Archives for posts with tag: spirituality

What is the measure of faith?

I lay down every night, I expect to wake up every morning-and breathe-that’s faith.

I wake up every morning, I expect to be able to see with my eyes, open my mouth and speak-that’s faith.

I wake up, I expect to remember my name, who I am, and where I am-that’s faith.

I wake up, I expect to able to move my arms, my hands, my legs, to get out the bed-that’s faith.

I flip on the light switch, I expect the lights to come on-that’s faith.

I turn on the faucet, I expect the water to come out-that’s faith.

I expect to able to groom myself, put on my clothes/shoes the right way, cook for/feed myself-that’s faith.

I get in my car and turn the ignition, I expect the car to start-that’s faith.

I send my children to school, I expect them to come home safely-that’s faith.

I travel to/from work, school, etc., I expect to arrive/return safely home-that’s faith.

…And when these things don’t happen, I am shocked…

So what is faith?

I am: convicted, confident, convinced; I have a fundamental trust, a reality, a hope, a proof-of what I do not see.

 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

 

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22,23

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” -Galatians 5:25

Two very familiar passages. Pretty heavy fruit. Serious right living. Something to bear in mind when seeking a church home: Is the church I’m looking to join bearing Spirit fruit planted by God?

This reliable standard goes beyond praise and worship styles, prayer meetings, auxillaries/ministries departments, outreach programs, and all the workings of organized religion in church. It looks past the smiling faces, friendly hugs, and polite etiquette. It looks deep into the heart of a church’s members.

Jesus was never impressed with church folk. He pierced through their works to the inside of their souls. Attitudes and motives caught his attention. Always. I think of the Good Samaritan account, and the lawyer who asked Jesus who was his neighbor. Jesus answered his question with this story-then asked the lawyer who was the neighbor. Then there’s the Prodigal Son story, describing the actions and reactions of the father, the wayward son, and the faithful elder brother. The other story that stands out in my mind is the Widow’s Mite, and Jesus’ silence as he watched the congregants put in their offerings. He openly praised the widow’s act of putting all she had into the plate. Oh yes, I forgot about the rich young ruler. He did right, lived right, from his youth, but chose not to follow Jesus after he was told to sell all his wealth.

The appearance of doing right, and living right, is not enough in God’s eyes. These acts should be fruit born of the seed of pure love for God, and for all his people. He asks why am I doing right? God wants to know, and the book of Acts clearly shows, do I love him from my heart-or is it just for show? Have I brought God down to my level of selfishness, doing good works for me or for him? Or to get things for me and my four, and no more? My thoughts, my motives I hide from man who sees smiles, and works-but God sees hearts.

Yes, God can tell if a church’s fruit is good or bad. Remember the fig tree Jesus cursed because it bore no fruit?

A FRUITFUL CHURCH: Oozes with a God-love that sets safe, loving, prayer-saturated boundaries for members to share their real selves, fearing no closed-mindedness and judgment. The joy continues long after the weekly praise & worship, miracles, and healings stop. Her members consciously seek peaceful ways of getting along with one another. Everyone practices longsuffering (patience), understanding every member is at a different stage of his or her walk with the Lord. Gentleness is shown consistently when restoring those who are fallen and weak in faith. The intent of the hearts of all members is to think, to speak, to do good and only good. Faith causes everyone to believe in and encourage each other to get up, brush off, to keep moving forward and upwards. The spirit of meekness recognizes all make mistakes, then effectively crushes and makes no room for pride. Temperance (self-control) governs every church member, because they are surrendered vessels to God.

Looking for a home church? Look for her Spirit Fruit.

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http://publicphoto.org/architecture/church-in-the-city/

 

 

Looking through old boxes while moving, I found a paper I did for my psychology class. I chose research the faith community’s response to family violence. My professor encouraged me to approach this topic from a different angle, and I included interviews with two ministers, and an imam. The imam interaction was a brief contact, one time only; I completed my interview with a young woman, one of their teachers. Because we had a short time to complete our papers, I could not include rabbis, as the appointments were outside the deadline.

I saved my interviews with women survivors, who were actively involved in their churches, for last.

This assignment garnered me an A+, but the knowledge and understanding of the faith communities’ sense of duty to the call of ministering to hurting congregants meant more to me than a grade.

The interviews were eye-openers. The young woman I talked with at the mosque was very knowledgeable, breaking down the similarities/differences in southern/northern cultures’ view of women and their status in their respective regions. She was from the northern middle east region, where women are allowed to receive an education, drive a car, pursue careers, own property, own and operate businesses-pretty much different from the media portrayal I’d experienced ( I didn’t ask her where she was from, since my paper’s focus on this issue was general). Women living in the southern region were not so fortunate. It surprised me to learn that the wives walked two steps behind their husbands. I appreciated all she had to say, but I left with the impression that not too much is done, other than the women are given assistance. I received this interview after attending their worship service; I saw the imam after this interview. He just wanted to know if I was satisfied with what I learned.

The interview that impressed me, to this day, was with the minister who personally involved himself in assisting one of his congregants to safety-to another state; and helping another woman to move forward after counseling with the husband proved futile. He was Mexican, and I learned his perspective on the cultural views of women in his country, north and south regions. The surprise here was the similarity to the young woman’s interview. The story was the same.

My interview with the last minister, an African-American, was similar to the other minister. He was involved on a community level, working with social agencies, and preferred to maintain a distance from the families he serviced. His experiences led him to not become personally involved. So my question to the minister who involved himself on a personal level: Why?

He understood his ministry goes beyond praying with and for his congregants. He understood the practical religion of Jesus Christ. Both families are still active in their respective congregations. He maintains contact with them, even though he no longer pastors them.

Pastor….key word.

My interviews with the women who left their abusive relationships was interesting. I say interesting because these women were very active, holding leadership positions, on the surface looking like “I’m a survivor”-but still attached to their abusive ex-spouses- emotionally and mentally. One woman, married twice, was battered in both marriages. The pain, the emotions were still very raw. One couldn’t talk anymore after opening up. I respect that, I feel for them, having been there myself.

They didn’t say too much about their churches’ responses to their situations, and whether their pastors kept in touch with them.

My mentor, a social worker, offered much support to me and my family, along with the pastor and his wife whose leadership my family was under at that time. I know these individuals were the reason I was able to move on, forgive my ex, and live freely.

That was five years ago when I did that assignment. I was researching this morning, and want to explore it again, this time along with spiritual abuse.