Monthly Archives: May 2016

Hunting Hope

When I receive a book for review, I can usually tell within a few pages if it’s one I want to keep or pass on. If it’s one I’ll tell clients about or one I’ll shelve and forget. Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples is not only a book I’ll keep and recommend, but also one I’m ordering for my ministry’s bookstore. I began underlining on page 2 (page one was very short) and I have tabs throughout. My indication of a good book.

So what’s so great about this book? Other than everything?

Authentic Voice:

First, Maples speaks with an authentic voice. She is a survivor of systemic lupus and a massive brainstem stroke that left her a quadriplegic at age 20. She fought her way back and became a public school teacher in her native Texas. She still struggles with the lupus and with falls. But she has learned how to mine God’s character and conform hers. She doesn’t sugarcoat her points, but rather shares from the depths of her discipleship.

Excellent Writing:

Not only does Maples make good points. She makes them well. She has the ability to turn a phrase, and then illustrates her points with great stories—most of them aimed at herself. Hunting Hope is a good read, a compelling read.

Transformational Points:

Maples has been tested in the fire. She had to learn to trust God or die. Her writing isn’t theoretical. It’s real. And transformational. If readers will pay attention, she offers hope for those trapped in situations that don’t seem fair. She shows God to be faithful. She says, “when we have nothing left to lean on, we learn to lean on God.”

It seems that most writers are either all miracle—believe God will heal everything all the time. Or no miracle—just thank God in the suffering. Maples says, “We should always ask for a miracle, but while we wait, God’s calming presence in our lives is a miracle in itself.” She focuses on obedience: “God unfolds His plan after the person takes a step of obedience, not before.” She affirms that wounded warriors have a vital place in the church: “Our worst life experiences may be exactly what qualify us to lead with authority…. The darkest moments of our lives might be the beginning of our divine mission on earth. So many times, the battlefield is a training ground.” And she recognizes that trials are just an exercise. An opportunity to grow in godliness.

My Only Complaint:

I’m usually not a fan of discussion questions in books. They are usually trite. But this is one book I wished Maples had added discussion questions. Now I’m going to have to write them myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll be teaching this book.

So please, I don’t say this often, but BUY THIS BOOK.

Hunting Hope Nika Maples

Anointed … And Stupid

We see it in Scripture—and unfortunately, in real life—all the time.

A person is highly gifted. Anointed. Being used by the Lord. But then they get stupid and everyone is left scratching their head.

Samson's Final Vengeance

Samson’s Final Vengeance                                                     Photo Credit: Kurt Cope (BPECA)

Samson’s Final Vengeance

Take Samson. Called and chosen before conception. A Nazarite from birth. Called to judge Israel and save them from the Philistines. But his downfall was women. After living a pure, set apart life, he hits young adulthood and lusts after a Philistine woman (Judg. 14:3). He took her as his wife (in clear violation of Deuteronomy 7:3), and in his youthful arrogance, baited his 30 Philistine “companions” with a silly riddle. He then allowed his wife to manipulate him into divulging the answer to his riddle. So he seized the prize from 30 men of Askalon, a Philistine town 20 miles away. Scripture says the Spirit of the Lord came on him in power (Judg. 14:19) and he conquered these unsuspecting men.

Yes, he was anointed. He had the Spirit of God. But was he fulfilling God’s call on his life? Then adding injury to insult, he abandoned his wife in a huff. Her father gave her to one of the friends. When Samson decided he wanted her back but her father refused, he tied torches to the tails of 300 foxes and burned the grain of the Philistines. This, of course, caused even more ire among the Philistines, who threatened the Israelites. His response was neither wise nor politically correct. “I merely did to them what they did to me” (Judg. 15:11).

The Israelites tied him up to turn him over to the Philistines, but Scripture says that the “Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands” (Judg. 15:14). He grabbed the jawbone of a donkey and killed another 1000 Philistines (Judg. 15:16), violating the prohibition against touching anything dead (Lev. 11:39) and possibly compromising his Nazarite vow.

Did Samson learn his lesson? No way. He went to the Philistine seaport of Gaza and slept with a prostitute, again becoming a target the Philistines (Judg. 16:1-3).

Lesson learned? Surely, you say. Nope. “Sometime later” he fell in love with yet another woman – Delilah, who collaborated with the Philistines. And once again he was snared by her pleadings to learn the source of his strength. It took a while as they toyed with one another, but in the end, Samson caved to her wiles and divulged the source of his strength. He was captured, blinded, and imprisoned.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! It’s easy to criticize Samson. His weaknesses are so obvious. Maybe ours aren’t quite as glaring. Or are they? But how is it that we are so willing to test the grace of God by giving in to our individual weaknesses and expecting Him to work through us anyway? And why does God continue to honor the anointed when they (we) give in to sin? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but personally, I am committed to pursue splendor and try my best to avoid stupidity. How about you?