Wrong Image

Wrong Image

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

Matthew 24-25

Some people have a very twisted view of God. Oddly enough it can go badly in different opposite extremes. The man in this story saw God in one of those extremes. He saw a Lord who is brutal, unjust, cruel and evil. He is a man who fears God and tries to hide and stay as far away from God as he can. In the end he only shows God what he was given. He gives a person, a character that is unchanged. That might not sound completely bad until you remember that our original natures are against God. We all need to be changes to have a better character. In the end, he is lost even though he was within Gods home

The exact opposite person is the one that thinks that God is uncaring, unaware or foolish. They don’t respect God or his laws. They figure that God is such a pushover and foolish that they can live any way they want and God will simply accept them. They put ‘love’ above all but fail to realize that love can come in many forms, both positive, pure and good but also selfish, harmful and evil.

They see God as foolish but don’t realize they are looking in the mirror when they make that claim. They see God as a friend, which is good, but fail to also see his as Lord and Master. This person, like the one in the parable will suffer the same fate. They see the simple laws of God as legalism because it goes counter to their earthly desires which they believe God has to accept in them. They believe that God is love and therefore has to accept all that we do regardless of it being good or bad.

Both extremes occur because we many times create a false image of God. Most times it’s a God we created in our own minds. Only by having a true image of God can we avoid these two extremes. Only in the Bible do we see a clear image of the true God.

God bless,

 

Pr. Steven Couto

 

Blessings

Blessings

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Matthew 25:20-23

When you use your talents, you receive more. God always has a blessing in store for those who follow his will. Not only does his talents double but is extra blessed by receiving even more from the master.

That is how God works. I know sometimes it feels like God is distant, or not listening or seeing you but realize that nothing could be farther than the truth. Most of the time we don’t realize just how much God is actually helping us even in dark times.

What we don’t see is that things could be a hundred times worse if it weren’t for God protecting us and blessing us. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain or suffering- that is never promised in the Bible. But you will not suffer more than you can take.

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to [d]bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Try to see the positive in moments. Try to see how God might be working in even the bad times. Sometimes it can be hard to do but it’s worth the struggle. You will see that you are never alone.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Talents

The Talents

16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

Matthew 25:16-19

So what are these talents that these servants were given. From the parables point of view, it was the lord’s money. Now you have probably heard several different explanations on what those talents mean in our context. Some say it’s talents in terms of abilities that God gives us. Others talk about it being influence or opportunities. Others claim that it is exactly what it claims to be- the lord’s money or the riches that the Lord gives us in our lives.

When you look at the context of the chapter you see that there are three main parts. The first is about the ten virgins where the lesson there is about making sure we have the Holy Spirit in our lives. The second is the talents and the third is about the judgement day where the focus is on helping the poor, hungry, imprisoned and sick.

Although you can see different focusses between the three stories, you can also see a general connection. It’s all about the gifts that God gives us and how we use them- or don’t.

In that way, the talents can mean different things. It can symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit, something of great value that God expects us to gain and grow. It can also symbolize our goods, resources, abilities and opportunities as we see in the third story. It can be as simple as a cup of water or a meal. It can be a kind word or an act of compassion.

In the end, I believe that it is everything that God gives us. It is the breath of life as we wake up for the day, the food in our fridges, our jobs, families, friends and joys. God is up in heaven, far away from us, but he has not left us with nothing.

What are we doing with all of those blessings? That is the question that this story asks. As we burying our precious gifts of God. Are we being greedy and not allowing anyone else to benefit from our gifts?

God’s talents in your life are many and varied. Take some time to think about all that God has given you and continues to provide. I guarantee that it will be more than what you are lacking.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

His Own Ability

His Own Ability

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

Matthew 25:14-15

The story of the talents is a favorite for pastors. It is used so many times in sermons. Usually the focus is on the growth of the talents, which we’ll get into in the future but today I want to focus on these two verses.

In this story there is a man, wealthy enough to have talents and servants. He decides one day to leave his home and travel to a far country. He leaves several servants in charge of his affairs at home and then goes off.

The first thing I notice is that it says that he gave talents based on each person’s ability. This man knew what each servant was able to do.

We are not all the same. We all have different abilities. God created us unique and special. You’ll notice that the servant with the most ability didn’t receive everything but simply more than the others. Likewise, the servant with the least ability wasn’t left out completely but still received a talent.

God has something for all of us. It is never God’s plan that one person does everything while another does nothing. Some might have more responsibilities than others, but all make up a grand machine, with each person a part of that machine. The bible uses the idea of a body, some parts are more than others, but all are part of the one body nonetheless.

As we’ll see, when we read on, the one with more ability, and therefore talents as well, is able to and expected to have greater results. God doesn’t expect five extra talents from the one who only got two or one. Each will be judged individually and not on what others were able to do or not do.

Look at your own life and see. How much does God expect from you? Are you accomplishing the growth of talents he’s looking for?

You might be asking- what exactly is the talent here? What does it symbolize? We’ll look into that next week.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

I Do Not Know You

I Do Not Know You

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Matthew 25:10-13

The ending for the foolish virgins is terrifying. They were so close to being saved and yet find a locked door between them and salvation. What is even scarier is what the bridegroom, Jesus, says to them. ‘I do not know you.’

That is the last thing I would ever want to hear from Jesus. What it shows is that no relationship with him was ever created. You can have the name of Jesus in your mouth all the time, like singers and actors who thank God at every awards show, but not have any real relationship with him.

It’s not the only time that Jesus expresses this idea.

Later on in the chapter Jesus says, 41 ‘‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

Knowing Jesus is seeing him in others. Helping those in need, in and out of the church, is part of knowing God and Jesus.

Let us build our faith and relationship with Jesus. Let us not be shut out of salvation. Let us never hear the words, ‘I do not know you.’

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Midnight Cry

The Midnight Cry

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom [a]is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’

Matthew 25:6-9

Last week we saw Jesus, the bridegroom delayed, and the ten virgins asleep while they waited. But then a midnight cry is heard. Adventists know these words, Midnight Cry, all too well as we love to use is to describe our unique message to the world. Midnight is the darkest time of day and the least likely time for a bridegroom to arrive at a wedding. Think about what that can mean in reality. How will Jesus come when we least expect it?

Suddenly the virgins awake and begin to get ready. Here is where we see the wisdom of the five virgins who brought extra oil. It’s important to see that what we’re talking about here is extra oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. The foolish clearly say that their lamps are going out which means they had some oil in their lamps. They only put in enough as to what they believed they needed. They did the very minimum and only accepted the very minimum of the Holy Spirit in their lives. So clearly all ten virgins, both wise and foolish, are Christians and believers. Don’t be fooled into thinking the wise are believers and the foolish worldly people, no. Jesus is talking to the church here are saying that two groups within the church will exist at the end of time. There will be those who gain as much oil, Holy Spirit, as they can. They are not part-time Christians or only Christians on Sabbath. They try and build as close a relationship with God, through the Holy Spirit as their life allows. The others, the foolish, are those who believe and even accept the Holy Spirit but not completely. They only do enough as to what they believe will be enough to be saved. These are they that say, ‘I’m good enough.’ or ‘I’ve done enough’ or ‘I’m better than most’ or even ‘God will just look past these parts of my life.’

All of these thoughts are dangerous and foolish. Only God knows how much you need of Him to be ready for the Second Coming. It’s a dangerous game to create your own limits on faith and the Holy Spirit.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The 10 Virgins

The 10 Virgins

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

Matthew 25:1-5

Matthew 25 continues with a focus on prophecy and the end of times. It begins with an amazing parable about ten virgins. The word virgins here actually represents young, unmarried girls as those in those days would see a directly correlation between both ideas. All that Jesus says about these virgins is that there are ten of them, they all have lamps and that five are foolish and five wise. What makes them wise or foolish? Some took oil with them and some didn’t.

The only other major player in the story is the bridegroom. It’s very interesting that Jesus says that the bridegroom was delayed, especially since the bridegroom represents himself. Because of the delay all ten, both wise and foolish, end up falling asleep while they waited.

Next week we will continue with the story but for today I want to focus on two points. The first is in the use of the number 10. If you go through the Bible you’ll notice that 10 is always connected to a test of faith. From the 10 Commandments, 10 plagues of Egypt, Tithe, 10 lepers of Luke 17, parable of the 10 silver coins and others if you search for them. And what I mean by God testing our faith is that God gives us laws, situations and ideals to wrestle with and grow from. He creates situations that help us to grow in faith. This parable of the 10 virgins is all about faith as we’ll see in the following weeks.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that, as the groom or Jesus is delayed in coming, all 10 virgins fall asleep. Just like the disciples in Gethsemane, it will not be our own human strength that will allow us to be ready for Jesus’s coming. Just like Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ It is the Holy Spirit that holds the key to what we need to truly be ready. Next week we will see more.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Evil Servants

The Evil Servants

48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:48-50

Matthew 24 ends in a very negative way. It focusses on those who refuse to listen or see the signs of the times. It shows us a vision of judgement, darkness and death.

You’ll notice that both groups, good and bad, are called servants here. This is an important thing to remember as we have a bad habit of uplifting ourselves more than we should. Compared to God, we are just servants but what is amazing is that he treats us much better than we deserve.

The evil servants say that God is delaying. “This second coming idea is way into the future and things happening now are just normal things of the earth.” I have heard this sentiment from many people in the church. Nothing is really out of the ordinary. We’ve always had wars, disease, famines and natural disasters. They reject the idea that God is getting ready to return soon and continue living the exact same way. Many speak this way to avoid making any real life altering decisions in their life.

You could claim, rightfully so, that people have been saying these things for generations and Jesus still has not returned. That is true, but you also have to realize that those people are no longer here and for them, the second coming is but a blink away. God wants us to be ready now and every day.

That is what the other verses are really about. There will always be people in the church who don’t follow God’s advice and law. They will beat fellow servants usually by their words and actions. They eat and drink with the drunkards meaning they will focus more on their own appetites and desires than on God.

These will have their part with the hypocrites. All those years of sitting in the pews, praying and reading their Bibles will come to nothing. Their hearts were not in it. They didn’t want to be servants but masters themselves. They trades an eternity of perfection for a few years of pleasure.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

One Will Be Taken

Unprepared

43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Matthew 24:40-42

It’s a horrible feeling having your home broken into. You feel violated and unsafe for a very long time. One thought goes over and over in your head- if I had known that that night someone would be breaking in, I’d be ready and not let it happen.

It is that very thought that Jesus uses to speak about the end of the world. How many people will see Jesus up in the sky and realize that they were caught by surprise? How many will regret so many decisions and choices in their lives? How many will be shocked, terrified or feel like complete fools for not believing?

But in verse 44 it says that we can be ready. We don’t have to be caught unaware. How? By looking for the signs that are mentioned in this chapter and other prophetic books. By reading our bibles and making sure we are spiritually and mentally prepared for His coming. Just because you may belong to a church is not enough. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus yourself, you will not be ready for that glorious day.

This day will be both the greatest and worst day in history. It will be great for all who will be saved but it will be devastating for all who rejected, unbelieved or simply took it for granted. Today is the day that you have to make sure that it will be a great day for you.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

One Will Be Taken

One Will Be Taken

40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

Matthew 24:40-42

Many different ideas have been born from these verses in Matthew but what exactly was Jesus trying to say with this. When you look at the context both of the passage and also of the people he was speaking with, you realize that he’s talking about the difference inside people and not outside.

The Jews in those days very easily divided the saved and lost by blood and location. If you were a blood Jew, a pure and undefiled descendant of Abraham, you were saved. If you were from Israel, and even more Jerusalem, you were saved. That is how they thought and you could imagine how these verses would have troubled them.

Jesus doesn’t mention blood, descendant lines or birthplaces in his division. In fact, the way the people are so close suggests that many could be family. What a thought for a Jew that a brother could be saved and another lost.

We make the same distinctions sometimes.  We divide Adventists from others. We divide our church with others. We divide our day of worship from others. We look more on the outside than the inside for salvation.

What Jesus does however is different. From the outside, the people look the same but it’s the inside hearts of the people that determine salvation or loss.

The other thing of course, brought up especially in verse 42 is that it can happen at any time. We may be at work, or asleep, or on a journey when the Day of the Lord comes. We can’t just believe or think, well I’m going on vacation so obviously Jesus won’t come during this time. No. We must be ready at every moment.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto