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"Delight" in Divine Love: Our "Best," Our "Ever Friend"

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, January 28th, 2008

"Delight" in Divine Love: Our "Best," Our "Ever Friend" (Hymn 224:1)
Lesson Application Ideas for: "Love" for January 28-
February 3, 2008
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. of
Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Editor's Note:
 The following application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study and application of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp!  You can sign up to have them emailed to you free -- in English by Monday of each week.  Or by Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION in French by Pascal or in Spanish by Ana:  JUST SIGN UP at www.cedarscamps.org/newsletters

Have you ever felt lost, forsaken, or just plain at the end of your rope?  Have you wondered why all your troubles seem to hit all at once?  If so, you're not alone.  Mankind has been asking questions like these for centuries.  A variety of philosophies and theologies have attempted to address the issue.  Some feel we should just learn to live with disappointments because bad things are part of life.  Some feel challenges are a necessary part of God's plan for us.  Others conclude that the injustice, senseless cruelty, and tragedy in the world are indicators that there is no God at all-our lives are just a roll of the dice.

The study of Christian Science presents an entirely different response to the classic quandary:  If God is good, and God is all, whence comes evil?  Mary Baker Eddy found through her deep study and practice of biblical precepts, that God is Love.  Not just loving-but Love itself.  Along with many other biblical figures, the prophet Isaiah grasped the redemptive power of divine Love.  In the Golden Text the children of Israel, after great suffering, are given a gracious promise of divine help.  They are told not to be afraid and promised deliverance from their captivity.  They are reminded of their unbroken relationship to God.   [Possible Sunday School Topics (P.S.S.T.):  When have you felt the most like you're at the end of your rope?  Discover and share with the class (or congregation) how that can be a good moment according to the 1st Beatitude:  "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there's more of God and his rule."  Matthew 5:3 (The Message)]

["How priceless is your unfailing love!"  (Ps. 36:7, New International Version)]  Of this first verse of the Responsive Reading The Abingdon Bible Commentary points out that the psalmist is speaking from personal experience:  "Here is deep spiritual religion... The great God, so he feels, is for us poor human beings-even the children of men."  The following verses support the reciprocal relationship between God and man.  [Ps. 116: 1 "I love God because he listened to me" ... 2 "He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him"  5 "God is gracious - it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God." (The Message)]  The psalmist can "love the Lord" because he knows that God first loved him.  All the good we experience is evidence of God's unending care for us.  [Ps. 18:16  "But me he caught - reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.  17 They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.  19 He stood me up in a wide-open field; I stood there saved - surprised to be loved." (The Message)]   These verses from Psalm 18 describe the power of Love to draw us out of "many waters"-to save us from the treacherous "straits" and "deep waters."  God saves us from our enemies and supports us.  The metaphor of "a large place" is based on the root word meaning "to make wide" coming from the Hebrew word meaning to "save"  (The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible).  [Possible Uplifting Sunday School Homework (P.U.S.S.H.):  This week if enemies or so-called friends hit you when you're down, reach out for divine Love to save you.]

The Responsive Reading finishes with a verse well known to CedarS campers as the refrain of "The Rock Song."  ["The Lord liveth" Ps. 18:46 is also paraphrased by Job as part of a treatment that reverses his misfortunes:  "For I know that my redeemer liveth" (B9, Job 19:25)].  Hopefully, after studying this Lesson, we too will have our trust in God's love reinforced to the point where we can all shout, "Hallelujah!"  [P.U.S.S.H.: This week if enemies or so-called friends hit you when you're down, expect divine Love to lift you up and save you.]

Section 1:  The Divine Principle, Love
Abingdon points out that when this prayer (B1) was composed, the Israelites were "broken hearted and demoralized, stripped of all sense of victory."  The prophets reminded the people of God's care of His people throughout history.  They often looked back "to the days when the divine manifestation was most readily discernable."  Similarly, in citation B2 Interpreter's notes that, "Hearing these deeds of the Lord dramatically recited at the covenant renewal festival the worshippers felt them to be, not traditions from the remote past, but events taking place in the living present and involving every Israelite for all time."  [P.S.S.T.:]  When you find yourself in a tough time of suffering, do you look back to times of previous healing?  Or do you find yourself dwelling on your problem?  Starting from the problem doesn't do much toward helping us see or feel the presence of Love.  In fact, it exposes a misunderstanding of divine Love.  The writer of Psalm 30 (B3) had been saved from a deadly sickness.  He felt his enemies wanted to see him die.  But God graciously delivered him.  True healing and deliverance come from acknowledging God‘s ever-present love for His creation.  Only in this can we be satisfied.

Science and Health states, "The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love..." (S1).  As did the Psalmist, Mrs. Eddy recounts the multitude of ways God has delivered men from harm (S2).  [In the passage "divine Love ... which delivered men from the boiling oil" S&H 243:4 (S2) Mrs. Eddy is likely referring to John's experience as recorded by Jerome, Eusebius and others:  "When St. John the Evangelist was ninety ''years old, the emperor Domitian commanded him to be cast into a cauldron of boiling hot oil.  The place appointed for this torture was » large open field before the Latin gate. A huge cauldron was prepared and filled with oil, pitch, and resin, which were melted over a fire of wood ; and an enormous crowd assembled on the spot to sec the spectacle. The evangelist, no doubt, scourged first, according to the usual custom, and was then led forth into the field.  More fire was piled up, and the cauldron began to seethe and overflow then was he taken up, and let down into the midst of the boiling mass. The flames were so fierce and high as wholly to conceal the martyr, but the crowd distinctly heard a voice singing in the cauldron.  Every one was amazed, and waited impatiently to see the end.  More and more fuel was piled on the fire, till the heat was unbearable for many yards' distance, and still the voice was heard singing hymns of praise.  At length the fire burnt out, and the multitude crowded to the cauldron, when, lo! there sat the aged apostle in the midst, wholly uninjured. The oil, the resin, and the pitch had all boiled away, the cauldron was quite dry; but there sat the evangelist, not a hair of his head injured, but his face beaming like the sun, and his aged body actually invigorated."   This saving love is available to everyone.  But we can't start with begging God to save us, as we would beg a person for help.  This would be starting our prayer with the problem [instead of with singing hymns of praise, like John, to thank God in advance for the solution].  The textbook says that the human tendency to think of God in limited human terms is due to human ignorance of divine Love as the Principle of our existence (S3).  As we grow in spiritual understanding we gain the "true understanding of Life and Love" (S5).  We no longer think of God in limited human terms, but recognize Him as Love, the divine Principle of all being.  [P.S.S.T.  What favorite hymns do you have memorized to sing when "things get hot" for you?]

Section 2:  Love Neither Produces or Allows Evil
The opening citation from Psalms introduces the story of Job (B6-9) as a parable.  According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, a "parable" is "a pithy maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature".  Sometimes people take Job's story literally.  They use the story as evidence of the existence of Satan and that God allows evil, however measured, to function and influence our lives.  This is a prime example of the "ignorance of the divine Principle."  The story of Job addresses the issue, "why do good people suffer?"  It presents various orthodox views to answer this.  Its structure reveals that it is clearly a dramatic poem although it may be based on some historical event.  
[P.U.S.S.H.]  A lot of details are left out of the Lesson so you may want to read the whole thing to get the full picture [maybe from the New International Version or The Message to make it come alive.  Another inspiring read is the Bible commentary on this Lesson on "Love" by Elaine Follis on page 22 of the January 28th Christian Science Sentinel.  It is entitled "THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT JOB ..."]

Job is introduced as a "perfect and upright man."  Job's being "perfect" did not mean sinless, but rather, "single hearted" (Dummelow).  The action begins with a conversation between God and Satan.  Although some believe it to be so, the word "Satan" is not a proper name.  It's a generic term that means the adversary or enemy [or Prosecuting Attorney].  The question posed by this enemy is "How will a pious man stand the test of pain?"  This begs the age-old questions, "Why do the wicked flourish, and why are the righteous reduced to poverty?"  Conventional Old Testament wisdom held that: a) The wicked will get it in the end; or b) The truly good will only suffer briefly. Beyond that, there was the thought that "The good can never really suffer; for goodness means the favor of God, whatever outward circumstances may be; and God's favor is the pearl of great price" (Abingdon).  In the story, God gives Satan permission to do what he would to test Job's devotion.  Job actually passes the first test fine, but then he is stricken with illness so bad that he is ready to die.  He is sitting in ashes as a sign of mourning.  [P.S.S.T.]  Job represents "a man who has reached the last limits of human endurance and who yet remains secure in his faith in God" (Interpreter's).  Have you or anyone you've known ever reached a point like that?  His friends, though on the surface well meaning, only provoke him.  Job curses his life, but he doesn't curse God.  Job's cry for a redeemer means a "vindicator or umpire" (Ibid.).  It refers to the next of kin who has the duty of avenging the blood of a brother or protecting his title to prosperity after death.  The real "Satan" is whatever puts our faith to the test.  God who is Love does not allow evil in any way.

Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Many theories relative to God and man neither make man harmonious nor God lovable" (S6).  Any theory that does not begin with God is flawed.  Mrs. Eddy stressed the spiritual interpretation of Scripture.  The fact that Job's story may not be literally true takes nothing from the fact that it has valid spiritual lessons to teach and inspiration to give.  See citation S7 for an example of Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation [of common views of "in my flesh I shall see God" (B9)].  Our Leader regularly corrects theological misconceptions in order to enlighten thought spiritually.  It is a mistake of the human mind to personify evil as Satan (S8).  In divine Science we start with God as "All-in-all" (S9).  Divine Love doesn't share power or make deals with Satan.  Getting the true understanding of God destroys all beliefs in other powers.  God has no partnership with evil. God is All-in-all.  There's nothing else (S10).  ["Job sees nothing but God in his flesh when his boils ultimately disappear - just as Moses sees nothing but God in his flesh when the illusion of his leprous hand is instantly healed."  Cobbey Crisler  See also S&H 321:16]

Section 3:  With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
Ostensibly coming to help, Job's three friends can't see beyond their own limited views.  They each represent a theological view common at the time and still prevalent today.  Job is perplexed by his situation because he doesn't think he did anything to deserve it.  He staunchly maintains his innocence.  Eliphaz (B10) infers that Job's suffering must be punishment for some sin and therefore, Job should bear it with humility and repentance.  In other words, "Job must have done something wrong."  This is like thinking someone is sick or suffering because there must be some error or sin in his thought.  For Bildad (B11) there is no problem at all.  He believes "men's destinies are measured by God exactly according to their merits; the good fare well, the wicked evil" (Interpreter's).  In other word's, "if you're sick, you deserve it."  Zophar (B12) feels that even though Job might not know what he did, God knows all and Job has no basis on which to question the inscrutable ways of God.  That's another way of saying, "It is God's will."

None of the efforts of the three friends do Job any good.  The friends were basically malpracticing rather than helping him.  Job points out that it's easy to point out other's wrongs when you yourself are not suffering.  He proclaims that if their places were reversed, he wouldn't spout theology at them, but treat them tenderly and give them support.  The verses from Psalm 119 in citation B14 capture Job's feeling.  When you have been struggling with a physical problem have you ever wondered, felt, or been made to feel that it was your fault?  While we are responsible for what we allow into our consciousness, blaming someone for being sick is not the method of divine Love.  Thinking that Love punishes us with sickness is just wrong.

Our textbook confirms that God does not condemn His creation (S11).  He certainly doesn't toy with man either.  The "doctrine of Christian Science" is that "divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object..." (S12).  There is no way that good can ever result in evil, or produce evil.  Job's three "friends" are examples of what we should not do when trying to help a sufferer.  The friends all knew the letter of the law-as do many know the letter of Christian Science.  But the healing power is in the love-not the letter (S13).  Mrs. Eddy writes that coming to heal with anything but pure motives is detrimental to the patient (S14).  Rather than berating a sufferer, we should encourage him tenderly and patiently (S15).  The sick don't need speeches.  They need love.  Sometimes, it's tempting when asked for help to fall back on a bunch of quotes and rules.  But often this is due to a failure to realize that Love is the only healer.  Job's friends didn't really love him and really didn't understand God as Love.  So they covered up their own lack of understanding with a torrent of theology.  That obviously doesn't work.  [P.S.S.T.  What friends, familiar thoughts or situations need your pitiful patience, tender words, Christian encouragement and help in removing fear this week? (S15, S&H 367:3)]

Section 4:  Love Defies Human Reason
There is strong evidence that the original author of Job gave up because he couldn't adequately answer the question.  [It is likely that during the Exile] another author picked up the story, introduced another theological view in the character of Elihu, (not part of the Lesson), and finished it in classical deus ex machina style, in which God makes a spectacular last minute entrance and makes everything right again [for Job and for an exiled audience who like Job had also lost everything].  Whatever the literary device, there is valuable meaning to be gained.  When God answers Job "out of the whirlwind" (B15) Job is simply overwhelmed by the infinite power and knowledge of the Creator [and sees everything from God's perspective instead of his own].  God's declaration of His omnipotent Being dwarfs all intellectual reasoning about Him .  Interpreter's sheds light on the story: "the little God of retributive justice to whom the friends cling has been reduced to what he really is, an idol fabricated by men, designed to adjust life's inequities and anomalies and to administer justice as men understand it...."  Job has heard about God, but now he has personal experience with Him (B16).  As Job found no comfort in predictable traditional views of God, no more can we find healing in a limited view of God, bereft of the fullness of His love.  Again, from Interpreter's: "...we may remember that Job's answer was found, not in the friends' talk about a God who puts everything right in the world's affairs, nor even in what God says and does, but in God himself." 

This coincides with Mrs. Eddy's statement: "Mortals try to believe without understanding Truth; yet God is Truth" (S17).  Mortals believe in a finite concept of God.  They think they can inform God as if there was anything He didn't know.  In Christian Science, God, Mind, is the only power and rewards righteousness (S18).  Matter has no power.  Knowing this "destroys reliance on aught but God."  When through direct experience, we let go of material beliefs, we will see (understand) God.  We will understand the love of Love that conquers all (S19).  The more real divine Love is becoming to us, the more we see the unreality of matter (S20).  In the end, God rebuked Job's friends and charged Job with praying for them.  [P.S.S.T.]   When we begin to understand the power of Love through demonstration, our lives are corrected and manifest what we are learning.  [Share an example of this.  "When God asks us ‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of earth?' (B15)  He expects us to answer that we were right there with Him in Genesis 1 as dominion man!  We, as divine image and likeness, can affirm like Jesus: ‘I and my Father are one.'  John 10:30 ... Job's body was restored after his new mental viewpoint had taken command." Cobbey Crisler]

Section 5: The True Example of Love
Jesus' came to teach us how to love.  He showed us how to be children of God (B18).  Our sonship with divine Love can't be stagnant.  It has to be active, progressive, and developed through practice (B19).  In Hebrews (B20) we're reminded in our hardships to think of the sufferings Jesus endured.  This will give us encouragement.  When Jesus came upon a funeral procession in Nain (B21) he had immediate compassion for the grieving mother.  For a widow, losing her only son was just about the worse thing that could happen to her.  Jesus didn't judge her or come up with reasons to justify the tragedy.  He didn't launch into a speech about God as Life.  He just expressed God's love right there.  He comforted her and raised the son out of pure compassion.

Jesus showed mankind what Love really is (S21).  He was inspired by God in everything he did (S22).  Our Leader felt that everyone must follow that example (S23).  Being able to talk about it is not enough.  We all have to do it.  Science and Health states: "Jesus spares us not one individual experience" (S24).  Does that seem harsh?  It's really the most loving thing he could have done.  He showed us what to do without doing it for us.  If a child needed help tying his shoe, and you always tied it for him would that be helping him?  Is that the most loving thing to do?  The most loving thing to do would be to teach him how to do it.  Everyone knows that first-hand experience is both gratifying and empowering.  In just the same way we learn to love by doing
.  [P.U.S.S.H.  Read the article called "Live to love" by Principia Upper School Senior Matthew Hellman at the end (page 8) of this week's myBibleLesson.com.  Put Matt's experience into action in your life in at least a small way by handling the "non-sense of busy-ness" and fear that would keep you from helping those in need like the "Good Samaritan" did and like Jesus did for the widow at Nain.]

Section 6:  Patient, Persistent Practice
The encouraging words of Isaiah (B22) promise that no matter how tough our situations may be, God will save us.  We can expect complete renewal and redemption.  Job endured severe pain and great loss and yet God showed him mercy and compassion (B23).  His patient perseverance paid off.  "The sufferers must not murmur, even against their oppressors, but endure like the prophets and Job, whose patience was richly compensated in the end" (Abingdon).  We may face long odds and circumstances unexplainable to us, but God is Love and Love never lets us down.  When we truly feel the love of God we naturally love our fellow man in turn (B24).  Job continued to prosper with his newfound understanding of divine Love and so will we.  [P.U.S.S.H.  Job is indeed a "Comeback Kid" who had "A Total Turnaround!"  Check out an article with this title by David Mather on pages 12-13 of the Feb. 4, 2008 Christian Science Sentinel featuring present-day individuals who reversed decline to have "latter end(s)" like Job. Job 42:12]

Our Leader clearly understood that man, as God's reflection must be the expression of Love (S25, 26).  But, learning to love requires work.  Job was consistent in his prayer and devotion.  He stayed the course.  So must we.  Unless we are putting God first, we are liable to miss the mark.  We are to love God and man (S28).  That's really the whole of it.  It's not complicated.  So when you run into challenges large or small, be patient and continue learning the love of God.  That's all that exists really.  When the reality of that love dawns upon us we "shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (B22).  Hallelujah!

Camp Director's Note: The above sharing is the latest in a series of CedarS Bible Lesson "mets" (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians [with bracketed, italicized notes and "Possible Sunday School Topics" and Homework offered by me as editor and sometimes by the author]. This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms. * Originally sent JUST to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "mets" are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. The citations referenced (i.e. B1 and S28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "met" (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (B1-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. (S1-30) The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one. We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of these ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.
Have fun unwrapping, cherishing and sharing your special, spiritual gift(s)!
 
Enjoy!
Warren Huff, Camp Director       director@cedarscamps.org       (636) 394-6162
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