Second Thoughts: We’ll Never Regret It

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God


Much of this world sees commitment as extremely dangerous. And for the most part, it’s not wrong about that.

Commitment is dangerous—just ask anyone who ever shelled out cash for tattoo removal. The Scriptures actually warn against throwing promises around—even ones with the purest intentions—because we humans are neither omnipotent nor omniscient, and might very well realize later that a commitment we made was unnecessary, foolish, or even sinful (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12). 

A poorly-placed commitment can indeed create a nightmare of consequences, and because they recognize that, most people are understandably terrified of commitment in general. “If I commit,” they think, “I might regret it.”

Things We Can’t

Mr. Gerald Weston’s final Assembly for Living Education’s 2019-2020 year was focused upon the need to remain committed to God and His way of life. And because of the veil they’re under, most in the world find that entire concept absolutely horrifying. “Tying yourself down to a religion for life?! You’re going to regret that.”

To them, we’re binding ourselves to a restrictive way of living that keeps us from variety. Because of the commitment we’ve made, we can’t… insert one of a thousand things here. We can’t try all the foods they try. We can’t see all the movies they see. We can’t do all the things they do with all the people they do them with. We can’t, we can’t, we can’t. 

Things We Can

And again—they’re not wrong. There’s a lot that a servant of God can’t. But what the world doesn’t see, what it’s simply not able to see, is the vast amount of things we can.

We can talk daily to Someone who is genuinely and wholeheartedly listening to us. We can read His heartfelt, wise responses to what we tell Him. We can take a day, every single week, to cast our usual burdens completely aside. We can feel the gratitude and satisfaction that come from improving ourselves with our Coach’s help. We can sincerely ask forgiveness and know that we’ll receive it. 

We can have a wonderful relationship with our Father—no matter who our parents are. We can marry without the looming possibility of divorce hanging over us. We can live without puzzling over what morality is—we can know it, and know that we know it. We can feel the love of Someone who would literally rather die than live without us. We can have unshakeable confidence that death is not the end, but just a pause. We can look forward to one day being far, far beyond human. 

And that’s not even a thousandth of what we can because of our commitment to the only One who deserves commitment. Commitment to the God of the Scriptures will never turn out to be a bad idea in hindsight. We’ll never find ourselves outgrowing Him, never discover fine print that He tried to hide from us, and never be burdened with the realization that it would have been better to commit to some other way of life. We’ll all make many stupid decisions as the days and years pass, but if we’re doing our best to sincerely follow Him, we will never, ever look back and say, “I really shouldn’t have tied myself down to God.”Those in the world don’t think we have the abundant life, but that’s only because they confuse “abundant” for “unhinged.” Yes, there’s a lot a servant of God can’t do—but none of it’s worth doing. If we’ve committed to Him, we’ve made the safest commitment possible, and we can rejoice in the knowledge that we’ll never regret it.

Second Thoughts: “Weren’t the Egypt days great?”

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God


“Boy, things sure were better in the ’50s, weren’t they? People really took the Bible seriously back then, in the great Christian nations…

Sure, the Jim Crow stuff was a bit of a shame, and it was a pretty nightmarish time to be alive if you suffered from mental illness, I suppose—but seriously, weren’t the ’50s great?” 

“How ‘bout those 1700s? Those founding fathers, they knew what righteousness was. They went to church every Sunday, you know. Yes, yes, you might be hanged if you kept the Sabbath in New England, and you could usually get away with murdering someone as long as you called it a ‘duel,’ but hey—at least people didn’t watch TV so much! Weren’t the 1700s great?”

“Wow, do I ever miss Egypt. We had everything we needed—all we could eat, and since we worked it all off, we never got fat. Yeah, Pharaoh could be a bit of a hardcase, but at least the Egyptians were better than these horrible Canaanites we’re up against now. Weren’t the Egypt days great?” 

No. They weren’t.

Not from Wisdom

In his recent Assembly message, Mr. Mario Hernandez passionately warned against looking backward, longing for the way things used to be, because as soon as we do that, we’re no longer seeking first the Kingdom of God. We were created with eyes incapable of moving independently from each other, positioned at the front of our head—we can turn that head to look behind us, or we can keep it where it is and look ahead of us, but we can’t do both. Looking behind cancels out looking ahead.

Solomon had something to say about that: “Do not say, ‘Why were the earlier days better than these days?’ For it is not from wisdom that you inquire this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10, Modern English Version). I also like the simplicity in how the New Living Translation paraphrases it: “Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.”

Of course, we’re all guilty of this on some level. Have you ever wished you were a blissfully ignorant ten-year-old again? I have. And it’s just as much of a mistake to think of the modern era as any better than “the earlier days,” since modern generations are definitely guilty of many atrocities that past generations were not—and Scripture is pretty clear that society is on a perpetually downward spiral (1 Timothy 3:1-5).

