Author Archives: Ryan Story

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!

Work and Worship 

Back to Reach | Devotion #1: Work and Worship
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

I sit down with an older man every other week. The purpose of our meetings is because I crave wisdom in my life. I love when people can speak truth into my life so I can be a better husband, father, and pastor. One of the things he tells me is a quote from Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I have always enjoyed this quote, but I have often fallen victim to F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). I have had to look at my life and realized that I have missed out on opportunities to see God work because I did not want to work.

I believe that God created man for two reasons. The first thing we were created to do was to worship God. The second thing that I think we were created for was to serve God. If you go back and read the creation account in Genesis chapter two, God and Adam both do some pretty amazing things. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Adam was assigned by God the task to take care of paradise. The opportunity to take care of Eden was not a punishment; it was not because of sin. For some reason, we always think that work is a sin. Work is not sinning. Work is our means of worship. If we jump to Genesis chapter 3, we see that work becomes hard because of sin. We must always remember that God created man to work. So we all must get to work!

As much as I could talk about this idea for the remainder of this devotion, God showed me something that I have never seen before. Genesis 2:19 says, “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens 80 

and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” It amazes me that God never commanded Adam to name the creatures. God simply sent every living beast to Adam, and he knew what to do. God did not have to beg, plead, or inspire Adam to do work. God simply sent work Adam’s way and Adam did it. The relationship between Adam and God was so perfect that God did not need to command Adam to serve Him, Adam just knew to do it.

You have heard the sermons and the announcements about serving. You have probably been told by God to serve in a ministry. Do not let the devil trick you into thinking that you do not have time, or you do not have the skills to help in a ministry. Do not allow serving to become what it is not meant to be. Serving should not be work, serving should not be something that pastors or leaders of the church beg you to do, nor should it be commanded. Serving should be our way of growing in our walk with our God. Serving should be us seeing the opportunities that God has given us and take the initiative to be used to further His kingdom.

“It was not as difficult as I thought” 

Grow | Devotion #2: “It was not as difficult as I thought”
Ryan Story | Location Pastor – Burton

On the last day of Student Growth Community a year ago, I had the students do a questionnaire. I asked, “How has your walk with God improved” and “what are some habits you need to develop to strengthen your walk with God?” There were some other questions along that line. One of the questions I asked the students was “Have you started reading your Bible more because of Growth Community?” The room all answered, then one girl raised her hand and said one of the most profound truths I have ever heard. Her response was, “I have started reading the Bible more this year. I realized it is not as difficult to understand as I thought.” That response was one of those lightbulb moments for me.

Not reading your Bible is like not getting an oil change for your car. If you never get new oil in your car, you may be able to continue down the road for some time, but eventually, your engine will seize up. As a Christ follower, you may be able to keep going down the road of life for some time, but eventually, everything will seize up.  At the center of growing in your walk with God, there must be reading the Word of God. You cannot grow in a relationship with Jesus without a heavy dose of Scripture.

I recently read the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm chapter 119.  In this whole chapter, you see how amazing the Word of God is. I would love to go through all 176 verses, but it would take a very long time. At the core of this Psalm, I think that Psalm 119:47 is the thesis statement for the whole Psalm, “For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.”  The Psalmist knew the vital truth of finding delight and love in knowing God’s commands.

I think one of the first excuses we use for not reading the Bible is because we do not understand it. I will let you know a fun fact: you will never truly understand the whole Bible. I have a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, and I still feel like a novice when it comes to my biblical understanding. We are quick not to attempt things that we think we are going to fail at, but we cannot let this be true with our Bible. It is even harder to understand your Bible if you never open it!

We must learn to be like the Psalmist, and we must know that we will only begin to truly read the Bible when we realize that we must love the person who wrote it. When we recognize that the Bible is the only book ever to exist where the author wants to have a relationship with every person who opens it is the moment we will never be able to put it down. Take today to open your Bible. Reading the Bible is not as hard as the devil is making it seem. God does not need you to be a theological scholar. He wants you to be obedient and just to sit down, read, and love a book that He ensured got penned so all of His creation would know how amazing He is!

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” Charles Spurgeon


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