I Can Only Imagine
Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”

                A few years ago a Christian song, “I Can Only Imagine,” stirred the Christian world like none since the Jack Hayford classic, “Majesty.”  Both songs, in their own way, projected the majesty of God and the smallness of the song writer.  I would like to take the song line, “I can only imagine,” this morning to speak of the greatness of God and the impossible job of the pastor to proclaim that greatness.

                Imagine for a moment that you were given the task of explaining the color green to a person who had been blind from birth.  It would be a formidable task.  It would be because the person would have no reference point to color.  Or think about the task of explaining the Hubble telescope and its findings to a caveman.  Both would be next to impossible.  The tasks would require using language the hearer understands, applying imagery from what they know, and describing it in a way their minds could comprehend.  Now let me add difficulty to your task.  Suppose you had been blind from birth, but caught a quick glimpse of green; or had been a caveman who saw the photos from Hubble if only for a moment.  Now the task is to explain what you know nothing about, but have seen, to a person who has no knowledge and who has not seen.    You see that is the task of pastors in telling their congregations about God. 

                Let me use a couple of biblical pastors to explain.  Ezekiel got a peek of heaven.  He saw  beautiful and unimaginable things.  He saw beasts unlike any on earth; he saw wheels  that turned in all directions at the same time; he saw supernatural men; and he saw colors like none that were present on earth.  And his task was to write down what he saw, that the people in exile (and you and me) could understand God better.   His words were words like “appearance, likeness, image”, and other comparative words.  He simply was powerless to say what he had seen:  One because he had no language or words to describe what he saw, and two, he was explaining to people who had not seen.  Or how about Paul?  He was writing to the church at Corinth and he said, “I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. . .He heard in expressible things that man is not permitted to tell.”  Literally, “I saw, but I have no way of telling what I saw.  There are no words or earthly images sufficient to even tell the story.”

                You see, God is so totally other that no man or woman can speak of Him.  He is so unlike anything on earth, His power so completely unimaginable, and His glory so awesome that we simply cannot find human words or terms or images to describe Him.  Of course God knew that.  Paul writes, “[Jesus] who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. . .”  We simply cannot grasp the incomparable image of God or the things He has in store for us.  “No eyes can see, no ears have heard, no mind can conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)  Simply put, if you can imagine God or heaven, you are wrong.  You have no reference point in which to imagine.

                So it is the pastor’s task, who also has not seen, but walks by faith that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ever ask or imagine,” is to tell a congregation that what he believes with all his heart to be right and true.  Maybe in spirit, the pastor has been caught up for a moment in the heart of his call to see the glory of God unlike others around him.  And it is very possible that is true because the pastor has sought God harder than the ones he must teach.  But in the end, he has been left with the insurmountable task of using human words to teach about a God who is totally other, who dwells is a place where no words can describe, and loves us with a love we cannot feel nor fathom. 

                At Christmas, God has given us an opportunity to explain the unexplainable.  It celebrates a time when God, knowing we could not understand, became a Man and dwelt among us.  He told us things we cannot understand yet, but He told them to us in a way in which we could believe.  A virgin having a child, God becoming Man, a star in the heavens as a guiding light, angels talking to Mary and Joseph, lowly shepherds seeing the King of Glory – all these things may be farfetched, but at least if only for a moment the unimaginable heaven touches the concert earth and we catch a glimpse in our hearts of the love of God, the eternal promise, and the glory which awaits us all.

                So don’t be down on your pastor this season as he gives one or more messages fighting to retain and explain the reason for the season.  He has been given the increasingly hard task of taking that which is filled with love and grace and telling it to a people who are commercially bound; of taking a message that is fading in the western world and making it afresh to a people who are totally westernized.  And for just a moment, give him credit for giving his life to seeking God with all his heart, and telling you what words cannot express.

Kingdom Road Ministries
PO Box 503
10 South Main, Suite 201
Victor, ID 83455

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