Acts 9:26-43 (NLT)
Saul in Jerusalem
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
I think there must be a special place in Heaven for people like Ananias and Barnabas who offer, so kindly, the simple gift of friendship in Jesus’ name.
28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.
31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Here is another true story from my friends in South Asia; they teach local pastors to tell Bible stories to their congregations and the pastors return with amazing reports! These stories make me ashamed of how careless I am, so often, in living out my faith.
Forsaking Christ in Persecution
Told by B.B.
When the violence and persecution against Christians took place in our area, some of the believers in our churches backslid because of fear. The persecutors demanded written statements from them saying, “We are forsaking Christianity and are adopting the Hindu religion.”
I along with many others were praying for them. Whenever I met them, I would encourage them to be faithful to Christ. My heart was breaking as I told them the story of how Paul [Saul] was persecuting the Christians, and how he became a servant of Christ (Acts 8:1-3 and chapter 9).
I said, “See how God is much greater than anything. If you forget Him now, then there may be no chance for you to accept Christ again and follow Him as your personal Savior.”
One of them who had gone back said, “If I will be a Christian again, then I will have to suffer a lot.”
And I told him, “Brother, this is the life of a Christian.”
I kept praying for him, and the next time we met, he told me he has started attending church again. Now many of those who backslid are slowly coming back. Even though they had given the written application saying, “We are forsaking Christianity and we are adopting the Hindu religion,” now they are returning to Christ.
Recently I learned about three more families who had backslidden that have started attending church again, and two of those brothers are actively involved in ministry there.
Really I am so thankful to God. That story has some special power that makes a difference in our ministry. Thank you so much for teaching us these stories.
Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Dorcas
“Healing of the Cripple” by Masolino, 1425 (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy)
32 Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. 33 There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly. 35 Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.
“Healing of Dorcas” by Masolino, 1425 (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy). This is the right-hand portion of a wide fresco, the rest of the piece above. Note the same guy in both pictures — in the gray tights and hat, and pink tunic.
36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”
39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.
I have a friend who is another Dorcas. She takes men’s shirts and repurposes them into dresses for small girls, similar to the picture here. Dozens of her dresses have been taken to Madagascar and the Dominican Republic, where her creative work brings joy to little girls, most of whom she will never see. But I know her work also brings joy to Jesus, who is glad to see Gayle using the gifts he gave her for some of “the least of these.”
40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.
42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.
For a law-keeping Jew of that time, it was strictly forbidden to associate with anyone who routinely worked with dead animals. According to the laws of that time, a tanner had to live at least 75 feet outside a village because of his ritual uncleanness.
HERE is a song for all the Dorcas-es out there. They quietly attend to things for Jesus’ sake, not seeking glory for themselves, the world not much noticing the good they are doing. But the work they are accomplishing is holy as it is done for the Lord. “Set the world on fire,” by Britt Nicole. This is for you, Gayle, and Carol, and Linda, and Carole, and Teresa, and David, and Paul, and Page, and on and on. The Lord knows your work for Him!
Images courtesy of: