Devotions

Author Archives: Sierra Combs

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!

Caleb

Twelve Spies | Devotion 5: Caleb
Sierra Combs  

Have you ever felt like God was leading you somewhere you know would be amazing, but the obstacles in the way made you shy away in fear? I am raising my hand. Even when I know that God has called me to do something, sometimes my fear will hold me back. What if I am not good enough, smart enough, or strong enough? What if I am completely unqualified? Those insecurities scream at me to keep me from where God is asking me to go. This is not just an issue for me; this was an issue for the Israelites who had just fled Egypt under Moses’ lead. By the time we reach today’s passage in Numbers chapter 13, God has already promised Moses a land for His people that was rich and fertile and would be theirs for the taking. Moses sent twelve spies to the land to check it out and report back on what they had found. Upon their return, they gave plenty of good reasons for entering this promised land, but their fear was stronger than their faith. According to ten of the twelve spies, the reward was not worth the risk. Numbers 13:31-33 tells us that the ten spies came back from the Promised Land and reported, “‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’” 

These men had seen the beautiful and bountiful land that God had promised with their own eyes, and yet they came back determined to sway the Israelites away from entering it. Instead of God’s promise, all they could see were the giants (literally!) that stood in their way. I am going to pause and give a teeny amount of slack to these men because if I was in a land that God told me was going to be mine, but all I saw were actual giants living there, I would probably be afraid too. It is said that these giants, “the sons of Anak,” would have been between seven and nine feet tall! The cities were fortified with huge walls, with guards stationed on the top. These are majorly threatening and difficult obstacles, probably impossible for mere men, yet they forgot the most important part – God was on their side, and not only that, He had promised them this land! If I can say one thing with absolute surety, it is that if God makes a promise, He is going to keep it. Unfortunately, only two of the twelve spies kept this in mind. In verse 30 we see one of them trying to reassure the people of Israel, “But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’” 

I have always enjoyed reading about Caleb in the Bible because he reminds me of my own Caleb. My husband would totally be the one to come back from seeing a bunch of giants and confidently tell people that he could take them (and I have actually seen him do it on the basketball court). The Caleb of the Bible knew that God would have their back, and with Him on their side, they could overcome any obstacle. He called for his people to stand and do as God commanded. It would have been wise for the people to trust God and listen to Caleb. Instead, they listened to their fear, and it cost them dearly. Friend, I know the obstacles can be scary. I even know that often times, our insecurities might be totally accurate. Maybe we are not smart or strong enough. I, for sure, know that most of the time, I am totally unqualified. That is when God can step in and do a mighty work. I encourage you to let Him do His job, despite your fear and inadequacies. Trust in His promises and remember that with Him, you are well able to overcome!

Incredible

Red Sea | Devotion 2: Incredible
Sierra Combs

“When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.’” Exodus 14:10-14

Have you ever found yourself in a seemingly impossible situation? Perhaps even at this very moment, you feel like you have reached a dead end where there is absolutely no way out. I want to encourage you and tell you that you are not alone. Just this morning, I could not stop the tears from falling as I sat dwelling on a situation in my own life that just seems to be hopeless and impossible. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens. However, the Bible makes it clear that we have a good God on our side, ready to fight our battles.

Exodus 14:10-14 is a fascinating passage. We find the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, with the Red Sea in front of them and an angry Pharaoh and his army behind them. They are seemingly trapped, and Scripture tells us that they were greatly afraid. They initially seem to get it right as they cry out to the Lord, but this quickly turns to panic. They complain and blame Moses, telling him that they would have been so much better off back in Egypt, despite the harsh and terrible conditions in which they had been enslaved. To them, it seemed as if God and Moses brought them out to this place just to let them die.

Have you found yourself in a place such as this? Maybe you are new in your faith and are feeling alone and afraid. Maybe you have a long history of seeing God do great things, but as soon as you reach a dead end, you panic yourself into believing that He has brought you there just to leave you. Friend, let me tell you something, God will never leave you, and He is waiting to fight your battles. In the case of the Israelites, it was indeed God who brought them to this place of impossibility, but He did so for a good reason. In the end, it was He who got the glory, and it was He who proved to be the faithful and true Deliverer, bringing their salvation. The Israelites were stuck between an army that wanted to kill them and a giant sea that they could not pass. The only thing they could do was to be still and let the Lord fight for them, and He did just that.

I encourage you to read on in the passage to see the incredible way out that God provided (He sure is creative). He did it for them, and He will do it for you. It is through impossible situations where God really shines and proves His faithfulness. All you have to do is be still and trust Him.



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