Featured Reviews, VOLUME 8

Mark Oestreicher – Hopecasting [Feature Review]

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A Feature Review of

Hopecasting: Finding, Keeping and Sharing the Things Unseen
Mark Oestreicher

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Danny Wright.


In Hopecasting, Mark Oestreicher stresses that hope cannot be earned, but can only be given as a gift, and that gift is given along the road of suffering. He offers a new definition for hope and explains that it is “faithful confidence that God continues to author a story that moves us from vision to action.”


Hope begins when we find ourselves lost, confused and desperate in exile. We are far from home, or what we want to be home, and need to recognize and name our dissatisfaction while choosing to honestly cry out to our Creator. There are barriers to this hope that God wants to break in and offer. Sometimes the barriers show up as cynicism, attempting to find and practice the proper technique, buying the right resources, choosing false optimism or staying busy long enough for things to change. These methods will only increase the madness because true hope can only be found in Christ.

The author gives credit to Walter Brueggemann’s writings on hope, and especially notes his understanding of the importance of the Biblical book of Isaiah is often broken down into three sections. First Isaiah deals with the pain of what led to the exile, while Second Isaiah specifically describes the recognition and embracing of the pain that leads to Third Isaiah’s proclamation of possible hope, and that potential hope draws closer only as we move into the center of conflict.


Oestreicher bares his soul in the medium of his journal pages as he struggles through the exile of a lost job. In those pages, he shares about the importance of feeling while pointing out the fact that Jesus experienced emotions, as does God, because Jesus shows us the Father. He also stresses the need to relinquish control by referencing Henri Nouwen’s brilliant work that reminds us that we cannot receive unless our hands are open to do so.


Yet, as we try to release control and receive, we run into fears about ourselves and fears concerning God and His possible provision. These fears cause us to doubt because we might be exposed as a fraud, or we might lose some semblance of control, or life might end up having no purpose or value in the end, or maybe what we know is all there is to know. There are also fears that make us doubt whether God is aware of our pain, or if God cares enough to act, and whether or not God’s action will end up being the help we wanted after all. These fears threaten the arrival of hope and become a membrane that has to be punctured. It is at this point that the author shares some amazing thoughts about what it would be like to break through when he retells the gospel story of the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years. He points out that she might have truly have hoped that Jesus was the Messiah and that her stretch of faith in the crowd so many years ago could have been based on the hope that healing could have been found in the corner of the Messiah’s robe because of the prophecy in Malachi 4:2.


As we penetrate the wall of fear, we are met by Jesus who offers us the opportunity to partner with Him in a tango of faith that gives us transformed longings and helps us to believe that a new reality can be experienced. The author reminds us that Jesus came that we might have life to the full, and that the offered abundant life flies in the the face of a broken world as Christ in us spills over as the hope of glory that refuses to see things as they are and works to see them as they can be.


Each of the chapters has questions at the end that make the reading more practical, but the author’s personal stories really bring the book to life. He tells stories that grew out of his youth, his work with youth and youth workers here in the U. S. and abroad, as well as some amazing stories from the mission field. One of my favorite stories from his youth had to do with the fact that his parents were about to take away his Volkswagen bug privileges. There were to be no further incidences. His “friends” decided to fill the car with the styrofoam pellets from the ever present bean bag chairs of yesteryear. He knew he had to remove them all, and quickly. He drove around the parking lot with the doors open, and then used the vacuum at the car wash. All was fine and good until one cold day when his father turned on the defrost and a snowstorm from leftover pellets that had fallen into the vents overtook the inside of the vehicle.


A favorite story from his personal experience with missions involved dancing in the streets with two older Haitian women during a worship service after the earthquake. A story that he relays from Israel was also very touching. Daoud, a Christian Palestinian, living in the West Bank was hassled by some members of the Israeli military one night. They insisted that everyone get out of the vehicle. Daoud, committed to non-violence, did not want his children subjected to these men’s with guns because it might trigger nightmares for the rest of their young lives.   His solution was to go to the rear of the vehicle, and calmly wake his children and let them know that he had some friends that he wanted them to meet. One of those soldiers eventually came back and helped on their olive farm.


In the end, the author wants us to move from a fatalistic theology to a hopeful theology that transforms our less than places and experiences with the knowledge that our God has a better story planned, and we can trust that ending. It is an ending that moves us from vision to action.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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