Course Spotlight: Different Kinds of Prayer

The Old and New Testaments use a variety of words to refer to prayer. Each conveys a different shade of meaning and helps us understand a different aspect of our prayer life. These words can be grouped under three separate concepts, each of which is impor­tant and should be part of our regular relationship with God.

Course Spotlight From Tools for Christian Growth: Prayer

God’s Festivals – Pentecost

God wanted a family,

and from the beginning He made a plan for His children. Do you remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? God worked with each of these men, and because they obeyed him, he decided to work out His plan through them to have a family. The children of Jacob (whose name you might remember God changed to “Israel”) would become the example  children for the rest of the world. God wants all people to be His children, but He had to start with a few people first to be an example for everyone else. So God was working out His plan for all people on earth through the example of the Children of Israel!

So what does this have to do with Pentecost? Just wait and see!

How it works:

This Study Guide is written for the purpose of helping parents teach their children vital Biblical topics in a focused, easy-to-follow format. Each section is not meant to be taught in one lesson, rather the topics are organized so parents can choose specific areas of focus and gear lessons toward the learning styles and ages of their children. Each topic is presented in a straightforward manner with accompanying verses for study. The main study should always come from the Scripture itself, while these lessons can act as a guide for reading passages from the Bible. Each lesson packet includes memory verses, questions for meaningful discussion, and activities (added at the end of the packet). Also, though some things may be labeled as Level 1, 2, or 3, the activities, questions, and scriptures for memorizing can be used to fit the needs and learning levels for children of all ages. Enjoy!

Second Thoughts: Redefining Masculinity

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 55 seconds.

Several weeks ago, Mr. Jonathan McNair introduced the Christian Living unit on masculinity and femininity. He began his lecture on masculinity by presenting some of the different views of society—rather, he let us present these views to each other. Mr. McNair split us into groups for a little classroom activity. Each group was given an article that promoted a certain perspective on masculinity. After reading the article, we had to explain the author’s position to the class.

“It’s All About Definitions.”

We found some interesting opinions. Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and spiritualist, said, “A complete human being is an equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine.” On the other hand, for some, masculinity is toxic and contentious, something to be avoided altogether—a psychological sickness. The American Psychological Association stated that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” And yet another contingent believes real masculinity is embodied in physical strength, ruggedness, and courage. The website Focus on the Family asserted, “Womanhood is not as laden with inherent moral expectations. Manhood is….”

There are many different views on masculinity—but whose opinion is right? Mr. McNair was making a point through the exercise:

“If we’re going to have any sort of solid foundation on which to base our thoughts, we have to go to the Bible to define masculinity.”

The words masculinity and femininity cannot be found in the Bible. What can be found are commands given specifically to men and commands given specifically to women. Based on this, Mr. McNair provided a working definition of masculinity: “The ability to fulfill the roles and responsibilities that God has specifically designed for a man.” For example, one of the biblical responsibilities Mr. McNair outlined was that men were given the ultimate responsibility to lead in the marriage relationship (Genesis 2:18-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3-12). Another characteristic of masculinity, according to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, is that a man is not to imitate a woman in dress, appearance, or even mannerisms.

Here is one more view some in society have on masculinity. This is a taste of the perspective my group encountered in our assigned article:

Masculine men are bold. Women are not…. Have you ever heard the phrase, “She is a woman of her word”? Me neither. Women make up their minds through their emotions. Since emotions are fleeting, they constantly change their minds…. Honesty, sincerity, loyalty, and integrity are all honorable masculine traits every man should have (“Top 10 Traits of Masculine Men,”

A Matter of Character

While there are traits every man should have, are they solely masculine traits? For example, when Esther stood up and risked her life for her people (Esther 4:16), she was exercising courage—or boldness. Was she being masculine by doing so? No—she was exercising a character trait God intended for men and women. Submissiveness, which some might like to consider a feminine trait, is likewise a matter of Christian character. Both men and women are commanded to submit to authority and government (Romans 13:1-14).

Mr. McNair emphasized a fundamental truth: God intends the exact same character to be developed in both men and women, but exactly how it is developed is to be different for each. Through the different responsibilities God gave men and women—in the family, in the Church, in the community—both grow in the character of God Himself. Godly character is not unique to men or to women, but to true Christians.

True Masculinity

In this Christian Living unit, we learned what masculinity is—and what it isn’t. True masculinity is not a sickness or toxic. And, while it may be contentious, it is our society that makes it that way. Godly masculinity is not measured by physical strength and stature, but rather by a man’s willingness to fulfill the roles God intended for him. And though Jesus Christ came as a man, the opportunity to become like Him is not limited to men—men and women alike are responsible for developing true Christian character.

Even if we were somehow able to untangle the ridiculous web of opinions the world has on masculinity and even if we chose the most reasonable opinion, at the end of the day, we would be left with just that—an opinion. We would be left holding an inaccurate or incomplete pattern of what it means to be a man. But the Bible reveals the only opinion that really matters. God defined masculinity at creation, beginning with His command for Adam to leave his parents and become one with his wife (Genesis 2:24). When we choose to measure a man by his dedication to fulfilling God’s commands for him, we will see the redefining of a man—that is, a return to the true, original definition of masculinity.

Juliette McNair headshot

Juliette McNair is a student at Living Education Charlotte. She works in the Editorial Department transcribing sermons and proofreading transcripts. She also assists Living Education by writing Second Thoughts essays and Forum/Assembly Summaries for the website. Juliette recently graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in Upstate New York with an A.A.S in Horticulture, a B.T in Plant Science, and a minor in English with a writing focus. She loves playing soccer on the beach, getting up early to watch the sunrise, and playing piano with the lights out.

Course Spotlight: Parable of the Sower

The parable of the sower is one of the few parables of which the Bible records Christ’s explanation. The parable itself is recorded in Matthew 13:3-9, but Christ’s explanation of it to His disciples is found in verses 18-23. The fact that the meaning is written out for us, means it must be especially important for us, as Christians, to consider.

Course Spotlight From The Life, Ministry, and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 2) The Galilean Ministry

Assembly Summary: Keep the Doors Open

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds.

Mr. Gerald Weston began the final Assembly of the year, “People tend to fall into one of several categories.” Some individuals map out their futures early on and single-mindedly dedicate themselves to their goals. For example, he noted Deion Sanders—a first-round draft pick for the National Football League in 1989. Sanders won two Super Bowls, was elected for eight NFL Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Achievers know what they want in life and pursue it relentlessly. But another category Mr. Weston gave was the under-achievers. “These expect others, including God, to be responsible for their success—to do it all for them.” Rather than taking initiative, they make excuses, develop a “victim” complex, blaming others, or wait for a lucky break.

What Do You Want to Do in Your Life?

“Most of us fall into a third category—those who are willing to work hard but struggle to figure out what they want to do.” As a young man, Mr. Weston wanted to be a forest ranger and a “smoke jumper”—a wildland firefighter who jumps out of planes to fight forest fires. Then, at Ventura College, he switched his major from geology to social work to English. “I confess, I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. And how can a young person be expected to know what to do—at age eighteen, for example—when the whole world is out there?” He asked, “So what do you do to figure that out if you’re in this category?”

What is Your Primary Goal?

“Let’s begin with our primary goal.” Deion Sanders’ goal was to be the absolute best at football, and arguably, he was. But later, he admitted his aim had been flawed—he titled his autobiography, Power, Money, and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. Mr. Weston said, “Sometimes, we think we know what we want, but it’s not always what God shows us we should want.” Matthew 6:33 contains what a Christian’s main goal should be. Ultimately, every decision and action should have this end in mind. Mr. Weston said, “But does that mean God will do everything for us?” He held up his Bible, “Not according to this instruction book here.”

What Are You Doing to Prepare?

Young people may wish to be independent or to get married and raise a family. “But when you look at these goals,” Mr. Weston emphasized, “the question is what are you doing to prepare for that?” He told a story about a high school friend who would talk about his dreams and plans for life. The friend wanted to move to northern California, living off the land while training to become a baseball star—yet he never played on any kind of organized team. This friend went to Ambassador College for a year and then dropped out. He had told Mr. Weston he wanted to be a city planner, yet he threw away the opportunity to build and design cities under Christ in the Millennium. He told Mr. Weston once, “You know what I’m really afraid of? I’m afraid that I will wake up and be forty years of age and not know what I want to do.” Mr. Weston said, “And that happened. The door was open to his dream, but he never prepared himself for that open door.”

