Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Acceptable Offering

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of god, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

God does not desire self-sufficient saints—He desires thirsty saints. He provides water to quench that thirst, and His life-giving spring is sufficient.

When Joseph and Mary came into Jerusalem carrying a six-week old infant in their arms, I can imagine that they felt their lack of self-sufficiency. They came to present Jesus Christ to God the Father; to dedicate the Messiah to the Deliverer; to give Emmanual, God-with-Us, to I AM, God-with-Them. Their knowledge of Christ’s full personhood may not have been complete, but they did know this—they held in their arms the Promised One who would redeem Israel… and all they had to offer were two turtle doves.

Joseph and Mary were poor. I can imagine that their poverty never stood out so starkly to them as the moment that they stood before the temple preparing to enter. “Knowing the greatness of the child, Joseph and Mary would never have used the lesser sacrifices if they could have afforded the regular and more costly one.” (The Fourfold Gospel) They bore the Lord of Creation in their arms, and had nothing more than a couple of cheap birds to give for Him.

God was so gracious to send Simeon to them that day. I can imagine the dawning realization that mingled joy, awe, and pain to know that they brought two offerings that day—one, a cheep, tangible fulfillment of the Law that told of their poverty; the other, a light for the Gentiles and the Glory the nation of Israel. In their emptiness, God proved faithful.

There are times that I enter into God’s presence with next to nothing in my hands. Other times the only thing that I have to offer is my sin—my pride, my lust, my idolatry—because I have nothing else. But, like Joseph and Mary, I also bring the Lord Jesus Christ as an offering, because He dwells within me. And when I come to God with empty hands, bringing nothing, or at best, bringing an offering fouled by my sin and idolatry, God accepts it, because He looks on the work of Christ and has accepted that.

When I present myself as a living sacrifice to God, it is a holy and acceptable offering, and it is spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1) “Holy and acceptable” is written in such a way that makes this a statement of present truth, not a command to obey or a goal to strive for.

It is God’s great condescension that He will vouchsafe to accept of anything in us; and we can desire no more to make us happy, and, if the presenting of ourselves will but please Him, we may easily conclude that we cannot bestow ourselves better. —Matthew Henry on Romans 12

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

As little children

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4

Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me." Mark 9:36-37

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1

Be blameless and innocent, children of God, without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Phil. 2:15

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name's sake. 1 John 2:12

I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 1 John 2:13

And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. 1 John 2:28

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1

Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Friday, December 14, 2007

Musings on straight hair and stray hearts

I straightened my hair yesterday. While such a simple act might seem like—well, a simple act—to most people, it is always an “event” in my house because it never happens more than twice in a year. Feedback on my “new do” flows freely, and is surprisingly varied—

A brother—“Can you make it go back?”

A sister—“Sis, please curly your hair again—you’re scaring me.”

Mom—“Every time you walk through the kitchen I start laughing—you look so funny.”

The other sister— “You know, straight hair just really isn’t YOU.”

A coworker— “Oh my gosh, you look so hot! Straight hair makes you look so much older.”

Mom, in response to that coworker’s comment—“Oh, I thought just the opposite.”

Another brother—“Don’t do that again, okay?”

Dad—“It looks… cute.”

A third brother—“You know, I think it’s finally growing on me a bit. I mean, it’s not that bad.”

Varied feedback wasn’t the only thing that changed when the hot iron pressed out my curls. My mindset changed—in unexpected ways. I thought twice about what I wore, and consciously felt that straight hair changed my body shape; I walked differently and used my hands differently; I looked in the mirror more often and decided that today was a glasses day. I noticed and grew annoyed by mannerisms that I don’t usually posses.

I took a mental “step back” this afternoon and watched myself for a few minutes. I was not impressed with this “new Sarah.” How easily my head is turned by something as simple and shallow as a hairstyle.

Then I took another step back and observed myself as a whole—body, soul, and spirit. I was not impressed in this aspect, either. How easily my heart is turned by simple and shallow things, too. How quickly I leave the Lover of my Soul and become a lover of myself. How thoughtlessly I go from ardent pursuit of God to mediocre existence.

How quickly I change, and how hard it is to change back.

This I have against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen…— Rev. 4:4

I remember the deovotion of your youth, your love as a bride… My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. — Jer. 2:2, 13

Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up… that we may live before Him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. —Hos. 6:1-3

So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God. —Hos. 12:6

You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. —Jer. 29:13

The truth of God is stronger than my yearning soul, greater than my wavering flesh, and more passionate than every purpose I can imagine. And it triumphs in the midst of straight hair and straying hearts.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Martino Sisters

The Martino Sisters | Hannah, Katie, Christina, Abby, & Faith.

They are friends and musicians, and they needed a picture to advertise an upcoming concert. I happily obliged.

Monday, December 03, 2007

An afternoon with three girls

An afternoon photoshoot with Amie Danaher, Hannah Copeland, and Hannah Martino.