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A Pretty Gift in a Jar?

Read: Acts 9:36-43; Acts 18:22-28; 1 Peter 4:10-11

This year, my husband and I decided to give a few homemade gifts to family and friends. We decided to give "gifts in a jar", reasoning that I would do the measuring and he would funnel ingredients into the containers. All went well with only the occasional necessity of mopping the floor, a little task that is part of giving this kind of gift. We put together a layered jar and made other gifts that merely required pouring the finished products into the clean containers. It was time for the last gift. I checked the instructions so we would know the order in which the ingredients should be layered. I wanted the specialty coffee mixture to be pretty in the jars. It was then that my husband made a good point. Each jar would contain enough mix for at least five servings of what I hoped would be a delightful beverage; so, why layer the mix? Why not mix it in a bowl and simply put the blend into the jar? Then the recipients would simply need to scoop out the proscribed amount of the mixture and stir it into the hot water. Perhaps, done this way, the jars are not quite as attractive, but we have made enjoying the coffee more convenient for those who will receive it. After all, whether pretty or not, the idea behind any gift is that it be used. Isn't that why we love to give gifts?

That's something we have in common with God, the original Gift Giver, James 1:17; 1 Peter 4:10; Romans 4:6-8. We are the "jars" into which He has placed a variety of gifts, entrusting us with them so we can encourage others who belong to Jesus, as well as reach out to those who have not yet understood and received His love. What a God of variety we have. What an assortment of gifts He has given us.

I love today's reading in Acts 9:36-43. It is not because I have any ability with a needle and thread. Truly, I find the thought of even sewing on a button wearisome. Yet, this hitherto unknown woman receives the miraculous gift of being raised from the dead. How amazing it is that God used a mere man to pour out such a gift. Yet, I am also awed by what precedes this miracle. I love the way the scriptures picture the scene of the widows with their treasured garments, displaying Tabitha's handiwork. Sometimes, when we think about spiritual gifts, our minds travel to faraway places and those who faithfully go to tell others about the Savior. Or perhaps, we think of the pastor/teacher who so diligently prepares a message each week for the nourishment of his people. Both of these are very precious callings. Yet, Tabitha and so many others whom God has gifted with the ability to serve and help others in every-day practical ways are no less gifted by the Master. The key, of course, is to "not leave the gift in the jar".

In today's reading from Acts 18:22-28, we meet others who faithfully used their gifts, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquila and other believers. What a gifted speaker Apollos must have been. He was both bold and eloquent. Yet, at first, his understanding of the Gospel was incomplete. Enter Priscilla and Aquila, tent makers who had served with Paul. When this husband and wife understood that Apollos needed additional teaching, they quietly took him aside to instruct him. After that, when Apollos wanted to go out on his own, he was encouraged by believers and sent out with a recommendation to clear the way for him. Then he was equipped to strengthen and encourage others who believed as he boldly spoke the truths of God.

How beautifully God has equipped his children. Whether His jars are filled with very publicly used gifts or those not often seen by others, is not the issue. It is the faithful use of the Savior's gifts that honors Him and displays His love. Lord, help us to be faithful in using the gifts You have given us. Help us to sense Your pleasure as we trust You to do Your work through us, John 7:37-39.

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