Forum Summary: The Habit Way

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Mr. Brandon Fall pastors six congregations in Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. “It’s good to be here with you. I pastor the American Northwest, but we’re right in transition to move to the Mountain States—Wyoming—later this month.” After this move, Mr. Fall will be responsible for ten congregations across Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Alaska.

“Parlez-vous Anglais?”

Several years back, Mr. Fall and his wife flew from Los Angelos to Paris to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in France. They had made plans to meet friends in Paris with whom they could drive to the Feast site. Mr. Fall was following behind their car on a freeway when their friends ahead suddenly merged onto an offramp towards a different freeway. Mr. Fall managed to merge right also, but at the last second, their friends switched lanes again, back onto the highway. There was a car in the lane to the left of him, and it was too late for Mr. Fall to get over. They had no choice but to take the exit. They were on their own in a foreign city, and Mr. Fall said the extent of his French was, “Parlez-vous anglais?”  Do you speak English?

“It’s so easy to get off the path if you haven’t systematically planned.”

The Church, beginning with the time of the Apostles (Acts 19:9,23), has served as the center for learning the Christian way of life. The purpose of Living Ed, outlined on, reflects this: “Systematic training in the knowledge and understanding of the Way of God.” Using the book Atomic Habits by James Clear as a reference, Mr. Fall spoke to the students about establishing a deliberate way of life by harnessing the power of tiny, daily habits.

Daily habits make up one’s way of life. “Every action you take,” Mr. Fall said, “is a vote for the type of person you become.” In Matthew 6:33-34, Christ defined a Christian’s ultimate goal—to be in the Kingdom of God. But He then said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Mr. Fall said, “You focus on the Kingdom of God by focusing on the here and now.” Small habits are like compounding interest over time—their value builds. “Let’s zero in on three practical steps to implement the way of small habits.”

The Way of Small Habits

Don’t focus on motivation. Focus on changing habits. “If we’re at the mercy of how we feel, and if we don’t feel motivated, what are we going to do then?” Rather than depend on motivation, Mr. Fall encouraged the students to install habits that become part of their identity. “What we do reinforces our identity and our path.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 reads, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Daily habits, like prayer or Bible study, renew a Christian’s identity and keeps them in God’s way. “When we install a habit, we no longer need willpower to continue, so our limited willpower can be used to install a new one.”

Establish the pattern. Clear wrote, “A habit must be established before it’s improved.” People who want to change their lives often envision a complete transformation. But to install a habit, Mr. Fall explained, one must set a pattern first—even if it means starting small. Atomic Habits contains an example of a man who wanted to lose 100 pounds. For two months, he went to the gym and exercised for five minutes. The pattern was established after a few weeks, and he began to stay longer and exercise. He accomplished his goal by establishing a rock-solid pattern.

Track your progress. “A habit tracker provides psychologic feedback of accomplishment.” Mr. Fall recommended the students build a habit tracker, with which they can check off the habits accomplished every day over a month. He explained tracking one’s progress brings satisfaction and builds momentum. Moses wrote, “The days of our lives are seventy years… for it is soon cut off, and we fly away… So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10-12). Habit tracking also instills awareness of the passage of time and the value of every day.

“Living Ed students, you have a path in your life. You’re learning the way of God.” Mr. Fall concluded his talk, “You can have great intentions, but if you don’t have intentional habits, it’s so easy to get lost in Paris.” Daily, atomic habits can establish a Christian’s way of life and keep them from accidentally merging off the right highway.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Five Ways to Manage Stress

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Mr. Ron Poole is the area pastor for several congregations in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Mr. Frank introduced him to the students, “Mr. Poole lives not too far from us here, but he’s a busy man. Mr. Poole, it’s all yours.”

“How many of you have had an encounter with a snake?” Most of the students raised their hands, and Mr. Poole recounted an experience. He and some other young men were paddling down the Saluda River. With three adults weighing down their canoe, the water level was only three or four inches below the edge of the boat. He said, “I look over to the right, and here comes a snake swimming towards the canoe.” The young guys yelled and slapped the water, trying to scare it away, but it kept racing closer. Mr. Poole considered leaping out the other side and letting the snake have the boat it so badly wanted, but they finally frightened it away with their paddles.

Fight or Flee?

The human body is equipped with a chemical “alarm system” designed to deal with short-term emergencies. Mr. Poole explained how a hormonal surge in the brain’s hypothalamus increases the heart rate and blood circulation, mobilizing energy in the body and enabling a person to react quickly to danger. He said, “But when that same stress response keeps firing day after day, it can put the body at risk.” The constant influx of these stress hormones in the body weakens the immunes system and degrades one’s psychological state. Mr. Poole pointed out short term stress is not the problem. Prolonged stress—distress—is the issue. While college life may be considered a great time of life, Mr. Poole said, “We tend to ignore the pressure during this period.” Missed due dates, incomplete work, and lack of engagement in class are all signs of stress that need to be relieved.

