Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Josh Combs

I Am: The Good Shepherd • Devotion #6: Preschool Teacher

When David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd,” in what we know as Psalm chapter 23, he was writing as someone who knew both the heart and duty of a shepherd and the love of the heavenly, eternal shepherd. David was not the first famous shepherd, nor the last. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses all had spent long years tending and caring for flocks. This career developed in each of them a deeper and more intimate understanding of God’s caring character. The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, is filled with cultures who would have been very familiar with the ways of shepherding sheep and goats. Jesus would use shepherds and their flocks as main characters in His teaching on multiple occasions to help illustrate profound truths about the Kingdom of God. These stories (parables) would have been relatable to the Lord’s listeners.

While we in our modern culture understand very little of actual shepherding, with some effort we can acquaint ourselves with this ancient profession and therefore enjoy some important and precious insights into the Scripture. Maybe a silly but humorous modern-day equivalent of shepherding would be a preschool teacher. Attention spans are short, snack time is crucial, bathroom breaks are essential, nap time is life or death, messes will be made, watching for wanderers is a necessity, safety is paramount, and keeping the peace between kids (or sheep – I have lost track whether we are talking about preschoolers or sheep or adults for that matter) is a constant battle. Sounds exhausting. Sounds exactly like shepherding.

Shepherding was a 24/7 gig. Like all professions, there were good shepherds and bad shepherds, caring and careless shepherds, adoring shepherds and abusive shepherds, guarding shepherds and gorging shepherds (they would just eat the sheep). 

In John chapter 10, the Apostle John records Jesus, twice, saying, “I am the good shepherd.” The audience of this important teaching includes the religious leaders who were known as “the shepherds of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:2) These men were charged by God to shepherd His people, yet they were not good shepherds. They were (staying within the framework of the sheep and shepherd metaphor) butchering the sheep, using God’s flock for their own devious purposes and satisfaction (See Ezekiel 34:1-10 for God’s anger toward reckless shepherds). Jesus confronted them, declaring Himself as “THE good shepherd.”

The heart of the Lord on multiple occasions broke, seeing “the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Christ in contrast to these predatory and self-centered shepherds, details His care for His flock in John 10:27-28. The Lord declares, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is the good, kind, leading, restoring, protective, present, comforting, nourishing, calming, and soothing Shepherd of Psalm chapter 23. He is the shepherd that “lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 15, 17). 

What is so encouraging about what Jesus says is that all the truths contained in the title “good shepherd” are solidified with the words “I am.” He was, is, and always will be our good shepherd. That is what the present tense of “I am” means. 

The Apostle Peter celebrates the work of Christ on the cross, writing that we, “Were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd…of [our] souls” (1 Peter 2:25). What Christ accomplished on the cross was our rescue from the mouth of a roaring lion and restoration to the flock of “the good shepherd.”

“After Two Whole Years”

Forty | Devotion #5: “After Two Whole Years”
Pastor Joshua Combs

Something was supposed to happen. Joseph was a man to whom lots of things happened that should not have seemed to. He was born the favorite son of his father and declared to be so with the extravagant gift of a coat (robe) of many colors. But Joseph’s life of luxury and privilege would come crashing down. He would be beaten by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of sexual assault, imprisoned, and forgotten. Every time a glimmer of hope shines on him, there is a sudden and dramatic change of circumstances, and a seemingly more destructive storm rocks his life. Hope is hanging but by a thread.

Genesis chapter 41 finds Joseph forgotten in prison with no end in sight. He had become a trustee in the jail, but that responsibility and privilege paled in comparison to being in his father’s house or even a slave at Potiphar’s estate. A glimmer of hope came when he translated a dream for a high ranking official who had been sent to Joseph’s jail. But once that man had been restored to his position, he conveniently forgot his little stint behind bars and the people he met there, including the dream interpreter, Joseph.

The Bible (Genesis 41:1) simply says, “After two whole years…” Time had ticked by, and Joseph must have realized that like his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, someone else had mistreated him. Years would go by with no word from the palace.

The Scripture uses the word “whole.” That is just like God. He does not try us one second longer or shorter than is absolutely necessary. God’s refining process is often compared in scripture to refining gold. Job, in his desperate plea to God, states, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10). We often long for glory, but the pain and trial must always come first. God was not needlessly trying Joseph. God’s plan was working perfectly. God’s timing was perfectly on schedule. We, like Joseph, need to trust the Lord even in the difficult years. They may seem long, but “after” is worth the refinement.

Lift Your Eyes

Forty | Devotion #1: Lift Your Eyes
Pastor Joshua Combs

Setting aside all of the cultural contexts of the Ancient Near East for a brief moment, simply put, we meet a man in Genesis chapter 24 who is looking for a wife. Strangely, he is looking for a wife for his boss’ son, Isaac. I am sure as the son of the extravagantly wealthy Abraham, Isaac had had many ladies (with their father’s prodding) vying for his affection and hand in marriage. Marrying Isaac would have equaled wealth, servants, and great herds. But Isaac had submitted to his father, who had dispatched the head of his household to the land of Mesopotamia in the city of Nahor at the well. The sun was beginning to set, so the scorching heat began to subside, and that was the time when the women of the city would come to the well to draw water. The servant knew this was a great place to meet all of the ladies of the city and Lord willing, find a bride for Isaac. The servant, however, does not simply rely on his own understanding or knowledge but begins to pray. The specificity and boldness of this prayer in inspiring. Abraham’s servant realizes that without the Lord’s blessing, this could be a waste of a trip.  As he is finishing his prayer, Genesis 24:15 says, “Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah…”

The servant had yet to finish praying, and the Lord was answering. As we pray, we must never forget that we are approaching a royal throne. “Let us then with confidence,” the writer of Hebrews states, “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Our prayers need not be small or timid. We approach God’s throne, not as uninvited, intruding guests, but children approaching our Father who has repeatedly invited us to test the limits of His power, the vastness of His resources, and the depth of His love.

As a secondary application and challenge, we see a biblical framework for finding a wife or a husband. Here are a few guidelines we see here in the Scripture:

1. Honor your parents/spiritual leaders (24:1-11)
2. Pray – Ask God to direct your steps (24:12-14)
3. Look for someone with a servant’s heart (24:14-27)
4. It is ok to look for someone you think is beautiful (24:16)
5. Watch for consistency in the person’s life (24:21)
6. Honor their family (24:22-53)
7. Do not force it (24:58)

Jesus to ??? [Only He Knows]

Pastor Josh Combs

“And he has a name written that no one knows but himself.” Revelation 19:12

The final name change in the Bible may come as a great surprise to you. As the Apostle John records the return of Christ, the fierce imagery of Jesus is stunning. John writes,

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like  a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself” (Revelation 19:11-12).

John is seeing the righteous vengeance of Christ. Jesus has returned not to save the world, but He has come in judgment. When He is finished His robe will be covered, not with His own blood like at Calvary, but with the blood of the nations He has crushed. The image of Jesus from Revelation chapter 19 isn’t one you’ll find hanging in any church nursery. In John’s vision of the apocalypse, the Lord has been called many things: King of kings, Lord of lords, the Word of God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty, the Christ, the Lamb, and the Lord Jesus.

Here John mentions a great mystery. He reveals that Jesus has a name that is known only to Himself. The name, as we understand it, is yet to be revealed. All speculation about the identity of the name is fruitless, because the Bible is clear that “no one knows but himself.”

{Insert Your Name Here} to TBA

Pastor Josh Combs

“To the one who conquers…I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

The Greco-Roman imagery that Jesus uses here in His message to the church at Pergamum can’t be ignored. When an athlete achieved victory, he would be given a white stone with his name carved upon it. This white stone would serve as his entrance pass to a victors’ banquet and celebration of athletic achievement.

The church at Pergamum was engaged in a brutal contest on enemy turf. They were “playing” their fiercest rival in the most difficult “stadium” around. They were on the road, facing the ultimate away game. As John records the direct message from Jesus, the Lord clearly states, “I know….” Christ acknowledges that these Christians are working near “Satan’s throne,” that they have experienced brutal persecution and personal loss, and are under attack from false teachers. Not only is the domain of darkness surrounding them, but wickedly vile “preachers” have brought the fight into the church.  The struggle is real. The game is on and Jesus wants to strengthen, challenge, and encourage His church. The word picture that Jesus paints is that He is waiting at the finish line with a trophy and a personal invitation to a victory celebration for those who conquer.

The Christian life has often been compared to a race with a grueling course but a glorious, long-looked-for finish line. The writer of Hebrews states, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The apostle Paul challenges the Corinthian church to “run that you may obtain” the trophy (1 Corinthians 9:24).

What awaits the victorious believer at the end of the race is our heavenly Father with the prize and an endless “victory parade.”  The Scripture is very specific that this is not a generic prize, but something personal and uniquely special that the victor is given by the Lord. The reason for this is that, as Hebrews teaches, there is a unique race set before each of us. That individual course is fraught with peaks and valleys, obstacles, distractions, trials, and triumphs. What Jesus says is crucial for each athlete (believer) to hear. Jesus says, “I know where you dwell….” William Newell, writing about this passage says, “There is a personal character in all trials, through which the overcomer (that is, the true believer) will be brought to know the Lord in a peculiar way shared by no other.” This is why we speak of a personal relationship with Christ. Because our trials in this life are deeply personal, we are assured by the Lord that our victory and reward will be deeply personal as well.

The white stone given has upon it our new name, encompassing in it the victory that the Lord has carried us. That name, which will be unique to each believer, is given directly by the Savior. The old will be set aside and eclipsed by the new identity that the Lord eternally imparts to each of us. A new name that we will instantly recognize, know, and embrace will show us that the Lord knew the whole time the difficult race that we were running. Just as a trophy or medal identifies the event, so will this new name.

One day our name will be changed by the Lord Jesus. This new name will reflect the fiery trials we endured in life, while giving us entrance into eternal life. So let us run our race, looking to Jesus, knowing He holds a glorious prize.

Today’s Bible Reading:  Revelation 2:12-17;  Hebrews 12:1-2;  1 Corinthians 9:24-27



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