Category Archives: From The Pulpit

Bialek: Watching or obsessing?

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Pastor Jeremy Bialek

By Jeremy Bialek
Special to Inside The Pew

The food is on the table, everyone is seated, and it’s time to eat…but first we bow heads and close eyes to thank God for providingPastor Jeremy Bialek another meal. My kids will occasionally open their eyes or peak through fingers during this offering of appreciation. After the “amen,” my son will announce, in an accusing tone, that his sibling(s) opened their eyes during the prayer, thus immediately indicting himself.

In a Sept. 19 article published on Thinking Faith, Pope Francis said that the church shouldn’t be “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, homosexuality, and contraception. While church leaders have set their collective sights on particular social issues, at times to the detriment of preaching the Gospel, doesn’t the media’s highlighting of this one statement taken from an immense interview covering countless subjects, amount to crying, “They opened their eyes during the prayer!” Church leadership is guilty in that our only obsession as believers ought to be Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith upon whom the Bible commands we fix our eyes (Hebrews 12:2), and sharing His beautiful declaration – a Gospel of grace. The church’s failure to do so properly has left generations without a proper understanding of what Christ did and promised to do for us. Still, who started this fire?

Often the church is reacting instead of leading, but (while at risk of sounding defensive) can you blame church leadership for reacting to the obsession of culture with these same issues? Each of the issues Pope Francis mentions has been argued before the Supreme Court, is backed financially by our government (to the point of even lobbying for these “rights” overseas), and receives millions of dollars in promotion from the television & movie entertainment industry plus the news media. Yes, those who oversee the church should be as concerned about murder, heterosexual immorality, and materialism (sins that likewise share in the windfall of lavish media promotion). Yet, it is reported that our country is one of only four nations in the world to legalize abortions after viability and threatens to withdraw funding from states or countries unless they remove restrictions on those who perform abortions. So, who is more obsessive about the subject – those for it or those against it?

A pastor is a shepherd. The Word is clear that shepherds are supposed to feed and protect the flock. Too often our pulpits have spent so much time in protection mode that the sheep have forgotten what the bread of life & living water taste like. That said, to only feed the sheep and not warn them when the world sends more and more wolves, lions, and bears to devour the truth about sin, its consequences, and impending judgment, is, in fact, to close our eyes when we were charged with being watchmen. I agree with Pope Francis that balance is needed. It’s just that the world’s view of balance welcomes changing what we believe and silencing our voices.

Jeremy Bialek lives in Indianapolis, where he has served as the Pastor/Senior Elder of Indianapolis Christian Fellowship since 2008. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Science from Butler University & a Master of Science from Syracuse University. He is married and has seven children. Follow him on Twitter @pastorbialek. Learn more about ICF at www.icfonline.us

Lee: Frame your world by the inspired Word of heavenly Father

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By Donald Lee
Special to Inside The Pew

As children of the Most High God, we’ve been empowered by Him, our heavenly Father, to function in this earth in the supernatural, in ways that

Donald Lee

Donald Lee

supersede natural or earthly abilities and that surpass human comprehension.

While this statement may interfere with the theology of many people, the few who actually get this — and who search the scriptures and study the Word diligently — will find themselves discovering a whole other world coming alive to them.

They’ll begin to perceive things that they couldn’t perceive or sense before; they’ll begin to see themselves as who God, our Father, created them to be — supernatural beings clad in natural (or earthly) bodies. Their way of thinking becomes transfigured — revolutionized. And there’s an uncanny boldness (see Ephesians 3:12; Acts 4:13) that comes upon them.

It is with this new-found level of understanding of our relationship with our God — our Daddy — that revelation knowledge takes up residence within our inward man. And with this information, we learn how to flow in this earth as our Daddy commands.

Hebrews 11:3 says: Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (In your private study time, read slowly and meditate on each verse in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Each shares how God moved on the behalf of those who put their faith into practice.)

Now, let’s get back to this third verse in Hebrews 11. What’s key here is that we see in scripture that “the worlds” were “framed” by the Word of God. Everything we see and can’t see, everything both in this visible world and the invisible world, the things we can understand and the things we cannot: Everything was created by God’s Word.

In the natural (realm), if we want to build a house, we’ve got get lumber from somewhere, right? We’ve got to pay a contractor — things like that. This is an example of us framing our world by our words with things that do appear. In order for us to build a house, the lumber we need is already here; it’s tangible; we can see it; it exists. So does the contractor.

