Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Essence of the Clinch Academy

You have read them and probably said the words hundreds of times by now. But what do they really mean?

"What is the Clinch Academy?"

Previous to the Clinch Academy we were known as Self-Defense Tactics Inc.. My Father Blaine Rinehart, whom I had trained under all my life, began Self-Defense Tactics Inc. in about 1995 of which I was V.P. of. This was a very self-defense oriented martial arts program that took on a very realistic approach to learning. I owe a lot to this type of training as it has taught me how to be strong, to survive and persevere through intense situations. As I began to teach on my own around the year 2000 I continued on with the teaching of Self-Defense Tactics which was pretty much a pre-dated Mixed Martial Arts self-defense system. I have always loved martial arts and have gained a lot of positive benefits from it. I was eager to be able to teach and share these benefits with others. One thing I began to realize was that all though I personally gained many great benefits from this type of training, the market for it, was pretty small. Not everyone wanted to practice realistic self-defense because to be honest, it was a bit scary! That was just the point though. So is self-defense! I think just like my Father when it comes to this. If you are going to practice self-defense, you have to be real. I also personally feel that people don't approach learning self-defense in the same way they do in learning a Martial Art. People can see the practice of learning a Martial Art as a a progressive practice. You practice one situation at a time and explore all the different situations and techniques. When it came to teaching self-defense people always had a hard time learning progressively. In order to address the big picture you have to be able to explore the details. I felt like people had a hard time seeing beyond the fight and into the art. Everything would be questioned all the time with, "What if they do this?". My reply to that is always, "What if they don't do that?" You have to be prepared for every situation but you can only practice one situation at a time. It is a concept that applies to everything we do but for some reason people struggle with it when it comes to self-defense.

It was in 2003 that Self-Defense Tactics Inc. became the Clinch, Inc. and now operates under the name Clinch Academy. I made the decision to change the name because my focus as an Instructor began to shift. I had been training self-defense all my life but had never been in a real street fight. This wasn't a bad thing. In fact, I owe it to my training . I have been in a few pretty bad situations but due to the confidence and knowledge I had from my Father's training I was able to defuse the situation verbally and did not need to use any physical self-defense. The point is that I trained very hard all my life for something that may never even happen. Me and a few others were however competing in brazilian jiu-jitsu a bit and I felt that there was much more to gain from Martial Arts than simply learning how to fight or even compete and wanted to emphasis this as well.

The Clinch is a technique used when you tie your opponent up to prevent them from hitting you and possibly to set up a take down. In the Clinch you are less likely to get hurt or knocked out. You see boxer's Clinch when they are tired or overwhelmed because it is a "safe" position. In self-defense your goal would be to be  far enough away from your opponent to get hurt or too close to get hurt. If possible, it is smart to stand at a safe distance before actually engaging in battle. In order to Clinch you have to learn to close that distance first.  The most vulnerable area is the gap in between. If you can't maintain distance you have to close the distance in order to Clinch and be safe. This is a choice you have to make and commit to if you want to remain safe. This philosophy to me is the essence of self-defense and is a concept that can also be related to life. It is what the warrior's mentality is all about.

"To have the courage to close the gap and engage into a vulnerable situation in order to tie up and overcome what lies ahead. This is the essence of the Clinch on the battlefield and in life."

Clinch also has a personal meaning to me which is tied into the logo. The original Clinch logo was designed as 2 C's Clinching as you can see to the right. For me it was a reminder to Clinch to Christ. The more I close the gap between me and Christ the more I understand about life and am filled with peace, joy and love rather than fear, anger or hatred. How do I close the gap between me and Christ?  There is a daily self- confrontation that has to take place and you are never more vulnerable than when you are seeking to know, understand and admit your own faults. People are very uncomfortable with God because He is perfect and we are not. In fact people are very uncomfortable with other people even bringing God up around them because they can't stand the thought of possibly being compared to Him. Whether they admit it or not, everyone knows God is perfect and we are not. Otherwise, they wouldn't be so uncomfortable or even angry when God enters the conversation.  Some people refuse God because they simply can't confront their own sin and others refuse because they fear a Perfect God. For the same reason, we as fighters, are often afraid to Clinch because we lack the confidence to close the gap out of fear of getting hit or fear of what what comes next once we do Clinch.  I get my confidence from Christ. It is through Him that my sins are accounted for and I can approach a Perfect God without fear and trembling.  I simply give my sin to the Lord and let Him do his work in me. I pray for forgiveness and ask that He gives me the grace to live in a manner that glorifies Him and to love others as He loves me. I am not a Holier than thou kind of Christian. We are all sinners alike and I know I am no better than anyone else. But by the grace of God I am now a sinner who is covered in the righteous blood of his Holy Sacrifice - the final sacrifice of the Lamb of God -Jesus Christ, and am empowered by His Holy Spirit to put away the practice of sin and to put on the practice of righteousness. Just like in Jiu-Jitsu, through the practice of jiu-jitsu, I have gotten better but I am by no means perfect. I mess up all the time but I don't strive to repeat my mistakes but to correct them to my benefit and to yours. Christ is the root and we are the branches. If the root is good than so are the branches as long as they stay attached. For this reason, clinch tightly to the root. Clinch to Christ.

The newest logo keeps the "Clinch Symbol" as the central focus as I also keep it as the focus of my life. The two figures at each side give action and show the struggle that takes place. Training is a struggle when you are striving to excel. What is a warrior without a battle?! This too reminds me of my struggle with God in letting go of my own selfish desires and submitting to Him on a daily basis. The triangle that surrounds it symbolizes mind, body and spirit as well as balance, timing and leverage. In my training I strive to challenge and improve my body, mind and spirit. Balance, timing and leverage are the 3 key ingredients to good jiu-jitsu. The triangle reminds us of these things.

Lastly, the word Academy was chosen because I want to make sure everyone knows that we offer specialized instruction and training in Martial Arts. We are not simply a gym or club but an Academy of Martial Arts. People will come here to receive proper instruction and training in Mixed Martial Arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing and more. The Clinch Academy is the place to be if that is what your looking for.

So next time you say the words Clinch Academy, you will know that there is much more to them than what is first understood. Now you can wear that T-Shirt or spread the word about us with more confidence knowing that you train at a place with vision and meaning, not just some gym down the street.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Free Gift to You

How bad do you want it? 
Are you willing to do what it takes? If you want it, you need to go get it!

That's what the world tells us. Nothing in life is free. If you want to succeed in life you have to push yourself to the limit and beyond to secure your place. I have no problem with this. This is true if you have your mind set on the success and accomplishments of the world. If you want to excel in martial arts, you have to put the work in to do so. There is nothing wrong with this. The downfall, however, is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you accomplish and no matter how far you go, none of it is lasting. What does it really do for you? In the end, it is all in vain and meaningless. I am not saying this because I don't want you to set goals and accomplish things in life. Goals are good and a desire to succeed at what you do is good as well. What matters is whether or not you are trying to claim your identity on them. There is no true peace, joy or freedom in this. Think about it. If your place in the world depends on how hard you want to work to get it and then when you do, your still not satisfied, where is the peace, joy or freedom in that? You will be continually chasing after the wind.

None of us are ever truly satisfied when we reach a goal. How many of you have reached a goal and then said, "Finally. Now I am completely satisfied!". Not me. Instead, we reach the goal, smile that we did it and then say,"What's next?". This is because the things of the world simply can not satisfy us. If our success, accomplishments and material abundance is what we stake our peace, joy or freedom on, we will always want more and will never find what we are looking for.

"What does a man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?"  Ecclesiastes 1:3

"All streams run into the sea, but the sea is not full; the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, and the ear not filled with hearing."      Ecclesiastes 1:7-8

Please understand that I am not saying to give up on your goals because they are meaningless. I am saying that although setting goals is good and achieving success is also good, you will never truly be satisfied in it. There is a partial satisfaction that comes with it that doesn't last. The peace, joy and freedom that you might find in material abundance doesn't last. It is one thing to provide for your family or to excel in something that you enjoy and another to place all of your chips in the hope of finding a lasting peace, joy or freedom in those things. If you want to achieve things in this world, that is fine. Do as the world says, go get it. Just remember that this world will not last and therefore neither will anything of it.

This is the "work and receive" mentality. If you work hard enough, you will receive more. Many people including Christians have mistakenly taken this same approach on salvation. If you do good enough, you will be saved. If you continue to do good, you will receive more blessings from God. Just like in the world, if you are lazy you won't achieve anything.

Although goals are good and achieving success in the world is also good, there is a problem, we are not good. What do I mean by that? Man to man I would say that there are good people who do plenty of good things. Man to God, we are as wicked as can be. When compared to the righteous God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, we are like "Filthy rags". God has to hold us accountable to His standard of righteousness. It is the only true standard. According to His standard we fall way short. So even though man to man we can do a lot of good, we still are wicked in the eyes of God. These scriptures give us an idea of where we stand with God.

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."        Romans 3:10-12

"If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?"       Matthew 7:11

In God's eyes we are evil but He also says that we know how to give good gifts or do good things.
Man doesn't hold his standard as high as God because we can't. We are so far from it that we can't even fully grasp it. God said if you who are evil know how to give good gifts, how much greater will I give you. As it says in Isaiah 64:6 our good deeds are like filthy rags. We are selfish even in our good deeds. We always want something out of the deal. Whether it be a pat on the back or a sense of worth, we want something and have a hidden selfish motive. Most of us do not do good deeds simply for God's glory. This is His standard. Why? Because He created us to do so. He created us for good works. To serve one another through love and to give Him the glory and honor of being able to do so. We can only do such a thing by the power of His Holy Spirit. By his grace alone may we do any good.

"Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow."     James 1:17

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."    Philippians 2:13  

If you train with me at the Clinch and you go do well when you compete, naturally you would give credit to me and your teammates. When my MMA fighters compete they often mention my name when they speak after the fight. Why? Because I taught them and equipped them for victory. I would be a bit dissapointed if they took all the credit for themselves because it wouldn't be true. I would consider it disrespectful.  God created us and equips us for good works. For a good work to be complete, the glory must go to Him. 

This takes me back to why the "work and receive" mentality has a flaw. Since we are not good and have wickedness even in our good works, we naturally gain a since of pride in our good works. We create our identity in them. Because of this we set ourselves above others (even if it is only in our minds) when we accomplish good things. Some of us become arrogant or boastful and others have a more quiet humble approach to their greatness but it is all the same to God. When others are unable to do what we can than we naturally place them below us. It is the way it has to be. Even in jiu-jitsu, I where a Black belt and others do not. It shows that I have achieved more than others and it claims my jiu-jitsu identity. 

Is there another way? Yes. Although nothing in this world is free, God has promised us another world. This new world is founded on the FREE gift from God.  Jesus came to begin ushering in the new kingdom. This kingdom of which he is also the King and Lord of is the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus came to earth it was the beginning of Heaven on Earth. Jesus is God's free gift to us.

How is Jesus a gift?

As I stated before, in God's eyes we are wicked. Wickedness cannot be in the presence of righteousness just as darkness cannot be in the presence of light. It is not that we are not allowed, but it's impossible! We would vanish. Even though we are wicked, God is good and he loves us so he did what it takes so that we could be in his presence. God first sent the ten commandments so that we could understand His righteousness. The law was to act as a tutor that both helped us to know what is good and to realize that we are not. The job of the law was to make us realize that we need a savior and point us to Christ, the one who is good. Jesus came to save us from the judgement of the law. Through Christ's life man has fulfilled the law and are declared righteous in God's eyes. Through Christ's death on the cross he has fulfilled God's just wrath on our wickedness as the perfect eternal sacrifice. We are now justified completely! Made righteous through the works of God, not our own. Through Jesus's resurrection and ascension we are given the Holy Spirit who is the current representative of  Heaven on Earth.  God's kingdom is both here now and is yet to come. It is here now in the form of the Church (or those who know and love God as their Lord and Savior) by the power of the Spirit and is yet to come when Jesus comes again and does away with the current world and creates a new, united, heaven and earth.

God's kingdom is founded on a free gift and operates according. You don't work and receive God's kingdom. Neither do you work and receive in God's kingdom. You "receive and work" instead. First, you receive God's kingdom in the free gift of Christ and then you work out of pure joy and appreciation in receiving the gift. You don't work to earn anything, you work because you love. You don't work to claim a status or identity, you work because you desire to glorify God and love your neighbor. There is so much peace, joy and freedom in knowing that God is good, sovereign, loves us and works all things out for the good of those who love him.            

God is good! This is the first thing we need to grasp if we want true peace. God is not good as we are good, he is altogether Holy. In other words, He is as good as we can possibly understand and then some. There is no wickedness in Him whatsoever. If we want true peace we need to seek to grasp this. Jesus says in John 14:27:

"Peace I leave with you; (F)my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you."  

God's peace is different. We don't have to earn it but only receive it. God's peace doesn't fade but is eternal. You could never earn a home or a land that will ever be as good as what God has in store for you in his kingdom. You could never fill your home or land with as many great things as God has in store for us in his kingdom. No matter how many great things you do fill your home or land with, none of them will last. your joy will never last in them. Everything you work for in this world will not last but everything you receive from God will last forever including the joy in receiving it. True peace and true joy is this, to know God personally. Lastly, when you work to receive you are essentially a slave to your goals. You will never receive or achieve them unless you put in the work first. That's not true freedom. Yes you are free to set goals and free to achieve them but they aren't free. In Christ we are free from the works of the law. We don't have to earn salvation, we are given it. Both what we receive and the work that we do in Christ is free. We are not a slave to dreaming, earning or achieving. We are free to love and do good out of the joy and peace we have received in Christ. True peace, true joy and true freedom come through the FREE GIFT of FAITH, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

"For (A)by grace you have been saved (B)through faith. And this is (C)not your own doing;(D)it is the gift of God, 9 (E)not a result of works, (F)so that no one may boast. For (G)we are his workmanship, (H)created in Christ Jesus (I)for good works, (J)which God prepared beforehand, (K)that we should walk in them."   Ephesians 2:8-9

I offer this gift up to you for Christmas and pray that you will receive it. God has worked miracles in my life and continues to do so. I would not lift Him up as I do unless I have experienced his grace for myself. The peace, joy and freedom that I have in knowing Him give me the strength to overcome and outlast the trials I face in this life. I pray that you may you experience the fullness of God's love and His peace too!  May your gifts this year remind you of the free gift of God's son, a gift far greater than the ones you receive under your tree.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Birth of the Every Day Warrior

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions[a] are(A) at war within you?[b]

James 4:1

Yes, they are at war. In fact, if they are not at war than you need to sit back and evaluate whether you are even truly a believer. Sanctification is war. The Spirit is putting to death O' the wretched men we are. If there is no war, is there really sanctification? If there is no sanctification is there truly salvation? God chose us to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit (2 Thess 2:13). Indeed, God's will is our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3). The day you became a believer, you were enlisted into battle. From the day of your spiritual birth in Christ till the day Christ comes again, your spirit and flesh will be at war. Your spiritual birth is the birth of the every day warrior. It is an awakening to the realities of your sinfulness and Christ's righteousness. It is a battle we must fight every day. Every day we have to battle against our sinful desires. This war, however, is not like any other war. This war has all ready been won. It's the Kingdom vs. the world and Christ has all ready overcome the world. Now we know that if Christ has overcome the world than we too have overcome the world in Christ. Christ is the firstborn among many brothers and His brothers have also been predestined to be conformed to His image.
"29For those whom he(A) foreknew he also(B) predestined(C) to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be(D) the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also(E) justified, and those whom he justified he also(F) glorified." 

Romans 8:29-30

We have been predestined, called, justified and glorified. So by this we know that

1. God predestined or ordained us to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Because we were predestined, God then calls us with an irresistible calling through God's Word.

3. In answering His call, we are justified or vindicated by Christ in accordance with the law of righteousness.

4. Being justified we are also then glorified in that we are now one with God. The Spirit of the living God lives within us and causes us to shine in the world. We are the light of the world.

If then we truly are the light of the world, we can not be overcome.

"In him was life,[a] and(G) the life was the light of men. 5(H) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. "

John 1:4

In Jesus was the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of God was the light of men. The Spirit of God shines in the world and the world has not overcome Him.

When the terms world and flesh are used in the bible, they, in most circumstances, are not meaning the earth and our skin. When it says in Romans 12, do not be conformed to this world, Paul is talking about the ways of this world not the world itself. When it says not to gratify the desires of the flesh, it is talking about our sinful nature. In John 1 when the term darkness is mentioned, the demonic powers of the devil and his army as well as the desires and ways of our own sinful nature are implied. This is the "world".

Now we can take comfort in knowing that these demonic forces can not over come the Spirit of God. So if we share in God's Holy Spirit than we too are the light of the world. Matt 5:14 says plainly,

"You are the light of the world."

Christ is speaking of His elect in this passage. Those whom He predestined, called, justified and glorified. We are the light of the world and the darkness will not overcome the light. The world can not overcome us! We know that Christ has overcome the world all ready.

"In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

In fact, because of this:

"4For(A) everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—(B) our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes(C) that Jesus is the Son of God?"

1 John 5:4-5

Our faith in Christ, who overcame the world, is our victory. And we know that God freely gives faith to those whom He has called. Our faith is given by God's grace. It is a measure of God's grace and not of our own power.

"8For(A) by grace you have been saved(B) through faith. And this is(C) not your own doing;(D) it is the gift of God, 9(E) not a result of works,(F) so that no one may boast. 10For(G) we are his workmanship,(H) created in Christ Jesus(I) for good works,(J) which God prepared beforehand,(K) that we should walk in them."

Ephesians 2:4-5

How comforting would it be to go to war knowing that with this one weapon you would surely win? What if this weapon didn't have to be earned? What if this weapon was given to you and in it being given, you also knew that it could never be taken away from you? That is the faith that God gives us. It is irresistible! Yes, we are in a war but we have faith. Faith is our victory! Faith doesn't guarantee us that we will personally overcome every sinful desire that we face each and every day but it does guarantee us of Christ's victory in our place. Faith doesn't make us sinless by nature but justifies us by law and inspires us to wrestle with sin.

Once again we are not fighting the physical world.

"12For(A) we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against(B) the rulers, against the authorities, against(C) the cosmic powers over(D) this present darkness, against(E) the spiritual forces of evil(F) in the heavenly places."

Ephesians 6:12

We are fighting with the evil desires and passions that are aroused by the darkness of this world. In the Spirit, our desire is to glorify God but in the flesh we want to glorify self and satisfy our selfish desires.

"14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh,(A) sold under sin. 15For I do not understand my own actions. For(B) I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with(C) the law, that it is good. 17So now(D) it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells(E) in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19(F) For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want,(G) it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For(
H) I delight in the law of God,(I) in my inner being, 23but I see in my members(J) another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from(K) this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Roman 7:14-25

"17For(A) the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other,(B) to keep you from doing the things you want to do."

Galatians 5:17

These two are opposed to each other. The flesh (or sinful nature) and the Spirit are at war! Every day we face this war. We have to fight each and every day to walk in the Spirit. Again we can have confidence that God not only has justified us through faith but also empowers us to live in faith. To walk in the Spirit is to walk by faith.
"For we walk by faith and not by sight."

2 Corinthians 5:7

We must pray to God that He will give us the strength to walk in the His Spirit and to forgive us in Christ when we fail.

"If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

Eph 5:25

If indeed we walk by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Eph 5:16). We are God's beloved and He has given us His Spirit as a guarantee and seal of our salvation (Eph 1:13-14). This war that we are in is God's blessing of sanctification. Sanctification is the process of transforming fully into the image of Christ through knowledge of His Word and by applying this knowledge to the trials of this world by the power of the Spirit. We are blessed to face these trials in life because we know that God is purifying us through them. Are you in a war? You should be. One of the marks of the samurai was there courage and bravery. To run was cowardly and humiliating. We must be brave and step up to the challenges of life that leave us vulnerable. If we are God's children created in His image, than we too are warrior's because,
"The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is His name."

Exodus 15:3

Warriors can not be cowards. Warriors live by a code and indeed we do have a code. The Christian Bushido is the fruit of the Spirit and we can only produce this fruit, if we are walking in the Spirit. We must be brave and fight the good fight of faith like Godly warriors every single day. We are Every Day Warriors.

11Beloved, I urge you(A) as sojourners and exiles(B) to abstain from the passions of the flesh,(C) which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:11

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Kingdom Martial Arts

Developed thousands of years ago for the purpose of battle, Martial Arts were created for war. In the time of the Samurai, normal citizens would fear the Samurai because they viewed them as ruthless killers. For this reason the Samurai developed a moral code that they would follow in order to stand out as honorable people. This code became a way of life for the Samurai and has even kept it's place in the heart of many true martial artists. This code was known as the bushido or Way of the Warrior. There are seven main virtues of the bushido code.

Gi (rectitude) morality, integrity
Yū (courage) bravery, valor
Jin (Benevolence) kindness, compassion
Rei (respect) reverence
Makoto (honesty) sincerity
Meiyo (honor, glory) nobility
Chūgi (loyalty) faithfulness, devotion, trustworthiness

Sometimes added to these were:

Kō (filial piety) love and respect for parents and ancestors
Chi (wisdom) insight
Tei (caring for the elderly)

All though I don't follow the bushido as the Samurai created it, or necessarily for the reasons they created it, I do think that as a Christian I can learn a lot from the concept of the Bushido. In a sense it is 100% biblical when transferred to Christ and His Kingdom. The samurai were warriors in service of their own lord. What their lord said, they did. The bushisdo trained them to be loyal, faithful and devoted to their lord, families and country. I remember a quote from "The Last Samurai" when after the village was attacked and the ninja tried to kill the Shogun, the Shogun was later asked, "Do you think that the lord sent them to kill you?". The Shogun then replied, "If the lord wants my life, all he has to do is ask.". I don't think I have this word for word but it's the idea that matters. What their lord commanded, they obeyed. This runs parallel with the scriptures.

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Matt 10:39

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."

1 John 5:2-3

The Samurai understood the mentality of a warrior. A warrior is a servant. They did not use their ability to fight in order to bully others or to boast. They used it for the service of their lord, families and country. In order to keep such a mind set it was necessary for them to create the Bushido which stated the manor in which a warrior should live.

Why would anyone want to be a servant? Why should we have to obey anyone? The Samurai didn't obey their lord because they had to. They didn't give their lives for the lord, families or country because they had to. They did this though love. Thats what you do for people you love! Just like the Scripture says, those who Love God keep his commandments. God's not saying, "If you love me than obey me." He is saying, "If you love you will obey me." He is not arguing about what we need to do in order to show him that we love him. He is stating the obvious that if we do love him than we will obey Him. That's how we know the children of God. Thats what true love is. It's not a burden to be a Christian but a blessing. To love God and to love man without chains is a blessing. As stated in Matthew 10, we must first lose ourselves in order to find that blessing. It goes against our natural tendency which is to love and serve ourselves.

First as Christians we have to recognize that we have a Lord. In fact, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords! Our Lord has spoken much about His Kingdom (our country) and indeed commands us to serve Him and His Kingdom (our families and God's people). This is not a burden to those who love God. God is good and we trust in His goodness and wisdom. That's what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. In all we do, do it in a way that glorifies God and advances His Kingdom. Do it in a way that reveals your trust in Him and His goodness rather than your own. Honor God as your Creator, Father, Lord and Savior. Humbly give up your life in service of the Good King. To serve a King who has your best in mind and is sure to complete the good work He began in you is a beautiful mission.

Secondly, you must also know that those who love God also love their brother. I don't mean your blood brother but all of God's people. You can't say you love God and hate your brother at the same time (1 John 4:20). The scriptures say that everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7). The love that we are talking about is the act of putting other peoples interest and concerns above our own. To serve with joy.

Lastly, it's important to know that God's Kingdom has all ready come and is yet still coming.

20Being asked by the Pharisees(A) when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God(B) is not coming with signs to be observed, 21nor(C) will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."

Luke 17:20-21

The kingdom of God has all ready come through His Holy Spirit. Yes, the heavenly kingdom of God has all ready begun making it's way here on earth. Immanuel, God with us is all ready a reality. We are not going to die, leave earth forever and live in heaven. In the end God will destroy both heaven and earth and create a new heaven and a new earth that are one. Our greatest hope is not to die and go be with God in heaven but to live till the day that both God and heaven come to be with us forever.

1Then I saw(A) a new heaven and a new earth, for(B) the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw(C) the holy city,(D) new Jerusalem,(E) coming down out of heaven from God,(F) prepared(G) as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold,(H) the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will(I) dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4(J) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and(K) death shall be no more,(L) neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

Rev. 21:1-4

The Kingdom of God is all ready in the midst of us. John the Baptist's famous words were, REPENT! For the kingdom of God is at hand. We must realize that God is on His way to live and dwell with us forever. Are you living as if this is a reality? Are you serving the Lord, your family and your country the way that God has called you to? Do you just simply believe that their is a God who died for your sins and all is good? It is not enough to without works is dead! (James 2:26). REPENT! Be transformed. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). What about the Christian Bushido which is the fruit of the Spirit? A Samurai was not a Samurai without the Bushido and a Christian is not a Christian unless they are living by and producing the fruit of the Spirit of Christ.  

and Self-Control

We can only produce the fruit of the Spirit by the Spirit. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

1(A) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek(B) the things that are above, where Christ is,(C) seated at the right hand of God. 2(D) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For(E) you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ(F) who is your[a] life(G) appears, then you also will appear with him(H) in glory. 5(I) Put to death therefore(J) what is earthly in you:[b](K) sexual immorality, impurity,(L) passion, evil desire, and covetousness,(M) which is idolatry. 6(N) On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] 7(O) In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8But now(P) you must put them all away:(Q) anger, wrath, malice,(R) slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9(S) Do not lie to one another, seeing that(T) you have put off(U) the old self[d] with its practices 10and(V) have put on(W) the new self,(X) which is being renewed in knowledge(Y) after the image of(Z) its creator. 11(AA) Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is(AB) all, and in all.
12(AC) Put on then, as(AD) God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,(AE) compassionate hearts,(AF) kindness,(AG) humility, meekness, and patience, 13(AH) bearing with one another and,(AI) if one has a complaint against another,(AJ) forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on(AK) love, which(AL) binds everything together in(AM) perfect harmony. 15And let(AN) the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called(AO) in one body. And(AP) be thankful. 16Let(AQ) the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,(AR) singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,(AS) with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And(AT) whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,(AU) giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:1-17

We are not called to live like Christ but we are called to live in Him. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). We need to honor our Lord and Savior by fighting the good fight of faith. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Only in Christ is this possible. He has all ready overcome the world and it's wickedness. He has overcome death and conquered the grave on our behalf. We will have tribulation. We will face great battles but we can have the peace which surpasses all understanding knowing that we are serving the Creator and Lord who has all ready come before us and prepared for us a way.

