The Virtue of Study

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The Virtue of Study: Why All Christians Should Be Life-Long Learners

Christians Should Love Learning
I’m of the opinion that all committed Christians should (and do) have a genuine love of learning. Christians have been serious students of knowledge since Jesus called the Original Twelve. From Jesus’ example as the Master Teacher, to the scholarship of monks that led to the first and best universities, Christians have always been in the forefront of teaching, learning, and education. If you think about it, that’s the way it should be.
God Wants Us To Know More Than We Currently Know
First, God is omniscient— meaning He knows everything. This all-knowing God made part of His infinite knowledge available to us. He has done this through the process of “revelation.” Divine revelation is the act of God revealing knowledge to us. God has given us both General Revelation and Special Revelation.
General Revelation (the cosmos, science, history, and the human faculties of reflection and conscience) has two main purposes: (1) To provide knowledge that helps people survive and thrive in our earthly lives, and (2) To help us realize that a Supreme Being exists, so we will begin to seek to know the true identity of this God (which is discovered through Special Revelation).
Special Revelation (including the Bible, Jesus Christ, and God’s supernatural activity) provides us with the information we need to know God personally and to cultivate a never-ending relationship with Him. Together, God’s Revelation helps us live lives informed by God’s knowledge, truth, and wisdom.
Acquiring Great Knowledge Isn’t Effort-Free
But there’s a catch… Though God has revealed enormous amounts of information, we do not naturally or automatically possess all of this knowledge. In other words, “revelation” is everything that God has made knowable or discoverable. Some of it we already know, but we’re born with very little innate knowledge. The rest has to be learned.
God helps us discover new knowledge in two ways: Through reflecting on life experiences and by intentionally and deliberately committing ourselves to learning.
Christians, of all people, have a responsibility to learn. The Apostle Paul, in writing to Christians in the city of Ephesus, made this clear. He prayed that God would “give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God” (Eph 1:17, NLT). Not only that, but “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Phil 2:13, NLT). For these reasons, Christians who walk with God have a supernatural desire to obtain information, knowledge, truth, and wisdom— and they are willing to do what it takes to learn them.
Christians Should Study Regularly and Systematically
Since there’s so much we need to know, Christians should be life-long learners. And because time is limited, we should be discriminating about how we study and what we learn.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give about building a strong Christian mind is this: study regularly and systematically. Don’t just pick and choose books or subjects willy-nilly. Rather, identify important categories of knowledge in which you should be informed, then deliberately, intentionally, regularly, and systematically use solid materials from reliable sources to build your mind and worldview.
No One Said It Better Than Paul
The Apostle Paul said it best: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

2 Timothy 2_2

Teach with your Strengths, part 1 of 2

Teaching with strengths part 1

Teach with your Strengths, part 1 of 2

by Dr. Kevin Nguyen

We tend to ask the common question of priority, “What do I work on first, my strength or my weaknesses?”  I had asked this question prior to starting my doctorate program.  My advisor at the time posed this conundrum to me and shared me both philosophies of thinking.  Some would work on their weaker areas to make them stronger.  Others will go all the way with they are good at so they can become experts in their field.  I chose the latter.  Why?  First, I am rooted in a Biblical Worldview in how God dispenses every believer spiritual gifts.Romans 12:6-8 says,
6Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: ifprophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7ifservice, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Second, if God has given us these unique gifts, why would we neglect it, but rather improve upon them.  The book “”Teach with your Strengths” follows these Biblical principles.  Although not written to a Christian audience, the book does support the principle that we should continue to A) Strengthen our Gifts, and b) Minimize our Weaknesses.  It takes more energy to focus on our weaknesses to make them even at par.  But the extreme energy exerted on improving our weaknesses will go further when we focus on our Strengths.  Let’s focus on our strengths.
In the next article (part 2 of 2), we will discover what my strengths are… stay tuned
I came across this book not too long ago in 2010. This book comes from a series of book from the Gallup Press.  Read more there. Teach with your strengths

