Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus…..asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. (John 19:38)

Thought:

How many secret disciples do you know? Clearly, more than you think! I find this little passage fascinating because it has highlighted an error, or rather, a gap in my own understanding of the scriptures. A few weeks back, on the 3rd of May, I said that I thought Nicodemus might be doomed never to understand Jesus or be born again because he was so concerned with the disapproval of his fellow Pharisees. But it seems that despite his fears, he too had become a secret disciple, like Joseph of Arimathea. The two secret disciples must have felt safer coming forward to claim Jesus now that he was dead. After his death they felt they could serve Jesus in this way, believing secretly in their hearts, but still able to plausibly deny it should they be challenged. They could say, being good conscientious Jews, that they were simply disposing of the body quickly and near by, in time for the Passover.

Word:

John 19:38-42

Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Goal:

The two secret disciples were able to step forward and serve their Lord after his death because, like everyone else at the time, they thought it was all over. At that time and at various times since, openly following Jesus and spreading his gospel, was and has been, extremely dangerous. However, it seems it was rejection rather than death that Nicodemus most feared. That is still true of many, many people today who want to follow Jesus, (and perhaps secretly do already), in their hearts. My Goal is help people see that although learning to live a Christian life takes real courage, welcoming Jesus into your heart and feeling the gifts of Holy Spirit flowing through your life, more than compensates for the initial timid steps you need to take on a new lifelong journey of faith.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 17:1-29, John 19:23-42, Psalm 119:129-152, Proverbs 16:12-13

If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?” (2 Samuel 16:10)

Thought:

Saul hunted David until the day he died on the battlefield. Now David’s own son, Absalom, was trying to kill him and take his throne. David had more reason than most of us to want to defend himself against the violent threats and curses that he was constantly subject to.
David was a powerful warrior. He was loved and respected by his people and his troops. He was entirely qualified and able to defeat any enemy that threatened him. But David was not the focus of David’s life. David served the Lord. David fought for the Lord and defended the Lord and his people in battle. Looked at like from this point of view and in the context of the greater threats from Saul and Absalom, Shimei’s provocative curses and stone throwing seems much less inflammatory. To Abishai, it was a gross insult, worthy of death but to David, a man after God’s own heart, Shimei’s insults and curses looked more like the tantrum of a frustrated toddler and so he tolerated him in just the same way. David only defended God’s interests. He trusted God to defend David’s interests.

Word:

2 Samuel 16:5-12

As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei, son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”
“Why should this dead dog curse my Lord the king?” Abishai son of Zeruiah demanded. “Let me go over and cut off his head!”
“No!” the king said. “Who asked your opinion, you sons of Zeruiah! If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?” Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.”

Goal:

In the passage above we see quite clearly that David is not concerned with defending his own honour or pride. When an angry villager lets loose a tirade of insults and curses directly at the King, David’s immediate response is to assume that the Lord has told him to curse him and, trusting the Lord above all else, he tolerates the abuse. Only then does he add, the very understated hope, that perhaps the Lord will see that he is being wronged and bless him in some way to compensate. My goal is to learn to behave with this level of faith and trust in the Lord. I long to be able to tolerate the slights and injustices I experience every day with the grace of a man after God’s own heart.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 15:23-16:23, John 18:25-19:22, Psalm 119:113-128, Proverbs 16:10-11

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Thought:

Of all the verses in the Bible, I read this verse first. It is written across the inside cover of the first bible I bought a few weeks after coming to faith in the early spring of 2011. As I read it, printed across the bottom of the presentation page of my new bible, I had no real thoughts, or any firm idea of just how fundamentally true this verse would turn out to be. These eight verses together are like looking into a mirror and seeing the depths of my heart written out on the page in front of me. I have promised many times to obey the Lord and I failed many times, but I will promise again and again. Since becoming a Christian I have suffered as much as I ever did before I knew the Lord. But having read of his promises, in the Bible, I wait with confidence for the Lord to restore my life again. The laws and all the wonderful wisdom, advice and guidance I have found in the Bible, have truly become my treasure, and they really are my heart’s delight.

Word:

Psalm 119:105-112

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.
106 I’ve promised it once and I’ll promise
it again: I will obey your righteous regulations.
107 I have suffered much, O Lord;
restore my life again as you promised.
108 Lord, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
109 My Life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
110 The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
111 Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
112 I am determined to keep your decrees
to the very end.

Goal:

I pray that the Lord will continue to accept my humble and inadequate offerings of praise, and then continue to teach me his regulations. Also, I remain determined to keep the Lord’s decrees to the very end. Although we have been released from the impossible task of keeping the Law in the hope of gaining our salvation by Jesus’s great sacrifice as he died to take our sins away, I find I am still full of sin. I remain committed to keeping the Lords decrees so that, though the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, I might learn to defeat the power of sin in my life. It seems to me that those who carry holiness in and around them, are those who seem to have learned not to let sin rule in their hearts. They seem holy because they are the ones among us who fear sin the least. Holiness is found where sin is not.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 14:1-15:22, John 18:1-24, Psalms 119:97-112, Proverbs 16:8-9

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. (John 17:20)

Thought:

Just before he was arrested, Jesus prayed a long prayer. He prayed for himself as he faced his final journey to the cross. He prayed for his faithful disciples. And then he prayed, in the passage below, for all of us, all those who would come to know him, at any time ever in the future, through the evangelism and example of the small band of men who were his disciples. He prayed that we would “be in” the Father and the Son, and he prayed that the world would see God in us, because we are in him. But the most powerful thing Jesus prayed for, was that all those who would come to know him would experience a perfect unity. A unity so perfect that the world would have no choice but to acknowledge that the Lord sent his only son, whom he loved, and also, that the Lord loves us as much as he loves his own son, our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Word:

John 17:20-26 NLT

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

Goal:

I find myself astonished that Jesus prayed for me just before he died on the cross. He prayed that I would know him and be born again to a fresh, new life, sustained by his word and his way. And he prayed that I might never be alone again. My goal therefore is to continue to dwell deeper and deeper in Jesus and to encourage others to do the same. But above all, it want to encourage my fellow Christians to remember and seek out and experience the perfect unity Jesus prayed for us to experience. I know, because Jesus says so in the passage above, that if we can find a greater level of unity as Christians, then the world would stand back in amazement at the power and glory of the living God revealed among his people.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 13:1-39, John 17:1-26, Psalms 119:81-96, Proverbs 16:6-7

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

Thought:

In the previous chapter (2 Samuel 11) we read of David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his attempt to cover up the resultant pregnancy. Finally, he resorts to ordering that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, be exposed to mortal danger in battle so that he will be killed by the Ammonites against whom David’s forces are fighting. In his attempt to cover up or justify his original sinful act of sleeping with another mans wife, he finds it necessary to sin again and again, until he is so mired in it, that he simply ignores it. Effectively he has completely over looked his own wrong doing and is living peacefully in denial. David’s response to Nathan’s story of the appalling behaviour of the rich man, in the passage below, is completely understandable. My response was the same. What an awful injustice. And then Nathan points out that the rich man in the story is, in fact, David. Or you, or me.

Word:

2 Samuel 12:1-7

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

Goal:

In the context of this story, the phrase, “You’re the Man!” is not a compliment. Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) My goal today is to look deep into my heart at the sins I know I have buried and forgotten. I want to do this so that I can learn to judge people less quickly and less harshly more of the time.
This story that Nathan tells David, reminds me of two occasions when Jesus teaches a similar lesson. The first is when he challenges the Pharisees to stone an adulterous woman by asking for the One with no sin to cast the first stone (John 8:7). And the second, (Matthew 7:3-5) where he tells us to remove the great big log in our own eye before trying to help remove the tiny speck from our friend’s eye.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 12:1-31, John 16:1-33, Psalms 119:65-80, Proverbs 16:4-5

Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.(John 15:5)

Thought:

In the passage below, Jesus was talking to his disciples just before he was going to be arrested and executed. He wanted to make sure they understood that the relationship of teacher and disciple would be an ongoing one even after his crucifixion. The image of Jesus being the roots and main stem of the vine and the disciples being the branches that produce the fruit is simple enough I think: without being connected to the main vine the branches will wither and die like cut flowers in a vase. But what is easy to miss is that God the Father is the gardener. He cuts off the dead wood and prunes the fruitful branches in order that they produce more. Pruning can often look pretty brutal, and I imagine, if I were literally pruned, it would hurt! So here we have another lesson in the need to stay strongly attached to Jesus’s words and live in and by his teachings. But at the same time it is clear that although we may ask for anything and expect to receive it, we will also need to be cut back and pruned regularly if we expect to be fruitful disciples for the Lord.

Word:

John 15:1-8 NLT

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
Yes I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Goal:

My goal is to keep focused on my growing relationship with Jesus. I am getting more and more familiar with his teaching through my daily habit of bible study. I am still struggling to form a daily habit of prayer but I am learning. If I am to remain faithful to Jesus’s way of life and have him remain in me, I feel I must first study and learn what he taught his disciples when he was one of us. I pray today, that I might not fight the Lord when he sees that I, as one of his branches, might need pruning. I pray that I might accept and embrace the uncomfortable times ahead through which I might learn how the Lord wants me to be more fruitful. Amen

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-11:27, John 15:1-27, Psalms 119:49-64, Proverbs 16:1-3

The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Thought:

When my mother asked me what my new faith felt like, she asked how I felt different. I knew I felt differently about everything but I really didn’t have a succinct way to explain it. I know I mentioned the peace I felt and the difference it had made, but I wish I could have been able to point to this passage in John’s Gospel. For me, the main thing that happened to cause a change in the way I felt, was the realisation of who and what Jesus is. In response to Judas’s question, Jesus points out that all who love him will do what he says. Then to anyone who has begun a journey of faith in the footsteps of Jesus, he says both the Father: God, and the Son: Jesus, will come and make their home with them. But the most important gift that Jesus promises his disciples is the the gift of his Advocate and representative, the Holy Spirit. Jesus Lives still, but no longer as a mortal man among us. Though the power of the Holy Spirit, men and women of faith—Jesus’s disciples—continue to be taught the ways of God and reminded of everything Jesus taught during the time he walked among us.

Word:

John 14:22-27 NLT

Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Goal:

Jesus tells Judas that he will reveal himself to those who love him. What this says to me is that finding God is up to us. God already loves us and is ready to come and live with us to teach us and guide us. But we have to search for him and ask him to be our Lord. God loves enough not to force us to obey him. He waits and longs for us to love him enough to want to obey him. I pray this morning a great cry of thanks to my Lord, who waited for me to come to him. Thank you for the gift of peace in my mind and my heart and for the freedom you have given me to choose to obey you. Amen.

Today’s readings:

2 Samuel 7:1-8:18, John 14:15-31, Psalms 119:33-48, Proverbs 15:33