Angel of the Lord

By Linda Tancs

In the Old Testament you’ll find frequent use of the phrase “the angel of the Lord” regarding manifestations (see, e.g., Judges 6:12; Psalm 34:7). Contrary to popular belief, this does not refer to angels like Gabriel or Michael making appearances. Theologically, most scholars agree that the phrase refers to Christ because He has always been the representation of God on earth (John 1:1). Just as in the New Testament (Philippians 4:13), Christ has strengthened, protected and delivered the saints of old.

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As part of FOOT FORWARD MINISTRIES, Go Forward in Faith represents faith-based meditations for personal and professional growth. Follow us on Twitter @moveonfaith and join the Facebook group @goforwardinfaith.

Good News

By Linda Tancs

The word “gospel” is derived from two Anglo-Saxon words: God (meaning “good”) and Spell (meaning “tidings”). If God Spell sounds familiar, then you may be recalling Godspell—a musical based on the gospel of Matthew that’s been produced by many touring companies and seen many revivals, including on Broadway. So the gospel is, literally and figuratively, good news. Although we associate biblical “good news” with the four gospels, the concept exists throughout the Bible. For instance, the prophets Nahum (Nahum 1:15) and Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1) were bearers of good news. Proverbs, too, reminds us that good news is like cold water to a weary soul (Proverbs 25:25). And, of course, there’s the proclamation of the angel Gabriel to the shepherds of good tidings of great joy on the birth of Jesus, the ultimate Good News, both the bearer of the message and the message Himself (Luke 2:10)!

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As part of FOOT FORWARD MINISTRIES, Go Forward in Faith represents faith-based meditations for personal and professional growth. Follow us on Twitter @moveonfaith and join the Facebook group @goforwardinfaith.

The Big Meeting

By Linda Tancs

You might have heard the term “a come-to-Jesus meeting.” Popularly used in the context of employment, it generally relates to an employer’s reckoning with an employee over work or conduct.

Imagine if you could actually call a meeting, or schedule a conference call, with Jesus! Suppose you could ask Him one question. What would it be? Would you want to know how He could love you enough to die for you? What His favorite food on earth was? Why He chose those 12 apostles?

Think about it, and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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As part of FOOT FORWARD MINISTRIES, Go Forward in Faith represents faith-based meditations for personal and professional growth. Learn more at goforwardinfaith.com. Follow us on Twitter @moveonfaith and join the Facebook group @goforwardinfaith.

 

 

Unattached

By Linda Tancs

The Bible urges us to be unattached to outcomes—or incomes, for that matter (1 John 2:15-17; Hebrews 13:5-6). That means we are encouraged to purge attachments we have to who we are, attachments to our belongings, attachments to our jobs, labels, titles, and roles, attachments to our judgments and attachments to old memories that keep us stuck.

What attachments can you release? Maybe you can remove your attachment to distractions like mindless TV, popular culture or sensational headlines. The result of all this attachment is sin (Galatians 5:19-21) so it’s easy to understand why it needs to go. Easy to say, not so easy to do, you say. Indeed, the story of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-22 illustrates how hard it is to let go. When he asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all he had and follow Him. The man went away sad because he had many possessions. So long as there’s attachment, there’s another idol in your heart (Exodus 34:14).

 The rewards of detachment are many, giving way to the fruits of the Spirit, like love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Moreover, Jesus promised a reward both now and in eternity for giving up worldly things for His sake (Mark 10:28-31). It’s about giving up pain for gain. Who wouldn’t want that trade?

Where is Heaven?

By Linda Tancs

Where is Heaven? Heaven is where God is, our eternal home. But don’t just look up. Look around, too, because Heaven is all around you. As poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau put it, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

In other words, it’s more than just a salvific concept. The kingdom of Heaven is God’s presence in our daily lives, a real-time experience. As Jesus said in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15). It comes in the most ordinary moments of life, when we bridge our gaps with others and when we gather in a community of faith. Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel gives us Jesus’s examples of our collaborative role in Kingdom work. For instance, He likens the Kingdom to a mustard seed that we, the people, sow in a field. In other discourse, He likens the Kingdom to yeast that a woman mixes with flour to leaven (Matthew 13:31-35). In each case, God provides the tools for our fruitful use, showing us that salvation is not something we have to wait for; it’s something we can experience in our everyday lives. The same message underlies Luke’s understanding of salvation. The healing scenes he presents give us examples of what different expressions of salvation in daily life look like (Luke: 4:31-37; 4:38-44; 5:12-16; 5:17-26; 7:1-10; 7:11-17; 7:21; 7:21; 8:40-56; 9:37-45; 13:10-17; 17:11-19; and 18:35-43).

Move beyond an individualistic view of salvation and look for the communal aspects of it.

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.

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.

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).

Yield and Reap

By Linda Tancs

Yielding is sometimes a negative form of surrender, like when you let someone else’s opinion of your ability dictate your actions or dreams. Other times we get aggravated at yielding, like at a traffic sign that’s delaying where you need to go or when rules of order require you to give the floor to another speaker. But, from a spiritual perspective, yielding is a sign of strength, an ability to trust God.

Think of the great freedom arising from yielding up the kind of self-pity that accompanies a variety of circumstances: past rejection, a friend’s betrayal, lost opportunity. Yet it isn’t easy to yield because we’re taught to stand our ground. Of course, sometimes intractability is a good thing, like resisting peer pressure to engage in unhealthy, unethical or illegal acts. But other times we hold on when we should be letting go. It’s about who’s right and who’s wrong rather than moving forward. We get comfortable with the pain.

John’s Gospel tells the story of a crippled man at the pool in Bethesda who held on to his position at the pool’s edge for 38 years. He couldn’t bring himself (literally and figuratively) to experience the curative powers of that water. And then Jesus came along and simply told him to “get up.” And he did (John 5:1-9). His trust in God overcame his self-pity.

American activist Dorothea Dix once said, “Our minds may now be likened to a garden, which will, if neglected, yield only weeds and thistles; but, if cultivated, will produce the most beautiful flowers, and the most delicious fruits.” In God’s economy, He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5). So yield and reap; don’t weep.