One should not think that five minutes (or five bucks) are not worth
thinking about. As such, five minutes or five bucks are really not much
and not worth to worry about … but one must not forget about their
repetition, about the grand total of these little things. Spending five
minutes or five bucks repeatedly for a certain thing or activity is
indeed much: then, one hour is long, making up 1/16 = 6,25% of the wake
part of each day,
i.e. 6,25% of your life!

From this perspective it becomes clear what makes up a lifestyle:
repeated activity. For example, having a family is a lifestyle because
it introduces repeated activity that takes up maybe 40% of each day.
That’s a considerable amount: 40% of the (current)
life, i.e. all available free time. Though it is possible to live
different for a short time, you’ll live in the long run according to
the demands and triggered repeated activity of family life, and that’s
what makes up the lifestyle in this case.


Start date: 2007-08-01 (circa)
Post date: 2007-12-11
Version date: 2007-12-11 (for last meaningful change)

I thought that only Islamic culture is based on shame and honour, so I was somewhat shocked to see the the culture of my personal life share these characteristics to a good degree: it’s my western shame culture. That was an interesting observation that I recently made: my life does not feel well because I am ashamed for oh-so-many of it’s circumstances, situations and things.

Some examples:

  • My tiny chaotic flat (see image) with its “kitchen” and “special” style of nutrition … there was a time when I was proud to live that way, but that time has gone. It is indeed a problem that I cannot invite people without belieing all these social expectations.
  • My theoretical approach to life, including my blog and my opinions; there is the need to justify myself for these before practically gifted people and before those who do not share the interest in the theoretical penetration of life.
  • The jobs I do … so far away from what I have learned and from the gifts I have that I feel the need to justify myself whenever somebody asks me casually what my business is.
  • My rather low quality equipment, be it computer (six years now!!), clothing or “furniture”. Regarding clothing, I wonder whether punk people have their outward style as a mode of coping with the fact of tattered clothes. Might be … I sometimes experiment in that direction and I like it.
  • And finally … my world tour plans and the reasons for these. Again something wherefore I need to justify myself, this time before security oriented, socially integrated people.

As I that, this doesn’t feel well. I needed to get rid of being ashamed, or life will not feel well. Me thinks [sic] that I’ve found a simple solution to that: rethink if you want to be different, and if not, start to be yourself. That does work, indeed: there’s no reason why I sould be less convinced of my lifestyle than others are of theirs. So, basically it boils down to this: this is me, and this is my style, and if you cannot cope with that, that’s your  problem, not mine.

To me, being myself is something like: I am a nerd or geek (depends on defintion) and I will stay this and live this and you guys need to cope with that. What motivated me further is that I deeply respect people who live out their identity, who are themselves: my father, my mother, my brothers and my friends. And, of course, Jesus, who is probably the best example of living out one’s own identity.


Start date: 2007-11-22
Post date: 2007-12-08
Version date: 2007-12-08 (for last meaningful change)

Verliebtsein ist wie ein Anlasser. Ein Anlasser bringt den Motor zum
Laufen. Und Verliebtsein bringt die Liebe zum Laufen. Beides
funktioniert ganz prima; so fällt es Verliebten z.B. nicht schwer, sich
zu interessieren, zuzuhören, füreinander da zu sein.

Der Motor beginnt sich also zu drehen. Aber ein Anlasser ist nicht
zum Dauerbetrieb: man fährt auf Kraftstoff. Ebenso beim Verliebtsein:
es ist normal dass diese Faszination nach zwei Jahren verschwindet, und
die Liebe muss mit Kraftstoff weiterlaufen.

Was für Kraftstoff? Tiefe Freundschaft … mit aller Hilfe vom
Heiligen Geist. Freundschaft braucht Zeit und Arbeit, entsteht aber aus
dem Nichts: beim Zuhören, beim Beobachten, beim Reden, beim einander
Erkunden, beim Zeit haben, beim Helfen, beim füreinander Einstehen,
beim Reisen, beim Bibel lesen, beim Sport, bei Ehrlichkeit, bei
gemeinsamer Arbeit, beim Vergeben, beim Echtsein, bei
Konfliktbewältigung, in Gefahren, beim zusammen Beten, beim Dienen,
beim Bedientwerden, beim Bewundern, beim Bewundertwerden, … … …


Startdatum: 2007-12-04
Publikationsdatum: 2007-12-08
Versionsdatum: 2007-12-08 (für die letzte bedeutsame Änderung)

Today, some funny image happened to me when trying to improve the contrast of some digital facsimile scans for a neighbor of mine. Dear neighbor, can u guess in a comment the worksheet number where this image belongs to? And to the other guys and gals out there: what might that be? Jus’ crazy, isn’t it. Here is how I made it, with the “local adaptive threshold” option of the nice free software tool  “convert” from ImageMagick:

convert -lat 30×30+20% infile.jpg outfile.jpg


Start date: 2007-12-07
Post date: 2007-12-07
Version date: 2007-12-07 (for last meaningful change)

As far as I can see, there is much confusion when it comes to “being
called by God”, “getting a vision from God” and “serving God”. In oh so
many cases we seem to expect concrete hints and commands from God when
it comes to these. Here, an alternative approach to calls, visions,
service and plans is developed, in harmony with my general view that
God’s concrete intervention in our lifes is really the special case
[see previous article “The
third way of life in this world
“]. As usual, you’re really welcome
here to discuss these thoughts and to add your own.

Exceptional character of calls and commands

Both from personal experiences and biblical confirmation it seems to
me completely bogus to think that God regularly
contributes to
decisions and projects in our lifes. In nearly all cases, he does not,
not even to the most important! Some proof material:

  • Paul. God did not concretely interfere with
    Pauls decisions, except of the initial call to mission [Acts
    13:2 BWE
    ] and the call to
    Macedonia [Acts
    16:6-11 BWE
    ]. Paul had to do all the plans and decisions himself.
    And he
    did, and did not give up, independent of the results! He knew that he
    was
    right, from the general will of God, not from the results.
  • Deciding whom to marry. That’s a decision with
    huge implications, yet according to Paul, a widow may marry any man she
    wants, if
    only he is a Christian [I
    Corinthians 7:39 BWE
    ].
    So God seems to guarantee no definite guidance: God wants the spouse to
    be also Christian, and that’s it.
  • Deciding if to marry. Paul viewed his state of
    singleness as God’s gift [I
    Cor 7:7 ESV
    ], yet he also spoke about his right to marry [I
    Cor 9:5 ESV
    ]. So a gift is not necessarily an obligation or a
    command from God, but rather a possibility.
  • The great many without concrete callings. It seems that
    nearly all peple in NT
    times never experienced concrete calls and commands from God. Rather,
    they lived as they saw fit, within the
    general, timeless will of God. Some examples:
    • Luke. He travelled with Paul at times, and even wrote
      two bible books, seemingly without a concrete command from God to do so
      [Luke
      1:1-4 BWE
      ].
    • Priscilla and Aquila. They took Paul in and worked
      together with him in their business [Acts
      18:2-3 BWE
      ], travelled with Paul for some time [Acts
      18:18 BWE
      ] teached Apollos when necessary [Acts
      18:26 BWE
      ]. Bible does not mention concrete calls and commands from
      God, and they did not need: they just did what seemed appropriate and
      good to them.
    • Timothy. Initially, he was not called by God. Instead, he
      started to travel and serve with Paul because Paul met him by
      chance, and wanted him to accompany him [Acts
      16:1-3 BWE
      ].

Basically, it seems that God wants people most of the time to care
about their lifes and decisions themselves, without immediate
calls and commands from God. We make God too small when we think his
main business is caring for
our everyday life; instead, that’s our business, while God offers
forgiveness, eternal life, truth and character transformation. Which
helps us also in everyday life, but as mediate, general gifts.

Of course, the Bible is filled with stories about God’s concrete
deeds. This can lead to the expectation that our life will be willed
with these, too. But one should see that the Bible probably collects
some extraordinary events from many thousand years and many thousand
people, so that it’s content is not representative for one
day of one person.

Even in the global view, it is no problem if calls and commands are
just the extraordinary case. For each person that would mean God did
not plan what concrete good works a person should do; compare
Eph
2:10 ESV
and Eph
2:10 BWE
for the difference. Instead, people shall think about good
works themselves and choose them. And globally that would mean that
every important good work gets done, by the statistical distribution
that’s implied when 200+ million Christians do something
good. Furthermore,
this world has so much more problems than Christians have capacity to
do
good: therefore it is also unimportant, to some extent, which good
works remain un-done, i.e. how resources are distributed to needs.

Implications of this understanding on daily life

  • Do not calculate God’s intentions from what happens. If
    one tries to determine the concrete plans of God with one’s personal
    life from what happens, one will nearly never hit God’s ideas. Of cause
    it is always correct to infer that God wants to sanctify me … that
    conclusiuon is justified even independent of my circumstances. But
    whether or not God wants me to go into mission, buy this or that, leave
    one church or join another, follow this or that strategy in church etc.
    can hardly be determined from
    circumstances in the sense of a concrete call or command. Instead, one
    can collect wisdom from the Bible,
    experiences and hints from fellow Christians etc., and use that as the
    basis for such decisions. We should not call that a direct call or
    command from God, but perhaps “wisdom”.
  • Just act rightly. God just wants us to do right
    permanently, and that’s all he wants when we have no concrete call.
    That is, act rightly also in difficult times and also if nothing
    changes to
    the better.
  • Sermons as a human activity. People choose the texts,
    people preach what they found out about these texts. Sermons are not
    filled with immediate words from God, spoken to a concrete church at a
    concrete time. Iinstead, sermons are a repetition of what God revealed
    to be general, unchanging truth.
  • Visions. Just as sermons, visions are human, in nearly
    all instances. Human visions are justified if compatible with the
    general will of God. Take Nehemia for an example: in his view, he yould
    not trace his vision back to a divine origin [Neh
    1:1-4 ESV
    ; 2,5
    ESV
    ]. Somebody who serves God should therefore not think that God
    placed exactly him in exactly that position, except if a real, direct
    call is implied.
  • Open doors. If it is true that concrete calls and
    commands are the exceptional case, our conception of “open” and “closed
    doors” should be re-thought. Perhaps, open doors are mostly a natural
    phenomenon of life, someting like accidental entropy decrease. This can
    be checked by looking for open-door experiences in the lifes of
    non-Christians.
  • Being led in the job? God wants to care for our basic
    material needs [Mt
    6:31-33 BWE
    ]. However, to think that God helps people in a rich
    western culture to find a good job would imply that he does not help
    the African people to find equally good jobs. Which would be unjust,
    and therefore cannot be.
  • What is walking by the spirit? You do not need to keep
    some “free space” in your life and keep
    listening to the Holy Spirit (in order to hear concrete commands).
    Instead, living out what God showed you about holiness by his general
    truth in the Bible already is living with the Holy Spirit.
    There is not necessarily a further, more concrete callin in your life.

Dealing with success

Some people claim that God gave the “responsibility” to build his
kingdom to us human beings. The view on calls and commands as shown
above implies the same when it comes to human initiative: yes, God
wants our initiative. Responsibility however also implies that we must
fulfill our duty, i.e. we have the responsibility to succeed.

I do not share this view. If God would guarantee the possibility to
succeed, it would be justified to think that he expects us to succeed
also. However, God does not guarantee this possibility: concrete calls
and commands (which could imply such guarantee) are not the regular
case, and it seems to me also that most events on this planet are not
within a “globally coordinated plan” of almight, transcendent God; as,
life is characterized by a free, self-controlled state, not by being
part of a big machinery. (But that’s my opinion, you don’t need to
share this.)

This opinion seems to get support from my observations: in many
cases, success depends on external circumstances that we cannot affect.
Success does not depend on ourselves or God, but on “the situation”,
including the reactions of the people whom we serve. Whereever our
plans succeed it is because we
happened to be in a behavior setting that favored our plans. (A
behavior setting is a set of outer circumstances that favor some
behavior; for a good overview of the theory, see [dissertation of Uta
Pankoke-Babatz
] (German), pp. 19-50). Even Paul hat not success in
everything he did. Cf. also an insight of Solomon: 

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor
the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the
intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance
happen to them all.” [Ecc
9:11 ESV
]

To sum this up: this view of initiative and success is, basically, a
conception of “free will” without the implication that humans have the
responsibility to “do right” / to succeed. So this is a conception of
free will that does not capture men into the bondage of heavy
responsibility.

What should be the practical implications of this view?

  • Take the pink glasss down. It might be that we have only
    contact with “successful” Christians. This will make us think that all
    Christians are successful, because God would guarantee this. However,
    there are also unsuccessful Christians out there. For biblical examples
    cf. [Heb
    11:35-38 BWE
    ].
  • You can serve God in freedom. If success is not our
    duty, serving God is really an enjoyable activity. Because we can enjoy
    the fact that God does not judge ur work by its effect or sucess.
    Instead, a totally effectless work gets just the same friendly
    acknowledgement
    from God as a successful work, if both share the same holy motivation
    and moral quality behind it.
  • Don’t blame God. If God’s concrete interaction with our
    lifes is the rare case, he is not to blame for bad situations in
    personal life and in the life of churches. These are not due to God’s
    concrete intentions / interventions, but rather a product of human
    activity and chance. As chance is involved, bad situations are also not
    one’s own fault only; therefore it is not generally justified to doubt
    one’s gifts and abilities in these situations.
  • Take yourage and fight through. Nehemia had a troubled
    time when following his vision to re-build the wall of Jerusalem [Neh
    4:1-23 ESV
    ]. Success is not the natural companion of good works; so
    if we have a troubled time, we need not think that our work is not good
    or even against the will of God. It*s just that God does not always
    support us to the utmost when we do his will, so that things work
    really smooth. Nehemia had
    the courage to fight his way through in a hostile world. As he did, we
    should do.

Hidden coordination

Currently, it deems on me that things might not be that simple as
put in this article. There might be concrete intervention from God,
resulting in some open and some closed doors and some success, but this
intervention might be hidden. One example might be Nehemia, whom I
mentioned so often in this article. By re-building Jerusalem’s wall, he
fulfilled a part of a prophecy given to Daniel [Dan
9:25 ESV
]. It is not mentioned however that he knew this;
nonetheless, God just integrated his actions into fulfilling prophecy.
The prophecy given to Daniel did not say that Nehemia would succeed, it
even mentions that Jerusalem will be re-built “in a troubled time” [Dan
9:25 ESV
]. Which could’ve meant that Nehemia would only have half
success, and the wall would be finished by somebody different. So, yes,
it is possible that human acitivity is integrated in a great, hidden
plan of God, but this cannot justify the fundamentalist idea that
“nobody can stop me because God Almighty is directly behind me and will
make me succeed”.

Another example for God’s hidden coordnation cold be prophecy in the
sermon, where the preacher unconsciously hits to the point what a
person needs.

In a nutshell

Christian living is more about the how, not about the what.
Keep close to Jesus, walk by the Spirit, and for the
rest you’re free and under the favor of God. View your actions as
essentially human activity in obedience to God’s general will, except
where God’s immediate instructions surprise you.

Augustine
put it thus: “Dilige, et quod vis fac”. Which is: “Love [God] and then
what you will, do.” The full quotation is actually this:

Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do
what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your
peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct,
through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let
the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is
good.

[Epistulam
Ioannis ad Parthos, Homily VII on the First Epistle of John, 8
]


Start date: 2007-11-18
Post date: 2007-12-03
Version date: 2007-12-03 (for last meaningful change)

Sanctification is when God educates us to better resemble his holy
character. What conception can we have of how God does this? One
possibility would be to think that all-knowing, almighty, transcendent
God has a plan of 1000+ steps for each individual’s character
transformation, and executes it step by step. There would be a big heap
of mutual dependencies between people, as God would use other people in
many cases for an individuals’s education. So this would result in an
awfully compley full linear upfront project decomposition, only
possible for the almighty. But is sanctification really that way?

The other extreme would be to think that God simply exposes
individuals to the truth. And everytime the truth touches somebody, it
changes something or removes some dirt from his life. It would not be
important in what order things are changed or the dirt is removed. I
favor this alternative, and I would compare it to a brush: everytime
the brush is moved over dirty clothing, the clothing is touched and
some of the dirt is removed. It is totally of no interest in what order
the dirt grains are removed, but that everything’s clean in the end.

How about a real world analogy? A friend of mine is a gifted special
school teacher (in preparation service), and some days ago we discussed
a project she introduced in her math class. She calls it the “Zählwerk”
(that’s “mechanical counter”, but actually the name of a depicted
house, so better “counting station”). Regarding the concept, she
explained to me that the pupils work through a set of worksheets,
independently, and that they should train work practices while doing
that. For example, to deal correctly with sorting work sheet templates
away, handling reference material like a math lexicons, giving mutual
support when difficulties arise, etc.. I’d like to see that as a good
example for, say, “brush-style education”: it’s not about executing
steps, but about training in good practices, again and again and again.
You may see from her nice example that “brush-style education” has no
regard for any “order of steps” for learning the work practices,
rather, many things are taught in parallel. Interesting enough,
teachers are generally held to have a set goals for each individual
lesson, and a set of goals to reach these goals. But bush-style
education is so much simpler, and, I think, more effective.


Start date: 2007-10-01
Post date: 2007-12-02
Version date: 2007-12-02 (for last meaningful change)

Today, 2007-11-30 at about 10:30, my chef and friend called me and
told me we’re both losing our current job at 2007-12-31. Basically,
that’s cool … not just that I really dislike this job. Times of
changes are
times where new and good things can arise. And even better, risky times
have the latent possibility that one might experience God immediately:
how he cares about me personally, and supplies for me personally, as I
need this.

It’s no box of chocolates, though. I thought about the bad things
that might happen … having no money at all, for example. So this post
is to remind me how to behave when this time is come:

(31) ‘So then, do not keep asking, “What shall we eat?” “What
shall we drink?” and “What shall we wear?” (32) It is the people who do
not believe in God who work for all these things. Your Father in heaven
knows that you need them all. (33) ‘Work first for God’s kingdom and
what he calls good. Then you will have all these things also. (34) ‘So
do not be troubling yourself about tomorrow. Tomorrow will have its own
trouble. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’ [Matthew
6:31-34 BWE
]

But what is to “work for God’s kingdom and what he calls good”? I
think that Paul talks baout exactly this when he says that God’s
kingdom is about something different than eating and drinking:

“(17) The kingdom of God is not about what a person eats and
drinks. But it is about living in a way which is right with God. It is
peace. It is joy because a person has the Holy Spirit. (18) A person
who does the work of Christ in this way pleases God. And people like
him. (19) But we must do the things that make peace and that help each
other to do better.” [Romans
14:17-19 BWE
]

That’s interesting: to work for God’s kingdom is not to serve in
your church. But it is to care about living out righteousness, peace
and joy! It’s about doing exactly the
things you do now, but in God’s quality. It’s about caring how you work
(the moral quality), not about the result of your work (the money).
Money is God’s business.


Start date: 2007-11-30
Post date: 2007-11-30
Version date: 2007-11-30 (for last meaningful change)