Book Review: “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me with Jeff Kinley (2001)

Named after the popular and inspiring song about Heaven, I Can Only Imagine is a book dedicated to the worship of God. I’m confident that I could never learn enough about worship, so anytime I come across a book like this, I use it as a part-time read (read in the bathroom or perhaps just before bed). I compare the reading of such books to the drinking of health shakes: useless, unless I actually exercise/worship after I drink/read it. Unless I employ the directives and tips that such authors offer when they write about their own lives of worship, I’m just wasting my time.

Like many Christians during the “worship time” at church, I tend to find myself simply going through the motions of worship rather than really letting it flow from the depths of my soul. Partly, this stems from the ridiculous idea that only the singing/prayer portion of a service is considered worship, while the preaching, greeting, etc. portions are all their own things. The worship of God is not an event! Just consider two of Paul’s commands: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Cor. 10:31) and “Pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5:17). Clearly my attention to and worship of God is to be a minute-by-minute way of life, not something that scheduled for a half-hour, one day per week. My failure to worship God from the depths of my soul also stems from my own failure to love God more than I love myself, and this problem is one I must battle every second of my life.

Although I Can Only Imagine reminded me how and why to worship, it didn’t inspire me to make the great changes in my life that I know I need to change. For example regarding the worship of God in song, when I sing at church, I don’t want to simply focus on hitting the right notes or memorizing the words without looking at the projection. I want to forget myself when I sing. I want to close my eyes and realize that I really am singing to the God Who lives inside me, the God Who knows my everything yet chose to save and indwell me anyway. The problem is, I usually don’t. Why? Because I’m not forgetting myself in favor of God the rest of the time: I’m already not glorifying God in whatever I do, and I’m certainly not ceaselessly praying. So if this book has taught me anything, it’s reminded me of how selfish I am with my thoughts and my time. It’s reminded me of how much greater my Savior is than anything else that could eat up my time.

This point reminds me of something I heard from Ravi Zacharias in one of his recorded messages. While discussing worship, he attacked the age-old description of “worth-ship,” because our worship of God is not to be a matter of “does God deserve it or not?” as if our value system is what determines God’s right to be worshiped. Heavens no! When describing the difference between God and other gods, it’s not that “God is real, and those gods are wood and stone,” etc. In fact, it’s never to be “God is (adjective)” at all! God is. Other gods aren’t. For that reason alone, we must worship God. Adjectives can be considered later, but this is where we must start.

I Can Only Imagine was written for a much younger crowd than mine. The words were always hip and not to my taste, but still, the phrasings kept things lively. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would like to skim it again in the future, just for a refresher on the things I learned.

©2015 E.T.

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