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Jesus Is Better than You Imagined Hardcover – April 1, 2014

4.6 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Well-written, bold, and honest. This book by my friend Jonathan will no doubt introduce many seekers, skeptics, strugglers, and "saints" to the Jesus they've never known but longed to meet--One who gives grace to broken and burned-out people without disclaimers, qualifications, or asterisks. A true celebration of one-way love." (Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and author of One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World)

"Jonathan paints a picture of a God who loves a good surprise and meets us in ways we may not have considered. So read this book expectantly. It will shatter your misconceptions and help you encounter a God more wonderful than you ever conceived." (Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker)

"Theology divorced from autobiography is like making love out of a love manual. With JESUS IS BETTER THAN YOU IMAGINED, Jonathan Merritt gives us a theological gem based on his own life story. This book got me so excited about Jesus that it almost left me winded. If you have ever despaired of the church, or departed from the faith, or know someone who has, there is no better book on the market to illuminate the darkness with lightning strikes of divine presence and power." (Leonard Sweet, bestselling author, professor (Drew University / George Fox University) and chief contributor to Sermons.com)

"Jonathan speaks to the human heart, with words poured from his own. This book is one of the bravest works I've had the privilege to read. May his strength inspire ours." (Rebekah Lyons, author of Freefall to Fly and co-founder of Q Ideas)

"With his usual word-magic, Jonathan Merritt reminds us that Jesus has survived all the embarrassing things that we Christians have done in his name. He shows you the Jesus who challenges the chosen, includes the excluded, assaults closed minds, opens hard hearts, and defies all the boxes, categories, and camps... the one who left the comfort of heaven to join the struggle on earth to show us who God is and what love looks like with skin on. It is an invitation to fall in love-maybe again, or maybe for the first time-with love-made-flesh, and he's better than you could ever imagine." (Shane Claiborne, activist and bestselling author of The Irresistible Revolution and Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers)

"Jonathan Merritt is fast becoming one of the most influential Christian writers today. He has a pulse on culture and a gift for communicating. JESUS IS BETTER THAN YOU IMAGINED is a practical and poetic book that leads readers into the arms of a sometimes startling God. In a time when young people are growing disenchanted with religion, this book comes not a moment too soon to remind us that Jesus is all we need." (Brad Lomenick, president of Catalyst and author of The Catalyst Leader)

"Stirring, soaring, surprising. This is a delightful glimpse into the epic greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Frank Viola, author of God's Favorite Place on Earth, Jesus Manifesto, and Epic Jesus)

"True to the genre of the younger evangelical leader memoirs, there is an honesty and an integrity in Jonathan Merritt's JESUS IS BETTER THAN YOU IMAGINED. But what drives Jonathan's story is a recurring emptiness on the part of a believer who probes spiritual disciplines, creation, struggles with sin and ultimately God in the face of Jesus. That probing overshadowed everything in this book for me, a probing I found both honest and encouraging, a probing that does not pretend doubt and dryness are gone once one is a Christian. Jonathan's story will be encouraging to young and old alike." (Scot McKnight, author and New Testament professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary)

"Jonathan Merritt is an incisive, winsome writer and one of the best storytellers I know. In JESUS IS BETTER THAN YOU IMAGINED, he invites us to move beyond legalism, beyond cynicism, and beyond fear to the feet of Jesus, where love always prevails. This book is both brutally honest and stubbornly hopeful. Grace permeates every page." (Rachel Held Evans, New York Times bestselling author of author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood and Evolving in Monkey Town)

About the Author

Jonathan Merritt is a faith and culture writer who has published more than 1,000 articles in outlets such as The Atlantic, USA Today, National Journal, The Washington Post, and CNN. He is a senior columnist for Religion News Service, America's largest provider of news and commentary focused on religion and spirituality. His previous books include, A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars and Green Like God, which Publisher's Weekly called, mandatory reading for churchgoers. Recently named one of 30 leaders reshaping Christian leadership by Outreach Magazine, Jonathan has become a popular speaker at conferences, colleges, and churches. As a respected Christian voice, he has been interviewed by ABC World News, Fox News, CNN, NPR, PBS, Politico, Slate, and The New York Times. Jonathan sits on the national board of directors for Bethany Christian Services, America's largest adoption and orphan care agency. He holds master's degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Emory University's Candler School of Theology, and he resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: FaithWords (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455527874
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455527878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Martin on April 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Another one? Do we really need another book telling us what many of us have been told all of our lives and what countless books before hand have as well? Yes! Yes, because, if we didn’t, there would have been no need for those countless books that came before Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined by Jonathan Merritt. So what is the difference? Why this book and why now? Like many, I was born and raised in a family of faith. My God-fearing, Christ-loving parents loved us so much that they sought to instill Biblical truth and values into me and my two brothers and three sisters from the beginning. I grew up in what I still consider to be great churches. My parents loved me in a way I can only describe as being the closest example of God’s love that I could find on earth. Why then, having reached age 49, do I need another book telling me how good Jesus is? Despite my Godly, unconditionally loving parents and my enviable childhood I grew into a man whose life has nearly been destroyed by fear and shame that has resulted in explosive and debilitating anger and rage, depression and anxiety. SHAME of not feeling good enough in school, in relationships, in work and essentially every area of my life. FEAR that I could not and would not ever be good enough. And I lived out of that fear and shame and my life and everything I value in it was almost completely destroyed. I read many of the books that came before. I am in my fifth year of biblically-based 12 step recovery. So what about this book? Why do I need it? Jonathan Merritt has succeeded in communicating a familiar message in a way that I and many other people could understand unlike anything that has come before. And it has changed my life like nothing that has come before. The book is simple and easy to understand.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
Everyone has an idea of what Jesus is like. Within Evangelical Christianity you’ll get a similar answer from most people. Most of them make Jesus sound great (though unfortunately some groups manage to make Him sound awful). But we still have our own ideas, and sometimes those are shaped through negative experiences. But…what if Jesus is better than you imagine? What if He is better than His followers make Him out to be? In his newest book, Jonathan Martin shares many stories from his own life and how he came to be surprised at where he found Jesus.

Ever since I read A Faith of Our Own a couple of years ago, I’ve been reading Jonathan’s writing. I regularly check his articles for Religion News Service and have been anticipating this book. I tore through it as soon as I received it.

This is a deeply personal book, much more so than I anticipated. Jonathan’s stories are moving, as he lays down parts of his life before us. They range across many emotions, from the terrifying encounter with armed bandits in Haiti to the serene peacefulness in a monastery.

Perhaps the strongest chapter is one titled, “A Thread Called Grace,” where Jonathan tells the heartbreaking story of being sexually abused as a child by an older, neighboring boy. This led him to feeling isolated and insecure, to the point of contemplating suicide when he was ten years old. He then goes on to share how these experiences shaped his understanding of his own sexuality.

“The human inclination is to conceal when we feel naked or exposed or vulnerable. I wanted to hide from the pain of sexual abuse and the confusion I felt, so my mask rarely came off. I lived behind it.” Page 89

A chapter that particularly struck me was, “A Tableless Home,” where Jonathan visits the capital of Nepal.
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Format: Hardcover
Have you ever experienced a time of spiritual dryness? I have, and to be really honest, I think I’ve been in the midst a dry time for a while now. It’s not that I don’t love the Lord, because I do; and it’s not that I doubt His goodness, because I don’t. It’s certainly not because He has abandoned me. I know He hasn’t. In fact, I think this desert might be a bit of my own making. I think though, that the time of spiritual drought is ending and the desert is going to blossom, because the Lord is raining down water to my parched soul.

It’s funny how God works sometimes. He knows what you need before you even do! I signed up to read and review Jonathan Merritt’s new book, Jesus is Better that You Imagined, quite a while ago, certainly before the dryness started, and then promptly forgot about it. When it arrived and I read the title and inside jacket, I knew God was speaking to me, calling me out of the desert, and He was going to use this book to help me.

In Jesus is Better that You Imagined, Jonathan Merritt, is so honest and vulnerable about his own times of spiritual dryness and his journey to a faith that is fulfilling, nourishing, and full of surprises as he experiences the love and grace of the Savior.

To say that God spoke to me through this book would be an understatement! The message of Jesus is Better than You Imagined is exactly what I needed to hear. It encouraged and spoke to my heart in so many ways. I have a feeling that there are many others who need to hear the same message that I did. If you are experiencing a time of dryness or if you want to prevent one, read this book and find out for yourself that Jesus IS better than you imagined.
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