John Claypool, visiting professor of homiletics at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, has delivered another classic in The Hopeful Heart.
Claypool is no stranger to understanding the “hopeful heart.” He shares his own journey of heartache and heartbreak all the while encouraging us towards hope. Claypool says hope is greater than despair. It is grounded in the past yet oriented toward the future.
Claypool is a master at communicating. This work, devotional in approach, is filled with wonderful insights about life. He touches on several important issues regarding hope.
In Chapter 1 he outlines several ongoing themes concerning hope. “What breath is to the physical body, hope is to the human spirit,” he begins.
From there he continues with insightful thoughts foreshadowing the rest of the book. A few of these gentle gems of wisdom: hope is utterly essential, hope is the fuel for our energy for living, hope always leaves a margin for disappointment and hope senses the potential for greater reality. These are reminders about what we already know, but many of us have forgotten or, in our cynicism, have given up hoping.
Chapter 2 offers the reader a roadmap of sorts. These avenues of hope are designed to help us keep hope in a world filled with disappointments. The reader is reminded, “We don’t know everything but we do know some things.”
As we seek hope, the journey will teach us some new things, affirm some existing things, and remind us of some old things. The two parts of this journey are composed of “Acknowledging Mystery” and “Searching the Scriptures.”
Along the way, the author makes a strong statement: “Despair is downright heretical. If God can create the things that are from the things that are not, and even make dead things come back to life, who are we to set limits on what that kind of (divine) potency may yet do?”
Chapters 3 and 4 focus attention back to the reader. Claypool lets us know “what we can expect of God” and then urges readers to keep hope while granting forgiveness.
Hope is highly relational, he says. We cannot have hope in a vacuum. And, we cannot be people of hope if we are not practicing the very forgiveness that we desire from God. “Our English words of ‘hope’ and ‘help’ are derived from the same basic root,” he says. The Bible is filled with words of hope and help working in concert with one another.
This is a wonderfully thoughtful book. Claypool has done a masterful job of weaving nuggets of truth into this encouraging work on hope. As he does, hope abounds. The reader is left feeling good about oneself and about one’s God.
In the idea of God, an interesting triune understanding emerges. The author develops along the way of three major ideas about God: God the Holy One, God the Generous One and God the Merciful One.
As we seek a consistent relationship with God on these three levels there is hope indeed.
Bo Prosser is coordinator for congregational life for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta.
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