LEARNING – A LIFE-LONG ACTIVITY

School has been out four days this week due to illness.  So many teachers and students were ill with the flu/respiratory difficulties that the county school system was simply shut down. 

Although not wanting his friends to be sick, one of our grandsons remarked that it was a good day because the schools were closed.  We talked about that concept and he (being on the cusp of his 11th birthday) said he didn’t really like school.  Being the “older generation,” we responded that school was important for many reasons and that learning continued all through your life.

Learning — in our culture, we tend to think of learning as being confined to a strict educational setting such as a primary school for children.  

2011-04-england-031-watchfield-primary-school
Watchfield Primary School in England.  This is the school our grandchildren attended while living in England.

Some of us consider institutions of higher learning as the place where real education takes place.  While education and learning certainly does occur in colleges and universities, this is not the only place learning can take place. 

At the time of Jesus’ ministry, His disciples did not sit in classrooms to hear what Jesus was going to teach.  They walked the streets and hills with Him and listened as He talked along the way. They sat on the hillside when Jesus taught the thousands of people following Him.  They ate meals with Him and, after spending time in Zacchaeus’ house with Jesus, they heard Zacchaeus respond to Him by saying:

“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Luke 19:8 ESV

 They had, what we could certainly call, “hands on” learning.   Jesus said that He would make them “fishers of men.” 

I am not a fisher[wo]man and my Dad was not a fisherman.  In fact I only started eating fish, already cleaned, filleted, prepared and cooked, as an adult.  So, it was with interest that I visited Gloucester, Massachusetts where fishing is a thriving industry.  In 1925, the town erected this moving, and emotionally charged, monument at the harbor to honor those lost at sea. 

glouster-mass-mariner-58
The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, Gloucester, Massachusetts

According to the National Park Service, The Mariner was created to “commemorate Gloucester’s 300th anniversary and to permanently memorialize the thousands of fishermen lost at sea in the first three centuries of Gloucester’s history. In 1879 alone, 249 fishermen and 29 vessels were lost during a terrible storm.”

A plaque on one side of the base reads, “Memorial To The Gloucester Fisherman, August 23, 1923”. A larger panel on the harbor-facing side of the base reads: “They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships 1623-1923”, in bronze letters, citing Psalm 107:23.

Fishing is still a part of Gloucester’s life.  For example, we saw fishermen mending their nets, an activity with which the early disciples would have been intimately familiar inasmuch as they too were fishermen.  Just watching this activity reminded us of the disciples Jesus called to walk with Him.

fishermen-tending-nets-53
Fishermen mending nets in Gloucester, Massachusetts

 “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Matthew 4:18-22 ESV

Fishing – it was their business, their trade, and it was what Jesus used to illustrate how He would use them in His kingdom.  He would make them “fishers of men.” 

They learned Jesus’ teachings, His way of life, His relationship with God, His desires for them to be witnesses to others, and much more. 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8 ESV

Jesus put the learning issue front and center when He said:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29 ESV

How do we learn from Jesus today?  He is not here to personally instruct us in what He wants us to do or say on a day-to-day basis.  So, how do we know what we are to do in His service?

Scripture tells us exactly what He wants from His disciples.  

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15 ESV

We are to keep His commandments, and they are found in Scripture.  Matthew 5 begins with the verses we call The Beatitudes – verses that describe the blessings in the kingdom of heaven.  This chapter continues with numerous verses that set out a portion of Jesus’ teaching on how we are to live.  Verses such as:

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16 ESV

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

If you want to know how you are to live as a disciple of Jesus, read His Word, the Holy Bible and you will find your answer.  The primary commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and that we love our neighbor as ourselves.  Deuteronomy 6:5 and Luke 10:27.  But there are many other commandments that relate to how we are to live and fulfill the primary commandment above.

Learning – we learn in many ways.  I pray that you and I would focus our desires to learn that which pleases our Lord and may we actively take steps to learn His commands so that we can obey His words and please him in our life, actions, words and thoughts.

Father, I pray that You would enable me to seek You and learn of Your ways through Your Holy Word.  Holy Spirit, I pray that You would enlighten my heart so that I can understand and follow my Lord’s commands always.

SCHOOL IS IN!

Drive down neighborhood roads early in the morning and you are well aware that school has begun.  The school zone speed limit signs are blinking and, on many streets, the police cars are waiting to pull speeders over when they disregard the sign and blast past the school while children are present.

The backpacks have been purchased and innumerable school supplies have been obtained to fill them as the children march toward their destiny in their new classrooms.   The younger children are, by and large, excited about the new grade level and the excitement that awaits.  [First day of kindergarten with backpack and smiles – a strong face concealing a bit of trepidation!]

The First Day of Kindergarten.
The First Day of Kindergarten.

The older youths are a bit more jaded and it is not quite as “cool” to be excited about the change as are their younger siblings.

Parents also go through a “school transition” of sorts … just watch a mother standing at the bus stop with her kindergarten child.  As the bus pulls up, the child ascends the steps and, if you look closely, often the mother is daubing her eyes.  Her little chick has left the nest for, possibly, the first time and it is a transition because there is the awesome awareness that a new chapter in the child’s life is about to begin.  [First born getting on the bus for first day at kindergarten, while Mom is holding back the tears of pride and fear all at the same time!]

