Evangelism Chain

Evangelism Chain

43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

John 1:43-46

How strange it must have been to be in a crowd listening to this interesting man and then having him single you out from the whole crowd to say ‘Follow Me.’ But that’s exactly what happened to Philip. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and so he was still very much unknown but his words were already heart stirring and it must have been a shock to Philip to hear those words. It appears that Philip didn’t even have to think about it but heartedly joined this new preacher. Even more than that, Philip couldn’t help but tell another, Nathanael.

And so it begins, the chain of evangelism. Jesus called one man who went and called another. Both of those two would call others who in turn would call others. And that is how the church grew into a worldwide movement.

The times have changed. Technology has increased and the world has gotten smaller in terms of communication but this chain is still the greatest tool that God uses. God uses people to get people. He could send out angels or make the rocks speak and although he’d maybe get a bigger response, most would be followers of fear and not of relationship. That’s why he uses us.

Has Jesus asked you to Follow Him? Are you perhaps one of the people God is looking for to start a new chain? Or perhaps your already part of a chain. Perhaps someone called you before already and God is simply asking you to continue the chain. Either way, you have an important role to play. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Do you want to be that weakest link?

As we go along our days, bumping into and working with people, realize that God is creating opportunities in your life to create a new link. Not everyone will accept. Not everyone followed Jesus either, but some will. In fact you can be used to make many new links if you only allow God to work through you.

I pray that you all can have your spiritual eyes open to the doors that Jesus is opening around you. May you be mightily used by God in many different ways this week and in the weeks to come.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Finding Your Brother

Finding Your Brother

40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

John 1:40-42

The Gospel could have been so different if Andrew hadn’t gone and found his brother. Peter is one of the central disciples of Jesus. Both in good ways and bad, he helped shape the story and history that we know today. Peter even was used to write letters found today in our Bibles. None of the other disciples dared walk on the water when Jesus was standing outside of the boat. It was Peter who chopped an ear off. It was Peter who fought to not have his feet washed. It was Peter who first proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. It was also Peter who was called as Satan.

All of this happened because of Andrew his brother. Andrew, being with John the Baptist, saw Jesus and heard that he was the Lamb of God. John pointed at Jesus and Andrew followed. But he didn’t stop there. In his heart he knew that he had to share this big news with his brother. He shared the news and also brought Peter to Jesus. Those two acts changed Jesus’ life and the Bible forever.

Have you ever had the same desire? Have you had information or knowledge that you couldn’t help but share with others. Maybe it was a sports thing or some personal achievement. Maybe it was some gossip that was shocking to the ear. But what about Jesus? Have you also burned inside to share the gospel?

We can see all the possibilities of life the way God does. We don’t know what a simple decision here or there can change the world in drastic ways. How many times has we let moments pass by? How many times have we done something that we had no idea would have such drastic effects?

This is why being connected to the Spirit and being led by him is so important. God knows what we don’t. He knows those moments and can guide us to them. We can be an Andrew in someone’s life if we are open to it.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

The Spirit Descending

The Spirit Descending

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:32-34

When people talk about the differences between Judaism and Christianity, two religions who share the same Holy Book outside of the New Testament, the obvious point is Jesus. The Jews were looking for the coming Messiah and rejected what Jesus was offering as a messiah. Christians on the other hand accepted Jesus as the Messiah. That of course is very true. There are other differences of course as well, especially in terms of the Temple and its services and traditions. Christians no longer burn offerings or slaughter sheep, at least not for religious purposes. The Jews also don’t right now as they don’t have a Temple to perform the ceremonies but still feel the need to do so.

All of those are valid differences but I think one of the strongest is the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit is mentioned often in the Old Testament with the Jews it seems to be different than how Christianity sees and interacts with the Holy Spirit.

