Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I am getting a lot of hits from California and international sites. This intrigues me and I would love to hear your comments.

I had a training center in San Mateo several years ago so it may be some of our grads from there. Give me a shout.

Fake or Real?

Is the story about Billy Graham real or a fake? If it is fake why would good, Christian people want to post it and send it out again and again? That piece is a fake and I have received it many times.

It is like the one that used Madelyn Murray O'Hair as bait to catch as many unsuspecting Christians as possible and make them look foolish. I had a daily radio program for about 15 years and one particularly destructive Urban Myth began to circulate that really got the blood of Believers to run red hot.

Here is the gist of it. Quote: "The well known atheist, Madelyn Murray O'Hair, has sent a letter to the Federal Communication Committee demanding that they take Dr. Jim Dobson and or other Christians off the air. Here is all you have to do. Send a letter to the FCC demanding that this evil move by MMO be stopped immediately!"

The FCC received millions upon millions of letter from angry Christians. Here is the problem. The entire thing was a hoax. It must have been set up by some evil atheist who likes to make us look stupid. IT WORKED!!!

If you send these kinds of letters and announcements out to all your friends on the Internet, stop at once. Before you post go to and check it out first.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gossip, Rumors and Urban Myths

Have You Seen This?
Is it true?
Is it a rumor or an urban Myth or the wonderful story of God using Billy Graham? What is your discernment? Read it and see.

Billy Graham in New Orleans

Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008
In what might prove to be the crowning achievement of an illustrious career in ministry, the 87-year-old evangelist, Billy Graham shocked the 16,300 in attendance at the Celebration of Hope crusade in New Orleans Arena on Sunday Night. Touted in advance as possibly his last Evangelistic crusade, Graham invited the packed house of evangelical Christians and the hundreds of new converts to join him on the one mile walk from the arena to New Orleans' infamous Bourbon Street.
'We have seen God do tremendous things here the past couple of evenings. Yes, it is true that a great healing and a great many salvations have occurred within the confines of this auditorium. Still yet, there lies a great mountain in this city which needs to be conquered. 'Then taking from the Biblical Book of Joshua Chapter 14 he read, 'I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day,' his voice suddenly sounding more forceful than during his 22 minute sermon.

'I last preached in the City of New Orleans in 1954 and I felt then that there was some unfinished business. Tonight, in what very well m ight be my last evangelistic service, I aim to finish that business and lead as many of you that would follow me to the multitude of lost souls that fill Bourbon Street tonight. That is my mountain! That is where we shall see the harvest!' said Graham as the stadium erupted in cheers that lasted the next several minutes.

Utilizing a waiting mobility scooter, the elder Graham joined his son, Franklin, across the Arena floor and through the opened doors leading towards the French Quarter. In a show of solidarity and determination reminiscent of civil rights marches of the 1960's, nearly the entire capacity crowd joined in the 20 minute trek while singing, 'When the Saints Go Marching In'. As the march crossed Canal Street and headed northward towards Bourbon Street, many onlookers stood in stunned silence as the massive crowd of people began singing in unison the Christian hymn, Amazing Grace.

Upon entering the west end of Bourbon Street, Billy Graham was soon recognized by partiers. Soon those joining in the march began to approach those partying on Bourbon Street with the Gospel message that they had heard preached just a half hour before. Graham himself joined with a group of local street evangelists in ministering to a man who had survived Hurricane Katrina in the lower 9th Ward. Within 30 minutes the entirety of Bourbon Street was packed with Christians and the once blaring music of nightclubs and strip joints had been replaced by weeping and worship as people poured out their drinks and sought prayer from the Christians who were now reaching out to them.

'I have never seen anything like this in my life,' said 20 years New Orleans Police Department veteran, Tom Phillips. 'This is unbelievable! We thought a riot was going to break out, but this looks more like a Revival than a riot!'

Two hours later, a glowing Graham sat back down on his scooter and smiled. 'Now I know how the Apostle Paul must have felt at the end of his ministry. Do the work of an evangelist; make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.

'Hours later hundreds of Christians remained on the street ministering to the many people eagerly waiting to receive prayer and ministry. New Orleans will never be the same.

And the press remained mute on this 'news item?'
Did anyone see it on TV/hear it on radio/read it in the paper?Why we are not surprised? Can't have THAT just prior to a major election, now, can we?
Well, just on a whim, spread the news, anyway.It cost our elder brother, Billy Graham, more than any of us know to make that effort. The least we can do is publicize it, if the press is determined to ignore it!!

Will you spread the word or check it out?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Trouble in Russia for Faith

Published Thursday, April 24, 2008
At Expense of All Others, Putin Picks a Church

Archbishop Ioann, center, the chief Russian Orthodox priest in the Belgorod region, at a service in Stary Oskol last month.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which was widely persecuted under Communism, has grown in size and influence since the fall of the Soviet Union. James Hill for The New York Times

STARY OSKOL, Russia — It was not long after a Methodist church put down roots here that the troubles began. First came visits from agents of the F.S.B., a successor to the K.G.B., who evidently saw a threat in a few dozen searching souls who liked to huddle in cramped apartments to read the Bible and, perhaps, drink a little tea. Local officials then labeled the church a “sect.” Finally, last month, they shut it down.

There was a time after the fall of Communism when small Protestant congregations blossomed here in southwestern Russia, when a church was almost as easy to set up as a general store. Today, this industrial region has become emblematic of the suppression of religious freedom under President Vladimir V. Putin.

Just as the government has tightened control over political life, so, too, has it intruded in matters of faith. The Kremlin’s surrogates in many areas have turned the Russian Orthodox Church into a de facto official religion, warding off other Christian denominations that seem to offer the most significant competition for worshipers. They have all but banned proselytizing by

Protestants and discouraged Protestant worship through a variety of harassing measures, according to dozens of interviews with government officials and religious leaders across Russia. This close alliance between the government and the Russian Orthodox Church has become a defining characteristic of Mr. Putin’s tenure, a mutually reinforcing choreography that is usually described here as working “in symphony.” Mr. Putin makes frequent appearances with the church’s leader, Patriarch Aleksei II, on the Kremlin-controlled national television networks. Last week, Mr. Putin was shown prominently accepting an invitation from Aleksei II to attend services for Russian Orthodox Easter, which is this Sunday.

The relationship is grounded in part in a common nationalistic ideology dedicated to restoring Russia’s might after the disarray that followed the end of the Soviet Union. The church’s hostility toward Protestant groups, many of which are based in the United States or have large followings there, is tinged with the same anti-Western sentiment often voiced by Mr. Putin and other senior officials. The government’s antipathy also seems to stem in part from the Kremlin’s wariness toward independent organizations that are not allied with the government.

Here in Stary Oskol, 300 miles south of Moscow, the police evicted a Seventh-day Adventist congregation from its meeting hall, forcing it to hold services in a ramshackle home next to a construction site. Evangelical Baptists were barred from renting a theater for a Christian music festival, and were not even allowed to hand out toys at an orphanage.

A Lutheran minister said he moved away for a few years because he feared for his life. He has returned, but keeps a low profile. On local television last month, the city’s chief Russian Orthodox priest, who is a confidant of the region’s most powerful politicians, gave a sermon that was repeated every few hours. His theme: Protestant heretics. “We deplore those who are led astray — those Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, evangelicals, Pentecostals and many others who cut Christ’s robes like bandits, who are like the soldiers who crucified Christ, who ripped apart Christ’s holy coat,” declared the priest, the Rev. Aleksei D. Zorin.

Such language is familiar to Protestants in Stary Oskol, who number about 2,000 in a city of 225,000. The Rev. Vladimir Pakhomov, the minister of the Methodist church, recalled a warning from an F.S.B. officer to one of his parishioners: “ ‘Protestantism is facing difficult times — or maybe its end.’ ”

Most Protestant churches are required under the law to register with the government in order to do anything more than conduct prayers in an apartment. Officials rejected Mr. Pakhomov’s registration this year, first saying his paperwork was deficient, then contending that the church was a front for an unspecified business. Mr. Pakhomov appealed in court, but lost. He said he could now face arrest for so much as chatting with children about attending a Methodist camp. “They have made us into lepers to scare people away,” Mr. Pakhomov said. “There is this climate that you can feel with your every cell: ‘It’s not ours, it’s American, it’s alien; since it’s alien we cannot expect anything good from it.’ It’s ignorance, all around.”

Yuri I. Romashin, a senior city official, said the denial of the Methodist church’s registration was appropriate, explaining that the government had to guard against suspicious organizations that used religion as a cover. “Their goal was not a holy and noble one,” he said of Mr. Pakhomov’s church. Mr. Romashin said the government did not discriminate against Protestants. “We have to create conditions so that we do not infringe upon their right in any way to their religion and their freedom of conscience,” he said. Yet, like many Russian officials, he referred to Protestant churches with the derogatory term “sects.”

Religious Intolerance

The limits on Russia’s Protestants — roughly 2 million in a total population of 142 million — have by no means reached those that existed under the officially atheistic Soviet Union, which brutally suppressed religion. And churches in some regions say they have not experienced major difficulties. The Russian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and Mr. Putin has often spoken against discrimination. “In modern Russia, tolerance and tolerance for other beliefs are the foundation for civil peace, and an important factor for social progress,” he said at a meeting of religious leaders in 2006.

Mr. Putin has also denounced anti-Semitism. While many Jews have emigrated over the past two decades, the Jewish population — now a few hundred thousand people — is experiencing something of a rebirth here.

Anti-Semitism has not disappeared. But in some regions it seems to have been supplanted by anti-Protestantism and, to a lesser extent, anti-Catholicism. Mikhail I. Odintsov, a senior aide in the office of Russia’s human rights commissioner, who was nominated by Mr. Putin, said most of the complaints his office received about religion involved Protestants. Mr. Odintsov listed the issues: “Registration, reregistration, problems with property illegally taken away, problems with construction of church buildings, problems with renovations, problems with ministers coming from abroad, problems with law enforcement, usually with the police. Problems, problems, problems and more problems.”

“In Russia,” he said, “there isn’t any significant, influential political force, party or any form of organization that upholds and protects the principle of freedom of religion.” This absence looms especially large at the regional level. At the request of a Russian Orthodox bishop, prosecutors in the western region of Smolensk shut down a Methodist church last month, supposedly for running a tiny Sunday school without an educational license. The church’s defenders noted that many churches and other religious groups in Russia ran religious schools without licenses and had never been prosecuted.

The F.S.B. has been waging a battle across Russia against Jehovah’s Witnesses. In Nizhny Novgorod, in the nation’s center, the local Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to cancel religious events at least a dozen times in the last few months after the F.S.B. threatened owners of meeting halls, the church’s members said. In February, some officials in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest, proposed creating a commission to combat what it called “totalitarian sects.”

The governor of the Tula region, near Moscow, charged that American military intelligence was using Protestant “sects” to infiltrate Russia. Officials do not say precisely which groups they are referring to, but Protestant ministers say the epithet is so widespread that most Russians assume the speakers mean all Protestants.

The term has clearly seeped into the public’s consciousness. “As a Russian Orthodox believer, I am against the sects,” said Valeriya Gubareva, a retired teacher, who was asked about Protestants as she was leaving a Russian Orthodox Church here. “Our Russian Orthodox religion is inviolable, and it should not be shaken.” Like other parishioners interviewed, Ms. Gubareva said she supported freedom of religion.

A New Identity

While church attendance in Russia is very low, polls show that Russians are embracing Russian Orthodoxy as part of their identity. In one recent poll, 71 percent of respondents described themselves as Russian Orthodox, up from 59 percent in 2003.

There are a few hundred thousand Roman Catholics in Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has had tense relations with the Vatican, accusing Catholic missionaries of trying to convert Russians. The Vatican says it seeks only to reach out to existing Catholics. The Russian government has often refused visas for foreign Catholic priests, whom the Vatican has sent because there are few Russian ones.

Russia has far more Muslims than Protestants or Catholics — anywhere from 7 million to 20 million, depending on how religious observance is measured. But the Russian Orthodox Church regards Islam as far less likely to lure converts. There have been considerable numbers of Protestants in Russia since the second half of the 18th century.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Protestant faiths in the West saw Russia as fertile territory and spent heavily to send missionaries to help the existing worshipers and to convert others. But the Russian Orthodox Church, which was widely persecuted under Communism, was rebuilding and worried about losing adherents. A backlash ensued. In 1997, under President Boris N. Yeltsin, the first major federal law was enacted restricting Protestant churches and missionaries, requiring many of them to register with the government.

But Mr. Yeltsin had a far more ambivalent relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church than does Mr. Putin, and in the chaos of the times the laws were not always enforced. Under Mr. Putin, who has worn a cross and talked publicly about his faith, the government has added regulations, and laws have often been enforced more stringently or, some Protestants say, capriciously. For its part, the church, with its links to the czars, has conferred legitimacy on Mr. Putin by championing his rule as he has consolidated power and battered the opposition.

In December, after Mr. Putin selected his close aide, Dmitri A. Medvedev, as his successor as president, Aleksei II extolled the decision on national television. Mr. Medvedev, who takes office on May 7, easily won election last month. Aleksandr Fedichkin, a leader of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, which represents many Protestant churches, said governors, who are appointed by Mr. Putin, regularly deferred to Russian Orthodox bishops. “Many times, officials say to us, ‘Please, you must ask the Orthodox bishop about your activity, and if he agrees, then you can work here,’ ” Mr. Fedichkin said.

