Forum Summary: An Unshakeable Core

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2020


“What if everything changed instantly?”

Mr. Phil Sena, pastor of several congregations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, presented the students with this question at the beginning of his forum. He explained that at some point, our lives will become drastically more difficult than they are now. “You may not want to live through the “beginning of sorrows,” but you cannot change the times in which you live. You can control your response.” 

Esther was a young woman thrust into a situation entirely out of her control.

Yet, she rose to Mordecai’s challenge. “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:14). She didn’t run. Esther became “one who influences positively,”—Mr. Sena’s definition of a good leader. After seeking the people’s and God’s support, she made her choice: “I will go to the king… If I perish, I perish!” (v. 16)

Mr. Sena stated that a leader’s ability comes from “an unshakeable core.”

We build our core by making decisions. God used Esther to do His Work—to deliver His people. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14) Mr. Sena explained that a young person’s example has far-reaching implications. “You represent the Kingdom.”  

We don’t have control over the times in which we live, but we can control our response. Mr. Sena inspired us to learn from the story of Esther: accept the challenge, become a leader, do God’s Work. 


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.

Forum Summary: “Dating, Courting, Attraction, and Engagement”

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2020


Est. reading time: 1 min. 30 sec.

Mr. Paul Kearns, an area pastor in New Zealand, introduced himself by relating to the students his experience as a Living University student at the regional Church office in Adelaide, Australia.

He said his experience was, “one of the greatest periods in my life.” With the LU motto of “Recapturing True Values” in mind, Mr. Kearns redefined dating, courtship, attraction, and engagement.  

Dating, Mr. Kearns explained, is not “a dirty word”…

but a “non-romantic opportunity to serve somebody of the opposite sex.” Through dating widely and avoiding pairing off, young men and women serve each other and learn.  

In today’s world, courtship is an old-fashioned, meaningless term.

Courting occurs when two people date exclusively towards engagement. This stage requires maturity to cope with the emotions that accompany it. Mr. Kearns shared a piece of advice he had received from Mr. Bruce Tyler, “The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing.”  

Mr. Kearns asked, “Should there be attraction in dating?” 

Attraction, the force by which one object attracts another, is a physical pull in the world around us. For us, attraction should not be the motivator in dating; serving should be. In courtship, while attraction is good, there should be more that attracts us than looks. 

Mr. Kearns concluded with the term, engagement.

This stage should not be a “cooling off period” in which we re-evaluate the deal—it is a formal decision to marry and a stage of relationship God treats seriously.  

By redefining these terms, by God’s standards and not our society’s, Mr. Kearns hoped to help the students recapture true values in their relationships. 


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.

Assembly Summary: Living a Life of Creativity

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2020


Est. reading time: 1 min. 17 sec.

“How much have you exercised creativity in your life?” Mr. Jonathan McNair asked in today’s assembly.

We watched a YouTube video of Ben Folds, singer-songwriter and record producer, build an orchestral piece in ten minutes inspired by a random sentence in a brochure. This is the ability of a single individual working with 120 musicians to create unified, harmonious sound out of practically nothing.  

Mr. McNair then took us to Genesis 1. The creativity of God uses elements of design, power, beauty, and sound mechanics. God constructed the systems of our world through His creative genius—from vast environments and specific ecosystems, to different animal species and their complex social behaviors. But as we saw in the Folds’ video, we have inside us this desire to create. 

“Have you asked God to help you develop your creativity? If you haven’t, you need to ask—not just for playing video games or entertainment but for a productive, creative skill God can leverage in your life in service to others and for your own good.” Mr. McNair said emphatically, “It doesn’t happen magically.”

He gave three principles to apply to develop this:  

  1. Use proven patterns 
  2. Get the little things right 
  3. Work in harmony with others.  

If we live a life of creativity, we exercise a quality of God Himself—a quality placed in us for the very purpose of creation. 


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

Forum Summary: Initiative and ‘Getting the Job’

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2020


Est. reading time: 1 min. 36 sec.

Mr. Michael DeSimone, Manager of Broadcast and Digital Media for Tomorrow’s World, gave the first Forum after the students returned from the Feast. He presented four major steps to stand out to employers and “get the job”. 

The first is preparation. “Put it on paper” Mr. DeSimone said. Write down your skills and your professional goals—who you want to work for and how much you aim to make. Without this preparation, people follow “a recipe for failure.”  

The second step is securing the interview. A resume only places you in a stack of applications. You can gain recognition through several well-timed “connections.” Only 1–2 % of applicants make a follow-up call after sending their resume. But this one small bold step increases your chances of a job offer from one out of 254 resumes sent to one out of only 15 resumes sent. “You have to stand out to get the job.”  

The third step is mastering the interview. Practice interviewing; understand the company for which you want to work. Mr. DeSimone also stressed the importance of the first two minutes of the interview; in that time, the hirer can see how you will fit into company culture over the next decade. Your body language, eye contact, and manners all influence their first impressions.  

The final step is negotiating compensation. Our speaker emphasized there should be no money-talk until the position is yours. “You need leverage in negotiation.” 

The initiative is the job-seeker’s—the onus is not on the hiring manager to drive the process. Waiting for somebody else’s initiation is, Mr. DeSimone says, “a sure way to not get the job.” Mastering these steps will make you stand out from the other candidates and help you get the job. 


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

Forum Summary: The First 12%

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte 2020


Estimated reading time: 1 min.

“12 percent of your Living Education experience is already behind you.” Mr. John Strain, the Charlotte congregation pastor, spoke to us on September 22, prior to the Feast break.

This program is only 9 months long; it is a brief chance to accomplish something good. But do we know what we’re trying to accomplish? “Could you tell me why you’re here?” Mr. Strain asked. More importantly, how will we know if we’ve met our goal? Our speaker told us to make our goals measurable. Whether on paper or in a Word document, we need to have a model by which we measure our progress.  

Laying a foundation

This program is unlike Ambassador College: church resources and size don’t allow for it. But Living Ed gives us the same opportunity to build a solid foundation. Mr. Strain told us to build that foundation by learning doctrine, exercising communication skills, building lifelong friendships, and doing jobs that support the Work. He said that this is “the most concentrated period of time you will have in your life to study the Bible.” The foundation we build here will be the frame for everything we undertake in the future.  


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

Second Thoughts: On Interpretation

 Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Ed Charlotte 2020


Estimated reading time: 3 min.

Mr. Peter Nathan began the forum by asking, “What’s your worldview?” Inspired by Dr. Meredith’s article Satan’s Alternative Universe, Mr. Nathan created a presentation that broke down what an alternative universe is—a worldview.

Your worldview shapes your vision—like glasses. It is your perception of reality—literally, “the way you interpret the world.” Interpretation occurs every day in ways we take for granted. We interpret people’s body language. We examine our own conflicted feelings to discover why we feel so hurt or happy. If we apply meaning to anything, we’re using interpretation.  

Dr. Meredith wrote about the countless alternative interpretations we encounter in the world. But these different worldviews don’t simply involve things we can see—they involve perspectives we can’t see.   

A college student combats alternative worldviews regularly. We have to manage ourselves around the various filters (or lack thereof) of our peers, and we are, essentially, every professor’s captive audience in the classroom. We are solidifying our interpretations of reality while being fed the worldviews of those around us. How do students navigate tests, essays, projects, and discussions that require them to regurgitate their professors’ views? 

Interpreting the Interpretations  

Before coming to Living Education, I attended a State University of New York. I had two professors who strongly contended that gender is a societal constraint. One professor insisted that the existence of hermaphroditic, intersex genetics prove, beyond a doubt, that gender is a continuous spectrum. The other professor taught literature, and she vehemently said that people who believe there are only male and female genders constantly oversimplify things into extremes and refuse to see any complexity in life.  

I could have disproved these teachers’ incorrect perceptions—if they would have listened to God’s interpretation of reality. But I had to sit in class respectfully and swallow my frustration—and I couldn’t ignore their worldview. I really gained a better understanding of how and why they see the world as they do. 

Ignoring or avoiding the various worldviews we face is not helpful; we need to understand others’ interpretations to better serve them now and later. But with that said, I want to achieve that balance of seeing the perspectives of others and understanding where they come from while intensely analyzing their worldview for truths and flaws—interpreting their interpretation.  

Have you ever thought about the phrase, “That’s open to interpretation”? Can you imagine Christ ever saying that? Or would He respond with the right interpretation? What are our thoughts when we hear somebody use that phrase? 

Is Anything in Life “Open to Interpretation”?  

Mr. Nathan pointed out that God provides “a perspective for interpreting every subject matter.” 2 Peter 1:20 says that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation….” Yes, we are human, so we all see the world through different eyes, but isn’t there a correct interpretation for which we all strive? This applies not only to interpreting the Bible, but also to analyzing the worldviews of our friends, family members, and college professors.   

If we don’t actively analyze the interpretations around us, and if we don’t take the time to learn God’s interpretation of things, we risk making the alternative universes of the world our own. It’s worth considering how we interpret the world—and the worldviews—around us. 


Forum Summary: What’s Your Worldview?

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte 2020


Estimated Reading Time: 1 min.

Mr. Peter Nathan, regional director of Europe, Africa, and the UK, spoke on the alternative worldviews—or “universes”—people have today. He posed the question, “Why is it that we come to very different conclusions?”

Two Realities

Mr. Nathan walked us through the history of Thomas Aquinas’ introduction of Aristotelian views into mainstream Christianity in the 13th century. The world, according to these philosophies, is made up of two realities: the spiritual and the natural.

As the centuries passed, humanist personalities like Charles Darwin contributed to an emphasis on the natural world over the spiritual. The subsequent secularization of society has closed off our “universe” from any spiritual reality. The modern world, as we know it, contains little trace of God or religion in its thinking.

Free from the trap

We are living in a sea of worldviews blinded from the reality of the spiritual. Mr. Nathan exhorted us to take on the responsibility of looking to God to provide “a perspective for interpreting every subject” and to grasp the spiritual metanarratives that accompany our physical realities. If we do this, we free ourselves from the blinded, closed-off universe in which our society is trapped. 


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

Second Thoughts: On Distractions and Responsibility

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education 2020


Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

In this week’s Forum, Mr. Jonathan Bueno addressed the danger of distractions.

The relevance of this topic is self-evident—especially to students. We are constantly bombarded with competitors for our attention, energy, and time. Every Sabbath, as we sit and listen to the messages, we are inspired to dive into God’s word, proving for ourselves what He reveals. We promise ourselves that, this week, we will study the Bible more. We determine to work harder on our homework, and we commit to going to bed earlier so we can feel like normal human beings at our 8:30 a.m. class. 

And then comes Sunday morning. Our Instagram feed is exploding. We’re continuing our streak on Snapchat, and YouTube just notified us about this movie we’ve wanted to see—one three-minute trailer leads to a downward spiral into popular reactions to that trailer, a random sketch comedy, and irrelevant tutorials. Two hours later, we remember that we scheduled a coffee date with a friend. There are group messages to check, TikToks to watch and share, and social events to attend. Then, every evening, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and Netflix call to us from the living room—or any room for that matter, via the apps downloaded on our iPhones.  

These are just some of the distractions competing with our goal to study the Bible, read our textbook, and finish the assignments coming due. So, we get overwhelmed. It seems like we inevitably have to stay up until all hours of the night to study for exams. Some of us manage to pull all-nighters, working on that term paper. Others just give up and give in to the many distractions, all too willing to fill that void.  

The Sickness or the Symptom? 

It may seem reasonable to blame our lack of time on these various distractions. But in reality, distractions are not the cause of avoiding the important things in life. More often than not, they’re the result. 

Christ tells us of a man who heard the truth—perhaps he was sitting in church, completely inspired, promising himself that he would do better this week—but the thorns that are the distractions of our world caused him to stop moving forward. In Matthew 13:22-23, we read, “the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” This man understands what he is hearing; he gets it—that is, until he turns away. Those distractions only choke us after we avoid the important things. The cares of this world follow us. It is only when we turn toward them that they lead us. 

Matthew 7:13-14 exhorts, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” 

When we avoid the hard things, the things we know we need to do, we turn from the narrow gate and allow distractions to lead us through the wide. We cannot walk through the narrow gate by accident—it takes strategizing and commitment. This was the thrust of Mr. Bueno’s message: we must combat our distractions. But perhaps we must also contend with our distractibility. 

“Hard choices, easy life.” 

The wide gate is the easy way—yet it doesn’t lead to an easy life. Jerzy Gregorek, former Olympic champion and winner of four World Weightlifting Competitions, lives by the mantra “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” If we choose to make small, difficult decisions on a daily basis, if we choose to not avoid important tasks, and if we choose to handle conflict when it arises, we take responsibility for our proclivity for distraction—and our lives, while by no means easy, will be easier.  

Distractions can lead us away from our opportunity to learn and become established in God’s truth. But they only lead us away after we turn toward them. The responsibility is on us to make time for the important things of life, so that distractions cannot lead us away from the narrow gate. 


Assembly Summary: “You Don’t Know”

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte 2020


Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour opened his session with a piece of advice: “You don’t know what people need, what they require, and how to help them…You don’t know…” On our own, we struggle to perceive other people’s needs and are often blind to our responsibilities toward them. We have little control over the events that will occur in our lives—we can’t even control how they shape us. Yet, Mr. Bonjour explained, there is purpose in this reality of life: to learn and gain understanding. For young people, striving to live up to God’s standards—in times of our lives when we just don’t know—Mr. Bonjour gave several solid principles to apply. 

The first is, find an older person at your work, and take care of them—do the heavy-lifting.

While Mr. Bonjour was specifically referring to a job he had in the past, the principle carries over for young people in the church. If we can learn from the experiences of older men and women, be it in a practical working capacity or regarding spiritual issues, we save time. We fast-track ourselves in our development, and we learn the lessons without the pain that may have accompanied our teacher.  

A second principle is be a multi-purpose tool.

The speaker compared a 3 mm Allen wrench to a pocket-knife that contained several different tools. Both tools have different utility—but the Allen wrench’s usefulness is extremely narrow. It can accomplish one thing. Mr. Bonjour encouraged us to be the pocket-knife. Pick up skills, however small they are, to become valuable to employers, to our family, and to the church.  

Mr. Bonjour read Proverbs 3:5-6, “Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Not knowing what’s going to happen or how to fulfill each other’s needs is just the way life works. God uses this reality to teach us, to challenge us, and to bring us to change. 


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

Forum Summary: “Combat Distractedness”

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, LivingEd-Charlotte 2020


Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute 40 seconds

The forum speaker for the day, Mr. Jonathan Bueno, spoke on the topic of maintaining focus in a world of distraction. Mr. Bueno explained that this distracted state is a way of life for many in our world, but a young person in God’s church cannot afford to lose focus on their purpose. The speaker outlined three categories of purpose in a Christian’s life: daily tasks, life goals, and the ultimate goal of being in the kingdom of God. So how can we combat our propensity to be, as “distracted” literally means, dragged away from our purpose? 

Two major distractions that draw people away from their goals are technology and entertainment. The average American household watches 8 hours of TV per day and iPhones are constantly in hand, grabbing attention with catchy alerts. Mr. Bueno calls these and other similar activities non-essential pursuits. He reminded us that the time spent on these non-essentials adds up. By spending our time in that way we willingly risk becoming, quite literally, chemically “hooked” on our distractions. Mr. Bueno quoted Deuteronomy 5:32, “… you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” God wants His people to maintain their focus on the important things. Mr. Bueno used the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 to emphasize the danger that distractions pose to the young in the faith. The “thorns” of our day can easily choke out our understanding, simply by overwhelming us with notifications and endless choices.  

Mr. Bueno encouraged us to put God first, to be purpose driven, and to evaluate the distractions we allow into our lives by the word of God. We must not be drawn away from our purpose. Distractions kill, but “focus will bring us to the finish line.” 


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.