Dude, Where's Your Faith?

For the last few months, maybe even as long as a year or so, I’ve been scrambling.  Just going through the motions trying to put on a good face and keep the faith but to be honest I’m just at a loss for where to go next.  I am trying to find the balance between doing the “will of God” and admitting that maybe I miscalculated a few faith leaps. I’m in a really interesting place right now where insecurity and uncertainty are the kings of the day and anxiety and anger seems to be the emotions of choice.  Before you tell me you’re going to pray for me and sheepishly conclude that I’m in error or somehow am no longer as spiritual as I ought to be, consider Abraham.

I imagine some of the same emotions and “feelings” plagued Abraham on the daily.  Think about it.  God calls Abraham to leave his homeland, family, religion and complete way of life to follow after an invisible God to whom Abraham had no prior knowledge or relationship.  Wow, sounds scarily familiar to my life.  When I try to get upset, impatient or discouraged I have to look at things in the context of reality.  I’ve only been walking in faith as a Christian for around 5 years or so.  I went headlong from a life of atheism into Christian ministry.  I went from disbelief to leading bible studies, from cursing Christians to evangelizing the name of Christ.

I’ve never been a status quo guy.  I’ve been a person after the truth my whole life and if somehow that disagreed with the elite in power then so be it.  The same seems to be true in my walk with Jesus.  I feel like the turmoil I often feel isn’t generated from God but more of an American commercialism version of Christianity.  My main qualms typically seem to surround the fact that despite my best efforts financially I can’t seem to consistently “provide” for my wife and I.  But the fact of the matter is, we aren’t in poverty, we have a house that we are able to pay for and our bills are paid and most of the time they’re on time.  So if I’m living by faith, like I am, and the Lord is my provider, like He is; then what’s the big deal?

My real quandary lately is why, despite my best efforts to faithfully do what I feel called to do, is everything seeming to “dry up.”  My ministry did fairly well and I stayed booked most of the year but it seems that I decided to jump into full time evangelistic ministry at the exact wrong time in our countries history.  Post economic bust America when churches aren’t as focused anymore, sadly, on evangelistic programs as much as they are about tickling the ears of the faithful few that are currently keeping the lights on and doors open to their cathedrals built to American opulence.  So in this environment how can I survive?

I understand that without faith it’s impossible to please God and before you lecture me on prayer, fasting and Bible reading let me interject that I understand the Christian “formula for success” and it just seems like I may be missing a piece of the equation.  My heart is to love God and his people but the bigger picture is that if something doesn’t change soon my ministry will just be another statistic of Christian ventures closing their doors.

I know what you’re thinking, “why is this guy complaining, he should just go out and get a ‘real’ job.”  I couldn’t agree more!  But here is the problem, you see despite the fact that I’m college educated, Army trained and look decent on paper I can’t seem to find a job that’s hiring.  I’ve spent the last couple months sending out resumes and applications and every time I doubt my calling, ministry and faith I resort to this.  I’m not above working.  I would love to find a job that would allow me to provide a stable income for my family and give us a sense of security that we have yet to have in our short marriage.  The problem is deeper maybe.  Perhaps I’m supposed to get over some residual pride I have from working for everything I’ve ever had, perhaps God is teaching me to truly trust him in this season of uncertainty.  Maybe He is calling me to a place where dependency on him is my only option, and honestly that’s where I am.  I just have a bad attitude about it right now.

How can we live in this land of in between and maintain our faith, sanity and composure even when all systems aren’t go.  How can we have faith when the reality of the situation seems to dictate more distress than faithfulness?  Here I stand at a crossroads of faith, do I stand firm and dig in deeper for one last hurrah in hopes that finally I can be successful?  Do I throw in the towel and relegate myself back to the “normal” workforce and pray to have a positive Christian impact where I go, do I do both?  Lord the simple prayer of “I need direction” is a wild understatement but that’s where I’m at.  So what would YOU do?

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Are You Like A Hollow Tree?

Are you like a hollow tree?

Every time I see a hollow tree while hiking through the woods I always knock on it in hopes of seeing some sleepy animal coming out to greet me.  There have been a few occasions where my habitual knocking have produced something wild, like the time I found a nest of baby raccoons and the time a swarm of angry bees erupted from the cavity.  It’s not always a good experience initially, but the mystery of the tree’s cavity always gets the best of me.

A rotting of the heartwood in the tree typically causes hollows in trees.  This can occur as a result of stress brought on by disease, lightening strikes, fungi, bacteria and a slew of other agitators.  The emptiness in these trees weakens them and can lead to their death if the cavity is great enough.  The integrity of the tree is compromised because the strength of the tree lies in its core.  The rotted heartwood negates its structural integrity making it susceptible to breaking during storms.  We can use this as an obvious parallel if we allow the stress of this world to cause emptiness in us.  When we are stressed out and we allow emptiness to consume us, any number of things can fill the void.

Proverbs 4:23 says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  As believers in Christ, we are called to guard our hearts because that is where Jesus takes residence as we believe in Him.  Our heart is the wellspring of our lives and out of the excess of our heart we will speak as scripture says.  As believers we can fill our emptiness with the love of Christ because He is more than enough to satisfy our every need!  Are you like a hollow tree?

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Jesus Can't Be My Friend

Anxiety has been hitting me like waves.  Moments of overwhelming emotion keep crashing on the shores of my thought life.  Lately my faith has been tested and my worth as a man tried over and over again.  I know Christ overcame the world and my irrelevant fear of the unknown shouldn't sway me, but it does. Jesus can't be my friend.  Simply put, if Jesus is merely a fair weather pal then this crushing and often-oppressive anxiety will destroy me.  Jesus can't be my friend.  He has to be my anchor in the storm.  He has to be my sovereign Lord who is the author and FINISHER of my faith.  Jesus can't be my friend.  He has to be my savior if he is to be anything at all. waves

My relationship with Christ can't simply be one that relies on good times and warm feelings.  It has to be a real relationship that requires active participation on my part even when I don't "feel like it."  In order to walk out my faith in obedience I have to have the right view of Christ.  He is to be revered as the Son of God, honored as Lord of Lords, respected as a loving father, and served, worshipped and adored for His loving sacrifice on my behalf.  Jesus says in John 15:14 that we can be His friends but ONLY if we are following His commands.

Let's be honest, most of the time our feeble fist shaking at heaven has more to do with our own pride and less to do with anything that God has allowed to happen to us.  Even the most grim of circumstances can be endured by simply remembering who Jesus actually is and allowing our faith to restore the hope that’s been lost.  When we allow our situations to dictate our response we negate what Christ did on the cross.  When our circumstances seem insurmountable do we lessen the power of the almighty?  Has your pain, fear, sadness or etc become an idol that’s been placed above the Lordship of Christ?

If we view Jesus as merely a friend for when times are good, or a bail bondsmen when times are bad have we made him a liar?  If you are struggling to have faith and your pride seems to block your access to the father in heaven I encourage you to remember exactly who Jesus is.  Meditate on what he did for you and then ask yourself is Jesus my friend or my savior (hopefully both).  If he is your savior then He's bigger than your current turmoil and he's here to offer peace that you don't deserve and cant understand.  If Jesus is your friend are you holding up your end of the relationship?

 

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.

Red Salamander

I found a Red Salamander down in Blacksburg, SC. This is a clip from Catching Creation Volume 3 DVD from our episode about salamanders. 

The music was used with permission "Between The Now And Not Yet" by The Eager Seas ©2012 The Eager Seas http://theeagerseas.bandcamp.com/

 

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redsal

Snakes In The Church!!!!

If I had a dollar for every weird look, awkward pause on the phone and email that went unanswered regarding my particular brand of ministry I think I would at least be able to buy a new snake...  I absolutely love what I do.  Somehow God has allowed me to combine my two passions into a job that really doesn't seem like a job at all.  I get to do what I love, how many people can honestly say that?  God is growing this ministry exponentially all of the time and I get to experience more and more things that I otherwise wouldn't get to experience.  The draw back is that most people don't share my love for ALL of God's creation.  I get asked to leave on occasion due to my scaly ministry partners, people often gasp or run out of the building when I pull out Rosie the rather large red tailed boa constrictor.

  I see the faces of parents grimace when I talk about the hognose snake's toxic saliva and cane toad's poison glands (both of which are harmless to us!) but the best part of what I do involves the joy on the faces of children when fear is replaced with wonder.  And in the end even the most squeamish of spectators is at least intrigued.

You see I firmly believe that God created everything inherently good in the beginning.  Sometimes it may take a moment for us to realize the goodness of say venomous snakes (which I do NOT use in presentations!), but God is good and so is his creation.

The curse of sin obviously changed the nature of everything that God created BUT the hope is that we can still see the good in everything and give God the glory for it.  My job is one part evangelist and one part conservationist. God has entrusted us with some pretty awesome natural resources and I think he takes pleasure in our responsible stewardship of said resources.  At a very basic level if I can illustrate the unconditional love of our heavenly Father and explain the effects of sin, separation caused by the curse and redemption in Jesus Christ and that snakes (and other creepy creations) aren't evil; then I have done my job.  My heart is to teach you, your child and anyone else that God not only loves you but he has a plan for your life and wants you to be made into a new creation.

 Jesus desires a relationship with you and it all started in that garden both before and after the temptation that came in the serpentine form.  After saying all of that I sincerely hope you will consider having me at your church, public or private school, vbs, summer camp, youth group, family service or really anywhere that has a captive audience and wouldn't mind my animal ambassadors.  Thanks for your prayers and support from the bottom of my heart!

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Are You Royal Like A Ball Python?

Are You Royal Like The Ball Python?

          If you have spent any time in your local pet store or flipped through a book about snakes, you have probably seen pictures of the Royal Ball Python; more commonly just called the Ball Python.  Did you know that the Latin name for this snake is Python regius?  The scientific names of animals often will give us a more descriptive name of the animal and it also eliminates the confusion with common names.  In the case of the Royal Ball Python, aka Python regius, we know that the genus name Python refers to a class of constricting snakes and the species name, regius, actually means “of the king or belonging to the king.”So let me ask you again, are you royal like the ball python?  If you are a believer in

          Jesus Christ the answer is YES!  Let me break it down for you.  John 1:12-13 says “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  Galatians 3:26-27 says “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and if you are among those called children of God you too are heirs to royalty.  Romans 8:17 says Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” 

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Holy Turtle

I found a turtle with a hole in it's face, sad reminder of our own mortality and how simple things can lead to our demise but there is hope with Jesus Christ!

 

 

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IMG_0867

Are You Patient Like An Alligator?

Are You Patient Like An Alligator?

Have you ever watched an alligator move ever so slowly while stalking its prey?  They seem to have a large measure of patience while gradually inching closer and closer to their target.  Some will even lay on the bottom of the swamp with their mouth open and patiently wait for an easy meal like a fish to swim into their toothy trap.  Then just at the right time SNAP!  Their jaws will lock down on the meal they have been waiting all day for.  The end result of their wait is the reward they were hoping for, a meal.

Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  As believers we are waiting patiently in expectation of the return of Jesus.  We believe He is who He says he is and live our lives accordingly.  The reward for our faith and patience is an eternity in Heaven with our creator.  Just like the alligator waits in anticipation of his next meal, we as believers wait in expectation for the Lord.  Are you patient like an alligator?

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Prairie Dog Preacher

Prairie dogs often remind me of how we are supposed to function as a church.  The church isn't just a building, it's a community of believers working together for the common good and to glorify Christ. Acts 2:42-47 says  42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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An Elephant Never Forgets, Do You?

