Category Archives: Sin

Oh No! Snakes!

Text: Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-15

Prop: a picture of a snake

Summary: God punishes sin. God provides a healing from poisonous snakebites in the wilderness for the Israelites that turn to Him in faith and look upon the bronze serpent. Jesus is the only remedy for our sin.

One day my wife was planting flowers in the garden when she began to scream. “Oh no! A snake!” I quickly brought a hoe and got rid of it. Some farmers don’t mind garden snakes because they eat rats and other rodents. Some snakes are so deadly you can die if they bite you. I hate snakes! I just think they are bad! Today I want to tell you a story about snakes from the Bible. (Read Numbers 21:5-9)

The children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness. They were tired, thirsty, hungry, and complaining. They were blaming God for their problems. They wanted more than the manna God was providing each day. They wanted to go back to their old way of life in Egypt where they were slaves. This was a sin and God punished them by sending lots of poisonous snakes among them. Can you imagine the people starting to scream “Oh no! Snakes!” and trying to get away from them? A lot of people died from the snakebites. Then they realized they had done something wrong and turned away from (or repented of) their sin. They asked Moses to pray that God would take away the snakes. But God didn’t do that. He gave them a choice.

The Bronze Serpent
The Brazen Serpent by Gustave Doré (1832-1883). Scan courtesy of The Doré Bible.

God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. If a person was bitten, he could continue to look down at the snakes and die or he could look up at the pole in faith and live. God was providing a remedy or cure for the poisonous sin in his life. God has always treated his children the same from the beginning of time. In the Garden of Eden the choice was to obey (by not eating the forbidden fruit) and live, or sin (by eating it) and die. Jesus explained the meaning of the story of the snakes to Nicodemus.

(Read John 3:14-15) Jesus said that God was going to lift him up on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of everyone. Those that look to the cross and see Jesus in place of their sin will live forever. Jesus is the only cure for the sin in our lives. When the bitten Israelites looked up at the bronze snake, they were not only admitting their sin but also looking to the Savior in faith. They were not saved by what they saw but by their faith in God.* God has always provided a way for us to be saved. We can be thankful that he sent Jesus to be lifted up on the cross for us.

* Unfortunately, this pole with the bronze snake became an idol later and had to be broken to pieces. 2 Kings 18:4

©2000 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.

Don’t Look Back

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. – Luke 9:62

Text: Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:32,33

Summary: Once we start to follow Jesus we must never look back. We must give up our old way of life to find new life in Christ.

I need two volunteers to help me. (Enlist two children.) We are going to play “Follow the leader.” One of you will be the leader and the other one will be the follower. (Appoint each one. Say to the follower, “Wherever he leads, I want you to follow him.”) Lead on, leader!

(After a short distance, stop them. Give new directions to the follower. Tell him, “Keep following him, but now I want you to look back behind you the whole time.”) Lead on, leader! (This should be interesting, if not comical, to watch.) What happened? It is hard to follow someone if you take your eyes off the leader. Thank you for helping to demonstrate our lesson for today.

Don't Look Back!
Don’t Look Back!

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, two angels brought Lot and his family out of Sodom and warned them, Escape for your life; look not behind thee. (Genesis 19:17) God destroyed the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with great balls of fire from heaven. (Read Genesis 19:26) Lot’s (unnamed) wife desired to go back to her old life in Sodom. She “looked back” and was caught in the destruction.

Jesus warned his followers that when he returned to earth he would be coming suddenly and they should be ready. We are his followers now so we should be ready too. We should not desire our old sinful (bad) life once we ask Jesus to be our Savior. Don’t look back!

(Read Luke 17:32,33) If we remember Lot’s wife we won’t look back! That is our warning. We can follow Jesus if we keep our eyes on Him. If we are going to follow Jesus as our leader we must be willing to lose our old way of life to find a better life in Christ. If we look back we will lose our way and be lost. Let’s rededicate our lives to Jesus today and follow our leader, Jesus!

©2001 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Noah’s Ark – The Great Flood

The Invitation by Tom duBois
The Invitation by Tom duBois courtesy of Christ-Centered Art.

Quote: If Noah had been truly wise, he would have swatted those two flies. – Helen Castle

Text: Genesis 6:14-7:24

Summary: God provided detailed instructions for the Ark, and Noah obeyed God. The flood covered the entire earth and destroyed it. Noah and his family were saved.

In God’s Plan to Save Us we learned that Noah was good. God was going to save him and his family from the flood that would destroy the bad world. God’s plan was for Noah to construct a large vessel that would hold all the different kinds of animals. About 75,000 animals would need to go on the ark. Could it hold that many animals? Could Noah build such a boat? God gave Noah a head start. He told Noah when he was 480 years old that in another 120 years the judgment would come. When Noah was 500 years old he began to have children: three sons. Then the Noah & Sons Ark Supply Company began its task to build the ark. No one had ever seen much rain before. The earth had a mist, daily dew that would come, but that was it. They laughed at Noah and his boat. Sometimes people may laugh at Christians for doing the right thing, but what is important is that Noah obeyed God. We should obey God also, no matter what other people think.

God told Noah exactly how to build the ark: it was about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. It would have three decks, and a window for air. It only had one door. Through that door, all who entered would be saved. All who stayed behind would die. Jesus is like that door to us. In John 10:9 Jesus said I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.

This is where most folks miss the boat. They think if they merely believe in God, in some shape, form, or fashion that is good enough. There are many false religions in the world but only one Christ. Some people think if they go to church that God will admit them to heaven. Going to church might make you a churchian, but it takes Jesus in your heart to make you a Christian!

The ark’s size made it six times longer than it was wide. This made it very stable in the water. If a large wave tried to turn it over, it would right itself. It would tend to position itself to face the waves. Even winds blowing three times stronger than a hurricane would not turn the ark over. The ark did not have a rudder to steer it. It only had to float. God was the pilot. Do you have trouble giving the steering wheel to God? Pretend you are in the ark, with nothing to grab hold of except God. The ark had room for 750 railroad cars of cargo. It could have easily held 180,000 sheep. There was room for all the animals, and hay and corn to feed them. Most of the animals would nap and hibernate during the rocky ride. But how did Noah get all the animals on board? God supernaturally directed the animals to come to the ark. He brought them in to save them from the flood.

How was Noah sure it would rain? Did he wash his car that day? No. God had told him in Genesis 7:4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights. So Noah built the ark, then his family went in the ark seven days before the flood when he was 600 years old. God brought in the animals and the Lord shut him in. God has always used the number 40 to signify a period of testing. Moses spent 40 years in the desert before God appeared to him at the burning bush. The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness in temptation, and forty days after the resurrection proving he had risen before he ascended to heaven.

The flood was the worst disaster ever recorded in history. The entire earth was covered with water and there were no survivors except those on the ark. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. (Genesis 7:11) Noah and the animals were surely frightened. Great earthquakes hurled ash high in the air and it rained as it never has. Even the waters under the earth came out of the ground. The water rose to a height that covered the mountains. The waters rose and the ark floated for 150 days, or five months.

Even when it came to rest on the mountains of Ararat, it was not safe for Noah to leave the ark. Noah obeyed God and stayed in the ark until 375 days after the rain began, or over a year on the ark. God always knows how to keep us safe, and will tell us what to do.

©1997 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Noah’s Ark – God’s Plan to Save Us

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. – Genesis 6:8f

Text: Genesis 6:8-13

Prop: a poster of animals going to Noah’s Ark

Summary: The story of Noah’s ark shows us that God has always had a plan to save us.

God rewards people who are good, but punishes those that are bad. Have you ever done something bad? When your parents found out about it, what happened? I don’t know about you, but I used to get spanked. Have you ever been spanked? Did your parents spank you because they didn’t love you anymore? No, they love you very much, but they wanted you to remember to do the right thing next time. They had to deal with your behavior so you would change it.

When God looked at the world that He had made, he became sad about how bad things had become. He had to deal with the world’s sin. He loved Noah and He had a plan to save us. Just as God saved Noah and his family from the flood waters in the ark, he sent Jesus to save us from our sins. In fact, many of the things we do in baptism remind us about the flood. The old world was swept away by the flood, and a new world was left when the waters went down. In baptism we show how our belief in Jesus has swept away our sins.

God’s plan to save Noah was to have him build an ark. God knew how to build it and what to use to build it. He gave Noah very detailed plans about how to build it. What if Noah had decided he would just build it the way that suited him? What if he had said, “Lord, I’ll build this boat with bricks. It will be the strongest boat ever!” The boat would surely need to be strong, but the bricks would not be light enough to float in water. The boat would sink. Can’t you hear God saying, “No, Noah, go for wood!” (gopher wood) Ha, ha!

God always knows what to do, and he will tell us. So we should pray to know what God wants us to do. If we pray we won’t make mistakes and sin. God told Noah to prepare a place for all the animals. How many animals of each kind did Noah bring? Yes, two of every kind, male and female. God wanted to have them for the new world that would come after the flood. He had Noah bring plenty of food for them also. God always provides for us. Even now He has prepared a place for all people who love Jesus and will come to get us one day, just as He came for the animals and Noah.

©1997 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Jesus by the Well

Church sign: Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium. (Courtesy of Christian Humour)

Text: John 4:3-30; Galatians 3:28

Prop: A water pot or bucket

Summary: Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus meets us where we are and offers us eternal life.

(Begin by humming or singing “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.”) Have you ever heard the nursery rhyme about Jack and Jill? [Listen to responses.) I could use this bucket to draw water from a well. (Show bucket or water pot.) Today I want to share a story from the Gospel of John about a woman that met Jesus at a well.

Jesus was on his way to the land of Galilee. His disciples were probably a little nervous. Jesus had decided to go directly through the region of Samaria — and the Samaritans did not get along with the Jews (see Samaritan Neighbor). Jesus was tired and thirsty and sat down to rest beside Jacob’s well. He sent his disciples to buy meat in the nearby city of Sychar (pronounced SIGH-car).

About noon a Samaritan woman came by herself to draw some water from the well. Most women went early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it was cooler. They went in groups for safety and to talk with their friends. This woman probably came at noon to avoid them. She had a bad reputation and not many of them would talk to her. Then Jesus surprised her by asking her to give him something to drink.

(Read John 4:9-15.) Jesus has a way of meeting us where we are and offering us what we need. Surely she needed water to live but Jesus offered her a way to live forever! It didn’t matter to Jesus that she was a Samaritan, or that she was a woman, or that she was a sinner. When he looked at her he saw her as a person created in the image of God. Jesus cares about everyone! There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28.

Then Jesus dealt with her sin. Jesus told her things about her personal life that she didn’t think a stranger would know. She was shocked that he knew her so well. She tried to change the subject to a religious argument about where to worship. He let her know that what matters is not about being religious, it is about knowing who he is. Instead of changing the subject he changed her life by what he told her.

(Read John 4:23,24.) Jesus said it didn’t matter where you worship as long as you worship the true God sincerely, in spirit and in truth. Then he came to the point. He told her something he had not told anyone else until then: that he was the Messiah she was expecting. That changed her life completely. Suddenly she realized he was not a psychic in Sychar but the Savior of Samaritans. She was so excited that she left her water pot and went to the city to tell others about meeting Jesus by the well. Many people came to believe on Jesus as their Messiah because she cared about them enough to tell them the good news.

Meanwhile, the disciples came back from the city. As usual they didn’t understand why Jesus was breaking all their traditions. Men did not talk to strange women in public. Jews did not talk to Samaritans. Men only taught men about religion in public. Once again he was turning their way of thinking upside-down. They wondered what he was doing. While they were busy buying lunch, the first woman evangelist was heading to Samaria!

Jesus is waiting by the well of your life too. He is ready to accept you as you are, where you are, for who you are today. We are all sinners. We all need Jesus in our lives. He is ready to offer eternal life to all who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

©2002 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.