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April 12, 2016, 9:19 AM

Suicide Epidemic Among Teens

by Mark Gregston

For a teenager to be so unbearably unhappy that he would choose to kill himself is something that is almost too painful for a parent to think about. But with the increasing prevalence of teen suicide, no parent can afford to ignore the possibility. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for high school students.

Kids look at this world as being more and more hopeless.  And many are choosing suicide as their solution. When I was in high school — a school with 3,000 students — I never knew of any of my peers committing suicide. And even working in Young Life after college, suicide among teens was a very unusual event that we rarely heard of.

Fact is, before the 1960’s, suicide by adolescents happened only rarely; but today, nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. While suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled.

Between the sexes, teen boys are more than four times as likely to commit suicide as girls. But girls are known to think about and attempt suicide about twice as often as boys. The difference is the method; girls attempt suicide by overdosing on drugs or cutting themselves, and thankfully most are found in time and rescued. Boys tend to use more lethal methods, such as firearms, hanging, or jumping from heights.

The Warning Signs

Teen suicide is a teen’s last attempt to ease the pain, to make a statement, or it is just a wrong decision giving a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Teens don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.”  They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment and tend to only think about a week ahead — that’s all.  And when you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day. Other kids who contemplate suicide are filled with rage over teasing by their peers or the way they feel they’ve been mistreated by family. They choose suicide as a tragic form of payback.

That reminds me of Kerri. She was the “perfect kid.” She loved church, was involved in mission projects, was adored by her brothers, and stayed away from sex, drugs, and alcohol. Her parents allowed their stunning daughter to date at age 16. But on her first date, the guy tried to go too far, and Kerri was shocked and stunned by the encounter. Her parents asked about the date, and she shared what had happened. Kerri’s father, in the heat of the moment, blamed Kerri. His words verbally crucified his daughter. When Kerri stated that what this boy did made her want to commit suicide, her dad said she didn’t have the guts to do it. Feeling devalued and misunderstood, Kerri decided to show her dad how gutsy she really was. She got into her parents’ medicine cabinet and took 30 sleeping pills. Kerri’s parents had no idea what the fight had done to their daughter until dad came upstairs to apologize, found Kerri asleep, and couldn’t wake her. She awoke a few hours later after being rushed to the emergency room and having her stomach pumped. She wasn’t rebellious; she was just sending her dad a message. If she showed her dad that he was wrong about her being too afraid to kill herself, she could prove he was also wrong about the way she handled her date.

Like Kerri, most teens contemplating suicide give some type of warning to friends or loved ones ahead of time. It can be subtle and or it can be blurted out in a rage.  Either way, it’s important for parents to watch for those threats or warning signs and take them seriously, so their teen can get the help they need.

Parents should be aware of these other warning signs that their teenager may be having suicidal thoughts:

They may begin to isolate themselves, pulling away from friends or family

They may no longer participate in what was their favorite things or activities

They may have recently developed trouble thinking clearly

They may have changes in their personality (darker, more anxious, or non-caring)

They may be experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits

They may talk about suicide or death in general

They may express feelings of hopelessness or guilt

They may exhibit self-destructive behavior (substance abuse, dangerous driving, recklessness, excessive risk taking)

They may have changes in their personal hygiene and appearance

They may complain about anxiety-related physical problems (stomachaches, headaches, hives, fatigue, blurred vision)

They may have difficulty accepting praise or rewards.

If you see any of these signs in your teen, talk to them about your concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. With the support of family and appropriate treatment, teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to more healthy thinking.

If you ever hear your teen say, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” always take such statements seriously and immediately seek assistance from a qualified mental health professional. Don’t walk away. Don’t wait.  Get them to a hospital immediately, even if they don’t want to go or say they were just fooling with you.

Hospitalization is needed whenever a teen is a danger to himself.  Extreme cutting, bizarre behavior, extreme depression, suicidal thoughts, or excessive drug or alcohol use coupled with emotional issues are just a few of the symptoms that might warrant hospitalization. A parent shouldn’t hesitate to hospitalize their child if they fear for their life. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s also important to be proactive in regard to making sure that the main tools of committing suicide are not readily available to a suicidal teen.  For boys, lock up guns in the house so they are not accessible.  For girls, monitor razor blades and make sure drugs like sleeping pills and pain killers are not accessible in your house. You may need to regularly go through her dresser, purse, backpack and closet to make sure she isn’t storing any herself that she’s bought or gotten from friends. And when a suicidal girl is taking a bath, knock on the door periodically to get a response.

Be Sure to Talk About It

If you see mild warning signs, asking your teen if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide can be helpful. Such questions filled with love and concern will provide assurance that you care and will give them the chance to talk about their problems. Get them to commit to you that if they ever do have those thoughts, they’ll let you or someone else know.  If your teen doesn’t feel comfortable talking with you, suggest a more neutral person, such as another relative, a counselor, a pastor, a coach, or your child’s doctor.

It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you their loss of hope or control of their life, show that you take those concerns seriously. It’s important not to minimize, mock or discount what your teen is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.

Depression Can Lead to Suicide

Each year, thousands of at-risk teens are diagnosed with clinical depression. Most of the signs of depression are the same as suicide warning signs, so depression needs your attention.  If left untreated or ignored, it can be a devastating illness for the teen and their family and it can lead to suicide.

There are different treatments for depression, but keep in mind that teen depression is often not treated the same as depression in adults. There are medications available to help teens with depression, but typically they are needed only temporarily. Treatment of teen depression must involve regular counseling and close supervision, since some medical treatments can make the depression more severe before they take full effect and begin helping. The good news is that most teens grow out of depression in a few years.

A depressed teen may have been having relational problems at home or is being picked on or bullied at school. But usually severe depression comes from another problem in their life such as an eating disorder, drug addiction, physical abuse, loss, or medical condition. Some teens just need to eat a better diet and get more sleep at night, but depression and suicidal thoughts are not something I’d recommend anyone treat with home remedies. A depressed teen generally doesn’t have the ability or strength to solve their own depression.  Attempting to help “shake them out of it” can cause the depression and despair to deepen, since it only serves to point out their own failure to improve their life.

What’s A Parent To Do?

If you are the parent of a depressed or suicidal teen, it’s important that you try to understand them, listen to them and try not to be accusing. Respect your teen’s opinions and problems and avoid blaming them or yourself for their feelings. Being a teenager is hard today and your child is justified in their feelings, even if you may not agree or understand. When you realize this, you can help your child.

Remain in contact; even if you no longer have any control over your child’s life.  It can make all the difference.  Do what you can to bring family members and the friends they’ve abandoned back into their life. Get out family pictures and videos to show them better times.

No matter what mischief your child is doing in their life, hope is needed more than judgment at this time.  So encourage them by getting them out to experience good things that can add abundance to their life.  Sometimes it helps to ask a positive-thinking relative to take them into their home for a time to give the teen a change of scenery.  Get them on a good diet.  Get them outdoors to soak in some vitamin D.  Regular exercise really helps.  And find a loving pet that they can take care of.  Having the responsibility for a pet can sometimes cause a teen to think twice before taking themselves out of the picture.  It also gives them a “pal” to talk to who is totally loyal and non-condemning.  Finally, plan fun events several months in the future that they can look forward to, and keep reminding them of that date.  For teenagers, the point is to create a bridge to help them get past this period of hopelessness and into a better mindset.

Please don’t be slow in getting professional help.  I’ve seen many hundreds of teenagers who have become different people from medication designed to correct a deficiency in their developing brain.  Others are helped by regular counseling to deal with their inner issues, or with treatment for their drug habit or other addictions in their life.  Get the help your teen needs, before they become a statistic.


Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director ofHeartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

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February 9, 2016, 12:00 AM

Using God's Name In Vain Part 1


Names are important! And God's Name is so important to Him that it makes the "Top Ten" of the commandments that He wants His family to live by.  Remember that the Ten Commandments are God's rules for His family. The Ten Commandments were not given to establish a relationship with God, because the children of Israel already had a relationship with God. The Ten Commandments were not given to establish a relationship with God; they were given to express a relationship with God.  The third commandment is – “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” Exodus 20:7.

Over the years, unfortunately this commandment has been dumbed down. The application of this commandment was always along the lines of not using God's name in anger or using God's name as a curse word and that is a part of this commandment, but there is far more to the commandment than this.  There is one thing we know and that is – God is deadly serious about His name. Here are the top ten commandments, God's top ten, the ten most important things that God wanted to communicate to His children and His family and number three is - "Don't misuse My name." 

We are not talking about some minor issue here. In Leviticus 24, there is the story of a man that was caught taking God's name in vain and when they took the matter before Moses to find out how they should punish him, Moses was instructed by the Lord to give him the death penalty. Misusing God's name was a capital offense.

When you think about it there is a big difference between God's name and our name.  Human beings do not name themselves.  Every one of us was given a name by our parents before we even knew what our name was, but one of the remarkable things about God is that no one ever named Him. We don't tell God who He is - He tells us. God has His own naming rights.  In fact, His name comes before all other names and His name is above all other names and He takes His name deadly seriously. In the Bible a name is more than just a label, it represents the character of a person. 