How to Reduce Stress

The motto of Living Education is “Building a Godly Foundation.” Mr. Poole said, “I want to encourage you to build on that foundation to help you relieve the stress in your life.” The students received five keys to reducing stress.

“Read more.” In a study done at Seton Hall University in 2009, researchers found that just thirty minutes of reading lowered a stressed student’s blood pressure as effectively as yoga or humor. Another study found the habit of reading lowers one’s mortality risk by twenty percent. He advised the students to take time to search out positive reading material. “Reading gives muscle to the memory and keeps the mind young.”

“Unplug from technology.” While modern technology can make life easier, Mr. Poole said, “Too often, it creates more stress.” Teens who are addicted to the internet are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. At Hasselt University, researchers found that a three percent increase in neighborhood “greenness” increased children’s IQ score by an average of 2.6 points. Mr. Poole recommended the students unplug from their devices and spend time in the natural world.

“Stay positive and forgive others.” Mr. Poole said the major cause of stress is relationships. Even in extremely stressful situations, Paul kept his focus on God and helping others (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Mr. Poole said, “Christ taught us to forgive others even as He was being crucified.” A positive and forgiving person manages their stress more effectively.

“Plan your routine.” Another simple way to prevent stress is to plan your day the night before. Mr. Poole used the Sabbath as an example. When small decisions—like what you will wear and what you need to bring to services—are made beforehand, many little stresses are eliminated and the Sabbath becomes more rewarding. “Preparation helps you to be ready for life’s daily opportunities.”

“Don’t be pulled in by the world.” “It seems we can’t escape from stress… Forty million adults [in the U.S.] have an anxiety disorder.” Mr. Poole reminded the students that Christians should go to God with their stresses. “We recognize the way of life God affords us brings a tremendous level of peace.” 1 John 2:15-17 contains the “world’s advertisements” that keep Christians from focusing on their primary goals in life. While Christ said the hearts of men would fail them at the end of the age (Luke 21:25-26), Mr. Poole warned the students not to be pulled in by the world—so they can face the difficult future with faith, not failing hearts.

Manage Your Stress

“You, young people, will move on to help lead the Church in the future… We need you to have cool heads. We need you to keep your feet firmly on the ground, on the firm foundation you’re building on. It is up to you. You must manage your stress level. As you do, you’ll reserve the hormones for the next time you walk upon a snake.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: Hollywood’s Marxist Propaganda

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 3 seconds.

Mr. Michael Brown pastors two congregations in Saskatchewan, Canada. He spoke to the students about communism and the influence of Marx’s ideologies on modern society. Mr. Armstrong called communism “worldwide psychological warfare.” In 1956, he wrote, “We are not fighting a single nation in a military war, but a gigantic worldwide, plain-clothes army, masquerading as a political party… [It will] weaken us from within… destroying our spiritual and religious life…” After World War II, Mr. Armstrong believed Russia would not attack the West militarily, but psychologically. Communism—or leftism—did not disappear with the dismantling of many communist governments in the twentieth century. As Mr. Armstrong predicted, communism simply took a new form.

What is Neo-Marxism?

Mr. Brown asked, “But what is Neo-Marxism—or leftism—and what is it we can do to protect ourselves?” He gave seven short points on Marxism, taken directly from the leftist “bible,” The Communist Manifesto—the third most assigned textbook in American universities.

First, communism “promotes change through radical action.” Marx believed the solution to historic class struggles in society was the violent overthrow of the rich. Another core goal of Marxism is the “doing away of private property.” Marx claimed that if the working man rebelled against the rich, all wealth would be handed over to the state, ushering in the dictatorship of the working man. Third, communism reflects Marx’s hate for families. Marx wrote about removing “the two bases of traditional marriage—the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.” He believed the traditional family model treated women and children like “oppressed factory workers.” Mr. Brown that communism dissolves distinct nationalities. “Marx believed the working man had no country.” Fifth, communism brings the destruction of all religion, truth, morality, and tradition. Marx wrote, “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality… [It] acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.” Finally, Marx aimed to bring world peace by establishing a utopian world via government. He believed revolution was justified by its results.

“Of all the arts, cinema is most important to us.”

– Vladimir Lenin

During Russia’s Bolshevik rule, Vladimir Lenin promoted his revolutionary agenda by equipping trains with propaganda movies, sending them throughout the country. Joseph Goebbels was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945. He controlled the German film industry during the Nazi period. In 1941, Goebbels commissioned the film I Accuse, in which a woman convinces her husband to poison her to end her suffering from multiple sclerosis. This film was designed to inspire sympathy for Aktion T4—a program that authorized certain physicians to euthanize patients. Hundreds of thousands of injured or sick people were murdered as a result.

“We all know who the first revolutionary was—an angel named Lucifer.” Today, Satan uses Marx’s ideas to tear down a nation’s belief structure, including the tradition of the family and a belief in God. Mr. Brown emphasized one of the major avenues for this psychological attack is the entertainment industry. Hollywood has weaponized Marx’s ideas to reshape people’s attitudes and pervert their morals. Genesis 19:1 describes the gates of Sodom. Mr. Brown asked, “What types of things do you think you would see at these gates? Today, those gates live in our pockets, our bedrooms, and our living rooms.”

