Our Better Angels

By Linda Tancs

Human nature pivots between good and evil. Abraham Lincoln recognized that in his first inaugural address, when he appealed to the better, more virtuous instincts of the nation in a time of great strife with his turn of phrase, “the better angels of our nature.” An old Cherokee story relates this conflict between good and evil, wherein a grandfather tells his grandson that two wolves battle within him—one exhibiting things like evil, anger, resentment and ego and the other showing compassion, serenity, hope and faith. When the grandson asks which wolf wins, the grandfather replies, “The one I feed.”

Feed your better angels, and live in the fullness of God (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The Last One Standing

By Linda Tancs

Do you know what it’s like to be “the last one standing?” Sometimes, it might connote something victorious, like winning on the Survivor reality show. Or, if you’re like me, it means being picked last in gym class, which was tantamount to not being chosen at all.

Rejection hurts. Joseph (Barsabbas) knew the feeling. He was a contender for the role of replacement apostle after Judas’s betrayal, but Matthias got selected instead (Acts 1:23-26). And, of course, no one knew rejection better than Jesus. But the fact remains that you’ll never be chosen last by God (Psalm 94:14). People may offer rejection, but God always offers acceptance. His opinion matters more; let His offer of acceptance create an atmosphere for you to thrive in the way that He’s called you.

How to Enjoy Life

By Linda Tancs

A few years ago, a survey revealed that “enjoying life to the fullest” was the most popular New Year’s resolution. It’s an admirable goal any time of the year, yet defining what it means to “enjoy life” is tricky. Some tie it to financial success, which is always subject to change, even fleeting. Others tie it to equally variable factors like the right job, the right house or the right spouse. So why not try a biblical formula for enjoying life. The apostle Peter gives us three guiding principles: watch your mouth, treat others fairly and pursue peace (1 Peter 3:10-11). Sounds like good advice to me.

The Change Agent

By Linda Tancs

You’re probably familiar with Newton’s first law of motion: once an object is in motion it will keep moving unless it is acted on by another force.

Our lives are a lot like that. Sometimes we’ll keep moving in a singular direction (for better or worse) until something happens to change it. God is a change agent. Look what He did for the apostle Paul. By his own admission, Paul was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man (1 Timothy 1:13-16) until the grace of God found him on that road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18).

God is the game changer. What can you ask Him to change in you?

The Highest Good

By Linda Tancs

The Latin phrase summum bonum means “the highest good.” So what is the highest good? Literally, it is God; it doesn’t get any higher than that (Luke 18:19). You’ve heard it said hundreds of times, “God is good.” Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that God represents every good thing: love (1 John 4:8), light (1 John 1:5), forgiveness (1 John 1:9), compassion (Exodus 33:19), generosity (Psalm 84:11) and so on.

It is impossible to be as good as God (Isaiah 55:8-9), but we should aim to be as good as possible. In the philosophical context, our highest good is a virtuous life. Paul defined those virtues as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s your highest good and your highest calling. Jesus left you an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21), so follow Him.

Gifts and Earnings

By Linda Tancs

John Houseman was a British-American actor who became known for his commercials for the brokerage firm Smith Barney. He famously stated that they made money the old-fashioned way—they earned it. Of course, in the physical world, we work to earn a living, sometimes striving after the best that money can buy.

Thankfully, though, the most important things in life are not earned; you don’t have to punch a time clock to get them. They’re gifts from God. For instance, you receive salvation through Christ, not by your own works (Ephesians 2:8-9). You also receive peace. Jesus devised, gave and bequeathed His peace (John 14:27) to His followers, like a bequest under a will. It’s a gift, yours for the taking.

Receive your gifts with grace. They’re good and perfect (James 1:17), and there’s nothing old-fashioned about that.

Sorry

By Linda Tancs

An Elton John song reminds us that sorry seems to be the hardest word. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to hear someone exclaim that “sorry isn’t good enough.” Even for the slightest offenses (perceived to be so in the mind of the offended), it seems like folks are increasingly unable to accept an apology. “Sorry” may be harder to hear than it is to say.

That’s problematic. After all, the Bible tells us to forgive, quickly and repeatedly. Jesus told Peter to forgive “seventy times seven times,” an expression meant to convey boundlessness (Matthew 18:21-22). Forgiving quickly is sensible because it prevents an offense from taking root (Proverbs 19:11). If you don’t want unforgiveness hurled at you, then don’t dole it out to someone else (Matthew 7:12). Your relationship with God depends on it (Mark 11:25).

Put the Phone Down

By Linda Tancs

 A recent report indicated that the average smartphone user checks his or her device 150 times a day. That’s nearly 55,000 times a year. It’s probably not that hard to imagine. When was the last time you saw anyone—anywhere—not engaged with their phone? Even families sit silently in restaurants and other places checking their devices. It’s undermining our safety, our health and our relationships. In fact, a new orthopedic disorder has been named Text Neck, referring to the damage done to neck muscles from the weight of a tipped head. Psychologically, phone use is increasingly affecting social behavior and impairing relationships, particularly when a non-phone user feels ignored or even rejected by a phone user. It all brings to mind the admonition of the prophet Micah: “You shall bow down no more to the work of your hands.” (Micah 5:13).

Have you made an idol out of your phone? Do you spend more time with your phone than with God? Put the phone down. You can do it. God always provides a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13-14).

The Time is Now

By Linda Tancs

“I’ll do it when” arises frequently as a response to situations in life. I’ll go back to school when all my bills are paid. I’ll take a nice vacation once I retire. I’ll get married once my career is established. In some instances, prudence may dictate that you wait before a certain action is taken. But maybe it’s possible that the time is now. Circumstances will rarely ever be perfect for action. Imagine how impaired our salvation would be if Jesus had waited for more “perfect” behavior before sacrificing His life for us. As Romans 5:8 reminds us, while we were yet sinners, He died for us. It’s a good thing He didn’t wait.

Under the Son

By Linda Tancs

Author and humanitarian Bob Goff once said, “I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered… Now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” That statement reminds me of King Solomon’s observation in Ecclesiastes. He compared life under the sun (this worldly existence) with life under the Son. His conclusion? It’s all vanity under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Misplaced pursuits and striving after worldly notions of success are destined to remain unsatisfying because they don’t reflect our higher purpose. Our highest purpose and duty, Solomon concluded, is to worship God and obey His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Life is sweetest under the Son.