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2001

The year was 2001. Our Net Team was initially made up of three couples. The other two couples were in their thirties with small children, a different generation than us, with different perspectives on how to do things.
 
We are from the first year of the “baby boomers” and also have a lot of the traits of the former generation “the builders.” For me, to get things done quickly, efficiently and inexpensively was very fulfilling.
 
Our teammates had exactly the opposite values: doing things carefully and with excellence was very important to them. As you can imagine, a team comprised of people with opposite approaches to getting things done was a prescription for a collision.
 
Our differences came to a head when we decided to rent the apartment across the hall from the bookstore. This would give us a meeting room, a storage area and a second bathroom. The place had originally been wallpapered and then repainted at some time in the distant past. “Great!” I thought, “All we have to do is put a fresh coat of paint over what’s already there and we are ready to go.”
 
My teammates, however, wanted to have the wallpaper stripped, the walls re-plastered and then painted. This, we found, would cost about $1500.
They were also not happy with the black metal bookshelves we had inherited. They wanted white ones. And, no, painting the ones we had would not do! New white bookshelves would cost another $1500.
 
Not only did I consider this outrageously expensive, but the money they wanted to spend would be coming out of my own work fund!
 
The team meeting where we discussed this was an increasingly “hot” one. As our interaction went on, I got more and more red in the face and talked louder and faster. We ended, at least, on a civil note, agreeing to pray about these proposals, but I was not a happy camper.
 
And pray I did, a lot. “Lord, help them to see where they are off base, help them to see that we need to be more careful with the money you’ve entrusted to us!”
The Lord listened patiently until I wound down. Then, clear as a bell, the thought came, “Let them have their way.”
“But Lord! Their ideas aren’t right!”
“Let them have their way.”
After a long silence on my part, I finally responded, “Ok, Lord, I will follow your lead. After all, the money is yours.”
The next team meeting went much better as I agreed to all their proposals. On the way home one of our teammates rode with us.
“That was a good team meeting,” he commented, “it went really well.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “Did you notice that it went well because I changed my position on every point to support your ideas?”
“Oh….yes, yes, you did, didn’t you?”
 
The anguish I had experienced in going against my desires had not even registered on his radar screen! But then again, it did not matter. Doing what the Lord wants is what is important. And valuing relationships above procedures, policies or money is very important.
 
After that incident, it was evident that my teammates were more willing to listen to my input. By laying down my desires on certain points important to me but unimportant from an eternal perspective, the Lord magnified my influence in the lives of others. That is certainly more valuable than any thing money can buy. And for me, it was stepping out of the trap of selfishness into the freedom of servant hood.
 
Now we could begin to use the bookstore to hold public seminars in an attempt to find spiritually interested people. Looking for subjects that interested people in general, we had sessions on handling stress, on what it means to be wise, on women’s issues, on parenting and on the seven secrets of happiness, among others.
 
Since our meeting room at the bookstore was small, we held these “first level” public seminars in a nearby hotel and made the content general in nature. That way no one could accuse us of trapping them into a Christian presentation.
 
At the end of the seminar we would then invite those interested to attend an additional, nonpublic discussion of the same subject from a biblical perspective. This worked well to identify those with any spiritual interest.
 
By the time we discontinued the seminars, there had been hundreds who had attended our events. The largest one took place when the author of the book Five Languages of Love came and spoke at two large gatherings. Along with the good exposure of biblical truth and the sale of books, we were pleased to hear that a marriage was saved, although the couple did not come to Christ.
 
Drawing from the experience of others who were also holding Christian events in the city, we notified the “Minority Desk” at the police headquarters each time we had plans to hold a seminar. They would send plain-clothes policemen to attend each of our public events.
“For protection,” they said.
“For observation,” we thought.
 
We later learned that as a business we did not need to notify the police, but now that we had, we were on their radar screen. We would later reap the negative consequences of that, all of which the Lord would allow for His good reasons.
On my birthday, 2001
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Psalm 4:4

 
Psalm 4:4 “In your anger do not sin;” [Quoted by Paul in Ephesians 4:26 “ ‘in your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”]
 
We will certainly all be angry at times, but the question is, what do we do with our anger? Will it control us or will Truth rule with the Spirit’s power as we look to see what our anger is telling us?
 
Am I prepared to cooperate with the Spirit by daily filling myself with Truth, memorizing and meditating on Scripture so I can let Truth, not anger, have free reign? Am I able to look at each situation from God’s point of view, to have His big picture rather than just focus on my own unhappiness?
 
His point of view is, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2, 3).
 
Am I living for my own comfort or for God’s glory? Have I been consistently calling upon the Lord in my weakness and seeing Him answer, or just limping along on my own? Have I been delighting in His Word, putting it into practice or have I just been living on a human level in feeble human strength, perspective and selfishness?
 
Each moment of temptation to anger can be viewed through all the previous years’ input, obedience and experience of God working things out, and thereby used for good in my life.]
 
“when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”
 
[When I lie awake at night, emotions riled, hot with anger, blaming others, I must willfully, carefully, realistically look at my own heart and then I will be silenced when I see the sin and selfishness there.
 
I am no better than the others who have offended me. Clearly, I am no good to God in my natural self, yet you, Lord, constantly love me, draw me back to yourself, rebuke, correct, forgive and restore.
 
So I must do with others, seeking to help them rather than attacking them, even in my thoughts. I must lay in your hands the right to blame, accuse, get revenge or fight. Revenge is yours; my job is to bless, to pray for, to do good—wow, what a contrast!
 
I praise you for your grace and goodness, for the privilege of being called to live on your level, to open the floodgates of transforming resources into the lives of those around me, especially on those who are against me, who fight me, who hurt me.
 
It is so important to take the time to be quiet before you, Lord, to listen to you, to get your perspective. Help me to remember that you are the measure, I am the follower, that I must submit my intellect to your Word. Yours is the right to decide, mine is the privilege to obey. If I abide in you, I can be the means of grace, goodness and blessing in the lives of others. May I be so today!
 
Selah Help me to think on these things.
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Psalm 4:3

Psalm 4:3 “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;”
 
[This is a most wonderful and mysterious statement. In spite of what we are, You have set your children apart for yourself. And you did it before you laid the foundation of the earth, long before you made us godly in Christ. You knew what was to come, that we would respond to your call, that we would believe and be brought into your family–and you prepared all for it. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29a).
 
I praise you that you desired to have a relationship with us, that you delight in our being in your family, that you designed us to be godly and determinably move us in that direction.
 
You are such a good God, drawing your enemies in to be your children. You are so kind and gracious, even when we grieve you with unbelief and disobedience. You are loving when anyone else would be impatient, insulted and angry.
 
Praise you that you consistently move us on in godly growth; you chasten us, discipline us, rebuke us, shape us and guide us. You are fantastic in your forgiving, forbearing, forever faithful. We belong to you, we are yours alone and rejoice in this fact.
 
“the LORD will hear when I call to him.”
 
Because I belong to you, you hear and answer, you watch over me, care for me and protect me. You are the mighty LORD, the great I AM, the King of Glory–and you are attentive to even the least of your children, giving tender, compassionate, considerate, consistent attention.
 
How wonderful! How unbelievable! How marvelous! I praise you, O Lord, for your great grace, your lavish love, your persistent patience, your powerful provision. To you be glory today for all that you are doing in our lives. To you be glory for who you are!
 
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Psalm 4:1

Psalm 4:1 “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.”
 
[Praise you, O Lord God, that you are righteous: sinless, pure, without fault, full of good motives and faithfulness. You do only what is right, you never fail. You are the light shining in my darkness, bringing beauty out of each storm. You are a wonder, a marvel, amazing, the paragon of goodness, the epitome of love, the pinnacle of mercy. Therefore you are absolutely trustable.
 
I praise you that you answered my original prayer for help–that you reached down and, in spite of what I am in my sin and rebellion, you drew me to yourself to make me your child. You wanted me, you chose me, you bought me. Now you delight in me and rejoice in our relationship, ever giving me the opposite of what I deserve. This is beyond human understanding, showing the beauty of your grace-filled heart.]
 
“Give me relief from my distress;”
 
[You, Lord Jesus, in your power, your wisdom, your creativity are able to bring relief in the right way at the right time, for you exist outside of time and are the Master of all.
 
You know how long to leave us in distress to bring growth and deepening, to teach and equip, to strengthen and train. You know how much pain and suffering I have at the moment and you give all the grace I need to move through it.
 
In fact, you gave grace even before the distress starts, more than enough grace to be prepared, to endure, to pass through with power. You enable me to embrace and utilize what may appear be an attack of the enemy, but is actually a gift from your hand.
 
I must wholeheartedly move into this opportunity with your grace and with praise, to embrace it with obedience, and emerge from it with glory for you, empowered as better and stronger. And with your power, grace and help this is possible!
 
You have made yourself my God and I bow before you in thankfulness. Help me to join you in what you are doing in every distress by offering the sacrifice of thanksgiving at each point of pain, that you may be honored before all around me.
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Biblical Appeals

“Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness….”
Psalm 72:1
 
As I work my way through the Psalms, using them for morning worship, the Spirit has brought to my attention a new emphasis: an appeal to God’s character as the basis for prayer. This has two aspects.
 
First is asking God to answer according to His qualities:
“…in your great love, O God, answer me in your sure salvation….Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love, in your great mercy, turn to me” (Ps. 69:13,16).
 
This means we can pray like this: “Lord, please answer me out of your love, out of your righteousness, out of your faithfulness, out of your wisdom, out of your goodness, out of your power, out of your grace.”
 
Such praying is in a strong way of submitting ourselves to His standards—His righteousness is much more exacting than my concept of what is righteous! His love may mean saying “no” to my present request in order to give me something better later. It is asking for His will to be done in a way that will reflect His character.
 
The second aspect has to do with appealing to God on the basis of what the answer to prayer will do for Him:
Help us, O Lord, for when you do, “then men will say, ‘Surely the righteous are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth’” (Ps. 58:11).
 
“Not for our sake, GOD, no, not for our sake, but for your name’s sake, show your glory. Do it on account of your merciful love, do it on account of your faithful ways” (Ps. 115:1).
 
So we can pray, “Answer me for your Name’s sake, Lord, that men may know you are God, that men may know there is a God in the church.”
 
Praying this way certainly helps to refine our motives in asking for things: am I asking for my own comfort only, or is this really for God’s glory?
 
In asking God to act according to His character and for His glory, we are in no way “twisting God’s arm.” Instead we are focusing on the One who will decide how to answer in what is best, we are surrendering to His desire. This is joining Him in what He is doing. It is a step up in prayer.
 
Prayer: “Lord help me to pray in line with your Word, with your Will, in your Way. Guide me in incorporating these new insights into my prayer life. Answer me according to your wisdom, grace and goodness. Answer me so that those around me may see your glory. Amen.”
 
–Edified!
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Psalm 3:6

Psalm 3:6 “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.”
[For David this was a physical fact: Absalom came with a large army and all the advantage. But in this crisis David was thinking about you, Lord: the Majestic, Mighty, Powerful, Undefeated, Unconquerable, Eternal Lord of Hosts. You are strong beyond imagination, you command the armies of Heaven, you can end everything in an instant, you work to weave all into your plan. Therefore, David did not give in to fear.
Praise you that for us, too, in the battle that is more against spiritual forces than physical ones, you are there, giving us support and grace, your presence and your protection. These we experience every day: in the timing of things, in provision of needs and in protection from Satan—all the perfect working of your hand in our lives.
So, as we daily face the unseen but real forces of hell, who love evil, who have not one gram of goodness, who desire to destroy and are constantly at work to tear down all positives–we can rest in you.
As we cry out to you, you are at work, you have already defeated this enemy and are calling us to participate with you in the cleanup operation here on earth. We do this by keeping on your armor, fighting with praise, prayer and persistence in doing what we know to be right.
At the same time, on the level of what can be seen, the world now faces a growing horde of terrorists, eager to conquer and rule all the earth; in this, too, we need not fear, for You are moving history to a conclusion and taking us with you.
 
You are our Rock, our King, our Lord, our Ruler and we can trust in you no matter what storms come into our lives. Your plans are perfect, your presence is persistent, your protection is powerful. So, I praise you now for what you will do today in carrying us through the attacks, over the barriers and into your peace.]
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History as “His Story”

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” Psalm 143:8
 
While in a difficult situation recently, someone asked me how I could be so cheerful. The answer is a Scripture-based phrase that I often use to give myself perspective: “God is moving history to a conclusion and is taking us with Him!” Whatever the present event, it is part of God’s plan to finish history and move us into eternity. He is in control; I can trust Him.
 
This perspective is found throughout Scripture. Colossians 3:2-4 expresses it well: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” This gives us the wider, God-focused perspective.
 
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” We can leave behind our old culturally-based, performance-oriented, comfort-focused value system. Instead we can choose to rest in the security we have in Christ.
 
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” He WILL appear, and He WILL bring us with Him, and He WILL give us a place in His glory—we can focus on this long-term truth rather than our short-term accomplishments or failures!
 
This understanding gives us a wide and long view of what’s happening. This view can change our goal from being comfortable and safe, to joining God in what He’s doing, to embracing the adventures He’s prepared for us.
 
If, from a human perspective, my whole life collapses around me (illness, accident, loss, poverty, persecution, injustice, war), I can look at it within the bigger picture of God’s glory, greatness and grace, knowing that He is doing something significant through it; therefore, I can praise and trust Him in it. My favorite verse sums it up: “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Ps. 62:1).
 
This is a huge shift from “normal” human thinking. And we can cooperate with God in making this shift by internalizing Scripture, then putting it into practice in little every day events. Then disappointments, delays, little hurts and small losses all become opportunities to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Ps. 50:23) and honor God.
 
In giving thanks, we affirm that God is good, that God is in control, that God is at work using each irritation to expose my sin, to transform me, to give me opportunity to be a light to those around me, to give Him glory before the unseen hosts. Truly, knowing Jesus is enough for joy, period! Let’s join Him today in living in this truth!
 
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, you are enough.  Even in difficulties you bring beauty, as in this picture. Help me to walk with you through this day in your power, giving you glory in each decision, trusting you rather than myself. Praise be to you for what you will do in me today. Amen.”
–Edified!
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bookstore

Net Team Start Up
The following year, 2001, the political and social climate in the country seemed to be more open, so a proposal was made by one of our creative folks, Chuck, to set up a new team in Ankara to do more open evangelism. We were asked to head up this initiative.
 
Our goal was to throw out a net and draw in as many interested people as possible to pass onto to other church plants, so we named the team “The Net.”
 
We began by setting up an incorporated business in order to have a legal entity to work from. First I had to find a partner and the Lord graciously provided a fine fellow who was easy to work with.
 
Next, we each had to have $50,000 in a bank in the country. Several people loaned us small amounts to make up the needed total—demonstrating a lot of faith in us!
 
We went through a “broker,” who did the work of applying for us to set up the business, a process with multiple, complicated steps. This took about six months to accomplish.
 
Once the company was established, we began the work of opening a bookstore as a basis for outreach. Again this proved to be a complicated process, following steps that were exactly the opposite of what I would have expected.
 
The first step was logical. After the initial application to the city, we were required to rent a place so we would have an address.
 
One thing that made it difficult to find an adequate place was that we wanted to hold seminars and meetings in the bookstore on weekends. Many business buildings were not open on Sundays. In addition, we were up front with the owners about these being Christian meetings. That put up red flags for most landlords. They didn’t want any trouble!
 
We finally settled on a third floor apartment in an old, run-down building on the edge of downtown Ankara, making it easily accessible by bus and subway. Our budget was limited and this was what we could afford.
 
After renting the place, an inspector from the tax department came and told us we had to have it completely set up as a bookstore before they would approve it. And, he added, after going through all that work and expense, there was no guarantee that they would give us permission to go ahead with it!
 
Later I found out the reasoning behind this seemingly backwards regulation. People would apply for a certain business permit, then after receiving it, would open up a completely different business, one that would have had more difficult requirements to meet. So, whatever your application declared your business to be, it had to be set up completely before the permit could be issued.
 
There had been another Christian bookstore in in town, which closed down shortly before we opened; they generously gave us all their shelves and left over books. We set them up in the store and were thereby able to pass the inspection from the tax department with minimal expense. Another God sighting
 
Then another unforeseen obstacle came up. In order to be granted the final permit to actually open the store, we had to have a signature from the owner of every apartment in the building. Some owners were not in the city and one wasn’t even in the country. A few agreed, but three of them said they would sign only if they were the last ones to do so. All three couldn’t be last!
 
One of these was a retired woman lawyer who was mentally unstable; she also had the power of attorney to sign for several owners who were not in the city. Without her agreement we were at a stalemate.
 
We saw this as a problem but God saw it as an opportunity to display His power. Unfortunately, I failed to wait for Him and instead took another, easier route that was offered, like Abraham helping out God by having Ishmael.
 
When a local friend asked how things were going, I told him about the impasse. “I think I can help you,” he said. “I have a friend who might be able to tell you what to do.” He wrote a name and address on a slip of paper and handed it to me. “Go downtown and talk with her,” he urged.
 
I decided to accept this offer and went to the city hall to find this woman who might be able to help. This is a very common form of problem solving in the Turkish society: find someone with power who can break the “logjam” in a process and get things going again. It is called torpil, that is, acting like a torpedo.
 
The woman listened to my story, and asked one question. “Are there any other businesses in your building?” When I listed off the other ones, including a photocopy business, she said, “Okay, get me the number off of that shop’s permit.”
 
That was not hard to do, as by law such a permit must be hung on the wall of the shop. I went back, got the number and returned to the city hall, giving it to the woman.
She left the room and returned shortly with a file. “Look here,” she said, pointing to the permit, “this business is the same class as a bookstore, so I can make a photocopy of this, put your name on it and then you will have your permit.”
“Is that legal?” I asked. This did not sound right to me.
“Of course, of course. There’s no problem with this, we do it often.”
 
I still had misgivings, but allowed myself to be swayed by my desire to get the bookstore opened for sales. Considering all of our effort and expense, and the seeming impossibility of getting such a permit by normal means, I accepted her help. However, this decision to “go the local way” was to create a serious threat to us down the road.
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Glorious and Wonderful!

You are wonderful, Lord, and to be a beloved member of your family is beyond wonderful. It is more than any human being could imagine or wish:
to be loved without restraint;
to be delighted in, in spite of what I am;
to have instant access to your presence;
to be watched over and protected by the All-seeing, All-knowing, All-powerful, All-good One;
to have purpose and meaning, direction and guidance, fullness of life
and a glowing future!
 
These are privileges beyond what we could ever hope for on a human level!
 
In addition you promise to every believer the possibility of all Joy and Peace, and overflowing Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13)—this is what every human heart desires—and as followers of you, Lord Jesus, all we have to do to receive this is to trust you.
 
I bow before you now, I lift up your name, I proclaim your goodness, and rise up to obey the Worthy One, the Holy One, the Powerful One, the Good One.
 
Glory be to you in my life today, Lord Jesus, my great God and my gracious King.
 
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Whose Plan?

 
The major themes of the Scripture are, according to Paul David Tripp, the Glory of God, the Greatness of God and the Grace of God.
 
He goes on to say that personal ministry is “embedding people’s personal stories in the larger story of redemption, so they approach every situation and relationship with a ‘God’s story’ mentality.”
 
In God’s overall and personal plans, He calls us to a partnership with Himself, giving us significant roles and responsibilities. He prepares situations for us, then waits for us to obey His directions, given primarily in His Word. If we willingly choose to obey, our foot can still slip and suffer difficulty, but as we continue walking in obedience, we are lifted up again and again by His love and power.
 
Joseph in the Old Testament is an example of this. Without understanding all that was happening, he joined God in the diffculties that came to him. Then, later In his life he understood some of what God had been doing in allowing/sending all the suffering of his early years. He said to his brothers concerning their having sold him into slavery, “You meant it to me for evil, but God meant it for good, to the saving of many people” (Gen. 50:20).
 
Joseph was thinking about his having saved his extended family, all the Egyptians and people in surrounding countries from starvation. That was true. However, this it was only a part of what God was actually doing. Through Joseph, God preserved the line of Judah from whence came the Messiah.
 
So Joseph was one of the many people prepared by suffering, who played a part in God’s plan to bring about the eternal salvation He offers to all. God was doing something immeasurably huge when he sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave! [This insight is from a lecture by Fran Sciacca of Hands of Hur Ministries.]
 
So what is God doing in our lives with the difficulties He brings/allows for us? Are we, through worship, looking at God’s glory daily, and thereby getting glimpses of the great things He’s doing? Are we grasping that our disappointments, hurts and sufferings are all being used by Him in the big picture in significant ways we can’t understand, and therefore praising Him for these problems? Are we fitting our story into His?
 
As an application of this, a doctor comments that getting “over an illness should not be the primary goal” for a Christian. “What glorifies [God] is what is best for all believers; therefore what glorifies Him will be the best for the sick believer. Getting well is not necessarily the best thing…
 
“The hope for the believer is victory, not relief. Relief is not inherently wrong, but it becomes wrong when it is the primary goal [an idol]. God promises victory in illnesses and trials, not deliverance from them.” (Dr. Robert Smith, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference [Stanley, NC: Timeless Texts, 2004]). The real goal is God’s glory!
 
Prayer: “Lord, I confess that my glory has been my goal, not yours. Forgive me for pursuing personal comfort as my goal and idol instead of your glory. Help me today to join you and live instead with the desire to bring you glory and honor through my motives, thoughts, words and actions. Help me to trust you to carry me along in your great plan to end history, eliminate evil and bring in the new Heaven and Earth. Amen.”
Picture: Indonesian believer, badly burned in a terrorist attack on her church, and lost two sons also. Now when she is asked what happened, she uses her scars as a means of sharing the gospel, joining God in His great plan.
Picture: Indonesian believer, badly burned in a terrorist attack on her church, and lost two sons also. Now when she is asked what happened, she uses her scars as a means of sharing the gospel, joining God in His great plan.
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