The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

the prodigal god

Synopsis from Amazon:

In THE PRODIGAL GOD, New York pastor Timothy Keller uses the story of the prodigal son to shine a light on the central, beautiful message of Jesus: the gospel of grace, hope and salvation.

Keller argues that the parable of the prodigal son, while Jesus’ best-known parable, is also his least understood. He introduces the reader to all the characters in this timeless story, showing that it concerns not just a wayward son, but also a judgemental older brother and, most importantly, a loving father.

This short but powerful book is a reminder to the faithful, an explanation to the seeker, and finally an invitation to all – both older and younger brothers – to enter in to the ‘unique, radical nature of the gospel’: the reckless, spendthrift love of God.

This is the first Tim Keller book I have read, and I found it very useful in my walk with God. Keller looks at an alternative way of looking at the parable of the prodigal son. He looks at the elder brother – the one who didn’t take his inheritance, run off and shame the family. In that parable, the father shows amazing grace and love and forgives the younger son completely. The elder brother however, does not. Keller explains how Christianity is not a religion – where you follow rules, like the elder brother to get into heaven. He explores how it is by God’s grace and Jesus’ death and resurrection that we are saved. The elder brother did not have a relationship with his father, he was bitter – just like the Pharisees. He followed rules and was into legalism. Keller explains how that is something we need to break out of – that won’t bring us salvation.

This is a short book that clearly explains the Gospel message and how to adapt ourselves to live in relationship with the Father. I did dip in and out of this book, which was not a problem. It is a book that will get re-read. I did find however that when I was reading it, to take it in I had to give the book my full attention.

My fiancee started the book this afternoon and is already half way through – that is a good indication of how readable it can be – especially as he is not a big reader.

8/10

Walking With God by Ginni Otto

Synopsis from back cover:

What if you could walk with Jesus, talk to Peter and witness the miracles that Christ performed over two thousand years ago? In “Walking with God” by Ginni Otto, that is exactly what young Rachel Rosenfold does. A heated argument with her father sends Rachel racing out into the street. A squeal of brakes, her mother’s horrified scream, and blinding headlights converge to begin a journey that finds Rachel literally “Walking with God” during the time of Christ’s ministry here on earth. The Gospels come alive as Rachel learns the power of grace, the miracles of faith, and the limitless love of out Lord. Readers of all ages will enjoy making this spiritual journey with Rachel and they, too, will find themselves “Walking with God”.

Wow, what a book. I didn’t quite know what to expect from Otto, but I really enjoyed this book. Meet Rachel, a Jewish girl who had a life-changing experience at university – she became a Christian and believed Jesus is the Messiah. She tries to explain this to her father, Abraham, who is a Rabbi, but all they do is fight. Abraham banishes her from the home, so she flees, right into the path of a car. When she wakes, she is in a field, two thousand years ago, right where Jesus is about to perform his first miracle. There she joins the group of followers who travel with Jesus, and stays with him all through his three-year ministry, learning from him and making friends with the disciples and the two Mary’s. Meanwhile, at home she is in a coma. Her mother Julia starts to ask the question, why did Rachel convert, and we see a friendship form between her and Rachel’s tutor Matthew. He becomes a close family friend as Julia, and Abraham study all the prophecies too see how Jesus fulfilled them. This book is the first in a series, where we are set to see Rachel fight for Jesus in the 21st century.

I really enjoyed this book. It is not a long book, only 208 pages, but I was gripped from the start. There is a lot of Biblical teaching, with the Gospel message explained throughout the story, and the events recorded in them replayed in this book. I also enjoyed how Otto explored what the Jews believe, and how she used the Bible to explain how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. That is a very difficult topic and extremely brave, but I think she handled it perfectly.

There were a few bits of the story I wasn’t convinced about. Obviously the first is that no one is ever going to go back two thousand years, but that didn’t affect the story – that was what drew you in. I wasn’t convinced by the coma story, as she wasn’t really in a coma, just a deep sleep, but for three years. The other thing I was unsure about was some of the theology in the book. That said, the majority of it I agree with and this is only a minor point. I am sure others will not have the same disagreements as me.

I liked how Otto wrote. Like I said, I was hooked. I was drawn into the story. Even though it jumps about in time a bit, I was not confused, I actually liked that extra element. She was engaging and entertaining. I liked all the characters and connected with them all.

What I would say is, this is Christian fiction. If you don’t like being “preached at” or reading about the Christian faith, this book is not for you. However, I thought this was a good little book and would recommend it for both believers and those who don’t believe.

8/10

The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper

From the back cover:

The most important questions anyone can ask are: Why was Jesus Christ crucified? Why did he suffer so much? What has this to do with me? Finally, who sent him to his death? The answer to the last question is God did. Jesus was God’s Son. The suffering was unsurpassed, but the whole message of the Bible leads to this answer.

Why did Christ suffer and die? The central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the meaning-God’s meaning. That is what this book is about. John Piper has gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes-in answer to the most important question that each of us must face: What did God achieve for sinners like us in sending his Son to die?

I think this blurb sums up this book perfectly. It is a short, easy to dip-into book. Every point/purpose is only 2 pages long and based on a couple of short verses. They are short and informative and written in easy to understand language. However, if you read a load of them in one go the theology can take over and block your mind.

This book is great for everyone, whether the call themselves Christian or not. If not a Christian this book is open and gives the reader a way to access Jesus and the life He brings. I would recommend this book for all, perfect bedtime reading as you can read one of the fifty answers a day so it is not too overloading.

8/10