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Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on

“Everlasting Punishment”
for October 25—31, 2021

by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S.   Godfrey, IL
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683; cell/text (630) 234-3987


INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever been overwhelmed? I certainly have. It’s not uncommon to be more inclined to feel overwhelmed, when it looks like things are out of our control. Whether the disruption and loss of control is happening in our bodies, bank accounts, jobs, relationships, neighborhoods, or nations, there’s always one thing we do have control over—our thinking. And best of all, we can know that in the spiritual reality of things, there is no personality or crisis outside of us that has the power to control us. There is only one cause and one Creator, one controller—that’s God. No matter how out of control things seem to mortal sense, to spiritual sense we know that God is governing all—moment by moment, day by day, year by year throughout all time. In fact, to God, there is no time but now, and all is well within that now-ness.

An alternate meaning of the Hebrew word for overwhelmed is to cover, or shroud in darkness. In such a state, we can see why, in the Golden Text, (Psalm 61:1,2) the psalmist is crying out to God for help. But does it take a crisis to get us to turn to God? Theologian Adam Clarke (c1760-1832) explains that the Psalm appears to have been written about the close of a long and painful captivity. He goes on to say, “It may be remarked that the Jews were always more pious and devoted to God in their afflictions and captivities, than when in their own land, in ease and affluence.” He observes that this is the case for most of us. He asks, “How many hearts filled with heavenly ardour in affliction and persecution have grown cold under the beams of the sun of prosperity?”

Do you find yourself forgetting about God when everything is going well for you, and turning to God mainly when you run into trouble? It’s worth pondering. But even if that’s the case, when we find ourselves overwhelmed, and there is no end in sight, the Scriptures teach us that we can find peace, encouragement, and healing through the realization that we don’t have to wait for God—that right in that very moment, we are actually in the presence of God. The Responsive Reading implies the eternal nowness of God. Before the world ever was, God is—governing forever, for everyone. The psalmist tells us that turning to the Lord is a perfect course to take. God sustains, protects, and preserves us forever. God is eternal—that means outside of time, and unaffected by it. His sustaining arms are holding us forever.

One of the reasons we are urged to pray when we are doing well, even though it doesn’t seem that we have any need to turn to God at that time, is that the more familiar we are with acknowledging God’s allness, the more prepared we will be to meet the challenges through prayer when they arise. That’s why we call it practice!!


SECTION 1: A “PUNISHING GOD” IS NOT LOGICAL.

According to Albert Barnes (1798-1870) the name “Habakkuk” signifies “strong embrace.” Barnes writes, “The word in its intensive form is used both of God’s enfolding the soul within His tender supporting love, and of man clinging and holding fast to divine wisdom. It fits in with the subject of his prophecy, faith, cleaving fast to God amid the perplexities of things seen.” Given the context, we see that the prophet’s declaration that God “is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (citation B1/Habakkuk 1:12 (to?), 13 (to;)) is an indication of his solid conviction that God always has been, and always will be, the giver of all that is good, and that God has nothing whatsoever to do with evil.

We all know though, that it can certainly seem that our troubles are real and feel like they will last forever. The psalmist assures us that God will not leave our soul “in hell.” And more than that, He will not even allow us “to see corruption” (cit. B2/Ps. 16:2 (to :), 10). We think of corruption as defilement, but according to Strong, some alternate Hebrew meanings include destruction, a trap, a pit, or the grave. This echoes the sense we sometimes have when we are in the middle of sickness or sin. It can certainly feel like we are trapped in a pit. Peake’s Commentary on the Bible says this is a “psalm of confidence, in which everything else is subordinated to the thought that Life in God is the…supreme good.”

No matter how bad things get for the psalmist, he is confident that God will never let us down or forget about us. He delights in the assurance that even if we slip, we we’ll be lifted up through God’s mercy (cit. B3/Ps. 94:14, 18, 19).

In the first three citations from Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy logically explains how it makes no sense at all to think that an all-wise, all-loving God could create us capable of doing evil and then punish us for it (citations S1-S3/356:25-27/ 230:11-16/ 357:1-5). Rather than God committing such a fraud she declares it’s carnal belief that defrauds us! (cit. S4). She reassures us that the law of Love will eventually lead us to the recognition that God’s perfect creation “will finally be seen as the only true conception of being” (cit. S6).

SECTION 2: GOD WILL OVERTURN.

How long it will be before the recognition of God’s perfect creation is realized nobody knows. The Scriptures tell us God will “overturn, overturn, overturn it, until he come whose right it is” (cit. B4/Ezekiel 21:26 (to;), 27). The New Revised Standard Version translates this verse as, “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin—I will make it!” In other words, the old way of thinking will be completely replaced with the truth of being—precept upon precept…line upon line…here a little and there a little” (cit. B5/Isaiah 28:10, 12 2nd this (to :)).

This “little by little” form of teaching alludes to the way children have to be taught. It is in some way a bit of an insult.  In the prior verses the people are depicted to be in a drunken stupor. So, they have to be taught as children. Verse 11, (which is not included in the Lesson) coupled with the whole of Verse 12 turns the citation into a reprimand: “So it will be with barbarous speech and strange tongue that this people will hear God speaking, this people to whom he once said, ‘This is true rest; let the exhausted people have rest. This is repose’, and they refused to listen.” Isaiah is in fact, lamenting the resistant nature of the people.

It may seem as if those who refuse to listen to God’s law are getting away with it, and that they have power to cause disruption and harm. Evil influences can seem so entrenched that it’s next to impossible to overturn them. But the psalmist counsels us to neither fret over them, nor be “envious.” Whether the “evildoer” seems to be a person, or an illness, a sin, a pandemic, or a repressive regime, if we persevere, we will see God’s goodness to be victorious. But to bring this to pass, we can’t continue to be impressed with evil. We must “commit our ways unto the Lord” as the psalmist instructs, and trust in Him, and He “will bring it to pass” (cit. B6/Ps. 37:1, 3, 5, 35-37). Focusing on spiritual reality will eventually bring us an end of peace.

In our textbook of Christian Science, the author interprets the “overturning” of evil as the suffering that comes with sin (cit. S8/5:18). She also gives us a brilliant example of the way the carnal mind boasts about its power, in contrast with the sublime dominion of Spirit (cit. S9/252:7-8, 15-19 (next page)). Take the time to carefully read these descriptions. Evil imagines it can do whatever it wants with impunity. But God’s man can never be fooled by evil, and even if he seems to be, he “can at once change [his] course and do right.”

SECTION 3: GOD WILL MAKE THINGS RIGHT.

On the surface, the story of Miriam and Aaron being punished for their criticism of Moses’ (cit. B7/Num. 12:1 (to 🙂 2, 5-8, 10 (to ;), 11, 13, 15) can make it seem that God punishes us for the wrongs we commit either knowingly or unknowingly. In the story, Aaron is repentant and pleads on Miriam’s behalf, and in turn, Moses also appeals to God for Miriam. What can we take away from this?

Let’s first look at the characters. Miriam as a prophetess and the sister of Moses was first in rank among the women of Israel. Aaron their brother was the ecclesiastical head of the nation. “But,” writes Barnes, “instead of being grateful for these high dignities, they challenged the special vocation of Moses and the exclusive authority which God had assigned to him. Miriam was the instigator. [We know this] from the fact that her name stands conspicuously first, and that the punishment fell on her alone. …Aaron was misled this time by the urgency of his sister, as once before by that of “the people” when he made the golden calf.

To my present sense, this story is not so much about God’s punishment, but rather, it seems a cautionary tale to beware that criticism based on jealousy, envy, pride, bigotry, and arrogance, among other things, blinds us to the point where we cannot recognize that which is truly good. Rather than emphasize God’s punishment, we should recognize that our own sin obscures our judgement and deprives us of the ability to recognize true worth. When steeped in sin, we find it very difficult to recognize goodness even if it’s right in front of us.

Another aspect of the story is Moses’ reaction to Miriam’s apparent punishment. He could have been offended and self-righteous in return, but being meek and in close communion with God, he had a more merciful attitude. So, we have multiple lessons to glean from this. In Galatians (cit. B8/Gal. 6:1, 2) we see a Christian response to being wronged based on humility, understanding, and mercy.

Science and Health underscores the distance between animalistic human nature, and the Christly response of loving even our detractors, and helping them to improve (cit. S10/560:11-19). It also echoes the message that the deeper we are in sin, the more opposition we will have to true spirituality (cit. S11/329:26 If). As much as we might feel justified in pointing out others’ perceived wrongs, the bottom line is—our own sin obscures our ability to see the true picture, and the good in others.

If somebody treats us badly or unjustly, we may feel perfectly justified in “letting them have it” by pointing out their wrongs. But even if we feel we are right, we would do better to respond wisely and understandingly, with an aim to help, rather than to condemn (cit. S13/444:16-19). Sometimes, looking for sin in others opens the door of our own hearts to other evils including sickness (cit. S12/445:19). If we want to see improvement in others, we have to begin with ourselves (cit. S14/248:29).

SECTION 4: CASTING OUT THE DRAGON

Historically, Christian theology teaches that God both allows sin and punishes it. As we’ve seen, when you think about it, that makes no sense at all. Many of those who followed Jesus, thought that, as the Messiah, he would be the great equalizer, bringing God’s wrath on those who oppose Israel. But Jesus disappointed them when he said he wasn’t sent to condemn the world, but to save it (cit. B9/John 3:16, 17). He also corrected their false concept of freedom. Freedom doesn’t come from doing whatever you feel like, following every whim, or exacting revenge upon one’s enemies, but rather from knowing the truth (cit. B10/John 8:31, 32, 46 (to 1st ?).  The apostle John pointed out that those who are truly born of God are incapable of sinning (cit. B11/1st John 3:9) and this includes violence against one’s enemies however justified it may seem. However, the statement that the spiritual man of God’s creating is incapable of sin, does not mean that we get a free pass to sin because we fancy ourselves as spiritual.  If we’re going to claim the title, we have to live the life that goes with it.

What is it that condemns us as hopeless sinners? Are we innately inclined to sin as traditional theology teaches? No. In Revelation, John reveals the real enemy, not to be a personal foe, or an ingrained human inclination to sin, but the great red dragon—the malicious accuser of all mankind—that declares us to be sinning mortals living apart from God (cit. B12/Rev. 12:9, 10 Now).

In Science and Health, the author explains the red dragon as symbolic of all the animalistic evil behaviors of mortal man (cit. S15/564:24-26). We see this animalistic element in all sorts of undignified behaviors. The lack of civility in society and even in organizations, and some families can seem sometimes shocking and inexplicable. This evil element that claims to be part of man is reduced to nothingness through the power of Christ (cit. S16/567:23-26). The Messiah did indeed come to destroy sin, but that mission was to destroy the belief in evil of all sorts, thereby saving man from falling victim to sin, sickness, and death (cit. S17/473:6-15).

Despite our challenges, we never need to fear sin because it’s a lie about us and others.  God never made it. It’s a belief that Christ destroys (cit. S18/231:20). Yes, temptations may come to us. Yes, we may—even at this moment—feel we are deep in a pit of evil that we can’t get out of. But the Christ is present right now to cast out that dragon and lift us to freedom.

SECTION 5: BEGINNING AGAIN

Of all the people in the Bible, Saul was perhaps the most unlikely candidate to become a vessel to carry Christianity to the world. He was “old school” in the strictest sense. He tirelessly sought to punish Christians for blasphemy against Jewish teachings. He believed he was on the right side—that is, until the power of Christ transformed him (cit. B13/Acts 9:1-5,8, 10-12, 17, 18, 20).

The story is so familiar to Christians. If you don’t know it go right to the Bible and read it straight through without edits. Let’s just touch on some interesting points. First note that Paul thought he was doing the right thing but was stopped in his tracks in such a way that made it impossible to ignore. The voice he heard told him, “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” This image isn’t about kicking a cactus. It alludes to a device called “an ox-goad, a sharp piece of iron stuck into the end of a stick, with which the ox is urged on.” Barnes continues the explanation:
“The expression ‘to kick against the prick’ is derived from the action of a stubborn and unyielding ox kicking against the goad. And as the ox would injure no one by it but himself; as he would gain nothing, it comes to denote an obstinate and refractory disposition and course of conduct, resisting the authority of him who has a right to command, and opposing the leadings of Providence….”

The application of this phrase to Saul is obvious, and so it is with all who stray from obedience to God. Rather than God punishing sin, we find that the sinful behavior inherently punishes itself.

Also, as mentioned earlier, all sin including self-righteousness blinds us to the good we should be paying attention to. Saul emerges from this experience blinded. His eyes need opening metaphorically as well as physically. Next, Saul is led to Damascus to await further instructions. Note that Saul was forced to rely on others to help him. He was in a completely vulnerable state. Interestingly, God also appears to a Christian named Ananias in a vision, and commands him to heal Saul. Ananias was well aware of Saul’s reputation and didn’t want to go. In this sense, Ananias also had to trust the vision.

Human nature might have tempted him to use this opportunity to kill Saul in his helpless condition. But, rather than using the opportunity to harm Saul, Ananias obeys. He calls his former enemy “brother.” Paul receives the Holy Ghost, and the scales drop from his eyes. Saul now sees clearly and so does Ananias.

While there is scholarly debate over the authorship of the letter to the Ephesians, the passage in this Lesson certainly elucidates the breadth and importance of the metamorphosis from Saul to Paul (cit. B14/Eph. 3:1, 2, 7, 8, 14-19).

One who was as opposed to Christianity as Saul, would definitely have had to undergo a complete reformation of spiritual understanding, and of life purpose. Our textbook explains this miracle of Love that completely transformed Paul and redirected his life away from persecuting Christians toward service to Christianity. Paul recognized that his prior path was wrong, and he made immediate changes to rectify his mistakes. He experienced firsthand the healing and forgiving power of divine Love (cit. S22/326:23). Did he earn it? Not really. Did he deserve it? He didn’t seem to think so. But his example provides hope for all of us, that transformation and forgiveness is available to us no matter how far we seem to be from it when we begin.

Even though Paul’s initial transformative experience was very quick and caused a complete turnaround, he continued devoting himself to this new path throughout his life. He admitted to making many mistakes along the way, and he suffered much pain, and cruelty as a result of his decision. But he counted that nothing compared to the reward.

We may hesitate to embrace transformation because we think we are “too far gone,” and the work will be too hard. But Paul let go of his past mistakes and lived every moment as a new beginning. He cried, “Now is the accepted time!” (cit. S24/39:18-22). We can experience transformation right now as well. We can stop kicking against the pricks and bring our life back on course—moment by moment, hour, by hour, and day by day.

SECTION 6: TRUE FREEDOM

Before his conversion Saul thought he was free, when he was in fact under subjugation to “the law of sin and death.” A contemporary of Mary Baker Eddy Scottish minister Alexander MacLaren, (1826-1910), explains this paradox: “Sin rules with iron sway; men madly obey it, and even when they think themselves free, are under a bitter tyranny.” Although after his conversion Paul referred to himself as “a prisoner of Christ,” he also said “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death” (cit. B15/Rom. 8:1, 2). Paul sees that we cannot attain freedom from sin through human efforts. Again, MacLaren writes:

“No mere outward means will be sufficient to emancipate a spirit; no merely intellectual methods will avail to set free the passions and desires which have been captured by sin…Nothing …but a gift of power which becomes an abiding influence in us, and develops a mightier energy to overcome the evil tendencies of a sinful soul. … Nothing short of a Spirit of life, quick and powerful, with an immortal and intense energy will avail to meet the need.”

Mary Baker Eddy invites all of us to avail ourselves of that Spirit of life. No matter where we are, or what we’re doing, she invites us to “accept the ‘glorious liberty of the children of God’ and be free!” (cit. S25/227:24-25). The beliefs of the world may seem overwhelming, but wherever we are, the Christ will lead us to the rock that’s higher than we are now. The Christ will cleanse us of false human traits, criticism, self-righteousness, sinful desires and sickly thoughts. Trusting that the Lord is our keeper, we will find our refuge in the eternal God, and go forth in our journey safe in the everlasting arms of our Father-Mother Love.


CLICK HERE for more application ideas & Bible-based GEMs from Cobbey Crisler & others! [This is just started due to our hosting a Maddie Maupin deep dive Bible Study of Genesis this weekend, so it will have additions before it is emailed.]


Click  on the titles of this insightful Ken Cooper poem & monologue to hear them read on YouTube by Ken or Sue:
“Now is come Salvation”“The Mother of Eutychus”.

And click on “I AM THAT I AM” to read this inspiring Ken Cooper poem in a Christian Science Sentinel.  PDF copies are available under Downloads in the online version of  this Met.


THANKING ALL WATERSPORTS SUPPORTERS!
We’ve been praying about the need to update CedarS 2008 Malibu ski boat and about boat shortages and the resultant high prices.  A practitioner on the case was inspired to make a timely, inquiry call to a past CedarS Ski Camp coach and found out that his ski club was about to advertise  their one-owner, prime condition 2020 Malibu with relatively low hours at a very reasonable price.  We need commitments of “only” $17,500 more THIS WEEK to make this demonstration complete! It will bless hundreds of campers & staff for years to come!  To help us seal the deal, please give online whatever you can and then text or call me at 314-378-2574 — or email warren@cedarscamps.org — that  the intent of your tax-deductible gift is to help us secure the ongoing excellence of CedarS watersports fleet.


YOUR HELP IN OTHER AREAS IS ALSO MUCH NEEDED & APPRECIATED!

 Operations Support: Especially during this year, tuition will cover less than half the cost of running camp. Donations are needed for facilities maintenance, horse care,  and preparation for summer 2022.
Endowment Matching Grant: Support current and future generations of Christian Science youth by helping CedarS to meet our $1,000,000 Endowment matching grant. We’re about halfway to our match!

With heartfelt gratitude for and to all you, greatly NEEDED and precious supporters, who continue to help CedarS give LIFELONG, DIFFERENCE-MAKING BLESSINGS to hundreds of families and thousands of individuals all across the U.S. and the world. To discuss how to play a vital, ongoing role in our work, feel free to call or text me (Warren Huff) at 314-378-2574 with your pledge or intent to give a planned gift, required IRA distribution or an endowment gift (that will be MATCHED!). Your ongoing support is needed to help us “love into view” continued, lasting blessings and legacies of love each year.

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