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

Our Relentless Immanuel GOD!

                                                Our Relentless Immanuel GOD!


‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut. 31:6

When I watch war movies, I always pay very close attention when a military commander gives his speech to his army just before they would fight a war. He would confidently march in front of them, behind them, and around them all, shouting his personal and powerful convictions of assurance, victory, and the glory that awaits them. He would motivate them to valiantly and sacrificially fight for their country, their families, and their freedom.

In the verse above as captured in Deut. 31:6, Moses, God’s Prophet and Commander of God’s Army, the Israelites, delivers his speech to God’s people, His army,  just before they cross over Jordan with Joshua as their new Commander. From crossing Jordan until they reach Canaan, God’s Promised Land, they would fight numerous wars against several nations. To possess those nations, God’s People must dispossess their people.

Here, in this one verse, Moses, confidently, commanded them to “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them(their enemies);” What a courageous command by someone who stated he is too old to fight wars any longer.

What was the reason to be strong and be of good courage despite the overwhelmingly stronger, more numerous enemies of God’s Army? Moses must have observed his people’s fears and panic. I would fear and panic too. Would you not? And yet, Moses commanded them not to fear nor panic! Why?

Last half of the same verse gives them and us the only reason.

“Do not fear nor be afraid of them; FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD, HE IS THE ONE WHO GOES WITH YOU. HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU. This is our only assurance of victory over our enemies!

Apostle Paul stated in Rom. 8:31, “What shall we say to these things, if God is for us, who can be against us?” and v.37 assures us, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”

Friends, who or what are your current enemies? Do they overwhelm you? Do you feel fearful and afraid of them? We have a choice to make. Fear of them or Faith in God. I choose Faith in God. I call it Faith over fear.

What is your choice?

Preferred Before Me

Preferred Before Me

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”

John 1:15

I’ve always like the comparison between like and the stage. The idea that angels and heavenly being watch us from above and witness what a sinful world is like and the horrors of its consequences. It’s as if the earth is a stage and we are all the actors living away on it.

Continuing with that analogy, how do you see yourself on that stage? Are you the star of the show? Does everything on that stage revolve around you? Are you center stage or are you simply a character in the background? Do you see someone else as the star in your show?

John knew who he was. He knew he was chosen by God to be Elijah- the one who would herald the way of the coming Messiah. He knew he had an important role. He knew that people needed to see and hear him. He had a message for the whole world.

But John also knew that he wasn’t the star. As important as his role was, the Messiah would be preferred to him. He was, to borrow from another author, a smaller light which to highlight the larger light. Even though the Messiah would come after him and his mission, the Messiah was actually before him.

Where is Jesus on the stage for you? Is he a guest star that appears once a week to applause and fanfare only to exit by sunset? Is he someone who is always on the stage but relegated to the back and only speaks when needed? Or is he center stage as he was for John? Does he take the position at the spotlight so that when people see you, they are actually seeing him?

Where do you think Jesus belongs and are you placing him there in your life? This is an important question that you shouldn’t avoid. Jesus himself says:

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:33


God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Failures of the Past

Failures of the Past

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

I remember when I was young of being anxious for a special event or time. It would be hard to sleep and that thing was constantly on my mind. I can only imagine the prophets and those chosen by God to hear of the coming Messiah. They must have been so excited about finally getting a deliverer to save them from their anguish.

When Jesus finally arrived, you would expect a huge and glorious welcome. In the same way the angels sang to the shepherds is how they should have embraced Jesus. He was everything that is good and holy. His words carried untold wisdom and his heart overflowed with love. Someone like that should have been quickly embraced. He carried with him the glory of the Father. What more could people ask for?

And yet we know the story. There was a disconnect as to who the Messiah would be. The people didn’t want love or wisdom. No. The people wanted power and might. They wanted a warrior and fighter. Soft kind words should have been angry war cries. Had Jesus come like that, he would have been accepted and worshiped.

It begs the question, how could a people whose whole existence was being sons of God miss the mark so widely? How could people so sure of God and His will be so wrong? Can we, people today who also claim to be children of God and who know God more than anyone else also fall into that trap?

Do we carry the same arrogant thoughts? Are we as sure as the Jews of Jesus’ day? Are we worshiping a form of God who isn’t actually found in the Bible?

How can we know and be sure that we are seeking the right character and image of God?

It is only through honest study of the Bible, guided by the Holy Spirit. We cannot rely on traditional thoughts. That is what the Jews did. We cannot take passages for granted or avoid ideas of passages that we don’t like or understand. If it’s in the Bible, we should study and wrestle with these passages and ideas. We must be completely open and willing to the Holy Spirit. Only then can we be safe from falling into the same mistakes of the past.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto

Born Again

Born Again

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:12-13

Growing up I’d often here people ask- What would you do if you could do it all over again? The idea of a do-over or of going back to your childhood and having a second life is something that people have fantasized about since the beginning. How many nights did Eve dream of simply walking away from the serpent? How many times did Noah think about what he could have done differently to reach all of those people who rejected the warning of God and died in the flood? How often did Lot look down the valley at the statue of salt and just wish he had been closer to his wife to keep her eyes forward? David must have thought about being a better father to Absalom. Peter must have had nightmares of rejecting Christ at the trial. We know that Paul suffered with what he did to Christians before his conversion.

How about you? What are your regrets? What would you go back and change if given the chance? Perhaps it was not spending more time with a loved you while they were still alive. Perhaps it was the choices you made in school and your career. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity or a grave mistake.

Although we cannot go back and change our past (which is probably a blessing because you are who you are because of those choices and actions) the Bible does say that you can have a second chance at life with Him.

As Christians we are born again. All our past mistakes cannot be corrected but they can be forgiven. You do not have to be defined by your

past life or errors. When you are born again in Christ, God seen a brand new person with no baggage. Through the Holy Spirit, who works through people here on earth many times, we too can see ourselves the same way.

God is ‘The God of Second Chances’. God wants you, through Him, to choose a new beginning and follow a better path. With Him, all things are possible. Many new doors can be opened on this new path. You are no longer imprisoned to a dark and bleak future.

If you haven’t yet, let God make you anew. Have a fresh start with Him in your heart.

God bless,
Pr. Steven Couto

Afraid of the Light

Afraid of the Light

That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

John 1:9-11

The world, and in particular the Jews, did not recognize the creator of the world. They did not recognize their God who journeyed with them in the desert and delivered them from Egyptian slavery. They did not recognize the person that they prayed to and studied in the synagogues. What happened?

The most obvious thing is that they didn’t expect a human being to be their God. They didn’t understand the prophecies about the coming messiah. They had painted a different picture and explanation of those ideas. They thought a human, only human, man would be their messiah and not God himself. So when Jesus tried to explain that difference, they couldn’t understand. That light was too blinding.

The second problem is in their interpretation of what the messiah would be like. They expected a powerful warrior who could gather the people and fight the Romans. Jesus was the exact opposite. He was meek and mild. He fled from crowds and avoided physical fights. Again the light was too different for them to accept.

The third problem, and the key problem, is that they were too disconnected and far from God to hear the truth and understand and trust it. Only those few who truly followed Jesus were able to discern God’s voice and learn the things that God was trying to explain. It took time but those few would allow the Spirit to impress their hearts that yes, Jesus was the Son of God. It took time, right up to the Pentecost, but they were able to hear and accept that Jesus was not going to fight the Romans with swords but to win them into salvation. He was going to fight sin and the Devil, not human prisoners of sin.

Today, Jesus continues to shine light onto the world. She shines light on us. Is there light which is also to bright or different for us to see? Are we like those of the past who can be surrounded by light and yet fear it? Are you in a relationship with God to allow him to slowly and carefully show you the truth and light? Are you willing to change and be molded inside and out by him?

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto