Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Learning About Tools

There are some processes of learning that we take for granted—either because we learned them through observation of others, especially in our childhood, or we learned them as a gradual building-upon of our own studies. After a while, how we learn becomes a set pattern that we take for granted. So, first to help us appreciate some of the steps our minds go through, I wanted to cover the learning process of using tools. Then, by way of illustration, broaden that to learning to use our greatest tool, our brains, for using our greatest spiritual tool, the Bible.

So here is a bulleted list of the steps I’ve identified in using tools:
  • First is the knowledge that a tool exists
  • Next is acknowledging that you need and would be benefited by acquiring the tool.
  • Now comes how to use the tool, and in this regard, there is a note of caution. Merely watching someone else use the tool will not give you the "feel" & experience. Consider a chain saw. Waiting until you actually need it and then trying to use it means your mind & body didn't gain the first hand know-how of how to balance it in your hand, how to apply sufficient pressure--without applying too much force.
  • Following “how to,” comes practice, experience and gaining proficiency. This is what separates the rookie from the journeyman and a future pro.
  • There is an art to nearly everything in life. We see (although perhaps not always realize) the art in a task when an accomplished person makes it look “so easy.” (Like those who can carve figures from stumps of wood or blocks of ice.)
There is so much that our minds process while learning something new, that we can easily take for granted the intricate & complicated steps. When we break it down, we realize that not only our brains, but our whole body is making rapid decisions that we don't even realize. A great example is learning to ride a bicycle. It takes practice. We are training our mind, our eyes, muscles and skeleton (indeed our whole body) to work with balance and forward momentum. Merely watching a YouTube video and then expecting to ride is foolish. Another good example may be skiing. Unlike bike riding, for many this is not a skill that they learned in childhood. Some as young adults and others as full grown adults have tried to learn this skill, only to do a face plant. No shame in learning and falling a few times. But my point is that we’ve all seen people skiing, we all know its possible. But for those of us that have never skied (I’m one), just because we’ve seen it done does not mean we can just “jump right in and do it.”

Okay, so now, how about the abstract learning of concepts such as using the Bible. (I’m referring to more than merely turning a page or quoting a scripture.) When it comes to learning of God, many want to stop at bullet point number two—acknowledging the value of the tool. They puppet back “just believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Really, just our coverage of how learning works should demonstrate the fallacy of that misapplied, misinterpreted thinking. When we consider what the two main goals are in becoming a Christian, this point is further accentuated. Besides the “two greatest commandments,” loving God and then our neighbor, there is also the point Jesus made about lighting a lamp. Yes, once we light the lamp of God’s truth in our hearts & lives, we need to shine that lamp on others. It is not enough to merely say “I’m Christian.” Helping others to learning is a requirement of our claim to being Christian. So let’s take another look at the bullet points.

  • First is the knowledge that a tool exists. Some today do not know that the Bible is a tool. They may know it exists, but don’t realize it is a tool. I compare this to some kitchen devices I’ve seen. Although I found it in the drawer of odds and ends in the kitchen, I had no idea that it was a tool or what it could possibly be used for.
  • Next is acknowledging that you need and would be benefitted by acquiring the tool. Once I realized what the tool was that I found in the kitchen drawer, I may not have readily been willing to use it—preferring to use a more recognizable tool I was accustomed to using. Once it was demonstrated to me what a time-saver or effort-saver that tool was, I became willing to try it. Similarly, those we meet in our preaching efforts gain appreciation for the wisdom and direction the Bible gives. At first they may feel the counsel is impractical or they have grown accustomed to their own ways of handling life’s decisions and moral questions.
  • Now comes how to use the tool. As the student we are teaching progresses, indeed as we ourselves progress, we learn how to apply the scriptures in our own lives. We begin to see the benefits of doing it God’s way.
  • Following “how to,” comes practice, experience and gaining proficiency. In the early stages of learning anything, it is common for new ones to make inaccurate conclusions and decisions based on their yet increasing but limited knowledge. Notice here that I am not at all referring to scripture memorization. Rather, I am referring to making principled decisions based on a well-rounded knowledge of what pleases God.
  • There is an art to nearly everything in life…we see this in accomplished people who make it look “so easy.” After a decade, probably closer to two or three decades, we finally have not only a well-rounded experience of service to God, but adeptness in helping others achieve their spiritual goals.
  • Recertification: I didn’t have this in the original list. But especially in the professional fields, demonstrating proficiency and learning advanced and added skills is necessary. So it goes for those that would let their light shine and not hide it under a basket. Refining our teaching skills and not falling into a rut of a comfort zone helps keep us alert and active. The kings of Israel were required to read the “words of the law” every day. Similarly, we can set a goal of daily Bible reading. In addition, regular reading of Christian literature designed to broaden our horizons of understanding are beneficial.
Indeed, merely being able to recite scripture verses but then not training or mind and heart by actually applying them in our own lives and preaching/teaching them to others will never make us adept at "handling the word aright." 

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