All the blogs submitted by our pastor and church members.
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.”
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.
Pr. Steven Couto
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).
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.
Pr. Steven Couto
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.”
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?
Pr. Steven Couto
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 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 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.
Pr. Steven Couto
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!
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.
Pr. Steven Couto
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.
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.
Pr. Steven Couto
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.
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.
Pr. Steven Couto
(Courtesy of Voice of Prophecy)