Connectors - Short Assemblies / Quick Thoughts
What are 'connectors'? Well, they're basically 'God-slots' for your youth groups and clubs. These are short snippets (aimed at being 2-3 minutes) that are thoughts, ideas, connectors to God. They're like mini-assemblies, or like quiet-times for those who don't know Jesus. We've done a few and tried to cover a range of issues. As ever, keep checking back as these will be added to over time. These work great for short assemblies too!
(37 connectors, updated 16/01/19)
According to a report from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles poll, the biggest regret of many young people was having sex and losing their virginity too soon. According to the report on this on the BBC website (click for link, accessed 16 January 2019), nearly 40% of young women and 26% of young men did not feel that their first sexual experience had happened "at the right time". Most said they wished they had waited longer to lose their virginity. Only a few said they should have done it sooner. Most of the 3000 people interviewed (between 2010 and 2012) had sex by the time they were 18, half by the time they were 17 and a third before age 16. About half of the young women and four in 10 of the young men who responded failed the 'sexual competence or readiness' measure (such as not being drunk). Almost one in five women and one in 10 men said they and their partner had not been equally willing to have sex at the time. The suggestion from this is that many times both partners felt pressured to have sex. 9 in 10 of those having sex used a condom.
Loads of stats and information. But what does this mean in the real world? You know there are many key events and thigns that happen in our lives and there should be things that are really special to us. When we don't celebrate occasions in the right way, it means they become less important. In a society where many things are used and then thrown away, are we in danger of making sex something that isn't really important? If we sleep around with anyone and everyone, does this make it less important? Do we devalue people and make them into sex objects rather than really loving them and really caring about them? And do we harm each other and the world around us by treating something so lightly? A person isn't someone we use today and throw away tomorrow. They matter and they definitely matter to God. It's something to think about. We shouldn't feel pressurised by anyone to have sex. But we should also ask ourselves a question: when something really matters and is really important, or if anyone achieves anything really significant, it takes effort, time, care and isn't easily won. When Everest was first climbed, it was after years of trying, years of getting the oxygen tanks right, years of climbing and learning about routes and the mountains. It cost people's lives. So when Sherpa Tenzing and Edmund Hillary stood on Everest, it really meant something. God's plan is sex within marriage between a couple because it values people, protects them from gossip, sexual disease etc and it creates a safe environment and it means so much more. Don't devalue sex into something that doesn't mean anything. It hurts the other person and it hurts you.
All that glitters isn't gold...
We live in a world where if someone says something is incredible; if it has great music; if there are people smiling, dancing or cheering; if the colours are full of life and the visual effect is amazing, then people believe that the thing is amazing. But the phrase to remember is that 'not all that glitters is gold.' What this means is that just because something looks good or says it's good, it doesn't mean it is good!
There are lots of gambling ads on TV and online right now. The ads are full of music, colour, laughing, smiles, fun, happy people. They're actors of course. You see, with gambling, you've got very little chance of ever winning anything. Many people call gambling a tax on the poor because people are desperate to not be poor any more, so they gamble to try to escape their poverty. Trouble is, you lose. Some people even lose when they win (see the Bible story of the Parable of the Lost Son). We know most people lose because the gambling companies are making billions of dollars in profit every year.
Another example is 'Strictly Come Dancing'. People love it because it seems to be full of glamour and glitz and laughs. But while it can be fun, it's been responsible for the break up of relationships and marriages. You could advertise Strictly by showing people lonely, crying, feeling broken inside, sad and guilty... There was even an awards ceremony on TV recently where one woman congratulated another one. But in reality they absolutely hate each other. The smiles were fake. So much of what we see on TV and in magazines is fake.
I know of a band that is doing well at the moment. They say that behind all the performances and smiles are some nasty people who only care about themselves. So when you see TV stars and bands congratulate each other, smile and say nice things - it doesn't mean they mean it and it doesn't mean they're like that in real life. They may be. But we don't really know.
The world is full of things that seem good and may have some good. But they're not the answer to happiness and only bring a temporary buzz. They fade away, get damaged, get lost or stolen and get updated. We lose interest in the stuff we get. And when we throw away clothes, plastics and electronic devices, we cause havoc to the planet which affects our health in terrible ways. And you can't take any stuff away with you when you die! But you can live in a way that will last and will help others...
The Bible (Message version) says this in Hebrews 11 - "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living." God isn't just temporary. He's not just for Christmas. So when you put God first, things line up right in your life. And you can live a life that is real and is worth living. With God. #nothingfakeonlyreality
Social Media - like to be liked? But it's not real life...
Sky News (click here for the link) reported how former YouTuber Matt Lees turned his back on doing viral YouTube videos. Despite one time getting over 5 million views of a video in a couple of days, he found the downside of the job affecting him and decided to quit. One of the pressures was the need for negativity across YouTube. According to Matt Lees the videos that got the most views are ones where people are angry or where people are saying things are bad. He also felt that those who were successful were doing lots of the same kinds of videos. But his concerns went deeper and were about relationships. When you're doing social media and working all the time, relating to people who adore you, you're not forming healthy relationships with real people, with real friends and with those who challenge you. "You're not going to be terribly well formed, especially if your only socialisation is with a community who adores you. We hear a lot about parasocial relationships - it benefits you to pretend the thousands of people watching your videos are your friends but they're not and they can't be."
Social media can be good but it can also be harmful. Real friends are ones who you can talk to in person, who you can trust and who are for you no matter what. Forming real friendships comes through sharing real experiences - whether that's hanging out, socialising, watching sport, being into the same interests etc. Real friendships don't come from likes or reactions on social media or from how many people follow you or watch your video. These people don't really know you - they just follow the 'you' that they see on your profile or videos. But it's true the other way - the people you follow on social media don't have life all sorted out. The celebs are not the perfect pictures you see on their social media account. When Jesus was on the earth he hung out with a bunch of mates. They had food together, travelled together, ended up sharing his life lessons with others. The mates of Jesus learned from someone who didn't need to fake his appearance or get likes. He was just real. And he offered real life. Jesus isn't just for Christmas. He's for life.
From 2016 to 2017 there was an increase in the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) of syphilis and gonorrhoea in England. There was a 20% increase in cases of syphilis and a 22% increase in gonorrhoea compared with 2016. The overall rate of STIs stayed around the same, although there was also a lower rate of testing for chlamydia. According to the BBC summary, "The impact of STIs remains greatest in young people aged between 15 and 24 years, with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men among those most at risk, says Public Health England in its report. Black and minority ethnic populations are also disproportionately affected by STIs." Dr Gwenda Hughes from Public Health England said: "Consistent and correct condom use with new and casual partners is the best defence against STIs, and if you are at risk, regular check-ups are essential to enable early diagnosis and treatment."
Imagine for one moment that you wanted to punch the wall. Each time, you injured your hand and arm and damaged the wall. So you go to the Doctor and they advise punching the wall by putting a boxing glove on your hand (properly) to protect you. It may not be the most effective solution to the problem! A good Doctor would probably advise not punching the wall at all. That way you'd avoid harm to your arm and the wall and save on the cost of repairing both! You see Christianity isn't about telling people how to live their life but Christians believe that God's ways are the best to help you life life to the full. God says that the place for sex is within a marriage relationship, just as we'd say the best place for boxing is in the ring with another person. The ring provides the best place and the safest place. The same is true with sex (OK, but not with live TV cameras and an audience). The very best way to protect from the misery of STIs or worse is to have sex with one person in a marriage. And God defines marriage as between a man and a woman not because he hates people but because he says that's the best place. The choice is yours for sure. But just make sure you make an informed choice rather than just going with the flow of what everyone else says they're doing!
Info from - http://bit.ly/2ac8t0T (PDF. From the UK government publishing service)
You Can't Take It With You
What is your aim in life? To be famous? Successful? To get married? To have a family? To travel? To be an adventurer? To be a scientist and make discoveries? To make lots of money? It's really good to have ambitions in life and things to aim for. It's good to know what you want and go for it - many people aim at nothing in life and hit it every time! So be someone who lives life well. But what does it mean to live life well? Is it good to be a celebrity or make loads of cash? Well if you were to chat with celebrities or people with loads of money you may be surprised that many are seriously unhappy or messed up. Living for yourself can never make you happy. Value and happiness in life come from giving, from helping, from living life that looks beyond yourself and to do something that makes a positive difference in the world. As a Christian, I believe that God wants people to succeed. But God's idea of success isn't quite like ours. God says that life is lived well if we live for God and live for others. It's not about riches in money but about riches in sacrifice, loving, giving, helping, serving. And you know what, it's way more adventurous and satisfying to live life this way. In May 2018, archaeologists working in the area of Pompeii (where there was a massive volcano eruption in AD79) found a Roman merchant who was trying to run from the eruption. (Article link here). Sadly, he was hit by a flying block of stone which killed him. In a leather wallet on him, the archaeologists found 22 silver and bronze coins worth 500 Euros. It's good to save and work and make money. But when we die, we can't take it with us. The same is true of the stuff we think we need. God likes us to have nice stuff but it's not what life is about and when we die, we can't take it with us. So live well and live a life where value is measured not by money and stuff but through living for God and living for other people. Honestly, it's the only way to live.
Social Media and Loneliness
A study done by the University of Pittsburgh released in 2017 concluded that spending too much time on social media could actually increase people's feelings of loneliness and feelings of being isolated. The report, in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine stated that too much time on social media, “may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives.” For some people use of social media may create feelings of being isolated or lonely. For others who may already feel this way, social media doesn't make things better. The study interviewed 1787 adults aged 19-35 and found that social media “displaced more authentic social experiences.” By this they mean that social media meant that people weren't actually being social but replacing social contact and real world friendships with social media.
Social media cannot and was never designed to replace real relationships. In the Bible God tells people who believe in him not to give up meeting together. One of the reasons is that it's good for people to meet together. All around us we have loads of different groups and tribes and sub-cultures. These can be football, a band, a style of music, an interest group, a social group, or a religious group. Most people like to gather together and we're built by God to have friendships and to relate to other people. Not everyone is able to do this or can cope with it which is sad. To really live life well, it's important to have friends and people you relate to, others you can have a laugh with, hang out with, can trust and who you can be real with. Even if you don't feel like being around people or having friends, it's important you find good people around you. One great strength of churches is that they provide good relationships with people of all ages. God even says that he puts lonely people in families. God is relational - that means he's interested in friendship with you and in helping you have friends and to be a friend to others. Sometimes if we feel lonely, a good place to start is to help other people. As you help others, you find value, become less lonely and do good. But most of all God wants to help you in every area of life and to give you a future and hope. Just ask God to meet with you, to change your life and to help you be friends with him and with others. He will.
According to a government report, each year 'lifestyle' illnesses cost the NHS a massive £11billion a year. Just imagine what we could do with £11billion! These lifestyle illnesses are totally preventable and are costing people in other ways because people are dying young and sooner than they should do. These lifestyle illnesses are illnesses caused by the poor choices that we can all make - things like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise. Already this means that in some areas, 4 in 10 middle-aged people have a long-term condition for which there is currently no cure. The illnesses include smoking-related bronchitis (disease of the lungs) and type 2 diabetes. Often these illnesses are related to living in poverty, areas with high unemployment - places where people have little hope of things improving. These kinds of conditions have the possibility of overwhelming the NHS so in the future, free medical care could become at risk. Not only this but a report from the University of Ohio found that where there is breakdown in relationships, it kills the partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancer! (http://pni.osumc.edu/KG%20Publications%20(pdf)/109.pdf)
What about you? First up, when we do things that are bad for us there is usually a consequence. When we're young we don't think about what might happen in the future - we feel invincible. But things can change in an instant. It's good to make right choices now to avoid bad things in the future. But it can be hard to do right things if we think that life is just about here and now. If this life is all there is, then we may as well live it up and do whatever we want, right? That's how most people think and so we can end up messing things up, especially where we don't feel like we have much hope. At the very least these stats should make you think about your lifestyle and get out there exercising, eat well and know that things like smoking and alcohol may be fun but they imprint your body with problems that can be avoided. Choose well, choose life, make right choices now!
But God has a different way and a better way. God has a hope that never fails and never fades. He has a plan for you that is better than anything you can think of. He is a friend who will never leave your side. He will open up doors of opportunity so that you can be all that you can be. He gives life a purpose and a meaning. He is with you through the hard times. He will protect you from bad choses that can backfire. He will use you to make a difference, to help people and to live a life of value and meaning. He offers you the chance to live a life beyond this world and all its problems. The only hope in a world full of hopelessness is a relationship with the one who created you and made you - GOD.
Girls are becoming more and more unhappy
According to the 'Good Childhood' Report, released by the Children's Society in 2016, girls are becoming increasingly unhappy. According to interviews done with 11-15 year-old girls, 14% are now unhappy with their lives, compared to 11% in 2011. Overall, this means that 1 in 7 girls are unhappy with their lives overall, compared to 1 in 9 boys.
The Children's Society writes that, "As girls get older they become increasingly unhappy with their appearance. Older girls are also more likely to experience emotional health problems such as anxiety and depression. There is an association between emotional problems and happiness with appearance. A third of girls are unhappy with their appearance... Unhappiness with life as a whole and unhappiness with appearance are particularly strongly associated with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety."
One teenage girl stated that, "Girls feel pressured by boys to look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self-esteem and makes girls feel ugly or worthless."
One of the things that people value is to look good. The message from adverts is that their products will make you better, more happy, more successful, more attractive. It's a good thing to do your best and look your best but it isn't a good thing to ever be pressurised to be something that you're not or to be pressured into being or looking a certain way. Yes, we all want to look good but not at any cost. What really matters is what is going on inside. We can look pretty or be the most attractive person in school but often people are empty and unhappy inside. The happiest people are the ones who have been loved, supported, encouraged by family and those who are living for something more than themselves or the way they look. These are people who know they are loved and are valued. That's why the love and time spent with children by their families is always more important than money and gifts.
When God looks at you, he sees someone who is valuable and precious beyond the most expensive thing in the world. Something is only as valuable as the price someone will pay for it. And Jesus gave his life to pay for you to know and understand the love of God for you. Despite what the media says, you'll find that Christians are the most happy and giving, loving people around because they have found their value and worth in who God says they are and not what people say they are. Just ask God to show you that he's real and how much he loves you.
Porn is damaging for your health
In a world where the internet makes it possible to view anything and everything, we need to think carefully about what we watch and think about. There's a phrase which says, 'where the mind goes, the man follows'. This means that it's really important to think about what we think about (and what we watch).
A study in 2016 found that more and more men in their teens and early 20s were suffering sexual problems that were directly related to watching porn online. These were psychological problems that caused physical problems and were causing great distress to the guys affected. The psychologist working with them found this was related to the watching of porn and all that goes with it.
It's funny that often people call Christians all kinds of names as if they want to tell people what to think. But the truth is that if you follow all the things that the world tells you will make you happy, you are the one being told what to think and it will never ultimately make you happy. It can and will damage your health, your relationships and your life. It's hard to go against the flow when it comes to things around sex as society tells you that anything is fine. But it isn't. The Bible isn't there to tell people what to think and make you like a zombie. The Bible is God's advice for helping us live life to the full and stay healthy. Porn and addiction can be overcome and you can be set free. Because if you're trapped in that kind of thing, you are not free. Many people pay the consequences for sexual activity when they get older - with all kinds of health and mental problems that you wouldn't believe. Porn is bad for your health, bad for you finding a girlfriend and bad for society as it messes people up. Don't be one of those people. So just determine today that you are going to stay away from porn and all that mess.
And remember that there is a God who is able to set you free so you stay free. Just go ahead and ask him to help you today...
Crowd Of Witnesses
Hebrews 12.1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...
It is believed that around 3 billion people watched the Olympic Games opening ceremony in 2016. Tens of millions watched the various events on TV and on digital devices.
Just think for a minute about the average football game...
In the 2015-2016 Premiership season, the team with the largest average attendance was Man Utd (they have the biggest ground) with 72,991 watching their games. The lowest was Bournemouth (with the smallest ground) with an average of 11,188. The average attendance in the league was 34,562.
On average, a football game probably has around 28 players used (11 starting players, plus substitutes that come on). So you have 34,562 people watching 28 people. So the percentage of people taking part is 0.081% and the people watching make up a huge 99.919%...
So we have lots of people watching on with only a few playing football. A bit like the amount of people watching the Olympics compared to the amount of people taking part.
