Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”      John 20:13

Mary Magdalene could vividly remember the day Jesus delivered her from her demonic bondage. She became His devoted follower that day (Luke 8:2). She watched Him heal the sick and teach people about God’s love. Her life was transformed as she experienced the joy of being with Jesus.

Then her world seemed to fall apart! Her Lord was arrested and brutally murdered. The crowds that had shouted “Hosanna!” at the beginning of the week cried “Crucify him!” by week’s end. A final blow came when she went to anoint Jesus’ body at the tomb. She saw that His tomb was empty. Someone had apparently stolen His body. As she sobbed in despair, angels asked the poignant question, “Why are you weeping?” She was standing before an empty tomb! Jesus had risen, just as He had promised! Knowing that Jesus was alive put everything back into perspective, and Mary joyfully raced to share the good news with others.

The Christian life is not always easy. There are joyful moments of walking with Jesus, but there are also times when nothing makes sense and when your world seems to be crumbling. The world will mock your Lord, and you may grow discouraged. At those times, you need to peer into the empty tomb. It is the abandoned tomb that gives you hope, for it symbolizes the life that is yours from your risen Lord. The empty tomb promises that nothing, not even death itself, can defeat the purposes of your Lord. Are you weeping beside an empty tomb?

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”     Luke 9:54

James and John were called the “Sons of Thunder.” When they discovered a Samaritan village that would not receive Jesus, they were fully prepared to call down fire to consume the entire community! Perhaps they felt that through such a show of power, their gospel message might be enhanced. The two brothers were willing to sacrifice the lives of the villagers in order to further the cause of the gospel. Jesus rebuked them.

Later, the apostles heard that Samaria had responded to the gospel (Acts 8:14). Who was commissioned to go and help them receive the Holy Spirit but Peter and John! God’s purpose had not been to destroy those people but to save them. God chose not to rain down fire on the village, but to shower it with His Holy Spirit. What must have gone through John’s mind as he saw those same people, whom he had been ready to destroy, now rejoicing in their salvation? How grateful he must have been that Jesus had prevented him from carrying out his plans!

What an enormous contrast between man’s thinking and God’s! Man’s thinking would have resulted in the destruction of an entire village. God’s plan brought salvation to it. People will benefit far more from what God wants to give them than from your best plans. Have you been shortchanging the people around you by merely giving them your plans instead of God’s?

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.      Colossians 2:8

There is a subtle temptation that encourages Christians to be “practical.” That is, they try to do God’s work in man’s way. “Getting results” becomes the primary focus. It almost seems that we believe that the end justifies the means. Don’t be led away by the world’s reasoning. An examination of God’s Word shows that the means are sometimes even more important than the results. The world tries to convince you that as long as you can accomplish something for the kingdom of God, that’s all that matters. For example, Ananias and Sapphira gave an offering to their church, which was a good thing, but they did it deceitfully. God judged them immediately, not for what they did, but for how they did it (Acts 5:1-11).

Satan tried to trap Jesus with this same temptation. Satan did not question the worthiness of Jesus’ task, but simply offered “practical” solutions to accomplish Jesus’ goal more quickly and at lesser cost. God’s ways are not like man’s ways. “Efficiency” from man’s perspective is not prized by God. It did not seem efficient to have the children of Israel march around Jericho thirteen times and then blow their trumpets, but it brought the walls down (Josh. 6). It did not appear wise to select the youngest of Jesse’s sons to become the next king, but God saw a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 16:11). At first glance, it does not seem logical for Jesus to have picked the twelve disciples He did, yet through them God dramatically affected their world.

It is never wise to attempt to do God’s work in man’s way. It is an age-old temptation that seems to make sense on the surface but often is at variance with the purposes of God.

And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?”      Luke 8:24-25

Truth is a Person, not a concept. Jesus said He was the Truth (John 14:6). That means that you can never know the truth of your circumstances unless you have first heard from Jesus. The disciples thought they were perishing in the storm. They were fishermen who knew the sea and knew what their condition was. They had allowed their circumstances to convince them that the “truth” was their imminent death. But they were wrong. Truth was asleep in the back of their boat!

Since some of the disciples were fishermen, they trusted in their own expertise and wisdom rather than recognizing that only Jesus knew the truth of their situation. At times, our human knowledge in certain areas of life can blind us to our desperate need to hear a word from Truth.

When Jesus spoke, the disciples saw the real truth of their situation. There was absolute calm. The disciples had seen Jesus perform other miracles, but they had not yet witnessed His power over nature in such a dimension. Often we are like the disciples. God may have recently demonstrated His power to us in a mighty way; we may have experienced many spiritual victories in the past. Yet, when a new and frightening situation comes upon us we, too, panic and say, “Lord save me. I’m perishing!” God will remind us of His provision, saying, “I can handle this situation, too, and you will know more of Me because of it.”

Have you become fearful instead of faithful? If you have, prepare for the rebuke, for it will come.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.      Matthew 19:22

Your life is the sum of the responses you have made toward God. Once God makes Himself known to you, what you do next is your decision. Your reaction reflects what you believe about Him. The rich, young ruler lived a moral life. He was well versed in Scripture and the laws of God. But his response to Jesus’ invitation clearly showed that, although he possessed a head knowledge of the teachings of God, he did not know God in an experiential way that could be demonstrated by a response of faith (Matt. 19:16-22).

Whenever the Lord speaks to you, it will require an adjustment in your life. This truth can dramatically affect your prayer life. Every time you pray you must be aware that if God answers your prayer and reveals His will to you, it will immediately require you to reorient your life. Each time you read your Bible, you must to be prepared to obey what God tells you.

Why did God use Peter and James and John so significantly to turn their world upside down? And why were others, like the rich, young ruler, never heard from again? Choices! The disciples chose to believe, and their belief was proven by their obedience. The rich, young ruler could not bring himself to obey, and Scripture tells us that he “went away sorrowful.” You are faced with the same question as the rich, young ruler. What adjustments are you willing to make in order to respond positively to Christ?

O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?       1 Corinthians 15:55

Over the centuries, death has been our relentless and unyielding enemy. No one, regardless of worldly rank, strength, or wealth has been able to escape death. As soon as we are born, death becomes our destiny. Many have tried, but no one has developed an antidote for death.

The reality of the resurrection is that death has been defeated! It is no longer the impregnable enemy, for Christ marched through the gates of Hades and claimed decisive victory over death. He conquered death completely; now He assures His followers that we, too, will share in His victory. Christians need not fear death. Christ has gone before us and will take us to join Him in heaven. Death frees us to experience the glorious, heavenly presence of God. No illness can defeat us. No disaster can rob us of eternal life. Death can temporarily remove us from those we love, but it transfers us into the presence of the One who loves us most. God’s glory is His presence. Death, our greatest enemy, is nothing more than the vehicle that enables believers to experience God’s glory!

Do not allow a fear of death to prevent you from experiencing a full and abundant life. Death cannot rob you of the eternal life that is your inheritance as a child of God. Jesus has prepared a place for you in heaven that surpasses your imagination (John 14:1-4). Death will one day be the door by which you gain access to all that is yours in heaven.

In this episode Richard shares from Genesis 29 on the tragic life of Leah and what lessons we can learn from her.

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He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.       Luke 16:10

God rewards those who are faithful. Throughout your life God will seek to grow you in your faith. He will continually bring you to times when you must trust Him. He will lead you into situations that require a “little” faith, and if you are faithful, He will then take you into situations that require even greater trust in Him. Each time you are able to trust God at a higher level, God will reveal more of Himself to you. Your faith and experiencing God are directly linked.

The best way to tell if you are prepared for a greater revelation of God is to see how faithful you have been with what God has given you. This is a foundational principle in God’s relationships with us: If you have been faithful with the little He has given you, you are ready to be entrusted with more. If you failed to trust God with the little He gave you, He will not trust you with more. God will not lead you beyond your present level of trust and obedience to Him. He will return you to your area of unfaithfulness until you are prepared to trust Him. The children of Israel were unwilling to trust God to lead them into the Promised Land, and their generation never again was able to move forward with Him.

You stand at an exciting new door of opportunity to know God more intimately every time you believe Him. Every step of faith leads you to a deeper relationship of faith with Him. It is an open invitation to know God more intimately.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.      2 Corinthians 4:7

Knowing God and having Him reside within you is a treasure of infinite value. Jesus likened this value to that of a perfect pearl. The collector would readily sell everything he had in order to possess this one matchless pearl (Matt. 13:45-46). Your relationship with God places an immeasurable value on your life. The treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge are available to you through Christ (Col. 2:2-3). His love now fills you. His incomprehensible peace surrounds your heart and mind (Phil. 4:7). When Jesus dwells in your life, everything available to Christ dwells within you (Eph. 3:19).

Paul was comparing our lives with the clay pots commonly used in his day. The contents of the earthen vessels, not the containers themselves, were of great value. The jars would become chipped and broken and would deteriorate over time, but nobody thought of the jar–they were interested in its contents. Paul noted that our great possession is that which God has placed within us. When people focus on us they see a frail, imperfect, and deteriorating vessel. Nothing that comes from our flesh is worthy of praise. Our bodies are aging and losing strength (2 Cor. 4:16). Only as we allow God to fill us and renew our inner self will people see a treasure of immeasurable worth.

Don’t focus on outward appearances and physical strength, for these deteriorate. Rather, allow the Holy Spirit to convince you of the infinite treasure that is within you because of God’s presence.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.      Psalms 1:2

Meditation means “to think deeply and continuously about something.”  For a Christian, this means remaining in the presence of God and pondering each truth He reveals about Himself until it becomes real and personal in your life. This takes time. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus accused certain would-be followers of calling Him “Lord” and yet never doing what He told them (Luke 6:46). They had the correct truth in their heads, but it had never translated into obedience. When you meditate on Scriptures, the truth moves from your head to your heart and results in obedience. As the Psalmist said: “Your word have I hidden in my heart, / That I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11).

When you know God’s Word in your mind but not in your heart, it means that you have learned the principles and concepts and doctrines of God, but you have not come to know Jesus personally. You can reject a doctrine, or ignore a concept, or challenge a principle, but it is much more difficult to ignore a Person. You can have Scripture in your mind and still sin against God. There are those who can recite long passages of Scripture and yet live ungodly lives. However, you cannot have Scripture fill your heart and continue to sin against God. When God’s truth is allowed to touch the deepest corner of your soul, the Holy Spirit will transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. Don’t just read your Bible, meditate on God’s Word and ask Him to change your heart.

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