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Are There any Wise People Besides Us?
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Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Proverbs 8:33 NLT

Is there a chance God tried to share His wisdom with us, be we rejected it because we didn’t like the Vessels He used?

Sure Isaiah 8:20 tells us if they speak not according to the law there is no light in them, but we need to be careful we don’t misunderstand and misapply this. Isaiah was speaking specifically about spiritualism, and was making the point that when people contradict the Scripture there is no light in their contradiction.

Whatever men may speak that is not in harmony with that Word has “no light” in it. -Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978; 2002, S. 144

Isaiah was not telling us that if someone was not a Jew that there was nothing that could be learned from them. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was born, Gentile kings came looking for Him while the “church leaders” were ignorant of His advent. Here is what Ellen White, co-founder of the Adventist Church had to say.

These learned teachers would not stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen. It could not be, they said, that God had passed them by, to communicate with ignorant shepherds or uncircumcised Gentiles. They determined to show their contempt for the reports that were exciting King Herod and all Jerusalem. They would not even go to Bethlehem to see whether these things were so. And they led the people to regard the interest in Jesus as a fanatical excitement. Here began the rejection of Christ by the priests and rabbis. From this point their pride and stubbornness grew into a settled hatred of the Saviour. While God was opening the door to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders were closing the door to themselves. -Desire of Ages, Pages 62-63

Have we tuned out a message from God because we were prejudiced against the person God used, and felt our theology was superior to theirs?

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11 NLT

Pastor Brenda Billings

Pastor Brenda Billings

In United States elections we can vote for different individuals on the ballot for each office, or we can just just check one box and vote straight Republican or straight Democrat. If I vote straight for one party I don’t have to do any research on the candidates. Do we do this in the church? Instead of searching the Bible for ourselves, do we just subscribe to whatever church we belong to, or what our local pastor teaches? Instead of searching the Bible to see if what was said is true, do we just go by who said it? Do I believe that if my church said it, then it must be right, and if another church said it, then it must be wrong? If we do, we are making the same mistake the church leaders made in Christ’s day! The Jews were God’s chosen people, but the Gentiles had a few things to teach them about Jesus. The Bereans did not accept or reject what Paul taught based on what they thought about him, but based on whether or not his teaching agreed with Scripture.

I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. My church has a message about sanctification, not found in many other churches. However, one day I went to a Methodist church to hear a friend sing in her choir. After the choir sang, a black woman stood up to preach. She spoke on Ephesians, and how the first half of Ephesians is about justification and us in Christ. The second half of Ephesians, she explained is about sanctification and Christ in us. She went on to preach the most powerful sermon I have ever heard on sanctification. I have “borrowed” her sermon numerous times, and received comments about what a wonderful “Adventist” sermon it was. The people did not know that I got this wonderful “Adventist” sermon from a black Methodist woman! (I add the exclamation mark, not because it surprised me that God used a black Methodist woman, but it will surprise some who are prejudiced by one or more of the three adjectives.)

I sat there in that Methodist church on a Sunday, feasting on every word she spoke, not concerning myself with whether she was black or white, male or female, Adventist or Methodist, but like the Bereans I only cared if what she was saying was Biblical and it was.

Only listening to certain people with “approved labels” is not wise. It is prejudiced. Wisdom is listening to what is being said instead of who is saying it.

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Monster Energy Drink Is Anti-Christ: A Case Study In Occult Epistemology
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In Proverbs 8:12, Wisdom personified informs us that she is the key to finding knowledge. Unfortunately, her counterpart, Folly, has the upper hand when it comes to getting attention (Prov 9:15).

If you haven’t already, watch this video: “MONSTER Energy drinks are the work of SATAN!!!” It’s received over eight-million views on YouTube alone, a substantial amount of attention.

Now, ask yourself whether you think it might be possible that, aside from any health effects, you’re putting yourself under the power of Satan if you drink Monster.

If your answer to the above question is yes, you might have an occult epistemology.

