Saturday, May 30, 2009

Die With Us!

This morning I was reminded of this story, and it shook me to the core ... again.

Haim and his family

All during the night, the members of Haim's family comforted each other. They knew they only had a few more hours to live on this earth. The Cambodian Communist soldiers had tied them all together and forced them to lie down on the grass.

Earlier that day, Haim's whole family had been rounded up for execution. Because they were all Christians, the Communists considered them "bad blood" and "enemies of the glorious revolution." In the morning, they were made to dig their own graves.

The killers were generous. They allowed their victims a moment of prayer to prepare themselves for death. Parents and children held hands and knelt together near the open grave. After his family finished their prayers, Haim exhorted the Communists and all those looking on to repent and to receive Jesus as Savior.

Suddenly, one of Haim's young sons leapt to his feet, bolted to the nearby forest and disappeared. Haim was amazingly calm as he persuaded the soldiers not to chase the boy but to allow him to call the boy back. While the family knelt, the father pleaded with his son to return and die with his family.

"Think my son," he shouted, "Can stealing a few more days of life, as a fugitive in that forest, compare to soon joining your family forever free in paradise?" Weeping, the boy walked back to his father, as his father comfortably wrapped him in his arms and walked him back to their waiting family.

Haim said to the executioners, "Now we are ready to go." But none of the soldiers would kill them.
Finally, an officer who had not witnessed the scene came and shot the Christians.

(Taken from Jesus Freaks, by the Voice of the Martyrs)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Muslim Demographics

I found this video through James Emery White's blog  It's circulating pretty quickly so maybe you've seen it. Dr. White, a local pastor here in Charlotte of a tiny little church you've probably never heard of called Mecklenburg Community Church (feel the sarcasm), gives some great commentary to it.  If you're prone to overreacting and freaking out easily, you might want to read his comments here first.  You'll see why.  This video is meant to create a little buzz in the Christian world, and probably rightly so.  Dr. White closes his thoughts with this statement, and I think he's right on.

Yes, the world is changing. Islam is growing while Christianity, in many quarters, is waning. The best response is to neither demonize Muslims nor deny the differences between Christianity and Islam. The best response is to know what we believe, why we believe it, and then carry that message to the world. And maybe have some more babies.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ways to Pray

Back in Charlotte. Great trip to Orlando. And pumped about a few things coming up. Here are a few ways you can be praying for us in the next few weeks:

  1. Uganda '09 - As of last week, I had decided to postpone my trip until October for financial reasons. But just in the past couple of days, the Lord has graciously provided a great influx of funds through the support of generous friends and supporting churches. So, now I'll be able to be a part of the June trip as originally planned. I'm really excited. Thanks to all of you who have generously given to this trip. Pray that the Lord will be honored through this endeavor as I seek to be used for His glory wherever the greatest need is, whether it be one-on-one evangelism, preaching/teaching and training pastors, leading worship, helping in the medical clinics, etc.
  2. Camp Oasis - Pray for us and for the students of Ingleside Baptist Church to whom we'll be ministering next weekend at Myrtle Beach. Pray for Bill Stanley, as he brings the Word of God--that he'll be in tune with the Spirit's leading. Pray for the student pastors, Fred Broome and Scooter (with a name like that could he have been anything other than a youth pastor?). Pray for the leaders. And pray that we'll have wisdom each session as we lead in worship, that the spectator mentality that is prevalent in so much of the modern worship movement will be gloriously absent from our midst.
  3. All That Glitters - This is a CD project that my dad and I and a few of my good friends and local musicians here in Charlotte will be working on beginning in July. It will be 30-minute Gospel presentation on CD that will incorporate spoken word and song. The hope is that it will be a simple, yet effective tool to get the Gospel into the hands of friends, relatives, co-workers, etc.--a simple and non-threatening approach to proclaim the most important message known to man. Pray for us as we spearhead this in July.
  4. Pray for my wife - She's an amazing mother of almost three. She's feeling very-much pregnant right now and in need of some semblance of normalcy. As I drag her here and there and everywhere, pray that the Lord will sustain her according to His grace. And especially pray for her sanity raising our children as I'm away in Uganda for a few weeks.
Thanks so much to all of you who pray for and support our ministry. We are incredibly grateful.

In His Sovereign Hands,
Josh Via

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Simple? Yes. Easy? No Way!

Why is it that some of the simplest things in life are the most difficult to accomplish?  For example, the formula to lose weight is simple: Eat healthy and exercise.  But as you take a stroll through suburban America, you quickly realize that this is easier said than done.  Or what about this one? Living debt-free.  Every sane person wants to.  Simple right?  Don't spend more money than you have.  Yet, our current financial situation has exposed our collective love of money and our greed-motivated quest for more.  

The Bible is full of these too.  As I was reading Scripture this morning, one of these simple/difficult formulas popped out at me.  It's found in the 15th chapter of John's Gospel.  And it's one of Jesus' sayings.  Big surprise.  Jesus said a lot that was difficult.  Sometimes difficult to understand, but most of the time just difficult to put into practice the way that we ought.  And apart from the Spirit's power in our lives ... impossible.

Anyway, He says one of the simplest statements recorded in Scripture.  One that most kindergartners memorize in Sunday School.  I know because Rainy just memorized it a few months ago.  Here it is:

"This I command you, that you love one another." (John 15:17)

That's it.  Simple.  Yet incredibly hard to live out.  

And why is that?  Why do we find it so difficult to love people?  Isn't it because, by our very nature, we are bent toward sin and self-centeredness.  We are prone to love only ourselves.  And since every sin, at its core, is rooted in the sin of pride, the lack of love for one another fails to be the exception.  It's pride.  In truth, we don't love others, because we love ourselves too much.  

As I considered my own lack of love for people, I glanced back at the previous sixteen verses and came to another realization.  Since this whole pericope hinges on the concept of remaining in Christ, it dawned on me that love for others is contingent upon our remaining in Him. 

He says in verse 5: "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Epiphany:  Could it be that I don't love others the way I ought because I don't love Jesus the way I ought?  Could it be because I'm not consistently remaining in Him?  Could there be a correlation between lack of fellowship with Christ and lack of love for people?  And could the reverse also be true?  When I am in fellowship with Christ, love for people comes as an overflow?  

Obviously the questions here are rhetorical, but I think they demand our attention.  They demand that we evaluate our love for people and our love for Christ.  And maybe, as we do that it will become an indicator and a barometer to help us gauge our relationship with Christ.  

Simple? Yes.  Easy?  No way!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Graduations, Splits and Suffering

We're in Orlando, Florida this weekend to support my brother-in-law, Andrew Litke, as he graduates from Reformed Theological Seminary. Consequently, my brother, Jared, also graduates from seminary (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in Wake Forest, NC. I'm proud of these 2 guys. They're both men of God and they're seeking to follow His leadership for their family, ministry, and life. Way to go guys!

As is common in our family gatherings, conversations regarding theological ideas seem to rise to the surface frequently. This afternoon the issue was denominational schisms and points of division. Our conclusion? Most of them are superficial and completely non-essential. Though undoubtedly there have been theological issues such as the inerrancy of Scripture that have rightly divided us and have rightly warranted a separation, the majority are petty and superfluous.

With a tone of sarcasm and yet seriousness at the same time, one of Andrew's friends spoke up and said, "What we need in this country is a good dose of persecution!" And I think he's right. Our generation knows little, if not nothing of what it means to suffer for the cause of Christ. And without question, persecution among believers has been the great equalizer throughout generations and cultures, bridging ... no, eliminating the ridiculous barriers that we erect under the guise of faithfulness to the call. Again, sometimes faithful commitment to orthodoxy has been the case (i.e. the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, or the Baptist resurgence 30 years ago). But most of the time, they've been merely a front for a misguided commitment to an apparent calling, but what is, in reality, one of the pinnacles of religious self-centeredness and pharisaism.

Ironically, this week I'm reading a compilation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's sermons, letters and writings called Meditations on the Cross. One excerpt regarding suffering and persecution deserves to be quoted here for some much-needed food for thought. He says,

It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human order than in the freedom of one's own, personal, responsible deed. It is infinitely easier to suffer in company than alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer publicly and with honor than out of the public eye and in disgrace. It is infinitely easier to suffer through the engagement of one's physical being than through the Spirit. Christ suffered in freedom, alone, and out of the public eye and in disgrace, in body and soul, and likewise subsequently many Christians along with him.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meant For Me

It's a pretty amazing thing when after opening the Word to communicate to a group of twenty-somethings and wondering if you've connected with them at any level whatsoever, a young man approaches you and proceeds to tell you how everything you spoke on was meant for him--even the smallest of details--like you had been rummaging through his e-mails moments before you took the stage. Every bit of it--God-ordained for that young man. That's what happened to me Wednesday night at Two|Four, a weekly collegiate gathering of students in Raleigh, NC. As I had prayed and studied to hear a fresh Word from the Lord, I knew that I wanted to keep it short and sweet, since we had a whole night of worship planned. But I also knew that the Lord was directing me to hit on the subject of Brokenness, Purity and Surrender--all sort of gift-wrapped and bundled together. So, that's what I did.

Afterwards, that's when Brad approached me and said that everything I said was meant for him. I don't get that alot. Please don't hear me say that I'm some kind of spiritual superhero who hears the magnificent audible voice of the transcendent God of the angel armies on a routine basis. I definitely strive to hear His voice, but like most American Christians, I'm so bombarded with the noise of the world, with all of its vain gadgets and avenues without number leading to idleness and slothfulness, that I have a hard time doing so. So, when I do, it's one of those moments where I just have to stop and thank the Lord for allowing me another opportunity to hear His voice and wanting desperately to hear it again and again, and being mindful that I not presume that I will always hear it that clearly, but still always longing to.

So, long for it. Long for Him. Don't presume. But simply long. Study. Get alone with Him. Pray. Seek His face. And then get a fresh word from Him that you need and that someone around may need.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." - Matthew 5:6

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Long, Fruitful Week

Week Recap:

Sunday, 5-3 thru Wednesday, 5-6 - I joined my Dad for a 4-night revival meeting in Chatham, VA at Marion Baptist Church.  I love whenever I get to partner with my Dad.  He's my hero--always has been, always will be.  He has faithfully preached the infallible truths of God's Word with passion and unwavering conviction since before I was ever a glimmer in his eye! (I can't believe I said that) Anyway, the week started off a bit slow, but concluded with an emotionally-charged, Spirit-led encounter on Wednesday night.  A teenage girl, whom the entire church had been praying for many years to come to faith in Christ finally did just that--she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, and the place came unglued.  It was an incredible moment--one that I won't soon forget.

Friday, 5-8 - We took the band to Yadkinville, NC to Courtney Baptist Church to conclude their week-long revival services.  The Nate's (Nate Proczak and Nate Bryan) and Scott Spruill came along and did an amazing job as usual.  The Lord saved three young teenage boys that night. It was an awesome moment as we played "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone" and the chains that had once bound these young men were released. 

Sunday, 5-10 - We were back at Southbrook Church here in Charlotte for Mother's Day.  Michelle Singleton brought an encouraging word to mothers--a great way to finish up the week.  The four of us (no, ... five of us) came home and all took a 3-and-a-half hour nap.  Heavenly!  Praise the Lord for all that He did this week.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

When Admiration Turns South

What happened between this verse,

When David came to Saul and entered his service, Saul admired him greatly, and David became his armor-bearer. (1 Samuel 16:21)

and this verse

So Saul watched David jealously from that day forward. (1 Samuel 18:9) ?

Early on in Saul's relationship with David, Scripture says that he admired David. So much so that David became his armor-bearer--his personal assistant--his closest ally. Perhaps he saw some traits in David that reminded him of who he once was, or what he wished he could be. Maybe he admired the things in David that were lacking in himself. But whatever it was, it didn't last long.

What began as love and admiration soon turned to hate and jealousy. David was better looking. David was perceived by the people as being more heroic. David had the people eating out of his hands. On and on the list went. And Saul began to see himself quickly losing his hold on the kingdom.

As I studied this story this week, I was challenged to guard against this type of attitude. Because I realize how easy it is to adopt--how simple and easy it is to fall into this trap. So, let's be careful to guard against admiration that leads to jealousy and hatred. Thank God for how He has gifted those around you--other believers--colleagues--family members. And don't let admiration turn to jealousy!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Reading Habits: Odd or Normal?

I'm in the middle of about six books right now. I don't know why I do this to myself. It just happens. I guess I just get excited, jump the gun and start one before I can finish another. But maybe it's because they each have their own particular context in which they fit more appropriately than another. So, I thought I'd share briefly the method behind my madness and let you into my world just a little bit--if for no other reason than to help justify in my mind why the heck I do this. Perhaps it will help me make some sense of my own peculiarities regarding reading. Or perhaps not.

Category 1: The bathroom reading category--usually a lighter read on spiritual growth or a novel or something like that--not necessarily excerpts from The Church Fathers, systematic theology or anything that requires a long sit-down. Right now this would include Beyond All Measure by my friend Wes McMurray and Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell.

Category 2: The airplane/once-a-year visit to the mall/have-a-ton-of-time-to-kill category--usually something a little deeper that requires slower reading on my part in order to grasp the content (not a good place for an "Amen.") Right now this includes: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider and The Reason for God by Tim Keller.

Category 3: I'll simply deem the "diarrhea category". This is the type of reading that never really concludes. More often than not this includes books that make great reference materials. A continuous perusing of several staple books that I keep coming back to over and over again. I read a bit. Put it down for a couple of weeks. Pick it back up. Put it down again. And so on. Right now this includes: Commentaries and smaller works within larger works, God Songs by Paul Baloche, A Godward Life by John Piper, Beyond by Greg Laurie, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, books on marriage and parenting and much more.

If I had a point here, I guess it would be in the form of this question:

Is this normal? Just wondering.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Praying Specifically

One of the many books I'm reading right now (look for a post tomorrow regarding this multiple-books-at-once phenomena) is called Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell. In this book, Chapell argues that rarely do we ever consider the four little words that we tack on to the end of our prayers--"In Jesus' Name, Amen." Instead, he says that if we would begin our prayers with the consideration and understanding that we're invoking the name of Christ and His blessing upon everything that we're about to pray, we would probably pray a little differently. It has definitely helped to bring some clarity and reform to my prayers lately.

One thing I read this morning struck me in a fresh way. Regarding the idea of praying specifically rather than generally, Chapell sites the example of George Mueller, the 19th-century missionary and orphanage founder. During his lifetime, "Mueller recorded over fifty thousand answers to specific prayers. He said that approximately ten thousand of the answers came on the day the prayers were offered" (p. 107). I was convicted regarding my own prayer life in that far too often my prayers are general and ambiguous. In fact, they are often so airy that I would be hard-pressed to pinpoint a time and place in which God came and answered according to His will in cooperation with my earnest request. Not only does this type of praying disqualify one from a life of sincere and childlike faith in the God who longs to give His children His best for them, but it also short circuits the process of spiritual maturation and growth that accompanies times of sincere dependence and reliance upon God to come through on your behalf.

So, I began thinking this morning, "Why shouldn't I pray audaciously? Why shouldn't I pray for the seemingly finite things? Why shouldn't I pray for both the little things and the big things? Do I think that I'll bother God with the small requests? Do I think God is too small or doesn't care enough to answer the large requests? Do I fear that I'll begin to think of God only as a vending machine who bends at my every whim? Or perhaps the vending machine idea of God is merely an excuse for my lack of faith?" Perhaps there's a balance to be discovered.

Chapell continues, "By asking in Jesus' name, Mueller expected God to answer as heaven knew was best" (p. 107). I think that's part of the balance--knowing that the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers to the Father through the intercession of the Son in such a way that God will answer as He knows is best. This illiminates the fear of praying for what may not be God's will. We pray in His name, with His authority, knowing that He will answer in His way, not ours. And this fact alone should encourage us to pray more earnestly and more specifically, not the opposite.