“Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.”
—From “God of Grace and God of Glory” Words by Harry Emerson Fosdick
I’m one who loves the old hymns like the one above. From my earliest days when my mother planted me on the front row of the First United Methodist Church in Indianola, correcting my misbehavior with a raised eyebrow from her perch in the choir loft, I learned the tunes and the words of the great hymns. Nobody in those days worried too much about reshaping the format of the service in order to attract a particular demographic. There were no studies that told the administrative board that the average age of our church members was 35.3 and that we needed to market Jesus in a way that touched that age group. I’m not criticizing the modern church when I make that comment, but I am just speaking of my experience. There is great theology in the words of those old hymns, and if ever there were eternal messages inscribed on my heart, many came straight from those verses. I learned the words even though I did not understand some of them until years later. I don’t think that was a bad thing at all. I also did not acquire a taste for broccoli in my pre-school years, but its consistent presence at the table meant that I eventually developed an appreciation for it!
Every day, breaking news surprises me. I grew up in a home where dinner table conversation was political. When I was three (1954), I named (with no prodding) my Christmas doll “Ike,” so you get the picture. In some seasons of life I paid more attention than in others, but I have always followed with some interest the news that was impacting our country. Today, I alternate between following 24/7 and total “take a break” periods simply because it is so easy—and logical—to fear the chaos and the total lack of godly leadership in high places. Can I just say that those hymns and much scripture that I committed to memory in the easy times come dancing across my brain in these scary times, calming my heart and encouraging my spirit to just keep on keeping on because God is still on his throne?
At my church, our Sunday morning topic over the past several months has been the book of Hebrews. It has encouraged me greatly in how to live during these uncertain times. In a nutshell, believers must remember three essentials.
1. Throw off everything that hinders. That can be hard because some of those things that “hinder” our relationship with Jesus don’t go so quietly. They can also be things we do not want to “throw off” at all. Oops. But if you can “throw off,” it really gets easier after that.
2. “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Perseverance is just doing the next “right” thing in front of you, and if you are relying on Jesus to direct you, you don’t have to see the total GPS route at once. You just take one step at a time. He even gives the grace to take the steps that make you nervous.
3. The third thing is to “fix your eyes on Jesus.” I would say that if you forget the first two points and manage to do that one, you’d be just fine. Because it really is all about Jesus, and when that thought becomes your heart it just clears your vision and all of a sudden, those words—again from an old hymn—make so very much sense. “When peace like a river…it is well, it is well with my soul.” It gets to be OKAY with your soul even when it is not well with your situation. That is a safe and peaceful place to be—always.
I think you will pick that thought up as you read this issue. It is definitely a “perk” for me to talk to people and hear their faith stories. Visiting with Aaron and Felicia Kent, for example, leaves me wanting to jump up and down like a cheerleader—enthusiastic and supportive for my “team.” The great God of the universe invades all the parts of all our days. He is living and involved in all our lives, and he is not intimidated by the data used to categorize all of us. He meant it when He said he had plans for a hope and a future for those who love him. It is all true. It is all totally counter-cultural to the world we now inhabit. But it is so good and so refreshing! Enjoy this issue. We certainly have.