Alcohol on Campus

In a seminar I attended yesterday the speaker told about her experience following 15 students throughout their four years of college (each at a different secular college).  The speaker said she was overwhelmed by the amount of alcohol consumed by college students; she also said that even the students who drank in High School were surprised by the amount of alcohol on campus when they arrived.

Many of us may think, “Whatever, I’m sure all these statistics are totally blown out of proportion.  Kids will be kids, and anyway, MY kid is wiser than the others and wouldn’t get into all of that too deeply.”  Here are a few things I’ve been reading recently about Alcohol use on campus.

Drunkorexia is a new term people are using for students who are replacing calories from food with calories from beer/alcohol.  Combining an Eating Disorder with Alcohol Use is such a dangerous combination.  Rather than eating and drinking and then risking gaining weight, some girls are choosing to cut out food so they can keep drinking.  The Denver Post has an article on this recent trend: ‘Drunkorexia’ a Growing Trend for College Students.

Alcoholic Energy Drinks are also a growing trend among college partiers.  Energy Drinks have been rapidly growing in popularity among teens for quite a while now (they’ve come a long way since Jolt and Mountain Dew were the best caffeine-fixes when I was a teenager), but now some companies are making pre-mixed Energy Drinks with Alcohol already in them.  This provides students a dangerously quick way to get drunk, but the health risks are so immense that some colleges are banning them.  But really, how will campus police enforce this, by raiding parties on the lookout for these drinks while turning a blind eye to all the underage drinking going on?  Here’s the article: The Next Student Health Problem?

These two articles spurred me on to do some digging to find resources for parents and students to be better informed about the risks of binge drinking.  This search led me to the NIAAA’s College Drinking Prevention Website, which is full of great resources.

Here are just a few statistics found on the above website, for more you can go here: A Snapshot of Annual High-Risk College Drinking Consequences

  • Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2009).
  • Assault: 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking (Hingson et al., 2009).
  • Sexual Abuse: 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (Hingson et al., 2009).
  • Unsafe Sex: 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex (Hingson et al., 2002).
  • Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall (Engs et al., 1996; Presley et al., 1996a, 1996b; Wechsler et al., 2002).
  • Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem (Hingson et al., 2002), and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use (Presley et al., 1998).



MTV’s Newest Show: “Skins”

Over the past few days I’ve noticed banners and advertisements about “Skins” and had no idea what it was about.  This morning I looked more carefully at one of the banners online and noticed that the MTV logo was on it, so I did a little research and here’s what I’ve found.

Skins is an upcoming show (starts in January 2011) based off a UK show of the same name.  Even doing a basic Google Image search for “MTV Skins” reveals binge drinking, sexuality, and homosexuality.  Here’s the description of the show provided on their website,

SKINS is a wild ride through the lives of nine high school friends stumbling through the mine field of adolescence… and stepping on most of the mines as they go. Be it sex, drugs, the breadth of friendships or the depth of heartbreaks, SKINS is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years.

The kids of SKINS will crush hearts and burn brain cells, while fearlessly confronting every obstacle head on… or slightly off.

Sounds great, just what we need to be putting in front of teenagers: Another example of the glorified “wild ride” of adolescence filled with drugs and alcohol and sex.

Parents: Talk to your teenager about shows like this (talk, don’t lecture!) and ask them why they think shows like this are so attractive to their peers.  Encourage them to be thoughtful in working through the message the show is communicating.  If you really want to be edgy, check out the website (or, if you talk to your son/daughter after the show has premiered, watch it with him/her and discuss it afterwards and empower your teenager to decide whether or not they really think they should continue watching).

Teens: How would you answer the questions above?  Why do you think MTV keeps producing shows like this?  What message are these shows communicating to you?  Do you realize that these shows are influencing your peers (and you) in your views about drugs and alcohol and sexuality?

Here is the link to the show’s promo video on YouTube.  I’ve chosen not to embed the video here because it does include plenty of skin, sexuality, alcohol & drug use, and other sins that the Apostle Paul lists in Colossians 3.  Consider yourself warned if you choose to click the above link to watch the promo video (keeping in mind that many teens will be watching the show, which will be far more racy than the promo!).

Colossians 3:1-10
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is youra life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – Mark Was a Late Bloomer

I love the little-known story of John Mark, who’s better known to us simply as Mark.  He ended up being the first person to ever write a biography on Jesus, more commonly known as the “Gospel of Mark.”  But he didn’t start out so strong.

Mark was a young man and probably wasn’t married yet, so he still lived in his family’s house where the early church met (Acts 12:12).  When Paul and Barnabas are sent out on the first missions trip ever, Mark goes with them.  Then we read,“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus.” (Acts 15:36–39)

We don’t know why Mark “deserted” them.  Maybe he missed his bed, or his mom’s home-cooking?  Maybe he didn’t realize this was going to be such a long mission trip?  Or maybe he simply got fearful and wasn’t ready for it, so he left his team to go on without him while he returned home.  Regardless of his reasons for leaving, it didn’t sit well with his team… especially with Paul.

So when Barnabas (whose name means “Son of Encouragement”) wants to bring Mark with them on the second mission trip, Paul won’t even consider it.  But there’s something about Mark that keeps Barnabas from giving up on him (Colossians 4:10 tells us that they’re cousins, but it seems like there’s more going on here than family sticking up for each other).  Barnabas refuses to hold Mark’s failure against him, but I have a strong gut-feeling they had a very honest conversation before leaving together for Cyprus.

Years later, while Paul was in prison and near the end of his life he wrote this: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).  Paul realized he was wrong about Mark, and their friendship was restored.

Imagine what might have happened if Barnabas decided that Mark wasn’t worth the argument with Paul and gave in to Paul’s desire to leave Mark behind.  We probably wouldn’t have the Gospel of Mark, which biblical scholars agree was used as the template and foundation for Matthew and Luke’s Gospels.  Our Bible would look different if this little-known story had ended differently. God is good!

A few questions:

  • Who do you identify with most in this story: Paul, Barnabas, or Mark?
  • Would you have taken Mark with you if you were in constant danger of persecution and martyrdom if you weren’t sure you could trust him to “get your back?”
  • Are your friends more like Barnabas or like Paul? Do they kick you when you’re down and remind you how you’ve failed in the past, or do they help pick you up and make you stronger?
  • Who’s your Barnabas? It’s important for all of us to have someone in our lives who is more spiritually mature than we are who we can talk to and ask questions… and we’re ok with them asking us hard questions too!
  • Who’s your Mark? It’s also important for all of us to realize that there’s always someone we could be ministering to.  If you’re in Junior High then try calling an elementary school kid and saying, “Hi, I was wondering how I could pray for you today.”  If you’re in High School, try doing that to a Junior High student.

Mark “Finished Strong” because he had a very “Healthy Friendship” with his cousin Barnabas.  Your friends really do make a huge impact on your life – are your friends picking you up when you’re down, or are they the ones knocking you down to begin with?  And what about you – who are you picking up or knocking down?  Remember that your friendships really do help determine the direction and quality of your life.

iTunes Top 10: Do You Realize What You’re Listening To?

I’m really excited for an upcoming series in January we’ll be going through in Youth Group on evaluating our media choices (What do we watch & listen to?).  So in preparation I’ve been spending time being intentional about listening to what songs are saying and what they’re encouraging me to do/think/feel.  This is a great practice for all of us to do with the music we’re listening to (whether it’s “Christian music” or not).

Here’s a link to Jonathan McKee’s blog where he briefly breaks down the top 10 songs currently on iTunes.  This is really worth a look, check it out here: “The Content Behind the Top Ten.”

  • Do you really know what you’re listening to?
  • Parents, do you know what your kids are listening to?
  • If your music suddenly became a magazine, would you leave it on your coffee table for whoever to open up and take a look?  What’s the difference?

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – David’s (Lack of) Moral Boundaries

Once upon a time there was a King named David.  He was chosen by God directly to be the king because “was a man after the God’s own heart.”  He trusted and obeyed God in all things… for the most part.  Here’s the rest of the story:

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.  One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.””  (2 Samuel 11:1–5)

I notice a few things right away:

  1. David’s Laziness – He shouldn’t have even been in Jerusalem!  He should’ve been awaywith his army instead of playing “hookey” from battle!  We fall into the same trap – laziness breeds temptation.  As the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” meaning temptations overtake us most frequently when we’re not busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
  2. David’s Lust – He thought to himself, “I know what I want and I want it now, and I’m the King… so go get her for me!”  He didn’t think about the consequences or what might happen because of his desires for Bathsheeba, he just wanted her and he wanted her NOW.

We later read about David’s attempt to coverup what he had done by having Bathsheeba’s husband (Uriah) killed in battle.  Clearly he hadn’t thought about what might happen after acting out on his lustful desires.  Eventually, David is confronted by the prophet Nathan, and he repents of his sin and writes Psalm 51 as his prayer of repentance.  As judgment against his sin, the LORD tells David that the baby Bathsheeba will give birth to will not live (note: God specifically explains this as judgment on David for his sin, but we should not make the connection that every baby who dies or is sick is suffering from Divine judgment).

When David is old he has 14 kids whose names are listed in Scripture (4 of them are from Bathsheeba, the rest from his other 6 wives – which is another issue entirely that I don’t have time to address here!).  His family is so dysfunctional that his son Absolom even tries to kill David!  One of the other four potential heirs is killed by a half-brother, and then the oldest remaining son of David-Bathsheeba tries to secretly crown himself king without David’s knowledge.  Solomon, David’s youngest son with Bathsheeba, is chosen and annointed to be the next king by David.

Has anyone else noticed that David shouldn’t have dealt with all this drama because he should’ve never been married to Bathsheeba… she already had a husband! There are a few principles here to keep in mind:

  1. God gives grace when we cross Moral Boundaries, but we often still must live with the consequences of our sin. As my youth pastor used to say when I was a teen, “You can’t put a condom on guilt.”  And guilt may be the “least” consequence we need to face; it may be an STD or a pregnancy or a ‘reputation’ that gets spread about you inschool.
  2. When we break our Moral Boundaries, we must seek repentance. It seems that David learned his lesson:“David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’S commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite”(1 Kings 15:5).  David messed up bad with what he did to Bathsheeba and Uriah, but he repented and obeyed the LORD from then on.
  3. God works through our failures, but He doesn’t dismiss sin and say “Don’t worry about it!” We have a tendency of telling ourselves that God will forgive us anyway, and then we go on and do whatever we want because we know God gives grace.  But when we do this we are treating sin lightly (which God never does) and devaluing the grace of God (which we should never do).

Big Idea: Purity paves the way to Intimacy
Tough Question: Am I establishing and maintaining godly Moral Boundaries
Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – Joshua’s Example

Just imagine following Moses as the leader of Israel.  That’s not a job I’d sign up for… talk about pressure!  But that’s what Joshua did, except for the fact that he didn’t win an election to be the next leader of Israel, God chose him to follow Moses.

Listen to God’s advice to Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:7-8).  That’s God’s advice for how to “finish strong.”

Along the way, Joshua fought the battle of Jericho… and many others too!  In all of these battles (with one notable exception, but I’ll leave that story for your own perusal) he was successful because he obeyed God’s commandments.  He did not do more than God told him to do, and he didn’t do any less than what God told him to do.

Towards the end of his life we see Joshua making a covenant between the LORD and Israel, commanding them, “Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14 & 15).  We later read, “The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. …After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7 & 10)

So Joshua finished strong… but Israel didn’t.  We see these principles at work:

  1. It’s better to actually obey than to simply say you will.
  2. When we cultivate a consistent prayer and devotional life we stay connected to God.
  3. If you really live obediently to God’s Word, those close to you (like your friends and family) will see and know what’s most important to you.

Remember the ladder we use as an icon for this Vital Sign doesn’t mean we “climb our way to heaven” – it means that when we practice the Spiritual Disciplines we get a new perspective (a “bigger picture”) on life.  If you want to finish strong, make sure you practice the Spiritual Disciplines.  Read your Bible, spend time in prayer (more than just saying grace before meals), find an accountability partner, get alone and spend time alone with God in silence and solitude.  If you want to start reading your Bible but don’t know where to start or how to understand what it says, please talk to P.Mike (he would love to talk with you and has devotional books you can use to get started).

LWAYG: Finishing Strong – Crazy Faith

Whenever I read about the Centurion’s Faith in Jesus in Matthew 8:5-13 to heal his servant, I’m tempted to mumble under my breath, “that’s just crazy.”  Imagine being there: Jesus (a wandering Rabbi) is talking with a Roman Centurion (whom most Jews would label as being the scum of the earth), and Jesus ends the conversation by saying, “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

The Centurion wants his servant to be healed but tells Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  That’s faith!  Personally, I’d want to see my servant healed before watching Jesus walk away; I’d want to know “it worked.”

God really can be trusted!  He will do all that He has promised He’ll do.  But here’s where so many of us go wrong – we expect God to do things He hasn’t promised.  There are a few absolutely necessary ingredients to having Authentic Faith:

  1. Believe what the Bible says about Jesus – He’s God, perfect and holy, and died on the cross then rose from the grave.
  2. Believe what the Bible says about you (all of us, really) – That we’re all sinners and have only earned judgment from God
  3. Believe in God’s promises given through Scripture – That we are “redeemed” (set free) from sin and judgment by trusting in who Jesus is and what He’s done.  (that’s the biggest promise, the rest are worth learning too!  FYI: God does not promise a comfortable and “happy” life).

Are you holding onto those promises, or onto other promises?  As we reflect on the Vital Signs, we remember how important it is to make sure the faith we’re “sitting in” is like a sturdy, reliable chair which will actually hold us up with all our weight is on it.

The Superbowl All-Nighter is Coming!!

The Superbowl All-Nighter is coming… will you be there!?  No, I’m not talking about that Superbowl (you know, the one the Patriots are going to win in February… ok, maybe not, but we can hope!).

Here’s what you need to know:

  • November 12-13th
  • $55 due to P.Mike by Sunday, Oct. 17th (checks made out to EBC, please)
  • Superbowl Permission & Medical Release Form completely filled out for each person going
  • Meet at EBC Friday at 5:00, get picked up at 6:00am on Saturday

We’ll be taking a bus down to Providence to catch a Providence Bruins hockey game, tons of pizza, a huge indoor gym with tons of inflatables and other games, and either bowling or roller-skating.  After the hockey game there will be a speaker who will share the Good News of Jesus and why what you believe about Jesus is the single most important thing in the world and you will be given the opportunity to respond if you want (and if you don’t want to, there’s no pressure or reason to feel “weird”!).

This is an event that’s run in multiple cities around America each year.  Below is a video made by a youth group somewhere else, but it gives you a good picture of what to expect from the Superbowl.

LWAYG: Finishing Strong Series

When I say “Barry Bonds,” what comes to mind?  “Cheater,” “Steroids,” “Liar.”  What about “Greatest hitter in baseball history?”  No – why not?  Barry Bonds finished his career as the best home run hitter in baseball history… at least on paper.  Technically, when it came to his career he “Finished Strong,” but along the way he lost the respect of baseball fans all around the world.  There’s a lesson in here for all of us: When we finish, it’s not just about what we’ve done but how we’ve done it.

We are two weeks into our series, “Finishing Strong.”  This theme is taken from The Parable of the Talents where a King gives a bunch of money (a “Talent” was a weight of measurement equal to roughly 70-80 pounds… so even one talent was a LOT of money!) to three servants so that they would conduct business for him while he’s gone.  When the king returns the three servants are called to account for how they have used their Talents: Two servants doubled the money entrusted to them and are told “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share in your master’s happiness!”  The other servant buried his Talent/money in the ground, and the king said, “You wicked, lazy servant!… Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”

I believe that most people want to finish their lives “strong.”  But that doesn’t happen automatically.  If you live your life on autopilot then you’re not going to finish strong, you’ll finish mediocre at best.  Notice that the king said “You’ve been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”  We so often only count the big things in life as being important, but Scripture teaches that God pays attention to the little things too… because they are what lead us to how we handle the big issues and challenges in life.  If we are faithful with little, we are more likely to be more faithful with much.

Over the coming weeks we will be examining the lives of various people throughout the Bible and asking “Did he/she finish strong?” and then looking at how each of the Seven Vital Signs have determined how that person finished.

  • Is your faith on “autopilot” or are you intentionally making your faith in Jesus Christ a priority?
  • Are you being faithful with the little things in life, or do you write them off as insignificant?
  • What would it mean to you to “Finish Strong” in life?  If your answer has to do with worldly success, remember that even if you die with millions in the bank it won’t help you when you need to give an account before your King and Creator.

Below is a video I’ve found of Francis Chan speaking on the “little things” principle from the Parable of the Talents (wish I could’ve shown this during youth group!):