150: Rediscovering the Power of God’s Redeeming Love with Francine Rivers - Vibrant Christian Living

150: Rediscovering the Power of God’s Redeeming Love with Francine Rivers

If there is one book that has taught me more than any other book, next to the Bible, about God’s love, it is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  The power of God’s love flows through the pages of this book, and I am astounded every time I read it (I just finished my eighth reading of the book!). 

Redeeming Love has almost 15,000 5-star reviews on Amazon, has been translated into 30 languages and at the time of recording is the #1 bestseller in the Historical Romances Category. Redeeming Love has had a dramatic impact both on my life and on millions of others, and so it’s an incredible treat to have Francine on the podcast today to share about the book and the new movie version of Redeeming Love (coming to theaters Jan 21, 2022). 

 
Seeking God’s redeeming love? Francine Rivers and I discuss her book and the new Redeeming Love movie, and how to rediscover the power of God’s love in our lives.
 

Francine and I share about the power of knowing God and how His love changes everything, even when we are utterly broken and hopeless. She also shares little known facts about the book and movie, and how this movie is designed to not only showcase God’s love on the big screen but to raise money for those caught in the sex trafficking industry.

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN: 

  • [1:49] Francine’s background
  • [2:56] How the book Redeeming Love came to be
  • [6:47] The movie adaptation of Redeeming Love
  • [8:06] The concept of God’s love
  • [11:17] How Angel learns about God’s love in the book
  • [14:54] God’s love in the book of Hosea
  • [15:58] Paul’s redemption in the book
  • [18:26] The presence of God’s love in times of evil or great injustice
  • [22:03] It is a lifelong journey to pursue God’s love
  • [25:48] Bible stories of God’s unrelenting love
  • [27:03] Why Redeeming Love is such an important story to be told right now
  • [29:18] Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation
  • [32:59] My personal reflections on God’s love
  • [36:25] A thankful prayer for God’s love
  • [40:12] A preview of next week’s episode celebrating 3 years of the podcast

[1:49] Francine’s background

Francine Rivers is a New York Times Bestselling author who has published numerous novels. In 1997, after winning her third Rita award for inspirational fiction, Francine was indexed into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award for American Christian fiction writers. Her novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and she enjoys bestseller status in many countries around the world.

[2:56] How the book Redeeming Love came to be

Before Francine wrote Redeeming Love, she had a career in the general market writing steamy historical romances set in California in the 1840s-1880s. When she became a Christian, she found that she could not write for about three years. She participated in a home Bible study with her pastor, and the book of Hosea blew her away.  

Francine believes that God temporarily turned off her writing because it was an idol in her life.  She wanted to be God’s child, but she didn’t even really know Him. When writing ceased to matter and she was spending her time getting to know God, the story of Hosea crossed her path. She felt like God was telling her that this was the story He wanted her to write. She was writing about the world’s view of love before, and this was the real thing. So, she chose to write a story set within the same era and in the same basic genre, but showing the difference between these two kinds of love. Redeeming Love really became her statement of faith and writing it showcased what she had learned about the Lord. 

The book was published in 1991 through her original publisher. The editor recognized the story as an allegory about Jesus, and she was told that they did not publish Christian books. Some changes were made to shift the book into women’s fiction, and then it went out of print after selling around 150,000 copies. Francine got the rights back, changed some things, and then had it republished. She calls the current version “the redeemed version of Redeeming Love”.

[6:47] The movie adaptation of Redeeming Love

A few people had approached Francine about movie rights for the book over the years, but she could never approve the scripts because she felt they did not understand the character of Michael. When she started working with Cindy Vonda at Mission Pictures, Francine wanted to show a sample of what she was looking for in a script. She wrote a script for the movie, and they agreed to use it. When DJ Caruso came on as director, he restructured the script so it was no longer a linear story. They worked together to strengthen certain scenes, and she was so impressed with his ability to deliver on the pivotal scenes from the book in the movie format.

 [8:06] How God’s love redeems the pain of a fallen world

Francine points out that we live in a fallen world, and we have free will. There are people that use their free will for evil purposes, like the character Duke. People also go through horrendous things, but when they meet Christ He can turn the worst experiences and use them for good purposes. The book shows that nothing is wasted. You can turn your life around and help others, as the character Angel does. God’s love involves the idea of walking alongside somebody else, because we have been on a similar path and made it to the other side with God’s help. His love transforms everything, and we cannot understand it fully as humans. We cannot even love that way without God doing it through us.

I think something powerful about Francine’s book is that we can see the threads of that love throughout the characters’ lives. Sometimes we think God’s love is something we only experience on a Sunday morning, when we are good, or when we work for it. God’s love, however, is a pursuing, relentless love that goes after His people. Even in those dark moments, He holds us and gets us through it. This is a different perspective of love than some people may have seen. The opportunity for redemption (no matter what we’ve experienced or the pain we’ve known) exists through God’s love.

[11:17] How Angel learns about God’s love in the book

I was excited to dig into some of the characters with Francine, because I think we can see different aspects of God’s love through these different people. Angel is the main character in the story, and she and Michael are the focus of the love story. Francine says that Angel represents all of us in a way, because of her journey to learn to reach out to God and ask for His help. No matter what we have done or what we have been through, we can turn to Christ and He can turn things around for us. We have to seek him and we have to ask.

The character of Michael is an allegory of Jesus and his love, and Angel pushed that love away. She ran away from it, and she ultimately walks away to give Michael what she believes is a gift: the opportunity to be with someone more deserving, in her mind. The struggle then becomes that Michael cannot leave Angel hanging on the cross forever. She is worshipping him, and she needs to worship God. There is always a happy ending with Jesus.

Our instinct can be to try to save others, but we really can’t be a savior for someone else. We can guide them to the Lord, but we can’t be a savior. There is only one savior, and that is Jesus. Michael has to come to terms with this, because he had to battle his own desire to find her and bring her back himself. He had to let her go and trust God, without interfering with God’s plan for her life.

[14:54] God’s love in the book of Hosea

In the book of Hosea, the people of Israel all turn at the end. They understand who their Messiah is. We know, from reading Revelation, that the end of the story is written and we can have confidence and hope in that. God fulfills all of His promises and Israel is His nation. They are His chosen people. He loves them, and He is not going to abandon them.  

[15:58] Paul’s redemption in the book

The character of Paul holds up a mirror about how some of us have felt and learned to come to the Lord. He needs redemption and he needs to have his eyes opened. Miriam plays the part in Paul’s life that Michael does in Angel’s life. Angel is like a sister to her and she sees the good and potential in her that Paul can’t see until he understands at the end.

The ultimate message is that we need to respond to God, because His love is eternal. It’s not going to end, just like Michael’s love is never going to end for Angel. She can’t force him to love somebody else. We are the bride of Christ, and He doesn’t give up on us either.

[18:26] The presence of God’s love in times of evil or great injustice

Francine points out that there has been evil in the world since the garden of Eden. We are sinners from the beginning. Even when we become Christians, we struggle with sin every day because we live in a fallen world and there are people that give themselves over completely to evil. We would love it if God would just fix everything, but He didn’t make puppets. We have a choice. We have to decide if we want to serve God no matter the consequences. Look at what happened to Jesus in our fallen world – they crucified him. We can’t expect that our lives as Christians are going to be easy, because they won’t be when there is a spiritual battle going on around us all the time. In the book, you see that there is still evil in the world. In the allegory, Duke is Satan and he still roams the earth, looking for people to devour. We need to trust in God and really look to Him for our answers without giving in to other influences. 

[22:03] It is a lifelong journey to pursue God’s love

It is a lifelong journey to pursue God’s love more and more. Francine represented that with Angel having to understand that she is a brand new creation in Christ. Her identity was so important to her because it was the only thing people couldn’t take away from her. At the end, she surrenders herself completely and strips away her past.

 [25:48] Bible stories of God’s unrelenting love

Francine brought up the story of Bathsheba, because she leans toward the idea that Bathsheba was not necessarily seduced. She would have been around David for a good amount of time with her husband, and yet she is mentioned in scripture as crowning her son and she is honored as the queen. She had to find her peace with God. Francine sees mercy and grace in that story between David and Bathsheba.

Scripture is full of stories and the history of people who have been broken in some way. We are all sinners, and we all need to be saved by Jesus.

[27:03] Why Redeeming Love is such an important story to be told right now

When people watch the movie, Francine hopes they will come out with a better understanding of how deep our Lord’s love is for them. This was her hope for the book too – that it would create a hunger and thirst for the real thing. Fiction is always meant to be the bridge back to the real thing. She hopes people walk out of there thinking, “I wish I could have a love like that”. They absolutely can have that, and she hopes that is very clear. This is more than a story about a man and a woman. It’s a story about God and how He brings two people together for His good purpose and to show everybody how much He loves them.

Francine was in her late thirties when she became a Christian. She was raised in a church, but we can sit in the pews and never get the message. It can get into your head, but not your heart. God gives us that faith, and when we seek Him we do find Him. That is the hope Francine has for the book and the movie – people will come out of there wanting a relationship with their creator.

[29:18] Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation

Redeeming Love has always been Francine’s first fruits. Early on, Francine decided that whatever she made from the book, minus taxes, has always gone to God’s work and charity. She was talking to Holly Caruso, the director of the movie’s wife, and they decided to form the Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation. The money will be given to organizations that are on the front lines fighting sex trafficking and helping survivors. The proceeds from the movie will also go to the foundation.

