What is learning? Do we do it the way God created us to learn? Can we learn the way God wants us to if we don’t acknowledge Him?
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Last time we learned that God created us to learn, requires us to learn, and empowers us to learn. If you and your kids didn’t listen to the episode, please check it out now.
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You guys are awesome, I love you dearly, and thoroughly enjoy ministering to you and your kids.
In fact, last week I had an opportunity to hang out with some moms from MOPS. MOPS is an organization for moms and — specifically — it stands for “mothers of preschoolers.”
I talked about God’s 5 roles for parents and how they specifically relate to raising boys . . . cause . . . you know, that’s kind of what I do.
And for those of you who don’t know, I’m the “House Dad” at Victory Academy for Boys where every year I become a surrogate father for up to eight, at-risk teen boys.
It’s awesome, and I greatly appreciate your prayers as I direct that ministry and serve those families.
Anyway, the MOPS and I talked about a parent’s 5 jobs, and you can hear the podcast version of that talk by checking out episodes 184-187.
And, lastly, if you’d be interested in having me speak to your group, you can go to TruthLoveParent.com and click on the “Speakers” tab or send an email to TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com.
I love speaking at churches, camps, schools, small groups, businesses, teacher in-services, parenting conferences, couples retreats, family camps, and the like.
I also really enjoy doing TLP meetups with our listeners. We just had our first in Dallas, and it was so great. You can listen to episode 198 to learn more about that and what it may be like to have a TLP meetup in your area.
Okay, so that was a longer intro. Make sure the kids are ready, and let’s transition now to The Circle of Learning.
Now, none of this is original information, however, I have packaged it in a unique way. I call it The Circle of Learning, which refers to all the steps involved in learning the way God created, requires, and empowers us to learn.
But remember, none of these things can be forced on you. You must choose to be an active participant in this process if you ever hope to truly learn anything.
Also, some time next year I plan to do a series on the Circle of Learning that will explore far more Scripture and dig much deeper into the concepts. For now, my goal is to introduce it so you and your family can start implementing it into your life right now. We can always deepen our understanding later.
Now, the reason it’s called a “circle” is that all four elements flow naturally into the next. The first leads to the second which naturally pours into the third and the third naturally leads back to the first. But it’s the fourth section of the circle that makes the whole thing Christ-honoring.
But before we discuss the circle, we need to understand what it means to learn.
Last time we saw that dictionaries define learning as acquiring knowledge by study, instruction, or experience.
But I believe it’s more than that. Based on that definition, it’s completely appropriate to say that animals learn. And they do. My dog is a therapy dog, and she’s very well trained. She needed to learn a lot to do what she does.
My ducks have even learned what I mean when I say that it’s time to go to bed. They scuttle off to their coop and await their treat.
But, when it comes to human beings, is that definition good enough?
I’m going to argue that the mere “acquisition to knowledge” is not the deep learning to which God has called us.
So, here’s my definition of learning: “Learning is the process of gathering information, figuring it out, and putting it to use for God’s glory.”
And that definition includes all four parts of The Circle of Learning.
Now, if you haven’t downloaded today’s free episode notes from Taking Back the Family — which is the TLP blog, you’re going to have to use your imagination a little bit.
Picture a circle that has been divided into three equal parts. Each of those thirds is necessary to having a complete circle. In the same way, each of the elements we’re about to discuss are necessary to learning the way God commands us to learn.
Now, I know that some of you are very attentive and smart and you’re wondering why I’ve divided the circle into three parts instead of four. I did just say there were four parts to the circle. And you’d be right for wondering that.
But let’s deal with the first three parts before introducing the fourth.
1. Here’s the first third of the circle: As we’ve already seen, learning requires knowledge.
The word “knowledge” shows up all over Scripture. My friends, in many ways Sir. Francis Bacon was right when he said "ipsa scientia potestas est,” which means “knowledge itself is power.”
This is from where we get our modern day version, “Knowledge is power.”
Proverbs 11:9 tells us that the righteous are delivered by knowledge. Proverbs 20:15 tells us that “the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.” And Proverbs 3:20 tells us that by God’s “knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”
But what is knowledge?
Knowledge is defined as “acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.” And that matches up well with the dictionary definition of learning.
I’m going to really oversimplify this, but think of your brain as a box. Knowledge is the stuff in the box that can be retrieved. It’s the information in the brain that we have the ability to access at any time.
I would argue that if you can’t remember something, it’s because you “knew” it, but forgot it. It was once in the box, but now it’s either out of the box or it’s so buried that you can’t find it. I’m going to posit that to truly “know” something requires that I do not forget the information.
Do I really know what I ate two months ago today? I might be able to figure it out, that would be akin to digging around in the box to locate it. But I may find that no matter how much I dig, I’ll never retrieve the information.
Now, what’s really interesting is that if I dig and dig and have no memory of my culinary undertakings from two months previous, if someone were to tell me what I ate, I would probably remember it.
That’s the amazingness of the brain. People say we actually remember 100% of everything we perceive, the question is how to access it. But — for the purposes of today’s study — “to know” something is to possess it in a way that it can be retrieved when necessary.
Why? Because I’ve asked many a student to answer a question and received this response, “I know the answer, I just can remember it right now.”
Then I would say, “Then you don’t really know the answer. It’s no good to you if you can’t find it.”
This level of learning is most often associated with memorization, and it’s a very important part of the learning process, but in our traditional educational models I believe it’s become the most important element — especially in America.
Now, if you’ve been listening to the show for any length of time, you know that I’m not a huge fan of the American educational system for many reasons, but this is one of them. A system that encourages low-level learning is a system that discourages the kind of learning to which God created and calls us.
How does the American school encourage low-level learning? Students will generally only rise to the level of expectations, and most school expectations are communicated via assessments and homework.
Most homework requires knowing where to find the information and putting it to basic use in answering questions or solving problems. And assessments — more often than not — are what I like to call “Tests of Regurgitation.” All they’re designed to do is see if I remember the information and can access it long enough to answer questions about it. Few assessments do an amazing job at determining if the student can actually use the information in a profitable way.
Anyway, let me move on from my rant, and give you two workable illustrations of what knowledge is.
How many of you know how to ride a two-wheeled bike? If you just raised your hand in answer to my question, you’re awesome. Thank you for doing that even though I can’t see you. You’re great.
Okay, that’s one illustration; we’ll get back to that in a minute.
Here’s the second illustration: how many of you know what I’m asking when I say, “Was hast Du gesagt?”
For those of you who speak German, you know that a good translation is, “What did you say?”
Now, as far as knowledge goes, you now all possess the information that “Was hast Du gesagt?” means “What did you say?”
It’s a past tense question in that it’s inquiring about something that was said in the past.
You can now all say that you know what “Was hast Du gesagt?” means.
But is that really good enough?
2. Let’s move to the second third of our circle. I believe that the acquisition of knowledge must then compel us to process the information in order to comprehend it better. This is what we call understanding.
Just like “knowledge” there is so much biblical data about understanding. It would take too long to dive in here, so consider Proverbs 24:3, “by understanding [a house] is established.”
But what is understanding?
Understanding is “the mental process of a person who comprehends.”
What’s funny about the concept of understanding is that few people really understand what it means to understand, and I think part of the problem lies in the fact that we don’t have many English words to describe it. Some of the best are “comprehend” (a word we understand about as well as we understand “understand”), get the hang of, make sense of, get the idea, get the picture, and so on.
Here’s how I like to explain it — understanding comes from having “figured something out.”
Picture this in your mind. A story was once told of a man who built a house in the desert, and despite the shifting sands, the man’s house was firm because he built it on a slab of rock. But after many years the sands were blown away to reveal that he had actually built his house on top of an ancient pillar. When the whole thing was unearthed, the man discovered that the pillar was thirty feet tall.
Now, imagine that the man’s house is an idea. It’s a fact. It’s simple information. When you have the house, you have basic knowledge.
Now imagine that the pillar is a picture of understanding. To understand is to figure out everything that “stands under” the knowledge. Did you hear what I did there with the word? Understanding is comprehending all the information that “stands” under” and supports the fact. The better our understanding, the more of the pillar we’ve unearthed.
So, here’s a question for you: you know how to ride a bike, but do you understand how riding a bike works?
Everyone listening to me may understand to one degree or another. To a five year old it may seem like magic, junior highers are beginning to understand gears, equilibrium, and the importance of the inner ear. Those with advanced training might be able to verbalize the physics behind the process, but did you know that up until 2007, scientists have had a very difficult time figuring out how bicycles balance. In fact, using a sheet of incredibly complex mathematical equations researchers have discovered that there’s no one reason — there are many reasons that bikes can achieve balance.
Here’s a quote from the paper called, “'Linearized dynamics equations for the balance and steer of a bicycle: a benchmark and review."
They say, ”A simple explanation does not seem possible because the lean and steer are coupled by a combination of several effects including gyroscopic precession, lateral ground-reaction forces at the front wheel ground contact point trailing behind the steering axis, gravity and inertial reactions from the front assembly having center-of-mass off of the steer axis, and from effects associated with the moment of inertia matrix of the front assembly.”
I don’t care how well you think you understand how to ride a bike, those guys understand it better.
Now, lets go back to our example using the German language.
You should be able to remember that “Was hast Du gesagt?” can be translated, “What did you say?” — which is what some of you are still asking when I say, “Was hast Du gesagt?”
Anyway, though that translation might be accurate, it doesn’t show the correct level of understanding.
“Was” mean “what.” “Hast” means “have.” “Du” means “you.” And “gesagt” means “said.”
A more literal translation would be “What have you said?”
You see, “What did you say?” is the past emphatic tense. “What have you said?” — in English and in German — is in the present perfect tense.
The more we dig into the grammar the better we’ll understand the similarities and differences in the German sentence. We’ll understand better how to translate it, and we’ll be building a solid foundation on which our fact can reside.
Another important observation is how the word “said” was conjugated. Sagen is present, sagte is past, and gesagt is perfect. Understanding how this works will be important for our next step, but also being sure that you understand a concept is one of the best ways to memorize something.
You can memorize gibberish all you want — simply memorize Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” But if you understand what the words were intended to mean, you will be able to retain that information for much longer.
Now, speaking of longer, this show is going to be a little longer than usual, but we’re closer to being done than you may think — even though we’re only half way through the Circle of Learning.
Now you know why I’m going to dedicate a whole series to this next year.
3. Anyway, the third section that completes the circle is what we call Wisdom.
I cannot even begin to do justice to the biblical teachings concerning wisdom, but I will share Proverbs 3:13, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom.”
And Proverbs 4:5 commands us to “Get wisdom.”
But what is wisdom?
This question is super important, because I believe that most people completely misunderstand wisdom.
Most people tend to think that wisdom is a special kind of knowledge. But that’s simply not the case.
Wisdom has been defined many times over — for example, I’ve heard that wisdom is “skill in living.”
But I like to define wisdom as “The ability to correctly apply knowledge to any given situation.”
Wisdom is when you can take what you know about a fact and use that information to solve a problem or enhance an unrelated situation.
For example: Can you use the information and skill you have about riding two-wheelers to do tricks? Can you improvise?
You can go online and find amazing videos of people performing breathtaking stunts on bikes. Those people are exercising wisdom. They learned to ride a bike, increased their knowledge and understanding, and then applied that knowledge to performing advanced tricks and stunts.
Let’s consider our German lesson and see if you can apply what you’ve learned.
Knowing that the German word sagen means “to say,” and that gesagt means “said” you should be able to apply that knowledge to other German words.
I do this illustration with students every year, and they’re able to figure it out. However, it won’t work for me to wait for you to think through it, so allow me to demonstrate how it works.
I would tell the students that schreiben means “to write.” And I would ask them what the present perfect tense form is.
They would consider that sagen and schreiben are similar in that they both end with “en.” And they would notice that — in order to put sagen into the present perfect tense — they had to add a “ge” to the beginning of the word, and then replace the “en” ending with a “t.”
Therefore, sagen became gesagt.
Then they would apply that knowledge to schreiben. They would add “ge” to the beginning and then replace the “en” ending with a “t.”
And they would correctly deduce that the present perfect test of schreiben is geschreibt.
And then I would throw them a curve ball. I would tell them that arbeiten means “to work,” and I would ask them to conjugate the verb in the present perfect tense.
They then would rightly add a “ge” to the beginning, but when they remove the “en” from the end of the word, most quickly realize that they’re left with a “t.”
So, they wonder if the word should be “gearbeit,” but I remind them about the rule — replace the “en” with a “t.” And from time to time I’ll have a student — in an attempt to pronounce the double “t’” — say, “gearbeitet?”
And they’re right. In a situation where you have to add the final “t” to a word already ending in “t,” you include an “e” and make it an “et” ending.
And just like that, I have non-German speakers correctly conjugating German verbs with very little instruction.
That is wisdom. They took what they already knew about English and German and applied it to the task of conjugating a verb they have never been taught to conjugate.
Now, we need to make an observation.
I started the show by observing that even animals can learn if our definition is simple enough. My dog was taught a command, and with her limited understanding of cause and effect she deduced that when she lies in her bed after being told to “go to bed” that she will be rewarded by affection, positive vibes, and possibly a treat.
And so — when commanded to “go to bed” — my dog Éowyn would exercise an appropriate amount of doggie-wisdom by doing what she knew she should do in the right way.
And that’s basic obedience.
But, like we learned in our “Teach Your Children to Obey” series, true biblical obedience is so much more.
