Monday, November 13, 2017

Dare to Make Your Goals a Reality

Robert Herjavec, the Croatian-Canadian businessman and television personality, is credited with the quote, “A goal without a deadline is just a dream.” Dave Ramsey, well-known Christian financial advisor, said it this way, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.”  I think if you combine the two quotes you have a workable blueprint for turning goals into reality. Even so, it is often difficult to take the first step toward doing that.

As widows your life has undergone some drastic changes. Many of the goals you and your husband created died when he did. But that in no way lessens the fact that you are still a living, vibrant person who runs the risk of shriveling emotionally and spiritually unless you have goals for your life in your “new normal.” Even your physical well-being is affected when you no longer plan for the future and dwell in the past or what might have been. St. Paul put it this way in Phillippians 3:13-14, Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  

As look through the Bible at the lives of some of the widows, I find that there are several examples of those who, either through necessity or just a strong desire, set goals for themselves and set about to seeing that they came to fruition.

In the book of Ruth we read the story of Naomi who, along with her husband and two sons, went to live in Moab because Judah was suffering a severe famine. I’m sure the adjustment for Naomi was difficult living in a foreign country with no extended family for fellowship and support. Then, at some point her husband dies, followed by the deaths of her two sons. Her life was totally turned upside-down and her new normal was not at all to her liking. When she heard that the famine had broken in Judah, a plan began to foment in her mind. She began longing for the familiar, for family, for the ability to worship God with fellow Hebrews, and to see and enjoy the

familiar landscape of Bethlehem again. Even though she was old and the trip would be arduous, Naomi made her plans and set out for home. Some scholars think that she joined a caravan going that way because it would be dangerous for a woman to travel alone. However, it is clear that Naomi didn’t just sit around and dream about home and die of homesickness; she made plans to see her goal become reality.

One of my favorite stories about a widow who was persistent in getting her goal met is in Luke 18. Jesus tells the story:  “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’ 4-5 “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’” This widow’s goal was simply to get her property back. Most
likely she was left destitute and was desperate. She had to have thought through very carefully what she would do because we are told that she went directly to the judge. She lay aside her fears, she wouldn’t be deterred because she was simply a woman whose rights were minimal at best, and when she was rebuffed, she just persisted in stating her case until the judge, out of sheer frustration, awarded the case in her favor. Doesn’t that just make you want to shout, “You go, girlfriend!”?

I’ve chosen only two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. However, there are many stories in the Bible of people who set goals and didn’t just sit around and hope they came true, but rather set deadlines and formed plans for seeing that their goals were met. You might question how you go about setting goals for your life. I suggest that the best way to get clarity is to read God’s Word, then seek Him in prayer to see what he lays on your heart. There are many Scriptures that address this. "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light..." Ps. 37:4-6
Once you set a goal, remember that you are a daughter of your loving Heavenly Father. Seek Him for His help and guidance. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 Don’t be discouraged if things don’t happen just as you planned for; tomorrow is another day and you may have to “regroup” and adjust either your goal or your plan. Most importantly, continue to delight yourself in God, He knows what is best for you.

Ladies, I encourage each of you to take heart and keep in the mainstream of life until God calls you to Himself. Let nothing deter you from setting goals and seeking God’s strength and guidance in forming plans to fulfill them. You were made for more than merely dreaming dreams and waking up to find that nothing has changed. And never forget Phillippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
Message by Shari Hervold

"Walk With Me Lord" by Lynda Randle

"He Will Carry You"  by Lynda Randle

Dotti Ackerman - Founder & Director of FNF

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why, God?

Have you ever questioned God? I tend to think that most of you, as I, have questioned God at some point in your life. In speaking with a friend recently she mentioned that she had served God for many years, within a relatively short time-span had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, several mini strokes, cancer, endured chemo-therapy, and was now in great pain from chemo-induced myopathy in her feet. She, like most of us, wondered why God would allow so many afflictions to come her way. Is it wrong to question God, she wondered.  

The Bible tells us about the young son of the women of the house was taken ill and died. (I Kings 17:17) She railed at Elijah, “What have I to do with you, Oh man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to kill my son?” Elijah took the boy upstairs and lay him down and spoke these words to God, “Have you brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge by killing her son?” Then Elijah prayed for the boy and he was restored to life. Yet, God heard and answered Elijah’s prayers for restoration to life for the boy. As a result, the woman’s faith in God was totally restored. Such is the love and mercy of God. Then the widow said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God and that the words of the Lord in your mouth is truth.

In the above story, neither Elijah nor the widow were rebuked by God for their questions.

There are many instances in Scripture where God was questioned. Job, who faithfully served God, questioned him, (Job 21:7).

The book of Habakkuk is full of questions to God from his prophet, as are the Psalms.

Gideon bombarded God with questions concerning his calling.

Even Jesus called out to His Father on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”

Most Bible scholars don’t condemn or question a true believer’s right to question God, but they do caution us about the way we approach God.

Rev. Billy Graham states that “It’s not necessarily wrong to ask God why He’s allowed things to happen to us the way they did. God doesn’t want us to pretend or be ashamed when we come to Him –and in any case, He already knows what is in our minds and hearts. Don’t question God because you think He may be wrong; He isn’t. Instead, ask Him to help you to trust Him, even when you don’t understand. God loves you –if he didn’t He wouldn’t have sent His Son into the world to die for you. But He did and that makes all the difference.”

When you approach God humbly and fully acknowledge His sovereignty, don’t fear that your questions will offend Him. One writer even stated that coming to the Lord with our questions and concerns is healthy. But we do so realizing that His wisdom is perfect and that He knows all things. He may not always provide the answers to our questions; that’s where our faith comes in. We may never fully know or understand His ways, but we can always trust His character. Sisters, He is your loving, heavenly Father who walks every step of life with you and, ultimately, that is all you need to know.

May you experience the peace and joy of our loving God regardless of what you are experiencing today. 

Message by Shari Hervold
Chris Tomlin - "Whom Shall I Fear"

"Chris Tomlin - "Good, Good Father

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bathsheba's Blessings

          There are few emotions that render hopelessness in the heart of an individual like discouragement. With discouragement an individual sees no way out of a situation, feels that no one understands their predicament and pain, and this can spiral into hopelessness and despair. I was introduced to a song recently entitled, “He’ll (God) Do it Again.” This song references some of the despondency that comes with discouragement and seeks to remind us that what God has done for us in the past, as well as for others, He’ll do again as He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.
          A woman in the Bible who became a widow under heinous and deeply painful circumstances is an example of an individual who experienced great loss and pain, yet lived to see God work on her behalf and reverse her circumstances. The name Bathsheba is familiar to you. But did you ever contemplate the nuances of her story? Consider the following:
  Bathsheba was the very beautiful woman for whom David lusted, took to bed and impregnated, then had her husband killed so that he could wed her. Some have cast her as a seductress, but I take issue with that. She was doing what she most likely would have done many times as she assumed the men were off to war and her
privacy was assured as she bathed on the rooftop. 2 Samuel 11:4 tells us that David sent his men to get her (he was the king and she had to come) and when she came to him he lay with her. David is cast as the actor and she the one acted upon. Dr. Larry Richards, a noted Bible scholar, calls it outright rape. Then when David learns of her pregnancy by her encounter with him, he devises a way to make it appear that Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, is the father of the child. When that plan hits a wall, David assigns him a battle position basically assuring his death, which was soon in coming.
          So now Bathsheba finds herself pregnant with a child of rape, and a widow. Hebrew literature doesn’t go into great detail relating the emotional responses, especially of women, but it’s not hard to imagine the fright, sorrow, anger, and despair that she must have endured during this period of her life. After her formal mourning period was over, David sent for her and she became his wife, (one of many). The story might have ended there with the child being born and she living out her life in luxury as one of the wives of the king. But life isn’t a fairy tale and this child at some point became sick and died. Again, Bathsheba’s heart was broken and she endured the despondency of losing a precious child. Later, Bathsheba bore another son whom she named Solomon and was granted the joy of motherhood.  

David had other wives and many sons, any who could have become king. Bathsheba wanted her child to succeed David and she laid aside fear, went to King and advocated for her son to succeed him and won David's promise to do so. She further acted courageously on Solomon's behalf when it looked like another son was going to claim the throne. Even though her marriage began on the weakest of foundations, she had the strength and fortitude to put that behind her and be a good wife and mother. It is said that Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs as a dedication to his mother who strongly influenced his life. Bathsheba lived to see God restore her life and bring great honor to her and her descendants.
Your life has parallels to Bathsheba’s. You have suffered loss through the death of a loved one and have experienced the inconveniences, lonely hours, fears, and discouragements that accompany that loss. Some of you may still be in the first throes of grief; others may be more resigned and learning to adjust to your new “normal.” Let me remind you that God was with Bathsheba through everything she endured. As a woman, little concern was given to her feelings, but God saw and He cared. Solomon did become the king of Israel after his father, David. And, as we know, our precious Savior was born from the lineage of David and as the mother of Solomon, Bathsheba also is in the lineage of Jesus.
This loving heavenly Father cares just the same for you. In fact, as the song says, He’s fighting for you; He’s on your side no matter how discouraged you may feel or how hopeless the situation may appear to you. He knows just how your heart has been broken in two and God will do it again just as He did for Bathsheba.
 He will wipe away your tears, calm your emotions and give you a hopeful future. Remember the words of the Psalmist, “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.
Jesus didn’t forget her and the injustice done to her.

Message by Shari Hervold

Reflection: You can become a child of God by accepting Christ's death as penalty for your sins, and acknowledging Him as your Lord and Savior.  He will come to live in your heart and give you eternal life.  I encourage you to do this now!

                                                            Shari Hervold

Music by Beth Buck--"He'll Do It Again"


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