Author Archives: Pastor Caleb Combs

Adam’s Role in Sin

The Fall • Devotion #4: Adam’s Role in Sin
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

A few days ago my 9-year-old-son and I had a disagreement. Every morning I wake both of my kids up in the kindest most wonderful way I can imagine. It is with harp music and a nice, smooth, gentle voice. Okay, that is not realistic. I wake them up by turning their light on and ripping their covers off of them, and then I tell them its time to wake up and get ready for school. Just about every morning I remind them that if they want breakfast, they need to get ready and get themselves breakfast. Usually a bowl of cereal or waffles, but something to eat is encouraged because it is the most important meal of the day. Just about every morning, my daughter jumps out of bed, gets dressed, and heads down the stairs because she loves to eat breakfast. On the other hand, my son is the exact opposite. He hates to get up and so he uses the extra ten minutes or so, when he would be eating, to get some extra sleep.

Well, this morning was very similar to most, and Colbie jumped out of bed and headed downstairs for breakfast. Carter stayed in bed and complained about having to get out of bed. I kindly reminded Carter that if he did not get up, he would not have time for breakfast. He said he was not hungry and would skip breakfast, and so I reminded him again that he would not eat until lunchtime at school. If you know my son, he does not have many fat reserves to pull from and so that would be a while before he was able to nourish his tall and skinny frame. Both of my kids finished preparing for school and grabbed their backpacks and headed for the car. As you can imagine, as soon as we pulled out of the driveway to head to school, Carter exclaimed, “I am hungry, can we stop for something on the way?” This may make me a bad parent for sending my kid to school hungry, but I told him no. I explained to him that his decision to not get up affected his ability to be able to eat something before school. He complained about being hungry but knew that I meant it when I said we were not going to stop. We made it to school and I pulled through the parent drop off area, the kids hopped out, and I told them I love them and to have a great day. As the doors shut and the kids began to walk away, I remembered that I forgot to tell Carter that I was picking him up in the afternoon to play golf. So I rolled down my window (okay really just pressed the button because we do not roll windows down anymore) and yelled for Carter to come back to the car. As he walked up to the car I noticed something, Carter had chocolate all over his lips and even on his face. I asked Carter what was on his face and he told me he was hungry, and so he grabbed a candy bar (nice and nutritional) before we left the house. I asked him why he did not ask if he could eat it in the car and he said he knew I would say no. He got caught trying to be sneaky as he disobeyed his father. I told him I would pick him up after school and we would talk about it more then.

As I pulled away, I began to think of this thing called sin. I heard my mother’s voice in my head, “Be sure, your sins will find you out,” a concept taken from the book of Numbers. Sin is an awful thing and has plagued our world ever since the first man, Adam, sinned.

Adam was created and put into this perfect world by God the Father. God placed him in the Garden of Eden to rule the land and animals and even gave him a wife, named Eve. Adam was put in a perfect situation with all that he would ever want and need at his fingertips. He was given only one rule, do not eat from one specific tree. He was tempted and gave in and ate from the tree. He was just like us in the process of sin, and when he got caught he quickly tried to hide. He thought that he could hide from God. Seems silly, but how often do we do things we think we can hide from God?

When God “caught” up to him, Adam tried to blame others by blaming the woman, the serpent, and even God Himself. Ultimately, God had to kick Adam out of the Garden because of this sin, and by Adam’s decision death entered into the world. Romans 5:19 (NKJV) tells us, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” We see Adam’s role in sin entering this world. As a kid, I used to ask the question, “What if Adam would have never sinned, would I be perfect today?”

Well realistically, understanding that Satan is a great deceiver, sin probably would have made its way into the earth. I wish it would not have entered our world, but that is not realistic. However, the second part of that verse is what makes this conversation so exciting. Through one Man’s obedience, we now have hope. Jesus went to the cross to pay for my sins, Adam’s sins, and your sins. Sin is simply disobeying the Father. We fail and mess up every day. It is just like what Carter did on that morning drive to school. However, I am thankful for a God that made way for my sin.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Revelation 21:8

Hell and Heaven | Devotion #4: Revelation 21:8
Caleb Combs| Gathering Pastor

Eternity = Everlasting, infinity, time without end, timelessness, or in the words of Squints Palledorous, “FOR…EV…ER!” This is the most sobering concept in the Christian walk. The Bible is clear that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity with Him. Eternity will be a place like no other, a place not built by the hands of man. It is a place with streets of gold, feasts celebrating the Lamb, and a house or mansion prepared specifically for me by the Master Builder Himself. Heaven will be a place where we celebrate what God has done for us and worship Him. I definitely can not say what every detail will look like, but I can tell you it will be a celebration like no other.  I love this quote from Pastor John McArthur, “Heaven is a realm of unsurpassed joy, unfading glory, undiminished bliss, unlimited delights and unending pleasures.” Sounds awesome!

The other side of the sobering concept is the realization of the alternative place of Heaven – Hell. It is a horrific place. The Bible tells us it is a place of darkness and death, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a place separate from the light of Jesus and absent of all hope.  Revelation 21:8 describes it as a place that burns with fire and sulfur. Some may toss Hell and its description aside as imaginary, but it is a real place, just like Heaven. For those that never receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and never confess their sins, this is the place they will end up in for eternity. I do not say that with pride of happiness, but of fear and desperation knowing that millions of people around the world are heading for a future placed in Hell. I struggle even to type this, knowing that every second someone dies around the world, and they end up in one of two places, eternity with Christ in Heaven or eternity in Hell separated from Christ. There is no middle ground. There are no other options.

Revelation 21:8 tells us, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” 

Reading this verse, you may think, “Hey, I have lied. Does that mean I am going to Hell?” Or fill in your sin in place of lying and you and I are doomed to Hell. However, God does not look at us this way. When we are saved we become co-heirs, royal, holy, and children of the Almighty God. The Bible tells us that He has forgiven the sins of the past, present, and future. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” That word reconciliation means to restore, and our relationship with Christ has been restored. We are in good standing with God, not by our works or deeds, but what Jesus did for us on the cross. When God looks at us, He sees that our debt has been paid through Christ, and counts us as righteous. 

You may see yourself as a liar, coward, faithless, sexually immoral, or any of the other sins listed in Revelation 21:8, but if you are a child of God, that is not how He sees you. He views you through the lens of the blood of the Lamb that paid our debt; we are free and have hope for eternity with Him. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a royal priesthood and do not let the enemy tell you differently. You have an assured hope in Heaven. If you do not know Christ or you are not sure, please take this time to cry out to God in your need for Him. If I can personally help you with this, please do not hesitate to ask. There is a Heaven and a Hell, and God has made a way for you to go to Heaven. Will you follow?

Revelation 22:20-21

The Return of Christ | Devotion #4: Revelation 22:20-21
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor 

Growing up, our youth group went to Hiawatha Youth Camp each summer. I have some incredible memories and friends I keep in touch with to this day made from the weeks on Piot Lake in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One memory I have is of a girl singing a song. Her name was Angela Carpenter, and she sang the most impactful song I had ever heard in my life. The song was by Crystal Lewis and its called, “People get ready…Jesus is Comin.” I remember sitting in the auditorium as a thirteen-year-old boy thinking to myself about this song. I attached the lyrics and encourage you to check it out on YouTube, iTunes, or some other media source.

Lord, I’m ready now
I’m waiting for Your triumphant return
You’re coming so soon
This world has nothing for me
I find my peace and joy solely in You
Only in You
I want the world to see that
You’re alive and living well in me
Let me be a part of the harvest
For the days are few
He’s coming soon

People get ready Jesus is coming
Soon we’ll be going home
People get ready Jesus is coming
To take from the world His own

There will be a day
When we will be divided right and left
For those who know Him
And those who do not know
Those who know Him well
Will meet Him in the air
God is with us
Those who do not know
They will hear “Depart, I knew you not.”
For my friends you see
There will be a day when we’ll be counted
So know Him well, know Him well

