Sunday, December 31, 2017


Not long ago we celebrated Thanksgiving in America. As I wrote then, my Russian friends marvelled at the fact that we have the phrase "In God we Trust" on our money and set aside one day each year to Thank God for His blessings. 

Today I am thinking more about gratitude because we are hearing that several companies are giving large bonuses to their employees. Some are as large as $1000.00 per person! 

That is a remarkable thing to do and is very generous thing for a company to do when it amounts to many millions of Dollars that they could use in other ways. 

My friends and I were recently discussing their expected year-end bonuses and some were excited that it would be bigger than they had supposed. Some others were thinking that this could be a down year for their company and that means no bonus at all. 

During the discussion it struck me that I have never  been in a job where any bonuses were given. I am not unhappy about that fact, nor do I covet the bonuses my friends and family get. I have always been in jobs where bonuses were not a tradition or expectation. I have been a teacher, a college administrator, a minister, a counselor, and the head of a charity. None of my students or clients or church members sent me a bonus because I did a good job! 

As a child I was taught to be grateful for whatever I had and not to covet what others had. I am often tempted to covet the house, car, or income of others but it doesn't last long. I think God has given me what I needed. If I were poor I might be angry and if I were rich I might be proud. So, I am thankful for the roof over my head, the food that I enjoy, and the warm clothes I wear. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Disciples are Grown not Reborn

I read a lot about Discipleship these days. It seems there are several ideas about the way Disciples are developed.

1. As soon as a person is reborn, they are supposed to be disciples ready to witness, serve, teach, lead, and minister to others. When I ask how long it was after Saul met Jesus on the Road to Damascus that he became a leader, I usually hear some irrational ideas. What do you say?
a. Immediately
b. When he returned to Jerusalem
c. When he was in Tarsus
d. When he joined the group at Antioch
e. When he was on the first Missionary Journey

2. Who Equipped Saul to lead?
a. Peter
b. The guy in Damascus that prayed for him to see again
c. Nobody-Jesus did it directly
d. Joseph/Barnabas

3. How much time passed after Saul Christ before he was in leadership?
a. Two days
b. Three years
c. Five Years
d. Ten Years
e. Fifteen Years

Leave me a note with your guess.

Gary Sweeten
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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don't call it Mental Illness

Peer Helpers in the former USSR. They help hundreds of hurting people annually! 

Dear Christianity Today Editors:

I am writing in response to a recent story in your magazine. It is about the need for churches to do something about the crisis of "Mental Illness" in the land. The tragedy of suicides, drugs, depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional problems impacts all of us and I want to see churches respond in healthy ways. 

I am a retired Clinical Therapist that founded a Christ centered Clinical Counseling program with an in-patient unit in 1989. The outpatient clinic is still at College Hill Presbyterian Church. We equipped some 4000 people at the church and community to care for themselves and each other. out of that larger population we recruited gifted and talented men and women and equipped them to be Peer Helpers. It has has been implemented in churches in many nations. 

After several years we had about 100 Lay Pastors and 65 Lay Counselors. We did NO Professional, Clinical Therapy. The Pastors did little counseling, home visitation, or hospital calls. The Lay Helpers did it all. 

I wince when I read about all the people with "mental Illness" in the church. Only about 10% of all the people in pain need professional therapy. But all need support from Christians and churches. By suggesting that person with an emotional/mental distress is "Mentally Ill" we imply that everyone needs Clinical Therapy. 

By labeling every person with emotional distress as "Mentally Ill" it puts that person into a box requiring professional, clinical, treatment with Medical implications. It immediately implies that the average Minister and Lay person has no business trying to help them. Most people in emotional and mental  distress will do fine with a Pastor or Lay Minister. They will get better. 

When a church equips its members to live more healthily and relate with the Fruit of the Spirit, it will give most people the support they need. 

When we teach our members how to renew their minds they will find relief from anxiety and depression.

When Christians learn how to pray for hurting hearts, fewer end up needing Clinical Therapy. 

Every Peer Helper can be trained to refer to a Professional when necessary. 

God's best this Christmas season,

Dr. Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems, INC

Monday, December 25, 2017

When Gary met Jens-Petter and History was Made

I met Jens-Petter in Nairobi, Kenya in 198 when we were both attending a conference for "Leaders of Leaders Conference". He was head of the Lutheran Renewal in Norway and I was head of the Renewal for Presbyterians in the USA. We roomed next door to each other and spent an entire day with a young, enthusiastic African Pastor named Paul who drove us all over the place to visit his home village and his family.

This photo was taken when Jens-Petter and I were having lunch with the Bishop of a huge indigenous African Church. We asked him how many members were in his church and he said "There are between 30 and 40 million members! It is hard to keep track. Most of them have no building or formal places to gather."

Jens-Petter and I felt like a "Lion in a den of Daniels!" These Pastors had suffered mightily for Christ and were still persecuted. 

As a result of that meeting Jens-Petter decided God was calling me to come to Norway to teach. I have been deeply engaged with him ever since. 

Ina School Memories

This photo was taken in the early 1940's. It says it was 1947 but I am not in the picture and the smallest kids who are in the front row are my brother Maury's age. So, it was before I was in the first grade. I remember many of the people here, all of them older than I am. Most have passed away.

Bottom row, far left is Donald Cook, 4 in is Wendell Dunbar, then Maury Sweeten, David Fitzgerald, Burton Dunbar, skip to Donald David Sneed, Jerry Taylor. Second row top right, Red Taylor, Far Left Bob Fowler. Top row, far right, Bonnie Jean Kohut, skip one to the left is her sister Geraldine with arms folded. Principal? Mr. Upchurch?

Ina School was probably 4 rooms back then as it was when I attended. There is no longer a school just for Ina students. Bonnie and Dodds Schools have both consolidated into one district.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Light Heals

When God sent His angels to come to earth some 2000 years ago and spread their magic dust to heal the people and the earth, it was in the form of light. 

God said, "Let there be LIGHT!" at the announcement of the First Adam in Creation and in the Second Adam when Jesus was born. 

In John 1 we read "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not welcome and apply it to itself". 

Spiritual darkness hates the light and refuses to welcome it because the dark spirits will be overcome and healing will begin. 

We often wonder why so many people not only refuse the Light of the World but also attack it and attack those who have accepted and allowed it to penetrate our hearts and minds. 

But "If we walk in the light as He is in the light we will have fellowship with each other and the blood of Jesus will clean us up from all our dark places!"

Christmas arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at the time we have the longest nights and the shortest days. Maybe that is why we have such wonderful traditions as candles and lights. Norway burns more candles per capita annually than any other nation. And, they have other very strong Christian traditions. That is no coincidence! 

In all our ministries we focus on being a positive presence of the Light of the World. We hope you can do the same.
Gary Sweeten

Friday, December 22, 2017

Churches Impact the Health and Welfare of a Community

Friends, if you knew you and your church could do things that facilitate the health, welfare, and longevity of the people you know, would you be interested in discovering more?

Although nearly three-fourths of health outcomes are determined by social determinants, few clinicians can ably identify those patients facing challenges related to social and environmental conditions or other experiences that directly impact health and health status

According to a December 2016 ASPE report to Congress on Social Risk Factors and Performance Under Medicare's Value-Based Purchasing Programs, there is growing evidence that social risk factors have a strong impact on the health and welfare of our families, friends, and neighbors.

Key Social Factors:

1. Income, 
2. Education, 
3. Race and Ethnicity, 
4. Employment, 
5. Community Resources, and 
6. Personal Motivation and Social Support

If we Christians do everything we can to support people in developing one or more of these 6 things we are showing LOVE to them. 

5 and 6 are especially important to churches. Fellowship, prayer, meals together, worship, encourage, etc. 

Our books and materials all foster these six items. If you want to grow, buy a few! (They are eBooks that you can download as PDF format and print if you wish. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Why is there so Much Perverted Sexual Behavior Now?

In today's news we see what happens when traditional values and morality are rejected by government agencies, schools, and leaders. 

This question is not a simple thing to answer but I will give my insights as a Christian Counselor.

The Sexual Revolution began in earnest occurred on campuses in the 60's and 70's. I was an Associate Dean at the University of Cincinnati and saw first hand several ways the college leaders attempted successfully to destroy traditional morality and values. 

1. The University Medical Center secretly gave students free birth control pills. Why secretly? Because parents and taxpayers would never approve of it.
2. Some of the Student Affairs Staff pressured the college to secretly mix male and female students on the dorm floors. 
3. No student would be disciplined for inviting another person to "sleep over" even if it disturbed roommates. 
4. Sexually Transmitted Diseases was treated free by University Doctors. 
5. One year STD rates went up by 1,000%, and they wondered why.

This was your tax dollars at work.

Go to our web page if you want to get materials to counsel men and women harmed by the lack of morality. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Bible reading Reduces Sexual Harassment

Will Americans recognize why sexual harassment is so common? Roman citizens discovered why. St. Paul tells us in  Galatians  3:28 why women are to be respected.

“There is no difference in eternal inheritance for Jew-Greek, slave or free, male  or  female”. 

Before Christianity was strong, women and babies were not respected. Roman law allowed parents to kill their babies, do forced abortions, and steal from women and slaves. The Christian faith changed that. Abortion and infanticide were prohibited, poor people, women, and slaves were given rights. 

Forced marriages were prohibited by the church and were allowed to live freely. Before the Bible was accepted young girls were placed into forced marriages with older men at ages 11, 12 and 13. That was dramatically altered as women in the church were allowed to choose when and with whom to marry. 

Divorcing a woman was easy in Jewish and Roman circles. As a result, women and their children were left destitute and hungry. Philandering husbands commonly found someone younger and new. The church started to take women and children's causes seriously and began to prohibit no-cause divorces. They saw Jesus statement about divorce as protecting the family. 

Women were expected to be chaste and have no sexual partners in those days but men were expected to be promiscuous. The church changed that double standard so men and women both expected to be sexually pure. 

Over time the laws also changed in Rome. Christianity impacted every society.  Mothers could choose to rear their children. Women could inherit and control property, have money and choose their husbands. Men were expected to be good husbands and fathers. Younger siblings inherited property. Women and slaves were able to become Deacons, Prophets, Teachers, and Evangelists. Some were martyred for the faith. Junia, a female, was even an Apostle (Romans 16:7).  

Elevating the eldest son is the tradition today in most of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Eldest sons are emperors who can control family life. The Chinese have a special name for the eldest son. He has more power and more responsibility, as well as more prestige. In America, we are so accustomed to Christian thinking about equality that these passages do not mean much. However, to an African, Muslim, or Asian, the term is radically liberating, as radical as we can get. 

Women are still treated as second-class or worse in some non-Christian countries. A famous Muslim scholar said that one thing Muslims cannot accept in the west is the way we treat women as equals. A Muslim ambassador reported back to his king that men treat women so amazingly the king would not believe it.

Read all of my eBook, "The Healing Release of the Holy Spirit" by downloading it from our bookstore. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Power of Encouragement

When attempting to heal damaged emotions, few things are as important as positive encouragement. Years ago, a study was done attempting to assess the impact of non-possessive touch on people. 

Since the skin is our largest organ, it was assumed that warm, caring, and unobtrusive pats, hugs, and handshakes would have a positive impact on others. And, it does. In fact, listening to others with warmth in our facial expressions, eyes, and touches cause the body to relax and our defenses to lower because we do not sense an attack. 

The following story illustrates what encouragement can do to us versus discouragement. 

In the early 1900’s, in the small village of Podsreda, Croatia, an altar boy named Josip Broz was serving the priest at Sunday mass. As he was holding the wine cruet, it accidentally dropped and shattered. 

The village priest struck the altar boy sharply on the cheek and in a gruff voice shouted: “Leave the altar and don’t come back!”

Crushed, Josip left the church and by the time he was eighteen, he joined the newly formed Croatian Social Democratic Party. During World War II, Josip changed his name to Marshal Tito and in 1945 Tito became the cruel, angry, Communist dictator of Yugoslavia.

There was another altar boy in the early 1900’s named John who grew up in El Paso, Illinois. He too was serving Sunday mass to a Bishop when a wine cruet accidentally fell from his hand during communion. With a warm twinkle in his eyes the bishop gently whispered: “Someday you will be a priest.” 

John took that lesson of forgiveness and hope to heart. Archbishop John Fulton Sheen was one of the most captivating radio preachers and influential religious authors in America.
What power we have when we say the right word at the right time. Are your words “apples of gold”? Today in prayer, thank Christ for His example of aptly spoken words. Look to the Lord to give you wisdom in all that you say.

 “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply--and how good is a timely word!” - Pr 15:23

Go to our bookstore and download one of the the PDF eBooks on building great relationships with God, self and others. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Healing Damaged Hearts

90% of the people suffering from a damaged heart and mind never seek Counseling from a Pastor or Clinical Counselor. There are too many barriers to asking for help from a professional. 

What are the barriers?
1. Fear of being labeled as "sick" by the Minister or Counselor.
2. Fear of being called "Mentally Ill" and never recovering from it.
3. Fear of exposure to others.
4. Fear of exposing a loved one as a bad person.
5. Fear of "Dishonoring" a parent. 
6. Fear of being blamed for the problem, especially if sex was involved. 
7. Fear of being labeled as having no faith in God. 
8. Financial anxiety if a Counselor is suggested. 
9. Fear of "Breaking Down" and seeming weak.
10. (YOU ADD) 

That is one reason we set up a Lay Caring Ministry at College Hill and equipped people all over the world to do the same. People will often meet and interact in informal settings and the Lay people equipped to care can minister gently by listening at any time. 

fter listening and refusing to interrupt, share Power Christian Thinking to them. 

Listening with understanding and love can uncover and begin to heal so much of the long term pain and break the dam of fear.

In Asia we equipped hundreds of Cell Group Leaders to Care, Counsel, and Coach their members, by listening and loving with patience. Growth and healing in those groups burst forth and multitudes gave glowing testimonies. Your church can do the same, if you want.