Here's a question for you - are you someone who likes to get involved or do you leave things to others? The most satisfying kind of life where we get involved and take part. Before I went to Uni I was asking around about which Uni to go to. The best advice I got was from a friend who said, "University is what you make it." As a Christian I believe God is deeply involved in my life and wants me to invite him into everything I do. But we also have a part to play. It is amazing what people can do when they just make the decision to do something positive and make a difference. Be that kind of person. And remember that God is very real and the very best life is one where we partner with God to make a difference in the world!
Don't Eat Meat??
According to a survey reported in October 2015, processed meats can cause cancer. Processed meats are things like ham in a packet, bacon, salami, sausages, the stuff you find in ready made meals etc. It is processed because it lasts longer. But according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). They also believed that although not as bad, red meats could cause cancer as well - things like beef, pork and even lamb. The advice is that you cut down on eating these kinds of red meats because the flip side is that they have all kinds of benefits as well ! To be honest if we listened to everything that everyone said about food, we'd never eat! The best thing is to eat a balanced diet, eat fresh fruit and vegetables and don't eat too much junk!
It's interesting because about 3500 years ago, God gave the people of Israel some advice about eating meat. He did it because he wanted them to stay fit and healthy. He gave them advice, just as the World Health Organisation try to do. But God also tells us that we're not just physical beings - we have a spiritual side too. Jesus said that we don't live by bread alone but on every word that comes from God. Food is great and we all need it to live and feel nourished and strong. But we also need God in our lives - he is the one who makes us strong in every other way - spiritually, in our emotions, in our minds and even in our bodies. God created us and he knows what is best for us. He also knows the kinds of things that are good for us and those things that aren't good for us. God isn't trying to destroy all your fun in life, it's that he knows what is going to help you and what's going to mess you up. So why not at least take a look at the Bible and see some of the things that God says. And if you don't believe in all that God stuff, why not just do a test (you've got nothing to lose). Why not ask God if he's real to show himself to you. People try all kinds of things for a buzz so why not try God.
Signs in the Heavens
A report in July 2015 revealed that Professor Stephen Hawkins backs research into the possibility of whether there is life elsewhere in space - to see whether there are aliens or other life forms in the universe. There are many projects around the world and have been for years (at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars) to see if there is life outside of earth. So far our scientific studies haven't found any life.
There is an answer to life outside of planet earth and there is already a lot of evidence - a universe that holds together perfectly and on an earth that is so delicately balanced that any small changes would destroy all life on earth. Yet science still talks about the existence of earth and life as being a chance. But the chance of earth and humanity just happening are way, way beyond science's own definition of what is impossible. Again, the Bible tells us that there is life beyond our universe. There is the God who created our world and who created us humans.
If you arrived on another planet and found a house, you would look for the builder. The earth has an incredible design. It could not have happened by chance and science cannot explain where the original source material came from that created the earth. In order to have such complexity and in order for there to be something that exists from another dimension, another reality which put the material there and from which the creator of the world came. That is God. Imagine you have a piece of paper. The paper is flat. Now you take a pen and draw on the paper. The paper can't create the pen drawing - it needs something from another 'dimension' to bring something along (a pen) and to draw. The drawing is evidence of a creator of the drawing.
When we look at planet earth and how complex, yet how incredibly ordered our world is, there can only be one answer. The universe was not created by chance. There is life beyond our earth and outside of what we can see with our eyes and beyond what science can prove. We don't need to spend millions! We just need to open our Bible.
But in a way, science has already answered its own question... Quantum physics has provided evidence (to support the Bible!) that the world we see is not as real as the world we don't see! And in the words of Professor Hawking, "It's time to commit to finding the answer - to search for life beyond Earth." And in the words of the project's billionaire funder, Yuri Milner who said that stuff about galaxies and black holes etc can't explain everything... "These ideas cannot explain everything. They can explain the light of stars, but not the lights that shine from planet Earth."
There is a light that shines in our Universe that has already answered their question - it's God. As to whether we will find other life in our universe in its current reality, the answer is that we won't. Earth is unique. Humanity is unique. We're not ex-monkeys (well, most of us anyway...!) but people who God has breathed his life into. And we agree with Professor Hawking, it is time for people to commit to search for life beyond earth, to search and find God. He's not difficult to miss. Why not ask him to show himself to you - you'll never regret it and he's always longing to hear from you. And besides, a Bible only costs £10...
Can you name any detergents - any washing powder brands? I guess you'll know about things like Arial, Daz, Persil etc. Any others? Anyone here actually do the washing in your family or where you live?
The first washing machines were used in the 1940s in the USA with washing powders coming along in the 1950s. By 1953, people bought more washing powders (detergents) than they did soap in the USA! Today, these things play a huge role in keeping our clothes clean, freshly smelling and even enhancing the look of white clothes! These detergents come as liquid or as powders.
There are basically three different kinds of ways of washing your clothes - you can use soap flakes, non-biological detergents or biological ones. The biological powders contain enzymes which help get rid of stains on your clothing quickly. The non-biological ones still help get rid of stains but are much kinder to your skin. Soap flakes are an old-fashioned way of hand-washing (wearing gloves) that isn't harmful to your clothes and so can be used with very delicate clothing (like silks).
So why the lesson on washing detergents?! Well, the Bible tells us that we are all dirty. No, it doesn't mean that we all need a wash (although some of us do!) It means that we do and think wrong things and these wrong things are like spiritual dirt. The only one who can wash away the spiritual dirt from our lives is Jesus because he is totally pure - he's whiter than white!
In Titus 3.5, the Bible says that Jesus washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. The last book of the Bible talks about those people who will live forever in heaven - "They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white."
Jesus is very good at helping us get rid of the rubbish in our lives and breathing life into us. If you imagine that you're covered in mud, you won't look good, you won't smell good and you won't be able to live life in the way that you could. The same is true for what we're like on the inside. Jesus is the one who can take away the muck, the stains, the mud, the pain, the hurt and help us. He knows exactly which spiritual detergent to use on us to help us clean up and become all that we can be. You wouldn't go on a date without getting cleaned up and looking and smelling your best (well, you shouldn't do anyway!). In the same way, why not ask Jesus to come into your life and help you clean up!
Your map and compass
Have you ever got lost anywhere? When I was really young I got lost in a supermarket and couldn't find my mom. I was really worried and wondered if she'd left me behind. Another time, I was driving in America and the SatNav took me down a road that had been closed off! I got a bit lost but used the SatNav as a map to get to where I needed to go!
When walking in the hills, on the mountains and in National Parks etc. many people take a map and compass with them. If you use the map and the compass in the right way, it helps you know where you are and helps you not to get lost - if you use them in the right way! When I was in the Army Cadets, I was once given a map and compass and told to find my way down to a river. I couldn't find it. Why? Because no-one had ever taught me how to use a map and compass. It was like someone speaking to me in a foreign language - I just didn't understand. So I had to tell the Lance Corporal that I hadn't been taught how to use a map and compass and he had to take us back to base.
If you ever go for a walk in the mountains and get lost it can be quite serious, especially if it's really cloudy, or if it's snowing heavily. Places change dramatically when there is fog or mist or snow. What looks quite nice can suddenly look quite scary. So having a map and compass can stop people getting into trouble and help them find their way if they do get a bit lost. It can also keep people safe and stop them climbing down dangerous slopes where there can be a real risk of them being killed. In just one place in the Lake District in 2015, there were 5 deaths in 6 months.
Like we need a map, the truth is that we need a guide to life. That guide is God. He is the one with a plan for our lives and the one who directs us. But just as it's no use knowing about maps but not having one, so it's no use knowing about God but not knowing him! Having a map is useless if it's the wrong map, or it's upside down or you forget to bring it with you on a walk. In the same way, we can go off course in life without good guidance. The very best guide is God and his words which are found in the Bible. Some people say that believing in God or believing the Bible shows that you're a bit weak. But think about this: if you were lost in the mountains, would you rather have a map and compass or not? In my life, I want and need to have the map and compass for my life - which is God and the Bible.
This is what one Bible verse says - "Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long." (Psalm 25.4-5).
What kind of SatNav are you using?
What kind of SatNav do I use? Are you asking me about brands of SatNav devices?! Not exactly... Do you know anything about moths? There are over 160,000 species of moths that buzz about the place at night. There are way more moths than butterflies and their colours and styles vary massively. But they have one thing in common according to most experts - the way that moths navigate their way around the place is by the light of the moon. They maintain a constant angle in relationship to the moon and this helps them fly around accurately.
