Pastor Joy Neubauer has been a part of our church over 42 years with her husband, Richard, who we lovingly called "Pastor." In January 2022, He went on before us to find the only mansion with a railroad track around it and Harley Davidsons in the garage! But Joy is finding her joy in her future with her biological family and church family! Enjoy her weekly blog! I guarantee you will en"joy."
Our independence did not come easily; only after several difficult years of war would it finally be won. Nor were our first years as a nation free from problems and controversies (as is still true). But our forefathers were determined to establish a free and democratic system of government, and the Declaration of Independence (together with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights) became the foundation for this. They have stood the test of time, and on July 4th we give thanks for the wisdom and faith and courage of those leaders.
Although it is not a religious holiday like Christmas or Easter, for many Americans July 4th is a time to reflect on God’s goodness to us as a nation. Molded into the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (which proclaimed our independence) are these words from the Bible: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10, KJV). Our legal system reflects our Judeo-Christian roots.
While we look with gratitude to the past on this July 4th, may we also look in faith to the future, and commit it and our lives to God and His will. The ancient words of the Psalmist are still true: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). We have much to pray about for our country.
We have been blessed, as believers, to rejoice every day for our freedom from sin and death. Paul wrote: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4 NIV
Sitting beside the pool during Family Camp at the Potomac Park gave opportunity to be a listener and an observer. Listening to children screaming out to mom or dad to throw them up into the air and hitting the water with a big splash, and begging to be thrown just 'one more time.' Or the ones calling out; 'Watch me.' I love seeing the grandparents enjoying how special their grandchildren are and giving them all their time. And then, the children just playing together daring each to dive for some object thrown into the deep part of the pool or the game ‘Marco Polo’. That game is only fun for those playing but so annoying for those who want to enjoy the moment and relax.
Not intending to eaves drop, I was privy to a conversation between a boy and girl about 11 years old. “Are we still dating?” was his question; her response, “I guess so.” Of course the humor of the moment was cute to me but serious to them. I knew what they didn’t; they weren’t mature enough to be taking about ‘dating’ and I’m equally sure his Dad wouldn’t have given him the car to go on a date. Hopefully, they will mature to a place of knowing what true love is.
Paul wrote; “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” 1 Corinthians 13:11. Looking up the word maturity on the internet I found this definition: Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner. This response is generally learned rather than instinctive, and is not determined by one's age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately, according to the situation and the culture of the society one lives in.
How much better life would be for us if we could know we acted in a mature manner when called for; even better if we were more mature within the Body of Christ. Paul dealt with this when writing to the Philippians. He knew he wasn’t perfect in his faith, but he also knew he wasn’t going to remain where he was in his faith. He pressed on: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” Phil 3:12-15.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" Jeremiah 17:10
We all have weaknesses to be lived with or overcome. For some the weakness may be a physical one that has been a part of life from birth. For others, it is the inability to know how to change circumstances that seem so difficult. When a bridge or building is structurally weak the eventual solution is reconstruction or collapse. There are some weaknesses that are covered by an outward show of strength. Samson had divine physical strength but was weak in judgment. (Judges 15)
Such too was the story of a wife, mother, and school teacher in the periodical ‘Today’s Christian Woman.’ She attended church and had been taught right from wrong but she was a compulsive shopper which led to shoplifting. While shoplifting was the crime, her weakness was justifying her behavior. She said, “I pushed aside my guilt. I would deal with God later.” After three arrests she finally came to terms with her weakness through prayer and Godly counseling. “Thanks to God’s grace, there is life after the humbling effects of sin” was her testimony.
David was indignant that a rich man would take a poor man’s lamb to prepare a meal but was soon face to face with the knowledge when Nathan said to David, "You are the man!” 2 Sam 12:7. “Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD"” 2 Sam 12:13. He succumbed to his temptation of lust toward Bathsheba which led to the death of Uriah, her husband. (2 Samuel 11:14) But in his repentance, David reached a place where he could write: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me” Psalms 139:23-24.
Just as construction engineers must inspect a bridge or a building to determine where a structural weakness might be, so too must the Holy Spirit become our construction engineer. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.
My cousin Melody's three year old grandson, Finn, was sitting in the time-out chair. While there, his mother heard him say to his sister, Elle, "Next time when I say something that's not nice to you, DO NOT TELL MOMMY."
We all have had that experience where it seemed mother had 'eyes in the back of her head' or 'supersonic hearing.' Then the dreaded words "What are you doing?" created for us a moment of lie or hide. A rare individual might call out and declare; "I'm playing when I should be working" or "I just hit my brother/sister" or "I'm going through your purse looking for loose change." Mostly, if we say anything, the answer would be, "I'm not doing anything."
Adam and Eve sewed fig-leaves together to hid their shame, then hid from God when they heard Him walking in the garden. The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, Keeping watch upon the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3 ASV) We cannot hide from God.
I always knew, no matter what I did, there is an 'all seeing eye' watching. We can hide things from our earthly parents but not from God. Now that my children are adults, sometimes they share their childhood 'naughty' moments because they know the statute of limitations has expired.
My brother went through a phase of too many speeding tickets and one accident while in High School. Dad and Mom knew about the accident but not the tickets. In the process of signing with a new insurance company they discovered they would have to pay a large premium because of Michael's driving record, which they chose not to pay. He lost his privilege to drive for a year and I had his car for that year. While this was difficult for Michael, he learned to slow down and be a better driver.
There is not escaping the fact that God sees all, but "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 ASV). How different the year without a car might have been for Michael had my parents known he was getting too many speeding tickets. It would have been better had he sat in the "preverbal time-out chair" a few times. One thing I have learned in all these years, we might as well tell God and confess if we need to, He already knows
I on my way to church the other Sunday morning, when I noticed a man standing on the median at the intersection of Glebe and Fairfax drive. He had his sign stating his need for assistance; like so many we see each day.
One thing I noticed; his one pant leg was rolled up showing a prosthetic leg. Then it struck me, his other pant leg wasn't. He was showing us where he had suffered an injury; showing us why he had a need; showing us why we should have sympathy for him. He wanted us to see his suffering.
A quote I found stated: ‘It is said that when we lock horns with the problem of suffering we nearly always ask the same question: If God is good and all-powerful, then why is this terrible thing happening? It is, after all, an impossible question. There are many great answers, but none of them settle the matter. The reason you know the matter isn’t settled is that the question lingers, and will always linger.’ You cannot reason with it, or make sense of it. The question never goes away because the answer lies in learning.
There is suffering with grief when those we love so dear die. We all know the scripture: Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto man once to die” but at the time, these words are no comfort to a suffering heart. I've learned through the years that suffering hearts don't need words; they just need a hand to hold; and a shoulder on which to cry.
But there is only One who will come along side to help us with suffering. Paul wrote in Romans 8:17-18 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Suffering would be unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. God doesn't always change the circumstances of suffering, but when we fellowship, commune, talk to God, He will work all things for our good. We have a blessed hope in the eternal with The Lord; “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:4.