Filled With Possibility

Jesus loves us so much that He will never keep us small. In Him, absolutely nothing is impossible: There are no limits!

Luke 1:37 is part of the angel’s announcement to Mary that her old cousin, Elizabeth, who was well past her childbearing days, was six months pregnant with a boy who would become John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin. If that wasn’t enough, Mary also had to come to terms with the declaration that she was about to conceive by the Holy Spirit and would give birth nine months later to the Son of God.

That’s some news!

God doesn’t have a problem with making possible what we think is impossible. He loves to shake us up, to shift us out of our small-minded thinking and free us from doubts about this thing or that thing. He loves to blast through our assumption that, somehow, if it can’t be done in earthly terms, it can’t be done at all.

Remember, He loves to reshape us. He speaks truth where we’ve believed lies.

You think He can’t change you? He can.

You think you have gone too far down to be rescued? You haven’t.

You think you’re too old now? You’re not.

You think you have to wait until you’re older? You don’t.

Nothing is impossible with Him. It’s His love that changes everything.

Here’s some news for you: without Him, you’ll never be good enough. I’ll never be good enough. We are nothing without our God. He takes our little lives, laid down at His feet in the dirt, and He wrecks us with His love. When we see Him in all His beauty and let Him reshape us and fill us with His Holy Spirit, we no longer look at our failures and faults, because our eyes are drawn to see only Him.

Unless He fills me, everything is impossible.

When He fills me, nothing is impossible!

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Go and Make Disciples…

Shortly before ascending into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a final charge: to make disciples of all nations. As recorded in the book of Acts, Jesus clarifies that this command has both local and global implications: while the church can and must cross international borders, we also must live out the Great Commission in our own neighborhoods. The arrival of refugees into our communities presents a remarkable opportunity to live out the Great Commission.

That opportunity is not an accident: Scripture makes clear that God is sovereign over the moment of people towards an end: so that people whom He created and loves would find their way into relationship with Him. God has a sovereign purpose in the migration of people, and He invites His church to join Him in that work.

God is at work in multiple directions through the migration of refugees and other immigrants. On one hand, many of those who migrate are already strong believers, and they became powerful agents of mission, sharing the good news with those in their own ethnic communities and beyond.

Others, though, are not yet Christians. In fact, by one analysis, there are more unreached people groups present within the boundaries of the United States than in any other country besides India and China—and many of those individuals arrive as refugees. As we love, serve, and advocate with these refugees, we will often be asked what motivates us, and we can point people to the hope within us that comes from a transformative relationship with Jesus.

This opportunity underscores why it is so important to examine the realities of refugees and migration through a biblical lens. A recent survey from LifeWay Research suggests that most American evangelical Christians are missing this opportunity: only a minority said that the arrival of refugees or other immigrants presents “an opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers few: there are many who do not yet know Jesus right within our communities, but too few of their neighbors ready to live out Jesus’ Great Commission locally.

Reflection Questions:

1. When you think about the arrival of refugees, have you seen an opportunity? Why or why not?

2. How could you extend welcome and kindness to refugees in such a way that might open opportunities to share your faith?

Jesus on the Margins

The Bible has much to say about how to treat refugees, but it is also, in some sense, a story of refugees. Many heroes of the faith were themselves forced to flee persecution at one point or another, including Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. But there is no more important refugee than Jesus Himself.

Our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants usually include the gift-bearing magi, but often stop the story there, just before Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were forced as refugees to flee the tyrannical government of King Herod. The biblical text provides few details about how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were treated once they arrived in Egypt. We can only speculate: Were they able to find shelter? Were they welcomed, or harassed? Did local carpenters gripe that Joseph was driving down their wages? Was Jesus suspected of carrying disease?

Having begun His earthly life on the margins, throughout His ministry Jesus demonstrates concern for the marginalized, such as the Samaritans. Samaritans were not “good” in the minds of the average Jewish listener: they were considered heretical foreigners. At one point, some of Jesus’ disciples actually suggested calling down fire on a Samaritan village, an idea Jesus promptly rejected.

Jesus’ approach to these marginalized foreigners was countercultural: he “had to go through Samaria,” even though there were other, less direct routes that some Jews may have preferred in order to avoid contact with Samaritans. When He does, He interacts compassionately with a Samaritan woman, revealing Himself to her as the Messiah and equipping her to be among the first evangelists. Elsewhere, when a Samaritan is the only one of ten lepers who returns after being healed, Jesus praises a Samaritan as a model of gratitude.

Most notably, Jesus presented a Samaritan as the model of neighborly love. In one of His most well-known parables, this “Good Samaritan” sees a vulnerable traveler beaten on the side of the road and has compassion on him. Jesus command us to “go and do likewise.” That there may be risk or cost involved—as there certainly was for this Samaritan—is not relevant to the mandate to love.

