Culturally Savvy & Connectedness

It is always nice to know that your thought and ideas are shared by some people with greater influence, such as authors or famous preachers.

The idea is that for the Gospel to be preached more effectively, we need to understand and appreciate the culture into which it is shared. See the mission and vision statement of my church, Petra Church. In the past, when the gospel was brought from the West into the East, they tend to impose their western cultures and practices into the Eastern population that they were reaching. They condemned the spiritually neutral traditions and practices as demonic and insisted on removing them. (Of course, there were also many eastern practices that were and are demonic. Such traditions and practices need to be stopped.) It ended with creating a Christians subculture and Christianity being branded as Western Religion with the implication that it is not acceptable and should be rejected by the people. Whereas in actual historical fact, the origin of the Christian faith comes from the east and the teachings and practices of Christianity and the Jews are very much like the Chinese. The other religions had done a much better job for integrating the local cultures into their religion. We need to be wise to differentiate the spiritual and spiritually neutral content of the cultures and traditions first before we blatantly proclaim they are demonic. We need to appreciate and connect to the cultures so that the impact of the Gospel can be more effective.

The author is Dick Staub and his book is The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite
While the book is more relevant to the US society, the key points are applicable to those of us in the East. We must always make sure the church stay connected and relevant to the people of different cultures, by race, by age-group, by life-styles, by professions, etc, that we are reaching. One message that touched me most is "Be an artist who is deeply Christian, not a Christian artist. C S Lewis quipped that we don't need Christian writers, we need great writers who are Christian. Instead of creating a separation, we need to connect to influence them and to be adopted.

To influence others come with understanding and appreciating them first. Habit#3, of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is seek first to understand and then be understood. If I don't think you understood me, my feelings, thoughts and need, I don't think I can accept or trust your advice. This is precisely what Paul is sharing in
  • 1Co 9:20-23 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; (21) To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (22) To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (23) And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
To connect, we may run the risks of becoming like them. v21 stressed that we are to maintain our special identity (under the law to Christ), that we may give the light and salt of the gospel.

Let begins by understanding another culture first and then bring our gospel to them.


Freedom - it is without limits?

Is freedom really without limits?

The levels of Freedom are:
  1. Freedom from Bondage
  2. Freedom of choice of action
  3. Freedom to choice of not to act
Level 1 Freedom from Bondage
This level 1 freedom is easier to understand. We are freed from bondage of sin, sickness, bad habits, bad temper, demonic harassment and other. Another word for it is "Deliverance". This is a key essence of the gospel.
  • (Luk 4:18) "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed
Even nature needs to be freed from the law of entropy ....
  • (Rom 8:21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Level 2 Freedom of choice of action
Since we are set freed, we have the ability to choose our actions. However, are there no limits to our freedom. The following verses tell us that our freedom is in Christ Jesus.
  • (Gal 2:4) And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage
  • (Gal 5:1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
If freedom is in Jesus Christ, then outside of Christ, there is no freedom. There is therefore a limit to our freedom. If we try to use our freedom outside of Christ, we will get back into bondage and be enslaved by sin or the devil.

With freedom then comes the responsibility and accountability for our actions. While we are free to act, we have to be responsible and be accountable to the consequences that our action bring.

Even just considering ourselves, our bodies have limitations. There are only so much activity, we could do without harming our bodies. There are natural laws controlling this universe. Try defying the law of gravity without aids and the consequence is death - complete lost of freedom in that law defying act.

Level 3 Freedom of Choice of No Action

Most people stressed on freedom to act. But one of the choice of action is not to take action at all. This is clearly highlighted in 1 Cor 8 about eating food offered to idols. While we are free to eat, we choose not to, for the love of our brother.
  • (1Co 8:13) Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
For people who stress on freedom to do anything, how about stressing on freedom to love.
  • (Gal 5:13) For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Freedom to love bonds us! There are many actions we would not do because of love. Of course, there are much much more actions that we could do to express our love to others.

As we are not alone but vitally linked to one another, we freedom has limits that we choose to adhere to, because of love and relationship for one another. In this light, freedom without limits and consideration for self and others could be called "destruction".


Know Do Gap

Joh 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

The word "know" in the greek is ginosko G1097.

According to the appendix of the Companion Bible

  • ginosko = to know (by experience, or effort);.....
Freedom comes from not just knowing the Truth but by doing the Truth and then experience it.
Knowledge without doing is insufficient.

If we just gain knowledge by reading, hearing or watching videos or TVs, without any intention of doing it, then we are just entertaining ourselves. The purpose of learning is to have a change in our mindset, attitude and our behaviour. True learning occurs when there is behavioural changes.

I would like to recommend these two books that address the "Know Do Gap" very well.
They are:
The first book the authors give eight guidelines for action (rephased by me. Read original book for original wording):
  1. Know Why before How to have the motivation and learning effectiveness to put into practice. Chinese says 活用 - ability to apply it with wisdom and flexibility.
  2. True Knowing Comes from Doing and Teaching Others How.
  3. Planning without Actions is useless. Decision to act is not good enough. Must have follow-up to ensure execution.
  4. Must allow for failure and learning from them because doing is not without Mistakes.
  5. Fear prevent us to learn new things and try new things. So we must remove them.
  6. Internal Competition is not a good way to encourage progress in general (see the book for specific instances that it is ok).
  7. Must Measure the important matters else we don't know the progress and correction.
  8. Leaders have the influence on actions by the resources allocated.

The second book is a much shorter and easier to read. It highlights the need to read again and again, spaced repetitions to absorb the content. We should learn less but with more depth, especially putting them into practice. We should read with open possibility mind and believe we can do it (see Rule#5). We should put them into practice by having a follow-up plan with structure, support and accountability (see Rule#7 & 8). The author also support Rule#2 - sharing and teaching others as closure to knowledge well learned.

So, if you are not experiencing the freedom you are promised, it is very likely that you have not put the knowlege into actions yet. Habits, in thought and behaviour, are difficult to change. Habits are formed through repetitions and hence to change them need repetitions too. Don't give up... do it again and again until success.


Christian Transformation & Growth -The Unified Model

Our life today is affected by our past experiences especially the emotional wounds. Hence, there is a need to investigate the past and obtain closure. Such practices are known as inner healing. Recently, with the development of Positive Psychology, there is shifting in trend from fixing problems into growing your strengths for excellence. We present here the unified model ... under the general practice of living and following the Holy Spirit, we discover and develop our strength to glorify God. We also, when guided by the Holy Spirit, dig back into our past to face our hurts and get the needed healing.

After we have been saved, we begin the journey of growth and transformation, to becoming more and more like Christ (Rom 8:29). In the process of growth, we don't rely on our own ability but depend on the new identity and the Christ within (Col 1:27, 2Co 4:7). We are to live out our salvation (Phi 2:12b).

When we are saved, it is our spirit that is born anew (The Tripartite Man). Our soul and body remain the same. God did not remove our past but just change our spiritual identity. Our new identity is strong enough to face up the hurts of the past and overcome the challenges ahead. We are complete in Christ Col 2:10. Christ has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness 2 Pet 1:3. We just need to feed and let the new identity grows up and lead our soul and body. In this growth process, we are to learn how to use the power of God within to overcome our past and live up to the new image of Christ (See Christ within and Glory without in How to be King).

Two Forces at Work

There are two forces at work as shown in the diagram below:

1. One is the resistance to stop our growth.
  • Our sins and past hurts in our Souls would like to drag us down
    • Our past unsettled sin, disobedience. Sins that we face up with confessed and repented will not bind us. While God forgives all our sins, past, present, and even future through Christ Jesus' full payment on the Cross two thousand years ago, we have to face up with our sins to break free from them. 
    • Soul Hurts: refer to emotional wounds, rejections, abuses that we suffered in the past. Some of the hurts we retain as bitterness and hatred. Others were stored in our subconscious and raised up now and then to trouble us.
    • Ungodly Beliefs (or Wrong Belief about the Truth) such as thinking of God not as a loving Father but as a fearful, judgmental and vengeful God really to catch and punish sins. Performance for acceptance and love is also a big lie that binds us in insecurity. See Journey of Life - Victory or Defeat.
    • Generation Curse. The curse of ancestor sins not dealt with. 
    • Mental Illness.
  • Devil's resistance.
    The devil will like to harass us and resist our growth. The devil will 
    • do it directly or 
    • uses others and (e.g. Using Peter in 16:23 to stop Jesus to go the cross)
    • even circumstances
2. The Other is the Forward Moving Power.
  • New Identity of Godly character, righteousness. Talents are given by God. The key is focused on the Holy Spirit, the strength and talents that God has given, and managing the weaknesses. Good habits formation and character development take time. Hope, focus on the future good, the prize, forgetting the past, as Paul exhorted us in Php 3:12-14.
  • Holy Spirit & Christ within, spiritual gifts, guidance, motivation.
These two, unloading and run forward, is given by Paul in Heb 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
    An expanded version is shown below:
      Strategies for Growth

      The strategies for our growth are based on 2 verses in the Bible.

      1. To grow, we could get rid of the load of past sins and past emotional baggage.

      This is done through inner healing methods like TPM (Theophostic Prayer Ministry), Dr. Grant Mullen "Emotionally Free", and where the Bible and Holy Spirit is involved in facing the hurts, the lies, the forgiveness, and the healing with the love of God (Rom 8:2)
      This 1st strategy only returns a person to normal. It is not enough for excellent and victorious living. We need to apply the 2nd strategy.

      2. To move towards our Unique Calling and the Vision that God has set for us.

      We must discover for ourselves, our unique calling from God. Our unique calling is related to the talents or giftings that God has so created us. On top of these talents, we acquire skills and knowledge that result in strengths for achieving high performance. We also rely on the Spiritual Gifts(1Cor 12) that God has given to each of us. We live and walk by the Spirit, Gal 5:18, 22-25. (* thanks to Desmond for pointing out this error, change to Gal from Rom in the original posting).

      The various growth models are shown in the diagram below:
      1. For John's Model of "Child-Adult-Father" see Bible Study 1 John Chapter 2 The Stages of Spiritual Growth.
      2. See also  Five Habits for Effective Christian Living
      3. For the Six Stage Spiritual Growth Model see Stages of Faith: A Map for the Spiritual Journey(the linked file no longer exists), can refer to this   or this


      Bible for Business" Seminar#2

      We just conducted the 2nd session of "Bible for Business" Seminar in our Petra Church.
      It will be done on every 2nd Wed of the month. The next one is on 12 Dec. Hope to see you there.

      We covered the The Golden Rule for personal & business success and go into the introduction for mission, vision and values by speaking on the The Temptations of Jesus where we understand the pressures to cause us to doubt our identity, disrupt our vision/destination and detour us from the right paths.

      I pointed out a new book "How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything...in Business" by Dov Seidman that told us the business world has changed, due to globalisation and digital technology, from what to how, from war to collaboration, from can to should etc. The principles taught in the book is very similar to the Bible principles we had covered in Business by Jesus postings. You can get more details about the book from the howmatter website. The
      The Journey to How download gives you a picture of the change.