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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Businessman’s Walk Through Ecclesiastes

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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Businessman’s Walk Through Ecclesiastes

Week 4: Ecclesiastes 2: 4-9

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards.

5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.

6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.

7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and
flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.

8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers,
and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man.

9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

Let’s be honest, reading about all the stuff the Teacher had is without a doubt impressive; however, the words that jump beyond the page for me are “In all this my wisdom stayed with me.” My immediate response upon reading this was, what does wisdom mean in this context? Furthermore, does wisdom actually have a context or have I misinterpreted it’s meaning all together? Before I traveled down that rabbit hole something occurred to me; the Teacher knew the difference between the road signs and his destination.

How many times have you driven somewhere you’ve never been and got excited when you saw a road sign that told you how many miles you had left until you reach your destination? If you’re anything like me, you get a little smile on your face knowing that you’re heading in the right direction. My smile usually serves dual purposes because it also means I get to tell my lovely wife “I told you I knew where I was going”. Both responses are fairly common and also reasonable. The foolish thing to do would be to park on the side of the road, take all of our luggage out of the trunk, and set up for vacation under the road sign. The sign is exactly what the name implies; it is simply a sign. To say my point in plain language, the Teachers life style was simply a sign of success. He knew his calling was much bigger than his accomplishments, so no matter how great of a ruler he had become or wealth he had amassed, he kept in mind that an attachment to his worldly possessions (which ironically can only move in one direction….into the ground) would only hinder his upward journey into the holiness of God.

If you’ve entered into the mission of entrepreneurship with an eye full of riches and a heart hungry for fame, you’ve sadly mistaken the road sign as your destination, and your wisdom has not stayed with you. If you’ve purchased new homes, new cars, new clothes, new retirement accounts, new friends, new husbands, new wives, etcetera, but have not remained humble, charitable, and righteous, you have also sadly mistaken the road signs for your true destination because your wisdom has not stayed with you (Proverbs 10: 1-7, Matthew 5: 1-20).

The creation story (Genesis 1: 1-31) is a perfect example of what it means to move beyond the road signs. Prior to creation nothing existed. Most Christians are enamored by God’s ability to simply speak things into existence. While this is all well and good, it’s not what he said that proved his wisdom and power, it was the words that were never written that is truly impressive. Take for instance the flower (generally speaking). When God spoke plants into existence he didn’t create just one, he created many; however, he didn’t stop there. He also the complex cell structure of every species of flower and the ability for those cell structures to feed on sunlight through photosynthesis. For photosynthesis to work correctly he also had to create the processes it needed, which fundamentally works by converting sunlight into energy. When he created light he also had to create the atoms, protons, and electrons necessary to bring it into tangible existence. He also had to create heat to excite the protons so that they would bounce off electrons to kick start the “light-making” process. As the light fed the plants, the plants fed the humans. In order for mankind to identify the plants, God had to create individual markings and designs to differentiate the types of plants that were available to eat. I could continue down this path to show you the depths of God’s wisdom, but I’ll assume you get the point. God doesn’t stop at the road signs, he continues until he has reached his destination (Philippians 1:6)

The secular world is trying to wrap it’s brain around the idea of destination versus road sign with a fairly new and fashionable business term, Conscious Capitalism. This is the an excerpt from consciouscapitalism.com:

“For several decades, companies emerging out of the culture of the 60s have been cultivating a new genre of Capitalism. This is a Capitalism that recognizes the power of purpose and the principle of interdependence. It is a Capitalism the sees leaders as stewards and facilitators. And it is a Capitalism that embraces the cocreative, generative nature of business, and is directed towards fulfilling the potential of business and the marketplace to be a powerful force for positive change. This is a Conscious Capitalism, embodied by Conscious Capitalists.”

This is the worlds attempt to keep their wisdom with them, and it’s “working”. John Mackey, CEO of industry giant, Whole Foods, and many other powerful voices are making Conscious Capitalism a household name. Why aren’t we, the keepers of the Truth and representatives of the Creator of our universe, speaking up (Colossians 2: 8-23)? While we dance and shout all over our churches for the brand new house we WANT to buy, these people are changing the world. While we try to impress sister so-and-so or brother so-and-so with how busy we want them to THINK we are, these people are shaping the minds of our children. While we play “look at me on my blackberry and laptop” games in the local coffeehouse , these people are recruiting the leaders of today and tomorrow at our colleges. Stop celebrating the road signs! We still have many, many miles ahead of us.

