Saturday, March 31, 2007

Horizon Community Church

Last Sunday I spoke at the Horizon Community Church 10:30 AM service in Indian Hill just outside of Cincinnati. (You can listen with Power Point slides. ) Horizon has a very creative group of Pastors led by Chad Hovind who put on a high quality presentation with slides, drama, video productions and great talks each week.

I was amazed at how much goes into each service. The creativity of music, visuals, planning and relationship building is thorough and well developed. A top rated show on Broadway will do the same thing every day for weeks or years. Horizon Community Church, and many such high quality contemporary churches, do more changes every week than professionals in theatre do in years.

The congregation consists of a mix of ages, interests and religious backgrounds. They are sensitive to cultural and generational differences and work hard to present the good news in an atmosphere of quality that appeals to the five senses.

The Horizon Board has purchased a large track of land on Newtown Road and will begin the process of building next Fall. I wish them God Speed and much wisdom as they listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit in hearing how to devise a future that will draw many to the Lord.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Who We Are

As I look at the meter that records the locations of each person logging on to this blog I am struck by the international reach of the Internet. Over the past few days I have had people from China, Singapore, France, Portugal, Russia, etc read or at least log onto Brave Heart. I am in awe.

It also means that I need to learn how to write to an international audience. That takes some doing because many if not most of the international and national bloggers do not know me or my history. Around Cincinnati and within the Christian Counseling area I am rather well known but that familiarity disappears quickly in other places.

The bottom of my e mail signature says this.

Gary R. Sweeten, Ed. D.

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

(C)Life Way Ministries, Inc
A Faith Based Non-Profit Charity

11161 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

513-769-0304 (Fax)

We are a tax deductible charity that is wholly dependent upon the gifts of individuals and churches. All our expenses are covered by donations. We are acknowledged by the Federal Government and the State of Ohio to receive checks, stocks, checks, wills, estate plans, foundation monies and in-kind donations such as airline frequent flyer miles, computers, administrative support, etc.

We care, teach and counsel ministers and leaders and their families as well as churches. Much of our work is personal and confidential on a "pro-bono" basis. People call, write and come her from around the USA and the world.

We have also set up centers for renewal, care and counsel in several nations. We still provide financial, spiritual, emotional and educational support for those persons.

Over the next year some of our formal information will change. The current name is confusing to many people. We will change it. Even though we are totally separate from other organizations with the Life Way name, people get confused.

We are different from:

1. Life Way Counseling Centers (I am the founder)
2. Life Way Institute (Which sells my books)
3. Life Way Publishing (The Baptist Press)
4. Life way for Youth (That places children in foster homes)
5. Equipping Ministries International (I am the founder)
6. Teleios Ministries at College Hill Presbyterian (I am the founder)
7. Teleios Norway, Sweden and Denmark (I am the founder/trainer)
8. Lifeways Russia (I am the founder/trainer)
9 Lifeway International-Singapore (I am the founder/trainer)

You can see the problem. We have been planning to change the name for several months and are getting suggestions from out board and friends. Some suggestions focus on my name. I have been in several different organizations with different names but I have stayed with the same from organization to organization.

We shall have a new snail mail address.

We will always, however, be a tax deductible charity that depends upon your support.

We shall have a new web page.
We shall have a new e mail address.

You can certainly reach us in the future with the Life Way Ministries name and address but the new name and addresses will be clearer and more focused. Please call if you have questions or a desire to support us but do not know how. Rick Brown, CPA, is on our board and makes sure we are kosher in our legal and tax matters.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Triangles in Relationships

I certainly enjoy exploring family life from a Systems’ Perspective. I realize that I am asking a lot out of you readers. A change from Linear to Systemic thinking is a huge paradigm shift. We are so used to thinking in straight lines that it is almost impossible to imagine that most things are connected. This is why even the basics of Economic theory are so difficult to understand. For example, the current fad of Americans to stop using so much Petrol in favor of Corn Based Fuels.

If we only look at the Corn to Fuel-Gasohol as a replacement for Petrol, it makes some sense. (A one to one Linear Replacement) However, when we consider all the Petrol energy that must be used to produce Gasohol, it is not seem so simple. Think of the system, not just trading one fuel for another fuel.

1. Corn is now being taken out of production for use by animals so corn is higher, meat is higher, meat will be imported from foreign nations demanding more Petrol to ship it over the seas.

2. The corn seed is also higher making growing food produced for cereals and other food products for people much higher.

3. It takes 1 and 1/2 gallons of Gasohol to provide enough power to go as far as only one gallon of Petrol. Thus, Gasohol costs considerably more than Petrol in terms of energy produced. Additionally, a gallon of Gasohol costs about 50 cents more than a gallon of Petrol. So, if a gallon of Petrol costs $2.50 and the Gasohol costs 50 cents more, we are already paying $3.00 per gallon for Gasohol and going only ¾ as far. That is a huge increase in the use of both our money and of energy.

4. Gasohol will not burn very well in cold weather, requiring us to make dramatic changes in fuel production, transportation and driving. This means that the fuel production plants must make different fuels and that is very costly.

When we look at things in their total system it is not so simple to make what seems to be a simple change from one product for another. It is like that for a diet. When we stop eating, the body system says, “Wow! We have hit a famine and I need to store more fat for the long winter.” The result may well be gaining weight.

I hope you get the picture.

Below is my opinion about how Triangles work. In this case, it is the Rescue/Responsible Triangle that suggests it is dangerous to try to Rescue a Victim from Persecutor for all too often the Victim will turn on the Rescuer and accuse them of being the real Persecutor who then feels like a Victim.

Saudi Arabia: Victim Triangles with Iraq: Persecutor and USA/Britain: Rescuer

The result? The Saudi’s blame us for being the Persecutors and we feel like Victims.

Read on:

"Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday lambasted the 'illegitimate foreign occupation' of Iraq by US-led forces and urged Arab leaders attending a historic summit in the Saudi capital not to allow foreign powers to determine the future course of the region," the Arab News reports from Riyadh:

In his keynote address opening the two-day summit, King Abdullah called upon Arab leaders to usher in a new era in Arab joint work while holding them accountable for disunity in the Arab world over the past decades.

"In Iraq, blood flows between brothers in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation and hateful sectarianism, threatening a civil war," King Abdullah said after taking over the presidency of the 23-member Arab League from Sudan's President Omar Bashir.

This is the thanks we get for stationing our troops on the Arabian Peninsula for a dozen years to defend the occupying Saudi family from Saddam Hussein, and for remaining in Iraq, as, among other things, a check on Saudi Arabia's Shiite rival, Iran?

Well, yes, we suppose it is. Today's Saudi ingratitude is of a piece with Western European ingratitude during and after the Cold War. It's human nature, at least among those who are not mature enough to take responsibility for themselves, to resent those on whom one depends. Ask any parent of teenagers.

Gary's Opinion: Those who try to rescue their children from any situation deemed to be a Persecution will end up generating anger and rejection by the children.

I suggest that you order Family Ties That Bind as a good place to begin more study on the topic.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lay Counseling is Effective

Research about the effectiveness of counseling has some shocking truths to tell. First, most of the people who seek a counselor to help them solve a problem or get over an emotional issue are satisfied that counseling helped them. Second, counseling and counselors have good outcomes. Clients are happy with their counselors because the problems that sent them to the counseling office were mostly resolved. In otter words, counseling worked for most people.

About thirty years ago Bea Combest asked me to help her set up a telephone call in counseling ministry. I was then at the University of Cincinnati and knew something about equipping the laity to care/counsel and so Bea thought we could work together to train the Contact Queen City phone counselors. We did and it was a great time.

The research that I found back then is still consistently saying the same things today. Lay Counselors are about as successful as are the Professionals. That is, if the Lay Counselors had training in the "Core Skills of Helping". So, I wrote my doctorate about how to train Christians in the Core Skills.

Apples of Gold I, my first book, came from that dissertation. I am still using the same skills even though we have changed the name of the class and book. It is now Listening for Heaven's Sake and the updated version, Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty.

Lay Counseling is as Effective as Professional Counseling

You can learn to use the core skills in your life and ministry

Praise the Lord!

Care and Counsel Training

My good friends from College Hill Presbyterian, Sam and Barry Stare, called two weeks ago and asked if I could meet with two new friends from California, Joel and Chris White. The couple was in town on the advice of Jay Diller, a man involved in counseling missionaries and with whom I had ministered in Russia.

Jay strongly suggested that the Whites come to Cincinnati to get basic training in care and counsel from EMI before they left for Beijing, China to join a team of missionaries as their Chaplains. EMI is an organization we set up at College Hill in about 1978 after doing a couple of international training events. The Elders said that it was a great idea to "Equip Pastors and Lay Leaders" but we needed an organization separate from the church to do the seminars, publish the books and collect the monies as a non-profit. They were wise.

It was EMI that supported me as I took my doctoral dissertation and made it into several books called Apples of Gold I and II. A bit later Alice Petersen suggested that we add a volume on Cognitive Therapy and Rational Christian Thinking was written. Over time EMI expanded and trained people from many nations and are still doing a great job of touching lives.

After leaving EMI and establishing Life Way In-Patient Hospital I saw a need to write more extensively for equipping Christian Counselors both Lay and Professional. Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty is the result. If you or someone you know is doing Pastoral Care, Pastoral Counseling or going into Professional Counseling/Psychology/Psychiatry, etc. this is the book for you. I gave Joel and Chris a copy along with some materials I have on ministry to Asians.

Hope and Change is a book for anyone interested in being a better influence of others from a Christian point of view. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, missionaries, etc are all interested in being better influences and need this book.

Not long ago I attended a meeting with several local ministry leaders interested in preventing drug abuse. The sponsors are wonderful people who follow God and want the best for others. However, their approach to prevention and influence was outmoded and sure to fail. It has passion but little knowledge about how people respond to good intentions.

I could not sell my book to them but it reminded me of the lack of information in the church about what works best to help people grow and change. I am so often like a fireman watching oily electrical buildings burn while people try to put the fires out with water. They have the motivation and zeal without knowledge and yet the fires rage out of control. Hope and Change will not make them expert firemen but it can help them become more skilled as community fire fighters.

Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty is available from, and from Life Way Institute, 11161 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, 45242, 513-769-4600

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Death or Life

The Bible clearly tells us to speak to one another with grace and mercy for death and life are in the tongue. This principle is especially important when we are interacting with those closest to us but it is also most difficult to do with those we love.

Being close, very close is a two edged sword. When I love deeply I am also liable to be hurt deeply. Before marriage, for example, we are in love with an ideal but a few weeks together usually kills that ideal dream with reality. That can be good for us since reality is reality. That is, if we can make the transition from Ideal to Real without going through hurt, rejection and thoughts of being deceived. If that happens, Attacks of the Intimate Enemies begins and may not end until death do us part.

Based on research by Dr. John Gottman and others, it seems that couples will survive and even thrive if they learn how to deal effectively with the inevitable differences between them. There are essentially four ways to try to handle differences and the conflicts that arise from them.

The first is the one that is almost guaranteed to result in divorce.

A. Attacking One another with Criticism and Contempt-Frustrations turn ugly and anger is unleashed on the partner.

B. The next three can lead to long and happy marriages.

1. Avoid All Arguments-Decide that harmony in the relationship is so important we will just stop any conflict and separate until the anger goes away.

2. Argue but refuse to Attack-There are Volatile people who enjoy a good argument but who are careful not to attack one another.

3. Agree to Discuss all issues in depth-Share deeply and openly about almost everything.

Most counselors recommend that couples practice #3. but that is not the right thing for everyone. The most important thing to remember is this: Never Criticize or Show Contempt for the person you love. And, if you do, apologize to him/her. Failures are not fatal if we confess, ask forgiveness and show tenderness so the relationship is repaired.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dealing With Depression

A couple of posts ago I wrote about the increase of depression among Americans. Why would that happen when we live so much better now than before. In fact, we live better than at any time in history.

Perhaps Ed Friedman had the answer in his latest book, A Failure of Nerve. (See the last post.) Parents, teacher, bosses and leaders have lost their way. According to Martin Seligman, one the the world's most famous psychologists, the biggest problem lies in trying to protect kids and adults from all and any discomfort. instead of seeing discomfort as a sort of inoculation against a collapse if and when really bad things happen, we too often see a minor discomfort as a dagger in the soul.

A couple of examples will help. I recently listened as my barber explained how a mother hovered over her 10 year old son as he was getting a haircut. She said soothingly with honey in her voice and said things like, "Is it OK? Is she hurting you?" If this kid does not grow up with a giant sized emotional hangover it will be a minor miracle. Anxiety and overprotecting kill, maim and produce weak kids.

I saw Chris Rock on TV tonight and he told story after story about how he suffered pain and suffering as Black kid and the only Black boy in his school after being bussed in from an all Black area. But here is the kicker. He said it was the very best thing that ever happened to him. "Thank you for kicking my___! Thank you for White hatred! You made me a success!"

Showing too much anxious concern and protection for others keeps them in long term prisons of dependency. One of the reasons we have chronic poverty is because far too much anxiety is shown about having poor people among us. Chronic anxiety and chronic enabling of poor thinking and poor ideas reap more poverty. President Johnson's Great Society has developed millions of people stuck in despair and stinking thinking.

Our litigious society has produced millions of people who have an entitlement mentality. A minister friend told me about an event they hosted recently that drew people from around the region. One woman attacked him by saying, "You people at this church don't care for the elderly. You don't even have a railing for us. I should sue you for that."

He then pointed the railing out to her and she took that route. However, her attitude stank. We have come to expect perfection and sue anyone who fails to provide it for us. And, the courts support this nonsense and reward it.

Count it all joy when you encounter all kinds of troubles and adversities. The testing of your faith develops endurance. Let endurance have its full and complete effect. If you do that, you will also be complete and mature. James 1:2-4

Small doses of Adversity are necessary to teach kids large lessons in overcoming the next Adversity. In fact, even large doses can cause us to grow into completion. But depression will come upon us when we expect perfection and get reality.

My Reading List

I read a lot. It is, what one of my mentors called, "Part of my addiction to knowledge." So, how am I treating that addiction? I am reading that very same mentor's newest and last book. Edwin Friedman was a Rabbi at a congregation in Bethesda, Maryland for over 30 years. He was also a Bowen Family Theorist and Teacher who specialized in teaching clergy and religious leaders about a new way of thinking about family life.

Ron Rand and I had the pleasure of attending his seminar/workshop in Bethesda for one academic year. It was stimulating, exciting and insightful as well as a challenging new way to think about counseling and leadership. His 1985 book, Generation to Generation, was a best selling effort about teaching congregational leaders how to lead. It is one of the most difficult books I ever tackled.

It is not difficult because of the big words or obscure concepts. It is difficult because of the new paradigm he offers. That paradigm is so counter to what we usually consider rational and reasonable that reading it requires one to read and re-read paragraphs two to three times. This new book is,I think, easier to read and to understand. He calls it, A Failure of Nerve" and lays out rather simply and clearly his thesis about leadership.

Ed passed away in 1996 and left the manuscript undone but his widow and children made sure it was brought to completion. I am thankful for Dr. Friedman's approach, insights and wisdom have all been foundational to my approach to teaching, leading and consulting.

We desperately need men and women with courage. They are needed in family life, churches, media, city halls, the military, education, psychology and politics. We need people who can take a stand for things not just rail excitedly against things.

We need peaceful leaders with courage. Men and women who can quietly tell the truth and speak boldly for American life and democracy.

As I look back on my life of failures and successes I can clearly remember when I took stands for doing the right things and when I gave in to get along. There have been times when I refused to let a person go from my ministry of company because they "needed my help" only to find they sabotaged me later.

Weak leadership sabotages the good of the organization to enable the sickness or inability of a link in the chain. And, when the chain breaks, the enabler and the whole organization is harmed.

Weak fathers allow dysfunctional kids or hysterical wives rule the roost and cause harm for generations. Weak mothers allow dysfunctional children and absent husbands to sabotage the family and cause harm for generations.

I love reading Ed's pithy, Jewish wit so I can again hear his wry voice filled with satire to jerk me back from another weak reaction to an anxious system.

Get A Failure of Nerve at

Social Capital-Social Glue

The opportunity and challenge of faith-based civic engagement

Those veterans of my blog know I often include research about the good and bad influence of faith, religion and spiritual activities. Some expert social commentators like Rosie O'Donnell, indict committed Christians as being equally dangerous as Islamic Radical Terror Groups. It would be good to put her theory and claims to the test.

A lot of research is done by community groups and academics to see what kinds of things are good or bad for society. And, as a matter of fact, they often find that the issues and items that media talking heads and some preachers find so dangerous are not dangerous at all. Some of them are actually benign or positive contributors to our social order.

The activities, organizations and efforts that are valuable to our nation are considered to build our "Social Capital" and are important aspects of the "Social Glue" that makes America great and strong. Religion and spiritual practices are among the most important positive factors in making America a great Democracy.

Below is the research on Social Capital.

Religious involvement is an important dimension of civic life in most American communities. This is especially true in the South and Midwest. (As rough rule of thumb, religiosity declines with distance from the Mississippi River.)

Moreover, at a time when the nation is actively discussing President Bush's new Office of Faith Based Programs, these data are particularly relevant. However, as we noted in Better Together, "For all that faith organizations contribute to community life, organized religion is – and always has been – controversial, especially when it spills out from behind the church doors and into the public sphere. Religion can heal divisions, to be sure, but it can also exacerbate them. Religious exhortations can reduce tensions, but also increase them." It is against this backdrop that the survey casts light.

Even without the Bush administration's push, American faith-based participation and affiliation is widespread. Eighty eight percent of the national respondents reported some religious affiliation and 84% of national sample agreed somewhat or agreed strongly that religion was very important in their lives. Lower levels of respondents were actually members: 58% of national sample were members of a local church, synagogue or other religious or spiritual community. Some forty five percent of national respondents reported religious almost weekly or more frequently.

Throughout, blacks showed greater religiosity than whites [4]; Hispanics showed greater religious affiliation and church attendance than whites but lower levels of membership and lower levels of participation in religious activities outside of services.

Interestingly, 91% of blacks, 93% of Hispanics, 88% of whites report religious affiliation versus. While 51% of blacks, 48% of Hispanics and 43% of whites attended religious services weekly or more often.

Sixty four percent of blacks in the national sample were members of religious communities (churches) vs. 59% of whites and 43% of Hispanics.

Participation in religious activities other than services: 47% of blacks, 41% of whites and 31% of Hispanics.

Younger respondents (18-34 years of age) were far less likely to be Protestants than respondents older than they were, and far more likely to be everything else (including expressing no religious affiliation).

Younger respondents were also far less likely to be frequent attenders than older respondents: only 34% aged 18-34 attended religious services weekly or more often vs. 59% of respondents 65 and older.

What is the impact of this religious engagement?

Involvement in communities of faith among all goers collectively is strongly associated with giving and volunteering. Indeed, involvement in religious community is among the strongest predictors of giving and volunteering for religious causes as well as for secular ones. Religious communities embody one of the most important sources of social capital and concern for community in America. Religious people are great at "doing for others."

Moreover, religious involvement is positively associated with most other forms of civic involvement. Holding other factors constant, religiously engaged people are more likely than religiously disengaged people to be involved in civic groups of all sorts, to vote more, to be more active in community affairs, to give blood, to trust other people (from shopkeepers to neighbors), to know the names of public officials, to socialize with friends and neighbors, and even simply to have a wider circle of friends.

Interestingly as well, Americans are more likely to fully trust people at their place of worship (71%) than they are to trust people they work with (52%), people in their neighborhood (47%) or people of their own race (31%). Another distinctive feature of religious involvement is that it leads to less bias on social standing than most other forms of civic involvement.

Poorer, less educated Americans are much less likely to be involved in community life than other Americans, but they are fully as engaged in religious communities.

Conversely, religiously engaged people have, on average, a more diverse set of friends than those who are less engaged in religion. Holding constant their own social status, religiously engaged people are more likely than other Americans to number among their friends a person of a different faith, a community leader, a manual worker, a business owner, and even a welfare recipient.

Say, Rosie, what do you think in light of these facts?

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Depression Statistics Double in last 50 years

Depression growing at an alarming rate

The number of people suffering from depression has doubled in the last fifty years, leaving scientists alarmed and wondering why. The irony is that our lives have improved dramatically. We’re eating better, we work fewer hours, enjoy better health, take longer vacations and have far more discretionary income than we did in the fifties. In fact, the NIH estimates that 1 in 5 of us will suffer from depression at some time in our lives.

With all the improvements in our lives, why the increase in depression? One answer could be the way these improvements have changed our lifestyles. With luxuries that satisfy our every need, we have become sedentary and spend most of our day indoors. A recent national survey shows that we now spend less than an hour/day in the sun. And that doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, or if we live in Minnesota or Southern California. Young and old alike, we spend very little time outdoors.

Depression Statistics:
The rate of depression has almost doubled over the last 50 years
Nearly 15% of the US population now suffers from Depression
Represents 18 million Americans
20 million more suffer from anxiety
Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed
The rate of depression doubles in the elderly
Most people with depression have sleep problems

But we know how to help depressed people. Teaching them to apply the Bible in daily life is important as is exercise and getting enough sleep.

Contact Life Way if you or a person you love is depressed.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Finally Some Truth Emerges

"There should be no confusion that deliverance from habitual, life-controlling problems is a journey and not an event. Ted will need years of accountability to demonstrate his victory over both actions and tendencies." Larry Stockstill, a Baton Rouge, La., pastor and overseer of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, where National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard served as pastor. Stockstill was responding to another overseer's remarks that Haggard is now "completely heterosexual" and media reports that Haggard had been "cured."

Why do so many Christians in places of influence not speak honestly about how difficult it is to change long held habits? Why is there so much confusion about the biblical and practical aspects of helping people grow into new and more abundant lifestyles?

Thankfully, Pastor Larry Stockstill has spoken up to honestly evaluate Ted Haggard's real life situation. Rev Stockstill leads a Cell Church that intentionally reaches out to many hurting people in their neighborhoods. As a result he knows how difficult it is to bring such people to wholeness and maturity.

For 40 years my mantra has come from Isaiah 61:1-7

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.

6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.

I am working with some people I first knew almost 40 years ago. They had such life controlling problems that recovery is slow and long and hard. If churches do not set up systems to facilitate health and healing these people cannot possible change. Individual, personal counseling cannot possible be enough.

It is the presence of solid, ongoing, healthy relationships that keep people healthy and growing. Even then relapse is possible and probable. However, we cannot give up or grow weary in well doing. Every church needs healing, recovery, support groups as well as growth and study groups. If you do not people will not recover.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Divorce Prevention

The very first programs I helped set up when I joined the staff of College Hill Presbyterian Church were all about family life. My job description said I was supposed to be Minister of Discipleship for all members. That meant I was supposed to help people grow no matter what their ages. My responsibility included everybody from the cradle to the grave.

We did a parenting class and a premarital preparation program. The best way possible to help children grow up in the discipline and the nurture of the Lord is to make sure they have wise Christian parents. Why do so few churches have anything for parents and couples? Are churches unaware of the devastation of divorce and its prevalence? Do Elders and Pastors not see how many people are splitting up?

I do not think that is the problem. I suspect, rather, that almost every pastor and elder in America wants to prevent divorce and would love to think they are healing hurting hearts. And, they are doing their best to accomplish those goals. The real problem is that so few know what to do.

Pastors preach against divorce and try their best to persuade people to stay together but those warnings are unheeded far too often. What we need are skill based classes that teach adults how to get along with each other. And, saddest of all, perhaps, we counselors know how to prevent many divorces and empower parents to rear their kids in the discipline and nurture of the Lord.

We would love to train more people in healthy relationship skills and before long will announce a plan to equip pastors and leaders. Stay tuned for more on how to get involved.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bricks and Mortar

This is the church
This is the steeple
Open the doors
And see all the people

Why do people, especially rich people love to build things and say they are for ministry? Ever since 1978 I have operated various Not-for-Profit charities and found fund raising to be very difficult. There are probably several reasons.

1. I do not like to ask for money. I have always worked for my keep.
2. I hate to exaggerate the successes of my ministries. Despite the fact that many lives have been changed it is hard for me to tell about them for it seems to be bragging.
3. Almost all our expenses have been for people not buildings. Many folks like to see bricks and mortar not personnel.
4. My work with Pastors and Leaders is confidential.

But I have a lot to brag about. Chad Hovind, Pastor of Horizon Community Church, reminded me recently that St. Paul talks a lot about boasting or bragging. However, it is boasting in the Lord, not myself and my strength. I can certainly do that with a clear conscience.

God's Spirit is touching, healing and liberating hundreds of men and women all over the world as we minister to them in the Name of Christ. The equipping and ministry strategies we developed over the years is proving to be a wonderful vessel for releasing God's love and truth into the marriages and families with whom we work.

For forty years I have been "Equipping Christian leaders" both lay and clergy to make healthy changes in their lives. Dozens of Pastors and Christian Leaders around the world have seen the Lord bring restoration to them and their wives and children. They then take their insights and love to thousands in Singapore, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, etc.

Despite the fact that we do not have a big office building, our ministry brings Christ's healing and growth to individuals and couples as well as churches. We accomplish much through people with little overhead for bricks and mortar.

You can help us. Life Way Ministries Inc is a Tax Deductible, Faith Based Charity. We are totally supported by the gifts and donations of individuals and churches. We also get some support from Life Way Counseling Centers in office space and secretarial asistance.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

We Need Creative Christians

The more we include all God's people in the thinking, planning and building processes of Christianity the more we will see creative solutions to the difficult problems of life. The less bureaucracy we build the more people can find solutions that are out of the box.

I joined the staff of College Hill Presbyterian Church in 1973. It was composed of a very powerful and gifted team of people. Dr. Jerry Kirk was our Pastor, boss and mentor. He was a genius in many respects but in some ways he showed us how to select strong people without being threatened by them. Weak leaders are not secure enough to really allow subordinates to be strong. But Jerry was very secure and he chose people with talent, passion, vision and gifts and turned us loose.

Jerry is an ordained Clergyman in the Presbyterian Church and very proud of it and his denomination's history. However, he never hesitated to select and release non-ordained men and women if they had the gifts to lead. I was one who was blessed to learn and be released under Jerry's tutelage without Presbyterian Ordination.

Far too many denominations are hung up on the wrong credentials. Having to select less gifted and less passionate people because of credentials is stifling and is a block to Kingdom Growth. In a book called, The Churching of America, authors Finke and Stark reveal research that has in inverse relationship between seminary training and church plants and church growth throughout the history of America.

I have a strong commitment to higher education for Christians but not the kind we currently require. I want to see ministers trained to mobilize and equip and release all God's people. The task of evangelism, ministry to the poor and healing are too great to leave to the clergy alone.
If only one Clergyman is actively in ministry when hundreds are sitting on the sidelines then the game cannot be won when Satan is able to marshal all his team to oppose goodness and mercy and healing.

The team at CHPC did that. As a group, we developed new and different structures based on a creative vision that excited all of our members. Thousands of them have gone into the world of work, family and Para-church ministries. It was possible because Jerry and the Elders thought outside the box. They allowed us to make numerous Second Order Changes and most people would never have thought we were a Mainline Church in an old stodgy denomination.

Do it again Lord! Do it again.

Builders and Boomers with Brains and Hearts on Fire

I am struck by the lack of creativity inmodern church leadership. Almost every time a person comes up with something touted as new and revolutionary it is just a warmed over idea.

In systems thinking we describe two kinds of changes. First Order Changes just switch the parts around without altering the way the system works. Old First Church operates with one person, the Clergyman, doing all or most of the work and making most of the decisions. A new female Pastor comes on board who is expected to make dramatic changes because of her gender. However, if the polity and traditions of Old First Church make her continues with the Clergy Centered approach the alterations will be simply cosmetic not systemic. It is a First Order Change.

However, The Older Than Anybody Memorial Church has done things according to Hoyle for over 100 years. The Clergyman, Rev Dr. Smith, ran the show, did all the leading, preached at all services and acted as decision-maker for over 50 years. His seminary teachers were pleased, the denomination supportive, the pillars in awe and the Elders passive.

After his demise the Elders looked around and saw 45 members left. They were all over the age of 65. They called the leader of a small student group who met for Bible study on Wednesday nights and said, "How would you like the building?" The young people said, "OK. Why not?"

The youth group operated like a group of college kids without seminary training and denominational consciousness. They reached out to family and friends and made decisions by consensus of the leadership council. No person was paid and most of the monies collected went to help people in need. This was a Second Order Change. The system was completely different than before.

Many new churches are building and growing. But almost all are simply rearranging the chairs in the meeting hall. All are First Order Changes.

I am put off by all the time, money and energy being expended keeping the church in hock to bricks and mortar and an antiquated system of running things. They spend 10 or 20 million dollars and still run things like a theatre.

We desperately need a new approach to living out God's life in the Spirit. And, who better to conceive of new ways than people like me. Builders and Boomer with Brains and Hearts on Fire.

Over the next decade we will see millions of mature Christian men and women leave the safety of their padded pews and develop Second Order Systems for more effectively and efficiently marshaling their gifts, talents, finance's and leadership abilities to change themselves and the world. I am hearing weekly from people who say things like, "I will never tithe or be enmeshed in a traditional church again. I am going to minister through Para-Church groups around the world.

The Builder/Boomer Generation is the single greatest asset of America in general and Christianity in particular. This group has more:

Disposable Spirituality
Disposable Money
Disposable Maturity
Disposable Wisdom
Disposable Gifts of the Spirit
Disposable Talents
Disposable Time
Disposable Skills
Disposable Creativity
Disposable Leadership and Management Skills

Despite these enormous assets, the churches as currently constituted have no place of real ministry and creativity for them. These people have reared their families, run corporations, made lots of money, traveled internationally, developed cross cultural businesses and have wisdom beyond belief. Yet, contemporary church life is almost solely a game for young people, led by young people with young, immature ideas.

Do not misunderstand me. The traditional church must have a strong focus on young families, kids and youth. However, the need for "Wineskins" for the older, wiser and more mature among us is reaching a critical stage. That group has some 80 to 90 million people, many whom are Christians, and we are living longer with greater assets to invest in The Kingdom of God.

I am seeking men and women who are tired of the old ways of doing business and who want to make a difference with all the things God has given them. Let's give our best and most creative thoughts to how to move forward.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pacifists for Power and Might

Sometimes I do not know whether to laugh or cry when I read about the antics of radicals in the USA and around the world. For one thing, many of them take on such high sounding names that I am suspicious from the first moment that I see their monikers.

Perhaps my lack of confidence in these holy minded groups springs from an experience I had back in the Anti-War Sixties and Seventies. I was Associate Dean at the University of Cincinnati and dealt almost daily with radicals of all sorts.

There was a famous group operating on campus called, Students for a Democratic Society who was as vicious and undemocratic as any mob I ever saw. Their motto could well have been, "Support our anti war rhetoric or we will destroy you!"

One fine spring evening I overheard a group of people vow to "Set fire to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Building and burn it to the ground." I immediately called the Campus Cops and reported the conversations with a description of the woman I heard.

The cops thought they knew who it was and immediately wanted to arrest her. We piled in two or three police cruisers and drove over to Daniels Hall to pick her up. It was apparent that the woman, Joyce Reichman, an SDS leader, was not the person I heard so the police reluctantly turned her loose.

Later, SDS developed a plan to kidnap my family and me to teach me a lesson. I am not sure what lesson I was to have learned but maybe it was about supporting SDS and similar peace groups. This, and other similar experiences taught me to have a healthy scepticism about the claims of peace groups.

In today's Opinion Journal we have examples of other hypocritical peace mongering. Opinion Journal []

"A group devoted to social tolerance has been accused of being intolerant," reports the Argus of Fremont, Calif. The finger-pointing came after an altercation occurred at a meeting for the Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community, where a discussion about hate crimes deteriorated into an ugly incident, witnesses said.

While trying to eject 71-year-old Barbara Marques from the monthly gathering Monday, the Rev. Garnet McClure grabbed and shook the chair in which Marques was sitting, attendee Sharon Giottonini said.

McClure, a female pastor at Fremont Congregational Church, reacted after Marques said the 2002 slaying of transgender teen Gwen Araujo might not be a hate crime, several witnesses said.

A scuffle ensued and McClure continued to pull on Marques' chair, said Giottonini, a member of the alliance and the East Bay Coalition for Border Security, a Fremont anti-illegal-immigration group.

In Montreal, "more than a dozen people have been arrested after a demonstration against police brutality turned ugly," the Canadian Press reports:

Montreal police riot squad officers are swooping on demonstrators after they got off a subway in the city's east end and targeted a McDonald's restaurant. After that, other businesses were hit. Several trash fires have been set and one police van has been damaged.

They hate hate, and they're violently opposed to violence!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Family Values

It is very hard for us to imagine the callousness of the terrorists when it comes to brainwashing people into blowing themselves and other up. Most people love their children. We do anything to help a child in distress. We call that kind of attitude Family Values.

Terrorists have different values for the family. We know from past news stories that many women caught in shameful situations are forced into killing themselves by the religious police. They are given a choice to either blow yourself and others to pieces or die in shame.

Now the radicals have come up with a new and more "glorious" campaign. They first "recruit" mothers to kill themselves. Afterward, they interview her children on video so they can brag about how proud they are that Mommy decided to be a martyr. Read this and weep.

The Middle East Media Research Institute has video and a transcript of a Hamas TV interview with two adorable tykes whose mother, Rim Al-Riyashi, was a suicide bomber. Here's an excerpt:

Interviewer: Dhoha, you love mama, right? Where did mama go?
Dhoha: To Paradise.
Interviewer: What did mama do?
Dhoha: She committed martyrdom.
Interviewer: She killed Jews, right? How many did she kill, Muhammad?
Muhammad: Huh?
Interviewer: How many Jews did mama kill?
Muhammad: This many . . .
Interviewer: How many is that?
Muhammad: Five. . . .
Interviewer: One should talk about the innocence of children . . .
Dhoha: I want to talk about kindergarten, I want to talk.
Interviewer: What would you like to recite for us? Have you heard the poem "Mama Rim"? Go on then, recite it for us.
Dhoha: "Rim, you are a fire bomb."
Interviewer: Go on, recite it.
Dhoha: "Your children and sub machine gun are your motto."
Interviewer: Muhammad, go ahead and recite . . .
Muhammad: I'm in kindergarten.
Dhoha: That's it, I'm done.
Interviewer: OK, do you want to go to mama?
Dhoha: Yes.

While our kids are reciting their ABC's and singing Old MacDonald children in Palestine are learning to recite poems about their Mother dying in the fires of suicide bombs. This is so hard to believe that we may just ignore it. But we deny it to our nation's and our cultural destruction.

I worry about the future of my grandchildren and your grandchildren. Do the politicians who want to isolate themselves from evil around the world worry about the future? Do they worry about this kind of brainwashing? Do they have the courage to resist these evil doers?

Good NewsWeek

There is a powerful and heartening good news story this week in News Week Newsweekly. At a time when the news media buries most of the positive stories and TV shows and politicians ridicule Christ we need some good news. When there are famous media people such as Robert McNeil of the McNeil Lerer News Program who compares conservative Christians to Jihadists, this is good news indeed.

Take a look at this link to see the good news.

I first read this article yesterday in the paper copy of News Week. It was written by a young Jewish woman whose adult brother has Autism or similar difficulties. She confesses she knew little if anything about him and he lived alone and friendless for most of his life. Then, something great happened to him. God got involved with him through a church fellowship.

The results are fascinating and heart warming. They are also very positive in enocurageing us to never give up. We need to always look for ways to bring healing into the lives of even the most hopeless persons with "impossible" disabilities.

It is also a message about how spirituality needs to be at the center of our healing thrust. Servant Evangelism is popular now thanks to the great work of Steve Sjogren and the Vineyard Community Church. Many people have found Christ and changed lives as a result of SE's emphasis on The Outward Focused Church.

Let me, however, offer a word of caution lest the great tool of Servanthood be mistaken by novices for the final answer to the needs of the world. General Booth, a key proponent of working with and for the poor, and founder of The Salvation Army, said something like the following: I shudder to think what would happen if we had an army with no salvation.

The refreshing story in News Week shows how a co-worker reached out to the young man with a severe disability and brought him into a Bible study where He found far more than a Diet Coke for his thirst, he found the River of Living Waters. He also found love, peace and substantial healing.

His sister found a new brother with new life and new health and a fundamentalist church with new eyes. Maybe we need to send Robert McNeil over to visit that church to see if he could be healed of his rigid bigotry.

We Christians might find new hope for developing a healing community.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Addictions and So Forth

My major concern about many addiction prevention programs is that they do not work very well. Most of them put a lot of emphasis on what are considered to be "Addictive Substances." Some things are thought to be so toxic and strong that the brain immediately begins to lust for them after one try.

This means that a lot of time and energy is spent on identifying different kinds of drugs and spelling out why they are so dangerous. As a corollary, a good deal of emphasis is placed on the fact that addictive substances can "Grab a person and not turn loose."

This is consistent with the philosophy used by some, including many law enforcement officials and churches. I have heard people say that pornography is so powerful and addicting that a one time use is dangerous and many who simply "experiment" may well become hooked.

In my view, this is not the best way to do prevention. Number one, most drug and alcohol users know that this is simply not true. We know that addictions do not immediately come upon a person with one experiment. Users tend to see these as attempts to scare them from trying drugs.

When we try to scare people with these stories we lose credibility. They then assume we are either ignorant of lying. Back in the Seventies it was popular on college campuses to show an old film that indicated using marijuana would make people stark raving mad. The students loved to watch it and smoke some dope at the same time while laughing uproariously at how ridiculous such claims were.

As a therapist I want people to avoid abusing drugs, all drugs. In fact, I want people to stop every type of compulsive and dependent behavior. It is the behavior, not primarily the substances, that is harmful. It is the bad habits that kill.

Look at this formula for an addiction.

AB = C + D Addictive Behavior = Compulsions + Dependencies

Compulsions arise from within to medicate pain or discomfort
Dependencies arise from within to provide an artificial high

We can have a person that is Compulsive with drugs and is not Addicted
We can have a person that is Dependent upon drugs and is not Addicted

An Addicted person is both Compulsive and Dependent

Bad habits, compulsions and dependencies predominantly arise from within the heart and soul not from outside the person. I could not be an alcohol dependent because I do not like the way drinking alcohol makes me feel. I get sick instead of high so it is not a source of dependency for me. (Dependencies come from getting high.)

I could not become a Compulsive drinker because I do not get relief from my inner pain with drinking. (Compulsiveness is designed to medicate inner pain like boredom, depression, anxiety, fear, anger, etc.)

I could become addicted to sex or ice cream. Both give me both pleasure and make me forget inner discomfort. However, knowing this, I am careful to take care of myself.

My primary temptation is and always has been-----WORK. Work is not a substance yet it is the source of many problems. People with healthy inner lives are not at risk so stay healthy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Back to Basics

In this series of posts I am revealing the secrets of a healthy Christian life. I have chosen to do it through discussing the importance of looking at important principles rather than give advice about how to intervene in specific problems.

Down in Singapore one year Steve Griebling and I were doing a seminar on rearing teens. One of the parents asked whether or not she should buy her daughter a new cell phone with unlimited minutes. We attempted to help her reason through how she was relating with her daughter and what habit patterns the two had developed over time. In other words, buying a cell phone could be good or bad according to the situation.

But the mom insisted that we should offer our "expert" advice about this very specific action even though we did not know the mom, her daughter or their financial situation. It was as though we should be "Psychic Mind Readers" instead of men who speak from biblical wisdom.

I have written several books that people from all walks of life find very helpful in preventing problems and solving them once they have begun. One is Listening for Heaven's Sake and it contains basic skills that are absolutely crucial to a great marriage, great parenting, great managing, great counseling, great pastoring, great ministering and great romance.

We would sell many more books if we called it, Marital Crises and the End of the World but that would be a sham. One time I suggested that a client who had a conflict with his wife and daughter read Listening for Heaven's Sake as a way of improving the relationships. He came back to me and complained that, "That book did not say anything about listening to my wife. I just talked about listening to anybody." (I assume that his wife was somebody!)

Learning to listen is like learning to shoot a basketball. The first practices do not involve anyone guarding the player. This kind of practice is designed to help new players learn the basic skills and principles. Later we include practice with a guard to let them build confidence. Only after they had mastered the easy techniques would we place the shooter in a real game situation.

Everyone, even professional NBA players, must practice the basics every week or they lose their skill level. Listening is absolutely critical to success in life. Once the skills are perfected we can apply them in any situation and with any person.

Everyone needs to be heard so everyone loves a listener. If all we learn is how to give advice for specific problems we are little more than Dear Abby or Ann Landers with a few cookie cutter ideas. However, when we learn the basics we can help people learn for themselves how to solve life's problems.

A short time ago I met an old friend at a meeting. She spend several minutes relating how she used my Listening book as a training tool for couples in premarital and marital enrichment. I was happy to listen to her excitement about a book that grew out of my doctoral dissertation.

Call me if you want to buy some Listening books or take the class. It is foundational to life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Problems Centered Focus

If I were centered on problems instead of principles and solutions I would have to become an expert on specific problems rather than a few basic principles that are at the root of most problems. For example, when I go in for my semi-annual heart check up the nurses and docs always check the same things. I get a complete blood work up, they weigh me, take my blood pressure and heart rate. Even though they have done this a 100 times I must go through the routine drill each and every time I return.

This was true when I went in last month because my legs are bothering me. They checked my weight, pulse and blood pressure because they are basic to everything else. If my wife goes to the doctor or my grand daughter it is the same. They check the same vital signs for men, women and children.

Counseling is similar. I check the vital signs for old men, young men, women, children and babies. I know the basic issues to assess regardless of age, size and gender. So, if I talk with a women who is addicted I check her vital signs. I check the same vital signs of a man, a teenager or an octogenarian. I check the same vital signs if the addictive substance is food, alcohol, candy, work, information, computers or sex. I do not have to design a different preventive strategy for men than women.

For example, both in the Bible and psychology unforgiveness is a basic cause of bitterness and bitterness causes mis communication and an inability to live together. This can lead to the temptation to watch pornography which is visual adultery. It may not be long before such behavior leads to a divorce so statistics show that porn and adultery often lead to divorce.

At conferences and seminars I am often asked how to prevent divorce from pornography and adultery I may start asking about communication and anger. Many writers and speakers focus too much on the porn and not enough on the root of bitterness. Porn and adultery are usually the fruit of the root not the root of the fruit.

My coaching and consulting practice is now restricted to pastors, elders, churches and other leaders who are involved in influencing others. so, I am often talking with guilt ridden, shame faced leaders who are watching pornography on their computers. They have usually been caught by a wife or church board and face ruin, embarrassment and financial disaster.

One such minister remembered starting his porn career at age 12 behind the barn smoking and masturbating as a way of rebelling against his mother's smothering over protection. His anger was never released healthily so he continued the cycle of anger, masturbation and guilt/shame for thirty years until he heard me speak about the roots and fruits. The root issue was a nagging mother and a son who refused to forgive her. Pornography is almost always rooted in a broken relationship between a man and a woman.

You will notice that A.A. says very little about alcohol in its healing and prevention processes. The focus is on healing the insides not restricting the outer temptations. The hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul" places the emphasis on what is important. By caring for and curing the soul our temptation to watch porn, drink too much or do dope will be diminished.

By showing Christians how to live full, loving and Spirit-filled lives we can overcome the world, the flesh and the devil.

Prevention is, therefore, rooted in training people how to forgive. It is also rooted in teaching women how to upbuild men rather than tear them down. Emasculating womenand bitter men cause more porn watching than online porn sites.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Misunderstanding My Ministry

After speaking today about the whys and wherefores of compulsive sexual problems several men chatted with Owen and me about how to minister to friends and family members with a number of different problems. Several of them brought up family concerns, husband and wife conflicts, parenting problems, troubles at work, etc. All topics we are familiar with and to which we have some very practical solutions.

Here is the rub: Many of the men asked if we knew anyone who could help their friends. They thought that we only dealt with people with sexual problems. I mentioned to a couple of them that Owen and were both trained in marital and family therapy and that we were prepared to help people with any number of specific issues.

In fact, we are actually solution experts not problem experts. Yet, many assume if I do a workshop on alcohol and drug addiction I must know nothing about food or sex addiction. Or, if I do a seminar on parenting I know nothing about marriage counseling or career counseling.

As a matter of fact, all compulsive or problem behaviors have similar root causes and similar solutions. We look for the root and lay the axe to it regardless of the fruit. (One may be addicted to anger, food, TV, legal drugs, illegal drugs, chocolate, vanilla, cookies, whale blubber or have a foot fetish but the roots are similar.)

When I first began to minister in Russia and discovered how prevalent alcohol addiction was I asked my friends for their explanation. Several mentioned that the problem lay in the strength of the vodka. "Our vodka is so much stronger than your whiskey or beer" said a few of them. "That is why so many Russians are addicts."

Many people in the USA and Russia believe that it is more dangerous to drink "hard liquor" than beer, but it is as easy to get addicted to beer as it is to the strongest hard liquor. Remember, it is not the strength of the drugs on the outside but the condition of the soul that counts when we are discussing an addiction.

I am a Soul Doctor not an expert in building walls around people to keep sin out. If you are having terrible conflict with your wife or teenager I will help you get a whole soul by healing the hole in your soul.

I am an expert in teaching people not only how to be whole themselves but how to develop safe places where the souls of others can be made whole. Call me if you want your church to be a healing center.

I am also an expert on prevention and spiritual growth. If you want to know how to help people prevent divorce, domestic abuse, pornography, drug abuse, depression and anxiety, call me.

Root Causes

I just returned from an all day conference for men called, Iron Sharpens Iron. The organization, ISI has a national scope and sponsors conferences all over the nation on topics of interest to men. ( ) Today's conference was sponsored by The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families.

Owen Clutterbuck, MSW, Ph. D., from Life Way Counseling Centers, and I presented a "Tag-Team" approach to dealing with the problems many men have with compulsive behavior, especially pornography and sex. There was a great deal of interest in what we had to say and I think our presentation was helpful to all 50 or so of the men who attended our segment.

The key foci for me in the presentation were the principles taught by Jesus in Mark 7 about the origin of evil. The Pharisees were convinced that evil in the hearts of men and women came from outside of them. The result of this belief was an attempt on their part to restrict all kinds of behavior hoping that a good Jew would be able to avoid temptation. Their purpose was noble and their intentions good. However, as a strategy for stopping sin it was a miserable failure.

Mark 7:1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

14 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' "

20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22g reed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

Well, this is a lot to exegete but think for a moment about how we conservative Christians still treat "evil things". We tend to get awfully anxious about the "outside of the cup" rather than taking care of the inside. Throughout the scripture God's leaders urge us to get the heart and soul right and everything else will follow. Despite this consistent and chronic drumbeat much of our preaching and teaching is focused on "Don't touch, don't taste don't look."

These comments by Jesus the great teacher, must have absolutely stunned the listeners. They certainly overwhelmed the 12 who knew Him best. They were so dumbfounded that they took Jesus aside and asked in bewilderment, "What in the world are you talking about? We're confused."

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

If we ever want to get to the place where we are able to live nicer and holier lives we need to figure out how to clean up the heart and soul. For when we spew forth sewage from an unclean heart we are just sliming the people around us with our inner junk. The New KJV translates the word "envy" as "an evil eye" indicating that the ways we look at the world is soiled in our mind.

Trying to control the heart by managing the outer world will not work for we simply sink down into a series of secret sins and secrecy further drives us into slime and evil doing. The only way to put evil behind us is to cleanse it from within.

I have sometimes traveled overseas by myself. It would be easy to be involved in all kinds of evil enterprises but I never do. Not because there are not opportunities for anonymous sex, hotel porn, alcohol, drugs and other things of the flesh. No, in fact the opportunity for sexual trespasses and sins aggressively present themselves almost daily. However, I do not give in to temptation because my soul has been healed from the childhood and adolescent traumas. These painful memories at one time had me in their grip and led me into sick lust and bad habits.

Over the past thirty years or so God managed to force me to take care of my soul business and get my slime healed and cleansed. I was compulsively attracted to sex and my desire for affirmation from females almost drove me mad. But the Holy Spirit brought me into contact with people who knew how to bring grace and mercy to my soul so I was substantially healed.

What can we do?

Do you have a safe place to receive healing?
Does anyone in the safe place know how to pray for inner healing?
Are you able to receive God's love grace and mercy or are you still beating yourself for mistakes?
Don't give up. There is Hope for Humpty Dumpty!

I am not where I want to be but praise God I am certainly not where I was.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Expectations and Moods

In my last post I quoted the Wall Street Journal online version about the high percentage of persons in America who admit to being "depressed and anxious". One might naturally ask, "What on earth do we Americans have to be worried about? We are healthy, wealthy and not so wise but life is good here in the USA." Yes, but is life as good as we want?

Several years ago I was returning from Russia during Bill Clinton's first run for the Presidency with the slogan, "It's the economy stupid". James Carville came up with the slogan and it led to the defeat of George Bush #1. His inept candidacy led to being booted from office during an economic boom. Upon my flight's return to the JFK Airport late one afternoon I heard Mr. Clinton speaking about how terrible the economy was in our nation. "It is the worst since the Great Depression" he said with great pathos.

Mr. Clinton, like all politicians, was not speaking factually to the brains of listeners. Bill Clinton is a genius in communication. He is able to touch listeners' feelings in an amazing manner. Despite facts to the contrary, people were convinced that the economy was bad and they were suffering terribly from the economic mistakes of George Bush.

I, however, had just returned from Russia that was an economic basket case. I had also grown up when the economy was terrible and could remember the difference between good and bad times. So, I could hardly believe my ears when I looked up at the TV monitor and heard Bill Clinton's remarks about how badly Americans were living.

It is a matter of expectations in the audience not reality of income or living standards. During the last election cycle my brother was grouching about how badly the economy was performing under a new George Bush. One of his comments was, "We are certainly worse off now than when you and I were kids."

My memories about what our family had during childhood are not painful but I certainly do not think we had anything like the material things we have now. So, my expectations are lower than the younger brother. If my expectations about food are high I will be less satisfied even if the service and quality I receive in a restaurant is good. Karen and I have been spoiled because we expect fresh fruit, fresh veggies and good meat every time we go out. Just a few years ago these items were not available at all because refrigeration and international trade were not available.

The depression survey mentioned above indicated that poor people in Nigeria were more satisfied than rich Americans. It obviously takes less to please a person from the Third World than those of us who have everything at our finger tips. How can I be expected to be happy if my microwave oven is on the blink or I am stuck in traffic in my new BMW or I cannot stay out after hours? Kids are depressed now at age 11 if they haven't yet developed big breasts like Brittany Spears or a jump shot like Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, many parents agree with them and do almost anything to please their kids, leading to unreal and unreachable expectations. That is assured depression.

Thoughtful Readings

Several days each week I open my computer to read the Wall Street Journal's free online newsletter OpinionJournal I find it usually well written and thought provoking. As an author I know how hard it is to write welcoming prose about non fiction. Yet, the Wall Street Journal writers seem to pull it off again and again on issues with which I am interested.

For example, one entry has to do with faith during war time. It was written by Andrew Carroll and has a penetrating view of warriors whose faith is tested during times of chaos and pain.

Another article is written by the ever insightful and delightful writer Peggy Noonan. In this issue she discusses the unfortunate results of a nation being under the throes of Political Correctness and Unbridled Rudeness/Crudeness. Both the Left Wing, Bill Maher and the Right Wing Ann Coulter are examples, have devolved into harmful verbal attacks on each other. Despite the mindless and punitive establishment of hate speech laws and harsh realities of censorship on a few forbidden words our public discourse is spiraling into more and more gutter talk unfit for human consumption.

To Peggy's list I will add many Christians who regularly violate the Bible passage that commands us to "Let nothing come out of your mouth that does not edify..." I will also add that I continually find many of these crude commentators to be pedantic and mindless. I saw people in my psychiatric hospital with more flexibility and soundness of thought than Shaun Hannity, Ann Coulter and Bill Maher. The people dragged before TV cameras to speak for "balance" about politics and religion are anything but balanced. No wonder that Peggy Noonan finds public discourse so harsh and crude. It is all we see and hear on radio and TV.

Back in the early Seventies my friend Rich Walters and his colleagues at the University of Georgia did extensive research on the power of speech to touch others emotionally. In an attempt to test whether or not the writer of Proverbs was scientifically accurate or just using poetic license when he wrote, "Death or life are in the power of the tongue" they developed scenarios for actors to read to listeners that were alternately harsh or caring.

The listeners were hooked up to a machine that recorded the size and movement of the pupil when they heard the statements. They discovered that harsh talk did result in an automatic threatening response of the pupil while a caring word was automatically received with physical relaxation. So, no wonder the Bible urges us to interact with love, mercy and grace.

Finally, there is a great article by Bret Stephens called The Great Depression. In it Mr. Stephens writes about a research study trying to get at depression rates around the world. According to the study, the wealthiest nations with the highest standards of living may also be the unhappiest. If recent celebrity crises are any indication of who is happy and sad then the multimillionaires in Hollywood are definitely in the most depressed mode. Brittany Spears, Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton and Mickey Rourke as well as countless others have amassed millions only to use their fame and fortune to seek artificial happiness in alcohol and drugs.

When we think about the overwhelming amount of negative and crude talk that fills the airwaves and iPods in discussions and music it may be no mystery why our depression rates are so high. We can thank God that in most instances the talk among Christians and in churches is much more peaceful and loving. Perhaps that is why depression and anxiety as well as abuse and divorce among church going believers are lower than those who sleep in on Sundays.

If you want to enjoy life more and be happy for the rest of your life, be nice and be with nice people. Also, turn off the TV shows with ranting hosts and crude "comics". Attend a loving church and speak to others in upbuilding ways.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sinking Into Chaos

One of the key components of Family Therapy is the notion that some families become centers of dysfunction and multiply themselves chaotically for generations. True, some members of the family may rise above the fray and develop into steady, successful members of society. For the most part members are swallowed up in dysfunction and a downward spiral.

The downward spirals are often the result of shocks and trauma that are not effectively healed. We call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and it has been happening throughout history. It is the reason the New Testament says so much about healing of body, soul and spirit.

This same kind of thing can and often does happen in groups and even societies. Germany in the last century developed such a deep sickness. It ended in a war that destroyed the lives of some 50 million people and ravaged the cultures, infrastructures and relationships of numerous countries. Germany suffered a terrible loss of men and materials in WWI. Not only that but they were severely punished for its aggressions by the victors. These shocks grew into bitter relationships and unconcsious aggression against their former enemies that unleashed Hitler on the world.

In my trips to Russia I see how dysfunctional and traumatic events travel through multiple generations to result in a chaotic society of sickness and brutality. This is what happened to the Roman Empire. Scholars say it rotted from within and one has to wonder if this is what is happening to the USA. Media is similar to the Roman Games in publicizing gross behavior and famous people are killing themselves off to the cheers and jeers of the public.

What can we do?

1. Keep ourselves unstained from the world. This advice from the Bible is still relevant. We cannot spread health is we are swimming in sewage.

2. Keep our families healthy. The family is our best foundation to a strong future. We cannot change the social order at the largest level but we can do more at home to speak the truth in love.

3. Develop strong and healthy Christian communities. Over the past 30 years we have seen many pastors and priests who have violated the laws of God, their own commitments to Christ and spiritual calls as well as the laws of man to steal, lie and violate others sexually and emotionally. Such ungodly behavior has a traumatic effect on us all and destroys confidence in God and His truth.

4. Make you church into healing growth community. Jesus Christ and His people are the only hope of the world. But far too often the church has not actively been involved in "Healing the broken hearted and setting the captives free." Until a much higher percentage of churches preach, teach and actively minister healing the trauma promoted by world's sicknesses including wars, media, pornography, divorce and rampant crime.

4. Allow our light to shine in the community. People are very interested in Jesus but many have little confidence in the church. Their perceptions are their truth so share the love and practical helps of Jesus not your organization. Servant Evangelism is one of the best ways to light a candle in the darkness.

5. Pray.

If you want to learn how to turn the tide of chaos into a river of hope call us at Life Way Ministries

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Leaders and Tough Love

A recent post from an online discussion group recently included some insights from Rev. Bob Vincent of Louisiana, a man whom I respect a great deal. He is smart, wise and open to learn. He noted that because of going through a Doctor of Ministry program at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS, Bob was learning more about himself and his weaknesses as a Pastor/Leader. His sermon file can be found at

Here is my response to Bob.

Thanks for your personal insights and the humility to admit past failures. I have been a church consultant for many years with a doctoral minor in Organizational Development. I also consult/coach business leaders.

My son is an international consultant and we were discussing the major issues we see in organizations with a Christian focus or strictly bottom line financial focus. I asked Timothy this question: “After five years of consulting around the USA and England what do you see as the top five problems?”

Tim replied, “I can sum it up in one sentence. ‘Nobody wants to give or receive feedback or accountability.’ This means that problems are not raised and failures are not fixed so the same problems go on and on for generations.”

As a Church Doctor I, like timothy, also see so much “Co-Dependency” and “People Pleasing” among leaders or the opposite, harshness, that no one actually grows as a follower or as a leader. I think this is the main reason so much of church life is talk not walk and the primary source of honor comes from theory/theology not practice. This is also true in professional counseling, management, politics, etc. What we say is more important than what we do. This is why many of us are bold as lions when we talk but meek as little lambs or mean as snakes in person.

At CHPC I had the responsibility of confronting several lay leaders whose Fruit of the Spirit in interpersonal skills were sub par but who were revered for their biblical knowledge. When I required them to take classes in listening, pastoral care, conflict management, etc they left us for greener pastures. I thankfully gave them the Rabbi’s Blessing from Fiddler on the Roof.

Man: “Rabbi, do you have a blessing for the Tsar?”

Rabbi” “Let’s see. Hmm. Oh, yes. May the Lord bless and keep-------the Tsar far, far away from Annetevka.”

If we fear losing a person because of truth telling we shall lose our souls as leaders.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What is Going On?

I received a short note from Galina. It was just a few words and she was very sad. After reading it I am also sad and mad as well. It is a helpless feeling really and has turned into anger that has new expectation that we can actually get something done. So, hang on. I might need you help.

For the second time in a row Galina Chentsova, M.D., PH.D. Psychiatrist and well known therapist and educator from Moscow was rejected for a Tourist Visa by the United States Embassy. Galina was a bit more upbeat than last year just because the person with whom she spoke was not a nasty as the one who rejected her last year for, "Being too close to Americans" and "having too much religious activity."

Has the United States under the leadership of George Bush turned things into such a Topsy Turvey situation that millions of the illiterate and unemployed can walk across the border illegally but a well educated, well employed, sponsored legal alien cannot get in? The answer seems to be a resounding, "YES!" Should we just have her fly to Mexico and then walk across the border?

Of course we shall not do that but the INS seems to have gone completely crazy. Pray for me as I contact my Congress Woman in Washington, D.C. How can we in America prosper when we keep out the best and the brightest?

This does not kill our desire to support her work in Russia but it keeps us from hearing from her and developing better ways to support Christians in Russia. We will keep trying.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Healthy Growing Churches

I am the church; you are the church; we are the church together.
I am the church; you are the church; we are the church forever.

I am the church; you are the church; we are the church when we're gathered.
I am the church; you are the church. we are the church when we're scattered.

The other day I heard a Minister respond to a question about the location of his church in the following manner. "My church is wherever my people are at any time of the day or night."

I don't read much from scholars and theologians that convinces me that they know much about the real Christian life or the real life of a church. What I read sounds so sterile and neat. They envision nice Christian people living perfectly straight lives because they have their Bible knowledge all squared away and their theology untainted by works or New Age Mysticism.

That certainly is not the Christianity that I see on a daily basis. The Christianity that I interact with is pretty messy. It is a mess that only Jesus can get straightened out. People are facing problems, pains and possibilities large and small. People get sick, fall down the stairs and some even die as a result like one of the members of Fellowship Church did this week.

We had planned to have the second of our series in training folks to be healthier and develop healthier churches and Gary Stringer's congregation was a strong central force in our strategy. But the plan went awry when one of their senior pillars and a beloved friend fell and was killed. The event went on but we all missed Gary's people and were a bit in grief and shock that they could not make it. They were too busy already showing the love, mercy and grace of God to their people.

Local congregations do a lot of good. People are loved and many come to eternal life in Jesus. But even if they do not confess and repent the church is there with kindness, food, money, nurture and support with no strings attached.

One scholar suggests that local churches provide over 1/2 of all the social glue that holds our republic together. Just imagine that! We so often think that our poor, struggling little congregations are pretty weak in those areas. However, researchers in Sociology suggest that if they suddenly withdrew the daily efforts of care and kindness the fabric of our nation would cease to hold us together.

I wish the theologians would show as much concern about the real engine of spiritual health, the local church, as they seem to show over the Discovery Channel's hostile and dramatic program about the bogus tomb of Jesus. Over 90% of all persons who come to faith in Christ do so as a result of family and friends. The local congregation's health is much more important to the future of the church than The Discovery Channel.

I am reading a book by Nobel Prize recipient , Mohamed Yunas who stopped writing and teaching advanced theories about economics because they were unrelated to the real life of starving farmers and exhausted women. He left his lofty office on a hill overlooking the fields and farms of the people to actually be with those people.

He got his hands and feet dirty and discovered exactly what it took to make specific and practical changes that stopped famine and opened up doors for the desperately poor. He started a Bank just for the poor and began giving Micro Loans to them.

Until we release all the church members to know and do the work of the church in the power of the Holy Spirit we will face cycles of spiritual famine in the land. Until every member of the church knows himself/herself and how to minister in love, truth and grace the church will be running on one or two cylinders.

Even now Christians are have a tremendous impact on the world but we could triple and quadruple that impact with just a few practical lessons in ministry skills. I think the Lord is saying, "Let my people GROW and GO!"