Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Statistics the Speak Loudly

5% Increase in the U.S. suicide rate since 1999.
16% Increase in the U.S. suicide rate among those ages 40-64

The most distressed and hopeless among us are single, white mothers who do
not attend church. Would church attendance reduce suicide?

Do you know what to do to help a suicidal friend or family member?

Would you like to help?
Gary Sweeten

Why Do I Have Hope?

If I did not have hope and faith that substantial change and improvement was possible I would retire immediately. Being a Minister or a Counselor is challenging and difficult in any event. However, to be a Helper when you do not believe that God can bring SUBSTANTIAL HEALING is almost impossible to contemplate.

I have ministered personally to thousands of hurting people and trained numerous Helpers to minister to multiplied thousands. Their problems varied from depression, anxiety, adultery, fear and sexual addiction to anger, bitterness and aggression. I have seen far more people receive substantial healing than those who dropped out. In fact, those people who are motivated to change and will do the hard work it requires always experience healing and relief.

No one experiences Perfection.

Everyone can experience PROGRESS.

Steve Griebling and I wrote a book several years ago that lays out the basic principles of facilitating change. Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty is featured on the side of this blog and it can be ordered at Author House.

Gary Sweeten

Sweeten Life Systems Update

Our board met yesterday and it was quite an experience. One member was in Norway one in Florida, one in Wisconsin and another is in Moscow, Russia. We were able to connect most of our members one way or another.

Rick Brown CPA is our treasurer and he was in Florida on business but called in to give his report. It is terrific to such talented and gifted board members.

Galina Chentsova attended for two hours via video phone from Moscow. She joined Jens-Petter Jorgensen as an International Representative. It was amazing to see and hear Galina so clearly from several thousand miles away. And, it is free. Before long we will add video conferencing to our schedule of training in Russia. (The photo is of our book, Listening for Heaven's Sake in Russian. It was originally called Apples of Gold)

My Skype name is gary.r.sweeten

What is your Skype name?

Great Things in 2009

The health of Sweeten Life Systems is good. God is blessing us and expanding our influence both in the open and behind the scenes. We received a grant to develop systems to support for families with special needs children.

In 2009 we will emphasize the Families of God.
1. The historic Family of Grand Parents and past
2. The Family of Origin of Parents and Siblings
3. The Nuclear Family of Parents and Children
4. The Extended Family of Relatives
5. The Church Family of Families
6. The Work Family
7. The Neighborhood Family of Friends

You will note the word "SYSTEMS" in our name. That is . We know that any event traumatic or great, that impacts one member of a family impacts every member. We are unique in intervening in families to upbuild the entire system. Thus, we have a biblical approach.

Important Family Event

Come to The Healing Center on Century Circle, near The Vineyard Community Church, on Saturday afternoon, January 24 at 1:00 to 4:00 PM to get an introduction to Family Systems thinking and how to support families in need. "It Takes Village".

More information later.

Gary Sweeten

Friday, December 26, 2008

Joy at Christmas

Take a look at the way this four month baby is laughing. I am amazed at the way she watched her big brother Jack Sweeten and laughed at his shenanigans. The parents and extended family are watching.

Facebook and Other Ways to Communicate

In addition to blogging, I have been on Facebook for some time and it is growing on me. I can post photos and send messages as well as keep up with friends. Look me up and say something nice about my Christmas photos.

I am also on Linkedin and Plaxo. Linkedin is a network of professional consultants and Plaxo is sort of like Facebook but it actually keeps everyone up to date on addresses, mail, emails, etc. So, if anything changes your Outlook is instantly updated.

It takes time to write on every body's wall.
Gary Sweeten

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Good Craftmanship

I graduated from high school in 1956. I immediately took a job with The Dowzer Electric Company in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. I made about $1.00 an hour. My Uncle John A. Kirk was the company attorney and he put in a good word for me.

One of my first acts shortly after taking that job was to buy some tools. My boss and all the fellow workers told me to go to Sears Roebuck, now it is just Sears, and buy Craftsman Tools because they were the best tools available.

I protested because they were also pretty expensive and I had not begun to get paid yet so I was looking for a deal. But, my fellow workers prevailed when they said, "You will get a lifetime guarantee from Sears. If any of your tools ever break or stop working just take them back and get a new tool in return.

Last week I took two of my socket wrenches back to Sears because they were no longer in working condition. I walked in and said, "In 1956 I bought a set of Craftsman Tools and two of them are frozen up so badly they will not work."

The man said, "Sure, no problem. Let me see them."

I attempted to show him the problem but he just wanted to know what size they were so he could get the correct replacement. He quickly found two replacements and took my 56 models away with a wave and a brief "Thanks for stopping in".

Now that is service with a smile.

Would your local church offer that kind of service? Does God?

What think ye?

Gary Sweeten

Who Contributes More, Left or Right

Nicholas Kristof, a writer for the New York Times has a very controversial column on giving and generosity. He is looking at the data on politics, religion and generosity and comes to some painful conclusions.

Look at his blog and tell me what you think.

Charities Threatened by the New Administration

The corps of Mr. Obama's administrative group is busily looking for new sources of revenue. Since foundations give out over 43 Billion Dollars each year in grants to non-profit groups, the new guys in town are thinking about getting their hands on some of it.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about the many positive things that are accomplished by foundations and the non profits that are funded by them. Since I head a non profit I am biased about how much good we can accomplish for less money. I know that a lot of stuff we do, if not most of it, is done by volunteers and lowly paid workers.

We are motivated by a passion for helping people not money so we tend not to be as interested in remuneration. Despite that, non profits produce amazing benefits to the local and national society. In fact, research indicates that faith based groups are the glue which holds our society together. But we need to watch out lest the radicals on the Left Wing squash us like bugs because we are not always "Politically Correct".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rick Warren and Obama

Mr. Obama has asked Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration. Barney Franks and many others are mad. It is hard to love people with whom we disagree. It is even harder to disagree and still seem loving.

Way back in the Sixties and Seventies I saw a dramatic change occur among student protesters and the radical left. They began saying that anyone who disagreed with them did not "understand their point of view". We who interacted with them started saying, "I understand but I disagree." The students were undeterred.

Now those who grew up in that era and since have gone even farther. They say and think that disagreement is hatred. Some agencies have even come up with the term, "hate speech" to describe any argument that contradicts them.

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Seminary has written a great article about the difficulty Evangelicals have on this score, especially when it comes to homosexual issues. Rick Warren openly disagrees with passing laws that allow homosexuals to marry. This is considered homophobic hate speech by the radicals.

Is there any way we can take a stand that disagrees with the popular culture and not be excoriated as haters? I doubt it. Taking unpopular stands used to be considered a mark of mature character development. In the popular media is is not a mark of hatred because it contradicts societal mores.
Maybe in a few years the USA and Western Europe will recognize Sharia Law. If so, it will require all laws to recognize and affirm polygamy. Can we Christians disagree with polygamy without being hate mongers? I doubt it.

Now is the time to decide how we can learn to "Agree to disagree agreeably" and teach it to everyone in the church. The pressures on such matters will increase not decrease. The test is coming in many areas and we need to prepare now for them.

