The Man In The Water: Dying – So I Could Live (1966)

This is the month of “Memorial Day” in America. On Memorial Day we traditionally remember those who gave their lives so we could live. The story below is a true story of incredible courage, bravery, and ultimate selflessness and sacrifice. Like my last post, it is another story about a “man in the water.”

At one time in my life, I was drowning, as were countless other desperate souls. There was a man who was doing all he could to rescue us. He continually left the safety of his position and took a flotation rescue ring and rope – a life preserver – to drowning men, women, children – people of all ages and races.

At one point, he saw me sinking and took pity on me. He dove into the water with the ring and rope without regard for his own safety (he seemed to abandon every thought of his personal well-being). In his facial expression there was a laser like focus and determination to reach me before I went under for the last time. When he reached me, he offered me the life preserver (the rope extended up and far beyond my view to its source – a source too far away for me to see). I will never forget the feeling that I would not die but live! The indescribable panic and paralyzing fear of death was leaving as I experienced incredible hope!

As I took the ring he offered, I was pulled up and out of that treacherous water. I still can see the look in his eyes – a quiet, strong, without-words-kind-of-look of deep compassion and care. While being pulled from the water, I looked back and saw “the man in the water” – the man who had rescued me, and so many others. All of this effort had created in his body an agonizing fatigue that he fought to overcome. In giving every ounce of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy, he too began to sink in the dark waters. Tragically, there was no one to rescue him! In saving me and so many others, he lost his life. No, he really didn’t lose it. He voluntarily gave it. Sacrificed it. For me, and for all the rest who would take the rescue ring and rope he extended to them.

The twin realizations that I was safe – but that he was dying the horrible death of drowning – was overwhelming. I was filled with both unspeakable joy and inconsolable grief.

I will never forget that day. It was May 28, 1966. I was just a 10 year old boy.

I will never forget that man. His name? Jesus Christ.

This truly is my story. Yes, I have told it as an “allegory” – figurative language. But it accurately depicts what this amazing man, Jesus, did for me. You see, like everyone else, I was sinking, going under, “drowning” in my sins. There was no hope. Like every other man, woman, or child, I could not save myself. My “lungs” were filling up with the treacherous and dark “water” of my sins – pulling me down to a horrible and eternal death.

God loved me – and the whole world – so much that He sent Jesus to offer us the “ring and rope” of salvation – a salvation we cannot earn or merit. Jesus gave his life for each of us so we could live in heaven forever; so each of us could be rescued if we would only put our trust in him and the incredible sacrifice he made for us.

I will forever love Jesus for giving himself up for me. Now I also try to live for him. I try to follow him.

This is my story about “the man in the water” – dying. . .so I could live.

Postscript: I absolutely cherish any and every opportunity to tell others about him and what he did for me – for all of us.

If you want to talk, please email me at InTheHarvest@gmail.com.

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If Isa – Jesus – Didn’t Die, Who Was That Man That Came Out Of The Tomb?

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Dear Muslim friends,

Two days ago, Christians all over the world celebrated “Easter.” Sadly, when you do a google image search using the word “Easter,” you will see mostly images of little rabbits, eggs, and spring flowers.

But Easter is actually the name given for the day over 2,000 years ago when Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead after being executed (by crucifixion). (You can read about the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb in the Injeel: Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-47, John 20:1-29).

Do I believe Jesus was actually crucified and rose from the dead as the Bible claims? Well, as a first century preacher stated in a letter to early Christians:

“. . .if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

What this means is, I am basing my belief that I will go to heaven solely, completely, emphatically on 2 events that I believe to be entirely historical: the death of Jesus on a Roman cross for my sins and the subsequent resurrection of Jesus from the dead to prove he was who he said he was.

Is there any evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

In this blog post, I quote a speaker and author, Josh McDowell, regarding evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

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EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS THE MESSIAH
by Josh McDowell

The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance.

A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.

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So. . .what are the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

EVIDENCE #1: THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
The first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. If the responsible people were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves after his death and certainly would not have had the courage to fight off Roman soldiers, break the seal, and steal his body.

EVIDENCE #2: THE EMPTY TOMB
The disciples of Christ did not immediately go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.” Paul Althaus states that the resurrection “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”

If the resurrection claim was merely a lie – some kind of hoax – the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body of Jesus from the tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor of his resurrection.

EVIDENCE #3: LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?

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EVIDENCE #4: EYEWITNESSES
Christ appeared alive to his closest followers – and to many others – on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter. Claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations are unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations – namely that different people cannot see the same hallucination simultaneously.

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Two of the most amazing appearances of Jesus after he rose from the dead are recorded in the Injeel, John 20:19-31. In the second appearance, one of Jesus’ disciples put his fingers into the imprint of the nails in Jesus’ hands and then made one of the most stunning statements of all time as he said these words to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”

EVIDENCE #5: LIVING WITNESSES YEARS LATER
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts. They were still alive and could be questioned.

EVIDENCE #6: THE DISCIPLES’ LIVES – AND DEATHS
The strongest evidence of all for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the way those early Christians lived – and died. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ?

Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts – prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits – we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this “risen Christ.”

Instead, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking.

Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message: Jesus died and rose from the dead.

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Postscript to my Muslim friends: how do you evaluate these evidences for the empty tomb – for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

I am respectfully assuming you will answer that the Bible has been corrupted and changed.

If so, may I humbly ask you:

Who changed the Bible?
When was it changed?
Where was it changed?
Why was it changed?
What is the evidence that it was changed?

Until I see evidence that the Bible was changed, I will maintain my belief that it is true and accurate. And I will maintain my belief in the evidences from that first Easter – evidences for an empty tomb. I am staking my eternal destiny on it and invite you to carefully and objectively examine the evidence for yourself – for your eternal destiny.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends.

I really, really do.

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What If Jesus Really DID Die On The Cross?

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(this is a repost of a previous blog post I did – my heart and message remain the same)

Dear Muslim friends,

Today my heart is heavy.
I’ve had tears in my eyes.

What has caused this? Why am I so emotional and feeling this pain today?

It is because of you, my dear Muslim friends, whom I love.

It is because I long with all of my heart for you to see Jesus – to see him for all that he really is.

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I know you love him. All of my Muslim friends through the years have told me that. . .and I believe it. But I want to ask you with all respect, “How can you love Jesus fully if you don’t know fully all the truth about who he is and why he came?” The Qur’an has many excellent things to say about him. That is good, but there is more to learn. So much more. And it is such good news!

Yes, my Muslim friends, I know you love Jesus. Thank God! Wonderful! But I want to tell you again how much Jesus loves you – because, in reality, that is far more important than how much you love him.

I beg you with all my heart to please listen.

Jesus loves you so much that he was willing to give up everything – even his own life – to see you become right with God.

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He gave up all his glory in paradise to come to earth to make sure that your every sin could be forgiven – to wipe away all your shame. He came to take away your fear of the Day of Judgment and hellfire and rescue you from the power of Satan. He came to take away the gnawing, painful doubt of wondering if you have done enough – if you are good enough – to make it to Paradise.

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I remember saying to a Muslim friend one time, “How would you like to know that every sin you have ever done could be forgiven? How would you like to know that you could go to bed tonight and know that if you did not wake up tomorrow, you would be in Paradise? Would you like to pray with me to ask Jesus into your heart, to truly repent of your sins, and to give your life to Jesus and follow him?” I will never forget his answer. He said, “Who could pass up an offer like that?”

I will end with this.

Two weeks ago I went to see a dear Muslim friend. He is one of the kindest, gentlest, most humble people I have ever met. The problem is, I know that as good as he is, his own goodness cannot get him to Paradise. God says it’s not enough. Sin is so terrible that it must be punished. And God is so holy that He cannot allow sin into Paradise without the appropriate sacrifice to remove the stain and shame of that sin. Like so many of you, my Muslim friend is truly a good person (by human standards). But like all of you – and like me – he still sins and for that reason, he needs a Savior. He needs true forgiveness based on the sacrifice of Jesus.

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So before we parted ways, I asked him this question:

“What if Jesus really DID die on the cross?”

And that, my friends, is the question I want to ask you as well.

What if God loves you that much?

Please think about it carefully because your eternal destiny depends upon your answer.

Did Isa – Jesus – Die On The Cross. . .Or Was It Someone Else?

(Dear Muslim friends: as you read the title of this movie clip, I am very aware that you don’t believe that Jesus was/is the Son of God. I want to assure you that the Bible teaches that this is a spiritual relationship between God and Jesus, NOT a physical one)

DID ISA – JESUS – DIE ON THE CROSS. . .OR WAS IT SOMEONE ELSE?

Yesterday was a day celebrated by Christians around the world. It is called, “Good Friday.” It is our remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

I know that you – as Muslims – believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but that God took him up to Paradise and put his facial image on someone else – maybe Pilate, maybe Judas, maybe someone else.

But I wonder, would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words with nails in their hands and feet as they were being crucified:

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

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Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as their bones were being put out of joint (part of the effects of crucifixion)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were being mocked and ridiculed by Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders and people who were watching (yes, this happened to Jesus)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were suffocating (the ultimate way a victim dies in crucifixion)?

My Muslim friends, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died that first Good Friday on the cross.

Not Pilate.

Not Judas.

Not anyone else.

Because no one else can love like that.

No else can love like Jesus.

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My Dear Muslim Friends: I Love You Too Much. . .To Be Silent

Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

My Arab Muslim barber often says to me, “Mr. Mark, I love you too much!” I know he is using the word “too” with the meaning of “so” and it always warms my heart. Believe me, I feel the same way about him! He is a very special person to me and I love him.

A few years ago, I heard about a Christian woman in the Middle East who was meeting for coffee with several Muslim women. Suddenly, a Muslim man – a relative of one of the women – came into the room and began to preach Islam to the Christian woman. Among other things, he told her that her doom in hell was sure unless she repented and took Islam for her religion. I found her response very interesting.

After a few moments of careful thought, she simply replied to him to him with real honesty and sincerity, “Hamza, thank you for telling me these things. Your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.” She was saying in essence,

You love me too much to be silent and I greatly appreciate it.”

In my own life, I remember an experience with a Muslim man from the Middle East who was attending a university in the United States. We became friends and had many wonderful times of discussion about faith issues – sometimes until 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. On one occasion, Omar related that he had walked by an American restaurant with another Muslim friend. As they looked in the window at those who were eating, Omar said with real concern in his voice, “Abdullah, all these people, going to the hell-fire.”

I asked Omar for an explanation of his comment. He explained that in his mind – in his way of thinking – these people were not Muslims and were in danger of hell. I could see that it clearly pained him and I deeply respected him for that. He cared about the eternal destiny of those people and because of that care, it was hard for him to be silent.

Now some – if not many – of my Muslim readers may not agree with Omar or Hamza’s theology regarding who goes to hell but here is the point I want to make in this blog post today: we should not be silent about what we believe.

No, silence about finding a source of water is not a loving way to live when people you know are dying of thirst.

In light of this, please consider 3 thoughts:

#1) Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, if you love someone, you don’t want them to go to hell. Isn’t that right? It disturbs you to think about it. It actually hurts deeply to think of someone – especially someone you care about – suffering that horribly, and for that long, in fire!

#2) To my Muslim readers: if you believe that submitting to Allah, obeying the Qur’an, and following the life and teachings of Muhammad is the only way to Paradise and that for a friend to knowingly reject these teachings will send him or her to the hell-fire, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! As I understand it, it is your duty – your religious obligation – to “invite” your friend to follow the ways of Muhammad and embrace Islam (this is “dawa”).

#3) The same goes for my Christian readers: if you believe that following the ways of Jesus as taught in the Bible is the only way to Heaven and that for a friend to knowingly reject his teachings and sacrifice for sins will send him or her to hell, what do you do? Do you remain silent? No! Your love for God and your friend compels you to share the “Good News” of Jesus death and resurrection and his offer of forgiveness of all sins with your friend (this is “evangelism”).

So. . .as I close, I want to say to any Muslim who has spoken or will speak to me about your faith, thank you for caring for my eternal soul by speaking of the Qur’an and the teachings and ways of Muhammad to me. As in the story of the woman above, your message to me must be because you love me and don’t want me to go to hell.

In addition, I want to say to you, my dear Muslim friends whom I love:

Please allow me to share with you what I believe about Jesus. He is the man I believe to be the one and only Savior from sins and hell-fire that you and I – that all people – so desperately need. I say with heartfelt love and incredible concern: your eternity depends on how you view Jesus and what you do with him as a result of that view.

Please have the courage and commitment to truth to pray something like this:

“O God, please show me who Jesus really is. Please show me if he was just a prophet or. . .if he is something more. Show me if he really did die for my sins so I can be forgiven and be in Paradise forever with You.”

Jesus once said these words to a woman at a well in Palestine (Injeel, Gospel of John 4:13-14):

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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I have found living water in the desert of my thirsty soul. It comes from Jesus.

It would indeed be a crime for me to be silent and not tell you about it.

I love you so much, my Muslim friends.

I love you too much. . .to be silent.

Dear Muslim Friends: Do You Fear Hell? You Don’t Have To. . .

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Dear Muslim friends,

“Do you fear hell?”

I usually don’t start out my blog posts with such a serious kind of question. But this is a subject that is really on my mind today and is incredibly important. I wanted to get right to the heart of the matter.

Please allow me to share a few brief experiences I have had with some Muslim friends regarding fear of hell.

A few years ago, I was with a dear Muslim friend from Bangladesh, enjoying a meal together. We were having great conversation about life and faith and at some point I asked him, “Do you fear hell?” His answer really impacted me (and hurt me on the inside). He looked down and said with real seriousness and a sadness in his voice and facial expression, “Every day.”

Another time, I was driving with a Muslim friend from Yemen and I asked him the same question. He replied with surprise, “Who wouldn’t fear hell? Can you imagine burning your hand in a fire? Then try to imagine your whole body burning. Can you imagine that? Of course I fear hell.”

While taking Christians on a tour of another mosque in Michigan, a very kind and well spoken imam said, “Your good deeds can outweigh your bad deeds and you can still go to hell.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because God is King. He can do whatever He wants.” (Wow, I have to admit, that answer shocked me.)

Dear Muslim friends, may I share with you why I don’t fear hell?

First of all, let me say that it’s not because I am such a good person. It’s not because my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds on a scale on the day of judgment. It is certainly not because I never sin, because I sin every day – against the Lord and against people. I sin every day – either in my actions or in my thoughts. I sin every day – in what I do or in what I should have done. And I am not alone. The Injil says that we all have sinned and that we all have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).

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No, the reason that I don’t fear hell has nothing to do with my goodness. It has everything to do with God’s goodness. And just as importantly, with God’s promise. You see, God has promised that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice will be completely, totally, and forever forgiven. Imagine it. All sins forgiven. Washed away. Every single one. All shame removed.

I have followed God’s way, His path. I have chosen to follow Jesus as my Savior. Because of this – and only this – I have God’s incredible, amazing, stunning promise of forgiveness in my heart:

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And because of this – and only this – I do not fear hell.

God. . .is a promise maker.

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And God. . .is a promise keeper.

He can change His mind.
But He won’t.

Why?
He promised.

This is my hope and prayer for every man and every woman: that they not be plagued by a constant anxiety about hell but that they might know an incredible peace in the deepest part of their soul. That they might know that heaven can be their eternal home and that their sins can be completely and eternally forgiven.

This is God’s amazing promise to all who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice of love.

Dear Muslim friends: “Do you fear hell?”

If you do, please hear these words: “You don’t have to. . .”

I MUST Warn You: “Every Bridge To Paradise Is Out. . .Except One!”

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

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Imagine yourself driving alone on an extremely cold, rainy night – the rain is pouring down, the visibility is low, the road conditions are slippery and dangerous.

Imagine that you near a large bridge ahead but somehow, some way, you are able to see that the bridge is not there! It has collapsed.

Miraculously, you are able to slide to a stop just at the edge of the collapsed bridge or you and your car would have plunged into the icy waters below. You would have surely been killed by the impact, drowned, or frozen to death. But somehow by the mercy of God you saw that the bridge was out.

What would you do then? Surely you would breathe a huge sigh of relief and thank God for saving you from dying. Right? But. . .what then?

There are people who are traveling behind you. Many people. Some of them you know. Some of them you don’t. But they are coming and if you don’t find a way to warn them, they will certainly plunge to the horrible doom you were rescued from.

In your mind you picture the horrible images of carnage and destruction that await them!

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Your mind races.

How can you warn them that the bridge is out?

1) Call 911 and leave it all up to someone else – the professional rescuers – to save people?
2) Quickly make a sign and hold it up for oncoming drivers to see: “Danger – Bridge Out Ahead!”
3) Stand on the side of the road and wave kindly – but timidly – to oncoming cars?
4) Stand on the side of the road and wave frantically – yelling and screaming at oncoming cars of the danger ahead?
5) Stand in the middle of the road – refusing to move – risking your life to stop traffic to save people from dying?

Or. . .would you do nothing because of what people might SAY to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

“Who do you think you are?”
“You shouldn’t be here!”
“You’re intolerant!”
“I know where I’m going and how to get there!”
“Mind your own business!”
“Get out of my way!”

Would you do nothing because of what people might DO to you if you tried to warn them about the bridge being out:

laugh at you. . .
mock you. . .
curse you. . .
throw things at you. . .or even. . .
beat or kill you.

What would determine how you would act on that cold, rainy night?

Fear of what people would think of you?

OR. . .

Concern for what would happen to them if they kept going?

The prophet Solomon (Sulaiman) said we must do something! God Himself is watching:

Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help
.
If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know —
Someone not impressed with weak excuses.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Message)

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Rescue. . .
don’t stand back and let them die.

Don’t try to disclaim responsibility
by saying you didn’t know about it.

For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew!
And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.”
(Proverbs 24:11-12, The Living Bible)

My dear readers – whether you call yourself a “Muslim” or a “Christian” or something else – I love you. I care about you. That is why it is my absolute duty before God to warn you that every spiritual “bridge” you are trusting in on the Day of Judgment is out except for one.

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The only “bridge” you can trust to cross over into Paradise is the person and work of Jesus.

God looked down upon you and me and knew that we could not do enough good things in this life to cross over safely into Paradise. He sent the Prophets to warn us. They were mocked, laughed at, rejected, even killed. Then He sent Jesus. He sent him to die. To be sacrificed. In your place – and mine. For the shame and punishment of your sins – and mine. How do we respond? By accepting the free gift of that sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. By giving our life to Jesus in humble, loving gratitude and then becoming his lifelong followers.

This is the bridge that God Himself has built to save us.

There is no other bridge. There is no other way:

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (the Injil, the Good News according to John, chapter 14, verse 6).

Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one” (the Book of the Acts of Jesus’ Apostles, chapter 4, verse 12).

My dear friends, I WARN you because I LOVE you.

I warn you because I CARE.

Every bridge is out.

Every bridge except one. . .

That bridge. . .is JESUS.

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Postscript:

To my “Muslim” readers, what I am trying to do – boldly and unapologetically – is to plead with you to examine the claims of Jesus in the Injil. To read about his life and yes, his death and resurrection. To see that no one loves you like he does. To see that no one else has given their life for you like he has.

You can trust your good works to get you to Paradise but I MUST warn you. . . that bridge is out. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to repent (turn away) from your sins and follow him as your Savior. Will you answer that call?

To my “Christian” readers, I fear for so many of you. Why? Because you are trusting in your good works to get you to Heaven. Maybe you said a “sinner’s prayer” but let me ask you, “Are you living for Jesus?” “Are you following him?” “Have you given him your life?” Or did you just pray at one time long ago for “fire insurance” but without real repentance from sin and real commitment to Jesus? It won’t work. I warn you. . .that bridge is out.

It’s time to quit playing games with God, with yourself, with your eternity. Jesus is the bridge to Paradise and he is calling your name. He is calling you to follow him.

Will you answer that call?