Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, we made it through another 12 months and we prospered greatly. Because I grew up in the midst of poverty I am well aware of how much we all have today and how blessed we are by the Good Lord.

I am sitting in my warm house with an old friend from Norway chatting about life in the Lord and remembering how we both experienced God's love and power. It is a blessed life and I want to share it with others in 2007.

One way I will share God's blessings is by returning to Russia on January 20. I want to to do me a favor and pray for Steve Griebling and me as we share the good news of God's healing presence in a land devastated by 70 years of evil. This is a photo of two Pastors in the Moscow area that are doing wonderful ministries with the people. They asked us to help train their pastors in pastoral care and counseling.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Life or Death

This week we have seen the death of two leaders of great importance in the international arena. First, Gerald Ford, the 38Th President of the United States, was called home by the Lord to his eternal reward in the bosom of Jesus. A man of solid Christian faith who was selected but not elected to both the Vice Presidency and Presidency of the United States.

In contrast is the execution of Saddam Hussein, one of the world's dictators and tyrants. Saddam was a mass murderer as well as a personal man of extensive evil. He trained his children to be cold, callous killers who raped, pillaged and destroyed people for pleasure. Where Saddam now resides we cannot know but certainly assume it is not in the bosom of Abraham.

President Ford was a man of integrity and prayer. You can read his speech to the graduating class of Gordon Conwell Seminary in which his son Mike was a member on this site at C. T.

George W. Bush is seen today as a religious fanatic but when compared to many past Presidents, Mr. Bush has a similar faith. In fact, President Jimmy Carter and the man he replaced, Gerald Ford both seemed to be more verbal about their faith than is George Bush. Mr. Carter actively taught a Bible class and Mr. Ford attended a weekly prayer meeting .

All three men as well as many other Presidents and political leaders, humbly placed their trust in God to sustain them and guide them through difficult times. These are people who truly know the need for some power greater than themselves. May we learn from their experiences.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Leave a Legacy

Most of us want to leave a legacy. Some are most interested in rearing children with good characters and a successful family. Others build a business and make lots of money. Some seem to have a drive to be "SOMEBODY" no matter what the cost.

These may be worthwhile ventures but they don't seem to me to be enough to live for and especially to die for. I love my kids and grand kids and think they are great. I am proud of them but know in my heart of hearts that their lives are really theirs and not mine. I cannot take credit for their successes.

The money drive leaves us unfulfilled and shallow in the end. Just look at Marley and Scrooge as well as the many who have lived only for another dollar but died in misery and loneliness. Howard Hughes comes to mind.

It happens that a lot of people who were driven by one of the above legacies for many years actually changed in mid-life and decided to live for other reasons. Their children were already out and on their own, money no longer drove them and they saw all of fame they needed or ever wanted. They no longer lusted to be like Britney Spears or Paris Hilton.

These people want to be Significant not just Successful. They are looking to release their God-given gifts and resources for others. They engage in service projects and give their money to charities. I am seeing a lot of Boomers who have decided they do not want to spoil their kids by leaving them too much wealth and are giving instead to groups that "Heal the sick and raise those that are spiritually dead."

I hope you have a plan for your legacy. One that will last long after your life is over and your name is forgotten. One that God will remember.

Reflections on People

I suppose it is natural to reflect on the past year at this time in December. Yesterday, my old buddy Maurie Loomans and I were discussing our ministries and family life and we both agreed that at this season of maturity we are a lot more interested in kids and grandkids than we were at age 30.

Maurie and Lorraine have been great friends and ministry partners ever since 1973 so we have shared a lot of highs and lows in family and ministry. Maurie was a medical researcher at P&G and he brought the same kind of analytical mindset to prayer, healing and ministry to the poor. If we tried something and it did not work, Maurie the researcher said, "Let's find out why."

Lorraine was and is one of the most practical people I have ever known. She has the ability to cut to the chase and ask the really good but tough questions. When Maurie and I would wander around in the spiritual stratosphere, Lorraine could bring us back to earth and very quickly. She and Karen were the anchors to our "Ready, fire aim" mentalities.

We have had a great run of exciting and fulfilling ministries that together touched thousands of people in need. Through various names, places and nations God used our combined ideas to help churches focus to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free."

Thanks to Maurie, Lorraine and many others for their friendship and love.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

To Coach or Counsel? That is the Question

At the bottom of my e mail I have a signature. It says I am a Coach and Consultant. I do not mention another C word, Counselor. This is despite the fact that I am known by many people to be a Counselor and Healer. Sooo, why not list it?

For one thing, I retired my LPCC license because of too much stress. After having a heart problem and ending up with a stint in my artery I decided that working 80 hours each week trying to Coach, Consult and Counsel as well as run two organizations was too much. After recovering I retired from being a Professional Counselor to emphasize helping pastors and other leaders grow in wisdom, peace and knowledge. Now I just say I Coach/Consult for those terms focus on growth more than healing.

We know from the Bible and from experience how to prevent most physical, spiritual and emotional problems. Why wit until a crisis forces us to see a Counselor before we act? A good Coach/ Consultant can see where potential problems lie and guide folks to take the detours necessary to avoid a crisis.

But many people avoid getting help in advance. They wait until the heart attack hits or the church splits or the wife leaves. I am reminded of a song from my youth, "Detour, there's a muddy road ahead. Detour, I should have read that detour sign." We just cannot believe we will hit the muddy road.

For those who do seek a Coach/Consultant, the roads chosen are dryer and easier to navigate. I love to help pastors avoid the muddy roads I drove on so long.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Viewers From All Over

The counter for my blog not only counts the number of hits but also tells where they come from. I am amazed to see we have readers from all over the USA and the world. I see all those locations and wonder how in the world they heard of me and my work. Maybe they just Googled some topic and I showed up.

This is one reason we who blog are interested in getting comments and feedback. I had a radio show called Life Matters for over 15 years. We rarely got any calls or direct letters from the programs but I did talk with lots of people who heard me and who wanted to discuss some particular topic. I always found their ideas to be helpful to me and caused me to focus on specific issues that they wanted to hear about.

I would love to hear from you about what issues are of concern or which you are confused. If I don't get feedback, I can just ramble around here with my own thoughts. So, be helpful and write something you like or do not like about my articles.

I am really most interested in helping people grow in peace and health so ask any question in that area and see what happens.

Gary Sweeten

Why No Men in Church?

It has been evident for some time that the churches of Jesus Christ have a problem. We are not attracting males to attend and be involved in church life. Other great religions do not have this problem. Islam and Judaism are well known for having many males involved but the churches around the globe attract a minority of males.

There is a new movement in Christian circles to change that pattern. There are several books, newsletters and conferences about men in church and I pray that it takes hold. You can access the newsletter at Church for Men

How about your congregation? Is it attracting males as well as females? Are you consciously trying to reach men by planning and implementing events, talks and programs for them? There is a truism among Christian leaders that "If we can attract men the women will also be there but the reverse is not true."

Almost all lay leadership in churches is heavily female but the professional leaders are heavily male dominated. However, that is also changing because so many more women than men are going to seminary. This is the reverse of the Early Church that attracted strong, vital men who risked life and limb to become missionary pioneers in a world hostile to Christ.

The current situation cannot change without an intentional and well planned emphasis. One of the reasons I started the weekly golf league for Christians arose from my concern that males have so very few places for fun and fellowship based on active and competitive sports. We have a few females who challenge us to play our best and we are happy for that but we men still get to release our aggressive attitudes on a regular basis.

If you or a friend are interested in golfing with a group of Gracious Golfers who shoot in the High Nineties, give me a call.

Monday, December 25, 2006

People Who Make A Difference

In America we are dazzled by the big names. We love to promote men and women who are either glamorous or scuzzy or both. Glam can come by way of smooth talkers or beauty but to be important in America it is necessary to have some such characteristic.

This is a real problem in the Church of Jesus Christ. Many good Christians would gladly trade a very effective leader and pastor for a smooth talking Cary Grant look alike. This is why cons get by with so much in public life in the USA.

That is not to say that the golden tongues among us cannot lead. they can but it is much more difficult for they come to depend upon the well practiced phrase rather than the well planned and well executed consistency. I study churches. Congregations that grow in strength, spiritual effectiveness and influence for a decade or more have leaders that do far more than speak well.

A good speaker can draw people in the front door but that is about all. Everything else that is required to be a success over a long period of time comes from people behind the scenes and outside the pulpit. A strong church has a multitude of small groups, sub-congregations and is honeycombed with numerous support systems that the golden throated warbler may be unaware of or even care about.

Rev Ralph Neighbour is a man that has touched many multiplied thousands of people from behind the scenes. He is largely responsible for spreading the good news about Cell Groups to nations and regions that desperately needed a way to disciple new believers and raise up new leaders. I first heard about Uncle Ralph in Singapore. Go to his web at for more information.

Who am I

There are millions of blogs out there clogging up the Internet like locusts. TIME Magazine even made bloggers the Person of the Year for 2006. We who blog have all kinds of motivations and backgrounds and the quality of our ideas and writing ability varies greatly. You will have to judge the quality of mine. Make any comments you wish and let me know what you think.

I am an educator, teacher and care giver at heart. I have a strong desire to see God's folks prosper and grow into happy, healthy wholesome people that continually invades the world's toxic relationships with love and peace.

I was born in a tiny village in southern Illinois and have been fortunate to travel around the world several times to help individuals, groups and ministries grow and become stronger as agents of positive change. God's grace and love compel me to share His goodness with the world.

The bottom of my e mail letters has the following signature and it tells a lot about my mission.

Gary R. Sweeten, Ed. D.
Leader Coach & Consultant

Touching Leaders, One Heart at a time
Touching Organizations, One Leader at a time
Touching Communities, One Organization at a time
Touching Nations, One Community at a time.
Touching Eternity, One Day at a time

(C)Life Way Ministries, Inc
A Faith Based Non-Profit Charity
11161 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

We are presently looking at changing our name because the current name, although good in many respects, is confusing to many because there are others with similar names. Life Way Counseling Centers was also founded my myself and several others so many get the two confused.

The Southern Baptist Sunday School board has a wonderful publishing arm called, Life way but we are not associated with them either. More troubling, however, is Life way for Youth, an organization that recently became unfairly infamous when one of its foster families was in the news with a tragic death.

Be on the lookout for our new moniker and focus for 2007. The purpose and mission will remain the same or very similar but the name will change. Several friends have suggested I simply use my name because it has remained the same over many different organizations and affiliations. I already have registered as a web site. Others want a new name with more pizazz. Any suggestions from my friends who read this?


Christmas, a time when God gave freely and generously, has become a time of galloping greed and selfishness. In Romans 7 the Apostle Paul mentions that the purpose of The Law is to inform us about things that we would otherwise not know, such as the fact that covetousness is wrong. Christmas proves his point. We can make covetousness a virtue at Christmas.

In the mind of God, generosity rather than greed is a virtue to be promoted and encouraged. Covetousness is natural, normal and basic to human nature. Generosity, on the other hand, is the result of a spiritual conversion.

Scrooge epitomizes greed and coveting while Jesus came to earth to serve others. The One who came to give told us that a life of Scrooge was empty but a life of giving was blessed. In Luke 6:38 Jesus talked about the power of giving.

37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

It is natural to judge others. It makes us feel good about ourselves to put others down. When we see someone who is mentally, emotionally or socially inept it feels so good to laugh at them and look down upon them. To stand above is one way for an insecure person to feel big. However, the result is condemnation and judgment for ourselves. Giving grace sows grace but sowing condemnation sows a bitter harvest.

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

This expands the concept of giving into all areas of life. It has financial, relational and spiritual components. When I was a child I discovered that judgmentalism brought friends but as I got older I found the opposite. Mature people are not drawn to those who attack because they know that the attacker will turn on them as soon as possible.

But generous people prosper in every way. It is said that, "God loves a cheerful giver." He shares His love and joy with a giver. Look at the change in Scrooge's demeanor after he was converted and began to give. Who is your model this Christmas?

May the God of all grace give you His heart of generosity this Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Baby Causes Controversy

Every since Jesus was born in a stable He has caused trouble. When the political boss in charge of that region heard that a rival was on the scene he did what any self respecting pol would do, he tried to have him killed. So what if thousands of other babies would also have to die in the process? The key thing was to eliminate a potential rival.

That has been the practice of politicians for centuries. Jealous uncles killed babies destined to be the king; king maker wannabes killed the heirs to the Russian throne; American political bosses hire private eyes to find embarrassing facts about a rival and the press is excitedly ready to do the killing for them. It is to be expected of evil men and women.

So, I am not surprised when men who would be kings or gods of science and politics try to dethrone Jesus today. Richard Dawkins, a contemporary scientist, has written a new book decrying people's faith and the "unscientific ideas" of people like you and me. He derides our intellect and makes fun of our ideas. He would like to "kill our groups, churches and movements" just as Herod tried 2,000 years ago.

But I am not worried. Hitler's "Thousand Year Reign" lasted less than fifty years and Lenin's atheistic takeover fell after about seventy years. Now the death, devastation and disaster they left is being cleaned up and healed by people who follow the Prince of Peace. We always have to pick up the pieces of atheists and narcissists.

But cheer up. This Christmas we can take comfort in the fact that radical scientists, radical politicians and radical Muslims may try to kill the Baby in the Manger but His death and resurrection have already overcome the world.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friends Around the World

One of the greatest aspects of Christmas is hearing from good friends from everywhere on earth. This morning I opened my e mail to read a letter from our good friends in Singapore, Sam and Lai Fong. They, along with several other wonderful followers of Christ, have been very supportive and helpful in spreading our ministry in Asia and teaching the Life Skills classes to others.

In this letter they let us know that they are caroling this Christmas and singing a great song released on video by Kathy Tricolli. It is also on Youtube. Go check it out at:

I also heard from Kjell Aanensen who heads Teleios Norway, the very first organization we set up overseas. Kjell attended our first retreat in the mountains with 40 other Christian leaders in January 1987 and was deeply touched by the Lord. He has been a strong advocate for Life Skills ever since. He has taken our ministry to many places in and outside Norway.

Teleios Norway is now under the oversight of Martin Cave's IMI Church, the first congregation to embrace our approach to "Equipping the saints" and possibly the most dynamic congregation in Scandinavia.

I love hearing from friends and "family members" around the world. Keep sending those e mails.

Uncle Gary

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Emotional Problems and Childhood Trauma

In a couple of earlier Posts I mentioned the research called ACE Studies because it correlates Adverse Childhood Events (Trauma and Abuse) with later Adult diseases. By asking about 20,000 adults about their childhoods and also reading their medical charts, a remarkable set of data has emerged. It showed two things.

1. Childhood Trauma is quite high in the American Middle Class
2. Trauma is almost never healed and it leads to dramatic health problems many years later.

Adverse Events were listed as losing a parent, growing up in an alcoholic family, suffering abuse, etc. The number of events could range from Zero to Eight.

The author says:

When we looked at purely emotional outcomes like self-defined current depression or self- reported suicide attempts, we find equally powerful effects. For instance, we found that an individual with an ACE Score of 4 or more was 460% more likely to be suffering from depression than an individual with an ACE Score of 0. Should one doubt the reliability of this, we found that there was a 1,220% increase in attempted suicide between these two groups. At higher ACE Scores, the prevalence of attempted suicide increases 30-51 fold (3,000-5,100%)!

Overall, using the technique of population attributable risk, we found that between two-thirds and 80% of all attempted suicides could be attributed to adverse childhood experiences.

The dramatic increase in children born out of wedlock and reared without a Father around and reared with alcohol and drugs and abused sexually is skyrocketing. It is hard to imagine the long term medical, psychological and spiritual implications of such statistics.

The Crisis in America, Besides Terrorists

About every week I get more information on the rising crises in American life. I fear for my country and it doesn't seem that many people are even aware of the problem.

The destruction of marriages and family life throughout America is alarming and can destroy us. The Muslims radicals have even stated that they will win the war over time because their families are staying committed to each other and they are producing more children than in the West.

Europe has already given up and Islam will control it in another 50 years. The Europeans are not vigorous and committed to growth. The birth rate cannot sustain their economy and the entire continent is dependent upon foreign born laborers from Africa and the Middle East.

In America, we are a bit different. Our birth rate is very low but will barely replenish the nation. It is not, however, enough to fill the labor force needed to keep America strong. Your kids will be a minority in a very short time. The government cannot do a thing about it. It is a lack of children so yelling about "Illegal Aliens" will not change it.

We failed to have babies and killed millions we did conceive. The Seventies scare about too many people has destroyed our understanding about the many benefits of babies. The answer is to evangelize and Americanize every person that comes here as well as our own kids.

More of a concern to me is the destruction of family life. I saw a TV show last week about the plight of abandoned children. One father had abandoned his two kids and their mother to produce ten more with several different women. Ever child reared this way is in danger of becoming violent, sick and addicted. The research is clear that single parent families are destructive to everyone involved. It is like me playing against the Bengals by myself.

The long term emotional, physical and spiritual carnage of out of wedlock sex and conception is almost too horrible to discuss. We need massive revival and healing ministries as well as Christian Counseling Centers to pick up the broken pieces.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Don't Give Up Hope

Hope is essential to change and it is essential to what is required to keep doing good works. As scripture says, "Don't grow weary in doing good works." But let's be honest, we who follow and hold God in awe are rarely going to get any affirmation from the press. That is especially true for the Leftist press such as the New Your Times.

Not long ago, the Times offered a scathing attack on Prison Fellowship the great program started by Chuck Colson after his stint in the Federal Prison. You can read about it here.

However, a recent editorial in the equally Leftist Washington Post was able to say some very positive things about Conservatives and their generous giving. Here is part of their editorial

Conservatives who chafe at the twinning of conservatism and selfishness implied or stated outright by liberals should hear charity expert Arthur C. Brooks. The opposite of the convenient "altruistic liberals, selfish conservatives" stereotype appears to be true -- mostly because the average religious person is very charitable and, more often than not, is also a political conservative.

In total, conservative households donate about 30 percent more money to charity each year than liberal households, Mr. Brooks has found. Churchgoing America is ... much likelier to give to charity than non-observant, disproportionately liberal America.

Among Mr. Brooks' most interesting findings, contained in "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism," is the red state/blue state divide. Measured as a percentage of income, Maryland is the only blue state to break the top 25.

One wonders what has happened to charity in wealthy coastal states like California, New York and Connecticut... Residents of these states simply do not donate as large a share of their income as the nice and modest folk in flyover-land cities like Topeka, Kansas, or Sioux Falls, S.D.

Residents in the latter were found by ABC's "20/20" this week to donate twice as much money as San Franciscans to Salvation Army buckets in a test the show arranged.

(I)f liberals were to give blood at the rates that conservatives do, America's blood supply would rise by 45 percent, Mr. Brooks found. There is a culture of giving and altruism in America that is highly associated with religious faith and practice, which in turn is highly associated with conservatism. Or maybe we could put it simply: Good things go together.

Now that can give us hope. Even if the motivation for giving is God's word and a charitable heart, it is nice for the world to acknowledge one more reason that faith in God produces good fruit.

Love Conquers All

From the very beginning people rushed to see the baby Jesus and then the child Jesus and, after 30 years, the adult Jesus. People were attracted to jesus because He had something very special. He showed love wherever He went.

Hard nosed, blue collar shepherds who worked the third shift wanted to go see and perhaps hold the babe. Later, three astrologers from Persia came to see Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and murr. This is but an inkling of the great crowds that soon would seek Him out.

Unlike Scrooge, people longed to be near Jesus and threw themselves at His feet, touched the hem of His garment and followed Him around Palestine to watch Him and fellowship with Him.

Throughout scripture, we are taught that our outer body communicates an inner reality of the heart. Jesus spoke of the eye as a metaphor for the things we love and place our attention upon.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matt 6:21-23 (NIV)

Do you remember the description of Scrooge whose visage was so evil that even the dogs of blind men turned away as if to say, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye."

Jesus looked upon people with compassion, with mercy, with warm love.

Albert Mehrabian found that the tone of our voice and the physical position of our bodies are much more powerful in sending a message than the particular words we use. According to him, the tone of our voice is a factor five times more powerful than our best chosen language for it influences some 38% of the message.

Try this experiment. The next time you see a dog, make a very mean comment in a warm, loving tone of voice. You may try something like this. "You ugly old dog I am going to beat you with a stick." There is no doubt that the dog will respond by wagging her tail and will come over for a pat on the head. Despite the Content of the words, he senses your love and kindness. You may also try the opposite tack and say loving things in a harsh, angry tone of voice. Then the dog will scurry away in fear for he instinctively sense your anger.

Interestingly, Dr. Mehrabian discovered that our body language speaks even more powerfully than our tone of voice. The percentage factor he assigned to body language was 7 times more than the words or 55% of the total message.

Scrooges voice and demeanor said, "Stay away from me. I do not like you or want you to be around me. Come to me and I will give you the boot!"

Jesus, however, communicated a totally different message. He said, "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Do you want people to like you and appreciate you? Do you wish you could influence others? Ask God to give you the fruit of the Holy Spirit and you will have exactly that which made Jesus attractive and opposite of what made Scrooge repulsive.


Can you remember when Jimmy Carter caused a huge tempest in a teapot when he declared himself to be "Born Again Christian"? He may well have been the person primarily responsible for making that term immensely popular among media and political types.

This is the season when that term begins to really mean something. Jesus was born as a baby and wrapped in swaddling clothes. So, being born again is the theme of Christmas and the story of Scrooge is one of the most powerful examples of that genre in our history.

The description I posted last described a man who was, as Dickens says, Oh ! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!

If you ever wanted to describe a man hardened by sin all you need do is borrow this great description by Charles Dickens of a person whose name has become synonymous with sinners.

St. Paul says something similar in Galatians when he describes the "Fruit of the flesh" but Dickens makes if all come alive in Scrooge. We can just see Scrooge in his old, worn out, all black garb walking through the streets of London scowling at all who had the misfortune of meeting him.

Poets, politicians and pastors have longed for the "Peace on earth, goodwill to men" promised in the Christmas story. In order to get there, however, we will need to see a billion Scrooges come to the same fate as he and get born again. It is only with a new heart and a new mind will people choose peace over war. Peace in the heart must proceed peace in the world.

Read the last part of the Christmas Carol and see for yourself what happens when Scrooge is confronted by his sin and the eternal punishment that awaits him unless he repents. It is a very inspirational and exciting story.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Stave I or Stanza I of the Christmas Carol


MARLEY was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change for anything he chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, his sole mourner.

Scrooge never painted out old Marley's name, however. There it yet stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door, -- Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley. He answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh ! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, was Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! External heat and cold had little influence on him. No warmth could warm, no cold could chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain and snow and hail and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect, -- they often "came down" handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?" No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge.

Even the blindmen's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"

But what did Scrooge care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge.

A Season for Changes

Christmas is a Season that suggests profound changes in the lives of many people. Just think about The Holy Family and all the changes they went through.

A young, single teenage girl who saw an angel and was informed that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah through pregnancy despite the fact that she had never been sexually involved with a man. Radical change!

Her betrothed husband who was waiting a year to marry her faces an angel and learns he is to be the step-father of the Messiah. He agrees and takes this enormous burden like a real man.

Shepherds in the fields are shaken out of their sleep to receive the Messiah and Wise Men who practiced astrology and worshipped false gods were confronted with the opportunity to meet with and worship the true God.

But the biggest change of all was God becoming human in what we call, "The Incarnation". This is a massive and almost completely overwhelming event for both God and Humanity.

What changes are you expecting this Christmas? God is not going to leave you the same as you were before Christ comes.

One of the most powerful conversion stories in history occurs in Dickens' story called The Christmas Carol". scrooge was totally transformed into a new many. That is God at work so watch out.

Next time, Scrooge's conversion.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Addictions Aren't What they Used to Be

Nowadays a lot of my friends call every bad habit and about any pattern of behavior an addiction. That is a severe overstatement of the facts.

Yesterday many of us heard the vaunted American icon, NPR, run a series of "VERY SERIOUS DISCUSSIONS" about the latest threat to our nation. It is; Blackberry Addiction!!!!!!!!! The next thing we know New York City will ban Blackberry use just like they have banned fatty foods from eating places.

That is bogus and misleading, but not any more misleading than much of the rhetoric about addictions of any kind. You hear it from almost every TV show and every pulpit. Porn Addiction and Eating Addiction and Sex Addiction as well as TV addiction. But the most egregious mislabeling comes when professionals in counseling and health care indicate that people can get addicted to a substance itself. They imply that some things are so toxic that they will hook us forever if we once start to use them. In fact, this is the myth behind much of the current discussion about what people are calling Addictions.

But that is wrong. Dead wrong and it leads to thinking that addicts cannot change or if they can it is a life long struggle with lots of medical assistance. Most people who stop their bad habits do so with no professional counseling or medical assistance at all.

It is not alcohol that is the problem nor is it pornography or food. The habit of over eating or over drinking or over sexing comes from within not without. Listen to the following research and be as amazed as I was.

Heroin Use by Viet Nam Vets

American soldiers in Vietnam provided an important although overlooked observation. Many enlisted men in Vietnam regularly used heroin. However, only 5% of those considered addicted were still using it 10 months after their return to the US.

Treatment did not account for this high recovery rate. Why does not everyone become addicted when they repeatedly inject a substance reputedly as addicting as heroin? If a substance like heroin is not inherently addicting to everyone, but only to a small minority of human users, what determines this selectivity? Is it the substance that is intrinsically addicting, or do life experiences actually determine its compulsive use?

This research, called the Adverse Childhood Events Studies, indicate that much of our current understanding about addictions is flawed, deeply flawed. Perhaps it is not the chemical makeup of the drug but the emotional makeup of the user that counts.

More Research

Surely its chemical structure remains constant. Our findings indicate that the major factor underlying addiction is adverse childhood experiences that have not healed with time and that are overwhelmingly concealed from awareness by shame, secrecy, and social taboo.

The compulsive user appears to be one who, not having other resolutions available, unconsciously seeks relief by using materials with known psychoactive benefit, accepting the known long-term risk of injecting illicit, impure chemicals. The ACE Study provides population-based clinical evidence that unrecognized adverse childhood experiences are a major, if not the major, determinant of who turns to psychoactive materials and becomes ‘addicted’.

Protect your heart for out of it come the issues of life. Holy Bible

The church, prayer and loving friends and family are the best places to find assistance and help to change.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Research You Can use to Get Better

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to suffer with multiple problems, diseases and relational conflicts while others ride through life on easy street as if on a cloud of grace? Why does this happen? There are, I think, many reasons but one reason is due to the adversity they suffered as kids seems to just hang around forever.

For example, some folks out in La Jolla, California who run a health care HMO decided that being severely overweight was a real problem because it leads to many diseases and that is bad because the HMO has to pay for the doctor visits, hospital stays and medicines. One thing is sure about an Insurance Company, they want to save money.

What would you do if you wanted to reduce the medical costs associated with obesity? I would sponsor a program that helped people lose weight. Voila! The Kaiser Permanente HMO did just that, and it began to work. The program helped a lot of people lose weight. Each person came because they were unhappy with their weight and how they looked so they followed the diet and the exercise and wow, the weight began to come off.

So, what is the problem? It was this. The most successful people in losing weight dropped out! What? Why? It doesn't make sense that successful people would quit a free program that helped them achieve their goals. Or does it?

The leaders were, of course, puzzled just like you and me. So, they began to look at the health records of the people and found the answer. Obesity was not the problem. In fact, it had been the solution to a problem each person who dropped out had when they started the program. So when the began to lose weight they dropped out.

What problem was obesity the answer to for these people? What could possibly motivate a person to get obese? We are talking about obese not just overweight. They found that almost 300 of the drop outs had been sexually abused as children and youth. As one person said, "I needed to be overweight so men would not look at me as a sex object and want me. I got obese to protect myself."

This woman had gained 105 pounds the year after suffering a rape in college.

Weight loss programs do not work if the problem is abuse. The solution was being overweight for that person. If she does not get healed from the abuse she will never be motivated to lose the weight that protects her. Oh, she and I will agree that gaining 105 pounds is a very poor solution. It is a very bad thing to do but it may be the only solution she can think will work so she keeps eating, and eating and eating.

Do you know of anyone who suffers from a chronic problem that they just can't seem to be change? Alcohol? Drugs? Overeating? Under eating? Pornography? Anger? Sex?

Is the substance or focus the problem or the very bad answer to another problem? A very poor solution because he or she cannot think of an alternative?

Contact us if you need help finding a better solution to life's problems.

Childhood Adversity and Adult Diseases

I have always thought that adverse childhood events were good for a person. Now I am not so sure. We can assume that all children need to experience some pain, discomfort and difficulty or they will not develop the adult "mental muscles" necessary to rise up and face adult challenges. However, when is too much adversity turn from being a good thing and become disabling? The old statement that, "Anything that does not kill us is good for us" may not really be true.

I have been involved in counseling and healing ministries as long as I can remember. Even in the first grade I was sought out by fellow students who wanted a caring shoulder to cry on and a listening ear to speak into. At age seven I was appointed the care giver for my Grandfather who lived next door and was so depressed that he was bed fast. I now understand a bit more about what being "predestined" means. I was chosen to be a helper with Christian values.

So, for over sixty years I have been trying to care for other people and help them overcome the Adversities of life. I received a Bachelor's Degree in Education and a Master's Degree in Counseling College Students. After coming to University of Cincinnati I received a Doctorate in Counseling because I met so many troubled students. I was trying to become a better counselor and I think I did. However, I soon discovered that the world, the flesh and the devil were crushing more people than I could heal.

I wrote books and trained lay counselors around the world, but the number of broken people still grew. Why oh why was it happening? Just a few months ago I saw some research that gave me a clue about the rise in the number of traumatized adults. The research is called "Adverse Childhood Events and Adult Diseases" and it shows a dramatic correlation between these two facts. The more childhood adversity/trauma children experience the more diseases they have as adults.

When is adversity too much? When the child's ability to get stronger is broken. When his or her will is broken. When the inner wounds are not healed. When the child begins to think that God has abandoned him/her. When the child loses hope that God can help them. Then it is too much.

Go to for more assistance. Or, call us at 513-769-4600 for the name of a Christian counselor. for Life Way Counseling Centers.

Contact me if you want your ministry to follow the Great Physician.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Home of the Great Physician?

I am in anguish because another prominent Pastor has resigned due to being "outed" as a closet homosexual. The type of sex is immaterial but the fact that another vaunted leader could climb the ladder of Evangelical success without anyone discovering and ministering to his secret world is a terrible thing.

Paul Barnes has resigned as pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel in Denver, confessing to sexual infidelity with other men. "Barnes is not a household name," The Denver Post notes, but his "admission is attracting more attention because it came a month after Colorado Springs pastor Ted Haggard was fired amid allegations that he had paid a male prostitute for sex."

Jesus is known as The Great Physician and indeed it was His life, teachings and ministry that led the Christian world to develop a strong healing ministry. Almost all charitable medical facilities in the world spring not from Galen the Greek but Jesus the Jew. How is it that the institution He left to carry on His work has failed so miserably at bringing health and wholeness to its ministers and members?

I unfortunately see a declining church interest in pastoral care, counseling and healing of mental, emotional and relational issues. I am biased, of course, for that is my passion and my call as well as my gift. However, can pastors, seminary teachers and denominational leaders be unaware of the terrible pain of people in depression, divorce and aberrant behavior? Especially when the church is the single best place ever invented to bring the love, truth and power of God to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free."

Instituting a healing ministry is not easy. Talk is easy but ministry is challenging and difficult, but the rewards are great. Any pastor or church interested in developing better ministries to hurting people can contact me for assistance. If you do we will have a ball.

Nominations Wanted

I have been teaching, preaching and writing about "Equipping the saints to DO the works of the ministry" EPH 4 for many years. Sadly, I still see very few churches and/or pastors who actually do it. So, I am concluding that the issue is not with the churches but with me. I must be OOT (Out Of Touch) with what is happening.

Sooooo, Nominations Please. Send me the names of Pastors, Assistant Pastors, Churches and/or equipping centers/ministries/schools that are really trying to Equip Lay People to DO Evangelism Pastoral Care, Lay Counseling, Social Outreach, Preaching, Teaching, etc.

Be as specific as possible. Describe what they are doing. List their materials. Do some detective work. There must be a few of the 500,000 or so churches in America that actually follow the Bible.

Explanation of Double Binds

As I re-read the last post it occurred to me that it could easily be misunderstood as a rant against the war critics and it was not intended as that. I began the post with the intention of discussing how crippling and emotionally confusing it is for leaders to use Double Bind Communication Patterns. I saw the report by the Iraq Study Group as a good example of a bad habit. However, I missed the mark rather badly with the post so allow me to re fire.

Double Binds and Mental Anguish

(Go to for an in-depth look at this topic.)

After so many years of up-close and personal ministry I can say with no fear of contradiction that good theology brings joy, healing, growth and power. The truth does indeed set us free. On the other hand, bad theology brings sadness, anxiety, a lack of motivation and even depression. Good theology helps people face illness, stay married and rear children effectively. Conversely, bad theology brings destruction and chaos into our family and personal lives.

One of the most destructive types of bad theology is Double Bind Communication. Double Bind injunctions are found in many families and churches and they leave a wide swath of mental, emotional and spiritual destruction. Nowhere is that more true than among highly committed and pious church workers.

The conservative church is especially filled with Double Bind ideas, patterns and expectations.

“If that is true,” you say, “we need to identify and eliminate the Double Bind patterns.” I could not agree more. If Double Binds are so toxic, we need to have a good explanation and description of what they are and how to combat them.

A Double Bind Communication Pattern is any verbal injunction that can only be obeyed when it is disobeyed. And, It is the chronic presence of a no-win communication pattern that induces neurotic thoughts and feelings in the members. Despite what others would consider a superior performance the master of the Double Bind always finds failure so the child can never win for she never, ever fulfills her mother’s demands.

The inner pain, self-condemnation, guilt and shame experienced by a child brought up in such a home us difficult to explain, but let me try. We who have lived under these conditions tend to try harder to please our parent, work better to please the tyrant boss and explain ourselves more fully to fend off the verbal blows that are sure to come as a result of our perceived failures.

But how can healthy people be induced to become neurotically worried about irrational things? Way back in 1927 a very famous Russian researcher, Pavlov, showed us. He made healthy dogs into hyper-emotional, neurotic animals. They became so upset that they could not follow simple commands.

He accomplished his goal in the following ways. He first taught the dogs to differentiate between a circle and an ellipse. Pavlov fed the dogs when they walked through the circle. However, he held back the food when they went through the ellipse. It did not take the animals long to know the difference between the two.

After thoroughly training the dogs to choose the circle and food, Pavlov began to remold the ellipse to be closer and closer to the shape of a perfect circle. As long as the dogs could easily discern the difference they walked through the circle to get the food. However, when the ellipse was bent to a ratio very similar to the circle the dogs could not tell the difference. At that point a strange thing occurred.

When the dogs found it impossible to tell the difference between the circle and the near circle, they had what can only be described as an emotional breakdown. Their behavior was contrary to anything the researchers had seen before. Notes from Pavlov described it this way:

The hitherto quiet dog began to squeal in its stand, kept wiggling about, tore off with its teeth the apparatus…and bit through the tubes…behavior that had never occurred before. On being taken into the laboratory the dog now barked violently. (Pavlov 1927, pp 290-291)

He called it “Experimental Neurosis” or “Learned Helplessness”. We actually see this kind of thing practiced among animal trainers. For example, it is amazing to watch a very small man tell a huge elephant exactly what to do and the huge animal do it without a hesitation. I often wondered, “Why does that big thing not run away? He could do anything he wanted, but for the most part he is docile as a lamb.

Here is how it is done. When the elephant is small, the trainer places a ring around his leg that has very sharp points on the inside. If the animal tries to run away, the spears dig painfully into his leg and he immediately returns the leg to a comfortable position. It does not take long for the big guy to realize that he is helpless to run. After he is thoroughly trained, the Mahout replaces the cutting leg iron with one that will not dig his leg but the animal’s mind has been completely convinced that running means pain. This is “Learned Helplessness”.

If neurotic behavior and hyper-anxious feelings can be produced in dogs and elephants by subjecting them to a highly ambiguous and painful situation can the same thing be done to humans? The dogs had a learned response to the ambiguous, insecure situation. When there is uncertainty about which behavior results in a reward and which will cause a punishment the result will be a state of nervous exhaustion.

Since the days of Pavlov many other scientists have replicated his findings in both animals and humans. Thus, this principle is widely accepted among therapists. It is obvious that humans, like animals, respond with anxiety and fear when faced with important decisions they cannot readily and correctly answer.

The Three Aspects of a No Win-Double Bind

I. Double Binds involve a close relationship between two or more persons. When the relationship is highly intense or when the survival of the relationship is at stake a Double Bind is most powerful. Intense relationships include marriage, parent-child, boss-subordinate, prisoners, hostages, church -member, counselor-client, doctor-patient, etc. Most powerful and intense is one’s relationship with God.

II. Messages are paradoxical between the authority figure and the dependent person. The command can only be obeyed by being disobeyed. When humans, like dogs, are unable to distinguish between obedience and disobedience; reward and punishment; success and failure, neurosis is the result.

III. The person receiving the Double Bind message does not believe he/she can change the nature of the relationship or the message. One cannot:

· Withdraw from the situation
· Meta-communicate or analyze the message’s absurdity
· Make any appropriate response without pain
· Escape bad feelings if they obey or if they don’t obey

From this point of view, the underling is trapped in an impossible situation that cannot be changed, discussed or escaped. Anyone trapped in such a situation over a period of time will likely develop anxiety, depression, fears and physical illnesses. They may try to withdraw from the relationship, church or God as a way of reducing their anxiety. However, that too is deemed wrong so the anxiety and anger will continue to exist.

The Iraq Study Group and Double Binds

The ISG report offered solutions that are impossible to implement yet they seem to be easily accomplished. If the President tries to follow the report he will surely fail and be severely criticized. However, if he refuses to implement the suggestions he will also fail and be severely criticized. Perhaps in fifty years or so historians will conclude Mr. Bush did the right thing but in the immediate future he is damned if he does follow the suggestions and damned if he does not follow them.

I am greatly concerned that the President badly misjudged the volitility of the situation in Iraq and the Middle East when he went to war. However, that does not change the fact that the ISG has placed him in a no win, DB situation and does not relieve them of the responsibility for making his job much tougher now that he is there.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Double Bind War Suggestions

Just a few days ago the Iraq Study Group released its vaunted recommendations to the world that waited with baited breath. For weeks the press and TV reporters had anticipated the report with sky high expectations that the wise old men of a former administration would size up the situation and voila, make a few shrewd observations that President Bush, in his right wing dim witted manner had failed to grasp before, would gulp and have to implement immediately.

Well, the report is here and it contains some of the most insipid and meaningless insights available to humanity. Worse yet, these recommendations are so vapid and simple that most media types accept them immediately. They are at the level of the Rodney King slogan after he resisted arrest: "Why can't we all just get along?"

Why indeed, asks the ISG, can't we all get along? For example, this million dollar brain trust that met for weeks to discuss the Iraq War says, "Get Iran and Syria to help us win the War." Now that is brilliant. All we have to do is ask these two nations to put pressure on the Sunni and Shia suicide bombers to stop their killing and they will immediately cooperate with us.

No wonder President Bush is out of favor. He never thought of asking for assistance from Iran and Syria. And Rumsfeld was also negligent. No wonder he had to resign. The media experts can see right away why the wise old men of the ISG are so smart and Bush is so dumb.

But wait. Maybe we need to ask if Iran and Syria are motivated to help us win the war. But surely the ISG thought about that and asked these two nations first and they said, "We really love the USA and we want to see Bush and the Americans succeed." But when the co-chairs of the ISG were asked about the motivation of Iran and Syria we find that the group thinks they hate the US and want to see us defeated in Iraq. In fact, these two nations are actually training the suicide bombers and paying for the bombs!

I am a simple man that has no experience in Geo-political analysis, but I do understand competition. Let me put it this way. The Cincinnati Bengals are fighting for the right to go to the Super Bowl but Baltimore is way ahead of them. We cannot gain on Baltimore unless they lose to other teams. If Baltimore played another team last week and Coach Marvin Lewis wanted to see them lose, would it be likely that he could persuade the raven's coach to throw the game just to please Marvin and the Cincinnati fans?

Obviously the ISG knows nothing about football, basketball or warfare. They are ignorant about competition and motivation so they made ridiculous recommendations about cooperation in the Middle East. The ISG report is worse than bad for it sends the message to terrorists that the US is so weak and stupid that they can do anything they want. Second, it puts the President into a Double Bind. It is a Catch 22 and the media lemmings love it.

To use another sports analogy. We elect men and women to office to run our government that we would never allow to coach one of our sports. Most of them would give up as soon as the other team started to fight back. If a coach cannot stand tough for four quarters and cannot stand to see his players injured he cannot be a coach. But he can be a Senator or Representative.

I do not know what to do in Iraq. It is a mess and it is difficult. But, I also know that meaningless and impossible suggestions make things worse. James Baker retired after a distinguished career in government. He mistakenly came out of retirement thinking he was still able to throw a 100 mile an hour fast ball. Unfortunately he is living in a fantasy camp with a 40 mile slow ball.

Radio Interview

Today I was blessed to be interviewed by a new friend, Erin Campbell, for her radio program aired on WLW-Radio each Sunday morning. You can check her web at

After having had a radio program for about fifteen years I am quite familiar with what it takes to produce a successful and spiritually interesting program. I believe that Erin has what it takes to grab the attention of listeners and keep them interested. She has a warm but penetrating style that tends to draw the guest into the discussion in a winsome and surprising manner.

Just the fact that the Lord has opened up a spot at 7:30 AM on 700 AM, WLW Radio, a 50 thousand clear channel station and the second most powerful in the nation, is remarkable. The number of Christian ministries operating on such a station is rare indeed so I hope you all will support it and keep her in your prayers.

By the way, Life Matters, the program sponsored by Life Way Counseling Centers is now being broadcast early in the morning at 7:50 AM Drive Time on WAKW 93.3 FM. Tune in to hear Emily Roach present a short but pithy approach to staying healthy. The web page is

Monday, December 11, 2006

Russian Roads Lead Nowhere

I have heard a lot about these roads from my Russian friends. This is why so many people ride trains and airplanes. Can you imagine that the second largest world power left its people to live in such conditions? The USSR spent about 80% of its GNP on the Military and the amount spent on roads, safety and schools was very low. You can see the results. (And you thought commuting here in the US was bad.)
I always stay in or near Moscow and St. Petersburg so the conditions are not as dire. However, the depression, alcoholism, family abuse and human misery in the cities are great but are compounded by the horrible roads, houses and transportation. The Arch-Priest who oversees our ministry begged us to do more for the rural areas. We are now training people to head up ministries for the countryside.
Thank God there are many believers willing to take the good news to Russia and the Eastern Bloc of nations formerly under the thumb of the USSR.

An Honored Alum

I graduated from Mt. Vernon High in 1956 and Ambassador Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick was a very distinguished alum who went before me in 1944. She recently passed away and this is the story about her in the local paper.

Published: December 09, 2006 01:05 am
Former ambassador Kirkpatrick was 1944 MVTHS grad


Local leaders spoke highly of Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former United Nations ambassador and graduate of Mt. Vernon Township High School, following her death Thursday.Kirkpatrick, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the first woman U.N. Ambassador from 1981 to 1985, is a 1944 graduate of MVTHS and one of its “Distinguished Alumni.”The 80-year-old’s death was announced Friday.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus called Kirkpatrick “a remarkable person” for breaking the gender barrier for the United States at the United Nations.“At the U.N. she led President Reagan’s fight against the former Soviet Union, against the spread of communism, and against threats to our freedoms,” Shimkus said. “Our nation will miss her direct point of view on international matters.”

Mt. Vernon Mayor David Keen agreed.“I am very sad to hear about the passing of former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick,” Keen said. “She was obviously one of our most distinguished alumni of the high school and the City of Mt. Vernon.”

Keen was introduced to Kirkpatrick years ago by City Councilman John Howard when Kirkpatrick received the MVTHS Distinguished Alumni award.“You could definitely tell you were in the presence of somebody extremely important,” Keen said. “She was very kind and cordial, intelligent and articulate, and very concerned about her country.”

MVTHS Principal Dr. Jerry Pepple said Kirkpatrick set a strong example for students who followed her.“I think she is an inspiration to our current students and shows what this school is able to achieve and the quality of students who walk through these halls,” he said.

Kirkpatrick’s portrait hangs in the hallway outside the office of the MVTHS superintendent.“She was one of the outstanding students and she served our country very well,” Pepple said.During her time at MVTHS, Kirkpatrick, then known as Jeane Duane Jordan, served as editor-in-chief of The Vernois News, was a member of the Journalism Club and the Pan American Club. Jefferson County Board Chairman Ted Buck called Kirkpatrick one of Mt. Vernon’s “greatest assets.”

“She was talented, intelligent and a great lady,” he said. “Our country will have suffered a loss.”Howard said he was proud to have grown up with her and gone to school with her. Kirkpatrick has returned to Mt. Vernon many times since leaving government. “She was loyal to Mt. Vernon and Mt. Vernon High School,” he said.

“We watched her career with great interest. Her death is a great loss to the nation.”State Senator John O. Jones (R-Mt. Vernon) said he met Kirkpatrick one time, calling her “impressive.”“She was a very classy person,” he said. “She represented this community well. For her to be from here is a great plus for this entire area. ... She will be sorely missed.”

Kirkpatrick, once a Democrat, switched to the Republican party in 1985.“She wore my name button at one time,” Jones chuckled.State Rep. Kurt Granberg (D-Carlyle), who met Kirkpatrick once years ago while visiting Washington D.C., called her a “very strong force” at the United Nations.“She was very well respected — very tough and demanding, but very respected,” he said.

Jill Buck, owner of Buck Consulting in San Francisco and a former MVTHS grad, wrote about Kirkpatrick on the political news Web site“ She was a force to be reckoned with on issues of moral import,” Buck wrote, listing Kirkpatrick’s notable achievements in the 1980s and 1990s, plus heading the U.S. delegation to the Human Rights Commission in 2003.

“(She) had a tremendous influence on my own political life as a candidate for (California) State Assembly.”Buck said she remembers Kirkpatrick’s switch to the Republican party as one of her influences behind her registering to vote for the first time as a Republican.“My grandfather (who attended MVTHS with Kirkpatrick) was jubilant and said his friend Jeane would be proud.”


Last week Karen and I attended the Rend Lake Foundation Dinner in Mt. Vernon and we were greatly impressed by the creativity, wisdom and leadership shown by the administration and teachers in my old town and my old school. They are certainly following in the footsteps of Mrs. Kirkpatrick and making a mark for the region and touching the world. Small town and country folk can accomplish a lot despite the caricatures of Hollywood.

Performance Mentality

Is there anything more toxic to a Christian's soul than a performance mentality? Not that I can think of.

In the beginning of one's Christian walk we are like newborn babes who bask in the reality of the Father's great love and grace. Oh how sweet it is! However, that seems to go away after a few weeks or months as we hear about all the things we "Should" be doing.

Is there anything more toxic to the soul of a ministry than a performance mentality? Not that I know of.

Most ministries are the outgrowth of an exuberant life in the Holy Spirit and are but shadows of the person whose passion has ignited them. However, after awhile the newness wears off and we find that raising money and keeping people engaged takes a lot out of us so we start being more concerned about "Image Management" than "Spiritual Self Management".

That drive to look better than we are is behind the fall of many men and women who started in the Spirit and lost it in the flesh. If I hear one more human introduced as a very "Godly man who loves Jesus with all hie heart..." I will scream. Such adulation places a person so high on a pedestal that he can never confess his weaknesses. It is a recipe for certain disaster. When I am more concerned about my image and my performance than my soul the Lord will have to take some drastic measure to rip off my mask and that means embarrassment.


I was stimulated to write this post after reading one of my favorite web pages from CT Online. It reports that there was a Church Planting Scheme in Texas that took in millions of dollars on the basis that they were growing like crazy and planing churches like cow pies. It was almost all based on deception.

Ghost Growth
Baptist report: Some 'failed' church plants never existed.
Ken Walker posted 12/11/2006 09:06AM

The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) is trying to recoup up to $1.3 million lost in failed and fraudulent church plants, some of which existed only on paper. A late October report revealed that most convention churches started in the Rio Grande Valley from 1999 to 2005 have failed. Among 258 congregations started by three pastors in seven years, only 5 still gather.

Related articles and links

The BGCT hired an investigative team that found evidence of inaccuracies, falsified reports, and lax convention oversight of the church-starting program. Pastors Otto Arango, Aaron de la Torre, and Armando Vera reported 72 percent of the valley's 357 church starts over a seven-year period.

De la Torre gave the most damaging admission of wrongdoing. The pastor of Community Baptist Church in Hidalgo described a scheme where he turned over BGCT checks to Arango, who allegedly deposited them into his bank account and gave de la Torre 50 percent of the money.
De la Torre told investigators he wanted "to be honest before God" and offered to pay restitution. (He) admitted that all 89 churches he sponsored or co-sponsored were only cell groups.

"Arango said that he had made a lot of money promoting his vision of planting churches," the report said. "In addition, he said the 'complainers' were envious of [his church] facility, in part because it was debt free."

Greed—not just for money—can entangle church leaders or blind them to wrongdoing, said Barry Minkow, founder of the Fraud Discovery Institute. "We're greedy for numbers so we can tell people we're effective, which makes us vulnerable on the ministry side," Minkow said.

It was a Performance Mentality that sank Ted Haggard. He was unable to admit his human weaknesses and they burst foth unbidden from deep within.

It was Image Management that sank a pastor of 30 years who recently left his wife and church for another woman. He never was able to admit his temptations to me or anyone else and they overcame him like a hurricane.

The answer for us today is the same as it was for the Apostle Paul almost 2000 years ago. We need a daily dose of reality and God's grace to bring healing and a new mentality to that heart of deceit. "Who shall deliver me from that body of flesh? That God it is Jesus who delivers us daily." RO 7

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We Have a Problem in Communication

It is never easy to communicate about an emotional or spiritual issue. It seems that misunderstandings are more common than clarity and understanding. In my profession, pastoral care, counseling, consulting and training, I do a lot of talking about the need to clarify, listen and use words carefully.

We have a saying about miscommunication that sums it up: The biggest barrier to clear communication is not a disagreement about the answer but a lack of agreement about the question.

Recently we had somewhat of a furor about the stumbles of Rev. Ted Haggard and the world's response to his troubles. The Rocky Mountain News reported in a dramatic manner that Jim Dobson had said Haggard needed an exorcism. The implication is, "not only is Ted Haggard a liar, a hypocrite and a fake Dr. Dobson is no better than a witch doctor."

There was only one small problem. Dr. Dobson did not say such a thing. The Rocky Mountain News, misunderstood. Dr. Dobson used the term "EXERCISE" not "EXORCISE". It is just a small difference but has a big implication.

Here is how they corrected their embarrassing mistake.

"This story incorrectly stated that James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, believes people who don't practice what they preach should undergo an exorcism. His quote, in a TV interview about reaction to the firing of evangelical leader Ted Haggard for 'sexual immorality,' was: 'Everybody gets exercised (worked up about it) when something like this happens, and for good reason.'"—A correction to a November 23 Rocky Mountain News article on Dobson and Haggard, which had the subhead "Dobson: Haggard not a hypocrite, just in need of exorcism."

Will everyone who read the original story read the correction or remember it? No. A hundred years from now people will still sit around their TV screens and discuss Dobson's desire to cast demons out of Ted Haggard.

So, be careful about what you say. Trying to communicate accurately and lovingly as a Christian is a difficult challenge especially when the secularized, suspicious world is watching. As scripture says, "Let nothing come out of your mouth that does not edify and build up." Wow, what a challenge.

My first book was named, "Apples of Gold" because the Bible says, "Words properly spoken are like apples of gold in a tray of silver."

So, pray for the Holy Spirit to watch over us and guide our tongues to say sweet things to bless people. Even then we may be misunderstood so offer grace to yourself and those who miss your meaning.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Let's Make Church Going Compulsory

Ohio voters, were tricked into voting for a couple of laws in the last election. Zealots whose sole mission in life is to force people to do what they want when they want it pulled the wool over our eyes. They use Bogus Scientific Research and Educational Materials aimed at kids and easily manipulated people who watch Oprah to get their agenda across.

In Ohio we passed a law restricting smoking in any closed place of business. Let me offer my disclaimer. I hate smoking and I stopped the evil practice 39 years ago when my daughter was born. I hate being with smokers and I believe smoking is harmful. However, when we give the government so much power to regulate and control our behavior we can get into a police state in a hurry.

We also passed a law called, "The Minimum Wage Act" that not only forces employers to pay over $7.00 an hour to workers it also has several other side requirements that are now in the Ohio Constitution. One of the most egregious is that any employee in a company with over 50 employees can request and get a list of the salaries and payments of all the other employees. This is a road to chaos. Salaries and benefits have always been closely held information in companies for the jealousy, covetousness and anger caused by an open system can ruin a company.

So, when we cannot beat them we shall join them. Here is my simple proposal: We ask the legislature to require everyone to attend the church, synagogue or temple of their choice.

The rationale is this: People with frequent church attendance are much healthier than those who do not attend. They live longer have fewer serious diseases and stay married longer. People who attend church have fewer babies out of wedlock and marry more often. Children reared in intact families are healthier and do better in school.

These data show without a doubt that a religious commitment reduces sicknesses and thus reduces medical costs and government costs. We must require people to go to church because it will save us billions of dollars.

Just imagine the giant posters with Uncle Sam pointing his finger at people and saying: "Uncle Sam wants you IN CHURCH!"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Russian Murders

I just received a letter from Anya Chentsova, Galina's daughter, about the brutal murder of an Orthodox Priest in Russia. You can read the story here.

This event tells one reason why ministry in places like Russia and Zimbabwe is so difficult. I just had lunch with Mark Roser who has served in Zimbabwe with his wife Pat and children for over twenty years. The leader of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe, has adopted the same kind of Socialist Stalinist strategies that are popular in Cuba, China, North Korea, Iraq, and Russia. Mugabe, Castro, Mao, Saddam and Kim Ill Sung, like Stalin, have devised demonically evil plans to keep people under their thumb and totally on guard against persecution, murder and prison.

As soon as anyone speaks up about the need for religious and political freedom, he or she is immediately punished or killed. Putin obviously had the former KGB/FSB agent poisoned in England and there will be little if any consequences. What can we Americans do?

1. Only prayer and the gospel will prevail over the long run. It is a long battle. the people have been so conditioned to allowing the government to do anything they want there will be no immediate change in the government.

2. Pray for revival and awakening. There were 300 churches in Moscow in 2000 but half of them had to close by 2005. It is legal to plant a church but it is very difficult to sustain a church. The mafia and government will steal the group's money, turn down requests for zoning, forbid building and harass the leaders.

3. Support leadership development. Many leaders of the new churches are recent converts who still struggle with addictions and violence. They desperately need healing and support.

4. Pray for our government to deny Russia the right to join the World Trade Organization. Putin must be held accountable for his crimes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Are you Different?

I spend a lot of time speaking with pastors, ministers, church workers and lay leaders who are wanting to help people grow. That is a worthwhile motive. Unfortunately, I find most of them do not know what to do to help people in need.

Right now I am working on developing materials designed to train Christan counselors help folks from what is being called, "Cross Cultural" backgrounds. Almost all of the literature really talks about counseling minorities. The earliest research in the counseling professions comes from the Seventies and has to do with issues of Race, Gender and Sexual "Orientation". It is, therefore, good for political rhetoric but not so good for training counselors.

The tragedy is that most of the writers do not seem to know the difference between taking a stand for politics and what makes good counseling. This is a very sad problem for it means that many people will receive inadequate help with their problems.

Many of the authors act as though everyone from a specific ethnic or cultural group act, think and feel the same and all are from similar backgrounds. This is blatant prejudice and can only lead to poor counseling.

Some of the papers I read actually talk about what they call, "Culture Centered Counseling" instead of "Client Centered Counseling". I suppose that means that the individual is less important than the culture they come from. That is bad counsel.

If we simply treat each client as a unique human being with unique ideas, feelings and behaviors all the other issues will fall away. Of course we need to learn the things that might be offensive to a particular group and avoid using names of non verbals that would offend them. However, we ought not assume that just because a woman is a female that she is more sensitive than a man or that a man is analytical.

When we interact with peace and patience we can listen carefully and allow the person to tell us what he or she thinks and feels. As a rule, the differences between persons from a similar cultural, religious, racial group are usually much greater than the general differences between two groups.

I was reared in a Southern Baptist Church. However, when I moved to Cincinnati I discovered that the differences between the Baptist Church here and my church back home were greater than the differences between other religious groups and my home church.

So, do not assume you can judge a person by their group.
Listen and learn. It could be a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


One of the last things Jesus promised His followers was peace. He added that it would not be peace as the world sees peace but a different and I have always supposed, better kind.

In this instant age I, many people, really like their peace to come in a bottle or a pill. That is what I have begun to call "Purchased Peace" or "Synthetic Happiness". The number of people who are risking everything to have a moment or an hour of "Mellowness" in the form of a drug pornography or a one night sex stand is amazing to me.

Jesus knew that the simple people He chose to carry out His plan on earth were not up to the job on their own. They would need some supernatural assistance to keep their hearts and minds at peace. So, in John 14 and 15 He started telling them about the plan to give them the Holy Spirit as a new Counselor. I am pretty sure that the main reason so many Christians fall away into anxiety and sin is their lack of experiencing the Counselor personally.

I am talking with a lot of people who are dry. They do not enjoy reading the Bible any more and it is dull to them. However, if I ask how their are doing with hearing God they say, "Well, I am not hearing anything. I used to hear God but not any more."

When I ask what has changed, I usually hear the same things. "I used to listen to the Counselor but now I am just too busy to listen."

God never intended us to carry on our lives alone. God through Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to reside with us and in us. Wow! Just look inward sometimes. We don't need to "Chase God." He is so near us that all that He needs to speak is a bit of silence and a bit of listening.

For several years I was a paid listener. I have a doctorate in listening. Most of the people who spoke with me just needed someone to really listen and understand them with love and grace. That may sound easy to you but just think how few people you know who will be quiet long enough for you to complete an idea and then show real interest in you and your idea?

The church is full of talkers. The main reason so few Christians grow and experience peace is because we have decided to hire talkers as pastors instead of listeners. In fact, only good talkers are encouraged to go into the "Ministry". We Baptists were quite honest about what we expected. We called them "Preachers" not ministers, pastors or listeners.

Thus, we think loving God is talking about God not listening to Him. We think being anxious about God's people is spiritual when Jesus said peace was spiritual. If you a want peace learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. He is right there with you and in you. He is in your mouth and in your heart. But we can't hear if we are always moving frantically around. Maybe the entire church has ADHD.

Friday, December 01, 2006

PC Thinking Kills People

All who can read research know that having babies out of wedlock is dangerous to the babies, instant poverty to the mothers and long term destruction to the nation that promotes it. We have known this for mnany years but scholars are afraid to say it and media types get mean and nasty if we gring it up.

Over thirty years ago a famous and wise Democrat Senaror from New York read the statistics about the fact that about 30% of all Black babieswere being born out of wedlocl and he predicted that this spelled disaster for all of us but especially for African American families. He was excoriated and attacked as a racist and he promply stopped telling the truth.

Dan Quayle said that the TV character Murphy Brown was setting a bad example by having a baby but not getting married. The media and left wing zealots called him a Nazi and a man who hated single mothers.

Then, in the early Eighties a new disease sprang up and began killing thousands of homosexual men. Doctors called it HIV and AIDs and called for measures to test active gay men and the uproar was overwhelming. One could not even admit it was a disease that was particularly common among gay men. Thousands more died as a result.

New research reveals that the number of unwed mothers is increasing and has reached 37% of all births in America. Most are paid by Medicade and will go immediately onto welfare.

They will very likely be forced to live in perpetual poverty without the presence of a male in the home for the rest of their lives. Not having a father in the home causes brain damage, violence and long term addictions and other health problems.

Here is what the Wall Street Journal reports about this issue.

Princeton Prof. Sara McLanahan directs the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which was begun to track 5,000 single mothers who gave birth between 1998 and 2000. Many were romantically involved when the study began, and many spoke approvingly of marriage. Several years on, however, few are wed, and their children often have experienced the stress of churning relationships. More and more, Ms. McLanahan says, "you're beginning to see these households composed of a mother and three children and three different ex-partners . . . and this is turning into a situation where children are being raised in very unstable families."

As social scientists and others look for solutions, some begin with the premise that single motherhood is a reality, so we must adjust to it with various services, such as programs designed to help mothers get better jobs. Government-funded initiatives also include couples counseling for unmarrieds, so that these parents at least function better as a team.

Missing in almost all these approaches is what the Manhattan's Institute's Kay Hymowitz refers to as "the M-word." She told us that while high-school girls may accept advice to finish their education before having children, the "wait until" message doesn't include marriage.

Perhaps that's because no one wants to sound judgmental or stigmatize single women who choose to have children. But to be truly fair--and caring--would first require telling the truth. In her new book, "Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age," Ms. Hymowitz documents how, by refusing to emphasize the link between marriage and successful child raising, "we have created a new demographic, which is the poor, working, single mother.

We must speak up now for the benefit of these children and their mothers.

Prayers for the Russian Ministry

A brief history: In the late Eighties a group of us were teaching and training leaders in Scandinavia when two of our team had discernment about "Going East to minister". That turned out to be in Russia and in the early Nineties I began to visit with various Christian ministries in Moscow to find a group with whom we could partner for an extended time as that huge nation opened up to God and democracy.

The first group that asked me for support was a Christian Graduate School that was the brain child of American psychologists and grad school professors. After listening to their vision and plan I agreed to help them for a year to discern further if they were going to be able to really minister to pastors and churches as well as professional therapists. I was sceptical about too much emphasis on theory and not enough on practical skills.

My sixteen years at College Hill Church setting up a large ministry for the care and cure of soul s showed me the power of a healing community. Then in 1989 the Lord called me to open up an in-patient Christ centered psychiatric unit within Emerson North Hospital.

In that unit we implemented the things we had learned at the church. We trained the Seekers/ Clients/ Patients as well as the Helpers. I knew that Seekers would benefit more from the training than from the medication because I had seen the research and I saw the results at CHPC.

We experienced wonderful and miraculous growth and healing not only among the residents but also among the Psychiatrists, Therapists and Nurses. Our Medical Director, Dr. Emmett Cooper told me recently that working with our unit was the most exciting and rewarding time of his entire professional life.

When I went to Russia I took all those pastoral and professional insights. I did not want to replicate a Medical Model that places all the emphasis on the "Expert Therapists" and devalues the Seeker. I wanted to let the world know that the Seeker/Client/Patient is the expert and he or she is the hero of the story.

After a couple of visits I asked Dr. Galina Chentsova to come to Cincinnati to study in the Hospital and at LIFE Seminars. She had very good medical and psychiatric training. However, under Communism she was not allowed to actually study counseling skills of listening and caring. She was blown away by how skilled our lay teachers and lay Helpers were.

Galina now heads our ministry in the CIS/Russia. She has trained a core of solid, loving lay men and women who are committed to Christ and active in a variety of churches. Some are pastors and Christian Education Workers. Others are recovering from Addictions and Co-Dependency. They are now training hundreds of pastors and leaders throughout the CIS to deliver care, counsel and set up support/recovery groups.

Last night Galina called me with several urgent prayer requests. They are:

1. They are at an exciting crossroads in ministry. She is raising up team members to take more and more responsibility for the ministry and for travel to other areas to teach pastors and leaders. Pray for peace and courage.

2. The Mafia has taken over the building Galina was using and she is moving to another more expensive place. The need for painting, fixing and decorating with office furniture is great. Pray for finances, energy, volunteers and transportation.

3. The team is traveling to a city with terrible health and addiction issues to do a follow-up workshop on December 13-15. Pray for finances, a healthy team, students that are teachable and spiritual protection.

4. They do another training program on healing anger, bitterness, grief and trauma from December 18-20. Pray for spiritual protection and stamina for traveling mercies and finances.

5. Steve Griebling and I go to Moscow in January for an intense ten days of leadership development. Nothing is as important as developing healthy and effective leaders.

Thanks for remembering our brothers and sisters in need.