Welcome to 28, Mrs. Buhl

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We probably all have that handful of friends who know us, I mean really know us – the good, the bad, the ugly. They’re the friends who know what we’re thinking before we say it, who have heard our stories so many times they can tell them like they were there, who we can go months without visits and pick back up like no time has passed at all.

And, as a follower of Jesus, these people are typically also gospel partners. I stole that phrase from a sermon I heard on Philippians a few years ago. The pastor said, ‘Paul’s answer for loneliness was gospel partnership; gospel, meaning that Jesus is the center of the relationship between you and someone else.’

I love that. And, as I think of gospel partners, the first person I think of is Stacie. Stacie is my best friend in the world: we lived together, worked together, traveled together, and shared every part of life together. Stacie knows my heart better than anyone. And she pushes me to be like Jesus on a consistent basis.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to be part of Stacie’s wedding. It was kind of surreal, you know, watching her get all dressed up and get married. But there was this moment, as we stood in the lobby and waited to walk down the aisle, when I hugged her and just said got all choked up … Because literally in that moment, there were no words to express my excitement, my joy, my gratitude for her.

I would not be the person I am today if Stacie was not part of my life. And even though we live hundreds of miles apart now, I’m thankful for this truth:

 Gospel partnerships are not held together by proximity. Sometimes, you’ll be apart. They’re not held by affinity. You may not have a lot in common. But, one thing that will keep you close, grace and prayer for one another. Prayer for one another.

Happy birthday, Stacie Buhl. Thanks for everything. Love you.

wedding fun

abandoned, slandered, and totally satisfied

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Before David was king of Israel, Saul was. Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best friend, and David promised to always care for Jonathan’s family. Eventually Saul and Jonathan both die, and David is made king.

In 2 Samuel 9, David finds out that Jonathan has a crippled son named Mephibosheth. David sends for him and gives him all the property that belonged to Saul. He also welcomed him to eat at his table — the king’s table in the palace.

This is not standard procedure. It would have been totally normal for David to kill off everyone who was related to Saul to protect his kingdom (and his life) from their revolt. Instead, David chooses to show grace and mercy and love to Mephibosheth. Not because Mephibosheth has anything to offer him – as someone crippled in both feet, he couldn’t work, fight, or serve David. David, out of his goodness, literally grants Mephibosheth a new life.

If we stop right there, this story is pretty sweet. But it gets better.

Fast forward. One of David’s sons is trying to steal the kingdom from David, and David gets out of Jerusalem to find safety. Eventually the situation is diffused, and David returns to Jerusalem. When he gets back, Mephibosheth comes to meet him. Here’s how the conversation goes:

“Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?” David asked him.

Mephibosheth replied, “My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?”

“You’ve said enough,” David replied. “I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you.”

“Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

2 Samuel 19.25-30

David thought Mephibosheth had abandoned him, and so he gave all of Mephibosheth’s land to Ziba, his servant. However, this conversation shows us the truth: Ziba has abandoned Mephibosheth (in the midst of war!), has slandered his name, and as a result took possession of everything Mephibosheth owned.

When David learns the truth, he decides to split the land between Ziba and Mephibosheth. The response of Mephibosheth is what blows me away:

“Give him all of it,” Mephibosheth said. “I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!”

All Mephibosheth wants is to be in the presence of David again. Why? Because he understands that apart from David, his life is worthless. He knows that apart from David’s kindness, he would be poor or dead. But because of David’s intervention in his life, his whole life has changed – he has favor and safety and a place at the king’s table. 

Mephibosheth doesn’t want or need anything. He only wants David’s presence.

What an awesome picture of how I should feel about Jesus. Apart from him I’m dead. Because of him I’m alive. My whole life has changed. I have favor and safety and a place at the King’s table. What else matters? I don’t need anything else, except to spend time in his presence. I am not always good at this, but I’m learning.

my favorite Easter so far

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As you may or may not know, I get to be part of Movement Church, a church plant in Hilliard, Ohio (the west side of Columbus). We have been meetings as a launch team since the fall, but Easter was our official launch service (in other words, the grand opening).

Mark, our lead pastor, gives an awesome run through of the weekend. Without rehashing everything he shared, I will just say a couple of things:

  1. We were praying for 1000+ people to come to the egg drop (the community egg hunt we did on Saturday). 2000-2500 people were there.
  2. We were praying for 200 people to come to the service on Sunday morning. 199 people were there.
  3. I know numbers aren’t everything, but each number does represent a person who needs to know Jesus … so, yeah, I am celebrating those big numbers.
  4. Throughout the weekend I watched our people serve with such a good attitude and with so much energy, and I watched them love on visitors so well. I was so proud of our team, and of the way they reflected Jesus’ love and grace and selflessness.
  5. 4 people were baptized. I don’t know about you, but baptisms always get me. I found myself tearing up as I watched people publicly declare that their lives are different because of Jesus.
  6. At least one person gave his life to Jesus for the very first time. That means that he showed up Sunday morning dead and is now alive (Ephesians 2.4-5). I can’t get over this. Wow wow wow.

In all of these things, I am celebrating that Jesus is doing literally more than I could have asked or imagined. He is blowing my expectations out of the water. I can’t thank him enough.

Saturday I read these verses, and I think they summarize my feelings pretty well:

Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?

What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign LORD. Because of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known to your servant.

How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you.

2 Samuel 7.18, 20-22

God knows what I’m really like … he knows that I am sinful and broken apart from him. But he chooses to do great things in and through us, because he is so gracious and so loving and way too good to us. He is great. And I’m expecting even greater things to come.

Stay tuned.

maturity

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As I have been reading 1 Samuel this week, I have been learning a lot about good leadership vs. bad leadership. Saul (the first king of Israel) tends to miss the mark in his leadership a lot of times. David (originally Saul’s harp player, one of his soldiers, and eventually Israel’s most famous king) consistently makes wise leadership decisions, even when he has low positions. Here are some of specific things I’ve been seeing in David’s leadership:

  1. David constantly communicates with the Lord (1 Samuel 23.2, 4, 10, 12). This connection allows him to hear and recognize the Lord’s prompting to keep him from making rash and unwise decisions (i.e. killing King Saul in 1 Samuel 24.5-7).
  2. David had a godly friend named Jonathan who encouraged him and looked out for him and spoke truth to him (1 Samuel 20 and 23.16-18). Jonathan supported him when no one else did. This sort of confidant – someone who knows you, reminds you of truth, and helps you out when you have no other allies – is so helpful to a leader.
  3. David shows respect for the authority he’s under by not killing Saul (1 Samuel 24.5-7). If anyone deserved to not respect his authority and exercise some revenge, it would be David – Saul is literally trying to murder him. But David knows God anointed Saul (1 Samuel 24.10), so God is the one who needs to decide when to avenge his wrongs. David simply stays faithful.
  4. However, David isn’t an idiot – he doesn’t roll out his sleeping bag right next to Saul after their confrontation. David and his guys stay in their stronghold  as Saul returns home (1 Samuel 24.22). Even though Saul was trying to kill David, David makes it clear to Saul, Saul’s men, and David’s own men that he is choosing to respect and not to harm Saul.
  5. David had a ragtag group of men in his army – they were in debt, in trouble, and discontent. David, however, did not allow their issues to make him bitter or hardened. He continued to lead in a way that probably wasn’t popular (his men wanted to kill King Saul and he stopped them in I Samuel 24.7). He could have easily played the victim or allowed their brokenness, bitterness, and discontentment to make him feel like he deserved revenge. Instead, he continued to pursue the Lord and seek his counsel. He intentionally decided to lead with his head and not with his emotions.

I believe David’s constant communication with the Lord enabled him to make mature, wise decisions, even when his life was literally in danger. He kept the long view in mind and didn’t make all his decisions in the urgency of the moment.

This is the type of mature leader I want to be.

leave Doubting Thomas alone

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I think Thomas gets a bad rap. Most of us have only heard of Thomas (one of Jesus’ disciples) for one reason — he’s a doubter.

Maybe you don’t know the story. After Jesus comes back to life, the disciples (minus Thomas) are all together in a room, and Jesus appears to them. When the crew tells Thomas about it later, he says he won’t believe until he can see and touch the holes in Jesus’ hands, and put his hand into the hole in Jesus’ side (all wounds Jesus got while he was dying on the cross).

At this point we sit back, shake our heads, and criticize Thomas for having such weak faith. What a doubter. What’s his problem?

What we usually don’t acknowledge is Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubt. About a week later, Jesus appears again. This time Thomas is there, and here’s what Jesus says to him:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
(John 20:27 ESV)

Jesus does not scold Thomas for his doubt. He does not tell Thomas he’s a bad disciple or a terrible excuse for a Christ follower. He doesn’t express anger or frustration or sadness. Instead he provides Thomas with the exact proof he was asking for.

This story is one of my favorite, because it encourages me so much. I believe Jesus wants us to know that he is bigger than our doubt. He is not afraid of our questions. He knows that we’re weak and that sometimes we struggle to trust. But he is gracious. He doesn’t expect us to act like we have it all together. He welcomes our doubt, and provides us what we need to believe.

Go to Jesus with your doubt. He will help you to believe.

vision

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I have been learning some practical lessons about leadership lately. One thing I find myself reminded of is the importance of vision. Here are some things I have been learning in a new way recently:

  • Vision leaks. This isn’t a new lesson, I realize, but I have been reminded of the truth of it. In the daily grind, people forget WHY they are doing what they’re doing. When we forget the WHY, we lose interest, we get discouraged, we do things for the wrong reasons.
  • Because of this, vision must be constantly reiterated. Every time the team gathers, every time an email goes out, every time there’s an opportunity: REPEAT YOUR VISION.
  • Re-evaluate your vision. Just because it’s what you decided on 5 years ago doesn’t mean it can’t change. Does your vision still fit the passions and direction of your ministry and your people? Maybe it’s your people who need to readjust, or maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the vision.
  • PRAY OVER YOUR VISION. This is one that I have been really practicing more intentionally lately. Ultimately, it’s not my ministry or my vision anyway — I only want to lead people to accomplish what God wants for us. In order to do that, I have to ask the Lord to speak into my vision. How? Take time, even if it’s just 10 minutes, and sit before the Lord and ask him to show you what needs to change and what blind spots exist. He will show you.
  • Invite others to give input and feedback into how you are implementing your vision – but do NOT compromise the things God has confirmed. It’s important that the people you lead have buy in and ownership in the vision, but don’t feel the need to make changes just to keep people happy. Sometimes leadership means making the hard call that not everyone agrees with. This is why allowing God to speak into the vision is so important. Once you are convinced that you are leading the direction he wants, you can make hard decisions with confidence because you know God stands behind you.
  • To accomplish your vision, you may have to change tactics. Most of us are creatures of habit and love to be comfortable and in a routine. However, even the most rock solid visions may need new implementation plans from time to time. The group structure you used when you had 50 people may not work now that you have 200. The outreach opportunities you offered at one campus may not work in your new location. Changing your methods doesn’t mean you’re losing your vision. It means you are recreating. And that’s often a good thing.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29.18)
Most importantly, YOU MUST HAVE A VISION. We have probably all worked or served somewhere without a clear vision. If we don’t know the goal, how do we make good plans or measure success?

What is your vision? And how are you implementing it with a God-supported confidence?

make good assumptions

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I’m kind of on this Nelson Mandela kick because I just read a book of his memoirs. He has so many wise things to say about leadership. This one really struck me:

It’s a good thing to assume [and] to act on the basis that … others are men of integrity and honor … You tend to attract integrity and honor if that is how you regard those with whom you work.
(Conversations with Myself)

I am not always good at this. I suppose it goes hand-in-hand with the idea of being a critical thinker instead of a critical person. When I’m acting like a critical person, I am not acting on the basis that others are people of integrity and honor. Instead, I’m assuming that people are ignorant, lazy, incompetent, self-serving… the list goes on and on. However, I think Mandela is so right. When you treat the people around you like they have great character, it attracts other people of character to you. On top of that, I believe treating people like they have great character raises the bar and actually causes them to start behaving that way.

In short, people will behave in accordance with the identity you assign to them.

Set the bar low, and people will behave accordingly. Set it high, and most of the time, people will strive to meet your expectations.

This is all rolling in my mind this week because as a Movement group we decided to intentionally focus this week on what Paul said in Ephesians 4.31-32:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

While there is obviously so much to be applied in these verses, I find a clear connection between Mandela’s words and Paul’s command. Oftentimes the reason I don’t want to treat people kindly is that I don’t feel they deserve it. And yet what does that sort of response do? It perpetuates the very behavior that frustrated me to begin with. But if I am willing to be kind to others, to treat others with integrity and honor, not only am I encouraging people toward better behavior, but I am also illustrating Christ.

This is certainly not an easy task. (I have to remind myself of these verses before every single class period at school.) But the more I think about it, the more I realize how important these verses are.

Will you take on the Ephesians 4.31-32 challenge?