Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

Created in the Image of God

Creation • Devotion #3: Created in the Image of God
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

I recently returned from a mission trip to Guatemala. It was a great week seeing God use our group in some amazing ways. We partnered with an organization called Potter’s House. There are many things that I enjoy about Potter’s House in how they view the people they serve. In Guatemala, Central America’s largest trash dump is in Guatemala City. This landfill is the size of 23 football fields. Potter’s House ministers to many of the people who live in and around the dump too. While we were there, we went from ministering to the poor to ministering to “treasures.” Potter’s House believes that every person we minister to is a treasure because that is how God views him or her.

Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” There are many ways a person can look at what being made in God’s image is. I have read it has authoritarian roots. Since God has authority over everything, God passed His authority to man to take care of His creation. I have read the being created in God’s image has relational roots. Since God exists in Trinity, He is always in relationship with Himself. When God created everything, He desired us to have a relationship with each other. While God had angels and heavenly hosts, there was something special about having a relationship with something with free will. I have read that being created in God’s image has emotional roots. Since we all long for love, joy, peace, and compassion, all of those are rooted in God. We resemble God because we are capable of showing those emotions, whereas, a platypus is not.

Regardless of all the studying we do, understanding exactly what being created in God’s image exactly means will keep one busy for longer than the amount of time I have in this devotional. This one truth we do know, God created everything, but humans were special to Him. God made the sun and the stars. A star is a massively huge ball of energy that illuminates light bright enough to reach millions of light years (reminder: a light year is a measurement of distance not time). Because of this, sun life could not be sustained. The most powerful thing we see every morning, outside of God, is the sun. Even in every star’s majestic beauty and amazement, God did not look at them as in His image. Personally, that rocked my world. I gaze at stars whenever I am in a new place. I love looking at stars. I get lost in how amazing they are. While I am doing that, God is looking at me thinking, those people on Earth are amazing.

We live in a world that does not value human life. Somehow this exists inside God’s Church. We are losing the ability to look at each other with value. We look at unsaved bus kids as a nuisance because they mess up our building or cause us to teach our children that they should not swear. We view people struggling with addictions as lost causes who will never get right. We look at the elderly in the church as hindering progress, while young people as a bunch of disrespectful punks. We all have such horrid ways we look at each other. We have lost the ability to look at every person we come in contact with as a treasure that God has made. I went to a third world country and saw the most beautiful children in the world. I went to a trash dump and found treasure. It took God showing me this truth to understand just how amazing ever person is. We have two choices on how to view people. The first is if we view people as junk that means that Jesus died for junk. The second is if we view people as treasure that means that Jesus died for something special. I like the second choice.

Suffer for Righteousness

Chain Reaction | Devotion #5: Suffer for Righteousness
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

Being a godly husband or wife is difficult. Raising godly children is difficult. Making sure your family unity is all moving forward in the same God-honoring direction is hard. There is nothing in the family dynamic that comes naturally. Everything that you want your family to be takes work. From prayer to athletics, there will have to be some work that goes into your family. Sadly, just because you put in the work does not mean that you will see instant results. Recently my wife and I started to pray with our oldest son, Broly. At night we can get Broly to pray for everyone. For whatever reason during mealtime prayers, Bro wants nothing to do with praying. At one point I got super frustrated and said words that I will never forget. I looked at my son in frustration and said, “If you do not pray with us, you are going to get a spanking.” At that moment I realized how wrong my parenting was. I cannot punish my son’s spiritual immaturity. It was my job to suffer through the difficulty and show my son what was right.

In 1 Peter 3:13-14, it says, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” I cannot think of anything more worthy for me to suffer for than the cause of Christ. What Peter is trying to say is that if you are truly passionate about something, if you truly believe it is right, you will be willing to suffer for a cause. It is better to suffer doing God’s will than to be pain-free and be void of His will. In my own life, I have had to give up habits, give up music, and I have had to distance myself from family and friends all for the sake of living out what is good and godly in my life. I look back at every decision I have made, and I know how hard it was when I made it, but I am so blessed to know that my children will never have to wonder if their dad is coming home drunk one night. I am blessed to know that my children will never have to worry if their parents will stick it out or get a divorce. In my life, I started fighting for what was godly the moment I became a Christ follower. I know I have done all of those things for myself, why not for my family? I cannot think of four people I would rather suffer for than for them. I would suffer until there is no longer a pulse in my being for my wife and children.

Suffering for righteousness sake is one of the most Christ-like things a person can do. To realize you will go through hardships for the sake of another person is exactly what Jesus did for us. He wept and sweat drops of blood while He pled with God in Gethsemane. Our Savior was tormented with the thoughts of knowing exactly how He would have to suffer for our sake. He endured the cross gladly! We must fight for our families. If you have a marriage that needs to get back to where God intends marriages to be, suffer through the conversation, and be honest with your spouse. If you have an unruly teenager who seems to make life hard when they do not get their way, suffer through their tantrum. Suffering is hard, it hurts, it is exhausting, but if there is one thing I know that is worth fighting for, it is family.  Endure suffering, because there is a blessing on the other side. 

Gospel

Radioactive | Devotion #6: Gospel
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

A moment ago I just read an article about the Marjory Stoneman High School students returning to school. I know that in a year most of us, including myself, will have forgotten about this tragedy. We have all read stories about tragic events; young children dying, someone taking their own life, or families being broken and split apart. I love moments where you see a community rally around a family, but too often we see society quickly move on from these situations, and a family still left trying to deal with their grief. I read these articles, see these news stories, and know that no words can even begin to articulate the hurt, pain, and numbness that is in each situation. We empathize with how those going through these situations feel, but certainly do not understand the full weight of the darkness they are facing.

In your life, bad things will happen that feel as if they will destroy you. In your life, there will be nukes that land in your life and seemingly level everything around you. There are times evil seems to prevail. There are times when the most unforeseeable circumstances happen, and it leaves us wondering “why.” We have all experienced and suffered from some sort of death, hurt, abuse, divorce, neglect, pain, or manipulation. We have all woken up after a fallout, looked at our life, and had to figure out how to start putting the pieces back. Life is hard, life hurts, and bad things happen, but that does not take away from how great our Jesus is. 

In the book of Daniel, three men are sentenced to death. These men are taken to a furnace that is so hot, it killed a man because he got too close. These men were being pressed hard to forsake the God of their fathers. A king that wanted them to relent their worship was attacking these men. We have been in similar spots in our life. We have all stood in front of a blazing inferno. We have all stood in front of scenarios we never thought we would encounter. We have stood and looked upon our lives and felt that the only thing we can see is the horrible fate that awaits us. I take refuge in something that these godly men said. Daniel 3:17-18 says, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

To stand in front of such horrible circumstances and say, even if God does not deliver you in the way that you deem appropriate, that He is still worthy of your worship is beautiful! The three men were looking at the end of their life, and they did not just call out to God to save them from their circumstances; they called out to God and worshiped Him for who He was. Life is hard. Bad things happen. Evil will attempt to destroy your life. But even then, He is always there. No matter what has happened, or what will happen, Jesus is in every situation we encounter. He is too faithful to abandon us. He is too loving not to offer us comfort. He is always with us.

Gospel

Combustion | Devotion #6: Gospel
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

The definition in chemistry terms for combustion is “rapid chemical combination of a substance with oxygen, involving the production of heat and light.” Just reading that takes me back to the horrors of my high school chemistry class. After reading that definition over and over again, I started to see combustion in a very interesting biblical way.

There are certain steps of combustion.

  1. Rapid Chemical Combination

For combustion to happen there has to be elements that will change. The reality is Jesus is in the life-changing business. Anyone who has had their life rescued knows what this “rapid change” looks like. Ephesians 2:5 says “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” The combination of understanding that our sin can be overcome by His love is the strongest combination in existence. To add one element into something that is dead to bring about life, that is power. The truth is when we accept that Jesus is Lord and we cry out for repentance, there is a gigantic change in our life. We go from life to death. 

  1. Oxygen 

Oxygen is one of the most necessary elements to produce combustion. We have all seen a flame suffocate because there is not enough oxygen getting to it. In the same way, if we are not getting the proper amount of breath in our lives, our life can become suffocated. Our breath comes from God. Our air is Him. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Our Heavenly Father gave us the very breath we take. 

  1. What it Produces

When we understand that there has been a chemical change and that it is fueled by the breath that God has given us, two things are produced.

  1. Heat 

When there is combustion, there should be heat. In the same way, when there is Jesus, there should be passion. Now passion looks different for every person. Some people are more external with their passion, while others are an inferno on the inside. The reality is there has been that combination of His love and grace. When there is the breath of God, there will be a source of passion.
Jeremiah 20:9 says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

  1. Light

When we have heat, we have light. When we have Jesus, we have The Light. When we have The Light, Jesus says in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” When our passion becomes visible, and others start to see that there is something different, we go from just spectating in God’s plan, to being used in God’s plan.

Letters to the Next One

Immanuel | Devotion #5: Letters to the Next One
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

For the prophet Isaiah, or any of the prophets for that matter, to prophesy that Jesus was coming has the same significances as me writing to my next child. To immerse myself in how the prophets of old must have felt, this month I will be writing to a child that I do not know. My wife and I have not even begun talking about another child, but to understand how amazing the first coming of Christ was, we must understand that people were writing about a person who they did not know.  I am writing theses devotionals November of 2017, and I am eager to read these December of 2018.  

Dear Child,

Always know that God has a sense of humor. While sitting here asking God where to go with this letter, I checked twitter and saw a tweet by a Pastor in North Carolina. It said, “Knowing who is with you is more important than knowing where you are going.” There will be times in your life, little one, that things will not make sense. There will be times when confusion will seem to be the norm, but remember that you know the One. There will be times when you are too afraid to take that one small step in faith, but remember you know the One. Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Never be afraid of what lies ahead of you; never let your fear slow you down. Always remember who you have on your side.

Jesus’ most famous nickname might be Immanuel. That means “God with us.” In those three words unpacks one of the most amazing truths in the entire Bible. God left His perfect seat in Heaven and came to be with us as humans. The fact that God came to be with us even though our world was more polluted than perfect shows how much He wanted to be near us. It is amazing to realize that God came to be with us even though we were all lost, hostile, and full of selfishness. Not only did God come to be with us, but He also came to save us from death, Hell, and the grave. If that does not change your view of God with you, I do not know what will.

There will be many times in your life where you feel lonely. There will be many times in your life when knowing exactly how something will turn out will be a mystery, but know the One is always with you. I cannot even begin to know how you will have to call upon Him to help, but know He is there. Know that no one knows the exact plan God has planned for them, and He does not want you to know the whole plan. He just wants you to trust Him with your next step.
There will be a day when you will be with me. I am excited to know when that will be a reality. Out of all the letters, this one brings me such joy and excitement. To know one day I will have my third child, but I do not know when, creates an interesting feeling. Like the prophets of old, I do not know when you will be here, but I know one day you will be with me, and I will walk with you. 



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