Open Doors

People open or close doors by the decisions we make. Mr. Weston commented, “My father always said, If you can read, write, and do arithmetic, you could have a job.” Without basic education, fewer opportunities come. But if a young person educates himself, perhaps developing his public speaking skills or learning a second language, opportunities arise. In Daniel 1, four young men were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to work in the king’s palace (v. 4). They were “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand….” Mr. Weston pointed out that while they couldn’t have controlled their lack of blemishes or good looks, they certainly had developed their knowledge and understanding and as a result, doors (opportunities) opened to them. “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all wisdom and literature” (v.17). Mr. Weston explained God didn’t pour knowledge into their minds using a funnel—they had to read literature and learn wisdom. “These were young men who had certain native ability, but they developed it with hard work.”

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.”

– Proverbs 22:29

“The harder you work at a young age, the more the doors are opened for other opportunities. But if you spend all your time goofing off, you close doors.” Even if a young person is struggling to figure out what they want to do in life, by having the right primary goal and preparing for their future, with God’s help, opportunities for success will open to them. Mr. Weston encouraged the students as they move forward after Living Ed, “Keep the doors open. Only if you have prepared yourself, will you be able to walk through those doors when opportunity knocks.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: Seven Lessons from Passover to Pentecost

The journey from Passover to Pentecost is one in which we have opportunities to truly come to know God and to develop the trust and dependence that is to be the basis of our ongoing relationship. The seven weeks of their journey from Egypt to Sinai, from the wave sheaf offering to God’s thundering from Mount Sinai taught them seven lessons.

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Pentecost

Digging Deeper: The Oracles of God

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min., 40 sec.

Did you know that the Bible refers to God’s spoken and recorded revelations by the term oracles?

When writing to the Church of God in Rome, the Apostle Paul used this term that was familiar to Jews but that is rather unfamiliar to Christians today. Some may think this word refers only to pagan oracles. Some may wonder what God’s oracles are and why they were given this name. This Digging Deeper delves into these questions with a brief word study that will further open our understanding of God’s inspired and preserved word. It will also explain the demanding responsibility of God’s people to faithfully preserve and promote it.

Our focus verses for this word study are: Romans 3:1-2 KJV  “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  (2)  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” This was Paul’s reply to his question concerning the advantage afforded by God to the Jews. Paul reminded them they had been privileged to receive the word of God that at first was spoken directly by God but later inscribed for permanence.

Sayings and Revelations

In the plural, the oracles of God appears three times and the phrase the lively oracles appears once in our New Testament: Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11. They were described as living since the living God had spoken them at Sinai. The word oracles is translated from the Greek word logion (plural of logos), literally meaning “sayings”. In simple terms, this was the common first-century synonym for the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament.

Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary explains that oracle “… denotes something delivered by supernatural wisdom; and the term is also used in the Old Testament to signify the most holy place from whence the Lord revealed his will to ancient Israel, 1 Kings 6:5, 19-21, 23. But when the word occurs in the plural number, as it mostly does, it denotes the revelations contained in the sacred writings of which the nation of Israel were the depositories” (e-Sword 13.0).

God’s oracles were not always in written form. The CARM Theological Dictionary reports: “God’s method of communicating these oracles varied from dreams and visions (Numbers 12:6-8), to wisdom (Proverbs 30:1), and even the Urim and Thummim (Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 14:337 [SIC])” (e-Sword 13.0). Another source of divine guidance was the high priest’s breastplate. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words declares, “Divine ‘oracles’ were given by means of the breastplate of the high priest, in connection with the service of the tabernacle, and the Sept. uses the associated word logeion in Exodus 28:15, to describe the breastplate” (Ibid.).

Oracles of God

These oracles were the divinely inspired utterances of God. In defining what was included in these oracles, Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary declares: “These oracles contained the law, both moral and ceremonial, with all the types and promises relating to the Messiah which are to be found in the writings of Moses. They also contained all the intimations of the divine mind which he was pleased to communicate by means of the succeeding prophets who prophesied beforehand of the coming and of the sufferings of the Messiah with the glory that should follow” (e-Sword 13.0).

