All posts by David Ude

The Fourth Word

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

When we consider the seven words of Christ from on the cross, we cannot but be amazed at the richness of the blessings that flow to us from Him. It is truly a hard heart that cannot be crushed by what we see or be softened by what we hear as Jesus hung on the cross. That is no less true of the 4th Word that our Savior spoke.

The reality of the Father’s love in promising a Savior is overwhelming to the penitent who knows what was lost by the sin of Adam and Eve, and who recognizes the on-going nature of sin in one’s own life. The manner of His conception of the Holy Ghost and birth of the Virgin Mary is no less overwhelming because it is so contrary to nature. But we believe the miracle, and gladly so for it declares to us that Jesus is without sin. That He should bear the sins of the world and suffer for all people is beyond reason. But one of the most overwhelming events, and some of the most incomprehensible words recorded in the Scriptures are these spoken by Jesus from the cross in mid-afternoon. It was at three o’clock in the afternoon, the very hour when the lambs for the evening sacrifice were slain that Jesus said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

If there is nothing else that strikes the penitent sinner with the enormity of sin, surely it is these words that express the forsakenness of Jesus by His Father. There is no hell on earth when we understand what hell is. There may be things on earth that mimic hell, but hell in the real sense is being forsaken by God. Being forsaken of God is the epitome of punishment. God is not in hell, nor can those in hell call upon God. The Father forsook His Son! Who can grasp it? Penitent sinners cannot grasp it but are thankful that that is the way it was. Much less can the denier of Christ to whom the preaching of the cross is foolishness understand it (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The question of Jesus underscores the reality of His suffering and shame. What He endured was not a charade. It was real! In the very question we can appreciate the severity of what it is from which we have been delivered. The answer to the “Why” of Jesus lies in the Father’s determinate will to spare sinful man from the dreadfulness of eternal condemnation. For us, it is not a flippant proposition of “Better He than we.” Nevertheless the blessed truth is that because Jesus suffered it, none who believe in His meritorious atonement will suffer it. Having been reconciled to God through the merit of the Lord Jesus we have peace with God. We still cannot fathom it, but as Christians we in faith believe that the Father forsook His Son in order that all who believe might have the daily assurance in life and at the moment of death, that the Father will not forsake us.

Thanks be to God the Father, and to His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and to the Spirit for giving us the faith to believe what is beyond comprehension.

“Father Forgive Them.”

For our daily devotions leading up to Good Friday, I’m going to share with you some short devotions on the 7 Words of Christ from the cross by Pastor Emeritus Daniel Fleischer. Here’s the first one:

THE FIRST WORD FROM THE CROSS

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Throughout His trial Jesus did not complain. He did not strike back with His tongue at the evil that was hurled at Him. He was silent, except when it was necessary to witness to the truth or proclaim the honor of God. Yet upon the cross, when the die was cast He spoke treasured words. The first words were words of intercession. But for whom were they spoken? They were spoken for the betrayer and the denier. They were spoken for the soldiers who had taken Him in the garden as well as for those who had borne false witness against Him. They were spoken for the High Priest and the crowd that called for His crucifixion. Included were Pilate and Herod, and finally those who crucified Him and mocked Him at the cross.

Even as He prayed He witnessed to His relationship to God. He called Him, “Father.” He did not say to the people at the cross, “I forgive you.” The offenses against Him were directed at the Father who had sent Him. He implored the Father to forgive them, and thus showed that He had not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

The cross of torment and death was the cross of love. We sing in a hymn, “The King of love my Shepherd is.” Never was such love shown by one person for so many as when the Savior God, having taken the sins of mankind on Himself, died to validate the very prayer that He spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

But this all sounds so abstract to many. Furthermore, of what importance are the words spoken by Jesus Christ two millennia ago? Today the issues are race relations, the economy, the impending war, taxes, social welfare and equality and a myriad of other things. Who cares about what Christ said so long ago?
In response let us recognize that those words were spoken for us and for all people. When the crowd cried “crucify Him” Jesus” response was “Forgive them, Father.” In the face of the world’s blasphemy, Jesus says, “Forgive them.” When our conscience cries out against us because we have transgressed, Jesus” words still echo across the centuries, “Father forgive them.” The message of the Gospel is that where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. All who recognize the terrible burden of sin and its eternal consequence are thankful for the price Jesus paid for which reason the Father graciously forgives our sin. Amen.

 

Like Father…Like Son

2 Chronicles 30 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+30&version=ESV

What a feast! For more than 200 years the Passover had not been celebrated like this. For more than 200 years, Judah had not had a king like this. Hezekiah was, in every way, his grandfather’s (with many “greats” attached) son. And in this chapter, we see how he was also in many ways his grand (with many more “greats” attached) son’s father. Each son of David is to some extent a type of Christ. But the events of our story particularly show us great David’s greatest son.

First is the way that Hezekiah invites his norther neighbors. This is after the 10 northern tribes were taken into captivity – most of them that is. There were a few left behind. Hezekiah reaches out to them, inviting them to come to Jerusalem, to repent. He promises them God’s grace even that God will return their families from captivity! Most of them refuse. But we certainly see Jesus mirrored here. He too tirelessly reached out (and still is) to those who rejected Him.

Hezekiah also understands, as Jesus did, that the point of the Old Testament ceremonial regulations wasn’t to be a burden to man, to make sure he jumps through this hoop and then that. The Passover was meant to be a time of joy and restoration because of God’s deliverance in the past and the deliverance still to be through the coming Savior. So he holds the Passover even though it’s the wrong month (they were unable to have it in the right month since the priests were not purified), He prays for mercy for those who weren’t properly prepared (they likely were ignorant of the preparations they were supposed to make), and then he holds it an extra week!  Hezekiah himself provides for the sacrifices! And the people all rejoiced at this! Just think how small our love for God’s deliverance is at times by comparison. So often we think church is too long if it runs past an hour. So easily we might view the extra services of holy week as a chore. What if we had church for 2 weeks straight! And communion every day! That would be a cause for rejoicing!

One day, in the Kingdom of our Father, we will feast forever at the Lamb’s banquet. Redeemed in the blood of David’s greatest Son, this weakness, this poverty of our souls that treats God’s deliverance so lightly and loves Him so little will be wiped away. Then the feast of deliverance will continue forever. Then, our songs will never die. Then our joy will never fade. For now, let us keep the feast each day in faith – delivered from sin, let us rejoice in every opportunity to receive forgiveness from His hand.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Your Problem is God’s Problem…and That’s No Problem!

2 Kings 19 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+19&version=ESV

While you may not generally find yourself surrounded by an army the size of the city of Madison, you certainly do face problems every day. Most of them are little (first world problems). Some of them are harder – losing loved ones because of arguments or death or something else. None of these compare to what Hezekiah faced. But that should be comforting to us! It’s a greater to lesser argument – if God could so easily help Hezekiah out of such a big problem, then He can certainly help with all of ours That doesn’t mean he will make your problems all disappear like the Assyrian army. But it certainly means that every problem you face is really God’s problem – that is, He cares about it! He wants you to lay it before Him just like Hezekiah did with Sennacherib’s mocking. Plus, God wants you to see that every problem is really a spiritual problem. Every trouble is Satan besieging your soul, trying to distract you, to break you down, to depress you and steal your hope in Christ. He sends mocking words, “God cannot help you. God does not care about you.” Lay it, whatever problem you face, before God. Make it His problem and then it’s no problem. For on the list of God’s great works, the destruction of Sennacherib, as amazing as it is, is nothing compared to what happened some 500 years later outside that same city. The very thing which Isaiah (first introduced to us in this chapter) would prophecy of so clearly – the man of sorrows, the suffering servant of Jehovah would give His life, surrounded by enemies to deliver us from ours! He, by death would kill death. And He, by life would bring an end to every problem.

So that problem of yours? Make it God’s problem. See it through Christ. Then it’s no problem. Amen.

Check out this awesome poem by George Gordon Lord Byron about this chapter – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKjBSC_F1NA

In Christ
Pastor Ude

A Fatal Error

2 Kings 18 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…

Sennacherib had it all figured out…or so he thought. He believed he had Hezekiah and Judah caught. They couldn’t get help from Egypt – Assyria was more powerful than Egypt. They wouldn’t get help from their God, after all none of the other gods of the other countries had helped them. Plus, Sennacherib believes that Hezekiah’s destruction of the high places was an attack against Judah’s God. Sennacherib thought he had every angle covered and so he boasted and mocked Hezekiah and all the people of Jerusalem. But Sennacherib had made a fatal error in his logic – the God of Judah was nothing at all like the gods of the other peoples.

First of all, when Hezekiah had cleared away the high places, it was not an attack on God. Someone like Sennacherib would not have been able to understand that. For him, it would have sounded ridiculous to demand that everyone go to one place to worship their God (it would have sounded ridiculous to say that there was only one God!). But that is exactly what Hezekiah had done and it was this that pleased God more than anything that any of the kings before him all the way back to David had done. None had been so faithful as Hezekiah because none had gotten rid of the high places. None had turned wholly, completely, faithfully to the Lord. Surely, this is not to say that Hezekiah was perfect – you can see that he wasn’t from the way he took gold from the Lord’s house to pay Sennacherib instead of trusting God. But when he stumbled, he always turned back to the Lord in faith. And that Lord that he turned to was the only real God. That was the God of armies, the God of power, the God of grace and forgiveness and love. That was the God who had promised to be with His people in His temple. The God who had promised to send a savior. That was the God Sennacherib was messing with – not the false, worthless, empty Gods of the nations. This was his fatal error – it would cost him his life. For God lives. God reigns. And He lives and reigns all things for you His people – so trust in Him, turn to Him, find Him where He has promised to be found – not in the way you feel, not in signs or dreams or eastern philosophies; find Him in His Word – that is His temple. That is where Jesus is. Amen.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Only One Way, One Way For All

2 Kings 17:24-41 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/…

If i wanted to drive to Eau Claire from Appleton, there are many ways I could go. At least three of them would take about the same amount of time. All of them would get me to the same place. If I want to make a steak, there are many different ways that I could cook it – frying pan, oven, grill (charcoal or gas). Some might be better than others, but all will do the trick. There are, as they say, many ways to skin a cat. Many people would have you believe that the same is true when it comes to God. They say that all the different religions in the world all get to the same place, they’re all really the same. And they are right that all religions in the world are the same…except for one. And that’s the only one that’s any good.

We must be entirely, bluntly honest about this, Christians. Either Christianity is the only true religion or it is just a big lie. And good news for us that it is the true one. Every page of the bible insists on this. Jesus said it clear as day, “I am the way and truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” Our section from 2 Kings shows this as well. God sent those lions in mercy. He wanted the people who were coming into the land to have the opportunity to hear His Word, His covenant, His law. But they did not take it to heart. The text makes a point of saying first that “they feared the LORD” but then pointing out that they never gave up any of their other gods. They worshiped them all the same and so in the end, as the text says they really “did not fear the LORD” at all. Because the true God, the God of the law, the God of the covenant, the God of grace really shares nothing in common with all the false gods of man. And that is true for one really big reason: Jesus. Every religion in the world except for the true one is a religion of works – I do this to make god like me, or so that god will help me, I offer this or sacrifice that to gain his favor. And while the people of the old testament made sacrifices, while their religion in many ways seemed like the other religions. The whole point of those sacrifices was to show that they could not ever make up for the sins of the people. Instead, God sent His one and only Son – Jesus Christ. Through His perfect obedience, His suffering, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, there is a way to God – a way of free grace. This is a way that is available for all people – from every nation, in any condition. And this is the only way. No other path will lead to heaven because every other path is based on a terribly false assumption about man – that there is anything in me that could deserve eternal life.

The true God, the God who sent Jesus knows that we are not worthy. He loves us anyway, He loves YOU anyway. He made a way for you in Jesus Christ. This is the way of grace. This is the only way. Amen.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Israel: A Warning

2 Kings 17:1-23 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+17%3A1-23&version=ESV

This is a sad milestone of a chapter – the end of a nation, 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel taken away forever – ruled by and mixed in with the other nations that they so wanted to be like. God had been patient with them (as the chapter recounts), God had been nothing but gracious with them, calling them back to Him many times. He had performed many mighty works, He had sent faithful prophets, they never listened. Finally, their time was up. God had removed the Canaanite nations before them because of their great wickedness, now Israel was indistinguishable from those nations, so what good were they? What good is salt when it loses it’s saltiness? Good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. That’s what God did with Israel.

And do not be deceived, the same could happen to you. If you reject His Word. If you take His gospel for granted. If friendship with the world is more important to you than these. If you refuse to repent and if you reject His warnings, if you, the Christian, lose that which makes you Christian and leave your faith and love behind – what good are you? If you are just like everyone else? What good are you? The greatest punishment that God can give is simply letting us have what we sinfully desire – to be just like the world and for Him to leave us alone.

Pray that this may not happen to you! Repent of sin. Throw yourself on Christ and His Word, His grace, His promise. Rely on Jesus the Shepherd who gave His life for you – He is also holding you, helping you, guarding you. Take Israel as a warning of your sin, trust Jesus as the answer.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Broken Records

2 Kings 15 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Kings%2015&version=ESV

While Uzziah (also known as Azariah) was reigning for 52 years in Jerusalem, Israel went through a parade of Kings. And as you read through the chapter you’ll see why I entitled this “a broken record.” One King after another “does what is evil in the sight of the Lord.” Even the goods kings in Judah (4 of them in a row – Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham) don’t get rid of the high places. They are good but none of them go far enough. One after another, the kings of Israel are killed, often brutally and bloodily. Finally that nation will be conquered and taken captive by Assyria. See, after a while, God destroys broken records.

Are you a broken record? Do you keep committing the same sins day in and day out – lust, pride, selfishness, carelessness for the Word of God – not walking in the ways of the Lord – worshiping the idols of the day – money, popularity, tv, music, sex? Do you put these things above Christ and His Word? Do you allow them to compromise your beliefs, to change and cajole you into abandoning what Christ says? What will God do with a broken record like you?

He will forgive you. We are all broken records – playing again and again the same old sins of yesterday. And we should indeed be warned by the example of Israel not to take God’s grace for granted, not to think that His forgiveness means we can go on living however we want – that’s not faith. But we recall during lent that when we repent of our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins – He cleanses us from all unrighteousness! And that’s because of Jesus. Jesus who, with his last gasps, was still speaking forgiveness and love to all. Jesus, who by His last gasps was atoning for all sins. Jesus, who by His first breath of resurrected air assures us of forgiveness and eternal life. Now He lives in us in order to keep us in faith, assure us of eternal life and change us from broken records to beautiful instruments for His glory.

Prayer – Jesus, call us to repent.Forgive us. Change our hearts, change our lives. Let us be for you.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Pride or Place?

2 Chronicles 26 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Chronicles%2026&version=ESV

Uzziah’s story is, in some respects, very similar to his father’s. He was a good king, he followed the Lord, the Lord blessed Him, then he got proud and the Lord punished him. We don’t know what Uzziah’s spiritual situation was like at the end of his life, we’d like to believe that the Lord’s discipline led to Uzziah’s repentance, we don’t know. However, there is a very important lesson to learn from Uzziah.

We live in a world that operates on pride. The world has always been this way. Ever since Satan convinced Eve that she should be the one in charge (“you will be like God”), people have always wanted to be the highest, the leader, the most honorable. In fact, this idea is so ingrained in us in our sinful natures that the second I say “submission” you think I’m talking about someone being less, unequal with someone else. That’s a lie. It’s Satan’s lie. One which he has been very successful at implementing. He did it with Uzziah who wanted to be the one offering those sacrifices. He’s done it in our culture today destroying the roles for men and women that Christ appointed in the church (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 14:34) and in the home (Ephesians 5:20-26). This idea is so stuck in our heads that we probably have a hard time swallowing these words too: 1 Corinthians 15:28, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” Yes that does say that Christ’s relationship to the Father will be one of submission. Yes that is speaking about Christ according to both His divinity and His humanity. Yes that is the Son’s relationship with the Father from eternity and NO that does not mean that they are not equal. See, this idea that submission and leadership means inequality is a complete lie. One that causes much damage in relationships and in society. It makes people feel badly about the role that God has given them. It makes others feel superior and arrogant about theirs. It’s a leprosy destroying and ruining what God made to be good.

Only Jesus can stop it. Jesus who forgives. Jesus who serves. Jesus who submits. Jesus who dies and now lives for us. Jesus whose love causes love. Jesus whose Word shows the right way – not pride but place. Find your place in God’s church, your role according to what His Word says, use your gifts in that place to serve Him. Don’t be deceived by this world’s arrogant, prideful ideals – submission and love are the way. They were the way Christ forgave your sins and they are the way for you to serve your neighbor. Place, not pride.

In Christ
Pastor Ude

Don’t Get Cocky

2 Chronicles 25 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Chronicles%2025&version=ESV

“Don’t get cocky” is always good advice (Han Solo knew it!). When we become proud of our success to the point where we forget what brought us that success, it’s pretty easy to come tumbling down. You become a great baseball player by repetition, hard work, practice! If you stop working, you can lose all that you gained. You won your spouse’s heart with romance, how easy it is to get cocky, to forget to do the things you used to do together! It’s especially applicable with God. Amaziah got cocky, It was God who had given him the victory over Edom. The true God only! Yet, in his pride, Amaziah not only brought home the gods of the defeated Edomites (how crazy is that!) but then scorned and refused to listen to God’s prophet. He taunted the king of Israel, dared him to fight, all the while trusting no in God but in himself. Things didn’t turn out well.

Paul warned the Galatians about something very similar – “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). He was talking about their salvation. They had been brought to faith by the Spirit alone, it was God’s work to bring them to new life through the message of Christ crucified. They had nothing to do with it! But now they were being told that they needed to do certain things in order to make it the rest of the way – that it was up to them! What foolish pride. They were forgetting what had got them there. Perhaps at times, so do we. Christ is what got us to where we are. Christ died for us, rose for us, lives for us, lives in us! Christ forgives us and strengthens us. And it must be Christ who still keeps us and helps us. It is not now (nor ever will be) the time to say to Jesus, “You’ve done a good job so far, let me take it from here.” Such an approach will leave us with Amaziah, turned away from God, refusing to hear His word and finally destroyed. God grant us hearts to trust in Him only for salvation – not our works, not our feelings, not our understanding – Jesus only. Amen.

In Christ

Pastor Ude