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My Favorite Quotes From Imagination Redeemed


My favorite quotes from Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind by Gene Veith and Matthew Ristuccia. This book is available now for only $2.99.

- Christians of the past had quite a bit to say about the imagination, as we shall see, but it is something of a forgotten category in contemporary Christianity.

- We must discipline, disciple, and sanctify our imaginations. We are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.

- When the apostle Paul enjoins us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15), he is calling for an act of imagination known as “empathy,” imaginatively identifying with other human beings to the point of feeling their emotions.

- Developing a Christian imagination can play an important role in our spiritual growth. A godly imagination can help us meditate on the Word of God, pray with fervency, cultivate a corporate culture of grace, and grow through personal sanctification.

- The imagination of God is the source of the imagination of human beings.

- The critical step toward redeeming one’s imagination is to fill it with God himself.

- We can also sin in our imagination. This is one of the most important and yet neglected battlegrounds in the Christian life.

- The solution is not to suppress the imagination—which cannot really be done—but to restore it so that it helps rather than hinders us in our Christian living.

- In short, the imagination is the source of idolatry and also a means of contemplating truth. It is a source of sin, and it is a source of good works.

- Being able to imagine the future—as well as the steps it will take to get there—is critical for self-discipline, prudence, and wisdom.

- Worldviews are generally communicated and transmitted by works of the imagination—stories, music, art, drama, architecture, rituals, conversations, and cultural artifacts of every kind.

- A redeemed imagination is a righteous imagination.

- We all face daily choices of what TV shows and movies to watch, where to surf on the web, and what pictures to settle our gaze on….So choose your images with the long view of building a righteous imagination.

- God’s Word uses imaginative means…Thus, a Christian imagination comes, above all, from reading the Bible continually, studying it, meditating on it, and just saturating your mind and your imagination with the Word of God.

- There is, indeed, a place for visual images. But a distinctly Christian imagination is formed best by language—reading, listening, conversation.

- Thus, hearing good preaching week in and week out can profoundly shape a Christian worldview and a Christian imagination.

- A congregation that makes contemporary culture normative over Christian culture—to the point of replacing it—will teach its members to have contemporary worldviews and a contemporary imagination.

- I have nothing to fear from other worldviews, because mine is bigger than all the others, containing their truths and filling in their blind spots. The Christian imagination is vaster than those that derive from narrow human frames of reference

- Though a realm in need of discipline and sanctification, the imagination is a God-given superpower, making possible some of the greatest achievements of human beings.

- The imagination can also be the way into the heart of unbelievers. Many people in today’s culture, trapped in their narrow materialistic worldview, “cannot imagine” any kind of spiritual reality.

- Meanwhile, all Christians…need to love God with all their minds, which would include their imagination.

Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind by Gene Veith and Matthew Ristuccia. This book is available for Kindle at only $2.99.


Recovering Joy In Seminary

A young man goes to Seminary bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Having sensed God’s call to the ministry, he’s not only excited about preparing for future service but also about growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He expects that the next 3-4 years are going to be some of the best in his life.

Fast forward a semester or two, or three, and the eyes are dull and the tail is sagging and dragging. The excitement has evaporated, as he forces himself into classes each day. He’s not only lost his enthusiasm for ministry, at times he’s lost hope for his own soul. Instead of growing in grace and knowledge he feels his soul shrinking and even backsliding. Sadly, it’s an all-too-common scenario for many (most?) seminary students.

Following the pattern of David in Psalm 42v11, I want to ask “Why are you so sad?” Then I want to ask, “Why is this important?” and last, I want to ask “What can we do to recover joy in seminary?”

Why are you so sad?

Before we can get out of sadness we need to figure out how we got into it. Here are the most common reasons:

1. Overwork: This is probably the most common cause and often the root of all the other causes. Sometimes over work is the professors’ fault. Sometimes it’s the student’s fault as he is perhaps aiming too high for his abilities or studying inefficiently due to internet distractions.

2. Lack of family time: Due to overwork, students lose contact with one of their greatest sources of joy – their wife and children. This causes guilt and resentment, and even alienation and conflict.

3. Lack of exercise: Our bodies were not designed to spend the majority of the time folded up in chairs. Exercise not only expels harmful chemicals, it also generates the production of happy chemicals.

4. Lack of sleep: Perhaps due to lack of exercise, our bodies refuse to sleep when we go to bed; they are just not tired enough. Or maybe we are choosing to burn the candle at both ends.

5. Lack of daylight: Long, cold, dull winters often causes SAD – seasonal affective disorder. Our bodies and minds thrive on bright light and fresh air.

6. Lack of money: This is a problem for every seminary student, but maybe especially hard for men who previously had successful careers and never lacked anything. It causes stress and strain on families, especially when students cannot give their kids what other kids are having.

7. Over-familiarity:  The Word is no longer exciting but rather mundane and boring. The original languages that we thought would become doors into epic passages of Scripture have become burdens and obstacles to enjoyment of the Word.

8. Impatience: This especially sets in about a year before graduation when students feel they are ready to go and can’t wait to get started in ministry. Sometimes it feels like they are just spinning their wheels going over things they already know.

9. Critical spirit:  All of these things mount up and produce a general negativity, discontent, and ingratitude, that darken all of life. Or it may be someone else’s negativity – your wife or maybe a couple of very negative fellow students that have infected you with their critical spirit.

10. Lack of devotion: Times of personal prayer, reading, worship are squeezed out; or the joy is squeezed out of them by all these other factors. We cannot thrive when we are depriving ourselves of spiritual fuel.

Why is this serious?

So, there are ten reasons why students may be feeling so sad, so down, so discouraged. But why is this serious? Why don’t we just accept this as an inevitable part of Seminary life and get on with it?

1. It damages our witness. What do visitors to seminaries see and sense as they walk through the halls and even sit in dull, lifeless, and lethargic classrooms? What do student families, especially their children, think about Christianity, based upon how their Dad comes home from the Seminary? What do the churches students are serving think of their seminaries when they see and hear their grim sermons?

2. It’s infectious. It doesn’t take more than a handful of negative and over-critical students to infect other students. Sadness is contagious.

3. It diminishes performance. In The Happiness Advantage, Harvard professor, Shawn Achor, presents scientific evidence to prove that although everyone thinks “If I succeed, I’ll be happy,” the truth is much more like, “If I’m happy, I’ll succeed.” He quotes study after study that demonstrates the personal and commercial advantages of happiness, and the damaging impact of sadness on performance.

4. It’s difficult to recover from. We may think, “Once I get out of seminary, I’ll decide to be happy again.” Sometimes it’s not that easy. With God all things are possible, but, like all habits, bad mental and emotional habits are not always easy to break.

5. It’s bad preparation for pastoral ministry.  Although perhaps the pressures of pastoral ministry may not be so sustained over such a long period without a break, the pressures are often far more intense and with far greater consequences than getting a B instead of an A. By learning to rejoice in the midst of trials during seminary years, students develop a vital emotional muscle for even harder trials ahead.

6. It endangers your soul. Nehemiah said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” That word “strength” can also mean security. When we lose joy, we lose one of our great moral and spiritual defenses.

What can we do?

So, given the seriousness of sadness, what can students do to recover joy in Seminary? There may be one or two causes that we have no control over, but we can do something about most of them.

1. Admit the problem. Be as honest as the psalmist. Recall better days and compare and contrast with the present. Recognize and acknowledge the sadness. If you can’t see it, ask your wife if she can sense a decline.

2. Confess the sinful choices made. Some of the sadness may have been caused by wrong choices. Confess that you’ve aimed way too high and worked way too hard and the motive has not always been the glory of God. Confess undisciplined and distracted study through internet use that has unnecessarily extended study times. Confess the words of discontent and ingratitude that have brought you down, and others with you.

3. Challenge yourself and one another. When the Psalmist asked, “Why are you so sad?” it wasn’t so much a question seeking information, but a question to challenge and even rebuke himself. So challenge yourself, and call fellow-students to account as well. Refuse to be dragged down. Be an example, a leader, and an inspiration to others. Take responsibility to contribute to and cultivate a more joyful learning environment.

4. Work for joy. Joy usually doesn’t just land on our lap as a blank check. No, we have to work for it, we have to pursue it, and we have to use the means God has provided. Happiness is hard work. Part of that work is re-believing the Gospel, re-savoring the Gospel.

5. Seek accountability with your wife and children. Go home and lead your home back to joy. Confess your failure to lead your family emotionally and ask them to keep you accountable.

6. Accept lower grades for greater joy. Straight A’s with no joy, or regular B’s with great joy? That’s the choice some students have to face up to. Why not, even for a time, choose to increase spiritual joy even at the expense of reduced grades.

7. Exercise and sleep.  The science is conclusive. Vigorous exercise at least three times a week and a minimum of 7-8 hours a night sleep put premium joy-fuel in the tank.

8. Plead for patience. You’re ready to go and yet you’ve still got three months or more until graduation. Again, why not use this time to exercise and build the muscle of patience.  You’re going to need plenty of it in the ministry, so why not begin now.

9. Re-boot contentment and gratitude. Go home and tell your family about one positive thing that happened in Seminary today. Then find two things to be thankful for. Then three. Usually there are plenty but we’ve become so focused on the negatives that we’ve lost sight of the positives.

10. Hope in God. As the psalmist did, he re-focused and re-cast his soul upon God. Time in God’s presence puts a beautiful and healthy glow in his soul and on his face. And if your devotions have run into the sand, let me give you a tip: Don’t lengthen your personal devotions but change them. When we’re feeling spiritually cold, the temptation is often, “I need to pray longer or read my Bible longer.” But the answer is not to lengthen devotional time but rather to change it up.

Why not read a devotional commentary with your daily Bible reading. I often use Dr. Sproul’s commentaries in this way. Or why not listen to edifying spiritual songs as part of your devotions? Or why not pray through the student and faculty directory. Just freshen it up and you’ll often find your joy returning.

Conclusion

So, yes, you’re sad, and that’s a serious issue. But there are things you can do to change that. God has provided the means and promised to bless them:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”


Finding Rest In Igloo City

Igloo Graphic

When I came back from the Ligonier Conference on Saturday, my 11-year-old daughter told me that she had built five igloos since I left four days before. I looked out of the window and, sure enough, there they were, five small-ish igloos dotted around the backyard. “Igloo City” as she called it.

Having tried to build one last year with her, and therefore knowing how much hard work went into this, I congratulated her for her industry. After she excitedly told me about how she’d developed a better building technique than I had used, I asked her,”But why five? Why didn’t you just build one and maybe make it a bit bigger?”

“Well, when I finished the first one, I sat in it for a few seconds, and then thought, ‘I want to build another.’ The fun is in the building not in the sitting inside.”

A Life Parable
Isn’t that a parable for our lives? We spend our time striving and straining to build something, to grow something, to learn something, to develop something. But when we arrive, when we get there, when we graduate, when we publish, when we finish, we barely pause for more than a few seconds to thank God and enjoy our triumph before looking around for the next challenge, the next peak, the next target.

There’s something good and godly in that. It’s a blessing that God so made us and so ordered our world that we find can joy and satisfaction in hard and challenging work – whether it be physical work or knowledge work.

But there’s something flawed and faulty in this too. The inability to pause, to savor, to enjoy, to be at rest and at peace in what God has enabled us to do. Always questing for more, stretching further, aiming higher, trying harder.

Five Seconds On Top Of Everest
I’ve been reading Into Thin Air, an account of an expedition to Everest that went disastrously wrong. As part of the background to the story, the author explains the years of planning that go into any Everest ascent, then the 2-3 months of climbing, acclimatizing, and climbing some more, before finally enjoying about a minute or so at the top!

Yes, after all that, only a minute or two to savor it – partly because of the ferocious weather, and partly because of the line of people waiting for their few seconds at the top! Yet there’s no shortage of people willing to pay the $65,000 dollars for the trip. And some do it again and again. Years and years, tens of thousands of dollars, many painful agonies, and all for five seconds.

I want to spend more time savoring God’s grace in the mini-summits of life and less time climbing. I want to spend more time inside the igloo and less time shoveling snow.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


Facts > Feelings = Positive Faith

Formula 1

As part of my passion to communicate the ideas in The Happy Christian, I asked the designer, Eric Chimenti, to produce some graphics that would encapsulate the message of the whole book (see yesterday’s post), and the essence of each chapter. I loved what he produced and also his explanation of the thinking process behind each image.

“The cloud in the middle represents both our brains that need retraining and the clouds of bad thinking that obscures our vision of God and what is truly true. The happy Christian has focused on what is important.”

Eric rightly identified Psalm 77 as the basis for the biblical formula Facts > Feelings = Positive Faith. There we see the psalmist moving from sadness, pessimism, and even depression to confidence, optimism, and hope; and He does so by focusing less on his feelings and more on the facts about God’s character, God’s works, and God’s Word.

Better facts produce better thinking; better thinking produces better believing; and better believing produces better feeling.

Remember, the time-limited launch offer of $100 of free eBooks, study guides, and films (applies to both eBooks and paper books). You may just squeeze in to qualify if you submit your receipt quickly. Visit The Happy Christian website for information on the Happy App and the daily blog.


Free Mental Health Seminars For Schools

Over the years I’ve received many emails from Christian parents, teachers, and pastors who have been deeply concerned about the mental health of their high schoolers. Like me, they are alarmed about the widespread depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies among the teens they know and love. I’ve tried to help as much as I could, but I’ve always felt that I could do more to help more. I just don’t have the capacity to offer individual counseling to people outside my immediate circles of responsibility.

In addition, I’ve also wanted to teach preventative care, to get ahead of mental illness, and provide teens with strategies and resources to not only avoid mental illness, but even flourish and thrive in their mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Hence my new book, The Happy Christian.

But are teens going to read it? I hope so; but I fear not.

So what about free mental health seminars for high-schoolers, conducted via Skype video?

That’s what I took part in yesterday. A Christian school teacher in another state arranged for me to Skype into his class and speak for 20 minutes about depression and then answer questions for 10-15 minutes. From what I could see, the students listened very well, took good notes, and asked some great questions. It only took 30-35 minutes of my time and about 20-30 young people received instruction on vital issues that are often totally neglected in school curricula. That to me is a great use of time for them and for me.

So, I’d like to offer other Christian schools the opportunity to do something similar. If you’re interested in this, please contact my assistant sarah.perez@prts.edu and we’ll see what we can fit into the schedule.