Devotions

Author Archives: Holly Wells

Sapphira

Lesson Fifteen | Devotion #6: Sapphira
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

Let’s Be Honest

The account of Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts chapter 5 is sure to instantly increase your reverence for the Lord. It is important for us to remember that it takes place during the formative days of the early church. Here is a quick fly over. The first chapter of Acts opens with Jesus giving His final words and promising the Holy Spirit before ascending to Heaven. Then, the disciples and other believers meet in the upper room, dedicate themselves to prayer, and choose Matthias to replace Judas as the twelfth disciple. Acts chapter 2 takes us to the day of Pentecost, where the believers were together when the Holy Spirit fell upon them, they began speaking in other languages, and Peter preached his first sermon exhorting the crowd to repent and be baptized which led to a total of 3,000 conversions. Then, this newly established, first church, devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, in food and prayer, and they had all things in common. They sold their possessions and shared what they had with those who were in need within the household of faith. They had generous hearts, worshiped God, had favor with one another, and God added to those who were being saved. Acts chapter 3 opens with Peter healing a lame man at the gates of the temple and preached another powerful message of repentance and forgiveness found only in Jesus. By this point, the church was 5,000 strong, but then Peter and John were arrested and had to appear before the high council (Acts 4:1-22). After they were released, they went back to the other believers and prayed, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:31-32). Finally, Acts chapter 4 concludes that those who had land or homes sold them and brought the proceeds to the apostles where it was distributed to anyone in need. This was the early church. These believers were united in heart and mind as well as fellowship and teaching. These believers were pure in love and dedication to each other and the Lord. It was God who established His church and desired to protect it in its infancy from the hypocrisy that soon followed.

Sapphira followed her husband’s lead, Ananias, into a decision that would end their lives. They gave into the fleshly desire of praise and appearance over reality. They pretended to be more dedicated and spiritual than they were. They sought to have others think more highly of them than the truth they hid (or so they thought). What did they do? Ananias and Sapphira collaborated on selling their property and withheld some of the profit for themselves, but what is the big deal? They intentionally allowed the church to assume they donated all the money received as an act of surrendering their resources to Jesus.

Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, first called out Ananias, apart from his wife, and he died instantly. About three hours later, Sapphira is on the scene, not knowing what happened with Ananias, and Peter confronted her saying (Acts 5:8-11), “‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ‘Yes for so much.’” He called her out by asking, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Then, Peter pronounced her death, and she immediately died “and great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” They did not just lie to Peter, but ultimately, they lied to God, and He exposed their hypocrisy. They conspired to receive praise from the church, but instead, their scheming led them to sin and ultimately death. In God’s holiness and righteousness, He demonstrated His deep hate for sin and hypocrisy. Further, the dramatic deaths of Ananias and Sapphira served to purify and warn the church (then and now) that hypocrisy and dishonesty were not (and will not) be tolerated among His church.

So, how is their story relevant in the church today? While it always comes more naturally to identify shortcomings, character flaws, and sin in others, let us instead focus on evaluating ourselves, acknowledging and dealing with the log stuck in our eye, according to Scripture and before the Lord. Can we just be honest? In the quietness of our hearts and before the Lord, can you admit and identify areas in your life where your motivations are ultimately to be seen, esteemed, praised, or chosen by pretending to be someone you are not? Is it about giving more money, leading a ministry, or serving more than anyone so that others will believe you have “arrived?” Maybe instead you are trying to hide areas of sin or dysfunction in your life, so no one finds out. Know that while the true character is seen over time, true intentions are known by the One who matters the most.

Ask the Lord to reveal truth, sin, and genuineness within yourself. Where there are misplaced motivations, ask Him to help you trade the covetous heart for one of contentment, pride for humility, acts for authenticity, and selfishness with servant-mindedness. Focus on being the right person, the person God desires you to be according to His Word, and let Him handle the rest. You are living, loving, and serving for an audience of One. Allow the example of Sapphira be a reminder to you and me that we cannot hide the truth from God, He hates the sin, and He is most concerned with the purity the of His church (Psalm 36:2; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5).

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV).

What does God see when He looks at your heart?

Joanna

Lesson Thirteen | Devotion #6: Joanna
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

What Is Your Response?

Throughout the day, we encounter numerous people through exchanging a glance, smile, nod, or sentiment. Hopefully, somewhere in there we are noticing the overlooked by opening a door for someone that we do not know, expressing gratitude and kindness to a restaurant server, or blessing someone who has had a bad day. Our days are filled with good or bad responses because even a non-response is a response! But take it up a notch, how do we respond to the friend who speaks encouragement or the spouse who continually forgives? What is our response toward the parent who still provides or your pastor who speaks the truth? When we receive and understand the value of these gifts, we likely want to reciprocate with a gift or blessing! Consider the person who never stops laying it all out for you. This person pours out unmerited and undeserved favor, forgives you when the world would rather write you off, restores your life to a greater place than you can imagine, constantly prays for you, teaches you what life is really about, helps you become the person you were designed to be, is with you wherever you go, and always out blesses anything you could ever do for Him. Please do not forget; He proved His love by dying for you. Pause for a moment to think about all that Jesus Christ has done in your life. What is your response?

When we take a glimpse into the life of Joanna, we see her response to Jesus very clearly. Luke 8:1-3 introduces Joanna as the wife of Chuza, the household manager of Herod Antipas, the ruler over Galilee. She lived in Herod’s court in an upscale atmosphere of wealth and worldliness, but interestingly, this affluent woman was healed of some spiritual or physical disease by Jesus. He changed her life!

So, how did Joanna respond? She joined His ranks! She was sold out for Jesus! Joanna was with Jesus, the twelve disciples, and a few other women traveling. Luke 8 records, “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (verse 1). But she wanted to do more for Jesus; so, she did. Joanna supported His ministry out of her means (verse 3), and she was present at Jesus’ resurrection with Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James (Luke 23:55; 24:10). Whether her faith cost her greatly or little in her marriage or Herod’s court is unknown; however, Joanna’s response to Jesus was one of adoration, allegiance, and action. This high-ranking woman became a part of Christ’s intimate circle with fishermen and the poor rather than the rich and powerful. What was God’s response to her determined dedication to His Son? He honored Joanna by making her one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection. It is incredible!

As I ponder Joanna’s example, I see a life that sought to do more for Christ because of what He first did for her. The only possible response for Joanna was to do all she could through every effort and by all means available to be an intimate follower of Jesus, to further His kingdom, to share the Gospel. She was willing to risk it all because she knew what He did for her and she knew who He was. Joanna was uncompromised. Joanna was unwavering. Joanna was unrestrained for the sake of her Savior. Our response to Jesus Christ should reflect the same.

I pray that you are as encouraged and exhorted as I am through Joanna’s example. Run hard, Christian, that you may not look back at the end of your life and regret that you could have followed closer, gave more, and loved greater the One who gave it all for you.

“We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 NKJV

Hannah

Lesson Six | Devotion #6: Hannah
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

“She continued praying before the Lord…” (1 Samuel 1:12)

I love that the Bible is written about people like you and me who are facing all sorts of life challenges and circumstances. Within the pages of Scripture, we can identify with many who are working out their faith with fear and trembling (or sometimes we see a lack of it). We learn about those who have failed through sin, we identify our sin, and we learn how we can receive the forgiveness and redemption offered through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:10, 23; 10:9-10; 1 John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:1). We are encouraged to press on to a higher calling and to lay aside any sin that ensnares us so that we may run our race with endurance as we look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Philippians 2:12; 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2). Throughout the pages of the Bible, we read of endless accounts proving, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV). The bottom line is the Bible is as relevant and relatable today as it was during the dates of its writing. How awesome is God to give us such a timeless gift?

As I dug into the story of Hannah which is found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2, many parallels from this Old Testament story are very evident to present day. Although Hannah did not belong to the genealogical line of Jesus, her prayer to dedicate her son, Samuel, to the Lord was a prophetic song to the Messiah. She lived during a time of great spiritual darkness, yet she stood out as a ray of light through her faith and perseverance as she cherished the messianic hope and held the great expectation of His promise to come. Today, we live in a time that is spiritually cold and where society pushes compromise and tolerance of all things, but true followers of Jesus Christ will hold to biblical truths and principles with great anticipation for His promise to return (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Jesus Christ has always been the One to offer life-saving faith whether during the days of the Old Testament all the way through the present day, and for Hannah she sought Him with an unwavering faith-filled heart.

Hannah’s life demonstrates a deep faith for her coming Savior but also great spiritual commitment, prayerfulness, patience, submission, and motherly love. Through her prayer life, we see her passion and fervency for heavenly things, not earthly things. Her desire to have a son was not for the purpose of self-gratification but rather to give her life to him so that she may give him back to the Lord. Therefore, it was to the Lord that she pleaded. Even through her disappointment and heartache, she remained faithful to Him. In fact, through her frustrations Hannah drew closer to Lord, persisting in prayer, rather than turning away from Him. Hannah had a steadfast faith; she stayed with Him through a broken heart and tear-filled prayers. She allowed her trials to make her a woman of prayer and exemplified what it meant to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Finally, as Hannah brought her petition for a son to the Lord, she was content to leave it with Him. Hannah trusted God to sustain her; she laid her troubles before the Lord with full confidence and assurance He would answer her according to what was best for her.

As we look at the life of Hannah and the virtues she modeled – her fervent faith, her persistent prayer, her unwavering trust, and the cherished hope of her coming Savior – we can be exhorted and encouraged by her example as a Christ follower despite conditions, life, or the world around us may bring. Each of us will experience desires that may not be fulfilled and circumstances that will cause pain. However, the life of Hannah is a true testament that God knows our story from beginning to end, He has a purpose through it all, and trust in the Lord will never be misplaced.

Believe | Who?

Believe | Devotion #1: Who?
Holly Wells | Assistant to Pastor Jim Combs

Do you have to “see it to believe it?” Are you so much of a skeptic that unless you witness something first-hand, there is no way you will accept it or maybe you trust quickly and believe a little too easily? Whether it is the best or the worse infomercials – you might remember the Ginsu Steak Knives, the Snuggie, spray-on hair (really?), the list goes on – somehow, we become captivated by these ideas in theory. With theories in mind, there are top conspiracy theories like JFK’s assassination, Elvis still lives, claims that the world is flat, the government controls the weather, the Beatles never existed, and my favorite, “Siri Can Predict the Apocalypse!” Wow, so Siri now trumps the Bible? (Hint: The answer is found in Matthew 24:36). All silliness aside, we need to consider the source when discerning truth from “junk.” What is your source of determining truth? Is it trusted friends and family, social media, a pastor, the news, and even the Bible? What if all these sources at various times reported a very specific account, something that was going to happen and then later, you found out it happened? The catch is, you were not there to experience it first-hand, so would you believe it?

Shortly after we read about Jesus’ resurrection, we learn about His appearance to one of His disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin) in John 20:24-29. To recount the story, this was not Jesus’ first appearance after His resurrection. In fact, Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Peter, and the Eleven on the first evening all saw and interacted with Jesus before Thomas (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:13-34, John 20:19-25). However, Thomas would not believe their testimonies. He wanted a personal experience to “see it to believe it.” He wanted to touch Jesus’ wounds. He wanted to “place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe” (John 20:25b). Thomas was one of the twelve disciples, so why was it that he would not believe even them? What about the time he spent earlier with Jesus’ as He taught the disciples Old Testament Scriptures that foretold of His life, death, burial, and resurrection?

It was eight days later when Jesus appeared again to the disciples, including Thomas. I wonder how miserable that week of declared unbelief and determined constraints was for him? Jesus demonstrated His care and concern for Thomas and desired to strengthen his faith. After Jesus greeted them, He dealt with Thomas personally. Jesus heard Thomas’ conditions to the disciples earlier; no one had to tell Him. He told him to put his fingers in His wounds, to look at His hands, and to put his hand into His side. Though we may call him “Doubting Thomas,” Jesus did not rebuke him for his doubts but rather his unbelief (John 20:26-27). When Thomas saw Jesus, he no longer needed to touch his Lord’s wounds to believe, seeing Him was enough. Jesus met Thomas where he was and desires to come alongside of us equally. We can be assured we will go through seasons of doubt and struggle, but let us persistently press into our relationship with the Lord through His Word and prayer, by allowing sound teaching and mature believers to encourage us so that through these trials, it will be our faith and endurance that will grow.

Warren Wiersbe wisely observed that interestingly (and sadly), it was not doubt that held Thomas back from believing but rather unbelief itself. Simply defined, “Doubt is often an intellectual problem: We want to believe, but the faith is overwhelmed by problems and questions. Unbelief is a moral problem; we simply will not believe. Unbelief says, ‘I will not believe unless you give me the evidence I ask for!'” Unbelief is a reflection of a hardened heart, not of a searching mind. Finally, though we may wonder who Thomas’ twin was, more importantly, it is to allow the Word to be a mirror into our hearts, allowing it to search us for similar refusals to believe and demands for God to prove Himself to us. May we be honest enough to ask ourselves, “Am I the twin?”

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, KJV



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