All of us have mirrors and look into them every day to see how we look. Sometimes we are pleased, and at other times not so pleased.

In my Lenten Devotional reading today I was challenged to look at myself beyond what I see in the mirror. Day 9 in Paul David Tripp’s JOURNEY TO THE CROSS got my attention and nudged me to some self-examination.

The last sentence on the second page of the four page devotional stopped my reading and spurred my thinking. Tripp’s observation that “Anyone who argues against his [or her] own need of grace is in grave spiritual danger” (p. 56). We all need grace and most of us know it.

To further emphasize the point Tripp then called his readers to listen to what the Apostle John wrote in I John 1:8-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (NIV). I fully agree with Tripp’s assessment, “These are strong words, but we all need to hear and consider them” (p.57).

I can’t imagine that many people would deny that they have sinned, but Tripp reminds us that too often we “point the finger of blame” at someone else and “deny our own responsibility” (p. 56).

Tripp’s final paragraph pressed his point on me and gave me some direction I hope to take in the coming days and weeks and years. He begins the paragraph commenting on the season: “Lent is all about pointing the finger in the right direction. It is about humble self-examination, honest confession, and grief over sin that causes you to seek and celebrate the grace Jesus was willing to suffer and die for” (p. 58). And in his next to last sentence he spoke directly to me: “The more you see your sin, the more you will respond tenderly to other sinners and want for them the same grace you have received” (p. 58).

Don’t quit looking in the mirror, it’s ok to want to be presentable. But from time to time it is also good to take a look into our hearts.

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Those observations reminded me of something I have been saying in my teaching the past several years. When I was teaching Bible at Hope International University my classes included students from a variety of churches and denominations. The same was true more recently when I was teaching Bible at Amarillo High School and College.

On multiple occasions I reminded my students that Christianity can be compared with Baskin-Robbins in terms of their many flavors of ice cream. The flavors are different, but they all are ice cream. To me it is quite similar to the various denominations and churches within Christianity. For my money they are all Christians in terms of the foundation, but there are a variety of differences in terms of the flavors.

Not all readers of this post will agree, but I think we need to be more gracious in how we view those of different flavors and tamp down our tendency to try to convince them we are right and they are wrong.

I know what I believe and why I believe what I do, but I think as a Christian I should be respectful and understanding with regard to fellow believers who do not believe or practice their Christian faith exactly as I do. None of us should think or claim that we know it all and have it all together when it comes to what we believe and how we live.

I’m especially sensitive to this matter when it comes to Protestants and Catholics. In my role as a pastor I have been grieved more than once when a catholic questioned whether a protestant was a Christian and when a protestant questioned whether a catholic was a Christian.

All of us as Christians are free to believe what we do, but we need to be cautious about coming across as though we have it all together in what we believe and do while others do not. We can be convinced of what we believe and how we live our belief without attacking or arguing with Christians who differ from us.

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A lot people use a variety of words to designate and/or describe others. The fancy name for these tags, labels, and nicknames is monikers. Recently I’ve been thinking about monikers people use for me as well as those I use for others.

What we call others can be affirming and honoring or demeaning and shaming. All of us have probably been on the receiving end of both as well as on the giving end. Obviously affirming and honoring monikers are pleasant and encouraging, but demeaning and shaming ones are hurtful and embarrassing (even if the recipient does or doesn’t respond).

When it comes to demeaning and shaming monikers the well-known saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is clearly only partially true. Yes, sticks and stones may break bones, but words can also hurt.

Here are just a few monikers I have heard people called that can hurt: flake, lazy, weakling, fatty, cheater, and loser.

I remember well an important teaching and insight I learned in a class in Marriage and Family I took over 40 years ago. The professors (a wife and husband team) stressed the potential long term damage that can be inflicted upon a child who is called demeaning and shaming names. And it’s not just children who can be damaged by such names.

The term those professors used for parents labeling their children a variety of monikers was scriptwriting. By scriptwriting they were not referring to a dialogue for a skit or play, but rather planting a thought in a child’s mind of what he or she is and could grow into being.

Scriptwriting can plant a thought in a child’s mind that is hurtful and demeaning, but scriptwriting can also plant a thought in a child’s mind that is affirming, encouraging, and challenging (and realistic).

I think the same basic idea can also be true when it comes to adults – spouses, families, co-workers, friends, and others. The monikers and nicknames we use have the potential to be affirming and up building or discouraging and hurtful.

Here are a few of my favorite monikers people call me: Jan’s husband, dad, grandpa, friend, pastor, teacher, brother, and golf partner.

Hopefully we will keep in mind the potential power for positive or negative impact when it comes to monikers.

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