This Week's Recommendations

1.     The Shepherd Who Stole Jesus: You can't leave a baby that cute just lying there! He needs some cuddles!

2.     The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount You Probably Missed: Mark Ward with a powerful insight of the authority of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, " For any flesh-and-blood human being to quote a Bible verse to a bunch of Jewish listeners in the first century and then follow it up with, “But I say to you. . .” is remarkable, breathtaking. It would be like a lowly clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court standing out on the steps of the court building in Washington, D.C. to relay the justices’ decision to the reporters at a press conference. He reads the detailed, multi-page decision, and then adds, “That was a good opinion the justices gave, but I think. . .” That clerk has no authority to say what he thinks. No journalist holding an audio recorder cares what he thinks. Jesus’ six antitheses work in this passage only if he has the right not only to interpret but even to add to the law of God (as Jesus will do later in the passage with oaths). And who but God can do that?"

3.       Living Life Undefended: Daniel Bush's simple reflection convicted me, "In the summer of 1984, the Gillette Company launched a series of television commercials advertising its Dry Idea antiperspirants, which led to one of the wittiest and most memorable slogans in the English language: “Never let them see you sweat.” There’s deep truth in that tagline, at least with regard to antiperspirants. I’ll even go as far as to apply it to business negotiations, trade deals, and global politics—but apply it to personal relationships, especially your relationship with God, at your peril."

4.       When Kids Won't Bow to Your Idols: Jennifer Phillips nails it in this reflection on parenting and idols. She begins with this story, "When I had my first child, I was determined to knock this parenting thing out of the park. I read all the books. “If you do these things,” they promised, “your child will be on a predictable schedule and will sleep through the night by the time you come home from the hospital.” Or something like that. Except my son wouldn’t cooperate. He cried endlessly. He had trouble feeding and wouldn’t nap for longer than 20 minutes. Do you know what my predominant emotion was in the midst of all of this? Anger. At an infant. I threw pillows in the middle of the night and yelled at my husband and said not-so-kind words. To my infant. Now, I’m sure that hormones and sleep deprivation played a role in my response, but more than anything I was upset because I had faithfully followed A and B and I wasn’t getting C. I deserved a child who would cooperate. All the books told me he would if I did my part, and I did my part. I was worshiping at the altars of control, success, convenience, and let’s just say it—reputation. But my son refused to bow down. And I was furious."

5.       I Joined the Wrong Church: Samuel Emadi's article is excellent and weaves a story I hear so often in terms of disappointment so many experience in the context of the local church, and then he re-frames the issue: "These covenant obligations are the foundations of our church commitment and should function as the backbone to church life. Covenant precedes community. We might even say covenant creates community. The covenant promises members make to one another blossom into the life-giving relationships our hearts crave."

6.       Martin Luther, the Anglicans, and Christmas Carols: Instead of focusing on theology, the British love meditating on snow, silence, and livestock in their Christmas hymns. Martin Luther finds this annoying.

Photo credit: Steve Halama/Unsplash