Thursday, January 29, 2009

Russia is Progressing

I called Galina a few days ago to wish her a very happy birthday. She had just returned from the graduation ceremony for the school Liferoute has set up to train Peer Helpers for the Christian Community.

The school is called, "School for the Care and Cure of Souls and this is the Module for teaching Power Thinking or how to renew the mind according to the scripture.
Galina was feeling great because the students showed such high retention and application of knowledge and skills. Let's face it; the Bolsheviks left Russia in a terrible state of irrational thinking. The Communists filled the heads and hearts of the people from childhood onward with lies, myths, misunderstandings, fears and reactivity that it will very likely take generations for the culture to recover.

The Liferoute School for the Care and Cure of Souls will serve as a beacon of light in an otherwise dreary and hopeless culture. Pray for Galina, her team and the wonderful Russian people. Pray also about ways you can support the Liferoute Ministry.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Did you read about the man who lost his job and went home to see his wife and five kids? He killed them and himself because he was so upset about losing his job. I would say that this is an extreme example of loving and serving mammon more than God.
In Matthew 6 Jesus offered us a beautiful and healthy way to look at material things. It is the way we can keep our wits about us during this economic slowdown.
19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (If you want security do not place your mind on getting it from material goods. Mold, rust, inflation and a lowering stock market can take our material treasures away from us. No body can take heaven's treasures from us.)
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (My dad always said, "The pocket book nerve is the nerve closest to a man's heart.)

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (This is powerful. The eyes are windows to the soul. If they are filled with evil, greed, mammon and self service the soul will be in a dark dungeon!)

24 "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
Not long ago Bernard Madoff, a very wealthy investor, was found to have been ripping off his investors for some 50 Billion dollars. They included his own family, his Rabbi and Congregation as well as numerous Jewish and secular charities.

How dark would a man's soul need to be to do such a thing? He had many houses, yachts and assorted luxurious items while stealing from charities. He attended Synagogue, gave to their charities and yet was so greedy that honoring God was a complete fake.

But to a lesser extent, many of us choose mammon over God. We worship the things money will buy and long for it in the bank or retirement account so we will feel secure. Is my security in things or in God. Jesus gives us this advice.

32 The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Is my security in things or the God who supplies all my things?

During this financial meltdown I have seen my retirement fund almost disappear. I was very anxious and I sought the Holy Spirit's guidance. He spoke to my heart and comforted me. (I'll tell you later what He said to me.)

Have you sought the Lord and His Kingdom during the meltdown? Did He comfort you?

Are you trying to operate in His kingdom rather than the political kingdom?
Are you exceedingly worried about your things? Does the worry help you or increase the bank account?
Let me know what you are experiencing.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Russian Patriarch

The Russian Orthodox Church elected Metropolitan Kirill, a long-standing church diplomat and skillful orator, as its new patriarch on Tuesday night. Kirill, the interim leader since Patriach Alexy II's death on Dec. 5, won 508 votes cast by the 702-member Local Council, Metropolitan Vladimir of St. Petersburg and Ladoga announced in the main hall of Christ the Savior Cathedral at 10 p.m. The secret ballot was held in the cathedral, where the new patriarch will be crowned next Sunday.

Kirill, 62, is an experienced diplomat who has been the church's point man in often-difficult negotiations with other churches, prompting speculation that he might take steps to improve ties with the Roman Catholic Church, which have been fraught with rivalry for years.
Pray for the Patriarch and for Russia. Pray for closer relationships between The Orthodox Church and other Christians.

Gary Sweeten

Bread and Circuses


It has long been a tenet of historians that the thing that brought down the Roman Empire would also bring down the American and Western European Empires. It appears that the fall is almost complete.

I often listen to ministers and youth workers tell stories about the almost total lack of boundaries among today's youth. I read a story in the paper today that needs to be read by everyone so we can increase our prayers for Americans, English and Europe. You can find it here on the Daily Mail's web page.
When the sexual license of today is added to the way Government is spending money to entertain us and keep us happy, it appears that it won't be long before football will be supplanted by lions and Christians.
We must prayerfully seek God's guidance on how to reach the western societies with Christ. Calling all Seasoned Believers to rise from our padded pews and rise up with grace, love and power to defeat the enemy. Passivity will never win the battle.
Write me about how you will contribute.
Gary Sweeten

Best Movies

I admit that Karen and I rarely go out to the movies any more. We like to stay at home and talk, read and watch TV. We just do not seem to have time for much movie going. Oh, and add to that one problem: I can't hear at the theatre. I don't really listen to TV I read it.

But movies on the big screen are powerful so I follow some of them by reading reviews. It is also true that I am very interested in ways we can foster more thoughtful and intellectual Christians so we can have some influence in society. (I do not think we can change individuals or society without God, though.)

Christianity Today has some great writing and great movie reviews. The article I just read was about the "Ten Most Redeeming Movies of 2008." Go take a look and see what you think. (I can't rent these films yet because I don't have a DVD player.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Surprised by seeing my words on a web page

I just discovered my words reproduced on the web page of The American Association of Christian Counselors

The web is called and they are trying to sell their training and counselors. I suppose they liked what I had to say, but they did not ask me...

I am flattered that Tim Clinton, President of AACC, would choose me to quote. In fact, I think the folks from right here in Cincinnati, Ohio have more experience and insight about training Counselors both Professional and Para-Professional than 90% of the people in our profession.

The Teleios Center we founded at College Hill Presbyterian Church in 1976 is still offering training and Para-Professional Care and Counsel. Call them at 513-541-5676 for help.

Equipping Ministries Inc that we founded in 1978 is still training hundreds of care givers each year all over the earth.

Teleios Centers in Norway, Denmark, Russia, Singapore, etc are providing Christian care and healing for thousands of people. PTL! The Lay Ministry Model is growing. Nothing can stop this revolution. God is doing it.

Gary Sweeten

Peer Helpers, Coaches and Chaplains

I have been interested in the power of People to help each other for a long time. With the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous, Lay Pastors and Christian Cell Groups we are seeing an explosion of self help or really mutual help opportunities. Here is the good news from a Clinical Counselor; Peer Helping is almost always as useful as that offered by Professionals.

On Saturday I spoke with about twenty men and women who are volunteering to be available to people in pain to offer a listening ear, a warm heart and caring prayer. The group was called together by Jim and Kathy Mills who are fostering the development a Chaplaincy movement here in Greater Cincinnati. It is a great idea.

If you are interested in being trained as a Chaplain, send me an email and I can get you in touch with Jim and Kathy.

Gary Sweeten

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Un American to Vote?

Tom Hanks slipped up and told the truth about what he thinks of Christians and other conservative believers who vote our conscience. He thinks we are un-American. Here is what he said.

The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen. There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. Tom Hanks

Yep, voting one's conscience is un-American to the billionairre elites of Hollywood.

Gary Sweeten

Friday, January 23, 2009

Atheist Anwers to Christian Joy

The atheist lobby has come up with an answer to all the Christian joy and charitable activities that make them look so bad. The anxiety and worry of atheistic groups has risen sharply with a recent study showing that conservative Christians are decidedly more charitable than Liberal unbelievers. Despite their usually successful claims to the contrary, new studies by several neutral scientists proves conclusively that Conservative Christians live longer, have better marriages and better sex, and are generally happier than libs.

The atheist groups approached a Drug Laboratory in Moscow that was shut down after the fall of Communism. They asked the atheist scientists to develop some medicine that would suck the life and joy out of Christians so their lives of freedom and peace would not be so superior.

The scientists went to work and resurrected a drug developed under Stalins's rule that fit the bill. It is called, CEREBRUM and the enclosed video proves its effectiveness. If you or someone you love is suffering from high levels of fun, joy and reverie, get CEREBRUM today.
Ps. Satire alert!!!
Gary Sweeten

What Works to Help People Change?

Someone to Care for Me and Listen to my Story
I was very eager to get into graduate school at Southern Illinois University because I wanted to learn all the secrets hidden away in the psychology and counseling books and revealed only to high scoring advanced students like me. I was scared silly when they told me I had to take a special test to get into the graduate college for counseling college students. My performance in high school was pretty low and I always had the secret suspicion that I was faking people out with my quick Sweeten wit and smooth tongue.

But, surprise, surprise, I did rather well on that test, coming out in the 99the percentile of all students in the USA. Now I felt ready to tackle all the tough questions about how to help people in distress. I couldn't wait to listen to the professors who knew all the secret techniques. Man, was I disappointed. There were no secrets. All I found were huge volumes of theories about Freud, Jung, Skinner and Rogers. It seemed as though I was in seminary because everything focused on having faith in one of these philosophies.

It was interesting to read about the way Skinner could teach chickens, pigs and monkeys how to run through mazes and salivate when a bell was rung. How would that help me deal with a depressed student who was contemplating suicide? The ideas of Carl Rogers appealed to me most. His approach had actually grown out of his early years youth leader at a church near Wheaton, Illinois and grew into a full fledged theory of persons when after seminary when he became a psychologist.