Modern Gates of Sodom and Gomorrah

Christians are to “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:23-24). Mr. Brown encouraged the students to analyze the entertainment they absorb for subtle narratives. For example, Rudy, “one of the ultimate underdog films of all time,” falsely portrays the authority figures in Rudy’s life as harsh and unmerciful. In Star Wars, the villains are authoritative and ordered, an evil father tries to destroy his son, and Luke is advised to trust in his feelings—not guidance from wise mentors. “So often in movies,” Mr. Brown said, “good qualities are given to the bad guys and bad qualities are given to the good guys.” Even seemingly innocent children’s movies, like Finding Nemo or Happy Feet, contain subtle, ungodly propaganda. “The audience begins to reshape their personal reality to reflect the reality of the characters and the narrative of the film. As we develop affection for the characters, it can lead to us being accepting of their wrong behaviors.”

What can we do to protect ourselves?

2 Corinthians 6:14 reads, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” Christians can accidentally fellowship with characters on a screen. Mr. Brown explained even virtual, evil company will corrupt good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). “Hollywood and the entertainment industry are the biggest propaganda tools in the world.” While God teaches blessings follow obedience and curses follow disobedience, the entertainment industry lies, showing curses for obedience and blessings for disobedience. Mr. Brown encouraged the students to replace the Hollywood propaganda in their life with wholesome pastimes that impart wisdom and knowledge.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Build Your House

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 38 seconds.

Mr. Lawdi Ferreira spoke to Living Ed students over a Webex video conference. Table Mountain—one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World—towered above Cape Town in Mr. Ferreira’s virtual background. “I’m using this to attract you to come to Cape Town for the Feast.” Mr. Ferreira has three kids, and he pastors congregations in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He began, “I want to start off by telling a story of a builder.”

There was a master builder who decided to retire to enjoy a more relaxed life. But when he approached his boss about retiring, he was asked to build one more house as a personal favor. He agreed, and he began to build one last home. Yet his heart was not in his work, and he constructed the house poorly. When he finished, to his surprise, his boss handed him the keys to the house—it was a final gift to the builder.

“There is so much meaning in that story for you and me. You and I are building our spiritual houses right now.” Yet, Mr. Ferreira explained, God offers the help the students will need to build a strong spiritual life. 1 Corinthians 3:9-10 reads, “… you are God’s building… But let each one take heed how he builds on it.” Mr. Ferreira said, “I would like to give you three keys to help you build a strong spiritual house.

Build on the Right Foundation

Young people can be full of exciting dreams of what they want to do in their future. Mr. Ferreira called it “a wonderful time of life.” He advised the students to recognize this period as crucial—their future decisions hinge on the choices they make now. A Christian’s foundation should be Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Mr. Ferreira asked, “How do you ensure that you build on Christ?” He turned to Luke 6:46-48, where Christ defined the man who built his house on a rock as the man who heard and lived by His sayings. Mr. Ferreira encouraged the students to build their foundation by examining their choice of movies, music, games, social media, friends, conversation, and career choices and ask, Would Christ approve?

Don’t Compromise

When Mr. Ferreira was nineteen, he and a friend went to the U.K. to work and save for college. Yet every job he applied to required him to work on the Sabbath. His friend pushed him to compromise, and on their third day in London, he had only seven dollars left. That day, he found a job that would accommodate the Sabbath. “God was testing me to the end—but, interestingly, I never had that trial again there.” Learning not to compromise can be “an expensive lesson to learn.” Matthew 6:33 contains a Christian’s foremost mission—to seek the Kingdom—and nothing should compromise that goal. But, Mr. Ferreira emphasized, “God will give the outcome, just don’t compromise.”

Look Ahead to Your Future

The marshmallow test famously assesses a child’s ability to delay gratification: a child is told he can have one marshmallow now, or two later if he waits. Mr. Ferreira’s son was given this test. The teacher told him he could have two marshmallows if he waited until after a conversation. Later, Mr. Ferreira was told his son—while he didn’t hear a word of the conversation—waited and passed the test. “Our ability to sacrifice the present for the future is very crucial.” Human nature makes people “want what they want and want it now.” Just as Esau sold his birthright for some stew (Genesis 25:29-34), Christians can lose sight of what is truly valuable. “The world that Satan creates is very attractive,” like a cardboard box iced with frosting to appear like a cake. 2 Peter 2:15-21 speaks of Christians who return and entangle themselves with the sins of the world. “We shouldn’t pass by our eternal reward for a short-term reward Satan offers.”

“Make sure you build without regret.”

