True Education

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “In what ways, even today, might we need to unlearn a lot of what we have been taught from the world?”

When Jesus was telling Nicodemus in John 3:1-17 that he needed to be born again, I believe Jesus was including being re-educated. Nicodemus had a lot to unlearn. He had worked hard to get where he was by his own efforts to reach the standards of man which were built upon the traditions of man. This is why Jesus wanted Nicodemus to be born again  –that he could be taught the ways of God by God instead of the traditions of men by men . God was well aware of the power of tradition in that day, which is why God ordained that John the Baptist would not be taught in the schools of his day.

In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 101

I am a big believer and supporter of our Seventh-day Adventist Christian schools, kindergarten through seminary. I attended Adventist schools from first grade into college. I have taught Bible classes, presented week of prayers and chapel services, and have  been a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in our schools for  about 30 years. I have also given my own money to help pay the tuition for financially struggling families. I share this only so that you will understand I mean our schools no disservice by what I am going to write next.

I can go through all my Adventist grade school and high school yearbooks, and in all the yearbooks combined I will find a handful of students who are in the church today. Those of us who are in the church today have something in common other than going to an Adventist school. We had family worship at home. We were taught at home by the most powerful teachers and pastors in our lives  – our parents. As much as I love, support and enjoy being a part of the Adventist educational system, I cringe when on education Sabbaths, the preacher credits the school for people like myself remaining in the church. That credit belongs to my parents who showed me Jesus at home and taught me to have family worship as well as my own personal Bible study time even as a child. Now I would not have dedicated so much of my time and money if I did not believe in the importance of Adventist Christian education, but I also am afraid that we give our schools the credit that belongs to parents.

I believe one of the things we need to unlearn as a society is that all education takes place in a formal school. We need to learn the difference between having a diploma or degree and having an education. There are people without diplomas or degrees who are educated, and there are people with diplomas and degrees who are not educated. For example, I was talking to a friend who attended a university in Florida while a future famous pro athlete was attending who will not be named here. My friend told me while the athlete got his degree he was never seen on campus. He was never seen anywhere besides the football stadium.

While I did go to college and can say I am college educated, I did not finish my degree. I have worked with Adventist pastors who ,when we would have a slight difference of theological opinion, would mention their degree as though that gave more merit to their opinion. Some have mentioned their degree, implying it automatically trumped my understanding of the Bible. In other words, having a degree made them automatically right and me automatically wrong. Fortunately these situations have been very few and far between. Much more often, when I have  friendly “debates” or minor disagreements with people who have their master’s degree in theology, they never once mention their degree, but reason with me using the Bible and the Bible alone. They understand their degree does not make them automatically right. They reason with me from Scripture as something we both are familiar with, and we are on equal ground, both standing on the Word of God.

Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 595

Recently, a pastor friend, who graduated with his Masters of Divinity from  Andrews University called me to see if his understanding on a passage in Revelation was correct. Even though he has his master’s in theology and I have no degree at all, I could tell in our conversation that he had great appreciation for my understanding of Scripture, so much so that he was asking me if he was right. While it does not happen every day, it was not the first time or the last. In 2 Corinthians 11:16 Paul admitted he was boasting a little for a purpose. If it sounds like I am boasting that some pastors from Andrews University call me for theological advice, it is only to make this point. You can be educated without having a formal degree. Like Nicodemus had to learn, we have to learn to stand on the Word of God and not our formal degrees.

I want to close by thanking my Adventist grade school and high school teachers who encouraged me as a child to be a Gospel Worker for Jesus and who even now encourage me and even financially support my ministry. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are, as I still communicate with them regularly. While I did not finish college, I will always be indebted to my professors, especially to the late Jan Haluska, who was my composition teacher. I love writing, and the writing skills he taught me have no doubt been the most practical skills that I have used daily throughout my life and ministry.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.  

Is Book Knowledge Enough?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While living in Texas, near Southwestern Adventist University I was good friends with a theology student and his wife. They recently had a baby one night when I called. The husband was quick to get off the phone with me. I thought nothing of it, but apparently he thought he owed me an explanation when he called back the next night.

He explained he had an argument with his wife when I called. His wife was trying to breastfeed but wasn’t succeeding, and was becoming frustrated. He then started instructing her how to breastfeed and she became very angry at him. I asked him, “How in the world can you tell your wife how to breastfeed?” His answer Was the classic example of how some students over estimate book knowledge when he very authoritatively responded, “I read it in a book!

