Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

Ezekiel

Lesson Eleven | Devotion #2: Ezekiel
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

(A letter to my son, Zeke)

Zeke,One of the strangest phenomena of being a parent is realizing you have to name your child. Your mother and I would spend hours throwing names around. At one point your name was almost Kalen Elias, and we would have called you Kal-El for short. Sadly, I did not want to limit you on the potential of Superman; I wanted to name you something where God would take you on an amazing adventure.

Being that I am a strange person, when I read the Bible, I find comfort in the oddest places. When asked, “Who is your favorite Bible character other than Jesus?” most might say Daniel, David, Samson, or Peter. Your dad likes the guys who are tough, the ones that stand up for God’s Word, and the ones who are a bit crazy. I have always been amazed by the prophet Ezekiel. Depending on when you are reading this, determines on me giving you permission to read that book. Ezekiel has some of the toughest sections of Scripture and some of the most beautiful.  Throughout his whole life, Ezekiel had one amazing characteristic, his strength. Now with most men of God, Ezekiel knew his strength came from God, which is what his name means, “God strengthens.”  Ezekiel did not have an easy life, but I think that helped him realize that he needed to rely on God that much more. The horrible things that this prophet must have seen while warning his loved ones to repent (Ezekiel 3), to watching God’s Glory leave the temple (Ezekiel 10), to not being able to mourn his wife because of what God told him (Ezekiel 24).

Hard times can do one of two things, break you or make you. While it was not Ezekiel who said it, but one of his fellow prophets wrote, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).  Take the affliction to receive the refinement. Son, life is going to kick your teeth in at some point. I wish I could protect you from it, but it will. Even if you are as righteous as Job, the world will hurt you. There will be days when giving up seems like the only option. There will be days when you feel surrounded, and darkness seems to be everywhere. When the day comes when you feel you might break, remember your namesake, ‘God strengthens!’ The day when you do not know how you are going to make it through another horrible situation, remember God strengthens. Fear will sneak up on you, and the enemy will try to destroy you, but remember God strengthens.

You need to be strong, but never forget who gives you the ability to be strong. Never forget that the only reason we cannot be beaten is because God is with us. God gave His life for us, and now because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are His people. If you never forget who has your back, you will never be without strength.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Rehoboam

Lesson Nine | Devotion #2: Rehoboam
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

(A letter to my son Zeke)

Son,
Do not be dumb. I am sure your mother has yelled at me several times for calling you dumb thus far in your life, but I repeat, “Do not be dumb.” You have drawn an unfortunate card in life; your father is a Student Pastor. I have watched, for years, as some of the brightest and best teenagers I have ever known throw their lives away for fleshly desires, pride, laziness, and idolatry. I cannot sit by and watch you do the same. I wish I could have taught them about Solomon’s son. There seems to be a link between their choices and their wisdom (or the lack). Every student I have seen walk away has one thing in common; they forsake the counsel of the wise and accepted counsel from their peers who were living in the world. I have watched as students went from being wise young sages to being just plain dumb.

Solomon was considered the wisest man to walk this Earth, excluding Jesus of course. God used Solomon and took the kingdom of Israel and made it the center of the world. Solomon’s inherited kingdom was vast and rich! Solomon at one point would have been worth around 2.2 trillion dollars. Solomon was given 666 talents of gold a year (1 Kings 10:14); that would be roughly 25 tons of gold a year! Solomon built his kingdom using the wisdom God had given him. Solomon being a wise king put together a council to help his son rule when he died. When Rehoboam took the throne, he took counsel from Solomon’s council and took counsel from a group of his buddies.  Solomon’s counsel advised Rehoboam to lift the heavy taxes, Rehoboam’s buddies advised making more taxes so they all could get more money.  I would love to say Rehoboam made a wise choice here but in 1 Kings 12:8 it says, “But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.” This one decision led to the kingdom of Israel dividing into two. That is what it means to be dumb.

Who is in your ear son? Who do you go to when you need advice? The smartest thing I have ever done in life, besides marrying your mother, was I found the wisest old man I could, and I let that man teach me about life, ministry, marriage, fatherhood, and about everything else I could ask. Who do you have? I know I may not always be your top choice, but I can name a handful of guys who could sit and help you navigate through your life.  I have watched as kids have nosedived into sin and I truly think if they had taken the time to find a person to teach them godly wisdom, their lives would look different. I have watched as potential future leaders in the church have given up everything to be like their worldly friends. I have watched year after year at least one student who I thought had the utmost potential give it all away because he or she took bad advice.

