Wednesday, May 24, 2006

God is Love!

I was traveling on Interstate 65, heading into Mobile, when a car passed me with a thought-provoking bumper sticker.  It simply read "Love Wins!"  My first thought was, “That really depends on your definition of the first word.”  I wonder how the guy behind the wheel understands the word “love”.  In English, we have one well-worn word for love, while the Greeks had several words for it.  They had a word for the love between fiends, love for close family and love in the sexual sense.  Then they had the cu-de-graw of words for love, “agape”, God's kind of love.

I have been somewhat philosophical lately, so forgive my mental gymnastics.  I started talking to the guy in the car in front of me. "Hey, what do you mean by love?  How would you define the word love?" Do you define it like the Ancient Greeks, who saw love as eros, erotic sexual love, brotherly love or family love?  (I know most normal people don't talk to the automobiles passing them on the interstate. I actually feel better about doing this now that everyone uses cell phones, because if someone sees me they are less likely to think me insane.)

The definition of love is critical to the bumper sticker’s truth. If it is a definition of any kind of love except God's agape love, it fails.  God's kind of self-sacrificing love always wins.  I once heard that all forms of human love can and are abused.  The only love that cannot be abused is God's kind of love.  It is also the only love that heals the abuses of the other kinds of love.

1 John 4:16 states, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."  Notice that John says; "God is love." I wonder, does love define God or does God define love?   I was traveling another road earlier this year to a speaking engagement.  I passed a church sign with a statement that was so wrong.  It said: "God is Love and Love is God!"  This is wrong because love cannot define God.  That phrase is not theologically interchangeable.  By whatever definition of love you choose, you can define God as a sexual god or a god of certain emotions.  If love defines God, then you can make God into almost anything, even perverted things.   We would not have an objective standard love with all of its depth and intensity, were it not for God's demonstration of love.  God defines love. 

When you doubt if anyone loves you, look to the greatest expression of love for you, the cross.  Yes, God is love, and we know what love is and rely on it, because God demonstrated His love for us in this, Christ died for us. God is Love!  I would not know real love or understand what little I do were it not defined by my awesome God!  Yes, my bumper sticker friend, "Love (God's kind of love) Wins!"

Ed Litton

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Hard Altar

Why did the Old Testament patriarchs build altars from stones?  The stones were gathered and piled for a place of worship.  You could theorize that it was a readily available material, and that may be true, but there is a deeper reason.  God insisted that the only suitable material for building an altar of worship were made by God, not made by man.  Exodus 20:25 states, "If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it."

There is something else about stones that is important, they are hard. When Jacob went to bed on his journey away from home, he use a stone as a pillow.  It was the ultimate metaphor for Jacob's situation, he was between a rock and a hard place. Stones are symbols of the hard things in our lives; hard problems and hard circumstances. Sometimes they stack up, and when they do we seldom consider them to be something that helps us worship the Lord. Yet, that is exactly what the hard things in life do for us. 

Stack your hard problems as a place of offering and worship to the Lord. While this is not your first impulse when it comes to trials, the scripture shows us to do it nonetheless.  At that altar you will offer the sacrifice of praise.  You will call upon the name of your Lord in tears trusting that He is the God of hard things and the God who uses our most crushing moments to release His greatest power and glory.  Get honest before the Lord and get busy stacking up the hard things.   You will meet the Lord at that painful place.

Ed Litton

Jacob hears the voice of the Lord Artist: SANDYS, Anthony Frederick 1881

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jesus knows

Jesus preached what He practiced. I get to practice what I preach. To
be a preacher requires that, out of necessity, you preach truth that you
have not had the opportunity to fully live out. Like the prophets of
old, at times you say the truth and do not fully understand what you
are saying. Then there are rare and amazing moments when what you are
preaching is an echo of what you are living. You live with a constant
sense that Rod Serling will step out from around the corner and say:
"There is a place, beyond sight and sound, beyond imagination. Ed
Litton, a mild mannered preacher, is living a sermon he did not write.
Be careful as you pass the signpost up ahead, because this is the Grace

Our family is going through a challenging time right now. A fear has
been realized and Satan has made an attempt to kill, steal and destroy.
Thanks be unto our Lord Jesus Christ for His grace that is supervising
our lives in these days. We are grateful for a wonderful church family
and friends who know what it means to love and be real. We are
learning that God's grace is truly amazing as we face one day at a
time. As a part of the consequences of our trial, my son and I need to
travel by airplane on short notice. I have enough frequent flyer miles
to get us there under normal circumstances. What are normal
circumstances for an airlines these days? We attempted several
different ways to get the tickets within two days of our travel date.
The price was astronomical and the number of required frequent flyer
points doubled. I called the airlines and the person on the other end
said that it would be impossible to reduce the required amount. I
understood, but I asked if I could speak to a supervisor.

A few minutes passed and then a sweet sounding voice announced that her name was Nina. "I need to travel with my son who is in a crisis, but I
only have the normal amount of flyer miles. Can you help?" There was a
long pause. "Mr. Litton, do you still live in Saraland, Alabama?"
"Yes Ma'am?" "Well, sir about seven years ago, I took my daughter to a
drug rehab facility in your community and her life was forever changed.
As a matter of fact, she came to know Christ as her savior in that
facility and was baptized in your church." I was stunned and I knew
that God's grace was at work. "Mr. Litton, this is a highly irregular
request and we seldom do this, but I have the authority to reduce the
requirement, so let me book your reservations now." I wept. I am holding back the emotion even now as I write this. I am amazed by His grace and I see it everywhere I turn.

When and if your nightmares become reality, or when you think the other
foot will drop, do not fear. God is faithful and will provide His all
sufficient grace to you. If you are His child, He knows what you need
before you know. The Bible says that Jesus needed no one to tell him
what was in man (John 2:25). He knows. In Matthew 6, Jesus asked why
we worry about food, drink and clothing. "For the pagans run after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."
(Matt. 6:32) The Lord knows what you will need and he knows how to make a way, even when there seems to be no way.

Trust His Grace!
Ed Litton