Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Things About Me...Um, Yeah, I'm Doing This

This has been something going around on Facebook and I realized it might be good to share it on this blog as well, seeing as how some of you who read this (the 2 1/2 of you that do read this) know little, if anything, about me. So here are some random facts to whet your pallet.

1. I am only doing this because I see that those who tag me actually want to learn about me. Other than that I think this is one of those e-mail things that goes on forever and I am fighting it even as I type. However, I will continue.

2. I am a Gator fan. I attended UF from 2000-2004, during the odd transition between the glorious Spurrier years and the anomalous Zook days. Now we are on top and it is a joy.

3. I have my own language which people make fun of. Keeps 'em on their toes.

4. I lived in Italy for a year and have been to 11 different countries. I can speak Italian decently enough to get around and hold a conversation. I would love to move back.

5. I like starting new things and am almost always up for a new adventure.

6. I am a reader, but not voracious. People usually take precedent over books.

7. I like chick flicks, but only those that have a strong male role. This has been discussed at length and I feel justified in sharing this truth here.

8. I now live in Chicago officially. I am a mile south of Wrigley and about 3 miles north of the Loop. I can now also make fun of those people who say they live in Chicago, but are really in the burbs. people. You get me every time.

9. I am growing more in love with this city everyday, even with all the mess going on. I do hope to see such great change here, and when I say that I mean deep, heart-penetrating change that can only happen through Jesus Christ.

10. I love sports and am fairly athletic. I am deceptive with my 5'7" frame and love it when guys out on the court (basketball) say, "That cat can ball."

11. I think it's safe to say that I have a "big" personality. Not like Santa Claus big, but one that has some kind of effect on people in both good and bad ways.

12. I love drinking coffee, particularly in the morning at my desk with low light and some good music playing. This is a great environment for some good reflection, prayer, Bible reading, ect.

13. Even as an adult I think Disney World is awesome. In many ways I am still just a kid, even though I'm the ripe old age of 26.

14. I honestly think 30 Rock has passed The Office as the best comedy on television. I'm a sucker for witty, smart, subtle humor and Alec Baldwin deserves mad crazy cred for his performance week in and week out.

15. I am an ENTJ (I stole this one from Angela too...thanks!) and am still wondering what that actually means. I have transitioned in life from an F to a T, which means my heart has gotten colder and my mind has gotten sharper. At least that's how I interpret it.

16. I thoroughly enjoy learning about how we come to where we are at in life. Thus I like the history of places, but more so individual people I meet along the way.

17. I hate running errands. It doesn't matter what they are; as soon as they are in the category of "errand" I hate them. Post office, food shopping, etc. Dumb.

18. My favorite meal is shrimp parmigiana, which I think only my family makes. That makes them all the more better. Yeah, more better.

19. I think long conversation over a good bottle of wine is time well spent.

20. I thoroughly believe I am exactly where God wants me to be in life right now. This is the first time in a really long time and the contentment is wonderful!

21. I once had extremely long hair, not too many years ago. If you don't believe me, you can watch this video:

22. I like to write, but do not consider myself a writer. It would be nice to publish something some day, but I think it is more for the sake of wanting something published than because I actually want to write something of substance for a mass of people. Maybe my heart will change at some point.

23. I prefer cold weather over hot weather. I like visiting hot places in the winter and all that, but do not like living in them. I am glad not to be in FL and I think the winter here is not as bad as people say. They're all just naysayers.

24. I hate sleep, but don't like waking up in the morning. Not sure how that works, but that's me.

25. I'm still wondering if all that I wrote was the best use of my time. The previous sentence gives a lot of insight into who I am.

By His Grace.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Liveblogging From Class...

4:17 CST: I am sitting in a class of a little over 50 people right now as one of our professors it talking about a topic I thoroughly enjoy--preaching.

I have never liveblogged before, but my major motivation for doing so in this very moment is to stay awake. I am sitting right in front of him so falling asleep on the table is not the best thing.

4:19: 1 Pet. 4:10-11 is an important passage for us to consider with regards to preaching because for him who speaks does so as if speaking the very word of God. This is humbling and for us as preachers we are not to be after our own glory, but for the glory of God. This is for his honor, his praise, his approval--not ours.

(Sidenote): I never thought that it would be possible for me to fall asleep in a class where wholeheartedly enjoyed the topic covered, but I am discovering that is not true. If I am tired, I will fall asleep. Do not give me the "caffeine" solution because I have had enough today to cause a herd of cattle to win the Kentucky Derby--yes, the entire herd.

4:26: This particular prof is uber-passionate. His voice is powerful and echoes throughout the entire room. Although it's a lecture, I think everyone in the room knows he was once a preacher. He has looked at me several times, directly in the eyes as if he knew I was gonna pass out. Oh how I'm thankful to be blogging.

4:28: Two reflections from Numbers 20--1) It is possible to be extremely successful in the eyes of others...being the most popular preacher/ be "America's Pastor"...tremendously successful, but be a failure in the eyes of God. On the flipside, it is possible to be seen as a failure in the eyes of people, but be successful in the eyes of God. 2) We need to trust him enough in situations where we may not be in the favor of others. We must listen to God, otherwise the temptation may be to go to "what works."

4:34: "rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" That's what happened in my notes earlier as I was dozing off with my hands on the keyboard. Other words like thoghtns or schubert mcshozzledoo flowed from my sleeping mind through my fingers to the keys. Weird.

4:36: There has been an exchange between the prof and a student asking some serious questions about preaching. Which leads me to wonder more about this topic because I hear rumblings that some in our culture are against the idea of preaching. Is that true? If you are reading this and have thoughts on that, I would love to hear from you because I am only now getting exposed to this idea.

4:42: "It is snowing outside. It is dark already. I can't believe that. It is snowing and dark--in January in Chicago!!! How is that possible?" That seems to be the reaction of so many people here in this state. They are all shocked or saddened as if they were expected 70 and Sunny. "15 degrees outside??? I can't believe it!!!" I know this has nothing to do with class, but it surely has been in my head all day.

4:44: Preaching is given to us to build faith and persevere faith. That is enormous and the implications are huge. What a great need!

4:46: Class over. I made it.

By His Grace.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Reflections

I understand that if you tried reading this, you may have fallen off at some point. The paragraphs are long and I may not be a strong enough writer to keep your attention for that long. Totally understandable. But here I conclude with my reflections on this biblical doctrine that has a profound affect not only on my life, but on the entire world.

If we're honest with ourselves, we can't ignore it. We can try and suppress it as much as we want--we think we are succeeding in that--but it stares us all right in the face. The bloodied body of Christ on the Cross has had a deeply profound affect on every corner of the globe, impacting every life that has ever entered or will ever enter this world. He reigned gloriously as King from the Cross when he died and continues to reign over us all as our risen Lord.

Here are my reflections.

The doctrine of propitiation carries with it enormous practical implications. For one, it is very personal to me as I struggle with feeling accepted by others and by God. To know that out of love God sent his Son, Jesus “to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10) and that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20b) is extremely assuring in the midst of this constant battle. A consistent gratitude for this reality allows me to experience God’s unsurpassing grace and extend it to others.

Secondly, the doctrine of propitiation presupposes God’s wrath of all man because of our sin, thus I am not only grateful for Christ’s sacrifice for me, but I am motivated to evangelize those who do not know Jesus because God’s wrath still remains on them (John 3:36). However morbid the warning may be, the promise is all the more amazing because it is wrapped up in God’s love, grace, and mercy all found in Christ on the Cross. Propitiation tells us that we do not need to work hard for God’s acceptance or to appease his wrath because Jesus has accomplished it all! This is beautiful news to those like me, always striving to be accepted by someone, whether it be parents, a significant other, a superior at work or God himself.

Thirdly, the doctrine of propitiation should not be minimized by any means. In the introduction, I alluded to an ongoing debate over the so-called controversy surrounding Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice where some see it more as expiatory. The Bible leaves no room for this substitution of terms because it robs the very clear attribute of God’s wrath and his hatred of sin, of which he does not merely wipe clean, but actually satisfies throughout Scripture (see Isa 5:25; Jer 6:11ff). We are by nature children of wrath, dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-3) so knowing that Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf that we might be called the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21), he also became on the cross the vessel of God’s wrath that we are supposed to be (Rom 9:22). This only intensifies the exquisite harmony of Scripture and the complete, sacrificial love of God found in his redemptive story, allowing not just for sins to be dismissed as expiation suggests; propitiation instead addresses sin, its weight, and its punishment all in Christ’s death on the Cross, fulfilling his own words, that he came to give his life and be a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Therefore, from a systematic theological perspective, we as lay Christians, pastors, and theologians, must seek to defend humbly the key doctrine of propitiation against those who attack it in the name of love because its bearing on our personal lives, our worldviews, our ministry, and most importantly our view of God is too great to ignore, for as A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” In doing so my hope is that we all will grow to know God’s love even more greatly that we in turn can share Christ’s magnificent propitiatory sacrifice with the world out of joy and gratitude for what he accomplished, and ultimately glorify him with fervent worship forever as favored saints in his kingdom.

By His Grace.

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Part 4

The New Testament on Propitiation

The English translation of “propitiation” from the Greek, hilast─ôrion, occurs four times in the New Testament: Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10. Though this may seem limited, the concept itself is scattered throughout the New Testament beginning with Jesus. He taught his disciples that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priest and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matt 16:21; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22) because he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; cf. Matt 20:28). Jesus knew that through him God’s wrath would be turned away explaining what happens if people do not obey him when he said, “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36b). Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate (John 1:1, 14) understood that he was the one who would free mankind from its sins as his propitiatory sacrifice ushered in an expansion of atonement and God’s favor across national boundaries—so both Jew and Gentile could participate (Eph 2:15-16)—and also time boundaries—from the temporal to eternal—all summed up well in his words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis added).

This introduces issues of continuity and discontinuity between the OT and NT, which can be addressed partially in looking at Paul’s use of “propitiation” in Romans 3:25. Leading up to this section (Rom 3:21-26), Paul establishes convincingly that both Jew and Gentile alike are totally depraved as sinners who deserve nothing both the utter wrath of God (1:18-3:20). In a loose way, this echoes back to the Passover in Exodus as God’s judgment and wrath was not partial, but applied to everyone (cf. Ex 12:12-13). Thus Paul writes, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vv. 22b-23). And just like the Passover, but with greater implications, Paul continues to say that those who believe “are justified by his [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (vv. 24-25; cf. 1 John 4:10). Christ’s shed blood averts the wrath of God as with the Passover, yet in receiving him by the faith the individual is also justified and redeemed. Furthermore, Paul’s use of “propitiation” in this context most likely describes Jesus as the “mercy seat” found in the tabernacle, which provides overtones to the Day of Atonement.

Advancing the theme further is the writer of Hebrews, who states, “Therefore, he [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17). This clear reference to the Day of Atonement establishes Jesus as “high priest,” yet he was different from all others. For one, his offering did not include making propitiation for his own sins because he was without sin (Heb 4:16). Secondly, the propitiatory sacrifice made was not an animal, but Jesus himself! Here we see the reference back to Genesis where God provides the sacrifice, but in this instance it is God’s flesh being given up. The writer of Hebrews writes that our great high priest Jesus,
Entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (vv. 12-14)
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was infinitely superior to those of animals, which could never take away sins (Heb 10:4), making him “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance” (v. 15). Also, Jesus’ propitiation was greater than the others in that it was ultimate; there is no longer a need for an annual atonement because he offered himself up as the final, everlasting atonement (Heb 10:11-17). Finally, the faithfulness of Jesus’ offering should be noted as it contrasts the vain sacrifices made in much of Israel’s history who came only to do the will of his Father (Matt 26:36-44) and who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

Therefore Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice is continuous with the Old Testament insomuch as the Old Testament allows with its partial fulfillment of propitiation, yet it is gloriously discontinuous in that Christ’s sacrifice is offered to all mankind (1 John 2:2), once for all satisfying the wrath of God, placing those who put their faith in him in God’s eternal favor. Jesus is the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God, the only who can take away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and who, along with God, is the temple of the new creation, filling it entirely with their glorious presence (Rev 21:22-27) where there is no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain, no more sin, no more shame, and no more death (Rev 21:4). Jesus Christ as our propitiatory sacrifice is the greatest gift of God’s grace mankind has ever known.

By His Grace.

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Part 3

So I started a series of posts explaining a biblical theology of the doctrine of propitiation. This began over a month ago, but all blogging ceased since that time due to inclement weather, which caused my fingers to freeze, disabling my ability to type. Only recently have they thawed allowing me the chance to finish this up. I will be posting the rest of them up today, but if you are interested in the previous posts, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

I continue by tracing through other vital Old Testament passages, before moving into the New Testament. I conclude with reflections, both for myself and for the world.

The Passover & The Day of Atonement

Sacrifices continued to be made throughout early biblical history, most notably in God’s covenant with Abram (Gen 15) and the ram that took the place of Isaac in Abraham’s testing (Gen 22), but neither of these contribute to the development of propitiation in ways that have not already been addressed. The two passages that do warrant attention are those that include the two most significant sacrifices in the history of Israel, the first Passover in Exodus and the institution of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus.

The Passover (Ex. 12:1-32) refers to the tenth and final plague on Egypt right before the Exodus, the most significant event in Israel’s history up to the time of Christ, including “over 120 explicit OT references in law, narrative, prophecy and psalm.” By mere adjacency in the story, the Passover should be seen as a key section in the Old Testament. This tenth and final plague of God relates the story of God passing through the land of Egypt to “strike the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast (v.12), yet also “passing over” the households of Israel which had blood spread on the doorposts and lintel (vv. 3-7, 13). In the narrative, Moses commands the elders of Israel to follow exactly as the Lord says, thus the firstborn of Israel live, while the rest of Egypt suffers immensely to the extent that “there was not a house where someone was not dead” (v. 30). The Passover was an event, but it also became a memorial day on which a feast was to be had in remembrance of what God did (vv. 14-20, 26-27).

At the center of was the unblemished lamb and its blood. The final plague included all firstborns, both Egyptian and Israelite; God’s wrath and judgment was impartial. The only thing that distinguished Israel was the slaughtered lamb’s blood on the lintel and doorposts; without this sign, judgment would have fallen on them. Watts suggests, “The special instructions regarding the animal indicate that Passover is an atoning sacrifice.” The salvific, propitious nature of the lamb’s slaughter and blood should not be ignored as the meaning of sacrifice deepened for the nation of Israel at such a crucial juncture in its history, a meaning they would have been reminded of as often as they celebrated the Passover feast. It is no surprise then that Jesus Christ himself is considered the Passover Lamb by several New Testament writers (John 1:29, 36; 1 Cor 5:7b; 1 Pet 1:19) culminating in the book of Revelation as the slain Lamb who is praised and worshiped (5:6-16).

Although the first Passover lamb was propitious, the annual Passover feast was for remembrance, not atonement. As the people of Israel became a more solidified nation, God implemented a sacrificial system, which included atoning sacrifices (Lev 1:1-6:7). The most important sacrifice, however, was made on the Day of Atonement, instituted by God at Mt. Sinai (Lev 16:1-34), Israel’s most solemn holy day when the entire nation fasted (v. 31). Only on this day once a year, the high priest alone was to enter the Most Holy Place through the veil which separated it from the Holy Place with the blood of a bull as a sin offering for him and his house along with the blood of a goat for the sins of the people (vv. 11-15) and by this he will have atoned for his sins and the sins of all the people for the entire year (v. 34). So running concurrently with the growing identity of Israel as a nation was the explicit nature of sacrifice, which contained an atoning purpose, “for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev 17:11).

The brief study of Genesis established that sin provokes the wrath of God and brings death and this did not change for the Israelites; they were responsible to God for their sin, deserving his wrath and their own death. The fact that God established a sacrificial system and a Day of Atonement is further testimony to his love, grace, and mercy, as he allowed an animal to be substituted on behalf of the people who sinned against him. Yet as the story of God’s chosen people progresses what becomes transparent is that sacrifices are offered up to God in vain, neglecting God’s call for repentance and obedience of the heart (1 Sam 15:22; Ps 51:16-17; Isa 66:3; Amos 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8), with God remaining wrathful. Though this is the case, God established the statute of the Day of Atonement forever (Lev 16:31), ultimately being fulfilled forever through the final Day of Atonement, namely Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this, with Christ as the archetype of both the high priest and the perfect sacrifice entering into the holy places once for all to atone for the sins of mankind with his own blood (Heb 9:11-14).

More on this will be discussed in the next section, but for now what is important to know is that the theme of propitiation is fully developed in the Old Testament as early as the Passover, but more explicitly with the giving of the law and the establishment of the Day of Atonement. As mentioned previously the people of Israel continued to miss the point of this gracious gift God had given, hypocritically offering sacrifices while remaining in sin. So God, in his great patience, yet soberly warning, says through the prophet Malachi to close the OT canon, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (4:5-6).

By His Grace.

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Part 2

I am back home. The semester is finished. I am continuing in sharing the paper on propitiation, which I think is important for us all to know, heightened especially during this time when the attention is supposed to be on Jesus more. This part focuses on the beginning, the time of God's glorious creation and the horrific Fall of Adam and Eve. Here we will see that even in the beginning certain themes begin to take shape which affect the way propitiation is developed throughout history. If you missed the first part, I suggest you read it here before checking this section out.

Creation & The Fall

One should rightly assume that propitiation is not found in the creation narrative in the first two chapters of Genesis for a handful of reasons, which shall be discussed below. Here it is first important to highlight some characteristics seen in the relationship between God and his people that are crucial in laying the groundwork for God’s redemptive and restorative plan. We must begin with God, who is good (Ps 100:5). God created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them and when “God saw everything that he had made…it was very good” (Gen 1:31). The pinnacle of this good creation is mankind, whom he created imago Dei, meaning in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27; cf. 9:6). By command in Gen 1:28-30, God gives man responsibility (v. 28a) and dominion (vv. 28b-30) over all the earth. Further on God gives man, who is named Adam, another command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil otherwise he will surely die (2:17). At chapter’s end, Adam has a helper and a wife, Eve, both naked before each other and God, unashamed (2:25).

The first two chapters of the Bible paint a picture of the world when propitiation is completely unnecessary. Man, though responsible for and having dominion over the earth, is still under the sovereign rule of the God who created him and commanded him in these things. Under God’s rule, in God’s place, mankind and all of creation are seen as good. The powerful ending of Genesis 2 indicates that this goodness of God’s creation is marked by innocence, untainted by sin of any kind. With sin absent, the wrath of God is unseen in the text, though there is a hint to God’s wrath in v. 17 should man actually be disobedient to his command and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This would surely bring about death, which is a stark warning in a text filled with God’s goodness, creation, and life. However the case, to this point in the story Adam and Eve knew nothing of God’s wrath experientially.

Everything changes when both Adam and Eve sin for the first time, succumbing to the temptation of the serpent and directly disobeying the command of God (3:1-6). The effect was devastating as seen in their shame at being naked, covering themselves with fig leaves, and also their broken fellowship with God, trying to hide from him when they heard him (vv. 7-8). Furthermore, God remains true to his command: because of their sin death enters into the world, which is spiritual death, marked by their alienation from God, but also physical death, marked by the actual death of the body and of all living things. Combine sin, shame, and death with the curses God places on the serpent, woman, and man (vv. 14-19) and one should easily conclude that God’s wrath has also entered the world. Yet because death did not come imminently for Adam and Eve—Adam living at least 800 years longer (5:3-5)—elements of God’s grace should be acknowledged.

Finally, worth mentioning is the probable first sacrifice implied in Scripture. Genesis 3:21 states, “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Bruce Waltke writes that “The substitution of [God’s] skin tunics for their fig-leaf ‘loincloths’ suggests that their own coverings were inadequate to cover their shame and to provide them with their felt need for protection. Since the tunics are made of skin, implicitly it took the shedding of blood, the offering up of life, to provide the needed kind of covering.” The context of the passage does not allow for the interpretation of this “shedding of blood” to mean an atonement or propitiation of any kind, but it may introduce some sort of prelude to the future sacrificial system. Furthermore it was God who made the sacrifice and provided an adequate covering, which could be interpreted as foreshadowing Jesus, the God-man, offering up himself as a sacrifice on the cross, covering our shame once for all. In summary, the first three chapters of Genesis introduce some major components for propitiatory sacrifice—God’s rule over man, man’s sin and death, God’s wrath and grace, and the shedding of blood. Although at this point the sacrifice is in no way related to the other components, these initial chapters of Scripture already establish a very strong case that such will occur further on.

By His Grace.

It's Been a Long Time

I shouldn't have left you
Without a dope beat to step to
Step to, step to, step to, step to, step to

Ah the sweet sounds of classic Aaliyah and Timbaland dropping in my head as I am reminded how long it has been since I last posted on this mess. Much has happened that many of you do not care about at all, but I am at liberty to share anyway.

I got to go home for Christmas, which was great. Spending time with my family was a joy, especially now that I don't live a drive's distance away. My mom was gracious enough to rent me a car, so much of the time was spent driving around all over the place to catch up with folk. Then I traveled to Atlanta to recruit for Trinity at Campus Crusade's annual Unveiled Conference. There I was able to catch up with a lot of friends from UF and make a few new ones as I had the odd tension of being at a familiar place with familiar people, but for purposes that steer a little more toward the direction of life God has me in.

The biggest news however is my transition to the City of Chicago. If you have been keeping up, I moved down for The Line, the new church we have started, trusting that Jesus has many of his people here (see Acts 18:10). I am right at the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview, two amazing neighborhoods just north of The Loop (about 2-3 miles) and about a mile south of Wrigley Field:

Here's a link to a map for a better view

I deeply believe I was made for the city (large cities in general). I love the city. There's so much culture, so many things to do, so many different types of people, so much to learn. Furthermore, the city through its vast influence has the chance to change the world in ways rural living just can't. The challenge is great because for all its good, the city has so much violence, so much corruption, so much hatred, and ironically, so much ignorance. I hold on to hope--only the Spirit of God can move and bring life back to a vibrantly dead place.

So I am here, in this city trusting that I have been called to move, to shake, to act, to preach, and to love those around me with the love only Jesus can give. I don't have steps. I don't have programs. As Paul said, "By the grace of God, I am who I am" and I do hope with utmost sincerity that my words and actions are full of integrity and that my character reflects that of God so those who know me will, by His amazing grace, know Him. This I pray while I am in this city.

Please pray with me.

By His Grace.