Friday, February 27, 2009


Theology is any kind of thinking about God. Atheists are theologians because thoughts about God not existing are still thoughts about God.

Job's friends wouldn't shut up about how wrong Job was and how God was punishing him. Job continued to say that he was striving to be blameless before God. In the end, God gets the last word. Job 42 says that YHWH's anger burned against Job's friends because they "have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has" [42.7, 42.8].

Job's friends had bad theology. Bad theology is a sin. This also implies that passive theology is a sin. Further, this doesn't mean every believer must be a robust academician. It means that we have to and we get to think deeply and rightly about our Father.

What a fun thing :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"tobacco, alcohol, tattoos" OR "how to get 83% of western evangelicals to disagree"

Teaching is great. Teenagers ask good questions. Predestination. Dating. Free will. Physical intimacy before marriage. The rapture. And my favorite... Did Jesus' poop smell?

But there are three questions that they always come back to and are attentive to: What should Christians do or not do about smoking, drinking, and tattoos. The questions persisted so much that I summed up what I think the Bible says Christians should think about those things.

Merry Christmas:
  1. THE LAW. If it says you can't ___________ because you're too young, then don't do it. It is sin. Respect authority [Rom 13]. God has put it there.
  2. STUMBLING BLOCKS. If you know another brother or sister in Christ has a different conviction than you, then don't participate in ___________ around them. If you cause them to stumble, it is sin [Rom 14].
  3. STEWARDSHIP. A nice tattoo, a good bottle of wine [like the kind Jesus served in John 2], a good cigar... these things cost money. Our Father has made us stewards. Don't waste what He gives you. Paul says contentment is a roof over our heads and food in our bellies [1 Tim 6.6-11]. Don't waste money. It is a sin.
  4. BODY = TEMPLE. Paul told the Corinthians that they are God's temple. God's temple should be kept holy. There is definitely wiggle room for what this looks like practically. It could mean: no tattoos. It could mean: exercise more. It could mean: quit smoking. It could mean: eat right. It could mean: have more sex with your wife. BUT it definitely means: be humble; be holy; be happy; be a servant. If you don't, it is sin.
  5. HONOR YOUR PARENTS. This is especially for the kids. Somehow video games have caused them to think they run the universe? Obedience to parents is the only commandment with a promise [Ex 20, Dt 5, Eph 6, Col 3, etc]. If you don't, it is sin. Ask them if this means college. They likely still pay the bills.


Below are three encounters with students that were equally saddening and hilarious. My students know that I love them and I've changed the names of those involved. Enjoy.

Derek is a bright kid. He gets it. He even gets it theologically. However, in my classes, he can often be found trying to sneak a nap in. To put it bluntly, his classroom diligence doesn't quite match his intellectual capacity. Derek's class had to do a research paper for their midterm exam. His content was good. You can tell that he is bright. However, the last sentence in his opening paragraph ended with this parenthetical remark: "Mr Thompson, this paper is going to nock your socks off." Aside from how flippant, colloquial, and unnecessary it was, the misspelling of knock was classic.

Jessica is also bright. She asks great questions. She gets frustrated when she doesn't understand something. One day, I gave Jessica's class a test. One of the bonus questions asked for something in Hebrew. Because this was a bonus question, after the question I wrote: "Mr Thompson will be hugely impressed if you get this." Jessica did not answer the question, but rather, underlined the phrase "hugely impressed." Underneath her pencil-scratched line, she wrote the following: "Mr Thompson, this is not gramitically correct." Jessica was right. It isn't gramitically correct to say "hugely impressed." It is, however, grammatically correct :)

John has a big personality. He is happy. He is an athlete. He is curious in a healthy way. You can tell that John loves life. Most kids at school enjoy John's company. Recently, I was introducing the prophets of the Old Testament to John's class. When I read the name of the prophet Hosea, John curiously and happily said, "Mr Thompson, there is a prophet named Hosea?!?" This was my response: "John, what would you do if your pastor stood in the pulpit on a Sunday morning and said that he had been praying and he feels that God wants him to marry a whore?" He looked at me like I just cussed his mama. "John, that's what the whole book of Hosea is about!" Needless to say, he was intrigued.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

22 English words that still exist almost entirely because of hymns and the KJV


On Prayer [John Piper]

Is it a duty? Is it a discipline? Is it legalistic to say we have to pray? Further, it is likely a good read any time Piper gets fired up enough to say, "To hell with the devil!"


I've been reading Daniel lately. It's incredible. It's all about world politics and YHWH's faithfulness as the true King.

Remember, Daniel and his pals are in captivity under world superpower Babylon, which is then overthrown by the Persian empire. YHWH's covenant people are under His hand of judgment because of their whoredom and stubbornness to His covenant love while they were in the land He promised them. Within this context, I love the two snapshots of trial some of these young Jews face while under foreign kings:

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [affectionately Rack, Shack, and Benny] in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den.

These little stories have snuck their way to flannel graphs and cartoons for 40 years, but there is something extra in them that is sweet to see.
  • In both stories, the young guys find themselves in their respective predicaments because they refuse to bow the knee to the temporal religious-political systems above them. This results in their execution.
  • In both situations, their executioners are slain, showing that there is a justice that transcends worldly authority and empire.
  • In both situations, the Jewish fellows being killed seem to be somewhere in between "minimal" to "not-at-all" on the nervous scale. But the text gives us the reason behind this.
  • Both stories show that they TRUSTED their God [3.28, 6.23]. Strange that this is what Abraham did before torah and Jesus [Gn 15.6], what the people did when they were redeemed from Egypt [Ex 14.31], and what we're called to do as well [Rom 4.5] - just trust.
  • At the end of both stories, the kings in charge each sent forth a decree. Each decree was addressed to "all peoples, nations, and languages" [4.1, 6.25]. Why in the heck does that sound so familiar? Oh, maybe it's because the whole story ends with God's covenant people under different religious-political systems, far from their promised land, knowing that they get to be a part of God gathering people from "every tribe, tongue, and nation" [Rev 5.9, 7.9].
  • This decree went out from two different pagan kings, from two different passing empires, at two different periods of times. But somehow, both decrees said essentially the same thing: "Peace and Shalom is multiplied! There is a God Most High - the God of Daniel! He works signs and wonders! And His kingdom and dominion are everlasting!"
So, here's the deal. The fiery furnace and lion's den are marginal kids' stories at best. They might be able to entertain because kids know that fire is hot and lions are scary. BUT, and this is a huge BUT... If you walk away from those stories without seeing God as the faithful and true King, then your blind to the Bible and only have a half of one eye opened to decent kids' entertainment.

The God of Israel is the King of all kings. His kingdom has been brought nearer to us in Jesus to include peoples from every tribe, nation, and tongue. If that is not the seasoning that flavors Daniel, we might just miss it elsewhere.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"how and why to share the gospel" by a rabid athiest

This quite provoking, especially considering the source. How much do you have to hate someone to NOT share the gospel with them?

Ladies and gentlemen, Penn of Penn and Teller.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Welcome Wagon

Do yourself a favor. Buy this record and give yourself to it.

The Welcome Wagon is a soulful blend of artsy-fartsy, folk, and gospel music. Thomas Vito Aiuto is the planter and pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian in Brooklyn. He and his wife Monique team up to bring a fun freshness to hymn-ish music. Here is a recent interview with them. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds
And drives away his fear

It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast
Tis manna to the hungry soul
And to the weary rest

Dear Name! the rock on which I build
My shield and hiding-place
My never-failing treasury fill'd
With boundless stores of grace

Jesus! my Shepherd, Brother, Friend
My Prophet, Priest, and King
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End
Accept the praise I bring

Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought
But when I see Thee as Thou art
I'll praise Thee as I ought

Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath
And may the music of Thy Name
Refresh my soul in death

Happy Valentine's Day, Oregon

Today, in 1859, Oregon became the 33rd state.

Today, in 1912, Arizona became the 48th state.

Today, in 2009, my wife is not here on Valentine's Day. But it's ok, she's carrying our first child. We'll just pretend that he is our Valentine's gift to each other this year. And the next. And the next. And the next.

impressive, hilarious, ridiculous

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


For the devil smelled a rat, and perceived that if the [biblical] languages were revived a hole would be knocked in his kingdom which he could not easily stop up again. Since he found he could not prevent their revival, he now aims to keep them on such slender rations that they will of themselves decline and pass away. They are not a welcome guest in his house, so he plans to offer them such meager entertainment that they will not prolong their stay. Very few of us, my dear sirs see through this evil design of the devil.

Monday, February 9, 2009

i heart hermeneutics

I'm reading through this book called THE ART OF READING SCRIPTURE. It has a lot of gripping things to say about what God has revealed to us. In a particularly interesting article ["Is Patristic Exegesis Still Usable? Some Reflections on Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms"], what Brian E. Daley said has convicted me big time.

As Daley discusses modern methods of interpretation, he essentially asserts how the standard historical/grammatical hermeneutic is "methodologically atheistic, even if what it studies is some form or facet of religious belief" [pg 72]. He continues to say of the church fathers that: 
Explaining what the text means in itself was not seen as separate from explaining what it has to say to the church, precisely because the narrative contained in the Bible was not seen as a closed unit, epistemologically distant from the life of its readers and hearers, who receive it as God's word. The narrative of God's work of salvation - the real content of the Bible - was a single, universally significant story, an unfinished story. The biblical scholar's task, as well as the preacher's, was to illuminate the cohesion and the continuing relevance of all its details.
I love that Daley sees this need. I love the way he articulates it. He is definitely on to something. Further, the simple title of Gordon Fee's book, LISTENING TO THE SPIRIT IN THE TEXT, shows where he finds "meaning" then and now on the basis of the Scriptures.

Is it problematic that I really sense the Spirit when I think about hermeneutics? I don't think so :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Obama's Conversion, etc

The following is from Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this past week. You can read the whole thing here.
I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.
He included another one-liner to make sure everybody knows at least one thing about God, whoever he is.
There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being.  This much we know.


Go here and watch Tom Wright outline the story of Philemon, Onesimus, and Paul. It's only 14 minutes and sweet to see the gospel in Paul's relationship with Onesimus and Philemon in his shortest letter that we have.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


He is my son. He is a human. He has a heartbeat. He has a soul. He has a sinful nature. He already bears my name: James Walker Thompson V. He already has my prayers, my thoughts, my heart. 

I was giddy watching him dance in mama's belly. It was incredible. Read Sara's account of our gender-revealing day here. At the end of June we will finally let him come out of his womb and play.

Blessed is the name of YHWH. He gives life and He takes away [1 Sam 2.6, Job 1.21].

raspberry who?

We find out what the baby is in three hours from right now. I'm getting sick of calling it "it." I've got this feeling it's a girl. We'll see how that goes. All we want is a healthy child.

We trust you, Lord.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

C. S. LEWiS [quote of the day]

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.

Sunday, February 1, 2009



I am so busy now that if I did not spend two or three hours each day in prayer, I would not get through the day.

colossal alliteration

Paul's hymn about Jesus in Col 1.13-20 is dense and breathtaking. There's not a lot of room to question where Jesus stands in Paul's worldview after wading through it. From this passage, Paul moves on to let those in Colossae know why this stuff matters [1.21-22].

Because this Jesus is who He is and has done what He has done, Paul explains to the Colossians that they were once ALIENATED, but have now been RECONCILED so that they could be presented before Him HOLY, BLAMELESS, and ABOVE REPROACH.

I've capitalized these words to show a couple things.

First off, Paul's application of the majesty of Jesus' person and work interprets the past, reminds them of their present state, and details their future hope. With this hope, however, must come a continual faith that clings to the good news about Jesus [1.23]. 

Secondly, Paul says what he says in hopes that it will stick. He wants them to get it. Not everybody 2000 years ago was literate. His epistles were meant to be read to local congregations. So, what does he do? Paul uses alliteration as a literary device in order that the beauty of these things might more easily resonate in the mind of the Colossians.

[sorry if this is wrongly laid out]

When I take the time, I'm nearly always blessed by WHAT and HOW the biblical writers say what they say. There is gospel and artistry here. So good.