Recent: Pastor’s Journal Posts

Dating God

Originaly Posted on July 4, 2014

DATING GOD // Branden Stoltz

My best friend just got married last weekend! It was a truly beautiful wedding. Their wedding looked like Pinterest sponsored the whole event, their first dance was viral YouTube-worthy, and how they began their relationship was just as memorable.

He met his now wife-of-one-week through a Bible study he hosted at his house. He first noticed her while she was standing in the kitchen stirring a pot of beans, although he had been told about her already. That week he had finished a ten-day period of fasting and praying for God to act and for himself to be ready for whatever God was going to do in his love life. So when he talked with her and was wowed by her thoughts on God and life, he wanted to get to know her better—only on friendly terms, of course. When she came back the next week, they talked more and they realized they both were runners, so they planned a run for that week.

Their jog started in Loma Linda and their conversation left them lost somewhere in Redlands. During their jog, while still in mid-thought, she halted saying, “Wait! Stop! Don’t move!”

He froze as she ruffled through the bushes, coming back with a leaf in-hand, explaining, “Your deodorant is leaking” as she scraped it off him. He later said, “Well this girl must really like me if she’s willing to get all up in my pits!” She did, and now they’re married! There is a lot of back story to my friend’s love life prior to meeting this girl, but I will simply let the lyrics to their wedding theme song explain that to you:

All those days chasing down a daydream
All those years living in a blur
All that time never truly seeing
Things, the way they were Now she’s here shining in the starlight
Now she’s here suddenly I know
If she’s here it’s crystal clear
I’m where I’m meant to go And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything is different
Now that I see you

“I See The Light,” Mandy Moore

Our relationship with God can be viewed in the same way. It’s every bit as real as the relationship that grows and blooms between two people. Each one of us must go beyond the first meeting and spend our lives walking and talking with Him. As you review your relationship with God in this “dating” angle, remember that at some point, after you realize that He really is “willing to get all up in your pits,” ask yourself if maybe it’s about time to take your relationship to the next level.

// Branden

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Vision Quest

Originaly Posted on June 27, 2014

Vision Quest // Andrew Froemming

“And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain… so he may run who reads it.’” Habakkuk 2:2.

Vision is important. As the verse says, vision is a call to action. Vision is an important concept in our personal and business lives, but it also applies spiritually. The Bible has many stories of people who received a vision that they shared and lived out: Abraham, Jonah, Moses, and Elijah (just to name a few).

What would it mean for us to have our own vision quest? Let’s first look at the origin of this concept that comes to us from Native American culture. For the Native Americans a vision quest is a turning point in life where a person finds oneself and their intended spiritual, life direction and purpose. Do you have a vision for your life? If you answered “Yes!” to that question, how do you believe God fits in to that vision?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” The Bible makes it clear that God has a vision for our lives. Don’t let that scare you. God doesn’t plan to hijack your life, leaving you stuck on a runaway train of destiny. God made you and God is not looking to change who you are. Instead, God wants to bring you to accomplish a higher purpose with your life, more fulfilling then anything you could reach on your own.

This next week, take time to have a prayerful vision quest with God. Ask God, “What are You equipping me to do? What doors are You opening?” Then write down the visions so you can refer to it later and don’t be afraid to step out in faith. I can attest from my life that when God calls you to something. God always provides what I needed no matter how impossible it seems at the time.

// Andrew

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Meet Our Life Coach Consultants!

Originaly Posted on June 20, 2014

Greg Nelson, Spiritual Teacher & Strengths Coach
I believe some of the most important questions to ask ourselves are, Why am I here? Where am I going? And how am I getting there? Spending intentional time reflecting on and discovering the answers to those questions has the potential to radically revolutionize our lives. And our personal transformations then can create a ripple effect that engages the people around us, producing maximum fulfillment, contribution, meaning, and depth.

Greg Nelson. D.Min, a pastor to churches over 30 years, now works primarily as a consultant and coach for organizations such as American Express and Amazon, and is passionate about helping individuals and teams live lives that are based upon their strengths.

Shasta Nelson, Relationship & Transition Coach
No matter how connected we are, how popular we hope we are or how many friends we have on facebook, a nagging sense of loneliness permeates our culture. Whether it’s a move to a new city, a change in our relationship status, a switch in jobs or the entering of a new life phase, the majority of us may feel like we know a lot of people, but we are keenly aware that we are lacking that deep sense of belonging.

Shasta Nelson, M.Div. is the author of “Friendships Don’t Just Happen” and the CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com, a website that matches women to new friends. She brings her pastoral voice to audiences as she travels and speaks around the country on loneliness and healthy relationships, and as a regular contributor in the media, appearing on such shows as The Today Show and Good Morning America.

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Meet Our New Senior Pastor!

Originaly Posted on June 13, 2014

I am very happy to be your pastor and excited to get to know you! In the meantime, here are some things about me I might not share in my message today.

I am the oldest of four brothers and the son of my mother, my father and step-mom. I have three surviving grandparents, one of whom lives down Normandie Ave. from here. My ethnic background is mixed Caucasian with mixed Asian, which makes me fully hapa.

I am the proud parent of two frogs and a beta as well as a whole bunch of plants that love me.

I have degrees in business management, elementary teaching, religion and pastoral ministry, while being deeply interested in animals, ecosystems and space (#Trekkie4life).

Some of my hobbies are cooking, eating, mixed-media art and big projects with purpose. In my spare time I am on my computer exploring the world, people, places and ideas through YouTube, or having deep conversations with friends on Google Hangout.

I have served two church families over the past five years, and ministered to my fellow students while I was in college. I am deeply interested in understanding the life of each person I meet and value my relationships above most everything else. In each person God has invested His supreme interest and value and love. I am trying to do the same.

I look forward to relationship-building, personal growth and deep spiritual contemplation here at Hollywood as we walk together toward Him.

–Branden

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Walking in Victory

Originaly Posted on June 6, 2014

This week we are reflecting on the topic of walking in victory. What does it mean to walk in victory? Google defines victory as an “act of defeating an enemy or opponent in a battle, game, or other competition.”

Spiritually, we are in a universal conflict between good and evil. In this battle we are outnumbered and the future would look bleak at best but the Bible tells us that we have an Ally who is all powerful. If we ask, God will come to our aid and alter the course of our life from one of loss to one of victory.

The Bible says in Colossians 2:13-15, “You were dead in your transgressions [...] Yet He made you alive together with Him [...] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Jesus.”

Because of Jesus we can walk in victory each day. Walking in victory does not mean that we are perfect people who will never be battered and bruised in this ongoing conflict. It does, however, mean that never again do we have to live in a world with the cards stacked against us. Our Ally has given us the upper hand so we walk in victory. This next week let’s spend time reflecting on how the knowledge of victory affects how we live. In addition let’s also remember to thank our Ally, Jesus Christ, for giving us the upper hand.

Grace and peace,
Andrew

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Invited to Know

Originaly Posted on May 9, 2014

INVITED TO KNOW,” By Scott Arany

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.”

After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” John 20:24–29.

Reading this passage in lectio divina this week, I saw an invitation here I’d never noticed before. I also saw a new, sympathetic side to Thomas. I could relate to him, and for once, not because of the legendary “doubting Thomas” reputation.

Somehow, Thomas missed out on meeting the resurrected Jesus with the other disciples. They had a powerful moment with Jesus, receiving a blessing from Him, their spirits filled with joy. But Thomas missed this. How would you feel if all of your closest friends had such an experience and you missed it? What if you were still grieving over something horrific only to not get the notice that joy was happening down the block?

I wonder why Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples. I think maybe he went off to mourn Christ’s death privately. At least, that’s what I would’ve done. Sometimes isolation is important. Sometimes I miss important things when isolated. It’s a mix of both. I also would likely feel isolated, awkward bereft and out-of-place in the next eight days I spent with my happy friends while still nursing such a painful hole in my heart. I’d probably grump defensively, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” a pointed snark to my friends that I didn’t get to see what they saw.

I picture Thomas in the house with the disciples a week later, door locked to the outside world, everyone else confident in knowing He’s alive… and Thomas just can’t get into it. He didn’t see Jesus. He missed the blessing. Jesus had a whole week to show up, and didn’t. Maybe Thomas is in the corner, feeling a deep sense of disconnect from the men and women he should feel years of tested connection for.

Then Jesus shows up and invites Thomas to know He is real. Thomas’s instant response is one of belief, not doubt: “My Lord and my God!”

“Do you believe because you see me?” says Jesus. “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”

For the first time reading this story, I felt some comfort in those words. Instead of a chastisement, it’s almost as if Jesus stood up for Thomas in front of the disciples. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Yeah, you guys had it easy. You saw me. Thomas didn’t, but he still calls me Lord.” As always, Jesus stands up for the odd guy out. He invites us to know Him, to know His wounds and His reality.

Christ ascended to the Father, and today we are the Body of Christ. We have the wounds in our sides and hands. We are the ones who are filled with joy; we are the ones who missed the blessing. We are the ones losing connection with our tribes and families; we are the ones defended by God. Yet we can still know God—and each other—when we invite each other to know us, to know our wounds, our doubts… and our resurrections. Peace be with us.

Peace,

Scott

 

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Learning Contentment

Originaly Posted on May 2, 2014

By Rockne Dahl, Interim Pastor

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” Philippians 4:11–13.

Feeling contented (or satisfied) is a great problem in our day isn’t it? We are told to “love people and use things” but the stress to get ahead persuades many to “use people and love things” instead. Costs keep going up, rents keep going up and wages remain stagnant—if you can get a job and then dodge the waves of layoffs. Life is a rat race and the rats are winning! Who can rest contented or be satisfied with the way things are?

Paul says he learned how to be content in any and all circumstances. He was content even though he was chained to a Roman guard day and night in a cold, damp prison called the Mamertine, which was actually a huge water cistern. We would expect that being a prisoner with a serious threat of execution hanging over his head would have left Paul feeling the opposite of everything the word “contentment” might mean. And how could he possibly be content while cold, hungry, and without benefit of friend or companion? But, some how he had learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. Of course Paul knew that he could do anything through the One who gives us all strength.

In the most recent issue of Scientific American, I read a thrilling article entitled “Is Anybody in There?” The article, written by Adrian Owen who is a cognitive neuroscientist, details the latest successes in communicating with patients who appear to lack consciousness. In recent years improvements in trauma care, roadside care and intensive care has led to more people surviving serious brain damage, alive but with no evidence of preserved awareness. However, Owen and colleagues at Western University in Ontario have found a very difficult but revolutionary way to communicate with patients who are in deep levels of unconsciousness.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging which measures blood flow (and portable EEG units), researchers found that two tasks unconscious patients could perform mentally were playing a game of tennis or walking from room to room in their home. If an unconscious patient is instructed to imagine a game of tennis, brain activity shows up in the premotor cortex. If the patient imagines touring from room to room in their home, brain activity is activated in a deep brain region containing the parietal lobe and the parahippocampal gyrus. If the physician asks a question that the patient wants to give a “yes” to, the patient is asked to play a game of tennis in his imagination. If the researcher wishes to ask a patient a question and the patient wishes to respond with a “no” answer, the patient is instructed to imagine walking from room to room. Remarkably, the first time this technique was tried with a seemingly vegetative female patient, she responded perfectly. The researchers concluded that

although she was unable to respond physically to external inputs, she was in fact, conscious. Patients have been able to answer multiple questions about their lives.

Now for the amazing conclusion to this report: “A 2011 survey of 65 patients with locked-in syndrome—a condition in which consciousness is intact, but the body is paralyzed—suggests that people have a surprising capacity to adapt to extreme disability; most expressed satisfaction with the quality of their lives.” If patients who are completely paralyzed can find satisfaction with their lives, what about you and me?

I suggest that even patients who appear to be deeply unconscious can be aware that caregivers and family care about them and love them. The “unconscious” can hear us even when they cannot respond to our presence and words of love. Hugging the unconscious loved one is not a wasted effort. The conscious need to bask easy in the truth that other people care and love us. We need to know that our community of faith has our back just like Paul knew that the churches were praying for him. If somebody loves you, don’t sweat the small stuff. Even in the deepest darkness or life or consciousness, people can still feel the presence of God and his love.

And good memories help, too. The patients could recall playing tennis and walking around in their homes. Right now this moment may be anything but pleasant. But praise God Jesus gave his life for us. Recall the good old days when you were happy like the lambs out on the hillside. Those days will come again if you are conscious of God’s love, or, even if you are unconscious and only can feel a gentle presence.

Peace,
Rockne 

 

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Reflections on the Resurrection

Originaly Posted on April 25, 2014

This week, we’re sharing quotes from significant theologians reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What do you think?

“The point of the resurrection is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

“Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.”

