Suffering and Its Purpose

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

God tells us not to think it strange when we experience trials. He will allow these trials in our lives to conform us to His image.

I Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Here are a few reasons God allows us to suffer.

To prepare us so that we may be able to comfort others

I remember one time I was going through a deep trial. Crying out to the Lord with thoughts of hopelessness, I prayed, “Lord, does anyone understand what I am going through?”

Years later when visiting with a friend who was going through a similar trial, I began to understand this principle. “God, You allowed that trial in my life a few years ago so that I could help her today.” Leaving that visit, I offered the Lord a few silent words of gratitude. “Thank You, Father. I now see the reason that You had for me. It was for my good and for Your glory.”

II Corinthians 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted.

To prepare us for future service

I love the story of Joseph. One time my husband did a series of lessons on the life of Joseph. I will never forget those lessons. My husband repeated over and over. God was with Joseph in the pit, in Potipher’s house, in prison, and then in the Palace, but Joseph never got angry or bitter. Why would God allow him to be put in prison? Think about it. He was put in Potipher’s house to learn the ways of the upper class of Egypt; He was put in the prison to learn the ways of the common men of Egypt. In the end, he was over all men in Egypt.

Genesis 50:20  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

To give us a bigger view of God

Through the process of our Christian lives, we attend services and listen to many lessons and sermons. We read books. We go to special conferences and listen to various speakers. Many times we are not changed until we go through times of suffering, and we really begin to see the Lord and His purpose for our lives.

Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

To build our faith

My faith continues to grow as I look back at the ways God has answered my prayers and how He has worked  in the life of our family.

I will never forget the time when we started the church in Rhode Island. We were from Oklahoma, and we didn’t have to buy oil to heat our home. That first winter in New England was very difficult. We had to pay rent for a church building, pay rent on an apartment, buy oil for the church building, and buy oil for our apartment. We met one Sunday night in the church building, and it was so cold that you could see your breath. After services, my husband and I got on our knees and prayed, “Lord, we don’t want to leave, but people won’t come to a cold building. We need $1,000 to buy oil, or we won’t be able to stay. The next morning my husband came home singing and carrying a white envelope in his hand.  In the envelope there was a white piece of folded paper with ten one hundred dollar bills in it.  There was no return name or address on the envelope. Time after time, God has shown Himself mighty.  God continues to build our faith with answered prayers.

Ex. 14: 30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. 31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

To purify our walk

There have been many times that I felt have been so burdened down with daily duties that I served the Lord out of routine and not a true love for Him. It is usually during those times that God has to send something into my life to help purify my walk with Him. He helps me to refocus on Him and His purpose for my life.

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

To remove any pride or boasting

I think there is a tendency in all of us at times to think too highly of ourselves. Human nature sometimes causes us to assume the worst in others and the best in ourselves. God has to send things into our lives to help remove pride or boasting so that we may be more useful to Him.

II Corin. 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

To prove our real love for the Lord to Satan

I don’t really understand it, but Satan has access to heaven and the very throne of God. (Job 1:7) Satan reminds God about all of our failures. He says, “Look at Your saints; see what hypocrites they are. Judge them!” But Praise the Lord, Jesus stands at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us.”

Ps. 17:3 Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

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Helping Those Who Grieve

Helping Friends Who Are Grieving

Don’t be afraid to visit. You don’t have to stay long or worry about making conversation.

Anticipate the needs of the person who has experienced the loss. You could answer the phone, answer the door, mow the lawn, volunteer to house incoming relatives, do laundry or provide food.

Don’t tell them, “I know how you feel”.  A woman may have lost her husband, but your husband is still alive—you don’t know how she feels.

Don’t try to make comments to minimize the tragedy; they are only ineffective.

Write a letter of condolence. Every word should be words of caring and love. You could describe the happy memories you shared with the one who has died.

Help her to recognize that recovery takes time and goes through various stages. (There could be a stage of bitterness)

Be there to listen. “When grief is the freshest, words should be the fewest”.

Give hope.

