What Purpose Does a Sermonette Serve?

The sermonette is an important portion of the Sabbath service. 

Forum Summary: The Value of Being Skilled

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

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

“He who has not taught his son a trade by 12 has taught him to steal.” – Old Jewish Proverb

In the latest forum, Mr. Stafford spoke to the Living Ed students about the importance of developing skills and choosing an impactful career. He pointed out that most people fail to succeed at life because they never developed useful skills. But the people who did put the work into learning a trade or getting an education end up with all the options and success. 

How to Become Skilled

Apply the seven laws of success. These are a powerful tool, and Mr. Stafford encouraged the students to look over these and see where they can develop them in their lives. 

Have a diligent hand. We must learn to be diligent independent of reward, and from this, we will gain profit (Proverbs 10:4). 

Prepare your livelihood before marriage. Those of us who are men should establish a career and have security in our profession before choosing to get married. Mr. Stafford pointed out how failure to follow this is the cause of a lot of problems in marriages. 

Leave nothing to chance. “Time and chance happens to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Mr. Stafford pointed out that this verse refers to “them.” But for true Christians, nothing is from chance but all is from God, meant to teach us (Romans 8:28). We will get what we sow (Galatians 6:7). 

Pick the Right Career 

What career we are going to develop our skills for is a major decision, and Mr. Stafford gave three areas of self-examination everyone must consider before picking their career. 

  1. Your needs and your values—find out what suits your personality and ability. Are you someone who needs a creative and independent work environment? Maybe you prefer a job that deals mainly with information, knowledge, and data. How important is job security to you? These and more are all questions to consider before choosing a career. Find your values and needs and find the career that aligns with them. 
  1. Career interests—what career interests you? Maybe you want to have a job where you deal with others socially. Or perhaps you like to fix things, work with your hands, or work outdoors. Consider all of these questions carefully before embarking on your career!
  1. Job characteristics—what about the job is important to you? Location can be a big one. Do you need to be challenged by your job? Some jobs have lots of travelling. Is that desirable or undesirable for you? These questions need to be considered before such a big decision!

Final Thoughts 

Mr. Stafford highlighted basic skills that apply to any career: people skills, being a hard worker, social skills, and reading skills (reading can be quite difficult to make yourself do). There are a lot of jobs that will become available in the near future in a wide range of careers. Mr. Stafford encouraged the students to develop skills now to anticipate this demand, so we can have productive lives with lots of choices and options. 

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. 

Digging Deeper: Root of Bitterness

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 8 min.

Did you know Paul warned Christians that if they fell short of God’s grace, they may develop a root of bitterness that defiles them?

God is merciful and forgiving. However, His grace must not be trifled with. Those who fail in God’s grace are in danger of developing bitterness like a deep-seated root of a tree or plant. Paul illustrated it by the patriarch Esau. This Digging Deeper examines Paul’s statement from one of his epistles considering its context and cross-reference to an Old Testament illustration of failure.

Our focus verse is: “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb 12:15 KJV throughout). It should be noted that this verse contains words used for the last time in the KJV: fail, bitterness, springing, trouble. This verse warns of apostasy’s consequences.

In danger of bitterness

Paul wrote his epistle to the Hebrews to dissuade Jewish Christians from backsliding to first-century Judaism because of persecution from unbelievers.  Judaism was a legal religion in the Roman Empire; Christianity was not yet. Some brethren were even in danger of becoming bitter against God because of their suffering. Paul warns them that becoming bitter could cause them to repeat the mistake of Esau.

Some expositors suggest Paul wrote this epistle to the Churches of God located in the city of Rome. If that was the case, R.C.H. Lenski in his Commentary on the New Testament paints a scenario: “We may say that the danger was the greater because the readers were a compact body, all of them Jewish Christians, all worshiping in their old synagogues in Rome, which had now become Christian churches. By returning to Judaism some influential former rabbi among them might draw a large number with him. In fact, as these synagogues had become Christian, so they might again become Jewish” (Bible Analyzer

In Hebrews 12:15, Paul likely restated an Old Testament verse: “Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (Deu 29:18). The ESV Study Bible explains the meaning of Paul’s statement: “The author warns against ‘bitterness’ by alluding to Deu 29:18, which describes one who turns away from God and pursues other gods. A bitter and resentful person is like a contagious poison, spreading his resentment to others” (Tecarta Bible App).

Joseph S. Exell in his Biblical Illustrator explains the difficulty of removing such a root of bitterness: “Though you may be able to destroy the fruit, and cut down the branches, the root may be beyond your reach. Though the branches be lopped off, and the stem cut down close by the ground, yet the root left in the soil will keep its hold, and send up another stem, and spread out other branches. So with this sin” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

This verse from Deuteronomy was noted for another New Testament illustration, as explained by Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “In Acts 8:23 St. Peter makes reference to the same chapter of Deuteronomy as he speaks to Simon Magus, who, above all other men, proved a root of bitter poison in the early Church” (e-Sword 13.0.0). One of my previous Digging Deeper articles, entitled “The Gall of Bitterness,” explained this confrontation between Peter and Simon Magus.

The sin of Esau

In Hebrews 12:16-17, Paul illustrated his case with an Old Testament personage: the bitter end of the Old Testament patriarch Esau. The NKJ Study Bible explains: “Under the Law, the eldest son would receive a double inheritance (see Deu 21:17). Esau lost his inheritance, which included God’s gracious promises, by despising it and valuing the pleasure of food over it (Gen 25:34)” (Tecarta Bible App).

Paul Kretzmann extends this further in his Popular Commentary of the Bible: “That was the sin of Esau, who considered the right of the first-born, though it included the fact that the first-born was also the bearer of the Messianic blessing, so lightly that he sold his birthright for a single meal, for a mess of pottage, Gen 25:29-34. His case illustrates the danger of missed or rejected opportunities. For when Esau afterwards made an attempt to get the blessing of the first-born for himself, he did not succeed, 27:30-40” (Bible Analyzer

Lessons for Christian living

With this context, now we may extract valuable lessons from this passage for Christian living. Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments derives significant meaning from the words looking diligently: “The Greek might be rendered episcopizing; the word from which bishop [overseer] is derived. Every Christian should be bishop in this respect, watching for the purity of the Church” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Not only should Christians be concerned with the state of their spiritual health, but also that of their congregation since their lives impact it.

Daniel Whedon’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments then explains root of bitterness: “Not a principle or an event, but a person, who springs up like a poisonous plant in a garden, and whose noxious quality is contagious. So Christ is beautifully called the ‘root of David;’ and, in the Apocrypha, Antiochus Epiphanes is called ‘a sinful root.’ But the allusion here is to Deu 29:18: ‘Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood'” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Based on this, the root of bitterness can be an individual, who like Esau, negatively impacts a congregation because he now had to live with the consequences of “despising his birthright.” Sins can be forgiven upon deep repentance, but consequences may remain. 

We may wonder how this could happen today. William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible explains how some Christians consider it too restrictive to obey Christian principles: “There are always those who think the Christian standards unnecessarily strict and punctitious; there are always those who do not see why they should not accept the world’s standards of life and conduct. This was specially so in the early Church. It was a little island of Christianity surrounded by a sea of paganism; its members were, at the most, only one generation away from heathenism. It was easy to relapse into the old standards. This is a warning against the infection of the world, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unconsciously, spread within the Christian society” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

David Guzik in his Enduring Word Commentary illustrates one way that bitterness can take root in a Christian: “Many are corrupted because of bitterness towards someone they feel has wronged them, and they hold on to the bitterness with amazing stubbornness! What they must do is remember the grace of God extended to them, and start extending that grace towards others – loving the undeserving” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Esau believed his brother, Jacob, had wronged him by stealing his birthright. Esau actually despised it for a mere bowl of pottage. 

Put away bitterness

Bitterness is a characteristic of the ungodly so a Christian must never rationalize it as “righteous indignation”: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom 3:13-14 KJB). James warns against it as well: “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas 3:14-15). Paul provides the antidote: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32).

Hebrews 12:15 insists that Christians must look diligently into their spiritual state, as Albert Barnes explains in his Notes on the Bible: “This phrase implies close attention. It is implied that there are reasons why we should take special care. Those reasons are found in the propensities of our hearts to evil; in the temptations of the world; in the allurements to apostasy presented by the great adversary of our souls” (e-Sword 13.0.0).  Christians have much to avoid while living in this world of sin.

William Barclay in his Daily Study Bible offers a final warning about the root of bitterness: “We do well to remember that there is a certain finality in life. If, like Esau, we take the way of this world and make bodily things our final good, if we choose the pleasures of time in preference to the joys of eternity, God can and will still forgive but something has happened that can never be undone. There are certain things in which a man cannot change his mind but must abide for ever by the choice that he has made” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Brother to Brother: Do or Delegate

Forum Summary: Treasure Your Experience

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

Estimated Reading Time: 2 min.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and  hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Dr. Scott Winnail started this forum off in Matthew 13:44, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, which teaches us to do everything we can to enter into the Kingdom of God. He encouraged the Living Education students to do everything they can to make the most of the program while they are all here. In this program, the students are given an experience that they would never get from a worldly education program.

Fully Jump In

To make the most of their time here, Dr. Winnail instructed us to take advantage of as many opportunities as we are presented with, because they will frequently come and go. He recalled a story of an old teacher from back in his high school years. One day, his class was asked a question, and Dr. Winnail hesitated to raise his hand. His teacher took him aside afterward and gave him an important piece of advice: When presented with a good opportunity, fully jump in. If you take the time to hesitate, you might lose your chance very quickly. One thing you must do first is make sure that the opportunities do not get in the way of your godly priorities. If you have time before you have to make an important decision, pray about it. Ask God for guidance on your life’s presented path.

Guard Your Time

Dr. Winnail described our lives like a vapor, which comes and goes. We need to make sure that we are guarding our time and choosing the right priorities so that we are not wasting our lives away. He quoted from Ephesians 5:15–16: “ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” As time goes on, the world will become more and more rooted in the wrong values. We must make sure that we are building our foundation on our Rock, Jesus Christ! Our focus should be on spiritual growth. We need to visualize who we have the potential to be in the coming Kingdom of God!

In order to treasure our experiences, we need to make the most out of this current life. To do that, we need to guard our time and fully jump in. Christ knew that His time on earth would be short, but He made the most of His experiences. We need to make sure that we are building the right foundation in our lives and have our priorities set, so that the opportunities we want are presented to us in the first place.

Nathan Kroon is one of the Student Leaders 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.

Forum Summary: Why are you here?

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

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min.

Mr. Weston’s latest forum challenged the Living Education students to ask themselves, “Why am I in this church?”

This question may seem simple, but the real answer is more nuanced than we may realize. Our decisions are influenced by our past choices, past experiences, and even factors we have little control over like temperament and family 

Understand your Life 

To illustrate, Mr. Weston summarized his childhood and early years and related the moment he first came into the Church. While the world is much different today, we all must learn to examine the experiences that shaped our perspective, because we will face critical decisions in our lives and the right path will not always be clear. To do this, we must understand ourselves. This includes our weaknesses and proclivities, and if we examine our lives and experiences, we will be better prepared for those serious decisions when they come. 

A Crossroads 

Mr. Weston had a certain momentous decision, as he recounted, in his life. In 1994, he was a minister for a church that began to radically and rapidly alter fundamental doctrines. Mr. Weston recalled how he was forced to decide whether to go along with the changes or stand up for what is right and resign. He had been a minister for that church for over 25 years, and this position was his livelihood. He knew he might have to find a job flipping burgers to survive if he chose to follow God! We may face such decisions in our lives, too. If we do not understand why we are in God’s Church, we may be tempted just to go along with changes, taking the path of least resistance. Mr. Weston chose to follow God, gave one last sermon, and then was forced to resign. But this was not the end of the decisions to be made. 

Finding the true church

Continuing with his narrative, Mr. Weston explained that various churches existed at the time. He had to find the church that was in alignment with God’s ways, which is a search that all of us must make. We cannot simply end up in a church as the mindless culmination of our experiences, family, temperament, and subconscious beliefs. We have to find the real church of God.

