A Brain, a Heart and Courage

By Linda Tancs

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy meets up with three characters, each seeking a different attribute. The scarecrow wants a brain. The tin man wants a heart. And the lion wants courage. That’s a pretty good summation of what we need to persevere through life: wisdom, love and courage.

The Bible exhorts us to gain wisdom (see, e.g., James 1:5; Proverbs 3:13-18). How do you do that? By reading the Bible, the source of all God’s knowledge and understanding. Wisdom is a gift from God, the means to discern the truth in all things. We’re told to love wisdom, and wisdom will protect us (Proverbs 4:6-7). Above all, though, we are commanded to love God (Deuteronomy 10:12) and extend that love to our neighbors (Luke 10:27). It’s fair to say that the pursuit of wisdom and love takes courage. It’s so much easier to hide one’s head in the sand, avoiding truth and neglecting the work to build strong relationships. Yet we’re reminded to be strong and of good courage (Deuteronomy 31:6). That’s because fear, insecurity and anxiety undermine the courage we need to foster effective personal and professional relationships. But you’re an overcomer! Stand firm and apply the power formula of wisdom, love and courage to persevere through life’s tasks and struggles.

The Challenge of Love

By Linda Tancs

Is there anyone in your family who is difficult to love, who pushes all the wrong buttons? Maybe it feels like you’re surrounded by fiery beasts or tongues like sharp swords, as David described in Psalm 57:4. Perhaps your nemesis is a child, parent, spouse, sibling or extended family member, or even many of the above. You might be tempted to think ‘well, I don’t have to love anyone who won’t love me back or treats me unfairly.’ Don’t give in and fail to accept the challenge of love. Love is, after all, the foundation of our existence and evidence of our oneness with God. There is no commandment greater than love, as Paul reminded the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13) and John told his readers (1 John 4:16). Likewise, Jesus exhorted his followers that everything hinges on love of God and love of others (Matthew 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28; John 13:34-35).

A spiritual teacher once remarked that we should give thanks for the difficult people in our lives because they teach us how much work we may still need to do in the love walk. Those who are easiest to love actually teach us very little. So put on an “attitude of gratitude” the next time you feel tormented, and work on walking it out.

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).

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?

Who’s Your BFF?

By Linda Tancs

BFF (best friends forever) is a sweet sentiment, a cherished part of our digital culture. But friendships don’t last forever. After all, we all die. And, sometimes, relationships fail. That doesn’t mean we should neglect pursuing friendships in this life, but it’s comforting to remember that we do have an unfailing BFF—Jesus.

Paul recognized the value of the Lord’s fellowship when he remarked to the Philippians that he counted everything else as loss (Philippians 3:8). For each of us, Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He is our refuge, fortress and shield (Psalm 91). He promised never to leave us nor forsake us, not to abandon us physically or emotionally (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). He gave His life for us.

What would you give for a friend like that?

 

When it Rains, it Pours

By Linda Tancs

You know what it’s like when you’re having “one of those days,” when everything that could possibly go wrong does exactly that. The prophet Habakkuk could relate. He lamented over fig trees that did not blossom, vines that bore no fruit, failing olive trees, fruitless fields, flock cut off from the fold and no cattle in the stalls (Habakkuk 3:17). I guess you could say he was having a bad day.

Do you often get overwhelmed when circumstances seem out of control? Habakkuk did, too, but God reminded him to trust Him in the midst of oppression and destruction. He instructed him, in essence, to create a vision board and stand by it (Habakkuk 2:3). After all, what’s the use in focusing on what is going wrong when you can visualize a better outcome? It’s easy to quit in hard times, the storms of life. Habakkuk resolved to trust God to make his feet like hinds’ feet—in other words, swift and nimble. How swiftly and nimbly do you act when life throws you a curveball?

We’re All Related

By Linda Tancs

There’s a beautiful Native American sculpture in Rapid City, South Dakota, entitled “We Are All Related.” It’s intended to represent hope for reconciliation, dignity and respect for the human race. I think it serves as a wonderful spiritual reminder that we are all part of God’s family, reconciled in Christ.

The Bible reminds us of our familial relationship in several places. For instance, John’s gospel states that believers in Christ earn the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). Although we may be separated geographically or culturally, we are not strangers or aliens but rather fellow citizens of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19-22). We were predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5), entitling us to call God our Father (Romans 8:15).

Outside familial bloodlines, are you able to see others as “relatives”? You may belong to a church where members regularly refer to each other as “brother” or “sister.” If so, how does it resonate with you? Do you leave the sentiment behind at the church door? Only through putting our spiritual inheritance into practice can we truly build a kingdom economy on earth (Matthew 6:10) that reconciles, dignifies and respects.

Ordinary Heroes

By Linda Tancs

In literature, heroes are often extraordinary, supernatural—they save people, or even the whole world. For us mere mortals, hero status seems implausible or inaccessible except for those special instances that make the news. The reality, though, is that hero status is available to each of us all the time. We’re all capable of being ordinary heroes in everyday life.

Jesus emphasized this point in Luke 10:25-37, a parable about a crime victim who receives compassionate care from a person who was supposed to be his enemy, a Samaritan. Samaria was a capital of the northern kingdom of Israel (which fell to the Assyrians), a rival capital to Jerusalem in Judah. Jews were hostile to Samaritans because they “mixed” (socially and otherwise) with idol-worshipping Assyrians, among other reasons. They were so hated during Jesus’ time that Jews would take the longer route in a journey rather than pass through Samaria for a shorter commute. So imagine a story where the Samaritan gets to play the hero over a God-fearing priest as well as a Levite. The Samaritan saw a need and met it. No exemptions. No exceptions. No excuses. He was a hero to the one whose need was met. Maybe that’s the best way to define a hero.

Rock of Ages

By Linda Tancs

I’m captivated by large boulders, especially those with a history. In New York City alone, the giant outcroppings framing many of the city’s most prominent open spaces arise from bedrock ranging in age from 1.1 billion to 190 million years old. Those are rocks of ages, but not the Rock.

The Lord is often referred to as our Rock, especially in the Psalms (see, e.g., Psalm 18:31; 28:1; 42:9; 62:7; 78:35; 92:15; 94:22 and 144:1). It’s a particularly apt metaphor, considering that rocks symbolize strength and stability. In biblical terms, a rock also presents a place of refuge, as David discovered on his many retreats from the threats of Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-7). And during the exodus, a rock represented a miraculous source of water for the Israelites (Deuteronomy 8:15). In summary, a rock symbolizes strength, protection and provision. Is it any wonder that it’s used so frequently in the Bible to refer to God, our true Rock of Ages?