Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Blogger Recognition Award


Yestermonth, I was tagged for the Blogger Recognition Award, and this week seems like a good week for a blog tag—so here it is! =)

First off, I should thank Lili P. for nominating me on her blog, Good Story! You can find her Blogger Recognition Award post here with her tips for new bloggers.

I will start off with the rules ~

  1. Thank the nominator, and publish a post on your blog about receiving the Blogger Recognition Award. Make sure to provide a link to the nominator’s blog in your post. (Check!)
  2. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  3. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  4. Nominate 10-15 other bloggers for this award, and inform them of their nomination.

Ok, so how did my blog start? Well, this February, I joined the Young Writers Workshop and saw that Jaquelle Ferris, the co-founder, recommended that writers start blogs. They help you learn to write consistently, she said. I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I started my own. From there, I winged it. So far, I have enjoyed blogging a lot, and have become much more consistent, plus I discovered that I like writing Christian living. I do not regret my decision one bit!

Two pieces of advice for new bloggers… I guess I’ll say this:

#1: You’ll figure a lot of it out as you go, so don’t be afraid to wing it.

Sure, you can carefully plan four years-worth of blogging before you start, and try to become famous. But if you do that, I think you’re missing the point. You may not even start your blog in the first place! 

At least in my perspective, blogging is a learning experience. It is an excellent way to help writers figure out what they like to write, and experiment with their words a bit. They are also helpful for reaching readers, but at the heart of the blog’s purpose is to learn new things—mastering language, and also gaining experience with email lists and tech-y stuff. 

#2: Have fun with it! 

Be creative, try new things. Enjoy each step along the way. Don’t take it too seriously. Write what you want to write, what you are passionate about—not whatever you are supposed to do next on your blogging schedule. Savor the experience. Play with the fonts. Experiment. Learn.

If you aren’t having fun, there’s something wrong with your approach to blogging. ;)

What’s next? Nominations! 10-15 is a lot, so I’m just going to take the traditional blogger’s shortcut for blog tags ~

If YOU have a blog and want to do this blog tag, I nominate YOU!

By the way, this blog is going on hiatus for a little while. I am gearing up to switch over to Wordpress and planning some fun stuff like giveaways and guest posting to go with that, so I'll be taking a break from blogging here. To stay updated, be sure to sign up for my newsletter on the sidebar to the right if you haven't already.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

6 Things I Learned Leading a 6-Week Bible Study (Part 2)


This spring, Hannah and I looked back upon a Bible study we were both apart of that spiritually affected us deeply. I’d been in a couple other Bible studies since then, and I knew how much power they had to make you think in ways you hadn’t before. 

Then we saw a need and an opportunity. There were many 9-to-12-year-old girls in our church, including our sisters, who hadn’t been in a Bible study before. And of course, Hannah and I had plenty of school to keep us busy, but summer break was on its way. Why not, just for the summer, lead a Bible study for the younger girls around us?

Last week, I shared about the first three weeks of leading my experience leading a girls’ summer Bible study. This week, I’ll finish up and share the last three things I learned.

Hopefully, some of these reflections will either amuse you or be applicable advice for you if you lead a ministry!

Week #4: The fourth week went smoothly to an average extent. We had mostly gotten the hang of things and gotten into a routine: game, testimony, study, prayer, snacks and chat and maybe another game… Except one of those items was not in the right spot at all.

What I Learned: Never, under no circumstances, hand over the sugar before the study. If you are ministering to kids, beware the pre-study chocolate. It makes the distracting kids even more distracting.

Week #5: The next week went smoothly, too. We had two college students over to share their testimonies, and they played a game called “Do you love your neighbor?” with us all until all the girls had arrived. Then we did our study, prayed, had snacks, and chatted.

What I Learned: Be flexible and have fun. For example, I had planned out a different game, but the girls got bored of it pretty quickly, so we played “Do you love your neighbor?” instead. Plans change. Roll with it. Which brings me to my next point…

Week #6: Funny story--for the longest time, I thought there were six chapters in James. So the sixth week, I planned to go over James 5, and then I planned an extra meeting for the nonexistent James 6. But on the week I planned for James 5, there was a bug making its way through several families, so I ended up canceling that one. Since I had already planned an extra week, and there was no James 6 to study, we got to finish James that week instead. 

I also planned an extra hour, so we had fun with it. Hannah and I provided ice cream, and the girls brought toppings. That combined with the games made for a pretty fun end.

What I learned: Plan an extra meeting! It will come in handy!

And I have one bonus tip left for you!

Bonus Tip: Find a partner to lead your Bible study with you! Even though I did more of the study stuff, just having Hannah there for me to do half of the hosting helped a lot in itself. Plus her snack-bringing and pool party-planning. ;) A partner makes leading a Bible study much more fun!

Also, I gave out a few copies of a simple poll at the end, and I thought you might find the results interesting. 

  • The girls’ favorite parts of the Bible study were the testimonies, the studies, snacks, and the games. “Basically everything,” to quote one of them.
  • Most couldn’t say anything they disliked.
  • The girls’ answers differ on what changes they would make. Everything from “more Bible study” to “more snacks” to “more babies”!
  • When I asked what book of the Bible we should study next year, many thought we should do something in the Old Testament. Hmm...
  • On a scale of one to ten, my sister rated it an eight, a couple girls rated it a ten, and the other three rated it way more than ten. 

I found it very interesting that the girls want to study a book in the OT. I’m thinking we’ll do Ruth, if not Daniel or Esther. What do you think? Whatever next year is like, I’m already looking forward to it!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

6 Things I Learned Leading a 6-Week Bible Study (Part 1)


A few of you may know that I co-led a Bible study over the summer with my friend Hannah. Beforehand, we planned out everything and even emailed a few people for advice. Then we invited all the 9 to 12-year-old girls at our church to come to our houses every other week to study the book of James. Hannah was in charge of the fun stuff (like the pool party!), and I was in charge of the study stuff. 

As the summer passed and we gained more experience, I learned A LOT. I learned something new every week we met. Today I’m going to share my tips, which apply to leading Bible studies for young girls, but also may help with teaching a Sunday school class, or maybe even an adult Bible study.

Week #1: For my Bible study, I decided to set aside the first meeting for introduction. Hannah and I shared our testimonies, we did an icebreaker, we watched the James Bible Project video (SIDE NOTE: IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED A BIBLE PROJECT VIDEO BEFORE, GO CHECK THEM OUT!), and studied some background stuff on James.

What I learned: Some girls will be too quiet, and some will be too distracting. This problem is reduced by taking turns talking. At the first meet, four girls showed up, and exactly half were too quiet, and half were too distracting (both were extroverted and sisters of a co-leader). The icebreaker, however, went really well for everyone, because everybody picked a card with a Bible name and meaning and took turns sharing why they chose it. The quiet girls got a chance to talk, and the distracting girls had to talk about a specific subject.

Week #2: Starting the second week, we had a different lady from our church visit each meet to share her testimony. The girls loved hearing the first ladies’ testimony, and every testimony afterward. We also had tea, to make it extra fun. However, the study part of it was rather dull.

What I learned: The goal of a Bible study is to study the Bible. This may seem kind of obvious, but my perspective was a bit skewed. In my youth group Bible studies, I really enjoy the small group time where we split up, boys and girls, and go over discussion questions. So, I wanted my Bible study to be a lot like small group time. I brought a ton of homemade James 1 discussion questions and was set to dive into a deep conversation. But I soon learned that if you try to force people to talk, then you may end up having to do all the talking yourself. Instead, make your focus to study the Bible at your Bible study.

Week #3: The third week might have been one of the best ones of all. One of the factors of its excellence was that the lady who came to share her testimony requested to stay for the whole study, rather than just stopping by. She wasn’t intrusive, yet her presence seemed to keep the distracting girls from goofing off so much. The other factor was that I put together a James 2 study booklet for all the girls to fill out.

What I learned: Booklets are very handy! I made a three-page worksheet booklet and printed and stapled one per girl plus an answer guide for me. Then I split the girls into teams and they searched for the answers for the fill-in-the-blanks in their Bibles. This really helped! The booklets were so much better and even easier than discussion questions! If you make your study time interactive and focused on the Word of God, you will do well! (Let me know if you’d like to see my especially-geared-for-youth-homemade-James-study-guides for reference, or even if you’d like to steal them for your own Bible study.) ;)

Next week, I will share about the other three weeks, but for now, I’ll end with a few bonus tips.

Bonus Tip #1: Schedule enough meetings for your Bible study so that the first one can be all introduction. Go over the author, context, themes, when, and where of the book you are starting. And don’t forget to watch its Bible Project video!

Bonus Tip #2: Invite guest speakers. This might sound over-the-top, but if you invite people from your church to share their testimonies, for one, you won’t have to do all the teaching. It’ll also be very encouraging for the people in your Bible study, I’m sure. My church has a Google Group for the women members, so all I had to do was put up a “wanted ad”, wait for ladies to volunteer, and schedule who goes to what Bible study.

Bonus Tip #3: Send out some emails to experienced Bible study leaders and ask for advice! I sent out several questions to the leaders of Bible studies I’ve been in, and their advice helped me a lot as I got started.

Starting a Bible study is an excellent way to minister to younger people. I know that the Bible studies I’ve been in have spiritually helped me a lot. I would highly recommend that you grab a friend and start your own!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Does God Call Us to be... Extroverts??



A couple of weeks ago, I visited a different church with my family. My own church I normally go to is awesome and rock-solid, though I may be a tiny bit biased since I’ve been going there all my life. In my mind, no church could possibly be more reliable and faithful to the Word of God as my church is. So, when I’m visiting a church that’s new to me, I tend to keep my guard up for anything I may disagree with. It’s kind of a bad habit since I’m supposed to be there to learn, but it is still good to be vigilant.

Anyways, it was a lovely church, and very friendly; similar to my church in quite a few ways. The sermon was great! (Of course, it doesn’t match up to my pastors’ sermons.) ;) Something struck me as very thought-provoking.

The sermon was on being part of a church body. The pastor started out with an illustration based on an article he read (this one, I believe). He said that according to the article, where you sit in an airplane is a big deal. Aisle people are flighty introverts and window people are privacy-valuing dreamers. The very tiny leftover percentage are middle seat people. Extroverts--“considerate,” and “highly evolved”. The point of his illustration was that everyone in the church should be a middle seat Christian.

A question arose for me: Does God call us to be extroverts? I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh with my dad, so I was skeptical. To answer this question, we must answer a few other questions first.

What are extroverts? And while we’re at it, What are introverts? Some quick definitions for those of you who aren’t familiar with the whole introvert-extrovert terminology:

Extroverts are energized by being with people. They are often seen are outgoing, social, and expressive.

Introverts are energized by time alone. They’re seen as quiet, aloof people; lone wolves. I am an example of an introvert. =)

Now, from what I’ve observed, there are pretty much two viewpoints you can take on the question, Does God call us to be extroverts?.

Viewpoint A: Yes. Being like Christ absolutely means being an extrovert, even if you don’t like it. You need to fellowship with anybody and everybody. You need to always be in the crowd, building relationships.

Well, actually, Christ liked to get his time alone too… (Luke 5:15-16, ESV: But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.)

Viewpoint B: No. If you don’t fellowship with others, that isn’t your sin nature. That’s your personality. You do you.

I don’t really agree with this one either. Just take a look at what we know that God calls us to do:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Ok, introverts can “consider how to stir one another to love and good works”.  And some are great at encouraging, especially one-on-one. But, if you look at it from a specific angle, “not neglecting to meet together” falls under “socializing,” aka “extroverting.”

This passage, combined with Luke 5:15-16, falls under another viewpoint.

Viewpoint C: Know your personality and play off your strengths. Don’t exhaust yourself--that makes it a lot easier to fall into temptation. But take advantage of your church, and build friendships too. If you call God’s commands for the Christian “extroverting”, then yes, you are called to extrovert. But God also calls us introverts to be introverted, and spend time meditating on the Word and in prayer. Even Jesus got time alone.

This is my viewpoint. As an introvert, it is super important to understand that God calls us to fellowship. God calls us to go outside our comfort zones if we need to and do some hard things. If we cut ourselves off from all other human beings, we are neglecting some important commands. 

But it is also crucial to know that God created your personality, and He can use your introversion for good, too. Of course, your personality is no excuse for being selfish or neglecting to fellowship. Recognize and fight those sins. At the same time, be the introvert you are. Embrace one-on-one friendships. Be independent, thoughtful, observant, and considerate. Own your personality.

What do you think about this subject? Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Daniel and the Veggies: Don't Settle for Low Standards



As I mentioned in the last post, I recently read the book of Daniel. I’m guessing that the word “Daniel”  immediately makes you think of the story of “Daniel and the Lions Den”. But the book of Daniel is actually filled up with many other little, lesser-known stories. Last week, I told you about Nebuchadnezzar. This week is--no, it’s not “Daniel and the Lions Den.” It is “Daniel and the Veggies.”

In chapter 1 of Daniel, we read that the king of Babylon takes over Jerusalem and assigns his chief eunuch, Ashpenaz, to gather up some “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:4, ESV.) This included Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (whom you probably know as Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego). Note that they were called “youths.” At that part of the story, they were young. I googled it, and different sources said different things, but they were probably somewhere in the range of 11-15 years old.

Anyways, in verse 5, we read, “The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” Since all the kids would need to stand before the king later on, it was probably important to Ashpenaz that they were raised right.

But for some reason, little Daniel didn’t want the king’s food. We’re not completely sure why, but it could’ve been that their food was unclean and the grapes for their wine were not grown according to a Jewish rule in Leviticus 19:23-25. It could have also been that the food was dedicated to idols, making it way more unclean than normal unclean food. Whatever the reason, little Daniel was resolved not to defile himself, so he went straight to Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch.

Ashpenaz said, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” (Verse 10.) Note the lower caps when Ashpenaz said he was afraid of his “lord”. Unlike the chief eunuch, Daniel feared the Lord (upper caps), so he didn’t stop there. 

Next, he went to the steward who was in charge of him and his friends (Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego). Daniel requested this: “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king's food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” (Verses 12 and 13.) You can see that Daniel didn’t take up the challenge just to make himself look good because he roped in his friends too!

Well, the steward listened to them and agreed to the test. What happened then? Did they get sick of veggies after three days and beg the steward for their old food back? Did the king kick them out because they weren’t doing well in their studies?

Nope, they actually looked a lot better after switching to this unusual diet. After ten days, their steward decided that they didn’t need the king’s food, so he kept giving them veggies. Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance” than all the other youth! Not only that, but God gave those four kids “learning and skill in all literature and wisdom” and even gave Daniel “understanding in all visions and dreams” (verse 17)! 

How about their meeting with the king at the end of their time there? So, the king spoke with all the youth, and he decided that Daniel and his friends really stood out from the other kids. In fact, they stood out from the whole kingdom! “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” (Verse 20.)


Here’s what I got out of Daniel’s story:
  • Daniel had a healthy conscience. He was completely resolved not to defile himself. A Christian teenager today might be tempted to settle for what all the other Christian teenagers were doing, but not Daniel. His conscience didn’t settle for the other Jewish youths’ standards. He felt the need to make a change.
  • Daniel had some initiative. When the Holy Spirit stirred up something in his heart, he actually went and did it. He didn’t just wait for a vision or a dream or the voice of God to do what he thought was right. He did it. 
  • Daniel was faithful. Even when he was so young, he wanted to serve God. He was willing to sacrifice comfort and risk doing what he thought was right, and his youth was no excuse for being unfaithful. Later on in life, he even intentionally broke a law (no praying) for God.
  • Daniel was persistent. He didn’t stop when Ashpenaz turned down his request. Daniel wasn’t afraid of Ashpenaz or even the king. He feared the True King and was determined to not do what he felt was wrong. He didn’t give up! He went to his steward, and his steward listened!

How about you? Are you willing to go above and beyond the standards of Christians around you? Do you have what it takes to make the decisions for yourself? Will you settle for what everyone else is doing when the Holy Spirit stirs up your conscience? 

A new school year is coming, and with it comes challenges. Some of you might be homeschoolers or go to Christian schools, but still, I dare you to be ready to go above and beyond. Be ready to set your spiritual standard higher than the people around you. (But don’t be a Pharisee!) Daniel was surrounded by other Jewish youth eating defiled food, but he didn’t settle for the crowd’s standard. Will you?


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Humility -- the Dreaded Article


Recently, I’ve been reading the book of Daniel. I read about a king named Nebuchadnezzar, and in chapter 4, he had a dream. “I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.” (Daniel 4:5, ESV.) He envisioned a beautiful, prosperous tree being chopped down. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream in the book of Daniel, and Daniel came and interpreted this one for the troubled king just like how he interpreted the other dream.

This time, Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “this is the interpretation, O king… you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Verses 24 to 25.) Like the tree in his dream, King Nebuchadnezzar had grown great and strong. And, like the tree, he would be humbled.

Nebuchadnezzar could’ve humbled himself. He could’ve acknowledged “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men” and worshiped God instead of himself. But a year later, he was taking a little walk on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and he said to himself, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Verse 30.) 

Uh-oh. God didn’t like that. He immediately fulfilled the king’s dream and humbled him to the level of an animal. “[Nebuchadnezzar] was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws.” 

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled… - Matthew 23:12 (ESV)

A gospel perspective on humility

Confession time: I don’t like to read about humility and putting off pride. It’s tough stuff to read about. It makes me feel bad about the low, low creature I am. I don’t even like to write about it. I was planning to write this article a week earlier, but I procrastinated. Humility isn’t pleasant.

But… (wait for it…) humility is important! (Didn’t see that coming, did you?) ;)

God is an infinitely mighty and holy God. The Creator and what He created are in two completely different categories.

To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? - Isaiah 40:18 (ESV)

We owe God a lot of respect for just who He is. And if you think about what we (and Nebuchadnezzar!) are like…

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. - Romans 3:12 (ESV)

That makes it very clear why we should be humble before God. But why should we humble ourselves before other people? In the heat of a conflict, we are prone to thoughts like, “I am better than that person in the area of such-and-such. It doesn’t matter what that person thinks about such-and-such. Why should I even listen to so-and-so?” 

Well, looking at this issue through a gospel lens, we can remember how Christ didn’t take his superiority into account before he died for all the unworthy. 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV)

After Jesus did all this and redeemed us undeserving sinners, shouldn’t we want to be like Him? If we have been saved by such a wonderful Savior, shouldn’t we strive to imitate His humility? If we forget what Christ has done for us in the moment which we want to put ourselves first, we are as bad as the Unforgiving Servant. The servant was forgiven 10,000 talents by his master, yet he wouldn’t even forgive his fellow servant 100 denarii.

The aforementioned Philippians passage goes on to say:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV)

After Jesus was brought low, God lifted Him high. We, too, will be exalted for our humility before God and others one day. You can see this pretty clearly in a number of verses--Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 3:34, Matthew 23:12, Luke 1:52, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5… Sure, humility is unpleasant, but the average American lifespan is, what, eighty years? Eternal life in heaven will be more than worth it!

Now that I think about it, I should probably tell you the end of King Nebuchadnezzar’s story, too.

At the end of the days that God was humbling the king and making him live like an animal, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his eyes to heaven and worshipped God. “...all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth…” (Verse 35.) The king finally got the idea that God was the Most High, not him. God deserved all the praise and glory, not him.

And God rewarded him for that. “At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Verses 36-37.)

Together, like Nebuchadnezzar, let’s strive to put God first and others first. Humility is found in simple everyday things. Putting others first can literally be letting them go first--waiting until after everyone else has chosen their cookie to take the tiniest one, or maybe taking on the nastiest job so your siblings don’t have to. And a practical way for you to put God first may be setting aside the start of your day to read your Bible. If you are following Christ, you’ve already taken a huge step of humility--all glory be to God!