My “Christian of the Year” Awards

I didn’t know this even existed.  Tim Tebow, former star quarterback of the University of Florida Gators and now rookie quarterback of the Denver Broncos, has been voted “Single Christian of the Year” by Christian Partner for Life, an online guide to Christian dating websites.  In a press release, they said, “Tim Tebow is our most eligible Christian of the year—he represents a model for the type of person of faith that we think is perfect for single, committed Christians.”  How weird is that?  I guess I didn’t know these types of awards existed. It made me think, though. What Christian awards might I be eligible for?  Here’s what I came up with:

Redheaded Christian of the Year
I’ve been plagued by comments like “carrot top” all of my life, but what if I could be awarded the best Christian redhead?  My years of persecution and suffering would be redeemed by the honor.  I could walk away from therapy with my redhead held high.

The Most Abraham-like Christian of the Year
Michelle and I have moved 11 times in 17 years of marriage.  Surely there must be an award for this.  Abraham was told by God to move, and he did – 1200 miles away from his home.  Michelle and I were told by God to move, and we did – 1400 miles away from our home.  Looks like we beat him by 200 miles.

Animal Caretaker Christian of the Year
There has to be an award for what I have to put up with.  Max, our 2 year-old boxer is both deaf and dumb.  He really is hapless and seems to have no clue what he’s doing on this earth.  Although he is extremely loving, the frustration of trying to get him to understand the most basic of human-to-dog commands just about does me in.

Smartest Christian Dad of the Year
With three teenage girls in the house, I once was considered the dumbest Christian dad in the whole world.  But to the two daughters who have moved out and are now living independent lives, miraculously, I have changed from the dumbest to the smartest.  Although one of the three (the one still at home) still considers me pretty dumb, I am reveling in the sudden change of heart of the other two.

Most Random Varsity Letter Carrying Christian of the Year
I am a high school varsity letter winner.  I worked hard for it, sweat a lot, and was often mentally and physically drained in my quest to secure it.  I ran cross country in high school, but it was not in cross country that I earned my letter.  It was not until the spring of my senior year that I was offered the hallowed high school award.  Earlier that fall, I was selected – among a field of highly talented and qualified dancers and gymnasts – to represent my school as the school mascot, Clawd the Cougar.  I put a ton of effort into this and made every game an event: halftime dance shows, taking on the other mascots in a game of one-on-one (which I always won), bribing the refs with large bills.  My efforts did not go unnoticed as I was unexpectedly awarded a varsity letter at the end-of-the-year basketball banquet! How nerdy is that?!

Cities of Refuge (3 of 3)

Then the LORD said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. Joshua 20:1-3

Here is the continuation of the last post exploring the parallels between the “Cities of Refuge” in the Old Testament and Jesus, our refuge, today.

4. The cities of refuge were stocked with food and other necessities, and likewise, the Lord provides us with everything we need.

These cities were fully stocked and fully prepared to take care of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who ran to them. Surely the person who ran to these cities for refuge would be hungry and thirsty, they would be frantic and scared, and surely they would be in need of spiritual counsel and prayer. And these cities were fully prepared to handle any need that these people had.

In the same way that these cities were stocked and prepared to meet the needs of those seeking refuge, so too is the Lord, our refuge.  Francis Schaeffer says: Jesus’ death in space-time history is completely adequate to meet our need for refuge from true moral guilt which we have.  It is final because of who He is. We are safe and free from the penalty and power of death in Christ.

And not only is He able to meet our spiritual need for a Savior, but He also is able to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional needs as well. Philippians 4:19  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

God owns it all, He controls it all, and He is ready and willing to provide for His children everything they need through Christ. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! The cities of refuge had everything desperate people needed, and so too does our Lord.  He is able and willing to give us everything we need.

5. If a person did not flee to the cities of refuge, there was no help for him.  Likewise, if we do not run to the Lord, there is no help for us.

Run to the Lord and be safe.  Run to anything else.  Put your trust in anything or anyone else for refuge, and you will not be safe. This is really stating the obvious, but we really need to be reminded of this again and again.

If you were in desperate need of help and protection back then, and you saw a sign that said “REFUGE,” it would only make sense to run as fast as you can to the city of refuge. The signs are everywhere for us today.  They say “REFUGE,” and they’re all pointed to the Lord.

Cities of Refuge (2 of 3)

Then the LORD said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. Joshua 20:1-3

Here is the continuation of the last post exploring the parallels between the “Cities of Refuge” in the Old Testament and Jesus, our refuge, today.

2. The gates of these cities were always open, and likewise, the door to the strong tower of the Lord is always open as well.

The research of Francis Schaeffer on these cities of refuge reveals that the gates to the 6 cities of refuge were never locked.  City gates back then were always locked – at least at night while most of the city slept.  It was too dangerous not to lock the gates because enemies seemed to always be nearby, but the gates of the cities of refuge were never locked.  People who were in desperate need of help, protection, and refuge could always get in – no matter what time of day or night.

So too is it with the Lord, our refuge.  Psalm 121:4 says: Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. There is no need to wake the Lord when you need Him because He neither slumbers nor does He sleep.  His door is always open, and He’s ready to receive you when you run to Him.

3. The cities of refuge were open to everyone, and likewise, the Lord calls for everyone to come to Him.

Joshua 20:9 says: These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them. God made it very clear to Israel that these cities of refuge were to be for ANYONE and EVERYONE.  Those receiving needy people at the city gates were not to ask for any identification or card of nationality of the one running to it for help.  They were to let every single person that came to them for help inside the city.

In the same way – in the Lord’s mind – there is no discrimination and no separation of persons.  In Galatians 3:28, Paul described for us how Jesus sees things when he wrote: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. In the eyes of Jesus, our refuge, there is no difference between any of us.  He welcomes anyone and everyone to Him, and He calls everyone who comes to Him (regardless of their race, sex, nationality, financial situation, upbringing, or what they’ve done or not done) His “children.”

Cities of Refuge (1 of 3)

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

The Lord is our refuge. The Lord is our rescuer. No matter what we’ve done. No matter if we’ve done it multiple times. No matter what we face. God is our refuge and strength. He’s our ever-present help in time of trouble.

In Joshua 20, we get a clear picture of the great lengths that the Lord goes to be our refuge. The Lord instructed Israel to establish “Cities of Refuge” as they settled the Promised Land. These were six cities strategically located throughout Canaan that people could go to if they needed protection and shelter.  Mainly, these cities were places of refuge for people who accidentally killed someone. If someone accidentally killed another person while hunting or while working the land, they could run to one of these six cities of refuge and be protected from the revenge of a family member of the one who was killed.

Back then, if someone killed someone else, justice was not carried out by the government; it was carried out by family members of the one who was killed. Therefore, in order to escape the revenge of a family member for an accidental killing, people would literally run to one of these cities of refuge and escape being killed themselves.  The Lord had Israel establish these cities not just for their own good, but also to offer them and us a beautiful picture of who the Lord is for us: our refuge, our rescuer, our redeemer.

In the coming days, I’ll show you a few of the wonderful parallels between the “Cities of Refuge” back then and the refuge the Lord provides for us today.  Here’s the first parallel…

1. The cities were easy to get to, and so too is the Lord.

In Joshua 20:7-8, we get a description of where these cities of refuge were located. Each city was strategically located throughout the Promised Land and was never further than a 1-2 day journey away from any location in the land.  There was a law back then saying that the roads leading to these cities had to be repaired each spring after the rains and bad weather of winter had passed.  These roads were populated with many bridges so that the one running for refuge didn’t have to run down and back up ravines.  And at every crossroad, there were large signs strategically placed that pointed to the nearest city of refuge.  The signs said “REFUGE” in huge letters.

The people of Israel made it as easy as possible for those in need of refuge to find the refuge they needed. In the same way, the Lord has made it as easy as possible for those in need of refuge to get to Him today.

Are you in need of refuge?  Are you in need of help?  The road to the Lord – our strong tower, our city of refuge – is smooth and in great shape!  There are bridges everywhere, and we don’t have to worry about crossing over huge ravines to get to Him.  In Matthew 11:28, the Lord says, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The Sad Act of De-Baptism

I became a member of my home church when I was 12 years old.  I went through a type of confirmation class where I (and other member candidates) met in the pastor’s office with the pastor once a week for several weeks.  I remember it being a big deal, and as much as I could as a twelve year old, I took it very seriously.

The concept of baptism was presented to me then, but I knew that I didn’t fully understand the significance of the act, so I decided to wait until I was a little older to be baptized.  During my senior year of high school, I had made a real (and what would become lasting) commitment to follow Christ with my whole life.  It was at this point that I decided to get baptized, and so on a Sunday morning in front of 700 people, I was baptized.  Before I was placed under the water, I decided to give testimony that day in front of all of those people of my faith in Christ.  That day was (and still is) a very meaningful day in my life. It was my official “coming out” – a coming out to all of my family and friends that I had chosen to fully follow Christ from that day forward.

So, when I ran across this article in a recent edition of the USA Today, I was saddened.  Not necessarily shocked, but saddened for sure.

Atheists choose ‘de-baptism’ to renounce childhood faith

In a type of mock ceremony that’s now been performed in at least four states, a robed “priest” uses a hairdryer marked “reason” in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all. Several dozen participants then feed on a “de-sacrament” (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had “freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition.”

Within the past year, “de-baptism” ceremonies have attracted as many as 250 participants at atheist conventions in Ohio, Texas, Florida and Georgia. More have taken place on college campuses in recent years, according to the Secular Student Alliance, a group that promotes atheism among high school and college students.

“If we’re having a winter solstice or summer solstice get-together or some other event, we might say: ‘Who wants to get de-baptized?’ ” said Greg McDowell, the Florida state director for American Atheists, an advocacy and networking group. “It’s a bit of satire. People will play the fool by waving their arms in the air and saying, ‘I got de-baptized!’ But the paperwork is still legit.”

Some of the so-called “de-baptized” have used their certificates to petition churches to remove their names from baptismal rolls. One argument: they were baptized without their consent as children and should now be declared de-baptized.