On Christians and Politics. Remember Who You Are and Whose You Are.

These are strange and disturbing times we’re living in. The tumult of the last few weeks has revealed what a great divide or even chasm exists between the two political parties of this nation. For the Christian, it can be especially strange. There is a great tension in the Christian life. We are first citizens of heaven, but we are also citizens of this one. Our home is with Jesus there and yet we are now living here. We live for eternity and not this world and yet what happens here matters greatly.

Politics matter. We should care deeply about the affairs of this nation. We should fight for truth. We should fight for justice. We should fight for goodness, but we should do so very, very carefully. In all of it, we must never forget who we are and whose we are.

We are sojourners here. We know that empires will rise and empires will fall. Rulers will come and go, but there is a King who is now reigning and will reign for all time. If we are called by His name, we are His ambassadors on this earth. We represent Him and if we forget our allegiance is first to Him and His kingdom, not any political party, we will do a pretty poor job of it.

If we claim to have His Spirit, we must show that we have its fruit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. Navigating the politics of this world is hard. Figuring how to engage and when to engage with people you disagree with is hard, but if we do it without these qualities, we are no different from the world. At best, our voices will do nothing more than drift off into the futile cacophony of discord and at worst, they will misrepresent Jesus and push people farther from Him.

Christians should be marked by these traits, not because we’re better than other people, but because we are different from other people. Different because we have been transformed by grace and as such, we should be people of peace. I don’t mean that we should be doormats. I don’t mean that we should never contradict or argue. I mean we should be calm, unflappable. Our peace should be our strength amidst political upheaval and disagreement because our identity and our hope lie in something, someone beyond this world. Jesus rose. Jesus reigns. Jesus will return. Therein lies our peace. Therein lies our ability to wade into the political fray with wisdom and grace.

It is worth noting that the epistles of the New Testament know almost nothing of politics. This should surprise us more than it does. If we think today’s political climate is rough I’m sure that the early church had it worse. The government was literally killing them because of their faith and yet never once do you hear Paul or Peter telling them to fight for their rights. Never once does he present a political argument or strategy. Rather, they are told, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5-6).  “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” (James 1:19).  “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:5-6).

The writers of the New Testament were far more concerned with who early church members were becoming than what was being done to them. Its overwhelming narrative is not a political one, but a Gospel one. First, remember who you were: a child of wrath, a citizen of darkness (Ephesians 1:3). Second, remember who you are now: a child of God, a citizen of heaven (Ephesians 2:8). Third, live in this world in such a way that reveals your new identity (Colossians 3:10). I don’t think it would be overstating things to say that all of our affairs here on earth, including political ones, should be governed by these three points.

Since we have been saved by grace, we care about this world, but we live for the next. We may be members of a political party, but we vow allegiance to none but Christ. We are ambassadors of no ideology of this world, but of the Gospel of Jesus. Let us then be careful how we live. Let us be careful how we speak. Let us remember who we are. We are not our own. We are His.

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What If I’m A One Talent Woman?

In Jesus’s well-known parable in Matthew 25, a master gives talents to his servants while he goes away. To one, he gives five, to another, two, and to the last, one. The first two invest and multiply their talents, earning the praise and commendation of their master upon his return. The last servant, however, hides his talent in the dirt, earning a harsh rebuke. The talents are usually understood to represent the resources God has given us: our time, money, possessions, and abilities.

My sisters and I, all in the throes of raising young children, sometimes joke that we are one talent women. It’s usually funny to laugh about, but…what if it’s true? My adult years thus far have been riddled with many insecurities. There is in my mind, a feminine ideal, of which I fall so short. I picture her making a healthy, gourmet meal while also crocheting a sweater and teaching her rapt children a catechism. Though I know this probably doesn’t really exist, I look around and see many women who seem to embody it better than I. They have better organizational skills, administrative abilities, and domestic know-how.  They seem to have endless energy and resourcefulness and patience. I have often even felt inferior to my own husband, who is ten times the cook I am and knows more about how to remove tough stains. I laugh that he is a better woman than I, but all of this comparison has led me nowhere good. Mostly, just to self-pity.

Our Talents Are Not Our Own

Maybe I am a one talent woman. Maybe you are too. So what? None of the servants in the story did anything to earn their talents. They weren’t even their own. They were the Master’s. Feeling self-pity or shame over your one talent is as silly as another feeling pride over their five. “For who makes you different than anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Pride has no place in the kingdom of grace nor does shame or self-pity. All that we are and all that we have is from God. It is His to give as He wishes. It is not given to make us greater or lesser, but to magnify Him and advance His purposes. Both the first two servants receive the same commendation even though they have different amounts. The last servant is rebuked not for having little, but for doing little with what he had. In the same way, if we sit and compare our one talent with another’s five talents, we are missing the point and wasting what we have been given.

Our Talents Are Not Who We Are

There are many different kinds of people in the body of Christ. Some rich and some poor. Some with brains and beauty and charisma and some without. Some with many gifts and abilities and some with only a few. Yet, all are equal citizens in the kingdom of God and all have the same fundamental identity.

Grace is the great equalizer. While the world places us all in different echelons based on money, power, beauty, the Gospel places us all in one category: condemned. It then offers us a second category: justified. The only means to this transaction is the grace of God. When we receive this grace, we receive a new identity: in Christ. This identity is given to every citizen of heaven without discrimination. It alone is what separates us from the condemned and makes us acceptable to God.

So, every Christian has the same identity, but different gifts. The gifts we are given, be they great or small, do not define who we are. When we sink into comparison or self-pity, we are forgetting this. We are forgetting that our identity is bound up, not in ourselves, not in our gifts, but in Christ.

Our Talents Are Not For Us

We are all products of grace, intended to be means of grace. Whatever we are given, for we are all given something, we are meant to use, not for our own glory, but for God’s. Not to serve ourselves, but to serve others.

The beauty of God’s kingdom is that grace is liberally and indiscriminately given to the weak and strong alike. All are lost. All are brought in. All are justified. All are given something. And all are called to take what they have been given and invest it. We are held accountable not for what we’ve been given, but what we do with it.

So, if you have a home, use it. Manage it the best you are able and make it a place where grace and love abound. If you have children, pour yourself into them. In the strength that you have, care for their daily needs and diligently feed their souls the Gospel. If you have special gifts and abilities, use them to make His name great and not your own. If you have time, money, resources, invest them in kingdom things. Take all that you have that will not last and with it, build what will.

Even if we have one talent, we are meant to take that one talent, every bit of it, and leverage it for our Master. If we have just one gift, we must steward it, develop it, wield it for the One who has given it. Whatever we have received, great or small, is meant to be used in the service of others and the ministry of His all-surpassing grace (1 Peter 4:10).

Real Masculinity Isn’t Toxic. It’s Life-Giving.

I generally write a lot about motherhood on here because, well, I’m a mother and being a mother pretty much consumes my life right now. But today is Father’s Day and so today, I would like to write to the Fathers, to the men.

Men sometimes get a bad rap in our culture today. With the rise of feminism and the Me Too movement, the idea of masculinity has taken a bit of a hit, so much so that the term “toxic masculinity” is commonly tossed around. Now, some of this is justified. There is certainly a long history of men using their power and position to abuse and take advantage of others (though I would say that is a fault not exclusive to men).

I wonder though, if in trying to stamp out what has gone wrong with masculinity, we are in danger of also destroying what is good about masculinity. To pair it with the word “toxic,” which literally means “poisonous,” can imply that masculinity is, in and of itself, dangerous and destructive.

This begs the question, “What is masculinity?” Is it innately bad or is it, a good thing that can be abused for bad purposes? I would argue for the latter. Some of God’s greatest gifts, sex, money, food, have been used to perpetrate some of the greatest evils. It is Satan’s greatest delight to take God’s good, wise, pure designs for mankind and distort them for wicked ends. The greater God’s intent for good, the greater potential for evil when placed in the hands of sinful people, led astray by a cunning, deceitful enemy.

So it is with masculinity. Men are given a high calling in scripture to love and protect and lead. With this position, does come power. This power, should be seen as a sober responsibility though yes, often it has been abused for selfish ends. Such abuse should always be condemned, but let us be careful that as adamantly as we condemn wrong masculinity, we should be affirming and teaching right masculinity.

Real masculinity is not just muscles and sports and guns any more than femininity is merely dresses and makeup and manicures. It is not unbridled power any more than femininity is wilting, unquestioning acquiescence. Real masculinity is power constrained by wisdom, integrity, love, and above all, humility. It prizes and preserves what is good and right and pure. It does not use its strength to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable, but rather to protect the weak and vulnerable.

When I think of masculinity, I think of the image, emblazoned in my memory, of my husband holding our firstborn son in the hospital. I see his strong arms and hands, cradling and shielding his tiny, fragile body. I see him gazing down at him with a radiant love that silently vowed to fight for him and protect him. I remember it so vividly because it made me fall in love with him in a whole new way. That is the essence of real masculinity. Strength that protects and serves and sacrifices.

My sons need my husband’s masculinity. They need him to show them that a real man walks in humility, fights for purity, leads with boldness, respects women, and fiercely protects those entrusted to his care.

My daughter needs my husband’s masculinity. She needs him to show him to show her that a real man will treat her as the treasure she is, prize and preserve her purity, and see her beauty and worth as so much more than her body.

I need my husband’s masculinity. Perhaps that is seen by many as an outdated opinion, but I stand by it. I need it as surely as he needs my femininity, not because I am weak or helpless, but because that is the beauty of God’s design. Each spouse functioning as intended, complementing and providing unique strengths and abilities that the other is lacking.

This world needs masculinity. It needs good, God-fearing men who “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God” (Micah 6:8). It needs fathers who are involved. It needs husbands who are faithful to their wives and to God.

We should be celebrating masculinity as it was designed to be. We should be affirming and nurturing its unique traits in our sons. We should be applauding the husbands and fathers who are living it out every day. Because masculinity, real, true, masculinity, is not toxic. It does not poison or destroy. It lays down its life in order to give life to others.

So, to my husband and so many others I know who quietly and humbly live this out every day, I say Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for being real men. We need you so much.

View More: http://maryfieldsphotography.pass.us/gideon-james-schuch

Motherhood Is A Sacrifice And That’s Okay To Say

About a year ago, a piece I wrote about motherhood was published on Desiring God. In it, I talked about some of the daily struggles and sacrifices that being a mom entails. Most people found it encouraging, as it was intended to be, but there was one man who commented that had a very negative reaction. He was “outraged” and said that motherhood is a blessing and therefore, never a sacrifice. The main objective of the piece was to display the beauty and purpose of motherhood despite the struggles that could make it difficult so I was a little stung by his harsh words (I really need a thicker skin).

At the time, I decided it would be wise to just not say anything, but there have been many, many times since that I wish I had responded. Many times when I have found myself in those difficult moments and thought, “This is absolutely sacrifice.” Like when I emptied my lunch in the toilet during my first trimester and it splashed me in the face. Like when my children have awakened me in the middle of the night or they’ve vomited on me when they’re sick. Like when my back has ached from caring for my children all day while also caring my third in my womb. And many, many others.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear. Motherhood is the greatest blessing and privilege of my life. I know there are many women who have lost a child or struggle with infertility who would give anything to be in my shoes. I can’t imagine their pain and I never want to complain. All of these things, which are relatively small, are nothing compared to the joy of being a mother to my children, but just because motherhood is a joy doesn’t mean every second of it is a joy or that it doesn’t take very real, sometimes very difficult, sacrifice.

The Sacrifice of Motherhood Reveals the Great Worth of Motherhood

From the second we see those two pink lines, we begin giving up things for our children. That’s just the simple truth. Being honest about that truth does not denigrate motherhood, but rather, it magnifies its beauty and worth. Calling something a sacrifice doesn’t make it a negative thing. It makes it a beautiful thing.

One definition of sacrifice is “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” So, sacrifice merely means relinquishing something in order to gain something else, but no one sacrifices for something they don’t value. On the contrary, they sacrifice for it because they value it. The runner endures hours of training and pain and struggle because they value the reward of finishing the race. The person aiming to lose weight foregoes certain foods because they value a healthy, fit body. The married person gives up certain freedoms and takes on more responsibilities because they love and value their commitment to their spouse.

When we give up things for our children, our time, our energy, our personal comfort and preferences, our very bodies, we are essentially saying to them and to the world, “I cherish you more than a good night’s sleep. I’d rather have you than a perfect home or a glamorous career. I want you more than I want a perfect body or even a healthy, pain free body. You are worth far more to me than all these things.”

To love another is to give them a claim on your life, to voluntarily relinquish and restrict your freedoms and comforts for their sake. That’s what motherhood is. Its inherent beauty and worth is not diminished by calling it a sacrifice, but rather, magnified.

The Sacrifice of Motherhood Makes Motherhood Holy

In its latin roots, the word “sacrifice” breaks down into sacer, “holy,” and facere, “to make.” The word literally means to make holy. Motherhood is a holy endeavor not because we are holy, but because it makes us holy. It makes us holy because it makes us like Jesus.

Jesus’s entire life was a sacrifice. He gave up heaven to come down for us. He gave up His glory to become a tiny, helpless baby cloaked in mortal flesh. He gave up His absolute right to condemn us as judge and surrendered that flesh to pay for our sins. For us and “for the joy set before Him,” He literally became a sacrifice. Because He loved us more than He loved His glory, His rights, His body, His very life. Because we were worth more to Him than all these things.

Motherhood is a holy calling because it is a calling to be like Jesus. Sacrifice is not a hindrance to this calling. It is the essence of it.

I do want to be careful not to over-exalt mothers. Motherhood does not put us on some kind of exalted, saint-like plane. Rather, I think it keeps us very rooted down to humility. It calls us to be like Jesus and also exposes how much we are not like Jesus. It reveals our very great need.

I know many amazing mothers and no, they’re not super-heroes or saints. The truth is they’re all just very ordinary people doing their best to be faithful in very ordinary ways because they have an extraordinary love for their children.

So, moms, I say to you on this Mother’s Day, keep going. Keep loving. Keep giving. Keep serving. Keep giving yourself grace when you fall short. I know you sacrifice constantly for your children and you are allowed to say that. Your sacrifices are real and your sacrifices are seen, by God, by your children, and by the world. And your sacrifices are absolutely, 100% worth it.

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Is God Anti-Pleasure?

Pleasure and holiness are not things we normally think about in the same category. Pleasure is about doing whatever you want. Holiness is about abstaining and restraining. Pleasure is about freedom from rules. Holiness is about burdensome adherence to the rules.  Pleasure and holiness by definition, must be at odds.

However, I would suggest that these are mistaken understandings of pleasure and holiness that stem from a fundamentally and tragically warped view of God which has pervaded our society and even sometimes, the Church itself. It is the view that God is boring and He wants us to be boring too, that He delights in giving us rules just to keep us from enjoying all the things this world has to offer. To choose a life of holiness is to forego the life of pleasure. The truth I have come to realize and delight in is that this is fundamentally false. In fact, what Scripture teaches us about God is the exact opposite.

Consider the status of man before the Fall. Adam and Eve were brought to life and it was abundant life. They found themselves in a verdant garden, full of all kinds of delicious fruit to taste and beautiful plants and creatures to behold. Above all, they were given each other, companions to love and enjoy for life. And God had equipped them with all the sensory organs they needed to experience all the wonderful things the garden and each other had to offer.

The garden was literally laden with opportunities for pleasure. God called it good and He wanted Adam and Eve to experience just how good it really was and therefore, just how good He really was. Yes, there were rules.Well, really just one rule. Their pleasure was not without its boundaries. There was one tree, just one tree out of many from which they could not eat. What is interesting is that it is after they break this one rule, after they break with holiness, that their desire for pleasure becomes frustrated. Like Adam and Eve, we sin not because the pleasure we seek is itself is wrong, but because, having forsaken holiness, we seek it in perverse ways that God did not intend.  

This shows us that God’s character and attitude towards man is not one of stinginess. God’s delight is not to withhold arbitrarily, but to give bountifully. It is also tells us that, contrary to popular belief, pleasure without bounds is not very pleasant in the end. This in turn shows that our desire for pleasure needs boundaries in orderly to be properly satisfied. Is it not logical that the One who created all the good things in this world would know the best way to experience them? In making this earth, God had a design and His design was perfect and benevolent.

Consider the role of a Father and child.The child has things he naturally and foolishly wants to do. The child has a God-given desire to experience things. Yet, he lacks the knowledge and wisdom to know how the best way to do so. Is it wrong or mean-spirited of the Father to set boundaries and laws for the child? Of course not. A Father does not give his child rules arbitrarily or to withhold good things from him. Rather, he gives the child rules to protect him from harm and to show him the best and most enjoyable way to live.

In the same way, God’s rules (holiness) for the ways in which to live and enjoy His creation (pleasure) are designed for our good. The wondrous truth is that God takes great pleasure in our pleasure. However, our pleasure is most fulfilled when lived within the parameters He has set for us. His holy laws are given to us in love. So we see that contrary to common thought, God is not against our pleasure. His call to holiness is to not a call to dullness. It is a call to life abundant.

It seems then that pleasure and holiness are not mutually exclusive as we might think, but are meant to be united.  For when we experience pleasure through creation, we reflect the character of God who Himself has called it good and desires that we should too. And when we limit our pleasure within the bounds of holiness, we find that our pleasure is not lessened, but rather increased. We find that there is holiness in pleasure and pleasure in holiness.

This knowledge produces in me a renewed awe at the goodness of my God, a God who is overwhelmingly for our pleasure, is also good and wise, delighting to give us good things and to show us the best way to use them.

It also causes me to reflect that ultimately, all the pleasures God has given us here on this earth are meant to point us to Him. They are an overflow of His good character and a mere shadowing of the pleasures we find in Him. He has made known to me the path of life and in His presence, I am filled with joy (Psalm 16:11).

So as I eat, drink, and seek to live a holy and abundant life to the glory of God on this earth, I lift my eyes to Him, thanking Him for all the good things He loves to give and that one day, I will be with Him forever. I resolve to live a life of holiness knowing and rejoicing that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:60) and that this path of holiness is a path to pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

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A Little More About Me

I’ve updated my site a little and hope to be writing a little more consistently, a hope that may very well prove to be unfounded since baby #3 is on its way.

I’ve never gotten too personal on here, but I thought I’d share a little more about myself and my family should any of you be interested.

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Here we are. The Schuch clan. Don’t let the German spelling scare you. It’s pronounced just like “shoe.”

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This is my husband Stephen. He’s a loud and crazy statistician from Pittsburgh. I’m a quiet, book lover from Oklahoma. We met at a Christian world view conference almost 10 years ago. We’ve been married for almost 6 years and he suffers the Texas heat just for me. We just went through an extended period of unemployment, but he is now killing it catching fraudsters with math and data. He’s basically a nerdy detective which is the perfect fit for him. I am so proud of him and thankful for God’s goodness and provision.

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This is my oldest Gideon. He loves superheroes (batman is his fav), singing, and all the candy. Currently obsessed with The Greatest Showman Soundtrack. As you can see, he’s quite the brown-eyed, curly-haired charmer. He definitely has my whole heart.

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Here’s my little bit, Evelyn. She’s a tiny thing with a lots of personality and a big vocabulary. Her current favorite word is “no,” lots of emphasis added. She is smart and sweet and sassy and lights up my life.

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And here is our next addition. Baby brother coming in July. All I know about him so far is that he loves steak. Hope he isn’t expecting such fine dining all the time!

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I spend my days with these two and all in all, it’s a pretty great gig.

I call my blog Illuminating Truth because

1) That’s what God’s word does: it illuminates reality so we can see it as it really is.

2) That’s what I hope to do when I write: illuminate the truths of God to make them more accessible to others.

When I find the time and the brain power and I feel like God has given me something to say, I like to sit down and write. To those who have been following me, thank you for reading!

Obedient to Death. Now Death is Obedient to Him.

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8

In the beginning in the garden, God presented man with two choices: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He told them that choosing the latter would bring death and yet, deceived by the serpent, they chose it still (Genesis 3). Promised by Satan that they would receive enlightenment and and freedom, they instead, received darkness and slavery. Death became their master and so it has become the master of us all. In their pride, Adam and Eve chose death and now every human since has been made obedient to this one final fate. Over and over again, death has won the day.

Easter is the startling interruption to this story for in Easter, we see Jesus, the new Adam, also choose death. However, it was not in pride, but in humility, that He chose to take on this burden. Indeed, He was the one man over whom death had no right for He had committed no penalty. Not only was He a righteous man, but He was God in the flesh. He had every right to live and yet, He chose to die. Subjecting Himself to the laws of mortality, the flesh He created was pierced. The heart that He formed stopped beating. The lungs He filled ceased breathing.

On Good Friday, the ruler of the universe and the author of life made Himself obedient to death, but on Sunday, He made death obedient to Him. In His resurrection, Jesus obtained mastery over our master so that He might set us free. Descending into our prison, He emerged with the keys (Revelation 1:18).

Now, for those who believe in Him, death has been transformed. It is no longer a thief, but a giver. No longer a threat, but a hope. Now death leads us not into eternal punishment, but eternal life. What was destroyed in the garden will be restored. What was wrong will be made right. There will be no more tears or suffering or pain. Death’s dark shadow will be forever vanquished in the light of the risen Son (Revelation 21:4). The tree of life, lost to us through our sin, will be restored to us through His blood. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). There we will worship forever the One who by His death, gave us life, conquering our conqueror and breaking our chains.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11