Devotions

Author Archives: Pastor Ryan Story

Road to Emmaus • Devotion #1: Catch Up

I hate Waldo. It is rather a blunt sentiment to start a devotion with, but I have never truly enjoyed the Where’s Waldo books. The main reason for this loathing for the red and white striped man is it never seems like my eyes move fast enough to spot him. I know who I am looking for, I know all the tricks to the book by faking you out with the random candy cane thrown in there, and that there are only two pages to scan through, and yet my eyes fail me. The same happens to the two men who were on the road to Emmaus.

I find humor in random places in the Bible and this event makes me chuckle any time I get to read it. Two men, walking down the road, and the resurrected Savior of the world just starts strolling with them. The cherry on top has always been the amazing truth that is on display by the once crucified Jesus who is now walking around. Hard to claim a man undergoing torment three days prior was up strolling around without any sort of miraculous feat happening, but I digress. These two men are chatting about the man who they cannot seem to recognize. Jesus seems to be enjoying the scuttlebutt that is circulating Jerusalem and probes the men for more details.

While the men are causally chatting to Jesus, about Jesus because they do not recognize Him as Jesus, our Lord rebukes the men saying, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Just in case you missed it, Jesus explains every piece of Scripture that pertained to Him!

Eventually, the men’s eyes seem to properly work and they recognized who this random traveler truly was. Luke 24:32 says, “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” Sadly for them, their eyes were just not fast enough to recognize Jesus. Jesus even rebukes them by saying they were “slow of heart.”

An amazing truth can be taken away from this moment. There are times in our walk with Christ, that our eyes are too slow to catch Jesus standing right next to us. While we can blame our optical capabilities, the truth is our eyes are slow because our heart is slow. Our hearts are slow to see God move because we are not truly tuned in to seeing Him. Do not miss Jesus like we miss Waldo. Keep your heart and eyes open.

His Towel • Devotion #1: Slow Down

Time is an amazing concept. Albert Einstein once said, “Put your hand in a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute.” It seems that in moments where there is a high amount of stress, time virtually stands still. While I write this, I am reminded Covid-19 changed the world one year ago. While we will be reading this two years since those faithful months, this reminder will feel like an eternity ago, while living through each day felt like time passed slowly.

There was a lot happening in the Upper Room on the night Jesus was arrested. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, instructs them about communion, looks Judas in the eyes and says he will betray the Lord, and talks Peter off the ledge. I am spiritually exhausted with each of these topics and I only have the opportunity to relive them through God’s Word. I read the Bible in a bit of a non-traditional way, that is in fact the most traditional means of reading God’s Word. I overlook chapters, headings, and verse numbers when I read. This helps me see Scripture as the original author intended. Doing this allowed me to spot something amazing.

Jesus just went through a grueling amount of time dealing with the disciples. Before you say, “Well, Jesus was God,” – He was also a man. Jesus felt. Jesus got tired. Jesus got hungry. While Jesus is the King of kings, He still had an element that we can relate to. To top it all off, while Jesus just went through the emotional and spiritual ten rounds with those closest to Him, He still knew He had the cross waiting for Him. So what did our Lord go and do after all that happened in the upper room?

Mark 14:32 says, “And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” When the stress of life is becoming too overwhelming, when there is friction within your personal circle, and when you feel stretched in a thousand directions and still have to focus on the important things in your life, what should you do? Pray. When our hands seem to be on a hot stove and life slows down, and we begin to feel overwhelmed, give your time to the One who has time in His hands. I have a hard time believing Jesus went to Gethsemane for the show. Jesus went to Gethsemane to spend time with His Father during a very stressful time. I think Jesus was onto something.

Hunger • Devotion #3: We Hungry

I love cheese guy movies. Any movie where there are guns, cars, over the top action sequences, and one-liners are instant classics in my book. For years, Pastor Caleb and I have had a unique bond over “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Now, I have not seen this movie in years, so I would venture to say this would have scenes that are not the most edifying thing for believers to partake in; however, there is one line that we both love. In the movie, Roman Pearce (played by Tyrese Gibson) and his partner Brian O’ Conner (played by the late Paul Walker) are undercover agents of the FBI disguised as street racers. When Roman and Brian finally are in the bad guys’ good graces, Roman says one of my favorite lines in the movie, “Like I said, we hungry”

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Right out of the shoot, I have always been curious about the number of people who gathered around Jesus this day. I would venture to say many of them were not rich or had immense access to food or proper drink. When we, as Americans, hear hungry we think it is time to go to the pantry and grab a snack. Jesus here is not saying to get a snack. He is saying, blessed are those who hunger for something specific. We have all opened our refrigerators and starred waiting for the proper appetite to kick in, but here Jesus tells us what we should be hungry for, righteousness.

Righteousness is not something a person being led by sin is hungry for. Righteousness is something for which every Christ-honoring Christian should hunger. In order for us to even obtain the nourishment that comes from righteousness, we have to know where to get it. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We have to understand that righteousness is not something we can just open our pantry and eat, righteousness only comes from one thing, the work of Jesus Christ. For us to be hungry for righteousness, that means that we are hungry to see God’s work transforming people from the inside out. For us to be hungry for righteousness that means we are nourished by living a life that brings the utmost amount of honor, glory, and praise to our Father in Heaven. Any of these cannot be done because we wish to will them into existence. Righteousness only comes from a humble submission to live by the Spirit of God, which brings us closer to Christ.

This should be the goal of the church. We should want to echo the sentiments of Roman Pearce, “We hungry.”

Meek • Devotion #1: Proper Authority

I have gotten to the point where every time I see red letters in the Bible, I instantly know the difficulty of truly understanding and applying it to my life. The difficulty is not necessarily found in my willingness or even in my understanding of what is needed to apply His words to my life. The difficulty is found in the truth that I am a sinful man. The first three beatitudes are so difficult for a person to hear. We hear that Jesus calls us to blessings in spiritual poverty, mourning, and now meekness. These are attributes that can only be found when we as sinful people come to know Jesus as Savior and choose to be ruled by the Holy Spirit, not the flesh.

When Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 ), we have to see the almost oxymoronically charged statement Jesus left for humanity to know. Meek is not necessarily the first word that one might use to describe a group who will inherit the Earth. As with most things Jesus says, when we understand what He is actually meaning, all things fall into place.

Meek is a very fun word in which to do a word study. I feel the best definition I found was “one’s willingness to submit and work under proper authority.” When one is meek, one is exceedingly willing to disregard one’s own rights and privileges of their life to be subject to another. Meekness is a whiling submission, with a gentle attitude about it.

With that definition understood, the fastest question I feel enters my mind is, “How in the world does a gentle person inherit the world?” The world is in a constant state of chaos, rebellion, and idolatry. The world is a place where “dog eats dog” is common practice, and commonly accepted. The world is a place where it is better to have the attributes of a hungry wolf than a meek sheep. Yet Jesus says, it is the meek who shall inherit. To pull everything together I think we cannot overlook the word inherit. If we are meek, we understand we submit to the authority that is found in God. Because of our Spirit-led meekness to Jesus as our authority, we receive our inheritance from Him, who is the true ruler of this Earth.

Mourn • Devotion #1: What do you mourn?

Recently my two sons have taken up playing with blocks, more specifically making giant robots with their “Mega Blocks.” So naturally, I was recruited as the head architect for most of these builds. The one area I have put the most emphasis on teaching them is ensuring that all the blocks are fitting together, and ensuring each section of blocks helps the whole structure’s sturdiness. Ensuring that each block helps lock another block into place allows one to make a pretty sturdy robot.

Understanding the Bible is a lot like understanding how to build giant robots, each block gets its strength from the blocks with which it is connected. The same can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, and specifically for us, within the Beatitudes. Jesus’ first statement was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Hopefully, last week’s lesson was a blessing for you, but the overall focal point on Jesus’ statement there was that those who are poor in spirit, or spiritually bankrupt, will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus’ revolutionary teaching to a group that God’s kingdom is there for those who are void of religiosity was mind-boggling. It was a major reinforcement that our works are not the thing that gets us to Heaven.

This brings us to Jesus’ second statement, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). I am all for the ability to pull this verse out and discuss the truth found that God brings comfort to those who are mourning a tragedy in their life, but I feel Jesus is linking these two ideas more than them just remaining separate truths. In the Beatitude before this one, Jesus discussed the idea of being spiritually poor, this is a life that is ruled by sin. When Jesus says those who mourn will be comforted, He is teaching more than just comfort from tragic events. In the original language, the Greek word used for mourn (pentheo)is closely linked to a deep degree of mourning over our sinful nature. “Pentheo” can be used in the same aspect as a lament. It is no coincidence that we have an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations. Jesus here is telling us that those who have great grief over their fallen state before God will be comforted.

We should come to a point where we see our sin and we lament over it. There is a point in our lives when we should see the toxic nature of our disobedience towards our Creator and mourn over the effects and damage that has been caused. However, Jesus does not want to leave us in a place of lamenting over the ungodly aspects of our life, Jesus wants to bring us to a place of being comforted by Him. Paul, a man who was the reason for Christians being murdered, wrote, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Our mourning over our sin should lead us to a place of repentance which then leads us to the One who comforts us.



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