Mr. Weston continued by telling us about how, after resigning his ministerial position, he investigated a few different organizations and the differences between them. He determined two critical keys to discerning the right church. First, he looked for a church that has “not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). God’s Church knows more than just the Holy Days and the Sabbath. Some organizations may allow a lot of flexibility in beliefs among their members and ministers, but Mr. Weston stressed that the Church needs to lead its members in the right paths, not allow confusion. Second, God’s Church started in the right direction, which includes the right government. God’s Church fulfills Christ’s commission of feeding the flock and preaching the Gospel. A church must be founded on this commission and be absolutely ruled by Christ, with the leadership structure outlined in the Bible. In the future, we will face similar choices, and we can use these same principles to find the true Church of God. 

The right church?

Why is it so important that we find the right church? Mr. Weston turned to the account in Revelation about the church eras (chapter 3), in particular the churches of Laodicea and Philadelphia (vv. 7-22). In the end times, there will be two separate churches: a lukewarm one and a zealous one. It seems one of these churches will be spared from the great tribulation because it has done a work, spreading the Gospel as much as it could. The other will be tried and refined in the fire of tribulation. 

Therefore, we have two questions to ask. First, are we sure that we are in God’s Church? If so, are we in the zealous church? We need to answer these thoroughly, proving the answers for ourselves. It is not enough that we were born into it; people were born into Islam, false Christianity, and other religions. We have to prove that this church is the right place, fulfilling the commission and purpose of God’s true Church zealously.

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. 

Student Life: This post might be corny…

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

Estimated Reading Time: 3 min.

On a brisk and gray November day, families from Charlotte came with their kids to “Aw Shucks Farm” to enjoy a bonfire, relish some homemade food, and perambulate the corn maze.

This year, the Living Education program opted to host this autumn-themed event to provide a fun activity for local families with children, and the students were there to serve in whatever ways necessary. 

Morning preparations

It’d been a long time since I’d been to a corn maze, so when Mr. McNair mentioned the activity, I was all ears (yes, there will be a lot of corn puns). I’ll freely admit that I woke up that Sunday morning more excited for this childrens’ event than a grown man really should be. The activities didn’t start until 2:30 pm, but I arose to find the Living Ed dorms already bustling. Ellie (the women’s RA) was getting all the food together for the event. Rachel Price and Rachel White (whom we affectionately call “the Rachels” when they work together) were preparing snacks and drinks apropos of autumn.

At about 1 pm, we loaded all the food and supplies into my car; there was so much that my minivan was completely full except for the front seats. Nathan (the men’s RA) loaded his car up with students, the leftover students went with Rachel White, and we all set off for the corn maze-containing farm (there was also a point in this morning when I crawled through the crawl space examining the gas lines for corrosion, which I found. But that is irrelevant). 

A-maize-ing Activities

The farm had so much more than just a corn maze, and the corn maze itself, as Mr. McNair so eloquently stated, “had more exits than actual corn.” Yet the animal barns, the wagon rides, the fishing pond, and just the Church members there made the whole event so much fun, and the families found plenty to keep them busy for three or more hours. 

To prevent anyone from getting lost in the vast Corn Maze, the Living Ed students divided the attendees into groups and ventured in as well. This, perhaps, was overkill, as the maze resembled more of a crop circle in many places, but it was a fantastic experience by all accounts.

At 3:30, we started serving the food. The barbecue boasted many options: chili, hotdogs, hotdogs with chili, chili with bits of hotdog, and whatever combination thereof you can imagine. The Rachels also supplied apple slices with caramel, chocolate, and peanut butter toppings (I’ll let you calculate the permutations of those items). All 80 people were fed, found a nice warm seat, and fellowshipped by the bonfire pit. 

The gray November sky finally betrayed us around 5:30 and began to drizzle. This was almost precisely when the event was to end, but no one wanted to leave yet. I suppose that even great events have to end at some point. 

But It Wasn’t Over Quite Yet

The drizzle had begun and all the students meandered to the parking lot. Then, there was a stark announcement: We had a half-hour until the farm closed, and we could stay until then if we wanted. The Rachels had been serving food the whole time and had not been able to go through the corn maze. I had not been able to go see the goats in the animal barn. Many of the students had not had the chance to mercilessly barrage one another with the chicken slingshots. So, when we heard this, we literally ran back into the farm, and we relished those last thirty minutes to the maximum of our physical ability.

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. 

Brother to Brother: Leading by Helping

Sometimes the best way to lead – and learn to lead – is by helping.