However, with the hundreds of nu-natural lights that we now have (like light bulbs), moths get attracted to that light and can be blown off course. In some houses, moths are attracted to the windows of houses with the lights on inside. This makes them targets for predators such as bats. In a very real sense, the wrong kind of light draws the moths away from the true light and often to their destruction. (Click here for more on moths and animal navigation and what it tells us about God).
In this world, there is a battle raging between what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong. There is no middle ground, no such thing as 'no man's land' where no-one is in charge. Jesus spoke and said if you're not with me, you're against me. The Bible talks about an 'angel of light' making himself look attractive and fun. But this so-called angel of light is in disguise and underneath lies pure darkness and evil, everything that is destructive like murder, abuse, violence, and hate. This angel of light wants nothing more than to totally destroy your life and kill you. Yet many people are tricked into running towards this false light. The Bible talks about the true light of the world - Jesus. He came to bring real life on earth, healing, freedom, joy and eternal life - all through getting right with God. You have a choice - to run towards the true light and all that is good, right, amazing, incredible. Or to run towards the darkness that will blind you, trap you and ultimately kill you.
Sunrise, Sunset - Beauty in the mist
Are you into outdoors stuff at all? Or maybe you're someone who's impressed by what you see in the skies around you? Or have you never really thought about it because the only thing you can see in the sky is a high rise block of flats?!
Every morning the sun (generally) rises in the East. Then every evening the sun sets (generally) in the West. All this slightly changes depending on where you live, what time of year it is and what 'timezone' you are in. So why do we get sunrises and sunsets that look so amazing in colours? At sunset and sunrise time, the rays of light from the sun have to travel further and as the sun's rays hit particles in the atmosphere, it breaks up the light to create different colours. Different colours have different wavelengths. At the times of sunset and sunrise, the path of light through the atmosphere is longer and so only colours like red and orange show up. If there are clouds and cloud droplets in the sky, these really help lighten the orange and red colours - and give the colours a real perspective.
Uhu... So what are you on about? Well, very often we don't like to see clouds because they block out the sun. But at the times of sunrise and sunset, the presence of clouds actually helps the sky look brighter, more red, more orange - and therefore more amazing. In a way, the presence of something a bit gloomy helps what is bright shine even more brightly. In the Bible, Jesus talks to his followers and says 'Let your light shine before men' (Matthew 5.16). In another book of the Bible called Proverbs, God tells us that those who know God will shine ever more brightly until the day of full light - when Jesus returns to this world to judge (Proverbs 4.18). So the question for you today is - are you going to shine ever more brightly? Jesus brings life. The alternative is death and darkness.
Let the life and light of God come into your life - the most colourful, awesome life. The sunrise and sunset are red in colour - and it reminds us that Jesus died and his blood was spilled for you. Each day and night he reminds us of his love for us!
Some people think Christianity is irrelevant, but let's just list a few things that are true facts!
1. Being a Christian and going to church is proven to make you happier and live longer!
2. Being married makes you happier (generally!!) Marriage is God's plan and idea! (It's also true that despite the hype, Christian marriages last more often than others) A stable home means happier people in that home. You can be happy with just one parent too!!
3. Being a Christian makes a difference to your work. When God did some amazing things in Wales in the early 20th Century, people worked harder, they enjoyed their work and people's honesty meant that everyone was better off. They even had to re-train the horses working in the pits as they were used to obeying swear words. When God changed people they stopped swearing and had to teach the horses new words!
4. When the Chinese looked at what had made 'The West' successful, they came up with one overwhelming conclusion. The difference was Christianity. People had a better attitude, were more honest, were better workers and got on better! Click here for more...!
5. As a Christian, life is more rewarding. The Bible tells us it's better to give than receive. Many programmes on TV and studies have shown that you're much happier if you're helping others. Jesus promised to come to this world and give us life eternal too.
1 Timothy 6.17 (which is just a posh way of saying something a guy called Paul wrote to his mate Timothy) says to tell people to: "put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." And the writer, Paul, said this to people who he described as being 'rich'. (We're pretty much all rich in the West compared to lots of people round the world). So Paul is talking to you too! He says, 'put your faith and life into the hands of God - he knows what you need and will give you all he knows you need to have the best life and enjoy life.' It may not always be easy, but it will be rewarding and better than anything else. You see - Christianity works, because God works!
Do you feel happy? Does that new iPhone make you happy? Or would you be happy with an iPad Air or the latest gadget? Really? Apparently a survey found out that British and Americans are no more happy in 2011 than people were back in the 1950s before TV, the web and all the technology we think makes us much happier. Many other people around the world are much happier than British people. As part of trying to change this, a movement called 'Action for Happiness' has started. This movement commits to: "Rejecting a societal focus on materialism and self-obsessed individualism, the movement instead priorities healthy relationships with others and meaningful activities as a means to happier living." So to translate the waffle - they're saying stuff doesn't make us happy, but relationships and doing meaningful things for others makes you happy. The movement suggests we: do things for others; keep learning new things; be comfortable with who you are; and connect with people. All good stuff, but back in the day this stuff was encouraged by another radical movement called the church. In the Bible there's this amazing bit where the church was just starting. We read that everyone involved were 'together in heart and mind', that they shared all they had with each other, they looked out for each other and gave to people in need. The Bible also tells us that it's better to give than receive and that when we give, we get rewarded. If you've ever seen Secret Millionaire, you'll find out that time after time these rich people find the most happiness and reward when they give away their money, when they do good things for others and make a difference. That's the way to a happy life. And you know what, it's the life that Jesus came to give us - the life that's in the world's biggest, most creative and life-changing organisation. It's called the church.
Fame | Top of page
A 2011 study of 1,032 teenagers has revealed that 54% want to be famous when they're older - responding to the question, "What would you like to do for your career?" Only 15% of 16-year-olds want to go into medicine or nursing, only 13% want a media job, just 9% want a job in the legal area, 4% would like to go into teaching, and 1% said they would do office work..
Asked how they plan to become famous, 21% said through reality TV, while 5% said they planned to date a celebrity. 68% did not know how to become famous and 19% didn't feel like they had the talent to become truly famous.
The survey also identified who they looked to for role models. The results were:
1. Kate Moss (68 per cent)
2. Wayne Rooney (60 per cent)
3. Lady Gaga (53 per cent)
4. Nicola T from Celebrity Big Brother (50 per cent)
5. Richard Branson (43 per cent)
There's nothing wrong with being famous in some ways, but most people won't be famous and being famous isn't the way to be happy. Ask any celebrity if they're really happy and many will say that they're not. In fact, the suicide rate for celebrities and stars is much higher than for the average person. But not being famous doesn't mean you shouldn't try your best to be all that you can be. The Bible says that God created you unique and crafted you together like a master craftsmen. He's put time into creating you, he loves you and that's why Christians believe that the best life is one where God is number one. He'll then give you the best life you could possibly have!
Names | Top of page
Most unfortunate names for babies and people were recently revealed in a survey at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7909561.stm quoting findings from thebabywebsite.com. Here they are (with explanations, just in case you miss them!)
Pearl Button - these are a type of button
Jo King - 'joking'
Barry Cade - 'barricade'
Carrie Oakey -'karaoke'
Priti Manek - 'pretty manic'
Tim Burr - 'timber'
Daisy Picking - the kind of thing you may do on a summer's day in a field
Stan Still - 'stand still'
Terry Bull - 'terrible'
Paige Turner - 'page turner'
Anna Sasin - 'an assassin'
Doug Hole - 'dug hole'
Hazel Nutt - 'hazelnut'
Barb Dwyer - barbed wire'
Justin Case - 'just in case'
Rose Bush - a type of bush
Anna Prentice - 'an apprentice'
Annette Curtain - 'a net curtain'
Bill Board - 'billboard'
Albert Hall - the famous concert location in London
What is in a name? Your name has a meaning. For example, in 2008 the Top 4 male UK baby names were 'Jack' (which means man), 'Oliver' (meaning 'olive branch' originally), 'Thomas' (meaning 'twin' from the New Testament disciple in the Bible) and 'Harry' (the medieval form of 'Henry' meaning 'home ruler'). The 4 most popular girls names were 'Olivia' (meaning 'olive' and originally used by Shakespeare), 'Ruby' (meaning 'red' and a precious stone), 'Emily' (meaning 'rival' and used first in the 18th century in Britain) and 'Grace' (from the word 'gratia' meaning 'grace'). Of course, your name doesn't define you these days. But in Bible times, names were extremely important and always meant something.
