Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven

Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven

by Steve Berger


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764211676
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Steve Berger is the senior pastor to more than four thousand people at Grace Chapel, Leipers Fork, Tennessee. Steve is also a part of the teaching faculty for the National Worship Leader Conference and regularly contributes to several publications. Steve and his wife, Sarah, live in Franklin, Tennessee, with three of their children, Heather, Cody, and Destiny.

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Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven


Bethany House Publishers

Copyright © 2014 Steve Berger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1167-6


A Renewed Heavenly Vision

Heavenly Focus

Heaven became intensely personal to my wife, Sarah, and me in August of 2009 when a one-person car accident sent our son Josiah to heaven. I'm a pastor, so heaven wasn't a new concept or something I hadn't thought about previously. But, as you would expect, this one moment in time forever changed us. It has served to increase our passion for heaven and has changed our attitudes about how life should be lived while we're on earth.

Josiah—a strong, vibrant young man—was just about to begin his freshman year at the University of Tennessee. Like many young men and women his age, Josiah lived at full throttle. His entire life was ahead of him.

His sudden passing has significantly shaped our lives. Our family clung to one another during those diZcult times as never before, and Josiah's memorial service inspired not just a church community but the wider middle Tennessee area as well. Most of all, Josiah's passing lit a fire under me to teach about heaven with a renewed passion.

Our son, unbeknownst to us, signed up as an organ donor. I'll elaborate more on the significance of this later in the book, but for now, simply understand that this one act deeply affected us. Why? Because it was a clear example to me that not only was Josiah serious about Jesus, but he also loved people enough to (literally) give himself away. His hands were open to people's needs because his heart was in the right place.

Before going too far with Josiah's story, let me share a few things about myself. I became a Christian at age nineteen, and I've been a pastor for nearly twenty-five years. In those years, heaven has been increasingly important and critical to my faith, teaching, and life. Heaven and our eventual joyous homecoming as Christians are great truths that should be something you and I long for. As a pastor, I get excited when I think about being with God and worshiping Him for eternity. How cool will it be to sit with Paul? Or talk with the apostle John about his time with Jesus and the divine inspiration for the book of Revelation? Or visit with other more contemporary heroes of the faith like Charles H. Spurgeon, C. S. Lewis, or A. W. Tozer? It will be a homecoming and family reunion experience like we can't even imagine.

Heaven is a real place for the believer, and it has at least some place in most everyone's life and thinking. But many think about it whimsically, or only when a life-altering event happens, and throughout everyday life it's tucked away neatly in a mental file folder.

Josiah's passing served as a tremendous shock and reboot in my desire for heaven. As I look back over the last several years I realize that God has gradually opened my eyes and deepened my understanding about heaven. I trace the beginning of these experiences to a moment about fifteen years ago when I received a phone call from my brother Patrick.

I dearly love my older brother and I always welcome his advice and mentoring. I was surprised to hear him weeping on the other end of the phone. He quickly filled me in on what was happening: "Man, I've got a book that I'm reading that is wearing me out. You need to get it." The book he was talking about was My Dream of Heaven by Rebecca Ruter Springer. I bought it and read it, and her story floored me. It still floors me today.

Springer's book talks about a spiritual experience she had. Written in 1895 and originally titled Intra Muros, it details Springer's very personal, detailed vision of heaven and gives a beautiful glimpse of the eternal home that awaits us. Billy Graham said that the book "captured biblical truths with emotional impressions."

While reading her story, I had one of those moments in my Christian life when the prospect and reality of heaven became markedly clearer. The book challenged me with concepts I'd never known, and provided practical insights that I could share with others who needed help and encouragement.

Fast-forward about seven or eight years, when I began developing a preaching series about heaven. God laid on my heart a desire to help my congregation know and understand the full blessing, joy, and hope that is theirs in heaven. As often happens in my ministry, though I was the one communicating and sharing these messages with the congregation, it seemed God was doing the most powerful work in my life. He expanded my knowledge and hunger for heaven. And He also gave me an overwhelming desire to communicate it to all who would listen.

As a part of my research and preparation for that series, I read Randy Alcorn's book simply titled Heaven. It's a phenomenal book—probably the most comprehensive book that's been written on the topic. Through it, I learned and understood even more about our eternal home. Randy's book clearly supported a number of thoughts with which I wanted to challenge my congregation. As I studied and learned, I came to realize that Christians often hold numerous misconceptions and unbiblical assumptions about heaven. For example, in heaven we will not merely be up in the sky, floating on a cloud, bored out of our minds and plucking a harp. Heaven is a place; there's exciting supernatural activity, worshiping God, ruling and reigning with Jesus, being reunited with our loved ones, and meeting saints we've only heard of. It's anything but boring.

Randy also points out that rarely do we hear pastors accurately describing heaven as the new earth, which contains trees and rivers, and where resurrected people live in resurrected bodies on a resurrected earth with a resurrected Savior. Many pastors tragically miss this point, and I didn't want to be one of those misinformed pastors with a misguided congregation. No way.

When Josiah went to heaven, everything was taken to a whole new personal level. Since then, not a day has gone by when Sarah and I haven't talked about eternity and the things we've read in the Scriptures about heaven. We can't help but make it a focus of our study, and more important, our lives. When we have the opportunity to speak at an event, we're going to talk about heaven. When we hear about a tragic occurrence, our desire is to help people understand the beauty and fullness of heaven and how we need to live with an eternal perspective so we can find hope and healing in the midst of the tragedy.

Over the next few chapters I hope to give you some new perspectives and help you see heaven in a solidly biblical, yet perhaps unique way. I want to share my passion and help you develop a similar passion. At the same time, I hope to help you find the joy and purpose that comes from living here and now with this new perspective. We're on this journey together, and I can't wait to walk through it with you.

A New Understanding

When Vanderbilt Medical Center was on the other end of the phone, we knew it wasn't good news.

In Nashville and the surrounding area, Vanderbilt is the place where the difficult cases go. I've received a fair share of calls summoning Sarah and me to Vanderbilt, but always to comfort and help people in our congregation and other friends. This time, however, it was our turn to be comforted by others. After receiving that call and racing to the hospital, we spent hours on our faces in prayer for a miracle, but God had other plans. Three days after the accident, on Josiah's nineteenth birthday, we released our son to heaven.

In the immediate whirlwind surrounding Josiah's passing, we cried, we remembered, we prayed, and we grieved. We were surrounded by well-meaning people who did their best to comfort and help us in the midst of our pain.

As we walked through the grief after Josiah passed, all Sarah and I could think to do was pray and look for truth in our Bibles. What we heard during that time (and what we continue to hear) from God is that the church doesn't know how to deal with "death" biblically. We deal with it culturally, we deal with it traditionally, but we don't deal with it biblically. We learned that lesson from experience. We were just as guilty; there was a gulf in our thinking as well.

Right after Josiah passed we received hundreds of cards, books, and messages from people. The point of many of those messages was that we'd "lost" something. We'd hear, "We're sorry you lost Josiah." But what we came to realize is that we didn't lose him! We know exactly where our son went (and still is)! Have we stopped being sad completely? No. Do we miss him? Without question. We've spent many days and nights in tears of sorrow, but ultimately we haven't lost sight of where Josiah is: alive and in the arms of God.

Jesus conquered death (Hebrews 2:14), yet many well-meaning Christians still focus on loss and dying. This breaks my heart, and it's only one example of the misunderstandings about heaven. I'm committed to helping people get it right by relating to those who are in the depths of grief the hope, comfort, and healing God's Word assures.

Paul writes, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1–2). It's time to become heavenly minded and understand exactly what that means. It's time to talk biblically about heaven because we're missing opportunities to receive and share hope, to extend our hands to help others in need. It is not just those who are grieving that need a heavenly perspective; it's every believer (we'll look at this more in later chapters). Unfortunately, many Christians have moved away from the foundational hope that Jesus came to give us—the reality of eternal life with Him in heaven.

Josiah's Story

Josiah couldn't wait to begin his new phase of life at the University of Tennessee, and one day—as his departure approached and with a twinkle in his eye—he said to us, "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I am so ready to be outta here!"

Sarah and I didn't share his exuberance about the upcoming change at quite the same level, but we were excited for him and prayed expectantly that God would show him direction and wisdom in this time of transition. We wanted to do what we could to encourage and help him, and above all, what was right before the Lord.

