I recently was given the opportunity to read Frank Viola's newest book, "God's Ultimate Passion", and I found it to be absolutely fantastic! I haven't interviewed non-fiction authors on my blog before, but I figured this was the perfect book and author to break the previous cycle!
Frank took the truth of God's Word and presented it in a striking analogy that leaves a reader with not only a wide-eyed expression and an open mouth, but a deeper realization of the concept of True Love. He presented an age-old truth with a fresh understanding of Christ's passionate love for His bride - the church!
Betsy: Thank you for joining us today, Frank! Tell us, what inspired you to write "God's Ultimate Passion"?
Frank: It's good to be here, Betsy. To answer your question, three things in the main. First, many Christians are seeking a clear understanding of their purpose in life. I think the astronomical sales of Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" is sturdy evidence of this. Yet, I've talked with so many Christians who have read Warren's book who've admitted, "I still have no idea what God's purpose is for my life, nor what my purpose is." So I wanted to set forth a clear unveiling of what Paul's phrase, "the eternal purpose of God," is all about. Understanding that purpose will ignite a passion in one's heart for Jesus Christ. That's what it did for me, so I wanted to share it with others.
The second reason is that I believe that most Christians suffer from an identity crisis. We really don't understand how God sees us. If we are honest, most of us plug through life with an inferiority complex, a sense of guilt, condemnation, and fear of God. When I speak at conferences, whether in the States or overseas, the Christians I meet are loaded down with the feeling that they aren't doing enough to please God. They're constantly striving to do better, be better, and make God happy. So another reason why I wrote the book was to forever liberate Christians from this mentality. If they could see the overwhelming passion that Jesus Christ has for them, it would change their attitude toward themselves, their fellow Christians, and the Lord Himself. In short, they'd fall in love with the Lord like never before. The secret of having passion for God is to understand and embrace His passion for us.
The third reason is to shift the perspective from ourselves to the Lord. We humans are at the center of much of the preaching today. Being saved so that we don't have to go to hell benefits us humans. Being healed and blessed by God's goodness benefits us humans. Helping the poor and needy helps us humans. All these things are good. But there is a desire in God that has nothing to do with benefiting us humans (although that's a by-product). And so the book seeks to shift the "me-centered" gospel to a "God-centered" perspective where we realize that we Christians are part of something much larger than we've ever dreamed, and the Lord has a driving desire that we can fulfill. And that desire is related to a spiritual passion and a heavenly romance with Jesus Christ.
Betsy: In your novel, you present an amazing analogy of Christ and His love for the church. Have you received any negative feedback on presenting an idea some people might deem as a little "out-there"?
Frank: No, not yet :-) I have received this comment though: "I have been a Christian all my life and I had no idea that any of this was in the Bible! It's become a new book for me."
One of the women who read the book said this: "I was amazed. I was captivated. It was the Bridegroom revealed in such a compelling way that I tearfully rejoiced. Could it be true? The story I had known as a child suddenly took on new dimensions."
There is a grand narrative in the Bible that we often miss because it's rarely preached today. God’s quest for a Bride for God's Son can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. God’s quest to have a home to live in and to express His nature through is another theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation. Also, God's quest to have a Family that possesses His own nature and shares His life is another consistent theme from the beginning of the Bible to the end. My book seeks to trace all of these themes and shows them to be the grand narrative of Scripture and the driving passion of our God.
We are made in God's image. Hence, the consuming love that a man has for a woman when he falls in love is but a pale image of the love that Jesus Christ has for His Bride. And we are part of that Bride! So too, the paternal drive to have children is another reflection of God's drive to have kids. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul asked, "Does not nature teach you"? Nature teaches us a great deal about our Lord. We just have to pay attention to the lessons that it teaches.
For many Christians, terms like "Bride of Christ," "Family of God," "Body of Christ," and "House of God" are pretty anemic and colorless. We hear them tossed around so much that we just shrug our shoulders and say, "Of course; I know what that means." My book seeks to completely repaint those phrases and infuse them with their original beauty, awe, and wonder. It seeks to recapture the incredible power and imagery that the Bible seeks to portray through them.
Betsy: How long did the research for this book take you?
Frank: About 42 years :-) Truthfully, I've been working on this book all of my life. In many ways, it's my story of being a Christian and my discovery of what following Christ is all about.
Betsy: I loved how you quoted from the movie "The Notebook". Did you draw from other fictional movies or novels when writing your book?
Frank: "The Notebook" is one of my favorite movies of all time. As with any romance, it contains faint images of the passion, love, and unconditional affection that Jesus Christ has for His beloved Bride. This is one of the points I make in the book.
Some other movies that have helped me to see the parallels between their storylines and Christ’s love for His church (though I don't quote from them) are "Bed of Roses," “A Walk in the Clouds,” and "Message in a Bottle."
Betsy: Tell us a little about your own personal faith journey.
Frank: In one of the last chapters, I give a run-down of my spiritual journey. Essentially, I've been part of all the major denominations in evangelical Christianity since I was a teen. For the first ten years of my Christian life, I’ve chased various "spiritual things" that many Christians chase after. Some of them being evangelism, personal holiness, the gifts of the Spirit, apologetics, the power of God, Bible study, etc. But one day I discovered that the only thing worth chasing is Jesus Christ Himself. Everything else wears out and grows stale. Only He gives life and sustains it. Christianity, therefore, is not just about getting saved and getting others saved. It's about a growing love affair with Jesus Christ that leads into wonderful experiences, adventures, and a new direction, purpose, and passion for living. One that is free of guilt, religious duty, pressure, conformity, and condemnation. It's my observation that few Christians have had this experience. Thus another reason for the book: To open up a new universe of intimate relationship with Christ and His followers that’s available to every child of God.
Betsy: What do you hope to see accomplished with this book? What do you want readers to draw from it and keep as their own?
Frank: I hope that every individual reader will be set free from a Christian hangover of guilt and will fall deeply and madly in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. I also hope that it will give all Christians a brand new appreciation for and fresh insight into the Biblical story. But ultimately, I hope it helps to launch a revolution in the Christian faith whereby God's people begin to explore God's ultimate passion and will give their lives to it! I have hope that this will happen. Since the book’s release last month, a number of my readers have ordered cases of the book to give out to their friends.
Your readers can read a sample chapter of the book, one entitled "Loving Extravagently" at www.ptmin.org/sample.htm
Betsy: What are you working on now? What can readers look forward to seeing from you next?
Frank: Presently, I'm writing a book called THE CHURCH AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART to be released later this year. It's my story of experimenting with different forms of church and what I found in doing so. We live in a day where many Christians are re-evaluating their experience with church. There’s a lot of experimentation going on with new forms and expressions of church. George Barna’s best-selling book Revolution discusses this major trend.
THE CHURCH AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART is sort of a narrative memoir of one man's journey to find “the church after God's own heart.” For that reason, it has a biographical flavor in the same vein that books like Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz" and Anne Lamott's "Traveling Mercies" do.
Betsy: Oh, it sounds great! So tell us, who are a few of your own favorite authors?
Frank: Writers of the past: Watchman Nee, T. Austin-Sparks, F.F. Bruce, and A.W. Tozer. Writers in the present: Max Lucado, Ben Witherington, and Howard Snyder.
Betsy: Fantastic list. Well Frank, thank you so much for visiting my blog today! I've enjoyed our time together. And readers, you don't want to miss "God's Ultimate Passion"! Order your own copy here!
To read more about Frank Viola and his books, check out his website at http://www.ptmin.org/
Also, visit this link to read an inspiring article entitled "God's View of Women"