What if our crisis of character flows, not from a lack of integrity, but from a lack of wisdom? Perhaps we are not hypocrites, but fools, for hypocrites know what to do and only pretend to do it, while fools don’t even know what to do. Fools do one thing and expect another result. And fools, as they are portrayed in the Bible, are not the uneducated, but those blind to their ways. They cannot see the consequences of their actions. They will not accept guidance and “when people do not accept guidance, they run wild,” (Proverbs 29:18, NLT).

Week 1 “Uncommon Sense” Proverbs 9:1-6, 10-12; 4:5-9, 18-19. Rev. Steve DeNeff

There are two storylines in our day – one of unprecedented accomplishments and prosperity, and another of disorder and fear – and what is most needed is a remnant of genuine people who are wise. But what is wisdom? Where does it begin and how does the pursuit of it make all other things easier? This sermon will introduce wisdom and folly as currents in a river, with the “fear of the Lord” as the headwaters of wisdom. It will challenge us to “get wisdom, though it cost all you have,” (4:7) and show how the “fear of the Lord” means more than simple faith.

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Week 2 “The Continental Divide” Proverbs 1:20-31; 2:1-8. Rev. Steve DeNeff

“Everyone is talking, but who is really listening? Proverbs says that Wisdom is always calling out, yet who is seeking it? Wisdom falls like rain on the continental divide, and from there it flows toward those who listen and away from those who don’t. Most people would rather give advice than take it. Most, who are good at assessing others, are not as good at being assessed yet those who welcome criticism are the ones who find Wisdom. Listening well, and responding well to criticism, gets harder and harder the older and more educated we become.  This sermon will show how our capacity to listen affects every relationship, every venture, every opportunity and teach us how to listen more effectively.”

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Week 3 “Minding the Oars” Proverbs 4:20-23; 10:24. Rev. Steve DeNeff

“There is a pattern that emerges early in the life of the wise: they know to navigate desire. They do not let their impulses carry them away. Using discipline and restraint, like oars to steer a raft, wise people keep themselves out of currents that would carry them away. The fool pursues them recklessly (note the metaphor for temptation in 7:6-27). He is uninhibited, loud and defiant in his pursuit of pleasure. He can do what he wants but soon enough he won’t like what he gets. In this sermon we’ll explore how temptation works, like subtle currents that carry us away, and give practical wisdom on how to mind the oars so we can avoid trouble ahead.”

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Week 4 “Making Waves” Proverbs 3:1-2; 12:11-12. Rev. Steve DeNeff

Another of the subtle currents that carry us is the current of ambition, and Proverbs has much to say about it.  Opportunity comes to everyone, it says, though not in the same degree and the wise are those who seize that opportunity.  Fools wait for the perfect opportunity and, ignoring all others, complain that no opportunity has come. But how does one seize opportunity without becoming over-ambitious? How do we live a balanced and fruitful life? What principles guide us in the pursuit of our work? This sermon will explore the patterns of the industrious and the idle, and show us how to leverage opportunities on this day.

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Week 5 “The Rudder” Proverbs 10:11-14; 18-21. Rev. Steve DeNeff

“Even though words have gone wild, they still matter. In fact, words shape our destiny. James says that the tongue is like a tiny rudder that is used to steer a ship. They take us in one direction or another. Yet how often we get careless with our words. In Proverbs, the wise and the foolish talk differently. The words of the wise are powerful and bring efficient. The words of a fool are empty and profuse. So before we say it, or before we press “send” we should stop and listen to the wisdom of Proverbs for what is at stake is not only the feelings of others, but our own destiny as well. This sermon will focus on the differences between the wise and foolish use of words, and give practical wisdom for learning a righteous economy of speech.”

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Week 6 “Parting of the Waters” Proverbs 3:3-6; 10:9; 11:16-20. Rev. Steve DeNeff

“As the speed of a river changes we are pulled into one of two directions and it is here where our destiny is most evident, yet still unseen. From here, “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the fool keeps going and suffers for it,” (22:3; 27:12). In one direction go the wise who are honest and kind, and in the other go the fools, who are deceptive and self-absorbed.  Sadly, we too often reward those moving in the wrong direction but Proverbs assures us that only the wise will prosper in the end. This sermon will explore the meaning of integrity and show how it is formed early in life.  It will encourage the righteous to be people of integrity in every area of their lives.”

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Week 7 “Lifestyles of the Rich” Proverbs 10:15-16; 11:24-28. Rev. Steve DeNeff

“Prosperity and ruin are two of the most obvious consequences of the wise and foolish.  But we should be careful here, for neither prosperity nor ruin mean what our culture believes. Many who seek prosperity are ruined by the very thing they seek. In Proverbs, the rich can be poor and the poor can be rich, depending on the relation that either has with wisdom. Prosperity is not simply money, but a lifestyle and it has, not only a different income, but a different mindset, different values, different ways, and a different relationship with our money. So what are the rules that lead to this prosperity? And what are the sins (so prevalent in our culture) that don’t? How shall the remnant live, in relation to their possessions, to show that we belong to the kingdom of God?”

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Week 8 “Habitat of Wisdom” Proverbs 6:20-23; 14:1; 20:7. Rev. Emily Vermilya

With the demise of traditional institutions, where do you go to learn wisdom? Of all places designed to teach it (schools, public forums, etc), the most powerful might also be the most overlooked today. Nearly everything that wisdom – or folly – has to teach us is first learned in the home.  Indeed, the family is the habitat of both. “The wise person builds her house; but with her own hands the fool tears hers down,” (14:1). In spite of our confusion over what, exactly, a family is, there remains a presence of both strong and weak families in our day and each has their common practices. This sermon will explore those practices and encourage the wise to pursue them.

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Week 9 “As Goes the River” Proverbs 4:18-19; 10:7; 16:31. Rev. Steve DeNeff

By the time most people think of their legacy, it’s too late to worry about it, for legacy is not the way we posture ourselves in front of others but the way that others speak of us after we have left the room. A good name is the reward of the wise; a bad name is the ruin of a fool. One of these is already happening. We are becoming the end of our journey, wise or foolish, and every moment takes us closer there. As goes the river, so goes our legacy. This sermon will explain the importance of finishing well and encourage us to hold fast to the Truth, even in the smallest ways, so that the next generation may follow in the currents of our faith.

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