Thanksgiving in Bitter Root
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy: without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:14-15
Where is Bitter Root? Have you ever been there? Bitter Root, if you call it a town, is not found in any one particular place on a topographical map, but on the map which traverses the spiritual world, half of reality, it is a prolific place spreading as fast as a deadly infectious disease; the towns of Bitter Root are simply everywhere. They are in every race, tribe, language and nation; maybe even within your own home. Bitter Root is indigenous to the human species and finds its soil in individual and collective hearts with the purpose of causing and sustaining trouble. It disrupts families, destroys relationships, organizes lawlessness, exacts revenge, undermines justice, and spreads discontent. Bitter root is active in Ferguson, pitting race against race. On an international scale it foments wars and rumors of wars, oppression, revenge, and persecution.
There is only one antidote which roots out bitterness from the human heart; the One who alone destroys barriers and breaks down the dividing wall of hostilities in his own body, reconciling bitter enemies to God through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-15). It is what Ferguson needs to live together with a peace which lasts; specifically, the peace of Christ. When bitterness reigns truth is ignored and opinion is crowned as license to do or say or think whatever the human heart devises. Harmony becomes impossible. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes, feelings, and instincts (Judges 21:25).
The seeds of bitter root are fertile in all hearts; no one is immune. Ingratitude is an enabling fertilizer for the bitterness root and too often continues even when the current cause of bitterness is resolved. This was true of nine of the ten lepers Jesus healed (Luke 17) as seen in last week’s SFTD. Bitterness from living a leprous life may not have gripped the heart of this one thankful leper who immediately came back and fell humbly at Jesus’ feet. However, ingratitude, the sister-root of bitterness, continued to shape the nine lepers’ response to Jesus, who was the unacknowledged cause of their healing. Their bitterness while lepers had strengthened their pride rather than inducing humility in their character. The story of Ferguson is one of bitterness and pride, and precious little humility; though there is always a spark of hope when those who have the Holy Spirit are sprinkled in the midst.
Today is Thanksgiving. Allowing and feeding a bitter root within your heart will breed ingratitude and thoughtlessness toward God, this God who is responsible for EVERY good thing in your life (James 1:17). If the percentages of the lepers are a meaningful truth, 90% today will be thoughtless of the Lord of Life and of the gracious, magnificent God who has showered His people with benefits; even in the midst of valleys and the slough of despond. Will you be among the 10%, like the one healed leper who returned and fell at the Lord’s feet with an abundance of praise for all Jesus had accomplished in and for him? Humble and worthy gratitude to your Father in heaven always weeds out bitterness, even when you do not know it is there. Unacknowledged bitter root is oftentimes the worst. It uses the camouflage of pride to remain in place. But you can put it out of its misery with a renewed heart of humility overflowing with thanksgiving to God, which doesn’t end after one day of celebration. Gratitude to God is expressed in the very manner in which you treat your fellows, brothers and sisters in Christ, every day, even as you pointedly praise Him for all His mercies to you.
“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts my daily thanks employ; nor is the least a cheerful heart that tastes those gifts with joy.
(4th verse of Joseph Addison’s hymn, “When All Your Mercies, O My God, 1712)
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Parenting tips on teaching your children how to value kindness and caring
1. Show concern for others!
How? Our children pay attention to everything we say and do – our conversations, interactions, and attitudes. If you care about others, show it. Don’t turn your back on what you see on the streets or in the world hoping that someone else will take action. Set the example for your children and let them follow.
- Don’t just tell them about the world, ask them what they see in the world, what they think and how they would take action. Start simply.
- When you bump into someone, say you’re sorry.
- Teach children to always address others with respect, regardless of the circumstances.
2. Give your children a bigger picture of the world
How? It is a big world, yet we grow up and associate with a pretty small circle. Not everyone can adopt a child from another culture or take in an exchange student, but you can expand your child’s circle by encouraging them to reach out to someone with whom they don’t always connect.
- Do it yourself! Have someone over for dinner that is not in your normal circle of friends.
- Encourage them to side with the child being picked on or find opportunities to befriend the one who is less popular.
3. Express thanks
How? It sounds so easy, yet we often assume people know we appreciate them and are thankful for them. We must make the effort and take the time to ensure they know how much they mean to us.
- Encourage your children to do something for someone just because.
- Tell your children thank you and expect them to do the same to you and others.
- Have them write thank you notes.
