What kind of gift is that . . .

Vol. 3, No. 43

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it . . . –Romans 12:6

Imagine that it is your birthday. The time has come to open the last gift (the last might always seem best, even if there is only one gift).

The only thing inside is a check . . . but you gasp at the amount! You have never received a check with so many zeroes to the left of the decimal point!

Oddly, the “Payable To” line is blank. Then you discover a note, simply stating you may write-in anyone’s name but your own. Nuts!

What? You mean the money is not for me?

No, it is really your money, but it is not for you.

What kind of gift is that???

The gift is the gift of joy . . . the joy you receive from giving away what is yours for the benefit of another.

Romans 12:6-7 is a reminder that on our spiritual birthday, the day we came to be a child of God, God gave us each a special gift . . . called spiritual gift(s). The list in this chapter is suggestive of some of the enormous checks God has written to individuals in the Body of Christ.

Too many of us miss the repetition of words in the verses –”if. . . let.” “If” a man has a certain gift, then “let” him use it for others. Spiritual gifts challenge us to make the jump from being consumers (with the gifts we receive) to become investors.

The unique spiritual gift that God gives to you is intended to be used as an investment that you can make in the lives of other people. That gift can make an eternal impact as you give it away. Submitted to Him, God will use that gift to change lives. By the use of your gift, some will be introduced to the Savior . . . by the use of your gift others will mature in their faith.

By the way, what are you doing with your gift . . . being a consumer or an investor?

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. –1 Peter 4:10

A thought from Paul Tripp . . . Come Let Us Adore Him

Jesus knew he had come not just to preach the Gospel of sacrifice, but also to be that sacrifice, yet He was perfectly willing.
One of the dark character qualities of sin that we do not recognize as much as we should is unwillingness. We are often unwilling to do what God says if it does not make sense to us. We are often unwilling to inconvenience ourselves for the needs of someone else . . . unwilling to wait . . . unwilling to be open and honest. We struggle to be willing to say no to our own wrong thoughts and desires.
Here is what the Christmas story is all about: a willing Savior is born to rescue unwilling people from themselves because there is no other way.

Jesus was willing . . . how is your willingness?

Easier . . . but not effective!

Vol. 3, No. 42

Be not conformed . . . but be transformed . . . –Romans 12:1-2

Even a dead fish goes with the flow . . . or

It is easier to go to a constant extreme than to stay in the center of biblical tension.

You might notice that Romans 12 does not begin with, “Now that we have covered the theological issues, let’s now look at the real life issues!” Rather, Paul begins from the point of having laid the foundation, to make sure the reader and hearer builds their understanding correctly.

As a believer, it is rather frustrating to observe humankind’s attempt to change things that are true. The human and political philosophers work hard at exchanging right for wrong, attempting to change the mind of society. Only God changes man. Man might take rugged ore and transmute it into pure metal. Man can throw into the paper mill jordan bales of filthy rags, transmuting the slurry into what seems to be pure white paper.

Man can change trees into furniture, coal into light, water into energy, rock into government buildings, and metal/plastic into automobiles and SUVs.

BUT . . . ALL the wisdom we have cannot make an evil person into a good person. Only God can do this! Only God can change people from the description of them in the first chapter of Romans, into that which is portrayed with all their terrific qualities listed in Romans 12.

How does God pull this off???

First, our part (the negative). Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Do not try to match your life to all the fashions of this world; do not be like a chameleon that takes the color from its surroundings. Too many churches today play the chameleon by changing up their churches to attract the unchurched, by becoming more like the unsaved world. It is a mistake and the unchurched are not fooled!

The popular worldview is obsessed with self-preservation, self-gratification, self-security, and self-indulgence. (Did I mention “self”?) We should not always agree with the world’s majority verdicts, nor should we be governed by the world’s public opinions.

Opinions are most often like noses; everyone has one, and they all smell.

Too many join the madness displayed in the world’s puppet show that performs on a tottering stage.
Believers should be nonconformists to this world system.

Believers should not subscribe to the world’s pleasures, nor be partners in its amoral pursuits. Believers should not agree with verdicts of a world system that does not hold to absolute truth. The world system is like a ship in the dangerous sea. The world system must not grab ahold of the believer. If so, the believer becomes so “water-logged,” their vessel is wrecked!

