Should Christians Be In A “Frozen” Dilemma?

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I love the movie Frozen. It is awesome. The only bummer I had while watching it with my 5 year old was that I didn’t know the songs which rendered me incapable of singing along! Thanks to Youtube I have learned several of the songs and look forward to watching it with my son again and again… and again.

I, for one, was thoroughly impressed with the movie. Much like this guy and this guy. Frozen had a better story and message than any Pixar or Disney movie that I have seen. It has a better message than 99% of movies that get produced, easy.

Insert: gay family. When I left the movie theater I had no idea a gay family made an appearance in the film. The first I heard of it I didn’t believe  the person that told me. Thankfully, my good friend google helped me see that their probably was a gay family in the movie. I think it is debatable, but that is my assumption after seeing the picture of Oaken’s family. The dilemma: it has a great central message, but it also has a gay family in it-  these two realities led to a friend of mine asking this:

Any thoughts on it being the first animated movie with a gay family in it & advice to families/Christian organizations who may want to boycott it or protect their kids from it because of it?

I am going to answer both of these questions:

1) It sure would have been nice for Disney to leave that out. Not because it had any impact on the movie- it was totally unnoticeable to me when I watched the movie. I wish they would have left it out because now the country is caught up in debating whether or not it was a gay family, gay activists cheering its existence, and many Christians bemoaning that it’s there. All the while the great central message and theme of the movie is being pushed to the side.

I would much rather have our country discussing how sacrificial love is far superior to a “true act of love” than “a true love’s kiss” and other emotion-laden nonsense. Salvation came through a sacrificial act of love. I am sure I have heard that somewhere else.

2) I’m not a perfect parent and I do not have all the answers. Walking our children through these issues and teaching them how to chew the meat and spit the bones is very difficult. I do not fault parents who choose a different approach than me. They will stand before God on how they raised their kids, not me. With that said, here are a few principles as to why I will continue to watch Frozen with my kids, despite the appearance of a gay family.

  •  I would prefer to let my kids watch a film with a fantastically truth filled story with one unnoticeable gay family in it than a movie without a gay family that has a central message that is garbage. The theme of sacrificial love and salvation was crystal clear to everyone while most people who watched the movie didn’t even catch the gay family. It’s overall story is so much stronger than 99% of the animated films those same parents probably let their kids watch already.
  • There aren’t very many opportunities in which a movie gives such an easy picture of the gospel as the movie Frozen. There are several comparisons that can be made with very little mental effort from my kids. Most of the time it is hard to come by a story in which it is such an easy step to the gospel. My oldest kid is 5- it needs to be clear and simple, Frozen does that for me.
  • Gay families aren’t going anywhere. I have no idea when my kids will see their first gay couple kissing, holding hands, etc. It may have already happened and I am unaware. I would rather be right beside my sons when they first experience what will be for them a very abnormal relationship. This opens the door to a helpful conversation about truth, sin, love, and grace.
  • “Everyone is a fixer upper.” This is one of the songs and lines from Frozen. If my kids ever notice the gay family in the movie I am happy to take that moment to show them that one way people sin against God is through gay relationships- they, like the rest of us, are “fixer uppers.” How do you fix a fixer-upper? Love.” What kind of love would that be? The same kind of sacrificial love we see from Anna is why Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. No one is unfixable, Jesus died so that all who repent of sin and believe in Him can be made right with God. Like Anna, he gives them a new heart (we have already talked about that a lot).

In Frozen, we have an opportunity to share the gospel with our kids through a good story. I am thrilled to take full advantage of it. 

The Dangers of Entrepreneurship in Pastoral Ministry

John Piper once wrote a book titled, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.” It is fantastic and I recommend it for every pastor. It warns pastors of falling into the error of “professionalism.” Piper knew that falling into a spirit of professionalism as pastors could essentially destroy the essence of our calling as pastors.

A spirit of professionalism is still a danger to pastor ministry, but I think we are seeing a new wave: a spirit of entrepreneurship. While these two things are in many way inseparable, I think there is some important nuance between them.