Mr. Ferreira quoted Annie Dillard: “The way you live your days is the way you live your life.” He exhorted the students to use the opportunity they have in the Church of God now to build a foundation, to stand up in obedience to God without compromise, and to keep their eyes focused on the future. “Yours and my life in God’s Kingdom will be a result of our decisions and attitudes today—it will be a result of how we build our house.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: Africa

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds.

“Today, I’d like to enlarge your view of the world.” Mr. Peter Nathan, the Regional Director of Europe, Africa, and the U.K gave a Forum on the Work in Africa. Some may think of exotic wildlife or the Sahara when they think of this continent. But Mr. Nathan said, “Let me present to you a different view.” Africa represents twenty percent of the land area of the earth. “What does that mean to you and me?” This “continent of extremes” can fit the U.S.A, Japan, China, India, Mexico, and several European countries inside its borders. Mr. Nathan covered the three major spheres of operation for the Church in Africa.

Southern Africa

Mr. Nathan explained that southern Africa “can make you can feel like you’ve experienced the Kingdom of God ahead of time,” as some who have kept the Feast there can confirm. But it is also a region where an entire congregation can be incarcerated on the way home from services. Bordered by Zambia and Malawi in the north and the Cape in the south, this region was introduced to the World Tomorrow in the 60s, when it aired from stations in the Congo and Mozambique. The first baptizing tour in the region occurred in 1961, and an office in Johannesburg was set up in 1963. By the time Mr. Nathan was sent to the region in 1973, there were four congregations in Zimbabwe and six in South Africa, with members scattered around the region. Today, there are 190 members, eleven congregations, three regular Feast sites, and a summer Living Youth Program.

Eastern Africa

“We can focus on the center point: Lake Victoria.” Lake Victoria is the third largest body of freshwater in the world and is a major source of water for Egypt and eastern Africa. In 1975, Mr. Armstrong visited President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. From 1975 to the present, the Church has grown in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. There are now 300-600 attendees, 29 congregations, and sixteen elders, with four Feast sites and an annual Living Youth Program in Kenya.

Central and Western Africa

In 1960, two radio stations in Sierra Leone and Nigeria projected Mr. Armstrong’s voice across central and western Africa. While the station in Nigeria brought a healthy response, the broadcast from Sierra Leone did not. Mr. Nathan shared a story: In 1961, a wealthy magistrate in Nigeria wrote to Pasadena asking, Please, come and baptize me and my nineteen wives. Several years later, this man was baptized. Ghana saw its first baptizing tour in 1971, and, two years later, after a civil war, a baptizing tour was conducted in Nigeria. In 1969, a man from eastern Ghana, after listening to the broadcast and studying the Church’s literature, started a congregation following the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. Today, this association has grown to include congregations in Togo, Benin, and Ghana, with an attendance of around 1,700. In 2019, LCG became aware of the group as it uses an identical name in the French language—Mr. Nathan said, “We’ll see what happens.”


Mr. Juvenal Karibwami speaks French, English, Romanian, and Swahili and serves as an elder in Burundi. In western Africa, Dr. Akin-Ogudeji serves as the area pastor. Mr. Urbain Hazoume, another non-employed elder, was educated in France. He runs a private school he established in Gabon, and his uncle is a king in Badagry, on the border of Nigeria and Benin. Mr. Jackstone Abok is retired and lives in Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria. Mr. Nathan introduced two farmers from Tanzania who serve the Church: Mr. Ezekiel Mkama and Mr. Adonias Kando. In Nairobi, Mr. Peter Mutula serves as an elder. Mr. Ephraim Abok is the area pastor for western Kenya, while Mr. Simon Muthama is the area pastor for the rest of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Opportunities and Challenges

In the 1950s, Andrew Dugger, “driven by the need to preach the Gospel throughout the world,” began teaching in Africa. Various Church of God Seventh Day Jerusalem congregations were established. Some of these congregations stayed faithful, not only to the Sabbath but to the Holy Days and other true doctrines. After the death of Andrew Dugger, many congregations, including Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi were left without leadership. In the 90s, one of these congregations in Kenya contacted LCG. Mr. Nathan said, “Increasingly, we find people associated with Worldwide coming to us, because we are continuing to teach the truth they were once taught.”

A significant challenge to the Work in Africa is “the elephant in the room: Islam.” Mr. Nathan drew attention to the fact that he had not mentioned northern Africa. He explained there is little opportunity for the truth in this heavily Muslim region. This is why the Sierra Leone radio station broadcasting the World Tomorrow in the 60s didn’t bring much response. Islam dominates in the north, but, as the fastest-growing religion in Africa, it is fast spreading to the rest of the continent. “Islam is going to create a challenge as we go forward… We need to recognize that the time is short with some of these areas.” Other challenges for the Church in Africa include language translation, religion, travel dangers, and inconsistent technology infrastructure.

God Is Doing a Work

“We have lots of challenges, but God is doing a Work here.” Going forward, Mr. Nathan said Church literature could be translated into Swahili—there are 150 million Swahili speakers who can benefit from this project. The Work and the Church are alive and active in Africa, with hundreds of members spread across the southern, eastern, western, and central regions of the country. Mr. Nathan, with a long history of serving the Church in Africa, concluded, “Having been sent to Africa, I don’t seem to be able to get it out of my blood.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Achieving Godly Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 50 seconds.

Mr. Richard Ames graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a civil engineering degree. He joined the National Guard and was later transferred to Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia, where he trained as a cryptologist and communications specialist. Later, he continued working as a surveyor. Mr. Ames said, “I knew that was not what I wanted to do.” He applied to Yale and got a scholarship for a one-year graduate course in transportation and traffic engineering. In 1961, Mr. Ames worked as a transportation engineer at the Southeastern Virginia Regional Planning Commission in Norfolk, Virginia. In the fall of 1961, Mr. Ames attended his first Feast of Tabernacles at Big Sandy.

“The motivation to do the best I could…”

While in the National Guard, Mr. Ames learned a valuable lesson from a good friend. “My friend set a good example, and his positive attitude of trying to do the best he could gave me the motivation to do the best I could.” Mr. Ames began the Assembly by handing out the reprint series, “Achieving Godly Success.” He said, “Today, I will talk briefly about true success.” Years ago, a young man told Mr. Ames, “I don’t need to know the seven laws of success, I’m already successful.” Mr. Ames remarked it was this very attitude that identified the young man’s lack of success—success is physical and spiritual.

The Seven Laws of Success

“Set the right goal.” To achieve physical and spiritual success, a person must define the success they want by setting spiritual and physical goals.  Mr. Ames deeply desired to visit Jerusalem. Seventeen years after he first set this goal, after Israel had captured control of Jerusalem in the 60s, he and his wife were given the opportunity to visit the city. Mr. Ames quoted Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

“Educate and prepare yourself.” Mr. Ames, who has had nine and a half years of higher education at RPI, Yale, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Ambassador College, warned the students to be careful with the knowledge promoted at universities. Instead, he said to recognize “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). He said, “You students at Living-Ed are fulfilling this law right now.”

“Maintain good health.” While there are many facets to being healthy, Mr. Ames said the most important principle is building a positive attitude. A positive attitude is not just passive—it goes beyond passivity to proactivity. The purpose behind maintaining good health is found in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit… glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 

“And the fourth law of success is—drive!” Like the ant which “provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest,” Mr. Ames explained that, sometimes, one tiny step must be taken at a time. “You have to prod yourself.” At almost 85 years of age, Mr. Ames said, while he might have to take a nap more often than he used to, he still drives himself every day.

“Apply resourcefulness.” Whether it’s a health crisis or challenges that come on the way to achieving one’s goals, resourcefulness is key. “When you have these challenges, you have to ask, ‘What are the resources I have?’” One valuable resource is advice. “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22).

“Persevere toward your goal.” Mr. Ames said, “I came to a crossroads in my life when I flunked two engineering classes at RPI.” But instead of giving up, Mr. Ames went back, retook the classes he failed, and graduated with his degree. Hebrews 12:1 reads, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….” To successfully run the race of life, Christians must practice perseverance.

“Seek God’s continual counsel.” “Trust in the LORD… In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Mr. Ames emphasized, “In all your ways.” If a Christian remains close to God every day, through prayer and study, Mr. Ames said, “You are acknowledging Him every day.”

 Success In This Lifetime and Beyond

“How many of you right now—before I say them—can repeat all seven laws of success?” Most of the students raised their hands—a Christian Living project from last semester on the seven laws of success geared them for Mr. Ames’ question. Mr. Ames concluded, “Thank God that you’re building a solid foundation for godly success for this lifetime and beyond.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: The Heart of the Matter

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 57 seconds.

Mr. Michael Aviles pastors five congregations across the New England region. Mr. Aviles grew up in the Worldwide Church of God. He told the students he remembered people’s various reactions to the growing apostasy in the Church in the 90s. Some were confused, some were ignorant of the changes, some were angry—at God, a minister, or Mr. Armstrong—and some were even glad.

Years ago, when Mr. Aviles was thirteen years old, he was sitting in church next to his father as a leading minister preached what would have previously been considered heresy. As the sermon progressed, he explained his father became more tense and upset with what was being preached. “When the sermon ended, the congregation broke out in applause. I can just remember the look on my dad’s face.” A common question for many members who remained loyal to the truth is How can people who understood the truth turn away and embrace the changes so quickly? He said, “The answer is not so simple.”

Spiritual Maturity

In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul defines that the purpose of government and order in the Church is edification. “The reason God has structure is so we can have strength and confidence and we won’t be tossed about.” And edification leads to spiritual maturity. “… for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ….” Mr. Aviles pointed out spiritual maturity is not immediate. It’s a lifelong process. But maturity is what can prevent one from being deceived—not only by false leaders or straying members but by oneself.