The Biblical Illustrator, by Joseph S. Exell, carries this thought even further: “But the apostles, when they term the Scriptures ‘oracles’ (Acts 7:38; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11), signify that they are real revelations from the true God. These were communicated—viva voce, as when God spake to Moses face to face—in visions, as when a prophet in an ecstacy had supernatural revelations (Genesis 15:1; 46:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Daniel 8:2)—in dreams, as those of Jacob (Genesis 28:12) and Joseph (Genesis 37:5-6)—by Urim and Thummim, which was a way of knowing the will of God by the ephod or breastplate of the high priest. After the building of the temple, God’s will was generally made known by prophets Divinely inspired, and who were made acquainted with it in different ways (1 Chronicles 9:20-21)” (e-Sword 13.0).

Pagan Oracles

Not all oracles are of God. The Devil has his oracles as well. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible declares: “The word ‘oracle’ among the pagan meant properly the answer or response of a god, or of some priest supposed to be inspired, to an inquiry of importance, usually expressed in a brief sententious way, and often with great ambiguity. The place from which such a response was usually obtained was also called an oracle, as the oracle at Delphi, etc. These oracles were frequent among the pagan, and affairs of great importance were usually submitted to them” (e-Sword 13.0).

The ultimate source of these revelations is spiritually dangerous as Richard Watson’s Biblical and Theological Dictionary declares: “Among the Heathen the term oracle is usually taken to signify an answer, generally couched in very dark and ambiguous terms, supposed to be given by demons of old, either by the mouths of their idols, or by those of their priests, to the people, who consulted them on things to come. Oracle is also used for the demon who gave the answer, and the place where it was given” (eSword 13.0).

One may wonder how reliable pagan oracles were. The Biblical Illustrator by Joseph S. Exell notes: “These were, indeed, merely pretended communications from gods that had no existence; or, perhaps, in some instances real communications from demons, and the answers which were given were generally expressed in such unintelligible, or equivocal phrases as might easily be wrested to prove the truth of the oracles whatever the truth might be (Acts 16:16)” (e-Sword 13.0). Ambiguity of meaning was the order of the day.

A New and Concise Bible Dictionary by George Morrish goes a step further: “In the learned heathen world, Satan had places in imitation of this, at which it was professed that an answer from their gods could be obtained; but the answers were often purposely vague in order that afterwards they could be interpreted differently according as the event turned out. Thus the persons were duped who asked the questions” (Bible Analyzer By contrast, God’s word may always be considered factual and verifiable.

Preserving the words of God

The Jewish people were given the special privilege, but demanding responsibility, for preserving, supervising, and promoting God’s holy word, which Stephen called “lively (living)” (Acts 7:38). Jewish scribes and scholars were especially diligent in preserving and copying these divine utterances. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible explains their significance: “The Jews were the Christians’ library-keepers, were entrusted with that sacred treasure for their own use and benefit in the first place, and then for the advantage of the world; and, in preserving the letter of the scripture, they were very faithful to their trust, did not lose one iota or tittle, in which we are to acknowledge God’s gracious care and providence” (e-Sword 13.0). This is how God preserved His word for succeeding generations. Christians need to be especially grateful to the Jewish people for safeguarding the largest section of their Holy Bible.

The Hebrew Scriptures became part of the Christian Bible since the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Church of God is now the custodian of God’s oracles in both testaments. Christians need to read and study them to grow and mature. In his epistle to Hebrew Christians, Paul scolds them because they needed to be taught again the basic principles of God’s word instead of becoming teachers of others (Hebrews 5:12). Some believers today need to take these words to heart because of their neglect of serious scriptural study.

Peter cautions preachers by reminding them they must preach God’s oracles with the ability God gives, not their fanciful ideas (1 Peter 4:11). Too many preachers today do not preach the meat of the word of God to their congregants as they are commanded. Rather, concepts from the world of psychology, psychiatry, and sociology are often substituted for preaching and teaching God’s word. Preaching and teaching are two different, though related, techniques for conveying God’s mind to His people.

Study the living oracles

Paul commands God’s people to: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). How precious God’s word is for every believer. When we study the Bible we need to remember we are reading the very words our Creator and Redeemer has commanded each of us personally. Bible reading and study should be done with a sense of reverence (Psalm 119:161). When we read it we are in God’s presence and are having a “conversation” with Him when we join Bible study with prayer.

