Read an Excerpt
Heaven is for RealA Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back CONVERSATION GUIDE
By Todd Burpo
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 HIFR Ministries, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1 Why Should We Care About Heaven?
Colton knows for certain that heaven is for real, and so do we. We are an ordinary family in the midst of extraordinary circumstances, desiring to be faithful to God and to be a source of encouragement to those who encounter us and our story. The message of the reality of heaven we've been given to share is serious and powerful because it deals with eternal truth. It is a message of hope and peace. The world is full of seekers desperately trying to find truth, hope, and peace. God can use Colton's journey to speak directly to those needs. We pray that the clarity of his four-year-old's description of our eternal home can cut through the confusions of this world, wherever they are found, even in the minds and spirits of those who are already believers in Jesus Christ.
We have discovered that our family is not alone. All over the body of Christ, we have found people who identify with our experiences and who are encouraging one another and building one another up in the faith (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
But whenever a message is shared, there will always be skeptics. In view of the importance of this message, careful, open-minded consideration is wise. Some people are determined not to believe, no matter what the evidence. It's not for us to argue and convince. It is for us to share this reality as faithfully as we can, just as it is every Christian's job to share the realities of Christ and our eternal home. We pray that our journey will be a strong witness to those who don't believe, but also be a strengthening balm to those who do.
We have seen the power of the Word of God in our lives. Colton's experience has only strengthened our faith in God's Word and its unalterable truth. It is powerful and relevant to our lives today, and for eternity. So now we want to spend time in Scripture, our final authority, to explore why we should care about heaven.
* Why did you decide to participate in this study?
* Is the reality of heaven something you have ever thought or cared about before today? Why or why not?
* Do you believe we will experience an afterlife? If so, what concepts of heaven or of afterlife have you previously held?
Watch Session 1 Intro Video Message
Who is God? That is a question we must be able to answer for ourselves. In order to pray in true, believing power, we must know the One whose touch we seek. To share our faith in Christ with others, we must be able to introduce them to our Father.
The one true God, the God Colton met in heaven, is the holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2–3; 2 Samuel 23:2-3; lob 33:4; Micah 5:2; John 1:1–3, 14; 8:58, 10:30; 15:26). He is real and personal and holy. So when we say, "God," we are not referring to a generic "higher power," or a god we've made up from our own wishes, but the holy God of heaven and earth, the Author of eternity.
It is a fact that God, in some form, however mistaken, is acknowledged by most; however, far too often, Jesus is invisible. The One who revealed to us the very character and nature of God (John 14:8-10), the One who died so that we could know the Father and live eternally with Him (John 17:3), is conspicuously absent from most aspects of society.
* What thoughts do you have when you consider the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Can you think of examples in God's Word, the Bible, that would enable you to better grasp this difficult concept?
* Have you noticed the absence of Jesus, even in places where God may be acknowledged? Does that trouble you? Why or why not?
* What are some examples of "gods" we try to create for ourselves? How do they stand up against the one true God we find in Scripture?
* Being totally honest, describe God's nature or value in your own experience.
* How important is it to be clear on God's identity?
Watch DVD Session 1
Just as it is important to know what we mean by "God," it's vital to know what we mean by "heaven." We are not talking about a hybrid destination that some religions call "nirvana," "becoming one with the universe," or "reincarnation" of some form or other. We are talking about the eternal home prepared by God for those who have believed in and followed Him, a home made available to us through the salvation provided by Jesus Christ, His Son. We' re talking about everlasting closeness to God in the place where He has righted all wrongs and healed all wounds of this present world. Heaven is the fulfillment of God's kingdom and our life in Him.
Knowing the reality of this eternal home can be the life preserver that keeps our heads above water when life becomes overwhelming. Holding a biblically valid perspective can help us keep walking, even when the problems of the world challenge every step. We will spend eternity somewhere, so it is vital to think about, and know to our fullest ability, where that will be. In Colton's words, it is so important to know that "heaven is for real."
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (NKJV)
Matthew 25:32–34, 41, 46:
'All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world' ... Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels' ... And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (NKJV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NKJV)
* Has what we've discussed in this session changed your view of heaven? If so, how so?
* How does your current view of heaven contrast with your prior concepts?
* What first intrigued you about Colton's story? What encouraging experiences have you already had or heard about, stemming from the sharing of his journey?
* How have you been strengthened to share your faith and your own stories?
* John 5:24–29 makes it very clear that we will all spend eternity somewhere—we will either live in eternal life or everlasting condemnation. How can knowing that eternal life, true life with God, is your ultimate future help you face the challenges you have on this earth? How does knowing the reality of unending condemnation for those who do not know Christ motivate you to share the truth of salvation and eternal security in Him?
* In Matthew 25, we see this truth shown even further. Heaven is the kingdom created for us "from the foundation of the world" (v. 34 NKJV). God prepared our eternal home before we even came into being. How does that fact affect the way you think about heaven?
* In light of John 5 and Matthew 25, why should we care about heaven?
* In the beginning of this session, we discussed how society acknowledges God, yet tragically ignores Jesus. What does Romans 6:23 tell us about the presence of God the Father and Jesus when it comes to eternity? Who is the source of our eternal life in heaven?
Lord, we thank You for loving us enough to provide salvation from our sins and to prepare an eternal home for us. We pray that You will bless our study and allow Your Word to speak to us, teach us, challenge us, encourage us, and renew us. We thank You for the journey You've given to Colton and his family, and for their faithfulness in sharing it. Please be with us as we continue to encounter the reality of your kingdom.
It is so difficult for us to even imagine the glorious world Colton visited. How can our limited human minds conceive of the eternal wonders of God?
Colton used the words he knew at the age of four to attempt to describe the incomparable beauty and indescribable majesty of our Father's kingdom. His experience is much like the apostle John's, recorded in the book of Revelation, as John attempted to convey sights and sounds that were beyond his understanding. The apostle knew that mere words could not fully communicate the awesome richness of heaven, so more than sixty times he described his experience using the comparative "like." (See, for example, Revelation 1:10, 13; 4:1, 6–7; 6:1; 8:8, 10.)
But through the eyes of a child, we have been given a glimpse of the sublime experience that awaits those who know the Son of God.
Read Deuteronomy 4:29 and Matthew 7:7–8.
Seek Him and you will find Him! God is available and ready to meet you when you set your heart on seeking His face.
We may not be able to sit on Jesus' lap and know the feel of His tender touch. We may not be granted the joy of looking into the loving eyes of our Savior before the day He takes us home. It may be the other side of eternity that reveals to us the glory of God's throne. But Jesus tells us we can know Him now. Through prayer and studying His Word, we can have the unparalleled contentment of intimacy with the Lord. Our Savior promises that He will reveal Himself to those who seek Him. Spend time with the Lord. Learn the gentle timbre of His voice as He speaks to your soul. Begin to hear the very heartbeat of your Creator as you encounter the Author of life. Drink deep of the water of life that pours forth for all who come near to God's throne of grace. Experience the joy of looking deep into the eyes of the very Source of life and love—our eternal, triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
POINTS TO PONDER
What does it mean to discover intimacy with Jesus Christ as Lord?
What steps can you take to make intimacy with Jesus a reality in your life?
Are prayer and Bible study an important part of your life? How much time do you spend with the Lord each day? Does that amount of time accurately reflect His importance in your life?
Write down the words that honestly describe your faith relationship with Christ. ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________
Write down the words that truthfully describe your relationship with His church. ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________
What is your reaction to the descriptors you've used in the previous two questions? If your relationships with the Lord and His church are not what you desire them to be, how can improve these relationships?
Bringing It Home
Why should we care about heaven?
Read Revelation 21:1–5, 23–27; 22:1–5. What do you learn from these passages?
Describe how you see heaven.
Who lives in heaven?
What do you think it will be like to see Jesus for the first time?
What do you think it will be like to see God for the first time?
What are some things that happen to you that make you sad?
What will it be like to be in a place where you are never sad?
How do you get to heaven?
Jesus, we thank You for our family. Thank You for creating a home for us today, and for creating a home for us in heaven that will last forever. Please bless our family, Jesus. Help us always remember how much You love us. Show us how best to love our family, even on days when it seems hard. Help us to know You better every day, and remind us of all the wonderful things You have done for us. Amen.
Chapter TwoSESSION 2 What Is Heaven Like?
We all have questions about what heaven is like; but trying to describe heaven is a lot like trying to describe New York City to someone from an ancient time. Heaven is beyond our world, outside our dimension. It is a spiritual realm, and we live in a physical one. We can only use our own limited words, knowledge, and experiences to communicate things that are beyond our physical world. Some things Colton saw during his visit to heaven have been the source of disagreement and much discussion. We understand that. All we can do is share what he saw in the best way we know. But there are certain truths about heaven that cannot be denied. In this session, we want to focus on those truths as Colton experienced them and, most important, as Scripture describes them.
Jesus said, "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2–3 NKJV). He also confirmed to us that His Father is our Father (Luke 11:2). What amazing truth: Jesus has prepared a place for us in our heavenly Father's house!
Colton's favorite place in God's house was His throne room. Colton sat there with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You may find yourself wishing you could experience that same presence of the one true God. You can! God's throne room is a place where all who believe on the name of Jesus are welcome. God has issued an open invitation to live forever with Him in His house; to accept, we must simply believe in Christ as our personal Savior. Jesus is the door to God's house, giving us entrance into our true home of pure joy, meaning, and purpose.
We can have discussions about particular details of heaven, such as the presence of animals or whether or not we will have wings, but the ultimate truth is that heaven is very real, and we can live there eternally with God.
Now let's go a little further in Colton's journey, exploring the Word of God as we find out even more about what heaven is like.
* What are some specific questions you've had about heaven?
* So far in our study, has the idea of heaven become more real to you? Why or why not? If it has become more real to you, in what way?
Watch Session 2 Intro Video Message
When considering what heaven is like, it is often tempting to be overwhelmed by complicated theories or details. Trying to describe an unknown place, much less a heavenly one, can be a massive challenge. We can get caught up in discussions about things such as streets of gold, or whether or not we'll see our pets there. And those aren't bad discussions. But perhaps the essence of what heaven is like doesn't have to be that complex. In the midst of all the details, what is it that truly defines heaven? Very simply, heaven is God's house. God's presence is there, and that is what makes heaven, heaven.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that we are created in God's image. But here on earth, it can be difficult to look in a mirror and see a reflection of the divine. It is easy to get caught up in our shortcomings, failures, and sometimes decidedly ungodly behavior. Yet, we are created in the image of God, and we are the very object of His affection (John 3:16). We were created by Him and for Him, so living eternally in His presence will be our ultimate fulfillment.
Heaven is meant to be our eternal home. As masters of our own homes, we do not grant entry to uninvited, unknown people; they cannot come in and do as they please. We welcome people into our homes who have requested entrance; we open our doors to those we know. We learn through God's Word that Jesus is the door to God's house and the only way into that perfect place (John 10:9). Heaven was prepared for us before the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34), but entrance into that perfect place will be granted only to those who know heaven's Master, Jesus. None of us can follow our own road to heaven; neither can we map out our own strategies to gain entrance. There is no alternate door.
Excerpted from Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo Copyright © 2011 by HIFR Ministries, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. 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.