ARE YOU “OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

“If we are ‘out of our mind’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you”.

2 Cor 5:13 NIV

Some people regard those who believe in Jesus as ‘nut cases’. Some believers give the impression that they live in another world, are a little bit crazy and “soft in the head”.

Some of the critics of the apostle Paul looked at him in this way. He didn’t teach the “worldly wisdom” that most of the travelling teachers did. And he spoke of a resurrection that didn’t make any sense. Furthermore, he was possessed of an enthusiasm that suggested he was “a bit touched”. Paul also spoke in tongues and that was a sure sign to some that he needed to have his head read. His reply was typical – “We don’t mind being dismissed as crazy. We are ‘Crazy for Christ’. It’s a great way of life. We’re more alive now than we ever were before we knew Christ”. But some Corinthians were impressed. These men said things that made life “hang together”. They were offering hope, peace, faith and love that they had never witnessed before. And through their message some Corinthians had become alive with the life of God.

Don’t be afraid of being regarded as “crazy for Christ”. There is no need to be foolish, nor to abandon all common sense. There is such a thing as “sanctified common sense”. But passionate commitment that holds back at nothing is what “moves mountains” in the cause of Christ and the gospel. William Booth once defended his enthusiasm for Christ by saying, “If standing on my head and banging a tambourine between my feet would bring one person to Christ I would happily do it”.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to be crazy for you.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, teach me to pray. When it seems that you do not hear or will not answer, help me not to become discouraged nor to feel that my prayer technique is faulty. Teach me to persevere and to allow the difficulty to draw me closer to yourself. Help me to be patient and to carry on and deepen my faith in you. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 7:24–29

CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST

“It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care”.

2 Cor 5:11 EHP

You need to know what you’re about. Especially if you’re under fire from critics who don’t really understand what you’re doing or sympathize with it. That is the position in which Paul found himself. He was hammering out a position to help and inform the Corinthian Christians and defending himself against the false teachers there at the same time.

He was called by God to do this apostolic ministry of preaching Christ, and he had, along the way, to work out the principles of Christian belief. There were no creeds to help new Christians to believe. Paul was developing his thoughts on life and death as he went along. And Christ, his cross and resurrection, had to be the foundation of all that Christians believed and taught, and lived by.

Paul could be strong in the face of criticism because he knew Christ. And he knew that Christ was his Lord, not just his “nice friend”, and that Christ had given him a task to perform, and that was to warn, to advise and to inform believers about the life upon which they were engaged.

Be as confident of Christ and his lordship as Paul was. Be sure of your calling as “a long obedience in the same direction” and of any particular role, service or ministry in which he has placed you. And be ready to commend him to others in confidence and strength.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to be confident of your command and your love.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, I pray for the research scientists who are employed in the search for vaccines that will enable the authorities to control the spread of the Covid-19 disease. Encourage them to keep on even when they feel exhausted by their own efforts. Crown their endeavours with eventual success and healing. I ask it in Jesus Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 7:21–23

THE POSITIVE VALUE OF JUDGMENT

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ”.

2 Cor 5:10 NIV

Many believers feel repulsed by the thought that God both can and will judge us. It seems to them that love and judgment are mutually contradictory. It is worth reflecting on a little more.

“The Christian is one who through Christ seeks to be done with lies and self-deceit, and to live in the light of moral reality. That light will be welcomed as we welcome the light of day, even though it shames us by revealing the ugliness and failure of our own lives. A sincere man welcomes the criticism of a friend, however it may pain him, because he knows that it comes from one who loves him too well to let him go on in evil. God’s judgment carries with it the prospect that we shall see him in the glory of his perfect love. This will make us ashamed and bring us to the dust in humiliation. But it will also lift us up. Christ’s attitude to sinners in the world beyond will not be other than it was on earth. ‘For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:17 RSV). It is in the light of this final judgment that we must live here and now. The judgment is not postponed to the future. It operates continually as we keep our lives open to his cross. Through the acceptance of his judgment and our response to his forgiveness we are redeemed. As for the final judgment, the God who will judge will still be the God who is ‘faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1Jn 1:9 RSV). The purpose of the judgment is the perfecting of the process of redemption” (J. Reid, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol10, p332).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to understand more of your ways.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Eternal God, I pray today for employers who have found their work schedules completely destroyed as a result of the conditions required to contain the spread of the Covid-19 Virus. Help them to make a plan that will restore their work procedures. Make them determined to succeed in all they plan. I ask it in Jesus Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 7:15–20

THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

2 Cor 5:10 NIV

In modern Christianity, we hear very little about God as a judge. The emphasis is all on “God’s love”. The message of the modern church could be summed up: “God is nice, so let all of us be nice as well”.

The Bible often refers to God as a judge. “Paul speaks of the judgment seat of Christ. The certainty of final judgment was never out of the apostle’s mind. It was an element in Christ’s own teaching. And it has deep significance. It underscores the fact that our lives have meaning. We are responsible beings, not the playthings of fate. Without any ultimate responsibility, our actions lose a point, except as they promote our own temporal interests.

Life is worthwhile because we are here to fulfill God’s purpose. The optimism of the Christian faith is based in part on this assurance, and the symbol of it is the judgment seat of God. Judgment, therefore, is not to be dreaded by Christians, but to be accepted and even welcomed. There are various reasons for this apart from the fact that it gives our ordinary life moral significance. God’s judgment is based on the insight of almighty love. ‘Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart’ (1 Sam 16:7 KJV). He judges us by our hidden desires and intentions, not by our imperfect performance, frustrated as that is by the weakness of the flesh and the thwarting of circumstance” (J. Reid, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 10, p331).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me not to be afraid of your judgment.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I pray today Lord for all the people who have lost their employment as a result of all the economic problems consequent upon the lockdown imposed for the dangerous health situation. Help them to find new employment and ways to survive in the meantime. Keep them cheerful, hopeful and positive. I ask it in Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 7:13–14

AIM TO PLEASE THE LORD

“So we make it our goal to please him”.

2 Cor 5:9 NIV

The majority of people who have no faith in Christ spend most of their lives trying to please themselves. They indulge their bodily appetites, often making spectacles of themselves. Their own pleasure is the be-all and end-all of their lives. Sometimes they do enjoy it but by no means always. Sometimes they make themselves ill by over-indulging themselves. Sometimes in the process, they become addicted to harmful substances – alcohol and drugs – and in reality, become slaves and create problems for themselves and for others.

Then some other people become engrossed in pleasing others. Sometimes they succeed, but those they seek to please don’t always appreciate it. They even come to despise the people who concentrate on pleasing them.

When people come to believe in Christ and accept forgiveness for their sins, they find themselves obliged to submit to Christ’s Lordship. They seek then to please Christ, and Christian discipleship comes to be “long obedience in the same direction” to quote the phrase often used by Eugene Peterson (author of “The Message”). They try to live by faith, upholding the two laws that Christ emphasized “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:30,31 NIV). The focus is not on what you achieve by obeying these commandments. It is on the God who requires you to orientate your whole life on pleasing him by observing them. People who do so please him find that their lives are wholesome and fulfilling and they find the meaning of life in serving others. It gives them joy and fills them with love.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, enable me always to live to please you.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord Jesus Christ let your whole church turn to you today in joy and in hope. Let the message of the gospel be heard in the remotest corners of the earth and may those who have lost hope find it again, those who have lost faith rediscover it, and those who have forgotten your love find it rekindled. I ask it in the name of the Son of God. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Matthew 7:7–12

AT HOME WITH THE LORD

“We are confident, I repeat, and would rather leave our home in the body and go to live with the Lord”.

2 Cor 5:8 NEB

Christian believers, though living on earth yearn to be with the Lord. Paul “thinks of heaven as home. The word suggests the place where we feel secure, where our fellowship with those we love is complete, and where we are free to be most fully ourselves. Heaven is home for those who are in fellowship with Christ. There, Paul believed, we shall enter on the unclouded fellowship with God, which is not disturbed by guilt or fear, or limited by human failure.

Because we are spiritual beings this earth can never be home in any true sense of the word. We can never feel completely at rest in it. This lack of harmony between humans and their earthly environment accounts for human restlessness. Augustine said: ‘Thou hast made us unto thyself, and our heart finds no rest until it rests in thee’.

There is a sense, however, in which we can be ‘at home with the Lord’ even here if we are at one with his purpose and walk by his light. When Jesus was on earth his presence created an atmosphere of understanding and love in which people could begin to be their true selves. Through fellowship with him the world becomes in a real sense the Father’s house. But this world has its limitations. We remain pilgrims and strangers, always seeking a fuller life which can be found only in heaven where our fellowship with God will be complete. Heaven is not a place but a spiritual condition. It is the product of the heavenly mind and the heavenly fellowship” (J. Reid, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol 10 p330).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, thank you for the promise of your final home.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord guide all the scientific and economic advisers to the governments where they are trying to make the best decisions for the good of the people in the present health crisis. Give them wisdom, the ability to see the bigger picture, and the willingness to work in teams. Help them to get it all right all the time. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Isaiah 48:9–11

LIVING BY FAITH NOT BY SIGHT

“For we live by faith, not by sight”.

2 Cor 5:7 NIV

“One evening, toward the end of William Booth’s life, when he was almost completely blind, his daughter found him in his study. Taking him over to the window she asked him if he could see the lovely sunset. ‘No, my dear’ he replied, ‘I cannot see the sunset, but I shall see the sunrise’” (The Soldier’s Armoury, 1978, p23). The great leader of the Salvation Army lived by faith long before he lost his eyesight. And his faith told him that he would one day be ‘with’ the Lord and would see him face to face. A new day would dawn, and he would be “for ever with the Lord”. Then life

would be one long sunrise.
Christian believers accept and live by many promises and hold

on to many hopes. They do not see in the physical, here and now sense. They “look” to the future, and the hope they look to anchors them more securely and surely in the present. They know that they cannot know everything here and now – but they believe it and cling to the hope that God will answer all their confusing questions in that realm where all will be made clear and plain. “In the new age we shall see and be ‘with the Lord’, but in the present age we relate to him ‘by faith’ exercised in response to the gospel. This is a sober corrective to enthusiastic Christians like the Corinthians who, in desiring spectacular and miraculous signs, were demanding from God in the present time what really belongs to the future” (P. Barnett, The Message of 2 Corinthians, p100).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to live by faith and not by sight.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, help all the health workers who are engaged in the campaign to preserve life in the present pandemic. Renew their strength and energy so that they can carry on when they feel they are tiring. Help them to remain cheerful, gentle and understanding towards all their patients. Grant them adequate rest. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Acts 28:1–10

“WITH” AND “AWAY FROM”

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord”.

2 Cor 5:6 NIV

For most people faith is a strange experience. At one time we are full of confidence and even get carried away in ecstasy at being in the presence of God. We get warmed up and enthusiastic when we witness God acting and when ‘things happen”. But then we can easily become skeptical when the things we want to happen, don’t. God seems to go into recess and ceases to be active. Faith is holding on in these contradictory periods and it means somehow holding the contradictions in tension. However, some strong souls are always confident – they seem to walk with God in uninterrupted fellowship whatever is happening all around them.

Paul uses different imagery here. “This ‘at’ or ‘away from’ imagery, however, is not coldly geographical but warmly relational, as indicated by the words ‘with the Lord’. In a number of other places in the New Testament the preposition ‘with’ is used of people being in relationship with one another. For example, the people of Nazareth ask, in response to Jesus’ presence with them: Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here ‘with’ us? But a person can only be in one place at a time. He is either ‘at home in the body’ or ‘at home with the Lord’. Paul’s preference is to be ‘away from the body’ because this will mean being ‘at home with the Lord’” (P. Barnett, The Message of 2 Corinthians, p100). When we are with the Lord, we are confident, hopeful, and strong.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to be always with you and therefore confident.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, help those decision-makers in the countries affected by the Coronavirus disease to guide the people and ensure good outcomes from the leadership they give. Encourage the people to co-operate with their leaders and with each other, to exercise discipline and to work for the common good. I ask it in Jesus Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

James 3:1–6

GETTING READY

“The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less”.

2 Cor 5:5 EHP

Many roles are assigned to the Holy Spirit in the Bible. In the Old Testament he gave the prophets words to speak. In the New Testament he gave the apostles their marching orders to the Gentile mission. He worked in the lives of believers to shape them more like Christ, bringing to ripeness in them the fruits of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5: 22,23, NIV). And “our longing for the life of the new age does not arise from within us. Left to ourselves we may not be happy with our new home or our new clothes; they may not be what we expected. It is God who has graciously prepared us for all that his great future holds.

By the Spirit, who belongs to the new age, but whom God has given us now, we are being prepared for our new dwelling, our new apparel. The presence of the Spirit within us is signified by the deep longing believers experience for their future with God. Our ‘sighing’ for it is inspired by the Spirit, who, however, is not yet present in his fullness; that is reserved for the coming age. What we have now is the Spirit as a ‘deposit’, ‘guaranteeing’ an expected future payment in full. A ‘guarantee’ was used in Paul’s time in commercial transactions.; today the same Greek word is used for an engagement ring, pledging and guaranteeing the marriage day” (P. Barnett, The Message of 2 Corinthians, p100).

Let the Holy Spirit continue to prepare you for heaven!

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, I am preparing for that new life in the new age.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, help me to be wise with my money. Keep reminding me that you have made me a steward of the money I get and that however much that is, it would be nice to have more, but it’s what you’ve apportioned. Help me to be content and show me how to budget responsibly. Make me generous towards others. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Mark 14:66–72

 

THE BIGGER LIFE

“While we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”.

2 Cor 5:4 NIV

Sometimes we say, when things are confusing and downright nonsensible, “What a life”. So many things don’t make sense. Why are some people rich whilst others, good people, are poor – and seem to get poorer? Why do some people suffer an illness, handicap, and injury? Why do some just stumble from one misfortune to another? And why does everyone believe that “if anything can go wrong it will?” Who was it who coined the phrase, “the general cussedness of life”? So many things just don’t make sense. And a chorus of agreement went up when Scott Peck declared to the world, “Life is difficult”.

To the people of Corinth, however, into this difficult life there came a shaft of light, a welcome morsel of relief – it was the good news of Jesus, his love, and his salvation. It gave them joy, peace, and hope. And it alleviated the drabness and dreariness of life on planet earth. And Paul taught them to look forward even further – to life beyond the grave. For knowing Jesus involved accepting the promise of eternal life. “Life doesn’t end at death” declared the gospel of Jesus, “It becomes bigger, better, larger, more wholesome. The existing life in Christ is glorious. The newer life will be more glorious. The mortality of earth becomes swallowed up in the immortality of heaven”. “Paul depicts the new age (life) as, let us say, a larger fish overtaking and swallowing whole a smaller fish (his mortality in this present age)” (P. Barnett, The Message of 2 Corinthians, p99).

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to see beyond the struggles of the earth to eternity.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, help me to think more about others than about myself. Show me how to be sensitive to their way of seeing things and supportive towards them when they are experiencing problems. Help me to care for them without being patronising and kind without being condescending. Make my love genuine. I ask it in Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

1 Kings 18:30–39