Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Forgiveness is Key to Healing

To live in a chronic state of Guilt is a deathly behavior. I recently heard bitterness, refusing to forgive a person that has offended us, described in the following manner.

Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the person we despise to get sick.

This is true whether the object of our anger and bitterness is another person or myself. Yes, you read it right. Holding on the bitter anger toward myself is just as wrong as hating another person. We are made in the image of God and a thing of great worth so we must recognize our worth and treat ourselves with Mercy and grace when we fail.

We could say that some people are sick and dying from inner poison because they either refuse to forgive or do not know how to forgive or be forgiven. To forgive does not mean we forget or that we say what the person did was acceptable. To the contrary, to forgive is to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and True Moral Guilt was the result.

To err is human
To forgive is Divine

Forgiveness also acknowledges that God alone can forgive sins and that He has empowered us to forgive in His name. Forgiveness requires us to "Release the person from all demands for punishment." When I was caught speeding, I was guilty but the judge could have offered me mercy and offered forgiveness. He did not and I paid the $120.00 fine. Mercy releases us from the payment it does not erase the crime.

Is there someone you need to release from Guilt? Have you forgiven yourself for your failures? Is it time to move on from the painful past?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Problems With Guilt

There are two main problems with Guilt. First, many people feel guilty and are not guilty. Second, many people do not feel guilty and are guilty. A recent article in the Associated Press noted that a new study done by psychologists in higher education discovered that narcissism is growing rapidly among college age students.

Guess which issue Narcissistic People have with guilt. Do you think they have too much or too little guilt? "You, my friends, win the big prize. Narcissists have little if any sense of guilt yet they are guilty of many things and rarely if ever confess their wrongs."

Ever since the "Self Esteem Movement" took the nation by storm kids have been told they are wonderful, special and perfect." Even if the kid was mean, selfish and lazy he/she was affirmed for being above average.

We saw the result of such preening behavior on American Idol when people who sang badly off key and knew none of the words were angered that the judges told them the truth about their lack of talent. Worse yet, their parents and friends were also angry and shocked that their special, gifted and wonderfully talented singers were rejected by the cruel judges.

On the other hand we have people who "feel" guilty over just living and breathing. Their sense of unbridled agony over every mistake large or small brings forth a spring of apologies despite there being no wrongs.

Let me explain something. Guilt of the True Moral kind is not a feeling but a fact. Guilt is a term from the court room and has a legal implication. My former Medical Director, Dr. Emmett Cooper was a forensic Psychiatrist who said he never met a guilty man in prison or the court system.

Several years ago I was driving home from the airport after a long flight and many weeks abroad on a mission trip. My foot became very heavy and I drove way too fast through a speed trap on I-75. A very nice police officer stopped me. I knew I was Guilty but I did not feel guilty. I felt frustration, anger and self-pity. But, I was guilty as charged. Guilt is based on whether or not we have violated the law. Period.

So if you are filled with guilt feelings for no apparent reason, talk with someone who can help you discern why. If you treat people badly and feel no guilt speak with someone and find out why. Saddam, as far as we can discern, had no guilt feelings about murder, rape and destruction of people and property. However, he was guilty.

We cannot be guided by feelings alone but by God's word.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Grace for the Taking

Almost all of the really distressed people I know suffer from a lack of grace applied to their own lives. Not only has the church failed to teach us about True Moral Guilt its teachers have not really shown us in a practical manner how to treat it with ourselves and with others.

For example, has some failure, stumble or intentional sin hobbled you with an ongoing sense of distress even though you have confessed it over and over? Have you ever heard a good sermon on the difference between Guilt and Shame or True Moral Guilt and Guilt Feelings? How about the difference between Sins and Trespasses? No? I didn't think so.

I wonder how many people avoid churches and ministers or Christians because they have unresolved Guilt/Guilt Feelings on their conscience. Would you know how to help them distinguish between these various issues and lead them to peace and harmony? We can't lead people farther than we have gone ourselves.

Perhaps I am off base in my analysis but I would like to hear from you to see if I am wrong. Leave a comment on the blog or write me at

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vengence is Deadly

As we look around the world and observe all the tribal wars in Africa, the wars between similar religious groups in the Middle East and Northern Ireland and family violence in every part of the globe it becomes apparent that learning to forgive is crucial to peace. Almost every one of these disagreements turned into a destructive encounter because people could not release another person from something his ancestors did.

One of the most striking differences between the Old and New Covenants is the emphasis on forgiveness. Although forgiveness was an important concept in the O.T. with the arrival of Jesus as a great teacher and The Great Physician the concept and reality of forgiving wrongs takes on a much larger role in gaining an abundant life. After all, it is the focus of His death on the cross. No longer is forgiveness bought with the blood of bulls and goats but with the blood of Jesus.

As a therapist I see many couples and families whose dysfunctions arise largely from a heart of bitterness. The Bible wisely draws our attention to the fact that bitterness is more than a feeling. It is a root that, if not dug out by grace, will pollute many people and many generations. We can observe how that happens in the current situation between the Shias and the Sunni Muslims. Death, destruction and evil are being perpetrated by both sides because of religious differences and slights that began hundreds of years ago but remain unforgiven.

Islam has no place for forgiveness as far as I can see. It is a religion of works and justice. Christ was different. he set forth a little band of followers whose lives had been radically changed through being forgiven. Additionally, Jesus left them and us with a prayer centered on forgiveness that is both personal and interpersonal.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Unforgiving attitudes lead to bitterness and bitterness leads to personal attacks and personal attacks lead to murder and murder leads to generations of polluted family life. Forgiveness leads to health, peace and prosperity.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Conflict Mis-Management

Ever since Adam blamed Eve for leading him astray and their elder son killed the younger there has been emotional and relational mismanagement in the world. So much of it comes down to holding bitterness and resentment in our heart toward the people we love most.

Some will react to that comment by saying, "If people really love each other they will not have conflict. I once heard Oral Roberts say that he and his lovely wife Evelyn had never had a fight since they were married. That is hard to believe. Conflict arises over differences and no two people could be more different than a man and a woman.

I think that many Christian couples actually have deeper conflict with each other because they think as believers that they should not fight. Fighting is not the problem but fighting unfairly is the problem. I meet many couples who get into a disagreement but cannot really come to a conclusion about how to compromise. One has to give in to the other. He or she says, "Because I love you I will sacrifice my ideas and allow you to have your way."

Now that sounds good but in reality the one who "sacrificed" cannot forget or forgive and carries the hurt/anger/resentment for weeks, months or perhaps even years. Hebrews 12 says, Take care lest any of you fails to obtain the grace of God and a root of bitterness springs up and many are defiled."

Without genuine forgiveness and grace the heart holds the old wounds and they fester as resentment and deep bitterness eat us alive. That bitterness arises anytime that an argument breaks out and the old history becomes a history lesson with warfare and bombing thrown in.

The answer is confession and forgiveness. More on that later.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ministry for Men of all Ages

Dear Friends:

Are you interested in seeing your ministry grow and prosper? Would you like to have more men in your church standing beside you as you reach the community? Here is your opportunity to have us come alongside you and support your mission, vision and goals.

On Saturday, March 10, 2007 the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families will host Iron Sharpens Iron, a one-day equipping conference for men from churches throughout the greater Cincinnati area.

Our expected attendance at the Iron Sharpens Iron men’s conference is 500 – 800 men. In addition to two main sessions with internationally known speakers, we are offering 16 different seminars on topics specifically related to equipping men of all ages (13 and up) to honor God and live dynamic and healthy lives.

Sign up today! It will be held in the wonderful facilities of College Hill Presbyterian Church, 5742 Hamilton Avenue. It is easy to get to CHPC from anywhere in the tri-state region. Turn south on Hamilton Avenue from Ronald Regan Highway and drive an easy five minutes to the church.

For more information, please contact:
Jack Samad, Senior Vice President
National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families
800 Compton Road, Suite 9224
Cincinnati, OH 45231
Phone: 513-521-6227 Fax: 513-521-6337

I look forward to seeing you and your friends at the conference. Dr. Owen Clutterbuck from Life Way Counseling Centers and I are presenting a powerful workshop on Breaking Free From the Past.

See you at CHPC on March 10 when we will present a unique way to get free from bad habits. Owen and I have helped houndreds if not thousands of men find joy and purpose and leave the bad stuff behind.

Gary Sweeten
Life Way Ministries, Inc

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Gold Rule

We all know the Golden Rule as set forth by Jesus. It says, "Do to others what you want done to you." This is a very good thing to guide us. However do you know the "Gold Rule?" It comes out of the Golden Rule and establishes authority and structures that are best for our kids. Here it is: Those with the Gold make the rules.

Mom and Dad have the gold; Mom and dad make the rules. Mom and Dad know what is best. Mom and Dad have responsibility to set the rules that are best for the family.

Bill and Melinda Gates have two children. They are wealthy computer geeks who could buy almost anything for their kids. However, they also seem to have a lot of common sense. The following story tells how they are doing that which is best for the children.

The Microsoft founder said his 10-year-old daughter, his oldest child, was not a hard-core Internet and computer user until this year, when she started at a school where the students use tablet computers for almost everything.

"She became very avid and discovered a lot of computer games, including one that runs on the
Xbox' 360 called Viva Pinata, where you take care of your garden," he told a business audience in Ottawa. "She could spend two or three hours a day on this Viva Pinata, because it's kind of engaging and fun."

Gates said he and his wife Melinda decided to set a limit of 45 minutes a day of total screen time for games and an hour a day on weekends, plus what time she needs for homework.

Microsoft's new Vista software enables parents to control the Web sites their kids go to but also includes an audit log that records sites they have visited and whom they've been Instant Messaging.

"Up to some age, to be determined, it's very appropriate for a parent to get a sense of what they're seeing out there and be able to have conversations about it," he said. "My son said, 'Am I going to have limits like this my whole life?', and I said, 'No, when you move away you can set your own screen limits'," Gates recounted, to audience laughter.

This is very encouraging to me as a family therapist for I see far too many parents who cannot set limits for their kids. The kids rule the roost and tell mom and dad what to do. That is a rule for chaos. Parents need to be adults and stop being afraid of kids. Make a decision.

One couple sold their house and when they told their adult son about it he was stunned. "Do you mean I can't live here any more?, he asked. "Well," Karen said, "it's OK with us if the new owners don't mind." Take a stand. Decide what is best and let the kids know it. They won't break with honesty.

Change Agents

I am busy tonight. Galina called from Moscow late tonight after I had fallen asleep following a very busy day of ministry and baby running. Karen and I had the wonderful privilege of being with all three grand kids, Jacob 12, Lily 4.5 and Jack 2, over the weekend and then Jack again Monday and Tuesday. We dare not call it "Baby Sitting" when these young and energetic kids are around for rarely does anyone sit but we sure do run. We were exhausted.

I also spoke at a professional Organizational Development Network group today about the Six Stages of Change. (See Changing for Good by Prochaska, et al.) I reported in an earlier post on my talk to the Hope for Cincinnati Pastors' last Thursday and I revisited it with ODN tonight.

The ODN group was enthusiastic and we had a great conversation. This group is very interested in discussing change for that is our bread and butter. One of the participants asked if anyone ever got to Stage Six, Completion. Good question that made me think.

Alcoholics Anonymous, of course, suggests that we never say we are healed or have completed the journey toward wholeness and free from temptation. As I get older I am moving more and more toward that position.

I have not finished being on a diet. Although I have lost 20 pounds I can regain it by relapsing in my lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, great but fattening food is all around me and my friends love to make sure I have enough to eat. However, I have reached Stage Six with smoking. I truly do not find it the least bit tempting any more.

Several people asked good questions about how to motivate people when they are stuck. In our book, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty Steve Griebling and I suggested several questions Change Agents can ask when a client or friend is stuck and cannot move on to a healthier place. We must remember, however, that all change is essentially SELF CHANGE. We cannot make anyone else change. Even as Christians we realize that God can motivate or Convict people of the need to change but they must say, "Yes" to His call.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

News From Russia

Galina called from Moscow at 11:00 PM and reports that they are seeing many new people coming to their groups as a result of our networking trip. Russia is so huge and the needs are so great that we must develop associations and mutual support of all sorts if we are to make any headway against drugs and alcohol addiction and family destruction.

There are several Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Centers in Moscow run by Christians. These groups are doing great work but at a tremendous cost per person. Most of the Rehab Centers are associated with churches that do not have Recovery Groups and Family Healing Groups.

As we meet with the leaders of the Rehab Centers it is a marriage made in heaven. The Lifeways Team provides training for many church members who have addicted family members as well as support for those in Recovery and they do the in-depth ministry for a few people. Both of these are desperately needed in a city nearing 14 million people.

Pray for the Lifeways Ministry in Russia and for Galina to get her visa application approved. The USA is getting very stingy when it comes to granting Russian visas.

Small Things Have A Big Impact

In 1987, Mathieu Boya, a teenage boy in the small African country of Benin, decided to practice his golf swing in an open pasture. With one swing of the golf club, Boya set off an unbelievable series of events. The shot, “a glorious slice” it was called, struck a hapless passing gull.

The bird was stunned by the blow and plunged straight down directly into the open cockpit of a French-built Mirage fighter of the Benin Air Force as it was taxiing. The bird landed in the Benin pilot’s lap startling him. The bird immediately regained consciousness and began flapping its wings furiously.

This totally rattled the hapless pilot who apparently forgot he was taxiing at the time and the Mirage rolled into a parked row of four other Mirage fighters, severely damaging all aircraft. All five fighter aircraft, the entire fighter inventory of Benin, were totally destroyed at a cost of more than $40 million.

Boya was jailed immediately for “hooliganism,” and his own attorney said he had no chance of winning a trial. Meanwhile, the country had no money in its treasury and wanted Boya to pay $40 million to replace the jets. Boya made $275 per year and figured it would take 145,000 years to pay off his debt to society.

Sounds like a debt that can not be paid; a lot like our sin and guilt.

Thanks be to Jesus for paying the debt.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Counter Cultural Churches

Way back in 1970 when I was swept up in the Jesus Revolution we talked a lot about being "Counter Cultural". We all grew beards and long hair and wore ugly clothes. Those things were prerequisites to being considered holy. We had to be different from the church culture and much more like the culture at large.

But we also discussed being salt and light to the society and many of us did everything we could to make a difference and make our churches into places that were making a difference. That is why we were drawn to house churches and services that appealed to the Seekers more than to the pillars. We had guitars and sang rock and roll and raised our hands to the sky in praise of God.

And, we witnessed. We talked about God to our friends and family and to our colleagues. Many came to faith in Christ. Everyone I knew believed he had a mission and was on a mission from God. Now days this is called "Missional" and I dislike the term. It sounds made up like a faux fur coat. I am sure it came out of Fuller Seminary or Trinity and was penned by a consultant or theologian because no one who was actually involved in mission would call it that.

I have been reading some articles about "The Emerging Church" and one asked the question: "Is this just the Sixties all over again?" The answer was, "Yes!" My answer is, "yes, but..." I like many of the things being done by the Emerging Church but it seems as if the anointed leaders are trying awfully hard to make it a movement.

As I recall the Jesus Movement, there was a lot going on with regular people and not much happening with theologians and seminars who were trying to guide the Holy Spirit. The passion of those days was, Jesus! We sang about Jesus and talked about Jesus. We wrote and read Jesus Revolution newspapers but Zondervan was not hyping books on the movement at the CBA.

I wonder if the leaders of the Emerging Church aren't so busy writing, speaking and promoting the movement that they don't have enough time to actually move anything. Movements require a lot of "Boots on the ground" to witness, pray, worship, serve and help people in need. The boots of Emerging Leaders all seem to be in seminars where the weather is warm and ministry carried live with Power Point slides and followed by downloads on Ipods.

I heartily affirm the counter cultural aspects of the Emerging Church Movement and hope they do well in keeping it going. But I hope they can reject all the faux terms and faux controversies to focus on Jesus who was the greatest revolutionary ever known.

I will leave you with a Jesus yell from the Revolution:

Jesus Yes!
Religion No!

Days and Nights of Refreshment

My friend Judy Haag is continuing her work of promoting and facilitating women's spiritual growth this year. Take a look at the following times when she and her colleagues are planning times of Refreshment for the women of Cincinnati. Contact her about attending.






Learning to center ourselves in Christ is a challenge in this day and time but the days of Refreshment are designed to help women encounter God and rest in Him.

Contact for Information:

Judy Haag
Spiritual Encouragers of Cincinnati
5897 Thornhill Ave.
Cincinnati OH, 45224

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Be ye perfect

If any command places fear in the hearts of believers it is this one. It troubled me greatly for many years and kept me obsessing about my imperfections. Well, I discovered a few things about perfection.

It does not mean be without sin or problems or weaknesses. It means maturity.
It is a process not a state of being
It is a very encouraging and affirming concept.

I'll post some things that may take your load off when you start thinking about perfectionism.

If this year just 99.5% of perfection was reached

Two million documents will be lost by the IRS
811,000 faulty rolls of 35-mm film will be loaded
291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly
880,000 credit cards in circulation will have incorrect cardholder information
$9,690 will be spent every day in the future on defective unsafe sporting equipment
55 malfunctioning automatic teller machines will be installed
20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written
114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped
$761,900 will be spent on tapes and Cd's that won't play

22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next hour
1,314 phone calls will be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute
12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day
268,500 defective tires will be shipped

14,208 defective personal computers will be shipped
103,260 incoming tax returns will be processed incorrectly
2,488,200 books will be shipped with the wrong cover
5,517,200 cases of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months will be flat
Two plane landings daily at Ohare International Airport in Chicago will be unsafe
3,056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of three sections.
18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
107 incorrect medical procedures will be performed by the end of the day
315 entries in Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language will turn out to be misspelled.

So, cheer up and pray that you are not in the .5% that was defective, or you are not on the airplane that was stranded for 11 hours or even 7 hours or 6 or 5 or, well you get it.

Last year Galina, Steve, Yevgenia and I were stuck for two hours in a small, a very, very small elevator in Moscow on Saturday night. We could barely breathe and could hardly move. In Russia the defect rate is much higher than .5%. We did pray and were rescued after ONLY 2 hours.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Marriage Support

I received some news about the sorry state of marriage last week. We are trying to get a grant from the Federal Government to strengthen marriage and committed couple relationships. The needs are great, stupendous and even beyond the critical stage. There are far too many people living together, having sex before marriage and having illegitimate children that are reared without two parents.

Any church that does not have a solid, serious specific program to prepare couples for marriage and then support them during marriage is failing themselves, the couple, their kids, the church and the USA. The loss of a parent for any reason during childhood raises the likelihood of adult troubles, addictions and diseases greatly. If you want your kids to be healthy stay together.

If the church is really committed to marriage and family life they must actually do something to prevent divorce and conflicts in the home. This is not rocket science. It is the science of relationships. If you do not do something to help young couples you are failing. Nothing is more important to our future.

I heard last week that a survey was done in the area of Cincinnati called, Avondale. Over 3,000 kids were in the survey and they were asked how many were from two parent families. Want to guess the percentage? My 12 year old grandson guessed correctly. He took a wild swing at it and said, "One Percent!"

He was right. Only 1% of these kids had married parents. That is tragic and for many of them a determination of poverty, drugs, alcoholism, violence and crime. Pastors must do something to change this tragic problem.

HOPE for Cincinnati Gathers

For the past twelve years or so a group of Christians in places of influence has gathered quarterly to network , pray and learn from one another. Yesterday, despite the "White Death From Above" a vigorous and interested bunch of men and women came together at Kenwood Baptist Church to learn more about the ways people change.

I find that many Pastors and Para-church leaders face great disappointment and angst because they have very irrational expectations about how easily and quickly people change. Most Christian leaders have an intense desire to see people change. In our group yesterday were people whose change foci's were very different. They included folks that emphasize the following kinds of change:

That churches will become more outward focused to reach unbelievers

That unbelievers will become Christians

That Christians will become disciples

That Christians will turn their entire lives over to Christ

That Jesus will be Lord of everything to believers

That sexual purity will expand in the world

That Christan's will have a desire to gather in groups

We all wanted to be change agents; to be more effective as influences of people. That certainly is my strong desire. I am a minister and a therapist. I want to see the churches of God become safe places of growth and healing. To heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.
I laid out the six stages that people seem to go through as they morph from one stage to another regardless of the kind of change they are undertaking. Prochaska and his colleagues write about these stages in the book, Changing for Good. Here are the six stages:

Pre-Contemplation or Pre Conviction: I am not aware of my problem so I am not thinking or Contemplating a change in the next six months. God has not Convicted me of my need to change. (To give more; to stop watching porn; to read scripture; etc. )

Contemplation or Conviction: I have become aware of my possible problem. Because of a sermon, a testimony, a book, the move of the Spirit or a friend I am nudged to consider a change in the next six months but don't push me or I will rebel.

Considering Change Planning to Change: I am actively trying out a few minor steps to alter my behavior and count the cost of the changes I am required to pay. The cost may be in friends, emotional pain, family, lack of "medication" contained in the bad habit, etc. But changes always require a cost.

Change Action: I am in; I will throw away my cigarettes, stop watching porn, be assertive instead of aggressive or passive, give to the church, witness to my friends, go out with my wife, stop eating fatty foods, etc. This is what we all expect when we say, "I want to see a change" but it is just one of six stages. This stage is critical but not the most critical.

Change Maintenance: This is the time when lapses and relapses are common. Take care as a change agent that you help support people for at least six months. If and when they lapse try to encourage them to go on and not get discouraged, relapse and give up. When a new person comes to Christ make sure you give them strong support for at least six months. New member groups are very important. New marriage groups are important. Recovery and Support Groups for sexual temptations, alcohol, mothers, divorce, etc are crucial.

Change Completion: I am no longer tempted to lapse and relapse. Hallelujah I am free from that problem. A.A. says we never stop being tempted so always be in Recovery.
  • People change is always self-change. We do not change anyone else

  • People make faster changes if they have two or more options

  • People will change if they are convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs

  • People do not mind change but they hate to be changed

  • Reduce fear, pressure and failures to speed changes
  • Only some 20% of any group is at Stage Four; Action.

Our book, Hope and Change for Humpty contains hints, questions to ask at each stage and more information on becoming a better change agent. Go to or

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Church is Healthy

As I read my post from yesterday it occurred to me to mention that regular attendance at a church is healthy no matter what kind of denomination, with a few exceptions. You can be a Roman Catholic or a Baptist and regular church attendance is good for you and the kids. You can attend a Lutheran or Pentecostal church and be a blessing to yourself and your children.

There are hundreds if not thousands of research studies by non-believing scientists that indicate over and over again that religious observance is good for our marriages and good for our children as well as good for our bodies. (A few studies do indicate that Conservative churches build more resilent kids than Liberal ones.)

The exceptions to this rule are few. One set of studies showed rather conclusively that children reared in homes of single parents are much more at risk than if they had both parents living together. So, if you want to give your kids a better chance to live well stay together and if you have lot of conflict get marital counseling. Counseling really can help. Counseling works!

However, if a single parent takes his or her children to church on a regular basis the negative effects of being a single parent are dramatically reduced. Here is my conclusion: If you really want your kids to have the best chance to live a long and healthy life stay married and stay in church.

There is one caveat. If parents act like religious and moral people at church but are hypocrites who live like the devil at home, their kids are damaged. If you act pious with the public but are brutal drinkers at home you need to decide which life you want or you will send your kids into a moral tailspin.

If you are a cursing, drinking adulterer at home do the same in the world. Don't put on a mask. Be real as a Christian or as a pagan. It is better for your kids. Of course, paganism is bad for everybody but it is a free country.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Myth of Christians and Divorce

Christians have fewer divorces than non-Christians. This is especially true when we look at Christians who attend church on a regular basis.

A couple of years ago George Barna in his typical gloomy way wrote that Christians and non-Christians have about the same percentage of divorces, if not more. I am not a polling expert but I have studied research methods and statistics. I know that the way you ask a question can determine the answer. Second, the people you ask can also mean a lot to what answers you get.

So, if we ask all Christians about their marital track record we might learn that the percent who have suffered through this painful and devastating event is as high as non-believers. Many people come to Christ after hitting the wall of a divorce. They are looking for a better life and often find it at a Divorce Recovery Group at church. Who else is running such groups for people?

People who attend church regularly have much better physical and mental health. They have fewer divorces and fewer depressive episodes. In a recent article on the Leadership Network blog the following data were published.

It's commonly believed Christian marriages end in divorce just as often as non-Christian. But this is not true, according to University of Connecticut’s Bradley Wright and the use of General Social Survey data.

According to the study, Christians who frequently attend church have relatively low divorce rates. The divorce rate among Christians who attend church once or more per week is 32%, vs. 41% among all Christians and 48% among non-Christians.

These are still way too many divorces and we know how to prevent most of them. The church is the very best place to have Prevent Divorce Workshops. Call us and we can tell you how to prevent and heal the conflicts that lead to divorce. (Here is a secret. the Baptists in Cincinnati are learning right now how to do it.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Friendly Church in Goshen

For my friends and readers in the Eastern part of Ohio take a look at this church in Goshen. This county has the highest divorce rate in Ohio and desperately needs to have more good churches help people stay married and get married in the first place.

Married people have better health, live longer, make more money, have healthier kids and have better sex. What more could you want?

Go to church and your happiness, finances and sex lives are all improved compared with those who stay at home and watch TV.

The folks at Center Pointe Church will be glad to help you be happier, longer lives and better marriages. Go by and say hi to Dr. Ray Brock or drop him a line after reading his blog.

Ray Brock, D.Min.
Senior Pastor Center
Pointe Community Church
(513) 722-4700
[office](513) 200-9325 [cell]

Christians are too Agressive

I love to read the Wall Street Journal's free online blog. They generally report things with an irony and tongue in cheek manner that makes you want to both laugh and cry at the same time. Many of their stories quote various media groups like the Associated Press, The New York Times and CBS, NBC or CNN. Each day I am amazed that anyone believes these sources of news any more because their reports are so slanted. OpinionJournal []

This blog is headed by a man, Taranto by name, who claims to be Jewish but he regularly and vigorously ferrets out sily, prejudiced and egregious examples of bias against Christians. The following is such a story.

Those Aggressive Christians!

"Between 2002 and 2006, the number of religious-discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nationally rose more than 30 percent from the previous five years," Lornet Turnbull reports in the Seattle Times: Not surprisingly, a majority of the complaints have come from Muslims. But the numbers also reflect growing tensions around the Christian faith.

Flora Wilson Bridges, an associate professor at Seattle University, said she believes those tensions are arising in part because conservative Christians have become more provocative--less tolerant of those with whom they disagree and more determined to impose their values on others. As they have become more emboldened, they've also become more inclined to take their battles to court.

So when "conservative Christians" complain of religious discrimination, it's because they are "more provocative," "less tolerant" and "more emboldened." When Muslims do it--and they do it more--their motives don't even need to be investigated. "Not surprisingly" tells you all you need to know.

It seems obvious to us that both Turnbull and Bridges are prejudiced against Christians, or at least against "conservative" ones. It isn't hard to imagine that some employers are, too.

If you are a left wing zealot do not bother reading the blog for you will more than likely find it disturbing to your prejudices. But, in my view, if you like fairness and fun filled irony read on!

Turn the Radio Radio On

Dear Gary,

Your RADIO show is scheduled to air on "Water through the Word" RADIO on Clear Channel 700 WLW on Sunday, March 18, 2007 at 7:30am(EST)!

This is a very strong radio signal, reaching a population of 49 million. Because 700WLW is a secular sports station, we are so encouraged that your message of hope will reach millions who do not yet know Jesus. Our prayer is that many will come to a saving knowledge of Christ through your story of faith!

Remember, EVERYONE outside the listening area (world-wide) can tune into to your show ON-LINE while it is being broadcasted on the radio! They will hear it LIVE by logging onto during the scheduled broadcast time listed above.

I will send the March email "Sneak Preview" out to over 3,000 listener subscribers. YOUR show will also be promoted on this E-blast! Please use the "Forward" option at the bottom of the "Sneak Preview", so you can email your family, friends and fans!

May God richly bless you today!

Erin Campbell Host ~ Executive Producer "Water through the Word" MinistriesRADIO Broadcasting ~ Women's Conferences ~ Scripture Medleys 800-274-8951

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Knowing How to Minister to Hurting Persons

I have recently been in several meetings where the topic of counseling people about spiritual issues arose. Several of the members were mystified about the topic, as though religion and spirituality were it were a toxic substance that is incompatible with mental health.
I suppose I am stunned by the inability of experienced psychologists and psychiatrists to integrate the basic beliefs and values of clients into the therapy. That seems strange to me because I am committed to listening to and learning from the Beliefs and Convictions of the Seeker.
Only when I truly understand the Seeker's ideas and feelings will I be able to guide them into a healthier direction. If you are confused about how to minister to different kinds of people with effectiveness and joy, read our latest book, shown here. You can get it from us by writing me at or from
It will give you a process to deliver better pastoral care, counseling and discipleship. I guarantee that you will gain insights about change that you never even thought about before.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

all ministry is personal

After reading what I wrote in the last post it occur to me that I didn't really say anything personal . In reflecting on our ministry it is obvious that everything they do touches people's lives . I just wrote a report to the Board on what we did it in Russia. I look back over the photographs and began to remember how many of the people I saw there had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as we talked and prayed.

I remember clearly the night we met with our team and they asked us to teach the more about it the family of origin and healing the family tree. The very first person we helped that night had a a family history that is all too familiar in the former Soviet Union. The young lady who talked about her family shared a history of abuse that is very difficult for us to believe in the United States.

The young lady we will call call Alexia began her story with her great grandparents . They had been wealthy landowners and owned a retail store before the revolution in 1917. Soon after the Revolution a group of soldiers came to their house in the middle of the night, one snowy freezing winter and told the family they had to leave their home .

The father mother and six children all left their home to wander in the snow. Before the ordeal was over only two of the six children had survived. Alexia's grandfather and his older sister lived but the other four children perished in the winter snow. It is hard for us to imagine the depth of pain and emotional devastation suffered by this family and this kind of pain builds from generation to generation.

Before the night was over we placed Alexia in the center of our circle and prayed that God would heal the emotional pain from the past generations. Several of our team experienced the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. Two people saw clear pictures of Alexia and her family while others received scripture, insights and words of encouragement .

After our time I mentioned to Galina that almost every family in the Russian had suffered from similar kinds of trauma under the Soviets. Galina mentioned that in the past hundred yearsRussia has suffered through nine wars and two revolutions. It is hard to imagine the depth and extent of devastation suffered by the Russian people during these traumatic times.

That night our team was able to minister to only a few people . The way the Lord touched them was . However, it also told us that we have an awful lot of work yet to do . In fact, if we were the only ones doing this kind of deep inner healing work there would be little hope that Russia could ever balance back from Communism. However, our goal is to raise up hundreds and even thousands of pastors and Spirit filled Christians to carry on this vital ministry .

Please pray for the Lord of the harvest to raise up mature men and women both here and in Russia with gifts of wisdom and healing.

You may send your tax deductible financial support to
Life Way Ministries, Inc
11161 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The History of Our Ministry

If you have been following our work for a long time it is obvious to you that we have had a variety of names and outreaches. We started out as the Teleios Ministry at College Hill Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. I developed the center after doing my doctorate on integrating psychology and scripture. It was designed as a place to build people up in grace, mercy and truth that kept them healthy and relating better to God and others. It worked.

In 1987 the Elders asked me to oversee the equipping and discipleship focus of CHPC. That gave me more experience in developing overall systems of health and growth for a mega-church. It was very rewarding.

In 1978 we started training Pastors and Lay Leaders from other churches how to set up systems to "Equip the people to do the work of the ministry". The Elders decided that we should actually register our ministry separately from the church and gave us the total freedom to operate it financially and organizationally.

We took over another Para-church organization with which I had been involved and it was called, The Christian Information Committee. We later changed the name to Equipping Ministries International or EMI.

From my dissertation and wrote several training manuals from its content. The first was Apples of Gold after the passage in Proverbs 25:11: A word properly spoken is like apples of gold on a tray of silver. Alice Petersen joined us in 1979 and she led us to integrate cognitive therapy with scripture and we wrote Rational Christian Thinking in 1983.

The Lord opened many doors for us to teach Pastors and Lay Leaders around the USA and even into South Africa and Norway. I had met Jens-Petter Jorgensen in Kenya in a 1983 trip and he immediately asked me to come to teach their leaders how to integrate scripture, psychology, love and healing. Larry Chrouch, Steve Griebling, Hal Schell and I traveled to the North of Europe in 1986 where we ministered to several hundred Leaders. We later gave everything to the Scandinavians who set up Teleios Centers in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The Lord called me to leave CHPC in 1989. I thought it was to minister full time internationally as a Consultant/ Coach in the area of Pastoral Care and Counseling as well as setting up healthy systems for church growth.

But, the Lord also had a surprise for me. He instructed me to open an in patient psychiatric hospital unit that integrated everything I had ever learned.

We did open such a place and we integrated psychology, psychiatry, prayer, medicine, love, Rational Christian Thinking, family systems and group dynamics. I treated it like a small church because we trained the residents to assist each other as a healing community. Why is every church not a healing community?

It is simple but hard to do and the instructions are in the Bible. If you want to know how, contact me at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don't Speak Frankly

I have not gotten any comments on this post but a couple of comments on the original blog have said we ought not be asking such questions as these for they undermine the credibility of ministers. From reading this poll I would say it is too late to undermine ministers' credibility. Over 90% of the respondents already think we lie about attendance so that means we are not held in very high esteem now.

I am not convinced that speaking openly about reality is bad for ministers. It seems to me that it is the truth, unveiled reality that sets us free. By failing to openly discuss how people think we can get a better handle on how to minister the truth.

In my many years of church membership and ministry I have found very few pastors who intentionally exaggerate the attendance figures. We might give an occasional "Evangelistic Estimate" but all in all we usually try to tell the truth. So, the fact that some 90% think we lie is a problem to getting people to follow us in Christ's call.

I personally value good statistics but realize that not all stats are reliable and we need to ask how reliable and valid these things really are. I don't think these data are very reliable but they might point out that we have a credibility problem that we need to work on.

We can work on credibility by asking our members what they really think. Open, genuine conversations can heal many mis-perceptions and misunderstandings and help those of us in ministry correct our problems.

Do Preachers Lie?

One of the blogs I regularly read to stay abreast of what is happening in the churches around America is called Monday Morning Insight. I recommend it to your attention.

They often print data and perceptions about various issues. The most recent online edition has a poll about whether or not people think Evangelical Pastors exaggerate the attendance numbers. It appears that over 90 percent think we do. I find that this is an amazingly high percentage and wonder where it comes from.

Maybe it is just the result of so many jokes about "Evangelistic estimates" that we tell each other. Or maybe the people have actually heard us inflate our "guesstimates" about the people in the meeting halls. I would appreciate your ideas. If over 90% of our members believe we lie about such a mundane matter what do they think we are doing with the other nine Commandments?

How are we to deal with numbers that are so often associated with our ego? Do we just stop counting? Do we have a neutral group from a local accounting firm do the count and then certify the number at the end of the service as they do at many sporting events?

(Harry Granger from Granger, Evans and Smoot CPA Firm reads the count: There were 83 people in attendance today. Eighty one were members or regular attenders but George and Hazel Goin brought their reprobate neighbor and Patty Hert was able to drag her boyfriend in again. The Pastor wanted to claim 84 attendees but we disallowed Mary Jones' pregnancy because she is only five months along. We have a clear policy about counting any baby under six months in the womb.
One note on being on time. We cannot count anyone who is more than ten minutes late. The Elder Board has discussed this point repeatedly and has decided that it conforms to the policy at our seminary about class attendance so it needs to be uniformly applied to church as well. So, we regrettably had to disallow the Gene and Amy Brown family with all six kids because they just can't seem to make it before the deadline whistle blows. It is a shame too because having eight more would have broken the record for January. However, we did count Asbjorn Anderson who slept through the entire sermon. Being here is the key.)

The Preacher then offers the benediction and an announcement: Come back tonight at our monthly "Pack the Pew" special with popcorn and free soda. We will have door prizes and frequent attender points for those of you trying to win the toaster. BP Oil has agreed to give people with a thousand points a ten percent reduction on gasoline.

Maybe we emphasize attendance too much and it hurts attendance. Trying to motivate the unmotivated causes many people to have less motivation. It certainly seems to convey that we put too much emphasis on numbers and not enough on people.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Global Warming

With my mink fur hat that I bought in Moscow for a few dollars ten years ago and a lambskin coat I feel like Global Warming is with us in a big way. I tell everyone that we saw thousands of fur coats and hats in Moscow. Even the PETA President wears fur in Russia.

I hope you like my new fashion statement for greeting Global Warming. (Got to keep the ears warm!)

I suggest that we all plant a tree and see what happens to the atmosphere in a hundred years or so. Over the past 100 years the earth's temp has increased by about one degree Celsius. In another 100 years that will be 2 degrees and so forth for the next twenty thousand years. But, if we all plant a tree it might reduce the bad stuff and increase the good stuff.

All the News They Want to Print

We all know that the news is anything the reporters and editors say it is. For example, more Americans are killed daily, monthly and annually in Philadelphia and Washington D.C. than in Iraq but only the casualties in Iraq are "newsworthy".

In my last post I mentioned that both coaches for the Super Bowl teams were committed Evangelical Christians who wanted to be remembered for playing the game ..."the Lord's way". They are also African Americans and that is the angle many reporters decided to emphasize, and properly so. But it was not so with Dungy and Smith who chose to intentionally mention being believers.

Here are the actual quotes as copied by Rev. Robert Benn Vincent.

"I'm proud to be representing African-American coaches, to be the first African-American coach to win this," Dungy said as he accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in a post game ceremony.' <> <>

Reading Mr. Matuszewski's account, you might draw the conclusion that race is the determining factor in Coach Dungy's existence.

The Associated Press gave a more accurate account of what happened and what Mr. Dungy said: 'When the game ended, Dungy was hoisted onto the shoulders of his team. He switched his blue Colts cap for a white one that read "NFL champions" and walked to midfield, where he and Smith exchanged words and a hug. 'Dungy held on for an extra second. 'Their relationship dates to 1996, when Dungy hired Smith to coach linebackers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They were a page-one story throughout Super Bowl week, discussing daily the laid-back personalities and Christian faith they share, as well as their groundbreaking success. '"I'm proud to be the first African-American coach to win this," Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. "But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that."' <> <>

A Christian's testimony will never be received as openly as that of politics and race, but never the less we can always hope and pray that the testimony is given for some will receive it. Jesus reminded us to plant seeds lavishly and let God bring the growth He wants from the good soil He prepares. Thank God for allowing Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith sow some good seeds.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Congratulations to the Colts

We are at Mike and Jane Johnson's home after watching the end of the Super Bowl. I am feeling a bit of pride because the two top coaches are both Evangelical Christians with sterling characters and winning ways in football. Almost every commentator and special mentioned this fact and because each is also African American their testimonies were well accepted by the media.

I do not think this means we will see a lot of people coming to the Lord. Revival doesn't seem to work like that. However, the fact they two very successful men in the athletic world can be a success while maintaining decorum and high character does tend to moderate the angry attacks by the Left Wing media.

Dungy said in the post game interview that although he and Lovie Smith are both proud to represent Black coaches they are more proud to be Christian coaches who win the Lord's way. What a blessing!

A Busy Week Since Returning From Russia

I only returned from The Czech Republic and Russia late Tuesday night but the rest of the week has been quite full. I called Karen from the airport in Atlanta and discovered to my shock that John Sloniker, the father of my daughter in law Shelley, had passed away Monday. Thankfully I had returned in time to be with the family and assist with the memorial service Thursday night.

Along with family matters I had an all day workshop on Saturday for the Greater Cincinnati Association of Baptists. The 75 or so in attendance and I had a ball at Lakota Hills Baptist Church. They were from several different congregations around the Tri-State Area and proved to be some of the most warm hearted, Spirit-filled, eager to learn and fun loving people I have met in years.

The topic was Healthy Churches through Healthy Relationships and yesterday was the first of four Saturdays we will share together on that topic. This was an eager and open group interested in filling in "their bag" and developing new insights from the Myers Briggs Temperament Test as well as Rational Christian Thinking. With people like this in the church I am certain that the future of Baptists in Greater Cincinnati is strong.

I fully intended to take photos of this beautiful group and post them for you but my short term memory failed me and I forgot the camera.

American Has Faith

America is not as bad as it seems. People still have faith and still try to follow God's laws, but perhaps imperfectly. The following data from a Gallup Poll is encouraging. It also reveals one reason we are so committed to ministry in the USA.

Almost two-thirds of Americans -- churchgoing or not -- say the overall health of the nation is heavily dependent on its spiritual health.

About 77 percent say the nation's economy is dependent on its spiritual well-being, while 64 percent say religious expressions are either tolerated or encouraged in their workplaces, according to a Gallup Poll released yesterday.

The findings are part of a greater study plumbing the "spiritual state of the union," said Ted Malloch, director of the Florida-based Spiritual Enterprise Institute. The poll "measures the extent to which Americans believe in God, act out their belief and impact secular America in real terms: in the workplace, in volunteerism, in business dealings," he said.

Believers are many:

82 percent of the respondents believe in God,
13 percent believe in a "universal spirit or higher power."
Three-quarters say they are Christian,
6 percent are labeled non-Christian
18 percent have no religious tradition
58 percent -- say success in life is "pretty much determined" by religious and spiritual forces

43 percent of the respondents were Democrats
41 percent Republicans
13 percent independents
58 percent said they leaned conservative
32 percent said they were liberal

Gallup figures in 1999 found 54 percent who called themselves "religious," and 30 percent "spiritual but not religious." Those numbers are now 49 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Work and Good Works

78 percent of the respondents would go on working even if they had enough money to quit
85 percent agreed that "being ethical will pay off economically."
75 percent would not bend rules at work
97 percent said friends and family respected their line of work
92 percent believe "God wants us to do something with our lives that will be useful to the world."
83 percent said their work "is helping make the world a better place."
A 1992 Gallup Poll posed the same question, the percentage was 68 percent

Good and Bad

88 percent are "happy with who I am," up four percentage points from 1992
79 percent said there are clear guidelines to good and evil that apply to everyone, about the same as the previous survey.
65 percent -- say they are "spiritually committed." The figure was previously 68 percent

29 percent are satisfied with the direction of the country, according to separate Gallup findings. But "Americans are fighting back," the current survey stated, noting that seven of 10 regularly volunteer and contribute to charity.

The poll of 1,004 adults was conducted during February and March last year with an error margin of three percentage points. Copyright © 2007 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Our Ministry Focus

Once or twice each year I travel overseas to support and train the people there who are carrying out our international ministries. For ten years I went to Asia and trained many leaders in several centers so they could implement the entire Sweeten System in the local setting. I certainly enjoy hearing how things are progressing in every nation but at this point my main focus is Russia and Eastern Europe and I have greatly slowed my work in Singapore and Taiwan.

Over 90% of our time, energy and work happens in the USA. It is in this country that we find the resources, people and gifts necessary to touch people and nations. So, even though you read a lot about other countries because we are committed to support national ministries, the goose that lays all the golden eggs for ministry is America.

Here we are also very active and strategic in our plans. For the most part, we spend our time and energy with mature leaders, pastors, elders and lay men and women. This nation has a huge reservoir of mature Boomers who have been Christians for several decades and who have mastered or at least understood the basics of Christian ministry. They have worked hard to rear a family and pay their debts while volunteering with the churches and community organizations that they also ran. Now they are looking for something more meaningful in life.

We are targeting that group of people and fully expect to facilitate their involvement in life changing and world changing ministries of personal and community significance. I have already begun our focus but in 2007 we will intensify our efforts.


Tomorrow I begin a four month training program with the leaders of the Greater Cincinnati Association of Baptists. The first Saturday of February, March, April and May I will teach the Pastors and Volunteer Leaders of the churches how to relate with greater health and caring. We Will meet from 9:00 AM til 3:00 Pm at the Lakota Hills Baptist Church and it looks as though we will have some 70 people in attendance.

On February 15 I begin a series on Motivation and Change for Christian Leaders with HOPE for Cincinnati. It is held at the Kenwood Baptist Church.

In March I will teach four Wednesday nights at the Vineyard Community Church on Family Systems for Christians called How to be Me in My Family Tree. Those who attend will learn how to bless their future generations and honor the past as well as bring healing to the family tree.

On March 10 we will present a Discipling program at the National Iron Sharpens Iron Conference at College Hill Presbyterian Church.

I am rewriting and writing new books and planning to produce several video and audio presentations.

A lot is happening so keep us in prayer and consider how to support the efforts to minister to leaders. We need your help.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pastoral Consultations in Moscow

Two of the most interesting and creative men we met in Russia are Pavel and Mihail, Pastors of Evangelical Churches in Moscow. Their ideas and interests are very closely aligned with those of life Way Ministries and of Galina's team. (See

Anya, Yerina and I met with them in the Coffee Bean Cafe across the street from our hotel and along with some fine Earl Gray Tea, we had a great conversations. Anya, short for Anna, is an excellent translator but even she had some difficulty staying up with the three Russians who all were trying to get their points across to me at the same time.

The Coffee Bean was the Bean of Babel for awhile as Pavel was telling us how the local Alcoholics Anonymous, A.A., was busily saving men and women from not only drunkenness but for eternal life. These men know from personal experience how valuable A.A. can be for so many people, especially in the former USSR.

Yerina is sold on the idea that our Christ Centered brand is superior to regular A.A. and we need to promote it more strongly. No one was totally convinced but it was a great and valuable discussion that needs to be continued for the lives of millions are at stake.

Anya was trying her best to stay up with these interested and conversant experts. However, Russian is much wordier than English so she had to do some major shorthand and I had to show some major intuitive insights if I were to really sense the differences of the two systems. This I know: A.A. in both its forms is necessary to the very survival of Russia and the former Eastern Bloc.

The damage done to the people from evil Soviet leaders cannot easily be overestimated. Hillary Clinton can joke about "Evil Men" but I suspect she has no idea how destructive the ideas and actions of the Communists really are. She may laugh at President Bush's rough language but she must realize that millions upon millions of people still suffer greatly from the official abuse of the Socialists and more millions will suffer for generations to come from the dictators now in office.

It is one thing to play politics and use satire to win an election it is quite another to launch healing ministries designed to bring peace to the children and families eviscerated by truly evil men. War is hell but life under a chronically vicious administration like Stalin, Saddam and Kim Jon IL is worse.

Pray for peace and healing through Jesus for the former prisoners of the CCCP (USSR). Both Pavel and Yerina will agree with that action step.
Now Steve and I are back home, busily reconnecting with our local ministry and planning several great events for the churchese here in Cincinnati. More later...