Like with professionalism, not all aspects of an entrepreneurship are bad. In many ways it is quite helpful to have pastors that have some entrepreneur in them. The danger is in putting too much stock into entrepreneurship. A danger that can really dig against the true nature of calling and spiritual leadership in pastoral ministry.

Here are some examples of what I mean by “dangers”:

  • There is a constant “make it happen” mentality that exists in entrepreneurs and it is sneaking its way into pastors hearts, minds, and strategies. Pastors are not called to “make it happen.” We are called to plow, pray, and watch God do what only he can do.
  • The comparison game. I fear this new spirit of entrepreneurship amongst pastors has been breeding more “beating out the competition” and less, “We are called men.” Pastors ought to be quite satisfied in putting their head down for the work of the ministry. The temptation is to look around and see if we are as “successful” and “good” as those around us. We tie our identity as pastor closer to how we compare than how we are called.
  • Pastors constantly jumping to the next “bigger, better” opportunity that will give them more “influence and impact.” Pastors lack of satisfaction in investing in the smaller community in which their church will never grow beyond 250, 150, 100 people. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Put yourself in position to have what you perceive to be the “biggest impact” at all costs.” Yet, that appears to be what many in pastoral ministry are doing.
  • The way pastors relate to one another… “Where are you guys at? What are you running? What awesome stuff are you doing?” I’m not saying these are invalid questions. I am saying it is telling that these are the questions most often asked and written about. I think many pastors leave the ministry because they perceive themselves to be failures in the face of entrepreneurship, but according to the Bible they are doing just fine.
  • Pastors can have a tendency to see people as a means to their work and not as the work. My church has a leadership axiom that I love: We don’t use people to get ministry done, we use ministry to get people done. I think this nails the true nature of pastoral ministry. Entrepreneurship can tempt us to see our people as the tools for what we think God wants to accomplish through us. We need to see our people as the very thing God wants to accomplish through us.
  • We have put on extra-biblical expectations to what makes a good, successful pastor. Listen, I am a pastor at an Acts 29 church. The A29 network was one of the first to see, promote, and utilize the positive aspects of a spirit and skill of entrepreneurship in pastors. With that, we also need to be the first to warn of the dangers of entrepreneurial spirit. In many cases we have added “entrepreneur skill” to the “requirements for pastoral ministry” list. This is extra-biblical add on that can be very unhealthy. The Bible tells us what is needed for eldership and pastoral ministry- entrepreneurship doesn’t make the list.

At the heart of these dangers is the temptation to undervalue true calling and overvalue the perception of what the particular pastor can do and get done. I am not saying this is a strong either/or. It is more of a “have the right values in the right balance.”

Eugene Peterson has a good word on this:

While being a pastor certainly has some of these components (entrepreneur work/mentality), the pervasive element in our 2,000 year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God–  this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerfully “without ceasing.”

Our primary calling is a spiritual one. We are primarily spiritual leaders. We aren’t simply trying to “fix peoples problems” or “run an organization/enterprise.” While we are organizational leaders and we must help our people work through their problems, our primary aim is to shepherd the spiritual lives of a specific people

Somehow we have lost our way a little bit. We have started judging the success of pastors by what they have managed to make happen and how much they have outwardly accomplished. The primary question we have to ask when evaluating a person’s ministry is faithfulness. Are they being faithful to their calling and does their ministry show faithfulness to the Bible and the Holy Spirit?

How we evaluate those things is a discussion for another day. We at least have to start by making sure we are asking the right questions.

Let’s take heed the dangers of the spirit of entrepreneurship that is pervading the pastoral ministry. Let’s make sure we are functioning out of a sense of calling to be faithful spiritual leaders and shepherds of those that God has entrusted to us. We aren’t trying to see how much we can accomplish through them, we are trying to see how much can be accomplished in them.

What Does My Life Say About My God?

Much of the world thinks very little of our God because our lives speak very little of Him. Our lives almost beg our neighbors to not take God seriously.

Our worship of God reveals what we truly think about God and what we feel towards God. Our lives will tell us and everyone about us what we really believe about God.

Do we not speak of Him in the same ways we speak about enjoying our kids, spouses, friends? Is he not presented to our culture as an add-on that we get some satisfaction out of, but not as a marvelous light? 

I pray that my life would declare to my friends, family, and neighbors that my God is an all consuming fire. Sadly, to many of us even saying that- “God is my all consuming fire”- is a little further than we want to go. We are scared to look like the spiritual nut-job. We don’t want to look like the religious dude that takes things too seriously and makes people uncomfortable. This leads us to minimizing the role of God in our life and tempts us to keep him hidden away.

But what does this communicate to our culture? Why would they ever want to worship a God that we would be willing to minimize in any way? They are proud of their idols and they look our way and find us hiding our God. As we try to make God look more attractive to the lost world we render him useless. 

Where does this come from? Why do we have this tendency to minimize God in our life? Why does our life not affirm what we say we believe at our deepest core?

I don’t know that answer for you, but I know it for me… I am simply not utterly captivated by Him as I once was. I am not stricken with wonder at the glory and majesty of God as I was on the day of my salvation. I have lost my awe of Who He Is.

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come.”

God has not changed. He is as magnificent today as he has ever been and always will be. It is I who has changed. I have shifted my gaze away from the goodness and glory of God. We all have the tendency to shift our gaze in the wrong direction.

When we shift our gaze away from the glory of God we begin to have a smaller and smaller view of God. If we are honest, many of us will confess we have a much smaller view of God than what we see in the Bible. Pathetic worship is birthed out of a pathetic view of God. A life of worship that is highly exalting, reverent, full of joy, and has a weight of holiness is birthed out of a heart and mind that is transfixed by the greatness of God.

Thankfully, when we have seasons of shifted gaze God doesn’t smite us with anger and throw us away. No, he has given us His Spirit to rebuke, exhort, and encourage. In the last 24 hours that is exactly what God has done for me. He has rebuked me for gazing at wonders that pale in comparison to his majesty, he has exhorted me to fix my eyes on Jesus- the founder and perfecter of my faith, and he has encouraged my heart to walk in His grace. He will do the same for you.

Tensions of a Christian Parent in a Secular Society

Christian parenting in our current culture is not easy. Those who think it is easy probably aren’t paying close enough attention. There seems to be a new land mine to step on every day. There are several tensions that Christian parents have to process and navigate that can be very difficult. I am going to bullet point some of the tensions below. I could write a lot about each of these, but for now I just want to start the conversations.

  • Life trumps Words. We all know that things are easier said than done. This applies probably most to christian living. Most parents live with an awareness that their life will always speak louder to their children than their words. A tension that arises out of this is one of strong accountability. Christian parents badly want their kids to love Jesus and enjoy Him forever. Yet, they know that many days their lives are not a picture of loving Jesus and enjoying Him forever.
  • Law and Grace. Not only is getting the balance between how we apply law and grace to our own lives, it is extremely difficult in parenting. I remember one night being FILLED with anger towards my oldest son, Caleb. It was a moment that I wanted to be heavy “pro-discipline” and think about grace later. Realizing that I was not functioning from a healthy heart I walked away and addressed it later. When I walked away though I was extremely frustrated. I had just had an internal epic-battle between how law and grace was supposed to function in that particular moment. Christians that have a deep understanding of grace can sometimes shy away from demanding obedience from their kids. We must work hard to navigate how both law and grace apply to our parenting.
  • Guidance and Freedom. We know our kids won’t be kids forever. We know at some point they will be responsible for themselves. How do we find the line between how much guidance and how much freedom we ought to be giving our kids as they continue to grow and mature? We all know the over-controlling parents that “guide” their children like dogs on incredibly short leashes. We also know the “cool” parents that give their kids so much “freedom” they have essentially stopped being parents. Both of these extremes are great recipes for disaster. The disasters might look different, but I don’t want to be in the middle of a tornado or hurricane. Christian parents must wrestle with the tension of how much guidance and freedom is given year by year as their kids grow and mature.
  • Protection and Relevance. You should be noticing a trend, these tensions are difficult for our own lives, not to mention being responsible for other lives as well! Parents seem scared to death to have the “weird kid.” While I kind of get that in one sense, I don’t think most Christians approach that in a healthy way. Most parents seem to think “weird kid” means their kids don’t have all of the latest electronics and access to everything their friends have. If that is what it means, I will make sure my kids are “weird.” On the other side is this thought that we are somehow doing our kids a service when we shield them in such a way that when they go to college they think they just entered the anti-Narnia. It is a really tough tension of how much do we protect our kids from the world and how much of we “let in” so they can be “arrow children” going out into the world.
  • Broken systems, yet responsible. Yes, parents are totally responsible for how they raise their kids. Like in every culture, we are responsible for how we raise them despite the tough reality that the systems in which we have to raise them are incredibly broken. Jesus loving parent, meet fallen world. Broken systems are literally all we have to function in. There isn’t a perfect system to raise kids in which we can guarantee our kids will flourish in educational, social, emotional, psychological, and physical areas. We are responsible for all of these areas of their life, yet we must navigate through the brokenness of the systems available to us.
  • Holy and Missional. We all desire our kids to be holy as God is holy. We also know kids aren’t very learned in “chewing the meat and spitting the bones.” We don’t want our kids to only be able to spend time with kids who are Christians (heck most of the ones you think are Christians probably aren’t), but we also don’t want them to be heavily influenced by kids who will introduce them to all types of evils and issues they don’t know how to navigate.

Do Christians Have To Support Israel?

This is a topic that can be very controversial and a lot of very solid, Jesus loving Christians disagree. Remember, we can disagree in a way that displays grace.

There is a popular belief out there that Christians have to support the nation of Israel in political matters.  I have recently heard a Dispensationalist pastor say Christians must support Israel because they are “God’s chosen people.”  Pastors like John Hagee will even tell you things like if a country chooses to not support Israel then God curses that country and will bring judgment upon them.

While there are extremely valid political reasons to support the nation of Israel, there is no theological reason to support the nation of Israel in political matters any more than you support any other country.  If your political convictions drive you to support Israel for political reasons- great.  There is certainly nothing wrong with supporting Israel for political convictions.  The problem is that sometimes Christians think we are scripturally mandated to support Israel politically. Many people who think Christians are mandated to support Israel politically usually do it because of their understanding of Israel as the “people of God.”

This is what I want to examine. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one people of God, but many people seem to think that there are two people of God: Israel and the church. Ephesians 2 clearly teaches that through the cross and resurrection Jesus has broken down the “wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles and made himself one new man- the church (vs. 13-22).  Therefore, Christians do not have a theological obligation to support Israel with the reasoning of Israel being the “people of God.”  We should not separate Israel and the church as two different peoples, when Ephesians 2 very pointedly shows us how the two are bound together as one through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Scripture tells us that God, through His Son, is making one new man made up of both Jew and Gentile. 

Galatians 3:16 also gives us good insight into this matter.  It teaches that the promises of Abraham were not given to Abraham and all of his descendants, but to Abraham and his descendant (singular), and that is Jesus.  This means that the promises of Abraham were not ever given to the entire nation of Israel, but the true Israel-Jesus.  The partakers in the promises only partake because of their union with Jesus.  Therefore, we should not be waiting on fulfillment in the nation of Israel, but understand that Jesus has fulfilled and is fulfilling the promises of Abraham.

With the Bible teaching that there is one people of God- the church- who is all those united to the True Israel- Jesus: then Christians have no theological obligation to support the nation of Israel.  We all have the right to our political opinion and if yours leads you to support Israel that is great (mine do), but the Bible doesn’t demand that Christians support the nation of Israel for theological reasons.