Thursday, May 26, 2011

Evangelism that Draws us to Jesus

Several posts on Face Book have focused on the Harold Camping mess. As you may know, Mr. Camping, a millionaire who owns several radio stations that promote Christian programming, predicted an exact time and date for the return of Jesus. Well, he was wrong.

To that event I made some comments and had a Christian man post that he was scarred deeply by adults that tried to scare him into conversion with scary eschatology! I agreed with my friend that such behavior was and is wrong headed and deeply disturbing to me.

Some of my faithful friends wrote that the issue is not kindness but truthfulness that counts when we are evangelizing. What say you about evangelizing? Is truth all important even if it scares the people who listen to it? Are unbelievers more likely to come to Christ if they are really frightened or if they are drawn to the love and grace of God?

My early experiences were heavily weighted toward pointing out my sins, my guilt and eternal damnation if Jesus caught me with a spot or two on my pearly white robe when He returned by slipping into earth's atmosphere when we were not looking.

If I was caught by the returning Jesus while listening to Elvis, Little Richard or Jimmy Hendrix it was going to be a very long and hot eternity. If He came by suddenly ripping through the sky on Sunday morning when I was in church singing Amazing Grace i would be just fine.

How about you? Was the love of God offered to you or His ever present wrath?

What drew you to salvation in Jesus?

tell me your stories.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Men Acting Badly

Two rather rich and famous men were caught recently with their pants literally down and their exploits glaring in the headlines. Why do so many men in power find it necessary to get involved sexually with women other than their wives?

For men in general and famous, power hungry men specifically, the name of the game is not pleasure derived from sexual relationships but the sense of pleasure, ego fulfillment and importance that they get from "Winning" the affections of a woman. In Genesis 3:19 God points out to Adam that as a result of his rebellion, the whole earth would be filled with destructive forces that the write calls, "Thorns and thistles..."

God the Creator goes on to say that from that day forward "Males would eat their food as the result of the sweat of their brow". This implies a life of toil, hard work and difficulty. However, when we read the Hebrew version, another deeper and more nuanced insight emerges. It says, "You will eat as a result of flared nostrils". That places a whole new meaning on the curse for males for the flaring of nostrils indicates a strong emotional drive to compete with intensity, anger and winner take all. Men have for millennia fought over land, materials goods, religion, and WOMEN. In fact, polygamy is not sexual driven but is the result of who has the most power and riches.

I see these most recent male predators as being driven not by the urge of sexual pleasure but a lust for winning another woman. The conquest of a female shows that a man is superior to other men, especially their husbands.

So the Governor of California and the Governor of the IMF join with bin Laden among males who take great pride in using their wives as a cover for lust and violence. In some ways, Islam is more honest about male dominance and female subservient to them. Women are another toy to show for winning the game.

In the USA our laws have always been based on Christianity that protected women from predators. Recently, of course, as a result of the feminist revolution, the laws are being changed and women are often willingly "hooking up" with men and encouraging men to use them as sexual chips in the "games" males play. By giving in so easily to men they are encouraging them to use and abuse other women.

When I was teaching Muslims in Asia I saw the way women are treated in Islam as opposed to what Jesus taught. The women there were stunned by the love, care and respect Jesus showed all women. I am praying that God will take the seeds I planted and cause them to rise up and liberate Muslim females from 1300 years of slavery.

We Christians must speak up forcefully for the equality of women but also for their protection. Single parents are almost always the females left by men who "won the battle for a one night stand" and the woman lost her future.

The churches have always been filled with more women than men. The love and respect Jesus showed women was amazingly different from that which was done in any other culture. The rise of monasteries came about to saved women and children from marauding bands of predatory males. We Christians have not always been Christian to women but Jesus always has been their refuge.

More later on what happened when I worked with the Muslim women in Asia.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Get More out of Life

The Bible says that when we give we also receive. In fact, it seems to imply that the more we give to others the more we shall get back blessings and peace. They will be in a sack and have been "pressed down, shaken together and poured out into our laps".

I grew up in a farming community and have experienced exactly what the Bible teaches in this metaphor. Jesus was speaking to blue collar and small business people who understood the dynamics of buying and selling grain. If I went to your store to buy grain I would want you to fill my tow sack as completely and fully as possible. If you did not fill it to the brim I would pay much more than the going rate because I would be paying for air as well as grain.

