Friday, May 18, 2007

How Many Mikes?

As a young boy it was always fun to watch The Ed Sullivan Show on TV especially when the Chinese Acrobats were displaying their plate spinning agility. The more noble-minded viewer may have been amazed at how one guy could keep 20 different plates spinning on thin poles, but not me. I was just waiting for the whole thing to come crashing down. It was inevitable he would make a mistake. (actually, these guys were quite good)

There were two things that reminded me of the famous plate spinners from China recently. The first was Steve Murrell’s recent blog “
Leadership is…Getting Out of the Way” The other was a web site I stumbled upon that would tell how many people in the US had the same name as you or I.

So, how many of “me” are there in the US? According to the site there are 2,192 people in the US with the name “Michael Watkins”. I also checked the names of a few of my friends, and the site said that there were none of them in the US. Therefore, you might not really exist.

Back to leadership: Not only was I not surprised when the acrobats broke a few plates, but advanced alien civilizations viewing in on satellite were probably wondering, “You know, if the earthlings were as advanced as they thought, they might get some help spinning those plates. Less would be dropped!” I also think that they had an affinity for spinning plates, probably something to do with their public transportation.

Anyway, and let me try to get back on track, the point of developing leaders is not to develop the one-man-show because sooner or later he or she will drop the plate, the ball or worse. It is only a matter of time. The more people we train to lead in the ordinary areas of life the more we will get accomplished for God’s kingdom and the less high-profile plate droppings we will have.

Here are a few insights that I gained from the silly website:

  • Some leaders act as if there is only one of them. Sorry, but there are more, so we are not as important as we think.
  • I need to develop other “me’s”. This is better understood as “developing others” as opposed to only developing myself.
  • Who thinks up these sites?

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Tim 2:2

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Beginning & End of Truth: Knowing God

When I began this series of posts on the goodness of God I recalled a meeting with Religious Affairs (RA) in Ukraine on September 11, 2001. The meeting was to decide weather I was breaking any laws that would allow them to deport me. We were tense in the meeting about the outcome, but there was one thing that was not in question. This question had been answered before a similar RA meeting exactly two years previous.

In September 1999 we had just returned to Ukraine after a furlough to a church that was under attack by forces outside and some who had sneaked in to wreak havoc. God had blessed us with purchasing our first home in Lviv, but I quickly found out that my visa status was in serious question, thus another summons to RA right after I arrived.

My blood ran cold with fear. This was not the fear of death but the fear of failure and getting kicked out of the country. I would also lose our new home. I started praying and confessing the word from
Joshua 1 where God had promised to give me every place I set my foot and to not be afraid. I went to my favorite prayer place, a beautiful hill called High Castle that overlooked the whole city, but on this day altitude did not equal closeness with God.

God’s Word simply would not stick to my soul, so I went home in frustration to ask God a very different question. It went something like this: “Ok God, forget about this new house, my vision, getting kicked out! I just want to know one thing, and I am really sick of it. Why am I afraid?” Well, He answered me more clearly than I had ever experienced.

“You do not believe I will care for you and that I am for you no matter what the outcome of this trial.” This was unconditional love, and I was thunderstruck. I had been serving a different taskmaster, myself, until that day. The fear now vanished, my mind cleared and truths that had been read many times over exploded into my soul. This was God’s ultimate goal for me, not to do but to know. True fruitfulness is a fruit of knowing - knowing truth.

1st John 2:12-14 John writes to three groups of people who have various levels of maturity. He affirms them for what they have learned based on how long they have been walking with Jesus:

Little Children: You know the Father & your sins have been forgiven
Young men: The word of God abides strongly in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
Fathers: You know Him who was from the very beginning.

It is ok to be a child – when you are young. Unfortunately, many Christians never get past simple salvation truths. Their faith is only for themselves and getting to heaven. Young ministers also fall into a trap. They go into service while not knowing their God or His Word. They get beat up severely. Another mistake that they make is that they think ministry is the goal or the pinnacle of spirituality. It is not.

The fathers understand most of all because they have come full circle. God was using their ministry to others to teach them about Himself. They have come to know God in His fullness not simply through study but by experiencing God’s faithfulness in countless battles and adverse circumstances. I am so grateful to God for my trials as a missionary because without them I would have never begun to learn the fullness of who God is on my behalf. I am still learning.

Our friend, Asaph, in Ps 73 has also come full circle:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps 73:25-26
  • What are the lies that prevent God’s truth from sticking to your life?
  • What are the hurdles that you can never get over?
  • Are you asking God the right question?
He is faithful to answer. Matt 7:7-11