The Gaping Hole in ‘This Is Us’

There’s a reason we love This Is Us. It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking, capturing the many facets of family life and the ripple effects of loss. We laugh. We cry. We resonate and see ourselves in the characters.

We applaud it—but as much as we do, This Is Us should give us pause.

Millions of Americans, my husband and I included, have tuned in to watch the smash hit. We’ve recommended the show to friends, enjoying its compelling storyline and relatively clean content. Yet, for all the values the show explores, This Is Us is strikingly devoid of religion.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by this. It’s a secular show created for an American culture where the primary “religion” is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, interwoven with relativism and moralism. But we should take careful note of the gaping, godless hole in This Is Us. We can enjoy the show and be thankful for its themes, while still recognizing the absence of ultimate truth.

When Family Is Everything

Rebecca and Jack Pearson (Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia), along with their three kids, Kevin, Randall, and Kate, are the picture of an all-American family. They love, they fight, they strive for harmony, and they deal with the disappointment of dreams deferred. Jack is portrayed as a model father-figure, involved and nurturing, yet tough as nails. He’s a humble guy-next-door who owns up to his mistakes while attempting to lead his family in what’s right.

While we should applaud the unique way This Is Us upholds family values (a rarity on television these days), we should be concerned about the degree to which it does. Jack’s family is his saving grace, his identity. “You are the love of my life,” he says to his wife, “and our kids are our everything.”

But what happens when a man puts his wife and kids on a pedestal, elevating them to the height of gods? We see the repercussions mainly in Kevin, Randall, and Kate in their adult years: At the root, their hardest battles revolve around their dad, the one who practically worshipped them, and the one they worshipped. Their identities are wrapped up in their father. And (spoiler alert!), as we see after Jack’s unexpected death, to lose the person you worship is to lose some part of yourself.

No human being can be or supply what only God can in Christ; to expect our family to fulfill us is a dead-end road. While family is a wonderful gift and can be a place of safety and security, it was never intended to be our “everything.” It simply can’t be.

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A Question About Christian Satire

Love is patient and kind.

Our God commands us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves—but are we doing this online? Especially when we disagree with our neighbor?

I’ve been saddened by the lack of love strewn throughout Christian circles on the web in recent years. Lately, someone brought a satirical article to my attention that called out by name a person with whom the author disagreed, poking fun at them and attempting to make them a laughingstock to the reader.

My heart broke.

Is satire funny and helpful when it deals with ideas? Yes. But this was about a person. Someone created in the image of God. Someone who genuinely believes they’re following Christ.

Loving Our Neighbor

Doesn’t our great God call us to more than this? Doesn’t he command us to love others because he first loved us—even when we sorely disagree with them?

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Beware These Seven Gospel-Distortions

A dear friend of mine worked in a bank overseas for about a year, handling large amounts of money. During training, she had to study various bills and learn their details, so she could easily discern counterfeits if they came along.

She studied the real thing so she could identify distortions.

The same goes for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As leaders in the church, we want to be women equipping women to know the gospel so we can identify false “gospels” and grasp how the truth applies to our lives.

But where do we start?

Build the Foundation

We begin with the gospel to build a firm foundation for all our events, gatherings, Bible studies, and small groups:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:1-2, 8-9)

Three questions are answered in this passage that we can use as a framework to help our women build a firm gospel-foundation:

Saved from what? The wrath of God. There is no gospel apart from the wrath of God and his righteous judgment against sinners (v. 9). This is an uncomfortable reality, but one we must teach our women because ignoring or belittling sin does not mean sin goes away. God is the standard—and we have sinned against him.

Saved by whom? Jesus Christ. Christians are saved from the wrath of God by the righteous blood of Jesus, the spotless sacrificial Lamb who absorbed the wrath on our behalf (v. 8). Only Jesus has the power to save desperate, dead sinners from God’s wrath by giving them eternal life in his Name, accomplishing what we never could.

Saved how? By grace through faith. True faith says, “I bring nothing to the table. I come empty-handed, but Christ gladly gives himself to me.” We teach our women that faith is trusting Jesus to rescue us from sin because we know we can’t rescue ourselves. And faith is trusting Jesus to do this apart from anything we have done.

Beware the Distortions

When the women in our churches forget the gospel, they’re more likely to be carried along and tossed about by the world’s ever-changing ideas. So, just as it’s important for us as leaders to build a firm foundation for the flock under our care, we must also beware the distortions at work in our world and churches.

Here are seven we should be aware of as we seek to lead women well:

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When a Christian Leader Fails You

Leaders in the church aren’t exempt from sin. No one is. We don’t expect perfect people to lead our congregations, create our resources, and speak into our culture. But we do expect them to uphold the Bible’s authority. We do want them to remain faithful to Christ.

So what are we to do when a respected Christian leader fails the church, in any context? How are we to respond?

Rejoice in God’s Unchanging Nature   

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)

God is immutable. He never changes his mind. He makes good on what he says he’ll do, and he upholds every word he has spoken. Think about all the plans God has made and communicated to us, plans he had formed before eternity past, and consider how he’s been faithful to fulfill them. Think about his goodness to keep his promise of salvation to unworthy sinners. Think about the unbreakable new covenant of Jesus’ blood, poured out for the forgiveness of our sins.

As we consider the leader who has changed, we can rejoice in our unchanging, trustworthy, and true God. He will never leave us, fail us, betray us, or change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).     

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10 Prayers to Pray This President’s Day

It’s President’s Day. Workers rest from their labors and schools temporarily close. This is a day of honor, a national holiday to remember the forty-five men who’ve served our country in the prestigious role of President of the United States.

Regardless of what the title POTUS evokes for you, President’s Day is a unique opportunity to reflect on history-past and anticipate our country’s future. But we don’t do this through worrying and fretting, nor do we become puffed up by national pride or confidence in man—

We do this through prayer. We do this on our knees.

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#AnyGivenSunday: A Video Encouragement for the Election Season

I love serving at Unlocking the Bible. This video is just one of the many reasons why. It’s a compilation of 50 sermon clips from 50 pastors in all 50 states, from one particular day: Sunday, September 18, 2016.

If you’re discouraged heading into this historical election week, watch the five-minute film and praise God for the Word-filled work he’s doing around our country.

Then, if you feel so inclined, share it with others using the hashtag #AnyGivenSunday!

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting on Social Media

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Love, because it keeps me connected with friends and family, and is a useful tool for communicating information, events, and resources. Hate, because I see the controversy it spikes and the pride it stokes. I love to hate social media; most weeks I threaten to rid of it altogether. And I hate to love social media because of how it fuels the selfish ambition and vanity within my heart.

But everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving—unless, of course, it is inherently evil (1 Tim. 4:4-5). So, if God has given humans the vision to create a tool like social media, God’s Word says that it is good and is not to be rejected—if we can thank God for it.

We can only thank God for what is good, helpful, and honoring to him and others. So, our overarching question is, Can I thank God for social media by embracing it as a good, helpful, and honoring tool?

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Why We Love Sports (and What This Says about God and Us)

Chicagoland has gone wild over the recent success of the Cubs, as have other cities around the nation who support their beloved sports teams. The energy in the baseball stands is palpable these days, fans packing the stadiums to support the players that represent both their city and their pride. Strangers instantly become friends as hugs are exchanged upon runs, and family and friends gather, putting aside other plans, to hope for a victory.

We love sports. And there’s a reason for this that runs far deeper than the momentary happiness we feel when our team of choice wins. Our love for the game of baseball, and for sports in general, reflects spiritual realities about the God who created us, who he created us to be, and what he intends us to pursue and enjoy.

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