1) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.
Seriously, one of the most amazing books I have ever read in my life. This is the true story of 4 year old Colton Burpo, whose appendix burst inside of him. After numerous life-threatening emergencies related to that, he emerged from the hospital after 2 weeks with incredible stories of being to heaven, retelling stories of people he met up there (including his great-grandfather whom he had never met on earth). Colton's father is a Wesleyan pastor and re-tells Colton's story through his own eyes as well as through Colton's.
The most impactful part of the entire book was, for me, when Colton announced to his mom and dad that he has a second sister whom he met in heaven. They had never told Colton that they had experienced a miscarriage before he was born. He tells his parents in detail what she said to him ("I can't wait to meet mommy and daddy!"), that she wouldn't stop hugging him, and what she looked like. Colton's mother burst into tears when she heard his account of the daughter they never knew they had (they didn't know if the baby was a boy or a girl).
Colton talks about what Jesus looks like, meeting Jesus' cousin John the Baptist ("he's a real nice guy") and other people whom he had never been taught about (at the young age of four).
This book truly changed the way I viewed heaven and the prayers of God's people here on earth. Colton talks about seeing the Holy Spirit "shoot down power" to his daddy during his daddy's sermons on Sunday mornings.
You can read an excerpt of the book on the Heaven is for Real website, and it is on sale right now at Amazon.com for only $6.49. I highly recommend getting this book ASAP.
2) 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
I admit that I've always been skeptical about this book, but I had a big lesson in humility since I actually read it and my views on it completely changed. This isn't just another book about someone's journey to heaven - this is a book about suffering on earth, a journey through depression and loss, and longing for heaven. Yes, Don Piper was pronounced dead for 90 minutes and also shares in detail what he saw. However, the book is a huge encouragement to those who are discouraged in their faith and suffering through various physical ailments.
What is interesting is that when I told a friend about the first book, she asked if I had read this one. Two days later I wandered into a used bookstore, and this book stood out on the shelf to me. It was only $1.00 so I picked it up. Reading this book at the same time as Heaven is for Real not only deeply encouraged me in my faith, but gave me a new-found desire to pray, because I know God hears and answers. (Not that I didn't know that before, but sometimes you just need fresh encouragement).
The similarities between what these two books shared regarding their accounts of heaven are strikingly vivid and similar. It feels odd to read a 4-year old's account, and then a 40-something year old's account, and have them be so alike. But they both provide descriptions that expand in detail what is already in the Bible.
These two books alone will bolster your faith like never before. I have been reminded of a few things through reading these:
-Prayers WORK. Do not stop praying!
-Jesus LOVES children. We need to cherish them more and treat them with patience and love.
-Their is a spiritual battle raging at all times.
-We need to share Jesus with others. It is URGENT. At the end of 90 Minutes in Heaven, the pastor who prayed for Don Piper to come back to life starts to cry in a restaurant they are in, and they have this conversation:
Dick Onerecker: "If you saw a little kid run out in the street, you'd dash out there and try to save the child's life. Human nature is like that We try to preserve life, and I will do that any time I get the opportunity. So would you...Yet here we are sitting in this [restaurant], surrounded by people, many of whom are probably lost and going to hell, and we won't say a word about how they can have eternal life. Something is wrong with us."
Don Piper: "You're absolutely right. We're willing to save someone in a visible crisis, but a lot of folks are in a spiritual crisis and we don't say a word about how they can get out of it."
Is that convicting or what? Does that not change your perspective a bit?
This book is also on sale at Amazon for only $8.47.
3) The last book I want to recommend is not one that I have read entirely, but I have read many portions of it. It is Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman.
Choosing to See is only $13.19 on Amazon.com. I highly recommend getting all 3 books together with Super-Saver Shipping for only $28.15 total - an awesome deal!
These three books together might seem a bit....depressing. But, in fact, they are exactly the opposite. They provide encouragement and fresh insight into our relationships with God.
If you need some encouragement, are going through a tough time, or know someone who is, pick up these books. If you or someone you love is facing a life-threatening illness, I know these books will encourage them (and you). I hope you are as blessed by them as I was!