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Tonight we’re starting a summer sermon series called “10 Faith lessons for Life.” We’re using the game of Life to get into these lessons. Instead of a devotion we’re sharing a Life Card in the bulletin. These Life Cards give Bible readings and practical application to each night’s faith lesson. At the end of the sermon I’m going to share a challenge card. I’ll ask you at your tables to discuss the challenge card. This series is meant to be practical. I’m going to give you something specific each week to respond to the faith lesson. How many of you have played the game of Life? When I was a kid I remember playing it on many summer days with my sister. When my daughter Hannah got to be about seven the two of us played a lot. The game was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley. It was called the “Checkered Game of Life.” Milton Bradley was just at the start of his career. He had made some money on making lithographs of President Lincoln. The lithographs were of Lincoln with a beard—and then Lincoln shaved his beard. Milton Bradley went on to invent the Checkered Game of Life It was successful. It sold 45,000 copies in 1860. . SLIDE This is what the game looked like. Each square represented a social virtue or a

vice. A player would earn points if they landed on the social virtue and lose points if they landed on a vice. Some of the virtue squares were bravery or fame; some of the vice squares were disgrace or ruin. The first player to accumulate 100 points was the winner. A distinctive part of the game is the spinner. The makers of the game didn’t use dice because they were afraid of Christian moralists who didn’t believe in throwing dice. The game has never had dice.

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On the 100th anniversary of the game in 1960 the game was re-released in a format that we would recognize. There is a spiritual part to the game because the game is a journey through life. A person gets married, finds a job, buys a home, has kids. The end of the game is called millionaire estates because of course the American dream for everyone who retires is to be a millionaire. Today’s faith lesson about life is making decisions. I need wisdom, Lord. You and I make a lot of decisions. How many decisions do you think we make during a day? I asked this question on Google. I found an answer on ask.com SLIDE 612 100 15 612—almost 4,300 a week, over 223,000 If we make this many decisions, we need wisdom Lord. The Bible is full of wisdom. There are sections of the Bible that are called wisdom literature. The books of Proverbs, Psalms, Job, & Ecclesiastes are called wisdom literature. Jesus was seen as a wisdom teacher. The book of James in the New Testament has teachings on wisdom. We come to the Bible for wisdom. We have to be careful on how we access information from the Bible. Let me tell you one way that does not work. I’m going to tell it with a story My daughter, Hannah, is attending camp right now at Presbyterian Clearwater Forest and this reminded me of my going to camp when I was her age. I attended camp at Camp Okoboji. During one camp I became interested in the book of Proverbs. I would open up the book of Proverbs and start reading. They would give me pearl of wisdom.

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I opened up the book of Proverbs the other day and came up with these pearls of wisdom. SLIDE Proverbs 21:6 death SLIDE Proverbs 16:1 from the Lord The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of

The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is

SLIDE Proverbs 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps their ways straight, but the wicked fall by their own wickedness. SLIDE Proverbs 15:7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the minds of fools.

These are interesting sayings. The Proverbs share truths, but they really aren’t helpful for the 612 decisions I make every day. Here’s the thing. The Bible shares certain universal truths, and it gives us wisdom to many of our questions, but it isn’t a book that gives us answers to every question we have. My alternator died today and I had to take my Ford Escape to the shop. When my mechanic was fixing the car I hope he was reading a guide to fixing an alternator. The Bible is not going to help us fix an alternator. When the mechanic called me to say that I could buy a new alternator or a used one. I needed to make a decision. I didn’t open up the Bible for wisdom. On some issues the Bible is clear. If I’m tempted to have sexual intercourse with a married person—the Bible is clear—the answer is no If I’m tempted to run roughshod over my neighbor in the pursuit of wealth—the Bible is clear— the answer is don’t do it. If I think about stealing money from someone—the Bible is clear—don’t even think about it.

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The Bible gives us wisdom and can help us in making decisions, but it is one tool of many tools that we have. If we’re trying to decide on whether to take a job—read the Bible for guidance and talk to a job counselor If we are struggling with an addiction—read the Bible for guidance and join a support group oor even participate in an addiction program. If we were trying to decide how much money to save for retirement—talk to an personal finance If we were trying to decide which route to take to work in the morning—listen to the traffic on the radio or on the internet. The Bible can give us wisdom, but it’s not the only tool we have. There is a difference between intelligence, smarts and wisdom. I think it’s worth parsing these three words. SLIDE Intelligence is the acquiring of knowledge. We think of people who receive their

Masters degrees and doctoral degrees as intelligent, and they are. These folks have to go to a lot of school to receive their degrees and pass a lot of tests. We would meaure intelligence by an IQ test. An intelligent person would do well in the game of jeopardy. SLIDE Smarts is practical knowledge. A smart person is sharp or shrewd, an excellent

negotiator. I have a close friend who I just visited in Oregon named Greg. He has been very successful in life because he is so smart. Some of his friends have always been skeptical about Greg because they think he manipulates people. A smart person is always looking for the edge. A smart person would do well in the game the Price is Right. That person is always looking for an edge.

