Watson Martial Arts

In the spirit of integrity, I must say at the outset that this is in no way, shape or form an unbiased post. I am a huge fan of Jason Watson and his martial arts school, Watson Martial Arts.

Having been a part of Jason’s school for the last five or six years, (all three of my sons are trained there), I have witnessed firsthand Jason’s skill as a Taekwondo instructor. (Jason himself is the holder of many national titles in the sport.) The word “competent” seems to be insulting to just how fantastic Jason is.

Certainly my wife and I appreciate how much our sons have learned regarding the sport of Taekwondo. However, what we have really appreciated is how well Jason connects with the children he teaches. He learns their names immediately (There is no, “hey you,” sort of thing going on.). He encourages them. He helps them set goals… not just for Taekwondo, but for life. He teaches them life-principles to help them grow as well-balanced children… and then, hopefully, well-balanced adults. The other instructors, Oren Wilcox and Zane Murphy are wonderful with the children as well.

Children are supported as they move at their own pace, but always encouraged to move forward, building confidence through their continued accomplishments. You should see the look on the students’ faces when they break their first board or complete their first form unassisted.

Watson Martial Arts is not just another “drive thru” martial arts school… something akin to a marketing scheme. Jason and his other teachers produce national champions in both sparring as well as forms, as I have seen for myself over the last five years. While no child is forced to compete in tournaments, they are given all the tools they need if they choose to do so. And, again, you can’t imagine the pride (the good sort of pride) of personal achievement for those students who compete in tournaments, regardless of “how well” they did.

I would encourage you to check out Jason’s website to learn a little more. Better yet, if you live in the Jacksonville area, I would encourage you to stop by his school, meet Jason and watch a class or two.  I know you’ll be convinced, just as I am (click here for directions).(By the way, Jason also teaches adults if you want to learn Taekwondo yourself.)  Who knows… you may write your own blog post one day saying the same thing!

Grace and Truth,
Dale

It’s the Doctrine, Stupid

Right away, let me ask you to please forgive me for using the word “stupid” in the title to this post. My wife and I teach our kids never to use the word “stupid.” In this case I was just trying to be clever by using a phrase that was similar to one used in a presidential campaign not too long ago.

When I was appointed to my first church after seminary (back in June, 1992), I remember how popular the church growth movement was. I remember many of my United Methodist colleagues going to the latest and greatest conferences and seminars and buying the most current and “relevant” books that would solve all of our membership woes. And yet, what seemed so glaring to me, even then, was that everything seemed to revolve around “new and improved” programs and strategies. What I kept saying to myself was, “Don’t they understand that all these mega-churches they are seeking to imitate have core doctrines that they actually believe in and teach to their people.” (This was before Joel Osteen’s doctrine-free “success.”)

It seems that not very much has changed in the 20 years that I’ve been serving in the local church. My beloved UMC is still working through a “new and improved” paradigm or program every two years or so. It doesn’t seem to be working very well.

What’s so frustrating is that we have such wonderful, life-transforming core doctrines as well. (Parenthetically, I might also mention that John Wesley left us a wonderful legacy for “how” to preach the Word of God, do discipleship, etc.) However, it appears that our denomination often seems more enamored with fruit…while ignoring the root that provides it. We want inclusion, mercy to the last, least and the lost, everyone in service, etc., and yet it seems that we’re undermining the very means by which all of those things (and far more) will ever come to pass.

When I read about Scriptural Holiness, I read about inward transformation happening first before societal transformation can occur. Being must precede doing. Belief effects behavior. Confession, creed, and character shape our conduct. We ignore doctrine to our peril. Mack Stokes wrote,

“…for Wesley, scriptural holiness was seen as “inward holiness” produced by the supernatural pardoning and re-creating power of God through Christ, which impels us into “outward holiness.” The tree, being made good, bears good fruit.”

Doctrine really does matter. It shapes and forms who we are and helps us to understand whose we are. It’s with that foundation that we’re able to go out into all the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ and extend his Kingdom into every sphere of life. But we must first be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ (new creatures in Christ) who have truly had our hearts changed and who submit to his Lordship. If we aren’t, then all we will be are Pharisaical workers who will be destined to burnout and crash because, like a branch cut from the vine, there will be no life-giving nutrients and power running in and through us. If we would bear much, good, and lasting fruit, then we must abide in Christ and he must abide in us.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

Choose This Day

Choose This Day

Joshua 24:14-15

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. [15] But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

James 4:4

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

The road of life is filled with many choices:

  • Whom will I marry?
  • Where will I live?
  • What will I do for a living?
  • How will I raise my children?
  • Who will educate my children?
  • Will I believe in God? And if I do, is there more to it than simply believing he exists?
  • What will be the standard of my moral conduct?

Today’s Scripture highlights the most important choices we must make. And, as the rock group, “Rush,” observed, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

In the preceding verses of Joshua 24, Joshua took the children on an historical reconnaissance in order to remind them of who God is and what God had done for them in the past. Implicit in this was the covenant that God had made with Israel and how they could, therefore, also look to the future fulfillments of God’s promises…IF.

When God made covenant with Israel, it included blessings and curses. Obedience, faithfulness, and loyalty would be rewarded with divine blessing beyond their wildest imaginations. Disobedience, unfaithfulness, and treason, on the other hand, would result in God’s curses. It seems so obvious as to which should be preferred.

And so, after laying out the history of God’s love for his people, Joshua presented the people with a choice. He told them to serve God only and to throw away the idols of their past. Whom would they serve – the gods of their ancestors or the living God? Joshua answered as the covenant head of his home by declaring publicly, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

It is interesting, and quite telling, to see how this theme of choosing between the Living God and the god of the age – between covenant-faithfulness and spiritual adultery – is repeated over and over again in God’s Word. The fact is, we will all bow before something or someone, simply by the living of our lives. Who will be the object of our worship is the choice ever before us.

James lays out the choice before us with crystal clarity. He says that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. What exactly dos he mean here? Well, he’s not talking about loving people and desiring to minister to them. Instead, he has in mind what Paul had in mind in Romans 12:2 – love for and conformity to the sinful, fallen, disobedient patterns of this world, this present age of man and its ruler, this kingdom of darkness (as Paul puts in Colossians 1).

James follows by saying that “anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world [in the way described in the previous paragraph] becomes an enemy of God.” James is essentially putting before God’s covenant people in the New Testament the same choice that Joshua put before God’s covenant people in the Old Testament: Who will they bow their knees to: the gods beyond the River, the gods of the Amorites, the state, secular worldviews, modern American materialism, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy hedonism, the falsehood of neutrality in education propagated by secular humanists, the superficial entertainment mentality of much worship in today’s churches, selling out the gospel (compromise?? Embarrassment??) by watering down the message, and on and on and on?

James calls people who do this “adulterous.” They have left their first love to cozy up to the gods of the Amorites and the gods of Egypt.

People cry out for their free will, their rights, and their autonomy. God gives them that option, but not with impunity. There are consequences to foolish choices. This seems to be so patently obvious, that it needs no examples. People may choose Baal or Molech or Ra or the god of this age if they so choose. They can exercise their moral choice to their heart’s delight. They can revel in their “free will.” But the wrath of God will be leveled against all such unrighteousness and ungodliness as a manifestation of the curse.

This curse can come in countless ways. After all, its dispenser is an infinite Being. A corrupt culture, pagan children, radical illiteracy, increased levels of crime, escalating godlessness in the public square, countless babies born to unwed mothers and into extreme poverty, babies who never make it outside the womb, drugs, violence, sexual and monetary hedonism, the worship of self (even in…or especially in the church), etc. Don’t misunderstand me: God is not going to curse us for these things. These things are the curse.

Had God’s covenant people not spent the last 100 years committing spiritual adultery with the temptress of the age, we might not be experiencing all that we are.

By God’s grace, however, we learn that God’s people are always being called back to covenant faithfulness – to throw away all the other gods of our past and love, obey, worship, and serve the one true God… and him only. Each and every day that we are granted another day to live, we are given another opportunity for repentance and covenant-faithfulness. And like all covenants, it starts with an individual and his family.

So choose this day whom you and your household will serve. There’s only one right answer.

Grace and Truth,
Dale