Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: Thank God, We Can Learn From Moses!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Have you ever prayed about a difficult situation, and the more you prayed and "obeyed" the worse it got? If your answer is No, then welcome to always-sunny skies. But some of us have met the storms that Moses met. For 40 years he had prayed for God to deliver his people Israel from slavery in Egypt, and nothing had happened. Finally the Lord met him at the burning bush and commissioned him to go back to Egypt and deliver them. "Face the king and demand emancipation for My people." The story is in Exodus 4 and 5.

So, what happens? A miracle? Pharaoh suddenly collapses in front of Moses and says, "Let them go!"? No, far from it; the more Moses demands freedom, the meaner Pharaoh becomes, and in a fit of anger he actually makes their slavery worse, doubling their workloads.

The irate Israelite "officers" meet Moses and chew him out: "The Lord will ... punish you for making the king and his officers hate us. You have given them an excuse to kill us" (5:21, Good News Bible). Sunny skies? Not for Moses! His own people resent him for doing exactly what God has told him to do. The more he prays and "obeys," the worse the situation becomes.

Moses has asked God for a piece of "bread," and it looks like the opposite of what Jesus promises: God has given him "a scorpion" or "a stone."

What about your prayers when things get worse? (1) Don't give up on the Lord. Moses did the right thing and so should you. The next verse says, "Then Moses turned to the Lord again" and laid the problem out before Him. "Ever since I went to the king to speak for You, he has treated them cruelly. And You [God] have done nothing to help them!" (vs. 23). (2) Next, listen to what God tells you then. "He that cometh to God must believe" (a) that "He is," and (b) that "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

Thank God, we can learn from Moses!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 8, 1999.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: God's True Last-days' Message of the Cross

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Paul, God's faithful servant, suffered a humiliating rebuke in his evangelism crusade in the great city of Athens. He made the mistake of trying to match philosophy with philosophy, trying to meet the Athenian scholars on their own ground. The result: near failure in soul-winning, although a few did respond.

When he came to the immoral city of Corinth, he says he "determined not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). The book of Revelation is also a presentation of the cross of Christ. In code language, "a Lamb as though it had been slain" (5:6) is the same message as Paul's theme in Corinth. More than twenty-five times we find that word "Lamb" in Revelation--the book is the most cross-centered book in the Bible! It's the same as Paul's message of "Christ and Him crucified." Without discerning this truth, the fanatics or enthusiasts find Revelation to be their playground.

As we near the end of time, their confusion will become more and more painful to endure. Each will proclaim that he knows the secret of "finishing God's work," "listen to me!" But he "multiplies words. ... The labor of fools wearies [everyone], for they do not even know how to go to the city!" (Eccl. 10:12-15). Are you bewildered by the multiplicity of voices crying, "'See here!' or, 'See there!'" (Luke 17:21)?

Psalm 46 was written for this time of cataclysmic confusion when "the waters roar and [are] troubled" and "mountains [are] carried into the midst of the sea" (vss. 2, 3). The counsel is, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (vs. 10). The language is that of Revelation 18:1-4.

Be wise and patient; spend time in prayer alone with God so that you are ready to discern that true last-days' message of the cross.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 21, 2005.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: The Most Earth-shaking Letter Ever Written

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Probably the most earth-shaking letter ever written in history was dashed off by hand by a man with poor eyesight--God's apostle Paul. The impassioned epistle was sent to the Galatians to correct a fatal error threatening to poison the young church that Christ and His apostles had just raised up. The subtle deception came from the then-headquarters of the church in Jerusalem. The idea was that the gospel of Christ is a revival of Old Covenant "righteousness," supposedly by faith, but in reality by a counterfeit of it. The problem has plagued Christianity ever since.

The principal idea Paul made was that "God ... preached the gospel to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). Still today a suspect doctrine! The usual concept is that the gospel came later than Abraham--430 years later at Mount Sinai.

Paul's idea is that Abraham's unusual response to God's New Covenant promises (Gen. 12:2, 3) was genuine faith--the kind that appropriates the much more abounding grace that saves us (Gen. 15:6; Eph. 2:8, 9). Abraham's faith therefore was like turning on a switch that allows the electricity to flow through the house. It's a simple idea: faith doesn't save us, but it opens the circuit so that God's grace is free to flow through us and save us. That idea has created theological explosions all through history.

Abraham's descendants at Sinai were the first of countless generations to brush off the gospel truth. They wanted the Old Covenant as their belief: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8), they promised vainly.

The great Day of Atonement is now--when it's time for God's people to overcome every trace of Old Covenant confusion and recover the pure love for the gospel that Abraham knew when he "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it [his faith] to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).

True obedience to God's law is possible only through the New Covenant. Thank God He has given you a "hunger and thirst" to understand it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 11, 2004.
Copyright © 2017 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: Why the Gospel Was So Successful for the Apostles

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The Book of Acts tells why the gospel was so successful at the time of the apostles. A consistent theme seems to emerge: they told the world that they had rejected and crucified the Son of God. This realization resulted in an enormous sense of guilt: what sin or crime could be worse than that?

For example, at Pentecost, Peter said: "God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Immediately came the heart-broken cry, "What shall we do?" (vs. 37). Then when Peter and John healed the paralytic, Peter again said, "You denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead" (3:14, 15). You couldn't yawn and sit on the fence when you heard a charge like that! Then Peter and John told the rulers and leaders of the nation, "You crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead" (4:10).

Then when the apostles were again arrested by the police and brought to trial, they boldly charged, "You murdered by hanging on a tree [the] ... Prince and Savior" (5:30, 31). This was extreme confrontation! And the Holy Spirit was given both to those who proclaimed the truth and to those who believed it. Philip won the heart of a high-placed government official by preaching the cross from Isaiah 53 (8:32, 33). A sudden glimpse of the significance of the cross converted Saul of Tarsus (9:5, 6; 26:13-15), and empowered him to proclaim the truth more powerfully than any of the Eleven who had witnessed the actual event.

One exception to apostolic success is Paul's ministry in Athens (Acts 17). Few of his hearers responded positively. But reading through the Acts 17 story of his sermon we find not a mention of the cross! Paul at Athens was much like we are, working for "the higher classes." But from Athens Paul went to Corinth, where he determined "not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:1, 2). A lesson for us?

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 23, 2000.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: The Key in Understanding an Apparent Contradiction in Jesus' Prayers

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Psalm 22 tells us of Christ's agony of soul as He hung on the cross--not just the physical pain (that was awful enough!), but the soul agony of bearing "the curse of God," enduring hell on our account. Psalm 69 also describes His enduring hatred throughout His life (vss. 7-12), and on the cross (vss. 17-21), but now there's a different element added: He cries for vengeance on those who have abused Him. "When I was hungry, they gave Me poison; when I was thirsty, they offered Me vinegar. ... Strike them with blindness! ... Pour out Your anger on them; ... May their camps be left deserted; may no one be left alive in their tents. ...  Keep a record of all their sins; don't let them have any part in your salvation. May their names be erased from the book of the living; ... " (vss. 21-28, Good News Bible).

Now, here's a problem: how can you reconcile those dreadful imprecations with the prayer of Jesus at His cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do!" (Luke. 23:34)? Both that prayer and those imprecations are the words of Jesus!  And both prayers were answered by the Father! He forgave them then, but forgiveness is more than blinking the divine Eye and saying, "I don't care what you do, murder My Son, that's OK with Me!"

God's forgiveness includes the actual removal of the sin from the heart, which is through accepting His enormous gift of repentance. And some who crucified Christ did repent--apparently the Roman centurion, for one. But those who did not accept repentance on the Day of Pentecost but hardened their hearts, suffered every iota of those divine imprecations. The human urge for redress, for justice, is not evil; it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. God is greatly concerned for justice! "To crush under His feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the justice due a man [or woman] before the face of the Most High, or subvert a man in his cause--the Lord does not approve" (Lam. 3:34-36).

But what's the key in understanding this apparent contradiction in Jesus' prayers? (1) It is right to protest injustice, for Jesus did (John 18:23; Matt. 26:55). (2) We are not to exact our own redress or vengeance, because our inborn love of self will cause us to act unjustly. "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls"  (Prov. 24:17). (3) Leave the revenge to the Lord to work it out. "Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord"  (Rom. 12:19). (4) Trust Him to take care of it; He did for Jesus--all too thoroughly. Consider the later history of His murderers. Let's trust Him, too.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 21, 1999.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: An Overlooked Precious Morsel of Truth

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There is a precious morsel of truth often overlooked in Isaiah 61 where we read that "the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor" (vs. 1).

Those good tidings include the blessed truth that God's time for vengeance is much shorter than His time for blessing: vengeance lasts for only a "day," whereas His blessings are immeasurably longer. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me," says Jesus; "because the Lord has anointed Me ... to proclaim the acceptable yearof the Lord, [but only] thedayof vengeance of our God" (vss. 1, 2).

The time of God's "vengeance" is only 1/365th of the time of His blessing! Can you imagine such a fraction? Yes, there is a time when God must take "vengeance," and it is a frightful time for those who are not reconciled to Him; but the character of God is such that His "acceptance" is far greater than His "vengeance."

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy" (Psalm 103:8). "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion" (111:4). His glorious character is beautifully unveiled in Jesus in His incarnation. Did He go around cursing people? No, Everywhere He went, He was only a blessing. He tells us, "That's what My Father is like!"

Finally, when wicked people could not stand His presence on earth and they crucified Him, in the midst of His physical and spiritual anguish He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (cf. Luke 23:34).

Let your alienated, worldly human heart be melted by beholding the Lamb of God!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: February 16, 2009.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Dial Daily Bread: Being Sober Doesn't Mean Being Sad or Gloomy ...

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The American nation was slow to enter the war against Hitler on the side of Britain and the "Free French." Until Pearl Harbor the people weren't sure. At that time apparently nobody knew what would happen in the Holocaust. "Kristallnacht" seemed far away, almost impossible. The horror of World War II seems murky to the minds of the generations who have lived subsequent to those days. And the Memorial Day weekend is a grand holiday. Most of us have little or no sense of reality as to what this freedom and pleasure cost others in suffering and blood. Occasionally a voice is raised pleading for sobriety and adequate gratitude.

Does the world--do any of us--sense an adequate gratitude for what our present life on this planet cost the Son of God? Do we realize what it means to say that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23)? Not that God arbitrarily inflicts death on sinners, but that sin itself is self-destructive in nature, that life as we know it would have ceased on this planet except that there was a "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8)? The "Lamb" had to be the One whose name is "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with us," our second or "last Adam," who truly died the real thing, the second death.

Horrible as death was for the millions who died in World War II, none truly died the second death. Let us be sober and realize at least something of what the Free World owes to those brave soldiers who suffered in World War II; but let us as Christians plead for God's mercy to enable us to realize honestly the constraint that agape imposes. It means simply that self is crucified with Christ. Being sober doesn't mean being sad or gloomy; it means being conscious, thoughtful, aware of truth.

People with extremely shallow understanding are childishly, apparently happy, but it's as thin as a coat of varnish. When self is crucified with the Redeemer, the happiness is deep, "that your joy may be full" (John 16:24), the idea being, "in depth." It's the awareness of what an eternal grave in hell could mean, from which we are redeemed. For all time there's a tear glistening in our smiles of joy.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 31, 2000.
Copyright © 2020 by "Dial Daily Bread."