Forum Summary: You Shall Be Perfect

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

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

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Mr. Long talked to the Living Education students about the command in Matthew 5:48: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” 

Mr. Long began with a quote by the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.” There is such a thing as a “perfect game” in sports, like in bowling or baseball. These are amazing feats and often take a lifetime to accomplish, but humans know that these are not true perfection. After all, it is impossible for a person to be perfect. What do we make of the command in Matthew 5:48 then? “People have used this scripture,” Mr. Long explained, “to say that the Christian religion is impossible; that God expects humans to be perfect, which is impossible.” This is not what God is saying. Mr. Long explained the true meaning of this passage with three points from the book of Philippians. 

Perfection Is Impossible for Humans

Mr. Long read this scripture: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). He explained we cannot think we have attained perfection already. We may not ever think of the literal words, “I am perfect,” but if our actions, words, and thoughts say that we think we are good enough, this is pride. 

The first point to understanding “you shall be perfect” is recognizing that we are not perfect and being “clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5). We must seek to grow and strive to become perfect.

“Forgetting Those Things Which Are Behind” 

Mr. Long returned to Philippians 3 and read verse 13. “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind.” He emphasized that Paul says to forget our past sins and mistakes and accept that God has cleared them completely. But this is not easy. David acknowledged this struggle when he said “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Even Paul himself is upset with his sin and faults when he says, “Oh wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24), yet in the years between these letters, Paul grows and develops his ability to forget his past sins and recognize that God has cleansed our sin through Christ’s sacrifice. We can now come before God with a clean conscience. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). A second part of understanding “you shall be perfect” is accepting that our sins are truly removed. 

Press Toward Perfection

Mr. Long finished the passage in Philippians 3:13: “and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” He continued with verse 14: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He explained that we are called to grow and become perfect. This is what Christ is admonishing us to do in Matthew 5:48. Mr. Long also explained the importance of being motivated to continue on this path of growth. A motivated person does two things: they run away from something they don’t want to be a part of and they run towards something they do want to be a part of. If we only run away, we are unstable and “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). If we only run toward God and don’t forsake the world, we are double minded (James 1:8). He emphasized that we must understand clearly what we are running away from and where we are running to. We must be able to visualize the Kingdom of God. We can meditate on what the Kingdom will be like; what it will look like, smell like, feel like, and sound like. This is a key to staying motivated and being able to  “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Conclusion: God Will Perfect Us

Mr. Long concluded by reading verses 15 and 16 in Philippians: “Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Philippians 3:16). Perfection is not possible while we are carnal, but we can strive towards it. We can attain excellence by pursuing perfection. We should recognize our progress and continue to walk on that same path with the same mind. Mr. Long told us to always remember that our perfection is being achieved not by us, but by God and Jesus. He turned to 1 Peter 5:10 to illustrate this: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” God will bring us to perfection, and then we will be perfect as God is perfect! 

Mr. Weston gave a forum on reading good books, which can be helpful to growth and development as a Christian. Read about that forum here: Read Good Books

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. 

Forum Summary: For Such a Time as This…

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

Estimated Reading Time: 7 min.

Mr. Phil Sena began this forum by reminding us all about the purpose of the Living Education-Charlotte Program: to help young people build godly foundations and to prepare the next generation of leaders in the Church.

He then asked an important question: “Do you see yourselves as leaders?”

No matter what, life will present us with opportunities to step up and act as leaders—things that we will not expect, or even be prepared for! Mr. Sena pointed to the story of Esther to derive lessons in leadership that we can all put into practice. Esther was an orphan, adopted by her older cousin and made queen to the most powerful man on earth at the time. Despite her unusual circumstances, she was able to become an effective leader for God’s people. How can we succeed as a leader, like she did?

Accept the Challenge

As was said before, we will all face critical junctures in our lives where it will be entirely up to us to make difficult choices. It can be easy to try to reason our way out of doing something important. In Esther 4:11, Esther explained to Mordecai the risk of going into the king’s inner court uninvited, trying to tell him why she thought she was not able to make any sort of request to the king. Mordecai, however, understood that God would find another way to save the Jews if not for Esther. In verse 14, he said, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Understanding the potential consequences of inaction motivated Esther to face the challenge and do something completely foreign to her, breaking out of how she saw herself to step up to the plate. Mr. Sena recalled that in his first semester of Ambassador College, he was confronted by his “old nemesis: math.” At first, it didn’t feel like a pressing matter to him, because he was greatly enjoying the experience of being there and surrounding himself with his friends. But when he was close to flunking out, he knew that he had to overcome himself, and his own attitude, in order to pass. He had to step back to look at the situation realistically in order to change his actions. He knew he wasn’t “too dumb” to learn it—he just wasn’t going about it the right way. He soon made math his personal obsession, studying hard, and he even began to enjoy it! On his next two exams, he scored a 92% and a 100%, which allowed him to pass his classes. When we are faced with our own challenges, what will we do? The choices that we make define who we will become, so we have to be prepared to accept the challenges thrown at us and make the right decisions.

Become a Leader

Back in Esther 4:15-16, Esther asked Mordecai to inquire of the Jews of Shushan to fast for her, as she would also do. She didn’t feel strong enough to take her challenge alone, and that’s OK! She did what she felt was necessary to accomplish her goal. In the book of Esther, the only description we get of her is that she was a lovely and beautiful orphan. There is never a mention of her wisdom or courage, but God saw something in her that He could use to help save the Jews, so He gave her the opportunity and the help to do so. She was able to turn a corner and become a leader—but she could’ve chosen differently.

“I implore you to see yourself as a leader,” said Mr. Sena. Some define a leader as “someone who influences others.” We all have a certain influence on others, but what kind of influence should a leader have? Mr. Sena stated plainly, “A leader is someone who positively influences others.” He then explained that a positive influence on others results from a strong godly foundation, which is what we are building at Living Education. Is our core unshakable enough to resist making the wrong choices? It has to be, because when we are faced with an uncertain situation, we need to know what we are going to do about it in our hearts. That’s how leadership is performed.

Do The Work God Has For You

God can use anyone to be a great leader. We can accomplish a certain aspect of the Work through our everyday example. We are a light to the world, and we will always be watched for our example. We represent Christ in all we do.

Are we good at accomplishing our portion of the great Work? One of the primary ways to do the work God has for each of us is in setting an example that reflects God. It may seem small, but how we live could have significant ramifications. In 1 Peter 2:11-12, we read:

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

Eventually, the people of the world will be able to make the connection as to why we acted the way we did in our physical lives. Mr. Sena shared that, for a time, he worked as a criminal counselor after graduating from Ambassador College. In that seedy, smoke-filled work environment, he stood out to his coworkers, simply because he was the only one who didn’t curse. It came to the point that if others around him did, they would apologize to him for doing so. The extent of what God has for us to do may be big, like it was for Esther, or comparatively small, but we must always stay a good example for all.

At a certain point in our lives, we will all be thrust into the position of a leader. As I write this, the Judaic holiday of Purim—a good time to review the book of Esther—has only recently come and gone. Next time you read through it, a good thing to watch for would be the example of Esther. Her heart was put in the right place to become the kind of leader that her people needed. Are we willing to rise to the challenge, become a leader, and accomplish the work that God has set in place for us?

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.

Forum Summary: Church Administration—the Story in Stats!

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

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

In a recent forum, the students learned about the impact of the Church Administration Department from a Tomorrow’s World presenter, Mr. Rod McNair. 

Mr. McNair laid out the purpose of the Church Administration Department: serve, edify, and support the worldwide ministry. This responsibility is outlined in many scriptures, and Mr. McNair pointed to John 21:15-17. Here, Christ tells Peter three times to care for the flock. There are two words used; one translated “feed” and one meaning “tend,” which involves leading, ruling, and governing the flock. The Church Administration Department fulfils both responsibilities, and Mr. McNair told us how with a compelling story—a story based on statistics. 

The Work and Tomorrow’s World Presentations

0 – the number of “coworkers” Noah had after a 100 years of warning. “Now that,” Mr. McNair said, “would be discouraging.” We are getting responses, and the world is not quite as evil as it was then.

33,880 attendees of Tomorrow’s World Presentations from 2006 – 2023. This is not a small number—especially compared to the responses Noah’s ministry received.

1.8 – percentage of people who respond to TWP invitations. This is an average from 2006 to 2023. 

3.9 – percentage of people who respond to TWP invitations in countries outside of the US. The work is growing in other countries; people there are more interested than those in the US.

1535 – Tomorrow’s World Presentations since 2006. Mr. McNair explained that they studied the results of these presentations and found that, regardless of how many guests attended, about the same number of guests began attending Services per presentation. It makes sense to have more presentations in more areas with a smaller guest size. 

The Ministry 

415 – congregations in 60 different countries. 

2,600 – youth in the church (0 – 17 years old). That’s a lot. “We,” Mr. McNair explained, “are not just an older church!”

6,527 – baptisms since January 1999 (LCG foundation). The work is not done yet. It did not end with Mr. Armstrong, nor is it up to us to decide when it is over. 

5,740 & 6,530 – members/prospective members in the United States versus outside the United States. The international work is outgrowing the work in America. Nonetheless, Mr. McNair explained that America has been a considerable part of the overall Work.

99 – brethren with no congregation near them. These brethren live in 34 different countries, and in some cases, are the only Church members in their nations. 

60,000 – Personal Correspondence Department responses from 2004 to 2022. The PCD has helped feed the flock by giving answers and guidance to countless people through the years. 

500 – sermons transcribed for deaf members and translators. Mr. McNair explained the Church’s transcribing team, many members of which are volunteers, that works to create written copies of sermons for those who cannot hear or need to translate sermons into a different language for brethren.

15 – number of languages in which our material is available. Brethren around the world are able to receive spiritual nourishment from the Church due to the efforts and zeal of members who help with translation. 

Giving Meat in Due Season

Mr. McNair concluded the story of stats by referring to a passage in the gospel of Matthew:

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”

Matthew 24:45-46

These scriptures reveal a blessing, as well as a warning, for God’s Church in the end times. The Church must give food in due time to God’s elect. It must fulfil Christ’s admonition to feed and tend the flock. If that servant does not, God will reject him from the Kingdom of God and the family of God, and “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). Mr. McNair concluded by affirming that the Church Administration Department will continue to give food in due season to God’s elect, as it has for years.  

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. 

Forum Summary: Ark Builders

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

Estimated Reading Time: 5 min.

Noah lived in interesting times. Dr. Douglas Winnail explained that many parallels can be found between Noah’s era and the modern era.

He spoke about the use of a common expression: “May you live in very interesting times.” At first glance, this may seem like a kind remark, but if we look at what constitutes “interesting” in our current age, it may seem like a curse instead. Our world is becoming increasingly secular, as it was in Noah’s lifetime. Public school students are being expelled for believing in only two genders and standing up for their biblical beliefs. How can the story of Noah help us to understand the course our world is going towards now?

Not a Myth

Across the world, the story of Noah is widely regarded as merely a “Jewish legend,” and is simplified to just being about some people and animals being saved from a flood using a boat. Many other stories, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, have been clearly inspired from the flood story, but they often leave out the most important details. For example, the gods in the Epic of Gilgamesh are angered because of all the noise the humans are making on earth, not because of their sinful living. They are also mischievous and deceptive, unlike the true God, who is wholly righteous. Though Gilgamesh is directly taken from Noah’s story, it also directly takes out the important lesson of God punishing those who persist in sin by painting Gilgamesh and the other humans as the ones who are in the right. Even in ancient times, many people lacked perspective on the importance of the Great Flood, and tried to deemphasize God’s role in their own lives.

Lessons for Today

Job 12:23 tells us that God “makes nations great, and destroys them.” The flood was the first instance of God destroying civilizations, and it will not be the last! The people of Noah’s day were hopelessly sinful. They were corrupt and violent. Do we see much difference between that time and the modern era? One of the worst sins that Sodom and Gomorrah had committed was homosexuality, but today that is purposefully made to look tame! God guides the course of history, and He also worsens the living conditions for nations that do not commit to His commandments. Mankind, for the most part, has forgotten its Creator, going so far as to create “Freedom From Religion” movements. Modern, self-proclaimed “Christian” authors write about the consequences that will befall our nation because of its perversions. When Nations Die, by Jim Nelson Black, lists several warning signs to watch out for, all of which occurred before the death of major civilizations, like ancient Rome. Dr. Winnail simplified them into eight points, which are:

  1. Lawlessness
  2. Debt
  3. Materialism
  4. Decline of Education
  5. Decline of Traditions
  6. Decline of Morals
  7. Decline of Religious Beliefs
  8. Devaluing of Human Life

Dr. Winnail stated that America is going down the same road that leads to the collapse of society, but it is not paying attention. Luke 17:26-30 states that during the return of Christ, the nations of man will be like Sodom was before its destruction. Many religious authors and philosophers have tried offering solutions to man’s wickedness, even saying that Christians must completely separate themselves entirely from other people in order to build a new society, away from the mainstream—in other words, build a cultural ark! They fail to realize that Noah was saved from the flood because he preached righteousness to a world that would not listen to him. He provided a witness and a warning to other people, but the only ones who followed him on the ark were his family and the animals. Herbert W. Armstrong knew that, when he preached, not many people would stay with the truth. The Laodicean era had to start at some point, yet his mission was to preach the Gospel as witnesses to as many people as he could reach, and to warn them of the end-times. He started this nearly 100 years ago, and the work continues through the ministry of the Living Church of God, the members of which have come out of the world to recapture true values. 

Noah’s persistence in righteousness was ultimately what God blessed him and his family for. In order to better move forward to our roles in the coming Kingdom of God, we must put on the attitude that Noah had, as well as diligently watch for the signs of the end-times.

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.

Forum Summary: Delve into History

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

Estimated Reading Time: 9 min.

How seriously do we take the topic of history? Mr. Bob Rodzaj discussed this with the students of Living Education in this forum.

He recalled a trip that he took to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in his youth. He said that, like most children on trips to historical places, he only remembered monuments and grass, neglecting to appreciate why the town is famous in the first place: the Battle of Gettysburg. After revisiting it 30 years later and learning about what happened there, his eyes were opened. It expanded his worldview exponentially, and he then realized what he was missing, how much he was missing, and the difference it could make. History can enrich our lives and increase our potential in so many ways. Mr. Rodzaj encouraged us to delve into history—whatever strikes our fancy or satisfies our curiosity—to do just that.

A Modern Disinterest in History

Many people today have no interest in history. True history is not really being taught in our schools. Some young people do not even know who won the American Civil War, let alone that there even was one! Historical movies can seem long and boring when we don’t appreciate the background and context—and the life lessons that can be learned. But everyone loves a good story, and history is all about stories—stories that can benefit us in so many ways.

History is Everywhere!

The Bible is full of doctrine, prophecy, and examples of Christian living—AND history, from beginning to end. Many of the books found in the Bible are full of history. The book of Revelation itself is history written in advance! Many geographic locations can also be a great source of history. Mr. Rodzaj attended Virginia Tech for five years, but failed to appreciate at the time that the state of Virginia is saturated with early American and Civil War history. As a result, he missed out on a lot of potential learning! Modern Church history is also wholly interesting and beneficial. Many helpful lessons can be learned from the history of the Worldwide Church of God: stories of zeal, healings, massive growth, getting off track, getting back on track, the times surrounding the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, apostasies, and splits. Mr. Rodzaj recalled that he came into the Church in 1979, later attended Ambassador College, and eventually had to make difficult decisions when the great split came about. He was grateful to be surrounded by dedicated individuals who had experienced those earlier days—individuals who provided good examples to follow—which helped him to navigate the challenges, and to end up in the Living Church of God.

What History Teaches Us

Mr. Rodzaj gave examples of lessons history can teach us:

  1. A Lesson in Remaining Strong in the Faith

Revelation 2 and 3 tell us all about the eras of God’s Church. The Sardis era is known as the “dead church”, yet not all people’s faith were completely dead during this time. In Revelation 3:4, Christ said “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” Mr. Rodzaj also read from The Incredible History of God’s True Church, by Ivor C. Fletcher, which listed a few inspiring figures that persevered in their faith during the Sardis era, despite the Church of that era being religiously dead for the most part. Accounts like these can help encourage us to stay faithful in the hardest times, as well as to understand what we may face today or in the future.

  1. A Lesson in Leadership

During the American Civil War, Union General George B. McClellan and Confederate General Robert E. Lee provided a contrast in leadership styles. In the deadliest day-long battle in America’s military history, the battle of Antietam, McClellan led his army from a mile away, receiving reports and giving orders, distant and detached from what was really going on in the heat of battle. Meanwhile, Lee, engaged and involved, rode on horseback up and down his lines for hours to command his men. Though the Union had nearly twice as many soldiers than the Confederates, the battle ultimately ended in a draw because of the leadership of Lee. Lee’s example emphasizes how important it is to be engaged and involved as leaders.

  1. A Lesson in Communication

Abraham Lincoln was an amazing communicator whose use of figurative speech and metaphor—clear, forceful, and logical—helped America through the greatest test of its history. Lincoln’s famous “house divided” speech on the issue of slavery in America convinced many that slavery tolerated and expanded would indeed cause the nation to collapse. In the famous Gettysburg Address, likely the most well-known speech in history, Lincoln framed in two minutes the great significance of the struggle to preserve the nation. Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours prior to Lincoln’s short address, wrote, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Lincoln was a gifted communicator; studying his example can help us to grow as communicators as well.

  1. A Lesson in Virtues to Emulate

History provides examples of great and unselfish leaders that can help us to emulate them. The book Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, describes the political genius and magnanimity of Abraham Lincoln, who placed in his own Cabinet political rivals he had run against in his presidential campaign. He had to continually deal with men who believed he was moronic, men who criticized his decisions and actions were utterly foolish. Yet he dealt with these men respectfully, recognizing their value and counsel. Because of Lincoln’s gracious and respectful treatment, these men became his greatest admirers and devotees.

  1. Lessons in What to Do and What Not to Do

History can teach us what to do and what not to do. In the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant was highly regarded as a general, but his early overconfidence almost cost him dearly in some of his initial battles. General McClellan, who struggled with fear and insecurity, squandered many opportunities to end the Civil War early on as a result. History also shows us how temperament and personality can affect people’s choices and decisions. Studying historical figures’ great successes and failures, and why they occurred, can help us to analyze our own behaviors, and steer us away from making similar mistakes.

  1. A Lesson in the Complexities of Human Nature

Learning about the backgrounds of historical figures can show us how human nature develops and operates within people, and how they affect a person’s motives and behavior. The book Crucible of Command analyzes how the upbringings of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee affected their leadership later in life. Grant, in his early life, was not the brightest boy, but he had grown up in a family with a father present to mentor him. He became very patient, understanding, and successful in leading and dealing with people because of this. Confederate General Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, grew up with an absentee father, leaving him a product of paternal neglect. He grew up having to take care of a mother who struggled with depression and needed constant care. As a result, Lee struggled with melancholy, and did not deal with those he commanded head-on, but indirectly, which at times was problematic. We all have different backgrounds, so understanding what factors into our mindsets early on can help us to better analyze our own behavior and be better prepared to deal with people in this life and in the next age.

Caution: There’s Always A Narrative!

