Do You Know About Uyghur Persecution?

A while back, I wrote a twitter thread that went massively viral about Uyghur persecution. In total, the thread was viewed over 5 million times. I’m grateful for any good that came of it, and any that were inspired to speak up by it.

I was sitting in my office, procrastinating a paper due for a doctoral seminar when I began reading about Uyghur Muslims. Out of that moment, I wrote this thread to share what I learned and share my reflections on my own silence. I had no clue anyone would read it outside of my small circle.

You can read the thread below. I have embedded it and created a “Twitter moment” for posterity, as well as to aggregate some other resources to go with it. I am not an expert on Uyghur people. (Only part of that moment is here, due to embed rules. You’ll have to click through to twitter to see it all.) I do not know as much as I’d like to. But I know this: in the face of this grave human rights abuse, I can not be silent.

We can not be silent.

You’ll have to click through to view the whole thread. Also, take time for this webinar on the issue from the ERLC. I’m really grateful to Russell Moore and his team there for bringing this issue to the fore:

A Podcast Episode Pastors Can’t Miss

Today I listened to one of the most important, timely podcast episodes I have heard in a long time. The episode is “Leaders Who Won’t Flame Out” with Paul Tripp, the most recent installment of the Gospelbound with Collin Hansen.

Tripp has a new book releasing Lead: 12 Gospels Principles for Leadership in the Church. In the episode, he describes the book as a followup to his book Dangerous Calling. This earlier book was a huge hit among pastors when it released in 2013. One of the things Tripp draws attention to is the initial endorsements for the book on the back cover.

Those endorsements include Tullian Tchividjian and James MacDonald. Both are now out of ministry, having been publicly disgraced for the very kind of prideful and domineering spirit that the book encourages against. They are two of many high profile pastors to disqualify themselves from ministry in recent years.

Tripp says that when he wrote the initial work, he would have pointed at the pastor when you asked him why a certain leader had a “fall from grace”, whether sexual promiscuity, abuse, abuse of power, pride, etc. The issue was something in their heart. Now he looks somewhere different for early signs. Tripp says he would instead ask about the community around the pastor. Are those who should be holding the pastor accountable and protecting him from his own sin and the temptations that leaders face now his chief defenders? Is the most seasoned pastor that everyone looks up to a 40 year old? Does anyone have the ability to call the leader to repent if he engages in sinful behavior in a meeting? In Lead, Tripp says he discusses these principles and more, providing recommendations for how to create healthy churches and healthy church cultures.

My heart was moved listening to Tripp articulate what a healthy gospel community looks like, both for pastors and those who they shepherd or lead. It is impossible for me not to see this crisis of character in our church leadership culture. As a young man, one of my Sunday School teachers went to prison for sexual abuse. The pastor who was preacher when God first began to call me to ministry was outed for a multi-decade adulterous affair. One of the first ministry conferences I attended was headlined by 3 pastors who are no longer in ministry due to their sinful actions in leadership. Over the span of the next decade, I can name at least 15 leaders who I have admired, known, or looked to as a model have disqualified themselves due to sexual sin, sinful abuse of authority, or various manifestations of pride. My spiritual “family tree” is littered with destruction such that I can not look back on any major period of spiritual growth in my life without experiencing grief over the fallen leaders who ministered to me then but are gone now.

I can not say why it happened to each of them. But here’s what I know: every time it has happened, it has caused me to grieve and question myself. It should not be this way. Young men like myself should not have a spiritual graveyard full of their former role models.

How do we prevent this?

Tripp says, “The key to longevity is spiritual health…the key to spiritual health is gospel community. There’s the book.”

I can not recommend this podcast enough. You can listen to the whole thing by clicking below for iTunes or Spotify, or listen to the YouTube embed above.

Buy the book here.

The Briefcase: Leading Well in the Midst of Your Untimely Death

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A note from Griffin: What follows is shared with permission from John Bryson, pastor of Fellowship Memphis. I remember first reading this post around 2013 and thinking “When I’m married and starting a family, I am going to do this.” Now that I’m married, I realize what an incredible act of selfless leadership this kind of preparation is. I emailed him and asked permission to share it here, and he kindly agreed. I’ve only lightly edited here, and now pass it on to any who desire to lead their families well. I hope that any husbands or fathers that encounter this post will take its recommendations seriously, and prepare  to lead their families in the most difficult time possible: the day you are no longer there to lead and care for them.

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I have a strong passion for men to step out of passivity and lead.  A unique place that needs your leadership is in the event of your untimely death.  I am working on what I call “The Briefcase”.

Here is the list I compiled of leading your wife and family well in the midst of your no warning / untimely death.  Please add to it, subtract from it or tweak it as you see fit.

I recommend both digital copies and physical copies of what follows placed in a designated file or briefcase. Your wife and at least two close friends needs to know where both [digital and physical copies] are kept and the two friends needs to be deputized by you to step in and execute (working gently and clearly with your wife) what it is you have left so that burden in not placed exclusively on your wife. In my opinion, the spirit of these intentional acts should be to be as clear as possible and as freeing as possible to your family left behind:

  1. A will prepared by an attorney.
  2. Ample Life Insurance.  My goal is term life and enough that my family would be debt free (including a house) and Beth would never have to work or re-marry if she chose not to do so.
  3. A letter to your wife expressing your love and appreciation for her and freeing her to grieve, live and trust Jesus.  He is good and does good.  I personally encourage my wife to remarry with my blessing if she find a man who loves Jesus, will love her and love our kids and to thank that man for me.
  4. A general letter to all your kids about your dreams for them as a family unit with your family values and traditions that you love.
  5. A specific letter to each kid affirming your love for them and what you have learned about them uniquely with your hopes and dreams for them.
  6. Possible letters to other family members and friends.
  7. A letter that addresses your desires for a funeral, burial, a couple of options for who to preach your funeral (options give freedom, you don’t want them to feel like a failure to you because a certain man couldn’t do your funeral) and some pall bearer options.  Also, any special music requests or if you have not strong desires or opinions, say that, so again, they are operating out of freedom, not guilt.
  8. Options / preference of where to bury you (later in life, as you can, you need to purchase cemetery lots).  I personally am directing Beth to buy the cheapest casket possible and not be suckered into emotional purchases at a funeral home!
  9. A list of all your assets. Specific as possible with every detail you have.
  10. A list of all your debts.   Specifically who the debt is owed to, account numbers, and phone numbers.
  11. A list of your life insurance.  Company, agent, amount(s), account numbers.
  12. A write up of why you bought the amount of insurance you did and what you may have envisioned it for (pay off house, amounts set aside for daughter’s wedding, college fund, etc) but with the freedom for her to use it as she sees fit.
  13. Any verbal financial agreements or understandings you have made or have been made to you from employers, family, friends, etc.
  14. Any desires you have for anything your own / your assets to be specifically given to any other people or individual kids.
  15. Set up a deal on your phone / calendar to remind you to re-visit and update your “Briefcase” annually.

Every time I read through this list from Dr. Bryson, one phrase comes to mind: intentional love. This list takes work. It takes thought. For some men it will be hard to put pen to paper and pour their heart out in the event of their unforeseen death. But it is the sort of selfless act that will bear great fruit in the life of your family. My mom died suddenly at age 48. For those who have not had to experience this, trust me when I tell you that what follows is so much stress, paperwork, and burden that you hardly have time to grieve. This will spare your loved ones of that burden.

I had a few additional ideas and notes to add as well:

  • Often we put off making a will because it is expensive or burdensome. Check with non-profits you support and see if they have any estate planning services. The organization I work for has an incredible group that walks you through the entire process, helping you think through things far beyond just money (things I never would have considered!). I know in Alabama the Baptist Foundation of Alabama has incredible and affordable legacy planning services. Don’t spend $5000+ dollars at a lawyer who’s just going to write up a generic plan.
  • It is true of most people that when they die, their life insurance will allow them to make a greater gift than at nearly any other time in their life. Have a conversation with your wife ahead of time about if you want to make a charitable contribution at this time. Only 1 in 40 people think to leave money to causes they support (including their church, missions, etc.) in their will.
  • Consider leaving a gift: It’s possible to set aside some cash for a year’s worth of flowers to be delivered to your wife monthly. It wouldn’t be hard for a friend to receive these instructions. Only do this is your wife would like it. Only you can answer that.
  • If there are any uncommon things that only you would know, include that: “we get the oil changed at X”, “those ______ I always buy you that you like so much is _______”, etc.
  • Perhaps opening the briefcase in an emergency would be traumatic (for example if you were on life support). Make sure you always include any end-of-life medical wishes in a front pocket of the case. This includes Do-Not-Resuscitate orders, coma response, etc. Do not leave your family unsure about your wishes for keeping you on life support or not.
  • Enough cash for food for a least a week. The week after a tragic death, it’s hard to get off the couch. Financial worries are immediate. It may seem silly, but covering the immediate week after will be a great blessing.
  • Finally, also have a contingency plan in place in case you and your wife were both to pass suddenly (whether a car crash, house fire, or some other tragic event). Your children will never need you to come through for them more than at that moment.

That’s all I’ve got. Thank you to Dr. John Bryson for allowing me to share his great ideas here. I hope you never need this. But if you ever do, I hope this will serve as a great tool to love and lead your families well.

Disappointment and Boring Bible Study

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In the course of my ministry discipling other men, I’ve found no habit more difficult to pass along than Bible study. For some, sharing the gospel comes naturally. The extroverts dig right in. For others, confession becomes a habit of life that is a constant life-giving source. I can name off many that have become selfless servants, gifted encouragers, worship leaders, self-styled theologians or even the near-mythological oft-spoken-of “prayer warriors”.

Perhaps no habit of Christian discipline has left them all more frustrated than regular Bible study. Maybe you have been a part of a mentoring relationship or accountability group before where conversations enter the shame spiral when the question comes up: “How’s your time in the Word?” or “Have you been reading your Bible?” I sure have been.

There’s a lot of reasons that regular Bible reading is hard. Sin. Lack of proper past teaching. Laziness. Distractions.

But I think there’s an even bigger factor holding many people back from vibrant Bible study.

Disappointment.

Do you remember the first time you really got the gospel of grace? When you heard it like you had new ears and saw it like you never had eyes until just that very moment. When the gospel was so real and tangible that you felt like it was wrapping you up in a hug.

And they told you then that to meet with this God every day — the way to hear from God himself — was to open up your Bible. And so you did. At first it was ok, then really great and then it was a legal manual. Then it was chronologies. Then it was Tiglath-Pileser (who?) and exiles. Then it was prophecies in metaphors you didn’t understand, with backgrounds you didn’t know. Then your Study Bible made it less “hearing from God” and more “you better have that homework done before school.”

And you felt disappointment. I get it. You heard the famous preachers and teachers talk about their rich, deep times in the Word. You heard about tears and joy and being filled with the Spirit, and you thought that if you ever cried over those pages it was because of frustration and not filling, shame and not surprising joy.

Our disappointment tells us that when Beth Moore or Rick Warren, Billy Graham or John Piper, J.D. Greear or Kay Arthur open up their Bibles in the morning, the pages glow. A cloud of understanding—the shekina glory itself—descends upon them. They meet over those pages with God like Moses met with him in the tabernacle: face to face. They’re special and for them it’s always been that way. And what’s more: it is not and never will be for you.

Let me tell you something important: that’s not true. Bible reading isn’t a spiritual gift. It’s a spiritual discipline. These men and women, as well as every believer from the widow’s Sunday School class to the church fathers, have learned to love and revere the Bible through discipline. Paul knew this. He did not tell Timothy  “one day it will just come to you,” but “Train yourself for godliness.

Meet Disappointment with Discipline

In our Bible study, we will all have days where we feel as if we are hearing nothing and understanding little. We will all have days we are tempted to read Philippians again for the 32,413th time. Some days, we should give in to that urge. Above all, however, we need to press into the whole Word of God. Seek intimacy over newness. We need to refuse to come to the Word expecting something new, shocking, or entertaining. Instead, we need to come to the Word of God for God. Intimacy with God is the prize.

In those difficult times of Bible study, we need to follow the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

There is no promise that the moment we ask, the instant we set our hearts to seek Him, or that when our hand is still upon the knocker that He will reply. But He will reply. Everyone who loves their Bible and loves time with the Lord in Bible study has gotten there through struggling, praying, seeking. There is no other way. Days where it seems the heavens are shut up are sowing for us a bounty of glory in ordinary, boring Bible study. We need to wrestle with the Word like Jacob wrestled with God: “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” We must train ourselves for godliness.

It’s hard. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. There’s a reason attack of the yawns happens when we sit down in front of the Word. There’s a reason everything else suddenly seems pressing and interesting. But if we will discipline ourselves to be in the word, what awaits us on the other side is glory. In 2 Corinthians, we read that when the covenant words (The Scriptures) are read that, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 

That’s why we press in. Intimacy with God in His Word changes us. When we discipline ourselves to look into His Word to see Jesus, the Word itself changes us more and more into his image. Jesus is on every page. It will take countless days, failed attempts, successes, frustrations, and joys. Over time, you will see the beauty of Bible study, because of your prolonged exposure to the beauty of Christ. That’s what we ask for, seek for, knock for: that by the Spirit we would see Jesus and become like him.

The pages won’t glow. But you might.

 

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?” 2 Corinthians 3:7-8

 

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Bible Reading: An Invitation To Meet With Jesus

I am grateful for an invitation from Radical, the resource ministry of IMB President David Platt, to write about Bible reading plans here at the beginning of a new year.

Bible Reading Is An Invitation, Not A Burden

Preview :

“…why start again? Life hasn’t gotten any less busy and no amount of willpower has succeeded so far. When we think about our Bible reading this way, we risk making Bible reading a burden instead of an invitation. So many of us act as if God sent his Son to earth to live a perfect life and die an atoning death, only to rise from the grave and wag a finger at us saying, “You’ll never be good enough for me unless you read your Bible every day!” Nothing could be further from the truth!

Click the linked title above to read more.

Fields of Faith

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I preached this sermon for my friend John Thweatt at FBC Pell City, AL on October 16, 2016. The sermon is from Jeremiah 32. In this Scripture, Jeremiah buys a field in Israel even as the nation is on the brink of destruction. Let’s look together at how this episode in Jeremiah’s life can teach us about God’s promise, God’s character, and God’s plan for Resurrection.

Listen in: 

Keeping the Cross at the Center of our Gospel Presentation

 

cross imageHere’s something I wrote a while back for Radical, the resource ministry of IMB President David Platt, about cross-centered evangelism:

Keeping the Cross at the Center of our Gospel Presentation

Many Christians have found that it is far easier to tell people of the great love of God by pointing to Jesus’ miraculous acts of mercy or God’s desire to know us as friends. After all, is it not easier for modern man to think of God in his benevolence and relate-ability rather than crucified and bleeding upon a cross? Isn’t the point simply that God loves us and wants to have a relationship with us? Why do we need to talk about the cross? For many, good intentions have hung the curtain over the bloody cross, hiding it and putting it in the background. We don’t want to turn people away. We don’t want to make things uncomfortable. We don’t want people to think we are like those Christians.

Click the link above to read the whole thing.

“High and Lifted Up For Salvation” | A Sermon on John 3:1-16

In December I preached this sermon at FBC Jackson, AL at the invitation of the pastor (and my friend), Pastor Ben Stubblefield. I hope you are encouraged by the message of Christ, who tells us to be born again, and then dies our death in order that we might be. The God of the world dying for the sins of the world in order that we may have eternal life with him! What could be better than that?

12 27 15 FBC Message from First Baptist Church on Vimeo.