The Born-Again Imagination
Imagination is the mind's ability to create, and more specifically, to create images that prelude tangible experience. With our imagination we imagine, envision, daydream, ponder, mentally invent. Everything in existence was birthed through an imagination, whether God's, man's, or the enemy's.
Imagination is the womb of reality. A baby is born because a man and woman imagined physical union. A skyscraper is constructed because an architect imagined a structure. A touchdown pass is caught because the coach imagined a certain play and called it. The imagination has astronomical potential.
Every aspect of the born-again life is affected by our imagination. If we see it long enough and strong enough in our mind it will become an experience in our life--for good or for bad or anything in-between. What we are seeing is determining what we are experiencing. Our favorite mental TV channel will determine our life's ratings. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) says exactly this: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...
Imagination & Adoration (Intimacy, Worship, Prayer)
Imagination is the mind's ability to create images, and adoration is our intimate relationship with God most directly expressed through worship and prayer. Here is how they interface.
I am awed, and constantly puzzled, at how God uses His imagination. Look at creation, especially the animal kingdom. When I see a preying mantis walking suspiciously on my glass door; when a hummingbird hovers anxiously at my birdfeeder; when I'm warmfuzzied by the playful joy of a dolphin; when dogs chase their tail; when I think of a leviathan who God formed simply to frolic and play (Ps 104:26), I am awed and puzzled at my God whose imagination is flawlessly overactive.
When I read in Scripture of God using elaborate and cinematic and even bizarre methods to reveal Himself to us, I am slightly embarrassed. Embarrassed at how my prayers are sometimes so very bland and non-imaginative, and consequently, so very unconvincing to God. Imagination used implies interest, intense interest. When I look at nature, which I love so much, I see a Creator so intensely interested in His project that He went the extra mile to be creative. When I think of a man so in love with a woman, I see him going the extra mile to manufacture romantic ideas. And when I think of imagination in my worship and prayer life, I understand some things.
God is not a mathematical equation or a scientific formula. He is a Divine Person, possessing a heart and mind that can be stirred and won over by the faith-filled use of our imagination (Mt 8:8-13, 15:22-28). The Lord loves, and wishes for, our creativity towards Him. It shows Him our visceral interest in Him, and therefore, it romances Him. And in response, He reveals Himself and His endless imagination towards us (Ps 139:17,18).
How can we be more creative in our intimacy with the Lord? Write Him a poem of love, or a letter. Worship and pray in creative places, in creative ways, at creative times, for diverse reasons. Start a collection of objects that have divine significance to you; put them on a shelf or display case. One time I put $20 in an unsold Bible at a bookstore on Numbers chapter 20, wanting to give God a gift and whoever would eventually buy that Bible. The very next week someone gave me an unexpected love gift of $700. There are no limits to using your imagination to substantiate your adoration of Him.
Imagination & Illumination (God's Voice)
Imagination is the mind's ability to create images, and illumination is God speaking to us. Every Christian needs to continuously and carefully winnow these two realities. They are not the same.
99% of the time our imagination reflects our history, personality, and environment, and therefore, contains predictable and recurring themes. We must diligently monitor our inner life with the Holy Spirit to ensure these factors do not overstimulate our imagination. Our imagination, when overstimulated by subjective influences, can trick us with false revelations. It can masquerade as God's voice. It is important to remember that imaginatory flow often seems like and sounds like us (our history, our inner world, our environment), while revelatory flow often has a distinctly foreign quality.
In general, God's voice is foreign or different from our personal heart-thought patterns. His voice contains His spin, His angles, His unique wording, His mood, etc. that are usually different than ours. At times, His voice may even be terrifyingly opposite our personality, circumstances, or common sense. To simplify it down to a proverb: imagination sounds like Me, revelation sounds like God--foreign, different, unique, a little or a lot.
Even with such differences the two phenomena can sometimes still be confused. One reason for this is, at times, the Holy Spirit will inject His illuminations into our consciousness with great subtlety, almost like a slow-drip. The wise protocol is to wait and look for subsequent confirmations from other sources, beginning with illuminated Scripture verses. Job 33:14 (NIV) is one of the best scriptures pertaining to this: For God does speak--now one way, now another--though man may not perceive it.
Imagination & Expectation (Faith)
Imagination is the mind's ability to create images, and expectation is our gut belief that a certain outcome will happen. Here's how they weave.
In general, we do not attract to our life what we desire or need, we attract what we expect and we expect what we imagine and we imagine what our emotional history makes us imagine. This is why many people find themselves in the same dysfunctional situations over and over and over, though they recognize and abhor it, though they try to do differently. Up high in their mind they imagine it, deep down in their gut they expect it and feel it. It is truly a sinful, dysfunctional internal cycle.
We cannot keep subconsciously inviting the same problems and wars into our life. You can interrupt the cycle at either end: change your mind's favorite TV channel or change your emotional assumptions deep down or do both for a faster transformation. Daydream about God's values, pathways, and commensurate outcomes, as Philippians 4:8 says, and your heart's faith-expectations will progressively reconfigure Godward. The imagination must be given a new channel to watch for the heart to presuppose new outcomes. Address and dig out and heal the diseased deeper issues fueling your heart's troubled expectations; as a result, it will prompt your mind with new visions.
Imagination & Conversation (Speaking Habits)
Imagination is the mind's ability to create images, and conversation is our speaking habits. The psychosocial arithmetic is simple: we talk about what we think and feel. Wanna peep into someone's soul? Listen to what they say and how they say it time after time, especially when their mask slips. The mouth always betrays the soul, for better or for worse (Mt 12:34).
Since life or death follow our words, and since we will eat the fruit of those very words, we need to slow down and whip our tongues into slavery (Pr 18:21, Jas 3:2,3). But speech servitude alone is superficial. We need to change what our imagination keeps seeing, and therefore, cut off the negative supply line from mind to mouth. Are your speaking habits negative, anxious, worried, angry, antagonistic, destructive, argumentative, degrading, doubtful, cynical, pessimistic? Do you want speech that is hopeful, confident, kind, peace-loving, empowering, inspiring, believing, childlike, optimistic, joyful? Change your mental TV channel and you change the sound coming out of it.
Imagination & Destination (Vocational Calling)
Imagination is the mind's ability to create images, and destination or destiny is our God-given vocational calling. Imagination and destiny have an interesting relationship. Destiny is the unique contribution God designed and assigned us to make to His kingdom. Scripture says this is preordained and even prewritten (Ps 139:14,16, Eph 2:10).
Imagination, though, is the latitude and creative potential we possess within our calling. It allows us to be unique within our unction. For example, part of my calling is to teach--this is my destination. However, I can use my imaginative capacities to stylize my teaching with innovation and drawing power--this is my imagination. Destiny is what we are called to ultimately do, imagination is how we will do it uniquely. Destiny contains God's fingerprints, imagination adds ours.