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

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Systematic generosity (I Cor. 16)

The late US Senator Ted Kennedy enjoyed an income somewhere north of $1 million / year, and a major interest in a family foundation worth hundreds of millions. His 2002 tax returns, a matter of public record, indicate that he donated just a bit over $2,700 to charity. In his letter to the pope requesting prayer, Ted could not bring himself to say those three words so hateful, so damn near impossible, for liberal politicians: "I was wrong."

Well, maybe he said those words to the only Judge whose opinion matters. Maybe a century from now, we'll discover that his hidden hand bequeathed massive sums to secret charity. Since I'm not God, I don't know.

Still, let's look at a Biblical picture of routine, normative, religious charity:
1Co 16:2 Haftanın ilk günü herkes kazancına göre bir miktar para ayırıp biriktirsin. Öyle ki, yanınıza geldiğimde para toplamaya gerek kalmasın.
And, a few words:
  • Haftanın -- of the week
  • ilk -- the first
  • günü -- day
  • herkes -- all, each (of you)
  • kazancına -- your gains
  • göre -- according to
  • bir miktar -- a religious offering
  • para -- fiscal
  • biriktirsin --separate out
Routine. Regular. On the first day of the week. Something all functioning believers are expected to do. Personally, not by proxy. In our church, we are frequently reminded -- it's not that God needs our money. It's just a fact that we need to build generosity into our lives, if we are to live as we were designed to. As Martin Luther said, only Satan, and men controlled by Satan, live only for themselves.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Who's in charge here, anyhow? (I Cor. 15)

Psalm 110 is the Old Testament chapter most frequently quoted, cited, or paraphrased in the New Testament. It speaks of a King who reigns, a King who is in some way closely associated with the Eternal Creator.
Psa 110:1 RAB efendime: "Ben düşmanlarını ayaklarının altına serinceye dek Sağımda otur" diyor.
Psa 110:2 RAB Siyon'dan uzatacak kudret asanı, Düşmanlarının ortasında egemenlik sür!
Psa 110:3 Savaşacağın gün Gönüllü gidecek askerlerin. Seherin bağrından doğan çiy gibi Kutsal giysiler içinde Sana gelecek gençlerin.
Psa 110:4 RAB ant içti, kararından dönmez: "Melkisedek düzeni uyarınca Sonsuza dek kâhinsin sen!" dedi.
Psa 110:5 Rab senin sağındadır, Kralları ezecek öfkelendiği gün.
Psa 110:6 Ulusları yargılayacak, ortalığı cesetler dolduracak, Dünyanın dört bucağında başları ezecek.
Psa 110:7 Yol kenarındaki dereden su içecek; Bu yüzden başını dik tutacak.
In some way, this king's reign is an extension of the Eternal Creator's actions in history. God's people eagerly participated in the action, and the pretentious foes of God and man are brought to heel.[1]

Paul presents this progressive subduing of evil as an ongoing, present reality, made manifest through the proclamation of the Christian gospel -- the King has come! He is ruling today! There is reason for rejoicing, confidence, action, and hope. I Cor. 15:24-
1Co 15:24 Bundan sonra Mesih her yönetimi, her hükümranlığı, her gücü ortadan kaldırıp egemenliği Baba Tanrı'ya teslim ettiği zaman son gelmiş olacak.
1Co 15:25 Çünkü Tanrı bütün düşmanlarını ayakları altına serinceye dek O'nun egemenlik sürmesi gerekir.
1Co 15:26 Ortadan kaldırılacak son düşman ölümdür.
1Co 15:27 Çünkü, "Tanrı her şeyi Mesih'in ayakları altına sererek O'na bağımlı kıldı." "Her şey O'na bağımlı kılındı" sözünün, her şeyi Mesih'e bağımlı kılan Tanrı'yı içermediği açıktır.
1Co 15:28 Her şey Oğul'a bağımlı kılınınca, Oğul da her şeyi kendisine bağımlı kılan Tanrı'ya bağımlı olacaktır. Öyle ki, Tanrı her şeyde her şey olsun.
A wise understanding of the Bible does not lead the believer to attempt to map out the future. Rather, in knowing that God has ordained the triumph of good over evil, we can fulfill our obligations with optimistic faithfulness. We are not spectators at a global train wreck, but co-laborers with a God who loves his creation, and invites us to help restore it, and develop its potentials.

[1] To "bring something to heel" is a metaphor from the training of dogs. When hearing the command "Heel!" the well-trained dog will park himself behind his owner's left heel, and walk in that submissive formation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pentecostals rock! (I Cor. 14)

I just finished an intriguing book, God is Back, by two reporters on the staff of the London Economist -- an atheist, and a Roman Catholic. The numbers they cite tell an amazing story. A movement within the Christian family went from nearly nothing a century ago to the growing edge today. The most vigorous propagators of the Christian faith, in Protestant and Catholic circles, tend to be Pentecostals. These are people who, from time to time, pray in a language that they have not learned. A language that, they say, was supernaturally given to them by God.

It's a strange phenomenon. If you listen carefully to Pentecostals at prayer -- and some of them are careless enough to do so over a microphone -- what you hear does not usually sound like a foreign language. To quote the opening assertion of a textbook on linguistics, "Different phonemes in different languages are -- different." Anyone who has ever tried to wrap his tongue around the vowels of a different language knows what a challenge that is. I still find it nearly impossible to hear the difference between the Turkish u and ü, for example. The "undotted i" (ı) actually sounds a lot like the schwa, the most common vowel in the English language, the one that doesn't have its own letter of the alphabet.

What I usually hear is a syllable salad, as the person who is "speaking in tongues" recites a string of English phonemes, English sound units, English syllables, in a randomized order that makes no sense in English.

Yet I also know of one believer who was heard praying in Spanish, a language he'd never studied. Was the miracle in the speaker, or in the hearer? When the disciples could suddenly make their testimony clear to people from many diverse language groups, where did the miracle happen? In the lips of the speakers, or in the ears of the hearers?

Well, anyhow. Some of the most enthusiastic and productive Christians in the world today also pray in languages they have not studied. Sometimes, these are real and recognizable languages. Other times, who knows? Evidently, the Pentecostals find value in the practice. Let's hear a few words from Paul:
1Co 14:18 Dillerle hepinizden çok konuştuğum için Tanrı'ya şükrediyorum.
1Co 14:19 Ama inanlılar topluluğunda dillerle on bin söz söylemektense, başkalarını eğitmek için zihnimden beş söz söylemeyi yeğlerim.
1Co 14:20 Kardeşler, çocuk gibi düşünmeyin. Kötülük konusunda çocuklar gibi, ama düşünmekte yetişkinler gibi olun.
Let's look at a few words:
  • Dillerle -- in/with tongues
  • hepinizden -- more than all of you
  • çok -- muchly
  • konuştuğum -- I speak
  • için -- for that reason (this is another post-position!)
  • Tanrı'ya -- to God
  • şükrediyorum -- I give thanks.
  • Kardeşler -- brothers
  • çocuk gibi -- like children
  • düşünmeyin -- do not reflect / meditate / think.
Paul is grateful that he can pray using an unlearned language or utterance of some kind. Yet, when among others, he has no need to flaunt this practice. Five well-chosen comprehensible words can do one's neighbor more good than hours of babble.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Grow up! (I Cor. 13)

One of my favorite writers, the Calvinist scholar R. J. Rushdoony, wrote a book on Biblical psychology with the intriguing title Revolt Against Maturity. The default setting for human life, the state in which we spend most of our lives, is adulthood. Adam was created an adult, just to drive home the point that this is the normative state. In a healthy society, as in a healthy life, people yearn to take hold of adult life, to measure up to their opportunities and obligations. At some point, you need to grow up. In C. S. Lewis's book The Last Battle, one of the original four characters was not found in the moment of consummation. Susan was, as the professor said, determined to race as quickly as possible to the silliest time of her life, then park there for as long as possible. Normal people grow up, marry, and raise kids who will grow, marry, and keep the story going. Let's look at a few words from Paul:
1Co 13:11 Çocukken çocuk gibi konuşur, çocuk gibi anlar, çocuk gibi düşünürdüm. Yetişkin biri olunca çocukça davranışları bıraktım.
Let's look at a few words:
  • Çocukken -- during the time of childhood. Turkish uses the -ken suffix to indicate that the event the sentence describes took place during the condition that the root of the word describes.
  • çocuk -- a child
  • gibi -- as. This is a post-position. çocuk gibi means "as a child."
  • konuşur -- spoke
  • anlar -- understood
  • düşünürdüm -- thought, pondered, meditated
  • davranmak -- behave. Take action.
  • davranışları -- behaviors.
  • çocukça -- Childish. The -ça ending turns a noun into an adjective.
  • bırakmak -- to leave. Set down. Let go. Drop. My mnemonic -- "to break off."
Growing up can be painful. Many cultures have initiation rites to definitively break off the time of childhood, and usher boys into manhood. For example, the Boy Scouts are modeled on African tribal initiation societies. Peter Pan was the boy who never wanted to grow up. That's crazy stuff. I still remember a schizophrenic friend who went off his meds, and began reacting to life like a seven year old lad. That's scary stuff. May God give us the grace to grow into all that He has for us.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Singing sweet harmony with Adam Smith (I Cor. 12)

Adam Smith preached the virtues of the "division of labor." As people become more specialized, they become more efficient. Their productivity goes up, and everyone's available wealth increases. Karl Marx objected that, as a worker's share of the end product shrinks, he becomes progressively more "alienated" from it. A man should, Marx suggested, be able to go fishing in the morning, gardening around noonday, and maybe perform brain surgery after dinner, in each case doing the complete task by himself.

In this chapter, Paul uses the human body as a metaphor for corporate life:
1Co 12:13 İster Yahudi ister Grek, ister köle ister özgür olalım, hepimiz bir beden olmak üzere aynı Ruh'ta vaftiz edildik ve hepimizin aynı Ruh'tan içmesi sağlandı.
1Co 12:14 İşte beden tek üyeden değil, birçok üyeden oluşur.
1Co 12:15 Ayak, "El olmadığım için bedene ait değilim" derse, bu onu bedenden ayırmaz.
1Co 12:16 Kulak, "Göz olmadığım için bedene ait değilim" derse, bu onu bedenden ayırmaz.
1Co 12:17 Bütün beden göz olsaydı, nasıl duyardık? Bütün beden kulak olsaydı, nasıl koklardık?
One body, many parts. Differences are not contradictions, but reasons for cooperation. Polyphony is one of the glories of Western civilization -- the startling idea that many voices can sing different tunes simultaneously-- and somehow, the total sound is lovelier than any single thread therein.