Devotions

Author Archives: Sierra Combs

Giving • Devotion #1: “Mine”

Currently, as I sit to write this I am seven months pregnant with my third child, during a global pandemic, a recession, in an extremely divided and intense country, and in the presidential election year 2020 (which has been memorable, to say the least). There were rumors of murder hornets a few months ago that thankfully seemed to fizzle out. Everything else has been pretty insane. If there was a time to not be pregnant, this would probably be it. Every day is another reminder that the world has lost its mind and chaos abounds. 

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed and fearful, it seems like the human race is in a runaway train speeding down a hill towards destruction, and we are just getting closer and closer to the crash. In reality, that picture is not far from the truth for those who do not know the Lord. It is a scary and sobering thought. I am so thankful to know that my Savior has lifted me from that train and has me safe in His arms. I hold to this truth and remind myself of it constantly, and probably a little more constantly now in this crazy year with a baby on the way. If you have children, you likely know what I am talking about. It is one thing to worry about yourself, but when you have a child, the love is so unexplainably intense that you (or at least I) worry so much more on their behalf. I think of my kids, and know I would do anything for them. It is both wonderful and horrible at the same time. Nothing has tested my faith more than being a parent, responsible for three precious lives. I just want to wrap them up in a bubble and keep them safely to myself.

Maybe you do not have children, or you do but do not struggle with the related fear as I do. Whether you relate or not, I am sure that there is at least one thing in your life that you possess that you cannot imagine having to let go of or release control. Perhaps it is money, your career or talent, or a relationship with a spouse, friend, or parent. It is something that you feel that you have worked so hard to build up or gain, and losing it would be absolutely detrimental. What is most important to you? 

This year has really challenged me and brought many things in my heart to light that I was not even aware of them existing. Faced with a global health crisis early in the year made me fear for the health and safety of those I love. Faced with the possibility of an extreme recession or depression, I found myself worrying about the possibility of losing our income, house, or whatever. Faced with the election coming up in November, I find myself worrying about what things will look like when it is over, regardless of who wins. I am thankful to the Lord that He quickly squashed the murder hornets because that may have just put me over the edge (insert laugh emoji here). 

Thankfully, through all of this, I know that the Lord is sovereign and in control of it all. If He was not, I would not be able to sleep at night. When I find myself consumed with fear about any of these scenarios, I can easily find comfort in the Word. There are so many amazing passages that I could share but when it comes to this matter, I think it is important to get to the heart of the issue – putting too much value in things that we view as “ours.” My kids are “mine,” my money that I earn from my job is “mine.” The talent that I possess and get to share with others is “mine.” The list could unfortunately continue. When we view everything we have as “ours,” it is pretty easy to get possessive of it and extremely fearful to lose it. However, in reality, none of it is truly ours. Everything we have been given and blessed with is from the Lord. He is the One who created your children and gave them to you! He is the One who gave you your gifts and abilities! He is the One who lined up your career and has provided for you financially. 

One passage in Scripture that always helps remind me of this is 1 Chronicles chapter 29. In this chapter, we find King David setting aside his gold, silver, jewels, and every precious thing so that his son could build a temple for the Lord and all of His glory. I think in today’s value it was something like 35 million dollars. Can you imagine? That is a ton of money. However, David cheerfully gave and encouraged his people to give regardless of the cost. In verse 14 (NLT), he says, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” David understood that every single thing that he possessed was given to him by God, and because of that, it should be our joy and privilege to give back to Him. When I remind myself of this truth, I can let go of any fear that I may have because I know that the Lord is not only in control, but He loves me and has an amazing plan for my life. It is up to me to give up any idea of control that I might have and to trust Him. His ways are better than mine. He loves my kids even more than I do. He has a plan for my kids, my talents, abilities, finances, and relationships. The Lord has given us so much. It is now our turn to joyfully give back to Him and watch Him use it for incredible things!

Grow • Devotion #1: Mirror Jesus

If you are familiar with the New Testament in your Bible, you have heard of Jesus’ disciples. The four gospel books center around Jesus and the twelve men who dropped everything to follow Him. They started their walk with Jesus as uneducated, ordinary men, and eleven of them ended their lives completely transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. God used them to help spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. He used them to write down His words that have miraculously stayed preserved through millennia. Jesus also used His last spoken words to His disciples before ascending to Heaven with a command for them to go out and make more disciples, “teaching them to observe all that He had commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). Discipleship is not only important, but it is necessary. 

Much like the disciples of Jesus, our spiritual lives should have similarities in how they begin and end. Before we meet Jesus, we are spiritually blind and dead. However, when He saves us, we are brought to new life! We leave our baggage behind, He opens our eyes to the things of God, and seals us with His Helper (the Holy Spirit). From there, we begin our journey walking with Jesus. Friends, it is a journey. Even though God wipes our sin-filled slate perfectly clean upon salvation, that does not mean we will be 100% perfected the instant we are spiritually reborn. It is a process of purification – growing and becoming more like Christ, and it is called sanctification. We are called to constantly and consistently renew our minds through Scripture; after all, if Jesus is our master and teacher, and we are His disciples, there is no better way to learn than to read and follow His Word! When we let His teachings flow through us and change the way we think, act, and react, we will become more like Christ, and we please our Heavenly Father. As followers of Jesus, He needs to be the number one authority over our lives. He is our teacher, we are His disciples. If this is not true in your life, you need to stop right now and fix that. If you have truly given your life to the Lord, He has to be #1 in your life. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am not saying it is easy – the Bible tells us that we have to die to our flesh daily. Like the 12 men who originally followed Jesus, we also have to “drop our nets,” leave the world behind, and follow Him. It is not an easy road but it leads to unimaginable joy and blessing. I encourage you to stop right now and ask God to realign your heart to His ways and His plans. You will not regret it!

Once we have the God-first priority aligned and well-practiced, it is important to realize that it should not end there. The awesome thing about the global Church is that we have so many spiritual brothers and sisters who share the same heart and desires as us. God has given every one of His children unique and specific gifting and talents to use to help build up the body of Christ (the Church) and to reach the world. If you are a new believer, it is so important that you find a trusted and wise man or woman who can help disciple you in the ways of Christ and the teaching of His Word. The Bible alone is surely sufficient for our growth, but God also provides people to help. The apostle Paul is a great example of this. He wrote much of the New Testament, which is comprised of letters written to different churches throughout the Middle East and Asia, as well as letters to specific people. Throughout all of them, Paul encourages, teaches, builds up, and lovingly corrects when things are not looking so good. God specifically equipped Paul to disciple and teach countless men and women in His ways. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul closes with this statement, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul spent time with these people. Mirroring Jesus, he taught them in word and action. He was not asking them to practice the things and actions of himself, but of Jesus. He ends with quite a promise – if you take what you learn about Jesus by hearing and receiving, and then put it into practice, God’s peace will be with you. Yes, Lord! I want Your peace! I encourage you, no matter how “seasoned” of a believer you are, to find someone who can help you in your growth process. There is no limit to spiritual growth and intimacy with the Lord! It is a wonderful, life-long journey! If you need help finding a wise and trusted teacher and mentor, please reach out to us. We would love to help connect you!By now you might be thinking that the process is coming to its end, but guess what, there is one more step! Looking again to Matthew chapter 28, Jesus tells His disciples that it is now their job to go out and make more disciples. That command was not just for them, but for us as well. Once you have become a disciple of Jesus, it is so important that you learn and practice God’s ways so that you can be sanctified, purified, and look more like your Savior. That will bring great joy to your life. Yet, do not just leave it at that. Take what you have learned and go find someone else to help! Guide them through the Bible and show them how it has transformed your life! If every believer in the world took to this process (growing, learning, and then passing that to someone else) it would be an endless and extremely powerful chain. This command is not just for the pastors and leaders of your church. It is for every believer! 

1 John 1 • Devotion #6: “To Agree With”

I want to let you in on a little secret that is important in virtually every aspect of life – context is key. Whether you are trying to make small or large decisions, listening to a conversation, or dressing for an event, you put yourself in the best position when you know the context. It is just as important, if not more important when reading the Bible. It is so easy just to open up the Word, read a verse, and read into that verse something completely different than its meaning, only because we do not take the context into consideration. This happens more often than you think and can lead to a lot of issues. If you have ever read the Bible, chances are you have done this at least once or twice. Today, I want to talk a little about a verse that I have seen believers take out of context, taking them right back into a place of bondage that Christ has already freed them from. The passage is 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV), “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.”

As I was saying, I think it would be helpful to start off with the context of this specific passage. The book of 1 John was written to a confused church in Asia, with the goal of addressing some major doctrinal errors that had been floating around. One of these false teachings was called Gnosticism. The Gnostics were a group of people who believed they possessed superior spiritual knowledge, that Jesus did not actually come in the flesh, and that sin was just an illusion. These false beliefs were quickly spreading through the church, and a letter was written to help clear things up. Here in these verses, John addresses the Gnostics, who were deceived by their own teaching, wanting them to understand that what they believed conflicted with God’s Word. 

Now that you know the context go back and read that passage again. John is saying that those who claim to be without sin (like the Gnostics) are completely deceived and are not actually saved. Just like anyone else, if they were to confess their sins (more on that in a minute), they would be forgiven and have their slate wiped clean. However, if they continue to claim to have never sinned, they are calling God a liar and His Word is not actually in them. Those top and bottom verses are pretty straight forward, but that one in the middle has tripped people up for centuries when taken out of context. Many people take this to mean that although their sins may have been forgiven before they got saved, after salvation, it is up to them to obtain forgiveness through daily, weekly, and monthly confession, or that they cannot experience forgiveness unless they confess or ask for forgiveness each and every time they sin. I often wonder how people even do that? What happens if you miss one? I would be filled with anxiety and guilt. Not only that, but this kind of thinking oftentimes makes confession a mindless cure-all, turns it into works-based salvation upkeep, and ultimately takes away from what Jesus did on the cross.So what does confession mean in the context of this verse? While most people might assume the act of confessing is the same as asking for forgiveness, it is not. Here in 1 John, the word that is used in the Greek basically means “to agree with.” To confess our sins is to look at our sin and call it what God calls it. If we do not recognize the fact that we are sinners, why would we need a Savior? It is only when we realize just how lost and wretched in our sin that we truly are that we realize how much we need Jesus. It is only through Jesus that we can be saved, and the blood that He shed on the cross was and is sufficient to wash every one of our sins away. God has forever settled the sin issue in the life of the believer. When Jesus said that it was finished, He meant it!

Home • Devotion #6: Crazy Cat Lady

Psalm 24:1 (NLT) tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” In this series, we have been studying God’s order of authority. We know that at the very top of that authority umbrella is God Himself. He is the creator of everything and lines up all authority down the chain. There are many different authorities the Lord has given to people, and I was asked to handle the topic of animals in this devotion. 

If you know of me and my “situation” you probably are not surprised that this topic was given to me. There is a chance that it was randomly assigned to me, which would be comical. In my current state of life, most people (especially those who follow me on Instagram) would call me a “crazy cat lady.” I am not exactly sure when and why I turned into a crazy cat lady, but the term is accurate. While I only have two cats who live inside my house, we recently moved to some property that was slightly overrun by partially wild cats. I say partially wild because while they are feral, they had come to expect somewhat regular meals fed to them by the previous owners. We moved in shortly before winter, and the cat situation was getting out of control. There were at least twelve adult cats, several teen cats, a few grade school age, and 3 brand new little babies. I have always loved cats so this was both a dream and a nightmare. 

At first, I tried just not feeding them, figuring they would eventually get the hint and leave my back deck for the forests full of mice. I would make it a few days and then just feel really bad for them so I would sneak some of our indoor cat food and put it outside when my husband was not looking. Funny thing is that he was doing the same thing. Do not ever let him tell you that he does not like cats because he babies them just as much as me. While several of the kittens did not make it through the winter, when spring rolled around I found myself the owner of ten outdoor cats, all of whom now have names, all of whom are now fat from being fed three square meals a day, some of whom I may actually like more than my two indoor cats. When I say crazy cat lady I am not just using an expression. I fully admit that I have become crazy. I once actually made bowls of chicken soup for them because it was cold and damp outside and I just love them so much. Turns out my favorite cat, Alice, is currently pregnant and I am once again reminded of the dream/nightmare situation I am experiencing. By the time this book goes to print, I will likely have 135 cats on my back deck and will have to get another job just to feed them.

Craziness aside, God created animals and put them under human authority. Genesis 1:26 (NLT) tells us that after God created the animals, He created Adam and gave him dominion over them, “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’” Genesis 2:19-20 goes on to tell us that “out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.” I give a lot of credit to Adam for creativity. Naming ten cats (plus three possums and the occasional stray visitor) is challenging enough, I cannot imagine being responsible for naming every type of creature! 

The man was given the task to be the steward of the Earth, bringing all the other created creatures and elements into the service of God. Things changed a bit once sin entered the world. After the Flood, mankind was once again given authority over the animals, and God even widened their usual plant-filled diet and gave them permission to eat the animals as food. It was then that the human/animal relationship shifted and animals started to fear humans. Even though God changed the way we interact with animals, we are still responsible for treating them humanely.One day, after the Lord returns, things will once again look like they did originally in the Garden. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Until then, we get the honor and blessing of being caretakers to His creation. As for me, that includes all of my crazy cats.

Government • Devotion #1: Mr. President

In my lifetime, there have been six American presidents, and of those, I really only have memories or personal opinions of four. I have never cared much for the topic of politics, and I did not grow up in a household where it was a focus. I feel like the majority of today’s generation of American kids will not be able to say the same when they are adults. The political climate of society today is so divided and it is extremely loud. Thanks (or not) to social media, everyone has an opinion and everyone gets to share it. This coupled with the fact that our current president is very opinionated and has no problem bluntly speaking his mind only adds to the divide. Never before in my lifetime have I seen a man so vehemently hated by many and so strongly loved and embraced by others. It is the reason I deleted the Facebook app and refrain from watching the news. To me, the divide and the loudness on both sides are maddening. 

God created us all with different types of personalities and passions and because of this, we are bound to have opinions. As Americans, we have the right to believe what we want and say what we want. I am thankful for this freedom. However, just because we have an opinion does not always mean we need to scream it from the rooftops. Instead, we should take our thoughts, feelings, and opinions to the Lord and see what He would have us do with them. Before we go into what the Bible says about this, we need to remember why we should do so. As born-again believers, our main focus in life is to honor and glorify the Lord. He has given us His Spirit to mold and shape us into becoming more like Him. It is not always an easy process. We have to die to ourselves daily and deny the flesh. That means that we need to actively fight against our own selfish desires and walk in the way Jesus calls us to walk. With this being said, 1 Peter 2:17 tells us, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” I want to take a special focus on the last sentence. Not only are we to honor and love everyone, but we are also commanded to honor our political leaders. It does not say to honor only the leaders who we agree with, or even only the leaders who we deem to be “good people.” You can think what you want about our current president or the presidents in the past, but none of them hold a candle to the leader Peter was referring to here in his letter. The emperor at this time was one of the most wicked and evil tyrants in history – Emperor Nero. The man persecuted and murdered thousands, including his own mother! He threw people to lions for entertainment. He dipped Christians in wax, impaled them on poles, and lit them on fire to form human torches. This man was pure evil and yet Peter told Christians to honor him.  

How can we as believers honor the leader of our country, even the ones we do not like or disagree with? Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 13 that God is the one with full and complete authority and is the One who puts kings and political leaders in their places. Even though we might not understand why, we can trust that God knows what He is doing and is in control. Since God has put our president in office, we should not only speak of him respectfully but we should focus our energy on praying for him. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 we read, “That supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” We please the Lord when we honor and pray for our leaders. 

Giving honor to the President does not mean that we have to like him, agree with everything he says and does, or that we should not speak out for what is right. It does not even mean we cannot express and expose what is wrong. However, we should do so with honor and respect, trusting God and praying for the authority He has set up. We should honor the President because we fear and love the Lord. We should let Him work out the rest!



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