Author Archives: Pastor Ryan Story

Come to Jesus Moment

Brazen Serpent | Devotion 4: Come to Jesus Moment
Pastor Ryan and Cathy Story

Have you ever had what you would consider a “come to Jesus moment” with someone? This may have been with one of your children, a family member, or even someone at work. This statement can be used to describe situations where people have a serious or truth revealing conversation. The English language has many statements where we describe situations or things in one way but do not mean those words literally. There are times where these figurative language statements could not be true. When someone says that it is raining cats and dogs, you would not expect actually to see cats or dogs falling from the sky. While the statement that someone had a come to Jesus moment could be figurative, John 3:14-16 shows us the importance of using this statement in a literal context.

While many people are able to quote John 3:16 from memory, not as many people are able to quote verses 14 and 15. John 3:14-16 writes, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

In Numbers chapter 21, Moses was commanded to place the bronze serpent on the pole. To be saved from death caused by the fiery serpents, one had to look to the bronze serpent. John 3:14 tells us that in this same way, “The Son of Man [is to] be lifted up.” Just as looking at the serpent on the pole saved lives, looking to Jesus on the cross saves us when we believe. For this to happen, we need to have literal come to Jesus moments.

The Bible frequently writes about us coming to Jesus. In Matthew 11:28, it is written, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” John 6:37 adds, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Matthew 19:14 says, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me.’”

Although we have an open invitation to come to Jesus, there are people who decline this invitation. Some feel that they need to get their lives “right” before they can come. Others feel too busy to take time to come to Jesus. Others are simply unsure of how to come to Jesus. We are able to come to Jesus in many different ways. Through prayer, fasting, reading God’s word, worship, and fellowship, we can come to Jesus. While there may still be times we have these figurative “come to Jesus moments” with others, as believers we must make sure we have literal moments of us coming to Jesus to grow deeper with Him. God has called us, He is calling us, and even for those who may be resisting the call, He will continue to call you. His desire is for us to come to know Him in a personal way, through the death of His Son on a cross.

The Way

Brazen Serpent | Devotion 1: The Way
Pastor Ryan and Cathy Story

It can be shocking to watch people make choices for which they know there will be a consequence. We are people who love to test our limits! By Numbers chapter 21, it can start to feel like we are rereading the same story. The Israelites are really good at being impatient and complaining. In Numbers 21:4-5, we read about the Israelites complaining against God again. In verses 6-7, we read, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.’”  

When faced with the consequences of their disobedience and complaining against God, the Israelites immediately acknowledge what they have done and ask for Moses to approach God on their behalf. You may notice that the Israelites do not question where these snakes originated. They do not try to blame the environment or make up some other reason for why these snakes appeared. Instead, it appears as if they knew exactly where these snakes came from and the reason that they were there.

The Israelites say in verse 7, “We have sinned.” This is such a bold statement because it accepts responsibility. Having to admit that we have done wrong is often a hard thing to do. It can feel easier to shift blame to something or someone else rather than admitting that we have done something wrong. Even more challenging than admitting our own wrong may be accepting the fact that God may discipline us for our actions. While this certainly does not mean that every time something unfortunate happens in our lives it is God punishing us; how often do we try to correlate our lack of obedience to God with His discipline in our lives? God is too good to let us continue in our sin. Proverbs 3:12 writes, “For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Similarly, Hebrews 12:7 writes, “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” It is out of His love for us that God directs us in the way we should go.

When we continue in Numbers 21:7-9, we read, “So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and life.” When Moses goes to God on behalf of the people, God answered their plea, but probably not in the way they expected. God does not remove the snakes from the people, but instead provides a way that they can live. This is what God has done in our lives by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. While we still have the consequences and discipline for our actions, we are provided with a way to God through Jesus. In John 14:6, we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Was it Worth it?

Hits Rock | Devotion 4: Was it Worth it?
Pastor Ryan Story

Have you ever done something that you have regretted? Yes, I know, that was an easy question. A resounding “yes” from every person to read this just went through their mind. We have all done something that we wish we would not have. The harder part of this question becomes, what did this mistake cost you? I missed out on meeting a pastor I admired and respected. I regret that I went to the RV early that day because that mistake cost me, but it was not the worst thing that could have happened. Sadly, there are mistakes I have made that have cost me friendships and opportunities, but even those still are not an end of the world mistake. Then there are the mistakes I have made that have cost me in my relationship with God. Those mistakes are the ones that I truly regret.

Moses had one of the most tragic endings in any Bible narrative. After being used by God, seeing God, communicating with God, and being able to speak for God, Moses falls. Moses never got to go to where God was leading him and the Nation of Israel. The worst thing about all of that is it was Moses who was squarely to blame for missing out on the opportunity. As the narrative in Numbers continues the life of Moses, we see the continual grumbling from the people of God. Numbers 20:10 says, “Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?’” Moses seemingly let the grumbling get the best of him. Moses struck a rock expecting water to come out as God has done before. Like God does, He did make the best of this bad situation and provided water for all who were in need. Sadly, for Moses, God was not very accepting with how this situation was handled.

After this moment, God wanted to speak to the leaders He put in charge. Numbers 20:12 sadly tells us what that one moment would cost Moses and Aaron, “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.’” God rebuked Moses and Aaron for not having faith that God was working something out to provide them all with water and not setting a holy example for the nation of Israel. Moses should have acted in a way that would show the rest of God’s people how to act and trust. Moses resorted to calling his people rebels and acted out in anger based on the congregation complaining. That is not exactly the holy lifestyle God wanted out of the person He put in charge.

I believe that every person is a leader in one way or another. If you interact with any person in which you are hoping to influence them in any capacity, you are a leader. I believe that all Christians should be leaders in their respective lives. I am not claiming all Christians are meant to be pastors, but all Christians should be trying to influence the world around us for the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scariest realization I had while reading this chapter was, “What have I missed out on because I am not representing God in the way I should be? How many times have I name called, got angry, and did something with a bad attitude? How often have I missed out on seeing what God has planned for me because of my sinful self?”

Let us all take this chapter as an amazing warning that God rejects sin, and will punish those who are not representing Him in Heaven. I am never a fan of fear-based living when it comes to our walks with Jesus, but I am calling every Christian to make sure that they are living for God in the utmost of their being. No mistake will ever make God not love us, but sin can make us lose out on seeing God’s blessings today.

Expectation Gap

Hits Rock | Devotion 1: Expectation Gap
Pastor Ryan Story  

Every year since my oldest son was born, my wife has always planned an annual trip to Frankenmuth for the Fourth of July fireworks. The first year we went, she was able to get us an amazing room at a hotel that we could perfectly watch fireworks from the comfort of our room. We all picked out awesome matching tie-dye shirts with superhero “Minions” on them. We got ice cream, went on a ferry ride, ordered pizza, ran into church friends, and enjoyed our few days stay up there. We loved this mini-vacation so much we wanted to make it an annual thing. The next time we went, we added my second son to the mix, again we had a blast doing the same activities and said we would return. Then there was year three. My wife was pregnant with our daughter, and my sons both were hitting toddler mischievousness at record-setting levels. The weather was in the triple digits. Everything that we loved about this trip became a lot more difficult. Our expectations of having an amazing mid-summer getaway left us more tired than we were before we left our home.

In life, no one plans a vacation expecting it to be a strenuous, stress-filled time. Our expectations of what we want it to be versus what it becomes can create something I heard called an expectation gap. What we would like to happen versus what life gives us can create a huge conflict inside our heart, especially when it comes to the things of God. Think about the time in your life when you thought something should have gone one way or another, and yet it left you frustrated, angry at a person, sad, crying, or worse having to mend a relationship. Those expectation gaps can create havoc in our lives.

