Dear Loved One,
I wasn’t expecting to receive a divine revelation that morning as I snapped the leash onto Mak’s collar. All I intended to do was go for walk in the great outdoors. That in itself seemed heavenly enough to me.
After spending months with my neck in a brace, tottering around with a cane, due to a fall and a subsequent surgery, just walking around unencumbered on my own two feet felt like a miracle. So, with our two year-old golden retriever panting and prancing alongside me, that’s what I set out to do.
For a while things went exactly as planned. The view of the mountains was lovely that day and I soon found a hill to climb where I could enjoy the view. The hill wasn’t especially steep or dangerous. It was just a gentle upward slope, and I reached the initial crest without any problem. But from there I noticed another rise of about 20 feet.
Thinking it would offer me a better vantage point, I decided to go on up. It was not a good idea.
The leaves that lay scattered across the hillside were slick from a recent rain. They slid beneath my feet and as I took my first step upward I found it difficult to get any traction. After stopping to steady myself for a moment I tried again. I took three more steps and then suddenly realized I could no longer get my footing.
Stuck on a slippery carpet of leaves, I could neither move forward nor turn back!
The last thing I needed was another fall. So I just stood there, rigid with alarm, as I began to slide . . . slowly . . . backward . . . toward the bottom of the hill.
I didn’t slide far—only four or five feet—and I stayed upright all the way. So the end of the story wouldn’t have been very dramatic if it hadn’t been for this: While I was slipping down the slope, I received a sobering message from the Lord. I didn’t hear an audible voice, but on the inside of me His communication was clear.
Jack, you’ve been backsliding.
Even now, nearly a year later, those words bring tears to my eyes. Not because they made me felt ashamed or condemned. They didn’t. They simply humbled me and alerted me to the presence of an unperceived weakness. A weakness that my Father, in His patience and love, was warning me must be addressed.
I’d already planned to take some time that afternoon to pray. So,as I shepherded Mak back toward the house, I determined to talk toGod about this right away and find out exactly what was going on.
Spiritually Stuck and in Danger of a Fall
The paradox of being somehow “backslidden” while at the same time planning to spend the afternoon in prayer didn’t strike me as odd. I learned long ago that such seeming contradictions are common among believers. We’ve all had times when, on the outside, we appear to be going forward in our relationship with God while on the inside we’re slipping back.
At this time of year for instance, in the “dog days” of summer, we can be especially prone to it. Somewhere between the heat and the hammocks, our hearts can get drowsy and dull. We can find ourselves going through all the right motions—showing up at church, reading the Bible, and praying—without getting any spiritual traction.
We can wind up inwardly stuck and in danger of a fall.
That’s what had happened to me. I saw it that day as soon as I started to pray. As I lifted to the Lord the praises and petitions that had once been fresh and full of meaning, I suddenly realized I wasn’t really praying; I was making recitations. I was speaking out of habit instead of talking to God from my heart!
Weeping, I asked the Lord what to do, and He answered from Deuteronomy 10:
Arise, begin your journey before the people . . . What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good? . . . Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer. (vv. 11-13, 16)
Through those verses the Lord reached out and helped me! He showed me how to re-awaken my heart and arise to a fresh place of fellowship with Him. He renewed me and got me moving forward on my spiritual journey again.
Limber Up Those Muscles
He can do the same for you, loved one. If you’re feeling stuck somehow, or your heart has gotten dry and depleted, the Lord can help you step into a time of spiritual refreshing right in the middle of the “dog days” of the year!
“But Pastor Jack,” you might say. “My issues are bigger than yours were! I’m struggling with more than just not paying attention when I pray.”
That may be true. But whatever it is that has you stuck, as you draw near to God with reverence and receptivity, He will help you overcome it. He’ll show you what you can do to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” so that you can enjoy fresh and unhindered fellowship with Him.
In the process, the Holy Spirit will even help you limber up your spiritual neck muscles! Although that might sound strange, I discovered in the months following my surgery just how important it can be. After wearing a neck brace for a while, it was hard for me to bow my head. Looking up was even harder. It actually hurt.
Although my experience was physical, the spiritual analogy is clear.As Christians, we bow our heads in humility to acknowledge our dependency upon the Lord. We lift our heads to worship Him. When we neglect to do those things—either because of discomfort or impatience—we become inwardly rigid and formal. Our spiritual necks grow stiff.
I can personally testify, we all get stiff-necked at times! And I’ve found there’s no better remedy for it than genuine worship. When we worship the way God intended, it allows Him to adjust our hearts so that we can move ahead with Him freely again.
That’s why I’d like to send you my book, “The Reward of Worship: the Joy of Fellowship with a Personal God.” The truths I share in it have had a very personal impact on me. I believe they will bless you too. Along with the book, I want to send you my message on CD, “Stuck: Confessions of a Godly Stiff-Necked Backslider,” as a thank you gift for your support this month. Simply click here to send your gift securely onine.
A fresh focus on worship can revive your spirit no matter where you are right now on your spiritual journey. It can help you get closer to God—and when you’re closer to Him, every season is a wonderful time of the year!
Until I write you again, please know how much I appreciate your partnership in ministry. I love you, thank God for you, and I am committed to remaining . . .
Your (no longer stiff-necked) Friend in the Lord,
P.S. Your support of this ministry is so greatly appreciated. When you receive your copy of “The Reward of Worship,” be sure to read the first chapter right away. Find out why I say God is “waiting in the wings,” and how worship is the invitation to which he responds. You’ll be more eager than ever before to bow before His throne and look up!