Matthew 19:14

Admittedly, I bought the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo because my mom wanted it and it happened to be on sale in the Point Park Bookstore the day I went in to check out what new Vera Bradley items were in stock. Also admittedly, I read Heaven is for Real, that night, about two weeks ago, in about three hours total and have not been the same since I put it down.

Book cover of Heaven is for Real
As Ron Hall is quoted saying on the back cover, "A beautifully written glimpse into Heaven that will encourage those who doubt and thrill those who believe." True words, Ron. At first, before reading the book, I was a bit of a skeptic because I thought it was just another person trying to make a buck off not only their Christian ideals but off of their cute little kid too. There have been countless books written about traveling to Heaven and how to have child-like faith, most which are written in a style that compares to a how-to article that could be found in a cheap magazine. So I had my doubts about this one too.

Now as a former skeptic myself, I might know what you're thinking, in that how could I tell that this book was any different than all the others?

Well, you know that gut feeling you get when you know something is right or wrong? When people say 'I have a bad feeling about this,' or 'I could just tell it was going to be good,' usually there is a deeper meaning to that and if you look in the Bible about spiritual gifts, it's being able to recognize that God's spirit is present or can also be called discernment. And over and over again, even when I did not want it to be true, it's been proven to me and told to me, that discernment is my top spiritual gift. Which in a basic meaning is that I could just tell that this book was legit and at the very least, has a powerful underlying message.

Burpo Family picture: Colton is on the far left.
Generally, the book is about the Burpo family, and focuses on their first son, Colton. It is told through the perspective of Todd, who is the father and is a pastor in their small town. Colton, at the age of four, had a series of trips and stays at the hospital because of a ruptured appendix and not long after the last hospital stay, during a family trip, he mentions that he went to Heaven. Now, I've worked with kids, I know they say some crazy things and going to Heaven would not be a far-fetched idea for them to come up with, their imaginations are limitless, but it's the rest of the story that makes this whole book believable.

Colton talks about meeting family members he never met and never was told about, he mentions specific aspects of Heaven that are in line with Bible that he was never taught before. Considering the average four year old will only pay attention to you long enough to sing Jesus Loves Me, once, you cannot really teach them about anything complex, and to the human brain, Heaven is pretty complex. Now at first what Colton's mentions about Jesus are just plain cute. When any kid talks about Jesus, I cannot help but melt a little. Which seems to be the same impression Colton's parents had to his stories at first, too. It was not until Colton was able to tell them specific details about where they were and what they were doing in the hospital when the doctors rushed him into surgery, that they believed that their son had made an amazing journey to Heaven.

Okay, so I might know what you skeptics are thinking again. And yes, I know that the Burpo's could have made up every last detail of this book - yet I still believe they did not. 

The underlying message of this book is that we as adults think too much. We try to fit Jesus and God and Heaven and the Holy Spirit and all that other church stuff into one specific box, when the truth is, we can't. Even if you are a theology scholar, you will never be able to understand everything pertaining to God. Children get that. That's why the Bible makes mention about how much Jesus loves the children. That's why the kingdom belongs to them. And that's why He tells us to have child-like faith.

In Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo says, "child-like humility is not the lack of intelligence but the lack of guile. The lack of agenda. It's that precious fleeting time before we have accumulated enough pride or position to care what people might think." And that's just it. As adults we care too much about what our friends think, what co-workers might say and so on, when honestly we shouldn't. I know I'm guilty of this too but we all need to just stop and let God do what He does. If nothing else, this book will give you some peace on that subject.

I also liked that in the book, Todd talks about being angry with God through all of Colton's medical issues because I feel like we're always told never to show anger towards Him. 1)Why not, He already knows what you're thinking so why not just say it out loud too or during prayer at least, and 2) He does understand what it's like to be human, He understands everything we're going through so we might as well just let it out.

Overall, I just liked that this book brought a different view to what it means to believe in Heaven. Because you can talk about it forever but truthfully, we'll never really know until we're there. I also liked that it was a story. It wasn't written in a tone to try to prove anything, when Todd quoted a Bible verse or tells about something Colton described of Heaven, the verse wasn't right there to read, but instead they were all listed together in the back of the book in the Notes section. I really appreciated that not only because it lets the flow of your reading progress instead of pausing over and over again, but also because it was like Todd was writing in a way as to say, 'if you need the proof of this, here's where to look it up' instead of pounding it at you like so many other Christian authors seem to do. That writing style is just off-putting so think about that if you're writing your own Christian-based book.

Whether your skeptical about this read or not, I'd suggest checking it out. Like Ron Hall said, it really will encourage or thrill you, possibly even both. For me, over the past couple weeks, it's really been making me think differently about Heaven. I have always been curious about what it will be like, but now I know I cannot wait to get there, so I'm going to do everything I can with the time I am given here in the world and in this life to make that happen.

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