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SLIDE

Wisdom is an understanding of what is true or right or lasting. Through wisdom

we learn the secrets of what makes the world last for a long time. A wise person will do well in the game of Life. Jesus was not that concerned about making people more intelligent. Sometimes he did teach about being smart or shrewed. He was very interested in teaching about wisdom. Through his parables and other teachings he was communicating the principles that were true and right and lasting. What does the Bible teach about wisdom? It’s hard to summarize the wisdom of the Scriptures, but let me give you two points. First wisdom in the Bible is about choosing goodness and avoiding evil. In the Old Testament the people were given the law. This was supposed to help people be good and avoid evil. When the law became a set of rules that were only external, Jesus taught that goodness had to flow out of our heart. He taught love—of God, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The book of James talked about two kinds of wisdom—that is concerned with our self that is winning according to the world’s standards. This worldly wisdom leads to envy and selfish ambition, disorder and wickedness of every kind. James wanted the wisdom of God to flow out of our hearts. There is a peace to this wisdom—a peace that passes all understanding. This is why I love James description of wisdom. Read this with me. SLIDE The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. The second lesson that the Bible teaches about wisdom is our orientation to God. When we are constantly seeking God, searching for God, presence, involving God in our decisions,

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talking to God, humbling ourselves before God we will be wise. God becomes a partner in our life. We have an consistent awareness of the Almighty. For some this orientation is hard because how do we talk to something that we can’t see or listen to someone we can’t hear. We become aware through practice. How many of you have been watching the NBA finals. I haven’t been able to watch a lot of the games, but I’m going to do my best to watch game 7. Think how many jump shots the players on those teams have shot in their life. I have heard of basketball players shooting 300 to 400 or 1,000 jump shots every day in the summer. When we practice our faith it orients us to God. The more we orient ourselves to God and talk to God and involve God in our life the easier it will be to know God’s direction. This is where a faith community is so important. Together we help each other orient each other to God. I’ve talked in the past about having a prayer partner. Maybe we could just call this person a faith partner. How cool it would be to have another person whom we could call and talk about what is happening in our relationship with God. We have another person who is interested in listening to how we are doing at staying oriented to God and will keep us accountable. We would grow to accept the person enough that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to share when things aren’t going well. Faith partners—if any of you would like to work on this let me know. Orienting ourselves to God takes practice. All right—now let me answer the question. How do I make wise decisions? Let me share a four-step process that I’m calling POLO. Say that with me—POLO. POLO is a process that I invented—it’s influenced by the Scriptures—and I think if we follow it we will be wise.

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SLIDE

Pray. Pray over a decision. It doesn’t matter how small a decision ask for input

from God. Use this prayer, “God what do you want me to do?” Try this one, “Lord, help me open to your choice.” Pray and pray and pray. The Scriptures are clear that God honors persistent prayer. I remember last summer when we were hiring a Music Director. I made a commitment to pray on my knees every day for 15 minutes. I was convinced that God was going to answer our prayer and share with us the right Music Director. We had a group who worked hard on it. Our work was supplemented by prayer. After two months of doing this, Kristel applied for the job. Can I prove to you that 60 days of praying on my knees for 15 minutes produced Kristel. No. Pray is an act of faith. If you are making an important decision right now, pray over it. Pray persistently. SLIDE O—keep your Options open. One of the worst things that can happen to us is to be in a situation where our back is against the wall. We have no options. If we are making a decision make it so we keep our options open. A story. One of the first big decisions I made in life was where I was going to attend college. At the time I was super involved in playing the violin. I practiced the violin for at least two hours a day every day from seventh grade to 12th grade. During the summer I would practice five or six hours a day. I wanted to be a professional violinist. At the time I was living in Worthington and taking lessons from the concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra who lived in Golden Valley. I was trying to decide what college to attend. Do I really go for it with music or should I do something else. He encouraged me to keep my options open. Basically he wanted to know if I was willing to make a career choice at 18 years old. If I chose music at that point I

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would be limiting my options. Why not going to a school for a liberal arts education and keep my options open. I could always choose music. Keep our options open. Don’t let a decision back us against the wall. L—which decision is the most loving for God, loving my neighbors as I love myself, and I would add loving my family. Jesus is clear about the ultimate value—and that is love. Which decision will reflect love the best. This is where our faith practices are so important. When we become practiced in worship and bible reading and prayer and serving others and acts of justice we get a taste of God’s love. When we have a faith partner who can listen to us and encourage us we can learn about love. To be a follower of Jesus Christ means that love has to be a criteria for our decision. O—Only take the high road. If someone hurts us, we’re not called to hurt them back. If someone makes us angry, we’re not called to exert revenge. I teach our staff to only take the high road in our relationships with people. We all mess up at times. I mess up at times. It’s my experience that when we treat people with disrespect or bitterness or unhealthy anger—even people with whom we disagree profoundly—it eventually comes back to haunt us. P—pray O—keep our Options open L—love O—only take the high road If you participate in POLO the game of Life will go a lot better

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