Bringing Others to Jesus (John 1:35-42)

Andrew is the disciple known for bringing people to Jesus. Immediately after meeting the Lord, he introduced his brother Simon to the Messiah. Another time, when a great multitude was hungry, he found a boy with five loaves and two fishes and brought him to Jesus (John 6:8-9). When some Greeks wanted to meet Christ, Andrew and Philip made the introductions (12:20-22). This disciple never lost his enthusiasm for the Savior.

Andrew’s own conversion experience motivated him to let others know about the One who had changed his life (1:36-37). How about you – have you lost the joy of your salvation? If your Christian life has become stale and musty, it’s time to remember what Christ has done for you and to ask that He restore your excitement.

In addition, Andrew longed to know the Savior and spend time with Him (38-39). The disciples’s example is a good reminder that sweet fellowship with the Lord isn’t supposed to end with devotional times. It should also stimulate a desire to share with others the joy we find in our relationship with Christ.

Finally, Andrew was motivated by his conviction that Jesus was the Messiah (41). He had found the answer for a lost and hurting world and wanted others to know.

When Andrew answered the call to discipleship, Jesus told him he would be “catching men” instead of fish (Luke 5:10). Since we, too, are followers of  Christ, we have this same assignment. Our styles and opportunities vary, but we’re each responsible to develop a lifelong habit of bringing others to Jesus.

About the Author

Dr. Charles Stanley is senior pastor of Atlanta’s First Baptist Church and founder of In Touch Ministries. One of America’s most popular pastors and authors, Dr. Stanley offers extensive resources, accessible at www.intouch.org.

The Rushmore Report: The Faith of Ben Carson

Dr. Ben Carson is running for President, something he vowed he’d only do “if God grabbed me by the collar and told me to do it.” As of this writing, he is second in the most recent polls, trailing only fellow “outsider” Donald Trump in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationally. The retired neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008. He received national attention when he presented his pro-life views at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, with President Obama seated a few feet away. A native of Detroit, Dr. Carson was educated at Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School. Only recently did Dr. Carson join the Republican Party, yet he stands near the top in all the polls. So what do we know about this would-be President? More importantly, what do we know about his personal faith? Fortunately, Carson has been very outspoken about his faith, so we didn’t have to work very hard to find his religious views and convictions. Here’s what we know.

1. Ben Carson is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He was baptized at Burns Seventh-day Adventist Church on Detroit’s east side. A few years later, he said he did not fully understand the meaning of salvation and baptism at that time, so he was baptized again, at a church in Inkster, Michigan. His mother was Seventh-day Adventist and introduced him to the faith as a child. Active in his church, Dr. Carson has served as an elder and Sabbath school teacher.

2. Dr. Carson is an outspoken advocate for Christian views. Don’t be misled by his calm demeanor. Carson stood up for the unborn with the President sitting next to him, at the February 7, 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. He spoke in favor of the “biblical tithe” at the recent Fox News presidential debate. He has been outspoken about his other views on marriage, taxation, and morality. In an interview with Neil Cavuto, he said, “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies.” At the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson called political correctness “dangerous.”

3. Ben Carson has consistently been strongly pro-life. Unlike other pro-life candidates such as Donald Trump, Dr. Carson has never wavered in his views. He has been an outspoken critic of Planned Parenthood in light of the recently released videos exposing their barbaric actions and comments. He told the Washington Post, “If you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s a very different thing from taking a dead specimen and keeping a record of it.”

4. Dr. Carson is a student of Scripture. His love for the Bible was established early in his life. In his book, Gifted Hands, he related that in his youth he had a violent temper. After nearly stabbing a friend, he began reading the Book of Proverbs, applying verses on anger and thereafter “never had another problem with temper.” He has made Bible reading a part of his daily routine ever since.

5. Carson supports traditional marriage. On Hannity, he said, “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group gets to change the definition.” Knowing his views put him at odds with gays, he reaches out to them in love. “The Bible says we have an obligation to love our fellow man as ourselves, and I love everybody the same, including homosexuals.”

6. Ben Carson does not believe in evolution. On this he is clear. In a 2006 debate with Richard Dawkins, he stated, “I don’t believe in evolution. I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what right and wrong, just appeared.”

Dr. Ben Carson is running for President. He has already gotten further than many of us expected. In his race, he has not made his faith the centerpiece of his campaign, but he has not run from it, either. His political views are clearly informed by his faith. Ben Carson is a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. He is a committed leader of his local church. He loves Scripture, applies its truths, and displays amazing humility. While not condemning others for their views, Ben Carson is an outspoken advocate for Christianity, and he lives a life that is consistent with his views.

The Question the Media Won’t Ask

At midnight Wednesday, the government will shut down. Or it won’t. Odds are, it won’t. I want to be informed, so Sunday, I did what I do every week. I watched the political shows on NBC (Meet the Press), ABC (This Week), CBS (Face the Nation), Fox (Fox News Sunday), and CNN (State of the Union). Each program discussed the pending shut-down with its guests.

The issue is simple. Some conservative Republicans feel so strongly that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, in light of recent revelations of selling aborted baby body parts for profit, that they will vote against the pending continued funding resolution if it includes federally appropriated dollars for the organization. Democratic congressmen disagree, remaining unified in their support for the leading abortion provider in America. The conservatives want to reroute the same dollars to other women’s health clinics that provide every service that Planned Parenthood provides, other than the abortions. Democrats say they will not agree, and are willing to vote the budget down if it defunds Planned Parenthood, thus shutting down the government.

Each show asked their conservative guests why they would be willing to shut down the government over their position. But not one Democrat was asked the same question. Both sides are willing to shut down the government if they don’t get what they want. President Obama’s position is clear. If the resolution does not include funding for Planned Parenthood, he will veto that resolution, thus shutting down the government. So by sticking to their principles, either side can shut down the government. But only one side will get the blame.

 

The Faith of Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is a leading contender for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. He is known for his outspoken ways, Tea Party credentials, legal background, and staunch conservatism. He is also known for something else – his faith. Outspoken about his love for God, spiritual conversion, and reliance on Scripture, Senator Cruz credits his faith as the cornerstone of his daily life. As we continue our series on The Faith of the Candidates, let’s unpack the faith of one of the most outspoken candidates in the field. What do we know about the faith of Tec Cruz?

1. Senator Cruz’s faith plays a central role in his life.

“Life, liberty, and property, the fundamental natural rights of man, are given to every one of us by God, and the role of government fundamentally is to protect those rights,” he has said. Cruz described faith not as organized religion, but as “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior” in an interview with Pat Robertson.

2. Ted Cruz is a Southern Baptist.

“I’m Cuban, Irish, and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist,” he says. Coming from a family that has been Roman Catholic for generations, his parents “converted while living in Texas and raised me Southern Baptist.” Growing up in Houston, Cruz attended high school at Faith West Academy in Katy, Texas, and later graduated from Second Baptist High School in Houston. The Cruz family has their church membership as Houston’s First Baptist Church.

3. Cruz is adamantly pro-life.

Of this there has never been a doubt. His views allow for abortion only “when a pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.” His position is that even in the case of incest or rape, the fetus is to be protected, for it is life.

4. Though an outspoken Christian, he is dubious of making faith a campaign issue.

Cruz says, “Far too many candidates wear their faith on their sleeve. I am always skeptical of politicians who say, ‘I’m running because God told me to.'” He says politicians have an obligation to “avoid being a Pharisee” and “ostentatiously wrapping yourself in your faith.” Having said that, he refers often to his faith in stump speeches, but the references are rarely planned. His faith is not a compartmentalized part of his life.

5. His faith is a part of his family life.

A recent video aired on The 700 Club featured Cruz reading Proverbs around the dinner table and interacting with his wife, Heidi, and their two daughters at their Houston home. He says their faith brings a bond to their family in their daily lives and in their church life. Cruz seeks to keep God at the center of his life and his family’s life. In an interview with David Brody, he said, “At every stage, my prayer to God is that his will be done.”

Ted Cruz is unabashedly Christian. He is conservative in his politics as well as his theology, embracing the Bible as God’s Word and Jesus Christ as God’s Son and his personal Savior. Cruz is as unwavering in his Christian faith as he is in his constitutional polity. Having given his life to Christ as a teenager, Ted Cruz continues to walk in his faith, as the cornerstone of his personal and private life.

 

The Meeting

This past Sunday I was in Alabama at the Russellville First Baptist Church. They were emphasizing missions in the morning worship with an emphasis on our up coming shoe mission to Moldova, and I was invited to preach the sermon. I love this church and its dear congregation – they are so welcoming and have such a warm fellowship. I didn’t have any reason to be nervous, but I am always nervous before I speak. And if it is for people I know, then I want to do my very best. Maybe it’s pride, but I have a real desire to leave them with God’s words and not my own thoughts.

I invited Eddie Champion to accompany me; we would drive down to Alabama the night before, from Memphis, and come back after the morning service. Eddie is a preaching legend in Memphis, and my wife’s brother-in-law. We stayed in the home of the deacon chairman and his gracious family.

Sunday morning we were blessed with bright sunshine, pre-autumn cool and breakfast set out on the kitchen counter. Walking down the hall, I turned into Eddie’s bedroom. Dressed for church, he was sitting in a chair, reading his Bible. I asked, “Can we pray?” We knelt beside the plush double bed and that’s when “the meeting” started. The heavens opened up and His love flowed down! Our hearts and souls were awash in tears, praise and worship. I will remember this meeting forever!

Sunday worship – oh it was wonderful, but I am convinced it was all because of “the meeting.” I believe we need more of those meetings or perhaps more accurately, I need more of those meetings! And if we experienced more such meetings, just maybe we would start to really hear God in our worship.

About the Author

Dr. Dearing L. Garner is the past Executive Director for Children’s Emergency Relief International, the overseas division of BCFS, a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations. Under his leadership, CERI ministered to over 25,000 children orphaned by the AIDS crisis in South Africa. Additionally, CERI gave over 100,000 pairs of winter shoes to orphans while reaching out to at-risk youth on four continents. The founding pastor of Kingwood’s First Baptist Church near Houston, Garner enjoyed a 27-year tenure, leading the church to a membership of over 2,000. Dearing earned his Bachelor’s degree from Carson Newman College and his Master’s and Doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Also serving on several boards, Dr. Garner and his wife Bobbie have three children and four grandchildren.

The Coming of the Pope – and Jesus

Pope Francis is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, a title he holds ex officio as Bishop of Rome, and Sovereign of the Vatican City. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 17, 1936, the Pope has made a global impact in areas such as social justice and the environment. And now, the Pope has come to America.

In the predawn hours Wednesday, thousands of people hit the streets surrounding the National Mall in Washington, hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during a late morning parade. Police and the Secret Service enforced road closures in the area and directed foot traffic. The parade was the only nonticketed event during the Pope’s visit to the capital, drawing unprecedented crowds.

Upon his touchdown from his flight from Cuba, Francis was greeted by the United States President and other dignitaries. He was then escorted to the White House by a motorcade of massive proportions. All traffic was brought to a halt. When he travels to New York City, half of Central Park will be shut down. Bus routes, the New Jersey Transit, and all traffic flows will be altered. In an effort to step up security, police sealed off manholes within range of his motorcade. In New York, the Pope will appear at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, following a star-studded concern in his honor.

This is a great day for America and the expression of the Christian faith. But it pales in contrast to another day, still to come. The Bible says that the day is coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When the early disciples lamented Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the angel assured them, “Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go” (Acts 1:11). Pope Francis has come, and he will go, returning to his home in Rome. When Jesus comes, he will return to his home in heaven, but he will take us with him.

One day, Charles Spurgeon made an unannounced visit to a widow in his church, to offer support and prayer. When he arrived, he found his surprised host covered in dust, mopping the floor and cleaning her house. Embarrassed, she exclaimed, “If I had known you were coming, I would have cleaned up and been ready.” Spurgeon replied, “Far better it be that when your King comes, you be found busy in your work, rather than attentive to the cleanliness of your house.”

The Pope has come to America, and his visit was justifiably celebrated by millions. But he will soon return to the Vatican, and then we will go about our lives as we were before he came. But one day Jesus will come. And that will change everything. On that day when he comes, may he find us busy in our labors in his name.

This Day in 1776

They are among the most famous words ever spoken on American soil. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Those words came from the mouth of Nathan Hale moments before his execution on this date, September 22, 1776. The 21-year-old soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War had volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City, where he was captured by the British and then hanged. Hale has long been considered an American hero, but it was not until 1985 that he was officially designated the state hero of Connecticut.

In life we all have regrets. Can you imagine your great regret being that of Nathan Hale? “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” You will not likely be called upon to give your life for your country. But you can do something bigger than that. Give your life to your God and Savior. My pastor, Dr. Cecil Sewell, quotes these words often in his preaching. “What can I give him, small as I am? If I were a shepherd, I’d give him a lamb. If I was a wise man, I’d surely do my part. But what can I give him? I can give him my heart.”

On this day, 239 years ago, a man barely old enough to vote gave his life for a country that was two months old. He didn’t have any idea of her future glory. He could not have expected America to prevail in her battle for independence from the most powerful nation on earth. Fast forward 239 years. As you and I look back, we know our side won. On the cross the battle was fought, and with the empty tomb the victory was declared. Now God is looking for a few good men (and women and students and children). There is much you cannot do. But the main thing, you can do . . . right now. Let Nathan Hale’s words be your words, 239 years later, with a slight paraphrase. “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my Savior.”

Seven-Year-Old Thanks Police

A young boy visited the Hanford, California Police Department last week, to thank everyone for their work. The department said Levi, age seven, came into the office with a box of donuts for everyone, as his way of thanking them for keeping the community safe. Levi also spoke about how he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.

“It was really nice,” said Officer Mark Carrillo. “I got to take him around in my patrol vehicle and show him how things work.” Carrillo said that when officers come into contact with kids and their parents, the adults often tell their children that they need to behave or the officer will arrest them. That sends the wrong message, says the officer. “Whenever possible, we try to advise parents that this is not something kids need to hear. We need to show them that we’re approachable and that we’re just like everybody else. We’re not just here to get you in trouble. We’re here to be your friend.”

Two weeks ago, I saw a police officer in a convenience store, buying a cup of coffee. When I stepped up to pay for his coffee, he looked at me as if my spaceship had just landed in the parking lot. The media is quick to blast every news story that has even a hint of wrongdoing by the police, with their loudest megaphones and condemnations. But for every bad cop, there are a thousand good cops.

Two weeks ago, we attended the Bayside Church of Bradenton, Florida. The campus pastor called the 2,000 present to pause and pray for our local police. Every church should do this. The Bible has a lot to say about respecting authority. I offer two suggestions. First, pray for your local police. Second, the next time God gives you the opportunity, do what Levi did. Buy them a donut.

John Boehner’s Message from District Pastors

Speaker of the House John Boehner is hearing it back home. A group of pastors in his congressional district are encouraging him to defund Planned Parenthood. They have asked him to “be bold,” and have written a letter requesting a personal meeting with the Speaker. In an interview with The Daily Signal, Johnathan Newman, pastor of Koinos Church in Troy, Ohio, said that he and his fellow pastors felt the need to “do something” about the undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the trafficking of aborted fetal organs. As of Monday, 70 pastors from the district have signed the letter.

Boehner, who is pro-life, has indicated he is unwilling to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding due to the White House’s indication that President Obama will not approve a spending bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. Newman’s response: “Any government that would force its people to pay for such despicable acts – abortion in general and Planned Parenthood’s actions specifically – is a government that should be defunded.”

The Speaker has agreed to meet with ten of the pastors. Newman says, “This is not a political matter, but a God matter, a humanity matter. We want him to know we are praying for him and we want him to not be afraid.” The pastors come from many different churches – Catholic, Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Church of God, Nazarene, Assembly of God, Christian Congregational, and Disciples of Christ. But their message is one of unity.

One can legitimately argue either side of the issue. Boehner’s position has been that defunding the government will not hurt Planned Parenthood as much as it will hurt the conservative cause. Rev. Newman disagrees, seeing this as an opportunity to “be bold.” But one thing is clear. The Speaker of the House – third in line to be President – is making time to meet with ten pastors from his district, to hear the voices of the electorate. That is how the system is supposed to work. For that, Mr. Boehner is to be commended.

Grading the Debate

Last night’s CNN presidential debate drew an audience of 22 million. The pundits have weighed in with their opinions. A Time Magazine online poll showed that 65 percent gave the win to Trump. They are wrong. For the real winners and losers, you have come to the right place. The Proud Americans has the final word. Here are the grades for each candidate, in order from top to bottom.

Carly Fiorina: A+

Having picked a Fiorina/Rubio ticket a month ago does not affect my bias! Carly knocked it out of the park. Nearly all the pundits agree, from Bill Kristol to Charles Krauthammer. She gave the most specific answers and positions, was in total command of the issues, and delivered the night’s best lines. Carly Fiorina was passionate, prepared, and articulate. She did not have a bad moment.

Chris Christie: A

The Governor of New Jersey delivered a great line about “prosecuting Hillary Clinton” in a general election debate. He was composed and on message. He projected a law-and-order image while standing out with his populist advocacy for the middle class.

Marco Rubio: A-

The Florida Senator is positioning himself as the Reaganesque sunny candidate. Mr. Rubio demonstrated a command of a broad range of issues on both the foreign and economic fronts. Reaching out to Hispanics, he was quick to remind of his family history as the son of a Cuban immigrant.

Ted Cruz: B+

Never straying from his tea party base, Mr. Cruz promised to “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Railing against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, he admitted to the “mistake” of supporting John Roberts for the Supreme Court. As always, the Texas Senator had an amazing grasp of facts and data, accompanied with a consistent passion for his positions. Cruz is as articulate a candidate as we have.

Jeb Bush: B

With the most to lose, the cerebral ex-governor of Florida was more aggressive in this debate. He impressed with two lines, asking Donald Trump to apologize to his wife and scolding Trump in defense of his brother: “He kept us safe.” Bush didn’t hurt himself. He is in it for the long run. His money and steadiness position him to be the “establishment” candidate still standing as the Iowa caucuses approach in January, 2016.

Donald Trump: C

Those who liked Trump before the debate thought he did great. Those who didn’t like him thought we did poorly. His insults of Rand Paul’s appearance, Carly Fiorina’s background, and anyone who didn’t fall in line with him will not hurt him with his base. But his undisciplined style will not allow him to expand his base, either. He did what he does best, and despite being the center of criticism, he survived. Given the format, not suited to his strength, Trump will move on as strong as he was before the debate.

John Kasich: C-

While avoiding the Trump circus, he failed to distinguish himself. Promoting compassion to drug offenders and touting a cheerfulness “where everybody’s actions make a huge difference in changing the world,” the Ohio Governor was solid, but failed to carve out a niche, or a path forward.

Scott Walker: C-

The blue state Midwestern Governor was on the attack early, which was a good strategy. But this is counter to his naturally positive persona. While standing out early, he disappeared late, addressing subjects such as climate change, which are not high on conservatives’ lists of priorities.

Ben Carson: C-

These kind of forums are not well-suited for Dr. Carson. He was himself, the perfect gentleman. He was articulate every time he spoke, compassionate, well prepared, and demonstrated everything people love about him. And in the process, he lost the debate. The audience of such events is looking for passion, energy, strength, and bluster. Carson looked like he had been shot with a tranquilizer gun just before the debate. His lack of assertiveness will cost him, but in the coming weeks, he will rebound.

Mike Huckabee: D+

Mr. Huckabee was strong in his defense for the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples and was articulate in his insistence on requiring Supreme Court nominees to be abortion opponents. But then he disappeared. Blame the moderators, who went 45 minutes without asking him a question, or blame Huckabee for being too polite to interrupt. I blame Mr. Huckabee for being too polite.

Rand Paul: D

The Kentucky Senator positioned himself as the leader of the anti-war wing of the Republican Party. The problem is that wing won’t fly in 2016. He was articulate and impressive in his criticism of the positions held by the vast majority of the voters who will decide his future.

Who won the undercard?

The clear winner in the early forum was Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. He was funny, articulate, and passionate. But no one was watching. If a politician makes a speech and no one is watching, does it really matter? Ask Rick Perry.

Who is next out the door?

On September 11, Rick Perry suspended his campaign. My guess is that before the next debate, the following candidates may well follow him out the door: Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul

Who’s on the hot seat?

The following need a major boost quick, or their funding will dry up: Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie

Going all the way

These six candidates are positioned for the long run, with the necessary funds, momentum, and upside: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz

And the winner will be?

I’ll stay with my original pick. The 2016 ticket will either be Rubio/Fiorina or Fiorina/Rubio.