Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heavenBut whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

THREE WAYS GOD WANTS YOU TO USE YOUR IMAGINATION

4/25/2018

Every now and then, I stumble upon a great writer or orator from the past who seems to share my passion for seeing glimpses of God’s presence in ordinary situations. Although he was controversial in his day, the mid-1800s Presbyterian minister Henry Ward Beecher frequently talked about God’s desire for us to employ our minds in pursuit of Him. Perhaps my favorite quote of his is, “the soul without imagination is what an observatory would be without a telescope.” In other words, we can only achieve our God-given purpose in life if we regularly engage our imagination. 

Beecher, who was a tireless abolitionist, went so far as to say, “the imagination is the secret and marrow of civilization. It is the very eye of faith.” While I wasn’t able to find the context surrounding that statement, I suspect that he must have been inspired by the many stories in the Bible where God called people to take a step of faith off the ledge of life… to have the kind of courage that most of us can only imagine. Beecher spent most of his life risking everything to free slaves, so I am sure he found the strength to follow his calling through the stories of the Biblical greats who were called before him. Abraham had never been anywhere. Yet God called him to pack up his stuff and simply “go.” Where? “To a land I will show you.” Ok, translated into modern life, God basically said to him, “well, that’s for me to know and you to find out.” Romans 4 tells us that Abraham “in hope believed against hope.” And through him all humankind was blessed. 

In our quest to know God better, depend on Him more deeply, and see His glory radiate through our lives, the cultivation of our imagination is absolutely critical. I like to think of Ephesians 3:14-21 as the great “imagination manifesto” of Paul the Apostle. Sure, there are tons of other often quoted verses, like placing our trust in the unseen and betting the farm on future hope, and they are all useful and encouraging. But I love the passage from Ephesians because it directly ties the unwavering strength we long for and the deep understanding we crave to the use of our imagination. We have to use our imagination to even begin to fathom the breadth, length, height and depth of Christ’s love for us. We have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and humble in order to envision, or dream about, the glorious riches of God and His kingdom. The Message version of that passage describes God as “the magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.” And this same mighty Father accomplishes more than we can imagine, “not by pushing us around, but by working within us His Spirit.” 

So how does God want us to use our imagination? I suppose the possibilities are as endless as God is, but here are three that came to my mind this week.

#1 — Imagine His promises being fulfilled in your life.
The Bible is packed with more than 3,500 specific promises. When God says something He means it, and He doesn’t discriminate based on your eligibility or desirability. He wants us to have wisdom, joy, peace and hope in every circumstance. There aren’t any exceptions. However, we often fail to see some of God’s promises come to fruition in our lives. And, I don’t know about you, but it’s when I am most desperate for His help that the promises seem to evade me. I’ve pondered this a lot through my years of faith, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am the problem, not God. When I am feeling like I am at my wit’s end, those are usually the times where I don’t allow the Holy Spirit to come in and calm my crazy mind and fulfill the promise. When I flail about mentally, I am the equivalent of a drowning swimmer who doesn’t see the lifeguard reaching for her. Here’s the key: God is calling us to act on the promises we haven’t seen, felt or experienced yet. For example, if I am feeling anxious and pray for peace, God then wants me to call upon my imagination and envision receiving that promise of peace in full measure. It’s that first step of envisioning the peace coming, which then allows me to begin acting like I’ve received it. And when we take action, our minds eventually follow. But it takes courage to believe that the peace is there, and we just need to stop future-tripping, over-analyzing, and pondering all the “what-ifs.” Philippians 4:8-9 clearly instructs us to stop thinking about the what-ifs and focus only on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise. That pretty much rules out future-tripping, because what you think might happen is not actually true yet. Period.  Proverbs 3:24, for example, is a promise about sleep (and there are several more!). “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Now certainly there are times where extenuating circumstances may prevent us from going to bed. There may also be situations where God might be urging you to stay up and pray, but generally speaking, He wants to bless us with good rest. You know those nights where you’re lying there worrying or your mind is just racing about your to-do list? Those aren’t His will. Next time, try imagining what it feels like for the promise of Proverbs 3:24 to wash over you. Take the leap of faith and believe that He wants that for you. Envision His canopy of stars displayed over your bed, and as you imagine yourself looking into the night sky, meditate on the verse. Your imagination can help you commit to your belief and lead you to the action of trust. And, with a little bit of practice, the Holy Spirit will teach you how to rest more peacefully. 

#2 — Imagine what He’s calling you to do. 
When your imagination and a Godly purpose are combined, your motivation, courage, and understanding of God’s power are ignited. Set ablaze. Pumped up. Pick whatever phrase makes you excited about God’s adventure for your life. David had to imagine himself defeating Goliath. He envisioned putting the stone in the slingshot and felling the giant on the first try. (The story is found in 1 Samuel 17.) Queen Esther had to summon the courage to go before the king and beg for the life of her people. In that culture, people were put to death who dared go before the king without his request — especially a woman. With prayer and imagination, she envisioned doing what God told her do. Her imagination helped fuel her courage. Both David and Esther first had to see themselves trusting God and acting on what He asked them to do. So whether God is asking you to talk to the grocery store clerk, leave your job, or save your marriage, imagine yourself doing what He asks you to do, filled with His Spirit, and then walking onward boldly — all for His glory, and not your own. 

#3 — Imagine His splendor and majesty daily. 
When we ponder the greatness of God in a new way on a daily basis, many amazing things happen. First, we are humbled and our perspective shifts from our immediate world and our own agendas, to His grandeur and higher plan for our lives. Pride lurking in our hearts and behind our motivations, will always taint our imagination and turn it away from envisioning the Truth of God’s Word and what He has planned for us. Second, we become thankful. When we meditate on the power, love, and wisdom of the King of the Universe, we can’t help but bow in worship and gratitude that He cares enough to commune with each of us on a personal level. Third, taking the time to meditate on the splendor of God and praising Him for His attributes and character, will help you to develop more self-control and mental discipline. Using your imagination to envision what it’s like sitting at His feet or worshipping before His throne takes practice, but we are commanded to do it. How else could we “enter His courts with praise” (Psalm 100) or be creative enough to find a new way to praise Him every day (Psalm 96:1)? As believers in Jesus, we are transformed into sons and daughters of the King — and that’s not just in eternity. God is calling us to act like the chosen ones we are, here on earth, so that we reflect His glory in heaven to others. And if we are not spending time letting our minds explore the vastness of who He is, then how will we ever become familiar enough with our King to resemble Him? Next time you pray, imagine yourself sitting with Jesus in your favorite place. Listen for His voice. Ask Him to show you something new about Him today. And then believe that He will. It may happen right then. It might happen on your drive to work. It could happen in the shower. But the more you train your mind to focus on Him, the more likely your ears will be working.  
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