Putting God's Word into Practice…

Colossians 2:6-15 Debt Free New Year

Debt is an overwhelming thing to carry.  Every month when the credit card bill comes, there is a little ache inside upon opening the envelope.  The penalties and fees seem to accumulate all too quickly, putting us in a deeper hole than the original debt.  At Christmas, we “have to” buy gifts and for most Americans that goes on credit, and, “Voila!” we usher in the new year with more debt.  Some will pluck away at these bills in a never-ending monthly draw until death. Debt is one of the greatest reasons for depression and divorce.  And if there’s one thing I know, almost all “D” words are derived from the Devil. (Despair, Discouragement, Depression, Deception, Death, etc…)

Our sins accrue throughout our lives like that credit card debt.  We stack one on top of the other. We try to pay for them all, but we never can.  We might offset them a little in our minds, but they keep adding up and the penalty for them keeps growing.  Sin weighs us down.  Sin causes despair.

There is one “D” word that only comes through Jesus, and that is the power to “disarm” the Devil!

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us ALL our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities, and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him (Jesus). Colossians 2:13-15

God nailed my sin debt–IOU–to the cross with His beloved Son.  Every time I sin now, I can abound in thanksgiving because the penalty for that sin has already been paid.  Sin has no power over me.  Each time Satan wants to attack me by holding sin over my head, he is holding a disarmed bomb–a gun filled with blanks.  Jesus triumphed over Satan, sin and death at the cross.  “Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain.  He washed it white as snow.  O praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead.”

You can have your sin debt wiped away today! Jesus paid the penalty.  All you need to do is ask Him to forgive you.  He will trade you life for death; freedom and joy for shame; purity for sin.

I want to go back to verses 6-7 for a minute.  It says, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  We receive Jesus freely, humbly, gratefully, and purely; that is how we are to walk in Him.  It is not enough to receive Jesus, we must put down our roots in him, and grow in Him.  We can’t just be thankful at the moment of salvation, but throughout the journey.

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Colossians 1:24-2:5 Rejoicing in Suffering

Paul wrote, “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake.”

I have been thinking about this from the viewpoint of being married to one called to minister to Christ’s church.  I don’t want to see my spouse suffer for the sake of the people God has chosen for him to minister to.  I want ministry to be comfortable and easy on him and our family.  I want the difficult times to pass quickly.  But God keeps showing me again and again that He is at work and greatly uses His “suffering servants.”  No one in the Bible had an easy ministry-even Christ Jesus Himself.

A friend brought to my attention an A. W. Tozer quote that I have been thinking about the past two days; “It is doubtful that God can fully use any man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

The mystery of the gospel cannot be separated from suffering, for one of the greatest mysteries is that our Savior chose the path of suffering and sacrifice for our sake.  A minister of the mystery needs suffering to have the Christ-like qualities of humility, servanthood, and endurance fully developed in him.  Therefore, suffering is necessary to properly proclaim and demonstrate the gospel–the message of the Savior to others.

The power and hope of the Christ-filled life must be experienced in suffering to testify to His supreme worth and glory.

A true minister toils, works, and struggles diligently, even painfully for the sake of the maturity of the saints in the areas of love and wisdom.  I picture a farmer tilling, planting, tending, watering, fertilizing, stabilizing, and giving back-breaking care and correction to harvest a bumper fruit-producing crop.  However, they must not toil in their own strength producing explainable harvests, no harvest at all, or bug and blight ridden harvest.  Only toiling with ALL Christ’s energy that He powerfully works in those He calls and in whom He dwells is worth while toiling.

Because suffering makes us more like Jesus–we can rejoice in our suffering.  Because suffering produces fruit in others–we can rejoice in our suffering.

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Colossians 1:15-23 ~ All Things

I am feeling very distracted.  These verses contain such amazing truths, but I feel like they are simply words on a page this morning.  Lord, make them life to me!

Why did Jesus come to earth?  Why would he lay aside His glory, honor and power to be born a man?  Because we needed Him!  We needed to see God!  We needed a Savior!

In verse 21 those without faith are described as alienated from God-in need of reconciliation; hostile in mind–in need of peace with God; doing evil deeds–in need of holiness.  Jesus came to remedy our alienation, hostility and corruption.

Here are some truths about Jesus from these nine verses.  You may want to read them yourselves and circle the phrase “all things.”

  1. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.
  2. Jesus is the firstborn of ALL creation.
  3. Jesus is the Creator of ALL things.
  4. ALL things were created FOR Him.
  5. Jesus is before ALL things.
  6. ALL things are held together by Him.
  7. Jesus is the head of the church.
  8. Jesus is the beginning.
  9. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.
  10. He deserves preeminence in EVERYTHING.
  11. Jesus was the fullness of God dwelling in man.
  12. Jesus is the one who reconciles ALL things to Himself.
  13. Jesus is the peace-maker by His own blood and the cross.
  14. Jesus is the only one who can present us as holy, blameless and above reproach.

The last one is conditional, based on our faith.  We must be faithful to the end–steadfast and stable, keeping our foundation on the hope of the gospel.  I heard someone say recently that “drifting” is the biggest danger in the Christian’s life.  It is not huge moral failure or flat out denial, but day-to-day drifting from the truth of the gospel. Failing to remember that Jesus holds ALL THINGS together.  Keeping Jesus in a compartment–not making HIM first in ALL THINGS–family, friends, church, work, school, recreation, agenda, etc…!  Forgetting that our salvation is only by His blood shed on the cross–thereby putting our faith in ourselves and our own morality.

Lord, today, show me how to make Jesus first in everything–in my cleaning, in my hospitality, in my parenting, in my marriage, in my friendships, in EVERYTHING! In the powerful name of Jesus I ask, Amen.

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Colossians 1:1-14 ~ Only God

A brief intro:  This is another letter that Paul wrote to strengthen a church while he was incarcerated for proclaiming the name of Jesus.  He wrote it to the believers in Colossi to help them discern false teaching–teaching that was pushing religion and strict rules instead of grace and faith.

Paul started off by telling them why he thanked God for them–because of their great faith and their impartial love for all.  Both their faith and love flowed from their hope in eternity in Heaven because of Jesus.  When our hope is on earthly, temporal things, it is much more difficult to love others.  Setting our hope on eternity loosens the chains of this world and gives us a new perspective and greater ability to love others.  Love is the tangible evidence that the truth of the gospel of God’s grace has taken root and is growing in our lives.

Paul went on to tell them exactly what he prays for them much like he did in his letter to the churches in Philippi and Ephesus.

  1. He wanted them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in spiritual knowledge and understanding.  This was not to benefit self, but for the reputation of the Lord as being His name-bearers and also that their lives would be pleasing to Him.  Paul wanted their lives to bear fruit in every good work which only comes from knowing and following God’s will.
  2. Paul wanted them to be strengthened with God’s might.  His might is the only might that produces patience, endurance and joy in all circumstances.
  3. He asked that they would be a grateful people.  Grateful for their salvation, redemption and forgiveness.

What a great thing to help others see and understand!  How freeing to know our salvation is ONLY by God through Jesus!  We did not do one thing to deserve it or earn it or even to keep it!  Qualification and deliverance are by God the Father; redemption and forgiveness is through Jesus Christ.  God created us, sin stole us, and Jesus’ blood bought us back.  Let this truth fill our hearts with gratitude and give us discernment when other’s try to say there is more to being a Christian that what Christ did for us!

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Philippians 4:2-23 ~ I Know the Secret

Paul challenged believers in some pretty difficult areas as he wrapped up his letter–areas regarding joy, anxiety, contentment, unity–things we all struggle with daily.  But he shared with us the secret to overcoming these things in verse 13.


  • We can have unity with those working for the gospel through Christ who strengthens us. (2-3)
  • We can rejoice always through Christ who strengthens us. (4)
  • We can cast away anxiety and receive surpassing peace through Christ who strengthens us. (6-7)
  • We can take our minds captive to dwell on purity and truth through Christ who strengthens us. (8-9)
  • We can be content in every situation through Christ who strengthens us. (11)
  • We can face hunger and need through Christ who strengthens us. (12)
  • We can face plenty and abundance through Christ who strengthens us. (12) {You may be thinking, “I could face abundance and plenty just fine!”  However, abundance and plenty carry the great danger of disowning God (Proverbs 30:8b-9) and puffing us up with pride.  It is only through the strength of Christ that we can receive abundance and plenty with humility.}
  • We can encourage others through Christ who strengthens us. (19)
  • We can be used by God in adverse circumstances to change people around us for God’s glory through Christ who strengthens us. (22)

How can Christ give us so much strength?  Because He is near (5).  He is peace (7,9). He is rich in glory (19).

Christ is near!  God with us!  Emmanuel!  He is all we need!  He is our strength!  He is our Savior!

Merry Christmas!

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Philippians 3:12-4:1 ~ Keep Running

I fancy myself somewhat of a runner–jogger is more accurate.  I like setting a course and setting goals.  I love the turnaround when I know I’m on my way home.  I know I won’t run forever–each run comes to an end. I like the process of running, but I love the finish line!  That is where the revelry and celebrating takes place.  That is where I get to rest and experience the joy of a great accomplishment.

I’ve probably written about this before, but a couple of years ago I trained for a half marathon.  All early registrants received a bib with their name on it!  I can’t tell you how inspiring the simple phrase, “Keep going, Tracy, you can do it,” was as strangers saw my name on my bib and cheered.  Along the way, there was pain and fatigue, but I had to press on!  I wanted to achieve the end result of finishing strong.  I wanted the medal!  

Two Dangers of Looking Back–Mile 3 was a really great mile for me, I had some pain and overcame even caught up with a friend who was running ahead of me.  When I reached the 4th mile, if I had looked back I could have been content with overcoming some obstacles, considered it a victory and not continued on, or I could rejoice and use that as motivation to keep on running strong.

Mile 10 was really difficult, when I got to mile 11 I had two choices–I could look back to the difficulties of mile 10 until I quit or be thankful that struggle was over, fix my eyes on the finish line and press on to cross it.

Thankfully I pressed on and did receive the completion medal that said, “Champion,” on it. I attribute this to several factors–people along the way encouraging me, not looking back at my shortcomings or successes, and keeping my eyes on the prize.

I say all of that to say, that Jesus is calling out all along the the race of life, and He is waiting at the finish line of my life saying, “Keep running, Tracy, you can do it.”  Only He is no stranger!  He knows my name and He has already run the coarse and finished!  There have been victories and failures in my past, but I cannot cling to them, I must press on!  I cannot fix my eyes on my physical needs and personal gratification along the way, getting side tracked and disqualified from the race.  I must fix my eyes on Jesus my Champion.

My prayer is that when my life on earth is done, I will have run it in such a way that the finish line will be a sweet place of rest and rejoicing.  That I will get that completion medal that says, “Champion.”

Philippians 3:13-14 But I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us.

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Philippians 3:1-12 ~ All is Loss

Here we go again–Paul writing about circumcision!  I love the way he gave a disclaimer, “It’s no trouble for me to write this to you, and it is safe for you.”

Paul compared the fleshly circumcision to that of a circumcised heart.  True Christians don’t need any fleshly evidence to prove their commitment to God, but there must be spiritual evidence:

  1. Worship God in Spirit, by the Spirit.
  2. Give glory to Jesus.
  3. Put no confidence in their own lives.

If we follow rules flawlessly, are good in our own eyes, and carry a good reputation in the eyes of others; then we can boast in ourselves and don’t need a Savior.  When we value Jesus, the Savior; all personal, self-willed goodness is like garbage to us.  In fact to really grasp why we need Jesus and what He did for His created people makes knowing Him the supreme treasure in life.  Nothing compares to Him!  Even suffering loses its sting in light of Jesus’ humility, obedience and sacrifice.  Gain is loss; loss is loss!  Gaining Christ is gain!  Material accumulation, accolades and awards, career achievements are momentary and cannot save our souls–only faith in Jesus Christ can do that.

How often do these truths ring in our minds and hearts?  How often are we living like our confidence comes from our own works?

When I am tempted to put confidence in my abilities, willpower, and flesh; let me be drawn again to the cross-to Jesus, my Righteousness!

When I am tempted to give up or grow bitter in suffering; let me be drawn again to the cross-to Jesus, my suffering Savior!

My my Righteous, Savior be my surpassing treasure; eclipsing all earthly things!

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Philippians 2:12-30 ~ SHINE ~

In case you didn’t know it, we live in a dark world.  By dark, I don’t necessarily mean violent crimes and hatred, but a world that doesn’t recognize the True Light–Jesus Christ–or acknowledge Him as Lord.  This gives those of us who do a great opportunity to shine His light.  Unfortunately, most Christians are barely flickering–“asleep in the Light,” as Keith Green would sing.

So how can we shine?

  1. Obedience to God–not doing what is right in our own eyes. (12-13)  This is a divine gift from having God in us giving us the desire and ability to make choices that please Him.
  2. Doing all things without grumbling, complaining and questioning! (14)  It was funny to me that when I read this verse, the first thing I heard in my head was the voice of a child whining, “Why? Do I have to?”  And in the next verse Paul refers to us as children.  I don’t want to sound like a whiny child or a a griping, murmuring adult for that matter.  
  3. Holding fast to the Word of life (16).  Knowing, clinging to and standing up for truth will make us stand out in a dark world for sure! 
  4. Gladly rejoicing in each other’s spiritual successes (17-18).
  5. Seeking Jesus’ interests (21).  This may sound funny at first, but thinking about it in light of marriage helps.  If I didn’t seek my husband’s interests, I wouldn’t be a very good wife!  I now love baseball and rustic barns and Josh Garrels–things I would not follow or find if I didn’t do it for his sake.  Seeking Jesus’ interests, makes them our interests!

In Isaiah and Matthew, God promises that he will not extinguish a flickering candle.  No matter how dim your light is, it is still not darkness!  Only by letting God work in us for His good purposes will our lights grow brighter.  When my boys go out without us, I usually tell them to, “Shine their light.”  That is my challenge to myself and anyone who reads this today.

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Philippians 2:1-11 Make Yourself Nothing

These are probably some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.  In fact I like to think of verse 3 as one of my “life verses.”  Unfortunately to be a life verse, it needs to be lived out.  This morning was a good reminder of the kind of person I want to be in contrast to the kind of person I really am.  “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit (selfish ambition), but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What does it really look like to consider others as more important than me?  How can I do that in my daily life and interaction?  How can I look out for other’s interests first instead of always my own?  The answer to those questions is coming…

Paul told the people of Philippi that their comfort, encouragement, love, partnership, affection and sympathy are great and appreciated; but his greatest desire is to see them united in humility.  He used phrases like: same mind, same love, full accord, and one mind.  Then, dropping down to verse five, he told them exactly what their unified minds should look like.  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  What is the mind of Christ?  It is centered on humility, servanthood, sacrifice, and obedience to God.  In fact, in verse 7 it says of Jesus, “He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

MADE HIMSELF NOTHING! That goes against the very fiber of our culture and being!  If I had back hair (thankfully I don’t) it would be bristling at that phrase.  We all want to be “something.”  That is why blogging and facebook are so huge (guilty).  That is why everyone thinks they are a musician, a photographer, a writer.  We want to be anything but…nothing!  Jesus was the only human who deserved to be something, and He made himself nothing.  He put others first–ALWAYS!  When he was tired, when he wanted to be alone, when he needed to grieve, when he needed personal space–His humility and compassion took over His actions.  He laid down all His rights out of love for us.  

The outcome of that lifestyle is eternal exultation from God the Father and every human who has and will ever live.  Every name will come and go, but Jesus is the name that is lifted high and remembered for all time!  It is the name that evokes worship and adoration and praise.  Every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess He is Lord!  It may be here on earth–it may be in judgment.  But He will be recognized and glorified!

Jesus who made Himself nothing is EVERYTHING!  And if He is really everything to me, I can choose to be NOTHING so other’s can see He is everything!

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Philippians 1:12-18 Purposeful Adversity

When Paul was writing to the Philippian believers, he was in prison in Rome.  Have you ever been in prison or felt imprisoned?  Did you use that time purposefully?  Paul was single-minded in his imprisonment.  His goal was to proclaim Christ and spread the good news of salvation.  God allowed Paul to be effective even in prison.  We see in the end of the book that many in the household of Caesar became followers of Christ!  

Adverse circumstances can be used to advance the gospel.  Whether you find yourself at home with an illness, in a difficult work environment, at home with little children, in a retirement home, caring for elderly parents/spouse, or in prison; those can all be opportunities to point people to Jesus, to love people like Him and to pray for people.

During Paul’s imprisonment, more free men started to proclaim Christ with boldness–some with pure motives, some not.  It did not matter to Paul, the only thing he cared about was that the gospel was going forth!

It is so easy in our country to knit-pick pastors…to judge their hearts, to make assumptions!  I have been sucked into this very thing recently, and convicted. If Christ is proclaimed, then we ought to rejoice!

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