Friendship or Fellowship?

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

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Mr. Jonathan Bueno gave a forum presentation explaining the importance of fellowship. 

Mr. Bueno, Area Pastor for a number of congregations in the northwestern United States, gave a fantastic forum for the Living Education – Charlotte students. In it, he explained the importance of friendship and showed how fellowship is even better! 

Make Friendship a Priority 

Is having friends or being a friend a priority in our lives? If it isn’t, it should be! Studies reveal that loneliness is as harmful as alcoholism and heavy smoking. Inversely, having friends boosts our sense of belonging, confidence, and promotes healthy lifestyle choices. The Bible explains that “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). However, God’s people can have more than just friendships. 

Friendship vs. Fellowship

The Bible talks about friends in good ways—like how we are friends with Christ and God—and bad ways, like how friends will deliver us up to persecution (Luke 21:16). But the Bible also talks about a different relationship: fellowship. This term comes from Koinonia (G2842) and describes a close association between people with mutual interests. In fact, this term describes how Christians are all in one communion (Koinonia) in the blood and the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16). John also says, “Our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Thus, the ideal relationship with God and one another is not friendship but fellowship.

Reality Check

Friendship has many benefits, but fellowship takes those benefits to a whole new level. Friends can give us a reality check by providing invaluable feedback and pointing out our flaws—hopefully in a gracious way. As the Bible says, “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5-6).

How does fellowship go one step further? Christians actively look out for one another. As James says, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Christians give reality checks in gentleness, even bearing the burdens of others (Galatians 6:1-2). 

Accomplish More

Friends working together can accomplish more. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). How does fellowship take this one step further? We have “fellowship in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5), fulfilling the Great Commission and Ezekiel Warning. We are accomplishing an all-important work together!

Hard Times

Friends can help us through hard times. They can encourage and provide a helping hand. Mr. Bueno quoted The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: “Asking for help isn’t giving up…. It’s refusing to give up.” Friends are a great aid to us in our times of need. But fellowship takes this one step further.

Our friends in the world cannot help us with persecution or spiritual struggles, but our fellowship in God’s Church absolutely can. We support each other, taking comfort in knowing that while Christians suffer alike in this world but we can overcome and endure (1 Peter 5:9). 

Not Being Alone

Friends keep us from being alone. Mr. Bueno again pointed to Genesis 2:18: Man was not meant to be alone. We are not meant to have this “loner” mentality that many people are developing today. According to a 2018 survey, 30% of American adults report that they are lonely. The solution is friendship. Friendship gives us good human company, and fellowship does even better. We—married, unmarried, rich, poor, old, young, etc…—are all part of the Body of Christ. In this, we experience a oneness that is unique in the universe, both with God and Christ and with one another.

Highest Calling of Friendship

Mr. Bueno concluded by encouraging the Living Education students to go beyond friendship and strive for fellowship. We can have friendship with people in the world, but we can only have true fellowship in God’s Church. He referred to a passage of Paul: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness” (2 Corinthians 6:14)? Friendships are good, but we must prioritize fellowship with God and the Church. We should push for the highest calling of friendship: fellowship. 

Earlier in the program, John Strain also gave a forum talking about friendship where he focused on methods for making and keeping friendships. Read that forum here: The Best of Friends

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

Living a Life of Creativity

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

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Jonathan McNair—the Director of Living Education—explained how to expand our creativity in his recent forum presentation. 

This forum summary covers Mr. Jonathan McNair’s presentation titled, Living a Life of Creativity. In it, Mr. McNair showed the students what expanded creativity looks like, how God is a God of creativity, and three steps we can all take to expand our creativity. 

What Does Expanded Creativity Look Like?

Mr. McNair showed a video where a composer writes an orchestral song in 10 minutes (watch here). What amazing things could we do if we had the creative power to write an orchestral song in 10 minutes? The reality is that we can, if we expand our creativity. 

How do we truly become more creative? It is not just a matter of mindlessly playing music, writing, painting, etc. As Mr. McNair said, “Creativity is not anarchic. We can use principles to frame our skill and experience so we can create.” 

God’s Example 

There, in Genesis 1, is the creation account of the world as we know it today. Here, God is actively creating, which requires and exemplifies creativity, but it is not anarchic. Rather, God’s creation takes form and becomes orderly.

Similarly, God gave Noah an impeccable design for the Ark. Proportionally, it is a perfect balance of comfort, stability, and strength. But this is not to say that God only designs functionality. Passages in Exodus describe God’s design for His tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant. These show God’s attention to beauty and intricacy, with detailed instructions involving a variety of animal skins, dyes,  woods, and metals. 

“God is a God of creativity, a God of beauty, and a God of intricacy and design” – Mr. McNair

If anyone doubts that God cares about beauty, he should drive to a remote spot, away from lights, wait until nighttime, and then simply look up; then, there can be no doubt. As King David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). 

How to Be Creative

God is creative. Humans want to be creative. Our lives would be incredible and more enjoyable if we had expanded creativity. So how can we be more creative? Mr. McNair gave three ways to become more creative in whatever field we enjoy.

1) Learn the Patterns that Work

“In whatever endeavor you want to be creative in, learn the patterns that have already been built, explored, and laid out” (McNair). The composer in the video used musical theory and the instruments that exist in an orchestra—conventional patterns for music—to create his song. We can do the same in our endeavor by studying the example of others and reading books on the subject. As the old saying goes, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. 

2) Get the Little Things Right

“Creativity doesn’t come out of nowhere. It doesn’t come from people who don’t know what they’re doing, that don’t have experience, that don’t have skills” (McNair). We cannot skip steps and expect to be creative in a positive way. Using the video as an example again, that composer was an excellent piano player (and singer, I might add) and clearly studied musical theory. Even with only ten minutes, he took the time to plan his song, paying close attention to the part each section would play. Creativity is built on the little things. A creation is good when all those little things are just right. This takes skill, planning, and careful consideration. 

3) Work in Harmony 

“Oftentimes, creativity is a team effort” (McNair). The composer could not have made a song without the orchestra. Much of the creative endeavors in our lives will involve other people, and often our best creations will be the result of a group effort where other people contribute ideas and improvements. In light of this, we should not view other people as stepping stones or a means to end, but rather as companions and helpers. We should learn not to be in competition with others, but in cooperation. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). 

What Would You Do with Expanded Creativity?

This is a question we should consider and use to inspire us to be more creative. Expanded creativity that brings a more full and exciting life is right there; all we need to do is learn the patterns that exist, get the little things right, and work in harmony with others. It is right there for us to grab. The real question is, will we actually do it?

Expanding our creativity is a long process with ups and downs. Sticking with it takes tenacity. Mr. Julian Braddock, a minister-in-training, recently gave a forum presentation on developing tenacity in our lives. Read about that here: Our Need for Tenacity. 

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

Simplify Your Life

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

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In his forum presentation, Mr. West admonished the students to lead simple lives.

Mr. West showed the Living Education students how to avoid stress, complication, and chaos. The answer is to simplify your life. He explained the power of simplification with a story, and he gave three steps we can all take.

Thor Heyerdahl and the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition 

Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian explorer who studied Polynesian culture and history. He postulated that the natives of Polynesia were not from Asia but rather South America. This hypothesis was doubted because no one believed the primitive South American rafts could survive the 5,000 mile trip from Peru to French Polynesia. To prove it was possible, Thor Heyerdahl constructed an authentic balsa wood raft with primitive technology and set sail with a small crew from Peru in 1947, with no modern equipment. For 101 days, Thor and his crew survived on evaporated water and fish, using only the wind for power and the sun, moon and stars to navigate. For 101 days, Thor Heyerdahl knew how little a man needs to survive. This led him to say, “Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” 

Three mandates of Ambassador College 

Our world today is hectic, overwhelming, and often too complicated for us to handle. Mr. West recalled the three mandates he received at Ambassador college: learn to teach, simplify your life, and come out of this world. Today, that second mandate is as critical as ever. How can we simplify our lives?

Put first things first

Christ gave his followers their priority: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God must be our first priority! Christ set the perfect example for us. Never once do we see Christ get distracted by food, clothes, homes, or money. Instead, He leads a simple life, traveling, teaching, and always doing God’s will.

So many distractions will try to take our attention. We should spend more time outdoors, more time engaging with others, more time expanding ourselves, and less time on technology. We must bring structure to our days, making sure the first things are put first. 

Reduce possessions and clutter

Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” We should regularly go through our possessions and remove whatever is unnecessary for our focus. The Apostle Paul told Christians to do all things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Christ further clarified that we should not “lay up treasures on earth” but rather “lay up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). We must not hoard physical possessions in an unorganized, unprofitable way that distracts us from our ultimate goal. 

Redeeming the time

In the book of Ephesians, we find this admonition. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). This phrase, redeeming the time, means to buy back time, making the most of every minute. We must recognize our time, energy, and stamina are finite resources. Here are five practical methods to redeem the time. 

  1. Set goals. Use the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 
  2. Make lists by urgency and priority. 
  3. Avoid distractions. Be honest about what distracts us and take steps to avoid them. 
  4. Develop skills for speed and quality. Read manuals, watch videos, and take classes on tools you use frequently.
  5. Remember to take care of yourself. “Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous” (R. Emmerson). Good health is the ultimate productivity hack. 

Our only duty

Thor Heyerdahl lived the simple life for 101 days, but he achieved a great deal in those days. We are called to achieve much, much more, and we must live simply to maintain that laser focus that we need. Our life is not complex. As Solomon said, mankind only has two duties: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

Men’s Training Trip

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

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Continuing the yearly tradition, the men in the Living Education program went hiking. 

The men in the Living Education program went on an overnight hiking trip, traversing 16 miles of Appalachian trail between Carvers Gap and I-19E. Overall, the trip was two days long—eight miles on each day—with a campsite at Little Hump mountain. 

Day One: Hiking from Carvers Gap to Little Hump Mountain

We arrived at Carvers Gap, eight souls in all—Andrew McNair, David Smith, Jontavius Mincey, Kaleb Johnson, Nathan Kroon, Mr. Penman, Mr. McNair, and of course, Mr. McNair. We broke into two groups. Mr. Penman took Andrew, Jon, and Nathan. Mr. McNair, accompanied by Mr. McNair, took David and Kaleb—I should clarify that it was Rod McNair and Jonathan McNair. However, I rather enjoy referring to them simply as Mr. McNair and Mr. McNair. I’m a simple man with a simple sense of humor.  

After grabbing our packs and taking some pictures, we set off on the trails. Mr. Penman’s group went first, and Mr. McNair’s group waited about 15 minutes before proceeding. After a few miles, Mr. McNair’s group came upon a fork in the trail. One path was a dead-end trail that led to Grassy Ridge, which had a commanding view of the neighboring mountains and valleys. David and I made the trek up the trail to Grassy Ridge. When we returned to the Appalachian trail, we found Mr. McNair and Mr. McNair resting quite comfortably. Around this time, both of the groups had summer sausage, tortillas, and mayonnaise for lunch. One group saved some of their summer sausage, and one group pressured their students into eating all of the food so Mr. McNair did not have to carry it anymore. The first mayonnaise and summer -sausage wrap was great. The fourth was less great. Excessive mayonnaise and hiking don’t go well. 

After a few hours of trekking up and down mountains, enjoying stunning views, and getting exhausted by steep uphill sections of the trail, the students arrive at their campsite: little hump mountain. We decided not to camp at the top of the mountain, even though it had a fantastic view, because high winds were forecasted for the night. Instead, we camped a few hundred feet away at a site with rocks and trees to break the wind.

The Overnight Adventure

Having safely arrived, we established camp quickly. We forewent the wooden palisade and moat as we felt sufficiently secure from any forays that could occur. We started a small fire and proceeded to use propane-fueled water boilers to prepare the provisions for dinner. We feasted upon instant macaroni and cheese, instant mashed potatoes (which were really good), hot chocolate, and other refreshments. Mr. Penman’s group even added their leftover summer sausage to their macaroni and cheese. The other students could only watch wistfully. 

The night was unfortunately cold, and the students had grown soft and spoiled with their typical indoor sleeping—for some, it was even their first overnight camping. Thus, it turned out to be a restless night for most. Around 3 am, the storm came in. The gale blew tirelessly. The tent covers flapped noisily through the night. Yet it was oddly majestic. The wind blowing fiercely, the sporadic rain falling soothingly upon the tents, and the light chill of the night reminded us constantly that we were alive and, unfortunately, awake. 

Day 2: Little Hump Mountain to I-29E

When morning came, we got up and started a fire. Fortunately, the rain had not lasted until sunrise, and the ground was relatively dry. We ate oatmeal, granola, and bagels. Then we packed up our tents and our packs and headed off. The previous day had been mostly uphill, and today would be mostly downhill. Or so they said. First we had to finish the climb to Big Hump Mountain. As I approached the base, I saw the side of the hill going straight up in front of me, and thought to myself, “I’m sure it’s not as bad as it looks from here.” I was right; it was worse. 

We climbed relentlessly up the trail. I recalled the poem “Excelsior” and thought of the allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Somehow, I now understood these works much better. When we reached the top, I saw my favorite sight of the whole trip: a trail winding off in the distance, all of it downhill. 

The remainder of the day was a picturesque walk through the woods. In this area, the Appalachian trail is full of switchbacks, carrying us carefully down the mountain to the road. It was a marvelous section of forest, shaded by tall trees and filled with large rock outcroppings. Within a few more hours, we made it to I-29E to the truck we had left there earlier. 


The section of the Appalachian trail we hiked was fantastic. The beginning was filled with majestic views of the foothills sprawling as far as the eye can see. The end was adorned with a mossy and tranquil forest. Overall, the trip was 16 miles—not too difficult, and a great experience. It was a perfect place for an overnight hiking trip!

Read what the ladies in the Living Education Charlotte did instead of a hiking trip: A Ladies Weekend in Charlotte.

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

Don’t Be Fooled [about Social Media]

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 6 min.

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For this forum, Mr. DeSimone—the head of the TV and Media department—brought a dose of reality about social media. 

It is no shock or surprise that social media addiction is growing to be a serious problem, especially in the United States. This forum summary will briefly cover the three topics addressed by Mr. DeSimone: the addictiveness of social media and smartphones, the traps of social media and smartphones, and the steps we can take to have a healthy relationship with the digital world that is the palm of our hands. 

It’s highly addictive—and it’s not by accident!

Mr. DeSimone began with a fascinating principle found in Proverbs 7. This passage specifically refers to a “crafty harlot” convincing a “young man devoid of understanding” to commit adultery, but the principle applies in many other situations, including the smartphone world today. The creators of social media, “freemium” games, and other apps know all the tricks in the book to get us to spend so much of our waking time on their product—to make addicts out of us, because addicts are good customers! If we don’t recognize this, then we become that “young man devoid of understanding” passing by the “crafty harlot.” We simply cannot afford to be ignorant on this subject. Proverbs 7 says this of the harlot: “She has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men.” And we can certainly apply this here; many intelligent, strong, and capable people have become addicts to smartphones and social media today!

Addictive features of the handheld universe

We simply must understand the methods these apps use to seize people’s attention and never let go. Mr. DeSimone listed a few, but the list is likely much longer. 

Endless scrolling is not unintentional or mindless. This is a deliberate effort to keep people on an app by always shoving new content in front of their eyes. Even video content does this with “related videos” or “next episodes” that play automatically. Another way phones can be addictive is the endowment effect. Essentially, the more time we invest in our phone world, the more invested we feel. Another huge factor is a creative use of social pressure. For instance, many apps have a “read” indicator that shows when a message has been viewed, creating a pressure to respond immediately.

These are not the only addictive features designed into apps! It is very common for social media and video content apps to show users what they like to keep them on their site. Yet, this is not as simple as just showing related content. Studies indicate that showing unappealing content too increases the satisfaction when the desired content is found, which encourages users to spend more time on that site. Another feature many apps use is social reward. Features such as the “like” button give a chance for users to be rewarded for posting content. 

Another tactic used to increase the addictive nature of social media and games on our phones is a shrewd use of the Zeigarnik Effect. This effect is the desire to complete unfinished tasks. Some apps and games force people to stop and either come back later or bypass the waiting by buying something. And lastly, we have the refresh button. This seemingly harmless feature of many social media apps is actually quite well-designed to keep users continuously thinking that there is new content waiting to be seen. 

The Treacherous Traps

All of these addictive features lead to a number of traps we can fall victim to if we are not aware. First, there is the ubiquitous pitfall of overusing our phones: wasting time. Companies have spent years and a lot of money figuring out how to make us waste our time on our phones. But it is a trap, a trap that takes away our most fundamental possession—our time. The second trap is scams. They are universal, and these scams must get some people, otherwise no one would attempt them. The third is predators. They typically look for younger people, but anyone can fall victim (think back to the Proverbs 7 passage). A fourth issue is pornography—a huge trap in our world today, and social media and excessive phone use is directly associated with this problem. A fifth trap is thinking people’s posts are reality. This can twist our perception of ourselves, leading to issues like body dysmorphia and covetousness. 

Sixthly (if that’s a word), we can even develop behavior mocking “ticks.” People today are unintentionally developing twitches from watching people with Tourettes and other conditions. Spending too much time on our phones can truly affect even our physical behavior! The seventh and final trap is following trends. Being exposed constantly to these trends can lead to us participating in them. And many of these trends are just downright dumb. 

Here’s What We Can Do

The handheld universe is addictive and riddled with traps. Here is how we navigate it successfully based on the Bible. Proverbs 25:16 shows us that even something good should be enjoyed in moderation, so we must moderate our phone time. Also, we must not be “brought under the power” of anything (1 Corinthians 6:12), so we cannot let ourselves be addicted to anything on our phones. Furthermore, we must walk wisely, redeeming the time in these evil days (Ephesians 5:15). 

One thing we must not do is think, “Oh, this can’t happen to me.” In reality, if we have a phone, it affects us. We may very well have fallen for the trap! Mr. DeSimone recommended Mr. Weston’s practical article Tame the Social Media Monster. Here are some steps we can take today.

  • Set a time limit. This can be on phone use and individual apps. 
  • Identify our triggers. Do we use it when bored? Stressed? Be aware! 
  • Remove apps from our phones. Sometimes, this is the best action to take.
  • Use website blockers. This is a great step to avoid specific sites. 
  • Find a replacement activity. Do something that is fun and in the real world!
  • Set boundaries on phone use. Only check our phones at set times.
  • Turn off notifications. This can be done for specific apps that are distracting.
  • Stick to one device at a time. Don’t use our phones and computer, or TV, at the same time. 

Grow Healthy Behaviors for the Online World

Mr. DeSimone concluded his fitting forum with a final thought: don’t cut off social media and smartphones—unless it is the best idea for you—but grow and improve your relationship with them over time. We must learn to avoid the addictive features and traps that are everywhere by taking the necessary steps so that we will not be manipulated by anyone or have our time and attention turned away from God. 

Dr. Douglas Winnail gave a forum recently that also explored the challenges of modern times, though Dr. Winnail focused on the comparisons between our time and the days of Noah right before the flood. Read about that here: Ark Builders

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

Grow Something

Author: Nathan Kroon | Student Leader, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated Reading Time: 5 min.

Mr. Rod McNair began this forum by reading from Genesis 2:15 and stating that “From the beginning, we were designed to tend and keep the earth.”

Our media today sees people as very liberal if they care for the environment, but tending it is important, and doing so helps connect us to God. Micah 4:4 paints a beautiful picture of the Millenium, in which everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree. This certainly doesn’t mean that everyone will have to be a farmer during this time, but there will be a deep connection to the land.

Today, most people are growing further apart from creation as humanity is being swept up in technology. Modern advances and tools are tremendously convenient, but as we go along, we must not lose our connection with the ground we were made from (Genesis 3:19). As we lay a foundation for our lives, and as we think about how we’ll go forward, we should consider growing things around us!

What Can We Grow?

Not everyone has an affinity for the outdoors, but they can still connect to the natural world from indoors. Flowers can make for colorful additions to your home, both indoors and outdoors. They are also a reminder of all the color and detail that God put into creation. Men might think of them as “girly” plants, but even if they don’t enjoy flowers, they can grow them for the women in their lives (mothers, sisters, wives, etc.)! Vegetable plants and fruit trees can also be very useful. Most people like good food, and growing fruits and veggies can help you to eat better. Finally, plants and shrubs can make your home or balcony seem nicer and look more complete.

Why Should We Grow Something?

  • To Connect to the Reality of God

Mr. McNair brought several plants that he and his wife had grown, and showed them to the students. He said that it was truly incredible that something as small as a seed can carry the genetic code necessary to grow into a much larger plant. It’s nothing short of a miracle, and it reminds us of a tremendous power in the world that God put in place.

  • To Improve Our Own Health

Mr. McNair listed many health benefits that growing plants outdoors can offer:

  • Exercise in the garden
  • Anxiety and stress reduction
  • Attention deficit recovery
  • Decreased depression
  • Enhanced memory retention
  • Improved happiness and life satisfaction
  • Mitigation of PTSD
  • Increased creativity and productivity
  • Reduced effects of dementia
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Clean indoor air
  • Reduced indoor noise level

People are often fascinated with online farming games, but it’s much healthier to invest a little time into the real deal!

  • To Save Money

Growing fruits and vegetables will help you to save good money on groceries. Mr. McNair recommended buying heirloom plants, which allow you to replant seeds found within the vegetable or fruit. A tomato from a store can cost 233 times more than it would to grow one from a seed packet.

Practical Things You Can Do

If you’ve never planted anything, you can be practical in doing so! Mr. McNair listed some ways:

  • Grow what you like.
  • Do things the easy way. Don’t make it needlessly complicated.
  • Take advantage of where you live and its climate.

The earth’s seasons reflect God’s plan, and the Holy Days are anchored in them. God created both the seasons and the Holy Days because He has a wonderful plan for us. Currently, the time of the year is the season of firstfruits, and the blossoming of flowers and trees reminds us that God is calling people into the truth. 

Mr. McNair stated that in our current age, most people of our nation are able to live better than most of the kings of the Bible. He then read from Ecclesiastes 5:9: “Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.” Even though we may live relatively like kings, there is still much profit to be found in growing things. We find a lot of unreality in our world. The natural world can help us to see reality again, so grow something—anything!

Nathan Kroon is a Student Leader at Living Education. He originally hails from Washington State, and is a 4th generation Christian. Currently, he works at Headquarters as a Video Editor, and is the Lead Landscaper at the LivingEd dorms. His hobbies include playing guitar, listening to music, drawing, and watching movies.

Make Your Bed and Practice Godly Discipline

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

Do You Make Your Bed Every Morning?

Mr. Ames gave a forum presentation on discipline. He began by playing a six-minute video clip from Admiral McRaven’s famous commencement speech. This clip emphasized the importance of having the discipline to do the little things, the “insignificant” things, day after day. This kind of consistency is critical. After all, “if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed” (Admiral McRaven). Mr. Ames clarified that true Christians should take this seriously because we have the chance to help change the world one day, but we are going to need discipline to get there. 

Mr. Ames joined the army reserves as a young man, and even in basic training, they made the recruits make their bed every single morning. That lesson stuck, and Mr. Ames has been making his bed every morning for 64 years. Discipline in this area led to discipline in morning prayer, a necessity for growth as a Christian. In fact, discipline is not just for the military, but as Mr. Ames said, “it is an essential aspect of godly character!”

Practice Discipline in ALL Areas of Your Life

Mr. Ames explained that there are many facets of discipline. There is athletic discipline, displayed by all athletes who excel in their field. We ought to apply this in our life by making exercise a habit and sticking to it. There is discipline in the fine arts. Is it easy to practice an instrument daily for years and years or to slowly master oil painting? Of course not! It takes discipline. 

Mr. Ames also explained that we need business discipline. We can learn to avoid crises and prevent them through planning, strategizing, and executing consistently. Also, there is academic discipline. In fact, the term discipline is closely connected to academia. For instance, the phrase “academic discipline” refers to a subset of knowledge that is taught and researched at Universities. But, we must also exercise discipline in our education by being diligent and working ahead. Mr. Ames related a technique that can help overcome procrastination. He would tell himself, “I am going to work on this project for 5 minutes; that’s it.” This would break the ice, and make it easier to work on projects a little bit every day. 

We are also familiar with child-rearing discipline, which is teaching children to obey rules and codes of behavior through punishment for breaking them. But there is also another form of discipline. In fact, it is the most important form.

Spiritual Discipline 

Why is discipline necessary as a Christian? Mr. Ames explained with a quote by the author H. Jackson Brown (Jr.): “Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.” If we want to be moving forward and not backwards or sideways, we must have spiritual discipline. 

The Bible is not shy on this topic. Mr. Ames pointed out that God exercises child-rearing discipline on us (Hebrews 12:3-11), and we learn to control our actions and have discipline through God’s chastening. This is necessary because humans do not naturally direct their paths (Jeremiah 10:23) and must develop this control, this discipline. 

Mr. Ames explained that Paul explicitly affirms discipline. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Mr. Ames further explained that the term “disciple” is closely connected to discipline. A disciple follows the teachings of a master. Discipline is the act of following rules or guidelines. Thus a disciple exercises discipline in following his master! 

Mr. Ames then pointed out that God’s spirit itself promotes discipline. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7, NIV). This is explained in-depth in a sermon by Mr. Ames, The Gift of Discipline

Make Your Bed Every Morning

Mr. Ames gave the conclusion of his forum: Make your bed every morning. Discipline is clearly important, and this is a way to practice it and build it in our lives. It is a small task, but if we do it, we start the day with a task completed. Mr. Ames explained that God expects us to practice discipline and to recapture true values. He expects us to display godly love, godly service, and godly discipline.

Mr. Ames gave a forum recently about the true values of abundant living (spoiler alert: this forum also talks about the importance of discipline).

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

10 Wrong Reasons to be in the Church

Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

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Years ago, Mr. Armstrong would thunderously ask, “Why are we here?”

Mr. Wakefield recalled that Mr. Armstrong asked brethren at Holy Days, “Why are we here?” 

It is a powerful question that can be extended beyond why we keep God’s Holy Days. It can apply right down to the fundamental question, “Why am I in the Church at all?” And that, as Mr. Wakefield explained, is worth examining. 

Reasons, Reasons, and More Reasons

If we look closely at our motives for any action, we find a lot of them, ranging in importance and relevance. This is true even with our reasons for being in the Church. Mr. Wakefield explained that we can have subjective reasons and objective reasons. Reasons that are strong and ones that are weak. We have many good reasons, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we may even have bad reasons. These also have different levels of importance to us. Some are primary reasons and are fundamental to why we are in the Church, and others are additional, almost bonus reasons. 

There is no use denying the reasons that are truly most important to us because God knows our every thought and intent (Genesis 6:5), and there is danger in having weak or bad reasons for being in the Church; after all, many people leave the Church because they lose their primary reason for being there. Our main motive for being in the Church should be unshakeable. 

Some OK Reasons

Mr. Wakefield explained that there are some reasons that are good, but only as supporting motives. They cannot be the main reason we are in the Church. He proceeded to give 10 “OK” reasons and explain their weaknesses. 

  1. Because we grew up in the Church. If we are in the Church only because it is habitual, we may fall away when our life changes due to going to University, starting a career, or getting married. 
  2. To avoid the Tribulation. This is weak because we can be convinced that the Tribulation is far-off and not a present issue. 
  3. To be a Philadelphian. While this is a good consideration, it is a bad central reason as it becomes a matter of pride, which leaves people vulnerable to deception.
  4. To avoid the Lake of Fire. This fear can and has been twisted to get people to accept wrong doctrine out of fear of being in the Lake of Fire. 
  5. To get salvation. Keeping God’s laws only to get salvation leads to a legalistic view and a grudging attitude that is looking for excuses to stop.
  6. For social reasons. God’s Church has and should have a good social environment full of encouragement and compassion, but we should not attend only to have our emotional needs met because our calling includes persecution and hatred! 
  7. For intellectual stimulation. This often leads to an unhealthy desire for “new truth” and itching ears. As Mr. Wakefield eloquently stated, “We grow deeper, not different.” The truth does not change; it merely sinks deeper in. 
  8. Because of a particular minister. This is a good reason, but not suited for a central reason. What if we had to live somewhere with no minister at all? We must be able to manage. 
  9. Because of Church culture. Church culture—routine, services, events, and organization—are good but are not the most critical aspects of true Christianity. 
  10. For stability. The Church does provide good stability in daily life, but one day, true Christians will be attacked and hated (Luke 21:17); will we leave then?  

Primary Reasons

Mr. Wakefield then explained some primary reasons we should be in the Church that are unshakeable and stable. We are obedient to God. We follow God from our heart. We don’t have to be convinced or bullied into it. God’s Church has the truth. We recognize a church as God’s because it teaches the whole counsel of God. Sometimes, what a church does not say is important. The truth has been questioned and battled against for years, but we should be in the Church because it possesses the unalterable and objective truth. God’s Church does the Work. The work goes right up until the end of the age. Mr. Wakefield pointed out that “the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth in the body” (Ephesians 4:15-16). We are in the Church because it is doing the Work of God. 


Mr. Wakefield concluded by saying that God may allow us to be challenged, testing our reasons and pushing us to build better and right ones. We must ask ourselves, “Why would I stay here?” We must stay in God’s Church even though we will face tribulation, offenses, disagreements, and many other challenges. We must have stable reasons that are the foundation of why we are here. 

Mr. Peter Nathan also gave a forum, asking not “why are we here?” but rather “what’s your world view?” He also discusses the importance of self-exanimation and understanding our inner-motives. Read about this forum here: What’s Your Worldview?

Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects. 

A Ladies’ Weekend in Charleston

Author: Sabrielle McNair | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

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On a Friday afternoon, the girls of Living Education left the headquarters building, destined for Charleston. 

The Living Education girls were accompanied by Mrs. Carol Weston and Mrs. Dawn Rothenbacher and were led by Ms. Rebekah Ross. In total, ten women set off for this ladies’ weekend in South Carolina. 

Arriving at Charleston

Within a few hours, we arrived at the rental house on the outskirts of Charleston, settled in, and prepared the Friday night dinner meal. As the sun went down, the gorgeous view from the dock overlooking the river was enjoyed by all. Observing the beauty of God’s creation made our Friday night dinner feel like a meal with a show. We enjoyed spending time together as women of all ages. 

The Sabbath in Charleston

We headed off on Saturday mid-morning to attend the follow-up TWP that was taking place at the local church location in Walterboro, South Carolina. Mr. Alex Celan spoke about the Holy Days and their importance in God’s plan, then welcomed everyone to enjoy fellowship and snacks. The church service ensued shortly after for the members, with the sermon provided by Mr. Dexter Wakefield, a familiar face for the Living Education students. In addition to his regular duties at Headquarters, Mr. Wakefield is also a faculty member for Living Education, teaching public speaking. Once at our rental home again we enjoyed our dinner followed by an evening activity, “The Art of Letter Writing,” in which each girl wrote a letter to a loved one or friend. 

A Busy Sunday

Sunday kicked off our first activity day in the city of Charleston. Starting with a ferry ride to the historic Fort Sumter, we got the opportunity to glimpse the renowned harbor dolphins and watch them play with the boat along our trip. 

Once we arrived at the fort, we learned it was the location of the first deaths of the American Civil War and a primary flashpoint triggering that war. Fortunately, because we attended the first tour of the day, we were able to witness the raising of the flag and even participate in the patriotic ritual. 

After returning to the mainland, there was a quick lunch before we proceeded to the historic district of the city to complete a “treasure hunt” and see the notable houses and landmarks that depict the vestiges of a historic city. We went from the renowned Rainbow Row, a street of pastel-colored townhouses, through alleys draped in greenery and paved with cobblestone, and ended at the city market, one of the oldest in the country—completed around the 1830s. This market is a four-block-long section of covered open aisleways and open-air sheds housing various local vendors distributing Charleston-themed wares. To finish the day in the city, we stopped at a vintage ice cream parlor for an icy treat on the stairs of the grand customs house, which was constructed in 1879. On the way home, some girls headed to the dock to paddleboard on the river, while the rest relaxed for the last evening spent in the area.

Monday Departure

Monday morning began with a quick packing-up of the cars, and we headed off to the Charleston Tea Garden, the producer of “American Classic” tea. It was the first tea to be made with produce grown wholly in America. This tea garden is a lovely estate with ancient oak trees covered with Spanish moss, which creates an enchanting southern picture. After heading out from the tea plantation, we proceeded down the road to another notable feature of the Charleston experience: the Angel Oak Tree. Massive in size, this living piece of history has been around for hundreds of years, and we had the opportunity to view its magnificence while enjoying our lunch. All this concluded the enjoyable and educational experience of the ladies’ Charleston trip!

The prior activity the Living Education students had experienced was the BMW Tour, and the guys were included in that one. Read about that here: How the Ultimate Driving Machine Is Made! (BMW Tour).

Sabrielle McNair is currently one of the student leaders at Living Education. For the majority of her life, Sabrielle lived in Albany, New York. Having grown up in the church, she has been involved in church programs since she was a young girl. Presently, she works as the women’s Resident Assistant, assists in LivingEd event preparations, works in the finance department, and writes for the website.

What’s Your Worldview?

Author: Nathan Kroon | Student Leader, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min.

The members of the Living Church of God make an effort to come out of the world, because we realize that most of it is deceived. But how is it deceived, and how do we understand this?

Mr. Peter Nathan spoke about this issue in his forum. Many people know what it’s like to go to the optometrist. They check our eyes and help us to see clearly. They may help us with our physical vision, but how can we perfect our overall worldview? Our worldview must certainly be different from that of the rest of the world, because the concepts that they promote have led to the increasing spread of the secular mindset. What concepts from the world do we have to avoid to flee from a secular mindset and to have a balanced worldview?

Upstairs and Downstairs

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was one of the foremost Catholic theologians in history. In the present day, The Thomist magazine is regularly published, studying his thoughts and religious beliefs. His beliefs called for a separation between the physical and spiritual world. “He was important in the re-introduction of the study of the natural world,” said Mr. Nathan. He then read from 1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” It’s clear that Satan loves to promote a focus on the natural world rather than the things of God. These are not meant to be separated like different floors in a house!

Figures like Aquinas became the subject of many art pieces of the Renaissance era, which was greatly concerned with philosophy. Fast forward to the twentieth century, and the result of mankind’s obsession with the natural world was clearly seen: dwindling levels of godly morality. Author Harry Blaimes claimed that “there is no longer a Christian mind.”  Herbert W. Armstrong warned the world many years ago about the movements to bring about the “new morality” the world is so wrapped up in now. Modern “Christians”  may read the Bible, pray, and attend their services, but as a thinking being, they have succumbed to secularism. A true Christian must be willing to recognize their role in the Church, be it large or small, and to be employed by the Church in whatever capacity they are called to. To accomplish that, we must not let the “upstairs” and the “downstairs” operate separately in our minds.

Shaped Through God’s Knowledge

How do we let the word of the Bible help us to maintain a godly worldview? First, we must be truly dedicated to making ourselves more like Christ, being crucified with Him and ever working to live the life that He would live in us (Galatians 2:20). Our personal worldview must be shaped by the knowledge of God. Mr. Nathan read from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 to magnify this point: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” We must be quick to defend the truth and not let human reasoning affect our thoughts. It is estimated that around 50,000 thoughts pass through our minds each day. “Make sure every thought comes into the captivity of the will of God,” said Mr. Nathan.

How is Man Secularized?

We may try to come out of the world to the best of our ability, but even at our best, it may seem like we are taking two steps forward and one step back. In order to better further our progress towards the Kingdom of God, we must realize how man has gradually become more and more secularized over the years. Most people think of Charles Darwin in terms of evolutionary theory, but his theory directly separates God from nature, having evolution seemingly replace the idea of a Creator in people’s minds. It allowed people to think of all creation as a very closed universe, not considering what it means for our grand future. The consequences of Darwin’s theories are evident in our everyday lives. The first Humanist Society was established in 1929 by Charles Potter, who believed that education is the most powerful ally of humanism. Through human education, it seems that people are now more concerned with reasoning around the need for a Creator. Schools are now extremely humanist. Marriage is no longer seen as a spiritual institution. Mr. Nathan listed the focuses that secularization has had throughout the last few centuries:

  • Seventeenth Century – Knowledge
  • Eighteenth Century – Power
  • Nineteenth Century – Culture
  • Twentieth Century – Morality
  • Twenty-first Century (thus far) – Identity and Gender

We may reason about the physical world, but reason is not a source of infallible, autonomous truth; God (“the upstairs”) is! Reason is simply a human’s ability to process information, and it is shaped by what you accept as your ultimate authority. Ours, therefore, should be shaped by God.

Qualities of a Valid Worldview

What are people typically defined by today? Income, dress, education, gender, and religion. These are all things that can be physically seen. A worldview must provide a valid purpose for the physically unseen: our origins, the source of evil, the solution to evil, and our future. Our worldview must have a spiritual focus that is able to decipher what is going on in the physical. Our perception of God is shaped by our views on an open or closed universe, and on God as either a trinity or family. These are the things that must shape our worldview:

  • God
  • The Kingdom of God
  • God’s plan
  • The Holy Days
  • The law of God
  • Prophecy
  • Israel, in terms of its identity and the whereabouts of its people

To avoid being secularized, keep these in mind at all times. We must not block off the staircase between the spiritual and the physical. Avoiding a secular mindset will bring us a brighter future!

Nathan Kroon is a Student Leader at Living Education. He originally hails from Washington State, and is a 4th generation Christian. Currently, he works at Headquarters as a Video Editor, and is the Lead Landscaper at the LivingEd dorms. His hobbies include playing guitar, listening to music, drawing, and watching movies.