Warriors-For-God.org

Book of John Study – Day 4

Reading: John 1:29-34

This section tells of John the Baptist and Jesus along the riverside. Note, this is not the first time that they have been together (John is speaking in past tense about the spirit coming down on Jesus) and this day is several days after Jesus was baptized by John in the river.

The actual baptism of Jesus was told in the other Gospels (Mark 1:4-11). The moment that Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit manifested himself like a dove and descended upon Jesus. The Lord spoke words from the heavens. Through John’s Gospel, we understand why John the Baptist was intended to baptize Jesus. We also understand the relationship between our water baptism and the Holy Spirit.

Note that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist right before he began His earthly ministry. The miracles He performed were only AFTER He received the Holy Spirit that gave Him the power. The arrival of the Holy Spirit through baptism was the moment Jesus went from being a carpenter’s son to Rabbi and Messiah.

Did you notice that Jesus comes to John to receive the Spirit? John was the man appointed by God to identify the Messiah to the world. John’s sole purpose in his ministry was to call attention to Jesus and naming Him the Messiah. Jesus becoming baptized brought John’s ministry to completion.

The water baptism Jesus received was a picture of the Spirit’s arrival. The very same thing the Spirit did for Jesus is still happening for believers today.

The water baptism is a washing away of sin, a demonstration of what Jesus expects His followers to do as a symbol of Spirit baptism.

Recognize that in verse 32, the Spirit remained with Jesus. This is the same for believers who believe in Jesus and accept the Holy Spirit into their hearts, the Spirit remains with them to guide them.

In verse 33, John the Baptist applied a baptism of water alone, but Jesus brought a baptism of the Spirit.

Notice how John the Baptist says twice is this section that he did not know Jesus before He came to him for baptism. Remember, not even Jesus’s brothers believed He was the Messiah until He had died.

Also make note that no account of Jesus’s baptism is told as witnessed by anyone other than Jesus and John the Baptist. All four Gospel writers record that only two people witnessed the theophany of the dove and hearing the Lord’s voice from the heavens. This was meant as confirmation to John the Baptist that this was the Messiah that he was baptizing.

Once John the Baptist announced that Jesus was the Messiah, He had followers the same day. John’s point in Chapter 1 is to focus on John the Baptist as the one paving the way for Jesus’s ministry.

The fact that no one knew Jesus as the Messiah (besides Mary & Joseph who were told by an angel) really proves that He lived as a fully normal human being while on earth. This is why Jesus’s early years are not recorded, because He was not bringing attention to himself like Superman, and His ministry had not started yet.

Finally, note that Jesus’s ministry began right after He was baptized. As Christians, we should understand our own baptism in the Spirit as the moment we launch an earthly ministry. We are equipped with the Holy Spirit and now we have a mission to serve the Lord. How many Christians do you think truly begin their service from the first moment after their baptism?

It takes times for Christians to figure out their purpose or ways to serve. It took Jesus coming back to the river in John 1:29 for Him to receive followers and His first two disciples in John 1:35.

John testifies in this section that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. If and when you have the opportunity to testify about Jesus, what would you say? What has He done in your life that you could be sharing with others? What does His life mean to you where you can testify to His presence and existence?

NEXT STEP, REFLECT ON THESE VERSES, TALK TO A FRIEND ABOUT THEM, AND READ JOHN 1:35-42

Book of John Study – Day 3

Reading: John 1:19-28

In case you didn’t know, the John who wrote this book and John the Baptist are not the same people. This author, known as John the Evangelist or Apostle John, was one of the twelve disciples with Jesus and he was a fisherman. There is some argument as to whether this John also wrote Revelation but it is in fact the same person.

This section of John begins the “Book of Signs” that tell of Jesus and his signs. This book is different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they tell what Jesus did and John tells of who Jesus was. This book allows people to connect more with Jesus.

In John 1:19, John the Baptist is confronted by pharisees who are questioning whether he is the Messiah. He denies that he is Christ and uses references to Old Testament to demonstrate his knowledge of scripture. “I am the voice of the one calling in the wilderness” comes from Isaiah 40:3.

Keep in mind that the pharisees thought that the King and Messiah would be two different people. They thought there was no way a King would suffer for sins of Israel. In reality, there is one Messiah with two comings. Christ’s first coming is as a prophet to serve as the Lamb of God and the second coming is to rule over His Kingdom as King.

Even after John the Baptist explained who he was and who he was not, the pharisees could not understand. If they didn’t see John the Baptist the right way, they would not see Jesus the right way either.

John the Baptist doesn’t focus on himself and talk about him, because his job was to announce Christ, which he did.

John told these men that they did not know the Messiah and the Messiah was so great that John was not even worthy to untie his sandals.

Do we all know Jesus in this way? Are we aware of His authority? Are we prepared to see His light and hear His truth? Are we ready to know Him more?

ENJOY READING THE NEXT SECTION, JOHN 1:29-34. WRITE DOWN YOUR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS AS YOU READ THROUGH THE VERSES.

Book of John Study – Day 2

Book of John – Day #2

Reading: JOHN 1:1-18

Beginning the book, did you see the parallel with Genesis 1? Make sure to read Genesis 1:1-5 and see the similarities with John 1:1-5. “In the beginning…”

You’ll notice in this one section alone, the mention of “light” seven times. The Book of John mentions “light” 21 times.

Again, look at the similarities with Genesis and the mention of “light”.

Did you recognize how John says Jesus was with God in the beginning? Genesis also mentions Jesus in the beginning in the trinity. A Genesis study will explain this more, but Jesus was the “light” then; and God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. Recognize how John says Jesus was life. He created all things.

Jesus not only created man, but He is the source of their eternal life, “that life was the light of all mankind.”

John uses the metaphor in verse 5 to say that Jesus is the solution to the problem of darkness, which is sin. Not only does He bring life to our physical bodies, but Jesus is also the Word, the source of truth. While Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins (light in the darkness), He was also rejected – but darkness did not overcome Him.

Verses 6-14 summarize Jesus’s ministry and how he brought the light into the dark world but was rejected and his own people did not receive Him.

John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus. He was foretold in Isaiah 40 as the man who would come from the wilderness proclaiming the Messiah’s arrival.

John had disciples who followed him, of whom left to follow Jesus after he was baptized by John the Baptist and then started His ministry.

Do you see John’s overall message in these verses? Jesus created all things and then became part of the very world He Himself made, who was rejected by those He created! Consider the humility of a God who would orchestrate the circumstances by which He would suffer humiliation at the hands of the very people He spoke into existence and granted life.

In verse 12, John explains Jesus gave a way for those who believe in Him to become children of God. Believing in Jesus brings eternal life. It is by the will of God that people become believers.

Verses 14-18 explain that Jesus actually became flesh and how John the Baptist testifies to this man as being the Messiah. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus but Jesus was there at the creation. John says that because of Jesus, we receive grace. Grace is freely given to those who believe in Him.

FEEL FREE TO LEAVE ANY COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS BELOW.

NEXT READING: JOHN 1:19-28.

Book of John Study

Warriors for God would like you to join them as they study the Gospel of John. It will be simple! The only thing you need to do is have a Bible and follow along as we read through the chapters of John over the coming weeks. You are welcome to give feedback through comments or just learn new things from each section.


Day #1:

The Gospel of John is meant to strengthen one’s knowledge of Christ and salvation.Let’s begin with some facts about the Book of John:

– Did you know that the Gospel of John is the most recommended book in the Bible for new Christians to read? Leon Morris wrote that John’s Gospel is a pool in which both a child can wade in and an elephant can swim in.

– John’s purpose in writing his book was to strengthen the church for the long period of time before the 2nd coming of Christ.

– John really wanted believers to abide in Christ and depend on His word.

– John emphasizes the need to truly know Christ through a continual trust and connection instead of one moment of confession.

– Gospel of John is known for the 7 statements of “I am”

NEXT STEP: READ JOHN 1:1-18 and watch for the next post that highlights these verses.

Studying Scripture

Are you thirsty for the Word of God but not sure where to start? Many new Christians begin reading the Bible in Genesis and quickly give up. For new believers, it is a wise suggestion to begin reading the Bible in the Book of John because it is easiest to read and comprehend and truly teaches the reader about Jesus and His ministry on earth. Simply reading the Bible is a good first step, but really understanding Scripture and the message God wants to convey takes a little more effort and study. The Bible possesses the Living Word of God so, when read and studied properly, it will actually change the reader. Here are some points to consider when studying the Living Word:

Spiritually – Begin your study each time with prayer. Pray that God opens your eyes to see what He wants you to see and hear what He wants you to hear.  Ask for Him to grant you the ability to understand the scripture as it is written and the way He intended it to be understood, as truth.

Historically – As you read through the text, consider the history and what events were occurring at that time.  Why were certain rituals being performed?  What battles had just occurred or were about to happen?  You can find detailed commentaries in your Bible footnotes, online at BibleHub.com (commentaries), or using Barnes Notes for details about verses throughout the Bible.  Actually, study the Bible and question the material, not just read it.

Contextually – Keep the verses in context with the situation and do not take them out of context from the author.  When you take verses out of context, you go down a path not meant by the author. You can read the verses right before the text and right after the text to understand the meaning of the section. False teachers will take a verse out of context to convey a message they want you to hear, not what God meant for you to understand.

Culturally – Remember that the Bible was written at different times spanning thousands of years.  What may have been normal back then would not be seen as ordinary now.  For example, women were seen as calling attention to themselves with big hair and jewels so a verse about having long hair or shaved heads was a requirement was meant to be taken literally for that situation, environment, or that time period.

Literally – Many of the authors use metaphors to explain a message or meaning within the Bible.  Other times, they use literal facts and information to deliver the message.  Distinguish between symbols and literal translations of the story and evaluate what the author was trying to convey.

Applicably – Read the text and interpret what the author was trying to say and what meaning it has within the text then you have better success at understanding. How does it apply to the time then?  How does it apply to our lives now?

Emotionally – We are not meant to interpret the Bible and twist scripture into what we think it means.  However, we can apply scripture to our lives and see how it can change us.  There is a reason it is called the Living Word, because every time we read the same passage we may see and understand something new each time. What is God trying to change in your heart through the passages?

Verse by Verse – Most importantly, study the Scriptures verse by verse to understand the material. There is a tremendous resource online and available as an APP that goes through many books of the Bible in a Verse by Verse study. This resource changed my life!! Again, I recommend starting with the Book of John and then possibly moving to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. View Verse by Verse resources here!

Warrior for God,
Ginger Turner

Prevenient Grace

Prevenient Grace.  Have you ever heard of this term?  I hadn’t heard of the concept before today when it was introduced to me while reading and studying the Book of John.  You see, prevenient Grace is the grace God provides before we know it is grace.  It’s the preparation in our lives before we accept Jesus and believe in Him.  Prevenient Grace can also be the doors that God closes and the way He directs us down His path in our lives.

Many years ago, I was given my first Bible as a senior in high school.  While I had no interest in the words within, I received it and held onto it because it was a gift from a very special friend.  Five years later, I was invited to a Bible study by a co-worker and after much encouraging, I attended.  My curiosity was peaked but I still had denial and many questions about Jesus.  Fast forward a couple more years, I was invited to the Walk of Emmaus where I was introduced to the sacrifice that Jesus made me for and the forgiveness for all the sin that entangled me.  It was there, at the Walk of Emmaus, that I decided to love and follow Jesus Christ. 

The Prevenient Grace is what God provided me as an unbeliever.  He was directing my path, delivering people into my life who would be used as instruments toward my newfound faith.  Looking back, I see Him closing doors that would’ve led me astray even more.  I can see His work, as well as those around me, chiseling away and softening my heart, revealing the glorious God who had been working on me since I was born.

It’s interesting how we can open a Bible and read passages of scripture and not understand a word of it, but then find the same verses another day and understand it completely.  In Luke 24:13, two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and talking to each other about the recent occurrences of Jesus’ resurrection when Jesus appeared and started walking with them.  They were unaware that it was Jesus as they continued their walk and discussion with him.  It wasn’t until they had invited them into their homes and broken bread with Him that they became aware that it was Jesus they were sitting with.  Jesus chose the time for their eyes to be opened and for them to be aware of His presence.

The power of Prevenient Grace is inspiring.  To understand that decades can pass in someone’s life with Jesus working in the background orchestrating that one moment when an unbeliever comes to faith, when the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, and when Jesus Christ is seen as the way, the truth, and the light.  Of course, this moment and this path is not our control.  God prepares the path for us and determines the instruments and processes for us to receive Him.  “Come follow me,” Jesus said.  He seeks us and provides this beautiful prevenient grace until that moment.

Warrior for God,
Ginger Turner

A Different Kind of Mission

In the Spring of 2018, I received a call from the Executive Director of the school my children attended.  We had become very good friends while campaigning for several months for a new school building that was coming to fruition in the matter of a few months.  We had to have doors open by August and it was April.  He was calling to tell me that he had some personal issues come up and he needed to spend more time at home.  I didn’t know all of the details but could hear the concern and stress in his voice.  He asked that I take over as Executive Director.  I had been working by his side for many months and since I had my own successful business, he felt I would be great for the position.  More importantly, he knew I loved God and loved the school.  I didn’t hesitate and I felt the timing was good for me since I had recently started stepping back in my business to focus on my kids and my marriage.  I said yes, but with one condition.  I told him I didn’t want a salary because I thought God was leading me to this as a mission and a learning experience for our Warriors for God ministry.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  This mission field was like no other rollercoaster I had ever experienced!  The upcoming summer was grueling because we had so many unfinished stages of the school installation and we were afraid opening the doors by August was impossible.  The Head of School, her husband, my husband, and our combined six children all jumped in for three months of blood, sweat, and body aches to get it done.  We were one day shy of teacher in-service starting when we finished the sidewalks, landscaping rock, painting, fence, and door locks. 

This blast of excitement and newness started a honeymoon phase that lasted nearly 18 months.  Enrollment was up, teachers were happy, families were enthusiastic and involved, and children loved their new school.  The best part of our days was sharing the Gospel in Chapel and singing worship songs with the students.  The children started praying over each other and sharing the Good News with friends and family.  I felt this was the best job ever!!

I was able to incorporate Junior Warriors for God into the school with weekly youth Bible studies and fellowship.  We started an adult Bible study in our home, and it grew to 15-20 people.  We even had the opportunity to have two marriage enrichments and invite couples in from the community who wanted to strengthen their marriage.  There were two couples who were on the verge of separation and our enrichment leaders and the topics they shared changed the couples’ attitudes which motivated them to start working on saving their marriage.  They are still together today! I was inspired to go back to school and get my Master’s in Behavioral Science for Marriage and Family Counseling.  I thought that by having this additional education, I could help more of my students, families, and the community.  I love enriching my brain with more knowledge!

With any Christian mission, the euphoria and excitement came to an end when Satan swooped in with his attack.  Obviously, the enemy is always searching for a weak spot.  Within a few months, division started on campus – between parents, teachers, staff, and even students.  Everyone felt this presence of evil and darkness on our sweet school.  We held prayer meetings, prayed over the classrooms, and prayed over each other.  Peace was hard to find in anything we did or tried.  We were so shaken because we had just experienced 18 months of such excitement and peace. I lost all of my focus on studying the Bible and time in prayer.  I had focused all of my energies and drive on maintaining, saving, and strengthening the school as Satan pushed back against me with more distractions.  Warriors for God Ministry was on the back burner in a time when I needed my Armor the most!

Six months later, COVID-19 hit our country and our community which caused more division and unrest.  This left the school with a financial burden and teachers were let go and enrollment went down.  Satan stirred the pot with more conflict in every area within our school and our community.  It was exhausting!  On top of that, add the stress of politics, economic conditions, mask disputes, and a Presidential election!!

My family decided we needed a change.  They needed me back in their lives and I needed them.  I had taken this job as a volunteer and I realized the school needed someone more permanent.  We decided to leave the desert and head east, so I gave my resignation as Executive Director.  Unfortunately, nothing became easier from this decision or announcement.  Challenges came in all shapes and sizes and from all directions.  Attacks against my reputation, faith, and character jumped out and bit me.  Satan knew me well and he knew where he could hurt me the most.  I had many anxiety attacks from overwhelming feelings of failure and hopelessness.  I was losing my way.

I prayed.  I asked God to show me the way and open the door to where He wanted me to go.  I prayed for a saving grace for a new journey, a new mission for our family.  I prayed that, no matter what, the school would be in good hands.  I was desperate for peace, relief, and rest for me, my family, and the school. 

In March 2021 I received a call from my friend and previous Executive Director who had handed the torch to me in 2018.  He said he missed the school and wanted to know if he could have his job back. Praise God!  Bless you, Lord!  I was on my knees giving thanks to God for answering my prayers.

So here I am, two months into training my replacements and two months away from a new home in a new part of the state.  My friend is restoring the school with the positive energy that had been taken away by distractions, division, and Satan’s attacks.  The school is growing, families and teachers are happy again, and the environment is inspiring. The school is so blessed! I can still enjoy the mission from the sidelines by providing reinforcements and support, when needed.

I can’t say things will be easier, but I know where I want to be.  I want to be front and center to serve God every day, with my Armor on, and joy in my heart.  I know the only way I can get there is by serving God and listening to His guidance.  The adventure and mission may be different than I anticipate but it’s all worth it either way. Ready. Set. Go!

2 Corinthians 9:8 & 12 say, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

Warrior for God,
Ginger Turner    

He’s Gone Now

There once was a boy who lived in the city.  This wasn’t just any ordinary boy.  This boy was living inside a man’s body and he sought after the love from passionate women and strong, lasting friendships people write stories about.  He had a smile that would light up a room and the looks of a GQ model.  He could make you laugh until your stomach hurt with his impersonations and comic-spirit.

What most people didn’t know about this boy was that he carried a darkness inside that robbed him of hope.  This darkness kept him from really enjoying life and love.  This darkness held him back from really being happy with what he had.  He lived with a past full of abuse, drugs, sex, and violence.  He carried this burden buried deep inside.

As time went on, this darkness stole his joy and the desire to live.  This darkness consumed his mind because he felt there was no hope in this world for him to ever amount to anything, ever be loved again, and he knew he could never make up for the wrongs in his life.

The thoughts that stormed his mind were of how the world would be better off without him.  The pain he felt and the burden he carried would be gone if he could just make it go away with one simple choice.  His family didn’t need him around because he was a hindrance.  His friends didn’t want to hear about his problems.  His wife was tired of him hurting her and she would be better off without him and the pain he caused her. At least that’s what he thought.

One morning he woke up with a peace.  Today was the day when everyone could move on with their lives and he wouldn’t hold them back any longer.  The anger was too much for him to carry anymore.  There was nothing he could do to go back in the past to change anything.  There was nothing he could do. Except one thing.

He walked up the stairs, into the closet, and stood next the dresser to write his last letter.  He shared a few words that gave a hint of the pain he was feeling but also words to release those people in his life he thought he would be setting free.  He took a deep breath and tightened the belt around his neck.

He’s gone now and we are left with the pain.  The void of his laugh, his smile, and his love.  We can’t hold him close or share the day with him.  He is not here. If only we had paid a little more attention to him and asked a few more questions.  If only we had been there for him more and held his hand and told him how much we loved him.  If only he knew how much he was loved and adored. What if we had given him one more tight hug and never let go? 

The trouble with being a survivor is the “what-if’s” and “if-only’s” never end.  Twenty-four years later and we still ask, “What if I had just told him how much he meant to me?”  Would it have made a difference?  Being a survivor means that we have to live the rest of our lives with a hole in our hearts and think about the days that we could be spending together with those who chose to leave us.

There are people hurting around you.  There are people who are carrying a heavy burden.  Let’s do more loving and listening to help those who feel hopeless and alone. What can we do or say to give them hope for better days and let them know “this too shall pass”?  

How do YOU study the Bible?

Continuing on the road map of being a Christian, we must make an effort to read and understand the Word.  What is the best way to not only read, but also retain the knowledge we are receiving?

Pronounce.  Read scripture out loud and say it with inflection. Reading and hearing the words will allow the brain to retain the information.

Picture it.  The Bible contains real stories with real people. Insert yourself into the scene and feel the emotion, understand the culture, and apply the story to your life now. 

Probe it.  Ask the right questions as you read through the books.  Is there a command to obey?  Is there a prayer to pray? Is there an attitude to change?

Paraphrase.  Put the story in your own words.  This will allow you to share it easily with someone who may need to hear that story as they go through something in their life.

Personalize it.  Make the verse apply to you.  For example, John 3:16 that says “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.” Take the same verse and apply yourself to the message. “For God so loved ME that he gave his one and only son….”

Pray it. Take a verse and make it into a prayer.  For example, Psalm 25:4-5 say “show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long.  Change this to a prayer to God, such as “God, I pray for your guidance today and showing me the best to serve you.  Teach me the truth as I enter this trial. Please teach me and show me the way.  I put my hope in you, Lord, that you will give me strength and no matter what – you will be with me.”

TIPS:

  • Devotional books should supplement Bible, never replace it.
  • Know context of scripture.  Text without context is pre-text for proof-text.
  • Let scripture define Scripture.  Do not allow wrong interpretation.
  • Read Bible literally.

Impact of Social Media and Television on Teenagers and Children

When I was in 4th grade, I visited a friend’s house to stay the weekend.  Being curious kids and having free reign over the place, we hung out in one of the bedrooms watching television.  After some time we grew bored of what was on and started digging through the VHS tapes in the cabinet and inserted an unmarked tape.  A few minutes into the movie, the actors were undressed, very naked, and extremely active in their affections.  We had found porn!!  You know that icky, stomach-churning feeling you get when you are totally disgusted?  The sickness was overpowering.