In studying history, be aware that there’s always a narrative that can impact our point of view and what we can learn from historical accounts. Bible translations and commentaries provide examples for us. Mr. Rodzaj explained that Bible translations often depend on the agenda of the translators. That’s why it’s important for us to become familiar with the authors of the translation, their reasons for creating the translation, and how they interpreted the original texts. Likewise, Bible commentaries tend to reflect the belief system of their authors and their own understanding of the Bible. History too has its narratives, and we need to understand the point of view of the historians who relate it, to gain a proper perspective on what really happened and those who were involved.

Much to Gain

There are important lessons to be learned in both worldly and biblical history. History can:

  • Help you have an outward mindset and outlook on life.
  • Help you make better choices and decisions.
  • Help you better understand and deal with other people.
  • Help you develop traits and habits that will enhance your personality and character.
  • Help you become better qualified to assist Christ in the next age.

So delve into history, and let history enrich your life and increase your potential!

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.

Forum Summary: Paths of Success

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

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

The Living Educations students received a forum presentation from Dr. John Cole discussing the paths of success. 

To begin, Dr. Cole admonished the students to consider the path they take, researching jobs and opportunities qualitatively and quantitatively. We must avoid applying for a position in just any company or embarking on the first endeavor that crosses our path. Instead, we should take the time to investigate. If we are considering applying to a company, Dr. Cole admonished the students to spend some time on its website, learn its mission statement, observe the competition, and find the causes it supports, like its diversity and sustainability policies. He introduced an effective qualitative method for evaluating jobs, opportunities, or even yourself!

SWOT Analysis

Dr. Cole elaborated on a method of analysis that involves listing strengths and weaknesses, followed by opportunities and threats. The strengths and weaknesses are internal attributes. Dr. Cole gave the example of analyzing a company. First, we consider what the company does well: Does it have a strong brand name or proprietary technology that gives it an advantage over its competitors? Then, we investigate weaknesses, finding out what causes problems and bottlenecks or ways the competitors are stronger than the company in question. After this, Dr. Cole explained the external considerations; we look for opportunities that may benefit the company. Are trade tariffs going to be lowered, improving profits? We also pinpoint threats. What are major events that could occur that would damage the company’s sales or assets? Dr. Cole explained that this method is widely used, even at the highest level of management. This research is invaluable for a job interview. Having a detailed understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a company will absolutely impress its hiring manager. 

Tips for Success 

Dr. Cole encouraged the students to market their skills well. We can change our mindset from “I get to meet this person” to “This person gets to meet me.” It is important to remember our value! We can present our life and experience as a narrative, engaging the listener and compelling them. 

Another path for success, as Dr. Cole explained, is to build your network. It is immensely valuable to create a list of professional contacts that we accumulate over the years. This will make it easy to stay in steady communication over time. For expanding your network, he recommended getting introductions from existing contacts. It is also helpful to use sites like LinkedIn, join forums, and even make a website showcasing samples of our work. 

Be prepared for ethical challenges. Dr. Cole reminded the students that most people do not prioritize morality; out in the workforce we will see unethical decisions, and we may even be pressured to perform some ourselves. We must be prepared to counter such influences.

He also said to consider the details of a company or agency if we are considering working for them. Fortune 500 companies will open doors for the future. A publicly traded company is going to be different from a private company. Working for a state agency will differ from having a federal position. Also, a prospective company may be owned by a parent corporation, which means it could be sold. These are areas he gave to consider when looking at a job, but this analysis can be useful when considering starting a business or when planning a different endeavor. 

Dr. Cole told us that there are three topics to avoid in a professional environment: sex, religion, and politics. People may try to pull us into a conversation on one of these, but it is a bad idea. He also said that people will even try to start arguments with us; it is prudentto keep our guard up on these topics. 

He addressed choosing the trade or academic path. Either is fine, but Dr. Cole said to always treat everyone with respect. We cannot assume people from either path are stupid. How they make the world a better place is the only thing that matters.

Dress for success. Dr. Cole told the students that this principle is as true now as it has ever been. If we interview for a more casual type of job, we can still dress up—just make it clear that we are doing it out of respect for the interviewer and company, and not only to make ourselves look good. 

Dr. Cole gave another key piece of advice: always send thank-you notes after interviews or other meetings. This is a crucial step many people miss.

For his last tip, Dr. Cole mentioned the value of apprenticeships and internships. These are great opportunities to test a field and learn from experienced professionals. Even outside of formal positions, the attitude of looking to test out a field and get experience from professionals can help many types of endeavors to succeed. 

Envision Your Success

Dr. Cole told the students to envision their success. This involves developing a clear goal, identifying all the prerequisites needed, and making a plan to develop them. It is critical to train in the skills we need. Our ultimate goal is the Kingdom of God, and we must apply even more energy and strategy into pursuing this goal. Concluding, Dr. Cole admonished the students to learn these strategies and apply these tips on their path to success. 

Mr. Tyler Wayne gave a forum recently on analyzing risks and planning small business projects. This forum is available here: Take a Risk and Do Something.

