When God Speaks

Have you ever noticed that there are times that God shows up at what seems to be a strange time unannounced? Now I understand as a child of God that He’s always there, but sometimes it seems as though He just busts down the door of our hearts and sets up shop for a bit.

This is exactly what happened to me a few days ago. I was driving into town for a meeting just like I do a couple times a week, when God kicked down the door to my heart and seemed to say, “Listen, we need to talk!”

I was listening to the radio, which is always on my favorite local Christian Radio Station J103, when a song came on the radio. It’s a song that I’d heard several times lately, but this time it was different. It was almost as if God were saying these words to me Himself. When the song ended, I couldn’t get a hold of my favorite DJ Ted Gocke fast enough to find out what that song was he just played.

The song is “Even If” by Mercy Me. It’s fairly new.  After researching I learned that it was written by Mercy Me’s very own Bart Millard, who has a child that struggles with a chronic illness. Not only can you hear Bart’s struggle through this song, but you can also easily relate it to your very own struggles in life.

We all have different struggles, some different than others; but we all serve the same God who IS able to take those struggles away with His Mighty Hand.  BUT, even if He doesn’t, our hope must remain in him.

So the next time you are driving down the road and a song comes on the radio and you find yourself emotional, remember, that could very well be the voice of God speaking through whomever your listening to. Listen to what’s being said! God speaks to us in many ways; we just have to be listening.

Have a great week everyone!

Mitchell

Listen to “Even If” by Mercy Me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6fA35Ved-Y 

 

Hear the story behind the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR8zYeY25HY

 

“Even If” by Mercy Me (Lyrics)

They say sometimes you win some

Sometimes you lose some

And right now, right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage night after night

Reminding the broken it’ll be alright

But right now, oh right now I just can’t

 

It’s easy to sing

When there’s nothing to bring me down

But what will I say

When I’m held to the flame

Like I am right now

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

They say it only takes a little faith

To move a mountain

Well, good thing

A little faith is all I have right now

But God, when You choose

To leave mountains unmovable

Give me the strength to be able to sing

It is well with my soul

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good

All of my days

Jesus, I will cling to You

Come what may

‘Cause I know You’re able

I know You can

 

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt

Would all go away if You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

 

It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Commit to the Finish

I saw a great picture this weekend of what God wants us to be. Let me set it up:

I was watching the Run for God Junior Triathlon Team compete at the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge in Clermont, Florida. We had some great performances and it’s always inspirational to watch these young people work hard to reach their goals. This was the first race of the season and the first ever draft-legal race for several of our athletes. They did a great job! I don’t want to take away from anyone’s performance, but I’d like to focus on one athlete in particular.

This was a very unusual weekend because there were two races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. The races were identical, other than a few entrants who would only race one day. Lane Hollis completed both races and was on the podium in both. On day one, the race went like this:

Lane came out of the swim within 15 seconds of the leader. By the time they were on their bikes, he was in a pack of three riders who would ride together for the duration of the bike portion of the race. The three of them swapped duties at the front of the pack and worked together to keep their distance from a pack of fast cyclists behind them who were trying their best to catch up. Going into the run, Lane and the other two guys were headed for a battle over the 1.6 mile run course. Lane is a fast runner and we knew he had a chance to take the overall win.

The course was out and back on a single road, so we watched them run over a hill and out of sight and waited for them to return hoping to see Lane come back over the hill first. As the time for them to return approached, I was nervously watching the top of the hill. When I saw the first head appear it was clear right away that it was not Lane. As the leader came down the hill and into the last 300 meters of the run, there was a large gap back to the next runner. When I saw the second place runner, it was still not Lane. My heart sunk, but I knew Lane was one to give it all he had, and so I was disappointed for him (not IN him).

Lane finished third, but he was disappointed in his run, and I also knew that he could run faster. I asked him what went wrong and he said that he didn’t feel good on the run from the first step. He also said that his stomach was hurting and that affected his run. We talked about the fact that you don’t use your stomach to run and that, unless you were debilitated in some way from the issue, you can’t let that slow you down. If it’s just extra pain, you have to dig deep enough to push it to the side and just run (I know, heartless coach, right?). It was still a good day, but it just seemed unfinished.

On day two, race conditions had changed and it was unclear how things would play out. As it turns out, the swim and first transition were similar, but there was an unfamiliar guy who had a lead and the second place finisher from the day before was in second place again. Lane was in a pack of athletes about ten to fifteen seconds behind the leader. The pack grew as some strong cyclists entered the pack from behind, but they could not catch the leaders. As they entered transition, the pack had worked its way back down to three representing the third through fifth spots. When they came out of transition, somehow Lane had worked his way into second place. I found out later that the second place athlete had crashed his bike just before going into transition. He would get up and continue, but he started the run in fifth place.

As they began the run, Lane and his good friend Sam Tullis were in pursuit of the leader. They had about 15 seconds to make up if they were going to catch him. Just like the day before, the anticipation of seeing them come over the hill was excruciating! When they came over the hill, I couldn’t believe my eyes! All three of them were shoulder to shoulder with 300 meters to go. It was going to come down to who could finish the fastest. As they came down the hill, Lane surged into the lead. He had committed to the finish line first. The other two responded by picking up the pace and staying with him. 120 meters from the finish line, Lane hit another gear and pulled away by about 10 feet. As soon as the finish line was clearly in sight, the older and bigger athlete (Justin Free) who had led the entire way until Lane and Sam had caught him surged ahead and took the victory over the last 40 meters. Lane used all he had left to finish second (Pictured Above). The top three were separated by five seconds! What a great battle!

So, why do I share this? I think this was a perfect picture of what God wants from us. My first thought was that He wants us to commit to the finish in everything we do. He wants us give it all we have. He doesn’t want us to give up when things get tough. Just like Lane and Sam ran as hard as they could all the way through the finish line (even though they finished second and third), God wants us to give our best no matter what the outcome is going to be. Lane didn’t win, but he left everything he had on the course. God tells us that we won’t win every battle. He tells us that we will face tough situations. In James, the phrase is, “WHEN we face trials,” not, “IF we face trials.”

But then I thought about it some more. God wants us to put everything into each situation we find ourselves in, but He wants more than that. You see, Lane was the first to launch himself to the finish line by starting his kick first, but that wasn’t the beginning of his commitment. Lane had committed himself to that finish line before he began that race. He could “see” that finish line the night before as he thought about race strategy. He committed himself to that finish line weeks, months, even years, before by working hard in practice even when things got tough. He had “conditioned” himself to deal with adversity before the adversity came. When he didn’t face the adversity to his liking the first day, he dug deeper and found a way to overcome it the second day. Lane told me after the second race that his stomach once again hurt, but he was able to push it the side and not let it be a factor in the outcome.

We are going to be disappointed. The Bible clearly tells us that we are all sinners, so many of the letdowns will be failing to live up to what God wants us to be. But, how are we going to respond to those failures? God wants our very best, our “first fruits.” He doesn’t want us to give up just because things don’t go the way we think they should. In addition, He wants us to prepare for all of life’s battles by forming a daily relationship with Him through Bible study and prayer.

But, we must be careful how we define failure too. Lane finished second. While it is good to think about how to finish first next time, that’s kind of the point. God doesn’t always give us victories, but He wants us to continue to give our best. Lane put everything he had into trying to win that race, but he didn’t. However, he kept his chin up because he knows that he did the best he could do on that day.

This applies to all of us. We may not be vying for a win in a triathlon, but we may be victorious by going for a run five days this week. Maybe our success is getting to the local food bank to volunteer and share Jesus with someone. Perhaps your battle is with the food you eat? Or, maybe it’s teaching a Bible study class. Whatever you do, do it with all your might and with His help. One thing I know is true; you have to commit yourself to the finish line of whatever race you enter, and that starts now. It requires planning AND execution. To be more specific, it requires planning in order to execute to the best of our ability.

Dean Thompson

Are you a Looker?

Last week in the Blog Post “Perseverance” I talked about how sometimes we go to triathlons and see a person walk up with the best bike, wearing the best clothes, talking the best game, and finishing with one of the worst times. I like to call them “lookers”. From the outside it seems as though they are the best in their field, they talk as if they are the best in the field, like they have it all together, but in reality, they just look the part. Now, it’s not just triathlons where we find these seemingly unique humans, we find them everywhere. The fishing looker, the hunting looker, the golfing looker, or the running looker. If you’re a golfer, then you know the guy who has the best clubs, the best club membership, and the best clothes, but each time he steps up to the tee he drives it thirty yards right into the woods, then continues on as he blames the ball rather than his lack of skill. He’s a looker!

Are you guilty of being a looker? I believe at times we all are. We want to be the best at whatever we’re doing, but often we don’t have the time or discipline to commit to whatever it is that we want to be the best at. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book several years ago called Outliers and in this book he discussed the 10,000-hour principal. The principal is that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is needed to become world-class at anything. Want to become a world-class guitarist, 10,000 hours, world-class doctor, 10,000 hours, world-class triathlete, 10,000 hours. You get the point. While this principal has been challenged in some areas, I feel that it’s safe to say that if you want to become world-class at something it takes years of hard work and perseverance.

So is it wrong to want to look the part of being world-class? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the message your sending and the motive behind your actions. I’ll be honest; I have a really nice road bike. I love cycling, I love my bike, and I made a decision to purchase a bike that is more than what I need. My bike does not slow me down; in fact, I’m probably one of the slower athletes riding that kind of bike. I’m honest about my motives and the reason I have a nice bike. One is because I don’t want to mislead people, and two, because the athletes that I coach often remind me of my lack of speed as they leave me in their dust on their less expensive bikes.

We must be careful though. Many times a sense of arrogance can come along with being a looker. We want people to think that we are something we’re not and we’ll do anything to make that perception seem like reality.

Unfortunately one group who falls into this trap often is Christians. We get up every Sunday morning, put on our best Sunday clothes, grab our two-hundred dollar Bible that looks brand new, and head out the door. We walk into the church as if everything is perfect, laugh and joke with our friends, amen during the pastor’s sermon, and we never give even the slightest hint that inside our world is crumbling.

Here is where being a “looker” becomes dangerous. It’s dangerous, because unlike my biking abilities that are on display for all my athletes to keep me humble, we often try to hide what’s really going on. As a Christian, the evil one wants nothing more than to silence us. Silence makes us feel that we are the only one who is dealing with this struggle. Silence tends to drive us away from others who “seem” to have it all together. Silence makes us a hypocrite in the eyes of those who actually know our struggles but see the persona that we try to display. Silence can often lead you away from a God who wants nothing more than to make you world-class.

Think about the different areas of your life and take inventory. Take a close look at the image you portray. Is it fake, or is it REAL? Are you wanting to make everyone think you are world class, or are you wanting to look world class with the full humble understanding that you’re not there yet.

While on this earth, we, as Christians, have the ability to “look” like Jesus. Why? Because His word tells us that we, “have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20. In the same way that I have a bike that can allow me to be fast but I have a set of legs that must be trained in order to be fast, I have a Savior who lives in me that allows me to reflect Him to a lost and dying world, but I must train the body to do so.

It’s OK to “look” the part as long as long as you can “be” the part, and if you can’t be the part, then just be honest about why you want to “look” the part.

Mitchell

Perseverance

The other day I came across a quote that really made me stop and think. That’s really hard to do in the age of social media. It seems that everyone is posting motivational quotes these days, but this one really caught my attention. The quote was simply…

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins, not through strength but by perseverance.”

If you really stop and think about this quote for a moment you will quickly see just how true it is and how it can be applied to so many areas of our life.

I have the honor of coaching several kids and young adults in the sport of triathlon and we talk about this principal often. It’s the principal that in the long run, consistent hard work will trump pure strength and talent every time. Over the years, many people have come up and ask me how our triathletes are so fast. They want to know the secret workouts, the secret nutrition tip, or the top-secret gear we use to get so much speed out of these kids.

My answer is always that same, but it rarely satisfies those asking the question. Work ethic. Consistent hard work is what we teach our athletes. Some of our athletes are ranked among the fastest triathletes in the nation, and it seems as though they stay there year after year, sometimes gaining in position. But why? Why is it that some athletes slowly rise in their rankings through the years, and some come on the scene seemingly out of nowhere, rise to the top, and then as fast as they showed up, they’re gone?

In my opinion, it’s because they never learned the values of consistency, perseverance, and patience. Sadly this is becoming more and more common in our society. Kids, or should I say the parents of kids, want to become the next Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth before the age of ten. They have some talent and before you know it, they are on multiple travel teams, competing every single weekend with local or regional success, then they take a step out on the national stage and all of a sudden they are burned out, or they just don’t like the sport anymore. Honestly, I think it’s deeper than that. I think many times they’re told how good they are, how talented they are, how they’re going to do great things, all of which may be true, but they were never prepared for the realization that there are thousands of other kids like them and that the true test is not in their strength but rather in their ability to persevere.

If you’ve ever been to one of our triathlon practices, you’ll begin to pick up on a few things that I say often. One thing that I tell our Elite athletes is that when they show up for a race, everyone is fast, and everyone wants to win, but it is those who have learned that strength and talent will only take you so far, that win in the long run. Consistency, perseverance, and patience are the virtues of a true champion. When water encounters an obstacle it creates an eddy. It slows down, often reverses course, makes adjustments, and carries on. It’s consistent perseverance that makes it possible for streams to carve their way through rock to rivers.

What about our spiritual lives? Does the quote above give any insight on how we should view our walk with Christ? You bet!

How many times do we get on a “spiritual roll”? How many times do we sign up for that “spiritual little league travel team”? Many times we are no different than that ten-year-old kid who realizes there’s a lot more work than they thought to becoming a major leaguer.

Our major league is Heaven, and we are called to train day in and day out until we get there. What is our training? Pointing people to Jesus Christ. It’s not seeing how many books of the Bible you can read, how much education you can get, or even how many Jesus stickers you can put on your car. Now don’t get me wrong, those are great tools to have, but they are just that, they are tools.

It’s no different than in the sport of triathlon. We see people at every race who have the best bike, the best looking clothes; they just “look” fast. Then they start the race, and it’s obvious their ten thousand dollar bike might as well be a ten-dollar bike because they haven’t put in the training. They put their focus on having the best tools, not the virtues of persistence in training!

Today, think about where your spiritual focus is.

Is it in your talents? How can I become a “super-christian” over night?

Is it in your tools? How much knowledge can I accumulate?

Or is it in your training? How can I tell someone about Jesus Christ today?

Talents and tools are great things to have, but without consistent training, they are worthless!

Have a great day everyone.

Mitchell

 

Nehemiah and the New Year

Do you know the story of Nehemiah? Here’s some background: Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. It was a “cushy” job where he lived in comfort and never had to wonder where his next meal was going to come from. He was Jewish and so he had a heart for his people in Jerusalem. He asked a man named Hanani about the condition of the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Hanani said, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3) Nehemiah’s heart was broken. Verse 4 gives his response, “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

So Nehemiah went back to work in his job as cupbearer, wishing there was something he could do, but he knew there was no way he could make a difference. What could one man do when an entire nation was suffering? Right? Wrong! Nehemiah did something that would absolutely terrify most of us.

He went to the king, his boss, and asked if he could take a leave of absence to go help. Remember, his boss was THE KING. People didn’t ask the king to give up his comfort for others. The king asked all the questions and everyone else was there to make his life more comfortable. But, Nehemiah stepped outside his comfort zone and asked, and the king agreed to let him go as long as he promised to come back. Not only that, life would be much tougher outside of the comforts of the king’s house.

So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to see if he could help, right? Actually, he did much more. He asked the king for some other things and arrived at Jerusalem with lumber to rebuild the gates and the wall. But the people of Jerusalem didn’t know what he was up to. He went out at night to survey the damage to the wall and the gates and, after he knew what he was getting himself into, he went to the leaders of the city and told them what God had laid on his heart and that they had the king’s blessing and resources.

It was important to the city to be able to rebuild the walls. There was constant pillaging in the city because there was no protection. In order to restore their pride and become the great light God wanted them to be, they had to rebuild. So He sent Nehemiah.

Nehemiah met with serious resistance once they began the work too. A few men showed up to give him a hard time, but when asked about whether he had the authority to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah gave a very direct answer to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:20) The men kept coming back, but Nehemiah kept everyone working.

After the walls had been built, but before the gates had been restored, these men decided that it was time to kill Nehemiah before they completed the work, so they hatched a plan to do just that. They sent a series of messages to Nehemiah to ask for a meeting with him. The final message explained that they wanted to discuss some ugly rumors that they were spreading about why the wall was being rebuilt and how Nehemiah was only in it to become a king.

Nehemiah knew they were only going to harm him and with each message he sent back this response, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)

The project was completed in 52 days. 52 days. Seriously, less than two months.

So here’s the challenge in this new year: What is it that breaks your heart? What is it that God is calling you to do, but it would take you outside your comfort zone to do it? Will you answer His call? When you do and you meet resistance, will you answer, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down?”

God gave Mitchell a vision to take the words of Jesus to the running community through the “Who do you say that I AM?” campaign. It is glorifying His name and is making a difference in the lives of people. The idea was too big for Mitchell. But, it wasn’t too big for God.

How does God want to use you this year?

Dean Thompson, Run for God

Hello Everyone,

As I write this blog, I am sitting under what I like to call my “Devotion Tree”.  It’s a very large oak tree which serves as the starting line for our area cross country course, which just happens to be on some property that my home church owns.  I find that 20-30 minutes a day here allows me to truly focus on what God has and can do as I hear the sounds and see the sights of His handiwork.

This morning, it seems as though there is something different in the air.  You see yesterday was a “Day of Praise” for our church.  It’s much like a homecoming event, where we take a look back and celebrate the things that God has done.  This event takes place every year and is always capped off, just like any great church does, with a meal.

But the “Day of Praise” at my church has another significance for me.  If you’ve ever heard my testimony, then you know that Run for God was “birthed” at this event.  That’s right, SEVEN years ago, a man by the name of HR Poe said SEVEN words to me that forever changed my life, and as a result, the lives of many others.  It was seven years ago yesterday that HR said, “Mitch, don’t let this become your god”.  HR said this in response to God revealing to him that I had allowed running to become more to me than just a sport.  It had become an idol.

What took place over days and weeks ahead was nothing short of God showing me that He was in control.  Starting a running ministry made no sense.  I had never been to seminary, I wasn’t a teacher, I was terrified to speak in front of a crowd, I wasn’t even that good of a runner, and I just wasn’t qualified to take on this role.  I was absolutely correct!  But what God showed me 7 years ago was that this wasn’t about me and what I could do in my own power, it was about Him, and what He was going to do if I would simply step aside and let Him move.  Seven years, and thousands of churches later, God is still teaching me this principal.

Let’s fast-forward six years.  Last November as we were preparing to release the updated 5K Challenge, which includes the presentation of the Gospel and the plan of salvation, I began to pray for God to allow me to share the Gospel in a “big way”.  I even wrote this on one of my prayer rocks that I keep in my office.  It wasn’t very long (six months or so) before God began to lay a vision on my heart.  This vision was to take the words of His Son to the masses through the pages of Runners World magazine by simply asking the question that Jesus asked to his disciples in Matthew 16:15, “Who do you say that I AM?”  Readers would then be directed to a webpage that would clearly walk them through the plan of salvation and give them the opportunity to reach out to us should they have questions.  Clean, Clear, and Simple!

It seemed as though God was showing me a billboard with His fingerprints all over it.  This vision was from God, and there was no denying it, but what I did over the next few months was allow doubt to creep in.  I kept this vision to myself and would not discuss it.  It just didn’t make sense!  I couldn’t possibly be this bold.  I couldn’t bear the thought of all the ridicule we’d receive from a world who is growing farther and farther away from God.  A full page Runners World ad costs roughly $14,000 per month, I can’t afford that, and besides that, I’d never convince Runners World to even run such an ad.  Sound familiar?

By August, God had convinced me once again that this wasn’t about me, it was about Him.  I’ll never forget walking into our offices in early August and just springing this vision on our Run for God team.  Needless to say, I got some blank stares, and lots of questions.  Questions like how will we handle this, and how can we possibly afford this.  Questions were many and answers were few!  I began to reach out to some people whom I trust in my community to share this vision and to seek donations.  I knew that we needed to raise some “seed money” to get this campaign off the ground before reaching out to the general public for help.

Run for God has never accepted donations.  We’ve always kept the lights on through book and t-shirt sales, but this campaign would blow the budget and break the bank for sure without some help.  It seemed as though everyone I talked to was 100% on board.  Checks began to come in, but they weren’t coming in at the rate that made me feel comfortable about moving forward.  I knew that 650 people donating $20 a month could keep this campaign in the pages of Runners World magazine indefinitely, but I needed to get this thing off the ground through local funds before making my case to the entire Run for God family.

Since the day I decided to step out and start this process, God has been confirming this decision in my heart.  He’s done so in many ways.  I attend our youth services on Wednesday nights at our church, and our youth pastor started a series called “Being Bold” literally the week that I began to put this plan in action.  He spoke each week about people who took on “God Sized” tasks throughout the Bible.  People like Esther and Daniel.  People whose plans would fail if God didn’t show up.  He went on from there to a series about Noah, and how God sometimes calls us to do things that just don’t make sense!  God was putting people in my path that it seemed were speaking directly to me saying, “your on the right path”.

Let’s fast forward to this past Thursday.  I was beginning to lose faith in this plan.  You see, since the beginning, God had laid the January 2017 issue of Runners World on my heart to kickoff this campaign.  This is the most read issue and this effort would have the greatest impact because of this fact.  The deadline for confirming our intentions to Runners World Magazine is TODAY, October 24, 2016.  This past Thursday, I was even giving my brother an update on this campaign, all the while having that sinking feeling in my stomach that this campaign might never happen.  How could it?  I hadn’t raised enough money yet, I’d started to fear the persecution once again, and “My Plans” just weren’t going “As Planned”.  I was allowing this campaign to become a symbol of what “I” could do rather than what God can do!

Yesterday morning I showed up to church early to help setup for our day of praise.  This is usually a day of celebration and reflection for me on what God has done through this ministry.  HR Poe even rode with me to the place that I am currently sitting (my Devotion Tree) to help set up for the meal that would be after church.  HR and I even talked about that day seven years ago when God prompted him to lovingly confront me about an idol in my life.  But yesterday didn’t start with joy in my heart.  As much as I tried to put on a happy face, I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I had failed God and this evangelistic outreach that he laid on my heart was imploding.

You may have heard the phrase that our God is an on time God.  I’m here to tell you that is TRUE!  Once we got everything set up for the “Day of Praise”, I ran home to get the family for church.  We hurried back, took our seats, and began to worship with our church family.  Something felt different.  The music seemed to be more piercing, the atmosphere seemed to be more electric, and it was obvious that God was moving in our church yesterday morning.  Then my pastor took the stage!

Charlie Bridges took the stage to give his message.  Over the years, I have reached out to Charlie for advice on many occasions.  In fact, he and his wife are the ones that encouraged me to make the phone call to Lifeway years ago about publishing Run for God.  But for some reason I had not mentioned this campaign to my pastor.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because it just never happened?

Once Charlie took the stage and put his first slide up on the big screen I knew why the subject had never come up.  It was so that there would be no question or explanation for what was about to happen.  Charlie’s entire message was built around Matthew 16:15 “Who do you say that I AM?”

I was instantly a basket case!  I was hitting my wife in disbelief at what I was seeing.  Was it a dream?  Was I seeing things?  This couldn’t be real!  Seven years ago to the day I was confronted with seven words that began the ministry known as Run for God and today, seven years later, I’m being confronted with seven words that could change the hearts and lives of over 2.8 million people a month.  Once the invitation was given, I couldn’t get to the altar fast enough.  I knew my doubt was a lack of faith and therefore sin.  I had to get on my knees and confess to an almighty God that I was attempting to limit what He could do based on what I could do.

As if that were not enough, as I lay there weeping on the alter, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  At first nothing was said, I just knew someone was there praying with me.  Then, it was as if God had brought this journey full circle as I heard HR Poe’s voice praying for me.

God is Good all the time, and all the time God is Good!

Mitchell

How can you help?

By the way, today, I let Runners World know that January’s issue is “a go”.  We’re going leave the rest to God!

If you would like to contribute to this campaign, simply visit www.RunforGod.com/Donate

To Win. Or to help a brother?

“By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16

If you don’t’ follow the sport of triathlon, then you may not have seen what took place this past Sunday in Cozumel, Mexico during the final moments of the World Championships.

Alistair and Johnny Brownlee from Great Britain are two forces that must be reckoned with if you want to claim a top spot in the sport of Olympic distance triathlon. These two brothers claimed gold and silver at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but it’s what they did this past weekend that has the whole world talking.

While competing at the ITU World Championships in Cozumel, both brothers were beginning to set the stage for yet another one-two finish. Johnny had a comfortable lead as he approached the finish line while his brother was battling it out for second place just behind him. With 1K to go, things went south for Johnny. His body began to shut down in dramatic fashion as a stumbled to the side of the course only meters from the finish.

Johnny appeared to be done. He looked dazed, and a podium finish seemed to be disappearing. It was at this moment that his brother Alistair rounded the corner on his way to what would now be a gold medal when he noticed Johnny standing to the side of the course. To everyone’s sheer amazement Alistair also stopped as his gold medal chances ran buy him. He put his brothers arm around his neck and all but dragged him to the finish line. As if that were not enough, as they approached the finish line, he pushed his brother to the finish ahead of him.

Today, you see the images and pictures all over the Internet. Alistair is being called a hero, which in my eyes he is. It’s a teachable moment for athletes of all ages all over the world. Here is a guy who sacrificed his own aspirations for another brother.

Could this be a living picture of 1 John 3:16? Now I do not know the spiritual well being of Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, but I do know this, Alistair showed sacrificial love for his brother. He showed a side of humanity the Christ calls us to put on display daily. He showed that when your brother is down, you help them up, not run past them. He showed us that real love is an act of giving ones self even at a cost.

Thank you Brownlee Brothers for not only being a shining example of sportsmanship, but for showing how we can all live 1 John 3:16 lives.

Watch the dramatic finish of the 2016 ITU World Championships HERE.

Who do you say that I AM?

“Who do you say that I am” is a simple question that Jesus Himself asked His disciples. This question is recorded in both Matthew 16:15 and in Mark 8:29. But why did Jesus ask this question, and why is this question so relevant today?

Today it seems, more so than ever, people are afraid to use the name of Jesus. Some don’t use His name because they’re afraid of what people may think, say, or do. Others may shy away because they simply don’t have a good answer for the question above.

Recently, I was preparing for a campaign that you will hear all about this fall. The campaign is one that will pose this very question to lost people all over the world. But it didn’t start that way. You see, early on I was considering posing the question “Who is God to you”, which is the exact question that we use in The 5K Challenge material. The question “Who is God to you” is fine in the context of a Run for God class. Most classes are taught in the church and most people in attendance, while possibly not saved, at least have an understanding that Jesus was the Son of God, and in fact is God in human form.

But what about the general public? What about those people who have never been exposed to the Gospel at all? The Lord began to change my thinking about the central question I was asking. While “God” means only one thing to Christians and people who have been raised in a Christian setting, it can mean many different things to people all over the world who have never accepted Christ as their Savior. The name Jesus however cannot be mistaken for anything other than the Christian faith.

The name of Jesus does make many people uncomfortable. Why? Because His name reveals “Absolute Truth”. These days it seems that anything “absolute” is under attack. Just the other day I was reading some material that was discussing the subject of gender. The material said, and I quote, “Gender is NOT either/or. In many cases, it’s both/and”. The Absolute Truth is clearly defined in God’s word, but that makes some uncomfortable and stating the Absolute Truth in this case will cause you to be hated by many.

Jesus came and lived on this earth for 33 years. He came to be the example for how we are to live our lives, and He died a horrific death and was raised from the dead three days later so that we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The name of Jesus is Absolute Truth. The answer to the question “Who do YOU say that I AM” will determine where you spend eternity. The answer to that question is either/or not both/and. Either you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior or you don’t.

Today, speak Absolute Truth! Jesus said in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” He says it again in verse 10 as well as in verse 44. Yes, many will persecute us, but we are called to share Jesus as an either/or option not both/and.

God Bless! Mitchell

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

A Wrong Turn

If you raced with us this past weekend at the JFest 5K and 10K in Chattanooga, TN then you know the meaning of this sign. This past Saturday was our 6th Annual – Run for God – JFest 5K and 10K. It’s a race that many people attend because of the fact that entry into this race also grants you entry into the JFest Festival which goes on for the entire day and spectators get to enjoy some of todays most popular Christian bands. This year’s headliner was David Crowder.

If you’ve ever been to one of our races, then you know the amount of attention that we give to every detail. The course, the volunteers, the entertainment, the results, the awards, the shirts, and the list goes on. We prepare for months, spending countless hours trying to anticipate what “could” go wrong. We’ve always been fortunate to have races that seem to go without incident. Yes we’ve had the occasional participant in the wrong category, or a participant whose chip did not read, but nothing major.

The previous statement did not hold true for this past weekend. You see the sign above? That sign is the one that indicates to runners that if you are running the 5K then turn right, and if you are running the 10K go straight. That sign, when held in the correct location, is a critical waypoint to get people to their destination with the correct race distance. The problem this Saturday was that this sign was being held approximately 100 yards away at different turn causing roughly 400 5K runners to take a turn that they did not need to take, thus making the distance of their race 3.75 miles instead of 3.1 miles.

Needless to say, as I saw this unfolding from a distance, my heart sank. I wanted to go crawl under a table and hide. “This is a disaster!” I though as I paced around trying to figure out what to do next. Luckily the 10K runners remained on the right route, but I had hundreds of 5K runners who were getting way more than they bargained for. Yes the thoughts of “Who’s to blame”, “How did this happen”, and “How do I fix this” raced through my mind, but the one question that trumped all others was “WHY?” Why did this happen? Over the next few hours and days I began to dwell on that question. I went back in my mind to the planning, the setup, the meetings, and the logistics. Why did this happen? Why did God allow us to mess up so badly?

This morning as I ran my 5-mile run, I believe God gave me some clarity. I believe that through this God pointed out two very important lessons that I often discount or simply look over. I believe that God allowed this “bump in the road” to get my attention. Maybe it was just for me? Maybe it was just for our staff? Or maybe it was for me to learn and share with you.

Lesson #1 – People follow your lead, and it can have eternal consequences.

What I failed to explain earlier was that the first 15 or 20 5K runners did not make a wrong turn. Why? Because they were running in a pack and they were following the escort bike. They had their eyes on someone who knew the route and was leading by example. The lead biker had come out the day before and studied the route. He even had us drive him around the route so that he could ask questions and know for sure that come race day he would lead everyone down the right path.

So what happened? Two things. A gap was formed in the field separating the leaders from the rest of the field. The leaders were following someone who knew the course and was telling them to “follow me”. At that same moment, the rest of the field had dropped back, not able to see the leader, and were looking for a sign of where to go. The sign that they saw, the sign above, was misplaced, and ultimately led them and everyone who followed down the wrong path.

God really got my attention here this morning. He pointed out that such a simple mistake can lead people astray. Saturday, a simple gesture caused people to run 1K longer than they had planned, but what about the seemingly innocent things that we do everyday? Our life as Christians are to be lived in a way that point people to Jesus. We are to be that lead biker. We are to be the ones that look back and say “Hey everyone, Jesus is this way”. But how many times are we that misplaced sign? How many times do we do things that seem innocent, but someone is looking at us, and that innocent thing causes them to turn the wrong way? Maybe it’s our attitude, our actions, our temper, or maybe it’s that secret sin that we think no one knows about.

God showed me this morning that my actions are sometimes like that misplaced sign. Those actions could not only lead someone down a path to eternal destruction, but they could also lead everyone who is in line behind them.

Lesson #2 – God’s Grace and Mercy is what its all about.

God actually began to show me this one while I was on stage after the race on Saturday. As I was watching this mistake unfold, I felt helpless. Once that turn was made, there was nothing that I could do other than let everyone finish and face the wrath of an angry mob at the finish line. I walked around preparing myself, trying to figure out how I was going to explain what happened. I had a few people who absolutely let me have it, one or two to my face and a few others via e-mail and social media. They were upset, and I understood why. We had turned them the wrong way and put a black eye on an event that they had been training for for weeks. These few angry voices were all that I was thinking about. I felt as though the entire field was just as angry as they were and that I had better get ready to face the music!

A strange thing began to happen almost immediately. As people came up to me and told me how disappointed they were with their time, I had the task of letting them know that their time was off because the course was off. Each time I explained this, I braced myself for the rude or not-so-nice comment that I knew was coming and that I deserved. The comments that followed my explanation were “Oh, I feel better now”, “No big deal, we just got more for our money”, “Don’t worry about it, everything was great”. These are just a few examples of many. Like I said, we did have a few that were very upset, and rightfully so, but 99% of the crowd did not even give the distance a second thought.

“How could this be?” I thought. As a race organizer, you have one main job. Give the athletes a course that is the correct distance, and that did not happen here. But possibly the biggest shocker came as I walked up on the stage to start the awards ceremony. I had already decided that I was going to be brutally honest and tell everyone that we made a mistake and that they had basically ran a 6K instead of a 5K. Once that statement left my mouth, I was blown away with the response. Applause! Yes applause! I was prepared for ridicule, booing, and a lot of angry runners, but I was hearing applause.

God showed me in that moment what grace and mercy look like. Grace is getting something you don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what you do deserve, and I was getting both at this moment. I deserved boos, but instead I got cheers. Wow! Again, God pointed out this morning that this is a true picture of our walk with him. We as sinful humans deserve the wrath of God. We deserve to spend eternity separated from him. We deserve the worst that can be thrown at us because we “blow it” everyday. What happened on that stage Saturday is a perfect picture of God’s grace and mercy for those who have a personal relationship with Him. We deserve Hell and instead He gives us Heaven.

So did we learn anything about this race? Absolutely! Will we ever make a mistake again as race directors? Probably so. Did God illustrate a valuable lesson that I needed to see? You bet He did! Whenever you feel like you’ve been dealt a bad hand, be slow to react. Step back and assess the situation. Pray about it before reacting. Many times God will be showing you something that you would otherwise miss.

Have a great day everyone!

Mitchell

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” Romans 8:28

Do you ever have those sleepless nights where it just feels like you might as well get up and start your day at 2:00 AM? I know I do. I may be thinking about what I need to do the next day, a loved one or friend who is going through some difficult times, or that friend or family member who is lost and does not seem receptive to the Gospel.

So what do you do? Do you get up, trying not to wake anyone else in the house and get your day started? I mean, your not sleeping, so why should you just lay there? I have even come to realize over the years that I can get a days worth of things done in the one or two hours leading up to the alarm clocks going off around my house. There are no distractions, no phones ringing, no kids jumping around, and no breaking news on the televison. No, at 2:00 AM it’s usually just you and your thoughts.

But is this the right thing to do? Have you ever considered that God may be trying to get your attention? Maybe He is wanting to talk to you and you to him without all the distractions that we all fill our lives with. Maybe we shouldn’t jump up and get our day started. Maybe we should just lay there and have a talk with God. The times I’ve done this have been magical! When I turn my focus to God in prayer rather than jumping up and turning on the shower, a funny thing usually happens. The anxiety of whatever I was thinking about seems to slip away, as I take that issue to him in prayer. Psalms 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He will sustain you..”.

So, the next time you are laying in the bed, eyes wide open, wondering why you’re anxiuos about something, take it to God. Does God hear you while you’re laying in the bed? Absolutely! I can’t think of a better time to talk to God than while you have no where to go, no one to talk to, and no one or nothing distracting you.

Oh, and one more thing. Laying your burden on the Lord will often times result in the most peaceful sleep there is. Have a great day everyone!

Mitchell

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