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The Lamb Over Me

The Lamb Over Me

agnus deiJohn the Baptist declared that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He clearly used the title and imagery of a sacrificial lamb based on its frequent use in the Old Testament.  Most prominently, in Exodus 12, the Israelites were instructed that in order for the angel of death to pass over their homes and spare the first born, they had to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood over the doorpost.  The first mention of a lamb as a sacrifice is found in the account of Abraham walking up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Gen. 22:7-8- “[Isaac] said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  The question Isaac asked is in the background of the entire Old Testament- “Where is the Lamb?”  The people in Old Testament times knew that the sacrifice of animals would never suffice as an atonement for human sin.  The people were looking for an ultimate sacrifice that would once for all redeem mankind.  The Old Testament ends with no better answer than the one Abraham gave to Isaac- “God will provide the lamb.”  But as the New Testament begins, John the Baptist declared an answer that had been centuries in the making- “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed his life on the cross as the final and sufficient sacrifice for the sin of mankind.  1 Pet. 3:18- “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”  We are made right with God on the basis of Christ’s work as the sacrificial Lamb of God.

Recently someone showed me that the symbol for the word “righteousness” in the Chinese language is the symbol for the word “lamb” placed over the symbol for the word “me.”  What an amazing thought- being right with God is the Lamb over me!


At the cross, Jesus Christ died in our place shedding his blood as a payment for sin and covering us in his righteousness.  This results in salvation and eternal life for all who believe and follow Christ as Lord.  How grateful I am for the wonderful testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus- “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Somebody’s Watching Me

Somebody’s Watching Me

UnknownYou might have read the title of this post and thought it would be a review of the song by Rockwell (I am, after all, a child of 80’s music!).  No, this post is about something different.  The other day I was studying 1 Peter 2:11-12 and was struck about the importance of a Christian’s conduct in a world that is clearly watching what Christians do.  I was reminded of a quote by the old Scottish preacher Alexander MacLaren who rightly noted,

“The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say they belong to God’s family.  They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible.  They see us, they only hear about Jesus Christ.”

Peter reminds his readers that their conduct must be “excellent,” or honorable because the world is watching.  When the world observes our behavior that is rooted in love, grounded in truth, and marked by denying the “lusts of the flesh” it will make an impact on others.  In Peter’s words, the lost will “glorify God in the day of visitation.”  Whether this means the lost will come to Christ through the observance of a Christian’s behavior or acknowledge Christ is Lord on the Judgment Day and know at that time the behavior of Christians pointed to the truth is unsure.  Regardless, the behavior of genuine Christ followers will make an impact for the kingdom of God.

Some will be angered by the worldview Christians follow.  Some will merely want to scrutinize the behavior waiting for the Christian to make a mistake.  But others will observe the transformation Christ brings and the evidence of it in the way Christians live and ask, “Whatever it is you have, I want it!”

Thus, it is imperative that the conduct of Christians be anchored in the word of God and a genuine example of the transformation that comes about from following Christ.  All this means that Christians must live in a counter-cultural way.  They cannot live like the world.  Sadly, this is becoming less apparent in the church today.  David Wells notes,

“The church [must] form itself, by his grace and truth, into an outcropping of counter-cultural spirituality.  It must first recover the sense of antithesis between Christ and culture and then find ways to sustain that antithesis… It must give up self-cultivation for self-surrender, entertainment for worship, intuition for truth, slick marketing for authentic witness, success for faithfulness, power for humility, a God bought on cheap terms for the God who calls us to costly obedience.  It must, in short, be willing to do God’s business on God’s terms.”

Scot McKnight, in his commentary on 1 Peter 2:11-12, wrote that someone interviewed a well-known American preacher and contended that some of this preacher’s message was different than the message of the Bible, particularly about self-denial.  The preacher responded, “If I preached that, the people in my church would be mad as _____.”  The interviewer persisted and said the concept of denying yourself was still in the Bible.  The preacher’s response: “Just because it is in the Bible doesn’t mean I have to preach it.”  This is a classic example of the cultural-conditionedness of some churches and preaching today.  Little wonder so many that claim to be Christ followers do not live counter-culturally.

So, we must be diligent to live differently than the world.  We don’t need to be afraid of our culture, or hate it- we need to engage it with Christ’s love and truth through our actions, words, attitudes, etc.  We most likely have no idea who is watching us and the impact it is making in their lives.

Herb and Ruth Clingen and their young son were missionaries to Japan when WWII broke out.  The Clingens were sent to a POW camp in the Philippines where they were imprisoned for three years.  Herb’s diary told of how his family’s captors tortured, murdered, and starved to death many of the camp’s inmates.  The prisoners particularly hated and feared the camp commandant named Konishi.  Herb described one especially diabolical plan of Konishi forced on the Clingens and others near the end of the war:

“Konishi found an inventive way to abuse us even more.  He increased the food ration but gave us palay– unhusked rice.  Eating rice with its razor-sharp outer shell would cause intestinal bleeding that would kill us in hours.  We had no tools to remove the husks, and doing the job manually- by pounding the grain or rolling it with a heavy stick- consumed more calories than the rice would supply.  It was a death sentence for all internees.”

Through divine providence the Clingens were spared and liberated from their camp in February 1945 by Allied forces.  That prevented the final plan Konishi had drawn up- shooting and killing all survivors.  Years later the Clingens learned that Konishi had been found working as a grounds keeper at a golf course in Manilla.  He was put on trial for war crimes and hanged.  Just before his execution, Konishi professed conversion to Christianity, saying he had been deeply affected by the testimony of the Christian missionaries he had persecuted.

May we careful to be an example of Christ to the Konishis in our lives.

Is it Biblical to “Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?”

Is it Biblical to “Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?”

In recent days I have read numerous articles by Southern Baptist leaders on the issue of a person “asking Jesus into their heart.”  The debate is whether or not this is a biblical concept.   Some younger, and more Calvinist leaning authors and church leaders have strongly renounced the notion.  They claim that we never read about anyone in the New Testament saying the “sinner’s prayer” or “asking/accepting Jesus to come into your heart.”  David Platt has gone as far as to say that “asking Jesus into your heart” is a “superstitious prayer” that is “dangerous” and “damning.”  See Platt’s comments on the issue here:

Of course, Platt’s argument is that leading others to believe they are saved and right with God just because they have said a prayer (and the fruit of conversion is void from their lives) is not a biblical response to the true gospel.  In this sense Platt is correct.

However, in recent days, older and non-Calvinist SBC leaders have endorsed their approval of the terminology of “asking Jesus into your heart.”  Most notable is the sermon by Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN where he defends “accepting Jesus into your heart” as a biblical teaching. Watch the part of his sermon where he addresses the issue here:

Gaines makes a pointed argument defending the terminology on the basis of the Greek word lambano (to receive or accept”) in the Gospel of John.  Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Bapt. Theol. Seminary has written a blog post defending Gaine’s position and tracing through church history how the patristics would have been comfortable with such terms.  Read Yarnell’s post here:

In short, I can see both sides of the argument.  Trevin Wax, on the Gospel Coalition blog, has just written an excellent summary of the debate and draws solid and helpful conclusions. I highly recommend you to take a moment and read it here:

Wax reminds readers that this issue really isn’t about who is Calvinist and who is not.  The real issue is false assurance of salvation that can easily be generated through the “sinner’s prayer” and “ask Jesus into your heart” approaches.  I wrote about this on my blog a while back in this post:

To answer the question I pose in the title of this blog- I would say yes.  Gaines gives a good argument from the biblical text affirming this.  The problem is that we all too often fail to say what else the New Testament says about the gospel and what it means to be a true disciple.  We should never encourage people to “pray to receive Christ” and then not tell them that being a disciple is dying to self, repenting of sin, and following Jesus as a King which means living life on His term, not ours.  Because this is so abused today in emotional settings (such as the invitation on the last night of a youth camp), or by individuals trying to win another convert (perhaps for their own glory, not the kingdom), or churches trying to get another baptism (to pad their numbers for the annual yearbook) Platt is correct in saying it can be dangerous.

We need to be faithful to the gospel and a proper response to it that isn’t watered down and so drenched in the comfortable Christianity of our culture that it can hardly be recognized.  Yes, people should accept/receive Christ into their lives.  But temper that with a great statement I read by Russ Moore- “Don’t ask Jesus into your life- your life’s a wreck. Jesus invites you into his life.”  Sounds like Gal. 2:20 to me- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”





Would You Refuse to Rescue a Dying Person?

Would You Refuse to Rescue a Dying Person?

The famous missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, once recounted a heartbreaking story that happened to him while travelling by boat from one Chinese city to another.  Hudson tells the story in his own words:

“In the same boat was a Chinaman as passenger, who had been in England; and who, when there, went by the name of Peter.  He had heard the gospel, but had not experienced its saving power.  I had been speaking to him on the preceding evening about his soul’s salvation, and he had been moved to tears.  I was pleased, therefore, when he asked to be allowed to accompany me, and to hear me preach.  Our boat drew nearer the walls of the city, and I went into the cabin to prepare for going ashore, expecting in a few minutes to enter Sung-kiang Fu with my Chinese friend.  I was suddenly startled by a splash and a cry.  I sprang out of the cabin and looked around- every one was at his post but poor Peter.  I instantly leapt overboard, trying to find him.  Unsuccessful, I looked around in agonizing suspense, and saw, close to me, a fishing-boat with a peculiar drag-net furnished with hooks, which I knew would bring him up.

“Come!” I cried, as hope sprang up in my heart, “Come, and drag over this spot directly, for a man is drowning here.”

“Veh bin” – it’s not convenient – was the cold and unfeeling reply.

“Don’t talk of convenience,” I cried in an agony, “a man is drowning!”

“We are busy fishing and cannot come,” was the reply.

“Never mind your fishing,” I cried, “I will give you more money than many a day’s fishing will bring you, if you will come at once.”

“How much money will you give us?”

“I’ll give you five dollars.”

“We won’t come for that; we’ll drag for twenty dollars.”

“I have not got so much; do come quickly, and I’ll give you all the money I have.”

“How much is that?”

“About fourteen dollars.”

At last they came, and in less than one minute brought up the body of poor Peter.  They were most indignant and clamorous because the payment of their exorbitant demand was delayed while attempts were being made at resuscitation.  But all was in vain– Peter was dead.

Hudson goes on to apply the story to his fellow Englishmen: “My reader, would you not say that these men were verily guilty of this poor Chinaman’s death, in that they had the means of saving him at hand, but would not use them?  Surely they were!  And yet, pause ere you give your judgment against them, lest a greater than Nathan say, ‘Thou art the man.’”  Is it so hard hearted, so wicked a thing to neglect to save the body? Of how much sorer punishment is he worthy who leaves the soul to perish?  The Lord Jesus commands, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.’”

I told this story last Sunday in a message on the spiritual discipline of sharing our faith.  After our Saturday night worship service, a young man approached me with a very grave look on his face and said, “You know that story you told about Hudson Taylor?”  I replied in the affirmative.  He continued, “I have a friend who is a missionary in a coastal African country who witnessed a commercial plane crash several hundred yards off the coast.  The plane broke apart and there were many survivors crying out for help.  My missionary friend pleaded with the local fishermen who were watching as well to get in their boats and rescue the survivors.  One of the fishermen looked at her and said, ‘No, the bodies will bring in the sharks and that will make for good fishing tomorrow.’”

It’s hard to believe someone could be that cold and callous to human life.  How can we be that selfish at the expense of another’s life?  And yet, as Taylor admonished his countrymen, how can we who are in possession of the gospel and refuse to share with others say we are really any different.  It is tragic to not save the physical bodies of people.  It is even more tragic to not offer to those who are drowning spiritually the one thing that can save them- the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Do you actively share your faith?  Are you willing to invest in people and have repeated conversations about the Lord with them?  Remember, Jesus told us to make disciples, not just quickly tell people once about the gospel.  Are you willing to give of yourself, be patient and loving to people, and take the time to share what Christ has done for you and can do for them?  If you stood on the deck of a ship with a life preserver in hand while watching a man drowning, why would you not throw the lifeline to him?  Sharing the gospel is a matter of life and death. Who around you- that you work with, go to school with, live near, or are friends with on Facebook- is drowning and in need of the Lord’s rescue?  Go and share!

Mark 16:15- “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”

The Luckiest Man Alive- How We Should Respond to the Cross of Christ

The Luckiest Man Alive- How We Should Respond to the Cross of Christ

CalvaryJesus Christ gave His life on a cross as a substitutionary payment to satisfy the righteous demands of God and to eliminate the power and penalty of sin in the lives of all who will believe.  On this Good Friday, as we remember His sacrifice, each of us should reflect on how we should personally respond to Jesus’ death for us and the free gift of salvation He offers to all.  A good way to do this is to consider how the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus responded to His death.

I want to insert one caveat: I do not believe in “luck.” I do believe in the sovereignty and providence of God. I use the term “luck” in a colloquial manner.

The thief was the luckiest man alive because of all the crosses he could have been crucified on, he was crucified next to Jesus.  Because he died on that cross he was able to witness the sacrifice of a perfect Lamb and hear the beautiful words that he would go to Paradise.  In Luke 23:39-43, we read about his response to Jesus. The thief did three things that assured he would have eternal life.

He Admitted His Sin

You might think it is easy for a criminal to confess that he is a sinner.  Not so.  Even in torture, the thief on the other side of Jesus who did not repent was railing insults at Jesus (v.39).  It is hard for us, too.  We usually go out and find someone worse than us to make us feel better, rather than confess our sin.  The thief confessed his sin. He said to the other thief, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds” (vv.40-41).  He admitted he was getting his just deserts.  He knew death was the appropriate punishment for his sin.

He also admitted that his sin was an offense to God, not just man.  Dying on the cross puts his life, his sin, and his standing before God in proper perspective.  Something pricked his conscience.  He starts off on the cross joining the other thief in hurling insults at Jesus.  But he has a change of heart.  Facing his own death and eternity made him think and be transformed.

In Words We Live By, Brian Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis apparently had scruples about his thievery. In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code: 1) I will not kill anyone unless I have to; 2) I will rob only at night; 3) I will not wear a mask; 4) I will not rob mini-marts; 5) If I get chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line; 6) I will rob only seven months out of the year.

This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state.  Likewise when we stand before God, we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God’s perfect law.  You cannot take your sins to paradise.  If you want to go there, you must confess them and seek forgiveness.

He Confessed Jesus as Sinless

The next thing the thief did was confess that Jesus is sinless.  “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (v.41).  He figures this out somehow on the cross.  Most likely, when he hears Jesus ask God to forgive his tormentors, he figures Jesus is perfect.  No one else would have done that.  Jesus was/is perfect.  Heb. 4:15- “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Imagine the most vile, most disgusting, most foul smelling fluids sitting in a huge vat in front of you. The fluids have been infected with deadly diseases, bacteria and decayed flesh. Picture yourself being submerged in it, drinking it, tasting it, breathing it, having it get in your eyes, nose mouth and your ears. That wouldn’t even come close to imagining what it was like for the Holy Son of God to be submerged into the filth and death of sin.

The sinlessness of Jesus is key in understanding the atonement.  Only because Jesus is sinless can He be our substitute on the cross.  If you think Jesus is just another man, or great teacher, or leader, you don’t understand salvation.  Jesus is more than these- He is perfect.  He is the only perfect person to ever live.  This is why salvation can come only through Jesus and not Muhammad or Buddha.  No other religious leader could ever serve as a sacrifice and substitute for our sin because they themselves were sinners.  But not Jesus, being sinless, only He could serve as the sacrifice suitable to satisfy the perfect demands of God’s righteousness.

He Asked for Salvation

Have you ever noticed that both criminals ask Jesus for salvation?  “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’” (v.39).  This man didn’t receive salvation.  Why?

First, he wasn’t sincere.  He was actually insulting Jesus in his comment.  He was ridiculing him that that he might be a king.  He asked with his lips, but didn’t believe in his heart.  Second, he wasn’t asking for the salvation that Jesus brings.  “Save yourself and us!” is another way of saying, “Climb down and get me out of this predicament!”  He wasn’t asking for eternal life, but for someone to save his skin for the moment.  He wasn’t interested in his soul, just his body.  He wasn’t thinking of eternity, just the here and now.

The penitent thief was asking for a different kind of salvation.  He was seeking eternal life.  He wasn’t seeking something now, but in the future.  We see this in his words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v.42). He seems to have understood why Jesus was hanging on the cross.  The penitent thief was also asking for a personal salvation.  In the Gospels, almost every address to Jesus is “Master” or “Teacher.”  However, the thief addresses Jesus intimately by name.  We tend to think that the greatest thing about salvation is that we will go to heaven some day- and do whatever fun stuff we think we will do.  But the true joy of salvation is that we get to know Jesus personally and bring glory to Him with our lives.  The thief is probably hanging on the cross because he has been searching for meaning and fulfillment in his life.  However, it led to a life of crime.  The thief finally found the personal relationship he had been looking for his whole life.

Because of the thief’s confession and faith, Jesus responds “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v.42).  The word “Paradise” is a Persian loan word meaning “garden.”  It was as if Jesus told the thief that today he will be restored as it was meant to be.  How so?  It is why Jesus chose the concept of the garden.  It was in the garden in Genesis that Adam and Eve walked and talked with God.  They had perfect, unbroken fellowship with God.  In heaven, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we will have that same kind of fellowship.

W. A Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas for many years, tells the story of being on a plane seated beside a well-known theologian. Criswell desperately wanted to talk to the professor about theology. However, the professor told him that his young son had recently died.  Criswell listened as he told his story: “Our son came home from school with a fever and we thought it was just one of those childhood things, but it was a very virulent form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your son.”

Near the end, the professor sat by his son’s bedside. It was the middle of the day and the little boy said, “Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?” The professor said to his son, “Yes son, it is getting very dark.” “Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?” “Yes, son, it’s time for you to go to sleep.”  The professor said his son had a way of fixing his pillow just so, putting his head on his hands when he slept. After doing this the boy said, “Good night Daddy. I will see you in the morning.” He then closed his eyes in death and stepped into eternal life.  Criswell said the professor didn’t say anymore after that. He just looked out the window of the plane for a long time. Then he turned back, looked at Criswell with scalding tears coming down his cheeks and he said, “Dr. Criswell, I can hardly wait till the morning.”

We all long for the morning- to see our Savior face to face in Paradise one day.  This can happen for each of us if we confess our sin, acknowledge that Jesus alone made the way possible for our salvation through His death and resurrection, and receive His free gift of salvation by surrendering our lives to Him.  It really isn’t luck, it’s about His love. Thank you, Lord, for Good Friday.


Lessons Learned Abroad

Lessons Learned Abroad

I just returned from a trip that, because of security reasons for the Christians who are there, I can give few details as to where and what I did.  Suffice it to say, every time I return from one of these trips, the Lord impresses upon me a number of meaningful lessons.

1. Acts of selfless service always open doors for the gospel.

On this trip, I was working in a culture that is dominated by a religion that teaches salvation is earned by works.  One of the detrimental side effects of this is that people absolutely reject that something can be done for nothing.  In other words, no one does anything for anyone without some expectation of payment in return.  So, when our team showed up to do a project completely free of charge with no expectation of remuneration, they were more than amazed.  Selfless acts illustrate the gospel of grace.  Salvation is possible, not on the basis of what we have done to earn it, but on the basis of what Christ has done on the cross to give it. Rom. 6:23- “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The gospel of grace was put into effect by the selfless act of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).  We are called to have this same attitude of selflessness.  When we serve others with no expectation of return, it illustrates the grace of God.  In our society we are often consumed with our “rights” and what we “deserve.”  But the call to follow Christ is about giving up our rights and serving Him by selflessly serving others.  What is the result of selfless acts of service?  One man in the village we were working in said to us, “The religious leaders have told us for years they would help us [with tangible needs], but they never have.  You have come from your country and the path you follow [Jesus] and helped us. The religious leaders preach about doing good to others, but there is no change in anyone’s life.  But I can tell you are different.”  Selfless acts show the world we are different and points them to the grace of God.

2. I know so very little of persecution for my faith.

Every time I travel to this country, I have some run-in with the fundamental religious authorities.  They seek to control the people through oppression.  To live in this place and become a Christian means you run the risk of losing your family, your job, having the utilities turned off at your home, etc.  The worker we are partnered with looked at me and said, “What would you do if they came to you and said, ‘Recant of your belief in Jesus if you want to see your wife and kids again.’”  What would I do?  Does Jesus mean that much to me?  Tough, penetrating questions.  Yet, this is reality for countless believers across the globe.

3. I love my country, but this world is not my home.

Someone once said to me, “Nothing will make you appreciate this country more than leaving it.”  How true.  What a country we live in in terms of standard of living and freedoms.  I walked through airports and saw so many men and women in uniform serving our country.  How grateful I am for them!  Yet, God always reminds me that as a Christian, I am not to find my identity as an American, or in my education, or pedigree- but I am to find my identity in Christ (Gal. 2:20).  Furthermore, this world is not my home.  Paul reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was not to be identified in their pride of being a Roman colony, but “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

4. We must develop a passion to engage the lost with the gospel because hell is real.

I know this sounds like I’m a hellfire and brimstone preacher, but let’s face it: What does the Bible teach?  The issue of hell is something we candy coat and don’t like to talk about.  Rob Bell’s latest book is proof of that.  We all know John 3:16.  But what do the next two verses say? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Why do we take mission trips?  Why do we place missionaries all over the world?  So they can tell people about the gospel. Faith in Christ is the only way to be saved.  The reality of hell is something we often forget or choose to soften.

This was the first trip where I worked side by side for continuous days with people who were unbelievers.  Typically, we work with people in an established church and build relationships with them while we serve people from the community.  However, on this trip I grew to befriend men who were not believers.  It burdened me at the end of the week that these men I had come to know did not know Jesus.  The reality of hell is a difficult thing.  It means we must form a passion and concern for those in our lives who are lost.  We must engage them with the gospel of Christ through our selfless acts and by communicating the truth to them.  I am convicted in my own life that I basically have no friendships with lost people.  Everyone I work with and am associated with through service on boards and teaching at seminary are Christians.  God forgive me for this.  I pray I can do better at engaging a lost world with the hope that only Christ can give.

Below are some pics from my journey.