Wisdom does not come with age, education, “vocabulistics,” or good old fashion book learning. It comes from God. Zeke if you want to change the world for Jesus, you are going to need a guide, a person who first of all loves and lives for Jesus with all their heart and someone who has been there before. Find someone who can tell you what is up ahead. Find someone and listen. Be a wise son, because if I call you dumb one more time, your mom is going to yell at me.

“Humility and silence are beautiful graces in young people. Never be ashamed of being a learner: Jesus was one at twelve years; when He was found in the temple, He was ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46).”  J.C Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men

Joseph

Lesson Three | Devotion #5: Joseph
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

(A letter to my son Zeke)

Zeke, It is a Monday, and your mother is at work. That means I am to brave the craziness of you and Broly. You are passed out sitting next to me while I attempt to get this written in a reasonable time.  About ten feet away, your brother is playing with his hockey stick swinging it around like Al MacInnis (five points for whoever knows who that is) yelling “hockey, hockey, hockey.” I paused from typing this letter until your brother went into the other room. I did not want to be distracted and have you take high-sticking to the face. Sadly, I have watched your big brother love you fiercely one moment and then hurt you the next. Legit, he stepped on your head last week. One day, you will understand the phenomena when the one person who you would protect with your life hurts the other person who you would protect with your life. It is a very conflicting feeling when you have to discipline one of them. Watching your brother, I know he loves you, I know he will protect you, and I also know he will hurt you, and you will hurt him. Sadly, you boys will grow up to not only hurt each other physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.  If I am any type of father, I hope I have taught you the story of Joseph well enough that you can use him as an example when someone hurts you.

Joseph and his family were doomed to drama from the start. Jacob had four wives, and Jacob made an error that no parent should make. In Genesis 37:3, the Bible says, “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age.” I hope I never become the type of person to criticize another’s parenting style, but I think I have to say that Jacob messed up here as a father. This error led to Jacob’s other sons selling Joseph into slavery, and that led to the brothers thinking Joseph was dead. That is when the whole adventure of Joseph begins. Due to space, I need to fast forward past a jail, an unfaithful wife, a cupbearer, and famine. After all of that, we have one of the most amazing moments in the Bible. Luckily, when it came time for Joseph to show the kind of man of God he was, he could not continue his shenanigans, and he announced to his brothers who he was and forgave them all. An amazing story of reconciliation and forgiveness takes place that may be only second to Jesus’ death on the cross.

I love both of you boys equally. While it may look different at times, please never sell another into slavery as a prank because you think I will favor you more. However you two boys turn out, I have one request, fight for family. I feel I am not one who can even request such a thing because I have not done so in my own life, but I have come to know the importance of family as you two grow up. I have experienced too many bridges burnt down in my life, some necessary and others not, but I hope I am the type of father who can show you that family is the most important human relationship you will have (until you get married). Let grudges go. Live selflessly. Help each other. Pray for each other. Lift one another’s burdens. Do not let pettiness or pride come between you and your brother. No hurt is ever great enough that forgiveness cannot be a remedy. Joseph wins the all time award for someone who could have kept a grudge but turned to God instead.

In Genesis 50:20-21, Joseph says, “‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”  There will be times your brother will hurt you, and I may even let you get even (legit he stepped on your head!). But Zeke, I want you two to fight for godliness. I want you two to fight for purity. I want you two to fight for righteousness. I want you to fight against the norm and evangelize in your schools. There is plenty of fighting that needs to be done, do not waste it fighting with someone who is on your team.

Ready | Why?

Ready | Devotion #5: Why?
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

About ten years ago, I was working at Stepanski Early Childhood Center in Waterford. At one point in my life, I had dreams and aspirations to be a pre-school teacher, so I went to school for my Early Child Development Degree and got an internship that led to a part-time job at S.E.C. I am pretty sure that the janitor and I were the only men that worked at that building, so needless to say, I was super popular with all the kids. While I had only two classes that I primarily helped with, recess time was a free for all. During recess kids wanted me to play with them. Kids in the sandbox would ask me to play, kids on the swings would ask me to push, kids running around would want to play tag (this was many pounds ago), and kids on the play structures would want me to watch them. Recess that was normally super fun became exhausting!  Trying to be there for every single kid was hard, and I did my best every day we went out, but I was spent at the end of the day.

I have been asked from students, “if Jesus came back from the grave, why did he leave to go back to Heaven?” That is such an amazing question, on so many levels. Jesus defeated death, Hell, and the grave because He died on a cross. He died for the world that crucified Him. Three days after His death, Jesus rose in victory, proving that no grave could hold him. Jesus’ victory was sure, and yet He stayed around. Sure, we could say Jesus wanted to see His mother, Peter, James, or Thomas before He left. Not only does He see them, but He also teaches some amazing lessons, and just stays on earth. Jesus stayed on earth for forty days after His resurrection to show that He was alive, but then He decided to leave.

In Acts chapter one, Jesus and His followers have gathered around, and one asked when Jesus was going to restore Israel. Jesus responded and then made one of the most amazing promises in the Bible. In verse 8 He says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Then Jesus just leaves. To me, this is the craziest mic drop moment in the Bible. No evidence of Jesus explaining what the Holy Spirit was capable of, no explanation of what the game plan was on how to run this thing called “the Church,” just “you get Holy Spirit power, go witness, I am out!” The amount of “whys” should flood our minds reading this!

The thing I love most about reading the Bible is connecting the dots. Sometimes to understand something we have to be able to take something apart. Since God exists in the Trinity ( Father, Son, and Spirit), we have to be able to see all that encompasses the Trinity when we ask our “whys.” Each part of the Trinity is God, but each has a “job,” so to speak.  Throughout the whole Bible, we see that God is humble. Jesus’ entire life, He was humble and submits to His Father. If you read Philippians chapter 2, Father God will exalt Jesus, the Son, with the name above all names. Throughout the Bible, we see God the Father sending the Holy Spirit.  To answer the question of “Why did Jesus ascend” we need to look in John chapter 14. Jesus tells us in verse 16 that when He returns to Heaven “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” Even more crazy, before He says all of that Jesus says in verse 12,  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”  Jesus knows that the disciples “greater work” was made possible because of His work on the cross, and this “greater work” will be fueled by the Holy Spirit.

“Why did Jesus leave?” I feel with all that information, Jesus left so He could send the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that the Spirit would be able to help guide, teach, protect, and ensure believers would always have a way to communicate with God. To say Jesus cannot do something is a dangerous place to be, but Jesus never existed in multiple places in the world at once. Jesus left because He knew by leaving the Holy Spirit could (and would) be everywhere around the world. Crazy to think even Jesus was humble enough to know, He could not be everywhere at once.

Recognize | Why?

Recognize | Devotion #5: Why?
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

All this week you have been reading from Luke chapter 24. The story of the two men walking to the city of Emmaus and Jesus closely following behind them is fascinating on many levels. The fact that the two men did not recognize Jesus is baffling. The fact that Jesus continued to walk with them getting the scuttlebutt of what was going on in Jerusalem is hilarious. Reading the Bible should produce a healthy amount of “whys,” and “whys” are okay. The entire time I read this story, the amount of “whys” that continued to pop out at me started making the whole story overwhelming. We have all been in a conversation with a child where they ask a “why question” only to follow it up with another “why question.” Amazingly, that is how God showed me an amazing truth on why Jesus decided to show up to these two men.

I have watched entirely too many movies, read too many comic books, and watched entirely too many cartoons. One of my favorite parts in any movie, comic, or cartoon is when the hero returns. The moment you think that the hero is done for and they are no more, then “BOOM” the legendary hero returns. If you have ever read or watched Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Dragon Ball Z, Superman, Avengers, or even Ninja Turtles, you know how awesome those moments are! Now those are all fiction, those are all fantasy, but in the return of Jesus, this is one time when reality tells a better story than fiction. Jesus has risen from the dead and what was one of the things He loved doing, walking among men. When God first showed me this, the thought that Jesus was walking around for thirty-three years with man seems to make my finding rather lackluster. But I traced my “whys” back to the very beginning.

Back in Genesis chapter 3, after Adam and Eve broke God’s command, the Bible says in verse eight, “God was walking in the garden.” Now there are tons of thoughts on if this walking was a “spiritual walk” or a “physical walk,” but wherever you want to land on that, there are instances in the Bible where God appears tangibly and in a seemingly human form (Genesis chapters 16 and 18). Fancy word of the day, when God does show up in a tangible human sense, it is called a “theophany.” So with all of that information, we know God has always enjoyed walking among His creation.

Now back to Luke chapter 24, why was Jesus walking with those men? Simple, God loves walking with His creation. Only now Jesus got to enjoy something that He has not been able to enjoy in quite some time. Jesus was able to walk with man, knowing that sin was finally defeated, and man had an ability to embrace the full relationship with God. It was what God had originally intended. One thing I have enjoyed over the last few months is going on walks with my oldest son. He does not like being in a stroller anymore; he likes walking or riding his scooter. It is a feeling I cannot describe. I cannot fathom how it made Jesus feel to be walking among people knowing they could finally walk toward eternity with Him.



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