‘Frozen’: Same Old Disney or Surprisingly Countercultural?

To prepare for Frozen 2, I watched Frozen again with my daughter. I remembered it being a funny, whimsical movie with a catchy soundtrack, but I was surprised by how much the story resonated with me. What it teaches is surprisingly countercultural, calling into question the adequacy of common narratives pushed in pop culture (including often by Disney), replacing them with ideas that are, dare I say, biblical.  Freedom in Autonomy vs. Belonging in Community Frozen initially appears to follow the pervasive Western narrative of finding happiness as an autonomous individual. We find our identity and purpose by looking within (self-discovery) and expressing what we find or feel (self-realization). A person can only be true to themselves, or “authentic,” when they’re free to act on desires discovered within. Despite what doubters and haters—usually authorities—want you to do, “follow your heart” (Moana), “live your dream” (Tangled), and “listen to your inner voice” (Toy Story 4).  Such “expressive individualism” permeates Western culture. Find yourself and be true to yourself. Again, that’s the mantra of most Disney movies. The autonomous, authentic individual reigns supreme.  Find yourself and be true to yourself. That’s the mantra of most Disney movies. The autonomous, authentic individual reigns supreme. Some Christians hear this loud and clear in Frozen’s Elsa, particularly her anthem of liberation, “Let it Go.” Elsa puts Arendelle and her sister in the past to break free from the burdensome expectations of others. She walks up North Mountain in a pilgrimage to find herself. By pushing and breaking free from limits (“no right, no wrong, no rules for me”), Elsa can be herself. She transforms from a timid girl, bound in cloak and gloves, into a glamorously dressed, glittering woman—hair flowing, reveling in her newfound freedom. We find this appealing because the siren song of self-rule… Read More

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Weekly Recap, November 16

Book Summary: GOD AND THE TRANSGENDER DEBATE: WHAT DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY ABOUT GENDER AND IDENTITY?, by Andrew T. Walker A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance By Benjamin J. Montoya   About the Author Andrew T. Walker (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern… Book Review: Andrew Ballitch’s Review of LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS: HOW THE REFORMERS REGAINED, RETOLD, AND RELIED ON THE GOSPEL OF GRACE, by Lee Gatiss A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Andrew Ballitch   Summary and Review Lee Gatiss offers snapshots of five of the most well-known and influential Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century: Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, John… Jonathan Ahlgren’s Review of INVITATION TO BIBLICAL HEBREW SYNTAX: AN INTERMEDIATE GRAMMAR, by Russell Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Jonathan Ahlgren   For students desiring to internalize Biblical Hebrew so they can read the Biblical text with a natural proficiency, Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar by Russell… Kids & Moms: Kristin Stiles’s Review of JESUS AND THE LION’S DEN, by Alison Mitchell A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Kristin Stiles   I was an immediate fan of this book from the moment I saw the title. So often we present Old Testament Bible stories as moral tales that instruct… ~ The Books At a Glance Team Visit Books at a Glance

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Good Music Can Become Your God: Five Reasons Jesus Is Better

I remember first playing a piano at age 6, some 58 years ago now. Throughout high school I was involved with choirs and earned a piano performance degree in college. Following that, I spent eight years traveling full-time with a Christian band. Since leaving the band in 1984, I’ve served as a worship pastor and have continued to write and arrange songs for the past forty years. iTunes tells me I have over 100 days of music in my library that includes pop, classical, jazz, rock, gospel, rap, folk, country, indie, choral, orchestral, and more. You might say music is a significant part of my life. And you’d be right. God’s Gift of Music Music is a gift from God that can lift our spirits, comfort us, join us in a common mission, serve as a place of refuge during difficult times, encourage us, express what’s in our hearts, and touch us deeply, sometimes more than words can say. I’m especially grateful for music in the church. Allowing for the fact that it’s not always sublime, I can’t count the times I’ve been singing with a congregation and been deeply affected, even moved to tears. The Spirit has a way of making his presence known when we’re singing together (Ephesians 5:18–19). Our Common Struggle But as much as I love music, I’ve realized it’s possible to confuse feelings produced by music with feelings produced by truth. Some sixteen hundred years ago, Augustine was brutally honest about that struggle in his Confessions. He acknowledged the benefits of singing and listening to others sing, and said it might even inspire feelings of devotion in weaker spirits. But then he admitted, “When I find the singing itself more moving than the truth which it conveys, I confess that this is a grievous sin,… Read More

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Will We Pray in Heaven?

Audio Transcript Will we pray in heaven? It’s a really great question from a listener named Grant. “Pastor John, today in church we sang the old classic hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ In the fourth verse is a line that says, ‘Soon in glory bright, unclouded, there will be no need for prayer,’ referring to when we are in heaven. I don’t know if I’ve ever sang that fourth verse before, so the line jumped out at me. It’s jarring to hear the words ‘there is no need for prayer.’ So is prayer just an earthly thing? Is there a role for prayer in heaven? Does the Bible give us any indication of how we will commune with God in eternity?” Well first, let’s say a word about the song and then about the question of prayer in heaven from Scripture. I’m virtually certain that what Joseph Scriven meant in that line — which Grant quoted from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” — was that there will be no more aching cry to help us in our troubles in heaven because there will be no more troubles. We won’t be crying out for help in our troubles because we won’t have any troubles. Tears No More Now, the reason I think that’s all he meant is because, when I reread the whole song, that’s the way virtually every verse was defining prayer. Let me just read it for you. What a friend we have in Jesus,All our sins and griefs to bear!What a privilege to carryEverything to God in prayer!Oh, what peace we often forfeit,Oh, what needless pain we bear,All because we do not carryEverything to God in prayer! Have we trials and temptations?Is there trouble anywhere?We should never be discouraged;Take it to the Lord… Read More

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Doing Urban Ministry in an Unjust World

“We can’t have this kind of evangelical-discipleship-formula pack that is one-size-fits-all. Discipleship has to be bespoke to a person’s context, and to what they are dealing with, their unique situations, right? But there’s always gonna be fundamental obedience and things we must obey when it comes to God’s Word.” — Ameen Hudson Date: April 2, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Planet X? Planet 7X? Nibiru? Let’s not worry about it!

We live in an age when every few years, someone steps up to announce a fatal comet or rogue planet or asteroid. GILL BROUSSARD (like Carlos Ferrada in Spanish a while ago, and others) is one of a long line of dreamers like Immanuel Velikovsky in 1950. And everyone says the same thing, that No, no, this time it’s different! In the case of Broussard, it is a supposed Planet 7X, which nobody has seen, but will cause mass destruction in 2021! And, as usually is claimed in these cases, it’s those evil overlords at NASA who are covering up the truth, in order to avert panic or perhaps even to enslave the population. If you would like to read an 80-page summary of his viewpoint, here it is. Well, let’s begin with this: a good rule of thumb is, let us not turn to YouTube for science, or better, fake science, weird Bible interpretation, and in this case, astrology! I for one will lose no sleep over any impending disaster in 2021. Planet 7X – A Hardly-Scientific Method Broussard says that, “Three years of research along with astronomical software models of each event that have a repeating overlay to a depth and degree to which the data cross-validated itself was beyond expectations!” Let’s understand his method: there is no evidence to demonstrate the following biblical dates; he first of all determine that something must have happened on those dates, and then he asked, Which event in the Bible could possibly coincide with these predetermined dates? This is pseudo-science in its purest form. I chose Broussard in part because someone sent me his predictions, and in part because Broussard claims that his theory backs up, and is backed up by, the Bible. I cannot believe that he actually calculated that… Read More

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Book Sale at WTS Books: A Must-Read Systematic Theology by Robert Letham

Book Sale at WTS Books This comprehensive systematic theology by a respected theologian covers the whole field of Reformed Christian doctrine from biblical, historical, and theological angles. It seeks to provide a clear and concise articulation of the Reformed faith rooted in the historic creeds while addressing current issues such as feminism, charismatic gifts, sexual ethics, environmentalism, other religions, the nature of truth, and civil liberties. Intended to be used as a textbook, this single-volume systematic theology is well-suited for our world today, interacting not only with the biblical text but also with the history of Christian doctrine, current cultural challenges to the Bible’s teaching, and the daily experiences of regular Christians. About the Author: Robert Letham (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of systematic and historical theology at Union School of Theology. A Presbyterian minister with twenty-five years of pastoral experience, he is the author of books such as The Work of Christ; The Holy Trinity; and Union with Christ, and a range of articles published in encyclopedias and journals. Endorsements: “In this impressive systematic theology, Robert Letham sets before us the ripe fruit of a long career of devoted scholarship. He does so with clarity, confidence, and thoughtful judgment. The result is an elixir drawn from Scripture into which he has carefully stirred ingredients from Patristic orthodoxy, medieval theology, and Reformation and post-Reformation confessionalism. These are judiciously mixed by a theologian conscious that he is writing for the twenty-first century. Systematic Theology is Letham’s personal bequest to the church of Jesus Christ. A magnum opus indeed―which students, ministers, and scholars will find to be a real stimulation to their theological taste buds!”―Sinclair B. Ferguson, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries “This is a first-class volume, impressively erudite, yet eminently readable. Scrupulously biblical, but at the same time recognizing the value of… Read More

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Training Pastors and Planters in the Church, by the Church, for the Church

Bible literacy is becoming rare as theological confusion spreads around the world. We must combat theological poverty with robust theological training of pastors. Pastor training is critical to our mission, and Acts 29 trains church-planting pastors and aspiring church planters in a number of ways. The newly announced Grimké Seminary is one of those ways. Grimké Seminary exists to train pastors and planters who are characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation. Grimké specializes in training men for the realities of pastoral ministry—in the church, by the church, and for the church. With me on the podcast today to tell us about this new seminary are my good friends Bryan Laughlin, CEO of the seminary and lead pastor of Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia, and Doug Logan, Grimké president and pastor for church planting at Remnant. Listen to this episode of Churches Planting Churches. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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‘I Never Knew You’: Fatal Dreams of the Religious Lost

Is any lostness worse than remaining lost while believing you’re found? Of all those who finally travel the broad way to destruction, are any so wretched as those who sang Christian songs, prayed Christian prayers, and sat under countless Christian sermons along the way? The man sipping sand in the desert, because he thinks he holds a cup of water, is the most tragic and pitiable of sights. To plunge thoughtlessly into the next life is one horror; to play the saint, and still be deceived, is another. There was a time I wouldn’t have believed such people existed — least of all, that I was one of them. Certainly, all who audibly called upon Jesus as Lord would be saved — why else would anyone show up every Sunday? But there it stood before me, glowing as if engraved in fire, Jesus’s own words giving us a transcript of some on judgment day: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21–23) I read it again. And again. No verse had ever made me lose sleep before. I realized that I must be one of the “many.” Three Fatal Dreams I was like so many sermon-hearers, Bible-readers, and synagogue-attenders of Jesus’s day: lost in a dream, traveling toward hell in church clothes. “As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating, and awakes with his hunger… Read More

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God Your Father is Not Ashamed of You: Escape the Valley

As Christians, we are on the escape out of the valley of this world. For many, their love grows cold as they replace the best for that which is just good. They stop fighting the fight of faith and drift backward. Yet as believers, we often are imperfect in our escape. We must remember that we run the race with our eyes on the Lord, and God our Father who is not ashamed of us, even in all of our weaknesses.

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Margin notes: A simple prayer about my cravings.

Psalm 78:18 (ESV) — 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. In this Psalm of Asaph, he recounts the stubbornness of Israel in the way it has dealt with God, and the mercy and grace God has displayed in the face of Israel’s stubbornness. Vs. 18 seems to be the lynchpin on which their rebellion hung.  And I could not help but feel the pinch of it myself as I reflected upon how often I’ve resented God loving me better than my cravings, by abundantly meeting my needs – far and above anything I could have imagined. He is so very, very good to us. Heavenly Father, this is so much how I am. No matter how often or how wondrously you prove yourself to me, at the next crisis, it is as though you have done nothing in the past. It is as though you are constantly having to prove yourself to me. Please forgive my hardness and unfaithfulness. Make my mind recall your past graces, and let me stand secure in your love that I do not repeatedly put you to the test. Let my heart be free of its sinful doubting – and truly trust you. Make my only “demand” – that I might know you more. Keep me from demanding that you cater to my cravings above what your infinitely perfect love and wisdom deem best for me. Teach me to trust you above my own wicked heart. Teach me to “crave” better than I know or feel. Love me better than what I think love ought to be. Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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The Christian Life is An Escape

Genesis 19:14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”

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Book Sale at WTS Books: The Mysterious Irony of the Gospel

Book Sale at WTS Books The Bible is full of ironic situations in which God overturns the world’s wisdom by doing the opposite of what is expected. In this new volume from respected New Testament scholar G. K. Beale, readers will see how God’s pattern of divine irony is exhibited in both judgment and salvation, finding its greatest expression in Jesus’s triumph over death through death on a cross. God has designed redemptive history to unfold in a way that challenges human wisdom in order to put his own wisdom and glory on display, using what is seemingly weak and foolish to show his power in the lives of his people today. About the Author: G. K. Beale (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. In recent years he has served as president and member of the executive committee of the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written several books and articles on biblical studies. Endorsements: “The apostle Paul said that the gospel was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. The gospel is just as scandalous and surprising today―or to use Greg Beale’s term, ironic. To encounter that irony is to stumble into strong evidence of the gospel’s divinity. Beale does a masterful job of directing us to a powerful internal testimony the Scripture gives of its truthfulness. Furthermore, Redemptive Reversals is overflowing with anecdotal illustrations, pastoral cautions, cultural connections, and practical applications. It’s a refreshing, unique, and important book all serious Bible students should have in their library.”―J. D. Greear, President, Southern Baptist Convention; author, Not God Enough; Pastor, The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina “Greg Beale is one of the most perceptive and fascinating New Testament scholars of our day. He reads texts in their historical context, but he also illustrates… Read More

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