Fast forward 25+ years and my 5th grade daughter comes home from public school crying.  She explains that her teacher stepped out of the class today and several of the students pulled out their cell phones and started showing pictures and videos of people naked and having sex, as if it were a contest to find the most explicit acts of sex in the few minutes they had available before the teacher returned.  My daughter was horrified and forever destroyed by the images put in front of her face by her fellow classmates.  They seemed to enjoy her reaction of shock and disgust as a new, previously-homeschooled student in their school.  We withdrew her shortly after that.

Parents must be aware what our world has become and what children are facing in schools, on social media, and on television.  The desensitization of nudity, profanity, violence, and pornography is making a tremendous impact in the behavior and relationships of our children.  Even more, parents must realize that this desensitization and exposure will affect their child’s future marriage and how they view intimacy and their spouse.

Take hold of this fact.  The number one consumers of internet porn in the world are 12-17 year old boys.  Boys are learning from this young age what sex is supposed to look like, along with what intimacy is.  They are taking these expectations into relationships with women, who ultimately fail because they are not actresses.  Boys also develop a view of women as objects and as a means to pleasure and satisfaction. 

Taking that fact a step further, every 24 hours 1,000 teens give birth to a child out of wedlock.  Three million American teenagers contract an STD each year.  The impact of television, social media, and internet sites are hurting our children.  Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows”, wrote that “as our window onto the world, and onto ourselves, a popular medium molds what we see and how we see it – and eventually, if we use it enough, it changes who we are, as individuals and as a society.”  Social media and television are actually changing our values, justifying what we see as normal and acceptable, and impacting the way we see each other and the world around us.

Open your eyes.  Pay attention.  Pornography is becoming the new PG-13.  Commercials and local television channels are becoming more and more relaxed with what they entertain families with.  How do you prevent this from destroying your children and their minds?  Turn it off.  It’s that simple.  Take a stand and take charge with what their minds are consuming.  This simple step will impact their future relationships, their behavior, and their intimacy in the future. Everything you do now will impact generations.

If Being a Christian had a Road Map…

I don’t know about you, but when I became a Christian I was overly thankful to call Jesus my Savior.  The thirst for His Word and yearning to know more about being a Christian was intense. I wanted to connect with Him in every way I could.  I wanted to talk to him, share with him, and learn more about him.  At the same time, as a new Christian I felt overwhelmed with the thought of reading the Bible and how much information it contains.  So, I started reading in Genesis, figuring that was the best place to start since it was THE beginning.  That wasn’t the best idea.

One of my Christian friends told me the best place to dive into the Bible is through John.  The Gospel of John provides “the milk” for new believers and allows them to start learning about Jesus, what grace is, and how we are supposed to live as followers of Christ.  Leon Morris wrote that John’s Gospel is a pool in which both a child can wade in and an elephant can swim in.

By starting with John, a reader can learn the best of Jesus’ work that is selected to illustrate both Jesus’ deity and humanity. John includes seven of Jesus’ miracles, moments where Jesus reacts to life as we might have, the knowledge of who Jesus really is, and John affirms Jesus’ role as creator of all things.

Once a new believer reads through John, it is best to read it again.  The Bible is the Living Word and we can understand something new from it every time we read it.  Once John has been read twice, then move on to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  They offer a different perspective on the stories, mention a few more miracles and parables, and give a lot more detail on the genealogy of Jesus.  Reading the New Testament in its entirety allows readers to better understand the Old Testament. 

Take your time and don’t rush through your reading.  Purchase a journal Bible and take notes, write down questions to ask your Pastor, and make sure to rely on good resources and commentaries, not just any internet site for your answers. 

Another good idea is to join a small group at a local church so you can go through a book study and begin learning how to study the Bible.  As you draw closer to God, He will draw closer to you. 

Having God in your life is a true blessing!  Warriors for God Ministry is available to help you on your journey and answer questions as needed.

Do Something!

I took a walk today. I haven’t spent enough time with God lately because of so many distractions and stresses in my life. After a reminder in my devotion this morning, “Draw Near to Me”, I decided it was time to spend some time with my Lord, alone. As I started out on the path through the park, I asked God to talk to me.

God drew near to me as I praised Him for the tall oak trees and the clean air I was breathing. I drew near to Him as I thought about our country and our freedoms and how blessed we are to live in our society and having freedom to believe in Him. Then God did something wonderful. As I asked Him, “what’s next for me, God?”, he brought a song to mind that I heard a long time ago, called “Do Something” by Matthew West.

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
We’re never gonna change the world
By standing still

God has led me to many new adventures in the last 15 years and I’m looking for the next opportunity to serve Him. I realize I’m not going to change the world by standing still. What tools has God given me that I can share with others? 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 say, ” And we urge you, brothers, to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with everyone. Make sure that no one repays evil for evil. Always pursue what is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

If we are called to do something, it is to pray, to rejoice, to praise, give thanks, and help others. We are to serve God and glorify Him in all that we “do”. Does He want us to be divided? Does He want us to be hurting others? Is He happy when we are fighting and bitter?

What can you do today to make a difference and glorify God? On my walk this morning, I decided to work harder at leading my children to prayer and being grateful. They will start prayer & blessing journals today that will be used as another instrument to speak to God daily. I will also praise God in everything and lift up those in prayer who are hurting.

What can we do in our communities to seek and encourage others more? Times are hard right now and people need people. People need conversations and compassion. People need Jesus. If we shine the light of Jesus through kindness and love, our communities will prosper and the people will be filled with joy.

I encourage you to listen to this song now and think about what you can do today to serve God. Who can you help? Who can you forgive? What division can you correct and repair that God will rejoice over?

Enjoy the blessings of your day!

Conform or Renew?

John F. Kennedy said, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”  Conformity keeps us held prisoner from a clear mind and clean spirit as we are surrounded by the distractions of the world that try to define us.  Today, we are looking around at what others are doing and how they are reacting instead of making our own logical choices.  How many “likes” do we receive for posting a funny picture on Facebook or sharing a quirky post?  Should what others think be the one thing that defines us?

Paul says in Romans 12:2 to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.  Even back in Paul’s day, he was trying to convince the people to live for Christ and sacrifice themselves daily to live like Him.  He urged them to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice that was holy and pleasing to God.  Paul urged the Romans to not conform to the prevailing habits, styles, and manners of the people around them, who did not know God.  We are not supposed to conform to the vanity of the world that we see in television, magazines, or on social media. 

How do we make a difference in this world without conforming?  We transform ourselves through the renewing of our mind…through Christ and the Gospel.  We should become walking billboards for Christ and what He stands for.  Every day is a test to see how we can be more Christ-like instead of worldly.  How do we do this?

By walking away from the things that separate us from God, we are united with Him.  James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”  Is it hard for you to avoid the Facebook app and be pulled into the videos and ‘likes’ of the day?  Then try and focus on posting encouraging scripture verses, videos that share love and hope, or simply pray for those who are struggling and going through a hard time. 

How can we renew our minds each day?  We don’t allow the distractions of the world to take away our focus or be the driving force of our lives.  We make an investment in ourselves, into our spirit and our faith, by attending church or reading and studying scripture every day.  We have to make the time for God to fill us back up and make us whole and renew our minds and spirits.  Otherwise, we will not be equipped to face the world and its many distractions.

Are You a Fan or a Follower?

On Thursday at Junior W4G, we started a study called “Not a Fan”, based on a book by Kyle Idleman.  Kyle starts out the study by talking about those people who go to a basketball game and watch the game and sit in the stands.  The difference between them and the players is that the fans sit and watch as the game goes on.  If the team is playing well, then the fans will watch and cheer.  If the team starts to play bad and begin to lose, then the fans will stop cheering or possibly even leave in disappointment.  The fans rarely ever become the players.  A follower, on the other hand, is someone who is in the stands every game and is always cheering and supporting the team and never walks away disappointed.  This applies to the life of a fan or follower of Christ too.  So many Christians will attend church, listen to the pastor, do charitable things every now and then, and give their tithe to the church but when something goes wrong in their lives then you might see them giving up on their faith and disappointed in God. These are fans.  Christ defines a follower in Luke 9:23 as someone who “must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it”.  We must be a follower of Christ daily.  He wants relationships with us.  He wants followers, not fans.  Kyle describes the difference between a fan and a follower is like getting a tune-up on a car.  Having faith in Christ should be an overhaul on our lives, not just a tune-up.  We should become better people as we grow in our walk with Christ.  Ephesians 4 says in “regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”.  Followers love people and forgive those who trespass against them.  Followers defend their faith and stand up for their Savior.  Followers have no conditions for their Lord and will love Him through good and the bad.  Today showed me that since I love Christ, I need to focus on becoming a follower of Him instead of just a fan.

The Spirit Within Me

I find it truly amazing how the Spirit of God lives within believers. When a person declares Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior, Christ’s spirit begins to live within them and begins to change their thoughts, actions, and behavior.  2 Timothy 1:7-11 mentions this amazing spirit Jesus Christ gave us to dwell inside of us.  The spirit does not come and go as a visitor, but as a dweller in our hearts.  The spirit changes us and knows our hearts more fully than we know ourselves.  When we grow weak in our faith, our spirit knows the sin in our heart and the circumstances to pull us out of a sinful situation.  The spirit knows our suffering and the trials we experience and how to bring us through hard times with the right people and resources in our life.  When we are too busy pursuing the world to stop and pray, the spirit prays for us and intercedes to bring us back to God.  Jesus gave his spirit to the apostles so they could go and be fishers of men, preach scripture, bring people to Christ, and build churches.  How miraculous is that?

Read More

Being a Junior Warrior for God

One of the things I have enjoyed about being a JW4G is being with other youth who share the same love for God that I have.  When we are together I don’t have to worry about being on stage to seek approval or acceptance into a group.  We have fun sharing testimonies and learning how to be better people in a broken world.  So many of us have suffered through bullying, isolation, broken friendships, family problems, divorce between our parents, and sometimes abuse.  We have grown closer to God and with each other and we feel a sense of safety when we meet, knowing that we have a little society of believers who share the same heart.

Read More

Homeless in America

Junior Warriors for God recently made their second trip to El Paso, TX to distribute homeless care packages.  Some of the comments from the JWFG youth described the grief they felt seeing the people on the streets, the sadness in the homeless people’s eyes, the conditions we saw them living in – under bridges and on benches, and the joy the strangers experienced when they were given their packages.  One woman told Hailey that she hadn’t received a present in years.  Another man began to cry as we handed him a Bible and promised we would pray for him.  Two older men were found outside a homemade pallet house under a bridge and were grateful and acted cheerful from receiving their gifts.

The United States reports that 28 percent of homeless suffer from mental illness, 22 are physically disabled, 15 percent were victims of domestic violence, and 13 percent were veterans.  Sadly, children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.  Homeless youth are estimated to be near two million and are more likely to be living on the streets than in shelters.  They consist of runaways from an abusive home or have aged out of the foster care system. (Martin, 2018)

I hope this paints a picture of one severe problem in our country.  As the price of housing and lack of affordable housing increases, more and more people will be living on the streets unless something is done to stop the projections.  The threat of mental illness also poses a problem because of the lack of health care available to the poor.

There is more to the problem.  Single mothers receive a median income of $26,000 but pay an average of $10,000 in childcare per year per child.  Housing for a family of 2-3 costs approximately $9,600 a year, excluding utilities.  That leaves less than $600 a month for groceries, clothing, and transportation.

I urge you to consider helping those in need when you see them standing on the corners.  Be aware of the statistics and find a way to help in homeless shelters or provide supplies.  Provide blankets and food to those you see on the streets during the colder months and water during the summer.  Pray for them and provide encouragement.

Martin, M.E. (2018). Introduction to human services: Through the eyes of practice settings (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson, Inc.

 

Adolescent Suicide in America

Suicide involves the intentional act a person takes to end their own life.  Suicide among adolescents, specifically 10 to 24 years old, has become a serious public health concern in the United States.  Risk factors include hopelessness, biological factors, social factors, depression, substance abuse, and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI).  Since suicide accounts for more deaths among adolescents in the United States than all natural causes combined, it is imperative that effective prevention programs be implemented in schools, communities, and through all forms of media.  Prevention efforts also include therapy and treatment for suicidal thoughts and behavior (STB) such as connectedness, attachment based family therapy (ABFT), integrated cognitive behavioral therapy (I-CBT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).  It is crucial to establish effective and evidence-based programs in all communities to reduce the risk factors, attempts, and deaths of suicidal adolescents.

Adolescent Suicide as a Serious Health Concern

Suicide accounts for more deaths among 10-24 year olds than all natural causes combined (Joshi, Hartley, Kessler, & Barstead, 2015).  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports suicide rates in adolescents has increased 25% over the last 15 years.  “As the second leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, suicide remains a serious health concern” (Bloch, 2016, p. 773).  A possible solution to the problem involves first understanding why the suicide rates in adolescents has increased to such proportions.  Adolescents tend to display behaviors that are impulsive and egocentric to the point where they do not believe bad things can happen to them (Martin, 2018). Consider these natural tendencies of behavior while studying the risk factors affecting adolescent suicide.

Risk Factors Affecting Adolescent Suicide

Hopelessness
One in every seven youths has considered suicide and one out of every thirteen youths has attempted suicide in the last 12 months (Bloch, 2016).  The leading factor differentiating the youths considering suicide from those who attempt suicide is the level of hopelessness they feel (Taliaferro & Muehlenkamp, 2014).  Many youths today feel undervalued, unworthy, and unwanted which tends to leave them feeling like a burden on their family or community.  When they feel disconnected from peers or family, feelings of hopelessness tend to overwhelm them, leading to negative thoughts and negative tendencies.  Hopelessness can be linked with biological factors as well.

Biological Factors
“A prolonged sense of negative emotional states and social disconnection contribute to neurophysiological imbalances linked to many of the known precursors to suicide, such as depression, substance abuse, and persistent feelings of hopelessness” (Whitlock, Wyman, & Moore, 2014, p. 263).  Padurariu et al. (2016) describes how serotonin amounts within blood platelets of tested suicide attempters reported considerably lower levels than a person with suicide ideation or without suicidal tendencies.  Serotonin helps regulate mood and social behavior, as well as appetite, sexual desire, sleep, and memory.  Abnormal levels of serotonin, usually lower levels, derive from stress, trauma, personality disorders, and alcohol abuse.  Scientists have also found strong evidence supporting the association of dopamine receptors and oxytocin in the brain to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts (Padurariu et al., 2016).  Another biological factor involves familial transmission. Children of suicide attempters have been shown to have more impulsive aggression and carry comorbid personality disorders that result in suicidal thoughts and behavior (STB).  The family history tends to interfere with their ability to create stable, long-lasting relationships with family and friends, as well as health care professionals providing treatment (Rajalin, Hirvikoski, Salander, Asberg, & Jokinen, 2016).

