Sunday, August 19, 2012

It’s About Us?!?

Ecclesiastes 11:8 (KJV)  But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
I’ve been coming back to this area of discussion frequently, recently.  And memories of an incident that reminded me of this thought.  It’s OK if I tell a tale on myself, right?
Our church has an annual week long international convention every June.  People come from all over the world.  During this year’s convention, a very lovely French speaking lady started a conversation with me.  Sounds like a win, right?  But the conversation revolved around whether or not I was a pastor who had started a work in a state on the opposite coast.  I probably should have been flattered to be mistaken for one of our missionary pastors.  But my first thought was, “He was old ten years ago.  Do I look that old?”. 
Fast forward to late that night, when I got home from the day’s events.  And there I am, in my bathroom, shaving off the goatee and mustache that don’t make me look any younger.  Now, would I have been shaving those off if a guy had asked me if I were that pastor?  Or if the lady had been less attractive?  Probably not.  There is still a healthy chunk of bachelor male in me.  Which is why, in retrospect, I thought of Solomon’s “all is vanity” syndrome, a thought obviously important to God.  And Carly Simon’s old song, “You’re So Vain”.
Solomon speaks of vanity no less than 14 times in Ecclesiastes.  And, just to make sure that we don’t miss God’s interest in the subject, a search for “all is vanity”, looking for the words in any order, there are three more instances in Isaiah, one in Jeremiah, and one in Acts.  I won’t stop to count the number of times some form of the word “vanity” comes up, starting in Deuteronomy 32:21 and ending in 2Peter 2:18.  But you get the idea.  God has other thoughts about who we are, how we should act and think, who we should be.
Have you ever paid attention to today’s advertising?  Women need to have hourglass figures, no facial wrinkles and no gray hair.  It’s almost the same for men, except we don’t need to have hourglass figures, although sixpack abs seem to be gaining importance.  And we’re allowed “just the right amount of gray that everybody loves”.  Add the right clothing, phone, tech stuff, car, house, etc. and we’re set to go.  Or are we?

None of that seems to deal with our righteousness as God describes it in Isaiah 64.  The world seems to be enthralled with the externals.  If you look good, you deserve money.  If you look good and have money, you must have it together, intellectually and spiritually – how else would you be so blessed?  But we know that’s not how God sees things.

We can’t ego blitz God and dazzle Him with our intelligence, good looks, accomplishments, stellar wit, etc.  God’s focused on what’s going on inside.  We’ll look at that some more in the next post.  But here are a couple of questions to honestly think about. 

When we do things well and want to share what we’ve done, is it for the glory of God or is it to boost our own ego?  And, when we mess up, if we confess to another, is it because they deserve an apology or because it eases our conscience?  There's no right or wrong answers to those questions.  But the answers say a lot about our thinking.

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