Boarding The Bus On The First Day Of Kindergarten.
Boarding the bus on the first day of Kindergarten.

There are times that we tend to think that all education is to be handled by the school … or perhaps by the church.  But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The primary teacher for the child is the parent then grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members.

While this seems to run counter to our culture, Scripture is clear that teaching the children is the paramount role of the parents.  Solomon, who was known as the wisest man on earth, penned the book of Proverbs as a record of his teaching to his son.  The book begins:

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth – … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  (Emphasis not found in text of Scripture)

Proverbs 1:1-9.

Long before Solomon wrote the proverbs contained in the Scripture, God directed the Israelites to instruct their children in the commands of God.  In Deuteronomy 6:1-7, the children or Israel were commanded to keep the commandments that the Lord gave to them, and further they were to “teach them diligently to your children…”

In Exodus chapter 13, God instituted the annual feast of unleavened bread to commemorate the people’s leaving Egypt by the mighty hand of God.  At verse 8, the people are instructed to tell the children that the reason for the feast was “because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”

After the Israelites went through the Jordan on dry land, Joshua took 12 stones, one for each tribe, and set up a pillar.  Then he told the people:

“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’, then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’”

Joshua 4:21-22.

Clearly, teaching occur during a wide multitude of activities.

Grandfather and grandson flying a kite on a sunny day.
Grandfather and grandson flying a kite on a sunny day.

Time spent with children can teach various skills, but mostly will teach about relationships, enjoying being with each other, and the value of sharing time together in God’s marvelous creation.

The first fish!
The first fish!

Sometimes our “teaching” will result in the discovery of a new hobby that could last a lifetime.  Or, it might confirm the fact that “I don’t want to touch that!”  But no matter what, learning will come through the experience.

Swimming pool fun!
Swimming pool fun!

Sometimes teaching a skill, such as swimming, will result in nothing more than having fun … but that is all too important in a world full of strife, pressure and challenges.  Knowing how to have fun while parents, grandparents or other adults are watching is, in itself, something worth learning.

Most importantly, however, through prayer and attention, we teach them to love the Lord, to live a life that is full in Christ, to pray when facing difficulty or just to commune with the Living God, to learn and develop their own personalities while, at the same time, becoming responsible for their own actions and understanding that God is Sovereign.  This kind of teaching occurs during the act of living.  Just watch the preschooler mimic you.

One example that stands out in my mind was the child we were babysitting for who stood in our porch, holding a Golden Book with the pages facing us, as if she were the teacher reading us the story.  However, she was too young to read; rather, she was saying, and I quote: “Blah, blah, blah, … [slight pause] I don’t wanna hear about it!”  Then she would turn the page, look at it as if reading the words, turn the book around so the new page faced us, and then repeat the same statement with the same cadence, rhythm and sing-song form each time she said it.  It was clear that she had heard this phrase often in her home.  She may not have known what it meant, but she knew how to say it!

Or consider the parent who was shocked when the 3 year old let out an expletive only to hear himself say the same thing when he hit his finger with a hammer.  If we say it, they will, in all probability, say it as well.  The phrase “your actions speak louder than words” is much more than a catchy phrase!

  • If you don’t want them to curse – you should not curse.
  • If church is important to you – you should go with your child to church, not just drop the child off at the door.
  • If prayer is important to you – you should pray in front of and with  your child, not just direct the child to pray at bedtime.
  • If God’s Word (the Holy Bible) is important to you – you should read it in front of, and also along with, your child.

It behooves us to be sure that our actions are consistent with the words that we speak, especially when children are listening or observing what we are doing.

In Proverbs 22:6 we read: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  See also Proverbs 22:15.

Teaching or training our children means much more than just providing a computer or iPad and letting them look around, play games or watch movies.  Teaching our children includes information from school, certainly; but the more important lessons relate to our teaching of Jesus Christ, teaching of God’s sovereignty and majesty, teaching of sin and salvation, teaching of God’s love and mercy combined with His holiness and justice.  And, teaching our children includes teaching that actions have consequences and that discipline is an important part of growth, training and living.

God disciplines each of those He loves and we should discipline our children.  The writer of Hebrews says the following about discipline in chapter 12:6-10:

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  … Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

I am surely not advocating for child abuse, or even for spanking or other form of physical punishment, necessarily; but I am advocating for loving discipline that trains the child and brings wisdom.  Ephesians 6:4.  Discipline includes development of self-discipline which affects virtually the entire life, including things like diet, alcohol use, actions while partying, sexual purity, fidelity in marriage, money usage and savings, etc.

Leaving the yard vegetation without pruning or guidelines results in weeds growing wild and choking out the good plants and shrubs growing spindly and weak.  Likewise, leaving children to raise themselves results in children who do not know God or follow His commands, who do not understand boundaries, who do not respect authority, who do not have the discipline to live productive lives.

We must not waste our opportunity to teach, discipline, and train our children.  Our time with children is important, and it is limited!

Father, forgive me when I have focused on the mundane and have ignored the weightier matters when speaking with my own children and grandchildren.  Holy Spirit, please guide me as I teach by example and let my words be consistent with my actions.  May the children I come in contact with see Jesus and His love put into action as I interact with them.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your guidance and presence.