An Early Start

By Linda Tancs

You may remember the adage “children should be seen and not heard.” It seems a bit old-fashioned by today’s standards, considering the many contributions to society thanks to whiz kids in fields like science, technology, engineering and math. It was pretty old-fashioned by biblical standards, too, considering God’s anointing of youths like David, Jeremiah and Timothy to advance the Kingdom. David was a young lad of about 15 years when the Lord instructed Samuel to anoint him as a king (1 Samuel 16:12). Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah was just a boy when called to minister to the Israelites, denouncing idolatry, greed and false prophets (Jeremiah 1:1-8). And Timothy was a young man (perhaps a teenager) when he first met Paul and would become one of Paul’s most trusted missionaries, serving the church in Ephesus (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5). The bottom line? You’re never too young to make an impact.

You Can Do It

By Linda Tancs

The gospels relate the story of Jesus’s multiplication of five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude of thousands (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-13). It’s a popular story, evidence of Jesus’s capacity to perform miracles. But there’s a deeper message, one involving trust and partnership. When the crowds following Jesus needed to be fed, the disciples wanted Jesus to send them away to find provisions for themselves. But Jesus wanted his disciples to find provisions, knowing full well what He would do with them. Throughout the Bible, the message is this: we’re partners. You do your part and He’ll do His part. If the disciples hadn’t taken on the burden of identifying the existing resources to feed the hungry, then they would’ve missed the blessing of the Lord’s provision.

Do you frequently ask God for a miracle to get you out of a certain situation? What part of the problem can you own? What steps can you take to address it? You can do it. Then bring the rest to Him. He’ll do His part.

Sweet Surrender

By Linda Tancs

Waving the white flag. It’s an action many a child undertakes when engaging in a fake war on the playground or in the backyard. It’s a sign of surrender, giving up all rights to the opposing force. Surrendering to God is like that. God has a plan for our lives, and surrendering to Him means we set aside our own plans in favor of His—the better plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

Romans 6:13 says that God demands that you surrender all of yourself; we don’t get to reserve a portion of our life for our own ends, a little corner dedicated to our career interests, ambitions, life goals or luxury goods. Indeed, Jesus said that His followers must deny themselves (Mark 8:34). That’s a complete call to surrender.

Surrendering to the Lord is sweet. It is, like the songwriter John Denver wrote, a life without care. Like a fish in the water. Like a bird in the air. Their needs don’t escape the Lord’s notice. And yours don’t, either (Matthew 6:25-34).

Rinse and Repeat

By Linda Tancs

You can find biblical inspiration anywhere, even on a shampoo bottle. The instructions to “rinse and repeat” offer a reminder to put off the old nature so you can put on the new nature (Ephesians 4:22-24). Of course, Paul is talking about abandoning a sinful nature and adopting a new nature, one that incorporates a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). A pure heart clothes itself with a spirit of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12-14).

You’ll likely need to renew your spirit over and over because the devil is always on the prowl, seeking to throw you off course (1 Peter 5:8). That’s when resentment, impatience, unkindness, arrogance and anger—the old nature—set in. So, like the instructions on a shampoo bottle, be sure to rinse off the old nature and repeat as necessary.

Hey, Listen

By Linda Tancs

Are you a good listener? Hearing is one thing; listening is another. To listen is to hear with intention, to resolve to act on what is being said. Jesus constantly implored his audience to hear—and understand (see, e.g., Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28; Mark 7:14). Proverbs 2:2 reminds us to make our ears attentive to wisdom. The next time you’re tempted to “tune someone out,” remember that when you listen you practice the art of understanding the needs of another. Galatians 6:10 says to be mindful to be a blessing. You’ll always know what someone wants or needs if you’ll just listen.

Playing Favorites

By Linda Tancs

Playing favorites is an unavoidable aspect of life. Sometimes parents play favorites; maybe you’re “the favorite child.” Or maybe you’ve been “teacher’s pet” or the favored one in the office. In our imperfect world, it’s often too easy to curry favor with someone and receive extra attention, extra credit or extra money. Acceptance might be based on performance.

