I Can Only Imagine

Cab ride – a thirty dollar near death experience with a stranger badly in need of a ticket in a car badly in need of disinfectant.

A cab ride is in the same class as another poorly chosen and equally dangerous ride, the bull ride. Whether it be a cab or a bull you have chosen to ride something that smells, moves fast, and makes you nervous because you get the feeling that the one steering does not want you there. Bulls and cabs will give you a ride, but as soon as possible, they want to end your ride.

I exited the plane and told a lady in a booth near the dungeon of the airport where I wanted to go. She strapped me to a bull headed for downtown New Orleans. It was an Astrovan that was not even cool in the ‘80’s and had not been cleaned in at least that long. Once Fernando closed the door and pushed the pedal the bull began to vent his rage. I had taken an early flight so the streets of the Big Easy were packed with slow moving rush hour traffic. Every other car on I-10 was at a crawl, but not the bull. The bull never slowed down. Apparently on I-10 the left lane is an HOV lane and the right shoulder is for bulls. The curb is for bulls. The median is for bulls. The tiny spaces in between all the other cars are for bulls to charge and dart in and out in total rage.

Since the bull was so scary, I thought I should probably tell Fernando, my driver, about Jesus.

Only slightly more frightening than riding a bull is sharing your faith with a stranger. But it was only Fernando and I in the bull, a great opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, especially when you feel there is a good chance the two of you may die together.

So what do you say to a guy who says nothing? Fernando spoke very little English; at least that is what he led me to believe. When I asked him a question he gave me very little English. Honestly he gave me nothing but short answers and uncomfortable silence. I was trying to make conversation. Fernando was trying to make money and throw me out of the bull as quickly as possible. So I prayed. Not that I had not been praying all morning; airplanes inspire prayer, and apparently so do cab rides – and bulls. But now I began to pray about what to say to a guy who says nothing. How do you speak spiritually to a guy who you cannot even connect with conversationally?

“God, if you want me to share the gospel with Fernando, you need to give me an opportunity. If you do not give me an opportunity I am just going to sit here and pray for Fernando. Please do not let me die in an Astrovan. Amen.”

So I felt like I was off the hook, unless God gave me a quick Dale Carnegie lesson in Espanol I was only obligated to pray – something that seems much less intimidating than actually sharing my faith.

Since Fernando was so silent and I was so scared the only sound in the bull was a soft rock station. It was entirely possible that I would go to my grave humming Air Supply. You know how you hum the last song you hear in your car, how it gets stuck in your head and drives you crazy? Can you imagine going into eternity with Air Supply stuck in your head? I would be condemned to an eternity of humming Air Supply. But God was merciful to me and to Fernando.

I ended my prayer and the next song on the radio was MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” It is a song about meeting Jesus in eternity; very appropriate when you are actually speeding on the shoulder of I-10 in that very direction. God sent me a very clear message that He listens to the radio, and that since I may be very close to meeting Jesus I may as well invite Fernando to come along. So I let the song play through a couple of verses – and the bull was quiet.

I asked Fernando if he had ever thought about that song. “No, not really”, he said. So I told him what it meant and I told him a story about a time I had seen the message of the song powerfully illustrated to me by a group of ladies in a rehab center. It was a Sunday night and I had been invited to lead a worship service at a place called The Lovelady Center in Birmingham, AL. It is a place where women who have been in prison, or have been abused, or have been on drugs go to get their lives back together. It is an amazing place where not only the gospel is preached, but it is also practiced. Most churches would do well to go The Lovelady Center and see what the gospel looks like.

On that Sunday night we had sung a couple of songs, and things were O.K., but not great. The love ladies did not know what to think of the people from our church and the people from our church did not know what to think of the love ladies. But when the worship leader began to sing “I Can Only Imagine”, we all saw Jesus.

The door to The Lovelady Center says,

for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' (Matthew 25:35-40)

That group of ladies had been deeply changed by the gospel and in them I saw Jesus. I saw Jesus fed. I saw Jesus clothed. I saw Jesus loved. The song lyrics ask the question of how we will react when we see Jesus. Now I know, because I saw Him through them. They were crying, they were dancing, they were singing, they were shouting. With tears rolling down my face, I was in awe.

I told Fernando that story and I told him about how Jesus had died for me, and for those ladies, and for Fernando. I told him how Jesus came to save us from our sin so that we could actually spend eternity with Him. I told Fernando that Jesus rose from the dead, and is now at the right hand of the Father seeking people to receive Him as Savior.

Fernando’s response is between me, him, and God. What happens in the bull stays in the bull. If Fernando was saved it will not be long until he shares the story of Jesus with someone else. Nevertheless, God sent me a very clear message that day. One, that God listens to the radio and no one should spend eternity with Air Supply stuck in their head. Two, that telling people about Jesus is a priority to Him; so much so that He can make the next song on a secular radio station that has nothing to do with Him be all about Him.

I survived the ride. Fernando dumped me and my suitcase out on the curb, took my thirty bucks, and the bull raged off down the street. I will never forget that ride because in it I experienced the listening ear of God in prayer, His involvement in the little things, and His passion to hear people tell His story.

God loves people and He is listening.


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