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,
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