“SoulShine” Shepherds

I heard the song, “SoulShine” again the other day, and was reminded to how I once got lost chasing so many worldly things in my life. Granted, daily distractions continue to come my way, but thankfully, I am now aware of and cautious to their enticement and allur.  For as Christians, we are called to be salt and light in this world. So that others may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Yet, so often we can all get sidetracked from our divine purpose when we begin to chase these “other” things:

Sunshine: Who doesn’t love the sunshine? If there is a patio at a restaurant, I make a b-line for it. If there is a sunny day, I have to be out in it. Basically, I love the sun, but as we know, sunshine is only temporary. It goes away. Likewise, sunshine is an illustration to all those things in life we enjoy and relish, but like everything else, all good things eventually come to end in this world, even the sun’s warming rays. However, in Christ, we don’t have to live for and chase these temporal things. Rather, once we realize and discover our true joy comes from Him and with Him, we have a greater appreciation of all those good things when they do come our way – and don’t get so down in the dumps when they don’t (Psalm 118:24).

Moonshine: There are two types of moonshine. One reflects the sun at night and the other is used for consumption. For our purposes here, I’m talking about the drinking kind of moonshine for it and other intoxicants are often chased by many to escape the pains of reality in an effort to create a new one. However, this type of distraction is also only temporary and comes with potentially devastating consequences. In Christ, we accept reality and don’t try to escape it. In faith and through His Spirit, we are empowered to experience the ups and downs of life with renewed perspectives (Philippians 4:12). We have hope and understand we serve a good God, with good intentions, Who can turn all things together for our good and to accomplish His greater purposes.    

Shoeshine: We shine our shoes to keep them looking nice and to make a good impression. However, I want to use this as an illustration to highlight the various ways we attempt to “polish” our lives in order to discover peace and happiness. Yet, like all the other temporary distractions people pursue, how often have we purchased a new must have item, shined ourselves up with all the best money can buy, and soon discovered that the “newness” and shiny shimmer of possessions and bling soon fades? Our bodies age, and the shiny new things we wear, drive and pursue, do feel good, but alas the good feeling lasts for only so long. For none of them have to power to restore a broken and empty heart (Matthew 6:21). However, in Christ we are restored, from the inside out, and His light from within us shines eternally bright for all to see. 

Application: “Son-Shine” – Ecclesiastes 10:2
As mentioned, nothing we pursue can replace all Christ offers. He is the best thing going and when we single our sights and focus on Him, He promises to provide all we ever need. Our hearts are renewed and our souls refreshed. So that as the Son shines through us, our souls shine to a watching world, allowing all to see the glory, love and splendor of Christ our Lord. 

Bigger Picture

Work can make us weary at times, but then again, so can life. We can get run down by the mundane and begin to question our contributions. We might wonder if what we do truly adds value, or if we’re just wasting our time. Perhaps we don’t feel valued, or appreciated and this only fuels our growing doubts. However, these are also the times our faith can be strengthened, our endurance tested and God reminds us to our ultimate purpose and calling that stretches far beyond what our immediate circumstances may be:  

Reflection: As Christians we are to be reflections of Christ to the world. Lights on a hill (Matthew 5:14). Lights that break the darkness and serve as beacons of hope, truth and life. We may struggle with the mundane and question our value at times, but we have hope and a constant reminder that our life has value and purpose. For God restores His people. There are those however, with no such hope. They don’t know God and they are in desperate need of a Savior. Serving as beacons of hope and reflecting His light in the workplace, at home and in our communities is one of the greatest blessings and opportunities we have been given by God in this life.   

Redemption: Jesus once said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). He also told Peter that He would make Him a fisher of men. We too are called to be fishers of men and harvest workers – and the workplace offers a powerful platform to do so. Our jobs catapult us into the world where many are lost and without hope. Thus, the Redeemer who saved us from sin, desires to save others and enjoys inviting us to participate with Him in the process. As we do, we are fulfilling our true purpose and calling as we serve and proclaim the gospel that rescues others from the darkness and restores hopes, not only to them, but also to ourselves.   

Restoration: Restoration is a beautiful thing to behold. When we see old homes restored to their former glory, it is inspiring, but God works in the restoration of life. God loves to restore lives who were lost and blind, scarred and scared, fearful and battered. He restores hopes, dreams, purpose and life. For He is life and as we go out into the world and workplace as His servants, we get to enjoy the blessings of being part of the restoration process (Hosea 6:1).  

Application: “R@W” – Matthew 5:16
I have the good fortune to meet with a few guys on a regular basis to read the Word of God, and discuss the ups and downs of life at work, at home, with our health, our money and a variety of other topics that may arise. We then pray together and every time our time is over, we go back out into the world with a refreshed feeling. For whenever God is made central and focused upon and fellowship is shared, perspectives somehow change. Our problems and difficulties don’t erase, but we are somehow reminded and encouraged that our God is bigger than anything we may face and that He is with us. I endearingly call this group, our R@W group – pronounced “raw”, because this is a time we get real. We get raw. The “R” stands for the redemption, restoration and reflection Christ works in and through us and the “@W” stands for “at Work“. God is at work in all these areas so that we can share them and put them at work in the world – not only for this small group of men of course, but for each and every one us – may we boldy live R@W.

Left Behind

What are those things we truly leave behind after our time on earth has ended? I know it’s a somber thought to think about dying, but as many have advised, writing our obituary can be a healthy enterprise and opportunity to glean into our hearts – to remove the clutter in our lives. To better identify and clarify those things we care most about. To consider what we desire our life to be about. What we truly leave behind:

Reputations: My mother told me repeatedly growing up that my first name is different and because of that, I have an opportunity to make it a name that is remembered well, or remembered poorly based upon the the choices I make and the reputation I build. This has stuck with me and although I stumbled many times in building a credible reputation and name, my desire has always been to make my name and my family proud. However, I now realize the greatest way to accomplish this is not working to construct something for myself, but rather living each day surrendered to Christ (Proverbs 22:1). To glorify His name and allow His life to define mine. 

Possessions: We all have stuff and will leave behind stuff. So, our stuff does matter, but not so much how much we have. Instead, how well do we steward what we have (Luke 16:10)? Some may have a lot, some a little, but all of us can become better managers of what we have and help those who will come after us learn to steward the things they have and the things they will inherit from us well. So, how much we leave behind isn’t the questions, but how well we manage it, provide for those entrusted to our care and disciple them to realize life is more than a race to acquire.

Preparations: I have seen many families suffer due to one person’s failure to prepare for the present and the future. Often times the person who failed to prepare for emergencies and future needs wasn’t a bad person. In fact, they were often good and well intended, but were never trained, or proactive enough to make the necessary plans required to best protect and provide for the needs of their loved ones once they were gone. Therefore, our preparations, or lack of preparations are also something we leave behind. How well we have trained and taught others to work, spend, save, borrow, serve, contribute, disciple and do all the things encompassing a responsible life is essential. However, all these lessons require intentional learning and teaching. Therefore, they can often be missed when one generation fails to learn the skills necessary to be applied, much less taught. This then is our first step in leaving behind quality preparations – avoid procrastination and begin application (Proverbs 24:27)e .

Application: “Inheritance Matters” – Ephesians 5:15-17

Our life matters and so do all those things we will leave behind. True, we will leave stuff behind and proper estate planning can help with this. Having a will, medical directive, savings, perhaps insurance and a trust and an overall financial plan all go along with that, but so do our behaviors and our priorities. What kind of reputation are we leaving behind and how involved are we in discipling others in those areas that will truly last for generations, long past the stuff? For those things eventually fade, but legacies build upon the foundation of Christ last forever.

Lessons From Holiday Road

After our return from vacation, I asked myself and my family to consider what God taught us during this time. May seem like a strange question, but since I believe God’s money was invested to pay for the vacation, our planning of the trip was prayed over and we spent a concentrated two weeks away together, surely He was interested in teaching us something as well. Rest, relaxation and play were surely part of the trip, but there was also something deeper to take away. For our time from home and work didn’t mean we took time away from God. So, as He does at home, God was also at work on our vacation – leading us, protecting us and teaching us:

Courage: My son is twelve and our trip to Hawaii involved many first time experiences for him, including snorkeling, swimming out deep in the ocean, flying on a prop plane, walking along cliffs, and watching Daddy do some crazy things, as usual. All of which caused him some initial fear at times. So, when he thought about what God was teaching him during our trip, he immediately responded with one simple, but profound word – courage. He felt God was teaching him to be courageous and not so fearful, but to trust Him more. What a powerful lesson indeed (Joshua 1:9)!

Moments: My daughter who is a teenager at first didn’t understand why we would go to a church in Hawaii when we were away from home, but soon appreciated and found great value once we did. For it was there God helped speak to her heart about a lesson He desired her to learn – to be present in each moment as they came. This realization came to her because the sermon that Sunday was on worry, and she knew she had been allowing herself to dread her return home, where school work, tests and responsibilities were waiting for her. This distraction was causing her to worry and stealing her joy while on vacation. After the sermon, she began to resist the worries that would pop in her mind and began enjoying the present moments. What a great gift to learn at such an early age – to be present in the moments we have, rather than worrying about things that haven’t happened yet (Ephesians 5:16). Even Mark Twain once said, “I have worried about many things that never happened“.  

Still Me: My lesson was reconfirming the fact that no matter where I go, there I am. For example, there were moments despite being in a beautiful location surrounded by family, sibling quarrels would break out, stress levels would rise, I would lose patience, folks would get grumpy and the list goes on. In summary, reality didn’t stop just because we were on vacation. So often it’s easy to convince ourselves that if we only had something, or lived somewhere we would find bliss. However, as we know, this is never true this side of heaven. For even in the midst of incredible beauty and having everything we think we desire within our grasp, discord and discontentment can still find us. Sad, but true. Interestingly, it was refreshing and a relief to be reminded of this truth – nirvana does not exist on earth. So, we might as well stop trying to find it, or make it happen. Instead, we can enjoy the moments we have, live courageously for Christ, and trust Him all along the way (Psalm 118:24).

Application: “Always Seeking” – Psalm 105:4
No matter where we are, or what we’re doing, God is with us. It’s not like He disappears when we go on vacation and our fellowship with Him only applies at work and home. God is everywhere and always and constantly guiding, leading, loving, discipling and teaching. The question is are we constantly seeking and looking to Him, not just during our times of need and trouble, but always – even on vacations.