Shake It Off

By Linda Tancs

Singer Taylor Swift wrote a song called Shake It Off. The hit song reminds us that sometimes you just have to “shake it off.” Shake off the rude behavior, the office politics, the insults, the deceit and so on. The apostle Paul knew how to shake it off. So did Jesus. In one instance in Paul’s case, he literally shook it off when a snake attached itself to his hand and he simply shook it off, suffering no ill effects (Acts 28:5). And Jesus reminded his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on if a town was unwelcoming (Matthew 10:14).

What do you need to shake off? Are you holding on to a grudge, resentment or anger? It hurts you more than the person who offended you. As someone once said, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Shake it off.

The Blame Game

By Linda Tancs

In psychology, projection is a theory in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. In the vernacular, we call it “the blame game.” It’s as old as time. Remember the story of Adam and Eve? Adam confessed to God that he ate the forbidden fruit, only to add that Eve made him do it. Then Eve blamed the whole thing on the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). And so derives the expression, “the devil made me do it.”

Do you tend to blame others? It’s a widespread problem that starts pretty early; just watch what happens in a schoolyard or in the classroom. The Bible reminds us to always take responsibility for our own actions (see, e.g., Matthew 7:3-5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 2:1). Submit yourself to God (James 4:7) and above all, don’t blame Him (James 1:13-15).

 

 

Young at Heart

By Linda Tancs

Do you consider yourself “over the hill?” Maybe you can relate to King Solomon’s description of aging in Ecclesiastes 12:3—the body grows feeble, your teeth decay and your eyesight fails. Don’t be discouraged. The Psalmist promises fruit, freshness and flourishing in old age (Psalm 92:14). Indeed, some of the greatest heroes in the Bible were advanced in years. Moses got the call to deliver Israel when he was 80 years old. Isaac died full of years at 180 (Genesis 35:28), as did Jacob at 147 (Genesis 47:28). King David reigned until the age of 70, and Anna the prophetess was anywhere from 84 to 103 years old when she served in the temple at the time of Jesus’s birth (Luke 2:36-38).

Think of age as just a number. It worked for our heroes in faith. As the song Young at Heart says, it’s worth every treasure on earth to be young at heart. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who is your strength (Philippians 4:13).

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.

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).