Second Thoughts: The Immensity of Small Things

By Thomas White, Student at Living Ed – Charlotte

“We all understand that God is preparing us for big things, for being kings and priests…things we are doing today that may seem mundane may make all the difference in the future, in our future, in our destiny.” ~ Mr. Rod McNair

King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand – Photo courtesy of Dr. Germano, Living University

You know that nightmare where you randomly have to give a speech, and you didn’t prepare for it, and now everyone’s watching? Imagine that feeling multiplied by millions and you may have an idea of how Bhumibol Adulyadej felt when he was suddenly the King of Thailand at age 22. Mr. Rod McNair’s Assembly this week was largely based upon this singularly remarkable man, who had been so far down the line of succession for Thailand’s throne that he hadn’t been trained in any “kingly” subjects whatsoever.  What he did have, however, was an education in science, ecology, and conservation, and as the years went by, his knowledge turned out to be just what his people needed. King Bhumibol influenced the development of dams, reservoirs, water irrigation systems, and beyond. Since the top problem for 80% of Thailand’s people had been an inadequate water supply, he became an immensely popular ruler, all because of what he learned in his youth.

“…maybe a hundred, or two hundred, or five hundred years from now, as you are in God’s government and His Kingdom, administering and serving…you may think back to 2018, or 2019, and the lesson you learned back then that you’re using at that precise moment.”

Thankfully, God’s word tells us in advance of our ultimate destiny, so kingship hopefully won’t surprise us the way it surprised King Bhumibol. Even so, we probably will be surprised by how what we’re learning now, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, will end up being used by God to immense effect. Mr. McNair used the example of Joseph, who probably never thought for a second that his time as a slave and a prisoner would teach him skills he would later use to govern the nation of Egypt. But (spoilers!) that’s exactly what happened (Genesis 45:3-8). Mr. McNair advised us to look beyond what we see, to consider how what we’re learning right now might be used to unexpectedly shape our lives and the lives of others. As Mr. McNair said, “It’s always easy to think that the big, valuable stuff will be somewhere else, will be at another time, will be in another place…and to miss the goldmine in front of you.”

“We all have different abilities, we all have different talents, all with the potential to be used directly by God for a specific purpose in His government.”

As Mr. McNair pointed out, if God is planning on using what you and I are currently learning for the benefit of tomorrow’s world, we need to take advantage of what is right in front of us, and learn to interact with a variety of personalities. A king’s major responsibility is to care for the people he reigns over, so it’s crucial that we expand our personalities enough to genuinely understand people who are vastly different from us. It’s easy to coast along if we seem to be doing well enough, but does God want kings and priests who think, “Eh, this city seems fine,” or does He want those who go all out? If we foster a habit of learning, keep God at the center of our lives, and appreciate “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10), we can look forward to being shown just how immense those small things really are.

Second Thoughts: What News is “Good News”?

By Thomas White, Student at Living Ed – Charlotte

“We do have a biblical mandate to develop wisdom, to develop understanding, to develop discretion, knowledge. …we should be watching, learning from what happens around us.” ~ Mr. Jonathan McNair

The concept of “News” has been around almost as long as humanity itself. Things have always happened, and people have almost always had to be told, so news isn’t new. But our access to it certainly is. Now we have podcasts, more websites than we can possibly keep track of, scores of television channels, radio stations, that one uncle who always seems to know what’s going on, and newspapers for the traditionalists among us. The vast number of available news sources can ironically make it more overwhelming to keep up with the world’s endless shenanigans, at least for me. Fortunately, Mr. Jonathan McNair’s Assembly this week offered ways to manage the myriad of news sources clamoring for our attention, in order to minimize the risk of being misled and focus our attention upon “good news.”

“…the system is geared to get our attention, to catch our eye, to make scoops, and it’s not from God’s perspective.”

If news is coming from humans, which it pretty often the case, then news is biased. As God’s people, our task is to recognize its biases, and that all sources of worldly news have a slant. This being the case, we should always know the source of the news we keep up on, and consider the perspective of that source. Doing so enables us to read or listen with an awareness of the source’s bias. Even a largely fact-oriented source is based on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and as such, it’s going to contain just that: good and evil. Bits of both.  As Mr. McNair pointed out, we should seek the most credible and objective news sources we can find (that one uncle probably isn’t the safest bet), but accept that none of them will give us the unvarnished truth every time. It’s tempting to just trust “conservative” sources and shun “liberal” ones, but is that really exercising discernment? Would Satan let it be that easy?

“We are not involved in politics, so be careful where you stand. Even though you don’t vote, even though you may not go to the ballot box, you can still be political in your perspective if you’re not careful.”

We’re also humans (crazy, right?), so we’re also biased. That’s unavoidable, so Mr. McNair suggested that we need to understand ourselves and recognize what our biases are, and why we have them. The most dangerous sources of “news” are out to manipulate rather than inform, and knowing where we are biased can protect us from having our emotions played with by certain topics. As Mr. McNair pointed out, we all need to be looking for God’s perspective, not remaining content with our own, so it would probably be wise to ask members of God’s ministry where they get their news from, and what they’ve noticed about those sources. Understanding our own perspectives, thinking critically about our sources of news, and keeping God’s greater plan at the forefront of our minds can help us to “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

Second Thoughts: Working Effectively and Efficiently

By Thomas White, Student at Living Education-Charlotte

“You know, God gives us a certain amount of time. … We all know that it’s a resource that, once it’s gone, you can’t get back.” ~ Mr. DeSimone

Students everywhere will tell you that there always seems to be just slightly too much to get done, and just slightly too little time in which to do it. This week’s assembly was focused on minimizing that problem, as Mr. Mike DeSimone related three fundamentals to working effectively and efficiently. The first, naturally, is time management, which is simply the process by which we do the best we can with the minutes we have, not wasting any of the time God has gifted to us. This involves consciously tracking our time, and actively considering how we spend it. If we rely solely on our memories, which are often almost as deceptive as our hearts, we will never have an accurate perception of how our time is truly spent. As Ephesians 5:15-16 instructs, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In order to “redeem” our time, we have to know what we are redeeming it from, and making the effort to record the length of our daily activities is a solid way to find this out.

“…I’ll work on both [tasks] at the same time…Or…get one done more effectively, more efficiently…then I’ll get done the second task…more effectively, more efficiently, more accurately.”

Proverbs 22:29 reads, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.” An effective way to meet some unknown men, then, is to multitask, because multitasking is really only “switch-tasking,” and it’s both ineffective and inefficient. We can’t actually multitask; it’s an exceptionally rare person who can genuinely do two things at once. Most people who think that they’re multitasking are simply switching from one unfinished task to another, over and over, and spending very little time actually focusing on one objective. Switch-tasking only ensures that one is putting halfhearted effort into two things, and therefore taking twice as long to accomplish either one. I often find that while I might not be switch-tasking in a literal sense, I’m switch-tasking in my mind, mulling over an entirely unrelated problem or goal when I should be focused upon the task at hand. In what ways can we improve our focus, as students, employees, or even spiritual warriors, so that we may excel in our work?

 “…getting rid of waste…getting rid of things you don’t need, and…bringing things in so that you can work most effectively. …really, it comes down to organization.”

Often, being productive leans pretty heavily upon being organized. Organization is not so much an inherent character trait as it is the putting into practice of what manufacturers call “Lean 5S”: Sort, Set (in order), Shine (clean), Standardize, and Sustain. Organizing a daunting task into ordered, manageable chunks can reduce mistakes, improve focus, and increase productivity by giving one the confidence to actually make progress. Even in our spiritual lives, sorting through individual problems we need to overcome can often yield more fruit than thinking, “I have to reach perfect purity, and I have to reach it yesterday.”  We can all probably be more efficient and effective in everything we do, whether our tasks are physical or spiritual in nature, so it’s worth the effort to think about how we can better organize each part of the work set before us.


Books mentioned:

The Myth of Multitasking by Dave Crenshaw

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

Second Thoughts: Develop Your Personality

By Thomas White, student

“Living Education is a character-building institution. … We demonstrate godly character through unique personality. Each of us is a unique creation of God. … You are unique, and you are a unique personality.” – Mr. Richard Ames


The first Assembly of the Living Education Program’s second-ever semester was given by Mr. Richard Ames, a veritable savant who has served God’s Church in capacities nigh-innumerable. Each member of the audience found their seat claimed by a multitude of helpful handouts, including a personality test. Mr. Ames used these handouts, along with the considerable knowledge he has amassed from his own research and life experiences, to present us with a memorable Assembly on how we can each come to reflect God’s unchanging character through our own distinctive personalities.

Mr. Ames addressed many of the immensely diverse types of personality that God has designed human beings to have, and firmly pointed out that character and personality are two very different things;  To have godly character is to have the qualities of God Himself, while personality is the unique way in which one person may demonstrate and reflect those qualities. The Apostles Paul and Peter, for example, were both gifted with God’s character and used mightily by Him, but their writings show beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were quite different from one another in personality. It has always been astounding to me that as Spirit Beings in the Family of God, we will all be perfect in character and unity, yet also completely unique, and Mr. Ames has helped me to appreciate that all the more.


“‘Who am I?’ This [question] is fundamental to character development, and fundamental to personality development.”

Mr. Ames instructed us to thoughtfully analyze ourselves individually, in order to determine which traits we have, which we need to develop in order to better reflect our Creator, and which we must overcome.  Developing one’s personality takes both knowledge and wisdom, and Mr. Ames stressed how important it is to ask questions of people more experienced than ourselves, imploring us to highlight Proverbs 20:5 in our Bibles: “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” The elderly, in particular, are incredible resources for understanding, and we miss a great opportunity if we fail to take advantage of their experience.


“Jesus never forgot who He was. …do you really know your purpose in life, your calling, and who you are? … You are the sons and daughters of the Almighty … You are the saints of God.”

Reminding us of our ultimate goal, Mr. Ames described godly character by breaking it down to four aspects: The ability to know what is right and wrong, the willingness to decide to do what is right, the strength to resist temptation to go the opposite way, and the practice of doing what is right until it becomes an immovable part of one’s inward identity. We were left with five objectives which, if achieved, will help to imbue us with God’s character traits: We must develop outgoing interest and warmth toward others, build zest and humor into our lives (“Five percent humor is better than no humor at all,” Mr. Ames jovially remarked), learn to be patient, compassionate, and modest, be strong, confident, and courageous, and cultivate enthusiasm, drive, and purpose.“…Develop the unique personality that you are,” Mr. Ames said as he concluded, “to reflect and to radiate God’s character in you.”

Books mentioned:

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Book Nobody Knows by Bruce B. Barton

The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton

Second Thoughts: Know Your Foundation!

By Thomas White, Student at Living Ed – Charlotte 

“The world I grew up in was a very different world than the one you’re growing up in.” – Mr. Gerald Weston 

As the first semester of the infant Living Education program drew to a close, Mr. Gerald Weston presented us with the opportunity to hear him give an “icebreaker,” a “This is My Life” speech, as he focused the Assembly on an overview of the experiences that have led him to where he is today.  In doing so, he emphasized to us the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with our Creator, one built upon fundamental truths that we must diligently prove to ourselves.

Mr. Weston began by reminding us that although he was raised in a “very different world”, it is nonetheless true that, no matter the time period in which we live, “in one sense, we’re all the same. … We grow up, we fall in love, we get married and have children, and eventually, we get old and we die.” I found this quite comforting, as it reminded me that despite the increasing degradation of Satan’s world, God continues to make sure that His people have the same opportunities to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. As Mr. Weston made a point of how close the entire planet came to total annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, it hammered in the humbling realization that God truly does want each of us in His family; were it not for His protection, none of us would be here.

“Employers don’t pay you what you need; they pay you what you’re worth. … If you want $20 an hour, you probably have to make about $50 an hour for your employer.”

As Mr. Weston delved into the background of his parents (“one very pragmatic…and one more of a dreamer”), his childhood (“I moved eleven times in my first thirteen years”), and his experiences in the Worldwide Church of God (“I worked on the custodian crew…and as a proofreader in the letter-answering department”), I was particularly struck by the “awakening” he experienced as a boy living in South Dakota, when he realized that he could be paid for shoveling snow. Armed with only a tiny, fold-up army shovel, he proceeded to make fifty cents by clearing the driveways of neighbors, roughly the equivalent of today’s twenty dollars. He used these experiences to stress that too many entitled individuals believe that they should be paid “what they think they need, as opposed to what they’re worth. … If you provide a service, if you work hard, you don’t have to worry about how much you’re going to get paid.”

“We have to know what our foundation is. Something that’s helped me through difficult times…is to have a strong, internal, mental…spiritual foundation.”

Mr. Weston concluded by telling us how he was able to persevere through the apostasy that wracked the Worldwide Church of God in the ’90s. As he did so, he brought out the importance of keeping our spiritual foundation secure, telling us how crucial it is “to know that God exists…and to know that you know that you know that you know that He exists. [To know] that the Bible is His word…not just a nice book, but it is the word of God, and in its original writings is infallible…to know what it actually says, because when you know what it actually says, from there, with God’s help, you can find where you ought to be.”

What Mr. Weston said shortly thereafter was particularly moving, to me. “You need to have the habit of prayer, study, fasting, meditation. … It’s a constant battle when you get down on your knees to try to pray,” he said, describing how our minds can often be far away from our prayers, even when we’re in the middle of them. “…but you know, what I’ve learned is that if you keep fighting that fight, it will work out. Because maybe you won’t have an effective prayer every single day, but you will have those effective prayers.” As someone who often struggles with keeping his head firmly in his prayers, Mr. Weston’s advice served as both inspiration and encouragement to me.

Mr. Weston summed everything up by quoting the foundational scripture that is Hebrews 11:6, which reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If we can live by this verse, knowing our foundation and diligently maintaining a relationship with God, then, in Mr. Weston’s own words, “I think you’re going to find that life will turn out pretty well for you, just as it certainly has for me, in so many ways.”

*Books mentioned:
“Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World” Evan Thomas

Second Thoughts: The CCC’s of Editorial

“God doesn’t expect anything of you that He will not give you the support to be able to accomplish.” – Mr. Wallace Smith

“Content, Clarity, Credibility, Consistency, Creativity, and Care” – simply put, these six C’s represent, in a nutshell, the responsibilities of the Living Church of God Editorial Department. Everyone involved in the department must bear the weight of these responsibilities, and all that they imply.

Mr. Wallace Smith, and student worker Thomas White

One of the things that struck me from Mr. Smith’s assembly, is how much everyone must rely upon one another in order to achieve their goals as a department, and as part of the work of God. No person who writes an article, or who prepares a telecast, or who composes a new booklet is exempt from needing support, or reassessment from others during the process. It seems that in God’s work He readily provides the necessary support, and valuable prospective from others for the preparation and publication of content.

 “I’ve experienced the blessings of having someone who it’s their job to take a look…just to make sure we’re not missing something”

Clarity resides as an essential component in the creation of content for publication. As Mr. Smith described, in the work of God, we aim to communicate a very specific message to a wide variety of audiences. In this endeavor, we must do our upmost to prepare the message in such a way that others will comprehend it. As Mr. Smith explained, “sometimes what we say isn’t what other people hear.” Again, this must be why the organized review process in Editorial is so essential for the operation of the department. Editorial must take seriously their responsibility to proclaim the message, without making an “uncertain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:8).


“We just want to make sure things are correct…all of us, we need that kind of review.”

The Apostle Paul did seemingly everything humanly possible to be sure the message he preached was credible. He did not want to put burdens in people’s way, striving to make sure what he preached was acceptable to his audience without changing the content of the message itself. In the same way, the Editorial department takes seriously the need for “Logos, Pathos, and Ethos” in all their writing and publication. This includes making sure that sources used are accurate, and credible, and that presentation is professional.

Of course, this aspect cannot be achieved without review, and constructive feedback from others. Just like in every other part of the work, the Editorial department relies on teamwork, mutual effort, and unity to accomplish their goals and responsibilities. Do we recognize the necessity of correction, review, and encouragement in our own lives? What a wonderful blessing that God has set up a structure of support for His people as we strive to do His great work!

Living Education-Charlotte 2019-20

We are now accepting applications for the 2019–2020 “Living Education Charlotte” program. Seven young men and seven young women will be accepted, as we begin the second year. This is a focused experience, emphasizing the building blocks of a Godly, Christian life. Students learn in the classroom with other young adults, guided by our faculty. They also learn through our “Work-Study” program, working alongside Headquarters staff in various capacities. A major part of the experience is the interaction with other students as they study together, work together, and socialize together, building friendships that will last a lifetime. If you are a young adult, at least 18 years of age, and have a passion to learn more about God’s way of life with others who share the same goals and values, then apply now. For more information, go to

Second Thoughts: Behind the Telecast

“Preaching the gospel is always integral to what Jesus is doing. We are supposed to follow Him…obey Him, follow His example as a church.”


The work of God today may functionally look much different than it did during the time of Christ and the apostles, yet fundamentally the commission is the same, principally to preach the gospel of the Kingdom and the true name of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ day, the message had to be delivered by foot, letters, and word of mouth. Instead of airplanes for travel, satellite communication, and high-speed internet, they had wooden ships, strong speaking voices, and parchment. Mr. Ciesielka began his assembly by emphasizing that since the commencement of the work during the time of Christ, God’s commission and the responsibility of the church continues on. As I reflect on it, it is easy to see that even with the passing of time and the changes in technology, the focus of the church remains consistent. If one considers Christ’s sermons, speeches, and parables to have been the “front line” of preaching the gospel in His day, then the Tomorrow’s World telecast would be on the “front line” of preaching the gospel in our day.

“Throughout the gospel accounts He [Christ] is preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God…that’s the pattern the Church has…that’s the focus.”

Mr. Wyatt Ciesielka and Travis Pate

Mr. Ciesielka, head of the TV and Internet departments at LCG headquarters, gave us an overview of the part that the telecast plays in God’s work. He described the process of creating, and releasing the telecast, and the responsibilities of those involved with its production. The creation of each new telecast involves much more than simple recording and editing. Beyond preparing several versions and formats of the telecast for traditional TV stations with appropriate phone numbers and contact information for different regions of the country, the TV department’s responsibilities include preparing versions of each telecast in multiple languages (Spanish, Russian, Ukranian, German…etc), perfecting closed captioning in accordance with strict government regulation, providing updated audits of all inventory, managing copyright material and information, managing call centers, and the list goes on.

“The telecast is the most powerful thing we produce as far as reaching new people.”

Telly Awards for the Tomorrow’s World Telecast

In the assembly, and tour of the Tomorrow’s World building and studio, I was surprised to learn that with each new telecast, approximately thirty different versions must be produced. This is what makes it possible to be reached by so many people, as the telecast is presented not only on cable TV stations in the United States, but also on many different websites, Roku, foreign language stations, and other media platforms. It is exciting to think about the amazing potential that the telecast has for reaching people all around the world, and to observe how God continues to bless the work that the gospel of the Kingdom of God may truly reach all nations.

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