The JIBTYI notes – part 1 – Good Gifts
It’s a funny old thing this Christian life, sometimes when you are muddled about what you are to do; if you are to try and keep pressing, or to try and find a way of balancing a “normal” life with this life of pursuing God that you have felt called to, but is so much more difficult that it at times feels less than appealing. Sometimes something comes along that just rocks your world and removes any question of the status quo that was threatening to creep in. So here is the story of my experience with reading the book “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” by Jonathan Merritt.
As I stated in my review, I jotted down ten pages of notes while reading the book the first time, countless other thoughts, recollections and revelations came to me in addition to that. The question was what do to with all that? The answer? Well I have a blog and on occasion I like to assign essays to myself, so here is the Jesus Is Better Than I Imagined essay. I am going to try not to re-write the book from my perspective, or hold an imaginary conversation with the author, although I’m sure there will be elements of both, the main purpose of this is to write my story of reading an awesome book. In the process I hope to work through most of the thoughts that I had, if for no reason than to not waste them. I have stacks of sermon notes that I’ve taken over the years, I rarely look at them or use them, I didn’t want the notes I made reading this book to go the same way. There is a verse in Philippians that supports this:
4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy think about these things.
“Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined” (JIBTYI) is Jonathan Merritt’s third book, the first I have read and honestly the first time I have ever heard of him. I came across the book in an odd sort of way. We have been following a Matt Chandler study on the book of Philippians in my Saturday morning men’s group. I like Matt, he is a very good teacher and the study (while long) has been excellent. So as part of my efforts to make twitter a batter place, I found Matt on there and followed him. On March 29th he tweeted this:
It was an extract from JIBTYI, chapter 5 – A Thread Called Grace, so I clicked on the link and read the piece, feeling a combination of empathy and sympathy I clicked on the favorite button on twitter and moved on with my evening. That, I subconsciously assumed, would be that. Maybe one day I’d pick up the whole book, but probably not.
However, within a day I received a notification from twitter that Jonathan Merritt was now following me, following “huh” and the question of “who?” I followed the link to discover that it was the author of the piece I had read the night before. Kind of cool I thought and so I followed back, proper etiquette and all that. Over the next few weeks as Mr Merritt posted brief excerpts from his book, it moved from a maybe I’ll pick this up to this is one of the next books that I will read, which it soon became.
Now, the skeptic would tell you that this is nothing short of good marketing, find people who clearly like a part of your book, connection with them through a virtual social network and try and get them to part with the $20 to buy your book. Now I can see this point of view and even in this case, from the world’s perspective it may be true. I’d prefer to think that Jonathan is more like me than a marketing company and just wants to connect with likeminded people, but regardless, that is not the point. Here is the point, I loved this book, Jesus knew I would love this book and so He did whatever it would take to get me to read it. This is the first lesson I learned, something I have always know at some level, but for whatever reason I get it now. You see, I am an adopted child of God, He loves me, as hard as it is for me to imagine He loves me even more than I love my daughter. If I find something that I think my daughter will like, I get it for her, I want her to enjoy being alive, I want her to know she is loved. Is it really that much of a stretch to think that God would do the same for me? No, it is not, the beautiful part is this is not just my imagination, if you believe the bible is true, it’s right there.
New English Translation (NET)
12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.
New English Translation (NET)
9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Or course this all goes back to the old could I be wrong question, of course I could, I have always said that for all the conviction I have in my beliefs, I understand that I could be completely wrong. Here is the thing though, believing this, believing that I have a loving Father, heavenly savior and a spiritual advocate, makes my own personal life a much better thing than listening to the world ever did. A world that gave me nothing but spite and hate, belittlement and lies, you can have your skepticism and pessimism and I will have the love of God.
The strange thing with these gifts or pointers of whatever from God is that half the time I am unaware of it until later. Sometimes it seems like I am just a passenger in this life, so much is going on behind the scenes that I am rarely aware of. Part of this whole living consciously thing is to try and fight that, as well as to just be a better human being. Reading books like JIBTYI and the authors profound capacity to think, deeply, outside of the box, really lets me know that I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be with this. I don’t know if this bothers me (the subconscious activity that I am unaware of) or if I really like it, like I am being nurtured and cared for in ways that I cannot even begin to comprehend. Maybe that is something I can practice my thinking with.