First Circle

I want my students to live in the “First Circle.” Let me explain.

When I was a youth minister, someone once showed me the “First Circle” concept. I honestly don’t know where it originated, but I have reworked it a bit for my students. Here’s how it works:

The “First Circle” is where students work diligently on the things they are asked to do. When they do so, they are successful learners and end up being happy with themselves and their work. They make good choices and usually good grades as well.

Students enter the “Second Circle” when they come to a crossroads and make a bad choice – when they choose to break the class rules/procedures. There are usually consequences for these bad choices and they also disrupt the class. The learning process is also disrupted if a student enters the second circle.

Note: I have many student who enter this circle and then apologize. However, when they continue to misbehave and then apologize again and again without behavior change, they never return to the 1st Circle. The words of a true apology is backed up by actions and behavior change.

Students can enter the “Third Circle” pretty quickly if they choose not to apologize. This circle is NOT where I like my students to be. They end up disrupting the class repeatedly and will suffer consequences both in the classroom and out (ISS/Parent Phone Calls). Many times they destroy the learning process for themselves but also for the class as a whole. These students are usually too angry to apologize and end up causing more problems out of anger. However, when they cool off, they still have the opportunity to apologize and then start making better choices to work their way back to the first circle. they have destroyed the learning process for themselves and sometimes for the class as a whole.


Anyway, this is just a concept that I thought was worth writing up. Like I said, I didn’t create it, but I’m not sure who did. I just adapted it from a discipleship concept that I learned as a youth minister. (They used “sin” and “repentance” as the two decision points.)

Jewish Educational System

I wanted to post something about how the Jewish Educational System worked. Once I knew this stuff, my understanding of Scripture seemed to be much stronger. Anyway, here’s a basic description. (Very basic)

Bet Sefer – House of the Book

In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day kids were taught the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) in the local Synagogue (church) beginning at the age of 6. They had classes 5 days a week just like we do today. By the time they were about 10 years old, they had memorized all of the Torah – the first five books of the Bible. These classes were called “Bet Sefer.” Anyway, most Jewish kids were pretty well finished with school (“WooHoo! Graduation!”) after this and went home to learn the family trade – like fishing or carpentry or something like that.

Bet Talmud – House of Learning

Now, the kids who were really the best of the best among them were allowed to continue in school in something called “Bet Talmud.” Here, they studied all of the Hebrew Scriptures (Our Old Testament) and memorized all of them between the ages of 10-14. During this time, students also learned the Jewish art of questions an answers. Instead of answering with an answer, they were taught to answer with another question. In this way, students could demonstrate both their knowledge and their great regard for the Scriptures. They were taught to always be curious about the Scriptures. Look at how Jesus was described as a young boy in Luke 2:46-47 – “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Bet Midrash – House of Study

Very few of these students ever made it this far. For the few who did there was still another set of classes called “Bet Midrash.” If you were smart enough and knew your scriptures well enough to make it this far, you were given the opportunity to go to a rabbi (teacher) to seek further education. The rabbi would grill you and ask you all kinds of questions, because he was trying to find out if you were good enough to be his student. He wanted to know if you knew enough, but even more importantly, if you could be like him in all areas of your life. If he decided that he didn’t think you could do it, then he would tell you to go back to the family business. It was very rare, but if he thought highly enough of you, he would become your teacher and it would be your goal to become like him in every way. You would agree to take on his “beliefs” and his interpretations of the scriptures. This was called his “yoke” and he would say to you, “come follow me.” This was a huge privilege that was offered to very few people. The disciple’s (also called “talmudim”) job was to become like the rabbi in every way. If the rabbi was hurt and had a limp, you might see his healthy disciples walking behind him (in his footsteps or “in the dust” of the rabbi) with a limp.

My Thoughts

Now, listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I used to always wonder why the disciples were so quick to drop their nets, their jobs, and their lives to follow Jesus. However, this understanding changes things. The disciples were normal guys who were out working in their family trades. This means they didn’t make the cut. They had already dropped out of school and had resigned themselves to the fact that they would probably never be able to follow a rabbi or become a disciple. When Jesus came along and made His offer, they jumped at the opportunity. They didn’t want to miss it, so they dropped what they were doing and went. This would be the equivalent of Michael Jordan saying to a Jr High student “Hey, I see a lot of potential in you. Would you want to come and do some training with me?”

In the end, Jesus is our rabbi. We are to become like him in every way. 1 Peter 2:21 – “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Leadership Compass

The leadership compass is the basis for the leadership model we studied at the College of Biblical Studies.

North = Character

South = Skills

West = Relationships

East = Vision

A true leader is a man/woman of character and influence with leadership skills to move people into a new preferred future/vision. The intersections of these four points are also important. For example: If you’re having a problem with people trusting you as a leader, you’ll see that trust is at the intersection of relationships and character. That means the root of the trust problem is either 1) Your people don’t know you well enough to trust you or 2) You have character faults which make them question whether or not you can lead them. It could also be a combination of the two.

