Forum Summary: Do you think long-term?

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

For his forum, Mr. Michael Heykoop, a telecast presenter and the Media Director for the Work in Canada, provided four points for long-term thinking.

He explained that while we ought to take notice of world events, we don’t have the exact date for when Christ will return, so we need to take the long-term approach in planning for our lives. While there’s no way we can physically prepare for the things to come, prophecy is provided so that we can be spiritually ready.

1: Planning ahead does not show a lack of faith.

Sometimes, people take Christ’s words in Matthew 6:25-26 to mean that they should not plan ahead and instead take each day on faith. However, Mr. Heykoop explained that Christ isn’t saying to never make any plans, but to make sure that our planning doesn’t come between us and God. As James 4:13-15 tells us, we must plan with humility, recognizing that while we plan, it is according to God’s will that our plans come to fruition. Mr. Heykoop used the story of Joseph’s preparation for the famine in Egypt as an example of planning being rewarded.

2: God’s promises do not allow for unnecessary risk.

There is a misconception that if God is protecting us, we can take any risks we want to. However, Mr. Heykoop showed the students through Matthew 4:5-7 that we are not to tempt God. He explained that we must be mindful and determine whether we are taking undue risks in our endeavors. Our body is the temple of God’s Spirit, so we must be vigilant in protecting it.

3: Mistakes of youth can cause lasting harm.

While we are forgiven of our sins, we may still have to suffer their consequences. Mr. Heykoop encouraged the students to picture where we want to be in ten years and to identify roadblocks that would keep us from getting there. We must ask ourselves whether we are making our decisions with God in mind. What could take us from His truth? Mr. Heykoop stressed that we must recognize and weed those things out of our lives. Mr. Heykoop illustrated this point with the example of Jacob. One lie separated him from his family for more than twenty years—God had promised to bless him, but he still took matters into his own hands and deceived his father. Whether good or bad, our actions have consequences that can last a lifetime.

4: The effect of good decisions made over time is extraordinary.

Mr. Heykoop used the principle of compound interest to illustrate this point. When you invest in developing good habits and making good decisions, the return compounds over time. For instance, if you were to make the decision to study for thirty minutes a day over a period of five years, you would have studied a total of 912 hours. Imagine all the things you could learn in that time—and that’s just five years! Mr. Heykoop encouraged the students to take advantage of the unique opportunity we have to start building these habits early as we begin our adult lives.

Mr. Heykoop stressed that we need to bring God into our plans and seek His help and guidance in setting them, eliminating undue risks, avoiding sin, and setting up good habits. God will make it clear when the end is near, but until then, it’s our responsibility to move forward and plan. However, in our planning, we must always remember that it is only according to God’s will that our plans succeed.

Student Life: Visiting the JAARS Facility

Author: Caanin Fausone | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

On February 9th, the Living Education students took a trip to the JAARS facility located in Waxhaw, North Carolina.

JAARS is the acronym for “Jungle Aviation and Radio Service.” The land for the facility was originally donated in the 1960’s by businessman Henderson Belk, CEO of Belk department stores to JAARS founder Cameron Townsend to build a runway and hangar. Uncle Cam (as he is lovingly referred to by the employees today) took this plot of land and built the original building that would serve as headquarters for the work that JAARS does.

When we arrived at the facility, it looked nothing like the original humble building that “Uncle Cam” had built but was rather a bustling operation with an airfield, housing, and multiple media ventures underway. The facility now encompasses over 572 acres, 43 buildings and 4 airstrips, accommodating more than 500 employees. 

As the tour began, our guide explained the mission statement of JAARS, which is to make Bible translation and language development possible, especially in the most remote and difficult places on earth. by enabling locally appropriate and sustainable solutions in transportation, technology, media, and training. We were shown multiple Bibles in different languages. “With each”, our guide explained, “there is a specific cultural challenge to translation.” For example, in the Middle East holy books are especially ornate and are easily distinguishable from secular books. As a result, bibles written in Aramaic (a common language in that area) are also quite ornate and printed with fancy flared text on high-quality paper. 

Next, the guide brought us to the technological hub of the operation, where JAARS employees lend assistance to translators all over the world through the power of the internet. They include consideration of cultural context and the ability to review some of the more difficult translations in real-time with relevant language experts. 

Then we were shown my personal favorite area of the trip, the airfield. It’s here that JAARS keeps the planes that are able to offer much-needed supplies to its Bible translators throughout the world. The students watched the aviation mechanics at work as they repaired the various planes and made sure that the others were flight-ready. In order to make sure that the translators are provided for and well equipped to do their work, it is essential that equipment can be dropped off at almost any location worldwide. 

Lastly, the students were able to visit the Alphabet Museum and see how language developed over millennia. It truly was fascinating to the progression of our modern English alphabet and how each individual character changed over the hundreds of years it has been in use. In addition to educational material, the students also had fun posing with the various statues in a “copycat” fashion. All in all the trip was educational, enjoyable, and engaging for everyone.

Course Spotlight: Passover FAQs

Look at some of the frequently asked questions regarding Passover. With Passover quickly approaching now is the time to study and make sure you know the answer to these questions!

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Passover

Digging Deeper: Phebe

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

Estimated reading time: 8 min.

Did you know that Paul may have entrusted a female Christian to transport his epistle to a church he had never yet visited?

He asked Christians in Rome to warmly welcome her when she arrived. In the last chapter of his epistle to them, Paul commends a woman who was on her way there who had served the brethren of Cenchrae, in modern Greece, and him personally. This Digging Deeper discovers who this outstanding female Christian was, why Paul praised her, and the assignment he gave her.

In this study we focus on: “I commend unto you Phebe [or, Phoebe] our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also (Romans 16:1-2 KJV throughout). This is the only mention of her in our New Testament and nothing further is known about her. Nonetheless, what an impression she made on Paul, as we will discover. She was one of those women who labored with Paul in the Gospel (Philippians 4:3), not in preaching (1 Corinthians 14:34), but in serving.

Bearer of an epistle

M.R. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament explains Phebe’s circumstance: “Conybeare (‘Life and Epistles of St. Paul’) assumes that Phoebe was a widow, on the ground that she could not, according to Greek manners, have been mentioned as acting in the independent manner described, either if her husband had been living or she had been unmarried” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Paul probably wrote his Epistle to the Romans from Corinth during his third evangelistic journey. Phebe likely was the one who either transported Paul’s Epistle to the Romans or traveled with those who did. Hastings’ Dictionary of the Apostolic Church explains why it was transported by a friend instead of the official postal service: “The Imperial post was not available for private correspondence, and such a letter could be sent only by special messenger or by a trusted friend who happened to be travelling” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Paul commends Phebe unto the Roman brethren. Webster’s 1913 Unabridged Dictionary, in its second definition, defines this word and illustrates it from Romans 16:1: “To recommend as worthy of confidence or regard; to present as worthy of notice or favorable attention” (Bible Analyzer Paul provided her a letter of commendation, as explained by the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: “People of high status wrote letters of recommendation to peers on behalf of those of somewhat lower status. Often such a letter introduced the letter’s bearer, praising them and showing why they merited the help requested. The bearer of a document might also be called on to explain the sense of the document, making Phoebe’s qualifications important here” (Tecarta Bible App). At that time, supposed emissaries for Paul could turn up in a city purporting to bring word from Paul yet deceive brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Signed letters from the apostles authenticated their true representatives.

In Romans 16, Paul greets several brethren in this capital city. Henry Morris’ Defender’s Study Bible makes this key point: “Phebe is the first of thirty-five personal names mentioned in this last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, most of whom are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. The reason why so much apparently personal information was included in the Scriptures by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is probably to illustrate the Spirit’s concern with individuals” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Paul greets these brethren from his location in southern Greece today. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains how he knew them: “Paul had been engaged in missionary work for 25 years when he wrote Romans. He had developed relationships with believers scattered all across the eastern Mediterranean world” (Tecarta Bible App). Evidently, these folks now lived in Rome. This source continues: “Phoebe was a prominent Christian who was planning to travel to Rome. Paul probably took the opportunity of her planned trip to entrust her with the delivery of his letter to the Roman Christians” (Ibid.).

Who was Phebe?

