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Jeremiah 3:22 – "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." "Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God." (NIV)

Recently, our Celtic band Glenfinnan played at a Scots-Irish festival in Dandridge, Tennessee, USA. We performed from the front porch of an old inn, right in the heart of the town. As well as listening to our music, people were walking around the various craft and food stalls, all of which had Celtic connections.

At the end of the street, there was a high hill. It was the back end of the dam wall, and it was very steep. Children were slowly walking up the hill carrying sheets of cardboard with them. Once they reached the top of the hill, they slid down it by sitting on the cardboard. It looked wonderful, and all the kids were having great fun.

This reminded me of my own childhood days. Just around the corner from my own home, there was a steep hill, and we also used to slide down it on sheets of cardboard. There was one major difference from Dandridge. At the bottom of the hill in Scotland were railway tracks. We used to play "chicken" by sliding down as fast as we could, to reach the tracks just as a train was passing by. We were young, fearless, and stupid. You wouldn't catch me doing the same today as I did way back then.

Although sliding was great fun, walking back up the steep hill was agony. It took ages, and after a while, it was all too much. No matter how much we looked forward to sliding, we were just too tired to do any more.

Backsliding in faith can be fun, too. People slack off from going to church or turning up to Sunday School. They want to do something exciting or haven't got the time to give of themselves to God. They believe that they'll get back to church soon, but it becomes too much of a chore, too much of a task to organize. Backsliding is no longer just fun; it becomes a feature of their lives.

But God and His people are just waiting for them to return. Backsliders are not going to be condemned or criticized, chastised or challenged. Instead, they are going to be welcomed and embraced, encouraged and loved. Instead of backsliding, they are back praising God. Instead of being away, they are shown the Way. Instead of fearing God's wrath, they receive His grace. Backsliding can be fun, but homecoming is even more wonderful.

Perhaps some of us have been away from church for a while and don't know how to get back. We shouldn't worry about it — just walk through the church door, and we'll receive a hundred thousand welcomes. We'll be back where we belong. We'll be back in God's place.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all backslide occasionally and find it hard to return. Faith is such a steep hill at times, so we pray that You will reach down and help us climb it. Grant us the courage to return home to You, so that we may re-experience Your love, grace, and welcome. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.

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John Stuart <>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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