“When you think of apostasy in the Bible,” Mr. Aviles asked the students, “Who comes to mind?” Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron is one example (Numbers 16:1-3). Mr. Aviles said, “Notice the argument of Korah. They weren’t saying, Let’s disobey God.” They said instead, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them…” They thought they were the good guys. “Self-deception leads to blindness.” Self-deception also leads one to think they are acting for God, not against Him. When Saul offered a burnt offering without Samuel, he felt he had no choice (1 Samuel 13:5-12). “He deceived himself into disobeying God.”

How to Keep Our Hearts Close to God

The deeper problem, Mr. Aviles explained, is the heart. “If our heart is in the right place, God leads us to truth.” Mr. Aviles gave the students five keys for keeping their hearts close to God.

“Always remember it’s God’s righteousness, not our righteousness.” God does not call people because of their merit. The Pharisees, in Romans 10:1-3, were those who “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Mr. Aviles emphasized God gives His righteousness to Christians.

“Always remember it’s God’s strength, not our strength.” Even Jesus Christ was overwhelmed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37-39). Like Him, Christians shouldn’t rely on their physical strength. Mr. Aviles quoted Isaiah 26:4, “Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.”

“Do not be overly self-confident. Instead, have confidence in God.” The longer a person has been in the Church, the more susceptible they are to feeling overly confident, slipping into self-deception. Mr. Aviles said, “What God gives He can take away.” Those with their hearts close to God recognize the truth of Proverbs 3:26: “The LORD will be your confidence….”

“Be patient, and develop the quality of longsuffering.” Saul sinned because he was impatient and didn’t wait for God’s timing. Mr. Aviles defined longsuffering as enduring hardship. Sometimes, that means enduring offense. “God is longsuffering with us. He sees us not for what we are right now, but, ultimately, for what we will become.”

“Be dedicated to continue to learn and grow spiritually.” Mr. Aviles remarked, “We all know this in principle, but are we really applying it?” The spiritual tools of Bible study, prayer, meditation, and fasting are valuable mechanisms for continual growth. Reading the same passage of Scripture repeatedly is beneficial—even returning to a Living Church News article later can bring new understanding. “God will bring to light new things if you have the right attitude.”

“As young people, the sooner you can identify the human nature inside you and beat it down, the better off you are.”

Throughout Church history, heresy has crept in and caused apostasy and compromise. How can people turn away from what they once believed? Mr. Aviles said, “God knows. The more important question is, What do I need to do to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to me?” He concluded, “If our heart is looking to God, He will protect us from deception.” This is the heart of the matter.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Why Are You Here?

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 13 seconds.

“Mr. Armstrong used to ask, especially before the Holy Days, Why are you here? So, why are you here—at Living-Ed and in the Church?” Mr. Dexter Wakefield, the Vice President of Finance and Operations at Headquarters and a Living-Ed instructor, said, “People have many different reasons for being in the Church, and they prioritize those within that. So, what are yours?” It’s important to know your motives, because “God tests weak motives.” People leave the Church because they lose their reason for being there—or their most important motive wasn’t prioritized. Mr. Wakefield gave the students ten common, but not good primary reasons people have for being in the Church. 

Ten Low-Priority Reasons

“I grew up in the Church.”  

Mr. Wakefield said, “Loyalty to family tradition is a good thing—it can carry you through a lot.”  But our faith in God’s truth is a higher priority. The danger of this convenient motive is clear from the apostasy of the Worldwide Church of God.

“To avoid the Tribulation.”

“Attendance goes up when the world gets scary.” If one simply wants to avoid the Tribulation, they may forget God’s ways when times are easy, thinking to return when things get serious. “And if you think it’s difficult to be in the Church now, it will be a whole lot harder in the end-times.”

“Being a Philadelphian.

If being a Philadelphian is one’s major reason, Mr. Wakefield explained it becomes easy to see Laodiceans around you. “Watch out for Satan’s spiritual judo… A smaller person can throw a larger person off balance if they use their momentum in the direction in which they were already going.” Satan uses pride as a handle. Real Philadelphians are focused on the Work, not worrying about being labeled Philadelphian.

“To avoid the lake of fire.”

Should this fear be primary? While it is a “motivating psychological factor,” leaders can use it to manipulate people. Mr. Wakefield likened this to the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages, where many people purchased indulgences out of “a burning fear of hell.”

“To get salvation.”

God’s laws are not a burden—they are not a means to being saved. Mr. Wakefield noted the Church has been accused of legalism. But Christians keep the Sabbath and repent of breaking it because they want to. “It should be kept from the heart, which is the seat of the will.”

The social aspect.

Christ said, “These things I command you, that you love one another.” Church social life is important, but if members are here because their friends are here, Mr. Wakefield asked, “What happens when your friend leaves or you disagree?” Emotional fulfillment should not be a primary purpose.

It’s a loving environment.

The Church is a loving environment, but offenses still come. “God allows it to happen.” He allows brethren to learn to exercise, what Mr. Wakefield coined, “the go-to rule.” Go to God, go to the person, and be reconciled. “Don’t let it fester as a root of bitterness—because roots grow down.”

“Intellectual stimulation.”

The Greeks to whom Paul spoke in Acts 17:18-21 were “a society based on creating information by reasoning.” But the Church is to learn through God’s revelation. Mr. Wakefield said, “Intellectual stimulation and spiritual growth are not the same things… Knowledge is useful to the extent it helps us practice spiritual growth—not distract us from growth.”

There is a minister to whom you relate.

He asked, “What if that minister is transferred? What he leaves the Church?” Many congregations around the world don’t even have a pastor. Why do these people remain faithful? Mr. Wakefield advised the students, “Don’t lose sight of the offices through [focusing on] personalities.” While ministers occupy offices of service, Christ does the works.

“Church culture.”

Mr. Wakefield said, “You would be surprised at how important this is to some.” The comfort of our form of service, the hymnal, the music—many small traditions create a Church norm. But if a practice is changed, or another church’s culture is more attractive, why would those with this priority remain?


“Historically, the Church has been through times of turmoil.” Luke 21:16-17 refers to the betrayal and persecution God’s people will continue to face till the end. Mr. Wakefield cited Acts 20:29, “savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Turmoil is inevitable. “If your priority is comfort and stability, the end time Living Church of God may be a tough place for you. Things will get worse.”

The Primary Reasons We Should Have

“These reasons are okay, but they’re not the best. Why are you here? Why will you stay here? If you are here because of a weak reason, maybe you can change it.” Mr. Wakefield concluded by giving good primary reasons for being in the Church and attending Living-Ed. Christians are here because they have been called (Acts 2:37-38), and “because they have a commitment to the truth and to the Work” (Ephesians 6:14). Mr. Wakefield exhorted the students to prioritize their primary reasons—then, when God tests their convictions, they will know why they are here.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: Mars and Beyond: God’s Awesome Universe

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 45 seconds.

Mars and Beyond: God’s Awesome Universe—A scale we cannot fathom yet

Dr. Roedolph Opperman was introduced for the Forum on March 2, 2021, 64 days before the Living-Ed graduation according to the students’ countdown. Dr. Opperman works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is part of the team that landed the Mars rover, Perseverance, on Thursday, February 18, 2021. For the next 90 days, Dr. Opperman’s team will live with their clocks adjusted to “Mars time,” since Martian days are 40 minutes longer than Earth days.

Fault Protection

“Our job is to try to break the spacecraft—well, not really. It’s way too expensive for that.” Dr. Opperman is a Fault Protection systems engineer. His team was responsible to find out “what could potentially go wrong.” Whether software glitches or cable breaks, they trialed the rover and programmed the computer to detect issues and self-correct. The engineers use an identical testbed rover to simulate the Perseverance and gauge its performance before commands are sent out.

The Challenge of Getting to Mars

One key challenge to the mission was landing the rover safely. Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) is known as the “seven minutes of terror” to NASA engineers. On average, it takes about 10minutes for a message from the Mars rover to reach the earth—during this time, the engineers have no idea if it has landed or crashed. Dr. Opperman explained the vehicle has to enter, descend, and land on its own. When the spacecraft reached Mars’ atmosphere, a heatshield—heating to 1600 degrees under friction—protected it as it hurtled to the planet. Then, a 70-foot diameter supersonic parachute that could withstand over 65,000 pounds of force deployed and slowed the vehicle’s descent. The heat shield was dropped, and the spacecraft secured a radar lock on the ground. To slow it even more, a powered descent was performed using rockets. The chute was cut, and rockets diverted the vehicle away from the parachute. At 20 meters above the surface, using the “sky crane” maneuver, cables lowered the rover to the ground. Every step of EDL had to occur autonomously, in perfect coordination.

Mission Objectives

“I’ve been working on this project for three years—some have been working on it for eight years or more. For some people, this is what life is all about.” One objective of the mission is to find out if there was ancient life on Mars. For this purpose, the rover was equipped with different tools, like a ground-penetrating radar, UV and X-ray spectrometers, a laser, several cameras, and a drill for taking soil samples. Another objective is to test MOXIE, a system that can convert carbon dioxide from the Mars atmosphere to produce oxygen for humans to breath on Mars. NASA aims to land humans on Mars by the 2030s, and private companies like SpaceX are also racing to establish colonies on the planet. Yet, Dr. Opperman stated, “Humans aren’t designed for space.” The weightlessness of space—without the gravity earth exerts on a body—causes bones to demineralize and muscles to atrophy without at least 90 minutes of daily exercise. Also, without the earth’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field, space radiation poses the major threat to human exploration of space.

“A Speck of Dust in the Universe: Earth”

Dr. Opperman said, “Let’s take a step back. We’ve gotten a glimpse of how hard it is just to get to the closest planet next to us.” But “God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He created everything we see and don’t see, like dark matter, the entire spectrum of light, and the spiritual realm. The Voyager space probes, launched in the 70s, have traveled over 14 billion miles and are the most distant human-made objects from Earth. They have since exited our solar system and are still in communication with Earth today. Yet, the extent of mankind’s exploration of the universe is minuscule in cosmological terms. Our planet could fit into the Sun 1.3 million times. Dr. Opperman put this into perspective: If the Earth was the size of a golf ball, the Sun would be a 15-foot diameter sphere such that one could fill a school bus full of golf balls inside it. But our Sun is dwarfed by the size of many other stars: The Pistol Star, a blue hypergiant, is 100 times the size of the Sun, and the Red Supergiants are up to 1,000 times the size of the Sun. Even our Milky Way Galaxy, which contains roughly 200 billion stars is an average galaxy. The largest galaxy, IC 1101, is 50 times its size. The Laniakea Supercluster that contains the Milky Way is also home to about 100,000 other galaxies—and larger superclusters than Laniakea have been discovered. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. That’s at least a billion trillion and probably much more. Studies seem to indicate that there are even far more planets than stars!

Building Planets

Even as a speck of dust in the vast universe, Dr. Opperman reminded the students that Earth will be where “the headquarters of the universe, New Jerusalem, is established.” He quoted Paul, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Dr. Opperman said, “The Mars rover is so minute compared to what God can create… As humans, we have this desire to explore—but as spirit beings, we can be on the other side of the galaxy and not just build rovers, but build planets.”

When asked what his plans were for after the Mars rover project, Dr. Opperman replied, “Get some sleep. I have a toddler—I’m not really on Mars time.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Assembly Summary: Be Patient and Trust in God

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 44 seconds.

Mr. Weston began his Living-Ed Assembly with a personal story. In his fourth year of marriage, he and his wife were using handed-down furniture. They were given a chair which they decided to re-cover rather than buy a new one. After a few months of saving, they chose material for their chair. But, looking around their living room, they realized their re-covered chair would clash with the curtains. They really needed to replace their dining room chairs and table, and even the furniture in the other rooms was not really what they had wanted. Mr. Weston said, “We started thinking about all the things we didn’t have. We were thinking, It will be forever before we have everything we want.”

“Most of life is still ahead!”

 Mr. Weston said that what he and his wife hadn’t understood was that most of life was still ahead of them. “When I go back and look at my life, the greatest aspiration I had after being sent into the field ministry was to become a minister pastoring a couple of churches… I never thought I would be anything beyond that.” He said, “Right now, you are in the preparatory phase for what comes after.” Decades of marriage, kids, homes, and successful careers are still ahead for most young people. “In the Assembly today, I’m going to discuss patience and the need to trust God in directing your life.”

Joseph distinguished himself.

Joseph’s brothers, antagonized by their father’s favoritism and Joseph’s dreams, sold him into slavery when he was only seventeen. While God was with Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 39:2), Joseph was proactive. When he was falsely accused and thrown into prison, “he didn’t allow himself to wallow, but he did what he had to do.” Joseph didn’t focus on what he didn’t have—Mr. Weston reminded the students that having everything does not bring happiness. He quoted Dennis Prager from The Rational Bible: Exodus:

In many ways, gratitude is the most important of all the good character traits. It is the most indispensable trait to both happiness and goodness. One can neither be a happy person nor a good person without gratitude. The less gratitude one has, the more one sees oneself as a victim… As for happiness, if you think of all the people you know, you will not be able to name one who is ungrateful and happy. The two are mutually exclusive.


Joseph distinguished himself for thirteen years. Rather than worry about what he couldn’t accomplish, he focused on what he could do. Eventually, he achieved success and his power was second only to the Pharaoh.

“Joseph had no idea what God planned for him.”

“God exalted Joseph, but He did so on His schedule.” Joseph’s journey from slavery to leadership in Egypt was rocky. Yet, Mr. Weston explained, “God had a long-term plan for Joseph, the sons of Israel, and for all mankind.” God used Joseph to prepare for the institution of the Passover, providing for Ancient Israel and foreshadowing the sacrifice that would cover every human being’s sins. “You have no idea how God is going to use you in the future.”

“Joseph was a big picture person.”

Genesis 45:1-5 recounts the emotional confrontation between Joseph and his brothers. Mr. Weston said, “They must have been terrified, knowing what they had done.” While Joseph reminds them of what they had done to him, he also understood God’s larger purpose. Joseph said, “Do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Mr. Weston explained, “God allows some things to happen for a period of time to give people a chance to repent and change.”

A Matter of Trusting God

In Mark 10:29-30, Christ explained that those who leave their possessions, families, and previous lives for His sake would “receive a hundredfold now in this time… and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mr. Weston finished reading the scripture and said, “I can stand here and say that I can see this in my life. We must learn to trust that God will prosper us if we do what we should do.” He said specifically to the students, “This is an educational phase for you—you’re doing what you should be doing. There’s a lot of life ahead of you. Don’t become impatient and think you have to have it right now.” Mr. Weston inspired the students to be thankful and to do their part as Joseph did. “Be patient and trust in God.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.