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. 

Forum Summary: We Are Called to Be a Blessing

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

Estimated reading time: 4 min.

In his forum presentation, Mr. Laybeh gave the Living Education students a glimpse into the new developments in the Work in Thailand.

First, he gave a little background about himself to the students. He was born in Myanmar but forced to flee at a young age and spent much of his childhood in Thailand. Later on, he moved to the UK and worked there for over a decade. But God had a plan for him, and that plan involved him returning to Thailand once again–this time to serve God’s Work by preaching the Gospel and feeding the flock in Southeast Asia.

Preaching the Gospel

As Mr. Laybeh explained, the work began to register the Living Church of God  in Thailand as a nonprofit organization back in 2016. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Church received a Foundation Registration Certificate, and Mr. Laybeh was able to return to Thailand in the beginning of 2019 and spearhead the work there. Now, there are 36 booklets and 22 Children’s Bible Lessons translated into Thai, and the Facebook advertising efforts in Thailand have generated 1,383 subscribers. In 2021, they began to process literature requests for Thai-based subscribers, and now have sent over 1,881 pieces of literature!

Feeding the Flock

Mr. Laybeh also gave an update on the congregations in Thailand and Myanmar. There are two congregations in Thailand, as well as two main congregations and scattered brethren in four locations in Myanmar. Unfortunately, the congregations in Myanmar cannot be visited at present, because of the ongoing crisis in that country. On a brighter note, Mr. Laybeh reported that they have baptized four people since 2019, and will hopefully baptize more when Myanmar reopens its borders.

Current Situation in Myanmar

Mr. Laybeh explained the current crisis in Myanmar, which impacts the 80 brethren we have in that country. Hyperinflation and rising costs of living are threatening to drive the whole nation into poverty. Refugees continue to flee from Myanmar to Thailand, and many people live in fear daily. The brethren in northern Myanmar cannot connect to live-streamed services every week, but fortunately, those in the south can. Recently, the “Friendship Bridge” between Thailand and Myanmar over the Myawaddy River at the town of Maesot did reopen, but “there is no definitive indication of when the Military Junta will fully open the country.” Mr. Laybeh pointed out that problems like this will only persist until the Kingdom of God is established on the earth; we should all be praying and hoping that day comes soon.

LCG Thailand Foundation Education Project

There is reason to be excited about the work in Southeast Asia. Mr. Laybeh introduced the LCG Thailand Foundation Education Project, a project that reminds us that we are called to be a blessing to the world. Since 2018, the project has taught English at local schools, beginning with an online English class. In 2019, the Education Project began to provide education supplies to various schools in rural areas.

Also in 2019, the Foundation began organizing an in-person teaching effort with the Maeku Municipality School, assisting the Thai teachers in an English class. A pilot program was done in late 2019 with two ladies from Australia. In 2020, Mr. Weston visited the Maeku School and explored the idea of having Living Education students assist the project. COVID interfered with this at the time, but as of 2023, the idea is being reintroduced!

Community Development Project

Mr. Laybeh pointed out that, as members of God’s Church,  we are “called to be a blessing,” and this includes serving and helping in the community. He went through the Foundation’s community development efforts. They help local communities with youth and family issues, warning against drug use and other matters that come up. In addition, the foundation works with the Tak Provincial Administrative Organization to help rural communities in times of emergencies and with basic necessities. They even work with the Social Development and Human Security Office in that province, assisting with emergency relief and Corporate Social Responsibility projects. Mr. Laybeh also highlighted the gardening project, which aims to give experience to locals in tending a garden. This small project points to the Kingdom of God, when all of Earth will return to a more agrarian life.

He finally concluded that we are not called into the Church by mere chance or coincidence—we are called for a reason, and that is to be a blessing by striving to do our parts in serving and giving hope to a dying world. As long as we are devoted to our calling, stay on course, and do not give up, we will eventually become a great asset to God to be used in accomplishing His Work on this earth.

The Living Education students also heard a forum from Mr. Rajan Moses—a pastor in Malaysia—encouraging us to look at all brethren around the world as family. Read about that forum here: God is a Family!

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. 

Forum Summary: Stand Up to the Woke Agenda

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

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

Mr. Weston implored the Living Education students to develop the courage to stand up against the agendas of this world and follow God. 

Mr. Weston began with a famous quote from Earnest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The passage involves a conversation between two people. One asks, “How’d you go bankrupt?” 

The other responds, “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” Mr. Weston pointed out that many younger adults, like the students in Living Education, have grown up in the “suddenly” part of our nation’s moral decline. The world was gradually moving toward moral bankruptcy, but now it’s in freefall. Mr. Weston warned that morals today are not just in decline; they are under attack. It is not enough to be a generally good person. It is going to take courage to hold godly values.

Why Is Courage Necessary?

Courage is critical for true Christians today, Mr. Weston explained, because this country’s institutions are rapidly falling to radical leftism. All human politics is flawed, but modern leftism leaves no room for disagreement. Thus, a true Christian is destined for a collision with this movement. 

Mr. Weston briefly mentioned the root of modern radical leftism, which is the Frankfurt School of social theory and critical philosophy. This ideology claims liberty and freedom but really just seeks to remove any trace of biblical values. The new values are rooted in Marxism, with no space for compromise or debate. Already, people go to a type of corporate gulag for retraining if they disagree with critical theories. Ironically, Mr. Weston pointed out, many communist armies in the past have labeled themselves as liberators and liberation forces, but Paul warns us to examine those who propose liberty but bring nothing but captivity. 

“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”

2 Peter 2:19 NKJV

Mr. Weston warned that the social engineers today want to remove the fetters of biblical restraint, the commandments and laws of God. He turned to Psalm 2, which is a prophecy of the end time, and highlighted the second and third verses. 

“The kings of the earth set themselves,

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us break Their bonds in pieces

And cast away Their cords from us.”

Psalm 2:2-3 NKJV

Society today is moving away from the Ten Commandments and the Laws of God, labeling them oppressive.”

Mr. Weston emphatically stated, “It takes courage to stand up to the woke agenda bullies.” They are pushing abortion, LGBT ideals, and even euthanization on anyone and everyone today, and we must stand up for God and for truth. But standing up for God’s truth, Mr. Weston explained, puts a target on our backs. He quoted Isaiah to demonstrate. 

“Justice is turned back,

And righteousness stands afar off;

For truth is fallen in the street,

And equity cannot enter.

So truth fails,

And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.”

Isaiah 59:14-15 NKJV

We are making ourselves prey for radicals today simply by obeying God. That takes courage.

Two Ways to Have Moral Courage

“How and when is moral courage needed?” Mr. Weston asked. He gave two critical keys. 

1) Fear God. Mr. Weston used the story of the Egyptian midwives to demonstrate. These women feared God more than Pharoah and had the courage to defy the order to kill newborn babies. We must fear God more than any professor, boss, or figure in our lives, and that will give us courage to follow Him. Having a true fear of God is not bad. Rather, “[the] Fear of God is a liberating emotion, freeing one from a disabling fear of evil, powerful people,” Mr. Weston declared, quoting Dennis Prager. 

2) Live by Values. When our decisions are guided by godly values like the Ten Commandments, Mr. Weston emphasized, we see right from wrong much more clearly. If we allow money, greed, or lust to influence our path, we may end up compromising on God’s ideals. Mr. Weston pointed to the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the account of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. These men did not justify bowing down to an idol. They did not say, Well, it’s not real anyway. I’ll just worship God in my heart and only do this outwardly. Rather, they lived by their values, willing to be thrown into a fiery furnace before compromising. 

Fear God, Not the Bullies

Mr. Weston admonished the students to learn to fear God in a real, genuine way and to practice making decisions based on values. God expects us to be examples and lights in the world, which means we cannot be afraid to be noticed, and that takes courage in our society today. We should not be reckless and pursue conflicts, but when the time comes, we will have to stand up for God’s truth and give the right answer. Mr. Weston concluded with a simple instruction: “Fear God over the bullies.”
Mr. Kearns also addressed the dangers of political movements in New Zealand and around the world in his forum: The Battle for the Planet.

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. 

Forum Summary: Read Good Books!

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

Estimated Reading Time: 4 min.

Mr. Gerald E. Weston began this forum by presenting the students of Living Education with a question: “How accurate is the statement ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’?”

He explained that, in reality, a picture is limited in scope and in size, and is therefore limited in what it is able to teach you. It does not tell you what went before and after, or what is outside of its limits. This was a revelation he learned from Neil Postman’s, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Another lesson from that book is how we define intelligence in different generations. An intellectual was once defined as someone who could both read and write, but today “we are living in an age of trivial pursuit.” Now people are considered smart for knowing little things about seemingly nothing. Ken Jennings, who is famous for holding the record of 74 consecutive wins on Jeopardy!, may know a lot of little facts, but people who only rely on these facts may be led astray by having a lack of context behind them. For instance, we know that people will often call us “uneducated” in our religious practices, because we are seemingly “out of step” with the practices of the rest of the world; however, we practice them anyway, because we know that they are found in God’s word. Mr. Weston instructed the students to therefore read good books in order to build on their knowledge, and learn to think about and analyze what is happening around them.

Fiction and Nonfiction

There are a number of good books in the world, and we need to know which ones will be the most beneficial reads. Certain fiction can even be edifying for us. For example Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, shows us a future where artificial birthing replaces human parents, which speaks to how nuclear families are more and more being done away with now. Animal Farm, by George Orwell, shows the reader the effects of widespread socialism around the world, which seems to be happening among the youth of today’s world. Some fiction, of course, may not be good for us. Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, is often praised for its “genuine” main character and portrayal of very “human” behavior, and has long been read by adolescents in school, even though it promotes the use of a number of foul words. Our nation’s education systems also teach many exaggerations in their history classes, such as the role that Sacagawea played in the Lewis and Clark expedition and when World War II really began (it wasn’t with Pearl Harbor!). But some history books can show us the reality of our world’s history, and are highly educational.

A Look Into Our World

Social books can point out trends in the “androgynous culture” that is being promoted today, and why people are the way they are. They can be somewhat edifying, even when they may be actively promoting the wrong ideas. For example, After the Ball, by Madsen and Kirk, promotes homosexuality, but also clearly shows us how activists have come to successfully promote it as acceptable ever since the 1990s. Even though it actively encourages homosexuality, it also acknowledges the pitfalls found within same-sex relationships and understands that heterosexual marriages are more stable. If we read these kinds of books, we must, of course, realize the way that the authors contradict both themselves and the teachings of God. Books that speak on our society can tell us about all the damages that have been done to society since the popularization of the false ideas of dating, sex, and gender.

Reading good books will broaden our horizons and can teach us about the world we currently live in, as well as the one that we may come to live in. It gives us more credibility in our personal knowledge, and teaches us how to better think and analyze. Mr. Weston concluded by telling the students to give themselves a minimum of fifteen minutes of reading a day, and to develop it into a habit. Reading is enriching and greatly profitable!

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.

Forum Summary: Be Grateful and Content with What You Have

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

Estimated reading time: 5 min.

In a recent forum, the students heard from Mr. Lawdi Ferreira, a minister in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mr. Ferreira opened with a profound perspective: “We, as ministers, learn so much and are encouraged by many of God’s people.” He explained that he travels to several countries near South Africa and recently visited Malawi, a small nation by Zambia and Mozambique. Mr. Ferreira shared the inspiring and profound lesson he experienced from the time he spent with God’s people there.  

Lessons from Malawi

A picture of a house in Malawi

Malawi, he explained, is a beautiful country, though very poor. But unlike South Africa, there is not much violence and crime. As one of the brethren in Malawi said, “People don’t steal from each other because they know their neighbors don’t have much either.” Instead, people look out for each other, doing things like sharing the extra bread they have after baking. 

The brethren in Malawi struggle financially, yet they are still content. Their homes are built from self-made bricks, or they are tin houses. But they make them happy places, places for family to gather and where God is the number-one priority. Some members have to walk for hours to get to services, but at services, they all praise God wholeheartedly. Mr. Ferreira recalled that the service of about 30 members seemed like some of the loudest singing that he had heard. It brought to mind Psalm 95:1-2.

“Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” 

Psalm 95:1-2 NKJV

At services, he saw lots of smiles and lots of happiness—and no complaining! They are just happy to be a part of God’s end-time work and look forward to the coming Kingdom of God. Some of these brethren do not have a bed to sleep on or transportation to take them to church and yet they are still grateful and content! What about us in first world countries? “Perhaps,” Mr. Ferreira said, “the biggest sin we have is a lack of thankfulness.” 

Learn to Be Content

Mr. Ferreira reminded the students that happiness is a choice, and we have the power—and the responsibility—to choose to be happy and thankful always. He turned to Philippians and read the passage where Paul said that he learned to be both abundant and abased, to suffer need and still be thankful, “for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content” (Philippians 4:10-13). Ultimately, God will provide us with our needs (Philippians 4:19-20). We should always be thankful, putting God above the cares of this world. 

Avoid the Love of Money

Specifically, Mr. Ferreira told the students to avoid seeking money, “for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). He encouraged us to be content with our calling and our blessings, and he reminded us not to chase after material possessions. We must seek first the Kingdom of God and not waste time chasing mammon like so many people in the world today. “They,” Mr. Ferriera said, speaking of those caught up in the world, “compromise for physical goals and end up exactly where they started: unhappy and dissatisfied.”

Count Your Blessings

Mr. Ferreira pointed out that our weakness as humans is that we often look straight past our blessings and only see what we don’t have. This ungratefulness is extremely common. He pointed to the account of Christ healing ten lepers and only one turning back and thanking Him (Luke 17:11-19). We do the same thing when we forget our blessings. We must pray and thank God for all our blessings.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV

Mr. Ferreira recalled a trip to Zambia. The brethren there are scattered all over the country and only meet together on special occasions. One of the Zambian brethren said, “It would be wonderful to meet together like this every Sabbath.” Do we take blessings—like having a local congregation to meet with at services every week—for granted? All too often, we do. To combat ungratefulness, Mr. Ferreira encouraged the students to make a list of everything they are thankful for, including the small details. 

Be Satisfied with What You Already Have

Mr. Ferreira warned the students not to chase after what we already have. We are blessed in countless ways, but most of all we are blessed to be called by God. God will provide for our needs no matter what.

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5, ESV

Mr. Ferreira admonished the students to be content like our brethren in Malawi, and to thank God always for our blessings. 
In 2020, Mr. Ferreira gave another excellent forum on building our lives on the right foundation, not on greed and love of money: Assembly Summary: Build Your House.

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.