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 Gadgets will get outdated.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. 

Everyone has a mission.

Mission is defined as an undertaking, operation, task, job, trust or assignment. Every individual, every family, every group and every organization has a mission. Even Ethan Hawke has one.

In the recent Asian Pastors Equipping Conference, Pastor Steve Murrell asked a question that was addressed to everyone whether in full-time ministry or not.

“Does your mission line up with the mission of God?”

For us to be able to answer that question, we have to first be clear about what the mission of God is.

In Matthew 4:18-25, we can see 3 aspects of this Missio Dei or the mission of God.

1. We are called to MAKE DISCIPLES,  not just GATHER CROWDS.

It’s not about how many people show up. The word crowd is a relative term. The mission is to make disciples. And Jesus did that in a small group relational discipleship setting.

The value is not about how many people show up in our meetings and services. The main value is Christ. And the Great Commission He gave was to go and make disciples.

When we get our identity from numbers, not from Christ, then we have missed the point of the mission of God.

2. We are called to PREACH THE GOSPEL, not COMMUNICATE MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES.

These days, pastors have been called or even dubbed themselves as ‘thought leaders,’ ‘cultural architects,’ and ‘motivational speakers.’

Steven Seamands in his book “Give Them Christ,” he emphasizes the need to stay the course. We are called to preach the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and return of Christ. We are to preach Christ – who He is, what He did and what He is all about.

Preaching should lift us out of the temporal and set us on the track of eternal.

3. We are called to HEAL THE AFFLICTED, not SPIRITUALIZING PHYSICAL, SOCIAL and EMOTIONAL NEEDS.

Matthew 4:23 tells us that Jesus went about healing the afflicted.

We are to pray for the sick every chance we get. Sick people have a better chance of getting well the more we take time to pray for them.

Moreover, it is not just about healing the sick. It is also healing societal ills. We are to be an advocate for the oppressed, the hurting and the powerless.

This is the Missio Dei.

The mission of God is this: DISCIPLING, PREACHING, AND HEALING.

 

Is the gospel’s goal only to bring us to heaven?

I just finished a book by N.T. Wright entitled “The Day The Revolution Began.” It was quite a thought-provoking book. Loooong but thought-provoking indeed.

He pounded on the idea that the gospel is not just the gospel of the afterlife but the gospel of the kingdom.

To a fresh understanding of what I have called the “goal” of the gospel through a fresh understanding of the early Christian use of the phrase “forgiveness of sins” (which obviously relates directly to the early gospel formula “The Messiah died for our sins”). The goal is not for people “to go to heaven when they die.” That is never mentioned in Acts. The whole book of Acts assumes, first, that God’s kingdom has already been well and truly launched through the death and resurrection of Jesus (1: 6; 8: 12; 19: 8; 20: 25; 28: 23, 31); second, that this kingdom will be fully and finally established when Jesus returns (1: 11; 3: 21); and, third, that in this final new world all God’s people will be raised to new bodily life (4: 2; 24: 15, 21; 26: 23). (Kindle, page 154)

Once again, I do not think any early Christians would have denied that this was true, but it is interesting that they didn’t put it like that. (Kindle location 155)

I’ve often preached this part of the gospel – that we are forgiven, saved, rescued and receive eternal life. But this gives me a different perspective. I am saved not just from something (sin) but for something (the kingdom).

The “royal priesthood” is the company of rescued humans who, being part of “earth,” worship the God of heaven and are thereby equipped, with the breath of heaven in their renewed lungs, to work for his kingdom on earth. The revolution of the cross sets us free to be in-between people, caught up in the rhythm of worship and mission. (Kindle, page 363)

Our lungs have been renewed for worship and mission. We are in-between people. This is not our final destination. We are citizens of heaven. And while that hasn’t happened, we are called to advance God’s kingdom together.

Evangelism sounds like such a daunting task for the Christ follower.
What do I have to do? Do I need to share my secret sins? 

What if I grew up in a Christian home? Do I need to make my testimony sound amazing?
What if I get rejected?
What if they don’t want to listen?
Will I be ridiculed?

All these questions and more haunt us.

Dr. Rick Richardson, in his book, “Reimagining Evangelism” shares the concept of being a travel guide. Sometimes, we think that evangelism is closing the sale – that they pray the sinner’s prayer after we share.
But more than being a travel agent that tries to close a sale, be like a travel guide where we journey with people and inch them closer to a relationship with Christ.

One will plant, the other will water and someone else may end up harvesting (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). 

But ultimately, it is God who brings the growth and draws people unto Him. (see John 6:44)

This Saturday, September 30, as Victory Metro Manila, we will endeavor to engage our community with the love of God.
For Victory Fort, we will #ShareAMealShareTheStory. (video below)

But however God moves you to share His love, know that you do it in the power of the Holy Spirit with the motivation of Christ’s love that compels us.

Have a great weekend ahead.

“I’m humble.”
It’s typed with quotation marks for a reason.

While I was riding my bike to the office this morning, I thought about the times when people tell me that they appreciate my humility. How do I answer to that? “Gee, thanks. That’s one thing I’m proud of.”

Of course, I don’t say that.

But I’d think it though.

I realized that sometimes, the way I would respond was not because I was humble but because I was insecure. I would say, “I don’t know if I’m the best guy for the job” or “I am uncertain if I should be asked to do this.” It is quite difficult to distinguish from the outside whether it’s humility or insecurity, but you and I know which one it is if we really look into our hearts and be honest with ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? None of us can, but God does. His Spirit reveals to us the real condition of our hearts. We want approval, control, comfort or power. Or at least I do. These are the four root idols that you and I have according to Eric Geiger.

But gratefully, we are on the road called sanctification. Justification teaches us that we have been saved through the atoning work of Christ in Calvary. Sanctification is the process of us being molded and shaped into the image and likeness of Christ. Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

PRAYER: 

Heavenly Father, I look at my own heart and see the rottenness of it. My depraved condition shows me how much I need to preach the gospel to myself each and every day. But thank You, Lord, for saving me and transforming me from glory to glory until one day, I am conformed to the image and likeness of my Savior. Until then, may Your grace overwhelm me to follow you. And as Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:9, we make it our goal to please You… each and every moment of the day. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

PS. This was a tough one to write for it reveals the wickedness of my own heart. But I hope this helps some of you some way.

I am currently on a short study leave for a couple of weeks with 20 plus pastors, campus missionaries, and leaders from our Every Nation global family. While it is a lot of hard work because of the course requirements, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to get further equipping.

We are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Do your best to present yourself as one approved.

We are saved by grace, but the outworking of that grace is expressed in our day to day life. Paul said that “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

God’s grace was evident as he worked harder.

A worker who has no need to be ashamed.

The gospel is God’s power unto salvation. And because of that, we are not to be ashamed. (Romans 1:16). We have been given the privilege of sharing the greatest message of all time – the gospel of Jesus Christ. By it, we are reconciled back to our relationship with the Father.

Rightly handling the word of truth.

When we share God’s Word, it is a privilege. But with every privilege comes responsibility. We are to rightly handle God’s Word. We don’t have the luxury of sharing personal opinions for it is not what we think that’s important; it’s what God says that is.

Prayer:

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word. It is living and active. It is like a double edged sword that pierces the heart. Help us to rightly handle the Word with clarity, accuracy, and conviction from the Holy Spirit. May we share it with as many as we can for we know that it brings life to the soul that is dry, weary and in need of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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