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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay 9/8/10
A beautiful sunrise on Chesapeake Bay

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"Fishers Of Men"

"They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.  But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, 'Children, you do not have any fish, do you?'  They answered Him, 'No.'" (John 21:3-5).

Yesterday I made a fishing expedition on Chesapeake Bay with several Amish friends.  Since the Amish don't own vehicles or drive they rented a big fifteen passenger van and I was their driver. We were scheduled to leave the dock in Rock Hall, Maryland before 6:00AM so I was the first to leave at 1:30AM picking up the men at their houses along the way. One group met us sitting on the front steps of a tavern at 3:00AM which was an interesting sight, and even more so at that hour!

We were out on the Bay before sunrise and after fishing for several hours at one point I was so tired that I followed the example of our Lord and fell asleep on a cushion.  I awoke when I heard the exciting and loud commotion of a fish being caught.

My striped bass

Anyone who fishes knows the utter frustration of planning an early morning fishing trip only to come home and report, "No bites!"  We'd much rather tell stories about a  great catch where it took ten minutes and three strong men to pull in a monster fish that weighed over 50#.

I fished often when I was young but now I need to be catching to really enjoy the experience. Yesterday, altogether, we had 33 "keepers". I estimate that we caught over a hundred fish and several crabs (including catch and release - after all, those should be counted in the total tally).

Have you ever worked hard in some form of Christian service and "caught" nothing?  Of course the answer for each of us is "yes". We've all been involved in some form of ministry for Christ that, at least for a season, seems to be going nowhere. We're not catching anything. There's very little receptivity and no measurable growth. That's a discouraging time for those who labor in the harvest, for those who fish for the souls of men and women, boys and girls. But we must stay faithful, listen to the voice of our Master and learn from the disciples' fishing trip.

In one of those remarkable post-resurrection stories Peter and his buddies went fishing all night but caught nothing.  I believe the NASV captures the essence of how Christ asked them early the next morning, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" Of course the resurrected Lord knew they hadn't caught anything!

Jesus had some specific fishing advice: "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."  Peter didn't hesitate but immediately followed the advice Jesus gave and it resulted in a great catch of 153 large fish. It's interesting to me that they counted them and this was included in the Scripture account.  (Disclosing the exact amount of fish indicates that this fish story circulated over the years!)

We need to trust and obey. There will be discouraging times and mysterious delays in our walk with the Lord and in our service for Him. This was true for the disciples and other early followers of our Lord.

But Jesus had said to Peter and his brother Andrew when they first met, "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 "caught" by the compelling power of the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be fishers of men. Stay faithful out there.  The big catch is yet to come!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, it is during times of discouragement, bewilderment, or delay that we find ourselves more attentive to godly instruction.  It seems our hearts are more yielded and our minds more absorbing of the truths You want to convey when we're no longer trying to take charge.  Like the disciples who were fishing in the usual way expecting the usual results we also relate to such efforts.  But You are extraordinary and You do extraordinary work in our lives as we yield our will to Yours and heed Your instruction. Shape us into the most useful and enduring vessel that brings glory to You while we cast our nets for the great catch of men and women, boys and girls for the kingdom.  In Jesus' name we pray.  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).  Peter and his friends had 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.)

Chesapeake Bay Fishing Trip

Fishing trip on Chesapeake Bay 9/8/10
We caught striper and bluefish. I enjoyed being around the men all day and admire their friendship with each other. Most of them met in their youth group and maintain regular contact along with their spouses and children. They were already talking about what they wanted to do next. Perhaps I'll have another opportunity to be their driver!  In several weeks after
the harvest is completed our family is hoping to take our close friends Jesse and Anna, along with their four children, to the shore.

Fishing trip on Chesapeake Bay 9/8/10
We had a great time although by 11:00 I was sure ready to get back to the harbor and on dry land! We did get back just before noon and then had a long ride home, stopping for ice cream along the way. The men sure tease each other and one rascally custom was what they did after we dropped the first man off. As we drove down his driveway they hollered for me to stop, opened the van doors and threw all the accumulated trash from the trip out on his driveway!  Apparently that's the "price" he pays for being the first dropped off.  Don't worry, all the homes I stopped by were as clean as a whistle and he'll good- naturedly clean it up.

Crab caught on Chesapeake Bay 9/8/10
Adam, the shipmate, holds a blue crab we accidentally caught. Charter boats have a mate that works for tips who sets the bait and cleans the fish. He earned his income yesterday as the fish kept taking the bait off the hooks but refused to come in for the fisherman's desired catch! His Dad is my age and has been a crabber all his life. That is; he sets crab traps in the Bay for commercial sales.

Sailboat on Chesapeake Bay 9/8/10
It was a beautiful day but we saw few boats. The captain told us that we were still over 150 miles from the open ocean at this point about ten miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge which we could see in the distance. We could also barely see the skyline of Baltimore.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Fishers Of men" Video Tim Malchak  A ballad type retelling of the Biblical story.

"Fishers Of Men"
 Video This song is sure sang with an earnest appeal to follow Christ!

"Fishers Of Men"

"I Will Make You Fishers Of Men"  Video  This is the same song many of us sang in Sunday School and VBS!

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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, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 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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