Sunday, April 16, 2017

JOY - IT'S YOUR STRENGTH

So, a part of you is gone.  You're alone now. Your future is uncertain. You don't know where you fit - will your associations be the same now that your spouse is gone?  Your name is still Mrs. _______, but you're "single."  "Are you single?"  You really don't know! You feel alone, but you don't feel single. The joy of married life - even with all of its ups and downs is gone. Is that how you're feeling?

The Bible tells us there is a time to weep and a time to mourn. (Ecclesiastes 3:4) There are no short cuts when grieving a loss. We all must walk through the anger, denial, Isaiah 61:1-2) He seeks to bring you through the despair. He promises that "weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 3:5)  Joy will come to all who believe on His name and put their complete trust in Him. What is this "joy" that He promises and how do you lay hold of it? 
shock and emptiness of losing a spouse, but be encouraged. The Lord came to bind up the brokenhearted and comfort all who mourn.

The definition of joy is: "the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good." It's easy to understand how joy fades when the bottom falls out, and your life is shattered by death. Where is the good to get excited about? Where is passion? Where is the joy?

Perhaps the key lies in the original text (Hebrew).  Joy means: "to rejoice, to make glad, to be joined." Someone or something is causing us to be glad; someone to whom we are joined is causing us to expect good. For Christian that Someone is the LORD. He alone is good (Mark 10:18) and the wellspring of our joy. (Romans 15:13)

As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us (Psalm 23:4). He is the One who brings light into our darkness. (Psalm 18:28) He turns our mourning into dancing. (Psalm 30:11)  He works all things for good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) He is a beneficent Father who loves us with an everlasting love that will not fail. (Jeremiah 31:3) Those promises, that faith in who He is, and the expectation of good things to come, all give birth to joy.  Peter says, "Even though you have not seen him you love him. Though you do not see him now, you believe in him.  You are filled with a glorious joy that can't be put into words." (l Peter l:8)

The Bible says, "joy of the LORD is your strength."  (Nehemiah 8:10) Amazingly, this verse was written when there was a severe famine in the land. Many were mortgaging their homes to buy food, others were borrowing money to pay debts; still others were
selling their sons and daughters to survive. In the midst of this despair, Nehemiah boldly proclaims this truth: "the joy of the LORD is your strength."  Joy does not depend on our circumstances. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus, "Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2) What was Jesus facing - an excruciating unwarranted humiliating death. Yet His eyes were on the joy that He knew was ahead. The power of that joy gave Him strength to endure the pain He suffered for you and me. The joy of the Lord can be your strength too as you grieve.

If your eyes are on the unpredictable circumstances in life, joy will elude you. You may be happy for a season when things are going well, but then sink into misery when they aren't. If, however, you fix your eyes on Him and walk in oneness with Him, you will find lasting peace, rest, refuge, strength, hope, power, and yes - joy. How do you do that?

1) Meditate on His Word and His wonderful works. 
(Psalms 119:78, 97;  145:5)

2) Keep your mind renewed by the truth found there. 
(Romans 12:2)

3) Cry out to the Lord in prayer and cast your burdens on Him. 
(l Peter 5:7)

4) Trust His care for you. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

5) Walk in obedience to His Word in order to stay close to Him. 
(John 15:10)

6) Fellowship with other believers around His Word. 
(Hebrews 10:24-25)

7)  Rejoice always (Philippians 4:4)

8) Give thanks in all things. (l Thessalonians 5:18)

These last two can be tough yet God commands them. He understands that there will be times when we don't like rejoicing or giving thanks, but as with any exercise, these things are  for our good. Rejoicing in Him and giving thanks are exercises of faith and our way of saying, "Yes Lord, I believe your promises to me. I trust you. I am watching for your goodness." 

Your Heavenly Father says, "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) Be encouraged in your grief, daughter. You have a Father who offers you: hope for every disappointment, grace for every trial, direction for every turn, an anchor for every storm, provision for every need, protection from every foe, companionship that will never be taken from you, and a love that will never fail. Hold fast to Him. Let Him fill you with everlasting joy to get through today and face tomorrow. 

Pastor Bruce Sofia
MY PRAYER FOR YOU- 
"Father, grant this dear daughter of yours a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know You better. Open the eyes of her heart that she may be enlightened to know the hope to which You have called her, the riches of her inheritances in You, and the incomparably great power. You give to her even in her weakness. May the reality of Your presence see her through the days to come and cause her cup to overflow with joy."

In Jesus' name,
Amen



Music by Lynda Randle


























Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trust God and His Love for You


I doubt there is a widow reading this who hasn’t found herself in a situation where she really needed the help of someone else. I’m not talking about a friendly ear to act as a sounding board, or a lunch companion ensuring that you won’t be alone in a crowd of strangers. No, I’m speaking of situations with much more import.

 It might be a decision you need to make, a dark time you’re going through or any number of things, but you know that you can’t do this alone and so you cry out to God for help.

A common tendency is to get specific with God as to whom it is that we think would be best to help us: “Oh, Lord, please let my brother agree to help me make the best choice of a new car. You know how vulnerable we women are when we walk unaccompanied into a dealership.” This might be your daily prayer for weeks and you’re beginning to get a little frustrated with God when your brother isn’t forthcoming.

Then, one night you ask the members of your Bible study group to pray for you as your car is no long longer reliable and you have to purchase a new one – a task that fills you with apprehension and dread. After the dismissal prayer a gentleman in the group approaches you and tells you that he manages a local dealership and would be happy to guide you through the process and assure that you get an honest deal. Two hours before this man wasn’t even a conscious thought in your head, and now he is just the person you need to assist you. No, he isn’t your brother, but he’s God’s choice and better suited to the task than your brother would have been.
 God has worked like this since before the beginning of time. God has mercifully provided for widows throughout history, and gives stern warnings to those who would want to defraud them. The Bible is replete with examples of His working on behalf of widows (and others), but I will share only three.

The first one that comes to mind is the widow most often referred to as the “Widow of Zarephath,” so named because that was the name of the area in which she lived. You th chapter of I Kings and I encourage you to read it.
talk about desperation! Because of a severe drought in the entire region, she was totally out of food except for just enough oil and flour to make bread for herself and her boy. Her prayers had run out as her food supply dwindled. She was ready to make this bread her last meal and wait for their deaths. There was another individual in dire straits, the prophet Elijah, who lived in Israel, a neighboring country. God directed him to this destitute widow from whom he asked for food. When she complied, even though it was all she had, they were both blessed with food until the drought was over. Neither of these individuals would have ever thought that they could be of help one to the other, but God did. He orchestrated their meeting and in turn used them to meet the needs of each other. This story can be found in the 17

Another widow for whom God miraculously supplied a need was Ruth. We are all somewhat familiar with her story: the devoted widow who went with her mother-in-law back to her country and ended up marrying a rich older man. But, like all stories, there’s a back-story. Ruth and Naomi were desperately poor and Ruth had to glean fields for food for them. The only way out of her poverty would be to remarry.  And, while it’s true that Boaz saw her gleaning his fields and eventually fell in love with her, he did not have first rights to marry her according to their custom. That fell to another man. Boaz knew this and went to the other man and through negotiations was able to satisfy all legal requirements freeing him to marry Ruth. Do you think it was happenstance that Ruth gleaned the fields of Boaz? He certainly wasn’t the only man with fields in that region. Do you think it was happenstance that he was attracted to Ruth and wished to marry her? Do you think it was happenstance that the relative who had right of first refusal was either too poor or didn’t want the responsibility? God was in all of this and even Naomi, who certainly would have orchestrated it if she could
have, couldn’t “pull off” what God did for this precious young widow to ensure her a means of support in her lifetime. But God didn’t stop there; through their son she was placed in the lineage of His son, Christ the Messiah. This entire story is recorded in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament and is full of all the elements of great drama. I encourage you to read it.


Even Jesus, in his hour of death, looked to the welfare of his widowed mother knowing that his death was at hand . . . and soon after his ascension into Heaven. In the 19th chapter of the book of John we read that Jesus looked down from the cross and told his mother to look to John as a son and to John he said to look to Mary as his mother. Then the Scripture says, And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. God even looked out for the welfare of the earthly mother of His son, leaving her in the care of the gentle and beloved Apostle John.

Did you notice that none of these individuals just sat and waited for God to move on their behalf? The Widow of Zarephath did as Elijah commanded and made food and brought water to him. Ruth was busy gleaning in the fields to put food on the table for her and Naomi. She didn’t sit at home, polishing her nails and primping so she would look “just so” when God sent a husband her way. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn’t give up on life just because she became a widow. We know she was still active in community life, having instructed Jesus to make wine at a wedding. We know that after his ascension she was with those gathered in the upper room to await the infilling of the Holy Spirit. These were all individuals of action, though their lives and livelihood had been greatly altered.  Genesis 41:52 records the words of Joseph, after having been sold into slavery in a foreign country by his own brothers, “God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

As widows you live in a “land of affliction” over which you have no control. But how you live is a choice you make. I encourage you to not give up on living life to the fullest, just hoping that things will get better. With God’s help, keep busy and watch God bring to fruition His plan for your wholeness. As you entrust to Him your needs, sometimes in desperation, you will be amazed at how He will work in your life, often through other people. If you reflect on your life, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to recall the helpful individuals He has led your way at just the right time and often in a manner you wouldn’t even have considered.

Jeremiah 29:11-12 says this about our Heavenly Father and His concern for us: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me and I will listen to you.”  I pray that each of you will always recognize the great love your Heavenly Father has for you and will never fear entrusting every detail of your life to Him, for He truly cares for you.

                                                                           
"His Eye is on the Sparrow" by Lynda Randle
      
  He Will Carry You by Lynda Randle


Message "Trust God and His Love for You"
By Shari Hervold





           

Monday, January 16, 2017

Updating FNF ~ 2017

Good morning Ladies ~ We are at the start of another new year 2017 and it is a good time to update everyone what we are doing at “Friends Needing Friends”.  

"Friends Needing Friends" is a special ministry for widows only. This ministry is a sisterhood of ladies selected by God.  I have been asked the following questions many times - "why widows only?" or "I'm divorced, why can't I come?" I will try to answer these questions as simply as I can.
When you divorce your mate, it is a human decision between two people.  The death of a mate is a decision made by God. The true reason for either loss, only God knows.

As director and founder of "FNF" I have witnessed a special compassionate bond between all the ladies.  When a newly widowed person comes to a meeting for the first time, I will introduce the widow to another widow.  Immediately, there is an expression of compassion that no other person can give nor receive. 

 Their eyes meet and in a single glance without saying a word, there is an exchange of understanding and full knowledge of their hurts and feelings.  These feelings are the true meaning of the word "sisterhood". The dictionary's definition of the word "sisterhood" is: "An organization of women with a common interest, as for social, charitable, or female members of a church".

The common interest of "FNF" is from the Bible in 2 Corinthians 1:4 - God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  Our sisterhood of women is doing exactly what God has directed it to do and who better to help at this time - you guessed it - another widow.

Our sisterhood was founded in June 1988 and has physically and financially supported several other charitable organizations. We have a Teddy Bear ministry where once again we obey God by visiting the sick and the shut-ins. Since 1995, our ladies have delivered hundreds and hundreds of Teddy Bears to the sick and have encouraged the shut-ins with God's love.
 
The past several months, God has led "FNF" to support widows from Kerusomen Gospel Ministries in India, a special Christian Foundation that supports our widow sisters who are in need of food, shelter and medicine. Today we are supporting 18 widows monthly. The past Christmas we supported a large Christmas Party for many of the widows in India and had three drivers bring some of them to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

 As the saying goes: "Side by side, or miles apart...We are sisters, connected by the heart."

Yes, we have met the dictionary’s description of the word "sisterhood" and yes our ladies have obeyed the LORD by sharing the comfort that God has given to us.

May I further explain to you that "FNF" is a ministry available to widows only; that may or may not attend a church.  There is a desperate need in our society today regarding the widows that we come in contact with.  Our group is a Christian Interdenominational Ministry and we do not urge joining a different church or changing one's religion.
I hope that you will be able to attend our monthly meeting/brunch, which is on the third Monday of each month. We look forward to seeing you there and if you can, invite or bring a widowed friend.

Meeting place:
9301 Jog Road, Boynton Beach, Florida
Time: 10 a.m. - 12 noon
And
Our New Jersey Chapter meets
The Third Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m.
Wedgwood Country Club, Turnersville, N.J.
Mary Lou Tweed is the Director

Friends Needing Friends also started a blog that goes to over 12 different countries with a total of  32,300 hits (as of today.)  Our blog address is: www.friendsneedingfriends.blogspot.com
In June 2017, we be celebrating our 29th Anniversary of FNF in New Jersey and the chapter of FNF in Florida will be celebrating 5 years, February, 2017. WOW! Time flies.

Our Bible verses for all of our meetings is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 
For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. (NLT)

God's Blessing in 2017!
Dotti Ackerman
Founder & Director of FNF
Serving the Lord since 1988






 Thank You Lord !



"He Knows My Name" by Tommy Walker