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God’s EVERLASTING LOVE delivers us from wrong-doing’s self-imposed punishment!
Jonah’s life lessons & a critical look at the theological concept of “Everlasting Punishment”
A Bible Lesson Met for the 1st week of May 2003 by Warren Huff, CedarS Director

In a world struggling with what seems like an endless repetition of crime and punishment, mistakes and retributions, this week’s Bible lesson on God’s everlasting forgiveness and universal love is priceless! May we make May 1st not just a National, but an International and Universal, Day (and month) of Prayer that nurtures the newness of forgiveness. As a new government is established in Iraq, may the factionalized “universal distress signal” of “May Day! May Day!” become a universal de-stress signal of: “MAY Thy Word ENRICH the AFFECTIONS of ALL mankind and GOVERN them.” (Daily Prayer, Church Manual 41: 19 – words in CAPS added for emphasis). MAY God’s Word and our enriched affections, not enriched uranium (for nuclear weapons) or enriched bank accounts, prove to be “large and in charge” of all nations and their leaders.

Golden Text: (NO “TRASH TALK”) “. . . . the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. But jugdment shall return unto righteousness: and ALL the upright in heart shall follow it.” (Ps. 94:14, 15) It’s great to know that God will not cast off his people! (It’s actually impossible for an Original to “cast off,” or be disconnected from, its reflection.) When I think of being “cast off” or “cast away,” I think of America’s “throw-away” mentality. However, “the Father of lights” doesn’t make junk to pitch! The “good … and perfect gift(s)” (James 1:17, 1st section) sent by God, even when they seem to be “damaged goods,” are totally worth repairing and recycling! (God’s servants even patch up “bruised reeds” and “smoking flax.” See 5th section comments on Isa. 42:3) Jesus’ ministry was built on “recycling” thousands of marginalized, “cast aways” by treating each one like a treasured child of God, instead of like trash.
The always smoldering, stinky trash dump in Jerusalem was called “Gehenna,” so that’s what the exiled Hebrews came up with to match and call the Persian concept of hell, that was previously non-existent as a place in their original theology and vocabulary. (According to a Carol Krueger talk) Ask yourself often what treasures (children, parents, siblings,. . .) you’re mentally “casting off” like trash, and what trash you’re foolishly treating like treasure. The Golden Text is a wonderful summary of this lesson that’s all about the everlasting LOVE of God which universally blesses ALL who are ready to do right. The life lessons of Jonah (2nd, 3rd and 4th sections) beautifully illustrate this theology of an all-loving, all-good and all-powerful God, always rewarding those who choose to leave the dumps of disobedience and wrong-doing behind and claim their treasure of “right thinking and acting.” (righteousness)

Responsive Reading: “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isa. 59:19) Unrecognized enemies that our culture and media constantly flood us with are worldly temptations to treasure a false sense of happiness. They come disguised as non-combatants like “gratification in personal pleasure” and “selfish human enjoyment . . . . . A false sense of what constitutes happiness is more disastrous to human progress than all else that an enemy or enmity could obtrude upon the mind or engraft upon its purposes and achievements wherewith to obstruct life’s joys and enhance its sorrows.” (Misc. 9:22, 27, 30) What enemy looks like happiness to you, but really leads to unhappiness? Substitute “a false sense of what constitutes happiness” as the enemy here: “When the enemy (a false sense of happiness) shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Remember that the only effect that the Flood had on the Ark was to elevate it! You too can experience only uplift from a flood of temptations, as long as you don’t get fooled and buy into them by opening up your thought to them as friends, or as your own thought, which they are not.

Section 1, the COMPASS & FLIGHT TRAINING section: Even if we do get fooled and make a mistake, it’s comforting to know that: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps. 103:12) Visualize the great visual image in Deut. 32: 11 & 12 (1st section) of God keeping us “on upward wing” (CS Hymn 207:1) “in contrast with the downward tendencies and earthward gravitation of sensualism and impurity” (S&H 272:22). This citation promises that when we truly obey the 1st commandment (Mrs. Eddy’s “favorite text”) and there is “no strange god” with us, we’ll be treated like the nestlings of an eagle (or Griffin vulture, as properly translated from the Hebrew text).** God flutters over us and bears us on Her wings in Her flight school training. For additional tips on soaring, especially when your upward way seems to demand lots of your own effort, check out a nature met by Barry Huff that I re-posted this week called: **”Mount Up with Wings as Eagles!”

Section 2, the self-imposed STORM (& fish’s belly) section: When assigned by God to do a duty he deemed distasteful in Iraq (where ancient Nineveh was), Jonah deserts his duty and selfishly flees off-shore in the opposite direction. But, his disobedience brings about a strong storm that almost does him in, along with ship and all aboard. (If possible, do a quick read of the full details in the 3-page book of Jonah near the end of the Old Testament.) Thanks to the encouragement of his God-fearing shipmates and crew (ironically not of the “chosen” Hebrew faith), Jonah acknowledges his selfish disobedience. His selfishness is turned into concern for his shipmates and into a spirit of self-sacrifice when he tells the crew to cast him overboard to calm the sea for them. What storm(s) can your unselfish thinking and actions dis-spell today? Jonah’s unselfishness and acknowledgement of disobedience began his remarkable rescue and turn-around. As always, the all-powerful and ever-present Life Force we call God naturally networks with all obedient life-forms (like whales and Navy Seals) which the All-knowing prepares to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to serve and save the penitent from self-destructive disobedience. Jonah’s insecure situation and the security found only in obedience to God are explained in Science and Health: “Truth, Life and Love are the only legitimate and eternal demands on man, . . . enforcing obedience by divine statutes.” (184:12) “Selfishness tips the beam” (like a teeter totter) (205:28) “in disobedience, we ought to feel no security, although God is good.” (19:27) “Error excludes itself from harmony. Sin is its own punishment.” (537:14) “The manifestations of evil . . . . show the self-destruction of error or matter and point to matter’s opposite, the strength and permanence of Spirit.” (293:24)

Section 3, The VOMIT Section: (title guaranteed to keep at least our young gentlemen reading) : “Jonah prayed unto the Lord” (note his saving prayer was one of gratitude in advance) “with the voice of thanksgiving . . . . and God spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” (Jonah 2: 1, 9, 10) Once again Mrs. Eddy cleans up the ambiguity in Science and Health: “This is sin’s necessity, — to destroy itself.” (405:19) “sharp experiences . . . as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love.” (322:26) “Every supposed pleasure in sin will produce more than its equivalent of pain” (6:12) “Prayer cannot change the Science of being but it tends to bring us into harmony with it.” (2:15)

Section 4, Jonah’s 2ND CHANCE (to quit the Procrastinators’ Club & join the Faithful Warners’ Club) section: “And the word of Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh . . . So Jonah arose and went” (Jonah 3:1,2) “Tireless Being, patient of man’s procrastination, affords him fresh opportunities every hour.” (Christian Healing 19:18) Jonah now knew to “Be sure that God directs your way; then, hasten to follow under every circumstance.” (MBE article called Obedience, Mis. 117:31) He was finally willing to “be instant in season, out of season; (to) reprove, rebuke, exhort” (II Tim. 4:2) those he saw who were headed for danger. And, to Jonah’s surprise, and disappointment almost, the whole non-Hebrew bunch of “violent” and “evil” Ninevites, from the king down, listened to his warning and changed their ways! Who do you know that is presently headed for some sort of danger? Do you love them (and your own reason for existing) enough to be obedient and quickly seek God’s guidance in what to say (the wisdom) and when (the occasion) to say it? Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil.” (S&H 571:16) Applying this passage, you can “rise to the occasion,” whatever it is, that is demanding your best these last days of the school year, be it:
1. Sticky situations where taking moral or ethical stands are needed;
2. Hard assignments, unbelievable work load and killer deadlines;
3. Important tests or essays;
4. Big games, meets, presentations and performances;
5. Group Leadership roles;
6. Important social dates or events:

7. Challenging relationships that keep testing your patience, equanimity and integrity.
Whatever opportunities you face, you can meet them as their master by obeying this powerful two-word command: Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil.” S&H, 571:16 Know yourself as God knows you — as an ever perfect expression of “infinity, freedom, harmony and boundless bliss.” (see S&H 481:3) Totally accept and simply express each of these elements of your divine identity to eradicate their illegitimate opposites. Without a body-based sense of self, you will be open for God to eliminate from your experience: all of matter’s debilitating drag of limited energy, funds, intelligence, speed, inspiration; all its sapping slavery of restrictions (injuries, red tape tie-ups); all its regular rub of inharmonious relationships and its constant cloud of frustration and unhappiness. All gone! Never part of you or those you love. For the next month, “your assignment, should you choose to accept it,” (or even if you do not) will be to simply do your part, know yourself spiritually, and watch God do Her part, to supply you with all the wisdom and occasions where victories are wanted. (See more on this idea in a 5-1-03 met, “Rise to the Occasion,” re-posted to this website.)

Getting the big picture of who you truly are as God’s child and of the modest costs of living up to your spiritual selfhood compared to the awesome benefits of that life-style, will do much more for your ability to see through and avoid worldly temptations than merely focusing on them as no-no behaviors with attendant punishments. As Mrs. Eddy says: “Fear of punishment never made man truly honest. Moral courage is necessary to meet the wrong and proclaim the right. . . . Reason is the most active human faculty.” (S&H 327:22, 29)

Section 5, The “Never accept suffering or imperfection as God’s will” section: “a bruised reed (used as a shepherd’s flute) will he (my chosen, beloved servant) not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench” (Isa. 42:3, New Revised Standard Version) As mentioned in this met’s Golden Text discussion, our mission is to not ignore, but rather fix up and restore to full usefulness, whatever and whoever seems to be bruised, weak or dim. As sung in the spiritual (hymn): “Keep your lamps trimmed and burning!” Christ Jesus shows that time is not a factor in healing infirmity when he instantly heals a woman who was bowed together for 18 years! (Luke 13:11-17) The following tips from the chapter on Christian Science Practice come from the 1st of 4 pages of powerful points to include in an effective treatment to authoritatively oppose all imperfection. “Suffer no claim of sin or of sickness to grow upon thought. Dismiss it with an abiding conviction that it is illegitimate, because you know that God is no more the author of sickness than he is of sin. . . . ‘Agree to disagree’ with the approaching symptoms of chronic (long-term, recurring) or acute (“having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course”- Webster) disease whether it is cancer, consumption or small pox” (S&H 390:20) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, called SARS, and so much in the news lately. You can master adverse conditions and circumstances deemed beyond your control, by responding like a divinely-set thermostat, instead of like a merely mortal thermometer. Then, you can “make your own terms with sickness and be just to yourself and others.” (S&H 391:27)

Section 6, The SPIRITUAL BEINGS KISSING and PEACE MARCHING section: “righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10) Righteous individuals, taking a hard-line stance for justice and principle, seem to be on opposite sides of most issues from those drawn to march for peace, forgiveness and mercy. However, both sides are truly seeking lasting freedom and good, and can embrace each other as spiritual (not political) beings, with solutions to problems that will bless all mankind. Let’s know that clear-cut, answer-to-prayer solutions that can satisfy individuals of all persuasions, both in our country and abroad, will be divinely revealed in an timely and orderly way. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” (Ps. 37: 23, 24) “They shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:34) When we cease to accept an Adamic heritage as an excuse to be “miserable sinners” and instead fully and finally embrace our Biblically-based, (Genesis 1) divine nature as “born of God” (and) . . not commit(ting) sin” (I John 3:9), we’ll demonstrate increased dominion over sin. This will lead to “The destruction of sin (that) is the divine method of pardon.”(S&H 339:1)
“Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the MARCH toward righteousness, PEACE and purity, which are the landmarks of Science.” (S&H 323:6, CAPS added for “the PEACE MARCH section”) So, be receptive to the “chastisements,” or “severe censures” (Webster) of “ANGELS” (S&H 581:4), though they usually come as “still, small voice(s)” reminding you to stay true to your divine heritage of being “wholesome,” “sound in body, mind, and morals.” (Webster)
The following citation is my favorite met for water-skiing. After saying “Hit it!” for the boat to start pulling you, it’s all too easy for most beginners to lean forward right away, as if to get up “on their own.” This causes quick nose-dives. However, when we pause, waiting to acknowledge the boat, or really God, as the true power of the event, able to pull us through it, God precedes us and we express such dominion that we almost feel able to walk on the water. (A successful pausing posture for skiers to mimic is that of a testifier getting halfway up out of his seat and pausing for a few seconds before proceeding, because another testifier got up at the same time.) “Beholding the infinite tasks of Truth, we pause, — wait on God. Then we push onward, until boundless thought walks enraptured and conception unconfined is winged to reach the divine glory.” (S&H 323:9) In like manner, when we realize that life is about God, about Love, and not about us (as physical beings) or because of us (as sexual beings) we are free to merely reflect, instead of originate, the “incontrovertible” perfection of man AS A SPIRITUAL BEING, as the “image, reflection, of God, . . neither inverted” (‘reversed in position, order, or relationship’) “nor subverted,” (‘overturned from the foundation : RUINED: perverted or corrupted by an undermining of morals, allegiance, or faith’) “but upright and Godlike.” (S&H 200:19, with Merriam Webster’s definitions in parenthesis)

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