Archive for March, 2011

The Prodigal God

I just finished The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. I really enjoyed the book. I read most of it in a day or two and then was away from it for over a month. Some of the good aspects of the book is the correction of my understanding of prodigal. Based on the parable, I assumed it meant sinful. Keller adjusts that view and explains that prodigal means abundantly giving, which actually makes sense with the actions of the younger brother. He was abundantly giving with his resources when pursuing sin, but the point of the parable is the abundance given from God. Though the father had no relationship with either son because of the disinterest of the sons, the father gave and gave when his son returned, desiring to do the same for the older son.

What Keller tries to get at is that the two sons represent two different kinds of people in the world. The older brother represents the legalistic, self-righteous and religious people. The younger brother represents the outwardly sinful. Both are separated from God and have no relationship with him. The father though wants to have a relationship with his sons, so as the father is representing God, we see how God made that possible through Christ. The sin of both kinds of people separates them from God and God wants to bring us back to himself because we were created for fellowship with Him. He accomplished that by clearing the sin away through Christ’s death on the cross, making it so nothing stands in the way so we could have fellowship with Him, like we were created for.

Keller ends his story with the feast. Jesus talks about a feast. The Old Testament ends with a feast. Why a feast? “There is no better way to convey vividly what it means to live out a life based on [Christ’s] saving work.” (p. 106) The feast in the new Jerusalem on the new earth, depicted by the parable, is where we get to “taste” an understanding of the grace of God purchased through the gospel of Christ.

I commend this book to people. I’ve read another review saying the opposite because he believes that Keller gets the emphasis of the parable wrong. What do I commend then? I commend using discernment. Have your Bible open with you when you read this book, when you read any book. Paul commends that.

Lord of the Storm

Right now there is a huge storm where I live. The power has threatened to go out quite a few times by flickering as I sat in my house doing homework. I can hear the powerful wind blowing through the trees, and the spray of the rain against my window. I’ve been outside a few times tonight, and well, walking around isn’t very easy or fun to do right now.

All this power, all this might, made me think of the story of Jesus when He calmed the Sea of Galilee. This story is found in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 8:18,23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25. I’m going to use the one from Mark though.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The issue of this story is a matter of faith. That is what Jesus confronts the disciples on in each of the Gospels. As the boat is filling up with water, the disciples start to fear. They get so fearful that they run to Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew they say, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” (v25) They clearly went to him to have him do something, though I don’t think they were expecting what they saw based on the way they responded. Mark said they were filled with great fear, while Matthew and Luke say they marveled. Those ways of describing the response are similar but different. Marvel implies Wow!, while fear implies Woah!

What caused that wow and woah? Jesus calming the storm. Mark’s gospel is the only one that records what he said to the storm. “Peace! Be still!” (v39) Another thing I find interesting is that Mark and Luke record Jesus confronting the storm first, then the disciples while Matthew records Jesus confronting the lack of faith of the disciples first. Does it matter which came first? Nope. I believe there was more words exchanged than are recorded, but the gospel writers gave us the essentials.

What’s the whole point of this story? I think it’s to show that Jesus has power over the wind and water. That is how the disciples response is recorded in Luke. “And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?'” (v25) Wind and water, like the storm I”m being sheltered from in my room in my house. I don’t have a sea, but there is rain. Jesus commanded the storm “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” There was a great calm. Not just a calm, a great calm. Jesus has the power with mere words to command the storm I’m in. Just like the Father used words to bring about the existence of the universe, Jesus used words to control that universe. Both God as presented in Genesis and Jesus have power, with words, over the universe. My Jesus, my Savior, my King, my Lord has the power to stop any storm, and at times doesn’t. This makes me think of Japan, the earthquake and Tsunami that happened. Jesus could have stopped it, but didn’t. In His wisdom he knows why He didn’t. I just know that my Jesus is more powerful than His creation and I can rest in that.

Here is a video of what happened in Japan. It’s a silent video. A very powerful storm.

Another Video (of ground footage). Yet Another.

A Hymn on this Passage:
Master, the Tempest Is Raging (Peace Be Still)
Author: Mary A. Baker, 1831-1921
Musician: Horatio R. Palmer, 1834-1907

Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace be still!
Whether the wrath of the stormtossed sea,
Or demons, or men, or whatever it be,
No water can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will;
Peace, be still! Peace be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will;
Peace, peace, be still!

Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled;
O waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul!
And I perish! I perish, dear Master;
O hasten, and take control!

Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer,
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.