It is very important to help the grieving understand the difference between making choices based on feelings and choices based on facts. To illustrate this fact.  Suppose you have a widow in your church who receives money from her husband’s insurance policy after his death.  This is more money than she has ever had in her hands at one time. She must understand that she will need this money to pay her living expenses for many years.  She will have a tendency to go on unnecessary spending sprees or give away large amounts of money.

Help her to see that God has a goal for her life.

Mark on your calendar the date of the death.  On the 1 month, 2 month, and 1 year anniversary,  send a card, text her, or call her just to let her know that you are praying for her and thinking about her.

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First-Time Visitors

Importance of Hospitality and First-Time Visitors

When we were ministering in Rhode Island, every Sunday we would have at least 20 people for dinner after church. I would always prepare enough food for extra people knowing that there might be a first-time visitor, a new convert, or a discouraged person who just needed the fellowship.

It is funny that some churches put on their tracts “Friendliest Church in Town”, but when you attend their services, no one even acknowledges your presence. The members are all talking among themselves, while the visitors sit alone.

I was visiting with a lady this week and she told me that she had just recently visited a mega church. When she drove into the parking lot, a member greeted her and asked if she was visiting today or a member. The guest told the greeter that she was just visiting. The greeter handed the her a hanging card that read I Am Visiting Today. She was then told to place the card on her mirror, and the greeter directed this lady to parking places near the front door. These parking places had been set aside just for the visitors. This lady said, “I couldn’t believe it—cars everywhere, and I parked by the front door”.  Wow! I think we can all take a lesson from this. First-time visitors should be made to feel special when they attend our churches.

We were visiting a church in the Northwest, and the pastor told the first-time visitors during announcements, “Please meet me on the outdoor porch after services because I have a gift for you”.  When he met with them, he would give them a welcome packet with a small gift as a token of his appreciation for their first-time visit.

We visited another church in Virginia that included a beautiful CD with the various church ministries in their welcome packet.

If you are a church member and a first-time visitor comes into your church, invite him to lunch. If the visitor just moved to the area, give him your name and contact information and offer your assistance while he is getting accustomed to the area.

I remember the Sunday that I was a first-time visitor. I was a teenager and living a very wicked life. I had never been in a Baptist church, and I was pretty nervous. I sure wasn’t dressed like the other women! My brother and his wife had just been saved a short time and kept asking me to go to church with them. That Sunday morning I attended services with them; basically just to get my brother off my back. I thought, “If I go this one time—I will never have to go again.” That Sunday during the invitation, I was under deep conviction. My heart was beating so hard that I thought it would explode. I determined in my mind, “I’m not going forward—I would be too embarrassed”. But God had another plan for me. A godly deacon just happened to be sitting directly behind me. He tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Honey, if you want to go forward, my wife will go with you.” Those words were all I needed! With tears streaming down my cheeks, I went forward and gloriously received Christ as my Savior. Sometimes I think about that Sunday. “Would I be saved today if that kind deacon had not reached out to this first-time visitor?” Only the Lord knows.

Idea for a Visitor’s Welcome Center

Make your welcome center readily accessible for visitors. It is best to place it near the entrance to the church. Have someone who is friendly, cheerful, and out-going work behind the desk of your center.  Have a greeter stand near the center to direct visitors and their children to various classes.

Items needed for welcome center:

Welcome gifts or bags for first-time visitors. Instruct the visitor to fill out the visitor’s card and place it in the offering.

Brochures describing Sunday school classes, church projects, and current missionary projects.

CDs of outstanding sermons which might be a blessing to visitors and members.

Colorful and easy to read maps and directions to your facilities and classes.

Clear directional signs to the various classes.

If your church is located in a neighborhood with a different ethnic group of people,  don’t forget  to use their language for directions.


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Memories Can Be Good or Bad

All of my memories are not good ones. Reminiscing over my life, I have come to believe that the memories that I have retained are memories which in my perception, were  a memory of someone  being  very nice to me or a memory of someone being  very unkind to me.

One bad memory took place  more than thirty-five years ago.  Soon after finishing Bible college, my husband and I were leaving our home state of Oklahoma and moving to New England to begin a new church. With two small children and an overloaded U-Haul trailer, we said our good-byes to friends and family. Although I had determined in my heart that this was the Lord’s will for our lives, I was a little frightened and apprehensive about this new endeavor.  Along the way, we stopped at a church to attend services. The pastor of the church was very kind to us, and he encouraged us to spend the night at his house. He assured us that we could get a fresh start in the morning. When we arrived at his home, his wife was not happy about the plans her husband had made.  We brought in our suitcases and began to make preparations for the night. As I helped this pastor’s wife change sheets, she grumbled and complained about all the people who had stayed with them during the last few weeks. I felt so bad that I wished that we could have just left. She made me feel as though our family was being a great imposition on her. That very night I made a promise to the Lord. “Lord, if You ever allow me the opportunity to show hospitality to Your servants, I will not do it grudgingly. Not only, Lord, will I NOT DO IT GRUDGINGLY, but I will DO IT JOYFULLY!”  Little did I know when I made that promise to the Lord that one day the Lord would give me the privilege of hosting hundreds of Pastors and missionaries through the years.

In Phillip Keller’s book A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit, he gives an illustration of a time when he and his wife invited an older Christian couple to their home for dinner and fellowship. He described the couple as a very sweet couple with long years of tough service for Christ.  After the meal, they all sat around a crackling fire and the elderly gentleman exchanged stories of his childhood with them. Keller describes  this visit as a great blessing to not only him and his wife, but also for the older couple.  He said, “As that older couple went out the door to go home, I saw two people, who for that evening, had recaptured the joy of their youth.” What a lesson we can all learn from that illustration.

Lord, help me today to be the instrument that You use to help create good memories for others.


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Are You A Perfectionist?  

Today many women strive for goals that can never be met. They get into the perfection syndrome. They work themselves day and night trying to prove their worth. Satan wants women to look to the false foundations of the world to experience fulfillment.  When women look to these false foundations, they become depressed and begin to feel hopeless.

What are these false foundations of the world?

Possessions-How much do I own? The world says that if I get a better house, a better car, or nicer furniture—I will be valuable.

Performance-How do I perform? The world says that if I get a job in the business world and climb to the top of the corporate ladder—I will be valuable.

Position-How important am I? The world says that if I perform better than others—I will be important.

Appearance-How I look? The world says that if I am beautiful and keep my youth—I will be happy.

Check out this list of traits of perfectionists.

1. A perfectionist is never satisfied. She has to be the best!

2. A perfectionist is critical of other people and tends to be an idealist.

3. A perfectionist ruins fellowship with others. She begins to compare –

             – If she feels inferior, she becomes jealous, threatened, and insecure.
– If she feels superior, she becomes proud and conceited.

4. A perfectionist sets impossible goals.

5. A perfectionist values herself by what she does and what she has rather than who she is “In Christ”.

6. A perfectionist feels guilty if she ever relaxes.

7. A perfectionist has irremovable guilt and has a hard time accepting a compliment or criticism.

Here are some guidelines to help you if you are having a hard time with perfectionism.

Remember God has accepted you by grace

Ephesians 1:6 says, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” It is not by your possessions, performance, position, or appearance that you are accepted. You are accepted by God’s grace, not by your striving.

God is not a God who wants you to do more and more or run faster and faster in order to please Him.  If you’re trying to earn your acceptance before God by these false foundations, you will always be disappointed.

If God accepts you, learn to accept yourself.

Listen as Jesus whispers to your spirit,  “I love you, and I accept you. I don’t love you because you’re valuable; you’re valuable because I love you.”

Accept other people.

Don’t demand perfection out of others because they can’t give it. Let God be God. There are so many so times that we try to be the CEO of the whole world. When we begin to accept other people, we will free them and free ourselves to be all that we can be. When we get out of the performance trap we won’t do less, we will end up doing more. Why? Because of our love for our Savior!

If you are having a problem accepting yourself, review this list daily!

Who Am I?

I am the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)

I am the light of the world (Matt. 5:14)

I am a child of God (John 1:12)

I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life (John 15:1,5)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (John 15:16)

I am a son of God; God is spiritually my Father (Rom. 8:14,15; Gal. 3:26; 4:6)

I am a temple–a dwelling place–of God. His Spirit and His life dwells in me (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19)

I am a new creation (II Cor. 5:17)

I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:18,19)

I am a son of God and one in Christ (Gal. 3:26,28)

I am an heir of God since I am a son (daughter) of God (Gal. 4:6,7)

I am a saint (Eph. 1:1; I Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2)

I am God’s workmanship–His handiwork–born anew in Christ to do His work (Eph. 2:10)

I am righteous and holy (Eph. 4:24)

I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven right now (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:6)

I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3)

I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life (Col. 3:4)

I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Col. 3:12; I Thess. 1:4)

I am a son (daughter) of light and not of darkness (I Thess. 5:5)

I am a holy partaker of a heaven calling (Heb. 3;1)

I am an alien and stranger to this world in which I am temporarily live (I Pet. 2:11)

I am born of God, and the evil one–the devil–cannot touch me (I John 5:18)

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Time Robbers That Cause Us Not to Open Our Homes

The author, Og Mandino said, “Live this day as if it were your last. Today will never happen again; make the best of it.”

Will Rogers once said, “It’s not so much what you do each day; it’s what you get done that counts.” We can fill our days with so much activity that nothing gets done. You must have a plan each day in order to get things done. Do you ever feel that you are in a vicious circle with so many things to do that you never get caught up? How can you get out of the cycle? By strategic planning and organizing, you can accomplish more and make life easier.

We waste valuable time on trivial matters, and we leave the most important things in life undone. In the book A Better Way to Live Mr. Mandino states, “Never again clutter your days or nights with so many menial and unimportant things that you have no time to accept a real challenge when it comes along. You are not here to fritter away precious hours. Making small changes in your routine, you have the ability to accomplish more than you thought ever possible.”

The worst things that we face in organizing are time robbers. What are some of these time robbers?

1.  Not scheduling daily and weekly activities

2.  Leaving important tasks undone  and procrastinating

3.  Having no personal goals or deadlines

4.  Not exhibiting any personal organization skills

5.  Too much socializing and too many telephone interruptions

6.  Trying to please too many  people with unimportant things

7.  Trying to be a perfectionist in daily activities.


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Setting Goals Is Part of Hospitality

If you plan to accomplish anything in this lifetime, you must have some goals and plans or nothing will get done.

Goals can be for personal development, marriage, or  family.  Have you ever considered making goals for hospitality and outreach?

This week look around at the people in your churches.  You do not have to look very far to find fainthearted and discouraged people.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others.”  Many times we are so busy with life that we fail to reach out and encourage others.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our day…If we are going to make our lives count for eternity, we must set goals and daily plans. Here are a few ideas you might consider when setting your goals and daily plans.

1.  It is helpful to keep an organizer or a weekly “To Do” list.

2.  Keep a master calendar for family members. Place church activities, doctor, dentist, and all appointments on it.

3.  Try to plan three months in advance and be sure to block out some time for entertaining and hospitality.

Remember your real goal in hospitality is to encourage and to show Christ’s love to others. You do not have to be a Martha Stewart or Emily Post to be able to minister.

My husband and I have friends who live in Pennsylvania.  My friend is a wonderful hostess.  Years ago, she shared this piece of advice with me. She said, “I always plan a monthly dinner for twelve people. If I am going to prepare a nice meal, it is just as easy to do it for more people”.  She and her husband have a Sunday school class of 100 people. Her goal is to encourage this class through the ministry of hospitality. She knows that in this Sunday school class there are people who are discouraged and many of them are ready to “give up” just because of the stresses and pressures of life.

As you begin a new year, set some goals to be a blessing to those in need of encouragement.



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Why Don’t You Entertain?

Lack of organization is probably the greatest reason most people do not entertain or practice hospitality. Emerson said, “Disorganized people are the most thoughtful people in the world, but usually all they do is think.” Most of the time disorganized people have the best personalities, and they could be the greatest encouragement to the discouraged, but because of their lack of organization, they can’t seem to get things together to practice hospitality.

Many times women feel that they cannot invite people into their homes until every room is spotless. This is a big mistake. If you want to minister to others, you cannot worry about every area of your home being a showplace. There is an old Shaker motto that says, “Kindly welcome.” What a great motto for us to use!

When we were living in Rhode Island, a group of students from the  senior class of our Christian school hired a limo for the evening. We all went out to dinner at a nice restaurant. After the meal, the teens had a few hours before they had to go home. Since they wanted to stay together, I invited them to our home. If I had said, “Oh, my house it not clean enough” those teens would have missed out on a great evening together and a great memory.

Suppose a couple is transferred to your area, and they are searching for a new church. They will be searching for a church that is warm and friendly like the church that  they just left.  They visit on Sunday. The greeter hands them a bulletin, and he welcomes them to church by shaking their hands. No one offers them a dinner invitation or any other personal welcome. What happens? They leave the church and decide, “This is not a warm or friendly church”.  You say, “Well, it’s their own fault. If  they had been more friendly with everyone, the people would have been more friendly to them”.  Think about it! These people had lived all of their lives in a certain city. Their company moved them to a new location. Here they are in a new church and new surroundings. They just left  a church where they felt very comfortable and loved. This couple is coming into your church looking for love and acceptance. Not only does this couple need to find friendlinss at church, but they need to find  friendship outside the services of the church.

One thing that  I appreciated about the churches in Great Britain was the tea time. I didn’t understand it a first, but after every service, the church would have tea time with coffee, tea, and cookies. It was a time of fellowship to get to know the visitors. I asked one missionary why do you do this?  He then explained to me that most of our visitors have no idea about the invitation time.  The missionary continues to give invitations and tries to explain its purpose,  but he told me that the members have been able to lead many people to the Lord during this time of fellowship.

Remember the ministry of  hospitality meets the needs of the visitor.  Hospitality means loving strangers.


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Outdoors Entertaining

  • Create table runners with leftover wallpaper, wrapping paper, or cheap fabric.
  • Windproof the tables by weighing down paper plates and napkins with different painted rocks or sea shells. You can wrap plastic utensils with ribbon, yarn, or even rubber bands and place them in a basket.
  • Buy small craft magnets and place them around the bottom of the tablecloth. Attach the magnets by aligning them together (front and back of tablecloth).  This is the same concept as using weighters on baptismal robes to hold robes down in the water. The magnets connect together to produce weights around the bottom of the tablecloth.
  • If you need a quick centerpiece, use fresh fruit with herbs or flowers placed here and there.
  • Set up a beverage area. Have sodas, waters, and juices on ice in galvanized tubs on a table. Glasses can also be placed on the table with a small clean ice chest full of ice. Be sure to put an ice scooper near it.
  • For an afternoon or evening gathering , set up a convenience basket for your guests. Your basket could include: bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizers, wipes, disposable diapers, or paper towels.
  • Freeze mint leaves, pieces of lemons or oranges, or strawberries in ice cubes. Add them to punch, lemonade, or water.
  • To provide lighting for an evening party, light citronella candles and torches. This not only repels the insects, but it also give nice lights for food and drink tables.
  • Using luminaries is another way to create atmosphere for outside entertaining. Luminaries can line walkways or driveways or placed on porches for special effects.  A luminary can be made by placing a votive candle in a jar filled a quarter of the way with cat litter.  Place  jars  in paper bags and position bags along pathways or on porches. Light luminaries just before guests arrive.
  • For outside entertaining, use candle sconces and candle chandeliers. (Check yard sales for old electric chandelier; cut cords off, place candles in sockets, and hang it on tree.)
  • For a dramatic look on outside patios, fences, and trees, string tiny Christmas lights.
  • Check out solar outdoor lighting on the internet. There are many new options for outdoor lighting.
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Through this blog, I will suggest ways to make your entertaining experiences less complicated and stressful. In addition to these suggestions, I will also offer counseling tips and ministry pointers for women in ministry.

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