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Repetition as Safeguard

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Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.

- Philippians 3:1

Paul saw repetiton as a safeguard for his friends.

We live in a world that is constantly trying to crush our joy. It is no easy thing to remember the bigger story into which your life has been woven. Life has a way of hardening us.

Embracing the value of repetition corrects our spiritual A.D.D. We forget the goodness of the gospel every day. When that happens, we become functional atheists. 

We might say that we believe in God, but we live as if the only true reality is ourselves and whatever's happening right in front of us. We lose touch with the things that make life worth living: grace, mystery, wonder, redemption, love, and the person of Jesus who is the source of it all. 

If we let it, repetition pulls us back to a healthier place.

Repetition allows us to re-engage with the mystery and wonder of our faith ... and with the person who stands at the center of our faith, Jesus. To paraphrase one commentator, we never move on from Jesus, only to a more profound understanding and appreciation of him. 

We're never "done" with the gospel. We are always pressing further up and farther into the gospel and discovering that there are infinite fresh applications of it in our lives.

How can we remain soft-hearted and open-eared to familiar stories, words and truths? What disciplines might be useful for this?


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5 Comments

Steve, love it!!! Been a long time since I've read a sentence and thought ok, now what's he saying here! I love to read something the really slows me down and makes me think about the words! So now to your question. Honestly my answer isn't deep . Once I learned to seperate personhood from body I releized that the vail that separates this world from the spiritual world isn't as opaque as we like to think. Simply put, if we are spiritual beings and our personhood resides primarily within our spirit every word I or you or any human being speaks, every act of will we do is a piercing of that vail. Ontologically speaking, as best as I can tell human beings are the only creation desined to fully and simultaneously exist in both the spiritual and physical worlds. We're trained to think of these two as separate and both having their own ontological being, they are. But the physical does not exist on it own. It is held together and in place by Christ Scriptialy. So we should reject the hard dualist position in favor of one that see the two worlds as separate but the sprirital as the more solid of the two that permeates and gives substance to this world. Once this thinking took hold I don't go very long without getting reminded from simple interaction with people that there is more going on then I see. And from there it's a really short step to "oh ye, it's about God".
Having struggled with "what's my calling" for a number of years, I became a firm believer in you have to find and believe there is purpose even when you don't see it, even when life seems mundain. For me that transilated into a way that would remind me of God's presents that was just woven into the fabric of my life and that meant changing my default thinking about the way I see life And this world. You have to believe god can and will talk to you before you can ever hear Him. Simple fact is, if it's not a vail but a wholly differant existence with little or no interaction i can't possibly give mental assent to God talking with me much less Him actually being in relation with me. And Christ coming into the world, well that would just be absurd.

John, I know a blog comment section is a tricky place to engage in a conversation about ontology, but you bring up so many good ideas, I can't resist the urge to join you.

Over the years, I've appreciated TF Torrance's challenge to think not just ontologically (what a thing is by itself) but also onto-relationally (what a thing is in context). An onto-relational approach helps me engage with things and categories that may slip past a sensory-validation system (truth, beauty, spiritual beings, etc …). That's philosophical babble … but it touches on an important truth.

I think that for me, it's really easy to spend all of my time and attention on the things right in front of me. Out of sight, out of mind. This makes it difficult for me to be a great long-distance friend and it also makes me late for dinner (my inbox is in front of me in the office and my family is back at home, out of sight). Understanding my life, work and faith in its bigger context frees me from slavishly paying attention only to what's right in front of me. And there are spiritual disciplines that help with that too.

As you think about personhood being super-sensory or beyond our senses, what are disciplines you use to fight the slow slide into functional naturalism? Or, to put it another way, what are some ways you maintain that emotional closeness with a God you can't see?

Darin, I've had similar experiences with the arts and familiar stories. When I was in graduate school I saw a one-man show production of the gospel of Luke. The actor had memorized the whole thing. It was remarkable to see the Scriptures come to life. Engaging the arts is a great recommendation.

I think the arts are a great source of ways to come back to familiar stories in a new way. Spritual Twist Productions in Garner (also known as Christian Youth Theatre) is a great way that kids and adults work together (adults are the leaders, directors, etc.) to change familiar biblical stories with the same message but in clever genre changes and familiar secular stories into Gospel message stories. That's the power of art forms. Or why not biblical comics?

Please forgive the length of this and being a little off the topic of reputation but for me it was coming to see my relationship with Jesus in the the following reality that really keeps my relationship fresh and my heart soft toward Jesus. It is this reality that undergirds the importance of reputation and 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT.We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves
Atheists believe we are fundamentally a cloud of atoms, nothing more. I sometimes ask Christians, "Prove, by empirically means, that your spouse, kids, loved ones are more then their physical bodies." For me it is this question that forces the acknowledgment that I believe in my relationship with Jesus in the same way I believe in my relationship with all spiritual beings.
“I’ve never heard God’s audible voice.” We have all heard this said, probably have uttered it ourselves. Living a Christian life involves being in an intimate and loving relationship with God while at the same time only “seeing him dimly now” (1 Cor. 13:12). It embodies an emotional closeness while paradoxically involving a lack of sense perception. This paradox causes tension in our walk with a loving heavenly Father.
In our everyday lives we do not separate the person from the physical apparatuses involved in seeing, touching and hearing them. Thus, in practice, we unwittingly infer the existence of persons because we see, touch and hear them. It is this error of inferring persons from our physical senses that causes much of the tension in our relationship with God. Dallas Willard said, “The biggest hindrance to faith is the overwhelming presence of the physical world.” This is an eloquent way of stating that our slavish reliance to our physical senses is deceiving. By directly inferring personhood from the experience of relating to them through our physical senses, we skip the intuition that we know by our physical senses that physical bodies exist but it is not by our physical senses that we know persons are more then their physical bodies. We miss the belief that a person exists as more then the physical stuff that makes them up is a separate thing then knowing they exist as a physical body. If we continue to infer personhood through our physical senses, belief in God coexisting with reason will always be strained simply because our physical senses can not perceive spirit and God.

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