Whereas the Jews simply see it as God’s power being presented on earth, Christians see a living, interactive being who joins with us in our acts and decisions. There is a unique relationship with the Spirit that can be seen in the New Testament. It speaks to us and guides us. We are filled with it and work with it. Again, all this can be seen in the Old Testament but it seems to be more distant.

The Holy Spirit is also not just a nice extra from God, like a cherry on a cake, but an integral part of Christianity. We are nothing and lost without the Spirit. The Spirit is a sign of our healthy relationship with God and personal salvation.

How do you see the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you feel its presence within you? Do you speak with the Spirit? How do you interact with it?

Jesus wasn’t just baptized with water but with the Holy Spirit. How about you?

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Just A Few Words

Just A Few Words

30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

John 1:30-31

John was a prophet. Oddly enough he wasn’t one for, at least as far as we know, preaching about the end of the world. That wasn’t his kind of prophet. He prophesied and prepared the way for Christ. It was a prophecy that was close at hand. In fact many of the Old Testament prophets had similar messages. They too dealt primarily with things close at hand.

But a prophet isn’t necessarily someone who tells the future. Prophets sometimes simply tell you mysteries of God. In these two verses we get such a message. Yes, it foretells the Messiah but more than that it gives us a truth that many people miss when they read it.

When John saw Jesus, the Spirit inside of him gave him these words. It was the Spirit which proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Within those inspires words is also a very important message.

‘He was before me.’ It sounds simply enough until you remember that John was actually older than Jesus. John was born first. So when he states that Jesus was before him, he is stating something about Jesus that I’m not even sure he fully understood.

Before John was born, Jesus already was. That means that before Jesus was born as a human child, he also already was. Those few words proclaim Jesus to be more than human. They are actually similar to what Jesus himself said when speaking of Abraham.

57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

John 8:57-58

John words pointed towards the divinity of Christ. He was more than human. Jesus himself affirmed that thought.

Sometimes we don’t understand how powerful our words can be. With the Spirit, even a few words can carry a lot of weight. Let us all work at having Spirit filled words and also take care of what comes out of our lips.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Lamb of God

Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29

I’ve always wondered about this moment in the lives of John and Jesus. Did they know each other before this moment? Did John know that he was talking about his cousin? If he didn’t, how did he react when he found out? If he did, what was it like to think your cousin was the savior of Israel? In the end, we must remember that it was the Spirit working through John that made him say those words. Did he even know before this moment that his cousin was going to be the savior? These answers I think will only truly be known when we ask them in heaven.

But it’s a big moment. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. This is the beginning of a mission created at the very beginning of the world. Jesus would begin his journey to the cross. It is here that he would take his first steps as the Lamb of God.

To truly understand the text you must know the Old Testament. For thousands of years Jews had brought a lamb to the temple to get their sins forgiven. Every year, for hundreds of years, they brought a lamb to forgive Israel in the Day of Atonement. All of that death was pointing to this one man.

Some people point even before the creation of the Jews. Some go to the very beginning when sin entered the world. God, seeing the nakedness of fallen man created garments of skin to cover them. Those skins must have come from a sacrificed animal- very likely a lamb. It was the first sign of a sacrifice to cover the sins of humanity.

Everything pointed to this start and John was there. What an experience that must have been. We know that John’s faith wavered as he was in jail sometime after. He sent messengers to confirm whether Jesus truly was the promised Messiah. Jesus simply responded with his actions and work.

Today, we are like John. We are the witnesses of the end time. We don’t have a date and we don’t know if we ourselves will see Jesus in the sky as he returns but that doesn’t negate our place in history. Revelation spoke about this very time right now.

How does that make you feel? Are you afraid? Are you confused? Are you happy? Do you perhaps waver in your own faith as John did? Whatever you might be feeling, I pray that you can seek out Jesus and stay close to him. What we all are experiencing is our moment in this story. May we live it in a way that makes God proud.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Sandal Straps

Sandal Straps

27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John 1:24-26

It’s very interesting the language that John uses when talking about Jesus. He speaks about sandals and not being worthy to even unloose them. It’s such a simple statement but one that clearly gets the message across. In the same way that regular people couldn’t look at the face of a king or stand in his presence without being called, not even being worthy to serve at his feet becomes a powerful statement.