Reflection Questions:

1. How do you think Jesus’ experience as a refugee might have informed his own ministry to those on the margins?

2. Who are the vulnerable neighbors whom Jesus might be calling you to love?

My Wish

If you’re a human, you have a father. Some of you just thought, “Duh!” Others thought fondly of Dad, and some of you went, “Ugh.” We all have fathers, but we don’t all have good dads.

When the Chicago Tribune asked Gary LeVox about fathering two daughters he said, “It’s just awesome to live for somebody else. It made me a man—a better person. It’s my full responsibility to provide for them.” So when Rascal Flatts sings My Wish, and when people play it around the world at graduations and daddy-daughter dances, it’s not just words; it’s a soundtrack for a real life.

My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to
I hope you know somebody loves you and wants the same things too
Yeah, this, is my wish.

Good fathers everywhere have a similar wish for their kids. Sadly, too many kids didn’t feel this from them. But here’s the thing: all of us actually do have a good Dad. We were adopted as sons and daughters when we chose to follow Christ. We have a heavenly Father who makes a way out when we’re carrying more than we can handle, who guides our steps, and who won’t give us a stone when we ask for bread. His wish for you is abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine. He hopes you know somebody loves you.

Ask Yourself: How has my view of my dad affected my view of God? Do I trust God as a loving Father who always comes through?

Life Is a Highway

If there were a dusty intersection of ordinary life, country music, and faith, Gary LeVox would be sitting there on the back of a pickup singing about it. Gary is an award-winning songwriter and lead singer of Rascal Flatts, the best-selling country vocal group of the past decade. But he’d rather just be the guy who sings the soundtrack to your life’s most memorable scenes.

Thanks to Pixar and computer-animated cars, you’ve almost definitely hummed his hit song, Life Is a Highway.

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long

Canadian rock star and humanitarian, Tom Cochrane, first penned Life Is a Highway after a trip to Africa which he called mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. The experience resulted in an early-morning songwriting session that churned out one of the most upbeat and encouraging songs of the last 25 years.

God does that. He turns our mourning into dancing. That line came from another singer-songwriter, King David, whose life was also full of mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting scenes. Yet, he wrote the Psalms, arguably the Bible’s soundtrack for life. In Psalm 16, David wrote in the midst of crisis. Yet, in verse 11, you can almost hear him cheer up and belt out something like, “Life is a highway …”

Ask God: If life is a highway, where am I headed?

Water Baptism: A Public Declaration of a Changed Life

Water baptism is an important way to publicly declare your salvation. Water baptism celebrates the ending of an old way of life and the beginning of a new one. Jesus taught the importance of water baptism to His disciples just prior to His ascension to heaven after the resurrection. He said,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19

Throughout the New Testament, there are countless stories of believers being baptized. Water baptism holds significant symbolism to both the one being baptized, and those observing. Water baptism publicly illustrates: the ending of your former way of life by being immersed down into the water; the beginning of your new life in Christ by coming out of the water cleansed, purified and a new creation in God.

Luke 3:3 represents water baptism as a “baptism of repentance,” and emphasizes the importance of publicly declaring we’ve turned away from our old life and sin. While water baptism does not save us nor cover our sin, it does represent a critical part of our Christian life – a declaration that you’re a new creation, a changed life! If ever there was someone who did not need to make this declaration, it was Jesus, who lived a sinless life here on earth. But Luke 3:21 says,

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.” Luke 3:21

Jesus was baptized so that we would follow His example. The importance of water baptism cannot be overstated. If you have not yet been water baptized, you should consider making water baptism a priority. The Bible instructs us to make a public declaration of our salvation, and most Bible-believing churches provide many opportunities to get water baptized. Following Jesus’ example is always a winning proposition. God will richly bless and reward you for your faithfulness and obedience to Him!

Facing a Crisis of History

In Luke 12:49–57, Jesus told His disciples that He had not come to bring peace, but division. He told them that He was bringing a baptism of fire to the earth, warning the crowd to flee the wrath to come.

This was the great moment of crisis in history. It was a time of urgency that swept the earth with the appearance of Jesus. Jesus’ coming to this planet in the fullness of time was a time of division, judgment, and separation.

It was a time of personal choosing, when eternal destinies were at stake. Everyone who encountered Jesus had to make a choice, to stand with Him or against Him. Thus, since the time of Jesus’ first appearance, the world has been gripped in a kind of crisis that will continue until the last great crisis, the last judgment.

How do men encounter Jesus today, thus facing their own crisis of history? Jesus is in heaven, but men and women encounter Him through His people, the church. The church is His body and His herald. The fiery baptism Jesus came to bring fell in one sense at Pentecost to ignite the tongues of His people so that they might bring the crisis of decision to all men.

Knowing these things should make us urgent in our proclamation of His name and make us insistent that the generation of our day be exposed to the Lord of lords.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

What are you doing to proclaim His name to this generation? Pray about the role God would have you fill.