|Marshlands fishing boat area at Matts Landing|
near Fortescue, New Jersey
If we wanted to spend time with him we had to go where he went, and sometimes that meant getting up before 5 a.m. to go fishing.
It was a warm summer Saturday when Dad agreed to include the rest of the family on one of his adventurous fishing trips. We’d head out to Fortescue, a small fishing village of about 400 people on the southern shores of New Jersey along the Delaware Bay.
To look at it you wouldn’t necessarily think this quiet town off the main road was the prettiest place, but there’s lots of activity come the weekend. Every summer anglers come from the surrounding states to catch a massive amount of fish, especially weakfish.
Yes, little Fortescue is said to be the weakfish capital of the world … (well it used to be) and with my father loving this good sized gamefish, it was his port of choice in shallow waters.
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A Hairy Situation
Since most of the kids were going we didn’t expect to be gone that long so I went along. My plans didn’t involve fishing, but rather work on a fantastic Jersey girl tan! It didn’t take long before I realized that Dad’s plans didn’t match mine … he was going to teach me to fish!
Dad wasn’t much for lolly-gaging and stayed focused in getting out in the bay area before it was crowded. We stopped for gas before we got to the village, because the prices were cheaper than buying it at the marina.
However, he did purchase bait as we got closer to the landing site. One thing that he never took into consideration was what we were going to eat. A snack or two would have been nice! Thank God for my mom who packed sandwiches.
There were five kids, my parents, fishing gear and a gas can packed into my Dad’s open bed truck. Although the ride was bumpy, I was glad to be on that road in the back and loved having the wind blow across my face. The problem with that was trying to get my hair unknotted before I saw anyone once we got to Fortescue.
Driving down the dirt roads in the dark early morning hours is rather creepy. On both sides of the road all you could see was the tall grass and cattails in the murky tidewater. The pungent, vile smell of the marshes was particularly nauseating and how anyone could live around there was beyond me.
As the marina came into view there was this gorgeous portrait of yachts and boats in every size, color and style docked in the water. The stinky marshland smell disappeared with the fresh breezes that brushed over the inland. We’d have to move quickly before the inlet filled or we’d be stuck in line waiting to get out into the bay.
The boys got to work helping my father unload the boat off the ramps, as mom backed up the truck slowly releasing it gently into the water. We girls would walk the sandy beach looking for large horseshoe crabs, shells and Cape May Diamonds (clear stones) until we were summoned aboard.
Well, so much for the short outing and fantastic tan idea. That’s when I learned about the dangers of “partly sunny days” while out on the water. They’re the worst days for sunburn if you’re not prepared with a hat and sunscreen. Note to self that day, “Don’t use baby oil for suntan lotion when fishing on a boat!”
We had been fishing all day and caught nothing; all of us had about had enough, that is, except for my Dad. By now people were bringing their boats in for the evening to head home.
Something we weren’t aware of is that my Father had an underlying plan, besides teaching his kids to fish. Earlier that week he purchased a brand new Lowrance fish finder and he wasn’t going home until he found out if it worked. We found out …
The docking area was getting congested with boats trying to come into port. Dad kept maneuvering our 18 footer with 135HP outboard motor to keep out of the way. What made it worse was that our boat was going in the opposite direction heading farther out into the Delaware Bay.
|Fortescue Business District near the marina where the yachts and boats dock.|
You can see the mouth of the bay area open up to the Atlantic Ocean.
No more safe inlets with land all around; we were headed out into deep ocean water!
Getting the Catch
When leaving the mouth of the back creeks and channels of the bay, all you see is the enormous expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re prone to getting seasick, this nautical move isn’t a good one and gave me the hebegebees … if you get my “drift”! However, if you’re a seafaring kind of person the sight is exciting and invigorating as you venture out into the unknown.
With full power the boat jetted over the water, bouncing us every which way. Looking back you could see the wake left by the motor, and off in the distance the coastal town grew smaller and smaller until it no longer could be seen.
About fifteen minutes later Dad stopped the boat and turned off the motor. There wasn’t a boat in sight; nothing for miles. The craft rocked back and forth. It was so quiet; all you could hear was the sound of the waves crashing against the sides of the boat. To say we weren’t afraid wouldn’t exactly be the truth.
We baited our poles (rods) and got into position as my father turned on his fish finding machine. It didn’t take long before we saw a great deal of activity. My sibs and I were pleased with our catches, mine being a single one. A little foot long fish of some sort! Goal accomplished Dad.
Being out on the boat all day in the hot sun, with salt air blowing across your skin makes you super exhausted. We couldn’t wait to get back to the marina and retrace our drive home through those smelly marshes, mosquitoes and green head flies on the open road.
From what I remember, our family was the only one to bring in a bushel of fish that day. Thankfully Dad only showed us how to clean our fish and he did the actual work when we got home that night.
Stepping Into Discipleship
It’s not that unusual when something from our past “catches” up with the present day as in the fishing story of my childhood. Continuing in my discipleship journey this week, God led me to the passage in the book of Luke chapter 5.
So far only a few of the disciples witnessed two miracles (the Cana wedding and healing of the nobleman’s son). They had been baptized, but hadn’t done any baptisms themselves.
Besides believing in Jesus, what was required of them really, and where was the favor they had seen bestowed on others? How were they supposed to step up as disciples if they hadn’t experienced Jesus for themselves?
One Boat, Two Boats
Our discipleship journey picks up as we envision what was happening on the coast of the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Gennesaret) where the fishermen met up with Jesus one morning. Jesus had just got back into town and swarms of people were following Him everywhere He went. What He needed was to put some distance between the crowd and Himself.
This is where we have to picture what happened through the lens of the first disciples. As Jesus was walking, masses of people gathered around almost making it impossible for Him to speak. Behold, what does the Lord see off in the distance? Why it’s Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. It’s mid-morning now and they’re almost done cleaning their nets after coming off the night fishing shift. At this time, they were still working in the family business and only followed Jesus occasionally.
Jesus sees what they are doing and notes that two boats are empty. Would you say it may have been a little like this?
Simon: Hello Master, what are you doing here?
Jesus: (Stepping around Simon to climb on board) Mind if I use your boat. Push me off a little won’t you, so I can sit down and relax while I minister to all these people.
Simon is obedient and does what the Lord asks before going back to cleaning his net with Andrew.
I will, if I have to, I guess.
When Jesus finished preaching He called out to Simon (who was about to go home having prepared his net for the next day’s fishing). That time when I went fishing all day with my family, I wasn’t laboring for wages hoping to get a great catch. My fatigue wasn’t from hard work and I didn’t have a clue about what real fishing for a living involved.
All that changed when my husband and I were vacationing in Acapulco, Mexico. I remember watching dozens of fishermen pulling in their nets. It took hours to separate what was in the net, clean everything and prepare for the next day. They were exhausted and thrilled to call it a day before heading home for a well-deserved night’s sleep. It really helped me understand how the disciples felt that day on the shores of Galilee.
The fishermen must have really been discouraged and beat after working all night only to catch nothing. When Jesus gives sailing orders to Simon we can imagine how tired he was and his reluctance to do what he was told. What did the others think when they heard what Jesus said? Did they hope Simon could talk the Master out of His plans?
Jesus: Simon, launch out into the deep water and put down your nets for a catch.
Simon: (Looking at the weary, cringing faces of the other fishermen before giving his answer) But Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing; but nevertheless at Your Word I will let down the net.
My husband said he could imagine Peter’s mopey voice when answering Jesus (with a Red Green twist), “Okay, I will ... if I have to ... I guess.”
Apparently Simon was the spokesperson for the bunch and basically said to the Lord, “I’ll do what you say even though I’ve done this all night and caught nothing.” The partners in fishing were experts and knew how to fish well. If they came back without a catch it meant there wasn’t anything out there. Nonetheless, Andrew followed the lead of Simon and shoved off out into the Sea.
Get in the Boat
The disciples had to get into the boat with Jesus before they could cast off into deeper water to catch anything. This is something we need to remember. If weren’t not in the same boat or “on the same page” with what God says, we won’t find any favor in the decisions we make. Simon Peter had to trust Jesus even though it went against what he knew in the natural.
That morning the four fishermen were focused on what they weren’t able to do on their own. Even though they had been following Jesus for a short time, they still had trust issues which made it hard for them to believe without seeing.
Last week our challenge was to change our focus, by getting our thoughts off what we saw in the natural and concentrate on the wonder of Jesus Himself. By obeying the Master when it looked like all was hopeless, the disciples were about to receive abundant favor in their lives.
This Time Go Deeper
When Jesus told Simon to get back into the boat only go out farther into the deep waters, the hesitant fishermen gathered the clean nets and returned to the sea. This time though he wasn’t going by what he knew from experience, but rather by faith in the One Who was giving direction.
Focusing on the Word of Jesus and not the situation, when they re-cast into the water the multitude of fish was so great the nets began to break. They called for back-up partners to come to their rescue.
Not only did Simon and Andrew bring in a great haul, there were so many fish that the Zebedee brothers also received favor from God. (Luke 5:6-11) This course of action changed their lives not only spiritually, but financially.
God’s favor had visited the disciples personally in a tangible way for others to see. They could bear witness of the goodness of God in the land of the living as King David had in days of old. (Psalm 27:13) Scriptures weren’t only passages that they read on scrolls, but accounts of validation that they too could testify of in spreading the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The fishermen knew what they were doing. They knew the waters, the pattern of the fish and when to call it quits if they weren’t biting. What they learned is sometimes it’s not what you’re doing, but where and when you’re doing it. Most importantly they learned that Jesus knew what they didn’t, so in order to experience God’s favor they had to obey the “Fish Finder.”
Simon got in the boat with his net and headed back out into the same sea. Everything he did was exactly the same, except one thing. He went out deeper into the sea than usual based on the Word of His Master, Jesus. The disciple wasn’t expecting a boatload of fish, we know that by the lack of faith confession he made when the great haul came. (verse 8)
Simon obeyed because Jesus told him to do something; his obedience reaped blessings and favor not only for his household, but also for those who listened to his instruction.
Prepare for Deep Favor
Spending time with my Dad meant I needed to go where he was, and sometimes he wasn’t in a place where I wanted to be. I had to trust my father to lead/take me into places of safety even if I was unsure of his decision.
It’s the same with Jesus. He wants us to be willing to go with Him into places that may seem uncomfortable in order for His plan to be fulfilled in our lives. God will lead us to the bigger “catch” if we get in the boat with Him.
The Master isn’t going to follow us around all day hoping to get us to notice Him. Neither will He distribute favor to those who aren’t willing to join Him for the discipleship journey, especially when the plan is changed.
Our challenge this week is to follow the same instructions that Christ spoke to Simon Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
God is willing to take us to new levels if we trust and believe Him. He knows where the “fish” are … in our terms, He knows where the job is that we need to do, where favor is waiting for us and when we are to receive it.
How “deep” would you be willing to go with Jesus in order to receive great favor from God? Do you have faith to trust God without borders or limitations?
Let down your net of disbelief, confusion, denial, discouragement, uncertainty, fear and disappointment. Put it in the water where God can wash away all that wavering faith. Then prepare to lift your clean net with a “catch” of blessings and favor so great that you’ll have to share it with others. (James 1:5-7)
Simon and the other fishermen thought they knew everything about fishing in that area, but they were wrong. Favor was waiting for them, but they couldn’t find it on their own because they didn’t have the correct “Fish Finder - Jesus” with them on their previous journey.
My father did his research beforehand and trusted in what he learned to be the best plan for what he wanted to achieve. He went against the other fishermen’s instincts by heading out into deeper waters with his fish finder at sundown when they had called it quits. Sometimes we have to do the same and venture into areas unknown in order for God to show us favor.
Fellow disciple, there’s nothing to be afraid of in listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit, even when it goes against what we understand. Keep your eyes on the Master and not on what’s happening around you.
Gladly follow the plan of God for your life and dare to go into deeper uncharted areas by faith. Be assured Jesus is right there navigating beside you with oceans of favor for the journey.
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Until next time, God’s favor runs deep!
“How deep will you go for My favor?”
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Note: Emphasis is given in some scriptures to show clarity or understanding and is not to take away from the inspirited Word of God.
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Image: Matts Landing, Fortescue, NJ Wind Blown Hair Marshlands Cattails Fortescue Business District on Delaware Bay Lowrance Fish Finder Jesus in Boat Red Green Show Cast Nets into the Deep
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