Monday, August 27, 2012

Spiritual Gifts

Have you ever wondered what your spiritual gifts are? I think about mine all the time. I can remember as a kid that I was always fascinated and intrigued by the idea of a spiritual gift. I loved to read the passges in the Bible about them to try to figure mine out. I remember dreaming of being able to heal all the sick people just by touching them, and I wanted to be able to perform miracles that would lead people to Christ. Oh, how I dreamed of what my spiritual gifts would be someday! I wanted to be able to call fire down from heaven like Elijah, and I wanted to be able to pray that the sun and moon would stand still. I dreamed of being able to speak in different languages like they did in the New Testament, or being able to cast demons out of possessed people.

I essentially looked at spiritual gifts like they were superheroes' powers. I thought people in the Bible with the extreme spiritual gifts, like people who could heal, were super cool and I looked up to them. I remember wanting to be like them someday.

As I've gotten older, not much as changed. My understanding of spiritual gifts has deepened and matured, yes. But I still look up to those Bible characters like they were Spiderman or Batman. I'm still wide-eyed over the people in the Bible who could heal people and cast demons out. And I wish I could make oil multiply out of nothing (2 Kings 4), make axes float in water (2 Kings 6), or see visions from God (Acts 10).

But like I said, my understanding of spiritual gifts has matured a lot since I was a kid. God has been teaching me this summer about the importance of discovering and utilizing my spiritual gifts. He's been teaching me about spiritual gifts because I got a little prideful at the start of the summer and didn't think that I needed to keep studying my Bible, praying, blogging, or teaching. I was on such a spiritual high that I got high off my own pride. But pride definitely comes before the fall. And I fell hard. I've felt so distant and far from God this summer.

As I was talking with my girlfriend about it earlier this month, she suggested that you could compare your relationship with God to making money. She said that if you work really hard and end up filthy rich, you can be tempted to stop working, to kick back and relax, and enjoy your money. But if you do that for too long, you'll eventually run out of money because you haven't been working. And that's what happened with me and God. I got so close to Him that I took that for granted. I began to slack off. I stopped pursuing Him because I didn't think I needed to anymore. I opened my Bible less and less, and listened to worship music less and less. I thought about Him less and less, and gave less and less time and money to my church. And the result? I became spiritually bankrupt. I was so dry and felt separated from God.

This summer, I learned the hard way that when I ignore my spiritual gifts, I am basically ignoring God. He has gifted me with all of my gifts and talents, and He has given me time and money and resources. But I neglected them.

Since God woke me up, I've had a renewed hunger for learning about my gifts. I've been reading and rereading 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Romans 12:4-8; these are the main passages on spiritual gifts in the Bible. I've also retaken a couple spiritual gift tests that I took in high school. With a new appreciation for their importance, I've been looking at what my gifts are now and thinking and praying about what kind of career God wants me to pursue. You see, I've learned that your spiritual gifts can be a huge aid in figuring out what career to pursue. I'm a Freshman in college now, and I'd love to figure out what I want to do with my life.

Throughout high school, I felt like God has been calling me to become some sort of a pastor. I felt that calling over three years ago, and it's only gotten stronger since. I've kept it on the downline, however, because it's something I wanted to be sure of before I came out and said it. I've had this fear that people will think I'm shallow, arrogant, or cliche if I  said I wanted to be a pastor. I struggled with this fear for years, and I could never get over it. But this summer, God grew me out of it and I realized that who cares what other people think? If God calls me to do something, why should I care about how people will think about me? That should be the last thing on my mind! My focus should have been and is now on the fact that I believe God wants me to be some kind of a pastor.

My gifts, according to two spiritual gift tests, are teaching, administration, serving, giving, exhortation, wisdom, and leadership. All of these are great gifts to have in a pastor, and I know that God has given me these gifts for a reason. I believe that reason is to be some kind of pastor. I'm not quite sure what kind yet, whether a pastor of a church, a traveling preacher, a speaker/author, or what. I get swallowed up and overwhelmed by the possibilities, so I'm leaving that up to God. He will reveal His will in His timing. Until then, I'm going to take classes in college and prepare to be some sort of a pastor someday.

I'm still the same wide-eyed kid who thinks spiritual gifts are as cool as superhero powers. I still sometimes wish and hope that I can heal people by touching them just like I wish and hope I'll get bitten by a radioactive spider and get super cool spider powers. And I learned this summer that ignoring your spiritual gifts is tantamount to ignoring God. I can't stand being far from God, and so I plan on exercising and utilizing my spiritual gifts as much as possible. And I pray that I'll never forget how important they are.
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." ~Jesus, Luke 12

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Power of Words

If there is one passage in the Bible that always convicts me when I read it, it's the part in James 3 that talks about taming the tongue. That passage never fails to get me. The Bible says that God's Word is like a double-edged sword, cutting through flesh and muscle straight to the bone, and that's exactly what James 3 does to me every time I read it.

James 3:5-6 says, "... the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person..." The reason that hits me hard is because I have always been guilty of speaking before thinking. I tend to say things I don't mean and things I regret because I get angry. I get angry and I forget to think about what I say before I say it.

Controlling my tongue is hard because when I get mad, I want to speak my mind and say what I think. But that's almost never a good idea. Words have so much power. With words, we can build each other up and tear each other down. We can praise our heavenly King, and curse other men, who are made in His image. We can spread the Gospel and spread slander and gossip. We can worship Jesus and we can curse Him.

It truly is amazing the impact we can have on people with our words. I have used my tongue to encourage people and it feels so good when I do, but I've also learned you can quickly lose friends with your tongue, too. I have wounded many friends and lost a few because of a short temper or a rude comment. I wish I had learned by now to just hold my tongue when I'm angry. I have hurt so many friends because I spoke out of anger. And if there was a way I could make it up to everyone I have hurt with my tongue, I would. But what is so difficult is that you can always ask for forgiveness and take back what you said, but the fact you said it still stands. Proverbs 12:18 wisely states, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." And what bites is that you can rarely heal someone with your tongue once you've cut them with it. They may forgive, but  it can be harder to forget.

The good news is that pleasant words are just as hard to forget. I'm sure you can think back to a time when someone spoke a strong word of encouragement to you. Those words stick with you. Proverbs says that "pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." And it's my goal to adopt a tongue of encouragement and of kindness, a tongue of pleasant words and of honey. I want to stop using words that are mean, harsh, and rude, and to hold my tongue when I am mad. I want to be a man of wisdom, to use words with restraint, to think before I speak, and to speak with kindness and not with malice. I desire to please God with my words and to glorify Him with my lips in all of my conversations. I want to be known as an encourager and a peacemaker, and to build people up with my tongue instead of tearing them down.

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." ~James 1:19-20

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hungry For Time With God

I think it'd be safe to say that many Christians struggle with spending time alone with God. We get so caught up with the business of daily life that we can often forget to read our Bibles or to spend time in prayer, or we spend a very small amount of time reading or praying and check it off our check-lists. I know I am guilty of struggling with that here lately. I've always been so good about reading my Bible and spending time in prayer, but this summer, it's been a challenge for me.

Between prom, college orientation, high school graduation, work, church, camp, vacations, youth trips, and all of the other good things in my life, I let the things of this world distract me from His word. Somehow I got out of habit of faithfully studying the Word each day. I had always prided myself in that. I had always been so good at reading my Bible. It came so easily and so naturally. And I felt so close to God while doing it. But like working out and going on a diet, if you miss a few days, it's so hard to get back into it. And I missed way more than a few days. I honestly went all of May and June and part of July before truly getting back into the Word. Yeah, I read my Bible almost every single day. But did I ever truly read it? No, I just read a chapter or two to check it off my to-do list. It became a ritual, not a habit. And my spiritual life really suffered. You can tell simply by looking at how many posts I had in December-February compared to April-June.

Thankfully, in July, God really convicted me about it. And I slowly began to get back into the habit. It was tough, because I honestly felt like I was wasting my time. Not because reading the Bible is a waste of time, but because I felt like I was getting nothing out. It was so discouraging. It had always come naturally and easily, and I would get so much out of it. But I knew that the long-term benefits were worth it. I was so spiritually dry but so hungry at the same time. I wanted God so desperately! And I was sick of feeling dry and washed out.

So I had to get back into the habit. I had to rebuild the muscle that I had lost, and lose the fat that I had gained. You see, in order to get into a good habit of daily spending time with God, you have to be disciplined, committed, and hungry. Reading your Bible is like building muscle; the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more you grow. And it's also like being on a diet; staying committed and focused can be a challenge, but you will find that the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term costs and that's what you have to keep your focus on. And I can honestly say that I was very hungry and very committed, and that led to me being disciplined. And I'm working to get back to being in a habit again. I've well over the last week or two. I'm exercising and building my spiritual muscles and losing my spiritual fat.

Also, I have struggled with spending enough time with God. After fifteen or twenty minutes, I wouldn't really feel God telling me anything, and I'd get discouraged. But I once heard it said that if you haven't gotten anything out of a quiet time, you haven't sat long enough yet. And I believe that statement is so true. If you've read your Bible for twenty minutes and still don't feel like God has spoken to you or shown you anything, sit for twenty more. And if you still feel nothing, sit for twenty more. And twenty more. And twenty more. And twenty more. If you are hungry enough, you will spend as long as it takes to hear from Him. Personally, my best quiet times often last between forty and sixty minutes. Now I know that not everyone has that time in their day. But if you're hungry for Him, you'll find the time. You'll find it somehow, because you know that to know Christ is the most important thing in your life, and it's worth losing all else to gain.

Now I would like to make something clear, and I say this entirely from experience: there is a reason it is called a quiet time. If you want to hear from God, I promise that you will most often find Him in silence. So when you're trying to have a quiet time, take out the earbuds and pause your music.

If you want to hear from God, find a place that is quiet and distraction-free. Find a closet, an unused room, even a car. Clear your mind, and then open up the Word. Start talking to Him. Start listening for Him. Sit in silence and let Him guide your thoughts, and you'll be surprised to find that He really will talk to you.

You see, as well-intentioned as we can be about it, listening to music while we are trying to spend time with God can be a distraction. And I speak from experience. I tend to focus more on the music than I do on God. As great and encouraging and worshipful as worship music can be, I honestly get distracted by it more than it helps me focus. So now, when I'm trying to talk to God, when I'm trying to listen to God, and when I'm reading my Bible, I try to remove all distractions from the room so I can focus. After all, it's called a quiet time for a reason, right?

     " constant in prayer." ~Romans 12:12

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bear With Each Other

We all have those people in our lives that we find it hard to show love to. It may be someone who has hurt or betrayed us. It could be someone who hasn't met our expectations. It could be a family member we're tired of putting up with. It could be an authority that we are tired of submitting to. It could be someone who is super annoying. And sometimes, we can even chose to not show love to someone just because we know their past.

The reality is that it's in our human nature to pick and chose who we love. We naturally only want to show love to those who love us back. There's less risk, less pain, and less effort when we do that. The truth is that we don't want to forgive those who have wronged us, and we don't want to love those who don't love us. And we do it because of pride. We are so quick to hold others' sins against them, yet so fast to expect the Lord to forgive us for our sins. But that's not how it works. We can't hold grudges and not forgive others and expect God to treat us differently. 

I know that as hard as it is, we have to be able to forgive others when they sin against us. In Matthew 6, Jesus says, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." And that's what we have to keep our focus on. I want to be forgiven for every sin that I have ever committed, but I need to be able to forgive others when they sin against me if I want that to happen.

It's also worth noting that just like we should forgive others for their sins, we should also not judge them for their sins. It's important to not judge others for their imperfections, but instead to love them through their mistakes. We are imperfect ourselves, so what gives us the right to judge others for their imperfections? I love how Paul puts it in Colossians 3:13: "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." I love how he says to bear with each other, and I love how he says to forgive people for whatever it is they did and move on. 

But that's rarely an easy thing to do. My flesh is always sure to put up a fight. Bearing with each other can get messy and uncomfortable. It's so much easier to just pass judgment on their failures and to not put up with them. But that's not what Christ calls His children to do. He calls us to put up with each other when we go through highs and lows, ups and downs. I'll be the first to admit that I am not very good at that. I am so quick to judge a brother or sister in Christ for the sin that's in their life. And when it comes to evaluating my own life, I tend to be much slower to judge. It's funny how that works, isn't it? I am much more forgiving and understanding towards myself than I ever am towards other people. Of that, I am deeply ashamed. I wish that I was better at loving people despite their failures. I want to be better at forgiving people instead of holding grudges against them. But that is something I have been working on and praying about lately.

See, I know that people will sin against me. I know they will let me down and disappoint me. The will hurt me. They will betray me. And that's part of life. But I think we often forget that. We tend to forget that we are imperfect humans who tend to make pretty big messes. And I am not innocent of that. I've made more than my share of mistakes in life. And that's why I chose to forgive others: because I want them to forgive me, and because I want God to forgive me. If I want to be forgiven for my sins, I have to be able to forgive others their sins against me. It only makes sense, doesn't it? If I can't forgive my own Christian brothers and sisters, why should I receive forgiveness myself?

I am reminded of Matthew 7, where Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I am always so convicted when I read this passage. It's just such a blunt truth that Jesus doesn't event think about coating over. He delivers His message with frank honesty, and it never fails to hit home with me. In the same way I judge others, I too will be judged. And the measure I use for others, it will be measured to me. In other words, if you are gracious and forgiving, then you will see grace and forgiveness. But if you cannot forgive others, and if you unashamedly judge others for their shortcomings, or even what you see as a shortcoming, then so you will be dealt with in the same manner.

And so, the option given to us is to judge and hold a grudge, or to show grace and forgiveness. And how we treat other people is how we will be treated, both by men and by God. And that's why we are called to "bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another" and to "forgive as the Lord forgave you." So bear with each other. We aren't perfect people. We will make mistakes, we will be stupid, we will hurt each other, we will let each other down. But the Bible says to love each other unconditionally and to love each other from the heart.

So instead of putting up walls, instead of judging, instead of holding grudges, instead of ending friendships over stupid disputes, can't we learn to get along? Can't we learn to bear with each other in our weaknesses? Can't we learn to love each other unconditionally? None of us are perfect, and if we can't learn to bear with one another, we will all end up alone.

     "Love bears all things..."
     ~1 Corinthians 13:7

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Serving God Through The Wreckage

Have you ever felt like your life has crashed in on itself? Have you ever wondered what God could be thinking, why He chose to shake your life up so much? I think a lot of times, we tend to look at the bad things in our life as punishment from God. If we get fired, if someone we love dies, if we are betrayed by someone we trusted, if we lose our financial security, if a family member gets cancer, we tend to look at the situation with a negative attitude.

We get frustrated with the stress and uncomfortableness of the situation, and we often turn our angry and frustration towards God. And I'm as guilty as anyone else. I do it too. It's so easy to get mad at God when things don't go my way.

I think that in our finiteness, we aren't able to understand how God works. The way God does things, the plans He has for us, and the reasons He allows bad things to happen are beyond our human comprehension. That's why verses like Romans 8:28, which says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose," and Jeremiah 29:11, which says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'" become such cornerstones in our lives. These verses are great reminders that even though we don't understand why God does everything the way He does it, He is in complete control, and He does everything for the good of those who love Him. When I read these two verses, I am so humbled and comforted because they remind me that good will come out of every situation I go through, no matter how horrible and terrible it may seem.

I feel like reading about the shipwreck in Acts 27 is a perfect illustration of this. In Acts 27, we find Paul caught yet again between a rock and a hard place. He is a prisoner on board of a ship of the Imperial Regiment of the Roman army. He is being taken to Rome to appear before Caesar to appeal the false accusations made against him. But on their long journey, winter sets in, which means the sea is very dangerous to be on. Waves toss back and forth violently and harsh storms ravage the waters. The ship Paul is a prisoner on finds itself in the middle of one of these storms. Battling the storm for fourteen days, Acts 27:33 says that the ship's crew hadn't eaten for the entire two weeks.

You'd think that Paul would be pretty put out about the situation. If I were him, I'd be thinking, "Okay, first I get arrested for preaching the Gospel, then I get falsely accused about stuff I didn't say, and now I'm on my way to a likely death in Rome, but low and behold, I also have to get caught in this storm with little chance of survival!" But as we read this story, we see that Paul had the exact opposite attitude. As the story develops, we come to find out that Paul was the most calm and the most level-headed man on the entire ship. Throughout the course of the journey, Paul proved himself trustworthy and a good leader, winning over the crew of the ship. And Acts mentions several times how much the Roman centurion guarding Paul trusted him. He, a prisoner, was able to take charge and lead the men to safety.

What I find really cool about this story is that Paul says that an angel came to him in a dream and said that the Lord had plans for Paul to appear in Rome, and graciously promised to deliver all of the men with Paul to safety. How awesome is that! And so with God's guidance, Paul was able to guide the men in safely reaching land. Their plan was to run ashore, but the ship got caught on some reefs, and they had to abandon ship as the waves began to tear it apart. And just like God promised, all 276 men aboard that ship survived. It was incredible! And it was all God.

But it doesn't stop there. They shipwrecked on a tiny island called Malta. Luke, the writer of Acts, recalls how generous and friendly the islanders were to them, showing them "unusual kindness" by building a fire for them and welcoming them in because of the rain. Now something interesting happens next. Acts 28 says that Paul went to gather brushwood to toss onto the fire, and as he put the brushwood on the fire, a snake slithered out of the brush because of the heat and bit Paul on the hand and fastened himself on. Even the islanders saw the horrible irony. Acts 28:4 says, "When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, 'This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.'" 

If it were me, I'd be so discouraged and put out! How disheartening, to be bitten by a mere snake! But that isn't how Paul handles the situation. Acts 28:5-6 says, "But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god."

God had promised Paul that he would appear in Rome before Caesar, and I fully believe that Paul handled both the shipwreck and the snake situation so well because He knew that no matter what he went through, God had promised to bring good out of the situation. He trusted God to get him through the rough times and God never let Paul down. 

And check out what happened on Malta after the snake incident. Luke writes, "There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed." If Paul had never been shipwrecked, he would never have gone to Malta. Paul died later in Rome, and if it weren't for the shipwreck, that little island called Malta would never have been reached with the Gospel. And if Paul had not been bitten by that snake, the islanders would probably not have noticed that there was something different about Paul, and they probably wouldn't have treated the crew as well as they did.

So if you are feeling like God has shipwrecked your life, my question to you is this: Is your trust and confidence in Him, or do your actions show that you doubt His sovereignty and the unparalleled wisdom of His plans? If your life has been shipwrecked, and if you've been tossed around and shaken up, are you sitting there nursing your wounds and patting your own back, or are you making the most of the opportunity to further His kingdom and to be a light in a dark situation?

When your life gets wrecked, I encourage you to look for ways you can serve God through the wreckage that you never could before. Just as Paul would never have reached Malta, what impact can you make, what people can you reach, who's life can you change because of the storm and the shipwreck that you have been through? 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sing to Him a New Song

Can I be honest? I get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again in church. And if we're all honest, I think we all feel that way. The truth is that when worship leaders play the same songs over and over again, the songs get old. And it doesn't matter how good a song is, how catchy the beat is, or how meaningful the lyrics are. If a song is overplayed, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths. And the problem I have with modern day radio and modern day worship leaders is that they overplay and thus kill really good songs. At the moment, I'm thinking of How He Loves, Our God, Revelation Song, Mighty To Save, How Great Is Our God, From the Inside Out, Indescribable, and Forever Reign, to name just a few.

Am I alone in wishing that the worship leaders at our churches decided to play worship songs that are new, fresh, and up-to-date? I mean, today in my church, we played How He Loves and the Heart of Worship, among others. As good as these songs are and as much as these lyrics once meant something to me, I'm tired of hearing them constantly in church. I have heard them so many times now that they no longer hold the same the meaning.

There is a reason the psalmist wrote six times something like, "Sing to the Lord a new song" (Ps. 33:3; Ps. 40:3; Ps. 96:1; Ps. 98:1; Ps. 144:9; Ps. 149:1), emphasis mine. So if David, the writer of these Psalms, the great lyricist, the great songwriter, the man after God's own heart, said to sing new songs to the Lord, don't you think there's something to it? If you play the same song over and over again, if you preach the same sermon over and over again, if you watch the same movie over and over again, if you go to the same restaurant over and over again, if you play the same video game over and over again, if you read the same book over and over again, it's bound to get old. There's no way around that, and there's no denying that. If you do something so often that it becomes routine, you'll probably end up losing your passion for it. You have to keep your experiences new and fresh.

If you don't sing new songs in church, your worship experience will become routine and eventually, lifeless. You have to keep your worship music fresh and new, otherwise you will eventually get tired of it and lose your passion for it, or worse, for the One you're singing about.

Now I know that in their defense, worship leaders would tell me that they play songs that everyone knows because, well, everyone knows them. And every good worship leader knows it is so much easier and safer to just play songs that everyone knows, right? (Note the sarcasm.) To this I would say: even though they all know this song now, there was a time when no one knew this song and someone had to teach it to them; what songs are they missing out on now because you aren't leading them in new songs?

There's really no excuse for worship leaders to have a small repertoire of songs that they play.  The truth is that there are a lot of incredible worship artists out there who are putting out some absolutely amazing worship songs. Just listen to Hillsong Live and Hillsong United, Kristian Stanfill, Elevation Worship, John Mark McMillian, Fee, Passion, Christy Nockles and Kari Jobe and you will find some amazing songs, songs that aren't hard to learn and that can easily be played in your church whether you have a full band or not.

So people, we don't have to put up with routine, mundane, and boring worship services! Get out of the rut and play some new stuff! I am tired of staying quiet about this and putting up with it because it isn't something we as Christians should have to deal with. To me, it's common sense that if you overplay worship songs, they lose their meaning. Let's not cheapen our worship experiences with overplayed, cliche Christian worship songs. It's high time the worship in our churches and in our youth groups changed for the better.

We should approach the throne with a hunger for His presence and a hunger to glorify His name with our voices and our instruments. We should have a spirit of excellence about us, a desire to lay our all down at the cross, both in heart and in performance. To cheapen the King with half-hearted worship and half-hearted effort is a sin. It's a half-hearted effort to praise and glorify and worship a God who deserves more than what we can offer Him. So how can we be okay with settling for just-okay worship songs and just-like-last-week's worship services?

     "Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy."
     ~Psalm 33:3

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Being Far From God

It's been over two months since I posted, but I'm back! You might have been wondering where I have been and why I haven't been posting, and the truth is that I have no reasonable excuse for my absence. Back in April, I began to struggle with inspiration for posts. I became discouraged and decided that taking a leave of absence would be the best thing. I thought taking a break from my blog would somehow improve my relationship with God.

In all honesty, I was beginning to feel dry. In the month of May, I posted only one post; normally I post eight to twelve per month. I also stopped reading my Bible faithfully; I still read it every day, but I read it with the purpose of checking it off my checklist. And one thing I've learned is that when you stop studying and reading and memorizing the Bible, everything else in your life will start to come apart. And I simply got out of that habit of really reading my Bible each day. When that happened, I began to lose touch with God. I felt very far from Him. And that scared me. I'm not used to feeling dry or far from God. When I prayed, I didn't feel Him talking back. It felt like my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling. I felt distant from the One I was used to being very close with.

But I didn't really know what to do about it. I didn't know how to get close to God again. The problem was that I could tell something in my life was wrong, and I knew it had something to do with my relationship with God, but I couldn't quite pinpoint the problem.

But thankfully, things didn't stay that way. In July, I went to Life Action Camp (a Christian family camp) in Michigan for four weeks. I spent a week there with my family, and when my family went home, I stayed behind with my brother to work three weeks of volunteer work there at the camp. This was my fourth summer working at this camp, and our seventh camping as a family. Each year, Life Action has not failed to both challenge and encourage me spiritually. I have grown so much over the years at Life Action, and can point to several life changing moments that have happened to me there.

And 2012 was no different. God used the speakers, the sermons, the devotionals, and my friends and authorities to speak to me. God reminded me of many truths that I had forgotten. He revealed to me some sin in my life and challenged me to deal with it. He reminded me how great and powerful and almighty He is, and how human and weak and frail I am. He reminded me how important it is to keep Him on my heart's throne, and how disastrous it is when I let the things of this world rule my heart instead of the One who created this world. He told me that to ignore my spiritual gifts was to ignore the One who had given me my gifts and talents. And He showed me that the things I love about this life pale in comparison to how glorious and wondrous the world to come will be.

I hope you will return here to Letters From Logan over the next several weeks and months to see what God has been teaching me and how He has been growing me. I have much to write about and much to share, and I look forward to sharing it! It's my hope and prayer that you'll read my posts and get at least one thing out of each one. I'm super excited and can't wait to see what God has in store!