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About Fishing  

The wind knocked my hat off, though the Captain—flashing a sly grin—bellowed that we were only using one-third of the Yamaha 250's engine. Eleven-year-old Caleb and I cruised the San Pablo River, Pablo Creek, and St. John’s River—all in search of fish.

I smiled, pondering how the disciples might have processed this fishing charter of ours. What would James and John have thought of our fishing rods? Would Judas have stroked his beard in disapproval at our engine's 30-thousand-dollar price tag?

Ultimately, we hauled in Trout, Red Fish, and Croakers during that four-hour charter. But not before I was reminded of some lessons about fishing for fish—and fishing for souls.

Reminder #1: You gotta go where the fish are!

Our Captain made frequent use of a digital "fish finder" screen. But he had also developed a keen sense of what the water surface looks like when many fish are present. But the same is true spiritually. Don't rely on lost people showing up at your church by themselves. Though this does happen, you usually have to go where they are.

Reminder #2: Different fish respond to different bait.

At each stop, we changed bait—and rods. Then, the casting began. The same is true with fishing for souls. Different people respond to different approaches. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for evangelism. A good fisherman doesn't just know "about" fish in general. You have to know the fish personally!

Reminder #3: The majority of the time, you catch nothing!

Fishing is a great sport, but even the pros you see online or on television spend most of their lives baiting hooks, casting out lines—and hauling in nothing. But that doesn't stop them. Nor should you and I stop if people reject our message. Remember—most people didn't believe Jesus when He preached!

Reminder #4: If you cast long enough, you will catch something.

Like sales, fishing is a numbers game. Stay at it long enough, and you'll catch a fish. I have no chapter and verse to quote you here—only personal experience. And that experience suggests the more people you witness to, the more likely someone will respond to Christ.

Reminder #5: Catching fish is a thrill that never gets old!

Every time Caleb or I cranked in a fish, we felt a rush of adrenalin. It never got old. The same is true spiritually. Our heavenly Captain designed it that way. There’s nothing like being a part of someone’s journey to Christ.

Reminder #6: Trust your Captain

Even if I owned a fancy boat with a costly engine with the most advanced digital fish finder in the world, it would be nothing without the expertise of a knowledgeable captain. The same is true with catching souls. Yes, we need to be ready. Yes, there are verses we should memorize and fundamentals we should know. But ultimately, fishers of souls must trust our Captain, Jesus.

Now—get out there and do some fishing!

 

 

 
Plant Anyway  

January is not prime planting season. But we planted anyway.

The story has its—ur—roots back in September. That’s when I discovered some odd-looking pods on the sidewalk. Backlit by the early morning sun, these coiled curiosities looked like snakes ready to strike.

I learned these are the seed pods of the Honey Locust tree, and for months, they sat on my garage bench. Finally, I decided to plant some of these seeds. But how? You must shred the pod to get to the seeds (a more arduous task than you might think).

Online, I read three very different planting strategies. I’m new and inexperienced. So, I did all three. 

The thing is, January in the Chicago suburbs is not exactly prime planting season. I had to scoop three inches of snow off our garden just to get to some soil.

Nevertheless, I planted, watered, and waited. Nothing. Not in three days. Not in a week. Not in two weeks.

By the third week, I was ready to give up. That's when the lime green sprouts pushed through the winter soil, defying odds and expectations. And I have every hope they will someday become full-grown trees offering shade, beauty—and life itself.

This story has a point, and it's all too obvious. As Christ-followers, you and I are called to plant seeds—gospel seeds. And, like me, you may feel inexperienced and unsure.

Still, you can’t help but notice how God is connecting you with others who need Jesus:

  • It’s an unexpected friendship.
  • It’s a neighbor you keep running into.
  • It’s an inner prompting you can’t explain.

All three of those mean the same thing. It’s time to plant some gospel seeds.

You might feel underqualified. You might feel like you're not the best person. You might feel like this is NOT prime planting season. But share Jesus anyway. Plant the seed. How?

Give these friends a gift. Help them with a project. Treat them to dinner. Share how Christ has changed your life. Ask how you can pray for them. But you might not see results right away—and that’s okay!

Any time is the right time to plant a gospel seed.

So, what are you waiting for?

Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.  -Mark 4:26, 27

 

 
A Survivor Remembers  

Hadas Eilon and her 15-year-old daughter looked forward to a fun weekend at the family kibbutz in southern Israel. The communal farm—a small town of 900–was just three miles east of Gaza. This was the place, the home where Hadas grew up.

A red alert sounded on Saturday morning, October 7, so Hadas, her brother, mother, daughter, and niece piled into their concrete-reinforced safe room. That's when texts from their neighbors brought news of the unthinkable.

Terrorists had invaded Israel and entered their kibbutz. Designed to withstand rockets, not enemy troops, the safe rooms in these homes had no locks.

Soon came the sounds. Shouting in Arabic… gunfire...a grenade tossed at their window. Then came the pounding on their safe room door. Hadas had nothing but a steak knife to defend herself should their grip on the door handle fail.

At this point, Hadas's 15-year-old daughter hid under the bed, thinking that if the terrorists did make it in, she stood a slight chance of going undetected and might be able to rescue others.

The struggle was fierce, but the family managed to hang on to the door, and the terrorists left. For a time.

Tucked away in that safe room were five people. Five people with no electricity, no air conditioning, and no communication with the outside world as phone batteries died.

When IDF soldiers made a brief appearance, Hadas's family was allowed to get water and use the restroom. But they immediately returned to the safe room because the soldiers could not stay.

Hamas returned. More pounding and struggling with the door. More gunshots. They left. Inside the saferoom, the family lit candles, which soon died out for lack of oxygen.

Throughout a 35-hour nightmare, Hamas tried three times to break into the safe room. When a larger group of soldiers finally rescued the family, the home was severely shot up. Blood was on every bed. Sheets and towels had been used for tourniquets. IDF soldiers had knocked out kitchen windows for gun placement.

A terrorist remained hidden in the home, so a column of IDF soldiers formed a shield so the family could dive into an armored vehicle. Only later did Hadas learn that her brother, who had been fighting the terrorists, was shot and killed.

To hear this story in person as I did leaves your mouth dry. I asked Hadas about her plan for sharing this ordeal with the broader world.

Her answer: "Right now, I must be among friends. So, now that you have heard my story, I am asking YOU to be an ambassador. YOU tell the story."

Next time somebody tries to downplay the horror of October 7, tell them you have a story you need to share. Tell them about Hadas.

Rescue the weak and needy; Save them from the hand of the wicked. 

—Psalm 82:4

 

 

 
Intensive Prayer Unit  

We are in the intensive care unit.

Attached to eight IV drips is someone we love. A machine helps him breathe.

His downward spiral has been fast and furious. But how does a simple fall at home lead to being on life support? In a meeting with the head doctor, she summarizes her medical assessment in plain English: “A lot has gone wrong in a very short span.”

Nurses chat just outside our room. Gurneys wheel patients down the hall. Overhead speakers alert doctors to health emergencies. Oddly, if you listen long enough, the sounds of controlled crises act as a sedative.

But we are abruptly awakened by the cheery entrance of a smiling hospital chaplain. After getting an update from the nurse, she introduces herself and announces she is going to pray. Would any of us like to join her?

I stand with her, and we bow our heads. The chaplain quotes phrases or entire verses from throughout the Bible, including:

  • Isaiah 54:17, No weapon formed against you will stand.
  • Psalm 139:16, In Your book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
  • Philippians 4:7, And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The chaplain leads us on a march through grand gospel truths that—compressed together—have the force of a spiritual karate chop.

I thank her for quoting so much Scripture, and she meekly replies, "Why should I pray my words when we have His words?”

As she disappears into the world of crash carts and caregivers, I am left to ponder. Isn’t intensive prayer the most intensive care we could offer those we love? And what if our prayers contained more of His words than our words? Welcome to the Intensive Prayer Unit!

 
Broken Things  

On morning walks after the holidays, I like to smell the different Christmas trees piled out by the curb: Balsam fir, Blue spruce, and Scotch pine. (I'm so crazy about the smell; Diana makes our fake Christmas tree smell like the real deal!).

Walking by those curbside trees, I often break off a small sprig and breathe in the fragrance--my feeble attempt at hanging on to Christmas just a bit longer. Interestingly, the pine smells the strongest where the twig is broken off. That arresting aroma is not found in the luxurious green needles. But you cannot escape it at the point of the wound.

I’m learning that the same is often true spiritually. Let me explain.

I visited an elderly Christian friend whose wife now lives in a memory care unit. He misses her terribly—to the point you sense something (someone) has been torn from him. Yet, to be with him is to breathe a fragrance of kindness and warmth that can only be described as Christ-like.

Another friend is in the middle of a months-long knee replacement nightmare. Talk about broken! He is entirely immobile—but spiritually unwavering—the fragrance of Christ.

This week, I met a Christian woman who remembers Adolph Hitler's motorcade driving down her street. Not long after, her family faced the horror of the Russian occupation. She heard the screams of women raped at night, the shots of guns executing neighbors, and the incessant growl of her stomach as starvation loomed. Incredibly, she, too, had this fragrance of Christ about her.

Like the Christmas trees I sample, that fragrance is not released in seasons of comfort—the easy times. Look for it in seasons of brokenness.

My point? Someone reading this right now is at a place of great hurt. I would not minimize your pain or pretend I know all you're going through. I can only tell you what I've observed in those who refuse to turn bitter but instead cling to the Savior. When the focus is Jesus, the fragrance is Christ.

 

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

—2 Corinthians 2:15

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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