Shadow Boxing

If you have ever been to a gym or have seen videos of a boxer training for a fight, you have probably seen someone shadow boxing. For those of you who don’t know, shadow boxing is when a boxer is by him or herself and throws punches and combinations at the air.

Paul uses this analogy of shadow boxing when writing to the Corinthians about how they should approach life. This is what he tells them:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NIV)

The difference between shadow boxing and the actual fight is that, while you’re in the fight, you will hit and get hit. You will land some punches and not land punches. You will dodge the other person’s punches and get hit by their punches. Paul is reminding the church in Corinth that they are not shadow boxing anymore. That they are in a fight. He wants them to know that life has meaning. That they are not just throwing punches without purpose but that there is something worth fighting for. That sometimes in life what you attempt will work and sometimes you will swing and miss. That sometimes you might get hit by something, maybe even unexpected, and sometimes you might barely miss getting hit by something the enemy throws at you.

I know what it feels like to be shadow boxing through life. I’ve been there. Where it looks like I’m just throwing punches, aimlessly, not hitting anything. Where everything I’ve tried doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve also been in a place where I got hit by something out of nowhere. Where I wasn’t even expecting it and didn’t even see it coming.

If you are reading this and you feel like you are shadow boxing through your life. Where you’re trying things and nothing seems to be working. I want you to know that there is hope for you. John 10:10 says that Jesus came so that we could have abundant life. Meaning that because of Jesus, we can get into the ring. Because of Jesus, we have purpose in life. Because of Jesus, there is meaning for what we do. Because of Jesus, there is something worth fighting for.

Quit your shadow boxing, step into the ring, and start fighting with meaning and with purpose because there is a reward worth fighting for.

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Turn Around

Today is August 28th, 8-28. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

This verse is always quoted whenever someone is going through a storm, their going through a struggle, or it looks like their life is falling apart and they don’t know why. It is meant to encourage the person and let them know that, no matter what you go through, God will work it out for the good.

So many times I’ve seen this verse come alive in my life. I will admit that, while I was in the midst of the storm or when I was going through the valley, I didn’t understand and didn’t see how God was going to work what I was going through out for the good. But when I look back on what I’ve been through, I can see that God’s hand was at work through it all. There were times when I thought I was being prevented from something but God was actually protecting me from something. There was times where I thought I was being denied but God was only delaying me until His perfect timing. There was times were it looked like I was being setback but God was setting me up for where I am now.

Some of you, I believe, can easily relate to what I’m saying. You are probably in the middle of a storm or going through a valley right now. You probably are frustrated, don’t understand why you are going through what you are, and can’t see how anything good can come from it. You may not be able to see it now, but when you look back you will see how God worked it all out. How He protected you. How He delivered you. How He rescued you. How He set you up. And how He worked it out for His glory and your good.

Be encouraged and know that God will show up, He will show out, and He will turn it all around.

B & B

At NewSpring Church today we are believing that Jesus will save 3,000 people. We believe that as it says in Hebrews that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and if He can save 3,000 people on one day back on the first day of the church in Acts 2 then He can do it again.

There are two things that we have been doing together as a church that we believe will cause God to move on our behalf. They are bringing and begging. We believe that if you bring people to Jesus and beg Him to save them that it will render a response from Him. We believe that doing this will compel Jesus and that He will be filled with compassion that He will have to do something.

There are a few accounts in the Gospel of Mark that are the reason for why we believe this. The first is found in Mark 7:

“Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (Mark 7:31-37 NIV)

The second passage is found in Mark 8:

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:22-25 NIV)

Notice how in both situations the people brought the man to Jesus and then begged Jesus to heal him. They didn’t invite the man to come see Jesus and just ask Jesus to heal him. These people meant business. They wanted to see this man healed and they were willing to do anything that it took to make that happen.

Maybe you need to move from inviting and asking to bringing and begging. Maybe you need to do whatever it takes to see people far from God filled with life in Christ. Maybe you need to bother God so much that it compels Him to save people. I believe that if we would start bringing and begging that we would be like the people in Mark 2 and be filled with amazement saying “We have never seen anything like this!”

Cavemen

In the beginning of 1 Samuel 24, we read that David and his men were hiding out in caves running for their lives. Four books later in 1 Chronicles 11, we read about the exploits of David’s mighty men. What brought about such a drastic difference? These guys went from David’s rag-tag group of men to David’s mighty men. They went from broke, busted, and disgusted to accomplishing some great feats.

I believe the key in the whole scheme of things was David. Here you have a guy who has been anointed king, has just come off of the greatest accomplishment in his entire life, and now he finds himself in a cave with a questionable group of men. But David didn’t let that affect him. Two things David did that I believe we can learn from.

The first thing is that he didn’t let his surroundings affect him but he affected his surroundings. So many times because of the situation or circumstance we find ourselves in we forget who we are. Because of the condition that we may currently be in, we forget our position as a child of God. David didn’t let that get to him. He might have been running for his life and been living in a cave, but that didn’t change the fact that he was going to be king. Don’t let the condition that you find yourself in make you lose sight of the position you have as a king’s kid. You have been called, anointed, and appointed and just because you are currently in a cave doesn’t change that.

Secondly, David didn’t let the group of men he was with change him but he changed them. David didn’t sink down to the level of the men he was with, but he brought the men up to the level he was at. David could have easily let the men influence him, but he didn’t. He influenced them. He changed them. He grew them. Don’t let the people who are around you at your job, at your school, in your neighborhood affect who you are but you affect them. Don’t let them influence you, but you have an impact on them. Don’t allow them to change who you are in Christ, but you let Christ change them.

When the men finally got out of the cave, they were known as David’s mighty men because David refused to let his condition and community affect who he was. He took a stand and because of that his men were willing to take a stand for him even when it involved risking their own life. Take a stand today, so that when you get out of the cave, you will have a lasting impact on the people around you.

Do Your Part

So many times in life we try to be the person who does it all. We pile on task after task because we think that we have to do everything. When in fact being a great leader means that you empower others to accomplish different tasks freeing you up to focus, concentrate, and pour all your efforts into what you do well. Less time invested doing more things is not as effective as more time spent on doing less. Less is actually more. Paul said it this way:

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV)

Notice how Paul didn’t try to plant, water, and bring the increase but only did his part and allowed others to do theirs. In doing this Paul was able to reach most of the known world at this time with the gospel and plant seven churches. If Paul tried to do everything by himself, he wouldn’t have accomplished nearly what he did.

I believe that when it comes to sharing the gospel, we do the same thing. We try to do all the work. Judah Smith, Senior Pastor of The City Church, said “The gospel works best when we let the gospel do the work.” Jesus said this in Luke:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2 NIV)

Our job isn’t to save but to serve. Our part isn’t to bring increase but to throw out the seed. We aren’t the Lord of the harvest but we are the lord of our seed.

Do you find yourself trying to do everything? When you share the gospel are you trying to do all the work? Just do your part and leave the rest up to God. When you do that God will add the super to your natural. He will add the extra to your ordinary. If you do what you can do, God will do what only He can only do.

Target Practice

Back in the day archers got extremely good at hitting their targets. So in order to separate the great archers from the rest of the pack, they would stick a small cylinder in between the archer and the target. Thus in order for the archer to hit his target, he had to first shoot the arrow through the cylinder.

Now the name that they used to refer to this cylinder was a kiros. Now the word kiros in Greek means moment or opportunity.

In life, we have different defining moments or opportunities. Sometimes in order to get to where we are going, we must pass through a difficult test or trial. Sometimes there is something that is standing in the way of us hitting our targets. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians:

“For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9 NKJV)

Just like the great archers had to shoot the arrow through the cylinder in order to hit the target, we too have to push through a defining moment in life so that we can take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of us. If you can persevere and push through your kiros moment, you will hit your target. Don’t be discouraged when difficulties arise and something is standing in between you and your destiny. Fix your eyes on the prize. Focus in on the target. In order that you might make it through the defining moments in your life.

Are You Ready?

One of the hardest things to do in life, I believe, is to wait on God. I think the reason for this is because we live in a society that wants everything in an instant. We live in a culture that has been conditioned to seek after instant gratification. I also believe that it has a lot to do with us having a wrong understanding of what the Bible means when it tells us to wait on God. There are well-known verses specifically that we tend to throw around whenever we are in this period or season of waiting on God. The most famous one is found in Isaiah 40:31 which says:

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

The other verse is found in Psalm 27:14 which says:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

When we read each one of these verses, we believe that we just sit around doing nothing while we wait on the Lord to do something. When in fact that is not what the writer of each of these passages is trying to convey. The context for the word “wait” in Hebrew in both of these verses is referring to an army outpost that is waiting for just the right moment to ambush the enemy. In order to get to this point the army has already prepared, trained, and has done everything to be ready to attack in a split second. They are not waiting on anyone to do something for them, they are waiting for the signal to advance in exactly the greatest moment of opportunity.

So the writer of these verses is telling us to not just wait around and do nothing, but while you are waiting you should be preparing. They are saying that the down time you have in your life should be used as prep time so that you are ready to advance in a given moment. You are not waiting on God to do something, you are waiting for Him to give you the signal that it is His appointed time where the greatest moment of opportunity lies.

Paul writes to Timothy instructing him that he needs to ready in season and out of season. (See 2 Timothy 4:2) Peter also tells us that we need to always be prepared. (See 1 Peter 3:15) While you are waiting, you need to make sure that you are ready and that you are prepared for whatever it is that God has in store for you. You need to take advantage of the time you have to study, train, and equip yourself for what God has called you to and not waste it.

The best illustration of this idea of waiting that I’ve heard came from Brad Cooper, Student Director at NewSpring Church. The Summer Olympics has just ended and Usain Bolt, arguably the fastest man to ever live, became the first person ever to win the gold medal in back to back Olympics in the 100m and 200m events. Bolt set the world record in the 100m with a time of 9.63 seconds. Now the Olympics only happens every four years. So during that time waiting, there is no telling how many hours Bolt put in the weight room preparing. There is no telling how many hours Bolt put in training during that time. There is no telling how many hours Bolt spent equipping himself for those 9.63 seconds. In order to set the world record in the 100m Bolt didn’t just sit around during those four years waiting for the next Olympics to come around, but he got himself ready and prepared.

Just like Bolt, you are going to have your 9.63 seconds. It might be an opportunity to lead a friend or family member to Christ. It might be an opportunity to encourage someone. It might be an opportunity to reach out your hand to someone in a time of need. It might be an opportunity to walk with someone through a time of hurting. It might be an opportunity lead someone through a struggle or addiction. Whatever your 9.63 seconds may be, Are You Ready?

Religion vs Relationship

Whenever someone comes up to me and asks if I’m religious or says that I’m a religious person, I cringe deep down inside. I always tell them I’m not religious or belong to a particular religion but that I have a relationship with Jesus. And the reason for that is because:

Religion says that we have to try to get to God while Relationship says that God came to us.

Religion says that God loves us based on how good we are while Relationship says God loves us based on how good He is.

Religion says that God blesses us because we love Him while Relationship says because God loves us He blesses us.

Religion is what killed Jesus while through Relationship He lives inside of us.

Religion is based upon our works while Relationship is based upon grace.

Religion condemns while Relationship convicts.

Religion is all about lifting our name up while Relationship is all about lifting the name of Jesus higher.

So are you Religious or do you have a Relationship?

I Saw God Today

Have you ever been in the presence of a celebrity, a professional athlete, or someone famous and didn’t know it? Yesterday Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, talked about how he was on a plane, sitting right behind Floyd Mayweather, and he didn’t even know it. He used this illustration to point out that sometimes we can be in the presence of God and don’t know it. Why is that? How can we be standing in the presence of almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing God and not know it?

The answer is because most of the time we don’t recognize God when He shows up. Just like Perry Noble didn’t know he was sitting behind Floyd Mayweather because he didn’t recognize him, we do the same thing with God. Jesus pointed this very truth out in Matthew 25 when He said:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”(Matthew 25:34-40 NIV)

We expect God to show up in a building, in brick and mortar; but God doesn’t dwell in something made by man, God lives inside of people. So many times we miss God because we expect Him to show up in all His glory. We don’t recognize God because He shows up covered in skin. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 13:

“”The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44 NIV)

Many times God shows up, but we can’t see Him because we only see the field. We don’t see the treasure that is hidden inside of people. When God is going to show up, He is going to be represented by a person who comes into your life, and in order to pull the treasure out from inside of them, you’re going to have to look past the field and recognize it.

The great philosopher George Strait says it best in his song “I Saw God Today”

“His fingerprints are everywhere,
I just look down and stop and stare,
open my eyes and then I swear,
I Saw God Today.”

So have you been in the presence of God lately and haven’t known it? Has God shown up in your life but you didn’t recognize Him? Look past the field and start seeing the treasure.

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