To bring our brief study to a close, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, quotes R. Watson who offers these keys for proper Bible reading and study: “These oracles are committed or entrusted to you.—1. They are entrusted to be read or understood; 2. To interpret honestly; 3. To make them known to others; 4. To apply to practical purposes”(e-Sword 13.0). Today God’s people are the library-keepers for the word of God. God’s oracles are not only to be read and studied but lived since they are the “lively (living) oracles” given to us to share with the world (Acts 7:38).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Forum Summary: Protocol — Loving Your Neighbor

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Those are all the announcements I have, so I will leave the balance of the Forum to Mr. Ames—this is your last opportunity to hear from him in a regular Forum or Assembly. We want to take every advantage to hear what he has to say, so please give him your full attention today.”

If You Please

Years ago, Mr. Richard Ames and his wife visited Paris. While there, the director of the Worldwide Church of God office took them to eat at a restaurant. Mr. Ames noticed their host would always call the waiter over by saying, S’il vous plait. “I picked up on that.” Mr. Ames said, “We were told the French don’t like Americans, but every time I started talking to a Frenchman, I said, S’il vous plait.” Later, Mr. Ames explained he was looking for a parking space at the French Feast site and was told to park in the VIP area to unload his luggage. “So, I go up to the parking area and there’s a speakerphone. And I said, ‘S’il vous plait,’ and the gate opened up—if you’re ever in France, that’s the secret to getting along with people.”

Standard Operating Procedure

Protocols are a part of daily life, whether in cultural customs, social manners, dining etiquette, military procedures, or employee handbooks. Mr. Ames defined a protocol as “an accepted way of conducting oneself in a given situation.” For example, in France, it is socially acceptable to use the phrase, If you please. But there are also expected ways of conduct in the professional world. In the aviation industry, the major cause for aircraft crashes is a neglected protocol from the pre-flight checklist. Mr. Ames said, “I first learned about Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when I was a junior in high school.” He worked as a disc jockey for the daytime radio station WMMW in Connecticut. On Sunday mornings, he would have to follow the SOP to start up the station equipment and get the program on the air.

Mr. Ames referenced Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. Dr. Gawande worked as a surgeon in eight hospitals around the world. Surveying these hospitals, he found that out of 4,000 surgeries performed, 435 people had major complications and fifty-six people died. Yet, after implementing a nineteen-point checklist for surgeries, 277 people had complications, with only twenty-nine deaths. Checklist protocols can save lives.

“We need Godly protocols. I’m going to give you four points on how to love your neighbor as yourself in the context of protocols.”

Have an attitude of respect. Dr. Meredith noted in the October 10, 2005 co-worker letter, sent out after a destructive typhoon in Bangladesh, “Every human being is precious in God’s sight.” Mr. Ames turned to Philippians 2:1-4, where Paul encouraged Christians to “esteem others better than himself.” One protocol Christians should have on their checklist is respect for all human beings.

Choose words of respect and courtesy. Mr. Ames reminded the students of the five responses that should be a part of their communication: “Thank you; You’re welcome; Please; I’m sorry; How may I help you?” He explained these phrases should be automatic responses. Polite communication—expressing respect and courtesy in speech—is a godly protocol.

Follow Biblical instructions. “You’ve heard the quote, When all else fails, follow instructions…” Mr. Ames said, “No. It should be, Before things fail, follow instructions.” Proverbs 2:1-6 reads, “If you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you… then you will understand the fear of the LORD….” But to follow instructions, Mr. Ames explained, one must be willing to submit—whether to God’s Word, Church authority, or family leadership.

Obedience is a choice. Every individual must make the conscious, personal decision to establish and follow the protocols God established in His Word. Mr. Ames mentioned Proverbs 1:28-29, which warns those who choose to ignore His wisdom: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD….”

“Surgical protocols have saved lives, airplane protocols have preserved life, and godly protocols ensure an abundant life.” Mr. Ames concluded the Forum, “So, make sure that you are personally learning and growing in the true values of godly protocol, godly procedures, godly communication, and God’s way of life—and love your neighbor as yourself.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: The First Fruits

What are “firstfruits”? Do they have spiritual significance in God’s plan? In order to understand the concept of “firstfruits,” we need to understand the physical harvest pattern in ancient Israel.

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Pentecost