The Best Courses Always Include… (Part Two)

Best Courses always include Bible Study

The Best Courses Always Include… (Part Two)

by Steve Huerd
Recently, while I was sitting in the dental chair, I asked my dentist and the dental hygienist, to describe for me what makes for a great professor.  After some thought, they both unanimously agreed that the best professors were those who truly cared for you.  As my anesthetic gradually wore off later in the day, I began reflecting on how teachers communicated their concern for me as a student over the years of my education.
In high school, my world literature teacher let me teach class one day debating the merits of secular humanism as compared to the truth of the gospel.  I was the only one in my entire senior class to take him up on the offer to teach class for one day  and though he was an atheist, he enabled me to teach on whatever subject I desired.
At St. Cloud State University, during Social Science 204, after listening to a homosexual couple describe their relationship, we had to write a paper stating our own views.  I expressed some strong statements in that paper and though the professor disagreed with me, he still gave me an “A” based on the quality of my work.
In seminary, when I couldn’t meet the agreed upon deadline during an independent study course, my professor cut me some slack so I could graduate.  Dr. Mark McCloskey, a dean at Bethel Seminary, met me with personally for mentoring, greatly encouraging me during a difficult time in my life.  Then, there was Dr. John Hannah, distinguished professor of Church History at Dallas Theological Seminary, who I encountered during Campus Crusade’s summer training, who cared enough to investigate nearly every detail of his subject matter making him a true expert.
In my doctoral program, Dr. Klaus Issler cared enough to keep pushing me to give my absolute best in his Theological Research and Integration course.  Dr. Kevin Lawson expressed his care through being willing to do whatever amount of work it took to help me and my fellow Talbot colleagues grasp and comprehend solid and robust educational research.  The list could go on and on of teachers who found ways to express care and concern in their pedagogy.
Caring for students, though there are a thousand ways to express it, is not dependent upon the subject matter but rather upon the character and heart of the teacher.  And, whether a teacher is a Christ follower or not, whether in elementary or graduate school, students can tell if they care, making this ingredient an indispensable part of the best courses.

The Best Courses Always Include… (Part One)

Best courses Light Bulb

The Best Courses Always Include… (Part One)

By Steve Huerd
It’s the most wonderful feeling as a speaker or teacher when someone comes up to you after you’ve finished speaking and says, “I felt like God was directly speaking to me through what you said.  It’s like you were just talking to me.”  These affirmations provide the speaker with assurance that God is using them in people’s lives through their teaching.
If our purpose as Christian educators is to teach to change lives so that we might present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28), then this dynamic interaction must occur somewhere in the teaching process.  When it occurs and the light bulb comes on, a glorious thing transpires in the student’s mind and life as the Holy Spirit uses our words and life to create change in the learner.
Having sat under many Godly men and women educators during my twelve years of graduate school, I’ve noticed that the best courses always included professors making the material especially applicable to my life.
For example, while I was taking a course called Human Growth and Development at Talbot School of Theology, party of Biola University’s graduate school, I had no idea there was a scholarly area entitled “Faith Development.”  At that time, I had spent roughly twenty years investing in people to help them in their faith development as a practitioner and I was shocked to learn that scholars had been researching my life’s work!  I was so thrilled at this discovery, and grateful to my professor, Dr. Jonathan Kim, of Talbot School of Theology, for his teaching, that I devoted my dissertation to the subject of spiritual development in youth.
It was Dr. David Clark, now provost of Bethel University, whose unique and simple way of presenting his arguments in the apologetics course I took from him years ago enabled me to share these arguments with hundreds of students over the years.  Or Dr. Walter Kaiser, Old Testament Scholar and former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose love and passion for the Old Testament inspired me to read and love the Old Testament every year in my devotions.  It can even be as simple as sharing from your own life as Dr. Klaus Issler, professor of Christian Education and Theology at Talbot School of Theology, often did in our Philosophical Issues class causing me to rethink my own presuppositions and see Jesus in new ways.
While there is certainly not just one way to make material applicable to student’s lives, it seems all the best courses include professors who somehow have figured out how to make that happen.  Whether through their teaching methods, their insights, personal examples, relationships, etc., they always find a way to connect their subject matter to their students’ lives.

Student Needs: Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

Recognizing the Needs of Your Students

by Timothy Howe
Student needs are important.  Students bring a lot into the classroom other than books and ideas. They come into the classroom with a whole host of issues with which they are dealing. This is part of life. Each one of us approaches our job affected by  a variety of factors – our mood, recent news we have received, physical illness or tiredness, concerns, etc. Students are the same way. Part of the maturation process requires them learning to deal with various struggles while performing at an acceptable level. Yet, as educators, we can help them in to learn this process to great degree. We do so through a combination of demonstrating compassion while holding them accountable to their work. A large part of the educator’s task is recognizing what are the real needs of the student versus plain old laziness or apathy.
Classroom: When students are first entering into the classroom is a good time to assess how they are doing. The look on their face, their body motions, their interactions with other students and their preoccupation with objects not associated with the class (such as cell phone) can all be good indicators as to whether or not there is something with the student beyond what meets the eye. Furthermore, interaction within the classroom with the professor or other students can give more clues. How a student responds to question – does she give quick, short answers when normally she is full of ideas, or is he hostile when normally he is pleasant – can reveal what is going on internally. Since, everyone has a bad day or feels “blah” from time to time, this might not set off alarm bells initially. However, the repetition of such behavior can communicate that a student is in need of assistance.
Silence Speaks Loudly: Most people do not want to communicate their problems. They hold them in and put a mask on for the world around them. One way that people communicate their difficulties is precisely when they do not speak out. When a student seems to shut out others and avoid communication, this is a good time to pay attention to what might be going on in his or her life.
Anxiety Affects Performance: A sure sign that a student has had a need develop is a drop in performance. Anxiety affects performance. When a normally well-performing student suddenly starts to perform poorly, this should be a hint that something is not right. It might be as simple as not understanding the assignments, an easy thing to fix. It is likely to be a lot more complex.
What concern is the student’s problem to the professor? So if a student is having a problem, is that a concern of the professor. People go into education to improve the lives of others. This is done primarily through helping others to grasp knew levels of understanding. It is also accomplished through experience. So, yes, it is a concern of the professor if the professor wants to be a real influence in the life of the student. Learning takes place in so much more than the imparting of factual data. Students learn much from professors they perceive as caring about them. Learning will be enhanced when these problem areas are no longer in the way.
So, how to help?
Face the problem head on: People often times will avoid a problem and hope that it goes away rather than deal with it. This strategy rarely works. If a professor suspects that a student is struggling with a need that is of direct bearing on the course, a good approach usually is to communicate directly with that student about the suspicion in a sensitive fashion. If the need is classroom related, the student might feel relieved to get the issue in the open. If the issue turns out to be non-classroom related, but it still affects the classroom, then the professor is able to get the student the best help available.
Over-communicate: The professor should not assume that one try to communicate about the problem will be sufficient. Neither should there be an expectation that once a problem is diagnosed that it is fixed. Intentional follow-up is necessary and this includes clearing up any missed assignments or completion of material agreed upon to get the student back on track. The professor will need to over-communicate to be sure that the student is back on the right track.
Encourage: Students can become overwhelmed and think that they are too far behind or incapable of doing the work. An encouraging word of a professor carries a lot of weight in such a situation. Professors can take on a mentoring role to not only help the student through the course, but also through life. Many students still refer to past professor’s as mentors in their lives years after the last course they took with him or her.
Resolve the Need: Where it is possible, help the student to resolve the need, not just become aware of it. Their seems to be a tendency to analyze a situation and not do much more than explain it. Real problems need real solutions. If a professor is able to help a student chart the course to solving a real problems, the professor has just passed along one of life’s most important skills.


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Power Communication

Understanding the Importance of Communication Savvy
Perhaps the two most important aspects of most information-laden professions and leadership in general are (1) becoming a strong writer and (2) becoming a strong speaker.  This is because of the importance and priority of communication and its central role in leadership and life.
Today I want to share what a power communicator must have.  There was a resource offered a number of years ago that referenced this concept, but I’d like to unpack these ideas a little more here.
Those of us who put food on the table through our teaching/preaching/speaking think a lot about communication.  And as an educator, I spend time considering how to help undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral pastoral and ministry students become the best communicators they can possibly be.  I want to bring balance to the issue by highlighting three enormously important issues for communicators and those who train them.
Three Components of Power Communicators
To become a power communicator capable of shaking the earth, three power principles must be mastered:
1. Substance
2. Soul
3. Sizzle
1. Substance
There are those who sometimes teach or speak who are entertaining to hear, but who fail to deliver the goods.  When life (or people, time, resources, business, money, influence, whatever your thing) is on the line, the one thing you must do is put the cookies on the bottom shelf.  Meaning, you MUST bring home the bacon; you MUST ring the bell; you must shuck the corn.  Whatever analogy you want to employ, it’s crucial that if you’re going to speak, you have something to say.  Some people don’t.  Others think they do, but can’t produce.  Content is an enormous priority for the speaker– in many ways THE priority.   Don’t neglect the content.  Don’t abuse the message.  It’s the only reason you’re really speaking in the first place.
In addition to WHAT one says, however, is HOW one says it.  A really common and unfortunate mistake that many ineffective communicators make is to assume that CONTENT (substance) is all that really matters in speaking.  This could be a painful statement, but the people who make that false assumption are generally poor communicators.  Any strong communicator knows that connecting with an audience is by no means restricted to the substance of the talk.
2. Soul
So, in addition to substance is SOUL.  “Soul” has to do with the communicator’s inner man.  His or her inner self.  The best communicators are able to transcend the limits of language and place their very hearts on display.  They reveal primal emotions, potent convictions, and powerful attitudes.  They can release the best of their personhood and vitality in the moment of truth.  They have such a command of their ‘selfhood’ and security in their identity that they are able to project whatever their subject calls for: authority, passion, motivation, intimacy, compassion, angst, inspiration, humor, gratitude– whatever it may be, to their listeners– making them feel and think and want to do the same thing.  Without soul, we’re only talking heads.  Without soul, we have no heart.   Without soul, we’re old news– we’re just another tired talker, but not a power communicator.  Release the fullness of your best self when you step onto the platform or when you stand in that sacred desk.
3. Sizzle
Substance is a must.  Soul is indispensable.  But your speech must also sizzle.  After you’ve done the hard work of study, reflection, hermeneutics, exegesis, research, thought, meditation and speaking prep, if you are incapable of bringing the heat, you will likely lose many of your listeners.  So it’s not only what you say, but how you say it.  It’s not just being an effective speaker and having a handle on grammar and syntax.  It’s also making sure that you have a powerful command on vocabulary that you can draw from at a moment’s notice in order to paint a masterpiece to your audience or the congregation.
Can you make it “SING?”  Can you allow the Spirit of God to breathe life into that dry manuscript and make the bones live?  When you speak, does it pop?  Does it happen? Does it thrill and excite and stimulate the learner.  Does it force the listener to think, feel, and act?  The best speakers have a near hypnotic command of their audience in such a way that the person loses all track of time and, as you speak, their hearts burn within them.  Though, in Christian speaking, the power of God sometimes falls on a situation, to be sure– but do not confuse that supernatural act with the need for personal effort in selling what you say with a little sizzle.