Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mary, Did You Know?

Mark Lowry wrote a song a few years ago that has quickly become a holiday favorite entitled, Mary, Did You Know?  It questions whether Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew the true essence of who Jesus really was as the Son of God. There are those who respond with a resounding, “Yes, certainly she knew.” While I think she did understand that she was to be the mother of the Son of God and experienced the wonderment of that, I suggest that she didn’t know all that would be entailed in accepting that awesome task.

  Within a few months after her visit from Gabriel and her impregnation by the Holy Spirit, she felt the harsh looks and was aware of the quickly hushed whispers from members of the strict Jewish community of which she had been a part since birth. I
think her mother-heart broke over and over again as her precious son was ostracized as a child by the kids in the community, not to mention the brutal treatment he received as an adult resulting in his agonizing death by crucifixion. Did she truly know the extent of what she was saying when she told Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be unto me according to your word,” (Luke 1:38 MEV)?

Regardless of what you feel about Mary’s foreknowledge as the mother of Jesus, the question remains: What enabled her to endure in quiet humility while observing his cruel and unfair treatment from many sources, but especially by the church leaders she had been brought up to revere? Ladies, it’s the same thing that will keep you strong in your faith when life throws you “curve balls” that seek to undo you.

Mary’s absolute trust in her Heavenly Father was unshakeable and she knew that His ultimate purpose would prevail. His word was his bond.

Most of you reading this are widows. Now, we all know that we will die someday. Even Scripture is very clear about that.  “ . .. it is appointed unto man to die once. . .” (Heb. 9:7 MEV). But, can you honestly say that you were prepared for the death of your spouse? For many of you his death was a shock and for others it came after a period of suffering. Most of you were left reeling and perhaps some of you questioned God. We experience pain, sickness, death, poverty, childlessness, unwanted pregnancies, disappointments with children, financial reversals and other unpleasant occurrences that are a part of the human experience. Being a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God doesn’t change that. How do I know? Because God’s Word tells me “In the world you will have tribulation,“  (John 16:33 MEV).  So, what should a Christian woman’s response be to all of these vicissitudes of life?

Let’s look again at the response of Mary to the announcement of Gabriel.  Without consideration to what it would cost her personally, Mary could say with full assurance,

“May it be unto me according to your word,” (Luke 1:38 MEV). In other words, may everything you have said come true.  She had full faith in the words of God spoken through the angel Gabriel. No matter how the particulars played out, Mary was able to ponder each incident and rely with full assurance on the words of God. When Jesus made the announcement that we would have troubles in this life, he knew that it would not be received well. Who wants to be assured that bad times will definitely come? But, he then delivers the good news, “But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33 MEV).

  We, like Mary must believe the words of Christ and have a calm assurance that he is in control no matter what comes our way. Our faith must be rooted in our risen Savior who is the ultimate overcomer.

As women we identify with the mothering aspect of Mary’s role in Jesus’ life. We can feel her humiliation at being considered an immoral young woman, we feel her hurt as her child is mistreated by the neighborhood kids for being a “bastard,” we share her pride when Jesus becomes a rabbi, we understand her confusion over some of his teachings and activities, and we weep with her as he is brutally beaten and crucified. Of course, we also rejoice with her when Jesus is raised from the dead. What unspeakable joy she must have felt, only to realize a short time later that he was going back to his Father and to his true home. But, we don’t read of any disappointment from Mary because by this time in her life she had come to realize that she was simply a vessel chosen by God to be a part of a plan for mankind much larger than her. Living out her reply to Gabriel, “Be it unto me according to your word,” had by now become second nature to her. She willingly waited with the others in the Upper Room for the

infilling of the Holy Spirit and, upon reflection, could see how God’s plan was coming to pass.

 We must do the same, becoming stronger in our faith with each tribulation – no matter the form it takes - and someday we, too, will reflect on our lives and see the hand of God in it all. We do this by maintaining our faith in the words of our Lord. He himself told us, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” (Matt. 23:35 MEV).

So as we reflect on the joy of the wonderful Christmas season and look forward to the year, 2017, we are faced with a question concerning our own lives: Do we know what 2017 holds for us? We only know what Jesus told us. We know that in addition to great times, we can expect some tribulation. Perhaps for some that will be sickness, others may face financial reversals, some may make a major move and a change in lifestyle, and others may experience the death of a loved one.

But one fact remains, only God knows what lies ahead for each of us and, if we want to experience true peace of heart and mind, we must remain firm in our faith and trust in Jesus and his Word. Then and only then can we say as Mary did, “ I am the servant of the Lord. May it be it unto me according to your word.”

Message by Shari Hervold

"Mary, Did You Know" by Mark Lowry
            Have a happy & healthy New Year from all on the FNF Blogg
Dotti Ackerman, Director


Monday, November 7, 2016

Now To Him Who is Able...

 I've been chewing on this verse for a few months now. I think I say those words in every email I write! I hope you chew on God's word. There is so much nutrition in His Word for our spirits. His words are sweeter than honey on my mouth!
Anyway, back to Ephesians...God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...Stop! Just stop right there and think about those words! They have such intense meaning! They are so full, yet we often read them, pass right over them, and don't really think about the power that is contained in them.

Paul made up that phrase. His knowledge of God, his vast understanding of God in his heart, his personal experiences with God have surpassed words. God is so amazing, awe inspiring, and really at times, just beyond words. So Paul took liberty here and just made up a saying to explain a little deeper who God is.

Spurgeon says it this way...
"He (God) is able to do so abundantly it exceeds measure and description."
That word "able" is the same word used for power when we talk about the resurrection of Jesus. It's dunamai - It's miraculous power! He can do it! He can keep on doing it too!
Ok! Ok! What can God do? Well, He's told us so much of what He's already done...
He is able to...
       Provide a child for the barren (Abraham/Sarah, Hannah,    Elizabeth, the Shunnamite Woman).

 The widow whose oil was multiplied.

      Lead 1 small stone slung by 1 small boy right in the head of giant killing him.

      Bring the dead to life...Shunnamite's Son, Jaerus' daughter, widow's son, and Lazarus.
       Protected Naomi and Ruth on their journey to Naomi’s home town.


         Provided a son for Ruth that would be in the lineage of Jesus.

        Feed a multitude using a few fish and loaves.
        Provided for the widow of Zarephath.
             Endure the beating preceding the cross and then give Himself upon the cross.
1 Cor. 2:5 tells us that our faith should not be in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. We measure life, circumstances, abilities, things by our own experiences, and then live our lives and make understanding by putting God in that same box. We give Him our attributes thus giving Him our limitations and our measurements, but God is above and beyond all of that. "He abundantly exceeds measure and description." 

God did all those things. I've become simple enough that I believe every word in the Bible including the fact that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 
So, if He did all those things so many thousands of years ago. He can do so much more! Exceedingly! Abundantly! Above all that I could even imagine or think. Some of those things are beyond my imagination even now. Wouldn't it blow your mind to see some of those things happen?! 
Exceedingly abundantly more than we can think or imagine...Because of this praise to God, we can have assurance that God can answer our prayers!  We should never hesitate to offer our deepest request.
Jowett says it this way, "What I have asked for is as nothing compared to the ability of my God to give. I've asked for a cupful, and the ocean remains. I've asked for a sunbeam, and the sun abides. My best asking falls immeasurably short of my Father's giving. It's beyond all that we can ask."

What are you trusting God for? Ask Him...believe He can do it. Wait and see!

Message by Pastor Gary Clark, Calvary Church, Turnersville, N.J. 08012

"If Not For The Storm" by Larnell Harris

"He Will Carry You" by Lynda Randle

Dotti Ackerman, Director of Friends Needing Friends Bogg.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Ruth: Courage and Commitment in Adversity

     There are only two books in the entire Bible named after women.  One of these is the story of Ruth found in the Old Testament.  The book is a simple narrative set in the time of the Judges.  It tells the story of the young Moabite widow, Ruth, who left her home in Moab to accompany her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem after the deaths of her father-in-law Elimelech, her husband, Mahlon, and her brother-in-law, Chilion, married to another Moabite woman named Orpah.

     The loss of a husband in ancient Israel and Moab was generally a severe social and economic tragedy.  Because Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth lose all the men in their family, their crisis was particularly harsh.  Not only did it mean that there were no able bodied men to work the land but in ancient Israel the general rule was that the land was connected to the family of the male to whom it had been apportioned.  When all the men of a family died, generally the women were left destitute.  Only a male, the “kinsman redeemer” could purchase land inherited by an Israelite widow.  That kinsman was also required to provide for the remaining widow.  Only then could the land remain the possession of a particular family.

    Like many widows Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were forced to explore new options for survival after their spouses died.  Naomi learned that food was plentiful in her hometown of Bethlehem and knew about Emilech's land there.  Hoping that surival there would be easier, she and her daughters-in-law prepared for the arduous journey back to Bethlehem.  Soon after the three widows started out, Naomi realized she could not promise an easier life for her two daughters-in-law.   Perhaps it might be in their best interest to return to their own families in Moab. She told both Orpah and Ruth to return home to their families.  Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodby.  Ruth, however, clung to Naomi and uttered this passionate plea:
   “Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you
      stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I
      will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if
      anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16,17)

     What prompted Ruth to make such a powerful declaration of love and loyalty?  She had just lost her beloved Mahlon.  Following Naomi meant she would now lose a sister-in-law who had been like a sister to her.  Why did Ruth prefer to go with Naomi instead of remaining in her own country?  Why did she choose to move forward and not backwards?  

      It is true that Naomi and Ruth were both grief-stricken widows.  However, Naomi's trip back to Bethlehem signified a trip home to her people, family and friends who shared her faith in the loving and merciful God.  Ruth, on the other hand, was venturing into the unknown.  She was leaving her own kin, her homeland and all its customs including its gods behind her.  What was the source of the young widow's courage and commitment to travel with Naomi from Moab to Bethlehem?

     Someone once said that our real journey in life is interior.  It is what motivates us from within that determines our choices, colors our decisions, and reveals our character.  In Ruth's passionate plea above it is apparent that more than loyalty to her beloved mother-in-law prompted her to insist on accompanying Naomi to Bethlehem.   She said, “your people will be my people and your God will be my God.”  Not only did Ruth love Naomi. She had also come to accept Yahweh as the one true God she wanted to follow.  Her courage and strong resolve to move forward resulted because she had placed her faith in God and trusted Him with her life.

     So often suffering and grief test us at our core.  They test not only our faith, but also our commitment and purpose.  Sometimes they test our obedience and reveal the attitudes of our heart, our very character.  Does God notice if we “pass” those tests?  Did He notice Ruth and give her favor once she arrived in Bethlehem?  To answer that question we must turn to the remaining three chapters of the narrative.

       Once Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem they sought shelter and food.  Fortunately, (or “providentially”), they arrived in Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest.  Ruth immediately asked Naomi's permission to go out to the field and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes she might find favor.  Notice that Ruth's demeanor is both respectful and humble...first toward Naomi but also toward God. 

     In I Samuel 16:7 the Lord taught Samuel that man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  Proverbs 31: 30 warns that “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  To understand Ruth we need to examine her heart.  But how do we recognize someone's heart or motives?  How does Ruth's own story reveal her heart?  Examining Ruth's words and behavior toward others reveal her motives and character.

      Let's consider what happens in the remaining chapters of the book which bears her name.  It just so happened (again “providence”) that Ruth began gleaning in a field owned by Naomi's kinsman, Boaz.  Very soon Boaz noticed Ruth and inquired about her.  Boaz had noticed that Ruth worked steadily without taking a break.  He learned what she had done for Naomi, her mother-in-law.  He was told she was a Moabitess, a foreigner.  Ruth's behavior and character qualities interested Boaz more than Ruth's nationality.

      Boaz promptly bestowed his favor on Ruth.  He protected her.  He directed her to glean only in his field. He warned his men not to touch her.  He verbally praised her for what she had done for Naomi.  He placed her next to him when they ate.  Lastly, he provided for both of them by giving her food to take home to Naomi.

     When Ruth acknowledged Boaz's favor her response revealed an attitude of humility.  First, she asked, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me, a foreigner?”  Later she said, “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord.  You have given me comfort and have spoken kindly to your servant---though I do not have the standing of one of your servant girls.” 

       Ruth's attitude is one of submission and gratitude toward Boaz and toward God.  Could Ruth's demeanor...her gentleness, her attitude of respect, her humility, and her soft words have a lesson for us?  Many years later in Psalms, David wrote “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, you God, will not despise.” 

     Eventually Boaz purchased the land owned by Emilech after a closer relative refused to buy it because it meant he would have to take care of Ruth as well.   Boaz admired Ruth's character and while he could own the land he also wanted to make this woman his wife.  Later their son, Obed, was born. 
   What is significant about that fact is that Obed is the grandfather of David from whose line Jesus Christ our Messiah was born.  Yes, from the lineage of the foreigner, Ruth and Boaz our own Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ was born! 

     Ruth had passed the test of adversity.  She received God's favor because she understood the importance of the interior life.  She couldn't change the events of her life but she could learn to walk in faith humbly with God and trust Him for her future.  She could protect the attitudes of her heart.

     Did Ruth also model for her son Obed the character qualities of courage, commitment, and humility evident in her behavior and words in the narrative which bears her name?  Did Obed eventually teach and model those same attitudes of the heart for his grandson David?   We may not have actual evidence of that from Scripture.  However, we do have the assurance that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6) just as He did not leave or forsake a young humble widow from Moab named Ruth.

Message by a new member of our Blog Team Cindy Thomas 




Saturday, September 10, 2016

God's Timing is Perfect.

God’s Timing is Perfect

Last week I received a phone call from Dotti Ackerman, founder of Friends Needing Friends, who shared with me that the FNF blog had reach over 30,000 “hits.”  That conversation prompted me to reflect on my association with this great organization that offers Christ-centered support for widows. You see, we seniors often see events and/or organizations differently than younger folk because we were there when “it” happened or “it” was begun. It’s not totally unlike being a parent. We remember early details about our children’s lives that they know only from stories told to them. They know what they looked like only from pictures. But, we were there and of all their “firsts” are etched in our memories.  So when we enjoy the company of an adult child, we also can interpose the image of that little neophyte that we first fell in love with.

In my conversation with Dotti she mentioned that she had four more DVD’s of some of my homilies she had kept for years that she planned to share on the blog. That’s when my reminiscing went into high gear.  I seldom refer to myself in my writings, but bear with this old woman as she strolls down Memory Lane. My association with FNF goes back to the year 1988 when Dotti asked me to speak at one of their dinner meetings in New Jersey. This became a yearly occurrence and I and grew to love the ladies and respect this ministry.  

Then, eight years ago I retired and shortly thereafter Dotti called upon me more often to speak and this led to my doing a Bible lesson with the group once a month. What a delight it was to teach these women from God’s Word and then enjoy a lovely luncheon with them!
Shortly thereafter, Dotti called me and asked me to record some of my teachings. I remember, with the permission of Pastor Bruce, setting this up with the technicians at our local church, and going into the recording studio and delivering my talk to a party of one, the on-duty technician. Darlene, a lovely godly woman at the church, helped to package the DVD’s after which Dotti would distribute them to the women attending FNF, which numbered around eighty at that time.

 In 2009 Dotti moved to Florida and, unbeknown to me, took copies of those DVD’s with her, where for the most part, they were a silent witness to several of the Bible lessons we had done years before.

In 2012 my husband and I moved to Pennsylvania and Dotti asked me to continue to write for the monthly newsletter, which I did. Then, God led into Dotti’s life a woman who suggested that they do a blog and, with some instruction, Dotti was able to successfully launch that. (  )
 I then began to contribute regularly to that ministry as well. For the past 3 ½ years Dotti and I have worked as a team on many of the blogs. God speaks to her heart about something, she will call me and tell me the gist of what is on her heart, and I will put words to her thoughts and they go out on the blog.  Now neither Dotti nor I are intuitive techies. But God, in his seamless timing, has always placed someone in our lives to instruct us and bring our skills to the level we need for this grassroots ministry.

 A few months ago Dotti looked upon one of her shelves and eyed those silent DVD’s and wanted to get them into the blog. The knowledge of how to do that was lost on her . . . but not on God. He led her to just the individual who could help her get this accomplished and for the past few months those checking the blog have been able, through the magic of technology, to listen to my teaching a lesson from God’s Word. From a party of one to hundreds listening to God’s Word each month! Who but God could accomplish this by orchestrating each incremental step toward that end during the years!

This morning as I was reading the book of Esther, it occurred to me that her story is a perfect example from the Bible of God’s timing. From Esther’s being chosen as queen, to Mordecai’s overhearing and reporting a proposed assassination of the king, to the king not being able to sleep and reading the account of Mordicai’s deed and much more. Read it all for yourself and you’ll be amazed by the incidents that seemed inconsequential at the time, but fit into God’s plan and occurred at just the right time. Nothing is happenstance with our all-knowing God. His timing is always perfect.

So, now the blog has reached over 30,000 “hits,” and in retrospect one can see how God, at just the right time, nudged individuals to act, brought people into Dotti’s life, and melded all of this together to get His Word out to more people than either Dotti or I would have thought possible over 30 years ago. To God be the glory!

Statistics Speak. At first glance the statistics speak only of numbers. Yet, upon a closer look, one can’t help but notice that they also give a peek into the countries where God is drawing people to the blog who might otherwise not ever hear the Gospel. It isn’t an accident that there are a large number of hits in Russia and China. God is again demonstrating His perfect timing. Continue to pray that many will be drawn to the blog around the world, especially in those areas where widows are mistreated, or at best ignored.

United States
United Kingdom

Message by Shari Hervold