The Expository Notes of Dr. Constable declares Paul gave special mention of several women in this chapter: “Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nereus’ sister” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Lange’s Commentary on the OT and NT explains that Phebe’s name: “…is derived from Φοῖβος, Phœbus (Apollo) [the sun god], but there is nothing remarkable in this, since the etymology would be as little recalled then, as now, in the case of proper names.—R.] See 2 Corinthians 5:12” (e-Sword 13.0.0). One may wonder why she retained a pagan name after her conversion. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges clarifies: “The early Christian converts seem to have had no scruple in retaining a pre-baptismal name even when the name (as in this case) was that of a heathen deity. Cp. Hermes, (Romans 16:14); Nereus, (Romans 16:15); and such derivative names as Demetrius (3 John 1:12)” (Ibid.).

Paul first refers to Phebe as our sister – i.e., a fellow believer. Then he calls her a servant. This has aroused much scholarly discussion on just how Paul used this term so early in the history of the Church of God. The ESV Study Bible explains: “Scholars debate whether Phoebe is a servant in a general sense, or whether she served as a deacon [deaconess], since the Greek word diakonos can mean either ‘servant’ (13:4; 15:8; 1 Cor. 3:5; 1 Tim. 4:6) or ‘deacon’ (referring to a church office; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12)” (Tecarta Bible App). Later the office of deaconess became an ordained position in the church. However, it is unclear here whether Paul intended this meaning.

Paul writes that Phebe had served the church at Cenchrea. The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible reports that this location was: “A port about six miles (nine kilometers) from Corinth, where Paul is apparently located as he writes this letter (Acts 20:2-3)” (Tecarta Bible App). M. R. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament describes Cenchrea further: “It was a thriving town, commanding a large trade with Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and the other cities of the Aegean. It contained temples of Venus, Aesculapius, and Isis. The church there was perhaps a branch of that at Corinth” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

A patron and benefactress

In Romans 16:2, Paul asks the Roman brethren to receive Phebe in the Lord – i.e., as a fellow believer. Then he calls her a succourer (i.e., benefactor or patron). The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible defines this word as: “The ‘patron,’ an important figure in the Greco-Roman world who used their money and influence to support various causes. Phoebe used her worldly advantages to help many believers, including Paul himself” (Tecarta Bible App).

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible describes benefactors further: “Wealthy benefactors helped their cities or other people, who in turn owed them honor. Most benefactors were male, but a number (some estimate 10 percent) were women. Benefactors of religious associations often allowed the latter to meet in the benefactors’ homes. Letters were normally carried by travelers. Phoebe is probably a well-to-do businesswoman traveling on business; Corinth and Rome had close trade ties” (Tecarta Bible App).

When Paul declares in Romans 16:2 that she had been a succourer of himself also, he may have meant that she had been instrumental in his recovery from an illness, as explained by Hasting’s Dictionary of the Apostolic Church: “Gifford (op. cit. p. 231) conjectures that the personal reference (‘and of mine own self’) may be to an illness in which Phoebe ministered to St. Paul at Cenchreae, and that his recovery was the occasion of his vow [Acts 18:18]. Certainly we may assume that she received him into her home when he visited or passed through Cenchreae (cf. Lydia at Philippi, Acts 16:15; 40), and that she ‘mothered’ him as did the mother of Rufus (Romans 16:13)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Barclay’s Daily Study Bible notes the importance of women to the early New Testament church: “There can have been no time in the Christian Church when the work of women was not of infinite value. It must have been specially so in the days of the early Church. In the case of baptism by total immersion, as it then was, in the visitation of the sick, in the distribution of food to the poor, women must have played a big part in the life and work of the Church, but they did not at that time hold any official position” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Phebe must have been an outstanding female servant of God’s church in the first century to whom Paul likely entrusted this treasured epistle. Paul’s description of her, though in only two verses, stands as a testament to his appreciation for the many women who backed him in his difficult circumstances of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

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 Assembly: The Chief Propagandist

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Mr. Paul Kearns, LCG’s area pastor for New Zealand and Vanuatu, is a university graduate who majored in World War II history and early Christian history.

For his forum, he told the students that there is a crisis that affects almost every issue today: We don’t know who to trust anymore. Truth is scarce since everyone has their own agenda. Mr. Kearns explained that Satan is responsible for this confusion and showed the students that this has been a strategy of his since the very beginning.

The Greatest Deception

The beginning of this crisis can be found in Genesis 3:1-5. Mr. Kearns broke down this account and showed the cunning methods Satan used and still uses to deceive mankind. Satan started by sowing the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind (v. 1). Then, he used a half-truth—Satan knew that Adam and Eve would not die instantly upon taking the fruit, yet neglected to mention the eternal death penalty that comes with sin (vv. 2-4). Finally, he slandered the source of the truth, God Himself (v. 5).

All of this is very familiar to us; we can see it occur daily amongst our politicians, news outlets, and nations. However, this muddling of the truth is not where Satan stops.

Propaganda: One of the Devil’s Greatest Tools

The Bible and history are full of examples of Satan’s use of propaganda. He doesn’t want just to obscure the truth, but to replace it with his false narrative. Today, propaganda is everywhere, and it can affect us. So, how can we recognize propaganda? 

Mr. Kearns explained that to recognize a source of information as propaganda, we must look at the agenda of that source. Why is it giving out that information? He then pointed to the story of Absalom’s rebellion recorded in 2 Samuel 15:1-6, explaining that Absalom believed he was justified in his actions and that his agenda reflected that. He went to the city gates—the social and informational hub of the day—and befriended the people. Then, he sold the people his idea. Absalom also planted the seeds of doubt in Israel by slandering David and elevating himself. Mr. Kearns explained that this was Satan-influenced and pointed out the parallels between this account and the account in Genesis 3. In Matthew 11:19, we find that the Pharisees spread propaganda against Jesus Christ. What was their agenda? They saw that Christ was performing many signs and wonders and sought to destroy and discredit Him to preserve their own prestige.

The Power of Propaganda

Mr. Kearns turned the students’ attention to Nazi Germany for an example of how powerful propaganda can be. Joseph Goebbels was Germany’s minister of “public enlightenment.” He promoted the agenda that the Aryan people were the master race. However, the Jews were considered enemies to the Aryans. Therefore, the Nazi agenda was to destroy the Jews. Goebbels utilized many half-truths to paint the Jews in political office and other positions as trying to destroy German society. He used this narrative to dehumanize them, and his efforts resulted in the Holocaust.

From Matthew 24:9, we can see that we will be hated by all nations for Christ’s sake. Mr. Kearns explained that this will likely happen through propaganda, just as it did in Nazi Germany. Matthew 24 also warns us that many false christs will arise in the end times, and these will even try to deceive the elect (vv. 23-24). Mr. Kearns warned the students that we all need to be alert, recognizing Satan’s propaganda and holding fast to God’s word as the one source of untainted truth.

Assembly Summary: The What and Why of Your Choices

Author: Yolanda Watt | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

Mr. Strain began his Assembly lecture by taking a trip down memory lane to when he was in grade school.

When he was taught reading comprehension, he learned about the “five Ws and an H”—what, why, who, where, when, and how. If we are able to answer those questions, he said, then we understand what we have read. Mr. Strain proposed that these questions are of value when we are analyzing our life choices as well. For the purpose of his lecture, he only discussed two out of the six: what and why.

We have choices to make

Mr. Strain used the example of a man who was working for a company and decided that he no longer wanted to work there anymore, but instead to start his own business. If he was to do so, this man had to know what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. Mr. Strain then asked the students why they had chosen to attend Living Education. He mentioned that we had made a choice to devote this year to learning and immersing ourselves into God’s way of life. Mr. Strain challenged the students to think about what we do as Living Education students and why we do these things. He acknowledged that some things are decided for us, like participating in activities and living at the dorms with other students. These things are by design, for the students to learn and build stronger bonds. However, we also have choices that we make, for which we will have to give an account. Mr. Strain contrasted Living Education and Ambassador College with secular colleges, which often do not care about what students do with their time. Like Ambassador College, Living Education has been designed to teach its students principles that will guide us for the rest of our lives.

Dangerous comfort?

Mr. Strain encouraged the students to get out of the “danger zone” of our comfort zone. He gave the example of when he was a student at Ambassador College and was advised to join the chorale. He learned something new in the process of getting out of his comfort zone, and it helped him to become a more balanced person. 

Mr. Strain advised the students to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it whenever we make decisions. We need to tie our decisions to our overall purpose of being in God’s Kingdom. An example of that would be doing the Work of God. In order to accomplish the Work, we have to consider what we are doing and why we are doing it, keeping our minds on the overall purpose of getting the Work done. There are some things that are beyond our control—for example, when we are hired for a job, we could expect that we would have a supervisor determining what time the work begins and when it ends. But life should not only happen because someone else schedules it for us. 

Know why you’re doing what your doing

Mr. Strain added that not everything we do needs to have a deep spiritual meaning to it. We may choose to relax and watch television for a while, or listen to music—however, we need to balance our lives. In whatever we strive to do, we must understand what is being done and the purpose of doing such a task, especially if we are to make it into God’s Family.

Course Spotlight: When is “Twighlight”?

In Exodus 12:6, the Israelites were commanded to kill the Passover lamb at “twilight.” This phrase has been at the center of a debate that has caused some to observe the Passover on the wrong day – at least according to what we teach in the Living Church of God. 

Why do we observe the Passover in the evening at the beginning of Abib 14, while today’s Jews observe it at the beginning of Abib 15?

Course Spotlight From God’s Feast Days: Passover

Forum Summary: Thinking about History

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min.

Mr. Mark Sandor, pastor and former social studies teacher, began his forum address by asking the LivingEd students a question—why is history important?

His goal was to answer that question and to show the students how they can properly navigate the complexities of history.

Why Is History Important?

One of the reasons the topic of history is important to us in God’s Church is because it contains numerous examples of God’s hand in world affairs. Mr. Sandor made this point by referring to the book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. The book covers the adventures of Lewis and Clark in their expedition across the western territory of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase. Many times, the expedition would have ended in disaster if not for what secular scholars deem “coincidences.” However, we in God’s Church can see that these seeming coincidences were God’s hand using imperfect human beings to guide a nation.

History also provides case studies in human behavior, showing us the cause and effect of the actions and choices made by those who came before us. Observing the lives of others can reinforce what we know and teach us examples of both what we should and what we should not do. Mr. Sandor used Abraham Lincoln as an example, who, despite not being called, understood the basic teachings of the Bible and used them to lead America through the Civil War.

Things to Keep in Mind

However, there are a few questions we should keep in mind while reading history. First, we should determine the author’s background and point of view. Mr. Sandor brought up Herodotus, “the Father of History,” as an example. He often wrote about the wars between the Greeks and the Persians. Being Greek, he portrayed the Greeks as stalwart heroes and the Persians as despicable villains. Every historian has their biases, and as we read history, we should remain aware of this.

Another thing to consider, although this applies more to ancient historians, is who the historian was sponsored by. A sponsor was often necessary to be able to afford the time it took to write in ancient times. This sponsor held much influence on what was recorded and often ensured that they would be portrayed in a positive light.

A third thing to consider is the author’s source. Mr. Sandor used the example of George McClellan, a general in the Union Army who was a bitter rival of Abraham Lincoln. He served under Lincoln in the Civil War and after a serious military blunder was replaced by a different general. McClellan went on to run against Lincoln for office and publicly insulted his appearance and name. However, Mr. Sandor read a book painting McClellan as a “God-fearing, good man.” Checking the source, he found that it was exclusively what McClellan wrote about himself! Often the subject of a story is painted as a hero, but the facts of history may not show them in such a noble light. It is nearly impossible to record every aspect of one’s life. In writing history, you have to choose a place to start and a place to end. So, whether by choice or necessity, things are often left out of historical accounts.

How Does God Tell History?

We can determine how to properly study history by looking at how God records it. One of the aspects of history revealed by the Bible is that there is more than one way to accurately tell a story. Mr. Sandor referenced the four gospels as an example of this.

Another thing we can see is that sometimes God leaves things out to get a point across. He tells us what we need to know, but doesn’t necessarily give us everything. Mr. Sandor used the dispute between the Archangel Michael and the devil about the body of Moses in Jude 1:8-9 as an example of this. This event is recorded nowhere else in Scripture, and while it would be very interesting to learn more about it, the spiritual lesson is what’s important in this account.

A third lesson we learn is that God focuses on the big picture and the legacies people leave behind. We can see this throughout the Bible. For instance, Mr. Sandor compared King David and King Ahab. Both men coveted something belonging to their servant, leading to the death of that servant, and repented. But, while they both went through a similar situation, one wouldn’t consider these men as equals based on their greater legacy. This same principle applies to historical figures outside the Bible. Focusing on the big picture gives us a greater view of the impact people and events have had on history.

This is the challenge of history: We must seek multiple sources on a subject, note the differences between them, and consider how the sources may reveal the full picture when examined together. By meeting this challenge, we can get the most out of studying history.