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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Four Creative Ways to Be Generous

Perhaps, like me, you wonder if it’s possible to be generous when finances are tight.

I’ve wrestled with this question, since it can feel like my family doesn’t have “wiggle room” for spontaneous financial gifts. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of needs around us—an ailing saint, a new baby, a financial crisis—and in my discouragement over finances, pride has taken root.

It’s a pride that says, “It has to be us who meet such-and-such a need.” Pride that doubts God’s goodness and ability to provide for all our needs. Pride that asserts my natural desire for independence and control, rather than a humble submission to what he’s allotted for us.

Grace-Fueled Generosity

The Lord has humbled me with a simple reminder: Generosity comes in many shapes and sizes.

Generosity is the overflow of a humble heart—an attitude, not a one-size-fits-all act. If it were only about money, many of us would be disqualified from exercising it. But since God has called all his people to generosity of spirit, there’s more to it than meets the eye:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. . . . They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them . . . because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. (2 Corinthians 9:8, 13–14, emphases mine)

Paul is exhorting the church at Corinth to give cheerfully to their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. He encourages them that no gift ultimately comes from their striving or efforts or resources, but rather from their sufficient God, the Creator and Provider of all. He alone “is able to make all grace abound” to them for the purpose of generosity. And Paul says this grace fuels “every good work”—not only monetary giving, but works of many shapes and sizes.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

An Open Letter to Myself: On Motherhood, Writing, and Identity in Christ

I wrote this as a print-out for our nursery, to keep close and read when weariness, fatigue, or a number of emotions hit during the first weeks and months of raising a newborn baby. I hope it might also encourage you, moms!


Dear Kristen,

You’re doing it. You’re fulfilling the work of ministry God has planned for you! He’s given you a wonderful gift in your new daughter, and though the days feel long and nights, even longer, this is precisely where he wants you. Right here in this nursery. You’re exactly where you should be.

As you navigate this new season of motherhood, remembering this and other truths will make the difference between running unhindered and running with weights and sins pulling you down (Hebrews 12:1). This is why I’m writing you this letter, not because I foresee all that will happen, but because I can anticipate your heart—I know your struggles, anxieties, and fears, and want to proactively preach God’s Word to you.

Continue reading

Why I Read Christian Books All Wrong

I have a problem – a reading problem. When I read certain Christian books (especially those written by Puritans and the modern-day writers who love them), I can walk away from their paragraphs and pages discouraged, rather than built up and spurred on in the faith. I’ve felt everything from prideful offense at these books, wanting them back on the bookshelf, to embarrassment, as I fight a sense of defeat.

But why?

These are rock-solid books. Faithful books. God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered books, many of which have stood the test of time, and for good reason. So what is my problem? What is it within me that causes me to read this way?

The problem is with my heart, which is easily deceived. I forget important realities that should filter all the reading we, as Christians, do:

Continue reading

Your Work Matters

Today’s article is pulled from the archives in honor of Labor Day.


For the past six weeks, I’ve been engaged in a leadership course for The Orchard Network, focusing on doctrine, life and skills according to the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our second session last week was on work. That’s right. Work. That thing we find ourselves occupied with for the majority of our days, weeks, months and years. That labor we put forth when we’re not at home, being social (though work can be social!), serving in church, or interacting elsewhere.

The session was simply titled “Work Matters.”

Work must be significant because of the amount of time and energy it demands. By its very nature it should make us curious as to why it’s so all-encompassing, and how we can make the most of it.

I will seek to respond to our three “homework” questions, while also phrasing them for you, so that you can equally get thinking about the work God has you doing.

The three questions are:

How can I reflect in my work that I’m made in the image of God?

Where are you creating and inventing?

My work as a Content Strategist and Manager is extremely creative–literally! I’m constantly designing graphics, writing, brainstorming ideas and content, planning marketing campaigns, and dreaming about how things could look on the web.

While it’s quite easy for me to see how my work is creative, I’d imagine some of you reading this are scratching your heads. Perhaps you don’t feel like your work is creative at all. But any time you innovate and find a new way to make a process more effective, whether its teaching your children obedience in a fresh way or helping a customer determine the most delicious combination for their dinner order, you are exercising the creativity of the Creator. If this isn’t clear to you right now, ask God to help you see where you are bearing his image in this way.

Where are you bringing what was once formless into order?

Because my job did not exist prior to my hiring, everything was new at first. There was a boatload of vision to dive into, a job description to understand and expound upon, and a never-before-established pattern of work to execute every week. And what I’ve come to realize is that no two weeks look the same, so God is giving me the chance to consistently bring tasks and projects into order.

What about you? How are you bringing what was once formless into order through your work? Another way to think about this is, “What problems are you solving?”

Continue reading

Confessions of an Insecure Writer (Part 1)

A war is waging within this writing sinner’s heart.

We’ll call this war “The Battle of the Insecure Writer.” It’s an (almost) everyday battle, a consistent fight. This is an attempt to describe that war, in hopes that I’ll better grasp its ins-and-outs and fight sin and temptation by the strength God supplies.

I’m also hoping this will help you, fellow writer. You, too, are fighting an inner war against sin, pride, and other fruit of the flesh. The ins-and-outs of your battle may look different than mine, but I’d guess much is similar. I’m hoping this will help you identify sin and temptation, and rest in God’s infinite grace as you pursue writing as a gift, a vocation, a calling.

So here-goes my first three confessions (and there are more to follow)—

Continue reading

Three Takeaways from TGC17

Don’t leave grace! What is there outside of grace?!

With this powerful exhortation, John Piper concluded the opening message of TGC17, drawn from the first chapter of Galatians. 8,500 people gathered in Indianapolis this week to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at “No Other Gospel,” the plenary hall resounding with voices raised in singing. It was a small picture of what eternity will be like when the nations are gathered before Christ, exalting his name forever.

Here are three things I’m taking away from this excellent, biblical conference:

Continue reading

Failure’s Tyranny

A brief glance across the office. Everyone’s working hard—but on what? They seem to know exactly what to do, laser-sharp vision guiding them. But her vision feels…blurry. In the worst moments, insecurity taunts, “They should hire someone else,” its weight pressing down and paralyzing her.

Tomorrow will be better, she promises herself. Tomorrow, I’ll do better. I have to.

And the pressure increases.

Continue reading

Thanksgiving: A Gospel Guide

The Bible frequently uses the metaphor of food to stir our senses and move us to a deeper understanding of the all-satisfying nature of the glory of our Lord Jesus. Consider these verses:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:5).

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5).

The way we as humans relate to food is but a small picture of how we are to relate to Christ. This imagery speaks to us because – let’s be honest – we love food. We love it, and we need it. There is nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter night or a crisp, healthy salad on a hot summer day. And there is nothing quite like Thanksgiving: the feast to end all earthly feasts!

As we prepare to gather with family and friends this Thursday, let us keep in mind that every aspect of Thanksgiving offers us a glimpse of God’s goodness toward us. If we unpack the good gifts of the holiday, we’ll see that they reflect, at their deepest level, the gospel.

Continue reading