Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The modern age has left us with more than rusting massive heaps of machinery now sitting silent behind old buildings infested with green jagged weeds. It has left us with huge misguided ideas, just as silent and rusted, sitting behind the warehouses of our thinking. We assume great leaders, much like the products of those machines, are formed by assembly lines of schools, seminaries and an occasional mentor, who will fine tune and cast us into a bin for packaging and delivery. In fact, God has a very different way of creating the people he uses. He enrolls his choicest servants in a course of highly customized study, advanced lessons in crushing pain.

"When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and crushes him." - Alan Redpath

If you think about it, you could legitimately conclude that no one in Scripture who was greatly used of God avoided this crushing education. Paul learned through brokenness that God's grace is sufficient. Job learned the great gain of great loss. Moses learned and relearned his need for constant dependence upon the Lord. Joseph learned that great dreams can endure crushing realities. Then there is David.

Brokenness is God's way. Talent, youth, vigor and ability are the raw materials that infuse our desire to be great leaders. The problem is that those raw materials can’t function in the way we need or the way God desires. David, with warm anointing oil dripping down his young back had all the raw material to be king. Yet God knew that another arrogant, insecure king, dependant upon his own ability, would not do. So he enrolled David in an extended course in crushing experiences.

Very few enroll voluntarily in God's school. Fewer graduate. It’s a small school that can’t field a sports team, and there are no pep rallies. There’s no time or desire for such trivial pursuits. The classes are highly customized. For David there were classes entitled "How to Avoid Being Impaled by a Spear;" "Madness: How to Work for a Mentally Deranged Boss;" "Modern Cave Dwelling;" War on Multiple Fronts;" "Leading a Rabble to Victory." There were also some very personal and painful lessons, like "Married to an Impossible Person" and "How to Love and Lose a Best Friend."

David had to learn to be attacked and never throw a spear back. In fact, what he was learning was how to trust and depend on the Lord as his only source. No wonder the Psalms, David's private collection of poetry and song, is dominated by songs complaining, weeping over the pain of his lessons. Yet David finds the Lord in the fog of his suffering. He never seems to completely lose his focus upon the Lord. So he graduates with the honor of being known as "a man after God's own heart." He was crushed and broken, and the world was filled with the fragrant aroma of God's grace in and through his life.

We find another successful graduate from this school, where few enroll but many are welcome, lying in a bed of affliction. Broken and crushed while these words streamed from her pen:

One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Until I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.

And I walked earth's highways, grieving.
In my rags and poverty.
Till I heard His voice inviting,
"Lift your empty hands to Me!"

So I held my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches,
Till they could contain no more.

And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God COULD not pour His riches
Into hands already full!

-Martha Snell Nicholson

I have no idea what impossible thing God has planned for me, but I am quite sure I am an impossible person. I long for my crushing to be used for His glory. With my stupid and dull mind I also comprehend that only He can pour His riches into and through my open hands.

Ed Litton

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Searching in my computer, I stumbled upon a picture of me preaching with the choir and orchestra behind me in a wash of blue. It was then I saw her face. The moment is frozen in time. Tammy was sitting in the orchestra listening to me. I am amazed by how the mind works and how quickly it can race through your life, dropping forgotten snapshots to ponder.

In our life, I was the out front guy. I have always been comfortable in front of people, the more the better. I love preaching God's Word. Tammy loved her life behind the scene. She had all the talent to stand in the light, but she just lacked the need to be there.

She was my most excellent partner in ministry. She was proud of me. That may sound arrogant, but it isn't. I know she was very proud of me because she told me so often. She knew I needed to hear it from someone I respected and who had my best interests at heart. People are kind to me about my preaching, but I learned to wait for her words. No one has been able to encourage me quite the same since. She earned that respect by having to clean my proverbial plow on one or two occasions. I longed to please her and could not endure ever being an embarrassment to her.

I thank God for a woman. What a wonderful creation of our awesome God. She is so utterly other than man. She captivates us, transforming awkward men into poets as profound as Shelley and Keats. She can drive us to be more than our lazy or fearful hearts would ever attempt. The heart of a man will likely die in unproductive manhood without her, unnourished.

When Tammy and I met, God had already begun His new work in my heart. She was His gift to electrify the process. I had dropped out of the university and was prohibited from coming back until I could manage to bring my grades up in a junior college. Yet her love, her faith in me, her powerful encouraging ways made me want to be better for her, me and the Lord. I was broken on the rocks of her femininity and I delight in the brokenness. Today some call me Dr. Ed Litton. That could never have happened were it not for a brilliant woman named Tammy. I can still feel the warm glow of her. I am gladly a broken man.

Ed Litton

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacob's Mourning

The human heart has great capacity. Like a mighty cargo ship it can carry a massive load of bitter cargo or it can carry a great load of love.

Eleven brothers were so full of envy, jealousy and hatred for their younger but more beloved brother Joseph that their ship sat low below the waterline. A world of frustration and hate culminated in an unthinkable act of murderous intent.

In Genesis chapter 37 we have the shocking details of the crime against this young man. Reuben, one of Joseph's older brothers, kept the rest from shedding his blood, but the optional plan was equally as sinister. They sold Joseph as a slave to Midianite merchants. These merciless traders in human flesh must have resembled aliens from the bar scene in the movie “Star Wars”. To them Joseph the young, handsome dreamer was little more than fresh meat, deeply discounted.

The plot thickens with details added into the mixture. There must have been a perverse sense of pleasure in the brothers’ hearts as they imagined what they would tell their father, Jacob. Their words were few; all they needed to do was hand the torn robe, golden strands caked with goat blood, to the old man. His vivid and guilt-laced imagination did the rest. The brothers’ cruelty snaps shut like a lock as they watch a man break before their eyes. They have dropped truth into a pit that day--kicking, screaming, and crying for mercy. Once you've done the unthinkable, it’s easy to do it again.

Now here’s what arrested my attention today. Genesis 37:34-35 says, "Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.’ So his father wept for him."

Grief is always a unique reaction to the pain of loss. No two people will react exactly alike at shocking, tragic news. Jacob refused to be comforted. Instead he declared something that he fully intended to live out until he died. I understand Jacob’s reaction more now than ever, and it makes me concerned about the declarations I have made. Have I left room for God to take my heart in a different direction? Have I allowed my grief to become the defining moment of my life?

With Bible in hand I find myself wanting to comfort Jacob. I want to yell so he can hear me through the ages--you don't have to sorrow like you do. You see, I read the book and I know your son lives. He’s in another place, doing other things. He’ll be alright by the time this story ends, and actually he’ll be better than alright; he will rule and reign. Jacob, you don't have to surrender to grief, though I sure understand why you do.

We humans are limited in our ability to bring comfort. There is, however, another source of comfort, and it is God. He alone knows where our loved ones reside. He’s not the Midianite traders who carried them away, but He is sovereign over all. My beloved one, currently separated from me, is in another place, going another way, and will one day rule and reign. I don’t understand God's ways, but I can nonetheless accept His comfort. I can choose to accept His promise that we will meet again, and the reunion will be more spectacular than that of Joseph, his brothers and his grieving father, Jacob. After all he went through, can you imagine how it felt to hear the words from his son’s lips, "Joseph lives!"

I mourn, but with hope.
Ed Litton

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Less Than Perfect Circumstances

It’s tempting to let painful circumstances in life prevent certain spiritual activities. For example, we may feel unworthy to enter into worship when we are hurting or grieving. We may feel strong feelings that cause us to think of ourselves as disqualified to meet with the Lord. Yet it’s interesting that two of the most profound worship experiences recorded in Scripture took place in painful and grievous circumstances.

Isaiah discovered in the year his dear friend King Uzziah died that he saw the Lord in all of His glory. (Isaiah 6) The Apostle John, while exiled and under great persecution, was lifted up into God's throne room and saw the one who is worthy of worship. (Revelation 5) Both of these life altering worship experiences took place in less than perfect circumstances to say the least. In fact, they were two very painful circumstances.

There’s something about being human that makes worship the last thought when grief and sorrow invade our lives, though it’s often the first thing God uses to set the stage for His greatest revelations. When I’m not in pain, I’m far more likely to allow my heart to wander off into unworthy pursuits. My sorrow drives me to seek Him and to long for Him.

In our less than perfect lives, in order to have a heart of understanding, we must see the Lord high and lifted up. He is lord. He is worthy. He is holy. He is in control. When I enter into worship, my perspective changes. I see clearer what matters and what doesn't. I feel his love and I’m reassured of his understanding.

I want to encourage the hurting person to look to the Lord in worship. He is worthy of our worship, but in worship we find hope, healing and joy again. We find relief from our suffering and strength for another day. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (NIV).

Ed Litton

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Suffering brings clarity. This isn’t automatic, but it’s possible. Suffering causes us to focus like few other things in life can. Jesus said in Matthew 13:15, "For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them" (NIV). I’m amazed how easily my eyes form spiritual cataracts, and how I close my eyes to certain obvious things.

Pain has a way of calling every nerve to stand at attention. I’m not here glorifying pain or desiring more, but I have to admit it makes me aware of how truly alive I am. I hunger for clarity in my spiritual life. I want to see the Lord as Abraham and Moses did--like a friend, face to face. I don't want to lose this ability to see what so often I have missed. I resist the inevitable return to spiritual dullness.

This side of eternity, there will always be things won’t be able to see, things beyond our finite ability to understand. I Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (NIV). Yet there is so much that the Lord wants us to see, hear and experience of His sustaining grace and love. A friend once asked me if it’s possible to have this kind of clarity without having this kind of suffering. I don’t know how it could be possible for me. I can be a dull, irascible, and self-centered sort. My imagination easily declares war on windmills and journeys down unworthy paths.

Of the Lord's Twelve, I guess I most identify with Simon Peter. I’m standing in a boat with others, darkness surrounds us, waves frighten us. Then we see something that makes the hair on our necks stand. Our nervous systems are on full alert. It is Jesus, walking on the storm tossed seas of our lives. What we’re experiencing is impossible but nonetheless real. I ask the Lord to allow me to come to Him. He smiles and nods his approval of my request. I step out of the boat, causing even more fear in my companions who are rocked by my recklessness. I walk on water. Step by step, the impossible becomes possible. Then my eyes are distracted by the sheer impossibility of faith. As I sink, fear rises; I cry, He hears and rescues. Oh me of little faith.

Suffering brings clarity. It also needs clarity. I can’t assume, I will not assume that this suffering is the worst, and once I am over it, I can rest assured I will not have to suffer like this again. I have no guarantees that there won’t be more or greater loss. Although I cannot imagine a greater loss, I must remember how dull I can be. Nonetheless, He comes on storm tossed waves, in the midst of great fear, to dull and distracted people like me and Peter and bids us to do the impossible and come to Him.

Lord, I come.
Ed Litton