Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

Tough to Love When You Favor

Pruning • Tough to Love When You Favor
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I recently made one of the hugest mistakes of my parenting career. It was one of those days at my house. My oldest son, who was almost 2, was destroying my house. He was legitimately destroying everything. Broly was taking his play hammer and pounding the walls, he took the toy hockey stick and hit several things off the wall, and somehow managed to hit his little brother Zeke. I picked up Zeke and got him to stop crying. Then I said something that I soon quickly regretted, I looked at Zeke and said, “This is why you are my favorite.” Now I did not mean that wholeheartedly, but at the moment frustration got the best of me. What makes it worse was my wife heard me and came out from the kitchen and informed me why this statement was not correct to say.

Family dysfunction starts with the parents. Parents are not perfect, and kids can be hard to love, but as parents, we must stay the course and show them the example of Christ in our lives. I grew up in a family where it seemed as if it was always aunt against aunt, uncle against uncle, and cousin against cousin. It never seemed abnormal to me to be pitted against my siblings. It was never off to see my parents pitted against my aunts and uncles. Looking back on it, that kind of dysfunction can break people. Sadly, all of the drama between Jacob and Esau started with Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 25:28 says, “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

It is really easy to see how Jacob and Esau’s conflict grew to split the family. It is easy to find fault in the scheming Jacob and the foolish Esau. But getting to the root of the issue shows Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism. I look at both my boys and I see the crazy, fearless Broly and I see the sweet, smiley, chunky Zeke. I love them both in different ways, but putting favor on one over the other is wrong. If we are honest, sometimes that can happen. Family life becomes difficult and tough to love when children are brought up in a world where they feel they must compete for their parent’s approval.

By no means have I arrived as a parent; I am a novice at best. But I strive not to let favoritism rule in my family. We all know there are things that you like and do not like about people. Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no partiality.” God loves everyone equally; you cannot earn more or less with God. God loves you for you, not your deeds, good or bad. I took a moment where I looked at the negative actions of my son and deemed him less, and that is wrong. Isaac deemed Esau greater because he was older and a hunter. Let us let love guide our relationships with our kids, not our preference.

 The Power of Forgiveness

Nurturing •  The Power of Forgiveness
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I worked in Head Start for a few years when I was going for my Associates Degree. Head Start is a program for low economic pre-school aged students that helps them get a “head start” when they start Kindergarten. Attending a few meetings, I heard several times that “education is the only thing that can break the cycle of poverty.” Head Start’s mission, so to speak, was to help kids out of poverty in their lives; they had to get through grade school and college to get a good job to not repeat the trend. I loved working with this program and loved working in the classrooms I had. Agree or disagree with their view, the idea that adding one element can stop a cycle of destruction is an amazing thought. If you look in your life, go back to a point when you added Jesus’ forgiveness into the cycle of life you were living. Did it change everything? Of course, adding Jesus to anyone’s life can change the way a person lives, but there is much power in us forgiving others.

Take some time this week to read about Joseph in Genesis chapters 38-50. With all of the stuff that Joseph had to endure because of his brothers, and slightly his pride, Joseph had an opportunity to destroy his brothers, but he chose to forgive them and embrace them. Even after Jacob had died the book of Genesis (chapter 50) says:

“Say to Joseph, ‘Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you. And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’  But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  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” (verses 17-21).

Joseph’s brothers knew they had done wrong, and were fearful of what would happen after Jacob’s death. God was able to move Joseph to a place where he realized that everything that happens is because of God, the good and the bad. Forgiveness in the family is hard because the hurt is closer. If you are struggling with forgiveness, think about the cycle you can break by forgiving the person who has hurt you. It becomes so easy for us to not move forward because “you do not know what that person did to me” or “you do not know how much that hurt.” But the cycles of bitterness, revenge, insecurities, hostility, and resentment must end so we can move closer to what God has for us. I understand that these words are easier to type than to live out, but from someone who has battled with forgiving those in my life who have hurt me, it is amazing what God has for us on the other side.

Abide

Planting •  Abide
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

I had to accept something awhile ago, “I am a family man.” By that I mean I have a wife and two sons. To those who knew me in my young adult phase you know this to be true, I never thought I was going to get married let alone have kids. I accepted my fate the moment I said “I do” and I have acted accordingly. From the moment my wife told me she was pregnant, I accepted my fate. In those moments, I knew I would not leave my family; I would remain even through the toughest of times. I would always abide with my family.

In John 15:1-11, Jesus explains that He is the True Vine. Repeatedly, Jesus says, “abide in me.” Simply put the word “abide” means “to stay with.” There are two major ways I look at this section of Scripture. The first is how our lives look when we abide with Jesus. To hear Jesus talk about us abiding in Him is comforting like a warm blanket on a cold day. Abiding with Jesus, staying with Jesus, is a decision that never comes back void. It amazes me that people honestly walk away from Him. Take a moment today to think of ways that you can abide more richly in Him.

There needs to be the mega application. When we abide in Jesus fully, we can abide better with those we love. I was able to come to a profound truth recently, if Jesus does not remain my Number One, everything else falls apart. I was told once to think of life like plate spinning. It takes time to get the big plate moving, but once it gets moving you can focus on other plates, and some are larger than others. So if abiding in Jesus is the big plate, then my wife is the next biggest plate, and my sons are the next biggest plate. I have to get the bigger ones going or else, the smaller ones will fall. If I am not focusing on the bigger plate, then I am not focusing on the correct order of plate. Everything will fall. Abiding in Jesus is great because when we fully commit to Him, He seems to help elevate every other area. Who knew making my wife #2 and Jesus my #1 would be the best thing for our marriage?

I truly enjoy my walk with God and enjoy the adventure I am on with my family. There are few things in my life that bring me genuine joy. Jesus and my family are the two at the top of my list. I mess up, and at times I feel like a sub-par husband and a below average father. But that does not stop me from figuring out what I need to do to change that. The issue always seems to be when I start walking away from God. Abiding with God for the sake of my family seems to be the one thing that always seems to fix the issues. What are the things that bring you true joy? If they are found in God, how can growing closer to God help you grow in your joy?

A Job Well Done

Death #3  November 29 A Job Well Done

Often we wonder what was going on in someone’s head. I recently watched my son head-butt a wall, and I wondered, “What are you thinking?” I have watched teenagers do the most idiotic things, and I stare at them and ask, “What was going through your brain when you thought that was a good idea?” I also try to do this when reading the Bible. What was going through Enoch’s mind when God brought him to Heaven? What was going through David’s head when Goliath went down? What was going through Peter’s mind when he walked on water? Finally, what sort of thoughts were going through John the Baptist’s mind right before he was beheaded.

Take some time to read the story of John the Baptist’s beheading in Matthew 14. For the gruesomeness of this passage I do not want to go into great detail about this passage, and since anyone from 8- 80 could be reading this devotional, I will have to put a “parental advisory” on verses 8-12 as I continue. I always wondered what was going on in John’s mind. He is sitting in prison; he may or may not have been able to hear that his minutes are numbered. I wonder if John felt regret. He stayed committed to the calling God put on his life. John lived a rather odd life of eating insects and wearing uncomfortable clothes, all for God. He devoted his life to preparing the way of the Lord, and he was now in a place where he would not get to see the end result. Now, John was stuck in a room, where eventually a man would come in, murder him, and display his head.

We all have a tendency to look at how a situation ends and define the end as the result of the whole thing. Think of every team that loses in the championship game. The moment the clock hits 00:00 and a team loses, why does everyone throw their entire season out and considered them failures? Atlanta just lost the Super Bowl with a 95% probability of winning with five minutes left in the game. Now that was a great comeback, but Tom Brady being the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), does not take anything away from Matt Ryan or Julio Jones. Just because something does not end in what we deem as a “win,” does not make it a loss.

Switching gears from football to John the Baptist. John lost his life in prison after faithfully serving God. John boldly preached repentance to a society that did not want to hear him. John stood up to self-righteous religious people that would murder anyone who stood in their way. John was willing to be an odd-ball, just because it was what God commanded him to do. Go back to Matthew 11. While John was in prison, he had doubts. John sent a servant to ask Jesus if he was truly Jesus. Jesus’ response was, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them”( Matthew 11:4-5). At that moment I think we can see what was going on in John’s mind. Yes, John’s life was about to end. However, the job that John was tasked with was just starting to take off. The job that John started was about to be finished by Jesus. The Kingdom of God was starting to roll, and God used John to start the momentum. The reality is all of our lives are but a vapor, and we never know when that last moment will be. But in John’s case, I feel he was able to move from this life to the next easily knowing that he did a job well done. He finished his race. He fought his fight. He left this world with no regrets. We can learn a lot about our walk with Christ in even the most brutal of stories. So let us take a page out of John the Baptist’s book, and go work for Christ. Let us all go live a life that is worthy of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Pastor Ryan Story

Student Pastor

True Humility

Imprisonment and Doubt #3  November 22 True Humility


C. S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I am not a humble guy. Pride is one of the hardest sins in my life. This has always been a struggle for me. The thing that is ironic to me is that I struggle with both sides of pride, the self-conscious part of pride, and I struggle with the egocentric part of pride. Any given day I can have sinful thoughts that I am the greatest, smartest person on this Earth, to the next day thinking that everything I do is useless and meaningless. That is why I enjoy that quote by Mr. Clive Staples Lewis (bet you did not know his name was Clive) because he can tap into the core of what humility looks like, thinking of ourselves less.

I have enjoyed studying John the Baptist over this last month or so. I try to make sure that I read as much as I can about a Biblical topic before I write. One of John’s most famous quotes he ever says is found in John 3:30, where he says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is one of those common Christian jargon verses we like to throw around and make for some amazing Christian tattoos. But like many things in the Bible, things that have been written, we have lost the true meaning, the real depth of the beauty that John is saying.  Sadly, I have to admit, I did not realize that John the Baptist said this in John 3. I feel ashamed to admit this, but when I first started reading, I said to myself, “I thought John 3 was all about Nicodemus and Jesus.”

Take today to really, really study a conversation that is had in John 3:25-30. A disciple and a random Jewish man (I am assuming) are having a conversation, and they ask John a question. They even ask it using “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), which is a huge sign of respect in the Jewish culture. The men proceed to listen to John as he waxed eloquent exaltations about Jesus. John was a man with a following. John was thought of as one of the champions of the Jewish nation, Elijah. John was a man who could out-preach the Pharisees. John was a man who knew his place.

John knew who Jesus was, as many reading this do. If we want to begin to think about Jesus as John did we have to answer two paramount questions:


1)What areas of your life do you need to start decreasing?


2) What areas of your life do you need to start letting Jesus increase?

Are you trying to control too much in your life? Are you afraid to give, or serve because you do not know when you would get that time or money back? Are you afraid to ask God how to serve Him because it might not be in your plans? When will you start acting like Jesus and finally stop gossiping, swearing, or talking negatively about someone? When we get to a place where those are the hard questions, we get to a place where John was. John was able to serve God faithfully, boldly, and so counter-culturally that he was used to be the small spark that ignited the Jesus movement. And it came from one simple idea; I am going to humble myself, so Jesus can indeed be seen through my actions.

Pastor Ryan Story
Student Pastor



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