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Had a great Easter at CATG! Music rocked! Many many new people. Salvations! Particularly I was blessed by Travis & Jessy Miller sharing their testimony… it really and deeply blesses me to hear how CATG is being used by God to reach people for Christ, restore marriages, change the destiny of kids.

There was much talk at our home this Easter weekend about eggs. Not Easter eggs per say. What’s happening is we are resurrecting “Hickey’s Egg Farm.” In high school I had 500 chickens and an egg route delivering farm fresh eggs. The baton is getting passed now to Kaitlyn. Maybe she will call it “Kaitlyn’s Country Fresh Eggs” or something like that… stay tuned. Have you noticed the price of eggs lately?

Preparations are in high gear. I roped in Ben who serves so faithfully as THE trustee overseeing the church building addition. Like he didn’t have enough to do… I now have him making new windows and a door for our chicken coop. I’ll be sure to take before and after pics because this thing is getting fully restored. Also had CATG’r Clifford over this afternoon to talk chickens. Unexpected development there… initially it was about putting new shakes on the coop roof for the layers. But we decided to partner up to get 100 chicks this next week and fatten them up over the next couple months to fill the freezer. BBQ anyone?

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It never fails. Having read the Passion passages countless times and having preached seemingly every conceivable angle of the Easter Story each year these last twenty years, it never fails… God shows me something new. I’ve devoted these last couple weeks in the pulpit to the ugly side of Easter – the betrayal, the blood. A few days ago I spoke on the forsaking of Christ and how its happening again today in the America church.

Rather than just jump right to the verse from the cross where Jesus cries out – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me – I pointed out how the forsaking actually started earlier that week. In the Garden after Judas betrayed him we read “all the disciples deserted him and fled.” Then Peter disowned Jesus. But there is a key moment even before these key moments.

Right after Jesus foretells that Peter will betray him three times, Jesus is in the garden crying out in agony to God asking for this cup of suffering to pass. He returns and finds his disciples sleeping. The Bible tells us this happened
three times. Three times!? Hmm. Here’s the part I hadn’t seen before: “Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.” HE ASKED PETER?!?!

Do you see it? Before Peter ever forsook Jesus publicly, he forsook Jesus privately in the place of prayer. In the end times, the Bible says, many will turn away from Christ. I’m convinced prayer meeting attendance is a better indicator of the victory or defeat of the American Church, not anything else. Once we forsake Him privately in the place of prayer, it’s only a matter of time before we do it for all to see.

Hate to admit it, but fourteen years ago I moved to this city to start this church intentionally planning to NOT bring up things like the Cross and the Blood of Jesus. It was the seeker-friendly “model” to go out and create neutral, non-religious atmospheres where the unchurched wouldn’t be “offended” by our symbolism or perplexed by our weird language. That phase lasted about two years. Today, the Cross and the Blood are big deals at Church at the Gate. In fact, they are our only hope. A year ago January, the Lord spoke to me on this again – that I should offer communion every Sunday because lifting high the chalice of the Blood of the Lord Jesus will usher our people into a greater freedom. We’ve been offering communion (at least on a self-serve basis) every weekend since. There is power in the blood!

On my 12-city state tour a couple weeks ago, my friend Matt Lockett (Exec. Dir. of Bound4LIfe) told me God told him to not take his eyes off the blood this year. So, Matt has himself in an intense study of the blood of Christ. I invite him to add his two cents to this post. Matt said he’s asking pastors all over America this question… “You went to seminary didn’t you? (Yes.) Well, I went to art school so maybe you can help me with this… why did Jesus have to shed his blood?” Matt reports the majority bumble a response but have no real answer to this question.

A bit nervous now that it was my turn to answer his question, I gave just a few sentences and a few scriptures and asked if I passed the test. He said yes. So, here in post two of this mini-series the Ugly Side of Easter I turn your attention to:

WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO SHED HIS BLOOD?

The Bible says “the life is in the blood” and that “the wages of sin is death.” Scripture also says “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin.” Therefore, to pay the penalty for sin somebody’s life would be required. Jesus, in our stead, gave his life and shed his blood on the cross so we could live. His shed blood speaks a better word than the shed blood of Abel, of any other man, or the blood of bulls and goats. In the Old Testament, high priests would enter the most holy place and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the atonement cover (mercy seat) of the altar. There was no access to this place of God’s presence without a blood sacrifice. The blood provided the only adequate covering (atonement) for human sin. Jesus’ blood was the ultimate sacrifice. Full forgiveness for sin, and full access to God is available only through his shed blood. If there were another way or multiple ways for people to enter into a right relationship with God besides Jesus dying on the cross, God would not have let his Son go through the agony. That’s a hard word for people who want to believe all religions will lead to God, but nothing but the Blood of Jesus washes away sin.

There is a great download on the Bound4Life website of the old hymn – What Can Wash Away My Sin? The story behind the hymn is that it’s been around for years but these past 3 1/2 years it’s been sung every day in front of the Supreme Court by intercessors praying for the ending of abortion. They plead a better blood than the shed blood of 50 million unborn babies. They are pleading to a higher court. After taking communion they sing this hymn. I’ve been there with them… God is all over this. The hymn originally was set in a major key but they shifted the old hymn to “a minor key because the minor key opens a different door than the major key has in the past.” I believe that door is contrition and true repentance. Hope this song and these thoughts really help you focus on the Blood of Jesus this week and next.

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