Are You A Rescuer?Have you ever been to the beach? Here in Florida, we often get extremely dangerous riptides. For those non-beach goers out there, a riptide is where the waves come crashing into shore, and then the water returns, making a river with a very strong current going directly back out into the ocean. If a person’s not careful, they can get pulled right into a rip current and very quickly end up1/2 mile off shore. I once found myself in a riptide in Hawaii and almost lost my life. Many people drown every year from these deadly traps! Recently, there was a story in the headlines that really moved me. A large church youth group was visiting the beach on the west coast. Without warning, a young man wading in the water was yanked by a riptide, was swept out to sea, and vanished. Immediately, the panicked youth group relentlessly looked for him and called for help. There was no trace of him. In approximately10 minutes, the surf rescue team was on scene. During the search, twenty-plus kids from the youth group, kneeling on the sand, sobbed uncontrollably and prayed, a truly heart wrenching sound and sight if ever there was one. It took another 15 minutes before the rescue swimmers found his lifeless body floating in the ocean. Time was of the essence and they had no time to waste. They grabbed him and pulled him aboard the Jet Ski and rushed his lifeless body to the beach. Then, to the absolute amazement of all, he miraculously was revived and saved! In the same manner, God is pleading for us to rush to the masses and rescue them! Time is of the essence! What type of person could sit back on the beach in apathy while someone is dying in the ocean? What kind of person could care less if the perishing person dies? If they could ignore it, they’re heartless. No, a person with any heart would do everything in his/her power, whatever it takes, to rescue the perishing. Likewise, there’s a multitude all around us dying in a sea of sin! Have you ever noticed that in a rescue attempt, the rescuer must go to the perishing? The perishing doesn’t come to the rescuer. I’ve never seen a drowning person swim to the lifeguard to ask for help. The lifeguard rushes to the drowning person! I want to challenge you to be a rescuer for Jesus and rush to that neighbor, friend, relative, classmate, or worker who’s perishing and tell him/her there’s a Savior who loves them and wants to come into their life to save them! Sadly, many lost people around us remain just that, lost forever, because we’re waiting for them to come to us! But the reality is, most lost people have no intention of going to a religious meeting to hear a religious speaker talk about a religious subject in a religious place. Often the biggest mistake Christians make in getting the Good News to dying people is we’re waiting for them to come to us. Most of our efforts to change people’s destiny from hell to heaven focus on the lost coming to our meetings, to our buildings, to our places of worship. Tragically, most of those lost and dying people remain just that, lost and dying!
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20) “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
John Harper: An unseen hero of unshakable faithIt was declared “The unsinkable ship.” Tradition tells us that an employee of the White Star Lines who built the Titanic boastfully stated that “Not even God can sink the Titanic.” Many of us are familiar with the immense tragedy that happened over 100 years ago with the RMS Titanic, but there is more to the sinking of the Titanic than a historical tragedy. There is a story of courageous heroism of a man with incredible faith. Among all the passengers who boarded the Titanic, there was a simple man, a pastor whose name was John Harper, who was passionate about JESUS. He was a man who was saved at the age of 13; GOD called him to preach at 17; and he was passionate about the Lord and His Kingdom. As John Harper’s life unfolded, one thing was apparent…he was consumed by the Word of God. Every day after working at the mill, for over five years, he could be found preaching the Word of God on street corners. John Harper loved his Savior and his heart was consumed with a fire that could not be quenched. This fire was seen by Pastor E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, England, who called him to the work in a church. This set Harper free to devote all of his time and energy for the Kingdom of God. Soon, John Harper started his own church in September of 1896, now known as the Harper Memorial Church. When asked by different pastors what his doctrine was, he consistently replied, “The Word of God.” This church which John Harper started began with 25 members, and had grown to over 500 members when he left 13 years later. During this period of time, he fell in love and got married, but was shortly widowed after the birth of their daughter, Nana. Almost as if God had been preparing him, ironically, John Harper almost drowned several times during his life. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he drowned when he fell into a well, but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a riptide and barely survived, and at thirty-two, he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. On April 11, 1912, when the Titanic began her voyage, John Harper boarded the RMS Titanic with his six year old daughter, Nana, to come to America to preach a revival at the Moody Bible Institute. There were three classes of passengers on board: first, second, and third class. Aboard this luxurious ocean liner, there were some of the wealthiest people in the world desiring to embark on her maiden voyage. While many passengers spoke of their next business deal, their acquisitions and material desires, John Harper could be seen diligently sharing the love of Christ with others. In the days leading up to the tragedy, survivors reported seeing Harper living like a man of faith, speaking kind words and sharing the love of Christ. It was the night of April 14, 1912, when the RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. As passengers danced in the ballroom and tried their luck at the card tables, John Harper put his daughter to bed and read his devotions as he did every night. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, the Titanic struck an iceberg. The “unsinkable” ship was doomed once the ship’s starboard side scraped an iceberg, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in; either in disbelief or unaware at the time, passengers continued about their pleasures. It wasn’t until the ship’s crew sent up a series of distress flares that passengers realized the seriousness of their situation. Then chaos ensued. It all happened so fast. Harper quickly awakened his daughter, picked her up and wrapped her in a blanket before carrying her up to the deck. He took his daughter to lifeboat 11. As a widowed preacher, John Harper could have easily gotten on board this lifeboat to safety; however, it never seemed to have crossed his mind. He bent down; the flares reflected off the tears streaming down his face, he looked into his daughter’s eyes and told her that she would see him again someday. Harper knew he would never see his daughter again on this side of eternity. His daughter would be left an orphan at six years of age. He then turned and rushed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner. From a survivor we learn that he called out, “women, children, and unsaved people into the lifeboats.” John Harper understood that there was a more important thing than surviving that terrible disaster. He understood that there were those who were unprepared to face eternity. He understood that believers were ready to die but the unsaved were not ready. Harper then ran along the decks, pleading with people to turn to Christ, and with the ship sinking, he called upon the Titanic’s orchestra to play, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.” Gathering people around him on deck, he then knelt down, and “with holy joy in his face,” raised his arms in prayer. As the sounds of terror and mayhem continued, Harper focused on his God-given purpose. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees and surrounded by terrified passengers, he was sharing Christ and praying for their salvation. The ship began to lurch and break apart. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually, the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the frigid, icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people who were forced to jump into the icy waters. He swam frantically to all the perishing he could reach, beseeching them to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. That night 1,528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water, leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. John Harper asked him as he gasped between breaths, “Are you saved?” The young man, who was near shock, replied that he was not. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, “Here then, you need this more than I do” only to then quickly swim away to other people. A few minutes later, Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1,528 people that went into the water that night; only six were rescued by the lifeboats, and John Harper was not one of them. In his last moment, this tireless man of undying faith continued his life pursuit of winning lost souls. As his body succumbed to the intense cold of the icy water, his body frozen, but his heart afire, John Harper’s beckoning call to the lost and perishing before he slipped under the water was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Four years later, a young Scotsman by the name of Aguilla Webb, who was one of the six individuals pulled out alive from the icy waters stood up in a meeting in Hamilton, Canada, and gave the following testimony: I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar (wood debris) that awful night, the tide brought Mr. John Harper of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. ‘Man,’ he said, ‘Are you saved?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ The waves bore him away; but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after, he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert. Does Hollywood remember this man? No. It doesn’t matter, Heaven does! This man’s heroism will be ringing throughout the eons of eternity. This faithful servant of God lived his life for an Audience of One. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved. John Harper was truly the hero of the Titanic! When the Titanic began her voyage there were three classes of passengers: first, second, and third class, but when she came to her abrupt end, history records only two kinds of passengers: those who were lost and those who were saved. Even so, God’s word divides all humanity neatly into only two classes. “And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12). There’s a lost and dying world of people who are drowning in a sea of sin, who desperately need to be rescued. May you and I be passionate, relentless, determined, and consumed “Life-Savers” for Jesus! “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends…” John 15:13 The great hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned these powerful words in the hymn Rescue the Perishing: Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save. Though they are slighting him, still he is waiting, waiting the penitent child to receive; plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently; he will forgive if they only believe. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore; touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that were broken will vibrate once more. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it; strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; back to the narrow way patiently win them; tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying;
“When you fish for fish, you catch something that’s alive that’s going to die.
When you fish for men, you catch someone dead that’s going to live.”
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