Spiritual Krav Maga (part 2) the adventure continues …

  • Fight on both fronts: spiritual and physical
  • Get aggressive: switch from a defensive to an offensive role
  • Use whatever is at hand as a weapon

Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. (2 Cor 10:3-4)

We live in two realms, two dimensions: the spiritual and the material.  So, to live an effective life, both aspects must be addressed.  The spiritual contains the real power, but the natural is the trigger to release it.  The two must work in harmony.  Action – Impact.  Trigger – Power.   This is the same principle as Faith-Works: without the works, the faith is “dead”, unreleased, and therefore no result is ever realized.

So, in real life, we must seek to act on triggers to release or activate God’s power to generate the results.

What is the trigger for any given situation?  It can be discovered by answering the basic question of “what is in your hand?”   This is a biblical principle.  When God commissioned Moses with the impossible task of freeing the Israelites from the most powerful empire in the world, Moses balked. And God asked Moses: “What is in your hand?” (Exo 4:2-3) That simple staff was the key to confronting Pharaoh, unleashing 10 plagues, parting the Red Sea, and winning battles. And we are instructed,“whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecc 9:10).   When Moses looked at what he had, all he saw was a stick.  God saw a tool he would use to unleash the miraculous.  It is also a key of Krav Maga: use whatever is available as a weapon.

How does this apply in reality?  Two examples from my own life:
1. Financial.  I’ve been working the same job for nearly 6 years now.  And I’ve been diligent and productive — I’ve done it “with all my might,” you might say.  In other words, I strive to be a valuable asset to my employer.  And I wanted a raise.  We don’t get annual cost of living adjustments, but every couple of years the company will do evaluations and give us some token of appreciation — usually in the low single digits.  I wanted more, and honestly thought I’d earned more.  I prayed quite a bit about it, not wanting to get caught up in discontentment or bad attitude, and making sure I wasn’t just being greedy.  I waited till I had some inner “go ahead” from God.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the most outgoing or aggressive person around. I’d make a lousy salesman.  But I knew I had to force myself past timidity.  And I scheduled a lunch with my boss to discuss my situation.  That lunch turned into an 8 hour meeting, and I walked out victorious.  I got a double-digit percent increase.  (By the way, this was the second time this has happened in recent years, applying the exact same strategy but at different jobs: diligent work to prove my value, prayerful preparation, then respectful but assertive confrontation.  And the results were identical.)

2. Health (my current battle).  Got a cold.  Yeah, sure, a petty thing.  But it can make me miserable and cause me to miss work.  Two fronts: I’m quoting scripture to myself whenever I think about it: “he took my infirmities and bore my diseases, and by his stripes I am healed”, “I will drive sickness out from among you”, “no plague shall come near your dwelling”, “behold I give you power … and nothing shall by any means hurt you”, etc. Whatever Word from God that seems relevant, I’m speaking to myself and my sickness.  That’s the spiritual.  On the physical side, I’m getting rest, not overexerting myself, and I’m taking vitamins aggressively (not your once-a-day half-hearted approach).  Okay, gotta admit, it’s still dragging on.  Going on day 5 now.  But my symptoms are light — noticeably lighter than in the past — and I haven’t needed to take cold meds to get through the day.  I barely need to blow my nose, no sinus pressure, only mild congestion, no cough, no achiness.  Not the miraculous results I’d hoped, but definite improvement none the less.  And I’m not giving up.  Persistence till I win.  “Krav Maga!”

And the adventure continues ….

Spiritual Krav Maga — or the art of spiritual self-defense

[Draft 1 – a work in progress …]

For a while now, I’ve been sensing a trend in myown spiritual life.  When I spend time with God, I often walk away with some impressions about assertiveness, passivity, “chutzpah” — similar concepts around the theme that God wants us to take a more active role in our own lives.  So often we slip to one extreme or the other: we either ignore God entirely, pursuing our own goals and desires, trying to do everything in our own strength, or we settle into times of false piety where we place everything in God’s hands, sit back in wait-mode, and become passive observers, letting the random winds of life carry us where they will.

There is the middle ground I believe we are supposed to occupy.  Christians live in two realms simultaneously. We are flesh and blood, and we live in a material world.  And we are spirit beings, existing in a realm more receptive to divine influence — and in contact with other evil spiritual forces which oppose God and us.  This is not some intellectual or philosophical perspective; it is real life, and is so natural that most times we are hardly aware of it.  Real life is such that as we go through our day-to-day routines, we are constantly confronted with challanges, trials, battles, pains, and sufferings. And if we are to be overcomers, if we are to win any of these battles, we must fight them on both fronts: physical and spiritual. 

Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art, a ferocious hand-to-hand combat form of self-defense.  It was developed in the 1930s to help protect the Jewish community in Czecholslavakia from Nazi thugs. Later, its inventor brought it Palestine during the British Mandate and introduced it to the Haganah, the Jewish underground army there, where it has since become the official unarmed-combat system of Israeli Special Forces units.   Its basic principles are simple:

  • do not get hurt
  • go from defense to attack as quickly as possible
  • do as much damage to the attacker as quickly as possible
  • attack the opponent’s vulnerable points
  • use any available objects as weapons
  • be constantly aware of everything that is happening around you.

This type of defense tactic seems appropriate to Christian life because it focuses on fighting under worst-case conditions — like so much we find ourselves caught up in.  It assumes the enemy is out to destroy you and that you must do whatever it takes to defeat him and remain unharmed. And it is particularly aggressive.  How is this Christian?  Jesus warned us that we should expect trouble in this life, and he informed us of our enemy’s mission: to steal, kill, and destroy (John 16:33; 10:10).  We ARE on the defensive.  We must expect to be attacked.  And Jesus’ own life demonstrates the seriousness of his own work to break the power of the enemy. “God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Like Jesus, our mission is to go around doing good and freeing others from the oppression of the enemy — beginning with ourselves.  God planned these missions for us long in advance (Eph 2:10), and it’s time we stopped being the passive victims of chaos and trouble, and become the forceful agents of his Kingdom he designed us to be.

For me, this is going to be an experiment in spiritual growth, an adventure.  I’ll try to post specific examples of what problem I’m attacking, and what weapons I’m using against it.  And I invite you to join in.  Post your own battle plans and strategies.  What weapons work for you?

We need to begin looking at specific areas of our lives where we are being attacked: health, finances, relationships, personal issues, our jobs, our hopes and dreams, anything else that is out of order in our lives or the lives of those around us.  And working in both the physical and spiritual realms, we need to use the objects at hand as weapons to turn the situation around: faith and works, prayer and action.  We need to see how we can move from a defensive to offensive posture as quickly as possible.  And expect God to meet us there in the struggle.  He never rewards passivity; we cannot expect his power to be released if we’re just sitting patiently with our hands folded.  “Forceful men lay hold of it.” 

Now, when you encounter your next problem, shout to yourself “Krav Maga”. Think street-fighting.  Think “go on the attack, turn the tables as quickly as possible”.  And “use whatever is available, both physical and spiritual.”   We walk in both worlds, we must use the tools of both worlds.

Somethings aspirin won’t cure

I woke up sore this morning.  There’s a cramp in my neck, tight muscles in my back, and my hip joints are sore.  All from a little exertion yesterday at the park with my dogs.  Downing two aspirin with my coffee, I think, I’m too young for this stuff to be happening.

As I’m walking around, twisting my body, leaning over, trying to stretch the knots loose, it becomes all too obvious that a life sitting in front of a computer is taking its toll.  And I’m not being diligent enough on my treadmill and other workout equipment.  I’m tight, rigid, locked up. This is what happens when we stay fixed in one position too long, when we don’t stretch our muscles and continually challenge our bodies.

For some reason I started thinking about some grumpy old people I know — maybe I’m feeling like that stage of life is approaching faster than I anticipated.  These geezers are uptight, irritable about almost everything, complainers, and critical of others.  They’re a very unhappy lot, and few people can stand being around them very long.  They’ve isolated themselves, and don’t much like being around others either.  They don’t like anything new, they don’t want anything changed, everything has to be exactly how they’re used to it or they become frustrated and cranky.  Without continued outside interaction, without constant exposure to new and different people and things, we become fixed, inflexible — knotted up and sore.

Someone once told me that as we become older, we become caricatures of ourselves.  We become more deeply entrenched in our set ways and established in our idiosyncrasies.  And I think now that’s because as we get older we start limiting our outside interaction, we become more isolated. We resist change.  And left to ourselves, we become a more concentrated version of who we are.  And usually, not for the better.

The less exposure to change, the more fixed and immobile we become. The fewer contacts we have with people different from us or things different than we’re used to, the more intolerant we become.  Perhaps that’s why people in large metropolitan areas tend to be more tolerant, more “liberal”, less threatened by people and things of different cultures.  The constant barage of “other-ness” keeps them flexible.  And they tend to enjoy those differences more.  They tend to love the variety of life.

I’m not sure there’s a biblical lesson here, but I recognize a spiritual truth: the more we shut ourselves off from things outside our familiar circle, the more intolerant and rigid we become.  The less likely we are to embrace others, and the harder it is to love people who are not exactly the same as we are.  Our relational/love muscles get cramped.  We become a dried up creek instead of streams of living water. 

God knew it was not a good thing for man to be alone.  Who knows what Adam would have become had he been left alone in the garden? 

Rubbing my aching muscles, I’m looking down the road of time to my senior years ahead, and the soreness is a reminder of the options available to me.  Cranky, isolated old man, or loving, tolerant old guy involved in the richness of life.  God has so much planned for us, for every day of our lives until we pass into the next.  So many good things placed ahead for us to do.  Our decisions and activities now will largely determine that outcome.  Are we immobile, too set in one position, or are we moving, stretching, challenging ourselves.  One will keep us limber, useful and alive.  The other, cramped, useless and sore — and that’s something a little aspirin won’t cure.

Don’t skip the hard stuff

On the road to becoming the person we’re destined to be, we’re gonna encounter alot of stuff.  Some of it’s gonna be hard, some of it’s gonna be ugly.  But that’s where the glory is. 

Did anyone ever get a prize for doing the easy thing?  Was any great acheivement ever accomplished by taking the easy road? It’s always the people who take on the hard tasks, the difficult road, who accomplish the extraordinary.

As the saying goes, No guts, no glory.  No pain, no gain.

This applies to everything that God places in our lives — or places us in the middle of. 

At work.  The projects no one wants to tackle because it’s too complicated or difficult.
In our relationships.  Getting along with each other.  Keeping our mouths shut when everything inside us is screaming.  Putting up with the other’s idiosyncracies and annoying habits because we are called to love.  Doing that one extra act of personal sacrifice for the other.
In our own lives.  Putting down the fork when we’re done — when we’re really done, not when we’d like to be done.  Not grabbing that second (or third) helping from the buffet.  Getting on the treadmill even when we’re tired.  Working out because our bodies need the exercise.  Spending more time in prayer and in God’s Word, even when we don’t feel like it.  Saving that extra 20 bucks instead of buying that CD or DVD we really want — or not getting that Latte Grande every time we have a craving.  Not pulling out that credit card.  Turning off the TV.  Turning off the cell phone or Blackberry.  Cutting down on the cups of coffee or the number of cigarettes.  Not letting our eyes wander at the mall because God has called us to be faithful to our mates.

I’m speaking here as much to myself as anyone else, since I know my own tendency toward laziness.  I know I hate to pull myself off the couch sometimes.  Seems like I have sooooo many barbells to lift yet.

But all growth comes from strain, from pressing foward, from pushing beyond our current limits.  From taking that one extra step outside our immediate comfort zone.

We’re all called to self-discipline.  It’s one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  But if you want to be great, you must stretch beyond the minimum requirements.  You have to take on the hard tasks.  How else will you ever see God do great things in your life if you stay where you’re at now?

Don’t shun the hard thing.  It’s the tool God wants to use to bring you to your greatest destiny.

Just something to consider …

Change begins with recognition

I woke up this morning feeling a little irritable.  No particular reason — I went to bed early enough, didn’t eat too late, and the day before was relatively calm and stress-free.  But there I was.  I grabbed my morning coffee and sat in my little study to pray.  At first I stayed quiet, hoping to hear some fresh whisper from God. But then my mind wandered to all the people around me who needed prayer (myself included), and the petitions began.  Well, no new revelation this morning.  And I was a little frustrated about that.  “Okay, Lord, here I am, making myself available, spending time with you, opening myself up, and …?”  Nada.  And then it occurred to me that I was not really hearing God, I wasn’t being sensitive, because I was allowing my frustration to put up a wall in my heart. It was blocking my receptivity.

Hmm.  Still with a bit of agitated assertiveness, I started asking God for the big things that were in my heart, the unrealistic dreams I knew he planted there. And I named them specifically.   (Hey, if you’re gonna ask, you might as well ask BIG.)   And I realized that the “no particular reason” was more about my subtle lingering frustration over feeling like my life is stuck in the mud, not moving fast enough toward those great dreams. 

As I started laying out these bold requests before God, the words percolated to the top of my thoughts: Change begins with a recognition of truth.  Truth in who you are, and what you want.

But it’s not the “hi, my name is Steve, and I’m an alcoholic” kind of truth.  It’s not an admission or recitation of my faults.  It’s an affirming of who I am that God made me to be, and embracing the core truths that make up my spiritual DNA. It’s the positives.  And I realized that those big-ticket requests I was making were actually in line with the identity he gave me: my dreams and desires fit neatly with the image he had shown me years earlier of who he wanted me to be. 
But those core truths don’t have be just grand visions of the future. The power of truth applies equally on a smaller, more down-to-earth level. They are truths about our present, about our day to day relationships with people around us.  You could say, for example, “I am a good husband, I love my wife, I take care of her; I provide for her, I make sure she has everything she needs.”  “I am a great worker, I do my job well, I am an asset to my company.”  “I am a good friend, God has placed me here, now, in these people’s lives, and I help them, I bless them, I care for them.” 

Of course, these should not be idle words, or mere wishful thinking.  It’s not hocus-pocus, or some magic formula. The truth should be rooted in God’s plan for you life — what he’s called you to do and who he’s called you to be — but it should also be reflected to some degree by your actions in reality. (If it isn’t, start acting the way you should!) You gotta have a leg to stand on.

As these concepts were racing through my head, I noticed my attitude was suddenly different.  I was calmer, more optomistic, and I felt stronger.  And later at work, I was more friendly with colleagues, less stressed, more confident in the projects before me.  But this isn’t simply a matter of me talking myself out of a bad mood into a better one.   It is the key to all kinds of change in life.  How you see yourself, and what you believe God’s plans for you are, will determine how you act. And how you act now will determine your future.

We’re all dissatisfied with some areas of our lives.  Some things need changing to get us in proper alignment with God’s divine design for us.  And we will be restless and unfulfilled until they are.  But all the necessary changes begin with a simple but profound recognition of who God made you to be and of the dreams and desires he placed inside you.  So if you don’t like who or where you are right now, start focusing on the original blueprint for your life.  Check your spiritual DNA.  See yourself as he sees you, and ask boldy for the dreams he’s given you.  That is who you really are — and that is what you really want.  God’s power begins to be released the moment you recognize the truth.  And that truth will change your life.

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.  (Prov 23:7)
You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)