*Living Every Day with Eternity in Mind*
It’s hard to review a devotional objectively. It’s something very personal & what speaks to you is going to be different than what speaks to another reader. But here goes
I had read, “Heaven is for Real” a few years ago. I remember the exact moment I found it at the store. I had never heard of the book & was actually shopping for a Joyce Meyer book that was on my reading list. I picked up Heaven is for Real, read the description on the back; thought it sounded interesting & then shelved it. Throughout the rest of my shopping trip my mind kept going back to that book that eventually (mainly to silence the nags) I put it in my shopping cart & cashed out. I started it almost immediately & it was instrumental in changing (and confirming) my view on heaven. At the time I read it, my Grandma was battling stage-4 cancer & upon her death the chapters & words in that book were such a comfort to me. She was a strong woman of faith & I know the riches of heaven fell upon her & that we will be reunited again and that fills me with healing. I’ve since passed the book on to others & have recommended it to countless people.
It took me awhile to get through Heaven Changes Everything (over 6months) not because it was bad, but because of LIFE. I had read other devotionals in between, read other novels, but every time I picked up this specific book the messages were very tailored to what I was currently going through; questions on my mind, troubles that were heavy on my shoulders. So I feel like God was telling me to take this devotional very, very, slowly to let it sink in (on average, I’m a speedy reader). Usually I’d find myself crying over the words I was reading & sighing over how “spot on” it felt to read what I was feeling. And I’ll be honest, it led to some frustration because I didn’t want to change my thinking or behavior about some subjects the author suggested needed changed (hey, God made me stubborn so “technically” its His fault, right? Haha!)
Heaven Changes Everything is obviously set up a little differently since it is a devotional & not a narrative. For starters, its written by Todd & Sonja Burpo (Colton’s parents) who alternate chapters (which I liked) each giving their own viewpoint & spin on the subject of the chapter. You definitely would be able to use this book for a Bible Study since it does pose group discussion questions & has countless passages of scripture to study, memorize & discuss. Like I do with all devotionals, I went after it with a “college” mentality. You wouldn’t want to borrow my copy because its highlighted, underlined in pen, things are starred & my personal thoughts are wrote in the margins. You’d finish my copy more confused than when you started! Flipping through the book even now, there’s so many good chapters that I don’t even know where to start! Todd & Sonja (obviously) center the book around their take on Colton’s (their middle-son) near-death experience; visit to heaven & then return to earth. They give their viewpoints on what happened “behind the scenes” & how their lives have changed post-publishing of his novel, “Heaven is for Real”. What I also like was they touched on a little bit of everything; their marriage, their struggles, parenting, balancing careers & of course, their personal views on God & faith.
Since I can’t go chapter by chapter (its not a big book, but it would take awhile & the weather’s to nice to be indoors all day typing on the computer *wink wink*) I’ve picked a couple chapters that really spoke to me:
Chapter 9: “A Mixture of Faith & Doubt” told from the viewpoint of Todd. It’s about how you can be a person of Faith & still Doubt. I know I can relate to that. I don’t know how many countless times I’ve prayed for something & then took matters into my own hands because God was moving to slow (you’d think by now I would have learned my lesson & realize I do more damage than good!). Todd writes, “So you’re struggling. God understands. He knows you can’t see what’s waiting for you around the corner-not to mention next week or next year. But God is good at working with strugglers. Pray, “help me believe”. Even though he’s a Pastor; a man people look up to for spiritual guidance, he still struggled with doubt when doctor’s reported his son would not survive.
Chapter 23: “Imagine Being Held by Jesus”. This chapter really got to be. In this chapter, Todd remembers the moment when he was in the hospital chapel; alone, spewing forth hateful & angry words to God, so fearful that he may lose his son-didn’t understand why & God seemed to be silent. Upon Colton’s “return to earth” he tells Todd that he saw him in the chapel, crying & angry. “yeah, Jesus was there too.”…..”well, where was Jesus?”….Colton looked me right in the eye. ‘I was sitting in Jesus’ lap.’”….I was hiding out in the empty hospital room, raging at God for bringing my son so close to death-furious at the very One who at that moment, unknown to me, was holding my son in his arms. Quite the contrast, isn’t it?”. For me personally, I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten angry at God for his silence (what I view as silence) when he’s got something so much bigger intended for me. “But at the same time I try to remember that God has a plan for my life-a plan that ends in heaven-and whatever is happening to me right now is part of that plan.”
Countless other thoughts jump out at me throughout this devotional, “There are things God allows to happen because he knows the outcome is going to be greater than anything we could ever do on our own.”,”Children’s simple prayers fall as sweetly on God’s ears as they do on ours.”, “there is blessedness in brokenness. God uses broken people.” & “stand without wavering. Stand without apology. Stand confidently & say, ‘I know who Jesus is, and this is what he has done for me.’”
This is not a hard devotional at all & I recommend it for any beginner who is new in their walk with the Lord. It’ll get your feet wet as far as getting in the Word & reading the Bible, its full of personal opinion & testimonials rather than a lot of Bible-scripture-reading. However, even if you’re dedicated & like those in-depth devotionals this works as well, you can back up the author’s points & key-notes with Bible scriptures that reference it. Any way you look at it, the fact is; it’s just a good clean read & I highly recommend adding it to any reading list.
The closing paragraph of the book just warms me: “I love thinking about being so glad, and so grateful, to see Jesus that I spontaneously fall down on my knees before him. And I know he’ll be glad to see me. In fact, he’s been praying that I would join him there. He’s praying you’ll join him there too. Please don’t disappoint him. He’s waiting for you in heaven. And that changes everything.” What a great feeling to think that the Lord is praying to spend time with you! That’s something to hold onto when you’re feeling challenged, stressed, & overwhelmed. The Lord is praying that you’ll talk to him & spend time with him.
How fantastic of a thought is that???