Category Archives: Faith

Offering Our Isaac

Text: Genesis 22:1-19

Sheep and lambProps: a picture of a lamb

Summary: God tested Abraham’s faith when he told him to offer his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham did not withhold his son and passed the test. Do we have something we hold more dearly than God? We need to offer our “Isaac” to God to be in a right relationship with Him.

How many of you have ever seen a lamb? They are very gentle animals and they have woolly coats that we use to make soft clothes. A long time ago, people would use these innocent lambs for a sacrifice to God. When they killed the lamb, the lamb would be burned on an altar to God to take away their sins.

Abraham was a great man of faith. God tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham had to travel three days to the land of Moriah to the place God told him to go. This area was the same place where Jerusalem is today. It was as if God was asking Abraham to do something he would do himself when Jesus became the Lamb of God at Golgotha many years later. Where Abraham’s offering would only cover his sins, Jesus’ death was to cover the sins of everyone who ever lived and trusted in him.

God Will Provide the Lamb
God Will Provide the Lamb by Erik Hollander provided courtesy of Christ-Centered Art.

Abraham was attentive to God’s call. Many times when God would call his name, Abraham would answer “Here I am.” Are we listening for God’s voice speaking to our hearts? When Isaac and Abraham came near to the place for the sacrifice, Isaac asked him where was the lamb for the sacrifice? He didn’t realize that Abraham was planning to use him for the lamb. Abraham answered him in faith: “God will provide himself a lamb.” When Abraham took the knife to slay Isaac, the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and prevented him. God realized that Abraham was obedient, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his only son. Abraham had the faith to believe that if it was God’s will for him to take the life of Isaac, God also had the power to raise him from the dead.

God blessed Abraham for being obedient. He said he would “multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” (verse 17) This meant that Abraham would be blessed with many descendants. Are we willing to offer our “Isaac”? Are we willing to give to God the one thing we cherish most? For us to be in a right relationship with God, we must be willing to put Him first above all else. We can thank God that he was willing to give his only son, our Savior Jesus, as the one sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

Adapted from “Giving Up Your Isaac” as told by Rev. Lewis Shaffer, Son Shine Ministries International Inc. Used by permission.

Walls of Jericho

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. – Hebrews 11:30,31

Text: Joshua 6; Hebrews 11:30

crystal glassProp: a crystal glass, half-filled with water

Summary: Joshua obeyed God at Jericho to begin the Israelite conquest of Canaan. God gave the battle plan and the Israelites acted in faith. Archaeologists confirmed the historical accuracy of the Bible in the ruins of ancient Jericho.

Today I want to tell you about the battle of Jericho. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Joshua and the people of Israel had crossed the stopped waters of the Jordan River (another miracle!) and now were ready to begin to conquer the land of Canaan. Joshua was an experienced military leader, but nothing in all his military training could have prepared him for God’s plan to take Jericho. He would have to act on faith and trust God for the victory.

Jericho is considered the oldest known inhabited city in the world. Around 1400 B.C. Joshua laid siege to the fortress city. The armies of Israel surrounded it so that no one could enter or leave it. Our Lord Jesus is named with the same name as Joshua, Yeshua in Hebrew, which means “Jehovah is Savior.” Before the battle began, the captain of the host of Israel (Joshua) had an encounter with the captain of the Lord of hosts (Jesus). Joshua worshipped Him and listened carefully to the battle plan. He spoke as if the city of Jericho was already won. This surely strengthened Joshua’s faith. He was being told the future before it even happened by God!

This was the plan: For six days the army would circle the city once while the priests blew their ram’s horns. The priests with trumpets went first, then the priests which carried the Ark of the Covenant, then the army. The only sound would be the sound of the horns; no one could speak a word. Then on the seventh day, they would circle the city seven times in the same manner, and then when Joshua gave the signal, they would shout with a great shout. Then the walls would fall flat and they would run into the city and burn everything and everyone in it.

Joshua had a great test of faith. Would he try his own brilliant military plan, or completely trust God and obey in faith? He had an intelligence report from the spies, and might have even drawn some plan of attack. If you think Joshua had a hard time believing God, we are not told anything about it. Let me try something with you. Do you see this crystal glass? Here’s my plan: I’m going to get this glass to sing. Yes, sing! Do you have faith that I can do it? [Listen for answers] Watch now, while I make this glass sing. [Fill the glass halfway with water. Dip your index finger in the water and gently rub a circle around the inner rim of the glass until the vibration produces a humming sound. When the humming gets louder, say “It’s singing! Do you hear it?”] Never underestimate the power of faith.

Just as I rubbed my finger around this glass, the army of Israel marched around Jericho as God commanded while the priests blew the horns. They may have been tired of covering the same ground over and over again each day, but they obeyed God exactly. As Christians, we may tire of dealing with the same problem over and over again, but we can trust God to help us. Finally, on the seventh day after the seventh time around the city, Joshua gave the command and everyone yelled as loud as they could shout. Let’s try it now, everyone shout! [Hold your ears] Then a great miracle of faith happened: the walls fell out from the city, flat on the ground, making a ramp for the invading Israelite army! They ran straight in and burned everything. The only family who survived inside Jericho was Rahab and her family. She had helped the spies and was later a part of the ancestry line of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) because she had faith to trust God to save her.

Archaeologists (people who dig up old places) have found these ancient walls of brick, and the burned remains of the city. We can trust what the Bible says. The Bible is an accurate record of history. Nothing was taken from the city. Joshua put a curse on Jericho and no one ever rebuilt it on the same site again. God was determined to wipe out the idol worship and practices in Canaan. God began the conquest of Canaan with this miraculous victory at Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down!

©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Spies in the Land

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us, a land which floweth with milk and honey. – Numbers 14:8

Text: Numbers 13:30-31;14:6-9

Summary: The return of the spies from Canaan shows the faith of Joshua and Caleb and explains why the children of Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness. God has given us a mission to spread the good news in every land.

glass of waterProp: a glass of water filled halfway

Look at this glass of water. Is it half empty? Or is it half full? I suppose your answer depends on your point of view. If you tend to think the worst of a situation, you might be negative and say half the water is used up. If you tend to be positive and think the best of a situation, you might say the glass is half full and could hold more. Our opinions tend to be either negative or positive depending on how we see our circumstances.

Today I want to tell you the story of how God sent spies into Canaan and what happened to them. First God delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and miraculously divided the Red Sea so they could escape the Egyptian army. Then God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. At last they were ready to enter the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the land of Canaan. As they were getting close, God told Moses to send twelve spies (one from each tribe) into the land and give a report of what they found. They searched in Canaan for 40 days. They saw a land that flowed with milk and honey. That means it had plenty of food, water, and rich soil that would be good for growing crops and raising animals. They also saw many different tribes of people that lived there, including some giants.

(Read text.)

The Return of the Spies
The Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise by Gustave Doré (1832-1883). Scan courtesy of The Doré Bible.

Ten spies gave an evil report and were afraid of the large men in the land, and felt as grasshoppers compared to the giants (Numbers 13:32-33). Joshua and Caleb were ready to follow God’s orders to enter the land, trusting God to protect them. They were full of faith and courage. All twelve spies saw the same things, but Joshua and Caleb were mindful of God’s presence with them. They were confident that God would lead them to victory over their enemies.

Because most of the people were unwilling to follow God’s plan, God was unhappy and punished them. God told Moses that none of the men over age 20 (except Joshua and Caleb*) would enter the Promised Land. God punished them by delaying their entry to Canaan by 40 years. That was a year of wandering in the wilderness for each day the spies had spent searching the land (Numbers 14:34). After 40 years all the disobedient people had died and only their children (which by then were grown) were able to enter Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. Joshua and Caleb were rewarded because they wholly followed the call of God (Joshua 14:8).

Although we are not spies, God has sent us on a mission to tell the good news of Jesus Christ in the world (Matthew 28:19-20). As we search the land we may see many enemies of the cross, but we should not be afraid. Jesus said, In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Because we know that God is leading us, we can be confident to tell others about Jesus.

*This means only two out of about 600,000 men living then survived to enter Canaan!

©2001 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Journey to Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. – Hebrews 11:8

Text: Genesis 12:1-4, 7, 15:6, 17:5; Galatians 3:14; John 8:56

Prop: A “Moving Sale” sign or poster of Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Summary: The story of Abraham’s journey to faith. His blessing to us was realized in Jesus Christ.

This sign says, “Moving Sale.” If you were going to move away you might sell some of your belongings to reduce the amount of items you had to pack for the trip. It takes a lot of effort to move a long way. How many of you would be willing to pack up all your stuff to move if you didn’t even know where you were going? (Look for a show of hands.) That is exactly what Abram did when God promised to bless him. Today I want to tell you how Abram took a journey and became known as Abraham, the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:5)

(Read Genesis 12:1-4)

When Abram was 75 years old God called him. It was time to move (again)*. Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan. When he arrived in Shechem the Lord appeared to Abram and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. (Genesis 12:7) It became clear to Abram that God planned for him to have a child and to receive this particular area of land as a reward. At first Abram showed great faith by leaving his home without knowing where God would lead him, but he was not a perfect person. At times he took matters into his own hands instead of trusting God.

No sooner had he arrived than a famine arose in Canaan. A famine is when you want food but there isn’t any. Abram continued to journey south to Egypt so he would not starve. He was scared that the Egyptians would kill him to take his wife because she was very pretty. So he asked her to say she was his sister but this placed her in danger. It was cowardly of him to use her this way to protect himself. Nevertheless God was faithful to Abram and kept his promise.

Abram returned to Canaan after the famine had passed. As time went by he still did not have a child because Sarai (pronounced SAR-ay-eye) was not able to have a baby. Abram decided to make a future for himself instead of waiting on God’s promise. Sarai convinced Abram to take her Egyptian maid Hagar as a second wife, and she gave birth to Ishmael. God continued to help Abram grow in faith over the years. One day God reminded Abram that he was going to keep his promise and Abram finally believed. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

Before a son was born miraculously to Sarai, God changed her name to Sarah (which means “princess”) and changed Abram’s name to Abraham (which means “father of a lot of people”). It was apparent that God had big plans for Abraham. Even though Abraham laughed at God when God promised him a son by Sarah, God was faithful. When Sarah was 90 and Abraham 100 years old, their son Isaac (which means “laughter”) was born.

A few years later God tested Abraham’s faith. He told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham loved his son with all his heart but by this time in his walk with God, Abraham was willing to obey God and trust Him for the future, believing God’s promise. God spared Isaac because Abraham showed he loved God even more than his beloved son. Abraham’s journey of faith was now complete.

This story teaches us that God is willing to work with less than perfect people (sinners) that come to him in faith. God is always faithful to keep his promises. We must learn to be patient and wait on God. It was nearly 800 years before Abraham’s descendants owned the Promised Land and many more years before it became the great nation of Israel. But the greatest blessing we have from Abraham is that eventually one of his descendants was Jesus Christ, who brought the offer of salvation to all people (see Galatians 3:14). As it was with Abraham, our journey to faith leads us to Jesus, who said, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. (John 8:56)

*His father Terah left Ur in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) and headed for Canaan with the whole family when Abram was 70 years old. He followed along the Euphrates River, but settled about halfway around the Arabian desert in Haran. He died there at age 205.

Alternate introduction: (Show poster of stars.) How many stars are there? Too many to count. Today I want to talk about a man that God promised would have descendants (his children and their children and so on) more than the number of stars. God told Abram this before he ever had a child. Let’s learn about his journey to faith, trusting in God and what he was told.

©2001 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Moses Lost and Found

Text: Exodus 1:22-2:10; Matthew 16:25; Acts 7:22

Prop: a poster of baby Moses or a cardboard box labeled “lost and found” with several items in it

Summary: Moses was rescued and reared by Pharaoh’s daughter. God seeks to find the lost.

This box from the school office has a few items in it that were lost and found. Here is a sweater. I wonder if the boy who lost it tried to find it once he realized it was missing? Here is a math book. Maybe that was lost on purpose! I don’t see any really expensive items in this box. I suppose when something really nice is found a person might be tempted to keep it, even though it belongs to someone else. Could you imagine what would happen if a baby was lost? Today I want to tell you about the baby Moses and how he was lost and found.

The ruler of Egypt, the Pharaoh, feared that the Hebrews were growing in power because they were growing in number. The ruler decided that he would not let the males (boys) live when they were born. They were to be thrown in the river (to drown). What a horrible thing to do! (Read Exodus 1:22-2:4.)

Moses’ parents were from the tribe of Levi. The Levites were priests. Moses’ mother hid her baby until he was three months old. Then she knew the only way to save him was to “lose” him. So she made a basket of papyrus (pronounced puh-PIE-russ) branches, covered it with tar so it would not sink, and placed him inside it. Then she placed the basket among the reeds in the Nile River. She told his older sister Miriam to watch the basket to see what happened. In this simple act of faith she trusted God to care for her infant son.

(Read Exodus 2:5-10.) Moses was not lost very long. About this time the daughter of Pharaoh came out to bathe. She saw the basket and told her maids to get it. When she heard the baby cry she had pity and decided to adopt him. She named him Moses because he was drawn from the water. Miriam suggested that a Hebrew woman (the baby’s mother) could nurse him. One of the hardest things a mother has to do is let go of her child when he is grown. It must have been especially hard for Moses’ mother to let go of her baby (after he was weaned). The only way to save his life was to give him up to be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Our Lord Jesus calls us to let go of our own selfish wants and to serve him. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. – Matthew 16:25 The mother was unselfish and trusted God to care for baby Moses. In doing so God was able to use the Pharaoh to rear and educate the man who would lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom later. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. (Acts 7:22)

Through the ages God has found the lost. He wants everyone to come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Will you trust him as your Savior today? Just as Moses was lost and found in the Nile, Jesus is ready to find you where you are today.

©2002 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Without a Doubt

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. – Acts 1:3

Text: John 20:24-31

Prop: Kool-Aid ® Changin’ Cherry Magic Twists™ (green drink mix turns blue but tastes like red cherry).

Summary: The disciple Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen. The Lord Jesus proved to him that he was alive again.

Preparation: Remove drink mix from pouch and place in a clear unmarked plastic bag. Prepare a large pitcher of pre-sweetened water in advance. Provide paper cups for the children to enjoy the refreshment after the children’s sermon.

I need someone to help me today. Who is willing to help? [Select a volunteer.) I like Kool-Aid ® when I get thirsty. Do you have a favorite flavor? (Listen to answers.) I like red cherry myself. Here it is. (Show the green drink mix in the bag.) Uh, oh. Maybe I made a mistake. This may be lime or watermelon flavor because it is colored green. I will pour it in the pitcher of water anyway. (Pour in mix, stir it, and watch it turn blue.) What? I thought it would turn green. Could this be blueberry flavored? I thought it was supposed to look red for cherry flavored. Let me get my helper to taste it and tell me what flavor it is. (Pour a small amount in cups for child and yourself.) Hmm. It tastes like cherry to me! (Ask child for agreement.) Is it cherry flavored? (Yes.) Thank you for helping me. In a moment we will all have some for a refreshment. [Set pitcher aside or give to another adult.)

What if I had told you beforehand that the Kool-Aid ® was a green mix that would turn blue but taste like cherry. Would you have believed me? (Listen to responses.) It does sound a bit far-fetched or hard to believe. I think some of us would have to see it to believe it. Our Bible story today is about the disciples on Easter day. They were told something even more incredible that seemed hard to believe: that Jesus had risen from the dead!

Jesus had been killed by nailing him to a cross and then he was buried. After three days on Sunday morning the disciples heard from Mary Magdalene (and others) that Jesus was alive again. It seemed hard to believe but it was true. As the disciples were hiding in a room behind closed doors, suddenly the Lord Jesus appeared before them! They were glad to see Jesus, but one disciple named Thomas was not with them at the time.

(Read John 20:24-31.)

Thomas did not believe the story that Jesus had risen until he saw Jesus again in person. Thomas had a doubt, or a moment of unbelief. He has been called “doubting Thomas” because he wanted proof before he would believe that Jesus was alive again. Jesus wants us to believe in him without a doubt. He always looks for our faith. While the world tells us that seeing is believing, the Bible teaches us to believe it and we will see it. Let us live in a manner that others may see our faith in the Lord Jesus.

©2003 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Faith that Works

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor. – Proverbs 22:9

Text: Proverbs 22:9; James 2:14-17

balloonsProp: some latex balloons of different colors

Summary: God wants us to put our faith into action. We should help the poor and needy.

Look at these balloons I brought with me today. I like balloons. They remind me of birthday parties. Let me ask you something. Would this balloon make anyone smile if I merely tied a string to it and let it dangle? No, of course not. I have to work and blow some air into it to make it become a real decoration. I will do that now. [Inflate a balloon.) Wow! This is a pretty balloon! What would happen if I do not tie the end of the balloon and let go of it? Yes, it will go flying off wildly until all the air goes out. I will tie the end so the air will stay in and then I can use it for a decoration. This balloon is like having faith that works. Let’s read what the Bible says about our faith.

(Read James 2:14-17.)

In the Epistle by James, he told Christians to show their faith by putting it into action. Like a balloon without air, our faith is meaningless unless we put it to work. If we see a poor person who needs food and clothing, it is not enough to say “I hope your situation improves.” That would be like letting go of the untied balloon and letting all the air out. We would just be full of hot air and of no use to him. If we are able to help him, we should give him something to eat and clothes to wear. That makes our faith in God like a beautiful decoration, a tied balloon filled with air. That is faith that works. Many places in the Bible teach that we should help the poor and needy. Listen to this verse from Proverbs:

(Read Proverbs 22:9.)

The person with a bountiful eye is a person who looks for a chance to help others. That person is willing to share what God has given him with others, especially the poor. The Bible says that anyone who helps the poor will be blessed, or happy, because he is doing what God wants him to do. That is a great example of loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). That is what James meant when he said not to simply hear the word of God, but to do something about it (James 1:22).

Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, let me be like a pretty balloon and have faith that works by helping others, especially the poor. Amen.

Teacher’s note: Balloons may be a choking hazard to small children. You may want to provide a balloon that the teacher inflates for each child old enough to keep it as a reminder of the lesson.

©2003 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Live by Faith

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. – John 1:17

Text: Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:50; Habakkuk 2:4

Prop: a school report card or test score of “A”

Summary: We should live by faith in the Lord Jesus. We should not rely on good deeds to gain God’s favor.

Look what I am holding in my hand. It is a report card.([Show the report card.) Yes, believe it or not, I was once your age and attended school. I tried to study hard and make good grades. My parents always encouraged me to do my best, but they never judged me by whether I made an “A” or not. It was more important to have good study habits than to make a good grade on a test. If I knew how to study, then I could learn. My parents loved me no matter what sort of grades I made. I did not have to rely on making good grades to gain their approval or love. The Bible verse for today is about how we should live by faith and not rely on doing good deeds to gain God’s favor.

(Read Galatians 2:16.)

This verse teaches Christians to live by faith in the Lord Jesus. That means to trust Jesus to make us acceptable to God. We could not follow all the rules in the Bible to perfection and get to heaven by our best efforts. We must trust what God has done for us. Jesus died for us on the cross and rose from the dead. Our good deeds are a response to what God has done for us by his mercy and grace. The good deeds themselves are not what causes God to accept us. God loves us before we love him. The apostle Paul echoed the words of the prophet Habakkuk from long ago: “the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Jesus always looks for our faith in God. In one story, a woman who had done bad things came to Jesus and kissed his feet. She cried tears on his feet and washed them off with her hair. She was sorry for all the bad things she had done. She trusted Jesus to forgive her. The religious leaders had given up on her and did not want to help her. But Jesus did not give up on her. He forgave her sins. “And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50) Neither will the Lord Jesus ever give up on us. He looks for our faith in him also.

Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, help us to live by faith in you every day. Amen.

©2004 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

From Fear to Faith

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. – Joshua 1:9

Text: Luke 8:50; Matthew 14:27; Luke 12:32

Prop: object that will make a loud noise (horn, buzzer, balloon popping)

Summary: God helps us move from fear to faith quickly.

Some things cause us to fear. God does not want us to be fearful. Think for a moment about what might scare you. Some of us are afraid when the lights suddenly go out during a thunderstorm and we are in the dark. Some of us might be startled and scared by a loud noise, such as when a balloon pops, or a loud car horn blows. Or this (make the loud noise with your noise-maker). Did that scare you? (listen to responses) God gave us a “startle reflex” to help us when we are in danger. It causes our heart to beat faster and gives us a sudden burst of energy to run away. Today’s Bible verses are about how we should move quickly from fear (being afraid) to faith (trusting in God) no matter what happens.

(Read Luke 8:50.)

This verse is from the miracle when Jesus brought the daughter of Jairus back to life. Imagine seeing the father of the 12-year-old little girl. As he asked for help, friends from his home told him that his daughter had died. Jesus helped the father to trust in God in that very moment and told him these very important words: Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. We should trust Jesus whenever we are afraid and our fear will turn to peace. You know how that story ended: Jesus called her back to life and she came alive!

What if you thought you were seeing a ghost! That would be very scary! The disciples (followers of Jesus) were in a boat late one night, crossing a lake, and the wind was blowing hard and making big waves. They saw Jesus walking on the water and thought they were seeing a spirit (ghost). They cried out for fear. But Jesus did not want them to be afraid and spoke to them: Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. (Matthew 14:27) Even in moments when we are frightened, Jesus wants us to trust him. Jesus takes the storm out of us (calms us) before he takes us out of the storm.

Jesus always looks for our faith in God. Jesus tells us to seek God first in all we do, and that God will take care of our needs. We serve a loving God that wants us to enjoy his goodness. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said: Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32) As we grow older, God wants us to “grow up” spiritually to be more mature Christians. That means when we find ourselves in times of trouble, to move as quickly as we can from fear to faith: from being afraid, to trusting God in all circumstances.

Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, give us courage to trust you. Help us move from fear to faith quickly. Amen.

©2009 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.