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Assembly Summary: Keep the Doors Open

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 17 seconds.

Mr. Gerald Weston began the final Assembly of the year, “People tend to fall into one of several categories.” Some individuals map out their futures early on and single-mindedly dedicate themselves to their goals. For example, he noted Deion Sanders—a first-round draft pick for the National Football League in 1989. Sanders won two Super Bowls, was elected for eight NFL Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Achievers know what they want in life and pursue it relentlessly. But another category Mr. Weston gave was the under-achievers. “These expect others, including God, to be responsible for their success—to do it all for them.” Rather than taking initiative, they make excuses, develop a “victim” complex, blaming others, or wait for a lucky break.

What Do You Want to Do in Your Life?

“Most of us fall into a third category—those who are willing to work hard but struggle to figure out what they want to do.” As a young man, Mr. Weston wanted to be a forest ranger and a “smoke jumper”—a wildland firefighter who jumps out of planes to fight forest fires. Then, at Ventura College, he switched his major from geology to social work to English. “I confess, I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. And how can a young person be expected to know what to do—at age eighteen, for example—when the whole world is out there?” He asked, “So what do you do to figure that out if you’re in this category?”

What is Your Primary Goal?

“Let’s begin with our primary goal.” Deion Sanders’ goal was to be the absolute best at football, and arguably, he was. But later, he admitted his aim had been flawed—he titled his autobiography, Power, Money, and Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. Mr. Weston said, “Sometimes, we think we know what we want, but it’s not always what God shows us we should want.” Matthew 6:33 contains what a Christian’s main goal should be. Ultimately, every decision and action should have this end in mind. Mr. Weston said, “But does that mean God will do everything for us?” He held up his Bible, “Not according to this instruction book here.”

What Are You Doing to Prepare?

Young people may wish to be independent or to get married and raise a family. “But when you look at these goals,” Mr. Weston emphasized, “the question is what are you doing to prepare for that?” He told a story about a high school friend who would talk about his dreams and plans for life. The friend wanted to move to northern California, living off the land while training to become a baseball star—yet he never played on any kind of organized team. This friend went to Ambassador College for a year and then dropped out. He had told Mr. Weston he wanted to be a city planner, yet he threw away the opportunity to build and design cities under Christ in the Millennium. He told Mr. Weston once, “You know what I’m really afraid of? I’m afraid that I will wake up and be forty years of age and not know what I want to do.” Mr. Weston said, “And that happened. The door was open to his dream, but he never prepared himself for that open door.”

Open Doors

People open or close doors by the decisions we make. Mr. Weston commented, “My father always said, If you can read, write, and do arithmetic, you could have a job.” Without basic education, fewer opportunities come. But if a young person educates himself, perhaps developing his public speaking skills or learning a second language, opportunities arise. In Daniel 1, four young men were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to work in the king’s palace (v. 4). They were “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand….” Mr. Weston pointed out that while they couldn’t have controlled their lack of blemishes or good looks, they certainly had developed their knowledge and understanding and as a result, doors (opportunities) opened to them. “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all wisdom and literature” (v.17). Mr. Weston explained God didn’t pour knowledge into their minds using a funnel—they had to read literature and learn wisdom. “These were young men who had certain native ability, but they developed it with hard work.”

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men.”

– Proverbs 22:29

“The harder you work at a young age, the more the doors are opened for other opportunities. But if you spend all your time goofing off, you close doors.” Even if a young person is struggling to figure out what they want to do in life, by having the right primary goal and preparing for their future, with God’s help, opportunities for success will open to them. Mr. Weston encouraged the students as they move forward after Living Ed, “Keep the doors open. Only if you have prepared yourself, will you be able to walk through those doors when opportunity knocks.”


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: Protocol — Loving Your Neighbor

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds.

“Those are all the announcements I have, so I will leave the balance of the Forum to Mr. Ames—this is your last opportunity to hear from him in a regular Forum or Assembly. We want to take every advantage to hear what he has to say, so please give him your full attention today.”

If You Please

Years ago, Mr. Richard Ames and his wife visited Paris. While there, the director of the Worldwide Church of God office took them to eat at a restaurant. Mr. Ames noticed their host would always call the waiter over by saying, S’il vous plait. “I picked up on that.” Mr. Ames said, “We were told the French don’t like Americans, but every time I started talking to a Frenchman, I said, S’il vous plait.” Later, Mr. Ames explained he was looking for a parking space at the French Feast site and was told to park in the VIP area to unload his luggage. “So, I go up to the parking area and there’s a speakerphone. And I said, ‘S’il vous plait,’ and the gate opened up—if you’re ever in France, that’s the secret to getting along with people.”

Standard Operating Procedure

Protocols are a part of daily life, whether in cultural customs, social manners, dining etiquette, military procedures, or employee handbooks. Mr. Ames defined a protocol as “an accepted way of conducting oneself in a given situation.” For example, in France, it is socially acceptable to use the phrase, If you please. But there are also expected ways of conduct in the professional world. In the aviation industry, the major cause for aircraft crashes is a neglected protocol from the pre-flight checklist. Mr. Ames said, “I first learned about Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) when I was a junior in high school.” He worked as a disc jockey for the daytime radio station WMMW in Connecticut. On Sunday mornings, he would have to follow the SOP to start up the station equipment and get the program on the air.

Mr. Ames referenced Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. Dr. Gawande worked as a surgeon in eight hospitals around the world. Surveying these hospitals, he found that out of 4,000 surgeries performed, 435 people had major complications and fifty-six people died. Yet, after implementing a nineteen-point checklist for surgeries, 277 people had complications, with only twenty-nine deaths. Checklist protocols can save lives.

“We need Godly protocols. I’m going to give you four points on how to love your neighbor as yourself in the context of protocols.”

Have an attitude of respect. Dr. Meredith noted in the October 10, 2005 co-worker letter, sent out after a destructive typhoon in Bangladesh, “Every human being is precious in God’s sight.” Mr. Ames turned to Philippians 2:1-4, where Paul encouraged Christians to “esteem others better than himself.” One protocol Christians should have on their checklist is respect for all human beings.

Choose words of respect and courtesy. Mr. Ames reminded the students of the five responses that should be a part of their communication: “Thank you; You’re welcome; Please; I’m sorry; How may I help you?” He explained these phrases should be automatic responses. Polite communication—expressing respect and courtesy in speech—is a godly protocol.

Follow Biblical instructions. “You’ve heard the quote, When all else fails, follow instructions…” Mr. Ames said, “No. It should be, Before things fail, follow instructions.” Proverbs 2:1-6 reads, “If you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you… then you will understand the fear of the LORD….” But to follow instructions, Mr. Ames explained, one must be willing to submit—whether to God’s Word, Church authority, or family leadership.

Obedience is a choice. Every individual must make the conscious, personal decision to establish and follow the protocols God established in His Word. Mr. Ames mentioned Proverbs 1:28-29, which warns those who choose to ignore His wisdom: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD….”

“Surgical protocols have saved lives, airplane protocols have preserved life, and godly protocols ensure an abundant life.” Mr. Ames concluded the Forum, “So, make sure that you are personally learning and growing in the true values of godly protocol, godly procedures, godly communication, and God’s way of life—and love your neighbor as yourself.”


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: A Hidden Key to Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

In the staff meeting room at Headquarters, Mr. Frank introduced Mr. Mario Hernandez as the Forum speaker. Mr. Hernandez asked, “Do you remember the laws of success?” The students nodded and recited them. The seventh law of success, Mr. Hernandez explained, is to acknowledge God in all your ways. “I’m going to give you an indispensable key to being successful. Without it,” he said, “even if you have all the others, you won’t succeed before God or man… What is the fifth commandment?”

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

– Ephesians 6:1-3

For those who obey and honor their parents, God gives a two-fold promise: a long life and a successful life. Mr. Hernandez turned to Exodus 21:15-17 to show God takes the fifth commandment seriously. Children who struck or cursed their parents were to be put to death. Yet, Mr. Hernandez noted that disrespect towards parents parallels this sin. In Leviticus 19:3, God commanded Israel to revere their parents. Mr. Hernandez said, “Treat them with great respect no matter what. They represent God.”

Respect as a Facet of the Culture of God

“We’re living in a generation where children are oppressors of their parents. They’re not taught to respect.” He read Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man….” The custom to rise and acknowledge an older person when they enter a room may seem outdated or not culturally practiced. But, Mr. Hernandez said, “That’s a lack of culture, my friends. We are here to learn the culture of God and not to say, Oh, in my country we don’t do that.” Young people should acknowledge the presence of an older person rather than ignoring them and turning to their peers. “In this country, which I love and respect, there is a tendency for there to be different cultures for the youth and for the elderly. Each [group] lives in their own world, and there is not much communication.” This phenomenon, which Mr. Hernandez termed “the teenage syndrome,” is nurtured in the modern education system. In tomorrow’s world, a family-oriented learning system will encourage young people to respect and interact appropriately with the older generation.

“The commandment goes all the way to the adult age until the end of your parents’ lives.”

In Mark 7:1-13, Christ rebuked the Pharisees for disobeying God’s command to honor one’s parents. In 1 Timothy 5:4-8, Paul commands, “if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents….” Mr. Hernandez explained that adult children—who are at the productive stage of life—are still obligated to honor their parents.

Joseph

“Now we’re going to see the story of a man who honored his father and was greatly blessed. That is the story of Joseph.” Out of all the sons of Jacob, only Joseph truly honored his parents. The “bad report” Joseph brought to Jacob in Genesis 37:2 indicates the brothers had a poor reputation in the community. When Jacob called to Joseph to send him to his brothers in the field, Joseph replied, “Here I am.” Abraham had this same response when God tested him by commanding him to kill Isaac (Genesis 22:1). Mr. Hernandez compared it to saying, “Whatever You say, here I am to obey you.”

“Here I am.”

Reuben committed adultery with one of his father’s wives (Genesis 35:22), in contrast to Joseph, who refused to lie with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:10). At the end of Jacob’s life, in a final act of respect, Joseph bowed down to the ground as Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:12). Joseph was 110 years old when he died, and he had become the second most powerful man in Egypt. “God was fulfilling His promise because Joseph obeyed and respected his father.”

Honor the Hoary Head

Mr. Hernandez concluded, “Don’t just stay among the youth, having your different culture apart. Open your heart and talk to the older person… They feel dishonored—although they don’t complain—when a youth passes by and ignores them or rarely comes to greet them. The hoary-head are becoming weak because of age, and they need respect.” Mr. Hernandez explained that respect to one’s parents and older people is respect towards God. He challenged the students to honor older people, revere their parents, and fear God by keeping the fifth commandment—so they may live a long and successful life as God promises.


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: Embrace Your Trials

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Mr. Wallace Smith, the executive editor for Editorial, walked into the classroom with a homemade lightsaber hilt, a replica Star Wars lightsaber, and a samurai sword. A young man built the hilt for Mr. Smith last year as a gift. It consisted of various pipes and fixtures, along with some electrical tape and rubber bands. Mr. Smith borrowed the glowing green lightsaber—sans accompanying sound-effects—from one of his sons. While it looked deadly, the lightsaber was essentially a harmless prop—compared to the sword he pulled out next.

“Some swords are battle-ready, and some are not.”

“This is a katana, actually formed in Japan, according to the traditional methods.” These samurai swords have a single-edged blade, curving in the traditional Japanese style. The blade does not end at the handle but extends into it—a characteristic of well-built swords. Underneath the cloth binding of the handle, on the metal of the blade that lies within, the creator etches his signature. Mr. Smith explained a samurai warrior’s daily business was deeply connected to the concepts of life and death. The making of a katana was a work of passion, and the creator would purify himself before forging the sword—a process that took months to complete.

The Steel

The forge used to make a katana is kept extremely hot by containing and turning the fire in on itself. “A katana,” Mr. Smith noted, “is made up of multiple metals that are forged into one thing, but not necessarily mixed.” Iron ore, coal, sand, and sometimes other materials are added. The steel is hardened by adding carbon. But if too much carbon is used, the blade will turn brittle. Iron, which is a softer element, provides the necessary flexibility in the weapon. The metals are mixed at different stages and the swordsmith produces a material called tamahagane—translated, “steel jewel.” This material is broken into different-colored cubes, which contain varying amounts of carbon. The cubes are sorted depending on the level of carbon and hammered into sheets. “The real work,” Mr. Smith said, “goes into forging the blade.”

Forging the Sword

“If you take a piece of paper and fold it, it doesn’t take many folds, and it gets almost impossible to fold.” Some of the hammered sheets are selected to make the kawagane, “leather steel,” and the hagane, “blade steel.” The steel is layered, hammered, and folded several times over until a plank with thousands of layers is formed. At this point, the smith prepares the “heart-steel,” the shingane. The low-carbon shingane is more flexible and is placed inside the folded kawagane. “You need the edge to be extremely hard.” Mr. Smith said, “What is the hardest substance that we know of? Diamonds. The carbon bonds are capable of making it extremely hard.” The swordsmith fuses the steel, creating a blade with a “diamond-hard” exterior and a flexible core that can absorb the force of impacts.

The Blade

To temper the weapon, it is plunged into water or oil to drop the temperature of the metal. But before it is dipped in liquid, the spine of the sword is encased with a protective clay layer that allows it to be tempered differently across its width and leaves tell-tale markings on the edge of the blade—another sure sign of an authentic katana. Even at this final stage, the edge hardens as the metal changes molecularly. When a katana was completed, the quality of the sword was normally tested on prisoners. “How sharp is it? They say, made properly, you can throw a piece of silk in the air and a master would be able to slice right through the silk, not having to hold it taut—just allowing the silk to float in the air.”

Embrace Your Trials

“Of these three weapons I’ve shown you today,” Mr. Smith held up the katana, “this one has been through the toughest time.” The steel was heated up to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, hammered, fragmented, pounded, and tempered with a drastic drop in temperature. Mr. Smith explained Christians are forged into weapons of righteousness (Romans 6:13). “Too often, we think of trials as what God is supposed to deliver us from.” He pointed out that God is not like the “genie” from the Disney movie Aladdin. James 1:2-3 reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The “testing of your faith,” Mr. Smith said, does not mean one’s faith causes the trial to end. Faith is developed and forged through hardship.

Mr. Smith concluded his Assembly with a lesson he had learned from another pastor. There are different levels to trials. He said, “We can go through the middle level where we begrudgingly go through them… But it’s not quite the same as embracing it, where, when you go to God, you can say, ‘Father, I don’t know why I’m going through this. But I do trust You are working the ‘long game’ in my life, not just for now but for eternity. If this is a burden I have to face for a month, a year, or a lifetime, I trust you.” Trials are the heat, hammering, and tempering God uses to forge His people into the perfectly balanced tools He desires.


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 Best Laid Plans

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds.

Mr. McNair introduced the manager of the Mail Processing Department at Headquarters, an elder in the Charlotte congregation, and a long-time member of God’s Church. “Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour, as you all know, is responsible for all of that major operation that happens downstairs—it’s the heart of the Work.”

“Either good or bad, what happened this year is going to be a memory that you’ll build on all the way through your life.” Mr. Bonjour spoke to the students about planning their futures. At a time when many of the students are making decisions regarding their educations, careers, or even whether to remain in Charlotte, Mr. Bonjour reminded them that their lives would not unfold exactly according to plan. He joked, “I was going to be retired at thirty-five. I’m 77 and I’m still working. Sometimes, as we go through life, all the things that you plan and the direction you that you’re trying to go—it seems to go the other way…”

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

– Robert Burns

“You have your plan, and God has His plan.” In 1971, Mr. Bonjour bought twenty-seven acres in Kingsburg, California on which to plant plum trees and raise a farm. Yet, the timing was not good—many other people had the same idea, and the market was competitive. There was little profit in their endeavor, Mr. Bonjour had to work as a masonry contractor to support the farm. Finally, years later, after his son finished high school, Mr. Bonjour and his wife decided to sell the ranch, and they began managing a mini-storage center. He was eventually ordained and hired by the Church. He said, “We may be frustrated that our plan is not working, but we can be assured His plan is.”

“Remember the time you were here.” Isaiah 46:9-10 reads, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other… Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand….’” Mr. Bonjour advised the students to use the lessons they learned at Living Ed to seek God early in their lives. He said, “The most precious, tangible thing you have is your time. Every minute you spend is lost. You’re not getting it back.” As he read through Ecclesiastes 3, Mr. Bonjour reminded the students that now is the time for them to seek God, so they will have fewer opportunities to make mistakes in the future. “Every sin committed is a little scar on the brain.”

“Our character is built through adversity.” God allows His people—and their plans—to be tested. Mr. Bonjour explained, “God wants us to be able to stand upright before Him and to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.” In his first year of being called into the truth, Mr. Bonjour was tested on the Sabbath. His boss needed him to work seven days a week, but Mr. Bonjour refused to do it and was let go. When he registered for the “out of work” list in the Piledrivers Union, his name was dropped to the bottom of the list, because he would not work on Saturday. For a year, he supported his family by working at a junkyard, earning two dollars an hour. “I’ve never been tested on the Sabbath after that.” God is interested in a Christian’s character, not their intelligence or wealth. “When you go through difficulties, you learn and then you can empathize.” Mr. Bonjour explained God uses a “hands-off” approach with His people to see what they will do. But if a Christian does not judge himself—if he fails to align his plan with God’s plan—God will step in and correct it.

“If you’ve got God, you’ve got everything. If you don’t have God, you have nothing.”

Mr. Bonjour concluded, “Looking back, I can see God very gently moved me in a direction where I can benefit not only me and my family but the Church. You don’t always get to go in the direction you want to go. You don’t always get to do the things you want to do. But you trust God, and you know that God is involved in your life.”

“And, as Mr. Armstrong said, ‘I read the book, and, in the end, we win.’”


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: Church Administration—The Story in Stats

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 57 seconds. 

“I would like to talk today a little about something I’ve been a part of for some years.” Mr. Rod McNair has worked as the Assistant Director of Church Administration (CAD) since 2005. He began, “I thought maybe the best way to do it is to tell the story in statistics.”

“What is our mission in CAD?”

The Church’s main goal is to preach the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But the second primary aim is to feed the flock. In John 21:15-17, Christ commanded Peter three times to care for His flock. Mr. McNair pointed out two different words are used in this passage for “feed” and “tend.” The Greek word, bosko, means to pasture or feed,and poimaino, means to rule or govern. The mission of CAD is “to serve the ministry of God’s flock in fulfilling the second commission of the Church, feeding the flock by providing coordination, communication, and administrative support.”

0

Genesis 6:5-8 is the account of how Noah “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” in a wicked world. He was a “preacher of righteousness” (1 Peter 2:5), yet not one person was called and baptized through his ministry. Mr. McNair asked the students, “What was the first statistic? How many coworkers did Noah have?” He pointed to a single number projected on the whiteboard behind him. “Zero… We may get discouraged. But as we go through the statistics, I think it’s good to keep things in perspective.”

In an Assembly last semester, Mr. McNair discussed the Festival Office. Today, two other major components of CAD were covered: Tomorrow’s World presentations and local ministry and churches.

Tomorrow’s World Presentations

In years past, Mr. Armstrong went on preaching campaigns in cities all over the country, speaking at convention centers or large venues. These programs were advertised in advance, with titles such as, “A Voice Cries Out.” In 2006, in LCG, several ministers proposed having pastors speak at local presentations. Since then, a system was developed for planning TWPs. Mr. McNair showed the students the chart that displays the process. At least eight weeks are required to coordinate the topic, time, venue, brochures, and invites for the meetings.

2.0%

To date, 30,164 people have attended 1,195 presentations in the U.S and around the world. In the U.S.A, about two percent of invitees attend. Outside America, 4.2 % of invited people attend. “It does seem to be that our people in this country are less interested in the message than people overseas.” The top two topics requested from attendee surveys are prophetic topics (40-50% of requests) and the Holy Days (30%). Many who call and write Headquarters believe Tomorrow’s World is purely a media effort. “The presentations show we are friendly, warm, and welcoming. They show we are a Church.”

Local Ministry and Churches

There are 398 congregations worldwide. Over 160 of these are in the U.S.A. Last year, there were about 2,600 people under the age of seventeen in the Church—out of an average total of 12,000 members. “We do have a lot of older people, but we also have an awful lot of young people—about 20%.” Since 1999, 5,950 people have been baptized. Mr. McNair mentioned, “Those are not all people who have grown up in the Church… There are still people being called today. There is still Work to be done.”

