Devotions

Author Archives: Caleb Combs

Pontius Pilate

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #5: Pontius Pilate
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

The Bible is full of people who changed the world. Some have made a difference in positive ways, some negative. Some did it in obvious ways, others not so obvious. Then there are the guys who kind of fall in the middle of all of those categories. Pontius Pilate was one of those guys. Pilate was governor of the Roman province of Judea. The Romans ruled many territories and placed their chosen leadership in conquered or ruled lands, and Pilate was their guy during Jesus’ ministry. He was very important in Judea, but how was he a world changer?

There is value in looking a little deeper into his life. Caiaphas, the High Priest, along with many others who hated Jesus and wanted to see Him killed, took their case to Pilate, knowing that he had the final say in the matter. But Pilate was not so sure. The Bible tells us in John 18 (and in all of the other Gospels) that Pilate lobbied for the release of Jesus because he did not see any fault in Him. The crowd roared in rage at these statements, because they wanted blood. He had a choice to make- should he defy the crowd and release an innocent man, or order His crucifixion?

Pilate was in the decision-making chair, and he held the precious life of Jesus Christ in his hands. Or so he thought.  In John 19:10-11a we see Pilate asking Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Jesus makes a ground breaking statement to a Roman ruler here, telling him that he had no authority over Him. We can go back and forth over the story of whether or not Pilate should have released Jesus (I would encourage you to read John chapters 18 and 19), but we always should come to the same conclusion. Pilate was put in place to be used by God to save our sins. You see, Pilate did not sentence Jesus to death, Jesus willingly laid His life down. John 10:17-18 (NIV) shows us the words of Jesus, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Jesus is clear that He has the authority and He loves you and me so much that He laid down His life for us. Pilate did not take it, and neither did the Romans soldiers who put the spikes through His hands or the Jews who demanded they do so. Jesus came to this earth on a mission and Pilate was put in place to help complete the mission of God. Now he may have thought he had the authority, but ultimately Jesus gives and takes authority.

I am not sure what is happening in your life today, but the word I want you to think about it trust. Trust in God’s plan. It may not be what you think it should be, but trust me when I tell you that God’s plan is perfect. Every detail is thought out and has been ordained before the foundations of the world. There are no surprises to God. Pilate was put in place to change the world, and some may have thought he missed his opportunity. However, I am here today to tell you he changed my world by playing a part in the shedding of the blood that paid for my sin and I am forever thankful for the blood that was shed for me.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #5: Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

Daniel’s Three Friends

“He came to my rescue.” That is a great statement. Many of us can say we have had parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, coworkers, or even strangers, rescue us from certain situations or keep us out of harm’s way. These are stories we will keep with us forever. I can remember a story of a complete stranger rescuing me and saving my life. I never had a chance to thank him and cannot even give you his name, however to this day it is a story my family and I like to revisit. I was about eight years old when my family and I were visiting Mackinaw Island. If you have been to Mackinaw Island or know anything about the place, there are no motor vehicles on the Island. The modes of transportation are simply horses or bikes. On this particular day, my parents rented each of us a bike and decided it was a good idea to ride around the Island. So we rode our bikes all around, and as any eight-year-old would feel, I felt on top of the world and in control. Well, that is where things went south. Right at the edge of the little downtown area, there is a fort and next to the fort is a steep hill. Now, I know what you are thinking, “It was just steep to an eight-year-old.” Negative, I do not like riding down it to this day, well maybe because it brings up bad memories or I am just a scaredy-cat! I believe the street is called Fort Street, but for today we will call it, “Dead Man’s Hill!” We started down Dead Man’s Hill (remember I told you I was in control as an eight-year-old). Well, this could not be further from the truth. I rode out in front of everyone and all of a sudden I went careening down the hill, out of control. I suddenly forgot how to ride my bike and simply froze. At the bottom of Dead Man’s Hill was a rail, drop off, and then Lake Huron, and I was headed for certain doom. Continuing to pick up speed and out of control I began yelling, “Help, Help, Help!” I am not sure what anyone could do. My family behind me was watching in horror as I sped faster and faster toward the bottom when all of a sudden a man standing on the side of the road ripped me off of my bike. My rented bike went crashing without the steady (okay, out of control) hands making sure it stayed straight. This man rescued me.

In Daniel 3, we see a great rescue by the Ultimate Rescuer. In short, we see King Nebuchadnezzar (for today we will call him King Neb because I do not want you trying to pronounce that any more times then I want to try and spell it out) build a golden statue and force all of the inhabitants of his land to worship it. This statue was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, so it definitely stood out. King Neb set up a worship service and instructed everyone that when they heard a few specific instruments (check them out in verse 5), they would bow down and worship the idol. As you can imagine, when the time came for this worship service, thousands and thousands of people worshiped this false god. However, the Bible tells us there were three men that refused to worship this false idol. Their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men worshiped the one true God and refused to worship anything or anyone other than Him. Well as the story goes, there were some men that told the king of these men that refused to worship his false god and this infuriated good old King Neb. He flew off the handle and ordered these men be brought in front of him. Once before the king, he said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:14-15 NLT). I love how King Neb challenges them and their God with his ability to rescue them. You see, he thought he was the ultimate power, and no one could trump his power, well he was wrong. In verse 16 we see their great response of faith, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve can save us. He will rescue us from your power, your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” They boldly declared to the King that their God could and would rescue them from the king’s power. This infuriated King Neb even more and as the story reads (I would encourage you to read the entire chapter today) the men were thrown into the furnace to their certain doom, but they had a God who rescued them. The men began to walk around in the furnace, and those who looked on saw an image of a fourth man in the fire with them. They said it was the image of the Son of God, who we know as Jesus. The Bible tells us that when they came out of the furnace, they did not even smell like smoke!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew they had a God who was in the rescuing business. I do not know what you need rescuing from today, but I can tell you that God can take you out of the fire. You may be careening down a cliff like I was and ready to crash into certain doom; well, God is ready and right there to pull you off of that out of control bike. God may even have you in that fire so that you will call out to Him. Wherever you are or whatever situation you find yourself, understand this, God wants to rescue you from the fire that is going on around you. Call on Him today. May the words of Paul bring you hope today, “And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us” (2 Corinthians 1:10 NLT).

Naaman

Lesson Ten | Devotion #1: Naaman
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

The world changer we are going to look at today is a pretty obscure character found in 2 Kings; his name is Naaman. Naaman is described as a great man, who had high favor in the kingdom. He was also a mighty warrior and had great victories, but had a huge weakness; he had the disease of leprosy. According to webmd.com, “leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around the body. The disease has been around since ancient times, often surrounded by terrifying, negative stigmas and tales of leprosy patients being shunned as outcasts. Outbreaks of leprosy have effected, and panicked, people on every continent.” At the very least, if you do not get anything else out of this devotion, you learned some new medical information.

Naaman heard that the God of Israel could possibly heal him of this horrific disease, so he received permission from his king and went on his way. He came to the prophet Elisha’s house and Elisha sent this message, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). The Bible tells us that Naaman responded in anger and refused to follow the instructions, but his servants pleaded with him. So, he followed the words of Elisha and went as instructed to the Jordan. 2 King 5:14 tells us, “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”  Naaman was healed in his weakness by the one true God. He returned to Elisha and said to him in verse 15, ‘“Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.”

This story brings 2 Corinthians 12:10 to mind, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I know what you are thinking, yes this is Paul talking about his thorn in the flesh and begging God to take it away three times, but God decided not to do it. The context is someone being weak and staying weak to show their inherent need for Christ to be strong in their life. Yet, I want to give you a different angle. How about the fact that in Naaman’s weakness, he was able to be made strong and healed by finding the one true God? Naaman worshiped other gods before being healed and committing his life to God. However, in his weakness, he realized his need for God and was made strong by God in those weaknesses. Maybe today you are dealing with some sort of weakness, and God is just waiting for you to bring it to Him. Is it possible you are refusing to bring it to God and want to handle it on your own? God wants to make us strong and whole, not on our own, but in Him and through Him.

I am sure you have heard the statement, “God will never give us anything we can’t handle.” Well, I am here today to tell you He will. This statement is not in the Bible and is contrary to the main message of the Bible, WE NEED HIM IN ALL THINGS! You see, we cannot handle this life without Him. We cannot deal with our sin without Him. We cannot handle our marriages without Him. We cannot handle our kids without Him. We cannot handle anything without Him. Naaman found his desperate need for God, in his weakness. As we walk through our lives, we are weak and need the power of God in all things. Today may we realize our need for God in our weakness so that He will make us strong!

Caleb

Lesson Five | Devotion #2: Caleb
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

Today we look at the world changer, Caleb. I am honored to be named after such a great man. However, I can tell you it has not always been like that. People have always struggled to pronounce my name. I can remember being introduced as a starter in high school basketball as “Kayleeb Combs,” and I always thought, “IT IS NOT THAT HARD TO PRONOUNCE!” Time and time again I would get called all the bizarre names and pronunciations, and I thought to myself, “Why can’t I have a name that everyone would know?” I even had a man when I was younger tell me the definition for my name in Hebrew was “Dog.” Really? Dog. Well, that makes a struggling teenage boy feel great. Come on Mom and Dad, you named me dog! It was not until I was older and realized how special my namesake was. The name Caleb actually means “whole hearted” in Hebrew, and this definition could not be more perfect for the man Caleb in the Old Testament. Joshua 14:8 tells us that he wholly followed the Lord. Caleb was a dreamer and a fighter. In Numbers 13 he stood in front of the people and declared, “we can conquer the land God has promised us!” He did not know how to do anything half-hearted. There are several stories we could talk about Caleb being “whole hearted” from being in a spy ring to fighting many battles, but today we are going to look at one of his last whole hearted battles.

The Israelites were promised the land of Canaan by God; the only problem was that there were inhabitants in that land. As a forty-year-old, Caleb was ready to fight for that land. However, due to the lack of faith by his peers and fellow Israelites he was not able to enter into the land until he was eighty years old. Though he experienced pain and hurt in the wilderness, he did not lose his “whole hearted” fire to follow God’s plan in his life. When he was finally able to enter into the land at the age of eighty, he had one thing on his mind, conquer. He had declared to the people forty years earlier that they would conquer the land that God has promised, and now he was going to get that opportunity. Joshua 14:9-12 gives an account of a fired up Caleb.

“And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

Caleb, now in his mid 80’s was ready to take on an enemy that had pestered and killed Israelites for the last forty years because he knew one thing, he was a conqueror. Caleb lived a whole hearted life following God in faith knowing that he would conquer his obstacles through the power and promise of God. Romans 8:27 describes you as “more than a conqueror” and nothing can get between you and the plan of God. Are you following Jesus whole heartedly like Caleb? Caleb set a great example for us as followers of Christ that no matter the situation, and when circumstances do not seem to be fair, continue to run after the plan of God “whole heartedly.” I am thankful to have such a great namesake, and may people say of me, “He followed God whole heartedly!”

Enoch

Lesson One | Devotion #5: Enoch
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

The world changer we are going to look at today is Enoch. Enoch was the great grandfather of Noah and is in the line of Jesus. So what makes Enoch a world changer? There are not a lot of examples, events, or things we can look at in the life of Enoch, but what we do have shows us that Enoch had an incredible relationship with God. Hebrews 11:5-6 says, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” The phrase I want you to focus on is “he was commended as having pleased God.” This phrase has incredible meaning. Enoch lived a life that pleased God and others saw that he pleased God. The word commended means “to present, mention, or praise as worthy of confidence or notice” (dictionary.com). So what appearance would this have? How can someone gain the attention of not only the world around him but the Almighty God? The answer is simply given in the above verse – Faith.

Hebrews 11:1-2 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Enoch had a faith that others noticed and they even talked about it. I am not sure if that faith consisted of occurrences in his life or simply the way he lived his everyday life, each day honoring God and trusting in His plan. Whatever it was, his faith pleased God. That is something for which I want to be known! I want to trust God so much that people around me and most importantly God Himself looks at me and says, “I am pleased with your trust in Me.” I wish I could say that of myself. So many times I struggle in trusting God’s plan or purpose for my life. So often we can become control freaks who are not willing to trust in God’s plan. I heard a pastor say this one time and it has stuck with me, “I wish faith was as easy to live as it is easy to preach.” Faith like Enoch’s is a total trust and hope in the perfect plan of God the Father. This is a built relationship and a constant refinement of our lives.

Enoch lived to be 365 years old, which is way younger than most of his peers who were living to be around 900 years old. However, Enoch did not die. He had such a special relationship with God that God took him straight to Heaven.  The book of Genesis gives us a great way to continue shaping and strengthening our faith with the story of Enoch. It says in chapter 5, “Enoch walked with God.” May we have the faith like Enoch that pleases God and others around to see. Remember to trust in the One that we can have hope in every day and to always walk with Him.



Office: 8393 E. Holly Rd. Holly, MI 48442 | 248.328.0490 | info@theriverchurch.cc

Copyright © 2016 The River Church. All Rights Reserved.