Thursday, October 31, 2013

Calvin and Luther Confessed



I mentioned that both Calvin and Luther had Confessors. They met with their Confessor regularly and told him their sins and omissions as well as their bad attitudes. I know a lot of men and women who consider themselves to be loyal Calvinists who would die rather than go to a Confessor but their hero did regularly.

Why did they go to another person to confess? Because the Bible commands us to do that. There are several commands in James 5.

If physically ill, call the Elders to anoint you and pray.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.

Finally, it seems that both famous reformers had the same besetting sins. They tried to stop but could not. They confessed it to others but never had control over the bondage of?????

ANGER!!

Sins of the heart are the deepest sins. They are deeply imbedded into the psyche/soul and mind and spirit. I think anger was St. Paul's thorn in the flesh. He could never conquer it but received a word that God's Grace was sufficient.

Read about Roots of Bitterness and watch a video Pastor Charlie McMahan and I did on this topic. Go to the Sweeten Life Web and watch the video and order the PDF. Breaking Free.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Anoint with Oil?



I have shared a lot of ideas about anointing oil recently. It is not because I think the oil has any kind of magical qualities. I do not think it does. Let me relate another secret from my years of praying for the sick. (SHHHH! I use oil that is scented! Why, you ask? It smells better than old olive oil. I like it and the person receiving prayer likes it.)

Here is my take on why oil is important. It brings us close to each other. Sick people can sometimes feel alienated. Laying hands on them brings us into personal contact. Research in Counseling shows that touch that is not invasive is therapeutic. People feel loved, approved, accepted and get a surge of faith during that kind of prayer.

Read Breaking Free to learn more about healing prayers.

Gary Sweeten


Monday, October 28, 2013

Sick Spiritually?



... (I)f he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. 

When Luther and Calvin broke away from the Roman Catholic Church neither  intended to stop practicing the practice of having a confessor. Each had a personal confessor and it is reported that both confessed the same chronic sin just before they died. 

Can you guess what it was? __________________________________

Read Breaking Free if you want more good stuff.

Sick Physically? You Need the Right Tools

 


James 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; 

The term Sick in verse 14 is "Physically feeble". In most churches there is a running list of people who are in the hospital, recovering from surgery or a bout of illness. Many are chronically ill and need ongoing prayer, love and practical support. 

Verse 15 is an astounding promise: :The prayer of faith will save (keep safely)  the person that is physically ill. Not cure but safe passage seems to be the focus. 

We Praise God for "Prayers of faithfulness". Our former church had a monthly healing service in the evening and also during our monthly communion service.  They were an integral part of the monthly and annual plan of services. Many give testimonies about God's answers to those prayers.

Our first grandchild was born, IMO, in response to prayers for pregnancy. Despite warnings that he would be sickly and abortion may be necessary, he was very healthy at birth and throughout his young life. 

Read Breaking Free to get more ideas about healing prayers.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Praying for the Sick?








James 5:13 Is any one among you suffering?

Any of the church suffering from evil causes? Let him/her pray. When we first became involved in healing we prayed a lot for people who had opened their lives to evil. So, when they got sick that often asked us to pray and mad the evil disappear.  

At first it was fun to do battle for the Lord with evil. But, we saw little long-term benefits so we asked God to show us why. His guidance was clear: "Read James 5:13 and follow it." We discussed what that meant and concluded that it meant we must encourage the Seeker to pray for himself/herself rather than us pray for them. 

We did it and the results dramatically improved. It is not my battle bur your battle. 

Is anyone cheerful? let him sing praises! 

Again, the Seeker is responsible to deal with his/her own issues first. Cheerfulness with praises brings more joy! It is a reinforcing cycle of joy and blessing. The very first rule of Soul Care is listening to the people. Allow them to share their joys and sorrows. Hear the heart for that has more power to heal than anything else. 

There is a lot of controversy over the gifts of the Spirit. Seminars, conferences, articles, books, accusations, disagreements, ETC! Pistols at twenty paces anyone? 

The greatest need is FRUIT of the Spirit.All we need is love! The greatest is love. Then the gifts and then the word. It all flows together in a hurricane of blessings.

Read Breaking Free  and Healing Release of the Holy Spirit for more hints on healthy ministry.

Delay





Because of the Government Shutdown I had to stop blogging so much. My $174,000.00 salary from DC was delayed and I was too depressed to write.

Now that Obamacare is broken I may not be able to write for a long time.




Thursday, October 24, 2013

Praying for the Sick




A friend mentioned to me last week that the wife of another friend had to be admitted to the emergency room for surgery in the night. They had to do a very serious surgery to save her life and the question was now, is the tumor cancer.

I sent a text to my friend saying I was in prayer for his wife and to let me know if I could do anything. It was right after the surgery so I did not expect an answer but I wanted to encourage him that we were praying.

Long distance prayers have been found in research to be effective. Most of the time we must pray over some distance because we are not present with the person in need. However, up slose and personal prayers are much better, IMO!

So my next tweet was short and sweet:

Have oil!
Will travel!

I received a tweet back.

When can you come over. She is at home recovering.

Why do you think I said that thing about oil? Maybe oil is just superstition. I always heard it was used way back in Bible times as a medicine to kill the germs. Maybe that is true, but I think it is more than simply symbolic.

What think ye?

Get Breaking free from the past to read more about healing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Heart Holds the Greatest Sins and the Greatest Potential for God



When it comes to sin, the battle is the mind and heart. Jesus says it over and over and He is simply repeating the truths of the past prophets.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

Jesus followed by summarizing in Mark 7: the previous statements to get across to the Conservatives the notion that our focus needs to be on the inner life of the soul not the outer life of the body. His greatest theological adversaries were the Pharisees whose basic theology was close to that of Jesus but they missed the mark when it came to trying to tame the behavior of people. Like Conservatives today the Pharisees got all worked up over what people ate, how they looked and how they behaved. It was a Performance Orientation?

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
 20 “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

These passages are why I have not gotten very involved in campaigns to stamp out sinful sex, sinful drugs, sinful drinking, sinful, rebellion, and so forth. Not only is it contrary to the teachings of Jesus it simply does not work. Every research study on marketing shows that negative messages fail to motivate change and can even backfire.

I prefer equipping God's people to examine and clean the gunk out from the heart, mind and soul. If we train Christians how to abide in Christ they will open up to God and allow the Spirit to flush their hearts out with His holiness! I am currently rewriting my old Rational Christian Thinking book that thousands have enjoyed. I did a new book on that theme called Power Christian Thinking. I guarantee it will help you examine, pinpoint and remove any elements of deep heart destruction.












Monday, October 21, 2013

5. Healing and Sin



I knew a man who was obsessed with sexual encounters. That is about all he thought about every day all day. He had a large legal practice. He employed three lovely young women to work for him. He had sex with at least one of them daily.

Every night he had two or three dates just to make sure he would be able to have sex again. Kirk had been married three times with beautiful women but as soon as he got married he was unable to have sex with them. He could only perform with women that were single.

He had an important case about ready to go to court. It made him so nervous and anxious that he was afraid he would lose. He heard of my reputation as a person known to help compulsive and addicted sex addicts so he called for an appointment. He came in and got right to the point.

Kirk: "Can you heal me?" 

Gary: "No, but God can. I don't heal anyone but I can pray and offer you counsel."

Kirk: "I don't want to be totally healed. I like having sex two or three times every day. But I can't do that and win this case. Can you help me?"

Gary: "If you don't want to be completely healed you won't. Change in sexual activities requires faith and works."

Question for you readers. If Kirk had wanted to be healed, could God do it? Could God take his compulsive drive for multiple sex partners away? Is sexual healing possible? 

And, if God did heal the compulsive sex, would that be the end of the healing or would it not be enough? Would more counsel, prayer, work, time be needed to heal other things? Is the sex the worst thing, the easiest thing or the only thing that needs to be healed?

Interested in healing and counseling and discipleship? Get this book. 


4. Most Common/Difficult/Common Sins



What did St. Paul say was the deepest sin he could not control? (Romans 7:8-12)

What do you think was his besetting sin? The one that was a thorn in his flesh? The one that he asked God to remove but the Lord said "NO!"?

It must have been a long term problem of the flesh. One that was embarrassing to Paul. He could not hide it.  Paul had to accept God's grace and not remove the thorn by works or prayer?

2 Corinthians 12 (New Revised Standard Version)

Paul’s Visions and Revelations

12 It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Want to learn how to identify deep, hidden, secret sins and root them out? We do it daily. Find out how in Breaking Free to be all God Wants Me to Be. Its a PDF in our bookstore that can be downloaded and read on your computer, your tablet or printed out.  

3. The Most Destructive Sins



I am still open to receive nominations from my readers. Please send me suggestions about the most dangerous and difficult sins that impact individuals, families, churches and nations. I am going to offer you a hint from a pretty good source. The source may not convince you and it has failed to convince millions over the past 2,000 years.

Mark 7 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Now do you want to change what you thought were the worst sins among us? Did you list some sins in your mind that get headlines but are not from the heart?I know it isn't really fair to ask you such a question but I like to trick people. I really understand that agreeing with Jesus is dangerous and you might be charged with heresy if your did.

Take a look at a very dangerous book called Breaking Free.


Friday, October 18, 2013

2. Most Destructive Christian Sins and Sinners



While listening to 700 WLW this morning I heard an anxious mom call in with a question. I will summarize it.

Mom: "Hello Scott, I heard the interview of the man discussing drug use. I have a son in high school and I am worried about him taking heroin. Can you tell me how to tell if he is on heroin?"

Scott Sloan:"Do you want to know the signs of heroin use?"

Mom: "Yes. I hear so many people discussing drugs and wonder what I can do."

Scott: "Do you have any indication that he is using drugs at all?"

Mom: "No, none at all.But I don't want to be one of those lazy mothers that is in denial so how can I tell if he is using heroin because that is what everybody is talking about."

Scott: "Heroin is not usually the first drug a user starts with. You need to look for other signs like doing poorly in school, anger, withdrawal from family and friends, etc. But heroin is not the number one drug of choice for kids."

Heroin is not the worst drug in America but the drug that gets a lot of press. The sins that tend to get a lot of press and even hysteria are not the root of the problem but the fruit of a long term pattern of missing mark that starts small and grows in strength and frequency.

I had a hard time learning to smoke but I overcame the sickness, coughing and bad taste to finally was able to adopt a full blown addiction. After some time I discovered that it was hard to stop smoking. However, the root problem was not sucking on nicotine but a desperate need to be cool so I could be accepted.

As Luke 6:39-44 says, "It's out of the roots that come the fruits."

One friend offered his take on the worst sins. PRIDE. What think ye about pride? Are you too PROUD to risk a comment?? (YUK! YUK!) 

How does pride show itself? Arrogance, argumentative, puffed up, demanding, refuses to give in, bullies. I agree it is bad but it gets few headlines now days. Why?

An exercise for you, dear readers.

Interested in discovering the roots? Take a look at Breaking Free a book on how to "Lay the axe to the roots!"


Thursday, October 17, 2013

1. The Most Destructive Christian Sins




 I hope this is a provocative title. I mean it to be. I read articles and books from several famous and infamous sources on a regular basis and they tend to sell well because of provocative titles such as:

The greatest problems facing the church in 2000 years!!! (A recent headline and article by Josh McDowell.) 

Hidden sins revealed that destroy the church.

How I left ______ and so should you!

Pictures of Pastor caught late at night with ______.

Threats from the internet now!!

Don't those catchy titles cause you to download it to see the pictures and read the scandals? But are these the most dangerous problems facing the church and Christians? What think ye of my question? Do you have an opinion on what sins are brought to Pastors and Counselors on a daily basis? Are they scandals and likely to destroy the church in America?

Read a book on the Fallen Nature in The Healing Release of the Holy Spirit that says what Jesus thinks about this question.

Coming up; your responses and mine.

Gary Sweeten 


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Salvation and Healing for the World



A year later the Pastor visited Karen and me for 10 days. We spent 12 hours a day equipping him in everything I knew. He started a group for men who struggled with sexual dysfunctions who turned to pornography instead of a wife for intimacy.  He started with the men in his congregation and met monthly for study, sharing and prayers. Many needed healing from the wounds received because of the neglect of their fathers. Many of the men found freedom from pornography and were able to reignite intimacy with their wives.

During a long Skype call Pastor R told me that a hundred men were in his "Recovering Masculinity" groups at a family camp. He was teaching them about how to "Heal Their Father Wounds".  The Pastor said those strong, silent, educated men were weeping, crying out to God for healing and discovering how to care for their wives. Miraculous changes were happening all around! Men were feeling young and vital again!

He called to let me know that the visit here to Cincinnati was paying off in changed lives and changed marriages.  This will inevitably lead to changed churches and the sparks of revival.  We pray that God will use this to start a revival in a land where the church is almost dead.

This fall he will deliver two important talks at a Christian gathering on developing healthy sexuality. Pray that he will be anointed by the Spirit to give hope for change in the Humpty Dumpty men and women of Europe.

This is the way revival happens.

Want to take part? Get our books and videos and materials. 


Monday, October 14, 2013

Installment III. Growing as a Parent

                   A story about a transformation of a Pastor to a Parent overnight (In 15 years or so.)

Along the way, our church "split," and the people who stayed were much more tolerant of my failures -- at least in my own mind. I began actually to believe that I wasn't responsible to make people "do right." I was responsible to love and affirm, to give guidance and structure, but I could not play God and attempt to create people in my own image.

In short, I began to give up the need to control other people. I realized that I had to share the reasons why I thought the way that I did rather than simply "laying down the law." I began to work to establish friendships with my children, friendships that would eventually blossom into mutually respectful peer relationships.

Our two younger children are males, and did not enter into adolescence until after we had gone through that year of counseling, and my reflections helped motivate me to become involved in Boy Scouts. Of all the things that I have done as a parent, nothing had a profounder impact for good than this, especially the planning and execution of monthly camping trips.

I was the Scoutmaster, but the Boy Scouts of America provides very effective training in how to engage others in sharing responsibility for group decisions. In a sense, Scouting became a metaphor for my approach to parenting: I became more and more of a coach-counselor and less and less of a despot. I began to get rid of the burden of parenting, the mantel of sole responsibility for how my children turned out.

I gave this to God and expressed this by giving them responsibility for their own lives. I would still be there, of course, and I would be willing to help. But the responsibility for how they turned out was theirs, not mine. That transference of responsibility began to have a profound impact on my temper.

When I gave up the need to control others, I also gave up the basis for anger -- not that I never get angry or frustrated again -- just that it is far less frequently and far less intense.

With thirteen years between our oldest daughter and our youngest son, I think that they sometimes believe that they were raised by different fathers. They were.
Read How to be Me in My Family Tree to understood your family better from generation to generation.

Installment II. Learning to be a Parent




At one point I offered to resign from the ministry, but wiser heads prevailed, and the leadership of the congregation paid for our family to receive professional counseling. Because ministers and their families face unusual challenges, we went to a counseling center at a seminary about three and a half hours away. This began with the whole family, all eight of us, including my mother. Then only two of our children and my wife and I went, and finally just our one child and with Sandy and me. I think that spending seven hours in a car one day a week for the better part of a year really made the hour and a half, weekly seasons very effective.

I learned a lot about myself and how I could actually be in the house and yet so detached that I may as well have been out at another one of those many night meetings that pastors have to do.

I learned about how frustrated my wife was, still recovering from a broken pelvis and brain injuries that left her with stroke like symptoms. Oftentimes, she had been the parent, and I had simply been the sleeping "junk yard dog" whose chain she sometimes jerked to get the support she needed to make our children "do right." It was during this time that my wife and I began the daily habit of taking the time to meet and pray together before beginning the day. It was a time of humbling and a measure of brokenness, especially for me.

During that time I came to realize the significance of the will of the individual in responding to the positive and negative conditioning of those in authority. I came to grips with the importance of affirming individual human dignity even to children. I realized that while positive and negative reinforcement works well with small children, as those children develop, parents need to step back and allow their children to learn from their own mistakes -- indeed, to allow them the freedom to make mistakes.

Download How to be me in my Family Tree for ideas on parenting, grand parenting and praying. 



Saturday, October 12, 2013

Want to Drive Yourself Insane? Here is How!





Have you ever wondered why so many conservative Christians are grumpy, narrow minded, moralistic and legalistic? You especially wondered because you know that the entire basis of Christianity is love, mercy and grace! What might cause us conservatives to act in ways so opposite to the Gospel?

I may have figured it out. But first, some reasons that we usually hear but are not true.
1. God is filled with wrath, anger, bitterness and revenge so we are like God.

2. The Bible teaches us to attack sinners.

3. It is biblical.

4. It will make the sinners change.

5. It is our duty, responsibility and command. I will go to hell if I don't.

6. Add your own crazy reason like these.

All who are Ministers, Church and Para-Church Workers can get a free paper Survival in Ministry by writing me. You also may want to stay sane for some unknowable reason by reading Power Christian Thinking. 



6.

How I Learned to Become a Parent Way too Late

Posted by a Pastor friend of whom I have enormous respect.



As our children pursued an education, they would sometimes ask our help with an assignment -- two of the worst of which involved our being asked to write something about how we did parenting.

The first time I did this was in 2006, but the most devastating was in 2011, when one of our children was taking a grad school course in Family Systems and did formal, recorded interviews with each member of the family individually. I actually wept when I read some parts of those transcriptions and felt compelled to go and ask forgiveness for some of insensitive things I had said and done as a parent.

Maybe what I wrote for the 2006 interview will prove beneficial to somebody. If it does, that's more important than my personal embarrassment. Here goes, only slightly edited:

Honestly attempting to reflect on how I did parenting brings me some pain and no small sense of failure. I took a lot of psychology in college and determined that I would raise my children somewhat differently than I had been raised. My father was born in 1906, had a quick temper and would not tolerate disrespect, but I always knew that my father loved me and would do everything that he could to see that I had what I needed. My mother was born in 1913 and was a gifted teacher. She taught obstetrical nursing at Vanderbilt and was later a nursing administrator, but she spent the last decades of her career teaching first graders. Her career moves were based on her commitment to be home when her children were home. Looking back, I have to say that my parents were outstanding. They were both nurturing and affirming. They showed affection by hugging us and by telling us that they loved us. They disciplined within an overall context of freedom, seeking to instill optimism and self-confidence in both my brother and me. So my desire to raise my children differently was the fruit of perfectionistic determinism: they did well; I can do better. I was a fool to believe that.

Early on in my college career, I decided to prepare to become a pastor. In my theological tradition this requires a minimum of seven years, four in college and three in seminary. Our first two children came before I completed my post graduate education and three more were born after I became a full-time pastor. Perhaps more than any other profession, the ministry requires not only a measure of professional competence but a high level of "success" in personal living, including "success" in one's marriage and with one's children. 
 
The pressures can be enormous. Looking back, I find it bewildering that parishioners look to pastors who may not yet be even thirty years old for counsel on how to deal with lots of personal matters. Of course, hopefully, a pastor is not basing his counsel simply on personal experience; as with a thirty year-old physician, he relies on his professional training and the authoritative sources he has studied.

I was pretty much a determinist in the early years of parenting. My experiences reinforced my studies, and I had lots of experiences, given the many years I spent in school and the corresponding number of summer jobs I held -- it took me longer than seven years to complete my education.

One of the most interesting jobs I held was at an adventure park that had a trained animal exhibit. I got to know one of the animal trainers during breaks. He told me about how they trained the dolphins:

"You don't think that they do what they do simply for the fish we throw to them, do you? When they don't do their tricks, we jump into the pool and beat the ____ out of them with baseball bats. Positive and negative reinforcement, the carrot and the stick, that's what it takes."

I brought that perspective into my parenting -- not that I ever took a baseball bat to anyone, but I approached parenting with a deterministic understanding: if I would consistently use positive and negative reinforcement, I thought I could produce the kind of children everybody would approve of. I brought my father's intolerance for disrespect and a measure of his hot temper, too. But I did parenting with the knowledge that I lived in a glass house: the "manse" was owned by the congregation, and I had a deep awareness that my family was "owned," as well. I saw this approach as phenomenally successful as long as my children were prepubescent, but when they began to develop some independence, I became frightened and frustrated. All this was compounded by (my wife's injuries from a wreck) in a coma and spending months as an invalid. Also, my once brilliant mother, now with senile dementia, lived with us.

When the leadership of the church heard stories from gossipy people, I knew that my ability to provide for my family was on the line. I knew that an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a seminary degree qualified me for only one career, and that career was now in jeopardy because of how I was dealing with American adolescence. I once remember saying in frustration: "If you keep acting like this, you're going to make me lose my job." That's a terrible thing to say to a child, in part at least, because it gives that child a sense of destructive power. 
 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Impact Around the World



Our ministry has been going on in Greater Cincinnati and the USA for decades. From that base we have launched Equipping Centers around the globe. We have practiced an Ephesians 4: style of ministry ever since we began. Since we have been patient and done what Jesus and the Apostles taught we have had an enormously successful impact on many nations. As one Christian Psychiatrist in Europe said, "You are world famous in _____________."

Today at lunch with two Christian brothers we discussed the famous men and women of God who came to faith in Christ and grew in the Lord as a result of some unknown minister, parent or co-worker. One of the men was deeply involved in the Occult when a co-worker invited him to come to a Christian gathering to hear a great musician. It was Keith Green and God touched this guy and his wife eternally.

Over 90% of the people who come to Christ do so as a result of a family member of friend. They will usually make a public commitment at a church or evangelistic service but the leap of faith occurred elsewhere. The witnessing was accomplished by long, patient work of someone they knew. John Calvin, for example, was brought to faith by his father.

His Roman Catholic studies began in Paris when Calvin was only 14. He started at the College de Marche then later studied at the College Montaigu. As Calvin made friends who supported the fledgling reform of the church, he began to drift from Catholicism.

He also changed his major. Instead of studying for the priesthood, he switched to civil law, starting formal study in the city of Orleans, France. He finished his legal training in 1533 but had to flee Catholic Paris because of his association with church reformers.

The key to national and international revival is "Equipping God's people to DO the works of ministry". Most of the Sweeten Life ministry focus is long term and slow. We set up centers to "Equip God's people to do the work of the ministry". They then equip folks in evangelism teaching, healing and counseling". We equip in churches and mission organizations how to multiply themselves.

We also preach and pray for the sick wherever we go. One great story recently sparked my desire to write this blog. I received a Skype call from a European Pastor. I preached at his church several years ago. After the service we had lunch and he asked if I knew how to help men and women stuck in pornography. I said "Of course". We can assist people caught in any type of unwanted behavior find freedom in Christ."

He told me that most of the men and women in his church had no intimate relations with each other but turned to TV and Video.  This included all his elders and leaders. (Is it any wonder that the churches in Europe are dead?)

More later on how he responded to me. Go to the web page bookstore for Breaking Free, a book on healing hurting hearts. If you want to see people trapped in porn get free get that book!

Gary Sweeten


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thinking Well leads to Wellness



Many of you took one of my classes on Rational Christian Thinking at College Hill, Equipping Ministries or one of our Teleios Training Centers over the years. We figured that over 3,000 people went through Apples and Rational during those wonderful years at CHPC.

Last year I was invited to teach my materials in Randy Clark's online series of courses on healing.  I was supposed to be the Head dude of the Care and Cure of Souls section. As a result my staff and I spent several hundred hours writing and rewriting RCT into Power Christian Thinking along with a basic theology of healing and growth, an updated Breaking Free, and a greatly expanded book on healing the Family Tree. All of these are chock full of new stories and insights about the way God heals His people. He is still the Great Physician. (I also had to write very specific lesson plans and tests. I am no longer on Randy's schedule.)

I am strongly recommending that people interested in dealing with Anxiety and Depression read and learn Power Christian Thinking. It is an incredibly powerful antidote to Stinking Thinking and Foolish Feelings. If you download the PDF. from the store and read it without getting a lot of insights and assistance let me know and I will refund your money or a free book.

Let me remind you that my books are designed for Pastors, Peer Helpers and Friends who stick with needy people. Those with a ZAP mentality and think healing is all about gathering several thousand people together and seeing one or two touched by the Lord will not be happy with my materials. As you can tell from my blog I am strongly committed to congregations, small groups, families and other places where people come together over time with love and caring. I expect to see every single person receive a strong touch of God not just two or three out of ten thousand.

Healing and Growth can require self care, repentance, forgiveness, gathering with others for worship and work. Evey person with whom I meet leaves better and more energized to find God. That is what happens when we allow the Spirit of God lead our thinking rather than the flesh.

The best way to promote Christian Growth and Healing is through communities of truth, love, power and gifts. Every Believer needs that. In the Power Christian Thinking book we describe how it can be accomplished. St. Paul says in Philippians 3:1-16



Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

This teaching by Paul describes our model for the healing/growth process. Just as we are saved by grace through faith and not our own works, we are sanctified by grace through faith, not by works. However, growth does require us to cooperate with God’s Spirit to receive all He has for us. (Ephesians 2:9-11)






Centipedes and Me




A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.

The Centipede was completely healed after reading our books, especially Power Christian Thinking. 


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Welcome to our Healing Community




It seems to me that there is a surge in the number of people in Cincinnati and the USA who suffer from a chronic illness or injury. This is an unparalleled opportunity for the churches to show God's love and healing grace. About 20% of the kids from birth to 18 have a medical diagnosis and another 20% of adults have a chronic illness. Any of the 500,000 churches in America can expand its outreach and influence by inviting people to come for prayer, acceptance and support.

I spent a few days in Columbus at Joni and Friends FUSE and One Accord Conferences. They both had an emphasis on building caring communities of love and acceptance. Any Christian can learn about models that offer hurting persons and families an inviting atmosphere. There is a very strong emphasis on welcoming people with a disability of any kind.

This conference focused on those with invisible wounds of mental, emotional, relational and spiritual nature, including addictions. I spoke four times. Topic #1. Was on the research study with 12 families by giving each a self assessment questionnaire about stresses, strengths and strategies for developing a happy family. The results are on our web page under Family Care.

Topic #2. Reducing Stigma The usual way to discuss this important issue is to focus on changing the behavior of the whole world. We try to stop people from using derogatory terms, from being bullies, from rejecting us, etc. WHEW! That is an impossible task. I focused on teaching Power Christian Thinking to the Disabled and their parents.

Topic #3. The Power of Peers (Befriending). Research shows that Peer or Lay Care/Counsel is as effective as that of Professionals. The book Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty has the supporting evidence.

Topic #4.How the entire Family System is impacted by illness. I drew Family Map and had a role play about how having a disabled child impacts everybody. I recommended How to be me in my Family Tree.

I enjoyed the interaction with Psychologists, Counselors and Special Needs Pastors, all looking for ways to be more inclusive.


Love and Prayer for the Sick



How can we really assist those whose families have been seriously disrupted by a chronic disease? I must admit that I am saddened by my fellow Christians for failing to reach out with truth, love and prayer to the sick and distressed. I am puzzled by it. Are you?

Joni Ericson Tada has been preaching and teaching about this idea for decades. Yet, few churches respond. They must have a reason.

The key story about outreach, evangelism and witnessing is found in Luke 10:34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Despite this, very few Christians who call themselves Evangelicals actually follow the commands of Jesus in Luke 10 and especially this verse.  

I think this story by Jesus is another way of telling us to love the unlovable. The man who was served was a Jew. In the terms of modern Evangelicals, "A godly man that loved God with his whole heart". (Don't write to correct me. I know that kind of exaggeration among us is wrong but it is the way many of us talk.)   

The others who came by saw the godly man and hurried on away from him. But the guy who stopped, gave him CPR, mouth to mouth and the Heimlich Maneuver, was a loathsome member of a hated, despised and rejected half-breed group from Samaria. The stigma of the Samaritans was well known to Jesus and he purposely used him as an example of a man that loved God by his actions. In today's terms Jesus might have used a person with AIDS. 

The Samaritan anointed the wounded Jew with oil as an ointment and disinfectant. It might be called "The 'Balm of Gilead' or 'The Oil of Gladness. Obviously oil was important to the meaning of the parable. 

Can anyone explain why anointing oil is no longer important to Christians when it was to Jesus and his brother James?

Shalom,

Gary Sweeten

Our bookstore on the Sweeten Life Web has several books and free videos on practical ways to be Good Samaritans. We focus on practical theology with lots of free and inexpensive stuff!


What About Anointing Oil?



Why did Saint James, the practical theologian and half-brother of Jesus tell us to anoint the sick when we pray for them to be healed? James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 

First, may I ask, how many of you Elders carry oil so you can be ready to pray for the sick? 

Second, how many of your church congregations have oil available for Elders to us when they pray for the sick? 

Third, how many Elders are trained with the practical skills and theology of healing? 

I think St. James taught these things because his personality was very practical. Martin Luther is supposed to have said he despised the Book of James because it focused so much on Practical Theology and was sloppy about Systematic Theology. 

James was fathered by and reared by a carpenter. Joseph had to be a very practical man to design and make a chair, a stool, a cabinet or a house. Theory without application was useless. So, James has some of the elements of a Training Manual for Mature Christians or Elders. 

The entirety of Chapter 5 is a Training Manual. Look it up.

The Good Samaritan story was a Parable with many meanings but James is focused on applying that story in the church. 

Our book on Breaking Free includes teaching on these issues. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Family Dysfunctions and Family Secrets





Family Secrets are more harmful than telling the awful truth. Revealing secrets can cause some sudden anxiety and fear but it is over with. But Family Secrets keep people in bondage forever. Doing  Genogram can be very liberating to all concerned.The little poem below says it all for the modern family! Have fun.

Family Systems Secrets


 Susie Lee done fell in love; She planned to marry Joe.
She was so happy 'bout it all She told her Pappy so.



Pappy told her, "Susie gal, I hate to say, You'll have to find another.

I'd just as soon ya' Ma don't know, But Joe is yore half brother."



So Susie put aside her Joe And planned to marry Will.

But after telling Pappy this, He said, "There's trouble still...



You can't marry Will, my gal., And please don't tell your Mother,

But Will and Joe and several mo' I know is yo' half brother."



But Mama knew and said, "My child, Just do what makes ya' happy.

Marry Will or marry Joe, either one cause You ain't no kin to Pappy.

My book, How to be me in my Family Tree shows where your family skeletons are dancing. You will learn how to draw a Family Map that reveals history.



 

Developing Healing Growth Christian Communities




 Last week I attended a Joni and Friends FUSE Conference in Winchester-Canal, Ohio. It was filled with great speakers and a tremendous number of interesting and insightful people who are involved in supporting individuals and families with a disability. I spoke at four different Breakout sessions and we had a wonderful time of interaction.

The Sweeten LifeVIP Family Ministry is unique for several reasons.

1. We are holistic and teach people how to deal with every dimension of humanity, body, mind, relationships, family, motivation, spirituality.
2. We integrate Practical or Biblical Theology with Practical Psychology. My teaching always has very practical applications that the people can use immediately at home and ministry.
3.  We include how the entire family is impacted by disability, disease, drinking, drugs, etc. In fact, we believe that the family is THE best source of comfort and healing.
4. We believe that there is hope for some growth and change for every condition no matter how desperate the diagnosis.
5. We have many tools to equip family, parents, siblings, teachers, preachers, counselors, etc.
6. We do outcome research to see if our ideas work.

 How did I develop these things?
I attended a conference in 1969 that caused me to alter my career and focus. The conference was led by the most famous Psychologist in the history of the United States. That person was Carl Rogers, a drop out from seminary. He signed up instead for graduate school in Psychology.

Later Dr. Rogers developed Client Centered Therapy. Despite his public rejection of Christianity, Rogers kept the most basic principles of Christian theology. He gave different names to them but a careful look at his model, as imperfect as it is, is based on grace, mercy and love.It is a secular humanist approach to grace and love and it fails because there is no supernatural Spirit to empower the Counselors and Clients to live with grace and love.

Rogers was also a famous researcher on what really worked in Counseling. So, he trained hundreds of students who carried out his ideas. They were dedicated to see if their ideas really worked in practice. In the research outcome were several shocking discoveries. It was some of his statements at the that 1969 conference startled me into reconsidering my career choice. 

Another person with less fame but a lot of influence on American Psychology was in my small group. He had been an alcoholic for many years but discovered sanity and sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous. He was an agnostic who strongly promoted the 12 Steps and its basic belief in finding sanity by turning our lives over to God.

His name was O. Hobart Mowrer. He founded what was called Integrity Therapy that has a strong emphasis on morality and true moral guilt. It was he who trained the well-known Christian founder of Biblical Counseling, Jay Adams. 

What could these two famous agnostic Psychologists have to say that could impact me? can you guess why they might have been so influential on my thinking and why their approach is being affirmed by more and more research? What have I preached, taught and written about for decades?

Get my book Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty and see. This book by Steve Griebling and me distills the insights of  several decades of experience.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cross Cultural Evangelism/Missions





Christians are very confused about these terms. Many, if not most Conservative believers, labor under the delusion that Evangelism and Missions are all outward focused. My friend Steve Sjogren and several authors have strongly contributed to that myth by talks, books and papers about "The Outward Focused Church".

The Lord used Steve mightily to build a great Vineyard congregation in Cincinnati with Servant Evangelism. The idea of SE has spread greatly around the world and it was a needed correction to the "Closed Systems" of many Conservative churches that never focused on anyone outside their group in E0 activities.

Steve's greatest innovation was Servant Evangelism that reached out with simple ways of serving people in their own neighborhoods. It was largely E1 Evangelism. It was and is effective and brought many burned out believe3rs back to faith as well as many unsaved to faith.

The weakness of The Outward Focused Church is a lack of internal Discipleship. The SE and other aggressive outward focused churches tended to attract many new believers and old relapsed believers into the congregation and they brought their addictions, compulsions, multiple marriages, anger, deep heart wounds and lack of scripture with them. An intense focus on ongoing ministries of Growth and Healing were desperately needed.

Some, including the Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati, responded by hiring Ministers and Counselors to start Recovery Groups, Healing Services, staffed with Peer Helpers. Many others simply taught on healing with a ZAP Prayer or two and sent the newly reborn believers out to serve.  The Evangelical non-charismatic groups failed even to offer a ZAP or two but sent the babes out to be eaten by the wolves described by Jesus in Luke 10.

Worse, they had no discernible theology of Christian growth and no support system to help mentor them and help them cope with the rigors of being an outward focused Minister.  Disasters awaited them at every turn.

We have traveled in many nations and taught Missionaries, Ministers, Elders, and so forth about Christian Growth and Healing. For most it is a first. In Asia, Steve and I had a gathering of Clergy, all who had advanced training in Pastoral Care. Not one had ever heard of setting appropriate boundaries. In fact, one man said they were all taught to take no vacations offered by their church and spend no time with family and friends or recreation. That was selfish and Ministers are called to "Die to self". It is heresy but was followed stringently.

It is rare to meet a Missionary or Minister who has been taught how to live with peace and rest in Christ. It is almost always work, do good, never rest and never listen to God for inner growth. Missionaries are rarely if ever affirmed for being good husbands, fathers and friends. They are never affirmed for resting in Christ and taking a day off or getting exercise and eating well. They are affirmed for being workaholics. and trusting self works not God's work in the Spirit.

Read Power Christian Thinking and Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty to learn how to prepare people to minister overseas.