Gary Swisher

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Making Space for God

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Christ and Fellowship

In this day and age, our lives are filled with noise, music, colors, pictures and all other kinds of distractions. We live in a world where there is what seems like another universe in our pockets. We have nearly unlimited access to any kind of media at any time of day. In fact you are reading this article on said device.It seems as if every minute of our lives needs to be filled with some sort of entertainment.

A lot of times these distractions can get in the way of having a better relationship with Christ. Not only does it take time away from God, it pushes us away from him. I hear many young Christians admit to only reading their Bible once or twice a week, and yet they’ll spend hours watching or reading something on their devices. I too, am at fault here. In my own encounters, some…

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Religion Seeks a “Something” Part 1

In Christianity, Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Rising Above the Noise

One thing I hate about blogs and social media is the seeming self-absorption of some who write. Do they really think we are hanging on their every thought and activity? I hope this entry won’t seem that way. It doesn’t really matter what I think or what my take on things is. I just have something to share that I hope others can relate to and benefit from. So please try to ignore the unusual amount of personal pronouns in this writing.

I seem to need the radio on when driving most of the time. My mind always wants something new to chew on or at least some music to fill the void. The past two days, however, I left the radio off. My only inclination to turn it back on was based on habit, not any real sense of missing the chatter. In the past I have set my mind to “fast” from media with mixed results. My last two commutes, without all the squawking, were not like that, however. More about that in Part 2.

The human race has become extremely media driven. I’m not talking about politics, although for some that is what media is all about. When I was young I couldn’t get enough music. Music really filled a void. I played it, wrote it, listened to my favorite artists in my room, listened in the car… But as much as I still enjoy music, I don’t have the dependency on it that I once did. It isn’t like food for me anymore. That may have a lot to do with the natural maturing process.

Today our youth are glued to iPods, iPads, iPhones… I wonder why they all start with “I”? (I did say there would be lots of personal pronouns.) If kids aren’t on the computer, talking on their phone, texting or listening to their MP3 player, what could they possibly be doing? Many adults are just as consumed by their media.

I think a lot of Christians are in the habit of thinking they should switch the channel of the TV or the radio (or website, etc.) to something more wholesome. Switch it from pop music to a Christian station for example, or change it from talk radio to Christian talk. This doesn’t always open up the airwaves to heaven, however. In large part they are only shifting the programming and commercials to a religious context. You still get the chatter and commercials, only with a “Christian” flavor.

In my attempts to find that “still, small voice” I have often just turned off the noise of the world, but as I said, with mixed results. I find it’s like yanking the cigarette from the mouth of the chain smoker. It doesn’t really change his mindset. He only becomes more fixated on the need to smoke. And since changing the channel to a Christian station isn’t really causing a transformation, I have realized there is another channel that can be switched that doesn’t involve the radio. There is a channel in my heart; but not so much my heart. Perhaps I should say it is a switch to “Someone.” More about that in Part 2.

God Intentions

In Christianity, Theology, Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 12:22 am

Why does God allow human suffering? Theologians love to tackle this question. It’s a favorite atheist objection to the existence of God. In all honesty it is a fair question and one that every Christian faces as well. But I thought I might pose another question in contrast to this familiar one. If Satan exists, why does he allow human pleasure?

Scripture seems to say that Satan is the god of our world. If so, why do we experience times of peace? Why do so many children come home from school unharmed? Why are there so many charities aiming to assist people who need it? Why have there been so many medical advances in recent decades? Maybe Satan takes some pride in his world. His followers are good people too. He doesn’t want a complete mess of his dominion does he? How embarrassing would that be?

Here are some more questions about good things. Why is there physical pleasure? Why are so many people leading comfortable lives? Why do restaurants have such sensational deserts? Why are there so many Xboxes in households today? Oh wait, are these all good things from God’s perspective? Many good and pleasurable things are used to lull people into spiritual sleep, distract them from what has true, lasting value, and cause them to question God when he takes something away. Then again, we may seek this type of comfort in response to our pain, emptiness and loss; never really learning that they are not what we need. The god of this world knows how we each use such “good” things. All good things come from God, but how one defines good things depends on his mindset. So an illness could be truly good, while pleasure is ultimately bad. To my understanding this issue hinges on our perspective. It is about the spiritual man versus the natural (soulish) man.

This is not one of those “glass half full” or “glass half empty” propositions. I just think we have really missed the significance of both good and evil in this world. The thing is, good can be used for evil and evil can be used for good. When Joseph was sold into slavery and finally caught up with the brothers who put him there, he revealed that God meant it for good. Being sold into slavery was good. That was God’s estimation.

It was God who asked Satan to consider his servant Job. Not the other way around. Satan takes orders from God. He is not a rogue element, out of Gods’ control. It was the Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. Look it up. Paul was ministered by Satan to rid him of pride (see 2 Cor. 12:7). And Paul said that all things (good and evil) work for the good of those that love God. Notice it doesn’t say all things are good, but that all things work for our good. That is the understanding of those who love God. We cannot have that perspective if we doubt God in this. That is being double-minded. God puts all kinds of things to work for his good purpose, and for our good. No discipline seems pleasant at the moment—makes me wonder how much discipline I’ve had.

So why do we have suffering? No one likes suffering, nor should we seek it. But God exercises his providence, over the schemes and roadblocks that come before us, for his ultimate purpose. God does authorize suffering as we see in the case of Job, Paul and many others. Our natural mind wants to grasp this, understand it and ultimately control it. But, as God said to Job, you learn to be a creature, subject to all that happens, and I will take care of the divine role all by myself. When these things happen we want to lean on our own reasonings, seek advice and ask lots of questions, just as Job did. Why me? Why this? Why her? Why now? Why, why, why? All those things have their root in the natural man, which is why such questions are so often posed by atheists. They become obstacles that will either block us and cause discouragement or they will be overcome by something of a higher order. I believe we are meant to experience these things in order to learn what cannot be learned through our intellect.

Consider this. Jesus learned obedience. You can tell a three-year old that he should not do certain things, and attempt to reason with him. But only through pain will he ever learn certain lessons, whether the pain comes from a bad result or a fore-ordained punishment. My child’s comfort is not my number one priority. He primarily needs to learn to listen to his father and mother. The lesson is obedience, and pain is often the teacher. We do not just teach our children to avoid touching hot things, we teach them obedience. They must learn submission. A child who learns submission has learned a lot.

Discipline means to teach. It can also mean to spank. If you are a parent you know that some things are learned without any pain at all but many things are not. We are the same way. We cannot truly mature in our spiritual lives if we are so glued to this natural man who seeks whatever pleases him at the moment. Jesus learned obedience… through suffering.

Pain and discomfort can cause us to move, change, open our eyes or test our foundations for trustworthiness. The low-risk method by which we prefer to learn is to receive information. In churches we spend a lot of time in the classroom setting; reading, learning, sitting, watching, discussing, etc. These things have had their place. But whether we are talking about children or Christians, information often remains at the intellectual level. It does not often result in change. It, alone, does not transform.  The Jews were lawyers. The Greeks were philosophers. Many theologians are primarily intellectuals and little more. But Christ does not seek students. He makes disciples.

Jesus learned obedience through suffering. He also said “Come learn from ME.” Your Bible version may say “Come learn OF me”, but that is not the best translation of the word. We have spent plenty of time learning about Jesus. But if we are to learn from him, we may need to turn our attention from our familiar doctrines and teachers. How else can we learn from him but to get alone with just Him? Jesus does not just teach book knowledge. Bible school is important, but we are not in relationship with the Bible. Doctrines and knowledge do not transform us. We only tend to become puffed up with what we know. At some point we must move from what we know to Who we know. I hope God sees fit to take us out of the conventional classroom for his purposes. We can really learn something when God takes us to school.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, for those who have been trained by it, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. (Heb 12:11, ISV) 

© 2011 Gary Swisher. All Rights Reserved

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