BJ#15 Competitors

Does the Bible famous "Love your enemies" (Mat 5:44,Luke 6:27,35) apply to business? The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Grouping of competitors in a particular location seem to be a powerful drawing force e.g. Sim Lim Square, Funan Building for the IT people. We have associations of various professional and interest groups to speak as a force, to unify practices, to establish common interfaces etc. All these co-operative works of competitors together create productivity not only for themselves but also for the society as a whole. They key is to work together and yet create your niche of value-add to serve your customers.

Another main reason is that we really don't know who are our competitors in this fast changing world. Your staff may start a new company to compete with you. Your customers may decide to take thing in-house instead of buying from you. With so much merges going on, your competitors may become your associate. e.g. Peoplesoft and Oracle used to be competitors in application software business until Oracle bought them. Peoplesoft itself has earlier bought over his competitor JD Edwards.

What could stand the change of times and events is the unchanging principles of God. We are to love our enemies (competitors). But we are not to go to the other extreme of being cheated. Mt 10:16 tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. "The Arts of War" tells us that "war is the last and worse course of action".

Finally, we can differentiate the person and his acts. We are to love the person and to hate his evil acts. In summary, we need not be afraid of our competitors. We can work with them on certain areas, compete with them on others areas and we are to create our new blue ocean of market place. At all times, we keep our integrity with biblical based business practices.

May God bless your business as your try to run your business based on His Words.

(this series of articles on Business by Jesus is just the beginning of a compiling of Biblical Principles for Business. It is a framework where future contents can be easily added and shared. There are much to be discovered from the Bible for business.)

---updated 18 Jan 2008----
I was re-reading Edwards Deming' The New Economics 2nd ed. On page 56, it says that a system includes competitors. Competitors can work together to expand the pie of the market rather than just fight over market share. Competitors can focus together on how to improve the value, products or services to the customers such as lower costs or environmental protection. The automobiles industry could focus on producing a safer, more fuel efficient and 'greener' cars. Toyota is talking about sustainable mobility and sharing its technology in hybrid cars with others. It is a good example.

See also Bible for Business Seminar#14 Competitors & Summary
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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|--

BJ#14 Learning & Growth - Organization & Culture

There are four key aspects we want to discuss further in Organization and Culture.

1. Communication
Most common error in corporate performance is lack of communication, resulting in misunderstanding and subsequent internal in-fighting, unintentional conflicts, duplicated and wasted resources and so forth. Without clear and constant communication, mission, visions, values and strategies cannot be shared.

In the Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:3-20), Jesus shared that there were 4 types of listeners, despite all your good effort in trying to communicate and motivate (it is the same Word that is shared to the 4 types of listeners) with four very different outcomes.

  1. Paths - Indifferent and Disengaged Staff. They are not interested in doing or improving things. May be they are victims of many initiatives and frequent changes in strategies that they don't see the good results of anything 'new' initiatives. They are the depressed and given-up staff. If not motivated and changed, they may degrade to be actively disengaged staff that will sabotage the work of others. Their bad attitudes and behaviour may spread and caused others to follow suit. The answer is to change them or get rid of them.
  2. Rocks - Head Only Listeners. They are excited quickly and rush to implement. They are easily discouraged and give up especially when they do not see short term results. Very often, their failures are due to misunderstanding, lack of preparation and unrealistic expectations.
  3. Thorns - Own Agendas. They have different agendas than the corporates. They will do only those corporate objectives that agree with their goals.
  4. Soils - Heart, Head, Hand & Habits. The 4 Hs are the terms used in "Lead like Jesus" for ease of remembering . These people not only understand with their minds, but have taken them into their hearts. They are committed to achieving the success and will execute them (Hands). Long term practice makes them good habits that are done without extra supervision. They produce the fruits.
The key then is to keep and to develop Type-4 Staff; renew the mindset of Type 3, motivate the Type 2 and may be get rid of Type 1 after giving them 2nd chance. Selecting the right staff, identifying their talents, putting them in the right fitting jobs, developing their strength (with the right managers and mentors) may be a good way to develop type 4 staff. "Discipling like Jesus" is a good way to follow.

Type 4 4H staff , or Actively Engaged Staff, are so important for the success of corporate that we find in Num 11:17 that God took the spirit of Moses and put upon the other leaders so that all can share in the same vision and carry the burdens together.

2. Leadership
Leadership is a subject that is extensively covered in business and biblical literatures. I just want to highlight the following key points:
  • Servant Leadership : Mt 20:26, Mk 9:35-37, Mk 10:43-45 the Greatest Serve. Leadership is not measured by the number of people serving you but by the number of people you serve and influence for the corporate and their good. Leaders are to be role models. Leaders lead from the front. They do first - showing others how to do. Then they teach others and watch while others do. Finally, they delegate them to do.
  • The Heart is more important than the rules. Mt 5:20-22. Go after the heart and just the head even though you reach the heart through the head and hands (examplified living)
  • Pursue of Excellence - Better than the Common Norm Mat 5:43-48 Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven.
3. Team Work & Alignment
  • Team Work is a synergy of differences and not of the same. Accept another's differences . Rom 14:1, 15:7.
  • It is a Body of many and different parts working together. Each part doing its parts contributing to the well-being of the corporate. Rom 12:4-21. Difference in functions but all equal in value. Rewards are to be distributed according to the performance and value delivered.
  • Unity and Love for One-another is a distinguish attribute of Christians (John 13:35). Divided we fall , United we stand Mark 3:24-26. We are all ONE is Christ and in the Father John 17:21. Organization and its staff should be similar.
  • Segment into Groups for greater effectiveness Mark 6:39-40.
  • Be objective in your judgment. Don't fix people. Mat 7:1-5
4. Taking a Break
  • Mark 6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

    We need to take regular breaks from our routines of business to rest and reflect. To take stock of life and re-plan.
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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|--BJ#15 Competitors

BJ#13 Learning & Growth - Technology

In TRIZ (Russian for Theory of Inventive Problem Solving), a problem solving method that is gaining popularity among the major corporates and is rated as one of the best Innovative Thinking methods, there is a principle called "Principle of Idealilty".

  • Ideality = Benefits / (Harms + Costs)
An Ideal system is one that gives all the benefits without any harmful effects and without costs. In other words, an ideal technological system does not exist as a physical entity but fully performs the required function.

There is another principle in TRIZ, which is relate to the environment (see BVITS for an easier and wider scoped Innovation Method). The solution to a problem can usually be found in the environment. We are know that to get rid of the durian taste and smell on our hands or mouths, we use the water that runs through the durian crust. To get rid of the flies coming to our exposed foods, we use water stored in transparent plastic bags. See photo below.

What have all these to do with Business and Jesus ?
The answer is that Jesus used the environment to arrive at the ideal Public Address system when he preached to the crowds on mountains or from boats. Without the modern day PA systems, how could Jesus preached to five thousands men (if we count the women and children, we could get 20,000 people) on the miracle of 5 loaves and 2 fish and to four thousands people on another 7 loaves and a few fish food-multiplying miracle. With an Ideality Principle system, we get the effects (PA) without the costs (no equipments to carry, no power needed, no wires to run etc).

This is not to say that we don't want to use technology. On the contrary, we want to use the best and continually improve to come out with better ones, for our business and to use them share the Good News. Having the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16 and Christ In You Col 1:27), we can be creative and innovative in our work and life.
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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|--BJ#14 Learning & Growth - Organization & Culture


BJ#12 Learning & Growth - Strategic Job Roles

After you have picked the customers you want to serve, designed the processes that will deliver the maximum impact on the customers, you now need to define the scope of work for the staff to do. This scope of work is known as "Strategic Job Roles" or "Strategic Job families". The person doing this job must have the necessary skills i.e. competence at the job. In a small start-up, a person may need to multi-task and have to do multiple "Strategic Jobs". For a large company, there could be many people doing the same "Strategic Job". For an existing company, there may need to be a re-assignment of job duties so that people are taking up strategy jobs and leaving the non-strategy jobs ( they can be outsourced too.).

Examples in Church Organization
Eph 5:11-12 shows us that the Church has the Five-Fold ministries (Strategic Job Roles) of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In Rom 12:6-13 and 1 Cor 12:28, we find other job roles. e.g. healers, miracle workers, helpers/ Servers, organizers /ruler/managers, giver, exhorter (coaches?), and those that Sheweth-mercy.

All working together in unity as members of the body of Christ to build each other up into maturity and fullness in Christ. Eph 4:13.

In the OT, we can find the proper organization of processes and distribution of Job Roles(Tasks) towards accomplishing the worship of God and life in God. In the Book of Numbers we have Distribution of Tasks and The Levi Groups, Processes, Distribution of Work from Moses to 70 Elders 11:6, Trumpets and Signals - Command Control Communications for Orderly Movement

Competence & Training
As a company, you need to develop your staff. But you need to develop your staff according to your strategies and the derived "Strategic Job Roles or Job Families". Your staff must have the right competence level to perform the tasks either through training or self-learning.
  • Integrity or Trust = honesty + ability
Integrity is more than just being honest. It must have the ability or competence to deliver the promised. It is only in meeting the expectation that trust can be earned.

A common misunderstanding about training is to treat it as a rewards. Staff are sent for training because of some good performance. This creates two problems with training. Firstly, if training is a rewards, then I do not need to learn well. Secondly, the staff is likely to be sent to a training that has nothing to do with his job. It is not unusual to hear people attending training saying "I am not sure why I am sent to this training". Mat 7:6 shows us that your good intentions may not be appreciated. We have the following 2 principles for training.
  1. Training should be planned according to the Strategies of the Company
  2. Staff attending the training should be briefed properly on the purposes and expectations of the training.
Teaching Methods
  1. Teaching by Engaging Full Channels
    Everyone has their own learning styles. Some prefers listening to lectures while others prefer reading. Some learn better through pictures. Some prefer watching a movie. We have the 5 senses - hear, see, feel/touch, taste and smell and one more, motion or learning by play-acting. See Maximize Learning Channels how Jesus instituted Baptism and the Holy Communion as wonderful object lessons for us to remember the teachings well.

  2. Teaching by Story-Telling
    Jesus frequently taught the people through parables - ie.. stories. A story facilitates a return to the basics of human connection, inspiration and common purpose. The power of a story to breakdown fences and get conviction can be seen in the story told by Prophet Nathan to King David to get David convicted of his act of murder. (2 Sam 12:1-7)
Watch out for False Prophets (Mat 7:15-20). "by their fruits ye shall know them" teaches us to select our Trainers, Consultants or Mentors carefully. Ask for references and see their works and not just hear their speeches and their brochures.

Our Attitudes towards Training & Learning
There is a famous saying - "You can bring the horse to the water but you cannot force the horse to drink". We can send our staff for training but we cannot be sure he can learned. The word "Training" put the responsibility of gaining-skill unto the trainers. Some organization prefer to use the word "Learning" to highlight the responsibility of gaining-skill is with the staff - the learner. We could say that Company provide Training and Development opportunities and we the staff must do the learning - acquiring of skills and knowledge. The important guides for learning are:
  1. Learning is a never ending process. If we don't learn, we don't grow. By staying still, we would be left behind. We should always stay up-to-date.
  2. There is no short-cut to life. Mat 7:13-14 read the Message Bible version.
  3. By tutoring others we also learned. Mat 7:12.
  4. Have courage, confidence and ask, seek, explore and you shall surely find. Mat 7:7-8
  5. Going for Excellence - Beyond Normal Expectation. Mat 5:3-12 The Beatitudes.
Your may want to compare it with the teaching from the Ancient Chinese on learning. See Mind Value: What Ancient Chinese Can Teach Us about Learning

Succession Planning and Coaching
One major success factor of Jesus' Ministry is "Disciplining" - Creating your own clones that they will also make their clones. Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:7-13 contains the methods Jesus used to train up his 12 disciples. It is teaching, practical practices and feedback. Luke 10:1-17 show Jesus picked 70 disciples and send them out and review their experience.

Matching of Personal & Corporate Goals
The corporate objectives are successively cascaded downwards from unit to department to teams to individuals. Individual must align their own personal goals with the corporate goals. Any mis-alignment will result in poor performance and dissatisfaction.

See also Bible for Business Seminar#13 Learning & Growth
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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|-- BJ#13 Learning & Growth - Technology


BJ#11 Process & Execution

Talking is Just the Start - Need to Do it
Most people have the understanding that talking is enough. Issues are raised in meeting and ended when the meeting ends. There is no follow-up work. They, even CEOs, may feel that their job is to raise the issue and others are to do the work. Knowing the issue and do nothing about it is like building on the sands Mt 7:24-27 ... the rain descended, the floods came,.... great was its fall. Business Magazine surveys show that <10% style="font-weight: bold;">Doing is About Process
We need to design and align the Processes that deliver the maximum impact on our chosen customers. In the Strategy Map driven Balanced Scorecard We have set-up measures and targets for the Internal Process Strategic Objectives (SO). If we have SO and there is no process, we need to design one. If there is a process, but the SO target is not achieved, then we need to change the process to one that can achieve the target.

Just Do it
Once we have designed the Process, then we must boldly do it accordingly. Go the customers and deliver your product & services - Mark 1:39 Jesus went to their meeting places to preach and cast out demons. Do not worry Mat 6:34 (this verse does not tell us not to plan, just not to worry but trust God). Do those thongs under your control, leave the growing or changes to God.
  • Mark 4:26-29 (KJV) ... a man should cast seed into the ground; [27] And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. [28] For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. [29] But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
Operation Excellence
Almost all companies' strategies include the Operation Excellence theme. It involves principles taught by Jesus.
  1. Proper Use of Things.
    Mark 2:21 ...is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
  2. Watchout for the Multiplier Effects - Both ways - For Good or Bad
    Mark 4:30-32 (KJV) [31] It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: [32] But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
  3. Sharing of Best Practices
    Mark 5:19 (KJV) Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
  4. Internalize the Practice, not just for show (or to pass ISO certification)
    Seeing the practice as a guide for efficiency and effectiveness and not as a necessary evils improve the performance in the long run. Following them not just to the letters of the laws but in the spirit is key for productivity.
    • Fasting Mat 6:18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
    • Giving Mat 6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
    • Praying Mat 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

  5. The Template - Get them Aligned towards Types of Customers Served.
    Typical company processes have the following and we need to have processes designed for them. The key is not just the processes but the design must be aligned to deliver the impact on the customers. For example, a company trying to build intimate key customer relationship must have its processes tuned to deliver that intimate relationship of trust, flexibility, innovation etc. It cannot be supported by a process that produce goods and services for the general customers. e.g. Dell's processes for the retail customers cannot be used to support IBM's key intimate customers.

    The Value Chain:
    Supply (SCM) -> Production -> Distribute -> Customer (CRM)
    ...............\---- Corp Perf Mgt (EIS, ESS, CPM) --/

    For Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the selection, acquiring, retention and growth.

    There is need for Innovation and also to be aware of the Government and other Regulatory controls. There is a need for Risk Management through out the engagement process from Customers to the Suppliers.

  6. Innovation
    This area is the greatest needs for any company to days. With globalization and Internet, many barriers are broken. Breaking free from commoditized world and markets by creating your own new differentiated market needs innovations. Innovations is more than just technology breakthrough. It could be in processes, services, and business models. There are many companies selling breads but Breadtalk seems to out shine and out run others. Old Chang Kee used to be just a small shop selling Curry Puff but is now an internationally business.

    Innovation relates to creativity. Most people were taught that Creativity means Breaking Rules. That is not a correct wording. Breaking Rules should be changed to "Breaking man made traditions, prejudices, biases, lies and deception" and "Knowing the Real Truth".

    • John 8:32 ... know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
      Lie is an untruth or deception that we thought is the truth and that binds us.

    Creativity is not limited by lack resources. Everyone can do more when given more. The larger companies you are competing with have more resources to outdo you. It takes creativity to do more with less. Please read my BVITS for systematic break through innovations and my blog on thinking to become more innovative.

  7. Follow Deming - Blame the System not the Trained People

    If a process does not deliver the targets, change the process and not blame the people, especially when they have be trained do the job accordingly. Please read the writings of E W Deming. The key thoughts are:

    • All measure has a value and a variation. Take actions only when they are out of control limits. Don't jump on variation within the limits.
    • Don't fire the people when the system is at faults
See also Bible for Business Seminar#12 Processes
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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|--BJ#12 Learning & Growth - Strategic Job Roles


BJ#10 Customer Perspective

Defining Your Customers - Who ?
We need to consider carefully the group(s) of customers that we can serve best. Do your customers really see the values you claim to deliver to them. It is always best to ask them. They may not fully appreciate what you products or services can do for them. Please see the mind map below to find out how you can segment your customers for better value delivery; to understand that customer's value-curve has multiple factors - utility and emotional ones. You are to create a value-curve that differentiate yourself from your competitors. Finally, the value the customer pays you is dependent on the market and competitive offering. Customer buying decision is more emotional than rational. It is an experience.

Customer's Experience

Whether a customer will be your long term client depends on his experience with you. A good packaging is important in attracting the potential customers for a try. However, you must deliver the real excellent value in the use of your products or services.
  1. Exceeds the Competitor

    Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Applying the above in business, the value we deliver must exceed that of our competitors that we may enter into the heart of our customers to enjoy a long term relationship.

  2. Price is dependent on the Value Given

    Mark 4:24-25 (KJV) with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. [25] For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

    The value they give to you is proportional to the value you deliver to them. If you don't deliver real value, you will loose your business soon.

  3. Delighting Them - Exceeds their Expectation

    Mt 5:39-42 is all about exceeding the expectation of the customers. Please note also that giving is based on what you have and can. Don't borrow to give and

  4. Do not make promises that you can't deliver. see also Mat 5:37.

  5. Quality at the Core

    Most organization go for ISO certification to gain recognition for quality. In reality, the spirit of quality is seldom instilled in the staff. They do the necessary to pass the exam but see extra work as a necessary evil. Mat 5:22, 2:28 shows us that we must embrace quality in our Heart, Head and the Hand.

  6. Be Bold in Facing the Defects and Handling Complains

    As in Mat 5:29-30, face up with realities in our organization and take the bold and tough steps of cutting off units, departments, teams or even people for not delivering after attempts to train, change or develop them. The market and technology may have moved and you have to face up withe realities to cut them out. Don't let the sick part of department or people destroy the whole company.

  7. Branding

    Most people think of branding as just telling. Branding is much more than nice packaging and a catchy message. Branding is acquired after a long series of experience by many customers. The fastest way to destroy a brand is to tell one thing and deliver another thing. Branding is "Projecting Right Kind of Image and Making sure the Image is Really you." It is what comes from the hearts - revealed in what you said and delivered in the long run that creates the branding of who you are and what you stand for. Mark 7:18-23. It is your differentiating and consolidated identity . A good brand is reason for employees, investors and customers to want to do business with you and your asset for long term survival & profitability.

  8. Outcomes vs Output

    Outcomes are Customers' purchase orders, goods received in good order and payment received.

    Outputs are the things you do or deliver to the customers. Spending lots of time, output measures in man-hours, with customers may not leads to the right Outcome - signed deal.

    Hence, make sure you spend your output wisely :
    • Make sure you are doing the right things with the customers.
    • Listens carefully to his needs; expressed, implied, unawared.
    • Make sure your proposal deliver the right value to him.
    • May need to demonstrate your ability to deliver to gain trust in proposal stage.
    • A signed contract is a trust. Customer trusts that you can deliver according to your promise.
    • Your price can be lower than competitors and still loose the deal because of lack of trust
Customers Relationship is, in the 1st and final analysis, about trust. Customers give you the contract and the money trusting that you deliver according to your promise to him. If you delivery according to promise or more, the trust increases and the Customers are likely to give you more work. Any failure though, is breach of trust and will result in reduced confidence in you. Take care that you think for your customer, in setting expectation, making promises and then delivery more than your promises to create a delightful experience with your products and services.

Bible for Business Seminar#11 Customers & Blue Ocean Strategy

See also Taking Back the Initiative - Going the Extra Mile

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BJ#0 Business According to Jesus TOC --|--BJ#10a Golden Rule of Service


BJ#9 Financial Perspective

How the Business is Doing - We must know.
Any business worth doing is worth keeping it growing over the long term. How can we tell we are running a good busines? Financial Measures like Revenues, Costs, Profits, Cash-on-hand, tell us how our business is doing. Without such measures, we do not know. Such Measures, like profits, are purely indicators and is amoral. Making profits is the result of the delivery of a good value to customers. There is nothing bad or evil in making profit. It is what you do to make profits that decide whether it is good or evil.

Optimization of Resources - We must do
Without financial measures, we do not know how to optimize our usage of resources. Optimization of our God given talents and resources are thought in the parables of the Good Stewards (Mat 25:14-30, Luk_19:11-27). So, we must familiarize ourselves with all the measures.

Watch the Cash Flow besides the Profits & Loss
A company can make profits and yet still close down due to lack of cash. Profits is a computed and delayed measure. If the profit is realistically and accurately computed, it will result in increasing cash. If you have a large cash pool to start your business with, you can sustain a business without making profits for a number of years --- until you run out of cash or credit line.

So, we have a very basic principle, or saying, "Cash is King" or "He who has the cash has the say".

The key points in the business are:
  1. What is the Business Model ? How does the business make profits?
  2. What is the Profit&Loss Projection?
  3. What is the Cash-Flow ?
  4. What is the Balance Sheet?
  5. What is the Value of the Business?
The Financial Measures

1. The P&L statements tell us whether is business will make profit to survive. Key measures are Net Profit After Tax, Net Profit Margin %, Gross Margin%.
But it does not tell us how much resources, or capitals (cash, building, machineries, etc) are used in making the profits. So other measures are needed like:

2. Returns on Capital Employed (ROCE) , Economic Value Add (EVA) and EVA returns are measures for capital efficiency.

3. For listed company, the Market Value of the business and Shares Holders returns are important. A typical good measure used 3-5 year rolling Total Shareholder Return (TSR).

4. Since Cash is most important, cash flow measures are important too. Because profits are subjected to manipulations, financial analysts recommend the use of FCF Free Cash Flow. FCF = Net Operating Case - Capital Expenditure. It represents the cash that are in excess of the operation & capital needs of the company and can be freely used for dividends, shares buy back etc. Some others proposed used of structural free cash flow = Net income + depreciation + amortization +/- onetime items - capital expenditures.
Other Key Points
  1. Time have value. Watchout for the time value of money. A $1 now is of greater value than $1 at year end.
  2. Options have value. Keeping the decision options opened have value. If two plans give the same return, go for the one with greater options. A 3% interest rate for a 6-month and a 12-month fixed deposits are not equal in value.
What to do with the Profits
Firstly, we realize that "Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth Mt 6:20". Hence, the 1st portion of the profit is for the Lord. Secondly, profits is put back into the business as longer term investment for the future profits. Lastly, take it out and distribute to the owners (shares-holders) as returns for their investment.


A Victorious Believers' Story - 1&2 Thes

Paul loved all the believers. However, some he praised and some he corrected. It is like Jesus' letters to the seven churches in Revelation. Do you know which group of Christians that Paul praised?

Paul wrote long letters to rebuke and correct the Corinthians on their divisions, sins, disorderliness even though they were blessed with wonderful spiritual gifts of all kinds. Paul rebuked the Galatians not to go back to circumcision and the Jewish laws. Faith in Christ alone is all that is necessary for salvation and eternal life. It is not Christ + Jewish Laws or Christ + works. In Col 4:11, Colossians were Paul's comfort. Philippians were Paul's joy and crown (Phil 4:1). The Thessalonians were Paul's joy, crown and glory (1 Thes 2:19-20).

There were good reasons for Paul's pride for the Thessalonians - they had became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia (1 Th 1:7) for their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in Lord Jesus Christ (1 Th 1:3).

All that did not happened by chance. It was Paul & his team good mentoring and the Thessalonians' obedience and faith. The whole process can be shown in the diagrams below:
The keys for the successful stories are good mentors and good learners. Coaching can be summarized in the chart below:


Victorious Life - Armor of God

"Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. " is probably one of the most famous quote among believers in spiritual warfare. It is probably the most misunderstood and misused verse as well.

There are two misunderstanding:
  1. It is not the Armor but the Truth signified that is important,
  2. It is not for defense but for attack into the enemy territories.
The Armor

(this diagram is related to the "Victorious Life" diagram of previous post. Red is Spiritual man. Blue is Soulist man and Orange is the Bodily man)
1. Belt of Truth
The foundation, the belt that hold all other pieces together is the Truth. If we fail to know the truth, we will be in bondage. Jesus said in John 8:32 "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

2. Breastplate - Heart of Righteousness
We must know that our enemy the devil are always out to condemn us. If he succeeds in getting us to feel guilty then we are paralyzed. We should know that our righteousness is from Jesus Christ by his death on the cross and His resurrection to give us new ZOE (God's kind of ) Life. We are children of God. 1Jn 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. Righteousness brings us victory.

3. Helmet - Renewed Mind.
Our mindset must be of God. Rom 12:2 shows us that our mind must be renewed with the Word of God. We do not follow the values and thinking of the World. We have the mind of Christ 1 Cor 2:16.
  • For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:4-5)
4. Shield of Faith - Body Protection too.
As we advance into the enemy territories, they will attack us with flaming darts - persecutions, sicknesses, terrors, etc.... We must be able to trust our God to protect us from all evils. No weapons formed against us will succeed Isa 54:17 .

5. Shoes - Movement of the Gospels
Shoes are for us to move - to spread the Gospels throughout the world.

6. Sword - Word of God
The offensive weapon that we have is the Word of God. Only the Word of God can destroy all pretenses, lies, distortions and evils. We move forward and preach the Word of God.

7. Prayer -Communication with God all the time
As we move in, we maintain contact with our Commander-in-Chief, who will lead us and give us grace and wisdom to overcome. We asked for boldness to go.

It is not that we put on the individual pieces of armor daily. It is about living out the Truth of Jesus in Us so as to bring glory to Him. As we bear good testimonies in the world we live in, in family, in work, in church and in mission fields, that we draw people to Jesus.

Update 5 Jun 14. Derek Prince has a good series of podcast spiritual warfare. He suggested the four offensive weapons:
  1. Prayer: The promises of God’s word are not a substitute for our prayer, they provoke our prayer, and it takes our prayers to make the promises of God’s word effective in our spirit. It also takes our prayer to release the intervention of angels on our behalf.
  2. Praise: Psalm 149:6 ‘Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands.’
  3. Preaching: Heb 4 :12 ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit’ 
  4. Testimony: Revelation 12 : 11 ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’ “

The Victorious Life Through Jesus

My church, Petra Church, has a mission and vision statements that can be roughly summed up as "building victorious people to touch the world with the Life of Jesus Christ". The best book in the Bible that speak of victory is Ephesians.

Theme of Ephesians
It is about “Victorious Life”
· How to Be Overcomer &
· Growing up Together in Unity to Maturity of His ONE Body (Church-Congregation)
The Secret is the truth is in Jesus (Eph 4:21) & we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph 4:23)

Concise Content of Letter
  1. Purpose of Creation & Blessings for Us
  2. Salvation & Inheritances
  3. Inner Man Built-up
  4. Live Out the New Man & Off with the Old.
  5. Various Role Models in Life – The Best Practice
  6. Overcomers
What is a Victorious Person?
  • Overcomer - Problem Solver (AR Bernard)
  • Blessings Giver.
  • Freedom from bondage to sin, addictions, anger etc.
  • Freedom to bless others
  • Mature - Christ likeness
  • Wholeness in Spirit, Soul & Body
The Paths to Victorious Life

  1. Know the truth of Jesus & His love for us
  2. Respond in Faith in Jesus
  3. Discover His wonderful calling (vision) us.
  4. Draw on His Ability given to us
  5. Achieve and realize our vision with Productivity proving His love for us
It starts with build-up of the inner man of the spirit, renewal of mind and then sanctification of body.
Becoming the Overcomer
Our calling is the vision God has for us. Vision creates expectation. Expectation shows us the gap and motivates us to use our God given ability to make a plan. Executing the plan removes the gap.


Linking Up the NT Books

For busy Christian men and women, we tend to do Bible Study in piece-meal fashion. We read a few verses daily and meditate on them. Sometimes, we have enough time to read a full chapter or two. Reading Bible in this form causes us to see the Bible as a big set of fragmented truths. We tend to rely on others to show us the linkages. It is also very easy for us to take verses out of context and thereby leading us into wrongful thinking.

I am now studying the Bible, at least for the New Testaments, and especially the Epistles in book by book format. I wish to spend more time to see the relationships between sections of text in each book - to see the flows and development of doctrines, practices, and stories. It will be good to show what are the similarities and differences between the books. We would be able to see the growth and development of doctrines and the authors too; e.g. Paul.

By having a top down structured map of the books, I believe we can memorize the Bible better, gain a better understanding, and to be able to stay in context, letting the Bible interpret the Bible.

The Bible books chronologically reading plan is shown here.

For the Epistles, we have Galatians, 1 & 2 Thes, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Tim, Titus, 1 Peter, Hebrew, 2 Tim, 2 Peter, Jude, 1-3 John and Revelations. Another possible order is Gal, 1&2 Thes, 1&2 Cor, Roman, Hebrew, Eph, Col, Php, Phm, 1 Tim, Titus, 2 Tim. The time period is roughly from 49 AD to 67 AD. Paul's death was around 67-69 AD.

Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle--not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ
1Th 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle
Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle
Phm 1:1 Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus,
Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints,
Php 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

Paul started strongly as a God commissioned apostle, to least of the apostles, to least of all the saints! As Paul grows older, he got more and more humble and Christ-like.