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“Keep Your Aim True”
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on:

“Everlasting Punishment”
October 23—30, 2023

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S.  Godfrey, Illinois / (630) 830-8683; cell/text (630) 234-3987


“Everlasting Punishment.” It sounds ominous. Why would a God who is Love eternally punish His children for sins they were made capable of doing? Why would a church emphasizing God’s loving nature twice-yearly address this unpleasant topic?

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, was not timid about confronting age-old theological beliefs. So, several topics for the Bible Lessons, to be studied throughout each week and read on Sundays in churches, do just that.

To be sure, the citations used in Lessons on Everlasting Punishment, often include several passages about God’s everlasting mercy, kindness, goodness, love, and so on. But their use does not mean we are blithely ignoring those biblical passages concerning the punishment of sin, or conveniently spinning the biblical passages to conform to our own theology. In light of the subject, these more uplifting passages make much more sense when we view them in context.

For instance, on the surface, the Golden Text this week (Ps. 106:1) appears to advocate the exact opposite of Everlasting Punishment. In context however, we see that this is the first verse of a Psalm that for the next forty-five verses recounts a litany of disobedience by the Children of Israel. They had committed iniquity, lusted, forgot God, despised, murmured, believed not, served other gods, angered God, murdered, defiled, and provoked God. “Nevertheless,” says verse 44, “he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry.” Despite their sinful history, the last two verses plead God to save them and give an everlasting blessing on Him.

Similarly, when I first read the selections in Psalm 17 from the Responsive Reading, I was puzzled because each of the verses are protestations of innocence and a clean record. I asked, “Why would such bold declarations for, and in support of, innocence be an opening to a Lesson on Everlasting Punishment?” Wouldn’t pleas for mercy make more sense? Once more, looking into the context reveals a possible answer. Commentators reason that this psalm must have been composed early in David’s life when he was, in fact, totally innocent, but was vengefully pursued by King Saul.

So, why might these particular verses have been chosen for this week’s subject? Perhaps because David’s prayer is a perfect example of a positive affirmation of innocence. I’ve noticed that Christian Scientists tend to refute evil and its claims with negative language— “I’m not guilty. I’m not sick. There is no matter,” and so on. But several years ago, I found something that caused me to question this approach.

Webster’s original definition of “denial” is “an affirmation to the contrary.” It doesn’t matter how many protestations one can make of what 2+2 is not. It’s best to declare what it is—2 + 2 = 4. So, declaring the truth is a great way to begin. Innocent though we may be, often enough we run into challenges. Fully aware of this, the psalmist trusts that God’s goodness and mercy will always be available regardless of the circumstance.

Section 1: Beginning Rightly

How do you begin your day? Some exercise; many look at their phones, or read the newspaper; or switch on the radio or television. While the psalmist didn’t have the overflow of potential distractions available in our modern world, he still set a great example for us. The psalmist begins his day with prayer (citation B1—Ps. 5:3, 4). Methodist theologian Adam Clarke (1762-1832) points out that David’s prayer wasn’t random. Like an archer he took aim, and directed his prayer to the mark. Then he let it fly and looked up for a response. He knows his prayer must be more than words. It’s sincere and heartfelt, and he does his best to live up to his prayer in life practice. In Psalm 26 (cit, B2—Ps. 26:2, 3, 6), he demonstrates his willingness to be thoroughly examined, proved, and tried. He’s fully confident in his innocence. He lives the truth, and it regulates his actions.

These pure prayers are natural to those who are innocent. But as we all know, eventually, we make mistakes. Sometimes unwittingly, and sometimes knowing full well, we’re crossing the line. The children of Israel often did more than tiptoe over that line. David himself had much to repent. What chance do sinners have? The psalmist again provides an example of seeking forgiveness with a truly repentant heart. In meekness and humility, we must acknowledge our wrongdoing and sincerely desire to keep the commandments in the future (cit. B3—Ps. 25:6-11, 15).

Sometimes we might feel that our prayers for forgiveness are unanswered, or God has forsaken us. But that’s partially because we aren’t used to waiting. We like instant results as if we’re clicking a “mouse.” In prayer, we yield to God’s schedule. As Jeremiah points out, there’s no need to rush. God has our backs and knows the end from the beginning. God is always there, and we find Him when we seek with all our hearts (cit. B4—Jer. 29:11, 13).

Science and Health approaches this whole topic simply, logically, and clearly. God is good and must, therefore be represented by goodness. If good is natural, evil is unnatural (cit. S1—SH 119:21). If goodness is ever-present, Evil is never present (cit. S2—SH 72:21-23). As mentioned earlier, it makes no sense at all, to think that an all-loving God who is good, could create us with the capacity to sin, and then punish us for it (cit. S3—SH 230:11). Man is tributary not to sin, but to God (cit. S4—SH 481:1). There is nothing else! Finally, God’s work is already done, and done rightly. Our task is to realize it. God is on our side and works for us (cit. S5—SH 22:11-12).

Section 2: Whom Do You Serve?

One myth about growing up is that we can do whatever we want. But the fact is we always answer to someone or something. Even when we think we’re doing our own thing, we are influenced one way or another. Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Your decisions will master you which ever direction they take” (SH 392:22).  Similarly, movement instructor F. M. Alexander wrote, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” In modern life, it can be difficult to recognize what is influencing us, and we often are disinterested in even thinking about it. But Paul considered it urgently: “Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)” (The Amplified Bible) (cit. B5—Rom. 6:16). Nineteenth century theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) clarifies: “Servitude among the ancients, whether voluntary or involuntary, was rigid, and gave the master an absolute right over his slave, …” That puts a different complexion on it.

This leads us to the story of Jonah (cit. B6—Jonah 1:1-5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17). There’s an aphorism: “When the Spirit moves, follow.” Jonah did the opposite. God instructed him to go to Nineveh, the largest city in the world, and preach against them. Jonah disobeyed and set out for Tarshish, the farthest outpost he could find. During the voyage a storm came up and Jonah even tried to escape that by sleeping. Even though he accepted blame for their predicament, he still would rather give up his life than obey God. Yet, he couldn’t run from responsibility. The Scriptures say God prepared “a great fish” to swallow him.

Although God is omnipotent good and eternally loving, Science and Health tells us that if we’re disobedient to God, “we ought to feel no security” (cit. S6—SH 19:26). This might sound harsh, but the consequence of our disobedience is on us, not God. If it’s storming and freezing outside the tent, and we decide to go outside, it’s not the tent’s fault we get wet. It’s our fault. All we have to do to be warm and dry again is go back inside! God doesn’t punish us. In effect, we’re punishing ourselves. The punishment ceases when the sin is destroyed (cit. S8—SH 329:26). But the deeper we are into error, the more resistance there is when we try to escape. This doesn’t mean error is real, nor that God is punishing us. It means error is only as real as we allow it to be. We have to realize every “yes” to error is a “no” to God; and every “yes” to God is a “no” to error. That’s just the way it is.

Obeying Truth gives us power. If we submit to error, we lose power (cit. S9—SH 183:21). We must understand that God doesn’t make sin; and ultimately, the sinful errors we seem to suffer aren’t real because they aren’t from God. But, if we indulge in sin and give it power, we’re stepping out of the tent, so to speak. In reality, we can’t ever leave the tent because God is omnipotent and omnipresent. Error is never more than a suggestive temptation. I was told back in Sunday School that Mary Baker Eddy once said, “Error comes to you for life, and you give it the only life that it has.”

We do have choice. We can always say “no” to error, but the best way to do that is to fearlessly say “yes” to Truth and stand strong with God (cit. S10—SH 231:12-25).

Section 3: The Belly of the Beast

 When it appears Jonah is in the darkest, confining place, he finally decides to pray. He turns whole-heartedly to God from the depths of his disobedience and misery (cit. B7— Jonah 2:1, 2, 7-10). Even amid that trial, God cares for him and answers his heartfelt prayer. This is an object lesson for all of us. Jonah learns that following idols of flesh, intellect, ambition, pride, and self-will are vanities that come to nothing. God is his only salvation. Barnes considers this a lesson for us all— “Let the sinner too cry aloud, whom, departing from God, the storm of desires overwhelmed, the malignant Enemy devoured, the waves of this present world sucked under! Let him own that he is in the depth, that so his prayer may reach to God….”

Jonah saw the error of his ways and was given another chance. This time he obeyed and warned Nineveh that if they didn’t clean up their act the city would be utterly destroyed. Everyone took the warning seriously and everyone repented. Even their animals fasted (cit. B8—Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (to 1st;)).

Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal” (cit. S11—SH vii:18-20). In other words, the only sure way to remain obedient is to understand what God truly is. If we misapprehend God, and think of God as a magnified human with whims and favorites, or as devising temptations to test us, or having anything whatever to do with evil or human-like emotions, we won’t be obedient even if we follow what we believe the rules to be. Who would want anything to do with that type of god? When we truly understand God as infinite good, as impartial, loving, merciful, and just, then we love God, and willingly and happily follow His law. God doesn’t govern by fear or threats but by Truth, Life, and Love (cit. S12—SH 184:12).

Mary Baker Eddy recognized that we all make mistakes, and that sometimes we get into quite a bit of trouble. But rather than defaulting to the threat of eternal damnation to keep us behaving, we have infinite opportunity to begin again. We can either do this “by suffering”—learning the hard way—, or “by Science”—repenting through the natural spiritualization of thought. “Unwinding one’s snarls” can be difficult, but it must be done (cit. S13—SH 240:24-32).

When we grow out of sin naturally, we don’t have to ask, “Is it time to stop this? Should I, or shouldn’t I do this or that?” As we grow in spiritual maturity, we’re happy to let the mistaken beliefs disappear because spiritual goodness and satisfaction have taken their place (cit. S14— SH 342:2-5). Don’t feel bad if you’re tempted. Everyone is. As we attain a higher sense of our godlike identities, we will be so filled with blessings that we’ll forget we were ever anything less than God’s reflection (cit. S15—SH 267:28).

Section 4: Seeing As God Sees

Christ Jesus is the supreme example who remained obedient despite every temptation, enticement, or threat he faced (cit. B10—Acts 10:38 God). His healing ability was a natural outcome of his own purity of thought. He was so secure in his sonship with God that no matter how corrupt the environment he was in, he never lost sight of who he was (cit. B11—Matt. 15:30, 31). He was single-minded in his mission. James tells us this is what we need to do too. When we turn to God, God is always turning to us. We’re never turned away. This is accomplished by cleansing our hands and hearts in innocence, purity, and sincerity. As the Psalmist has said, “I will wash my hands in innocency.” We’re transformed inside and out (cit. B12—James 4:8). My song “Back to the River,” exemplifies a healthy view of willingness to acknowledge mistakes and transform one’s life. You can hear a sample of the song, or purchase it here: Back to the River

Jesus’ spiritual viewpoint enabled him to heal both sin and sickness (cit. S16—SH 316:7). He knew that God never punishes man through sickness (cit. S17—SH 227:30). He never even saw sin or sickness because he beheld man as God beholds him—sinless, whole, spiritual, healthy, eternal. He was actually seeing not as men see, but as God sees (cit. S18—SH 476:32-5). I find these words from theologian/philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) helpful in understanding this idea:

…we men talk about finding the perfect person in order to love him. Christianity speaks about being the perfect person who limitlessly loves the person he sees. (Works of Love, Søren Kierkegaard, p. 170)

In Christian Science, we hold steadfastly to this spiritual point of view. Thus, we will find it manifested in our lives (cit. S19—SH 261:4). Our textbook describes this viewpoint as being “absolutely governed by divine Love…” (cit. S20—SH 14:9). I know that’s quite a lofty goal that seems far out of reach for many of us. But that’s okay too. We can be patient with ourselves and with others. Patient obedience will dissolve “self-will, self-justification, and self-love” (cit. S21—SH 242:15 In). These are some of those “false landmarks” mentioned earlier. So be patient. Begin where you are, and you will gain a little each day until your “arrow” hits the mark.

Section 5: Beginning Again

We all know the story of the woman taken in adultery (cit. B13—John 8:1-11). This is a perfect example of God giving us an “expected end” as Jeremiah said. True to form Jesus saw this woman differently than the Scribes and Pharisees. We need to understand that the atmosphere was charged with the bloodlust of her accusers. Even though they were also looking to entrap Jesus, in those days, adultery was punishable by death. The onlookers were eager for a violent outcome.

But Jesus maintained his spiritual viewpoint. Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus was always interested in the person’s true nature. While the accusers were stirred up in condemnation and deceit, Jesus was intent on forgiveness. Jesus challenged not only the accusers but also the woman. He didn’t just brush aside their accusations and set her merrily on her way. He challenged her to change her life. She had the choice to “go and sin no more”—to begin again. We all do, every day, if not every moment.

A poem in Barclay’s Daily Study Bible speaks to the longing to begin again.

How I wish that there was some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again,

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches

And all our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,

And never put on again.

As mentioned in Section 2, serving evil is bondage from which Christian Science offers freedom (cit. S24—225:29-31). Our textbook tells us fear of punishment isn’t enough to make us honest. We must take a stand for what is good. Just as it isn’t sufficient to say 2 + 2 is not 5, and we have to say 2 + 2 = 4 to make a difference, so it is with overcoming sin. We have to have the moral courage to take a positive stand for what is good and holy (cit. S25—327:22). Armed with the truths of Christian Science we can logically argue our way to understand that evil has no hold on us, and step-by-step, we will awaken to a clearer view of reality.

But human reasoning is a preliminary step. “To remedy this,” Science and Health says, “we must first turn our gaze in the right direction and then walk that way” (cit. S26—248:19-32). Like David, we must aim in the right direction to hit the target. We must welcome in all that is good and make ourselves available to and alive with it. This isn’t done by force, or by reason. It’s accomplished by opening our hearts and letting “unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love — the kingdom of heaven — reign within us…” That’s genuine repentance.

The third tenet of our church acknowledges that God forgives sin by destroying it. “But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts” (cit. S27—SH 497:9). This doesn’t mean we’re sinners, nor is it a threat of eternal punishment. It’s just like standing outside a tent in a storm. If we want to get dry, we have only to move back into the tent. The door is always open.

Section 6: Something to Aim For

So, what is the target for our arrow? Philippians provides us with something firm to aim for: all that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. This is where we should aim our gaze and keep it there (cit. B14—Phil. 4:8). James reminds us that it’s not enough to think about these things, but we have to allow them to transform our lives and embrace them with our hearts, so that we may be doers and not just hearers (cit. B15—James 1:25). It has been said there are four kinds of people in a religious community:

  1. Those who enter but do not work;
  2. Those who work but do not enter.
  3. Those who enter and work.
  4. Those who neither enter nor work.

The first two are indifferent; the third is righteous; the fourth is useless.

Theologians have debated between faith and works for centuries. Christian Science clarifies that we’re expected to demonstrate what we learn and accept responsibility for our thinking and progress (cit. S28—SH 3:7). If we allow the Christ to work in us, transforming our hearts and lives, we will find that all our thoughts naturally focus on what is good. Our lives will be deeper, holier, and more productive (cit. S29—SH 99:23). The Founder of Christian Science writes, “There is but one way of doing good, and that is to do it! There is but one way of being good, and that is to be good!
(Retrospection and Introspection, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 86:4)

The practice of being good will lead us to attain a higher demonstration (cit. S30—SH 2:16-17). Do you still feel this attainment is out of reach? Take heart! Nobody is expected to make the transition in one leap. We begin where we are, and from there, we determine which next step will bring us closer to our aim. As we cherish our aim, we willingly discard anything that deters us from reaching it. We serve only that which is necessary to reach our aim. Thus, we will gain higher views one step at a time (cit. S31—SH 66:14). So, let’s take aim right now, and keep our aim true.

**P.S. SPECIAL INSPIRING MUSIC OPPORTUNITY:  “Does the thought of Everlasting Punishment bum you out? For an uplifting view of deep felt repentance, listen to Craig Ghislin’s song “Back to the River.” The song can be purchased separately, or as part of his full album on

The album contains original songs of inspiration and life’s journeys that strengthen faith, hope, and love.
It includes an updated version of CedarS favorite, Sugar Drive too!

The first cache of GEMs of BIBLE-BASED application ideas (from Cobbey Crisler & others) will hopefully be emailed early in the week and the second cache will be emailed later in the week.  You can always check  for GEM contributions in progress before then at CedarS INSPIRATION website, whether or not you’ve  SUBSCRIBED here for this free, inspirational offering.

Also later in the week, look for Ken Cooper’s
contributions related to this Bible Lesson.

THANKS to all you PRECIOUS DONORS for ALL of your ONGOING SUPPORT!  Every camper & visitor will be blessed by your GENEROSITY, VISION & LOVE!

ANOTHER MATCH WAS MET and its project operationally completed before camp!  Thanks to several generous donors to our special A/V Appeal we were able to finish building a CHAPEL A.V. BOOTH that will protect not only new, donated equipment, but also all our hymnals for worship services and for CedarS Sunday Hymn Sings.

If you haven’t lately checked out the GIVING TREE, there are still plenty of other smaller areas of need to fill yet this year! Campers & staff will also be blessed bigtime by the donations made to additional areas of camp, including our horse program, activity equipment, camperships, and Christian Science nursing and practitioner services.

We’re deeply grateful for EVERY GIFT of love & support,
The CedarS Team

P.S. For more about ways to keep CedarS operations ever more green and flourishing and/or to make a PLANNED GIFT, A REQUIRED IRA DISTRIBUTION or an ENDOWMENT GIFT (that will all be MATCHED), feel free anytime to call or text me (Warren Huff, Executive Director Emeritus and Project Manager) at 314-378-2574. I can put you in touch with our Financial Advisor/broker who donates all fees for stock transfers and freely shares tailored, tax-advantaged giving approaches.

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