Raising a Biblical Theologian

My work with teenagers has convinced me that one of the main reasons teenagers are not excited by the gospel is that they do not think they need it. Many parents have successfully raised self-righteous little Pharisees. When they look at themselves, they do not see a sinner in desperate need, so they are not grateful for a Savior. (Paul Tripp)

Our daughter is almost five months old. And we are raising her to be a biblical theologian. A “biblical theologian” is a technical term for a person who seeks to take individual parts of the Bible and relate them to the whole. In other words, the discipline of biblical theology is concerned with the overall story of the Bible, or the “metanarrative” for you literary experts. When we do “biblical theology,” we see God’s great story of redemption being played out on each page of Scripture: through Christ, God is redeeming a people for himself who will enjoy never-ending happiness with him in a new world.

Carly and I care deeply that Bailey does not grow up to be a self-righteous Pharisee who keeps rules because “it’s the Christian thing to do.” We desire that she (and our future kids) see Christ as the center–the Hero–of all Scripture. According to the way Jesus read the Bible, the Law of Moses and the Prophets were completed and fulfilled by him (Luke 24:44), so why would we teach her to read the Bible in a moralistic, do-this-and-God-will-smile way? 

If our baby girl grows up thinking that David or Gideon or Moses or Joseph or Ruth are characters to emulate one of two things will happen. She will either be that little Pharisee filled with pride because she’s better than her friends, or she will be a depressed failure who just can’t stack up to the moral standard. Both are dead-ends. Both are void of Christ and the redemption he provides. So we pray that in all Scripture, she sees and embraces Jesus as the one who lived the life she cannot live and died the death she deserves to die.

When Jesus is the point, the centerpiece, the rock, the cornerstone of all Scripture and Christian living, our sin gets exposed, our idols surface, our hearts melt because we see how broken we are, and we even repent of our “good” deeds done in our skewed, personal  view of righteousness. Christian parents often raise their children to believe that they are an empty cup of needs waiting to be filled by God. What we need to proclaim is that they are broken mirrors that are to reflect God’s image and need to be put back together by him alone. This only happens by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

One tool that Carly and I will use in order to raise our children to see and savor Jesus Christ as biblical theologians is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. It is beautifully written as it expounds Christ as the sum and focus of all the Bible stories Christians have historically moralized. Also, it is wonderfully and artistically illustrated. Obviously, Bailey won’t comprehend much for a few years, but in the meantime, we are building a gospel culture–not a moralistic, religious one–in our home. Adults should digest this book as well. If you have kids, get this book and learn from it, too. If you don’t have kids, buy this book for someone who does, and don’t be ashamed to read it before you put it in a gift bag.

Toward a Theology of Laughter

Have you ever wanted to laugh so hard in front of others but you held back because you were afraid of what they’d think of you? I’m ashamed to say I have.

I’m not talking about laughing at somebody in a trite way to embarrass or expose them. I’m not talking about laughing at crude or vulgar humor that is “out of place” (Eph. 5:4). I’m talking about genuine, clean, witty, endearing humor that draws out joyful, sloppy, fall-off-the-couch, tear-filled, pee-your-pants laughter. We need more of that among God’s people because, honestly, we are often quite boring. I wonder if, in fact, some of us have been sedated.

Jesus presented a picture of what kingdom living is like in the Beatitudes. He said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” I believe in the new heavens and new earth, we will laugh. We will laugh well. After all, the kingdom of heaven is a party with the best wine, according to Jesus’ first miracle (John 2:1-12). But not only the best wine; I believe we will also have the best humor. Pure humor. Humor as God intended it to be. Alongside this will be the best laughter. Pure laughter.

Some may argue that in this life we should laugh much. After all, the world is going to hell quickly and Jesus said, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). And does it not say in James, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (4:6)? I would argue that we must hold these passages in tension with the countless passages that talk about joy in God (e.g. Ps. 16:11; Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). This kind of joy makes you happy and brings laughter. Laughter is not learned. It is a gift purchased for us by Jesus. No one taught my four-month-old daughter to smile and giggle; she giggles because it is in her, because that is one expression of the image of God. There is a tension, of course, but we must remember Paul’s admonition to hold everything in tension while we are in the “already, not yet”:

This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

Paul teaches us to keep eternity at the forefront of our minds. Nothing here is permanent. Because of that, there will always be sorrow and joy: on the same days, in the same hour, possibly at the same time.

Pure laughter is something I want to pursue. It says something about the humility of a person who can laugh in the way I described above. Few can do it. I can in the company of my wife and a few close friends. But it should not be that way. When I hear something that merits sloppy laughter, yet I hold it in, I am essentially saying, “I am too good for you. I am too reserved. Too strong. I will not laugh.” This exposes my pride, my self-inflation, that I am better than other people. It exposes the fact that I cannot let down my guard for even a moment to tear up and say, “Excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom, because you are making me laugh so hard.” Sadly, holding back extravagant laughter communicates to other that my image and reputation are more important than delight in humor.

Every time you or I experience a pure laugh, we are taking a step toward humility and we are getting an oh so faint picture of what the kingdom will be like when it is finally consummated at Christ’s return. If the kingdom of heaven is like a party with the best wine (that’s what John 2:1-12 is pointing toward), you can bet there will be hearty laughter. It would be wise to start practicing now.

Happy Birthday to My Wife

Today is my wife’s 24th birthday. I love you Carly!  If the Lord wills, I will spend many, many more birthdays with you, and that, my love, is very thrilling to me.

(Speaking of my wife, she just posted an incredible talk on her blog called “Life’s Too Short to Just Admire.”  She gave the message to some college students in Lincoln a couple weeks back.  It’s worth your time, I promise.)