Live and Learn


“So many books, so little time.” If this saying were in the Bible, it would be my life verse. (Actually, it pretty much describes the Bible for a lot of people.)

Paul Clark’s “Walking on Water” column (p. 17) made me think about the books I love to read—the ones that hold a place of honor beside my bed. They paint me as a pretty boring person—one or two titles on the current “hot list,” a couple of books about books, an English Bible, a Greek Bible (or, as my son says, a “Geek Bible”) and a mountain or two of cooking magazines (technically, they aren’t books, but they cost about as much, so they count.) Outside the bedroom door is a bookcase stuffed with so many books I’ve taken so little time to read properly. I did what I needed to get through school, leaving the volumes for full attention later. Much later, it turns out.

September is traditionally (if not actually) the month when students return to school: more books to loathe or love, more opportunities to grow and learn. The “accidental theme” of this issue of Alliance Life involves students—those who are officially enrolled in school, those who make education a lifelong habit and those who learn from those they teach. We are confident this includes just about everyone old enough to crack the cover of this magazine; all of God’s children—especially those who are committed to living the Call —alternate teaching and learning throughout their lifetime, even within the course of a single day.

Our thinking is often shaped by what we read and by what those around us read as well: magazine articles that look at a Scripture passage in a deeper way, news articles about the state of the world and the plight of the poor, best-selling books that tweak our assumptions and daily Bible readings that speak to us so clearly it’s like we had never read that Scripture before. All of these “word encounters” shape our days.

Yet there comes a point when we must apply what we read, when orthodoxy (“right thinking”) becomes orthopraxis (“right action”). When Mary of Bethany took her place at Jesus’ feet, she acknowledged her need to be still and to listen to what was being taught. But when she knelt there again, it was to take action, to anoint His body for burial (John 12:7). In doing this, she demonstrated that she had been a very good student indeed. Scripture indicates that Mary alone, of all the others who sat with Jesus in her brother’s house, understood that the Savior’s earthly ministry was leading Him to the cross. Similarly, Peter, always a man of action, discerned when the time was right for him to pick up his pen and teach others about living a holy life during difficult times. His epistles tell us that Peter had learned well what Jesus meant when He told the disciple to “feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

In this issue, you will read about people who have learned something important about living the Call together. A group of English-speaking students in West Africa have learned what hunger feels like—even if just for a day—and use that knowledge to give hope to people who could probably count on one hand the days when they have been full (p. 6). A bookstore owner in Saint Petersburg, Russia, knew what it was like to be trapped in false knowledge and shared the truth with her employee (through a book first, and then an invitation to church; p.10). And a teacher is amazed at a teenager’s graceful refusal of the contemporary culture of “stuff ” (p. 9).

Education has been coupled with action since Jesus commanded His followers to “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). It is no accident that Nyack College, the first Alliance missionary training school, is older than The Alliance itself (p. 14). Alliance missionaries are professional learners and teachers. After they have completed a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of postgraduate studies, they are assigned overseas, where they immerse themselves in others’ lives, learning their language, their culture, their fears and their joys. And those others in turn learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus: the Word is both proclaimed and lived out among them.

September is a time for new adventures. We are all called to be disciples even as we make disciples. Even if we’re not enrolled in a formal school, our joy each day is to learn to know better the One who commissioned us.

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