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18 Minutes of Terror – A Remarkable Escape

The Lusitania

The ship was one of the biggest ships of its time when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat during the First World War killing 1,198 people.

The last survivor from the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 has died. Audrey Lawson Johnson, from Melchbourne in Bedfordshire, was 95.
BBC reporter Nick Southall recalls the day he met Audrey. Audrey was one of the lucky ones to survive the ordeal. Meeting Audrey at her home in Bedfordshire was a real pleasure.
Out of the 1,959 people on board on 7 May 1915 only 761 lived to tell the tale of when a German U-boat fired a torpedo at the Lusitania causing it to sink in just 18 minutes.
Of course she did not remember the incident herself, she was only three months old, but it certainly was a remarkable escape for her and her family.
Audrey’s mother was on deck at the time and saw the torpedo travelling through the water before it struck, the next thing she knew, she had been thrown back towards the cabins.
As the Lusitania started to take on water, Audrey’s nanny, Alice Lines, wrapped her up in a blanket and made her way to deck where they were able to jump off the deck into a lifeboat, Audrey’s brother Stuart was also with them.
The boat sank off the Southern coast of Ireland near the Old Head of Kinsale in calm waters.
The German U boat, U20, made its escape whilst survivors attempted to climb into life boats and many holding onto pieces of debris floating on the sea.
Many of the survivors were washed up into the harbor at Kinsale.
Sadly her two sisters Amy and Susan did not escape, they had disappeared in the crowd of passengers trying to get off the ship and later drowned.
Let me draw your attention to four key phrases in this story:
  • 1,959 people on board on 7 May 1915 only 761 lived to tell the tale
  • just 18 minutes.
  • her two sisters …did not escape
  • a remarkable escape

First of all, only 761 souls lived to tell the tale


The Lord Jesus was a man of controversy. Whenever He taught something, He used what was common knowledge to teach what was uncommon and contrary to the status quo.
One of the most controversial things that the Lord Jesus ever taught is found in Matthew 7:13,14, 28…
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it…. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:”
Even today when the scriptural assertion is made that there is only one way of salvation, people are astonished at such a bold assertion. The natural conclusion is that billions of well meaning people who have very strong belief systems in faiths different from Christianity are doomed…
The reality of Jesus’ doctrine is that even though there are many who seek God’s salvation, only a few will ever find it.  This is astonishing…How can this be?
How do we define what is the broad road and what is the narrow road? Where do we find a wide gate and a narrow gate. Just by asking the question in this way makes the answer amazingly simple albeit astonishingly disturbing.
The broad road and the wide gate are simply the easiest to get on and get through. It is the pathway most crowded and there is a social proof associated with this road. After all, so many people are on it and it doesn’t make sense that so many people are wrong…
In contrast, the narrow road is much less traveled and much harder to find. You cannot drive a semi loaded with your personal possessions down this road. In fact it is not so much a road as it is a walking path. There is room for only one person at a time: You must come just as you are, without any personal claims whatever…
When you come to the gate, you cannot even go through it on your own power. It is barred to anybody who comes with any boast or pretensions of personal righteousness because we are told in scripture that all of our righteous deeds are like soiled menstrual cloths. Instead, we are required to rely on the work of another…the only one who is perfectly righteous and therefore has the authority to use the key that unlocks this one doorway into heaven…
This is what Jesus meant when He said: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6


Just 18 minutes…


“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thess. 5:3
At this point in the war (1915), the chance of an act of war against a civilian craft must have seemed a distant possibility.  As those on the doomed Lusitania dined and danced, no one was aware that they had less than 30 minutes to live.
None of us today have any expectation that today will be the last time we ever meet to hear the gospel. We fully expect that our lives will continue on in relative peace and safety, but there are no guarantees…

Did not escape…


How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him? Hebrews 2:3
Among the 1198 souls that perished that day were two sisters of Audrey Lawson Johnson.  We learned that they got lost in the crowd of people who were desperately trying to get off of the doomed ship.
We all have met people that are very concerned about what will happen to them after they die.  They are so concerned in fact that desperately make up any kind of story to make them feel safer.
So we have people that construct elaborate explanations of how the world operates and came to be. The doctrine of evolution leaves God out completely or a modification of this teaching allows Him a small place that gives Him partial credit for getting everything started but it is up to man to keep it going.
As a result, we have people very exercised about climate change as if the weather is something that we have anything to do with. People on this broad and crowded road are being led along by people who are not really interested in controlling the climate, but they are interested in controlling people in a way that serves their own interests.
Are you lost in this crowd?
Others will tell you all about the cross of Christ.  His death and resurrection are major celebrations and my how people flock to church at Easter and Christmas… but when it comes to salvation, the death and resurrection of Christ is good enough to save them but not good enough to keep them
They think that what God has begun, we have to finish. They have to ignore what the Apostle Paul wrote : “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ”. Phil 1:6
We tell anybody that will listen, “If it is to be, then it is up to me…” Now I am all for personal responsibility. I know that if I want to feed myself and my family, that I have to learn a trade or a craft in order to provide value to others in order to receive a living wage.
Are you lost in this crowd?
That’s not what I am talking about here…
Salvation is a gift. It is all of grace and it is not of works because God doesn’t need anybody saying that they got to heaven because they were such nice people and they tried very hard to do the right things…
So, we get all dressed up and pious looking, we thank God Easter and Christmas, we put a guard on our mouth in order to appear to be something that we are not. Then we don’t put a guard on our mouth when it comes time to stuff our faces with all kinds of food.
Now I am not saying that is wrong to celebrate this way, all that I am saying is that God isn’t fooled. Scripture says that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)


A remarkable escape


And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Audrey Johnson was delivered from the watery grave that so many suffered that day in 1915. We learned that she didn’t have anything to do with her salvation.  She was just carried in the arms of another person that loved her deeply.  Furthermore, the person that loved her and cared for her and carried her to safety was not even her own mother…it was her nanny, Alice Lines.
Alice didn’t have to take the time to find a blanket, wrap up the child and find a way of escape. Every second that Alice took to care for that child, was time lost for her own escape.
Audrey’s mother wasn’t available – she had been knocked off her feet and was presumably dazed and confused.  Alice knew that she could never live with herself if she abandoned little Audrey in order to save herself. Her actions showed that she loved Audrey more than her own life.
Alice knew that she was the only one that could do the job…
There is a terrible judgment coming and it isn’t due to climate change.
The Psalmist wrote to say that when we forget Him, we are turned back into hell. It doesn’t matter if we going in the right direction, when we choose to forget God, that is when we just remain oblivious to the reality of God, we ignore Him and the result is that God will grant us our desire to be without Him and He will give us up. (Romans 1:24, 26, 28)
Yet there is an escape from the crowd that has abandoned God. It is God Himself who has made the way. He didn’t have to…we had no natural relation to Him. Like little baby Audrey, He knows that we are helpless to save ourselves. We are far from Him by nature. But because He is love, He could not let us perish.
There was only one who could pay the price and deliver us from the wrath to come. God Himself was made flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ . At the cross, He was made sin for us so that now whoever stops ignoring God and places themselves in His total care, is made right with God.
When you look to the cross of Christ by faith, you will see your sin there. It is God Himself who gives us the faith, the key, to open up this narrow door to heaven.
When you ignore the cross you will not see God but the wrath of God lives on you. The door remains shut, the path remains impassable to you. Your destruction will come as a great and terrible surprise to you…
Do not let this be your fate, place your soul in the arms of the Lord Jesus and He will bring you home…


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