Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Denizden ve yerden çıkan canavarlar (Bölüm 13)

John wrote to a specific group of people about the specific trials they faced. It's interesting to note, however, how often history repeats itself. Apparently, if we fail to learn its lessons, we need to repeat the grade.

In this chapter, John sees a beast arising from "the sea." The sea is, throughout the Bible, a word-picture of humanity -- dark, turbulent, acted upon by exterior forces. The Beast from the sea is, obviously, both Rome and Caesar. The Caesar is, obviously, Nero. The dude who used to dress up in an animal costume with razor-sharp steel claws, to tear into chained captives in the arena. The chapter uses a discrete code to label Nero -- if you spell out Caesar Nero in Hebrew characters and add up the numeric values of those letters, you get 666. The Roman empire was in the midst of a turbulent period. At one point, it had five emperors in less than a year. Yet somehow Rome managed to pull itself together and stagger on for another four centuries.

The beast I'm fascinated by, however, is the Beast from The Land. Which land? THE Land -- Israel. After this (Bundan sonra) ... well, let's let John use his own words:
Bundan sonra bir canavar gördüm. Yerden çıkan bu canavarın kuzu gibi iki boynuzu vardı, ama ejderha gibi ses çıkarıyordu.
And, today's word list:
  • kuzu gibi -- like a lamb
  • ejderha gibi -- like a dragon
Like a lamb, this beast had two horns. Like a dragon, it spoke. Knowing where this beast arose, The Land of Israel, its identity is easy to discern. As you recall, the ruling class of first-century Israel both resented Rome (the Pharisees) and depended on Rome for their political power (the Sadducees). When push came to shove, when the rulers of Israel confronted the Messiah, God's King of Israel, they said, "We have no king but Caesar."

They pledged allegiance to God's enemy, and the ultimate enemy of their people. Their immediate descendants paid the price for that misplaced loyalty.

Yet, time after time, we see God's people functioning as "Sampsons in reverse," propping up enemies of God and man. Israel's ruling class provided a credibility transplant to Rome, that helped Rome over a rough spot in their history. The Soviet experiment was funded with American money during the "New Economic Policy," the "Lend-Lease program," the post-Stalin "thaw," "detente," and "glasnost."

Finally, here in America Christian parents are politely cooperating with the godless plan for their extermination by "rendering unto Caesar that which is God's." Christian parents support secular humanism by willingly providing this beast with the feedstock and fodder it demands -- the bodies, minds, and souls of their children. As public education has become ever-more consistent to the dreams of its founding fathers, Horace Mann and John Dewey, those who go through the intestines of this leviathan emerge quite changed. Unlike "weasel coffee," it's not for the better. Very few are able to think like Christians any more -- although they may "feel" and emote in culturally sanctioned ways.

Yet, every proud enemy of the gospel eventually collapses under its own weight. And we can hasten that glorious day by simply refusing to provide artificial life support to godless systems.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Now is come (Bölüm 12)

Ergun Caner, a prominent Baptist writer and professor, lamented a side-effect of the printing press. People no longer felt compelled to memorize the Bible. Muslims know the value of committed sacred text to memory. Throughout the world, pious children spend hours absorbing the Arabic Koran. It does a man good to have noble words ready to reflect upon at any idle hour, or when suffering insomnia. At some point, I really do need to see to it that my girls memorize the Sermon on the Mount, for example.

Today's chapter includes a jubilant hymn of victory that I often recite to myself for comfort and encouragement. Let's see what the first part looks like in Türkçe.
Bundan sonra gökte yüksek bir sesin şöyle dediğini duydum __
Tanrımızın kurtarşı, güçü, egemenliği ve Mesihinin yetkisi şimdi gerçekleşti.
Çünkü kardeşlerimizin suçlayıcısı, onları Tanrımızın önünde gece gündüz suçlayan,
aşağı atıldı.
And now, a brief word list:
  • kurtarma -- salvation, rescue, recovery
  • güç -- power
  • egemenlik -- kingdom
  • yetki -- authority, jurisdiction
  • gerçek -- true, real, actual, fact, realilty, truth
  • gerçeklmek -- become true, be realized
It's interesting the way different languages use different word orders. In English and Greek, the emphasis is strongly asserted by the way the hymn begins. "Now is come ..." "Arti egeneto ..."and then, the laundry-list of amazing blessings released into humanity's experience by the achievements of our God and His Christ. The Turkish translation I'm using begins with the list, then puts the verb where it belongs (if you are a Turk) at the end of the sentence -- all of these things "now are realized."

In the Book of Job, we see Satan having ready access to God's Throne, where he accuses the man. In the gospels, after our Lord's emissaries return from a successful evangelistic tour, Jesus exults greatly and says, "I saw Satan falling as lightening from heaven." Here, the heavens shout for joy because Satan's access to the higher protocol levels has been canceled.

And when did Satan get the boot? When did God establish His salvation, power, and Kingdom? When is the "now?" of this verse?

Your answer will have a lot to do with how much you enjoy victory in this life.

Take a stick to it (Gelen Esinleme 11)

The first verse of this chapter provides an important clue as to when it was written:
Bana, değneğe benzer bir ölçü kamışı verilip şöyle dedi, "Git, Tanrı'nın tapınağını ve sunağı ölç, orada tapınanları say.
Today's word list:
  • değnek -- stick, rod, cane
  • benzer -- like a (this is a "post-position." English speakers need to learn to think backwards when learning Turkish -- and vice-versa. It's like a preposition, except it comes after the word it points to!)
  • ölçü -- measure, measurement. ölçmek -- to measure.
  • kamış -- reed
  • tapınak -- temple
Derek Prince, the great pentecostal Bible teacher, once compared a certain Biblical doctrine to a vest. If you get the first button in the right buttonhole, the rest all fall neatly into place. I disagree with the doctrine he applied this metaphor to, but the word picture is useful here.

What is the significant element in this verse? The temple. John writes about it as though it were there. So this opens the door to two possibilities:
  1. The temple was there, and this book, and probably the entire NT canon, was completed before AD 70, when the temple was destroyed.
  2. John wasn't writing to the folks he said he was writing to, the seven churches he was responsible for in Asia Minor (Anatolia), but to folks living thousands of years later, when another temple has been built.
American atheists assert that Jesus and Paul were false prophets, since they spoke of something dramatic that would happen within a generation of our Lord's death, burial and resurrection. The fertilizer would hit the air conditioner[1] in such a powerful, obvious, and visible way that the whole world would see God's judgement in the event.

The people I find convincing argue that our Lord's coming "with clouds" does not refer to His second coming in the flesh at the end of history, at the time of the general resurrection. Throughout the Bible, God's "coming with clouds" is used as a metaphor, a word picture, for God's spectacular and visible judgement upon a social order. If we apply this Biblical word picture to the Olivet Discourse, then Jesus was describing the Jewish War, the seven-year tribulation that befell Israel 40 years (one generation) after the prophecy was given. A judgement that culminated in an obliteration of the temple that was so thorough that not one stone was left standing upon another. Well, when the temple burned, the extensive gold plating on the inside melted and ran down between the cracks in the masonry. To recover the gold, the Romans dismantled the temple stone by stone.

So is the New Testament powerfully convincing? Or a little bit silly?


[1] This is a euphemism for the colorful slang description of a messy situation: "Well, the shit really hit the fan!"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sweet to the taste ...

And, a look at another slice of life:
Meleğin yanına gigip küçük tomarı bana vermesini istedim. Bana, "Al, bunu ye!" dedi. "Midende bir acılık yapacak, ama ağızında bal gibi tatlı olacak."
Today's words:
  • melek -- angel
  • miden -- stomach
  • bal -- honey
Ezekiel, too, was handed a scroll and told to eat it. The New Testament keeps telling us things that the Old Testament failed to mention. Ezekiel reported how God's Word was "as sweet as honey." John tells us "the rest of the story." After the intial exhileration, the new things we learn, the fresh insights on life, can make life harder for us.

"You're going to have a hard life," a doting father warned his love-smitten daughter. "Yes," her blessed husband admitted a decade or two later. "But it's also been a very good life!"

The beatings will continue (Esinleme 9)

The drug-addled hippies had a folk remedy for a bad LSD ("acid") trip -- take another dose, of ten times as much. A standard definition of insanity is, to continue repeating behaviors that have failed to achieve the desired goal. Or, as a management joke goes, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."
Geriye kalan insanlar, yani bu belalardan ölmemiş olanlar, kendi elleriyle yaptıkları putlardan dönüp tövbe etmediler.
And now, a few words!
  • geri -- back, remainder
  • kalan -- remaining, remainder
  • insan -- man, mankind
The original readers of this book watched, stunned, as the people around them kept on doing the same stupid things that had brought their disasters upon them in the first place. The "remaining remainder of the men" continued to worship their blind, deaf, and useless idols. But are we that much smarter? The dominant idol of our age is "The Government." Government programs try to "help" poor families by making the men unnecessary -- and bastardy skyrockets. In some targeted populations, fewer than 20% of the children grow up at home with their fathers. Government "education" produces an ever-growing crop of people who either can't read, or don't like to read. This development produced A Nation At Risk, the title of report produced by a committee of "experts" three decades ago. The solution, these "experts" said, was to entrust more power and money to the same clowns who had created the problem!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Esinleme gelen bölümler 7 ve 8

America is a fertile seedbed for novel new heresies. It could be because of a cantankerous, independent streak in our national character. Perhaps, we exemplify Francis Shaeffer's maxim, "the little man with the open Bible can tell the 51%, 'You are wrong.'" There's an anti-intellectual undertow in American Christian culture that glories in re-inventing the wheel, one generation after another. After all (I speak foolishly, here!), Christianity is so simple that any fool can understand all there is to know about it, right? No need to invest whole generations in wrestling with the implications of our faith -- a moment's effortless inspiration can speak directly to the heart of the matter. And Christianity is, after all, a new kind of "feeling" about oneself, and one's universe. Not a challenge to the way one understands "life, the universe, and everything."

Chapter 7 is a favorite among cultists, since it seems to suggest that 144,000 folks have an exclusive claim on God's ultimate favor. Everybody likes the idea of being in the know, belonging to a select group, an ultimate elite. Yet Revelation is a prophetic book, using a specialized vocabulary. In those earlier days, 1,000 often meant "a number too big to bother counting." 12 is of course the numeric designator of God's covenant people. Squared, to make sure all of them are indicated. Times 1,000, to convey the image of a vast, uncountable, number. Note what is happening to these select elect: They are each receiving God's "seal of approval." God's mark of ownership. This chapter echoes chapter 9 in Ezekiel, where the prophet sees an angelic messenger with writing utensils going through Jerusalem to put God's mark on all those "who sigh and cry for the abominations" of that city. As Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

But the comfort may need to wait for the next life. Those who are protected by God's trademark on their thoughts and deeds, His Word bound upon forehead and right hand, will receive their reward. And here's today's selection:
Çünkü tahtın ortasında olan Kuzu onları güdecek
ve yaşam sularının pınarlarına götürecek.
Tanrı onların gözlerinden bütün yaşları silecektir.
And, a few of the words:
  • taht -- throne
  • Kuzu -- Lamb
  • yaşam sularının pınarlarına -- to living waters springs
  • yaşlar -- tears
Yes, even if we perish in our tribulations, we can anticipate standing before the throne of The Lamb who is also a Shepherd.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, there's more to do than just "grin and bear it." Chapter 8 presents the church's artillery, the Christian's counter-attack. We can pray. No, not just in the sense of vaporing pious wishes towards an imaginary heaven. When we assemble for worship, we are in the presence of the King, doing business in the throne room of the Almighty, presenting our case to the ultimate Judge, back seat drivers on the bridge of the Star Ship Universe. The leaders of the church (remember, the "angels" we met in chapters 2 and 3?) take our prayers to God -- and stuff begins to happen around us.

No, we didn't lose count. A pattern repeated several times in this book is -- a set of actions, a pause for reflection, then the concluding members of the set. After the business of sealing His chosen is completed, after the church steps up to the plate and fulfills its duty to pray, the pent-up wrath of God against His enemies is released. The leaders of the church are the maestros of history, implementing God's will for the nations by worship, prayer, and faith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here come the deputies (Esinleme 6)

In our last chapter, we met the One who is worthy to probate the will, and to release the legacy to the heirs. Israel was promised a specific chunk of land, on condition of obedience. The New Israel, the Church, is promised the whole world, and told to bring the nations to heel.[1] (the Great Commission recapitulates the Dominion Mandate, you see.)

Problem? Well, the other team disputes the title, and needs to be evicted. And it's not going to be a pretty process. In the most memorable scene in Michael Moore's documentary Roger and Me, the camera follows sheriff's deputies knocking on doors and compelling families to leave the homes they can no longer afford to rent.

This is the chapter that features the fabled "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I'm especially fond of #1:
Bakınca beyaz bir at gördüm. Bu ata binmiş olanın bir yayı vardı. Kendisine bir taç verildi ve galip gelen biri olarak zafer kazanmaya çıktı.
We'll look at a few one-syllable words today:
  • at -- horse
  • taç -- crown
  • yay -- bow, spring, arc
We've seen one phrase a few times before. Seven times, in chapters 2 and 3 -- galip gelen. To overcome. The rider on the white horse is, obviously, the One who is Revealed in this book. The King goes forth, to overcome, to gain the victory. When there are real enemies on the field, real foes[2] of God and man, real battles ensue. Jesus Himself told us, "I come not to bring peace, but a sword." The brutal processes of history selectively "sift out the souls of men before the Judgement Seat."

However, this is a long-term project. Satan, and his stooges, don't have a long-term future. As Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we shall all be dead." The future belongs to those with the faith, patience, and integrity to do the right thing, over the course of generations, despite the lure of tempting short cuts.


[1] To "bring (something) to heel" is an idiomatic expression from the realm of training dogs. The "Heel!" command compels the well-trained canine to stand motionless just behind your left foot. This expression means, to bring something under control.

[2] English is a shotgun wedding[3] of two contrasting linguistic families, the Germanic and the Romantic. This gives writers incredible flexibility, since so often you can choose alternate words for the same item. "Perspire" sounds more elegant than "sweat," for example. Most of the time, the more frequently used word comes from the Anglo-Saxon side of the family. The only exception I'm aware of is enemy/foe.

[3] A "shotgun wedding" is a traditional old American solution to the problem of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The responsible man is compelled to marry the girl.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Open Secret

Gelen esinleme 5
Ama ne gökte, ne yeryüzünde, ne de yer altında tomarı açıp içine bakailecek kimse yoktu. O zaman acı acı ağlamaya başladım. Çünkü tomarı açmaya ve işine bakmay layık kimse bulunamadı.
Have you ever had a dream where you were confronted with a mystery, some key of cosmic significance, that would miraculously transform your situation? Then you wake up, and can't remember what the big secret insight was?[1]

Let's look at a few words:
  • gök -- heaven. gökte -- in heaven
  • yer -- earth. place. yüz -- face. yeryüzünde -- on earth.
  • altında -- under
  • tomar -- scroll.
  • layık -- worthy
  • acı -- bitter. bitterly. acı acı -- extremely bitterly.
No one can accuse the writer of this book of concealing his emotions. As Jimmie Hollandsworth pointed out, the imagery in Esinleme is cartoon-like. Bold colors, loud noises, hard-edged images. In this chapter, he sees something that makes him weep bitterly. The most important information in the universe, the key to everything else, is sealed -- with seven seals. And nobody can be found who is worthy to break the seals, and release the vast resources this document conveys.[2]

What's the meaning of it all? Or as Michael Caine plaintively asks in the final, memorable shot of the movie Alfie, "What's it all about?"

The riddle of "life, the universe, and everything" is right there -- in front of the writer -- and inaccessible. Frustration enough to make anyone weep.

Ah, but as the chapter unfolds, One is found who is worthy to break the seals. I'm reminded of how Paul inverted the meaning of the word "mystery." Before his time, esoteric cults, mystery religions, flourished in the Roman empire. Something in us relishes secrets, as long as we're the ones who know them! Today, grown men get together to play "let's pretend" in Masonic lodges around the world. The word "mystery," in fact, comes from the Greek word "mystes," initiate. Someone who has completed the ordeal and been initiated into the secret knowledge of the order. Paul, however, asserted that the biography of one Man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the open secret, the key to unlocking all the riddles of life.

My prayer for those who read this blog is for you, too, to find out "what's it all about," and not be left as clueless as Alfie at the end of your story.


[1] I had a nightmare sometime in the 1990's, during which I was working on a PhD dissertation that would bless many people, and help them get a grip on their lives, their hopes, their destiny, their culture. In my dream, I experienced rich satisfaction in the course of performing intensely meaningful work. The nightmare component? I knew that I was dreaming, not actually doing it ... back then!

[2] Oh, yes. It's a legal document, a will. Back then, a man on his deathbed would call seven friends, each of whom would affix his wax seal to the rolled-up will. Upon his demise, the seven friends would convene again. Each would examine the seal, and testify that it was intact. The will was valid. It has not been tampered with.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gelen esinleme 4

The writer hears a voice --
Buraya çık! Bundan sonra olması gereken olayları sana göstereyim.
Come here! I will show you those things that will soon happen!

Oh boy! Now, do we get to the black helicopters and millions of Chinese warriors riding horseback across the Gobi and Sahara deserts? The universal product codes tattooed on the forehead? All that exciting science-fictiony stuff?

Now, actually, what we see is the central reality of the universe -- a throne. From the perspective of the throne, the turbulent surging waves of human history are transparent as glass. Surrounding the throne are 24 other thrones, occupied by the symbolic representatives of the church of all ages, adoring the King, and reigning with Him over the affairs of men. And we see representatives of the entirety of the created universe offering unceasing adoration to the Lord.

This book is, after all, first and foremost, the revelation of Jesus. Not history written in advance, of interest to the few, but a paean of adoration to the Lord of history.

As the old cliche asserts, it doesn't matter what the future holds. What matters is Who holds the future.

Gelen esinleme 3

Here's a word of encouragement for folks "between jobs," or for anyone struggling to find his place in the world:
Davut'un anahtarına sahip olan, açtığını kimsenin kapayamadığı, kapadığını kimsenin açamadığı.
Jesus describes Himself to the church at Sardis as the one who has "the keys of David, who opens and no man can shut, who shuts and no man can open. I'm sure you recognize "Davut." Anahtar, key, figured in a successful political slogan a few years ago. The winning candidate promised the voters, "Beş ay, iki anahtar." Louis XIV, who promised "a chicken in every pot," and Hitler, who promised "a car in every garage," were minor league in comparison to this gent. Put me in office, and in five months, you'll each have two keys (new house, new car). Unlike Jesus, this guy did not actually deliver on the promise, but this slogan is still admired for sheer audacity in four words!

When addressing the church at Philadelphia, Jesus mentions again the false Israel, the Jewish congregations in the neighborhood that made life miserable for the Christians. He encouraged His people to stand firm, and promised them marks of citizenship in the true, eternal, and heavenly Israel, the new Jerusalem.

Jesus had harsh words for Laodicea:
Ne soğuksun, ne sıcak. Keşke ya sapuk, ya da sıcak olsaydın.
Two new words today:
  • soğuk -- cold
  • sıcak -- hot
Laodicea was renowned for its hot / mineral springs, its healing baths, and its pharmaceutical industry. There were also springs of clear, cold, drinkable water. The church, however, had in its complacency fallen between both possibilities. (By the way -- the Turks do not mark each faucet with an S. Hot water comes from the faucet with the red handle, cold water from the blue-handled faucet.)

I think I'll have Beth and Laura memorize this most famous verse from Chapter 3:
İşte kapıda durmuş, kapıyı çalıyorum. Eğer biri sesimi işitir ve kapıyı açarsa, onun yanına gideceğim, ben onunla ve o da benimle, birlikte yemek yiyeceğiz.
I'll give you one word, and you can find this verse very easily: kapı -- door.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Efes, İzmir, Bergama, Akhısar

The apostle begins this letter with personal notes to the pastors of seven churches. The messenger carrying this document would take ship at Patmos, then disembark at the nearest major port, Ephesus. He would follow a major highway north, take a right, and come back a bit further inland.

Each of the seven letters is phrased as though dictated by Jesus Christ Himself. Each addresses the responsible party by title (To the "angel" of the church of ... ) rather than by name. You can be as opinionated as you want to be when hiding behind a pen name. In today's google generation, it's not wise to engage in spirited internet debate under one's own name. In John's day, Christians were persecuted as a subversive cult, and the leaders were special targets for imperial attention. Each "angel" gets a blunt assessment of his situation, a pointed recommendation, and a promise of reward for those who hear and heed:
Kulağı olan, Ruh'un topluluklara ne dediğini işitsin. Gelip gelen ...
And here's today's word list:
  • Kulak -- ear
  • Ruh -- Spirit
  • gelip -- winner, victor. Gelip gelmek -- to win, to overcome.
Finally, Jesus uses a component of his description in the first chapter as he addresses each church.

The rival powers of Rome and Jerusalem were turning up the heat on the young Christian community. It's hard to predict how a man, or a community, will react under pressure. Ephesus was losing the zeal that had earlier made this church the powerhouse that evangelized all of Asia Minor in two years. Pergama and Thyatira (Bergama and Akhısar) were vulnerable to charismatic male and female teachers with seductive messages.

İzmir was praised for faithfulness under vicious persecution, especially from the local Jewish community. A old document, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, indicatest that this animosity still simmered a century later. When Polycarp, a disciple of John the Evangelist, was sentanced to death by fire, the Jews eagerly desecrated their own sabbath to scavange up plenty of firewood from local baths and workshops.

One of these days I'll have the opportunity to visit these seven cities, myself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revelations -- should reveal.

We now commence one of my favorite books of the Bible[1], Tanrı'dan Yuhanna'ya gelen esinlemek. Or, in English, the "From God, to John, coming stuff inspiration." Or, in Greek, apokalupsis -- the unveiling. There is a blessing pronounced upon those who read these words. The Greek word for "read," anagnoso -- to make known to those standing around, implies that this divine favor rests upon those who read this letter aloud. Like most of the books of the Bible, Esinlemek divides neatly into 50 chunks, so it's suitable for liturgical reading, one chunk per week for a year.

Bottom line: Esinlemek is meant to be understood. It is supposed to make things plain. It is meant to be a blessing to those who read it and take its message to heart. The problem? Well, it's one of the most densely hyperlinked books in the Bible. It occurs, conveniently, at the end of the Bible, like an index to the rest of it. To those who understand the rest of Scripture, and know a little bit about the time when Esinlemek was written, the message is plain.

Unfortunately, we have a major industry of "newspaper exegisis" in the USA. Folks attract audiences, and get rich, out of retrofitting today's headlines into this book. Everyone loves to think they play starring roles in a cosmic drama. After all, how could the consummation of all history happen except during the lifetime of someone as important as ME?
Bu peygamberliğin sözlerini ukyuana, burada yazılanları dinleyip yerine geirene ne mutlu! Çünkü beklenen zaman yakındır.
Quick list of interesting words:
  • Çünkü -- because
  • beklenen -- the thing awaited
  • zaman -- time
  • yakındır-- near is
At the time this book was written, the pressures on the believers were becoming almost unendurable. John assures them that relief is near. The gigantic social and political structures grinding them down were about to be cut down to size. Yes, dear reader, believe it or not, John's letter to the seven churches was written to the seven churches of Asia minor. It addressed their concerns. It offered them practical insights into their situation, not cotton-candy speculations about stuff that wouldn't happen for thousands of years. It concerns events that are about to happen. "The time is near." I take this literally. By "near," Jesus meant "near." If by "near," Jesus meant "a few thousand years from now," I'd not send Him out for pizza!

[1] My Turkish friends will be happy to hear that Esinlemek was written from an island off the coast of Turkey, to folks living in seven Turkish cities.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vagabond stars (Yahuda'nın mektubu)

Serseri yıldızlar gibidir.
And, today's word list:
  • serseri -- tramp, vagabond, vagrant, stray
  • yıldızlar -- star
  • gibidir-- like, resemble
Well, this morning I read John's third letter, and Jude. Both deal with itinerant messengers. First, the good guys, the "white hats."[1] John's church had sent out teachers and prophets to encourage the other churches he was responsible for. Well, these folks went out as Jesus had sent forth His disciples in Luke 9 and 10, basically empty-handed, and depending on the hospitality of those they were sent to. This isn't such a bad way to travel. Fifty years ago, when my beloved mentor R. J. R. was ministering to isolated Native American tribes, you could spend weeks imposing on strangers, he reports. Within living memory, you could knock on a stranger's door in rural Turkey, announce that God wished to be their guest, and receive a meal and a place to sleep for the night.

III John dealt with a situation where the system broke down. One of his churches had been taken over by a power freak with a pagan Greek name. Most of the time, if you were named after a pagan deity, you changed your name when you changed your religion. This guy didn't. He was still "the one who was nursing on / drawing sustenance from Zeus." Diotrephes "loved to have the preeminence." He was en üstün olma sevdasınd. He refused to extend hospitality to the itinerant preachers, and excommunicated members who did remember their obligations. In this brief letter, John contacts one of his loyal friends, and names a mutual friend who has a good report. John also promises to show up soon, to settle matters face to face. Apparently even back then, putting all the nasty details in writing was unwise!

And now, let's meet the black hats. Jude warned his people about drifters. Vagabonds. People who drop in on church pot luck dinners just to cause trouble. To see what they can get away with. To take advantage of members. These "vagabond stars" (the Greek word, planetos, should look familiar) had no roots in the community, and bore no fruit for the community. Some were reclaimable -- but you'd better burn your gloves after pulling them out of the fire.

As a wag said many years ago, "A misplaced brother can do more damage than a demon, because it's easier to cast out a demon than a brother."

[1] In classical American Western movies, the good guys wore white hats, and the villains wore black cowboy hats.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yahunna'nın ikinci mektubu -- "A man has got to know his limits."

Haddini aşıp Mesih'in öğretisine bağlı, kalmayan hiç kimsede Tanrı yoktuk. Bu öğretiye bağlı, kalanda ise hem Baba, hem de Oğul vardır.
And now, the word list:
  • had -- limit, boundary
  • haddini aşmak -- to go too far
  • haddini bilmek -- to know one's place
  • haddini bilmez -- presumptuous
  • haddinden fazla -- excessive
  • haddi zatında -- in itself, essential
John warned a sister church in this letter to watch out for vagabond contaminators, wandering preachers who denied the core distinctive of the Christian faith: that God was present in Jesus of Nazareth, the anticipated messiah.

I guess these people could spin entertaining stories. And we are all suckers for entertainment. The problem was, they went beyond the facts, to preach as facts the constructs of their imaginations. Leaving something rather important out.

Anybody who's followed the "Lakeland outpouring" knows that this temptatioin is still with us.

A light yoke, an easy burden

Yahunna'nın birinci mektubu 5
Tanrı'yı sevmek, O'nun buyruklarını yerine getirmek demektir. O'nun burykları da ağır değildir. Çünkü Tanrı'dan doğmuş olan herkes dünyayı yener. Bize dünyaya karşı zafer kazandiran, imanımızdır.
And now, a few words:
  • Tanrı -- God
  • sevmek -- to love
  • buyruk -- commandment
  • ağır -- painful, irksome
  • yenmek -- to overcome
  • zafer -- victory
This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

Interestingly enough, the Greek uses two flavors of the same word where English and Turkish use two different words: yenmek/zafer and overcome/victory.

I do not know how many former smokers are in this audience. Anyone who has struggled with addictions know what it means to walk on the precipice, all too easily slipping into the behavior one abhors. This is especially easy to do during times of personal or national stress. When "modern times" and rampant consumerism exploded upon the American scene, so too did subtance abuse. Back then, it was the booze.

When you find yourself swept away by external and internal demons,[1] you can just give up and go with the flow. The drunken reservation Indian is the stereotype for this approach.

Or, you can look for some human means of salvation. Some "strong man" messianic politician to make the bad things go away. A savior, like Hitler, Mussolini, or their peer and fascist soul mate FDR. Or, perhaps, some popular movement that will rest the anxieties of the age upon a symbolic victim. In America, this was Prohibition. The most popular all-American beverage, our equivalent to France's wines and Germany's beers, was lost. Thousands of acres of apple orchards fell to the ax, and many varieties of cider apples were lost forever.

Finally, there is the perspective John offers us here. Simply obey God. Do the right thing. Abstain from the wrong thing. And faith in the One who has overcome the world, death, and the grace, can make it happen. Happiness, G. K. Chesterton wrote, is like glass. It can be shattered in a moment. Or, it can last for thousands of years. Therefore, don't break it.

ANYHOW: my preferred vice is a kind of lethal laziness, where I slip into neutral and allow any passing diversion to seize and divert my attention. Especially when there is serious work to be done. Nerds call this "dogwash." When the deadline is upon you, and a major project needs to be completed, you suddenly notice all the chores you could be doing, like washing the dog.

Prayers appreciated, folks. I'll keep you posted.

[1] I am speaking metaphorically, of course. Dostoyevski wrote a novel about the philosophical madness sweeping through Russia entitled The Demons. We know it by Constance Garner's title, The Possessed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

They overcame the Antichrist.

I John 4:3,4 (Birinci Yuhanna 4.3,4)
İsa'yı kabul etmeyen hiçbir ruh Tanrı'dan değildir. Böylesi, Mesih-karşıtının ruhudur. Onun geleceğini duydunuz. Zaten o şimdiden dünyadadır.

Yavrularım, siz Tanrı'dansınız ve sahte peygamberleri yendiniz, çünkü içinizdeki Ruh dünyadakinden üstündür.
Let's look at a few words, again.
  • geleceğini -- (the one who) will come
  • duydunuz -- you have already heard
  • Zaten -- as a matter of fact
  • o şimdiden -- already, now
  • dünyadadır -- world - in - is
Yuhanna warns his people to watch out for false prophets, for lying spirits. The spirit or prophet who does not confess that İsa is the Anointed King who came into the world is the spirit of antichrist. And folks, he was not warning them about some comic-book villain due to show up thousands of years after they were dead. Yuhanna was warning them about a present reality, a school of thought and its teachers that disregarded the core of the Christian message: God made Himself known to humanity in and through the biography, the real life, words, and deeds, of one historical figure.

You have to wonder, though: why would a Christian assembly give a hearing, or even the time of day, to someone who did not take İsa seriously? Why was this a real threat? Well, put yourself in their shoes. These were Jewish Christians, who adopted the pattern of synagogue worship as the format for their own rites -- a couple of readings from the Law and the Prophets, then a sermon. Add a few bells and whistles to accommodate İsa -- perhaps add a reading from one of the apostolic letters circulating around. Commemorate and confirm the covenant with bread and wine. Still, the basic language and structure would have been familiar to any first-century Jews who wandered in. Some of whom wandered back out again, and tried to take the followers of İsa with them, back into the old familiar routines. (remember the crab basket?)

The old culture had its attractions. But those who embrace İsa have a spiritual core that can make them victorious over the fatal charms and attractions of their native culture.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Crabs in a basket -- Birinci Yuhanna'nın mektubu 3

I Yahunna 3:14, 15
Kardeşler, dünya sizden nefret ederse şaşmayın. Biz kardeşleri sevdiğimiz için ölümden yaşama geçtiğimizi biliyoruz. Sevmeyen, ölümde kalır.
Today's word list:
  • dünya -- the world
  • nefret -- hate. etmek -- to hate.
  • şaşmak-- to be surprised.
  • ölüm -- death. ölümden -- from death. ölümde -- in/on/at death.
  • yaşam -- life. yaşama -- to life.
When you are out catching crabs, you can toss them into a basket without a lid. As soon as one crab starts to climb out, you see, the other crabs pull him back down. In toxic cultures, those who don't want to go down with the ship are bitterly resented as traitors. In many inner-city schools, students who pay attention to their studies are reviled and brutally persecuted for "acting white."

At the time this letter was written, the Jewish nation that had repudiated Jesus was closing in on its rendevous with destiny, its obliteration. Those among them who followed the Messiah İsa came to be seen as traitors, holding on to an unfashionable hope. Economic boycotts against Christians made life hard. There were reasons why the "poor saints in Jerusalem" that Paul took up collections for were poor.

And there were reasons why James, John, and Peter paid so much attention to the obligations Christians have to one another. As Jesus warned His people at the last supper, they better love one another, because they sure couldn't expect a lot of affection from the world they were parting company from!

It takes stamina to "walk away from Omelas."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Seeing and blind -- Birinici Yuhanna'nın mektuba 2

Troubled times require clear thinking. How can you tell who is on your team? How can you detect, ahead of time, the people you can rely on "when push comes to shove?" For that matter, how can I become a reliable team player in the ultimate game? I'd started making notes on the first part of I Yuhanna 2 before reaching the end of the chapter, then had to do some re-thinking.

John (Yahunna) is know as "the apostle of love." This does not, however, mean that he was unaware of the turmoil swirling around him, and his people, during the times when he wrote. Let's look at verse 10 and 11:
Kardeşini seven, ışıkta yaşar ve başkasının tökezlemesine neden almaz. Ama kardeşinden nefret eden karalıktadır, daranlıkta yürür ve nereye gittiğini bilmez. Çünkü karanlık, onan gözlerini kör etmiştir.
Now, a few words:
  • Kardeş -- brother
  • sevmek -- to love
  • nefret -- hate. nefret etmek -- to hate.
  • tökezlemesine -- stumbling block.
  • göz -- eye
  • kör -- blind
Condensed version: folks who love their neighbors don't create physical or moral hazards for them. Folks who hate their neighbors harm themselves first of all, since hatred impairs one's common sense. Haters stumble around in the darkness.

The reference to the "stumbling block" traces back to a Mosaic law against making life even harder for those with handicaps. "You shall not curse the deaf, nor set out a stumbling block for the blind." Some practical jokes are off-limits.

In context, perhaps John was warning his people to watch out for folks who made it look safe, or easy, to do the wrong thing. These tempters are not your friends.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mutlu Kurban Bayramı, Türkçe arkadaşlarım !

İkinci Yuhanna'nın mektubu 1:5,7
Tanrı ışıktır ve O'nda hiç karanlık yoktur
Ama kendisi ışıkta olduğu gibi, biz de ışıkta yürürsek, birbirimizle paydaşlığımız olur ve O'nun Oğlu İsa'nın kanı bizi her günahtan arındırır.
I'd like to wish my Turkish friends a blessed and happy "feast of the sacrifice," one of the two holiest days of the Islamic calendar.

Key words today:
  • ışık -- light. Tanrı ışıktır -- God is light. ışıkta -- in the light.
  • karanlık -- darkness.
  • kan -- blood.
Kurban, sacrifice, is an integral part of every religion. Evil is present in this world. Evil must be dealt with, or the foundations of sanity and society are rattled. Roman Polanski, the movie director, is lionized in Europe and reviled in America for taking indecent liberties with a 13 year old girl. Those of us who endured his vile movie Chinatown were not surprised. At the conclusion of this paean to nihilism, the young girl who is a child of incest is taken into the tender care of her father/grandfather, while the protagonist watches in impotent rage. Those who embrace and celebrate nihilism are menaces to any society, Christian or Islamic.

Evil must be dealt with. In the Torah, one of the sacrifices involves a murdered stranger. If a body is found in the countryside, and there is no way of tracking down the murderer, then the elders from the nearest village sacrifice a cow at the scene of the crime, and ask God to do justice where they were unable to.

Even atheistic "religions" have sacrificial rituals. Communism and Naziism practiced human sacrifice on an industrial scale. When their lofty schemes to bring heaven and hell on earth are only half-successful, the coercive utopians resolve the tensions by finding some class of victims to blame. Jews. Kulaks. "The Rich."

Yet, as Aleksandr Soltszhenitsn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, the line between good and evil runs through each of our hearts. And who wants to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Christians view the death of İsa as the ultimate kurban, a re-enactment of the heart-wrenching sacrifice that Abraham was ready to offer. (Leonard Cohen's bleak Song of Isaac portrays this event through the eyes of the victim.) No, we do not ascribe human modes of sexual propagation to The Almighty. We view the sonship of İsa as a metaphor for a deep and intimate relationship. Those who call a merchant the "son of a table," are not saying that a piece of furniture bonked his mommy. Christians do not assert similar preposterous things about the God we worship.

Yet, in some way, the death of İsa on the cross represents an atonement, a price paid for evil, that permits us to leave our own evil behind.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Life in the Shadow of the Volcano

II Pet. 3:8
Sevgili kardeşlerim, şunu unutmayın ki, Rab'bın gözünde bir gün bin yıl ve bin yıl bir gün gibidir.
Today, we'll look at a few one-syllable words that have caused oceans of ink to be spilled.
  • bin -- thousand
  • bir -- one
  • gün -- day
  • yıl -- year
Modern idiomatic Turkish seems to use the word "thousand" in a manner close to that of the ancient Greek-speaking residents of their neighborhood. Bin bir, for example, literally means "1,001." Idiomatically, this phrase means "a great many, all kinds of." Think of the bin bir "Arabian" Nights. Binde bir, one of a thousand, means "scarcely, very rarely," when pigs fly.

As you can see, the words for day and year are given in the singular. Turkish, with logical economy of expression, sees no need to pluralize nouns that come after numbers. After all the number has already told you to expect more than one!

Peter wrote,
My dear brothers, do not forget this, before the eyse of the Lord one day a thousand years, a thousand years one day, is like.
People who live in the shadow of the volcano can get jaded after a while, bored, indifferent to the disaster ready to break out suddenly upon them. The other shoe didn't drop when we expected it to. Maybe it never will. Maybe we're getting away with something. Peter, an old waterman, has already reminded his people of Noah's flood. From experience he knew how quickly frail crafts could be overwhelmed in violent weather. He now warns them, in very plain language, not to get indifferent to the passage of time. God's clock operates differently from ours. "The millstones of God's justice grind very slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine."

And no, these verses do not set us a liberty to concoct chronographies of apocalypse. Quite the opposite. Peter's first readers knew that the clock was running out on Israel. The final generation was coming to a close. 30+ years had passed, but the prophesied death sentance was in abeyance, not canceled.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Infiltrators (Petrus'un ikinci mektubu 2)

Ama İsrail halkı arasında sahte peygamberler vardı, tıpkı sizin de aranızda yanlış öğreti yayanlar olacağı gibi.
(This is actually Sunday morning, so this will be a brief Saturday post!)

Even as the people of Israel had false prophets in their midst, even so among you those who spread lying teachings will come.

Peter was warning his people against infiltrators from the dead order. People who would show up at the church suppers with an agenda of their own. Peter had good reasons for worrying about this issue, since he had himself once been part of the party of party-crashers and party poopers.[1] Paul wrote the Galatians,
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came frm James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but whenthey were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. (Gal. 2:11, 12)
A snake can continue writhing after its head is crushed. The apostate social order of first-century Israel had repudiated and crucified God's ambassador and messenger. It was on life support, enjoying one final generation of existence before the hammer fell. The Jewish culture and customs even had power to warp the behavior of people who should have known better. God used Peter to bring the gospel to the Gentiles (see Acts 9 and 10) for the first time, using a vision of non-kosher food. Yet, when people deeply embued in Jewish culture showed up in the rowdy, ambitious, and godly church at Antioch, Peter suddenly remembered his roots and forgot his calling.

Even Peter, this major figure of the Gospels, who is viewed by Catholics as the first pope, could be led astray by social pressures. It's no wonder so many Jews turned their backs on Jesus towards the end of Israel's history, as those cultural pressure intensified.

Having been brought to his sense by Paul's rebuke, Peter apparently learned his lesson, as was sensitized to how easily corruptible we all are, apart from the grace of God. Especially when confident and charismatic corrupters sit down at table with us.

[1] ancient slang -- refers to someone who "brings down"[2] a happy event.
[2] more ancient slang -- means "demoralizes" to those of us of a certain age!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Eyewitness news -- Petrus'un ikinci mektubu

II Peeter 1:16, 17
O'nun görkemını kendi gözlerimizle görduk. Mesih, yüce ve görkemli olan'dan kendisine, "Benim sevgili Oğlum budur. O'ndan hoşnudum," diyı gelen sesle, Baba Tanrı'dan onur ve yücelıik aldı.
Today's words are:
  • görkem -- spleandor, magnificence
  • yüce -- high, exalted
  • göz -- eye. gözler -- eyes, plural. gözlerimiz -- our eyes. gözlerimizle -- with our eyes. kendi gözlerimizle -- with our own eyes.
When Jesus received His "mission statement" at the time of His baptism, it combined the themes of supernatural messiah and suffering servent: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The message Peter, James, and John heard on the Mount of transfiguration was similar: "This is my beloved Son, pay attention to Him." They'd just been privy to a conversation between Jesus and the epitomes of the Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elijah. Peter blurted out the first thing that came into his mind, and the Father told him to shut up. Jesus does not rate parity with Moses and Elijah. He is more than another prophet, more than another lawgiver. He is, rather, the One to whom the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms all point.

The guy who saw this with his own eyes urged his readers, and us -- "Pay attention to Him."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking the bitter with the sweet -- zestful living

My relish for hot sauce amuses my children. It makes almost everything taste better, except, perhaps, ice cream. The Turks have a word that applies to these products of the chili pepper, acı -- bitter; sharp; hot; pungent. That's the adjective.

Or, when used as a noun, acı -- pain, ache, sorrow.

Or, you can combine it with the verb çekmek (to go out) to convey the sense of to feel pain, to suffer. I'm reminded of the only Malay word that made it into general use in English. It has two correct spellings (amok, amuck), and is always combined with the verb to run.

A benefit of reading a familiar text in a new language is, you notice frequently repeated phrases a bit more vividly. Acı çekmek shows up in various forms at least a dozen times in Birinci Petrus'un mektubu. (1:6, 11. 2:18, 20, 23. 3:13, 17. 4:1, 19. 5:1, 9, 10) Suffering, setbacks, disappointments are, Peter tells his readers, and us, a normal part of life. Something we all face. Something that can enoble us, and make us better. Something that can, unless we are careful, debase us, and make us bitter. I don't want to be trite, here. Job's "comforters" were too fast to offer easy answers, and God was not pleased with their "ministry." What do you tell a family watching a 13-year-old son losing a long battle with cancer?

Peter's answer is -- view all that comes to us as from the hand of a personal, and caring, God. When addressing communities of believers scattered throughout present-day Turkey, Peter wrote:
5:6 Uygun zamanda | sizi yüceltmesi için, | kendinizi | Tanrı'nın kudretli eli | altında alçaltın.
5:7 Bütün kaygılarınızı | O'na yükleyin. | Çünkü O sizi kayırır.
At the end of the season/period (of testing) | in order that you might be lifted up, | yourselves | God's mighty hand | humble under.
All of your anxieties | upon Him throwing. | Because He for you cares.

Or, as the King James Version of the Bible puts it,
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

A colorful American idiom describes apprehensive anticipation as "waiting for the other shoe to drop." This cliche dates back to the days when many people lived in "boarding houses." You go to bed, just start to doze off, when the boarder in the room above you drops one shoe on the floor. Thump! And you are unable to go back to sleep until the thoughtless guy with heavy shoes drops that other one.

Much of İncil was written with this motif, this foreboding mood. A new world had begun when God "put on shoes and walked among us." The ministry of Jesus inaugurated God's Kingdom rule upon the earth with fresh power, fresh visibility. Yet, the new world a-borning was also the death sentence upon the established order. The settled landmarks men had structured their lives around were about to be shattered. And they knew it. They had it "on the best authority" that the clock was running down on everything they took for granted. Time was running out on the "terminal generation," the "this generation" Jesus had warned approximately thirty years before this letter was written.

I Petrus'un mektubu 4 begins with Peter flaunting a suspiciously rich vocabulary on the theme of drunken partying. He is, of course, describing those things believers are supposed to leave behind. He goes on to tell his readers, in verse 7:

Her şeyin sonu yakındır. Bu nedenle, sağduyulu ve dua etmek için ayık durun.
The Turkish possessive construction is a "belt and suspenders" arrangement, that tacks different endings upon the item possessed, and the item possessing. This takes a while to get used to. Look at the first sentence: Her every. şeyin -- thing. sonu -- end. yakın -- near. dır -- is. şeyin takes the -in ending, since it is the thing that owns. sonu takes the -u, the direct object ending, since it is the item owned.

The end of all things is near. The other shoe is about to drop. Therefore, for this reason, sağduyulu (use common sense) and, in order to pray effectively, ayık durun (stay sober). I suspect Peter is dealing with the temptations we all face when things are about to fall apart. When the factory is about to shut down. When major changes are pending.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A better life, today

I Petrus'un mektubu 3:10

Yaşamdan zevk almak ve iyi günler görmek isteyen,
dilini kötülükten, dudaklarını hileli sözlerden uzak tutsan.
Now, of course, we have a word list:
  • zevk -- taste, flavor; pleasure. Hmmm ... reminds me of "zest!"
  • hile -- trick, ruse, adulteration
  • hileli -- fraudulent, trickery
And, a translation:
Folks, if you want to enjoy life and see good days, keep your tongue far from evil and your lips from deception.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about honest weights and measures. Bottom line: folks who use "short" weights to cheat their neighbors, shorten their own lives! As modern aphorisms assert, "What goes around, comes around," and "Payback is a bitch." Fractional reserve banking is the lifeblood of our privately-pwnd Federal Reserve Bank. This systematic fraud siphoned out 95% of the dollar's value since 1913 -- and has recently imposed another major "tax on savings" with results that are yet to be seen.

Or, as Jesus told us, putting a positive spin on the issue, be generous. "For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you." (Luke 6:36) Teach your children to leave generous tips -- at the moment, Christians have a reputation for stinginess. Waitresses hate working Sunday afternoons.

And, to get back to this scripture reading -- be careful what you put on your resume. Misrepresenting yourself is a dangerous form of fraud. Trying to live up to a fabricated image is a recipe for disaster.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cook me that rock, medium rare !

Petrus'un mektubu 2:4,5 is a terrific passage for anyone with a sense of irony and a love of the oxymoron.
İnsanlarca reddedilmiş, ama tanrı'ya göre seçkin ve değerli olan diri taşa, Rab'be gelin. O sizi diri taşlar olarak ruhsal bir tapınağın yapımında kullansın.
And today's words are:

  • diri -- alive; fresh; undercooked
  • taş -- rock
How can a rock be alive? The paradoxes multiply. Rock -- immutable, solid, enduring. Flesh -- prone to injury, decay, change. Rock -- inert. Flesh -- alive, growing, increasing.

An oxymoron is a literary device that combines apparent opposites to create a startling new image. Peter begins with an architectural metaphor. Jesus is like "the Rock that the buildrers rejected, which has become the chief corner stone." Something rejected by men, chosen and precious in the sight of God. Of course, our Lord is more than a Rock. More than a cold, rigid, abstraction. Christians assert that Jesus is the Almighty's "graphic user interface" to the universe, the human face of God, simultaneously human and divine. Not just a stone, but a "living" stone. It is as we "connect" to God through Jesus that we experience the hope of eternal life. We become, in our own small way, "living stones," built up together into a habitation for God.

There is a final irony that the original readers of Peter's Greek letter would have enjoyed. Jesus had a habit of renaming His disciples. Peter's parents named him "Simon." Jesus called him "Rocky." Peter, after all, means "stone." Think of "petrified wood" -- wood transformed into stone. Simon, the reckless, fickle reed who paniced at key moments, grew into the name Jesus gave him, and became the man who asked to be crucified upside down, since he was unworthy to die the same way Jesus did.

Jesus has a new name for you, too.