Jesus on the Titanic

I recently attended a revival service at my church.  The speaker read the following story and the above video concerning John Harper, pastor from Scotland who was aboard the Titanic.  This story is little known, but is one of true love as he sacrificed his life to save souls until he, too, succumbed to the icy waters.

Harper’s reputation as an evangelist was so well known that he was invited to speak at The Moody Church in 1910. I have in my possession a photocopy of a letter, in his own handwriting, which reads, “I have been in Chicago for three months, God gave us a very precious and wonderful revival of continuous services each day and sometimes even more often.” He went on to say that he now had been invited back to The Moody Church for another three months of meetings.

And so it was that John Harper, his sister, and his six-year-old daughter (his wife had died) found themselves on the great ship, the Titanic. Survivors later reported that as Titanic began to sink, Harper admonished people to be prepared to die. He made sure his sister and daughter were in a lifeboat even as he continued to share the Gospel with whoever would listen. And when he found himself in the icy water with a life jacket, floating near another man, Harper asked, “Are you saved?”

No, I’m not saved!” the desperate man replied.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!” Harper shouted.

One report says Harper, knowing he could not survive long in the icy water, took off his life jacket and threw it to another person with the words, “You need this more than I do!” Moments later, Harper disappeared beneath the water. Four years later, when there was a reunion of the survivors of the Titanic, the man to whom Harper had witnessed told the story of his rescue and gave a testimony of his conversion recorded in a tract, I was John Harper’s Last Convert.

Before disappearing beneath the two and a half miles of water, John Harper shared, for the last time, the message of Christmas, which, in a nutshell, is that Jesus came to earth to die in our stead that we might be saved. This Gospel does not spare us from drowning in an ocean, but it does spare us from a far worse eternal destruction.

(Courtesy of “John Harper’s Last Convert” by Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, moodymedia.org) 

A Willing Heart

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Everyone tends to think a little bit more about the Christmas account the closer they get to December. However, there is so much to learn from the story any time of the year. The entire story is incredible.  We see angels heralding heavenly messages to men below.  We read of wealthy wise men and their elaborate gifts as they “follow yonder star.” Humble shepherds appear, excited to behold the promised Child.  All these events are marvelous to read about, but how often do we consider Mary?

 At such a time, girls were married very young – around 14 or 15 years old. They were considered women by that age, and held far more responsibilities than the young females of today.  They washed clothes by hand, mended garments, watched the younger siblings, and assisted with the livestock and gardens.  She was a busy young Jewish woman, faithfully serving God and preparing for marriage. With all these tasks already on her plate, Mary had her hands full without a supernatural pregnancy to think about.

The arrival of the angel must have been one of the most earth-shattering moments of Mary’s life.  I could imagine her dutifully making her bed, expecting nothing out of the ordinary, when suddenly: “And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’” (Luke 1:28) Her response to such an announcement was probably much like ours would have been: “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.” (verse 29)

As if that wasn’t enough, the angel continued: “Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” (verse 30-31) I could imagine her brain working overtime after such an announcement. Why would He choose me? How on earth does someone conceive by the Holy Spirit? What am I going to tell Joseph . . . and my parents . . . and my friends? How do you take care of the Son of God . . .? What came from her mouth was logical: “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’” (verse 35)

The angel, of course, had a ready answer: “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  For with God nothing will be impossible.’” (verses 35-37)

Despite all the questions her finite mind might have come up with, her response came from a heart dedicated to God: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’” (verse 38).  By her reply, we know God has chosen accurately. He knew her heart and the willingness in it to do whatever He asked her to do. She, in turn, knew His heart, His ways, and His love – so faith and obedience was a natural response.

We’re grateful that Mary’s response was so faith-filled, but consider what might have happened if Mary had said, “There’s no way a woman could get pregnant like that – with the Son of God or otherwise! I just can’t believe it!”  Would God’s plan to bring the Savior into the world be suddenly shut down? No, God’s plans don’t end because of someone’s unbelief. He’ll find someone else! Consider, though, how sad to it would be to forego being used in a supernatural event just because it seems so unthinkable.

Mary was an “average” girl in the world’s point of view. What set her apart from the rest in God’s eyes was her virtuous, God-seeking heart. We don’t have to be born into a high-status family to be chosen by God. We don’t have to be famous, known by more than just the handful of people in our tiny town. There’s no rule that says we have to be multi-talented and witty. The only ingredient needed is faith and willingness. Together, they open the door to the supernatural working of God – an incredible plan that only He can design.

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

 

Attributes of a Victor

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We would all like to be victors – overcomers in every area of life. The truth is, if we’ve received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are victors! However, our lives and its imperfections can make us believe that we are not.  That is why we must believe in what we cannot see or feel – that our victory status is a present tense reality.  We aren’t going to be; we are!

Our redemption in Christ happened when Jesus died on the Cross.  When Jesus died and rose from the dead, it was as if our old man died and rose from the dead.  Our sins were washed away, and Jesus’ victory became our victory the moment we believed in Him.  Our salvation is a current fact, not something that will be done in the future.  We are – present tense – children of God!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) (emphasis added)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57) (emphasis added)

When our situations and feelings seem to say something different than the victory God has given us, we need to walk by faith.  This means we should not believe what we see and feel, but believe what God says.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Once we understand that we have the victory and are victors, our actions should follow! If victory is ours regardless of what is going on around us, then our faith will put it into action through a life of victory speaking, living, and believing.

  1. Victors rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

  1. Victors live in a state of joy.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials . . . (James 1:28-8)

  1. Victors walk by faith.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (I John 5:4)

  1. Victors follow orders.

But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

  1. Victors praise.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. (Acts 16:25-26)

  1. Victors speak victory.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

  1. Victors live in peace.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

  1. Victors shout.

And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city!” (Joshua 6:16)

  1. Victors acts on authority.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

  1. Victors bring victory to others.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Let’s live like the victors God has made us to be!  And rather than simply keeping the benefits of victory to ourselves, let’s pass it on to a word that needs to know the King of Victory!