A Brief Heaven is for Real Book Review
So why do a Heaven is for Real book review on a site that’s about encouraging Bible verses? Well, if you’re like me you’re not only interested in reading the good news in the Bible, but you’re also interested in reading encouraging testimonies from other Christians about how God has worked in their lives.
I have to admit that it took me a while to get around to reading this short but powerful book. My wife had recommended Heaven is for Real to me after borrowing it from a co-worker. After also hearing positive things about it from others I decided to pick it up and give it a read over the Christmas holidays.
And, was I glad I did. The story is, in many ways, a lighter reflection of the same themes found in The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. Interestingly, both books were originally published in 2010, and both boys (Colton Burpo and Alex Malarkey) relate experiences with heaven and meeting God that are startlingly parallel in their recollection.
I’ll review The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven in a later post, because in my opinion it’s just as powerful an account of a child’s experiences with God and heaven as is Heaven is for Real. For this post and review however, I’ll stick with relating my impressions of the latter book.
A Synopsis of Heaven is for Real
In March 2003, four-year old Colton Burpo suffered a ruptured appendix that was misdiagnosed, causing his body to go septic and bringing him dangerously close to death. After an emergency surgery to repair the rupture and clean out his abdominal cavity of the infection, he recovered and returned to his family, and soon began recounting memories and experiences that indicated he had visited heaven during his surgery.
Although Colton’s dad Todd Burpo readily admits that the medical record from the hospital shows no indication Colton “died” during surgery, it is quite apparent from the story related by Mr. Burpo that at times the medical staff doubted he would make it. According to the timeline presented in the book, Colton spent several days with a ruptured appendix dumping infected body fluids into his abdominal cavity, a life-threatening situation to say the least. Although there was no indication to the hospital staff that he was clinically dead at any time during surgery, it’s apparent that his life was hanging in the balance during the surgery.
I’d rather not spoil the book for you if you haven’t read it by giving you too many details regarding the experiences Colton related to his parents in the months and years following his brush with death. However, I will say that the story and details related by Colton are certainly well beyond the bounds of what a person would expect a four-year old boy to be able to manufacture. And, certain of the details in his account relate directly to obscure bits of Bible scripture that no four-year old would be likely to know.
In addition, Colton recounts meeting his deceased great-grandfather. When shown a picture of his great-grandfather that was taken shortly before he passed on, he failed to recognize him. However, his parents procured a photo of Colton’s great-grandfather when he was a young man, and without any prompting or hints whatsoever he recognized “Pop” instantly. This is just one of many such experiences Mr. Burpo recounts in the book that certainly give credence to the Burpo’s account.
So What Can We Take Away From Colton’s Story?
First off, I highly recommend that you read the book, if only to read Mr. Burpo’s account of how God answered his prayer. Yet, beyond that I believe it’s a reliable account of a young man who was blessed with a glimpse of heaven before his time. For a believing Christian, it’s incredibly encouraging to read of such accounts when they are filtered through the lens of scripture and found to be in keeping with what the Bible tells us of heaven and God.
After reading this book and Alex Malarkey’s story I was both encouraged and uplifted by the way both boys relate the majesty of heaven and what it must be like to be in God’s presence. Surely words cannot do such an experience justice, but even a small glimpse of heaven seen “through a glass, darkly” is enough to encourage believing Christians regarding the majesty of heaven that we will one day experience firsthand.
That’s it for my Heaven is for Real book review; I found it to be an enjoyable and encouraging story of how God answered prayer in the most amazing way for a young boy and his family.
The Christmas Story In Selected Christmas Bible Verses
Jesus is the reason for the season, so I thought it would be appropriate to post some Christmas Bible verses in recognition of the celebration of our Lord’s birth.
I can remember reading the Christmas story from our big family Bible as a kid with my mom and brothers on Christmas eve, and that ranks among my fondest memories of childhood.
So, if you are just looking for Christmas Bible verses to read with your family or for your own benefit, here are some of the major Bible verses from the New Testament that outline and explain the Christmas story.
I’ve chosen the New King James Version of the Bible for this selection of Christmas Bible verses, since it is easy to read yet it retains the reverent tone of the original King James Bible.
I hope you enjoy these Christmas Bible verses and that you have a very merry and blessed Christmas.
Christmas Bible Verses: Our Lord’s Birth is Announced to Mary
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Christmas Bible Verses: Christ is Born
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Christmas Bible Verses: Shepherds in the Fields
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Christmas Bible Verses: The Wise Men Come to Worship Jesus
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Thanks for stopping by to read these Christmas Bible verses – have a very merry and blessed Christmas!
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God is always with us. At times, we may feel as though God has abandoned us or that He has left us adrift in a sea of worry and fear. If you are feeling like this, I want you to know that you aren’t the only believer to ever feel that way.
At a few times in my life, I’ve felt as though God abandoned me, even though I knew in my heart that He never leaves us or abandons us. Typically, I’ve felt this way when I faced a crisis at a time when my walk with Jesus was nearly nonexistent due to personal sin, pride in wanting to do things my own way instead of God’s way, or just simply ignoring the Holy Spirit. And I can tell you from personal experience that when you face a trial apart from God, it’s like being stuck in a snowstorm with no GPS or compass to get you home.
Dallas Willard talks about how important it is to keep up with our daily spiritual disciplines in his excellent book, “The Spirit of the Disciplines”. In it, Willard likens facing trials without a strong personal relationship with Jesus to an athlete who attempts to play in a championship event without ever training to prepare. He wisely points out that it’s our daily walk with God that brings us strength and allows us to face life’s trials (of which, Christ told us we would face many) with His peace and comfort to see us through.
The good news is that God is both faithful and merciful. If we would only turn to Him, repent, submit to His will, and seek His face, we’ll find all the strength we need. But, we must be careful that we don’t become “foul-weather Christians” of the type who only run to God when we’re in trouble (I’ve been guilty of this myself). This sort of Christianity is exactly the type that gets us in trouble in the first place. Instead, we need to be in God’s word and praying each and every day, as well as participating in worship and fellowship with other Christians regularly.
Remember, God’s love is eternal, but we were created to be in relationship with Him. Yes, God is always with us, but if we choose to ignore Him there’s no way we can experience the loving peace of His presence on an ongoing basis. Seek His face daily and He will lift you up and carry you through all the difficulties you will face in this life.
And the best news is, by accepting His Son as your personal Savior and believing in Him, you’ll have eternity to thank God for all He’s done for you.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” – John 6:47 (NKJV)
16 Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me,
For I am desolate and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses!
18 Look on my affliction and my pain,
And forgive all my sins.
- Psalm 25:16-18
All my life, I’ve known struggle.
Oh, I’ve not had the hardest life by any stretch, and I know there are plenty of people in this world who have suffered much worse than I have in my 39 years of existence. Yet, the thing about this human experience is that it is subjective, and that in turn makes each person’s struggle relative to their own experience.
As a young man in nursing school, we were taught that we should never assume to know the severity of another person’s pain. I’ve since taken that admonishment to heart as a reminder that every person’s struggle is unique, so I try to have compassion for others and the struggles they go through, no matter how they seemingly compare to my own.
Most recently, I’ve had the humbling and at times humiliating experience of being brought low by a chronic illness. I now intimately understand why my nursing instructors were so adamant about having compassion for those in pain.
There’s really no way to relate to another human what it is like to live every moment of every day in some sort of chronic pain. And, while it is possible to paint on a brave face most days, inevitably there will come those times when you are broken and beaten down, and must impose upon the patience of those around you to grant you a little grace while you recede into yourself until you can keep it together again.
When you’re going through something like this, where every day is a continual struggle to make it through the next hour, the next minute, the next few seconds; in these times, it is inevitable that you will begin to question the point of it all.
“Why God? Why me? Why here? Why now? Why this thing that you’ve cast upon me?” You pray for relief, you look for a sign, you ask for a healing miracle…
And the days go by, and weeks, and months, then years – and you begin to doubt your faith. Moreover, you begin to despair. You doubt there’s ever going to be any positive resolution to your condition, and it all seems so pointless to have to suffer day in and day out in such a meaningless way.
And you ask yourself, “Where is God in all of this?” Your heart breaks, and God’s comfort and love seem so, so far away that you feel as though they never really existed in your life at all.
At least, that’s how I have felt, many, many times over these last few years.
Right now, I’m reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Since I read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality a few years ago, I’ve been a fan of Don’s work, and in this most recent book he returns to true form, sharing simple and provoking insights about living a Christian walk in the middle of this mess, this constant and unrelenting state of brokenness that is our human condition.
The entire book is a sort of self-deprecating essay examining the art of creating fiction as a metaphor for the greater undertaking of writing the story of our own lives. In yet a broader application of the same metaphor, Donald relates how he has observed that we are constantly trying to live comfortable, unremarkable, and utterly meaningless stories, and how God is continually whispering a greater, grander, more beautiful and endearing story to our hearts and souls. If we would only listen, we’d hear the story written for us by the greatest Author ever known; a story written just for us, an epic that allows us to play the great role we were intended for since time began.
At some point early on in the book, Donald attends an intense three-day seminar on story creation given by Robert McKee, who turns out to be a somewhat curmudgeonly yet entirely earnest and brilliant teacher on the topic. McKee tells his students, “You put your characters through hell. You put them through hell. That’s the only way we change.”
Over the course of the book, Miller comes to realize the truth of what our flesh and spirit struggle with; that is, we are by our nature in the flesh complacent, lazy, and drawn toward familiar comforts. We utterly fear and despise change, never mind discomfort or pain. It is only through the shock of intense and often painful experience that we become who and what we are meant to be.
As I started writing this, I was listening to my infant son crying at the top of his lungs, because I’d put him down for his afternoon nap and he wanted to sit in daddy’s lap instead. What his five-month-old mind does not realize and cannot comprehend is that he needs something that he doesn’t want at this time.
It’s more fun to be up with daddy, gumming his toys, listening to classical music and hearing the “tap-tap-tap” of the laptop keys across the room. But his daddy knows when it’s best to make him lay down, make him be still, and get him to switch gears for a while. He doesn’t like it at the time, but later he’ll be fine with it after he realizes the actual benefits of his nap.
I believe in many ways we are much like infants to our heavenly Father. Our cries must be like infant cries to Him, breaking His heart just as it breaks my heart each time I hear my son cry. Yet, our God wants us to live a better story, the one He has written for us. In this regard, He also knows that sometimes we must be allowed to experience a little suffering in order for us to change.
If you are suffering right now and at the end of your rope, I know this may be of little comfort to you. I can tell you in my own experience that there is nothing more trite than being told in the midst of intense sorrow and pain that “it’s all for the best”. That feels like a slap in the face in the midst of your trial, and I know it is absolutely no comfort at all.
So, the best thing I can do for you (and often it’s the only really helpful thing any of us can do for a friend who is suffering besides just being there for them) is to pray what Peter prayed for some two millenia ago:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
- 1 Peter 5:10 (emphasis mine)
“He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.”
— Proverbs 28:27
I know that verse is a tough one to hear, but so often I see people turning a blind eye to the suffering of others. I strongly feel that as Christians, we need to set the example for giving in our communities and around the world.
There are many opportunities for giving to charities that help spread the word of God and the message of Christ’s redemption while also seeing to the physical needs of people who need help. Compassion International is one of them.
Compassion International is a Christian ministry operating in over 20 countries worldwide. Their mission is to release children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
Compassion is a 4-Star charity as ranked by Charity Navigator. They offer care, support, education, encouragement, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with children in some of the poorest countries and areas of the world.
Right now they are holding a contest called “The Great Sponsorship Challenge.” The purpose is to find sponsors for unsponsored children. It only costs $38 a month to sponsor a child, which provides that child with:
- Food and clean water
- Medical care
- Educational opportunities
- Important life-skills training
- Most important of all, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with God.
I’ve set up a page for our sponsorship team efforts at the following web address, with the goal of getting 200 children sponsored. If you feel so moved by God to sponsor a child through Compassion, or if you just want to find out more about the Compassion’s mission, simply click this link:
- Mike M.
P.S. – I know sometimes it’s hard to give when you are feeling under a financial crunch. However, I strongly believe that God blesses givers. But by all means, if you have reservations about giving then seek the Lord’s will in prayer before making a decision.