Teaching Series
Wisdom That Works

Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: Violence
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Proverbs 1:8-19 in the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: “My son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; 16 for their feet rush into evil, they are swift to shed blood” (Proverbs 1:15–16).

Tex Watson. Susan Atkins. Linda Kasabian. Patricia Krenwinkle. Lynette Fromme. Mary Brunner. Sandra Good. Paul Watkins. Bobby Beausoleil. Leslie Van Houten. Catherine Share. Steve Grogan. 

Do you recognize any of these people’s names? No? Not familiar? Let me give you a few hints as to who they are and how they relate to today’s verse. They all believed strongly in the leadership of a certain man. Any guesses? No Googling allowed. Not yet. Another clue. The man they followed was a religious leader of sorts. At one time he subscribed to a faith that claimed that Satan and Christ would one day reconcile and judge the world together. More clues. The man they followed claimed Scientology as his religion for a long time. He got audited and jumped through all their hoops for a while, until he ended up being disillusioned and left that faith. Still don’t know who these people are?

Their leader was an aspiring musician who worked with one of the original Beach Boys on one of his songs. His music and philosophy even made it onto a Beatles album at one point.

I feel like I’ve given too many clues. If you haven’t figured it out by now, all of the people mentioned above were a part of the Manson Family. That would be Charles Manson. The imprisoned cult leader with a swastika on his forehead( lunatic) who died in prison in 2017. 

Charles Manson was trouble from early childhood. His parents and many of his relatives were criminals and he was the worst of them all. In and out of juvenile detention centers through his youth, robberies, rapes (male and female), and other violent crimes landed him in prison after prison. Somehow, in between stays behind bars, Manson found himself in San Francisco during the Summer of Love attracting followers who would later be dubbed “The Manson Family.” Manson managed to get his disciples to kill six people, almost seven. The seventh would have been President Gerald Ford if all had gone according to plan.

My question is how? How in the world can a group of seemingly normal people get sucked into a cult that would have them commit these heinous crimes? 

I’m no psychiatrist, but I suspect the same kind of psychology has countless old people emptying their bank accounts to support rich television evangelists. A charismatic leader can get the masses to do just about anything. The scary thing is, they do their evil with duped minds that have somehow justified their actions. 

One of the things I’ve appreciated about Adventism is that it is a message-driven movement and not a cult of personality. If and when one person takes leadership in Adventism and tries to sway public opinion on matters of faith and action, I for one, will stand in resistance. I will always stand for the message. I will resist any leader who tries to sway the masses with an agenda. Even if it seems at the time to be the right thing to do. 

Recalibrate: Who are the most compelling people of your generation? What are their tactics for swaying the masses?

Respond: Pray these words: “Lord, let me place my faith in You and never in any human being.” 

Research: Read this short biography of Charles Manson.

Remember: “My child, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them” (Proverbs 1:10, NIV).

Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.

Play a game of Follow the Leader with your child today. Take turns so they can lead as well. There is no way that you would lead your child to their death. Know that our Heavenly Father always leads us to eternal life. Death is not our final destination. As I write this, I have no idea what you are going through at the moment but Jesus does and He will never lead you astray. He will always lead you home. Hold on to the hand that loves you the most. Listen to His leading and follow.

Have you ever played Simon Says? It can be such a fun game. One person is “Simon” and the rest of the players listen to his instructions “Simon” will say something like, “Simon says . . . do a jumping jack!” or “Simon says . . . .clap your hands.” But then things get tricky; Simon might quickly say, “Stand on one leg!” without saying “Simon Says” at the beginning. Anyone who does that action is out for the rest of the game. Get some of your family and friends together to play a game of Simon Says. Simon is always trying to get everyone listening to him to mess up accidentally. Who are some people you know that would never try to get you to mess up, but who want you to do the best you can?

A few years ago I was late to leave from my house to catch a plane. As you may well know, these days you cannot board an airplane without having a specific list of items—one of which is your identification card. Unfortunately for me, mine was nowhere in sight. Knowing that planes don’t just wait for people who don’t show up to the airport, I went tearing through my apartment looking for my ID everywhere I could have thought to have left it. In doing so, I destroyed every room I walked through. The couch cushions went flying, every drawer in my desk was flung free from its mount, every drawer jerked from the dresser and dumped onto the floor; the bedding was scavenged and crumpled, and my backpack upended and dumped on the desktop. Eventually, I found my ID (it was already packed in my suitcase) and I ran out to the car to head for the airport. I nearly forgot all about the stress of searching for my ID while I was on that trip. Until I returned home, of course. I entered my apartment to find everything just as I had left it— ransacked. It looked like I had been robbed! But instead of filing a police report, I simply cleaned up the mess I made for myself.

Proverbs 1:16 tells us to stay away from people who throw caution to the wind and do everything they can to make messes in their lives when he says, “They’re racing to a very bad end, hurrying to ruin everything they lay hands on.” 

While not every mess you make is one to be punished for, when all you do is make messes with no intention of picking them up, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the way you move about the world. 

What are some ways you might need to look at the people you associate with? Is there someone in your life who seems to only make messes? How might you help them clean up their act? How might you need to take a lesson from Solomon and clean up some of the cluttered corners of your own life? How might tidying things up change the way you think, act, and live day to day?

There are a lot of things we cannot control, and it is easy to blame outside circumstances to justify our actions. When we slowly compromise our beliefs or personal mantras, we end up in positions we never thought we would be in. During my first few years of college I compromised a lot of time that should have been spent studying to hang out with people who weren’t the best influences on me. My desire was to be a straight-A student, but because I was compromising my time to socialize, my grades slowly started to slip. I needed to realize that I am in charge of my future and the quality of life I live. The little decisions each of us makes today do influence tomorrow. “My son, don’t travel that road with them or set foot on their path, because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood” (Proverbs 1:15-16, CSB).

Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Emily Ellis is a senior studying theology at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.

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