Devotions

Author Archives: Ryan Story

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.

He is Not Here

Delivery Day • He is Not Here
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

When I was a child, Easter was nothing more than getting some candy. When I became a teenager, Easter was nothing more than getting a few days off of school. When I was in my twenties, I was working at a grocery store; Easter was nothing more than a week where I could get some overtime. Easter did not start to mean something to me until Jesus started to mean something to me. All my life I believed I would become my surroundings. My surroundings involved drinking, drugs, depression, anger, doubt, sadness, passive aggressiveness, neglect, chaos, and darkness. That is where I was going to be my whole life, but Easter changed that.

One of my favorite Easter verses in the Bible is only four simple words. If I wanted to embrace the contraction, it would be three simple words. Matthew 28:6 says, “He is not here.” An angel said that to both ladies named Mary when they went to visit the tomb where Jesus was buried. They expected to see what they saw the day before, a tomb filled with a loved one. The ladies never thought that view would change. Mary knew that her Son was buried and died, and she had accepted that as a reality. The hurt of being alone with no husband and now no son must have been heart-wrenching. Mary Magdalene went to see a man who loved her, taught her, and helped teach her about godly things. Now only hurt remained and that became her new reality. Before those two got to the tomb, I wish I could have been there as they woke up that morning to go to the tomb. Each woman was passing each other with those weak smiles that we show when we are destroyed on the inside. As they walked and got closer to the tomb, I am sure anger, doubt, and sadness started taking over their lives. But then they saw the tomb was open, and they were told the four greatest words recorded in the Bible, “He is not here.”

That means so much to me because at one point I never thought life could be any different. I was born into a family with a drinking problem, which meant my kids would be born into a family that had a drinking problem. I lived in darkness as a kid that means I would always live in darkness.  When I looked at my life, I was always going to be “here,” inside that tomb. I would never get out of “here.” “Here” in my life was the pit of sin and the hurt I encountered. Easter means the world to me because Jesus rose from the tomb so I could leave mine. Since Jesus was not “here,” that meant that I did not have to be or stay in my “here.” It is one of those sobering feelings to look back at where life used to be. I think back to being in a place of such darkness, and because of Jesus I did not have to stay there. Because He left, that meant I did not have to stay there. That is what Easter means to me.

Judas

Delivery Plan • Judas
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

There are two major schools of thought in the Christian theological world. If you ever want to start major arguments between biblical scholars say the words “predestination” or “free will,” and then run for cover. These conversations can be fascinating in which to listen and participate. There are Bible juggernauts on both sides. Both sides use Scripture, love Jesus, want to see the lost saved and should love those with opposing views. One of the biggest points of contention with the Arminian and Calvinism crowd is found in one man, Judas Iscariot. The issue becomes, did Judas choose to betray Jesus, or was he predestined to betray our Lord? Did he have a choice at all or does God make it so people have no out and have to commit horrible acts? So the great theological question of the day is, did God use Judas for His glory?

There are some interesting Scripture verses about Judas that can help figure out if Judas was predestined to betray, or if he had to make that choice. If you read any of the Gospels, every time Judas is mentioned there is never a positive linked to it. The writers always make sure we know that Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus. John 6:70-71 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’  He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.” I cannot imagine a worse thing to be known for all eternity that you were a devil! Again in John 13:27, Jesus says that “Satan entered into Judas.” Now, if we like to use verses in the Bible that say God knows the plans He has for us, sometimes that plan is not always the nicest. If you read Zechariah 11 and Jeremiah 32, many believe that Judas’ betrayal was prophesied thousands of years before it happened. So, in this case, Judas’ fate was set. God knew the devil would get him; God knew who and what Judas was. God has to use evil because whenever He ever uses humans, that is the only choice He has.

That has always scared me that God could use me in a manner like that. God can use us like He used Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, or King Saul. God’s plan for us can sometimes be set in stone to be an example of what not to be. While I almost set that as a hyper predestination truth in my head, I read Matthew 27:3-5.

“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.”

After Jesus’ arrest, Judas seemed to feel some sort of remorse. He understood the gravity of what he just did. However, I only see Judas showing remorse, but not repentance. Judas admits he did wrong, he admits Jesus was innocent, but he never called out for salvation. While reading this, I wonder what if Judas waited three more days before he took his life? When Jesus rose from the grave, He redeemed Peter. I am curious what Jesus would have said to Judas. Judas took away his opportunity for redemption.

God used Judas; that fact is undeniable. However, was God done with Judas? That is the ten-million-dollar question. What if He had more planned for Judas?

Moses

Delivery Man • Moses
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

Name meanings fascinate me. When it came to naming my two sons, I had to make sure that their names had some substance behind them. Broly Ezra is my strong and valiant helper, and Ezekiel Gambit is my reminder that God strengthens with sacrifice. In almost every case in the Bible, a person’s name is a gateway into their personality. To prepare for Summer Camp this year, God placed on my heart to preach on Exodus, moreover about Pharaoh and the plagues. After studying Exodus, I read somewhere that Moses name means to “draw out” or “drawn out.”

Throughout the Bible, there are people or objects that are meant to be types of Christ. These types are meant to symbolize actions that Jesus would do. If you study any given story, you can see how God’s plan was being displayed thousands of years before Jesus entered the scene. Moses is a type of Christ that shows how Jesus would deliver us from the world. Moses was the man God used to lead the nation of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land. While in Egypt, the king (Pharaoh) refused to listen to God or Moses. In similar means, the prince of this world refuses to let us leave. Because of God’s plan for Moses, he was able to be used to draw his people (also could be His people) away from the world and into a place of promise.

It is an amazing thought to realize that Jesus has drawn you out of the corrupt, sinful world in which you live. He has taken you from being a slave to being free. It should be a humble feeling knowing that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we who were once enslaved to a life of captivity are set free. 1 Peter 2:9 says what we are now, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Because Jesus came to deliver us from the world, we have hope.

From what have you been drawn out? There are people in our church who have been drawn out of a world of drugs and alcohol to living truly free from bondage. There are people in our church who have been drawn out of families where abuse and violence reigned, and now they have true peace in their homes. There are people who have been drawn out of wandering and aimlessness to being used by God for His purpose. How has Jesus drawn you out of the world? How can you go about celebrating that deliverance this Easter season?

Faithfulness

Blooming • Faithfulness
Ryan Story | Student Pastor

The Jump

“Dad’s beard is sweet.”
“One, Two,… What comes after two?”
“Ball?”
“I am going to jump now!”
“Pool time.”

These are thoughts I imagine running through my son’s head at his swim class. My wife and I felt it would be wise to enroll our son in swim classes before the summer began in hopes to teach him the basics of swimming. On one particular day, the instructor wanted us to work with our children to make sure they understood not to jump in unless a parent was present and wanting them to jump. Several times I set Broly on the ledge and counted to three. More than once Broly could not wait until the end of two before he jumped into the pool. This became frustrating and cute all in one. In hopes my son would understand the importance of making sure it was safe, I started to take steps further away from him. In my mind, I figured Broly would not want to jump in with me being out of arms distance. Yeah, that did not work. He still would jump in the pool, and I would have to take a quick stride to make sure he was safe. While I enjoy my son’s tenacity and fearlessness, this was not one of those times. I kept repeating the same pattern, but he always seemed to jump early. On our way home, it dawned on me, Broly’s fearlessness was not due to the lack of fear, his fearlessness was because he had complete faith that his father would be there to help.

In the short amount of time I have been a father, I feel I have learned so much about God. I sit, and I watch my interactions with my sons, and I seem to find moments in the Bible that coincide. When my sons look at me, I hope, there is never a moment that they are hesitant to trust me. Their faithfulness of believing their father is there for them is truly inspirational. My son would jump into a pool without the slightest degree of fear because he knew his father was too faithful to let him drop and fail. I stopped and scrolled through the Bible today and started thinking about how faithful God has been to us.

-God showed His faithfulness to save Noah and his family from the flood.
-God showed faithfulness to fulfill His promises to Abraham and created a great nation.
-God’s faithfulness was still evident to the children of Israel while they were in Egypt and wandering in the wilderness.
– God’s faithfulness made a shepherd boy into a great king.
-God’s faithfulness is even demonstrated in the failures of the Israelites when they are taken into exile and brought them back to the land He promised long ago.
-God’s faithfulness even sent His son to die on a cross for our sins.
-God’s faithfulness has Him present even in our worst failures. He is there to redeem, restore and re-strengthen us.

There was never a moment of doubt in my son’s mind when it came to putting his faith in me to catch him at the pool. He walked up to the edge and just jumped in. There was no “what if he is not there” or “what if my face gets wet.” There was complete trust and faith in his father. Imagine if our walk with God was like that. Imagine if we trusted God so much we were willing to step to the edge and just jump completely into His arms. What could happen if we gave God our 100%? We can trust Him to the point that we would live how He intended. Imagine if we all tried to reproduce this faithfulness in our families. Imagine if children had so much faith in their parents, they never had to question if their parents were proud of them. Imagine if a wife never had to doubt that she was still the one person her husband cherished above every other person. Imagine if a husband had the faith to lead his family where God wanted his family and that his family would follow. Sometimes in life, we just have to jump knowing God will catch us.



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