Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We Are Moving

Karen and I have been packing and preparing to move for a few weeks. Tomorrow is the day we close on this condo as well as the new condo. It has been a lot of work. We moved here almost exactly eleven years ago. So, we needed to get rid of a lot of stuff.

We are moving to Mason, just a few miles up the road from here but in a new county and new town. We bought a condo with a basement so we have room for the kids and grand kids to visit. We love having them with us. Tim and Shelley along with Jack and Emma live in Pittsburg now so we are tempting the to come back home.
The new address and phone numbers are easy to remember, I hope.
Gary and Karen Sweeten
4440 Black Oak Lane
Mason, Ohio 45040
Cell 513-300-5065
Land Line 513-204-1644
Fax Line 513-204-1655./
The Ministry address is still
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455

Cincinnati, Ohio 45249

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Atheism: Is Religion Evil?

Love Wins Out!

There have been a spate of books and TV shows as well as articles and even a movie with Bill Maher saying that religion makes us lazy, crazy, evil and awful. Well, what think ye?

The Left Wing of America and Western Europe agree that we who believe in God are awful people. We are all racists who gleefully punish gays and lesbians while planning how to torture dogs and cats.

Well, what does research say about us? Do scientists who study such things agree with Maher, Hitchens and the new Atheistic Movement? Nope! According to the research, religious people are kinder, gentler and more giving than those who attend "Bedside Baptist".

Take a look at the article by a well known researcher David Meyer. His research shows a very different kind of person than the one so many people in the media love to hate. Will we ever get a fair shake from the Left Wing?

I recently read an article by a media maven from Washington, D.C. who called Gov. Sarah Palin a "Christian Fascist" because she believes in spiritual warfare. Do you believe what Ephesians 6:10 ff says about "Fighting principalities and powers"? Do you consider yourself a Fascist?

Jesus said that we would be persecuted if we followed Him. The way things are going, it may come to pass before long. But, we are not to fear because God's Spirit is with us. And, Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies and those who would treat us badly? No wonder some consider us to be Fascist!

Gary Sweeten

Welcome Holy Spirit

Lord, do it again!

Do your consider yourself a Trinitarian or a Bitarian? Unfortunately, many solid Believers fail to recognize that the Holy Spirit is as much a Person and partner in the Trinity as the Father and Son.

Back in the Eighties I was President of the Presbyterian Renewal Ministries. One year I met with other heads of "God's frozen chosen" groups to plan a conference on renewal and revival. I was not so politely invited to resign from the Executive Committee because, a Pastor said, "Your group puts too much emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, leaving Jesus and The Father out of our conversations."

This Pastor had a Doctorate in Theology and led the largest Presbyterian Church in America. He acted like a Bitarian who recognized only the Father and Son leaving the Holy Spirit out of his life and ministry. His church was really big but quite powerless and flat.

The other members of the group protested. One Pastor said, "If Gary and his group leave I will leave. They are the ones that have promoted Spiritual Renewal and Revival for years while we have focused primarily on political and legislative changes. If we don't have the presence and power of the Spirit at our conference and in our churches nothing good will happen."

When Jesus was about to leave the earth, He transferred His ongoing ministry to the Apostles. In John 14 and 15 He made it clear how that would happen.

I will pray the Father who will give you another Comforter who will be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth who the world cannot receive. In fact the world cannot even see, or know Him. But you shall know Him because He will be with you and in you. John 14: 16-17

It is one thing for the world of unbelievers to deny the person and work of the Holy Spirit but it is quite another when Believers do. We cannot be Christians unless the Spirit give us life. We are born again by the invisible Spirit of God.

We cannot know God's truth unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. The third Person of the Trinity is hard to understand with our small minds but we do know that there is no revival, no awakening, no salvation and no truth without His interventions.

God the Holy Spirit is always working behind the scenes to accomplish His work and our works. Just because He is invisible to our human eye does not mean that He is not a real Person with ideas, emotions, desires and interests, just like the Father and the Son.

This coming Sunday Pastor Rich Femia and I are planning to launch a series of teachings on The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit at the Dwelling Place in Loveland, Ohio. The Dwelling Place is a small, intimate fellowship of Believers originally gathered by the Lord out of the Jesus Movement in the Seventies. It was formerly called, Remington Fellowship.

Max and Colleen Greissinger will lead us in worship and praise reminiscent of past Revivals; praise that is still within our hearts and minds and needs no song books to remember!

We have invited several of our friends from past renewals and expect the Holy Spirit to bring insight, joy, love and power to bear on our small gathering. We want God to bring us truth, love and healing along with direction and encouragement, so invite your friends.

I will bring a message on the Person and work of the Spirit and others will share their experiences with the Spirit. We will pray for people and enjoy the Trinity.

Directions to the Dwelling Place
Go 275 East past I-75 to the Loveland Madeira Exit.
Right off the exit to the UDF.
Turn Left at UDF and go under the Railroad Trestle to Remington Road.
Turn right on Remington Road and the little white church is straight ahead.
9335 Remington Road
Loveland, OH 45140
Service Sunday morning, November 2 at 10:30-12:00
Gary Sweeten

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Christian Growth and Healing

For the last thirty years or so I have been busily engaged in helping Christians grow into mature, healthy individuals and families. This includes church and small group growth.

One of the books I have found to be most interesting and informative was written by a Puritan Pastor named John Owen and is titled, Sin and Temptation. In it, Owen strongly focuses on 'indwelling sin" as a theme that is essential to Christian growth and healing. By recognizing that sinful tendencies are basic to our nature after knowing Christ, I can deal with temptation, failures and immaturity without lapsing into morbid self condemnation and shameful self hatred.

A pervasive problem faced by serious, pious Christians is the notion that I could be and should be living above sin, sickness and sadness. When that ideal fails, I am thrust into the bog of despair and hopelessness. Such beliefs keep me focused on my PERFORMANCE rather than the finished work of Christ.

The popularity of sermons and books on working harder to obey God, please Jesus and do more to be a "godly person" shows how prevalent this false idea is. People really love to discuss their own works, even if they are defective. Listen to how often people say such things as:

"I know I should do more to please God and be a better Christian, but..."

"I should pray more, read the Bible more and love Jesus better."

And Preachers point at us and say, "You should be doing more, sharing more, giving more, reading more, attending more..."

Then we sing, "Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow." Such obvious contradictions leave Believers dazed and confused. How are they supposed to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit when we think such thoughts? It is almost impossible to think clearly and feel the joy of the Lord.

When I realize that I have a disease dwelling deep within my heart, mind and body called "The Old Man" it helps me see that anything I do for God and in righteousness comes form the Holy Spirit. Left to my own devices I will fail every time. But, because the Spirit is with me and in me I can occasionally do something right and godly.

We have a habit of thinking, talking and feeling irrationally. We say to a child that just spilled his milk, "Clean that milk up. It shouldn't be on the floor." But rationally speaking, it "should" be on the floor because he tripped and the milk came out of the glass and gravity pulled it to the carpet.

By saying such crazy things to ourselves and others we bring confusion, false guilt and even shame into our lives. It is rational and reasonable to say, "I wish you hadn't spilled the milk. Now it needs to be cleaned up."

Now transfer this to our self talk about morals and ethics. Instead of saying, " I should be a better Christian" I can think, "I want to read the Bible and pray more so I can understand God and His way better." My performance does not change my relationship with God as His child but it can enhance my understanding of my heavenly Father.

God does not command us to do the impossible. He does not say, "You must live above sin, sickness and sadness." He does promise that we can increase our joy, love and peace by walking and talking with Him on a daily basis.

I can also increase my spiritual growth by thinking reasonably and rationally about myself and the fact that it is God who works in us to produce all good things because there is nothing good in me without Him.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Addiction and Healing

Families need help!
He may think he is a great dad but he is one of the worst dads in America! This is the shirt he wore after police picked him up for being drunk and disorderly.

Pastor Rich Femia and I recently spoke with a woman whom he met a few weeks ago. Back then she had been through a terrible ordeal. Her husband is an alcoholic whose drunken binges regularly ended in chaos and physical abuse.

This woman, like far too many people in similar situations, thought it was important for her to "be there for him". This meant that she would take the beatings and allow him to terrorize her and the children. That is wrong!

Rich had urged her to see that she was not helping her husband nor her kids. It damaged her and the children when she allowed him to act out his drunken rage on them. He said, "Jesus does not want you to accept this kind of treatment."
As a result of Rich's encouragement and the Spirit of God she called the police and had him arrested and thrown in jail. That sobered him up and the judge took the opportunity to give this man a stiff and therapeutic sentence.

1. Time in jail gave him a chance to reconsider his drunken and violent ways.
2. He was banned from bars, taverns or social clubs for one year.
3. He must attend Alcoholics Anonymous for a year.
Hurrah for the judge! Thank God we are getting judges who better understand addictions.
Hurrah for Pastor Rich who understands God and addictions.

I asked the woman if she was going to attend Al Anon. Unfortunately, no one had helped her figure out how to interact in a healthy manner with this chronic alcoholic. What can she do if and when he relapses? How does she handle his anger? How does she deal with her kids and her own grief?

Every family member who has or ever had an addict in the family needs to attend Al Anon. Go to this link for information.