[32:59] My personal reflections on God’s love

It was such an honor to speak to Francine and to hear the background behind this incredible story that is now a movie. The movie is produced by Universal, and it is very true to the book. There is a powerful message of God’s redeeming love underneath every aspect of it. I will say, it’s probably not a movie I would take the kids to. It has a PG-13 rating, and I personally did not want our children to watch it. It deals with some very difficult topics such as prostitution, and even child prostitution. I would encourage you to go into it knowing that there are some difficult scenes, but they are important to the story. We don’t always want to say that God’s love is this beautiful, rosy picture that we can only access when life is perfect. God’s love is around every aspect of our lives, and I’m glad they did not shy away from the difficult parts of Angel’s story in the movie.

I wanted to close our time today by talking to you on a personal level about some of the things that were mentioned today. If you are a regular listener of this podcast, you know that we talk about lots of different things here. We talk about connecting with God and renewing our minds, but today we touched on God’s love. This is a topic that is so foundational and formative to our identity. One of the things I love about Redeeming Love is that it mentions and references so many different facets of how we can access God’s love. No matter what we have done or experienced, this kind of love is possible for you. You can have that life-changing love that we are all created to experience. If you have never experienced a relationship with God on that level, I wanted to give you an opportunity to step into a different relationship with Jesus. I am going to pray for us, and I’m going to ask you to participate in that prayer.

[36:25] A thankful prayer for God’s love

Father, thank You so much for stories that speak of Your love that allow us to understand what it really means to be in a relationship with you and how rich and high and deep and wide your love is. It’s so much more than we can imagine, and so much deeper than we can even fathom, and that we get to spend our entire life discovering the depths of the glory of your love for us, thank you. You have loved us before we loved You. Thank you that we don’t have to do anything to earn Your love. Thank you that Your love for us goes on for all eternity and that You desire for us to be in fellowship with you. You desire for us to come to you. You will wait, like she said, as a gentleman. You will wait for us to be willing to open ourselves up.

So I pray for my friends listening. I pray that, if they feel that inkling in their heart, that they want more out of their life, they want to know this kind of love, they want to experience it, that You would show them how to step into that.  You should show them what needs to be let go of; what needs to be released. What do they need to pick up? What do they need to confess or what do they need to recognize? What do they need to just say, I have no control over that and they need to grieve that.

I pray, God, You would reveal that to them. You would show them what they need to do to step into that deeper place.  At the same time, though, that they would just recognize they don’t have to do anything to receive Your love.  They just need to be willing.  So I pray for willingness. I pray for openness.  I pray, God, that You would infuse all of us with the ability to understand and to enjoy the gift of your love.  Thank you for the gift of Your love, that we can experience it because of what Jesus went through.  Thank You for His sacrifice, Father.

I give this time to You and I pray that many, many hearts would be turning to You, calling on Your name, receiving Your love, wanting to pursue back this incredible God who loves them at all times. That they would understand this as the God that they get to know. This is You.

May this movie bring that light, that hope to this very dark world. May the message of Your love resound. May it be used as a tool to free many from sex trafficking. May it be an opportunity for people to have deeper conversations about what it means to be loved and to let go of some of these difficult things. May it be the open door to change lives. God, we give all of this to You. We thank You for Your goodness and for Your love. It’s in Your name. Amen.

 [40:12] A preview of next week’s episode celebrating 3 years of the podcast

We have a very special episode coming next week: our three-year anniversary episode! I am going behind the scenes to capture some of the highlights of the last three years. I cannot even believe it has been three years since we put together this podcast! I’ll also be giving you a preview of some of the exciting things that we will be doing over the next few months, because there will be some exciting changes that I am thrilled to be able to share next week.

CONNECT WITH FRANCINE RIVERS:

Website

Redeeming Love Sanctuary Foundation

Book: Redeeming Love

Movie: Redeeming Love

OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON HOW TO DISCOVER GOD'S REDEEMING LOVE:

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About Alicia Michelle

Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach™, Bible teacher, speaker and host of The Christian Mindset Coach Podcast and You Tube Show. More importantly, she’s a lover of Jesus, a wife of 21 years to her best friend, and mom of four amazing kids ages 19 to 10. Alicia struggled with overthinking, negative thoughts and “being enough” for most of her adult life until God radically transformed her heart after a life-threatening medical crisis. Now through her signature courses and coaching programs she loves equipping women with practical, scientific and biblically-based mindset tools to help them overcome negative thought patterns and discover more confident, joyful lives in Christ. Listen to her on the podcast or on You Tube; download free workshop trainings at VibrantChristianLiving.com; and connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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