I started graduate school last week! It’s a Master’s program of Rhetoric and Writing, and it means I suddenly have less time for blogging than I did before. But it also means I’ve been reading a number of books and scholarly articles that are prompting me to think more deeply on topics related to teaching and the writing process.
That might not sound, at first glance, like something that has to do with “finding our true selves in the people God created us to be.” However, I’m struck by similarities between best practices for teaching students to improve as writers and what I know about personal growth. We don’t all follow the exact same patterns for personal growth, nor do we all grow at the same pace and in the same way. Similarly, one-size-fits-all is not a great approach to teaching writing. There are, of course, certain things we look for in “good writing” — a strong thesis, structure that supports the thesis, integration of quotes and examples, etc. But to a certain extent, whether or not something is “good writing” also depends on the individual writer. Read more →
I think, in theory at least, we can agree that being able to accept correction is a valuable skill. We might even be able to say we appreciate feedback and constructive criticism, or modestly say that we’re big enough to acknowledge our faults and change when needed.
But even though we can learn to appreciate criticism and correction that helps us improve, hearing such things isn’t always easy. In fact, I’m not sure it ever gets “easy,” though it can become easier. Most of us have a tendency to get defensive and feel some degree of resentment when people offer a critique or dare correct us. This is especially true if we haven’t asked for feedback but they offer it anyway. Such criticism might also pull us toward depression or make us feel like giving up.
As Christians, though, we’re suppose to be open to correction. Primarily, we have a duty to listen to correction from God, which comes through His word and His spirit. Godly correction can also come through people who are guided by the Lord. This sort of correction is often harder for us to hear because we might feel like other people haven’t any right to judge us.
Correction From The Lord
Before we get back to the topic of people correcting us, let’s talk about correction from God. If anyone has a right to tell us how to live our lives, it’s the one who created us, the universe, and the Laws that govern both. When we commit to following Him, we also commit to living our lives the way He tells us to and changing when/if He points out that we’re doing something wrong. Read more →
In Christ’s day, a Jewish bride-to-be had to be ready for her bridegroom to arrive at any moment. She prepared herself, and listened for the trumpet blasts and shouts signaling his eminent arrival. Jesus’ first coming followed a similar pattern, with a “friend of the bridegroom” telling people he was on His way. Scripture indicates His return will also follow a pattern like this.
As we approach the fall holy days of Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), my mind has been on Jesus’ return. These days picture parts of God’s plan that have not yet been fulfilled, including Messiah’s second coming.
Here on this blog, we’ve often talked about how Jesus’ relationship with the church is like that of a Jewish bridegroom with his bride (you can read more about this in my posts “The Bridegroom’s Pledge” and “The Bridegroom Cometh!“). After the betrothal, the bride wouldn’t know exactly when the groom was going to come back for the wedding. She had to be ready, listening for the trumpet blasts and shouts signaling his eminent arrival. In much the same way, we don’t know when Christ will return and it’s very important that we get ready and keep watching for Him to come back. Read more →
When we go to school or a lecture or seminar, we’re typically looking to find out what the teacher knows. And it’s rare for most of us to have a continuing relationship with a single teacher, unless you’re in an apprenticeship situation. We tend to think of teachers as people you get information from, not necessarily someone you mimic or have a relationship with (though it’s great when that does happen).
These assumptions color how we respond to the Bible’s description of Jesus as Teacher or Rabbi (Matt. 19:16; John 1:38, for example). Being a student of this type of teacher goes beyond just listening to what he has to say. The relationship between a rabbi and their disciples, or talmidim in Hebrew, went deeper.
those who leave family to study and follow the ways of their teacher [rabbi]. They study not only to learn what their teacher knows but to become the type of man their teacher is.” (Psalm 11918.org)
Being taught in this sense isn’t just about taking in knowledge. It’s about changing who you are and how you think.
Our Two Great Teachers
We’re not just pulling this idea that disciples of Jesus should become like Him out of Jewish tradition. It comes straight out of the Bible. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40, WEB). That’s our goal — to become exactly like our Teacher. And while this title is usually applied to Christ, it also includes God the Father.
It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me. (John 6:45, WEB)
Both member of the God-family are closely involved with teaching us. And as we learn from them, we’re to become like them. The idea that we can become like God is so incredible it’s almost unbelievable, but that really is our ultimate goal (1 John 3:1-2). They mean for us to become part of their family and even share in their oneness (John 17:20-23).
Patterned After God
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about how we need God’s spirit in us to learn the things God gives us. God’s truths don’t make sense to “the natural man … because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:9-15, WEB). We need God’s spirit to unlock our minds and transform them. And this process results in us developing “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16, KJV).
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5, KJV) Read more →
In June, I’ll be giving my first seminar at a church-sponsored young adult retreat. The last time I spoke in front of an audience was in a college class five years ago, so I’m a bit nervous. On top of that, teaching the Lord’s people is a serious responsibility. But it’s also one I’m grateful to have an opportunity for here on this blog and soon in-person as well.
While the Bible does talk about female prophets, it’s a bit fuzzy on the subject of women teaching. On the one hand, we have examples of prophetesses advising and instructing and women like Priscilla going out and teaching God’s truth. On the other, we have Paul’s admonitions for women to keep silent in the churches. So if I am going to teach in writing or speech, I want to be particularly careful I go about it in the way God intends.
The New Testament contains several instructions, as well as warnings, for teachers. Many are aimed at people in ministry, but I think in most cases we can apply them to anyone teaching God’s way of life. And to a certain extent, that includes every one of us in the church. Even if we’re not a “teacher,” we’re still serving as examples of God’s way and have a responsibility to faithfully represent Him to others.
Teach Only Truth
The bulk of the instructions to teachers concerns what they teach. They’re given the responsibility to faithfully share God’s words without straying from His truth. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that their worship was “in vain” because they taught human traditions instead of sound doctrine (Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7). That’s a trap we mustn’t fall into.
Jesus’ parting command to His disciples, which we now call the Great Commission, tells them to teach the nations “to observe all things that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20, WEB). The early disciples followed that command by teaching in Jesus’ name the same things He taught (Acts 4:18; 5:42; 15:35; 28:31).
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he spends quite a bit of time warning him not to get distracted from sound doctrine. There will be people people who teach other doctrines, who get distracted from God’s message, who pollute Christ’s teachings with their own ideas. But that’s not what a teacher of God does. They stick to the scriptures, use the law lawfully, and faithfully practice righteousness (1 Tim. 1:3-11; 4:1-12; 6:3-6). Read more →
Every once in a while, I’ll get into a discussion with someone about what sort of music is and is not appropriate as part of a church service. One of the groups I regularly attend with plays contemporary Christian and Messianic music, the other only sings songs out of their custom hymnal. And there’s quite a bit of variety in other groups as well, from a capella psalm singing to rocking worship bands.
I’m not going to say any of these musical traditions is “wrong” or “more right,” but I did notice something interesting about music when I was studying prophecy last week. One criticism that I’ve heard hymn singers level against those who sing more up-beat songs is that it’s too focused on emotion. You can’t “welcome the spirit of God” through music, they say. The music should be respectful and instructive. Worship’s not about making you feel God’s presence. Or is it?
Early in Elisha’s ministry as a prophet, three kings came to ask him a question. They were planning to attack Moab, but ran out of water and wondered if their venture was doomed. King Jehoshaphat of Judah suggested inquiring of a prophet of the Lord. Once Elisha agreed to help, he makes what might seem like an odd request.
But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him. (2 Kings 3:15, KJV)