- Ask them to tell you each day something for which they are grateful.
4. Serve others
How? The world doesn’t revolve around your child. It never will. So having them serve others teaches a valuable lesson. It is easy to do in your own home by having them do chores, clean the dishes, and pick up the yard…without pay.
- Demonstrate it at meal times by serving them food and drinks and have them use please and thank you. Your response needs to be you’re welcome. Then, once you have modeled, ask them kindly, to get you something to drink or to pass the food. Model the behavior you want and then expect the same.
- Talk to your children about when you and they see people serving others. Talk about how that positively impacted the person being served.
- Ask your child what opportunities they have to serve others. What can they give or give up for someone? It doesn’t have to be money; it might simply be their time or their friendship or a kind word.
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Greater than Thanks
It is a season of thanks, when we gather together as families, big and small, blended and together, and acknowledge the blessings that relationships bring and truly how wonderful life is. What a gift it is to have loved ones. To sit around a table or on a couch, in a home or a coffee shop and simply fellowship with someone you love is refreshing. It is in relationships that we have the opportunity to show that we care, love, and can honor the dignity of another person. Thanksgiving is a time when we should be teaching our children something greater than thanks; grace.
We see God’s grace, His unmerited favor, in the physical manifestation of creation. We see it in the person of Jesus. The verse John 3:16 is quoted often to note God’s love for the world; “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. But that verse also demonstrates something else; that God cares about what He has created.
Grace tells us something about caring. Yet according to the “Making Caring Common project, a study being conducted by the Harvard School of Education, about 80% of youth surveyed said “their parents were more concerned about achievement or happiness over caring. The study continued to note that parents were prouder if they got good grades over anything yet despite the rhetoric that parents may give about being concerned for others, the reality is that real message conveyed in day to day parental behavior is that parents want their children to achieve good grades and to be happy (feel good most of the time).
Intuitively, we know that what this study reveals is true. We see it around us, we might even catch in our conversations with our children and grandchildren; “How did you do on that test? “I just want you to be happy. Just like businesses consistently focus on what they say like Nike’s “Just do it or Chick-fil-A’s “Eat more Chicken, we as parents are always creating a priority of values in what we say to our children.
As we sit down over Thanksgiving and as we approach this season of Christmas, can I encourage you all to change the tenor of our conversations from achievement and happiness to how we treat others? One of the greatest treasures that we can give our children is to teach them to care about others (here are some tips on how to do so).
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“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16
As you get into the full swing of Christmas gift shopping, I am fairly sure most of you have experienced someone in your past or present for whom you have no idea what to give them; primarily because they seem to have everything you would think of or could afford to buy. The Psalmist expresses God’s total-sufficiency in Psalm 50; his need of nothing from yours or anyone else’s hand, except for this ONE thing, the praise of unconditional thanksgiving! Such praise acknowledges who He is and the blessings He has bestowed on you because He loves you. What is more, your unreserved and unconditional thanksgiving to the Creator and Master of your soul returns to you abundantly more than you can ever imagine, as it transforms who you are beyond all expectation. This historical account of ten leprous men who begged Jesus for healing shows both the result of thanksgiving and the ugliness of ingratitude with a burdensome loss to the ungrateful.
Many lessons arise from this account of the ten lepers’ encounter with Jesus; and surely some of these lessons are able to penetrate your thoughts and affect your life as you approach another Thanksgiving celebration as well as the nature of your life every day. All ten men showed some faith in responding to Jesus’ directions. They each did what Jesus said in starting out still unhealed to present themselves to the priests, apparently in Jerusalem, a lengthy walking journey away. While they were on the road to Jerusalem they were healed. The priests according to Levitical laws were able to declare them leprosy-free and permitted to reenter social life within their community with a clean bill of health, or, on the other hand, they could declare them still unclean, and consequently alienated from society as they had been. The ten lepers started on their journey still unhealed with the fear in their minds that the priests would formally judge them unclean (infectious), declaring them (still) ostracized from their community; a place of continual humiliation and shame. They started the journey out of obedience to Christ’s words, and nine of them as their healing became apparent quickened their pace toward Jerusalem, now with a certainty of being declared clean by the priests with an immediate return to a much-hungered-for-reunion with family and friends. You can see how this hope would capture their complete attention over all else, even the remembrance of how their healing was accomplished. Yet one of them (only 10%) knew what was absolutely more important than anything else. All thanksgiving and gratefulness springs from a heart which clearly recognizes, as this one grateful leper, from whom all blessings flow!
Take note of the result of the one leper’s overwhelming thankfulness to the Healer who had made his skin and body clean; Jesus said to him as he expressed humble, exuberant thanks to Jesus, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well. It appears here that nine were cleansed from leprosy, but one was cleansed from sin as well. He was made clean in both body and soul for eternity. The other nine missed out on the most important part of their healing. Their estimation of earth and its temporary joys exceeded their estimation of heaven and complete healing. Even a common sense realization of the true source of their healing from a gruesome physical disease, combined with a genuine appreciation for what Jesus alone was able to do, should have turned their feet back as it did the Samaritan. Instead, in their minds the return to thank Jesus was too inconvenient and time consuming in slowing their journey to the priests and the eagerly anticipated reunion with their family and friends.
Does this bring to mind any of your own practices of Thanksgiving? Consider what consumes your actions and priorities when you are engrossed in family holidays and celebrations, or even the business of everyday living. Too frequently family and friends and personal holiday habits take precedence over “exuberant thanksgiving to Him whom we only access by faith and from whom all good gifts come. To lead your family by first priority to a more than cursory praising and thanking of the Lord who has blessed you, sets an example for all of them to follow in their own lives. Are you a follower of this one leper who returns first to offer thanksgiving with no restrictions and with obvious great joy, before heading off to do those things with family and friends which are truly secondary to the “most important thing?
Think on this as you rethink Thanksgiving or do a Thanksgiving Redux next week. Consider the example of the ten lepers, the nine and the one. Very possibly this Thanksgiving will be more transformative than Thanksgivings past; and your daily life will be more shaped by thankfulness than misshaped by ingratitude. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
“Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh,
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
(King Lear, from As You Like It, Shakespeare)
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Call me Al…or Dad? – Parents As Friends
I can remember when I called a fellow mother to tell her the exciting news that my daughter Mara had called me mom for the first time. I had to laugh at her reply: “You’ll grow to hate that word.
Apparently, so have some of the children. The Wall Street Journal reports that increasing numbers of offspring are calling their parents by their first names. Now this is not a new phenomenon. I can remember my 13 year-old cousin Bob had a phase when he’d say to his mom, “Oh, c’mon,Cleo. But as I recall, this was nipped in the bud pretty fast by my Aunt Cleora.
Who’s In Charge?
It is true that this first-name basis is occurring in an era that is less formal in regard to all authority. There are children who call their parents’ friends by their first names, too. When my kids were young, their friends called me by my first name because that is what they heard. They were little. But once they reached about second or third grade, they started calling me Mrs.Byrne. I’m not sure if they started this, or me. I know I wanted some distance and to be looked up to, and I think they wanted and needed this, too. I know I would never have wanted to call my friends’ parents by their first names when I was a teenager. They weren’t my friends. They were parents.
There are also schools in which students call teachers by their first names. Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC is one, and it has had this custom since 1945. It was founded at that time as a progressive school designed to break down what were thought to be unnecessary boundaries that inhibited interaction between teachers and students. Robin Williams famously tried to dismantle them in the movie Dead Poets’ Society. But this reform got its start in a different, and far more patriarchical, era. How is it working today?
There are numbers of parents today who let their children call them by their names, and some actually encourage this. There are experts who agree with them. Some feel that it’s okay to tolerate it as “classic teen boundary-testing and attention-getting behavior. Others recommend starting with an exploration of what is going on and what children are trying to accomplish when doing it. I certainly felt some sympathy for the girl who called her dad by his first name because she couldn’t get his attention any other way!
Parents As Friends
To understand this phenomenon, we have to look at what parents get out of it, and what kids get out of it. A mother quoted in the piece enjoyed being on a first-name basis with her children because it was a new way to connect and that it was nice to be trusted “like I was their buddy. One dad felt it was fine because teenagers don’t want to see adults as their bosses.
But the problem is that they still are, until the child moves out or is self-supporting. Optimally, there is a gradual change in the status of the parent-child relationship over the years, with the child gradually assuming more responsibility for him- or herself. But during the growing up years, generally assumed to be until age 18, parents and children are not equals. Nor should they be.
A family is not a democracy, with one person, one vote. We see all kinds of evidence around us of the underside of that approach. It is not a pretty picture when the kids run the family. And parents who have tolerated being called by their first names may have no one to thank but themselves when problems ensue.