What is occult epistemology, you ask?

  1. Occult: Pertaining to hidden knowledge of supernatural power
  2. Epistemology: The philosophy of how to attain knowledge

Occult epistemology teaches that there are two levels of knowledge. The lower level is the knowledge that can be gained by observation and reason through the normal and boring disciplines of history, science, philosophy, etc. The higher level of knowledge that leads to supernatural power is not laid open to ordinary observation and disciplined reason but is secretly layered on top of ordinary reality in a system of hidden symbols that only the initiated can interpret.

The modern occult movement of the 19th century looked back to the ancient mystery religions for this knowledge. One of those religions was Gnosticism, a blending of mystery religion and Christianity. Gnosticism means something like “knowledgeism,” because the Gnostics taught that a system of secret spiritual knowledge understood through hidden symbolism was necessary for salvation from the material world.

The word heretic as we use it today, was created to describe Gnostics. They were heretics because they preached salvation through secret knowledge instead of salvation through Jesus.

In Proverbs, Wisdom does not consist in a system of hidden symbols, but rather is publicly available (Prov 8:1-3). God created reality with but one level of knowledge (Prov 8:12), and it is accessible to all who diligently seek Wisdom (Prov 8:17). Rather, it is Folly that deals in secrets (Prov 9:17).

Today we not only have a modern expression of ancient mystery religions known as the occult, we also have a modern expression of Gnosticism—Christian conspiracy preachers who teach attainment of spiritual power through secret knowledge of hidden symbols. They purport to warn you against the occult, while at the same time adopting occult epistemology in order to explain its power.

Monster-All-Seeing-Eye-Pyramid

Pop star Rihanna displaying the “Eye of Providence” symbol.
Screen capture from “Monster” (2013) by Eminem, feat. Rihanna

When conspiracy teachers blend Christianity and occult epistemology they end up with two levels of spiritual knowledge. The first level is the knowledge you get from ordinary theology—comparing Scripture with Scripture, studying the original languages, thinking through the teachings of the Bible—that’s open for anyone to study. That’s probably enough to get you to heaven, but you still might get fooled by the Devil if you don’t know what he’s secretly up to. So you need to advance to that second level of hidden knowledge that is only available through an extra-biblical system of hidden symbols, which only the initiated can understand.

Once you accept the premise that spiritual knowledge can be gained through this system of hidden symbols, you’re swept up into a hidden world of mysterious powers, remarkable secrets, and high-stakes conflictall contributing to a sense of self-importance. It’s like being on a spiritual drug, and once the buzz wears off you want some more. None of it does anything to bring your heart closer to Jesus, and you end up trusting in your knowledge about the inner-workings supernatural power to save you from Satan.

So what can you do if you realize you’ve fallen for the folly of occult epistemology?

  1. Recognize that true spiritual knowledge starts with Jesus (Prov 9:10), and Jesus doesn’t hide this knowledge but lays it open in His Word: “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2).
  2. Get close to Jesus. Instead of studying conspiracy theories, spend time in prayer. Not only will you get true spiritual knowledge, but you’ll be protected from the Devil. No one accidentally ends up under demonic power by drinking a beverage with “666” hidden on it or watching a music video with Illuminati symbolism. The real danger is in choosing to focus my heart’s desires on something other than God (1 Peter 5:8-10). In that light, conspiracy preaching holds a more subtle danger than popular entertainment, because you think your heart is close to God when the reality is far from it.
  3. Study the symbolic system of Scripture. The Bible is replete with ritual, typological, and apocalyptic symbolism. God uses it to communicate spiritual truths that are too profound for simple explanation. Nowhere in Scripture are we encouraged to look to a hidden knowledge outside the Bible to interpret the symbols in the Bible. Rather, the Bible provides its own interpretive keys, which are not hidden and available only to initiates, but open to all.