Secondly, God’s part (the positive). Be metamorphosed! Be changed into another form, like the ugly caterpillar is changed into a glorious butterfly. Literally, it is transfigured. If we wish to prevent conformation from without, we must submit to transformation from within . . . by the Holy Spirit, by His Holy Word, by His Only Son Jesus Christ. We are not transformed by our cute restrictions (artificial legalism) but by renewal from above.

As the Holy Spirit works within us, we become more and more like Him. –2 Corinthians 3:18

A thought from Paul Tripp . . . Come Let Us Adore Him

The angels sang because the everlasting Father had come to extend arms of redeeming grace to all who would give their hearts to Him.

This story is so miraculous in every way that it could have only come out of the mind of God in eternity before the foundations of the earth were laid down by His mighty hand. It points to the Devine imagination and screams the power of the Divine Hand. No man could write this plot and if he did, no man could expedite what he had written. This story is itself an argument for the existence of God and is a portrait of His holy character.

God acted decisively, and His actions were as He planned in the beginning . . . but they would be a stunning surprise to every mere mortal. His response to people’s need is an intervention and rescue. He does this in His grace.

And it is real!

It’s a Bad Day . . .

Vol. 3, No. 40

You, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. –Romans 11:17

It will be a bad day when the Christian church forgets its debt to the root from which it sprang. He is a foolish man [or woman] who kicks away the ladder which raised [them] to the height which he has reached. –Barclay

Grafting; the act of placing a portion of one plant into or on the stem, root, or branch of another stock. Hence, a union forms and the root expects the partners continue to grow.

We have heard the messages about being grafted; yet, there is some impossible thinking about horticulture. An apple grafted on a cashew nut tree will certainly fail; probably immediately. Here in Romans is a description of a wild olive tree (an oleaster) grafted into a properly cultivated root. Wild by nature, it seems impossible that the graft will grow . . . by God’s choice, decree, it does not fail. It is us! We are the wild at heart.

Critics say that Paul uses an improper illustration here; for he did not know anything of the olive orchard activity of Palestine. He was just a city slicker. However, the critic is wrong. Paul knows full-well that God is able to reverse any order of the “orchardist,” any order of man. Man grafts the superior into the inferior to insure “better quality.” God, however, takes the inferior and grafts them into the superior root (the superior trunk), to produce that which will never be less than what God has planned. Branches made perfect because of the superior root, Jesus Christ.

The branch has every opportunity to grow and perform as expected. The branch is fertilized with the true and dependable nutrients available through the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot get that from attempting to determine what you will bring to the root; thinking whatever you bring is quite sufficient. Then forget the debt you have to the root. We should never forget the source and channel of our blessing!

We need to move forward, advance, with our superior root with us, in order to possess a life that continuously blesses us.

God has not turned the olive tree upside down, as though we the church were the main support and starting point for His purposes of salvation. –James Dunn

Paul wrote to the Jews, reminding them of their father, Abraham, referring to their roots. Israel was expected to draw the nations to worship Almighty God, the One True God. Unfortunately, they rejected the Savior, the promises, and indeed the Holy Scriptures. So, Paul writes to them that the “wild” Gentiles, are engrafted into the richness and fertility of the garden olive tree (which was Israel).

Engrafted, not because of superior merit, but as a free-gift of God’s boundless grace and mercy.
Horrifically, many in the church have become boastful, proud, and arrogant of who they are; forgetting their superior and perfect root. In addition, forgetting or denying Christ’s expectation of ministry to others in serving in the church, community, and world.

Because of His grace and mercy, He has engrafted us into a union of grace, promise, and faith. Give thought to what manner of faith you practice.

My mind is a puzzle, each piece placed by a pastor, professor, or mentor greater than I, all working under the gracious guiding hand of God. Through them, I have come to know the Word, learned to interpret life, been humbled by a sense of my own need, and grown to love my rescuing Savior. To all those willing instruments in my past and present, and by God’s grace in my future, I say, “Thank you.” –Paul Tripp

[The snippet above is from Paul Tripp’s Introduction in Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. Now, through the days we celebrate Christmas 2018 and the days following, I will include some golden words from this fine Christian author. I would highly recommend his book; it would be a great addition to your reading personally or for your family.]

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