Deeper Hope:

An Abiding Virtue

This book explores the meaning -- and application -- of Christian Hope. It takes the fuzzy concept of Hope and reveals it in everyday settings



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Meditation: What to Expect When You're Expecting New Life in Christ

In 1984 a young woman, expecting her first child, couldn’t find information on what a normal pregnancy looked and felt like, so she began to write her own handbook on pregnancy--while she was pregnant. Just hours before delivering her daughter, Emma, she sent off the book proposal for What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Nearly thirty years (and seventeen million books) later it's the standard for what is normal during pregnancy. Publisher’s weekly reports that 97% of women who buy a book on pregnancy buy this book.

But what it things had turned out differently? But what if this book had become a history book instead: as in, “how did pregnant women act thirty years ago?” What if we turned to the book not for information about how to order our lives while expecting, but only to study what people did back then? Four editions, seventeen million copies, thirteen spin-off books, and one romantic comedy movie, all dealing with how people used to treat pregnancy? That would be crazy, right? Expectant parents buy this book because they are entering new territory, and they want to know, well, what to expect. They want to know what is normal, and they want to be normal.

This week’s mediation asks the same question about the New Testament. Do we read this book as history, or are we looking for what to expect in our new life in Christ?

This is the choice facing every student of Jesus: we all must decide whether we will read the New Testament as a history book or a description normative life in Christ. The events reported in the New Testament, the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the life of the newly-formed church happened a long time ago. The record of those events has been preserved for us today--some people might add, “miraculously preserved.” Many Christians are willing to argue (even die) over whether the we can trust the accounts we have received from those early days.

After we settle the question of whether this book is trustworthy, we must also settle the question of the kind of life we will live today. Our answer determines the possibilities of our walk with Jesus. If the book is merely history then the sacrificial love birthed in his followers is not required of us today. If the book only reports the facts of healings, exorcisms, and resurrections accomplished by Jesus and his followers, then we need not measure our life by their example. If the book is rooted in the past, our only responsibility is to believe--and applaud.

But if the New Testament is our “What to Expect . . .” then we have a long way to go.

Reader Comments (6)

Oh Ray, I hope I don’t chase other comments away, especially those who vehemently agree or disagree. I can’t leave this alone because it goes, from my perspective, right to the crux of why we are in so many “HOLY” wars internal and external to Christianity. I will be judged a heretic for what I am about to say; the Torah, the Bible, the Quran and ANY other book of spiritual guidance is not in and of itself holy or sacred. What makes each and every book more than just an inanimate document is the relationship of the author with the reader.

People can burn and delete all the books chronicling sacred relationships with God, which I have within my responsibility, and I will grieve the resource loss while at the same time feel relief that now I can simply focus on the reality of my living relationship with God. Why waste time reading of your father or mother in the attic when they are immediately available to share with and ask questions of in the living room? Those intending destruction of God’s Word over theirs could even go as far as denigrating, obviously from the outside, my relationship with God and all I will feel is a truly profound sadness for their loss. I have a real and active relationship with God that I know from experience is available to all who honestly seek outside of themselves and their community (especially their community of birth).

My creator God is living and interactive today enough so that I trust He can take, perfectly well, care of himself and His children without my destroying those who would otherwise destroy, or even value above Him, inanimate objects (without heart, strength, mind or soul) in His name.

As I am promised an eternity of life in the Bible it is important to understand that intellectually none of us can possibly understand what an eternity of life really is. It does none of us any good to debate what that means. It does none of us any good to try to figure out through biblical research which one of us is most right in the picture we are developing in our mind through our present exceedingly limited experience (none of us exceeds 120 years of age compared to no beginning and no end in time). Why is this “eternal life” thing important to me if my mind can’t wrap itself around the concept? Has not human conjecture only confused the real value of an eternal life? … sitting on a cloud forever playing a harp? … bowing ever more before the Lord God while joyously singing His praises without end? … a never ending shoveling of coal to feed the eternal fire? … seventy virgins?

The real value of eternal life to me is the potential opportunity to be in direct relationship with truth and love from now on without end. If I thought or felt that all the intimidators, the manipulators, the coveters, those who would confuse and all the usurpers of God’s authority would influence my life eternally I would not want to leave this for that. I would choose to die forever if such was the case. Luke 10:25-37 says that will not be so for any who cannot love in God’s valued Way will die to eternal life. But, you know what? … our Father in Heaven told me in my heart and in my mind through my relationship with the Holy Spirit (as He did to all the first disciples, apostles and prophets) without any scripture.

If the Bible were a tool for intellectual debate and in itself a way to learn right from wrong it historically failed. I say this from experience because by the time I was seventeen I could intellectually debate with my peers from any side of good and evil using the Bible as a reference and win. At seventeen, though, I actually saw the active hand of God framed through a window, from a Sunday school classroom that I was intellectually superior in, while He was balancing the community I lived in to survive. That was when I petitioned God to teach me as His disciple and could no longer debate to win personal accolades. It has been a long journey and I am wearing down physically and mentally as I continue to become stronger spiritually. I am growing more and more tired of this life and looking forward to maturing in God’s reality which I know will be wonderful because He loves me and I love Him.

The Bible did nothing to stop the Crusades, witch hunting, denigrating and enslaving races/genders, genocide and countless other atrocities attributed to Christianity by the rest of the world. There is no other spiritual book, either, that has done anything to stop human to human atrocities chronicled in our history books.

Jesus tells me to carry a sword when I go out and yet put a tormentor’s ear back on which had been cut off by a protective disciple. I know that story from reading the Bible but most importantly I know it is true from His valued personality which lives in my heart, mind, strength and soul and can testify that’s who He is as the I Am.

What do I Expect When I’m Expecting New Life in Christ? I expect to feel and think ever more growing through every moment of eternity toward truth and love while in relationship with God the Alpha and the Omega. I have much to learn, a promised eternity’s worth, but I know the only one unforgivable sin (offense) I can do is to ignore the directions personally offered me from our God in Heaven for then I am a ship in a storm without a rudder and a compass; there is no way for Him to reach me by my choice. When I shut out God from my heart and mind the Bible does me no good and I would be better off without it. When I relate with God then the Bible makes Jesus Christ the most influential person in my life eternally; this only from the relationship with Him and not the book.

The book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” made Heidi Murkoff to be considered one of the top 100 most influential people in the world last year according to judges for Time magazine. The word “influential” is an active word of relationship and not an inanimate object. If pregnant women could not reciprocally relate with Heidi no book she ever wrote would make her influential to them.

We all have been graced with a responsibility of choice as to who we allow to influence the direction of our hearts, minds, strength and soul from the relationships we accept or reject. This is a call for all who would open their hearts and minds today (naked without formality, ritual or tradition) so that our Father in Heaven can live in a relationship with all who accept in love and truth eternally. This you can expect when you expect new life in Christ, in direct relationship with Him as your loving Brother and knowing Teacher.

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

Hi Herm. My only point today is simply, we must decide whether we will read the New Testament as history or as normative. The rest flows from that. Peace.

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

I just want to point out that the book reveals the mind of the author and it helps me to connect with the author. Even if I don't have a active relationship with God, if I keep reading the bible, God will speak to me through his powerful words and I will end up having active relationship with God at some point of time. Heaven and earth will perish but His words will never perish.

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersam

I'm with you, Sam. I love the book and revere it as the words of God. I'm in favor of reading it! :-) For me, the issue is about how believers read the book. In my view, too many Christians do not consider the scripture as describing a "normal" Christian life. Peace to you!

September 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Ray, I have a friend who does not believe in Jesus, but he's reading the Bible cover to cover. Why? Because he wants to understand it. It's been interesting to see how much he is uncovering and learning as reads intentionally. And it makes me wonder how I read the same text, if and when I do read it. I like your point here. Do we see it as history or do we see it as constantly relevant?

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Hi Jen: I'm thrilled when unbelievers read the scripture as "history," because I know the Holy Spirit will draw them in! That's a good thing! However, when believers limit the book to merely history, they run the risk of shutting out the voice of the Spirit--or, as you said, the "constantly relevant" word. Peace to you!

September 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

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