I believe occult epistemology is the devil’s counterfeit to distract us from the symbolic system of the Bible while fooling us into thinking we can have a measure of control over supernatural power. The symbolic system of Scripture is deep enough to sustain a lifetime of study, but it has a simple message: God is in control, put your trust in Him. (Prov. 3:5)

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The Perils Of Creative Thinking
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Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Proverbs 2:2 NLT

In grade school, my teacher was talking about the possibility of solar powered cars. A sincere question came to my mind. I raised my hand and asked, “How would these cars run in the dark?” My teacher was angered by my question. I can’t recall if she actually called it a stupid question, but she sure made me feel stupid! She told me that, obviously, there was a battery that stored power for night time, and then said I should stop thinking of stupid questions.

I was hurt. I thought I had asked a good question. (I just now took a moment to Google it, and it appears I am not the only person who has ever asked that question.) Tuning your ears to wisdom and concentrating on understanding can take you outside the box. I have learned a lot of people don’t like to think outside the box.

Another time, in the same grade, we were talking about islands. The teacher said an island is a body of land surrounded by water. I then made the honest observation that every continent or group of continents is an island, since eventually they all reach water. My teacher got mad and told me to stop acting so silly. I honestly was not trying to act silly. I was taking the teacher serious and literally, and literally every piece of land, no matter how big, eventually meets water on every side, and thus by my teacher’s definition is an island. The piece of land which makes up North, Central and South America is surrounded by water, and thus, the Americas are an island, according to the information my teacher gave me.

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I have had several people over the years tell me that they appreciate  my sermons and writings because I make them think of things they have never thought of before and see God’s love in a way they never had before. People call that creative thinking. It’s a good thing, but it comes with risks. When some people say, “I never thought of it that way before” they mean that is brilliant. When others say, “I never thought of it that way before” they mean that is  stupid! My creative thinking has led people to Jesus, while at the same time causing others, like my teacher, to think I am just being silly.

I first served as a head elder of a church when I was 22, and some people thought I was too immature to be a head elder. I probably was. Probably still am. Some of my ideas they thought were silly. For example, I started prayer meetings at 7:23. Why such an odd time? Because that way people would not have a hard time remembering if it was 7:00 or 7:30. 7:23 sticks out in the brain. Plus who says you have to start at 7:00, 7:15 or 7:30? Since then I have noticed how many sporting events and things start at 7:07 and other “odd” times.

In another church district I served as a lay pastor, one of my churches had an adult Sabbath school teacher who was out on vacation. I could not find a replacement in that church, so I asked one of the teachers in my other church to come over and teach the lesson. They thought the idea of teaching Sabbath School in any other church than their own was just unheard of and too strange to fathom. It took me a while to coax them out of their little “box” but I finally did.

My point is that a lot of ideas some people find laughable, others find brilliant. So I am happy when people tell me I make them think outside the box. I think the box should be thrown away.

Some people however, believe the box is sacred. They want every Bible study on the Sabbath or any other topic to be exactly the same as all the others, by asking the exact same cookie cutter questions, followed up by the exact same cliche answers. I have had unchurced people come to my Sabbath School class, because they simply were not allowed to ask certain questions in other classes.

I believe Jesus was grieved by narrow minded thinking when He talked about old wines skins (narrow minded thinking, paralyzed in cliches and traditions) not being able to hold new wine (new ideas and methods). See Mark 2:22. Jesus thought the old wine skins should be thrown away, like I think the box should be thrown away.

Jesus lived outside the box Himself. Off-beat ideas like praying for God to bless your enemies, going the extra mile, and a little child being the greatest, really had people thinking in ways they never had before. But with a little wisdom and understanding, people realized He was not so crazy after all.

I’m writing this just to let those who think outside the box know they are not so crazy. God created us in His creative image. We see His creative thinking both in creation and in the plan of redemption. Therefore when we “let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) we will have minds that think creatively like Jesus.

