Devotions

Author Archives: Sierra Combs

Elizabeth

Lesson Ten | Devotion #6: Elizabeth
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

Righteous. Blameless. Barren. One of these words is not like the other, especially in biblical times. But, they were the words used to describe a woman named Elizabeth.

Luke 1:5-7 says, “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.”

In Elizabeth’s day and age, there was perhaps no greater shame for a married woman than being unable to bare a child. Whether true or not, being barren was often considered a curse or a result of some not so righteous living. It must have been difficult for her and her husband, not just because they longed for a child, but because their reputations were probably often questioned. They were already set apart as descendants of Aaron and members of the priesthood (Elizabeth, the daughter of a long line of priests and Zechariah, a priest himself). They had the “godly” credentials on paper, but the lack of children in their advanced age probably suggested the lack of favor from God.

Are you not glad that things are not always as they appear? 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that “the Lord sees not as man sees…the Lord looks on the heart.” Elizabeth had a righteous heart, “walking blamelessly in all commandments of the Lord.” While she must have known the stigma that she carried, she lived her life to please God, not men. She could have easily become angry with Him, knowing that she was doing everything right and yet she still was stuck in a hopeless situation. Instead of questioning why, Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed. They probably prayed for decades. It was all they could do. So many things in life are out of our control, but we can rest in the complete assurance that we have a mighty God who cradles our lives in His hands. While we may never know why and when, God has a plan.

His plan for Elizabeth was a great one. Luke 1:13-17 tells us that the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth were answered and that they would soon be given a son whose name would be called John, and that they would “have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will…make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Their son would be John the Baptist, a man that had been prophesied centuries beforehand by the prophet Malachi. A man whose mission would be to prepare the way of the Messiah Jesus Christ who would be born to Elizabeth’s cousin Mary just months later! Matthew 11:11 says, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” It was by no coincidence that God chose Elizabeth to be his mother in that specific place in time. She was faithful, righteous, and obedient. Coming from a long line of priests, she would have known God’s Word and how to raise a child in the ways of the Lord. She was the perfect woman for the job, and God blessed her.

Elizabeth lived a good portion of her life in what seemed like a hopeless situation, but God had great plans for her, in HIS perfect time. Likewise, God has great plans for you! If you are struggling, feeling like God has forgotten you or left you alone in difficult circumstances, do not lose hope! Live faithfully, be patient, and pray, as Elizabeth did. Your time may be coming soon. Our God is the God of the impossible!

Sarah

Lesson One | Devotion #6: Sarah
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

If you ever want to be inspired and encouraged in your faith, Hebrews chapter 11 is a great place to start. This chapter, also known as the “Faith Hall of Fame,” is all about some of the Bible’s all-star characters – men and women known for their faith despite their crazy circumstances. The first woman mentioned in this chapter is Sarah, wife of Abraham. Her story is found mainly in Genesis chapters 12-25, but she is mentioned several more times throughout the Old and New Testament. She is mentioned more than any other woman in Scripture and is the only woman in the Bible to have her name changed by God – from Sarai to Sarah, which means “princess.” God said, “I will bless her and will surely give you [Abraham] a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her” (Genesis 17:16 NIV). Sounds like a woman who could change the world!

Now Abraham and Sarah loved God, and they trusted Him. God had proven faithful to them before, but the promise of a child was harder to grasp for Sarah because she was barren for many years, and she was already getting up there in age. I can only imagine the pain, sadness, and shame she must have felt not to be able to give her husband an heir, let alone the pressure she must have felt due to this promise! God said He would give her a son and yet the clock was ticking and nothing was happening. It was out of her control, and she was desperate. She was so desperate that she took matters into her own hands and gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to her husband so that they could have a child through her. I find it interesting that a woman who is famous for her faith is also famous for being a control freak – two opposing character traits. But how often do we tell God that we trust Him, and yet as soon as something does not go our way on our timetable we try and take matters into our own hands? How often does that work out? For Sarah, it did not. This decision did result in a child, but not the child God had promised, and in the end, it just created a gigantic mess. It brought more pain, more shame, and more sadness.

Luckily for Sarah, God is not one who breaks His promises. Years went by, and again God promised Sarah a son. She was at the ripe old age of 90. When Sarah heard this, she laughed in disbelief, but God responded with words that we should always remember, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) Sarah’s doubtful laugh was soon replaced with the laugh of delight when her son Issac was born. “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man [Abraham], and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.” Hebrews 11:11-12 (NIV)

Sarah was a remarkable woman. Despite her shortcomings and because of her faith, God used her to change the world. She would be the mother to the entire Jewish race, the nation of Israel. From her line would come nations, kings, and eventually the King of Kings Himself, Jesus Christ.

Joseph

Delivery Man • Joseph
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

I love a good story, and one of my very favorites in the Bible is the story of Joseph. If you grew up in the church, you have most likely heard of him. He was the young boy with the colorful coat. It was given to him by his father Jacob, or Israel because God changed his name. This did not sit well with his brothers (he had 11 of them) because they saw the intense love that their father had for Joseph and were extremely jealous of him. They were so jealous that they threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave to some guys heading for Egypt. This is a riveting story! I encourage you to read it this week for yourself in Genesis chapters 37-50. Joseph finds himself as a slave in Egypt, but because of his gifts, wisdom, and God’s blessing, he works his way up in society. This certainly was not by accident; God had this plan for Joseph the whole time. At one point, God’s plan had Joseph living in comfort and success, like when he found himself in charge of a very prominent household in Egypt. Just when things started getting good, God’s plan landed Joseph in prison for two years for a crime he did not commit. However, God was always working in and through Joseph’s life, and regardless of his circumstances, Joseph remained a godly man of great integrity. God blessed him and used his hardships for a purpose, which eventually led to him becoming the second most important man in all of Egypt, second to Pharaoh himself.

Joseph had always been a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. It is one of the reasons his brothers hated him so much. It is also how he got connected to Pharaoh. Because of this God-given gift, Joseph was able to warn Pharaoh of an upcoming famine that would affect all of Egypt and beyond. Joseph knew he had some time and made provisions over all the land to store food in the time of abundance. When the famine eventually came, because of Joseph’s quick thinking and good managing skills, there was enough food for not just all of Egypt, but the surrounding lands as well. It becomes interesting who was included in those surrounding areas, but the very brothers that sent him to Egypt in the first place. I can only imagine how Joseph must have felt. The last time he saw them was when he was looking up from a pit or looking back at them as he was taken off as a slave. They hated him and never wanted to see him again. All these years later, they meet again, with Joseph having complete control over their lives and their futures. Most would have had the brothers killed on the spot, or at least turned them away. Instead, Joseph showed them mercy and grace, “So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near to me, please…I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for … God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:4-7). Chapter 50 verses 20-21 (NIV) continue the story of forgiveness, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” Not only did Joseph provide food for his brothers, but he also moved the entire family to Egypt and provided them with the best land in all the region. While Joseph’s brothers were afraid he would seek revenge for what they had done, Joseph recognized God’s sovereign plan to use him to deliver His people, the young nation of Israel.

It is good to do a little recap on Joseph. He was a shepherd to his father’s sheep. He was loved deeply by his father, and despised by his brothers and others who wanted to harm him. He was sold for the price of a slave. He was tempted, falsely accused, and bound in chains. Life was difficult, and he suffered greatly, but he overcame and was exalted to the second highest position, seated at the right hand of the king. He forgave those who wronged him and delivered his people from death. Does it sound familiar? Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I love the story of Joseph is because it is a beautiful foreshadowing of another that would come. While Joseph was a deliverer, Jesus is “the” Deliverer. He was also a shepherd to His Father’s sheep. He was loved deeply by the Father, and despised by His people. He was sold for the price of a slave, tempted, falsely accused, and bound in chains. His life was difficult, and He suffered greatly. However, He overcame and was exalted to the highest place, seated at the right hand of the Father. If we accept Him as our Savior, He forgives us and delivers us from eternal death and separation from Him. That is quite a delivery! Thank you, Jesus, for Your grace and mercy!

Train Up a Child

Planting • Train Up a Child
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

If you are a Bible reading person who has ever raised a child, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this verse. Perhaps you have it memorized or painted on signs in your home. Some of you might quote it daily or if you are extreme maybe even have it tattooed on your arm so that you can be reminded of it at all times. Why? Because raising children is hard work. It is gut wrenchingly hard work. Sure, kids are amazing. The joys and rewards of raising them are pretty unbeatable. But it is hard! While being a parent is one of the greatest blessings God has given us, it is also one of our greatest responsibilities.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.” What does this mean? According to the dictionary, to train means “to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior by discipline and instruction.” I think of Olympic level athletes and how they got to their level of success. They were not just born superstars, they had to go through years and even decades of hard work and training to reach their goals. Training is an important and necessary part of life, and it is more than just teaching. When we train our kids, we are molding and shaping their hearts into who we intend them to be, and we are called to start doing that from the very beginning. So how can and how should we train our children? I first should note that even when we are not intentionally training our children, they are still being trained. For example, by failing to discipline them, we teach them that they can get away with doing whatever they want. By failing to teach them God’s Word, they learn that what God says is not that important. That is not good training!

We need to actively and intentionally dedicate the time and care into training up our children in the “way” they should go. What is the way? Better yet, Who is the way? In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Teaching our children about Jesus and showing them how to live godly lives is the best kind of training we can give our kids. Even Moses stressed the importance of teaching God’s commandments when he told the Israelites to “repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 NLT). If we want our children to follow God, we must live our lives with Him at the very center and as the focus. I encourage you to be in the Word with your children. Pray with them, talk about what God wants to do in their lives. God has given you an extremely important role and responsibility! Do not waste it!

The second half of the verse is probably the part that people want to cling to the most. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The second half of this verse is the part that makes a lot of people feel good and safe. But as much as I wish this were an absolute promise and perfect formula given by God, it is not a foolproof plan. Like the rest of the Proverbs, this is just another general truth written by a wise man. The fact is that while we will be held accountable to God for what we do or do not do in the early years of our children’s lives, eventually that responsibility shifts over to them. As a mom, I want nothing more than to see my kids become godly individuals who make great choices and do incredible things for God. We can train them, teach them, pray for them, and hope beyond hopes that they become these people, but we cannot make that happen. That is up to them. In the meantime, let us continue to be heart shapers, teaching and training our children in the way of the Lord and giving thanks to the Father for passionately pursuing them every single day.



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