Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hiding My Real Self

How does scripture tell us to handle our temptations?

Many if not most or all of us suffer from embarrassing thorns. That seems especially true when the person is highly gifted. The purpose seems to be to engender both humility and a strong reliance on God rather than self.

When we try to cover up our problems it inevitably leads to developing stronger and sharper thorns. Darkness is the favorite climate and verbal B.S. the preferred fertilizer for fallen leaders as well as falling members.

"When we are weak we are strong" to quote the infallible Bible's statement from St. Paul. Weak people can reveal their temptations and inner ruminations. This is called “Walking in the light as He is in the light" it kills thorns at the root.

Thought for the day

There have been many great words written to help us humans get through life with minimal damage to ourselves and others. Other than the Bible, I am convinced that the materials written and borrowed by Alcoholics Anonymous are the most healing and healthy materials I know.

A lot of the processes and slogans of AA come from a famous Protestant Minister, Reinhold Niebuhr. He wrote what we now call, The Serenity Prayer that is, when examined closely, used to guide almost all the rest of the AA materials.

Earlier today I came across another great paragraph by Dr. Niebuhr in , PRISM ePistle []

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true, or beautiful, or good, makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, could be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our own standpoint; therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Living Daily By Grace

Is there anything harder than living daily by grace and finding that God's grace is sufficient for every issue, temptation and character flaw? Give me works any day and I can be pretty successful because all I need to do is fool you all and that is easy.

We have proven time and again that people love to be fooled by religious leaders. And, religious leaders find that the best way to be considered great is to fool people. As an old con man named P.T. Barnum once cracked, "There's a sucker born every minute." He made millions of dollars by following this adage at a time when a thousand was considered real money.

Modern religious leaders are racking up millions as well by acting like they have all the answers. With modern TV, radio, iPod and CD communications a million is just a drop in the bucket. Just take a look at the kinds of titles that really sell.

"Seven Steps to a Spiritual Breakthrough" and "The 25 Laws of a Leader". (Following the Ten Commandments is not enough to be a success!) I love the one that so many of my friends in Singapore bought, "The God Chasers!" Yep, God is elusive and must be sought out with hard work and following the correct 25 laws or we will be left out. God hides from us and comes out like the Groundhog only once a year and if He sees His shadow He scampers back into His hole until the next year.

What hucksterism! What nonsense! What drivel! But cons continually get away with such talks and writings. Why? Because we really believe we are saved or at least kept saved by our own good deeds. We are little better than Muslims and Buddhists in that regard. In fact, they are better off than we in some ways. At least they openly say it's works that give them eternal bliss. We claim to believe that we are "Saved by grace through faith and not by works lest anyone should be able to boast". (See Eph 2:)

For about six weeks I tried to teach about the power of God's grace to save, keep, deliver and heal. We had a wonderful time. Right in the middle of that series Rev. Ted Haggard had his "Thorn in the Flesh" come out into the open. Over a few days his attempts to live and grow by works rather than grace were exposed to the world. The response by many Christians was something on the order of, "He should have tried harder to do good works and reject temptation." We do love works and dislike grace.

In his open confession, Mr. Haggard admitted he had struggled to keep his thorn under control his entire adult life and he failed to get relief. If what we are doing works; do more of it. If what we are doing does not work; STOP and TRY SOMETHING ELSE!

Works do not work. Works do not heal. Works do no help us grow. Works do not deliver us from the flesh.

Go to my web page at and read the Power Point slides for my class at the Vineyard. Then, read the posts called, Gary's Insights about Double Bind Theology of Works and how it kills rather than heals. I hope Mr. Haggard finds a minister who can help him discover grace and healing and leave his good works behind.

The same is true for the man who "outed" Haggard. He grew up in a conservative Christian home. There he found no relief for his sexual distortions and temptations so he rejected God and the church. If it does not work... May God draw him into a gracious relationship of love as well so he can find healing, peace and joy.

Ice Skating Nuns in Cincinnati

A recent story in the Cincinnati Enquirer shows the diversity of the religious leaders in today's world. Take a look at the nuns in their Pre-Vatical II dress, called "habits" and read the story. You may wish to buy the CD as well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Abakan in Siberia

The beauty of God's creation cannot make up for the evil of the enemy's ways.
Many people in Siberia are in bondage. God can deliver them.

Galina Ministers in Eastern Russia

It is difficult to imagine how big the Russian nation really is. It now covers at least nine time zones. Although the USA is quite large, we only have four time zones so Russia is over twice as expansive. One of our dear friends and colleagues, Bishop Anatoly, has established alcohol and drug treatment programs in many churches is a Baptist Bishop and his territory in the Eastern part of Russia called Siberia is larger than Ohio, Illinois and Michigan combined!

Galina and her team just took a trip out there to train Christian ministers and lay persons to counsel families and set up recovery programs for addicts. The only hope for Russia is the establishment of thousands of Christian healing groups in churches, schools and communities.

She sent back some photos of the beauty of the area but the creation of God hides the terrible facts of addiction, abuse and satanic worship with black magic. No wonder the people are dying off so rapidly.

If they come to your mind, pray for Galina, the team and the people they have been teaching God's word in Abakan, Siberia. I will be returning to Russia to set up a more in-depth school for training leaders. If you can support us please let me know.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pinehurst Golf Course Number 5

Karen and I were graced again by finding a way for me to play the very famous Pinehurst Course for 18 holes. I shot some of the very greatest golf of my life. The six pars were the best I have ever done.
The weather is beautiful with a high, blue sky and a warm 68 degrees. Creation is beautiful when she is like this.
I met two nice fellows who showed me the tricky parts of the course. The photo of me and Mr. Putter indicates how hot I was on the greens.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Orhodox Spirituality in Moscow

These three photos come from a dynamic Orthodox church in Moscow. It was founded by a radical Priest Fr. Alexander Menes who was killed in the Eighties for his ministry. His bust is in the first photo. They still minister to the poor and needy. Please pray for this and other centers of renewal in Russia.

Thanks Around the World

Karen and I were discussing the benefits of our American Thanksgiving and we became quite thankful for Thanksgiving. We had several reasons:

1. We are thanking God. It is very difficult for the secularists, who hate God and all that God does,to take God out of Thanksgiving. Even the historians are willing to recognize that the Pilgrims were pious, religious Christians that prayed and thanked God for His blessings.

Our great and good friends in Moscow, Russia are most impressed by Thanksgiving and they wish Russia had a similar celebration that focused on God. We received an e mail from Anya and Galina yesterday that reiterated how much they admire the founders of America for making it possible.

2. It is a family affair. Families tend to gather and have fellowship around the meal table. Breaking bread together has always been a symbol of a sacred encounter and families are sacred.

3.No gifts and no obligations. Few people actually need anything so why do we still buy so much at Christmas.

Keep thanking God daily and do not allow anyone to rob us of our heritage, lest we fall like Russia into despair and despotism.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Marriage and Health

Since Karen and I are celebrating 45 years of marriage, I have been thinking about the challenges and benefits of long marriages, and there are many. Married people live longer and better than singles. The benefits of long marriages are vast and numerous and all researchers, even those who are philosophically against marriage, agree.

The ways to prevent divorce are simple but not easy. Two scholars have recently written about keeping a marriage going strong for decades.

What Factors are Associated with Divorce and/or Marital Unhappiness?

The list contains those thing that have been found by many researchers to increase the odds of experiencing unhappiness and divorce.


  1. Having a personality tendency to react strongly or defensively to problems and disappointments
    Having divorced parents
    Living together prior to marriage
    Being previously divorced, yourself or your partner
    Having children from a previous marriage
    Having different religious backgrounds
    Marrying at a very young age (for example, at the age of 18 or 19; the average these days is about 25 or 26 years of age for first marriages).
    Knowing each other only for a short time before marriage
    Experiencing financial hardship
  2. Factors that you can change, to improve your odds, (Dynamic risk)
    Negative styles of talking and fighting with each other, like arguments that rapidly become negative, put downs, and the silent treatment
    Difficulty communicating well, especially when you disagree
    Trouble handling disagreements as a team
    Unrealistic beliefs about marriage
    Having different attitudes about important things
    A low level of commitment to one another, reflected in such things as not protecting your relationship from others you are attracted to, or failing to view your marriage as a long term investment

Compiled by Drs. Scott Stanley and Howard Markman
University of Denver

Still Spontaneous after all These Years

The day we were married Karen and I had nothing planned for the honeymoon. We just took off and stoped when we were redy to stop.

Yesterday, on our 45th anniversary second honeymoon trip we loaded the car and took off for the south with no plans about where we were going, where we would stay or how long we would drive. It was great. Our marriage obviously saved two innocent planners who would have been either divorced or filled with anxiety by now.

It sure is great to have a soul mate with the same approach to planning ahead.

We ended up in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the golf capital of America if not the world. Now I have to see if I can find a course to play on. Life is a grand adventure.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Assessment of Successes or Failures

Monday Morning Insight by Todd Rhodes recently posted a great article at:

It was about McDonald's doing research on customer satisfaction and related it to the need for churches to do their own assessments. This brought numerous replies from readers. I am always interested and fascinated by the different ways two or ten people can read the same material and see very different things.

For example, some of the responders sent in notes about their own experiences of not doing an assessment and how they wish they had. They affirmed the need to find out what we are doing that works and what does not work. That was my own view.

Others saw it as another instance of "consumerism" and our total lack of following God. Some saw it as a violation the God's sovereignty. Many were offended that we would attempt to listen to feedback from the "customers" instead of God and pasted in Bible passages about listening to false prophets.

I suppose this is what makes doing church so difficult. As a former minister at a large congregation I saw why learning to listen with an open mind is so difficult and yet so necessary for peaceful relationships in the home and church. In fact, I found listening so important that I wrote a book about it called Listening for Heaven's Sake.

Teaching members to listen makes them better members and better leaders. Any minister who wants a good Deacon and Elder Board needs to teach them to listen. Listening with peaceful presence is the single most important skill in ministry and personal life.

Listening has a built in corrective function for when we perceive different things in the same data, like the examples listed above. Active Listening clarifies before it defends or argues. I suppose many will react and say, "I don't need no, education, I have the Holy Spirit" but most of us will get golf lessons and dance lessons and speech lessons so why not get listening lessons.

45 Years and Counting

Karen and I just celebrated 45 years of wedded bliss and the song goes on and on forever.
The myth is that marriage to one person is dull, boring and monotonous. But I disagree with that in every way. Life is never dull with people you love and enjoy.
Karen and I had fun from the first time we met and we still have fun. Life is not always easy but God's grace has pervaded our marriage and family life for 45 years. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Rigid Personalities and Religion

A person from one of my discussion groups recently wrote:

Hi Everyone,

Here is an old quote from a Robert McAfee Brown book. This statement was from an anonymous seventeenth century writer: "I had rather see coming toward me a whole regiment with drawn swords, than one lone Calvinist convinced that he is doing the will of God."

There are at least two theories on a rigid personality development. Some see it as the result of our chosen religion or brand of religion. Mr. Brown, quoted above, seems to think it is the result of Calvinism. Others see people with rigid personalities choosing certain types of philosophies that reinforce their preferences. Those folks would argue that Mr. Brown happened to run into a bunch of rigid thinkers who found Calvin to their liking.

I am in the second camp. I have rarely ever seen a sweet, retiring, introverted person that suddenly, upon having their “Hearts strangely cocooled " after being baptized by the Spirit into the Calvinist camp, will become rigid, argumentative and hard nosed.

It seems to me that since Calvinism is a systematic philosophy not unlike science or mathematics it can further exacerbate an already analytical, linear, yes/no, black/white, right/wrong type of thinker.

I do believe that knowing God and being involved in a warmly, charismatic and experientialy Reformed body can retrain the brain and soften the hardest biological preset design. This is why the fruit of the Spirit and not the gifts or word of God are the way we need to judge our maturity. Any bright but defected fleshly and rigid man can memorize the creeds and scripture and thereby pass for mature if “Knowledg is the goal. They would fit nicely onto Paul’s description of the fruit of the flesh.

But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness and patience. Wow! We can't fake that can we? So, if you have a tendency to be analytical, rigid and think in black/white extremes you might want to get into a small group with people taht love to worship, pray and hug. There is no telling how much better your heart and brain will work together.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Atheist and Agnostic Compassion

I know a few who call themselves agnostics and even fewer who deny God all together. The atheists of my acquaintance are usually pretty angry and whenever they come across a believer their blood pressure rises and they often react with attacks on the message and the messenger.

Because an old friend of mine from the school days long ago has declared himself to be an adamant atheist, I am often the butt of his attacks and diatribes. Despite the fact that he and I were friends and got along quite well it seems that I have become his enemy because of my faith.

He acts like a lot of fundamentalist religionists I read about. They are so sure of their position that anyone who fails to manifest their surety must be eliminated. This includes even those of similar faith commitments but whose fervor is less intense. Muslim violence, for example, is largely aimed at other less committed Muslims and thousands of men, women and children are killed as a result.

Fundamentalist Christians rarely kill anyone less committed than they but they do wound with words. That seems so contradictory to the Gospel and to the commands of Jesus to love even our enemies, let alone other Christians, that I am mystified by the verbal attacks. Liberal Fundamentalists attack Jerry Falwell in rage and Conservative Fundamentalists attack Jim Wallis with self justified bitterness. Amazing un grace!

It seems to me that Jesus was right in the way He said to judge a person's heart. By their fruit you shall know them. And Jesus noted that the fruit was love of God and neighbor. Later Paul wrote that the fruit was love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, etc. It is pretty hard to say we have love and peace for others when we want to kill them with words and or deeds.

I recently looked up "atheist compassion" on the web and found this entry.

From Austin Cline,Your Guide to Agnosticism / Atheism

What does compassion mean to you? It's basic definition is simply an awareness of the suffering of others and a wish to relieve that suffering - but that is a bit superficial. It seems that "real" compassion is an action - not a wish to relieve suffering but actual efforts to do so. You don't "show" compassion by saying "I'm compassionate." Instead, you go out and do something, even if it is just to donate money to worthy causes. How does President George W. Bush express compassion?

Mr. Cline's blog goes on to criticize Mr. Bush for showing photos of himself conversing with Black people but there are no photos of him actually building a house or serving food to anyone. The comparison is made to former President Jimmy Carter's work with Habitat for Humanity. Here we have a Democrat that is actually doing acts of compassion and a Republican who only talks.

That is a good point. Actions speak louder than words. However, Mr. Cline fails in his clumsy example. The issue here is not political but spiritual. Jimmy Carter was the very first President of the USA who publicly proclaimed himself to be a "Born Again Christian". Additionally, Habitat is a decidedly faith based organization begun by a Southern Baptist, I believe.

We can see that Cline has no record of atheist led compassionate activities to which he can point. He is left to discuss politics and attack conservatives but he must use a very conservative activist Christian to point out the faults of the politicians on the Right.

Where are the legions of atheist organizations that are dedicated to helping the poor, the needy, the homeless and the hungry? Where are the cavalcades of cars and trucks heading for the Gulf Coast filled with enthusiastic atheists ready to sacrifice time, energy and treasure to help our neighbors? They are too busy writing articles attacking the Pledge of Allegiance to go to Biloxi.

We Christians can do much, much more than we are to minister to others. However, the track record of believers compared to atheists is stunning with success. In the years ahead let us multiply the good works of compassion and love to the world waiting to receive us for the "Harvest fields are heavy with people wanting to believe.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bob Robinson Special Speaker

Bob Robinson, shown here with wife Carlene, spoke powerfully a couple of weeks ago in our Vineyard Community Church class, "Continuing the Call. Bob told about his experiences with the Lord as he learned to develop "The Kingdom of God Within".

Bob's testimony gives us hope that all believers can grow in grace and truth by learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave us all the radical expectation that Christianity is different from the Old Testament when the Law was written on stone tablets but in the New Covenant the Spirit would "Be with us and in us".

Bob's life has been dramatically impacted through the gentle voice of the Spirit offering guidance and encouragement.

Why Learn to Dialogue?

I was just re-reading the last post about Lifeways Russia, and was struck by how healthy the people look. If I compare the pictures from recent workshops with those I took when I first started to train in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the differences are startling.

First, I must say that almost everyone appears to be better off now than they were in 1992. Their clothes are better, the grooming is better and their color is better. Just the absence of a Socialist government must take away much of their stress and strain.

Second, the people who are attending church are looking healthier. Knowing God has not only eternal effects it also produces better individual vitality and certainly better family health.

Third, I can see a difference between those who are learning how to communicate with each other and resolve conflicts better. Communist Russia/USSR was a brutal, insensitive, crushing place that killed the soul and destroyed the body. Paranoia was considered to be better than open communication. Mistrust was rampant and secrecy was paramount.

Although the Russian people still suffer from the pain and practices of horrible leadership Galina and her team of people are teaching hundreds of people how to get sober and then live in peace with one another. Look at the photos' page at and you will see the sharing in small groups and the way people attend to each other. It is beautiful.

I remember a session when I was training the leadership team and a woman doctor, was sharing with a man who listened to her with great sensitivity and deep interest. After a few minutes the woman began to weep quietly and as tears rolled down her cheeks she began to smile through the tears.

Later, she said, "This was the first time in my life that I ever had a man listen to me. My father never listened to any woman; my husband has never really wanted to hear what I had to say; the other male doctors in my institute are not interested in a woman's point of view; even my sons will not listen to me. When Ivan began to simply listen and not interrupt or put me down I was overwhelmed with sadness and joy.

We so often worship MONOLOGUES and fail to enter into DIALOGUES with others. However, dialogues bring understanding, insight, healing and peace. One reason the people in these photos look so good is the result of learning to dialogue.

Have someone from Life Way Ministries come to your church and teach your people to listen. They will be happier, healthier and a whole lot better members.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Russian Ministry Continues to Expand

Dr. Galina Chentsova, Head of our ministry there, in Russia, is planning two more training trips into Siberia, expanding the vital ministry to the devastated interior of Russia.

The seminars will be in Abakan ( )

and to Angarsk ( )

Alcoholism, drug addiction, family abuse, domestic violence and early deaths are crippling the entire nation of Russia and Life Way Ministries is doing everything possible to turn that around. Our strategy is to partner with pastors, therapists, doctors and educators to empower and equip the cream of the crop to multiply themselves. It is the fastest and best way to make dramatic changes in a city or a culture.

Since the early Nineties we have been training leaders in Russia. Since then there has been a remarkable growth in the number of men and women who are able to teach our classes and lead groups. They also provide personal and small group care and counsel for individuals and families.

Please pray for Galina and her team at Liferoute and consider making a significant contribution to that ministry. Go to for more information.

Listen to Me; please, please, please

Have you ever noticed how little kids will talk to their dogs, cats, dolls and imaginary friends with no embarrassment or fear? Why do you suppose that is so? I recently heard a four-year old child talking with her imaginary friends in such a real and natural manner that I wondered where they were in reality.

Surely she must have someone in her life named Kerri or Kelly or Kandi because she is talking to them as though they really exist. A little later she asked her grandmother about how she handled her imaginary friends. Grandmother said, "I don't have any." To which the little girl looked at her in surprised and said with great seriousness, "Well, you had better get one then."

Open dialogue with a friend, real or imaginary, is very important to the health of our soul. Jesus said to His Disciples that, "It is useless to gain the whole world but lose your soul." Let's face it, the people of the world are in great danger of losing their souls. How dried up, desolate and desperate can the soul of a Muslim suicide bomber be to blow up mothers and their little children as they shop in open markets after their own High Holy Days of Ramadan?

Can you imagine nailing fifty or sixty committed Christians to a series of crosses as Easter comes to an end? Caesar, Hitler, Mao and Stalin might but they certainly did not do that out of their overt religious fervor. They did it because they hated Christians.

The soul is something so precious that we need to spend a bit of time tending to it and keeping it healthy, vital and vibrant. Historically counseling was called "seelsorge" or the care and cure of the soul. One thing is for sure, seelsorge requires times with God and times of resting in His grace on a regular basis.

In Ted Haggard we see what can happen when a Christian's soul dries up. He failed to take his daily dose of grace and fell into trying to manage his own temptations and the result was a disaster. He said he was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about his temptations so he shut himself off from real and imaginary friends. He must have also forgotten to talk with God as a friend and went as a sinner fearful of condemnation.

The world, the flesh and the Devil know how to keep score of our temptations and failures. The Lord does not keep account of our sins but we do. And, when we forget about His kindness and grace we try to fix ourselves and we dig into the soul until we are dry as the Gobi Desert.

Take your grace pills daily. Do not expect God to remove your humanity and temptations from you instantly or permanently. Walking daily by grace is the only thing that keeps our souls healthy. Find someone you can trust to listen with the same empathy as an imaginary friend and tell them everything.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Relationships are Important

a few posts ago I wrote about a research article done by the Southern Baptists on why so many pastors were fired in 2005. The reports from each local region or Association showed that over 1300 ministers had been dismissed during that calender year.

Just think, over 1300 ministers with wives, children and houses, debts and colleagues were kicked out of their professions. And, you can be assured that only a fraction had any kind of financial resources to fall back on after losing their salary, health insurance, housing, emotional and spiritual support, etc.

And, just think for a moment about the devastation caused to the 1300 congregations, many of whom or most of whom cared for and respected the pastor. Their faith is often shattered and they are dazed and confused. As many as 50% of a congregation leave a church after a minister is fired. The witness of the church is damaged and the unchurched are often repelled even further by the conflict, gossip and distrust.

And, what were the primary causes listed for these crises? Relational difficulties! In fact, they were the same top issues that have appeared on the list for the past 10 years. Despite that fact, there are almost no efforts to train ministers and lay leaders how to relate healthily. Why not? you ask. We know what skills are essential to building healthy caring and problem solving so why do we fail to train leaders in those skills?

Maybe because we follow the wrong type of leader in the church. In Acts 14 Barnabas and Paul were in Lystra when they encountered a lame man and he was healed by the Lord Jesus. The people were, of course, amazed and called the Apostles by the names of two Greek gods. Barnabas was Zeus and Paul as Hermes. What was the significance of that?

Zeus was the ruler of the gods. He is the god of Sky, Lightning and Thunder. He is the son of Saturn and brother of Neptune, Pluto and Juno, who is also his wife. His attribute is the lightning bolt and his symbol the eagle, who is also his messenger. He was also considered the Patron god of Rome, and his temple was the official place of state business and sacrifices. He was also known to the ancient Greeks as Epiphanes.

HERMES was called the Messenger of the gods. He's also the god of Merchants and Commerce, Athletics and Travel, Public Speaking, Shepherds and Thieves. Despite wheeling and dealing he manages to leave his customers satisfied due to his incredibly cunning sales talk.

The modern church has always idealized Paul or Hermes the salesman instead of Barnabas the god of leadership. We Protestants have almost always chosen "leaders" who can "Talk the walk" but not necessarily people who could "Walk the talk."

Thus, when we have a problem in a church we usually bring in some new Hermes to sell us a new idea or inspire us to go on with God. However, if we admired Zeus or Barnabas, the man who discipled Saul into Paul and who led the first ministry to the Gentiles and the first missionary journey, Barnabas. We would get a strong leader who would insist upon actions not just words. (NATO: No Action; Talk Only)

The single most important skill and art for building relationships is not Talking but Listening. A listening ear, inspire; heals; comforts; offers faith, hope and love. Listen for Heaven's Sake.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Relationships: How Important to Us?

It seems that close relationships in America are getting harder to maintain. And, that is a disturbing fact because we desperately need to have good, solid, friendly, supportive relationships. Take a look at this report reviewed in Christianity Today's online version.

Earlier this year, the American Sociological Review published a disturbing study, "Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades." Researchers Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew E. Brashears reported a "remarkable drop" in the size of people's core network of confidantsthose with whom they could talk about important matters."

As of 2004, the average American had just two close friends, compared with three in 1985. Those reporting no confidants at all jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent. Even the share of Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent.

Increasingly, those whom we consider close friends—if we have any—are household members, not people who "bind us to community and neighborhood." Our wider social connections seem to be shriveling like a turkey left too long in the oven.

"You usually don't expect major features of social life to change very much from year to year or even decade to decade," Smith-Lovin, a sociologist at Duke University, told the news media.

This study shows one of the reasons that, in my view, why Christians who attend churches regularly are healthier mentally and physically. At my favorite congregations I get lots of hugs, smiles, support, prayer and openness to deep conversations. Those are the things that, along with God's grace, bring healing and health.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Why are we so upset with Ted?

The whole Ted Haggard story has us Evangelicals in a real tizzy. Almost everyone who is someone is writing, blogging, jogging and nogging about it. Why so much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands?

I can only guess but it may be because we had him on one of our unfortunate pedestals. Beware all who enter here for being placed on such a high throne is dangerous to your spiritual health. My buddy Steve Sjogren, founder of the phrase, "Servant Evangelism" and practitioner of some of the funniest lines and lover of finding ways to deflate pomposity, supposedly told a great parable one Sunday.

"Once upon a time, I was in my office and heard lots of hammering and work going on outside the church house. I asked my very private secretary what that was all about and she said, 'They are building a high platform on which you can be seen by everyone.' "

"Well, that sounded pretty good and pretty accurate to fit my exalted position as Senior Pastor. Several hours later a delegation came in to escort me to my place on the pedestal. We all waked outside but I could not see it well until I got to the bottom of the steps leading upward eight feet to my place of prominence. What a shock to discover that the pedestal was actually a gallows!"

Whenever we reach for the stars beware lest we end up behind bars.

Ted was brighter than almost any other young star. He was unlike Swaggart and Bakker because they were nothing but TV Evangelists. Ted was our man. Head of the National Association of EVANGELICALS. WOW! And, he was a legitimate Pastor.

He really messed us up. Oh, yeah, he messed that pedestal up.

How we handle Ted will reveal a lot about our theology and our practice. Where is my heart? Is it centered in love and grace or revenge that he messed up my reputation?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rose Bushes Have Thorns

The tragic situation of Mr. Ted Haggard has stunned and pained all of us that love God and want to see His people and His churches prosper. Most of us are in agony when we think of his wife and fine children, but we also feel a bit hopeless and helpless. What can we do about such situations?

The other thing I pick up from discussing this with pastors and laity alike is confusion. "How can this happen to a top leader?" "How can a man like Ted Haggard risk so much to get a few moments of stolen pleasure?" "How can a spiritual strong man fall so ingloriously?"

Let me address the second question first. Perhaps men and women in high positions are more vulnerable than anyone else. In fact, St. Paul said as much in II Corinthians 12:

1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul says that we need to set an example of weakness and vulnerability so Christ can be seen as strong in us. Most of my life I have tried to set an example of strength in myself so people would admire me and see what strong, wise and smart people Jesus had in His corner.

It appears that Mr. Haggard tried to keep his thorn in the flesh under his control so the example he set would be one of strength, power, beauty, wisdom, success and richesriches; He and Jimmy Baker both had that success syndrome down pat.

Mr. Bakker was rich, famous, a TV star who began to believe his own clippings. Jesus must have really been impressed to have such a great man helping Him out. Gentle Jesus, meek and mild needs us to make a strong impression.

I know that line of reasoning have used it to be the rationale why it is embarrassing and poor form to confess my temptations and weaknesses. Especially if it is a real, "Thorn in the flesh" that I have confessed many time and prayed about many times and so far Jesus has not taken away. Like St. Paul, I get only, "My grace is sufficient."

Grace is only sufficient if it is taken in small doses every day. Grace is like my heart medication. It works on the inside of me without much fanfare or outward noticeable affect unless I stop taking it. Then it becomes quite apparent to me because my body begins to hurt in small ways at first but more serious ways later.

When I stop applying grace and start living under the law again with my mindset of trying harder and doing more for Jesus it isn't long before my soul begins to dry up. I become like a dry sponge on the inside and I don't have any real living water to share because I am not drinking from them myself. I can't take anyone else farther than I have gone.

Instead of rejoicing in my weaknesses and God's strengths I get puffed up and somewhat obsessed with doing good for Jesus rather than seeing that He is my goodness. This leads me to cover up and hide my failures behind a mask of performances and respectability.

When, after some time of hiding the truth, my insides are crying out that I need some grace medicine, I can't bear to be honest because it could embarrass the church or the gospel so I just continue to hide. Is there a safe place to share my heart and soul?

That is what I am trying to do as I meet with ministers and other leaders. At golf, classes, private sessions or family counseling I want to be a person who can listen to the dry sponges and help them get refilled.

Every leader has, at some point, experienced the love and grace of God but ministry may have gotten so busy that they forgot how to do it. The spring got all filled up with thorns and rocks. It just takes a few sessions for most ministers to discover the great freedom that comes from openly sharing his deepest needs in a confidential setting.

Happy Birthday Karen!

Karen and I will soon celebrate our 45th anniversary on November 21. It comes just after her birthday on 11/12 so November is a time when we have much to thank God for on Thanksgiving.
When we married in 1961 I was teaching school at the Ina, Illinois Elementary School where I had attended many years before. We first thought we would get married on Christmas vacation but I also delivered flowers for Al Easton and he said it was too busy on Christmas to get married. He needed me to work so why not do it on Thanksgiving?
Karen and I are both highly spontaneous so we said, "That sounds good to us." All of my kids came to the wedding at First Baptist Church in Pinckneyville, IL and we took off for Chicago for our honeymoon. (What were we thinking?)
I was blessed to marry a very young woman, just take a look at her photo. How did my hair get so white in such a short time? God gave me the woman that fits me like He intended because we cannot imagine having living with anyone else.
Our children, Julia and husband David have two children, Jacob and Lily while son Timothy and wife Shelley have a son, Jack. Children and grandchildren are a blessing from the Lord.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A New Model of Ministry

I am struck by the way God has developed a brand new way to spread the gospel and good works to people around the world. Right before our eyes we are seeing God bring about a radical rearrangement in the structure, types of ministries and personnel doing the ministry.

For many years I have fought against the unbiblical notion that the only people that were supposed to do ministry were those "Paid to be Christians." Now we are seeing that model being altered so much that in a few years we will question why it was ever so popular.

Back when I was in high school many of the students worked in the Bell Telephone offices placing calls. It was estimated that in a few years there would be so many calls that every woman in America would be working for AT&T. Now we laugh at such nonsense because computer switches do 99% of all those jobs.

A few years ago there was a big push for more people to attend seminary and many scholars were suggesting that we needed many more good seminaries to keep up with the increasing population growth. Now we see that in the same way that computers have replaced women answering calls and placing them to the right person, new media, new people and new approaches are rapidly replacing the need for paid clergy and therefore graduate education for those clergy.

A couple of years ago, a couple of young guys were discussing the possibility of uploading videos onto the web like still photos. Only one year ago they figured the problem out and started a little company called, "Youtube". A few weeks ago Google paid almost 2.0 Billion Dollars for it and it is only a baby. Creativity and lay initiative built it nd now ordinary people are uploading tens of thousands of their home grown videos on Youtube.

The phenomenon is the result of what is called "Social Networking" and it is the wave of today and tomorrow. It is the plan that Jesus laid out in the beginning and which was so successful that Constantine was forced to recognize Christianity as the official religion of the realm. (That recognition stopped the networking and built a bureaucracy instead. The church has been trying to recover ever since. Perhaps the healing of the church's structure is before us now.)

Do you know what Wikipedia is? The online encyclopedia has more pages and entries a than almost anything developed by wealthy corporations and it is written entirely by volunteers.

After Katrina tens of thousands of volunteer Christians loaded trucks, cars and campers and took off for the Gulf Coast. They used their time, energy, talents and money to assist strangers rebuild their homes and businesses and churches.

Just imagine the incredible work done by Habitat for Humanity. The volunteers from churches and schools built thousands of homes annually for people too poor to afford their own home. Free men and women experiencing the joy of doing good things for God and people.

Almost every church I know sends volunteer groups regularly to build homes, churches and medical clinics to poor countries around the world. The total amount of goods, services and money is in the billions of dollars annually.

Some Christians are actually creating ongoing missionary efforts and creating agencies to carry our works of mercy, medicine, healing and evangelism. One such group can be found on the web at The Romanian Handicapped Ministry was begun by two of my friends and colleagues from Equipping Ministries International while on a teaching trip to Sweden.

About 14 years ago I set up a ministry called Teleios Russia and recruited a Medical Doctor, Galina Chentsova, to head it. You can read about it at

This is the new model of ministry, evangelism and church growth. We hear a lot about big bureaucratic churches and organizations on the "Religious Right" but the politics and work they do is less that .01% of all the good things done by individual congregations and volunteers from those churches small and large. The future belongs to small bands of creative Christians who are more interested in living a life of freedom and service than sitting day after week in a big sanctuary hearing the same stale stories about Moses and Samuel.

Millions of ordinary people volunteer annually from churches small and large. The help out in inner city missions, take food to the poor, do Servant Evangelism, help single moms, etc. I know of no congregation that does not have people helping the needy. It is going to dramatically increase over the next few years.

The 70-80 million Baby Boomers will lead the charge of this New Reformation, New Awakening and New Models of Ministry. They have the skills, experiences, motivation, finances and time so what is holding them back? Someone to give them permission. OK, here it is: GO FOR IT!

Do you want to learn more about Social Networking? Take a look at a new way of writing a book:

What are you going to do?

Christians Need to Learn How to Communicate

The election is over. The results show that most people hate the negative, attack ads that slime opponents and make us all squirm about their truthfulness. An article in the Wall Street Journal's free online version takes a look at the long term impact of attack ads. It is something that we Christians can learn from.

BY JOHN ELLIS Wednesday, November 8, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

Glad it's over? You're not the only one. Voters in six states with closely contested U.S. Senate races were recently asked by the Gallup Organization their opinion of the political advertising they'd seen this year. The vast majority, in every state surveyed, described it as either "somewhat negative," "very negative" or "extremely negative." Roughly a third of those surveyed in each state said "extremely negative."

According to Advertising Age magazine, the total amount spent this year on political advertising will reach $2 billion, a hefty increase over 2004. If one conservatively estimates that at least half of all political advertising can be fairly described as "negative," then 2006 will be the first year that negative political advertising expenditures reached the $1 billion mark.

Look through the list of the major advertisers in the U.S. and what strikes you is that all of them spend vast sums of money building and strengthening brands. The nation's leading advertiser, Procter & Gamble, spends over $4.5 billion annually doing just that. P&G spends not one dime on negative advertising because they understand that it is ultimately self-destructive.

We Christians have the Good News so why do we spend so much time attacking sin, sinners and people who need the Lord? Will we actually build our Good News brand by using attack ads? In Luke 10, Jesus gave us the best model for reaching the unconverted world. Here is a summary of his points.

The Jesus Model of Building a Brand
  • Go into the harvest fielsd. They are waiting for someone to show up.
  • Go as lambs among wolves, not wolves among lambs.
  • Go with little baggage; travel light.
  • Go proclaiming peace to the inhabitants.
  • Go to those who receive your blessing and ignore those who mock you.
  • Go eat with those who invite you.
  • Go stay with the peaceful person.
  • Go listen to the person who shares his troubles.
  • Go pray for those who have needs.
  • Go expecting Jesus to show up and heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.
  • Go proclaiming that Jesus came to their house today.
  • Go rejoicing not because of power but because your name is written in the Book oof Life.
It worked for Jesus so why not try it?

Try my web site @

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Post Modern Philosophy Won't Fly

You have probably heard about the idea that "Post Modern Philosophy" is about to take over the world of higher education. Well, don't worry, it is a bust. It just won't fly as my daddy would say.

Post Modern ideas are based on the truth that here is NO TRUTH! That we can experience "truth" as we see it and decide what is true and what is false. Well, that is baloney. Oh, yes, we all have a right to our perceptions but we do not have a Right to our facts.

Take a look at this article about a post modern journal of high repute. Should we laugh or cry?

Social Text--one of the leading journals of the postmodern movement. The article, according to the paper's abstract, was an attempt to bring the postmodern light to the rigid, scientific, and therefore, dark corridors of modern physics. The article was reviewed and accepted by the editors of the journal and appeared in the special issue alongside pieces written by some of the biggest names in the field (i.e., Sandra Harding, Steve Fuller, Dorothy Nelkin).

The theme of the issue was that science is/was only one among many equally valid ways for knowing the world--no better or more effective than say religion or myth in understanding or making predictions about the world.

The only problem was that Dr. Sokol's entire paper was a hoax--it did not contain a single intelligible thought. Indeed, Dr. Sokol had written it in an attempt to show that "our understanding of the social and humanistic side of science has come down to such inane literary babble that even the experts cannot discriminate between it and nonsense" (p. 17).

Consider the following choice bit of nonsense, "The pi of Euclid and the g of Newton, formerly thought to be constant and universal, are now perceived in their ineluctable historicity; and the putative observer becomes fatally decentered, disconnected from any epistemic link to a space-time point."

As this short excerpt shows to anyone with even a passing familiarity with postmodernism, while the paper made no sense it did contain all the right "buzzwords."

It is possible that the hoax may not offend anyone in the postmodern camp. After all, a central tenet of the new philosophy is that language (words) is, in fact, all there is, all we know for sure. In this instance, they were absolutely right!

The question is, given their understanding of physics, "Would you be willing to fly on a postmodern plane?"

Deconstruction Self-Destructs. Skeptic, 4(2), 17.

I believe in God. I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth. But I do not believe God will replace aeronautical engineering with prophesy. Ths post modern people are frauds. I will not fly on any of their ideas or attend their schools.

Faith, Growth and Inner Peace

In the last post I mentioned the Rev. Mr Haggard's terrible compulsions and his need for inner healing. Last Spring I came across a book by Janet Hagberg that sets out the stages of faith and how we can get into trouble is we neglect the inner life of the Holy Spirit.

The book is. The Critical Journey and you can order it from or The Vineyard Community Church bookstore also has a limited number of them as I do at Life Way Counseling Center central office in Blue Ash.

Compulsive, Dependent and Addictive Behavior are all the result of operating in fleshly good works instead of walking in the Spirit. When we see our ministry as a Performance that produces our Person hood and hide our true selves we are heading for disaster. However, the answer is rather simple. Find someone you can trust to share your deepest needs and desires with.

Open you heart and soul to a friend, a group or a counselor. Allow the Spirit to help you "Walk in the light as He is in the light..."

Ms. Hagberg lays out what that can mean for us as we go through the various stages of faith. I have found it to be quite useful.

What has been your experience?

Why Are the Mighty Men Falling?

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past week you are well aware that The Rev. Mr. Ted Haggard, Pastor of a huge "Mega-Church" of 14,000 persons in Colorado Springs has been outed as a closet homosexual and meth drug user.

Why has this gotten so much national and even international press? Are the media moguls really that interested in Christianity and the tragedy of a leader caught with his pants down? Why have all the broadcast news people blasted this bad news all over the airwaves?

The media are normally interested in those cases when politics are involved. Mr. Haggard is also involved in politics. He was head of the National Association of Evangelicals and worked closely with Dr. Dobson and other conservatives to promote a bill barring homosexual marriages in Colorado.

Can anything be more inflammatory and more helpful to the political left's attempt to stopping the bill dead in its tracks than a scandal involving the Pentecostal Minister heading the effort? This is what happens when Christians forget about ministry and evangelism to become politicians. It is always important for Christians to be good citizens who vote for good people and good laws, but we must be careful not to "Sell our birthright for a mess of political pottage..."

My heart goes out to Mr. Haggard, his family and his congregation. I am praying that he will get the support and healing he needs to escape the bondage of his compulsions.

Yes, compulsions. Adultery or drug use are not always compulsive but in this and other similar cases they are. What other explanation can we give for a smart, famous man taking such risks just before a hotly contested election? Could he be that stupid? No, he is compulsive; out of control; driven;hiding; in deep pain.

Let us pray for Mr. Haggard to have the resources and time needed to receive the healing and release of the inner pain that brought this destruction and devastation.

I pray that he will not react like Jimmy Swaggart and go to some equally famous preacher for a "Deliverance". The desire for a "Quick Fix" got him into this mess and another one will not get him healed.

I pray for Mrs. Haggard. She will need a lot of support, compassion and love. Where will she receive it? Where are the wise counselors who can look beyond the sin and see the needs?

We need more healing places where leaders can go for extended time to get the rest, love and Soaking Prayer they so desperately need.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Crazy Making Communications

One of my great interests is the pattern we see in so many dysfunctional families called, Catch 22 or Double Bind Communication Patterns. It is also sometimes called, "Crazy Making Talk" by therapists. I have pasted one such interaction below to illustrate just how much local schools seem to be involved in making their kids if not crazy at least terribly neurotic. The story comes from The Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal.

Schools and Catch 22

Tyler Stoken, a fourth-grader at Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, Wash., is in hot water after taking a standardized test, Bloomberg reports:

Tyler came upon this question: "While looking out the window one day at school, you notice the principal flying in the air. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens."
The nine-year-old was afraid to answer the question about his principal, Olivia McCarthy. "I didn't want to make fun of her," he says, explaining he was taught to write the first thing that entered his mind on the state writing test.

In this case, Tyler's initial thoughts would have been embarrassing and mean. So even after repeated requests by school personnel, and ultimately the principal herself, Tyler left the answer space blank. "He didn't want them to know what he was thinking, that she was a witch on a broomstick," says Tyler's mother. . . .

Because Tyler didn't answer the question, McCarthy suspended him for five days. He recalls the principal reprimanding him by saying his test score could bring down the entire school's performance.

"Good job, bud, you've ruined it for everyone in the school, the teachers and the school," Tyler says McCarthy told him.

Why in the world did he think she was a witch?

Schools teach kids to respect and obey their teachers. Tyler was doing his best to carry out that training, but he had a terrible Double Bind. The evil principal pulled a fast one on the kid by giving him a question that he could not answer without disobeying her.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Teleios Training Comes to Vineyard North West

Leigh, Karen, Ray and Jody are seen here working hard to figure out ways to take the Vineyard North West to a deeper level of care and nurture.

Context of the Photo

Meg Rinck's article a few days ago noted that I started the Teleios ministry at College Hill Presbyterian Church in the late Seventies. From CHPC the very popular and practical approach to raising up lay pastors and lay helpers, was taken to the world as a very effective way to do discipleship and Bible study at the same time the church equips the members to provide care and counsel.

The Teleios Ministry is now operating under that and several other names in a wide variety of countries and languages. It is also continuing to spread its wings right here in the Queen City. Van and Laurie Cochrane are old friends from The Vineyard in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois who came here to pastor.

A coupe of years ago they planted a new Vineyard just off Colerain Avenue and it has grown like a weed. Van and Laurie have continued to study with me at Life Way Ministries and Yesterday I taught the Pastoral Staff the basic principles behind a Teleios Ministry that can develop the entire church into a healing-growth community over a short time.

A Critical Need In Cincinnati

Because I am a Clinical Counselor who founded an in-patient hospital and outpatient clinic, I know all too well how desperately we professionals need a strong Christian support system to prevent serious problems from developing out of minor issues. We also need good care and support for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, marital stress and other forms of emotional/relational problems.

Van and Laurie are on the cutting edge of providing the kind of support hurting people need. Their worship, preaching and love go a long way toward, "Healing the broken hearted and setting the captives free."

Vineyard North West Learns Together

Tyler, Ellen and Laurie discuss a deep but fascinating topic on ways to provide care and counsel folks in their congregation.
The Vineyard North West is known for compassion, Servant Evangelism and in-depth ministries of worship, prayer and healing.

Vineyard North West Touches Lives

We spent Friday with the VNW pastoral staff discussing how their church can develop into a caring, growing, healing community. Here, Sr. Pastor Van Cochrane in the center is joined in a small group by (Right) Larry and Dale (left).
The Vineyard NW just moved into a new facility on Round Top Road south of Northgate Mall last June and have almost doubled in attendance.

Developing The Church as A Healing Community

Several years ago my friend Margarte Rinck wrote an article for Christianity Today. I decided to resurrect it for my blog sionce I can't seem to be able to sleep tonight.

How the church can develop a climate of help to the hurting.
By Margaret Josephson Rinck posted 8/31/00 posted 8/01/2000 12:00AM

Nearly two decades ago, Gary Sweeten joined the staff at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a vision for a Christian interpersonal skills program. He enlisted Margaret Rinck to help develop a program that integrated biblical teaching on relationships with listening skills and self-discovery.The result was the church's Teleios Ministry, which equips believers to offer help to the hurting, including a sizable number of divorced persons.

Today (In 1992) the congregational care ministry (including Teleios Ministry) has over 225 trained lay helpers officially caring for others, as well as hundreds who minister to the congregation informally.In developing such ministries, Rinck applies "a theology of failure."

She cites the many failures in scripture used by God, and she calls for understanding human sinfulness and our need for redemption. "We cannot pretend any longer that Christians do not fail."Following are Rinck's fundamentals for developing a climate of healing within the church.

What is helpful to people struggling with divorce and remarriage? What can the church do to bring healing to people whose marriages are broken?As with most complex problems, there are no quick fixes. To help people recover from sin and failure's wounds we need to create a "healing community", a place where it is acceptable to be broken, have problems, admit failure, and where help is expressed in concrete, practical ways.

How does a local church build a healing community? It begins with, as World Vision founder Bob Pierce used to say, "letting your hearts be broken with the things that break the heart of God." It begins with a willingness to listen before we speak, and a humbleness that realizes, "there, but for the grace of God, go I.

"Developing interpersonal skills training opportunities in the church us one way this can happen. Such training equips people to work together to meet needs for all kinds of hurting people, including those struggling with divorce, remarriage, single parenting, and blended families.We found several imperatives helpful in developing such training:

  • Equip a team and draw on many members' gifts. Asking pastors to care for all the needs of a congregation limits what can be done.

  • Build a solid base of trained listeners. They can provide pastoral care and refer the hurting to professionals when problems warrant.

  • Educate members in daily living skills through classes in communication, anger management, and emotions in the family.

  • Offer support groups or small group Bible studies led by lay people. Hurting people need support systems and friends.

  • Be prepared for problems to pop up. Once people know it is safe, they start telling the truth about their pain.

  • Have a list of qualified Christian professionals to whom you can refer difficult cases.

  • Be patient. It takes years to develop a solid base of empathic lay ministers. But it will be worth the effort when needy people find hope and healing.

This article originally appeared in the December 14, 1992 issue of Christianity Today.

Ps. I am still training pastors and lay leaders in the art and practice of making the church into a caring, healing community.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Responses to Honoring My Family

I received several responses to my blog post about where I grew up and what my dad would call "Hardscrabble situation in which we lived". Murray Hastings, one of my longest friends in ministry, who retired last year after 50 years of serving Christ, sent in a nice response about his own childhood. I asked Murray if he would give me permission to post his comments and he said, "Sure".

I found his short essay to be rather inspiring and touching. Murray also became an Episcopal Clergyman and served two congregations in Cincinnati until retirement. Murray, wife Alixe and their family were dynamic leaders in the Spiritual renewal and revival during what we call, The Jesus Movement in the Seventies.

After retirement the Hastings refused to rest on their laurels and planted a new congregation in Silverton. They have followed in his dad's footsteps and ministered consistently to minorities, the poor and needy and have created many new and different kinds of programs for people.

By Murray Hastings

Thanks for the story. I, too, grew up during the depression, but we always had enough. Dad, a former successful businessman, felt called to the ministry (Episcopal) I was born at that time, the youngest of four by ten plus years.

We moved to Ethete, Wyoming where Dad became a missionary to the Arapahoe Indians. Because of his business background he turned a very sad place around and the Arapahoes began to have thriving businesses and farming.

He developed a school for the children and many of them went on to college etc. We were very thrifty, but were blessed. Alixe and I both are so grateful to have been born in this country and to have settled for all our married and professional life here in Cincinnati.

God is good and awesome.

God bless you and your ministry.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Blessings of Family Life

I have a couple of questions for my readers.
  • Do you want to live longer?
  • Do you want to make more money?
  • Do you want to be happier and laugh more?
  • Do you want to be healtheir while you are alive?
  • Do you want better sex and better relationships with the opposite sex?
The answer to each of these questions is usually a resounding, "YES!" And, the way to accomplish them is not a mystery. All we need to do is get married. Now I know that marriage is not always easy nor is it possible for everyone to marry. There are far more healthy women than healthy men so "A good man nowadays is hard to find." However, there is a lot of bad press about the difficulties and costs of matrimony. Most of them completely untrue.

The facts are that fewer people are getting married and still divorces are too common. This means that millions of children are reared in unstable homes. Being reared without a married couple as parents is hard on everyone. The parents and the children. Everyone is damaged by single parent homes and we ought to do everything we can to support single parents but also do more to prevent divorce.

The divorce rate in Clermont County, just East of Hamilton County is very high. It is a staggering 75%. WOW! Any church that is not having special classes and support groups for parents and couples is failing badly.

In addition, sex before marriage and babies out of wedlock produce terrible consequences for the parents and the kids. Churches must do more. Thankfully, the current administration of the State of Ohio has set up Faith Based Grants to help families survive. Take a look at my former post for information.

We know what causes most divorces and how to prevent divorce. We at Life Way can teach those things at your church. Nothing is more important to the health of your people, your church or your nation.

God in Jesus is our only hope. Healthy churches teaching healthy relationships are a must. When are the churches going to wake up?

I just posted a photo of my ancestors. Honoring our parents is crucial to personal and family health. I hope you will honor your family heritage.

Family Heritage

My Great Maternal Grandparents, John Thomas and Belle Dempsey with daughter Nannie. JT was a well known Pastor and Church Planter in southern Illinois. I am thankful for my heritage and roots.
In 1894, two great events occurred in the lives of John and Belle. I do not know their order but I know something about their significance. John and Bell had been trying to have children but were running into trouble. They were able to conceive but in several instances, the babies were born dead or died soon after birth. This was a great disaster for them because they wanted to pass on their heritage of a strong Christian faith to future generations.
As you can see from the accompany photo, one child did live and she was a real blessing. Her name was Nancy Ann Dempsey and grew up to be a bright, beautiful and spiritual woman who was also my grandmother. Nannie was born in 1894.
JT and Belle were adult converts to Christ who were nurtured in their faith at Union Baptist Church located out in the country between Whittington and Ewing Illinois. They hungered for more of God and that desire drew them to attend a Wesleyan Camp Meeting during the summer of 1894. During the Camp Meeting, this young couple heard about the "Second Blessing of Grace" called, "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit for Completer Sanctification". They wanted and needed a boost from the Holy Spirit for Holiness so they went forward in the meeting to receive prayer and the baptism.
This led them and several others to request a meeting with the Pastor of Union Baptist to tell him their good news and ask that the teach this new doctrine. Needless to say, he resisted and the entire group left the Union to found New Hope Baptist Church. In 1896 that church was dedicated and continues to minister in His bane 110 years later.
This is a major part of my history and I continue to push the envelope of spiritual innovation just as my Great Grandparents did so long ago.

From Generation to Generation God is Faithful

John Thomas and Belle Dempsey with Nannie, my Maternal Grandmother. JT was a well known Pastor and Church Planter in southern Illinois.
The photo on the far left shows JT on the far right holding his hat with his flock in a newly planted congregation. He and Belle were Touched by the Holy Spirit in a Wesleyian Camp Meeting in 1894 and left their Missionary Baptist church to found New Hope Free Will Baptist Church in 1896. New Hope still stands today.
Our roots with God are deep and I am very thankful for His grace and mercy to me from generation to generation. I want to Honor my Great Grand Father and Great Grand Mother as well as their daughter, my "Mom Taylor" who was able to show me the Love of God and lead me to the Lord. She took me to many Cottage Prayer Meetings that were really small groups from Wesley's training as well as many Holiness Camp Meetings that sprang from the Revivals and Awakenings of that era.
When I was an arrogant young man thought I alone knew the love and power of the Spirit. Now, looking back to my heritage I see how wrong I was. I am thankful for those who went before and who carved a path out of the rough wilderness of southern Illinois.

From Generation to Generation God is Faithful

John Thomas and Belle Dempsey with Nannie, my Maternal Grandmother. JT was a well known Pastor and Church Planter in southern Illinois.
The photo on the far left shows JT on the far right holding his hat with his flock in a newly planted congregation. He and Belle were Touched by the Holy Spirit in a Wesleyian Camp Meeting in 1894 and left their Missionary Baptist church to found New Hope Free Will Baptist Church in 1896. New Hope still stands today.
Our roots with God are deep and I am very thankful for His grace and mercy to me from generation to generation. I want to Honor my Great Grand Father and Great Grand Mother as well as their daughter, my "Mom Taylor" who was able to show me the Love of God and lead me to the Lord. She took me to many Cottage Prayer Meetings that were really small groups from Wesley's training as well as many Holiness Camp Meetings that sprang from the Revivals and Awakenings of that era.
When I was an arrogant young man thought I alone knew the love and power of the Spirit. Now, looking back to my heritage I see how wrong I was. I am thankful for those who went before and who carved a path out of the rough wilderness of southern Illinois.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Life Is So Much Better Now

It is exciting to be involved with so many worthwhile ministries and live such a blessed life. Two weeks ago, my wife Karen said, “If nothing else good ever happens to my life again, I will still be thankful.” Then she and I reminisced about the low estate from which we sprang in southern Illinois and are simply amazed at the grace of God on our nation and our family.

My family home was not a log cabin and Abe Lincoln was not our nearest neighbor but the Sweeten clan came up in poverty. Maury and I were both born during the Great Depression when hardly anyone had much in the way of material goods. As the old saw goes, “but we had love” and that is true.

But love without food, clothing and shelter is pretty thin gruel. Dad was ill and Mother worked in a shoe factory while we were watched by our Maternal Grand Mother, Mom Taylor. Everyone was poor but not everyone was as poor as we.

Now almost every American lives without fear of real want. Evan poor people have many things we would have considered to be niceties if not luxuries. I am very thankful that our country has been blessed and that we all enjoy liberty, a good government and an incredibly rich land. As I look around the USA and compare our standard of living to other countries I can only thank God for our heritage and His mercy.

Karen and I are also blessed by having become Christians at a very early age. Although I rebelled as a teen, God’s grace brought me healing and answered my prayers for a wonderful mate. Since encountering the Holy Spirit in 1968 I have joyfully served the Lord with every fiber of my being and in 1973 God graciously called me to serve as a Minister and an Equipper of Ministers both lay and clergy.

I am happy you have found my blog and can read about some of the great things God is doing with our various ministries. Because of the spiritual, emotional and financial support of so many wonderful people we can touch thousands of churches, families and individuals.

I Want Feedback

If you read this blog and find something of interest let me know.I am very interested in getting your feedback and points of disagreement, concurrence or wonder.

I would also appreciate if you pass my blog address on to others. The kick from writing these columns comes from having an audience.

For example, what do you think of The Enquirers recent series on mental health? Here are some of their data.

What is the church supposed to do to "Care and cure the soul?"

What is the call of Christ to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free?"

1: Mental illness' rank for causing disability in the U.S.20 percent:
2. Americans diagnosed with mental illness36 percent:
3. Ohioans who detect symptoms of mental illness in family, friends or co-workers

National Alliance on Mental Illness, Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati

Tuesday Night Classes at the Vineyard

Many of you know that I am following up on Dave Workman's "Hearing God's Call" series at the Vineyard Community Church. Dave and his team wrote a bonkers book to guide the series and I think they are doing a good job of teaching about finding our place of service and sharing.

Since Dave, ET AL are doing so well on the basics I decided to take a different tack. I am focusing on helping people think about the ways we grow up in Christ. It is always somewhat amazing to me to discuss these issues with mature Christians only to find that many of us have little or no idea about the "Normal" stages of spiritual development.

A few months ago it occurred to me that the Lord was moving me to focus on mentoring pastors, elders, deacons and mature believers. For over 30 years I have taught and trained lay people of all sorts but ended up with Beginners and those trying to get things together. Now, however, I and the Christians around me are at a different stage of spirituality and maturity.

At this point in time we have some 75 to 80 million Baby Boomers, many of whom are ready to serve the Lord in new and exciting ways. Those who came to faith in the Seventies and Eighties have had thirty years or so of soaking up God's word and doing His works. They have served as Sunday school teachers, committee members, evangelism workers, members of the music and worship teams, etc. They have grown strong in the Spirit and understanding of the church.

As they face the latter parts of their work life, many new opportunities have arisen. Now they are ready for a more mature place to release their gifts and call. Sunday school will still appeal to many of them but for some, the call of foreign missions will sound good. Others will buy a big camper and travel to serve the poor, Christian non-profits or help out in disasters like Katrina.

Let's face it, it is "Boomer Time" and we need to help them think about how to "Re fire not Retire". Boomers have:

1. Disposable time,
2. Disposable funds,
3. Disposable wisdom,
4. Disposable love,
5. Disposable energy,
6. Disposable gifts and
7. Disposable experience.

This generation will live longer, better and richer lives than any generation in history. Many will thrive in their eighties and nineties. Get ready, get together, get going.

The Tuesday evening meetings are focusing on finding our true Identity and Inheritance in God's Royal Family and moving out to live like a "Royal Priesthood" to share our gifts, Spiritual fruits and wisdom. It is a very exciting time.