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Tim Tebow and Ash Wednesday

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Electronics Technician 3rd Class Leila Tardieu receives the sacramental ashes during an Ash Wednesday celebration aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (Credit: US Navy/photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian May)

Tim Tebow is back in the news this morning, after Denver’s backup quarterback criticized him in a GQ article and said, “We’ve had a lot of, I guess, luck, to put it simply.”  Brady Quinn, who is a Christian, also said that the way Tebow expresses his faith doesn’t “seem very humble to me.”  He has now apologized directly to Tebow and states that the quarterback “deserves a lot of credit for our success.”

When you play a team sport, you need the rest of the team.  Yesterday I experienced the team of faith when Janet and I attended our first Ash Wednesday service, complete with ashes.  We took part in Highland Park Presbyterian Church’s noonday service, led by Dr. Ron Scates.

Dr. Scates is one of the dearest friends I have ever known.  We pray for each other every day, meet with other ministers twice a month for lunch, and have done life together for 14 years.  When I stood at the front of the chapel as he traced the cross on my forehead in ash, it was an experience I’ll never forget.  As we worshiped with believers from across the community and recited the Apostle’s Creed, a faith expression shared by billions around the world, we were truly part of a global family.

You need family in hard times.  When you lose your job, or your home, or your marriage, or your health–when your son is diagnosed with cancer, our personal crisis of the last month–when suffering makes you feel isolated and lonely–you need the presence of God made real by his children.

Today’s “fear not” offers us such hope.  In Luke 2 we find a group of shepherds in the Bethlehem fields.  Their profession kept them away from synagogue and temple for months on end; their duties rendered them ritually unclean; some of their number stole from their employers, tainting their entire profession.  No lonelier group of men could be found.  Suddenly “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”  With this reaction: “and they were terrified” (v. 9).  Was this divine judgment?  Were they about to die?

The angel immediately said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (v. 10).  For kings and priests, but also for shepherds and prostitutes, tax-collectors and lepers.  Everyone was invited to meet Jesus.  Everyone still is.

When we participate in Lent, we join a vast global family of sisters and brothers who are all focusing on one Father.  The closer we draw to him, the closer we draw to each other.  Who in the family needs your help today?  Whose help do you need?