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Do You "Re-Gift?"

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After I married my best friend, David, in July of 1996, we celebrated our nuptials by riding some roller coasters, then settled into our first apartment. We eagerly tore into the mountain of wedding gifts we had received from our friends and family. We recognized several things from our Target registry and were surprised by a lot of other items.

As we opened a set of beautiful, silver candlesticks, a card fell out of the box.  I mean, another card fell out of the box in addition to that which had been attached to the giftwrap. At first I was confused, but as we looked at the second card, we chucked as we realized that this item had been re-gifted to us. The couple had likely received it their own very recent wedding and paid it forward to us. Maybe it's just the kind of people we are or the fact that they really are a beautiful set (which I still use), but we thought it kinda funny and in no way diminished our appreciation.  And of course, we never confronted our friends with the evidence. 

Most of us have done it and I would venture that most of us have also received a re-gifted item, whether or not we knew it at the time. I mean, how many bottles of Bath and Body Works lotion does one elementary school teacher possibly need, right? Maybe you have received something you already have or something you just don't need. Maybe you're just trying to save some money. Or maybe it's just the perfect item for someone on your list. 

I would like to encourage another kind of "re-gifting." I'm referring to the commission on our lives to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We have received a priceless gift that is beyond compare -- a gift that is two-fold (at least). Acts 2:38-39 assures us that once we repent from our sinful nature and follow Christ's example to be baptized, we receive forgiveness of our sins. We are no longer condemned to an eternity separated from God. As if that weren't enough, we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. What do we do with that gift?

We are saved by grace, not works. We are saved by what Christ did for us, not by anything we do. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Our eternity has been redeemed and we no longer have reason to fear death. (Romans 6:22)

But what about our life? How does this gift affect the way we live until that time that we enter eternal glory?

When we accept God's amazing gift, we die to our old nature and simultaneously receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit -- God's presence in us. Romans 6 explains how this in-dwelling should affect our lives. 

"Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Do not let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires. Instead, give yourselves completely to God.... So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God." (Romans 6:1-4, 12-13)

Re-Gifting Encouraged

The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul. (Charles Spurgeon)

If you recognize the value of the gift you have been given, it should change the way you live your life. If you have given yourself completely to God as instructed, you should be moved to introduce that grace to others. You see, this is a gift that you can keep for yourself and re-gift to others!

We can re-gift the good news -- that Christ died to save us from eternal death. We have knowledge of the cure for a fatal epidemic. Moved by compassion for others, we should share it every chance we get! (Matthew 28:16-20)

We can re-gift our gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has many purposes in our life and if we allow him to do his work in us, we become world changers. 

As the Holy Spirit helps us look more and more like Jesus, we become a force for good in this world. We become people who care for the hurting, tend to the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give hope to the lost.

As the Holy Spirit reminds us that there is no condemnation for us because we are sons and daughters of God, we live a life of bold love. With no fear of death, we can live lives of service and sacrifice to reach others.

As the Holy Spirit unites believers (Ephesians 4:3), the church becomes the hands and feet of Jesus. United by the Holy Spirit, we have a heart for the hurting and can affect real change in our communities and this world -- and ultimately, for eternity.

As the Holy Spirit protects us with the armor of God, we live lives no longer controlled by sin, but we live as instruments to do what brings glory to God. We behave ethically in our professions. We are loving to our neighbors. We are faithful to our spouses. We are not perfect, but we are working to live righteous lives of obedience. 

And as the Holy Spirit equips us with spiritual gifts, we are empowered to do amazing things for the Kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that everyone who receives Christ also receives the Holy Spirit and at least one spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit decides what gift(s) each should have and distributes them accordingly for the purpose of serving in God's Kingdom. 

For example, I have the spiritual gift of discernment, an ability to distinguish truth from lies. That gift has helped me to serve effectively in the jail ministry to which God called me. He has also gifted me with mercy, which breaks my heart for people who have made mistakes. Mercy also helps me use discernment sensitively. 

Do you know your spiritual gifts? You can find them with THIS ASSESSMENT

And once you have determined your gifts, use them! That is what they are for. We re-gift by using our spiritual gifts to help others and to win the lost for Christ. 

The greatest gift ever given was God's only Son, sacrificed to pay the wages of our sin. And it is God's desire that no one should be lost, so we need to share this gift with the world.

To whom will you re-gift this season? 

Leftovers Again?

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What's for dinner tonight? We're having leftover spaghetti and meatballs at the Corwin house, which should have everyone running to the table! If I'm being honest, they weren't that great the first time around, but they still get an encore. So what do leftover spaghetti and meatballs have to do with Cain and Abel?

As I prepared to write this week, I re-read the story in Genesis 4 and asked God to reveal new insights from a familiar narrative. There are many possible themes on which to latch: sibling rivalry, murder, atonement for sin, God's wrath. But God grabbed my attention with His response to the offerings presented by Cain and Abel. What did each brother offer? Why was one accepted and the other rejected? And how can I apply that to strengthening my relationship with my family? 

Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,  but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” (Genesis 2:4-7)

The riff between the brothers started when God rejected Cain's offering while accepting Abel's. Though we are not told specifically why God rejected it, there are implied possibilities. 

Because He Can?

God is sovereign and doesn't need a reason, but we also know Him to be a God of love and order, so I can't help but wonder. My first though was that it may have been because Cain offered a portion of his crops while Abel offered a blood sacrifice. We know that blood is the cost of sin, but these were offerings, or gifts, not sacrifices. 

Bad Attitude?

Might it have been the attitude with which each gift was made? Maybe the reason for the rejection is left out of the text because it was a reason known only to God and Cain. Maybe Cain brought the gift reluctantly or grudgingly -- without joy. Maybe that is the reason Cain's gift angered God.

Inferior Gift?

It might have been the quality of the gifts that distinguished them. No comment is made about the quality of Cain's gift, only referring to it as, "some of his crops." That description seems to condemn with faint praise, especially when compared to the description of Abel's gift, "the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock." 

We're given a little more to go on in Hebrews 11:4, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous."

I think it was a combination of Cain's bad attitude or joyless heart which compelled him to give a lesser-quality gift to God. And God was angered by both.

I think Cain offered God his leftovers. 

We know we are to offer our best to God -- He deserves no less. I also know that a tremendous amount of conflict is caused when I give my leftovers to my family -- when I give less than my best to my husband and my daughter.

I'm ashamed to admit that I speak to my family in a tone and with words that I wouldn't use with a stranger. All day long -- at the coffee shop, the bank, in the office, in line at the supermarket -- I put a smile on my face, greeting strangers warmly and politely. Sometimes, by the time I get home, all I have to give is leftovers.

I snap at my daughter because the towels haven't been taken out of the drier and folded. I respond curtly when my husband welcomes me home and asks about my day. I've always struggled with a short temper, but I do a better job of controlling it around people I don't even know and casual acquaintances than I do with my own family. I come home tired, hungry, and easily agitated. My tank is on empty and I can't manage to muster anything of value to give to the people I love most.

The quality of my gift to them says a lot about the heart with which it is given, doesn't it? My husband and our marriage is second only to my relationship with Christ in importance. My husband deserves my best, given joyfully. And my daughter has been entrusted to me by God, who has charged us as her parents with the task of raising her to know Him and to become a strong woman of character herself. 

When I present them offerings that are not of the quality they deserve with a joyless heart, I risk rejection, which could come in a number of ways.

If I withhold my best from my husband, our marriage could suffer, or worse, fail. I could cause my husband to resent me and possibly even damage his relationship with God. Proverbs 21:19 reads, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”

If I consistently give my leftovers to my daughter, she may rebel from the way we've tried to raise her. She may feel that her mother, who should be her strongest ally, is more of an antagonist. Proverbs 31:28 reads of children and their mother, “Her children arise up and call her blessed." 

If I give less than my best with a lack of joy, I can expect to be rejected. Cain, "became very angry," and God asked him why. 

God warned Cain (and us) in vs. 7, "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master."

As I walk in our front door this evening, I know sin will be crouching at door -- maybe more so there than anywhere else. My guard is down in my own home and the enemy hopes to take advantage of my fatigue, my hunger, my humanness to tempt me to offer an inferior gift to my family. But I must be on guard, or, "watch out!" as the Scripture warns.

I write this from the point of view of a woman, wife, and mother, because that's who I am. But we can all learn from it and how it applies to our relationships with members of our families and with others in the family of God -- our brothers and sisters in Christ!

I must give my best to God and to my family.

No more leftovers. 

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