Listening 2 God (Image © Mal Austin - www.givenworks.com. Used with permission.)

Header image © Mal Austin - www.givenworks.com. Used with permission.

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Lesson 7 - The Creative Imagination:

Mark and Patti Virkler define imagination as:

"'Thinking with pictures' (right-brain thinking) as opposed to analytical structured thoughts (left-brain thinking). Imagination is used to give us metaphores and similes".(Am I Being Deceived?, p 61).

The Macquarie Dictionary definition of 'imagination' includes:

1. The action of ... forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses... 3. The power of reproducing images stored in the memory under the suggestion of associated images (reproductive imagination), or of recombining former experiences in the creation of new images different from any known by experience (productive or creative imagination).

While it is clear that imagination heavily involves images (hence the derivation of the word), and this is the emphasis of the Virkler definition, the dictionary definition also allows for a strong non-visual component, which makes clear why the Spirit can also use our imagination for non-visual words and prophecies.

Paul says,

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

and,

"We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

while the writer of Hebrews says,

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

The import of these three verses together is that living by faith is living by the Spirit. Faith is not blind - it sees what others, without the Spirit, can not see. Indeed, what we see in the Spirit is more real than what we see with our eyes. As Francis Frangipane says:

Jeremiah said that the heart is deceitful above all things. We cannot objectively know ourselves. Yet the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth sees and understands our ways. Trust Him, He cannot be deceived. Indeed, the ancient Greeks used the same word for truth as they did for "reality." Thus, we could accurately say that the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Reality." He shows us the reality of our need and the reality of God's answer. To hear Him is to hear the voice of eternal life. (Frangipane, Walking in eternal life. See Resource Sheet 10 - Walking in eternal life.)

The Virklers have this to say about what they call 'Spirit-born creativity':

Creativity, particularly Spirit-born creativity, is not an end in itself. Instead, it is a by-product of a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Creativity is born from the union of the human heart and the Divine heart. It is one of the fruits of intimacy with the Holy Spirit. It grows as one learns to hear his own heart, and the voice of the Holy Spirit within his heart. It increases as one learns to hear the hearts of others, and blend that which is being heard into new creations. (Spirit Born Creativity, p1)

Visualisation and 'Christian' witchcraft

Visualisation is a technique widely practised by members of the New Age movement. Some Christians have also warned against prayer ministry in the usually mistaken belief that its practitioners also use visualisation. Visualisation involves using your imagination to conjure up a picture of how you would prefer an unsatisfactory situation to look, and then using mind power to attempt to bring that new situation to reality. This is an attempt to change reality - to deny what is and create something that is not. On the other hand, when we pray as directed by the Holy Spirit, he may show us what really is and how it is being distorted (by sin, sickness, curses, etc.), and how to pray to enable the person to overcome those distortions and live in that true reality.

What many Christians overlook is that, although using visualisation wrongly is dangerous, it does have some basis in truth and therefore it does have power to influence things. Visualising, in its basic form, is the ability to be able to see with the imagination. It is what we do with what we see that determines whether we stay on the side of the angels or the demons. Along with ideas like 'the power of positive-thinking' and 'name it and claim it' praying, it is a consequence of our being created in the image of God. Imagination is a crucial component of our interacting with the spiritual world - and therefore also with the physical world.

Another problem closely related to attempting to manipulate reality through visualisation is that of attempting to manipulate God through prayer. Many Christians have unknowingly dabbled in what is dangerously close to witchcraft - the attempt to gain a spiritual end by forcing another spiritual entity (angel, demon, human or God) to do your will by the use of God's laws or by using spiritual or psychic power without God's approval.

So, if we say something like, I want such and such, and God has to give it to me because he loves me, this is manipulation. If we gather together and decide what we want without asking God what he wants, then invoke the promise "if two or three agree then it will be done for them", this is manipulation. If we play politics in a church meeting, this is manipulation.

The correct procedure would be to listen to God, either together or separately, then compare notes. If God has given the same desire or instruction to each, then we can be fairly sure it is from God and pray accordingly. It is so important to first hear from God, then check, and then pray.




Use your imagination

Unfortunately, modern, rational Protestantism has tended to suppress the use of imagination, while more pre-modern strands of Christianity have allowed it to be used unchecked. Both are wrong!

Pilate is often quoted as saying to Jesus: "What is truth?" We could add, "What is reality?" Can fiction be true? Let me put it another way: can truth be conveyed through fiction - say in a novel? Most people would say yes. Then why do we say the fiction is not true? When Jesus used parables to teach, was he lying? No, of course not! He used imagined stories to disguise the truth he was telling from those who were not ready to see that truth. This is called 'dark speech'.

Can truth be conveyed through music? Or an abstract painting? For that matter, what about a realistic painting, or even a photograph? We look at it and say, "That's Winchester Cathedral!" But it isn't a cathedral, only an image, so is it not true? No! After all, is the pattern of light stimulating nerves on the retina of the eye the object we are looking at? No, so is it false?

Then, is something imagined necessarily untrue? No, clearly, it is not as important how the impressions reach the screen of our mind, so much as what they represent that determines their truth or reality.

A wonderful children's story, The Neverending StoryMichael Ende, The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, tells of the cost of losing our imagination! It has a whole fantasy world disappearing because it is being forgotten by the human world. One small boy, Bastian, has the power to bring it back to life by entering the story through belief. It has a parallel in C.S. Lewis's marvelous The Chronicles of Narnia stories, the most well-know of which is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Full-Color Collector's Edition). Aslan the Lion (Christ?) allows human boys and girls to enter the magical world of Narnia through the back of a wardrobe and defeat the White Witch (Satan?), who has the creatures of that world enslaved, so that it is always Winter but never Christmas.

Peter Hamilton, in his 1144 page science fiction epic Pandora's Star, has one of his heroes, Ozzie, being shown by a mysterious 'elfin' like alien, images of what happened to a world and its people when imperial aggressors from another star devastated their planet and destroyed them all. He surprised himself and his friends by weeping uncontrollably for a whole day, over people who he had never known (pp 862-865). Is this not a picture of intercessional identification and repentance?

Late in the afternoon, when his tears had long since dried up, he stopped his pitiful whimpering lament, and rolled onto his back, blinking up at the cloudless sky. Orion and Tochee gazed down anxiously at him.

'Ozzie,' Orion pleaded, his own face close to tears. 'Please don't cry any more.'

'It's hard not to,' he croaked, 'I was here. I was with every one of them when they died.' He started to tremble again.

'Ozzie! Ozzie, please!'

He felt Orion's hand grasp his own, in desperate need of reassurance. A boy lost light-years from home, abandoned by his parents, on an adventure that had become a nightmare for too many months. The frail human touch was what he needed not to fall into that infinity of horror. And how much of an irony was that? The superintendent Ozzie needing someone? (p 864)

Are Ende, Hamilton or Lewis telling lies? No, but they are making it up. I believe, especially in the case of Lewis, that the Holy Spirit inspires allegories such as these because most people find learning truth from stories far more palatable than from preaching.

Don't be afraid to use your imagination - God will! Rather, understand what is happening, and let God set you free from the 'rational' straightjacket of modernity to use all that he made you to be. What major innovation or invention ever came into being without someone first imagining something that did not previously exist and determining to bring it about. I believe it is not accidental that historically Christians have been most highly represented among such innovators.

Fulfill your dream

There is another meaning to the word 'dream' other than a vision received while you are asleep. When God speaks, it is for the purpose of lighting such a fire within us that we want to do his purpose. As Martin Luther King said: "I have a DREAM!"

OK, so God is speaking to you. You have heard him. He has imparted to you something that will become your very reason for being. Now what do you do? As David Seamands says:

As Christians, we can look at a dream from many standpoints and call it by many different names - a high and holy ideal, an aspiration toward some desired goal, a compelling idea or a plan we would like to carry out, a cause about which we feel strongly, a call to a particular kind or place of service, or a vision of what we would like to accomplish in that service. Our main interest is not in how God gave the dream to us, but on what He wants to accomplish through it. (Living With Your Dreams, p17)

It is easy to become so fascinated by hearing from God that we lose sight of why we need to hear from God. This course has hopefully started you on the journey, but don't stop there.

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