Give thanks

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:1-2 NKJV).

When I first began traveling to Nepal almost 30 years ago I was told that, until recently, there had been no word for thank you in their language. After exposure to western vacationers following the opening of the country in the 1950s, someone coined the word dhanobhad to translate the English term “Thank you.”

Words express ideas or concepts and denote objects and actions familiar to those who speak a given language. If a society uses something, they generally have a word for it. Continue reading “Give thanks”

Why so many gods?

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-23 NKJV).

Travelers to Kathmandu typically visit the expansive Hindu and Buddhist enclaves where they view hundreds, if not thousands, of images, temples, stupas and other shrines and icons of those polytheistic religions. Many westerners accustomed to faith in one God wonder why anyone would be attracted to an immense pantheon of lesser deities. Surely monotheism is a superior and more desirable faith, since it honors one Almighty, All-wise, Ever-present Being. Continue reading “Why so many gods?”

To God be the glory

“Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27 NKJV).

Paul’s letter to Roman Christians is widely recognized as the most complete explanation of the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ found in any single New Testament document. It begins with an assertion that there is one true God who is manifest through his creation (Romans 1:19-21). It ends with a beautiful doxology (an attribution of honor or glory to God) to “God, alone wise.” Continue reading “To God be the glory”

Manifest identity

“… Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 NKJV).

It came as something of a surprise to me, over a period of several years, that our common English word “God” is not a name of a specific divine being. It is rather the generic term meaning “a divine being.” Hindus and Buddhists may name thousands of gods. Adherents to other religions may refer to different specific beings as “god” than that intended by readers and believers of the Bible. Continue reading “Manifest identity”

Add virtue

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue . . .” (2 Peter 1:5 NKJV).

Virtue is difficult to define. If one thinks of it as a positive characteristic, desirable in individual personalities, he is forced to recognize that those vary from culture to culture, and from age to age. One society admires the accomplished thief, another honors a fierce and capable fighter, while others promote patience, peacefulness, and tolerance over more physical attributes.

In South Asia one of the most desirable traits is honor or respect. It is easier to be forgiven for stealing from someone than for insulting or dishonoring him. Given these disparate connotations of the word virtue, what exactly was Peter instructing us to grow towards? Continue reading “Add virtue”

The mission of making people happy

“But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow. For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2 Corinthians 2:1-2 NKJV).

Paul had a tumultuous relationship with the church in Corinth. He apparently wrote at least three letters to them (1 Corinthians 5:9), one of which he described as being produced “with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:3). While writing the letter we know as Second Corinthians he mentions plans for a third physical visit to them (2 Corinthians 13:1). At least one of his previous visits seems to have been confrontational, producing grief (2 Corinthians 2:1). Continue reading “The mission of making people happy”

Solitude

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12-13 ESV).

When traveling to distant and sometimes unfamiliar places I miss home, with all of my family, friends, and normal routines. Though I am usually busy and in the presence of many people, I can still feel lonely and isolated because of who I am not with and what I am not doing. Loneliness is a condition most of us experience at times, and it is one that is not generally pleasant. Continue reading “Solitude”

Hunger

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:20 ESV).

Esau would have been perplexed by Jesus’ approval of hunger (see Genesis 25:29-34). His raging appetite caused him to sell his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a mere pittance. A later inspired writer labeled him “unholy” (Hebrews 12:10) for his lack of discipline and judgment. Granted, Esau’s hunger probably exceeded our normal mealtime appetites, but it is highly unlikely that he was actually near death from starvation as he claimed. After all, his mother Rebekah could not have been far away and, though Esau was not her favorite son, she certainly would have fed him. Continue reading “Hunger”

To God, alone wise

“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27 NKJV).

A doxology is a statement of praise and honor towards and / or about God. The word derives from the Greek word “doxa” meaning “brightness, splendor, and radiance.” In its verbal form it is often rendered “to praise, honor, magnify, or glorify.”

Casual readers of the Bible may be unaware of the many doxologies which are part of its text such as that which is cited at the beginning of this article. These are formal statements of praise containing many doctrinal and theological themes which add significantly to our understanding of the nature and identity of God. Continue reading “To God, alone wise”

Keys to learning

“My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call understanding your nearest kin” (Proverbs 7:1-4 NKJV).

I have written before about the different systems of education between East and West (Asia versus Europe and North America). Though changes are occurring it is still generally true that the emphasis in western education is comprehension and application while that of the east remains to a great extent simply accumulation of facts through memorization. Continue reading “Keys to learning”