Rogers believed in what he called "Non-judgemental acceptance" of every client and what the client said he or she wanted in life. That is widely accepted today but in 1966 it was a radical idea. Despite the fact that I was a heroic advice giver and super problem solver I agreed with Rogers that it was not the Helper's job to tell people what to do. I liked the theory but failed miserably at doing it.

Here I am some forty three years later and I still believe Carl Rogers was on to something great and good. And even more important, the Bible agrees with him and counseling research strongly agrees with his approach. I don't think he supported very much that the Bible teaches but about caring he was right on.

Dr. Rogers actually taught people how to listen. I needed to learn listening skills and that I desperately wanted others to listen to me. At church and home and work I needed to be heard, but few people actually paid attention to what I thought and felt. When I read what Dr. Rogers wrote I identified with it and had a strong emotional resonance.

Now I know that nothing is more important to helping people grow and change than listening to them. Drugs, psychological interventions, warfare and preaching are relatively impotent unless we also show love by listening. As the saying goes, "People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care". And care comes through our ears.

1. Do you want others to really listen to you?

2. Do you actively interrupt or actively listen?

Gary Sweeten

Thoughts About Right and Left

“I think the phenomenon of the religious right in the U.S. (we really have no parallel in the United Kingdom) may be construed as a clumsy attempt to recapture the coming together of God and the world, which remains stubbornly in scripture but which the Enlightenment had repudiated, and which fundamentalism itself continues to repudiate with its dualistic theology of rapture and Armageddon.

It is as though the religious right has known in its bones that God belongs in public, but without understanding either why or how that might make sense; while the political left in the U.S., and sometimes the religious left on both sides of the Atlantic, has known in its bones that God would make radical personal moral demands as part of his program of restorative justice, and has caricatured his public presence as a form of tyranny in order to evoke the cheap and gloomy Enlightenment critique as a way of holding that challenge at bay.”

N.T. Wright

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Christian Counselors Trained in Australia

I just received a note from an old friend in Australia. Bruce and Nellie Litchfield run a Family Counselling Graduate School for Youth With A Mission in Canberra.

Bruce and Nellie attended our training many years ago at YWAM's University of the Nations in Hawaii. Thankfully, they took what they learned, integrated it with YWAM teaching and developed transferable models that have been implemented all over the world.


You will be very interested to know that we (AIFC) have completed the final application for a Vocational Graduate Certificate in Counselling and Family Therapy (Christian) involving a third year training.

It is very gratifying to see our ideas being spread throughout the world by great Christian organizations. YWAM is a very large missionary organization that has training centers in nearly 200 places. They train Believers in all manner of ways so they can take the good news of Jesus Christ to individuals, families, businesses and educational institutions.

I have been blessed to teach at the YWAM University on several occasions and to see them up close and personal. One of the most remarkable and creative of ideas was setting up schools to train young men and women how to be beautiful. Another school taught Polynesians how to use their indigenenous dances to proclaim the gospel.

If you are interested in what Bruce and Nellie are doing you can write them at Mention that you read about the school on my blog.

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bless Obama

Bless our Nation

Today is a great day for the USA. The people have spoken and elected a man who is half African and half European to be the President. It is a great honor for him and a testimony to the ability of Americans to go beyond the racism and fears of the past.

Every President is elected with dreams and expectations that are optimistic and even unrealistic. Mr. Obama inspires many to think that he can do miracles. This means that he needs our prayers even more than most new Presidents. He is a mortal and only God can do miracles.

The media have not helped Mr. Obama. Their chronic adoration and lack of any balanced reporting have raised expectations too high. Now every imperfect decision he makes can bring about despair from the "True Believers". The hatred of Mr. Bush leads them to idolize Mr. Obama and give him almost Messianic powers. Those with Bush Derangement Syndrome tend to use their hatred to divide not harmonize and Obama can quickly become their target.

I am praying for Mr. Obama to have wisdom, protection and spiritual insights that are way beyond his human frailties. The world is fallen, broken and violent and the election of man with African blood and a smooth voice will not cause wars to cease or old hatreds to completely wane. Let's give him a chance to succeed.

May God watch over him and his family and guide the decisions and actions of this young man and his team. I want the best for him and for our nation as well as the rest of the world. All humans carry the imago Dei and deserve our respect and encouragement. God commands that we pray for our leaders and offer them our loyal support whenever possible. I ask every Christian to pray often and intensely for Mr. Obama.
Gary Sweeten

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sexual Orientation

One of the main arguments of those who promote the notion that Homosexuality is a gift from God and created homosexuals to have a same sex attraction" do so because they believe each person is born with one sexual orientation or an other and that it cannot be changed. In other words, "Biology is destiny."

First, biology is NOT destiny. In fact, physical/biological preferences are changed all the time. A Russian researcher named Pavlov did a series of studies with dogs way back in the early 1900's. One of the studies rang a bell when the dogs were ready to eat their food. After ringing the bell on several occasions, Pavlov rang the bell without providing the dogs their regular food but he dogs salivated anyway, proving that the biological processes of the dogs were altered, and it did not take much to cause the changes.

Second, God creates all persons in His image. We have the ability to make decisions, moral judgments and relate with God. However, because of sin every person is flawed, broken and fallible. The brokenness of humanity includes biology so our bodies and our sensual drives are also unholy and distorted. Sexual deviance is normal but it is also sinful so we dare not claim that our deviancy is from God or a gift of God.

Third, God defines what is right and wrong and we do not. The Bible says that God created male and female to marry and live together as one. God does not consider adultery, polygamy or homosexuality as gifts but as sins. My sinful sexual deviance is adultery. If I let myself I would have sex with women other than my wife. But, that is wrong and I have never been involved in adultery and I never will.

Biology is not destiny. Thank God change is possible and often.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Diversity is Good and Right and True

The following exchange was on an Open University sociology TV program.

Interviewer: How long have you worked here?Production

Lady: Since I left school - about 15 years...
Interviewer: What do you do?

Lady: I take packets of biscuits off the conveyor belt and put them into cardboard boxes.

Interviewer: Have you always done the same job? Production?

Lady: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you enjoy it?

Lady: Oooh yes, it's great, everyone is so nice and friendly, we have a good laugh.

Interviewer (with a hint of disbelief): Really? Don't you find it a bit boring?Lady: Oh no, sometimes they change the biscuits...

Never judge another person's like or dislikes, gifts, call or ministry. You might be wrong and think they should like exactly what you like.

Gary Sweeten

A Church Doing Good

Take care of the family!

Tonight I start a five week class for couples who want to enrich their marriages. These are parents whose children are in a group at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Kenwood, and I am thrilled with their request.

The most important thing a church can do to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free" is to help parents love each other and their kids with faith, discipline and nurture.

The desire to reach outside the church to rescue the poor, homeless and bereft is laudable. However, any outreach program must be preceded by "Equipping the members to live more effective lives." Otherwise, the church does not have anything to offer those outside their four walls.

When a congregation is growing in health and love the members will automatically touch family and friends with the overflow of God's healing grace and mercy. However, when we do not have anything to share why try to help others?

Good Shepherd is doing both. They are reaching out and reaching in. That is the balance that is needed for a church to be healthy. What practical training are you offering your members to help them grow in faith, hope and love?

Do you have pre-marital classes?

Marriage enrichment classes?

Parenting classes?

Why not?

Gary Sweeten

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hope for Homosexual Christians

Lights in the darkness!

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

Today we heard Kristin Johnson Tremba and Brad Grammer tell how God brought them out of same sex relationships. Each was better than the other. Their stories were compelling, hopeful and painful.

1. Compelling because their stories are so different from what the Politically Correct Police in our media are saying. The air is full of stories urging us all to accept same sex compulsions as natural and unchanging but Kristin and Brad's stories show that the PC Police are off base.

2. Hopeful because these are great models of what God can do to bring healing and growth to people stuck in a lifestyle of confusion and compulsive sin. There are few places where the healing message of Jesus Christ is presented so convincingly and lovingly. Hopeful because some Christians finally did respond to them in love and acceptance. Hopeful because God intervened in miraculous ways.

3. Painful because so much of their youth was filled with their confusion and pain and because of the churches and Christians who failed to help them find a way out of their confusion. Painful because so many people are confused and fearful about the causes and cures of sexual dysfunctions. Painful because so many Christian leaders are caught up in sexual sins. Real painful because so few churches seek the healing love of Jesus for their members.

You can learn more about where to get help to establish your church as a healing community by contacting me at

Gary Sweeten

Monday, January 12, 2009

Innovation in Life

If I’d asked customers what they wanted,

I’d have developed a faster horse.

Henry Ford

It is very hard to see the future

when your ear is always on the ground.

Gary Sweeten

Tomorrow, Tuesday January 13 2009, Sweeten Life Systems and HOPE for Cincinnati are sponsoring talks by two persons who have come out of long term same sex relationships. Some of my friends have said that it is brave of me to sponsor such a program because it is "controversial". What could be so controversial about giving hope for a changed life to persons who want to be heterosexual rather than homosexual in desire and inclination as well as behavior?

It is only controversial because many professional therapists have lost their nerve and caved in to the PC Police. The Politically Correct Police are unhappy with those who say that sexual orientation is malleable. But would a group of counselors say that depression or anxiety can be substantially healed? No!

A recent research study by two psychologists has confirmed that which many of us know by personal experience. People stuck in same sex attractions can be helped to change those attractions if they are highly motivated.

The research concludes "it is possible for homosexuals to change their physical attractions and become heterosexual through the help of Christian ministries." This is published in the new book, "Ex-Gays?" (Inter Varsity Press) by psychologists Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse.

They found, "Thirty-eight percent of the subjects followed in the study said they had successfully left homosexuality, while an additional 29 percent said they had had only modest successes but were committed to keep trying. In another significant finding, Jones and Yarhouse said attempts at conversion do not appear to be psychologically harmful."

"These findings contradict directly the commonly expressed views of the mental health establishment that change in sexual orientation is impossible, and that if you attempt to change it's highly likely to produce harm for those who make such an attempt," Jones, professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Illinois, said at the news conference.

The subjects were placed in six categories from success to failure:

15 percent reported their conversion was successful and that they had had "substantial reduction" in homosexual attraction and "substantial conversion" to heterosexual attraction. They were categorized as "success: conversion."

23 percent said their conversion was successful and that homosexual attraction was either missing or "present only incidentally or in a way that does not seem to bring about distress." They were labeled "success: chastity."

29 percent had experienced "modest decreases" in homosexual attraction and were not satisfied with their change, but pledged to continue trying. This category was labeled "continuing."

15 percent had not changed and were conflicted about what to do next.

4 percent had not changed and had quit the change process, but had not embraced the "gay identity."

8 percent had not changed, quit the process and embraced the "gay identity.

These data are remarkably high for success when compared with the outcomes for others with serious issues of long term compulsive behavior. I am surprised that only eight percent of the people in the study reverted back to "Homosexual Identity". The change process is long and slow for any deeply ingrained habit pattern and relapse id a part of almost every recovery attempt. Thus, I would have suspected a much higher rate of relapse in this study. I assume this means that the counselors were doing an extraordinarily good job of supporting their Clients.

This is very good news for all of us. Changing sexual orientation is considered to be very difficult so if the success rates are this high for this very tough emotional issue we can be confident that other issues will also yield to Christian care and counsel.

Secondly, it is my assumption that the Christians who were offering the counseling were lay persons, offering increasingly important evidence that Peer and Para-Professionals can deliver high quality ministry in the local church.

Change in a lifestyle always requires time. Change is rarely if ever immediate. So, when a Seeker continues to be tempted to fall back into an old behavior we are not surprised. We must always plan ways to prevent a relapse.

See our Humpty Dumpty book for ideas.

Gary Sweeten

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Russian Ministry

We are very excited to announce that The Lord has opened a way for us to publish Listening for Heaven's Sake in the Russian language. It helps us reach the goal of training Christians how to have a "Lifetime of great relationships". It is safe to say that relationships were severely damaged by the Seventy years of Socialist rule.

Socialists talk a lot about caring for ordinary people but the walk is far different. The USSR reminds me of the Madoff Investment Company that scammed ordinary people out of some 50 Billion Dollars. They even ripped off religious groups and other charities but always talked as though they loved the poor and would do anything for them.

Our books all focus on how ordinary people can live lives more abundant and free and how they can be a blessing to others. These ideas are rare in Post-Communist Russia and this little book can liberate thousands of people.

Take a look at Listening for Heavens Sake on the Russian site similar to

Pray the the Holy Spirit will use it to be a doorway to healing and growth. Visit the web site of our ministry in Russia. Much of it is in English.

Gary Sweeten

How to be a Christian Leader

Tim Keller, a Presbyterian Pastor in New York, is witty, insightful and powerful. I am jealous of his gifts. I covet them. I am a sinner.

Tim writes a lot about what it means to be a Christian leader but rarely dose he use the term, "Christian Leader". In a recent posting on Christianity Today's web Dr. Keller writes about humility and why it is essential to evangelism. Here is a little of what he has to say.

Grace, Not Goodness
We are on slippery ground when we discuss humility, because religion and morality inhibit humility. It is common in the evangelical community to talk about one's worldview—a set of basic beliefs and commitments that shape the way we live in every particular. Others prefer the term "narrative identity." This is a set of answers to the questions, "Who am I? What is my life all about? What am I here for? What are the main barriers keeping me from fulfillment? How can I deal with those barriers?"
There are two basic narrative identities at work among professing Christians. The first is what I will call the moral-performance narrative identity. These are people who in their heart of hearts say, I obey; therefore I am accepted by God. The second is what I will call the grace narrative identity. This basic operating principle is, I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.
People living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may superficially look alike. They may sit right beside one another in the church pew, both striving to obey the law of God, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in radically different spirits, resulting in radically different personal characters.
When persons living in the moral-performance narrative are criticized, they are furious or devastated because they cannot tolerate threats to their self-image of being a "good person."
But in the gospel our identity is not built on such an image, and we have the emotional ballast to handle criticism without attacking back. When people living in the moral-performance narrative base their self-worth on being hard working or theologically sound, then they must look down on those whom they perceive to be lazy or theologically weak.
But those who understand the gospel cannot possibly look down on anyone, since they were saved by sheer grace, not by their perfect doctrine or strong moral character.

The Stench of Moralism
Another mark of the moral-performance narrative is a constant need to find fault, win arguments, and prove that all opponents are not just mistaken but dishonest sellouts. However, when the gospel is deeply grasped, our need to win arguments is removed, and our language becomes gracious. We don't have to ridicule our opponents, but instead we can engage them respectfully.
People who live in the moral-performance narrative use sarcastic, self-righteous putdown humor, or have no sense of humor at all. Lewis speaks of "the unsmiling concentration upon Self, which is the mark of hell." The gospel, however, creates a gentle sense of irony. We find a lot to laugh at, starting with our own weaknesses. They don't threaten us anymore because our ultimate worth is not based on our record or performance.
Martin Luther had the basic insight that moralism is the default mode of the human heart. Even Christians who believe the gospel of grace on one level can continue to operate as if they have been saved by their works. In "The Great Sin" in Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, "If we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the Devil."
Gracious, self-forgetful humility should be one of the primary things that distinguishes Christian believers from the many other types of moral, decent people in the world. But I think it is fair to say that humility, which is a key differentiating mark of the Christian, is largely missing in the church. Nonbelievers, detecting the stench of sanctimony, turn away.

Some will say, "Phariseeism and moralism are not our culture's big problems right now. Our problems are license and antinomianism. There is no need to talk about grace all the time to postmodern people." But postmodern people have been rejecting Christianity for years, thinking that it was indistinguishable from moralism. Only if you show them there's a difference—that what they rejected wasn't real Christianity—will they even begin to listen again.

Dr. Timothy Keller


To be an effective change agent we need to be humble. If we are not, our failures will surely lead us to be more humble of die trying not to be.

Humility comes from knowing God's grace.

Grace comes from knowing the depth of my sin and powerlessness.

Gary Sweeten

Offering insights on how to be humble when you are perfect.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Speaking of Change

A man was being tailgated by a stressed- out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow just in front of him. He did
the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, 'I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him.' I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do bumper sticker,the 'Choose Life' license plate holder,the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker,and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.Naturally....I assumed you had stolen the car."

Are You a Change Agent?

I have been trying to help people change things for a very long time. This means that I am an expert at failure. Yep, failure. Plans and intentions to change people never survive the first battle. Why? Because Seekers have their own objectives and their ideas about if and what to change.

Change is hard. If that were not true we would not be seeing commercials for weight loss programs every five minutes on TV. Half the people in Outback Steak House just came from a weight loss class and are eating to deal with their lack of losing weight.( My joke.)

If you are in a position of helping people change it is helpful to learn about the things that help and the things that hurt your efforts. In other words, you and I need to CHANGE the ways we try to help people CHANGE.

If you are interested you need to read my book Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty and keep reading these posts on change. Preachers, teachers, parents and sales people can all benefit to say nothing of counselors. Here is the first hint.

The change must be desired by the Seeker not just by the Helper or the Seeker's family. Helpers often try to please themselves or a family member and miss the central fact that the Seeker must decide to change himself before anything positive happens. Have you ever said, "If only they would listen to me they would be OK." I have.

This boils down to the old saying, "God loves you and I have a plan for your life."

So, what to do? Listen carefully to what the person wants. What are his goals, objectives, values and interests? Does he know what they are? Few people do. This is a major way to help people change. If goals are clear then it is much easier to start working to accomplish them. If not, all the work in the world will not produce much more than confusion.

Next time it's timing.

Gary Sweeten

Jesus: The Great Change Agent

A powerful video of Steve Harvey introducing a change agent you can believe in.

Gary Sweeten

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Is Change Possible?

When I entered graduate school at Southern Illinois University and then at University of Cincinnati it was assumed by the faculty and all students that change was possible. Some issues, problems and problems might be complex and challenging but there could be substantial change in every problem arena of life.

For example, depression, anxiety, marital dysfunction, sexual malfunctions, drug abuse, alcoholism and bad parenting could be changed and improved if not eliminated. Today that is no longer the situation.

What has happened? Well, for one thing, Political Correctness has reared its very ugly and censoring head. Yep PC thinking censors any professional who has the courage or the foolishness to suggest that any condition can be altered and improved. Here is what a recent article by the eminent psychiatrist, Robert Spitzer.

Am J Psychiatry 1981; 138:210-215

Copyright © 1981 by American Psychiatric Association

RL Spitzer
In 1973 homosexuality per se was removed from the DSM-II classification of mental disorders and replaced by the category Sexual Orientation Disturbance. This represented a compromise between the view that preferential homosexuality is invariably a mental disorder and the view that it is merely a normal sexual variant.

What were the reasons the APA changed their rule book about homosexuality being a mental disorder? Was there new research on the matter? No! It was solely a political matter. Now it is common for graduate schools to teach that it is actually unethical to help homosexuals change even if they want desperately to change. Why? Because they "Should not want to change since there is nothing wrong with same gender sexual relationships and to treat them indicates a that is is morally wrong as a behavior."

If a depressed person came to me for treatment and I refused on the grounds that, "Depressed people do not need to change. To help them become happy and content would be tantamount to suggesting they are weak or morally wrong" it would cause a scandal.

Change in sin sexual preferences is possible. In fact, it is happening a lot today. and it has always happened. Therapists have counseled homosexuals for thousands of years and many times it has been successful. It is hard to change sexual preferences but it is also hard to change any long term habitual behavior.

Religious conversion and entry into a healing community has helped many people with same sex attractions change. St. Paul says that both men and women were healed from sexual confusion. I CO 6:11 … that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

If I did not believe change was possible for all persons I would leave the ministry.

Gary Sweeten

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Cable News

CNN KING 1,373,000
MADDOW 1,169,000
CNN COOPER 1,035,000

Leaders Speak

Two great communicators together: Rick Warren and Barack Obama

Any church or business that is growing is led by a good communicator. We can see from recent elections that the ability to speak clearly and persuasively is critical to one's political success. Mr. Bush is a fine man but he is a terrible communicator and McCain is not much better. Mr. Obama is untried and untested but he is a great communicator.

Sarah Palin surprised all of us with her tremendous ability to connect with people. I will be interested to see where she goes from here.

Great leaders get help so they can improve their communication. They need to communicate well in writing, interpersonal relationships and public speaking. Even Tiger Woods gets additional coaching and he is the best golfer ever. Great Pastors and Great Leaders have coaches as well.

Lloyd Ogilve was a famous Presbyterian Minister in Hollywood before taking the position as Senate Chaplain. Every sermon he gave was analyzed and discussed by a special speaking coach. The content was not discussed, that was the Preacher's job. However, the delivery, timing, pacing and tone were all fair game. That is how an expert gets better.

Who is coaching you?

Take a look at a great blog on communication. It has the top ten best and worst communicators of 2008. ( I am not on either list.)

Gary Sweeten

Hopeless for 2009

Atheists are sick and tired of aggressive Christians talking about God. So, they are raising money to put on a hard hitting campaign to rebut our faith.
According to The Herald American paper, militant atheists and humanists are spending lots of money to spread their powerful message: "There's probably no god; now stop worrying and enjoy life."

According to the Herald: Next week, the Atheist Bus Campaign plans to place 1,000 advertisements in the subway system, featuring enthusiastic quotations from Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Douglas Adams and Katharine Hepburn.

An interesting element of the bus slogan is the word "probably," which would seem to be more suited to an Agnostic Bus Campaign than to an atheist one. Dawkins, for one, argued that the word should not be there at all.

But the element of doubt was necessary to meet British advertising guidelines, said Tim Bleakley, managing director for sales and marketing at CBS Outdoor in London, which handles advertising for the bus system.

I wonder if thousands will rush to convert to doubt after this campaign.

Gary Sweeten

Hope for 2009

Karl Barth offered this prayer before a Christmas Communion in Basil, Switzerland, in 1958:

“We remember before thee all darkness and suffering of our time...We remember the sick and mentally ill, the needy, the refugees, the oppressed and the exploited, the children who have no good parents or no parents at all. We remember all those who are called on to help as much as [humans] can help, the officials of our country and of all other countries, the judges and civil servants, the teachers and educators, the writers of books and newspapers, the doctors and nurses in the hospitals, the preachers of thy word...We remember them all when we implore thee to let thy light of Christmas shine brightly, much more brightly than ever, for them and for us, so that they and we ourselves may be helped. We ask all this in the name of the Savior in whom thou hast already hearkened to our supplications and wilt do so again and again.”

May Christ himself shine “much more brightly than ever” in our hearts, and may we discern his brightness in the darkest and most unexpected places this year.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Prayer is Popular

The United States may be a secular nation, but its people are anything but. In fact, 90 percent of Americans have a spiritual interlude with God every day, according to a new study released last week and covered in the Washington Times. "Most prayer writers imagine a God who is accessible, listening, and a source of emotional and psychological support, who at least sometimes answers back," said Wendy Cadge, a sociologist who directed the research for Brandeis University.

The findings, though, have been supported for years. In 2004, a survey of more than 31,000 adults released by the National Institutes of Health found that prayer is the most commonly used "alternative medicine." It's even more popular than acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga and vitamins.

Why do so many media outlets talk about accupuncture, yoga, meditation and Eastern mysticism? Any bias here?

Gary Sweeten

New Year's Blessings

I received this blessing from my buddy Ron Tate of the Boomer Wave blog fame. Check it Out

2009 Contract: After serious & cautious consideration... your contract of friendship has been renewed for the New Year 2009! It was a very hard decision to make... So try not to screw it up!!!

My Wish for You in 2009

May peace break into your home and may thieves come to steal your debts.
May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for $100 bills.
May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips!
May happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy
May the problems you had, forget your home address!
In simple words ............

May 2009 be the best year of your life!!!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Start 2009 off and be Fine

“Christ enables us to keep the First, Second and Third Commandments. In this way, we came to trust and have faith in God as our Father. We began to praise Him with a cheerful heart and regard His name as holy.

Where did all this kindness come from? We certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. None of our good works performed in obedience to God’s law earned it. Instead, it came from being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, being renewed by the Word of God, and having faith in Christ. Through these, we have received a new spirit that makes God’s Word and God’s laws a pleasure to obey.

Now we find joy in trusting God above everything else…The undeserved kindness that Christ has given us through faith makes the First Commandment a pleasure to obey.”
Martin Luther, By Faith Alone

The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable. Paul Tillich

The church is the only human organization that requires its members to be unworthy in order to join. Gary Sweeten

Gary Sweeten

A Good Year Passed and Another is Coming

2008 was a great year. Not because I made a lot of money in my retirement account. I did not. In fact I lost a lot of money.

Not because I became famous instead of rich. I did not. In fact I am even more humbled by my lack of fame and influence.

Not because I was successful as a minister or teacher. I was not successful in the sense that Obama wants me to be his Pastor nor does anyone me to speak at their big conferences. In fact, I get to talk to small groups of hearty Believers occasionally and I like it.

Why was 08 great?
Why will 09 be fine?

Because I have Great and Fine God. God is in control and I am not. Whew, that is a relief. I just heard two men argue over how to stop the wars in the Middle East. They were very sure of their answers to issues that have lasted several thousand years. They are deluded and I am not. I don't know what to do.

I am glad that Obama is President and I am not. I am even more pleased that God is in Heaven and I am on earth. I pray that Obama will also seek God.

I am greatly blessed by the Providence of God. I grew up with five rooms and a path to the bath room. Our water only ran if we carried it as we jogged. Our coal stove barely warmed a space of a few feet around it. My family and neighbors had little education and less money.

Thankfully, I was reared with a solid faith in God. The Holy Spirit came to me while I was a young boy of ten. Yes, I have been a Believer for over sixty years. That means I have accumulated a lot of grace, mercy and blessings from the hand of almighty God. So, I have an attitude of gratitude. I am thankful for my family, friends, fellow believers and this nation.

The Lord s my light and my salvation.
Whom shall I fear?

Gary Sweeten