A Faith-full Imagination

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The imagination, so one definition says, is “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” With imagination, we see what is not visible to our physical eyes, hear what is audible but not in the moment, and consider what is not tangibly before us, yet is in our mind’s eye or inner thoughts.

Albert Einstein, that wonderful scientist who saw things that were not yet clear, and ushered in breakthroughs with his theories of relativity, once said, “Your imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

A lack of imagination is like living in a prison. The inability to grasp things beyond our sense, the inability to move beyond what is available to us, this lack of imagination shuts us inside of our limits. That’s why Muhammad Ali, known for some of his pithy sayings, in reflecting on that, once said: “The man who has no imagination has no wings.”

But with imagination, we can fly beyond our cages. With imagination, we have “the one weapon against reality.”[1]

The New Testament author of the epistle of Hebrews writes:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

If imagination helps us to see things that are not immediately visible, to fly beyond our limits and the cages of our circumstances, then, in a biblical sense, imagination is important because it is intrinsic to faith. Imagination strengthens us to know the invisible God, to live life with God, and to hope in eternal truth that brings meaning beyond what our senses immediately reveal.

That is why C. S. Lewis wrote:

Reason is the natural organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning. [2]

Imagination is important in our spiritual lives because it becomes a resource God uses to help us hear Him in Scripture, pray with faith, and live with endurance beyond what we can see. And that vital place of imagination in our life with God in Scripture, prayer and endurance is what we see in Daniel’s life

Throughout the book, but particularly in his prayer in chapter 9, we find Daniel’s imagination set ablaze by the power of God to fly beyond the cages of his circumstances. Even though Daniel had experienced exile for more than sixty years by the time of his prayer, his vision is not limited by the difficulties in front of him. Instead, he sees with the eyes of faith, with an apocalyptic imagination, who God is and what God can and will do because of His characters and promises.

May God give us a faith-full imagination today, no matter what our senses tell us or how our circumstances threaten to imprison us.

Lord God,
take my imagination
and by the power of the Holy Spirit
set it ablaze with faith,
that the eyes of my heart
might see reality as You see it
and, like Daniel,
rise above my circumstances
in You.

[This material originally appeared in a slightly different form in my message, “Exile Faith at Prayer,” delivered on December 8/9, 2019, at Eastbrook Church.]


[1] Attributed to Jules de Gaultier.

[2] From his essay, “Bluspels and Flalansferes,” in Selected Literary Essays (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013).; quoted here.

Exile Faith at Prayer [Daniel 9]

We continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by turning to Daniel’s famous prayer in chapter 9. Daniel’s prayer takes place in the first year of Cyrus’ reign, around 539 BC, and references Jeremiah 25:10-11 in recognizing that the time of the exile is reaching its conclusion. Daniel has been in exile for more than 60 years, but his imagination has not been closed in by the suffering of exile. Instead his prayer takes flight through an imagination set fire by the revelations of God.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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3 Reasons Daniel’s Visions Matter

image 1 - looking forward.pngAs we have been journeying through a preaching series on the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church, “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith,” we have come to some of the most difficult parts of the book to understand in the visions of chapters 7-12. Through these visions, God unveils the reality of what is really going on in the midst of the ordinary history of earth. God is writing a story, even in the midst of the beasts of earth.

Amongst all of this, we might wonder why God gave Daniel these visions, and what their significance is for Daniel and the other exiles of Judah. Let me share three reasons God gives Daniel these visions and why they matter:

  1. God grants Daniel these visions so that he and the rest of God’s exiled people will be prepared for what is to come. Empires will rise and kingdoms will fall. Kings will rise and kings will fall. The exiled people will ride the waves of this history and it is God’s grace that gives insight into these shifting waves so that the people can be prepared to ride the currents of these waves.
  2. God also gives Daniel these visions so that the people of God might be encouraged by the reality that God is in charge of human history and there will be an end to suffering and oppression. Many times throughout the second half of the book of Daniel, we hear that God will bring an end to the kingdoms of earth, eventually bringing the fullness of God’s kingdom upon earth. God knows how hard it is to stay encouraged in difficult times, and so God graciously encourages them with the reality that there will be an end.
  3. God, thirdly, gives these visions to Daniel so that the people of God might be watchful for not only what is happening in human history, but for how God is at work in the midst of human history. God knows how easily we as human lose our perspective and stop watching for Him, and it is God’s grace through these apocalyptic visions to startle His people to attentiveness.

Faith Looking Forward [Daniel 8]

After a weekend off due to sickness (thank you, Pastor Jim Caler, for covering for me last weekend!), I continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by turning to chapter 8, the second of Daniel’s apocalyptic visions.

Daniel 8 continues the apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book. As with my message on Daniel 7, “Faith in God Amidst the Beasts,” this message, “Faith Looking Forward,” engages our imagination through God’s inspired symbols and images of what is really going on in the midst of human history. Daniel has this vision during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the Babylonian kings represented in Daniel, and thus it takes place chronologically before Daniel 5 and 6. We are introduced to figures that stand against God which both reflect the antichrist spirit and the future Antichrist figure that is to come.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Faith in God Amidst the Beasts [Daniel 7]

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our series on the book of Daniel by turning our attention to chapter 7, which begins the markedly different second half of the book. Chapters 1-6 are court narratives, while chapters 7-12 are apocalyptic visions. This first vision serves as a sort of parallel to Daniel 2 and overview of where the rest of the book is going.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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