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).

Have You Been Restored?

Have You Been Restored?

For the last few months I have been helping a friend remodel his 1890's era farmhouse to get it ready for sale.  It's been an exhausting and rewarding process restoring the house and updating things as we go to make it more attractive for potential home buyers. The process has reminded me of the work of discipleship in our lives.  Christ uses this process to refine us, discipline us, and make us more attractive to the father.  Sometimes old things have to be ripped out so the newer, better, updated versions can be installed.  Hebrews 12:11 says "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  
Have You Been Restored
What are some areas in your life that may need remodeling?  Are there areas in our live's that can be surrendered to the master carpenter, Jesus?  Although it's not a comfortable prayer, I encourage you to ask the Lord to reveal any areas in your life that may need some rough edges sanded off of and then allow Jesus to refine you so that you can produce that harvest of righteousness.  I know that's been my prayer lately, Jesus refine me, restore me, renew my heart and allow me to serve you better than ever before.  Our world is changing and we need to be as prepared as possible to meet it with the love of Christ!  

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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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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?

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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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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?  

Are You Tired Of Flying Solo?

Are You Tired Of Flying Solo?

Have you ever been struck with awe as a group of geese fly above you in their clamorous V formation?  Seeing this phenomenon has always been a delight for me for as long as I can remember.  The geese fly this particular way when they migrate south because it helps them to not get exhausted flying such far distances.

Romans 12:3-5 says, For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 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.”

The geese function as a team, not as individuals, just as we are supposed to operate.  If the same geese flew south individually they would take much longer to get there and could potentially die because of the stress involved in flying alone.  The function of the V formation is to provide less wind resistance for the group, thus making it easier to fly in tandem.  When the leader of the group gets tired he can fall back to the read of the formation and essentially draft with the others as they all fly as a unit.  This V formation also requires each goose behind the leader to keep the others in its direct line of sight so they are all accountable to one another. If one is suffering or falls back they’re even able to adjust their flight to accommodate the individual in need.

Jesus has called us as believers to live in community.  We are not set apart to become lone rangers but to live in unity with one another, holding each other accountable and sharing in the gifts he has blessed each of us with.  We all aren’t good at the same things but thankfully as a collective we can achieve the purposes of Christ by combining our talents together.  Are you tired of flying solo?

goose

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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.

Butterfly Metamorphosis In Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica at the Peace Waterfalls we decided to visit a butterfly enclosure and talk about being made into a new creation 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Music Used with Permission "Travel Light And Worry Free" by The Eager Seas ©2013 The Eager Seas http://theeagerseas.bandcamp.com/

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The Heartbeat Of Costa Rican Missions

This is a highlight from Peace Haven Baptist Church's Costa Rican Mission's trip August 6-13, 2013

The primary footage was shot on a Canon XF100 and various B-roll shots were filmed with Gopro Hero3 and Iphone 5 Music: "Intro" by The Ember Days ©2009 The Ember Days

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