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.