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This is when God came to rescue us by dying on a cross

Araiya showed me some amazing drawings she was working on this morning. I asked her to explain them:

“This is when God came to rescue us by dying on a cross,” she began. I got chills. “Go on, I want to hear more.” I told her. “This is Jesus on the cross. These are the women & Mary crying because they don’t understand why Jesus is going to die, they don’t know that Jesus is saving the whole world. And these are the soldiers. And these are the other bad guys who were captured too and Jesus forgave one of them.”

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“And what about this drawing on the back?” I ask. “This is God’s Kingdom coming down from heaven.” She explains, pointing to each part, “These are all the flags for the celebration. This is me, and Tallis and you, we are all singing and happy because Jesus has rescued the whole world. It’s a big party. Like a wedding.”

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And that got me thinking that sometimes we need to come back to basics and see the beauty of the gospel afresh, much like Araiya does through her drawings and play and songs. And it’s awesome! At the most simplest, the kingdom of God is the final end result of God’s mission of history to rescue and regenerate His sin-marred, chaos-strewn, corrupted and dying creation. It’s about the process God has set out on to re-establish Jesus our king. It’s all about what he has done, is doing, and will do to remind us & invite us into his lordship over all creation, defeating the corruption we have brought by trying to run things our own way, bringing order to all, enacting justice, and being worshiped. Araiya’s whole story she has illustrated in her drawing is one core truth in understanding of the Gospel: “That unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10:13) You can take this even further, “Unless you become like a little girl, the little girl you currently are or once were, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” I just love that! Isn’t that just the kick in the pants we need–all of us proud, arrogant, comfortable, educated past our intelligence kind of grown-up people?

The simplicity of the Gospel is epitomized on the cross. There- the love of God, His never-stopping, never giving up love and desire for our salvation, the utter crux of all humanity and history, at this time & place, poured out before the eyes of people. Because it was for the JOY set before Jesus, the JOY he knew would come after the pain and death and separation from God- something we experience every day but have become so immune to we hardly feel it- JOY that through this one, singular act his children would be able to run to his arms without distance, without hindrance. But Araiya knows the story doesn’t end there. She knows too what is to come. She knows Jesus dying on the cross is what will allow us the biggest party ever. Where there will be no more sadness, no more disease, no more suffering, no more death, no more destruction. She is grasping the fullness of the Gospel. Jesus dying isn’t the whole picture. Jesus dying, rising and coming back in victory & celebration is. Simple understanding. Simple trusting. Like a child who jumps off the couch into her father’s arms because she utterly trusts his father to catch him. That’s what embracing the Gospel looks like. No holding back, complete, childlike trust. Salvation is as simple as receiving a gift – nothing can be done to earn it or to pay it back, simply receive it. While Jesus died we did nothing. It was God’s will to deal with our rebellion so that he could save us, not by our own means, merits or efforts. Jesus rose, alone, in the dark of a cold, stone tomb. No one was there to witness that explicit moment when the newness of life took over his beaten & broken body. Just a miracle, the greatest Peripety of all time, attributed only to God’s doing. Jesus paid the debt we could never pay for our sin. Salvation is simply receiving his work already completed on our behalf and His free gift of salvation. Grace is unmerited favor that’s offered to us because, and only because, of what Jesus has done. And then there’s gonna be a party like no one’s ever seen.

But how easy is it for us grown-ups to forget, or ignore, or minimize, to explain it all away. In and out of a church, the theology covers it over, the philosophy takes away the raw pain and power of it. The selfishness that stops us from responding to it. The transformation that will be lacking in the false truths we construe. But even Paul was convicted to want to know nothing and preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified. Not the ecclesial politics of the people he wrote to, not his own internal pain nor old nature of desire for self-justification–but the crucified Christ alone. Dig a little deeper and see had to ‘determine’ (Gk. krino) to do this. It didn’t come easily, it didn’t come naturally, as it doesn’t to us. The Greek word Krino is commonly translated ‘to judge’. Paul had to weigh it all up, measure, debate, consider and consciously decide to want focus on nothing but the crucified Christ seeking what Araiya is young enough to still naturally possess- “simplicity of heart” — the untainted understanding of Christ and his cross. We have complicated it and made it into something Jesus never intended. We have used too complicated of metaphors; we have employed too complex imagery; we have obscured God’s gospel & kingdom even from ourselves.

“Tragically, there are many erroneous views of the kingdom that misrepresent the glories of God’s eternal kingdom. The kingdom is not like the cartoonish inanity that shows heaven as a white cloud upon which we will sit wearing diapers and playing harps with wings far too small to carry us anywhere fun.

The kingdom is not the naive dream of liberalism, that with more education and time sin and its effects will be so eradicated from the earth that utopia will dawn. The kingdom is not the deceptive dream of Christless spirituality where all learn to nurture the spark of divinity within themselves and live out their true good self in harmony. The kingdom is not the political dream that if we simply get the right leaders in office and defeat all the bad guys good will rule the earth.

The kingdom is both a journey and a destination, both a rescue operation in this broken world and a perfect outcome in the new earth to come, both already started and not yet finished.”        [Excerpt from Mark Driscoll's book Doctrine]

Every night we read a chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible. We are on our 3 time reading through the book cover to cover. The book is now well worn (or rather, abused I should say), as the pages are torn and taped back together, the binding is busted from being dropped too many times. I absolutely love the language in this book, how each story is woven back to Jesus, pointing to who he is and what he has done. I love how it presents the core of the gospel in such a simple, yet incredibly rich way that illuminate the gospel even to me in new refreshing ways. Our girls love it. Not only is it amazing to experience what they are learning from it, it’s so exciting to see how Araiya in particular reiterates the truths she is gaining more and more understanding in through the different mediums she encounters. She is gathering up these concepts then from them creating new and more complex ways of retelling them. Today these drawings of hers are blowing me away (even to the point of laughter that we will soon have to have the post-trib vs. pre-trib talk because she has drawn flying people in her end times rendition). If you don’t already know, drawing is really big in our house and usually it involves princesses. However, even in a media-saturated world these girls are growing into, the irreplaceable raw medium of reading and sketching is having far more an impact even on an almost 5 year old girl, as I revel in seeing Araiya’s amazing rendition of the Gospel in Red Pen. I, for one, am inspired.

Some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything— to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is — it’s true.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
[Expert from the Introduction of the Jesus Storybook Bible]

Sure, there are many who tear into this approach of child-like simplicity as intellectual suicide. They hear a passage about Jesus telling grown men, seasoned fisherman no less, their faith needs to be like that of little children. Perhaps this idea taken out of context is a prima facie proof that Christianity is childish. Though I beg to wonder if those who would come to that conclusion even have children or have ever spent any actual time around them. I myself since becoming a parent have continually revised my sentimentalist or hyper-intellectual interpretation of what ‘do not hinder the little children’ really implies. Sure, kids are soft and cute and sweet for all of 3 seconds here and there. Surely I relish those times, because the rest of the time they are unrelentingly careening off walls, risking us getting a noise violation, fighting over who gets which dolly, heckling adults, harassing me with an endless barrage of unanswerable questions, chasing each other around the house, having an insatiable curiosity and create a perpetual mess. If that is the kind of children Jesus is endeared towards, then there is no way we can desisting learning from ideals and more about learning from reality, that this is not talking about innocence distilled here. It is not Pansy Jesus with a perm and soft focus filter gathering a calm circle of angelic children & resting his perfectly manicured hand on their heads one by one. Are you still wondering why culturally we have such a skewed view of Christianity? Because the reality is (or at least how biblically speaking I envision it) a picture of a bunch of kids with dirty faces & snot jumping on the shoulders of a tan carpenter, tumbling about in joyously brutal frolicking and loud jovial excitement as Jesus grinned from ear to ear. I picture it much like how my girls react when their Daddy arrives home. In these moments my girls inspire me with their amazingly uninhibited simple understanding of the Gospel, both in deed, word and drawing. In light of that, I too have to realign my own view of what coming to my Abba Daddy looks like as well.

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