Heaven Come 2017

Hi friends, you may have noticed I’ve become a bit of a Jesus freak in recent months.

It’s an interesting thing that happens to a person or group of people when they start to grow beyond religion (which can sometimes mean form and ritual without relationship and power) and begin to encounter the living God.

In January during 3 weeks of prayer and fasting, I started to experience what it’s like for the Holy Spirit’s presence to come into the room. One particular morning during worship, for 10 minutes straight, my skin started to crawl all over with this insane tingling, and the pain in my body (some of you know I’ve struggled with chronic pain for 14 years) started to have some relief. This intense tingling/chills mixed-with-pain-relief has happened pretty consistently in worship for the last 9 months, and it’s woken up a hunger for God’s presence that is on a completely new level for me.

I just got home from Bethel’s Heaven Come Conference in downtown LA, which happened directly across the street from one of the biggest porn conventions in the world, and couldn’t help but reflect a little. In the midst of so much bickering, mud-slinging, and weak, insipid, political Christianity, there is a movement of Christians sprouting up that has started to grasp the crazy, reckless love of God and the meaning of “true religion.” People beginning to walk in the full, holy, supernaturally transformative power of the true Gospel, which claims to be the exclusive means for freedom from all forms of bondage, including disease, addiction, depression, isolation, fear, poverty and shame. Good, honest, humble people who are who are simply fading into the background of all the political bickering, and instead creating spaces for God’s presence to powerfully fall (just like it did in my room that day) in ways that bring true healing. People who are seeing the drug addicts, porn addicts and the prostitutes through God’s eyes — and instead of condemning the evil, they’re inviting them to encounter the presence.

You might look at all this at say “Oh Melody’s getting a bit Pentecostal” because humans have a need to put labels on things they don’t understand or haven’t experienced.

You might look at this video from the conference and say – there’s a lot of religious people being religious and working themselves into an emotional fervor, but I was there and I felt the glory of God fall, and the sickness in my body run for the exit. And it was something to get kind of excited about.

All I know is, I can’t apologize anymore for the name of Jesus, and I definitely can’t continue in a kind of religion where all we do is talk about the power but not live it out, and I no longer mind looking a little foolish, uncool, and obsessed.

The name “Heaven Come” is actually not about getting to heaven, but about seeing heaven come to earth. In this day and age of natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, violence and hatred, the church gets really excited about escaping it all via the second coming. But I have a feeling Jesus isn’t coming back till the church gets its act together and starts living in the full reckless, crazy power and love implicit in the Great Commission and modeled in the early church. Cool thing is, it’s starting to happen.

This is actually the heart behind the “Your Love Is Strong” project… a very religious-sounding word called Revival. Because the power to live a life of purity comes from a genuine life-changing encounter with God. We don’t get holy by trying really hard to not sin, but by encountering God’s presence in a way that changes us forever. Conversely, the worshipful act of holy living is part of what invites that presence to fall with power, so the two go hand in hand.

Very excited about what’s to come.

New Video & Updates

Hi guys! Lots of exciting things going on around here. I’ll try to be sparing with the exclamation points. But first of all, check out our new video!!!!!! 🙂 This is our way of sharing our vision for the project and how we plan to use the film in ministry. DeVon Franklin was kind enough to make an appearance. This video is (finally) public so you’re welcome to post and share.

Also, I’d like to officially welcome Claudia Wells to the cast of YLIS! Claudia is best known for her role as Jennifer Parker in Back to the Future. She’ll be lending us her talents in the role of Santana, an eccentric homeless woman who inadvertently has a lot of wisdom to share with the other characters. Claudia is a dear friend from church and has an absolute heart of gold, and we’re beyond thrilled to have her on board!

I wish I had some way to share all the myriads of ways God has been working miracles for this project. It has been a HECK of a journey, taking terrifying leaps of faith and watching God show up and show out, time after time. A couple months ago I felt God put it on my heart to shoot the aforementioned video. I was praying for resources, and I felt God convict me to go ahead and get started and just trust that the funding would be there. I remember I was driving home and sort of mulling over how stressful this whole walk-by-faith thing can be… and God convicted me that he’s been faithful for the past 2 years, and it’s time to put away the anxiety and go to a deeper level of trust with him. Walking into the house I was praying, “Ok…… I’m not gonna worry about the money…. but this feels insane to me.” Checked my email, and had a completely unexpected $1000 donation that payed for the entire video.

The same thing happened again a couple weeks ago. It’s always been my goal to shoot a feature documentary that would accompany the movie, since a doc can capture the real-life stories of people grappling with these issues, and take a more didactic approach to sharing some of the principles of waiting, and how it can set you up for healthy relationships. God impressed me to go ahead and get started on this doc so we’d have all kinds of clips to share at the conference next year. The impression was so strong — but the task was so huge — that I took a whole morning just sort of mulling it over and praying about it, and asking God if he really wanted me to move forward. By 3pm I had another email with another substantial donation. Confirmation? I’m starting to write a proposal for the documentary.

These are just 2 stories but this type of thing is happening over and over, in big ways and small. This particular project has come with its own very unique set of challenges, but despite all the blood, sweat, and tears, right now I feel pretty lucky to get to witness God’s awesome faithfulness. A lot of times I wrestle with the feeling that I’m being presumptuous to move forward with such boldness. But I was recently reminded what God is concerned about finding in his people. Luke 18 says, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” It doesn’t say, “When he comes, will he find a lot of excessively presumptuous Christians?” ……Copy that. 😉

A lot of you have asked about the conference. We’re still laying the groundwork, but it’s looking to take place in LA in March. Stay tuned for more details.

 

We can’t get enough prayer…

Appreciate all your support so much.

Blessings,

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The Movement Begins

Hi folks, I have some very exciting news to share. My home church New Dawn Christian Village will be teaming up with Mt. Rubidoux SDA Church in Riverside to produce the film next year. And we’ll be kicking off the whole production with a “Your Love Is Strong” conference in Los Angeles in January, themed “Redefining Purity.” The word purity has almost become a bad word in certain circles, as it’s often associated with guilt, shame, and what you shouldn’t do. But true purity isn’t about the absence of something, but rather the presence of someone — the presence of an intimate relationships with living, breathing Almighty God, from which all power to live a holy life comes. The conference will bring together churches and speakers from all over the city (and hopefully the country) as a sort of symposium on how we can totally reframe the way we preach, teach and talk about sexual purity in the Christian church. It all starts with creating an atmosphere where people can actually have an encounter with God, rather than inundating them with information about what they shouldn’t do.

As you can imagine I am basically beside myself with excitement about what God is doing. It was always my dream that this whole thing wouldn’t just be a movie, but a movement. It’s about Revival, especially in younger generations of Christians.

I have to give a shout out to the amazing team that has formed to bring all of this about: Pastor Michael Kelly from Mt. Rubidoux. Pastor Erwin Guevara and his wife Joanne from New Dawn. Executive Producer Marilyn Beaubien, and Producer Elizabeth Nelsen. My literal, absolute Dream Team of powerful, prayerful, Spirit-filled men and women of God… I’m just waiting to wake up and realize this is all a dream. 🙂

Please continue to cover us in prayer as we start to lay the groundwork for this ministry and movement. Satan likes to keep it real in the spiritual warfare department, no joke. And if you’d like to donate to the cause, I definitely won’t stop you. 😉 You can make a tax-deductible donation toward the project here.

Thank you for all your prayers, encouragement, and support!!!

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“Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!'”
Psalm 118

Next Steps

Hi guys,

Just wanted to keep you in the loop about how things are progressing with the film. I recently finished the 6th draft of the script (thanks again to all those who gave input!!) and a 34-page investor packet with info about the film and sample budgets. And last Thursday we were blessed with an amazing opportunity to meet with DeVon Franklin, an exec at Fox. (DeVon produced “Miracles from Heaven” last year, and also recently published a NYT Best-selling book called “The Wait.”) Of course we went into the meeting hoping for funding, but DeVon advised us to keep the film an independent production so we could stay true to the message, and not worry about a big studio watering it down. He said to focus on telling the story God put on our hearts, and that his door is open and he’s happy to help us in any way he can. Which is HUGE for us.

Exec Producer Marilyn Beaubien will be traveling to Texas in August to meet with a potential investor, so please keep that meeting in your prayers. In the meantime we’re exploring other options for funding as well. Faith is the name of the game!

There are so many ways God continues to show us his hand is on the project. I had a fun moment last week when I realized something about one of the characters in the film. Every main character is based (with permission) on the true story of someone I know. But there is one completely fictional character that I created from scratch. Well, last week I found out that the actor I plan to cast in that role actually has the exact backstory of that character! So it’s almost like I wrote the role for this actor without even knowing it was their story!! (As a side note, down the road I’m hoping to produce a documentary alongside the film that features interviews with each person the characters are based on. I think it’d be a great way to show that the stories portrayed in the film are completely true-to-life, and show how God worked in each one of these individual’s lives.)

Appreciate the continued prayers as we work hard to bring in the funding!

Blessings,

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Fox plaza

Time to get real

Hi friends,

Welp, I’m just gonna go ahead and get real in this newsletter, so if some personal sharing makes you squeamish, this might be a good one to skip. 😉
Sometimes I write a newsletter to keep ya’ll updated, and other times words start coming into my head unsolicited, almost faster than I can write them down, and I feel compelled to share. That’s the case with this one.

Without further ado:

In November I set aside 3 full weeks to write another draft of “Your Love Is Strong,” and those 3 weeks will certainly go down as a milestone moment in my life.

Over the last half of 2016, I collected feedback from people who’d read the script, and one note in particular caught my attention. It was something to the effect of, “I don’t feel like God really shows up much in this story. And it seems like the good people don’t end up very happy, and the people who disobey God are better off.”

That really troubled me because quickly I realized the reason: That had been my own perception. So that’s what I had unconsciously infused into the story. I didn’t feel like God had shown up for me in certain areas of my life. I didn’t feel like I was better off for my obedience.

As the time approached where I would need to begin writing the next draft of the script, I was really concerned about it and I went to God. I told him he was gonna have to do something really big with me because I couldn’t write from a place I wasn’t at. I couldn’t infuse hope and faith into the script if I didn’t possess it. I couldn’t tell people healing was possible for them if I hadn’t been healed myself. I couldn’t tell people to trust him if I didn’t trust him in these areas of my life.

I knew that somewhere deep down there was a rift in my relationship with God, and I couldn’t fully put my finger on what it was.

I got to go with Elizabeth (producer) to her home in Wisconsin in October. We were at an especially powerful prayer session at her church… I could tell God’s presence was there because I had chills going up and down my spine. It was in that atmosphere that I got alone with God and asked him — “What is this wall between us that I’m sensing?” The reply was instantaneous. “You’re still not willing to say I’m enough for you.”

I knew it was true. He had said that exact same thing to me in 2013 during a prayer retreat. Fast forward 4 years, and I knew I still had a deep-seated anger toward God for the way certain things had gone down in my life, and a deeply rooted cynicism that I couldn’t fix.

Up until that point I had resisted, saying to myself, “It’s impossible. No human can achieve perfect completion in God. I need these circumstances to change.” But this time, instead of fighting it like I had for the past 4 years, I started repenting. I started telling him, “Forgive me. You’re more than enough for me, God.”  Whether I felt it or not. I sort of knew there was no other choice for me but to submit this time. No magical change in circumstance would fix the festering wound in my heart.

The day came when I had to start the next draft. I had like 20 people praying for me. I asked God to just show me what to do. And Day 1 he blew my mind with this massive epiphany: “This movie is about sexual purity, yes. But that’s secondary. People don’t know me intimately, and if they did, if I was enough for them, the purity thing would fix itself.”

I started having ideas so fast my pen could barely keep up. I rewrote the first half of the movie. During that first week of re-outlining, his presence was so strong, I was crying every single day while he was showing me how to fix the script and simultaneously dealing with my own heart and healing me in the process. In those hours where I could feel his presence so strong — all cliches aside — I got to experience what it’s like for him to truly be enough. I got to know what its like to flow in the fullness of your calling, like Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire — “When I run, I feel his pleasure.” To be caught up in the joy of his presence, and to have all other desires pale in comparison.

For the first time in almost a decade I was telling Jesus I loved him and actually feeling it and meaning it. I was on fire. I was seeing so clearly how wired for intimacy we really are, and how this lack of real, deep connection with God was at the root of all our relationship woes — from premarital sex, promiscuity and bad marriages to porn addiction, adultery and sex addiction, to infatuation, codependency and serial dating and all the rest. And how thoroughly this lie has crept into the Christian young adult mind — that it’s impossible to stay pure sexually. That God is far, and it’s impossible to know his will in the matter. That anyone who claims to know is a self-righteous fake. That the Bible doesn’t really say anything about premarital sex.

(Incidentally this is also the reason so many Millennials are leaving the church: They’re not connecting on a spirit level with living, breathing Almighty God. So why play the church game?)

And here comes Disclaimer #2. Some of you will be able to hear this next bit; some of you won’t.

In the 4 months leading up to the trailer shoot in August, I was experiencing demonic attacks in the middle of the night, almost every other week. (If you’re curious about what that looks/ feels like, I’ve discovered you can find an exact description in many books on spiritual warfare, including “I Give You Authority” by Dr. Charles Kraft, page 186.)

I will say this: it wasn’t fun. But what’s really most disturbing about all that crazy demon stuff is the number of Christians who don’t really think that crap is real. Whatever you choose to believe about it, every single attack over the 4-month period stopped as soon as I could get the word “Jesus” out of my mouth. (Incidentally I don’t think it would’ve helped if I’d called on Buddha, Muhammed, or Joel Osteen. 😉 I believe all of that was meant to discourage me from doing the film. But in August, my pastor came to anoint the house and tell that junk to get out… and I haven’t had a single experience since.

If you know me you know I’m not a quitter, and I will work at something for 10 years if that’s what it takes. But between the demonic attacks and all kinds of other attacks in my personal life, I reached a point this fall where I had to seriously ask – Is it worth it? But my pastor and his wife helped me see how those kinds of spiritual attacks are a pretty strong signal you’re doing something that’s a threat to Satan’s agenda, and you might as well take it as confirmation that God is about to do something big.

I share all this to show you what’s really at stake here, and what the behind-the-scenes battle really looks like when we step into our calling to do something big for God’s kingdom. I’ve gotten a ton of flack for doing this movie. “You can’t always do passion projects, get a real job.” “You just have a moral ax to grind.” “You’re just mad at all the people out there having sex.” (That one made me laugh!) Friends slowly backing out of my life. People spreading rumors about the film having a super negative agenda. (Those ones didn’t.)

But please hear my heart and real burden for this film. What hurts my heart is that we can never be the Body of Christ the way God designed if we don’t get the sex thing under control. Our spiritual authority and ability to minister are so dependent upon our intimacy with God, the indwelling of his Spirit, true transformation and overcoming, and the ability to demonstrate fullness of life in these areas. As I’ve watched my own [Christian] friends struggle with depression, anxiety, rape accusations, unwanted pregnancies, restraining orders, divorces, child custody battles, suicidal thoughts and STIs as a result of their sexual indiscretions, I’ve become convinced we’ve thrown the door wide open to Satan by the casual way we treat sex. I can hardly think of a better way for Satan to immobilize the church than to attack us sexually. We’re too busy tending our broken hearts and playing victim in the circumstances we created to model the abundant life, much less spend time reaching out to a hurting world in a way that has any real impact.

Most people instantly assume a film about “purity” comes from a judgey place of wanting to lambast all the sinners out there. But what it’s really about is celebrating the very REAL POWER to overcome! There’s freedom from whatever bondage you’re in (and now I can say that with confidence), whether it’s fear, doubt, discontentment, depression, porn addiction, sex addiction, fear of abandonment, fear of commitment, or whatever else. Now I know what its like to stand in the presence of God and feel all insecurities and fears, ego, and even physical pain fade away in the power of his presence.

This film isn’t just about purity. It’s about Revival. And perhaps now you can understand just how much I crave your prayers.

The film’s purpose is not just to put out a message about purity, but to empower the church. Do we recall that time Jesus prayed we would have the same connection to the Father that he did? And how the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us? (John 17 & Eph 1.) Do we take it seriously that Christ passed his authority on to his disciples and said we would do the same things he did, and greater? (John 14.) Do we ignore that because we’re afraid of it or because we’ve never seen it modeled? And how can we continue Jesus’ radical work if we’re trapped in bondage to sin, lacking any real connection to the Holy Spirit, having “a form of godliness but denying its power?” (2 Tim 3.)

“How can a movie do all that?” you ask. Simple answer, it can’t. But the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it can. And we have all kinds of ideas for how to  make the film useful in church ministry.

The project has come so far since I quit my job in 2015, and stepped out in faith to write the first draft. The script is still far from perfect but I trust his continued guidance. I still have many hardships in my circumstances, but I’m more spiritually full than I’ve ever been in my life. My church just completed 21 days of prayer & fasting, and I can’t wait to see what God is about to do. I give y’all full permission to slap me upside the head if I so much as act surprised when the funding comes in. 😀 (Tears allowed.)

Special thanks to the people who have held me up, you know who you are. And to our donors who continue to keep this ministry afloat during the precarious development phase…

Love, Joy, Peace,

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There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” 1 Cor 6:16-17 MSG

All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Cor 6:18 NIV

 

Behind-the-scenes Sneak Peek

Hi guys!

Had to write you about the latest way God blessed us. About 4 weeks ago I met a composer named Dan Brown. A mutual friend randomly emailed us and said hey, you guys should meet up. So we did, and it turns out Dan is a huge supporter of what we’re trying to do with “Your Love Is Strong.” I wasn’t even looking for a composer, but it occurred to me that I would need some original music for the credits of the trailer. Dan agreed to do it, and 4 weeks later we have an absolutely beautiful piece of music and my mind is blown yet again.
Here’s a little sneak peek for you – Dan describing all the layers of audio that went into creating the score… followed by the song itself. All I asked him to do was come up with some simple background guitar stuff, and instead he grabbed 2 violinists and a cellist and came up with this. Having a really beautiful original piece of music for the credits definitely qualifies as “more than I could have asked or imagined” . . . and I can ask/ imagine quite a lot!

The last several weeks I’ve been wrestling with some fairly intense burnout, but seeing yet another example of how extravagantly God is blessing the project really lifted my head and gave me strength to keep pushing through to the finish line. We’re working on color correction now and I hope to be able to share the finished cut with you all soon!

Blessings,

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