Thursday, January 29, 2009
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I have seen various scenarios that say how we ought to grow and signs that we are mature. I must say that I have not found any that really seem to click with me.
I have tried myself to devise a system or way to see if folks are getting more mature but they all seemed to break down under close scrutiny. Then this morning I had an insight. During worship at church it suddenly struck me that scripture tells us how to judge spiritual growth. The place to look is Galatians 5 where Paul contrasts the Fruit of the Flesh with the Fruit of the Spirit.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It also struck me that the fruit of the flesh are all indications of a lack of peace or what we call "Emotional Reactivity" to situations and people that are greater than what is prudent. For example, a waiter spills a glass of water and some of it falls on me. What do I do as a result? An immature person will be Reactive and yell, curse, attack the waiter or threaten to sue the restaurant. A mature person will be Peaceful and reason with patience, long suffering and kindness.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
By their fruits you shall know them. Jesus
As an educator I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that for several years of church work I failed to realize that some adult believers are babes in Christ who need milk but others are grown-up adults who can chew meat. I suppose I came by that point of view because I always attended churches that gathered adults together in one big room to be "fed" by the "Pastor/ Shepherd of the sheep." (We were the sheep.) Everybody ate the same food and we all sat with mouths open in anticipation whether we had just come to the Lord or were veterans of fifty spiritual years.
Hebrews 6 gives us a completely different point of view. When I read it I can clearly see that the Spirit who inspired the Bible understood developmental stages of growth and change. God is an educator who develops some teachings for Babes and others for Disciples and still more for us in Ministry. Would we present the same things to my four-year-old grand daughter as we would to her mother?
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
3 And God permitting, we will do so. (NIV)
Can you imagine adults sitting in a large classroom listening to the same tired old talks about adding 2 + 2 and how to spell c-a-t? Yet we do that in many church assemblies. No wonder so many Christian people stop attending services. They are bored to distraction by elementary teachers repeating elementary teachings to adults.
The Vineyard Community Church has done a great service to our community and our world. It has moved the discussions beyond the elementary things into growth, healing and service. As a result they have planted over 25 churches in the Tri-State region since being founded here about 20 years ago.
To my knowledge, no other denomination or association has done as much to touch the area. They began with one small struggling congregation and now have 26. Other mainline groups started the latter part of the 20th Century and the New Millennium with 75 to 150 congregations and are rapidly losing members and churches. Why? Maybe because the Vineyard vision is to help people grow, change and impact others.
Starting Tuesday, October 17 at 7:00-9:00 PM I will continue Dave Workman's great series an expand it to include long time Christians. We will examine what it means to grow deeper and stronger in the Spirit as Boomers and Busters. We will cast a vision for deeper works of God with a relaxed but effective process of growth and impacting the world more fitting to mature folks who have already served God and discovered their gifts.
Bring a friend or foe.
Bibles are welcome; any translation from KJV to The Message
Cranky christians will be loved
Admission is Free but will cost you your stress and self-condemnation.
Continuing the Call!
Deeper, Better and Easier!
Resting in Christ!
Flowing in the Spirit!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
God has graciously sent America several key Spiritual Awakenings over the course of its history and we have benefited enormously in economic, political and human freedom.
The First Great Awakening led to planting thousands of new churches with many thousands of new believers and freedom from Great Britain.
The Second Great Awakening led to a huge number of new spiritual births and to the Abolitionist Movement that stopped the most horrible plague to ever hit humanity; slavery.
The Third Great Awakening led to the expansion of many churches and the extension of economic and social benefits for the poor.
The Fourth Great Awakening, begun in the Sixties and including the Jesus Movement, revitalized the church and led to a flood of new believers entering Seeker Churches that played contemporary music and broke down the clergy-laity barriers.
Fifth Great Awakening will release the Mature Christian Boomers from the shackles of the past "Churchianity" and send them from the world of work into the world of ministry.
This Awakening will be focused on spiritual and emotional liberation that leads to economic and family freedom.
I will discuss these amazing facts in my class starting October 17 at the Vineyard Community Church. Ya'll come and be with us to see what God is doing next.
I have ministered in Sweden, Denmark and Norway since 1987 and I do love the people there. I evidently have some ancestors who hailed from Scandinavia and then moved to the British Isles, especially Scotland and Ireland. Those Vikings did get around.
I have always been interested in the state church system in Europe and wondered why the Founding Fathers of America hated it so much. After seeing what it did to vital Christianity in Scandinavia I no longer wonder; I know. The state church is an awful gift to Christ, burdening it with all kinds of anti-Christian political correctness and excesses.
There is an old joke among Christian politicians. "India is the most religious of all nations and Sweden is the least. America is a bunch of Indians ruled by Swedes." American politicians are scared silly by true Christianity. They know that true Christians will not go along with the sex, sleaze and scrambled values.
Here is a recent article from Sweden. It is well written.
Say a little prayer for Sweden
Published: 11th August 2006 17:40 CETOnline: http://www.thelocal.se/article.php?ID=4579
Christianity in Sweden has a long history, but you won't find many Swedes in the pews on a Sunday. But that doesn't mean Swedish religious groups don't have the capacity to cause a stir, as Christine Demsteader reports.It seems the ubiquitous Holy Spirit has met its match in Sweden. God would probably have a pretty hard time getting a personnummer, and it would take a real miracle to prove his credentials to Migrationsverket.
Quite simply, the majority of Swedes don’t think the big man exists. That’s according to a European Commission report from 2005 which states just 23 percent of Swedes believe there is a God. Only Estonia and the Czech Republic can wave their atheist flags higher.
Contrast this with the United States, where a Harris poll from 2005 showed that 82 percent of Americans believe in the Big G. Swedes' lack of belief in traditional Christianity has not been replaced by belief in other religions – they have abandoned religion altogether. Odin, Thor and Aegir will be turning in their mythological graves.
Sweden was one of the last pagan bastions of Europe to convert to Christianity. Missionaries flocked to the Scandinavian peninsula from the 9th century onwards, the legendary heathen temple of Uppsala was destroyed 100 years later and worship of false gods was finally forbidden.
A couple of hundred years passed without incident, under the authority of Catholic archbishops, until religious proceedings were disrupted by a German monk. The teachings of Martin Luther set the precedent for the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s and the basis for the Church of Sweden as we know it today.
The Church and State became a marriage made in monopoly heaven and regulation through Parliament would last almost four centuries. The Swedes were a God-fearing bunch until competition challenged the consecrated cartel in late 18th century. In 1860, a change in law allowed Lutheran Swedes to leave the church so long as they converted to another religion. The right to stand outside any religious denomination was only established in 1951, in the Law on Freedom of Religion.
In 2000 the church and state divorced after decades of debate, placing it on the same footing as other religious organisations. But the Church prefers to refer to the split as simply “new relations,” says Priest Eva Brunne, assistant to the Bishop of Stockholm. “We are not the only religion in Sweden any longer,” she says. “It just can’t be that one church dominates when there are parishes where the Swedish Church is in the minority. We are one among others and that is very important.”
The Swedish church certainly likes to sing its own praises. They proudly proclaim that some 80 percent of the population are members – largely a consequence of the days when Swedes automatically became members at birth. Nowadays, people have to actively choose to join, but those who are members from birth have to make an active decision to leave.
“People remain members for three reasons; tradition, solidarity or because they believe in God,” Brunne says. But that number is decreasing year on year. In 1996 tax forms revealed for the first time exactly how much money individuals were donating to church coffers (about 1.2 percent of taxable income). Needless to say the swift exodus began. However, according to the latest church figures from 2003, Swedes still turn to the Church of Sweden for the big events in their lives, from birth to death - 68 percent are baptised, 36 percent are confirmed, 60 percent are married and 87 of funerals are held in church.
But in reality, the echoes of hallelujah are becoming harder to hear and you can count the heads in most congregations on two hands. Sunday mornings means barren pews and lonely hymnbooks: “It’s probably only around one percent of the population that regularly attend church services,” admits Brunne. “But the Church of Sweden is really a greater part of life in the Swedish countryside.”
Indeed, Sweden’s bible belts on the Skåne-Småland border, the West coast and Gotland house the country’s conservative Sunday best brigade. “But in the bigger cities, the church is more progressive.” She means that in Stockholm 50 percent of all priests are women, including Bishop Caroline Crook. And the church holds surprisingly open views on homosexuality at a time when clergymen in other countries are still struggling with the concept. “On a national level, the majority are in favour of the consecration of homosexual partnership,” says Brunne. And she should know; a lesbian who has had her partnership blessed within the sacred walls. Culturally, however, the church’s modern thinking still has a way to go.
Sweden today is a hybrid of religions and ethnicity; there is talk of a religious renaissance but that has little to do with Lutheranism. Rather, it’s largely due to the country’s immigrant population. After Christianity in its many denominations, Islam is the second largest religion in Sweden.Although there are no concrete statistics, estimates suggest there are around 200,000 to 400,000 Muslims living in Sweden.
“Sweden’s multi-religious environment today is a good thing,” Brunne says. “Personally, I have become a more conscious Christian and Lutheran because of it. But when it comes to other religions and cultures, the church and society still has very much to learn.”
Talking about education, religion has created as much commotion as you’ll find in a pre-school playground. In 1969 the all-embracing Religionskunskap replaced the confessional Kristendomskunskap on the Swedish school curriculum. It has been the subject of scrutiny ever since, with some calling for more emphasis on Christianity and others who say faith has no place in the classroom. And who said religion and politics don’t mix? The Swedish Christian Democrat party, founded in 1964, was allegedly established after threats to remove religious education in Swedish primary schools altogether.
Devout church-goers took to the streets in demonstration, joined saintly forces beyond the Sabbath and, so it goes, the party was formed. The school-religion debate rumbles on today but mainly surrounds independent religious schools, usually run by the country’s controversial Christian “free churches.” Pentecostal, Baptist, and Evangelical worship are thrust under this banner and some extreme factions have even been labelled as bible-bashing cults. Blows have been traded between politicians and pastors; MPs cry fundamentalism while preachers use the word of God to defend their classrooms.
The discussion was recently taken up in a sermon at Sweden’s biggest and perhaps most controversial free church, Livets Ord (Word of Life), in Uppsala. The evangelical movement houses the largest place of worship in Europe along with a school and “university” all within a campus-like community just outside the city.
Ecclesiastical frontman, Pastor Ulf Ekman, founded Livets Ord in 1983 and today it has a 3,000 strong following of born-again believers. Aside from famous members like Carola, the church’s pro-Israel preoccupation has been a profile raiser: the church has Christian Zionist beliefs, and helps Jews move to Israel, primarily from Russia. This, followers believe, will fulfill biblical prophecy and bring the second coming of Christ closer.
Within Sweden, attention on Livets has focused on the church’s occasionally sect-like image and on its educational activity. Scrutiny of the organization’s schools has been intense, something that Ekman himself has noted with concern:“Christian schooling in Sweden is more challenged today than ever,” Ekman told his congregation at a recent service. “Our school started in 1985 and since has been debated more than any other school of the face of this planet. It is constantly being checked by the education authorities and the government is welcome to come back, come back and come back again.”Ekman freely quoted Göran Persson, who has demanded more control of such schools and responded: “The government thinks that independent religious schools breed segregation. But parents have the right to choose the school which is best for the development of their child.”“We have a historical right,” Ekman continued. “We need free Christian upbringing and education even in little Sweden. The picture of our school as segregated is a perverted vision and we say the truth will set us free.”
But the free churches have hardly been helped in their battles with the government by recent scandals involving wilder elements among Sweden’s evangelical movement. Remember the case which rocked the quiet village life of Knutby? The cult-sex-murder triangle was followed by wacky tabloid revelations from church leader Åsa Wauldau, whom the press dubbed the “Bride of Christ” (Kristi Brud). It unfolded into a spiritual saga that wouldn’t have been out of place on the big screen or the best sellers list.
And let us not forget Åke Green; the Swedish Pentecostal pastor from Öland, who was sentenced to a month in prison following his sermon in which he described homosexuality is “a cancer on the body of society.” It was something of a freedom of speech victory for the free church when Green was later acquitted by Sweden’s Supreme Court. Still, the pastor paid an enduring price of shame for his homophobic outburst in equality-crazed Sweden.
The story made headlines elsewhere and, in a fashion, even went as far as putting Sweden back on the religious map - a sacred place the country has not been for centuries and is unlikely to return. Amen.
Christine DemsteaderChristine Demsteader is a freelance writer based in Stockholm.
The Local © The Local Europe AB 2006News from Sweden in English
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I recently heard Dr. James Dobson speaking about the dangers of the growth of Muslims in the world, including the USA. He was upset because they seem to be increasing their numbers while Christianity is shrinking.
He is wrong. Christianity is not shrinking nor is Islam growing faster through their evangelistic efforts. Christianity that is real, exciting, dynamic and powerful is growing all around the world. Islam is growing but primarily through biology not evangelism.
In Greater Cincinnati there are less than five Muslim Mosques and about 4,000 to 5,000 Christian churches. If 40% of the region's population are Christians who attend services monthly, it means there are about 1.5 million active believers in the Tri-State of OKI.
The number of Muslims in OKI is a few thousand. Put Islamic growth into perspective. There are more Hispanics in our region than Muslims and most of them are Christians, whether legal or illegal.
Do not operate out of fear but see this in God's perspective. In the past we had to travel around the world to evangelize and do missionary work. Now God has brought the world to our carner of the universe and we can evangelize them freely and without fear.
None of these men and women are carrying explosives nor are they, as a rule, hostile to us. God calling us to engage our neighbors in love and grace to embrace the God of grace and leave the past behind.
Any group of churches that does not have a ministry to internationals is lagging behind the call of God who is brining millions of internationals to our shore.
The Call of God
I will be leading a series on Answering God’s Call @ The
All are invited to come and enter in to the discussion and learn a lot.
It is a follow-up to the series by Dave Workman one discovering God’s call. Here is what Gerry Spears is saying about the details:
Come join us on Tuesday nights as
Starting Tuesday, Oct. 17th to Nov. 21st at 7pm in the Great Rooms
Contact Gerry Spears at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-671-0422 Ext 6393.
I am convinced by the Lord that a key to individual and church growth over the next generation is finding our place of flowing in the Spirit in the spectrum of God’s call. We will do a “Journey Map” that marks the ups and downs of educational, work and spiritual life. People will discover the ways and places God has used the “Pits and Passages of His Grace” to stretch us and free us from the tyranny of works righteousness.
I will refer to Janet Hagberg’s great book, The Critical Journey. Order it now from Amazon.com
Veteran Christians as well as beginners will be blessed.
For those who are Burned-out or Exhausted in the service, be refreshed in the Spirit.
You are never too old to have a happy childhood as God’s child.
You will learn how to:
· Assess the Road Map or stages of your spiritual journey. (See Janet’s book)
· Integrate your talents and gifts as well as temperament and spirituality
· Find your “Identity in God” and “Stop thinking like a slave.”
· See your call as a grace gift and leave false guilt and shame behind.
· Fill the gap between your Position and your Condition in Christ
· Banish B.S. (Blame and Shame) from your life
· Boomers will be launched into a new appreciation of their place in the world
· Learn to pray with others and hear God
Looking forward to being with a group of good folks like you.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Responding to Muslim Violence To the Pope
Most of us are amazed at the way so many Muslims have reacted to the Pope's statements about the necessity of any religion to reject violence as a way to evangelize. One would think that Muslim leaders would consider just how awful it would look to audiences around the world if they did exactly what the Pope was criticizing. Yet, many Muslim leaders went immediately to their marketing departments and organized large, violent protests stating that the Pope and other Christians should be immediately killed.
Why would a marketing department demand such an irrational course of action?You might ask why I state that the Muslims were guided by their paid marketers. It is simple.
1. The Muslim marchers are mostly illiterate and yet they had signs in well painted English.
2. Who knows English? Paid marketers?
3. Why English? So CNN and The New York Times and other western media can read it and show it to Americans.
4. So the signs are for our American consumption not the locals. They really want the left wing liberal media to react and they did. The Times actually criticized the Pope not the Mulims! I suppose they are afraid of being bombed.
5. Local Muslims can not read or understand what the Pope said so someone paid by them developed the slogans, painted the signs and told them what to say.
6. Western marketing moguls are behind the protests. That may be why they were so dumb and counter productive.
How do we respond?By rejecting violence but realizing how REACTIVE and out of control many Muslims are to any perceived slight. Reactive people do not think things through or make decisions on rational reasons.
They are at the mercy of their own emotional problems and inner discussions.We need to pray for them to know Jesus Christ.
Take a look at John Piper's blog on this topic.Resource Library / Taste & See Articles / By Date / 2006 / How Christians Should Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg
The Process of Change in Coming to Christ
A few posts ago I showed some photos of the Greater Cincinnati Baptist Association Pastors who gather weekly at the Life Way Counseling center Offices in Blue Ash to discuss leadership, influence and change.
As a person with deep Baptist roots I am happy to say that these men are deeply commited to Christ and to growing the church in healthy ways.We are discussing ways to influence people as God brings changes in their lives and I am promoting the idea that all change is incremental, step by step and usually slow over a period of time.
The problem lies in an instant mashed potato society that expects change to be quick and easy.I have developed a way of showing what I think is a biblical way to describe the stages of change from being against God, called scoffers in the Bible, to being sold out to Jesus.
The above article notes how reactive many Muslims are to anything that is contrary to its teachings. However, many Muslims are coming to faith in jesus Christ through visions, dreams, seeing Jesus and through the lives of missionaries. It is rarely a sudden and dramatic change. Most of the time conversion comes over many years and many witnesses.
More later on this point.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Life Way Supports Pastors
Perhaps you have heard the following statements.
As goes the leadership of an organization so goes the organization.
An organization, like a fish, rots from the head down.
Where are they? I must find them! I am their leader!
After trying to train lay people for many years with little successes in church organizations to show for my effort I began to re-think my approach. Although I still love to work with non-clergy, it is a fact that people look to their pastors for setting the pace for organizational growth and change. So, for the past few years I have poured myself and my talents into strengthening pastors and their families.The stats about leaders and their family life are dismal.
Unfortunately, many of the current magazines and seminars supposedly designed for ministers and church leaders make the situation worse not better by pushing pastors to try harder and do more, thus facilitating an impossible, works righteousness approach to the Christian life.
Take a look at some of the data from seminary research:
75% dropout after 15-20 years
Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry monthly due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their church.
Most become Chaplains, Counselors, Insurance Sales
80% say ministry impacts families negatively
40% have conflicts with member monthly
70% have no close friends1/8th pastors consider quitting
This equals about =44,500 people
© Joseph Umidi @ Regent University,Virginia Beach,VA.
We at Life Way Ministries are dedicated to offering free, confidential counseling, coaching, support and training for ministers from any and every denomination. We are currently helping several leaders, their wives and family members who are suffering from burn out, depression, conflict shell shock and emotional/sexual misconduct.
Pray for us as we develop more channels of support and prevention.
I am still learning how to blog so it is not easy to get to the ministry blog. So, I have cut and pasted the address for you to try. http://gsweetenministryblogspotcom.blogspot.com/
Go there for past minsitry posts.
This did not work well. I am returning to one and only one blog. Having two sites is too complicated for me to maintian with my very limited time.
From now on both personal and ministry items will appear here.
Many people are disturbed about some of the things that have happened in our state politics over the past few years. I am not too familiar with these activities but I do know that Ohio leads the nation in funding Faith Based Groups. That is awesome.
Several years ago, Governor Bob Taft signed into law a bill setting up an office of Faith Based funding. It is the only state in the union to have done so. Ken Blackwell is greatly supportive of these actions and is a man of faith himself. I have known Mr. Blackwell for many years and hope he will continue his support as Governor.
Life Way Ministries is a Faith Based Non profit charity and is thereby able to receive such grants from the state and federal governments. Last year we received a word from a friend that we needed to really emphasize "At Risk Families" in our ministry. I joined a consortium of groups applying for grants to support marriage and family life among poor and Black families.
PTL, we have already received two grants, one of which has a small amount for Life Way included in it. Beech Acres is coordinating the grant writing and coordination along with Carol Adelard of Healthy Visions. Go to http://www.beechacres.org/family/home.asp for more information.
The research is clearly on the side of faith based involvements in developing healthy families and we at Life Way are moving out to network with churches and ministries to build greater momentum for healthy family life.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
For ten years the Blue Ash folks have celebrated flight and
honored American troops with an airshow and patriotic celebrations.
This year the sky divers brought the largest flag to ever fall from an airplane hooked to a diver. The photos that follow show the sequence of the fall and the size of the flag.
The airplane shown here was not the jump vehicle but one that was used to make some incredible twists and turns at high G Forces.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I am working on a book now to explain this strange truth.
Do you remember the song Grace that is greater than all of my sin?
It was always one of my favorites. I was acutely aware of my failings and guilt as a young man and it drove me to run from God, just as scripture predicts. It is the kindness of God that brings us to repentant. The Law of God drives us to ourselves and our own performance.
If you are laboring under the impression that you must do more to please God and make Him like you or love you or forgive you, come back to your senses and accept His free gift to the party of Good News.