Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So who's lying? ( Titus 1 )

"All Cretans are liars," said the Cretan poet.

I don't know if Paul got the joke. If all Cretans are liars, how can you trust the Cretan who tells you that all Cretans are liars? Well, apparently Anaxamander (if memory serves me correctly) had a whole string of unpleasant things to say about his fellow countrymen:
Tit 1:12 Kendilerinden biri, öz peygamberlerinden biri şöyle demiştir: "Giritliler hep yalancıdır, azgın canavarlar, tembel oburlardır."
Let's look at a few words:
  • Giritliler -- People of Crete, Cretans. Girit (Crete) + li (partaking of, citizen of) + ler (plural) [1]
  • hep -- all
  • yalancıdır -- Liar(s). Yalan (lie) + cı (agent ending, like the -er in baker) + dır (are)
  • canavarlar -- beasts
  • tembel -- lazy
After this observation was published, I imagine that the poet heard the same message communicated to Tom Wolfe after he published his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. The message that became the title of his next novel, You Can't Go Home Again.


[1] OK -- so li comes before ler. Even as it's idiomatically correct, in English, to talk about a "little old lady," but not an "old little lady." Size comes before time ... one of those "rules" that native speakers never even notice!

If you think it's hard now ... ! ( II Tim. 4 )

When times get tough, people get strange. There are times, rare in history, when a distinct demographic group suddenly is fascinated by God's truth, eager and responsive. This usually happens at times of national catastrophe. However, a more common reaction is to tune in to comforting lies. In the aftermath of the American war of Northern aggression, our people brooded over the smoking ruins of two Christian nations. The losers had lost the war, and suffered punitive military occupation. The winners lost their souls. This was the time when "dispensationalism," a perverted heresy that ran rampant through popular Protestantism, sank its roots into the hearts of this subculture. Paul warned Timothy using graphic language:
2Ti 4:3 Çünkü öyle bir zaman gelecek ki, sağlam öğretiye katlanamayacaklar. Kulaklarını okşayan sözler duymak için çevrelerine kendi arzularına uygun öğretmenler toplayacaklar.
2Ti 4:4 Kulaklarını gerçeğe tıkayıp masallara sapacaklar.
And today's word is:
  • okşamak -- to caress, to fondle.
People who see nothing but increasing distress ahead are easy prey for those who seduce, caress, and fondle their ears. Who trot out rationalizations for why things turned out so bad.

And Paul's advice to Timothy was -- expect it, and soldier on.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you can keep your head ( II Tim. 3 )

Paul loved the Jewish civilization, tradition, and culture, with all the passion of one who knew himself to be somewhat peripheral to it. Stalin, after all, was a Georgian. Hitler was an Austrian. And Paul, who had the most impeccable Jewish credentials, and had even completed advanced studies at Jerusalem U, studying with the most prestigious rabbis of his day, was still the guy from Anatolia.[1]

Yet, Paul knew that "the beloved community" was on a collision course with reality. His nation, his tribe, his people, were being mismanaged into destruction. Israel had crucified and rejected the Prophet God sent them, and that's a hard mistake to bounce back from. So, Paul warned his protege, dying cultures can break bad. Dying cultures can be possessed by an insane lust to share the misery. "Timothy, my lad, watch out," Paul wrote.
2Ti 3:1 Şunu bil ki, son günlerde çetin anlar olacaktır.
2Ti 3:2, 3 İnsanlar kendilerini seven, para düşkünü, övüngen, kibirli, küfürbaz, anne baba sözü dinlemez, nankör, kutsallıktan ve sevgiden yoksun, uzlaşmaz, iftiracı, özünü denetleyemeyen, azgın, iyilik düşmanı olacaklar.
2Ti 3:4 Hain, aceleci, kendini beğenmiş, Tanrı'dan çok eğlenceyi seven, Tanrı yolundaymış gibi görünüp bu yolun gücünü inkâr edenler olacaklar. Böylelerinden uzak dur.
Let's look at that last sentence:
  • Böylelerinden -- from these kinds of people
  • uzak -- far away
  • dur -- stay!
Although it may be a surprise to today's apocalyptic nincompoops, Paul's letter to Timothy was written to Timothy. The condemned prisoner was giving the man he most counted on to further his legacy the exact admonitions and advice that protege needed. Paul did not break away from addressing Timothy to pen a handful of sentences for the entertainment of 20th century fortune-tellers.

Still, Timothy had to know what to expect as his culture came unglued. How people could be expected to react to those special pressures. What kinds of charlatans would arise to take advantage of the prevailing misery. All of this is helpful information for believers facing the unraveling of their worlds, at those hinges of history.


[1] A man may live 50 years in the south -- but whenever he opens his mouth, people hear "Pittsburgh."

The Big Picture ( II Tim. 2 )

One of the metaphors Paul frequently uses is the soldier. I sometimes wonder how my life would be different today if I had answered my country's call back in the late '60s. When you march in demonstrations against your nation's military, even if only out of a desire to belong, a desire to impress your peers, it leaves a nagging suspicion, in the back of your mind, about your own manliness, your own courage, your own ability to face hardship and adversity. I know, logically, that my nation hasn't participated in a just war for well over 150 years. I know, as Smedley Butler realized, that most of our more recent wars have made a handful of plutocrats really rich, while costing the expendables their lives, limbs, and sanity.

Yet on a level beyond logic, a sense that one has avoided the challenge of his generation does leave one at a loss when talking with those who took the challenge, measured themselves against it, and measured up.

Well, as Uncle Remus used to say, "Dat's needer heer nor dare." Paul used the metaphor of military service to warn Timothy against the tyranny of petty distractions:
2Ti 2:4 Askerlik yapan kişi günlük yaşamla ilgili işlere karışmaz; kendisini askerliğe çağıranı hoşnut etmeye çalışır.
A few words:
  • Askerlik -- military. asker (soldier) + lik (participating in the characteristics of)
  • günlük -- mundane. gün (day) + lük (participating in the characteristics of)
  • yaşamla -- of life
  • işlere -- works
Now, on the one hand, most of life does consist of small duties, routine obligations. The problem happens when one gets immersed in the urgent to the extent of neglecting the important. There are always trivial things one could be doing. Programmers call those distractions "dogwash." When a major project is approaching its deadline, other things suddenly look interesting. Like washing the dog.

Only a vision of the Commander who conscripted us has sufficient power to break us out of the tyranny of the urgent, the immediate, and keep our eyes focused on the big picture.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Non-automatic gifts ( II Tim. 1 )

Second Timothy is believed to be the last letter Paul wrote. In any case, if he wrote anything after this letter, we don't have it. He's in prison, looking down the barrel of one last criminal trial, and probable execution. He is encouraging his closest associate, the younger man he trusts to carry on his mission. He reminds Timothy of how much he has going for him -- starting with the Biblical faith of his grandmother and mother. And, he reminds him of his spiritual empowerment:
2Ti 1:6 Bu nedenle, ellerimi senin üzerine koymamla Tanrı'nın sana verdiği armağanı alevlendirmen gerektiğini hatırlatıyorum.
2Ti 1:7 Çünkü Tanrı bize korkaklık ruhu değil, güç, sevgi ve özdenetim ruhu vermiştir.
Key words, verse 6:
  • armak -- gift
  • alevlendirmen -- stir up into flame
Key words, verse 7:
  • Tanrı -- God
  • bize -- to us
  • korkaklık --fearful
  • ruhu -- spirit
  • değil, -- not
  • güç, -- power, strength
  • sevgi -- love
  • özdenetim -- self-mastery
  • vermiştir -- He has given
Each of us has his own special "gift," his own knack for doing something more easily than most of our peers. The problem is, these "gifts" do not operate themselves. Yes, God has equipped us with an ability to make an impact on our world. No, we can't go onto autopilot and coast along. For example, I have a gift for writing. However, unless I "glue the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair" and "drive the dreary quill," nothing happens, other than increasing anxiety and frustration.

Well, I'm memorizing verse 7, as part of the ongoing project of recalibrating the brain.

Servant or master? ( I Tim. 6 )

Here is an interesting article on the intersection of money and putperest (idolatry).

Here is the most famous quote from İncil about money:
1Ti 6:10 Çünkü her türlü kötülüğün bir kökü de para sevgisidir. Kimileri zengin olma hevesiyle imandan saptılar, kendi kendilerine çok acı çektirdiler.
Let's look at a few words!
  • Çünkü -- Because
  • her -- every
  • türlü -- kind
  • kötülüğün -- of evil
  • bir kökü de -- a root of
  • para -- money
  • sevgisidir -- love is.
It's not the money itself that is evil, but the inordinate love of it. Like fire -- a wonderful servant, but a fearsome master!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Priorities ( I Tim. 5:8 )

Efeses is a sophisticated place. People loved having long conversations on speculative topics. Time after time Paul had to remind them -- directly, and again through Timothy -- that good doctrine must be lived. Consider this shocking offhand comment:

    1Ti 5:8 Kendi yakınlarına, özellikle de ev halkına bakmayan kişi imanı inkâr etmiş, imansızdan beter olmuştur. 

Let's look at a few words:

  • imanı -- the faith (direct object case)
  • inkâr -- denial
  • etmiş -- has made
  • imansızdan -- than an unbeliever
  • beter -- worse
  • olmuştur -- has become 

A favorite scholar, R. J. Rushdoony, suggested that the American cult of celebrity correlates to the loss of reverence for worship. When we celebrate our covenant with God with condign passion and seriousness, we are less inclined to live (and lust) vicariously through the glossy pages of People magazine. 

Still, this is  a country that cherishes its heros, its larger-than-life sized "American idols." Sadly, this adulation of public figures has also affected the community of believers. Several decades ago, several very visible "televangelists" had spectacular public falls. A century ago, a Billy Sunday mesmerized a million people into performing a novel ritual, the "altar call response." Meanwhile, he lost all four of his own children. His advocacy of prohibition also discredited Christians in the larger public sphere ever since. 

Paul asserts that the man who refuses to measaure up to his responsibilities at home is "worse than an unbeliever." No atheist hurling[0] brickbats[1] at us from outside our community can do as much harm to the gospel we proclaim than the guy inside the camp who feels entitled to consort with prostitutes. 


[0] Hurl is a less-common way of saying throw, and always refers to an object propelled with hostile intent. A decade ago, it was also a slang term for the verb vomit

[1] That's a funny old word, defined by its use. "An object, such as a piece of a brick, that is hurled in a fight." 

Left brain, right brain ( I Tim. 4 )

During the American war of independence, an engineer named Bushnell invented a submarine he called the Turtle. It was made of wood, and shaped rather like a barrel. The inventor climbed into it, closed the lid and began turning a crank that span a propellor that moved the ungainly craft slowly towards its target. 

Creative writing has been described as performing a right-brain activity (visual, spatial, 3-D) through left-brain means (verbal, linear). For me, a good and productive day is more like one wherein I can get "inside" the project, and start cranking away. 

The muse is mysterious. Folks on speaking terms with it tend to be incredibly productive. But getting into the flow is the problem. It is entirely too easy to drift around the outside of one's calling, one's area of giftedness, and not get anything done. My screen saver is a three-word phrase, ... armağanı ihmal etme. Armak = gift. ihmal = neglect. etme = do not. Let's look at the larger context:

    1Ti 4:13 Ben yanına gelinceye dek kendini topluluğa Kutsal Yazılar'ı okumaya, öğüt vermeye, öğretmeye ada. 
    1Ti 4:14 Peygamberlik sözüyle, ihtiyarlar kurulunun ellerini senin üzerine koymasıyla sana verilen ve hâlâ sende olan ruhsal armağanı ihmal etme. 
Timothy, it appears, was a gifted speaker who was prone to stage fright. Paul reminded him of all that had gone into making him the man he was, and told him, "Don't let it go to waste."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Of kings and castles ( I Timothy 3 )

Mormonism has been called "the American Islam." This strange cult, which is especially strong in the state of Utah, boasts a post-Christian prophet and another book. The early Mormons also believed that polygamy was necessary for salvation. They discovered for themselves the observation made by anthropologists in Africa -- the men found themselves outnumbered all too often, as the wives made common cause. The Mormons had a wry comment on that condition -- "That man isn't king in his own castle!"

The family is the truest nursery for leadership in the larger community.
1Ti 3:1 İşte güvenilir söz: Bir kimse gözetmen olmayı gönülden istiyorsa, iyi bir görev arzu etmiş olur.
1Ti 3:4 Evini iyi yönetmeli, çocuklarına söz dinletmeli, her yönden saygılı olmalarını sağlamalı.
1Ti 3:5 Kendi evini yönetmesini bilmeyen, Tanrı'nın topluluğunu nasıl kayırabilir?
If it doesn't work at home, our gospel isn't worth exporting. (This is also, BTW, the motivation of many home schooling families.)

God likes good government ( I Timothy 2 )

"You know, there's something to be said about living in a police state," I said to myself one sweet summer midnight, as I strolled through downtown Kiev, feeling completely safe.

People in Franco's Spain could say whatever they liked about him -- but you could leave a $5 bill on the seat of a convertible on the streets of Madrid -- and no one would touch it.

People in South Africa today -- people of all shades -- recall the apartheid era with wistful nostalgia. "Before God, sir, we intended no malice," the Afrikaaner explained to me on the plane back from Kiev. Apartheid was an attempt to maintain the peace between a dozen or more tribes, only a few generations out of the stone age. Today, abortion and sodomy are legal -- and South Africa leads most of the world in per-capita rape and murder rates. Ain't progress wonderful?

What did Paul have to say about the imperial Roman empire and its sovereign, Caesar Nero?
1Ti 2:1, 2 Her şeyden önce şunu öğütlerim: Tanrı yoluna tam bir bağlılık ve ağırbaşlılık içinde sakin ve huzurlu bir yaşam sürelim diye, krallarla bütün üst yöneticiler dahil, bütün insanlar için dilekler, dualar, yakarışlar ve şükürler sunulsun.
1Ti 2:3 Böyle yapmak iyidir ve Kurtarıcımız Tanrı'yı hoşnut eder.
1Ti 2:4 O bütün insanların kurtulup gerçeğin bilincine erişmesini ister.
During times of peace, we have leisure to talk with our neighbors about the things that matter most to us. During times of strife, turmoil, and hostility, conversations die out. As Americans, we need to pray for the end of political correctness, and reclaim our liberty to speak freely.

Meanwhile, back in Efeses (I Timothy 1)

Scholars of ancient Christian history make a big deal over the contrasts between Antioch and Alexandria. Each city produced notable pastors, preachers, and teachers. Antioch seemed to be more under the spell of the Jewish culture, while Alexandria, of course, was named for that conquering Greek dude, Alexander, and celebrated Hellenistic culture.

Once again, in this book, we come to a third major happening place in the history of revelation, Efeses. You see, in addition to Greek philosophy and Jewish traditions, the early believers had to figure out what to do with the crazy mystical esoteric pagan cults that bubbled up in force at places like Efeses. Paul had spent a very profitable two years in this city, at the peak of his professional career. He taught and catalyzed people with such powerful effect that the Christian message made it to every corner of Anatolia.

Yet, the older perversions hovered around the periphery, and tried to sneak back in. In his warning to the elders of Efeses in Acts 2, Paul warned them that some of the corrupting influences would even come from among their own number. It was to deal with "the crazies" that Paul, once again, sent his right-hand man, Timothy, back to town to set things straight.
1Ti 1:3, 4 Makedonya'ya giderken sana rica ettiğim gibi, Efes'te kal ve bazı kişilerin farklı öğretiler yaymamasını, masallarla ve sonu gelmeyen soyağaçlarıyla uğraşmamasını öğütle. Bu şeyler, imana dayanan tanrısal düzene hizmet etmekten çok, tartışmalara yol açar.
1Ti 1:5 Bu buyruğun amacı, pak yürekten, temiz vicdandan, içten imandan doğan sevgiyi uyandırmaktır.
1Ti 1:6 Bazı kişiler bunlardan saparak boş konuşmalara daldılar.
1Ti 1:7 Kutsal Yasa öğretmeni olmak istiyorlar, ama ne söyledikleri sözleri ne de iddialı oldukları konuları anlıyorlar.
Imagine a sailor spending hours reading The Bluejacket's Manual just to rejoice in its elegant discourse. Or, imagine a nerd with a shelf crammed with instruction manuals for software he doesn't have, and has no intention of using! People of faith view sacred books as handbooks for living. To turn our backs on life in order to disappear into endless and sterile speculations is a misuse of God's precious guidance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

II Salonika

In his first letter to the new believers at Salonika, Paul encouraged them to endure persecution with patience, since their enemies would soon experience divine retribution. To quote the late Jerry Falwell's recipe for dealing with adversaries, "Love them, forgive them, outlive them."

The world these people lived in was facing radical (from the roots up) turmoil, and the people who were riding high at the moment had a date with destiny.

The problem is, when you hear that judgment day is upon us, and the world we now know is on its last legs, it gets really easy to lose one's own drive, momentum, energy, mojo. Apparently, many of the lazier people in Salonika used this news as an excuse to slack off, and start living on the charity of others. During the late sixties / early seventies, as the bungled Vietnam war was winding down, the hippy subculture preached the wisdom of "tune in, turn on, drop out." Who wants to expend energy neatly arranging the deck furniture on a sinking Titanic? This turned out to be really bad advice, even if the "drug of choice" was a vivid personal relationship with Jesus. Quite a few long-haired "Jesus freaks" bummed around the country, living on the charity of others. This was not a good scene. (sorry, my hippy argot keeps cropping up!)

Let's look at how Paul addressed the issue:
2Th 3:7 Bizleri nasıl örnek almanız gerektiğini kendiniz biliyorsunuz. Çünkü biz aranızdayken boş gezenler değildik.
2Th 3:8 Kimsenin ekmeğini karşılıksız yemedik. Herhangi birinize yük olmamak için uğraşıp didindik, gece gündüz çalıştık.
2Th 3:9 Yardımlarınızı hak etmediğimiz için değil, izleyebileceğiniz bir örnek bırakmak için böyle yaptık.
2Th 3:10 Hatta sizinle birlikteyken şu buyruğu vermiştik: "Çalışmak istemeyen yemek de yemesin!"
2Th 3:11 Çünkü aranızda bazılarının boş gezdiğini duyuyoruz. Bunlar hiçbir iş yapmıyor, başkalarının işine karışıp duruyorlarmış.
2Th 3:12 Böylelerine Rab İsa Mesih adına yalvarıyor, şunu buyuruyoruz: Sakin bir şekilde çalışıp kendi kazançlarından yesinler.
2Th 3:13 Sizlerse kardeşler, iyilik yapmaktan usanmayın.
Let's look at a few words. In vs. 7, Paul admonishes the folks at Salonika to follow his example. In the other translation I use, the verb the translators selected is izleyebileceğiniz. Let's tease that apart:
  • iz -- footprint, track, trace, mark, evidence, clue
  • izlemek -- to follow, watch, view, observe
  • izci -- Boy / Girl Scout
  • izleyebileceğiniz -- you will be able to follow. Combines the root izle with ebil (capability suffix) and ecek (future tense) and iniz (second person plural).
In the original language, Paul demonstrates a bit of word play in verse 11:
μηδὲν ἐργαζομένους, ἀλλὰ περιεργαζομένους·
The people he reproved were no longer busy, but had become busybodies. Erg- , the Greek syllable for work, shows up in the English word energy. Running one's own life well is a major-league project. It's so much easier to assert a right to run other people's lives for them. I guess that explains the perennial appeal of liberalism.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Salonike 5 -- the mushroom committe

The English idiomatic phrase "in the dark" means "out of the loop." During the Reagan administration, the catch phrase was "plausible deniability." A famous congressional committee once complained of being treated like mushrooms -- "We're being kept in the dark, and covered with bullshit."[1]

The story is different for believers, though, and the ending is ultimately happy, no matter how it turns out in the short term:
1Th 5:4 Ama kardeşler, siz karanlıkta değilsiniz ki, o gün sizi hırsız gibi yakalasın.
1Th 5:5 Hepiniz ışık çocukları, gündüz çocuklarısınız. Geceye ya da karanlığa ait değiliz.
1Th 5:6 Öyleyse başkaları gibi uyumayalım, ayık ve uyanık olalım.
1Th 5:7 Çünkü uyuyanlar gece uyur, sarhoş olanlar da gece sarhoş olurlar.
1Th 5:8 Gündüze ait olan bizlerse, iman ve sevgi zırhını kuşanıp başımıza miğfer olarak kurtuluş umudunu giyerek ayık duralım.
1Th 5:9 Çünkü Tanrı bizi gazaba uğrayalım diye değil, Rabbimiz İsa Mesih aracılığıyla kurtuluşa kavuşalım diye belirledi.
1Th 5:10 Mesih bizler için öldü; öyle ki, ister uyanık ister uykuda olalım, O'nunla birlikte yaşayalım.
A few words!
  • Ama kardeşler, siz karanlıkta değilsiniz -- But / brothers, / you / of the darkness / you are not
  • Hepiniz ışık çocukları, gündüz çocuklarısınız -- Every one of you / light / are the children / of the day / you are the children.
You've got to be bright to be the lgiht of the world!

[1] Bullshit is a rude and contemptuous term for deliberately misleading and pretentious assertions. A favorite movie of mine, the rather clumsy Return of Captain Invincible, has an entire musical number consisting of that single word! Also known as "male bovine feces." The metaphor is cute, but in real life, mushrooms are raised on horse manure, since ruminants, with their four stomachs, leave little behind for mushrooms to feast upon.

Salonika 4 -- "Now I lay me down to sleep."

A long time ago, folks used to teach their children little rhyming prayers, such as this one, to be said at bedtime:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Hmmm ... I guess folks used to live more closely with death in those days. It would not cross my mind to comfort my children's souls by reminding them of their mortality every night!

Still, let's look at the words of comfort Paul gave the folks at Salonika:
1Th 4:14 İsa'nın ölüp dirildiğine inanıyoruz. Aynı şekilde Tanrı, İsa'ya bağlı olarak gözlerini yaşama kapamış olanları da O'nunla birlikte geri getirecektir.
We believe that Jesus rose from the dead. In the same way, we expect our God to resurrect those who gözlerini yaşama kapamış -- a lovely Turkish idiom that means their eyes / upon life / have closed.

Salonika 3 -- happy discoveries

The observant man notices failures around him as he goes through life. Some are petty. Some are catastrophic. A high school friend, one hears, "is doing 25 years to life,[0] for an incident involving a bank and a gun." An old mentor and excellent teacher was discovered to have forged his doctorate. Another friend, a brilliant and insightful guy, had a life that somehow never acquired enough momentum for liftoff into successful adulthood. He dies of multiple brain tumors, and his last few years are comforted by a new-found Catholic faith, and recourse to "the bottle."[1]

Then, from time to time, you learn that someone who'd made a spectacular train wreck of his life has overcome the setback and made remarkable progress in life. It is refreshing to find out "the rest of the story" decades later, and discover that it has a happy ending.

Paul tended to live in a compressed time frame. Note the exuberant joy:
1Th 3:5 Bu nedenle ben de daha fazla dayanamadım; acaba Ayartıcı bir yolunu bulup sizi ayarttı mı, emeğimiz boşa mı gitti diye iman durumunuzu öğrenmek için Timoteos'u gönderdim.
1Th 3:6 Ama yanınızdan henüz dönen Timoteos, imanınıza, sevginize ilişkin bize güzel haberler getirdi. Bizi her zaman iyi anılarla hatırladığınızı, sizi görmeyi özlediğimiz kadar sizin de bizi özlediğinizi söyledi.
His old friends were turning out all right. They were on the right track. All was well with his soul.


[0] "Doing time" is a euphemism for serving a prison sentence.

[1] When Americans speak of "the bottle," rather than of its contents, they frequently use the container as a euphemism for alcoholic beverages.

Salonika 2 -- a new citizenship

Americans tend to be tone-deaf to the communitarian aspects of human life. Our cultural icon is the cowboy, riding alone, making up his own rules as he goes along. A High Plains Drifter, disconnected from family, from faith, from the larger universe of relationships. Other cultures, high-context cultures, create conflicts few Americans face. For example, Dietrich Boenhoffer was excecuted towards the end of WW II for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. He lamented, "I am the citizen of a totalitarian country, and the subject of a totalitarian God." In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Boenhoffer wrote, "When Jesus bids a man 'Come and follow Me,' he bids him 'Come and die.'" 

When worlds collide. What do you do when your girlfriend from back home shows up on campus, and encounters your local girlfriend? How do you resolve the tug of competing and irreconcilable allegiances?

This is an old issue. People who catch crabs dump them in a basket without a lid. If one crab tries to escape, you see, the others pull it back down into the community. In certain inner-city American neighborhoods, a studious student is reviled and ostracized for "acting white." For aspiring to do more, to "be better" than, his peers. 

This form of group loyalty can be extremely toxic. Suppose your community, like Hitler's Germany, is on a collision course with an unpleasant destiny? Suppose your Soviet future depends upon your willingness to join the Young Pioneers, wearing the red scarf and proclaiming your atheism? 

Let's look at how Paul encouraged the new believers in Salonika, who were facing exactly this issue:

    1Th 2:14 Çünkü kardeşler, siz Tanrı'nın Yahudiye'de bulunan ve Mesih İsa'ya bağlı olan kiliselerini örnek aldınız. Onların Yahudiler'den çektiği sıkıntıların aynısını siz de kendi yurttaşlarınızdan çektiniz. 
    1Th 2:15-16 Rab İsa'yı ve peygamberleri öldüren, bize de zulmeden Yahudiler'dir. Öteki uluslardan olanlarla konuşmamızı ve böylece onların kurtulmasını engellemekle Tanrı'nın hoşnutsuzluğuna yol açıyor ve bütün insanlara karşı geliyorlar. Böylece durmadan günahlarına günah katıyorlar. Sonunda Tanrı'nın gazabına uğradılar. 

Talk about toxic! That old Antolian sage Aesop told the story of The Manger Dog. This foul brute lay down in the ox's manger, resting on straw it could not eat, and keeping the hungry ox from its dinner. The Jewish people not only discarded God's King, but worked overtime to keep the other nations from enjoying that which they disdained. 

Yet, even as Israel, and the Roman Empire, careened on their courses towards oblivion, a "third race," neither Jewish nor Gentile, although composed of folks from both communities, was quietly rising up. Some of the crabs were getting away from a date with the pot of boiling water. Even today, people are coming to shelter under the aegis of the Eternal King, Jesus, giving up their entire world, and finding a new home, a new family, a new community.

Salonika 1 -- a happening place

Winston Churchill, that maker of memorable phrases, described the tragedy of the Balkans thus: "a place that produces more history than can be consumed locally." Salonika has always been a happening place, to use the old hippy phrase. It's at the grinding edge of multiple cultures. In the late 19th century, Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, began his military education there. 

I'm still working on a dissertation that examines Atatürk's Nutuk (Six Day Speech). It's a persuasive document, that uses all three of the primary colors of discourse Aristotle analyzed so tediously in his handbook on Rhetoric. There is logos, the appeal to rationality. There is pathos, the appeal to the emotions. Most convincing, however, is ethos -- the attraction of the speaker's character. Atatürk strode through history as a larger-than-life figure, who earned the right to shape his nation's destiny by his heroic deeds. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, is said to travel with a "reality-distortion sphere." When he turns it on, those around him find themselve fascinated by his compelling vision. Atatürk apparently had the same effect on those around him. To this day, traffic stops once a year as a grateful nation remembers the month, day, hour, and minute of his death. 

As Paul begins to address the new Christians in Salonika, he appeals to ethos:

    1Th 1:5 Çünkü yaydığımız Müjde size yalnız sözle değil, kudretle, Kutsal Ruh'la ve büyük güvenle ulaştı. Nitekim aranızdayken sizin yararınıza nasıl yaşadığımızı bilirsiniz. 
Let's look at a few words:

  • yalnız sözle değil -- not only / with words / not
  • kudretle -- but with power
  • Kutsal Ruh'la -- and with the Holy Spirit
  • ve büyük güvenle -- and / great / assurance, confidence with
  • Nitekim -- because
  • aranızdayken -- while we were among
  • sizin yararınıza -- you / next to we were
  • nasıl yaşadığımızı bilirsiniz. -- how / our lives (were lived) / you know.
Paul had just been thoroughly beaten at his last place of ministry, Philippi. Yet his courage in proclaiming his good news in Salonika had raised up an energetic congregation that also became examples to the surrounding cities. Heros beget heros. Nobility inspires nobility. Modern Turkey is largely the shadow of one man's life. The Christian message owes much to the life and work and heroism of Paul.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I hope to do justice to this dynamic little book on my next trek through Incil. One thing that impressed me this time, though -- the newsletter network that Paul participated in was his generation's equivalent of our LinkedIn. This new social network has been called "FaceBook for grownups," and is a remarkable way to connect to people and places you've worked with in ages past. Paul wrote to the church at Collossae from prision. He had never been their personally, but he knew people who knew people, and was known to be a reliable source of inspired, and inspiring, advice. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An insight in a shower ( Phil. 4 )

During a day of trials, I stepped into the shower crying out to my God, "How am I to serve you?" A two-word answer popped into my mind -- "With joy!" and a verse from the Law of Moses, Deut. 28:54 -- those who refuse to serve God with joy for the abundance of everything are welcome to try serving other masters in the paucity of everything. (I paraphrase, here)

Paul had a similar admonition for the Philippians:

    Php 4:4 Rab'de her zaman sevinin; yine söylüyorum, sevinin! 
Let's enjoy the words!
  • Rab'de -- in the Lord
  • her -- all, every 
  • zaman -- time
  • sevinin -- rejoice! (imperative mood)

And there is a reason why a note of exuberant joy should surround our lives:

    Php 4:13 Beni güçlendirenin aracılığıyla her şeyi yapabilirim. 

The words!

  • Beni -- to me 
  • güçlendirenin -- the One who makes strong 
  • aracılığıyla --  by means of
  • her şeyi --  every things, all things
  • yapabilirim -- I am able to do.
These words are as true today as they were when Paul wrote them. We are like folks who worry about pennies, when incredible wealth in in our hands. This is definitely a perspective that can help job seekers in uncertain times.

Watch out for dogs! ( Phil. 3 )

Paul refused to be muzzled by political correctness. Consider his warning to the Philippian church:

    Php 3:2 Kötülük yapan o adamlardan, o köpeklerden sakının; o sünnet bağnazlarından sakının! 
Let's examine a few words:
  • Kötülük yapan  -- evil doing 
  • o adamlardan -- of the men
  • o köpeklerden -- of the dogs
  • sakının -- beware!

Paul had strong reasons for these warnings. For example, he himself had once been one of those dogs, those evil-doers, those fanatical Jews who hated the Christian gospel and forcefully resisted it. But, that was then, and this is now:

    Php 3:13, 14 Kardeşler, kendimi bunu kazanmış saymıyorum. Ancak şunu yapıyorum: Geride kalan her şeyi unutup ileride olanlara uzanarak, Tanrı'nın Mesih İsa aracılığıyla yaptığı göksel çağrıda öngörülen ödülü kazanmak için hedefe doğru koşuyorum. 

Zero upward mobility ( Phil. 2 )

Christians are comforted by their belief that their Creator, the author of the universe and their lives, wrote Himself in the story. We see in the life of Jesus a revelation of God's character, mercy, and justice. A central and joyous paradox of our faith is its focus in One who had everything, but gave it all up, to make us insanely rich, beyond our wildest dreams, in all that is eternally important. 

    Php 2:5 Mesih İsa'daki düşünce sizde de olsun. 
    Php 2:6 Mesih, Tanrı özüne sahip olduğu halde, Tanrı'ya eşitliği sımsıkı sarılacak bir hak saymadı. 
    Php 2:7,8 Ama kul özünü alıp insan benzeyişinde doğarak ululuğunu bir yana bıraktı. İnsan biçimine bürünmüş olarak ölüme, çarmıh üzerinde ölüme bile boyun eğip kendini alçalttı. 
    Php 2:9 Bunun için de Tanrı O'nu pek çok yükseltti ve O'na her adın üstünde olan adı bağışladı. 
    Php 2:10,11 Öyle ki, İsa'nın adı anıldığında gökteki, yerdeki ve yer altındakilerin hepsi diz çöksün ve her dil, Baba Tanrı'nın yüceltilmesi için İsa Mesih'in Rab olduğunu açıkça söylesin. 

You would think that the Almighty would have "zero upward mobility." Nothing could conceivably add to His glory and honor. Yet, strangely enough, it is what God did in and through Jesus that humanity has come to bow before their Creator on the widest possible scale.  Even the heavenly beings, and those "under the earth," whoever they are, had their eyes more fully opened to the majesty and goodness of our God.

A Muslim friend and I watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ together. When the movie was screened in Turkey, he said,  viewers wept aloud to see the pain inflicted upon Jesus. Yet, since Christians believe that Jesus bore that pain on our behalf, our love for Him is great.

New territory (Phil. 1)

Life goes into overdrive when you find yourself in a new situation. I enjoy working with grad students from other nations, since they have a wide-eyed enthusiasm for their experiences in our country. It is a peak moment in their lives. Paul, whose life had orbited between Tarsus and Jerusalem, found his initial foray into Europe to be a similar landmark experience. As you can read in Acts 16, in Philippi he encountered a formidable business lady at a "place of prayer."[1] A demon-possessed fortune-teller. Roman officers with whips. Prison. An earthquake. A family's conversion. And the opportunity to humiliate Roman magistrates. Definitely a memorable visit!

Paul's initial convert, Lydia, was a business lady in the import/export textile trade. In his later missionary journeys, this church provided financial support to Paul's ministry. Someone was accustomed to transferring funds between jurisdictions. Let's read Paul's feelings towards this church, written from jail:

    Php 1:3 Sizi hatırladıkça Tanrım'a şükrediyorum. 
    Php 1:4,5 İlk günden şimdiye dek Müjde'nin yayılmasındaki işbirliğinizden dolayı her duamda hepiniz için her zaman sevinçle dilekte bulunuyorum. 
    Php 1:6 Sizde iyi bir işe başlamış olan Tanrı'nın bunu Mesih İsa'nın gününe dek bitireceğine güvenim var. 
    Php 1:7 Hepiniz için böyle düşünmekte haklıyım. Her an yüreğimdesiniz. İster zincire vurulmuş, ister Müjde'yi savunup doğrulamakta olayım, hepiniz benimle birlikte Tanrı'nın lütfuna ortaksınız. 

Let's look at a few words:

    • İlk -- The first
    • günden -- day from
    • şimdiye dek -- to now / even
    • Her -- Every
    • an -- moment
    • yüreğimdesiniz. -- you all are on my heart. A lovely compound word! yürek: heart. -im- : my. -de- : on. -siniz: you (plural) are. 

[1] When ten Jewish men could be gathered for a minyan, formal worship took place. Else, informal prayers were offered at a "place of prayer." 

Preaching to slaves (Eph. 6)

During the 19th century, the Methodists perfected the art of "camp meetings." Thousands of people would gather to sing, pray, and listen to preaching. Mass hysteria occasionally gripped the crowd, and some susceptible souls would even go into convulsions. Some ladies would "jerk" so  intensely that the ends of their long braids would crack like whips. 

Yet people would also testify to a sense of release from their sins, from degrading habits and addictions. 

Now, what do you preach when some of the slaveowners bring their slaves along? This was not at all unusual. Many churches built during that era had seperate seating accomodations for the slaves, in balconies in the rear of the meeting room. Well, one noteworthy evangelist used the following text, to explain, first of all, the duties of slaves:

    Eph 6:5 Ey köleler, dünyadaki efendilerinizin sözünü Mesih'in sözünü dinler gibi saygı ve korkuyla, saf yürekle dinleyin. 
    Eph 6:6 Bunu, yalnız insanları hoşnut etmek isteyenler gibi göze hoş görünmek için yapmayın. Mesih'in kulları olarak Tanrı'nın isteğini candan yerine getirin. 
    Eph 6:7 İnsanlara değil, Rab'be hizmet eder gibi gönülden hizmet edin. 
    Eph 6:8 Çünkü ister köle ister özgür olsun, herkesin yaptığı her iyiliğin karşılığını Rab'den alacağını biliyorsunuz. 

Then, once he had the crowd nodding in agreement, he'd preach even more forcefully on the duties of slave owners:

    Eph 6:9 Ey efendiler, siz de kölelerinize aynı biçimde davranın. Artık onları tehdit etmeyin. Onların da sizin de Efendiniz'in göklerde olduğunu ve insanlar arasında ayrım yapmadığını biliyorsunuz. 
Ultimately, our work has significance because it is a means of worshipping God by serving our neighbor. Communist societies, founded on a denial of God, found it impossible to motivate the workers to do more than the bare minimum. A Russian saying went, "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." Without the excellencies of a transcendent God as a standard of comparison, folks "worked to the contract," made a show of doing their duties, but in a slip-shod, half-hearted way. During a two-week visit to Ukraine, I saw a nation full of mediocrity. Charming people, and I hope I can work among them some day, maybe teach for a summer now and then. But, if you have no ethic of what Soltzenitsn referred to as "quality, the soul of technology," you end up with Chernobyl. 

Reality tends to assert itself over ideology.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gotta be bright ! (Eph. 5)

One of the things I admire about my Muslim friends is their conviction that every moment of their lives is lived under the all-seeing gaze of heaven. A man who takes that insight to heart lives far more soberly than the careless idler. Paul plays with the concepts of light, time, and accountability in this chapter of Ephesians:
Eph 5:14 Çünkü görünen her şey ışıktır. Bunun için şöyle deniyor: "Uyan, ey uyuyan! Ölümden diril! Mesih sana ışık saçacak."
Eph 5:15 Öyleyse nasıl yaşadığınıza çok dikkat edin. Bilgelikten yoksun olanlar gibi değil, bilgeler gibi yaşayın.
Eph 5:16 Fırsatı değerlendirin. Çünkü yaşadığımız günler kötüdür.
Eph 5:17 Bunun için akılsız olmayın, Rab'bin isteğinin ne olduğunu anlayın.
Eph 5:18 Şarapla sarhoş olmayın, bu sizi sefahate götürür. Bunun yerine Ruh'la dolun:
Eph 5:19 Birbirinize mezmurlar, ilahiler, ruhsal ezgiler söyleyin; yürekten Rab'be ezgiler, mezmurlar okuyun;
And, a few words:
  • Çünkü -- because, therefore
  • görünen her şey ışıktır -- that which makes visible / every thing / is light
  • Uyan, ey uyuyan! Ölümden diril! Mesih sana ışık saçacak -- Wake up / O / you sleeper! / From the dead / arise! / Christ (Messiah) / to you / light / will sow. (uymak -- to sleep. uyumak -- to wake up.)
  • Öyleyse nasıl yaşadığınıza çok dikkat edin. -- For this reason / how / you are living / very / careful / be.
  • Fırsatı değerlendirin. -- Opportunity / buy up.
Some religions view time as something to passively endure, while you wait for something better to come along. Different Christian groups also have different perspectives on time. Latin American cultures are famed for having institutionalized procrastination with the defining word Manana. (Literally, "tomorrow." In practice, "not today.") Then, there are some middle-eastern cultures that use Insh'allah the same way. The American Calvinists, however, lived by the clock and calendar. They viewed every moment as an irreplaceable asset, that had to be used or forever lost. These Yankees had trouble dealing with the more laid-back culture of the Cajuns, a Catholic, French-speaking society absorbed by the Louisiana Purchase.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sin and anger ( Eph. 4 )

Sometimes, a chapter just has too much content. Too much insight. Too much going on. So, maybe the best thing to do is pick one sentence, and give it some thought.
Eph 4:26 Öfkelenin, ama günah işlemeyin. Öfkenizin üzerine güneş batmasın.
And, a few words:
  • Öfkelenin -- Be angry
  • ama -- but
  • günah -- evil
  • işlemeyin -- do not do.
  • Öfkenizin -- Your anger
  • üzerine -- upon
  • güneş -- the sun
  • batmasın -- do not permit to set.
Anger is a legitimate human emotion. Jesus saw the Gentiles who'd come to worship the God of Israel being crowded out of their permitted place of prayer by mercenary mercantile establishments. He went ballistic, kicked over the tables of the moneychangers, made, and applied a whip. Yet, angry people can also be irrational, if they let their anger master them.

This verse contains advice that will make a marriage happier. Make sure that conflicts are resolved before you call it a night.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Unthinkable! ( Eph. 3 )

On the basis of their shared experiences of both adversity and glory, Paul could pray with exuberant enthusiasm for the Ephesians:

    Eph 3:14-15 Bunun için, yerde ve gökte her ailenin adını kendisinden aldığı Baba'nın önünde diz çökerim.
    Eph 3:16-19 Baba'nın kendi yüceliğinin zenginliği uyarınca Ruhu'yla sizi iç varlığınızda kudretle güçlendirmesini ve Mesih'in iman yoluyla yüreklerinizde yaşamasını dilerim. Öyle ki, Tanrı'nın bütün doluluğuyla dolmanız için, sevgide köklenmiş ve temellenmiş olarak bütün kutsallarla birlikte Mesih'in sevgisinin ne denli geniş ve uzun, yüksek ve derin olduğunu anlamaya, bilgiyi çok aşan bu sevgiyi kavramaya gücünüz yetsin.
    Eph 3:20 Tanrı, bizde etkin olan kudretiyle, dilediğimiz ya da düşündüğümüz her şeyden çok daha fazlasını yapabilecek güçtedir.
    Eph 3:21 Kilisede ve Mesih İsa'da bütün kuşaklar boyunca sonsuzlara dek O'na yücelik olsun! Amin.

Let's look at a few words:

    • Bunun için -- for this reason, therefore
    • yerde ve gökte -- on earth and in heaven
    • her ailenin adını kendisinden aldığı Baba'nın -- every / family / name / its own / receives / of the Father
    • dilediğimiz ya da düşündüğümüz -- what we can know, even in fact what we can imagine
    • her şeyden -- everything than
    • çok daha fazlasını -- much more, to excess
    • yapabilecek -- He is able to do (in the future, the time to come). 
    • güçtedir -- by His power

An old story comes to mind. A man packed his suitcase with cheese and crackers, then booked passage on a cruise liner. Day after day, he passed the other folks relishing fancy dining in the fancy dining room, went to his little stateroom, and washed down dry crackers and rancid cheese with water from the sink. Finally, on the last day, he decided to treat himself to one meal in that dining room. He asked the steward how much it would cost him -- and discovered that the price of all the meals was included in the price of the ticket he'd purchased.

The structure of the universe is patriarchical, in the Christian view. We see ourselves as heirs of heaven's wealth, rich in all that matters most, surrounded with resources (relationships, time, energy, ability, vision) lavished upon us by a generous heavenly Father. Oh, that we would simply take the time to rejoice in, and make use of, what God has already given us!

When we approach our Creator in prayer, we can expect His answers to exceed our wildest hopes -- but in ways we could not imagine. After all, He is God, and we are not.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

God of their fathers ( Eph. 2 )

Max I. Dimont was such a good writer that you could almost overlook his unbelief in God. His book The Jews, God, and History describes the successful inroads that Judaism made in the Roman Empire. Preserving and deepening their cultural identity through the Babylonian Captivity and the following diaspora [1] equipped them with traditions and organizations that allowed them to remain themselves wherever they roamed. Get ten Jewish men together, a minyan, and you could have formal synagogue worship services. Else, you could have an informal "place of prayer." 

The Jewish religion looked pretty good to sophisticated Greeks and Romans who'd grown weary of overlooking, explaining away, or burlesequing the lewd, obscene, antics of their deities. At least the God of the Jews didn't rape betrothed virgins, or demand that worshipers sacrifice their children.[2] By the time the first century AD rolled around, Dimont wrote, approximately one out of every seven subjects of the Roman Empire were attending synagogue services. Some were proselytes. Others, who were squeamish about elective surgery, were "God-fearers." If you were not a full-scale Jew, your prayers began "O God of their faithers."[3] When you went to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel, you did so from the Court of the Gentiles -- if you could find a place to pray in the midst of a livestock auction, commercial emporium, and banking establishment. 

SO we had this dispersion of smug insiders, surrounded by wanna-bees. Then we had Paul showing up to upset the status quo, by asserting that the old distinctions were now obsolete:

    Eph 2:11 Bunun için, öteki uluslardan doğan sizler bir zamanlar ne olduğunuzu anımsayın: Bedende elle yapılmış sünnete sahip olup "sünnetli" diye anılanların "sünnetsiz" dedikleri sizler,
    Eph 2:12 o zaman Mesihsiz, İsrail'de vatandaşlıktan yoksun, vaade dayanan antlaşmalara yabancı, dünyada umutsuz ve tanrısızdınız.
    Eph 2:13 Ama bir zamanlar uzak olan sizler, şimdi Mesih İsa'da Mesih'in kanı sayesinde yakın kılındınız.
    Eph 2:14-16 Çünkü Mesih'in kendisi barışımızdır. Kutsal Yasa'yı, buyrukları ve kurallarıyla birlikte etkisiz kılarak iki topluluğu birleştirdi, aradaki engel duvarını, yani düşmanlığı kendi bedeninde yıktı. Amacı bu iki topluluktan kendisinde yeni bir insan yaratarak esenliği sağlamak, düşmanlığı çarmıhta öldürmek ve çarmıh aracılığıyla bir bedende iki topluluğu Tanrı'yla barıştırmaktı.
    Eph 2:17 O gelip hem uzakta olan sizlere hem de yakındakilere esenliği müjdeledi.
    Eph 2:18 O'nun aracılığıyla hepimiz tek Ruh'ta Baba'nın huzuruna çıkabiliriz.
    Eph 2:19 Böylece artık yabancı ve garip değil, kutsallarla birlikte yurttaş ve Tanrı'nın ev halkısınız.

OK, time for a few words:

    • o zaman -- at that time 
  • Mesihsiz -- without the Messiah
    • İsrail'de vatandaşlıktan yoksun -- of Israel / a citizen / you were not
  • artık -- now
  • yabancı -- foreigner. Alien. 
  • garip -- stranger
  • kutsallarla --  with the saints (kutsal - holy. -lar- plural. The saints. -la with)
  • birlikte -- united, at one with (bir - one. -lik- pertaining of the characteristics of. -te with, on, at)
  • yurttaş -- household. A yurt, you'll recall, is a round tent.
    • Tanrı'nın ev -- God's house
  • halkısınız -- you are people 

In Jesus, and through His ongoing work, God makes us one. It's sad that there exists a strain of belief in many American Christians that we should distinguish between those whom God has made one, and imagine that unbelieving Jews have a special status of some kind with God.


[1] A scattering, as in when you broadcast seed. Spore = seed. This term refers to ethnic groups that preserve their identities without benefit of homeland. The first, primary, reference is to the wandering Jews who drifted around the world as cultural aliens for nearly 2,000 years. To refer to other groups with a similar experience, you need to add an adjective: the overseas Chinese disaspora, for example.

[2] This is a G-rated blog, so decency precludes discussion of how the earth mother Cybele was worshipped!

[3] "Oh" is a generic exclamation. "O" is "vocative." You use O to invoke one of higher status, such as God, or the king. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Those were the good old days ! (Eph. 1)

Ephesians is one of the most exuberant of Paul's epistles. Penned from a Roman prison, this letter celebrates the overwhelming goodness of God that the people at Ephesus had come to know through Paul's ministry. It was a Ephesus that Paul spent two years, settled in one place, teaching routinely in the same place day after day. His lessons were avidly attended, and students fanned out throughout Anatolia to share the good news of this Kingdom Paul described, and demonstrated. His laundry wasn't safe -- folks swiped his "tidy whities" as aids to prayer. The impact of his message threatened the town's major industry, the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. At least, some of the peripheral industries around this temple felt threatened, and provoked a riot. At this point, we learn that several of the regional governors, the asiarchs, considered Paul a personal friend.

Well, that was all a while ago. Yet, people who experienced extraordinary events together have a bond that transcends decades. There are reasons why older soldiers seek out each others' company. Why school reunions commemorate and try to recreate the incandescent few years some of the people enjoyed. Some of this gratitude for shared grace shines through Paul's initial statements:
Eph 1:3 Bizi Mesih'te her ruhsal kutsamayla göksel yerlerde kutsamış olan Rabbimiz İsa Mesih'in Babası Tanrı'ya övgüler olsun.
Eph 1:4 O kendi önünde sevgide kutsal ve kusursuz olmamız için dünyanın kuruluşundan önce bizi Mesih'te seçti.
Eph 1:5 Kendi isteği ve iyi amacı uyarınca İsa Mesih aracılığıyla kendisine oğullar olalım diye bizi önceden belirledi.
Eph 1:6 Öyle ki, sevgili Oğlu'nda bize bağışladığı yüce lütfu övülsün.
I've highlighted the first person plural (we, us, our) references.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who's laughing, now? (Gal. 6)

Athanasius, one of my favorite church fathers, wrote a lively devotional and theological work On the Incarnation. In a memorable metaphor, he explained that Jesus had, by His death, burial, and resurrection, deprived death of its power to terrify. Instead, death was like a captive enemy, shackled on a public street, to be mocked by all who pass by.

Some things are properly mocked. Satan, for example, has no sense of humor. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, who brings the lunacies of the left to light, in a humorous and cheerful way.

Then, there is Paul's agricultural admonition, concerning things that are not to be mocked:
Gal 6:7 Aldanmayın, Tanrı alaya alınmaz. İnsan ne ekerse onu biçer.
Gal 6:8 Kendi benliğine eken, benlikten ölüm biçecektir. Ruh'a eken, Ruh'tan sonsuz yaşam biçecektir.
Imagine a farmer who sows a field of turnips, then expects to harvest corn. He can fertilize that field, irrigate it, talk to his neighbors about how much he's looking forward to cooking corn on the cob -- but the seed germinating in the ground is turning into turnips. What the farmer wishes for doesn't count -- it's what he's sown!

We reap what we sow.
We reap after we sow.
We reap more than we sow.

Jesus said that, unless we understand the parable of the sower, seed, and ground, we'll remain ignorant of His Kingdom.

If you do what you like ... (Gal. 5)

If you do what you like, then, at the end of the day, you won't like what you did. Goofing off, cutting corners, procrastinating, are the easiest things in the world. But let those habits take root, and becoming a productive man or woman becomes a progressively more difficult task. Habits shape (and warp) character.
Gal 5:17 Çünkü benlik Ruh'a, Ruh da benliğe aykırı olanı arzular. Bunlar birbirine karşıttır; sonuç olarak, istediğinizi yapamıyorsunuz.
Your time management is the sum of every little decision you make during the day. Those who can deny themselves, can achieve. Those who choose, time after time, to indulge themselves, fail to profit from the abundant opportunities dropped in their path.

(This message is easier to preach than it is to act on, BTW!)

Peter Pan syndrome (Gal. 4)

Abdullah is a popular name among Muslims, a confession that one is "a slave of Allah." In the order of the universe, there is only room for one God -- and it ain't me. I can dig it.

On the other hand, slaves tend to lack ambition. They have a set of clearly-defined chores to complete. In exchange, they receive room, board, clothing. During the American Great Depression, the federal government employed a number of destitute English majors as oral historians. They went around collecting slave narratives, the verbal memoirs of the aging African Americans who remembered life before the War Between the States. 80% or more of them considered life on the plantation as the happiest and most secure period of their lives.

Christians assert that God has adopted them as sons, as heirs. A son pays more attention to what is going on, since he anticipates having a stake in the success of the family estate. A dutiful son will stay mentally engaged, seeking to grow in his ability to understand and manage the resources coming his way. A slave just follows orders.

Paul talks about the contrasting perceptions of duty experienced by sons and slaves:
Gal 4:6 Oğullar olduğunuz için Tanrı öz Oğlu'nun "Abba! Baba!" diye seslenen Ruhu'nu yüreklerinize gönderdi.
Gal 4:7 Bu nedenle artık köle değil, oğullarsınız. Oğullar olduğunuz için de Tanrı sizi aynı zamanda mirasçı yaptı.
Gal 4:9 Şimdiyse Tanrı'yı tanıdınız, daha doğrusu Tanrı tarafından tanındınız. Öyleyse nasıl oluyor da bu değersiz, etkisiz ilkelere dönüyorsunuz? Yeniden onların kölesi mi olmak istiyorsunuz?
We have a touch of God's presence on our lives that assures us of His paternal interest in our lives. Yet, sons need to grow up. It's so much easier to regress, to slip back into the childish irresponsibility of simply doing chores and following orders. In America, we speak of the "Peter Pan Syndrome," named for the literary character who refused to grow up.
Not good. Christians view life as an ongoing struggle to responsibly use the precious assets of life, time, and opportunity. But it's a good fight.

The true sons of Abraham (Gal. 3)

My mother disappeared for several days when I was 13 months old. Finally, my dad took me to a big building where she was resting. I rushed into the room, eager to see her again -- and saw a supplanter at her bosom. Shocked beyond words, I turned around and stomped out of the room in tears. Much of my childhood was shaped by envy and resentment towards this younger brother, who had the people skills I lacked. A suave, charismatic guy who people automatically liked had stolen the spotlight that I'd considered my birthright.

Abraham had two sons by his first marriage, one by his concubine Hagar, and one by his wife Sarah.[1] Sibling rivalry became so intense that Isaac's mother demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be sent packing -- in the middle of the desert.

This injustice still rankles, thousands of years later. This sense of having been unjustly displaced. The Arabs of today trace their lineage back to wronged Ishmael. The Jews, to the favored golden boy, Isaac.

So who, then, are, the true sons of Abraham? The Christian answer is paradoxical -- none/all of the above:
Gal 3:26 Çünkü Mesih İsa'ya iman ettiğiniz için hepiniz Tanrı'nın oğullarısınız.
Gal 3:27 Vaftizde Mesih'le birleşenlerinizin hepsi Mesih'i giyindi.
Gal 3:28 Artık ne Yahudi ne Grek, ne köle ne özgür, ne erkek ne dişi ayrımı var. Hepiniz Mesih İsa'da birsiniz.
Gal 3:29 Eğer Mesih'e aitseniz, İbrahim'in soyundansınız, vaade göre de mirasçısınız.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, the gracious Creator's "graphic user interface" with the universe, His ultimate "avatar," any who enter into a covenant with the Creator can, once again, have a Father's undivided attention. We who believe in Jesus are the true descendants of Abraham, the inheritors of His promised goodness.


[1] He had a number of children by his second wife, Keturah. By then, he'd already distributed the bulk of his estate, but he gave each of these additional sons a present and sent them packing when they came of age.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Seductive Scaffolding (Gal. 2)

The power of culture is a beautiful thing, when it helps one subordinate his personal agenda to broader purposes, such as the glory of God and the well-faring of one's neighbor. We are all the products and the shapers of our cultures. As we make holidays special for our children, we create oases of joy in their lives, wonderful and wonder-filled times of the year. The Christian year includes advent and Christmas. Lent and Easter. The Muslim year includes the Sugar Feast (Şeker Bayram) at the end of Ramazan, and the Feast of the Sacrifice a month later.

Suppose, though, that one's culture turns malignant? Tha Nazis had a passionate love for their own people, kultur, and traditions. A land famed for poets, musicians, precision instruments, and chemistry, became the wellspring of terrifying darkness.

The Christian gospel began in the context of the Jewish land, people, faith, and culture. Jesus, however, preached that the Jewish culture had become ingrown, toxic, and reprobate to its original purpose -- to carry God's glory to the whole world. This message did not sit too well with the cultural elites of his day, the people responsible for shaping and defining the culture he denigrated.

Yet, even though the Jewish Christians knew that God had invited non-Jews to experience His grace, the cultural barriers to full inclusion remained stubborn. For example -- Peter (Kefas) was the apostle who first took the Gospel to the Gentiles, in the person of pious Cornelius, a Roman occupation officer. Yet, when put to the test, he failed to be gracious. Hewas intimidated by those whose self-worth depended on snubbing others:
Gal 2:11 Ne var ki, Kefas Antakya'ya geldiği zaman, suçlu olduğu için ona açıkça karşı geldim.
Gal 2:12 Çünkü Yakup'un yanından bazı adamlar gelmeden önce Kefas öteki uluslardan* olanlarla birlikte yemek yerdi. Ama o adamlar gelince sünnet yanlılarından korkarak sünnetsizlerden* uzaklaştı, onlarla yemek yemez oldu.
Gal 2:13 Öbür Yahudiler de onun gibi ikiyüzlülük ettiler. Sonunda Barnaba bile onların ikiyüzlülüğüne kapıldı.
Gal 2:14 Müjde gerçeğine uygun davranmadıklarını görünce hepsinin önünde Kefas'a şöyle dedim: "Yahudi olduğun halde Yahudi gibi değil, öteki uluslardan biri gibi yaşıyorsun, nasıl olur da ulusları Yahudi gibi yaşamaya zorlarsın?
Let's look at one word tonight:
  • ikiyüzlülük -- Hypocrisy. One of those marvelous Turkish words assembled from components you snap together like Lego blocks: iki- -- two. -yüz- -- face. -lü- -- with. -lük -- condition of.
The Jewish culture had served as a scaffold, holding things together while Israel awaiting her Messiah. Now, however, it had become a barrier, an unsightly encrustation on the fresh new Kingdom revealed by the arrival of the King. Sadly, when push came to shove, many of the Jewish Christians were more Jewish than Christian. In Israel's hour of need, many rallied around the standard of Jewish culture, and left Jesus behind. They condemned 2,000 years worth of their children to eternal perdition, rather than betray their native culture.

Meanwhile, back in Anatolia ... (Gal. 1)

At an early stage in his ministry, Paul started a community of believers in his own home territory, in Anatolia. We don't know exactly why he began preaching to them. He suggests that it was not during one of the happier periods of his life -- he was tormented by a painful physical ailment. Yet, somehow, a church was established. People began meeting regularly, studying the LXX [1], and discussing the implication of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, God's revelation, and Savior.

Then, they went off the rails:
Gal 1:6 Sizi Mesih'in lütfuyla çağıranı bırakıp değişik bir müjdeye böylesine çarçabuk dönmenize şaşıyorum.
Gal 1:7 Gerçekte başka bir müjde yoktur. Ancak aklınızı karıştırıp Mesih'in Müjdesi'ni çarpıtmak isteyenler vardır.
Gal 1:8 İster biz, ister gökten bir melek size bildirdiğimize ters düşen bir müjde bildirirse, lanet olsun ona!
Mess with someone's children, and you can expect to provoke some SERIOUS wrath. In the last decade of the 19th century, immigrant parents marched on public schools with torches and pitchforks. Paul regarded these Galatian Christians as his spiritual children. He had invested in them, and expected them to carry his values, his message, forward into the future. Let's look at a few words:
  • İster biz -- if we
  • ister gökten bir melek -- if a from-heaven angel
  • bildirdiğimize -- makes known to you
  • müjde -- gospel, good news
  • lanet olsun -- accursed / let him be
Gotta watch out for angels with new messages! In America, we have to deal with Mormons, a cult founded by a guy named Joseph Smith, who claimed that an angel gave him a newer testament, engraved on golden plates. Smith's new religion made him a rich man, and filled his marriage bed with a harem of willing additional wives.


[1] The Septuigent, abbreviated LXX - the Roman Numerals for 70 -- was the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the Christians quickly adopted as their own holy book.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Paradox, again! ( II Cor. 13 )

Christians have got to be crazy. On the one hand, we ascribe all kinds of honors to Jesus, even to the extent of what our Muslims friends call shirk -- associating Him with the Creator in nature, power, and honor. On the other hand, though, we believe that this totally special guy expired in painful disgrace on a Roman cross. Does not compute!

There are reasons why Paul forthrightly admitted that the doctrine of the crucified Savior was a scandal. This word derives from the Greek word σκάνδαλον, which originally referred to the trip-lever on a trap. Think of today's idiomatic expression "third rail." Looks harmless, but touch it, and you die!

Which brings us to today's verse:
2Co 13:4 Güçsüzlük içinde çarmıha gerildiği halde, şimdi Tanrı'nın gücüyle yaşıyor. Biz de O'nda güçsüz olduğumuz halde, Tanrı'nın gücü sayesinde O'nunla birlikte sizin yararınıza yaşayacağız.
A few words:
  • güç -- power, strength, force, might. A computer's power supply is a güç kaynak.
  • güçsüz -- powerless. Weak.
  • güçsüzlük -- weakness.
  • halde -- even though
  • yaşımak -- to live
  • birlikte -- in unity with. (bir -- one. birlik -- oneness, unity. birlikte -- in unity with.)
When Süleyman and I watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ together, he said that the Turkish audience had wept to see the suffering inflicted upon Jesus in the movie. Which explains, I replied, why Christians love Jesus as we do, since we believe He bore that suffering on our behalf.

But God had the last word in the life of Jesus, and continues to have the last word in the context of our often muddled, disastrous lives. No matter how bad things look, we always have reason for hope, for joy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When I am weak ( II Cor. 12 )

In this chapter, Paul, to his own disgust, cites his diplomas and credentials. Max Weber broke leadership down into three flavors:

  • Traditional -- the village elder, the parish priest
  • Bureaucratic -- the interchangeable, impersonal manager
  • Charismatic -- the guy who simply looks credible. The kind of guy people want to hang around with, and wish they could be.

Paul viewed himself as a man with a commission from the King of the universe. Paul announced the glad tidings that the King had dropped in, surveyed his domain, and went on his way, leaving his servants in charge. His focus was on the King. He served the King, and wished to attach those who heard him directly to the person of the real majesty on high. Much of Paul's charisma stemmed from his integrity, his uncompromised allegiance to the One who had conscripted him into the noblest service in the universe, that is, service to the One who had created the universe.

Now, he has to deal with these bureaucratic bunglers who have no visible loyalty to the King, but are obsessed with their own positions. He thought he'd instructed the Corinthians better about the things that really mattered, and here they were, running after con artists with slicker sales pitches. After enumerating his credentials, his diplomas, his certifications, and even his mystical experiences, Paul comes to the bottom line. As the first sentence in Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life puts it, "It's not about you." Next to his mission, and the King who'd commissioned him, Paul was insignificant. And he appreciated the painful "reality check" that God had given him, to help him maintain his perspective:

    2Co 12:7 Aldığım vahiylerin üstünlüğüyle gururlanmayayım diye bana bedende bir diken, beni yumruklamak için Şeytan'ın bir meleği verildi, gururlanmayayım diye.
    2Co 12:8 Bundan kurtulmak için Rab'be üç kez yalvardım.
    2Co 12:9 Ama O bana, "Lütfum sana yeter. Çünkü gücüm, güçsüzlükte tamamlanır" dedi. İşte, Mesih'in gücü içimde bulunsun diye güçsüzlüklerimle sevinerek daha çok övüneceğim.

What do you do when God doesn't answer your prayers? Ask for insight:
  • Bundan -- Concerning this
  • kurtulmak -- to deliver, to save.
  • için -- in order to
  • Rab'be -- to the Lord
  • üç kez -- three times
  • yalvardım -- I begged
  • Lütfum -- My grace
  • yeter. -- suffices
  • Çünkü -- because
  • gücüm -- my strength
  • güçsüzlükte -- in weakness
  • tamamlanır -- is made perfect

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A matter of image (II Cor. 11)

Traditional oral cultures pack a great deal of wisdom into pithy sayings, short stories, brief and memorable fables. The folk hero of the Turks, Nasrettin Hoca, was a humorist whose very tomb is one last joke -- a strong, well-made gate, with a stout padlock -- and no walls. The beloved Hoca, however, is remembered for his penetrating insight into humanity and our foibles. For example:

Once, the Hoca was invited to a feast. He'd been hard at work, and didn't have time to change out of his work clothes. The fashionable glitterati did not even deign to notice this invited guest. So the Hoca went home, changed into his best robe, and returned. He was welcomed to the table, and proceeded to feed the choicest delicacies to his robe. "Try this, dear robe, it's excellent," he'd say, and slip another item up a sleeve.

"Hoca, have you gone crazy? Why are you talking to your robe? Why are you feeding your robe?"

"Well, why not? It's obvious that the robe was invited to this feast, not me!"

Things are not always what they seem. The friendly people knocking at your door may intend you eternal harm. The sophisticated emissaries from an ancient religion, who only want to help you attain a better version of your salvation, might be marketing something else, indeed. Let's look at a few sentences:

    2Co 11:13 Bu tür adamlar sahte elçiler, düzenbaz işçiler, kendilerine Mesih'in elçisi süsü verenlerdir.
    2Co 11:14 Buna şaşmamalı. Şeytan da kendisine ışık meleği süsü verir.
    2Co 11:15 Ona hizmet edenlerin de kendilerine doğruluğun hizmetkârları süsü vermesi şaşırtıcı değildir. Onların sonu yaptıklarına göre olacaktır.
    2Co 11:16 Yine söylüyorum, kimse beni akılsız sanmasın. Öyle sanıyorsanız, akılsız birini kabul eder gibi de olsa beni kabul edin ki, ben de biraz övüneyim!
    2Co 11:17 Söylediklerimi Rab'bin söyleyeceği gibi değil, akılsız biri gibi, bu övüngen tavırla söylüyorum.

Let's look at a few words:

  • süs -- ornament, decoration
  • süsü vermesi -- to pose as, to pass oneself off as[1]
  • Şeytan da kendisine ışık meleği süsü verir -- Satan / even / himself / light / angel / poses as 

One way we can tell the false prophets is their overweening pride in themselves, and in their own appearance.[2] Paul does go on to list other tests, in this chapter and the next. Satan can appear as an angel to decieve the children of men. And his emissaries can look like the best people. As I used to exhort my son Gregory[3], "My son, be alert. The world needs more lerts." 


[1] America used to be a very color-conscious society -- but a lot of "traffic" happened among the races. Among the black community, some were not as black as their mothers. In fact, some could even pass for white. When the Democrats who ruled rural southern counties tried to keep their black neighbors from voting, sometimes a man who "could pass" would find out where the registration desk was hidden. And a line of black citizens would show up at a bank vault, for example ... 

[2] a few lines from John Bunyan's allegory Pilgrim's Progress come to mind:

Faithful. Why, at first, I found myself somewhat inclinable to go with the man, for I thought he spake very fair; but ...
Christian. And how then?
Faithful. Then it came burning hot in my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave. 

[3] Gregory is a name derived from the Greek verb that means "be watchful. Keep watch. Be vigilant. Be alert." It's the last word in Mark 13.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A rigged game (II Cor. 10)

There's no pleasing some people. Folks who wish to denigrate others, in this sad, fallen, world, can always find grounds to do so. If no substantive grounds exist, folks will make up imaginary standards that they themselves meet, but that you did not realize you were falling short of.

Paul's competitors faulted his lack of urbane, smooth, sophistication. Paul was a plain-spoken guy. In fact, his epistles are some of the easiest reading in the NT. Inside their own little mutual congratulation clubs, the judaizers reigned supreme. Yet, as Paul told them in his day, and us today, that means little:
Kendi kendilerini tavsiye eden bazılarılyla kendimizi bir tutmaya ya da karşılaştırmakla akılsızlık ediyorlar.
A few words:
  • Kendi -- self
  • tavsiye -- recommendation, commendation, advice
  • akılsızlık -- unwise
Those who compete for the favor of those whose self-image depends on withholding it are in a rigged game, one they can't win. As a famous American wit said, upon being turned down for membership in a country club, "I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me for a member!"

Paul pointed to the actual results of his work -- including the Corinthian church itself, and pointed out that, in the final analysis, it's not those who praise themselves who win at life, but those who hear the Lord's praise, His "Well done, good and faithful servant."

O Lord, grant that we may work for your praise alone, and not give the time of day to those who would belittle us for their own satisfaction!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sowing and reaping (II Cor. 9)

We return to one of the major themes of this epistle in this chapter. Paul was holding the Corinthians upside down by the ankles, shaking vigorously, and collected the coins that clattered out of their pockets. This was a fund-raising letter.

Here' is one of his more convincing arguments:
2Co 9:6 Şunu unutmayın: Az eken az biçer, çok eken çok biçer.
2Co 9:7 Herkes yüreğinde niyet ettiği gibi versin; isteksizce ya da zorlanmış gibi değil. Çünkü Tanrı sevinçle vereni sever.
Tonight's words:
  • Şunu unutmayın -- This / do not forget
  • Az eken -- scanty, niggardly, grudgingly / to sow
  • biçer -- reaps
  • çok -- greatly, lavishly, abundantly
  • Çünkü Tanrı -- Because God
  • sevinçle -- with loving gladness. The Greek word here, ἱλαρὸν , is the root of the English word hilarious.
  • vereni -- (to) a giver
  • sever -- He loves.
The most devastating thing a bright kid learns in public school is how to be lazy. How to put forth just enough effort to stay afloat -- which is practically none at all. Take those attitudes and habits into the real world of work, however, and your career track has way too many gaps! In the real world, those who thrive are those who do more than the minimum, more than just enough to "get by." Productive people will always do well.

Poverty and wealth (II Cor. 8)

A metaphor Christians frequently use to explain who Jesus is to them is the novel. Suppose the writer writes himself into the story? Then, those who read the story can learn from that character within the narrative about the character of the Author. With this in mind, consider Paul's meditation on wealth and poverty:
2Co 8:9 Rabbimiz İsa Mesih'in lütfunu bilirsiniz. O'nun yoksulluğuyla siz zengin olasınız diye, zengin olduğu halde sizin uğrunuza yoksul oldu.
A few words:
  • lütfunu -- grace, kindness
  • bilirsiniz -- know. Understand.
  • yoksulluğuyla --by means of his poverty
  • zengin --wealth
We adore a God who became poor, who became one of us, who wrote himself into our story, which is actually his-story (history), in order to enrich us with grace, blessings, and eternal wealth beyond anything we could have ever imagined.

Make room! (II Cor. 7)

One of the wealthiest men in America, an evangelical Christian, asked one of the wisest men in America, a Calvinist scholar and writer, what he should do to maximize his influence as a man of both wealth and faith. The scholar suggested that he build, and endow, 100 high-quality Christian high schools in the United States. Get time working for you by investing in future-oriented projects. Work for long-term results.

Unfortunately, the rich man consulted other counselors, men with other ideas. Why wait for kids to graduate, establish themselves in their careers, and shape the culture over the course of decades? Why, with enough money, and my nifty scheme, we could present our message to everyone in America practically overnight!

After the rich man had expended a great deal of his wealth on these instant-result projects, and had nothing to show for them, his family grew alarmed. They took control of the enterprise away from the guy who'd shown such poor judgment.

I think Paul had a similar experience, of hanging on by his fingernails to a project that was jittering and skittering in bizarre directions. The years of effort he had poured into the church at Corinth, and the eternal destinies of its members, were all threatened by snake-oil salesmen with their nifty new schemes. Paul appeals to the personal relationship he had with the Corinthian Christians:
2Co 7:2 Yüreklerinizde bize yer verin. Kimseye haksızlık etmedik, kimseyi yoldan saptırmadık, kimseyi sömürmedik.
Let's look at a few words:
  • Yüreklerinizde -- in your hearts. Yürek- (heart) + -ler- (plural sign) + -iniz- (your) + -de (at/on/in)
  • bize -- to us
  • yer -- place
  • verin -- give
  • Kimseye -- to anyone
  • haksızlık -- injustice. hak- (justice) + -sız- (without) + -lık (the quality of)
  • etmedik -- we have not done
  • yoldan -- the road, the way
  • saptırmadık -- we have not defiled, spoiled
  • sömürmedik -- we have not exploited
The appeal to personal experience can be powerful. When John Wesley was mobbed, he would speak respectfully to the rioters, asking which of them he had personally injured, which he had personally offended, so that he could make it right. Time after time, he escaped unscathed.

These are the good old days (I Cor. 6)

This title comes from the haunting chorus to Carly Simon's 1972 hit Anticipation. After the singer reflects on the immediate pleasures anticipated, and the uncertainty of the long run, the chorus asserts that things are really wonderful now, and will be so remembered.

Paul seemed to have something similar in mind in his exhortation to the Corninthians:
2Co 6:2 Çünkü Tanrı diyor ki, "Uygun zamanda seni duydum, Kurtuluş günü sana yardım ettim." Uygun zaman işte şimdidir, kurtuluş günü işte şimdidir.
A few words:
  • Uygun zamanda seni duydum -- Favorable / at a time / to you / I have listened
  • Uygun zaman işte şimdidir -- favorable / time / behold / this is
  • kurtuluş günü işte şimdidir -- of salvation / the day / behold / this is. (The Turkish War of Independence, the crucible that forged the identity of this modern republic, is known to them as Kurtuluş Savaş -- the salvation war.)

Invisible means of support (II Cor. 5)

Here's a little bit of American folklore. Once upon a time, everyone knew the difference between a hobo, a tramp, and a bum.
  • A hobo was a migrant worker, someone who road freight trains from city to city, following the seasons or the opportunities for short-term work. A century ago, hobos had a distinctive culture, and an elaborate hieroglyphic language. A hobo sign on the white picket fence let other hobos know that the resident could be approached for a free meal, or perhaps a meal in exchange for an hour's worth of work. Another sign warned later travelers of vicious dogs.
  • A tramp was a migrant non-worker.
  • A bum was a non-migrant non-worker.
Of course, as far as the police were concerned, all of these folks were "vagrants." By definition, a vagrant has "no visible means of support." Since he doesn't have a standard job, then he's probably doing something mendacious, underhand or illegal for his daily bread.[1]

Still, as every person of faith knows, it is the invisible things that sustain us through the trials of life.
2Co 5:6 Bu nedenle her zaman cesaretimiz vardır. Şunu biliyoruz ki, bu bedende yaşadıkça Rab'den uzaktayız.
2Co 5:7 Gözle görülene değil, imana dayanarak yaşarız.
2Co 5:8 Cesaretimiz vardır diyorum ve bedenden uzakta, Rab'bin yanında olmayı yeğleriz.
A few words:
  • Gözle -- With the eye. Göz (eye) + le (with)
  • görülene -- that which is seen
  • değil -- not
  • imana -- by faith
  • yaşarız -- we live


[1] More than half of the paper money in circulation in the USA consists of $100 bills. These don't change hands as often as the smaller denominations, and are very valuable in the underworld (criminal enterprises, such as drug dealing) and underground -- the untaxed free / gray market. If you are fortunate enough to know a plumber who will take cash for his work, you will probably be able to spend far less on plumbing repairs, for example.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We become like what we behold (2 Cor. 4)

We'll start today's discussion by swiping the last verse of chapter 3. After all, the divisions into chapters and verses are frequently arbitrary, and not part of the original text.
2Co 3:18 Ve biz hepimiz peçesiz yüzle Rab'bin yüceliğini görerek yücelik üstüne yücelikle O'na benzer olmak üzere değiştiriliyoruz. Bu da Ruh olan Rab sayesinde oluyor.
A few words:
  • peçesiz -- unveiled. Combines peçe (veil) with the negating suffix -siz.
  • yüzle -- with the face. Combines yüz (face) with the "with" suffix -le.
  • değiştiriliyoruz -- we are transformed.
It's an astonishing claim. As Christians, we assert that we can understand the character of God by considering the biography of Jesus. One ordinary life, so mundane that even his brothers had no idea that there was anything special about this carpenter's son from Nazareth.[1] Furthermore, our book teaches us that paying attention to this Jesus is good for us:
2Co 4:6 Çünkü, "Işık karanlıktan parlayacak" diyen Tanrı, İsa Mesih'in yüzünde parlayan kendi yüceliğini tanımamızdan doğan ışığı bize vermek için yüreklerimizi aydınlattı.
2Co 4:7 Üstün gücün bizden değil, Tanrı'dan kaynaklandığı bilinsin diye bu hazineye toprak kaplar içinde sahibiz.
Again, a few words:
  • Işık -- light
  • karanlıktan -- from darkness
  • parlayacak -- will shine, twinkle, sparkle
  • yüreklerimizi -- our hearts
  • aydınlattı -- has shone. When you wish a Turk "Gün aydın," you are wishing him a bright, a shining, day.
Those who encounter the living Jesus Christ by faith typically experience a fresh insight into the purposes and significance of life. Peter describes this as "the day dawns, and the day star rises in your heart."


[1] Taxation makes family formation very difficult in Italy. The typical Italian family has fewer than two children. This means that, in another few generations, there will be far fewer Italians. A topical joke asserts that Jesus must have been Italian -- after all, he was 30, still living at home, single, hung around with the guys, and his mother thought he was God!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I love a parade! ( 2 Cor. 2)

As a high-school band member a bit over four decades ago, I was the favored target of kids with pea-shooters. When the parade went by, I was toting and tooting a sousaphone. Wearing a fancy uniform, brass buttons gleaming from the application of Brasso and elbow grease.[1] Playing patriotic and martial tunes. Entertaining the crowds lining both sides of the street.

We don't seem to have as many parades any more. A scholar I love, R. J. Rushdoony, commented on that in one of his later books. Processions, he pointed out, are religious events. Patriotic American parades often celebrate our "civic religion," a generic, denatured Unitarianism that recommends some kind of unspecified piety towards an undefined deity. Gibbon spoke of the Roman religious beliefs -- "All equally true to the citizen, equally false to the philosopher, equally useful to the magistrate."

Hegel described the State, humanity in its ultimate collective form (or so he thought), as "God marching through history." In this chapter, Paul compares the march of history to a Roman triumph. As the enchained captives trudged through the streets, they carried pots of incense. Those towards the front of the parade would be released at the end. Those toward the end, put to death. The same incense carried two different, and contrasting, messages to those who smelled it.
2Co 2:14 Bizi her zaman Mesih'in zafer alayında yürüten, O'nu tanımanın güzel kokusunu aracılığımızla her yerde yayan Tanrı'ya şükürler olsun!
2Co 2:15 Çünkü biz hem kurtulanlar hem de mahvolanlar arasında Tanrı için Mesih'in güzel kokusuyuz.
2Co 2:16 Mahvolanlar için ölüme götüren ölüm kokusu, kurtulanlar içinse yaşama götüren yaşam kokusuyuz. Böylesi bir işe kim yeterlidir?
Two words for tonight:
  • ölüm -- death
  • yaşam -- life
What people say about Jesus tells us quite a bit about them. Some folks find this message about the Great King, and His astonishing triumphs, the best news possible. Others resent the very notion of there being a god beyond themselves, one to whom they will give account.

What do we smell like to you?[2]

[1] Idiomatic expression describing the most important ingredient in the cleaning process -- human energy!

[2] When I tried to say, in Turkish, to a new friend that she was afraid of dogs, I said she smelled like dogs ... amazing what a difference a single letter r can make between korkmak and kokmak!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shake before using (2 Cor. 1)

During Paul's prolonged stay in Ephesus, the leading city of Anatolia, he enjoyed a period of incredible achievement. People swiped his laundry, and saw miracles happen when his tidy whities were laid on people suffering from illness and demonic oppression. Day after day, he taught eager listeners in a rented room in the school of a guy named Tyrannus. As a result of this ministry, everyone in the province of Asia (a big chunk of present-day Turkey) heard the gospel within two years. Even the devils (the cinler) described Paul as a force to be reckoned with.

So what did this man at the peak of his powers, his influence, his achievement, have to say for himself? What does it feel like to be on top of the world? Let's see his own words:
2Co 1:8 Kardeşlerim, Asya İli'nde çektiğimiz sıkıntılardan habersiz kalmanızı istemiyoruz. Dayanabileceğimizden çok ağır bir yük altındaydık. Öyle ki, yaşamaktan bile umudumuzu kesmiştik.
2Co 1:9 Ölüme mahkûm olduğumuzu içimizde hissettik. Ama bu, kendimize değil, ölüleri dirilten Tanrı'ya güvenmemiz için oldu.
2Co 1:10 Tanrı bizi böylesine büyük bir ölüm tehlikesinden kurtardı; daha da kurtaracaktır. Umudumuzu O'na bağladık.
One interesting Turkish word, habersiz, combines haber (news) with the "lacking" suffix (-siz). Paul did not want the folks in Corinth to remain clueless about his trials, the price he paid for his ministry. Yes, people of good will were eager to hear his good news of the Great King's reign. On the other hand, his Jewish countrymen were humiliated by Paul's assertion that they had missed the biggest opportunity in history. The people of his own culture regarded him as a renegade, and their snubs, slights, and contemptuous insults made life miserable quite frequently.


[1] OK -- so that brings an SQL (structured query language) joke to mind:
SELECT * FROM users WHERE clue > 0;
0 rows returned
Well, if that's obscure, have another geek joke:
There are 10 kinds of people in the world.
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Ah, well. There's no place like