Saturday, February 06, 2010

Interview With Author, Chris Tomlinson

Big day today. Here's our interview with the author of Crave, Chris Tomlinson. Also, big thanks to Chris and Harvest House Publishers for partnering with this blog. It's greatly appreciated. Our review of Crave will be up soon...hold tight.

Before jumping in, here's a little background on Chris...

Chris, a graduate from the U. S. Air Force Academy and the UCLA Anderson School of Business, is a businessman and writer who desires to see people realize the beauty and joy of knowing Jesus. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Anna. You can visit him here.

What led you down the road to writing Crave? How did the title end up as Crave?

Crave was born out of failure; more specifically, my own failure to be a spiritually disciplined person. I had read that doing any activity for 21 days straight would cause it to become a habit, and I started with flossing. Three weeks later, as I was resting on the laurels of my success, I turned my attention to spiritual matters, like prayer, or charity, or humility. My goal was to record what happened during each three-week period as I became this master of spiritual disciplines. I was going to call the book A Lifetime of 21 Days. This title didn’t last long.

My next working title was As God Gets Big, which I thought was great until my buddy’s sister asked if I meant that God was getting fat. This title didn’t last long either. I knew I needed something else that would capture the heart of this book, but nothing seemed to fit just right, until one day, as I was sitting on my couch and glanced up at our TV. I saw this picture that my wife, Anna, had taped, and on the picture was a young boy with a huge spoon and a cartoon of ice cream. Across the picture was the word “Crave.” I knew at that moment that this single word described the longing I felt within my soul for more of God. And the book got its name.

How does Crave speak to different roles within the church (specifically the layman versus the leader)? Would the application be any different between the two?

In one sense, the core message of this book applies to all humans—non-believers, believers, and within the believing community, laymen and leaders—and that message is this: we all crave something, but there is only One who satisfies. Pastors need to be reminded of this. Elders do as well. So do deacons. And regular churchgoers. And casual Christians. And backslidden Christians. And atheists.

But in another sense, there’s a certain amount of striving in this book that is typical of someone who is committed to ministry. When ministry is a core focus of a person’s life, it can begin to define how they see themselves in relation to others, and more importantly, how they see themselves in relation to God. I know I began looking for my identity in what I knew about God and how I went about serving Him rather than knowing and being known by Him. So any leader who seeks affirmation from ministry rather than God will find solace and exhortation within the walls of this book.

What about the new believer? How does Crave change and impact their life?

To a new believer, I would say: Find great joy in the delight you have in Jesus today, but know that you will move on from this place. God always walks us through valleys after our peaks. So read Crave as a series of signposts along your journey with God. And be mindful when you journey off the narrow path in search of sin, or even service or knowledge. And when you find yourself on a dusty road, feeling as though you’ll never find your way again, remember that Jesus means for you to do one thing: abide in Him. Do that, and it will go well with you.

I love the discussion about the various roles within our faith: the child, the joyful, the soldier, the vigilant, and so on. How does someone balance these roles with their day to day? Isn’t life hectic enough without adding more?

Identity is essential to a growing understanding of God and how God sees us. We are called priests, and sons, and friends, and servants, and sheep, and children, and soldiers. Each is meant to paint a different picture of our relationship with God. But each is really only a brushstroke of a larger picture of how God means for us to relate to him.

When life feels hectic, and taking on a new role seems daunting, it’s important to be content to allow God to paint each stroke—one at a time. There will be seasons in which we will strongly identify with being a soldier in God’s army because God is teaching us how to obey, and there will be other seasons in which we’ll gravitate towards being a child because God is teaching us how much he loves us.

And as we embrace these roles at different points in our journey of faith, it’s worth remembering that our ultimate identity is in Christ. When we go there, we won’t go wrong.

How does someone truly craving God differ from someone simply going through the motions of faith (devotions, church, and prayer)? Basically…what does truly craving God look like?

Truly craving God looks like finding Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings. We will always find our greatest joy in that which we value most. When we spend 3 hours in front of the TV, it’s because we feel that will bring us the most joy in that moment. Or when we push for a relationship that doesn’t seem to be working, we do so because we feel it will satisfy a need that will bring us great joy. And in those moments, we testify to these objects we value at the cost of something, or Someone, else.

The difference between going through the motions and living a life that desires God as our most valuable treasure goes back to the heart’s motivations. When we go to church because we feel it’s the right thing to do, we value the wrong thing. Or when we pray because we feel it’s the only way to alleviate guilt, or get something that we think we need from God, we value the wrong thing.

But if we study God’s word like the love letter it is, or talk to Him as if time did not matter, or delight in joining Him with His people because we can corporately declare His ultimate worth, we start to find satisfaction in Him, not because of what He can do for us, but because of who He is.

I found it ironic that the chapter about joy follows the chapter about suffering. Do joy and suffering coexist? Seems impossible. Doesn’t it?

It does seem impossible. With man. But with God, all things are possible.

Suffering can be a great means to joy because it exposes the finite for what it is. The apostle James tells us our lives are like vapors, which means our times of great blessing are vapors, as are our times of suffering. I don’t say this to diminish the pain and agony of suffering, but rather to point to the superior worth of knowing Jesus. When we suffer for the sake of Christ, we testify to the world that He is worth any cost, and that this life is but a vapor, and that being in His presence, whether now in great blessing, or now in great loss, is a means to great joy. This is why Paul actually calls suffering a gift.

Joy is directly tied to what we value most. And when we value Jesus as our greatest treasure, then knowing him is better than anything on earth, including freedom from suffering.

What’s your hope for Crave? What would you tell someone before they cracked the cover?

My hope is that readers of Crave would find Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to their soul’s deepest cravings, and that they would spend their lives testifying, in both word and deed, to the reality that Jesus is far more valuable than anything else life can offer.

Before someone reads this book, they should do two things:

a) Pray. Specifically, that God would show them the cravings they have and how they are seeking to satisfy these cravings, and that He would empower them to lay down these objects of their cravings as poor substitutes for the greater satisfaction in Jesus.

b) Spend time with God in His Word. Books about God are wonderful and important because they extend the community of God’s people beyond geography and time. But books written about God are poor substitutes for books written by God. And saturating yourself in God’s word will allow the strengths of this particular book to shine more brightly and the weakness to become more clear.

Any closing thoughts?

I’m honored you read these thoughts, and I hope you enjoy reading this book. We serve a great God!

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