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Heaven’s Lessons: Ten Things I Learned about God When I Died;by Steve Sjogren; book review


Thank you booksneeze for the opportunity to review this work, and as always, thank you for investing in my spiritual walk with great resources.

Many of us have had NDE (Near Death Experiences) but does a believer interpret them differently than a non-believer? What about suffering does a Christian interpret suffering differently than a non-believer?  These are some of the types of challenges you will encounter as you engage this work from the acclaimed author of many works, most to do with servant evangelism.  In this work, Steve describes how a surgery that went terribly wrong produced a lot of right in his life.

In 1994, I died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital after being hit by an oncoming vehicle on my way to Massachusetts on leave from the U.S. Army.  That moment like Steve’s became a defining point in my life and its impact still reaches me to this day.  It is this that drew me to this book by one of my favorite servant evangelism advocates, Steve Sjogren.

The 10 titles of chapters outline the 10 things that Steve learned and they are;

1.  We live in a spiritual world

2.  God is BIG

3.  Success works backwards

4.  God especially enjoys irregular people

5.  Don’t fear death

6.  Quit quitting

7.  God heals gradually

8.  Get over it!

9.  Face your fear

10.  Be thankful.

The three chapters which impacted me most were 4, 8, and 10.  I seriously considered the retyping the sections on these chapters as they are continuing themes in my writing, living, and discipleship evangelism.

In chapter 4, the section I am talking about is the “How do you define success?”  In it, Steve gives a modern parable of shoe wearers.  The poor with no shoes who are given shoes for the first time and those who have had shoes and never see how callous they have become to those who don’t have shoes.  This parable is in actuality about the ‘messy’ folks who are not welcome at most of our churches and the owners of multiple pairs of ‘shoes’ who are oblivious to those who they are supposed to reaching.

“One of the great problems in the church scene is that, once there is a measure of success after kickoff—usually among the poor, the irregular, those in need of mercy—church folk forget their roots and begin to only focus on ‘discipleship,’ which in many cases is just a synonym for ‘personal growth.’  From then on, they only give lip service to caring for the people who built the atmosphere that launched them—the very starting point that brought them life to begin with.  In the name of personal growth the system becomes fixated on inward selfishness, and what got them where they are today evaporates.”

Chapter 7, aptly titled ‘Get over it’ had a sub-area that got me really jazzed.  One of the few authors out there who are influenced by integration (*see below) psychology who rightly exegetes and starts a the sub chapter of ‘Jesus prescription for forgiveness’ with an discussion of Matthew 5:23-24 – a full gospel.  Summary of which challenges the the believer to go first and reconcile before even worshipping God!  Not a popular sentiment in Christian sufferology today. I was excited about this because many are not strong to call us to task to clean up our messes and instead expect Jesus to clean it up for them without any responsibility.  Bad theology and for once, a it was gotten right in Steve’s book.

Steve’s chapter 10 did not cause me to be thankful specifically, but I mention I here because it should have, but it remind me of the convicting and ‘far away never mind’ impact of my own personal NDE and how I have become bitter and resentful about areas of life rather than being thankful for another breath.  For seeing God’s holiness in light of my own sinfulness and the Cross is only getting bigger when I preach the gospel to myself.  Steve’s book made me do that so I say thank you.

This book was a welcome read as I mentioned previously with my own personal NDE.  However, I hesitate, I think to put this experience as a normative or imperative teaching tool for a Christian’s life needs discernment.  I know many humble and meek saints who have not had NDE and live out the same lessons and with much more humility than I.  I think there should be some caution here with sensationalizing experiences and making them normative.

Further, I am constantly amazed with God’s providential plan as I see where people go when they suffer and Steve goes to psychotherapy and I went to my Bible, yet both cross paths with some similar ‘walk-away’s’ and in other areas there is clearly not a joining of paths.

Steve did make me think, as always, and is able to hold the reader’s attention, however I did not sense the ‘10 Lessons’ flowing as smoothly or even biblically in some areas.  Steve does mention scripture and references it, but it is not the foundation or rock on which his worldview lens goes through.  I kept thinking the whole time that this book was a psychotherapy assignment for him to ‘heal his wounds’ rather than a treatise on getting a second chance, calling and challenging believers to risk and be more of what God created us for.  I continue to be grieved at the anti-intellectualism of our age in which Christians spend more time learning from the world than listening/reading of God’s Word.  I mean to even be thankful for that opportunity that was not available to the 1st Century Church (having a Bible to reference)!  I want to suggest that I see some items that should bring caution to the Christian reader as they read this book and why I would not recommend it 100% wholeheartedly without some discerning discipleship through some of the concepts.  Discernment is needed when we attempt “…the counsel of many men is wise” and present it as something God is doing.  We live in a therapeutic gospel culture and everyone is practicing this religion at some level or another.

Final disclaimer:  This review was written without talking personally with Steven on this topic and I hope, was presented in a way that encouraging, edifying, but also speaking the truth in love and willing to have ‘hills to die on’ if need be, but I do not want to present one believer throwing stones at another believer.  I know Steve will be in heaven and I will see him there.  There are evidences of God’s grace in his life that the Father sees that is so far beyond my depraved thinking.

Psychological Thinking

It is inevitable that psychologists will think psychologically, he says. Christians might well suspect that Christian psychologists have admitted concepts into their thinking which compromise biblical content. Anyone familiar with psychological theories should recognize that secular concepts underlie much of their systems, especially in the area of unconscious drives and the need to return to the past to achieve healing in the present.
William Glasser writes that “conventional psychiatry holds that an essential part of treatment is probing into the patient’s past life—searching for the psychological roots of his problem.”19 Psychiatry holds that a patient must understand his unconscious drives if he is going to change his way of thinking and acting.

This emphasis on the unconscious is an essential premise of psychological counseling. The prevailing psychological doctrine is that “to really understand your daughter’s anorexia or your own lack of self-confidence, you must go outside the Church, or at least to a pastor with psychological training.”20

I readily admit that some of what integrationists write is helpful and biblically solid. The danger is found in the integrationist foundation, which rests upon the psychological concepts of man rather than on the scriptural precepts of God. Prevailing psychological theory says that if you want to be changed from the inside out, you must “explore the imperfections of key relationships until you experience deep disappointment.”21 Counselors who follow this doctrine believe that “keenly felt disappointment in the present supplies the energy for passionate hope for the future.”22

Most Christians will agree that for genuine change to occur, the Holy Spirit must act on a person’s heart as He makes him a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But many integrationists believe that all human relationships lead inevitably to disappointment and pain, and that most problems stem from “hidden internal causes.” Sin itself is defined in terms of disappointment: “Most habits that we seem powerless to control grow out of our attempts to relieve the unbearable tension that results from our failure to deal with the disappointment of our deepest longings for relationship,”23 a Christian psychologist writes.

Integrationists theorize that the most devastating sin is the “sin of self-protection,”24 and that we need to embrace our hurts.25 “The more deeply we enter our disappointment, the more thoroughly we can face our sin,”26 one psychologist states authoritatively as though it is a biblical truth.

But one should ask, Why must we embrace our hurts and enter our disappointment all over again? Where in the Bible do integrationists find this concept of reliving the painful past in order to be healed in the present?

My purpose here is not to critique integrationist counseling systems point by point. It is important, however, to understand that as committed to Christ as many integrationists are, their theories of counseling appear to be strongly influenced by unproven psychological concepts.

Ed Bulkley, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1993). 31-33.

204315: Heaven"s Lesson"s: Ten Things I Learned About God When I Died Heaven’s Lesson’s: Ten Things I Learned About God When I Died
By Steve Sjogren / Thomas Nelson

Death was an abstract concept for Sjogren—until he experienced it firsthand! Relating his amazing story, he talks about his encounters with heavenly beings and the priceless lessons God taught him during his “celestial” journey. Discover how to deal with suffering and desperation, resolve conflict, live a Spirit-filled life, and more. 208 pages, softcover from Nelson.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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