When Jesus went to raise a little girl from the dead (See Mark 5:35-43) everyone laughed at Him when He said she was asleep. His way of thinking attracted a lot of mockery and ridicule, but He saved a young girl’s life and that was no joke! I don’t think Jesus was concerned about what the others thought about Him that day. He was there for one reason only – to bring salvation.

If people laugh at you and your way of thinking and explaining things then so be it! God, in His wisdom, made each one of us unique and put a little of His own creativity into us, and we have the privilege to exercise that creativity to His glory. While some may laugh at us, others may finally see God’s love presented in a way they understand for the first time.

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A Wise Lesson From a Humble Deacon
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I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:12-13 NLT

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GoodSalt.com-lmdas0011

It is impossible for a truly wise person to be proud and arrogant. Wisdom is talking in the quoted passage, saying she hates pride and arrogance. in dealing with so many people in various situations, I have noticed how beautifully wisdom and humility go together. Arrogance and stupidity, not so much! Yet the latter always seem to team up together, just like the former.

This reminds me of Daniel. Daniel 1:20 says that Daniel and his friends were ten times wiser than their colleagues. Yet look what Daniel says later, when he interprets the king’s dream in Daniel 2:30.

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart.

Smart people don’t talk about how smart they are.

When I was in my early twenties I was playing a Bible trivia game with a deacon in the church and a married couple just learning about Jesus. Whenever my deacon friend was asked a question, even though I knew he knew the answer right away, he would pause and think, and even ask the new couple what they thought before answering. At first I was puzzled why my deacon friend was acting like he did not already know it all. Soon, even the dimwit that I am, I caught on that my deacon friend was not wanting to show them up. He wanted for them all to come up with the answer together instead of him looking like he knew it all.

I learned a valuable lesson from my deacon friend that day, a lesson I have carried into my ministry. When I am with a new seeker, and I ask them to turn to John 3:16, I don’t race to John 3:16 and then look at them like I am patiently waiting. I take my time. The lesson I learned from my wise deacon friend is, “Don’t show people up.”

People who think they are wise are more hopeless than a fool, because at least a fool knows he is a fool, but those who think they are wise are clueless they are clueless.

There is more hope for fools than for people who think they are wise. Proverbs 26:12 NLT

Truly wise people don’t find glory in knowing it all. They find glory in knowing God.

…Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, …But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me… Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLT

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HopeSS: The Blessings of the Righteous
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You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.

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05: The Blessings of the Righteous: Thought Starters
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[Though questions for The Blessings of the Righteous January 27, 1015]

http://www.goodsalt.com/details/lwjas0042.html?r=ssnet

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

1. Introduction. A whole three months on the book of Proverbs? Plenty of advice awaits us on this journey. I apologize for being gone for so many months. First I ended up in the hospital and then rehab with a bad hip fracture, then my computers all went bonkers. But now I’m back, just in time to glean wonderful blessings from the study of a marvelous collection of proverbs in God’s Word.

2. Holistic Righteousness. What is the difference between “holistic” and “wholistic”? You can stir up a real argument on that question, but instead of that, can we agree that for this lesson, “holistic” refers to spiritual reality and leave the details to the scholars? In the first seven verses of Proverbs 10, the wise man’s proverb deals with the futility of false gain (v 2-3). How does God deal holistically with those who clamor for gain? After reading verse 5, can you come up with a spiritual application to the example of a “wise son” who “gathers” in the summer and another son who sleeps in the harvest?

3. The Mouth of the Righteous. Did you know that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body? Well, it’s not, according to scientists. The tongue is a combination of many muscles. But would you like to have the mouth (and tongue) of a righteous person? How different would that be from a “filthy” mouth or a mouth that is used carelessly? What function of the mouth did Jesus use with overwhelming power at Creation? Can God give us the wisdom to use our mouths to bless, to comfort, to lead? How?

4. The Hope of the Righteous. Read Proverbs 11:3. Do you believe that the good prosper and the bad waste away? Always? Eventually? Sometimes? How often have you heard a fellow Christian say that “God saved my life” or “It was an answer to prayer”? Do righteous people ever fail in their business or get a terminal disease? Are the wicked often prosperous and excel in other ways? What is the use of giving your heart to Jesus if you won’t get more of a reward than you would not even thinking about such things? Is it wrong for us to long for the final heavenly reward? What is our greatest hope as Christians? How will it be fulfilled?

5. The Truth of the Righteous. Your lesson authors have chosen to focus on the curse of lying in this lesson. Has anyone ever told you a lie? How did it make you feel? Remember when cigarette ads were packed with untruths? Or when elected officials were caught telling untruths? Are all lies bad? What if a lie is the only way you can get through a border to a foreign country? Is lying forgivable in those and other circumstances? What are the benefits of telling the truth no matter what?

6. The Reward of the Righteous. Imagine getting to know someone who has no faults and does not sin, someone who is without a doubt a “righteous” person. (Have you ever met someone like that?) Can you and I, who fall far below the standards upheld by that person, also experience righteousness? I stumble and fall just about every day. How can I be judged worthy of Christ’s righteousness? Suppose you set out to live a life filled with righteousness to the best of your abilities as you give them wholly to God. What is your reward?

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Wednesday: The Truth of the Righteous
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Read Proverbs 12:1-28 and focus on the theme of words, especially in the context of telling truth or telling lies. What message do we find here about honesty and lying?

Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

Philosopher Sissela Bok has convincingly demonstrated how lying can be harmful for society. She writes: A society, then, whose members were unable to distinguish truthful messages from deceptive ones, would collapse.Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), p. 19. Likewise, Augustine, as quoted in the introduction of Bok’s book, noted that when regard for truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful. — Page xv.

Ellen G. White wrote: Lying lips are an abomination to Him. He declares that into the holy citythere shall in no wise enter . . . any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. Let truth telling be held with no loose hand or uncertain grasp. Let it become a part of the life. Playing fast and loose with truth, and dissembling to suit one’s own selfish plans, means shipwreck of faith. . . . He who utters untruths sells his soul in a cheap market. His falsehoods may seem to serve in emergencies; he may thus seem to make business advancement that he could not gain by fair dealing; but he finally reaches the place where he can trust no one. Himself a falsifier, he has no confidence in the word of others.My Life Today, p. 331.

When we think of how powerful words are, we must think about lying as well, because most lies are told with words. Who hasn’t felt the sting, the betrayal, the sense of defilement when lied to? It’s not hard to imagine a society falling into total chaos when lying is the norm rather than an aberration from the norm.

There’s another angle, too: the effect of lying on the one who lies. Some people are so used to the practice that it doesn’t bother them; many people, though, do feel a sense of guilt, of shame, when they lie. Good for them, because that means there is still some receptiveness to the Holy Spirit.

Imagine, though, the danger for the one who lies but doesn’t even think twice about it.

When was the last time you lied? How did you feel when you did it?

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05: The Blessing of the Righteous – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : God created humans with free choice so that we can love Him and one another. He shows the principles of cause and effect so that we can make choices that benefit us and others.

gless05-2015a[Lesson Plan for The Blessing of the Righteous January 26, 2015]

1. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 10:1-7.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What kind of choices do we have in life? What kind are determined for us?
c. Personal Application: How does our inner attitudes affect our choices? How can we determine if they will be good or bad for others? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “I don’t care what other people think. What I choose to do, that’s what I do. I choose to do what’s best for me. My choices don’t affect others anyway.” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 10:12-14.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. What is the contrast between how a righteous man speaks and how the fool speaks?
c. Personal Application: Has anyone ever hurt you deeply because of their words? Were they matter of fact or given in anger? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “Is this saying that if I love people that will covers all my sins? So it’s not a matter of obedience to some laws, but just loving others?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 11:12-17.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why is getting advice from many counselors a safety?
c. Personal Application: In what ways are you a loving and humble person? How does this affect our influence on those around us? Share your thoughts..
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Are people who have troubles with their neighbors supposed to tolerate their bad behavior, or slovenliness, without saying anything to help improve the situation?” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 12:4.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How can a woman make her husband ashamed?
c. Personal Application: How is your spouse a crown to your life? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.

