andre_suplex

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It’s inevitable. Like every year, this is going to be a year where relationship struggle will not be absent. While we are here on earth, it will not be heaven, which also means that there will be not-so-heavenly people around you. Whether a relationship with a spouse, kids, other family, co-workers, church members, fellow-leadership, or neighbors, you are going to encounter battles in your relationships. It’s just a part of life.

Are we ready to handle those? If someone were to ask us, “What is your theology for how to handle relational disappointment?” how would you respond? What is your plan? No plan is a bad plan. And avoiding people will not do.

One of the greater, and unnecessary, complicating factors in such struggles is an insufficient theology for facing disappointment in relationships. It’s unnecessary, because our God has equipped us thoroughly with the tools from his word to adequately face the inevitable disappointment of human relationships. So, since we are going to frequently disappoint and irritate each other this side of heaven, we must have a response-plan in place which honors God by aligning with his word.

Here are a few responses to prepare us for a right handling of inevitable relational struggles:

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In a previous post, we looked to the seventy Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards as an example of an eternal and God-glorifying perspective that all believers ought to emulate. They are an especially helpful reminder at the beginning of a new year, when everyone is thinking about the resolutions they will make for the upcoming weeks and months.

But let’s be honest. A list of spiritual goals compiled by one of church history’s greatest heroes can be a bit intimidating, especially when there are seventy of them. When we make similar resolutions — and later fail to keep them — it can be downright discouraging to compare ourselves to someone like Jonathan Edwards.

Well, here’s a nugget of encouragement for you. Even a notable Puritan theologian like Edwards struggled to keep his resolutions.

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You’re probably already familiar with CrossFit, because one of the cardinal rules of the subculture is to talk incessantly about CrossFit. If you have been in earshot of a CrossFitter you are au fait with the jargon (“My Fran needs work, but I killed Cindy yesterday”), the discrimination against wheat and sugar (“Is that fajita Paleo?”), and the disdain for regular gyms (“Fitness isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about functionality, so why do they have mirrors everywhere?”)Rich Froning Tattoo

And then there’s the tattoos. Rich Froning, officially the fittest man on earth, popularized the Bible verse tattoo among Christian CrossFitters with his Galatians 6:14 reference in bold Celtic script down his side. Just once I’d like to see someone with 1 Timothy 4:8 inked on their squishy torso: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

But if we concede that there are parallels between bodily and spiritual training, there are a couple of helpful principles we can learn from the CrossFit phenomenon.

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New Year 2016As we enter the beginning of the New Year, many people are reflecting on the previous year and how they’ve lived their lives, and are making resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than t20he previous one.

As we anticipate the challenges and opportunities of 2016, I want to write an open letter of sorts that focuses on the most important realities in the world. And the addressee of my open letter is you. No matter who you are—whether young in the faith, a seasoned saint, or not a believer in Jesus at all; whether we’re good friends, have only spoken a few times, or if I don’t know you from Adam—I can think of nothing more profitable that I’d like to say directly to you. And perhaps the most interesting distinctive about this open letter for 2016 is that it’s nothing new. It’s the same old message for a brand new year, because it’s the only message that is sufficient to transcend all times and cultures. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll read carefully.

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December 31, 2015

Top 10 posts of 2015

by C-Gate Links

We at The Cripplegate want to thank our subscribers and readers. In every category (readers, subscribers, blog traffic) this was by far our best year yet. Our blog exists as an attempt to capture the spirit of the “morning exercises” at the original Cripplegate, and pass it along to a new generation of non-conformists. Thank you for being a part of it.

Here are our most read posts of 2015. Six of them were not even originally posted this year, but apparently they have remained helpful to people months (and years) after they were written. This list was tabulated by unique IP addresses to view a post in this past calendar year: Continue Reading…

Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

welcomehappynewyear2016.com

Without knowing what the future holds, we can safely say that there is one thing we will need for 2016: godliness. To stably and safely weather all of the we’re-not-in-heaven-yet things coming from this new year, we will need a high dose of christlikeness and, if you’re like me, an increase thereof. So, sanctification should be a dear friend as we turn a calendar year (and as we enter each day, for that matter).

Sanctification: God’s work of progressively conforming the Christian into christlikeness from the time of spiritual birth (regeneration) until we see Jesus (glorification), through the Spirit, our effort, the means of grace, and any number of circumstances. Sanctification is not the means of salvation, but the consequence of it.

But oftentimes, we can have a myopic, low view of sanctification. For example, it really only occurs when I sit down for my daily quiet time or during the Sunday sermon. Yet sanctification involves much more than that because God the Father is much more involved than that in the lives of believers.

sanctification

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Putting sanctification in its appropriately high place will position us for the kind of people we need to be for the new year. A high view of sanctification involves two ideas. First, it sees God as big, his love as involved, and his sovereignty as limitless. Second, with those things in mind, a high view of sanctification means we are more occupied by seeing God’s sanctifying work in our lives through struggle than we are irritated by the struggle; the particular means (e.g. difficult people, jobs, family, health trials) which he uses to sanctify us.

Similarly, a high view of sanctification involves these four tenets:

  1. God’s work in every Christian is to continually and progressively conform them into the image of Christ.
  2. God uses all sorts of circumstances (especially difficult ones) to accomplish our progressive formation into christlikeness.
  3. God is sovereign over all things; us, every detail of our lives, the lives of those around us, and everything else.
  4. Therefore, an accurate view of my life, as a Christian, involves seeing how, not if, God is using every circumstance—big and small, difficult and less difficult—to accomplish my sanctification.

With that, here are a few reasons to be armed with a high view of sanctification so as to position ourselves for a good 2016, no matter what the year is like:

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Every December it seems, there is some kind of story that comes out about Jesus. In a story that has now gone viral, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archaeologists, have used “Forensic Anthropology” to show us exactly what Jesus looked like. To America’s shock he’s neither white nor black, he looks like, wait for it, someone born in Israel. While this has caused many people to strong reactionsjesus, “discoveries” like these cause true believers to chuckle in amusement.

With recent movies about Noah, Moses, the Bible series and so on, Hollywood is banking on the world’s fascination with depicting Biblical content on the screen. People everywhere seem to be dying to get their eyes on what Bible stories look like. And while I understand the desire to know exactly what Jesus looked like, and to be able to experience Old Testament times, I think that the Bible would not only say that it is not necessary, but it would go as far to say that we are better off for not seeing. Here are three quick reasons why we are better off without any likeness of heavenly things.

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December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

by Mike Riccardi

As you celebrate the incarnation of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, enjoy the Christmas story from this blended harmony of Scripture, originally prepared by Frank Turk. Merry Christmas from all of us at the Cripplegate!

Merry Christmas

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

    “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

    “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

    “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

    “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to her. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But Mary was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. … For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.

A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (this fulfilled what the prophet Micah had said, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when [the child] was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

(they said this because the prophet Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, and he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

    “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;”)

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The concerts are over and candle-light services are nearly complete. No more caroling, food drives, corporate holiday parties and the sound of Salvation army bells are quickly fading. The world will soon say goodbye to “the holidays” and will soon pivot its attention to New Year’s and Super Bowls.

The world may soon have Christmas almost in it’s rear view mirror, but for Christ’s church the wonder and joy of Christmas never ends. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin will conceive and bear a Son whose name will be Immanuel, God with us. He came to earth that day, and remains with us in every day. The Creator of the universe stepped aside from the full display of His majestic glory and dove headlong into His creation.

The day Christ was born slipped by, uncelebrated throughout the world. It was not for lack of Instagram, satellite communication or weak cell phone coverage. It was not because the postal service lost His birth announcement or a webpage failed to update. Christ entered time and space as planned. The seclusion from the abusive prying eyes of the world kept King Herod from carrying out yet another satanic attempt to assassinate the Savior.

Beyond the safety of our Savior, the world did not see the eternal significance of the first Christmas for the same reason that it cannot understand Christmas today. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Eyes that are blind to the truth can never see the glory of the Savior who was born.

The world cannot see Jesus, but the world can see Jesus in you.

Here are five windows through which those without hope are able to see Jesus in our lives:   Continue Reading…

December 23, 2015

Why the Virgin Conception?

by Eric Davis
dont get it

blog.nativefoods.com

Some of the traditions surrounding the Christmas holiday are confusing. For example, the old tradition our parents practiced of putting real candles on the Christmas tree. Not a good idea. My grandma’s Christmas sweaters with 47 different holiday colors on them. Complex and confusing. Canada’s boxing day. Really? You need that on the calendar just in case you forget to box up the tinsel? And finally, fruit cake.

But there is another thing I did not understand about Christmas when I became a Christian; the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Is it just a neat miracle where God says, “Watch this!”?

The virgin birth, more accurately phrased, the virgin conception, was an essential piece of God’s plan in redemptive history.

What exactly does the virgin conception mean?

It does not mean that Christ was born in a manner different than others. He was born like any other baby. It does not mean a miraculous conception, for example, as from a woman who could not have children.

The virgin conception of Christ means that, completely contrary to the normal course of God’s design in nature, God joined himself to humanity, becoming fully human and was born in the natural way.

The result was that the conception of Jesus Christ was not his origin, but his incarnation. He has no origin: Christ was the only person in history whose conception did not mark the beginning of his existence. At his conception, he did not become something different, but took on something he had not; humanity:

As far as witnesses go, many testify directly or indirectly to the fact of Christ’s virgin conception.

  • Many biblical writers. In addition to Isaiah (Isa. 7:14), Matthew (Matt. 1:18-20), Luke (Luke 1:31-35), and Mary (as recorded in the gospels).
  • Christ. He is constantly referring to God as his Father, which means he knew of his virgin conception.
  • Christ’s enemies. Though indirectly, those who opposed Christ testified to his virgin conception when they disdained him for being the product of fornication (John 8:19, 41).
  • His life itself demands a heavenly origin. J. Oswald Sanders writes, “If, as science demands, every event must have an adequate cause, then the presence of a sinless Man, in the midst of universally sinful men implies a miracle of origin. Such a Person as Jesus…demands such a birth as the gospels record. The how of the birth becomes believable when the Who of the birth is taken into account” (The Incomparable Christ, 14).
  • Early church historians. Individuals such as Justin Martyr, Aristides, and Ignatius also affirmed the fact of the virgin conception.

So, why the virgin conception? Generally, the virgin conception of Jesus Christ was an essential element of God’s plan to bring forgiveness and eternal life to all who would trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Breaking that down a bit, here are 5 reasons for the virgin conception of Jesus Christ:

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