Social Factors
Numerous social factors have been identified that increase the risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in adolescents, including divorce, bullying, peer victimization, family dysfunction, same-sex sexual attraction, and childhood physical and sexual abuse (Taliaferro & Muehlenkamp, 2014).  The family environment can often predict STB when adolescents live within a low socioeconomic status or live with only one parent.  In fact, female adolescents not living with their parents, or only one parent, and with a low income socioeconomic status are at an elevated risk of suicide (Im, Oh, & Suk, 2017).  In addition, youth who experience a lack of connectedness with their parent(s), friends, or other social groups suffer one of the primary triggers for suicidal behavior: feelings of rejection and isolation.  Interpersonal problems have been the most reported causes of suicide attempts in adolescents (Rajalin et al., 2016).  In 1897, sociologist Emile Durkheim argued that suicide resulted from lack of social connection to others and low behavioral control.  Apparently, this theory remains the same today.  When an adolescent’s desire for warmth, affection, attachment, and support are unsatisfied, then their negative tendencies and thoughts increase and can lead to depression (Whitlock et al., 2014).

Depression
The life of a teenager can be stressful as they experience changes in hormones and physical body changes and irritability levels increase.  Roughly 80% of adolescents suffering from depression can also be classified with an anxiety disorder.  When an adolescent combines their natural impulsiveness and dramatic behavior with anxiety and depression, an increased risk of suicide may occur.  Fifty percent of suicide completers suffered from depression (Padurariu et al., 2016).  Other common risk factors associated with depression that adolescents experience include low self-esteem, eating disorders, and sleep deprivation.  These factors tend to manifest self-destructive behavior (Martin, 2018).

Substance Abuse
Mental health conditions combined with substance abuse attribute to 75% to 90% of the deaths caused by suicide.  Adolescents who participate in substance abuse are more likely to have suicide ideation, especially between the ages of 13 and 16 years old (Im et al., 2017).  Substance abuse can be the determining factor between suicide ideation and a suicide attempter.  74% of high school seniors have used alcohol and 40% have experimented with illegal drugs (Martin, 2018).  Within all age groups, 30% of completed suicides showed close to the legal blood alcohol limits, or higher (Padurariu et al., 2016).  Another epidemic sweeping across the United States effecting adolescent suicide rates involves opioid abuse.  Opioids include substances that act on the opioid receptors in the brain and have primarily been used for pain relief.  Between 2005 and 2010, there were 4,186 calls to poison centers across the United States as a result of opioid abuse in adolescents.  Out of the calls, 30% of the patients claimed to suffer from depression and the prescription medication being used did not belong to them.  Over 35% of adolescents admitted to abusing opioid prescriptions they were prescribed to treat headaches and admitted over-using the prescription medication to treat the anxiety they felt (Sheridan et al., 2016).

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)
Another type of self-destructive behavior that has been shown to lead to suicide ideation or suicide attempts is non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI).  NSSI involves hurting oneself without suicidal intent by use of scratching, cutting, burning, or hitting.  NSSI has very similar risk factors as suicidal behavior, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, hopelessness, and physical and sexual abuse.  “Adolescents with a past suicide attempt report greater levels of anxious and depressed symptoms and are more likely to report a history of abuse than those with a history of NSSI” (Wolff et al., 2013, p. 1005).  Prior history of NSSI has been used to predict suicides. In fact, 70% of adolescents who engage in NSSI also have a history of a suicide attempts (Wolff et al., 2013).

Preventing Adolescent Suicide

Knowing and understanding the risk factors of adolescent suicide allow schools, parents, and human service professionals to be cautious of at-risk youth and focus on preventing STB and attempts.  The prime location to exert efforts of prevention is in schools where adolescents spend most of their time.

 Suicide Awareness Curricula
School-based suicide prevention programs efficiently provide cost-effective ways to influence adolescents since they spend most of their day inside a classroom.  Curriculum should include four components of health promotion, prevention education, intervention, and postvention.  The goal of school-based programs allows for students to become more aware of signs and symptoms of suicide where they can recognize suicidal behavior in themselves and their peers.  Understandably, adolescents will not seek treatment if they cannot recognize the symptoms.  The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has created a 75-minute program developed for high school students and teachers that alerts both groups to common symptoms of depression and anxiety. The emphasis is on providing students with hope and options for treating depression and the importance of asking for help when they see symptoms in themselves or their friends (Katz et al., 2013).

Screening
When STB symptoms arise, an effective prevention method involves screening the adolescent to determine if they need treatment.  Screening consists of a questionnaire that analyzes the level of risk for suicide based on the adolescent’s answers.  Risk factors are determined from the screening, such as depression, substance abuse, past suicidal behavior, and physical abuse.  TeenScreen has been a leading program in the United States used by both outpatients and schools (Katz et al., 2013).

Skills Training
Skills training helps prevent suicide by increasing protective factors.  Programs teach adolescents coping skills, problem solving, decision making, and cognitive skills.  Skills training does not directly prevent suicide but instead attacks the risk factors of STB.  The Care, Assess, Respond, Empower (CARE) program identifies high-risk youth through a computer-based suicide assessment interview.  The program provides for a safe environment to share and encourage positive coping and help seeking behavior.  The goal of the CARE program is to reduce suicidal behavior and establish treatment options for adolescents.  CARE has shown to reduce levels of depression and anger in youth (Katz et al., 2013).  The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center introduced a screening program in 2013 that delivers 93% accuracy in determining which patients are either suicidal, mentally ill but not suicidal, or neither.  The program addresses a patient’s level of hope and anger, and the responses help diagnose levels of depression.  The program detects signs of depression early so treatment can be provided before the patient becomes suicidal (Grose, 2016).

Gatekeeper
Gatekeeper training takes people who are considered natural helpers, including youth and adults, and trains them with knowledge and skills to detect symptoms of suicide within schools and communities.  The Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) program has been used in schools and communities to refer adolescents with suicidal behavior to the appropriate source for analysis and treatment.  The drawback with this program is whether the gatekeeper feels comfortable referring the at-risk student to seek help.  It does increase awareness in schools and provides better connection between students (Katz et al., 2013).

Peer Leadership Training
Another program found within schools and communities, called peer leadership training, puts students in a position to help suicidal peers and direct them to a trusted adult if they experience suicidal risk factors.  Youth tend to feel more comfortable talking with peers about their suicidal thoughts.  Sources of Strength (SOS) is a prevention program that uses protective factors within schools and communities to decrease risk factors, such as social isolation and ineffective coping skills.  Peer leaders are selected by teachers and staff to encourage other students and build connectedness within the school environment where isolation would otherwise exist (Katz et al., 2013).

Social Media
In the last decade, youth have experienced a new influence in their lives with social media.  Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or MySpace adolescents now build relationships through a screen and have drifted away from face-to-face interaction.  Social media has influenced people to post their feelings and life events, as well as relationship changes.  As a result, technology has been developed and is now being utilized by social media platforms that allows for detection of suicidal thoughts among its users.  When a person posts their feelings online, social media sites now use an algorithm as a way of identifying at-risk adolescents.  Facebook and Google have both created a mechanism to provide information on suicide support options.  As a result, when “suicide” is typed into the search engine, then a list of suicide and crisis hotline numbers will appear first on the page.  Other organizations, such as Inspire Foundation USA and ReachOut.com, have plans to use social networking sites to target those who post suicidal thoughts on their social media pages.  Fact sheets, web pages, and a youth advisory system are available to those who land on their search results when questioning suicide online (Cash, Thelwall, Peck, Ferrell, & Bridge, 2013).

Media and Television Influence
For several weeks during 2017, 13 Reasons Why held the ranking as one of the most popular shows watched on television and included a storyline about a teenage girl who killed herself.  The show was promoted throughout the United States and watched by youth on Netflix (Feuer & Havens, 2017).  The storyline involved a beautiful, smart, high school student who killed herself and left behind 13 tapes about how people contributed to her death.  This show provides an example of how television does not help prevent suicide, but could be utilized as a prevention method if changes were made in future broadcasts regarding suicide.  For six weeks following the release of 13 Reasons Why, clinicians reported a high level of calls and accounts of suicide attempts where children reported suicidal thoughts and behavior triggered by the series.  Emergency services reported increases in the volume of patients attempting suicide.   Copycat gestures were seen 30 days after the show’s release.  Children in emergency rooms reported making suicide attempts because of the show (Feuer & Havens, 2017).  Media and television have the potential of directing suicidal thoughts into positive coping behavior and hope for those with mental illnesses.  If media would not glorify suicide by describing the situation and death in detail, but instead connect the crisis to prevention and to groups and community-based services that can help, then adolescent viewers may see the alternatives to suicide.  Media outlets and the entertainment industry could play such a vital role in influencing suicide prevention, depression, and mental health issues to the public.

Modifying the Environment
Adolescent females are more likely to report suicidal ideation and have suicide attempts than males but adolescent males are four times more likely to die by suicide.  Males tend to use firearms to commit suicide which reduces the likelihood for surviving a suicide attempt, versus prescription drugs that females favor (Bloch, 2016).  Therefore, limiting the access to firearms and prescription drugs in a youth’s environment could help reduce the deaths by suicide.  Modifying the environment can also include providing a safe and sheltered environment for youth following a crisis or suicide in the community.  Offering a safe haven for youth to turn to for counseling and therapy following a crisis will lower stress levels and anxiety and help them through a difficult or sad situation.

Adolescent Suicide Therapy and Treatment

Connectedness
In order to reduce the impact of suicide, the Surgeon General of the United States and Center for Disease Control have recognized suicide as a serious public health concern and emphasized the need for implementing public health-based solutions for treatment and intervention.  They have identified connectedness as the focus for therapy and treatment for adolescents in the United States.  Connectedness involves the feelings of closeness by caring and belonging to a group of individuals by which they receive and give trust, value, and respect.  Children have a need for regular, positive experiences with others where stable and reciprocal care and concern are generously provided.  Specifically, all people want to be valued and to feel important.  When children are neglected, excluded, or ignored for long periods of time, depression usually develops.  Most of the treatments designed for suicidal behavior involve connecting the adolescent to peers, academic programs, sports, church groups and having them become involved in meaningful activities (Whitlock et al., 2014).  Involving the parents or family and training them to pay attention and communicate with their children becomes vital during treatment for STB.  Having “strong ties with adults in key social settings enhance adolescent willingness to seek help for emotional problems, and for suicide concerns” (Whitlock et al., 2014, p. 264).  Adolescents involved in school and social clubs feel they belong and are more likely to perceive social support as available.  Furthermore, connectedness reduces suicidal thoughts through expanding social networks, increasing opportunities for adolescents’ suicidal behavior to be recognized, exposing them to positive coping skills, increasing positive emotions, defining purpose and significance, and increasing experiences of belonging to a group (Whitlock et al., 2014).  Parental connectedness is an extremely powerful protective factor with adolescents.  Suicidal youths rate their parents as having less warmth and empathy and providing little support or attention.  Better quality relationships help adolescents cope with adversity and stress (Taliaferro & Muehlenkamp, 2014).

Attachment Based Family Therapy (ABFT)
A method of therapy that promotes relationships and designed to reduce depression and suicide risk in adolescents is Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT).  This 12-16 week program strengthens the relationship and attachment between parent and child.  Most of the time, families begin therapy believing the child causes their depressive state and suicidal thoughts but they leave therapy understanding that the family is the solution.  Therapy connects the pain that both the adolescent and parents may be feeling and how they mutually desire a different and improved relationship and connection. The therapist helps the family with different ways of talking to and connecting with their child and parents receive emotion coaching.  Again, connectedness is the focus of the therapy to draw the adolescent out of STB.  As a result, suicide risks are reduced by increasing the adolescent’s sense of security, safety, and protection combined with the parent’s feelings of competence and connection (Singer, O’Brien, & LeCloux, 2016).

Integrated Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (I-CBT)
Integrated Cognitive Behavorial Therapy (I-CBT) confronts the combined risk factors of substance abuse and STB.  Regardless of the link between the two and the standard practice of treating them separately, I-CBT addresses them both simultaneously. The therapy targets the maladaptive behavior common to both problems of substance abuse and SBT.  For example, alcohol tends to cause disinhibition that increases the impulsiveness on suicidal thoughts.  Alcohol inhibits the coping skills to handle suicidal thoughts and elevates the risk of suicide attempts.  Drawing attention to the relationship between the two problems is important for therapists to clarify to adolescents.  Adolescents tend to participate in substance abuse to associate with the negative views they hold of themselves, distract their thoughts away from stress or anxiety they may feel, or numb themselves of negative emotions.  Again, parental involvement in I-CBT enhances the effectiveness of treatment in suicidal adolescents when therapists coach parents how to be buffers, rather than triggers.  Parents can monitor their adolescent’s location and activities, effectively communicate concern and compassion, and build support for their child’s treatment (Singer et al., 2016).

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A) was adapted from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as a treatment that combines behavioral science, dialectical philosophy, and Zen practice but with focus on adolescents who struggle with suicidality, self-harm, or chronic emotion dysregulation.  DBT-A has been recently added to school-based curriculum but usually exists in inpatient or outpatient services with skill-based training groups.  DBT-A focuses on mindfulness by experiencing thoughts and feelings without attaching judgment or negative thoughts to them.  Through therapy, adolescents develop core skills to help them accept and tolerate pain better, as well as coping with difficult situations (Singer et al., 2016).  They learn how to tolerate difficult feelings without becoming overwhelmed.  Zen practice allows them to incorporate breathing exercises, positive imagery, prayer, and relaxation to convert negative thoughts to positive ones (Singer et al., 2016).

Conclusion

There remains a crucial need to provide evidence-based programs in communities and schools worldwide that will reduce risk factors, attempts, and deaths of suicidal adolescents. Clinicians seek more data from studies within schools and communities to better understand the risk factors, especially those that differentiate suicidal ideation from suicide attempts.  The focus on preventing STB involves understanding the risk factors, looking for the symptoms, and becoming connected to adolescents where they feel wanted and valued.  Offering parenting classes within communities could coach parents on ways they can connect with their children and improve awareness of their child’s emotions.  Further research on anti-depressants and serotonin inhibitors could provide more options for the adolescents who suffer from depressive symptoms.  Additional genetic testing and research could also allow for more answers on how adolescents could avoid familial transmission of STB.  Speaking to government officials and encouraging more funding for mental health research could also make a difference in saving the lives of adolescents.  If every person advocated for suicide awareness and prevention, more treatment options could be in the near future.

References:
Bloch, M. H. (2016), Editorial: Reducing adolescent suicide. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(7): 773–774. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12585

Briere, F.N., Rohde, P., Seeley, J.R., Klein, D., & Lewinsohn, P.M. (2015). Adolescent suicide attempts and adult adjustment. Depression and Anxiety, 32(4), 270-276. doi: 10.1002/da.22296

Cash, S.J., Thelwall, M., Peck, S.N., Ferrell, J.Z. & Bridge, J.A. (2013). Adolescent suicide statements on MySpace. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(3), 166-174. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.0098

Feuer, V., Havens, J. (2017). Teen suicide: Fanning the flames of a public health crisis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(9), 723-724. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2017.07.006

Grose, T. (2016). Suicide Prevention. American Society for Engineering Education Prism, 26(4), 13.

Im, Y., Oh, W., & Suk, M. (2017). Risk factors for suicide ideation among adolescents: Five-year national data analysis. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 31(3), 282-286. doi: 10.1016/j.apnu.2017.01.001

Joshi, S. V., Hartley, S. N., Kessler, M., & Barstead, M. (2015). School-based suicide prevention: Content, process, and the role of trusted adults and peers. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(2), 353-370. doi: 10.1016/j.chc.2014.12.003

Katz, C., Bolton, S., Katz, L. Y., Isaak, C., Tilston‐Jones, T., Sareen, J., & Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team. (2013). A systematic review of school‐based suicide prevention programs. Depression and Anxiety, 30(10), 1030-1045. doi: 10.1002/da.22114

Martin, M.E. (2018). Introduction to human services: Through the eyes of practice settings (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson, Inc.

Padurariu, M., Prepelita, R., Ciobica, A., Dobrin, R., Timofte, D., Stefanescu, C., & Chirita, R. (2016). Concept of suicide: Neurophysiological/Genetic theories and possible oxytocin relevance. Neurophysiology, 48(4), 312-321. doi: 10.1007/s11062-016-9603-9

Rajalin, M., Hirvikoski, T., Salander Renberg, E., Åsberg, M., Jokinen, J. (2017). Family history of suicide and interpersonal functioning in suicide attempters. Psychiatry Research, 247, 310-314. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.11.029

Sheridan, D. C., MD, Laurie, A., MS, Hendrickson, R. G., MD, Fu, R., PhD, Kea, B., MD, & Horowitz, B. Z., MD. (2016). Association of overall opioid prescriptions on adolescent opioid abuse. Journal of Emergency Medicine, 51(5), 485-490. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2016.06.049

Singer, J. B., O’Brien, K. H. M., & LeCloux, M. (2016). Three psychotherapies for suicidal adolescents: Overview of conceptual frameworks and intervention techniques. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 34(2), 95-106. doi: 10.1007/s10560-016-0453-5

Taliaferro, L. A., & Muehlenkamp, J. J. (2014). Risk and protective factors that distinguish adolescents who attempt suicide from those who only consider suicide in the past year. Suicide and LifeThreatening Behavior, 44(1), 6-22. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12046

Whitlock, J., Wyman, P. A., & Moore, S. R. (2014). Connectedness and suicide prevention in adolescents: Pathways and implications. Suicide and LifeThreatening Behavior, 44(3), 246-272. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12071

Wolff, J., Frazier, E.A., Esposito-Smythers, C., Burke, T., Sloan, E., Spirito, A. (2013). Cognitive and social factors associated with NSSI and suicide attempts in psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(6), 1005-1013. doi: 10. 1007/s10802-013-9743-y

 

 

 

 

Christian vs. Christian

Thomas Jefferson said “peace is that glorious moment in time when everyone stops and reloads”.  This is so true today when there are so many controversies and agendas and divisions in our society.  No peace and no unity.  We can’t go on Facebook or Twitter or watch the news without witnessing the fights between pro-life and pro-choice, Democrats and Republicans, or right versus left.  Everyone seems to voice their opinion and battles rage between believers, friends, and family over these opposing agendas and views.

Read More

Got Jesus?

I have found that the Bible can be pretty funny.  It is comical to me reading Luke 2 when I hear about Mary and Joseph leaving the city of Jerusalem and traveling all day, several miles down the road, only to realize that their son is not with them and they don’t know where he is.  First of all, this is THE Savior of the World!! How could you leave the temple with your people and not realize the most important person in the world is not with you?  I can picture Mary looking at Joseph and asking, “Got Jesus?”

Read More

I Wish I Could Be Blameless!

I dream of the day when I can look around and see no fingers pointing at me.  There would be no gossip or slander against me.  There would be no broken hearts or testimonies of pain that I had caused.  Honestly, I don’t see myself as a “bad person” but I am definitely not blameless!  The Bible tells about Noah and Abraham and their righteous ways.  I hear the words of Mary and Elizabeth and see their blameless lives and I’m filled with admiration.  The fact that Noah built an ark as instruction from God and was miles from any body of water and had never seen rain fall from the sky sounds deranged to me.  He didn’t question God but simply followed his instructions with obedience.  Blameless!  Abraham was fully dedicated to God’s cause and to serve Him.  He obeyed the orders to kill his own son. Imagine the scene and the thoughts going through his head and the pain he must’ve felt for what he was about to do. Abraham had nothing to hide and he walked upright for God.  He had a close relationship with his Lord which led to a blameless walk.

Read More

New Year with the Word

Why does our culture feel inclined to set goals only at the beginning of the year that are supposed to change their life?  How many people actually stick to the new ideas, plans, and goals?  Resolutions are defined as a firm decision to do or not do something.  Statistically, most resolutions are at the beginning of a year and involve losing weight, stopping a bad habit, or achieving a goal for the year.  Most new year resolutions do not continue past February when routines and hectic schedules change the priority of these goals and aspirations.  People simply sink back into their normal ways of life and where they are comfortable.

Read More

The Aftermath of Suicide

I would have fainted, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

On December 9, 2014, I found my wife dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On December 20, 2014, a minister’s words, as my sister said, “took the elephant out of the room.” Prior to the start of Clarissa’s memorial service, the first four friends I met in the church entryway asked, “what happened?” After all, she was only 56 years old, in apparent good health, and in their memories, a vibrant, beautiful, bright, talented, outgoing woman. No one who asked was aware of her longstanding battle with alcoholism, depression and although we remained married, the subsequent estrangement during the past two years.

Read More

Plug Into Me

Let’s consider what being a successful parent looks like.  What is the ideal situation for kids when they turn 18 and leave home to start their lives?  Most parents will answer that they want their kids to be independent –  they want them to be able to handle situations on their own – figure problems out logically – and know what to do in a conflict.  God expects the same for us as we grow as His children.  Each one of us is expected to have strength and be independent….so that we can be stronger together and serve a truer purpose.

Read More

Standing Firm in Your Faith

In our ever changing world, Christians’ struggle to defend their faith in Jesus Christ is growing at record speed.  Sure, God is the most powerful and doesn’t need defending but one of our jobs as Christians is to believe and make our belief known.  There are millions of unbelievers in the world that either look at us like aliens or go a step further and want to hurt us because of our beliefs.  The closer our relationship is to God, the more we will be criticized, persecuted, and judged as Christians.

Read More