Second Thoughts: The Setup, Not the Game

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Life is tough, and as life gets tough, with bills, and health problems, and problems with children, and neighbors, and bosses, [some] get distracted.” ~ Mr. Kenneth Frank

LivingEd-Charlotte: Student Assembly | March 28, 2019

Mr. Ken Frank packed a lot into his assembly, this week. We heard of how we’ll be leading God’s Church before we know it (no pressure or anything), how crucial it is that we don’t divide our lives into the sacred and the secular, how we might retain a biblical worldview in an era fundamentally opposed to it, and each of those points had something like a half-dozen equally profound sub-points. All of that insight is available in the assembly recording (no cost, no obligation), but one sub-point in particular struck me harder than the others. Mr. Frank alluded to the fact that it can be really tempting to give up sometimes, because living a godly life is hard. It’s hard for everyone, and knowing that suffering is a prerequisite for righteous character can feel like a mean joke. When we know we’ll never be perfect as humans, and that this physical life is never going to get any easier, but is in fact probably only going to get worse as the Great Tribulation creeps closer…yeah, it’s tempting to just go, “You know what, all is vanity,” and stay in bed indefinitely.

“People who start off with a biblical worldview can lose it if they get their eyes off Christ. They’ve got to stay focused on Him.”

As Mr. Frank implied, it’s the temporary nature of this physical life that we need to focus on, and that’s pretty difficult, because this life is all we know. Of course, for those with God’s Spirit, this life is only a womb as we wait to be born into His eternal family. But that metaphor can be a tough sell when you think about how a baby in a womb is warm, comfortable, and completely peaceful, and this life is…not those things. So though it sounds childish, I like to think of this life as the setup process to an incredibly amazing board game. No one likes setting up a board game. You have to find the pieces, you have to shuffle the cards, you have to root around in the box for all the fake money you have to organize… It’s not fun, and it feels like it takes forever. But you need to do it, and you need to do it right, in order to actually play the game. Once you start playing, you’re glad you put in the time and effort to set everything up, because the game is great, and a lot longer than the set up.

“We have to think of the bigger question: Where are we going eternally?”

That’s what I tend to forget, and what Mr. Frank reminded me – that this physical life is the setup, not the game. Suffering might very well feel endless, but the amazing reward for it will literally be endless. Even eternal life can sound like an iffy reward when you’re used to life being something you wouldn’t actually want going on eternally, but what about eternal peace? Eternal joy? Eternally giving others peace and joy? Those are in the reward, too. God promises everlasting happiness and fulfillment at the end of this ever-so-tiny period of setup. If we can keep our focus on what we’re setting up for, nothing will be able to keep us from it.

Thomas White headshot

Thomas White was one of the onsite Living Education students for the 2018-2019 semesters. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Thomas currently works as an Editorial Assistant for the Living Church of God. According to his wife, he eats pizza in entirely the wrong way.

Children’s Bible Program – Level 1: Lesson 21 “Moses – Up from Egypt”

Sweet Publishing |

Read Together: The descendants of Abraham, now called the children of Israel, were living as slaves in the land of Egypt just as God had foretold. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, commanded that all infant boys be killed, but Amram and Jochebed wanted to save their newborn son. Jochebed placed her son in a basket of reeds and put him in the river to be protected from the Pharaoh’s order. The Pharaoh’s daughter found the basket among the reeds in the river and was moved to rescue the baby inside. The thought came to her to raise him as her own son! She named him Moses, and brought him into Pharaoh’s palace. The name “Moses” was perfect since it means “to draw or bring out of the water”. He grew up in the palace, as if he were a prince of Egypt, but he knew that he was really an Israelite. Then one day, Moses went out to see how his brethren were doing. When he saw an Egyptian beating a fellow Israelite, he lost his temper and killed the Egyptian. When the Pharaoh found out he was very angry, so Moses decided to run away. He escaped to the land of Midian, and eventually married a woman named Zipporah. Meanwhile, the children of Israel continued to suffer in slavery. Little did they know that God was planning to use Moses, the prince of Egypt, to free them from the Pharaoh.

Read Together: Genesis 15:1314; Exodus 1:817; 2:125


  • Explain to your child in a way they can understand that Pharaoh had absolute power over life and death of everyone under his authority.
  • Help your child to see the bravery that the midwives, and Moses’ mother, father, and sister showed in hiding Moses from Pharaoh.
  • Ask your child what they think it might have been like to grow up in Pharaoh’s palace with servants and riches.
  • Help your child to understand that the Israelites were powerless to free themselves from Egypt. Only God could set them free!

Review Memorization:

The Ten Plagues: (1) Waters turned to blood, (2) Frogs, (3) Lice, (4) Flies, (5) Animals die, (6) Boils, (7) Hail, (8) Locusts, (9) Darkness , (10) Death of the Firstborn

Children’s Bible Program – Level 2: Lesson 21 “The Holy Days Picture God’s Plan”

Read Together: Before God created the universe, He planned to create human beings and make them a part of His family. He determined to give mankind the gift of free moral agency. In other words, He would give mankind the ability to make choices. The most important decision is choosing whether to obey God or not. But God recognized that under the influence of Satan, man would choose to follow his own heart and disobey His commands. And just as Satan had done, Adam and Eve rebelled against Him. Since then, all humanity has followed their example. But God is holy and wants nothing to do with sin. So, how could sinful mankind ever become a part of God’s holy family? The answer is amazing! Remember, God had an astonishing plan for the human race to be part of His spirit family, and He wants us to know about it. To help us understand each step in His master plan, He gave us the Holy Days. This is why we observe these days every year, beginning with the Passover. Learning about the Passover helps us to understand the first step in God’s plan for us – and all people who have ever lived.

Read Together:  1 Peter 1:1820; 1 Corinthians 15:2122; Romans 3:23; Psalm 5:4; Isaiah 59:2; Leviticus 23:137


  • Remind your child that it was God’s plan from the beginning to create a family. We are made in His image (Genesis 1:2627), and we should grow in character to become like Christ (Ephesians 4:1315).
  • Discuss with your child what it means to have free moral agency. Mankind has not been given the right to decide what is right and wrong. Only God has the wisdom to make that determination. We  choose whether or not we will do what is right as God defines it.
  • Help your child identify each of the Festivals and Holy Days mentioned in Leviticus 23. Briefly discuss how each Holy Day fits into God’s plan. Be sure to emphasize Leviticus 23:2 where God says, “… these are My feasts.”
  • Help your child understand that they are a part of God’s plan and that God is looking forward to them being born into His family.

Review Memorization:

1 Corinthians 5:7 “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.   For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

Children’s Bible Program – Level 3: Lesson 21 “God’s Plan of Salvation”

Read Together: God designed a plan whereby He would have a family with whom He would share eternity. So He planned to create mankind in His image, place them in a beautiful environment, and create circumstances in which they would have to choose to do right or wrong. God knew that giving mankind free moral agency was the only way they could develop the godly character needed to live in peace and harmony forever. He also knew that it could result in sometimes choosing the wrong way, which would cause misery and lead to death. God did not want a family who was in turmoil and misery for all eternity, so before He created mankind He also designed a plan to save them from eternal death and bring them into His family. He gave us His Holy Days to teach us about His plan of salvation. God designed the Holy Days around the harvest seasons in Palestine, which include the spring, early summer, and fall. In the next few lessons, we will discuss the spring Holy Days, Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, and what they picture in God’s plan of salvation. We have the privilege to understand and be a part of this truly awesome plan.

Read Together: 1 Peter 1:1920; Genesis 2:79, 1517; Deuteronomy 16:16; Leviticus 23:14.


  • Discuss with your child what it means to have free moral agency. Mankind has not been given the right to determine what is right and wrong. We choose whether or not we will do what is right as God defines it.
  • Explain to your child that God made humans physical and not with spirit as He did the angels, so that if they refused to learn to obey Him, they would not have to live in unhappiness for all eternity. They would simply die a physical death like all humans do.  (Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8).
  • Help your child understand that their ultimate destiny is to be born into the family of God as one of His children(Romans 8:1416; Hebrews 2:68; Psalm 82:6).
  • Ask your child what they would like to do when they become a spirit being in God’s family. Share what you look forward to doing.

Review Memorization:

Romans 5:10  “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Second Thoughts: Irremovable From His Truth

by Thomas White, Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

Assembly by Dr. Douglas Winnail

Ambassador College Envoy, 1969

“Some people have estimated that over 200,000 people have gone through the Church of God over the years. … We had a lot of people that came into the Church, that went to Ambassador College, but they’re no longer around anywhere.” ~ Dr. Douglas Winnail

LivingEd-Charlotte Assembly: March 21, 2019

My mom used to tell me stories of Ambassador College. She would get excited as she did, her eyes coming alight with nostalgic reminiscence while she talked about the people she’d called her closest friends. But then she’d become a bit wistful, and wonder aloud where most of those friends were, because she didn’t know, not really. She would have, if they had stayed in God’s truth, but they didn’t. Most of them left, and of those, most never came back.

Dr. Douglas Winnail’s powerful assembly addressed that sobering fact, this week, as he asked us Living Education students where each of us will be in ten years. Of course, we all say we’ll still be here, carrying on the work, growing in Christ’s grace and knowledge. Everyone in Ambassador College probably said that too.

“Where will you be in five, or ten, or fifteen years? It’s exciting to be here together, but we need to think long-term.”

Dr. Winnail likened the not-quite-100 years since Mr. Herbert Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God to the 100 years Noah spent building the ark and warning people of the imminent flood. We’re used to cute illustrations of a wooden cruise ship boasting an onboard petting zoo, but in reality, that ark was enormous. One would need scores of uniquely skilled laborers to build it, especially without what we understand about technology. It had to have taken a great many people, but only eight boarded the Ark. Likewise, it took a lot of people to build the Church…but as Dr. Winnail posed, how many stayed with it? How many will?

“We need to be thinking beyond this world…and be prepared for what’s coming in the future. … Not everyone who comes to Church every Sabbath is going to be in the Kingdom of God. … Only those who do the will of God. ”

Dr. Winnail reminded us of the grim reality that according to Matthew 7:21-23, not everyone “in the Church” will be in the First Resurrection. There are those who are members of the Living Church of God, but not parts of Christ’s body. Members of a group can always cancel their membership, but body parts don’t just pop off of their own accord. We have to ask ourselves, “Am I a detachable member, or a permanent part?”, and we have to answer confidently in the direction of the latter, even knowing how hard Satan will try to tear us away. As Dr. Winnail addressed, we can’t take the cowardly option and disconnect ourselves from the world altogether; with God’s help, we have to brave it, while remaining irremovable from His truth. Staying the course, like building an ark, is a monumental task, but accepting that task leads to God’s protection from otherwise unbearable storms.

Books mentioned:

Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher

Thomas White headshot

Thomas White was one of the onsite Living Education students for the 2018-2019 semesters. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Thomas currently works as an Editorial Assistant for the Living Church of God. According to his wife, he eats pizza in entirely the wrong way.

Children’s Bible Program – Level 1: Lesson 20 “God Confuses the Language”

Sweet Publishing |

By Janth English and LivingEd Staff

Read Together: God came down to see what the people were doing at Babel. When He saw the city and the tower He was not pleased with what the people were doing. God saw how mankind was working together to rebel against Him, and decided to confuse their language so that the people could not communicate with each other. The word “Babel” means confusion, and there was plenty of confusion when suddenly the people working together could no longer understand one another. The work on the tower and the city soon stopped. God separated the people’s languages by families. People naturally came together with those they could understand, and began to move into the lands that God had given them. The tower no longer exists, but to this day, Babel remains a symbol of mankind’s rebellion against God.

Read Together: Genesis 11:5–9; Zephaniah 3:9


  • Discuss the meaning of Genesis 11:6 with your child. God has given mankind brilliant minds. We are to use our knowledge and abilities to serve and worship God.
  • Ask your child Imagine you are playing with your friend when suddenly they start saying things that don’t make any sense! You try to ask them to tell you what they mean, but you realize they can’t understand what you are saying either!”  This is what happened to everyone when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel.
  • Point out to your child that being able to communicate with others is an important part of life. God wants people to understand one another.  This is why He will restore a pure language to mankind in the Millennium (Zephaniah 3:9). This would be a good opportunity to talk about what it might be like in the Kingdom when everyone in the world can communicate with and understand everyone else.

Review Memorization:

Genesis 11:7 “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Children’s Bible Program – Level 2: Lesson 20 “Isaac Inherits the Promises”

 Featured Passage: Genesis 23-26

Sarah died in Hebron at the age of 127 years old. God had allowed her to watch her son grow into a man. Shortly after Sarah died, Abraham sent his servant back to his own country to find a wife for Isaac. When the servant arrived at the well outside the city of Nahor, a young woman named Rebekah came to draw water. The servant had prayed asking that the young woman who gave him water to drink and offered to water his camels would be the one chosen to be Isaac’s wife. Rebekah did exactly that. The servant found out that Rebekah was the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor. Rebekah agreed to leave her family, go to Canaan, and marry a man she had never met. Isaac was forty years old when he and Rebekah were married. Abraham died at 175 years of age and lived to see the birth of Isaac’s sons. This was further evidence that God’s promise of giving Abraham many descendants would be fulfilled. After Abraham died, God spoke to Isaac and made the same promises to him that He had made to Abraham. God said that He would give all the land of Canaan to Isaac’s descendants, and that they would be as numerous as the stars in heaven. God promised that in Isaac’s seed, all the nations would be blessed.


  • Point out to your child that Abraham had seven other sons who are named in the Scriptures – Ishmael (from Hagar), and Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (from Keturah).  However, Isaac was the son of promise.
  • Discuss with your son or daughter the qualities the servant was looking for in a wife for Isaac by seeing if she would give him water and offer to water his camels.
  • Talk to your child about the blessing Rebekah’s family gave her. How does her blessing relate to the promises God gave to Abraham and his descendants?
  • Ask your child how they think Isaac may have felt when God appeared to him personally. Would that be very encouraging for Isaac?

Memory Challenge:

Hebrews 11:17–18  “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Photo:Richard Gunther, |

Children’s Bible Program – Level 3: Lesson 20 “Joshua Becomes the Leader of Israel”

Sweet Publishing |

By Janth English and LivingEd Staff

Read Together: Before his death, one of Moses’ final duties was to appoint Israel’s next leader. God had chosen Joshua, the son of Nun. Joshua had been at Moses’ side from the time the Israelites left Egypt. He was the first general who led Israel into war. He was also with the seventy elders who saw God and ate before Him. Joshua was with Moses on the mountain for forty days when he received the Ten Commandments from God. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who brought back a good report of the promised land and tried to convince the others to go in and take it. He had been thoroughly trained, having served Moses for forty years, so God chose him to lead the nation after Moses. Joshua must have felt the burden of leading this nation with millions of people, but Moses encouraged him to be strong and courageous. Moses died on Mt. Nebo and was buried by God. After Moses’ death, God spoke to Joshua, letting him know that He was with him. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The rest of the story of Joshua – his leadership, exploits, bravery, and commitment —  is for another lesson.

Read Together:  Numbers 27:18–23; Exodus 17:9–10, 13; 24:9–13; 32:15–17; 33:11; Numbers 14:6–10; Deuteronomy 31:7–8; 34:1–12; Joshua 1:1–11


  • Ask your child what is their favorite story about Joshua. Why?
  • Talk about what might be some reasons that God did not reveal to us exactly where He buried Moses.
  • Discuss with your child how Joshua must have felt being personally encouraged by God. Remind your son or daughter that God speaks to us through His word, the Bible.
  • Express to your child that God wants each of us to be strong and courageous in our daily lives as we represent Him to the world. Why do we need to be strong and courageous?
  • Point out to your child that God trained Joshua from a young age to work in His service. Remind  your child that if they are willing to do God’s will, they too can be used mightily by God.

Review Memorization:Deuteronomy 30:15-16  “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”

Second Thoughts: Internal Organs Are Important Too!

by Thomas White, student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“…I think of a body of believers, when I think about the Church. …the body of believers is made up of so many different kinds of people, from all different kinds of backgrounds, all different kinds of races, all different kinds of experiences, different cultural backgrounds, and different talents.” ~ Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden

Student Assembly, March 14, 2019.

A novel by Robert Heinlein includes a quote that ends with “Specialization is for insects,” claiming that every human being should be able to do basically everything under the sun. That’s all well and good if you’re a character in a novel with as many inexplicable talents and abilities as the author can write for you, but in real life, no human being can do everything. The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 12, where he informs us that God’s Church is a body, and that each member of it makes up a separate and unique, yet unified and integral, part of that body. For this week’s assembly, Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden informed us of the absolutely staggering amount of work that goes into maintaining and operating that body, from the ins and outs of making sure Sabbath Services across the world have halls to be held in, to the intricacies of creating a professional telecast and finding television stations on which to show it. All of this is done by an immense amount of people…and most of these people work almost entirely “behind the curtain.”

