Devotions

Author Archives: Josh Combs

Joshua

Lesson Five | Devotion #1: Joshua
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” Numbers 14:6

For obvious reasons (I was named after him), Joshua has always been one of my favorite Bible characters. His story starts with birth into slavery in Egypt and ends with a victorious “retirement” in the Promise Land. He was a son, national leader, Moses’ assistant and successor, and a spy.

From within the twelve families of Israel, a leader was chosen to go and spy out the Promised Land. After 40 days, those twelve men returned with stunning reports about the land and the natural wonders they found there. Ten of those men quickly told of giants, walls, and insurmountable obstacles that would keep the people of God from success. Two of those spies attempted to rise above the fear and anxiety that was quickly getting out of hand. Joshua and Caleb were those two spies. But the people refused to listen, and the judgment of God would soon fall upon them. Within this national moment of tragedy, a unique and powerful partnership was born. Over the next 50 plus years, Caleb and Joshua would be living reminders to the people of the horrors of Egypt, the glory of God at Mt. Sinai, and the reality of the Promised Land that was before them. Their partnership and faithfulness to the Lord would inspire the people of God to cross over the Jordan and into God’s promise. Caleb, even as an old man, never seemed to lose his desire to fight for the Lord (Joshua 14:10-12), while Joshua, surely reminded of his time on the mountain near the glory of God (Exodus 24:13), kept drawing the people back to the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15). These two men were undoubtedly world changers, but the key is that they did not do it alone. A partnership is a key to changing the world.

In a book I read several years ago by Michael Eisner called “Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed,” I began to realize what the Scripture was saying. While Eisner says, “Working together is much better than working alone…” the Scripture simply says, “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Lone Rangers never change the world. A single individual may get the credit, but they never accomplished their goals alone (other than Christ on the cross).

I am extremely grateful for some amazing partnerships in my life, such as my wife, fellow staff and Pastors, and others. But this story in Numbers always brings me back to my brother Caleb. As teenage boys, we ran a lawn business together, and now years later we get the privilege of serving the Lord together. We do not always agree, but our partnership and friendship, ironically in the same way as our biblical namesakes, seeks to point folks to horrors of sin, the glory of God at Mt. Calvary, and the reality of the Promised Land that is before us.

Aaron

Lesson Four | Devotion #2: Aaron
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

“What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” Exodus 32:21

The relational and leadership dynamics between the great leader Moses and his brother Aaron (the first high priest) are fascinating. As Moses stood before the burning bush, God ordained him as the deliverer of Israel, the hand of God’s power, and the mouthpiece of God’s holy words. Yet, Moses, a man who the Scripture calls “…mighty in his words and deeds…” (Acts 7:22), trembles at the thought of speaking before tyrannical Pharaoh. So God, on the back side of the Sinai desert, righteously rebukes this trembling shepherd, and then graciously offers the speaking assistance of Moses’ brother, Aaron.

From that point, Aaron and Moses are a two man, tag team act that God uses to gloriously bring the Egyptian empire to its knees. Plagues would rain down, God’s glory would be seen, and standing in the middle of this catastrophe and rescue mission were two brothers. When hard-hearted Pharaoh finally relented, Moses and Aaron led the people across a parted Red Sea to the base of Mount Sinai. Moses ascended the mountain with his servant Joshua, where God gave Moses the law and the structure for Jewish society. But while Moses was away, the people panicked and Aaron led them to nearly be annihilated.

Pressured by the impatient Israelites, Aaron led the effort to assemble gold that he would fashion into the image of a golden calf. He declared that the following day they would celebrate and worship this image and praise it for the exodus from Israel (Keep in mind that while they worshiped a golden calf of their making, God’s glory was currently burning on top of Mount Sinai in such a dazzling display that everyone could still see). When the following day came, the noise of celebration reached the ears of Moses and the Lord. Disgusted, the Lord moved to destroy Israel for their blasphemy. One man stood between the angry holy God of Heaven and the people. It was Moses.

Aaron, however, had not interceded for the people but had unwittingly led them to the brink of disaster. Moses confronts his brother, “‘What did this people do to you,’ Moses asks, ‘that you have brought such a great sin upon them?’” (Exodus 32:21). Of course, the answer had very little to do with the pressure of the people and significantly more to do with the weakness of Aaron. He could not stand for the Lord, his brother, or even oppose the people for their safety and well-being. Aaron would repent and stand with the Lord, but the cost of his poor, idolatrous leadership was the loss of 3,000 men’s lives.

What kind of leader are you? Are you willing to stand for the Lord and hold to His holy standards? When opposed by others, do you stand firm? Most importantly, when you fail as a leader, do you repent, acknowledge the failure and then change?

Abel

Lesson One | Devotion #2: Abel
Joshua Combs | Lead Pastor

Hebrews 11:4 ends with “…he stills speaks.”

The words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 23 must have stung and angered even the hardest hearted Pharisees. In what was the “final showdown” between the religious, hypocritical managers of the temple, Jesus preached His harshest sermon to date. The sermon was both a blistering attack on the Pharisees and the hypocritical ritual that had overtaken Judaism. Known by many modern commentators as “The Seven Woes,” Jesus stood in the temple and pulled back the curtain on the Pharisees religion and revealed their godless and loveless hearts. Seven times Jesus calls them hypocrites and brings to light a different charge in which they were guilty. Nearing the end of His sermon and just before the Lord’s final exit from the temple and subsequent rejection of Israel, Jesus indicts the Pharisees as the persecutors and murderers of God’s righteous servants. In doing so, He shows us and honors Abel as the world’s first martyr.

Abel’s story is given to us in Genesis chapter 4. The institution of sacrifice was given by the Lord to Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the Garden and then presumably given to their children. Two sons of Adam and Eve brought sacrifices to the Lord. Cain, Abel’s brother, brought a sacrifice to the Lord that was not accepted, while Abel brought a sacrifice to the Lord that was honored and acceptable. In a brooding temper tantrum that grew into a murderous rage, Cain killed his brother Abel. Abel was a righteous, worshipper of God. It was a testimony to the glory of God demonstrated through his faithfulness in following God’s sacrificial principles.

The writer of Hebrews, following Jesus’ lead, continues elucidating the legacy of Abel. The Scripture says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel, though ancient in history, still speaks. His righteous blood declares the truth that faithful and obedient followers of God will be persecuted. Abel is more than just a follower; he is a type of Christ. In Genesis chapter 4, Abel is righteous and is unjustly killed by the angry Cain. Cain offered to God a sacrifice of works, hoping to impress a Holy God with his abilities. The similarities are startlingly clear to Jesus, who was innocent, yet hated and ultimately murdered by the self-righteous “Cains” of His day, known as the Pharisees.

Abel’s story is certainly old, but his legacy of obedience, martyrdom, and faith “still speaks.” The truth and challenge are to examine what message our life declares to the world. What is the legacy of your life? If your life were to end today, what would the lasting legacy be? What would, though passed into eternity, your life speak?

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



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