Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

Only Yes or No

Promises #3 – Only Yes or No
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

When I first started at The River Church, my role was “Student Disicpler.” Now discipler is not even a word, but nonetheless, that is what Pastor Jim called me. One of my major responsibilities was to seek out high school and middle school boys who were looking to take their walk with Jesus further. I had one middle school boy who taught me a valuable lesson. After the first year was concluding, I told a few of the middle school boys that I would take them to Cooks Farm Dairy for some ice cream. I had the best intentions in mind. I knew where all of them lived, all of their parents were on board, and I just needed to pick a day. Sadly, the busyness of life never allowed me to fulfill my promise. Now one would think that a 12-year-old’s memory would be foggy, but not this dude. Every so often, I would hear “you haven’t taken us out to ice cream.”

As people, we always have a tendency to overcommit to things. I know I do that with people in the church, my wife, and I will probably do that with my own kids someday. I feel that people, at times, have very good intentions. When I said I would take those boys out, I meant it and wanted to do so. Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37). I feel that we all need to look at our commitment level in our lives. Sadly, I know when I start to overcommit, I commit to the things that do not matter as much. When I overcommit I commit to things that are not always bad, but they are not what is best. Jesus says it perfectly (as He always does); do not say “yes” unless you can fulfill that promise. Some of us work demanding jobs, go to school, and live lives where there is a ton to do. Take some time next time you make a promise to realize there are only two options to that choice. Yes or no. I feel we all live in the I said yes, but I will get around to it. I tell my wife I am going to do the laundry, eventually. That is not exactly living up to that promise. I am sure you can think of a few of those scenarios in your life.

That boy is now going into 10th grade. Every summer the two of us set a few weeks aside to do a Bible study. I was tired of feeling like a man who was all talk and just promised things. I am glad he always brought up that I was not true to my word. This year on our last meeting I took him to lunch and then to Cooks Farm Dairy. As I was dropping him off at his house, he looked at me, said “about time”, and then said “thanks.”  I do not know why I felt God kind of give me a pat on the back and say, “He will never forget this story.”  Take some time today to think about some of the promises that you have made. Take a lesson from God that if He always delivers on His promise that means you have to as well. Remember we will be remembered; hopefully, we are all remembered as someone who keeps our promises.

Keep your eyes to your self

Lust #3 – Keep your eyes to your self-Lust
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

On April 5, 2014, I entered into a covenant with my wife. I promised her that she “would be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Most people probably said very similar things. Now we could chat all day long about how broken our society is, and how marriage is no longer what it was “back in the day.”  The reality is marriages fall apart inside the church at about the same rate that they do outside of it. Now, I am a novice in the husband game. The amount of stupid things I still do makes every “marriage veteran” shake their head. However, there is one thing I have always sworn I would do, and that is to uphold the covenant I made with my wife.

Lust destroys people plain and simple. It destroys young people, old people, married people, single people, men, and women. Teenagers who are never taught proper Godly self-control grow up to become adults who struggle with the exact thing. Whenever I am faced with a problem in my spiritual walk, I always try to go to the root. Think about the last time you had weeds in your yard. It does you no good to spray or just to cut them; you have to yank it out by its root to get rid of them. In my opinion, the root of the sin known as lust first starts with our eyes. The reality is we are all visually stimulated, and men are worse for wear. Job 31:1 says “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?”  By no means have I arrived, but if I made a covenant with my wife that she was my one and only, then I had better uphold that in every facet of my being. That means I will honor that covenant by the way I provide for her, stick it out with her during the good and hard times, and the things I look at. While on my wedding day I may not have said those words, shortly after being married I prayed them to God as a sign that I was serious about my marriage. The world we live in claims that there is “no harm in a glance” and we can “look but don’t touch.” That is the exact opposite of what the Bible says. We live in a society with a lust problem causing a pornographic epidemic, and it is ruining families. Let us be honest; that problem is hurting families inside the church.

“If a woman sees her husband’s eyes also affirming the beauty of another woman, she ceases to feel special.”  I always want to make sure my wife knows how beautiful I think she is, so I never want to leave a time bomb in her mind that will cause her pain. Simply put, if you struggle with “keeping your eyes to yourself,” remember this, the moment you married your wife she became the standard of beauty for the rest your life. Stare at some clouds, look at your shoes, or look at the time. Remember, you entered not only a covenant with her, but with God.

We are all teachers of something-Anger

Anger #3 – We are all teachers of something-Anger          
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

Ever since my son was born, there has been one thing I have taught him that my wife never liked. If I say the word “head-butt” and put my head down, my son will get a huge smile on and come give me a baby head-butt. He laughs and then goes back and plays. One day I got a text from my wife that started with “Broly is your son.” Instantly I knew I was in trouble. She proceeded to tell me that when she asked him for a kiss, he gave her a head-butt. Instantly all of “I’ve been watching you” by Rodney Atkins started playing in my head.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go” In this situation, I am not too worried about Broly walking around becoming a menace to society by head-butting random people. However, I started thinking, “what are some other actions that I am inadvertently training my son to do that I do not want him to learn?”  I have been working with children and teens, in ministry and schools, for close to ten years now. One thing that has always stuck out to me is how much children learn from their parents. If a parent is affectionate, then the child is usually affectionate. If a parent is shy, then the child is sometimes shy. If the parent is playful, then the child generally is playful. Now the sad truth that I have seen is, if a parent gets angry often, the child displays the same tendencies. It is amazing to think how much influence parents have.
The reality of life is we all have anger problems. If we go by the definition of anger, it would be “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” I think when people hear the word anger they instantly think rage, yelling, throwing things, and etcetera. I feel there are quite a few people who have “anger issues,” but they display them in a quiet way. Let us be honest; you have been in a situation where you were completely annoyed, but you had a smile on your face. In the family, anger can become something that destroys everything. Sadly, when I look at the exact definition of anger, I realized that some of my bad habits came from my parents and I am terrified to pass those on to my son. Take a second to think of the ways that you deal with things that annoy you, things that displease you, and things that cause you to becoming hostel.  Now look at your children, do they display the same tendencies? How are you training up your child to handle anger? It is amazing to think how much you can teach about Jesus just on how you respond to a stressful situation.

He Never Looks Down on Us for Asking

God’s Present • Devotion #3: He Never Looks Down on Us for Asking
Pastor Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I remember asking Santa for some pretty crazy things. I was a huge basketball fan as a kid and for some reason, I thought Charles Barkley was awesome. I remember asking Santa for a 76er’s jersey signed by Sir Charles himself. Now clearly in 1989, that would have been a hard thing for “Santa” to get me, but it did not stop me from asking. There was never a moment that I felt like Santa thought I was a fool for asking.

Have you ever needed to ask God for something and you were a bit afraid of it? I have worked with students for some time now, and a lot of times when a teenager wants to pray for a member of their family, they have some thought in their head that God cannot help them. There are times where I have talked with teenagers who are struggling with issues, and they think God will be mad if they confess their sins to Him. Somehow, we believe that the man with a belly like a bowl full of jelly is more understanding than the creator of the universe!

God honors bold faith. One of my favorite Old Testament stories is when Joshua asked God to stop the sun from setting. Feel free to read Joshua 10, but there is never a moment when God says to Joshua, “Hey that is too crazy, leave me alone.”  Read the Bible, if a person is asking God with a pure heart and the correct motives, He never looks down on us for having the faith to ask Him for the impossible.

No Race or Gender Bias

One day my brother and I were having a heated argument filled with the most intellectual and logical statements a six and seven year old could muster. The argument was over the description on the back of our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s Party Van. I was convinced that Santa only delivered gifts in English, while my brother took the stance that he would have changed the language it was made in. It did not make sense to me why Santa would change the language because clearly, every Santa I ever saw in the mall was white and Anglo Saxon. Why would he treat a random Swedish child with the same love as me? In my head, I was convicted that since I wrote the letters, and I visited Santa in the mall, I was clearly the favorite.

I am glad I have a bit more of a worldview than I had when I was six. As a kid, I figured Santa favored Americans. I feel that as Christians we sometimes take that worldview. Imagine having the worldview that Jesus is for the Americans, Muhammad is for people in the Middle East, Krishna is for India, and Buddha is for all oriental people. Sadly, that is the misguided view of religion. The truth that when the angel in Luke 2 says, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” He was not saying a savoir for whites, Americans, Canadians, and European or even man or woman. Christ is the savoir of the world. He loves everyone equally. As Santa has no sense of bias neither does Christ. Jesus loves everyone equally. There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more or any less. As this season rolls forward, take some time and figure out how to love with no bias like Jesus.

God’s Gifts and Santa’s Gifts

God’s Present • Devotion #2: God’s Gifts and Santa’s Gifts
Pastor Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I remember how spectacular Christmas was when I was a child. As a kid making my Christmas list, there was nothing I could not ask for. I asked for any and everything without the first thought about how much those things cost. However, as I got older, my list went from child-filled wonderment to things that were more practical and necessary. I stopped asking for everything and started for more of a realistic choice.  Adulthood starts to replace childlike awe, not just about Christmas but also about life. While that was helpful for anyone shopping for me at Christmas, the healthy shift in my wish list reflected an unhealthy shift in my heart.

Now I grew up in a non-Christian household. There was no Jesus during Christmas, but I did lose something, as I grew older. I lost that childlike faith that only small children have. Now I cannot look at my life and recount the times as a child that I believed in Jesus, but I can look back and think about when I started looking at Jesus differently. For the next two days, I wanted to look at the ways children look at Santa and the way we should look at God.

Santa does run out of gifts. God does not run out.

Have you ever seen a Christmas list from a child? Those things are well thought out and long.  No matter how crazy of a request, children ask Santa for gifts with no fear of supply or demand. A child never expects to see a note from Santa that reads, “Sorry Tommy, we ran out.”  As a Christian, have you ever gotten to a place where you do not feel like God can help you? You find yourself thinking that your weekly quota of grace and love has been exceeded so you cannot ask God for forgiveness (Psalm 103:12). Your walk with Jesus has been unstable so you cannot ask Him to “make straight your path” (Proverbs 3). Children can look to a man in red and believe that he is unlimited. Those of us who know the one true God, who have “tasted and seen his goodness” (Psalm 34) have a tendency of limited God.

It never burdens Santa

Ask any child about Santa’s workload. In every story you read, any movie you watch, he and the elves start working the day after Christmas. The list starts to be made, the toys start to be constructed, and the reindeer need to engage in their games. The whole operation that Santa runs is over the top. Yet no child would ever say that he or she is burdening Santa because the child believes he is capable of doing anything.

Do you believe that God can do anything? Most every Christian would say, yes, but take a moment and think of a time you felt that you were a bother to God. It may just be me, but I have found myself praying for the same thing, pleading for help with the same struggles, and failing daily. I felt like the reason I was not “getting it” was because God was annoyed with me. The reality all the work it takes to make the universe operate like clockwork, all the work needed to allow our circulatory and nervous system to run properly, is not even on God’s radar when it comes to a burden. He is almighty; therefore, no amount of work could ever burden our Lord. Take some time to read Psalm 55, God cannot become tired, He cannot become faint, and He is so strong He requests our burdens.



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