AA and its sister organizations are powerful sources for growth and healing. Other than the Bible, it has the most spiritually insightful materials ever written.
Gary Sweeten

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Correction and Update

I received a nice note from an old friend. He asked me to clarify my last post about the power of ordinary people. Let me assure you that I am not attacking clinical counseling and clinical counselors. Rather, I am promoting the need for many more churches to train non-professionals to better care for hurting people. I am thankful for the opportunity to clarify the issue.

I am not suggesting that Christians need to avoid counseling by professional psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors. To the contrary, I was a Licensed Counselor for many years before I retired. I founded a Christian in-patient hospital unit for adults and one for adolescents. We still operate Life Way Counseling Centers with professional therapists who do a great job.

Professionals are necessary and they fill a critical need in the community. The problems I see are several.

1. Some people insist that only professionals can be helpful to those in distress. That is untrue. Laity can be trained to care and counsel effectively.
2. Some counselors try to train laity but they focus wrongly on making them "little professional counselors" with lots of information and theories that professionals need but lay folks do not.
3. Some churches resist training or referring to lay care givers. This is a mistake. Every Pastor needs to know how to refer members to AA and Al Anon.

Your church can be a great healing community if you train your people to care. This will enhance the spiritual, emotional and relational health of the entire church. It will make your people better care givers and provide alternative ways for them to get counseling.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Pillar of International Missions

Go into all the world and make disciples!

One of my favorite Seasoned Believers is Donna Thomas. She and husband Charles founded a concept that has revolutionized world missions. Their idea was to partner with local ministers and Christian leaders in various nations and support them with funds, education, love and friendship. It worked then and it works now. They called it, "Project Partners" because they partner with nationals as equals.

The idea that Western Ministries ought to develop friendships with national Pastors and support their indigenous ways to evangelizing and church growth is revolutionary. It has led to some of the fastest growing and healthiest groups I know in India, China and Mexico. They are planting thousands of churches and equipping multiplied thousands of "Barefoot Pastors" to evangelize and disciple the new converts.

I received a memo from Donna and I want to share her need with you. Please pray for her trip to visit Samuel Stevens and The India Gospel League, one of the dynamic ministries she and Chuck founded years ago.
Dear Gary,

I am leaving for India October 29th to attend Samuel’s son’s wedding and also to lead, teach, train, etc. in various meetings there. I will leave India on the 11th of November and arrive home on the 12th.

On a trip like this I need prayer partners that will stand with me that I may be useful to the Lord in all circumstances. If you would be a prayer partner with me, please ... let me know.

Donna S. Thomas
3560 Towne Drive
Carmel, IN 46032

Click on Donna's web site and buy one of her books. She is a great writer and speaker.

Gary Sweeten

Models of Missions and Ministry

Listen with Love

In line with the last post, I am writing about the need to promote world and national missions with a model that unleashes the ordinary Christians in churches. Any other model sets up a system that causes the target audience to be dependent upon outsiders. For example, I have a book titled, When Charity Drives out Dignity, written by a missionary named Glenn Schwartz. It lays out example after example of failed attempts of outside missionaries with pure motivation who came in to rescue the nationals. Many of these efforts failed because the nationals were overly dependent upon Western dollars and ideas.

The Western model of Professionalism and Schoolization has led us to deny the biblical model of Socialization through spiritual communities and empowered Believers with little education. St. Paul was a brilliant and well educated man. However, he consistently down played his credentials to emphasize the power of faith and the Holy Spirit.

I have a Doctorate in Counseling and I have learned some things that are important to treating people with severe problems. However, what I know and what the research from the past forty years shows is how powerfully helpful ordinary people can be when they love and listen to those in emotional pain.

Yes, I have spent the last thirty years training lay care givers to be more effective. However, I carefully avoid teaching all the psychological theories from Freud, Jung and their offspring. I recently listened to the tapes of a Professor at a Christian College and Seminary. He spent 90% of his time teaching a beginning group of ministers and lay volunteers about the in depth psycho-spiritual models of counseling and psychotherapy. I listened in alarm. It was unhelpful and even harmful.

This is one reason it may be dangerous to ask Clinical Therapists to train ministers and Christian laity to care and counsel. Most have been trained to look as "Clients and Patients" who are mentally ill. These folks do need expert intervention, but that is not enough. Research from the past forty years of clinical practice shows deeply hurting people need more than medication and psychology. They also need love and prayer and biblical truth.

There are several people who train lay volunteers to do intensive healing interventions such as inner healing, prayer therapy, formation prayer, theophostics, etc. I am thankful for those interventions and know they can be helpful. However, the techniques are often taught to men and women who are emotionally fragile and unstable. These techniques can never replace listening in love, renewing the mind and mutual support.

The Most Important Factors in Emotional Healing
1. Expert Interventions: A small factor
2. Hope of the Seeker that we can help them: The same as the expert intervention
3. Helper care, empathy, respect: As much as the first two put together
4. Seeker Motivation and Support: More helpful than anything else.

Learn to listen. Learn to pray. Learn to encourage.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Power of People Helping People

Galina, a professional Psychiatrist, with her lay team in Russia.
They are changing the churches and the nation

We live in a mythical society with powerful lies that keep us bound to practices that do not work. For example, that only professionals can help people grow, learn, heal and recover from deep spiritual and emotional problems.

In 1969, just as I was starting my doctoral work in counseling, I heard two of the greatest psychologists in history speak about the power of ordinary people to help themselves and others get through the challenges of life.

What these men said made such an impact on me that I changed my career emphasis and wrote my dissertation on the power of Christians to provide care, counseling and coaching to one another. Carl Rogers, perhaps the most influential Psychologist in America, said that lay counselors were as effective as professionals.

Then O.H. Mowrer, founder of Integrity Therapy, said, "The early Christian Church was the most powerful healing community the world has ever known." Those two simple statements hit me like a tornado for I was studying to be a professional, clinical therapist. I had pursued a doctorate because I thought my educational insights were too weak to deal with the levels of need I saw among the students. I was right in some ways but I was wrong as well.

Mowrer and Rogers said that ordinary lay people were more powerful than any professional counselors. WOW! If true, that would change how we delivered care and counsel forever. I found in my research that Dr. Mowrer was right but his facts have been carefully kept away from the church and the American citizens.

Most people still think that the only answer to mental and emotional and relational pain is to see a professional and take drugs. This is not true. Lay volunteers are currently the largest untapped resource for good the world has ever seen. Let's tap them!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Russian Economy

Gary and Galina near Moscow

When I talk about my trip to Russia I am often greeted by Americans and Europeans who say, "Their economy is really great. It isn't in trouble like ours is it?" This is dead wrong. How in the world can we in the West assume that the Russian economy is in great shape?

Maybe because what we read in the papers and hear on TV. They usually report how much money the Russian government is taking in through their oil and gas revenues and assume, wrongly, that the citizens of Russia are benefitting greatly from the billions controlled by The Kremlin.

Remember that Russia is not a Democratic Republic built on Capitalism. Most of the Russian people live from hand to mouth and have to work two or three jobs to pay rent and eat. Even those with high jobs in the military, police, government and medicine must try to eke out a better living by using their cars as a taxi or taking bribes.

Bribes are everywhere. Ikea was not able to open their store in Moscow for eight years because they refused to pay a large bribe. It is often impossible to find an office space or run a business unless you pay bribes.

Our taxi was stopped one day and the driver had to pay a $40.00 fine ON THE SPOT to the officer. That is a huge fine to a taxi driver and much more than he would make by driving us and more than the officer can make in his salary. As they say, "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us".

Prices in Moscow are sky high but the people make very little. The Kremlin is rich in oil revenues but the common citizen gets little or none of it. A few thousand oligarchs get it all. This is one reason why so many churches can only exist if they get support from Western friends.

Pray for our Russian friends. They are doing a great job of spreading the good news to thousands. They are loyal Russians who love their country and are not trying to change it. They are far too busy trying to survive to get involved in politics.
Gary Sweeten

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Charitable Giving

Helping others help!
The financial buy out bill allows us to give from our retirement IRA's tax free! According to the Wall Street Journal, now is the time to use IRA accounts for charitable giving in 2008. Read the story about how Uncle Sam will help you support Sweeten Life Systems and your church.

Karen and I will consider that option. I am over Seventy and have to take a certain amount out of my IRA. If I just transfer the amount to my bank account we will have to pay taxes. Despite some politician's desire to force me to be fair by givings my savings to others, I prefer to help my favorite charities to expand the good news and good works.

I have worked and saved for Fifty years. I often worked two jobs. I attended college with my own money. Karen and I have lived below our means because we are thrifty. We have always given 10% or more to the Lord's work.

Now some fat cat pols tell me I have not been fair because I worked hard and saved my money! They make millions and give little to their own families or charity but say I am unfair.

I will give my required amount to charity as part of my tithe. We Christians have been not only fair but generous. I am ready to use the tax system so the Lord's work can prosper.

Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm Home

My rented three room flat in Moscow with a stove from the Forties. It is "worth" about $300,000.00 to buy.

I arrived safely in Cincinnati after a long but uneventful flight from Copenhagen to Paris to Northern Ky. Flying is glamorous! It is so wonderful to have people in blue uniforms and white surgical gloves do a full body search of your entire person while you stand spread eagle with no shoes or self respect in front of hundreds of adoring international visitors.

The lines and rules get more ridiculous all the time, to say nothing of the increased cost to the paying public. But I thank God for America. Despite the frenzied reactions to every failure in life by overanxious officials we are still a great place to live. But, the "government first" folks will soon turn us into a smaller version of Socialist Europe if we are not careful. They will take the money from those who work and give it to those who don't.

Our European and Russian friends are terrific and are doing great things for God. Revival and Reformation are needed there and God is blessing them individually but few churches are growing. Keep them in your prayers for Christians in Europe remain America's friends despite the rantings of many of their leaders.

We are, however, so wealthy and have life so good here even after the money crises. We are blessed and I am thankful to be home.

We are moving. With another new grand baby we need a bit more room. We have bought a condo in Mason with a basement. Now those beautiful kids will actually have a bed to sleep in. Go to my daughter's blog to see the photos.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Charity: What to Do?

The following story comes from one of my favorite newspapers, The Straits Times in Singapore.

FIVE years after the eruption of the National Kidney Foundation scandal, Mr Willie Cheng, who blew the whistle on its then-$189 million reserves, breaks his silence. With a book, no less.

He has written an authoritative tome on the charity sector, covering everything from nonprofit management to philanthropic giving, called Doing Good Well, which will be launched on Wednesday.
It has a chapter containing what Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of today's NKF, calls 'the most complete and insightful account' of the NKF fall-out. Here are excerpts of ST's interview with him, where he talks about the most memorable lessons he has learnt in the last five years.
Q. After five years in non-profit work, what's the most memorable lesson you've learnt?
A. One thing that struck me quite a fair bit recently is that you don't need to be immersed in charities to be charitable or make an impact on charity.
The likes of William Hewlett and David Packard probably made a much bigger impact than say, even Professor Muhammad Yunus who founded Grameen Bank, a community development bank in Bangladesh that makes small loans to the impoverished without requiring collateral.
Prof Yunus has been widely celebrated, winning the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, deservedly so, for his contributions to microfinance.
Hewlett and Packard founded HP which changed the way the world works and live through technology. In addition, they left behind two charitable foundations with more than $15 billion in assets and which have been making grants of $500 million every year.

What wrapped it up for me was billionaire investor Warren Buffet. When asked by Fortune in 2006 why he waited so long to give away his money, he said he thought the person compounding money at a faster rate than most people was in a better position to give to charity 20 years later.

Go to the Straits Times for the rest of the story.
Here we are in Karlslunde, Denmark, the center of spiritual renewal in that nation for forty years. Denmark has an official state Lutheran Church so making changes in the spiritual and religious life is difficult. However, Helge Pahaus, the local Lutheran Pastor, came to America in the Seventies and sent back tapes of leaders of the Jesus Revival to his flock.

Many thought he was having a break down not a break through. But they received his teaching and opened themselves to God for love and power. Now thousands of men and women around Denmark and Europe have been touched by this dynamic church that has been the center for Teleios Denmark, Alpha and OASE.

The lady in front is Regina Jorgensen, who might be considered the "Mother" of Danish Holy Spirit Renewal/Revival". Her daughter Kirsten Callesen is next to her in the photo. She is a Psychologist and an expert in treating Autism. Son Peter Dyhr, not shown, is a Lutheran Pastor and expert in church planting.

The bearded man is Peder Poulsen, a Danish Pastor and now heads a Family Counseling Center. Peder is very instrumental in the renewal movement in Scandinavia. We met while falling down a hill attempting to ski. Both Peder and Kirsten have developed unique ministries as a result of the Teleios Training they received from Sweeten Life in the Eighties.

(Teleios is the name I gave to the ministry at College Hill Church and later at EMI of presenting all Christians whole in Christ. These folks are actively using and teaching these same skills in a variety of ways.)

On the far right is Jens-Petter Jorgensen, my friend since 1983 and the founder/head of OASE, the Norwegian Renewal Group for twenty years. Jens-Petter is a member of the Sweeten Life Board. He teaches at Ansgar, an influential seminary in Norway, while mentoring, coaching and training pastors. He has also developed a new approach to implementing the Teleios Courses for leaders.

The work God ordained so many years ago at College Hill is growing and gaining strength all over the world. (See the posts about Russia.) His plans are always "Yes, and Amen!"

Gary Sweeten
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Monday, October 13, 2008

From Russia with Love

I was in Russia for two weeks and we had a great time. I was able to sp;end a good bit of quality time with the leadership team and discuss what they see as the keys to healthy ministry. It was agreed by the whole group that learning the ABCD process of Renewed Thinking was the best thing that happened in their learning.

Now the team is responsible to carry the materials and processes to other churches and towns around Russia. In the next couple of weeks on of the men, a Pastor, will make to big trips to teach a new crop of students. Then, later, he flies to the work camp set apart for alcoholics and drug addicts. The camp is over a thousand miles from Moscow and it is filled with a combination of alcoholic boys and hard boiled criminals.

The groups being set up and supported by our friends have proven to be very powerful in rehabbing the young men struck in those camps. Now, Pastor A___ wants to set up a church just for the men who come to faith in Christ and get off drugs through the Christian groups. If you are interested in supporting Pastor A ____ let me know. His church will be designed especially for those coming out of drugs and prison.

One of the best things I saw upon landing in Copenhagen was a water fountain. Yep, a plain old water foungtain. Every drop of water drunk of used for tea in Russia must be bought. Ahhh! The simple pleasures of Denmark.

Gary Sweeten

Copenahgen, Denmark

Denmark Hello

I met today with four long time friends from Scandinavia. We all came together in Copenhagen to discuss the possibility of having a gathering next spring. Peder Poulsen, Jens-Petter Jorgensen, Regina Joergensen (Gina) and Kristin Callesen to hear from each other what has been happening in our lives since we last met during one fo the varius Teleios events in Scandinavia. All but Jens-Petter are Danes. He is Norwegian.

I met Jens-Petter in Kenya, Africa in October 1983 so it is the 25th anniversary of our first connection. At that time he invited me to come to Norway to speak. Over time we developed a close personal and ministerial relationship. Teleios Norway came out of that fruitful interaction and hundreds of people experienced the love, truth and power of Jesus Christ as a result.

All of them are now Seasoned Believers, who have followed Christ for decades. Attending the Teleios courses and investing in the dept of the Teleios philosophy of Great Relationahips with God and others, each of us has grown in spirit, soul and ministry.

I will write more on those changes later.

Gary Sweeten
Copenhagen, Denmark

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Growing Influence

After the resurrection of Jesus, His acension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, there was a powerful movement of Christian growth as people came to faith and passed the word from household to household and person to person. In the Book of Acts we can see how God used a few committed believers to spread the gospel.

The strategy of Jesus was simple, send the best trained leaders out from Jerusalem to various cities and preach the good news then disciple or equip them to reproduce themselves in that region. It proved to be a remarkably successful approach. In about 300 years the Roman Empire was afire with Christians despite persecution and oppression.

What is generally overlooked by modern Christians is how slow but steady that method proved to be. We truly love a quick fix. We want to preach a few sermons, preferably on radio and TV, and let the newly converted babies rear themselves. That approach in Russia and Eastern Europe has proved disasterous. Many of the new churches planted by this method after Perestroika have closed and others are very weak.

Our approach is different. First, we do not plant new churches but support the churches and leaders already here. They know the culture, spiritual needs and the best ways to share the gospel and follow up with discipleship. It is a slow bu powerful model much like that Jesus suggested.

In this part of the world, almost eveyone has been traumatized and, as a result, suffers from emotional and relational problems. Addictive behavior has been rampant ever since Peter The Great promoted alcohol as an essential part of government. The Soviets exacerbated that problem and cigarrettes have become a partner to alcohol as an agent of death, destruction and depression.
We have introduced the 12 Step Groups here and find that when they are cobined with prayer, scripture and worship they provide a wonderful process for getting and staying sober. As many as 75 to 80% of all men are alcoholics! Read Isaiah 28 for the reasons why.
The 12 Steps are a wonderful summary of basic Christianity. The local Christians have added several "Group Rules" that assist in training the people to listen, care and break the patterns of co-dependency. Pray for the leaders. Next week some of them will travel to cities far from Moscow to train more leaders. They are literally "Going into all the world and making disciples" by "teaching them to do everything that Jesus did."
If you can support one of the Russian leaders, let us know.
Gary Sweeten
My last letter from Moscow this trip

Friday, October 10, 2008

Miracles Needed

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17 NAS).

“For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 NKJV).

The writer of the book of Hebrews says:

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Heb. 1:3 NIV).

The French theologian Auguste Lecerf made this observation: “The constant relations which we call natural laws are simply ‘divine habits’: or, better, the habitual order which God imposes on nature. It is these habits, or this habitual process, which constitute the object of the natural and physical sciences.” God works according to a pattern. Creation works according to what has been described as a “great cosmic liturgy.”

What is a “miracle” then? A miracle is not God “breaking” the so-called “laws of nature.” A miracle is simply God doing something contrary to His normal pattern. It is an exception to His ordinary, usual way of doing things. It is not His “bursting” into His created order and acting, because He is always acting. He is the one who “moves” the sun across the heavens (or rotates the earth), at a consistent speed. This is His daily divine habit. But let’s say one day He decides to make the sun stand still, as He chose to do in Joshua’s day. Is He not simply deviating from His “normal routine?”

To quote Lecerf: “The miracle, in its form, is but a deviation from the habitual course of natural phenomena, provoked by the intervention of a new factor: an extraordinary volition of God. There is, thus, no violation of law, as scientifically defined, since every scientific law supposes this restriction, explicit or implicit: all things being equal in all respects.”

What this means is that we must toss out this traditional distinction between the natural and the supernatural. By the way, this distinction is rooted in Greek philosophy, not in Biblical thinking. The Biblical worldview is radically different and does not draw this natural/supernatural distinction. I suggest that we take the word “supernatural” out of our vocabulary, and begin to think and speak of God as He reveals Himself to be in the Scriptures. Romans 11:36 says, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” The same God who “performs” miracles also brings about the everyday “mundane” things such as causing the grass to grow, sending the rain, etc., it’s all God in an intimate, personal way going about the directing of His creation.

As a minister of the gospel I am constantly looking for God to upset the “natural order of sinful humanity” and break into our lives with grace and mercy. Sin is rampant in every nation, culture and society. Yet, God continually does miracles and brings men and women to Himself. He heals their broken spirits and reconciles dysfunctional generational curses while bringing sobriety to the drunken and clarity to the confused.

At this time of international monetary worries, we need to be praying for God's grace and mercy as well as His miraculous interventions. It is for sure that we have no power to change things.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


One of the keys to good spiritual health is appreciation. My friends in Russia have a lot of that commodity. Despite having lived through a history of many bloody wars and revolutions as well as famine and persecution, many of my friends here appreciate God's love and mercy in a very deep way. Maybe that appreciation comes from having faced so many trials and tribulations.

I spoke yesterday with the woman who published our book, Listening for Heaven's Sake, in Russian. She mentioned that the number of Russian Protestant churches is shrinking from the high of the revivals in the Nineties. It is too hard to maintain a church here. Many of the new churches were started or funded by Western missionaries but could not sustain themselves after the missionaries left.

This is why it is so important to support local Russian leaders. Russian nationals must learn how to lead the churches here and overcome the many challenges they face. Space is very limited and money scarce. Getting from place to place to place long and streneous. Seventy years of Socialist oppression has left the people stunned and too often involved in addictive behaviors that chalenge the church in every way.

I am convinced that the work of equipping and encouragement is the most important thing we can do. Healthy leaders are necessary to have a chelthy church. None of us can lead others farther than we have gone ourselves. Leadership!

Thanks for your prayers. Our local friends do appreciate them very much.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I mentioned in my last post about the volunteer team here in Russia. They work so hard and face so many barriers that I am amazed at their courage and perseverance.

One Pastor travels for 75 miles each way to lead the groups in Moscow. He and others get there early to clean up, set up food and drinks and even put light bulbs in so we can see. They take them out after the groups or they will be stolen. They bring toilet paper, towels, bread, meat, tea, coffee, etc. They actually have to make the place work every time.

Pray for space that is theirs.

Growing Believers

Here I am again, sitting in an internet cafe named Asia that is just a ten minute walk from my flat. It has fairly inexpensive food and charges two US dollars for an hour of internet time.

The TV in my rented room has no cable and the only way I can get news from back home is to get a rare English paper or go online. The stock market here is tanking badly and the Russians are blaming the US for being too greedy. Oh well, another reason for people overseas to blame the US for everything.

Watching the stock market at home go down provides me with a wonderful opportunity to learn to trust God for the future, again and again. I left Cincinnati the day after Dow Jones dropped by a huge amount and had to learn to pray for God's peace because I had to face the fact that I am powerless.
Here in Russia Galina and her team of hard working volunteers (See Photos) have been training a lot of churches and volunteer groups to lead 12 step groups. This is essential in Eastern Europe where smoking, drinking and drugs are rampant. Step One is to recognize our Powerlessness and the current market reminds us of that fact. I did not control its rise and I can not control its drop.

I have been visiting Russia since 1991 and I am amazed at the many ways the team here is growing in its ability to help ordinary people. From the Ural Mountains to Ukraine to Moscow they have set up 12 Step Groups, Apples Training, Renewing the Mind Clases and Family Systems Healing Seminars. I can see enormous differences in the lives of so many wonderful people.

The materials and processes we developed way back in the Seventies and adopted from AA are working here just as well or better than in the States. Thanks for your prayers and financial support. But life is tougher here than at home. Several families live together in tiny two and three ROOM flats. Mom, Dad, Daughter and Son in Law with three little kids all together in three rooms! Can you imagine?
Now that is learning to get along with your in laws!

Pray for us. God's grace and power are needed. Today.
Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Great Time In Russia

As I travel around the world and experience the stresses of economic uncertainty, family trauma and relational pain I am reminded of the assessments of experts such as Dr. Roberta Gilbert, an MD Psychitrist. She joins many others who think we are experiencing a time of societal regression in many nations. Societal regression occurs when there is an increase in all the negative aspects of life and a decrese in the positive aspects.
Negative Aspects: Violence, family breakups, family abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, interpersonal clashes, depression, anxiety, increased greed, leaders abuse power, sexual predators are commion, etc.
Positive Aspects: Family harmony, economic growth and basic needs are met, mutual caring, attendance at religious services, traditions are remembered and kept, parents are honored, children are desired, sexual relationships are monogamous, character is desired over beauty, peace and harmony are widespread.

Despite the widespread growth of the negative factors in many nations, we are seeing the development of powerful, loving Christian communities in numerous cities. (See above photo)Building a community that swims upstream against the tide of dysfunction is not easy but with faith in God and an open spirit to His guidance and power it can be done. These communities are light houses that offer hope, love and healing in a very dark culture.

The Russian people are reeling from many wars, the reign of an evil socialist empire for Seventy years and the death/destruction of numeorus good people. Entire families were wiped out by the Bolsheviks and 92,000 Orthodox Priests were killed for no reason other than they stood for love and mercy. Protestant Ministers and ther churches were also destroyed in a bllody attempt to replace love with evil.

The Russian churches and its people are recovering and working hard to rebuild the society based on godly principles. It is a long hard battle ans will take the prayers and support of Believers around the world.

Last night I visited with about fifty men and women who are deeply involved in the Recovery programs of Liferoute. There was an open and quite lively discussion about how to best relate to family and friends in a healthy and upbuilding manner. Such discussions were prohibited by the Communists and if the militant Atheists in America have their way it will be stopped in our own nation. Research from all over the world shows that Christianity produces health and wealth in any nation that comes to faith in large numbers. Here is Russia we can see what happens when the state viciously attacks our faith.

So, pray for our friends here. They are making progress despite great odds.

Gary Sweeten

Monday, October 06, 2008

Moscow Revisited

I am sitting in a Moscow Internet Cafe named Asia Cafe eating an omlette with Tiger Prawns an cheese although I thought I ordered ham and cheese. Such is the state of trying to communicate in English only with a young waitress who speaks only Japanese and Russian. Living and traveling in the largest city in Europe certainly proves that we are experiencing the global village in a whole new way. The trains, subways and streets are filled with people from every nationality, tribe and tongue. Cars from every imaginable country run rampant through the streets are breakneck speeds and a pedesrtian must always be alert or be killed. It is great fun to experience the excitement of international interaction.

I am staying in a flat (apartment) near Christ The Savior Cathedral and it is a very high class, busy section of this huge city. The Cathedral stands as a huge testimony of the failure of the Bolsheviks. It seems that the Communists hated this church more rabidly than most even though they hated all churches. In a fit of pique they blew it up in an attempt to erase its powerful message from the consciousness of the Russian people for all time. (It was originally built as a memorial to the defeat of Napolean's armies so the pride of Russia and Moscow was great.)

The Communists, in a typical stroke of genius, decided to build in its place a big office building dedicated to the rise of Communism. Here was the problem: God openly rebuked their efforts by making such a structure impossible. The prayers of the people and the church somehow softened the ground under the structure and the engineers and architects found themselves unable to get a foundation to stick. (Hmmm! A lack of foundation. Isn't that interesting.)

So, after several tries, the Party gave up and made it into a big swimming pool. It was as though God placed a large baptismal fount right in the middle of the city for all to see as a symbol of the atheistic attempts to destroy the church. Many of my friends swam in that pool and it kept the story of the Party's failure alive in the hearts and minds of the Muskovites.

Just after the fall of Communism, the Orthodox Church decided to rebuild the Cathedral. Despite warnings that the ground was too soft to sustain it, they went ahead. "How" they asked, "could the ground sustain the original Cathedral and not a new one?" Now Christ The Savior stands as an open rebuke to all attempts to destroy Christ and His message of victory and hope.

My spirits are uplifted each time I see the church and I am reminded of God's power and truth.

Pray for our ministry here. The efforts at helping Christians grow and prosper in a very difficult place are succeeding but it is slow and challenging. Pray for Galina and her team of intrepid and skilled workers. The culture and society has been severely damaged by seventy years of crushing oppression and trauma. Alcoholism and other addictions are rampant destroying many Christian families. Our friends are making headway but the enemy is strongly resisting.
Gary Sweeten