Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax

I'm pretty picky with the blogs I read. The ones I appreciate the most connect theology with life and ministry, and are written with practical depth (they're practical and theological at the same time). They're also generous in how they interact with others.

One of my favorite blogs these past few years has been Kingdom People by Trevin Wax. He's on my must-read list. I currently follow 62 blogs; if I cut this down to 2, Trevin's blog would make the list.

Trevin has a new book coming out on April 1 called Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope. Getting the gospel right is crucially important, and Trevin's book is clear and helpful. I've read an early draft and it's excellent.

To whet your appetite, you can read a couple of posts that give you a sneak peak of what you can expect:

I also appreciated Trevin's post on the Rob Bell controversy that's been going around this weekend.

If you haven't subscribed to Trevin's blog yet, you really should. And if you're interested, you can also pre-order Counterfeit Gospels. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Why I Read Chris Brauns

I love a guy who can come up with two posts like these in the same week.

Post one:

Once when we were first married, I threw a racquet ball at Jamie. I intended to throw the ball “to” her. In the end, it was more “at” her.

It was a playful thing. I was not trying to hit her. I envisioned Jamie, though surprised by a black missile flying through our living room, making a great catch. I have always been proud of Jamie’s athleticism...

It didn’t happen. The ball sailed wide of Jamie’s head by a millimeter and crashed into the kinds of stuff wives arrange on end tables in living rooms...

Holding the pieces in her hands, Jamie glared at me and responded tersely, “It was a special present my mother gave me.”

Post two:

If you do lose your keys after you speak, and you have to call your wife to drive a long distance to bring you keys (say to Milwaukee) late at night, then be sure you married a patient, godly woman who will not tell you to either hot wire the car or sleep on the street.

I did marry a wonderful wife.

Actually, maybe I should be reading Jamie's blog. If only she had one.

Seriously, you should read Chris Brauns too.

A Few Good Men

Most pastors don't finish well. I don't know what the exact number is, but I've heard estimates similar to what Robert Clinton writes of Biblical leaders (PDF):

There are around 800 or so leaders mentioned in the Bible. There are about 100 who have data that helps you interpret their leadership. About 50 of these have enough data for evaluation of their finish. About 1 in 3 finished well. Anecdotal evidence from today indicates that this ratio is probably generous. Probably less than 1 in 3 are finishing well today.

I get it too. It's relatively easy to hang in there for a few years, but it's a different thing to finish well after decades of ministry. There are so many ways to go wrong, to stop growing, or to give in to discouragement along the way.

For this very reason, I'm excited about an appointment I have in my calendar tomorrow. Every couple of months I get together with a small group of pastor friends. I know that if I stand a chance of finishing well, it's going to be because of friends like this.

One of them has an eerie ability to discern what's going on in my life and speak to it. One of them seems to make it his part-time job to encourage me. One of them has an incredible ministry of prayer. And there's one more guy who has a boldness and vision that encourages me regularly. We're all very different, but I can't say enough about what friendships like these have done for my life.

It's not even my only circle of pastor friends. I can't imagine surviving ministry without guys like this in my life.

If you're pastoring, I hope you'll spend time finding people like this. I believe that every pastor needs other pastor friends who know what it's like, and who will help sustain them over the long haul. Can't wait to see my friends tomorrow.

Exceeding My Expectations

We're now entering the final phase of my sabbatical. We're spending this week in New York City, staying in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. Love this place! God has blessed us so much these past couple of months.

Let me give you one example. Last week I wrote this to our congregation:

The song that has been going through my head this past week comes from the old hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness. "All I have needed, thy hands have provided..." That's exactly how I feel. God has given us exactly what we needed during this sabbatical, and what he's provided exceeds my expectations.

I gave a few examples. One of them was the week we were about to enjoy at Cedarly in Wisconsin (part of the Pastors Retreat Network in Wisconsin. It was a great week, and evidence of God's provision. But when I wrote the above paragraph, I hadn't experienced it yet, and I didn't even know how God was about to surprise us.

An hour before we arrived at Cedarly, I got this email from my friend Chris Brauns:

Jamie and I are at Cedarly this week...or we were until we saw the guest list.

Amazing! Chris and I had just talked a few days ago, but neither of us knew that the other would be going to Cedarly.

This email came a few minutes later:

Jamie and I were amazed!

It's good to be a Calvinist where things can work out providentially.

I can't tell you how good it was to spend the week with Chris and Jamie, as well as the other guests. If you wanted to pick a couple who would be a huge blessing to Charlene and me, you couldn't do any better than picking Chris and his wife Jamie.

I had hoped for a few surprises like this when I began my sabbatical, but God keeps doing this. It's beyond generous. God is so good.

Please pray that God will use this last month of the sabbatical to prepare me for what's coming next. He certainly hasn't let us down so far.

Neither Dead Nor a Drug Dealer

"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches." (Proverbs 22:1)

Imagine finding out that a newspaper reports that you are a drug dealer and have been murdered. They've even got your picture.

That's exactly what happened to Shawn James, who works with Urban Promise in Toronto. He's been getting calls because the Toronto Sun published his picture in a story about a different Shawn James who was murdered (print version).

Just to clear things up: Shawn James the Urban Promise worker is not a drug dealer. The rumors of his death are greatly exaggerated, and the Toronto Sun will be printing a retraction tomorrow. Please pray for Shawn and the important work that he does in Toronto.