Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

Who do you say that I am?

Christ #3 – Who do you say that I am?
Ryan Story | 
Student Pastor

When I first started working with high school students, I was given the opportunity to teach a Bible Study. I was a little bit geeked and prepared extensively for about a week. I had my illustrations all planned, I had my questions all ready to go, and I was so excited to see God do something great. We started the night with a game, some icebreaker questions, and then we jumped into the Bible. We all jumped into reading Matthew 16 and looking at how Peter declares Jesus as the Christ.  After reading it, I asked the first question of the night. I asked the group of high school students Jesus’ question that he asked His disciples, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” I was so excited to hear their answers. I was on the edge of my seat ready to hear them glorify our Lord with their uniquely personal answers. After about ten minutes of what I thought was deep thinking, all I got was silence and blank faces.  Baffled, I asked if they understood the question.  One brave high school boy spoke up and said, “Other than Christ what else should our answer be?” All the bravado that I went into this lesson with slowly began to dissipate.

I will admit as an unsaved teenager that I always thought that Jesus’ last name was Christ. I remember one of the first times I admitted it to a group of Christians they all started laughing thinking I was joking. I played it off as if I was but the word Christ was confusing when I first became a Christian. Christ is a title. The word Christ is the Greek word that is the same as the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means, “Anointed one.”  Now, the reason why that is so important is that Jesus has several names and titles. I often go through different seasons in my life where His name has a different meaning. In the story of Matthew 16 where Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am,” I have always been curious what Jesus thought the disciples were going to say. If Peter did not speak so fast would Simon the Zealot say the same thing as Andrew?

We all have those unique names that we give to our friends and loved ones.  Those names have so much meaning behind them. For instance, my son’s name is Broly, I will call him Bro Bro, while my wife calls him Turtle. Now that may seem odd, but it is because his wardrobe is full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle clothing, thanks to me of course.

Now since we cannot play “what if” with the Bible, I think the next best thing is to look at our lives and ask that question, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  We all come from different families, with different stories, different struggles, and different victories, but our Jesus is the same. We live in areas such as Grand Blanc, Holly, Goodrich, and Waterford, but our Jesus is still the same. However, the conversation that is amazing to have with believers, and non-believers, is “Who do you say that Jesus is?” Now a few months later, I taught this exact lesson to the same group of High School students. Their answers were amazing.

He is my Rock.
He is my Shield.
He is my King.
Jesus is my Friend.
He is the One who keeps me from falling.
Jesus is a Warrior.
Jesus is my Strength.
Jesus is my Shepherd.
Jesus is my Everything.
Jesus is my Protector.
Jesus is my Lookout.
He is my Peace and Joy.
Jesus is my First Love.

Take some time today, and answer this question for yourself. If Jesus looked at you and said, “Who do you say that I am,” what would your response be?

The View

Son of God #3 – The View
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

A few years ago my wife took me to a Detroit Red Wings game. Now I love the Wings, but my favorite hockey team of all time has always been the Colorado Avalanche. (Please feel free to send me your hate mail to RStory@theriverchurch.cc) Now I was really excited for the game. I was pumped to be going to a hockey game with my wife, I was pumped for the Wings versus the Avs, and I was pumped about the seats. Now anyone who knows the Joe Louis Arena knows there is “not a bad seat in the Joe,” and our seats were perfect. When we finally were in line and handed the tickets to the guy scanning them in, a buzz went off in his ticket reader. They tried again, and again, and nothing. They then took us to the StubHub office and informed us that the person who sold us the tickets probably sold them to multiple people to make some money, but they said they would search for new seats for us. Instantly, I was a bit bummed, I really liked where our seats were, and I was a bit saddened that we might be getting worse seats.

Whenever I read Philippians 2, my imagination is sparked by the whole idea of Jesus’s submission and leaving Heaven to be born a mere human. The question I always have is, “What kind of view did Jesus have in heaven?” Now courtside or seats on the 50-yard line are amazing, imagine being sitting next to the Creator of the Universe during the fall of Jericho. Imagine sitting next to God as David grew from a shepherd boy to a king. Imagine sitting next to God as the time drew closer and closer to the time where He would have to send His only Son to live with us.  Now, if you read Philippians 2, we see that Jesus ended up giving up that amazing seat to come down to save us.

If you are starting to think, “Man, that must have been a bum deal for Jesus,” you have to remember, God sending His Son to die on a cross for our sins was God’s plan the whole time. Often I feel we forget that Jesus was around before He was born to Mary and Joseph. While yes, Jesus gave up a fantastic view from in heaven, how much better of a view did He have when He came to Earth? He knew what awaited Him, but Jesus gave up that amazing spot, to be with His creation.

Now as for my seats, we ended up missing Nicklas Lidstrom’s number getting raised, we ended up missing out on Karen Newman singing the National Anthem, but our new seats ended up being center ice, and ten rows closer. The most important thing, I had amazing night with my wife.

We want Barabbas

Substitute #3 – We want Barabbas
Ryan Story | Student Pastor
Would you switch spots with the worst criminal in the world? Think about it, a person who has committed such heinous crimes that I do not even feel comfortable typing out because children or teenagers might be reading. Would you take their place to give them freedom? You cannot say, “Well if they do not hurt anyone anymore I am okay with it.” There are no stipulations on how they use their gift of freedom. Would you switch spots with that convict? I would argue that not many people were raising their hands and ready to make the swap.

For anyone who knows Jesus as Savior, it is overwhelming and life altering to think that Jesus, the perfect Son of God joyfully went to the Cross and died for our sins. Jesus was willing to be yours and my substitute and die the death that we deserved. Right before the cross, there is a story in all the Gospels of Christ. Take time to read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18. In the days when Rome ruled over the Jews, there was a Roman custom during the Passover where the Romans would release one Jewish prisoner. Pilate was trying to figure out a way to release Jesus because he believed that Jesus did not commit any of the crimes that the Jewish High Council accused Him of. Pilate was hoping to force the Jews hands by making the crowd choose between Jesus and a vile man. Pilate picked a man who was a murderer of both Jew and Roman. Pilate picked a man who was just a violent, crass, vulgar thug. This man’s name was Barabbas. The crowd now had to choose whom to free, Jesus or Barabbas. In John 18:40, the crowd responded to Pilate’s question with “Not this man, but Barabbas!” We all know what happens to Jesus after Barabbas went free. History can only speculate whatever became of Barabbas.

There are many moments when I am reading the Bible, and it shows me who I am. I have heard a preacher once say, “God had to treat Jesus like Barabbas, to treat us like Jesus.” The idea is that God had to pour out His wrath onto a vile, wretched man to treat me the way God treats Jesus. It is overwhelming to think that Jesus stood by, beaten, battered, and bloodied and allowed a man who was gross, sinful, vile, and murderous allowed to be set free. I realized after reading these accounts from the Gospels that I am in fact Barabbas. I am the horrible sinner who deserves to be locked up and executed. I am the one who messed up my life. My sin has caused pain and destruction. Jesus stood by and helped a man go free who did not deserve it. Jesus wanted Barabbas to go free because that was Jesus’ mission. Jesus took our place on the cross to set us free from the chains of sin and the pain of death.

Letter to my Pastor

Servant #3 – Letter to my Pastor
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I have an unusually good memory. I think it is such an amazing thing how moments can become etched in our brain and become so much more. I remember the first time I saw my son. I remember almost every detail of the first night I ever met my wife. I remember when I realized I wanted to marry her. Now those are the big things that clearly changed my life. December of 2007 was the first time I ever willingly stepped foot into a church for something other than a funeral or a wedding. I remember feeling out of place; I remember the awkwardness of meeting new people. I remember exactly where I sat. I also remember the first time I heard Pastor Jim Combs speak. I remember laughing and being challenged to live differently. I walked away that night with a memory that I would never forget. I can recall that night almost as if it was yesterday, and I remember almost questioning the authenticity of this man. Now know my heart when I write this, I am not trying to suck up or improve my status. I merely wish to convey a moment that has been burned into my brain and heart forever challenging me to be more like Jesus ever sense.

After a gathering sometime in September, it was time for staff to be leaving. The last of the guests and volunteers were on their way home. Babies were all picked up, all the sound equipment was turned off, and it was now time to get some lunch, and watch the Lions. When I walked into the office, Pastor Caleb, Pastor Jim, and Jim Mann were standing in the hallway chatting about something. I paused to say good-bye and to make light, small talk with the three. At that moment, I witnessed something. Pastor Jim walked out of the conversation and slowly knelt down to one knee to pick up a piece of trash that was just lying on the floor and threw it away. Now I am not an ageist (one who looks down on older people), but you could tell there was a struggle getting up and getting down. Let’s be honest, preaching four times has got to take it out of you (I preach one time in a weekend, and I am exhausted). I watch a 57-year-old man, who in all rights has “earned his keep in ministry” become a janitor, without hesitation, before my very eyes.  I was blown away by that kind of servanthood. The conversation I was in went mute as God gave me an opportunity to witness how real Jesus can be.

Romans 12:3 reads, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” How many times do you see an opportunity to show the love of Jesus to someone but you do not do it because there is no audience or there is no reward? How often in your week do you deem that you are too busy to serve with children, teens, or babies? How many times in the week do you act like Jesus and become a servant? We can all pull stories out of the Bible about Jesus being a servant, and most of the time we love the idea of Jesus being a servant, but we do not intend to become a servant ourselves.

Thank you, Pastor, for always teaching a young dude like myself what ministry truly is.

Lamb – Your Lamb

Lamb #3 – Lamb – Your Lamb
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I love encouraging people to read their Bibles. Often when people ask me, I try to steer them in the direction of starting with the Gospels of Christ or 1 John. For some reason, as habit would appear, people start reading their Bible in the beginning. Go figure, people who read start at the beginning of the book! Whenever I am talking with people who are reading there is a common theme, reading through Genesis is hard, and they normally abandon ship. They hit the genealogy, and the wheels come off the motivation train. Sadly, not many people spend a lot of time studying the book of Exodus. Most of the time the movie “The Ten Commandments” is enough to keep Christians fulfilled with their understanding of the importance of what takes place in Egypt.

When God commands Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let Abraham’s descendants go, there was a lot of tension between God’s chosen people and the Egyptian ruler. After several attempts, and several plagues God was ready to send His final plague. The last plague was the death of the first-born son of any family that did not spread the blood of a lamb across the doorposts of their house. In Exodus 12, God commanded Moses and Aaron to inform the Israelites what they must not do to become collateral damage. Now we all know the rest of the story, God swoops through Egypt and all the firstborn sons of this land that did not have the blood of the lamb spread across their doorpost were put to death, including Pharaoh’s son. After that, Pharaoh begrudgingly lets the Jews go.

Now we have all heard that Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. The entire story in Exodus of the Passover and the blood of the lamb is meant to be symbolic of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. However, there is one verse that I never saw before. I have read Exodus several times, I have probably preached or taught Bible studies on this chapter. When God is telling Moses and Aaron what to do, He says one thing that has changed the entire way I look at Jesus as a lamb. While God is giving instruction Exodus 12:5 says, “Your lamb shall be without blemish.” God was not telling the Israelites to take a random lamb. He was not telling them just to make sure there is blood on the doorpost; He wanted them to understand that they would have to sacrifice their own lamb.

When you think of Jesus, is He your lamb? I cannot say I ever have thought of Jesus as my lamb. Thinking of Jesus as a little lamb that I helped bring into this world, and helped it to grow is somewhat weird. However, we must all know that the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross was done because Jesus is your lamb and my lamb. Luckily, that lamb loved us so much that He was willing to be sacrificed so that death would pass over us.



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