Friday, March 30, 2007

The Issue of Vanity

The Issue of Vanity

In January 1973 Singer songwriter Carly Simon had a big hit on the radio, with the song, "You're So Vain." The song is about a broken hearted woman telling this man about how she feels about their relationship and about him. The refrain goes like this:

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?"

According to the singer, the man believes himself the center of the universe. So much, that she thinks he would think the song is about him. Vain people are conceited, thinking themselves better than others, and thinking that without their presence or input things would not happen.

In the dictionary, the word vain means: overly proud of oneself, especially when concerning appearance, and or egotistical. Other definitions include: having very little substance, pointless, futile, and useless. So the word vain does not only refer to people but to things or actions. People talk about vain calories, or doing something in vain, etc. Vanity is the quality or condition of being vain. Someone vain has vanity. Pursuing vain actions are considered vanity.

As the lesson says, the word translated as vanity from the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes is "hebel." Hebel means vapor, smoke or breath. Ecclesiastes 12:8 says, "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity." It is no wonder the translators of the Bible decided to use vanity in this case. You see, smoke, breath and vapor are related to air. And, we call anything this is full of air: empty. And empty is one definition of vanity. Although air or any gas state is matter - it has weight - it has no form. Also, air moves around. When we say something is full with something solid or liquid. It is because it is visible, and the likelihood of being the same matter again when we return to look at it is a lot higher than if it was just air. We can touch it. Smoke, breath, or vapor can be distinguished from regular air, but we cannot touch it, and it will probably dissipate eventually, as it spread through the air.

Another aspect of this analogy is brevity. Smoke, breath and vapor dissipate through the air pretty quickly. Sometimes slower than others, however it will not stay for ever. And, once it dissipates it will seem that it was never there. You may see it now, but in a few moments it will disappear and perhaps forever and no one will remember it.

Lastly, it is issue of insignificance and meaninglessness. As long as the breath, smoke or vapor is concentrated in the same spot, there may have an impact and maybe a significant one. However, once dissipated, its presence will be insignificant, if compared with the rest of the contents of air.

A vain person is proud of something that will disappear, in a short time, and in the end will not matter. A vain pursuit is about is the same way. It will not accomplish for you the fulfillment you desired, in fact this false fulfillment will not last long and you will feel you wasted your time and effort. This is what the preacher was talking about. The things of this world disappear, in a short time, and in the end it will not matter that we pursued them and whether we succeed or not. Very few will remember.

How does this happen? And can we prevent it from happening? The following three passages form the book of Matthew quote Jesus answering question. Let us read,

Matthew 6:19-21
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:33
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 16:26
Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

What this world has to offer will be corrupted or stolen, and will lead to eternal death. What God has to offer can not be corrupted or stolen, and leads to a righteous life, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. A life of disobedience, refusing to listen to God is vanity. A life of a continual choosing to hear God's voice and heeding to His leading is profitable. Which one you choose is up to you.

Raul Diaz
The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, March 23, 2007

Life as a cue sport

In cue sports a pool player hits a cue ball with a cue stick. The Cue ball in turn hits another ball called a billiard ball. There are many variations of the game. The most popular variation in the USA is called eight-ball. The goal of eight-ball, which is played with a full rack of fifteen balls and the cue ball, is to claim a suit (commonly stripes or solids in the US), pocket all of them, then legally pocket the 8 ball, while denying one's opponent opportunities to do the same with their suit, and without sinking the 8 ball early by accident. A good pool player knows with how much strength, at what angle, and in which direction to hit the cue ball, so that it hits the desired billiard ball and pocket it. If done well, this process can be repeated, because the balls will always react the same way on impact. In other words, although it is a game the process is pure physics. Also, since the balls acts according to the impact they receive, you can predict where the ball will go. The ball merely reacts according to the laws of physics. They live in the law. Being that these balls are mere objects, they cannot disobey these laws.

The cue ball cannot asses the situation of how hard it would be to hit the yellow ball. The cue ball cannot make choices. Once the cue ball is hit it will go in the direction and speed it was 'told' it should go – whether it hits the yellow ball or not. This is what the law says; this is what the ball does. Is the ball obedient? Not if you use the biblical definition. In the Bible obedience means to listen, to hear, to strive to capture every word and heed to it. The cue ball cannot hear, therefore it cannot obey. The ball is not therefore concerned about the law, it just 'exists' by the law.

God made us different than cue balls. He gave us free will. We know this from a reading of Genesis 3. This means we can choose to respond, instead of reacting. God also gave us the capacity to hear and listen. So when we hear the Word, we can choose to listen or not, and we can choose to heed or not. We do not have to react to any impulse or impact given to us. When the cue stick hits us, we can choose what to do – which direction to go, how fast, and whether to go at all. This is why the law is a concern to fallen human beings, because they can, and in fact do, break it. Human beings choose not to hear the word of God or not to heed it. They are by nature rebellious toward God and His Word.

What if you hit the cue ball and it does not move? What if ball is glued to the table? This means the ball obeys the glue and not the cue stick. Is this still different than us? Well, yes, the ball cannot glue itself; much less choose to do it. But, we can choose to 'glue' ourselves to the power of Sin, and therefore disobey God's Word. However, when we choose to 'glue' ourselves to the Righteousness of God, we will listen and heed to the word of God. As it says in Romans 6: 12-17,

Romans 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Romans 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

So when we yield to the Holy Spirit, the Law of God is not a concern, because when we heed the Holy Spirit, we keep the law. After all, as God, the law describes His character. And, there is no difference between His thought, action and Word. Every thing He says is the word of God, and according to the law of God. Everything He will have us do, He will empower us to do, and will be in agreement with the law.

How does this apply to Ecclesiastes 11? Let us read verses 3 and 4,

Ecclesiastes 11: 3 If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Ecclesiastes 11: 4 He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

Everything that happens can be a cue stick hitting us to go in a different direction. When we abide in the Spirit and the Spirit in us, storms, whether literal or metaphorical, are not a concern either. We know that He also controls the rain, the high winds, and the falling trees. When we abide in Him and He in us these become mere challenges that we can overcome by God's grace. We can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in the midst of the storm. Sometimes He will make us run for cover; sometimes He will allow us to get wet. It is His prerogative and for our sanctification. If God wants us to hit the yellow ball, He will open the way for us to do so. Our part is to listen carefully and do as He says.

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, March 09, 2007



There was a man called Raymond. Raymond was a self professed atheist. Everywhere he went he found a way to argue that God did not exist. Raymond was pretty good at it. His logic seemed flawless. He could always find a weakness in the arguments of those who dared to argue against him. After which he would pounce them. Once he had out argued and humiliated his opponents, he would proceed to gloat and brag about his victories.

One day he decided to pick on this young lady – Rose -, who unaware of Raymond’s operating mode, lovingly mentioned the name of Christ. Raymond approached her as he approached the rest, with a smile, and speaking softly, words carefully chosen to arouse. This is where he thrived. As she heard his voice and the words coming from his mouth, she realized it fit the profile of the man she had been warned about. She looked at him and said, “So, you’re the one that claims he’s an atheist.” He replied indignantly, “Excuse me, what do you mean by ‘claim to be an atheist?” Rose replied calmly, “Well, my grandfather always told me, that there is no real atheist. I believed him.” Raymond answered with a mocking tone, “Ha! Your grandfather? What can that old man know? What reasons does he give for his assertion?” Rose looked at Raymond compassionately and said, “He told me, ‘the Bible says that the fool says in his heart that there is no God.” But, let that fool feel like he is dying, and immediately he calls on the God he said did not exist.’” Raymond laughed loud and sarcastically, and then said to her, “That will never happen to me.” She said softly, “Never say, ‘never.’”

You have an idea of what happened next. Raymond wakes up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. He felt his esophagus burning. Before, he could think about it, he muttered the words, “Oh, God help me!” Immediately, Raymond’s throat cleared up, and he was able to breath. The next day Raymond decided to go to the Doctor’s office to make sure all is well. No one in the office would dare speak, afraid of one of Raymond’s outburst. However, Raymond waited patiently for his turn and he started no arguments. This concerned every one in the office, but they were all afraid to ask.

Raymond’s name was called, but he still had to wait for the doctor. Finally, a dignified and distinguished old man, with a white beard and a pleasant disposition walked in. They exchanged the usual pleasantries. After this the old Doctor asked Raymond, “So Raymond, What can this old fool do for you?” Raymond remembered Rose. He remained silent for a few seconds. Raymond did not know what to do; He put his thoughts together and answered the Doctor. Raymond said shyly, “When I met your granddaughter she told about your thoughts on how atheists call on God when they feel they are dying. Well, it happened to me. I called on God. In fact, I even think He answered.” The old man listened attentively and then answered, “What happened?” Raymond told him with vivid details what had happened the night before. “Well, Raymond, you were wise to call on Him. You were wise to come here for a checkup. However, in a few days you memory of what happened will start to fade, and you will go back to your old foolish ways. It happens all the time. You will forget about the wisdom you have heard now. And, soon enough you may even despise it.” Raymond just listened silently, as the Doctor checked him.

The story reminds me of the one Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 9:13-16, let us read,

Ecclesiastes 9:13This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it seemed great unto me:
Ecclesiastes 9:14 There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:
Ecclesiastes 9:15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.
Ecclesiastes 9:16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

Like the Raymond and the people in the little city many only remember God only in times of crisis. And, soon after the crisis is over, and life goes back to the same old routine they forget Him. You see, very likely the reason there was a crisis is because they ignored and despised His wisdom. So, they plead with God, and God bails them out. But, God’s wisdom not only bails out, it also may spare us from the impending crisis by giving us discernment to avoid it. God’s wisdom may also give us the strength and insight to go through with the crisis. But, for this we must be imbued with His wisdom before, through, and after any crisis. It is easy to do this when we realize the extent of our sinfulness and are grateful about the extent of His sacrifice for us. It is easy when we learn to listen to and trust the voice of His indwelling Holy Spirit. He is the source of God’s wisdom in us. Will you let Him dwell in you? He will make you wise.

The Special Insights web page resides at: