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Second Thoughts: The Chair Legs of Our Lives

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Things will happen that can shock you to your foundation, and depending on what your foundation is, [that] is going to determine how you come through that particular trial.”

Mr. Gerald Weston, Presiding Evangelist | Student Assembly: May 9, 2019

I never planned to be in the Living Church of God. I never planned to sever ties with the organization I was previously involved with, and never planned to be set adrift in a new Church culture, knowing just few enough people to feel lost at the beginning. I did plan to dance with my mom at my—planned—future wedding, and definitely planned to go to her for advice while raising my—planned—future children.

But as Mr. Weston reminded us in the final assembly of Living Education’s inaugural year, life doesn’t go as planned. Not for me, and not for anyone. We all lose things we thought or desperately hoped we would always have, and we are all, at every moment, just one loss away from what we perceive as the ultimate test of our faith.

“Those who are founded on Christ’s teachings are going to be as one who is on a rock foundation. Yes, the waves will come, the wind will blow, even the rock beneath your feet may shake, but if you are solidly attached to it, you’ll come through.”

Our lives are built on a lot more than we might realize, unless we’ve really stopped to think about it. They’re built on the relationships we have with the people with whom we are the closest, on what we do every day to earn an income, on how our bodies continue to function, even on what we spend our leisure time doing.

It is almost like we’re each standing on a chair, occasionally jumping up and down, and all the while hoping that the many, many legs of the chair won’t break. But a lot of them will. As we lose jobs, friends, family members, self-perceptions, our health, places where we felt safe, the chair legs of our lives break.

So we can thank God for the fact that, as Mr. Weston reminded us, we only need three.

“You need to build that strong foundation on a personal basis: Does God exist, is the Bible His word, and where is He working? And if you know the answers to those three questions, and you can prove them to yourself… when the storms come, you will be able to stand.”

As it turns out, our chairs are more like three-leg stools. Even as we lose more, and more, and more parts of ourselves—pieces of our foundation—if as there are three specific legs that always remain in place, the chair won’t fall, and we will remain upright. If we know beyond doubt that God exists, know that the Bible is His inspired and infallible word, and know where He is working through His Church, we can put all of life’s weight on those three legs, and know that we won’t fall.

Our adversary will try to break those three legs, and he’ll usually do so by breaking other legs near them. As Mr. Weston said, we have to constantly guard them with our lives, because they are the true support for our lives. We may be only one loss away from the ultimate test of our faith, but if those three pillars remain strong, it’s not a test we have to fear. It’s just another one we will pass.

Second Thoughts: Be Creative, Not Original

By Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“How small is your life? How narrow is your experience? How far have you exercised your creativity?”

Mr. Jonathan McNair | Student Assembly May 2, 2019
Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

Some of the most creative people I know don’t think they’re creative at all, and this has always baffled me. “How can you think you’re not creative?” I say. “You just drew a gorgeous beach scene on this white pair of shoes.” As Mr. McNair brought out in his assembly this week, we as human beings, having been made in God’s image, are naturally creative. Creating is literally the first thing we read about God doing, right there in Genesis 1.

There are different levels and types of creativity, sure, but to call any human being – including yourself – “uncreative” is to utter a total falsehood, because if you’re made in God’s image, you’re creative. As far as I can see, the main reason why some people consider themselves “uncreative” is that they confuse creativity with originality, and these are two hugely different things.

“God is a God of Creativity … He used man, and built man, to have within us the passion and the desire to create, just like God.”

Mistaking originality for creativity, my friend who drew the beach scene on the pair of shoes can think she’s uncreative because, “Well, beaches weren’t my idea. Shoes weren’t my idea. I just took a thing that existed and put it on another thing that existed.” I’m affected by this, too, and I’m sure an immense number of creative people are. Every time I sit down to write creatively, I’m almost paralyzed by the selfish desire to write something totally new, something like nothing anyone has ever read.  It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Even King Solomon, who wrote something like one bazillion songs and sayings, also wrote, “what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). No one could ever accuse Solomon of being uncreative, but even he admitted that originality was out of his reach. That didn’t stop him from writing those songs and sayings though. He didn’t let the elusiveness of originality keep him from pursuing a passion to create, a passion that, as Mr. McNair said, comes directly from God, the Master Creator.

“If you’re willing to put out the effort to learn the rules, to learn the principles, to gain the experience, you’ll be able to exercise creativity in your life.”

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The problem with wanting to be “original” is that, as Solomon said, it’s practically impossible, and this fact discourages us from pursuing our creative passions to the extent that we could. If we can, we should forget all that, and just create. Don’t worry about being original, because as Mr. McNair concluded, the best way to be creative is to use previously established patterns to achieve success. We should start small and allow ourselves to be empowered and inspired by others, whether they are on our team, or are those that came before us.

Creativity can be exercised in any area in which we may have skillsets—music, writing, artwork, scientific inquiry, structural design, culinary arts, interior design, clothing design—you name it. Whatever our roles, whatever we like doing, chances are, we can use the opportunities we are given to fuel our imaginations and get creative. We might not create something totally unlike anything that’s been created before, but lest we forget, the creation in Genesis was actually a recreation. It had already been done, and God did it again with a new spin. And He saw that it was good.

Second Thoughts: It’s for the Kids

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“…the Father’s throne is ultimately going to be here on this earth. We look that far out in the future…but for that to be possible, we know that billions of human beings must come up and be taught His way of life, and for them to have the opportunity to become our younger brothers and sisters.” ~ Mr. Ron Poole

Student Assembly | April 11, 2019

Why do teachers work so hard? Almost all of them will be honest about the fact that they generally don’t get paid much. Whatever level of education they may be involved in, ask any of your best teachers why they put forth so much effort, and I’m willing to bet that most of them would answer with something like, “It’s for the kids. It’s all for the kids.”

This week, Mr. Ron Poole’s assembly reminded me that the future Kingdom we’re striving to reach as unborn children of God, that’s also “for the kids.” It’s our reward, but it’s not only our reward, and I can often undersell it by thinking of it as such. We’re not just running to finish a race, we’re also educating ourselves to try to get a job, the job of a teacher. And one of the bests reasons to be a teacher is to do it for the kids.

“We can see that God has work for us to do. God has a job that He wants us to be able to take care of. He is going to put us to work…but only if we’re ready. It’s only if we’re ready that He will be able to use us.”

As fully born members of the God Family, we’re going to be responsible for the education of untold billions of people, as Mr. Poole poignantly illustrated. How do we make that real to us? How do we motivate ourselves to strive toward that job? “Billions of people” sounds like something out of a statistics class, and I have a very complicated relationship with math, so when I think of being a teacher in the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment, I focus on three people. One of them is a close family member outside God’s Church, a member I love deeply. Another is someone I knew in college, whose life had been irrevocably damaged by a terrible upbringing. The third is my best childhood friend, a principled and noble individual, who nevertheless was always missing the Truth that would bring his life to a new level.  When I think of those people, I am exceedingly motivated to become a teacher, the kind of teacher who heals and enriches his students. Those are my “kids” I want to do it for. Who are yours?  

“Would our resumes, starting in chronological order, show that we are growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?”

Whoever your “kids” are, keep them in mind as this life gets hard, because as Mr. Poole said, we’re building our applications for the ultimate teaching position with every decision we make, every opportunity from God that we take advantage of. When we desire something with every ounce of our being, we make sacrifices for it, sometimes painful ones, but the result is always worth the striving. Applying to become one of God’s Teachers is long and arduous, but in our most paralyzing moments of weakness, it might be most helpful to remember that we’re doing it for the kids.

Second Thoughts: Blaming Gravity for the Ground

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Gravity operates the same way, all the time. … Sometimes, when we’re falling, we wish it didn’t work that way, but we pay the consequence when we hit the ground. …and there are others laws that are absolutely just as sure as gravity. …and those laws are found right here, in the Bible.” ~ Mr. Sheldon Monson

April 4, 2019 | Student Assembly: LivingEd-Charlotte

I’m pretty sure that at some point or another, we’ve all wished that we, personally, could fly. It’s a natural, human thing to fantasize over. Even King David envied the birds at least once (Psalm 55:6). That fantasy, though, always seems to include the ability to stop flying when you’re so inclined, because otherwise the flight becomes a lot less awesome, and also a lot more terrifying. As Mr. Sheldon Monson made the point in this week’s assembly, gravity is a great thing to have around, and we all recognize that. Even after a particularly nasty fall, no one is all that tempted to sincerely say, “Ugh, gravity. I wish it would go away.” We know that would be ridiculous…but when we, in our heart of hearts, wish that certain parts of God’s law weren’t there, aren’t we being just as foolish?

“The world around us is filled with strife, it’s filled with poverty, ignorance, suffering, pain…those are all results of living a way of life that’s opposite to what God says we ought to live.”

One of my absolute favorite non-biblical quotes comes from Cecil B. DeMille, who said, “We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them…” We all recognize that sin will always have consequences, but if we’re not careful, we can start thinking that God put those consequences there. In reality, He created His law to keep us from sin’s consequences, not consequences to keep us out of sin. If I hop the fence at the edge of the Grand Canyon and perform a swan dive, the inevitable splat isn’t the fence’s fault, or the Grand Canyon’s fault, or gravity’s fault, rather it is every bit my own fault. And as Mr. Monson brought out, the vast majority of our world is taking Satan’s advice and swan-diving off the edge of the Grand Canyon, deceived into believing that God’s Church is foolish for not doing the same.

“The main thing is to remember to keep ‘The Main Thing’ the main thing.”

So I have to make sure that I don’t do the same, because Satan whispers in my ear, too, telling me that there is no splat at the end of the dive into sin, that I can level out and levitate away right before I hit the ground. That fits right into my flying fantasy, so how do I keep from believing him? As Mr. Monson reminded us, “The Main Thing”, what keeps us safe from our own gullibility, is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To cut through life’s distractions and maintain that primary focus, we need to remind ourselves that those commandments are a shield, not a cage.

Second Thoughts: The Setup, Not the Game

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Life is tough, and as life gets tough, with bills, and health problems, and problems with children, and neighbors, and bosses, [some] get distracted.” ~ Mr. Kenneth Frank

LivingEd-Charlotte: Student Assembly | March 28, 2019

Mr. Ken Frank packed a lot into his assembly, this week. We heard of how we’ll be leading God’s Church before we know it (no pressure or anything), how crucial it is that we don’t divide our lives into the sacred and the secular, how we might retain a biblical worldview in an era fundamentally opposed to it, and each of those points had something like a half-dozen equally profound sub-points. All of that insight is available in the assembly recording (no cost, no obligation), but one sub-point in particular struck me harder than the others. Mr. Frank alluded to the fact that it can be really tempting to give up sometimes, because living a godly life is hard. It’s hard for everyone, and knowing that suffering is a prerequisite for righteous character can feel like a mean joke. When we know we’ll never be perfect as humans, and that this physical life is never going to get any easier, but is in fact probably only going to get worse as the Great Tribulation creeps closer…yeah, it’s tempting to just go, “You know what, all is vanity,” and stay in bed indefinitely.

“People who start off with a biblical worldview can lose it if they get their eyes off Christ. They’ve got to stay focused on Him.”

As Mr. Frank implied, it’s the temporary nature of this physical life that we need to focus on, and that’s pretty difficult, because this life is all we know. Of course, for those with God’s Spirit, this life is only a womb as we wait to be born into His eternal family. But that metaphor can be a tough sell when you think about how a baby in a womb is warm, comfortable, and completely peaceful, and this life is…not those things. So though it sounds childish, I like to think of this life as the setup process to an incredibly amazing board game. No one likes setting up a board game. You have to find the pieces, you have to shuffle the cards, you have to root around in the box for all the fake money you have to organize… It’s not fun, and it feels like it takes forever. But you need to do it, and you need to do it right, in order to actually play the game. Once you start playing, you’re glad you put in the time and effort to set everything up, because the game is great, and a lot longer than the set up.

“We have to think of the bigger question: Where are we going eternally?”

That’s what I tend to forget, and what Mr. Frank reminded me – that this physical life is the setup, not the game. Suffering might very well feel endless, but the amazing reward for it will literally be endless. Even eternal life can sound like an iffy reward when you’re used to life being something you wouldn’t actually want going on eternally, but what about eternal peace? Eternal joy? Eternally giving others peace and joy? Those are in the reward, too. God promises everlasting happiness and fulfillment at the end of this ever-so-tiny period of setup. If we can keep our focus on what we’re setting up for, nothing will be able to keep us from it.

Second Thoughts: Internal Organs Are Important Too!

by Thomas White, student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“…I think of a body of believers, when I think about the Church. …the body of believers is made up of so many different kinds of people, from all different kinds of backgrounds, all different kinds of races, all different kinds of experiences, different cultural backgrounds, and different talents.” ~ Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden

Student Assembly, March 14, 2019.

A novel by Robert Heinlein includes a quote that ends with “Specialization is for insects,” claiming that every human being should be able to do basically everything under the sun. That’s all well and good if you’re a character in a novel with as many inexplicable talents and abilities as the author can write for you, but in real life, no human being can do everything. The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 12, where he informs us that God’s Church is a body, and that each member of it makes up a separate and unique, yet unified and integral, part of that body. For this week’s assembly, Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden informed us of the absolutely staggering amount of work that goes into maintaining and operating that body, from the ins and outs of making sure Sabbath Services across the world have halls to be held in, to the intricacies of creating a professional telecast and finding television stations on which to show it. All of this is done by an immense amount of people…and most of these people work almost entirely “behind the curtain.”

“…the body needs a head, the body needs a foot. The body needs an eye, the body needs an ear. We preach the gospel, we feed the flock, and all those little things that happen here, all of us together, we’re a part of that.”

All these unseen—yet hugely important—things, being done by all these unseen—yet absolutely invaluable—people, caused a thought to occur to me. Thanks to Paul’s inspired words, we understand that some members of Christ’s body are eyes, some are ears, some are hands, and some are feet. Obviously, all these parts are on the outside of the body – we don’t need to get X-rayed to see that we have eyes, ears, hands, and feet. But what if you’re none of the above? After all, a body is a lot more than just what the mirror shows. What if you’re a pancreas? A thyroid gland? A spleen? These parts aren’t visible—unless something really, really bad just happened to you—but…well, try spending a day without your thyroid. Actually, please don’t. It will not go well.

“…the members in the Church who are not in charge have their part to play. And it’s not just to ‘pay and pray.’ … It’s way more than that.”

You see where I’m going with this, and Mr. Ruddlesden went there first, as he explained that, for example, though each Tomorrow’s World telecast may only be presented by one man, there are perhaps dozens of people that are never shown, but without whom that telecast would never be produced. Those people aren’t parts of the body’s face; they’re internal organs, and you don’t need to be a doctor to know that a body needs internal organs. The telecast needs more than presenters. The magazine needs more than writers. The Church needs more than people in Charlotte. Preaching the gospel and feeding the flock takes every single one of us. Whether it’s Mr. Weston himself teaching doctrine to the members or the teenager in a tiny congregation being a light and example to everyone they meet, both contribute to the feeding and preaching in their own special ways using their own particular talents. We’ll always need faces, but internal organs are important, too.

Second Thoughts: When Humility Becomes Dishonesty

By Thomas White, Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“You don’t want to step on other people trying to get a job, but the reality is…if you’re going to be hired…you need to look better than the other guy or other gal. That’s just the reality, because there’s competition for jobs.” ~ Dr. Scott Winnail

Dr. Scott Winnail focused this week’s assembly on strategies for building a strong resume, delivering a practical and beneficial presentation that was particularly pertinent in the lives of the eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds sitting in the room. The ability to write an effective resume is critical to those of us who would like to buy food on at least a semi-consistent basis, and two of the helpful resources Dr. Winnail provided are linked at the end of this post. But what struck me the most about this assembly was when Dr. Winnail spoke of the balance we all must use in showing humility and honesty at the same time. As he brought out, we’re all representatives of God’s Church, so if we make ourselves look worse than we really are, aren’t we not only lying, but making the very body of Christ look bad?

“People just lie. That’s what society is like, and lying becomes part of the character of the end-time Israelite society. And certainly, that’s something we don’t want to be part of.”

This topic certainly applies well to resumes, as Dr. Winnail proved. I had difficulty writing my first resume, largely because I felt like I was bragging. But I wasn’t lying on my resume; like Dr. Winnail said, I was simply putting my best foot forward. Do we ever view humility as thinking or speaking poorly of ourselves? I’ve thought of it that way, but that’s a pretty shallow idea of what humility is, and it leaves more room for dishonesty than true humility ever would. How often do we find ourselves being dishonest in the name of humility? “Hey, you did a good job on those spreadsheets,” someone might say. “Nah, it wasn’t much,” I might reply. Did I just lie? If I know I worked hard on those spreadsheets and delivered a quality result, then yes, I have indeed just lied. I might be well-intentioned, trying to obey the First Commandment by not making an idol of myself, but now I’ve turned around and broken the Ninth Commandment. How is that any better?

“We’ve got to speak truth to our neighbor, and any employer is our neighbor, in the context that God uses. … You can be a false witness of yourself, if you don’t tell the truth.”

Compared to God, not one of us humans is anywhere near a big deal, so obviously, we shouldn’t parade around acting like one. We’d all hopefully agree that we should never lie about our accomplishments, but do we think about how short-changing ourselves is, essentially, doing just that? For example, if you’re a great singer, wouldn’t true humility be to recognize that God made you that way, that you owe your talent to Him, and then to sincerely thank Him for it? (Probably best not to do this on a resume, by the way. That might not go over well.) To deny that you’re a great singer, if indeed you are, isn’t that to insult the gift God’s freely granted you? When we dismiss the abilities and accomplishments God’s given us as “not much,” we’re not only lying, but failing to be thankful. With prayerful effort and God’s constant help, we can strike that balance of humility and honesty, recognizing that we’re nothing without God, and acknowledging that He’s given us something valuable.

 

 

Resume Resources Given:

Indeed.com’s “10 Resume Writing Tips to Help You Land a Job”

The sample resume of one Sparty Spartan.