‘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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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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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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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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9 Things You Should Know About Cohabitation in America

A new survey finds that cohabitation is pervasive in the United States, and is increasingly viewed as acceptable by Christians—even if it doesn’t lead to marriage. Here is what you should know—and that most American don’t—about cohabitation. 1. Cohabitation is the state of living together and having a sexual relationship without being married. Because Scripture considers all sexual activity outside the covenant bonds of marriage to be sexual immorality, cohabitation is sinful and should be rejected by orthodox Christians (Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7). 2. As more U.S. adults are delaying or foregoing marriage, the percentage who have engaged in cohabitation has been rapidly increasing. Since the 1960s, the percentage of men and women who cohabit before marriage has increased by almost 900 percent. More recently, Pew Research found that the share of adults ages 18 to 44 who are living with an unmarried partner has risen from 3 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2017. But a report by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics that selected only adults who had sexual intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex, found the numbers were even higher: 17.1 percent of women and 15.9 percent of men were cohabiting. 3. Among adults ages 18 to 44, the share who have ever cohabited (59 percent) is now larger than the share who have ever been married (50 percent). Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are almost twice as likely to have cohabited as they are to have married (44 percent vs. 23 percent). Among those ages 30 to 44, the share that has cohabited (71 percent) is similar to the share that has married (73 percent), and 52 percent have both cohabited and married at some point.… Read More

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Margin notes: Teach your children well – Better than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. If you didn’t get my byline – than LISTEN HERE first, and then come back to read this. What a good thing it is for each generation to make known what they’ve come to know and have learned about the goodness, power and wonder of God. For parents to tell their children of their own conversion to Christ. To tell them how God rescued them in trouble, provided for them, walked with them, comforted them, sustained them and blessed them. Parents – do not be silent. Give your children the heritage of your life in Christ. Recount it. Glory in it, joy in it, and tell them of it. The following verses tell us why we should do vss. 1-4 – So they… Read More

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In Church Planting, Overcome the Obstacle of Me

“Church planting is hard work.” I often heard this before we planted our church. I agreed and prepared for the challenge by reading books and talking with other pastors. But then we planted and I thought, Man, this is hard work. What the heck? The reality of spiritual warfare, of more work than workers, and of never-ending needs such as money, space, leaders, and equipment make church planting grueling work. But there’s another reason why it’s so challenging. It took me a while to realize this, but my greatest obstacle in church planting is me. If I’m unwilling to embrace my own need for Christ, I become the hindrance to his work in my local church. It’s easy to blur the line between exalting Christ so he’s seen and known, and exalting him so I’m seen and known. Jesus Provides In Luke 9:1–17, Jesus launches his disciples into public ministry. He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Surprisingly, Jesus tells them to “take nothing” for their journey—no money, staff, or food. He sends them out, sans resources, and when they return, they marvel at all the work they have done. Immediately, a hungry crowd surrounds them. Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the crowd, but they can’t. So he feeds them. The people eat and are satisfied. The disciples were busy marveling at what they had done, but Jesus exposes their inability to do anything on their own (John 15:5). Jesus meets my stubborn hold on my plans with his generous grace, inviting me to trust him. Like the disciples, our greatest problem isn’t a resource problem. We can be sent out with scant resources and still see spectacular fruit. What if our lack of resources isn’t about problems, but about glory? What… Read More

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New and Notable Books – Fall 2019

Here’s my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these are suggestions focused on fairly recent books in American history and religious history. These books certainly may be of interest to fellow historians, but I also try to suggest ones that are accessible and (somewhat) affordable to students and general readers. Beth Barton Schweiger, A Literate South: Reading before Emancipation (Yale). This obviously is as much a history of learning and culture as it is of religion, but much of antebellum learned through religious sources. From the publisher: “Drawing on the writings of four young women who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Schweiger shows how free and enslaved people learned to read, and that they wrote and spoke poems, songs, stories, and religious doctrines that were circulated by speech and in print. The assumption that slavery and reading are incompatible—which has its origins in the eighteenth century—has obscured the rich literate tradition at the heart of Southern and American culture.” We recently had Dr. Schweiger to Baylor for a lecture, and it was exceedingly well received. Andrew Delbanco, The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War (Penguin). I recently listened to this on Audible, on Alan Jacobs’s recommendation, and it is outstanding. One of the best history books I have read in the past couple years. Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities (Princeton). Coming from the author of the best book on the prosperity gospel, this book promises to examine some of the tensions inherent in the public roles of female Bible teachers. A timely topic! Dr. Bowler spoke on her research for this book a couple years ago at Baylor, and it was fascinating.   Mark David Hall, Did America Have a Christian… Read More

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Margin notes: God’s Steady “pillars”

Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 3 Things in the 3rd verse from Asaph are so vital for Christians today to bear in mind. First, there are times when the earth totters, stumbling and quaking and crumbling. The Psalm does not say “IF” these things happen – but “when.” They will. Great upheavals in the creation physically, politically in governments, economically and even religiously and personally. The earth and all earthly system stand presently under the judgment of God. And it is crumbling. Second, The Lord knows there will be these seasons. He is not surprised by them, and so neither should we be. Comfort, ease and outward security are no inalienable rights. We live in a world that is passing away. And this entire world system suffers from its death spasms. This will not be reversed, even tho God in His grace does give seasons of respite as well. But we must make no mistake that this present world which is passing away – cannot be rescued. (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17) Third. Those in Christ have this knowledge as well – that in spite of it all, even in its worst moments, the Lord still keeps those pillars of grace and mercy steady. We have a sureness and security those outside of Christ cannot conceive of. Like the Disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm threatened to sink and drown them – they could not perish because HE could not perish. As long as we are with Him, in Him and He in us, though every piece of the fabric of human existence be torn, we have secure and steady pillars which cannot be shaken even in the least.… Read More

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Ordination Service for Jim Luckey and Ben Zwickl

Reid A Ferguson Philippians 2:19–30 As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this morning is a very special morning for us at ECF, as we take this opportunity to ordain or officially set into the office both Ben Zwickl and Jim Luckey. Both of these as elders, and of course with Jim having the expanded role as being paid staff. His compensation providing the means to give himself to this service full time, whereas our other elders (apart from myself) take up these responsibilities in addition to working full time to support themselves. Ordination?: What do we mean by that? Lexham Bible Dictionary: ORDINATION The process of formally appointing someone to ministerial office within a religious community. The term first appears in Exodus 29 when Aaron and his sons are officially put into office as priests for Israel. Now as you know, we are not OT Israelites. And with Jesus coming as the final, Great High Priest – as He is designated in Hebrews 4 & 10, we no longer have a separate priesthood in the Church. In fact, as we saw in our study of Revelation, the entire Church and everyone in it takes up a part of this priesthood now. So we read in Rev. 5:9-10 that after Jesus took the scroll of the whole of God’s plan for time and humanity from the right hand of God the Father – the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders which surround the throne of God burst out into song singing: Revelation 5:9–10 ESV / And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have… Read More

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