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.

Joy to the World

By Linda Tancs

Joy is the essence of a Christ-centered life. Indeed, Jesus reminded his followers that He came for us to have and enjoy life (John 10:10). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of the Christian life (Galatians 5:22). It’s good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). So how do you acquire it? One way is to avoid fear, worry and control. What do you fear? Abandonment? Failure? Death? Fear is sometimes instinctual but often learned behavior. Paul reminds us that God did not give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). Worry is closely associated with fear. But why worry when you can pray (Philippians 4:6-7)? As Matthew pointed out in his gospel, worrying won’t add one cubit to your life (Matthew 6:27). Another joy-robber is a need for control. Are you a control freak? Don’t be a slave to your own agenda. It’s not about you (1 Corinthians 6:19). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to advance God’s agenda, the common good, which is to look to the interests of others above your own (Philippians 2:4). Imagine how joyful you’d feel contributing to the needs of others, especially the poor and needy.

Who Are You Wearing?

By Linda Tancs

When a celebrity-driven event takes place, everyone wants to know what the glitterati are wearing. That’s nothing new. It’s been taking place for centuries, even among the lower classes. In Tudor England, you could “read” a lot about a person based on their livery, a special uniform worn by a servant. The term comes from liberatio robarum (the giving of robes), as clothes (robes) were given from a master to a servant to wear. Liveries bestowed a certain group identity among the wearers and distinguished high servants from low servants.

In a spiritual sense, our special uniform is the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). By agreeing to wear it, we define our relationship with Him. Our livery reminds us Who we serve and sets us apart from imposters, wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-20). Are you wearing the right robes?

Slay the Dragon

By Linda Tancs

St. George is legendary, the only saint associated with the slaying of the mythical dragon. In modern times, some turn to video games to achieve the same result. But we can all be dragon slayers. The ultimate dragon is, of course, Satan (see, e.g., Revelation 12:9), who antagonizes us with dragons of our own that undermine our plans and goals. Maybe your dragons are basic things, like making the bed, getting to work on time, cleaning the house and so on. Or maybe you’ve got bigger dragons to slay, like addiction, broken relationships or failing health. Like George, you need to don your armor, particularly the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). The sword is a powerful weapon. Wield it so that when the dragon seeks to slay you, you’ll neutralize him and successfully pursue your goals with diligence and determination (Hebrews 11:6).

Under New Management

By Linda Tancs

What goes through your mind when a business goes under new management? If it’s an establishment you favor, you probably hope that nothing happens to change your opinion. If it’s a troubled business, maybe you hope for a better outcome. Sometimes, we need to put our own mind and behaviors “under new management.” Ephesians 4:22-24 explains that to follow Christ means to put off your old nature and acquire a new nature. But what does that mean? Ephesians gives answers: don’t go to bed angry, be truthful, deliver an honest day’s work, watch your mouth (Ephesians 4:25-32). That’s pretty specific. Essentially, it’s all about focusing on what is right, true, noble, pure, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Can you manage that?

Sticks and Stones

By Linda Tancs

An old childhood rhyme begins, “Sticks and stones may break my bones.” In the Bible, stones (and clubs) are often depicted as obstacles, even instruments of death. For instance, we’re reminded of stoning as a punishment for sin in the story about the adulteress brought before Jesus for sentencing (John 8:2-5). Also, Jesus reacts disappointedly to his arrest with the use of swords and clubs, as if He were a robber (Mark 14:48; Matthew 26:55; Luke 22:52). And then there’s the imposing stone placed before the entrance to the tomb following Jesus’ crucifixion (Mark 16:3).

What are your “stones” in life? Age? Infirmity? Anger? Resentment? Fear? Don’t let them break you. There’s no stone so big that He can’t roll it back. Focus on building a better foundation based on the One who is the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22; Acts 4:11).