Heard & Seen

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:7-8 NIV)


Truth be told, I’ve always found these verses in 1 John to be challenging to understand. It seems like he contradicts himself–is the command a new one or not? The command itself is to live as Jesus lived by loving one another. We see this in the immediate context of vv. 3-11. Jesus gave this command to His disciples in John 13:34.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

But how is this a “new command”? Leviticus 19:18, written about 1,400 years before Jesus’ miraculous birth says this:

 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbors as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18 NIV)

I’ve puzzled over these verses for years, never fully comprehending the old vs. new concept. Then, as I was talking through this with the Lord over coffee, the middle of John’s old and new command teaching seemed to stand out as if it were written in bold and italics, like this:

“Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

The command itself is an old command. What makes it new is that in Christ it is seen, not just heard. It’s not just a principle we read about in an ancient book or print on a coffee cup. We actually see this command embodied in Jesus.

Further, not only is it seen in Christ, but it is also seen in us. There is something incredible that happens when Jesus moves from a message that is heard to a person who is seen in us. The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is as profound and “new” as if it were actually new teaching we’d never heard before. When God becomes more than just a concept, it’s as if we’re discovering Him for the very first time–even if we’ve grown up in church and know all the Bible stories by heart!

Of course, this applies to everything the Bible teaches. Love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, care for those in need, be humble, don’t gossip, put off the old self with its sinful desires… all these are “old commands” we have heard. Are they “new commands” that are seen in our lives as we have seen them embodied in Christ?

My prayer for the week is that God will show us a specific old command that needs to become a new one seen in us.

Tell Your Son (and Daughter)

“On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me…’” (Exodus 13:8a, NIV)


Parents have an incredible amount of influence on their kids. Many of us try to raise our kids to be Christians, but statistics show that the majority of kids raised in church walk away from their faith as young adults. While the reasons for this are many and varied, Dr. Tim Kimmel (author of my all-time favorite parenting book, Grace Based Parenting) points out in his book Why Christian Kids Rebel that many kids see their parents treating faith like a hobby, and follow their example.

There is much that has been written about church programming for youth (see this excellent and challenging article by Marc Yoder). Yet, as important as church programming is (or isn’t–the real importance of the church is not the programming), the primary responsibility to teach kids about the Lord belongs to the parents (or grandparents or legal guardians–whoever is raising the kids). We cannot hand over that responsibility and hope that their Sunday school teachers and youth leaders will do our job for us. Youth and children’s programming is supposed to supplement what kids are getting at home, not replace it. It serves as a catalyst, a resource, a conversation-starter for parents. But we have to do our job as parents, and the most important parental responsibility we have is to teach our kids about Jesus (we can’t make them choose to give their lives to Christ, but we can show them what life with Christ is all about, lead them to the point of decision, and help them follow Jesus if they choose to).

I understand it’s not easy. And, my kids are still little, so I don’t pretend to know how this works with teenagers. All I can say is this: As I was having coffee with the Lord and His Word this morning, Exodus 13:8 kept grabbing my eyes. I asked the Lord why, and in reflecting on the verse two thoughts came to my mind from my own childhood. First, my parents’ faith is genuine and important to them–definitely not a hobby. They lived a real relationship with God in front of us, and their example is still to this day the most powerful influencer of my own faith. Second, my parents never hesitated to do just what Exodus 13:8 says. They told us, “We do this because of what the Lord has done for us.” They talked to us about God in a natural way so that conversations about the Lord became a normal part of life, not some weird, dorky, or forced thing.

I am thankful for my parents. God reminded me this morning that I need to do the same with my kids. My prayer for this week is that you will be gently nudged by the Holy Spirit  to have a conversation with your kids (or grandkids): “I do this because of what the Lord has done for me…”

Childish Hearts

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”

Proverbs 22:15 (NIV)

If ever there was a verse that seemed outdated in today’s supposedly “progressive” society, this is it. Most parents of young children I know don’t spank their kids and consider spanking to be borderline abuse. It seems like the popular parenting strategy these days is “empower the child” to make decisions they are unable to make and become ever more entrenched in the belief that the universe really does revolve around their precious little faces.

However, this blog post isn’t about spanking, or even how we should raise our kids. When I read Pr. 22:15, God plucked a string in my soul that harmonized with several other things I’ve recently been learning–but not about parenting.

A few weeks ago I read The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero. His thesis in the book is “it’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” This is a simple, yet profound truth. God is not just interested in my (or your) spiritual growth, but in my growth and development as a whole person. If I only focus on spiritual development, yet remain emotionally immature, I become a Christian full of knowledge with the appearance of being a mature disciple, but I am prideful, petty, selfish, insecure, passive-aggressive, and filled with vain ambition. In many ways, I have only been empowered to think that I’m indispensable and the church bubble really does revolve around my precious little face. I am childish in my faith (childish faith is not the same as childlike faith, but that’s a different post).

While children can be sweet and funny, we all know how embarrassing it is to see a teenager act like a toddler. A little discipline helps our kids learn and grow, and teaches them to make wise decisions. It’s no different with us. Childish Christians abound in churches today, but our Father loves us too much to let us stay the way we are. Unfortunately, this often involves disciplining us to make us aware of the folly bound up in our childish hearts, and to help us mature not just spiritually, but emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

All of us will be disciplined at some point if we are indeed God’s children. My prayer for the week is we will learn and grow, even when it hurts.

Don’t be a Drama Queen

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1, NIV)

Thinking back over Thanksgiving, my guess is that most of us enjoyed a house full of feasting. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, pumpkin pie–you name it, we ate it! Sadly, for many the feast was accompanied with strife.

While we can all relate to a little strife in the home from time to time, Proverbs 17:1 struck a chord with me beyond just family. At some point in our lives, we’ve probably all had to deal with a relative, a neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker, or a brother/sister in Christ who was (or is), shall we say, melodramatic. Melodramatic is an adjective that means exaggerated, overly emotional, or overdramatic. And while we make every effort to treat our drama queens with love, patience, and grace, after a while the words Solomon penned in Proverbs 17 ring true.

As I was reflecting on this verse, I began to think of all the other people I know who tend to be a little melodramatic. Then God gently reminded me that I needed to examine my own heart first. Am I overly emotional, overdramatic, or easily offended? Do I exaggerate to downplay my own faults or play up the “woe is me” line? Sometimes I am, and sometimes I do. Thank God for his grace and forgiveness.

When I tend to the melodramatic, it’s usually because somewhere deep within, insecurity is rearing its ugly head, causing me to question my value, question my contribution, and be threatened by others. So, I overcompensate. I become hypercritical. I turn into a serial complainer. I exaggerate. I stir the pot. I draw attention to myself because I need you to like me and approve of me so that I can feel secure in myself.

But the truth is, I’m not secure in myself; I’m secure in Christ. And that makes all the difference.

I don’t need to perform to be accepted and loved. I just need to remember who it is that loves me, accepts me, has called me, and takes care of me. When God is your Father and he loves you with an infinite, unconditional love… that’s security–who cares about anything else? My prayer for the week is that we will all remember just how much God loves us, we’ll rest in him and leave the melodrama to someone else.


Enjoy this song by Tauren Wells, and enjoy God’s love for you!