Madeline Levine, a CA psychologist with a great deal of common sense, puts it in classic Dr. Spock words: Parents should firmer not friendlier. It helps maintain their position of authority. Respect for authority is one of the foundations for any social group or business that functions smoothly. Of course it is assumed that there is another part of the bargain: that the authority figures conduct themselves in a way deserving of respect. And here is where families of all kinds get in trouble.
Kids may call their parents by their first names because they don’t respect them and what they do and who they are. While kids can say “Good boy or “Good girl to a parent in a harmless or even humorous way, it’s not funny when it is faintly (or not so faintly) derisive. And sometimes parents want their children’s approval way too much. People comfortable with their authority don’t look for, much need, approval. They are self-propelled, and confident in what they are doing. Families function better this way.
One reason parents may encourage a first-name relationship is that they want to be friends with their kids. But as one dad pointed out, that is a little self-indulgent. We aren’t supposed to be equals with our kids, and we each need to have friends in our own generation who are peers. Both parents and children need to be comfortable with their own cohort, because we will have those relationships for a long, long time. The kids grow up and move out; we all need lives and relationships of our own then.
Should parents ask their kids, as the video recommended, why they are calling their parents by their first names? I’d say no. I’d also recommend against nicely telling them you would like to be called by your first name. That is tantamount to asking them if it’s okay.
This is a time to call them out and tell them not to do it, period. Yes, just put the kibosh on this experiment in taking power. As behavioral psychologists say, extinguish the behavior. Don’t put the issue up for discussion.
This isn’t tyrannical behavior. It’s smart leadership.
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Build Something Bigger Than Record-Setting Strength
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I first learned of Paul Anderson while doing research on people that have a reputation for doing the dead lift. You’ll find it useful to first read the following excerpt from PaulAndersonPark.com before you proceed to PAGE 2, my interview with Bill Ingram. it offers a good foundation of how God used Paul’s talents (his physical strength), and his commitment to serve God to make a difference for generations of hurting teenagers and their families. Now, young men grow physically and spiritually in the shadow of a man who discovered how humbling yourself and raising up God’s purpose is the greatest strength you can ever have.
In 1956, Paul weighed well over 350 pounds; his neck size was 24 inches; his biceps were over 24 inches, his chest 58 inches, and his thighs were 36 inches. In the best condition and form of his life, Paul was ready for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. All the experts of the day believed that Paul merely had to show up to win the Olympic gold medal.
Paul and his teammates arrived in Melbourne, Australia 18 days before the lifting competition. Shortly after his arrival, Paul began to feel feverish and unsteady but he could not pinpoint the reason. Less than two weeks before the competition, he awoke in the middle of the night burning with fever. He was treated by a doctor but for twelve days the fever raged as his body weight dropped by 30 pounds. He felt miserable and weak. There was constant talk of sending him back to the States since no one could determine what was wrong.
Three days before the competition, the doctors told Paul that he would not be able to lift and that they could not allow a man in his condition to compete. Paul asked the doctors to postpone their decision until the last possible moment and they agreed. Without the doctors’ consent, Paul put himself on four aspirins every three hours. The aspirins did bring the fever down and by the morning of the day he was scheduled to lift, November 25, 1956, his temperature was nearly normal. The concerned professionals said they would not forbid Paul’s competing if he would agree to take all responsibility.
The super-heavyweights were scheduled to lift at 8 p.m. but the meet was far behind schedule. Paul’s first lift arrived around 1 a.m. The effects of the aspirins had worn off and his fever had returned. Feeling dizzy and cold, he perspired profusely. Paul held on with each lift but was trailing behind an Argentine lifter in the point count. At 3:30 a.m., he approached the platform for his final lift. He had three chances to successfully make this lift. He would have to break the existing Olympic record to win the Gold.
OLYMPIC CHALLENGE – INTERNAL COMMITMENT
On his first attempt he tried to drive the bar overhead but never got it past his chin. The bar crashed to the floor and the arena was silent except for the echo.
For his second attempt, he rushed to the bar and pulled it to his chest. The weight felt heavier than before, the bar rumbled to the floor and he stomped away, bitterly disappointed. Paul waved his teammates away as they rushed to encourage him.
As he contemplated the possibilities of losing, his mind raced. He used his officially allotted rest period of three minutes to walk up a long, dark corridor. Paul felt as if God was reminding him of everything He had ever done for him. God had made him what he was. Everything Paul had accomplished had been because God had let him survive Bright’s disease as a child. God had given him loving Christian parents. In spite of these countless blessings, Paul had ignored God.
He found it impossible to pray. He tried twice but his heart was hardened by ignoring God for so long. At this lowest point in his life, a point to which many people must come before they realize a need for God; Paul recognized how unworthy he was of Christ’s love. He then returned for his third attempt at the lift.
The arena was silent. When Paul pulled the weight to his chest, he knew immediately that it was futile. He couldn’t put it overhead. Now he was desperate. In a split second, he found that he could be sincere with God. As quickly as the words raced through his heart and mind, he told the Lord he was aware of all that had been given him and he had returned nothing. Paul continued by pledging to God that he wanted to be part of His kingdom and from here on out; he was making a real commitment. Then Paul realized his immediate need and said, “I’m not trying to make a deal, Lord, no deals, but I must have Your help to get this weight overhead. Paul made a true commitment to serve God for the rest of his life. He gave the final push and drove the bar overhead, and it stayed. The crowd went wild as Paul returned the bar to the floor. He suddenly was the Olympic Gold Medalist.
If I, Paul Anderson, the World’s Strongest Man, can not make it through one day without Jesus Christ, how can you?
In his autobiography, A Greater Strength, Paul remembered the smile on his face that early morning was not as much for the joy of victory or the relief the ordeal was over but for his new relationship with Christ. “What he had really won was not an Olympic Championship measured by the poundages of man but the strength of God’s Holy Spirit.
Throughout the remainder of Paul’s life, he would share his faith by saying that it was a tremendous thrill to win the Olympic Gold Medal for his country and to stand on the winner’s platform as the national anthem was played and the American flag was raised. He would continue on by sharing that the greatest thrill in his life was knowing Jesus Christ as his personal Savior; and “If I, Paul Anderson, the World’s Strongest Man, can not make it through one day without Jesus Christ, how can you?
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Build Something Bigger Than Record-Setting Strength page 2
Bill Ingram is the Fitness Director at the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
In this interview he shares how he got involved in this ministry, the role fitness plays at the home, the transformations youth experience there and how he feels you too can Be Life to others through fitness.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What kind of an impression has Paul made in your life? What do you feel are his biggest enduring life messages?
Bill Ingram: The biggest impression on my life is Paul Anderson’s testimony, his wife Glenda’s love of Jesus, their selflessness in starting the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) in 1961 and faithfully continuing until Paul’s home going in August 1994. Glenda continues to actively serve as president of the PAYH.
God used a PAYH alumni’s testimony to impact my life. In 1993, I was a freshman in college searching for truth and trying to determine if God could help me with the chaos in my life. I decided to attend a Christian retreat weekend for college students.
At the last minute, an upperclassman joined us on the three-hour car ride to the retreat. As I sat there listening to his enthusiasm about his relationship with Jesus Christ and what God was doing in his life, my first impression was that he must have led the perfect life. There was no way he could understand the despair and agony I felt in my heart.
As I quietly listened to him go on and on about what God was teaching and doing in his life, I noticed a distinctive ring on his finger. It was a silver ring, flat on top, with a man lifting a barbell over his head. I asked him about it, and he replied, Oh man, this is from the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Let me tell you what God did in my life there.
He went on to tell me about being a troubled adolescent who was nothing like the choirboy/youth group leader that I had pictured in my mind. He was given the opportunity by a judge to attend PAYH rather than serve time in jail on drug and burglary charges. All of a sudden, the difficulties of my life seemed to pale in comparison to his. If God could change him, He could change and help me. I went into the retreat with a changed perspective.
That weekend, I committed my life to Christ. This PAYH alum had no idea that God had used his experiences at the Youth Home to give me the exact message that I needed to hear at the exact moment that I needed to hear it.
“Grab it and growl. This was Paul’s mentality when lifting. It was also his analogy to dealing with obstacles in life. When there is a task to be accomplished, get to it.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Describe the physical fitness activities at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. What makes it such an important part of the over all ministry?
Bill Ingram: For over 50 years, the boys have started each day with a one-mile run. For a new boy who has just arrived at the home, has not been very active or has damaged his health due to drugs or alcohol, this activity can be very difficult. As his body adapts to the new routine, it simply becomes something he does everyday.
Physical Education classes are held year round. In P.E. they learn how to develop well-rounded fitness. Increases are quickly made in cardio-respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, speed, power, flexibility, coordination, accuracy and agility. They do high intensity workouts combining gymnastics, weightlifting and traditional cardio exercises.
From the early days of the home, there has been a model of growth based on the Bible passage, “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and men. This emphasizes mental, physical, spiritual and social development. The physical fitness activities help in all four areas.
Anatomy and Physiology classes teach the underlying structure and function of the human body and how it relates to their performance in the gym. They learn the importance of goal-setting, perseverance and overcoming obstacles. The increased self-confidence makes them more comfortable in social settings. Another big component in the fitness program is encouraging one another to push harder and finish the workout.
Paul Anderson’s physical feats and tremendous faith in God have inspired me to mold myself into a man who can support a family, take care of his brothers, and live a life after Christ. For me it motivates me towards a life of ministry, of helping others and spreading the gospel. Physical attentiveness, laid out by Paul, is huge here. I spend most nights in the weight room and three mornings a week in a physical education class. Running in the morning has multiple purposes. As do devotionals at the breakfast table and Bible studies in the classroom. The Youth Home has made me feel like I can go down any path I want to for my future. It gives me the confidence to set my sights on anything, physically and spiritually and provide help to others.
– Chase, PAYH resident
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What kinds of physical development have some of these boys achieved while being at the home? Have any of your alumni gone on to have careers in fitness, wellness or other related fields?
Bill Ingram: A common example is a boy comes to the Home as a sickly 125 pound young man and will leave the program as a lean and muscular 175 pound young man. The overweight couch potato sheds body fat and gains stamina and endurance . The average graduate can do over 20 pullups, run a 6 minute mile, and squat over 300 pounds.
Each year the Youth Home does a bike ride fundraiser where several of the boys will ride a bicycle over 500 miles in a week. Their level of fitness makes training for such an event quicker and easier.
The Youth Home boys participate in several 10k and 5k road races each year, consistently taking top spots in the overall and age group placings. The Youth Home sent four boys to participate in a Spartan Race (a 5 mile course with numerous obstacles to overcome) and as a team, they took 1st place out of 250 teams with very little specialized training. The well-rounded inclusive fitness the boys develop gives them the fitness foundation to pursue whatever sports they are interested in.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What is the most significant spiritual transformations you see in these young men?
Bill Ingram: The most significant spiritual transformation in any young man is when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. In the history of the PAYH, thousands of young men have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. These young men have been used by God to touch countless number of people around the world. [See below for The Ripple Effect Of Change, the story and video of Billy.]
What really sets Paul Anderson apart from most is that a man who could have potentially had untold fame and fortune, laid it all aside to follow Christ and start a Youth Home which has impacted thousands of families.
– Jesse, PAYH resident
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How is working at the Paul Anderson Youth Home different from doing your Cross Fit business? In what ways have you learned to minister to people at your gym as a result of doing ministry with these boys?
Bill Ingram: As a coach and personal trainer, you have to care about the whole person. You can’t just be concerned with their squat technique; you have to deal with their emotional stresses, nutrition, relational issues–you have to be prepared to be a trainer, counselor, and cheerleader.
Many times I would have high level athletes come in and just be “off. Their energy levels would be low, their countenance would be different and their performance was not up to their normal output. I would just stop them in mid workout, ask questions, and then listen. Coaches who can teach squats are everywhere. Coaches that demonstrate a deep concern for the whole person are harder to find.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What opportunities do you think there are for other power lifters, bodybuilders, personal trainers or other fitness professionals and enthusiast to follow the example of Paul Anderson and his wife and establish a ministry?
Bill Ingram: I think that Paul’s greatest example is not the physical gifts and talents that he possessed, but how he used those talents to serve others.
If God has given you a passion for movement, lifting, or fitness; I believe that there are unlimited opportunities to use those gifts to serve him in unique ways by helping others. Your “ministry “may be to help others become physically well, learn to set and accomplish goals, or just to have more energy to play with the kids. This happens by building relationships and genuinely caring for those you train. These relationships provide the context for sharing spiritual truths with others.
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Is the Word of the Lord rare where you are?
“In those days the Word of the Lord was rare. I Samuel 3:1
It is ironic that with the great availability today of Bible’s in America and the West, with such an abundance of churches and mega-churches, Christian TV and radio, that in the Public Square the Word of the Lord has indeed become rare, and yet it is. In the boy Samuel’s day the revelation of the Word of the Lord was delivered by prophet and visions, and Samuel tells us that even in a theocracy the Word of the Lord became rare. Today God has provided His written Word in universally-available reach, particularly in the West; so why has His Word become “rare?
One reason it is rare today is because God’s Word has been ruled illegitimate and unwanted by those who write and adjudicate the laws of public society; the vast majority of the citizenry apparently approve by their vote and acceptance of this new situation. God’s Word has been pronounced unnecessary and illegal for public use and for the governing of society and even Christians now buy into a contrived “separation of anything that is considered “church or more, an “exercise of personal faith spoken into public life.
Such separation has grown incrementally each year since its inception. Society must now be defended at all costs as thoroughly secular (devoid of faith expression) particularly in a society which is now labeled pluralistic, no matter how small the groups are which create the pluralism. Interestingly, one of the smallest groups percentage-wise is allowed greater leeway to cross the line into the Public Square, but it is not of the vast majority, Christianity, which is especially singled out for exclusion.
However, as in Samuel’s day the primary reason for the rarity of God’s Word in the Public Square is because it is simply not believed and put into practice by those who are called to do so. There are not many wise, as Jesus describes wise; those who hear His words and live them out as who they are (Matthew 7:24). Eli, God’s prophet and Samuel’s teacher, failed to follow God’s commandments concerning his sons, and God apparently stopped speaking to him. Instead He went to the boy Samuel. There were serious and grave consequences for Eli who once heard God’s Word and now ceased to put it into practice (I Samuel 4:12-18).
So it is with those who call themselves Christian today, who have God’s Word available in their homes, yet the reading, study, believing and practicing of it is rare. We are reaping what we sow in the society in which we live and in which we are called to bear testimony to truth as it is in Jesus, who Himself is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We are losing or have lost the battle in our community. Hence the Word of the Lord is rare as we cease to live it and make it known. This is not the result Jesus had in mind upon hearing His words describing who you are to be: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine BEFORE MEN, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:14).
You will be called to suffer for His name even as you “Shout the joy and truth of the gospel from the mountaintops, which I imagine is fairly public. The authentic Christian is not only called to live out the truth in the privacy of his home, but in the midst of the Public Square. You must not pull a bushel over your head and mouth to hide who you are and what you believe, but you are to counteract the rarity of God’s Word by your life and by boldly speaking the truth in love into the world in which you live. Be noticeable in a world in which God’s Word has become rare.
“Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
(Spiritual, anonymous, no date)
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The Spirit of Christmas
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4
Christmas? Just a bit early, isn’t it? Thanksgiving isn’t even here! Yet there is a method in my madness. It may be more fortuitous if you meditate in November on the Spirit’s sustaining the continuing celebration of Christmas all over the world. Make use of the opportunity the Spirit provides in your plans for this Christmas. As much as you have planned differently in past years it is difficult to not become annually inundated with the demands of time and thought which normally comes every Advent/Christmas season. Once the season is on you there is not much time devoted to focused meditation because of traditional activities requiring your efforts which surround this most celebrated of all holidays. I encourage you to consider the Spirit of Christmas before the season arrives in all its busy-ness. I do not think the almost universal celebration of Christmas throughout the world, even when there are all types of secular celebrations on the fringe of the true core, is disconnected to our calling as Christ’s servants. The Spirit of God has sustained celebrating the Savior’s birth which bears witness to the gospel and the Word made flesh, notwithstanding Jingle Bells or I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas. It is not an obscure holiday or unobserved practice. Interestingly, search as you might you can find no reference to a celebration of the Savior’s birth until some 300 years after it took place. I do not fully know why, though there are a number of conjectures. Yet as the intervening 1700 years have progressed, the celebration of Jesus’ birth has spread throughout the earth in one fashion or another, some most noticeable, others not so much, but still everywhere, even in predominantly non-Christian lands. This is a fact worthy of meditation.
Why is it so universal? Because as the Bible reveals in Revelation, “The Lamb who was slain purchased men for God with his blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9) This amazing, diverse yet united family of God, scattered throughout the globe over hundreds of generations, knows the birth story and knows this One who was laid in a manger in Bethlehem in real time and history; and they love to celebrate his birth with family, and with one another. The world has seen and adopted Christmas with the unique and intriguing celebration which it is. This is not a bad result. Indeed it appears to bear all the imprimatur of the Spirit of God. Christmas has made a universal impact in all parts of the world. The point is not what the exact date was; a universal agreement with December 25th or January 6th has been accepted. Nor is the point a unanimous opinion of scientifically explaining the star of the Magi, even though it remains a permanent part of Christmas. The central message is that the incarnation truly took place, Emmanuel came and lived among us, and his birth is not a secret to the multitudes which populate the globe. How it eternally impacts many of them is a different story. But the Spirit provides an opportunity to those who know the Savior to communicate the gospel message with a truth which is universally celebrated and recognized as Christmas, even if by many in a flawed, not fully aware manner.
The true Spirit of Christmas which amidst the fallen nature of a sinful world still manages to invade most homes and many a celebration sprinkled with the emotions and commensurate actions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You all well know that every Christmas celebration does not exhibit all of these characteristics genuinely or consistently; in many cases and places, just the opposite. But you also know in your own history of Christmas you have experienced all of the above in some measure. It is why there is in most every heart a yearning, a nostalgia, for Christmas. As I have observed and am aware of Christmas in many places throughout the world there is a festive, decorated, gift-giving, family gathering, special meal celebration which brings people back to the same practice, Christian or not, year after year.
Take a look on the internet of “Christmas around the world and read of the types of celebration from December 24th to January 6th in every nation of the earth, though some of necessity in a few nations takes place in the privacy of homes; and share that information with your family. The real Spirit of Christmas with the emotions and actions of Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of this Spirit, is the third person of the Trinity, God. The Spirit’s proclaimed work is to reveal Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity; to make him known and bring glory to God, Gloria in excelsis Deo! The celebration of Christmas, remembering the birth of the Savior, penetrates cultures everywhere. The Holy Spirit tells redemption’s story, He spreads the news of Emmanuel; the manger’s message is told in millions of creche’s. Oh, there are many who participate in the Christmas traditions of their family and are seemingly impervious to any personal engagement with the Christ-child or the triumphant Savior; but the gospel is going out to the ends of the earth as Christmas is celebrated everywhere, in spite of Satan’s best efforts to squelch it, as here in recent America or a place like North Korea. Even in Muslim lands or Japan there is a “contradictory love of singing or hearing Christmas carols; all the “secular carols like Jingle Bells or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would not have been written or sung apart from Jesus’ birth being an historical event with historical meaning for humanity. Take a moment and read again the words of the many carols, genuine and secular, as your heart hums the familiar tunes and observe the joy, the rejoicing, the peace, the hope, the expectations, the glory of this event in history that exudes from the music and words of every carol; there is nothing quite like it! There are culture-peculiar celebrations with dancing and apparent joy in every people group, but they are localized and certainly not universal.
Many are wont to criticize the commercialization, the crassness of some/much of the celebration of the season. But I thank God for the manner in which Christmas still penetrates this fallen world and the Holy Spirit testifies to the birth of its only Savior. Such is not the practice for Allah, Muhamad, Buddha, Maroni, Hindu gods, even Mother Earth. Many may not fully know what it is to love and cherish the babe in the manger, as well as the babe-matured and dying on a cross for the sins of His people, but the message is within reach of all in their celebration of Christmas; demonstrating the truth of which Moses speaks in Deuteronomy 30 and Romans 10, “The word is near you!
This Christmas, you can testify to the gospel meaning of the birth of Jesus with a relevant and ready entrée, asking those who are estranged from a personal relationship with Christ: “Why has this event been celebrated all over the world for centuries and even now by you? Why has Christmas celebration persisted for all these centuries? Is there any meaning here for you to personally consider and engage? A fantasy or a myth would not have lasted nor been more universally celebrated if there were no truth to it. But what does it mean and what is it in Christmas which brings joy to your heart? There would be no Christmas without the Christ who came! There would be no Christmas spirit apart from the Spirit of God at work in the world.
Clothe yourself with the SPIRIT of Christmas. As the Bible says, be filled with Him. “Walk in the Spirit and thus fulfill the law of Christ! With planning, thought, and purpose this December communicate to someone outside His family this same message the Spirit has sustained in the world through the celebration of Christmas in every tribe and language and people and nation.
“Joy to the world! The Lord is come: let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and nature sing, and heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.
(1st verse of Isaac Watts’ Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World, 1719)
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