Author Archives: Pastor Ryan Story

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.

Lesson Nineteen• Devotion #1: The Hammer

Recently, I was doing a bit of remodeling in my house. I was attempting to remove a wall from my basement to open up the area. While I am by no means a skilled contractor, I know how to swing a hammer. In order to use my circular saw to remove part of the frame, I had to remove a few pieces of wood in order to avoid cutting towards wires and pipes. During this whole process my two sons were amazed at their father’s skill. While hitting the piece of wood I wanted to dislodge with my hammer, my oldest son, Broly, asked me, “Is that what hammers do dad?” I told him, “Yes,” and moved forward with my project. Fast forward a few weeks, and my wife and I were putting together some shelves and I needed my hammer to tack the cardboard backing onto the shelf. Broly glances at me and then asked, “Dad are you going to smash what you just made with your hammer?” Puzzled, I asked him, “Why would he think that,” and he resounded, “Because last time you used your hammer, you broke things.”

I believe everyone is influential in some way, shape, or form. From a parent’s relationship with their children, to one’s relationship with their co-workers, and to anyone’s relationship with their friends, we all have an influence on someone. One disclaimer, this influence does not mean that everyone is meant to be a leader, but I do believe that all people have the capability of influencing the world around them, especially Christians who have the power of the Holy Spirit. Influence is a lot like a hammer, it can be used to build something up or used to tear something down. I believe Paul echos this sentiment in the last chapter of 2 Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 13:10, we read, “For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.”

The Bible is always saturated with amazing truths. First, Paul knows his authority only comes from God. Every person with any influence or authority is given that gift because God saw fit to do so. Secondly, and where I want to focus on, influence and authority can be used to either build a person up or tear them down. Throughout the letters Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, Paul had to correct many wrongs that were creating a mess inside that church. At no moment was Paul attempting to destroy the church with his authority, Paul’s goal was to build the church up so it would be stronger. 

How do you swing the use of your influence? Do you influence or use the authority you may have in life to build someone up or do you use it to tear someone down?  Even in times of needing to correct someone, we do not break them, we guide them. I truly believe that Christians should be the most influential people on the planet. We live with the truth of who God is, we live with understanding what is needed to set a person free from their sin. Even in Jesus’ last statement on this Earth, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19). Christian, you were tasked to use the authority that God gave you, to go rely on God’s power to build up a person so they may come to realize God is the ultimate authority in this world. If we are not using that authority to build up someone, then we are tearing them down by withholding the truth of who Jesus is. 

Church, it is time to start swinging our hammers. 

Lesson Eighteen • Devotion #1: Weak Connection – Part Two

I stated in my last devotion that I feel that our culture struggles to display weakness. We look at shortcomings and weaknesses as shameful. Paul is lowering himself and expressing that if he is going to boast or talk about himself, he is going to display only his downfalls, bad habits, and unmentionables. Sociology and leadership 101 teaches that people connect more with a person that is real, rather than one who is fake. We are all capable of having this internal feeling about someone’s authenticity. One of the biggest downfalls with the social media age is that this feeling has been skewed. We live in a culture that has produced an illusion of closeness and an illusion of what a person is. More people will admit now that they feel less connected on a personal level despite the overabundance of connection via social media. Likewise, the validity of a person’s “realness” is skewed by what is posted to social media. No one has the Pinterest perfect house, those projects took work. No one has those Instagram perfect rock hard abs, that took hours of working out and strictness of a diet. We might follow those influences on social media, or may even aspire to that house or healthy lifestyle (those are not bad things), but we do not truly connect with what we see because there is this lacking of authenticity.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, we read, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul is the model of authentic leadership here with the church of Corinth. Paul is not being an influential leader by talking about all of his victories, accomplishments, or merit. Paul is influencing by boasting in his weakness, boasting in the fact that this weakness was still ever-present, and boasting that because of his weakness the “power of Christ rests upon” him. 

As Christians, the reason we are transparent about our weaknesses, shortcomings, and struggles is not to play the martyr card, but rather to display that we are in genuine need of our Savior’s strength to be the power we rely on to make it through life. Paul shows us the power of being genuine. It is perfectly acceptable to admit you struggle. Let me just put something out there, if you are a Christian and redeemed by the work of Jesus on the cross, you had come to a place in life where you realized you struggled and you were in need of saving. Welcome to the church, the central message we preach is humanity’s need for being saved by an all-powerful, loving God. We all need Jesus. That “weakness” is what connects us all. We should all be living lives where we desire to have the power of Christ in us.

Lesson Seventeen • Devotion #5: Weak Connection – Part 1

We live in a fascinating time. Part of our society still recalls what life was like before the technological boom of the internet, smartphones, and social media. Some of our society would have been in the epicenter of this boom, where part of their life was lived before all the technological breakthroughs. Also, there is a growing population of young people who have never lived in a world where Facebook, Netflix, Uber, Siri, and WiFi did not dominate one’s culture. One of the biggest sociological phenomena is playing itself out right in front of us, and that is the ever-growing usage of social media. While this has been in play since MySpace came on the scene in 2003, close to twenty years later we are still surrounded with apps and programs that are meant to be used to bring us closer as people. 

I feel there are positives and negatives about social media, and this devotion is not meant to be a soapbox on which I will rant and rave. However, one growing trend I have seen birthed out of the social media revolution is our necessity to always display the best. Think about what you post on your Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. More often than not it is meant to be something that reflects an event or moment that would get a “like.” Even when we post our failures, goof-ups, or blunders, we are still hoping to show our less than perfect moments with the desired effect to prop up ourselves. Social media has created our culture (I am included) to live in a world of snapshots, reshoots, and filters. Unfortunately, when we are actually around people in a real scene, we forget how to be real or genuine. 

I have often wondered what godly men and women of the past would think of our present-day culture. Now, I do still believe God is the sustainer of the world and is directing us on the path for His return and fulfillment of all Scripture. I often wonder what David, Solomon, Peter, and Paul would say about our world. Paul seems to be in contrast of modern display when he says, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). In this section of Scripture, Paul is expressing to the church of Corinth, those who are challenging his authority, his apostleship, and his God-given ministry, that he has weaknesses. Not only does he have weaknesses, but he will also boast in the fact that he does. 

Paul is saying something that I feel is truly revolutionary, and I can see why this truth comes from the guidance of God. Paul is not allowing himself to get caught up in the rat-race of comparison, competition, or desire of the fleeting limelight that comes with life. Paul is lowering himself and expressing that if he is going to boast or talk about himself, he is going to display only his downfalls, bad habits, and unmentionables. We live in a world that so desperately needs Christ. I worry about the effect social media has had on the members of God’s church. Since there is this obsessive need to come off as an expert, put together, skilled, and loving your best life, we are merely boasting in ourselves and our accomplishments and accolades. The truly counter-cultural way Paul, moreover God’s Word, is telling us that there is power in boasting in one’s weakness. There is something truly Christlike about not needing to talk about how much we have it together. 

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