Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Prepare for Rain

For 40 days our church family has been praying for God to move in our lives. It has been over fifteen years since we have had a traditional revival service. This event was planned over a year ago. After Tammy's death we could not bear to cancel the revival realizing that her heart cry was for God to bring revival to First Baptist North Mobile. So we proceeded with the plans for the Prepare for Rain Revival with the hope that our God who had our attention would now have our hearts.

Upon the conclusion of the forty day prayer and preparation emphasis we began four days of revival meetings with Dr. Michael Catt, Senior Pastor of the Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, Georgia to be our guest speaker. Michael brought a series of challenging messages to our church.
Each night the crowds grew and each night the invitation saw great expressions of brokeness and repentance at the alter. We are cautious about making declarative statements concerning genuine revival but we know that God answered our prayers beyond what we expected. We also have a sense that He is not finished with us. Our worship pastor, Jason Breland led us wonderfully to the throne of Grace each service. It is such a blessing when God's people have true freedom in Christ to worship and seek after the Lord.

The reason I am cautious about evaluating this move of God is that we tend to do so without realizing what we are arrogantly doing. Revival is not a time to evaluate God or the preacher or even one another. Revival is when God evaluates us. He searches out our hearts and exposes sin so that we might confess and be made clean and victorious.
As my good friend Fred Wolfe is quick to say, "Revival is when God takes his people to a new level and they never return to their old level." We believe God has been faithful to meet us at North Mobile. Our faces are set toward him and we do not want to go back to what we were before. Thank You Lord for revival services. Thank You Lord for your fresh touch. May the result be obedience to your word and glory to your Son by souls being saved.

Ed Litton
Photograhs by Josh Boozer

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Desert

I am blessed to have a lifetime of out of the ordinary experiences. (I did not say out of the body experiences.) I have a mental file cabinet full of sermon illustrations from my unique life experiences. One such experience has helped me recently.

When I was twelve years old, illness forced my parents to sell our home, farm, and much of our worldly possessions to move from east Tennessee to the desert of southern Arizona. The move felt like a John Steinbeck moment, including the bitter grapes, as we pulled a small U-Haul trailer, with our '69 Pontiac, across the barren landscape of Texas, New Mexico, and finally Arizona.

To me living in the desert of southern Arizona was like living in a big, ugly box of kitty litter. My world was so different. Nothing was familiar--not the sounds, not the smells, or the strange people. I could not see any good in the move. It was certainly a transitional time in my development and I felt abandoned by God, a far cry from the life I had imagined for myself. I daily bargained with God in prayer; I pleaded with Him to take us out of that wasteland and deliver us back to the Promised Land.

As I grew accustomed to my new desert life, something happened. I cannot say that I grew to love it. There was always a sense of resentment in my heart for being forced there. Never-the-less, life went on. I went to school, made friends, and attended church. As I grew up, I began to accept the desert, though I did not stop longing for the green hills of east Tennessee. That came much later. As I began looking around the desert, I noticed there were rich resources of water in the desert also; but, unlike east Tennessee, there were no flowing rivers—only empty ravines. Instead, hidden Artisan wells supplied water for the Cottonwood trees to flourish in the desert. There was also food in the desert. Even the cacti produced fruit, which was used to make great candy and jellies. When these fruits fermented, coyotes got drunk. There are all sorts of smells in the desert.

I have a very rich memory of Tammy and me traveling home from seminary in Texas to visit our family in Tucson. We had been homesick for the desert. It was early in the morning, after sunrise, when an unusual rain shower came. Heading west on Interstate 10, my nose captured the first sweet smell of rain in the desert. I said to Tammy, “Can you smell the rain?” She smiled yes. The thin drops hit our Volkswagen windshield and then another smell aroused us. We quickly rolled down the windows and both breathed in the odor deeply. It was the smell of the Creosote bush. This wild desert bush emits a dry, musty smell that we both knew from our collective desert life. When rain drops hit the millions of Creosote bushes in the desert, they release an amazing smell into the atmosphere. Don’t misunderstand. The smell is not all that wonderful; but, for us, it was the smell of home.

Lost in this moment of memory, I guess I need to come back to why I thought I should tell this to you. There are times now when I relate the immature emotions of my childhood with the wasteland I am currently traveling through called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Loosing Tammy shattered my dreams and the life I imagined for myself. The sights, sounds, and smells in this desert are strange to me. I am tempted to plead my case before the Heavenly Father and ask Him to deliver me out of this place quickly; but, I stop myself. I understand that He has a purpose for me in this desert; He has hidden beauty and rich resources in this place. I don't know that I want to love the valley of the shadow of death. I do believe that, while I am passing this way, it would be wise for me to look carefully to see what I could easily overlook. When pain threatens to consume me, I can miss what God has hidden in the desert. He has a rich supply, a never ending source, a fragrant aroma in the desert. He never promised me continual green pastures. He never said that I would always walk barefooted in a plump, green carpet of grass. Instead, He takes His beloved into dangerous and barren places, largely to improve our vision, our sight, and our sense of smell--to help us see what we would normally have missed.

Had God granted my youthful prayer request, I would not have met my fellow desert dweller: Tammy. I would have missed out on some of the richest experiences in life. I would have been less the man God wants me to be. I would have never learned to appreciate the thirst for God that the desert has produced in me.

Ed Litton

Psa. 63:1 “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Ten-Week Perspective

How am I doing?
I don't know, and I’m not able to be completely sure. There are a few more moments of joy, acceptance and laughter than ten weeks ago. The dull painful reality of being separated from Tammy lingers. The dailiness of life pushes me forward into the unknown future. I thank the Lord for that; otherwise I could see myself drowning in grief. I think this sense of greater responsibility keeps me from greater stupidity.

At the same time, I watch for my heart’s attempt to replace my grief with mindless entertainment or thoughtless repetition. There is nothing wrong with taking an aspirin for pain, but a bottle of aspirin is too much. At this moment the hardest part is not being able to talk to her. I know the solution is to talk more to the Lord. I do. Yet the ability to share every joy with her multiplied the joy. Talking out every worrisome thought reduced the worry. Giving her a handful of the broken shards of my faith and watching her help me piece them back together gave help in believing God for great things. The loss of the layers of our experiences together and our unspoken mutual understanding is greater than I can bear. See, there come the tears.

What brings me comfort?
My Lord. Our children. Friends. A great hearted church.

What is still hard?
Thursdays are hard. They mark the weekly anniversary of that terrible day in our lives. Thursday is the day when the phone call, the trip to the accident scene, the helicopter ride, telling my children and all of the painful events get a complete high definition rerun.

What is the toughest part?
There are many competitors for this ranking, but watching helplessly as your children hurt is tough.

How am I coping?
It is interesting––I often find myself asking, “What would Tammy do?” At Wal-Mart I turn to Kayla and ask, “What brand of laundry detergent would your mother pick?” because there are too many and I had no idea soap costs so much. I ask this in part to maintain some sense of normalcy, in part because she was so wise in the practical parts of living. I also ask, “What would Tammy do?” in respect to grief. If I had died, what would she have done? I think she would have been similarly devastated, but not to the point of being incapacitated. She would have found God's grace at every turn in the road, even though she hated winding mountain roads. I think she would have pressed on well, and I would have been proud of her.

Well, maybe. I’m coming to grips with a reality that has never hit me before. Tammy, as a pastor's wife, would have been in a totally different situation than I find myself as a pastor. You see, when I lost Tammy there was much I did not lose. A woman who faithfully serves as a pastor's wife and then loses her husband loses much more. She suffers the intense grief of her lost love as well as the additional blows of lost identity, lost income, lost security, lost companionship––and oftentimes the loss of a home, since many pastors’ families still live in church owned homes called parsonages. I have not lost my job, my security, my identity or my home. Like most people who have not suffered this kind of loss, I was amazingly insensitive to the nuance of it. So many women who lose their husbands in ministry also lose their pastor. I can only imagine the pain of watching as a new man and women are naturally called to live out, in their own way, the ministry she has seen cut short.

I don’t know how we as the body of Christ can better help those we love struggle through their grief, but I am convinced we must. Maybe we start by refusing to get frustrated when their grief outlives our own. One man wrote me, telling me how members of his church believed he was in sin one year after his son's tragic death, for not “getting beyond it.” I would get really mad, if it weren’t for the fact that I could actually see myself thinking something that stupid. We can help in practical ways by understanding tough decisions the grieving person faces and not judging them with our opinions. We can also pray for them and help when they need it.

At times I entertain the wish that it had been me and not her. But I shoo it away, because that is not my call. The sovereign heart of God alone has the right and wisdom to make such a choice. But I do believe that same God is honored and glorified when I seek wisdom from him and draw close with him to the broken hearted and those who are crushed in spirit.

Ed Litton

P.S. That’s what I mean when I say, “I’m fine!?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Revival is the sovereign work of God that God's people must desire. The need for renewal and refreshing is always a significant need among God's people. We need daily revival. As a body of believers in the Church of our Lord we also need seasons of revival. Listen to the cry for revival from the heart of the Psalmist.
Psa. 85:6-7 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

Revival is the refusal to hide, cover, excuse, deny and ignore the corruption within us called sin. It is being honest about our sinful condition along with the renewed desire to be clean and wholly surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psa. 51:10-11 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Revival is the restoration of joy of the salvation that is God's precious possession shared generously with us. It is the granting of a willing spirit.
Psa. 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Revival is the renewed desire to obey the word of God in the practical expressions of our daily living.
Psa. 119:9-11 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Revival is the restoring of the reverence for God. It is a longing for the perfecting holiness of the Lord Jesus.
2Cor. 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Revival is the refreshed reality of being cleansed from besetting sin.
John 15:3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.

Revival is renewed obediance.
Psa. 119:16-17 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. 17 Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.

Revival is the revelation of deception in our lives. It is the clear and simple desire to obey the word of God. It is the longing to please and honor the Lord.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Revival is a renewed disgust for worthless things.
Psa. 119:37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Revival is the rekindled desire to put away the old nature and experience the new life in Christ with is holiness and power.
Eph. 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Revival is the releasing of the resiliance of God's Spirit within us. It is the God-given ability to not surrender to defeat. It is the renewal of our spirit daily. It is not instant anything except the touch of God upon our lives. This is out of His grace and love for us and His bride, the Church.
2Cor. 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Revival is God's desire. Is it yours? Ask Him to bring revival to your life.

Luke 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Ed Litton

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Wasting Disease of Unconfessed Sin.

Your emotions wince in pain, and your mind rejects the terrible message that someone in the news––or, worse, someone you know––is suffering from a virus or staph infection that cannot be controlled or stopped by antibiotics. Terms like "flesh-eating" and "wasting away" stop you in your tracks as you entertain the horrifying idea that something so small and yet so utterly terrible can take your health or even your life.

David expresses the heart of God in the 32nd Psalm. It is a song about the blessing of God's forgiveness. "Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him" (v. 2). David then digs into the deep and rich soil of his life experience and adds this powerful statement in verse three: "When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long."

The worst wasting disease in the world is the disease of unconfessed sin. It eats our vitals and destroys God's creation within us. It takes the strongest part of the human anatomy, the skeletal structure, and eats our strength. "For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer" (v.4). There is little wonder that God hates sin.

Why do we not confess our sin? Because of a greater sin, pride. We fear being exposed in shame. We fear being seen not in control of our lives. We want our sin to be always private and never public. This explains why revival remains unrealized in most of our churches. Pride locks us into an unfeeling emotional state that needs the distraction of other people’s failures and sins so that we can ignore the wasting power of our own.

Our sin seems so manageable to us. In fact, our enemy helps us think this way because he knows the terrible, destructive power of sin within the Lord's creation--you. Are you keeping silent about your sin? I can guarantee you one thing: your silence is hurting you more than your open confession will. Your open acknowledgment of sin exposes the lies you have believed. Confession unplugs the power of your sin to control you. Telling the truth is scary--but once done, it liberates. "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin" (v.5).

The opportunity to come clean will not last forever. "Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him" (v.6). Trust me when I tell you from my own experience things happen that forever alter your life. A day will come when you will not be able to confess all known sin. Today is the day to end the wasting disease of sin in your life. Get with God, get clean and openly admit your faults. He has a marvelous way of restoring what has been eaten away.

James 5:16 says "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Ed Litton

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What is sin?

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

According to this verse, what is sin? Sin is anything that falls short of God's glory. We were made to glorify God; failure to do this (and we have all failed) is sin. Sin is any attitude, behavior, or lack thereof which fails to bring glory to God. Sin is the margin between God and us. Since sin is the difference between God and us, understanding the difference between how God responds, acts, and thinks and how we respond, act, and think is vital; knowing God is our critical mission. Sin is falling short of His perfection; this truth makes God the standard by which all behavior, all thinking, and all action must be rightly judged. Sin is not truly recognizable, or discernable, without a clear view of Him. He is the eternal contrast by which we see ourselves. He is the only standard of righteousness. James describes sin as independence from God and the stubborn refusal to do what is right. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." (James 4:17) John describes sin as all wrongdoing. "All wrongdoing is sin." (1John 5:17) Paul says that sin is living without trust and dependence upon God, "...and everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)

Since we Christians have been forgiven of sin and seek to walk with God in righteousness, how should we see sin? Though sin is something to be avoided, overcome, and defeated in our lives, by God's grace, often it isn't. We are prone to fall victim to its seductive power. This happens in many ways. One common error I find in myself is that sin often lurks in my forgetfulness of God. Sin crouches in the tall grass, ever patient, waiting for its prey just beyond the edge of my forgetfulness of God's presence.

Jesus told Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat." (Luke 22:31) Our enemy seeks to separate us from the awareness of God's presence. In so doing we become open and vulnerable to sin's sharp, destructive teeth. We, the object of God's love and grace, become the object of Satan's hunger to shame God. Thus, our greatest need is to repent and once again enjoy fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Since repentance is coming back to an awareness of, fellowship with, and dependence upon God, we can thus measure our repentance by how closely we walk in awareness of Him in our lives. If we are truly repentant, our communion with Him and our dependence upon Him will increase. Every area of independence from God is a dark area, where sin patiently waits for its prey. Second Corinthians 5:15 tells us, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." What areas of your life are you living independent, or forgetful of God? In your behavior, how are you falling short of God's behavior? How should you repent? Remember, repentance is turning from your sin to dependence upon God.

Ed Litton

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Can Only Imagine

Though many find great comfort in thinking about heaven, I have not allowed myself to dwell much on thoughts of heaven. I know that seems odd for a man who has just seen the love of his life go to that great prepared place. I do not know why, but dwelling on heaven does not seem to bring me great comfort. In time, I am sure the truth of God's word about heaven will bring immeasurable comfort to me; but it isn’t a thought to which I want to run right now.

I have had moments when I have found comfort in the thought of seeing Tammy again. While swimming in just such a moment recently, something happened. I could picture Tammy, with a familiar look on her face—one she wore when she confronted me with the truth of either my bad attitude or something not so true that I was saying. Though I did not delight in seeing that look, it was one of her greatest acts of love. General Douglas MacArthur called his wife, Jean Marie, the general's general. Every general needs a general and, at times, Tammy was my general--a corrective source for my thoughts and crazy ideas. I miss her pure truthfulness and honesty, which was always seasoned with love and respect. During this recent brief moment, I imagined her, with that familiar look on her face, saying, "You know, Honey, before you see me, there is someone else you need to talk to first." I was flooded with deep conviction and realized that, in my grief, I was forgetting my Lord. I then did what I have often had to do: I repented. I asked the Lord to forgive me for allowing the thought of Him once again to fade.

The Lord can fade into the background of our pain, when grief makes us even more self-centered than usual. At that point, the truth may seem cruel, but it is not. We do not need a free pass. We need someone to tell us the truth; however, few are willing to do that, because they stand in awe of our pain and suffering.

I thank God for a faithful friend and wife who told me the truth when it was hard, inconvenient, or unpleasant. Thank you, Jesus, for creating Tammy and for giving her to me as my precious friend and partner in this oneness called marriage. My forgiven heart longs to see you, Lord; but, close by will be my friend, Tammy, who outlives life itself. I can only imagine.

Upon his wife’s death, Vance Havner said: "Death can hide; but not divide. She is with Christ on life's other side. She is with Christ and Christ is with me. United still in Christ are we."

Ed Litton

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Joseph could have been the poster child for hopelessness. Rejected by family, sold into slavery, falsely accused, forgotten and left in prison. Yet, Joseph finds his hope in God. He hopes for a day when God will bring into focus all the blurry details of his life. His hope was not easy or perfect. Yet he seems to daily manages to put his hope in the Lord. In Joseph's story we discover that circumstances are never what they appear to be. Your and my circumstances are seldom what we conclude they are. There can be hope in the midst of hopeless circumstances. For God's child there is hope even in the darkest prison. In life, things seldom turn out the way you hope. But when things do not turn out, this does not mean there is no hope. We must make sure our hope is anchored in God and not what we expected.

There are some very dark moments in my life. In the darkness of the prison of my grief I cry out to God. What I find is that hopelessness is the birthplace of hope. Hope does not need perfect circumstances to exist. As a matter of fact, hope is born in the ugly, dirty and painful maternity ward of sorrow, grief and suffering. That is where the first cry of hope is heard at the sound of God's slap, hope grasp for air and hope begins to breath.

While Joseph was there in prison the Bible says in Genesis 39:21, "The Lord was with Joseph..." What exactly does this mean? Speaking of Joseph the Psalmist writes: "...and he sent a man before them - Joseph, sold as a slave. 18 They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, 19 till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true." (Psa. 105:17-19) The Hebrew word, translated neck in most translations is the word nefesh or soul. The iron shakels were around his neck but there was a deeper iron shakel on his soul. That is one of the most poinant descriptions of grief I have ever heard. It remained until what was foretold came to pass or until God's promise proved him true. This speaks of the purpose of his testing. God was doing something in Joseph through the painful circumstances of his life. Our hope is not found in perfect circumstances but in the ever present Lord who works all his plans together in and through our lives. (Romans 8:28)

My soul cries for freedom while my God cries for transformation. I feel like I am in a prison of grief. I want freedom. Yet His Spirit says, You might as well embrace what God allows to come your way, because He is transforming you. Iron shakels are on my soul but God is smelting them into iron for my soul. This powerful, painful transformation is the work of God and God alone.

Is. 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Ed Litton

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The "All" in His Abounding Grace

It is time for a personal testimony that I pray will become real personal to you. I have often wondered, as I assume you have, what would I do in a dark, terrible moment of sorrow and grief. How would I respond? The question always hung in space, unanswered, twirling before my mind. Well, this is a postcard from the unthinkable. Let me tell you what it is like.

I am not going to focus on the pain today, even though it is still very real. I am going to focus on God's grace. When and I do mean when, you suffer as one of His children, He really is present. He is genuinely drawn to His children and to others when we suffer. I want to add that He is more than just with you, although having Him with you is greater than having anyone else with you. No, he is not just a silent partner in your pain. He, well, how can I say it? I know, I will let the Apostle Paul say it. Paul was a man experienced in grief, struggle and suffering. 2Cor. 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

God is able. This means that the only thing between God's ability and your need is you and what you are willing to surrender to Him. Now, look at all the times Paul uses the word "All." We have access to all of God's grace. Grace is God's powerful working in our lives to do what we are incapable of doing. In Christ you get all grace which means that you get every kind of grace for every kind of impossible situation. Did you notice that it "abounds" to you. This is cornucopia language. This overflows like a basket of beautiful, fresh fruit. "So that in all things," stop there, whatever your painful struggle might be, stop comparing it to someone going through worse trials and miss what God has for you. Whatever you face is covered in "all things." "At all times," is another all inclusive statement. I find his grace saturates my times with him, with others and with God's word. I have "all" that I need. That is a powerful definition of God's grace. I may think I need some things or may intensely want something else but He gives me all I need. Sometimes it is like medicine, bitter to the taste, at other times it is a sweet desert made by a caring friend, but make no mistake it is his grace. Now, here is God's purpose and promise, "you will abound in every good work." God has a good work he is doing in and through this pain. That is more than something I hope or trust is true, it is true! Notice the language again, not the repeated "all" but the repeated use of "abound."

I for one, am glad that our Heavenly Father is a prodigal loving God because I have a prodigal heart. I love the way he receives the penitent sinner with open arms and an open heart. He throws a huge party, a great feast of fatted calf and restores completely and abundantly. He is quick to give responsibility because he has a good work in which he want his sons to abound. Question. What stands between you and God's ability to make all of his grace abound in your life of circumstances? Fear? Guilt and shame? A personal sense of unworthiness? Maybe, like the prodigal son and myself, you have a plan, an agenda for how to get back in his good graces. No, he has grace for you before you outline your plan to him.
I am amazed at the language of this verse. Paul says "God is able to make all grace abound to you." The shortage is not on his end. The failure is with you. James says that we simple do not have because we do not ask. Ask, believe and receive. Just now, stop reading and simply pray. Surrender you heart to him, and receive grace. Ask the Lord to come into your life, your situation and bring his abundant grace. He will. He certainly has in my life. He is able, are you
willing? Pain will drive you. Either it will press you away from him or further into his chest. You get to choose.

Ed Litton

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Through Not Over

The reality of an often repeated statement, made to me in the first hours and days of my sorrow, has hit me hard. As it is said, I know that the truth of this statement is undeniable, "you will never get over this." I rejected the concept at first or maybe I just wrestled with the fact that I did not want such a pronouncement made over me. It made me feel so powerless and I was already aware of how powerless I was to prevent this tragedy. As the pain bore down upon my soul and pressed into my heart, I found myself accepting this truth, that I would never get over this. Believe it or not, the hour soon came when I did not want to get over it.

I do not think God wants us to get over loss, sorrow and pain. The
twenty-third Psalm indicates that the Shepherd of our souls does not
lift us up and over the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Psa. 23:4 Even
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Did you see the key word in that verse? It was the fifth word from the
beginning in this translation. It is the word "through." It is God's
way to lead his people through the hard things in life not over them.

We somehow develop a set of expectations of God. We expect, I suppose,
that if he goes to such sacrificial lengths to save us that keeping us
from all harm, danger and loss would also fit into his job description.
He is by the way, a good shepherd. When we actually do suffer great
loss, we then have the expectation that he will lift us up above it,
twirling in the sky above our pain, seen by all. This is untrue not to
mention unreal and ultimately selfish. We can also contrive that
having suffered great loss and the accompanying pain that we deserve
some sort of break in at least the immediate future. This too is

How terribly hard it is to sit with my adult son, struggling with the
pain of loosing his mother, who believed in him and loved him through
great struggles from birth to manhood. The cry of his heart is like
mine. Why? I hear a loss of confidence in the goodness of God in his
voice. I struggle with that one also. Deep down there is this
expectation that we could live life and escape this kind of pain. We
are not wide-eyed idealist. We have had our share of hard knocks and
pain before. This one, however, caught us blind sided. This is not
what we expected.

I have always believed that my journey in life was a walk with the
Lord. He is my shepherd. I knew that the road was scheduled to endure
some dark and difficult valleys. Loosing her was just too terrible a
thought to entertain in its fullness. So, beyond the shutter it would
bring, my mind would shake it off like unwanted rain and press on to
the immediate. That is what we do when we face the unthinkable. Most
of us have plenty of distractions in the immediacy of life.

Then it happens. We find ourselves standing on the shadows edge
looking into a darkness that is unspeakable. We want to run but where
do we go? Time presses us into the grief. In a confusing swirl of
emotions, most of which are horrible, we step into the unknown. The
canyon walls are steep and straight. They move upward higher than any
building in New York. They rise up and press in. The closest feeling
at this moment would be the most intense homesickness you ever
experienced as a child, multiplied by terror a million times. A
fearful sense of doom surrounds you. You expect to touch it in the
darkness at any moment but you never do. You step one foot forward,
then another. Soon, in the dark you realize that He is with you. His
Spirit wispers encouragement but it is hard to grasp what he just said.
He is patient with our pain and he understands. Often, he repeats
himself without any sense of pevishness or impatience. It is here you
remember that he is the good shepherd. You are his sheep and he is
leading you through no over.

He led the three Hebrew children through not over the fire. He refined them through some of the most intense persecution ever experienced by human beings. Through this he brought an empire to it's knees and taught us about the price of true worship. He led Abraham and Sarah through infertility with encouragement and a promise. He led obstinate Hebrews through desert sands to bitter watering holes, because he had a plan. The Lord is our shepherd. We shall not want.

One word gives me hope in this valley. It is the word "through." Through means I will make it to the other side. What does that world look like? I do not know and I will not speculate even thought it is my nature to so. The confidence I have at this moment is based soley upon a promise. Psa. 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." That is a different kind of promise that we would contrive for ourselves. It is not the removal of danger of the possibility of future hurt. It is greater. It is the promise of victory in the presence of real enemies. It is the promise of an anointing, a blessing from God, a power to face anything as long as we are walking with our shepherd. It is the promise of an overflowing in my life from the hands of my loving father who killed the fatted calf and hired a band the day I returned to him. He will not withhold any good thing from me. He is good. He is worthy of my life, my praise, my love given back in obediance. He leads me through not over. I do not want to wake up one day in some dreamy place where there is no memory of his greatness, his provision, his power manifested in me. I want to wear this wound as a badge of honor and glory to him. I love him! Beyond words, I return my love in the currency of trust.

Ed Litton

Monday, October 01, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Twenty years ago this coming Sunday God allowed me to become a Pastor. Before that moment, I trained, prayed, dreamed and planned to be a pastor because that is what God called me to be. I did not do this alone. I had the joy of a woman whom God used to love me, refine me, encourage me and help me in the task that He called me to. Like the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:7, "I became a servant of this gospel by
the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power." Also like the Apostle of the heart set free, I am the least of all people to be given such a critical task.

You see, God is full of mystery. In his mysterious way, hidden from the understanding of the wise, God revealed his wisdom through an assembly of his chosen followers, a collection of fools in the eyes of the world, but he calls us his church. Ephesians 3:10 says: "His intent was that now through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is the mystery, God has placed his plan of salvation for all mankind in the hands of redeemed sinners who obey
his word by gathering into family like groups called the local church. They gather to worship, pray and believe God together. They gather regularly to renew their loyalty to the gospel and each other. They gather to help, encourage and support one another, only then to be scattered into their culture in order to infect others with the same life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Their purpose in life, their chief end is not personal happiness, but to give him glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! They live for their redeemer. They long for his return. They bring his hope to bear on a broken world. They bind up the wounded, they reach out to the rejected and they love as he loves them. This is his church, glorious as an army with banners. Powerful, in prayer and the hope of a nation. Yet, cursed by the shuttering evil one and despised among cowardly principalities.

I should not wonder that churches struggle. We are under the worst kind of ongoing spiritual attack. Why? Because the evil rulers and authorities in the heavenly places despise what we are. We bring hope because he has made us salt to preserve and light to reveal. We are the glorious church of the living God. With all of our struggles we yet represent God in this generation. His gentle hand lifts up your head and wipes your tears away with a smile that says, I am coming for you, soon. He is the love of your life. He is your kinsman redeemer. He is the Lord of glory, Jesus, our lover and lord!

We must stop going to church and just start being the church.

We must stop acting like Christians and start being Christians.

We must stop just being known as believers and start believing.

We are God's mysterious plan at work in this world, what greater significance could we desire?

We are called, equipped, empowered and deputized to represent our Lord to our neighbors with a love that cannot die. When we love him supremely we will obey him completely. We will never lack for power, never lack for joy and never lack for the fruit of changed lives. We are the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I, for one, am glad and exceedingly humbled by God's choice to call me as an under-shepherd of his church. I consider it an honor to give myself to him by caring for, protecting and preparing his bride for her wedding day. Thank you Lord for calling me, equipping me and anointing me to pastor one of your churches.

Happy Anniversary Lord!

Ed Litton