Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

How to Give #3 – Happy To Do It

How to Give #3 – Happy To Do It
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is Starbucks. Nothing is better than Peppermint Mocha. It tastes like Christmas in a cup. If you order five “seasonal beverages,” then they will give you one free. I generally have my fifth sticker before December ever hits. Needless to say, I go to Starbucks a ton. On one morning, my wife and I were going through the drive through, ordered breakfast, and my coffee. We get up to the window and the barista tells us that the person in front of us paid for our order. I was shocked because the total was around $20. While sitting there in awe and thanksgiving, “WWJD” popped into my head. I had the internal monologue go on about, “sweet free coffee” versus “here is a moment you can show the generosity of Jesus to someone.” I decided to keep the “pay it forward” mentality going, so I paid for the lady behind me. It was not necessary, it was not required, but I was happy to do it. After we had left Starbucks, we got on Saginaw Road and headed to drop my wife of at work and for me to drop my son off at his babysitter’s. Out of nowhere, my wife starts smiling and waving and saying, “No problem, you are welcome.” I thought for a moment she lost her mind, but she was talking to the car next to us.  Go figure, it was the lady whose coffee we just paid for.

I know at times we have all experienced buyer’s remorse. I have bought many useless things in my life and then regret using my money to buy set items. However, I have never experienced buyer’s remorse when I give with Jesus as the core reason why I gave. Now to list all the things I have been able to financially contribute to God’s kingdom is, well, pride and would then I would be sinning. However, I have never felt bad about giving to God. I have never felt like it went to waste. I have never questioned whether or not God was able to use the little I was able to give.

We live in such a tight-fisted culture where we must know for a fact that our giving went to something and helped a person. If we need to know our giving or generosity was used to better a situation to what our standards deem better, are we really giving faithfully? I did not buy that lady coffee because I knew it would give me the opportunity for me tell her about Jesus, I gave because I felt that Jesus would have done the same thing. In 2 Corinthians 9, it says, “For God loves a cheerful giver.” Maybe more people would see Jesus more if His Church was willing just to be happy to give. Maybe if the lost world we interact with every day would see that we were more focused on being cheerful, generous people, maybe we would start seeing more people come to Jesus. Who knows, maybe God can use a cup of coffee to bring a person to know Christ, just because I was happy to give.

Secret Giving #3 – Look at Me

Secret Giving #3 – Look at Me
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

Teenagers on Twitter can sometimes be wise sages. Now, most of the time social media is wasted time, wasted energy, and brings about more drama than what it is worth. Some of the time, though, we see insight into a person’s life. Now I know there is always more to a tweet or a post than what one lets on, but a few days ago a teenager who attends a high school Growth Community tweeted, “I hate when people cannot just do nice things without having to let everyone know.”  Now I am not sure what the story linked to this tweet is. I am not sure if this was a passive sub-Tweet that was meant to call someone out. I just am not sure of the context. However, this teen is speaking wisdom way beyond her years.

The greatest sermon ever preached was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Spend any amount of time in Matthew chapter 5 through chapter 7 and your walk with God will be changed. In the middle of this sermon, Matthew 6, Jesus tells the people, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Now take the time to read that again, and hopefully, you feel the weight and authority of how Jesus is telling us we must give. Jesus is trying to teach us that when we give, we must do it so no one knows. We must give so secretly that our own hands do not hold a record of what we have done.

There are times I think of how many “rewards” I have missed out in my private time with God, just because I have been generous to gain the approval of other people. To think that even though I gave, I can be giving with wrong motives. I was doing it more to seek the approval of man than to seek the approval of my Lord is silly when you think about it. Let us all start being the followers of Christ that we should be. Let us all seek out wanting to be recognized by Jesus more than the person sitting next to us at a gathering. Let us all try to become people who “do nice things” and expect only the reward that Jesus gives us.

Contentment #3 – In God We Trust

Contentment #3 – In God We Trust
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

One of the greatest decisions I have ever made in my life is to get rid of my wallet. I had the George Costanza wallet going on from the time I was a teenager. If you were not a Seinfeld fan, what that means is my wallet was overly filled from having cash, credit cards, driver’s license, library card, movie card, Qdoba card, Blockbuster card, and so much more. The day I stopped using a wallet I noticed two things, first, my back stopped hurting, and the second is that I stopped walking around with cash. Now if you have always walked around with cash and have stopped it is a weird phenomenon. When I had my wallet, dollar bills became familiar. The artwork, the texture, the watermarks, the words on the bills all became less captivating. Whenever I end up with cash nowadays, I catch myself examining every part of the bill just because I have not seen cash in so long. One area on the greenbacks that caught my attention recently is the part that says, “In God We Trust.”

It is rather ironic that a dollar bill would have that written on it. At times, I feel that our trust for God is directly linked to the amount of money we have. If I have a lot of money in my savings account, it is easy to trust God. If my bank account is dwindling, it seems my trust gets a bit shaky. There can be many things that cause us to start doubting Jesus’ plan, and it is ironic that the one thing that says “In God We Trust” on it causes us not to trust God. Jesus is the only person who we can put 100% of our trust and faith in, and He will not fail us.  It seems odd that we still seem to put just as much trust in our bank accounts as we do our Savior.

It is no wonder that Jesus would talk about money if it can cause such an issue in our walk with Christ. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were focused on how to handle money and possessions. If Jesus’ desire is for us to put our faith in Him so we can be saved from our sins, it is not crazy to think that He would be so blunt in Matthew 6 about money. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” So I ask you, whom do you serve? Who is your master? Which master do you seem to trust more when you get an expectant bill? Take some time to look at your bank account and look at your Bible.

Remember: ‘In God You Trust.’

Eternal Investment #3 – Money Where Your Mouth Is

Eternal Investment #3 – Money Where Your Mouth Is
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I recently hired a lying, two-faced, money hungry, thief to be in charge of my finances. He is going to get every penny that comes through my bank account. I really think I made the right move. Now clearly I am being sarcastic, but if I told you I did do that you would be calling me foolish. So then, did Jesus make a mistake when He put Judas in charge of the money that was collected?  Is it possible that Jesus made a mistake? Now your immediate reaction may be to answer “no” and then stop reading this devotional.  Could Jesus have made a mistake when it came to whom He trusted the money to? Surely, Andrew, James, Nathaniel, or Simon the Zealot would have been a better choice. Jesus was not a team-building strategist or a businessman. He was the son of a carpenter. He grew up in a poor region, Galilee. Now we are tempted to drop the “Jesus is God; therefore He knows everything” card and not think deeper about why Jesus did what He did.

If you read John 12:4-6, we see just how low Judas was. He was concerned about a woman who used expensive ointment on Jesus. There is an interesting dialogue between Jesus and Judas, and it shows Judas remarking that the disciples should have sold the ointment to raise money for the poor. Very noble and loving of Judas, until you read verse 6 where we find out Judas was stealing from the money bag and taking whenever he pleased. So again, why would Jesus put a thief in charge of the money?

How could Jesus teach us about stewardship and giving if He just turns around and lets a thief take the money that was saved or collected? This is one of those head scratchers. Once again with Jesus when you realize how layered His teachings are you see God in a completely new light. The reason why Jesus allowed Judas to keep in charge of the money even though Jesus knew Judas was stealing was that Jesus knew how important Earthly treasures where. Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The only way you could keep a thief in charge of the money is if you realized that money has little value in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was teaching people that money is not important, but God’s Kingdom is everything. Think of all the times when we are stressed out about money. We start letting our flesh take over, and we slowly lose our focus. Jesus never seemed to mind that Judas was stealing. Clearly, Jesus knew, but He knew Judas’ heart was rotting because of the love of monetary comfort.  In Matthew 6:21 Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our heart is focused on trusting, loving, and living for Jesus, then He is our treasure. We must always make Jesus our most precious treasure.

God or Money #3 – The Money god

God or Money #3 – The Money god
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

We live in a dangerous time. There is an undertone in American Christianity that tries to teach the idea that “if everything in your life is going well financially, God is happy with you, so you should give more, and He will give you more money. But, if there seems to be an issue in your life financially then God is mad at you, so you should give more, so He can give you more.” I am all for God blessing us, His undeserving children, but it scares me when people connect their relationship with God to their bank account. There is a scary false Gospel that is taught that God loves more to those who give more, but if someone does not give more, they bring ruin to their life. It is a scary thought that people start serving God, living for God, and honoring God for monetary gain. Now no one is going to say outright that he or she serves Jesus for the “kickbacks,” but we have created a Jesus who only gives back to those who give. If we are not careful, we can wind up becoming confused about who our Lord is. We can slowly be trapped into thinking that money is our master.

In Matthew 6, Jesus points out that “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” I like when Jesus is straightforward and to the point. There is not much need to bring out a commentary, or for us to get together and discuss what Jesus is trying to get at. Jesus is warning us of the control that money can have on our lives. To say someone has turned money into his or her master creates some interesting imagery in my mind. All I can picture is a dollar bill with a crown and people bowing in its presence. People getting excited when “king dollar” greets them on the street, and people saddened whenever something bad happens to the king. Now we may laugh at the thought of that, but the reality is Jesus is warning us about the power that money can hold over someone’s life.

Take some time this month to figure out if Jesus is your master or if money is. Do you hate Jesus when things are not going your way financially? We can only serve one master on this Earth; I am hoping we all choose to serve Jesus with our whole being. 



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