I don't know about you, but I take my name very seriously.  I am concerned about the reputation that my name carries and that is why we have laws against people who slander, who would call our good name into question, because when they slander your name they slander your person. Jesus Christ had something very important to say about God's name.

If Jesus Christ were to walk onto this platform right now, get behind the pulpit and say to us, "I want to share my most important prayer concerns with you,"  every one of us would grab a piece of paper and we would write down what he told us should be on our prayer list. We don't have to wonder what they are, because when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them His greatest prayer concerns. Guess what He began with?

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” Matthew 6:9.  Jesus Christ said His number one concern is that the name of God be made holy He wanted God's name to be handled with reverence. How do we make sure that we don't misuse God's name?

Be Careful In How You Treat God's Name

Without question we don't really take God's name seriously in the 21st century—at least not as seriously as it was taken thousands of years ago.  When the Jewish scribes were copying the scriptures and they were transcribing God's word from scroll to scroll, when they would come to the name of God (specifically the name of "Yahweh") which we read as "Lord" in our Bible they would put down their pens. They would go and bath themselves. Then they would clothe themselves with brand new clean garments, take a brand new pen, write down that name and then take both the pen and their clothes and burn them. They would then continue to write, but once they came to the name of God, they would go through that same ritual all over again.

My how things have changed! It is obvious that one of the ways that God's name is taken in vain or misused is through profanity.  The word "profane" comes from two Latin words "pro" meaning "out of" and the word "fanum" which means "temple." So, it literally means "to take out of the temple."  In other words, profanity is when you take the name of God out of His holy temple and drag it through the muck and the mire of the world's filthy language.

I remember one time seeing a bumper sticker which said it pretty well.  It read like this: "Damn is not God's last name."  Do you ever wonder why people put the words "God" and "damn" together?  Why don't people say something like, "Buddha damn!"  I believe I know why, because the devil purposely puts it in a man's heart to denigrate the holy name of God, because he hates God so much.

Satan couldn't care less if a false god's name is misused as long as the true God's name is misused. We have a responsibility to remind others to watch what they do when they use God's name in vain. 

There are some ways you can do this that don't have to be necessarily offensive. I realize the vast majority of you reading this never, ever use God's name in that way. Yet, how many of us use God's name as an exclamation point like: "Good God!" or "Oh my Lord!" or "I swear to God!" or "Sweet Jesus!" or even "Jesus Christ!"  I submit to you that every one of those is a flippant misuse of God's name. We misuse God's name when we sign His name to things He would never sign His own name to. 

For example, someone says, "God told me to divorce my husband or divorce my wife and leave my spouse for another person", or "Even though I am a Christian, God has told me it is all right if I marry a non-Christian."  Do you know what forgery is?  Forgery is when you use somebody else's name to get what you want. 

There are a lot of spiritual forgers in the world that misuse God's name by saying, "God told me..." and then they will add something that a clear understanding of the Bible would say is wrong, but they say it that way to justify what they are doing and they misuse God's name.  God says that He will not hold the person guiltless that breaks this commandment. I don't know what all of that means, but I like the way one man explained it.

"One way for a modern American to begin to understand this commandment is to treat God's name as trademark property. In order to gain widespread distribution for his copyrighted repair manual The Bible and also to capture greater market share for His authorized franchise the church God has graciously licensed the use of His name to anyone who will use it according to His written instructions. 

It needs to be understood, however, that God's name has not been released into the public domain. God retains legal control over His name and threatens serious penalties against the unauthorized misuse of this supremely valuable property. All trademark violations will be prosecuted to the full limits of the law. The prosecutor, judge, jury and enforcer is God."

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February 2, 2016, 8:00 AM

How to Get You and Your Spouse on the Same Financial Page


We all know the stress finances can place on a marriage. Money (or the lack thereof) has been known to decimate a husband and wife’s relationship. But it does not have to be this way. Financial matters do not have to bring division to a marriage, but can serve as a point of unification. If you are married, consider these seven steps to bring oneness to your money:

Agree that you need to agree. This seems simple enough, but many couples operate as if it is not important. He has his goals, and she has her goals. And at times, they pull their finances in completely different directions. Getting on the same financial page as your spouse starts by acknowledging the need to be on the same page. It means that chasing separate goals will lead to frustration and a financial future full of unachieved goals.

Replace “mine” with “ours.” The way in which you communicate ownership of your and your spouse’s money is telling. When talking about money, start using “our” instead of “mine.” “Our money” is inclusive and promotes cooperation. “My money” is exclusive and promotes individualism. This can be particularly difficult for newlyweds, especially with money they earned and saved prior to the marriage. But as a couple joins together, this slight shift in language conveys a crucial shift in perspective.

Take a look at reality. What does your cash flow really look like? What is your real wealth? How far are you really from retiring? How much do you really owe? One of the greatest mistakes you can make with your finances is to assume you are better off than you really are. It is an assumption that leads to many poor money decisions. Uncovering reality is not always fun, but it is necessary for making the best money decisions moving forward. Figure out where you really are financially, not where you think you are.

Dream together. After determining where you are, determine where you want to go. I recommend doing this in 10 to 15 year increments. What do you want your future to look like? Both you and your spouse will have differing dreams. Be willing to do a little compromising and create an envisioned future you can both chase.

Develop dream-reaching goals. Once you have agreed what the dream looks like, figure out what goals must be reached to get there. How much must be saved? How much do you need in retirement? Your dream will inevitably require you reaching a few major financial goals.

Identify goal-reaching milestones. It can become wearisome chasing a 10-year goal. Identify milestones along the way to celebrate. Paying off a major credit card balance, downsizing your home, and a certain amount saved can all be great milestones.

Every year, ask, “What do we need to accomplish this year?” As you look at your goal’s milestones, figure out what must be done each year. Set priorities for the year. This can greatly reduce conflict over how money is used throughout the year. If you are both on the same financial page with yearly priorities that help you get to a shared dream, you have made a huge step in reaching those dreams.

What about you? How do you promote “oneness” with your marriage’s money? Please place your comments in the section below. 


Written by Art Rainer. Art serves as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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January 26, 2016, 8:18 AM

6 Reasons Why Married Couples Fight About Money


One of the greatest causes of marital disagreement is money. According to survey results from Fidelity, 51% of couples admitted to arguing either frequently or occasionally about their finances. So why do we do this? Why do these conversations get so heated? Here are 6 reasons why you may find yourself arguing with your spouse about money:

1). Different financial personalities. Are you a spender, or are you a saver? What about your spouse? More than likely, your financial personality differs from your spouse. While the difference in personality may provide some balance to your financial decision-making, it will also create conflict.

2). Different financial goals. You would like to pay for your kids’ college. Your spouse would like to pay off the mortgage. You both are passionate about your goal, but you cannot do both at the same time. The lack of consensus creates tension anytime tuition or a mortgage payment is due.

3). Different financial histories. You grew up having little. Your spouse grew up having plenty. Therefore, you find yourself more cautious with money than your spouse. Your prior experience with money shapes your financial preferences, and can create a perspective on money that differs from your spouse.

4). Different bank accounts. This is a big one. I am always concerned when I here that married couples have separate accounts. When God created marriage, He intended it to be an all-in deal. For married couples, joint bank accounts communicate trust, transparency, and commitment. Separate accounts communicate the opposite.

5). Different reactions to financial troubles. Perhaps pointing your fingers at others is your thing. You just blame whoever is sitting closest to you at the time for your woes. Your spouse suppresses their emotions until they can do it no longer, and then there is an explosion of emotions. It is likely you have or will face financial troubles in your life. A job is lost. A medical bill appears in the mail. The economy plummets. When faced with financial turmoil, differing reactions to the situation can prompt arguments.


6). A lack of perspective. All of us can lose perspective. And when financial turmoil strikes, it can seem as if it is the only thing that matters in life. We become obsessed with it. This loss of perspective can injure our walk with God and our marriage, inevitably leading to a fight.

For a variety of reasons, money can create arguments among married couples. Different financial personalities, goals, histories, accounts, reactions to financial troubles, and a lack of perspective can prompt marital fights.

However, financial matters do not have to bring division to a marriage, but can serve as a point of unification.


Written by Art Rainer. Art serves as the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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January 13, 2016, 10:00 AM

Flu Season

With all of the cases of influenza, bronchitis, and even the common cold going around, I thought it might be a good time to refresh everyone's memory of First Baptist Church of Gholson's policy regarding infectious diseases (other than the fact that we're against them!)

If your child has experienced a fever within the 24 hours preceding any event here at our church, you may not bring them to the event. So, using tonight's events as an example, if your child ran a fever anytime since 6:30 pm last night, they may NOT attend Little Sprouts, J.A.M. and Youth Group.

I understand the inconveniences and difficulties that a child's sickness can impose. But if you think about it, this policy is no more than Jesus' Golden Rule put into practice. If we work together and make sure to consider the needs of other people and their children, we can help to limit the spread of these viruses during this vulnerable time of year.

Thanks for your help.

Bro. James

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