People get ready Jesus is coming
Soon we’ll be going home
People get ready Jesus is coming
To take from the world His own

After hearing her sing this song, I can still recall exactly how I felt. The song was dynamic and beautiful, even moving some to tears, but in me, it created a different emotion. It created fear. I felt scared for the return of Christ. The very last words in the Bible, found in Revelation 22: 20-21, tell us that “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” A great message of the return of a Savior should bring comfort and joy, but I did not feel that. I knew Jesus was my Lord and Savior and had committed my life to Him, yet something about His return created fear and anxiety in me. Looking back at this memory, I can now understand why I felt that way (13-year-old boys cannot explain anything!). 2 Peter 3:14 is a great explanation for me. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” That word “diligent” is so convicting because it requires action on my part. It is not required for salvation or entrance into Heaven, but it is a charge to us as believers. Revelation is clear – He is coming back. No man knows the day or the hour for the return of Christ, but we are given clear direction for when He returns – be busy doing His work. As a 13-year-old, I was not busy in the work of Jesus Christ. I liked to live life according to my desires and do my things, and that continued into my twenties. But this verse is an attention grabber. Christ could return tomorrow, and how will He find me? How will He find you?

The words of the song are clear, “people get ready, Jesus is coming.” To the unbeliever, I beg you to get ready by giving your life to Christ. No one is guaranteed tomorrow! To the believer, are you diligently at work for Christ? That does not mean you have to quit your job and move to a foreign country and start preaching (if you are called to this, then do it!). You are called to shine the light of Christ in your workplace, your family, and all those around you. We as followers of Christ have an incredible opportunity to point people to Jesus. There is no need for anxiety or fear when it comes to Christ’s return. Take it from someone who has conquered this feeling. Now, I just want to be found “diligent!” May we live our lives today like He will return tomorrow, knowing that there are millions around the world and across the street that need to hear about Jesus!

John 20:24-29

Jesus Physically Rose Again & Ascension | Devotion #4: John 20:24-29
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

I am an avid sports fan, Okay, sometimes in an unhealthy way, I will watch or play anything. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Israel for a Holy Land experience. One night at the hotel, I found myself watching a game called snooker. It is a version of billiards with some very interesting rules. I googled the rules so I could follow along in the match. Yes, I am that guy. I love the art of competition and sport; it is enthralling. On November 20, 1982, the world experienced one of the greatest plays in the history of sports. It was a college football game between the California Bears and Stanford Cardinals. They were and are still rivals, with each matchup being highly anticipated. The game went back and forth with both teams holding leads in the game. John Elway, the quarterback for Stanford, found himself down two points late in the fourth quarter. He was able to lead his team down the field for a field goal with four seconds left to take the lead and seemingly capture the most important win. The team celebrated because they had just taken down their rival. They poured the Gatorade jug over the head coach and celebrated this incredible victory. However, by rule, there were four seconds left on the clock, and they must kick the ball off to the other team. The announcer, Joe Starkey said, “Only a miracle can save the Bears now!” If you know the situation, you know what happened next. The term “The Play” was coined because the Cal Bears would take the kickoff back for a touchdown. It is one of the craziest plays you will ever see (trust me, if you have not seen it go check it out on YouTube) that included five laterals. The Stanford players, coaches, and even the band came on the field thinking they had won. The California Bears walked away victorious against their greatest rival in one of the biggest turn of events in sports’ history.

This story reminds me of another turn of events in the history of the world, and Cal’s win does not come close to touching it in the level of importance. I am referencing the resurrection and victory of our Savior Jesus Christ. After Jesus died on the cross and paid the debt we owed with His own life; He was put into a tomb. It was a tomb where everyone thought He would stay; His followers even came to put oils and spices on His body. There was no hope; death had won. Jesus’ greatest rival, Satan, began to celebrate his victory. I can just imagine, Satan and his followers celebrating because they had finally defeated Jesus. He was dead, and the story was over. Oh wait, the game was not over. The tomb could not hold Jesus. Death had no victory because Jesus Christ conquered Death, Hell, and the Grave and walked out victorious. When no one else thought there was hope, and the “announcers” said only a miracle can save Him now, that in fact was exactly what happened. It was the greatest comeback in the history of the world, and one I am thankful for every minute of every day.

I mentioned that Jesus’ followers had even given up on Him. It is just like the game between Stanford and Cal. When Stanford seemingly captured the victory in the closing seconds, most fans of Cal began to head home. They “knew” the game was over and there was no hope. The same happened to Jesus’ followers. Many went home dejected and disappointed knowing they had lost. In the days following Jesus’ victory, He would appear to His followers and show them His victory; they were amazed and astonished. One follower, named Thomas was still in disbelief. He saw with his own eyes Satan’s victory and headed home.  

In John 20:24-29 we pick up in the story. “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” Thomas needed to see the victory with His own eyes, and Jesus showed up. The victory Jesus earned is given to us. So may you today truly understand the greatest victory in the history of the world, Jesus Christ! 

Galatians 5:17

Jesus Died for Our Sins | Devotion #4: Galatians 5:17
Caleb Combs | Gathering Pastor

We all remember growing up and watching cartoons. Some of us still enjoy watching them. Remember the cartoon character that comes across a situation where he must decide to do right or wrong? The cartoon then showed us a memorable picture. At that moment, an angel appeared on his right shoulder and began to “influence” him to do right.  Then out of nowhere, a devil appeared on the other shoulder with a deep raspy voice and attempted to convince the character to do wrong. The cartoonist painted a picture with visuals, but also characteristics. The characteristics of the good angel showed him wearing white, put together in appearance, and with a very soft weak voice. The devil, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of the “good” angel. He had horns and wore a red cape, yielded a pitchfork, and had a strong, deep voice. These two characters would argue and battle back and forth for the next few minutes, attempting to convince the cartoon character to go to their side and do what they wanted. This battle, although funny in a cartoon, is a great picture of the innermost beings of every follower of Christ.  

Of course, we do not have two little cartoons that appear on our shoulders every time we need to make a decision, but we have two innate sides that fight for influence in our life every single day. The Bible calls them Spirit (good) and Flesh (bad).  When we are born into the world, we are born into the flesh. Because of Adam’s sin, we are all now born into sin. Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” You see, God created man perfect, but in our failure, we brought the flesh into our lives. Through the cross and blood of Jesus, we gain access to the Spirit. It is only when we repent of our sins and call upon the name of the Lord to be our Savior, that we receive the Spirit in our lives. However, we still battle the flesh. How do we balance the two? Galatians 5:17 tells us, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Although we laugh at the picture drawn in the cartoons, it is a real battle that rages every day inside us. The key to fighting the battle between flesh and spirit is paying attention to which side we are feeding.

We can feed the spirit by reading God’s Word. His Word is our daily bread; it is nourishment to our souls. We need to be constantly growing in His Word to feed the Spirit. We need to spend time with God in prayer, constantly seeking His direction in our lives. The Bible is a perfect blueprint for living in the Spirit. I love the acronym for the Bible, “Believers Instruction Before Leaving Earth.” The more we feed the Spirit in our lives, the more it grows and influences our decisions. However, the same goes for the flesh. The more we feed the flesh, the bigger it gets and the more it influences our decisions. We feed the flesh by ignoring the Bible and its teachings and doing whatever is contrary to what God says. 

As a believer, we have to understand this battle wages inside us, because if you do not realize it, you could be feeding the flesh and block out the spirit in your life. The Apostle Paul warns his listeners in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-19 not to “quench the Spirit.” Man is that a scary thought! I cringe at the thought of blocking out or quenching God’s direction in my life. 

Which are you feeding more? What changes do you need to make to start feeding the Spirit? Have you been feeding the flesh for so long that it has grown so large you cannot even hear the Spirit? Today is the day to seek God’s will and direction in your life and begin feeding the Spirit. You and I need to get to it!

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