“…the body needs a head, the body needs a foot. The body needs an eye, the body needs an ear. We preach the gospel, we feed the flock, and all those little things that happen here, all of us together, we’re a part of that.”

All these unseen—yet hugely important—things, being done by all these unseen—yet absolutely invaluable—people, caused a thought to occur to me. Thanks to Paul’s inspired words, we understand that some members of Christ’s body are eyes, some are ears, some are hands, and some are feet. Obviously, all these parts are on the outside of the body – we don’t need to get X-rayed to see that we have eyes, ears, hands, and feet. But what if you’re none of the above? After all, a body is a lot more than just what the mirror shows. What if you’re a pancreas? A thyroid gland? A spleen? These parts aren’t visible—unless something really, really bad just happened to you—but…well, try spending a day without your thyroid. Actually, please don’t. It will not go well.

“…the members in the Church who are not in charge have their part to play. And it’s not just to ‘pay and pray.’ … It’s way more than that.”

You see where I’m going with this, and Mr. Ruddlesden went there first, as he explained that, for example, though each Tomorrow’s World telecast may only be presented by one man, there are perhaps dozens of people that are never shown, but without whom that telecast would never be produced. Those people aren’t parts of the body’s face; they’re internal organs, and you don’t need to be a doctor to know that a body needs internal organs. The telecast needs more than presenters. The magazine needs more than writers. The Church needs more than people in Charlotte. Preaching the gospel and feeding the flock takes every single one of us. Whether it’s Mr. Weston himself teaching doctrine to the members or the teenager in a tiny congregation being a light and example to everyone they meet, both contribute to the feeding and preaching in their own special ways using their own particular talents. We’ll always need faces, but internal organs are important, too.

Thomas White headshot

Thomas White was one of the onsite Living Education students for the 2018-2019 semesters. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Thomas currently works as an Editorial Assistant for the Living Church of God. According to his wife, he eats pizza in entirely the wrong way.

Children’s Bible Program – Level 2: Lesson 19 “Abraham and Isaac Are Tested” |

By Janth English

Read Together:  Abraham and Sarah watched and guided Isaac as he grew into a young man. Abraham taught Isaac about God and told him about the promises He had made. Then, when Isaac was still a young man, God told Abraham to take him to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice! After hearing God’s instruction, Abraham dutifully arose the next morning, prepared for the journey, and headed toward the mountain with Isaac and two of his servants. It took them three days to reach the place where Isaac was to be offered. One can only imagine how difficult this journey was for Abraham. Nevertheless, He was willing to obey God’s command. Remember, God had promised that He would give many descendants to Abraham, and Isaac was the son who was miraculously born to Abraham and Sarah to bring about that promise. He knew that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary, to keep His promise. Abraham and Isaac went up to the top of the mountain where Isaac allowed himself to be bound. Then Abraham laid his son on the wood of the altar to become the offering. Abraham raised the knife to slay his son when God stopped him. God then knew without any doubt that Abraham feared Him, trusted Him and loved Him more than anything or anyone – even his own son. God blessed Abraham for his faith and obedience and gave him even greater promises than before! God told him that all the people on earth would be blessed because of Abraham’s obedience!

Read Together:  Genesis 18:17–19; 22:1–18; Hebrews 11:17–19


  • Point out some great examples in the Bible of young people seeking God’s will and obeying Him. Isaac is one of them. Who else can you remember?
  • Discuss with your child some examples in Abraham’s life that validate why he is called the father of the faithful (Romans 4:16).
  • Help your child think about how difficult it would be to sacrifice your child or to be the person who is sacrificed. Ask them to imagine what it would have been like to be Isaac. Isaac could have run away, but instead he followed his father’s instruction, just as Abraham was following God’s instruction. This would have taken great courage and faith on the part of Isaac toward his father!
  • Explain to your child how Abraham and Isaac pictured the Father and Jesus Christ during their test. Abraham was a type of the Father who offered His Son, and Isaac pictured Christ, who willingly laid down His life (John 10:17–18).

Review Memorization:

Hebrews 11:17–18 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”