Here is a gold mine for the preacher, the teacher and the father and mother in the home who have it in mind to inculcate sound teaching, based upon the Word of God, so that the boys and girls of the congregations, Sunday-Schools and households may be thoroughly rooted and grounded in the essentials of the Christian faith. There are many volumes in this series of short addresses and they cover the entire range of the Holy Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation. The material gathered here is fresh and varied and there is just enough of it to furnish the groundwork of the preacher's sermon, the Sunday school teacher's talk and the parent's reading and comment. Contents: Luke. Trying To See Into Heaven. Better Than Gold. Like To Like. Stubborn Peter. The Angel Face. Straight Street. A Chosen Vessel. Seaside Lodgings. "People, Be Good." John Mark. Stand On Your Own Feet. Upside Down And Right Side Up. Something New. Bonfires. Sleepy-Head. The Land Of By-And-By. Children Of The South Wind. A Bundle Of Sticks. The Twin Brothers. Chains.
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CHILDREN'S GREAT BIBLE TEXTS
THE BOOK OF ACTS
Trying To See Into Heaven.
Better Than Gold.
Like To Like.
The Angel Face.
A Chosen Vessel.
"People, Be Good."
Stand On Your Own Feet.
Upside Down And Right Side Up.
The Land Of By-And-By.
Children Of The South Wind.
A Bundle Of Sticks.
The Twin Brothers.
The Book Of Acts, J. Hastings
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Germany
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus.— Acts i. 1.
There is a favourite composition exercise (a favourite of your teacher, I mean) which you all know. You are asked to write a letter to a friend, perhaps telling what you have done during the summer holidays, perhaps describing some event that has taken place recently in your neighbourhood. You know that that letter is going to be criticized and blue-pencilled, so you take special pains with such details as the beginning and the ending. You see that the address is neatly written in the top right-hand corner and that the date is correctly given underneath. Then you leave a space of a line or two and begin, "Dear," or "My Dear So-and-so," well to the left of the sheet. Below that but a little bit in from the margin you begin the real contents of your letter — the polite remarks about the supposed last letter you have received from your correspondent. After that you come to the information about your doings.
Now though it may not look very like it, to-day's text is the beginning of a letter. It is the beginning of a very long letter of twenty-eight chapters. And you will notice that it is written to a man called Theophilus. Who Theophilus was we do not know for certain, but he is supposed to have been a man of rank who was a follower of Christ. You will notice that the writer of the letter mentions a former letter — treatise he calls it — which he had already written to Theophilus. We have all read that letter, or bits of it. For it is the book of the Bible which we call the Gospel according to St. Luke. It was Luke who wrote both it and the Book of Acts ; and to him we owe not only a most beautiful biography of Christ, but also a history of what befell the Christians who lived in the half century immediately following Christ's death.
Who was Luke ? He is so anxious to tell us about Christ and the early Christians that he keeps himself in the background. He never mentions his own name, but all the same he lets slip a few facts about himself. In the later chapters of the Book of Acts you will notice that when he is describing some of Paul's journeys, especially his last voyage to Rome, he says, "We" did such and such. That shows that he was Paul's companion at the time. Indeed so minute are some of the descriptions that scholars think he must have copied them from a diary he kept at the time.
But though Luke was so silent about himself, Paul was not silent about him. Twice he mentions him, and each time he says something kind about him. In a letter written to the Colossians, Paul sends greetings to them from "Luke, the beloved physician." That shows us that Luke was a medical man and that he was with Paul in Rome. In the second letter to Timothy, which Paul wrote shortly before his death, he says " Only Luke is with me." That shows us that at the end of Paul's life, when some of his followers had deserted him, Luke was still faithful.
Out of these little scraps of information, a few more scraps gathered from writings of the early centuries, and a very close study of all Luke wrote, clever men have been able to piece together Luke's history and to tell us many interesting facts about him.
Luke was a Gentile, not a Jew. He first met Paul at Troas. Some think that he was the "man from Macedonia" who appeared in a dream to Paul and asked the apostle to go over into Macedonia and help them. Whether that be the case or not, he and Paul made their first missionary journey together into Macedonia. Paul was far from strong and Luke as physician was a great comfort to him. He not only took care of Paul. He helped him to heal the sick who were constantly brought to the apostle to be cured. So we may call Luke " the first medical missionary." If you read Luke's Gospel you can't help noticing how many miracles of healing he records, and how he gives details that a doctor would naturally notice.
On one occasion Luke accompanied Paul to Jerusalem. There we may be sure he met and talked with many who had known Christ on earth. You can imagine how eagerly he questioned them about the great Healer and how carefully he noted and remembered all they told him.
When Paul was at last sent as a prisoner to Rome, Luke went with him — not as a fellow-prisoner, but as a friend. He stayed long in Rome and while there he met many of those Christians whose names are mentioned in Paul's letters. He must have seen quite a lot, for instance, of John Mark, the man who wrote Mark's Gospel.
It was not till forty or fifty years after Christ's death that Luke wrote his own Gospel, but we know that what he wrote is true to all that happened, for he tells us himself that he got his information and collected his stories from those who had really seen and heard Jesus. And besides that, he had Mark's Gospel to refer to, for it was already written.
I'm afraid we don't realize how many lovely Bible stories we owe to Luke. If it had not been for him we should never have heard how the angels sang, " Glory to God in the highest," and how the shepherds heard the song and hastened to worship the Babe who lay in the manger at Bethlehem. Without Luke we should have missed the story of how Christ as a boy of twelve visited the Temple at Jerusalem and loved it so much that He stayed behind. We should never have heard the story of plucky little Zacchaeus either, and how he climbed the tree to see his Lord. As for the parables ! Why, without Luke we should have lacked the story of the Good Samaritan, the story of the Prodigal Son, the story of the Pharisee and the Publican, and oh ! ever so many more.
We need not count them all over here ; but you can try it yourselves at home. When you have done so I'm sure you will agree that had it not been for the loving pen and the tender heart of "the beloved physician," the Bible to-day would have been a poorer Book for you and me.
Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?— Acts i. ii (AV).
Have you ever watched a steamer that held a very dear friend leave the pier and steam out into the ocean? If you have, you will remember how you stood and gazed after it. You wanted to remain on the pier as long as the steamer was within sight.
Do you wonder that when Jesus was suddenly taken from the disciples they stood and gazed up into heaven ? His loss was to them like the snapping of a string. They had been trying to live lives like His, they had been strung up, so to speak, when all at once everything seemed to have gone wrong. He was absent; they were left alone. It was true to their likeness to us that they should pause and wonder. You have noticed that when a very little child misses its mother, it looks round about and for a moment wonders where she has gone. Then there follows the cry that can be stilled only by the mother coming back.
" How can we go back to the world without Him ? " the disciples asked themselves. To gaze upwards, to gaze at each other was no solution. But, " while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
The angels' promise recalled to the disciples many things Christ had said to them. They had been forgetting His teaching in thinking of Himself. They went home happy. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy. I have heard of people to whom the same feeling came when they had lost someone who was a great help. A lady heard of the death of a dear brother, who was a missionary in China. She did not cry ; she said very simply to the messenger who brought the news, " My brother is nearer me now ; he is living with God." She felt that God was their father and that heaven was their home.
After this, the disciples, as they travelled about and preached in Judaea, had great things to think about. If sometimes they longed for their Master, or wanted to be with Him, the remembrance of His message passed through their minds. Thus they went on from day to day. And thus Christ's followers are going on still.
Boys and girls, I know how happy this life feels for you. We older people sometimes envy your enjoyment of it. But we want you to know something of the unseen world round about you. There is heaven where Jesus has gone. It is not far away. We want you to think of it sometimes. We want you to remember that heaven is your lasting home and that Jesus has gone there to prepare the home for you and make it homelike. Then, when you have, like the disciples, taken a peep into heaven we want you to copy them in going back to serve Christ on earth.
The way you can do this best is to do your duty here every day. Whatever it be it is worth doing as well as you possibly can do it, for the better you do it the better you are serving Christ.
Christ is coming again. We do not know when or where ; but this eleventh verse of the first chapter of Acts tells us that He will surely come. Shall we be glad to see Him? Shall we run to meet Him and welcome Him ? Why, of course we shall ! Not we only, but all who love Him.
An Englishman who was travelling in the Soudan awoke one day from his mid-day siesta to find a noble-looking old Arab standing patiently beside him. The Arab greeted him courteously and then inquired anxiously, " Has the prophet Jesus come back to earth yet ? " " No," said the Englishman, " not yet." " Do you know when He is coming ? " persisted the Arab. " No," again replied the traveller, " No one knows that." " Ah," said the Arab, sadly, " I hoped you might know. Because when He comes I should not like to miss Him. I should like to see Him and I should like to give Him greeting."
Silver and gold have I none ; but what I have, that give I thee.— Acts iii. 6.
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