What’s In a Name?

By Linda Tancs

In Hollywood, every producer wants to cast a movie with a “bankable” name. Likewise, in other fields, big names garner authority and leverage.

The Bible, too, has its share of heavyweights among God’s people, like Abraham, Moses, Job, David and Daniel. But just as noteworthy are the unnamed—anonymous people, even outsiders, immortalized for their deeds in the service of God and his kingdom. Consider, for instance, Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well. She’d had many men in her life and, worse yet, was a Samaritan engaging in conversation with a Jew. Jesus’s gentle correction of her sinful ways and His mere knowledge of her past had her undone in a matter of minutes. Despite her bad reputation and limited knowledge of the Messiah, she drew many in her town to the Gospel (John 4), making her one of the most unlikely evangelists in human history. Just before Jesus’s death, another unnamed heroine mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels anoints Him with expensive oil while He is dining with his apostles. Although the apostles are indignant at this display and intrusion, Jesus remarks that what she has done will be told in memory of her whenever the Gospel is preached (Matthew 26:7-13).

You don’t have to have a big name to make a big difference.

What Do I Know?

By Linda Tancs

Are you a know-it-all? How would others describe you? Being a know-it-all kind of person is easier than you may think. In fact, a psychology professor coined the term “Lake Wobegon Effect” to describe a human tendency to overestimate one’s attributes, like knowledge, talent and accomplishments. It’s a dangerous tendency, often leading to pride and arrogance.

The apostle Paul recognized the dangers of putting one’s faith in human wisdom. He even went so far as to tell the Corinthians that anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much (1 Corinthians 8:2). As for himself, he resolved not to know anything but Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Furthermore, Proverbs 28:26 tells us that anyone who leans on, trusts in and is confident of his own mind is a fool. Don’t rely on your own insight or understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The more you let God teach you, the more you’ll realize how much you still have to learn (Psalm 147:5).

God is Not Santa Claus

By Linda Tancs

One of the most misconstrued and misapplied Bible verses is undoubtedly John 10:10, where Jesus is recorded as saying that He came so that we might have and enjoy life and have it in abundance. For many this verse has come to imply a promise of “the good life.” Certainly, many folks do enjoy a good, earthly life. But the Lord doesn’t promise you a Cadillac or a nice house. What He promised to show you is the Way. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). Enjoying life isn’t about enjoying things; it’s about enjoying Him. In God’s economy, the good life is our ability to experience His joy and delight—to the full, until it overflows (John 15:11).

When we live His way, we reap the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). Those fruits and any other blessings (2 Corinthians 9:8) are meant to be shared.

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.

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).