5, 986    

There are 5,986 prospective members, baptized members, and Church youth in the U.S, compared with 6,417 in ninety-one other countries. “Does this tell you anything about how God has blessed the U.S. materially—with the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, and the ability to do the Work—with the ability to be the engine of the Work? What a blessing that God has allowed us to do the Work in this country… And it shows that we have a responsibility.” 116 brethren are “scattered members.” These are brave members who stand alone in their countries as pillars for the truth.

“… providing for the needs.”

Since 2004, the Personal Correspondence Department has responded to 56,000 emails, calls, or letters. There are twenty volunteers who transcribe sermons for the hard of hearing—thirty-six deaf members receive these transcriptions. The transcriptions are translated into nine languages.

Feeding the Flock

Matthew 24:45-47 is the account of the “faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season….” God commissioned the Church, like that servant, to feed and care for His household. Mr. McNair concluded, “If we put our focus and our attention on being a part of preaching the Gospel to the world and also supporting the back-end of what happens to people once they do come, God is going to give us so many more opportunities in the future, because we’ve been faithful with these very tiny opportunities.”


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: Develop the Superpower of Deep Work

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Mr. Josh Lyons is the assistant pastor for three congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Lyons grew up in South Carolina and went to the College of Charleston. He graduated with a Master’s degree in accounting in 2010. Growing up in the Church, he attended Living Youth Camp for several summers as a camper, counselor, and staff member.

“Decisions you make in early adulthood cast this long shadow… And they’re not easy to change.”

Mr. Lyons described “an early life crisis” he experienced in his senior year of college. He was rethinking pursuing a career in accounting. “I knew I had invested a good bit of time and money, and I was thinking, Is accounting really for me?” He prayed about it and considered going into counseling. He applied and was accepted to a college program for counseling when he happened to speak with Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden, who advised him to apply for the accounting position at Headquarters. After an interview, he was hired directly after graduating. “Looking back, it was so clear that God showed me what path to take… When you’re in these moments, sometimes, you sincerely just don’t know where to go.” Mr. Lyons studied to get his Certified Public Accountant degree and had only just taken the exam in 2017 when Mr. Weston asked him to work in the ministry.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

– Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

“I’d like to transition and talk about a skill—something I’ve tried to implement. I’ve come to think it’s almost like a superpower.” In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport explains how society is losing its ability to work, study, think, and read deeply. Newport wrote, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” Using Deep Work as a reference, Mr. Lyons gave the students six practical steps that would help them develop the skill of doing deep work in their lives.

“Do as little shallow work as possible.”

Shallow work is defined as logistical, easy-to-replicate tasks. Writing emails, setting up a printer, or getting office supplies fall into this category. Mr. Lyons told the students to recognize that shallow tasks, while necessary, do not add value. Shallow work should be limited or batched together to be taken care of all at once.

“Ruthlessly block distractions.”

At one point in his talk, Mr. Lyons admitted, “While I was here [writing] my speech notes, I went and checked my email… I forced myself to put a confession here… I wrote, ‘Literally, while my cursor was here in my notes, I checked my email and totally didn’t need to. Bad.’” To do deep work, phones should be silenced, email alerts turned off, and any distractions removed.

“Block out chunks of time.”

The mind must focus for a substantial period of time to really do deep work. Ideally, up to three or four hours should be set aside to concentrate on a task. Mr. Lyons explains he likes to use the morning to write commentaries and prepare sermons without interruption. Devoting a substantial chunk of time to a task allows the mind to dive deep into one’s work.

“Go to a good location.”

Mr. Lyons mentioned the library at his college was an exceptional place to study and focus. “The library was so nice it almost made you want to study. Almost.” Libraries are quiet, and convenient corners scattered around can provide an ideal environment to focus on a task. A good location promotes deep work.

“Learn to love deep work.”

“It’s satisfying to reach our potential.” Deep work is valuable, meaningful, and rare—it is rewarding to produce quality work that others can’t necessarily replicate. “Adding value is satisfying.” Mr. Lyons encouraged the students to learn to love doing difficult, deep work because it is rewarding.

“Be intentional to improve your ability to do deep work.”

Deep work isn’t a habit, it is a skill. Newport wrote, “The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.” This ability isn’t picked up overnight. It is like a conditioned mental muscle that must be purposefully developed.

“If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration.”

– Peter Drucker

Whether in one’s profession, education, or Bible study, concentration brings success. “Deep work,” Mr. Lyons pointed out, “is really about doing something to a depth of difficulty that stretches us to push us out of our comfort zone to make progress.” In a world full of distractions, Mr. Lyons inspired the students to develop the superpower of deep work.


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: Three Life Principles for Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 9 seconds.

Mr. McNair introduced Mr. John Strain to the students, “Please help me welcome Mr. John Strain, the pastor of the Charlotte congregation.” Mr. Strain began, “It occurred to me last evening that I got to speak with you at the beginning of the school term… I mentioned at the very beginning that your time here would go rapidly. I would like to talk a little about what you are going to do now when this nine-month program is ended.”

Richard Driehaus was a businessman and philanthropist who became a leader in the investment management industry. He built an extremely successful investment advisory firm, which currently manages 13.5 billion dollars in assets. He also created the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Trust. On March 9, Driehaus died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 78.

Three Keys for Success

When Mr. Strain read Driehaus’s obituary, he appreciated the three principles Driehaus told the magazine, Chicago, he had learned early in life: “You have to continue to learn your whole life, you have to be responsible for your own actions, and you have to give back.” In his assembly, Mr. Strain encouraged the students to practice these three keys in their lives as they move forward after Living Ed.

Life-Long Learning

Continue to learn. First, Mr. Strain advised the students to continue learning in their chosen, specialized vocation. Many professional positions today have options for Continuing Education and/or requirements for current certification of skills every year or two.  As a marketing specialist with IBM, Mr. Strain had to regularly renew certifications to verify his knowledge in his developing industry. “We should all strive to be good at what we do for a living.” Those who are masters at their job become what Mr. Strain’s son calls, “Untouchables.” These are the people who can pick their assignments or who are assigned tasks that solve problems on specific projects. Mr. Strain quoted his brother: “You shouldn’t want to be average. Being average means you’re the best of the worst and the worst of the best.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 reflects this value. Homemaking is a multi-faceted vocation—a homemaker is a cook, teacher, money manager, hostess, and much more. “In my opinion,” Mr. Strain said, “that should be considered a profession.” Another area of learning is general education. Reading is one of the best methods of life-long learning—historical accounts and biographies of notable people in history can teach readers valuable lessons.

“As young adults, it’s pretty much a given that you are going to have to make big decisions. Quite frankly, it was probably a big decision to come here.”

Be responsible for your own actions. “All too many people go through life viewing themselves as victims. All people are victimized to some degree by the world into which they are born but being a victim of an unfortunate circumstance doesn’t negate one’s responsibilities, actions, reactions, and choices. Mr. Strain noted, “We should all be evaluating what might be the results and consequences of our decisions.” He recommended the students use a “T-chart” when making decisions. The pros and the cons of an action are placed on both arms of the T, and each factor is weighted. Then, the advantages and disadvantages of the decision can be more objectively examined. With decisions that are not clear-cut in terms of right or wrong, Mr. Strain advised the students not to ask the wrong question: Is this okay? Instead, he told them to ask themselves, Is this wise? Consider 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful [expedient]….” Christians should accept responsibility for their choices.

“Use your opportunities to give back….” 

Give back. “Giving back is not limited to those who are wealthy.” God’s firstfruits will have great opportunities to serve in the Kingdom, but Mr. Strain encouraged the students to give back now in three specific ways. First, he told the students to conduct themselves as Christians. “Wherever we go, we all have the responsibility to be a light and an example.” Secondly, “Serve the local congregation.” Finally, “Continue to support the Work.” At Living Ed, the students have done this directly, working in the different departments at Headquarters. As the students move on, Mr. Strain said, “You can pray, tithe, and serve based on your knowledge of what is being done here.”

Mr. Strain concluded his talk on Richard Driehaus’s three principles for success: “Looking back, things are much more condensed, because time passes rapidly… You have had a nine-month taste of true Christian culture—a streamlined education in theology and truth. As you go forward, think about how things are done at headquarters. Headquarters is not perfect, but it is where Christ is working and leading.” With just four weeks of classes left, the students are near the end of the Living Ed program. “I wish you, in your last few weeks, great success in what always turns out to be a busy few weeks—but not too busy to have fun.”


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 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 lcgeducation.org, 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.