"I am a lapsed Christian. What if I counted the cost [Luke 14] and decided to follow God's way and then later on decided to go back to my old ways? I still believe in God and I still have faith, but as far as a willingness to serve God and put him first in my life – if this is not the case should I still go to church? Wouldn't I be polluting the church? Paul says not to associate those who call themselves brothers but act like pagans [1 Corinthians 5]...  If I'm not acting as I know that I ought to, should I keep attending church?"—N.R.

Continuing to go to church allows you to be influenced by the word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God. Now if you really are acting like a pagan (e.g. 1 Peter 4:1-5), then you shouldn't call yourself a Christian. But that doesn't mean you shouldn t come to church, which is a separate matter. I think that – if you are in your right mind spiritually – you should still do whatever you can to seek the Lord.—D.J.

"Okay. I know what is required to be a Christian, but I feel that I am not ready at the moment to live like this. I guess I thought that I would be miraculously freed from my desire to sin just by being baptized. Little did I know that an intense amount of vigilance would be necessary—vigilance I did not have. One of the reasons for this is that I live alone and I'm in my late twenties. Most people, when they become Christians at my age, live with other disciples, and as iron sharpens iron [Proverbs 27], accountability helps them enormously. Well, I stumbled, got up, stumbled, got up again, stumbled even more and so on, until I now realize that I'm just not ready to live a life devoted to God. Prayerfully he will grant me the time that I need to 'get ready'. I know that's not guaranteed and hopefully this truth will be a motivating factor as I progress in my life."

"How would/does the decision to wander from the Lord but still be involved in a family group and church affect my relationships with disciples in the church? Or maybe I should say, How does the refusal to put God first in my life affect my relationships with disciples in the church? All I can be sure of is where I'm at in my relationship with God. I am sometimes tempted to look at other people's hypocrisy and try to justify my own lack of faith but that is just ignorant."

"Should I make an announcement? Should I just quietly admit to myself and to other people that I'm not committed to the mission and that I need to be restored? But when I look back I can't ever see a time that I was acting like a Christian, except for the few days after I was baptized and during some retreats here and there; the time that I've spent living like a real Christian has been sporadic at best. This is a weird time in my life and I'm trying to understand what's going on without knowing what's really going on.  Thank you again for your quick reply, your compassion, your understanding and your deep conviction. If you get a chance, please pray for my soul to find rest in this insane world that we seem to live in."—N.R.

Sure, I will pray for you right now. And you are right, you need restoring. According to Galatians 6, restoration is for church members like yourself who are trapped. You need to let some people in your local church into your life. Ask them to help. But be careful whom you ask, since a spiritual person will help you but a less mature Christian will harm both you and himself.

Hang in there brother! We all go through periods when motivation wanes. To keep yours strong I have a few suggestions, some of which may seem radical:

1. Force yourself to pray each morning when you get up, even if for only a few minutes. Be very honest with God.
2. Do not watch any TV this summer. Give yourself a few months without the bombardment and brainwashing effects of the media. In the same vein, do not use your computer for any other purpose than collecting email and essential work.
3. Decide before each church service whom you will consciously make an effort to reach out to. Don't just wander in without a strategy. Be real with the brothers at church. Tell them what you think you need to tell them. No role-playing. But stay open to what God may be trying to show you.
4. Stay physically active, eat well, and get enough sleep. This will help you stay mentally sharp and have better judgment.
5. Read your Bible every day. If you're in a rut, buy a different translation than the one you are used to. Let God speak to you in his word. Study both testaments. Read Psalm 23; you will see that it is the Lord who will restore your soul.

May these suggestions really help you.DJ