Category Archives: Tragedy


“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.

Joseph and the Colorful Coat

Text: Genesis 37:3,4; Philippians 4:11

Prop: a colorful coat

Summary: Joseph learned to trust God no matter what his circumstances were.

The weather is getting colder. Some of us are wearing sweaters and coats to stay warm. Some people let the weather decide what their day will be like. If it is sunny, they are happy and cheerful. If it is rainy and cold, they are gloomy and miserable. Other people, you might say, carry their own sunshine with them. No matter what the weather is like outside, they choose to be happy anyway. No matter what circumstances life brings them, they trust in Jesus and go along with persistence. The Bible mentions that in the following verse:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. – Philippians 4:11

This reminds me of the story of Joseph. He grew up to be like that. He was not perfect. His mother, Rachel, died when he was 15 years old. Two years later, his father gave him the authority to be shepherd over the flocks, even though he had several older brothers. He was a tattle-tale when his brothers did bad things. They were not happy about that! To make matters worse, Joseph’s father gave him special treatment by giving him a multi-colored coat.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. – Genesis 37:3,4

Then one day Joseph had a dream. He told his brothers that he dreamed that a day would come when they would bow down to him and be his servants. Then he had another dream. He told his father and brothers that one day all of them would bow down to him. Even his father resented hearing this and told him so. His brothers envied him even more.

Jesus said neither cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). One of Murphy’s Laws says the same thing: Never teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of time and annoys the pig. These dreams were from God to comfort Joseph and strengthen him for the hard times he would face later. Joseph unwisely got very prideful about these dreams. He had to learn the hard way that all we have comes from God, so we should be humble and thankful.

Well, that coat of many colors that showed he was the favored son got Joseph into trouble with his jealous brothers. Joseph spent many years in the house of Potipher as a slave. He was wrongfully accused of a crime and put in prison for thirteen years. Eventually, after these humble years, he was exalted to a position of honor with the ruler. Through all of these bad and good times, Joseph learned to be happy where he was and be the best person he could be with what God gave him. He learned to trust God no matter what his circumstances were.

©1997 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Strength in Weakness

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 11:34

Prop: A barbell or weight or a poster of a weightlifter

Summary: When we are weak, Jesus can become strong in us and do more through us.

Have you ever tried to lift weights? Weights are heavy and hard to lift. The more we lift them, the stronger our muscles become. Then we get stronger. But what if I told you the weaker you were, the stronger it made you? Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t seem to at first, but that is what the Bible says. Let’s read it to understand.

(Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Whenever I get a cold, it makes me physically weak. Yet, that is when I have lots of quiet time to spend with God, and that makes me stronger spiritually. When we realize we are weak, we rely more on God. God gives us a different kind of strength, a spiritual strength. It means we are stronger in the things that matter to God. He wants us to grow stronger spiritually just as much as he wants us to have healthy, strong bodies. The Bible says there were many saints of long ago that out of weakness were made strong. (Hebrews 11:34)

The apostle Paul said for when I am weak, then I am strong. When we let God take charge of our life, we willingly become weak to our own desires so God can do great things through us. If we think we are big shots and really important, our minds trick us into thinking we are more important than we really are. If we are humble and yield ourselves to God, He can use us to be a loving, caring person for Jesus. Let’s decide today that we will get ourselves in shape spiritually and be strong for God.

©1998 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Road to Emmaus

Text: Luke 24:13-35

Prop: a poster of Jesus breaking bread with men at Emmaus

Summary: Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Jesus is with us in sad times.

Alternate introduction: Ask the children to make a happy or sad face any time they hear the words happy or glad or sad in the story. If you like, you can open with a mention of the story of Snow White and ask the children if they know the names of any of the dwarfs. Happy and Grumpy are the characters to get their attention about this sermon.

One day two friends were walking on the road to Emmaus. Something terrible happened three days before. Jesus had been hung on a cross and crucified. They were sad and upset about this. While they were talking about what happened Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. They didn’t know that it was Jesus. They supposed it was just someone walking along the road. Jesus asked why they were so sad.

One of the two men, Cleopas, explained that they were sure Jesus was God’s chosen person to save the children of Israel. He told about Jesus being crucified and how some women had been to the tomb that morning but his body wasn’t there. The women had seen angels that said Jesus was alive!

Then Jesus began to explain that all through the writings of Moses and the prophets that these things were written about Him before they ever happened. As they listened their hearts were happy to hear the good news that Jesus suffered to save His people. The very author of the Bible was explaining the scriptures to them and it made them glad. But remember that they didn’t realize it was Jesus yet. They wanted to spend more time with this stranger but he acted as if he had to continue his journey.

They pleaded with him to stay for supper. As he sat down to eat he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. This was Easter and the risen Lord Jesus disappeared right in front of them!

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Jesus had been killed and it was hard to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. We may lose a dear friend in a car accident. Our father may lose his job. We might have a pet that we love very much that dies. A tornado, hurricane, or flood may damage or destroy our home. We don’t understand what God’s purpose is for us in that situation when it happens, but God is with us even in sad times when our hearts are breaking. Jesus walked right beside the two men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus is with us all the time no matter what happens. We can be happy about that!

©1999 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

Lord of the Valley

And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, The Lord is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the Lord. – 1 Kings 20:28

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Hebrews 12:3

Prop: sandpaper

Summary: Our present suffering is building our character. Our God of the mountaintop is also Lord of the valley. We should never lose heart no matter how tough our personal circumstances may become.

Some of you may know someone who has cancer. I had cancer. Cancer is a disease that messes up your cells, the small parts of your body that you cannot see because they are so tiny. The doctor took out a cancerous growth called a tumor in my body (in October 1999). Then he gave me drugs to kill the cancer at the smallest level. They call that chemotherapy. That is why my hair fell out. The drugs killed the hair and lots of other cells in my body. It made me sick sometimes and I threw up. It wasn’t very pleasant. The Bible tells me to keep a positive attitude no matter what happens to me.

(Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Jim Kerlin October 1999It would be very easy to get to feeling sorry for myself when things are bad, but the Bible tells us that even when things are tough that we should never lose heart. We should never give up. Our God is with us when things are going great, when we feel as though we are on top of the mountain. Jesus is with us when things aren’t going so well also. He is Lord of the valley when we feel things couldn’t get any worse. He uses these tough times like holy sandpaper to smooth out our rough edges spiritually. He uses the hard things of life to build our character.

Let’s watch what this sandpaper does to this little wooden block as we rub on the corner of it. As I keep rubbing the pointed corner it gets more rounded. That is how God works on us to get us ready for Heaven. We are not perfect but He wants us to be more and more like Him by the time we get there. That is why we should not get discouraged in the short term, but remember that He is getting us ready for all of eternity.

Jesus was familiar with suffering. (Read Hebrews 12:3) He decided in the garden of Gethsemane that he would do whatever it took to save us. He went to the cross for our sins. He suffered terribly at the hands of the Roman soldiers who scourged him, or beat him unmercifully with a whip. They pushed a crown of thorns into his scalp. Then they nailed him to the cross. Nothing I have endured can compare to what my Lord suffered for me. So I will not lose heart. I will keep in mind these things and know that they are working together for my good.

Let us pray. Dear God, thank you for being with us in the good times and the bad times. Thank you for making us better persons and more able to serve You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

©2000 by Jim Kerlin. All rights reserved.

You may read my testimony of my healing from cancer, Healed by Jesus, on this site. My chemotherapy was completed in May 2000.

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.