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Jesus Is Better than You Imagined Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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"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.com. 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.
Follow Jonathan on twitter: @jonathanmerritt
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Top Customer Reviews
The stories are from Jonathan's life, either directly or indirectly. Nothing ends in a neat little package, but in every instance you know that Jesus is in the midst of sickness, death, poverty and our deepest pain--there's a story for everyone. We see that Jesus isn't a miracle machine for our every whim, but that He is right by our side no matter what the journey might have for us.
As I finish the book I think of my friends who, like me, came along during the time of the Jesus Freaks of the late 1960's/early 1970's. I had already made a commitment to Jesus, but this period of time took stale religion and gave us life. Today, we are all near 60 and have found that we want that same experience again. We aren't interested in the mega-church mentality, and we aren't interested in all the internal programs, nor are we interested in the 'name it and claim it' message...instead we want Jesus. This book is renewing. I could see my walk with The Lord in each page, and stories help affirm the rough places I've experienced through my life.
This is a must-read for any person, but especially those who might be experiencing a season in life when the freshness of their Christian experience has given way to a desert.
I co-lead an addiction recovery group at my church, and reading that article (which I came to find out was an excerpt of this book) felt like so many of the sob-strangled confessions I hear week in and week out. Laced with a rawness and reality that lends itself to one's true understand of the gospel, I hung onto every word ... seeing past the memoir of another person, and finding God in my own story.
So obviously, I bought the book. And finished it in less than a week, which is a rarity for me. I almost ALWAYS read half of a book, assume I know what they're getting at, and call it good. But not this time. Every new place Jonathan reveals that he meets Jesus is a new place I was encouraged to look for Him. And I couldn't get enough.
As a former disenfranchised, embittered girl injured by the bible-belt church (turned lover of the Church), the first 9 chapters of this book riled something up in me. I felt vindicated and justified in my previous notions toward the Church. Though I don't maintain that hurt, I took comfort in the public proclamation that I wasn't the only one. And I felt a sense of justice. But then I got to Chapter 10. And without giving too much away because I so desperately want you to read it, I was faced with the sin in my own heart, tasted the sweetness of conviction and repented.
Jesus met me in the pages of this book. The words are challenging and bold, and at the same time, I want to curl up under them and take a nap in the comforting "me too" the rings throughout. I am thankful to Jonathan for his bravery and audacity to take hold of the freedom that Christ died to bring, and to use his gifts as an ambassador of Christ ... the real one, who truly is better than I could have ever imagined.