I am setting out on a new adventure in life and am seeking a teaching position in the public school system. I believe this model will help me as I seek to influence both students and other teachers. My vision as a teacher is to teach more than just the curriculum, but also true wisdom. Wisdom beyond the textbooks. This kind of goal will require a strategy and this leadership model provides the basic outline for my philosophy of education. Influence is gained through character, relationships, skills, and vision. I will seek to be a man who is qualified in each of these areas.

Remez

“May the force be with you.” It’s a classic quote. With those 5 little words I have referred you to a concept found in the Star Wars films. Almost anyone in our culture would recognize the reference, without mentioning the film itself. Jesus often did the same thing.

hiddenA practice called a “remez” (meaning “hint”) was practiced by most rabbis (including Jesus) during Biblical times. The Jewish educational system required that every young boy memorize the Law. Many went on to memorize the entire Old Testament. Their culture was so steeped in the Scriptures, that they could quote a part of a verse knowing that others would recognize the end. According to FishingtheAbyss.com, there are “30 – 50 (potentially more) remezim of Jesus recorded in the gospels.”

Here’s an example: Ever wonder why the Pharisees hated Jesus so much? Although He did say some things to them that were not very flattering, sometimes it’s what He didn’t say that bothered them the most.

Check out Mathew 21:16

But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
” ‘From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise’?”

Why would that make them so angry? It doesn’t sound so bad. But check out what the rest of that verse says. He was quoting Psalm 8:2

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

The Pharisees knew the end of the verse He was quoting – and Jesus knew it too. He called them “enemies!” No wonder they got so mad.

Anyway, the “remez” is an interesting practice. We’ve got to know the whole of Scripture in order to understand the intricacies of the things Jesus said (and didn’t day).

Here are a few other places Jesus used the “remez.” Look ’em up. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Matthew 21:13 hints at Isaiah 56:7 (Jesus isn’t as mad about them selling stuff in the temple area as much as He is concerned that this was the only place the Gentiles could worship and they were not being allowed to do so.)

Matthew 27:46 hints at Psalm 22:1 (Check out Psalm 22:13-18 – Jesus was telling them He was the Messiah.)

Luke 11:20 hints at Exodus 8:18-19

Luke 19:10 hints at Ezekiel 34 (Revealing Himself as the Messiah)

Mark 15:34 would have been an obvious “remez” to the Jews present at the time. Hinting at Psalm 22-24 (Messianic Psalms)

OK – so that should be enough to get you started. The bottom line for me is this. If we could approach the Scriptures with the context of Jewish culture, we’d have a much greater understanding and these sorts of nuances wouldn’t fly over our heads. I may be strange (and some of you know it’s true) but I’d sure like to be able to talk about the Scriptures as easily and with as much nuance as I do about Star Wars.

5 Life-Changing Experiences – Education

Romans 12:2 says that it’s the renewing of our minds that leads to transformation. That means education has the potential to be a transforming influence – and for me, it truly has been.

I might, however, define education a little differently than most. True education doesn’t happen in a classroom. Transformational education isn’t necessarily formal. As a matter of fact, to our knowledge, Jesus never taught the disciples in a classroom. He taught them wherever they were using their surroundings and situations as springboards to teach lessons which were easily applicable to their circumstances. He taught them by showing them. As a model for them, he didn’t seek to have them ascend to some greater knowledge or understanding but to have them actually become like Him – to apply the things he taught and live them out – he was interested in their transformation, not mere knowledge.

Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea
Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea

The education I’m speaking of (that which has been life-changing and transformational) has come in many forms in my life. Mike Mathews (my father-in-law and ex-boss/Pastor) discipled me and led me to go deeper in my spiritual life. He challenged my status quo by showing me that there was more. He sent me all over the country (and overseas twice) to go to conferences where I could see new ministry methods, and gain valuable insight into culture. These conferences enlarged my thinking, but when I’d return, it was Mike who came alongside me to encourage new efforts – this is where true transformation happened – in the daily grind of ministry – in working to live out the things I’d been learning.

My time at CBS (College of Biblical Studies) has also been transformational. Dr. Loken, Dr. Shockley, and Dr. Ayers have each stretched my brain capacity, but it has been the experience of working on staff in full-time church ministry which has guided me to transformation. The ideas and concepts which they taught have played out over and over in different circumstances within the church. Through their teachings, I’ve been able to “know what to look for” in order to recognize the real issues going on within the church. My growth has come as I have sought to “be like Christ” in every circumstance. Watching God work in these situations and feeling my way through/learning my role is what has been transformational.

True education (not just knowledge) changes us. The things we learn inform our decisions and affect our behaviors. I have been changed by the education God has granted me – and I’m grateful to Him. I hope to continue to be a student – to continue to be changed/transformed throughout my life.

I’ll close with a quote from Leonard Sweet from his book “Soul Tsunami.”
“In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women).”

If “education” = “change/transformation” and “no change” = death, then it only makes sense that we should all be concerned about our continued education/transformation.