In the Bible, we meet a guy called Abraham. He was actually re-named. His original name was Abram, which meant 'exalted father'. Another way of saying this may be 'Highly honoured father'. God actually made him a promise to make him the father of many nations and changed his name to Abraham, meaning 'father of a multitude' or 'father of a massive number of people'. Then if we look at the life of Jesus, the Bible has over 100 different names that Jesus is called because of who he is. For example, Jesus is:
Jehovah Rophe - "Our Lord who Heals" (Exodus 15:26)
Jehovah Tsidkenu - "The Lord our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6)
Jehovah Shalom - "The Lord our Peace" (Judges 6:24)
Jehovah Nissi - "The Lord our Banner" (Exodus 17:15)
Jehovah Shammah - "The Lord is Present" (Ezekiel 48:35)
Jehovah Sabaoth - "The Lord of Armies" (Isaiah 44:6)
Jehovah Jireh - "The Lord will Provide" (Genesis 22:14)
Jehovah Rohi - "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalms 23:1)
Jehovah Mekeddeshem - "The Lord Who Sanctifies" (Leviticus 20.7-8)
Why? Because Jesus wants to heal you - he wants to make things right between you and God so you can live a full life - he brings peace (nothing else like the UN will ever bring peace) - he wants to support you - he's there whenever his people need him - he's the head of the armies of heaven (Jesus is no wuss, the Bible pictures him breathing fire and with a sword coming out of his mouth) - he always provides for people who trust him - he guides people through all life's decisions and he makes things right with God.
Laws | Top of page
Anyone ever been in trouble with the law, with the police? I best quite a few of you have been. There have been times where I've done things wrong - whether at school or Uni, or in my life with the police. These were often times where I knew I'd done wrong. But have you ever thought there are some laws that are just plain stupid? The Law Society and UKTV did different studies looking at silly laws. Here are a a few of them...
A ban on firing a cannon close to a dwelling house (Met Police Act 1839); a ban on the use of any slide upon ice or snow (Town Police Clauses Act 1847); and the prohibition of driving cattle through the streets of London (Metropolitan Streets Act 1867); It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament; It could be regarded an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen's image upside-down; Eating mince pies on Christmas Day is banned; In the UK, a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants; The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen; It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing; It is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour.
So, any of you thinking of going to Parliament wearing your suit of armour had better think twice. Oh, and no eating mince pies on Christmas Day or else... So many of these laws are plain daft! But the thing is that in our lives, we are trapped by silly laws and things that hold us down. People tell us we should like certain kinds of music, wear certain clothes, look a certain way, have certain kinds of mates, be part of a certain gang, talk in a certain way... But the Bible tells us that God made you and thinks you are valuable. It even says that he paid a price for you when he died on the Cross 2000 years ago. Something is only worth what someone would pay for it. And Jesus paid for you with his life. Get that reality inside of you and you can be free to be who God made you to be - today!
Early Sex | Top of page
A report was done by The International Agency for Research on Cancer and published in the British Journal of Cancer. This report quoted on BBC news, studied 20,000 women and found that having sex at a young age can double the risk of getting cervical cancer. Any kind of cancer can be serious, but cervical cancer treatment can mean that you can't have children. So it's not something very serious you need to think about. The truth seems to be that if you have sex at an early age, if can seriously affect your life. Unfortunately, this also seems to be about poverty as the study found that women in poorer areas have sex 4 years earlier than those with more money. But the study also showed that many times, cervical cancer is related to a sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus (HPV) - the sexually transmitted infection linked with the vast majority of cervical cancers. The conclusion found that the disease has a longer period of time to develop the cancer.
Sometimes, people think that Christians are all about telling people what not to do, like some killjoys reading to spoil all your fun. But time after time, the Bible (God's handbook) lets us know that God knows best. Not only can having sex at a young age be dangerous, it can also drastically affect your whole life. God made humans and he made sex. In fact, there's a passionate book in the Bible called Song of Songs, which Jewish men didn't be able to read until they were 30! Truth is, you can go out, get drunk and have sex. But the consequences can be life-changing, and not in a way you'd want. The Bible is very clear - look after your body, treat it with respect and remember that the best and safest sex is when you're married and have a deep trust and love with your husband / wife. It's not about being old fashioned, it's about doing what is the best and safest. Trust.
Technology | Top of page
A recent survey showed some surprising habits to do with technology in the UK. According to a BBC report quoting a 2009 Ofcom Review, people are likely to put technology and techy purchases above many other areas of life. Technology and the latest gadgets are a very important part of people's life, more than ever before. In order to buy techy things, people said they would be happy to cut back and make savings in other areas of life. The report, surveying 862 people, claimed that many people put the internet and TV above most other things except food! Ofcom asked people what areas they would be cutting back on during a recession or hard times. Of those asked, 47% said they'd cut back on going out for dinner, 41% said DIY and 41% holidays. People said they'd also cut back on clothes, DVDs and magazines. This compared with 19% who said they would cut back on mobile phone spending, 16% who said TV subscriptions and 10% on broadband services.
The study also highlights a major rise in the use of social networking websites. Some 19m people in the UK, 50% of internet users, visit Facebook, spending an average of six hours a month on the site, it says. However, while the number of young adults and older adults using Facebook has increased in the last year, the amount of young people using Facebook has fallen from 55% to 50%. 26 million people use Twitter. There were a number of other facts:
- In May 2009, consumers spent an average of 25 minutes a day online at home - up from nine minutes in 2004
- Average household spending on internet services fell in real terms between 2007 and 2008
- Nearly a quarter of households, 23%, were watching catch-up TV online in 2008, compared with 17% in 2007
- This was driven by the BBC iPlayer, with 15% of internet users, 5.2 million, watching the service in 2008
- Overall take up of broadband across the UK reached 68% of households by the end of the first quarter of 2009, up from 58% on the previous year
- In May of this year there were more than 250,000 new mobile broadband connections, up from 139,000 new connections in May 2008.
So what does this mean? Well, God wants us to enjoy life and enjoy technology and the things we're into. In fact, God made us a certain way. He wired us all up to like different things, be into different music and have a whole host of interests. But God doesn't want these things to dominate our lives. In fact, Jesus said he came to give us an abundant life but only if we accept his love for us. We've probably all heard of the 10 Commandments. In it, God says don't put anything ahead of him. Are you? The flip side is that if we do put God first and not the stuff, he'll give us the best life we thought possible - better than anything you can think or imagine. It may be tough, it will have a challenge. But let's not put the 'created' above the 'Creator'.
Oral Cancer | Top of page
There are so many stories in the news that show that when we abuse our bodies, our health is affected and possibly even our life too.. There is a phrase that goes around saying 'live fast, die young'. The question is - why would you want to die young? Many of the best things that have happened in my life have happened as I've got older. I believe that things will get even better in life! People who want to live fast and die young, say this because they have a limited world and life view. Many of the things you do now will not last and you will move on from them. Remember when you were a kid and you liked something you now hate and can't believe you liked?! So to really enjoy life, you have to live it to the full, for a long time. None of us know how long we've got to live. By doing truly stupid things, you will end your life early and not enjoy life to the full.
According to a recent report by Cancer Research UK, alcohol is one of the main causes of a massive increase in oral cancer. Oral cancer is cancer in and around the mouth. These won't necessarily show themselves until you're a little bit older. But by being wise and not binge drinking, you can live longer, be healthier and be happier.
Here are the facts:
- Alcohol is largely to blame for an "alarming" rise in the rate of oral cancers among men and women in their forties, say experts.
- Numbers of cancers of the lip, mouth, tongue and throat in this age group have risen by 26% in the past decade.
- Alcohol consumption has doubled since the 1950s and is the most likely culprit alongside smoking, says Cancer Research UK.
- Each year in the UK around 1,800 people die from the disease.
- There are 5,000 newly diagnosed cases per year.
- Other risk factors that may be involved include a diet low in fruit and vegetables, and the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which also causes cervical cancer.