And that’s why our Circle of Learning is not complete.
Do you remember the definition of learning I gave you? “Learning is the process of gathering information, figuring it out, and putting it to use for God’s glory.”
Now, imagine the circle in your mind. The three main parts of the circle are knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. And any unbeliever can exercise a secular version of that. It happens every day. In fact, in many ways, some unsaved people are better at learning than many Christian school students because they actually understand what they’re learning and can put it to good use in life.
But we Christians should be able to take our learning to the next level. Our learning should be able to glorify God.
That’s why the fourth part of the circle is the inside. It’s should be at the core of our learning. It’s our motivation for all the knowledge we acquire, the understanding we develop, and the wisdom we use. If you’re having a hard time visualizing what I’m saying, don’t forget to download today’s free episode notes from Taking Back the Family. The link is in the description of this episode.
4. The center of The Circle of Learning is Fear.
Now, that probably seems strange. Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, and Fear?
To be more specific, the “fear” stands for “the fear of the Lord.”
In Proverbs 1:7 we learn that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
And Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.”
In those two verse, we see all four parts of the Christ-honoring Circle of Learning.
But, our learning will be incomplete if we don’t understand what the fear of the Lord is.
If we go back to Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and look at the original language we find a word that refers to terror on one end of the spectrum and deep reverence on the other
And, I believe when we read the phrase “fear of the Lord” we need to understand both elements of the definition.
Let’s start with the obvious definition: actual fear.
I love the line from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” when Mr. Beaver is asked if the lion Aslan is safe. “'Safe? said Mr Beaver …'Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.’”
My friends, we’re talking about the Almighty God of the Universe. Of His Father, Jesus says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
When we sin against God, we’re asking for consequences. The more we know God, the more we should want to know Him better. We will know that He loves us, that He has a plan for us, and that He’s powerful enough to bring that plan to pass. But we’ll also know that we must participate in that plan lest we suffer the consequences of living like a zombie.
As a side note, if you didn’t hear the “Parenting a Zombie” series we just finished, I strongly recommend you check that out. There are stiff and severe consequences that accompany sinful living.
That righteous fear of displeasing God and suffering consequences should motivate our desire to learn more.
But, when speaking of Aslan, Mr. Beaver also said, “Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”
On the flip side of this coin we have the righteous admiration, reverence, and awe that always accompanies sanctifying belief in God. If I love my wife, I’m not going to buy her a gift on her birthday simply because I’m afraid she’ll get mad at me if I don’t. That would be a superficial relationship at best.
Yes, I don’t want the relational carnage that will occur if I neglect to love my wife, but even more so, I respect and adore her . . . why would I not want to fawn on her?
The same is true with God. I need not be afraid of the consequences of sinning against God if I am deeply in love with Him and desirous to obey. Citizens need not fear the nation’s army, but the enemies had better watch out.
True learning that results in acquiring knowledge, understanding it, and using it to glorify God must grow out of a profound awe for Who God is.
It’s the motivation part of obedience. We must not merely do the right things in the right ways. That would be using our God-given abilities to gain knowledge and understanding and then using it wisely. But we must also obey for the right reasons.
This means that my motivation for acquiring knowledge, understanding, and wisdom should be because I love God.
I believe the fear of the Lord is the key to unlocking our ability to learn to our full potential. Sure, you may not get straight “A’s” because your best work may be “C” work. But I’ll take a C-student who’s getting “C’s” to the glory of God any day over an “A” student who’s getting “B’s” because it’s easier than doing his best to please the Lord.
So, now what.
Well, you’ve been given the knowledge you need. Do you understand it? If you have any confusion over The Circle of Learning, you should re-listen to the episode, ask your parents, or both. And when I do the future series on The Circle of Learning, you’ll be able to deepen your understanding even more as we look much more at what the Bible has to say about knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord.
But is that good enough? Is it good enough that you could explain The Circle to someone else if you’re not putting it to use in your life?
You see, you haven’t really learned this material if you haven’t gathered the information, processed it, and started to put it to use for God’s glory.
And that goes for anything and everything that God has created you to learn, required you to learn, and empowered you to learn.
If you enjoyed this episode, will you please share it with your friends. Who wouldn’t benefit from learning to learn the way God created us to learn?
And you’re also going to want to join us for our next episode when I teach you how to graduate from school without ever studying.
The final part of our “Teach Your Child to Learn” series is called, “No Studying Allowed.” I know you’re going to want to hear that.
Thank you for your patience today. This was a longer episode, but it’s so important that we learn to learn in a way that glorifies the great God who created, requires, and empowers us to learn.
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
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