Can You Tame Your Tongue?

Can You Tame Your Tongue?

Have you ever had the experience of taming an animal? It could be as simple as training a puppy to do simple commands or habituating a reptile that you have caught in the wild to be accustomed to handling. As someone who works with animals on a regular basis I know that taming animals is all about consistency. You have to do the same things at the same times so that the animal gets used to you and understands that you don’t mean it any harm. It can often be a frustrating process and even be cause for the occasional bite or scratch but the end result is far more rewarding.

teguJames, the half brother of Jesus, talks about the taming of the tongue in the 3rd chapter of his epistle. James 3:7-8 says, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” This doesn’t mean that we have free license to say anything we want but that in our own power we are incapable of taming our tongues. When we become believers in Christ we are made into a new creation and Jesus becomes Lord over our lives.

Jesus is able to tame even the vilest of tongues and use it for his glory. The unrepentant tongue can produce words that are like poison to the hearer. As believers we are called to bring life, not death. Scripture also says that we will be judged for every careless word we speak. We must remember that and be more cognizant of the words we speak. Let us speak life to those around us! Can you tame your tongue?

 

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Are You Putting Your Head In The Sand?

Are You Putting Your Head In The Sand?

There is a common misconception that ostriches hide their heads in the sand when threatened. This is simply a myth and it can be traced back as far as Pliny the Elder from the 1st century AD, around the same time that Jesus was on the Earth. In keeping with the mental image though, how many times does it appear that the Church seems to be merely putting her head in the sand and not truly engaging the threats or issues that arise? Do you feel that it’s easier to hide out in the Church rather than engaging culture in Jesus name? As a group of Christians are we known more for our love and compassion for our fellow man or are we possibly viewed in the same light as the ostrich with his head in the sand? How can we change that perception?

Ostrich,_mouth_openSince we as believers in Jesus are the physical representation on the Earth of our heavenly Father we could perhaps start following his teachings. In a true reflection of the glory of Christ we could begin with loving our neighbor as ourselves or treating others with love and compassion and gracefully sharing our faith. John 13:35 says By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We have to begin by loving one another in the body of Christ and from that love and unity share our love with the world. We’ve got some work to do but I believe in Jesus name we can accomplish it together. Are you putting your head in the sand?

 

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Catching Creation Adventure Playlist

Catching Creation Adventure Playlist

I have decided to make a playlist on YouTube to make it easier to find our adventure episodes since I post a variety of clips and teachings on the site.  This is around 20 videos and approximately 5 hours of creepy crawly good stuff!  Check it out!

 

 

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Do You Sleep Like A Bear?

Do You Sleep Like A Bear? Do you live in a place where bears can be frequently seen on spring and summer days? That must be terrifying! Lock your doors immediately! With all joking aside if you have ever noticed the behavior of bears you notice that their activity starts to slow down once the weather gets cold and pretty soon their sightings stop altogether for several months. During the cold winter month’s bears will often hibernate because of a lack of available food. This process is quite interesting to me as their bodies simply slow down their metabolic processes and this allows them to essentially “sleep” through the harsher months.

How many times as Christians does it seem that when times get tough we will simply shut down and go to sleep? It is quite the easy route to take when we forget the power of Christ that resides in us. Our natural inclination is to just slow down our rate of activity in order to enter into false rest. When scripture talks of sleeping it usually is a metaphor for death, as in the case with Lazarus in the Gospel of John as well as in Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:13-14 says, But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” So even when times are hard and we just want to ball up and go to sleep both physically and spiritually we must remember that the light of Christ has illuminated us. Jesus calls us back to life and requires us to carry our cross even when it gets heavy. Do you sleep like a bear?

Photo Credit:  Jim Bauer

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Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?

Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?

Are You Watering Grass That’s Just Going To Wither?Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on trivial things like making sure the lawn is perfectly manicured or the flower garden is adequately planted with the prettiest blooms? Isn’t it easy to get carried away in the pursuit of perfection or attainment of “yard of the month” and neglect the things that truly need our attention? 1 Peter 1:24-25 says For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.”

This scripture is comparing out lives to withering grass and falling flowers. The good news is that God’s word stands the test of time and we can rest assured that the time we spend studying the word of God is time well spent. The word that is preached to us, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is timeless, everlasting and has the utmost importance and staying power. Our mortality is just as real as that of a flower fading and grass withering in the context of eternity. When we root ourselves in God’s word we will not wither and we will not fade because the result is an eternity with Jesus where there is no more death. That’s an amazing thought! Are you watering grass that’s just going to wither?

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Breaking Through

Breaking Through

Check out my wife singing "Breaking Through" Originally by Jeremy Riddle and Performed By Jessica Lake and the WSFirst Worship team.  She is amazing and I'm always blown away at how talented and heartfelt she is both as a worshipper and as a believer.  I aspire to one day have the faith my wife has.

Written by Jeremy Riddle © 2013 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP).

Are You Like The Tree Planted By Water?

Are You Like The Tree Planted By Water?

One of my favorite trees in the forest happens to be a small obscure tree called the ironwood, sometimes called the blue beech.  This tree lives out its life very close to streams and in areas where the soil stays moist continually.  The ironwood is known for its strength and when you touch its trunk it feels twisted like someone flexing their muscles.  This tree is a very real reminder of what the Psalmist is saying in the first Psalm.

Psalm 1:3 says, He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”  When we are walking in the righteousness of God we are in an environment that is nurturing to our soul and allows us to put down deep roots that are sustained by God.  We will bear fruit in the proper season and are able to reap the rewards of our faith because our God is faithful.  Are you like the tree planted by water?

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Are You LIke The Tree Planted By Water?

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Burrrr It's Cold In Here!

Have you ever noticed that when everything in your home is working correctly you really don’t think about the little things like say, the heat pump, but when they’re broken you REALLY think about them.  Recently our heat pump decided it no longer wanted to do its job for my house and just quit, can you believe that?  The audacity of that instrument of my comfort, to just quit like that, and it didn’t even give us a 2-week notice!  Times got tough, temps got low and it just quit at the worst possible time. Have you ever felt like quitting on God, or the ministry He has called you to?  If you’re like me you probably have had seasons of doubt, distress and had the overwhelming urge to throw your hands up and just quit, but let me ask you something, who else would be affected if you gave up?

Our heat pump’s decision to stop working and providing the heat that it was designed to provide has not only effect it but everyone that enters this house.  There is a void now that its service has been taken away and the same is true for you.  YOU are the only one God created to be who you are and do what you do.  If you quit it will be felt by many.

Paul says in Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  This verse is a good reminder. If you feel like giving up and want to just stop doing what you were designed to do take a moment to pray, remember the hope Christ has given you, recalibrate and stay patient in the affliction because this too shall pass.

Romans 12:4-5 says For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  We are all one body and each of us has a specific thing to do for the kingdom of God.  My ministry may be drastically different than yours but neither of our specific callings is more important than the other.  We are called to function as a living organism and if you give up your absence will be felt.  Just like the looming cold in my house that is felt stronger now that our heat pump has quit working, your absence will be felt.  So take heart, have hope and let the warmth of your faith heat up a cold world!

spaceheater

Pure As The Driven Snow

The past few days have been a chilly reminder of winter’s very firm grip on my home state of North Carolina.  An “arctic blast” of cold air has swept across much of the country sending temperatures down well below freezing.  I honestly can’t remember a colder winter and yesterday it snowed. I watched the developing storm on the local news channel for days, hoping its trajectory would amble just a little further east so that we would get snow where I lived.  I mean if it's going to be cold it might as well snow right?  It seems that my prayers for frozen precipitation were answered and by lunchtime there was a thin dusting of snow covering the ground. Tiny bitter cold snowflakes fell for the next 12 hours or so as the temperature plunged lower and lower.  We ended up only getting around 1-2 inches of snow but it was enough to blanket my backyard in a sheet of white.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning as the sun was rising over the trees in my backyard I had the thought that Jesus covers our sins like this snow covered my yard.  It’s not an original thought, I’ve heard that analogy for years and it's even in the scriptures, but today it struck me more than normal.  Just like a winter storm, conditions have to be perfect for us to accept and receive our salvation from Jesus.  We have to admit we are sinners, realize the need for salvation, and confess that Jesus is our Lord.  Without these elements all working together as a well timed storm we can’t receive our free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:18 says “Come now, let us settle the matter”, says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  When we accept Jesus, our sins are covered, just like my backyard with the pure white snow.  Everything that was a blight, the holes, the dead grass and dog poop are all covered by a white covering.  To the eyes of the Father our sins look like Jesus' blood and in his righteousness and perfection we are now viewed by a loving father thanks to Jesus’ covering.  No matter what is underneath the snow, the new focal point is the purity and not the filth that lies beneath.  I’m thankful that God sees me through the lens of what Jesus did for me and not what my life looks like without Jesus.  How about you?  Are you pure as the driven snow?

backyard

Slowing Down Isn't Giving Up

Slowing Down Isn’t Giving Up I noticed while hiking recently that during to course of my briskly paced walk I startled more wildlife than I was able to adequately observe because I was in a hurry.  I wasn’t on a schedule and there wasn’t really a deadline for how long I was to be in the woods that day, so where was I going so fast?  How many times do we just move around at such a break neck speed that we fail to see the beauty that surrounds us?  Where are we going and does it really matter if we get there a few minutes earlier?  We often try so hard to get to the next thing that we miss the now.  Why are you in such a hurry?  What is it that you're trying to accomplish?

I love the way Eugene Peterson’s Message Bible translates Jeremiah 2:25 where it says Slow down. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, 'I can't help it. I'm addicted to alien gods. I can't quit.”  We know that if we are running in the direction of the Lord then we can “run and not grow weary” as it says in Isaiah 40:31 but can you honestly say you’re running is for the Lord?  Sometimes our best motives and self-righteousness can appear Godly to outsiders looking in but at the end of the day we may just be trying to earn a salvation we already have.

Sometimes it seems easier to just go go go and not sit in the abiding presence of the Father.  We know that Jesus gives us rest and if we are chasing after His heart then we will be sustained no matter the pace of our walk.  When was the last time you just sat at the feet of Jesus?

Take the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, Mary was commended for taking the time to worship Jesus despite all the things that needed to be done and Martha was rebuked for not taking advantage of the present moment.  It says that Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…” and Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.”  Which are you doing?  Are you living in the present moment and recognizing not only the beauty that surrounds you but the author of all beauty, or are you wearing yourself out with tasks and distractions and completely missing the moment?

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Complacency Kills

I remember riding with my upper torso exposed in my gun turret and reading the conveniently placed “Complacency Kills” signs all over the FOB (Forward Operating Base) that my convoy had stopped at for the day.  The image and location of these signs have been seared into my brain as a constant reminder of the need for hyper vigilance.  If we drop our guard in a moment of complacency we would be opened for attack. In the Army we trained for weeks and even months at a time prior to my deployment to hammer in the basics so when the time of testing occurred we wouldn’t think, we would react.  You learned and relearned things to the point of absurdity so that it became muscle memory.  Drills and scenarios in harsh conditions that pushed my body and mind to their limits helped me to know that I had what it took if the need would arise.  In a very short time I went from being a weekend warrior in the Army National Guard to a full time soldier in a combat zone.  Playtime was over.

The same has been true in my spiritual life.  Although I think I had a long reluctant courtship with Jesus prior to my full submission to His will, it seemed that in a very short period of time I went from being an interested observer to full time combatant in the Lord’s army equipped with the full armor of God.  The same principle was also true in regards to training.  I immersed myself immediately into intense study, prayer, learning the basics of my faith and was tried by fire by jumping headlong into ministry in every capacity available to me.  The lesson I learned while deployed in Iraq still rings true now, maybe truer.  Complacency kills.

How many times do you feel like giving up, or worst yet, how many times do you feel apathetic to the whole process of faith?  I’ll admit that I’ve been there and constantly have to remind myself to not let my guard down but more often than not in moments of weakness or laziness I drop my shield of faith and BOOM.  That’s when it happens.  When my defenses are low those spiritual roadside bombs seem to catch me when I least expect them.  We know what to do, we know God’s word is true, but in our pride we sometimes put our perceived needs in front of the mission God has called us to.  Like spoiled children we whine and cry if we don’t get our way or if God’s will doesn’t line up with what we thought it should be and instead of obedience we fall into rebellion.  Are we honoring Jesus with our lips but denying him with our hearts by our actions?  Titus addresses this in chapter 1 verse 16 of his epistle when he says They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” 

When we allow ourselves to become apathetic to the will of God we are “unfit for doing anything good.”  We have dropped our guard, become complacent and are completely unguarded from the coming attack.  I love how in Ephesians 6 Paul warns us to be prepared for battle and assures us that it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when the flaming arrows will fly in our direction.

If we are charging forward, fully trained and outfitted for the coming spiritual battle we may take fire from all directions but we are assured in our victory by the spiritual armor we have been given by the father.  If, however, we have become complacent and apathetic, we will most likely be taken down by the coming attack and ill prepared to defend ourselves when the moment of violence occurs.  Will you take up your sword of the spirit and shield of faith and fight the good fight?  Remember, complacency kills!

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Adventure Is Calling! Will You Answer?

From the inception of my Catching Creation blog I’ve had the tagline of “Adventures In All Things Created.”  I guess I’ve never really needed to clarify what exactly that meant before now but the more I think about what it means to be on adventure the more I feel this little phrase of mine will need clarity.  It has always seemed to me that to be completely alive one must always be in the middle of, or in search of, an adventure.  I’ve been thinking about that philosophy for quite some time now.  Lately the adventure seems to be one pitted in the very center of my faith.  Adventures aren’t always easy and certainly in the moment they can often be uncomfortable, but an adventure is only as good as the bruises and scrapes you get along the way.  The hardship and bad weather seem to frame up the best adventures and overcoming some obstacle or adversity makes the stories worth telling. I think when we start looking at our faith journey as an adventure it helps to make those bumps in the road seem all the more worthwhile.  When things don’t work out and we’re left scratching our heads and asking God, sometimes even yelling, “which way do I go” or “what have I done wrong?”  We fail to realize the importance of the adventure at hand.  These are the moments that build faith, or so they tell me.  These are the times that we can look back and say that we were truly refined by hardship and we persevered.  We survived!  We lived to tell the story and wow, what a story it will be someday.  James, the half brother of Jesus, assures us that our trials will sharpen and polish us in his first epistle and if you’re feeling lost in the woods on this great adventure just let the words of James comfort you.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Our adventures can lead us to mountain highs and valley lows but beauty is always in the faithful and sometimes fearful walking with God in the dark nights of our souls.  In the stories of how God came through or how we learned that our compass may have been upside down and we got off course a bit.  Through His grace, God is there, listening to our complaints, laughing at our child like tantrums and all the while loving us through the process.  Where is your adventure leading you?  Have you gotten off course?  Trust Jesus, dust yourself off, and lean into the wind.  You’ve got an amazing journey ahead and one heck of a story to tell!

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On The Outside Looking In

Have you ever felt like you were on the outside looking in?  That is just what this child in the picture below must have literally felt like while we were having a time of ministry and celebration in Costa Rica over the summer.  My heart broke for this little guy.  I pleaded with him in my best broken spanglish to come inside and that he was welcomed but he stood at a distance and never came inside.  Jesus wants our hearts to break for those lost sheep.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  Jesus is many times just waiting on you or I to come back inside so to speak, and to join in the celebration of His victory of sin, death and the grave.  How many times in our own hurt, anxiety and pride do we just scoff at the love of Christ and walk away to do our own thing?  Jesus loves you and wants fellowship with you, will you come inside?  

You’ve Got To Loose Sight To Find Your Vision.

You’ve got to loose sight to find your vision.

 Can I be candid with you?  I’m in tears right now.  I’m emotionally overwhelmed and I’m not sure how this one seemingly menial interaction with a kid in a pet store has me in tears.  I mean I can’t stop crying.  The reality is, for quite some time now; I’ve been just going through the motions of Christian ministry.  I’ve been showing up more to do a job and less to minister.  I’ve been like a vagrant with no home traveling from town to town doing my form of transient ministry so long that I’ve lost sight of why I even do what I do.  Tonight it smacked me in the face.

I’ve been so caught up in trying desperately (and often failing) to provide for my wife and I that more and more ministry has been treated less like something out of the overflow of joy and more of something that I begrudgingly HAVE to do because there aren’t any other open doors for me.  It seems like in some ways I’ve lost sight of why I entered the ministry in the first place.  I remember being in Bible College and devouring scripture, praying feverishly, relying so heavily on my faith in Jesus that despite my circumstance I had a peace that surpassed my understanding.  I assumed that once I graduated I would somehow feel fulfilled and validated and would truly “arrive.”

Well it’s now two years post graduation and I’ve managed to start my own ministry and still feel lost.  When did following God get so hard?  What have I allowed to get in the way of my relationship with my Father in heaven that has made me bitter, spiteful, entitled, and angry?  I know the Christian formula of reading my Bible, praying, fasting and serving.  Yet when I add all of that together it seems more of a chore and less of something life giving.  Why has my heart been so heavy in all the wrong ways?

Tonight in that pet store I was reminded like a punch in the face WHY I entered the ministry.  While my wife and I were talking and looking for a bird box for our pet squirrel a little boy with a big smile asked what kind of bird I had.  I honestly can’t tell you why that hit me so hard but it did.  I responded that I was looking for a house for my squirrel and asked him what kind of bird he was shopping for.  He gleefully said that he was getting a Quaker parrot and after a few more short concluding sentences, as I felt tears welling up, I walked down the aisle out of sight from my wife and the boy.  My eyes pooled with that warm saline some call tears, wow; it’s been a while. quaker parrot

There I was in the middle of a pet store on the reptile supply aisle crying like a baby and somehow pretending I could disguise it like I had allergies or some dust got in my eyes.  My voice was shaking, my eyes were watering and my heart was hurting.  I realized in that moment that I had lost sight of everything I wanted to be.  You see that boy, the one with the aspiration of getting the parrot, he reminded me that my heart for ministry, my sole reason for wanting to serve, is wrapped up in loving kids (of any age) that need to feel nurtured and loved.  Jesus calls us to love the least of these and real ministry is offering of your-self with no hope of reward in return.  I have missed this.  I could tell, in that way that you just know, that my new friend in the bird supply section came from a home that didn’t have much to offer in the way of finances.  Yet he was full of joy just at the anticipation of getting a new feathery friend.  He was preparing by getting his supplies and eager to tell me about it.  When was the last time I was truly excited about anything?  When was the last time I was truly content.  WOW.  God I’m sorry for my allowing my hurt and pain to get in the way of the vision you have given me.

Don’t get me wrong; I love doing what I do.  I love Catching Creation with my whole heart and know it’s what God has called me to do, but in this short moment tonight it seems that by loosing sight of it I found my vision.  Catching Creation isn’t Stan Lake traveling all over the country doing animal shows, although it’s a part of it.  Catching Creation isn’t just about my web show and DVD series or even my books, although they are pieces of the puzzle.  What God has called me to do is minister to kids, youth and families in an urban setting.  Loving those that may never get a chance to go to a zoo, or feel welcomed in a church.  My heart is to minister and love people that feel unworthy of being loved.  People that our society seems to scoff at but people that Jesus desperately wants us to love in His name.

I have no idea how, moving forward, I will be able to support my family with this ministry.  I put in an application at that pet store even though they aren’t hiring and who knows, maybe God will position me there as a light in the darkness to minister.  Maybe there’s some other job on the horizon that I haven’t even fathomed yet which will allow me to truly love people in the name of Jesus.  Catching Creation is who I am and what I was designed to do, but it’s so much bigger than what I’ve been doing lately.  My prayer is that God will open doors so that I can minister and do outreach again.  God continue to break me, continue to remind me of your love and Lord thank you for your grace.  Lord send me, allow me to seek first the kingdom because I know you will provide for my family as we serve you.  Lord please be with that little boy tonight and bless him, thank you for allowing him to minister to me and I pray we can be reminded of why we all serve you.