Archive for Jesus

Children’s Bible Misses the Point

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

A couple of weeks ago, I was wandering around a Waldenbooks book store that was in the mall, and for fun, I decided to check out the children’s Bibles. I remember getting one when I was a kid, and I was more enthralled by the drawings of the people and the animals with huge eyes than the actual stories. Really, I was curious as to how simplified the stories would be, and if there was any improvement in the illustrations.

But one of the Bibles I found made my jaw drop. It had all of the traditional stories of the Bible–Creation, Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Big Fish, Jericho, Birth of Jesus and all of his Miracles–except for one important and crucial story: the Death and Resurrection.

Anyone who has ever been a Christian in their entire lives knows that those two events in the life of Jesus are the whole reason there is such thing as Christianity in the world today. It’s one of those things that can be boiled down to an “If you only learn one thing today” statement: If you only learn one thing, it’s that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins.

Simple. Easy. It’s in the Apostle’s Creed even: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord… was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again, and ascended into Heaven.

So why is it missing from this childrens’ Bible?

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to talk about the death of Jesus. We have to deal with it for 40 days of Lent. It’s a tough topic to preach on, and many people have to actually force themselves to go to church during Lent. And I’ll also admit that trying to explain something as complicated as death and resurrection to small children will take a lot of creativity.

But imagine what that kid is going to think the first time he or she hears about the crucifixion of Jesus. He or she will probably turn to the parents and say, “What are they doing to Jesus?”

“Oh, they’re crucifying him. It’s part of the life of Jesus in the Bible.”

“No it isn’t.” And out comes the children’s Bible, which ends with Jesus performing a lot of miracles and living a happy life.

Hopefully this child is taught about the Crucifixion before they see Passion of the Christ for the first time. It could be disastrous going into that blind.

How can such an important aspect of a religion just be left out of a Bible? It’s a question I’ve been tossing around in my head every so often since I saw that Bible. It’s like Scientology without Xenu. It’s like Buddhism without the enlightenment. It’s like Harry Potter without wizardry.

A s’more without chocolate is just a sticky, burnt marshmallow between graham crackers, just like a Bible without Jesus’ death and resurrection is just a story about a nice guy that did a lot of cool things for different people.

When you leave out the most important part of the story, you take out the entire reason the story existed in the first place. For those with or expecting children, check your children’s Bibles. Make sure you’re giving them the full message.

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Can I Get A Witness?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I was in second grade the first time I had a chance to witness to someone. We were in class, and though I forget exactly what we were doing in class, I remember being called out to talk to someone. To this day, I don’t know why I was called out of class. If there was a problem with students, it was my understanding that teachers or aides were supposed to handle it, not other students.

I was led into a different room. It wasn’t exactly a classroom, but more of a room where kids with disabilities were taken when they were being disruptive. Sitting in the room at a table was a classmate of mine, David. I noticed he seemed worried, possibly scared. Immediately I knew something was weird: a student was scared and worried, and they wanted another student to talk to them? It was strange.

I sat down across from him, and the aide said to David, “Tell him what you told me.”

David started to tell his story. He talked about how his family wasn’t really together, because his parents both worked multiple jobs. He told me that when he went home after school, he was the only one there. His parents worked until six or seven at night, so from the time school got out at three until his parents came home, he was alone. I guess he only brought it up because, a few days before, there was a massive thunderstorm, and being home alone throughout the storm scared him to the point where it was affecting his school work.

He finished by saying that he just needed a friend to talk to, which was interesting to me, because I didn’t really consider him a friend. Sure, we were classmates, and sure we sometimes played together during recess. But to be considered a friend was a huge responsibility, because now the pressure was on to say something reassuring.

I don’t know why, but I started by saying, “You know, you were never really alone in your house that night.”

“I wasn’t?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I said. “Jesus was there with you.”

The words poured out of me. Today, I can’t remember what I said, but I can assume it was something along the lines of Jesus is always with us, and is especially close when times are rough. Whatever it was I said, it obviously worked, because I remember David smiling, tears starting to roll down his face. He thanked me for helping him out, and we both walked back to class.

I remember feeling different that day. Not happier, or sadder, or anything like that. Just different. I felt inspired, like I had done something beyond myself. It felt good.

I don’t know where David is now, but wherever he is, I hope he keeps our experience in his heart, and I wish him the best of luck.

If you have a story of a time when you witnessed the Gospel of Christ, or were given an opportunity to share the Gospel with others, we’d love to hear about it! Find submission information here. Stories that are heartwarming, inspirational, and interesting will be posted here. For more information or questions, email justmakessenseblog@gmail.com

What is a Christian?

Posted in religion with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Christianity gets a bad rap. Most world religions do, but for some reason, especially in America, Christians are the loudest complainers.

Christians in America feel they are being “persecuted” for their beliefs. Every December, Bill O’Reilley does his “Attack on Christmas” special, where he complains that Christmas is being attacked based solely on public school not allowing Christmas carols to be sung or the installation of “Holiday Trees.” Glenn Beck, over and over again, talks about how Christians are being held back and repressed in the name of tolerance.

The problem that I see with these different “repressions” and “attacks” is that they aren’t attacking the Christians themselves, but rather the label they fall under. For a while, I refused to be called a “Christian” because of the stigma attached to it.

Ask anyone who speaks out against Christianity what they hate about Christians, and everyone you ask will give you a different answer. But mostly, the Christians that are being hated are closed-minded, intolerant, ignorant individuals, who cling to religion and guns and views anything that is different from their “Utopia” as evil. Christians vote Republican, eat red meat, and usually live in rural areas. Christians will happily tell you that you are going to hell, and will shove Christ down your throats with scare tactics.

I foundĀ this website recently that does a great job of this tactic. It starts off discussing the deaths of rock stars, and how the rock and roll culture leads straight to Hell. The practical side of me likes to think that it doesn’t, and the logical side of me knows it won’t, but for kicks, I read the tract.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll notice that, after all of that propaganda, you’re given a choice: CHOOSE LIFE, and rid your system of rock music and be welcomed into Heaven, or CHOOSE DEATH, and burn in Hell after you die because of your music choice. For kicks, I decided to choose death, and was immediately brought here.

This page talks about my awful choice of rejecting Jesus Christ as my Savior, and goes on and on and on about the eternal lake of fire that my condo will be next to for all eternity. After reading all of this, I’m given another choice, my last chance: Accept Jesus Christ, or reject Him. Again, for kicks, I chose to reject Jesus. And oh man, did I make the wrong choice.

This page talks about the torment of Hell. It’s all about Hell, using Biblical descriptions about Hell and how much I will suffer by going there. It talks about how National Geographic and PBS both accept that Hell is a real place, and by rejecting Jesus, that is where I’m going. The page is black, the text is red, as if to prove that I’m a wicked person.

This, from the same people who believe in a God of love, will scare me into salvation. That is not what people want.

So what should a Christian be instead? Exactly what Jesus preaches. I feel like I’m repeating myself every time I say it, but that’s what is said, and it was said to be the most important commandments: “Love your God… and Love your Neighbor.”

The simple act of loving someone is all that someone might need to be brought to Christ. Jesus isn’t angry or upset or mean. Jesus is Love. Religion and Christianity shouldn’t be something scary or something that causes you to fear the unknown realm of death. Religion and Christianity should be something that is desired.

To answer the question in the title: A Christian is one who is loving, not scary.

If the majority sets a good example for the rest of the world, maybe Christians won’t be as “persecuted” as everyone thinks they are.

I Wonder: Jesus’ Refusal of the Wine

Posted in opinion with tags , , , on April 7, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Because of the success of the Wednesday Lenten series, I’ve decided to dedicate Wednesdays to reflection and discussion of Biblical stories and Christian themes.

Forgive me for a moment, in this celebration after the Resurrection of Christ, as I go back to the Passion, and this passage from Matthew:

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.
— Matthew 27:33-34

It’s the passage that is read every year around Maunday Thursday/Good Friday. It is the moment after Jesus is nailed to the cross, when one of the soldiers offers wine to him to drink. But Jesus refuses.

In his book He Chose the Nails, Max Lucado explains that “gall” (or as described in Mark, “myrrh”) mixed in with wine gave certain sedative properties. It numbed the senses and messed with the mind. If Jesus had drank that wine, he would have been pretty loopy and numb all over, allowing the pain to be a little more manageable.

But Jesus refused the wine, choosing to endure the full brunt of the pain of nails in his hands and feet.

Lucado posits that Jesus did this to endure all of the feelings that we as humans endure, which would allow us to relate with him, and trust him, and be better able to follow him and his teachings. It makes sense, in a way. In the book, Lucado says, “Doesn’t the lack of understanding keep us from others? Suppose you were discouraged at your financial state. You need some guidance from a sympathetic friend…. Would you approach someone who had inherited a fortune? Probably not. Why? He wouldn’t understand.” (pg. 93).

But this post isn’t about why Jesus refused the wine. Rather, I wonder: did Jesus regret not drinking that wine?

Jesus was a smart man. He was a rabbi, so he was learned in not only theology, but also history and science, among other things. He was a philosopher, able to read and decipher Hebrew scriptures and relate them to the present day. Jesus wasn’t an idiot. So of course Jesus would know if there was something mixed in with the wine, and of course he would know what would happen depending on what was mixed in. Jesus would know that myrrh or gall in the wine would numb him and increase his pain threshold.

But he refused it.

I wonder if he had thought about it, and decided not to. It isn’t really in any of the prophecies* for Jesus to reject wine, so why did he do it? Maybe it was because he wanted to be “fully mortal, fully God,” and endure an intense pain for the world to know about. I wonder if, after the first nail pierced Jesus’ skin and the blood spurted out and ran down his hands, if he immediately regretted not taking that wine.

The most intense pain I’ve known was when I went skydiving this summer. Long story short, I misheard a command, and prepared the canopy for landing 25-30 feet above the ground. I hit the ground in a free-fall, feet-first, and the enormity of the pain made me curse and nearly cry. Nothing was broken, but everything was in pain.

This is a completely different pain, though. This is something foreign entering the skin by extreme force. I wonder if Jesus cried out in pain, and thought, “Is it too late to have some of that wine?”

*Next week’s article will be on the many prophecies throughout the Bible that Jesus fulfilled. Stay tuned.