Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Perfect God

"One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving" (Psalm 62:11-12, NIV).

A strong, but apathetic, God would be worthless.
A strong, but hateful, God would be a nightmare.
A loving, but weak, God would be pitiful.

Since the true God is both strong and loving, he is worthy of our trust and our worship.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Global Food Crisis

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is is not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter---
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I" (Isaiah 58:6-9, NIV).

The Christian Chronicle contains several good articles and columns about the current global food crisis. Here are a few:

If you would like to help the poor internationally, you may contact the Christian Relief Fund ( at


P.O. Box 19670
Amarillo, TX 79114-1670

If you would like to help the poor in Tulsa, you may contact the Contact Church of Christ ( at

(918) 447-1130

1529 W. 49th St.
Tulsa, OK 74107

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Winning Isn't Everything

"You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13, NIV).

In the late 1990s, I saw an interesting statistic. In Russia, two-thirds of pregnancies were ending in abortions. In the United States, one-third of pregnancies were ending in abortions.

What could explain the vast differences between the statistics of the two countries? Both had virtually unrestricted legal access to abortion. Both promoted contraceptives to their respective populations. Their public policies were practically identical.

The American pro-life movement had helped in electing pro-life politicians, but the policies of the nation were only marginally changed. Abortion continued as an unrestricted right.

Although the pro-life movement looked like a loser among American political movements, I believe it made a significant difference in the culture. Russia lacked a significant pro-life movement, while America's pro-life movement possessed a determined vibrancy. The statistics reveal the results.

Since the pro-life movement never gave up, fewer children died from unnecessary abortions in the United States than in Russia. Thousands of pro-life pregnancy resource centers sprang up to offer pregnant girls and women the pre-natal and post-natal care needed when they had no one else to help. Pro-lifers continued to press the argument that pre-born children were human beings; as a result, most Americans came to believe that unnecessary abortions were murder even though they did not want to outlaw the procedure. Simply believing that abortion was unethical played a role in keeping the abortion rates lower.

Winning is good, but even losers can make a difference for good. Don't worry too much about winning and losing. Don't get worked up about being popular or unpopular. Simply continue to do good, and you will be a winner even when you lose.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Justice and Injustice

"You trample on the poor...
I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts" (Amos 5:11-12, NIV).

Sometimes the biblical concepts of justice and injustice can be confusing. Christians may believe they are pursuing social justice when they provide food for the poor or tutor at-risk children in an after-school program. Such activities are noble and necessary, but they are ministries of mercy rather than justice.

Christians may believe they are suffering an injustice when they are in a hurry to pay at the local convenience store and the customer in front of them is playing scratch and win lottery games without regard to the people in line behind him. It is annoying and inconvenient, but it is not an injustice.

In the Bible, injustice is the abuse of power. It is using power to deprive someone without power of something needed or deserved (such as money, dignity, or sexual innocence). In the recent past, we have seen the injustice in America's segregation and South Africa's apartheid. In our contemporary society, injustice may look something like this:

*A husband beating his wife
*An employer falsifying paperwork in order to defraud his or her employees of their wages
*A police officer taking bribes
*A teacher or minister raping children
*A mother spending her money at the casino while her children starve

Biblical justice is the proper use of power to protect people from the abuse perpetrated by those who would rob others of what God has intended for them to enjoy. A ministry of social justice goes beyond benevolence; it involves confronting violent liars; it involves risk; it involves uncomfortable situations; it may involve personal loss and heartache.

However, when Christians engage in acts of genuine social justice, they demonstrate the heart of God for the oppressed. They knock down a few barriers of unbelief between the abused and God. They make it easier for victims of injustice to believe in the God who cares about them personally.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


"Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4, NIV).

This morning, I was reading John Dobbs' blog just before I went to work. He had posted that his 18-year old son had died on Wednesday morning, just 2 days before his high school graduation. He had been hit by a truck as he was walking a dark street because his car had broken down. I did not have time to post this at that time, but I want to let people know about the grief of the Dobbs' family. John preaches for a Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana. Janet, Christopher, and I met him and his wife just 2 months ago at the International Soul Winning Workshop. Please pray for all the loved ones who are mourning today.

While I was working today, I heard a report on the radio that singer Steven Curtis Chapman's 5-year old daughter also died yesterday in a car accident. Her older brother ran over her in their driveway. Maria was one of the Chapman's daughters who had been adopted from China. He and his wife have been tremendous supporters and advocates of Christian adoption. Please pray for them also. I do not know them personally, but Steven wrote the song that became "our song" at our wedding; and I have heard him interviewed numerous times on radio programs like FamilyLife Today as he was advocating adoption.

John Dobbs' blog may be viewed at Steven Curtis Chapman's official web site is Bobby Ross has written an article about these stories (and one other) for the Christian Chronicle at

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Contact Church is Featured in the Christian Standard Magazine

Jennifer Taylor has written an article about Christian Churches and Churches of Christ that are helping people in need around the United States at The Park Plaza and Contact Churches of Christ are mentioned for their work here in Tulsa. Thanks for the nice article, Jennifer!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Because You Didn't Give Up On Me...

Her quick smile masked a troubled heart. After several months of disgrace and shame, she was being allowed to return to her job.

It had started with a bad relationship growing worse. Her angry ex-boyfriend had threatened to post pornographic images of her on the Internet. Embarrassed at the prospect of being exposed to the world, she had broken into his house to find the disc containing her photographs.

After she was caught committing burglary, she was charged with a felony. When her employers found out, she was suspended from her job.

Her world had collapsed around her. She had been humiliated. Her secret had become public knowledge. She had lost her job and her dignity.

As far as she knew, her only future consisted of time in prison.

But then, she received a phone call. A Christian with whom she worked wanted to let her know that he and a few other believers were praying for her. He also let her know that his local church would be willing to provide some food and some help with paying a few bills. She cried.

Several months later, after having the charges reduced to a misdemeanor and being placed on probation, she was allowed to return to work. She found her co-worker and confided, "Before you started calling me and offering to help with your church, I was just about to give up. Then you called. I couldn't believe that you and your church would want to help someone like me. Nobody else even called to see how I was doing. Because you didn't give up on me, I began to feel like maybe God had not given up on me either. I don't know if I would even be here today if you hadn't called. I know I've made a lot of bad choices, but God has given me another chance and I don't want to blow it again."

Sometimes small acts of kindness can make a difference. "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Why I am Reluctant to Promote the Church I Love

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).

I love the Contact Church of Christ. I love my friends whose lives are changing as they follow Jesus. I love to see them reaching out to others, serving others, loving others, and sharing the message of Christ with others. They inspire me.

However, I try to refrain from bragging about the church to people who do not know much about us. Sometimes I fail, but I hold back a ton of positive information about the church.

I have come to realize a couple of important concepts that have led me to refrain from promoting the church very much.

First, our message is about Jesus Christ. He is more important. He is essential. We are incidental. When we talk about ourselves, we should be merely examples of his grace and forgiveness. Whatever good is accomplished in us or by us should be seen as coming from our Savior.

Second, people don't believe the hype about us anyway. A few years ago, I was engaged in a casual conversation with a co-worker when the topic of churches came up. Without knowing anything about my church background, she interrupted. "Don't tell me anything about your church," she said. "I don't want to hear it. Everyone thinks their church is the best." A little stunned and not wishing to argue, I asked her about her church background. She had been a very active member of a church that she considered the best around. She was always telling others about how good her church was. Then she was mistreated by the leadership and became disillusioned with churches. She stopped believing the hype, and I could not blame her. Nearly 15 years ago, I was forced to leave an abusive church situation, too.

Today, I try to make my conversations focus more on how good Christ is, rather than how good the church is. When I mention the church, I am more likely to let people know how we can help them with something (food, emergency money, drug addiction recovery, parenting classes, etc.), instead of asking them to attend services with us. (Strangely enough, they have been known to show up anyway.)

I have much to learn, but I know this: I am an imperfect Christian in an imperfect church loved by a perfect God.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Why Was Cornelius Baptized?

In a previous post (, I mentioned that Cornelius along with his friends and family were accepted by God before they had expressed their faith and obedience. God had seen their faith before they had demonstrated it, and he had accepted them because of it.

So why did Peter order "that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:48, NIV)? After all, they had been accepted by God. Why did it matter?

First, when we have been saved by God's grace, we become changed people, a people who are "eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:11-14, NIV). We want to do God's will.

Second, Christ wants his disciples to be baptized and to obey everything he has instructed us to do (Matthew 28:18-20). When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord---as the one we depend on and serve---we do what he wants. Since he wants his followers to be baptized, we are baptized.

Third, we need a clear break from our past lives as we enter new lives with Christ. In baptism, our old lives are buried with Christ; we arise from baptism with a fresh start to a new life of following Jesus (Romans 6:1-7).

Finally, we want to accept the benefits attached to baptism. Peter taught that penitent believers would receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and salvation (1 Peter 3:21) when they were baptized.

Cornelius had been changed by God's grace. He was eager to do anything that Jesus demanded of him. When he was told that Christ wanted him to be baptized, he was eager to comply. Cornelius was ready to mark the end of his life without Christ and the beginning of his life with Christ. Knowing that God had accepted him, Cornelius would not reject the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and salvation by refusing to be baptized in the name of his Savior. Why would he?

Great Links

Here are a few great links:

At, you will find an article by business columnist Harvey MacKay titled "Practicing Compassion Brings Happiness." I liked its emphasis on bringing compassion into the workplace and the information about the chemical changes in our bodies caused by compassionate acts.

At, you will learn about a day in the life of an urban youth minister. Bob Logsdon, the Contact Church's youth minister, shares information about his work.

At, you will find a column by Erik Tryggestad encouraging us to refrain from spreading gossip and slander on the Internet.

Heartlight ministry has published two outstanding devotional pieces over the last few days. At, Steve Higginbotham wrote "Sometimes the Hard Choice is the Right Choice." At, Ann Voskamp wrote, "Uprighting the Earth."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The God Who Knows the Heart

"After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: 'Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are'" (Acts 15:7-11, NIV).

God knows the heart. When he looked into the hearts of Cornelius, his family, and his friends as they were hearing the good news about Christ, God saw hearts that had been affected by his grace. He saw faith in Jesus Christ and a willingness to obey; and he accepted those new believers. Before the other Christians accepted them (because of ethnic differences), God accepted them. Before they had expressed their faith and their willingness to obey, God accepted them. He knew their hearts. He knew they believed. He knew they would follow his instructions. Even if they would have been rejected by the church (which they were not, to the credit of the church), God saw their hearts and accepted them. What a great God!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

"Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 5:16, NIV).

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my mother-in-law, my sister, my wife, and all other mothers who may be reading this post!

A good devotional thought from Our Daily Bread may be found at

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One Busy Saturday

We have had a busy Saturday. This morning and early afternoon, we volunteered at the post office to help with the National Letter Carriers Association's Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Janet helped with setting up the food for the carriers to eat when they returned from their routes. Christopher sorted the cans from the boxes. I helped a carrier who was new to his route get his mail ready for the street and also with sorting the cans and boxes of food donated by our customers. We had a good time helping out. (As a bonus, the food that has been picked up from the routes later ---because some customers have forgotten to leave it on Saturdays---has been donated to the Contact Church's food bank in years past. I hope to be able to deliver it to the church building again this year.)

Late this afternoon, we went to see Bill Cosby at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. He performed one of his great comedy routines, and had us in tears at times because we were laughing so hard. It was nice to be able to enjoy seeing a living legend.

Friday, May 09, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

Earlier this week, a group of evangelical scholars and leaders released An Evangelical Manifesto ( The manifesto seeks to define the evangelical movement as a theological movement, rather than a political or cultural movement. Several news organizations covered the release of the document, probably due to the political ramifications of broadening evangelical Christianity's concerns beyond the stereotype of opposing abortion and same-sex marriages. (Actually, Christians are concerned about those issues, but it would be a caricature to state that we are concerned only about such issues.)

Here are a few excerpts:

"Evangelicals are therefore followers of Jesus Christ, plain ordinary Christians in the classic and historic sense over the last two thousand years. Evangelicals are committed to thinking, acting, and living as Jesus lived and taught, and so to embody this truth and his Good News for the world that we may be recognizably his disciples. The heart of the matter for us as Evangelicals is our desire and commitment, in the words of Richard of Chichester and as Scripture teaches, to 'see him more clearly, to love him more dearly, and to follow him more nearly.'" (Can one be a Christian without agreeing with the sentiments expressed in that paragraph?)

We are simply Christians, or followers of Christ, or adherents of 'mere Christianity,' but the Evangelical principle is at the heart of how we see and live our faith." (This section reminded me of the old slogan circulated among Churches of Christ and Christian Churches: "We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.")

"We confess that we Evangelicals have betrayed our beliefs by our behavior.
All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world." (I was most impressed with that paragraph. It takes a lot of humility and courage to admit our faults and our sins with such boldness.)

"All too often we have failed to demonstrate the unity and harmony of the body of Christ, and fallen into factions defined by the accidents of history and sharpened by truth without love, rather than express the truth and grace of the Gospel." (I was touched by this paragraph, because it describes the Christianity that we have inherited. Most of us had nothing to do with the divisions and factions that have arisen within Christianity. Our task is to see if we can return to the unity and harmony intended by God as we seek to follow Jesus Christ as the Scriptures reveal him.)

"We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life. Although we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman, we must follow the model of Jesus the Prince of Peace, engaging the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness, by promoting reconciliation, encouraging ethical servant leadership, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. We believe it is our calling to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care so that it may be passed on to generations yet to be born." (I agree completely with this sentiment. I have no intention of backing away from my pro-life and traditional marriage convictions, but I will not neglect other appropriate concerns if I can help it. You may click on the links at the side and bottom of this blog to find ways to help with these issues. See Pro-Life News, FamilyLife, International Justice Mission to fight slavery and other injustices around the world, Contact Church of Christ ---an urban ministry dedicated to helping Tulsa's urban poor with both physical and spiritual needs, and several other groups featured on this blog.)

"Called to an allegiance higher than party, ideology, and nationality, we Evangelicals see it our duty to engage with politics, but our equal duty never to be completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, economic system, or nationality. In our scales, spiritual, moral, and social power are as important as political power, what is right outweighs what is popular, just as principle outweighs party, truth matters more than team-playing, and conscience more than power and survival." (If we do not embrace this attitude, we are in danger of being used as pawns and we are in danger of committing idolatry. Most of us have seen people who worship and depend on their political parties and leaders as if they were gods. Christians must never be among them.)

Overall, An Evangelical Manifesto is a thoughtful and good document worth reading and considering. I found it to be refreshing in its honesty and its direction.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dealing with Cancer

Today, I read about a prayer request at One of the families in the church served by Preacherman is facing a very difficult time with cancer. Please keep them in your prayers. God cares and listens.

A couple of days ago, Trey Morgan celebrated 5 years of overcoming cancer. His story may be read at His cancer became a catalyst for appreciating his relationship with God, his family, and his friends.

you may read the advice of another cancer survivor named John Piper (one of my favorite authors). If I deal with cancer someday, I will want to read his advice again in order to regain a proper perspective of my situation.

Inspirational Churches in Asia

The latest edition of the Christian Standard contains a couple of inspiring articles about Christian Churches in Cambodia and China that I would like to share.

At, you may read the article "CHURCHES WITHOUT STEEPLES: Near the Gates of Hell." In the story, you will read about a church being planted in a former Cambodian brothel. The Christians in that country are working with International Justice Mission to rescue and care for the child sex slaves of their nation. They are working and worshiping in one of the world's darkest environments.

At, you may read the article "CHURCHES WITHOUT STEEPLES: Planting a Workplace Church in China." In the story, you will read about a young American Christian woman who traveled to China in order to work in a factory so that she could share the message of Christ with the Chinese people. As a result, a church was established in the factory.

When I think about such people, I'm inspired to keep going. Also, I'm encouraged, because I know that such stories are just the tip of the iceberg; how many other good things are being done by followers of Jesus Christ around the world that I do not know about?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Opportunity to Help Children in Need

Yesterday, we received the following letter from our adoption agency (Christian Services of Oklahoma) and thought that someone reading my blog would like to help with this need.

Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. Mark 9:37

Dear Friend,

In December 2007 there were FIFTY INFANTS in the Oklahoma City shelter at one time. The Department of Human Services did not have a place for these children so the babies stayed in twenty-four hour daycare until foster homes became available. This was not the first, or the last time this has happened.

It breaks my heart to think of tiny children being left in a shelter or a daycare with changing attendants every eight hours. They were taken from their homes by the Department of Human Services, due to suspected abuse or neglect. These little ones have been through great trauma. The best place for them is with loving families.

I have a dream to provide loving Christian foster homes for these children until they are reunited with their families or placed for adoption.

I am writing to ask for your financial support to allow Christian Services of Oklahoma to start a foster care program to provide homes for the state's children. We need $50,000 to get started.

We already have a $10,000 pledge from a generous donor. We need $40,000 to make it a matching gift.

If you can send a special gift of $12 today Christian Services of Oklahoma will be able to raise the $40,000 which is needed. Your gift is tax-deductible, since Christian Services of Oklahoma is a non-profit organization.

We also need prayers as we embark on taking care of more children for God. Adding another program to our existing programs of adoption and our maternity home will be challenging.

Please pray for us and send whatever amount you can to help us help children.

Yours in Christ,
Devonne L. Carter, LCSW
Executive Director

If you would like more information about Christian Services of Oklahoma, please go to Their mailing address is:

Christian Services of Oklahoma
1300 E. 15th St. Ste. 140
Edmond, OK 73013

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Need for Biblical Teaching

"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things" (Mark 6:34, NIV).

At, you may read the results of a survey of Americans about their religious beliefs.

The survey reveals that only 8% of Americans agree with all of the following statements:

*Their faith is very important in their lives today.
*They should share their beliefs about Christ with non-Christians.
*Satan exists.
*Eternal salvation is possible by God's grace rather than their works.
*Christ lived a sinless life.
*The Bible is accurate in all its teachings.
*God is an all-knowing, all-powerful deity who created and rules the universe.

At, you may see how members of various churches responded to the survey.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

VeggieTales: What Does It Mean to Love People?

"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10, NIV).

Over lunch today, we were watching VeggieTales on NBC. As usual, it was a good story, told in an entertaining way. It kept Christopher's attention and taught some good spiritual values as the story of Ruth was re-told in the world of cartoon vegetables.

However, at the end of the episode, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Pickle (uh...I mean Cucumber) were discussing the point of the episode when they completely missed it. One of them said, "So, you see, loving people means doing what they want instead of what you want." I understood that they were trying to get to the unselfish nature of love, but I thought, Oh, no! What a sick way of looking at love. I don't want Christopher to grow up thinking that his mission is to be a people-pleaser.

I said, "Christopher, that wasn't quite what loving people means. Loving people means doing what they need instead of what they may want." Janet chimed in with, "That's right. That's why we don't let you do everything you want, but we try to help you with everything you need. Sometimes what you want is not good for you, so we give you what you need instead. That's how we show that we really love you."

Normally, I don't worry about Christopher watching VeggieTales since it usually looks at life from a biblical worldview, but in this case, it sent the wrong message. I'm glad that we had the opportunity to discuss it, though.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Iron Man: Learning to be Responsible

This afternoon, I took my family to see Iron Man, a new movie based on the comic book series. As usual, I enjoyed it. I nearly always like summer action movies based on comic books.

In this movie, we meet Tony Stark, the head of a major manufacturer of weapons called Stark Industries. Tony is a super-smart, super-rich playboy who has never grown up. He develops all kinds of weapons for the U.S. government, but does not think about how they may be used or misused. In fact, he thinks of no one but himself (as can be seen in the way he uses women for his pleasure and treats them like trash afterwards).

Early in the movie, Tony is ambushed in Afghanistan by a group of terrorists who demand that he build a powerful weapon known as the Jericho missile. During his capture, the terrorists injure his heart and another captured scientist creates a device to keep his heart pumping. Soon Tony learns that his weapons are being bought on the black market by terrorists. His inventions are not making the world safer; they are being used as tools in the hands of evil men to harm the innocent. As the two scientists pretend to assemble the missile, they are actually building an Iron Man suit which they plan to use in an escape attempt.

During the escape, the other captured scientist loses his life to save Tony's. Before he dies, he urges Tony, "Don't waste your life." The entire experience changes Tony Stark in profound ways. He ceases to be the self-absorbed brilliant playboy and becomes a man. He embraces his responsibility to protect the people who had been placed in grave danger by his earlier irresponsibility. The rest of the movie tells the story of a man who has finally grown up.

I liked the message of Iron Man and look forward to buying it when it is released on DVD.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reputation is Important, But Not Most Important

"He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap" (1 Timothy 3:7, NIV).

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV).

Christians should be known for godly attitudes and actions. We should be known for kindness, compassion, courage, humility, love, joy, and many other positive qualities.

However, whether we are known for such qualities or not, we should live them. Our reputations may suffer for teaching the biblical truth about hot potato issues (like abortion, hell, homosexuality, etc.), but we must have the courage to teach the truth anyway. Our reputations may suffer for trying to help a friend caught in a sex scandal or abusing drugs, but we must show kindness and compassion anyway. Our reputations may suffer for confessing the sin of gossip and asking the victim for forgiveness, but we must live humbly anyway.

A few years ago, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to cover-up the widespread sexual abuse of children by its clergy. Concerned for its own reputation, the church slandered victims who spoke out against the abuse and denied all wrongdoing. In trying to save its reputation, it nearly destroyed its credibility.

What happened in the Roman Catholic Church a few years ago happens among denominations, congregations, and individuals constantly. Everyone is vulnerable to the temptation to place reputation above righteousness, but Jesus Christ calls his followers to a higher standard. The man with a reputation as a friend of sinners would rather see us risk our reputations to be good, rather than to merely look good.