Author Archives: Caleb Combs

The Gift Giver

The Gift of Blessings | Devotion #4: The Gift Giver
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

Are you a good gift giver? I view myself as a good gift giver. For me, the key to being a good gift giver is by listening and writing down things so that I will remember when the time comes to choose a gift. I have tried to do this over the years when buying gifts for my wife, Sierra.  However, I can tell you of a time I bought her a “do not buy” gift. You see, no one warned me about the “do not buy” list. It is like buying your wife a nice new vacuum for her birthday or a new set of pots and pans for Christmas. Take it from me guys, do not do it. Do not get sucked into their trick, even if they read this devotion and say they want it. Trust me, do not do it. 

My wife and I started dating in college. I was a sophomore, and she was a freshman at Grace Bible College. It was love at first sight (at least for me). It took me a while to win her over. Gifts in relationships are an important thing, and when you find yourself in a new relationship, there is a lot of pressure, especially on a dumb college guy who has no idea what to buy his girlfriend. Valentine’s Day was coming up, and the pressure began to mount. I had no idea what to buy her. While thinking and agonizing over what to get her, I remembered a conversation we once had. She mentioned that she would like to start working out. Side note: My wife does not work out. She gets in these phases where she gets inspired to work out and says she is going to start but in all our years together, she never actually has. To make things totally unfair, she eats whatever she wants and yet has stayed the same size since high school, eliminating much of the motivation. It must be nice! She got this crazy idea that she was going to become a fitness guru and so I got my own crazy idea. Now that I have been married for over 13 years, I have realized that work out things are on her “Do not buy” list. However, I had no idea of this at the time. So, I decided I would go buy her an exercise outfit for Valentine’s Day. I went to a sporting goods store and spent around $125 on a sweet Nike workout outfit. I got her the matching pants and top and a jacket to go over it, so she would at least look the part even though she had no idea what she was doing (I love you, babe! I probably should not have said that). The day came, and I wrapped the present and gave it to her. I knew instantly that I had made a mistake. The look on her face was a look of horror, followed by the question that no man ever wants to be asked, “You think that I need to work out?” Do not, I repeat, do not answer that question. I am a Combs, and I can talk all day, but that moment left me speechless. Needless to say, I will never get sucked into buying her something on the “do not buy” list again. My gift was far from great, and though it was thought out and prepared, it was a total fail.

 James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” This verse talks about all of the gifts and blessings God gives us. Man, we are so blessed! We are getting ready to celebrate the greatest gift ever given (Jesus Christ) by giving gifts to our loved ones. I know we can get caught up in the giving of these gifts and whether they are great gifts or not so great gifts, but let us never forgot the perfect gift that was given to the world in a small town and in little barn, born to Mary and Joseph. There is no way they could even comprehend the magnitude of how incredibly perfect this gift was. They were blessed by the gift of their first son, but the world was blessed with the Savior of the world. What an incredible gift!

The Making of a Gathering Pastor

Define It | Devotion #6: The Making of a Gathering Pastor
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) 

I have had many “aha” moments in my life when it comes to my walk with Christ. I think one of the most monumental was watching God direct my path in the ways He wanted me to go, once I finally gave in and let Him. In 2006, I was a 22-year-old newly married immature kid who did not know what I was doing with my life. I had just taken a sales job across the country and decided to move with my wife to a place where we knew no one and had no connections to any sort of church. Growing up, we were both church kids to the core. Being extremely involved in the church was a part of our everyday lives. It was who we were. Yet, even though we went to a Bible college (where we should have been spiritually thriving), we both fell out of the church kid lifestyle. Throughout college and the first year of my marriage, I began to backslide in my walk with Christ. I knew that by following my own path, I had lost my way. I knew this move to Florida was bringing me to a crossroads, and I could go one of two ways. Would I make the Christian faith my own, not just something my parents made me do as a kid? Would I make Christ the center of my life and my marriage? I knew I believed in Christ, but would I make Him Lord of my life? The simple answer was yes, of course, that is what I wanted. Yet my actions up to this point did not portray it. I knew that it was time to make a choice. As a control freak, letting God direct my steps was very difficult. I enjoyed the benefits of having Him in my life, but I still wanted that control. So here I was at the crossroads. Would I give my life to God? Would I let Him be real and active in my life? 

Sierra and I looked at many houses throughout the central eastern coast of Florida and ended up settling on a little beach town called Edgewater. I would be traveling for work, so I wanted to be close to the interstate, and my southern California raised wife wanted to be close to the ocean and not too far from Disney. Edgewater seemed to be the perfect fit. When we found a house just a couple miles from the beach, Chick-Fil-A, and a really good Chinese takeout place, we were instantly sold! My wife and I committed to making church apart of our lives again, which we had let slip over our years in college and beyond. We had attended periodically, but truly getting involved in a church was not something we had done. So when we arrived in Florida, it was a commitment we decided to make. We began to acknowledge our need for God in our marriage and understood we could not do it on our own. We tried a little church down the street on our first Sunday and knew right away it was not for us. I began to get discouraged and prayed, “God I am trying to follow you, but you need to help me here. Please show us where to go and lead us to the place where you want us!” All that was left to do was trust. Wow, did He come through in answering that prayer quickly and specifically!  

The following Saturday, I felt an intense and unusual urge to exercise (yes, I realize I need to get this urge more often). Our neighborhood had a clubhouse and gym, so I headed there for the first and maybe the only time in the whole time we lived there. I began to workout and minded my own business. I was not there to talk to anyone, and I was a little annoyed when I saw a lady coming over to start a conversation. Out of the blue, she asked, “Where do you go to church?” At first, I was stunned and then realized I was wearing a Providence Church t-shirt. It was a ministry of a friend of mine in Pontiac, and he always hooked me up with gear to wear. I told her that we had just moved and did not have a church as I went back to my workout. She interrupted me again and said, “You should go to Edgewater Alliance Church, they have a lot of families your age there.” I instantly felt in my heart that God was telling me that this was the place for us and He was leading us there. I later found out that that lady did not even go there. In fact, she was not even a believer! How cool is it that God can use whatever and whoever He wants to deliver a message?! The next day, Sierra and I walked into that church like most visitors do, timid and keeping to ourselves. We enjoyed the service, but what really hooked me was the announcement that today was softball sign up day. Another confirmation that this was the church for me. The service ended, and before we could even exit our row, a lady and her husband came over and asked us if we were new, where we lived, and basically our whole history. She then began to walk us around the auditorium and introduced us to couples. It was horrifying, but I knew it was exactly what God wanted for us (I am forever grateful to you Steve and Michelle for being used by God to connect us!). 

It was like an instant connection with these people. We had dinner with several families during the first week. I started softball, and as it turned out, most of the families we had met on Sunday were on the softball team and invited us to Orlando to go to Universal Studios the following Saturday. By the end of the Universal trip, we had made ten new best friends. God instantly grew us close with our new church family, and through growing close to them, we grew in His Word and as a couple. We began serving in the student ministry, ushering, and hosting a small group. God truly directed our paths to this church. Most of the people we met there have become family and lifelong friends. I can truly say I would not be in ministry today if God had not directed my paths to that gym and then to that church. 

It is amazing to see God direct our paths when we give up the control. We went into this journey not knowing what the future held, but He knew exactly what He was doing. I encourage you today to let go of your past, your failures, and your mistakes, and trust God for your future. Though you may not know what tomorrow will bring, when you place your trust in Him He will prove faithful and direct your path according to His perfect plan.

“The Lord Will Provide” 

Abraham “Sacrifices” Isaac • Devotion #6: “The Lord Will Provide”
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

The story in Genesis chapter 22 is one with which I have always struggled. God had just blessed Abraham and Sarah with a baby when all signs pointed to them being too old. Yet, now God challenged Abraham with the blessing. He told him to take Isaac to Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. Now, this is where I struggle. This seems totally opposite of the character of God. Yet, Abraham was obedient. He took his only son, some supplies, and headed to the mountain. On the way, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the sacrifice?” Abraham responded that God would provide. Several times Isaac asked his father on the journey, and every time the response was the same, “God will provide!” I am not sure if you have children, but if God asked this of me, I am not sure I would have responded the same way Abraham did. I would ask, “Really God? I prayed for years that you would give us a child, and now you want to take him away?” Abraham had to be thinking all of these thoughts, yet his actions showed a resilient faith. When they reached the top of the Moriah, Isaac built the altar and then his father laid him on it. The Bible tells us that when Abraham lifted the knife, God called to him, “Abraham, Abraham, Abraham, don’t lay a hand on Isaac, I have provided the sacrifice.” Just as God said, there was a ram stuck in a bush nearby, and Abraham and Isaac made a sacrifice to God. Genesis 22:14 says, “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide;’ as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’”

This is an incredible story of God’s provision and testing, yet I have always struggled with understanding the desperation in which God put Abraham. Ultimately, it was a calling by God to Abraham for him to trust Him. Recently, I was able to travel to Durban, South Africa to serve at Key of Hope. Key of Hope is a ministry that works with children throughout Durban. It is an incredible ministry, founded and run by Dan and Rachel Smither. Before we went to South Africa, I thought it would be a great idea to bring some supplies. We brought suitcases packed with school supplies to be distributed by Dan and Rachel. I also know how big soccer is there, so I called in a favor. My friend, Caleb Stanko, plays professional soccer in Germany and he has a huge love for missions, and so he provided soccer equipment and jerseys for me to take with us. 

On our first day in South Africa, we dumped all of the bags out in Dan’s office, and he was excited about all of the supplies. That same day the director of his soccer programs came to him with a dilemma. He had spent most of his soccer supply budget on something other than supplies. He came to Dan and explained that his team had been unable to train and even play in games because they had not eaten. You see, most of them barely have enough money to eat once a day, and that was not close to enough nourishment for them to be able to play games or practice. The soccer director decided to use the supply of money to feed them and now was not sure how he was going to supply the needed soccer equipment. In the same response Abraham responded to Isaac, Dan responded, “God will provide!” Dan told him to turn around and see the very equipment he needed had already been provided by God. The young man was absolutely amazed at how real God was and is. 

As I sit typing this devotion, I am challenged by that exact statement, “Do you realize how real God is?” I am ashamed of my unwillingness to trust that God will provide. I want to take control of situations myself and not trust that God will intervene. Maybe you are just like me and are a “control freak.” Or maybe you have no issues in trusting God. I know in the easy situations, I have no problem trusting. But when the rubber meets the road, and our situations turn dire, that is when we truly see the extent of our faith. Do you trust that God will provide? I can say definitively that God will provide! It may not look the way you thought or imagined, but we have a real and active God working for our favor.

Adam’s Role in Sin

The Fall • Devotion #4: Adam’s Role in Sin
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

A few days ago my 9-year-old-son and I had a disagreement. Every morning I wake both of my kids up in the kindest most wonderful way I can imagine. It is with harp music and a nice, smooth, gentle voice. Okay, that is not realistic. I wake them up by turning their light on and ripping their covers off of them, and then I tell them its time to wake up and get ready for school. Just about every morning I remind them that if they want breakfast, they need to get ready and get themselves breakfast. Usually a bowl of cereal or waffles, but something to eat is encouraged because it is the most important meal of the day. Just about every morning, my daughter jumps out of bed, gets dressed, and heads down the stairs because she loves to eat breakfast. On the other hand, my son is the exact opposite. He hates to get up and so he uses the extra ten minutes or so, when he would be eating, to get some extra sleep.

Well, this morning was very similar to most, and Colbie jumped out of bed and headed downstairs for breakfast. Carter stayed in bed and complained about having to get out of bed. I kindly reminded Carter that if he did not get up, he would not have time for breakfast. He said he was not hungry and would skip breakfast, and so I reminded him again that he would not eat until lunchtime at school. If you know my son, he does not have many fat reserves to pull from and so that would be a while before he was able to nourish his tall and skinny frame. Both of my kids finished preparing for school and grabbed their backpacks and headed for the car. As you can imagine, as soon as we pulled out of the driveway to head to school, Carter exclaimed, “I am hungry, can we stop for something on the way?” This may make me a bad parent for sending my kid to school hungry, but I told him no. I explained to him that his decision to not get up affected his ability to be able to eat something before school. He complained about being hungry but knew that I meant it when I said we were not going to stop. We made it to school and I pulled through the parent drop off area, the kids hopped out, and I told them I love them and to have a great day. As the doors shut and the kids began to walk away, I remembered that I forgot to tell Carter that I was picking him up in the afternoon to play golf. So I rolled down my window (okay really just pressed the button because we do not roll windows down anymore) and yelled for Carter to come back to the car. As he walked up to the car I noticed something, Carter had chocolate all over his lips and even on his face. I asked Carter what was on his face and he told me he was hungry, and so he grabbed a candy bar (nice and nutritional) before we left the house. I asked him why he did not ask if he could eat it in the car and he said he knew I would say no. He got caught trying to be sneaky as he disobeyed his father. I told him I would pick him up after school and we would talk about it more then.

As I pulled away, I began to think of this thing called sin. I heard my mother’s voice in my head, “Be sure, your sins will find you out,” a concept taken from the book of Numbers. Sin is an awful thing and has plagued our world ever since the first man, Adam, sinned.

Adam was created and put into this perfect world by God the Father. God placed him in the Garden of Eden to rule the land and animals and even gave him a wife, named Eve. Adam was put in a perfect situation with all that he would ever want and need at his fingertips. He was given only one rule, do not eat from one specific tree. He was tempted and gave in and ate from the tree. He was just like us in the process of sin, and when he got caught he quickly tried to hide. He thought that he could hide from God. Seems silly, but how often do we do things we think we can hide from God?

When God “caught” up to him, Adam tried to blame others by blaming the woman, the serpent, and even God Himself. Ultimately, God had to kick Adam out of the Garden because of this sin, and by Adam’s decision death entered into the world. Romans 5:19 (NKJV) tells us, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” We see Adam’s role in sin entering this world. As a kid, I used to ask the question, “What if Adam would have never sinned, would I be perfect today?”

Well realistically, understanding that Satan is a great deceiver, sin probably would have made its way into the earth. I wish it would not have entered our world, but that is not realistic. However, the second part of that verse is what makes this conversation so exciting. Through one Man’s obedience, we now have hope. Jesus went to the cross to pay for my sins, Adam’s sins, and your sins. Sin is simply disobeying the Father. We fail and mess up every day. It is just like what Carter did on that morning drive to school. However, I am thankful for a God that made way for my sin.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Revelation 21:8

Hell and Heaven | Devotion #4: Revelation 21:8
Caleb Combs| Gathering Pastor

Eternity = Everlasting, infinity, time without end, timelessness, or in the words of Squints Palledorous, “FOR…EV…ER!” This is the most sobering concept in the Christian walk. The Bible is clear that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity with Him. Eternity will be a place like no other, a place not built by the hands of man. It is a place with streets of gold, feasts celebrating the Lamb, and a house or mansion prepared specifically for me by the Master Builder Himself. Heaven will be a place where we celebrate what God has done for us and worship Him. I definitely can not say what every detail will look like, but I can tell you it will be a celebration like no other.  I love this quote from Pastor John McArthur, “Heaven is a realm of unsurpassed joy, unfading glory, undiminished bliss, unlimited delights and unending pleasures.” Sounds awesome!

The other side of the sobering concept is the realization of the alternative place of Heaven – Hell. It is a horrific place. The Bible tells us it is a place of darkness and death, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a place separate from the light of Jesus and absent of all hope.  Revelation 21:8 describes it as a place that burns with fire and sulfur. Some may toss Hell and its description aside as imaginary, but it is a real place, just like Heaven. For those that never receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and never confess their sins, this is the place they will end up in for eternity. I do not say that with pride of happiness, but of fear and desperation knowing that millions of people around the world are heading for a future placed in Hell. I struggle even to type this, knowing that every second someone dies around the world, and they end up in one of two places, eternity with Christ in Heaven or eternity in Hell separated from Christ. There is no middle ground. There are no other options.

Revelation 21:8 tells us, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 

Reading this verse, you may think, “Hey, I have lied. Does that mean I am going to Hell?” Or fill in your sin in place of lying and you and I are doomed to Hell. However, God does not look at us this way. When we are saved we become co-heirs, royal, holy, and children of the Almighty God. The Bible tells us that He has forgiven the sins of the past, present, and future. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” That word reconciliation means to restore, and our relationship with Christ has been restored. We are in good standing with God, not by our works or deeds, but what Jesus did for us on the cross. When God looks at us, He sees that our debt has been paid through Christ, and counts us as righteous. 

You may see yourself as a liar, coward, faithless, sexually immoral, or any of the other sins listed in Revelation 21:8, but if you are a child of God, that is not how He sees you. He views you through the lens of the blood of the Lamb that paid our debt; we are free and have hope for eternity with Him. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a royal priesthood and do not let the enemy tell you differently. You have an assured hope in Heaven. If you do not know Christ or you are not sure, please take this time to cry out to God in your need for Him. If I can personally help you with this, please do not hesitate to ask. There is a Heaven and a Hell, and God has made a way for you to go to Heaven. Will you follow?

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