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Friday, June 22, 2007

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay
Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay
First day of summer 2007

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"A Lesson From A Fishing Trip"
"I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:3-6)

Yesterday my friend Jesse Lapp took his masonry crew on a fishing trip out on Chesapeake Bay and invited me to go along and drive the van. We had a great time and as a group of six men we caught hundreds of fish (no fish story). Last night Brooksyne, Ester and I joined Jesse and his family on their front porch for charcoal-grilled bass and fresh hulled peas from their garden. What a great way to spend the first day of summer!  The breeze was very cooling and the whirling sound of the huge windmill only added to the pleasantness of our surroundings.

Today's Scripture portion is one of my favorite Bible passages.  Anyone who's ever been fishing knows the frustration that the disciples experienced in the daily text. I enjoyed fishing when I was younger but I need to be catching to thoroughly enjoy the experience and I never was able to catch many fish! Yesterday we were taken out on a charter boat by an experienced captain right to where the striped bass were schooling. For some 5 hours we caught one fish after another. One of the young men kept track and he caught over 50.

Today's story happened after the resurrection.  Peter had a hankering to go fishing and told the other disciples, "I'm going out to fish." They joined him and fished all night but caught nothing. That must have been a hard, discouraging fishing trip.  Early in the morning a Figure on the shore whom they were unable to recognize due to mist or distance called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"  Of course the resurrected Lord knew they hadn't caught anything!

A seasoned fisherman knows that he must cast in all directions to find where the fish are biting. If I'm on a boat I'm going to try fishing from the back, each side and even the front if I can get access.  Surely during the course of the night the disciples had moved about trying to cast their nets in various places in search of fish.

But Jesus had some specific and unusual fishing advice. "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  Now surely they had tried this already but Peter didn't hesitate in responding to the voice in the distance. 

His obedience resulted in a great catch of 153 large fish (v. 11).  It's always been interesting to me that they counted how many fish they caught that morning and it's specifically recorded that they were "large" fish. This detail, included in the Scripture account, is just one more evidence of authenticity!

Real fishermen keep track of how many fish they catch, particularly keepers! And of course what fisherman doesn't want bragging rights on "large" fish?  Yesterday as a group we were allowed a total of 12 keepers (18 inches or longer) and I contributed three toward the total!  I didn't keep track of the many smaller fish I caught and released or the keepers I released after our boat reached the limit. I'm certainly not bragging though. - (Last sentence is Brooksyne's edited additional note.)

Have you ever worked hard in some form of Christian service and not "caught" anything?  We serve in some form of ministry for Christ that, at least for a season, seems to be going nowhere.  We're not "catching" anything.  We don't see receptivity or growth.  That's so discouraging.  But we need to stay faithful and listen to the voice of our Master and learn from this fishing trip the disciples had.

We need to trust and obey. There will be discouraging times and mysterious delays in our service for the Lord. I am sure there was for the disciples and other early followers of our Lord. Notable leaders throughout church history had these experiences as well. Charles Spurgeon looked back upon dark hours in his own life and said, "I bear willing witness that I owe more to the fire, and the hammer, and the file, than to anything else in my Lord's workshop. I sometimes question whether I have ever learned anything except through the rod. When my schoolroom is darkened, I see most."

But when they first met, Jesus had said to Peter and his brother Andrew, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).  Peter indeed became a great fisher of men and in some ways we are all his spiritual descendants. We are all called to be fishers of men. Stay faithful, the catch is coming!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, it is during times of discouragement or bewilderment that I find myself most attentive to Your instruction.  It seems my heart is more yielded and my mind is more absorbing of the truths You want to convey when I am no longer trying to take charge.  Help me to always remember that You are the Teacher and I am the student. I welcome the wisdom of the Master to guide me into all truths and sustain me in the moments of silence and waiting. Help me to continue casting Your Bread upon the waters so that those who are hungry will find You to be the Bread of Life.  Amen.

PS: Several years earlier during His earthly ministry Jesus had been teaching from Peter's boat and when He had finished speaking, he said to Peter, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch" (v.4).  At that time Peter and his friends had also worked all night with no success.  They were likely now weary from the long night and the morning of teaching.  They didn't want to go out again and Peter forthrightly expresses his feelings, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything."  But he added, "But because you say so, I will let down the nets." 
Do you recall what happened next?  "When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break!  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." (This account is found in Luke 5.)

My striped bass
One of my three "keepers"
The fish was quite wiggly for the photo and
Jeremy is trying to help steady it.

Fishing view
View of fishing area. Ironically Jim and Graham, who were fishing from the "right" side of the boat caught the most fish.

Thomas the tank engine
Yesterday when we returned to Lancaster County we had to stop for a train on the Strasburg Railroad.

Personal note: I had intended to prepare a message yesterday but it just didn't get done, particularly since I had to get up at 1:30 AM for the long trip to Maryland!

Wednesday's mystery photo was of an Amish bench wagon, used to haul the church benches from home to home for church services!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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