Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Friend Passes

I am very sad to report the passing of Tom Osborn a friend and member at College Hill Church that helped us develop our most successful ministries of healing, small groups, and compassionate outreach.

Tom was a tremendously good model for Lay Ministry. He had a Ph.D. and worked at P and G developing products that gave him international fame as a scientist, innovator, with cutting edge ideas. At the same time, Tom was a man of prayer who believed in the supernatural love and power of God. With Tom I saw remarkable miracles that liberated many people from bondage.

Tom's compassion and concern for widows an orphans led him to ask me about finiding a widow with children whom he could serve. We introduced him to my friend Jan and her two boys. That relationship eventually led to love and marriage.

Christian men and women can fully integrate daily life and God's life. Tom, as an outstanding scientist, proves that.

Tom was diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks ago and passed on to meet Jesus early this morning. Thankfully I was able to visit Tom in the hospital and we shared many great memories of our faith journey. I am sad. Sad for Jan and sons. I sm sad for their church. I am sad for a world bereft of Tom's great talents and gifts.

I am, of course, happy for Tom's embrace of Christ and more so for the embrace of Tom by Christ in eternity.

How to Avoid Toxic Conflict

There are three different kinds of marriages and close relationships that can work, be functional, and produce healthy children. There is one type of relationship that tends to produce broken kids and dysfunction from generation to generation. Jesus said the same things in Matthew 5 about conflict.

A Healthy Way to Relate:

1. We discuss everything openly with respect. There are no attacks or cut offs. When we get frustrated we can share our feelings without getting personal. We stay focused on the ISSUE not the person. "I am upset and fruetrated about _________"

2. We avoid all mention of conflict but forget about it in a day or two and never bring it up again. Mutual forgiveness occurs without a discussion.

3. The Volitile relationship is argumentative and actively emotional without attacking each other.

The One Toxic Relationship. The people attack each other personally not just the issue or area of disagreement. We might say "You are always rejecting me. You are just like your dad and you will never change."

Personal Criticisms and Contempuous verbal attacks about their character convey permanent emotional damage. If a relationship reaches this level it usually cannot survive. In fact Jesus said attacks on the character will lead to HELL!

Want to avoid hellish relationships? Go here and learn.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Supporting Fantasy versus Reality

For decades I have been confused by how well some groups have successfully painted Christians as racists and sexists who hate the poor. At the same time they present themselves as lovingly caring for everyone, especially, minorities and the poor.

I am confused because the research data are very clear about who does the most for minorities and poor people and it is not our critics. Christians are always ahead of other groups when it comes to assisting the poor. Christians are much more open to interacting personally with minorities and women. Maybe because we have been welcoming Missionaries for hundreds of years.

Christians who faithfully preached and taught the Bible led the movement to free the slaves. The Bible says "All people are created in the image of God so nobody ought to be treated as an animal. Some people in churches fought against Christian abolitionists but they faithfully persevered.

Cincinnati was a center of the Underground Railroad and there were heroes all around our region. They risked life, limb and prison to hide and transport slaves norht to Canada.

So, fellow believers, celebrate with our Christian ancestors as well as our brothers and sisters that are still caring for the needy and down trodden.

Want to learn more about ministry to hurting people? God will lead you into active compassion.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Do we Fail?

We certainly need more educators and fewer inspirational speakers leading churches in America. What is the main task of a Christian congregation?  "Go, make disciples everywhere." Disciples are students who learn at the feet of a teacher by walking, talking, doing, and discussing together.

Most church leaders are hired to talk good and inspire people. Those who think preaching is teaching try to lecture to everyone at the same time. Large group lectures are a horribly ineffective way to make disciples. All we know is to shout at people.

I came to Christ at age 10, over 68 years ago. Many Christians are relatively new with five to ten years of practice.. Churches usully put both of us in the same lectures! My 11 year old grandson does not study advanced theology and its integration with science as I do. He needs a different lesson plan.

A good educator would build systems that are age appropriate for each of us. Put educators in charge and watch disciples grow.

Jesus taught it, practiced it, and told us to do it.

It takes some 10,000 hours of practice to KNOW a subject.

Get Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty to see how to make disciples.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NOT Preaching for Massive Changes

I was consulting with a large church one time when the staff had a deep conversationg about challenging their members to have a daily quiet time. One of the Preachers insisted that anyone that failed to spend an hour each day in prayer and Bible reading was a failure in the game of impressing Jesus.

Another thought 30 minutes long enougn and an older, wiser man suggested 10 minutes. That set the young idealists hair on fire because only "Tiny Quiet Times" developed "Tiny Christians".

I wondered what these folks thought members were doing all day? Sitting in a spa?

As I scan articles by famous and would be famous preachers and writers I am often struck by the grand schemes they have for the lives of their members. One frequent blogger, Tweeter, Talker, and Preacher loves to chastise Christians for our failure to be like Jusus by not wanting a million or so refugees moving in the neighborhood.

The problem with this kind of hyperbole and vision casting is its total ineffectiveness in facilitating anything but false guilt.  Preachers are paid to pray and study. I was paid to run a university and I prayed and studied whenever I could squeeze it in instead of caring foe my kids, attending T-Ball and cutting the lawn.

When the works bar is set so high it is easy to ignore the call to serve Christ. I can't invite a refugee to live with my brood and me and so I do nothing. I cannot possibly do an hour of prayer and study so I do nothing.

These messages are clearly not meant to be serious attempts to care for refugees or pray so I learn to ignore many or most calls to serve people.

Set a bar that is attainable for most and offer grace to every other person. Help us succeed  and stop helping us fail.

If you like some very interesting materials based on grace and God get my stuff. 

3. Great Churches Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany

The Castle Church was begun in 1490 and completed in 1509.  Only years later did Martin Luther post his 95 Theses on the church’s door attacking the corrupt sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church.  He posted the Theses in Latin intending to start an academic debate.  They were quickly translated into German and the newly invented movable type printing press spread the message over Germany becoming one of the major sparks for reformation. 

Luther usually preached in another church, but his funeral was held February 22, 1546 and he was buried in Castle Church.  His grave is near the choir loft.

Sadly, the original doors on which Luther posted his Theses burned in the 1706 fire when the French bombarded the city in the Seven-Year War. Today the doors are bronzed and bare the Latin text of the 95 Theses. 

As you go in the foyer there is a painting of Luther and Melanchthon kneeling before the crucifixion of Christ against the back drop of Wittenberg. Luther is holding a German Bible and Melanchthon is holding the Augsburg Confession of Faith.

Printed around the prominent round tower of the church is the title of Luther’s famous hymn, “A Might Fortress Is Our God.” 

The nave is decorated with bronze medallions of reformation and free standing statues of Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and several other German reformers. 

I have not visited this church yet but will be there on the 500th anniversary of the reformation, October 31, 2017. I pray for the boldness of Martin Luther.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bad Leadership Advice

Willy always wanted to be a leader and has now found his niche as Youth Minister at the first church of what is happening now. 

Articles and talks on leadership are everywhere. They vary in focus, skill, and practicality. Some are pretty goodbut many are awful. IMO awful comes from the following problems.

1. Advice is  filled with hyperbole. For example, I just read on Linked advice to "Be Creative and Entrepreneurial."

What does that mean?

Worse, how do I do it?

2. Here is a specific that is impossible to follow. "Make sure you listen deeply and understand others, especially women and minorities, with great sensitivity."

 Doesn't that sound so wonderful and sweet? Now I just tell women and minorities that I "Listen deeply and understand them with enormous sensitivity."

YIKES! Awful.

3. Look people gently in the eyes and smile warmly." If a person is in any kind of leadership position and fails this test run quickly and hide.

Do you want some real cool teaching with very practical steps? Go to my web site and buy an eBook by me.

Hyperbole and Reality

Anyone Available for Me?

Hyperbole in writing, sermons, and marketing is a common practice. Some examples of hyperboles in relationships include:
  • “I’ve told you a million times”
  • “It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets”
  • “She is so dumb, she thinks Taco Bell is a Mexican phone company”
  • I am so hungry I could eat a horse.
  • I have a million things to do.
  • I had to walk 15 miles to school in the snow, uphill.
  • I had a ton of homework.
  • If I can’t buy that new game, I will die.
  • He is as skinny as a toothpick.
  • This car goes faster than the speed of light.
  • That new car costs a bazillion dollars.
  • We are so poor; we don’t have two cents to rub together.
  • That joke is so old, the last time I heard it I was riding on a dinosaur.
  • They ran like greased lightning.
  • He's got tons of money.
  • You could have knocked me over with a feather.
  • Her brain is the size of a pea.
  • He is older than the hills.
The use of hyperbole is also used by preachers and politicians as well as marketers. 

As a Christian Minister I am often tempted to use hyperbole to describe my mission and vision without taking into account that in order for me to maintain my crdibility I must also follow through with practical steps to actually accomplish the mission and vision. 

I am tempted to make promises I cannot keep such as: 

"My door is always open". 
"Call me anytime". 
"I love the whole world and welcome them to my ministry". 
"Jesus layed down His life for us and I will do the same. 
"We accept anyone in our church so no matter who you are or what you beleive you can fit in here."
"This ministry is turning the world upside down". 

Using hypebole to write a mission statement or preach about God's love is great. However, carrying out those great promises can be a real challenge.They can come back to haunt us. As my dad would say, "Don't write any checks that your hands can't cash". 

Setting goals and planning action steps that are are critical parts to being a truthful and reliable person. A story I heard can illustrate it. A homeless man in New York knocked loudly on the door of a large and wealthy church in the city. One of the Pastors opened the door rather cautiously and asked the man dressed in tatters how he migh be of assistance. 
The old man said, "I have a question for you. Do you still do it?"
The Pastor said, "Do what?"
Man Do you  the stuff you say?"
Pastor: "Well of course. We don't lie".
Man: "Well come out here and read this. It says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel saying, "the Kingdom of God is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out spirits, freely you received it so freely give it to others". MT 10: 7-8
Are you doing that today?
Pastor: "Well no, we are not."
Man: "Then take it off of the building cornerstone". 

Are we living up to our promises or are they just hyperbole?

Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Relate to Others in Peace

Several years ago I was reading a magazine article on business consulting. (My minor in college was Organizational Development.) One of the authors was saying how hard it is to get people in business to build supportive relationships. He discovered that good relationships are, in his words, "Little more than good manners!"

That is good news. Here is the bad news: Many people do not possess good manners! Are Christians models of good manners? 

Does the large number of people dropping out of church say we need better manners? Maybe.

Does the fact that many people are refusing to drop into church means we need to develop better manners? Maybe. 

Would you like to guess?  Or do you want to see what research by the Barna and Gallup organization's discovered? Bara says our manners need an upgrade. At Hope Church yesterday I heard they are teaching my book, Listening for Heaven's Sake again. That is how we teach good manners. 

Proverbs says that "Death or life are in the power of the tongue".

Do yoiu want to speak life and caring?  Get the book and take the class. 

Here is a list of some marks of good manners.

1. Warmly welcome all persons regardless of race, creed, color, class, dress, behavior, or physical condition.

2. Listen patiently. 

3. Do not interrupt or lecture. Set up dialogues where there is a back and forth discussion. 

4. Invite folks to meet and eat together.

5. Refrain from debating and arguing about differences. God will reveal the truth. 

6. Smile and show warm accptance of everyone. 

7. Pray for peace. 

"My father used to say, ‘Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument."  Desmond Tutu

You can have good manners but you might need my books. Try Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty. Get it here as a PDF so you can print it or read it on your electronic device. 

2. The Holy Grotto of the Revelation of St. John, Patmos Island, Greece

By: Elmer Towns

The church is located in a small cave on the Isle of Patmos, one of the 12 Greek islands, approximately 100 miles off the shore of Turkey and the ancient city of Ephesus.  John was banished to this island as a political prisoner and remained there around 18 months.  He lived in this cave below the hilltop temple of Diana.

Tradition tells us it was here in this cave that John wrote the book of Revelation. The cave is approximately 30’ x 40’ and technically has two mouths, or openings. 

I visited the cave on Easter Sunday morning, 2005, during a Greek Orthodox church service. I was told it was the longest continuous existing Christian worship service still holding Christian services. There were approximately 30-35 worshipping in the Greek Orthodox Sunday service.  It was a beautiful day to celebrate Easter.

Waiting to enter the grotto, we were told to walk around the inside of the cave while the worshippers were gathered in the middle of the room.  However, in return we had to put an offering in the plate for that privilege. 

The thing that struck me the most was a square rock approximately 2’ x 2’ that jetted out from the wall topped by a slanted writing table. I could imagine John writing the Book of Revelation on that rock. I had to touch it as I passed by.

Two things struck me about this grotto.  First it was a place where John received Revelations/visions from God that became the content for the Book of Revelation.  Second, it was the place where he wrote the last book of the Bible. 

Even though I worship differently from the Greek Orthodox congregation who was there, I was thrilled it was still a place of worship after all of these years. 

Get our materials and watch our videos to gain appreciation for this unique chruch house in a cave. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How to Cause More Conflict

One of the most common teachings in the Bible is the importance of staying far, far away from the middle of other people who quarrel. As Proverbs 26:17 says:

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
    is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

When I was a kid I sometimes saw two dogs fighting and it was tempting to try to pull them apart. Wiser heads prevailed and warned me that pullinhg the dogs apart would inevitably end badly; for me! I would get bitten.   This is what usually happens to us when we attempt to get inn the middle of two people quarreling.

It is a basic fact of life that almost anytime we have a quarrel is involves a third person or issue. Quarreling kids love to pull mom into the fray by blaming a sibling. We have a fancy name for it. SIBLING RIVALRY!

As Proverbs wisely warns us, " Moms and Dads, Never get in the middle of two children that are quarreling". 

Being a referee is dangerous! Referees are usually blamed for the problem after it is over. One kid says, "Mom loved you best! She always took up for you."

In a church quarrel the same thing happens. Two brothers or sisters in Christ quarrel and one will run to Mom or Dad and blame the other. Who is usually designated to be the parent at a church? To whom do people go whenn they are quarreling and need a referee on their side? 

Jerry says "Elder Gary, I think you need to know that Harry is teaching heresy to the first graders!" 

If Elder Gary is wise he will refuse to get in the middle of that quarrel. However, most likely, Gary is ignorant about the passage in Proverbs and thinks it is safe to pull the dogs apart. He does not realize that those fighting dogs are looking for someone to bite. As a result, he confronts Harry but gets an ear full of complaints about the lack of support for the Sunday school teachers and that the Elders really love the Seniors best! 

The Bible commands us to avoid getting in the middle of the quarrels of others. It is necessary for survival in Christian leadership. 

Want to learn how to do this and survive? Read my PDF book Hope and Chhange for Humpty Dumpty. Or, ignore Proverbs and me and get bit!

1. The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

That I Have Visited
By: Elmer Towns

This church in Bethlehem, Israel, was commissioned in 327 A.D. by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great.  The site is considered the place where Jesus was born.  Entering the sanctuary, you go down a small passageway under the platform to a small cave where tradition says that Jesus was born. 

When I first entered the cave in 1972, I saw a large solid gold stone weighing over 450 pounds. Tradition said the stone was on the site where God became flesh, i.e., the exact spot where the Lord Jesus entered the physical world as a baby. 

Helena’s first church building was completed in 339 and destroyed 200 years later.  The new basilica was built in 565 by Justin the Byzantine Emperor.

There have been numerous additions to the building, and today, it is not in good repair.  Every time I have visited, it is dusty and ill kept.  It doesn’t appear to have regular worship services.  Currently the church is administered by four authorities: the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Arminian Apostolic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. 

You enter the sanctuary through a small entry door, 2’ x 4,’ which is called the Door of Humanity.  It was constructed low to prevent horsemen from entering the basilica on horses during the Ottoman period.  Others say the tiny door causes all worshipers to bow and check their pride when they enter.  Whether or not it is the actual spot, I felt an atmospheric presence of Jesus in the place and it confirmed my belief in the virgin birth. 

Jesus established His Church and the gates of hell will not overcome it. PTL our hope in in Christ. See my PDF Book for how Christ keeps us healthy. The Healing Release of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ten of the Most Influential Churches in History

That I Have Visited
By: Elmer Towns

1.   The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel
2.   The Holy Grotto of the Revelation of St. John, Patmos Island, Greece
3.   Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany
4.   New Room – John Wesley Chapel, Bristol, England
5.   Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England
6.   Carey Baptist Church, Calcutta, India
7.   The Full Gospel Church, Seoul, South Korea
8.   Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Virginia
9.   Yung Nak Presbyterian Church, Seoul, South Korea
10.  Jotabeche Full Gospel Church (Pentecostal Holiness), Santiago, Chile

All churches have influence, some influence their culture and times; a few influence history. Read to see how these churches influenced me.

I have not visited all of the influential churches in history, but those on the following list are ones I have visited.  And who knows what church is the most influential in history?  There are other churches I should include on my list, but I didn’t get to visit them like John Calvin’s church in Geneva, and the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. However, you can learn something from each of these churches, each will have a different influence on culture and history, each will influence you differently. 

My books are also influential. We have sold over 2 million copies of Listening for Heaven's Sake! But Humpty Dumpty is better!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why Are Many Churches Failing to Bring in New People?

                      Follow the Yellow Brick Road!

Leaders from around the world tend to ask me a simple question. "How do we motivate the unmotivated to be motivated?" We have an unconventional answer. First, we recognize that everyone is motivated. Unfortunately, they are not motivated to do what we want them to do.

Second, we need to be careful that our attempts to motivate do not backfire and cause people to do the opposite of what we want them to do. For example, some drug prevention programs may actually have the opposite of our desired effect.

It seems that many churches and preachers try to motivate their people and those outside their congregations by fear and condemnation of "SIN". Does that approach really work well to motivate people to change their "bad" or "Wrong" behavior? 

Research strongly questions the efficacy of drug prevention and Teen Suicide Prevention Programs. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported, "There was little evidence that the programs reduced suicides and suicide attempts."

Importantly, the programs reviewed were "intended to raise awareness of teenage suicides by describing the warning signs to young people at risk."

Teenagers participating in the study experienced two main effects: (1) they were less likely to recommend the program to peers; and 

(2) they believed that the programs made kids more likely to kill themselves.

One is left to wonder why programs based on fear and the identification of pathology continue to be used when other, more effective modes of intervention exists--namely skill building approaches. Dr. Scott Miller

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Do You Expet Perfect Answers to Prayer in Faith?

There are two things God rarely does and which we want never to assume: everything and nothing. What usually happens is something. If we put God in a box of everything or nothing we lose faith. Even if God does something we will miss it because we are obsessed with everything or nothing! His presence in our problems gives Him glory. 

Disappointment and discouragement comes from idealizing and expecting instant perfection. Perfectionistic attitudes about faith devastate us personally and destroy real faith.

If you want to understand faith, love, power and heaven get my books. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Interpersonal Conflicts and Slander

James 4: 11 

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 

12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

This is one passage of scripture I rarely if ever heard taught in church. However, I really needed to hear God's word and adopt it as a rule for my life.

I like groups of men that tease, put each other down and make fun of famous people. It is a lot of fun. It makes me feel better about myself as though I won a contest with the person I put down.

It also draws me closer to other smart alecs because it seems to put us on the same team againts someon else. But, despite the way my evil self feels, the Holy Spirit brings me conviction and Guilt! What can I do?

Who can deliver me from my imprisonment to a sinful nature? Only Jesus Christ Romans 7:24-25

Maybe I can read some of my own books and see what the author said. Here is the link.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Why Is Christianity a Great way to Live?

                              The Empty Tomb

I write andand share a lot about the goodness of God and the goodness of His people. Not everyone agrees of course. Some attack me and rail against God. I pray for them but I know that my belief in God and practices in my faith has many, many positive outcomes for me, my family, and my world. 

Even if my children and grandchildren will live better and longer because of the faith of their ancestors. When I teachg about our family tree it is easy to spot our forefathers who said, "For me and my house we will serve the Lord". 

I was criticized by a therapist one time when I said, "Unlike most medicines, there are no bad side effects to prayer!"  Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington, writes: 

Christians in the ancient world had longer life expectancies than did their pagan neighbors. Modern demographers regard life expectancy as the best indicator of quality of life. In all likelihood, Christians simply lived better lives than just about everyone else. In fact, many pagans were attracted to the Christian faith because the church produced tangible (not only "spiritual") blessings for its adherents. 

Chief among these tangibles was that, in a world entirely lacking social services, Christians were their brothers' keepers. At the end of the second century, Tertullian wrote that while pagan temples spent their donations "on feasts and drinking bouts," Christians spent theirs "to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined to the house."

Similarly, in a letter to the bishop of Antioch in 251, the Bishop of Rome mentioned that "more than 1,500 widows and distressed persons" were in the care of his congregation. "The impious Galileans support not only their poor," complained pagan emperor Julian, "but ours as well."

Their faith led to many good worksand great lives that lasted, on average, longer than the lives of pagans. 

If my writing and ministry blesses you feel free to click the link, follow me, purchase on of my books or donate a new Rolls Royce so I can ride around in luxury! 😊

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Planning for 2017?

                 Now We See Though a Dark Glass Unclearly

I just spent a few hours making plans for meetings, writing proposals, raising money to expand our impact, and get away on a warm vacation. WOW! Big plans eh? 

But, what will God say about my plans. I don't know I hope God agrees with MY plans. 

I am sure Carrie Fisher had some great plans for 2017. In fact, she probably had nice plans about what she was 'GOING to in her flight ended. But, those plans did not make it to reality. Why? Was it bad planning or faulty ideas? Nope it was God who said, "Well, Carrie, I have my plans for you!"

I am not saying anything of a negative nature about Carrie Fisher. I admired her profesionally but did not know her or her spiiritual situation. But she was just like the rest of us. No one really knows if their plans wit be interrupted by illness, accident or death. In fact, God says so in James 4: 

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”

14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. 

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 

16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

It is pretty clear that I need to say: "My plans are up to God. If He wills it we shall go to ______________ and we shall do _____ and _____ !" 

Go now to this link and see some pf the other brilliant things I have written, said or taped. You might even like it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Healthy Christians Among the Poor

If you want to help the poor, pray for them and pray with them while befriending them. We have a vibrant life with God money cannot buy.

The churches of Jesus Christ have always been involved in what the Journal of the American Medical Association calls “alternative healing interventions”. For Christians it includes loving care, confession, prayer, and fellowship. We add personal prayers and meditation along with worship as additions and alternatives to the srict, secular, medical model. 

When all of scripture is taught and practiced, people get better and live better. When we do our best to love one another and love ourselves because God loves us, we are improve. 

Do you really believe life with God is better than living for money, pleasure and things? Is the supernatural life with God real and a blessing?

Let me know your opinion. 


Dr. Gary Sweeten