Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Works to End Poverty

I recently read a great story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about a charity that really works to help people change their own lives. It is called, The Family Independence Initiative.

The story told of how the founder, Mr. Maurice Miller, had a dramatic change of heart and mind about how to help people get out of chronic poverty. At the time of his conversion Mr. Miller was head of a very large, very expensive, much lauded organization with numerous awards for ending poverty. What happened to change his mind?

Mr. Miller was enrolling gang members in a job-training program and had only one more spot. He gave the position to a young man who’d been in prison for armed robbery rather than the man’s friend, who had never been incarcerated.
When Mr. Miller explained why he had to make that decision—because the charity’s criteria favored people who’d been in trouble and seemed to need the most help—the chosen man nudged his friend and said, “See, you should have come on that job with me.”
It was then Mr. Miller realized the message his group was sending.

What message was his group sending? "You must become a thief and refuse to work if you expect us to help you!"

Now Mr. Miller is changing the way he works. He founded the Family Independence Initiative and started telling people how to organize themselves into self directing groups of hard working people who used their own insights, knowledge and understanding to defeat their daily problems. When someone calls the FII and asks for help, they are told to go to their group of supportive citizens first.

I learned long ago not to "Over Function" for people. In alcohol and drug treatment that is called "Co-Dependency or Enabling" and it kills addicts rather that curing them. It kills initiative, it kills hard work, it kills self esteem it keeps people in poverty.

The work of Mr. Miller and his group is inspiring, powerful, educational and it works for much less money. Read the story and weep at the cost of failing to help people. Failures are much higher than successes in financial outlay to say nothing of the human costs.

Your support of Sweeten Life Systems is support for things that work. We facilitate healthy systems, healthy networks and healthy relationships. We find doing for people distressing and enabling. We find helping them find their own answers to be liberating and empowering.

A Judge Tries to Stop Prayer

Many years ago an enterprising farmer packed up various seeds and shoots of plants to bring with him to America. He wanted a beautiful garden, I assume, as well as one that was filled with health as well as beauty. When deciding what to bring on his trip he chose one of the most beautiful and healthy plants known to man, the dandelion.

What makes dandelion removal from lawns so difficult? Well, dandelions (see picture for identification) enjoy the best of both worlds. Above-ground, their seeds ride the wind currents, poised to drop into the slightest opening in your lawn to propagate the species. Meanwhile, below-ground, they strike down a taproot up to 10" long. Pulling the taproot as a means of dandelion removal is problematic. Thick but brittle, the taproot easily fractures -- and any fraction of the taproot that remains in the ground will regenerate.

I always liked the dandelion. It was a fascinating flower and I loved to pick one when it was blooming and blow the fragile, frail little petals off into the wind to see how far they would float in the air. As far as I could see, all kids loved dandelions but a lot of adults hated them.

I never could figure out why people hated dandelions. they were harmless unlike poison ivy and poison oak. They wouldn't make the cattle sick or stink up the neighborhood. They were, as I said, beautiful and so hardy. But many adults decided they were weeds and conspired with the chemical industry to kill them off.

One thing about the dandelion, no matter how hard people tried to kill them they grew and spread all over the country. I suppose so many kids were like me. they too loved to blow their heads off when their folks or other adults were not looking. And, the wind cooperated with the dandelion's deep desire to reproduce. The results are everywhere apparent. Bright, beautiful, yellow dandelions as far as the eye can see, especially in play grounds.

The dandelion is a great metaphor for the good news of Jesus Christ. The love, healing and eternal life gained through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a beautiful flower that brings health, peace and beauty into the world. It never does any harm. Life with Jesus is always good and loving. Yet many people try to stamp it out.

There are several atheist and agnostic groups today that are aggressively attempting to force religion and specifically Christianity, out of the public eye. They will fail, of course, but it is still a bit irritating to see. They might as well try to eliminate dandelions.

An ancient Prophet once said of such efforts "The seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs." A martyr's blood is sacred but the testimony of a martyr can never be extinguished. The wind of the Holy Spirit blows wherever it wills and the hate of atheists cannot extinguish the love and power of the good news.

When hateful anti Christians attempt to "pull faith up by the roots" parts of our testimony breaks off and reproduces. It is almost impossible to get to the root of a dandelion and remove it.

The harder they blow their hot air the more the good news is spread throughout the world. Millions of people come to Christ every year. More people respond to the wooing of the Holy Spirit with newly opened eyes than give up eternal life for the arrogance of disbelief.

Every time you see a dandelion remind yourself to thank God for the gospel and share it with someone to pass it on.

We at Sweeten Life Systems is energetically involved in equipping Christians to share the good news with love, sensitivity and boldness. Your prayer and financial support for SLS will enable us to expand the Kingdom of God even more. See our web page for more information.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Christian Healing and Growth

I am shifting many of my thoughts to a new blog called Spiritual Healing and Growth. I have found that the name of this blog gets a lot of hits but most of them are for the movie Brave Heart. So, I am experimenting with different venues to get the word out about the things I am passionate about.

As I near my celebration for the 72nd anniversary of my coming into the world I am still eager to share the love, power and truth of Jesus Christ. Since I was a child I have been sought out for advise, wisdom, counsel and insight. I still am sought by many leaders who are stuck themselves or working with those who are stuck.

I studied Teaching and practiced that fine art for five years before running into some painful blocks. Looking back it was a good thing because I have learned to "Count it all joy when you encounter various trials..." James 1. I have learned to look for God at work during my trials and challenges and that early difficulty turned into a great gift because I returned to grad school and studied counseling.

It was there that I discovered the power of the environment to bring desired changes. Peer and Family support just can't be beaten when it comes to helping people change.

That led me to Cincinnati and a position at UC during the riots and Jesus Movement. These two movements taught me to watch out for massive spiritual, emotional and political movements and to see what God would have us do to cooperate with Him by facilitating changes in the church and Christians.

In 1973 God led me to College Hill Presbyterian and what a blessing that was. I learned to integrate my theoretical and practical insights from psychology, counseling, sociology and theology into a wholistic approach to healing, growth and influence. We called our center, TELEIOS for wholeness in Christ.

We also developed a non profit organization CIC in 1978 that took our insights to the world. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the founding of what is now called Equipping Ministries International (EMI). EMI has spread to over 70 nations.

In 1989 God called us to open a Christ centered Psychiatric Counseling Center where we could bring all the insights and learning together into the task of helping distressed, traumatized and wounded believers heal and grow into maturity.

Now I am heading Sweeten Life Systems, formerly Life Way Inc, a non profit coaching, consulting and research organization dedicated to "Building a lifetime of great relationships" because all our experience and research points to the fact that death or life come from relationships.

I am hoping I can get all of you to follow me on the new blog where I will write about what is going on with me and a lot about the things that facilitate healing, growth and change.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Great Blog by Dave Workman

Dave Workman is Pastor at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati. He and Steve Sjogren were essentially co-pastors and founders of the VCC and he continues to lead the congregation through all the ups and downs of ministry in a mega church. Yes, there are ups and downs, especially in big churches and as a Pastor.

Whether it is the world, the flesh or the devil that comes against us, it is a war. I have never seen a large church that did not experience very rough seas just when good things seemed to be happening.

Dave writes about that on his blog What I Meant to Say and I think he does a great job. Take a look and see what you think.

Church Growth

I am reading two books that lay out the way we can facilitate the missional and evangelistic missions of the churches of Jesus Christ. Church attendance is decreasing across America. It has already hit bottom in Europe. We need some new models of church if the situation is to be changed and churches are to thrive.

Both books tell how we have reached the end of n era. No longer can we expect people to thrive and expand the impact of the church by keeping the old wine skins of church structures. The era of hierarchical, bureaucratic organizational structures has passed into the dust bin of history. A new approach is desperately needed if Christianity is to thrive.

The first book is The Starfish and the Spider. The second book is Social Entrepreneurship. Go right now to Amazon.com and order them if you want to see revival and renewal begin in America.

Both books talk about using small groups of committed persons to change the world. The authors of Starfish brilliantly describe why the Apache's defeated the Spanish armies while the Incas and others were destroyed by the Spanish. The authors of Social Entrepreneurship tell similar stories about how small groups of dedicate men and women defeated poverty, Muslim Fundamentalism and natural disasters.

They are insightful, inspiring, easy to read and have great stories.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to be an Evangelist

Guy Kawasaki, a very famous blogger, speaker and writer, put out a nice and instructive post recently about being a "secular evangelist". Guy is a Christian so he "borrowed" a lot of ideas from the Bible as to ways we can reach others for a cause, even the cause for Christ.

Here are some of his points.

# Create a cause.The starting point of evangelism is having a great thing to evangelize. A cause seizes the moral high ground. It is a product or service that improves the lives of people, ends bad things, or perpetuates good things. It is not simply an exchange of things/services for money.
# Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn't simply a job title. It's a way of life. It means that the evangelist totally loves the product and sees it as a way to bring the “good news.” No matter how great the person, if he doesn't love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it.
# Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. A good evangelist can usually tell if people understand and like a product in five minutes. If they don't, cut your losses and avoid them. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion when he believes in another god.
# Localize the pain. No matter how revolutionary your product, don't describe it using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” and “curve jumping.” People don't buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives.
# Let people test drive the cause. Essentially, say to people, “We think you are smart. Therefore, we aren't going to bludgeon you into becoming our customer. Try our product, take it home, download it, and then decide if it's right for you.” A test drive is much more powerful than an ad.
# Learn to give a demo. An “evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. A person simply cannot be an evangelist if she cannot demo the product. If a person cannot give a demo that quickens the pulse of everyone in the audience, he should stay in sales or in marketing.
# Provide a safe first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope.
# Ignore pedigrees. Good evangelists aren't proud. They don't focus on the people with big titles and big reputations. Frankly, they'll meet with, and help, anyone who “gets it” and is willing to help them.
# Never tell a lie. Very simply, lying is morally and ethically wrong.
# Remember your friends. Be nice to the people on the way up because one is likely to see them again on the way down.

Read more at his blog

Sunday, April 18, 2010

USA versus Europe's Standard of Living

With the soon coming addition of a Value Added Tax in the USA that rivals Europe, it would be nice to see a good, honest comparison of our current standard of living. I recently read a comparison that was dated in 1991 and it showed the USA as having a much lower standard of living and lower taxes than Europe.

The charts I read were old and unclear as to how issues, including taxes, were counted. If any of my readers have such comparisons I would like to see them.


Gary Sweeten

The Medical System is Broken?

A post from my other blog, Spiritual Healing and Growth. Is it? When we travel to other countries it doesn't look bad at all. In fact, most wealthy and famous people almost always choose to come to the USA for medical care from their home nations. Ken Blackwell writes about this in his recent post on the Huffington Post.

Blackwell points out that "World famous tenor Plácido Domingo has undergone surgery for the removal of a cancerous polyp. The surgery took place at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. The hospital's spokeswoman announced that the cancerous growth was small and the opera star is expected to make a full recovery."

Despite the fact that Mr.Domingo is a millionaire man from Spain he came to America for medical care. Why did he not stay in Spain or go to the countries with the supposedly vaunted Socialist medical care such as Norway, Denmark, England? Why not Canada? Well, even the Canadians who head their health care system come to America for treatment.

American health care can be improved. It can be made less expensive. The insurance issues can be made more efficient and human. But those are things that need to be accomplished in small steps not by a take over by the Federal Government.

We are just finishing up a year long study of families with severely disabled children. One of their greatest complaints was the bureaucracy and lack of compassion they found. That kind of thing can be and needs to be changed. However, adding Federal oversight by the IRS will not reduce the coldness and inhumane treatment. Has anyone ever told you that the IRS is a model of care and compassion?

Medical care in the USA is superior at the technical level to that of any nation on earth, and it can be made better. Let's all work to improve it but not by giving more power to the Feds.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Viet Nam Wall

Several years ago I was able to visit the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. It was quite an emotional experience because of the design of the Memorial and the crowd's strong feelings.

I had quite a few friends who went to Vietnam and one who was killed. I can still remember the day I heard of his death and how shocked I was that someone I knew had died at a very young age.

War is terrible. The death, destruction and evil that occur are beyond description. Yet, it seems that wars are necessary evils. Christian theologians talk about what are called, "Just Wars". No matter how just or unjust they are, lives, families and histories are destroyed in them.

As a Christian I believe in eternal life through faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This wall reminds me that people die every day. Mortality is 100% for all of us so it reminds me to live like I was dying. Maybe you will pause and reflect upon your own mortality and your eternal life.

The enclosed link will take you to a site designed to be a "virtual wall" with the names, ranks and home places of every person killed in that far away war. I clicked it and found the names of people who died from my neck of the woods. I hope it will help some people honor friends and family members on the list.

Click on the site at the bottom then chose a state. First click on a state. When it opens, scroll down to the city and the names will appear. Then click on their names. It should show you a picture of the person, or at least their bio and medals.

This really is an amazing web site. Someone spent a lot of time and effort to create it.

I hope that everyone who receives this appreciates what those who served in Vietnam sacrificed for our country.
The link below is a virtual wall of all those lost during the Vietnam war with the names, bio's and other information on our lost heroes. Those who remember that time frame, or perhaps lost friends or family can look them up on this site.
Pass the link on to others if you like.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Missionary Funding

I am in Georgia this week attending an annual event to raise money for missions. It is part of the Assembly of God world missions' focus and they are amazingly productive in motivating churches and individuals to support missions with their offerings.

Tr-County Assembly (TCA) and Lead Pastor Brad Rosenberg are leading the pack of churches in annual giving. Pastor Brad is following in the footsteps with his father and founding Pastor Hugh Rosenberg as a trend setter in reaching the world with the good news of Christ's victory over death.

I am very impressed with the AG fervor and balance in local, national and world evangelism. they are able to continue in the tradition of an Evangelical emphasis on God's word, their own traditions of operating in the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the biblical emphasis on social and practical works in the community. And, they have a lot of fun. The joy of the Lord is definitely part of their character. Even in the midst of a genuine interest in people being saved and healed they are enjoying the blessings of salvation.

I am also learning about giving. The generosity of the AG people and their churches is astounding. The believe in supporting their missionaries and the put their money where their mouth is. The live out their convictions and that is more than I can say for many denominations.

I hope I can learn how to be more generous and how to challenge Christians to give with a cheerful heart to spread the gospel far and wide.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Top Ten Most Admired Companies

Do you want your company or church or non profit to be we;ll liked and admired? On a more general basis, is it important for the public to admire and respect God's people and institutions? How is the current scandal about the Roman Catholic Church in Europe affecting all Christian groups? Does it really matter?

The Decker Blog covers questions such as this and tries to help people do a better job of communicating their values and goals. I enjoy reading this blog and generally find it interesting and helpful.

Their current blog covers a recent survey on the top ten most admired companies in the world. The survey also revealed the lowest most admired companies. Ouch! I hope I am not on that list. Unfortunately, Delta Airlines was.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Grandparents

Papa and Grandma with Jack and Emma Sweeten

Just shwoing off our grand kids.
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to Russia with God's Love


Galina was able to meet me in Denmark and share with thye Danish leaders what the Lord is doing in Russia to bring about revival and renewal. Despite laboring under the most trying circumstances, Galina and her team of resilient and godly leaders are making a real difference among the people. Starting some fifteen years ago with only herself the Liferoute Ministry today is training care givers, 12 Step facilitators, Peer Counselors and Small Group Leaderas in many places around the former USSR. Galina was inspirational to the Danes who, despite their close promiximity to Russia, are ignorant of its terrible condition.

If any of you want to know if Socialism works in a large nation, ask that group of Christians. The devastation of millions under the USSR reign of terror left the people and especially Christians reeling from family destruction, trauma and addiction. Only Christian groups with the expertise of recovery and healing can make a dent in that situation.

Pray for Galina and consider sending the Russian team a donation once in a while or each month. Also pray for us to find a place to meet and teach. Prices in Russia are very high and space extremely limited.
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Revival in Denmark


Four men, three youngsters and an old and wizened guy, came together in Silkeborg, Denmark to share about how God's people can reach out to minister to those who need the love, power and truth of Christ. On the left is Pastor Reuben of the Silkeborg Church. Next to him is Andy Niblock and then Danny Wilson from St. Thomas Church in Sheffield, England. I am on the right.

The St. Thomas Church has the most compelling and complex outreach program to the poor and needy that I have ever heard about. The church is a combination of Anglican, Baptist and House Church Movement and is very charismatic in experience. They set up "Missional Communities" in needy areas and encourage those groups to heard God's call to minister to the people they meet. Many homeless, immigrants,addicted and traumatized are coming to faith in Christ and getting their lives straightened out.

The congregation has over 3,000 members. If you are interested in Missional Movements, take a look at St. Thomas.

The Silkeborg Church along with Peder Poulsen and the Diakonea (Deaconing) Movement of personal ministry are cooperating to raise up hundreds of Missional Communities throughout Denmark. I spoke about how to reorganize a small group ministry to include an outreach ministry. I will post those ideas later.

Almost all of what God is doing to bring hope, healing and change in the world is hidden from view. The media rarely if ever report on the millions of human hours spent bringing the good news of grace and the good news of love to the hurting members of society. And that is not a bad thing. The Pearl of great price is hidden and only God really knows the depth of what the churches are doing.


Gary Sweeten
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Friday, April 02, 2010

Spiritual Healing Blog

I have started a new blog. You can find it under
Spiritual Healing and Growth I think you will find it enormously helpful if you are a counselor, educator, minister or volunteer. I am placing research, insights on ways people grow and change and practical things I have learned over the past thirty years of ministry.

Take a look and keep coming back.

Where Does Hate Come From?

President Truman Points to the Faulty Headline
When I left you last I was in Randers, Denmark after speaking at a seminar/workshop on ways to facilitate Christian fellowship and outreach and then preaching at the Free Church in Randers on the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem from Bethany.

Jesus was eating with his disciples, along with Lazarus, Mary and Martha when a crowd appeared. Lazarus was fresh from his grave and everyone there knew of his uprising. They knew he was dead and now was alive. It is impossible to hide that kind of thing from your neighbors, especially in a small town like Bethany.

Jesus had been doing a lot of good things as he traveled around the countryside with the 12 young men and the raising of Lazarus was certainly one of the most sensational. How could anyone disagree with Jesus or criticize him for doing good? But they did.

In fact, one of his main men, Judas, was critical when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, showed her appreciation and affection to Jesus by anointing his feet with an expensive oil. Judas burst out with indignation and said that the oil "should have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor." Jesus corrected Judas and affirmed Mary but the even showed the evil heart of Judas.

The next day hundreds of people lined the road into Jerusalem and waved palm branches as they shouted "Hosanna to the King" and honored Jesus as he rode on the back of a donkey into town. But the appreciation and hosannas did not last long for the next few days saw Jesus surrounded by soldiers, arrested and brought before the judges for sentencing. Despite his pure record and wonderful deeds, the crowds now yelled for a murderer by the name of Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus.

People are fickle. People do not love or hate a person because of the good deeds or wonderful ideas but because evil is in our hearts and it comes out in blaming others. Judas was a thief so he was jealous that Jesus was receiving adoration and anointing with expensive oil. Covetousness is a terrible sin that can lead us to murder in either word or deed. The Chief Priests were jealous of Jesus and worked hard to turn people against him. They succeeded and Jesus was crucified.

The heart is wicked and deceitful and no one can change that except the Holy Spirit. Don't operate your life based on the affirmation and approval of others.We are all fickle and want our own way. I often advise people who are anxious about what others say to stop worrying about it because most of them are interested only in themselves.

Not even Jesus, the Great Physician and Savior of the world could please everyone so I doubt that you will be able to. Always stand on the truth and speak it in love.