Thursday, July 31, 2008

Imagination Practice

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

One thing that I have been wondering about, just as a general counseling question, is that often in counseling discussions I have run into people’s own failure of imagination being a stumbling block to their piety. I say, “God says that he wants your life to be full, and if you turn to him and trust and obey him, your life will overflow with living.” And they say. “It is hard to trust and obey because I just can’t imagine what a life full of living would be like.” And I say, “huh, I don’t know how to give you that imagination, you have to trust and obey to get it.” I have started “imagination practice” with my kids, so that their imagination will press them towards life, but how do you inspire dulled imaginations towards the liveliness of holiness? Perhaps I am thinking about counseling wrong (I am new at this), but sometimes it seems more like trying to crack walnuts with a sledgehammer without crushing the nut. I am not sure if there is an answer, perhaps you know of a book?

Thank you for all of the prayers,


Hi Jason,

The only thing I know to do for that imagination thing is to model it for people. That's part of what the Bible means when it calls for vision. The pastor needs to know what he is looking for and leading toward. The people are looking down at the dirt in front of them, but the pastor has to have his face looking forward to Jesus and spurring the people on to imitating him in this.

This is also the drawback in evangelism, Christians have a difficult time convincing others that there is more in Christ, if they don't see the more in Christ themselves. Spurgeon preached a sermon that touched on what we are talking about ( The name of it is "Joy, A Duty." It seems kind of funny to think about joy and rejoicing as a duty, something to be obeyed, gritted out, and brought kicking and screaming to. But there it is. Christians don't know what we are missing, because we've never seen it and don't realize that we don't have it—until their pastor gets a hold of it and models it for them. You need to give them something, someone, to imitate.

This is one of the great things about getting a new pastor. You're young, full of life, haven't been hardened or dragged down by the silliness of sin that people get themselves mired in. You charge along and bring the rest with you, don't let their complacency or watered-downness get you down. Your congregation, by and large, isn't like this, but you still need to constantly go to the well of life yourself and make sure that everyone doesn't slowly "calm" down into dreariness.

Here are some ideas of ways to be in front of your people: Let the love of God fill you up so that it falls out all over them. Constantly take them to where God is and ask, "Where is God in this?" of "How is God thinking about this?" Do that imagining thing with everyone. Ask them to imagine what it would be like if God really did fulfill his promises. What would it be like if God really did exist? What would it be like if we did what God said and he responded in the way he says he will? What would happen if God visited with us on Sunday mornings? What if all of this stuff we're talking about is true? Really true?

Get it in your bones first. Then let it rip with your people. I don't mean being obnoxious, but close. Be bold, be courageous, be like Christ.

I don't know of any books on this topic. I know of a lot of books that have inspired me along these lines at times. But I have to say, as schmaltzy as it sounds, the Bible gets me fired up more than any other book I know of. I can't even read it before I go to bed at night because I get all sorts of ideas and things to think about and can't go to sleep.

I can't remember if I've given the Smiths the bitterness booklet, but I can't imagine that I haven't. I do know that most people don't recognize bitterness in themselves, no matter how strongly you tell them. You've got to lead them by allowing them to evaluate themselves in the light of the word in each situation. Then when a pattern forms, they can see that they sin in particular ways at particular times.

Here are a list of things to ask to help someone see how their responses are sinful and how they are sinful.

1. Explain what happened: the general details.
2. What were you thinking or feeling during this event?
3. What did you do, or what was your response to this event?
4. Why did you respond this way? What were you seeking to accomplish?
5. What was the result? Did it accomplish what you were trying to do? Are you satisfied with how things turned out?
6. Where was God in this? Was your action, thought, response a godly response?
7. What could you have done differently? And how will you prepare your heart to respond that way the next time the same situation, or one like it occurs?

I hope this helps,

No comments: