Beauty Is Not The Focus


I go to a party. A woman is there. It’s obvious to most men there that this woman is beautiful. Throughout the night, I observe this woman getting constant attention from men. The next day I hear stories of how a man she never knew before messaged her on Facebook, or asked for her phone number.

This is the type of situation I have observed over, and over, and over again.

The only thing I can conclude? Beauty is the focus.

I am certainly not immune to this focus. There have been times when beauty is the one thing that triggers me to take action. For example, I’ll see a picture of someone I consider to be beautiful, and want to contact that person only because of my desire to be with someone beautiful. Or when I think about a woman, beauty will be the first and primary thing that comes to mind.

Beauty may draw an initial physical attraction towards someone. But this type of attraction is often based off emotional experiences that slowly fade away over time. As a result, it is not ultimately what holds a relationship and eventual marriage together.

There are several factors more essential than physical attraction:

Spiritual outlook – One’s view on God will drive many decisions the person makes. If two people have very different spiritual outlooks in a marriage, it will be very difficult for them to come to an agreement on important decisions in life.

Moral character – If someone has poor moral character, that person could easily drag a spouse in a bad moral direction. Moral boundaries that were once clear now become confused. The spouse could be negatively affected for a long time after being led in this immoral direction.

Enjoying time with someone – In any relationship, there will likely be times that the couple will enjoy being together, and other times where they won’t. However, if the couple consistently does not enjoy spending time together (especially in the early stages of a relationship), the relationship will become a miserable experience over time.

There can probably be more added to the list, but at the very least the importance to connect with someone on these three factors in a relationship is greater than the importance of being physically attracted to someone.

As a Christian, I’ve started to think about what my response to this idea of physical attraction should be. I obviously can’t avoid the fact that I’m attracted to certain people because of their outward beauty. But I wonder if that beauty could point me to the creator of that beauty – God – instead of driving me towards obsession over the person.

Beauty could also drive me to focus on other things about a person that have greater importance – things like the person’s relationship with God, the person’s moral character, or the joy that flows out of the person’s life.

I’m not sure what this shift in focus would look like practically, but it’s a concept I want to start to consider. Instead of a focus, beauty could be a pointer – a pointer to something much greater.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Good Way to Judge Others

farmto table (3)

I wanted to write about an idea that is commonly brought up, is emotionally charged, and can be expressed in a simple way:

You can’t judge anyone.

When people say something like this, they likely are against the idea judging in general. They can give different reasons for being against it, like it makes someone feel less valuable, or it causes us to make assumptions that may not be true about someone. No matter the reasons, many people think that judging someone is always a bad thing to do.

But what if there is a good way to judge others? If there is one, it would have to incorporate things that are true, such as all humans have equal value, and we don’t have complete knowledge about someone’s life or about the future.

In light of these true things, let’s exclude the following actions from a potential good way to judge:

– Making an all-encompassing judgment about someone’s entire life
– Considering someone less valuable than ourselves
– Claiming authority over someone’s eternal destination (like heaven or hell)

And then let’s include some actions into the potential good way to judge:

– Putting focus on the idea that the judging will help us, rather than hinder someone else
– Using the knowledge that we have without making assumptions about things we don’t know
Referring to the present instead of the distant future (since we don’t know what will happen in the distant future)

Based on these excluded and included actions, we can define a potential good way to judge:

Making some type of assessment about someone based on knowledge you have about the person, for the purpose of taking the best action towards the person.

This definition still incorporates an element of judging – making an assessment about someone. But the purpose of making the judgment is good – understanding how to take the best action towards that person. And the judgment can even be necessary to help us take the best action.

The concept of a first date can show how this way to judge is both good and necessary. After a first date, someone may make an assessment that the other person does not share the same moral values, based on present knowledge about that person.

This assessment is good because it helps the person decide what action to take (likely to stop going on dates). The assessment is necessary because without it, the person could stay with someone who has different moral values, and thus could be led down an undesired path.

Dating isn’t the only example where this way to judge is good and necessary. Managers need to make an assessment about someone’s qualifications during a job interview in order to decide if hiring the person is a good idea. Christians need to make an assessment about someone’s religious beliefs in order to understand how to best point that person towards God. And parents need to make an assessment about a child’s behavior before making a decision on how to discipline the child. In all of these examples, some judging about an aspect of a person’s life needs to take place in order to take an action that is good.

Since judging others can sometimes be a good thing, a generalization like “you can’t judge anyone” throws out something that could be good. But of course, there are still circumstances in which judging is a bad thing to do. So how could should we talk about the concept of judging others?

Instead of using a phrase that indicates judging is always a bad thing, I would suggest explaining why a specific way of judging is bad. Examples could include:

“You make me feel less valuable when you tell me that I’m not smart.”
“You shouldn’t say that he is a hopeless alcoholic, because you don’t know what path he has taken to fight his addiction.”
“You don’t know if that person will eventually go to Hell, because you don’t know the future, and God is the one who makes that determination.”

By being more specific about why a particular judgment is bad to make, we can have greater clarity in conversations about judging, while acknowledging that there are situations where judging can be helpful. Getting into these specifics may be more difficult and more painful compared to making general statements. But I think the difficulty is worth the potential of having clear conversations around this otherwise confusing topic.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How my Input Strength put me Out of Balance

Based on the results of the Strengthsfinder test, one of my main strengths is Input. This strength basically means that I have a desire to constantly seek new information.

The Input strength can be great for certain things such as research. But for me, this strength has become a liability. Over the past few days, I’ve realized that this strength has caused me to feel out of balance.

This feeling results from a difference between input and output of information. Throughout each day, I constantly input new information into my head, and feel like I never have enough time to output that information through writing or sharing it verbally with others. This lack of balance between input and output results in two difficulties:

  1. I always feel overwhelmed– When I input information into my mind and don’t take time to process through it, I never come to a resolution about what to do with that information. For me, the information overload combined with a lack of resolution has led to a constant feeling of being overwhelmed.
  1. I lose a sense of purpose– When I fill my head with information and never share that information, I feel that I miss opportunities for others to be helped through the things that I share. It’s like I’m obtaining this knowledge for the sake of having it, and there’s nothing I’m actually doing with it. Thus I feel my purpose for obtaining the information is lost.

Now that I realize that I’m out of balance, I want to change the way that I use my time each day. When I have free time, I want to focus on the output instead of the input. For example, instead of constantly checking Facebook and devouring more information about other people’s lives, I can process through information relevant to my own life by writing a few sentences about what I’m thinking.

I know that for me, the input will always be present, because my tendency is to always acquire new information. But focusing more on output could allow me to capitalize on that tendency by putting all that information to use. It would also help me to move away from an information overload and to move towards a better grasp of the information I have.

With these ideas in mind, I hope to share information with others more often. Not only because I believe it can help others, but also because I need to be in better balance with the information I’m inputting versus outputting. This sharing could come in the form of a blog post, a song, or a conversation. I also hope to start a new blog, although using this blog provided a good avenue to start sharing posts again.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Chewy and Rap led to Thoughts about Talents

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the talents and abilities I have, and how to use them. This week, I was exposed to two individuals and one group that have been changing the way I think through this topic.

One individual is Nathan Feuerstein, a Christian who is known as the hip hop artist NF. One thing I noticed right away when listening to NF is his talent – he seamlessly flows through fast and complex rap lines, and does so with incredible passion. I also noticed that his songs are very honest and real. I instantly related to many of the lines within his songs.

This weekend, I talked to a woman who was once a counselor for a camp that NF attended when he was much younger. The woman explained that the campers there created a group chant as a camp activity, and NF led the charge in creating the lines for it. The campers ended up making a chant so memorable that the woman and NF recalled the chant word-for-word when they saw each other several years later.

This story caused me to think about the idea of using your natural abilities. It was clear from an early age that NF was very good at writing lyrics and expressing those lyrics through rapping. And now in his songs, he talks about his passion to use those abilities. Songs written by NF challenge me to build up the abilities God has given me and do the absolute best I can with them.

A group that also provoked thoughts about talents was The 100 Voices of Gospel. This choir appears in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition, and have now advanced to the finals.

The group has received raving remarks from the judges. Some were even hinting at the divine, such as when Alesha Dixon said that everything the choir represents “is my idea of heaven”. The crowd seemed to express a sense of joy and awe. Seeing that type of response was incredible to me, especially in a country that people do not consider to be “religious”.

The 100 Voices of Gospel causes me to realize that talents don’t have to be diminished because they’re used in a church setting or are under a “Christian” label. When amazing talents are used to praise God, it creates an environment that people respond to – one that gives them a glimpse of the spiritual realm.

The last individual that provoked these thoughts in my mind was Candace Payne, known now as “Chewbacca Lady”. She is a Christian woman who bought a Star Wars Chewbacca mask, wore it in her car, and posted the video of her reaction on Facebook.

The video is full of laughter that became instantly contagious. Laughs spread throughout the day, and so did the video – more than 142 million people viewed the video within a week of its release, and it now stands as the most viewed Facebook video of all time.

Putting on a Chewbacca mask and commenting on it may not be a “talent”, but I think this video reveals something important. No matter what you’re good at and no matter what your personality is, God created you in that way for a purpose. He can use those things for something amazing – something like bringing joy to millions of people some random Friday morning.

This video reminds me that as I continue to live and use the abilities God has given me, God will take care of the results, whether it’s making a small impact on one person or bringing something significant to millions. I don’t need to worry about how many people are watching or who is responding. All I need to do is seek God, and live according to the way He created me.

I may not go on tour across America, appear on an international talent show, or go viral on Facebook, but that’s okay. What matters is that God is glorified.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Warming Up to the World of Tolerance

Recently I attended a discussion group where people of different views come together and discuss a topic each month. This month’s topic was about the topic of tolerance, and asked if there were things that should not be tolerated. The topic was brought up a scientist who identified as an atheist. She seemed to have a low view of people who hold onto ideas that are opposed by clear scientific evidence.

At one point, she made the following statement:

“You are not entitled to your opinion if it is not based on truth”.

She later said that she came off a little strong with this statement, but for me it provoked several thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

One is that “truth” might not be as obvious as it seems to be in your mind at any one moment. For this women, she was confident that she knew what was true because she found that there was substantial scientific evidence backing up her conclusions. But there very well could be an angle to the issue that she did not consider, or a bias that is causing her to interpret the available evidence incorrectly. Understanding these potential limitations gives you a sense of humility, where you are open to the idea that you may not have all the right answers.

Even if the truth is obvious to you, it won’t necessarily be obvious to others. Many factors could cause people to be confused about what is actually true. For example, people might be unaware of the facts required to form the best conclusion about an issue.

The scientist referred to global warming as one of the obvious truths that people are not entitled to speak against. Her reference to global warming caused me to think about my own experiences with that issue.

Through some college classes I took six years ago, I became aware of observable signs that indicate global warming is happening. On the other hand, I recognize that there are people who say the warming is part of a normal “cycle”, where the Earth gets warmer for a time period, then colder, then warmer, and continuing on. I am not informed enough to understand how much of the warming taking place is due to a standard “cycle”, and how much is due to human activity.

I could blame a few things for my lack of understanding:

    1. My educational background

  • Through High School and College classes, this topic was not taught to an extent where I could fully understand the issues.

    2. My effort

  • Since learning about it six years ago, I haven’t put forth much effort to gain a better understanding of the global warming issue.

    3. My will

  • I am simply not interested enough in the topic of global warming to look deep into the evidence and arguments out there.

These factors don’t only apply to me in relation to global warming. They can apply to you and anyone else in relation to various topics. You may be well informed and have a great interest in a specific area (i.e. religion, science, politics). But that does not mean that everyone else has that same knowledge and passion.

So how do you respond to people who just “don’t get it” – don’t grasp a concept that you care about? It comes down to the Christian principal of having grace in conversations. Not turning down people because they have a lesser understanding than you about a particular topic. But instead, listening to them, recognizing when they are confused about an issue, and sharing the knowledge you have with them so that they can have a better grasp of the issue at hand.

And even if they still “don’t get it”, understand that you are still talking to a person worthy of your attention and respect. That’s what tolerance is truly about – respecting a person even if you disagree with them and even if you think you know more than them. The scientist’s “cold” statement above likely came from a lack of tolerance for people who are not as well informed as her on certain issues.

For her, I would suggest a “warming up” – continuing to draw the best conclusions based on the evidence available, while also accepting that people may draw different conclusions due to their educational background, effort, or will. This perspective would at least warm her up to having tolerance for people who seem to deny the cold, hard facts.

Posted in Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Year in Song – 2015 Edition

2013 was a challenging year for me in many ways. Near the end of it, I decided to put a list of songs together that had some profound impact on me during the year. I found it to be a helpful way to reflect back on the challenges that took place that year, along with the results of those challenges.

This song list turned into a tradition that I get excited for each year, even to the point where I start to guess what songs will make the list midway through the year. But I never start to form the list until there are a few days of the year left.

Now, for the first time, I decided to share the results of this tradition. Below are songs that made some sort of impact on me in 2015. I also included a few lyrics that were important for me in the songs, along with a short explanation of why I picked the song:

Exalted One – Elevation Worship 

Key lyrics:
We lift our eyes to you
Where our help comes from

Why I picked it:
I was part of a worship band for a young adults retreat back in February, and this was one of the songs we played. It gave me a lot of joy early on in the year, and was a reminder to focus on Christ as the year continued on.

More Than Conquerors  – Rend Collective

Key lyrics:
You are the fire that cannot be tamed
You are the power in our veins

Why I picked it:
Same reason as the song above. This was a song that was constantly going through my head at the beginning of the year.

Stars in the Night  – Tenth Avenue North

Key lyrics:
The life that lies ahead
Is more than all we leave behind

Why I picked it:
This song really got to me during a concert by Tenth Avenue North I went to in March, especially with the visual of thousands of cell phone flashlights lit up at the same time. It would continue to be a song I’d go back to throughout the year.

At The Cross (Love Ran Red) – Chris Tomlin

Key Lyrics:
At the cross I surrender my life
I’m in awe of you
Why I picked it:
I thought this was one of the best Christian worship song to come out in years. It is a great reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and the hope that is provided through that sacrifice. It was another song I would frequently go back to.

Glorious Unfolding – Steven Curtis Chapman
Key Lyrics:
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding 
Just you wait and see, and you will be amazed
Why I picked it:
This is the first of several songs that stuck with me as I was going through a decision process that eventually resulted in me moving to Minneapolis. I felt like I didn’t know what would result from the decision, but somehow it was going to be amazing. God would reveal those results over time.

Take Another Step – Steven Curtis Chapman

Key Lyrics:
Trust God and take another step
And another step, and another step
Why I picked it:
When I first listened to this song, this song encompassed exactly what was happening in my life. Taking one step by doing something that had to be done, and then taking another step, not necessarily knowing where I would end up.

Day One – Matthew West
Key Lyrics:
I’m tired of throwing pennies in a well
I gotta do something, here goes nothin’
Why I picked it:
This was the most important song to me during the year. It reminded me that every day, we have the ability to change. Every day, we have the opportunity to go down a path that is new. This was a song I put on repeat at a time when I was struggling with decisions that were before me.

Beyond Me – TobyMac

Key lyrics:
Take me to the place where I know I need you…
Take me to your great unknown

Why I picked it:
As you might be able to guess by now, I felt that my life was headed to completely unknown territory in life – something that was “way beyond me”. I would need God in order to move forward.

Live Forever – Matthew West
Key Lyrics:
I don’t want to live for now
I want to live forever
Why I picked it:
At first I thought the lyrics could be seen as something selfish – I want to live forever. But I soon realized that these lyrics were a creative play on words. It could be read: I don’t want to live just to please myself in the moment, I want to live for the sake of the eternity that God has planned. This song gave me a dose of eternal perspective when I needed it.

We Will Not Be Shaken – Bethel Music
Key lyrics:
For we trust in our God
And through his unfailing love
We will not be shaken

Why I picked it:
Bethel Music is a band that I never heard of before 2015, but their songs are played often by my church. Once I moved to Minneapolis, I had moments of fear and anxiety about what was going to happen in the future. At one church service, this song was played, and it brought my focus back to trusting God with what was happening. It was perhaps the most memorable worship experience of the year.

It Is Well – Bethel Music
Key lyrics:
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Why I picked it:
I first heard this song when visiting a church in Minneapolis midway through the year. Later in the year, my church played it, and it was another great moment of worship. No matter what was going on in my life and what was going to happen in this new setting, it is well. God is there through it all.

Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young & Free
Key lyrics:
When I’m lost your pursue me
Lift my head to see your glory

Why I picked it:
This was an appropriate song to end the year with, confirmed by a conversation I recently had with a friend that had been spiritually “lost” for over five years. Through different events over the past year, God “pursued” him, and turned his life completely around.

For sake of length, I’m going to summarize three other songs that provided some significant memory about the year:

Closer  Hillsong Worship – A song I played during an audition for a worship band at my church near Minneapolis.

Ain’t Nobody (Till You’re Loved) – Sidewalk Prophets – A song I found a lot of joy in after hearing it at a concert.

You Will Never Run – Rend Collective – A song I focused on during voice lessons and also introduced to a youth group I play worship music for.

Each year I wonder if there will continue to be songs that will make an impact on me. But since I started making these lists in 2013, the number of songs on the lists have increased each year. I can’t necessarily expect that the trend will continue, but I can absolutely expect that God will continue to change me and challenge me going into 2016.

Posted in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Worldview Is Like Christmas


Today is Christmas. Today, millions of people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a historical figure who changed the world about 2,000 years ago. And today, I made the connection that my worldview is very much like Christmas. Without Jesus, it falls apart.

To continue a series about my experience at the RZIM Academy, I wanted to share a written assignment we had during the course. For this assignment, we were asked to summarize our worldview, explaining the main components that make up the way we see the world.

Here is what I submitted as my worldview summary, with a few edits based on feedback from the rest of the class:

My Christian worldview revolves around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These three things reveal aspects of the world we live in. Jesus’ life showed us that the God who created the Universe came down in human form and lived a perfect life on Earth. Jesus taught that we cannot live a life of perfection. We all do immoral things that cause us to fall short of perfection, which the Bible classifies as “sin”. This sin separates us from the perfect God, and must be dealt with before we can truly know God.

Jesus’ death shows us that he did something about this problem of sin. He sacrificed himself by being killed on a roman cross, which is described by historical sources as an extremely cruel form of punishment. He took the punishment that we deserved for our sin onto himself. As a result, anyone who trusts in Jesus for that sacrifice will be forgiven of their sins, and will be able to know the perfect God on a personal level.

Jesus’ resurrection reveals our destiny. By the resurrection, I am talking about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his death.  It is reasonable to think this claim is true, since it is the best explanation for the historical evidence surrounding the event.

If it is true, that means there is life beyond death, and Jesus has something to do with it.  When Jesus was living, he said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (or God) except through me”.  Jesus taught that people who follow him will also rise from the dead and will be with God for eternity.  In the meantime, they receive the Holy Spirit, a guide who allows them to experience the presence of God in their daily lives. Those that do not follow Jesus will be separated from God for eternity.

Posted in Christianity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment