Author Archives: Ryan Story

Unused Gift

Spiritual Gifts | Devotion #1: Unused Gift
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

Have you ever received a gift that you knew for a fact you did not want? Have you ever been given a gift, knowing you did not want it, but you knew you could not exchange it? We all know we have a bread maker or some random salt and pepper shakers that only comes out when the relative who gave them to you comes and visits. My wife and I received a gift for our wedding that is hanging up in our spare bathroom. I was thankful for the gift, it was not my “style,” I knew I could not get rid of it, so the only logical choice was to put it somewhere where we did not have to see it.

Sadly, we tend to treat God like that. Every person who has received the gift of salvation by putting their faith into what Jesus did for us on the cross, has received the greatest gift of all time, the Holy Spirit. John 16:8-9 says, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” Jesus is telling His disciples that when He leaves, the Holy Spirit would be coming, and Jesus says that the Holy Spirit would be doing a very specific job, convicting the world concerning sin. This is one of those verses that when you read it, the first inclination is to look outward and get excited that someone is about to judge the world for how horrible it is. Then, hopefully, our pride starts to recede, and we realize that we too are just as guilty of sinning, we are just as guilty of unbelief, and we are just as guilty of being judgmental towards others.  

Conviction is an amazing gift. To have that feeling that you sinned is such a blessing. It means we are still connected to God. For some reason, we think conviction is a bad thing because it makes us feel bad. Sometimes we need to feel bad over sinning. I feel a major problem in our lives is we tend to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, but we only bring Him out when we want Him. I beg you if you have placed the Holy Spirit in your common hiding place because you do not like how conviction feels, please bring that gift back out in the forefront of your heart and mind. 

Confidence can come because you have the gift of the Holy Spirit. You know He wants you to be better. He convicts you to be better than you presently are. When we act on your belief it implies that we want to use the present from our Heavenly Father. When we work on our attitude and mindset, we start to look more like Jesus. When we realize that the gift of confidence brings us closer to Jesus, we should all make sure we are not hiding any gifts and see the value in them.  

Worst Gift Ever

The Gift of Blessings | Devotion #1: Worst Gift Ever
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

We live in a weird culture. Recently I saw a viral video trend that had parents giving their children avocados as a Christmas gift. Now I am all for fun and practical jokes, but watching the faces of these children got me thinking about what was being taught to these kids about gifts. I do not think that one practical joke is going to ruin a child forever, and I know that these videos were done out of love and humor. However, the subtle message being sent was to devalue gift giving. Gifts are meant to be given in love. There is an entire love language based off of giving and receiving gifts. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us about how to give gifts. Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

God only gives good gifts. I think back at all the times I begged God for something, and the thing He gave me seemed to have the same equivalence as a wrapped up avocado. I asked for patience and God gave me a rough day. How often do we ask God for something and He turns and gives us something that we never expected? This we know, God only gives gifts that His children need to the point that Jesus can say “how much more.” Jesus says that when we ask our Heavenly Father for food, He will not give us a stone. If we ask for food, He will not give us a snake. Jesus even goes on to say that those who are evil know how to give gifts! 

So if God only gives good gifts, it would be wise if when we gave gifts, we make them good ones as well. I am not advocating for you to spend more money, but take a moment and think about the last thing you gave your spouse, child, boss, or co-worker. Was it a serpent or was it a blessing? My sons are all about the toy aisle, and I may be just as excited as them, but spending ten minutes with them reading every night is a way better gift. Taking time out of your day to encourage someone, or telling them how much they mean to your life, is way better than any Starbucks gift card. Take time this week to figure out what gifts you are giving.

Own It

Stand On It | Devotion #1: Own It
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

“It was my fault, I have failed to set that expectation as your leader. I apologize.” Go find any of my students in Student Leadership and ask them about that statement. They will cringe. Over the last three years, I have started doing a Student Leadership class that is meant to help push high school and middle school students to be leaders for Christ in their homes, schools, and church. Every once in a while, expectations are not met with doing homework, inviting students to events, attendance, and other factors. In one of my favorite leadership books, a retired Navy Seal says, “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” I realized that blaming students for things was not teaching them or myself any type of lesson. I realized that any shortcoming that came from this group was on the leader, myself. Now, when I would say this it was not in a passive-aggressive, “whoa is me” move, I genuinely realized that the only person I had the right to put the blame on was myself. What came to pass was something that I did not expect. The students who bought into what we were trying to accomplish in Leadership drew closer to me and wanted to work harder to set the bar that we were trying to establish with Leadership.

In life, I feel I have been able to connect with more people in my shortcomings and my weaknesses than my strengths. I have taught many Growth Communities with adults, and I realize when I say, “Man I suck at being a husband” or “I struggle keeping my patience with my two boys,” is the moment more people are drawn closer together. People connect with people because of weaknesses more often than strengths.  I love the story in John chapter four, and I have tried to figure out how this uneducated, unsophisticated, unrefined woman was used in such an extraordinary way. We can conclude that it was because Jesus wanted to be her (and our) answer. However, I feel there is more. In John 4:29 the lady at the well says one of the most vulnerable and yet powerful statements out of anyone who has come into contact with Jesus. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Jesus called this woman out for the darkest part of herself, and after accepting that Jesus was the Christ, she began proclaiming to the town that Jesus knew all her issues. Why do I think that she was able to connect with her town so well in the name of Jesus? I think the woman finally was owning her brokenness and letting God do something with it.  

Too often I see believers walking around with brokenness without ever truly giving it to Jesus. We get called out and convicted by the issues of our past, and we never truly give it to Jesus. We just walk around broken. We as believers need to take ownership of our lives and give our brokenness to God and let Him use it to help others. Often we like to own our mistakes and never give them to the real leader who can do something about our issues. Imagine a world where the church stopped walking around acting like we have everything all together and looked at a broken co-worker and talked about our struggles with our marriages, children, or other things. The Church is meant to be there loving those far from God, and yet we struggle with being honest with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that we have pain and problems. We have to get to a place where we are owning our testimonies and admitting the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being open with your testimony is hard, but imagine what God can do with your story if you are willing to stand on what God has done with your life. 

Extreme Measures 

Remember It | Devotion #6: Extreme Measures
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton 

I am an extreme guy. It is not in the sense that I am into skydiving while riding a bull, while drinking a Red Bull and shooting off shotguns, while listening to rock metal. That would be an awesome experience, but I am the type of person when I do something, I do it to the umpteenth level. I do not like going half in on something. I do not ride the fence. If I am going to do something, I am all in 100%. If it is getting in shape, cutting sin out of my life, or simple lifestyle changes, there is seldom a middle ground.

If you would like to get the full depth of God’s Word, take a moment and read Joshua chapters seven and eight. The quick version of the story has the nation of Israel being lead by Joshua into the Promised Land. God is with them, and the nation of Israel is taking down city after city. God’s people just took down Jericho, a major enemy city, and were gaining momentum, moving closer to their God-given direction. The nation of Israel then hit a snag in a battle that should have been a walk in the park. They had 36 men die in the battle at Ai that should have been one-sided. The worst part of this defeat was the reason why Israel lost. The loss was attributed to one man’s sin. The Bible says, “The hearts of the people melted and became as water” 

The loss at Ai is one of Joshua’s defining moments in his life. Joshua exhibited amazing leadership and confronted the sin that was in the camp. He got rid of that sin. After he went back, he went forward and defeated Ai. These are the parts of the Bible I love the most. They are parts that make you stop and think, “Well then.” 

Joshua 8:28-30 tells us what Joshua did when he went back, and God gave him the victory. “So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day. At that time Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal,”

While Joshua led his troops into defeat. He had blood on his hands because he was the leader. Leadership evokes a heavy price to pay, but Joshua dealt with the sin. He absolutely destroyed the obstacle in his way from what God had for him. Joshua was not leaving the dead body to be morbid or vicious; He was doing it to show his people that setbacks cannot deter you from moving forward with God. 

I think, Joshua built an altar of remembrance after the victory in Ai for two reasons. The first was to make sure that his people always remembered the heavy cost sin has in our lives. There were 36 people who died for a few pounds of silver. Going against God’s Word should never be tolerated. We must remember and store what God has said to us. The second reason for an altar was so Joshua could use the defeat at Ai to bring people back to God’s faithfulness. Joshua 8:34 says, “And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.” Joshua’s defeat only pushed him closer to remembering how God was faithful to them through Egypt, the wilderness, and now Canaan. Joshua wanted to make sure he took an extreme measure to ensure that no one would ever forget the cost for which they were fighting. Joshua took an extreme stance to make sure every person he knew was able to use this defeat to magnify Joshua’s amazing God. 

Remember the “defeats” of your past, so you do not repeat them and to remind you of God’s faithfulness.

Set It and Forget It 

Forget It | Devotion #1: Set It and Forget It
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

Few people know who Ron Popeil is. Few people would know he founded the company RonCo. However, if I told you that Ron Popeil coined one of the most famous phrases in infomercial history you might realize about whom I am talking. The Showtime Rotisserie is one of the most popular infomercial items, not because of the product, but because of Ron’s catchphrase, “Set it and forget it.” I have always loved watching all types of infomercials of items. I know that I will never buy any of these items, but I have been watching infomercials for years. I cannot say for sure why but there has always been something about that phrase that has always stuck with me. 

We all have a past. You do not have to have a failed marriage, drug or alcohol abuse, or estranged children to have a past. From the person who has been clean for three months, to the person who was in church the first Sunday they were out of the hospital, we all have skeletons in our closets. I grew up in a mess of a family where my wife grew up in a pretty godly and functional house, and we both have skeletons in our closets. Today, I want to encourage you to come to peace with the brokenness of life. The reality is sin is still triumphing over people’s lives, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) is still wreaking havoc in our world. Life is hard, and there is some serious hurt out in the stories of all who are reading this. We live in a world that tells us to cover up the hurt, hide the imperfections, and only project that Instagram worthy selfie to the world. If you are someone who has some serious hurts in your life, know that every staff member is here to help pray with you, and we would all love helping you find Jesus in your pain. Today, I want to encourage you to set it and forget it.

Clearly, an infomercial has no real power in our world to change someone’s life, but the Word of God does. Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” While the target market for most people who read devotionals is most likely those who have been redeemed and saved by putting their faith in Jesus Christ and the work He did for us by dying on a cross for our sins, sometimes we may overlook this. The first part of the verse in Colossians is “if then you have been raised with Christ.” If you have not been born again, please take some time to do that. If you have any question about that, feel free to call The River Church’s offices.  But for those of us who believe in Jesus, we are told to “set your mind on things that are above.” It took me a long time to realize that God has always had a purpose for every pain I ever experienced. It may take time for us to find that purpose, but we will never find that purpose if we are always looking to ourselves, the world, or a substance for the answer. The only answer comes from above. When we set our minds to the godly things, it is amazing how everything else in life seems to just fall into line. 

So I encourage you to set your mind to things above and forget what is in the past. You cannot change the past, how you reacted, or what was done to you. I assure you though that our God is too loving not to have a plan. The hardest thing to do sometimes is to trust that God has a plan for our pain.  

Remember: Set it and forget it!

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