God, on the other hand, does not play favorites. As the Bible reminds us, His rain falls on the just and the unjust, the sun on the evil as well as the good (Matthew 5:45). Try as you may, your performance won’t affect your standing. Consider Jesus’s encounters with the “much married” woman at the well (John 4) and Zacchaeus, the despised tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). He met them where they were at, sin and all. And he’ll meet you there, too. Does that mean you shouldn’t try to be the best person you can be? Of course not. You’ll do your best because you want to please God in recognition of His pure love for you.

Life is Like a Piano

By Linda Tancs

It’s funny how commonplace objects yield insights on life. Like a piano. It has white keys (known as natural notes) and black keys, representing sharps and flats. You see where I’m going with this, right? Sometimes life goes on without incident (or so it seems). Everything feels natural, good, on purpose. Other times, we meet some sharps (obstacles) and flats (staleness, or lack of progress).

Life is always in a state of flux, alternating between white and black keys. And why not? If the piano keys were all one length and color, think how much harder it would be to distinguish one note from another. And life is full of notes. The good times often teach us to appreciate our blessings (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and the challenging times often teach us to be patient (James 1:12). Whether you’re in a natural, sharp or flat phase, be sober-minded and watchful (1 Peter 5:8) lest you strike a false note.

It Came to Pass

By Linda Tancs

The renowned artist Auguste Renoir was an Impressionist painter, best known for his paintings of bustling Parisian modernity and leisure in the last three decades of the 19th century. He suffered terribly from arthritis in the last decade of his life but continued to paint. When asked why he continued working in such agony, he replied, “The beauty remains. The pain passes.”

That quote reminds me of the Bible phrase, “it came to pass.” It occurs with great regularity, especially in the Old Testament. You might be tempted to just brush it off as a transitional phrase, a way to mark the passage of time in a story with a flourish. But this simple phrase has the potential to mean so much more. Imagine applying it to your difficulties—a job loss, financial reversal, broken relationship, health challenge, or whatever it may be. The problem, or event, didn’t come to stay; it came to pass. Solomon’s Book of Ecclesiastes teaches this principle of coming and going (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). In every storm of life, the pain will pass but the beauty (the ultimate good) will remain. In other words, as Paul reminded the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 KJV).

The Greatest Gift

By Linda Tancs

Maybe you have been in a situation when, after receiving an extravagant gift, you found yourself saying, “Oh, I can’t possibly accept this.” Our walk with Jesus is a lot like that. Sometimes it’s just too awesome to comprehend that He would surrender His own life to pay for our sins and assure us of everlasting life (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). In fact, a study several years ago found that those who left the faith did so not because God’s Word was too hard to believe but because it was too good to believe. His extraordinary gifts of love and salvation were just too much.

We live in a society of reciprocity. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours. An eye for an eye. And so on. Isn’t it comforting to know that in this life there’s a gift we can simply accept—with gratitude—without the pressure, or need, to repay?

Get Out of the Boat

By Linda Tancs

You’ve no doubt heard the expression “to walk on water,” the accomplishment of an extraordinary feat—or how you may appear to others. Like so many other idioms, its origin is in the Bible (Matthew 14:26-32). When Peter and the other disciples were in his boat on the Sea of Galilee, buffeted by waves, Jesus came toward them by walking on the water. Sensing an apparition, they were terrified, but Peter was at least willing to meet Jesus’ command to leave the boat. It was a bold move motivated by faith. Even though Peter lost his nerve amidst the waves, the rest of the cohort missed out entirely on an incredible experience by remaining within the confines of that boat.

What are you missing out on? Don’t confuse the abandonment of a healthy, bona fide opportunity with a fixation on wanting the same experience that someone else is having simply for the sake of having it (popularly referred to as FOMO, or “fear of missing out”). Are you willing to take a leap? Then get out of the boat.