What do you think?
Gary Sweeten

Monday, December 22, 2008

Law versus Grace

"While I regarded God as a tyrant I thought my sin a trifle; But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good."

C.H. Spurgeon

Getting the Horse to Drink the Water

You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make him drink
You can teach the people lots of things but you cannot make them think

Steps to facilitate drinking and thinking:

1. Build a long term relationship. People don't change immediately. We all go through several stages even when we do change. As the Bible says: "Do not grow weary in doing good."
2. Listen more than you talk. If you were to hear an audio tape of your conversations, would it show you talking or listening more?
3. Be interested in what the other people are talking about. Allow them to tell their story. They are much more interested in their story than your stories.
4. Remove all B.S. from your conversation. B.S. stands for Blame and Shame. Do you like to talk with people who Blame you and Shame you? Neither do I.

5. Pray silently for them. God hears you but they don't need to.
6. Tune in to their mood.
Are they somber? Be low key.
Are the happy. Laugh with them.

7. Take your time. God is in no hurry.
8. Relax. Peacefulness begets trust. Give it to God. We are not in control.
9. Buy the coffee or the meal. Give and it shall be given unto you.
10. Remember, there are two things that rarely ever happen. They are: Everything and nothing. What usually happens is something. One small step is more than enough for things to change.

Gary Sweeten

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Many years ago the Lord showed me that Jesus approach was unique. Instead of using only His gifts knowledge and talents to change the world. He actually said,"it is better that I go away."
To our ears, that just doesn't make much sense. We love powerful people. We love to place humans on pedestals. Even though Jesus was and is the Son of God He said, "You will do greater things than I."
How is it better that Jesus went away? He was the greatest. He was Messiah. He healed, He delivered, he turned water into wine.
He established a system to multiply Himself over and over again so the entire world could hear the good news, be healed, receive deliverance and have eternal life. How? By sending us into the world to teach and do everything that He did.
At Christmas I receive many cards, emails and letter from friends living next door as well as ten thousand miles away. It is great to see how many of them are still using what they learned from our equipping travels. We took the words of Jesus to heart and decided not to try to heal and minister to everyone individually but to multiply ourselves over and over again.
It is tempting to try to be the Savior/healer/rescuer to all people in need. I am very co-dependent. I need to be needed. But God has challenged me to stop riding my white horse and allow others to serve, teach and heal.
Every Christmas I get letters telling how folks from my past are still using what they learned from Teleios, EMI, Life Way Ministries and Sweeten Life Systems. It is another proof that Jesus was right. The call of is to "Go into all the world and make disciples" not "Go make sermons."

My Christmas email from Kjell Aanenson of Norway sparked this post when he wrote: 2008 has been a year of change and celebration for us. I, Kjell, is not anymore employed by Teleios Norway. But I still have a partnership with TN. I now have two jobs. (With) a Christian health organisation to develop and lead courses for Pastors and Christian leaders, to help them prevent burnout and to teach and counsel them for a healthier life, marriage and ministry. It is a 6 days course at our new Center. We also will develop this course for teachers, nurses, doctors and police.

I... continue to teach in Churches, and to counsel Christian leaders, people in general and couples. Both jobs is a blessing to fulfil what the Lord has called me to do!

Kjell was in a group led by Larry Chrouch in Norway in 1978. His life was changed and he has ministered to thousands since. Thank God for Larry and Ellen Chrouch and Kjell and Magnhild Aanenson

Gary Sweeten

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to Win and Influence People

In June of 1958 I had a fearful and wonderful encounter with God's Spirit. It changed my life and I Ford I heard the still small voice of the Spirit say, "Go to college." That was amazing because I was not really "college material" nor did my family and friends encourage such flights of irresponsible fancy. (Working in a factory was responsible and practical.)

So, I quit my factory job and applied to Mt. Vernon Community College. I had to learn to study and learn how to interact with educated students and teachers. I loved it and discovered that I was not as dumb as I seemed. I was newly motivated and newly interested in studying.

I studied to be a teacher and that led me to what were back then called, "Teachers' Education Classes" at Southern Illinois University. Those classes helped me a lot because they focused on how to not only understand math and reading but also how to transmit it to the kids. In other words, how to see to it that the kids learned from me.

I was a pretty good student in Elementary School. I read well and remembered a lot of it. So, I thought it was all about remembering the data that was put in front of me. I was wrong. I found that it was important to get the pupils engaged in the materials in such a way that they WANTED to remember it. How could I motivate the pupils to be learners.

You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

This old saw was right. I knew it but I had never studied how to make the horse thirsty before I took those classes in Educational Psychology. Now here is my point. How do we help people outside the church desire the living water?

This is an issue of great importance to us. People will not come to faith in Christ or attend worship, read the Bible or practice the charitable activities of the Christian life unless they are attracted to those things. So, how do we become more attractive while holding to the foundations of our faith?

What do you think? What has helped you draw others to Christ and His life?

Gary Sweeten

Fund Raising

Thanks for your support.

The fact that Americans give so much to charity is a wonderful testimony to America's Judeo-Christian ideals. Giving is part of the warp and woof of the Bible's teachings. In fact, the term, "Tithe" is widely used in our culture even by unbelievers. American individuals give billions of dollars each year to support churches and other non profit groups.

Europeans are often mystified about why we Yanks are so fervent about volunteering, religion and giving. The core reason is our commitment to the separation of church and state. The focus on every church member and every citizen's duty to care for others. The history of state churches in Europe made the governments responsible for charitable acts and the operating environments in the two regions are radically different as a result.

Sweeten Life Systems is dependent upon the voluntary gifts and offerings of individuals, churches and companies. We also receive some government and private foundation grants to carry out our charitable works. America shines because grants keep many charities going. Foundations are kept strong by the tax laws and heart felt desires of well off persons to serve the needs of others.

We are in the midst of a huge financial downturn. Still, we need your support. Sweeten Life is focused on working to strengthen the lives of individuals and families to prevent emotional, spiritual and family crises. We help people in their ability to assist others.

I am a retired Family Therapist who has served many people in crises. I now serve hundreds of families when we prevent a crisis from occurring. "A stitch in time really does save nine..."

May God empower you to be a blessing to others in faith, hope and charity. You have been a blessing to us.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Starbucks Marketing

Want to see a fun video about marketing in the church?


What I Learned In Sunday School

A WATCH Prayer GatheringGary SweetenGuard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Ecc 5: 1-5All around the world you can see them. Even more, you can hear them. Kneeling, sitting or standing it is a movement. Many of them dance, some march in military order while others are less orderly and more ardor-ly. The noise can be awesome and when meeting with upraised hands and outstretched voices, the buildings shake with joy.

Martian visitors would react with puzzlement to the strange behavior. They might even "beam a bunch up" for intense investigation by their Martian scientists. The "little green men" would want to know what the strange rituals were all about.Prayer! It is all about prayer. Last week a friend mentioned that she had spent four days with a thousand like-minded men and women. They gathered to practice prayers of "spiritual warfare". Another group is heading out to Colorado for a week to of fasting and prayer to light the sparks for a national revival.

Prayer. It is everywhere. It is taught, preached, urged and even practiced around the earth with increasing regularity. There is a growing desire of the people of God to pray. This is especially evident when we consider the enormous number of "Prayer Movements" that have arisen over the past few years.

Many groups sponsor prayer events. Concerts of Prayer, Taking Our Cities for Christ, National Day of Prayer, The March for Jesus, Bill Bright's Prayer and Fasting, Renewal Ministries-Terry Teykl, Lausanne Movement, AD2000 & Beyond, etc. These initiatives are all based on the assumption that God desires His people to pray and that prayer "changes things." In conversations, teachings, seminars and conferences we are reminded that revival, renewal and reformations will. Unfortunately, it seems that we sometimes sacrifice the quality of prayer gatherings while emphasizing quantity. I am not convinced that "more is better". When it comes to prayer for evangelism, revival, social action and awakenings it seems that quality is critical while keeping the quantity of prayer and the number of pray-errs high. I was reared in a family that had a long tradition of prayer. Unfortunately, some of the things I saw and mimicked were not very qualitative. For example, I pray like this.

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Despite the earnest and heartfelt desire of my parents and grandparents to teach my brothers and me good prayer habits, this childhood prayer failed. It brought me fear and anxiety rather than peace and faith. Each night I went to bed thinking that I might not wake up. My primary focus was eternal safety in an uncertain and dangerous world.

My earliest prayer habits were formed in fear not faith and reinforced as being desperate calls to a distant God. I begged Him to receive my unworthy soul in the event that I failed to survive the rigors of sleep. No wonder so many children have nightmares! But I have a partial solution. Here is a prayer we can trust.

A New Prayer for Sleeping

Now I lay me down to sleep
I thank the Lord my soul will keep.

No fear of night,
He will provide
His angels near,
My sleeping side

At morning's dawn,
I will awake,
To live again
For Jesus' sake

He gives me strength,The whole night rest,
Enough each day
To give my best
© Gary Sweeten
Early childhood experiences do not predetermine our life's course. I have been able to go beyond my youth and develop a healthy approach to God. I reframed the fearful prayer written during the Black Plague and wrote one filled with faith, hope and love. But early experiences do influence us and our children. It is a good idea to examine how we pray as adults so we can evaluate our approach to check its biblical basis.
Comments? How did you learn to pray?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to Abide in Christ

TO: All Who Wish to Abide in the Vine
From: Gary and His Grapes

Have you ever tried to make yourself go to sleep? Say it over and over: “I am sleepy; I am sleepy: I need to sleep!” Will that “work”? Will my prayers be answered if I try to make myself sleepy? The act of trying to sleep can interrupt the normal processes of sleepiness. In other words, trying to force myself to sleep keeps me awake. Trying to have faith and rest in Christ is similar.

I have been trying to bear more fruit for Jesus and I know that it requires additional faith to do so. As a result of my study in John 15 and other passages plus books like “In His Steps” I decided to try hard to be Jesus. It wore me out. I felt like such a failure and so condemned all the time that it actually led me into deep depression. I figured that it proved that I had no faith.

In desperation I reread John 15 about bearing fruit. This led me to a great insight. If I wanted to grow more fruit I needed to see how fruit grew best. As a result I spent an entire year researching grapes and how they managed to abide in the vine. I interviewed the big, juicy, fat grapes, since they had mastered the abiding techniques well. It was an intense process.

Below is a sample of some of my interviews. I had 58,966 interviews but most of then ended up sounding just like this one.

Gary: Hello, Mr. Grape. You are so big, juicy and well developed that I want to find out the secret of your success.

Grape: Sure. Thanks for the compliment. I am pretty big and strong.

Gary: You must have worked very hard to get so big and healthy.

Grape: What!! I don’t understand your question. Did you say that I must have worked hard to grow?

Gary: Well, yes. Almost all the preachers, theologians and Sunday school teachers have taught that we are supposed to abide in Jesus the Vine by working hard to please Him.

Grape: Are you nuts? I did nothing. I simply hung on to the vine.

Gary: But, Mr. Grape, how were you able to abide so well? It must be very hard work.

Grape: Where did you study agriculture, the USSR? I am telling you that abiding is resting and I can do nothing on my own. In fact, I have no ability to do anything in the realm of sticking or working to abide more. The vine holds on to me not the other way around.

Gary: That makes no sense to me. It contradicts everything I have ever heard in church and on Christian TV.

Grape: Well, those people don’t seem to know much about fruit, growth and vines. I don’t know where they got that nonsense.

Gary: So, what was it that kept you living in the vine? Was it was your faith in abiding that allowed you to develop so much juice and produce so much? How did you develop into such a giant of faith? Was it hard to do? What about all your failures?

Grape: What do you mean, develop stronger faith so I could be a “Grape of Great Faith”? I have no idea why you are trying to make this so hard? The vine did it all. Every day I just live in the sun, drink what the vine gives me and enjoy the whole thing.

Gary: How do you convince the vine to give you all of that good juice? How do you make sure it is willing to keep you attached?

Grape: This is crazy. I do not even know how to ask the vine for more let alone make it give me anything. It is the very nature of vines to hold on to the grapes. My parents and grandparents all grew up this same way. They just rested in the vine and told me to enjoy the ride.

Gary: I’m not so sure that will work. It makes me nervous to just rest. I always feel better when I try real hard to please the vine and groan to produce more juice.

Grape: By the way, you are making me so nervous it may interfere with my juice production. Anxiety makes me have acid and that eats away at my juice production. Why don’t you go interview some apples or figs? Go see how hard they work to grow so large and juicy.

Gary Sweeten

Pass it on

Small Groups that are Missional

Although many people are using the term missional almost as often as they say, "LIKE" or "You Know" I don't find many who understand the term at all. It has become a buzz word and used to replace Post Modern.

Here is what a church can do to become missional. Remember the basics of the good news and preach Christ resurrected from the grave. Also remember that almost everyone who comes to Christ does so through a family member of friend. Few come in big meetings or evangelistic events.

Campus groups have been remarkably successful in sharing the gospel among high school and college students. I cannot count the number of adults who Committed their lives to Christ through a fellow student from IV, Campus Crusade, Navigators, Young Life, etc.

One reason is that the groups are focused on reaching out to friends. That is a very successful strategy. Intentional outreach is much more successful than accidental outreach.

Every group needs to have an outreach. Later I will lay out the ways to design groups for maximum impact.
Gary Sweeten

Winning the TV News Ratings


FOXNEWS HUME 1,917,000
MSNBC MADDOW 1,321,000
CNN COOPER 1,207,000
CNN KING 1,102,000

Who do you watch?

Gary Sweeten

Monday, December 15, 2008

Do We Have A Testimony?

John the Revelator wrote that we can overcome the evil one by the word of their testimony. It occurred to me again that our testimony of faith is important to ourselves, our family and our friends as well as those who do not know Christ. I went in with a diagnosis of 70% to 90% clogging and came out with a clean bill of health. It is a wonderful affirmation of the power of prayer and certainly encourages me to keep pouring on the intercession for Daniela as well as other hard cases.

I preached at Tri County Assembly the last two weeks. The first week was just one day before my surgery the second week was after the physicians found no blockage in my arteries. Founding Pastor and long time friend Hugh Rosenberg anointed me with oil and he prayed with son Brad as the entire congregation reached out to me with intercession.

I am feeling good. I will be speaking at Dwelling Place the next two Sundays on The Holy Spirit so I am excited to continue to share the good news of Christ as Savior and Healer. This is how a healing community operates. It is love, prayer and encouragement that brings wholeness.

Keep telling the great news!

Gary Sweeten

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Skype is Wonderful

I have been discovering the wonders of Skype, a free system of audio/video calling, for the last few weeks. Jim Donovan and I have talked twice and I finally got hooked up with Galina in Moscow, Russia today.
I had a few problems with my camera because I opened it up on the desk top and that interferes with the Skype hook up. I finally got my camera to operate two ways today so I could see both Galina and her daughter Anya as clear as bells. Now get this: It is free for both audio and video calls.

Go to http://www.skype.com/ and read all about it.
Gary Sweeten

Friday, December 12, 2008

President Bush Honored for Charity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2008 – President George W. Bush was honored on the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day with the "International Medal of PEACE" given by Pastor Rick Warren on behalf of the Global PEACE Coalition during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health.

The award, given in recognition of the President's tireless efforts and unprecedented contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, came on the heels of the President's announcement that his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) had fulfilled its commitment to support treatment for two million people ahead of schedule.

Growth and Healing

Valerie Chan and son in Singapore. Our approach works all over the world.

For some time I have been attracted to helping people grow into mature, caring and loving adults. I don't know why, but there it is. I suppose God placed it in my heart as a fetus or young child. My wife has always said that I have job security because the world, the flesh and the devil are arrayed against us so fiercely that people are being wounded at a faster rate than we can put them together again.
Just think how long it takes us to glue a vase together after we drop it and break it into a million pieces. The pieces must be carefully and gently put together with some Gorilla Glue and let it dry over a period of time. Even then, there are rough places and jagged pieces on the vase that just do not seem to fit exactly.
A human being is more complex and difficult to mend than any vase so it does not shock us if putting people back together takes a long time. The Lord God will give us the peace and patience necessary to hang out with a person that is recovering from childhood trauma or a misspent life of bad habits.
But, make no mistake, there is hope for change and for significant healing. No one will ever be 100% perfect and live above sin but God's word promises and our experiences confirms that the power of prayer, truth and love are daily overcoming the ravages of sin, sickness and Satan.
My recent diagnosis by leading Doctors that an artery was severely clogged shows that God often allows us to receive His healing love. That was evidence of His substantial healing in the physical realm but we have had hundreds of similar experiences with emotional, relational and family dysfunctions.
Some members of the Christian Church have given up on God's ability to heal and forgive. They are, in my view, often so emotionally compassionate that they cannot stand seeing people in pain. As a result they offer non biblical but emotionally satisfying reasons why God does not mind if we violate traditional standards of sexual and ethical behavior. In their haste to lighten the load of people's inner pain they refuse to admit that Guilt is real.

This is like a Doctor acting as though diseases are not real. In my profession we call that approach "DENIAL". Denial of the reality of guilt leaves people in their pain, conviction and trauma. As a Counselor I am so thankful that I know guilt is real because that allows me to also apply the remedy: Confession and Repentance.
If a Doctor denies the reality of a communicable disease he has no remedy for the sickness. But, once he faces reality and understand its cause he can apply the remedy. Before we understood the reality of micro organisms Doctors were helpless to deal with the root of many illnesses. Dr. Ignatz Simmelweiss of AUSTRIA was attacked when he began to sterilize his surgical instruments between surgeries. It was so bad that he had a mental breakdown. However, he and others finally proved the existence of those tiny, invisible organisms and now everybody sterilizes their instruments and gives patients medicines to kill them at the root.

The root of many mental, emotional, relational and family illnesses are invisible to the human eye and to the best microscopes. However, God has revealed those things to us in the Bible and we know how to use His truth, Love and Power to bring relief and healing. Sin, guilt, shame and rebellious spirits are overwhelming if left without a remedy.
As a Christian Counselor and Minister I know and help people face these root problems and remove them forever. Out of the root grows the fruit so when the root is changed the fruit will change. However, trying to change the fruit without healing the root is fruitless.

Gary Sweeten

Thursday, December 11, 2008

God Answers Prayers

Thanks for all the prayers that were lifted to The Great Physician about my clogged arteries. Last week when I had a nuclear stress test the picture came back loud and clear. One of my arteries was clogged up pretty badly. That is not something you want to hear from your Cardiologist.

My Cardiologist, Dr. Dean Kereiakes, is a great person and a terrific Doctor. He saved my life in 1999 after I flew back from Singapore with a severely clogged artery and chest pains on a plane. He keeps a close watch on my condition and, thankfully he is a perfectionist when it comes to keeping me healthy.

When he called and told me I needed another stint I agreed to get in to the Cath Lab as soon as possible so I was there at The Christ Hospital at 6:00 AM last Monday. The entire staff of nurses, technicians and Doctors were warm caring and very professional. They did the angiogram and Dr. K came around to tell me in a stunned tone that the clogged artery was unclogged. He said, "But we got a very clear picture of it on the nuclear exam. I cannot understand it."

Dr. K and the team at Christ is the best there is. I trust them with my life and I trust them with the pictures but that which they saw was now gone. I told Dr. K and the staff that I really appreciated their skill and care. I also said, "I have asked hundreds of friends to pray that the Holy Spirit would clean that artery out so a stint would not be necessary. I think the prayers were answered."

Praise God from who all blessings flow and from whom all good gifts come down from above. Thank you for praying. I rarely ever hear of something as dramatic and complete as this answer to prayer. I know I do not deserve it nor did I earn it. It is all grace and I can not explain why God answered the prayers for me and not for others. God alone understands His plan and His ways.

Never underestimate the power of prayer, even when you do not get the answer we want. There is too much work and too little prayer. too much worry and too little prayer. Too much talk and too little prayer.

Prayer is the work of the church.

Gary Sweeten

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thanks Be to God

So, you get the picture. I was having some extremely painful and scary angina pains while flying to Singapore via Tokyo. I was pretty scared, anxious and my blood pressure went up placing me in an even more dangerous situation.

I am very thankful that God orchestrated things for a heart transplant surgeon got on the plane in Minneapolis and flew on to Tokyo with me. This man and his assistant had enough equipment on the airplane to open up my chest and save my life. That kind of drastic action was not necessary but he gave the airline personnel and me the wisest and best advice possible.

He strongly advised me to continue on to Singapore to get the necessary cardiac treatment. I did and when I arrived in Singapore my friends got me to a well known cardiologist who had me tested for heart damage. He suggested that I immediately enter the hospital for an angiogram test and possibly a stint through angioplasty. But, the best doctor in Singapore was not there and the physician would not recommend anyone else.

The result was I called North West Airline and told them I had to get back home immediately for a medical procedure. In the meantime, Karen called Christ Hospital and tried to schedule an appointment with Doctor Kereiakes, who was not taking any new patients. So, she called Diane Francis, a Chaplain who told Head Chaplain Doug Mitchell, who walked over to The Ohio Heart Center and asked Dr. K to see me.

It takes about 25 hours to fly back from Singapore but when I returned Dr. K got me in immediately and the next day I was in the Cath Lab getting a stint. I am extremely thankful for the skilled, caring and quick acting friends and professionals who saved my life and got me the help I needed.

Tomorrow morning I return to The Christ Hospital to Dr. K's Cath Lab for another procedure. I am trusting God and the skilled people at The Ohio Heart Center to get me through the ordeal.

Thanks for all your prayers and love.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Anxiety on a Plane

Resting in Jesus

The Doctor who attended me on that rugged North West flight to Tokyo and Singapore was very helpful. He immediately had the attendant give me an aspirin and a nitro pill. Then he took my blood pressure and said, "It is pretty high. Give him another nitro."

Of course my BP was high. I was high! 50,000 feet above Alaska with chest pains, of course I was stressed. My mind was going crazy with thoughts bot rational and irrational. First, I knew that during a heart attack stress and anxiety increase the chances of damage. So, I was saying to myself things like, "Calm down! You are going to kill yourself by irrational al thinking!" followed by "It is not irrational to think I am dying because I may be dying." Then I would say, "Be calm Gary. Be calm."

The Doctor said something like, "You need to get your BP down, sir. It is dangerous to have such a high level of blood pressure." I wanted to protest and tell this guy I already knew all that but thought better of it. So, I said, "Go away for ten minutes and come back and my blood pressure will be lower."

His eyes opened wide and he asked sceptically, "What are you going to do?" (I think he assumed I was going to do some dope or drink some of the free alcohol.)

"Well, Doctor, I am going to pray."

"Oh" he said, "that can't hurt."

He left and I closed my eyes and began to pray in the Spirit. I still had to practice all the disciplines I had learned and taught in Renewed Thinking and I started to thank God for His mercy and grace. First, I thanked God for teaching me the principles of RCT. Second, I thanked Him for having a cardiologist on the plane with me. (The Doctor was a heart transplant specialist.) Third, I began to thank God for everything I could think about and I used RCT to stop the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that kept insisting that I pay attention to them instead of God.)

I also prayed and sang in English and the Spirit and I began to feel myself relax and release the tension in my chest. It wasn't perfect but it was better than average so I was able to reduce my BP and my anxiety. When the Doctor returned with the BP cuff he said, "It is better but still too high." I laughed and said, "You came back too soon. Let me pray some more and it will come down more." He left and I prayed until I went to sleep. (Which was a blessing and evidence of God's favor.)

What do you do when the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) of life crawl out of their ANT Hills and attack your mind and body? Do you know how to pray and focus on God or do you find yourself defenseless to the ravages of stressful thinking?

I am very thankful I learned the processes of Renewing My Mind as the Bible says. When a crisis occurs, and it will always be just around the corner, God has given us the ability to stop the Stinking Thinking and develop a Sober Mind and Peaceful body. Write me if you would like to learn how.

Gary Sweeten

Thursday, December 04, 2008

When the Skies are Unfriendly

Last night at about 12:30 I wrote the previous post. Now I am following up on it with a few comments.

The flight attendant on my plane from Minneapolis to Tokyo was nice as could be before I asked for help with my chest pains. After that, she tried her best to care for me but I was reminded of the nurses' prayer, "Just don't die on my shift." This gal put on all kinds of protective gear and carried an oxygen tank and a first aid kit with her mask tightly tugging her face, better to cover the panic theron.

The captain was calling for a Doctor to come to the Business Class I was riding with my hard earned frequent flier points. Before long a man showed up and introduced himself as Doctor X. He peered over me with his arms neatly behind his back as if by touching me he was afraid he would get the AIDS Virus that bounced off the attendant's face mask.

(It was a wonder I didn't have to sign a HIPPA form about my privacy. Since I have to sign one to get my teeth cleaned it makes sense that the Feds would make it illegal to get emergency assistance unless I was protected against some kind of electronic surveillance. The crazy HIPPA laws show what happens when the Feds get ahold of something to "protect us".)

I asked, "Are you afraid I will sue you if you touch me?
"Well" , he said, "you never know what will happen." (That was a resounding "YES" to the uninitiated.)
"Oh" the flight attendant exclaimed, "the Federal 'Good Samaritan Law protects medical personnel from suits if they come to the aid of a passenger."
The Doc showed great surprise and said, "I did not know that. Give me the blood pressure cuff. Did you give him anything? Give him an aspirin..."

Isn't it nice that God got a nod here? The Good Samaritan story is remembered all over the earth. Nobody calls a law after an atheist or an ACLU suit to stop Docs from administering assistance. I am thankful that the traditions of my Saviour Jesus Christ, The Great Physician prevail around the world and the ill are treated with no fear of persecution.
More on this drama later.
Gary Sweeten

The Wild Blue Yonder

Several years ago I had an experience that I never want to duplicate. While flying the friendly skies on a trip to Singapore with a stop in Japan, I had some strong pains in my chest and left arm. That is never a good sign.

I rang the call button and a nice lady appeared all smiles next to my seat on the plane. "Yes, May I help you sir?" she twittered sweetly. I am having severe chest pains" I replied. With a startled look she said in a panic stricken voice, "What did you say?" I repeated myself and she patted me on the arm and said, "Just wait right there. I'll be back in a few minutes."

That crazy comment provided some comic relief in the midst of an anxious time and I smiled while thinking, "Where would I go at 50,000 feet?" When she returned, however, her presence was even more ridiculous. A mask covered her face and rubber gloves were snugly protecting her hands. I felt like screaming, "I am having a heart attack. I am not coming down with AIDS!"

She was carrying a first aid kit and an oxygen bottle that she did not know what to do with so she plopped it on my lap and said, "Hold that for me." About then I heard the Captain announce over the squawk box that a doctor was needed immediately to treat a man in Business Class. My anxiety jumped several notches and I began to pray in the Spirit while wondering if I had done the right thing in telling her I was sick.

What happened next was a real miracle. God answered my arrow prayers and I began to feel much better. Tomorrow you will hear "the rest of the story!"

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What About Getting A Coach?

I have always enjoyed sports and was actually a coach for some years. I was not a very good coach in most sports but was pretty good as a basketball coach. I liked BB a lot and played it myself. I studied BB and learned the basics enough to teach others.

There are some things that can not be taught to a player. No one could teach Tiger Woods to be so focused and competitive. It was in his DNA from birth. His father, Earl Woods, taught Tiger a lot as did other coaches but the internal drive to win was inside this young man all his life. In fact, Tiger brags that he constantly pushed Earl to let him practice more.

I am a professional Counselor/Coach/Consultant. A Counselor combines the ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a person with the gifts of healing, discernment and acceptance. A Counselor knows that something is broken and needs to be fixed. He or she also knows how to fix the broken things of life in the soul, relationships and how to deal effectively with guilt and shame.

A Coach is similar but focuses on fixing/healing broken hearts he focuses on getting people unstuck from ineffective living. I cannot give you the drive to succeed but I can help you understand your gifts and talents better as well as your opportunities for healing and growth. One of my gifts is Encouragement. Many of the people I Coach mention that they feel more confident after we meet. .

A Consultant adds the area of organizational development and system's thinking to Coaching. If the system is dysfunctional it will impede the people no matter how smart or skilled they are. A good Consultant is able to assess the places where the organizational system is stuck and then teaches the leaders how to push the right levers to get it moving again.

I love to meet with Christian leaders and assist them as a Counselor, Coach and a Consultant. Sweeten Life Systems has been called by God to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free." We sometimes do that one on one but we mostly work with leadership teams. How can we help you?
Gary Sweeten, Ed. D.

Go to Panera for Fellowship

Panera Bread is a great place to meet and have fellowship around the fireplace as we drink some tea or coffee and eat a roll, there is comfort and peace. I think we Christians all learn from Panera how to be a welcoming community.

People need to feel safe if they are to allow themselves to become open to God, self and others. Do strangers feel safe in your church fellowship?

Go to Panera for Fellowship

Panera Bread is a great place to meet and have fellowship around the fireplace as we drink some tea or coffee and eat a sweet roll. This afternoon Karen and I went out to Milford to get the kids from school while Julie and Dave celebrated Dave's birthday.

I needed to download a patch from the Internet but I did not have the password for Dave's WI FI and I was stuck. What could I do? I was frustrated for a few minutes before I remembered that there is a new Panera Bread in Milford and I jumped into my car and drove up to seek their free WI FI connection.

I stopped in front of the store and opened up my browser and was immediately rewarded with a connection. because it took so long I had to leave and pick up Lily from school but I returned to Panera and did my computing. while there I overheard two mature males discussing the Bible and Jesus. They carried on their chatting for thirty minutes and got up to leave, when I said, "sitting by the fire and discussing the Lord is pretty sweet isn't it?"

The two men stopped and we had a great little chat although we had never met before. With believers no formal introduction is needed and we exchanged cards, blog information and web addresses. The address for the leader's church is one I suggest you look up. http://www.prodigal180.com/ tells all about their vision and it seems very good to me.

Both of these men are Seasoned Believers who have served and followed God for many years. But now they are interested in getting off the "padded pews" and into some meaningful ministry.

I am fascinated by the numerous fellowships, groups and chatting societies that gather at Panera. Maybe we need to learn from the Bread Company how to develop an attractive space for people to gather.

Gary Sweeten

You Are Welcome

I will be speaking at morning services at Tri County Assembly of God in Fairfield, Ohio north of Cincinnati on the next two Sundays. I would love for you to be praying for me and the service as I speak about, "I'll Be Home for Christmas".

Senior Pastor Brad Rosenberg will be glad to meet my friends so if you are in the area, come out and say "Hello".

Gary Sweeten

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Don't Know Much About History!

But we need to learn more and take it to heart.

My favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, has another terrific article today. This one is about the young men and women who have come here from round the world with their families to seek a better, freer and more open life. These kids, when they hear about the Pilgrims and their hardships, relate to them personally and think everyone in the US needs to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I think you will find the article enlightening, encouraging and entertaining.

Why Our Culture is Superior to Other Cultures

A great article in the Wall Street Journal by James Taranto who writes about a brave Dutch politician examines why it is important for Americans to really understand the strengths of our democracy so we can keep it strong. Taranto starts his article this way: "By his own description, Geert Wilders is not a typical Dutch politician. "We are a country of consensus," he tells me on a recent Saturday morning at his midtown Manhattan hotel. "I hate consensus. I like confrontation. I am not a consensus politician. . . . This is something that is really very un-Dutch."

It seems to me that the same kind of Politically Correct (PC) thinking is currently gaining a foothold in America and is a very dangerous thing. A strong democracy is built upon freedom of speech and an open dialogue among all parties. It demands that we all look honestly at the truth not just cover up uncomfortable facts.

It is a shock to read what Mr. Wilders says about Western Democracies. Is it possible to say this in America, even when it is true? "... the West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. "We believe that -- 'we' means the political elite -- that all cultures are equal," he says. "I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You're not a xenophobe, you're not a racist, you're not a crazy guy if you say, 'My culture is better than yours.' A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Report from Plymouth Colony

Each Thanksgiving The Wall Street Journal prints a report written by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records for Governor William Bradford. Take a look at it and think of the courage, hard work and faith of the first settlers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for My Heritage

At Thanksgiving I am like most Americans who take a few moments to consider the reasons we are thankful. I just watched the PBS special called, The Rape of Europa and I was overcome with thankfulness for the way Americans acted as a nation before and after the war. Not that America was perfect, we were not. But, considering how many nations and soldiers act in war time, we have much to be proud about.

The documentary mentioned above tells the stories of Nazi leaders who stole so much art work of the people they conquered during WWII. I was astonished that the American government and army so thoughtfully planned a detailed response to the thefts and had thousands of troops trained to find, protect and restore those priceless art treasures.

It must have cost the Americans millions of dollars and countless hours to find the artwork that had been stolen, transported to Germany and hidden. Yet, we did it.

It is quite popular now to denigrate American history and America's acts in the past. I suggest that all citizens watch the PBS special and see some of the good things we did in WWII.

A Rush to Diagnose?

For many years there has been a strong debate over the medicalization of a wide range of behaviors in children. For example, ADD or ADHD has become a very popular diagnosis over the past couple of decades. Diagnosis usually leads to medical treatment because the kid is perceived to have a sickness, a disease and must be treated with drugs and receive special help. This is a mixed blessing for the kids and the parents to say nothing of the schools.

Along comes Michael Phelps, the Olympic Superstar who has been diagnosed and treated for ADHD and the perception changes but the discussion only increases along with the disagreements. Some suggest that ADHD is a gift not a curse. Maybe it helped Michael Phelps achieve his amazing feat in China.

We shall not solve this dilemma here but I will say that ADHD can be both a blessing and a curse. I am sure that had I been born in 1998 instead of 1938 I would have been on drugs to control my behavior. Would that have served me or harmed me? I do not know but I know that the hyper energy has been a positive experience for me and I have normally achieved much more than many others because of it.

Many successful innovators and entrepreneurs are hyper energetic and might fit the ADHD diagnosis. Would drugs have slowed us all down so we would fit into the nice, neat button down society and never innovated or created anything new? I fear that the desire for order will lead to the over diagnosis of kids and thus their over medication. Be careful; be very careful. Make sure the diagnosis is done by a person who really knows his or her business.

Take a look at this article in The New York Times for more on the controversy.
Gary Sweeten

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pastors' and their Wives

This parody of Carrie Underwood's hit will hit you if you know anything about the Wives in Ministry!

Ministers in Full View of the World

Here is proof that ministers need help. Just get a look at this video called, Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Pastors.

The Dreadful State of Ministerial Training

I have focused much of my professional and personal life on supporting, counseling, coaching and consulting with Clergy. I have concluded that the preparation they generally receive before entering congregational life as a professional is woefully inadequate. Let me illustrate.

The primary context of clerical ministry is human relationships.

The primary issues of leadership and change always involve relationships and the need to motivate members to accept, lead and pay for change.

The problems that come to a pastor's office are heavily weighted toward a breakdown in human relationships and he/she is expected to resolve those problems and make the people better.

The thing that cause most ministers to fail is an inability to relate well with the members.

Despite these obvious facts, almost 100% of the training for ministry is about large group and mass communication and nothing about interpersonal communication. What are they thinking? Who designs such an inappropriate curriculum, someone who wants ministers to fail?

The result is disappointment, family conflict, burn out, frustration, blaming and shaming and churches unable to minister effectively. When will we ever learn?

Gary Sweeten

Can I Go Home for the Holidays?

Opening a Can of Worms!
My international readers may not know it but millions of Americans live far, far away from the town where they grew up. Many of them "go back home" to see relatives and friends during Thanksgiving, the third weekend in November, and Christmas, the last week of December.

The return home can provoke a lot of anxiety because we have moved away from the customs and values of our family of origin and find it difficult to remember how to act properly in that old environment. It is also hard on the "old folks back home" because they tend to think of us as we were as kids and that was a long time and many changes ago.

I was a rebel as a kid and my family tended to see me through that prism even though I left most of my rebellion behind a long time ago. I can remember how hard it was when Karen and I first began to return home from Cincinnati. I had gotten a couple of college degrees, fathered a child and became Associate Dean at U.C. Yet, I was tempted to regress in my behavior away from a mature adult to the teenage rebel of so many years ago.

I found myself being irritated by the same things that had bugged me as a teen and Mother was so unreasonable and parental. It seemed to me that I was all grown up but Mother treated me like a child. It was all her fault! (Thankfully, Karen was able to point out that I was acting like a teenager not like an adult. Boy, did that sting!)

As you prepare to go back home or to see your family that is returning to the homestead, ask yourself some questions:

1. Do I treat my family members as well as I want to be treated?

2. Do I treat my family like I treat other adults?

3. Do I have some of the same feelings I had as a kid when I interact with my parents and siblings?

4. Do I judge my family more harshly than I judge others?

5. Do I have peace when I think about my family?

6. Are there things I would like to straighten out in them?

7. Is God happy with the way I honor my family?

How are you preparing to go home again? Prayer might help.

Gary Sweeten


Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Great Story on Thanksgiving

The L.A. Times has a terrific story about the First Thanksgiving in America. I highly recommend that you read it before your family celebration this year.


We are coming upon another Thanksgiving Day with all the trimmings and I have a great deal to be thankful for. Most of all I am thankful for my Christian roots and the family members who forced me to go to church and introduced Jesus Christ to me. My life is inestimably better today and for eternity because of my salvation.

Second, I am thankful for 47 years of marriage to Karen Judy Mayer Sweeten. We have shared both good and bad together since the day we were married on November 21, 1961. I had been praying for a Christian wife, actually a Baptist wife, for several years and the Lord brought me into contact with Karen again in May of 1961. On May 6 she went with me and a bus load of kids from the Ina School to St. Louis Zoo. I was the bus driver because I could earn another $900.00 annually to add to the $3000.00 I made for teaching and coaching Fifth and Sixth Grades, all subjects. (An almost 1/3 increase in salary for driving the bus! What a deal.)

Six months later Karen and I were married at the First Baptist Church in Pinckneville, Illinois by Rev. Maurice Swinford. All my kids from school attended. We have weathered many storms since then but each of us is thankful for our life together.

I am especially thankful for coming from poverty. because of our background, Karen and I are like St. Paul who noted that he had learned to be content in all kinds of circumstances. We have been close to food stamps and we have been able to live well. The secret to contentment is knowing a loving God and a loving family. Now that the economy has dropped and it may be awhile before it returns to its bullish nature, Karen and I are content with the wonderful lives we enjoy.

I returned from ten days in Russia a few weeks ago and it is good to be back. The comparison between the USA and Russia are many. The primary difference is that the USA has a long tradition of opportunity and innovation. Our Capitalist system allows us to try new things, borrow money and take risks with many rewards. The Socialist traditions of Russia tend to emphasize a top down system of rules and regulations enforced by a government that the people cannot trust.

We in the USA are fortunate. We are blessed. I am thankful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sloppy Agape

The Wall Street Journal recently published a breath taking powerful article by a Quaker woman about a phony baloney conference at Yale University on what was falsely billed as a "Muslim-Christian Conference on Reconciliation". The article ends with these two paragraphs and needs to be read in full to be appreciated.

The cost of a phony love-fest between Christian and Muslim leaders could be high. There is already a great imbalance in knowledge or respect, if not both. As part of our confirmation course, when I was a teenage Methodist in rural Ohio in the 1970s, we were taken not only to a synagogue but to a mosque and learned the basics of both faiths. But the Muslim cleric who lectured to us clearly disapproved of Christianity, and the minister misled him to keep the peace. We don't want to be called Mohammedans, the Muslim huffed; we don't worship Mohammed, who was a man. The minister jumped in to assure him that we were just the same—we didn't call ourselves Jesus-ans or anything like that. I nearly gasped at the lie, but I wasn't bold enough to challenge it.
I'm bolder now. (It's amazing what a decade in Africa will do to you.) And truth in theology while theology approaches politics is worth a bold defense.

Essential to Muslim extremism is the notion that the West is decadent and not attached to its professed values. "Violence will weaken political support for Israel" has a religious parallel: "The West resists adopting Islam only because Muslims do not push hard enough against Christianity." Not to speak up for Christianity with complete honesty sends our Muslim interlocutors home with a time-bomb version of us: either that we have no objection to being like them, or that we are in essence like them already. America has made the mistake of assuming our values are universal, and we may be encouraging the same kind of assumption about ourselves.

Those who want to "reconcile" with Muslims, Devil Worshippers, Hindus, Buddhists often miss the mark. They insist that it is always the Christian's duty to allay the fears and sensibilities of others by telling them untruths and watering down our core values. This is not reconciliation but keeping secrets in hopes of getting along. This approach may skip being uncomfortable in the present at the risk of all out war later.

I am a therapist who has often had to help family members, partners and Christians reconcile. In most cases it requires telling each other the truth and confessing our sins in the expectation of forgiveness. Can that happen without being honest? Can that happen with people who do not believe in sin, guilt, confession and forgiveness?

Gary Sweeten

Lowering Costs of Doing Ministry

Embrace the World
Because the economy has been powering along like a Bull for the last eight years, Christian ministries have been growing like weeds and spending a lot of money to achieve their goals. Now, the Bear Market has changed all that. There is a great article about this issue in the Out of Ur Blog of Christianity Today.

No one knows how long this recession will last or how far the economy will slip, but this may serve as a wakeup call to an American church that has built its missional strategy on the assumption of affluence. If the downturn is protracted, it may cause churches to reevaluate their philosophy of ministry. If those delayed plans to build a larger facility or hire new staff members cannot be taken off the self in two, three, or five years because of the economy, will we be forced to think more creatively about advancing God's mission?
Neil Cole, in an interview in the latest issue of Leadership, said his research concluded that, using traditional church planting methods—hiring staff and building facilities—it would cost $80 billion to reach the city of Atlanta with the gospel. Even in a robust economy, that number is prohibitively large. Perhaps it's time for American church leaders to begin learning from pastors in the developing world who have few resources but where the gospel is spreading nonetheless.

Tom Sine, author of The New Conspirators, has also spoken about the danger of predicating our ministry model on the automobile. Megachurches in particular have flourished by drawing attendersAdd Video from a wide geographic area. But if average fuel prices rise high enough, we may see driving habits shift as people become more reluctant to commute multiple times a week to a church facility. Economic realities may accelerate the already perceptible trend toward decentralized ministry.
Faith should protect us from the fear seizing many in these uncertain times, but faith should also lead us to greater creativity and an ever increasing trust in God to continue his mission even as resources disappear.

What do you think about this? Are these guys right or can we and should we continue spending so much to achieve so little?
Sweeten Life has always operated with very low overhead. We get a lot accomplished with a small investment. We do it because we multiply the resources through discipleship and equipping leaders. We have very few large group meetings but rather follow the example and teaching of Jesus.
We can certainly use your financial support this year.
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249
Gary's Cell: 513-300-5065

Friday, November 21, 2008

Generous Givers

I hate to post about Obama again but he is news that has implications for our ministry. I am trying to raise support for Sweeten Life Systems without being
overly "professional" and "overly expensive". However, that is difficult because many people respond to the expertly crafted appeals that a pro writes. Just look at the haul Obama made online with very slick professionals running his machine. They did a terrific job of raising money online and I can learn from them how to get my message out.

Barack Obama raised half a billion dollars online in his 21-month campaign for the White House, dramatically ushering in a new digital era in presidential fundraising.

In an exclusive interview with The Post, members of the vaunted Triple O, Obama's online operation, broke down the numbers: 3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less. The average online donation was $80, and the average Obama donor gave more than once.

Well, I am trying to raise support online but my haul is much less than that of Obama. So, what can I do? Should I hire a professional to write sob stories about my ministry? Nope, but I will do something that Obama did not do. I shall pray more.

The current financial struggles will demand that we cut our overhead costs dramatically. Senator Obama has mastered the internet so we can certainly look forward to seeing how he uses electronic media to Administer the USA.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Neediest Kids of All

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal often posts humorous and unbelievable articles on his blog at Wall Street Journal Online.

Look at this New York Times editorial on one of the paper's "neediest cases".

Debra, a single mother who works in health care administration, is one of millions of Americans who do their jobs, believe in paying their bills and are still facing the threat of losing their home.

Debra, who did not want her last name to be published, bought a home in the East New York section of Brooklyn for more than $600,000 in 2006. The house has plenty of room for herself, for her son and for tenants. She thought that with the help of rental income and refinancing her mortgages that she could carry the load.

"People tell you that you can refinance and get a better deal," Debra explained--an all too common assumption during the housing boom. After a few months, her tenants started to pay their rent late--and sometimes not at all. Without that income, she was stretched too thin. "Your mortgage is your priority," Debra explained, "so you pay your mortgage and wait on the other bills." She fell behind on those bills, then on the mortgage itself.

This does sound unfortunate, but when someone who owns a $600,000 home is one of the neediest cases, you have to wonder who doesn't make the cut.

Actually, you don't, for MSNBC.com has an example. In April, Jan Gentile lost her job in human resources:

In mid-September, Gentile was finally able to land a job that includes health care benefits, but the salary is much less than she was making before. As they work to get their finances back on track, the family has had to cut back on little luxuries like dinners out, trips to the movies and buying new clothes.
One of the hardest decisions was to tell her granddaughter that she could no longer take horseback riding lessons because they couldn't afford it.
"She loved those horseback riding lessons," Gentile said.

Then there is the sad story of Tony D'Addeo, reported by the Austin American-Statesman:
For years, Mike and Kelly D'Addeo planned to use their trove of Intel Corp. stock options to send their son Tony to a top college. Tony would be a good candidate for any school: He's a straight-A senior at Bowie High School and captain of the football team, with near-perfect SAT scores. He's not interested in playing college football; instead, Tony talks about majoring in computer science or engineering.

"I'd like to have my own business someday," he said.
But the plunging stock market has made their stock options worthless and crushed the D'Addeos' Ivy League dreams.

Is this child abuse? I think so.

Gary Sweeten

Monday, November 17, 2008


I enjoy hearing from friends with who I have ministered over the years. One of the many blessings of being in the same area is seeing friends with who we have shared so much of God's love and power together.

Steve Griebling and I began working together in 1982 when he was at Upper Arlington Lutheran and I was at College Hill Presbyterian. It was a match made in heaven. Our interests and theologies were similar and we had a mutually up building relationship back then.

When I was invited to minister in Norway I asked Steve to accompany me along with Hal Schell and Larry and Ellen Chrouch. It was a divine team that God used to touch lives in a wonderful way.

As a result of our partnership Steve recruited some of his Teleios Workers and we traveled together to Scandinavia and other parts of the USA and the world. Yesterday I heard from Diane, one of Steve's team members. She is still using the Renewed Thinking skills she learned in the Eighties and they continue to "work" as she keeps her thoughts on Jesus.
Thanks Diane. I have many good memories of you, Marcie, Gail, Mary, Jim, Steve, etc on our trips to share the good news. Keep it up!
Gary Sweeten

A lifetime of great relationships

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Research on Christian Counseling?

My doctorate in Christian Counseling showed the strong compatibility of helping and the Bible. Yet, there are still many sceptics among secularists and some Christian leaders. Look at this recent research.

James Kennedy, Robert Davis, and Bruce Taylor reported in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion a 60 percent increase in spiritual participation following an ordeal. "A traumatic event," the authors say, "causes reduced well being, which causes increased spirituality, which then helps restore well being to pre-event levels."

Yvonne Farley reported in 2007 in the Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Social Work that "spirituality is increasingly identified as a significant component of resiliency during family-based trauma."

This is just a couple of the numerous studies showing the importance of including spiritual resources in counseling. When will the secular researchers ever learn? Why can't smart people see the truth, even when they are looking for it?

I know this is true because I have seen thousands of people get breakthroughs as a result of turning to God. Many times we are looking not a need for healing but guidance and wisdom about the direction to take. We call that Coaching or Consulting rather than Counseling. James 1 tells us to "Ask God when we are confused and need wisdom." Then he says, "God will answer us without putting us down because we need His help."

Many a time I have been stumped by decisions and the direction take in a situation. As I pray and meditate, the Spirit reveals the best course of action, and many times it is a surprising insight not originally on my screen as a possibility.

Secularists and humanists may never, ever admit these truths. As II Corinthians 4:4 says, "The god of this world has blinded the perceptions of unbelievers so they cannot understand the light of the gospel."

But many times people will believe when a crisis occurs and the Holy Spirit breaks through. Pray with me that the Spirit will open the eyes of the blind so unbelievers perceive the light of Christ.

Gary Sweeten
Christian Coaching, Consulting and Counseling