Category Archives: Discipleship

From Epiphany to Lent

As we begin 2016 we can share the story of Nehemiah teaching the scriptures to the people at the Water Gate of Jerusalem. When we celebrate the beginning of the Season of Epiphany, we start with Wise Men Worship Jesus, the story of the wise men from the east. Then the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated with the story of John the Baptist witnessing to Jesus as Messiah, in Soul-ed Out for Jesus. In the USA, we can commemorate the advancement of civil rights on the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Samaritan Neighbor. Continuing in Epiphany, we celebrate the first public miracle recorded that Jesus performed in turning water into wine with the Miracle in Cana. The next week is Transfiguration Sunday, with the story of Jesus transforming in the presence of three disciples with Power Ranger. Alternately, in the USA we can get an interesting twist on Super Bowl Sunday with The Super Bowl. As we enter the Season of Lent, the protection of God’s children is explained in Angels Watching Over Me. Then we learn of how God transformed Abram into Abraham, the father of multitudes, in Journey to Faith.

Chariot of Fire

Text: 2 Kings 2:7-12

Prop: A poster of Elijah and Elisha or a runner’s baton

Summary: The story of Elijah passing his mantle to Elisha. Before God took Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire, he prepared his follower to continue the Lord’s work.

Have you ever watched the Olympics on TV? When runners are in a relay race, each runner goes all the way around the track and then hands off a stick (or baton) to the next runner. Then that runner takes it on the next part of the race and hands it off again. Life in God’s kingdom is like a relay race. We are each responsible for running our part of the race, and then handing off, or passing on our faith, to the next generation of children that follow us.

I want to tell you a story about the day the great prophet Elijah did this with the man he had trained to follow in his footsteps: Elisha. They weren’t running in a race. The prophets in those days wore something called a mantle. It was like a cloak, or overcoat. It was a symbol of their authority from God to be a prophet.

Now Elijah had performed many great miracles in his day. He predicted a drought and lived through it. He overthrew the false prophets of Baal when God sent fire down from heaven and consumed a water-drenched sacrifice. He trained and anointed Elisha to succeed him, or to take over when he was old. Elijah knew that the time had come to pass the mantle on to Elisha. What Elisha didn’t know was that God was sending a heavenly taxi to pick up Elijah before he died.

Elijah wanted to do this alone, but Elisha begged him to let him come along. Elisha loved Elijah and he wanted to be with him no matter what happened. Elijah wrapped his mantle together and struck the waters of the Jordan River and they parted, and then they walked over on dry ground. Fifty sons of the prophets were standing afar off and saw this happen.

(Read 2 Kings 2:9) Elisha asked for a special blessing. He wanted to be twice the man of God that Elijah had been. Elijah told him that if he saw God take him then he would get his wish.

(Read 2 Kings 2:11-12)

Elisha was astonished at what he saw happen next. He saw horses of fire and a chariot of fire come down from the sky in a whirlwind. It passed between them and took Elijah off to heaven! Wow! Can you imagine seeing the wind rushing around and a heavenly horse and chariot that was so shiny it sparkled like fire? It didn’t burn Elijah. It came to pick him up and Elijah dropped his mantle as he was whisked away up in the air. Elisha picked it up and became the next great prophet of Israel. We don’t see Elijah any more again until he appears with Moses beside the transfigured Jesus in all his glory. (Mark 9:4)

Elisha went on to perform many mighty miracles also. He used the mantle to cross back over the Jordan River on dry ground. He saved a poor widow by multiplying the oil in her jar. He raised a child from the dead! He saved a school of prophets from death during a famine when they ate poisonous vegetables. He healed the Syrian captain Naaman of leprosy. This gave Elisha a good influence with the Syrian king that later helped Israel (Luke 4:27).

The adults here today have a duty from God to train you, the children, to grow up with a strong faith in Jesus. May we learn from this story to train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6), so we may see many of you come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Follow Me

Text: Luke 5:27-28

Prop: a poster of Footprints.

Summary: Jesus calls us to follow him.

How many of you have ever played “Simon Says?” (Show of hands.) Let’s try it.([Test them to see if they follow directions.) Today I want to talk to you about what it means to follow Jesus.

One day Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi while he was working. Collecting taxes was not a fun job because nobody liked the person who made you pay taxes. Some tax collectors were crooked and took up more tax than they were supposed to take and they spent this extra money on themselves. Jesus didn’t look at Levi for the job he held, or what other people thought about him, he looked at his heart and told him Follow me.

What happened next is one of the most amazing things recorded in the Bible. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. The Bible says that Levi walked off the job, leaving the money behind. He completely left his old way of life and started to follow Jesus immediately. He didn’t want to continue living in sin, doing bad things. He decided right then and there to leave his old ways behind him and start a new life. When someone turns away from doing bad things, we call that repentance. When a person does what God says to do, we call that obedience. Levi did both.

Just as Levi followed Jesus, we are called to follow Jesus also. Jesus knows that we all have sinned and need to repent of our sins. He wants to give us a chance to turn away from doing bad things, and start doing good things. He has given us an example in the Bible of how to live as he lived, without ever doing anything wrong. Does that mean we will be perfect? No, it only means that is what we should try to do.

Just as it’s hard to play “Simon Says” and not make any mistakes, it’s hard to live a perfect life without making mistakes. God knows we will make mistakes, but he wants us to ask Jesus to forgive us when we sin and do bad things. Then we can be closer to God and be followers of Jesus.

©1999 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Peter’s Pledge

Text:
Matthew 16:13-17
Prop:
National flag or Christian flag

Summary:

Peter confessed that he believed Jesus was the Son of God.

How many of you know the Pledge of Allegiance? Here in America we stand to recite it at the beginning of the school day. When we make a pledge we are promising to do something. When we pledge our allegiance we promise to stand up for something no matter what it may cost us. To be willing to do that we must really believe in the truth of what we are standing up for. Many patriots gave their lives (the ultimate sacrifice) for what the United States flag stands for. As we near our celebration of Independence Day (July 4), it reminds me of the time Peter stood up for Jesus. Some people only remember that Peter denied Jesus. I want to tell you about the time Peter pledged allegiance to Jesus.

Jesus was on a trip to a secluded area. Caesarea Philippi lies at the extreme northern boundary of Palestine. Perhaps the disciples were on a retreat to relax and reflect on all the miracles Jesus had performed. Jesus asked them who people thought he was. The disciples answered that the people thought he was a great prophet of God.

This was true. Jesus was a great prophet. So then Jesus asked his disciples directly, But whom say ye that I am? This is the most important question we will ever be asked. What are we to think of Jesus? How will we answer that question? How we answer that question will determine where we spend eternity (either in heaven or hell).

Read:

Matthew 16:16

Peter's Pledge

Peter stood up to pledge allegiance to Jesus. He believed Jesus was the Son of God, the Christ (or anointed One). Jesus said that God the Father had revealed this to Peter. God the Father shows who Jesus is to each of us. If we believe that Jesus was a holy man only, then we never accept his sacrifice on the cross for our sins. If we believe he is the only Son of God, then we can believe on Him as our Savior. As we pause to thank God for our freedom and our many blessings on this Independence Day, let’s remember how important it is to confess Jesus as our Savior.

©1999 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Soul-ed Out for Jesus

Text: Mark 1:4-11

ticketsProp: Some movie or theater tickets.

Summary: John the Baptist was completely committed to preparing the way for Jesus. He pointed others to Jesus.

Have you ever been to a movie or theater play that was so popular that all the tickets sold out? People stand in line for hours to get tickets to great performances or events. Today I want to tell you about the person who was the warm-up act for Jesus. His purpose in life was to get people ready for Jesus. His name was John, and he became known as John the Baptist.

(Read Mark 1:4-7.) Large crowds came from all over the land of Judea to hear John preach. John had sell-out crowds because he was sold out for Jesus. John drew large numbers of people because he was completely committed to the task God had given him. He urged people to repent of their sins. He baptized them with water. This was a visible way of cleansing people, of washing away their sins. He was preparing their hearts for a very important person: Jesus!

John the Baptist used every chance to tell others that Jesus was coming. He pointed others to Jesus. He did not try to take credit for himself. In fact, he was so humble that he didn’t even consider himself worthy to be a servant to Jesus and carry his sandals (verse 7). The people were eager to hear what this wild man in the wilderness had to say. John was wearing clothes made from camel’s hair and living off the land, eating locusts and wild honey. John did not try to change his message to suit his audience. He boldly proclaimed the message God told him to give. He stayed focused on his mission of preparing the way for Jesus.

(Read Mark 1:8.) John baptized with water but he knew Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John prepared their hearts so Jesus could change their lives. We are called to give our lives and our souls to Jesus. We need to be sold out for Jesus like John the Baptist was, or you might say, Soul-ed out for Jesus. If we do that, then Jesus will change our lives. The servant who is totally committed to God’s will and following Jesus will be used in a mighty way by God.

Dear Lord Jesus: Help me to dedicate myself to following you more closely each day. Amen.

©2002 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Ready to Serve

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
Buckingham Palace GuardTo serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
— poet John Milton, On His Blindness, a sonnet from Poems, 1673.
Image Copyright 1998 Jonathan Eoyang. Used by permission.

Text: John 1:43-45; Mark 1:16-20

Prop: A picture of guard or soldier standing on watch.

Summary: The first disciples that Jesus called were ready to serve. They dropped everything and followed him.

Look at this picture I brought today. (Show prop.) This is a guard in front of Buckingham Palace in London, England. This guard does not have to actively defend what he is protecting right now. He is on watch duty. He is ready to serve if the situation demands action. Today I want to tell you about some of the people that Jesus called to follow him as he began his earthly ministry. They were ready to serve also.

Several verses in the Bible tell us how Jesus called his disciples (followers) and who they were. Simon and Andrew were brothers and fishermen. James and John were brothers and fishermen as well. Let’s read about them. (Read Mark 1:16-20.) Wow! The Bible says when Jesus called these men they dropped everything and followed him immediately. They left their fishing nets and family members because they were ready to serve.

When Jesus said to Levi (Matthew) the tax collector, Follow me, he got an immediate response. Levi walked off the job to follow him (see Luke 5:27-28). Let’s read about another disciple. (Read John 1:43-45.) When Jesus called Philip the first thing Philip did was tell a friend that he had found the one Moses and the prophets had written about, the Messiah. He was excited and ready to serve because he knew he was following God’s Son, Jesus.

What a great example we have from these first disciples, which were later called apostles. They were ready to serve. Are you? Sooner or later you will be called to serve God. We all get called, but not everyone answers God’s call to service. Are you like that when your parents ask you to do a chore around the house? Do you act like you didn’t hear them tell you to pick up your room or take out the trash? When you are young and learning to obey your parents, they are helping you get ready to serve God one day. They are teaching you the importance of responsibility, duty, and service to others. People that serve God do not think of it as a chore, but a wonderful privilege. I hope you will be ready to serve God one day.

©2002 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Here I Am

That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. – 1 Samuel 3:4

Text: 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Prop: the Dr. Seuss children’s book Green Eggs and Ham

Summary: The young boy Samuel learns to listen to God.

One of my favorite books for children is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. The main character in the book is Sam-I-Am. He tries to convince another person to eat green eggs and ham. Green eggs are a breakfast item made of eggs with spinach or another green vegetable. Do you like to try new green vegetables? (Listen to answers.) No? Neither did the character in the book, who replied:

I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE
I do not like green eggs and ham
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

You will have to read the book to find out if he ever does try the green eggs and ham and whether or not he likes them. Today’s story from the book of Samuel is about the young boy Samuel. Samuel is being called to serve God. In the story, at first Sam thinks his teacher Eli is the one calling his name aloud. After three times of answering Eli, “Here I am,” Eli realizes that God is calling young Samuel. So Eli tells Samuel to listen to God the next time he calls.

I would like to share this story in a rhyme (in English) as a tribute to God, who gives us our gifts.

Young boy Sam was lying down
His teacher Eli was in his gown
Eli’s eyes were growing dim
He could not see that it was Him

The Lord called out, “Samuel, Sam!”
And Samuel answered, “Here I am!”
Sam said to Eli, “Did you call?”
And Eli said, “I don’t recall.

Lie down again. I did not call.
No I did not, not at all.”
Sam went back into the house
Where things were quiet as a mouse.

Soon the Lord called out to Sam
Sam said to Eli, “Here I am!”
“Lie down,” said Eli, “I did not call.
No I did not, not at all.”

Yet a third time God called Sam
And Samuel answered, “Here I am!”
Then Eli realized Who it was
That called to Sam. But for what cause?

So Eli wisely said to Sam
When you hear, say “Here I am!
Speak, my Lord, I’m listening still
And I am ready to do your will.”

Sam returned as he was told
He was not frightened. He was bold.
The Lord called out, “Samuel, Sam!”
And Samuel answered, “Here I am!”

Young boy Sam had heard the call
He answered bravely, but best of all
Said, “Speak, my Lord, I’m listening still
And I am ready to do your will.”

Let us pray. Dear God, help us hear when you speak and to be ready (as young Sam was) to do your will. Amen.

©2005 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, New York: Beginner Books, Random House, 1960.

The Prize

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14

Text: Philippians 3:8-15, 20-21

Prop: a prize bag for each child labeled “PRIZE” (with contents noted below)

Summary: The goal is not heaven, but to become more like Jesus every day.

Do you like to participate in contests? Most contests have only one winner or maybe a second-place and third-place winner. Today I want to tell you about a contest where everyone who plays can be a winner. Look at these prize bags. I want everyone to have one, but you must agree to play. Who will play? (Look for agreement to play.)

Okay. This is how we will play. The goal of the contest is to become more like Jesus each day. To be allowed to play, you must be willing to follow Jesus as your Savior. I know what you are thinking. You want to know what is in the prize bag! Let us look inside. [Select a bag and review the contents. The contents are five labels with a phrase and related Bible verse and some sweet candy treats. You may read the related scriptures if time permits or leave it for study time.)

1. Citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)
2. Born-Again Date ________ (John 3:7)
3. Certificate of Eternal Life (John 5:24)
4. Ticket to Resurrection of Life (John 5:29)
5. GRAND PRIZE: Becoming like Jesus (Philippians 3:10)

Wow! This bag even has some candy inside too! (Cheer.) Simply knowing Jesus as my Lord and Savior is sweeter than all the candy in the world! The game we have been playing is called Life. Everyone can play. Paul said in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The goal is not getting to a place called heaven. God has already promised that to those who have faith in Jesus (John 14:2).

The goal is to take the time God gives us on earth to become more and more like Jesus. We do that by letting God change us from the inside out. First, inwardly in our hearts, and then outwardly in the way we live and behave. Eternal life begins the moment we are born again (that is, born spiritually by our faith in Jesus). We look forward to that day of resurrection when we will be given our new heavenly bodies. Meanwhile, we spend our lives following Jesus. It is all about Jesus: learning to love Him and serve Him, day by day, and becoming more and more like Jesus every day.

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, Help me to become more like you every day. Amen.

©2003 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Casting a Net

Text: Luke 5:4-6; John 21:3-7a

Prop: A poster of disciples casting a net while fishing.

Summary: Jesus teaches us how to become fishers of men.

When Jesus first began to call his disciples, he found poor men who were hard workers and several of them were fishermen. Since Jesus knows the hearts of everyone, he knew fishermen would have some qualities that would work well when it came to telling others the good news about Jesus. For one thing, fishermen are patient. Sometimes they can go for a long time without catching anything at all. They are also hard workers. They know how to use the right bait or a strong net.

(Read Luke 5:4-6) When Jesus first met Simon (Peter), he had been out all night fishing, but had caught nothing. Jesus asked permission to step in Simon’s boat and cast out a little ways from the shore, where he could teach the people who were following him. After he finished teaching, he told Peter to go out fishing again. I can hear Peter’s exasperation in his voice as he told Jesus they had no luck last night. Jesus had a surprise for Peter. He was testing his faith. He wanted to show Peter that all things are possible with God.

Simon agreed to let Jesus give the word to cast the net. When Jesus told them, they caught so many fish the net could not hold them all and it broke. Simon immediately realized this miracle was the work of God, and confessed Jesus as Lord. He didn’t feel worthy to even be in his presence. He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. All the men were astonished. Jesus told them, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. He was going to make them disciples. He would teach them how to win others to the Lord God.

As God’s children, we are called to become fishers of men. God wants us to tell others about Jesus. God wants everyone to come to a personal relationship with Him, through a confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior. God uses men and women, boys and girls, to spread the good news. Let’s look at a similar story that happened to Peter after Jesus rose from the grave. (Read John 21:3-6]

Again, Peter had fished all night without catching anything. Jesus told them Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. When we try to do anything without God’s help, we are usually a failure. But with God’s help, we can do great things. The disciples did as the stranger on the shore told them, and made a huge catch of fish. They recognized that it was Jesus, just as he had done before. Peter caught 153 fish when he obeyed Jesus. He learned how to cast his net on the right side. Sometimes we are fishing in the wrong place. We need to be able to hear God tell us when to cast the net. He may tell us to talk to a neighbor over a fence. He may prompt us to tell a friend what God is doing for us in the school cafeteria. He may tell us just to be a friend to someone who feels lonely. Whatever it may be when God wants to use us, let’s be willing to be a fisher of men.

©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.