In order to get all the oats that the sack would hold I would shake it vigorously so to press the oats down in a compact manner and force all the air out of the sack. I don't want air I want oats. Any air pocket would look like a packed sack but I would be cheated. It is the same as if the business man was putting his finger on the scale as well as the meat.

By serving and giving we get a full load of blessings. Jesus says the good stuff coming back to us will be "pressed down and shaken together" so we get as much as possible for the little we give to others. The implications are enormous for our peace, joy and happiness. As we serve others according to our gifts and talents, we can enter into what some researchers call, "FLOW". That is a mental and emotional state that seems to fly by as fast as can be.

Flow means that we are so caught up in our actions that we forget about being tired, hungry uncomfortable, or down in the dumps. It is a state of joy. This is why Jesus said serving and giving from our gifts and talents will come back as a blessing. I have been watching a TV show about secret millionaires who go underground to find a non profit that is serving others. In every case the millionaires find great joy in humbly serving the poor, downtrodden and marginalized. As a result, they wanted to give more of their time and money.

Here are some hints about finding these blessings. 1.Better understand your strengths, gifts, talents and call by trying out various volunteer opportunities. When we liberate our strengths in service to others we have the greatest joy. 2. Make sure the serving costs you something. Time, energy, money, status, and convenience. 3. Do your service in the Name of the Lord. Give glory to God for all you have and all you do. 4. Reflect on your experience afterward with some friends and family members who know how to listen. journal about your experience. What was the best parts? The worst parts? 5. Ask God what He thinks about your experience.

On May 27 we are hosting the parents of kids with a disability. You are welcome to come and serve them and learn about our ministry. If you are interested write me at You can also go to Sweeten Life web and find out more about us.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pay for Professionals- A Shame

When I founded Life Way Counseling Centers in 1989, the hourly pay for a Professional Counselor with a Doctorate and a Clinical License was right at $100.00. Since then the rate has dropped almost in half.

At the same time insurance agencies, managed care and the government have increased our paper work and bureaucracy by double. Before long we will have to pay them to work. No wonder so many veteran Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counselors are retiring.

Additionally, there are fewer in-patient units where the severely distressed can go to heal and yet it seems that the numbers of people experiencing extreme psychological stress are rising. A strong mental, emotional, relational and spiritual life is foundational to healthy families, governance and economics. All that is threatened by the lack of quality people in mental health fields.

This story explains what is happening.

Survey Finds Behavioral Health Professionals Earn Less Than Fast Food Workers

Washington DC (April 11, 2011)—A licensed social worker with a master’s degree earns less than a manager of a fast food restaurant, according to the 2011 Behavioral Health Salary Survey just released by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council). The survey finds that the nation’s mental health and addictions treatment professionals are paid far less than their counterparts in other healthcare sectors.

“Just as people with mental illnesses and substance-use disorders are routinely stigmatized, it appears those working in the behavioral health sector are also treated differently—even within the healthcare community,” says Linda Rosenberg, National Council president and CEO.

The survey of more than 850 mental health and addictions treatment organizations finds:

  • A direct care worker in a 24-hour residential treatment center earns a lower median salary ($23,000 a year) than an assistant manager at Burger King ($25,589).
  • The annual salary range for a chief medical officer at a behavioral health organization is $101,000–$150,000, compared to the national average of $183,947–$292,395 for the same position in any other type of healthcare organization.
  • A social worker with a master’s degree in a mental health-addictions treatment organization earns less ($45,344) than a social worker in a general healthcare agency ($50,470).
  • A registered nurse working in a behavioral health organization earns $52,987 compared to the national average for nurses of $66,530.
  • “The survey underscores the need to end the second class status of employees working in mental health and addictions organizations,” says Rosenberg, who cites the recent economic crisis and state budget cuts for contributing to the problem.

“Until we achieve equity with the rest of the public healthcare safety net, we will continue to struggle to recruit and retain the number and caliber of professionals needed for more efficient and effective mental health and addictions services.”

The survey, conducted in partnership with the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals, includes salary data for executives, administrators, clinicians, direct care and support staff in public and private behavioral healthcare organizations. Completed in November 2010, survey findings are based on salaries reported by 860 respondents from 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Annual salary data are based on the time period between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010.

The full report is available for purchase at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spiritual Growth

I posted some thoughts about growth and healing on my other blog.

Go take a look.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

More About Bin Laden's Death

The Cross at Ground Zero

The issue of Bin Laden's death has caused me to think a bit about how Christians need to respond to institutional evil, wars and acting as citizens. On the one hand we hear folks quoting Jesus when He says, "Love your enemies".

On the other hand we hear folks talk about God being Just and demanding justice. Others talk about revenge and that sets Believers' hair on fire because God said, "I shall repay" and that means a nation should never avenge the attacks of evil men.

Both are correct, of course, and when I hear folks say these things I may feel badly because I have not loved Bin Laden like Jesus does; I fear that Bin Laden did not get full justice by a court of law and I want revenge even if God says that is not my job. Oh my! What can I do?

First, a nation must not try to act like an individual Christian or a church. Second, a nation is not always seeking justice or a desire to take every evil combatant to court. However, a nation must protect itself and its citizens.

So, I have conclude that the goal of the USA when dealing with mass murders and bombers is not justice, grace or mercy but SURVIVAL. Bin Laden and his tribe are callous murderers. They were and are a constant threat to our citizens and our national welfare. In order to survive we must take actions that are not merciful, just or vengeful but self protective.

I believe it was in the best interest of the USA in particular and the world in general for him to die. I think the group that will most benefit are Muslims in the Middle East. In that way killing him was merciful toward innocent people that are not Christians and are not citizens of the USA.

One of my readers wrote in response to my last post on this topic and quoted Mark Twain who said something like the following.
I do not celebrate over any man's death but I read obituaries with a lot of satisfaction.

The Bin Laden flap has reminded me of the importance of evangelism and missions. Thanks be to God for His marvelous grace. Evangelism is all about mercy and grace. It is not about justice or getting revenge.

The most merciful, compassionate and gracious thing we can do is lead people to Christ. Maybe, by killing Bin Laden, we are giving an opportunity for thousands of Muslims to come to faith in Christ. Killing him has saved them from the hands of a murder who has killed more Muslim than any Christian or pagan.

God reached out to me and saved me when I was in sin. During all the years I have known Jesus He has loved me with a transforming relationship that has brought me from death. He has given me a life of compassion that does not arise from my nature but His nature.

Praise the Lord!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Can Business Catch up with Christians?

Many of us are pretty hard on the American churches. We don't see as much compassion, understanding, mercy or grace as we think the Bible call us to show. We are certainly pretty upset with the lack of skills most churches teach their people when the last think Jesus said before rising into heaven was, "Go teach people to DO everything that I did".

But, I am feeling better because many companies large and small are doing even worse than the church. It is probably a fleshly thing to do, be prideful, but, so what. It may be good to pat ourselves on the back occasionally when we are really outdoing the secularists who run America.

An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that companies are by and large just catching on to the fact that they must train their people to get along. Sure, many companies have talked a lot about customer service and places like Nordstrom's has been given awards because they take clothes back from disgruntled customers, but all in all the workplace resembles The Office on TV rather than following Jesus.

I have trained several thousands of Pastors, Lay Leaders and The Laity all about how to get along better at home and work. Listening without rudely interrupting another person is, for example, widely accepted and the most crucial skill one can learn and develop in management, sales, leadership and customer service. Yet, listening is rarely if ever taught in any college or business school. Even many Counseling Programs fail to teach their students how to listen.

In 1975 I did a Doctoral Dissertation on the Core Skills of Healthy Relationships. Since then we have trained numerous people how to listen and I have written several books on interpersonal skills.

Do you want to be a better husband?
Do you want to be a better wife?
Do you want to be a better parent?
Do you want to be a better child?
Do you want to be a better manager?
Do you want to be a better Sales person?
Do you want to be a better leader?
Do you want to be a better Pastor?
Do you want to be a better _________?

Learn to Listen

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Visit to Ground Zero

This is the tenth year of the attack by the Usama Bin Laden trained team on the United States of America. I have not been personally to the memorials at the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania. However, I have been to Ground Zero where the most successful attacks took place and killed so man people.

Shortly after the attacks, we at Life Way Counseling Centers were contacted by The Salvation Army about spending a week at Ground Zero ministering and counseling with the First Responders. The cops, fire fighters, emergency workers, steel workers, etc had been working day and night to find and recover the casualties of the attack. Now many of them were "Hitting the wall" and needed some Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Life Way had worked with the Army for many yeas and they knew we combined good counseling with solid Christian values. When the national office asked about who could minister to the body, soul and mind our name came up. So, four of us boarded a Delta flight to Newark that they had donated to this mission. (Thanks Delta!)

We split our four person team into two with twos serving from 1:00 PM until 1:00 Am and the other from 1:00 AM until 1:00 PM. My twosome spend the night at Ground Zero sitting with the Cops and Fire Fighters and listening to their pain at every possible opportunity. It was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life yet I had a wonderfully fulfilling spiritual and emotional experience.

More later.

Killing Usama and Christian Feelings

I graduated from high school in 1956. That is 55 years ago. Interestingly, I stay in touch with many of my classmates from Mt. Vernon, Illinois through an email forum called, "The Mousenet".

After Usama was killed by our Navy Seals at the order of our President, I had a mixture of feelings and thoughts. Some of my old friends also had a mixture of reactions. One of them wrote the following.


It appears that yours truly is, as usual, out of the mainstream of public thinking. I am not dancing in the streets over the death of Bin Laden. I get no joy out of the death, albeit possibly warranted, of another human being. Are those opposed to the death penalty dancing? Did we not execute an alleged criminal without a trial?
Jimmy D.

I responded by writing this:

Dear Jimmy D.

I am also mixed in my feelings and thoughts. War has so many casualties for so many generations. I understand the desire for justice/vengeance. I have similar feelings but perhaps forty years of counseling ministry have sanded down my angry rough edges. And, God said “Vengeance is mine; I shall repay.” so, I am left with a strange mixture of contrary feelings.

I watched the movie Doctor Zhivago again last week. It brings back so many memories of my teaching and Counseling in Russia. For over 20 years I have ministered in the former USSR.

Unfortunately, during all that time of listening to individuals and families I have never met a man or woman who has not lost a relative to Stalin, the Nazis, the /secret police or all of the above. The unresolved grief, pain, anger and addictions of these well educated, faith filled people is overwhelming. All of it going back to the times of Doctor Zhivago and the Revolution.

The Red revolutionaries were filled with idealism, good intentions and a desire to help the poor. Unfortunately, their hearts and minds were filled with an inhuman brutality that surpassed even that of Hitler. The most loyal and most dedicated were the first to die or go to the camps because Stalin could not stand having any possible competitors.

In the movie, the Communist husband of Julie Christie hated Zhivago because he wrote poetry and showed evidence of human compassion, love and kindness. He said that all those human feelings must die in order to have a new order. I have seen firsthand what happened to the 200 million Russians who have suffered from a lack of human kindness, compassion and concern.

Alcoholism rates for males are at least 75% and domestic violence rates are as high or higher. It will take generations of care, healing and treatment to bring any semblance of humanity and health to those people impacted by Socialism that insisted on “fairness”.

As I consider what happens in war I wonder about the people in Muslim countries where England, Russia and the USA have been bombing and killing for generations? Is there a better way? I do not know. Maybe war is necessary but it has long term medical, psychological and spiritual costs.

I have dedicated my adult life to “healing the broken hearted and setting the captives free” (IS 61). I have founded two large counseling centers in Cincinnati and established healing centers in 75 countries. Unfortunately, we have expanded our healing ministries greatly since I founded The Teleios Center in 1979 but the results of shock, trauma and abuse as well as wars and natural tragedies keep raising the level people with broken hearts.

It only takes one guy like Mugabe in Zimbabwe or Saddam in Iraq to damage thousands of families for generations. However,it takes years to heal those broken hearts and care for their scattered souls.

One final thought. Pope John Paul is receiving great honor by His Church and by all people of good will. What a hero he was to millions in bondage behind the Iron Curtain. He was a genius and a great man. After reading his articles I realized that I had a philosophy quite similar to his and thank him for his wisdom because he wrote so brilliantly and insight-fully about care and cure of souls. He was a Catholic, of course, and I am not. Yet he and I were on the same page on many things.

It is rarely known outside Poland and Europe that as a Priest and Cardinal he recruited young American Missionaries from Campus Crusade for Christ to train local evangelists to win them to Christ and change the balance of power in Poland. Campus Crusade gave him all their materials and taught the Catholics how to share and care for hurting people. They raised up an army of peace makers, many of whom followed him and brought change to Europe. My Campus Crusade friends told me how they worked together to plant the seeds of love, power and peace to bring down the Communists.

Blessed are the peacemakers…!

Gary (Gabe) Sweeten