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.
Many Christians miss the rich heritage of most of our holidays. For example, Rosh Hashanah begins on the evening of September 13, 2015. The children’s sermon Water Gate tells the story of the Hebrew slaves being released from Babylon to return to Jerusalem. The blowing of the shophar (pronounced SHOW-far) or ram’s horn, was part of a celebration from which we came to blow horns on New Year’s Day. This year Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is on September 23, 2015. As I wrote in a blog Day of Atonement three years ago, this was a day of repentance and forgiveness for the whole congregation.
Yom Kippur is explained…The children’s sermon Scapegoat tells the story. Have you ever known a time when you could forgive others but had a hard time forgiving yourself? This story is about allowance: allowance for others and making allowance for our own shortcomings. It was a makeover. Once a year the congregation asked God to wipe the slate clean and got a new start. Two goats were used — one killed for an offering (a Christ pre-figure) and Azazel (pronounced az-aw-ZALE) meaning goat of departure. That goat had a crimson ribbon tied to its head (representing the sin) and was led outside the camp, never to be allowed back in. It was the scapegoat that carried the sins away. Are you still carrying any baggage that you should let go? If you want to receive the forgiveness of God, then make allowance for yourself and forgive yourself the same as you forgive others – perfectly. Then the “at-one-ment” of experiencing the oneness with Christ will flow into your life.
Then fourteen days after the new year, a sense of community is fostered in the feast of booths (Sukkot), or Tabernacles on September 28, 2015. This was really the closest holiday to what we now celebrate in America as Thanksgiving. It was a meet and greet in the street, a welcoming of strangers, and a community-wide celebration of gratefulness for God’s providence throughout their journey in the wilderness and a reminder that we are only dwelling here temporarily. So the coming weeks will give us a moment to pause to be grateful for our redemption, our forgiveness, and to share our hearts full of thanks with those around us.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. – 2 Corinthians 5:1
Text: Leviticus 23:42-43; Deuteronomy 16:15
Props: branches from a palm tree, a myrtle tree, and willow tree, and an etrog (citron). Alternate prop: Make a miniature booth. Cut a shoebox in half, replace the top with small branches. Decorate inside like a dollhouse using small figures and furniture, either hand-made or borrowed from other toys. The cut side of the box should be the opening (three sides with a thatch roof).
Summary: The feast of tabernacles was the first Thanksgiving celebration. We can be thankful we have a home in heaven.
When you think of Thanksgiving what do you think about? (Listen for answers.) I usually think of getting together with family and friends, sharing a nice meal, and thanking God for providing for my needs. At church we celebrate with a Harvest Homecoming service where freewill offerings are given and we have a fellowship meal. It always happens after the fall harvest of crops. We get these traditions from a celebration that God commanded the Israelites to observe called the feast of tabernacles (or booths), also known as the feast of in-gathering.
The feast of tabernacles was really the first Thanksgiving celebration. God wanted the Israelites to remember how he protected them in the wilderness for forty years from the time they left Egypt until they were allowed to enter Canaan. During this time they lived in little booths or huts which they made from the branches of trees. (Show the tree branches.) They were temporary dwelling places that they called tabernacles. We might think of them as homeless shelters. He wanted them to be thankful that he gave them rest, protection from the heat and storms, and eventually the great fruits and produce of the Promised Land of Canaan. (Show the citron.)
(Read Leviticus 23:42-43.) God told them to gather branches and build booths to live in for seven days during this feast. They would build them in the streets and upon the rooftops. Now I know what you are thinking. How can you be happy living in a homeless shelter? This was not a reminder of the hardships and dangers of their wilderness wanderings. It was a joyful time of meeting in the street, renewing old friendships and making new friends, and celebrating with the entire community, even with the strangers that were just visiting them. The booths didn’t have a front door; they were open so anyone could drop in to visit one another. God told them to rejoice because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands. (Deuteronomy 16:15)
The Israelites were so happy that they sang songs and waved the branches. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. (Psalm 118:29) They held all four items together (called a lulav, which is the word for palm), placing the citrons in their left hands and the branches in their right hands. They would shake the lulav three times in a direction, outward and back towards the heart. The branches would rustle when they shook them. They waved them in all six directions like this [stand facing east, demonstrate the wave]: to the south (right), then north (left), east (front), up, down, and west (over shoulder, behind you). By shaking them in all directions, they remembered that God is all around us, at all times, and we praise him with everything we are.*
True happiness comes from realizing that God is with us, even while we are temporarily going through tough times. Our time on earth is short, less than one hundred years for most of us. Our bodies are just temporary booths in this world, like the tabernacles. But we can invite God to come live in our booth with us. A shack in God’s kingdom is worth more than a millionaire’s mansion on earth. When you accept Jesus as your Savior he starts making a dwelling place for you in heaven! That place is a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1) When you make a place for him in your heart, he makes a place for you in heaven!
Let’s pray. Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for all the blessings of life. I am so happy you love me. Amen.
*The four items reminded them of parts of a person. The palm looked like a spine; the myrtle leaf, an eye; the willow leaf, a mouth; the etrog, a heart. So they praised God with their whole person.
©2002 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Image of Lulav courtesy of Heart of Wisdom: Biblical Holidays. Used by permission.
… the name of the one was Gershom: for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land. – Exodus 18:3
Text: Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11
Prop: a picture of the Pilgrims and Native American Indians
Summary: Christians are strangers in a sinful world. We should thank God for all his provisions.
Does anyone know which holiday is coming this week? [Thanksgiving] Yes, that is a day we thank God for providing for us. Do you know who these people are in the picture? [Pilgrims and Indians] The pilgrims were strangers among the Native American Indians that had lived in America long before they came over on ships from Europe. They believed in one God. The Indians worshipped many spirits. The Pilgrims were very different from the Indians in many ways. They looked different. They had different customs and habits. They lived in the colony surrounded by Indians all the time.
The children of Israel were strangers in a strange land when they were coming into the land God had promised to give them. They never knew where they were going to sleep and were always surrounded by their enemies. They had to live by faith that God was going to protect them and guide them where he wanted them to be. They were different from the people they met. They believed in the one true God. The people around them believed in many gods. Some of them never made it to the Promised Land. Some died because they didn’t believe God. Some died in faith. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:13
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Today we live in a world where many people do not believe in Jesus. They think that going to church is a waste of time. They are lost from God. They believe in TV and sports idols and glorifying the almighty dollar. They chase after money and the things money can buy. Someone who is a Christian and is living a set apart life for God is viewed as a stranger. Christians are strangers and pilgrims in today’s world. We should not be afraid because God is right there with us just as he was for the children of Israel. God wants us to be different from the world of unbelievers. He says in 1 Peter 2:9
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
This Thanksgiving lets give God thanks for providing for us and remember that we are just strangers and pilgrims ourselves, a people set apart for his glory.
©1997 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Text: Ephesians 6:10-18
Prop: a Buzz Lightyear toy or a poster of the movie Toy Story. If you have the toy, prepare small return address labels (blank) that you can write on the name of each part of the armor.
Summary: The Devil is real. God wants us to wear protective armor. God defends us from attacks by the Devil.
How many of you have ever seen the movie Toy Story? [show of hands] Do you remember Buzz Lightyear? [one of the characters in the story] Buzz Lightyear had to wear a space suit to protect him from danger. Today I want to tell you about the armor of God. It is explained in the Bible in the Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 6.
(Read Ephesians 6:10-18)
The Devil is real. He is a bad angel that God threw out of heaven. He is invisible to us because he is an angel. Angels are only seen by us when God wants us to see them. The Devil also goes by the name Satan or Lucifer. He is the worst angel of them all. He wants to hurt us and cause us to do bad things. He is constantly after us. He wants us to stop following Jesus and sin. He will lie and try to trick us.
God is able to defend us from the attacks of Satan. God wants us to put on the armor of God for protection from the Devil. Armor is special clothing we wear for extra protection from danger. Now the Apostle Paul was speaking of armor that a Roman soldier wore. Since we don’t see Roman soldiers anymore, let’s look at this toy Buzz Lightyear to see what kind of armor to wear.
The first part of armor that is named is the belt. That is the belt of TRUTH [place label that says TRUTH across the belt]. We need to always tell the truth. The second piece of armor is the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS [place label that says BE GOOD on front panel]. That is a big word that means “being good.” We can’t be good on our own, but when we ask Jesus to be our Savior, he gives us his goodness. That protects our heart. The next piece of armor is shoes [place label that says PEACE]. Our feet should be ready to take us to tell others the good news about Jesus.
Buzz Lightyear has a star cruiser for a SHIELD [place label that says FAITH]. Our faith in God is our shield from Satan’s laser beams of evil. Now let’s look at the helmet [place label that says SALVATION]. Our salvation from Jesus marks us as belonging to Him and protects our mind and thoughts. Buzz has an invisible light beam for a SWORD [place label that says BIBLE near his hand or wings]. Our light sword is the Word of God, the Bible. God’s Word is the truth and it always defeats Satan. Our secret weapon is PRAYER. We can always pray about everything and God will protect us.
With Jesus as our Savior, we will live forever. So now that we have on our armor, let’s say what Buzz says whenever he is ready to take off on his next adventure: [have the children say it aloud] On the count of three, ready. 1, 2, 3, “To infinity and beyond!”
©1999 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story are trademarks of Disney and Pixar.
Text: John 10:7-16; Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 53:6
Prop: a poster of Good Shepherd or a picture of sheep (click on thumbnail image to print larger image)
Summary: Jesus gives his life for his followers.
Today I want to tell you about sheep and the Good Shepherd. Sheep are beautiful creatures made by God. They need a shepherd to protect them from wild animals like wolves that want to eat them. Every now and then one of the sheep has his nose down to the ground, eating peacefully, and wanders away from the fold (the other sheep). Whenever this happens the shepherd uses his shepherd’s crook to guide the lost sheep back where he belongs. The crook is simply a long stick with a curved shape on one end that will fit around the sheep’s neck. The shepherd can shoo away wild animals that creep up on the fold with it. A good shepherd will defend his sheep from wild animals, but a bad shepherd will get scared and run away at the first sight of danger.
In the Bible people are compared to sheep many times. In Psalm 100:3 we read Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. People are like sheep in that we tend to wander away from God at times, wanting to do things our own way. God knows that we are not perfect, so he sent his Son Jesus to be our shepherd. Jesus took on all our sins or badness when he died on the cross for us.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Jesus explained to his followers that he was a Good Shepherd. He came to protect us by giving his life for us. He did this so that we might enjoy life to its fullest and have the hope of living forever. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:10b-11) Jesus is our guide. He is always ready to lead us back on the path of living right and doing the right things. Sheep are gentle animals. The wool they grow is shorn and used to make beautiful garments. Jesus wants his followers to be gentle and meek as well. Our lives can be used to do works of kindness and mercy, love and generosity. God can weave these into a wonderful quilt of good works throughout our whole life. We can be thankful that Jesus has not left us alone, but is always protecting us like a Good Shepherd.
©1999 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Text: John 10:27-30
Prop: picture of child in grandfather’s lap
Summary: You are safe in God’s hand. Jesus will never let you go. Jesus is one with God the Father.
Today I want to talk with you about feeling safe and protected. Can you think of some times when you feel safe? You probably feel safe when your mother or father takes you by the hand when you are about to cross a street. You probably feel safe when your father holds on to you when you learn to swim for the first time. You probably feel safe and protected when you sit in your grandfather’s lap as he reads a story to you. (Show picture.) You probably feel safe and protected when you lie next to your mother and take a nap. We naturally feel safe and protected whenever we are near to those who love us the most.
Today I want to talk about trusting Jesus to hold you. Did you know that Jesus loves you very much? Let’s read about it.
(Read John 10:27-30.) Jesus spoke of his followers as being his sheep. Now that Jesus is back in heaven we do not see him like we see our parents or our family members. Jesus loves you so much he wants you to live forever with him. He wants you to trust him like you trust your father and mother. You are in good hands with your parents because they love you very much. But someone loves you even more than that… Jesus! You are in God’s hand when you trust Jesus as your Savior. God’s hands are steady and sure, safe and sound. Jesus will always hold on to you and will never let anyone or anything separate you from his love. He is always watching over you.
Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me and keeping me safe. Amen.
©2003 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato
Text: Exodus 40:38
Prop: A child’s nite lite
Summary: God provided the children of Israel a nite lite in the wilderness and is always protecting us.
For the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.
Look what I brought with me. Do you recognize what this is? [a child’s nite lite] When I was a little boy I didn’t have a nite lite. When it was time for me to go to bed and the lights went off, I was scared of the dark sometimes. Do you ever get scared of the dark? Isn’t it nice when your parents let you have a nite lite so you won’t be scared of the dark?
When the children of Israel were wandering the wilderness I’ll bet it got pretty dark at night. There were no streetlights, only the moonlight on clear nights. The wilderness was full of wild animals and snakes. It would be a very scary place to be in the dark. God knew that his people would be scared unless they knew He was there to protect them. So when Moses and the leaders had finished making all the things God told them to make for their worship services, then God blessed them by staying with them in a way they could see. His glory came to rest with the Ark of the Covenant. He shone as a pillar of cloud during the hot days so they could have some shade from the heat of the sun. At night, he shone as a pillar of fire to give the children of Israel a nite lite. I’m sure this made them feel safe and secure because they could see that God was with them.
Jesus is like that with us. He is always with us to protect us. He is always watching over you and other little children. He doesn’t want us to be scared and afraid. Jesus wants us to love Him and trust Him each day. When you turn on your nite lite as you go to bed tonight, remember that God gave his children a nite lite in the wilderness and is always there to protect us.
©1997 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Text: Matthew 18:10; Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14
Summary: Angels protect all children of God.
Prop: A picture of an angel
Dedication: In memory of my mother, Nita Glover Kerlin, 1933-2006. One of her favorite verses was Psalm 91:11 for God’s protection for her children.
Jesus loves children. He loves you. Jesus loves you so much that he has a plan for your life. He wants you to grow to love Him and learn more about God. He sends his angels to protect every person that will one day accept Jesus as their Savior. Think about that for a moment. That means that for every person sitting here in church, their guardian angel is hovering over the pews or sitting on the roof! I know what you may be thinking. If you can’t see them, how do you know they are here? Because the Bible tells us so.
Angels are spirits and can only be seen if God chooses to let us see them. Angels of God appeared to many people in many different stories in the Bible. (Read Matthew 18:10) Jesus was telling grown-ups that we should never think we are better than children, or do anything to mislead or harm you, because your angels are close to God. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11) God has a guardian angel to protect you from harm. I suppose many of the grown-ups here today could share a story about how God has protected them over the years. God sends these angels to protect us from danger. In another verse in the Bible we see that everyone who will be saved has an angel to protect them. (Read Hebrews 1:14)
We can give thanks to God for his protection by angels. We never worship angels. We worship Jesus (God). God created the angels before Adam and Eve were made. Some of the angels did not obey God and decided to follow the worst angel of all, Satan. He is very bad. He is a real and powerful angel that was so bad God threw him and the bad angels (demons) out of heaven. You have a good angel that loves and obeys God that is watching over you. Satan, the bad angel, tries to get us to do bad things. But since Jesus created him, Jesus is stronger than Satan (the Devil). Jesus will protect us and use His angels to protect us from harm because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
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.