Asked about such complaints, Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Protestants had made impressive strides in Russia, with the number of officially registered religious organizations in the country having increased nearly fivefold, to more than 23,000, in recent years. Many of those, he said, were Protestant. “First of all, all religions are treated on an equal basis,” Mr. Peskov said. “But at the same time, we have to keep in mind that the Russian Orthodox Church is the leading church in Russia, it’s the most popular church in Russia.” He added, “Speaking about violations in terms of Protestants or others, about possible complaints, it’s very hard to draw any trends.”

He recommended seeking the views of Bishop Sergei V. Ryakhovsky, head of the Pentecostal Union, whom Mr. Putin appointed to the Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory council. Bishop Ryakhovsky said in an interview that while the Kremlin voiced support for tolerance, the situation at the regional level was troubling.

Little if anything was being done, he said, to help Protestant churches that are routinely barred by officials from obtaining space for services. Nor, he said, did the Kremlin seem interested in discouraging Russian Orthodox clergy members from attacking Protestants. “These questions, like construction and obtaining plots of land, are deeply problematic all over Russia,” he said. “The issue is not some particular regions or provinces. I am like a firefighter, and I have to rush to different areas of the country, to find ways to establish a dialogue with the authorities.”

The Grip of Orthodoxy Here in southwestern Russia, the Belgorod region, traditionally a stronghold of Russian Orthodoxy, has been at the forefront of the anti-Protestant campaign. In 2001, during Mr. Putin’s first term, the region enacted a law to drastically restrict Protestant proselytizing. More recently, it mandated that all public school children take what is essentially a Russian Orthodox religion course. A guide for teachers of young children recommends that schools have religious rooms with portraits of Jesus Christ, Russian Orthodox icons and other sacred items.

The regional governor, Yevgeny Savchenko, who calls himself a Russian Orthodox governor, declined to be interviewed for this article. Archbishop Ioann, the chief Russian Orthodox priest in the Belgorod region, said Russians had a deep connection to Orthodoxy that the government should nurture. “In essence, we have begun to live through a period that is like the second Baptism of Russia, just as there was before the Baptism of ancient Russia,” he said, referring to Russia’s adoption of Christianity in the year 988.

He said the church wanted warm ties with other faiths, though it was hard to overlook the foreign connections of Protestants. “You know, what else alarms me, the majority of them are born — I must apologize, but I will tell the truth — from the West’s money,” he said. “Naturally, they need to play the role of the offended ones who need protection.”

The archbishop denied that the church disparaged Protestants. “In our sermons, you will never hear us trying to condemn them or say that they do anything wrong,” he said. In fact, on the day the archbishop was being interviewed, local television was repeatedly showing the sermon of his deputy, Father Zorin, likening Protestants to those who killed Jesus Christ. The Protestant churches here say they are left alone by the authorities only if they keep their activities behind closed doors.

And so it was that on a recent weekend, clusters of Protestants made their way to whatever gathering spots they could find. The Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Sergei Matyukh, held a service in a small apartment with his Methodist colleague, Mr. Pakhomov, as a show of support.

Many at the service said that what most bothered them was that the officials who harassed them once professed loyalty to Communism, and had switched to Russian Orthodoxy. “The power holders, they are, as a rule, atheists,” said Gennadi Safonov, who works in marketing. “They have adopted a fashion or a trend.”

One of the few Protestant groups with a permanent base is the Evangelical Baptists, who in the relative freedom of the early 1990s were able to obtain a sturdy building that seats several hundred people. They have been allowed to stay, though they say they would not be permitted to find other space. Protestants here must receive official permission before doing anything remotely like proselytizing.

The Rev. Vladimir Kotenyov, a Baptist minister, said his church had given up asking. “Naturally, it will be perceived as propaganda directed at our population,” Mr. Kotenyov said. “ ‘What kind of propaganda are you preaching?’ they would ask. ‘An American faith?’ ” “This is how they think: If you are a Russian person, it means that you have to be Russian Orthodox.”
Note: Our prayers brought down the Communists and it can cause a breakthrough with this situation.
Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Elder Brother

There was a man who had two sons. Read Luke 15 to see which of them was able to receive the Father's love, mercy and grace.

Think about it this way.
“Can the elder son in me come home? Can I be found as the younger son was found? How can I return when I am lost in resentment, when I am caught in jealousy, when I am imprisoned in obedience and duty lived out as slavery?

It is clear that alone, by myself, I cannot find myself. More daunting than healing myself as the younger son, is healing myself as the elder son. Confronted here with the impossibility of self redemption, I now understand Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: ‘Do not be surprised when I say; ‘You must be born from above.’’