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Tuesday: The Hope of the Righteous
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The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them (Prov. 11:3). What evidence do we have of the truth of this verse? What examples have you seen or heard about in which this spiritual truth has been revealed? By contrast, what things have you seen that mean that, so far at least, you have to take this text by faith?

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Read Proverbs 11. Though it touches on so many topics, what are some of the great blessings that come to the faithful as opposed to what happens to the wicked?

The sense of a future and the value of what is not yet seen (see 2 Cor. 4:18) help motivate the righteous to live rightly. Because of their hope in the future, the righteous behave with humility, honesty, and compassion.

On the other hand, wicked people live only in the present; they are concerned only with what they see and with the immediate reward. They think of themselves before others and will resort to deception and abuse. For instance, the salespeople who deceive their customers might perhaps get an immediate reward with a higher price, but they ultimately could lose their customers and their business might fail (Prov. 11:3, Prov. 11:18).

Think about some of the decisions you have to make and how you go about making them. How much long-term planning (as in eternity) factors into your choices?

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Monday: The Mouth of the Righteous
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The mouth (with its components, the lips and the tongue) is the most important organ in the book of Proverbs. In the New King James Version of the book, the word mouth is used 50 times,lips occurs 41 times, and tongue 19. The use of this organ in speech is a particularly important theme in Proverbs 10–29.

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

The basic premise is crucial: our words are very powerful, either for good or for evil. The tongue can be the best or the worst gift that we’ve been given. This ambivalence about the tongue is one of the most important lessons in Proverbs. Indeed, the mouth generates life, but it also may bring death.

Read Proverbs 10:11–14. What is the contrast there between how the righteous person speaks and how the fool does?

In Proverbs 10:11 notice the expression the well of life. It symbolically refers to qualities of wisdom. It is used in reference to the Lord (Ps. 36:9), the Source of life. The same image is used in relation to the sanctuary, from which the stream of water springs (Ezek. 47:1-2). Jesus uses this metaphor to illustrate the gift of the Spirit (John 4:14). So the comparison of the mouth of the righteous to a well of life amounts to relating it to God Himself.

What characterizes this mouth is the positive gift of life. This quality tells us what the proper function of the mouth should be. It should be a force for good, not evil, a source of life, not death. What is being said here is seen also in James 3:2–12.

Remember, too, that it was through speech, through the word of His power (Heb. 1:3, NKJV), that God created the heavens and the earth. Speech, therefore, should serve only creative purposes.

Consider just how incredibly powerful words are. With your words you can fill people with self-confidence, cheer, and hope, or you can break them down and damage them as surely as if you attacked them physically. How careful are you as you wield the power of your tongue?

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Sunday: Righteousness Is Holistic
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Read Proverbs 10:1–7. What various principles about life and faith are revealed here?

Job's Prosperity

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There is a story about a man in a boat who began to drill a hole under his feet where he sat. When people in the boat demanded that he stop, he responded: This is none of your business. This is my place! This absurd response is often the excuse used by the sinner to justify his or her behavior. This is my life; it has nothing to do with you. Of course, anything we do or don’t do has an impact on others, especially on those nearest to us. Who hasn’t felt, in a big way, the results of other people’s actions, either good or bad?

The principle of unity between the spiritual-moral life and the physical-material life is dealt with in Proverbs 10:3-5. The main idea is that wickedness or moral deficiency does not pay, even if one is rich; and, second, that righteousness is always rewarding, in one way or another, even if one is poor.

In Proverbs 10:6-7, we see here an earlier expression of what Jesus said about how lust is adultery, or hatred akin to murder. Hiding our hatred behind our words doesn’t always work, either. Wicked thoughts are often betrayed in our body language and the tone of our voice. The best possible starting point for good relations with others is You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18, NKJV; compare with Matt. 19:19, NKJV). As the texts also suggest, the impression you make for good can have a lasting influence on others. In the end we’re dealing with a certain amount of common sense: isn’t it better to have a good name than a bad one?

What important decision are you going to be making soon? If you haven’t already done so, consider carefully the impact that choice might have on others, for good or for evil.

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Sabbath: The Blessings of the Righteous
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Read for This Week’s Study: Proverbs 10:1–14, Matt. 19:19, Proverbs 11:1-12:28, John 3:16, Proverbs 13:1-35.

gless05-2015aMemory Text: Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked (Proverbs 10:6, NKJV).

As the title suggests, this lesson looks at the blessings of the righteous. The Hebrew wordzaddiq, for righteous, is the key word in our texts. Zedeq (also translated justice), from which it is derived, appears in the introduction of the whole book: The proverbs of Solomon . . . to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice [zedeq] . . . (Prov. 1:1–3). What the book of Proverbs is telling us is that wisdom is righteousness, and righteousness means to walk according to God’s commands — to walk in faith and obedience to what the Lord has called us to be and to do. Righteousness is a gift, one that comes from God. The opposite is folly and unfaithfulness. Wisdom is justice, or righteousness; folly is sin and wickedness — and in the verses we will study, the contrast between them is stark.

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 31.

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Inside Story: “Being Ready for Whatever”
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Travis didn’t know what to do with his camper. At age 12, Logan* was the toughest kid in the cabin and wanted to be in charge of everyone and everything. One night, Logan decided he wasn’t going to bed, so Travis and his co-counselor came up with a plan.

OK, they told the obstinate camper, you can stay up–as long as you read the Bible. Logan agreed, except he didn’t have a Bible; in fact, he had never read one. So the co-counselor loaned Logan his Bible, and by the light of the moon and a flashlight, the boy met the heroes of Genesis for the very first time.

The next morning Logan confided to his counselors, I actually found some cool stories in there.He was especially interested in the story of Joseph, and asked many questions, wondering how Joseph was able to do all that he did.

Although Logan still acted tough, you could see the gears starting to turn as he wondered what we were all about, remembered Travis. It was kind of cool to see the change that took place over the week.

Most of the kids who come to Camp Polaris don’t know the Bible. Travis remembers a time when only one camper knew the story of David and Goliath. We’re ministering to kids who don’t grow up in Christian homes, who don’t read the Bible. It takes a lot of prayer to help reach these kids . . . to know how to reach them.

Travis, a senior mechanical engineering student at Walla Walla University, started working at Camp Polaris in 2011. In addition to being a counselor, he has taught a variety of classes including wakeboarding and model rocketry.

I’ve loved it every summer, that’s why I keep going back, he says. It’s been an absolute blast. On top of that, I’ve learned a lot about trusting in God, because you get situations where you don’t know how to make it through the week, but you always do. Then in hindsight, you see that even the tough things were a positive. It definitely is about learning to trust God.

I think I’m a little more comfortable now with just being thrown into a situation. I’ve learned to be flexible and go with the flow, and to be ready for whatever–because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

*Not his real name.

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Friday: Further Study: Divine Wisdom
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Further Study: The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate — a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. John 1:1-2. Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father — one in nature, in character, in purpose — the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. . . . And the Son of God declares concerning Himself: The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting. . . . When He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him. Proverbs 8:22–30. — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 34.

studymoreDiscussion Questions:

  1. Why is belief in the Genesis Creation account the foundation of biblical wisdom? Why is the idea of evolution contrary to the Bible in every way?
  2. Dwell more on the idea that true wisdom is something that we cannot generate of ourselves but that must be revealed to us. What are some examples of important truths that we would never know other than their being revealed by divine inspiration? For instance, how could we know about Christ’s death on the cross and what it offers were it not revealed? What about the seventh-day Sabbath or the Second Coming?
  3. How does God’s work, as revealed in Genesis 1, testify to the fact that good cannot be mixed with evil? What implications does your answer have for the idea that one could, for instance, incorporate an evolutionary worldview into the Genesis Creation story?
  4. How does God’s enjoyment of the creation help us to understand how we can have a deeper and richer Sabbath experience?
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Thursday: Either/Or
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Following wisdom’s appeal, the inspired author of Proverbs 9 urges his audience to make a choice now between two lifestyles: wisdom or folly. The first and last six verses (Prov. 9:1–6, Prov. 9:13–18) are symmetrical and bring out the contrast between the opposite camps.

Image © Kevin Carden from GoodSalt.com

Image © Kevin Carden from GoodSalt.com

Compare Proverbs 9:1–6 and Proverbs 9:13–18. What is the difference between wisdom and folly?

1. Wisdom is efficient and is involved in Creation: seven verbs are used to describe her actions there (Proverbs 9:1-3). The seven pillars she has hewn (Proverbs 9:1) allude to the seven days of Creation. Folly, in contrast, sits and does nothing, just pretending to be someone when in factshe is simple, and knows nothing (Proverbs 9:13, NKJV).

2. Although wisdom and folly call the same audience (note the identical Proverbs 9:4, Prov. 9:16), what they provide is essentially different. Wisdom invites her guests to eat the bread and drink the drink that she has prepared (Proverbs 9:5). Folly offers nothing to eat or drink; she simply boasts about stolen provisions (Proverbs 9:17).

3. Wisdom calls us to forsake foolishness and, therefore, to live. Folly is more tolerant; she does not demand that we forsake anything, but the result is death. Those who follow wisdom will be advancing; they will go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:6, NKJV). Those who follow folly will be static, and they will not know (Proverbs 9:18, NKJV).

Read Proverbs 9:7–9. How do the wise man and the wicked man respond to the instruction of wisdom? What makes the wise man wiser than the wicked man?

The key to wisdom is humility. The wise man is the man who is teachable and responds to instruction with an open mind. Wisdom comes only to the one who, like a child, feels the need to grow. This is why, in the most explicit manner, Jesus taught that unless you . . . become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3, NKJV).

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Wednesday: Wisdom’s Appeal
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The last few verses of this proverb return to the personal — to the practical application of what it means to have wisdom. By contrast, the intellectual knowledge about wisdom’s preexistence, about wisdom’s presence at Creation, is certainly deep. But in the Bible, truth must always at some point come down to the human level and how we respond to what we have been given in Jesus.

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Read Proverbs 8:32-36. What life-and-death message is given here?

The Hebrew word translated as blessed (NKJV) means happy (see RSV). In this passage the word blessed is attached to two propositions. The first one describes an action: Blessed are those who keep my ways (Proverbs 8:32, NKJV). The same language is used in Psalm 119:1-2, in regard to the law: Blessed are the undefiled . . . who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies (NKJV).

The second one describes an attitude: Blessed is the man who listens to me (Proverbs 8:34, NKJV). In both cases the requirement implies a continuous effort. It is not enough to have discovered the right way; we have to keep it. It is not enough to hear the word of God; we have to watch daily and follow what we know. As Jesus put it: Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28, NKJV).

Is this the happiness desirable which is to be found in the path of disobedience and transgression of physical and moral law? Christ’s life points out the true source of happiness and how it is to be attained. . . . If they would be happy indeed, they should cheerfully seek to be found at the post of duty, doing the work which devolves upon them with fidelity, conforming their hearts and lives to the perfect pattern. — Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 162.

Happiness can be an elusive thing; the more we strive for it, the harder it seems for us to attain it. Why should faithfulness to God, as opposed to the pursuit of happiness, be our first priority? Besides, which is more likely to produce happiness (and why): seeking it, or seeking first the kingdom of God?

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