Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

A lack of good budgeting tools and why I started my own

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Last year I did terrible in managing my money .. I basically used my credit card for everything and by the time I payed it back (every month, in Germany that is quite common) I needed to use it again because I only got enough to pay it back. So I spent 3000€ and I payed back 3000€ .. which was the problem: I was running after my money, constantly.

Then my beautiful girlfriend Elizabeth introduced me to Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com) and inspired me to change my spending habits big time. So, then I started budgeting and managed my money better .. honestly I rather tried .. and failed .. and succeeded .. and failed .. and … and I am still on my way. I created an Excel-Sheet that was helping me managing the money. You need to realize I owned at the time: One German company, one american company and my own private money. So I had to consider three different entities for my finances. And then I looked into budgeting tools because my sheet reached its limits.

And guess what? I did not find one that fulfilled my criteria:

  • International, multiple currencies
  • Multiple accounts (private, business A, business B, spouse,…)
  • Bank Connection
  • Virtual Accounts / Funds
  • Goal setting
  • Automized transaction generation to manage funds, goal and bank accounts
  • easy to use

While some tools have great features and cover some of the things I really needed, all of them together I did not find. So I started working on my own tool and called it accordingly to my company: Skelpo Budget (www.skbudget.com)

The great thing about creating your own tool is that you can customize it in a unique way. Talking to my friends and partners I realized: I am not the only one having that problem, quite a few people would have use for such a tool.

And so here it is, Skelpo Budget, fulfilling all the requirements mentioned above. And right now we started in beta .. everything is for free and it is still a lot to do. But the goal is clear: The easiest and best working budgeting solution for people with high expectations.

Please do register there (email me at ralph@skelpo.com for the beta code) and test it. Stay tuned for more updates very soon (weekly) and see this project grow.

Everything is free during beta and even after, I honestly don’t want to rip anyone off but I really want to help people to get through the same problem I stood before last year. So I can promise that the monthly fee won’t be much (I guess something around $5 per month or so). Help me out here guys! :)

Thanks for reading,

Ralph

A battle to fight – Awareness of the enemy

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

As I am going through some harder times these days I was learning quite a huge bit about what God’s kingdom on earth is like. Many christians seem to deny the presence of the enemy – the devil. When things go wrong, when feelings are hurt, when relationships are going through rough situations and it seems to just break. I was reminded today as I was reading Wild at Heart that the enemy has one major approach: Hide himself. Him making us believe that is it “just us” and that it is “not him” is one of his major ways of messing up our lives.

I can only encourage every christian to really “look for the devil” in a sense of that we need to be aware of the fact that we are not living in a great world and only we ourselves are fallen and make mistakes. But we are in fact in a war. Satan against God, very simple and plain. Somehow though many of us find ourselves explaining things that go wrong on a “human” level (John Eldredge used that term). Once we realize that the source of our troubles doesn’t lie in God but in Satan and his demons fighting against us we can approach our problems from a higher, more godly perspective. Satan wishes nothing more than that we just “accept” troubles and that we blame them on us. Truthfully, it is not that we are any good by ourselves. But in every single christian is Christ and because of that we MUST fight. We are at war, it is nothing that we can “choose” or not.

To read “Wild at Heart” or “The Screwtape Letters” may help you understand, but the deep truth also lies in words word itself. 1 Peter 5:8-9 for example.

We must accept that we are at war and that we have to fight. God is fighting in us, with us but in order to do that we need to realize: The devil is reality and he is fighting against us all the time. Especially the people that would harm him most he attacks the hardest.

Painful Growing – Hard but good and necessary

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

It is always easy to look back and say “Oh well, it was teaching me a lot.”. Being in the moment is a complete different story. A moment as the one I am in right now. God pretty much screwed up all my plans/dreams for the future. At least all the ones that really mattered to me. So, what now?

It is painful, it is hard and it feels just awful. The most awful part is to give up control, to not try it by my own strength. I am a broken man, a fallen human being and not worthy anything at all. That’s how I feel and that’s also what I really am.

There is not much earthly hope left at all, nothing seems to make any sense anymore. But still: God is with me, he always was and though I don’t “feel” it (I’m actually surprised how many feelings I have) he still is. And he is not only there but he has forgiven me, he wants to bless me and he makes me like his own son. That is an honor which takes away all breath and leaves me humbled and amazed behind.

To answer the question why I suffer I had to read a book called “shattered dreams” by Larry Crabb. It really told me a whole lot more about how God loves us. He lets us suffer only for one and one purpose only: To intensify our personal relationship with him. To feel how much we really depend on him and that we are in fact less than nothing without him.

So, despite my current suffers and because I know that it is all for the better, I still praise him in this storm. And I am thankful for this experience to grow with him.

Breaking Bad – Is it a good TV show to watch?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The following article is dedicated to my dear friend Elizabeth, who prompted me to question my viewing of the popular show, Breaking Bad. She first asked whether or not I thought the show is a good influence on me. Using Philippians 4:8 (Bible),which talks about thinking noble, honorable, and good things, she gave a quite a bit to think about, which I will put before you here.

Many questions come to mind when I think about this show, such as “Does Breaking Bad glorify violence?” “Does it send out the message that wrongdoing is acceptable in some situations?” “Why do we laugh at the suffering of others? It shouldn’t be funny.” the answers to these questions usually prompt many to not watch shows and or movies such as Breaking Bad or any of Quentin Tarantino e.g., which can also be quite violent.

To start, let’s look at what Vince Gilligen, the author of Breaking Bad, has to say about morals and consequences:

If religion is a reaction of man, and nothing more, it seems to me that it represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished. I hate the idea of Idi Amin living in Saudi Arabia for the last 25 years of his life. That galls me to no end. I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something….” “My girlfriend says this…’I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.’…”

In this quote, Gilligen is pointing out the underlying purpose of Breaking Bad. It is to make people aware of the good and bad in the world, as well as the consequences people incur when they do wrong things.

So, What is right and what is wrong? How far is each man willing to go to take care of, protect, or provide for his family? Does the end justify the means? – These are the real questions and each man must answer for himself. It is also true that depending on the answer, one may gain reward or consequence.

Through the show, we follow Walter White, a normal, likeable science teacher, who chooses to “cook” methamphetamine (drugs). He sees everything as “O.K.” through his scientific mind. As time goes on it is only natural to hate him. We continually see what happens to him as he follows down that path and how it affects others around him, especially his family.

In the beginning his motive for this new job is his desire to provide for his family once he is dead from (secret) cancer. He hooks up with a former student of his, Jessie Pinkman, and falls into the drug life. In the beginning his actions and their repercussions cause him to want out, but in the end he continues. His drug dealings lead him into greed. So, though he started with the desire to provide for his family, he ends up pushing them away.

Walter’s partner, Jessie, is the second most important characters in the show. (he is the comic relief.) Though he too is on the wrong track in the drug business, he has his morals and stands by them as often as he can. He does not betray anyone, encourages good in his young family members and holds to what he believes. When he is forced to murder someone, we see him wrestle with it. He sticks to being himself, taking ever assault against his morals seriously. He is against murder, the injustice of harming the innocent, and cheating. He sees those who take drugs as their own masters, they have chosen to lead that life, and its not his responsibility. By removing the drugs and low life, Jessie is the hero, keeping his morals and encouraging good in the young.

I have watched quite a few of the interviews produced by those who are in the show, which by the way, a good way to know the intentions of those behind it. An interesting point that was made in them was, that Walt’s cancer directly influences him. It is his cancer that causes him to act the way he does. As it spreads over his body, his actions and consequence spread out, covering those he loves or interacts with.

Back to the point;

Is watching a show like this bad? (especially for those who follow Christ Jesus.)

I would say that it depends on the person. While I may be able to handle it, others may not. Likeweise for other situations. I also think that depending on how you view the show will influence your decision to watch or not watch the show.

I ask myself, “Does it directly reflect my real life?” It doesn’t for me and I hope the same goes for you. (If it does reflect your life, then I would encourage turning yourself in to the authorities.)

Lastly, I look at the grim humor in the show. I used to call it “dark humor”, but truly “what does that mean?” And “Is it a good thing?” I would I would characterize “dark humor” as irony, sarcasm, true yet grim outcomes of stupidity for the point of sharing a message.

 

For me personally, the show Breaking Bad is an example of ones life when he stretches the moral rules, and crosses the line into wrongdoing. It is not to encourage “breaking bad” in ones own life, but to make you aware of the stark difference between good and bad (no matter how small). Besides the ethical/moral aspect of the show,Breaking Bad shows the drug life, the business, and the duality of it. I see that even normal, sweet people can do bad things too (e.g. Gale or Gus Fring). So while it is not bad in my mind, I would prompt you to make up your own mind be evaluating and thinking it over.

 

Also: Here is the source for the quotes and an interview which shows the actors take on Breaking Bad.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_Bad#Moral_consequences
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaBi9fe_EQ0 

Christmas Time – A lie for most people

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Isn’t it a great time? Everyone likes everyone else and everything is just harmonic and friendly. Christmas markets, wine, nice biscuits and families are coming together. Theoretically a great thing, right? Well, I guess most of us are aware of that hidden sites of this special time. Is there any family earth which is without any fights and arguments? I haven’t heard of any. Is the stressful every day life just going away for these days?

A time of peace and preparation is what people tell you the christmas time is. I doubt that it is peaceful for everyone (not even on the other side of the world but here) .. and preparing? For what? What does christmas really stand for? The birth of Jesus Christ of course but what do “we” need to prepare for that? To me it seams like people are looking for an “opportunity” to be in a “peaceful time”. All the things we do in christmas time are more or less just about us – not really about Jesus at all. Do we really do it because of Jesus or because of what we would like to have ourselves?

Just remember how Jesus was born … not very peaceful and not harmonic at all. So all in all, apart from the fact that we remember Jesus his birth, there is not much of what we do with a biblical backup or reason behind. Is that bad now? Of course not! But why am I telling you this now? Because I think that christmas for most people (christians included) is mostly a very selfish thing. It is all about our feelings and that we feel good. Is that an appropriate behavior to honor the birth of the son of god?

Furthermore: We try make this time peaceful and special. And how about the rest of the year? Shouldn’t we try to be peaceful the whole year? I’m not talking about a few days set apart for the actual christmas day. But the whole month of December (which in most countries you would consider christmas time) what are we doing? And to hit the top of the mountain: What about the rest of the world? While we have  a peaceful nice time what is about the parts of the world where people die on a daily basis? Shouldn’t that make us think and potentially change something?

Fighting For The Glory – Christmas Rock Night

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

I went to the Christmas Rock Night (CRN) last weekend and this article is about the messages and things I took out of it. It all started with a statement made by Kevin from Disciple which basically said: “We are not supposed to fight at all (christians). But our enemy is fighting against us – so we don’t really have a choice, we have to fight.” (“Fight for love” followed after that).
If you look into some of the lyrics of some Disciple songs you find verses like this: “We came here to fight” [1 Timothy 6:12]. I can only deeply recommend to you to just read these lyrics here: Disciple – Battlelines

Well, the singer of Fireflight said something else that really touched me: “We need to get to know who we are, what God has put into us and then we can shine our light and do good deeds.” She also refers to Matthew 5:16 where it says “…let your light shine before men, that they see your good deeds…”. Do you see that it says “your” in there? Basically that means are we are supposed to shine – it does not say that “God shines” and we make him shine (of course he shines through us) but it says that we are supposed to shine and do good deeds. And that is something we only do when we know who we are – that was her message. I liked it a lot because not many christians put such an egocentric (not in a bad way this time) perspective on things.

The next things that touched my heart was the appearance of “For Today”. Their music pretty hard for my taste of music (and that even means something) but they just demonstrated so much how we christians are supposed to be. “We made the mark of the uncreated God so what should we fear?”. (Fearless) He said to us literally: “The reason why so many churches fail is because christians talk about ‘what they heard about Jesus’. but we need to talk about what we ‘experienced’ with Jesus.”. What he said has so much truth in it – it blew me away. Only if we have stories with Jesus we will authentically talk about Jesus to our friends and non-christians. The band as a whole also has a lot of songs about how we christians should not be fearful and fight for the glory of God. It’s certainly worth looking into their songs! (only the words if you don’t like the music).

The last big influential artist on the CRN was Manafest. It’s kinda funny because he is more of a rapper than a rocker (even though a lot of his new songs are so rocky!). He spoke about how we should fight for the glory of God as well but then his songs spoke for themselves (and his songs you can actually understand while listening ;) ). “Down and out Istart to doubt Ihit the ground I’m bruised,but I won’t break,I won’t break!You can say I’m done,But this has just begunI’m a fighter!” (Fighter). He gave a little testimony how God changed his life and a couple of his songs we really great.
And this time EVERYONE can listen to them – his style is pretty much mainstream and “soft”.
Listen to his album “Fighter” – it is so great!

All in all I can say that the message of the CRN was pretty much “Be yourself and fight for the glory of God – don’t let the enemy take the world!” – so let’s do it people!

A masculine heart – “Feelings” and Actions.

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

I am supposed to prepare the next meeting of my bible study group and I had to pick between these topics: “Who may touch my heart?” and something else I can’t even tell right now. It is kind of obvious that I pick NOT the heart-topic. But it made me think about the issue generally: What “is” my heart? Well, quite frankly: I don’t care much, my heart is not that much involved in my daily life – at least I don’t feel or recognize it. But still, what is it then? If you ask this question to a woman she would probably start talking about her feelings, thoughts and her commitment to someone or something. But what is it for us guys?

Compared to a woman we guys don’t have a clue about feelings at all, so a masculine heart is not necessarily primarily about feelings and emotions. Committing yourself to someone or something is probably something that appears in both genders when you talk about your heart. While for a woman it is more about giving herself up to someone for guys it – from my perspective – seems to be similar but more towards a general idea or something bigger, like a desire or so. Of course that doesn’t mean that we can’t love women! Loving someone is of course a commitment as well and it is something that is in our heart AS WELL – but not ONLY.

If you ask a guy “What is it that your heart beats for?” (and by asking that you hit the core of the question “why do you life?”) you most likely will hear something about providing, fighting, reaching or archiving. Our “feelings” in our heart are rather to be described  as “passions” than “feelings” in the sense of what most people understand by it. God made us guys that way (read “Wild at heart” by John Eldredge if you want to know more about that). So to make it a bit more personal and understandable I’m telling you now what my heart beats for. God gave me the desire to fight for the good things in life. To make the earth more like the kingdom to heaven or in other words: To bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. That it is a huge task and nothing “just to do”. It will certainly fill all my life :-) No, honestly, that is my desire and that’s what my heart beats for. But it is not only that – that is just the headline of my heart. The subtitles are: Business & Politics. Somehow I care a lot about people – but not the individuals (or not that much at least) but rather the ones in the bigger picture.

So how do we deal with that? We basically decide: We act like what is in our heart (whatever that is for you) and we stick to it – or we deny ourselves (in the wrong way this time!) and keep quiet and do not what we are supposed to do. What are you doing?

Faith vs. Feeling

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Spending a year in a house full of women I – as a man – got to know about “feelings” – these strange things men only barely know. And I discovered something quite interesting. Women tend to be very much acting like what they feel (which is irrational for us men btw). And that is first of all a great thing – I think it is right to do so generally. God created them that way so it is absolutely fine.  Some of the women I met told me about their emotional experiences with God and it just amazes me … considering that I more or less just have rational talks with God.

Well, my question now is: Is your faith based on feelings? Don’t get me wrong, God certainly uses feelings (fruit of the spirit, …) and feelings are a huge amount of what people – especially women – are made for. But I heard women say things like “I felt is was right/wrong.” Now my question is: What is if you don’t feel it is right/wrong but the bible tells you so? Is it a feeling ruling you or you ruling your feelings? I think it is important here to say that living a relationship with God (in fact every relationship), what defines the relationship is a “decision”, not a feeling. Deciding something can be far away from feeling something.

Do you base your faith on your feelings? I hope you don’t .. simply because we humans fail and so do our feelings (both genders). I know for myself that my feelings would have let done crazy things while my mind tells me different things. So, ask yourself what your faith is based on and change it if necessary – a decision will stand not depending on your feelings.

Living in bubbles – and we christians stay there.

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

People are living in bubbles! That’s something what we can see all over the earth really. Everyone is having a certain group of people or a place or an area where we feel at home, where we are save (or we think we are). For some people thats the town, for others the school, for others family, college, university, working place, whatever. Each one of us is living in a bubble and normally we don’t step out of it or at least not frequently. Why not? Because we loose the feeling of safety and it might become uncomfortable.

I experienced what it means to change bubbles when I came back from my volunteer service year in England. We had our great OM bubble there with all people that worked in the organization. It was a great time and we had a lot of fun inside of that bubble. Also we had to step out of it frequently … but we always had this safe background of the bubble. Then I came to my town now, Münster. Compared to Birmingham in England it is a difference as day and night. While in Birmingham we had this little christian bubble here in Münster it is a great secular student town. I learned to love my bible study group here and I met great christians here. To live in a – apart from that – very secular town is shocking, enriching and challenging at the same time. While in a christian bubble you are kind of safe this is the wild west.

But and that is my point: That’s where Jesus wants us to be. What is my impact on the world when I stay in my christian bubble all my life? Of course I need a (small) bubble to refresh, to get new energy from and to get encouragement. But as Jesus commands us to be salt and light in the world: We are supposed to be outside of that christian bubble for most of our time. And I can honestly say that I can see how Jesus uses me here. It starts in little things like just being a friend to people and goes on into the bigger picture in seeing how God can use me to establish something completely new here. I see so many christians not doing what they could do … and I’m not saying that I am any better. But once you discovered what God’s will is for you and who you truly are you should start acting as you are supposed to do. Get out of your comfort zone, risk something, take off your masks and show the world who you are: A representation of Jesus himself. And did Jesus at any point not show who he was? (I mean even when he was 12 he did it) There is nothing to loose but only to win by starting living as the christian you are supposed to.  And therefor most of us (myself included) have to leave our christian bubble and get out into the world. Even though it is hard (at first anyways) – we are at war, a war started at the beginning, and we should not step back and just voluntarily give this world up. Let’s fight for the good side!

A little testimony

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I’m not even sure if this story is worth writing but somehow I think I rather write too much than too little. Yesterday I hit a car – accidentally! I drove slowly down a street and somehow my mirror crashed into the other cars mirror (which was parked). My mirror is fine (nothing broken at all) but the other one was completely trashed. So I parked my car and had to call the police. I was really annoyed because I usually don’t hit cars even though my driving skills are supposed to be debatable. Well the police needed a while to get there and you need to know that it was in front of a church (was planned on going to the service). It was a sunday evening and in situations like that (it was dark) people tend to just drive away and not report an accident like that. So the policeman was pretty friendly to me because I did report that. Normally you need to pay 15 EUR ($20) for something like that (+ insurance stuff) for the police as a kind of penalty. But because I reported it and stood up for it honestly he told me that I don’t need to pay. Isn’t that amazing? He realized that it is a church because he asked me about it and then he told me that I don’t need to pay my penalty because he really liked my honesty. I find that really encouraging how god continues to work through us. Where ever this policeman (and his partner) are in life, they very practically saw the difference between secular people and christians and I believe that these little  things do make a huge difference in the bigger picture!