What's Inside

The theological ramblings of a simple man.


Because God is never cruel, there is a reason for all things. We must know the pain of loss; because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.

Dean Koontz

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A time to lament
The test results have come back and the news is not good. Nothing dampens the spirit like a dismal medical outlook. So many emotions come with that kind of news: sorrow, despair, sadness, confusion, frustration, anger. All fair responses. So what do you do when the doctor gives you bad news?

I felt that last night. That twinge of grief is inescapable. To posses the ability to avoid such burdened emotions, you’d have to be less than human. Even Jesus – who was more than human – reached into the depths of melancholy when on the cross he cried out “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me.” (Mark 15:34)

Yet, amidst the natural bent toward misery, my heart sang. There was one song that kept running through my head like a tape loop stuck on replay: “Joy unspeakable that won’t go away – And just enough strength to live for today – So I never have to worry what tomorrow will bring.” (Desperation Band – Counting on God)

How is it possible for me to sing of joy while experience heart rending sorrow? To be honest – I don’t know. It is not by my power. My first inclination would have been to dive into despair as deep as I could go and wallow in it, not to sing songs of praise.

This untamable praise is not without precedent. We see it with Jeremiah. He watched his home and the city he loved crumble and suffer destruction. “My heart is broken” He told us. “D’you want to know why I’m sad? I’ll tell you why I’m sad. In fact, I’ll give you a list. I’m tormented and distressed, my home town is deserted and my friends and peers have been killed or taken into forced labor. I have been rejected, abandoned, and deprived. I am broken, hungry, and bitter.” For two and a half chapters, Jeremiah tells us everything that is wrong with life. (1st half of the book of Lamentations) Then he says something that exceeds human capability. He tells us the one thing that gives him hope: “Because of God’s love, we are not consumed. His compassion is new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. God is good.” (Lamentations 3:21-25)

The same thing happens when Paul and his partner Silas are wrongfully accused, beaten, and thrown in prison. Bound by stocks and kept under guard, they begin to sing songs of praise. (Acts 16:16-25)

Before Jesus was arrested, he prayed – knowing what he was about to endure – “I want your will, not mine.” (Luke 22:42) And in his final breath, Jesus speaks in worship, “unto you I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

What possessed me that my mind was filled with praise in the process of mourning? What is this crazy reckless abandon inside of me bursting with unspeakable joy while suffering undesirable grief? To be honest, it is a power beyond myself. It is an proclivity that defies my natural tendencies.

There is a time to lament. There are situations and events were sorrow is an appropriate response. To deny that would be absurd. I am not proposing we all be shiny happy people in the face of infinite sadness. My hope is that you see that God is bigger than your pain. It is the power of God that speaks beyond my own capabilities. When all else fails, when hope seems lost, it is through Him that I can still say “how great is our God.”
posted by nicholas casey @ 10:42 PM   0 comments
Friday, April 16, 2010
Just wait until you meet him
Step into my time machine. It’s November 1st 2012. The presidential elections are a few days away, and your best friend approaches you with some exciting news.

“I’ve just met the next President of the United States,” he tells you.
“You met Obama?” You ask.
“Sarah Palin?”

Confusion hits you like a punch from Mike Tyson (before he went crazy). You friend sees the question inside your eyes and offers an explanation.

“You have to meet this guy. He has a plan to ensure every child receives quality education, improve foreign relations, offer basic health care to every American, eliminate our national debt, lower unemployment, and reduce taxes.”
“Who is he?” You ask. It sounds too good to be true.
“This guy from Athol.”
“Athol?” It can’t be right. “You met some stranger from Athol and you think he’s going to be President?”
You friend nods his head. “I do.”
“Is his name on the ballot?”
“Any political experience? Is he the mayor? A senator? Is he in the state legislature?
“No, none.”
“A volunteer fireman?”
“Where did you find him?”
“He works at the Cydco up there. Talked to him when I stopped to get some fuel.”
“He’s unelectable. How is he going to become the next President?”
Your friend smiles and answers, “Because everyone will vote for him. Just wait until you meet him.”

If you really had this conversation, you’d have your doubts. Your skeptical outlook would be justified. There is no logical way that a gas station employee from a podunk town with no experience in public service could be elected to the highest political office in America. It’s just not possible.

That’s probably what Nathanael was thinking when his friend Philip said, “I met the Messiah.” (John 1:44-45)

Jesus found Philip and offered him the opportunity to be one of his followers. Philip accepted, but there was something he had to take care of first. He had to tell his best friend. Nathanael needed to know.

“Nate – we found him. It’s the one we’ve read about. The person who is going to rule Israel and overthrow the Romans. He’s here now. And he’s offered to lead us into victory!”
“Really? Who is it?”
“This dude from Nazareth. Joe’s son Jesus.”

Just like you’d be unconvinced of the possibility of a nobody from a backwoods town becoming President, Nathanael had the same suspicions.

“Nazareth? Really? That podunk town? What good has ever come from there?” (John 1:46)

Nathanael had a good reason to doubt Philip’s story. Nazareth was a small town. They only had one synagogue. The good priests were in Bigger cities, so the education that Jesus would have received there probably was not the best. No experience, a carpenter’s son, and Philip is asking him to believe that this Rabbi from a town that most would rather avoid is really the Messiah. This stranger is the one the prophets and the book of law had predicted would save them? Inconceivable.

Philips answer? “Just wait until you meet him.” (John 1:46)

And that’s all it took. All Nathanael had to do was meet him. Jesus proved himself and surprised Nathanael. The real Jesus isn’t who Nathanael anticipated. God, on earth. And not what Nathanael expected to come from Nazareth.

God often isn’t who we expect him to be. Our understanding and expectations of God don’t always match. He’s full of wonder and surprises. But we sometimes have doubts.

If He’s really God, can’t He save Darfur? Could He tell me why my Grandpa has cancer? Is He going to help me win the lottery? Why did He create mosquitoes? Will He end poverty in America? Or the AIDS epidemic in Africa? Or human trafficking in South east Asia? Why doesn’t He eliminate those that deny His existence?

There’s no way that He could be who He says he is.

The answer? “Just wait until you meet him.”

Did Jesus explain away Nathanial’s doubts? Did he give off a long list of good things that have come from Nazareth? Did he say “look at what I can do” and perform a song and dance number? No.

When Nathanael met Jesus, Jesus said “I know you. I saw you before Philip found you.” (John 1:48)

That was enough. Nathanael might have still wondered how Jesus made it out of Nazareth. He might have still had questions about how Jesus was able to perform his miracles. But he believed that Jesus was the Messiah – just because Jesus knew him.

Doubts are natural. To question is to understand. But we may not get our questions answered.

We don’t believe in God because he’s our winning lottery ticket. We don’t believe in God because he fixed all of the problems in our lives or ended human suffering.

We believe because we are known.

When we come to God, he tells us, “I know you. I saw you in your back yard playing with your kids. I saw you visiting a loved one at the hospital. I saw you sitting in your office wondering how you were going to get enough money to buy a new car. I saw you in line at McDonalds ordering chicken nuggets with extra sweet & sour sauce. I saw you lying in bed questioning the choices you’ve made in life. I know you.”

We still have our reservations, our questions, our doubts and hurts. But we are known and loved.

Just wait until you meet him.
posted by nicholas casey @ 7:05 AM   0 comments
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