We sure didn't know it at the time, but the Lord was preparing us for a different type of separation. His Holy Spirit was preparing us for that call from Vanderbilt and the events that followed.

Even today we don't know many details of the accident, and we don't feel we need to know. What we do know is that it happened on a winding country road in the fog and less than fifteen minutes from our home. It was a one-car accident, and remarkably, his body was in perfect condition—not one stitch, nothing broken ... except he suffered a serious and fatal brain injury.

For three days, we prayed the Lazarus prayer found in John 11:1–44. In that passage, the story of Lazarus is recounted with the moving pleadings of Mary and Martha to have Jesus resurrect their brother. Miraculously, He did, and that's what we were desperate for as well. We pleaded, "Please, Lord, bring our son back to us. Resurrect him, Lord." But that didn't happen.

We firmly believe God answers prayers of faith if they are part of His plan. We knew God could raise our son, and we knew He could heal and restore the whole situation. This was absolutely what we and all our friends and family wanted, but that was not God's plan. Although His answer was not what we wanted, we had to submit ourselves to His sovereign plan, knowing that His plan was better than ours. We had to face the painful reality that our prayers would not be answered the way we wanted. We had to come to grips with God's perfect will and seek His comfort and grace. In His mercy, God has since taught us that Josiah's passing wasn't an end, but simply a continuation of His remarkable plan for our son and for us.

The Donor Revelation

On the morning of the second day of our Vanderbilt vigil, faith was high, prayer was nonstop, and worship was passionate. Many from our church staff and congregation had gathered at the medical center, and Vanderbilt was gracious to give us the space we needed.

Sarah and I awoke that day, literally crawling o! the floor of one of Vanderbilt's conference rooms. People whom we loved surrounded us and we deeply felt their compassion, prayers, and support, and we did not relent from asking God for a miracle.

However, we also thought it would be prudent to talk with the Donor Services office because we had so many pressing questions about what to do should God take Josiah to heaven. So, just forty-eight hours after the accident, we began moving toward a decision of donating Josiah's organs, because we knew that's what he'd want us to do. In his almost nineteen years of life, it was clear that Josiah held a deep desire and concern for others. His compassion and love were a challenge in my own life.

So that night, the wonderful people from Vanderbilt's Donor Services met with us. In our minds—and we'd been bracing ourselves for this—there was a chance that we would soon be giving them permission to harvest Josiah's unharmed organs. Trust me, it's not an experience or decision you ever want to have to make. After sitting down, the head of Donor Services opened the file folder he had with him and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed Sarah the document and said, "As you can see, your son is a donor." We were stunned. I thought we were sitting down to make the hardest decision of our lives, but the decision had already been made. Going into that meeting we were convinced that Josiah would want to be a donor, but it was going to be very difficult to follow through on that conviction, especially just two days removed from the accident.

When the man from Donor Services held up that paper and let us know that Josiah had made that decision after his eighteenth birthday, Sarah and I looked at each other and knew that Josiah's wishes would be honored. Our burden of making that decision had been lifted.

Josiah's decision not only relieved a tremendous burden from us, it clearly showed us that our son's heart was in heaven long before he arrived there that fateful night. As I wrote earlier, Josiah loved Jesus and he loved people. His selfless decision clearly reflected his heart and his attitude.

On the afternoon of August 14, 2009, the exact day of Josiah's nineteenth birthday and three days after he entered Vanderbilt hospital, we talked with the chief neurosurgeon. He confirmed Josiah's condition and informed us that there were people waiting, as we spoke, for his organs to save their lives.

Reflecting on the emotion of that decision—a mere seventy-two hours after our perfectly healthy, strong, life-in-front-of-him son bounded out the door to meet some friends—still overwhelms me.

On his nineteenth birthday, we honored Josiah's decision.

Hard-Pressed Living

As I've spent time thinking back over the meeting with Donor Services and the resulting organ donation, Josiah's actions challenge me with an example of how we should live our lives as believers. Because his heart was in heaven, he lived every day with an eternal perspective. As Dee Brestin wrote, a heart in heaven means that we "understand the importance of valuing the eternal over the transitory." It means putting our focus on the things of God that have eternal value rather than the things of this earth that can easily rust, perish, or be destroyed instantly in a tornado or other disaster.

But as Josiah showed me, when our hearts are focused on heaven and we live with this eternal perspective, it's only natural that our hands are in the harvest—helping people who are desperate for a personal encounter with the love of God.

In John 4:35 Jesus says, "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"

Unlike those of us living in the twenty-first century, Jesus' disciples knew exactly what He was saying. They knew the significance of the harvest season—it was a time to roll up your sleeves and work. There was finally an opportunity to bring in the crops whose seeds had been sown and cultivated months ago. It was a time of hard labor and celebration. It was a time of reward. When Jesus called for eyes to be lifted up, He wanted His followers to see those around them; Jesus wanted them "harvested" into His Kingdom. He wanted them helped, served, and made aware of His saving grace.

It might seem as though a heart focused on heaven and hands focused on the harvest can't coexist. It might seem like an either/ or option, but we're called to live in this holy tension. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:23–24, "I am hard-pressed between the two [heaven and earth], having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you" (emphasis mine). These powerful verses form the essence and inspirational key for this book.


Excerpted from BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH by STEVE BERGER. Copyright © 2014 Steve Berger. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Mark Rutland 11

Acknowledgments 13

Introduction 15

1 A Renewed Heavenly Vision 19

2 A Passion for Hard-Pressed Living 33

3 Heaven Is Our Real Home 55

4 Heaven Is Our Real Hope 67

5 A Glimpse of Heaven 83

6 What Will We Do in Heaven? 93

7 Heaven Is for Healing 105

8 Having Our Hands in the Harvest 121

9 The Power of Knowing God's Word 135

10 The Power of the Holy Spirit 153

11 The Rewards of Heaven 169

Bible Study Resources 181

Notes 183

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Between Heaven and Earth: Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
sunshineJB More than 1 year ago
This Book Will Change Your Life! Pastor Steve Berger really awakens the reader to the fact that we need to get off our duffs and start Harvesting.  It is of the utmost importance that we don’t sit idly by and let others in the church do all the work.  We have an important part to play too.  Our focus should be on Heaven and not on things of this world. I like how the author not only shared scripture but went on to tell us exactly what the scripture meant, often giving us the Greek meaning so the scripture would be crystal clear to us. I shared with a lady at Bible study how excited I am about Heaven and even more so after reading this book.  I am ready to harvest! I highly recommend this wonderful book to everyone.  It gives us joy, hope, and inspiration to make a change in our lives. When our Pastor told us that he was starting a series on Heaven my eyes lit up and I thought oh boy I can’t wait.  In the meantime I saw this book Between Heaven And Earth on LibraryThing and after reading what it was about I knew I wanted to try to win this ARC.  Imagine my surprise when I did win a copy of it.  A coincidence?  I think not! Thank you Bethany House Publishers and author Steve Berger for allowing me to read and review this great book.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.
Moonpie72 More than 1 year ago
This book was definitely different than what I expected, but in a good way.   When a loved one very close to you dies, you find yourself wanting to know even more about Heaven:   What is it like?  What are they doing?   After all it isn’t just a “someday” place anymore because a very important part of you is there now.  Pastor Steve Berger experienced these feelings and thoughts, after his teenage son suddenly dies in a tragic accident. He not only does a beautiful job explaining by means of scripture what Heaven will be like, but what it will not be.  I really liked the charts he had with each point and verses where the information is found.  He also explains how we need to live our lives right in connection and anticipation of our future home.    As Christians earth is not our real home and all we have here is temporary.  Therefore we should not put “all our eggs in one basket” so to speak by only focusing this earthly existence. The joys and rewards in Heaven are what we look forward to but Pastor Berger clearly shows God has a purpose and work for us to do until we are called Home. We need to share Christ and offer others the opportunity and gift we have in spending eternity with God.  The old saying comes to mind: ”Don’t be so heavenly minded that you aren’t any earthly good!” You will not only learn the many challenges and struggles you will face in doing your work here but also the solutions based on the Bible.  The author reassures you that you are not left to your own devices to soldier on, but reminds us the Lord left us a great helper in the Holy Spirit.  He explains our relationship with Him and the power we are given through Him.  Yes, we miss our loved ones that are gone, but the promise of seeing them again and being busy for the Lord here can bring great fulfillment and joy while we wait! This was such a well-written and informative book.  I found it extremely inspiring and motivating!   As always I really liked the large number of scripture references the author supplied.  That makes all the difference to me!  This would be a great Bible study for an individual, class, or group.  It deserves to be read and studied more than once.  I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 
VicG More than 1 year ago
Steve Berger in his new book, “Between Heaven And Earth” published by Bethany House Publishers gives us a Finding Hope, Courage, and Passion Through a Fresh Vision of Heaven. From the Back Cover:  Be Transformed by a Glimpse of Paradise · What will heaven be like? What will we do? Who will we see? · How can I become more excited about heaven as my true home? · Is it possible that knowing more about heaven will result in greater joy and purpose in my daily life? It’s not easy separating fact from fiction when it comes to heaven, nor is it always easy to see how the afterlife can affect our lives today. After a car accident caused his nineteen-year-old son to unexpectedly enter heaven, Pastor Steve Berger chose to reject despair and commit himself to carefully studying his son’s new, eternal home. He had no idea how much there was to learn, and his life hasn’t been the same since. This biblical and deeply personal study of heaven will give you hope for the future. But more than that, it will show you what it means to live today in light of the reality of heaven. If your view of heaven isn’t life-changing, it needs to be adjusted. Let Pastor Berger’s exploration of eternity fill you with overflowing hope, courage, and purpose. Here is a question for you:  does talking about Heaven help to get you into Heaven?  The only way to get to Heaven is to accept Jesus as Lord & Savior and then you get to go.  So why talk about Heaven?  First off it motivates you.  It gives you a destination.  You know at some point you will be going to Heaven.  That is exciting.  When people get ready for a trip they plan what they are going to pack and put their home in order so they do not have a mess to return to.  That is what Pastor Berger is trying to get us to see in his book.  Having Heaven as our destination motivates us with excitement and moves us to get here in order by cleaning up our mess and then getting others to come with us.  It helps to be reminded of what our new home will look like and what Jesus has prepared for us.  I think everyone should read this book and then give it as a gift to others to motivate them as well. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
AlaskanLover More than 1 year ago
I received Between Heaven and Earth from Bethany House for free, in return for my opinion on this book. Between Heaven and Earth is written by Steve Berger and Published by Bethany House.My overall thoughts, I actually really enjoyed reading this book and proved to be very insightful and beautifully written. What I really loved about this book is the it is written around personal stories.It is not written as your typical self-help christian books. I honestly loved how this book is portrayed to christian readers. The book mainly is a study and a reference of people in the bible. This is not written on opinions, but actually around the bible as the main focal points. The author is simply using real life examples and situations to inspire people. I have read books that are more geared towards self-help by popular authors, and to be honest I don't like those kinds of books. This book is NOT one of these, its acutally not even focused on you, but by people surrounded around you and how you can make a difference. This book is heavily based on scriptures and bibical people, but I find the author is very accurate in this book on what the bible teaches and it lines up perfectly. What I was most surprized by, the fact that every chapter was challenging to the reader. From start to finish, each chapter flowed to the next flawlessly and was executed very well.The only downside to this book, would be the small margine of audience. This book is definately meant for christians because you cannot win people to christ, unless you are following him first. In my honest oppionion, this book would not be of interest to someone who is not interested in Christianity to begin with. In my honest opinion, I think this book would not appeal to just anyone in general.This book also had quite a surprize for me after just reading the back cover. I was expecting the book to be more about his son and his family life after the tragic accident. It started out that way, but turned into a new direction and a new purpose later in the book.Between Heaven and Earth was written with so much depth and passion that I would recommend this book. I would also recommend this book as a personal study guide for those who are seeking more out of their christian walk of faith. I think this book would be a pefect fit for an Adult Sunday School Class or Teenage Youth Group Class. What I really like about this book, its not just another book to keep on your bookshelf. This is a kind of book that you can keep around and use as you study the bible and scriptures.I enjoyed reading this book and it is definately a keeper. Melissa W.