Indeed, something has to happen that I myself cannot cause to happen. I cannot be reborn from below; that is, with my own strength, with my own mind with my own psychological insights…I can only be healed from above, from where God reaches down. What is impossible for me is possible for God. ‘With God, everything is possible’. “

Henri Nouwen,
The Return of the Prodigal

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Back Home in Illinois

Karen and I moved to Cincinnati in the summer of 1967 with three month old daughter Julia from Southern Illinois University. We grew up in southern Illinois and assumed we would live and die there, but God had other plans.

That region was in the news recently because of an earthquake centered near the Wabash River just across the line from Evansville, Indiana. Earthquakes are rare in that region but not unknown. One of the most powerful occurred in 1811 and caused the Mississippi River to flow backward for a time and rerouted it permanently.

I miss my hometown and the friends I grew up with but I would not return because this is now our home. Our life here has been beautiful spiritually, emotionally and economically.
Thank God for bringing us to Cincinnati.

A Great Article in the Enquirer

Peter Bronson, the scrappy writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, has posted a great article about the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in today's paper.

I wrote a letter to Peter in response.
Thanks for the insights into the Pope’s visit and sermons. Yours is the best article I have read on it and I have looked at quite a few.

As a retired therapist with training and experience in family counseling I strongly echo the Pope’s focus on basics. In our “Post Modern” world some people, like Bill Maher, would like to change the rules of life but, like gravity, some rules are designed to deal with our spiritual nature.

When the news hounds focus on his apologies they miss the central theme for all Christians of confession, forgiveness and repentance. It is too bad that many reporters are so ignorant of the Christian message that they replace it with Political Correctness. However, PC will never replace JC, Jesus Christ, as the path to healing, peace and growth. Thank God the Pope is helping us all remember.


Gary Sweeten

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Traditional Fathers Love Their Kids

Since the Pope is in town and many of the leftist news readers are all aflutter about how "rigid and conservative" he is I thought we might want to examine the myths surrounding Christian families. It is especially important for us to communicate the facts because so many half truths are on the media.

Fathers of faith give more time to their children

By Larry Witham

A new study shows that fathers of the evangelical and Catholic faiths may be better parents than secular dads, if judged by the time they spend with their children in activities or at the dinner table.

The author of the study, reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family, said the findings contradict a stereotype that conservative Protestant fathers leave child rearing to stay-at-home wives. "Evangelical Protestant fathers, including Southern Baptists, are very involved with their children, which I found surprising, given their tendency to embrace traditional gender attitudes," said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia.

Findings were based on time spent on five kinds of one-on-one activities, such as reading or playing a game.

1. Evangelical fathers on average spent more hours per week with their children than other dads. They reported being at an average of 27 more family dinners a year than those with no religious affiliation.

2. Catholic fathers, who excelled in devotion to group activities with their children, on average spent about two hours more a week with their children than fathers of no religion.

Both exceeded the time spent by fathers in mainline Protestant churches or with no religious affiliation.

The study looked at data on fathers and children ages 5 to 18 in the National Survey of Families and Households. The way churches organize may explain why some churchgoing fathers are more active with children, Mr. Wilcox said.

"Evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches may sponsor more youth-related activities than other churches, providing a broader range of activities for fathers and children to share," he said.

Mainline Protestant churches, according to other studies, have an aging population and thus fewer youth groups. The report is one more suggestion that studying religious attitudes will help policy-makers understand family trends, which have been analyzed mostly by economics, jobs, race and sex.

"Religious culture or subculture matters," said Sally Gallagher, an Oregon State University sociologist who reviewed the report. Religious belief can "make a difference in men's involvement as parents," she said.

General Social Survey findings from 1994 to 2000 tend to confirm the Wilcox report, said Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which conducts the massive annual survey. "Overall, evangelical Protestant fathers are the most child-oriented while fathers with no religious affiliation are the least focused on children," Mr. Smith said.

While 30 percent of evangelical fathers agree that people without children "lead empty lives," that is the belief of 22 percent of Catholic fathers, 18 percent of mainline Protestant fathers and 10 percent of fathers with no religion.

At the same time, evangelical fathers are less likely to believe they "are very successful in balancing work and family." Just 29 percent think they strike that balance. That compares with 30 percent of Catholics, 36 percent of nonreligious fathers and 42 percent of mainline Protestant churchgoers.

Accordingly, more than half of evangelical (56 percent) and Catholic (52 percent) fathers "want to spend much more time with their families," the NORC survey said. In the Wilcox study, the evangelical category included Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Missionary Alliance, Christian Reformed and other conservative churches. Mainline Protestant fathers were those who identified themselves as Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist or Congregational.

The survey did not assess the educational backgrounds, incomes, professions or work schedules of the fathers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Pope is Here! PTL

Pope Benedict is here in the USA and his visit is making quite a splash. I am happy to see him and I wish him the very best success in igniting a revival of spiritual life in his church.

I am not a Roman Catholic, of course, but we Evangelicals need many good friends in the battle to bring light into the darkness. The current Pope, as was the last, is a good man who preaches many aspects of the Bible that are helpful and healthy. His theology, while imperfect, is better than the nihilism and materialism most often seen in our public life.

One comment caught my eye about the strength of spiritual life in America. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, notes that "religion is deeply rooted in American life despite the separation of church and state."

I would correct his statement to be, "Religion is deeply rooted in American life BECAUSE of the separation of church and state." When Christians came across the sea from Europe and left the state churches in Germany, Ireland, England and Scandinavia they wanted to be free to worship as they wished. It was the Believers who insisted on the separation of church and state and that has not changed since the colonial days.

Free people in free churches led to a competition for converts and members. This meant that lazy ministers and cold, dead congregations did not fare well. People vote with their feet in America. In Europe churches are still funded by tax monies and that has led to large buildings with small congregations.

Lord send revivals and awakenings to America. We need everything you have. And, bless the Pope and his people.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxes without Death

"Our party has been accused of fooling the public by calling tax increases 'revenue enhancement'. Not so. No one was fooled."
-- J. Danforth Quayle V.P.

The more you earn, the less you keep,
And now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to take,
If the tax collector hasn't got it before I wake.
-- Ogden Nash

" The number of words dealing with income taxes in the Internal Revenue Code and IRS regulations rose nearly tenfold between 1955 and 2005, from 718,000 to more than 7 million How is a mugger different from the Internal Revenue Service? Both take your money, but the mugger doesn't make you fill out forms."
--Jacob Sullum in Reason

"More than ever before, Americans are suffering from back problems: back taxes, back rent, back auto payments."
-- Robert Orben

"Taxation with representation ain't so hot either."
-- Gerald Barzan, humorist

"You must pay taxes. But there's no law that says you gotta leave a tip."
-- Advertisement

"The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling."
-- Comedian

"A fool and his money are soon parted. It takes creative tax laws for the rest."
-- C Bob Thaves

"Worried about an IRS audit? Avoid what's called a red flag. That's something the IRS always looks for. For example, say you have some money left in your bank account after paying taxes. That's a red flag."
-- Jay Leno

"If you are truly serious about preparing your child for the future, don't teach him to subtract - teach him to deduct."
-- Fran Lebowitz

" In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other."
-- Voltaire

Monday, April 14, 2008

Essential Life Skills

When I am coaching and Consulting with organizations I am often struck by the fact that almost nobody has had any actual training in the essential skills of being a manager or leader. I met recently with the top dozen managers of a mid sized company and we discussed the lack of training in the essential skills of leading, motivating and influenceing others.

are all about being influential. We are paid to be experts on how to influence our staff, students, parishioners and kids. But I was not taught the skills of influence in any of my classes nor are most of my colleagues.

Right after I finished my doctorate and took the workshop by Dr. Walters I decided to master, write and teach these essential skills to others. Over the past 33 years we have had about 500,000 people read our materials and attend our training. Still, much more needs to be done so we are expanding our ministry.

The first step is laying out the Levels of Leading and Influencing others. The list goes from the most basic and simple to the most difficult and complex. Today I will present the simple ones.

Level 1 Give and Receive Basic Instructions Can understand and written information (one-way) communication. Some people see themselves as slaves who are only listen to the wishes of others.
Level 2 Serve. At this level the servant responds to implicit or explicit requests for action.
Level 3 Amuse Divert others with humor. In America we have moved into the mode of constant entertainment and amusement.
Level 4 Persuade. Influences in favor of a product, service, or point of view.

I often point out that most churches seek a minister who operates at the first four levels. They want a person who can understand orders, carry out the wishes of the people while amusing them and persuading others to do good deeds. Unfortunately, this is not leading.

Is this as far as you were trained? If so, cheer up. Help is on the way.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Honor Your Daughters and Sons

By the time you read this my daughter Julia will have passed 50,000 hits on her blog Hooked On Houses. (See the link on my blog) She is a great writer and has amazing ability to summarize things well.

Julia has only been blogging for a few months and has already surpassed her daddy by many thousands of hits. I have been writing for much longer so I am coveting her gifts. Isn't it grand to see your kids do better than you?

A Winner!!

A few post ago I offered a free book to the first person who completed a song that is one of my favorites.

I wrote:
You gotta know when to hold em,
Know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and ________________

Ron Tate was the winner. His answer: Know when to run!
So, here is his grand prize. The book that is shown on this blog: Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty. It is a great book on how to influence people to change. If you would like to be more successful as a parent, evangelist, pastor or leader, this is the book for you.
The photo above shows the second prize given to Ron for outstanding service to the church for growth and outreach. No, the prize is not Gary but the Sweat Shirt with my logo on it. Now Ron can be a walking advertisement for Sweeten Life Systems.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pray and Support Russia

Gary Ministers to The Baptists
Ministry is difficult in the former USSR. Read the following story from The Moscow Times, an English language paper in Moscow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008.
Issue 3879. Page 03.
FSB Says Foreign NGOs Help Terrorists-Combined Reports
The Federal Security Service on Tuesday accused foreign nongovernmental organizations of helping terrorist groups to recruit in the country.
The remarks by FSB director Nikolai Patrushev came as another government agency said nearly two-thirds of the country's NGOs had disappeared since 2002.
"Emissaries of foreign terror and religious extremist organizations, exploiting socio-economic problems and ethnic and religious differences, are trying to conduct recruiting efforts," Patrushev told law enforcement officials in televised comments.

"Individual foreign nongovernmental organizations provide information support to them to a large extent," he said. He did not appear to identify any particular organization.

"An analysis of the situation in [southern Russia] provides evidence that bandits and their accomplices are engaged in an ideological fight for young people to replenish their ranks," Patrushev said, Interfax reported.

The Federal Registration Service, meanwhile, said the number of NGOs operating in Russia had dropped from 600,000 in 2002 to 227,577 in 2007, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

The drop in figures led some aid workers to speculate that the trend would get worse before it gets better. "We are already forecasting that a mass liquidation of NGOs will occur this summer," Maria Konevskaya, director of the Resursny human rights organization in St. Petersburg, told Vedomosti.
Konevskaya predicted an additional 15,000 to 20,000 NGOs would close this year.

President Vladimir Putin and his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, and others have criticized the work of nongovernmental organizations such as human rights groups. Putin has defended new tighter regulations on NGOs as a way to make sure they are not controlled by what he calls puppeteers from abroad.

In 2007, the first full year the new regulations were in effect, more than 11,000 NGOs were denied registration and 8,274 registered groups were closed by court order.

Take a look at the Liferoute Ministry that operates with our love, prayers and support.

Right now they are desperate to rent a new place to meet and minister. It would take 1/2 million dollars to buy a place. Pray for God's intervention.
Send support to:
Liferoute c/o
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, 45249

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Great International Relationships

The challenge of Believers in Russia and the other nations who lived for seventy years under the cruel rule of the Socialists is great. Thanks be to God, they are, with our support, making progress.
Our friends are working hard to develop great relationships with God and one another for many years. However, they need our help.

The Socialists did so much damage to the people, the nation and creation that it will take decades to repair. Read this report about the crisis.

Nikolai Malakhov, mayor of the southwestern town of Chapayevsk, formerly home to Soviet arms factories that produced toxic agents, wants to close the town permanently. he told visiting officials that closing the town and resettling its residents would be the "ideal solution". It is reported that "mortality rates caused by tuberculosis, cancer of the throat, liver and the kidneys are three times higher in Chapayevsk than in the rest of the region."
Pray intentionally for the Russian people. Take a look at their web site.

Great Relationships

So, here is our latest attempt to communicate who we are and what we do. We teach, train and develop people with the ability to enjoy
"A lifetime of great relationships." TM

Great relationships are central to healthy and growing families, healthy and prosperous businesses, healthy and faithful churches, healthy neighborhoods that lead to dynamic and civil societies.

Ever since I entered college I have been convinced that building peopl and organizations with Great Relationships was key to physical, mental and emotional health. That conviction was strengthened in Graduate School when I studied the power of groups to influence their members. My assent grew even more during doctoral studies when I read volumes of research that confirmed the biblical statement that, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue."

Every one of my books, articles and equipping classes ends up supporting the notion that strong, healthy, uplifting relationships are promoted by the Bible precisely because God created us to love and care for one another.

So, it takes sense that Sweeten Life Systems will focus on developing people, families and organizations that support and build up Great Relationships.

"A Lifetime of great relationships." TM
Sweeten Life Systems is always building
Great relationships with God
Great relationships with family
Great relationships at work
Great relationships with neighbors
Great relationships around the world

Support Sweeten Life Systems and help build great relationships
Sweeten Life Systems
P. O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Easter Greetings

Happy Easter

Friends at Dwelling Place Church

Easter is the most important day in Christianity. Te resurrection of a dead man is a hard act to follow. Many important religious leaders have spoken well, taught good things and set up good rules.

Only Jesus came back from the grave after a Crucifixion and being dead three days. Hallelujah! He's alive!

Dwelling Place for Easter

Easter at Dwelling Place

Our primary fellowship is The Dwelling Place. It is a small, group of wonderful people who meet in homes and a little white church building in Loveland. The building doesn't makesthe church, the church makes the building.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Rest in Christ

When Consulting and Coaching Leaders I sometimes tell them that a favorite hymn of the church is by Kenny Rogers.

It goes like this:

You gotta know when to hold em
Know when to fold em
Know when to walk away, and
Know when to ______________!

(I bet you can fill in the blank. The person who makes comment number three will receive a free training book on timing of ministry interventions.)

The essence of Christian is having discernment about what is the best thing to do in a decision. Here is a time when God knew that the best thing to do was "Walk away from trouble."

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle." Exodus 13:17-18 (NIV)

One of the problems with a lot of unbalanced theology is its obsession with "The Silver Bullet Syndrome". When there is trouble in river city, all we need to do is call for The Lone Ranger who will clean up the troubles and leave a silver bullet in his wake. And, it is solved in 30 minutes!

American loves the instant mashed potato, quick fix of a Silver Bullet Syndrome. We hear it all the time from preachers and evangelists who say things like:

1. Just come to Jesus and everything will be fine. It can be summarized by slogans like, "No Jesus, No Peace! Know Jesus Know Peace"!

2. The people who promote prophesy bring in "prophets" who will read your mind and tell you what will happen in the future. When the prophesy fails the person is left thinking they messed up God's plan.

3. Then there are the "Name it and claim it, blab it and grab it" healing guys. They promise the Silver Bullet of total healing with no relapses" to anyone who has the sure faith. When there is any pain or sickness the patient is made to believe that it is his lack of faith that has caused his relapse.

I am picking up the broken pieces of so many ministers and their wives who were taught this kind of toxic, self defeating theology that it is a near epidemic. Their depression, anxiety and family conflict to say nothing of the sexual compulsions and moral lapses are painful to see.

Even more disturbing is the awful, works righteous responses by so many ministries to suggest even harsher legalisms and punishments. These push the pain farther within the heart making it harder to root out and more likely that the people will fall again.
Will you help support our ministry to leaders in trouble?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Making a Difference?

What would you say if you had a month to live and were offered an opportunity to tell people some of the most important things you have learned? There is a tradition at some universities called, "The Last Lecture" that is based on that premise.

Professors and administrators who are retiring or leaving for other reasons are asked to deliver their "Last will and testament" to their students, faculty friends or a general audience. It is a big moment that requires some careful thought. As a Believer, I would want to say things that left a positive and uplifting spiritual message but that is tricky business.

One man was able to do this quite well. In my opinion he was sensitive to all of his audiences. Watch the video and see what you think.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Living Large in the Workplace

I grew up with the idea that church and work were supposed to be clearly separated. We lived and worked and played in a secular world and went to church to be spiritual. I was wrong.
Don't misunderstand what me. I am not saying that we who Believe that Jesus died and rose again from the grave ought to be standing on a soap box and expounding on a favorite text from Holy Writ. I have worked in several organizations where that would have been inappropriate, offensive and illegal.

I worked at the University of Cincinnati for six years as an Associate Dean of Students. I had a wonderful boss, Dr. Bill Nester, who used his faith to be a blessing to many people. Bill encouraged me to integrate God's love and word into my life on campus whenever possible. However, most of the time it was by relating to people with the Fruit of the Spirit. "Love, joy, peace, gentleness and patience..." are always acceptable to others. Galatians 5:22ff

U.C. was a State University and it was illegal for me to agressively promote my Christian faith to students. However, showing God's love in practical ways is never out of bounds. I often spoke about God and pray for students but I always asked permission first.

One day I asked a young man suffering from depression if I might include him in my personal prayers. He said, "No"! I replied that if that was what he wanted it would be fine with me. We have no right to attempt to force our views on others. It is disrespectful of both God and the person to do so.

If we truly trust God we can relax and initiate a specific action step only when the Spirit has first prepared the way. Many Christians think they need to "help God out" by pressuring people to listen to their testimony or receive prayer. God does not need our help. He is perfectly able to tell us when and how to minister at work. However, when He does show up, be bold and offer God's love to the person in need.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Quotes: Someone Said It

Holding on to bitterness and unforgiveness is like personally drinking arsenic and expecting the rats to die. Anonymous

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus