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Author Archives: Josh Combs

Sharables – Testimony

Sharables – Testimony
Pastor Josh Combs | Lead Pastor

I am a church rat. A PK (Pastor’s kid for those who do not know the lingo). My Dad became a Youth and Children’s Pastor at a small Fundamental Baptist church about 45 minutes north of Detroit when I was one month old. From there my love affair with what I thought was the church began. I was at “church” Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, special events, and visitation (or soul winning) night. My car seat was put in the front seat of the bus because my mom picked up kids and teens in the inner city of Pontiac. She took me along. As I grew, I was part of Sunday school, AWANA (yup, I have the trophies, patches, and books to prove it), camp groups, mission trips, youth group, Christmas productions, Easter productions, and blah…blah…blah.  I am sure you get the point, even to boredom. I know, I am feeling sick to my stomach just typing this list. I preached my first sermon in first grade to my Christian school and had a few more sermons under my belt before elementary school ended. I started singing towards the end of junior high, so preaching was replaced with “special music.” I was the quintessential church kid. I knew more Scripture than most adults. I did not need a hymn book because I knew most of those too. Now you might be thinking, “Ugh…what a miserable life!” But the truth is, I loved every moment! The “church” was my favorite place to be and the center of my life. I loved the smell of the old building. I loved the events. I loved the potlucks. I loved the whole place. It was my home. I remember the summer between 8th and 9th grade being so concerned that with high school career starting I would not be able to be heavily involved in the “church” building project. This was a major concern in my young life. During high school, I lead Bible studies at my house and my public high school. I coordinated major youth and even church-wide events. I wrote curriculum for elementary camps. I even attended a private Christian school located in a “church” from the time I was three until the end of junior high. I graduated from a Christian college and went to seminary. My life was a beautiful spectacle of churchy-ness. And somewhere in this mess, I got saved.

I do not remember the sermon or even who preached, but in my mind, I can transport myself back to that exact moment. I was standing in the front row with my dad at the close of a Wednesday night revival service. I looked up at my dad, as a just a young boy, and said, “Dad, I need to be saved.” That night, in hindsight, was the true epitome of childlike faith. I knew I was destined to Hell because of my sin, and only Jesus could save me. I was baptized on a Sunday night a few weeks later.

I do not have an exciting or riveting testimony by most standards. I was not addicted to drugs or divorced five times or a professional athlete. My life was not at rock-bottom. I was five years old. But something happened over the next few decades that I am afraid will take the rest of my life to fix. As I meet people now in my role as a Pastor, I am amazed that regardless of the denominational background, so many of us have similar stories. Maybe you do not have the depth of church cred, but you have accumulated incredible amounts of religious baggage that Jesus never intended for you to have. Because of my story of God’s incredible grace, my heart burns with a passion for the religious. For you. The ‘churchy’ people. The holy rollers. The Jesus freaks. The Pharisees. I was not rescued out of an abusive family. My parents are incredible people. I was not rescued out of alcoholism or drug addiction. I was rescued out of religion. I was rescued out of “church.”

The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

This is Paul’s story. He had all of the religious credentials but was empty and hopeless. Then he met Jesus. And that encounter on the road to Damascus changed everything. This is my story. I had all the church credentials but found much of it to be “dung” (Philippians 3:7, KJV).  I am not Paul and am hesitant to even draw this comparison. But I do recognize, that without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, religious credentials mean “jack- squat” (Quoting my favorite motivational speaker). So, here is my mess, my story, which I have heard echoed thousands of times in coffee shops, counseling appointments, and countless other places. I am hoping that Jesus can save you too from “church.”

Warnings and Blessing

“Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:28-32).

As Paul concludes his instructions to the Corinthians concerning the Lord’s Supper, he gives them some extremely serious warnings from the Lord. The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken lightly. However, because some had been flippant and careless with communion, they had become ill, and some even died. Before we go any further, we need to realize that these warnings are still in place for Christ’s church. When we gather to remember Christ’s crucifixion and proclaim the Lord’s death, we are to do so with the utmost humility and seriousness. The church is a joyful place, but the irony of the Scripture is expressed in that we are joyful while at the same time somber over the results of sin and the death of our Lord. Before we partake of the Lord’s Supper, the Scripture, simply saying, “Let a person examine himself….” Not only within the context of the Lord’s Supper but in all aspects of our life should we be examining ourselves.

I remember as a middle and high school student being very frustrated with my parents’ rules. I had a job and for the most part did ok in school. My parents were quite restrictive in certain areas of my life. I will never forget making my case in the laundry room to my Mom one day. The whole premise of my argument was simply, “You should relax on my curfew, because, let’s face it, I’m not like the rest of the kids in my high school…I’m way better. You should feel honored to have me has your child.” Now, of course, I did not exactly articulate my point that clear or boldly, but nonetheless, that was my thesis. Against, the principle of Scripture, I was examining myself in the light of others. The Bible often warns against comparative righteous…meaning that we can always find someone who is “worse” than us to justify how bad we are and then conclude we are kind of awesome.

The whole idea of the Lord’s Supper is an exercise in going to the cross and remembering and proclaiming. Remembering not just how Christ died, but that our sin against God put him there. That should be a very humbling, not prideful, reality. When we “examine” ourselves, we ought not to look around and compare to others, but compare our life to Christ, through the Scripture. It is much easier and less painful to compare to others around us who we deem less godly than we are. However, within the light of the Scripture, we see ourselves, as we really are, broken, sinful, and helpless. When this examination is done at the foot of the cross, we are quickly encouraged and lifted up, because Jesus took all of that and much more on Himself at the Cross.

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor

Remember and Proclaim

A precious part of the church and a sacred moment for every believer had been all but obliterated by the church at Corinth. Paul writes, “…when you come together, it is NOT the Lord’s Supper that you eat.” The church believed that when they were getting together, they were observing the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted by Jesus on the night He was betrayed. However, Paul crushes that assumption, telling that what they were doing was the Lord’s Supper in name only. What they were doing was a horrific, ungodly mess that did not come close to resembling what Jesus intended. Therefore, Paul, who was personally instructed by Jesus, takes them back to that sacred night, just hours before the cross of Calvary. Paul writes:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Jesus had revealed to His disciples that the Passover was a celebration, not just of freedom of Egyptian bondage, but prophetically to show that God would free us from the significantly greater bondage of sin. He took the cup of wine and the bread. He revealed that the cup with a symbol of the new covenant and that the bread was broken signifying that His body would be broken on the cross. There is little doubt that what Jesus revealed must have left the already confused disciples in deep thought. Paul is writing after the cross and the resurrection, giving the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (communion). There are two key words connected to the Lord’s Supper…remember and proclaim.

First, we as believers are always to remember what Jesus did on the cross. We are not to forget the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet. We are to remember the crown of thorns, the beatings, the spear, and the great suffering that the Lord endured. As Christians, we must never forget that Christ suffered, paying the penalty for our sin, and satisfying God’s righteous wrath.

Secondly, we partake of the Lord’s Supper, not only to remember, but also to proclaim. We proclaim that Jesus’ death is the only means of peace with God. We proclaim that Jesus died as a willing and innocent sacrifice. We proclaim that Jesus took our place and that through His death we can receive forgiveness of sins. We proclaim that Jesus paid the price in full.

The Lord’s Supper is a sacred and solemn time for the church to remember the horrific death of Jesus on the cross. We must never take it lightly or even allow it to become just a tradition. The Lord’s Supper must be about remembering and proclaiming.

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor

Rich and Poor

1 Corinthians 11:18-22: “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”

1 Corinthians 33-34: “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another – if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home – so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.”

 The church at Corinth had some serious issues. One of the most difficult and deeply rooted problems they had was class warfare. When the church would get together, the rich would arrive early, while the poor had more difficult schedules, because they had masters (bosses/owners) and many of them were slaves (employees). When the more wealthy members of the church arrived, they would begin to feast. Strangely enough, they would feast on the Lord’s Supper (the Agape as it was sometimes called) and when the poor arrived, nothing would be left for them to enjoy. Paul talked very seriously to them about “divisions” and “factions” within the church. Within the Roman Empire, which Corinth was an important part of, divisions amongst people based on class, wealth, and race were common and for the most part accepted. In our American culture, we speak of upper, middle, and lower classes. We celebrate stories of people rising from, for example, lower class into middle or even upper class. However, in Greco-Roman culture, climbing the ladder into another class was not impossible, but extremely rare.

The serious issue in the church was that cultural norms, which were ungodly, had made their way into God’s church. Rich despised the poor because that was normal in culture. While the poor, coveted the homes, clothing, and even food of the wealthy. However, the Scripture is crystal clear, “…God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34). Meaning, God does not play favorites.

History and culture over the last 2,000 years have certainly changed many facets of our life, yet at the same time, so many things remain the same. In James chapter 2, the half-brother of Jesus pleads with the church writing, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” As we hold our faith in Jesus, we must let go of our prejudices and let Jesus break down the barriers, between rich and poor, slave and free (Galatians 3:28), educated and uneducated, black and white, and every other “class” that society has put into place. Those barriers and socio-economic classes should have NO place in God’s church. We are one, solely because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From time to time, I like to imagine if Jesus were to walk into one of our Gatherings unexpectedly. He would arrive in modern clothes, but nothing fancy. The Bible says He was a man who did not own a home, walked most places, and didn’t on the surface have any attractive qualities (Isaiah 53:2). Would we welcome Him? Would we pass by Him to greet the guy who arrived in nice clothes and a fancy car? In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor

Criticism Celebrated

“But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (1 Corinthians 11:17).

Throughout the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul has had to say some pretty serious things to the church at Corinth. He has addressed major divisions within the church, serious immorality, and will in the coming chapters need to address the disaster that ensues when this church gets together. He begins to talk about the mess of their church meetings here in chapter 11. When most Pastors and leaders would be openly and unreservedly encouraging the church to get together, Paul seems to be putting on the brakes. He openly tells these people, things are worse when you get together. That had to hurt…just a little. As we have noted, this is not the first or last tough criticism that Paul must give to these people whom he loves.

There are times when we all must endure criticism. As a Pastor, I have preached some lame sermons and have made countless dumb decisions over the years. Without fail, I have had to endure difficult meetings, where my decisions and/or sermons are put under a very critical microscope. At first, we may be defensive and reluctant to listen to or heed criticism, but we miss a potentially valuable help for our life.

Criticism, even if it is not constructive, can be extremely helpful. I have received critical letters, emails, phone calls, and voicemails. I have been yelled at in private and in the church lobby with lots of people watching. I have had my love for Jesus and for our church questioned by someone I have upset. Criticism is hard but helpful. Here are a few tips on handling criticism.

  1. Listen.

James 1 says, “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger….” Before you formulate your response, listen closely. Even crazy people say true things occasionally. Between yelling, tears, or ludicrous accusations, listen, do not miss the potential gold nugget of truth.

  1. Confirm the truth before you act or become brokenhearted.

Consider the source. If only one person has this criticism of your life, more than likely it is not true. Deuteronomy 19:15 says, “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any time or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” So before you make a significant change or become overwhelmed with sorrow, confirm with two or three witnesses that the criticism is true.

  1. Thank the person for sharing their concerns.

Always be grateful that someone took the time to share his or her concerns with you. They may have said some untrue things or made wild accusations, but they care enough to share. You may find no support for the criticism, but regardless, be humble enough to begin the conversation assuming you may be wrong.

Every day I pray for God to give me wisdom and discernment (James 1:5). When you confirm that a criticism is valid (discernment), ask the Lord for wisdom on how to change.

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor



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