But all of these things were created by God from nothing. He spoke them and they appeared. The Holy Spirit reminds us that God created us to be just like Him (Genesis 1:26). He loves us. He has adopted us as His children through the works of Jesus.  Since we have crowned Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, we now operate in His splendor.

Turn to John 1:1-14. Read the first 14 verses (King James Version), but start off by emphasizing the first three: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.

The same three verses in the Amplified Bible say: In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being.

Jesus is the Word. Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. In other Words, the Word of God dwelt among the people here in the earth, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the sent One of God. We see the will of God through the example of His Word, Jesus the Christ. We’ve accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our mandate now, the charge that the Christ, the Word of God, has given us is to allow Him, the Word of God, to be expressed through us.

We are made up of flesh and blood, right? When Christ was here, He came in the “flesh.” He had a fleshly body, an earthly, mortal body. Yet people were able to read the Word of God and know the will of God through the example that He laid out before us with His walk. Thus, He was the Word of God, the will of God, made flesh. We now must be the Word of God made flesh, just as Christ was the Word who dwelt in the earth in the flesh.

Don’t cringe. The Spirit is saying that the Word of God abides in us. Therefore, we must be living examples here in the earth for others to see. The thing is not for them to see us and try to live like us, but to see Christ in us and begin to live their lives in and for Him.

Donald Lee is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center in Dallas. To hear his sermons live, call (218) 862-4590 (conference code: 279498#) at 10 a.m. (CST) Sundays and 7 p.m. Thursdays. KLCC has plans for a “Cowboy Church” ministry. Plans for this ministry, coming soon, call for it to be held once a month at a location to be announced.

Book review: Former NFL quarterback encourages others to be their best

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

For 14 seasons, Randall Cunningham was the versatile NFL quarterbackLay_It_Down_Randall_Cunningham whom teams depended on to make miracles happen on the gridiron.

Now, Cunningham, 50, is a pastor, a mentor, and an author. His second book, “Lay It Down: How Letting Go Brings Out Your Best,” (Worthy Publishing, $19.99) was recently released. The book takes readers through several episodes in his professional and private life that brought him to rely on God for support and clarification. The most pressing situation – the accidental drowning death of his 2-year-old son, Christian, in 2010. Cunningham fittingly alludes to the death of his son in the title of chapter 2, “The Biggest Hit I Ever Took.”

Instead of showing frustration for his son’s death, Cunningham immediately praised Him. “I got in my car, backed out of the driveway, and began to scream, ‘Hallelujah! Praise God! Thank you! I love you, God.”

“The goal of the book is to allow people to think about life solutions,” said Cunningham, who spent his career playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens. “There is no way we could have got through this (the death of Christian) on our own.”

Fittingly, Cunningham uses football-related phrases to frame his story. Nice touch. For further study of the chapter, the book includes reflection questions and epigraphs from the Bible, C.S. Lewis, Tim Tebow, Tony Dungy, Tony Dorsett, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

Mentorship takes on a circular meaning in “Lay It Down.” Cunningham said mentors have been “divinely planted” in his life.

“I’ve always had mentors, I just didn’t realize it,” he told Inside The Pew. “When I was in Pop Warner as a boy, there were men who volunteered their time to coach me. When I attended church, I had pastors who would pray for me. There were teachers who took a vested interest in me because if they didn’t I would not have become the man I am today.”

Cunningham credits Troy Johnson and Robert Johnson for introducing him and his wife, Felicity, into discipleship.

In the book, he also mentions how he is mentored by the nearly 12,000 members of his Las Vegas, Nev., church – Remnant Ministries.

As an NFL player, Cunningham considered the late Reggie White as his mentor, among others. Near the end of chapter 4, he speaks highly of hall of fame defensive end. But, before the “minister” began to connect with him, Tom Cameron introduced him how to stand with God and become a born-again believer. The prose here was engaging.

“It was Reggie White who got in my face and told me you better straighten your life up,” he said.

Just as some of the same ways teachers and pastors mentored to him, Cunningham serves the same role to teens who participate in the high school track and field and club track and field teams he coaches. As a coach, he said is able to mentor to athletes, especially those who are fatherless.

Cunningham wrote, “The building block of our culture begins with strong families, and the father is vital to that equation. Children need a father who is there. … Mentoring begins as a father.”

The book can fit into the classifications of a biography and inspirational non-fiction (well-organized story telling in several chapters). Cunningham’s message is clear as the reader closes its covers: set goals, stay focused, and never hesitate to rest on others for support. These attributes have taken Cunningham pretty far.

“Lay It Down: How Letting Go Brings Out Your Best” is available at Amazon and Borders. To learn more about Remnant Ministries, visit http://www.remnantministries.net/.

Cunningham to NFL Draft hopefuls: ‘Pray for favor’

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

Back in 1985, Randall Cunningham was a quarterback from theRandall Cunningham University of Nevada at Las Vegas with hopes of becoming a professional football player in the NFL.

It didn’t immediately happen.

During the NFL Draft, he had to wait until the second round for his dream to come to pass, when the Philadelphia Eagles took Cunningham with the 37th pick, the first quarterback selected in the second round.

Cunningham said he got impatient when he wasn’t chosen in the first round. He said he went to the store. He said when he got home, Cunningham recalled he had a message from the Philadelphia Eagles that the team had chosen him.

His first year, he was back-up to the aging veteran, Ron Jaworski. During rookie season, the Santa Barbara, Calif., native completed 34 percent of his passes, with one touchdown and eight interceptions.

With the 2013 NFL Draft set to start April 25, Cunningham said it is essential for NFL hopefuls to keep the faith and to be patient.

“At this point, there is nothing else they can do but pray and ask that God give them favor with these teams,” he told Inside The Pew during an interview about his new book, “Lay It Down.” “Being drafted is only the beginning.”

Unlike last year’s draft where Robert Griffith III and Andrew Luck were the known to be the top two draft picks, there is speculation about this year’s top picks at quarterback. According to The Sporting News, quarterback Geno Smith (West Virginia) could go first and while The Orlando Sentinel suggests quarterback EJ Manuel (Florida State) could go high in the second round.

Three-day coverage of the 2013 NFL Draft, held in New York City, will be broadcast live on ESPN and the NFL Network beginning at 7 p.m. CST.

Snyder: Facing our fears with faith

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By John Snyder
Special to Inside The Pew

The horrifying bombing in Boston on April 15 brings to our minds the tragedy of September 11. None of us have forgotten that day. Nor have those who lost their loved onebostonwebs and friends. These hideous acts are designed to strike fear in our hearts and cripple our strength.

As Christians, we’re just as likely to become fearful as the next person. We can permit this use of violence and intimidation to completely overwhelm us, or we can say with the Psalmist:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
-Psalm 46:1-3

God has called us to be his people of strength and courage. Our lives are in his hands. When these situations fill us with fear, let’s remember that God is by our side—we have nothing to be afraid of. Let this thought empower us to walk boldly and encourage our families, neighbors, and friends. Read through the Scriptures, sing songs of God’s power and deliverance. Praise him for his might and mercy. Let us be the pillars that people lean on during these, and other, fear-filled times.

John I. Snyder, a pastor and speaker, is the author of “Your 100 Day Prayer.” Connect with Snyder at at http://your100dayprayer.com or

 

Rick Warren’s youngest son takes life after struggle with mental illness

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” and senior pastor of Saddleback Valley

Rick Warren and Dan Wooding this year

Rick Warren, left, and Dan Wooding this year

Community Church in Lake Forest, Ca., has announced that his 27-year-old son, Matthew, has taken his own life.

In an anguished message sent to the church staff early on Saturday morning, Warren wrote, “Over the past 33 years we’ve been together through every kind of crisis. Kay and I’ve been privileged to hold your hands as you faced a crisis or loss, stand with you at gravesides, and prayed for you when ill. Today, we need your prayer for us.

“No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.

“You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.

“But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided.

“Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.”

Pastor Warren went on to say, “Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said ‘Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?’ but he kept going for another decade.

“Thank you for your love and prayers. We love you back. Pastor Rick.”

On hearing the tragic news, Southern California evangelist and pastor, Greg Laurie, who lost his first-born son Christopher David Laurie, in an auto accident in Riverside County, Calif., in 2008 posted on his blog, “I too have had a son die, so I have a sense of the pain Rick and Kay are facing. But their circumstances are different and my heart goes out to them. At times like these, there really are no words, but there is the Word.

“There is no manual, but there is Emmanuel. God is with us. I know the Lord will be there for all of the Warren family and Saddleback Church as they grieve together.

He added, “Looking forward to that day when God will ‘Restore all things'” (Acts 3:21).

Founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, Saddleback Church serves the Southern California community with several locations, including in Lake Forest.

Pastor Warren, 59, author of the Purpose Driven Life, which is the best-selling hardback non-fiction book in history and the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible, has two other adult children, Amy and Josh, and five grandchildren.

King: Uncle M.L.’s lasting message to obey God’s moral law

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By Alveda King
Special to Inside The Pew

Forty-five years ago today, my Uncle M.L., the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered by an assassin’s bullet. Sometimes I wonder

Alveda King

Alveda King

what life would be like if that shot had never been fired; what our nation would be like if that bullet had missed. Many are the times I wish he were here.

But though Uncle M.L. is no longer with us on earth, his voice lives on in the words he used to change our nation in the cause of justice.

We are a more just society today because of Martin Luther King, Jr. Not because he brought new ideas into the public consciousness, but because he reminded us of fundamental, eternal truths — truths that needed to be restated and lived out. He once asked and answered this question: “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?” He went on to explain:

“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: ‘An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

These timeless truths must be restated again today.

Remember Reverend Martin Luther King — let us not forget that he was an ordained Baptist minister and preacher of the Word of God — taught that we are to respect the law. But he also taught that there is a law higher than man’s. There are no commands more deserving of obedience than God’s.

Those commands caused Uncle M. L. to look beyond city ordinances, state statutes, or even federal law for guidance. He believed that those

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

ordinances, statutes, and laws were to be respected, but that they were to be weighed against God’s law or what some would term natural law to determine if they were just.

The same is true today. But some still look to themselves to determine right and wrong.

We are told by the Obama administration that it is “unjust” that women should have to buy their own birth control pills, so everyone else must reach into their pockets to pay for them.

We are told by abortion advocates that it is “unjust” that some women cannot afford to abort their babies, so tax dollars must be used to finance the killing of those children.

We are told by same-sex “marriage” advocates that it is “unjust” that men cannot marry other men and women cannot marry other women, so 2,000 years of wisdom must be abandoned.

And yet, the Bible tells us that human life is sacred. We are thereby to choose life over abortion. The Bible teaches us that natural marriage between one man and one woman is part of the procreative process. We are thereby compelled to choose holy and procreative matrimony.

In forgetting our heritage, in distancing ourselves from God’s moral rules, we are doing Uncle M. L. a disservice, and we are in danger of coming face to face with disaster. So, in remembering Uncle M. L. today, I urge America and the world to remember that he was a servant of God who, though imperfect, tried to point people to the truth.

Muse: ‘Behold, I stand at the door …’

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

BATON ROUGE, La. – Easter is one of the most sacred holidays to Christians.

On March 31, take a moment and remember the reason we celebrate it. I remember Easter Sundays vividly growing up. It wasn’t the Easter egg

Muse

Muse

hunt after service, but the message of His death, burial, and resurrection.

With a change in priorities by many people, it is important to continue to tell the story of Jesus beyond Easter. As believers, we must be consistent and resonate that message because it is His death that we are saved.

According to Revelation 3:20, the author said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (ESV).

No matter how we live our lives, Jesus is the door. To make any strides to get to heaven, it goes through Him. Therefore, we have to learn all we need to know about Him and teach His words to the next generation. If Easter means dressing up to the 9s and Easter baskets, we are doing the Lord and our children a great disservice. Be accurate and tell the truth. The secular word has tried its hardest to take Him out of the holiday (Christmas too). Believers won’t deny Him.

If you take a look at the sacrifice He made for us, we don’t need flashlight Christians. These are the people who cut His word on when they want to cut it on. Instead of flicking His word on and off, become a spotlight for God. My favorite scripture on this is 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

He didn’t die for Himself. He died for all mankind.

Grelan Muse Sr. is founder of Inside The Pew. Email him at pewnews@aol.com.

Stone: Five marks of a kingdom builder

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By Melanie Stone
Special to Inside The Pew

People that help start and grow churches are kingdom builders. They are men and women working together to expand the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In I Corinthians 3:1-17, Melanie_StonePaul compares church planting and pastoring to constructing a building. In verse 9 Paul says, “We are God’s fellow workers… you are God’s building.”

A Kingdom Builder has God’s heart and vision to reach more people. My husband, Jerry Stone, and I have a vision to support church planters and pastors through Grow Churches, Inc. (www.growchurches.com). We believe the best way to reach the world is through starting and serving life-giving local churches in nations around the world. People who want to build the kingdom of God want to see new churches in communities that will reach out to the lost and the hurting and bring them to salvation and wholeness.

Kingdom builders realize they are part of something bigger than themselves. Christians with a kingdom building mentality realize that the Church that belongs to Jesus Christ is bigger than their local church; it goes beyond their city, their state, and their nation. The kingdom of God is larger than it has ever been in history. There is a growing sense of Christ’s return, and the importance of winning souls is intensifying.

A Kingdom Builder has Jesus as his King. Jesus is what we all have in common in the family of God. When Jesus is the Lord of someone’s life, that person will not only listen to Christ, they also will obey Him. Their motivation to serve Christ’s cause in building His kingdom is the love that men and women have for Him.

A Kingdom Builder wants to see development. We once lived next to a plot of land where someone was building a new home. We enjoyed watching the process. We saw the foundation laid, the electrical system put in, the framework go up and the roof and walls put on. When people participate in church planting, I believe they enjoy watching the development process. It’s fun to take the journey together. It’s exciting to see the grace of God meeting every challenge and every need as we move forward. We get to build the kingdom of God together.

A Kingdom Builder wants to see results. We like to share the stories of the people who receive Christ, who find friendships, who receive wholeness and healing, who find strength their marriage and families, who find a place to serve, and who find freedom! When a kingdom builder sees lives being changed, they want to be a part of it.

I want to encourage you to think beyond your boundaries and see the work that still needs to be done. Decide to be a kingdom builder and do all you can to advance the kingdom of God through planting and growing local churches.

Melanie Stone is a co-pastor, church planter, author, speaker, and Bible teacher. Together with her husband, Jerry Stone, they have founded Grow Churches, Inc. as a ministry to serve and resource churches in nations around the globe. Melanie and Jerry also are planting Freedom House Church in Lexington, Ky., in September 2013. Melanie is a graduate from Rhema Bible Training Center and has a Bachelor of Theology degree from Life Christian University. She has ministered in churches across the United States as well as in Great Britain, Colombia, Mexico, and Canada.

Young: You are ‘all that!’

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By Mylow Young
Special to Inside The Pew

On this journey I’ve been discovering God in a big way. He’s shown me that I’m awesome! Even in my weaknesses, in all of my inadequacies, in all my short comings, faults,

Mylow Young

Mylow Young

screw ups, and sins. To God I’m still all that and a bowl of potato salad!

I don’t have to be Super Christian to be all right with God. And even though the world and its belief systems try to dictate to me what’s right and wrong, what’s hip or not hip, I know that to Him it can’t get any cooler than me. So I don’t have to live by popular opinion, feel me?

I’m not caught up in “religious” perspective or even how I may appear in the eyes of the “church” and I don’t have to perform to earn His love because God “… did see my substance, yet being imperfect;” (Psalm 139:16) and I didn’t have to work for His salvation because of his grace! (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But there’s one thing that’s even better than me being awesome… and that is… YOU are! You don’t have to be what people say you should be and you don’t have to be what they want you to be. You know who they are right? The ones who write the script for the world telling you you’re too fat or too skinny or that you’re unattractive. The ones that say that cute or pretty matters and that they are the ones who decide what that even means. God wants you to be who you are because He made you and loves you as you are.

What makes you all that? Because you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). What makes you so awesome? You are “His workmanship, created to do good things” (Ephesians 2:10)

So you don’t have to live up to anyone else’s standards… why not? Because Jesus is the standard and when God sees you He sees Jesus. You don’t have to be “with it”, hip or cool by society’s standards because you’re already all that! He thinks you’re awesome and so do I!

But if you don’t know Jesus, get to know Him. Ask Him into your heart right now!

Prayer: Lord, I know I am a sinner in need of Your salvation. I turn away from my sinful life and I ask You now for this free gift. So come into my heart, forgive me of my sin and make me a new creation. Thank You Lord for salvation, giving me new life and for making me awesome. In Jesus name… amen!

Never forget that you’re AWESOME!

Mylow Young, a licensed minister and native of Philadelphia, is author of “Crack House Exodus: Against the Gates of Hell.” Follow Mylow on Facebook and on Twitter @mylowyoung.