Tag Archives: prodigal

Establish the work of my hands

I woke up this morning with fear and doubt.

I’ve been working on The Prodigal Project for three years. And it is going well. We have a terrific screenplay, some talented and energetic folks working hard to move the story from the page to the screen, and a growing number of partners gathering around Belltower Pictures. Together we’re building a community around the idea of telling great stories that reveal spiritual truth.

There are still many hurdles to be cleared. We still need to raise a significant amount of money. There are insurance, legal, accounting, crew and cast, distribution and marketing issues to be resolved.

I’m having lots of conversations about the project. And without exception, everybody I talk with responds enthusiastically, affirming that we’re doing something that really needs to be done. Most of these conversations result in more creative ideas and another partner joining the family.

But still… doubt and fear grip my gut with predictable regularity. And that’s where I started this day.

This morning I wrote in my journal – “Oh Lord what am I doing? I’m foolish and naïve. Maybe I should just drift quietly into retirement oblivion.”

A full-on pity party was cranking up.

Then I began my daily Bible reading with Psalm 90. I didn’t really pick it out. It was just the next one in my regular reading pattern. It ends with –

“Establish the work of our hands for us –
Yes, establish the work of our hands.”

I wondered what that really means. So I googled it. Here’s what’s the famous 19th century British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote about it:

This set of images was gathered by User:Dcoetz...
Charles H. Spurgeon. (1834-1892) National Portrait Gallery, London

Let what we do be done in truth, and last when we are in the grave; may the work of the present generation minister permanently to the building up of the nation. Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs. The church as a whole earnestly desires that the hand of the Lord may so work with the hand of his people, that a substantial, yea, an eternal edifice to the praise and glory of God may be the result. We come and go, but the Lord’s work abides. We are content to die, so long as Jesus lives and his kingdom grows. Since the Lord abides for ever the same, we trust our work in his hands, and feel that since it is far more his work than ours he will secure it immortality. When we have withered like grass, our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire. (The Daily Spurgeon)

Thank you for that encouragement, Lord. Now… on with the day. “Establish the work of my hands!”


Second Chances for Both Sons

Among the many messages in the parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) is that God actually seeks out despicable people and gives them a second chance.

Over the past two and a half years, as I’ve been working on the Prodigal Project, I’ve gained such admiration for Jesus as a storyteller. In less than 500 words (in the NIV translation), Jesus dealt a one-two punch that drove home the truths of forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation for the “tax collectors and sinners” in his audience. And in the same stroke, Jesus challenged the Pharisees and the teachers of the law: “If God can forgive, why can’t you?”

Brett Younger drove the point home to me in a commentary he wrote a few years ago (Formations Commentary, May-August 2010, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc.).

He was writing about the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25, but the point applies to the prodigal story, too. Younger asks, “Could it be that, according to Jesus, God seeks evil people who cause horrible tragedies and offers them grace? Could there be more joy in heaven over one terrorist repenting than over ninety-nine righteous people like us? That is hard to take.”

Forgiveness for terrorists?! Hard to take indeed.

Younger portrays Israel’s patriarch as a pretty despicable guy. He cheated his brother out of his inheritance, tricked his father out of a blessing, and never expressed a moment’s regret for any of it. Younger says, “In a world of indefensible wickedness, we should never excuse evil, but we should try to see more like God does, because the hard truth is that God loves people like Jacob.”

Not only does God love Jacob. He built a mighty nation from him. Jacob: one of the “big three” of the Hebrew narrative – Abraham, Issac and Jacob!

And then Younger’s point that hit me between the eyes: “Obviously, the thief has to stop stealing, the terrorist has to lay aside his or her bombs… and the sinners must repent. Yet the good news does not begin with our repentance. God’s love is the gospel.” (emphasis mine)

The prodigal’s father ran out to meet him. He interrupted his younger son in mid-confession to dress him in robe, ring & sandals, and to call for a party.

I’m afraid I’m more like the older son. I want to hear a full confession before I throw a party. And I want to sit at the head table, where my faithfulness and long years of service will be celebrated with equal gusto as the sinner’s repentance.

If I understand the parable correctly, there’s a second chance for me, too.

The father went out to bring his older son into the party. “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Thanks be to God.

Some of the books influencing my thinking about the Prodigal Project


Unchristian:  What a new generation really thinks  about Christianity…  and why it matters
by David Kinnaman (Baker Books, 2009)

Applebee’s America:  How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community
by Douglas B. Sosnik, Matthew J. Dowd and Ron Fournier  (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

They Like Jesus But Not the Church:  insights from emerging generations
by Dan Kimball (Zondervan, 2007)

What’s So Amazing About Grace?
by Philip Yancey (Zondervan, 1997)

Blue Like Jazz
by Donald Miller  (Thomas Nelson, 2003)

Tell It Slant:  a conversation on the  language of Jesus in his stories and prayers
by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 2008)

Practice Resurrection:  A conversation on growing up in Christ
by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 2010)

The Return of the Prodigal Son
by Henri J. M. Nouwen  (Doubleday, 1992)

The Prodigal God
by Timothy Keller (Dutton, 2008)