Monday, January 26, 2009

Agents of Grace

Grief still pays me unexpected visits sometimes, coming upon me like an unseasonable storm. Lately it has been in situations when one of my children needs a mother's comfort or care—and I feel helpless to be that for them.

My son Tyler was diagnosed at the age of fourteen with a disease that has no cure. Tammy, in typical style, moved swiftly past the immediate pain of that news and began to deal with the practical realities of the disease. There were hospital stays, procedures and medications. Tammy handled them all with skill and a mother's care. She would read up on the disease and become an overnight expert. I would sit in silence with the doctor as she ran through a list of questions I never would have thought to ask. That’s just what a mother does. It’s been said that a woman's beauty is revealed in and after pregnancy. Actually, I think she’s transformed by a sacrificial love that is awesome to behold, actually it is breath taking. The first time I laid eyes on Tammy, I knew she was beautiful. But when she became a mother, a new, more defined beauty emerged.

Thankfully for almost six years our son has been free from symptoms as the disease stayed in remission. Just over a week ago, though, Tyler came to me with the news that the symptoms have returned. So did my grief. I felt overwhelmed by the list of things that Tammy had managed to keep so orderly. I didn’t know where to begin or what to do. So I formed a plan of action with her as my role model. The problem was I knew I would never be able to do it all—especially providing the comfort a mother alone can bring. Yet it has to get done, and swiftly.

Today we went to the hospital for a test. We arrived early and sat down to go through the procedures for outpatient admission. The first woman we spoke to welcomed us with sweetness and kindness. She found Tyler's file, confirmed his appointment and told us his name would be called in a few moments. When Tyler was called and we got up out of our seats, this dear woman, stopped Tyler and cupped his face in her hands. She whispered something to him, and I watched him hug her as she held him. Tears formed in my eyes as I realized that what I couldn’t give Tyler God provided through a stranger, a mother, an agent of grace. As we walked down the hall I asked Tyler what she’d said. She’d given him words of comfort and faith in the Lord's plan for the whole of Tyler's life. She spoke hope into his anxious heart, another thing a mother does.

As a father, my concerns for my children are many. I feel saddest when I think of how they’ve been deprived of an amazing mother. Yet God has a way of breaking through the storm of our grief and showing us a glimpse of His glory through one of his agents of grace.

I want to be an agent of grace. I don't think you can plan such a ministry. I think, rather, you simply make yourself available to the Lord, love people, and stay sensitive to His Spirit's prompting voice.

Before the day was over another mother made one of the most amazing meals and brought it to our home. Another one of God’s wonderful agents of grace.

Tyler is going to be fine. Thank you, Lord, for your agents of grace.

Ed Litton

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lets Talk About Our Investments

How is your 401K? How’s your retirement account doing?

Honestly, I do not like those questions. If you’re like me, this line of questioning is painful just about now. America and most of our neighbors in this world are in a severe economic downturn…okay, a precipitous slide…no, it may better be termed an economic avalanche.

In this economic environment it’s too easy to complain about my losses in the stock market. The question I don’t want to answer is this: Why did I invest so much in things that means so little? Why place so much confidence in things that can’t last, which are here today and gone tomorrow?

Jesus once said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." Matt. 6:19-20 (NIV)

The other day my financial adviser tossed out a mantra I know he must have repeated a thousand times before he said it to me. "You've got to think long term." How long-term do I need to think? Until retirement? Further?

Yes, further. Jesus makes it clear that Investing in anything that can be eaten by moths or rust, destroyed by the second law of thermodynamics, or stolen by thieves who break into our confidence and loot our investments is a short sighted. Jesus gives us the wisest financial advice ever given: keep the long term in focus because this hurting, corrupted, fallen and painful world is slowly and surely passing away.

The greatest retirement plan in the world is out of this world. I’m not planning to stop putting money into my retirement account, but I will try not to over-invest in this world. God is faithful to provide all my needs according to His riches in glory. Today, my greatest investment is to give the hope of eternal life to another person who will live forever.

Trusting Him!

Ed Litton

Saturday, January 10, 2009

40K Faith

How do you know if gold is real? How can you determine the proof of gold? Experts tell me that one way, maybe the best way, is to melt the gold down. In the fire the purity of gold becomes obvious. You can take it to the experts at a pawn shop or a jewelry store, but even then the best guess rules. Only heat reveals gold’s true purity.

This is also true in the Christian life. The only sure way to determine the quality of your faith is to test it in the fires of adversity.

1 Pet. 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

So trials are necessary for a reason we may not fully appreciate. These melting experiences prove the quality of our faith. We suffer grief in all kinds of trials for what reason? So that our faith, which has higher value than gold, may be proven genuine. The end result is that Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, may be praised, glorified and honored.

Following Tammy's death in August of 2007 I had the most amazing experience. I was overcome gently but profoundly by a sense of assurance. That sense was far more profound that can I make it sound. It was the most solid awareness of the credibility and security of my relationship with Christ that I have ever experienced. It was almost a revelation. I remember the thought clearly. I believe the Lord spoke to my spirit, "You really are a believer."

As most believers do, I have struggled over the years, slightly not profoundly, with assurance of salvation. I knew that salvation comes as the work of God but that there are certain marks in a believer's life which identify a genuine experience of grace. I knew those marks were present in me. I settled that issue a long time ago and had a sense of strong assurance.

This later experience after Tammy’s death was unique. It was as if God revealed to me that my suffering of this trial was proof that I was His child. My response of faith, not the strength of my faith, was proof I was a believer. My hope in God’s provision and the willingness to trust Him was proof. Then there was the word of God that came by His Holy Spirit that day. I’m grateful for the sweet ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout my grief. He comforts when we let Him. He whispers hope and encouragement as well as assurance. I was given a sweet peace that I wasn’t looking for nor that I thought I needed. That in and of itself was the sweetest part. You see, the Lord gave me something I didn’t think I needed and for which I wouldn’t even have asked. He gave this gift because He is good. The truth is He had already given the gift of truth in the Word of God, and my faith is borne and strengthened by that written Word.

I’m grateful for the proof of faith.

Ed Litton