Friday, April 29, 2005

the conversion experience

i have been wanting to post many things lately, but i think my trip to kenya and the fullness of life has changed my typical blogging schedule. i hope to get back to the regularity that i once had.

one of the benefits of being a pastor in los angeles is that i have access to so many cool learning opportunities, and at times i get to take full advantage of them. for i strongly believe in "leaders are learners" and when we are no longer learning, we are no longer leading. for life is about growing and becoming, not arriving.

so on my day off yesterday and last week i went with my friend chris backert to his doctor of ministry classes, and this past tuesday, i went with lance, james and others to their class on ministry with ray anderson. lance and james are both getting their masters of divinity.

i really enjoy ray anderson, and was able to study some barth with him and my friend matt bartley, who know lives in columbus. anyway, one really cool quote out of many that i heard this past tuesday came from the pen of otto weber in the second volume on "foundations on dogmatics." in which he says this:

[A]s long as the 'Evangelical Church understands the Word merely as the impulse to a decision, and not, in view of the empowerment through the Spirit, as the decision prepared for man and thus set before him, it will cast people into their own autonomous 'decision' and that is tantamount to casting them into their own 'private' existence. The Church of the Gospel, wherever it may be, needs the courage to combine decision and God's action in holding us together; our own decisionis not our autonomous affair, but results rather in the fellowship of the Community in which our faith is stretched beyond its own tangible boundaries by the power of the Word empowered in the Spirit. . . We can never utter the Word of forgiveness to ourselves, not even when we 'know' about it. We need another person, who says it to us. We need the Community which lives by that Word.(O. Weber, Foundations of Dogmatics, II, p. 539)

all of this to say that the formation of the church as the community of christ is the work of the spirit, not simply human intentionality or agency. as john puts it in john 1:12,13 "but to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God." nrsv

there is something very vital and important in what john is telling us and what otto has so elegantly stated. we live in a world where many think they have "made a decision for jesus" but have no sense of calling to his community. can this really be possible? for God himself is community, Father, Son and Spirit, and when we take hold of that which we have been called to, geniune conversion takes place and brings us into the community of God and the body of christ on earth. we are either part of His concrete social and historical body that is present, or we are not. conversion is more than a mental assent, it involves being baptized into Christ's body that exists in real history and real time. a body that is about the Father's business.

if we lack concrete experience in the body, is our faith real or an illusion?


At 9:16 AM, Blogger Chad said...

if we lack concrete experience in the body, is our faith real or an illusion?

That is a great question… I don’t know.. I feel like for me it’s both real and illusion and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Maybe this is why I have been feeling called to do mission trip for my own soul to get rid of the illusion. I think I need to chew on this for awhile.

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#1 This is long.
#2 It is not the clearest it could be. But I’m not sorry. I’m tired of writing and thinking. I’m not trying to be rude. I hope that you can understand what I’ve said. Please feel free to email me any questions. There may be a lot I need to clarify.
#3 About me: I live with my parents, I’ve got an undergrad degree, I’ve been out of school 2 years this June, and just to be honest…I think I hate myself sometimes, but on the other hand sometimes, I don’t think I hate myself at all.

I guess I have a strange situation. Is it possible for this real faith and experience we have in Christ to be taken away, lost, or just really mixed up? I've made a lot of bad decisions FOR YEARS, out of anxiety from all the “shoulds” I was being sent by family, society etc. And to top it off…I developed an eating disorder surrounding to sooth my emotions and numb me and that’s been going on for a long time as well. So problem is I can't make decisions anymore...because I feel REALLY FEEL like what I display on the outside is not the person who I am on the deep inside…and I don’t want to make decisions if I can’t be me. I've just been smothered...and I know it may be hard to's not like I'm worried about "being someone" cool, or anything like that….I’m not consciously unhappy with myself. It’s just who I was/am IN MY HEART is even with me on a daily basis. And it makes me cry sometimes when I think about it (which is often)...because I CAN NOT bring “it” back. I've tried to figure out the problem...I've tried and tried...but I feel like I've been shattered...I don't know how to make my decisions for myself...I'm stuck. The only thing that keeps me going is that I get a small glimpse, usually in the middle of the night, that I can’t explain, but remind me…all those decisions I’m making would be different…if “I” were here....but I can't do anything to bring her back.

On the other hand…I doubt myself ...and don't know if she exists at all….but then I get one of those “glimpses” and remember that something’s not right again. I finally gave up yesterday trying to figure out what my problem is. But that doesn’t make my decisions any easier. I feel like I’ve got to “let her go” and start fresh and just start building my life from something new…but I just don’t think I can take anymore…I just don’t think I can do it. I’m not physically able. I’m torn down. All I have left to get me through the day is how I feel, which is completely confused. I don't know how to think wholly. I don’t know how I relate to God anymore.

And my mind seems to play tricks on me...making me just dwell on one thing...making me imagine how things will be. So what I'm saying is I believe I am saved...and I feel from my heart that God's Spirit was once doing a lot in my heart...but life got really tough...I don't know...maybe it was something else...but now I feel like I can't think clear. I can't do anything. Something, and I don't think it has anything to do with sin, is keeping me from what God was doing with me. But I don't even remember what God was doing with me before all this stress and my eating disorder. I don’t think I can do anything else for myself. I don’t have any offers of help that I think would help though. I need to be restored…and I don’t think that I can have anything to do with it. I don't feel a calling, and that would be okay...if I didn't feel like in my heart...I had one...that my mind is keeping me from. When I try to figure it mind plays tricks on me and says that I'm bad...I'm not good enough, that God is mad at me.

For example, right now I don’t even know what my purpose is in sending this. I don’t even know if I’m just tricking myself…and wasting my own time. But I’m gonna try, even if I’m not sure if it’s how I feel, or if it makes sense. I get doubts…thinking maybe this is all because I’m lazy and just don’t want to live in the “real world”. I just need to get busy. I’ve never really been a Christian. This “thing” that I feel like I’ve lost, is here right now…I’m here…and I know what to do. I’ve never really know what it means to be a Christian, I’ve always let how I feel rule me. As you can see…I have NO PEACE right now.

But when I get those “glimpses” of my old self I get the sense that I know that this is big…and although I’m not doing well in the present with anything I feel like God is happy with me…and I’m okay my heart is okay. I just can't trust myself anymore.

This all may sound crazy...but it's not totally crazy thoughts or anything...the point is...I just feel paralyzed. I need help...and I've got a counselor...and she suggested I go see a psychiatrist to get medication...and blah blah blah. But I just think I know in my heart it won't help. I would like to be me again. The me who had her heart full...and I think it was God who had filled it. And even if maybe it's not God's will for me to be like that...maybe He's teaching me something......I feel like I'm losing the battle. And really, I think that God’s will is that I be restored.

So now, I don’t feel a call….but I feel like I would know…if I could be “me” again and feel secure. I feel like my heart is broken. I’m just sad.
I know that NOTHING “feels right”and I think I know it with all my heart.
P.S. Please use the word “feel” or “feeling” in it’s strongest sense. It’s not just an emotion. I think it goes VERY DEEP. It may be the only thing the Holy Spirit is communicating to me now….and it is strong. But my mind says I’m crazy. Maybe I’m just afraid of life. WHO KNOWS.

So I’m sending this to you because I need to get it out. To relate it to your blog…I think I’ve had the “conversion experience” but now I feel I don’t remember it…I don’t remember how it made sense to my heart and formed the person that I’ve lost. I need advice, and I hope you have some. Please pray for me.

I look forward to your reply.


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