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A Summary of Eutychus and His Kin

A Summary of Eutychus and His Kin

by Debra Conley

“The night was hot and muggy in the cramped upstairs room. I
had not had supper; I was thirsty and because I was small, I got assigned to a
tiny chair shoved against the back window. I was too short to see and too far
away to hear. Professor Paul had forgotten his visual aids; the hefty
vocabulary he used was all Greek to me. All I could grasp was the rumbling
faint voice echoing like the hum of a fan. About the 6th hour, I
lost any hope of fresh air, of understanding those big words, or of getting to
see anything,” wrote Eutychus. You know the rest of the story (Acts 20). We
know that Paul was a good teacher (inspired!), but this young man may have been
too immature to assimilate the mature message. He needed teaching at his level.

Over the last few years, this column covered ideas for
teaching at different levels, for simple object lessons, for extra-biblical
materials to enhance learning, techniques to engage the students, and ideas
that hopefully set your wheels turning for other ideas suitable to  
your classroom situation. The gift of teaching is not to be taken lightly and I
firmly believe those who are called to teach God’s Word have the most to answer
for. It is imperative, then, that this teacher is fully prepared, armed with
knowledge, wisdom, and all patience. Those who teach little ones need a double
dose of all of the above. That way when pupils argue, as my grandsons did, over
whether the “brown stuff” in the wedding jug (John 2) is Coke or sweet tea, you
can settle the matter. Let me know how you explain wine to a 4 year old.

My purpose has been to give you encouragement but mostly to
make your mind work, whether by giving you a place to start, or by egging you
on with my lame idea so that you came up with a better one. You may have been
pushed to look up some extra material, to create a little extra technique
so that younger students learn with application, a good tool for immature
minds. Give your students the  armor of God’s Word, the ultimate power
tool.     Remind yourself that the Word of God has endured
the ages and it will continue to do so; good teaching of the Word must also
endure.

Thank you for your emails with comments that were both
encouraging and helpful and for the opportunity to help those of you who asked
for further information or ideas. My column will take a different avenue for
awhile, but I am always available to help any who email me. Pastor Rick said
it, “When we get saved, we are given a uniform but no  discharge papers.”
Continue to press toward the mark!

 

Repetition and Memorization

Repetition and Memorization

by Debra Conley

Let’s quit knocking the idea of repetition and memorization
as a valid teaching tool. It is still one of the best ways to “cement” any
concept or information into the human brain. Scientists practice “programming”
the brain through repetition and most claim that the brain thrives on it. 
Everything we learn as a child revolves around repetition, from walking and
talking to learning our own name and brushing our teeth. The astounding success
of the AWANA program is based on repetition of verses, pledges, and songs. Is
it any wonder that so many young people who attend church regularly and hear
the Gospel over and over get saved at a young age? The new “philosophers” taunt
Christians that this repetitive teaching is brainwashing. Of course it is; it
is the foundation of most learning. Because the disciples never ceased teaching
and preaching (Acts 5:42), many were saved. God has repeated Himself throughout
the heavens and the earth (Romans 1:20) so that no one is without knowledge of
God. Every society and philosophy survives on brainwashing. The basic precepts
are recited; the grasp of concepts follows as the person matures. It’s just a
matter of which philosophy you want your child’s brain washed with!

I’m quite baffled that education “experts” have thrown out
memorization and repetition as a learning tool. Why does a musician repeat
scales and play his recital piece over and over? Why not just wait until the
day of the performance and play it then? Why does an athlete repeat and
practice his race time and time again? Shouldn’t he save his energy and just
run on the day of the event? Should the actor not strut and fret his hour on
the stage? The audience can just suffer while the director reads every cue to
him. Every expertise, whether mental, verbal, or hands-on, is learned by
repetition. Yet the teacher who asks students to memorize dates for a history
class or the Preamble to the Constitution is beset upon by unhappy parents who
think this is too harsh or not good teaching. Ask that parent what procedures,
processes, calculations, or manual repetitions he has to remember or perform on
his job. How does he remember his phone number or his address, or his social
security number? Obviously, he remembers by either the repetition of recitation
or by use.

We repeat the same exercises in our daily lives without any
hesitation and most of us like it that way. We even get aggravated when some of
that repetition is interrupted-like when the garbage truck fails to pick up on
its appointed day, or the key you turn in the car ignition fails to do what it
has done over and over for many years. How much of our lives depends on
machinery and items that repeat a performance thousands of times? If my
computer keys fail to enter the letters I have always used in their familiar
places and it suddenly decides that the keys will be entered in a different
order, I’ll be unhappy and you’ll be confused! What’s so wrong with repetition
and memorization?

 

Begging the Question

Begging the Question

by Debra Conley

My vote for the best book of the 20th Century
will probably be Thomas Sewell’s The Vision of the Anointed since among many
other poignant perceptions is the excellent explanation of Begging the Question
as a basis for argument. For those unfamiliar with the long-ago taught
principles of argumentation, Begging the Question starts with a statement
assumed to be truth that is not necessarily a truth, nor does the writer make
any attempt to verify his statement as truth. He merely makes the statement,
assumes it to be truth, and proceeds to build the rest of his arguments on that
statement. Sewell’s book is written as an excellent summary of this erroneous
practice by the liberal social consensus of our country. His premise is that
they make a statement, assume it to be true because they thought it up, said
it, or both, and then    proceed to make every other “truth”
dependent upon that first premise. This “vision” as he calls it, has so pervaded
the social left that they cannot see their own error in beginning with a false
assumption. Example: “Americans disapprove of the war.” This generalization
assumes that all Americans have given their disapproval.  Did they ask me,
or even a majority of Americans? No. Therefore, that premise is invalid and any
argument to end the war based on that statement has no validity (and is invalid
for other reasons of argumentation). The average Gallup Poll (survey) questions
fewer than 1000 of the nearly 500 million Americans. 1

Teaching requires that we establish truth as verifiable,
researchable, and valid conclusions as reproducible.  Today’s Christian is
without excuse in my estimation.  Research and study avenues abound in our
age and we have the tools for verifiable argument. Yet our literature and
speech is so glutted with fallacious reasoning and  arguments built on
assumed premises that  it is no wonder the lost world questions us. One
does not have to be a scholar to see through or understand a false premise,
Begging the Question, or other weak arguments. These were commonly taught (I
refer to the       Harvard Principles of
Argumentation and Persuasion as one of the most common texts until about 1980)
in most schools. Let us study to show ourselves approved so that we are not put
to shame.

Remember: Truth is verifiable under any scrutiny. If you
really have the truth, any research, study, or questioning will only prove you
right. If, however, the research or scrutiny calls your “truth” into question,
you should bend over backwards to get to the truth. How else will a lost world
accept our spiritual truth unless we have proven ourselves good stewards of the
truth in all arguments?

1Wiley, John, “Where America Stands,” Online
Edition, The Gallup Organization, 1997.

 

The Value of Life

The Value of Life

by Debra Conley

What is the value of a human life from God’s perspective?
Try the following exercise to get students thinking about the position of their
established base values. This not only helps them to think in a broader sense,
but can be a defining exercise in validating (or not) their own values.

Give each student a piece of paper so that they can write
their initial impression and answer for the following discussion. Here’s the
scenario to give them: A woman is trapped in a burning house. Her children have
escaped, but her husband has not survived the fire. Two men are passing by. One
is the father of two children; the other is single. Both hear the woman
screaming for help from the upper level of the house which is already engulfed
in flames. Assuming that there are no others at the scene, which man should
help her? Why? Write your answers now.

Most students will think in the traditional sense, saying
that the single man is the one who should risk his life to save the woman,
thereby leaving the father of two to return to his family. Ask for other
answers they wrote. Now ask them to add these possibilities about the two men
and the woman in the burning house to their thinking:

1. The father of two is a drunk who beats his children and
his wife. His family is financially destitute because of his drinking. His wife
owns a million dollar life insurance policy on this man.

2. The single man is the sole support and care of his
invalid mother.

3. The woman in the house is a prostitute; the man was never
her husband  and the two children are illegitimate. The children are old
enough to know about their mother’s occupation and desire to be in another
home.

4. The single man is also President of the United States.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. Do any of
these scenarios change your initial answer? What does Scripture say about the
value of one life over another? What does your answer tell you about your
preconceived ideas of the value of a human life? God is no respecter of
persons; He values each life as one He died for and that may be the hardest
lesson for us to apply.

 

Begin with Praise

Begin with Praise

by Debra Conley

The messages of the Bible are sometimes subtle and therefore
missed. Such is the letter writing habit of the most prominent New Testament
writer, Paul. The ancient writers followed a form that can be a lesson for each
of us as Christians in a perverse world that is headed for its ultimate
destruction. Listening to the news, which is always negative, or dwelling on
our own problems is easy and often controls our days. If any one had reason to
gripe about his lack of comfort, remuneration, or ease of lifestyle, it was
Paul. Yet each of his letters, after the usual greetings, begins with praise to
God for His grace and gifts. Read verse 8 of Romans; verse 4 of I Corinthians;
verse 3 of II Corinthians; verses 3-5 of Galatians; verse 3 of Ephesians, and
so on. In all of his sufferings, Paul praised God first in each of his letters.
While this was known to be a common practice of ancient letters, I think God
had a subtle message for us there.

What is the first problem you think of upon awakening? Do
you bark at your kids to get up or they’ll be late? Do you moan and groan over
the chores that lay ahead? If each day of life is a gift from God, then maybe
we should take our cue from Paul and begin each new day (“letter”) with praise
and thanksgiving for another day to serve and to make right what we should have
done yesterday. Children learn to be grumpy if their parents are. Let’s teach
them to begin each day with a positive tone and thank God for each day He gives
us. The mindset you put yourself in as the day begins is up to you. Try, for a
month, starting each new day with positive thankfulness for the day and for
your blessings. Read those verses of Paul’s each day; make a list of just those
verses of praise he uses at the beginning of each letter. See if the practice
of thanksgiving doesn’t make a tremendous difference. If you teach young
children, try singing this verse to the tune of Happy Birthday:

Happy new day to me!

Happy new day to me!

Thank the Lord for my
blessings;

Happy new day to me!

 

Explaining the Gospel

Explaining the Gospel

by Debra Conley

After the recent death of Reverend Jerry Falwell I listened to an interview that a radio talk show “personality” had aired with Dr. Falwell years earlier. The talk show host had obviously never accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and from his comments had never heard of the concept. Dr. Falwell continually tried to explain through many quoted Scriptures the plan of salvation to this man. The host’s single retort was always that if that was the only way to heaven, he just couldn’t accept it because that would mean that Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and others who were good people would be excluded. After getting the talk show host to agree that he believed the Bible to be the word of God, Dr. Falwell quoted numerous passages which plainly said that the only way to heaven is through the Son. Again, the talk show host went back to his one “way out” saying if that was the only way to heaven, good people would be excluded. Other than the common blindness of the unsaved, what was this man’s problem? He simply could not separate religion from the Bible. I’ve said it many times to my students: the Bible is not about religion; it is about God and how to spend eternity with Him. If you are talking to someone like this talk show host who cannot get past the idea that what you are quoting only applies to your religion, be sure to point out to them that anyone of any religion can go to heaven as long as he accepts Jesus as his personal Savior. You might try using this example to help that person get away from connecting the act of salvation with any particular religion: if you want to fly to any given destination, you will need a passenger ticket, no matter what brand of airline you are flying. Salvation is your passenger ticket. Without it, you won’t get on the plane and you won’t reach your destination. With younger children, you can act out this simple concept. Divide the group into several named air carriers (Delta, United, etc.). If a child can quote the salvation verses like John 3:16, he receives a ticket and is allowed to get on the plane. Plant some students who deliberately gives the wrong answers (“I’ve been very good”) and ask the others if they should receive a ticket.

 

Concrete Examples

Concrete Examples

by Debra Conley

We all know that young children think literally and want
literal answers. They learn by concrete examples until an age of theoretical
knowledge is opened to them. My four year old grandson doesn’t understand the
concept of The United States but he can point to a map and identify his home
state of South Carolina because his father has shown him the concrete example
of what his state looks like. Yes, he still doesn’t grasp the idea of a state
or its context within the whole, but he has the first step in the mental
diagram of putting it all together.

I think as teachers we often neglect that simple rule of
teaching, to include concrete examples with the lesson. My own father was
especially fond of maps and so from a very young age I learned where I lived in
the whole of the globe and a lot about how to find other locations, read maps,
get from point A to point B, etc. I thank him for that as it served me
especially well in flight school and in doing a bit more traveling than many in
my generation.

So let’s make use of this practice in teaching the basic
Bible lessons. Students of the Bible should know where these events took place.
Buy a good map of the Bible lands. You might also enlist the help of a good
Bible Atlas for adding extra detail in your lessons, especially for older age
groups. Plan to teach the life of Christ with at least ten lessons for the
youngest students. Begin each lesson with a geography locating activity. Place
dots, pins, flags, or even cut-outs that display a relevant item (such as a
manger) glued to the pins. When you talk about Jesus being born in Bethlehem,
place the manger pin on the map at the correct location. Of course, the terms
Middle East or “the other side of the world” (if it is from where you are) may
not mean anything to the child yet, but the concrete becomes the basis for the
concept later. Another way to enhance this kind of learning is to make a puzzle
from the map by cutting the map into various puzzle-like shapes, then putting
the puzzle back together as you teach the geography. If you glue the cut out
shapes to foam core or card stock and laminate them, you can use them for
years.

 

Teaching the Obvious

Teaching the Obvious

by Debra Conley

Sometimes it is very necessary to teach what we assume to be
the obvious. Consider the facts of creation. Why does it matter that a child
knows the order of the days of creation? As long as he accepts that it
happened, isn’t that enough? Science confirms that the order of creation
designed by God is essential to the survival of vegetation and man at the very
least. If man and animals had been created before the sun and water, our
survival would have been nil unless God intervened. The order of creation helps
the skeptic to verify God’s creation as scientifically sound. The Bible was
written centuries before the scientific facts of man’s survival needs, such as
adequate water, light, and of course food, were actually studied. The ancient
writers recorded the order God gave them, not their own perception of the
order. The sound science was there long before the proofs of man. God knew the
scientific knowledge He would give man would confirm His creation as
legitimate. Don’t overlook this important element of creation.

When I was about six (during the last ice age), I learned
the order of the days of creation by using an acronym, the first letters of a
group of words used to form a new word or memory aid (Scuba is an acronym for
self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). My creation acronym is LOVSAM:
L is for the light created on the first day; O is for the oceans separated and
formed on the second day; V is for vegetation on day three; S is for stars and
the heavenly bodies created on the fourth day; A is for animals and M is for
man. Of course, this simple acronym lumps a lot of knowledge into a few words,
but I always remember the order! Whether you use a linear chart, or a globe
onto which the student can paste the items and number them, it is important to
later science foundations that creation be in its proper order.

Good books to read on this subject include The Genesis
Record and Scientific Creationism, both by Henry Morris. A newer and very
thorough book by Walt Brown (the Ph.D. from MIT brain of other science fame) is
In the Beginning.

 

Choosing Your Author

Choosing Your Author

by Debra Conley

Choose your author before you buy the book. I recently read a new book about the bubonic plague and its effects on the history of Europe. While there were interesting tidbits, a common theme of the book seemed to rotate around one curious idea, that the plague produced the mindset for modern medical science. Why, the author speculates? It was because God did not answer the prayers of priests to end the plague and spare them. Therefore, in the minds of plague survivors, God was proven not to exist and man was free to pursue these scientific advances free of the yoke of religion and its backward mentality. Extensive research has gone into, and is still being generated, about the causes and primarily the transfer of the deadly germs which enlightens modern science in fantastic ways. However, to lay the entire conclusion that modern medicine was advanced on the one speculation that God did not exist because He did not answer a specific prayer is incredulous. After finding some information about the author, I had to conclude that while he had viable advanced degrees in legitimate subjects, his mind and experience were so skewed by his long association with liberal entities that he was the proverbial frog in the boiling pot, out to promote an agenda rather than to reveal history.

We have all read books we truly enjoyed and then later learned something about the author that tainted our image of the book or (better yet) made us re-read the book in a more discerning light. This is an important part of becoming an astute reader. Take an aisle tour of most current Christian book stores and you will find every bent of religion, cult, and philosophy on the shelf. If one were to read every work there and accept them all equally, no one would have any true knowledge and total confusion would reign. If you made everyone you came in contact with your best friend, you would suffer the same predicament and none of us is that indiscriminate in choosing associations which will continually influence us.

I fear the fault is with the lazy reader who doesn’t take the time to learn about the author before choosing to read a certain book. Reading is the same kind of continual influence as are our friendships and should be sought out carefully. Of course, if you understand that the author has an opposing position, you may choose to read for understanding of that position (the old “know your enemy” approach). This is healthy reading and necessary at times. For the feeding of the soul and mind, however, delve into the author before diving into the book.

 

Archaeology and the Bible

Archaeology and the Bible

by Debra Conley

The Archaeological Study Bible

Understanding a work of literature by determining the
author’s intent and perspective is a critical element in the study of all
primary literature. Any worthwhile teacher would fail a student who assumed the
theme or intent of a literary work on his own terms without delving into the author’s
purpose in writing the work. We fervently teach that exposition (background
information necessary to understanding the work) is required for competent
analysis and understanding of literary works as well as speeches, dramatic
presentations, and even videos.

But the most important book we have, the Bible, is often
treated as passively as the “warming instructions” on a frozen entrée when it
comes to studying the author’s purpose in writing.  Let me quote from the
introductory notes of this book:

“Awareness of the context of the Bible is an antidote to the
dangerous dismissal of history that we see too often in both the church and the
academy. In our day the postmodern outlook all but rejects history and context.
Under the influence of this movement readers simply refuse to hear the writers
of Scripture on their own terms and instead assert that it is up to each reader
to make whatever he or she will of the ancient texts…The author’s intended
meaning is thus rendered irrelevant to the modern reader, who feels free to
interpret a text in any manner whatsoever. Such an approach makes a mockery of
Biblical authority.”1 Studying to show ourselves approved means more
than just reading Scripture. We must understand the Author’s purpose by knowing
as much as we can about the inspiration of the writer in his circumstance and
historical context.

This book is not an easy read. It is a study work, with over
2200 pages of history, sociology, geography, political history, maps,
chronologies, and genealogies. It comes with an interactive CD-ROM full of
color pictures, maps, charts, and other data from the book. There is text
concurrent with the history so that one may read Scripture alongside the
exposition.

1. Notes from The Committee on Bible Translation, The
Archaeological Study Bible (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 2005) xi,
note #4.