Lessons From Being Punched in the Face!

boxing blog

I have been in the process of learning how to box for the past few months. I have spent countless hours studying footwork, combinations, and proper head movement. As I continued to improve, I was given clearance to begin full-contact sparring with more experienced boxers at my gym!

This past Saturday, I showed up to Top Flight Boxing with my gloves, head gear, and mouth guard – eager to demonstrate my power in the ring for the first time!

Let’s just say I did throw some punches… but I was also punched repeatedly in the face! Here are my biggest takeaways from my first sparring session:

1. If you can’t fight tired, you can’t win fights!
This the motto constantly shared by Jerry James – the coach and instructor at the gym. Towards the end of my first round of sparring, I was exhausted and no longer wanted to hold my hands up so I lowered them. After a few seconds, my head was snapped backwards with a quick jab and right hook. Needless to say, I now know I need to hold my hands up even when it feels physically impossible!

This is true in life as well.

Temptation conquers leaders when they are tired and discouraged. It is easy to resist the allure of sin when you are emotionally strong and have plenty of sleep; it is a completely different battle when your energy is depleted and the enemy offers temporary pleasure through illicit means. Sin always over-promises and under-delivers. It offers life but causes death.

2. I can take more punches than I thought!
I have only been punched in the face twice – both when I was a teenager. I wasn’t sure how I would react in a small ring with an opponent eager to let his fists connect with my head! After taking a few jabs, I was hit with a powerful straight cross.

I instantly smiled through my mouth guard and returned a few of my own shots!

There are moments in life that are terrifying – getting called into your boss’ office and hearing that your position is no longer needed; hearing the words of a spouse as he/she confesses unfaithfulness in your marriage; receiving a phone call that draws you into the valley of death – the trials of this world can bring excruciating pain.

Yet Jesus promises He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We can say with confidence that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). Even in our trials we can rejoice, knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1:30).

3. Technique beats power.
Boxing is an art form that is mastered through decades of training. Powerful punches begin with the proper rotation of your feet and extend into your fists. Anyone who steps into a ring without proper training intent on throwing “haymakers” will quickly collapse under the skillful punches of their opponent.

In the same way, success in any area of life is produced through the invisible decisions made through years of commitment. A successful marriage is sustained through acts of sacrifice, romance, and devotion. A faithful father instills godly values into his children through quiet prayer and gentle instruction. A healthy church is grown through constant intercession, small acts of outreach, and proper conflict management.

It’s the seemingly insignificant actions that make the difference in a boxing match… and in our lives.

P.S. – If you live in the Sioux Falls area, I’d love for you to join me for a boxing class! They are Saturdays at 11am and the first class is free. Contact me if you are interested!

The Experience of Pruning…

weinberg merzhausen

I spent a few hours this past Saturday in the beautiful vineyard of Tucker’s Walk just outside of Garretson. One of the owners of Tucker’s Walk – Dave Greenlee – explained to me the process of pruning the vines for greater fruitfulness. It was memorizing as he skillfully slashed off dead branches and carefully secured the stock to the metal fence to keep it properly aligned.

Intentionally slicing these branches seemed to be a cruel process… but it is vital for the growth of the plant. Dave explained that the goal is to remove 90% of the plant’s growth from the previous season for high-quality grapes.

Ninety percent is a large portion of the vine!

Jesus spoke about this same reality in our own lives. After spending time watching a professional skillfully cut and mend the vineyard, Jesus’ words have become a greater reality to me:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)

When we experience the tender hands of our Heavenly Father removing unhealthy patterns in our lives, it can cause excruciating pain. There are seasons that we flood our beds with tears and can only produce groans in our prayers. We scream out for comfort but it seems as if our very identity has been forcefully removed.

Take heart… Christians that bear fruit experience pruning in order to bring about greater health. It seems brutal; even unloving at times. The Master Gardener – the God who sent his Son for our salvation – prunes with great patience and love for the souls of His people.

Are you going through a season of pruning? What has God been calling you to let go of? Are you listening or has the pain blinded you to the love of the Father?

Three Tips for College Students


As the Summer season breathes its last warm breath, many students are heading back to school. This is a unique time of the year filled with uncertainty and nervous excitement in the lives of these college students. In order to thrive in your first (or fourth!) year of college, I want to offer some helpful counsel.

1. You are NOT a student first.
I do not care what you parents, academic advisers, guidance counselors, or professors say. Your primary identity is NOT being a student. Although you may spend hours laboring over the dusty pages of ancient books in your campus library, your number one priority is to make much of Jesus Christ – not your studies.

I once heard of a wise professor at a seminary telling his students, “For some of you, it would be sinful not to get an A in this class; for others of you, it WOULD BE sinful for you get an A in this class.”

Your relationship with God comes before your studies.
Your relationship with your family comes before your studies.
Your relationship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ comes before your studies.

You are a Christian before you are a student so prioritize your time accordingly. What does it profit you to gain incredible grades, prestigious awards, and published articles if you only lose your soul in the process?

2. Root yourself in a local church.
Every college campus, even Christian ones, are notorious for shattering the faith of zealous believers who have spent the last four years drinking soda out of a sock at youth group. In college, as in the rest of your life, it is going to take more than emotional highs and silly games to sustain your faith.

There is an invisible enemy that lurks around your college campus with the desire to kill, steal, and destroy you. Peter provides us with helpful advice: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

We need to remember that one of Satan’s most effective tactics of devouring believers is by isolating them from a local church. He does this primarily through busyness. If you allow your commitment to a local church to drift during your time at school, you WILL lose this battle against Satan and his demons and your faith will be ruined.

Therefore, root yourself in a local church. Join a small group, serve on a morning team, commit to attending worship services; do NOT unplug from the church as a result of your studies.

3. Do not be taken captive by deception.
All of us are aware of the moral dangers of a college campus. Unfortunately, we are far less aware of the deception that wreaks havoc in the minds of believers being challenged in their faith. It is easy for us to lack discernment and simply received all material we learn in school as truth.

Paul warns us of this danger in Colossians 2:8 – “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”

Paul describes this teaching as “empty philosophy” that sounds extremely intelligent. Ultimately, the teaching finds its source solely in human reason which has been marred as a result of sin. This is what you will encounter in your secular religious and philosophy classes.

Nothing is new under the sun.

I would encourage you to be as noble as the Bereans who “searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” (Acts 17:11) Even when you are confused by a certain teaching, I can promise you there are solid resources by evangelical scholars who have encountered the issues far before you did.

Below is an incredible video by The Gospel Coalition on this subject:

What would you add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

The Invisible War


If you are a Christian, you are enlisted into an invisible war. When it comes to warfare, we need to develop tactics in order to be successful in the various skirmishes we will encounter each day. In order to better equip you for this, we will be spending time over the next few weeks to discuss spiritual warfare.

One of the most insightful passages on spiritual warfare was written by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-20. In the beginning of this section, Paul briefs us on the type of enemies we are facing –

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Specifically, I see three principles in this passage:

1. We are in a battle.
Many people believe the lie that when one becomes a Christian, life gets easier. The opposite is true the majority of the time. When you claim the name of Christ, there is a beast – his name is Satan – who wants to utterly crush you. His goal is to destroy every ounce of faith that resides within your soul. If you refuse to fight against this enemy, you will be thrown into ruin and torment.

2. The war is invisible.
The cohort of demons we fight against are entirely “other”. They rule over the unseen world which is all around us. Although we cannot see the physical appearance of our enemies, the effects of their warfare are visible in the destruction of churches and Christians around the world. They are fallen angels which have been cast down from the throne room of God to wreak havoc on the earth for a limited amount of time.

3. The enemy is incredibly powerful.
If we attempt to wage this warfare in our own strength, we will be utterly demolished by the great power of our enemies. As fallen angels, these evil spirits wield immense power to crush mankind. Those who foolishly rise up against the demonic world without the power and presence of Christ are destined to be annihilated by the mighty powers which rule the unseen world.

Over the next few weeks, we will be tackling the following questions:

  • How do we successfully wage war against this enemy?
  • What kind of weapons are available to us since the enemy is invisible?
  • What are specific tactics we can use to wage war offensively?
  • How exactly does the enemy fight against us? What weapons do they use?

My prayer is that this series would strengthen your faith, equip you for battle, and enable you to persevere in the midst of brutal, spiritual attacks against your faith.

Enjoy the post? Be sure to check out Part 2 – The Battle for Your Mind.

Why We Sin

Why We Sin

Often when I am talking to a Christian who is struggling with a certain sin in his or her life, the argument is made that their desires are simply too strong. Our focus is on how delightful the temptation first appears. We blame our cravings for dragging us to the broken cisterns of sin.

What if I told you that your sin is a result of desires that are too WEAK, not too strong?

Friends, you and I sin because we are far too easily satisfied.

Think about this for a moment: Every time we sin, we are choosing a temporal pleasure over eternal pleasure. We decide that it is worth more in our lives to sever our relationship with God during our time of rebellion than it is to “taste and see that the Lord is good”.

We are enticed by our weak appetites because we fail to see that there are “pleasures forevermore” at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Do not try to fight sin with sheer will power and guilt; sin can only be defeated when you experience the surpassing value and worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:8). In view of the glory of God, your sin will appear as disgusting and hideous as it truly is.

Sin gains power when your appetite for pleasure is too weak.

Curious as to what I am talking about? Watch this short clip by John Piper –

Today, I want to encourage you to be a Christian Hedonist. There is far superior and lasting pleasure found in pursuing God than in ANYTHING this world has to offer you.

Killed Or Be Killed

KillOrBe Killed

If you are a Christian, you are at war.

The battle is one with eternal consequences. You wage war not against mere humans but against powerful forces of evil in a realm that you cannot see. There is an unholy trinity – the world, your flesh, and the devil – which seeks to plunge your soul into ruin and destruction.

This unholy trinity speaks the ancient language of lies, taking orders from the “Father of Lies”. Their objective is to pierce your spirit with an array of arrows set ablaze by the fires of Hell.

And many of us are being slaughtered.

John Owen, a theologian from the 17th century, put it this way – “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Owen was not the first person to express this idea. He is simply paraphrasing what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

There is NO alternative. Either you are being crushed and sacrificed over the demonic altar of sin, or you are brutally murdering the fleshly impulses which reside inside you.

When it comes to our faith, it is either kill or be killed. Choosing to do nothing is offering up your entire being to Satan who promises to steal, kill, and destroy EVERYTHING you are and have.

The Battle Begins in Your Mind
Paul is describing this war to a church in Corinth and he instructs them to take EVERY thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Either YOU will rule over your thoughts or your thoughts will rule over you.

“Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” – Colossians 3:2

Practically, this can only be done by immersing your mind in Scripture. Throughout Paul’s writings we can see that this process must be intentional. Hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, we need to CAPTURE every thought and SET our mind on the things of God.

You Need to Starve Your Sinful Nature
So often we forget how deceitful our hearts are. We entertain thoughts of pride, lust, envy, jealousy, and greed. In essence, we are encouraging the beast which resides within us to feast upon the members of our body. Whether it is through looking at certain images or going to specific places, you CANNOT feed your flesh and expect to live victoriously over sin.

We MUST destroy our sinful nature by subduing it under discipline, ripping its demonic food from its mouth, and starving it by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not optional if you are a Christian. You literally cannot afford to NOT do it.

Begin Today
Much can be said on this topic but knowledge only matters if there is application. I want to exhort you to take every thought captive and hold it accountable to the standard laid out in Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”

Ask yourself the following questions EVERY time a thought comes into you mind:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it worthy of honor?
  • Does it bring justice to those who are hurting?
  • Is it pure of all fleshly contamination?
  • Does it reflect the beauty of Christ?
  • Would I be able to commend this thought to my friends and church?

Memorize and meditate over Philippians 4:8. Let it soak into your entire being. This battle is far too costly to take lightly.

Friends, be killing sin or sin will be killing you.