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BE SKEPTICAL & LEARN TO LISTEN (8/7/11) SCRIPTURES: Acts 17: 10-15 & Matthew 14: 22-33 KEY CONCEPTS:

Be skeptical using spiritual discernment - & be willing to listen to truth. GOSPEL READING MATTHEW 14: 22-33: This was the first Gospel reading ever preached at Our Hope MCC exactly 13 years ago today! This story recounts Jesus walking on the water; the disciples being afraid; Peter jumping out of the boat & becoming afraid. Its an action packed account of an encounter with Jesus in the midst of a storm that threatened to take the lives of Jesus disciples. In recounting this story, many of us find it rather easy to be skeptical since most, if not all of us; have never seen someone literally walking on water. Yet, if we listen carefully to the words of this story we can learn some amazing lessons. Key thoughts include: y y y y y y y y Following a huge feeding miracle where the disciples witness Jesus power he sends them ahead by boat to the next destination After being among all those people & serving them, Jesus needed some alone time The storm wreaked havoc on the disciples nerves & faith so much so that when Jesus came walking on the water, they were terrified of Him, too! (Fear begets fear) And what about these words Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid! Though others were skeptical, at least Peter entertained the idea that it was Jesus! The strong wind seized Peter & as fear overcame him, he began to sink Lord, saveme! he said. And Jesus did: by reaching out his hand & catching Peter! You of little faith, why did you doubt? After getting in the boat, Jesus presence calmed the storm.

PERSONAL INSIGHTS/APPLICATION: Where do we even begin by way of personal application with this passage? What do you need in this moment of your life? For thats where you need to begin Since this story is set on the water in the midst of a storm, may I ask you how well do you hear the voice of Jesus in the midst of the storms of life? o When the winds of doubt & despair are howling all around you o When the sounds of chaos & calamity cause you to cower in fear o When what youve always believed no longer works & your belief in God & humanity is at an all-time low o Do you hear the words of Jesus Take heart, its me! Dont be afraid!? Learning to listen may also be put another way. LITERARY ILLUSTRATION: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27, NIV). Earlier this week, I read a story about a couple who had moved to Fort Worth, TX so the husband could attend the same seminary (Southwestern) that I graduated from back in 1987. The wife desperately wanted a teaching job, but none was available. Day after day, the woman persistently called the school districts office to check on a job. Finally, after several weeks (which by the way, is the usual length of time for a miracle that involves multiple people), there WAS an opening for a school teacher! The woman met with the principal & then went to meet her actual class. And as you might imagine, it was not an ideal situation!

According to the story, as the woman stepped into the room to see her answer to prayer she froze! Some children were jumping on desks while others crawled under tables, all screaming & yelling at the top of their lungs. Paper & food littered the floor. In the corner sat an obviously frazzled substitute teacher, who was desperately trying to gain control of the students. The classroom was in total chaos. The womans first thought was, What have I gotten myself into? The next few weeks certainly answered that question. Each classroom was arranged in learning centers instead of desks. The students moved from center to center as they completed assignments, a plan that naturally invited noise. This new class was created because of overcrowding, each teacher had been asked to select two children to form a new classroom & of course, each teacher had chosen his or her two most difficult students. The first few weeks were a nightmarish battle for control. After losing her voice twice, the teachers sister, a veteran first grade teacher, gave her some great advice. The louder youare, the louder the children will be. If you want to get their attention, speak softly so they will have to be quiet in order to hear your voice. The teacher put her advice into action the very next day. As the children entered the classroom, each one was greeted with a silent smile. The teacher had a brightly wrapped box. Curious, they asked, What is that, Mrs. Southerland? The answer was given once every student was quietly seated. I have a new plan, the teacher began. Sometime during the day, I will call your name once. If you hear my voice, you may choose one prize from our new prize box. If you dont hear my voice, you will miss the opportunity to select a prize & I will call another students name. It worked like a charm! In a matter of days, my students learned to listen for my voice above all others. The moral of this story for us Chaos & doubt come into our lives when we allow the many voices in life to drown out the only voice that really matters, the voice of God. We need to grow in skepticism for the loud & obnoxious voices of the world. AND we need to be less skeptical of the voice of God! Hearing & receiving Gods voice brings comfort & support for whatever life throws at us. The more time we spend with God through prayer, Scripture reading, church &with other disciples of Jesus - the easier it will be to recognize His voice the easier itll be weather the storms of life that threaten to drown us! Many of us here today are exhausted. Weve worked 10-14 hour days & were bone tired! Others of us are facing emotional exhaustion due to family stress, relationship issues & the recent death of a loved one. Were skeptical of Gods love & might even be angry at God! Will you dare to trust God again? Will you dare to believe that God is still larger than any storm youre facing in this moment? Will you listen for Gods calling of your name? How many of us quiet our souls enough to hear Jesus speak our name? How would our lives change if we could actually listen AND hear our name spoken off the lips of Jesus the Christ? CLOSING: Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid! - Jesus