Join us for the best summer yet!

Click here & then on Listen bar to
hear Craig  read his CedarS “Met” for the week.

Keep Your Attention Where It Belongs
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson  on

”Matter”
September
11—17, 2023

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Godfrey, Illinois
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / office 630-830-8683, cell 630-234-3987


INTRODUCTION 

Where is your attention at this very moment? Are you fully present? Or is your attention divided between the task at hand and the coming day’s activities, or yesterday’s?

Now let’s widen the time frame. Where is your attention generally focused? Is your life focused on possessions? Problems? Finances? Weather? Politics? World conflict? Crime rates? Your weight? Health? The Golden Text invites us to question our focus. While several English translations of the Bible place this verse within the narrow context of material riches, the King James Version alone states it more broadly: “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?” (Prov. 23:5 (to ?)).

“The words of the Preacher” in this week’s Responsive Reading expand on the ephemeral nature of matter-based pursuits. Solomon spent his life focusing on accumulating material possessions and experiences. Eventually, he realized none of it satisfied him. (See Eccl 1:1, 2;2:2-4, 8, 10, 11…)

Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible describes it this way:
”Solomon here, in pursuit of the summum bonumthe felicity of man, adjourns out of his study, his library, his laboratory, his council-chamber, where he had in vain sought for it, into the park and the playhouse, his garden and his summer-house; he exchanges the company of the philosophers and grave senators for that of the wits and gallants, and the beaux-esprits, of his court, to try if he could find true satisfaction and happiness among them. Here he takes a great step downward, from the noble pleasures of the intellect to the brutal ones of sense; yet, if he resolves to make a thorough trial, he must knock at this door, because here a great part of mankind imagine they have found that which he was in quest of.”

Smith’s Bible Commentary paraphrases Solomon’s disappointing conclusion:
”No profit in any of it. It was empty. I was still empty. I was still frustrated. You see, this is life on the human level. This is the denying of the spiritual nature. It is trying to live your life apart from God. Trying to find satisfaction and meaning apart from God. You’ll never do it.”

Solomon realizes that what’s really valuable are the gifts God gives to those who are good in his sight—“wisdom, and knowledge, and joy” (Eccl. 3:26). As if to cap it off with an editorial insight, Jesus’ words as recorded by John speak with amazing brevity: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).


SECTION 1: Attuned to Spirit

Clearly Solomon’s pursuit of happiness failed because he was looking for it in the wrong places. So where is your attention? Worldly wisdom inundates us with the false promises that our satisfaction, happiness, health, security, and comfort can be found through material methods, and in material things. The psalmist, knows where to look, waiting on God “all the day” (cit. B1—Ps. 25:5, 12-14)).

Despite the “pop psychology” of “positive thinking” the true secret to life lies in our understanding of God and our relationship to Him, or Her, if you prefer. Dwelling in the reality of Spirit brings us an ease that cannot be disturbed. All human doctrines, theories, strategies, and forecasts are fluid, changeable, and ultimately unreliable. As much as the material sciences purport to speak with the authority of permanent law, there are some who are beginning to admit otherwise. A recent guest essay in the New York Times states:

“Physicists and astronomers are starting to get the sense that something may be really wrong. It’s not just that some of us believe we might have to rethink the standard model of cosmology; we might also have to change the way we think about some of the most basic features of our universe — a conceptual revolution that would have implications far beyond the world of science.”

By contrast, spiritual truths never change (cit. B2—Deut. 29:29 those). We should keep in mind that these spiritual concepts are ancient wisdom that has survived centuries. Even in the first century of the common era, Paul questioned the habit of looking into matter for answers: “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (cit. B3—Gal. 3:3 having).

The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy not only begins with Spirit, but she also continues with it and ends with it! The first citation from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in this week’s Lesson is what the author terms: “the scientific statement of being” (cit. S1—SH 468:8-15). Think it through slowly. “Being” is where you are. What is your state of being? Where are you dwelling? Believing our being is in matter is fruitless. Our aim should be “being” in Spirit because that’s where all real being is.

Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of Christian Science turns how we think about matter upside down, impacting both theology and medicine by focusing thought on God alone (cit. S2—SH 107:1, 10). In her textbook, the author describes briefly how she discovered these spiritual laws that she named Christian Science.

In Christian Science, we aren’t working to change sick, or broken, matter into well matter. We aren’t really dealing with matter at all. Remember too, that we can never really “be” in matter because matter isn’t a state or condition. Rather, we are working from the standpoint that Spirit is the only reality, and that matter is no more than a mistaken perception of reality. This discovery taught the author that what appears to us as material maladies or evils are “the false testimony of false material sense, of mind in matter;” [and] “that this false sense evolves, in belief, a subjective state of mortal mind which this same so-called mind names matter, thereby shutting out the true sense of Spirit” (cit. S3—SH 108:19-3).

Describing matter as a subjective state of belief means it’s not outside of us, but within thought. Through her initial healing brought about by prayer alone, and countless others, she came to this proposition: “that Mind is All and matter is naught.” Even in our modern world of quantum physics, theories of multiple realities, and recent cosmological discoveries, Christian Science truly is a “conceptual revolution” with “implications far beyond the world of science.”


SECTION 2: An Endeavor Doomed from the Outset

The crux of the problem, as far as Mary Baker Eddy saw it, is found in biblical statements like this from Ecclesiastes: “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (cit. B4—Eccl. 7:29).

A case in point is the Tower of Babel (cit. B5—Gen. 11:1, 4-9 (to:)). There are several theories as to who the builders were. One source says they were believed to be giants. Whoever they were, the Bridgeway Bible Commentary explains the suspected mindset of the builders:

The people of this region, proud of the society they had established, displayed the same anti-God spirit as had brought about God’s judgment through the flood. They joined together to build for themselves a new city that would make them famous and give them complete security. They decided to crown their city with what they considered to be a skyscraper, as a symbol of their advanced civilization and complete self-sufficiency.

Sounds like a contemporary way of thinking, doesn’t it? Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible places the situation in historical context:

The construction of the tower of Babel was actually the dethronement of God and establishment of paganism as their system of worship. … There was the change of government into a military dictatorship with cruel and oppressive power, and also the creation and promulgation of a priesthood which constructed right there in Babylon a pantheon of pagan gods and elaborated paganism into a religious system that was to prevail throughout the world until … 389 A.D.

Whatever the particulars, overall, commentators agree that the building of the tower represents an ambitious attempt to be independent of God’s power.

Mankind’s overreaching and refusal to accept limits often leads to self-destruction. Many Old Testament stories portray God as being jealous that mankind will find out what He knows as if it were a secret. Does that make sense? God never put man into matter in the first place. Is the story of Babel about a jealous God? How could the Almighty Creator of the Universe ever feel threatened? Or is this a story of mankind’s hubris and an inability to embrace limits?

Can we get too close to God? While much of scientific research over the years has been motivated by an urge to discover how and why things work, emphasis has been slowly shifting into using scientific discoveries to find ways for mankind to exert control over natural processes. Experimentation in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence have caused concern in some quarters that the scientific community is “playing God.” Physicists even use language like: “finding the God particle.” As the NY Times article acknowledges, theoretical physicists are well-aware of how close science is coming to the realm of philosophy and theology. When astronomers discovered what is believed to be “the edge of the universe” in the late 1970’s I recall asking my astronomy professor what was beyond it? He replied without hesitation: “That’s a theological question.”

The citations from Science and Health focus on the idea that building on a material premise is an inherently hazardous path heading for “a certain downfall” (cit. S4—SH 581:17-22). Remember, unlike laws of physics, spiritual laws are unchangeable and are applicable in every place and time.

Admittedly, it’s extremely interesting to investigate material origins and laws, and many discoveries have been beneficial to mankind, but to the same degree we incline our attention toward matter, taking no account of Spirit, we’re turning away from Mind. (cit. S5—SH 168:6-8). World thought on its own is constantly contradicting itself. The belief that evil and good coincide creates an impossible framework that “totters to its falling” (cit. S6—SH 389:22). Rather than God taking measures to disrupt mankind’s inventions, it’s really the other way around. Mortal belief is always looking for reasons to limit and obstruct the laws of Spirit. As the Discoverer of Christian Science writes, “The determination to hold Spirit in the grasp of matter is the persecutor of Truth and Love” (cit. S7—SH 28:6).

In the story of Babel, God steps in to stop mankind’s effort to break limits and reach heaven. It’s not God but mortal mind, who will do everything it can to disrupt our journey heavenward. God wants us to be as close to Him as possible. How could omnipotent Mind ever be worried about man knowing the truth? The message of the Tower of Babel is this: we can’t get to God by building on a material foundation.

It must reiterated that we hold no judgment toward the physical sciences and their discoveries. Many of the latest discoveries are proving that matter is not what we once thought it was. The difficulty is when we leave God out of the equation. No matter how we look at it, if we endow or concede matter as having the same power as Spirit, we run into trouble. Our textbook tells us doing so leads us into a two-horned dilemma (cit. S8—SH 119:1). Without God, we believe matter acts on its own and God is either helpless or non-existent. If we think God made matter, it means God is responsible for all evils. Neither of these conclusions are true.

People love to hedge their bets by wanting it both ways, but in spiritual metaphysics, you can’t sit on the fence (cit. S9—SH 167:22-26). We must reason from one source not two. Our attention is on Spirit, God and man as God’s spiritual idea.


SECTION 3: When Storms Arise

Who hasn’t had a time when they felt overwhelmed by their situation? This most likely occurs when our attention is fixed on the problem rather than on God. The psalmist’s prayer for God to lead him to higher ground is one many of us have prayed (cit. B6—Ps. 61:2). Christ Jesus taught us to always look to God rather than at the problem. He taught that whatever the challenge may be, with God all things are possible (cit. B7—Matt. 19:26 with God).

Mathew records that after feeding the five thousand, Jesus “constrained” his disciples to get into a ship toward their next destination while he stayed behind to pray (cit. B8—Matt. 14:22-32). Commentators explain the word “constrained” signifies more than a simple request; it’s an urgent demand. In context, Jesus had just fed the five thousand men beside women and children. According to John’s Gospel, the multitudes were so affected by the miracle that they wanted to take Jesus by force and crown him king. Therefore, Jesus had to immediately diffuse the situation by sending the disciples away so he could find a quiet place to pray.

While Jesus was alone praying privately about his own “storms” of temptation, the disciples were facing a literal storm that threatened their lives. Once the Master overcame his own storm, he walked over the waves to the disciples and rescued them from theirs. Jesus approached the disciples walking on the sea, and Peter accepted Jesus’ invitation to do the same. Things were fine until Peter’s attention on Jesus shifted to the wind and waves. Of course, Jesus reached out to save him.  Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?” This can be paraphrased, “Why was your attention on the problem, while I was with you the whole time?” That’s a question we might ask ourselves when we’re sinking in the waves.

Christian Science certainly accepts that whether the storms we face are figurative or literal, “all things are possible to God” because matter isn’t real. Irrespective of the type of storm we face, God is always available to save us. Jesus proved this by acting in “direct opposition to material law” (cit. S10—SH 273:24). Regardless of the challenge, divine law overrules discord of every kind (cit. S11—SH 182:32).

Looking through the news today, we find reports of all types of threatening storms. Ongoing invasions, injustices, political conflicts, fires, hurricanes, and floods are all examples of what Mary Baker Eddy calls “bestial ferocity.” She also uses a phrase that can be puzzling—“vapid fury” (cit. S12—SH 293:21-23). Vapid means “having lost life and spirit; dead, dull inanimate.” “Fury” is defined as “violent rushing; rage; a storm of anger; turbulence; heat of the mind.” To my sense, “vapid” and “fury” seem to contradict each other.

The marginal heading: “The counterfeit forces,” offers some resolution. Being counterfeit, these “bestial” forces are mindless evils without either intelligence or direction. On page 124:26 (cit. S13—SH 124:26), the author tells us that while the human mind believes we’re governed by forces of matter, “divine Science declares that they belong wholly to divine Mind…” So, we can conclude, “involuntary mindless evils, have no control over God’s creation.”

As mentioned previously, we can also apply these laws of God’s protection to the storms of sickness and sin that tempt us (cit. S14—SH 495:14-20). The directions in the textbook are straightforward. Cling to God, “allow nothing but His likeness” in our thought and disallow fear and doubt. Maintain a “clear sense and calm trust” that recognition of God’s law will destroy anything that seems to oppose it. That’s keeping our attention where it belongs—on Spirit.


SECTION 4: Maintaining Correct Focus

Clinging steadfastly to God, when, to human sense, the evidence is screaming at us requires some real faith. Make no mistake—clinging to God in the face of challenges can seem a daunting task. The psalmist maintained his bold trust in God proving that when your attention is on God, there’s nothing to fear. He writes, “In God I will praise his word, in God have I put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (cit. B9—Ps. 56:4, 13).

There are times though when the situation seems hopeless, and praying almost seems ridiculous. The healing of Jairus’ daughter is a case in point. The crowds were as pressing as the waves had been. The demands were high. Yet Jesus focused on what was most important, even taking the time to heal someone else along the way. When it appeared that it was too late to heal the child because she had died, Jesus was unphased. He confidently reminded the distraught father to be unafraid and to “only believe.”  In other words, “Don’t heed the material evidence. Keep your attention on the Christ.” How would you feel in that situation? Once he arrived at the house, the mental anguish and noise of the mourners created another stormy atmosphere. The evidence was strong that Jesus was too late, and those present “laughed him to scorn.” But Jesus practiced what he taught others. He put all distractions out so he could maintain his focus on God, and the child was healed (cit. B10—Mark 5:21-24, 35-42).

To human sense, it often appears that there’s nothing to be done; that it’s too late—impossible for God to overcome the material evidence. But the Discoverer of this Science of the Christ had full faith in all of Jesus’ statements, including when he said, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” She tells us the key to achieving this understanding is to “part with error”—to keep our attention fully invested on our trust in God alone (cit. S15—SH 429:31-9).

Ultimately, matter has nothing to say about anything (cit. S16—SH 210:25-26). It’s a “simulacra”— a term coined by philosopher Jean Baudrillard meaning, “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality” [emphasis added]. Or in layman’s terms “a copy of a copy without an original.” It’s a lie talking to itself and believing what it says—mortal mind mesmerized by its own lie. Our aim is to turn from this false picture and bring our attention to God becoming fully conscious of the truth.  Science and Health describes it this way: “Become conscious for a single moment that Life and intelligence are purely spiritual,—neither in nor of matter,—and the body will then utter no complaints” (cit. S17—SH 14:12-18). The key here is to know that Life is purely spiritual, turning completely away from matter and focusing 100% on Spirit.

This is the “golden moment” we’re all reaching for. Though it seems otherwise, this is possible to obtain. When we do, the seemingly impossible becomes not only possible, but assured.


SECTION 5: Bring Your Attention to the True Source

The Bible citations in this section focus on Jesus’ commission to his disciples to go out and bring his message to a wider audience. Most commentaries emphasize the practicality of Jesus’ instructions to simply mean for them to travel light for a short trip (cit. B13—Luke 9:1-4, 6). The commentaries also tend to downplay the healing part of the commission. However, when we consider the passage from John saying, “I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (cit. B12—John 6:35 Jesus) it’s clear that Jesus is urging the disciples to bring their attention to the Christ and his teachings, and they will have all they need.

Jesus is reminding us that in our spiritual journeys matter has nothing to offer that will help, feed, supply, protect, or heal us. We must abide in him and leave matter behind. Irrespective of our circumstance, our needs are covered, and we have the commission and divine authority to prove dominion over the flesh.

Science and Health considers every biblical account of needs being met as proof of the power of Spirit, divine Mind over matter (cit. S18—SH 139:4-5, 8-9). Jesus taught his disciples to keep the power of Spirit in the forefront of thought (cit. S19—SH 271:7-8), but also to look to God for what many term “practical needs” like food and clothing. Mary Baker Eddy was in total agreement with all of this and encouraged us as modern-day disciples to turn to God for our every need as well. (See cits. S20—SH 530:5; S21—SH 442:22-25).

I find it interesting that while most would consider daily necessities as “practical needs,” Mary Baker Eddy’s considers spiritual healing as being of “more practical import” (cit. S22—SH 37:16-17, 20). In short, she expected us to follow Jesus’ in every way, not just some of them. If we keep our attention on Spirit, we’ll be conforming to his example.


SECTION 6: One Fact, One Faith, One Aim

The final section of the Lesson sums up what’s required of us. The “conclusion of the whole matter” is to “fear God and keep his commandments” (cit. B14—Eccl. 12:13). The Amplified Bible does a wonderful job expanding on this verse:

All has been heard; the end of the whole matter is this: Fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is] and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man [the full, original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness, the adjustment to all inharmonious circumstances and conditions under the sun] and the whole [duty] for every man.

The whole point is to keep our attention on God. How you ask? The final citations from (cit. B15—I Thessalonians 5:16, 17, 19, 21) give us another bullet list of best spiritual practices. Again, The Amplified Bible puts it well:

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);

Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]:

Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit;

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast.

It’s all about keeping our attention where it belongs. When faced with challenges—especially those that seem either gargantuan, or ongoing—we’re occasionally disheartened. We do well to maintain a buoyant, expectant outlook and keep our attention on the spiritual reality of things. Every moment offers a fresh opportunity for new inspiration. Don’t give up—persevere not with human will, but with dominion and authority. Keep the flame burning—tend to it and resist the temptation to let soggy notions of fear and doubt douse your spiritual spark. Although to “test” something generally implies only a 50/50 chance of success, note that in The Amplified Bible we don’t accept apparent failure. We work “until [we] can recognize” the reality, and then hold fast to it.

All these practices constitute what Science and Health terms “right reasoning” keeping “one fact before the thought, namely, spiritual existence” (cit. S23—SH 492:3-4, 7 (only)).  We exist where our thoughts are—where our attention is.  Science and Health defines “being” as “holiness, harmony, immortality.” Is this where your consciousness is? Do we have more faith in God or in man? When we’re in Truth, and our attention is fully engaged with God, nothing can prevent us from healing (cit. S24—SH 368:14).

To echo “the words of the preacher” in Ecclesiastes, this is the whole of man—what it’s all about (cit. S25—SH 340:4-12 (to 1st .)). So, ask yourself regularly whether in a crisis or in peace, “Where is my attention?” If you focus on matter you’re not focusing on Spirit. Follow the wisdom of the Master and keep your attention where it belongs.



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
”POETIC POSTLUDE”
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.

American Camp Association

MAIN OFFICE
(November - May)
410 Sovereign Court #8
Ballwin, MO 63011
(636) 394-6162

CAMP OFFICE
(Memorial Day Weekend - October)
19772 Sugar Dr.
Lebanon, MO 65536
(417) 532-6699

Support our mission!

CedarS Camps

Back
to top