Family Ties

family

About a year ago one of my relatives had a major health problem that required a very expensive procedure. They set up some kind of online thing to help raise money, and even though we were going through tough times ourselves, I remember being so excited to donate and help. It was a “Family” thing, and a great blessing to be a part of it all.

Now, another circumstance is happening where funds are needed to help another of our family through a tough spot. And once again, the extended family has stepped up, blessing them beyond what we could have hoped for.

My mom had been having significant health problems, and just passed away two weeks ago. And once again, the family being there through the whole thing made all the difference.

A few months ago one of our Black Belts and his wife were involved in a terrible head on collision. As soon as I got word, the email went out, and our “Whole Armor Family” got rolling. Prayers, meals, visits, even helping to do a remodel so they could do rehab in their own home. Amazing and wonderful to see our martial arts family at work, blessing one of our own.

Ya know, God has a “Family” too. It’s comprised of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. And what a wonderful thing to be a part of the family of God!

When we run into troubles or struggles, our families can come to our aid financially, or with emotional support. But God created the universe! As part of His family, we have complete and total victory over anything we will ever face.

There’s an old hymn we used to sing that says:

“I’m so glad I’m a part of the Family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, The Family of God.”

Yes – I’m so glad for my earthly family, and cant imagine going through this life without them. But more than anything, I’m eternally thankful that I’m a part of the Family of God!

7 Times Down, 8 Times Up!

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Every sport or activity from basketball to quilting I suppose, has different sayings and slogans that become part of the inspiration to continue that activity and excel. “Just Do it” from Nike comes to mind, “Go Team Go” and stuff like that.

Martial arts is no exception, and there are all kinds of sayings that are used to encourage our training. One of those is shown in the kanji above, which reads “Nana korogi, ya oki” or “7 times down, 8 times up.” It is also often called “Indomitable spirit” or one who never gives up, and it’s a good saying! No matter how many times someone, or some thing knocks you down or sets you back, you’re going to get up, or get going one more time.

Maybe you’ve been trying to get your next rank in Karate, but you were passed over for exam again. It can be frustrating, and has caused a lot of students to give up and quit training. But not you – that simply motivates you to keep going and be fully prepared and ready for next time. That’s the idea of “7 times down, 8 times up”, and it could apply to a promotion at work, a tough course in school, a relational difficulty, or really anything that would try to knock you down. So like I said – it’s a good saying.

But here’s where it gets even better! Check out Proverbs 24:16. Here King David’s son Solomon wrote: “For a righteous man may fall seven times, and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity”

Sound familiar? Basically 7 times down, 8 times up, but so much more. Solomon is telling us that the wicked will not rise again, but the righteous will. And what is a “Righteous” person? A Christian, a person who is justified by faith in Christ. So what we understand from Proverbs is that through faith in Christ, no matter how many times the enemy attacks we need not be overcome – as we put our faith in Christ and stand in His strength, we can not be defeated! Now thats powerful!

And what I really like about all this is that it shows so well how rich, and deep, and practical the wisdom of God is. Because when you compared the two sayings, it’s easy to see how the supposed “wisdom” of man is at best just a cheap imitation of what God has for us in His Word in the Bible.

Truly we never need ANYTHING else!

Prayer

Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For as long as I can remember, this picture hung in my grandparents kitchen when I was a kid.

Interestingly enough I always thought it was a painting, and only recently found out that its actually a photograph called “Grace”. It was taken by Eric Enstrom around 1918, and was originally black and white, and later his daughter added the color by hand.

Anyway, it’s obviously a striking image on several levels. The aged prayer warrior, reliance on God after a lot of years, giving thanks for our food, our provisions, the Bible, and a lot more. Amazing how much you can think about just looking at a very simple photo.

As a kid it always made me think of prayer, and believe me, my grandparents were serious about praying. Every morning after breakfast my grandfather would read something from the Bible, and then we would all get on our knees at our chairs, right there by the breakfast table, and he would pray. About everything. He would pray for all the family, various needs or illnesses, calling on God “the Great Physician” to heal those we loved. He would thank God for His mercy and grace, the blessing and provisions. He would pray for missionaries, the church and pretty much anything else you could think of. And then we would get up and begin our day.

Now sometimes they got off the chair and onto their knees with great difficulty, and there were eventually times when one of them couldn’t do it at all, and would just sit to pray – but they would always pray.

And it showed me how basic and foundational God’s Word and prayer were to them and their faith. And it instilled in me a desire to have that same kind of unshakable faith in God that they had across a lot of years.

My grandfather told me a story once (or probably a bunch of times!) about someone he knew, it may have been a friend or a relative, I don’t recall. As best I remember, they skipped their morning prayer time to do some work out on the farm, and there was an accident and the donkey or some animal fell into a ditch or something like that, and had to be rescued, which took a lot of work and effort. And they always wondered after the fact, if they had not skipped their prayer time, if everything would have been OK with no incidents. A powerful thought.

Here’s another one: Psalm 4:8 tells us, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; because You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Every night I pray that prayer, that God would protect our home and let us lie down in peace, and sleep. Now there are all number of anti-bad guy devices next to my bed, and there’s more than a few years of anti-bad guy training lying there too. And while I firmly believe that God intends for us to do our part in all of that – locking our doors, equipping ourselves, etc, etc, I also know that ultimately it is the Lord, and He alone, that protects us and keeps us safe. And prayer is the key.

I don’t have a clue how it works, but prayer is powerful, prayer can and does move mountains, and prayer is something we should never neglect. The apostle Paul tells us to “Pray without ceasing”, and that is great advice.

What a privilege, to talk with God anytime, anywhere, about anything, and to know that He listens, and cares. Blows my mind just thinking about it. As the old song says,

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!

 

(Read more WAMA blogs here: http://wholearmor.net/category/blog/ )

What Are YOU Shooting For?

Bullseye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may know by now, I’m a big advocate of reading the Bible through every year. Here’s one more reason why:

In Psalm 119:11 we read “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

“Sin” is an interesting word. If you are not aware, it comes from the world of archery and the Greek word “Hamartia” which means “miss”. And it simply means missing the mark, or missing the bullseye. So if you’re aiming for that center circle of the bullseye, and your arrow hits one of the outer rings on the target, you missed the mark. And that is where we get the word for sin.

So, will reading your Bible every day make you a better archer? Of course not. But it will show you the bullseye!

The Bible is an amazing book. It’s God’s “Owners Manual” for us human types, and as we read it, we see the bullseye. We see how God wants us to live – what we’re “shooting for.”

And as we approach a brand new year, its always a good time to think about how things went during the past year. Can you think of any time during 2015 when you had a struggle with sin in your life? Silly question, of course you can! I know I can – it’s just part of being awake! And God knows that we’ll face all kinds of temptations during the new year too. And so He wants to show us the bullseye through His Word every day, so we know the mark we’re trying to hit. And as we hide His Word in our hearts, we understand the way God designed us to be, the way He wants us to live, and the help He has for us along the way.

So let me encourage you to join all of the Black Belts at Whole Armor Martial Arts on January 1st, as we open up The Book, and start a fresh new read through the Bible in 2016.

I guarantee we’ll all do a lot of silly things during the new year that will be a complete waste of time, but I also know for a fact, that we will never regret a single moment that we spend in God’s Word, soaking up His Truth, and letting it change us daily from the inside out.

Ready for some shooting? Here’s a few links to some reading plans:

http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com

https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/?version=NKJV

http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-reading-plan

 

(Read more WAMA blogs here: http://wholearmor.net/category/blog/ )

Just Another Tuesday

60

 

 

 

 

Last week I turned 60.

It’s kind of a trip when you think about it. I suppose we all have ideas in our minds of what a 60 year old person is, and of course never imagine thinking of ourselves as “that.”

But, while somewhere, somehow, some counter clicking off the seconds like an odometer rolled over and recorded that Ron Hagelganz was now 60, the truth is – it was just another Tuesday.

I often tell students who are really nervous about an upcoming Exam, that it is really just another day. The hours and minutes will come and go, and either they will pass the test, or fail, but in the grand sweep of things, freaking out about what’s coming isn’t going to help at all. It will come, and it will go.

Time is a funny thing. We often act like we have all the time in the world, when in reality we don’t really have any time at all. All we ever really have, is now. The past is gone, and the future doesn’t exist yet, so here we are – now. Thats why making the most of every moment is so important.

There’s a scroll that is often used in the décor of the Japanese tea ceremony that reads “Ichigo Ichi,” which roughly means, “every moment, only once.” It reminds us that we don’t want to waste a single moment, because each one is really the only “now” we will ever have.

I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” And Paul in Philippians 4:6. “Be anxious for nothing…”

It’s so easy to get so concerned about what’s coming up, that we miss the only real now, the only real life we ever have. And God has so much more for us than that.

So whether it’s a Karate Exam, an unimaginable birthday, or whatever – and no matter how insurmountable, frightening or crazy it might seem – take it in stride, without worry, and with confidence and hope in the Lord. Because in the end, it’s really just another Tuesday.

 

Stoplights

StopLight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hate waiting at stoplights. Seems like the wait has been getting longer and longer lately too. Made me think the other day while I was waiting at another one, just how long we spend here – so I looked it up. One online source wrote that the average American will spend 6 months of their life waiting at stoplight. SIX MONTHS!! Yikes – that’s just crazy.

So, what can we do so that time isn’t wasted?

Well, if you’re a martial arts student, thats a great time to go over vocabulary. For example, can you say the names of all the techniques you practice in Japanese? That down time at the light is a great time to go through that list, or any other terminology that you might need a little extra work on.

How about instructing? I’m a real believer in saying things out loud. So take a basic technique like a back stance, and imagine you’re teaching it to a new student. And as you’re sitting there, tell the student out loud how it goes. Or maybe an introductory class, or a point of etiquette, etc etc etc. Going through it out loud will really help prepare you for when that opportunity comes around at the dojo, and help you to nail down in your own mind those foundational basics that make it work.

More importantly, as Christian martial artists, how about some scripture time. Reading through the Bible every year is important to our school, and we require all of our Black Belt students to do that every year. Now to be honest, sometimes it can be a tough read, like when we’re in Jeremiah for instance. So I have gotten into the habit of asking God to show me something specific in that daily reading that I can take away for the day. And with that anticipation and expectancy it’s been amazing to see what has been there all along. That time sitting there waiting for the light to change is a great time to think about what you’ve read that day, and what God might be wanting to tell you through that portion of His Word.

Or here’s a no brainer – how about some prayer time? We all know lots and lots of people, places and circumstances that need prayer, and its so easy to get so busy during our days that it seems like we just don’t have time to pray. And then, there we are, waiting at the stoplight. Almost as if God arranged a little downtime just for us to get to work!

Hmmm – maybe I really don’t hate waiting at stoplights at all. Maybe the frustration I often feel is when I forget to use that time to do some things that otherwise would fall through the cracks in a way too busy day.

So next time you find yourself stuck at the light, count your blessings!

Tradition

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Anyone who studies the martial arts knows that tradition is an important aspect of what we do. Now granted, there are some who throw tradition out the window in favor of whatever they do, but in reality they are just creating their own tradition for their students to follow too. So no matter how you slice it, tradition is something we all embrace at some level.

Recently we did a drill in class called Gohon Kumite. It’s a very traditional set of techniques that has been used for decades. Very specific movements both during the drill and when changing roles from one student defending to the other. And watching our students train, it reminded me of the tradition and history of what we do in Karate class. These same techniques and movements have been studied and practiced by other students across a lot of years, and it’s somehow inspiring to be following in their footsteps.

Of course many other aspects of our program have a great history too. The kata and etiquette come to mind, and are also very important parts of helping us learn Karate-do in much the same way as the founders taught. Some might say that its time for new ideas and new techniques, but I prefer to rely on the proven path as we train.

If you look at Proverbs 22:28 it reads, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” With that in mind, we don’t want to be so quick to toss aside the wisdom that those who have gone before have passed on to us.

And when it comes to our faith life, the proven path of God’s Truth from the Bible is also the only way to train. And just like in the martial arts, there are many who say it’s time for new ideas and new truth. But as we look back we see that people have been saying that for hundreds of years. And while all their “new truth” has come and gone, only the Bible has remained.

So lets all hold fast to those traditions both in our martial arts, and in our faith, that are so rich and meaningful, and let God’s Word guide us along His path to peace.

Coming Home

ComingHomeThe photo is from the window of the plane as I was coming home from a recent trip to see family in California. It was great to get away for some much needed R&R, but it was sure great to be coming home too. And it was a very welcome feeling as we descended out of the clouds and started that long final approach to the airport and some familiar landmarks began to appear. Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home.”

I’m reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15, where a young man left his family and wasted everything he had on frivolous living. And when he hit bottom and realized that even his father’s servants were better off than he was, he came home. And his father threw a big party to welcome him back and I’ll bet it felt really good to be home.

At our Karate classes last week during our Bible study we gave students the opportunity to receive Christ as their Savior, and to our joy, many responded. And while we rejoiced at the amazing miracles that took place with those prayers, I can only imagine the huge party that was going on in Heaven as more people who had been lost, came Home.

So how ‘bout you? Are you wandering around, lost in a world that has no answers? A lot of people are. And the truth is, there’s only one way to come home and experience life the way God intended, and that’s through faith in Jesus Christ. And ya know, it doesn’t matter if your grandfather was a preacher, or you’ve gone to church for years yourself. You may pray all the time, be on church committees, teach Sunday school, sing all the right songs, and even read the Bible daily. But if you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive your sins and be the Lord of your life, all those other things don’t matter at all.

So let me invite you, just like we did in our Bible study in the middle of Karate class, to give your life to Jesus. To come Home. You may not understand much or even any of the things of faith, but if you will simply believe that Jesus loves you, that He is the Son of God, ask Him to forgive your sins and accept His gift of Eternal Life, you’re Home. And I guarantee you it will feel really, really good. If you have questions about this whole thing – let us know. We would be thrilled to help, and have Heaven throw a party just for you!

 

Keeping Up With The Joneses

scale

Have you ever felt pressure to keep up with someone else? We often call it “Keeping up with the Joneses.” And honestly, it just is real easy to compare ourselves to others, and feel like we need to somehow be like them, be as good as they are at whatever, have as nice a house as they do, and on and on.

Recently I had all the Black belts and brown belts partner up and work on some advanced kicking techniques. It was very interesting to see how wildly varying the performance was. And it became evident very quickly that many of our advanced students need a lot of work on these kinds of techniques. Truth is they are difficult, which is why its important to practice them and keep those skills fresh so they will work when needed. Some of the brown belts did much better at some of the techniques than the Black belts, and on some the opposite was the case. Few, if any, did them all well, and I think it was a bit of a reality check for many of the students. But then, that’s exactly why we train. If we only practiced the stuff we’re already good at we’d never improve at all!

One of the things that we all struggle with on some level is our pride, and so in this case many students had trouble with the realization that they were not doing better at these skills than the students below them in rank. Not a bad thing, as that will inspire them to train more correctly on those skills that really need the work. Truth is not everyone is even physically as able as others either. I know that I am not able do some of the things I used to be able to do with ease. Some of that is age and some is the old body parts not working as well as they used to because of various injuries. So I just do the best I can and don’t worry about it.

The bottom line is that one of the terrific things about martial arts training is that we really don’t have to keep up with anyone! We will want to of course, but we don’t have too. We simply train at our own pace, doing the best we can and hopefully have a blast along the way.

Faith is much the same. We can look at some of the amazing people of faith like Billy Graham etc., and by comparison feel like we’re pretty much worthless because there’s just no way we can keep up with people like that. Well, the good news is we don’t have too.

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

We’re not saved because of anything we do, we’re saved because God chooses to love us and offers us the gift of eternal life. Period. Of course once we accept that gift it should cause us to want to do good things and live righteously for God, but that isn’t what saves us. St. Augustine said “Love God and do what you please.” I love that! When you truly love God, what you please to do, what you will want to do, is what He wants.

You see, God doesn’t want you to be Billy Graham. He already has one of those. He wants you to be YOU! He doesn’t want you to try and keep up with anyone else, do what they do, look, act, or even think like they do. He wants you to be you. Period.

There’s an old saying: “God don’t make no junk”, and that is so true. So you don’t need to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, the Grahamses, or the Hagelganzes (obviously!) just be you. And as you are sold out to God, living every moment for Him, just watch what amazing things He will do through your life!

What’s On YOUR Shirt??

When I was a kid, around 1st grade or so, whenever we needed to take money to school for anything my mom would tape the coins individually onto a small piece of stiff paper and pin the paper to my shirt. Apparently this was the fashionable way to send money to school since there were lots of other kids walking to school with coins pinned to their shirts too. And I remember thinking that it was a big responsibility to have those coins and it seemed to make us all extra careful to be sure that those little pieces of paper were delivered to the teacher. It was almost like a badge we wore and in a way I thought it was kinda cool to have some money pinned to my shirt (whatever “cool” meant to a 1st grader…) Now obviously it was quite a different world some 50 plus years ago too! Can you imagine trying to do that today?

Well it struck me today as I recalled all this, that my faith is a lot like those coins pinned to my shirt. It’s a big responsibility, I want to be sure it’s delivered and it’s a pretty cool thing too. So how about you? Could you think of your faith like that?

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Our faith certainly is a big responsibility, as we know and have the answers to life that most of the world around us is searching for. And so we want to live for Christ out of obedience and love for what He has done for us.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Of course we can keep faith to ourselves, but that’s not really why we have it now is it? We’re meant to share it and pass it along, which is the delivery part. We want to always be looking for opportunities to tell those around us about it.

Romans 10:14 “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

And our faith is a wonderful thing, something that we should want people to see in us. Now when those coins were pinned to my shirt that was the very first thing anyone noticed when they looked at me, and in my little 1st grade way I was proud to have them there. Does your faith show in your life that much? Is it the first thing people notice when they look at your life? Are you proud to wear the name of Christ and be called one of His kids? Good stuff to think about!

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Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”