Pete Rollins, “My Confession: I Deny the Resurrection”

“We call the name of the One before whom the evil in us cringes, before whom fear and anxiety must themselves be afraid, before whom they shake and take flight; the name of the One who alone conquered fear, captured it and led it away in a victory parade, nailed to the cross and banished it to nothingness; the name of the One who is the victory cry of the humanity that is redeemed from the fear of death—Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified and lives. He alone is the Lord of fear; it knows him as its Lord and yields to him alone. Therefore, look to him in your fear. Think about him, place him before your eyes, and call him. Pray to him and believe that he is now with you and helps you. The fear will yield and fade, and you will become free through faith in the strong and living Savior Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

The Day God Died

Originaly Posted on April 18, 2014

By Dannon Rampton

Today is a unique day. Many of our worship services focus on the life of Christ, the life that God is breathing into our world and the lives we live as Christians in this world, but today on Holy Sabbath we commemorate the day Christ was in the tomb.

One common criticism of Christianity is that we tend to put on cheery faces most of the time, hiding the darker side of life away out of sight. “We have this hope,” you see, and we want to encourage each other to overcome life’s trials. “Don’t worry,” we say, “God is in control. God works everything out for the best.” We stand on the promises of God, asking for the Divine Power to help us prevail. We celebrate the positive things we see God doing in our lives, and dream of a better world to come.

But some 2,000 years ago, God died. I can only imagine how his followers must have felt that weekend. They had left everything to follow Jesus. For three years they had traveled with him, watching him do miraculous things and listening to him teach about the Kingdom of God. But in the span of two days, all their hopes and dreams came crashing down to earth. God was dead. Their world was shattered. They were broken, numb.

Sometimes we feel that way too. Let’s be honest about this. Life isn’t always sunshine and flowers. Sometimes our dreams are shattered, leaving us broken, numb. We call to God for deliverance and all we hear is silence. It feels like God is dead.

Typically, at this point Christians too often say, “Cheer up. All is not lost. God works in mysterious ways—your prayers will be answered; you just have to wait on God’s perfect timing.”

…But not today. Today let’s acknowledge the emptiness. Let’s give space to our feelings of loss and despair. This Holy Sabbath, let us listen to the silence. Let us open up the raw, bleeding parts of our lives and admit that we have felt hurt, abused and disappointed. There are things that have not gone as we’d hoped. All of our dreams have not come true. Where is God in this?

Our scriptures give precedent for this. With the Psalmist we cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22).

God understands these emotions. 2,000 years ago, part of Godself was tortured and crucified. In Christ, God walked the way of suffering and defeat. God has felt the pain of rejection, the dark cloud of hopelessness. That weekend, all of the Divine wept with Christ’s disciples. When it was done, God rested.

My prayer is that you too can experience God’s rest. When life seems hopeless and dark, know that God feels that with you. When you feel rejected or defeated, know that God understands. And when it feels like God is dead, may God give you the courage to rest awhile. There is peace in the silence. Sometimes what we most need is to simply rest in God’s silence.

Peace,
Dannon

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »

Living The Berean Life

Originaly Posted on April 11, 2014

LIVING THE BEREAN LIFE
By Andrew Froemming

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15–16.

Last week—and really for the whole year—we are focusing on the overwhelming theme of the Bible: Love. This week I challenge you to join me in a quest to love people back to life while living a Berean life.

What do I mean by a Berean life? Acts 17 says, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” Living a Berean life is about an eagerness to learn and grow while studying teaching and scripture to best follow God’s directive to love Him and our fellow man as He loved us.

In Matthew 7 Jesus rebukes what the Jews were taught by their religious leaders. Jesus also teaches us to see God’s view of genuine and pure religion. In Matt. 7:1–3, Jesus tells us that genuine followers of God will not see themselves as above anyone. Don’t think it’s your responsibility to judge others because God will judge you like how you judge others. Besides, as a sinful person yourself how can you try to correct someone else’s insignificant issue when your own perspective is askew from the gargantuan weight of your own sin?

Jesus then reminds us that God’s call to us is a call to love. “Do to others as you would have done to you for this is the essence of the directive I have given you.” Jesus then explains in three different ways that not everyone will will get into the Kingdom of Heaven because it is much easier to follow a selfish path instead of God’s directive of love. Jesus concludes by saying “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” But those who build on their own accord with fall flat on their face when the storm comes.

Friends, like Jesus we are living in times of polarizing rhetoric. Even though we have different points of view sometimes God calls use to love one another. Any teaching that does not call you to love others is a teaching that is not from God. To those that have fallen victim to or have been hurt by such teachings keep seeking after the God of Love. This next week, let’s knock on the door, sit at Jesus’ feet, and ask Him to create a clean heart and renew a right spirit in us.

Peace,

Andrew

Posted in Pastor's Journal | No Comments »