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I can only imagine
by troy brewer
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I Can Only Imagine

There’s been lots of songs sang about it. Bob Dylan sang about knocking on it’s door. Brian Adams says he finds it hard to believe. John Lennon, before he died, wanted you to try and imagine there isn’t one. Led Zeppelin claimed there was a stairway you could buy to get there. I am talking about heaven. Not Nirvana nor any other band. I am talking about the real place where the real King of Kings receives his people for all eternity.

There have been lots of songs on the charts throughout the years that envision some form of heaven, but none compares to the phenomenon associated with a recent smash hit. In this weeks rant from a highly caffeinated Christian I want to offer you a glimpse of heaven and tell you a story about someone that is headed there.
In the summer of 1988 a big kid in East Texas with big plans to play high school football for the Greenville Lions broke both his ankles and his heart all in the same football game. His dad and his big brother had both been football players and now he couldn’t even hobble in their footsteps.

It was hard enough being a freshman in high school but for Bart not being able to “suit up” was more painful than his injury. Since he couldn’t dress out in athletics he had to take another elective and “Choir” was the only thing open. He reluctantly joined and between having a great teacher and an encouraging music minister in his church, Bart began to sing solos and exercise his vocal talent.

I wish I could go back through time to the night that Bart was crying on that football field with both ankles broken. I wish I could walk out to him, press through the crowd and whisper to him that God was going to use those broken ankles to stand him before millions throughout the world. It was a profound moment not just for Bart but for a lot of other people as well.

That same year another “bad break” would hit the Millard house. Bart’s dad was diagnosed with cancer and the report was a death sentence. This really good man had a terrible disease and he wanted things in order before he died. To care for his two boys, he set up an annuity plan that would provide them with a smaller amount of money every year for 10 years, instead of one lump payment. "Because he knew we'd probably spend it," Millard says. Dad used to say “you're going to get this for 10 years, but don't worry. Even when that runs out I'll be taking care of you."

In Bart’s Freshman year in college his dad finally passed away after a long hard battle. The year was 1991. Bart was 19 and an orphan. People said everything they could to encourage him and his brother. They knew their dad was in a better place but the hurt was so huge. As Bart’s broken heart turned to the Lord he loved so much, his mind tried to envision what his father was seeing and what the promised eternal reunion would be like. Bart could only imagine and he began to write down that phrase over and over again. “I can only imagine.”

Ten years later to the very month, the annuity ran out. As Bart was cashing his last check the song inspired by his father’s death hit number one on the charts. Bart Millard had stayed true to his faith and true to his talent. Now in his 30’s he is the lead singer and the songwriter for the Christian group “MercyMe.”

Bart’s song about heaven “ I Can Only Imagine” became an anthem for pop culture Christians throughout the world. It also propelled MercyMe into the mainstream spotlight where they are conquering unchartered areas for Christian rock groups.

“I Can Only Imagine” delivered an unabashedly strong Christian message about what heaven might be like. It was perfect timing and a message the post-September 11 nation needed desperately to hear. The No. 1 song, which got several Dove Awards including Song of the Year, garnered heavy airplay at pop, country and AC radio stations nationwide.

Millions of people who may not have ever considered themselves fans of Christian music suddenly found themselves singing along to the song’s chorus. The million-selling album “Almost There” took its place along such pop acts as Justin Timberlake and J Lo on the Billboard Top 200 pop charts for months and all this without ever compromising the Christ-centered theme to their music.

By the hand of God, “MercyMe” has grown from being Christian music’s fastest-selling new act to one of the most successful bands in all genres, selling more than 2 million records in 3 years and earning an AMA nomination.

How many people have sang along with the lyrics? Have you? Only the Lord knows.
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel

Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Over the past 28 days I have been a part of nine separate funeral services. I see people grieve in all kinds of different ways. Open Door Ministries is a small church in Joshua with around 500 people in it, but our food outreach touches thousands of lives. While most of the people we reach out to do not go to church with us, they know to call us when tragedy raises its ugly head - death is one of those times.

I like to say there are really only two kinds of funerals. Those with Hope in Christ and those without Hope in Christ. This coming Saturday night (7pm) and at the two Sunday morning services (9:30 &11:30 am )I am preaching on what the Bible says Heaven is. One of the points that I want to get across at those services, is the same point I’ll use to end this column.

Life is too short for us not to have hope.
Heaven is not the place you go when you leave home.
The hope that we have in Christ is heaven is that home you go to when you leave this place.

contact the brewer at troy@opendoorministries.org or 817-297-6911

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