Life investments

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Jesus raises critical questions about measuring success in life. Have you made sound investments? Are you devoted to short-term personal rewards or to an eternal relationship in heaven?

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Bible passage Matthew 6:16–24

    16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Treasures in Heaven
    19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

   22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

   24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Choosing your input
Given our viewing options today, this reading is remarkably prescient. Jesus asks: What are you watching? Do you prefer soul-darkening options; or those that stir spiritual health? Do you live for outward appearances – like dramatic episodes of fasting – or do you find secret times for Bible reading?

What about your media options? Do you avoid Internet sites that feed destructive appetites? Or is it a secret addiction? And what if we were to have a major financial crisis, with runaway inflation, would your heart investments keep you secure?

God or the world?
Jesus was raising these sorts of questions, not to badger his disciples but to invite real growth. He pitched the visible world against the invisible love of the Father.

As he did earlier in the sermon, Jesus held the eye to be, potentially, a major instrument of sin. Yet it only points to his ultimate opposition: the question of love. We either love God or the world. These are two very different investments!


Jesus poses an ultimate life-investment question here: ‘Who do you love?’ It’s an either/or test –not a multiple-choice quiz. Have you answered him yet?

Ron Frost

Deeper Bible study

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?’ (Isaiah 58:6)

I live in a Muslim-majority country, where the strict observance of fasting in public during the month of Ramadan is evident. During this month, religious law enforcement is heightened and any Muslim caught consuming food or drink in public during the period of mandatory fasting may be prosecuted. Displaying fasting publicly was common in the days of Jesus as well. It was a discipline regularly practised by the Jews. The Pharisees fasted twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. The disciples of John the Baptist also fasted regularly. Our Lord himself fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness. Since fasting is a common discipline, why did Jesus address this issue?

The purpose of fasting is to discipline ourselves, to humble ourselves before God and to be aware of the needs of others. It is never an exercise to parade our piety. The problem with those who publicly showed their fasting was that they presented themselves as spiritually superior to others and judged others for failing to fast. When John’s disciples came to Jesus and questioned him about why his disciples did not fast (Matthew 9:14), he rightfully declared that the religious leaders had misplaced the true purpose of fasting.

Jesus addressed the spiritual disciplines of giving, praying and fasting in verses 1–18 of this chapter. They are authentic religious acts in their own right, but if we use these activities to elevate ourselves, as spiritually superior to others, we defeat their purpose. Jesus reminded us that to give is to serve others, to pray is to seek God and to fast is to discipline ourselves. Anything short of this is hypocrisy.

Kar Yong Lim

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Genesis 18,19

Matthew 7


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  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Prepare: the word DEVOTED caught my eye this morning. Many things delight our souls and give us pleasure. I think of Thelma on the canal in Summer; my joy in gardening; I remember how Adam loves riding his motorbike; how many in Melbourne are besotted with football. Maybe it’s work, a person, a hobby or a place. Whatever it is that we enjoy or are passionate about, we could ask ourselves: Would I fast for this thing? Do I get up early or stay up late to study it? Do I make a real effort to be with like minded others, and talk about it every chance I get? Buy books to enlarge my knowledge, and keep magazines about it in the toilet. (!) Watch programs and listen to music that build my knowledge and pleasure in it? Jesus said He came that we might have and enjoy life to the full (John 10:10) and He knows that we will find that fullness when we seek and pursue Him, and His Kingdom first. And when we do that we can enjoy, with Him, every good thing He blesses us with in this life.

  • Rachael Hampton | Monday, 08 January 2018

    Such truthful, helpful, encouraging comments on prayer. Thank you all.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Some people think it is hypocritical to rejoice in the Lord when they don't feel like it but as Christians I think it is hypocritical to go by these feelings when within us the Spirit is full of love, joy, peace etc. Our born gain Spirit is always in tune with the joy of the Lord and the decision is ours whether we allow Him, or our flesh or our fickle emotions dominate.

  • Ken Sykes | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Very true GILVIN. It's not how we feel but who we are in Christ that counts. As Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Do I let the 'system' dictate how I live my life or do I devote myself to all that the Holy Mystery teaches me? I have made my choice and "this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us." ( Romans 5:5 )

  • Lynda Spencer | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    I was pushed for time yesterday, so didn't take time to comment, but this morning I have just read all the comments on prayer and been so blessed and encouraged by the honesty and sincerity therein. I share many of the struggles expressed, but I know that the one thing I need to do is to continue to make prayer a daily discipline, as commanded by the Lord. Just as my own children have different personalities and different ways of expressing their feelings and needs to us as parents, so we all differ in the ways we approach our Heavenly Father. But just as I recognise that one son may be reticent while another is openly demonstrative, so the Lord sees each one of us as we are and welcomes our approaches to Him when we come just as we are - being ourselves in an intimate relationship where we are not criticised or ridiculed, but accepted as God's precious children. If our starting point is coming as we are, and our spirit is humble and open to be taught, I believe God will lead us into ever deepening intimacy with Himself. "Oh Thou by Whom we come to God, the Life, the Truth, the Way. The path of prayer Thyself hast trod. Lord, teach us how to pray!"

  • Jack Russell | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    I don't think there is a dichotomy between having feelings other than joy peace etc and the joy is something that can be present throughout times of difficulty while not burying feelings, knowing there is something deeper to give hope and to hold onto even if it is as a bruised reed or smouldering candle. In that sense I don't see the word "rejoice" as having practical implications in being delighted in another trial coming along. But in not letting the trial be the only thing and by doing the very difficult walk of faith in the midst of it. I am sure we would get up early or stay up late for something we are passionate about! I am sure we would sacrifice for it. The eye being the lamp of the body brings to my mind phil 4:8 "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." This is something that cognitive behavioural therapy has taken and applied at times of anxiety and depression. The idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviours are connected. We are all created in the image of God - what place therefore is there for anyone not to be thought of that way albeit at times a distorted image of God. We see things dimly in comparison to what can be seen as wee see ourselves, others and the world through our own lens. So we can choose light or darkness in our perceptions and therefore influence the extent to which we can shine our lights or perpetuate darkness.

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Thank you RACHAEL, for the web site Grace Gems!!!

  • Ruth Lewis | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    This is on Prayer. It is very good by Charles Spurgeon. It is a little long, but it is so enjoyable that once you start to read it, you won't think of it as being long!!! January 2 Morning Verse "Continue in prayer." Colossians 4:2 It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;" and just as we are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in His Word, He intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If He has said much about prayer, it is because He knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord's mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father's face, and live in thy Father's love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of His love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. The motto for this year must be, "Continue in prayer."

  • Barbara Sabin | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    James 5 v 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

  • Hannah Watson | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    Thankyou Oakley for reminding me yesrerday of the value of repeated liturgy, specifically it being a framework to cling onto when all other words are lost in dark times. And Mike's blog compliments today's wordlives notes wonderfully. I am so blessed to have everyone's suggested readings and songs, such a wealth of knowledge to be gained. God is good.

  • Hannah Watson | Tuesday, 09 January 2018

    I've noticed the link takes you straight to my comment on Mikes blog, rather than to the top of the blog page, please scroll up if you click on the link. I don't want anyone to think I'm directing them to my comment.

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