Saturday, November 29, 2008

Don't Know Much About History!

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

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

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

Why Our Culture is Superior to Other Cultures

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Report from Plymouth Colony

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for My Heritage

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

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

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

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

A Rush to Diagnose?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pastors' and their Wives

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

Ministers in Full View of the World

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

The Dreadful State of Ministerial Training

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

The primary context of clerical ministry is human relationships.

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Sweeten

Can I Go Home for the Holidays?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Sweeten

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Great Story on Thanksgiving

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sloppy Agape

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Sweeten

Lowering Costs of Doing Ministry

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Generous Givers

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Neediest Kids of All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this child abuse? I think so.

Gary Sweeten

Monday, November 17, 2008


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

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

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

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

A lifetime of great relationships

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Research on Christian Counseling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Sweeten
Christian Coaching, Consulting and Counseling

Video Link Restored

Last year when we kicked off the emphasis on Seasoned Believers Steve Helterbridle met with us to brainstorm how to make a short video that would help folks understand the issues we have found so important. He did and we called it, "What if?"

For some months the link was broken so Steve has put it up on GodTV and it is alive and working again. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Honoring Mentors

Last Friday I attended the Memorial Service of Marge Miller. The sanctuary of College Hill Presbyterian Church was half full and it seemed that most of us were torn between grief over the loss of a wonderful friend and, at the same time, filled with joy because we knew she was now at the side of her husband Jim and son David.

The mixture was particularly strong when we sang some of Marge's favorite songs. She was Welsh and loved singing as much as anyone I ever met. The music brought back sweet memories of our great days together at CHPC as well as the reminder that some day a group will be singing that music at our service.

Marge Miller was on the edge of the huge shift in theology and practice of lay ministry. It is common today to see churches with numerous lay volunteers who do everything but the sacraments in churches. However, when I joined the staff at CHPC in 1973 it was unusual, especially in an Mainline Presbyterian Church.

Marge had been the Interim Minister of Christian Education when I came full time in that position. Marge took me under her wing and mentored me, coached me and showed me the ropes. I was a Baptist kid from a tiny village who knew nothing of Presbyterian polity, theology or practice. Marge was warm, caring, funny and straight forward. She was my life saver.

Thanks to Marge Miller and all the Marge Millers who labor in God's vineyards behind the scenes. They are the keys to how a church operates and few people recognize it. Most of the accolades and fame goes to the clergy who speak on Sunday mornings. They write the books and get quoted by Christianity. But it was Marge and Marie and Doris and Carole and Jim and Tom and Peter who made it all work.

Thanks Marge. The lights you lit in others will shine brightly for generations. God has blessed me and thousands more through you so now you can enjoy your reward.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Music, Love and Laughter Heal the Heart

Wow, this is good news for Christians because we are the singingest people on earth. Fox News says:

WASHINGTON — Songs that make our hearts soar can make them stronger too, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday. They found that when people listened to their favorite music, their blood vessels dilated in much the same way as when laughing or taking blood medications.

Keep singing and listening to good music.

Racism from Rosie

Rosie weighs in and cusses out Black Christians.

Political Map of the Election

How did we vote?

Will the new government govern in accordance with every body's wishes?

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Philippians 4:10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

I took a look at my retirement account not long ago and it was not a pretty sight. Have you taken and look at your accounts? How much has it lost is value in the year of our Lord 2008?

Write down the amount you have left.

Ask yourself: "Am I any worse off today than I was one year ago in actual comfort, food and clothing?

Am I as content as I was when the market was steaming ahead?

Why or why not?

Gary Sweeten


It is never t0o late to have a happy family

(even if you can only attend Friday and Saturday)

Dear Friends and Tri-State Pastors,

Please do your best to attend this special weekend to to get away from the distractions of daily pastoral life! Cell phones are shut-off and to-do lists are temporarily forgotten. It's a time to slow down and reconnect with just your spouse and it's FREE! Rest assured, you will not be asked to attend any meetings that weekend! Your presence at this weekend and your leadership in calling your church to pray for this weekend are very important if this event is to have the impact and ripple effect on our marriage, churches and city that the Lord intends for it to have!

Thank you for your support in this effort to make a difference in the marriages of your church, community, city and region by:
Calling 1.800.FL.TODAY to register you and your spouse FREE for this event!
Forwarding us the name and contact information of your Prayer Ministry that will cover this event in prayer
Forwarding us the name of a couple you know has a heart to see marriages healed and would coordinate a group form your church to this event
God richly bless you and your marriage and your ministry partnership!

Working Together for Him,
Rodger and Gloria Henn

Gary Sweeten

Image Management

Martin Luther nailing his 95 statements on the door at Wittenberg

"Our nature struggles fiercely against being saved without our works and tries to deceive us with a grand illusion of our own righteousness. So we may find ourselves attracted to a life that merely appears to be righteous. Or because we know we aren’t righteous, we may be frightened by death or sin. Therefore, we must learn that we should have nothing to do with any other way of becoming righteous, except through Christ alone."
Martin Luther

On wag, or perhaps a scalawag, noted that the major task of a Minister is "Image Management". Church work is difficult, I have personal experience in that arena. Perhaps this is why so many Ministers are scared silly to innovate and try new things.

One Minister who came to see me was panic stricken. He had led his congregation into a building program and now the work of building the church community began in earnest. Not everybody was happy with the Minister and they raised a ruckus by writing letters to the Board and protesting loudly to anyone who would listen.

The Minister had been working hard, too hard perhaps, and he was tired. So, one day he snapped and got into them pulpit to let out his hurt, anger and pain. He shocked everybody by resigning right there and then. He had failed to manage his image and he could not stand the fact that, according to him, "Nobody supports me and I have done so much for them."

But the truth was different. A few people, percentage wise, were upset and mad ea lot of noise. The problem with my friend was he was working and trying to please everyone. He had to please everybody, so he thought, or he was a failure.

This man was confusing performance image with his identity in Christ. The Conservative, Evangelical church world is far too focused on performance and far too little focused on what Christ has already performed. Remember a few years ago when so many people wore the bracelet WWJD? It stood for "What Would Jesus Do?" and epitomized the Conservative Church and its emphasis upon works.

Here is the problem, we are not saved by works nor are we kept by works. This past election was won by people largely rejected by Evangelicals and the main question is, "How do we manage our image better?" Our image needs the Holy Spirit not a PR firm. Only God can rescue us and save us and the question is not WWJD but WHJD: "What Has Jesus Done"?

I began with the great insight by Martin Luther and I will end with it. Our flesh desperately wants to perform and show God, myself and others what a good guy I am. My Image must be Managed and that requires that I am perceived to be almost perfect. The fact that a small percent of my friend's congregation was upset set him off and he could not stand it.

We all want to sing the modern version of the old hymn:

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a great guy like me!

But this is not a sweet sound. It is a sickening sound that demands perfection and a lot of Image Management.
But the original text is right.
Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
"Our nature struggles fiercely against being saved without our works and tries to deceive us with a grand illusion of our own righteousness. So we may find ourselves attracted to a life that merely appears to be righteous. Or because we know we aren’t righteous, we may be frightened by death or sin. Therefore, we must learn that we should have nothing to do with any other way of becoming righteous, except through Christ alone."
Martin Luther

Remember Why We Are Free

In honor of Veteran’s excerpt from book of the same title:
By Tim O'Brien

They carried P-38 can openers and heat tabs, watches and dog tags, insect repellent, gum, cigarettes, Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages, ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three canteens of water, iodine tablets, sterno, LRRP- rations, and C-rations stuffed in socks.

They carried standard fatigues, jungle boots, bush hats, flak jackets and steel pots. They carried the M-16 assault rifle.

They carried trip flares and Claymore mines, M-60 machine-guns, the M-70 grenade launcher, M-14's, CAR-15's, Stoners, Swedish K's, 66mmLaws, shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, silencers, the sound of bullets, rockets, and choppers, and sometimes the sound of silence.

They carried C-4plastic explosives, an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios, knives and machetes. Some carried napalm, CBU's and large bombs; some risked their lives to rescue others. Some escaped the fear, but dealt with the death and damage. Some made very hard decisions, and some just tried to survive.

They carried malaria, dysentery, ringworm's and leaches. They carried the land itself as it hardened on their boots. They carried stationery, pencils, and pictures of their loved ones - real and imagined. They carried love for people in the real world and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that love:"Don't mean nothin'!" They carried memories for the most part, they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity.

Now and then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed or wanted to, but couldn't; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said "Dear God" and hugged the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping not to die. They carried the traditions of the United States military, and memories and images of those who served before them.

They carried grief, terror, longing and their reputations. They carried the soldier's greatest fear: the embarrassment of dishonor. They crawled into tunnels, walked point, and advanced under fire, so as not to die of embarrassment. They were afraid of dying, but too afraid to show it. They carried the emotional baggage of men and women who might die at any moment. They carried the weight of the world.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Greatest is Love

The Wall Street Journal, my favorite paper, has another great article in its online version. The article focuses on happiness and economic well being. They ask the question: "Does riches make us happier?" They say, in part<

It doesn't have a place in accounting students' spreadsheets or future venture capitalists' portfolios. But at business schools on both sides of the Atlantic, professors are increasingly studying and teaching about an intangible they say is nonetheless a key part of the modern bottom line -- happiness.

Economists, psychologists, sociologists and others trying to untangle the relationship between wealth and emotional well-being have found a home in business schools in the U.S. and Britain. They say the schools, more interdisciplinary and open-minded than many other parts of academe, are the perfect place to examine that connection.

Read the rest of the Journal to get to the meat of the question. But first, what do you think?

Gary Sweeten

The Pig in the Python

Ever since the vets came home from WWII nations around the world have been faced with a Baby Boom. Starting in 1946 lonely couples produced babies at a startling rate. That exceedingly high number of births stopped in 1964 but by then there were some 78 million new kids on the blocks of America.

Demographers have watched that huge bulge of babies-often called "The Pig in the Python" as they grew up, went to school, dated, danced to rock and roll and got married themselves after busting the walls out of every school in the nation.Marketers and advertisers have followed them closely developing new products and new ways to grab their attention.

The Baby Boomers have brought dramatic changes into every area of life since 1946 and her we are 61 years later still trying to figure out what we can do to meet their needs once more.The book by Dr. Mary Furlong, Turning Silver Into Gold, is a stunning overview of the needs, desires, wants and willingness of Builders and Boomers and how to design ways to meet their needs. According to her, spirituality is one of the most important areas of need among the B&B crowd.

The largest demographic cohort in history has a strong need to have "peak experiences". However, it is the businesses and marketers of America not the churches that are working hard to meet those spiritual needs. Most of what I read from Christian thinkers is focused on younger people not the B&B groups. In fact, some are saying that the best thing we can do is to sit down, shut up and worry about our incontinence products instead of what God has for us at this stage of the game.

Despite the fact that scripture clearly lays out leadership by "Elders" the modern focus in books and magazines is on youth. It is obviously important to reach out and witness to young people and young families. They are the future. However, the wealth, wisdom and winning ways of Seasoned Believers need to be unleashed so the next generations can continue to build on our foundation.

Come and join The Movement! The future of our kids and our nation depends on us getting involved.
Gary Sweeten

We Have An Image Problem

Ever since I first visited Israel in 1978 I have been aware of the fights among several groups of Clergy who oversee the traditional site of Jesus' tomb. There was another fight, with fists and accusations flying, this week between the Greek and Armenian Orthodox Monks. Read about it here.

Is there any wonder why so many unbelievers think religion in general and Christianity in particular are signs of emotional instability? The six groups assigned the duty of caring for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher cannot agree on how to fix a roof about to fall in or who should remove a ladder leaning on a wall for decades. And we represent The Prince of Peace?

Can you imagine? A Muslim is assigned to open and close the church doors because the Christians cannot agree on which group has control of the doors.

Can you imagine? Jewish police must often come in and stop fights between Monks vying for control.

No wonder many people avoid church and Christians.

One reason so many people vote against Christian politicians is found in this story. They and we are so often reactive, angry and unreasonable. Jesus taught us to act differently than that. He said we could have peace in all circumstances. If we are to have positive influence in the world we need His peace and His wisdom. Let's prayerfully seek both.

Gary Sweeten

Start a Love Revolution

Have you ever looked at your church or denomination and wondered why people are so nasty and unloving? I have.

Have you ever wondered how you can start to be a change agent for faith, hope and love? I have.
I know the power of love and caring to heal human hearts and open the eyes of the blind to see Jesus. I write, teach and preach on ways to impact the world. But, we need simple, practical ways to touch people.

Here is an answer. Subscribe to Steve Sjogren's emagazine and learn how to start a revolution.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another History Buff Winner!

Marc O'Hara, another old friend from the Jesus Movement Days, wrote in with all three of the Hinges of History answers. I will post both his and Michael Cristian's answers and send them gift certificates from
Here are the answers, plus on additional itim that I did not know about 1619.
1. The Virginia House of Burgess was formed. It was the first Democracy in history and is still in operation. Just imagine, the model for today's Congress dates back almost 400 years.
2. Africans came to the American Colony of Virginia. This was one year before the landing at Plymouth Rock. So, Black Africans in America preceded Plymouth Colony.
3. Females came to America that same year. We still have no female President.
4. Michael added that the Virginia farmers learned how to grow tobacco, an important cash crop.
I am not surprised that Michael or Marc won. They are both sharp guys who love history. Thanks for trying it out, guys. Look at their comments on the first blog.
Watch for more contests in the near future.
Gary Sweeten

A Winner

My good friend Michael Cristiani sent in a winning entry on the question about what three things happened in 1619 that were hinges of history for America and the world. In fact, Michael was showing off by giving me a fourth hinge that I did not know about. Thanks Michael!

I am not going to publish Michael's comments until I give some others and opportunity to also write in. I am offering you another gift certificate for writing in with just three of the four hinges of history that occurred in Virginia in 1619.

Win A Prize

In my post on Saturday I mentioned a contest to see who can identify the three things that happened in 1619 that changed history. These three things changed the colonies, the USA and the world. However, they are barely recognized today.

Certain events are considered to be "Hinges of History". The reason is that these events, like the election of Obama, provide the hinges for doors to open massive changes in society. Winston Churchill, for example, wrote that the "Battle of Britain" was such a hinge because it stopped Hitler from his march to conquer the world.

Can you tell me what these three "Hinges of History" in 1619 were? If you can I will send you a free gift card from All you need to do is write me those three things on my comments section and I you win.

Karen and I discussed the contest last night and she remembered two of the three. Close but no cigar. Sorry, Karen, you are not a winner this time. (You are a constant winner in my heart though.)

Gary Sweeten

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Message from a Friend

My wife, Karen, picked up the phone and handed it to me with the whisper, "It is Mary Lynne Rapien." Mary Lynne is a friend from years past when we were working together to expand the ministry of Teleios and healing to the Roman Catholic branch of Believers on the West Side of Cincinnati. So, I figured she was calling to ask me about some kind of ministry.

However, that was not the case. Her husband is an avid golfer who reads the Cincinnati area golf news and watches to see who is winning a free round this week. Well, he told Mary Lynne it was me.

Thanks to the Rapien family for spotting the free gift of God. That reminds me of the grace of God because I received a gift that I did not earn or deserve. It was free and clear and I get to play.

If you are a golfer, go to the site and discover many free gifts and great information.

I Calls Them The Way I Sees Them

Six Men From Hindustan saw the same elephant but experienced it very differently.

This is an old saw that I heard growing up. However, the power and truth of its sentiment did not sink in until I began to study interpersonal communication and how differences in "The ways we sees them" cause so much conflict.

For example, the inability to resolve differences in a marriage is the greatest cause of divorce, abuse and dissatisfaction. We often hear that the number one cause of divorce is money, sex, in laws and religion. During this season we might also add politics. But, those are simply some of the issues over which we fail to find a peaceful way to deal with differences.

I am not careful with money and my wife is very careful. That can be a good thing if we understand how to balance each other out. However, it can be bad, very bad with those who attack each other over how money is spent. She says I am reckless and irresponsible and I accuse her of being a tightwad just like my mother. Those attacks are what causes the trouble, not the spending habits.

I could say to my wife, "Karen, I really appreciate your ability to save money. You help me a lot." This avoids Attacks and inserts Attending instead. Attending to one another builds up the Emotional Bank Account that we can draw from at other times when we are feeling scratchy.

Why Attack The Ones We Love?

II COR 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The enemy of our souls goes all out to get us to misunderstand and misperceive what others are saying and meaning. Even when we try to be accurate, loving and gracious we are misunderstood. This leads us to feel hurt, shamed and disrespected.

But, I am a believer? How can this happen? Read II COR a little farther down the way. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

"Be patient; God is not finished with me yet!"

I am filled with the Holy Spirit but the vessel that carries that Holiness around is fallen and dirty. (The image is actually that of a latrine or chamber pot. My clay pot is really a very lowly thing.) Why? To show the greatness and holiness of God's Spirit.

Gary Sweeten

1619-It Was a Mighty Good Year

I remember the first time Karen and I visited Virginia. It was a great learning experience for both of us. Although I had taken several American history classes, being on the scene offered us many powerful insights.

For example, it was in Williamsburg that I first saw how the people attended church in colonial days. Each of the well off families had a special pew set aside for them. They had to pay a tax to get the pew, of course. The American tradition of sitting in a special place each Sunday may go back to those early days in the Anglican churches. (No tax today but we expect tithes and offerings.)

Church membership was closely associated with citizenship. Just like England, the colonies had a close tie between a certain denomination and the colony in which it was located. There were two state denominations in colonial times. The Congregational Church Denomination dominated the North Eastern or New England Colonies and the Anglican Episcopalians had Virginia sewed up.

When the founders said there was to be no establishment of a religion, this is what they were talking about. They did not want any certain denomination to get public tax monies to support the clergy and buildings as they did in Europe. Nor did they want any denomination to dominate the membership of a state.

Today, religion is still seen as a dual membership in many countries, especially Islamic nations. Thus, conversion to an other religion is seen as not only heresy but as being a traitor to the nation. In America, religion was disconnected from patriotism so different churches grew and prospered according to how well they ministered to the felt needs of the community. So, America's freedom of religion has led to a very healthy state of Christianity.

But why was 1619 a very good year? What three historic things happened in 1619? See if you can guess what they were. I will post the answers in a few days. Anyone that gets all three of the answers right will get a free book. 2019 will be the 400th anniversary of these three huge events. Get ready to celebrate in 11 years.
Gary Sweeten

Friday, November 07, 2008

Media-Misleading and Myopic

Narcissistic Journalists

I think the biggest losers in this election season were the people who write newspaper stories and appear on TV as journalists. They were little more than cheerleaders for Obama who openly and covertly promoted his campaign and attacked McCain and Palin. They were extremely narcissistic.

Take a look at the way the editors and writers are talking about Obama now that it is too late for voters to do anything about the truth. Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham were on the Charlie Rose Show and said some extremely troubling things about Obama. However, their weekly magazine wrote stories and had his photos on ten cover as though he were Saint John.

Are these "News Weeklies" or "Inspirational Stories of the Divine"? Newsweek is obviously not about reporting the facts of news but interested in making news. Will they get away with it? I do not think they will. Dan Rather was actually fired for lying about George Bush and his reputation is tarnished forever. But even Dan spoke up and said that today's media has mistreated Palin and McCain.

Remember, it is the task of Christians to "Speak the truth in love." Viva the Internet.

Gary Sweeten

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Conservative on Marriage

In a year when the far Left won the Presidency and many Congressional seats, traditional marriage won in California. Voters in our largest and perhaps most liberal state voted overwhelmingly to ban same sex marriages. This was a very strong defeat for the gay rights movement nationally and a message that marriage is important to our society. (See the story here.

I suggest that every church in the land preach, teach and hold seminars on the importance of marriage and family life. Not just as a way to resist the radical ideas of the gay lobby. The primary focus needs to be on developing strong marriages and helping them be healthy for the adults and children.

We know how to keep marriages together and we know how to destroy them. Learning to communicate, solve problems and deal with differences are crucial to all successful relationships but is especially critical to building a successful and happy marriage. This requires more than lectures and preaching. A couple needs to learn the skills of listening and understanding one another.
Get my book, Listening for Heaven's Sake and learn how to develop more love and understanding.
Gary Sweeten

Faith Based Voters for Obama

The Old Way to Communicate
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about the ways the Obama campaign wooed and won religious voters. The article says that:
Reversing his party's poor showing among faith-based voters in the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Obama won among Catholics, 54% to 45%, made gains among regular churchgoers and eroded a bit of the evangelical support that has been a fixture of Republican electoral success for years, exit polls showed.

It is hard to believe that Roman Catholic and Evangelical voters would elect to the Presidency one of the most rabid supporters of abortion that we have ever seen in America. Yet, they did. Catholics voted for Obama 54% to 45% for McCain. This is shocking.

Perhaps the real answers can be found on the blog by my friend Ron Tate. (Click the Boomer Wave link.) We are in a Post Modern era when single issues are not seen as key to a person's life. Young men and women tend to be Post Modern thinkers who see dismiss Obama's radical abortion policies while being strongly pro family and pro life themselves. Post Modern thinking somehow equates poverty with abortion. Obama was able to communicate the notion, wrongly I think, that he is for helping the poor so many Christians voted for him.

We are certainly in a time of transition in America. If we who are older in years and faith want to have influence over the future we need to understand how our kids think. Ron's blog offers some great insights for us. We need to learn how to communicate God's Word in the Post Modern world.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

After the Election

I am somewhat embarrassed. I have not been able, so far, to be thankful for the outcome of the election. Senator Obama was not my favorite but he won fair and square, despite the antics of ACORN.

It is hard for me to be thankful for a President who will very likely appoint three radically oriented judges to the Supreme Court. The future of life in the womb is even more threatened today than it was yesterday. But, the Bible tells me to "Give thanks in all circumstances." I am trying so be patient with me and keep me in your prayers.

Gary Sweeten

Monday, November 03, 2008

Getting Settled

It does take some time to get settled in a new home. My friend Dave Baker did the hard work of putting the computers in place. My son-in-law David K also helped me with the Wi-Fi but I need more assistance. There is a bad connection somewhere along the line and I can barely read the screen.

Tomorrow is the final day of 2008 elections. Wow! What a trip!

I think we are on the brink of tipping the USA into a Western European type of Socialist Democracy that will mean the end of Capitalism as we know it. That seems to work in Scandinavia and Europe but the American drive to innovate, create and compete will be severely curtailed.

God only knows the future and He alone controls what is happening. Is He moving us this way because it is our best option or because He is angry with us? I do not know.

I am praying for His best.

Gary Sweeten