But do we ever catch ourselves comparing the Kingdom of God to some “enlightened” nation of history? Because that’s really quite insulting to the Kingdom, actually. Every single era of human history has belonged to Satan, and had his influence all over it—so when we look back fondly at any one of those eras, we’re essentially saying, “You know, I miss how Satan’s world used to be. His influence was once far more agreeable. It was still a world blinded by sin, but at least the sin didn’t offend me quite so much as it does now. Wasn’t spiritual Egypt great?”

Beyond All Comparison

We humans thrive on comparison. In many ways, it’s how we visualize reality, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I use analogies ad nauseam, so I certainly don’t consider myself exempt. 

But even when I’m tempted to think that the Kingdom will be “Like the garden of Eden,” I’m forgetting that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The “heart of man” includes the hearts of Adam and Eve. Even after experiencing harmony with God before human sin ever entered the world, they still could not even fathom the beauty of the coming Kingdom.

Tomorrow’s world is impossibly wonderful. Let’s not insult it by longing for yesterday’s.

Second Thoughts: Blessed With Disruption

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Department, Living Church of God


Raise your hand if your 2020 hasn’t gone exactly according to plan.

If typing with one hand weren’t really annoying, I’d be raising mine even as I write. Wherever we are in the world, we all had plans for this year—but thanks to humanity’s insane proclivity to eat everything it can fit in its mouth (from bats, to squirrels, to Tide Pods), the majority of those plans have now been flushed down the worldwide toilet that is COVID-19. 

Mr. Rod McNair’s recent assembly, however, drew attention to the undeniable good that has come of this situation—more people seem to be taking the Scriptures seriously, for one thing, which is reason enough for just about any crisis to occur. Many are becoming more adaptable, too, and accounts of people being genuinely selfless toward one another in this time of nearly universal hardship prove that though this is definitely Satan’s world, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, The Scriptures 2009).

A Comforting Warning

And frankly, none of that good has been according to our shortsighted human plans either, which has me pondering the biblical truth that “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We usually read that as a warning: “Don’t treat your plans like sureties, because God’s in control, not you.” We can also read it as the humbling reminder that “You might make plans, but you’re never the one who accomplishes them—only God has that power.”

But as we know (though probably not deeply enough), “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). So if our heart is what plans our way, what does that say about our plans?

Jeremiah 17:9 actually lends profound comfort to Proverbs 16:9. Since the heart, which we use to make our plans, is actually deceitful and wicked, this proverb ends up reassuring us, “Your plans are pretty terrible, but don’t worry—God is going to completely disrupt them. He’s the one actually directing your life.”

His Plans Are Better

In the midst of a disruption of life as hefty as what we’re all going through right now, it’s hard to imagine that our plans being so thoroughly upended is actually a good thing. But when we peruse our pasts, almost all of us can recognize times when God mercifully rescued us from our own plans. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be five years ago—and I need to thank God for that, because looking back, His blessing my life with disruption after disruption was keeping me from making a horrendous mess of it all.

Does that mean we should never make plans? Of course not. Frankly, we couldn’t stop making plans even if we tried—it’s our nature to try to manage our futures in some capacity, and if we didn’t, we’d all basically end up as human furniture. From a big-picture perspective, we all have to plan on being in God’s Kingdom, and from a little-picture perspective, we all have to plan on getting out of bed tomorrow.

But amidst of all that essential planning, let’s try to remember that for the most part, we humans aren’t very good at it—and we usually only recognize how bad our plans are in hindsight. That being so, we can take comfort in the midst of trials like this, knowing that when our plans grind to a halt, what we’re seeing is the hand of our loving Father, subtly blessing our lives with disruption.


Second Thoughts: One Hundred Billion Eternities

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God


We’re often told to think about the “big picture” of Christ’s return and the soon-coming eternal Kingdom of God. But when you’re young, even the small picture seems absolutely enormous.

Learning to drive a car is terrifying when you’ve previously only driven—and crashed—a Mario Kart. Getting married is unbelievably, mind-breakingly immense when the whole of your existence has been not married. Young adults doing their best to meaningfully visualize eternity will probably be about as successful as preschoolers trying to ponder the theory of relativity, and I say that as a young adult.

Mr. Phil Sena’s recent assembly—delivered via the internet, due to this virus you may have heard of—addressed how difficult it can be, as a teenager or young adult, to focus your life on the Kingdom of God while also… you know, managing all of the really important, earthly milestones young people naturally have to deal with. Because you have to finish school. You have to get a job. You’d really, really like to marry someone and have children, and then you have to make sure you don’t neglect that spouse or those children. And in the midst of all of this, you have to remember how temporary everything is—even though right now it’s legitimately quite important—so you have to keep talking to God. You have to keep pondering His ways and commands. You have to keep fasting, you have to keep spending time with the Bible, you have to keep examining yourself.

Your Part of the Picture

That really is a big picture, and it’s legitimately difficult to keep up with everything. But it’s also a tiny picture—because it’s only about you. When you’re trying really hard not to make a physical mess of your life, and doing your best not to make a spiritual mess of it, either, it can be all too easy to miss the fact that you’re just one person. Yes, God cares so very deeply about you, and you should never, ever forget that, but even your eternity is just one eternity. 

You know what’s bigger than an eternity? Read the title again.

According to that nifty little internet we’re all using to maintain some semblance of normality these days, it’s estimated that around 100 billion people have lived on Earth up to this point. And hey, you’re one of them! Congratulations. That means the Kingdom of God is 0.000000001 percent about you. That’s how big a part of the picture your one eternity is.

Their Part

As Mr. Sena profoundly emphasized, the world needs God’s Kingdom. It’s about so much more than your personal salvation or mine, and it’s even about so much more than the collective saints of God being transformed in the first resurrection. It’s about rescuing everyone in the entire history of the world. It’s about redeeming not just our time, but the whole of time itself. It’s about one hundred billion eternities.

That’s a big picture. And if our first thought of the Kingdom is usually, “Oh boy, I sure hope I make it there,” we’re forgetting 99.999999999 percent of that picture. We should never stop striving to enter God’s Family, because that’s literally the entire point of human existence (Ecclesiastes 12:13), but when we’re trying to think of the big picture, let’s at least remind ourselves that the vast majority of that picture isn’t about us—and let’s thank God for the fact that regardless of any one of us, the Kingdom will come, creating an unfathomably joyful universe of one hundred billion eternities. 

Young Singles Virtual Weekend

Living Education is sponsoring a “Young Singles Virtual Weekend” involving a number of online get-togethers on April 10th and 11th. Register now!

Student Visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame

On Sunday, March 1st, the Living Education Students visited one of the most renowned sites in Charlotte – the NASCAR Hall of Fame! This fascinating part of Americana is showcased with full-size cars, displays recounting the history of the car-racing craze, going back to the days of Prohibition. As visitors, we learned about some of the early organizers of the racing circuit that is now big business throughout the US. We also took the opportunity to try our hand at racing in real stock cars simulators. One of the other highlights was having a go at a quick tire change in a simulated “pit” stop. It was a fascinating field trip!

Second Thoughts: Leaving Stephen Behind

Author: Thomas White | Living Church of God, Editorial Department


“And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 7:58-8:1).

Dr. Douglas Winnail’s recent assembly addressed the uncomfortable truth that what you do when you’re young will affect the rest of your life. People in many walks of life need that warning, and like most warnings, we need it when we haven’t done anything yet.

But what if you’ve already consented to Stephen’s death?

Wonderings

I wonder how many times Saul saw Stephen’s face in his dreams. I wonder if he ever woke up in a cold sweat while being taught by Christ Himself in the wilderness, hearing “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” reverberate through his mind. I wonder how much he felt as though he were haunted by Stephen’s death.

I wonder if he ever knelt before Christ during those years of training and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord! I let them kill him, I wanted them to, and I don’t know how to make up for it. I’ll never be able to forget what I’ve done, and I don’t know how You can, either. I’m tainted, Lord—Your work deserves better. Your people deserve better.”

And I wonder if he heard something like, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. I do not condemn you—go and sin no more.”

Going

When we read in John 8:11 of Christ saying that to the woman caught in adultery, we pay needed attention to the first part, “Neither do I condemn you,” and the third part, “sin no more.” But it was only very recently that I even noticed the second part: “go.”

Only a writer inspired by God could pack so much into a single word. “Sin no more,” our Savior says, but also, “Go. Move forward. Don’t stay here in your mind, wallowing in this time and place, letting the memories of your sin hold you captive. Leave Stephen behind.”

Saul had to, and we have to. Whatever we’ve done, however grievously we’ve disobeyed our Savior, the response he expects of us is to ask His forgiveness, believe Him when He says He does not condemn us, go, and sin no more. And it has to be in that order: If we’re going to leave Stephen behind, we have to first believe and accept that Christ does not condemn us, and if we’re going to “sin no more,” we have to first leave Stephen behind—because we’re almost never more vulnerable to future sin than when our minds are enveloped in past sin.

I doubt Saul ever truly forgot about what he did to Stephen, but I don’t believe he remained haunted by it. In fact, we know he didn’t, because the same man who consented to Stephen’s death—but also, in a very real way, an entirely different man—said, “one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

It’s true—what you do when you’re young affects the rest of your life. But it doesn’t have to rule it.