Thursday, September 16, 2021

If We All Work Together

 Last month we looked at the life of Dorcas and how, with just a sewing needle and a compassionate heart, she kept the poor widows of Joppa and their families in clothing. Acts 9: 36 tell us that “she was always doing good and helping the poor.”  Dorcas saw a need and responded by saying, “I’ll fill that need,” and consequently many widows and their children had an adequate wardrobe.

            That is a nice story and an example to all of us that we should always use whatever talents or gifts God has given us to help others. But the story doesn’t end there. Dorcas got very sick and died. It is clear from the reaction to her death that the disciples and the town widows saw her as far more than just a seamstress who made clothing. They had come to love her as a true servant of Christ, with a heart full of compassion that spilled over into their lives. Now, they seized the opportunity to minister to her. Following cultural practices, her body was washed and wrapped in cloth and placed in a cool upstairs room. Then, one of the disciples, remembering that the apostle Peter was in

Lydda, a neighboring town of about 11 miles, sent two men to get him to come to Joppa. They could have balked at the idea of walking that far saying, “Why bother Peter when Dorcas is already dead?”.  But, they too were willing to do their part and set off on foot to try to get Peter to come.

 It is most likely that they had heard that Peter had prayed for a paralytic, resulting in his healing and they were hoping for such a miracle. The Christ followers knew that there was no limit to God’s power and they held out hope that Peter could pray for Dorcas with positive results. Peter interrupted his ministry in Lydda and accompanied the two men back to Joppa. When he went into the house of Dorcas, he was greeted by totally heart broken people.           


The grieving widows didn’t really have to tell Peter what Dorcas had done for them, she had left tangible evidence of her ministry to speak for her. Peter recognized their great loss and was touched by the scene he was witnessing. What he did next might seem a little strange to us. He asked everyone to leave the room, leaving him alone with the body of Dorcas. Peter didn’t want the distractions of the grieving women as he prayed to God. After prayer he looked at Dorcas and said, “Dorcas, get up.” Acts 9:40-42 tells us that immediately she opened her eyes and sat up. Peter took her by the hand and walked with her down the stairs where the waiting group saw what God had done. Word soon got out and many came to believe in Christ as the Lord.

            Ladies, do you see how everyone in this story saw a need and said, “I’ll do it,”?

·       Dorcas saw the need for clothing for the poor widows.

·       The widows saw the need to properly care for Dorcas’s body.

·       The two men responded to the need to go after Peter.

·       Peter responded by coming to Joppa to pray for Dorcas’s resurrection.

·       People shared the great news and many came to faith in Jesus Christ as God’s son.

You are all hearing this because of the ministry of Friends Needing Friends.  Dotti Ackerman became a widow and was challenged by her pastor to help other widows. Through her own grief and pain, she said “I will.” Dotti moved to another state and Mary Lou Tweed saw a need for leadership in the group that Dotti had left and said, “I will lead.” Dotti knew there were widows in her new state and, even though widowed a second time and sick with cancer said, “I will,” to starting another chapter. A group of widows were asking for some Bible studies and Shari said, “I will,” and started a monthly Bible study. Fast forward to 2021 and each of these ladies is at a different stage of life, but have learned the technology skills that you see in evidence here, and are still saying “I will,” to what God wants her to do to keep this ministry going out. These three women are at different ages and stages of life now, with different talents, as well as limitations, but God has brought it all together for His glory and your benefit. Furthermore, he’s added new women to the mix.

      Ladies, I implore you to never get into the position where you don’t want to do something that might benefit others and bring glory to God. Get rid of the excuses of age, health, lack of talent or other such excuses. Be willing to say, “I will,” even to small tasks and watch God bring everything together to enlarge His family. It all started with a sewing needle for Dorcas and ended with a resurrection and people coming to faith in Christ. It started with a broken heart for Dotti and ended with a 33-year-old ministry to widows that goes across the world monthly.  God can do much when we are willing to do our part as his hands and feet in this world.

Message by Shari Hervold




                          God Will Make a Way by Don Moen                           
God is Good all the Time by Don Moen

 


 

                                                   

     

     

     

 

 








Sunday, August 1, 2021

Dorcas the Doer


James 1:22 says this, “But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” In other words, we are to put into practice what the Bible teaches, not just listen to a sermon on Sunday and then forget what we hear after we leave church. In Acts 9:36-42, we read the account of a woman who personified this verse  beautifully. 
Let me summarize her story for you:

            Dorcas lived in a town called Joppa and was known for her good deeds, especially to widows. You see, Joppa was a seaport and many sailors’ widows and children lived there. The boats of those days weren’t especially seaworthy and many a sailor lost his life if a big storm assailed them. Their widows were especially vulnerable and were often dependent on the largess of the local community or synagogue.


The Christian community had many such individuals and Dorcas helped to make sure that their need for clothing was supplied. How did she do this? She simply sewed garments for them. Think about it. Her main tool was a simple needle. This was many years before even the crudest sewing machines were invented. Hand sewing is tedious work; yet, day in and day out she ministered to the needs of the destitute, demonstrating her love for God and for others with each stitch.

            We know very little about Dorcus herself. Some feel that she may have been wealthy because the fabric out of which she made the clothing was costly. She may have been a widow, but this too is speculation. What we do know is that the Scripture refers to her as a “certain disciple.” This includes her among the numerous other disciples mentioned in the New Testament, and she achieved this status by her skill with a simple sewing needle and a heart of compassion for widows.

            The writer, Melanie Newton, reminds us that part of our story of faith is how we are living it out on a daily basis. Dorcas knew her talent and she shared that gift to minister to the widows in Joppa

         Ladies, God created each of us with abilities that’s embedded in our DNA. Some of the more obvious ones are musical talents, artistic abilities, math whizzes, wordsmiths, those with sensitive spirits toward others, to name a few. Out of these various talents can come good works that we can use to help and bless others. You see whatever you can do, God wants you to use it to be His channel of grace to others.  I know a retired nurse who, because of her medical background, offers her services to some of the chronically ill in our community. In addition, she offers her time to visit the sick in the hospital. I know another woman who made many of the costumes for the yearly Easter pageants her church produces. The woman who applied stage make-up was a professional make-up artist who donated her talents to the church. These women were all donating their gifts to help further the kingdom of God. Yes, even applying stage make-up can be used to enhance God’s work because many people come to know Christ through these productions. Perhaps you are at a season in your life where you feel depleted of the energy or even the physical ability to do what once brought you great joy as you shared your gifting with others. Then maybe you can just use a simple ballpoint pen to bless others. Remember Dorcas used a simple sewing needle to minister to


many widows in her community. When was the last time you wrote just a short note of thanks and encouragement to your pastor or priest, letting him know how greatly blessed you are by their work as your shepherd? Your pastors are just as subject to discouragement as any other person. There are many individuals who would benefit from a word or note of encouragement, I’m sure. 

    The name of this ministry, Friends Needing Friends, was chosen by Dotti Ackerman, its founder, to remind you that as a widow you are the friend that someone needs as she walks the road of widowhood. Likewise, you need others to stand by you, encouraging you through words and/or actions as you encounter difficulties on your road.

            Dandi Mackall says, “Remember what Jesus told his apostles at the Last Supper? ‘If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’ According to this Scripture, the blessing is in the doing. Dorcas did not miss the blessing. She used her enterprise to help those who were in need.” God is wanting to bless you too for reaching out and helping to bring some joy into the life of another individual, a fellow image bearer of God. Dorcas’s legacy to each of us is one of not just possessing a skill, but using it to help others, all the while being Christ’s hands extended.

 

Message by Shari Hervold

                         

                        Music by Maranatha - "I Love You Lord"
                         



                                                        
            

Friday, July 16, 2021

Learning from Mary, The mother of Jesus, How to Suffer Loss

 
 It’s July and in America it’s not uncommon for people to give a nod to Christmas during this month. Sometimes radio stations will play Christmas songs and organizations might do a special tribute to Christmas in their activities. It’s called Christmas in July. For the remainder of this year, I thought I would pay tribute to some of the great women in the Bible starting here in July with Mary, the mother of Jesus. 
                                                                                             Now, we’re all familiar with the account in the gospel of Luke where the angel Gabriel made the announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say,” (Luke 1:38b MSG). Keep those words in your mind as we look at Mary in another setting. 

          Jesus, though the son of God, was also Mary’s son and she loved him with the heart and devotion of a mother. When he was sick, she nursed him back to health, and when he fell and skinned his knees, she tenderly washed them and administered healing oils to them, and when the neighborhood children taunted him by calling him a bastard, Mary’s mother-heart ached for him, comforted only by what she knew to be the truth.

            By the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary was a widow. She had experienced the death of her husband and the loneliness that accompanied it and now her precious son is enduring a public travesty. Mary, doubtless, took pride in her son when the crowds of thousands followed him and his teachings and clamored for his attention or his healing touch. But now, the religious leaders who hated him along with many who had hailed him, had turned against him. Mary had to watch from the sidelines as her son endured a mock trial and a death


sentence by crucifixion. Think about it. She observed him endure the scourging that cut deep into his flesh and the nails hammered through the tendons of his feet and hands, all coupled with the shame of being stripped naked as Roman soldiers mocked him. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was so battered that he was unrecognizable. I can’t help but wonder if Mary could possibly have had any inkling of what she too would have to suffer when she uttered those words to Gabriel, “Let it be to me as you have said,”? How could Mary stand and watch her son endure an agony no other mother would have to endure with calmness, without making a scene by shouting epithets at the soldiers or throwing herself prostrate at the foot of the cross? And who would have blamed her had she? I suggest it was because Mary’s life was emotionally centered in God.

You widows know the pain of the loss of your spouse and some of you may have endured the grief of losing a child. Some days I’m sure that your losses have made you want to give up on life. But, you haven’t. I encourage you to look at the example of Mary as she calmly accepted the worst that life could give so that the whole world would have the opportunity to have the best that both life and death could give. God knew what He was doing in choosing Mary to become the mother of His son. He saw a young girl with a heart fully surrendered to Him.

            Mary’s life wasn’t over with the death of her son. Jesus arose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, yet Mary lived for several more years. Don’t forget that Mary was one of the 120 gathered in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit, that Jesus had promised He would send, was poured out on them. Yet, other than mentioning her as being present, Scripture doesn’t mention her again. Mary was content to live out her life in the home of John, the beloved apostle, as a faithful attender to a newly formed home church. Yet, I have no doubt, that, full of the Holy Spirit, she was a continual blessing to many. Do I think she missed the physical presence of her son? Yes, I do and there were probably days, even knowing that He was awaiting her in Heaven, when the tears flowed. While there will never be a need for another Mary, God desires that each of you surrenders your life to Him and allow His strength and succor to be yours as you live with pain and loss. Though the tears may sometimes flow, I encourage you to say as did Mary, “Let it be with me just as you say.”  Through the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, may you continue to be a blessing to many. And lest I forget, Merry Christmas in July!

Message by Shari Hervold

                                  Beautiful Music by Mark Lowry

                                " Mary Did You Know"




 



Saturday, June 12, 2021

Bearing Fruit in Old Age

 

This June marks the 33rd anniversary of Friends Needing Friends. In honor of this occasion, I dedicate the following verses from Psalm 92.

             The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,

They will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

Planted in the house of the Lord,

They will flourish in the courts of our God.

They will still bear fruit in old age.

They will stay fresh and green,

Proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”

                                           Psalm 92:12-15 NIV

Let’s look more closely at this Psalm and analyze some of its symbolic language. Cedar wood is known for its durability and beauty. Solomon

used this wood when he built the temple. Even today, cedar is often used to make outdoor furniture because of its ability to withstand the ravages of weather. The branch of a palm was symbolic of triumph and victory. Both the cedar and palm are evergreen trees, always growing, always bearing fruit. So, though the older individual will not have the physical vitality of youth, yet they will still make a difference with their lives as they serve God. They will be fresh and green, or still have purpose, even though their bodies are aging, and their hair is turning gray.  II Corinthians 4:16 reminds us “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

            Have you ever considered the ages of some of our biblical heroes? Moses and Aaron were 80 and 83 when they were chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Joshua was in the last 30 years of his 110 years of life when he led the conquest of Canaan and Caleb was in his 80’s. A modern day heroin that comes to mind is Corrie ten Boom who was 54 years old when she started her travels to 64 countries, speaking and preaching about Jesus Christ. She was 79 years old when

she wrote her bestselling book, The Hiding Place. Don’t overlook the first line of this psalm, “The righteous will flourish…” Corrie, as were all of these individuals, were tried in some of life’s cruelest crucibles, yet remained faithful to God. Corrie spent time in a concentration camp where she was subject to and witnessed the worst of evil. Yet, it was this that prepared her for such a great ministry in her later years.

            In 1988 Dotti Ackerman, founder of Friends Needing Friends, became a widow with a young son. She was encouraged by her pastor to start a ministry to widows who might be experiencing the same pain as she. She began by inviting a few widows to a local restaurant for dinner, where they were treated to some inspirational music and a short devotional from God’s Word. Yet, this ministry would grow to encompass three counties and cross religious affiliations. Dotti remarried and was widowed again before she moved to Florida in 2011. Dotti now has a strong Florida chapter, and the original New Jersey chapter is under the capable leadership of Mary Lou Tweed. I now write a monthly blog going out to thousands across the globe. Just in the past year, this has been extended to include this monthly video lesson. Little did I know that my years of teaching writing to students would be used in my retirement years to composing computer blogs and teaching via the internet. Neither Dotti nor I, as well as the capable women who assist, ever dreamed that God would still be using us well into old age to minister to widows and others hungry to learn more about Jesus and His love and compassion for them.  In addition, we now support 45 widows in India through the Kerusomem Gospel Ministry.  Yet, this is exactly what this Psalm tells us God will do for the righteous (those following after God). That promise is for you, too. Never consider yourself too old to do anything.

Proclaim with St. Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13). We have all aged 33 years since 1988 when this ministry began, but those are years that God has been grooming us for what it is He has for us in this season of life. 

So, Happy 33rd Anniversary to Friends Needing Friends and my prayer is that God will continue to make you a true blessing and inspiration for His kingdom for many more years.

                                    Message by Shari Hervold

                                           Dotti Ackerman
                        Founder & Director of Friends Needing Friends
                                International Widow Ministry

      I thank God for our friendship of over 30 years. As Shari said in her message, neither of us ever dreamed that God would still be using us well into our old age to minister to widows. "FNF" is also supporting  many widows in India through the Kerusomem Gospel Ministry and we pray that FNF ministry will continue to be a blessing to widows world wide. 
                                              Blessings,
                                              Dotti Ackerman
 

Thank you Lord by Don Moen  

He Will Carry You by Lynda Randle