Seeing What Is There

If you see me out and about, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see me wearing a hat advertising my favorite Australian rules football team, the Hawthorn Hawks. I’m a big fan of Aussie rules footy and wearing a Hawks hat keeps me connected to my team and the sport. The Hawks hat I wear most frequently is emblazoned with the corporate sponsors of the team back in Australia. The state government of Tasmania’s tourist board is one such sponsor, and their plain font “Tasmania” contribution to the side of the hat ought to be a dead giveaway that my hat comes from overseas.  

Even though my hat is made conspicuously different both by the logo itself and by the “Tasmania,” people tend to see it and transform it into something that they grasp, especially when it shares even a passing resemblance to something they value. When I lived in Buckeye, AZ, my postal lady noticed my hat as I was talking with her and asked if I worked at Buckeye High School. I found out that the Hawks were Buckeye’s mascot and that she had graduated from that school. More than once I’ve been accused of being a “good Iowa man,” only to find out that it was because that person was from Iowa and had seen my hat and transformed the logo and evidently the word “Hawks” above it into the Hawkeyes name and logo. Neither the Buckeye logo nor the Hawkeye logo look much like the Hawthorn logo, and, again, the side of the hat says, “Tasmania.”

It’s pretty common for people to attempt to take something that they don’t understand and work it into the framework of something that they do. Sometimes the end result is simply a harmless misunderstanding. However, when this happens in our journey with God the result can be disastrous.

God told us through the prophet Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). When we encounter teachings from the Bible that differ from our prior understandings or that call us to change our behavior, it’s easy to take what we understand or have already done / are doing and read that into the words of the Bible. However, we should remember that God does not and will not conform to us. We should also remember the end of following our way instead of God’s: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).

God said, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). It’s very easy to look at that text and think the only behavior we need to avoid is something we in modern America were probably never tempted to do anyway, namely, bow down and worship a statue or image. However, this verse should serve as a reminder 1) that we must not allow God and His will to be reimagined via our experiences or desires (e.g. Colossians 3:5) and 2) that we must see a fundamental difference between God and anything we experience in His creation.

What I often secretly hope when I wear my Hawks hat is for someone either to recognize the logo or to ask about it so I can start a conversation about Aussie rules. Either way, I’m hoping that whoever does bother to look will see something different. I believe that God gave His Word with the same desire in mind. God may have spoken through a book just like countless men and women have done, but God is both unlike and greater than those countless men and women. We have to approach His book expecting something different and better. So, challenge yourself as you read the Bible text to see what’s there and not simply what you want to be there.
-Patrick Swayne






1 Corinthians 12 1 Corinthians 14:15 1 Corinthians 14 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 1 Corinthians 7 1 Peter 1:6-12 1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 3 1 Peter 5:6-7 1 Peter 1 Samuel 4 1 Thessalonians 5:18 1 Timothy 4:1-3 2 Corinthians 6 2 John 1:9 2 John 9 2 Kings 2 Peter 2 2 Peter 3 2 Peter 2 Samuel Abel Abraham Absalom Acts 17 Acts 19 Acts 2 Acts 8 Acts Alcohol Alleged Contradictions Apostles Ark of the Covenant Attitude Authority Autonomy Autumn Balance Baptismal Regeneration Baptism Barnabas Benevolence Bible Contradictions Bible Questions and Answers Bible Study Bible Biblical Interpretation Bishop Body of Christ Borrowing Broad Way Cain and Abel Cain Calvinism Catholicism Catholic Celibacy Challenges Children Christian Living Christmas Church Funds Church Leadership Church Membership Church of Christ Church Circumspection Citations Citizenship Colossians 3:16 Communication Communion Community Confidence Congregations Contend for the Faith Contentment Covetousness Creation Credit Current Events Dating David Debt Forgivness Deconstruction Degrees of Punishment Deity Deliverance Denominationalism Devil Difference Different Discipleship Divine Nature Doctrine Dragon Drinking Easter Ecclesiastes 7:10 Ecclesia Eldership Elders Elder Elijah Elisha Encouragement Enoch Ephesians 2:8-9 Ephesians 5:15 Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:18 Ephesians 5:19 Ephesians 5:5 Ephesians 5 Esther 4:14 Evangelism Ezekiel 36 Ezekiel 6 Faith Alone Faith Only Faithfulness Faith Fall False Teachers False Teaching Fathers Fear Feeding of the 5000 Fornication Free Will Fundamentals Galatians 4:9-10 Gender Roles Generosity Genesis 22 Genesis 4 Genesis Gift of Tongues Gifts Giving Godhead Godhood God Gospel Meeting Gospel Grace Gratitude Greater Sin Greed Grief Grieving Hallelujah Praise Jehovah Hallelujah Hebrews 13:4 Help Hermeneutics Holidays Holy Spirit's Deity Husbands Hymns Hypotheticals Idolatry Imperatives Influence Insomnia Instrumental Music Instruments in Worship Intertextuality Isaac Isaiah 2 Isaiah 6 James 1:19 James 1:27 James 1 James Jehovah Witnesses Jehovah Jerome Jesus Temptation Jesus' Deity Jesus\' Deity Jesus Job John 11 John 19:11 John 4:24 John Calvin John the Baptist Jude 1:11 Jude 3 Jude Judgement Judging Judgment Kindness Lamb of God Lamech Lazarus Leadership Leaven Lemuel Lending Levites Limited Atonement Living Sacrifice Local Church Lord's Supper Luke 1:28 Luke 5:1-11 Mariolatry Mark 1:12-13 Mark Marriage Martin Luther Mary Matthew 5:13-16 Matthew 5:3-12 Matthew 5 Matthew 7:13-14 Matthew 7:1 Melchizedek Men's Business Meeting Men\'s Business Meeting Men\\\'s Business Meeting Men Metaphors Minor Prophets Miracles Miraculous Gifts Money Mormonism Mothers Mount of Olives Mountain of the Lord's House Mountains of Israel Mountains Murder Music Mutual Submission Narrow Gate Narrow Way No Elders Non-Denominational Olive Trees Olives Olivet Olive Once Saved Always Saved Parenting Pastor Patience Patriarchs Pattern Paul Peace Pentecostalism Persecution Perseverence Perspective Philippians 3:20 Philippians 4:6 Plagiarism Poetic Language Politics Prayer Praying to Saints Praying Pray Preacher Preaching Priesthood Priests Proverbs 31:6 Proverbs Providence Psalm 148 Quotations Reader Response Redeeming the Time Relationships Relationship Religion Religious Pluralism Religious Syncretism Remission of Sins Restoration Movement Restoration Revelation 12:9 Riches Roman Catholic Church Romans 12:1-8 Romans 12:10 Romans 12:15 Romans 12:1 Romans 12 Sacrifice Saints Only Salvation Satan Scarecrows Sermon on the Mount Serving Others Sexual Sin Silence of the Scriptures Singing Sin Sleep Sobriety Song Studies Sons Sovereignty of God Spending Spirit and Truth Spiritual Death Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Leadership Stephen Straight Gate Stress Student Debt Submission Suffering Temptations Thankfulness The Beatitudes The Problem of Pain and Suffering The Problem of Suffering The Way of Cain The Way Tongue Speaking Total Hereditary Depravity Tradition Trials Trinity Types and Antitypes Uncleanness Unconditional Election Understanding Unity Unknown Tongue Vulgate Wealth Wide Gate William Kirkpatrick Wives Women in the Church Women's Roles Word Study Work Worship Zechariah clergy death sickness