Read the Manual

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-8, 14-17 to start.

I have bad news for everyone today. Things, and this may come as a surprise, things are not perfect. This year has not gone entirely according to plan, and it’s not over yet, we have two months and change to go. We have a Saturday night full moon Halloween ahead of us that also falls on the night daylight savings time ends, so it’s the longest night of the year, so that’s sure to be something special. But in general, things have been rather rough for a lot of people. It’s been a challenging year. Frankly, many people have found the last number of years to have more obstacles and roadblocks and setbacks than would seem fair and reasonable. This year, however, seems to have set new heights, or perhaps lows, for trouble and difficulty. There is no question in my mind that these are perilous times.

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Why Doesn’t God Just Fix Everything?

Read Job 38 to start.

We’re probably all reasonably familiar with the story of Job, how God allowed Satan to test Job, how Job remained faithful even when faced with severe personal loss, physical anguish, an unhelpful spouse and critical friends, and how eventually Job needed to learn that God is in control, and that Job was not quite as righteous as he first assumed. That’s where we joined the story, at the start of God’s reply from the whirlwind, where God lists the various marvels of creation, of the earth and indeed of the heavens as well. You might be wondering why I started there, near the end of the story, if I was going to preach about Job. There’s a good reason for that. It’s because this is not a sermon about Job. His story simply serves as the background.

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Apology and forgiveness

Read Luke 17: 1-5 to start.

A few weeks my wife had her hair dyed. She has a good friend who has done this for her in the past, and the same friend came over again and helped her with it. That friend’s husband also came along, he’s a friend of mine, and so we had some time to chat while all the hair colouring stuff was going on, neither of us had anything to contribute to that, and it was far better to stay out of the way. We talked about all that’s going on in the world today, in particular with our neighbour to the south, we talked about politics, we talked about school, we talked about literature. As it happens, we both went to the same high school, although a few years apart, and we had some of the same teachers, and so we reminisced about that. This is what happens when you get older, kids, you sit around and talk about the past way more than is really needed.

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The Tragedy of Jotham

Read 2 Chronicles 26:23-27:9 to start. .

This evening I would like to talk about tragedy. I know, I know, not exactly the sort of thing you want to hear about to close out your weekend. Why would I choose such a topic? Well, tragedy is part and parcel with living in a fallen world. It is part of this life, and as unpleasant as it might be to think about, it’s something that we need to consider from time to time.

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What About Abel?

Read Genesis 4: 1-10 to start.

The story of Cain and Abel is a familiar account. I know I’ve mentioned Cain in many past sermons, on topics such as envy, anger, revenge and forgiveness, as well why do bad things happen to supposedly good people. I have used Cain repeatedly and thusly because he is a ready example of how things can go so tragically wrong in such a short time. It’s easy to reference him, and it’s generally applicable, because we see sinful behaviour all around us, all the time, and we see it as well when we look inside. Cain embodies our sinful nature with all the jealousy, rage, impulsiveness, and false self-righteousness that we know to be inside the very worst parts of ourselves.

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How to Waste 100 Million Dollars

In the town where I live there are several places to buy coffee. The one closest to me, the Lucky Bean Cafe, which does happen to be by far my favourite, is a locally owned independent shop in a heritage building. The place is less than a year old, and the owner is working hard to succeed. It’s not easy in a smaller market where there are other coffee shops owned by either well established regional chains or large multinational corporations. Offering better coffee, better food, better decor, better atmosphere, and at reasonable prices, is an excellent start.

One small but significant promotional thing that the Lucky Bean offers is a loyalty card. Seven stamps and you get a free hot beverage of your choice. It’s not flashy, it’s simple and effective. McDonald’s, a fast food chain which you may have heard of, has been doing much the same thing for years.

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Giving and Sharing

Read Matthew 2:1-12 to start.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the middle of February. This sermon is a couple of months late, or really early. And if this were a Christmas sermon, it would certainly seem to be in the wrong time of year. But this is not a Christmas sermon, even if my first reading this morning is one most commonly, and quite reasonably so, associated with that season.

I’d like to talk this morning about gifts and giving. The wise men of Matthew chapter 2, they are perhaps the most obvious and best known givers of gifts mentioned in all of scripture. Their gifts are also well known, I’m willing to bet that everyone here can name the three gifts that the wise men brought, for that matter if you went out on the street and asked random strangers, a good number of them would also be able to list gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

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Measuring Up

Read Daniel 5: 1-6, 17-27 to start.

A week and a half ago I spoke at Awana. There’s only I believe at most two people here this morning who were there that night, so for them this might sound a little bit familiar. The topic that evening was straight lines. I asked a few of the kids to come up and draw a straight line on the whiteboard, in order to demonstrate that without a guideline, it is almost impossible to do so. The lesson proved a few things, yes, it’s not easy to draw a straight line freehand, none of them could do it. And I also discovered that kids will go really slowly when they are trying to draw this straight line, like really slowly, I think an ant moving along the whiteboard would be quicker. If you’re wondering, going slowly didn’t help much at all.

Someone did figure out a way to do a pretty good job, though. He drew his line at the very bottom of the board, and thereby used the frame itself as a guide. That worked better, at least until he reached the point where the marker and brush holder caused his line to bump up.

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Three Things I Wish I knew When I was Younger

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 to start.

I remember being in my early to mid twenties, working in a retail environment, and every so often a customer, generally an older man, would call me “Boy” or “Kid” or something along that line. I did not appreciate that, not at all. I did not consider myself a kid at that point in my life, and frankly, 20 years later, I still think that it’s generally rude to call a younger person “kid” or “boy” in that situation. Looking back, though, it’s easy to see that I was in many ways still a kid. Sure, I was old enough to have a full time job, own a car, pay rent, vote in elections, and indeed, I did do all of those things. I thought I had stuff all figured out, and I chafed when someone implied that I was a young whippersnapper, or wet behind the ears, or any other cliché that an older person might trot out to describe a younger person.

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David or Saul?

Read 1 Samuel chapter 15 to start.

There are two well-known individuals that we are going to look at this morning. From what we read, you can probably guess the first one, which is of course King Saul. The second, and we’ll read his account a bit later, is David. We know David a lot better than we know Saul.

We often think of David in relation to someone else. David and Goliath is of course the obvious example. David and Jonathan, that’s another, and sadly, there’s David and Bathsheba, but we’ll get to that a bit later on.

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