Are you familiar with the concepts of top down and bottom up? These are different versions of developing and presenting concepts but they can be applied to the same ideas. This distinction is most commonly applied in business and politics. Could it be applied to spiritual matters as well? What is the most common presentation you hear of the gospel message? Does it start from God and go down from there? This is clearly top down. Can the same message be presented starting with the unavoidable human longing for identity, belonging, meaning, and self-transcendence?
In the world of commerce you hear about win-win arrangements. The principle is that both parties enter into a deal freely and voluntarily, so it has to provide an advantage for each. This is clearly better than win-lose. Do you think the same principle applies in church? The church needs workers for the things it does. You have spiritual needs as well. Can you find a way to serve your church that serves your spiritual needs at the same time? The win-win principle should apply as much at church as anywhere.
Are you familiar with the concept of resonance? It is a term of acoustics that refers to things that vibrate at the same frequency, but the concept is so powerful that the term has been appropriated broadly for human interactions and responses. Have you encountered people or ideas that you identify and connect with, even though you couldn’t offer a rational explanation for it? Has time shown these initial impressions to be true more often than not? You could also refer to this as discernment, or the experience of being led by the Spirit. Some things that are real cannot be explained.
Airplanes can fly on automatic pilot, and there is work in progress on self-driving cars. What about you? Do you live your life on autopilot? You are surrounded by those who are eager to tell you what to do. Some offer good advice and some do not, and some have authority and some do not. Hopefully those in authority will offer good advice. But is there any external advice or program that will lead you into your destiny? You understand that I have a plan for you. Do you understand that it is detailed and intricate and tailored just for you?
The Bible records that I wept, and you are familiar with this as the shortest verse in the Bible. What was the last thing that moved you to tears? Do you have to think very long about this to come up with an answer? Do you consider it an expression of self-control to avoid weeping? Perhaps you are trying too hard, and this is truer for men than for women. I gave you a full range of emotional expression and you do not honor me by being cold, distant, and unmoved. Have you ever found that emotional expression is restorative and healing? What are you missing because of your unwept tears?
Do you keep your appointments? If you arrange in advance to meet someone at a certain place and time for a haircut or dental exam or a multitude of other reasons then someone is expecting you to show up and the transaction is broken if you do not. Do you know that not all of your appointments are made by phone and marked in your calendar? Have you ever had an unexpected encounter that appeared to be by chance, and yet it was full of divine and redemptive purpose? Once could be attributed to coincidence, but if it keeps happening you may suspect correctly that I am involved.
Do you see your life as a story that could be written in a book? Who would write the story? You don’t get to write the first chapter. So many things are out of your control. The time and place of your birth, the cultural, social, and economic circumstances of your upbringing, and your nation, race, gender and tribe are given to you. But even given all of these initial conditions, there comes a time when you are able to make the choices that control the direction of your life. How soon will you do this and what will they be? The end matters more than the beginning.
Do you ever sense that you were born for a destiny but that you are stuck in a mundane life? Are you stuck in such a way that you are going around in circles or unable to move forward at all? If this causes you distress it is because of the tension between the life you live and the destiny that calls you forward. Is this a vague sense of disconnect, or do you hear a clear call to expand beyond your current limitations? Pay attention to the longings of your soul, even if it increases the tension with the life you currently live.
Do you pray? Do you understand prayer as a request, a petition, a supplication? It is asking for a favor. These are familiar concepts for you and you are most receptive to receiving them yourself if they are offered in respectful humility. Yet my word speaks of fervent prayer. How does fervency fit with the above concepts? Does this appear to be a mismatch? I told the story of the importunate widow to illustrate this. The widow was dependent on the unjust judge for justice, but she would not be denied.
Some churches are blatant about their claims to be the one true church, and others find this annoying, but is there any church that is completely free of this mindset no matter how subtly it is expressed? Do you pull into one parking lot rather than another on Sunday mornings because they are doing it right or because they are doing it wrong? I describe my church as one body with many members. Each has its own purpose and contributes something valuable and even essential. Do you see this same concept as being scalable from individuals to churches? No one of them is the one true church.