What I really like about this statement however is what happens later on in the gospels. What John said was absolutely true. None of us are truly worthy to stand in God’s presence. None of us deserve even being close to him and yet he came down to us. Jesus lowered himself to our level and even more, Philippians says he lowered himself even more to us in death.

But let’s go back to John’s statement now. I find it amazing that he was not worthy to loose Jesus sandals and yet Jesus at the end of his life took off his clothes, took a basin of water and began to wash the disciple’s feet. What an amazing extreme in the other direction. It’s an even more powerful statement to how far Jesus is willing to go and lower himself for our salvation.

Next week we will be participating in the foot washing ceremony. In it we will copy what Jesus did all those years ago. We do so because he told us to do as he did. In this act we also show how far we are willing to go in helping our brothers and sisters in being saved. We too should be willing to be servants one to another.

I can only imagine what John would have said if he saw Jesus washing the disciples feet. I wonder if he would understand what Jesus was doing. We know the disciples didn’t- at least not yet. It would have been an amazing thing to see.

Let us all try and find the spirit of Christ in us. May we work at having the same character of our Savior and Lord.

 

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Personal Ministry

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked
him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah,
nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but
there stands One among you whom you do not know.
John 1:24-26

Personal Ministry should be one of the most important ministries at any church. It
amazing what a church can do as a whole. When people work together and join their resources,
great things can happen. But there is also an amazing work to be done as an individual. What you
do outside of church just as a Christian can be a great benefit not just for those you’ll reach but
also for yourself.

The problem of course is that people can get jealous or judgmental in what you do for
God. There are those people who like to control everything and everyone around them and so the
personal ministry of others can be a real problem for them.

That is what was going on with the Pharisees here. They loved to be in control and be the
boss. They were the ones who could say whether you were a sinner or not. They wanted to
control Israel so when John shows up and brings such authority it clearly bothered them. They
didn’t like it and so they’d try and stop it. This can happen in our churches as well. We must
realize that God not only speaks to the church but also to the individual. We all have a personal
ministry from God.

Another issue that can arise from personal ministry is not feeling worthy. The Pharisees
first questioned John’s authority by asking if he was the Christ, Elijah or the Prophet. When he
says no, they reject him completely. How could God ever chose a simpleton who lives in the
desert? Again, they would try and shut down John.

Sometimes we too feel like we are not worthy to have a ministry. We don’t see talent or
skill. We don’t see opportunity or authority in ourselves. That is a mistake. We are all worthy to
be used by God because Jesus makes us so. Whatever we may lack, God can cover or grow in us.

We have to be like John who accepted his personal ministry. We have to also be like John
in not allowing others to shut us down. If God is truly speaking and guiding you, then keeping
going forward. Of course make sure that you are doing God’s will and not being tricked by the
Devil. God’s ministry will always be biblical, unifying and bring people closer to God.

God bless,
Pr. Steven Couto

One Crying

One Crying

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John 1:22-23

It’s really interesting how John focuses so much on John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus’ gospel. John understood just how vital John was to Jesus’ story. Jesus did not have an easy time in his ministry but it could have been much worse without John’s pre-work.

John says that he was called as a voice in the wilderness to straighten the path for the coming Messiah. What exactly does that mean? Well, what exactly did John do before Jesus?

There are two main works that are listed with John. The first and most famous is his baptism. The second was his preaching about repentance. In reality, both worked together and had the same purpose. Repentance really was the main word for John. He tried to show the people of Israel that things were not good with the people of God. Although the festivals, traditions and sacrifices were done as usual, there was something rotten in the earthly house of God.

What’s interesting is that people deep down knew that John was right which is why his message hit so hard and resonated so much with the people of God. They knew that what they did was more a habit than a sincere act of worship. They needed to take God and religion more seriously.

Without this truth, Jesus coming into the world would not make much of a difference. If people didn’t really care about God or the church, it wouldn’t have mattered what Jesus said. He would just be another voice in a multitude. But with John’s words or warning and alert, people suddenly opened their eyes and ears. They were now worried and hungry for a word that could save them. They were ready for something new.

And now to us. Can we too sometimes fall into the trap of repetition and habit? Can we sometimes feel too comfortable with our lifestyle and religion? Keep in mind that the opposite can also be true and dangerous. We should never fear so much for our salvation that it takes away our faith in what Christ can do, but we can also not take him for granted.

May we all have some of John’s words in the coming year so that our eyes and ears can be open to the work that God wants to do in our lives.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

I Am Not

I Am Not

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

John 1:18

John was so influential in his work that the Jewish leaders sent priests and Levites to see who he was. Because of the Old Testament prophesies, people knew that this was the time of the coming Messiah. Historians mention that many false Christs came up during this time. John’s words were powerful and they attracted many people. He seems to have also been political in his talk at times- that is what lost him his head. So when the priests and Levites went to see who John was, there was one main question. Was he the promised Messiah?

John also knew why these men were coming to him. That is why the first thing that he says is that he wasn’t the Messiah. He didn’t leave any room for debate or speculation. It was never his plan to confuse people but to enlighten them. It’s sad that Jesus didn’t really get this treatment. Although his words were also powerful, he spoke things that they didn’t like and he stayed away from politics. That is why they never pressed him as to whether he was the Christ. Instead they focused on discrediting him.

In our own lives, we must also know what we are not. We are not Jesus. We are not God. We are not the judge. We are not the savior. Only God is all of those things and when we put ourselves in those spots, only trouble ensues. John never put himself there.

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”

John 1:21

As the priests and Levites went down the list of who he could be, John kept responding with, no. John knew who he was and what his job was. He was never tempted into trying to be more or less than that. That is a lesson we can all learn. What exactly does God want from you? What job has he given you? Are you perhaps doing or trying to be someone that is not part of the plan?

Meditate and pray over these questions this week. God will answer you if you ask.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Seeing God

Seeing God

18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

John 1:18

Moses asked to see the face of God, but even the leader of Israel and deliverer of the Egyptians could not do it. Instead he saw what the Bible says as ‘God’s back’. What that really means is that God has to still cover himself before the sinful human being. In the end, even the covered image of God has dramatic consequences to Moses.

So no human has ever seen God… Wait? Is that true? What about Adam and Eve. In their perfect state at the creation of the world, the Bible says that God would meet with them in the garden. Well, we must remember that it was actually Jesus who formed Adam from the ground and walked in the garden. God was busy sitting on his throne and ruling the universe, and as with all things, Jesus is the one that does all the manual labor of God. The Father is the head while Jesus is the hands.

So literally speaking, yes no one has ever seen the Father but I don’t believe that Jesus was focusing on the literal. I believe that he was talking about the heart and soul of the Father. You get that inclination of thought when it says ‘the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father’. This emphasis not just the physical closeness not intimacy that exists between the two. Only Jesus truly knows the Father and vice versa. Only Jesus knows the heart and mind of God.

But then the verse tells us something wonderful. He has declared Him. We too can know the Father and God through Jesus Christ. We learn about the Father through Jesus words. We learn through his actions and love. Everything Jesus did was to show us who the Father was and is. Through this, we are to fall in love and give our lives. With new lives we are then given a gift for our heavenly futures.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-5

Revelation says that we shall see his face. Now is it talking about the Father or the Son? Revelation doesn’t distinguish and I believe that’s on purpose because there isn’t a difference. When you see the Son, you see the Father. They are one and we too will be one with them.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto