Wednesday, April 25, 2012

24-7 Prayer

Wow...so I just spent the last two hours in a tent at Belk Tower at UNCC praying for the campus, the faculty, the students, the city...and everything else in my life that needed prayer. I don't say this to be like "woah I just spent two hours praying *pats self on the back*"...I say this to invite and encourage you to participate. "24-7 Prayer USA is part of an “accidental” international prayer movement that began in September 1999, when a bunch of young people in England got the crazy idea of trying to pray non-stop for a month." So cool right? Well, even better...they've set up an amazing, unique tent right in the center of campus at Belk Tower. They will be there until Friday...I want to encourage you to take some time out of your busy, hectic schedule and go to the quiet refuge of this small little tent. They've got some great activities to help you out if you aren't sure where to start, a cross to nail requests to, a prayer request chain, and so much more! God showed me some things about myself and I am so excited about what he has next for me. I pray that you will all take this opportunity to experience this. If you want to know more, please check out the 24-7 Prayer USA website: http://24-7prayer.us/ and/or follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/247prayerusa and/or like them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/247prayerusa. It really struck me while I was praying that I'm sitting here, in a tent, in the middle of a college campus, boldly proclaiming my faith by praying...and all over the world, people can't even gather to meet for church. How blessed am I that I get the opportunity to be bold(and how dumb am I for not taking every single opportunity to share with people)? Anyway, I'm rambling now...but yes...super cool thing, you should totally stop by...hope you all have an amazing night...love you all!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Church

Sorry these are all out of order...somehow I skipped a ton of pages in my notebook and then went back and filled in, so all my message notes are out of order. Doesn't really matter when it was taught, the message remains the same. One night at Mission 28, Jon Shea spoke on the importance of the Church. At Mission 28, our mission is to Know, Follow, and Proclaim: to Know God, to Follow God and to Proclaim God on our campus and teach others how to Know, Follow and Proclaim. (Based out of Matthew 28:16-20) This time we wanted to concentrate on following...specifically following in the context of a local church.

Matthew 16:18 says that "I will build my church"...so what is the church? The Bible uses three metaphors to describe the church: a bride, a building, and a body.
  • The church is Jesus' bride
    • All people whom he redeemed for himself
    • When he returns there will be a wedding feast
  • The church is a building/house
    • 1 Peter 2:5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
      • We as humans, whom Jesus redeemed, are living stones.
      • Our purpose is worship...offering spiritual sacrifices
      • We are to be a spiritual house
  • The church is a body
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
      • Just like a body has many different working parts but is still one body, we are all different people with different purposes/talents/gifts but united together on the same mission.
    • Ephesians 1:22-23 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
      • Jesus is the head
Church vs. church
  • Church
    • Church(capital C) is the community in it's entirety of all true Christian believers of all time.
  • church
    • church(lower-case c) is the local church (building) where local Christian's gather to worship.
    • note: college ministries are NOT churches
If you are a Christian...you are a brick...a living stone. You don't see bricks laying around randomly...bricks have a purpose. Being uncommitted to a church means that you are trying to do the great commission by yourself...a lone brick trying to be a house. Be in the wall, be a part of the wall...don't stand alone beside the wall. Membership is when a disciple commits him/her-self into a defined body of believers. When you become committed as a member, your brick builds the wall...you join the wall.

Why do you need to be a member of a local church? Because the church is the place for growth and discipleship, training and correction, personal care and so much more. As a Christian, you need to devote yourself to a local church if you want to continue on your journey to becoming more Christ-like.

So what does membership look like?
  1. You go and show up consistently. You need to be there and have ownership of what is going on.
  2. You agree theologically. You trust the pastors to teach and apply God's word. You submit to the leaders.
  3. You commit to ALL the other members. You are in this together...you have to be prepared to care for, admonish, disciple, and walk along side every other member who is a part of that church.
  4. You are committed to the mission of that church. You give of your time, skill, and you give generously to that mission.
Two common excuses:
  • "I have to work on Sunday."
    • Well...change your work schedule - he died for you.
  • "The church burned me."
    • That is really sad, and I'm really sorry that you had to experience that. You need to remember though that the church is a group of God's redeemed sinners...not a group of Jesus-es. No church is going to be perfect. So the best you can do is find a good church that preaches God's word.
To sum everything up...no one says it better than Charles Spurgeon.
“Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world!
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers. The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.”
–Charles Spurgeon, “The Best Donation,” (No. 2234) an exposition of 2 Corinthians 8:5 delivered on April 5, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.

Two Paths

Right before Easter, Nick Swan came to visit [M28]. His message was called "Two Paths". Nick's message reminded me very much of a prophetic word my mom had during a Youth Conference back in 2007 (wow that was a long time ago!) Please take the time to read what she wrote here: http://humbled4ever.blogspot.com/2008/01/crossroads.html.

Nick began by reading us a fairly well-known poem:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

A road...a journey...a path...this poem is talking about how we walk out our lives and the choices we make every day. Just like in the poem, we keep moving forward and we cannot go back to re-live anything. One way leads to another way and you cannot make a decision and then go back and make a different one...you are never at the same crossroads twice. Choose the road less traveled and it will make all the difference.
Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
It all comes down to two pretty simple things: 1. the wide and easy path leads to death and 2. the narrow and difficult path leads to life. There are eternal consequences to what path you take. When we choose Christ, he puts us on the narrow path, when we choose ourselves or our sin, we land on the wide path. As Christians, we have a new way of living and a new path to walk down. Too often though we forget why we got off the wide path and our old ways become more appealing to us. Don't go back to the old way of living...the old might be easy and wide and popular but it leads to death....the new path and new life lead to eternal life. As Christians, we are called to walk the narrow path and be transformed in our lives.
Ephesians 4:17-24(ESV) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
So a couple of things to help you stay on the narrow path when the old ways look better...
  •  Don't Go Back
    • Don't go back to what you were, how you acted, living your life before you met Jesus
      • You life before Jesus was futility, uselessness, having a pointless mind and a pointless life. You were darkened, alienated, separated, hardened, blind, and ultimately...dead.
      • With each decision we made before we lived for God, our hearts became hardened and overtime we became desensitized and calloused to our sin. Cravings and desires ruled us...we turned to what was hardening us.
      • We gave ourselves up...we didn't fight, we became like drug addicts...craving bigger doses, becoming more addicted, needing more...our souls are like addicts.
    • Do not go back to the path of destruction...
      • We are no longer our old selves.
The only problem is...old habits die hard...
  • Put off and Put On
      • Check out verses 20-24(NIV)...That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
    • Surely you have heard of him...that's how you got off the old path and onto the new one. Someone told us about him. We are his sheep and we know his voice...we heard Jesus voice when we heard the gospel. His voice took us from death into life. Going back to the old way is not an option because that isn't how we know Christ.
    • When we heard and responded, we died once and for all. We were created new in Christ.
    • We must now live in light of our new identity in him...but how do we do that?
      • v23. be renewed in the spirit of your mind...get rid of the old perspective/way of thinking that you lived with before. You cannot live for Christ if you mind is still thinking in the ways of the world.
    • Ephesians 4:25-6:9 is a great tool to help you stay on the narrow path. Take each verse day by day and challenge yourself. For example...lying is part of the old way of living...so pray about any lying that remains in your life. It's a progression...it's simple but it's not easy. You have to repent, believe and follow.
I think there are three groups of people out there...
  1. Someone who isn't on the narrow path at all.
    1. The question then becomes: Are you actually going to follow Jesus? Are you turning? Does your life look the old way? And ultimately...Do you know Jesus?
  2. Someone who is a recent Christian.
    1. The old died recently...your whole life is in an upheaval...it's hard...so you need to:
      1. Find strong Christians to disciple you.
      2. Make a clean break with your former way of life.
      3. Don't chuck your old friends out...you might be able to share the gospel with them.
  3. Someone who has been doing it for a while...walking the narrow for a while.
    1. Be aware of the subtle creep of your old self into your new life. Where is the subtle creep in your life? Where does the old way look more appealing?
Walking the narrow path can be hard, steep and lonely at times...the wide path seems fun and full of friends...but ultimately, the narrow leads to life and the wide leads to death. Remember when you choose the narrow path...Jesus is always with you. So...which path will you take?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Knowing You Jesus

Knowing You Jesus
 by Graham Kendrick

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres and wars to own;
All I once thought gain I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love You Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and know as Yours,
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh to know the power of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your sufferings;
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die.

An Update

Ever since we got back from Rekindle, we've had some amazing messages at [M28]!! I'm still totally in awe of what God did in all of us while we were there. I've been putting together a 'yearbook' that has each person's story from Rekindle in it...each time I read a story it brings fresh amazement and joy at what took place. Since we returned, we've all just been so hungry for more of God and so we've been covering big topics like The Church, Predestination, Biblical Theology, and much much more. I even pulled out my 200 lb. copy of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and have been working my way through that. It's a hunger that cannot be satisfied and a fire that cannot be tamed and it is traveling through [M28] like a wildfire! I'm so excited for this coming Sunday because our Rekindle Band will be playing at our church (CrossWay Community Church) and I'm so excited to give my church family a glimpse of what God did during our worship times. You are more than welcome to visit and experience it for yourself! We also have our annual spring picnic that afternoon! It's gonna be a great day! Anyway, I really do need to catch up on message posts which is what this started out as......lol back to the drawing board...or writing board...or...something...
Hey everyone! Sorry posts have been hard to come by lately! Em and I are working with several other people to create a wonderful summer series for you all. I'll be trying to catch you up on posts in the next week or so! Thanks so much for your love and support! - Chelsey

Monday, April 9, 2012

To know and follow hard after You

Well, God really likes to work in my heart at random times...especially when I'm driving. Gotta love having an epiphany while you're going 65mph down I-77.
Anyway, I was getting ready to leave the house today and my Passion: White Flag CD was playing in my car...I remembered that we had another Passion CD from ages ago somewhere in the house. I don't know what came over me but I got out of the car and ran back into the house to look for this CD even though I needed to leave for work. Thankfully, I found it and was back on my way to work. As the Passion: One Day CD began to play, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sound of worship. I don't know if it's specifically Passion or if it's just the sound of live worship, but I was immediately moved.

Passion: One Day was back in 2000...I was just 9 years old. Needless to say, a lot of the songs on the CD are songs that I remember singing when I was a kid. Usually, when I hear one of those songs, I tend to just laugh and say "wow that brings back memories" and press the skip button. For whatever reason though, today as I was hearing these songs...I couldn't bypass them. Specifically when 'One Pure and Holy Passion' came on. As is typical, I kind of laughed and said "flashback" but then something really struck me about the song. It might be an older song...it might be a simple song...it might even sound corny compared to some of today's worship songs...but the lyrics still ring true. More importantly, it embodies everything that the Christian life is about and everything we've been hearing about at M28 and CrossWay.

One Pure and Holy Passion
performed by Candi Pearson

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after you
To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you

Lord to know and follow hard after you
And to grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

As this song played, I was again overwhelmed and I just started crying. Too often, 'to know and follow hard' is not the first thing on my mind every day. Too often, I get so concerned with the daily schedule and planning and getting from place to place and what I'm going to need to take with me when I leave the house...that knowing and following hard after God and growing as a disciple is the last thing on my mind. It really sucks to realize that. Even though I'm a Christian and involved in college ministry and all that good stuff...too often, He is an afterthought. It was such a wake-up call to hear that song today, God really opened my eyes.

This song may be a flashback for you too...but take the time to really consider what it's saying. God can use something as simple as a song on your way home from work to reveal your heart to you. Let this be your prayer today. God, give me one pure and holy passion, a magnificent obsession, a glorious ambition for my life...and let it be only this: to know and follow hard after you...to grow as your disciple...lead me on God and I will run after you.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Crucifixion Narrative

Yesterday, my church had a special service to meditate on the events of Good Friday all those years ago. One of my pastors, Nick Swan, read this incredible narrative by Rick Gamache. Be warned, this is very descriptive and may be unsettling. Although the events of that day should unsettle us...they should disturb us...they should shock us...this may not be appropriate for younger children. I hope that you take the time to read this and really meditate on what it is saying...what he went through for you. Be blessed this Easter.

A Crucifixion Narrative by Rick Gamache

Jesus is bowed and bloody. 110 pounds of lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging. Pain explodes like light in Jesus‟ brain. And he crumples under the beam. When he comes to, Jesus feels somehow weightless and he realizes that the wooden crossbeam has been cut from his back. Another man is carrying it now, a dark man whose face he cannot see. But he does see the face of another. Mercifully, a Roman centurion bends and takes Jesus under the arm to lift him gently to his feet again. Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim's eyes do not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead, he finds love in those eyes. Love mingled with pain, yes—brokenhearted love—but love nonetheless. And not a love excited by one mere act of kindness. This love preceded the moment. This love preceded his existence. This love preceded the existence of the world. Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of Eternal Love. Jesus holds the soldier‟s gaze as long as he can. But the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the cross now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings, and Jesus blinks. By this time Friday, Jesus is familiar with that sting. But it was a new sensation on Thursday night in the garden.

There, in the garden, he walked with his friends singing hymns and speaking quietly. They passed through the city gate and walked up the hill of Gethsemane through the olive trees. But there were only eleven friends with Jesus—not twelve. One of the twelve chosen proved no friend at all. Satan already held Judas, the betrayer, by the hand then and now he has him by the neck. Judas hangs pale and gasping swinging from the end of his belt under the limb of a tree. The flames of hell are already lapping at his feet. It would have been better if he had never been born. Eleven remained then. But soon there would be none. Not one friend would stay. Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will scatter. One would run terrified out of the garden naked and the rest would follow. Jesus fell on his face in prayer. He tasted the dirt as he fought for the eternal destinies of his eleven sleeping sheep a stone‟s throw away. “Let the cup pass,” he cried. “Father, if possible, let the cup pass!” The Father gazed at his Son and the Son stared back knowingly. “Your will be done, Father,” whispered the Son. And the Father held out the cup and Jesus looked in. What he saw there flung him into the throes of agony. He pressed his forehead deep into the dirt, which softened into mud when mingled with his tears. Jesus felt several small explosions of pain underneath the skin on his face. His tiny capillaries in the sweat glands burst under the stress and blood flowed through his pours and dropped into his eyes. And it stung.

Jesus lifted his head to the sky and cried out, “I will drink from this cup, Father. I will drink from this cup so that your glory may be vindicated and my name may be glorified. And so that the sheep that you have given me will see our glory and enjoy it forever. I will drink on behalf of our rescue mission.” Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived. Judas kissed. Friends fled. Soldiers arrested. And Jesus‟ world became a swirl of torment and mockery. His trial was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed to see—the face that he was forbidden to see—was slapped and spit on. More blood in the eyes; more stinging. As he was dragged from the High Priest‟s house, Jesus managed a bloody-eyed glance at Peter. This friend ran from the garden, but this friend followed. And this friend had done the unthinkable three times. This friend denied the Friend of friends. This friend denied the Friend of sinners. He invoked a curse to lend credence to his denials. And now the cock crowed. And Jesus held Peter in the gaze of Eternal Love. But Peter looked away and ran. Just outside the city gate he stumbled and fell to the ground heaving sobs and considered joining Judas on his tree. But he pleaded to the Father for forgiveness instead. And the Father looked a few hours into the future to Friday afternoon, and, on behalf of what he saw there, he granted Peter the forgiveness he requested. The Governor of Judea was up early this cold, gray, wet Friday morning. The city still slept as the priests and soldiers led Jesus to the palace of Pontius Pilate. But soon the priests would have a sympathetic crowd as news of Jesus‟ arrest passed from house to house.



As Jesus came to he was forced to stand. A purple robe, not his own, was wrapped around him and clung to his open wounds. They made him hold a stick—a mock scepter. And now the King of the Jews needed a crown. One of the Romans picked up a thorn branch from a pile of firewood and braided it into a circle. Never did thorns compose so rich a crown— or so painful a crown. Another soldier took the scepter from the hand of the King of kings and beat the crown into his skull. Bloody sweat blinded him. And his stinging eyes momentarily took his mind off the pain in his back. But then the purple robe was torn from Jesus. And ribbons of flesh that adhered to the cloth were ripped off with its removal. Each wound had a voice of its own to shriek its pain. And Jesus collapsed again. Now Jesus is dressed in his own clothes. And before the merciful centurion can move Jesus along behind the dark man now carrying the cross, an old woman approaches and wipes Jesus' face with a linen cloth. Jesus looks her in the eyes and then looks to the crowd of weeping women behind her. And he says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. The days are coming when they will say, "Blessed are the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.‟ Then they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us," and to the hills, "Cover us." And to the old woman he adds, “If they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it's dry?” Then Jesus walks on beyond the city gates. It's nine o'clock in the morning, Friday. Through the steady rain Jesus glances up from the base of a rocky hill. It's named Golgotha—the Skull.

At the top he sees several posts fixed in the ground. Three of those poles stand ready to receive their crossbeams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals carrying their crosses behind him. At the top of the hill the merciful centurion hands Jesus a cup. Jesus sniffs the liquid. It‟s wine mixed with myrrh, a mild narcotic to dull the pain. But Jesus is meant to feel all the pain. So he hands the cup back. This is not the cup of the Father. A soldier strips Jesus. Again his back is set on fire as skin tears away with the cloth. Jesus now lays naked in the dirt. The dark man places the crossbeam by Jesus' head. This time Jesus sees his face. It is Simon of Cyrene. Jesus knows him by name and did before there was time. The beam becomes his pillow now. Two men take hold of his hands. The soldier on his left yanks his arm as far as it will go. But the soldier to his right is gentler. Jesus turns to him. It‟s the merciful centurion again. He picks up a cold spike and places it to Jesus‟ wrist. Then he picks up a hammer. Their eyes meet. Eternal Love shines forth again, and the centurion is undone. He looks away and lifts his hammer. In that moment Jesus hears his own word of power: the word of power that holds the merciful centurion in existence, the word of power that causes the hammer to be. He‟s speaking it all into being: the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns, the ground beneath him, and the dark clouds gathering above. If he ceases to speak they will all cease to be. But he wills that they remain. So the soldiers live on, and the hammers come crashing down.

Jesus is lifted on his crossbeam to the post. He sags held only by the spikes in his wrists. Jesus designed the median nerves in his arms that are working perfectly now. The pain shoots up those nerves and explodes in his skull as the crossbeam is set in place. His left foot is now pressed against his right foot. Both feet are extended, toes down, and a spike is driven through the arch of each. His knees are bent. Jesus immediately pushes himself up to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and they tear through the nerves between the metatarsal bones. Splinters from the post pierce his lacerated back—searing agony. Quickly waves of cramps overtake him—deep, throbbing pain from his head to his toes. He's no longer able to push himself up and his knees buckle. He‟s hanging now by his arms. His pectoral muscles are paralyzed and his intercostals are useless. Jesus can inhale, but he cannot exhale. His compressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn tissue. He fights to raise himself in order to breathe and in order to speak. He looks down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes. He pushes himself up through the violent pain to pray aloud, “Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they do.” Then he sags back into silence. But the crowd is not silent, though he can barely hear their taunts through the din of his pain. “He saved others, let him save himself!” “If you're the Christ, come down off the cross!” “Save yourself, King of the Jews!”

The criminal on the cross to his left joins the mockery. But the thief to his right repents. Jesus pushes himself up to say to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It‟s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman. A new pain grips him—greater pain than all the whips and spikes in the Kingdom of Rome. It‟s his mother. She‟s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without words she looks into his eyes and begs to know why. He longs to hold her and to tell her that it‟s all for her. He pushes upward and says, “Woman.” Then he looks his friend John in the eyes. John is standing behind her supporting his own weeping mother. “He is now your son.” Then to John Jesus murmurs, “And she is now your mother. Take her away from here.” And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain. Then Jesus is startled by a foul odor. It isn‟t the stench of open wounds. It‟s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn‟t recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks: “Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory? You are self-sufficient and self-righteous—consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious. You rob me of my glory and worship what‟s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you. You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer. You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity. You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden. With all your heart you love perverse pleasure. You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart. You kill babies for your convenience. You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You love money and prestige and honor. You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men‟s bones—you hypocrite! You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can‟t have so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness. You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin. You are never slow to speak. And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment. Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk. You are a false prophet leading people astray. You mock your parents. You have no self-control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. You‟re a drunkard and a thief. You‟re an anxious coward. You do not trust me. You blaspheme against me. You are an unsubmissive wife. And you are a lazy, disengaged husband. You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church. You‟re a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons. The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I‟m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup! And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God‟s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father‟s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future—omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross. The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart‟s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away. Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Silence. Separation. Jesus whispers, “I'm thirsty,” and he sags. The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts in on a reed to Jesus‟ lips. And the sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted. Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God‟s wrath dry. It‟s six o‟clock, Friday evening, and Jesus finds one more surge of strength. He presses his torn feet against the spikes, straightens his legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And he dies. The merciful centurion sees Jesus‟ body fall far forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus‟ ribs—one more piercing for our transgression—and water and blood flow out of his broken heart. In that moment mountains shake and rocks spilt; veils tear and tombs open. And the merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Mission accomplished.

Sacrifice accepted.