Day 4 is a continuation of Day 3. In my effort to be timely in posting what happened the evening of Day 3 I was not aware that the Spirit of God was still in the process of drawing more of these athletes to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Here is what I know as of now; after we were done praying with 22 guys, according to our count, one young man pulled me aside who has some deep personal issues he is wrestling with and I met with him the better part of 45 minutes with several others waiting to speak with me about things going on in their lives. What I did not know until 11:30 pm when I got back to the cabin was that Coach Callan had met with another five guys who prayed to receive Christ as their Savior. Can you believe that? The level of interest was just so real and moving and the hearts of the fella’s so tender toward spiritual things that it was amazing.
So you might think that is the rest of the story but it is not. This morning at 6:00 am practice on the field, one young man pulled me aside and shared with me what happened after he eventually made it back to the cabin. He said his cabin mates were waiting for him to arrive to ask him what we were talking about as we were all on the deck and I shared the gospel with them and we all prayed together. He said he told them everything we had spoken of and showed them the verses I had used with them in the Bible like Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-12, etc… and he said many of them said they had never asked God to forgive them of their sins nor given their lives completely to Him and they wanted to do that as well. So this young man excitedly told me they prayed together in the cabin because more wanted to give their lives to Christ. He also told me the same thing happened in another cabin..
Folks, I have no idea how many people have prayed to accept Christ in their lives. All I know is the lid is off and Coach Callan and I are trying to figure out where to pick up and begin as it is so difficult in the midst of a football season. I don’t know what else to share because my emotions are so high and again I simply do not have the words to express the goodness of God. The only phrase that comes to mind is one that is said time and time again at Scioto Hills camp; “To God be the Glory!!”
If they weren’t dragging yesterday morning they were this morning. The ‘County Fair’ is not where the guys wanted to arrive at 6:30 am on the upper field to do conditioning from station to station. The bodies were talking to them, their legs were moaning and lungs burning, everything a coach is tickled to see.
After an hour of intense workout it was time to lumber down to the dining hall for French toast sticks, bacon and cooked cinnamon apples. They are putting a hurtin’ on milk and juice and some kind of powder the trainers are putting in their drinks to replenish their bodies. This morning as the guys sat down I led them in the old camp song I have led a thousand times before… “On a day like this. On a day like this. On a day like this, Ohhhhhhhh I need the Lord to HELP me.” And they sang it like they meant it! Next the entire team says a verse with us just before praying at every meal, “I Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Then we pray.
Yesterday I broached the gospel with the guys and generally said what it was. This morning after breakfast Don Callan spoke and again, because of the prayers of the saints, Don spoke so eloquently the words God placed upon his tongue and he shared some of his stories of travelling the world but also infused the gospel so clearly you had to be deaf to miss it. He shared that we are all sinners, that there is none good enough to make it to heaven on their own and that a person must be born again. He stopped on the phrase “born again” and talked about exactly what that meant. Don, through the power of the Spirit, spoke so precisely and so plain that it resonated with the guys. He said it in such a way that they appreciated what he said and as he finished everyone showed their appreciation with an ovation. The head coach was so moved he didn’t know what to say so he just asked the guys if they really appreciated what they just heard to show their appreciation again and so we had another ovation. The funny thing is Don felt as if he could have done a better job but we had prayed before that God would give him the words to speak and let me tell you… the Spirit was present.
After breakfast the camp staff takes the guys into the woods to various places where team building and unity takes place. I wish I could tell you or show you just how powerful it was. I do not have time nor the skill of writing to describe just precious this time is. Some of the guys are afraid of the woods because they are from the city and have only heard of the woods and seen television shows of what takes place in the woods. It is the first time they have seen God’s wonderful nature and they are mesmerized by it and the tranquility they find. In fact one young man said, “I have never heard myself think before.” Here is Southern Ohio there is limited internet and social media is not available. They are not on their cell phones or communicating with anyone outside these special acres. Do you know what they are doing? They are meeting God.
I want to take the time to tell you about the practice today but I need to get to what just happened following supper as it was my last opportunity to speak for a good length of time. I wanted to be bold and challenge the guys by sharing the gospel plain and simple. To make a long story short, after I was done speaking I did something the only way I know how, I asked the team to close their eyes and continued by asking if there were any that admitted they were sinners and recognized their need to have Christ in their lives to have His blood cover their sins. Many, many hands rose into the air and I asked if they desired to talk further to meet Don and I on the deck overlooking the lake after I prayed. I have to tell you that twenty two guys followed us out and after going through the gospel again and answering several questions about what salvation is or is not, each and every one of them confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and admitted their sinful state before an Almighty God and with tears streaming down their face and onto the wooden planks. It was a moving time and after the last person was done praying and I closed in prayer… The hugs started flowing and do you know what Don and I kept saying to them? We said, “Now when we say ‘hi brother’ – we actually are
brothers. They kept telling us how much they love us and we kept telling them how much we love them.
We know why this happened, it is because of the prayer of the saints and the power of the Spirit. Would you rejoice with us?! To God be the glory!!!!!
Tuesday morning was a rare treat unlike anything I have ever experienced and way outside our typical culture box. After getting the athletes up at 6:00 am for a 6:30 workout called County Fair because of all the various stations they had to attend (cruel play on words). The guys were drenched and lethargic as they came to breakfast and really dragging and some cramping up but each one I asked if they were surviving I received the unanimous response, “There is not anything I cannot conquer.”
At the end of breakfast I read Psalm 1 and spoke about the need to meditate on the Lord day and night speaking about what goes into the mind stays in the mind. Afterward I turned it over to an elderly coach who just came to help out specifically by taking video tape of practices. Because I heard him sing Monday night in the coach’s cabin and old spiritual with a voice sent from heaven, I asked if he might sing a song after I was done speaking at breakfast. Oh man, what an absolute treat as he did something I have never heard because it is not in our culture. He spoke a message to the guys mainly in song… while singing and he has a voice that I wish I could put into words but the words seem to be lacking. The guys were moved and stood up at the end for a standing ovation as he had basically repeated my thoughts of Psalm 1 in song. Unbelievable and I wish you could have heard it and been in the same room. It was a real moment of God for sure and one that spoke these athletes ‘soul’ language.
Following breakfast they broke up into groups of 15 and the Scioto Hills Camp staff took the various groups different places on the grounds for team building challenges… I will speak more to that tomorrow. That was followed up by looking at tape from the previous days practice and to listen to the coaches chide the guys and the efforts or techniques is quite eyebrow raising! Then came a fantastic lunch followed by 1 hour of free time (in which they have to memorize their play books) followed by treatment then practice.
This was the second practice of the season and the guys are sore and for the guys who did not come in the best of shape their muscles are tightening up and the lungs are heaving hard as they are drenched with sweat. I’ll show some pics so you can see them in action.
After supper it was my time to speak with the guys on another spiritual level… (I’ll remind you the athletes do not have to stay or attend – but not one is leaving!) I spoke from I Corinthians 12 about One Body with many members. I must tell you I began by asking for an defensive lineman, a defensive back and a linebacker to stand up by me and in front of all their peers I asked them which one thought they had the most important position. It actually worked out better than I had ever imagined because they all believed their position was more important than any other and they actually gave a serious explaination as to why they believed that. What a perfect lead in to I Cor. 12 (read it). After putting it in the football context and placed it back into the context of which it was written and that is the church. I explained to them what the church is, using some of Dr. Chris Miller’s message I heard this past Sunday, and asked, “Who is in the church?” Then came the gospel… the only people in the church are those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to have forgiveness of sins… Afterward a young man who is currently 360 lbs pulled me aside and said, “Pastor Brian I just feel really down and depressed because I try to live my life by doing good things but I feel like I just can’t get ahead of my bad things. I feel like God is not going to accept me because on the scale my bad actions and thoughts outweigh my good actions and thoughts.” What a sweet moment and I was able to explain to him the GIFT of Jesus and that salvation has nothing to do with our actions but rather what we have done with Jesus in our lives. He didn’t accept Christ but he was so thankful and said he would like to talk with me further. (Pray for Keenon)
Don Callan and I are having more and more opportunity to talk with the athletes and coaches as they get to know us better and trust us more and hear thing unlike they have ever heard before. In fact, one young man asked a question during my speaking time last night and said that he wanted to be saved in the church he was attending and went forward to give his life to Christ but instead they took him into a back room and tried to give him Holy Spirit Power. He said he just wanted to give his life to Jesus but was told he first needed Holy Spirit Power and be baptized first… You see, they have the lingo but just very messed up theology that we are privileged to straighten out.
Keep Praying, it is beginning to get really good!!!
We pulled out of the church parking lot with the church bus, van and trailer heading to Wilberforce and Central State University where there was a large coach bus with the coaches, trainers and players waiting for us to arrive. Without an inch to spare for luggage and equipment, all 110 of us began the journey to Scioto Hills Baptist Camp in Southern Ohio which is where I have brought hundreds of teens over the years as it is one of our wonderful church camps that has been instrumental in thousands of lives being spiritually changed.
After unloading and settling into their cabins lunch was just a short time away and the guys were ready to eat and the camp was ready to feed. Pulled BBQ pork sandwiches are a great way to start off any camping getaway and to put the body into motion. Just as the guys were getting ready to go up for seconds the coach reminded them they were about to practice and they should think about how much they wanted to eat because of the “side effects” while conditioning. It was one of the most pitiful looks you have ever seen as the guys stomachs said, “I would like more food – even though we had a lot,” but their minds were telling them, “don’t eat any more your dummy or you’ll soon be paying for it!” The minds won the moment and it was time to get serious.
Before they left for practice I had the opportunity to speak and turned to Hebrews 12 as it talks about believers “being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” I went back to Hebrews 11 and looked at some of the great people of the faith but ended by looking at the martyrs and shared with them that this isn’t something that just happened back in the dark ages but these very things are happing in Iraq as we speak (that caught their attention). After speaking about sin that entangles us, the ground work has been laid for the coming days with tomorrow talking about our ‘Who is the Church Made of and How Can You be a Part’?
Never has the meaning of the statement “Nothing tastes like home” meant so much to me. After two wonderful weeks in the Philippines in is amazing how everything permeates your sense of culture. The air feels different. The heat is smothering the majority of the day. The smells vary greatly and often are not pleasant. The visual sights can be shocking as you view living conditions. The food is totally contrary with no similarity to what we are used to having upon our tongue and what we are used to eating hot or warm they serve cold or lukewarm, i.e. eggs. Upon getting home and sleeping in my own bed my children gave a wonderful Father’s Day gift by taking me to BD’s Mongolian BBQ. Oh the taste of home (the States anyway).
Less than a week before we leave for the Philippines. All our funds are in for our participants (or they soon will be). The project funds are covered provided they do not inflate much in cost upon arrival. We have a great team put together and one of the men that are going, Jeff Gilbert, I have asked to document the trip and keep you updated on our progress as we have wi fi to be able to upload and send posts. Remember though that we are going to be remote so if you do not see an update every day, it is because we do not have access to internet at that location. Please go to http://graceworksphilippines2014.wordpress.com/ for our first post which has prayer requests for this trip and shares where we are and what we will be doing. This is where to follow us on this trip as we leave Monday. The next time you hear from me will be on the blog and I look forward to seeing you there.
All for One and One for all,