Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Romans 14 -- table manners towards other guests

"Never serve booze at a wedding. Although most of the guests might enjoy it, there will always be one who will get drunk, make a fool of himself, and ruin the party for everyone else."

This bit of advice came to mind as I meditated on today's chapter. Let's look at the first few verses:
Rom 14:1 İmanı zayıf olanı aranıza kabul edin, ama tartışmalı konulara girmeyin.
Rom 14:2 Biri her şeyi yiyebileceğine inanır; imanı zayıf olansa yalnız sebze yer.
Rom 14:3 Her şeyi yiyen, yemeyeni hor görmesin. Her şeyi yemeyen, yiyeni yargılamasın. Çünkü Tanrı onu kabul etmiştir.
Rom 14:4 Sen kimsin ki, başkasının kulunu yargılıyorsun? Kulu haklı çıkaran da haksız çıkaran da efendisidir. Kul haklı çıkacaktır. Çünkü Rab'bin onu haklı çıkarmaya gücü vardır.
Let's look at a few key words:
  • kabul edin -- 2nd person imperative form of verb kabul etmek -- to welcome, to receive.
  • haklı çıkarmak -- another compound verb, like the only Malay word in common English, which is always combined with the English verb "to run."[2] This Turkish compound word, which pops up in the hazar.com dictionary when you enter , means: excuse. justify. vindicate.
  • haksız çıkarmak -- Obviously, the opposite of haklı çıkarmak. Turks take their çay either şekerli or şekersiz -- with or without sugar.
  • hak -- condign. right. justice. claim. benefit. authority. dibs. due. franchise. jus. title. warrant. warranty. The Turkish phrase Hak dini (true, etc. religion) is a synonym for Islam.
The Scotch-Irish inhabitants of the American Appalachian region are famous for their violent, armed, disputes. A century ago, the Hatfield and McCoy clans became synonymous with the ignorant, savage hill billies who deserved to be swindled out of the mineral wealth they lived atop, but lacked the means -- or the will -- to exploit. Last I heard, 85% of West Virginia is owned or controlled by people who do not live in West Virginia. Sophisticated guests in that part of the world are aware of the vast chasm that exists between West Virginia[3], a state that is a byword for backwardness, and western Virginia, an urbane, civilized, region.

Some historians suggest that the internecine disputes among the mountain people were used as propaganda fodder by outside interests intent on strip mining that state.

Be that as it may, the media image of the feuding mountaineers has a basis in fact. Carl Whorley, a Baptist preacher in Roanoke Virginia, comes from that stock. Two families had been fighting for too many generations. To make piece, the elders of the clan chose a Romeo from one, a Juliet from the other, and ordered them to marry each other. Carl was the son of this peaceful, peace-making union.

The Roman church that Paul wrote to, as we saw in the last few chapters, was characterized by an uneasy state of truce between the two major components: those who had been born Jews, and those who had been born as pagans. It was all too easy for the Jewish-heritage believers to sneer at the indiscriminate way that the former pagans chowed down on whatever fair or foul stuff that was set before them. The pagan-legacy Roman Christians, on the other hand, were astonished at how incapable their kin were of seeing the point, and getting with the program. Jesus had set them free to live, and these clowns still insisted on pouring their lives into pointless pageantry, rituals, and religious games.

Paul warns them -- be kind to each other. Be on your best behavior -- because there is an unseen Host presiding over your lives together. And, ultimately,

Hiçbirimiz kendimiz için yaşamayız, hiçbirimiz de kendimiz için ölmeyiz.

Not a one of us / to ourselves / because / may live, / not a one of us / even / to ourselves / because / may die.

We are temporary guests at an eternal table. It becomes us, since we have been invited to such an incredible party, to get along with each other, and not embarrass our Host.


[1] Mnemonic for English speakers: "Kabul is not a welcoming city."

[2] The Malay word, which has two correct spellings, is amok or amuck. To "run amok" is to go violently insane.

[3] What is the state flower of West Virginia? The satellite dish.
What is the usual color of cars in West Virginia? Primer.
How can you tell that you are in the Amish part of West Virginia? You see dead horses on cinder blocks in front of the mobile homes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Romans 13 -- protective coloration

You need to be careful what you put in writing. For example, if you have wronged someone, and wish to apologize, to try to make things right, do so in person, if at all possible. A written confession can expose you and all you have to legal jeopardy. This reticence and caution applies even more to wired media. A new-hire attending a corporate orientation updated his Facebook account with a contemptuous remark about wasting his time in a boring meeting. He was looking for a new job before that meeting was over.

If you enjoy energetic conversations in public online forums, do not participate under your own name. Choose a screen name, an alias, such as RJR Fan.

And, if you think The Man might be reading your correspondence, a little bribe might be in order. Say something nice about the people in charge. A Pentecostal preacher addressed an audience in Haiti on faith healing. "God can also heal through the hands of dedicated physicians, such as the honorable Doctor Duvalier," he said, speaking of the crazed dictator who then ruled the island. The sermon was being monitored -- and the preacher suddenly found himself with fresh opportunities, new resources, and a wider audience.

Since Paul was writing a newsletter, a missive that would be copied and passed around among many people, it would probably come to the attention of a Roman magistrate at some point, and be examined for subversive content. That, I believe, is one reason for this chapter: a bribe to Nero's team.
Rom 13:1 Herkes, baştaki yönetime bağlı olsun. Çünkü Tanrı'dan olmayan yönetim yoktur. Var olanlar Tanrı tarafından kurulmuştur.
Rom 13:2 Bu nedenle, yönetime karşı direnen, Tanrı buyruğuna karşı gelmiş olur. Karşı gelenler yargılanır.
Rom 13:3 İyilik edenler değil, kötülük edenler yöneticilerden korkmalıdır. Yönetimden korkmamak ister misin, öyleyse iyi olanı yap, yönetimin övgüsünü kazanırsın.
Rom 13:4 Çünkü yönetim, senin iyiliğin için Tanrı'ya hizmet etmektedir. Ama kötü olanı yaparsan, kork! Yönetim, kılıcı boş yere taşımıyor; kötülük yapanın üzerine Tanrı'nın gazabını salan öç alıcı olarak Tanrı'ya hizmet ediyor.
Rom 13:5 Bunun için, yalnız Tanrı'nın gazabı nedeniyle değil, vicdan nedeniyle de yönetime bağlı olmak gerekir.
Rom 13:6 Vergi ödemenizin nedeni de budur. Çünkü yöneticiler Tanrı'nın bu amaç için gayretle çalışan hizmetkârlarıdır.
Let's look at verse 4. The key word is yönetim, which being interpreted means "administration. management. direction. government. oversight. regimen. rule. running. stewardship. superintendency. trusteeship." Ama kötü olanı yaparsan, kork! If / evil / things / if you do, / be afraid!

Christians had additional reasons for loudly shouting, "HEY! We are good, docile, loyal, tax-paying folks who wish the politicians well!" In Acts 18:2, we read about a couple Paul attached himself to who were refugees from Rome:
Act 18:2 Orada Pontus doğumlu, Akvila adında bir Yahudi ile karısı Priskilla'yı buldu. Bunlar, Klavdius'un bütün Yahudiler'in Roma'yı terk etmesi yolundaki buyruğu üzerine, kısa süre önce İtalya'dan gelmişlerdi. Akvila ile Priskilla'nın yanına giden Pavlus, aynı meslekten olduğundan onlarla kalıp çalıştı. Çünkü meslekleri çadırcılıktı.
All of the Jews had been ordered out of Rome, at an earlier point in time. A contemporary pagan historian explains that this was because of "riots concerning the god Chrestus." Time after time, in Paul's ministry, Jewish agitators stirred up mob violence against the gospel. Apparently, it was the message itself which provoked them -- Paul had not had time to get to Rome yet, and already Christians were blamed for making waves.

A generation later, in 112, noted writer Pliny the younger cracked down on this "bad superstition" in his capacity as governor of the Anatolian province of Bithynia. In an effort to be fair, he released any prisoners who formally denied being Christians.
They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do.
But what were these curious creatures up to? According to those who claimed to have been Christians --
However, they assured me that the main of their fault, or of their mistake was this:-That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles. These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition.
Bottom line? God may place us under bad leaders, as a chastisement for our sins against Him. However, even leaders have a standard to meet. See verse 3:
İyilik edenler değil, kötülük edenler yöneticilerden korkmalıdır.
Good things / whose who do / not, / evil things / those who do / from the rulers[1] / it is necessary to fear. A ruler who punishes good people (like us obedient, tax-paying, Christians!) while ignoring evildoers, is not living up to his job description.


[1] Korkmak -- to fear -- is one of those minority of Turkish verbs that expects its direct object to be indicated by the -dan/-den/-tan/-ten suffix. Be sure to pronounce the second k when you notice aloud that a Turkish friend fears dogs -- köpekten korkiniz. If you say "köpekten koriniz," you've just told your new friends that they smell like dogs!

Romans 12 -- table manners toward host

Many of my friends just celebrated the Korban Bayram, the Feast of the Sacrifice, in memory of the day when Abraham passed God's ultimate test of his faith. God provided a substitute for the human sacrifice Abraham was prepared to offer. Millions of Muslims around the world sacrifice a clean animal on Korban Bayram -- a sheep for a family, or a cow can be shared out among four families. The meat is eaten with glad piety on that day, and shared with the poor, with students away from home, and with friends. (yes, we have some in our freezer.)

The meat is good. The Divine Mercy celebrated is even more wonderful.

When invited to a state dinner, you conduct yourself in a manner different from when you raid the buffet at a Golden Corral. At Mr. Wok, the focus is on the food. Delicious, varied, and unlimited servings. If I were sitting at dinner with a head of state, however, I would be paying at least as much attention to the head table as I do to my own. (I may have to recycle this observation when I get to I Cor. 11!)

The first part of the first verse in this chapter sets the tone for all that follows:
Rom 12:1 Öyleyse kardeşlerim, Tanrı'nın merhameti adına size yalvarırım: Bedenlerinizi diri, kutsal, Tanrı'yı hoşnut eden birer kurban olarak sunun. Ruhsal tapınmanız budur.
Therefore / brothers / God's / mercies / in the name of / to you / I implore:

Because of all that God has done for us, a certain deportment on our behalf is appropriate.

Your bodies / living / holy / to God / acceptable / is / as a / sacrifice / is / present. [1] Spiritual / your worship / this is.

Imagine a child begging his mother for money, so he can buy her a present. Everything we have to offer our God consists of what He first gave us. Happy people are grateful people, humble people, people who delight in noting where their blessings come from. As the rest of this chapter will show, such people are also a lot of fun to hang around with.


[1] Interesting -- in this sentence, we see the two Turkish equivalents of the English "to be" -- etmek and olmak. Maybe when I study a while longer, I'll know when to use each!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Romans 11 -- root stocks

"Dwarfing rootstocks" are big items in the apple growing business. Dwarf trees give you the same fruit, but on shorter trunks. You get a better ratio of fruit to wood, the harvesting is easier, and the productivity per acre is dramatically better. Dwarf trees are also easier to prune, spray, and otherwise care for. Two big names in the dwarfing rootstock business are Mulling IX and Mulling Merton.

When you buy a dwarf fruit tree, you are actually buying several trees spliced (grafted) together. The root comes from a tree that is naturally petite, but which may not bear a desired variety of fruit.

Grafting is an ancient horticultural practice. In fact, Paul refers to it in this chapter:
Rom 11:16 Hamurun ilk parçası kutsalsa, tümü kutsaldır; kök kutsalsa, dallar da kutsaldır.
Rom 11:17, 18 Ama zeytin ağacının bazı dalları kesildiyse ve sen yabanıl bir zeytin filiziyken onların yerine aşılanıp ağacın semiz köküne ortak oldunsa, o dallara karşı övünme. Eğer övünüyorsan, unutma ki, sen kökü taşımıyorsun, kök seni taşıyor.
Rom 11:19 O zaman, "Ben aşılanayım diye dallar kesildi" diyeceksin.
Rom 11:20 Doğru, onlar imansızlık yüzünden kesildiler. Sense imanla yerinde duruyorsun. Böbürlenme, kork!
Rom 11:21 Çünkü Tanrı asıl dalları esirgemediyse, seni de esirgemeyecektir.
Let's look at a few words here:
  • zeytin -- olive. A zetinli biscuit -- one baked with an olive inside -- is delicious.
  • dal -- branch
  • kök -- root
  • taşımak -- to bear, support, carry
  • kesilmek -- to cut off
  • Doğru, onlar imansızlık yüzünden kesildiler. -- True, / they / unbelief / by reason of / were cut off.
  • Sense imanla yerinde duruyorsun. -- You, however / by faith / in your place / you stand.
  • Böbürlenme, kork! -- Do not boast, / be afraid!
Sadly, most of the first-century Jews were cut off. Very few "got with the program" when Jesus walked among them, and the majority aimed their children, for the next 50 generations, towards hell. An elaborate and rich culture grew up around one "prime directive" -- denying the significance of Jesus. That's a kind of feeble prop to lean on, but you have to give them credit for getting a lot of mileage out of one obsession!

Yet, we who walk with God today do so because the Jews gave us the Bible, the Savior, and the invitation to partake of God's covenantal blessings. They served up this glorious meal, then decided not to dine with us. After laying out a table groaning with abundance, most of the Jews walked out of the party, went out into the cold, and sat in the dark chewing on chalk.

If you know a Jew, invite him back in to the party. After all, it started with them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Romans 10 -- geregtigheid (doğruluk)

Any time you study a new language, you encounter new sounds. English in particular is rich in phonemes -- more than 40, last time I checked. But that is a small subset out of the myriad of tones and intonations we can produce using throat, lips, and tongue. Try to say geregtigheid -- and the English-speaker has to exert substantial effort to pronounce each g. That Afrikaans throat-clearing phoneme is apparently similar to the gh we still include in the written English, in words like light, dough, through, enough -- but have not actually pronounced for several centuries.

Geregtigheid is also a major concern in this chapter. We are hard-wired to seek it, and people who take God seriously also take geregtigheid seriously. Or should I say δικαιοσύνην. giustizia. iustitiam. doğruluk. Americans who count Turkish Muslims among their friends encounter people who know their lives are lived under divine scrutiny. People who want to live lives that please their Maker. People who, as Jesus said, "hunger and thirst for righteousness."

The sad part is, these wonderful and delightful people, like the Jews Paul wrote about, often confused the means with the end, the effect with the cause:
Rom 10:2 Onlara ilişkin tanıklık ederim ki, Tanrı için gayretlidirler; ama bu bilinçli bir gayret değildir.
Rom 10:3 Tanrı'nın öngördüğü doğruluğu anlamadıkları ve kendi doğruluklarını yerleştirmeye çalıştıkları için Tanrı'nın öngördüğü doğruluğa boyun eğmediler.
Rom 10:4 Oysa her iman edenin aklanması için Mesih, Kutsal Yasa'nın sonudur.
Let's unpack vs. 4:
  • Oysa -- thus to
  • her -- every
  • iman edenin -- one who is believing
  • aklanması için -- is accounted (on the basis of that faith)
  • Mesih -- Christ
  • Kutsal Yasa'nın -- of the Holy Law
  • sonudur -- the goal is.
As a hero of the faith in America, J. Gresham Machen, wrote early in the last century,
Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romans 9 -- gender issues

We attend a Methodist church on Easter Sunday morning, since my wife grew up in this community of faith. This church is placidly dying. Every year, the median age of the members increases, and young blood is not coming in to replace the bald pates and blue hairs[1] who are on their way to the church yard.[2]

They demonstrate what happens when a "people of the book" refuse to take their own book seriously. For several generations, the official ideology of the United Methodist Church has denigrated the Bible, embraced some alternate Ultimate Authority, and attempted to re-read and re-write the Bible in terms of those "truths" they consider to be truer than this book.[3] Thomas B. Altice, a professor at the Methodist Emory University, for example, got his 15 minutes of fame by reinterpreting Christianity in terms of Martin Heidegger's existentialism. The typical liberal theologian, you see, is a pathetic pantywaist, unable to generate new insights, but only to recycle the garbage that unbelieving philosophers proposed a generation earlier, and are already discarding. Theological liberalism refuses to admit the possibility that Christianity might actually have its own identity. Rather, these precious little pundits pronounce, Christianity is really something else in drag.[4]

Feminism seduces the would-be, with-it, experts of our day. Somehow, the glorious differences between male and female, that reflect something of eternal reality, are a horrible discrimination that must be eliminated. No organization is allowed to have a Chairman any more, only an emasculated Chair. Consider how this pathological hatred of manhood plays out in Psalm 100. As traditionally translated:
1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The latest Methodist hymnal would have the church members recite this psalm as follows:
3Know that the Sovereign One is God: it is God that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are God's people, and the sheep of God's pasture.
4Enter into God's gates with thanksgiving, and into God's courts with praise: be thankful unto God, and bless God's name.
5For the Sovereign One is good; God's mercy is everlasting; and God's truth endureth to all generations.
Those blasphemous and accursed innovators who lay foul and reckless hands upon God's Word find it offensive to apply masculine pronouns (he, his, him) to God. I once heard one such lunatic sweetly lisping the invented word godself to avoid besmirching his lips with the word himself, when speaking of his Maker.

I like the position C S Lewis took. The Creator is so intensely the Initiator and Source of all that the entire universe is feminine by contrast. Which brings us to some thoughts from today's reading in İncil:
Rom 9:14 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Tanrı adaletsizlik mi ediyor? Kesinlikle hayır!
Rom 9:15 Çünkü Musa'ya şöyle diyor: "Merhamet ettiğime merhamet edeceğim, Acıdığıma acıyacağım."
Rom 9:16 Demek ki bu, insanın isteğine ya da çabasına değil, Tanrı'nın merhametine bağlıdır.
Rom 9:17 Tanrı Kutsal Yazı'da firavuna şöyle diyor: "Gücümü senin aracılığınla göstermek Ve adımı bütün dünyada duyurmak için Seni yükselttim."
Rom 9:18 Demek ki Tanrı dilediğine merhamet eder, dilediğinin yüreğini nasırlaştırır.
Rom 9:19 Şimdi bana, "Öyleyse Tanrı insanı neden hâlâ suçlu buluyor? O'nun isteğine kim karşı durabilir?" diyeceksin.
Rom 9:20 Ama, ey insan, sen kimsin ki Tanrı'ya karşılık veriyorsun? "Kendisine biçim verilen, biçim verene, 'Beni niçin böyle yaptın' der mi?"
Rom 9:21 Ya da çömlekçinin aynı kil yığınından bir kabı onurlu iş için, ötekini bayağı iş için yapmaya hakkı yok mu?
Rom 9:22 Eğer Tanrı gazabını göstermek ve gücünü tanıtmak isterken, gazabına hedef olup mahvolmaya hazırlananlara büyük sabırla katlandıysa, ne diyelim?
Rom 9:23 Yüceltmek üzere önceden hazırlayıp merhamet ettiklerine yüceliğinin zenginliğini göstermek için bunu yaptıysa, ne diyelim?
Rom 9:24 Yalnız Yahudiler arasından değil, öteki uluslar arasından da çağırdığı bu insanlar biziz.
Let's look at a few words from verse 20, Ama, ey insan, sen kimsin ki Tanrı'ya karşılık veriyorsun?:
  • Ama, -- But
  • ey insan -- O man [5]
  • sen -- you
  • kimsin ki -- who might you be that
  • Tanrı'ya -- to God
  • karşılık -- back-talk, sass, disagreement
  • veriyorsun? -- should make?
And, let's look at a concept from vs. 21 (bir kabı onurlu), the vessel of honor / dishonor. Traditional kilns are temperamental tools. It takes a lot of painstaking care to ensure even heat distribution inside a wood- or coal-fired kiln. If you are firing a delicate, elaborate, piece of ceramic work, small fluctuations in temperature can cause the item to break. To protect the costly "vessel of honor," the potter would throw[6] a "vessel of dishonor" -- a larger, cruder, hastily-made pot -- and place it over the kabı onurlu. The two would go through the fire together, and the outer vessel would absorb thermal shocks. When the kiln was opened, the vessel of dishonor was a use-once throw-away item, for nasty or noxious substances.

God, for reasons of His own, makes some people His own -- but even the others serve His purposes.


[1] Older ladies often apply a treatment to their hair which gives the gray tint a faint shade of blue. The term "Blue Hairs" refers to aged women who are aware of their appearance.

[2] When you bike through rural areas in the USA, you will often see churches with graveyards adjoining them. The older tombstones will often bear names shared by streets and other landmarks in the area. The family name of the gloomy Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, means church yard / graveyard.

[3] If these people would have the decency to become Muslims, they would at least still believe in God, rather than hide their atheism in order to live on the funds provided by God-fearing Christians!

[4] Homosexual men who wish they were female are "in drag" when they dress up like women.

[5] The English word O is a "vocative" word, an exclamation designed to draw the attention of the party invoked. The English word Oh is a general-purpose exclamation of mild surprise or dismay.

[6] Potters don't make pots on the potter's wheel, they throw them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Romans 8 -- a man wrapped up in himself ... [1]

The Baptist church was packed. The deceased, a cousin of my wife's, had been a member for many years. On the morning of the day he was supposed to appear in court, on charges of molesting children on church excursions, "Jim" called 911 to report a gunshot in his back yard.

What can a pastor say to a congregation, and to a family, on such an occasion? As Rev. Mooneyham stepped into the pulpit, the discerning eye could see that he was a good man, a kind man, a wise man, with something to say that was worth listening to. The preacher opened his Bible to Romans 8, and began a message of eternal life given to unworthy people -- like the deceased. Like you. Like me. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus... "

This kind of extravagant hope is one reason why many Christians number Romans 8 among their favorite chapters in the Bible.

As we saw in the last chapter, nobody, not even the best of us, can repose his hopes of eternal life in anything less than God. Yet, despair of ourselves does not equate to despair. I'd like to focus on one Turkish word that seems to provide a fresh perspective on the miracle of redemption.
Rom 8:1 Böylece Mesih İsa'ya ait olanlara artık hiçbir mahkûmiyet yoktur.
Rom 8:2 Çünkü yaşam veren Ruh'un yasası, Mesih İsa sayesinde beni günahın ve ölümün yasasından özgür kıldı.
Rom 8:3 İnsan benliğinden ötürü güçsüz olan Kutsal Yasa'nın yapamadığını Tanrı yaptı. Öz Oğlu'nu günahlı insan benzerliğinde günah sunusu olarak gönderip günahı insan benliğinde yargıladı.
Rom 8:4 Öyle ki, Yasa'nın gereği, benliğe göre değil, Ruh'a göre yaşayan bizlerde yerine gelsin.
Rom 8:5 Benliğe uyanlar benlikle ilgili, Ruh'a uyanlarsa Ruh'la ilgili işleri düşünürler.
Rom 8:6 Benliğe dayanan düşünce ölüm, Ruh'a dayanan düşünceyse yaşam ve esenliktir.
Rom 8:7 Çünkü benliğe dayanan düşünce Tanrı'ya düşmandır; Tanrı'nın Yasası'na boyun eğmez, eğemez de...
Rom 8:8 Benliğin denetiminde olanlar Tanrı'yı hoşnut edemezler.
Rom 8:9 Ne var ki, Tanrı'nın Ruhu içinizde yaşıyorsa, benliğin değil, Ruh'un denetimindesiniz. Ama içinde Mesih'in Ruhu olmayan kişi Mesih'in değildir.
There is one Greek word with noun and adjective forms σάρκα / σαρκὸς , that is translated by several different English words in the King James Version of the Bible: flesh, carnal. This does not mean the literal meat of our bodies, but is a metaphor for that which can be apprehended by the senses. The Turkish word used is benlik / benliğe/ benlikle / benliğinden. Let's look more closely at these various flavors.
  • ben -- I. ego. First person singular pronoun.
  • benlik -- That which pertains to ben. ego. conceit. self-respect. egotism. personality.
  • benliğe -- Direct object form of benlik.
  • benlikle -- Adverb form of benlik, describing the egotistic, conceited way in which something is done.
  • benliğinden -- Time-aware form of benlik, describing the time of the egotistic, conceited condition.
It is because we are not our own gods that we have hope. The Eternal One made known to us in and through İsa gives us a hope rooted in God's unlimited resources. Having an anchor in the eternal order gives us stability in time.

And salvation, the delight in God's purposes worked out through our lives, is a gift.


[1] makes a very small package.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Romans 7 -- helpful hopelessness

Pious Jews would never dream of naming a son Paul. They blame this cosmopolitan man, native of Anatolia, educated in Jerusalem, of inventing an imagined synthesis between Greek culture and Jewish tradition that became Christianity.

Well, Paul did write more than half of the books in the İncil. He did hob-nob with people who had known Jesus personally, and he attracted a retinue of writers and scholars, such as John Mark and Luke, whose careful research led to those biographies of Jesus we call the Gospels. Paul definitely led a life of high adventure, high achievement, and inspired powerful emotions. He had close friends on three continents, and inspired his enemies to paroxysms of insane rage.

But how did this mover and shaker, this thinker and doer, view himself? In this chapter, we get a glimpse at his inner life:
Rom 7:7 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Kutsal Yasa günah mı oldu? Kesinlikle hayır! Ama Yasa olmasaydı, günahın ne olduğunu bilemezdim. Yasa, "Göz dikmeyeceksin" demeseydi, başkasının malına göz dikmenin ne olduğunu bilemezdim.
Rom 7:8 Ne var ki günah, bu buyruğun verdiği fırsatla içimde her türlü açgözlülüğü üretti. Çünkü Kutsal Yasa olmadıkça günah ölüdür.
Rom 7:9, 10 Bir zamanlar, Yasa'nın bilincinde değilken diriydim. Ama buyruğun bilincine vardığımda günah dirildi, bense öldüm. Buyruk da bana yaşam getireceğine, ölüm getirdi.
Rom 7:11 Çünkü günah buyruğun verdiği fırsatla beni aldattı, buyruk aracılığıyla beni öldürdü.
Rom 7:12 İşte böyle, Yasa gerçekten kutsaldır. Buyruk da kutsal, doğru ve iyidir.
Rom 7:13 Öyleyse, iyi olan bana ölüm mü getirdi? Kesinlikle hayır! Ama günah, günah olarak tanınsın diye, iyi olanın aracılığıyla bana ölüm getiriyordu. Öyle ki, buyruk aracılığıyla günahın ne denli günahlı olduğu anlaşılsın.
Rom 7:14 Yasa'nın ruhsal olduğunu biliriz. Bense benliğin denetimindeyim, köle gibi günaha satılmışım.
Let's look at verses 12:
  • İşte böyle, -- therefore,
  • Yasa -- the Law
  • gerçekten -- really. truly. indeed. actually. in deed. sure enough. in the flesh. honestly. literally. positively. quite. simply. sincerely. verily.
  • kutsaldır. -- is holy.
  • Buyruk da -- The Commandment also
  • kutsal, -- holy,
  • doğru -- straight, correct, right
  • ve iyidir. -- and good it is.
God's law is straight. The more seriously I take it, the more aware I am of my own crookedness.

And this is good news? Sure is. You see, we were not designed to run under our own power. God's revelation can show us the good way to live -- but the power to live well[1] can only come from God Himself. If we engage in putperest (idolatry, paganism), trusting upon something other than God for our core source of identity and energy, life gets very frustrating very quickly. We can't grab a chunk of something wonderful, something God Himself gave us, and use it as a substitute for Him. Not even the Divine Law can replace the Divine Creator!


[1] In English, good is an adjective, applying to nouns, words that describe a person, place or thing. Well is an adverb, applying to verbs, to action words. In Turkish, the modifier iyi can be used both ways.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Romans 6 -- thoughts on sewage

People who commit suicide tend to have a strange way of viewing time. They drive through life with their eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. Time after time, their thoughts loop back to depressing moments, bad decisions, horrible experiences, or, perhaps, opportunities missed. The ideal possible spouse, job, or scholarship that got away. [1]

Ever have a nightmare where you are snorkeling in transparent sewage?

Time is designed to move in one direction. In God's eternal plan, the future precedes the past and flows through the present to become the past. When time seems to "back up" on you, it's distressing. And smelly. However, how do we come to terms with the past, in such a way that its power over us is broken?

Well, here the Christian message offers a unique, one-of-a-kind opportunity. We can pretend that those bad things we experienced and did were experienced, and one by, someone else. Someone who's dead, now, so that we can live.

Paul rejoices in the continuous stream of God's goodness that flows into our lives. Some of His blessings are cleverly disguised as trials, but since He is good, these events are all for our good. However, all of us face the temptation to go back into the past, and ruminate[2] over stuff beyond our power to change. Here, the "it's dead, forget it" part of the gospel message comes into play:
Rom 6:1 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Lütuf çoğalsın diye günah işlemeye devam mı edelim?
Rom 6:2 Kesinlikle hayır! Günah karşısında ölmüş olan bizler artık nasıl günah içinde yaşarız?
Rom 6:3 Mesih İsa'ya vaftiz edildiğimizde, hepimizin O'nun ölümüne vaftiz edildiğimizi bilmez misiniz?
Rom 6:4 Baba'nın yüceliği sayesinde Mesih nasıl ölümden dirildiyse, biz de yeni bir yaşam sürmek üzere vaftiz yoluyla O'nunla birlikte ölüme gömüldük.
Rom 6:5 Eğer O'nunkine benzer bir ölümde O'nunla birleştiysek, O'nunkine benzer bir dirilişte de O'nunla birleşeceğiz.
Rom 6:6 Artık günaha kölelik etmeyelim diye, günahlı varlığımızın ortadan kaldırılması için eski yaradılışımızın Mesih'le birlikte çarmıha gerildiğini biliriz.
Rom 6:7 Çünkü ölmüş kişi günahtan özgür kılınmıştır.
Rom 6:8 Mesih'le birlikte ölmüşsek, O'nunla birlikte yaşayacağımıza da inanıyoruz.
Rom 6:9 Çünkü Mesih'in ölümden dirilmiş olduğunu ve bir daha ölmeyeceğini, ölümün artık O'nun üzerinde egemenlik sürmeyeceğini biliyoruz.
Rom 6:10 O'nun ölümü günaha karşılık ilk ve son ölüm olmuştur. Sürmekte olduğu yaşamı ise Tanrı için sürmektedir.
Rom 6:11 Siz de böylece kendinizi günah karşısında ölü, Mesih İsa'da Tanrı karşısında diri sayın.
Let's look at one sentence here:[3]
Mesih İsa'ya vaftiz edildiğimizde, hepimizin O'nun ölümüne vaftiz edildiğimizi bilmez misiniz?
  • Mesih İsa'ya -- of Jesus Christ
  • vaftiz edildiğimizde -- we who have been baptized into
  • hepimizin -- all of us
  • Onun ölümüne -- His death
  • vaftiz edildiğimizi -- we have been baptized
  • bilmez misiniz? -- do you not know?
Now that our past is truly, indeed, and irrevocably past (of course, despite our obsessive thinking, that's always been true!)[4] we can biz de yeni bir yaşam sürmek -- a new life conduct.

In one of his plays, Eugene K. O'Neill wrote, "In Ireland, there is not present or future; only the past, endlessly repeating itself." God has better things in mind for His people.


[1] This was the idea driving the movie The Big Chill. The only guy who tried to live out the values of that era was destroyed thereby.

[2] This verb refers to the digestive cycle of halel cattle -- sheep, goats, deer, cows. Since these beasts subsist on high-cellulose grasses, they have multiple stomachs. After preliminary processing in the first stomach, the ruminant vomits up the food, re-chews it, and swallows. After a sufficient number of cycles, the food goes on to the next stomach. You'll notice a characteristic, rather pleasant, odor in stables housing ruminating cattle.

[3] I assume that American readers have Bibles close at hand, and Turkish friends need a little more explanation.

[4] The American novel and movie The Great Gatsby is a tragedy concerning a protagonist who attempted to re-invent the past.