is usually used by people to explain why they eat and drink outside of the Bible’s guidelines. This verse is used as an excuse to put our own desires and habits over the laws and regulations that God created for us. Oddly enough, the purpose of this verse is the exact opposite. When you look at the context of the verse, you realize that even if there is freedom to go outside of God’s laws, we shouldn’t for our good and for those around us. Just look at verses 23 and 24.

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul is making it very clear that God’s laws were created to be helpful and to edify us. To go against that for our own fleshy desires is both harmful and destructive.

What verse 31 really is trying to say is that our relationship with God should go far beyond what we do in the sanctuary, when we pray or read the Bible. It should be intertwined with every aspect of our lives including the most basic like eating and drinking. The simplest acts should be done to the glory of God.

32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:32-33

The two verses after 31 are very much connected and actually a continuation of the verse. Not only should our daily lives and actions be a glory to God, but so much so when it involves others around us. We should be even more careful and purposeful with how we glory God when we are talking or in communion with others.

We should always try to give offense to no one, even when they deserve it, because we are in that situation to perform a job for God. Every interaction we have with people, from all backgrounds, is an opportunity to give light and the Light to them.

This Sabbath the sermon will be about praying for, reaching out to and bringing God to 5 people in our lives. This will only succeed if we realize that we are on this job not just when we pray, speak or invite them to something but in every second of our lives. What we do all day, and how we accept the Holy Spirit in our day, will be just as important to those 5 people as any interaction you have with them personally.

Let’s remember:

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto