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Reflections and Readings

A Thankful Memory of Sandy Ford

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December 1, 2017 at 9:58am:

Thirty-six years ago yesterday I stopped saying “It just isn’t convenient right now to be completely committed to Christ.” And I gave my whole self to trusting Christ while at the funeral of a most amazing 21 year old UNC student who made a difference everywhere he was on campus.

Sandy was even kind enough to stop between class one day and say yes to my request to talk about faith. Sandy was someone who only peripherally knew me through a mutual friend. He suggested we talk after Thanksgiving break but Sandy passed from Time to Eternity the day after Thanksgiving and we were never able to talk.

But at his funeral on November 30 in Charlotte (I skipped class to make the two hour drive to the service all alone) with over a thousand in attendance, Billy Graham (Sandy’s uncle) stood and said “Sandy knew that to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In an instant, I knew, I wanted to live, really live.

In that moment I surrendered and all the arguments of inconvenience melted away. Something about knowing Life captured my heart and in that moment I said, “Lord, if you will let me live, Sandy’s death will not be in vain. Christ’s death will not be in vain. And I will live each moment for You.”

Never have I looked back and questioned, “Was it worth it?” Eternity secure, life abundant now, understanding though, at times, and in excruciatingly trying circumstances, I know each moment of my life has been sifted through the hands of my loving heavenly Father who says “I know the plans I have for you and they are good plans. Trust Me.”

I remember the evening just a few days after Sandy died, I knocked on a (soon to be) friend’s door and said, “You don’t know me but Sandy was your best friend. Please tell me about him.” And he told me about Sandy and more about Christ and introduced me to a new world of hope and real joy. I learned to study the Word and that God is good.

I began to trust His plan for this lost and dying world to know Him and that He wanted to use me to tell this story of redemption. And I did… here and in the Philippines broadcasting the message of Hope behind the then Iron Curtain of communist countries. And then life through the decades of walking with Him…

God gave me my dear husband who is always pointing us to Christ and all these years later, we find, he is a gifted writer, writing a daily email to family and friends each morning before most are awake, entitled, “A Little More Like Jesus.” It challenges me each day to ask God, “How do I look today? I want to look a little more like Jesus.”

Sandy looked like Jesus. My friend who shared Sandy’s story looked like Jesus, the friends who taught me and encouraged me at UNC looked like Jesus and God in His mercy sent me a husband who looks more like his Savior everyday.

“O Lord, Thou didst strike my heart with Your Word and I loved Thee.” May the Word of God on the written page or in the life of a believer cause each of us to long to look a little more like Jesus and not waste another minute saying it’s just not convenient now.

The enemy says “There’s no hurry.” I say, “Life, abundant life, is waiting. Don’t settle for the life this old worn out world offers. Run to Him.

Read the news. Our generation sewed the wind. We are reaping the whirlwind. There is so much more to life than what we see and surmise with our finite minds. Choose Christ. Choose Life. “For me to live is Christ. To die is gain.” Thanks be to God
Frances Knott George

Sandy: A Heart For God

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November 27th marks the 36th anniversary of Sandy Ford’s passing. Through his amazing, short life on earth, he influenced an incredible number of people. Through Leighton’s loving retelling of his son’s life, Sandy has influenced countless more.

Have you ever read Sandy: A Heart For God? If not, this is a great opportunity to not only read a book but also to meet a young man you will never forget, a young man who ran his race for God with uncommon determination and impact. It is a book you will cherish and will want to pass on to the young men and women in your life.

It is available through both Amazon and InterVarsity Press.

Click here to purchase the Kindle edition for $5.99.

 

Good News Is For Sharing! – Zack Eswine

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One of the most popular features of the recent reissue of Leighton’s classic Good News Is For Sharing is the personal stories told about some friends of Leighton and Leighton Ford Ministries. Over the next week, we’ll be sharing those stories here as well as some details about the folks listed only by first name in the book!

First up is Zack Eswine.

Zack’s Story

“I am at Panera with a friend with a who worships Zeus and harkens back to the pagan gods of Olympus.

This conversation is in light of a handful of conversations over the past few months. I give thanks that my friend now believes that 1) Jesus actually existed, 2) the Bible is a historically reliable document, and 3) Jesus’ teachings are compelling.

My friend has not put his faith in Jesus as his lord and savior yet. However, I use the metaphor of being on the road with Jesus, traveling with him where he walks, and watching and listening to him.

My friend says that he would like to take that much of a step. He’d like to actively pursue Jesus as he is in the gospels and in history.

I thought this was a huge step. I trust and pray that this will lead to the next step – actual faith in the Lord as his savior.”

 

About Zack

Zack Eswine serves as Lead Pastor for Riverside Church and as Director for Homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Zack’s most recent books include Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Struggle with Depression and The Imperfect Pastor which received Christianity Today’s Book of the Year Award in Leadership/Pastoral Ministry.

Zack and his wife Jessica cultivate life and family in Webster Groves, Missouri.

 

My Clenched Fists (Henri Nouwen)

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Dear God,

I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!

Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?

Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?

Please help me to gradually open my hands

and to discover that I am not what I own,

but what you want to give me.

And what you want to give me is love,

unconditional, everlasting love.

Amen.

 

Henri Nouwen

Can We Ever Have Completely Pure Motives? (Leighton Ford)

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There have been moments in my own work when I have been preparing to speak to a group. At such times I have found that as I get quiet I also become troubled. The inner voice of God’s Spirit speaks to my conscience and reminds me of pride, or laziness, or impurity, or failure to pray or prepare. At moments like this, all I can say is, “My God, I come before you with mixed motives and an impure heart. I am a sinful man. Forgive me for Christ’s sake. Fill me with your Spirit, and use me just as I am”.  Then I stand and speak and minister, confident that only God knows my heart well enough to sort out the pure from the impure. I give him all I know of myself and ask his forgiveness where necessary. If I were to wait until I was one hundred percent sure that my motives were pure I would never speak or serve or minister! I would be completely paralyzed. Only one person was totally devoted to another’s cause, and that was Jesus Christ, my leader. Since he has graciously called me, forgiven me and included me in his family, I seek, however imperfectly, to serve his cause.

 

Leighton Ford

 

From Transforming Leadership (1991, IVP).

Is There Really A ‘Private Life’? (Henri Nouwen)

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We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is no one else’s business”. But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for ourselves but for all people. That is why our inner lives are gifts for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life”

 

From Nouwen’s Bread For The Journey (1997, HarperCollins)

The Unexpected Power of Jesus (Leighton Ford)

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Jesus came from humble parents. There was little in his lineage or early life to suggest the kind of power his peers found in him. In fact, as one of the ancient prophecies had said, God’s leader would be a “root out of dry ground” (Is 53:2). In years to come the people of his hometown who had known him as a boy would be offended at this background. Whey they saw his miracles or heard his gracious speech they sniffed, “But isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Aren’t these his brothers?”…”We know his family”. That was all that needed to be said by those who dismissed his power.

Jesus’ authority was not something imposed on others, but rather a force he exposed. He was not one to strut around saying great things, pulling off tremendous miracles, demanding attention, even passing judgments (until he felt it necessary, towards the end). Rather, his authority was the exposing of an inner spiritual power that was released little by little – through words, actions, attitudes, and his very presence – until finally his character itself seemed to be as wonderful as his greatest miracle.

Jesus’ strength of character is demonstrated in many dimensions of his personality and experience: in purpose, speech, and balance; in spirit, in suffering, and in dedication.

 

From Transforming Leadership (1991: InterVarsity Press)

Worry Is Loneliness (Lloyd John Ogilvie)

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“At core, worry is a low-grade form of agnosticism. Shocking? Perhaps. But look at it this way. Worry is a lurking form of doubt. At base it’s rooted in a question about the adequacy of God to meet our own and others’ needs. And it is nourished by a fear that there may be problems and perplexities in which we will be left alone; out on a limb without him! Worry is a form of loneliness. It entails facing life’s eventualities all by ourselves, on our meager strength.”

 

-Lloyd John Ogilvie, The Bush Is Still Burning

Hope In Insecure Times (Leighton Ford)

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When the morality of the Judeo-Christian tradition was firmly in place, society could be somewhat assured that scientists would use their knowledge in ethical ways, for the betterment of the human race. Today we have no such assurances…many postmodern people see the possibilities that await them on the horizons of science – and they are justifiably scared.

As the foundations of the modern mindset continue to crumble, the world increasingly becomes a frightening and insecure place…people are searching for new directions and answers. As a result of the confusion and disquiet generated by the swift change that has come upon the world, we now see…our opportunity as Christians in a postmodern world: people need what the Gospel offers – meaning, hope, and absolute truth.

Despite the strong challenges that face us, the Christian Story has never had a greater opportunity for advance than it does right now.

 

Leighton Ford

Adapted from The Power of Story (2015, LFM)

Repentance and Going Forward (C.S. Lewis)

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We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it’s pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.

 

-C.S. Lewis

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