"In the world you will have(C) tribulation. But(D) take heart;(E) I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

We are warriors in service of the Lord. Our battle does not consist of flesh and blood but of spiritual forces, principalities and powers(Ephesians 5). We should excel in the fruit of the Spirit loving the Lord, loving our families and seeking the Kingdom of God. Fight the good fight of faith and do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. God has created a whole new reality which is not the way of the warrior but the way in the warrior who is Christ.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

You have heard it a million times,"Practice makes perfect". Realistically absolute perfection of something is close to impossible to achieve but through persistent practice we can come pretty close. What makes one more advanced than the other in jiu-jitsu? Persistent practice. Through the trials of persistent practice one begins to excel in jiu-jitsu. We all begin as white belts and will always remain white belts unless we practice persistently. You will never go to a school where the instructor is giving out black belts to people who don't practice persistently. Even so, the Black Belt status does not mean you have perfected the art of jiu-jitsu. There is an endless knowledge of jiu-jitsu and therefore it is impossible to perfect. To perfect something you must do everything perfectly always.

Everything perfectly always? These are 3 key words. First, in order to perfect jiu-jitsu you must know everything there is to possibly know about jiu-jitsu. Pretty much an impossible feat within itself. Second, you must be able to apply and execute that knowledge flawlessly. Lastly, not only must you be able to know and execute all this knowledge flawlessly, but you must be able to do it always and forever. Are we really ever going to perfect this art of jiu-jitsu? Not in the true sense of the meaning. We are never going to bring our jiu-jitsu training to a perfect completion. There will not be a day when you can say, "Well, I am done. There is nothing left for me to learn. I have perfected it all.". That day won't come. However, there is a process of perfection. Through persistent practice you are striving for perfection in all things. There is a big difference between those who desire to get a black belt and practice persistently to get it and those who simply say they would love to have a black belt one day. The difference is that one will receive the black belt and the other won't. One has been given a desire that over rules the laziness and circumstances that prevent them from practicing persistently.

Take a minute to imagine this. Knowing that you could never perfect jiu-jitsu yourself imagine that you had an instructor who truly has "perfected" all there is to know about jiu-jitsu. Whenever you compete you could have this perfect coach in your corner telling you what to do. Just because your coach is perfect does not mean that you will win every match but he will be able to evaluate your match and use it to teach you how to gain from every situation. You would have access to his perfect knowledge and experience to gain from. He always knows the right thing to do. If you continue to practice persistently in and with his perfection, you will begin to think, move and act like this perfect instructor. The more you become obedient to his perfect coaching, he would be able to help you overcome all your opponents just as he did his. You will never be able to overcome him because he is always perfect. You can not overcome him because if you did he would no longer be perfect and therefore never was. He is so perfect you don't even want to try to overcome him because you know that all you are and all that you strive to be comes from him. As long as he is with you and you honor him with an obedience to his instruction and coaching you are, in a sense, perfect as he is all though your perfection can only exist in him. Without his guidance and wisdom you would always fall prey to those who humbly submit to his perfection.

So it is with God's beloved. Through the perfection of Jesus Christ we can be declared righteous. Not on our own merit. For we are far from righteous without the works of Christ. But in him and through obedience to his Holy Spirit we can strive to and excel in having victory over our wickedness. There is no room to boast because we now that without him we are nothing. We glory not in our own but in His righteousness. We strive to let people know that if anything good came from me it is only because the Lord gave me the grace to do it. To think we can do anything good without the grace of God is our greatest sin. God is good and all that is good comes from God. To practice righteousness is extremely difficult in that it is hard to make the sacrifices that righteousness asks us to make. It is hard to let go of yourself and become obedient to the interests and potential of others. Furthermore, a persistent practice of righteousness is going to cause many trails in your life as does the persistent practice of jiu-jitsu in training. To excel you must suffer. The persistent practitioner perseveres through the suffering and comes out better on the other side. All though practice will never truly make you perfect it is the desire to honor the Lord through persistent practice that perfects you.

"Let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous." 1 John 3:7

Just as the persistent jiu-jitsu practitioner who honers his instructor will one day receive his black belt, the one who honors the Lord with his persistent practice of righteousness will inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. To those who don't practice and practice persistently, there is no reward.