When Lionel Richie wrote the song “Easy like Sunday Morning” I doubt he ever tried going to church with kids. Many moms–especially those with several kids–often end up skipping Church. While fifty years ago there was no hope for them to be able to sit under God’s word on those Sunday’s, today they have many options.

I do not write this post in order to give slackers a reason to stay home on Sunday. I hate the idea of a multi-site church, and I do not want to encourage anyone to think that the sermon is all that matters on Sunday morning. If there isn’t an expositor in your area, I would still go join a church and sit under a sermon I’m not too excited about, so that I could be obedient to Christ. Better to be part of struggling church than to sit at home and listen to one of these pastors I link to here.

But there are scenarios where going to Church is impossible (sickness, travel, vacation, home-bound senior etc.). Sometimes the church you attend does not offer an evening service. Let me encourage you to get together with your family and cap off the Lord’s day with watching the live stream from one of the five churches I link to. All Times are Eastern Standard Time.

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guitar soloI enjoy being challenged to think through why we do what we do in the church worship service. Recently I was asked why our band sometimes plays a brief interlude between songs during which the congregation is silent.

To take it further: isn’t the role of the band to facilitate the whole congregation’s singing? If so, then surely it is never appropriate for a singer to perform a solo, or a musician to play an instrumental piece with no lyrics. And if the band’s role is more pliable than simply providing the tune to which we all sing along, exactly how much leeway is permitted? Why is a vocal or violin solo allowed, but not a ballet dance or a juggling act?

Furnishing a philosophy of ministry that allows some discretion while excluding extremes may prove tricky.

There is no one-size-fits-all rule. If there was, it would be in the Bible! Here are three broad approaches to the church worship service: the too tight regulative principle, the too loose liberty-in-worship approach, and the elder-adjustable elastic tailored-for-each-church view.

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Marriage is a huge responsibility. It is the opportunity to display a picture of the Gospel to the entire world. In Ephesians chapter 5, after speaking about the sacrificial love a husband should have for his wife, Paul concludes by telling the reader that marriage is an opportunity to display a picture of the Gospel to the entire world. A husband is called to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. Now, most husbands fail miserably within seconds of saying “I do”, and that’s why most healthy churches surround each young man with godly accountability.

Over the past few years of being involved in weddings, we have regularly had a “Bachelor Grilling hot seatParty”. While there is certainly meat involved, the grilling has less to do with animals and more to do with the bachelor. The idea is that you bring in as many godly people in the room as possible, and after a time of fellowship, you sit the guy front and center in the hot seat and allow everyone to give him advice and challenge him to think rightly about his marriage. Of course this doesn’t replace pre-marital counseling, but I believe this can be a very encouraging and challenging time for everyone involved. Here are 7 benefits of having a “Bachelor Grilling Party”.

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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

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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.

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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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