Category Archives: Bible Study

Trains, planes, automobiles and…arks?

Ah, summer time in Austin, Texas. Are we having fun, yet?

Like many Austinites, you may be ready for a get-away from the heat, from the grind, from school or from work. A summer vacation out of town sure can be inviting. Journeys either near or far beckon us, like an oasis in the desert, sparkling and refreshing and new. Okay, are you ready? Let’s go… with God!

Trips away from the ordinary day-to-day can truly revitalize us, give us a new perspective on our lives, and bring us home with a better attitude and with more peace of mind. I’ve certainly found that very often to be the case. But, on the other hand, stepping out of the comfortably familiar can also often be jarring, cause worry and bring on new challenges that we may be unprepared for. Fortunately,  I find that every trip I go on tends to give me precious opportunities to prove that no matter what would appear, no matter where we would be, we are always still home in the familiar, safe, comfortable, and comforting space that Is our “mobile” home: God’s care, guidance, protection, and affection.

It definitely behooves us to get ourselves grounded before we take wing or wheel. We can actively assert and establish our true stability, the very fact that no matter where we roam, we are settled within the Mind of God, an idea under His watchful care, shepherded along our way, never alone, and always accompanied by a familiar companion:  God’s love shown through His active and available and healing divine Science. The Truth of our being may be infinite, but it can always fit sufficiently in our carry-on! God’s ideas are immediately accessible, and we will never get out of range of those, no matter how unfamiliar the territory seems to be. The angels are always at the ready.

I love Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of “Ark” in Science and Health:

“Safety;…the understanding of Spirit, destroying belief in matter. God and man coexistent and eternal;…the ark indicates temptation overcome and followed by exaltation.” (page 581)

This spiritual definition can be utilized when we embark on any journey. Our “ark” is our car or truck, a train, a plane, a ship. It is whatever transports us forward into life, into blessings, into the revelation of God’s creation seen newly and with grateful joy, and which also protects us along the way. We are coexistent with God, so we never leave Him, never depart from goodness, Love, wisdom, clarity, peace. These preserving qualities are ours wherever we are, just as the new vistas we behold can never truly depart from us either, even when we come home. They are within Mind to be claimed and re-claimed!

On a recent journey, I was able to prove this healing concept of ark, most specifically the “temptation overcome and followed by exaltation.” I had really looked forward to a return visit to Paris. I fell in love with it and the experience I had there almost three years ago, and I felt the time was right and inspired to go back. I had prayed for safety and peace of mind before the trip and had others supporting me with their prayer as well. I felt confident and ready and the trip proved to be even better than I had imagined—the weather was divine, the place we chose to stay was just right, and I actually achieved the miraculous (to me):  I actually GOT AWAY mentally and physically!

As we tearfully but gratefully left the city and the continent and headed back to the United States with Austin (home) as our final destination, I was continuing to pray. Our days and nights in Paris had so naturally led us to unexpected delights, as if God had just said, “No, I think you should turn here, instead of there…Follow me, I know a really sweet spot!….Wait till you see what I’ve created over here!” So, I needed to continue to trust this guidance by my Shepherd/Tour Guide and to know that we would get back to our home pasture safe and sound. In fact, we hadn’t really left it, hadn’t left God’s control, His sanctuary of peace and beauty. We had simply explored it.

Well, I can’t say I completely kept my cool when we arrived in Minneapolis (our connection back to Austin), sailed through customs, only to find that three full terminals in the airport had been shut down completely since that morning due to a power outage. Nothing was moving and lines of distressed passengers swarmed the place. Plus, many areas of the airport were sweltering without the air conditioning running. Argh! I just crossed the ocean, I’m jet-lagged, stiff, smell like a plane and feel like a three-day old rag. No one seemed to know anything, many workers were overwhelmed and rather rude, and all the monitors at the airport still said our departing plane was “on time.” I was about to really lose it. As my family and I paced around and made calls home, I felt the tears of weariness and frustration well up in me. I was afraid I was going to have a melt-down.

And then, I heard a little voice. One of those angels that fit in my carry-on (the one I still had with me) gently caressed me with truth.  It said: You are dwelling in harmony, My harmony. Chaos is not allowed here in spite of appearances to the contrary. You are right here and now in the midst of my harmonious action. Relax and be grateful.

That was it! I calmed down right away and realized that real harmony didn’t come from some particular human outcome I hoped for, but was something that could never be lost and never had been! I was still in the ark, still co-existent with God’s governing Principle. I could trust that and let Him reveal His loving plan.

With that thought things improved quickly. No, the power didn’t come back on, but a light did come on in my thought. I was led very naturally to bypass a line of literally hundreds of people waiting or hoping for some answers (no one really had any at that point) and for rescheduling of flights, and found a special telephone for my airline which gave us immediate access to an agent. She re-booked us for the next morning, gave us very helpful and understanding advice about hotel arrangements, and assured us we were “good to go!” And we were!

We went to a hotel close by with free airport transportation, almost immediately went to sleep, woke up refreshed and ready to go (all of us remarked that it was one of the best sleeps we had ever had!). We were exactly on time to catch the first shuttle back to the airport. It was a beautiful, clear morning. The airport was calm and everyone was very kind. It was like an entirely different place! Our flight was on time, comfortable, and I felt really uplifted, inspired, and ready to get back to my life in Austin with renewed vigor. Some especially vital ideas came to me while on that flight and were shared with my traveling companion. The ark was sailing, and the exaltation had begun! We arrived home timely and were met with flowers and welcoming smiles from our family and friends picking us up.  The weary heaviness of the previous day was gone and our homecoming was strewn with fresh flowers of love!

So, why not take a vacation! Get in that ark and take a break not only from your usual surroundings, but from a belief that we can ever be out of God’s control or that any part of our lives here or far away can be anything less than just right!

Submitted by our guest blogger, Laura Moliter, who is a Christian Science practitioner, writer, and singer-songwriter living in Austin, TX

When All Is Lost

By Barbara Whitewater, Published in The Christian Science Monitor on June 1, 2011

The day after Joplin, Mo., was hit by a huge tornado, I was watching a news report of the damage and of the many lives lost. I heard a man from Joplin tell the reporter that all he felt was gratitude because people were driving from hundreds of miles away to come to help. He was so moved by this outpouring of brotherly love that it made him cry.  Me, too.

I am often moved to tears when all seems lost, and God is found to be right at hand, showing His uninterrupted love through every brave and generous expression of human love. Because God is Love, He never stops loving. It may not always be easy to be convinced of this when a big, bad thing happens. But it is the nature of God to give us the most help when it is most needed. All that is ever really lost is the fear that sometimes God seems like He has abandoned us. When all seems lost, God is found to be “a very present help in trouble,” as promised by the Bible (Ps. 46:1).

In 1992, I was living with my mom and son in south Florida when hurricane Andrew hit. Although our immediate neighborhood suffered minimal damage, just an hour south of us things had not gone so well. The storm turned out to be much stronger than expected.

Watching a television interview with a man whose house had been totally flattened, I got reassuring proof of God’s always present love. The man and his wife were standing in front of what used to be their house, crying. But through their tears, they expressed much gratitude that they had not been hurt. The house and its contents were just replaceable things that, now, seemed not nearly as important as their protection from injury and death.  “Ah,” I thought, “There it is.” There is the loving voice of God speaking louder than the storm.  Read the entire article here.

Time to Start Settling for More

Getting more out of life is a desire most of us have. There are websites and books that espouse the power of positive thinking, goal setting, visioning and other approaches to having a healthier, happier, more prosperous and fuller life.

Many people find themselves challenged with settling for less, however. Coping, hanging in there, just getting through the day can become a way of thinking that becomes a way of life. While I have found some interesting and inspiring ideas in self-help resources, I find that the impact is limited and not lasting. Perhaps surprisingly, I find the best resources for expanding my vision, setting high goals, being productive and feeling hopeful are The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Why? Because the ideas and inspiration I get from these books work. The results last. The outcomes are reliable, life-changing, uplifting and permanent.

When I was a young adult, I would experience periods of depression and a general expectation that, even if things seemed to be going well at the moment,  something bad was going to happen. While functional in my job, I was taking medications for depression, allergies, stomach problems and a host of other ailments. I was engaged in questionable relationships and feeling inadequate and incomplete. None of the medications or other strategies that I was using changed my health or lifted me out of the mental and emotional bondage I felt I was in. None of them made me happy or more secure.

After being in this condition for a number of years, I worked on a project with a woman who was happy, confident and who had a whole different way of approaching physical, emotional, financial and personal challenges. She shared casually that she was a Christian, a Christian Scientist, and that through this practice she had a reliable form of health care, a source of ideas for her personal and professional life and a solid foundation for growth and abundant living. To say that I was skeptical and highly critical is a HUGE understatement. I couldn’t believe that anyone could be relieved, let alone fully healed, of the things I was facing. I started asking questions and we didn’t stop talking until late that night. (That was the first change I noticed. I began to feel some hope that maybe there was a solution beyond just coping.) I continued interrogating her and found that these were explanations of how prayer heals and how God’s government works that made sense to me. And she shared many examples from her life and documented cases of many others’ lives where all sorts of problems had been overcome through prayer.

The overarching idea that stayed with me was that God was good, that I was good and that I didn’t have to settle for less than good. She told me that God was actually knowable like the Bible says. Getting to know God, good, through reading these books, would not only help me but heal me. She loaned me a copy of these two books with the promise that there were answers in them better than the answers I had tried.

That was a number of years ago and I have never been disappointed with the healing results I have gotten reading The Bible and Science and Health. I stopped settling for less, for just coping, and began experiencing so much more of what life has to offer. I will always be grateful to that friend for sharing these books with me.

Written by guest blogger Joan Lazarus who lives in Austin TX.

God’s Grace and God’s Law

The Bible Study Group this month has been studying the letters of Paul in the New Testament.

By: Christi Lupher

My understanding of what we studied (Rom. 1-6) was that it was Paul explaining his teachings (his “gospel”) to the Church at Rome (whose members he’d never met) in terms of the contentious debate going on at the time between the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians in that church (and to a greater or lesser extent throughout the Church as a whole). The debate was over the nature of salvation – how to justify yourself before God; how to be righteous; how to gain eternal life.

The ancient Jewish approach to this was to DO what was good and right. God had told them what was right – the Law – so individuals just needed to obey it. Unfortunately NO ONE did what was right all the time, and people devoted to obeying the Law (Jews) continually had to make sacrifices to atone for the times they messed up.

So the new, Christian concept of justification/salvation/righteousness was that it was a gift from God – grace – which came through Christ – expressed, made evident through Jesus’s great sacrifice (crucifixion) and resurrection.

This was wonderful.  Christians didn’t have to try and EARN God’s approval/forgiveness anymore, it was simply a gift of Love. Unfortunately, some people seemed to take this as an excuse for committing any sin that popped into their head, because they figured it didn’t matter what they did – they were already saved/justified.

So the debate was raging. It looks like everyone believed to some extent in grace – the gift of God through Christ. But what did that mean about the Law – which God and clearly given to the Jews. And how could people supposedly justified by grace, truly be justified if they were still committing egregious sins?

Paul’s answer to all this was to try and spiritualize their thought – lift up their thinking to understand the true nature of grace/justification/righteousness/salvation. Two of the key concepts he tried to explain in this letter were:

First:  To many people (esp. Jews) the idea that the actions of one man (Jesus) could affect (justify/save) all humanity seemed a bit silly – especially to the Jews who’d spent hundreds of years with each individual endeavoring to be good by doing what God had said was good (the Law). So Paul appealed to the Jews’ own scriptures to explain this idea. He pointed out that they already believed that one person’s actions could affect all humanity. They already believed that all mankind had been condemned because of the actions of one man – Adam. But if one MAN’s actions could be have so powerful an effect on the whole human race, then how much more must it be true that GOD’S gift of grace (through the actions of one man – Jesus) is capable of justifying/saving all humanity.

Second: We aren’t saved by doing good works, we do good works because we are saved.

Christi Lupher lives in Austin TX with her family.