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Pause and Listen. [Take in being on holy ground and follow Life’s next steps.]
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

for January 13—19, 2020

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Glen Ellyn, IL (Bartlett) / (630) 830-8683

How long can we survive without water? Most estimates are somewhere between 72 and 100 hours. How long do you think you can go without God? Guess what? You wouldn’t even exist without God because God is your very Life.

Whenever I think about this question, one thing comes to mind. When I was in college and a theatre major, auditions for all productions for the coming semester took place within one week. We had to try out for everything and then be ready for callbacks. It was an intense time, and I was totally focused on auditions. On the fourth day, I realized that I had completely forgotten about reading the Lesson-Sermon the whole week, and I felt a distinct emptiness come over me.

I went back to the books, and as I opened them the familiar pages warmed my soul like coming home and sitting in my favorite easy chair. It was a palpable feeling that I will never forget. I’m not suggesting that we ritualize studying the Lesson, but I am suggesting that consciously pausing to spend time with God brings tangible results.

Throughout this week’s Lesson we see the need for going further in our understanding of God. The God spoken of by the psalmist in the Golden Text isn’t a tribal idol that needs placating to get Him or Her to help us. The God of Israel is the living God, the author, giver, and maintainer of all creation who is Life itself.

Now we might think that this view of God was uniformly etched into the religious psyche and practice of the ancient Israelites, but that’s a rather romanticized view. The Bible clearly shows that the Israelites often found themselves struggling to understand God. In the Responsive Reading, Jeremiah tells us the God of Israel is “the only true God.” Sounds safe, and simple enough. Yet the following passages from Acts, in which Paul addresses the pagan population make it seem like Athenians were the only ones who needed a deeper understanding of God.

Knowing that a wide range of people read these Mets, I researched what modern scholars are thinking about ancient Israelite religion. I found an interesting article that you may read for yourself at this URL: <–judean-religion/>.

I acknowledge that some people fear that scholarship debunks the Bible, but we never need fear scholarship. This article explains that there was a time when even the Israelites believed that God occupied the temple. Rather than shattering my view of the ancient Israelites, I marvel that despite the confluence and coexistence of differing religious thought throughout history, the thread of pure gold—the spiritual understanding of one God, still managed to be woven through the centuries to be re-discovered and explained through Christian Science.

Commentators from Mary Baker Eddy’s time explain that the pagans of Athens would bring various food offerings into the temple and leave them on the altar for the gods to consume. This seems somewhat ridiculous to us now, and Paul explained to the Athenians that the Maker of all that exists was certainly not dependent on His creation for anything. Rather the other way around—we depend totally on Him. That rather than God living in temples we in fact, live, move, and have our being in Him.

A modern commentator and pastor, Mark Dunagan equates believing that God lives in temples with the modern notion that God needs believers to be relevant. He begins by quoting Anglican John Stott (1921-2011):

“Any attempt to tame or domesticate God, to reduce Him to the level of a household pet dependent on us for food and shelter, is again a ridiculous reversal of roles" (Stott p. 285). Yet many in our society, and some within the church, treat God as if God’s relevance is dependent upon our faithfulness. … With or without my belief in Him, God will continue to exist. … "Seeing He Himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things." This is one reason why God is eternal. He is completely self-sustaining and self-existent. God’s existence is completely independent. He is not dependent upon anything or anyone for His existence, meaning, or happiness…”

The question for us is: how far are we going in our search for understanding? Are we content to merely talk about God? Or do we really want to be touched by Him? In seeking the Lord, Paul uses the phrase: “if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” According to Strong, the word translated as haply “denotes an inference more or less decisive.” So, Paul was saying God made us all of one blood, so we all would have equal hope of finding Him. To “feel” means to verify by contact, to search for. How much time do you actually spend “feeling”—actually engaging with God?

Section 1: Turn Aside to See

Oddly enough, it was believed in ancient times that no man could directly engage with God and survive the experience. So, God talking with Moses out of the “midst of the fire” wasn’t only momentous on its own account, but because he actually lived to tell about it! (B1).

A more complete account of Moses’ encounter with God and the burning bush is provided in citation B2. Let’s unpack this pivotal event. Moses is going along doing his thing. He had been a prince of Egypt, but he had renounced that, and fled the court after murdering an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave. He’d been away for forty years raising a family and tending sheep. But, then something out of the ordinary happened. He saw the bush—burning but not consumed. Expositors have said that if he had ignored the bush, God probably wouldn’t have spoken to him.

Some feel that the burning bush is symbolic of our true natures burning within us. I think most of us might take a look if we came upon a burning bush, but what about the flame of our true natures that burn within us? Are we turning aside, and pausing to hear the inward voice of God?

When Moses turned aside to see, he was ordered to remove his shoes because he was on holy ground. Moses’ life took a radical turn as a result of this encounter. Naturally he wanted to know the source of this important new assignment. He received the reply, “I AM THAT I AM.” Although not in the Lesson, Moses protests his inadequacy for the job. But knowing that God is the only I AM, Moses begins a journey of self-discovery that leads to the freeing of his people from slavery. What might your “burning bush” be urging upon you?

Whatever it is, you will feel much better equipped if you start your journey by realizing that your Life is God (S1). We think we have lives separate from God, and therefore, we are often either full of self-doubt, or over-confident. Our human abilities ebb and flow, but the Life that is God is eternal. When we say “I” we should remember that there is in reality only one “I,” and that’s God. Our true identity is in Him. That’s why Paul could say, we live, move, and have our being in Him. This true identity cannot be erased (S2).

Many spiritual practices, ancient and modern, consider God to be within creation. But Mary Baker Eddy reversed that notion. Life is God, Spirit, and she writes, “Life is no more confined to the forms which reflect it that substance is in its shadow” (S3). This is a key point. God is not “in” anything. Creation is in Him. Man is the reflection of God, not a conduit for Him.

It’s also important to understand that Life (God) has no beginning and no ending. Life is not temporal—it exists apart from time (S4). Knowing that God made, “all that was made” (S5) is a great step toward realizing our true natures that burn within us. In turn, that awareness reveals our coexistence with God.

Section 2: Walk the Long Way

Knowledge of our coexistence with God is a shining light that leads us out of the darkness of distress, trouble, confusion, sorrow, and danger (B3). With God, nothing could make the psalmist afraid. But he acknowledges, that were it not for his recognition of God, he would have fainted under the pressure.

Sometimes though, we would rather take the shortest route to get where we’re going, and yet it takes longer than we expected. Very few of us are patient with God when it comes to seeing our lives unfold. Our modern Western culture demands instant gratification much of the time. But in spiritual growth, things may take time. The story of the children of Israel in the desert is an object lesson for us.

Rather than heading straight to the Promise Land, God sent them by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea (B4). Along the way the children of Israel weren’t exactly cooperative. They complained a lot. They even lamented leaving Egypt, saying, “at least there we were fed.” Despite their ingratitude, God led them by a pillar of cloud during the day, and by a pillar of fire by night. Have you ever complained about things moving too slowly?

Methodist Founder John Wesley (1703-1791) gives us a few insights as to why the children of Israel were better off taking the long way around. He points out that the path they took led to the Egyptians’ demise; before dealing with their enemies, the Israelites needed to settle their own differences and get right with God; they needed to receive the Commandments; they needed to seal their covenant with God. All of these things were better done in the solitude of the wilderness than on the main routes. Finally, Wesley points out that when they first left Egypt they were nowhere near ready to face the Philistines who were formidable warriors.

Take some time to reflect on delays you’ve run into in your own experience. How do you now see that the delays were necessary to learn lessons that made your journey deeper, and more fruitful?

One of the biggest early challenges the Israelites faced was the Red Sea (B5). What “Red Sea” have you run into in your journey? The account gives us a hint as to how to surmount “Red Sea” obstacles. Notice that first, Moses commanded the people: “fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” Overcoming fear and pausing from our human efforts, both practically and prayerfully—and just listening is a major element of overcoming what seem to be impossible challenges.

After pausing, God says to Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me?…go forward.” This reminds me of our Leader’s counsel: “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”

(SH 323:9).

People sometimes have the mistaken impression that “hitting a wall” in our journey is a sign from God to give up. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every prophet in the Bible hit multiple walls in their journeys. Even Christ Jesus.

So has every single individual who has ever endeavored to accomplish anything worthwhile, both secularly and religiously—including Mary Baker Eddy. If she had given up during any of the multitude of fierce challenges she faced, you wouldn’t be reading this Met today. Our textbook acknowledges that the way can be dark, but divine Life and Love light the way to victory (S6).

Mary Baker Eddy is our modern-day Moses who, through her discovery of the Science of Christianity, shows us how to move through the obstacles we face. We are all going through the Red Sea at one time or another, and the teachings of Christian Science light the way (S7).

Keep in mind that this isn’t merely wishful, or positive thinking. Our confidence in moving forward is in God, “the ONLY Life, substance, Spirit, or Soul, the ONLY intelligence of the universe, including man” (S8 emphasis added).

Section 3: What Have We Learned Through This?

As Wesley noted, during their time in the wilderness the Israelites were given the Ten Commandments. This is the law God gave them that leads the way to Life (B6, B7). Additionally, the children of Israel had to learn from hard experience to count on God alone for every aspect of their lives (B8). For over four hundred years, the Israelites were slaves. No doubt they suffered deplorable conditions. They had no time off. Yet they became used to it in the sense that they had become dependent upon the Egyptians for daily provisions. They’d forgotten how to trust God.

The Scripture says they needed to be humbled, proven, and to learn “what was in [their] heart” whether they would, “keep his commandments, or no.” Matthew Poole (1624-1679) clarifies, they had to discover the “infidelity, inconstancy, hypocrisy, apostacy, rebellion, and perverseness, which lay hid in [their] heart.” Throughout their wilderness time, they learned to rely on God for every need, and to follow His Commandments. The reward was finding a good land, flowing with living waters, an abundance of food, with nothing lacking. The psalmist sums it up when he counsels us to “trust in the Lord, and do good…” (B9).

Our textbook reiterates that God sustains man (S10). God feeds and clothes all of His creation (S11). Can you think of any wilderness experiences you’ve had? You may still be in one. What are you being forced to learn about your relationship with God? Science and Health says, our trust in the “deathless reality of Life” increases with our understanding of God as Life (S12). When we understand our true being, we will see that Life isn’t finite, or material. The material belief of life will be destroyed, and we’ll recognize God as universal good (S13).

The thing we have to realize is—we are not material beings on our own, trying to figure out a way to understand God in order to make our lives better. We aren’t mortals at all. The reason we suffer hard experience is not because God is teaching us “mortals” a lesson. We suffer hard experience because we accept being mortals. Mortal existence is a belief apart from God, and our troubles arise from believing that we’re apart from Him. In truth, we are God’s expression. The textbook says we are “emanations” from God (S14). As such we are inseparable from Him.

Section 4: The Spirit of the Law

As the Children of Israel needed to learn to be obedient to the Commandments before they were ready for the Promised Land, so we need to go a step further than the Commandments in order to find eternal life. Moses gave the law, “but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (B10). Strong defines grace as, “the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.” That means we need to embody the spirit of the Commandments in order to fully obey them.

Jesus didn’t discard the law but fulfilled it (B12). The law was one “of rigor, condemnation, and death” (Adam Clarke c1760-1832) and included many rites and ceremonies. It was very heavy on rules as mechanical devices to keep people in line. Jesus advanced the meaning of the rule to include keeping watch on our thinking and our hearts, rather than only managing behavior. According to the website rule means to straighten or guide in a direct line. Some have likened this to using a trellis to grow vines upward rather than along the ground. The symbolism is clear—the spiritual essence of a rule is to direct our thoughts and acts in an orderly fashion upward, and away from the earth.

Jesus brought the law to life. The body of the law without the grace of Christ is dead. The Commandment said “Thou shalt not kill.” Jesus virtually said, “Don’t even be angry without cause, and watch what you say as well as what you think.” He extended the spirit of the Commandment to include refraining from the hatred that leads to murder. Murder is the external manifestation of the internal problem of hatred. The words of the prophet sum up the point: “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live” (B13).

Our textbook underscores Jesus’ teaching of the higher law of Love, “which blesses even those that curse it” (S15). “The straight and narrow way”—in other words, the rule that guides us heavenward—leads to life (S16). The human instinct is to solve problems by force, but there’s no power in that. Nor is there any life in it (S17). The way to eternal Life is really so simple: turn from sin, lose sight of mortality, find Christ, and recognize our divine sonship (S18). Of course, it’s always easier to follow a rule if you understand the “why” behind it. It’s because all men have one Mind. That being the case, conflict, and violence have no reason to be indulged (S19).

Section 5: We ALL Need Forgiveness

Why is the story of the adulterous woman (B14) in this Lesson?

Working somewhat backwards, facing the fact that all of her accusers were also convicted by their own conscience of being guilty themselves, Adam Clarke concludes that adultery was “exceedingly common” at the time. So common he says, that the law found in the Book of Numbers detailing a judicial procedure to determine guilt or innocence of a suspected adulterer had been set aside because so numerous were the men guilty themselves of the crime, that many dare not accuse the women. Additionally, several commentators point out that the sentence of stoning entailed the accused being shoved off a platform with great force and with their hands tied behind their back. If the fall didn’t kill them, a second person— the chief witness—finished them off by crushing the accused with a large stone.

This is all pretty grizzly business. It’s hard for us to imagine such brutality. Jesus clearly saved this woman’s life. Given the context of this week’s Lesson, it would seem that though the scribes and Pharisees knew the law, they had yet another layer of humanity and compassion to learn before they would find themselves on that path to eternal life. The story closes with Jesus pronouncement to the crowd: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

On the surface, Jesus’ closing statement is directed to the woman, but it’s also directed to all who judge others harshly. The law needs to be in our hearts to the point where we recognize that arrogant judgment of others’ is seen as walking in darkness as much as is the actions of the person being judged.

That’s a pretty big step. Think of a time when you judged someone knowing full well you had been guilty of the same infraction. Are you willing to face your own indiscretion, and admit your own need of forgiveness?

Science and Health underscores that Jesus brought the “living Christ,” and “practical Truth,” which opens the way of Life to us (S20). He showed us the “truer sense of Love” that redeems us from the so-called laws of sin, disease, and death.

If you haven’t seen the film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” yet, I recommend you do. Fred Rodgers, while “not a saint” as the film said, was definitely someone who possessed a truer sense of Christly love that overruled self-righteous judgment and sought to see the good in people, reaching them through compassion and understanding. This film illustrates the simplicity of a life lived with genuine concern for others. Very few of us feel we can emulate Jesus, but we can all get a little closer to emulating Mr. Rodgers.

Jesus’ admonition “go and sin no more,” is usually thought of as directions to those who’ve sinned, but his words apply equally to the accusers. In the same way, Mary Baker Eddy’s instructions in citation S22 apply to all—those who are aware of their sin, and those who feel they have the right to judge others. Every one of us has to be more familiar with good, and guard against false beliefs. We all have to control evil thoughts in the first instance. It’s true that wanting what we shouldn’t have breaks a moral precept; however, it’s no less evil to take the role of judge than the role of perpetrator. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t recognize right from wrong, but that we should all have the humility to know that everyone is working out some type of sin.

That said, we do have the responsibility and freedom to build a strong defense against evil thoughts, including all malicious purposes. The “strict demands of Christian Science” are the rules not of restriction, and condemnation, but of training us to maintain a heavenward trajectory (S23). They are a practice and discipline leading to life. Embracing the precepts of Christian Science blesses one’s self and the community (S24).

Section 6: Take a Breath, and Back Off to Listen

When Moses led the Israelites through their wilderness journey, he knew that the Israelites, despite God helping them through perilous obstacles, still had more lessons to learn. He knew that his wasn’t the final word in revelation, and that God would raise up another prophet to continue the journey (B15).

One would suppose that Jesus’ disciples, having been taught by the Master, and witnessing countless healings first-hand would be fairly advanced in their understanding. Yet in the midst of what most would call a miraculous event, Peter still let his impetuosity get the better of him. Peter, James, and John were witnessing the transfiguration (B16). They saw Moses, Elijah, and their master in conversation, and according to the account, Jesus’ face shone like the sun—not unlike Moses’ face after talking with God. Yet right in the middle of it Peter starts making his own plans as to how to commemorate the event. No doubt he thought he had a great idea, but the voice of God overruled him. He was told in no uncertain terms to be quiet and listen to the Christ.

Sometimes when we witness or experience something deeply spiritual, we get carried away, and start interjecting our will, or ideas. The lesson for us here is to stop the human planning, and just take in the spiritual reality. Just listen. The “true God, and eternal life” isn’t understood through human planning and activity. It’s acknowledging, hearing, listening, understanding, and knowing that we are in Him (B17).

Throughout the entire Lesson there is the theme of pausing, turning aside to see, and listening. It’s realizing we are standing on holy ground. It’s taking a step further into the kingdom of heaven. In our time, divine Science is speaking to us and revealing man as “never born and never dying” (S25). Getting this “exalted view” enables us to overcome the belief of death, and find our full consciousness of life and harmony (S26).

Our textbook tells us that, “Life is eternal,” and that we should find that out, and begin to demonstrate it (S27). To do that, we need to start at the beginning—with a soul that’s thirsty for God. Then, we have to turn aside, and respond to the presence of God. We have to take the time to listen and obey. We have to be willing to acknowledge the power and presence of God, be willing to take next steps, and follow all the way. What are your next steps? Are you listening?

Mine online for yourself Precious GEMs from C.A.M.P.! — (Christ’s Animating Mindset Practiced) as found in this week's Christian Science Bible Lesson. .[For more than two decades Warren Huff has enjoyed freely offering Christianly scientific application ideas from insights shared by Bible scholar Cobbey Crisler, poet Ken Cooper and others.] Blessings are bound to abound to all whenever we daily invite the application of priceless gems from God's Word to "enrich the affections of all mankind and govern them" ("Daily Prayer," Church Manual, Mary Baker Eddy).

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