Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: How Can a Person Be Truly Converted When He Is “Old”?

Dear Friends of “Dial Daily Bread,”

Nicodemus asked a pointed question that troubles every one of us, young or old: "How can a man be born when he is old?" (John 3:4). The word is geronin the Greek, from which we get gerontology, the science of growing old. (We get our word "grey" from that word too! In other words, Nicodemus asked, "How can a grey-haired person get converted!?")

Child psychologists usually agree that one forms his patterns of thinking and emotional response by the age of seven. Even a teenager has a decade of habit patterns of neurotransmitters developing a momentum hard to change, so he or she too is "old." If you haven't learned to play the violin well by 12, you'll probably never make it to Lincoln Center.

Now, how can a person be truly converted when he is "old"? The world says, "It's impossible." But Jesus took on Nicodemus, and said a decided "Yes!" to his question, "Most assuredly, ... do not marvel!" (vss. 5-7). Then He said that this miracle new birth comes about entirely by the work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 8).

Nicodemus was right in one respect--you can't re-birth yourself. Jesus hands out no do-it-yourself "be-born-again" kits. Paul got His point when he said, "From first to last this has been the work of God" (2 Cor. 5:18, The New English Bible). God plants the seed of the new birth in your soul like a wind carrying tree seeds far and wide and you "can't tell" how that gospel seed of hope got blown into your soul (see John 3:8), but it will germinate if you don't step on it and stamp it out. A seed germinating can break rocks and concrete! No human heart is too hard for what the Holy Spirit does therein.

Yes, Nicodemus! When a person is old, he or she can be born again! Jesus said, "Listen!" It happens by looking at Moses' "serpent" lifted up on a pole like the Israelites bitten by the poisonous snakes (vs. 14). The "serpent" represents Christ on His cross. You look and the poison of sin (self-love) is drawn out of your heart. You are born again by believing that love (vs. 16). "By grace you have been saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8). Perk up, Nicodemus! There's hope.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 19, 1998.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: God Did the Unthinkable!

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When God the Father, our Creator, found Himself confronted with a world (this fallen planet) that had rebelled against Him, He did the unthinkable: He frankly forgave us all!

This astonished the unfallen universe.

He sent His only Son, gaveHim, to die our second death.

The death of Jesus was infinitely more than a weekend of sleep (which any crucified person would appreciate; crucifixion did not kill people, it tortured them); the kind of death that Jesus died was what He described when He screamed on His cross, "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). The death that Jesus died is God-forsakenness. That's what hell is.

He knew He was dying our second death; He knew He was entering hell for us--the hell that has no ending, no light at the end of its dark tunnel.

Someone may object, "but He was resurrected the third day!" This understanding that many have diminishes the sacrifice of Christ and deprives us of the ability to appreciate its grand dimensions.

Crucifixion is a terribly painful experience but it is not lethal. Victims could live on for days, even weeks. It's torture. But Jesus knew that the death He was dying is the unending hell--the "curse" of God.

Moses had said it truly, "He who is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God" (Deut. 21:23). Everybody believed Moses, including Jesus, which is why He screamed in His agony, "My God, why have You forsaken Me?" The cross was the proof of God's forsakenness of Him.

Hell is the infinite curse of God, the Father; there are no measurable dimensions to the extent of its horror; yet Jesus chose to enter into it; and the Father chose to giveHim to it!

When we sinners even begin to see its "width and length and depth and height" (Eph. 3:18), there is no end to the devotion that this divine love motivates us to give to Him forever!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 28, 2009.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."


NOTE:"Dial Daily Bread" may be "off the air" again for a few days. Our power company (Pacific Gas and Electric) will be shutting off the power perhaps tomorrow or Wednesday nights. It's being shut off because of weather conditions that could start fires with their equipment. Hopefully, this won't last long and we'll be back soon.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: You Are Never Crucified Alone--Always it's "With Christ"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When does temptation become sin? Can you hope (in this life) to get to the place where you can be relieved of the burden of being tempted?

You have a grand piano; you enjoy its glorious tone. When it's time to go to bed you think, "Oh, that poor piano! All night long while I rest it must continue to endure those tons of pressure put upon its frame by all those strings stretched taut--I'll loosen them all." The result? The music is gone!

If you have thought of Jesus Christ as a person exempt from enduring the pressure of our temptations, you have missed the point of the New Testament. Its very first page describes Him as "Immanuel, ... God with us" (Matt. 1:23). God with youin your most alluring, nearly overmastering temptations. He was a Man with a capacity for enormous human temptation, because we read that He "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15, King James Version). There is no human on the face of this planet who is "tempted in all points" as the human race is tempted; each of us is tempted only in our own little microcosm of temptability.

But this Human was also Divine, the second "Adam," the Head of the human race embracing within Himself all the temptability that all human beings collectively endure. No human being who prostrates himself before the throne of God in anguished prayer for deliverance from sin can battle against a temptation for which Christ has not already battled. And the Good News is loud and clear: He endured them all "yet without sin." The tension of temptation was there in His soul every moment of His life until that final hour on His cross when He felt to the full the awfulness of man's sin and its diabolical pressure that wrenches the spiritual nerves and sinews of humanity.

You say the tension you must endure is unbearable? Don't despise the music that only your soul can produce! Sing or play a duet with Christ--He never asks you to do a solo. (If you're a musician you know the joy of doing duets!) You are never crucified alone--always it's "with Christ" (Gal. 2:20).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 15, 1998.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: Ezra and Nehemiah--Often Neglected, but Have an Honored Place in the Bible

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When a Laodicean reads the two books of Ezra and Nehemiah as a narrative story, strange comparisons pop up. The Laodicean is already conscious of the Lord's rebuke in his life today, for He says, "Be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19). Now in reading these books, he relives the painful struggle of these Israelites to return from the 70-year captivity in Babylon.

As they try in spite of their enemies ridiculing them, the people of God under Nehemiah's direction manfully work to rebuild the walls of old Jerusalem, walls broken down by the Babylonians some 70 years before. Everything seems to go against them. It's not that the Lord Himself works against them, but He does permit their enemies to harass them.

Sanballat and Tobiah, for example, rise against the Jews continually. Their principal weapon is ridicule; they despise their efforts to rebuild the walls, saying that if a fox were to walk over their rebuilt wall it would fall down (Neh. 4:3).

So difficult is their work that with one hand the workers hold a sword or a spear and work with the other hand on the wall (4:17). It was a labor of repentance; the people of God were humiliated, yet they pressed on until the heavy task was completed.

It was the Lord's intention over a century ago that His people go forth with "the most precious message" that with His blessing should lighten the whole earth with glory; but modern "Sanballats" and "Tobiahs" rose up to oppose the work.

Now the consecration and devotion of the Lord's servants will be tried; we have come to the time when we must "gather warmth from the coldness of others." Faith in the Lord begets courage in the Lord; our task is not laying stones on stones to build a wall; our task is proclaiming truths on truths, demonstrating to the world that "the third angel's message in verity" is the truth that will lighten the earth; it will bring to a glorious triumph "the great controversy between Christ and Satan."

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are often neglected, but they have an honored place in the Bible: to encourage the hard-pressed workers of the Lord in these last days.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 25, 2008.
Copyright © 2010 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: A Strange Group of People

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

They are a strange group of people who keep popping up before our consciousness. Some of us would like to forget them and stash them away in a theological attic, out of sight and mind. But then they get back on the stage again--these mysterious 144,000.

What makes us uncomfortable to even think about them is that "in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God" (Rev. 14:1-5). No church can hang up a banner, "The 144,000 "R" Us" like "Toys "R" Us." Instead, we realize how faulty we are by nature. And even when we get old, the Holy Spirit helps us remember, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). Even to read aloud what the Bible says about these mysterious 144,000 is suspected as teaching the heresy of "perfectionism."

To go on letting ourselves be faulty, indulging in selfishness, being worldly, is as comfortable as wearing an old shoe. Rowing upstream is just too difficult, well, it's downright impossible, is the idea. "Allah" knows we can't be "without fault," so let's just trust His "compassion" and settle down to stay sinful in character. It's comforting to notice that's how everybody else is.

But here those people are back on stage--the fruition of God's goal for humanity. In spite of countless evil angels, they will "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev. 14:4). It means Christ as the crucified One has captured their hearts; they "glory in the cross of Christ" (Gal. 6:14). They discover a blessed "hunger and thirst for righteousness" that transcends their natural love for selfish worldly pleasure. These people see something in Jesus.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 17, 2002.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: One of the Most Neglected Passages in the Bible

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

One of the most neglected passages in the Bible explains simply how righteousness by faith works.Yet it's profound.

The topic talks about when you and I will meet Jesus Christ face to face in final judgment, a very real moment of life, the most real ever (2 Cor. 5:10: "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ").

What will ensure our happiness, then? Not what we have done in achievement, but what we have permitted Him to motivate us to be and to do: "The love of Christ constrains us" (vs. 14). The opposite of restrain, that love impels us, pushes us outside of ourselves, makes us do things we never thought we could do. When you've been "constrained" by love to do something, any whiff of merit is denied.

This "constraint" is not mysterious emotion but sober, rational thinking: "because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then [that's equivalent to saying that] all died; and He died for all" (vss. 14, 15). In other words it's a 2 + 2 = 4 phenomenon: what happened on the cross means that when He died, actually youdied. And the simple fact is that if He had not died then you would not have survived! "We judge thus," the most profound reality of all human life. You and I owe everything to Him.

From now on, living is simply recognizing the honest obligation that we are in debt eternally and infinitely. It's the most joyous debt you can imagine.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: November 13, 2007.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Dial Daily Bread: "The Lord Upholds All Who Fall ..."

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Can you think a moment and envision God in the way that Psalm 145 does? The Book of Psalms is where our intimate closeness to the King of the Universe is emphasized; you and I may be the most lowly inhabitants of this globe, yet we remember that "the Lord thinks upon me" (Psalm 40:17).

You are delighted when a friend tells you he or she has been thinking about you--with good will.

Well, it is solid truth that the Lord, infinite though He is, busy as He is keeping the Milky Way running smoothly, takes time to devote His thought processes to you and me individually, with good will (cf. Luke 2:14). "In Christ" the infinite Father is as close to you and me, unworthy as we are, as if we were the only inhabitants of this "desert island" of earth.

Yes, we must as the most rudimentary lesson of heaven's kindergarten, believe two magnificent things: (1) "he that comes to God must believe that He is, and (2) that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). He has reconciled us who are in heart at "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7), but at the same time we must let go this enmity we have: now "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).

Here is how Psalm 145 pictures God (it's like He puts pictures in His Bible like we put pictures in our books): here is the mighty God kneeling down like you kneel down with some food in your hand to entice a fawn or chipmunk to come and eat out of your hand. "The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season." The Lord opens "[His] hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing" (vss. 15, 16). This includes the squirrels and the birds, and the bears--all.

But that's not everything in this "picture." Read more: "The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all those who are bowed down" (vs. 14). "All," yes; if we will let Him do it.

Don't be ashamed to kneel before Him so the entire universe sees you; let everybody on earth and in heaven see that you are "bowed down." When He does that, He puts "a new song" in your soul, even "praise to our God: many will see it, and ... trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3).

That's His substitute for an anti-depressant drug, or the psychiatrist's couch.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 27, 2007.
Copyright © 2019 by "Dial Daily Bread."