Around the same time, I talked to another theology student who was telling me how wise his grandfather was but then lowered his head in disappointment and said, “but he never got a degree, so all of his knowledge was wasted.”There are some things you just can’t learn in a book. A book might make you smart but it can’t make you compassionate, understanding and caring, and those are very important traits in a theologian missionary.

Degree or no degree, knowledge is never wasted. Also many confuse a degree with an education. There are actually many people who are educated through personal studies and practical experience who do not have degrees and there are people with degrees who have no practical knowledge. And of course there are plenty of people with both practical and theoretical knowledge. Those are the best!

It has been many years since that night I called my friend in Texas. He has gone on to become a wonderful pastor and an even more gracious, caring and understanding husband and father. He has learned some wonderful things from books, but it has taken more than books for him to learn to be caring, compassionate and understanding. It takes experience. It takes time alone with God in prayer as well as reading the Good Book.

When I am encouraging a Bible student who is discouraged with doubt and disappointments they will listen a little as I quote Bible promises, but they really become attentive, when I tell them how I have practically applied those verses in my life when I too have been disappointed and discouraged.

I can easily understand why my friend’s wife got so frustrated with him when he was trying to tell her what he had read in a book. Book knowledge is great, but it is pretty useless unless you yourself have put it into practice and succeeded. And I seriously doubt my friend ever put that book knowledge on breastfeeding into practice! Therefore with all the book knowledge in the world he had no right telling his wife how to nurse their baby. Likewise unless we are putting the Bible into practice we have no right to teach it to others.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on missionaries here.

Growing Like Jesus to be Like Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. Nicholas A. Ferroni

There is no true education, growth or maturity without love. On my first day of kindergarten, way back in the mid 1900′s I was given a red badge to wear, which meant I belonged to the red group, and would be doing activities with the kids in my group. That red badge did more than tell me where I was suppose to be. It gave me a sense of belonging. That was my first step towards education; a sense of belonging.

Red Tag

 

 

 

 

Folk who visit your Sabbath School class for the first time, may be grown ups telling you they are just “checking this class out” or “wanting to learn more about what the Bible teaches,” but truth is, their learning system is no different than my kindergarten days. They are looking for belonging. Sure they want to learn, but what they want more than anything else is to be loved and belong. Most people will not settle into a learning environment until they are sure they belong.

Universities don’t send out approval letters. They send out “acceptance” letters. The college scholar jumps up and down with delight when they get their “acceptance” letter in the mail, just like I did in kindergarten when I got my red badge. Acceptance is a life long journey. I don’t mean that it should take a lifetime to become accepted. I mean, “Acceptance” is the name of the vehicle that will get you through life.

Jesus in His humanity needed acceptance in order to grow as a child.

 “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 NLT

Jesus shined in His interview with the religious leaders, because He knew He belonged somewhere, and He knew where it was. Jesus had a sense of belonging. This is what enabled Him to grow and be educated, and that is what enables us to learn and grow as well.

1. Jesus learned the Scriptures as a Child 

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

Children can do likewise today.

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

2. Jesus’ prayer life gave Him acceptance and wisdom.

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. Luke 6:12 NLT

And so it may be with us.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

3. Jesus elevated His thoughts towards noble themes.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Jesus can help us do likewise.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Philppians 2:5 NLT

4. Jesus kept busy with his vocation and avoided Satan’s idle temptations. 

  Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, Mark 6:3 NLT

We are counselled to do likewise.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT

5. Jesus spent no aimless hours with corrupting associates, thus closing the door to temptation.

In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

Jesus encouraged us likewise.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus was able to grow in wisdom and moral stature knowing that He belonged to God and God’s true people.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52 NLT

As He grew He never lost his need of knowing He was accepted by the Father.

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17 NLT

Right after the resurrection Jesus needed His Father’s acceptance, just like when He was in the temple as a boy. He accomplished what He did, knowing He belonged to “My God.”  Likewise I needed a sense of acceptance and belonging when I received my red badge in kindergarten and later my acceptance letter to Southern Adventist University. Likewise, those in your Sabbath School class will grow and learn, when they know they are accepted and belong.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Acts of the Apostles-Days of Preperation

 I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 13

This chapter is based on Acts 9:19-30.

What kind of an education did Paul have to prepare him for the ministry?

When the mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development. “Acquaint now thyself with Him” (Job 22:21), is His message to mankind.  {AA 126.1} 

   As he pondered these things in his heart, Paul understood more and more clearly the meaning of his call “to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:1. His call had come, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.” Galatians 1:1. The greatness of the work before him led him to give much study to the Holy Scriptures, in order that he might preach the gospel “not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect,” “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” that the faith of all who heard “should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4, 5.  {AA 127.1}
     As Paul searched the Scriptures, he learned that throughout the ages “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. And so, viewing the wisdom of the world in the light of the cross, Paul “determined not to know anything, . . . save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2.  {AA 127.2} 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Acts of The Apostles-Before The Sanhedrin

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 8

This chapter was based on Acts 5:12-42.

The priests and rulers saw that Christ was extolled above them. As the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection, heard the apostles declaring that Christ had risen from the dead, they were enraged, realizing that if the apostles were allowed to preach a risen Saviour, and to work miracles in His name, the doctrine that there would be no resurrection would be rejected by all, and the sect of the Sadducees would soon become extinct. The Pharisees were angry as they perceived that the tendency of the disciples’ teaching was to undermine the Jewish ceremonies, and make the sacrificial offerings of no effect.  {AA 78.1} 

Looks to me like the religous leader’s may have been victims of something I learned about in a college communications class, called “Group Think.” They were more interested in preserving their group than they were in preserving or finding truth. Self preservation was more important than doing the right thing or preaching the right thing. Here is what I learned in my class almost ten years ago now.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.  {Ed 57.3}

                                      Group Think

Group Think: 

Where being a part of the group is actually more important then the mission or beliefs and values of the group itself.

 When you do not want to disagree with the group for fear of being separated from the group.

Symptoms of group Think:

Group overestimates its power and authority. 

Group becomes closed minded.

Group members experience pressure to conform.

Membership in group becomes more important than solving problems.

Examples of Group Think:

 

Joab complies with King David and puts Uriah on the front line of battle even though he knew it was murder.

Jews all agree to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas because that’s what the leaders wanted. 

In Watergate all the President’s men agree to bug the democratic headquarters. Later many confessed they knew it was wrong but they complied for fear of no longer being able to work next to the President. 

In 1986 NASA sends up the Space Challenger even though they knew it was too cold. They did not want to delay it any longer as they wanted it to go up before the President’s State of the Union Address. Seven people were killed.

Cure for Group Think: 

Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.   Acts 5:29

  When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked [man] shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.   Ezekiel 3:18

 The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.  {Ed 57.3}

Acts of the Apostles-The Training Of The Twelve

I am writing tonight from the beauiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2

For the carrying on of His work, Christ did not choose the learning or eloquence of the Jewish Sanhedrin or the power of Rome. Passing by the self-righteous Jewish teachers, the Master Worker chose humble, unlearned men to proclaim the truths that were to move the world. These men He purposed to train and educate as the leaders of His church. They in turn were to educate others and send them out with the gospel message. That they might have success in their work they were to be given the power of the Holy Spirit. Not by human might or human wisdom was the gospel to be proclaimed, but by the power of God.  {AA 17.1} 

An education and a degree are two separate things. Not everyone who is educated has a degree, and not everyone who has a degree is educated. Jesus wanted his disciples to be educated and they were, just not by the self righteous Pharisees. So today, Jesus uses men and women whom He educates not by the might and power of the world but by His Spirit.

As it was with the early church, so it will be in the last days. ” In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. . . . God will work a work in our day that but few anticipate. He will raise up and exalt among us those who are taught rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the outward training of scientific institutions. These facilities are not to be despised or condemned; they are ordained of God, but they can furnish only the exterior qualifications. God will manifest that He is not dependent on learned, self-important mortals.–Testimonies Vol. 5  p. 80, 82 (1882). 

Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. -The Great Controversy, p. 606

There is much to be said for education both in the classroom and in the field. Many have educated themselves by reading books, who were not able to attend a school. Still, they have book knowledge. However, book knowledge is not everything. The best example I can think of is several years ago when I was a lay pastor in Fort Worth. I had a friend who was a student pastor at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, near Fort Worth. He and his wife had recently had a baby when I called one evening. My friend was quick to get off the phone that night which did not bother me. I had no clue anything was amiss until he called me back the following day. He said, “I am sorry I got off the phone so quick yesterday but my wife and I were having an argument and she was upset with me. She was trying to breastfeed the baby and it was not working for her so I started telling her how to do it and she became very angry with me.” I asked him how in the world he thought he could instruct his wife on nursing a baby. He responded defiantly, “I read it in a book!” Well guess what my friend? Book knowledge is not everything. I think this is a prime example on how we sometimes put too much emphasis on book knowledge instead of practical training.

I have spent my whole life reading and studying about Jesus and theology. Yet what I have woven into my ministry over the years has not all come from books. I have learned letters from books, but I have learned love and compassion from seeing it manifested in the lives of my self sacrificing family and friends. It was caught not taught. I still have a long ways to go though.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.