A common theme throughout the nation of Israel’s wandering is their excessive need to complain, rebel, and want to return to slavery. Numbers chapter 20 is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. We see a nation that has seen God do miracles, bring them a binding law, provide food and water, and was with them for years, begin to complain again. Numbers 20:5 records a conversation from the Israelite nation complaining, “And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”

The nation of Israel just entered the wilderness of Zin, Moses wife just died, and they instantly start complaining about their new surroundings. They lacked water, but they did not go looking around, there is no evidence of them looking for how God would or could show up, no prayer, no calling out for God to provide, and no sense of “what is God trying to teach us here.” The congregation just all jump right into critiquing the leadership of Moses and Aaron. The expectation gap that the land would get better and more fruitful the closer they got to the Promised Land led to Moses acting out in anger and ruining his opportunity to see God’s faithfulness with his own eyes.

Expectations are scary if not tempered by the Spirit, God’s Word, and some healthy discernment. We can ruin seeing God work in our hearts if we are so stuck on what something should be. We can live a life of disappointment because God may not work out the same situation in other areas. We could miss out on getting closer to God because we reject His sovereignty. I still love vacations with my family, but I have had to take each trip as God decides to give it to me.

Eyes Up

Broken Tablets | Devotion 1: Eyes Up
Pastor Ryan Story

Recently, I had another “life of a dad moment.” I cleaned my children’s playroom the other day. After I completed the monumental task of sorting out and organizing an unprecedented amount of Avengers action figures, PJ Masks buildings, Paw Patrol vehicles, Legos, and random toy weapons, the room was looking good, and I decided to make lunch for my sons. Within the amount of time it took me to make two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my sons tore their playroom apart again.

I learned a valuable life lesson that day; if you do not have your eyes up, ruin can destroy what you have taken your time building. In a Christian sense, sin can, and will, enter your life if you are not paying attention, and it can destroy your life. I have always cataloged sin into two major issues, pride and idolatry. I believe every sin has its roots in these two major issues. Putting self first, desire, envy, and a list of sins too long to count, find their source in pride. Concerning idolatry, I lump any sin that has me taking God away from being God. Any time we worship an object, activity, person, or passion above God is idolatry.

Moses ran into the sin of idolatry in a major way in Exodus chapter 32. Preceding this chapter, Moses was on the mountain talking to God about how to rule over the nation of Israel. God instructed Moses with the Law, and Moses carved the Law out on the stone. While Moses was putting forth the work, God told Moses that there was a major issue brewing at the foot of Mount Sinai. Exodus 32:8 says, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” Whenever I picture Moses at this moment, I can not help but see Charlton Heston (being Moses) being angry at a planet filled with ape overlords.

The severity of idolatry is terrifying. There is no major indication what prompted Aaron to decide to lead the idol worship. Aaron was always pretty upright in his walk with God. Moses even trusted Aaron. Yet, idolatry still snuck into his camp. As people who are attempting to walk as close to God as possible, we must take heed of this story. Even the first priest can fall victim to putting objects above God. Why would we think we would be any different?

Idolatry can sneak into your camp. There is nothing wrong with a job, but your job can become the object of worship more than your creator. Sports are fun, but they can consume a family quickly. I love my family, but I can start putting my wife or children’s happiness before that of my Jesus. Idolatry sneaks in faster than it took my boys to destroy a freshly cleaned room. Keep your eyes open to what is in you and your family’s life. Are you devoting more energy and effort into a job, person, hobby, or passion than you are for loving Jesus? This is serious; do not overlook the slightest discrepancy. Once that idol enters the camp, it will destroy everything you have built, or even scarier, God may be the one with the sledgehammer. God does not take kindly to other things being worshiped more than Him. Keep your eyes up on Jesus, and make sure your focus and adoration is fully and properly devoted to the one who deserves it.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

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