Friday, April 29, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: The Difference Between a Believer and an Unbeliever

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The difference between a believer and an unbeliever is his or her prayer. Unbelievers don't need to pray; they can make it on their own. They own the world, everything goes right for them, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward," says Jesus (Matt. 6:2).

But those who "believe" in Jesus have a hard time trying to make it on their own; they fit right into the category of David who almost continually pours out his heart in prayer in the Psalms. He has all kinds of "enemies" that he is constantly begging the Lord to defeat for him. But wait a moment: don't fall for the lie that David is paranoid; from every prayer session except one (Psalm 88) he emerges joyously triumphant in his confidence in God who has heard and answered his prayer. That's not paranoia. The reason I said that "believers" have a hard time making it on their own, is because they know they can't, so they rejoice in their faith to believe that they can make it with the blessing of their Savior. (And they do!)

The Bible is full of prayer. The lady in Matthew 15:22-28 who is begging Jesus to heal her daughter who is "severely demon-possessed" is praying; He tested and stretched her faith before He healed her daughter. The man with the son who was devil possessed in Mark 9:17-24 is praying, "Lord, if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Again, Jesus tested and stretched his faith, almost agonizingly, before He granted his prayer.

Prayer is meaningless unless we learn to believe (1) that there is a God who is what He says He is ("merciful and gracious, ... abounding in mercy," Psalm 103:8), and (2) that He hears and rewards those who take the trouble to "come" to Him (Heb. 11:6). The "coming" is a serious, intelligent, well-thought-out interview with the Sovereign of the universe who tells you that He is your heavenly Father and you are His child; He meets you on your own ground.

I can't guarantee anything on the Lord's behalf, but from personal experience I can testify that He "receives sinners," and even "eats with" them (Luke 15:2); "forgives all [our] iniquities" (Psalm 103:3); tells us what is wrong with us and encourages us to believe we'll get straightened out (John 16:8-11); gloriously enhances our sense of self-respect (Gal. 2:20); gives us the intimations of coming immortality through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:16-19); and lifts the burden that has been weighing us down for years (Matt. 11:29-30).

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 1, 1999.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: How the Lord Strengthened the Faith of Elijah

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There may be a little treasure of truth buried in the story of Elijah that illustrates the kindness and compassion of the Lord. The faithful but lonely prophet has been directed to seek shelter in the home of the widow of Zarepath (which belongs to Sidon). He appreciates her hospitality and her faith. But a terrible sickness suddenly takes the life of her young son (1 Kings 17:17, 18).

At first Elijah has brought sunshine and gladness into her widowed life. But now the bereaved mother imagines that the man of God has ministered this grief to her in that his holy presence in her home has brought all her sins into memory and judgment. She wails in her anguish, "Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?" (vs. 18).

Elijah takes it personally; he knows he is hated in Israel and Phoenicia, everybody everywhere blames him for the famine. Now it seems that God has humiliated him by bringing this bereavement on this widow. When he takes the dead son from her, he doesn't pray a quiet, unimpassioned prayer as he did later on Mount Carmel; he agonizes his distress. "He cried out to the Lord and said, 'O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?'" (vs. 20). A prayer from a broken heart!

In mercy, the Lord answered his prayer of distress and resurrected the child.

Do you suppose that the Lord granted this precious interlude blessing as a way to strengthen the faith of Elijah when he stood alone and friendless before the king, the priests of Baal, and the multitude, on Mount Carmel? He remembers: the Lord has honored his prayer by raising a dead child to life. Wouldn't that recent memory nerve his spirit and encourage him? That should be enough to fortify his faith: but yes, the fire will fall!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 23, 2005.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Twisting in the Wind of Public Exposure

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

If King David were writing his Psalm 51 today, instead of praying, "Lord, blot out my transgressions," he might pray, "Lord, erase all those video and audio TV and Internet clips! Please blot out all the newspaper and magazine reports so I can go down in history with a clean moral record!" But God is not a magician--even He cannot erase electronic media, or at least, He won't. And although David prayed, "Blot out my transgressions," the fact is that the full sordid record of his sin of adultery and cover-up crime of murder is printed in the Bible for billions of people to read down through the ages. King David has been twisting in the wind of public exposure ever since.

Didn't God answer his prayer?

It depends on what he meant when he prayed. If he wanted only a divine cover-up so he could be spared the embarrassment, the answer is No. But fortunately, what David really wanted was something better: he craved a clean heart. He was willing to take any punishment, if only he could be "washed thoroughly" from sin itself. "Deliver me from blood-guiltiness," he begged in verse 14. Like the famous Prodigal Son, he was tired of wallowing in guilt-filth with the pigs. He wanted a clean conscience, let the record or the consequences be as they may. Don't abandon me alone in outer darkness forever, "do not take Your Holy Spirit from me," he prayed in verse 11.

In full, open, voluntary confession (not forced by evidence!) he found what he was praying for: "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' and You forgave the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32:5). And then he adds in verse 6 the Good News that every sinner longs for: "a flood of great waters" will not drown the repentant sinner. "He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him" (vs. 10).

If you know anything about what it feels like to be a sinner, you'll rejoice at that Good News!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 25, 1998.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: What God Does NOT Say

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

There's a vast amount of loving knowledge in the silence of God--in what He does not say. For example, when He warned our first parents in Eden not to join the fallen Lucifer's rebellion against God's principle of love, He told them not to eat of the fruit of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:17). Note what God did not say: "In the day you eat of it I will surely kill you." No; He said, "you shall surely die."

"Well," says someone, "that means He will kill them, because didn't He destroy almost the entire human race in the Flood of Noah?" Yes, He did. "And didn't He destroy almost the entire population of Sodom and Gomorrah?" Yes, He did. But ... look again.

Note what John 3:16 does not say: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, who will torture anyone who does not believe in Him." Again there is a holy silence. The text says, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (vss. 18, 19). We are quite capable of condemning ourselves in the sight of the universe without God's help.

A wise writer has said, "God does not stand toward the sinner as an Executioner of the sentence against transgression." He will not coerce by fear what He would win only by love. He does not want to pack Heaven with fear-driven people motivated by the desire for reward. If we insist on giving fear a 51 percent share, and love [agape] 49 percent in motivation, we shall perpetuate a lukewarmness of devotion in our churches, a sterile paralysis of heart that makes our sermons and worship services as "dry as the hills of Gilboa" were of rain and dew.

But if we accord God's love [agape] its full 50 percent share, then Paul will be proven right: agape will win out as "the greatest of these" (1 Cor. 13:13). It's time we "grew up" to appreciate what Christ accomplished on His cross.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 13, 2002.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: The Father's Love--Soft as Silk but Hard as Steel

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father which art in heaven,” He taught us a good lesson about forgiveness.

It’s in Matthew 5:23, 24: "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."

If you come to worship the Lord and you then remember that your “brother” has “something against you” (notice, not that you have “something” against him!), drop your worship plans and go and be reconciled to your brother who has “something against you”! Then come back to church.

Sounds confusing, but remember: your motivation is not obtaining forgiveness for yourself so you can be saved; your motivation is love for your “brother” who has this problem of “something against you,” so it can be removed and he can be saved.

Since love (agape) is the issue, the dear Lord will send every angel from heaven to help you solve this problem. You will be working in harmony with God’s angels, so you will have the Lord’s blessing with you all the way. He wants the world to see the agape He has showered upon us all. This will be fulfilled under the “another angel” of Revelation 18:1-4 when his message lightens the earth with glory.

This new motivation of concern for someone else’s salvation is a gift that the Lord gives you when you consider and appreciate the love that Christ has given to you. One could almost say that agape is self-propagating: let one believer demonstrate it, and others will embrace it; it will spread around the world.

Let us pray as Jesus taught us, to “our Father which art in heaven.” That word “Father” is the most tender, the most human, the nearest term we can understand. It’s the Father’s love that is soft as silk yet hard as steel. He holds a very high standard for each of us to attain “in Christ,” and if we do not resist Him and stop Him, He will work in our hearts to bring us into reconciliation with Himself and with heaven.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 27, 2008.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: You Are Somebody "In Christ"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

How do you think Jesus regards you as an individual? You believe that He "loves" you, because you've read John 3:16. But how does He love you? Do you feel that maybe He loves you like you love your faithful dog--or is His love different? Does He respect you? Does He honor you? Does He actually value your opinion? Does He like to hear what you say? In other words, is He interested in your prayers aside from being merely the Source for your requests--your spiritual "Santa Claus"?

He says something very thought-provoking in Revelation 3:21: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

You can't imagine that the Father treats His Son as anything less than in full confidence. And you can't imagine that Jesus would invite you merely to "sit" on His throne by His side as only an observer who cannot participate. Just to have your picture taken There for the fun of it. No, it's more than that! Jesus is totally sincere; it means that when He invites you "to sit with [Him] on His throne," He must honestly share with you executive authority; He must respect you as a friend who has His full confidence. Otherwise, why would He say that?

In fact, if we turn to John 15:15 we find He told "us" through His disciples that He "no longer" calls us "servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." And Ephesians 1 tells us over and over that the Father has "adopted" us as His children "in Christ."

Hold your head up high! Unworthy as you feel yourself to be, you are "somebody" in Christ!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 25, 2004.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: The Heart of the "Third Angel's Message in Verity"

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Christ indeed redeemed the entire human race by His sacrifice, "abolished [the second] death" (2 Tim. 1:10), uprooted the fear that haunts mankind (Heb. 13:6), has "drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us" (Col. 2:15, Phillips), chained Satan and his evil "principalities" to His triumphal chariot in His victory procession, cancelled the "handwritten" record of our trespasses which we ourselves had signed as our indebtedness to be paid for by our own second death (vss. 14, 15), and reversed the "condemnation" that came on "all men" in Adam, pronouncing on "all men" a glorious "verdict of acquittal" (Rom. 5:16-18, NEB).

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and prompts us to continual overcoming. But in view of the cross, we are to "let no man therefore judge you" or lay upon us a guilt trip for trespasses paid for by Christ's sacrifice. We are to "let no man beguile" us of our "reward" through the false teachings of a "fleshly mind" (Col. 2:16-18).

Paul's meaning for the Colossians of his day included deliverance from the regulations of the ceremonial law, but it also had reference to the infinitely greater good news of deliverance from every vestige of Satan's tyranny over our souls. That is the idea which is at the heart of the "third angel's message in verity"--deliverance from the galling yoke of sin.

It is possible for a people to prepare for the second coming of Christ! That's Good News. Untold millions are waiting to hear it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: 1994 Phone Message.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: God's Last Old Testament Promise

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

The last promise God made in the Old Testament was to send "Elijah the prophet" just before "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (the second coming of Christ, Mal. 4:5). Elijah is one of a special club of three in which membership is unique. The first is Enoch, who "was translated so that he did not see death, ... 'because God had translated him': for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb. 11:5).

The second is Moses who had to come under the dominion of death, but was granted a special resurrection (Jude 9). And Elijah was the third, also translated without dying. So these three humans dwell somewhere in the vast universe as special guests of heaven. (The vast numbers of those who have "died in Christ" sleep until the resurrection.)

Elijah and Moses share the immense honor of being sent by the Father on a special mission for interview with the Lord Jesus shortly before He had to face the horror of His cross (Matt. 17:1-5). Moses and Elijah shared something in common with Jesus--both surrendered their souls to self being "crucified with Christ." Moses loved backsliding Israel so intently that he asked (seriously!) to have his name blotted out of God's Book of Life if God would not or could not save Israel (cf. Ex. 32:30-33).

Elijah knew the indescribable thrill of confronting apostate Israel on Mount Carmel and praying for fire to fall and consume his sacrifice. From that stratospheric moment of exaltation, he descended to pray a prayer like that of Moses: "He prayed that he might die, and said, 'It is enough! Now Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!'" (1 Kings 19:4). Utter despair akin to that of Christ as He hung on His cross in darkness of soul!

This was not Elijah's selfish desire to sleep until the resurrection; as with Moses, it was love for sinful Israel that constrained him, like Jesus to "pour out his soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12) in prayer for God's people--the real thing, the second death. The two alone could understandably encourage the Savior on the Mount of Transfiguration to face that same death in His sacrifice of Himself for us. We thank our Lord for His giving Himself for us; thank you, Moses and Elijah, for encouraging Him!

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 22, 2006.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: A Two-part Inspired Prayer Enjoined Upon Us

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

An inspired apostle enjoins upon us a prayer in two parts, the second part as important as the first. It's in Romans 12:3: "I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man [or woman] that is among you, [part 1] not to think of himself [or herself] more highly than he [or she] ought to think; ..."

Ever since the fall of Adam, we humans have had to wrestle with a constant tendency to think of ourselves "highly," to be self-centered. In many cases, says Jesus, this tendency unchecked will at last lead "many [to] say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, ... in Thy name [we have] done many wonderful works," but He will be forced to say, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:22, 23). So Paul's counsel is common sense: don't think of yourself "more highly than you ought to think."

But if we end the sentence there, it could mean that we must think of ourselves as worthless, groveling in the dust, doormats. Didn't Paul say even he was "chief of sinners"? But Paul doesn't end the sentence there, for he goes on to say, [part 2] "but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." No, evidently we are not to think of ourselves as doormats, but what does "soberly" mean? Half-in-half between sublime happiness and in-the-dust thinking?

Well, we are not left without a clue: "soberly" means "according to" what God has done for "every man," which is: adopted him and her "in Christ." A wise writer encourages us to remember that when the Father threw His arms around Jesus the day John baptized Him and said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," He also "accepted [me] in the beloved" (Eph 1:6), because I am a member of the human race for whom the Son of God died.

So, here is the inspired prayer enjoined upon us: ask for that "grace" not to think proudly of yourself, but to appreciate how God respects you as His adopted child "in Christ." Believing  [part 2] will sanctify [part 1], and your two-part prayer will be answered.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 29, 2000.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Jesus Taught Us How to Trust Our Father

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Have you ever counted the number of times in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus speaks of God as our Father? This was almost a new idea to the people of His day--that we sinful mortals can think of God in this way, as our heavenly Father, someone near to us, someone compassionate, kind, loving, but also firm in discipline as a wise father is always firm in disciplining his child.

Can you guess how many times Jesus speaks of God as our Father? No less than 42! He says in chapter 6:6 that your Father sees you pray in secret; He hears you; and He rewards you in the open. Jesus assures you that your Father cares.

In chapter 6:26 Jesus says that our heavenly Father really cares about us, because He even sees when little birds are hungry and He feeds them; won't He care all the more for you? He knows what you need. In chapter 10:20 He tells us our heavenly Father will teach us what to say when we get into tight spots. In chapter 10:29 He assures us that our heavenly father notices when a little bird falls to the ground; how much more does He notice when we fall and He lifts us back up again?

Well, we could go on--42 times! What more could Jesus say?

But there is a problem that remains, the problem of our believing this. We are constantly being tempted to doubt that Jesus' Father is our Father, that He loves us as much as He loves His only begotten Son. We must choose to trust Him--even in the dark when everything seems to be discouraging. Jesus has taught us how to trust Him. Please do so today.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: Phone message 1994-3.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Dial Daily Bread: A New Motivation That Never Ends

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Have you ever noticed that the Bible spends more time talking about what God has done for the world, than telling what we must do for Him? For example, there's John 3:16: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." A big, big gift!

But it doesn't give a list of things we must do for Him. It says simply "that whoever believes in Him should not perish." After all that tremendous giving on His part, God only asks us to appreciate what He has done, to let our hearts "behold" the grand dimensions of the love He has given us (cf. Eph. 3:18). "Look!" "Ponder." "Measure." "Consider." "Stop and think so you can appreciate to the point of broken-heartedness." All the good works possible, follow.

Then Psalm 51 comes into the picture. Instead of being like the Pharisee who thanks God that he isn't as bad as "this publican," instead of thanking Him that you haven't done as badly as King David--committed adultery and murder, instead of that pride you receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of conviction of sin--corporate sin, you realize that the sin of someone else would be your sin but for the grace of Christ. You also realize at last that you are no better than King David at heart; you have no righteousness of your own.

If Jesus, the divine Son of God could be "made to be sin for us who knew no sin" (that is, as He hung on His cross, He bore the corporate guilt of all the sin of the whole world), then surely we can bear the corporate guilt of the sin of King David. We may now have a closer link with Jesus who bore the corporate guilt of us all.

And, dear friend, a closer link with Jesus means a closer link with eternal life. Don't despise the gift of corporate repentance. Esau did, and he "sold" his precious "birthright."

When the love (agape) of Christ can "constrain" us (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14, 15), then there is no end to the works of righteousness that love will motivate us to do for the Lord, not by a desire for reward in heaven nor a fear of hell. God Himself is agape, and "agape casts out fear" (1 John 4:8, 18). It's a new motivation that never ends.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: March 10, 2008.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: How Should We Feel (and Speak) About Ourselves?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It's frightening to read Jesus' accounts in Matthew about the last judgment. According to Him, almost everybody is going to be surprised to discover finally where he really belongs:

"Many" who have been sure they are "saved" and have their tickets to heaven ready will hear Him say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (7:23). In reading the account in Revelation 20, we see that they will want to run (vss. 12-14); one very perceptive writer has said that they will "welcome destruction."

Then, in contrast, those to whom "the King" will say, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," will remonstrate with Him, look behind them to see if it must be someone else He is telling to "come," we don't deserve this, You must mean someone else. No, He says; I mean you: "Come" (see Matt. 25:31ff.).

Neither group, widely separated in faith, expected what their fate would be.

Jesus has tried to help us get ready for that day. He says, "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:8-11).

So, how should we feel (and speak) about ourselves? How about: "Less than the least of all saints," "the chief of sinners," "unworthy servants." That will be the true language of our hearts if: (1) we comprehend what our sin is--that we share the corporate guilt of the murderous crucifixion of the Son of God, and (2) we appreciate what it cost Him to save us--that He died our second death.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 4, 2007.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Taking Action Without Asking Permission

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Jesus appears in the Bible as often taking action without asking permission. For example, in Matthew 12:10-13 He healed the man with the withered hand without asking him first if He had his permission. And in 14:13-21 He fed 5000 men besides women and children without anyone asking Him to do it.

In Luke 13 He meets a woman who was bowed down for 18 years and could not straighten herself. Again He took action entirely on His own initiative: "When Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, 'Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity'" (vs. 12). He did not ask her, Would you like to be healed? Instead, "He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God" (vs. 13).

Also, at the village of Nain He met a funeral in process, a widow's only son. He asked no questions, no permission; He "said to her, 'Do not weep.' Then He came and touched the open coffin, ... and He said, 'Young man, I say to you, Arise.' And he who was dead sat up and began to speak" (Luke 7:11-15).

When we read in Philippians 2:5-8 the story of how Christ condescended to take those seven steps into humiliation on our behalf, we do not read that He asked permission of the inhabitants of this lost planet. He simply took those steps, "even [to] the death of the cross." God's plan of salvation has been on His part a one-sided exercise of initiative.

On His cross, the Lord Jesus took our place without asking us if He could do so; the Father asked no permission from the inhabitants of this earth before He "gave His only begotten Son" for them (John 3:16).

But before the great controversy between Christ and Satan can be successfully closed, God must change His plan; now He must ask permission!

This time He cannot unilaterally do what He wants; He has elevated those "who overcome ... to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev. 3:21). Thus they share with Him executive authority in bringing to a close the great controversy between Christ and Satan.

He tried once unilaterally to pour upon His people the "beginning" of the latter rain and the Loud Cry of Revelation 18:1-4 without their permission, and it was in a great degree a sad failure. Far from their since having to beg Him to grant that blessing, He has been more than willing to give it if they would humble their hearts to receive the gift and the message that comes with it.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: August 20, 2007.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: A Lesson From the Thief on the Cross

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Let us humble our hearts and join the class where our "instructor," the repentant thief on the cross, is teaching us. He is "qualified," because we know for sure that he was truly converted and will be "with" Christ in His kingdom. The thief will have a place of high honor "with Christ"!

This man has literally seen "Christ and Him crucified," but the physical sight didn't convert any of the chief priests and rabbis (the only spectator we know was converted was the Roman centurion). The thief saw "Christ crucified" through the eye of faith. And that vision is what converted him.

We know that then he stood before God as though he had never sinned. In other words, God's forgiveness extended all the way back to his birth. That is the meaning of "justification by faith." The thief had gotten into crime because he had not known God's forgiveness, but God's justifying grace had extended back to his birth, before he had known it or believed it. His heart had been alienated from God all this time--hence his bitterness, resentments, alienation, and then, life of crime. But now, on his cross, his heart is reconciled to God and to the apparent disasters of his life.

That means he is reconciled to God all the way back to his birth! The mysterious providences of his life are unraveled; what he thought were just causes for resentment against God and everybody else were seen in a new light. All the while that he was nursing his bitterness, he was a "partaker of Christ's sufferings" (1 Peter 4:13) but did not know it. Not only in this hour spent with Jesus in crucifixion is his heart reconciled to God, but throughout his whole life he is reconciled.

Let's learn from our lesson: all that we have thought has been "against us" has actually been "for us" (Rom. 8:31-33). Yes, let that load roll off your heart! Thank you, Brother Repentant Thief.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: May 27, 2002.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Friday, April 08, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: How Jesus Won Souls

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

You would like the Holy Spirit to help you win some soul to conversion in Christ. Note how Jesus won souls: He always gave them Good News.

Take for instance, the crucified thief on the cross (Luke 23:34-43): Jesus' last chance to win somebody before He had to die! What did He tell the thief? "You will be with Me in Paradise!" simply because the ex-hate-filled man asked to be "remembered." Jesus gave the poor man Good News.

Consider also the woman taken in adultery in John 8:1-11 (don't cut the story out of your Bible!). Did He tell her, "If you will keep straight from now on, God will forgive your sins and then He will accept you"? No, He gave her Good News: "I do not condemn you! Go and sin no more." I take your condemnation upon Myself; I am paying the price for your sin; I lift from you this burden of guilt, because as the Lamb of God I bear your guilt Myself. His command to "sin no more" was more a promise than a restriction. With this message, she was able to "go and sin no more." Jesus saved her right then and there.

Cleopas and his friend on the path to Emmaus (the story begins in Luke 24:13). They were so overwhelmed with discouragement that they would have given up their faith in Jesus as "the Savior of the world" if they had not gotten help just then. With His true identity concealed, He gave them a Bible study that was full of Good News. He saved them. Go and do likewise for some soul who needs Good News.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: February 26, 2005.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: A Beautiful Example of God’s Evangelistic Wisdom

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

It’s found in Galatians 4:1-5 where we see that God treats unbelievers not as outsiders or as wolves to be shot down, but as wandering sons or lost sheep that haven’t yet found their way home.

The illustration is that of a child of the wealthy estate owner who runs about barefoot, bossed by slaves; but when he comes of age, he becomes lord of the estate. “Even so we ... were children ... in bondage. ... But when the fullness of the time had come, ... we ... receive[d] the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:3-5).

Happy is the spouse who believes enough Good News to include the unbelieving one, assuming that he or she is a child of God, on the way to realizing and confessing that sonship or daughtership in God’s good time. That’s cooperating with God in working miracles!

No one can forgive an erring spouse unless he has first experienced Christ’s forgiving grace toward himself. If God invented marriage, He also invented the redemption that centers in the cross. Miracles don’t happen unless there is a sense of the tremendous “giving for” that was involved in God’s forgiveness, an appreciation of the cost expended at Calvary:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love [agape], just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 4:32; 5:1, NIV).

In olden times, marriages were happy if the two parties believed that God had brought them together, rather than their own mutual chemical or social attractions for each other. Their love for each other was rooted in their primary faith in God’s leading. Their faith in each other grew into happy, permanent love.

Isaac, for example, had never seen Rebekah until his father’s servant brought her to him from Mesopotamia and was told how she was God’s choice for him. His faith concurred with God’s leading, and we read that “he loved her.” In fact, Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage is one of the happiest recorded in the Bible (see Gen. 24:66, 67). As an old saying goes, "The grass on the other side of the fence may not be as green as it is on your side already."

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: February 5, 2007.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: Why Did Jesus Ask John to Baptize Him?

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked John to baptize Him? Wasn't He sinless? Wasn't John sent to baptize only people who had repented (Matt. 3:11)? Why this anomaly?

True--Jesus was totally sinless, and John was sent to baptize sinners only, and then only if they repented. When Jesus asked John, he "tried to prevent Him" because he knew He was sinless (vss. 13, 14). It makes more sense for You to baptize me, John said.

As Matthew writes, Jesus gave John a Bible study, extensive and thorough. He explained how the Father had sent Him to be the Lamb of God. As sinners at the sanctuary placed their hands on the head of an innocent lamb and transferred to it their sins, so Jesus was taking upon Himself all the sins of the whole world, "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21), "having become a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). He put Himself in the place of every sinner, and took the guilt upon His own heart.

Carrying this load, Jesus experienced repentance in behalf of every sinner. Without joining in our sin, He felt how every sinner feels. He prayed for us all, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." So terrible was the weight of our sin that He hardly felt the physical agony of the crucifixion. He was terribly tempted to conclude that His Father had forsaken Him, and that cry of despair was no actor's script: "My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

The death Jesus died was the equivalent of our second death (read Psalm 22). He didn't go to sleep for three days and three nights. "Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3, 4), was resurrected from the dead, not from mere sleep, and went to hell itself in order to save us from hell itself (Acts 2:27). All this Jesus had to explain to John, until the prophet could see in Him "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (as he said the next day, John 1:29).

The repentance Jesus experienced in our behalf was not personal, for He had no sin of His own. It had to be a corporate repentance. As we grow closer to Him, we identify with Him. We learn that we have no righteousness inherited by our DNA; the sins of others would be our sins--but for the grace of a Savior, and then we can forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him. We will be like Him--experiencing a corporate repentance.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: April 15, 2003.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: The Meaning of Daniel 8:14

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

Nothing in the vast universe is so joyous to receive than God's forgiveness. King David let himself be lured into horrible sin--adultery and murder. For a year or more he was able to repress the painful guilt and keep it covered up. He bluffed and smiled his way through his royal appointments of state; but when the guilt finally caught up with him when he was alone, his devastation of soul was horrendous.

When God's forgiveness came, he wrote: "Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned. Happy is the man ... who is free from all deceit. ... I was worn out from crying all day long. Day and night You punished me, Lord; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat" (Psalm 32:1-4, Good News Bible).

Forgiveness is great, but there is another dimension involved: the blotting out of sins. It is simultaneous with God's giving (and the church's receiving) the latter rain, which prepares them for the final issues of earth's history: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19). When He forgives us He takes the sin away and dumps it in the depths of the ocean where no one can retrieve it--not even Himself. But we can dig it up again like Judas Iscariot did (he had been baptized and ordained and even had worked miracles). We can "crucify Christ again" (Heb. 6:6).

The "blotting out of sins" concerns the sanctuary itself. It's the meaning of Daniel 8:14, "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The forgiveness of our sins sets us free; the blotting out of sins sets God free. The accumulated burden of the sins of God's people is guilt He has taken upon Himself in the great controversy with Satan. It's for us a deep work of heart-cleansing that is done on the Day of Atonement.

When sin is totally eradicated from the hearts of His people, the gospel is demonstrated to be at last effective, "the power of God to salvation." Christ's sacrifice is fully rewarded. God is relieved of the burden He has carried all this long while.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: June 10, 2003.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Monday, April 04, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: We Must Not Read John 3:16 Backwards

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

When Jesus healed the paralytic at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem, who had been sick for 38 years, He asked him no questions or to make no promises. In fact, we do not read that Jesus even preached to the sufferer first. But after He had healed the man, He found him again, in the temple. Then He said something very surprising: "Now that you are well again, leave your sinful ways, or you may suffer something worse" (John 5:14, New English Bible).

Why didn't Jesus tell this man to "leave his sinful ways" before He healed him? That's what I would have done, if I had the power to heal. I would give the sufferer a good lecture and get him to sign on the dotted line that henceforth he would "leave his sinful ways" before I went to the trouble of healing him. Why waste your time on someone who doesn't make good use of the blessings you give him?

But, that was not Jesus' way of healing people. He gives the blessing first, and then asks for a response of reformation and repentance. He heals the ten lepers when only one will come back and say thanks. This is the same way He treats the entire human race; He sends His rain on the just and on the unjust, asks for no commitment first, just freely pours out His blessings. In true New Covenant manner He gives His great gift of salvation, and then asks for a response of gratitude. We mustn't read John 3:16 backwards; the truth is that He took the initiative to "so love the world that He gave" His Son and all His blessings first, then asks us to believe.

The healing at the Sheep Pool in John 5 illustrates what Jesus accomplished by His sacrifice on His cross. While we still followed our "sinful ways," He died for us, redeemed us, justified us in a legal sense, died our second death, put His arms around us, and gave us, not merely offered us, a "forever friendship." Nothing short of a total response of eternal gratitude can rightfully be labeled as "faith."

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: September 19, 1999.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Dial Daily Bread: A Prayer God Told Us to Pray

Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"

We are invited to come to Jesus, "just as I am." He "receives sinners" (Luke 15:2). We don't have to make ourselves good before we come, in fact, we can't.

But there is one thing we must "do" before any prayer can be listened to and answered; don't misunderstand, this is not a "work" that we must do; it's a step that we must take if we are serious about coming to God.

It's not that God is putting up a barrier to keep people away. We are the ones who have put up a barrier that is hindering us, and it's only common sense that any barrier we have erected between ourselves and God must be removed--by us.

Here's the step we must take: "He who comes to God must [1] believe that He is, and [2, believe] that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).

Dear friends around the world, our "job" right now is to get on our knees and tell the Lord frankly, "Father forgive me for doubting You. I choose to believe that you are 'a Rewarder of those who diligently seek You.' It's the hardest thing I have ever done, to confess that I believe this, for it makes me foolish to have doubted Your goodness, Your faithfulness, and yes, Your love. You told me to pray this prayer, and if I do I can never be lost: 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24).

Thank You, Lord, for welcoming beginners into your kindergarten.

--Robert J. Wieland

From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: July 14, 2007.
Copyright © 2016 by "Dial Daily Bread."