Better than Perfect

If someone gets 100% on an exam, is there still a way he can do even better? Now, I am not talking about extra credit or the silly idea that someone can give you 110%. Is there such a thing as better than perfect, though? Yes, if that perfection extends beyond just himself to others in his class.

There were plenty of times when I was in school that I would have gladly accepted someone else’s exam score, especially if that score were 100%. Of course, that is not how school works. You get the grade you earn on the exam, and if you happen to get 100%, you got a perfect score. Nothing beats that, right? What if something could beat that?

PERFECT REPRESENTATIVE

If you knew there was no way you could do well on an exam, let alone get a perfect score, but you were allowed to have someone take the exam for you, how great would that be? Your representative takes your place, and you receive the score he earns. What a deal!

Of course, in a much more significant way, this is what Jesus Christ does for us when we call on His name in repentance and faith. Unlike an exam for which you and I might prepare in school, though, we cannot get a perfect score before the holy God of the universe. Only Jesus can because only He is perfect. He fulfilled the Law of God perfectly when He lived a perfect life and did everything the Father asked of Him.

Not only did Jesus do everything perfectly, though. He is our perfect representative if we place our faith in Him. That is why His perfection is even better than perfect – because His perfection extends to all who turn to Him.

BETTER-THAN-PERFECT COVENANT

The Old Covenant that God made with His people is not flawed. What He made is already perfect, but the reality is that none of us can hold up our end. None of us can be perfect like we need to be. “But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). A better covenant? Better than perfect? How can this be? Well, this is because it is better for us.

The perfect Old Covenant cannot save us from our imperfection, our sin, because God did not design it to do that. Rather, it was simply a “shadow” of what was to come in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our perfect Representative, Jesus, ushered in a covenant that is even better than perfect because this superior New Covenant is better for us. Jesus not only took and perfected the exam; He also took the punishment you and I deserve for failing the exam. The good news of the gospel is that, if we turn away from our sins and trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for our forgiveness and eternal life, God looks at us and sees the perfection of Jesus. It is as if we never sinned, as if we lived a perfect life, as if we were perfect. This is better than perfect because Jesus’ perfection is given to us (if we believe).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Hebrews 8 on how “Jesus Provides the Better Covenant.” Do you trust Jesus alone to make you right with God? Have you embraced the good news of the superior covenant?

The Story explains how you can experience that which is better than perfect.

The Best Friend in the Highest Place

More often than not, a saying that holds true is, “It’s not about what you know but who you know.” We all want friends in high places, right? We are grateful to have “connections” with people who can accomplish for us what we simply cannot accomplish on our own.

During my junior year of college, for example, because of a previous internship I had with a news station, I was able to stand on the sideline of a Minnesota Vikings game and then go into the locker room after the game to interview players like Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and John Randle. Did I do anything to earn that privilege? Not really. Did any of the guys in that locker room know me or invite me? Definitely not. Really, this was a classic case of it being all about who you know. There was nothing I did to gain access to the sideline and locker room, except that I had a connection with a television station that afforded me a media pass. My connection made possible an opportunity that otherwise would have been impossible.

THE SUPERIOR CONNECTION

Of course, the ultimate friend in the highest of places is Jesus Christ our Lord. How often, though, do we take for granted the fact that, as sinful human beings who are completely unworthy of approaching God, we can go to Him any time (and are encouraged to do so) in the name of Jesus?

Because He ([Jesus]) remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Wow! Jesus is always able to save those who come to God through Him, and He always lives to intercede for them. If we place our faith in Jesus, we are both made right with God forever and represented by the Son of God.

Talk about a case of it not being about what you know but rather about Who you know! Really, it is not about what you do but about Who you know. Jesus is the ultimate friend in the ultimate place.

THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE

The good news is that, even though there is nothing we can do to earn eternal life, Jesus accomplished what needed to be done when He died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead to win the eternal victory over sin and death. That gospel message is indeed a very important what to know, but knowing the what is useless if you do not know the Who of the story – Jesus.

The appropriate response to this truth is to daily surrender your all to Him. Of course, this must start with knowing Him by asking Him to take over your life. You can learn how to do that HERE. That response must continue every day, though, through hope and obedience that endure, the endurance which will prove the legitimacy of your faith in and dependence on the Lord.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 7 on how “Jesus Is the Better High Priest.” Do you know the Superior High Priest? Are you going to God through Him? Are you responding rightly to His Lordship? Does your daily life prove your devotion to Him?

My Word Isn’t Enough

Each month, I take Zoe on a daddy-daughter date. Usually, our dates involve eating out and doing something fun, like playing basketball, going to a ballgame, playing at a park, or even the annual daddy-daughter dance.

Recently, though, our date did not go as planned. What I had promised Zoe was supper at a local high school softball game (yes, she loves to eat concession stand food, and I kind of do, too). As we were getting ready to go to that game, though, I learned that COVID-19 restrictions would not allow us to attend. Then, my back-up plan fell through. Thus, I ended up taking her to her team’s basketball practice early to shoot around, and that was it. Yes, our “date” involved shooting hoops and nothing else. Chalk that up as yet another father failure for me. Thankfully, though, Zoe was very gracious and still acted like it was fun (or maybe she even thought it was fun). Still, not the kind of daddy-daughter date about which one brags to their friends.

WE ALL FAIL

Do you ever say something like, “You have my word,” when making a promise to do something? Most of us have likely said that or something similar, and if we are trustworthy people, our word can go a long way.

Still, we are sinners who cannot always keep our word. We fail. We make mistakes. We misread situations. We make plans that fall through. We make promises that, even with the best intentions, we fail to keep. Even when our failures are not the result of sinful dishonesty (I did not lie to Zoe about our date, but rather I failed to plan properly and was caught by surprise.), our failures are still failures. We are not big enough or strong enough or smart enough or powerful enough to make continuous guarantees.

We all fail.

ONLY ONE WORD IS PERFECT

God alone always keeps His word and never fails. He is the only One who is perfect, and thus only His word is perfect. Why, then, would we ever consider looking to anyone or anything else for our hope, peace, and salvation? Why would we dare think we can come up with a better plan than the plan of the One who created us? Why do we worry about tomorrow, as if something is going to catch God by surprise?

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 6:13-20 on how “Jesus Is the Better Way.” I hope to share two reasons we need to trust God’s plan (in and through Jesus) for salvation and for sanctification. God is the One who saves us from our sins, and God is the one who grows us to be the people He has called us to be. His word is perfect, and His Word (the Bible) is perfect. Let us look to Him for purpose and fulfillment.

While our word can fail us and fail others, God never fails. His promises always come true. His goodness is unending.

Yes, I failed Zoe on our last daddy-daughter date, and I had to apologize. What an opportunity, though, to teach about the One who is never surprised, who is always in control, and who never fails to keep His word!

Are you looking to God and trusting His plan for your life? Before you can do that, you need to know Him and walk with Him. Praise the Lord – when we surrender our lives to Him, “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

While we sinners are unworthy to enter there – to enter God’s presence – we can be counted as worthy when we turn to Jesus and follow Him. Thanks be to God!

Hooping it up in Crane’s Gym – Hatton McCredie Elementary School.

Destined for Disappointment

As a lifelong Minnesota sports fan – particularly of the Vikings, Twins, and Gophers – I almost feel as though I am destined for disappointment in my fandom. Yes, the Twins won World Series titles in 1987 and 1991, but they now own a record of futility that will likely never be broken by any professional sports team in all four of the major American sports – 18 straight playoff game losses? Do you realize how difficult it is to lose that many straight games when the playoffs are played in a best-of-3, best-of-5, or best-of-7 series? There is a reason that the only other professional sports franchise to even come close to the Twins’ losing streak is a hockey team way back in the 1970s (when the Chicago Blackhawks lost 16 straight playoff games). Simply put, according to some experts, the odds of doing what Minnesota has done are 1 in 131,072. Yikes!

As a Minnesota sports fan, am I destined for disappointment? Perhaps. For now, at least, the disappointment cannot be denied.

DIFFERENT DISAPPOINTMENT

What was different about Wednesday’s disappointment of the Twins being swept out of the playoffs yet again is that my hopes were not very high. Sure, the Twins were the #2 seed in the playoffs, playing the #7 seed in an expanded pandemic-induced playoff setting. Sure, the Twins should have won the series, let alone at least a game in the series. Sure, both games were in Minnesota, and the Twins had just won another division title and were playing a team with a losing record. Yet, because of the continued futility of the Twins (and seemingly all Minnesota sports), my typical optimism has slowly but surely been shifting to realism.

I have little reason to feel otherwise. Still, I am disappointed and wish the teams for which I cheer were better.

What really makes this disappointment a different kind of disappointment, though, is because we are just talking about sports. Yes, sports are fun and can offer a lot of great lessons for life, but they certainly are not life. Sports are nothing more than entertainment for most of us, so when we are disappointed by our favorite teams, that disappointment is quite different than disappointments that destroy relationships or ruin health or cause lasting devastation.

DELIVERED FROM DISAPPOINTMENT

While my teams (and anyone’s teams) can let us down, we ought to have the proper perspective that disappointment from a game is nothing compared to disappointment that lasts. And, I mean disappointment that lasts forever.

There is only One who can deliver us from that kind of disappointment, and His name is Jesus Christ. While we all deserve (because of our sins) eternal disappointment that comes with the devastation of spiritual death and separation from God, we can receive deliverance from that disappointment by turning away from our sins and placing our absolute trust and faith in Jesus to save us and make us right with God.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Hebrews 5:11-6:12 on how “Jesus Is the Better Promise.” We might be inclined to put our hope in all kinds of promises in this life, but Jesus is the superior promise and hope. He is the only One who can deliver us from the eternal, devastating disappointment we deserve because of our sin.

For that reason, although life is full of disappointments – many of which are my own doing, I am grateful for the satisfaction I have in my Savior.

As a Vikings and Twins fan, I cannot help but think I might be destined for disappointment. More importantly, in and of myself, I am certainly destined for disappointment. In Christ Jesus my Lord, though, I am delivered; I am set free; I am rescued; I am at peace. Praise be to God!

Let us remember this important perspective when that which is temporary causes disappointment in our lives.

If you want to experience the hope and peace that last forever, would you consider checking out The Story?

Fall, here we come!

Fall has arrived, and this is my favorite part of the year because the weather is great, football is fun, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks…

We hope you are having a good start to your fall, too. Are there any ways we can pray for you? If so, please let us know. May God bless you as you seek to honor and live for Him!

Like which dog are you?

Our golden lab, Lottie, (and I assume most dogs are this way) has a certain, distinguishable walk when she is in trouble and a very different walk when she is not in trouble. She has a cowardly walk, and she has a confident walk. If she does something wrong and I yell at her, then she puts her tail between her legs and walks – almost crawls – in a hunched-over motion that communicates an overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation. When she knows all is well, though, her tail wags, and she has an energetic bounce to her step. There is a stark contrast between these two walks.

THE INITIAL APPROACH

When Lottie does slouch and cower in fear, she does so for good reason. She does so because she is in trouble, and she knows it. Rightly, she is fearful.

Similarly, when we turn to the Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we ought to come with a posture of shame and humility. We ought to fear His righteous judgment, which we all deserve. Unlike dogs, though, who likely do not feel bad for what they do wrong but more likely are fearful because they got caught, we need to recognize the tragedy of our sin and the resulting brokenness of our relationship with God.

Thus, our initial approach to the Lord our God should be one of shame and humility. While that posture, to some extent, should continue throughout our lives – regularly turning to the Lord in repentance and crying out to Him for forgiveness – there is indeed a difference in our posture when our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit.

THE CONTINUED CONFIDENCE

When we surrender our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking Him to forgive us and restore us into a right relationship with God, our hearts are changed. We receive His promised Holy Spirit and the guilt and shame are taken away. Yes, we still must repent and turn to Him in humility every single day, but the condemnation is gone. For that reason, there is a difference in our continued posture before our holy God.

Yes, we are still sinners. Yes, we still deserve God’s judgment and wrath. Yet, our faith in Jesus Christ makes possible a confidence in our relationship with God because His sacrifice satisfies that deserved judgment, and His resurrection assures our eternal victory.

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering” (Romans 8:1-3).

When our dog goes from a cowering posture to a confident posture, she does so because she knows all is right. She is no longer in trouble. She no longer fears my judgment and wrath. She is like a completely different dog. A fearful dog looks and behaves much different than a confident dog.

Like which dog are you?

Yes, we should always walk in humility and in the fear of the Lord. Yet, we can also walk in confident assurance because of Christ and through Christ. If we have turned to Him in repentance and faith, we can have a completely different posture than we had before.

Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Hebrews 4:16).

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching through Hebrews 4:14-5:10 on how “Jesus Offers Better Forgiveness.” Only forgiveness found in and through Christ allows you to “approach the throne of grace with boldness.” Only His forgiveness is superior and enough to make you right with God, and only His forgiveness will enable you to walk with an energetic assurance that points people to Him.

Let us have humility and confidence because of who we are in Christ.

To approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, you must have a right relationship with Him. If you are not sure you have experienced that yet, will you check out The Story?

The Best Rest

Rest is a good thing. We all appreciate rest and are grateful when we feel rested. No one ever says, “I wish I was more tired.” Truly, rest is a gift from God, and we were created to need rest. Even God, who does not need rest, rested on the seventh day after creating the universe in six days (see Genesis 1:1 – 2:3). God rested in order to model for us the gift and blessing of rest. Praise the Lord for rest!

REST MAKES LIFE BETTER

Life is always better with rest, is it not? Without enough sleep and rest, my children are crabby (and so am I). Without enough rest, we get tired. Without enough rest, we struggle to focus. Without enough rest, we are more forgetful. Without enough rest, we make more mistakes.

You ever wake up refreshed and energized in the morning after a great night of sleep? If/when that happens, you feel so much better about the day ahead of you, right? I sure do.

Rested, we are much more equipped to handle the ups and downs of life. Children are better behaved when rested (as long as hyperactivity does not take over – so let us not confuse rest with laziness or lack-of-activity). Parents are more patient when rested. Employees are more productive when rested. Leaders are wiser when rested. Athletes are more successful when rested. The list could go on and on. Rest makes life better.

REST MAKES LIFE MEANINGFUL

When you understand and experience your need for rest, life is more meaningful. In other words, if you are busy and working hard, you cherish the rest you get. Needed and earned rest makes life meaningful. Those who are lazy and lethargic, on the other hand, will not appreciate rest because they will not understand their need for it nearly as much.

Crawling into bed after a hard day’s work, though, feels great. Resting on a day off after a productive week of work is rewarding. Resting with your family after getting your to-do list done (or most of the important things done) is refreshing. Rest makes life meaningful because it reminds us that we were created to work and then to rest. We need both.

JESUS OFFERS BETTER REST

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will preach through Hebrews 4:1-13 and discuss how “Jesus Offers Better Rest.” You see, in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can experience purposeful rest now and have great assurance in perfect rest for eternity.

Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it... for we who have believed enter the rest” (Hebrews 4:1…3).

Only Jesus offers the superior rest – the rest that comes with great purpose and hope now and the rest that perfectly endures for eternity. None of us, sinners who have earned God’s judgment, deserve this rest, but this rest is freely given to all who surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. What a gift!

PURSUE THIS REST

In my Sunday morning message, I will discuss how we can (and should) pursue this kind of rest. Simply put, though, we must recognize that we cannot earn it but rather must receive it by trusting in Christ’s substitutionary death for our forgiveness and resurrection from the dead for our salvation. Only as His Spirit changes our hearts and lives can we experience the ultimate rest He offers. Then, we will work hard to live for Him, serve others, and build up His church, resulting in God’s great, fulfilling design for us – satisfactory rest with comfort and assurance now and hope for eternity.

Are you pursing this rest? Are you pursuing Jesus?

If you want to experience the superior rest that only Jesus can offer but are unsure where to begin, please check out The Story.

The Best Leader

I have known a lot of great leaders and am thankful for how God has used leaders to sharpen, encourage, and shape me. Because I know I would fail to mention someone(s), I am not going to start listing all the great leaders who have influenced my life. If you read the Bible, though, you know that Moses was an incredible leader used by God to impact millions of lives (and eventually billions of lives).

Moses, though, was really pointing to someone better. He was one of the best leaders in human history because of Whom He followed. In fact, Moses prepared the way for the Ultimate Leader when he said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

You will not often hear successful leaders with an incredibly large following tell you to listen to someone else, and especially someone else who has yet to come. Yet, that is exactly what Moses did. Moses was constantly pointing people to the Word of God, and Moses knew a much better leader was still to come.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will preach on why “Jesus Is the Better Moses” (Hebrews 3). Jesus is better than Moses and better than every other leader in human history because He is not only a man but also the Son of God.

In my message, I hope to communicate our need to submit to Jesus’ authority over our lives and share why He is superior to all leaders for all time. Then, with that being the case, what is our necessary response?

Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start” (Hebrews 3:12-14).

For you to be one of His companions, though, you must first come to know Him. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Him (or are unsure), would you click the picture below to learn more?

We are all leaders of someone(s). Let us lead well by leading others to the best Leader.

Lead well by leading people to the best Leader – Jesus Christ our Lord. Of course, this must start with surrendering your all to Him and continue with an ongoing commitment to His Word, to His church, and to His mission.

The Better Brother

Like me as a child and like me still today, my children are far from perfect. One of the things that frustrates me most as a dad is probably one of the same things that frustrated my parents most when I was growing up – when an older brother teases his sibling(s). Marsha and I tell Noah and Levi often what we expect of them as the oldest brothers who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. They are to set an example and be kind to their siblings. Sometimes they do well. Sometimes they sin. They are just like I am.

No doubt, though, things go much better in the home when big brothers are kind and helpful. I am sure that was the case when I was growing up, too, although I rarely recall moments of kindness and helpfulness coming from me. As a prideful, foolish teenager, I was anything but the good brother my two sisters needed me to be. I pray I am and will do better now, but what a wasted opportunity from my childhood! I blew it.

Thankfully, my sisters still love me, and my parents did not send me off to some far-away military school (though my dad did threaten that at least a time or two).

There are countless stories of big brothers who have had incredible impacts on their siblings, whether it is because they helped raise them, provided for them, protected them, set great examples for them, and/or continuously encouraged them. Everyone wants to have that kind of brother.

Even I, as the only boy and the oldest brother, often wished I had a brother. What I did not have biologically, though, I did have spiritually, particularly when I was in college. Furthermore, I continue to have such men in my life – men who set godly examples, lead well, and encourage me greatly.

JESUS IS SUPERIOR

What we all long for in a big brother, Jesus is (and so much more). On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our sermon series through Hebrews – “The Journey of Faith” – and preach through chapter 2 on how “Jesus Is the Better Brother.” He is the One who does everything we could ever want and need a brother to do – He pursues, provides, promises, performs, and purifies.

Jesus set the example of how we are to live. Jesus provides for our needs and builds us up. Jesus sacrificed His life and took the punishment we deserved when He died on the cross for our sins. Jesus won the victory over Satan, sin, and death. Jesus brings us to the Father when we trust in Him. Jesus changes our hearts and lives. Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us. Jesus is the only One who can do all of this. He is the better Brother. Jesus is superior.

WE NEED TO BE BETTER

While none of us is Jesus, we can and must be better. We do so not by thinking we can be Him but rather by turning to Him. As He changes us from the inside out, He helps us do better in obeying His Word. He does indeed make us more like Himself, helping us to love the Lord our God with all that we are and love others as we love ourselves. Let us be better by asking Jesus to change us. Let us be better by asking others to hold us accountable. Let us be better by recognizing that God’s Word is the standard for how we are to live. Let us be better by being in the Word, serving in our church, and being disciples who make disciples.

We have not yet arrived. We need to be better. Lord, help us!

Right before leaving for their first day of school on Tuesday, the kids were kind enough to let us take some pictures of them. Surprisingly, one take was enough. Yahtzee!

Angels Didn’t Save My Dad

Six years ago yesterday, my dad lost his physical battle with cancer. Active and healthy prior to his diagnosis, my dad was only 57 years old when he died. I still miss him a lot.

Often, when people think of death and heaven, they think of angels. They might talk about guardian angels or heavenly angels. Really, though, angels are very limited in their power, as they are messengers of God who are sent to do as God calls them to do. Their power is limited to God’s will and God’s purposes for them, and so we are not to pray to angels or worship angels or even trust in angels. Rather, we are to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him. In fact, “All God’s angels must worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6).

When my dad was dying of cancer, could God have sent His angels to comfort my dad? Sure. Angels could have ministered to my dad in various ways, but they could not and did not save my dad – not from physical death caused by cancer nor from eternal death caused by the curse of sin.

Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus is God in the flesh. Only Jesus could take our sin upon Himself, die in our place, satisfy the wrath of God that we deserve, and rise again to defeat sin and death.

Jesus Is Better than Angels.” That is the message, Lord willing, I will be preaching on Sunday morning from Hebrews 1, hoping to share some unique truths about Jesus that make Him (and Him alone) worthy of worship.

Thankfully, a couple of years before my dad lost his physical life to cancer, he received eternal life when he professed his faith in Jesus Christ. One of my life’s greatest privileges was getting to baptize my dad at his and my mom’s then-home-church – First Baptist Church of Marshalltown, Iowa – in December 2012.

Angels did not save my dad. Jesus did.

Whom are you trusting to give you hope, life, and a right standing with God? Jesus alone can do all three, so please look to Him today and every day.

One of the many things I miss most about my dad is how great he was with our kids. They LOVED playing with Grandpa Robbie, just like Silas was playing the “handcuff game” in this picture, which was taken on December 8, 2012.