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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The Man In The Water: Dying – So Others Could Live (1982)

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I am not a big reader of fiction books. Nothing wrong with them of course, but I have a love for true stories, especially stories of heroism and self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Some years ago, I ran across such a story. It captivated my interest and attention for years, so much so that I have used it as an illustration many times in public speaking engagements. Below are excerpts (all italicized) from the story – a true story – called “The Man In The Water” (written by Roger Rosenblatt, Time Magazine, January 25, 1982). It speaks of the tragic plane crash of Air Florida Flight 90 on January 13, 1982 in Washington D.C. Shortly after the plane took off, it crashed into the 14th Street Bridge – hitting 6 cars and a truck – and then into the icy Potomac River, killing 78 people altogether. As seen in the 4 pictures of this post, photographers and television crews were quickly on the scene, capturing images of the tragic scene.

There were 6 initial survivors of the crash. Rosenblatt writes below of the brave rescue efforts of these people by a helicopter team of pilot, Donald Usher, and paramedic, Gene Windsor – and the heroism of the 6th man – “The Man In The Water.”

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. . .the person most responsible for the emotional impact of the disaster is the one known at first simply as “the man in the water.” (balding, probably in his 50s, an extravagant mustache.) He was seen clinging with five other survivors to the tail section of the airplane.

This man was described by Usher and Windsor as appearing alert and in control. Every time they lowered a lifeline and flotation ring to him, he passed it on to another of the passengers.

“In a mass casualty, you’ll find people like him,” said Windsor. “But I’ve never seen one with that commitment.” When the helicopter came back for him, the man had gone under. His selflessness was one reason the story held national attention; his anonymity another.

Still, he could never have imagined such a capacity in himself. Only minutes before his character was tested, he was sitting in the ordinary plane among the ordinary passengers, dutifully listening to the stewardess telling him to fasten his seat belt and saying something about the “no smoking sign.” So our man relaxed with the others, some of whom would owe their lives to him. Perhaps he started to read, or to doze, or to regret some harsh remark made in the office that morning. Then suddenly he knew that the trip would not be ordinary. Like every other person on that flight, he was desperate to live, which makes his final act so stunning.

For at some moment in the water he must have realized that he would not live if he continued to hand over the rope and ring to others. He had to know it, no matter how gradual the effect of the cold. In his judgment he had no choice. When the helicopter took off with what was to be the last survivor, he watched everything in the world move away from him, and he deliberately let it happen.

Yet there was something else about our man that kept our thoughts on him, and which keeps our thoughts on him still. He was there, in the essential, classic circumstance. Man in nature. The man in the water. For its part, nature cared nothing about the five passengers. Our man, on the other hand, cared totally. So the timeless battle commenced in the Potomac. For as long as that man could last, they went at each other, nature and man; the one making no distinctions of good and evil, acting on no principles, offering no lifelines; the other acting wholly on distinctions, principles, and, one supposes, on faith.

The odd thing is that we do not even really believe that the man in the water lost his fight. . .He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger. . .The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.

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Isa al Masih – Jesus – said (John 15:13): “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

As we come to the end of this Memorial Day weekend, we think of many who have given their lives for others. I also remember the “man in the water”: dying. . .so others could live.

I think even more of Isa – Jesus. He was the “man in the water” for all of mankind. He gave his life for all of humanity who were “drowning” in their sins. They were hopeless. Helpless. Jesus died, so we could live.

Would you like to talk about this amazing Prophet – Jesus? Please email me at InTheHarvest@gmail.com.

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(Postscript: apparently, the “man in the water” did not know any of the other passengers on the plane personally. His own identity was not even known until some time after the bodies were recovered. The coroner made this discovery: of all the recovered bodies, only one had lungs filled with water. That man was the only person who made it out of the plane but not out of the river. He was Arland Williams Jr., a 46-year-old federal bank examiner.)

Isa (Jesus) Wept On The First “Palm Sunday.” Does He Still Weep Now. . .In Paradise?

All my Muslim friends say something that may surprise my Christian readers: they all say that they love Jesus. Personally, I think this is beautiful. Instead of arguing over who owns Jesus, I think that the topic of loving Jesus can create a tremendous conversation that Muslims and Christians can engage in. We can ask each other the questions:

“Why do you love Jesus?”
“What is it about him that you love?”

I love my wife – not just because she is my wife – but because of specific attributes that she has. She is faithful, honest, supportive, kind, wise, discerning, deep, thoughtful, caring, an excellent listener and – on the lighter side – she watches football and basketball with me (I could list many more positive traits)!

In the same way, I love Jesus because of specific attributes that he displayed when he walked the land of Palestine over 2000 years ago. He was the epitome of love, honesty, justice, wisdom, self-control, courage, mercy, grace, patience, righteous anger, and faithfulness to God (again, I could continue).

There is part of a story of Jesus that moves me deeply but is little known by many. It typifies one of the many reasons why I love him. It happened at the beginning of the time Christians around the world are celebrating right now called “Holy Week.” The event I am referring to happened on what is traditionally called “Palm Sunday” – the day that Jesus approached Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and was wildly celebrated by the masses as the long-promised, long-awaited messiah: the savior of the Jews. As Jesus descended that slope toward the city, most people were delirious with joy, a few people were angry (the jealous religious leaders), and one person – Jesus – wept. The Gospels – or Injeel – say that “as he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

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In that moment, Jesus saw so clearly that the people of Jerusalem would reject him and the salvation he came to bring. But it was not any kind of personal rejection that made him weep. He had far too much inner strength and understanding of his identity for that. No, he saw the terrible agony and future destruction that would come to the people of Jerusalem due to their rejection of him and his mission and that brought him to tears.

I love Jesus because out of his compassion he wept for people:

Lost people.
Doomed people.
Even wicked people who would reject him and curse him and hate him.

What kind of love was this?

While we as Christians and Muslims disagree on how Jesus got to Paradise (a topic for another day), we all agree that he is there. I wonder if, in Paradise today – right now – does Jesus look over our world and weep for people who are headed for the unspeakable destruction of God’s final judgment as he did on that day in Palestine 2000 years ago?

Does Jesus still weep?

(Postscript: dear friends, I write this blog for only one reason. I want as many people as possible to be in Paradise! Jesus paid the price for you to be there. He gave up everything – his very life – for you. No amount of good deeds can pay for your many sins. No amount of praying, fasting, giving, or going can erase the stain of your bad deeds. But, one thing can. The sacrifice of Jesus. If you want to talk about this, please reply to this blog post or send me a private message at InTheHarvest@gmail.com. We can talk together with mutual respect, honesty, and love.)

There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Yours?

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(The post below was first done in June of 2013. Because of a great conversation with two kind sheikhs and other Muslim men at a mosque, I thought it would be good to repost it. I hope it is thought provoking as you seek truth in this life and what we all want in the future – Paradise.)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I believe there are really only 2 religions – 2 religious belief systems – in the world. Sounds crazy, right? No, I truly believe there are just 2 religions in the world.

In the first religious belief system, we can use the illustration of a ladder extending from earth to Heaven.

In this illustration, most of humanity attempts to “climb the ladder” to Heaven by right beliefs, good intentions, obedience to all kinds of rules, and the faithful practice of all kinds of rituals. The adherents of this religious belief system believe if they can just do enough, they can tip the divine scales and God will let them into a place of bliss, perfection, and rewards.

This religious system is called “good works.”

Those who depend upon good works might call themselves “Buddhists” (using the 8-fold path of enlightenment) or “Hindus” (reincarnation – coming back over an over again in some new form), or something else. They might call themselves “Muslims” (practicing the 5 pillars, attendance at the mosque, memorizing the Qur’an, following the Sunnah, etc.) or “Christians” (going faithfully to “church,” practicing the “Golden Rule,” singing in the choir, reading the Bible, etc.).

A legitimate question about all of these people is,

“What – or who – are they counting on to gain Paradise when they die?”

Essentially, if they are trying to “climb the ladder” to Paradise by their good deeds, they are counting upon – and this is incredibly important – themselves. They are counting on their own performance, their own hard work, and their own spiritual achievements – in essence, their own goodness.

In the second religious belief system, we can also use the illustration of a ladder between earth and Heaven. But in this faith system, God in Heaven looks down upon humanity and lovingly sees that people simply cannot “climb the ladder” and get to Him. None of them can. All are helpless, all are hopelessly lost, and all are in need of rescue. All are in deep shame and in need of their honor to be restored.

So God sends His mercy and compassion down the ladder through His prophets. He does this especially and uniquely through Jesus – Isa Al Masih. The prophet Isa – spotless and sinless (Qur’an 19:19) – takes upon himself the sins and shame of the whole world through the voluntary sacrifice of his life. He provides restored relationship with God in Heaven, forgiveness of sins, and the honor that all people need and crave.

This is indeed Good News but. . .there is a big IF: mankind must believe in Isa (Jesus the Messiah) – who he is and what he has done – and follow him to the end.

This religious belief system is called “grace.”

Grace is simply receiving (accepting) by faith a gift that cannot be earned. In this case, the gift is the gift of forgiveness of sins and righteousness (right standing) before God and then the resulting gift of eternal life in Paradise.

2 religious belief systems: good works. . .and grace.

So yes, I believe there are only 2 religions in the world.

Which one is yours?

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(Postscript: All I want – all I passionately want – is for all people to see Isa Al Masih – Jesus – for who he is. I desperately want all people to put their complete trust in him and his sacrificial death so they can live forever in Heaven with God who certainly is full of genuine, undeserved mercy and compassion. If I can help anyone to find and follow that straight path, it is my complete joy, privilege, and honor.)

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?