Frozen: True Love

frozen When I was a kid watching Disney films was a real treat. I grew up with the magic of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. Singing along and enjoying the classic boy meets girl story. I have written before about how Disney gets the heart of the universal story that we all ache for.

A prince rescuing a princess.

*Spoilers Alert

But the other day I watched the film Frozen, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most other Disney films, Frozen captured more of the Gospel story then ever before.

Salvation plays a big part in the stories we tell. Go to the movies and you will find the story is telling you that salvation is necessary – to be rescued, to be taken from poverty, ugliness, captivity into riches, beauty and freedom. And there is always a saviour, whether that is prince charming or some inner person/ courage in your heart that you just have to find. With salvation, true love is not far behind.

For Disney, salvation is true love. And that true love must be shown as a kiss.

  • trueloveskissAriel’s salvation from being captured in the prison of silence was broken by a true love’s kiss.
  • Snow white is awoken and saved from eternal sleep by true love’s kiss.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is free from eternal hairiness by true love’s kiss.

Disney is right, only true love can save. Love does indeed win.

However it is not through a kiss that true love is shown:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)

True love is sacrifice. It is through death and giving up ones life for another. The bible tells us that in order for us to be rescued, Christ stooped down and died for us (while we hated him), saving us and reconciling us to His Father.

Death is far more powerful than a kiss and it brings a better salvation. 

In the film Frozen, Disney shows this reality. Salvation doesn’t come through a True Love’s kiss but through a True Love’s sacrifice.

Elsa has magical powers (she can freeze people) and it causes relationships to break, she feels guilty and she runs away ashamed. She wraps herself in her own castle of ice and tries to hide, pushing everyone away.

Her sister Anna pursues her. She doesn’t give up.

This is a Hosea moment.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Anna pursues and woos her.

Later on there comes a moment where Elsa has to die, but Anna steps out and takes her place. Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa and Elsa is saved because of the death of another has taken her place.

Then Anna is resurrected, showing the strength and power of her love.

As with anything, of course it isn’t a perfect representation of the Gospel – but it is a glimpse and a better glimpse then a kiss.

This film would be a good one to explain what true love really is, the cost of true freedom and the love that Christ has for us.

Ender’s Game: Loving the Enemy

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him”

*Spoilers alert

endersgameEnder is no typical teenager. He has been selected to save the world from a deadly race of aliens. We journey with him as he trains, trying to get the balance between anger and compassion.

When we reach the film’s end, we find Ender in a computer simulator, practising war tactics in various complicated scenarios. When his graduation finally arrives, he enters his last simulation and if he wins this, then he can go out to war for real.

Everything goes well. In fact he doesn’t just beat his enemy, he totally annihilates them – destroying a planet of aliens which seem to consist of the entire species – now every last one of them is up in smoke. Earth won.

There is silence. Then applause. Victory over the enemy is accomplished! Ender won the game.

And yet we discover that this was no simulation. This was in fact the real war and it dawns on Ender that he has totally wiped out an entire civilisation. What bothers him, it seems, is that he didn’t get a chance to understand them better. He wanted to dialogue with them, find out what makes them tick, find out why they came to earth in the first place and give them a chance. But he can’t do that. He had no chance to love his enemy.

It was quite a striking ending, normally as a viewer we would be satisfied with a victory like this. The enemy is crushed! However Enders reaction makes us feel uncomfortable. We suddenly feel that perhaps these aliens were never the enemy in the first place, but actually we were the enemy all along.

How we deal with our enemies illustrates something of our heart.

Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

ender-wigginEnder found that the heart of this project was all about annihilation and winning a game, being in victory and being the strongest. And Ender didn’t like that, he saw the corrupt nature of the heart and felt tricked in following their rules. What if he had a chance to talk to the aliens? To understand them? Perhaps he would have loved them?

Jesus deals with his enemies in a startling way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still enemies, hating God, waging war against him. He stooped down and loved us, died for us and brought peace. Jesus treats his enemies with great love, beckoning them to come to him for refuge, offering them time and time again a chance for peace.

How we treat our enemies shows the inner workings of our hearts.

Perhaps the people we think who are our enemies, are actually not. Perhaps we need time to understand them, get to know them, find out what makes their heart tick and perhaps we will come to love them. Like Jesus, who understands our inner most being, who saw our hatred towards him and yet he still loved us, loved us to the point of death.

Those people out there that we may class as enemies, those who think differently to us, belong to a different tribe, have a different lifestyle are all enemies of Christ. Just like you and me. Yet Christ is filled with compassion towards them, as he does towards us.

Suddenly we find ourselves side by side with our enemies, feeling a little uncomfortable because we have realised that perhaps we are also the enemy.

And yet Christ is not tricked like Ender, he doesn’t annihilate us. Instead he understand us, loves us and calls us to him for salvation.

The Man Upstairs in the Lego Movie

the_lego_movieLast week my husband and I went to the cinema and watched the Lego movie. And everything was awesome…

To be honest it ticked all of my inner geek boxes. With references from star trek, wars, gate and lord of the rings to super heroes and super nobodies. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much.

*Some spoiler alerts ahead*

But I was equally interested about the portrayal of the “man upstairs”. The one who gives the rules and enters into the Lego world as President Business. There are two types of people in the Lego world, the ones who follow President Business and live under his rules. They are boring, uncreative, unimaginative and stuck.Then there are other Lego people who don’t follow the rules and they are creative, wonderful and superheroes trying to escape and be free from the rules of president Business.

We meet Emmett. He is a rule keeper, who follows the instructions very closely and lives life in the system. It isn’t until he meets some super creative people, that at some point in the movie he realises that he needs to stop following the instructions and start believing in himself.

As Mariah Carey belts out:

“Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”

Emmett just needs to believe in himself. And the man upstairs needs to recognise that people need creative freedom and not rules. And he doesn’t have to be such a control freak!

PresidentBusinessThe temptation at this point, for the Christian, is to try to defend this rule giving God. Saying, even though this rule giving God gives out instructions – they are for our good and they don’t trample on our creativity but they free us…

Except we know that being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules or even following instructions. If we do, we enslave ourselves and become a curse. (Galatians 3:10).The rules don’t free us or enable us to have creativity. Instead they bind us and stick us to the floor so we can’t move for fear of displeasing this rule giving god. The rules (law) given to the Israelites were good instructions but they were never going to free or save them. Furthermore those laws were for a specific time, people and purpose.

We are right to reject President Business and the man upstairs with his rule book. And the Lego movie is right – following rules and instructions to find purpose and meaning in life will just destroy us. And so Emmett needs to be free from the rule-giving man upstairs. But how?

Well the problem is, Emmett believes the lie that he needs to look inside himself to find the truth. That somewhere in his inner being, he just needs to believe in himself. (Queue Mariah Carey).

The mantra in our society is to believe in yourself. To look within and find meaning, truth and hope.That if you are a boring nobody, you just need more belief so you can be a somebody.

coffeeandlegomovieBut the reality is, there is nothing in you that can help you. You can’t help yourself. Our hearts are corrupt and following after desires that aren’t good for us.

Instead the answer is outside of ourselves. To someone who gives life, who bore the curse of the law so you don’t have to, who accepts you even if you are an ordinary person or a superhero.

True Freedom and life is only ever found in Jesus.

This is true for Emmett and for us. It cannot be found in following the instructions nor can it be found inside of ourselves.

The man upstairs, our Father, is not standing there with a glue gun ready to paralyse us under his instructions. Instead he is a Father who sends his Son into the world, to give us life and freedom because he knows that we can’t keep the rules and we can’t find freedom within ourselves and we can’t solve this mess we are in, only he can. The man upstairs, is nothing like the one in Lego Movie, he is far better.

We are all Human

love-actually-to-me-you-are-perfectI find people really fascinating and I quite enjoy sitting in coffee shops watching people go about their day. Sounds a bit stalker-ish, I know. But what I love about it is watching how people react, find out what makes them smile or frown. Watching how people interact with each other, how they say hello and how they talk to each other. I find it very interesting.

In the film Love Actually the opening scene is that of an airport and Hugh Grant comments on how people relate to each other in the airport. He says:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.”

At the airport you see glimpses of humanity at its finest. Hugh Grant is right, love is all around as people receive their loved ones safe and sound. People are reunited again and the ache of longing is dissolved. It’s very interesting to watch. In some way or another we all have similar reactions, it’s not often you see an angry face at the airport.

I have recently been watching a show called “Gogglebox”. It’s a show about people watching TV and their reacts to the programmes they watch on TV. It sounds pointless, you are basically watching people who are watching TV… However I love it. The reason I love it, isn’t because I love trashy TV, but it’s because I love watching people. How these families and individuals respond to certain programmes is fascinating to me.

What I have noticed is that at the basic level we are all the same. We are all very human. We laugh, squirm and cry at the same things. There was a TV program called 999:Emergency where a man in his 80s lost his wife whom he had been married to for nearly 60 years. The ambulance came in and tried save her but they couldn’t. The husband was in tears. And so was the audience.

Couples were holding hands, tears rolling down their faces because they knew that this reality of death would hit us all at some point. We will all feel that void at some point in our lives if we haven’t already.

We are all human. We cry and laugh and get angry at the same points in the story. Our needs are the same: to be loved, cherished, respected. Our fears are the same: loneliness, failure, death.

It’s funny though, when I think about Christians and the way we talk about the world, we make a divide of “us” and “them”. In a sense it is true, there are those that are in Christ and those that are outside of Christ. But with that “us” and “them” it sometimes feels like a divide so large we have started to become scared of “them”. We start to see them as less human and ourselves as super spiritual, living beyond and above our humanness. We see ourselves so different from “them”.

But on the very basic level, at the starting point – we are all human. Our needs are the same. We need to eat, drink, sleep, love, be loved, we are scared of the same things, we need to worship, we need to work etc. We all have stories we can share with each other. We can relate to each other.

When we share the gospel with people, we are sharing a true story with human beings just like us. Human beings that need Jesus, just like we do. And when we approach evangelism or apologetics we have to remember that there are people, real people behind every question. They are not “them” or aliens, they are not sub-human or simply floating brains. They are real people with emotions, dreams, fears, desires and searching for hope.

Every human is broken and needs Jesus.

When we view it like that rather than an “us” and “them”, we may find sharing the Gospel easier. We may find less barriers because the person we are asking is our friend, someone we enjoy being with and someone we want to share our story with. This person has the same struggles and fears as we do. This person is broken just as much as we are. This person needs to be loved just like we do.

This person is human, just like we are.

A Direct line to God

chord In the toilets at Marjon University they have an emergency red cord and most likely that’s been pulled enough times for someone to put a note on it saying: “Emergency Assistance Cord“. I.E dont pull it unless it is an emergency.

But someone has written above it “A direct like to God“. It made me smile. They saw this red cord and for a laugh wrote this.

Sometimes prayer feels a bit like an emergency line to God.

It is like divine panic button. Call God only in an emergency.

It can feel like that in the christian life. Days and days go by and all is hunky dory, the sun is shining and life seems beautiful. There feels no need for God. No need to speak to him or include him. I am fine thank you – I don’t need you right now.

This isn’t an emergency so I wont pull the red cord.

Not until I get to the point where I suddenly have to find accommodation for my relay worker or my bus is late and therefore I am late for an important meeting or a crises pops up and I think: I need to pray! This is an emergency.

When I read that sign, I laughed. But I also thought; this is how I often see God. My personal 999 operator. Where he will answer with: “what is your emergency?“. From this its easy to think that God only wants to listen to the big, important stuff and if I told him about my worries or even my joys he will respond with “Why are you wasting my time? This isn’t an emergency“.

My view of God in this is twisted. Because God isn’t like this. Our trinitarian God isn’t like this.

I do have a direct line to God. But not just for emergencies. I have one through Jesus Christ by the Spirit:

Hebrews 7v25 – Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

I love this. I love that Jesus is ALWAYS interceding for us. I love that Jesus prays for us as we see in John 17. I love that the spirit cries Abba Father on our behalf. Jesus brings us to the Father, he intercedes for us. Without him we could never of gone to the father, we would have been like the Israelites not being able to go near the mountain because we would die.

We are carried on Christ’s heart to the Father. A Father who loves us. This direct line that we have to God is a line that is carried by Jesus to the Father through the Spirit. And he wants to hear our hearts and our worries. Not just big emergency stuff, although that too. But also everyday stuff. Worries, anxieties, jobs next year, healing for my friend, good results, getting to work safely, good relationships at work, good conversations and whatever else faces us in the day.

Sometimes people may think we shouldnt be so quick to bring our problems to God. We shouldn’t be so quick to ask for healings or an ease to our suffering or help in our day. That we shouldn’t bring things that may seem trivial. That we should sweat it out a bit. But I am not up for that.

If we have a Father in heaven who wants to hear us. A Son who ALWAYS interceded for us carrying us to the Father on his heart and a Spirit that helps us and cries Abba Father to the Father. Then I want in on that. It makes me want to pray about everything. I want to thank God for everything. If God is Tri-unity of love and invites me in on that – then I want in.

Why? Because I am deluding myself in thinking that I can manage on my own or do perfectly well without God. I am wrong in thinking that God is only interested in certain prayers. It is all lies. Sometimes lies of the enemy. Sometimes lies I buy into because I forget the Gospel.

Some people may say – you can’t just ask God for things all the time.

And I wonder – why not? I don’t mean to demand things from God or treat him like a jackpot machine. But why not come to him like a child comes to the Father and ask for help? Or bring my worries? And also thank him for being great? Why can’t I do that all the time? Isn’t that what a loving Father wants? Isn’t that what Jesus is doing already on my behalf?

My heart needs to remember this. And this is a preach to myself more than anything else.

But I do have a direct line to God. But not a red emergency cord. I have a person who carries me on their heart all the time and another person who cries out Abba Father and a Father who hears this and delights in this and never tires from this.

I really want in on that!

When the Broken Walk in

gloryflowerTwo years ago a mother walked into our church holding her baby called Lexi. Her baby had cancer and she had run out of options. Could we try praying? I remember this mum standing up the front asking Jesus to help her and our Elders calling us to pray. Cancer go away. Be healed.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)

Pray without ceasing. Two years went by. During this time of praying Lexi’s mum met Jesus. He turned her life upside down. You can see the difference. You can see the joy.

This mum first walked in clutching her baby with cancer and seeming to have no hope at all. Then she met Jesus and she changed from no hope to having every hope and expectancy.

The father of Lexi saw a change. Lexi’s mum was different. The hope and new life she has is infectious. The change is life changing and people notice. Lexi’s father met Jesus and Jesus changed him too. Welcome to the family.

This is almost like the story of the paralysed man. People bringing him in from the roof in desperation and Jesus saying “your sins are forgiven”… they and you cry – “But you missed the point Jesus, he wants to walk!”

But Jesus says – “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? (Mark 2v9)

Jesus says – which is more important? Healing of our body or of our heart? Jesus cleanses the heart through his blood and gives eternal life.

Jesus did that with Lexi’s mum and dad. He said to them – “Your sins are forgiven”. This is a beautiful miracle in itself. We rejoice in this!

The story could end here. It does for many people and there is still reason to rejoice at this point. Even though its painful. There can be an element of yearning and sorrow in our rejoicing. “Though I walk through the wilderness. Blessed Be Your name”

But the story doesn’t stop there. Not today.

We got told on Sunday that another miracle has happened. Lexi has been healed. At this point she hadn’t had any treatment however the cancer had gone. It is impossible. No more cancer. No more tumors. No more. Gone. Miracle.

The faith of the church was raised on that Sunday. My faith has risen too. Not because of the sign itself but because of who the sign points to. Jesus.

Thank you Jesus.

It is good to be church. It’s good to be a part of this family where broken, hopeless people are welcomed, they meet Jesus and their lives change. It’s good to cry together and rejoice together. The roof was raised on Sunday. Together we prayed, together we praised, together we felt a part of this. Faith was raised together in church.

Thank you Jesus for the church. Thank you for Lexi and her mum and dad. Thank you that you do heal, but more so thank you that you save.

“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2v11-12)

Stewarding, Strife and Smiles

stewardingSpending a week stewarding was a rather interesting experience. Armed with hi-vis jackets, smiles and hand waving gestures to move people into their seats proved to bring out the best and worst in people.

It was an interesting exercise in watching how people react when you tell them what to do or where to sit.

You think that being at a Christian conference everything should be sweet and fluffy like marshmallows with cinnamon sprinkled on top. But our hearts are deceptive. And the sinful nature wages war in our souls.

When our comfort and desires are threatened by a first world problem of sitting in a seat that wasn’t our first choice it can cause great sparks and grumbling. Annoyance flares up and as a steward trying to help people get to their seats it was somewhat disheartening to see people angry at you because they are not sitting in the seat of their choosing. (However there were some with good reasons to want to sit somewhere else: bad neck, back etc)

But I am no innocent party here. My heart began dripping with frustration as people ignored and muttered as they filed into their seats. It was hard not to get angry and not to shout.

I noticed how I wanted control and was annoyed when people didn’t listen. As I reflect on this now i’ve observed that our hearts love comfort and control.

We like to be comfortably in control and in control of our comfort.

Anything that threatens this brings out a nasty side of us. It’s heart issue, deep down we want our own way, we want our comfort and we will do our utmost to preserve these two things because we love ourselves.

There were other people who were a delight. Smiles and nods. Going where they were asked without a problem. They were easier to love. They were a joy to serve.

Again my heart deceives me. It’s easy to love the lovable. It’s easy to serve the joyful ones. It was harder to love the grumblers and mumbles. It was harder to smile at the frowns and frustrations. Isn’t that true of life? We place people on a scale of how worthy they are to be served and loved? If they are low on that scale then we scorn and our serving is sour at best and extinct at worst. But if they are charming and pleasant then we will bend over backwards because they are deserving.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies. But these people aren’t my enemies. They are brothers and sisters and yet I have placed them on a scale of how deserving they are of my love and service. The heart is a crooked device!

It is odd that such a first world problem of where people sit could bring about these reflections. Because in reality who cares where you sit? In the grand scheme of life and eternity it doesn’t matter whether someone got the seat they wanted or whether they sat in the seat I told them to. It is just curious that our and most certainly my heart should react in these strange ways.

I am so glad that Jesus has a pure heart and loved the despised and unlovely. He loved his enemies and all those undeserving. He did not hold on to his comfort but gladly gave it up.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV)