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Author Archives: Caleb Combs

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

Jesus Grew

As we continue in our week focused on growth, I could not get this verse out of my head. Luke 2:52 tells us, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” We see the ultimate example of whom we are supposed to strive to be like. This concept amazes me. The almighty God, humbled Himself, came to earth as a man and grew. Now let us look at this breakdown a little more in depth. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Therefore, we know that the God in Him could not grow. However, the man part of Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and with others. A base level question I ask myself is why would the God of the universe come to this earth and put Himself subject to growing in those areas? As crazy as it sounds, Jesus, being fully God, experienced infancy, potty training, and even puberty. He humbled Himself to grow. There we see the one key element to all of growth, humility. You cannot grow unless you humble yourself to let someone or something teach you. Pride will swell up in an area you may feel you know it all, and in that case, you are unable to learn. We always say that Jesus humbled Himself and came to this earth as a man, yet we forget all the practical aspects that come with that. Humility is key to learning.

The areas we see Jesus growing are interesting and challenging to me. Let’s just say that Jesus was a well-rounded student (total understatement by the way). He grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. I picture Jesus being the smartest, coolest, best looking, and strongest kid in school; but that is just my imagination. We know that Jesus humbled Himself to grow in these areas. He grew physically as a human being, and I am sure He fell while trying to figure out how to walk. He grew mentally smarter as a human, which is crazy to try and theologically figure out. We do not have time to talk about that now, but really thinking about that will blow your mind, and that is not the most extreme. He grew spiritually, and the Bible says, “in favor with God.” Now pause and let that sink in a little. The only perfect person grew in His walk with the heavenly Father. MIND BLOWN! However, we see Jesus submitting to the will and plan of God, following it to a ’T.” I can think of Jesus’ prayer in the garden and Him telling the Father, “Not my will but yours.” Lastly, we see Jesus growing socially. We see Jesus as a 12-year-old amazing the teachers in the synagogue with His knowledge and articulation of the Scriptures. Jesus, being the greatest teacher ever to walk on the earth, had thousands of people following Him around to hear what He would say next. To think His social skills were developed over His life is incredible.

Now, we can practically look at our own lives and try to live up to growing in these areas. We will not be perfect, but at least we have a standard to shoot for. We know that Jesus humbled Himself and put Himself under teaching so that He would grow. So, why won’t we? We all need to grow in one area or another. Let’s get honest, we all could grow in all four of these areas: mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. We need to be better husbands, wives, parents, coworkers, grandparents, friends, neighbors, etc.; you fill in the blank for your own life. We need to strive to Grow. Jesus humbled Himself and set a standard for us to live by daily. NOW LETS GROW!

 

Caleb Combs
Gathering Pastor

Growing Pains

I can remember, as a child, having the worst pains in my legs. They would most commonly come when I was laying down in bed or while I slept at night. I would wake up and feel like my legs were in a vice. One instance that I can vividly remember, the wrenching pain was so unbearable, and I felt like I could not walk or move. I yelled out for my dad to come and help me through the pain. He rushed into my room, half-asleep, trying to figure out what was going on. I explained to him what was going on, and he told me that I was experiencing growing pain. I thought to myself, well I am not sure growing is worth all of this pain. The pain in my legs was so brutal; I just wanted it to stop.

When thinking about this in our own walk with Christ, growth is painful. I know a lot of you have gone through a considerable amount of pain in your walk with Christ. The sad part about it is we also know many people who have given up growing in Christ because it was too hard. The enemy does not want you to grow. In fact, Satan wants you to do the opposite of growth, and that is death. We as Christians have been called to grow in Christ but realize this is not going to be easy. Many of you have lost friends, family, jobs, and more because you have decided to grow in your walk with Christ. Others may not be as extreme, and you just miss your favorite weekly television show to come to a growth community or study the Bible. Wherever your situation falls, you must remember one thing; you have an adversary and he does not want you to grow. It will take grit and determination to grow. The difference between physical and spiritual growth is that spiritual growth will not just happen on its own. You will physically grow as you age and for some of us now we are no longer growing up, but growing out.

Spiritual growth takes discipline and time, but the reward is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” As painful as spiritual growth may be in your life, the eternal reward will be much greater than you could ever imagine. So, as you go through the growing pains, do as I did, call on your Father for comfort. He has given freedom to call on His name in all circumstances. I realize, as you work through your growth, you may want to quit at times, but do not. Go to your heavenly Father for encouragement to keep battling to grow in and through Him.

 

Caleb Combs
Gathering Pastor

 



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