An Elephant Never Forgets, Do You?

 Have you ever heard the phrase “an elephant never forgets?”  Are we to believe that and elephant literally never forgets?  Heavens no!  The phrase seems to coincide with the fact that elephants will follow the same pathways and ancestral routes to watering holes and even elephant burial sites.  It seems as if they are hard wired to remember and will stop at nothing to follow the path they have always followed, even if that means trampling a newly constructed village that just happens to be in their way.

Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  When we accept Jesus he makes us into a new thing completely and even though we can’t completely forget our past we can certainly choose to not dwell on it.

Unlike the elephants we can choose to divert our pathways and not go down the same old roads of sin that we have gone down for generations.  Doesn’t joy spring up in you when you think about the wasteland that your heart used to be but because of Christ, streams of living water now flow from within you?  When I think about it in that context it’s easy for me to forget about my former life and be glad in the person Christ is making me.  I don’t have to wander down those old paths!  An elephant never forgets, do you?

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Spotted Salamanders and the Church

Check out this clip from our first Catching Creation shoot of the year down in Blacksburg SC.  We shot video with what we had and the cameras ranged from Iphones, Gopros and even a Sony DSLR, we strongly believe in using what you have and know that God honors our faithfulness in the little things and is preparing us for the better equipment to come.  I'm really excited about this new DVD coming up and the team God has given me to help shoot new episodes of Catching Creation.  We are 1/2 way funded for our new Canon XF100 pro camcorder package that we've been saving and raising money for!

 

Check out a recent devotional about Salamanders HERE

Are You Planted By The River?

As I walked by this HUGE sycamore tree next to the Yadkin River I was reminded of Psalm 1. 

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Camp Grace Snake Bite!

I got to visit Camp Grace this week to do a few presentations, take kids out to listen to frogs at night and teach about creation and the creator.  While there we caught several awesome reptiles and amphibians.  Here's a video of me getting bit by a red bellied water snake.  Enjoy! 

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camp grace swamp
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basilisk
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slimy
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red belly

This Is Why I Do What I Do!

Check out this awesome promo and testimony video from Channing Guest down in Macon Ga.  I will be speaking at his church, Christ Chapel in Macon, GA on May 19 and at Pine Forest Baptist that evening.  Invite your friends and come experience the wonder of God's creation!  It's such an encouragement to see that this ministry is impacting lives both young and old for the sake of the kingdom.  Isn't God great!  I am humbled and honored that he took the time to make this video and blessed that the Lord set it all up.  It's hard not to have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I think about what this ministry can accomplish for the sake of the Gospel.  YOU are special and YOU are loved and I want you to know that in Jesus name! 

Seeing lives changed for Jesus and being a positive influence in a world littered with filth is why I do what I Do.  My prayer is that the Lord will continue to use me as an effective minister of his Gospel.  I'm so thankful that of all people the Lord chose me, transformed me and can use me for his glory!

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Attack Of The Honey Bees!

The Lord really does work in mysterious ways.  A few days ago I got an email from someone about Catching Creation saying they read one of the newspaper articles that I recently had published.  They encouraged me so much in their email and invited me over to come check out their honey bees and that was an offer I just couldn't refuse.  Through a few email exchanges we set up a time for me to come meet them and check out their bees.  It never ceases to amaze me at how awesome our God is about connecting people for the sake of ministry.  Larry and Diane Martin were two of the nicest people I think I have ever met and we talked about Jesus and creation for at least two hours with the culmination being with me getting to check out their honey bees.  As you will see in the video I learned a valuable lesson about bees.  Apparently if you wear black, like bears and skunks, then perhaps the bees will see you as a threat and react as such.  All in all I think I got stung 3 times and my Iphone sustained 3-4 stings, but we're both ok.  God is so good!

Click HERE to read my Honey Bee Devotional "Are You The Honey Or The Sting"

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