- However, smoking is the main risk factor. A spokesperson said, "Tobacco is, by far, the main risk factor for oral cancer, so it's important that we keep encouraging people to give up and think about new ways to stop people taking it up in the first place."
Drinking gives you a buzz, but in the morning the sensation will be gone. It may seem cool, but if you end up like a mate of mine who was pumped with medical drugs aged 21 to slow his heart down after he took too much speed and ecstasy, it won't seem so cool. It may seem like fun to have sex but when some sends 'sexting' texts about you to others, or puts pictures up on Facebook it won't be so much fun. Something that may not last long, will potentially be painful and not that great - may lead to other much more serious consequences like sexually transmitted infections or a baby to look after... no-one's out to kill your fun, but you need to think more about what you do. One of the things God tells us is that our bodies are like a holy place. And a holy place is somewhere worth looking after. Life is so much bigger than what you're doing now. Don't live short and miss out.
Self-help | Top of page
Have you ever heard of those executives and business people who like to say positive things to themselves? Have you seen movies (like in Evan Almighty) where Evan is looking into a mirror and repeating things back to himself like "I am successful" - "I am feeling great" - "I am on top" and things like that. Or maybe you know of people involved in some eastern religions who have what they call 'mantras' - phrases of words that they believe help them. Bridget Jones uses this kind of technique in the movies. Many experts actually prescribe this to people as a remedy, since first suggested by Samuel Smiles 150 years ago. Sometimes we laugh at these kinds of people and these kinds of things. But do they help?
A recent study reported on BBC News website showed that these self-help words can actually have the opposite effect on many people - especially those who need it the most! "Canadian researchers found those with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves. They said phrases such as "I am a lovable person" only helped people with high self-esteem. A UK psychologist said people based their feelings about themselves on real evidence from their lives." In the study, people were asked to say things like "I am a lovable person" and other overly positive statements. "In the low self-esteem group, those who repeated the mantra felt worse afterwards compared with others who did not. However people with high self-esteem felt better after repeating the positive self-statement - but only slightly."
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be positive, say positive things and think positively. But it does mean that simply saying words has no impact on you feeling better, unless you're already someone who is very positive and highly motivated. But there is another way...
This is what the Bible says, "Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us." (The Message version). The Bible shows us through the Bible that speaking the Word of God out loud has great power. A guy called Elijah spoke and the rain stopped for 7 years. A word from Jesus and the blind were healed, the lame walked, the deaf would hear. It is incredible what these words out of our mouth can do. What is the difference between saying what is in the Bible and self-help sayings? It's very simple. When we just say something, it has no power as the source of the words is human. But when we believe and speak the Bible, we are speaking the Word of God. The source is the power of an almighty God. So all we do is plug in to the power that comes from God. It is this power that makes things happen. You see, the Bible is a higher reality than the reality of the world around us. So today why not say with your mouth and say that you believe in God and ask Jesus to break into your life and change you. He will.
Exercise | Top of page
What do you do when you get home? Do you work-out, play sport and keep active? Or do you crash out and watch TV, surf the net, go on Facebook or similar? Did you know that the average age life expectancy of your age group is lower than that of your youth leaders? Some people will live less time, often because they don't exercise.
A big survey by the American Medical Association between 2000-2006 showed that as young people get older, they do less and less exercise. They found that 90 percent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, but fewer than 3 percent of 15-year-olds do more than 2 hours exercise a day. How much exercise do you do? Did you know that the more you do exercise, the more energy you have, the more healthy you are, the more happy you are!
God really cares for his creation, you and me. When he made man and woman, he looked at them and said, 'they are amazing, they are perfect, what a masterpiece. They are the pinnacle, the top, the best thing I've made.' In another part of the Bible, God says that your body is like a palace, like a temple. He says that you are made in his image and God is perfect. That's why he looked down on his creation and said, 'that is good, in fact it's perfect.'
(1 Corinthians 6.19-20, The Message) "Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works."
So think about what you eat. And remember that if you eat well, exercise more, treat your body well - you'll spend less time in hospital, have more energy and enjoy life more :)
Plastic Surgery | Top of page
Plastic surgery is on the rise in the USA. It does happen in places like the UK and Europe, but nothing like compared to the USA. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 333,000 people 18 years and younger had plastic surgery in 2005, up from about 306,000 in 2000. Unfortunately in March 2008, a very popular 18 year-old died in the States after going for plastic surgery.
In China, girls as young as 13 are also having plastic surgery. Generally girls requested double eyelids, breast enlargements and liposuction. But for young girls, plastic surgery is not a good idea. Many experts say that because they are under 18 they are still growing and their body isn't formed properly - so plastic surgery is not advisable.
An expert on youth problems from China said that beauty is not just apparent in a person's appearance, but that confidence and accomplishments are what make them truly attractive. For many people, having plastic surgery comes from low self-esteem, but plastic surgery will never correct that. Feeling great about yourself can never comes from clothes, music, how you look, plastic surgery or anything else.
God has loads to say on self-esteem and the value of young people. He tells us first that we can have the best life, an amazing life now - if we follow him. Some people think following Jesus means being weird and losing your personality. But that's so wrong, such messed up thinking.. Jesus says this (John 10.10, Message) - "A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy (his name is Satan, the evil one). I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life (now) than they ever dreamed of." So many things mess with our head, take away what God wants to give us. All the stuff you think makes you happy will only make you more unhappy. So many stars go home and cry, or try to take their own lives because their life doesn't really have any meaning. You were put here to live, to love and make a difference. God wants you to have that life. If you feel low about yourself, know this: Jesus died for you. You may pay £1000 for something you want. But Jesus gave his life.. just... for... you.
Being Liked | Top of page
We all know that people around us who are popular do well socially - having lots of mates. You know that from school or college. If you've watched any teen movies or high school movie, you'll know that there are always popular students. Some people are liked, others aren't always so popular. I wonder how you see yourself around others at school? Are you popular, or are you the kind of person who keeps themselves to themselves. They say that there are 2 types of people. One type likes to have lots of friends but isn't so close to them. The other type of person has fewer, but more meaningful friends.
A study found that teenagers who feel good about themselves and are comfortable with their peers can also be socially successful without being popular in the traditional sense. The study basically says if you feel good around yourself and others, you can do well - no matter how well 'liked' people think you are! Researchers at the University of Virginia studied 164 students from many different backgrounds. The teens were interviewed at age 13 and then again at 14. They found that thinking you are liked is as important as actually being liked!
There was this one guy who was hated. I mean, he was hated. He worked for the inland revenue and took people's money. Only thing being that he was playing dirty and nicking stuff from them on the side. He robbed them for more money than they owed but he got away with it because he was protected. But he was lonely, confused and was desperate to make friends. One day he found someone who accepted him and believed in him. This person came round for food, chilled out with some mates, made friends with the tax man and changed his life. He gave back everyone's money he'd nicked and even paid them back more. The tax man went on to help make a difference, change people's lives and see amazing things happen. His name was Matthew. The man who changed his life was Jesus. He changed Matthew and no matter what you or anyone else thinks of you, Jesus loves you and can open up your life too.
Depression | Top of page
A survey in the US in 2006 of youths aged 12 to 17 revealed that 48.3 percent of adolescents had what they called 'major depressive episodes.' They said that this limited their ability to function in at least one of four major areas of their everyday lives (home life, school/work, family relationships, and social life). On average, they were unable to carry out normal activities on an average of 58.4 days in the past year. About 2.1 million teens aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the year. For almost half of the teens, depression drastically reduced their abilities to deal with aspects of their daily lives. Overall, 8.5 percent of adolescents (1 in 12) experienced a major depressive episode. There were striking differences by gender, with 12.7 percent of females and 4.6 percent of males reporting the conditions.
Wow. So around half of US teenagers had really bad feelings of depression. Many young people in Britain also find themselves feeling depressed, for so many reasons. Sometimes, we don't even know why we're feeling depressed! Other times, we feel depressed one minute and OK the next. Some of this may be to do with hormones and growing up, but other times it's much deeper. So many people fight with issues they shouldn't have to deal with: rejection, fear, lack of warmth, no-one to really love them, sometimes poverty so that there's nothing to eat or drink, family break up, people hurting them, abuse, bullying, being told you're not good enough, being ignored, feeling worthless..
