Devotions

Author Archives: Sierra Combs

Mourn • Devotion #4: Godly Grief

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” These words, said by Jesus Himself in Matthew 5:4, make up one of the most famous sermons in history. You have probably heard it called “The Sermon on the Mount.” I have had the privilege of visiting the spot where Jesus likely said these words, on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee in Israel, and that picture will live in my head and heart for life! It is easy to read over that sermon, as I have done my entire life, and gloss over the words and what Jesus was actually saying.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Upon quickly reading that it sounds nice enough. Who does not want to be comforted when they are mourning and grieving? Not to mention, life can be so difficult and hard. We all will have times of grieving and mourning. I know for a fact that during these times, the Lord does comfort His children. For those who know Him as Savior, He has given us the most wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, the One who is actually called “the Comforter.” If you are in a state of despair, mourning the loss of a person, a life, or even a concept, cling to the Lord. Rest in His promise of peace and let Him comfort you today.

I could easily go on and on about how the Lord comforts His children as they mourn, which seems like what this verse is referring to, but I want to look at it from a different angle. While looking at it that way is certainly true, it might not have been what Jesus was talking about when He spoke to His Jewish audience. Many scholars of the Bible believe that Jesus was not talking about the sorrows of the world and the many losses that we may see over our lifetime, but instead the mourning over the sin that has stained our souls. When Jesus came to the Earth 2,000 years ago, He accomplished many things. He tangibly comforted the hurting, changed the way people thought, brought physical healing, and performed many miracles. He still does this today! However, His main mission was to bring salvation to the lost. Who exactly is lost? Each and every one of us is lost!

The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Every single person is born with the stain of sin, separated from the one true perfect and Holy God. Because of God’s goodness, He created a way to bridge the gap. He sent His Son Jesus to come to this Earth as a servant and to preach repentance (the turning away from our sin). He then offered Himself as the only sufficient sacrifice for those sins, dying on a cross for us, and then rising to life three days later. For the sinner who becomes a saint through the cleansing blood of Jesus, there is no greater comfort than the Gospel! When we look upon our sin as what it is, the offensive and disgusting thing that separates us from God, it should lead to weeping and mourning. Strangely enough, it is when we grieve over our sin that we find the true and ultimate comfort. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation.” The promise of salvation is a special kind of comfort, the very best kind, one in which we are pardoned, purified, and restored to the Father through Jesus Christ.

If you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you can take ultimate comfort in the fact that your sins have been forgiven. When Jesus said that you would be blessed because of your mourning, He was not kidding! There is no greater blessing than the gift of salvation. You also now have the benefit of the Holy Spirit living inside of you, bringing you peace, joy, and rest.

Even though you will face many trials in this life, you can rest assured that God is in control and is working all things out for your good. If you have not yet put your hope and trust in Jesus to save you, today is the day! Simply ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you, and to reveal the disgusting sin that is standing in the way of a relationship with Him. There is nothing that you can do to get rid of that sin. Only Jesus can do that, and if you confess that you are a sinner and truly believe that only Jesus can save you from that sin, He is faithful and just to forgive you! That is where true comfort begins! If this is you today, please reach out and let us know. We would love to help you with the next steps, helping you grow in your new relationship with the Lord. I may not know you yet, but I am praying for you!

Be blessed!

Gather • Devotion #5: We Are the Church!

I will never forget the moment my nephew reminded me about a very simple truth of the Bible. Of course, it was a truth I very well already knew (and was reminded of constantly by my brother-in-law), but it was memorable all the same. Driving in the car while on vacation, I mentioned something about missing church that weekend. My nephew, who was only about five or six at the time, was extremely quick to jump in and tell me, “We don’t go to church; we are the church.” His father (my brother-in-law) taught him well! It made me laugh then and still does now when I think about it, but it really is a truth that is so easily forgetten. We do not just go to church; we are the Church. If you are a born again follower of Jesus Christ, you are a member of the body of Christ. That is an awesome concept! Often times, people get caught up focusing on the building, denomination, program, or worship style, and lose sight of why we gather together. The body of Christ has been gathering together since the Church was established thousands of years ago, as seen in the book of Acts.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of gathering together when he tells us to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Though our gatherings may look a little different than they did back in Israel in the first century, the reasoning behind it stays the same. Going to church does not in any way make you a Christian, but a true follower of Christ should desire to be regularly gathering with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is here where we can encourage others and be encouraged. Aside from the fellowship, we gather so we can corporately worship God and be taught the truth from His Word. As a child who attended church on a weekly basis, I remember oftentimes wishing I could skip and just sleep a little longer. As an adult, even though I am far more tired and sleep-deprived than I was as a kid, I cannot wait for the weekends when I get to come and gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ!

Lesson Sixteen • Devotion #2: Follow this Jesus

Here we are, 2,000 years later, and the patterns of life in the Church still ring true. The culture may look drastically different, but the problems addressed by Jesus and His apostles are still incredibly relevant. We see this throughout all of the different epistles (letters) written to the churches, and we have been focusing on Paul’s words to the Corinthian church here in this study. In 2 Corinthians chapter 11, we stumble upon a big issue. I wish that I could say that this was only an issue back then, one that we have worked out by now, but unfortunately it is a problem that has continued to grow like wildfire. Even worse, many Christians are not even aware of the problem and, perhaps worst of all, many people who claim to be Christians are actually deceived, not actually knowing the true Jesus of the Bible and His true saving Gospel. If that is not downright heartbreaking and terrifying, I do not know what is. We need to wake up and we need to pay attention.

In 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, Paul begs his audience to listen, “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” We need to stop right there for a second. He warns of false teachers who bring “another Jesus” or “a different gospel.”I am sure many of us can think of some extreme false teachers who obviously present the case for another Jesus and a different Gospel. We know of men who claim to be Jesus in the flesh or the idea that Jesus was a good person and even a prophet but He was not God, or that Jesus was the God of this Earth but if we live good enough, we will become gods in the next lifetime. These are obvious cases of false Jesuses and false gospels. Yet, the deception runs so deep that there are such subtle false gospels that have crept into the Church, and you may not even realize they have crept into your own life and beliefs.

I could talk about this subject for hours, maybe even days. It was a topic that never really crossed my mind until I started to see it creep into the lives of those around me, even some close friends, and I watched the deception take over their lives and cause absolute devastation. If you place your foundation on a false Jesus and a false gospel, it would not take long until your whole life falls apart and you fall away. This has been devastating for me to see, and it really has opened my eyes to see how many people are being led astray. I will not spend hours on this devotion and will keep it short, but I encourage you to talk to your pastor about these things. Most importantly, read the Word diligently and see what it actually says. Ask the Lord to reveal areas in your life where you might be deceived, and ask Him to give you wisdom with how to lovingly share the true Gospel with others.

I want to talk about a few of the subtle “other Jesuses” that are being presented and celebrated in churches around the country today. If you identify with one, my goal is not to offend you, but to present you with the opportunity to think about it and address it. Do not just take it from me, see what the Bible has to say about it. I once saw a tweet by Owen Strachan that I thought summed it up brilliantly, “There are many fake Christs out there: Walmart Jesus (costs nothing). Self-help Jesus (improves life). Prosperity Jesus (gives riches). Life Coach Jesus (pumps you up). Gender-fluid Jesus (peccable). Follow the true Jesus instead.” 

Please hear me out. I am not saying the true Jesus of the Bible does not offer some of these things, but it was not why He came. The free gift of salvation is in fact free. We cannot earn it or buy it by any of our good works (which is another false gospel for another day), but following Jesus is costly. In Matthew 10:38-39, Jesus says, “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We have to die to our flesh and desires daily and take up our cross. To follow the true Jesus we must give Him our utmost attention and affection, trusting Him fully. He must come before everything else. Jesus certainly does improve life, but not usually in the earthly way that we might think or desire. Jesus tells His true followers that we will be hated by the world, just as He was hated. If you are being embraced and celebrated by our worldly society, something is wrong, and you need to address it. True Christians live in the world but not of it. We should look different, act different, and be different. That usually does not end up with an easy-breezy life. When it comes to riches, God can and does bless people in all kinds of ways, some of which might be earthly riches. It is ok to be rich, just as it is ok to be poor. However, Jesus did not come to make you financially wealthy on this Earth, and anyone who preaches that is a liar. Jesus does call us to be content with whatever we have, whether it is a lot or a little. Do not fall for the lie that says if you are not wealthy, you are doing something wrong spiritually. Instead, be thankful for what God has given you and in everything that you have, give glory to God. 

When you look at the disciples or apostles, Jesus’ closest friends, look at how their lives ended. They were poor, beaten down, persecuted, and all but one was brutally murdered for their faith in the true Jesus. Why should we expect any less? Stop building your life on the false Jesus above and follow the true Jesus instead – the one who came and died for you on a cross because you are a wretched sinner destined for Hell if not for the intervention of a Heavenly Father who loves you, and who rose again on the third day so that you could also be raised up to new life. 

Call out to this Jesus, one who wants to save you from your sin and reconcile you to the Father. He is the One who calls you to repentance and gives you hope for a better and perfect life to come. He is the One who will give you His Holy Spirit to guide and to help you, to sanctify you, and make you look less like you and more like the Holy Jesus. He is the One who gave you His Word that so you can read it, memorize it, and know what He has already spoken. Finally, He is the One who will strengthen you to take up your cross and live for Him in a world that will hate you. 

This is the Jesus that saves. Follow Him. Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” It will not be easy, but I promise, it will be worth it!

Lesson Twelve • Devotion #4: Cast Down?

Never in my life have I experienced a time filled with such widespread sorrow, fear, hardships, and trouble. The year is 2020, which for most any adult reading this will ring a bell. It seems to be the year of punch after punch. Besides the usual worldwide tensions, famines, plagues, and wars, America has its own major issues that seem to be ever-growing. Over 100,000 people are dead from Covid-19, the evilness and ugliness of racism are out on full display, racial tension is at an all-time high, cities burning from riots, domestic violence on the rise, and we have the highest unemployment rate in national history. The casualties are many, not just in a physical sense but spiritually and emotionally. Life just seems extra heavy and painful right now. Though it is a bright and warm summer day outside, my heart is downcast. 

The life of a Christian is one filled with joy, wonder, and blessings. Even through the pain and sorrow, those things remain, but man can it be hard sometimes! In Job 5:7, Job wrote that “man is born to trouble.” In John 16:33, Jesus tells us straight up that “in the world you will have tribulation.” All throughout the Bible we are warned and prepared for the hardships of life, but we are never left without hope. Maybe you find yourself today in a place of grief, pain, and sorrow. In 2 Corinthians 7:6, Paul writes to the Corinthian church and declares, “But God, who comforts the downcast comforted us.” Even the great apostle Paul felt the hardships of life and needed God’s help. Other Bible translations use words like “encourage those who are discouraged” and “comforts the depressed.” I know we have all been there and needed His comforting and encouragement. 

In the book of Psalms, David writes about being downcast. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you” (Psalm 42:5-6).

I love how author Phillip Keller explains the term “cast down,” relating it to David’s experience as a shepherd. He says, “This is an old English shepherd’s term for a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself. A ‘cast’ sheep is a very pathetic sight. Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays away frantically struggling to stand up, without success…in frightened frustration. If the owner does not arrive on the scene within a reasonably short time, the sheep will die.” I have been that little cast sheep more times than I could count, but God, the Good Shepherd, has come to my rescue every time. 

Friends, no matter how bad it is for you right now, He does not want to leave you alone to die. David reiterates in verse 11 of his Psalm, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” 

The Lord is the comforter of the downcast and depressed, and the encourager to the discouraged. Most importantly, He is the God who chases after His beloved sheep and offers them salvation and hope. Will you choose to stay cast down or will you let Him pick you up and place you on solid ground? I pray that today you will put your hope in the Good Shepherd!

Lesson Nine • Devotion #1: The Reason

I am sitting down to write today’s devotion in my house, where I have spent almost every minute of every day for just about the last two months. There is a global pandemic going on and we are in quarantine. I pray that by the time this goes to print we will be able to go out and see family and friends, gather for church, and get on with our lives, but for now this is reality. It is a hard reality for so many. There is so much uncertainty and fear. Hundreds, and even thousands, of lives have been lost along with millions of jobs and dreams. This has been a devastating time. I have certainly gotten wrapped up in the emotions. I have found myself fearful for the health of my family, and anxious about the possibility of losing my job. What if we cannot pay our bills? What if we will never see certain friends or family again? What if? I am sure that you can fill in the blank with your own fears you remember from the time or maybe even are still feeling in the after-effects.

In times where it seems like everything is falling apart, we often find ourselves asking, “Why Lord?” I wish I could answer that in one quick and easy devotion, but I cannot. However, every time I get caught up in the chaos of the world and end up at that question there is a song that comes to my mind that always puts me back on track. It is called “The Reason for the World” by Matthew West.

There are no words in times like these

When tears don’t hide the tragedies

And all you want is a reason for the world

No comfort in the greeting card

‘Cause God is good but life’s still hard

And your heart just wants a reason for the world

But maybe the reason for the pain

Is so that we would pray for strength

And maybe the reason for the strength

Is so that we would not lose hope

And maybe the reason for all hope

Is so that we could face the world

And the reason for the world

Is to make us long for home.

I just love that flow of thought. Maybe the reason for the world is to make us long for home. It is not our earthly home, but our true home that awaits us with the Lord in Heaven. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our temporary life but for those of us who know the Lord as Savior, this is just the waiting room to eternal life, where there will be no more pain and sorrow. The apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to suffering, having endured much opposition and persecution in his lifetime. Yet he counted it as joy and used his experiences to help and encourage his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 (NLT), he touches on our lives, both the temporal and the eternal. “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases the following few verses in The Message: “Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.”

God has given us a beautiful world, filled with wonderful people and things. It is also a fallen world filled with sin, trial, tribulation, and sorrow. We tend to float back and forth in a strange balance. Whichever place you find yourself in now, remember and reflect on the hope that we have through Jesus and in what He has prepared for us. While we wait, our mission as Paul writes in verse 9 remains: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” 



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