Devotions

Author Archives: Caleb Combs

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.

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Pastor Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

When thinking about my story and road with Jesus Christ, I can simply describe it as “NOT DESERVED!” So many times God has intervened and directed my paths, and man was I way off track. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understandings and in all your ways He will direct your paths. I have truly found these truths to be evident in my life. I have been blessed with an incredible family. My Dad and Mom are superheroes in the faith. I do not just say that to compliment them, but I truly believe it. Knowing what my parents came from and how they got to the point of being used by God to do incredible things, I just stand back in awe of how incredible God is. They both have a passion for God and His people and would fight all of Hell to try and reach just one more person. They raised my brothers, sister, and me in the church. I am sure you have heard the adage, “Every time the church doors were open we were there.” That was us as a family. Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, Wednesday nights and usually a couple of other days sprinkled in throughout the week. 

It is crazy to think of the incredible things I have been able to see God do. In my own life, the salvation story is much different. I heard many stories of crack addicts coming to Jesus and stopping their addictions only by the power of Jesus. There are miraculous stories of God just stepping into someone’s life and making them new. I can remember thinking to myself, man I wish I had one of “those” stories. It was 1990, and I was 5 1/2 years old. I had to say half because at that age you included halves because if not you lied and just said 6 to round up! At that time, we had a dynamic kids’ ministry (thankful for a church that continues to find children important and puts effort into kids’ ministry).  As the kids’ service was ending, they gave an altar call and asked if anyone wanted to receive Jesus into their heart? I felt the Holy Spirit speaking into my life and a conviction I could not deny. Yes, at just five years old, I felt conviction. The only problem for me is that I was extremely conscious of what people thought of me. We will talk more of this as well go, but it is something I have fought my entire life. SO… I fought off what others thought and raised my hand. A man named Doug Brady came by and took me to the last room on the right, at the end of the hallway and led me to the Lord. To this day, I am blessed to have Doug as a friend. He led me through the sinner’s prayer, and I knew that I needed Jesus to forgive me of my sins. That night I was baptized at Sunday night church by my dad.

On that Spring day, my walk with Jesus began. I can remember lots of details and faces, so make sure you talk to your children about salvation and their need for Jesus. I know with my kids it is easy just to think they are kids and they will figure it out. I am thankful for men and women who constantly helped me see Jesus. Now the Proverbs 3 verses came into effect in my life. Man did I try to walk on my path and lean on my understanding. I constantly worried about what others thought, so I was led astray by things. Far from perfect and being convicted of my sins as a teenager God was constantly working on my behalf. I tended to have a bit of a mouth (ok still working on that), and many times I would have to go to God in repentance of things I said or did. As a teenager, while my uncle Steve was preaching I felt called into ministry, but this something that scared the living daylights out of me! First, my parents were superheroes, and I could never live up to them. Secondly, what would people think? These two huge obstacles were difficult for me to overcome. The enemy constantly threw these things in my face and took me as far away from ministry as I could get.

In high school, I was a pretty good basketball player and had a few colleges looking at me to play at their school. In my senior year, I got an offer to play at a little small Bible college in Grand Rapids, named Grace Bible College. Not knowing God was leading and directing my paths to this “Bible” college, all I wanted to do was play basketball and meet girls. So I committed to going to this college, and in the fall of 2002, I headed off to Grand Rapids, MI. Man, did I make lots of mistakes, but somehow God continued to lead and guide me. Grace (as in God’s unnerved favor) is something I look back and stand amazed at how God showed me favor. I am not sure if it was the many people who tell me that they prayed for me constantly or God just feeling sorry for me, but He continued to bless and lead me. I met this amazing / smoking hot girl when I was a sophomore in college and man did she get lucky (just kidding)! We started dating and ended up getting married between my junior and senior years of college. There are lots of stories where I messed that relationship up and should have lost her as well, yet God constantly worked in my life. I am so thankful for her and helping me become the man I am today.

I guess what I am trying to tell you is that I have been blessed WAY beyond what I deserve. That is my life and my salvation story. I deserved death and separation from God forever. Just as I should not have anything I have in my life, however, God is incredible and saved me! I could sit here and tell you of many more mistakes and many times I ran from God in what I call my “Jonah Journeys,” but each time I ran, God came and got me by putting people in my life that helped steer and direct me, (thank you Kevin Dean, Gabe Marshall, Bob Marshall, Steve and Stacey Shadley, and many others I could spend naming and taking up this whole thing). In summary, Lamentations 3 shows my heart and is something I cling to every day; “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’” I am a walking example of God’s grace and mercy being new every day; man do I need them! I am thankful for the men and women God has placed in my life. From parents and grandparents committed to the work of Jesus Christ, to the people who put up with a dumb kid in his late teens and early twenties; God directed my path and has led me to a place of thankfulness!

Read and Pray

I can remember as a child downstairs at Faith Church in a big block room yelling at the top of my lungs as a 6 year old, “Read your Bible, read your Bible, pray every day, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” The reason I was yelling this was because the boys’ side wanted to be louder than the girls’ side. There was no way I was going to let the girls’ side win this sing-off. Little did I know what this was doing in my life. All these years later, the words of this little song echo in my head. The many mistakes I have made, the struggles I have gone through, and the many times I have gotten to see God do incredible things; yet these simple words are crucial in growing in Christ. It is not simply reading and talking that will create growth (hang on I am going somewhere, so do not throw anything at me before I can explain my point), but the engagement of your heart in the Scriptures and the conversation with the most high God. An open heart reading verses you have read many times, and yet God still speaks in and through them in a miraculous ways. It is sad to say, but I have only started to appreciate the importance of prayer, as I became an adult. It is an open engagement with God. Whether you are driving down the road (keep your eyes open please), walking down the street, on lunch break at work, or simply putting your children to bed, we have been invited, and better yet implored by God to come to Him. Prayer is in incredible thing. So looking at these two “exercises”, we see one major correlation, connecting with God. It is about you opening your eyes, ears, and heart to Christ and inviting Him to speak into your life.

We cannot grow without Christ. Wait let’s hear that again and I am going to make that personal, YOU CANNOT GROW WITHOUT CHRIST. Jesus tells us in the book of John, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The word ‘abide’ there is crucial to understand, better yet abide or hold to. We are to hold to Him on a journey of growth. It is not a sprint and in one day, you will be grown and mature. It is a marathon that we hold to Jesus. Just as we sang as loud as we could in kids’ church, “Read your Bible, read your Bible, pray every day, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow,” we were being taught two basic yet important principles to growing in Christ; study God’s Word and praying continuously. May you seek the Lord daily in all that you do!

 

Caleb Combs
Gathering Pastor



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