There is a story in the Bible of a bloke called Peter. He'd been part of a gang, but the leader of the gang had been grassed up by one of the members and the authorities had arrested him, they wanted to kill him. Peter had wanted to get rowdy with the authorities but the gang leader stopped him. Then, even worse, Peter had denied he even knew the gang leader and said he wasn't part of the gang. He was a coward and felt gutted, depressed, full of tears and sad like there was no way back. But later, something amazing happened. Peter saw the gang leader and was so happy the leader was alive. The leader, Jesus, let the matter drop but made sure Peter knew that they were still tight and close. Peter was lifted from a place of total depression and went on to be one of the main men in the whole outfit who called themselves the disciples. Jesus can lift you out of whatever depression or pit you're in and set you right.
Coffee and Energy Drinks | Top of page
Did you know that some people don't drink coffee, because it contains caffeine, which stimulates the brain. They think that it's wrong. But most of us like coffee, or energy drinks that contain loads of caffeine in! One of the big energy drinks that everyone knows is Red Bull. This has a caffeine content of 9.64 milligrams per ounce. To give you a comparison, coca cola has 2.88 milligrams per ounce, instant coffee has 7.13 milligrams per ounce and a grande cappuccino at Starbucks has 9.38 milligrams per ounce. Tea is at 5.88 mg/oz.
The National Coffee Association in America reported that teens and young adults are one of the fastest-growing groups in drinking coffee. In 2001, only 24 percent of people 18 to 24 years old drank coffee. In 2007, it was 37 percent.
Coffee businesses such as Starbucks also report an increase in younger customers frequenting their stores, with 13 percent of their total visitors younger than 18. The young customers often buy drinks such as the frozen milkshake-like "Frappuccino".
Super-caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull have increased in popularity in the past decade. About a third of 12 to 24 year-olds say they regularly drink energy drinks, which account for more than $3 billion in annual sales in the United States. The trend has been the source of growing concern among health researchers and school officials. The drinks have been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and emergency room visits. Plus lots more risk taking.
Lots of us go out and have a coffee, or a hot chocolate or even a cup of tea! Many of us drink energy drinks too. Of course, there's nothing wrong with doing this and no-one is trying to scare anyone - it'll only make you drink them more, right?! But God cares about you, cares about what you put in your body. Just think: you may pay £1-£4 for a drink that someone creates, but God made you so amazingly perfect (you may not feel it), that he paid the price of giving his life for you. And just remember, your £1 on a drink could help someone in need somewhere else in the world.
Growing up too fast | Top of page
Do you reckon kids these days are growing up too fast? Do children you know wear more make-up, play less, want more stuff at an earlier age - than you did? Do you see this, or see it when you watch Eastenders or other soaps? Many people say that kids are growing up too fast and this is affecting their whole life. As you become a teen, the gap with adults is getting less as teens copy adults (this is called "teen-adults"), meanwhile us adults continue to try to make ourselves look younger!
Child health experts reckon children today are growing up too fast and acting like adults at a very early age, putting pressure on children to grow up early in a consumer society that keeps telling them and us that we need stuff or we won't be happy or accepted. "In the process, children are being robbed of their childhoods and innocence," said an expert, Dr Powell.
A British study of primary education last year said that 3.5 million children in the United Kingdom were affected by a worrying "loss of childhood". Adolescence is also naturally occurring much earlier, it said. Factors often blamed for the rise of "teen-adults" included television, the internet, absentee and lenient parents, ugly divorces, terminal illnesses, sexual and social abuse and peer pressure. "It is a world-wide trend and parents are often only taking minimal responsibility for proper care of their children," Dr Powell said. "They easily blame it all on work, financial commitments and contemporary lifestyles."
So, do you think you're growing up too fast? Does it matter? Do you even care? Does God care about you? Well, we know that Jesus is passionate about children and wants the very best for them. He hates to see orphans, starving kids and any kind of abuse. He's put it in the hearts of many Christians to take care of the vulnerable. We know that children felt comfortable around Jesus and that the Bible says he defends them. Know that God is looking out for you today, no matter how old you are and no matter where you're at. He'll help you grow and enjoy life if you ask him into your life.
Internet | Top of page
How often do you use the internet, if you have it? A recent survey of parents said they thought their children were online for 2 hours a week. When they asked the young people, they found it was actually 20 hours a week! Gen Digital did a survey of young people's internet habits..
- 35% say they “make friends” online. (That percentage increases the older they get.)
- 76% visit social-networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo).
- 35% of students claimed to be shopping while connected.
- 42% of them admitted receiving an online request for personal information.
- More research just came out of GenDigital’s recent study of teens’ online lives.
- A whopping 93% of teens use the Internet.
- 55% of that group has a profile on Facebook and/or MySpace.
- AddictingGames.com is quickly becoming the leading “casual gaming site” for all youth.
- Only 16% of teens use email, compared to the prolific use of it by adults. Instead, young people prefer texting.
Internet use is great. Obviously we know there are loads of good sites and loads of negative stuff out there, and some messed up people. But we want to look at addiction. Too much of something is bad, but when we spend ages doing something, it's called an addiction - something we 'need'. If you couldn't use the internet for a day, or a week, or a month (!!) do you think could you survive?! If not, then it may be because the internet is playing too big a part in your life! It can also make us selfish and narrow our life so we don't do different things - staying locked away in a room and not getting to know real people in real life situations.
God said that he came to give us an amazing life. It may be fun kicking back playing internet games, or messaging other people on facebook, bebo, myspace or IMVU.. But why not do something new today? Why not try something you've never done? The more you do, the more interesting people will find you, the more friends you can make, the more enjoyable life will become. If you want to live the amazing life God has for you, ask him today to show you he's real and show you the amazing life he has for you.
Eating Disorders | Top of page
A study found that younger children are increasingly being diagnosed with eating disorders like anorexia. Anorexia is defined by medterms.com as "An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting."
Dr Sloane Madden, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital, Australia, studied children under 13 years old with eating disorders. She found children as young as eight to eleven years old were being diagnosed with anorexia, with many ending up in hospital. She said, "At least 50 per cent of the children had severe complications from their starvation. They were unable to maintain a normal heart rate or blood pressure or temperature, to the point that these children were at risk of dying from the complication of their eating disorder."
At least 1 out of every 10 women will have experienced an eating disorder (like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating) at some time in their lives. Around 10% of those with an eating disorder are men. If you think you have a problem and that this carries on regularly for over 3 months, then you need to tell someone. No-one will judge you or diss you, but will speak to you and help you find out why this is happening - and help to find an answer.
The truth is that the Bible doesn't exactly speak about anorexia or bulimia. Mind you, it doesn't talk about lots of things. But what it does do is gives you loads of practical advice about life and love, and give you direction in every area of life. So what does God think of eating disorders? Well, we know that God loves you and me. Christians believe God created humans and made them in his image, made us to be like him in many ways. So we know that God's best is that we look after our bodies and know how valuable we are.
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (Romans 12.1-2, The Message)
Self-harm | Top of page
According to a study in the US, nearly half a million people were treated in emergency rooms for self-inflicted wounds in 2005. More of them were teenagers than any other age group. It's a way of asking for help without actually doing something too harmful. Self-injury is the act of deliberately destroying body tissue – at times to change a way of feeling. It can include: carving, scratching, branding, burning, cutting, excess tattooing
Reasons for self-harm can include: loss of a loved one, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, bullying, neglect from one or both parents, physical illness or disability, relationship problems.
If someone you know is self-harming, it is important to talk to then about respecting and valuing their body. If you are self-harming these are also the kinds of things you need to know from some expert advice: find a way to accept reality of your life and find ways to help make what is happening in life easier; identify your feelings and talk them out rather than acting on them in a bad way; distract yourself from feelings of self-harm (counting to 10, waiting 15 minutes, saying “NO!” or “STOP!,” practicing breathing exercises, journaling, drawing, thinking about positive images, using ice and rubber bands, etc.). Stop, think and evaluate the good and bad side of self-injury; soothe or re-assure yourself in a positive, non-injuring way; think about ways of managing your stress and help develop better social skills. It can take time and lots of talking too. So don't be afraid to open up, please.
That is what the experts tell us. And they're right. But sometimes we wonder why we do things, wonder why we feel certain things. What is going on deep down? What is on the inside of us making us feel these ways? Well, we know that often there is a medical problem, or a chemical imbalance in the body. This can be sorted out and usually isn't anyone's fault. But deeper than that, there is a truth that Christians believe. Christians believe that there is an enemy, intent on destroying us and this world. His name is Satan and he is an evil destroyer of lives. He wants to rob, kill, destroy, break you because you are made in the image of God. But Christians believe that Jesus came to the world, died and rose again and that he broke the power of Satan. Instead, Jesus came to give us life now and an everlasting life in the future. That is why Christians are passionate about Jesus, about telling you about him, and believe he is the way, the solution to all your problems in life.
Illegal Downloads | Top of page
According to a massive survey of young people and the music they own, teenagers and students have an average of more than 800 illegally copied songs each on their digital music players! Half of 14 to 24-year-olds were happy to share all the music on their hard drive, enabling others to copy hundreds, or thousands, of songs at any one time.
Although to the University of Hertfordshire survey, illegal copying has become widespread and has surprised the music surprised. On average, every digital music player contained 842 illegally copied songs. Fergal Sharkey, former lead singer of the Undertones and now chief executive of British Music Rights, said: “I was one of those people who went around the back of the bike shed with songs I had taped off the radio the night before. But this totally dwarfs that, and anything we expected.”
The average digital music player carries 1,770 songs, meaning that 48 per cent of the collection is copied illegally. The proportion of illegally downloaded tracks rises to 61 per cent among 14 to 17-year-olds. 14 per cent of CDs (one in seven) in a young person's collection are copied. Illegal copying in some form is undertaken by 96 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed, falling to 89 per cent of those aged 14-17. Nearly two thirds copy CDs from friends, and similar amounts of teenagers share songs by bluetooth, e-mail and copy all the music held on another person's hard drive, acquiring up to 10,000 songs in one go.
If I robbed you on the street and took your mp3 player, you would call me a mugger. If I walked out of HMV with a bag full of CDs, you'd call me a thief. If I stopped your car at a red light, dragged you out and drove off with it, you'd call me a carjacker. If I hacked your wireless internet, you'd accuse me of piggybacking and stealing. But so many think it's OK to steal mp3s, send songs by bluetooth to each other's phones and rip CDs for each other. It's still stealing. You know what it means? It means some of your favourite artists go out of business, it means your mp3 player costs more, it means insurance and other prices go up and you have less cash, it means people don't trust each other, it means more security and ultimately less freedom. So today, do yourself a favour and do what the Bible says and don't steal.
Friends | Top of page
There’s some research that says one of the best indicators of how well adjusted kids become as adults is not based on IQ or grades in school, but good friendships. Often, our biggest worry is having friends. This carries on through life too, we all worry about having friends! It’s not popularity, but learning to make friends that counts. By school age, a child needs at least one close friend, experts say.
“I think that most people in this school want to have friends but they don’t know how to do it right,” says 11-year-old Johnathon. “If a child doesn’t have one close friend, it’s important for parents to try to set up situations for them to meet other children who might have similar interests to try to develop those relationships,” advises an expert. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says when teens begin to feel isolated and stressed out, it can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness and drug or alcohol abuse.
Kids without friends are at risk for lots of problems ranging from poor grades to depression, bullying, and drug abuse.
Experts say don’t underestimate the harm of isolation. Fourteen-year-old Erica can tell you why: “Sometimes when you feel isolated and you feel like you should just be off this world. Just die.”
To help remain healthy: think about yourself (or your friend) and whether stress is affecting their health, behavior, thoughts or feelings. Listen and look out for your friends (or ask someone to look out for you) and watch for “overloading.” Learn and model stress-management skills. Support involvement in sports and positive social activities.
In the Bible (John 15.15), Jesus says, "I have called you friends.." Even if you feel that you've messed up, Jesus calls himself your friend and wants to be even more friendly with you. He hung out with all kinds of people, believed in them and let them know they were loved and could turn their lives around with his help. He says the same to you today.
Binge Drinking | Top of page
Robert Margolis, a clinical psychologist said, “There’s this idea that drinking, getting drunk, being a part of a group … is somehow a part of our growing up, and everybody’s going to do it.” Binge drinking is increasingly common among adults and teenagers. “I drank a liter of tequila in an hour, and I went to this pizza place, and I passed out in the parking lot. I woke up the next morning,” said a 22-year-old college student. This kind of experience is common as we know!
Reasons for binge drinking include: to get drunk, drinking being seen as cool, the culture of drinking in schools, peer pressure and stress. Binge drinkers are 21 times more likely to miss class, fall behind in schoolwork, damage property, injure themselves, engage in unplanned and/or unprotected sex and get in trouble with the police. Young people who binge drink risk serious damage to their brains now and increasing memory loss later in adulthood.
Here are some US stats.. The average girl takes her first sip of alcohol at age 13. The average boy takes his first sip of alcohol at age 11. Underage drinking causes over $53 billion in criminal, social and health problems. 77% of young drinkers get their drink at home, with or without permission. 1,400 students will die of alcohol-related causes this year. An additional 500,000 will suffer injuries.
In the UK (according to the NHS), in 2006, 21 per cent of pupils in England aged 11-15 reported drinking alcohol in the week. Since 2001, the proportion of pupils who have never drunk alcohol has risen; in 2006, 46 per cent of pupils said they had never had a proper alcoholic drink, compared to 39 per cent in 2001. The study found pupils who had drunk alcohol in the week saw the average weekly consumption almost doubled from 5.3 units in 1990 to 10.4 units in 2000. Consumption among children aged 11-13 has continued to increase, from 5.6 units in 2001 to 10.1 units in 2006. The proportion of pupils in this age group who reported having a drink in the last seven days decreased in the same time period from 14 per cent in 2001 to 9 per cent in 2006.
Alcohol is our biggest drug problem - as it is a drug. If it came out today, it probably wouldn't be legalised.But even if you believe God created the world, didn't he create everything including alcohol and drugs? Well, God created the world but in the same way that pollution affects our world, the stuff that we do wrong affects each other. In the same way, not everything we see, think, do or drink is totally good. Every day, we have a choice: to do right or to do wrong. Many of us choose to do wrong stuff and we pay the price. The Bible calls it sin. It's a word that has 'I' at the centre of it - meaning selfish. We hear lots about being carbon neutral and protecting the environment. But only Jesus has the answer to the wrong stuff we do. Only he can take it away and make all things new.
Texting | Top of page
How often do you text? Adults prefer to email, but young people prefer to text. We text, picture message, shoot video, take photos, bluetooth songs, play games and more. My phone has a contract of 400 minutes and 500 texts every month - so even us adults text a lot! Increasingly, because the thumb is used so much in texting, young people are using their thumb to do things that adults use their other fingers for! The Mobile Data Association found that Britons send 1.4 billion text messages a week, amounting to 212 million a day!!
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy said the repetitive action of pressing small keys to write texts can lead to pain and swelling of the tendons in the thumb and wrist. They say that as many as one in six 16 to 24-year-olds have suffered "discomfort" in their hands when they text, while a small number have felt pain in their wrists, arms, neck and even their shoulders! The survey of 177 young people found that 1 in 3 send 20 or more text messages every day.
It is urging teenagers to follow its advice on how to avoid suffering text message injuries as exam results season approaches, when hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren will text their grades to each other. An expert said, "texting is a great way to communicate - especially to pass on news about exam results. Too much texting can result in pain and swelling of the tendons at the base of the thumb and wrist." The expert advises is to "keep messages short and use abbreviations and the predictive text function on your phone. Try to restrict text sessions to 5-10 minutes and avoid holding the phone if you are not using it or are waiting for a response as this will help prevent muscle fatigue from continuous grasping."
Communicating is so important to keep up a relationship with friends, family and a boyfriend, girlfriend. If we didn't talk to each other, we wouldn't have great relationships. Imagine if you never spoke to your best friend.. your friendship wouldn't last very long would it! We talk to those who we care about. God wants to communicate with you. The Bible says that when we look at the world around us, we know that God is real. He also sent a love letter to you when he gave us the world's most popular book, The Bible. This book is packed full of love, friendship, violence, murder, romance, farming, business - basically life! Then he sent his Son, Jesus to die for you.. For you! We can talk to God each day (it's called prayer) and it's full of power, full of amazing answers and shows how much God loves you. Try supernatural texting today, it's called prayer - and start talking to God and wait to hear back from him!