Monthly Archives

July 2017

More Than An ‘Environmental’ Faith (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

Some people have only a kind of environmental faith. They have “oozed” into Christianity, having been brought up to know about Jesus and the Bible but they’ve never personally entered into a relationship with him. Just as you can study about marriage without being married, so you can study all about Christianity without being a Christian. Christianity, like marriage, is a relationship. The first step to reality may be to put this book down right now and say ‘Jesus Christ, I ask you to come into my life. Move in as a living person. Take over the center of my life’.

Others have been truly born again, but seem unassuaged of their relationship to God. A primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to create this kind of assurance. As Paul wrote, “You did not receive a spirit which makes you a slave again to fear but…the Spirit who makes you sons…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom 8:15,16).

Ruth Graham, Billy’s wife, was brought up in China as the daughter of a medical missionary. From childhood she knew the Gospel but failed to grasp that it was personally for her. One day while reading Isaiah, the Holy Spirit led her to personalize the words she was reading. She read Isaiah 53 like this: “He was wounded for Ruth’s transgressions, he was bruised for Ruth’s iniquities…and with his stripes Ruth is healed.” The same Holy Spirit who brought Ruth Graham personal assurance can also convince you that you are no longer a stranger to God, nor even his slave, but one chosen to be his son or daughter.

Leighton Ford

From Good News is For Sharing (revised edition 2017)

The Evangelist Must Cling To Christ (C.S. Lewis)

By | Evangelism | No Comments

In an essay on apologetics, C.S. Lewis wrote words which can and should be read and taken to heart by every evangelist. In fact, if we substitute the word “evangelist” for the word “apologist” it is as if he were writing for those who proclaim the Good News.

“…I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one’s own faith than the work of the apologist (evangelist). No doctrine of the faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate.

For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest upon oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists (evangelists) take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from our intellectual counters, into the Reality – from Christian apologists (evangelists) to Christ Himself

How The Good News Travels (Leighton Ford)

By | Evangelism | No Comments

Dr. James Engel, for years a marketing professor at Ohio State, studied what motivates people to buy products. Later he and his colleagues at Wheaton College Graduate School took a similar long look at the process of evangelism.

Dr. Engel and his colleague H. Wilbert Norton suggest that the Great Commission’s command to make disciples contains three mandates that are related but distinct:

  1. To proclaim the message
  2. To persuade the unbeliever
  3. To cultivate the believer

They make no claim that this is a final and definitive statement. The Holy Spirit works as he will (John 3:8). But this is a helpful tool in describing how the good news travels from A to B.

If your own coming to Christ is recent enough that you can remember the stages clearly, this may be intuitive for you. If you are presently trying to share Christ with certain people think through where they are on that journey!

 

Adapted from Good News Is For Sharing by Leighton Ford, 2017 Revised edition.

Teannalach! For Jeanie!

By | Reflections/Essays | No Comments

Happy Birthday to my Beloved Jeanie! Today!

I was reading this morning of an Irish farmer who told a poet that he himself could not write poetry, but he did have the gift of “Teannalach.”

He said that he lived by a lake, and often heard the ripple of the waters, but on days when it was very still he could hear more deeply – below the surface – the “magic music” of the lake.

The poet-philosopher John O’Donohue says this story underlines “the hiddenness” of beauty. Beauty, he says, only reveals itself to awareness, when “the imagination is finely tuned.”

I like that! And when I think of Jeanie that Celtic word applies!

There is beauty in her face – no one believes she is really her age!

But also the hidden beauty of an open, warm, loving and caring spirit – for me! For our family. For our friends.

She sometimes says she’d like to be her own best friend! I understand why.

And so do the many friends of the years, men and women alike, drawn to her for those qualities, both evident and hidden, which reflect the beauty of Christ in her.

So, Jeanie, happy birthday! I love you!

And love your own observant quality of “tennalach”! You do know how to pay attention!

Leighton Ford

Write Them Upon Your Heart

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

“There is an old Hasidic take that tells us how such things happen. The pupil comes to the rebbe and asks, ‘Why does Torah tell us to place these words upon your hearts? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?’

The rebbe answers, “It is because we are as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until, one day, the heart breaks, and the words fall in'”.

Adapted from Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness

A Black Bird Dropped By (Leighton Ford)

By | Poetry | One Comment

A blackbird dropped by to see me

this mountain Sunday morning

as I sat with coffee on our patio.

He landed on a flower box,

sat there for a while listening

to my words of welcome,

then hopped nimbly over

to the other pot,

stayed there a bit,

(just so as not to seem in a rush)

then flew away.

It was a nice neighborly sort of visit,

and I asked that my prayers

for my friends around the world

would drop in on them today,

leaving each with a sense that

somehow, they too had been visited.

 

Leighton Ford
Sunday, July 16, 2017

There’s Good News Today (Leighton Ford)

By | Reflections/Essays, Uncategorized | No Comments

A few days ago I was speaking at a church in the mountains, and asked a question that dated me.

“Does anyone here recognize the name of Gabriel Heatter?”

Quite a few hands went up, which also dated them. Gabriel Heatter was a nationally respected radio newscaster during the dark days of World War II, well known for his signature sign-off: “There’s good news today.”

His name came back to me recently when my wife and I were watching the national news, and it was all so bad that I got up and walked away.

Later I remembered a little story tucked away in the Bible. The Israelis in the city of Samaria were desperate, under siege by an enemy army. Food was running out. Even children were being eaten.

Four leprous men were sitting outside the city, shut out because of their disease. One of them finally said, “We’ll die if we stay here. The worst the enemy can do is kill us. Let’s take a chance and go to their camp and see if they’ll spare us.”

When they got there they were astounded. The enemy camp was deserted! The Lord had sent in the wind the sound of a great army coming and the enemy had fled. The four leprous men started to grab for themselves the food, weapons, treasures left behind. Then one said, “This is wrong. This is a day of good news. If we don’t tell it we will be guilty.” So they ran back to tell what they had found.

They were evangelists those four men! Evangelists in the sense of being good-news-tellers.

I was ordained as an evangelist. Some times I am hesitant at first to be introduced that way, only because “evangelist” is a much misused and abused term. Advocates of any one of many causes are often dubbed evangelists. And some evangelists have given the word a negative connotation.

I am honored to be an evangelist because the word itself, classically and in the Bible, simply means a bearer of the evangel. Five centuries ago William Tyndale, one of the first translators of the English Bible, wrote that the Greek word “signifieth good, merry, and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy.” Nothing to be ashamed of there!

I was ordained years ago to preach the good news of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That I hope to do as long as I live. I have also decided that I want to notice some everyday good news, and tell about it.

“What good news do you have” I asked a ninety-year old retired pastor who is suffering back pain. “We talk too much about health, not enough about hope,” he said. “Health is blown away like the wind. Hope opens a door to the future.”

Over lunch I asked a young public defender who he was representing last fall when he walked as a peacemaker between the police lines and the protesters. “Just me,” he smiled. “I had friends among the police. I knew many of the protesters. And I knew God wanted me there.”

I know a woman at a local Y who interrupts her morning workout each day to listen to a veteran of two wars, who is recovering from surgery, and just needs someone to talk to.

You and I can hardly avoid the bad news that bombards us 24/7. And we may not be able to stop the violence, cruelty, and the bitter divisions and name-calling on a macro scale. But, as my late friend George Beverly Shea used to sing, “Little is much if God is in it.” Small acts can be good news

So I want to be like those four men outside Samaria who could not keep quiet about what God had done. I plan to look every day for some bits of good news, and to pass it on.

I invite you to join me!

Leighton Ford

Originally published in the Charlotte Observer on July 8, 2017

Witness (A Poem)

By | Poetry | No Comments

WITNESS

Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
the witnessing presence.


Denise Levertov

 

Photography – Leighton Ford

Solitude and Leadership (Leighton Ford)

By | Leadership | No Comments

“If you want others to follow, be alone with your own thoughts.”

This is from a talk given at the US Military Academy at West Point by William Deresiewicz of Yale. As I read I was struck that this is something church leaders – caught up often in “frenzied busyness” – need to heed.

Here are some of his provocative statements – unusual for future military leaders to hear:

• “Leadership is what you are here to leave …”
• “Solitude is what you have the least of here …”
• “And yet I submit to you that solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership”
• “Multi-tasking … is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think.”
• “Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it.”

His whole speech is worth absorbing. Click here for a link to read in full.

Then get alone and think about it!

Leighton Ford

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