Devotions

Author Archives: Holly Wells

Incomprehensible

Wonderful Counselor | Devotion #4: Incomprehensible
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

We have all sought counsel from our family, a friend, a mentor, a pastor, or even a co-worker. I also believe that over time we have received advice from sources which has run the gamut from wisdom to destruction. With nearly half of American households seeking therapy these days, we cannot help but wonder, “who are these counselors?” Whether professional or personal, who do we allow to speak into our lives? What or who determines their position? Is it the designations that follow after their name suggesting their level of intellect and qualification that impress you? How do you decide who to trust with your heart, fears, struggles, pain, questions, conflict, and decisions? Do you go to those who will tell you what you want to hear? Will it be worldly advice that will lead you astray with, “As long as you are happy, that is all that matters,” or will it be someone of moral integrity who will give you instruction and truth from the Word of God? 

I do not know about you, but receiving truth – not truth of one’s opinion but truth according to God – is of utmost importance to me. Sometimes receiving God’s truth might hurt because I need correction or rebuke. But despite the pain, embarrassment, or disappointment, I never want anything to come between the Lord and me. God loves me more than anyone ever will, and He demonstrated this by sending Jesus, born of a woman, subject to the law to buy us freedom from the law so that He could adopt us as His children (Galatians 4:4-5).

“The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2 (NKJV)

Jesus is fully God and fully man, holy, and matchless (John 1:14; 10:38; Philippians 2:9). Jesus gave up His divinity to take on humanity (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus was Teacher (Matthew chapter 5), Healer (Matthew 9:1-8), Restorer (John 21:15-19), Provider (John 6:1-14), Defender (John 8:1-11), Giver of Life (John 10:10), and Interceder (Romans 8:34). The list goes on and on! Jesus faced temptations and trials, yet He never wavered and never sinned (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:20-30; Hebrews 4:15). Jesus laid down His life for us (John 3:16-17; 15:13). I have never known anyone greater to trust and walk with me through life!

Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor! Make no mistake of the true meaning of “Wonderful.” Today, we might use awesome, amazing, delightful, or spectacular as common words to describe “wonderful.” But the original Hebrew meaning of “Wonderful” is “incomprehensible” and the original context of “Counselor” refers to a wise king. When we understand the correct meaning of Wonderful Counselor and learn about Him from the Word, not only does it deepen the understanding of Who Jesus is, but it gives us a clearer picture of why we should seek Him above all others. Jesus is the Incomprehensible Wise King!

Spiritual Growth

Grow | Devotion #5: Spiritual Growth
Holly Wells | Assistant to Lead Pastor Jim Combs

Running a marathon was on my bucket list years ago, and it was completed by the time I was twenty years old. I got “the bug” and went on to run my second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and now I think I have done somewhere around ten marathons over the years (I stopped counting). I remember those I have run well and certainly remember those I could have done better. All have been completed. I did most having trained well, maintaining discipline and diet, mostly injury-free, leaving all that I had out on those courses, and while having a good time! Then, there have been those that I was a little too lax in being diligent to put in the work, the time, the effort, the right fuel, and to no surprise, it was a fight to get through those 26.2 miles (and yes, the .2 matters!). 

Race days have included a variety of weather, though mostly the dry heat of Southern California, but my favorite was running in a torrential downpour through the flooded streets of Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. I did not set a personal record that day, but man it was fun! I have finished strong with miles that flew by and crossed the finish line “on time” according to how I trained. But there was one race in particular when I realized that how I felt at a mere six miles should have come much later, like at mile markers 20-22. This would be my worse marathon to-date. I fought for every step and battled with my aching, blistered feet, sore knees, and burning hip joints just to keep moving forward. I fought to hold myself up because my back went out in those earlier miles and I tried not to be overtaken by my increasing irritation. I was completely fatigued, but quitting was never an option (and never will be). Although I finished that day, nothing about it was done well including the days leading up to it. I got out what I put in.

The same applies to our spiritual growth. The depth, the strength, and the maturity reflected in our relationships with God start with us. Someone once told me they were in a backslidden state, and I quickly countered with, “Well, you can front-slide, too!” It is true! We decide if we are moving forward with the Lord, or not. We determine if we are going to or not going to know Him more deeply. We are in control of our dedication to follow, seek, listen, obey, and love Him more. Just as we choose to invest in a new friendship or a relationship and decide how much attention we give our time to learn about that person, the same applies to our pursuit of the Lord. But know this: we are either moving forward or backward with God; we choose. Sure, we can go to church on Sundays, attend a weekly Growth Community, serve in a ministry, event, or gathering, hold a fancy title, and throw out some “Christianese lingo,” but it is the position of our heart that God sees which matters the most (1 Samuel 16:7). 

What are we pursuing in our quiet time or when no one is looking? (See Matthew 6:21). How are we applying His Word when someone is rude or hurts us, gossips, or passes judgment about us, when someone interrupts and inconveniences our day, or when we are met with a mean-spirited or unforgiving heart (or are we harboring the hardened heart and unforgiveness?)? (See Matthew 7:4-5; 18:21-35; Colossians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 3:8-12). What about giving someone what they do not deserve? (See Jude 1:22-23). Do we have a growing burden for the lost, the broken, and the forgotten, the “less thans?” (See Matthew 25:34-40; James 1:27). Do our words and conduct build others up or tear people down? (See Luke 6:45; Proverbs 13:12; Colossians 3:8-10; Hebrews 10:24-25). Do we seek, experience, and respond to God’s conviction in our lives? (See Romans 3:10; Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 John 1:9). Do we ask Him how to pray, do we pray according to our agendas, or is it some repeated script to simply check off a box? (See Matthew 6:5-13; Philippians 4:6-8; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Do our lives increasingly reflect His working and refining? (See Matthew 7:15-20; Jeremiah 17:7-8; James 3:17-18). Can we see proof that though we are not sinless, we are sinning less? (See Ephesians 4:17-32). You know what it is for you.

The bottom line is we are either going to choose to grow in the world, or we will choose to grow in the Lord. No matter how young or old we are in the Lord, none of us have “arrived.” None of us have learned and applied the entire Word of God flawlessly. We all need to seek Him more than we did the day before. We all need to be more intentional rather than on cruise-control. Will we choose to pursue Him more than we pursue the latest fashion, reality T.V. show, the newest video game, relationship, food, hobby, social media, or the time it takes to get ready in the morning? We have no valid excuses. There are tons of resources if you do not know where to start (if you have a Bible, start in the book of John). Holiness does not happen through osmosis; you have to apply yourself. I dare you to invite God into “all” that you do including your quiet time, Bible study, conversations, relationships, driving, fishing, shopping, and running. It is exciting to see what will happen. You have to work; you have to train. What you put into your relationship with God will be reflected by what comes out of it.

“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, NLT

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.



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