After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples embarked on a fishing evening. So the disciples headed out to the Sea of Galilee, but they caught absolutely nothing. The disciples struggled all night to catch some fish. It wasn’t that the disciples did not have the right equipment. Without the presence of fish, the disciples were simply “wetting their lines,” as I call it.
I believe there are two kinds of fishermen. Some fishermen are not satisfied unless the ice chest is full of fish at the end of the day. Anything less is almost considered a failure.
Then there are the fishermen who just fish for pleasure. They are more interested in relaxation than they are catching fish. They are satisfied with just getting out for the day and “wetting their lines.”
If they catch a few fish, that’s fine, but if they don’t, they have still enjoyed the day God created. What may be enjoyable as a pastime is deadly from a spiritual perspective. The church (followers of Jesus) is called to be “fishers of men,” yet often we may just be “wetting our lines.”
Could it be that some folks do not notice the need for new people to come into their church? Caught fish can be messy, and you have to clean them. It does take some effort to fish like you want to fill your ice chest, your church. The question for us is what kind of “fishers of men” are we?
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, statistically fewer than half of USA adults attend a house of religion regularly. This begs the question, “Are we truly fishing for men, or just wetting our lines?” Why are the nets coming up empty?
Do the members of your church need to get out of their boat, that has been stuck on a spiritual sandbar for too long, in order to wade out into the waters where the fish are schooling? Then you will cast your nets and bring in a great catch that will be nothing short of miraculous!
In John 21:5 we read that Jesus called out to the disciples and asked, “have you caught any fish?” The disciples’ response was honest: NO! Is that your answer also? This is the measure of the faithfulness of your church. It is not your inspiring buildings or impressive budgets or your impassioned boastings, but your fishing!
How many souls have you caught? How many disciples of Christ are you making? And your church must be painfully honest about the success or failure of your catching.
I have three grandchildren who are dedicated and passionate fishermen. It is hard to be a successful fisherman when your boat serves more time as a leaf catcher and your fishing for men is only one or two times a year.
Just imagine the possibilities of what God could do for your church if you throw out your nets and you faithfully and prayerfully follow Him!
Are you ready to do some fishing? Set some priority time aside. Get passionate about “fishing for men.” Follow Jesus to the river bank and expect a great catch! “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 NKJV).
In order for our special dessert or favorite dish to reach perfection, we must stick to the recipe that was handed down to us. Perhaps it is a family recipe, so the ingredients are a well-kept family secret. The first time you prepare the dish, you examine the recipe like a map to a hidden treasure, precisely measuring the amounts of each ingredient. You know the combination of the ingredients will result in something scrumptiously delicious.
Our lives can be compared to a recipe. The only difference is that there are no secret ingredients. It begins with faith in Jesus Christ. The book of 2 Peter, focusing on chapter one and verses five through eleven, gives us some ingredients for a better, more fulfilling life in Christ. If you follow this recipe, you will surely obtain an effective and productive life. The ingredients in this recipe lead to the fullness of life by having faith in a loving God. The beauty of it all teaches us how to live a productive Christian life where there are no secrets.
Instead of secret ingredients, the Bible offers us the steps to follow for a full life with God, according with the book of 2 Peter 1:5-11 that lays it all out for us; like a recipe with different ingredients that, when put together, turns into a vibrant, strong, beautiful, productive life by faith:
God does not expect us to become instantly perfect in the qualities indicated above, but he tells us that we can “possess these qualities in increasing measure” (NIV). Growing in these areas because of our relationship with Jesus is the best recipe for a productive life.
Therefore, keep adding and building on these ingredients because they will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our relationship with God. This is the life God wants for us, which is found through His word. God desires and wants each of us to have true faith, so that we can live a full, productive life with Him.
In a recent article by Dr. Tim Keller called “Lemonade On The Porch: The Gospel In A Post-Christendom Society,” the author noted that years ago the streets of Philadelphia were protected by a “front porch endeavor.” Neighbors would sit on their porches and greet passersby. Children could not get into too much mischief because many eyes were watching them. They also had a sense of security because the porch watchers paid close attention to all activity and offered protection against harm. Dr. Keller sees the porch sitting as a form of hospitality and a bridge between the street and the home. It was also evidence of a caring faith community.
As we have moved into the post-Christian era, the porch presence has gradually disappeared. People are more isolated and less protected. In the past, even in neighborhoods impacted by crime, there were havens on the streets where porch sitting abounded. That layer of protection has dissipated.
There are many in our day who find it difficult to enter the door of a church. Some are antagonistic or skeptical; others lack interest. We lack a modern bridge from the street to the church. Dr. Keller suggests the return of the front porch. This could mean a literal front porch where neighbors can sit and visit and gently share faith. Or it can involve other community outreaches that express faith and community in enriching, life-giving ways. (My faith tradition, the United Methodists, have a similar concept called Fresh Expressions).
Last week I experienced a variation of this loving, neighborly, and family hospitality. My granddaughter was diagnosed with leukemia in June. Her birthday was last Monday, but because of immunity concerns, she is not allowed around large groups of people. My daughter’s sisters-in-law came up with a solution: a drive-by birthday party! A post on Facebook led to media recognition. For twenty minutes last Sunday afternoon, a parade of well-wishers brought cards, gifts, and surprises by the house and waved their greetings. The group included firefighters, motorcyclists, neighbors, family, friends, and kind strangers (including two mermaids and a princess)!
As I consider Dr. Keller’s words, I can think of a variety of ways we can offer 21st century “porches.” I direct a “Grandparent And Me Camp” each summer to offer an intergenerational faith and family experience in a natural environment. A church in a local community distributed popsicles each week during the summer to community residents. Local restaurants offer space for individuals to come and dine and discuss relevant topics related to faith. There are many others.
Dr. Keller noted that often the faith community exhibits one of three responses: 1. isolation, separating oneself or one’s group from an increasingly secularized society, 2. confrontation, berating those who disagree or belligerently trying to impose one’s viewpoint on others or 3. assimilation, compromising views and values to fit in with the culture. I think the most helpful and edifying approach is winsome hospitality. See you on the front porch!
This past year, while visiting at Encompass Health as Chaplain, I met a person who told me they did not believe the Bible was an accurate account of God’s work. They saw it as a book of fairy tales. When I asked them if there was something that came to mind, they mentioned the feeding of the multitude.
There are several accounts of Jesus feeding a multitude of people. While they stated they did not believe it, I told the person I did, and I continue to believe that today. I have no issues with believing that a God who creates the universe in a matter of seconds can manage to feed 5,000 men, not counting women and children, as recorded in Matthew 14:13-21.
Some pastors and scholars have a little different take on the scripture than I have. I became aware of some of the interpretations when I went to seminary to complete a Doctor of Ministry degree. The professor’s explanation given at that time took away the miracle and gave a different view of the story.
Their version went something like this: people in Jesus’ day knew there would be no fast food restaurants, convenience stores, or other places to purchase food. Therefore, many carried a bag with food in it. Many carried fish, bread, and other items to sustain them. Despite this, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away to purchase food from the villages. Jesus instead told his disciples to feed them.
Their response would be much the way ours would be: “Say what?”. The disciples were as shocked as we would be. I mean, I have served meals in churches over the years. We find two fish and five loaves of bread do not go very far, even with the smaller crowds we have had, let alone 5,000 plus people. The professor’s response was that, when the people sat in groups and saw the food was blessed, they shared the meal. Many reached into their bags, moved out of generosity, and shared their own food with the others, which also is the reason that there was food left over.
It is a theory which tries to explain that we need to share what we have with others. This theory tends to leave God out of the picture, other than the blessing of the food. While I believe that God works through people to do ministry, I also believe there are still miracles which go beyond our ability as humankind. Gideon had to scale down his army before he attacked the Midianites, so the battle would not be credited to the army, but to God. Samuel attacked the Philistines after telling the people what they needed to do.
The Philistines did not rule again until after his death because God intervened. We are told that, when the Philistines were attacking, thunder confused them, and then the people of Israel routed them. God also fed millions in the wilderness with manna and gave them water to drink in the desert.
God works through people. People brought bread and fish. But don’t underestimate what God is able to do in any situation. Instead of challenging everything, just be amazed at the wonder of it all.
As I write this article, we as a nation recently observed Memorial Day and are now in the midst of celebrating the birth of our country. These are two important dates in the life of our nation, a nation I love. This country has afforded me tremendous opportunities and the freedoms to enjoy life: freedom of worship, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, just to name a few. Most importantly, I believe in the idea “that all men are created equal [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain…Rights” which are “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I remember our country’s 200th birthday celebration in 1976. It seemed at the time that our entire country was united, and we were all proud to be Americans. Today, however, I fear we as a people are facing an identity crisis.
We have become a nation with two histories, two identities. One has a deep spiritual heritage with God at the center . It is a nation that recognized that our country was founded on Biblical Truths. The second identity has people seeking to depart from that Biblical heritage, pretending it does not exist or never existed. They rewrite history.
Recently, my wife and I made a trip on Route 414 from Cedar Run to Route 6. It was a beautiful drive, but what struck me was all the small country churches along the way. Every hamlet, town, and village had at least one church. It reminded me of words written by Alexis De Tocqueville. In 1831, the French statesman and historian spent eight months touring America.
In his two-volume Democracy In America, he would write that he could sense the religious aspect of the country. He wrote, “There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.” Words attributed to De Tocqueville also express the idea that America is a great country because America is good, but if America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great.
So my question for us is the same as Elijah’s: how long will we waver between two identities? Will it be one where God is in control and is the heart of our nation, or one void of God? This choice will determine what our nation will look like in the future. This choice will determine if we even have an America in the future. Let us all pray we make the right choice. Let us together claim the promises of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which are “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Have you seen the movie called “Sound Of Freedom”? By the time this is published, show times for our local AMC Theatre will no longer be available. But, if you have the opportunity, I strongly encourage you to see this movie.
I procrastinated about writing this article as no topic was settling well. I even thought I was scheduled to publish a “Footsteps” editorial last month, and then my writing could have been complete! Nope, I was at a loss last month as well. I thought my procrastination odd as I normally don’t like to wait until the very last minute. Hmmm, what is a good topic for the end of July? Weddings and anniversaries are plentiful, but no. No ideas popping up there. Saint Ann is the patron of the church where I attend and am on staff, but I already wrote about her. Saint Mary Magdaline is a good subject too. But no, that topic didn’t spark anything either.
Then, tonight (the evening prior to article submission) at 6:15 pm, I saw the movie “Sound Of Freedom.” It stars Jim Chaviezel and Mira Sorvino. The movie tells the real-life story of Tim and Katherine Ballard’s mission. They chose to save children from human sex trafficking in Columbia (and also Haiti) even though it was dangerous and called for great sacrifice in their lives.
Words can not adequately describe the horror of what this movie brings to light. You hear what people are saying and read the reviews, but there is something to be said for seeing the movie yourself. I asked my kids if they wanted to go as I preferred to have company and knew it was about a tough, but important topic. This was an important subject not only for myself, but for them as well. When we were leaving the theatre, we were quiet. What do you say about such atrocities? We needed time to process what we had seen.
“Sound Of Freedom” exquisitely illustrates the dark world of human trafficking. It showcases multiple heroes including Tim Ballard, the main character. Tim is a man with the heart of a loving, protective father and the training and experience of years working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security. He takes on a mission to save children.
Tim’s wife, Katherine also had a big part to play. He called her from Columbia in a cowardly moment, hoping she would say it would be easier and safer to abandon the mission and just come home. He was hoping she would put their six children and his career ahead of the mission. Instead she said, “I will not let you jeopardize my salvation by not doing this.” In the film, the audience sees Katherine say to Tim on the phone, “You quit your job and rescue those kids.” In actuality, Tim replied that “it breaks my heart because not only is she losing our income, but she possibly, there’s a very good chance, maybe 50-50, she’s gonna lose me.” Their faith strengthened them to continue with their important mission.
Faith does matter. It mattered to Tim and Katherine, their six children (now nine children, including two children rescued from traffickers), and 120 children rescued on the island operation portrayed in “Sound Of Freedom.” Faith matters to those of us who support the movie and this cause. Faith, when acted upon in hope and charity, matters in big and small ways every single day. God’s children are the heroes of this story too. God’s children are not for sale.
Like all of you, I “wear different hats.” They are not limited to the pastor’s hat that I wear on Sundays and other days. One of the hats that I wear is a farmer’s hat. I started to wear it when one of my children decided that farming was to be his vocation. Farming, like many vocations, brings about a mixture of feelings. They can go from disappointment to joyful satisfaction with various emotions in between.
One of my many joyful moments in farming was the first time I both planted a field and then harvested it. It was a unique feeling that is difficult to explain. Still, I believe it is akin to working in our own, individual mission field. This Sunday’s lectionary lesson from Matthew 13 tells of Christ sitting by the lake. The gathering crowd becomes so large that Jesus takes a practical approach and gets into a boat to teach. He tells one of his more familiar parables, The Parable of the Sower and the Seed. In the parable, Jesus tells of seed sown in different locations: on a path, on rocky ground, among thorns, and some of it on good soil.
As a “farmer,” I have seen seed planted on many soils, some favorable and some very unfavorable. Almost always, the yield is impacted by where the seed is planted. The depth of the topsoil, soil condition at planting and during the growing season, etc. all have great impact on the yield. One can help production by doing things like fertilizing, but the soil condition is the big determiner. I have seen plants that barely get out of the ground, others that whither and die, and some that never reach maturity, while most do reach maturity and yield.
Christ sometimes explains the meaning of His parables, especially to His disciples. This week’s reading is one of those cases. However, even though we can draw much from this parable, we see clearly that the main point is the imperative to share “the message about the kingdom,” the Good News of Redemption through Jesus. We are called to go forth and sow God’s message for the world. Still, in doing that, we realize that some will have the seed snatched away, for some it will not take root, for others the concerns of the world will choke it out, but others will hear and understand and produce a crop. That does not impact our responsibility to plant.
Although Christ may explain the meaning, He lets the putting it into action reside with each of us. We are called to engage in ministries…to plant seeds. Some may produce while some may not, but we are called to plant. Dr. Derek Weber encourages us not “just to look at the seeds but also the dirt, to see the potential that awaits.” We need to look all around and see the potential in every person. So, in faith, in hope, and in love, we share our beliefs and values, living them each day and trusting the seeds will produce a transformation.
May the hat we wear bring redemption to the soul, peace for the heart, and a guiding path to God to those waiting to hear. We hope, as God’s children, that the hat we wear most proudly and most often is the hat of the farmer or, as Christ says, the Sower.
Doubt is why God gave the Word. Three bible verses help us understand doubt, which is the uncertainty of the mind, plus the lack of God’s order. The Word of God provides the answer for doubt and understanding God’s order.
The first is II Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NKJV).
The second is I Corinthians 1:18-25, which is about the world’s wisdom. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
Praise the Lord. Doubt, to me, is a headache. So much of this world is filled with doubt. Before I was called into the ministry, I had doubts. I wasn’t aware of how much doubt had crept into my life, making me feel unbalanced. I didn’t know which way to turn. I hated the world. Then, when I came into the ministry, I had even more doubt. But as I grow in the Lord, my doubt is now turning into faith!
On August 26, 1989, I gave my life to the Lord when I saw him saving my son’s life. As I went along in ministry, I couldn’t believe how much doubt I still felt. God said he inspired the Word, and he breathed the Word into humans. Then I wrote a book, but I can truly say it was not me who created it. Finishing it, I knew that it wasn’t from me. I am a living witness that God, in Jesus Christ, inspired the Word. I know I’m not the only one God has inspired! How has God inspired you?
God gave the Word and also inspired it to overcome doubt! Jesus Christ died to give us life, but we won’t let go of the ways of this world. The world produces doubt in us! Instead of doubting, truly believe that peace is going to come. How can we be sure when we often have difficulty getting along together as churches? We need to fellowship together, as Jesus did. The bible gives doctrine to show what we believe and not to separate us! There are no denominations that I can find in the bible. There are no white churches or black churches in the bible either, just gatherings of the saints.
In the bible there is order, which God wants. The third verse is Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Doubt is why God gave the Word. Doubt makes us unstable. Doubt makes the mind feel lost. Doubt makes us feel like there is no hope. That is why God gave the Word! It inspires and provides order for us. God’s Word feels like a cool wind over your life, shifting things into place and allowing you to catch your breath.
By: Rev. James R. Pentz, Assistant Pastor, New Covenant Assembly of God, 1270 Pinchtown Road, Montgomery, PA. 17752
My wife and I recently retired after nearly forty years of local church ministry. To celebrate, we took a road trip across the country. It was an amazing trip from the busyness of the Northeast, through the wide-open plains of mid-America, to the impressive mountain ranges that hid the Pacific Northwest. We were in awe of the beauty of the land and impressed with the people of our nation. We are truly blessed to live in this great country.
It is by God’s grace that we live where we live. We realize that our country is not perfect; no country is. Yet we enjoy a lot of freedoms that citizens and residents of many other countries do not enjoy. Let us be mindful and thankful for those freedoms.
In a harbor, outside of New York City, stands a statue that is the symbol of the freedom afforded to all people by our country. The Statue of Liberty is recognized around the world as an invitation to enjoy the freedom that our country offers.
But there is another symbol of liberty. There is a freedom that transcends borders, languages, ethnicities, and human forms of government. That freedom is found in Christ Jesus, and that symbol is the cross upon which Christ died. On that cross, Jesus set us free from the consequences of our sins, from the regrets and shame of our past, from the concerns and problems of our present, and from the fears and anxieties of our future.
Years ago, recording artist and composer Neil Enloe wrote the Dove Award winning song, “The Cross is My Statue of Liberty.” The chorus says, “It was there that my soul was set free.”
In John 8:32, Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We know from John 14:6 that Jesus declared that He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Therefore, we have the assurance of John 8:36 that if the “Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (NIV).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in II Corinthians 3:17b, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” There is a spiritual freedom that we can all enjoy. But to receive it, we must go to that cross. We must acknowledge that the One who died on that cross was and is the Son of God and accept the fact that He died for us. Through His death, our sins were forgiven. Forgiveness is the greatest gift that He offers to us. But like any other gift, we must reach out and take it. We do that by confessing our sins, repenting of those sins, accepting His forgiveness, and choosing to live for Him. When we do that from our heart, we are truly free.
I Chronicles 27:32
“Also Jonathan, David’s uncle…”
I knew of Saul’s son and David’s friend Jonathan, but his uncle? He is described in three ways in the verse: 1. a counselor, 2. a wise man, and 3. a scribe (KJV). This is the “forgotten Jonathan.”
How we thank God for the wisdom and advice of saints who do not appear on the front line of Christian service, but nevertheless, in a humble way, inject godly advice and set us an example.
I know of Paul, but how about the silent server of Paul: Onesiphorus (II Tim. 1:16)?
I know of Naaman, who was healed of leprosy, but what about the unnamed silent server, the “little maid” (II Kings 5:2)?
Thank you Uncle Jonathan for your significant (seemingly) insignificance! May I be content to do the same for others.