Defending vs Displaying

I used to get so caught up in knowing things like scientific and philosophical arguments for the existence of God.  I used to worry that I didn’t have all the answers.  I used to practice what I would say to someone who didn’t believe in God, in an effort to sound coherent and logical and philosophical.  Because, after all, It has to make sense, right? It’s up to me to convince people this Christianity thing is legit, right?

In seminary we are taught all of these things and are tested on these things.  I am glad we were.  Anselm is a good guy to read, no doubt. These philosophical and scientific reasons for God are important to know and engage with. I am for apologetics — in an appropriate context.

However, I am convinced of one thing, apologetics should not be the main approach to showing God to others. Lived-out-love must come first.

This morning I read this passage: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. -Colssians 3:12-14

The Scriptures never tells us to argue, defend, convince. The Scriptures never tell us to know the reasons for God, they tell us to be the reason. They just tell us to love people out of the abundance of Love God has shown us. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” –John 15:12

What if, instead of concentrating on defending our faith, we first focus on just displaying it?


Photo © Mary Lawson

I’ve never heard of anyone who was argued or convinced into the faith, but there are lots of people who were loved into the faith.

You can argue that Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is beautiful, but if someone does not experience it, they just don’t get it.  You cannot convince someone something is beautiful and true until they really experience it themselves.


When we forgive people who wrong us and don’t deserve to be forgiven, when we love the unlovable – that’s when people see the Father. Let’s let our compassion and humility and kindness point to God rather than how we argue philosophically about God’s existence.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar writes,  “The saint is the apology for the Christian religion.”

It’s not about what we say, it’s about how we live our lives, clothed in God’s grace and love. That’s when people can truly experience the beauty of the Kingdom of God and be ushered into the love and grace found there. And this beauty goes beyond comprehension, it surpasses understanding.

13 Lessons from Nehemiah

I’m a part of a really fantastic young adult group at my church. This Fall we studied the Book of Nehemiah. It’s really such a great story.  As we read it we see that, ultimately, it is a metaphor of life in general.

Many of us can relate to this story – We have a project/job/cause God puts on our heart.  We step out and do it.  We run in to a lot of opposition in the process.  We learn we can’t do it alone – we have to work together.  Things don’t go as planned.  We trust God along the way.

So here are 13 Lessons we learned from the Life of Nehemiah…

  1. Fear of the unknown didn’t hold Nehemiah back from doing what was on his heart to do.
    Now I had been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.”  Then I was very much afraid. Neh 2:2
    Even though Nehemiah was afraid to approach the King about his desire to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, he did it anyway.  But before he asked the King, the Scripture says he “Prayed to the God of heaven” (2:4.)  We don’t have to be afraid because we know God is with us.
  2. Nehemiah knew the good and faithful character of God.
    “I beseech You, O Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant.”  Neh 1:5-6
    Nehemiah always came back to the good and loving nature of God.  It’s                  what kept him anchored.
  3. People mattered more than things.
    As the cupbearer to the King, Nehemiah had everything – prestiege,                   comfort, money.  He gave all this up for people that he didn’t know.  He                gave up everything, and risked his life to restore the dignity of a city he had          never been to.
  4. Nehemiah took sin and repentance very seriously.
    In chapter 1, Nehemiah acknowledges the sin of his people.  He goes in to              great detail as to what that sin was and, on behalf of the people he’s leading,          repents.  Nehemiah knew that if God were to bless this task, their sin must be acknowledged, and offered to God so he may forgive. When we confess our sins, and repent, we are again made whole by the mercy of God.
  5. He constantly went to God in prayer, first. And always honestly.
    We see Nehemiah do this throughout the whole book. Prayer was vital in his life.  So must it be for us.  He prays to God in…
    Ch 1, 2:4, 4:4-5, 5:19, 6:9, 6:14, 9:5-38, 13:14,22,29,30
  6. He was patient. He waited on God’s timing.  He waited for the right moment to approach King Artaxerxes.
    It says in chapter 2 that he waited 3 months to approach the King with his              request to go to Jerusalem.  He waited for God to open the door.  He                        waited for God’s timing.
  7. Worship was made a priority by beginning with repairing the Gate by the Temple.
    In chapter 3, it says that Eliashib the High Priest arose and built the Sheep Gate.  This gate was the closest to the temple.  They started here first because they knew the most important thing they could do was worship God in community there at the temple.  Worshiping together was made #1 priority.
  8. Nothing can be accomplished without unity.  Humility is required for unity.
    In chapter 3, the text lists all those who were working on the wall.  The text makes a point of describing how they all were working next to each other – from the High Priest, to goldsmiths, regular priests, to governors, to daughters. They all swallowed their pride and worked together.
  9. When opposition comes, don’t conspire to get them back. Let God handle it. God fights for us.
    In chapter 4, Nehemiah comes under some opposition.  They are mocked             and threatened.  He doesn’t take matters into his own hands, he takes it to          God.
    At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.  Neh 4:20
  10. When we are afraid, remember who our God is.  Go to him for Grace.
    In chapter 6, Nehemiah’s enemies send him a messenger, trying to scare                 him into hiding and sinning (it was a sin to use the temple for anything but           worship.)  He didn’t fall for it. Don’t be scared into doing something you              know is wrong.
    But now, O God, strengthen my hand.  Neh 6:10
  11. Don’t fall for the lies of the enemy.  Know and remember how God loves you.
    In chapter 6, the enemies of Nehemiah lie to him, saying they have heard              that Nehemiah is plotting to rule.  This was in an effort to discourage them and cause them to abandon their work.  Nehemiah didn’t fall for the lies of the enemy.  Neither should we.  As Nehemiah did, we must trust that God truly is Great and Awesome and that He fights on our behalf (Neh 4:20.)
  12. Joy comes when we remember we have been given salvation.
    The people there found themselves in a depressing, desperate situation.  They were being ridiculed, under threat of attack, and living in disgrace.  Yet, they are encouraged to take joy.  They were able to realize this joy because the day of Atonement was coming soon.  They knew they had forgiveness.  Joy comes when we realized we’ve been forgiven, saved, and are loved by God. No matter what or where we find ourselves, it never changes the fact that we are redeemed and forgiven.
    Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Neh 8:10
  13. Joy comes when we are in community with others.  When we are serving others.
    In chapter 8, the Festival of the Booths takes place.  This is a holiday where everyone camps out in tents and re-tells the story of their Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  We were meant to live out our faith together, in community. It’s in community where we find our true identity.


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Our Vinyl Lives

Right now I’m listening to a great album –  The Beatles’ ‘Abby Road’ (ranked the 14th greatest album of all time according to Rolling Stone, fyi).  And yes, it’s the actual vinyl album I’m listening to, thanks to the gift of my good friend Ben.

The music we make is imperfect. And like a vinyl record, that’s what makes it great.

Every album will develop flaws, scratches, scars.  Every person who walks this flawed earth will get scratches and broken from time to time as well.

Thankfully there is a God who uses people despite their stratches and scars. We don’t have to be perfect to accept redemption. We don’t have to be spotless to make a difference. We can come to God with our flaws, and our creator wants to listen. 

Thankfully there is a God who sees us and heals us and longs to enable us to make beautiful music with our lives.

So let’s not run away from the scars and scratches in our lives. Let’s not bury them under the mask of perfection.

Let’s give them to God, let him heal, and reach people with the music of our lives – scracthes and all. 

Only in our Creator can we make the music we were created to make. 

Only in our Creator are our scratches turned from a bad thing into a good thing.  

It’s through our scars we can empathize. It’s through our scratches we can love – if we let ourselves.

Thankfully there is a kind God who loves the imperfect analog music of our vinyl lives.