CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO TEEN DEPRESSION

My wife Jenn and I spoke at a Marriage Retreat recently. During the Q & A portion, a couple asked about teen depression – how can we prevent it and how can we process it when it happens to our kids.

As we pondered the question more even after the retreat ended, I thought about three major (though not exhaustive) contributing factors to feelings of depression. Having worked as a guidance counselor and a teacher for many years, these insights have come from interactions with students and parents alike.

(DISCLAIMER: What I will be talking about are feelings of depression and not clinical depression for if felt for quite long periods of time, it’s best to consult a professional.)

The three contributing factors would be identity, family, and community.

1. IDENTITY

In an article written by Culture and Youth Studies, this current youth generation is the first to grow up without ever having seen a world without SMS, social media and similar forms of online platforms. Many of them access social media sites more than 10 times a day.

In a University of Missouri study, they found out that Facebook use was tied to depression, depending on how the users consumed the platform. The term “surveillance use” was introduced. It meant that users checked up on how their friends were doing and compared what they saw in their own lives which led to feelings of depression. They would “size up their accomplishments against others” producing envy that their gadgets, relationships, trips, clothing or possessions could not match up to what their friends posted. Thus, you can see #goals in their comments.

As parents, we have to teach our children that their identity and security can never come from what they have but in Who they have. Stuff will never satisfy. Only One can.

Our relationship with Jesus will be the answer. If we see who we are – sinners and messed up people and see who Jesus is – He who died a death we should have died and lived a life we should have lived, then there can be hope. Gadgets will get outdated. Relationships will come and go. People will change. Possessions will depreciate. And clothing will go out of style. But our relationship with Jesus is the only one that can truly satisfy.

We are accepted, loved and received. We don’t have to perform or prove ourselves. We belong not because of what we have done but because of what Christ has done for us in Calvary. This is the gospel that we are to preach to ourselves every day. We are fully known yet we are fully loved. For God so loved, He gave. He demonstrated this love that while we were at enmity with Him, He died for our mess ups.

We need to realize that we can send our kids to the best schools and give them the best education, but that too will never suffice. We can give them the largest lump sum one can give as an inheritance, but that too can never satisfy. “Silver and gold we have none.” But what we can give them is Jesus.

2. FAMILY

The relationships we have is a major factor as well. Having worked as a guidance counselor for years, children have come to my office countless of times asking for prayer. Much of our prayer items were related to familial relationships. From their parent’s marriage to their relationship with siblings, these are the content of our conversations.

This I can say – one of the best gifts we can give to our children is a strong marriage. There is a sense of insecurity that attaches when they feel that their parent’s marriage is shaky.

Wounds that come from how kids are treated growing up also come into play. From verbal abuse to physical maltreatment to emotional oppression, these are things that can lead to loneliness, sadness, pain which ultimately lead to depression.

3. COMMUNITY

Who our kids associate with is an important thing to consider. Hurt people hurt people. Insecure people attract insecure people. Broken people seek completion from others who unfortunately are just as broken. That is why the first factor is important. We need to know whose we are more than who we are. Because whose we are will determine who we are. As we embrace who God is in our lives, we begin to understand who He designed us to be.

A community who understands this will remind each other of our real value – value that is only found in Christ.

But when young people get together with others who are unsure of who they are in Christ, then they will merely try to feed off each others’ insecurities. Surveillance surfing happens to compare what others have and what they don’t have.

But a community who knows Who designed them and what they were designed to do will ward off emotions that will not be beneficial for the young person.

There is indeed hope. With man, it may seem impossible. But with God, all things are possible. What the enemy may have planned for evil, God has the ability to turn around for good. He can cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

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NOTE: If you are going through feelings of depression for more than 6 months, it would be best to consult a professional.

CAN YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE OF VALENTINES DAY?

To some extent, we call can.
That’s probably why CNN tells us that Valentine’s Day sales will skyrocket to $18.6 billion this year.

Why is there so much pressure? A few come to mind – social media posts, friends, culture, Netflix, songs on the radio. These and more can weigh a person down with so much pressure.

While it is good to celebrate love and the people we love, how do we not allow this day to dictate our emotions, lead to frustration, ruin expectations and harass us towards depression?

To the single, here are a few thoughts.

1. Find someone to express your love towards.
I don’t mean to find a date or check out Tinder. You have so much love to share that there are many who need an encouragement or appreciation. From a relative in the hospital or a friend in dire need, looking outward rather than inward may be one of the best things you can do this Valentine’s Day.

2. Celebrate what you already have.
Try this out. List 5 things you are thankful for in your life. Pretty soon. You will notice a change of attitude. You have many things to thank God for.

Celebrate with friends. Go out and watch a movie or eat in Mercato. Just enjoy the company of friends God gifted you with.

3. Enjoy your day.
No pressure. Laugh. Live. Learn. Have fun.

To the married, let me share these ideas.

1. Clarify expectations.
We end up disappointed when we are unclear about some of our expectations. Worse, we compare our spouse to others that we see online. Be secure in your relationship. God brought you together. He is the glue that bonds you. Remember, the two have become one. He is the Author of your relationship.

2. Match expectations with your budget.
Because of the pressure that besets us, we forget that Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just on February 14. You can celebrate before or after. That way, you even avoid heavy traffic and high costs. At the same time, Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be on February 14. It can be celebrated Jan 7, March 26, July 1, September 17. In other words, you can celebrate it every day with the one God gave you.

3. Enjoy your day.
Look at each other and say a prayer. Thank God for each other. Give each other a kiss (or more since you’re married. Ha!) But whatever it is, have fun. You are with the person gifted you with.

To the dads, make sure you make your daughters feel loved and appreciated. If they find it at home, they won’t need to look for it outside. I give my daughter a bouquet of flowers every year during Valentine’s Day so that when a man tries to sweep her off her feet by giving her flowers, it won’t really impress her much. Ha!

FAILURE DOESN’T MAKE YOU A FAILURE

This week, I heard about many students who felt discouraged after they didn’t make it to the university that they applied for. They felt that their dreams have been dashed.

There are those who started the year with bad news – losing a loved one.
Others, business hasn’t been growing. In fact, it’s been taking a nose dive.

But whatever our situation may be, know that our current reality does not determine our identity.

Jesus does.

Neither does your past failures.
Your past doesn’t determine who you are.

Being “in Christ” determines our identity.

Our theme this week for our prayer and fasting globally is “In Christ.”

“In Christ” determines our new identity. Being in Christ not only redefines who we are, but it also supersedes all other possible definitions. Gender, culture, nationality, ethnicity, political affiliation – every label is secondary and subservient to our identity in Christ.” (Ephesians: In Christ Manual)

Remember, His image is stamped on you. Who you are is because of who He is not what you have done or have failed to do.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

RAISING SONS NOT SERVANTS

Raising next generation leaders is a lot like parenting.

Because leadership development is a process and not a one-time event, there are a lot of conversations, teachable moments and even correction that happen along the way.

I was speaking with Joseph Bonifacio, our Every Nation Campus Executive Director the other day on this exact topic. We were trying to assess our own leadership styles and the styles we’ve seen others employ.

There are those who are like policemen.
Policemen check if people are following the rules.
Policemen are quick to waive their badge to wield authority.
Policemen are swift in making judgments and giving penalties.

Don’t get me wrong. We need policemen. They maintain order and they bring a sense of security. They serve and protect.

However, when leading a church or an organization, leading as a father rather than a policeman is the better route.

A policeman leads with rules while a father is by relationship.
Both have a vision.
Both have a mission they want to accomplish.
Both have tasks.
Both have people they lead.
Both have people they are accountable to.
But one leads with rules and the other by relationship.

As Steve Murrell said in one of our Asian Pastors Equipping Conferences, “I know that Joey Bonifacio has said that discipleship is relationship. I am here to also say that leadership is relationship.” I couldn’t agree more.

As a result, I have to look at my own leadership and ask, “Am I raising sons or am I raising servants?”

Servants say, “We have to obey because Pastor Paolo is here watching.”
Servants say, “We need to do this because Paolo said.”
Servants say, “We are obliged to do this because that’s the policy.”

Policies should serve the people and not people serving the policies.

Sons have a different perspective.
Sons say, “I do this not because I have to but because I want to.”
Sons say, “It is my privilege as a son to serve in the house.”
Sons say, “I have responsibility and ownership because I am a son.”

A policeman will patrol, regulate, protect and enforce. They may end up having their objectives accomplished but in the end, will raise servants (obedient citizens) and never sons.

As a father, I want to raise sons who can think critically and lead in the future. Maybe even replace me and become way better than me.

A LIFE THAT HAS BEEN SHOWN MERCY

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Emil grew up in a squatter’s area in Pasay city called Tripa de Galina. Because he grew up poor, he believed that he will die poor. All that changed when he met Dustin.

Dustin met him in the University of the Philippines. Because he wanted to reach out to Emil, he did something quite brilliant. He asked Emil if they could register together for the next semester. That being the case, he registered for the same classes and had the same breaks so that he could take advantage of those moments to share Christ with Emil. It actually worked!screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-8-44-20-am

“One thing that Dustin said that really hit me was when he said, ‘Emil, you have a great destiny in God.'”
“Who me? A poor squatter kid from Pasay?”

As Emil embraced the gospel of Christ, his life started to change. He realized how loved and accepted he was by his Father in heaven. That through Jesus Christ, he indeed had a great hope and future.

Today, he teaches urban poor kids about the love of Jesus and they too have a ‘great destiny in God.’ After finishing his mechanical engineering course from UP, he had a lot of offer to work in the country and abroad. But because of his extreme gratitude for God’s salvation project in his life, he chose to do kingdom work and is now a children’s pastor in Victory Katipunan.

Truly, when we have received mercy, we too can extend mercy. When we have received grace, we too can dispense grace. That’s the power by which we can do good.

Luke 10 tells us the story of the Good Samaritan. A man got mugged, robbed and left for dead. It wasn’t the Levite nor the priest that helped but the Samaritan, their lifelong enemy. Because of the racial divide, the Samaritan owed the man nothing but hostility and hate. But that wasn’t what he did. He helped the man, bandaged him, used his donkey and sent him to an inn to be nursed back to full health.

I realize that when we read this story, we point to ourselves and motivate ourselves through guilt. We need to be like the Good Samaritan. But we can’t be like the Good Samaritan until we meet the Great Samaritan. Until we meet the True Neighbor, we can’t be the neighbor we need to be for others. Jesus is the Great Samaritan who came down to our road of despair, picked us up from our destitution and nursed us back into newness of life.

May God give us the grace to always remember that what we have received, we can give away for that alone is the way to truly be a neighbor to others.

LORD, thank You for saving me. I was downtrodden and on the road towards destruction and yet you picked me up and rescued me. I have nothing to boast about for there was no way out of my destitution and sin. But You came. Your rescued. You gave me a new life. As a result, I can extend kindness to others for I have been shown kindness. This is my prayer, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

THE DIFFICULTY OF DEALING WITH OFFENSE

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Offense is a very difficult thing to deal with.
False accusations.
Untrue statements.
Stolen opportunities.
Painful conversations.
Hurtful words.
Silent treatment.

These and more are hard to go through.

In Luke 15:20, when the prodigal son came to his senses and endeavored to return home to his father after squandering all his inheritance and ended up working in a pig pen, he didn’t know what to expect.

Neither did the father know what to expect. Without context and without knowing how the son would respond, he runs to him and embraces him. He leaves his porch and offers forgiveness to his son.

I thought that was incredible. Without any idea how the son why the son came back and how he would respond, he goes. The son could be coming back for more money. He could be coming back to steal from his brother. He could be coming back for some other reason but without context, the father goes and offers forgiveness.

When he embraced his son, he must have smelled like the pig pen. Remember, he just came from there. But here’s the truth:

The magnitude of God’s love is greater than the stench of our sin.

He buries his face into the son’s shoulders and kisses him.
He must have played this scenario in his mind over and over.

When offense happens, we usually replay both the painful experience and what we would do when we see that person – what we would say, how our facial reactions be like and our rebuttal to their excuses. But the father must’ve replayed in his heart how he would respond for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak and our actions will show. His response? Compassionate and forgiving love.

And here’s my main point: When offense happens it’s always your move.

Jesus said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.”
And then in Matthew 5:23, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.”

In both scenarios, Jesus says to go and offer forgiveness, whether you’re the offender or the offended. It’s always your move.

The father didn’t stay on the porch standing and waiting for his son to crawl on his knees and beg for forgiveness. He runs and offers it.

That’s the picture of many homes today. Too many people stand on their porches with folded arms and the painful experience replaying in their hearts waiting for the offender to crawl for forgiveness.

“Well, it’s his fault.”
“She started it.”
“I’m not to blame. He is.”
“They caused the mess. They need to clean it up.”

We all stand on our porches of pride and sink into hellish misery.

May the Lord give us grace to remember that the way we’ve been forgiven empowers us to forgive others. With the mercy dispensed to us, we can dispense it to those who have offended us.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing example of forgiveness. None of us deserve it. Not of us are worthy of it. And yet, You did not remain on Your porch in heaven but came to us – from heaven to earth, that we may receive forgiveness, freedom and restored fellowship with You. Help us to do the same with people whom we have offended and those who have offended us. May we be a people who is forgiving for we knows what it means to be forgiven. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER

blog-banners-001(Snippets from Carol Mkize’s message at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Ukunqoba is a word that means overcomer.
You are an overcomer because God abides in you.
Intimacy with God will drive you to continue when you are no longer with other people.
You will overcome because God’s word abides in you.
Chaos is fertile ground for Christians.
Everything we learned we can now apply in the campus.
1 Samuel 17:38-40: Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
To (Spiritual) Fathers:  
What God used for you to overcome, it might be time to put it down.
The armor you used may not be the armor the next generation will use.
To the Next Generation.
Try it on first.
Don’t deny it right away.
Obedience and submission are not out of the question.
Don’t assume first that it will not work.
We have to walk with this God our fathers walked with.

CAMPUS NIGHT

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(This message was shared by Joseph Bonifacio at the Every Nation World Conference 2016 Day 3)

Why do we do campus ministry?

We do it because we are crazy enough to believe that if we can change the campus, then we can change the world.
This is not just a slogan. It’s our objective.
This is not just a dream we have for ourselves.
This is Jesus’ dream for every son and daughter of God.

How then does this translate?

1. CONNECT WITHOUT COMPROMISING.

Matthew 5:13. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Everyone is called to do this.
Let’s teach the next generation to connect with their generation without compromising their faith and values.

2. EXCEL FOR GOD’S GLORY.

Matthew 5:14. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Excellence cannot be hidden and neither can lack of excellence.
Excel for Christ so that the world will ask why and would want you to be in their team.

3. REDEEM ALL OF SOCIETY.

Matthew 5:16. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Salt that remains in the salt shaker is useless.

The answer to the complication of wickedness is a complication of righteousness. The problem of society is found in the root of sin. And that answer to that is Jesus.

Don’t blame the rottenness of the world. You are called salt and light mainly for that reason – so that you can bring the needed change.

VIDEO SNAPSHOTS FROM CAMPUS NIGHT HERE:

MULTI-ETHNIC HEADACHE

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(This was a message given by Pastor Steve Murrell at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 1.)

When Pastor Steve’s American friend met his future father in law who is Japanese, they had no clue how their cultures were so different.

When introduced, one will shake hands (American)  and the other will bow (Japanese). But his friend got a little too close to give a handshake. With a slight bow and being so close to his future father in law, they ended up bumping heads… a multi-ethnic headache.

In Luke 24, there was not a lot of ethnicity in the church. God had to open their minds to understand what Jesus mentions in verses 45-47.

Being called to go to every nation, we will be with people who look different, talk different and maybe even smell different. But the call remains – Go to all the nations!

This gospel is going to be preached to all nations.
The word for nations is the word “ethnos”.
The gospel is going to other ethnicities.

People talk about being color blind. But the problem with being color blind is that you don’t get to celebrate color.

“The church is like the eye. It has a little black in it and a little white in it. And without both, we cannot see.” – C.H. Mason

This gospel message has to go out to the nations and you are the messenger.
A witness is a messenger.
But you are not going alone. Jesus said that His Holy Spirit is going to come.

As a motorcyclist is foolish to go out without a helmet, so is a witness who goes out without the Holy Spirit. It will not only be foolish but also dangerous.

WALKING TOGETHER

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(This was a message given by Pastor Brett Fuller of Every Nation Virginia at Every Nation World Conference 2016, Day 2.)

Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? Amos 3:3

Walking together has many benefits. It may have challenges but the fruit we produce is so much better. We can do things much better than if we do them all by ourselves.img_3429

Walking together requires CONVICTION, CONSISTENCY and COMMITMENT.

1. CONVICTION

Conviction to walk together in the midst of diversity.
Acts 13 shows us picture of diversity. The leaders were Barnabas who was Jewish, Simeon who was also called Niger (word when translated is black), Menaen who was a friend of Herod, Lucius from Cyrene and Saul who was a Jew who loved Gentiles.

Walking together requires a conviction to walk with each other no matter the differences.

2. CONSISTENCY

Walking together also requires consistency.
There ought to be a rhythm.
We are with one another enough that we have lots of opportunities to offend each other. But that is not the issue. We are walking together in the rhythm of the same beat – to go and make disciples of all nations.

We walk together towards a specific direction.
Direction is necessary to get to where we need to go. Going the same direction means confining myself to a navigable route. One of the highlights being in an Every Nation Conference is being in the sessions. But equally amazing is walking through the lobby meeting with the people we can call family.

“We may not know each other – I don’t know you and you don’t know me but I like being with you because we’re going the same direction.”

3. COMMITMENT

And finally, walking together requires commitment.
We are with each other enough, we will give more than enough reason to stop walking with each other. We will say things that may offend. We will give each other dozens of opportunity to say goodbye. But we are here for the long haul. And it is a privilege to walk together for the long haul for the purposes of God.

This is miraculous.
But while it’s miraculous, it doesn’t happen by serendipitous moments.
It is because we make a commitment.
Coming to a conference like this maybe inconvenient and expensive but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re walking together for the long term purposes of God.

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