Why on earth did Jesus come? (John Blanchard)

Why on earth did Jesus come? is the most important question you can answer this Christmas.  To help you, John Blanchard has written a short book that answers it.

 FIRST LOOK: It’s a short book (only 40 pages).  It’s divided into lots of short sections 1-3 pages long with boxes that have summary sentences.  It’s a quick read – under 2 hours.  

CONTENT: This book is packed with an astonishing amount of information.  Topics covered include the date and year of Jesus’ birth, the virgin birth (including the reliability of the gospel accounts and wrong teaching about Mary), Jesus’ existence, and His identity as God Himself. 

The book finishes by answering the key question ‘Why on earth did Jesus come?’ which is to save people who are lost because of their sin and how to receive God’s gift of salvation. 

MY TAKE: Each section is clear and to the point.  I particularly appreciated the section called ‘If God became a man’ where he lists 9 things you’d expect a man who was God to be able to do, and shows how Jesus fits the bill.  His explanation of sin and its seriousness is thoroughly biblical and shows why Jesus’ coming is such good news! 

USE: This booklet is great to giveaway and ideal for this time of year.  It has more content than a regular Christmas tract does but it is short enough to make it accessible to anyone interested in finding out what Christianity is about.  It’s definitely worth churches having some copies available to hand out after their carol service. 

BONUS: You can download a talk by John Blanchard which answers this question HERE

Why on earth did Jesus come? is available to buy HERE with good discounts if you buy multiple copies.

How to Celebrate the birth of Jesus

“Let the birth of a Redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered.” 

In a sermon entitled ‘The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of All Christians; Or the True Way of Keeping Christmas’ George Whitefield suggests the following are appropriate ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus: 

Reading: “What can we do to employ our time to a more noble purpose, than reading of what our dear Redeemer has done and suffered; to read, that the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, came from his throne and took upon him the form of the meanest of his servants; and what great things he underwent.” 

Prayer: “surely, when we read of the sufferings of our Saviour, it should excite us to prayer, that we might have an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; that the blood which he spilt upon mount Calvary, and his death and crucifixion, might make an atonement for our sins, that we might be made holy; that we might be enabled to put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, even the Lord Jesus Christ; that we may throw away the heavy yoke of sin, and put on the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Religious Conversation: “O tell, tell to each other, what great things the Lord has done for your souls; declare unto one another, how you were delivered from the hands of your common enemy, Satan, and how the Lord has brought your feet from the clay, and has set them upon the rock of ages, the Lord Jesus Christ; there, my brethren, is no slipping; other conversation, by often repeating, you become fully acquainted with, but of Christ there is always something new to raise your thoughts; you can never want matter when the love of the Lord Jesus Chris is the subject: then let Jesus be the subject, my brethren, of all your conversation.” 

Enjoying the good things of life in moderation: “Let me beseech you, to have a regard, a particular regard to your behaviour, at this time; for indeed the eyes of all are upon you, and they would rejoice much to find any reason to complain of you.” 

Giving to feed the poor: “And instead of running into excess, let that money, which you might expend to pamper your own bodies, be given to feed the poor; now, my brethren, is the season, in which they commonly require relief; and sure you cannot act more agreeable, either to the season, to the time, or for the glory of God, than in relieving his poor distressed servants.”

Judges 13 Sermon

Judges 13 (25th July 2010, Banstead Community Church)

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The nativity story that points us to a greater nativity story. 

Two things we learn about God… 

1. The God who saves people who don’t want to be saved (v1) 

The pattern: Rebellion ? Retribution ? Request ? Rescue ? Rest

 Judges 13: Rebellion ? Retribution ? … ? …

Into this situation God appears to a nameless, childless woman.

2. The God who saves with a baby (v2-25) 

The right response to news from God about a Saviour is belief. 

This baby is special. 

The commands that God gives are to be obeyed.

Don’t waste your life (Ephesians 2:10, 5:15-16)

A Shocking View of Christmas

Revelation 12:1-6 gives a different side to Christmas than we usually see.  The happy manger scene may still be there, but in the background lurking is a dragon shaped shadow.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.  His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.”

In these verses in Revelation we are introduced to three characters: the woman, the dragon, and the child.

The woman refers to the people of God (the sun, moon, and stars allude to Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37).  The woman is pregnant, in the last stages of labour, and about to give birth.  Out of the people of God is going to come a son, that God’s people have waited patiently for.

But then we have the dragon.  It’s the colour of blood and fiery destruction (red).  It has heads, horns, and crowns symbolising it’s power and authority, and refers to the enemies of God’s people (Pharaoh in Ezekiel 29:3 is called a dragon).  And this dragon is the ultimate enemy of God’s people – devil (Revelation 12:9).  The dragon is next to the woman in the labour ward.  The dragon is saying “push” because it wants to destroy the child the moment it was born.

It’s a different view of Christmas to one we usually see.  As Mary is giving birth, the devil was seeking to destroy her baby before He could do His saving work.  The devil is missing from all the nativity scenes we see on the front of Christmas cards, but he was there doing his evil work.  One of the clear ways was Herod failed attempt to kill Jesus in Matthew 2:1-12.

But a son comes forth from the people of God, Jesus Christ.  The devil’s failure is highlighted in the fact that only one verse is given to describe Jesus’ whole life with two events mentioned.  His birth and his ascension.  His ascension being the victory parade to the throne in heaven after defeating sin, Satan, and death through His death and resurrection.

In this different view of Christmas we have a reminder of two important truths.

  1. The Devil is out to destroy – he tried to do it with Jesus, and now today he tries to do it with Jesus’ followers.
  2. The Devil is a loser – Jesus defeated Him, and will keep us safe when Satan attacks if we continue to trust in Him as we wait patiently for Him to return and destroy Satan once and for all.

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.