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!
I remember crossing over the Iraq/ Kuwait border for the last time on my final combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi freedom and feeling sad. Truly sad. I recall holding back the tears as I took off my Kevlar helmet and IBA vest and thinking to myself "now what?" I was a week away from turning 23 and the whole previous year was spent as a soldier in a combat zone. I can't say that my particular deployment was overly hard as far as deployments go but it was my first time away from home for any length of time. It was the first time I'd seen a dead body, the first time I had been shot at and the first time I had to detach myself from myself to get the job done.
I was a .50 cal machine gunner on a poorly armored Humvee for my first 4-5 months in country and a truck driver the remaining 7-8 months. I never fired my weapon at an enemy and my vehicle never got hit with an IED yet on the day of my last mission I feared for the battle to come. During the course of my deployment, and all the experiences a combat zone had to offer, I somehow gracefully made it through unscathed. I can’t explain it honestly, it seems like everyone I talked to in my unit had the same eerie realization that despite the chaos around us we seemed to be always right before or right after the bad stuff on our convoys. It was like we were shielded. That’s not to say that traumatic things didn’t happen but it suggests that those moments always seemed less than they should have been. Like I said, hard to explain.
The realization of a war raging within my heart hit me like a bomb when the physical threats ended. What's my mission now? Who am I in the real world? I just spent an entire year answering the call for my country and even though I was reluctant to fight this war, by the end of it, it felt more like home than my own bedroom in the states. The men to my left and right showed me what it meant to be a real family, bonded not by blood but by virtue and shared experience. This was something that made the end of the deployment that much harder.
One moment I was useful, a soldier with a purpose; and the next moment I’m all alone sleeping for days and drinking to black it all out. To say my life spiraled downward after Iraq was an understatement. As many people that have shared this experience can attest, it’s incredibly hard to relate to “normal” people once you return home. Your world was on pause for the length of your deployment but the world around you seems to have been on fast forward and you’re just left with stories you can’t tell to a people that have moved on.
Veterans day always makes me reflect on what that day actually means to me. I can’t tell my story without telling the story of Iraq. That experience rocked me to the core and changed my life forever. Although I regret many of the choices I made upon returning home from my tour of duty, I can honestly say I would do it all over again if given the chance to serve again.
The lessons I learned, both the right and wrong ways, from that deployment have shaped the man I have become. I thank God for his providence in placing someone in the right place and right time to tell me about Jesus. I’m thankful that even after our shared experience in Iraq that he continued to minister and walk with me and ultimately lead me to salvation in Christ. I think the brokenness that came from that experience allowed me to finally swallow my pride and see things clearer.
Even though I feel like a good part of who I was died in Iraq I’m glad for it. Maybe in order to become a man I had to loose that innocence or ignorance to a certain degree. Although I still wrestle with the questions that flooded my brain on my last mission I know that I was spared for a reason. So what is my mission now and who am I in the real world? I’m still figuring it out honestly but at least at the moment it seems like the sky is literally the limit. I want to honor all of the men and women that didn’t have the luxury of making it home by truly being all that I can be. How are you making the most of this mission called life? Happy Veterans Day.
This article ran in the Blue Ridge Christian News originally here:
I got the opportunity to speak at Southport Christian Academy, Shoreline Baptist Church and Southport Baptist Church in the Oak Island/Southport NC area on the coast. It was an awesome trip and lots of fun! Great school and churches! We got to visit Fort Caswell and several beaches, not a bad way to spend the weekend!
Subscribe @youtube.com/catchingcreation for weekly updates
Like Us on Facebook @ facebook.com/catchingcreation Twitter @Stan_Lake Please continue to pray for me as I preach and teach with Catching Creation.
I just filmed a time lapse of my Dendrobates leucomelas dart frogs with my GoPro Hero 3 Check it out...
This Adventure Archive takes us back to May of 2006 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I was stationed here while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I captured a Uromastyx microlepis lizard on base after many many failed attempts. This is still one of my favorite lizards!
Subscribe on YouTube Follow On Twitter @Stan_Lake Like On Facebook @ facebook.com/catchingcreation.com
Catching Creation Presentation @ Gospel Baptist Church in Greensboro NC from September 2012. The theme of their sermon series was "Stepping out to do what's right." Awesome group of kids and amazing staff!
Subscribe to the youtube channel to get weekly updates.
For information about booking a Catching Creation presentation shoot an email to CatchingCreation@yahoo.com
This is what an average Catching Creation presentation looks like. I brought a western hognose snake, 4 varieties of corn snakes, cane toad, red footed tortoise and a boa constrictor. Some of the scriptures used in the program include:Job 12:7-10, Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 6:10-20, Philippians 2, Ezekiel 33, 1 Corinthians 15 and etc
Catching Creation Presentation @ Mint Hill Community Church in Charlotte NC on November 25, 2012
To book a Catching Creation presentation at your church, school or ministry click here: http://catchingcreation.wordpress.com/booking-information/
This is a sermon I preached on Oct 21 2012 at Generations Church in Lewisville, NC. I preach on Mobilizing your faith using several verses to include: Ezekiel 37, Ephesians 6:10-20, Jude 1:3, Matthew 11:12, Matthew 28:18 and etc I just go the audio today and it is a timely message that works even better on this Veteran's day than it even did the day I preached it, enjoy!
Here is a link to the written version on the blog:
Mobilize Your Faith and Put Flesh on Your Dry Bones.
When I was in the Army National Guard several years ago (2005) we were alerted that our unit was getting mobilized for combat in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This wasn’t a shock considering our country had been at war with Iraq for several years at the time but it did elicit feelings of dread and anxiety in most of us. The term “mobilize” can be defined as “to assemble, to prepare, or put into operation for or as for war.”
So if we are thinking about this in terms of spirituality we must realize that Christ has mobilized us for combat and our assembly is for a greater purpose than to just gather for our well-being. Christ has mobilized us for combat, assembled us for war and calls us to faith. Since our battle isn’t exactly in the realm of things we can see we must rely exclusively on our faith which is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We need to learn that we are a vast army in God’s service, we have been equipped and prepared for battle and we must defend our faith.
We are a vast army:
Christ has called us to community as believers to help destroy the army of darkness and if we look to the old testament for an example of this we can see in Ezekiel 37:1-15 that we are in fact a vast army.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Before Christ calls us and really fills us with his spirit, with his breath of life, we are essentially just dry clamoring bones. We make a lot of noise and look kind of scary to the rest of the world but we are essentially useless in our approach to advancing the kingdom of God. Without the breath of God, the living Holy Spirit within us that we receive at our regeneration from death to life, we are dead. This valley of dry bones is a perfect illustration of the state of the American Church today. We are a vast army, perfectly capable of advancing the kingdom of God but we are incapable of living to our potential because of our dryness. There is hope for us though, even in our driest skeletal churches Jesus’ living water can renew our strength so that we are fully capable of marching in a cadence fitting to our king. John 7:38 says “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
We are prepared for Battle:
Jesus doesn’t just call us to action without first giving us provision and proper equipment to do the task at hand. We have been prepared for battle and equipped with the full armor of God as it is laid out in Ephesians 6:10-18.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
We have all the tools we need to fight the good fight of faith. When I was deployed to Iraq we were given certain pieces of equipment that had to be worn before we could go into battle and if we neglected to wear any part of this uniform we would not only be disciplined but we would also be a danger to ourselves and a burden on others. If we look at these verses in the context of modern warfare we can see that things like the helmet of salvation being compared to a soldiers Kevlar helmet that was solely for protecting the brain from small arms fire. The breastplate of righteousness could be compared to a modern IBA vest (interceptor body armor), which was designed to stop bullets, blades, and shrapnel. The belt of truth could be compared to the gas mask that we had to carry around our waist. If the belt of truth helps us discern what is right then the gas mask helps us filter out what is toxic and impure so that we do not choke. Our feet were fitted with boots that are well constructed so that we can carry the peace of the Gospel or in the case of the military so that we can get from point A to point B without worrying about faulty footwear.
The shield of faith could be compared to the up armoring placed on vehicles that so many soldiers in combat ride inside of. My mission was to perform convoy operations and convoy security. Our vehicles were designed with armor to help protect and shield us from outside attacks. The biggest threat to our safety was Improvised Explosive Devises, also called IED’s or roadside bombs. These ghastly devises were well hidden, sometimes even in plain view, they were angled to create what’s called a shape charge. This placement of the explosives allowed them to create the maximum amount of damage. Spiritually our shield of faith can operate the same way as the armor on a military vehicle in that when we are attacked by our spiritual IED’s from Satan we will have a much better chance of survival when we rely on our shield of faith than when we just try to do it in our own strength. Our sword of the spirit in conjunction to modern warfare would essentially be like a well-maintained M-16 or M-4 rifle. The word of God is our weapon but just like a rifle that isn’t maintained, if we aren’t constantly taking care of our weapon it will misfire, if we don’t read the word we can’t effectively use it as a weapon, it will jam in combat if it isn’t maintained.
Lastly we must always stay alert. The number 1 killer of soldiers is complacency. When we get complacent we drop our guard. Complacency Kills was a motto that we repeated to ourselves and saw written all over the place to remind us of this fact. We must always be aware that there is an enemy out to kill steal and destroy and we have to stay on guard.
We Have To Defend Our Faith:
What does defending the faith even mean? Jude 1:3 says: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude starts this verse with an address to friends alluding to the fact that he is in fact speaking to believers. This message is intended for the Church. His interest shifted from being excited about Jesus and the salvation we as believers have received to an urgency to motivate the church to fight for the faith. The usage of the word “contend” in this verse is taken from the Greek word epagonizomai, which literally means to fight or to wrestle in reference to athletic contests. Jude used a terminology that was strong enough and relevant enough to his audience that they understood the urgency of his message. Jude (also called Judas) was worried about the sinfulness that crept into the body of believers and essentially used salvation as a cover for their disgusting lifestyles.
So many times we just believe that as long as we personally have faith we can just hold out until Jesus comes back but this is not what Christ intended for us. He wants us to fight for our faith. We have to give an account of the hope we have. We need to make every effort to contend for our faith. Matthew 11:12 says “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.” Let’s make this personal, we have to fight for our friends and family and forcefully lay hold of God’s kingdom by fighting for our faith. Jesus doesn’t want us to just sit in complacency he has called us to active duty.
Jesus has given us all the tools we need to advance his kingdom and he has given us our marching orders and he gives us specific instructions in Matthew 28:18-20 as far as what we are to do as a mobilized army. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Jesus has all of the authority, we are under his command and he gives us our marching orders to mobilize us into action. We follow our lord into battle and we are covered by His authority. He goes on to say “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, so We must be spreading the gospel, we are all called to be ambassadors of Christ (2 cor 5:20), he calls us to make disciples, we can start where we are, right in our backyard, in our own homes.and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Jesus wants disciples, he wants warriors of the faith to rise up and not only bear his name but also his likeness. We are called to go out and make disciples, not just converts and we are required to do this to spread the kingdom with force like it says in Matthew 11:12(From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.)
You were not called to occupy a pew on Sunday, you were called to make war on the kingdom of darkness and occupy enemy territory in Jesus name. You are under a heavenly command and Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, so what are you waiting for and what are you afraid of? Mobilize your faith!
I will be periodically posting "Adventure Archive" footage from the massive quantities of footage I have shot over the last 8 years or so. Check this one out from 2006 in the desert of Iraq.