I really don’t want to end this on a negative note, so I won’t (or at least I hope I won’t). Trying to figure out where to go in this last paragraph, I’m reminded of a rapper that had a song that said “I’m stuntin’ (showing off) like my daddy”. I want to be clear that I’m not trying to say that creating a comfortable life for yourself and your family is wrong because it’s not. God created an empire by his own power, for his own glory and being created in his image and likeness explains our need to amass things in order to build an empire of our own. However, sin has polluted our desire to honor him with obedience (i.e. rule over all things on the Earth. We are conversely ruled by things). We now, like the Israelites, seek to build our own tower of babel to draw all men unto us (Genesis 11: 1-9). In our case, the unified language we speak is the dollar bill. If the unfortunate collapse of our economy is viewed through the omniscient eyes of our Father, one can not help but to see his gracious hand saving us from utter destruction yet again. This isn’t the way most people see things, so they are fighting, clawing and defending every ounce of worldly success they can find. Very little thought is given to the fact that God is working ALL things out for the good of them that love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Do me a favor, the next time your driving and you see a road sign that says you have x-amount of miles left, take a look around you then hit the accelerator just a little bit. When you do that, thank God that he’s still taking you where you need to go. After you’ve done that, thank him for where you’ve been. Finally, thank him that your not traveling alone. We’re all headed somewhere, but without the wisdom of God we’re unpacking our cars hundreds of miles away from the glory and comfort of God’s purpose.

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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Businessman’s Walk Through Ecclesiastes

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The Pursuit of Happiness: A Businessman’s Walk Through Ecclesiastes

Week 3: Ecclesiastes 1: 18

18 For in much [human] wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The Truth Hurts!

Over Come Fear

When I first started my business I thought the whole world would eventually see me as the fraud I really was. I had never done even an inkling of the things I truly believed in my heart I was capable of. In hind sight, I’ll admit that it wasn’t healthy to have those doubts, but at the time I don’t think the world had enough books or the internet websites to placate my fears of not knowing enough. My quest for knowledge was insatiable. Now, almost a year later, I’ve found a way to overcome those fears, but the habit of reading about everything my brain can form into words is firmly rooted into my psyche. I guess the common terminology of my “condition” would be defense mechanism or maybe an instinctual survival tactic. My wife of 9 months would unfortunately refer to it as a detriment to our young marriage. To be completely candid, I simply don’t agree; not because I think she’s wrong, but because I “need” to be smarter than my consumer to remain the expert that I am. Consumers will only buy from me if they don’t know as much as I do; especially in my field……of dreams. I’ve tricked my mind into believing that people want to buy what I know, not what they need. That truth has almost brought me to tears during times our financial drought. That truth has literally made me feel so bottled up with knowledge I could feel my bones begin to shake from the pressure.

My story is in no way germane; it’s the story of every entrepreneur. We’re all chasing tomorrow because the limitations of today have also exposed the limitations of our humanity. Knowledge & ingenuity become our remedy for the brokenness that has eaten a God shaped hole through the depths of our hearts. “…he who increases knowledge increases sorrow”

Our human knowledge is a depreciating commodity

I’ve seen the pious become the destitute. I’ve seen the poor become rich. I’ve seen the hated become heroes. I’ve seen the glow of life in a child’s smile become a gnarled grin of deceit. I’ve seen knowledge become sorrow. You’ve most likely seen it too. Remember the people carrying boxes outside of Lehman Brothers? Do you remember seeing the cars empty out of the GM and Chrysler plant parking lots? Do you remember the look on the face of Bernie Madoff as he was walked through the sea of cameras entering the court house? I sat in on a support group about two weeks for people that have recently lost their jobs. The meeting was full of accomplished executives from the top companies in our area who were now using each others shoulders to cry on. The magic carpet ride was truly over for these people, but like a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11) they are reading self-help book after self-help book, learning twitter, taking classes, even cutting their hair and buying younger looking clothing to appeal to employers. Our human knowledge is a depreciating commodity that will never be worth the price we put on it.

95% of High Ranking Executives lost their Jobs

95% of the people that attended the support group were high ranking executives at one time. All I could think as I looked around that room was how far the mighty had fallen. The speaker that day was a life coach. She opened her lesson up with the statement “I’m just thanking Father, Mother God for this opportunity.” It was at that moment I realized how dangerous knowledge was apart from God. Our words are poisonous arrows thrust deep into the flesh apart from the grace, mercy and understanding of God. The people in the meeting were distraught because all the knowledge they had accumulated became nothing in a matter of seconds, and here I was to plug my new project. They didn’t need a new project! They needed a Savior to fill the God shaped hole the loss of their job left in the middle of their heart. Although they were there to find a job to put the remnants of their tattered lives back together, what I actually heard was “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2). How many of you know what David meant when he penned those words? I know I do!

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