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.
Have you ever thought about becoming a Christian? God loves you.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.– John 3:16
You do not have to be perfect to be a Christian. God will accept you as you are.
Not even one of us is perfect. We have all sinned, or done wrong.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. – Romans 3:23
Sin separates us from holy God. Separation from God means not experiencing the love God has for us and having no hope for the future. But God has a solution.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 6:23 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. – John 1:12
God wants you to choose eternal life today. Do not delay any longer.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him. – Revelation 3:20a For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. – Romans 10:13
Will you accept God’s invitation? You can pray this simple prayer right now to be assured that when you die you will have eternal life in heaven:
Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner. I am sorry and want to turn around and come to you. I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross and was raised from the dead. I receive Jesus as my Savior and confess Him as Lord. Amen.
If you just now accepted Jesus as your Savior, please seek a local church of Bible-believing Christians and ask to be baptized. It is important to follow the Lord’s command to be baptized. It is also important to grow spiritually in your faith among other Christians. May God bless you.
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.” – Romans 12:19 (reference Deuteronomy 32:35)
Text: Judges 13:1-16:31
Prop: a bottle of vitamins (or alternate, picture of former Twin Towers in New York City or poster of The Bondage Breaker)
Summary: Samson was a hero of faith. God gave Samson the strength to fight his enemies.
Today I brought some vitamins. (Show bottle of vitamins.) Vitamins are in the food you eat. Some people take these vitamins to help them stay healthy. It is said that a multi-vitamin with the mineral iron will make you strong. Have you ever seen a really strong person? When I think of someone strong, I think of a big man with lots of muscles. I think of body builders and wrestlers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, and The Rock. The Bible tells of a strong man that lived about 3,100 years ago (1100 B.C.). His name was Samson.
Samson was the last of the great judges (leaders) over the people of Israel. He judged them for 20 years. He is listed among the heroes of faith in the Bible (Hebrews 11:32). Samson was dedicated to the Lord before he was born. He was born during a time when God punished the Israelites for doing evil things “and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.” (Judges 13:1) Samson took an oath as a Nazarite to let his hair grow and not to drink wine or strong drink. This was a sign of devotion to God.
Some people thought Samson gained his strength from his long hair, but it was the Spirit of the Lord that came upon Samson that delivered him from danger. As a young man Samson tore a lion apart with his bare hands. In one battle he killed one thousand Philistines. He was a mighty man and a fierce warrior. One night he escaped an ambush at midnight and tore off the doors from the gate of the city, “and put them on his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.” (Judges 16:3)
He displeased his parents by asking for a wife from among the Philistines, the enemies of Israel. Many of his personal problems were because he chose to trust Philistine women instead of God. His love for Delilah led him to trust her and she betrayed him. Samson was captured, bound, blinded, and put in prison. Strangely, the Lord turned this in favor of the Israelites. In the end “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord” was worked out against the Philistines by the Lord.
Samson was taken in chains into the Philistine temple of Dagon, where they laughed at Samson and were glad he had been captured. In one final act of faith, Samson prayed to God to let him avenge himself against the Philistines because they had blinded him. “And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines.” He laid his hands on the pillars that held up the temple, and pushed against them with all his might. With God’s help the roof fell in and killed about 3000 men and women. “So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.” (Judges 16:30)
What can we learn from this story? Always listen to and obey your parents. Trust the Lord Jesus, who gives you strength and will guide you. Acts of vengeance should be discouraged.
©2005 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Text: Luke 19:1-10
Prop: a picture of Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree
Summary: Zacchaeus repented of taking unfairly from others and repaid them. He believed on Jesus and was saved.
Today I want to tell you the story about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector (publican) that lived in Jericho. Remember Jericho, where the walls came tumbling down? It was a small town on a trade route and one day Jesus was passing through it, on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus was rich, but he had become rich by taking more taxes from people than the law allowed. He was dishonest. Most people hated tax collectors because they worked for the Roman government.
There are a few stories in the Bible I can really relate to. I’m a short guy. Zacchaeus was short of stature. He was so short he needed to climb a sycamore tree just to be able to see over the crowd. We know the media was there because he couldn’t see Jesus for the press (grin). When Jesus passed by the tree, he looked up and saw Zacchaeus. What Jesus did next shocked everyone. He told him to hurry down out of the tree because he would spend the day at his house. Jesus was criticized for spending time with people with bad reputations, but he explained his reasons for associating with them. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Jesus cares about everyone, no matter what his or her present situation is. He wants to save everyone from his or her sins.
Zacchaeus was truly a changed man after he met Jesus. He repented of all the wrong things he had done. He understood what Jesus said about “turning around” and following in His ways. He promised Jesus that he would pay back the people he had taken too many taxes from according to the laws of Moses (Leviticus 6:5). Jesus told Zacchaeus he was forgiven. This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Jesus was telling Zacchaeus that his faith had caused him to be counted among God’s people. Everyone that comes to Jesus in faith and believes on him is saved by his or her faith in Him. We are all sinners, no better than this corrupt tax collector from Jericho. And like Zacchaeus, we can all turn our eyes upon Jesus and be saved.
©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Quote: Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best. – Bob Talbert
Text: Acts 26:13-20
Prop: A flashlight.
Summary: The story of Paul’s conversion from persecutor to apostle. We are all called to repent and serve God.
Look at this flashlight. When would I need it? (When it is dark.) Would it help me to see in the dark? [Yes.) Today I want to tell you about the day a very bright Light shone down from heaven on a man named Saul. We know him today as the apostle Paul.
Saul used to hunt Christians and throw them in jail. He was very good at what he did and it was hurting God’s plan for people to hear the good news about Jesus. Saul was very smart and knew the Jewish law but he was ignorant about who Jesus was. Saul’s spiritual darkness made him an enemy of Christ. So the Lord Jesus decided to win him over, to shine a light on his understanding, so Saul would use his energy to help God instead. Jesus didn’t see Saul merely for who he was (a persecutor of Christians), but for who he could be (a missionary to win others to Christ).
God’s flashlight from heaven was so bright that even in the middle of the day it blinded Saul for three days! Saul understood that he had been fighting against God. He repented and was baptized. Saul the sinner became Paul the apostle. He began to do for others what Jesus had done for him: to turn them from darkness to light. Paul obeyed God’s call to serve him and became the greatest missionary in the world!
God is still shining his Light from heaven. He is calling you to repent and serve God also. I hope you will hear God’s call and have faith in Jesus today!
©2001 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra
Text: Romans 10:1-4
Prop: a new US $20 bill (or adapt for local currency)
Summary: Some people try to get to heaven on their own by being a good person. The only righteousness that is real is what the Lord Jesus gives us.
Look at this new $20 bill (US currency). We pay for things with money. The color of money used to be green, but this has some red and blue in it now. The moneymakers put some things in this bill so you would know it was genuine. [Show each security feature.) One is this magnetic strip, another is the watermark of the person’s face, and another is this two-tone ink on the number twenty. It is green at this angle, and gold at another angle. If you present this as payment, anyone who receives it can tell it is real. Some people try to cheat and make fake money. The money they make on their own is called a counterfeit. That reminds me of something the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans.
(Read Romans 10:1-4)
Paul wanted his own people, the Israelites, to be saved from their sins. He said they were eager to please God but they did not understand what God wanted. The Israelites thought if they kept following all of God’s laws and commands that it would be enough to please God. They thought if they were good and did nice things that would be all that was necessary to get to heaven. That was the wrong kind of righteousness. It was a fake. The only righteousness that is real is what the Lord Jesus gives us. Paul made it clear that we need God’s righteousness. That means we must be willing to accept God’s goodness, not try to be good on our own.
How can we do that? We can accept what Jesus did for us on the cross. Jesus completed the work of the law there. That is the real, genuine thing that God accepts. Jesus died as a sacrifice for all the bad things we have done. As an old hymn says, Jesus paid it all! We gave God our sin, and God gave us forgiveness and His goodness. That does not seem like a fair trade, but God loves us so much he was willing to do that.
(Read John 3:16) Whosoever includes you. Whosoever includes me. God is so good to us. God wants us to be good, but He does not want us to try to get to heaven by trusting our own goodness to save us. He has provided the way: His Son Jesus.
Let us pray. Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for paying the price for my sins. Amen.
©2003 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
Joke: Any child can tell you the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he is in trouble.
Prop: a poster of the return of the Prodigal Son
Summary: Even when we are bad, God loves us and is waiting for us to ask his forgiveness and come home.
Have you ever been a bad boy or girl? How did you know when you were being bad? Did your parents punish you? Jesus told a parable of a bad boy. It is recorded in Luke 15:11-32. This is what happened in the story.
A man had two sons. The younger son wanted his father to give him his share of the inheritance. The father gave it to him, but he left home and journeyed to a far country and wasted his money on extravagant living and partying. About the time he had spent all his money, none of the crops would grow in the land as a result of a mighty famine. The younger son had nothing to eat, so he went to work as a hired servant. He had a very lowly job: feeding pigs. He barely made enough money to eat. When he came to himself, he realized that even his father’s servants had plenty to eat and were better off than he was. He made up his mind that he would return home and beg the forgiveness of his father, hoping to be taken back as only a hired servant. But as he returned, his loving father was already looking for him to return and saw him when he was yet a great way off. His father ran out to meet him and hugged him.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But his father, upon hearing these words, restored his son to his estate before he left. He gave him the best robe, a ring signifying his authority as a son, and new shoes on his feet. Then they prepared a feast and had a big party. For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost and is found. Now the older son had been working hard in the field and heard the commotion at the house. He was very angry when he found out what was happening. He had always obeyed his father and had not even been given a small party with his friends. But his father told him, Son, thou are ever with me, and all that I have is thine. He told the older son that it was right to rejoice because his younger brother had changed his ways, he had been forgiven and was alive again.
This story is one of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables and is called the Prodigal Son. I think a better title would be Our Loving Father because the outcome of everything in the story depends on how the father reacts to his wayward son. The father could have refused to even see his son again after he left home and squandered his living. Upon his return, the father could have hired him back as a servant for the rest of his life to teach him a lesson. Instead, we see a loving father that waits for his son to come to his senses, and realize his mistake, and return home.
We have all sinned, or been disobedient to God. Does God hold grudges against us? No, he is merciful and willing to forgive us when we repent. He delights when we come alive again spiritually and come back into fellowship with him. He loves those that obey him too. He is loving and merciful to a sinner that seeks forgiveness. If we have been bad, we need to turn from being bad and return to following God.
©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.
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.
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.