Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered August 27, 2005 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Raising the Flame

(RealAudio Version available)

We've got our flame going. Is our flame going? I hope it is. We want to raise the flame today.

You know, Acts has been focusing this past few weeks on Saul, and now we are going to focus on Simon. Acts 9, and we're going to begin with the portion that begins to speak about Peter. Saul and Simon. Just as the Lord gave Saul the new name of Paul just so He gave Simon the new name of Peter. So Instead of Simon and Saul we have Peter and Paul. What does Peter mean? It means a Rock, a huge boulder, right? No, Peter, (Petros) means a small stone you might kick off the sidewalk, a piece of a rock. Now, Jesus is the Rock of Ages, He is the boulder upon which our church is built. Matthew 16:18, "And I tell you that your are Peter, and on This Rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Petros and Peter.

The foundation is the most vital part of the structure. And Jesus wants to build His church on something very important. This Summer my wife and I saw the leaning tower of Pisa. The 14,500 ton tower was started in 1173. Now you would think that if you would build a big heavy tower like that you would check the foundation real well, and what it was on. Well, whoever built that didn't do too much checking, Bonano Pisano. He built it and he didn't apparently didn't check the ground very well. It had a very poor footing. As a consequence, it started leaning. Well, they have corrected some of that, now, so it's safe to climb the leaning thing. God does not have to be embarrassed because the foundation of His church is poor because it is built on Jesus Christ. That's what the McDonald Road Church is built on. We are a Christian Church A Christian church is built on Jesus. I don't want God to be embarrassed because I'm leaning, do you? You don't want to be embarrassed because somebody else is leaning, and God wants to be proud of you and He will be if your life is built on te life of Jesus Christ.

Peter, like Paul, also had the Flame. He got his flame at Pentecost. One day Peter was on a missionary trip to visit the saints and he came to Lydda. There he just happened to be a man there by the name of Aeneas (Ah-ay-ne-ahs). Now, Aeneas had a problem. He was a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. Let's go to Acts 9:34. This man had been bedridden for Eight long years, almost 3000 days! His hands and head shook with palsy. Eight years without work. Deep into poverty. Eight years of saying: "Why Me?" But this day Peter came by.

Peter said in Acts 9:34: Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat. Immediately Aeneas got up. What did he do? Did he keep on lying there? Immediately Aeneas got up. Now there was no mass healing, no theatrics, no shouting is mentioned, no commanding of God, just a remarkable exercise of faith. I like how Peter gave God 100% of the credit. He didn't say, "I heal you." He said, "Jesus Christ heals you!" He was humble. And, Christians need to be humble. When people come to see you, don't show them all the stuff you have done; show them what Jesus has done through. You. Give Jesus the credit. "I couldn't have done anything without Jesus." That's how you want to say it. Acts 9:35 says, All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. Praise God for that miracle. That's awesome.

Next Peter came to the little town of Joppa 10 miles northwest of Lydda. And this is the focus of our story today, the story of what happened in Joppa. Joppa was a small town built on a hill. It had a beautiful harbor on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea where the great ships docked after their voyages across the Mediterranean Sea. This harbor was very dangerous to get in to. With the wind blowing, it was very difficult and so because of that, and many ships were wrecked there. As a consequence there were an abnormal number of widows that lived in that town.

In Peter's day it was also notorious as a headquarters for pirates. The hill was so high that from its top you could see all the way to Jerusalem. Look at Acts 9:36, 37 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room.

Dorcas is the 16th named disciple. (Matthias replaced Judas, Ananias is called a disciple, and Paul is a disciple) She may have also been a deaconess. The New English Bible says she filled her days with acts of kindness. You can look the Bible through and you will find no record of any office she held or any sermon or any prayer she gave. Her only claim to fame is that she was full of good works. She was a wonderful, wonderful person. Abounding with good. Overflowing with endless good works. She helped to care for all the widows of the church. Even the mending she did was good. She herself would have been proud to wear any of the clothes she had made. She gave her services and her means. She was a remarkable woman.

In Greek: Dorcas means Antelope an animal of grace and beauty. In Aramaic it is Tabitha, meaning elegance. She was unselfish, hardworking, compassionate, and loving. Her life was made beautiful by her caring service.

There is no mention of her husband. I think she may have been a widow. If so she was not bitter about her lot in life. We don't find her questioning God. She just became busy helping others in need. You never should be bitter about some loss. If you've lost your wife or your husband, don't be bitter about that. Just allow God to make you better. She made sure they were in need. Make sure those you help are indeed in need.

I've driven down here in I-75, get off at Shallowford Road exit. There is a man who stands at the corner of I-75 and Shallowford road. Every day this same man holds up a sign: "Will work for food." He won't. I know somebody who talked with this man, and who talked with him enough to find out who he was. And you know who he is? He makes $1000 per week there beside the road at that exit. He owns a nice home and his nice automobile is parked nearby behind a building. He earns $4000 a month of tax-free income from his job of begging. He is NOT in need. You don't need to help him, save it for someone who is truly in need.

"She knew who needed comfortable clothing and who needed sympathy, and she freely ministered to the poor and the sorrowful. Her skillful fingers were more active than her tongue."1. {AA 131.2}

"Now, I should probably not go there, but I'll go there just a little bit. Okay?" This could be meddling but here I go: If some of us would do less talking and more work for others would it make a difference? I don't know why we love talking so much. Most arguments are simply two people trying to get in the last word. Do you know how to always get in the last word? It will work every time. Just say, "Well, I apologize.." It will be the end of the argument.

Do you know the needy in our town? Dorcas found many truly needy people. I don't see her helping people with the cardboard signs. I see her helping the people that she knew. She was friends of these people. She knew they were needy. She found many truly needy people. She did not own a fancy sewing machine. She wasn't rich but she did own something valuable. Maybe like Moses God said to her: "What is that in your hand?" Moses said, "A rod."2. And Tabatha had a tiny rod. Her rod was made of shiny polished metal. It had a hole in one end and she utilized this little rod to help others. Her sewing needle became an instrument of loving service to the early church. Some people needle each other. She used her needle to benefit others. The long hours she spent were a labor of love in behalf of Jesus. Read in Matthew 25:36. Jesus says, I needed clothes and you clothed me. When you give clothes to somebody else you're giving them to Jesus. When you take them to the Samaritan Center and you give them to a needy person who is truly needy, you give them to Jesus. In making clothes for others in need, she taylor-made clothes for Jesus. Jesus said: Matthew 25:40 "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" That's amazing! She was making clothes for Jesus.

If Dorcas were here today in our church what kind of a report would she give? Number of persons helped? Hours of Christian help work? Food Baskets given away? Remember those old reports we used to give every week? We don't have to go to Timbuktu to find a ministry. You don't have to go way off somewhere to have a ministry. There is a ministry right here, too. In your neighborhood you can help people who are truly needy. There are needy people in every neighborhood. So, when you're here, help them. When she died it was the local folk who came to mourn her passing. There's a little song that says "brighten the corner where you are." If your religion does not do your immediate family and neighborhood any good is it really of much worth? Let's brighten the corner where we are. "Such patient, prayerful, and persevering fidelity as was possessed by these saints of God is rare; yet the church cannot prosper without it."3. The church needs Tabithas. No church can prosper without members who have a willing concern for the welfare of others. The church needs Dorcases. That's what prospers then church is these unselfish people that are willing to help somebody else. No church could prosper without member like that.

When some folk die, others breath a sigh of relief. When Tabatha died she was sorely missed. Will you be missed? Have you consumed it all on yourself or have you helped others along the way? Revelation 14:13 says, Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."

"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

Our deeds are going to follow us. Like fleas jumping on a dog or butterflies landing on an Lantana bush, what is following you? Do your deeds look more like fleas or do they look like butterflies? What will people remember about you?

Now good deeds do not earn heaven. We're not saved by our deeds, No. But good works are the evidence that we know Jesus. And if we know Jesus, we're going to have good works. Acts 10:38 Jesus of Nazareth ...went about doing good. Followers of Jesus, like Tabatha, will also go about doing good.

Her life of unselfishness built up her fantastic reputation. Horace Greeley said: "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow, only one thing endures character." 1 Samuel 16:7 . . . Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Tabatha had a heart of gold.

The real measure of our wealth is how much we'd be worth if we lost all our money. Charles Spurgeon wrote, "A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered." Tabatha carved her name on hearts not on marble.

Tabatha died. The Flame went out. When Dorcas died the entire town went into deep mourning. They asked Peter to come immediately. In that land a body would not keep. In Jerusalem it was required that the burial be the same day as the death. Outside the city three days were allowed until all hope of life was gone and the danger of burying someone alive was nil.

They called Peter. Acts 9:39. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. It was a show and tell time. Have you ever made a coat? I imagine that would be hard. That's difficult to do. She was quite an accomplished seamstress. They showed all the careful tiny stitches in all manner of garments she had made. Beautiful dresses and even coats! When any good person dies deep sadness is felt.

Peter came and knelt over her dead body. He prayed. Here is the source from which the early church secured its power. It is through prayer. This prayer that works. This prayer that brings rain. Pray with expectation. I would love to know what Peter prayed. After praying in faith Peter said, "Tabatha, arise." And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. Acts 9:41, 42 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

The little seaport village of Joppa was electrified. It changed the whole church! In the Bible Joppa is famous for two things: Peter healing Dorcas and what else? Jonah. This is the same city where Jonah fled from God. Two men in the same city. One deserts God and loses the flame,4. and the other taps into God's power to bring a woman up from death.

Dorcas was back to begin again her benevolence to the towns needy people. You might think, Why doesn't God heal me? Actually He will in His own time. We will all be healed at the resurrection.

Let's read the last verse of chapter nine. Acts 9:43: Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.

When you study the Bible go slow. Ask questions. You might learn something from every simple verse. So, let's go through this a little bit. Let's ask: Why did Peter stay with Simon? Maybe Peter loved the location there by the sea where so many were fishing. Maybe he stayed with Simon because Peter's name used to be Simon. "Here's somebody with my name." Maybe that's the reason. I don't know. But what can possibly be the significance of Peter lodging with Simon? Simon's occupation was that of a tanner. He tanned the hides of animals. Tanners were not reputable because they touched dead bodies of animals. For a Jew to touch a dead body made him ceremonially unclean. A tanner was somebody you would never associate with. This tanner touched dead bodies all day long. He was socially scorned. So what do we make of Peter staying many days with a tanner? Tanners were some of the worse of the worst. Peter stayed with the tanner. So, what does that mean? Well, Peter is straying further and further from Judaism and more and more into the true heart of Christianity. He's losing his prejudice. He's becoming friends with sinners just like Jesus was. And that's a valuable lesson that you can learn from this last verse, small though it may be.

The mighty flame in the heart of Dorcas died but Christ through Peter raised up the flame and brought it back to life. If your flame is about extinguished, perhaps you also need a miracle. Come to Jesus. Jesus specializes in raising flames that have died or are about to sputter out. You can again burn brightly for God. Pray that the miracle of Dorcas might be yours.

Next week: Spreading the Flame.


Endnotes:

1. Acts of the Apostles by E.G. White, p. 131.2.

2. Exodus 4:2 NKJV.

3. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, by E. G. White, p. 304.

4. Jonah 2:2.

Sources:

Exploring Acts, by John Phillips, 1986, Moody Press Chicago.

The Communicator's Commentary, Volume 5, by Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Word Books, Waco, Texas 1983.

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, DC., 1957.

The Acts of the Apostles, by Ellen G. White, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California, 1911.

The Pulpit Commentary, by H. Spence and Joseph Exell. Funk and Wagnalls Company, London volume 41.

Matthew Henry's Commentary volume VI, Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1935.

Pastor's Annual 1997 p. 136

Hymn of Praise: #3, God Himself Is With Us
Scripture: Acts 9:40-42
Hymn of Response: #171, Thine Is The Glory



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