My Weakness

As we have been getting ready to move, we have had the unique opportunity to receive cards, emails, and words that express the gratitude that people have for us. This could easily become an area in which pride could rear its ugly head were it not for a recurring theme in many of the encouraging words. One of the things that I have heard repeatedly is that people are thankful for my weaknesses.
For the times that I have sinned or made mistakes.
For my transparency in life and for being real.
Who would have thought that what God would use most in the minds and hearts of those around me are my weaknesses?

At times, I have desired to be good at something. Really good. There are people who are musically talented. There are people who are amazing with words and can write beautifully. There are people who are talented in everything they do. And then there are people like me. It seems like I have to work extremely hard to be semi-good at anything! And yet, God has not seen fit to use any amazing talents or brilliant things that I have done to encourage those around me.

God has used the times that I was near the point of giving up, throwing in the towel, and deciding that ______ (you fill in the blank: life, ministry, serving, good stewardship, loving others, working on relationships) just wasn’t worth the trouble that they were causing in my life.

And I have been open with many people. God has used the times when I had a bad attitude in youth group (could my heart possibly be so ugly when I didn’t get what I wanted at the white elephant gift exchange?) or when I was impatient on a mission trip (aren’t we supposed to be on extra good behavior on missions trips?).

God has consistently brought me to conviction and repentance in the relationships in my life, and this has seemed to encourage others.

When God kept me and was faithful to me when I didn’t want to be faithful to Him anymore, God not only changed my heart, but He used my weakness to change those around me.

When I desperately wanted life to be different or to have a baby or to have ease and not hardship and I thought my life would have been better had I just died when I had my stroke, God graciously stopped me from continuing down that path. He used my wrong attitudes and thoughts to show me I can do nothing good without Jesus and He used that to teach others the same lesson.

So, for those who have shared that they have been so very thankful for being able to see the intense experience of sanctification in my life, I am grateful.

By God using my weaknesses rather than strengths (what strength do I have without Him anyway?), people have been able to be pointed to the perfection of Jesus Christ and not to me.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

How churches have encouraged us

We have had the opportunity to visit many churches around the Midwest over the past 1.5 years. We have been blessed in ways we never imagined, and each church has been unique. This post is a way for us to praise God for these churches, encourage churches for how they are blessing us, and give ideas for individuals who are looking for ways to be creative in loving disheveled wanderers like ourselves.

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Best practices to help the missionary wife:

  1. The week before, pastors have shown a photo of the missionary family (us) and shared our names, status (are they on deputation, furlough, etc?), country of service, and even prayed for us.
  2. Having someone to show us around the church has been so helpful! It can be daunting at times when it is a new church. Where are the bathrooms? Where is the nursery or the Sunday School classrooms? The missionary may prefer to have their children (if they have them) sit with them, but it is nice to have the knowledge. This same person can be the one that the missionary can go to if they have any questions throughout their time spent at the church.
  3. They gave us an order of service and a bulletin.
  4. Informed us with whom we will be eating (if there is a meal involved), introduced us to that family, and made sure we have very clear directions as to how to get where we needed to go.
  5. Asked us questions, checked out our display table. Showed interest and tried to get informed about us and the ministry opportunities.
  6. **Bonus- Missionary cupboards are nice in certain circumstances, but we have found that the most helpful thing (to us) is when the church has a binder full of gift cards and they let us know that we can pick out X amount of cards (or dollar amount). This has been wonderful as it helps with gas, meals out, a drink from a coffee shop, or groceries. Many missionaries don’t want more material things that they have to pack and lug around in their vehicles, but gift cards can be a great help!

Good Books

Here are some of the Good Books of 2015 and who I would recommend them to:

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Minds by Jen Wilken

Who should read it? Those who want to learn some new methods of studying their Bible

A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent

Who should read it ? Anybody who wants to appreciate the gospel more and see how it connects to daily life

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

Who should read it? Anyone who has children, grandchildren, teaches Sunday school, or has any contact with children

Found In Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and our Union with Christ by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Who should read it? Anyone who wants to know more about their identity in Christ

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Who should read it? Anyone who lives in a culture where homosexuality is present and endorsed

Faithfulness

God is a faithful God.

Psalm 40:11 says, “As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!”IMG_0149

We are blessed to have the opportunity to serve a God who is completely faithful. We do not have to question or wonder if He is going to remain consistent. We can have full assurance that He will never fail us or leave us.

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I (Crystal) was blessed recently to be able to observe someone reflecting God’s faithfulness. We went down to Arizona to present the Spain ministry to several different groups of people and to stay with my Grandpa and his wife, Loretta.

My Grandpa, Lanny Barringer, has been an example of serving the Lord for many, many years.

As I have had the opportunity to hear more and more of his life story, I have realized that God has been faithful in my Grandpa’s life many times. Grandpa wanted to go back home after college and work on the family farm in Iowa, but God led him to be a pastor. God has continued to allow my Grandpa to stay faithful through many years of joy and difficulty. I am not sure if he will ever retire in the normal sense. He loves serving the Lord and is determined not to waste his life. I am so blessed to see my Grandpa’s faithfulness (and Loretta’s support and encouragement of it) as he loves God and loves others. Grandpa is imaging and reflecting an aspect of God’s character to me by remaining faithful.

I praise the Lord for my Grandpa’s example, may Seth and I remain faithful to the Lord as well.

Ephesians Study #4

This is the final post in a series on my study of Ephesians. As I said at the beginning, this is a study that I could repeat with any epistle in the NT.
1. What the book of Ephesians was about
2. The background of Ephesians
3. What is actually in the Ephesians
4. How the book of Ephesians should affect my everyday life

After I felt a lot more comfortable with the general drift of the book of Ephesians, I went through paragraph by paragraph for the most part and answered the COMA questions for each one. (COMA stands for Context, Observation, Meaning, and Application.) You can download these questions here.
I used some commentaries and such, but I tried to study through it on my own first.
The COMA questions really helped me see how Ephesians would affect my everyday life because at the end of the questions there are several specific application questions that I had to think through and answer.

  1. How can I use this passage to point others to Jesus?
  2. How does this passage challenge (or confirm) my understanding?
  3. What attitude/action needs to be changed in my life?
  4. Under what specific circumstances would I turn to the truth of this passage?

093So, to sum up the last few posts, here is what my plan looked like, more or less:

1. Read through the entire book in one sitting. Do this three times.
2. Read Acts 19, Paul’s time spent in Ephesus.
3. Answer COMA questions for the entire book on the fourth time through.
4. Listen to the book of Ephesians (audio NIV by Max MacClean)
5. Listen to the book of Ephesians (audio NASB)
6. Read through Ephesians again and circle all the references to Christ in red.
7. Make a list of what Christ does, who He is, what He hates, what He loves, etc.
8. Read through Ephesians again and circle all references to the Holy Spirit in green.
9. Make a list of what the Holy Spirit does, who He is, etc.
10. Read through Ephesians again and circle all references to God the Father in blue.
11. Make a list of what God the Father does, who He is, etc.
12. Answer the COMA questions for each passage as you study through the whole book.
This was a stretching and growing experience for me, but a very good one. I am so thankful to God for His Word and it was so exciting to be able to study deeper than I usually do! I hope that there is something here that will enhance your own study! What would you add?

Ephesians Study #3

This is the third post in a series on studying Ephesians.

1. What the book of Ephesians was about
2. The background of Ephesians
3. What is actually in the Ephesians
4. How the book of Ephesians should affect my everyday life

I spent the most time in the last two areas of study. This was where I tried to dig in and pay attention to small details while keeping the overall theme and context in mind.
I answered the COMA questions for the entire book on my fourth time reading through the book of Ephesians (the COMA questions have been adapted from a book everyone should read, One to One Bible Reading). If you would like to download a PDF of these questions, click here.

Somewhere in here I also listened to the audio version of Ephesians that can be found at biblegateway.com. I listened to it in a couple of different versions.

I then read through the book again and circled all the references to Christ in a red pen. I then made a list about Christ (who He is, what He does, anything I could learn about Him). This was a pretty slow process for me, but very encouraging. I did the same type of list with the Holy Spirit (with a green circle), and with God the Father (a blue circle).
I liked color coding the text because I was able to spot things at a glance. It shouldn’t have surprised me how many times God was mentioned, but it did. This helped me gain perspective on the book of Ephesians being about God first and foremost, not me.

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Ephesians Study #2

In the previous post, I shared how I wanted to know what the book of Ephesians was about. Now, we will look at the second of the four areas that I covered:

1. What the book of Ephesians was about
2. The background of Ephesians
3. What is actually in the Ephesians
4. How the book of Ephesians should affect my everyday life

To find out a little more about the background of Ephesians, I read through Acts 19, which tells about Paul’s time spent in Ephesus. It is a helpful exercise because I could see not only that Paul faced while he was there, but also what the Ephesian people would be experiencing and a little of their culture. I was able to understand a little bit better about the readers of the book of Ephesians and how they might have read and understood what Paul was saying to them.


Ephesus Celsus Library Façade” by Benh LIEU SONGOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ephesians Study #1

I (Crystal) recently studied through the book of Ephesians, and the next few blog posts will be sharing about this study. My goal is not to make you feel as though you should study in the same way I do, but to perhaps give you some new ideas for you own study. What I have done in Ephesians is essentially the same study I would do of any epistle in the NT. As I studied, I covered these four areas:

book
1. What the book of Ephesians was about
2. The background of Ephesians
3. What is actually in Ephesians
4. How the book of Ephesians should affect my everyday life

This study turned out to be a much longer study than I was thinking, and many of the steps that I took lasted for a day or several days. It is nice that in a study like this, you can choose to go as deep as you want. I found that as I was in Ephesians for more than a few months, I started really making connections about Paul’s train of thought and it seemed like so many of life’s situations were mentioned in Ephesians. I probably annoyed my husband by all of the times I said something like, “Well, just like in Ephesians…”

For the first post, we will look at the first area of study: what is Ephesians about?

Too often, I take verses or passages and use them without truly understanding the context. It’s funny how when I read the whole book of Ephesians in its entirety it made a lot more sense to me!

So, as I started out, I read through the entire book of Ephesians in one sitting. I did this three times to start to get a feel of Paul’s flow of thought.
Reading through or listening to the book of Ephesians really only takes about 20 minutes or less and it is definitely worth it.

From biblegateway.com, I copied the book of Ephesians into a document and then printed it out so that I could mark it up.

Books of 2014

The internet is full of posts about what books to read in 2015, and the best of 2014. It can be intimidating to actually make a list and finish it. For me (Crystal), I chose to pick one book a month and try to get through that. When I made sure I read one, I found that I was able to finish several others.

Again this past year, one of my goals for 2014 was to read at least one spiritually beneficial book each month. By the grace of God, I reached that goal and was able to read through (and listen to) a lot of really good books! I have been very encouraged and challenged by a lot of what I read. I thank God for the men and women who have taken time to write good, solid books to help others in their walk with the Lord! Here is the list of what I read, with the ones in bold being those which especially impacted me:

January –

  • Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

February –

  • Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick
  • Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

March –

  • Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper
  • How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart

April –

  • The Measure of Success: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women and Work by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank
  • The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart by Christine Hoover

May-

  • Discipline by Elizabeth Elliot
  • Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies, RW Glenn

June –

  • A Mom After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George
  • The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

July –

  • Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image by Hannah Anderson
  • Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood by Nicole Mahaney Whitacre
  • Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold Climate Cultures by Sarah Lanier

August –

  • A Quest for More by Paul Tripp
  • Tying the Knot Tighter: Because Marriage Lasts a Lifetime by Martha Peace and John Crotts
  • Burning Wicks by Polly Strong
  • Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson
  • The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn
  • CrossTalk by Michael Emlet
  • Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches by Russell D. Moore

(If you couldn’t tell, we took a vacation in August meant to be like a sabbatical and I had the chance to read quite a bit!)

September –

  • The Truest Thing About You: Identity, Desire, and Why It All Matters by David Lomas and D.R. Jacobsen
  • The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper

October –

  • By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity by Wendy Alsup
  • Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman

November –

  • Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick

December –

  • One With a Shepherd by Mary Sommerville
  • The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn
  • One to One Bible Reading by David Helm
  • Who Am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges

There’s a book for that…

Do you ever struggle with:

  • trying to earn God’s love?
  • trying to become more sanctified on your own?
  • wondering how the gospel connects with your every day life?

Fitzpatrick Elyse, Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life. Crossway, 2010. 

Point: Fitzpatrick says this: “What I’ll be asking you to consider throughout this book may be summarized in one simple question: In your pursuit of godliness, have you left Jesus behind?” (Page 19)

Read the full review on Amazon by clicking on the book title. Let us know if it is helpful.