Sunday, July 16, 2017

Finding Favor with God

A few decades ago there was a comedy act made up of two brothers, one of whom always accused the other of being their mother’s favorite. Were you ever accused of being your mother’s, father’s or even a teacher’s favorite?  Exactly what does it mean to cull the favor of someone? Or more importantly, what does it mean to seek the favor of God? Is that a selfish thing to want and should we ask to get it?

The word favor means to be shown goodwill or kindness beyond that which is normally expected or even deserved. This is the favor that the Lord has given to everyone of His children. None of us deserve any attention from God, but He favors us with His love, forgiveness, blessing upon blessing and, in that sense, we are each His favorite. However, one writer stated that the best definition of favor is “demonstrated delight.” In the natural when we favor someone we want to be with them, we want to please them and demonstrate our favor to them. The same can be said for God. Isaiah 66:2 states, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”  (That word tremble here means to be reverently responsive to His Word.) So, while God loves all of His creation, He shows special favor to those who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the more we please God the more we will be favored by Him.

The first biblical character I think of when I think of God’s favor is Mary the mother of Jesus, although she certainly isn’t the first to be shown God’s favor in Scripture. But, as you recall the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” (Luke 1:28). The Message translation puts it this way, “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.” That’s it in a nutshell: as we display God’s beauty, we earn His favor. There were undoubtedly many young Jewish women who carried out the commandments and were faithful to their God. Yet, God saw something within the heart and character of Mary that reflected His own nature so she was highly favored by Him.

Moses, in Exodus 33:13b, prayed this prayer to God: “...let me know Your ways that I may know you, so that I may find favor in Your sight.”  Before I go further, let me just caution you that God’s favor isn’t always evidenced by material or worldly goods. It will most likely be shown by spiritual blessings, although He certainly does take care of our earthly needs. Scripture tells us a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground but what he sees it and we are worth much more than a puny bird.

There is a story of a widow in the Old Testament (2 Kings 4:1-7) that is such a good reminder to us of the favor of God to those who are living their lives to please God. One of Elisha’s prophets had died with some unpaid debts. As payment, the creditors were coming to take his widow’s two sons to become their slaves. You can well imagine the anguish of this woman. Not only were her precious boys being taken from her, but with them all her dignity and means of future support. She would be left a penniless, childless widow, which was a disgrace in those days. So, she went to Elisha, her husband’s overseer, and told him of her plight.  He solicited her help, as well as those of her sons, in remedying the situation. She was to gather as many jugs as she could from her neighbors and then pour the very small amount of oil that she possessed into these jars. The oil just kept flowing until all the jars had been filled. (That, in itself, was a miracle.) Elisha then instructed her to sell the oil, pay the debts, and live on the leftover cash. Ladies, this woman displayed humility and reverence for the Word of God spoken through his prophet, Elisha, by doing exactly as Elisha had instructed. Not only did she circumvent the loss of her boys, she was able to live debt free with cash to purchase the necessities of life. God’s favor, without a doubt, was on this godly, obedient, and humble woman. 

As I look at the characters in Scripture whom we would characterize as having received God’s favor, I realize that His favor didn’t mean a perfect life. Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, and Mary (to name a few) were favored by God, but they had struggles and difficulties, even sorrow, like all of us.

                                  What’s the difference? 

Those who are favored of God have the assurance that God is with them and that nothing happens to them but that God has a good purpose for it (Romans 8:28). Rev. Jerry Vargo cautioned us to “Thank God for the brokenness and life lessons – they prepare you to handle the favor of God.” You come to recognize your vulnerabilities and receive his favor with a humble and grateful heart, rejecting all thoughts of pride.

Ladies, we should seek God’s favor, but we must understand that we don’t seek it as a means in itself for our own selfish goals. In Proverbs 3:1-4 God says this, “…do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life, and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Band them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” 

 If we want His favor and the blessings that come with it, we must read and obey His word – all of it.  

Then, we shouldn’t be surprised that we get recognition when we least expect it: bargains on major items that we thought we could never afford, preferential treatment we weren’t striving for (Look at the story of Esther.), good reports from the doctor, relationships repaired, and many other blessings that come from the hands of our loving heavenly Father as His favor to us. 

 Joseph Prince reminds us that “God’s favor is multiplied in your life when you simply believe that the favor of God that is on Christ is also on you because of what Jesus’ work at the cross has accomplished.”

Psalm 5:12 says, “For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Finding favor with God means that we spend time in His Word, talking to him in prayer, and living to please Him. And you can be assured, precious widows, that His delight in you will be demonstrated in ways that will amaze you.  
Message by Shari Hervold

Prepared to be blessed....It's time to listen to special music by Chris Tomlin.       


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Part II, 29th Anniversary of Friends Needing Friends

Once again, it’s time to celebrate. WOW!  Do we serve such an awesome God.  He tells us time and time again in the Bible to celebrate, unwind, relax, and enjoy yourself. If you seriously think about it, it’s His way of restoring our mind and bodies after completing a task and to preparing us to get ready for another. 

Friends Needing Friends is celebrating their 29th Anniversary of this ministry. Twenty-ninth years ago God called me into the ministry of helping the widows and to create a sisterhood for widows only.  To read all about how the ministry was started – click above to “Our Founder & Mission”.

We started our celebration on Monday, June 12th with a meeting in Turnersville, New Jersey.  Pastor Bruce Sofia was their guest speaker and Mary Lou Tweed as the director of FNF in N.J. Pastor Bruce was my pastor for over twenty-five years and encouraged me to start this widow ministry. 
We have many times related to you that FNF is a sisterhood. A sisterhood that is always ready to help each other, as our Bible verse states in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5.

Now get comfortable and get ready to receive a special blessing. FNF has a wonderful photographer Diana Clark who took many pictures of the great time they all had in the New Jersey’s FNF’s 29th Anniversary Party.
A beautiful celebratory cake for FNF 29 years!

At each meeting, the ladies sing a beautiful song, “Loving God, Loving Each Other”. The chorus is as follows:
Loving God, loving each other,
Making music with my friends;
Loving God, loving each other,
And the music never ends..



Our first meeting of FNF met June 28th at a little restaurant in Williamstown, NJ with ten ladies, including myself. Eight of the ladies have gone home to glory and the last two ladies are remaining and still serving the Lord. God bless you, Ruth! Thank you, Mary Lou, for honoring this special lady. 

It truly blesses my heart to see all the ladies meeting each month at the country house, in Turnersville, N.J. 

 Loving God, loving each other,
And the music never ends. 

Get ready now to see the wonderful ladies that attended the 29th Anniversary of Friends Needing Friends at our Turnersville, N.J. meeting.  

Loving God, Loving Each Other...Gaither Trio

A favorite song that is sung by the ladies at many of their meetings. 

Monday, June 19th, Friends Needing Friends' chapter met at the Son Life Lutheran Community Church in Boynton Beach, Florida, to celebrate our 29th Anniversary.

This map of the world has a red tack to show us the many countries that are FNF blog is being shown. Over 17 countries our blog is being read. We have close to 35,000 hits.

The only male in the picture is our new pastor. Pastor Jordan Davis.

Pastor Jordan Davis

Kristine is our wonderful photographer of the Florida Chapter.

Thank you, God for the 29 years of your protection, love, and provision for the widow. Thank you for all the ladies that have served in both FNF ministries and in India. We thank you for our churches that have sponsored this special ministry. We thank you for our FNF blog that has reached our country and internationally. We thank you for everyone that has participated in our FNF blog. Only you could reach out to the world and help these widows. You are truly an awesome God. 
I love you God, your servant,
Dotti Ackerman
Founder and Director of FNF

Thank you, Lord by Don Moen

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Happy 29th Anniversary, Friends Needing Friends

Anniversaries are celebratory occasions whether they're for weddings, birthdays, or organizational milestones. Well, a very special organization, Friends Needing Friends, is celebrating its 29th anniversary on June 28th. Friends Needing Friends is an organization that allows widows from many walks of life, of differing ages and economic stations, as well as different church preferences, to come together once a month to fellowship, enjoy a luncheon, gain insight from God's Word, give each other support and friendship and have fun while doing it. Is there a scriptural precedent for singling widows out from the rest of womanhood? I think so.

God knew that widows were in need of support and created a specific category for them, spoken of often in the scriptures. Sadly enough, the loss of a husband in ancient Israel was normally a social and economic tragedy. That is less true today, but isn't always the case. Since many widows were in an extremely vulnerable economic position, they were the prime targets of exploitation. God knew this and He said of Himself that He was not only the father to the orphan, but the legal defender of the widow (Psalm 68:6).  Widows were prominent in the New Testament. You don't think it was simply by chance that Anna, a widow who lived in the temple, was the first to greet our Messiah, Jesus Christ. And Jesus, himself, protested the exploitation of widows (Mark 12:40). In fact, the early church defined the essence of true religion as demonstrating compassion to the poor and needy, and mentions the orphans and widows in particular. Widows have the eye and heart of God Himself. 

As I was reflecting on the widows mentioned in the Old Testament, my mind was drawn
immediately to a familiar one whom we know as the Widow of Zaraphath (I Kings 17: 1-16). You recall that there was a great famine in Israel, which extended across its borders. In the land of Zaraphath there was a widow with a young son whose food had run out and they were both on the brink of death. Zarapath was a Gentile, Baal-worshipping place. Yet, God, because of His great love and compassion for all people, sent the prophet Elijah to her. And he not only became the conduit God used to keep her alive,
he became her support group. He provided for her daily food and fellowship as well as becoming a male role model for her son during this crucial period in her life. While people were in dire straits and dying all around, God singled out this widow and met all of her needs.

A New Testament widow who comes to my mind is the widow of Nain. We have no given name for her, but she is identified as a widow. (Luke 7:11-19) When Jesus came to the city gate of Nain, he saw the funeral procession and the immense grief of the mother over the death of her only son. No one called out to Jesus to raise him from the dead, but Jesus walked over to her and admonished her not to weep. Then he walked over to the bier and took the young boy's hand and told him to get up...and he did. Now, not only did Jesus raise a young boy to life, but also he literally changed the way of life for the widowed mother. Without a son, she had no rights to her husband's property and she could easily be reduced to a social outcast in the community. Having sons was as important as having a husband in those days- and especially important for a widow. Jesus' compassion for her was such that He gave her back, not only her son, but her dignity and standing in the community. He is concerned with every detail of our lives.

While laws regarding women's rights have radically changed since biblical days, the broken heart, the grieved spirit, the loneliness and total rearrangement of one's life is still a part of a widow's lot Being a widow changes the way everyone views her as well. The of quoted epigram of Alphonse Karr, "The more things change, the more they remain the same," is true for widowhood. Widows are still vulnerable to unscrupulous business proprietors, less-than-good-intentioned men, not to mention jealous and suspicious wives. They have to learn a new identity and are often excluded from social events because they are no longer a part of a "couple." Many times their monthly incomes are lessened with their husband's deaths and forced frugality becomes a way of life.

This is where Friends Needing Friends plays an important role in the life of a widow.  Besides providing opportunities for friendship and fellowship, it does so with other widows, those who are best qualified to understand and provide strength and support for the journey. In addition, experts in various fields are brought in to speak with the widows to help them be aware of scams and unscrupulous practices. While Jesus condemned the perpetrators of such heinous behavior in his day, the widow herself had little recourse as she had such few rights.  God is using Friends Needing Friends to be His hands extended to widows, assuring them that they have fellow travelers on their new journey and their shared experiences become bridges to achieving their full potential as daughters of the King. 

It should become as no surprise to learn that a widow established Friends Needing Friends.  Dotti Ackerman was still experiencing the immense pain of loss when she started this organization two years after the death of her husband Allen Israel. There were ten women present for that first meeting, all of whom are now enjoying their eternal reward, face to face with their Lord. It is a joy for me to wish a Happy 29th Anniversary to Friends Needing Friends along with a "shout-out" to Dotti Israel Ackerman who had the courage to look beyond her own pain to help alleviate the pain of others in the same position. There are two chapters: South Jersey Chapter and Boynton Beach, Florida Chapter. They minister to widows in India, a group who are treated much like widows were in biblical times. God is using this ministry to alleviate much of their suffering and feeling of isolation and despair. It is fitting that Dotti chose the following verse as the theme for the organization:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (II Corinthians 1:3-4)

God's compassion, care, and comfort are as true today as they were in ancient days. If you haven't given your life to Him, I strongly encourage making Him Lord of your life. Believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His love for you, and experience the joy of being a daughter of God.

Message by Shari Hervold

"Through It All" by Cece Winans & Andre Crouch

"For Such A Time As This" by Wayne Watson

29th Anniversary
 Friends Needing Friends
An International Sisterhood of Widows