Recent: Pastor’s Journal Posts

When Jesus Got Wings

Originaly Posted on June 24, 2013

By Andrew Froemming

During my growing-up years I tended to think of Jesus in the abstract. I was told that there was a Jesus and that He had come to earth two thousand years ago to save me from my sin. I would hear stories of him recounted to me at church and in family worships. When I heard those stories it was easy for me to conjure up mental pictures of the stories.

As I became an adult, maintaining my spirituality based on the stories I had heard became difficult. I was being forced out of my childhood mental paradigm where everything was centered on the expectation that life was always rosy and you would always be provided for in a socially acceptable way.

Today when I read the Bible I understand it differently than I did as a kid. Growing up, Jesus was something of a superhero in the sense that He did all these great miracles with super-human power, even defeating the devil. But then He left earth and all I had were the stories that had been passed down through generations. Today as I read my Bible I still see Jesus as a spiritual superhero but I also see Jesus as much more than just an impersonal figure from long ago for me to idolize. I see a Jesus who did amazing works years ago and I see Jesus’ hands and feet (each one of us) doing amazing miracles today.

This week I received a call in the church office asking if I could come help a man whose wheelchair had broken down. I said I could go investigate and see if my basic mechanical skills could help at all. When I arrived and found “George”, he was sitting on the curb with his wheel- chair beside him. The rubber on the front wheels of his chair had worn through, forcing him to drag all of his belongings in shopping carts backwards along his recycling route. Now, all that dragging had worn the front wheels down to the rims and spokes.

George told me that he had asked a man nearby to call our church office because several years ago when he had another broken wheelchair, a kind person from our congregation came to his aid and fixed his chair. He told me that he had meet Jesus here at the Hollywood Adventist Church even though he’d never actually been to our building. He reached out to us, hoping for a miracle so that he could be mobile again. After taking a look at George’s chair I knew that I could get him up and going but it was clear that since it was the end of the day I would not be able to get the parts until the next day. I told George that I would come back the next day to fix his chair. When I returned and put new wheels on George’s chair he was so excited. After I finished he pulled himself up into his chair and went wheeling around the block with the biggest smile on his face. To George, those of us who helped him were miracles and glimpses of Jesus. For me, my interaction with George felt like I had just meet Jesus in a very personal way.

As an adult I’ve come to understand that Jesus is the most powerful superhero ever, but He still cares for me personally. As part of His care for me He gives me glimpses of Himself in the present tense through those that I interact with. I must also remember that I may be the only Jesus someone may every see and it is my challenge to represent Him well.

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Laughter and Action

Originaly Posted on June 7, 2013

BY LESLIE FOSTER

It’s dark outside. I can smell liquid on the Indonesian air, thick with humidity. My sister is asleep beside me, my parents quiet in the front seat of our van, as we sit surrounded by the lights of fellow travelers, all crawling towards home. The lights are ghostly, red and white, floating, unattached as they bump and hover over the asphalt. And I am laughing, laughing so hard tears are coming out of my eyes, because I’ve just touched the infinite.

I’m five years old and I’ve just tried to comprehend eternity. For a brief moment, I grasped something beyond words or cognitive thought and then it was gone. The only possible outcome to seeing the face of God may be madness for those who have left childhood behind, but when my five-year-old self touched the void, She made me laugh.

The older I get, the more I reach back to that five-year-old who understood far more than I certainly do now. I am trying to embrace the tension of releasing childish things while also trying to welcome the kingdom of God like a child. The older I get, the harder it is for me to visualize God as human. When I, as a visual person, sink into prayer, when I reach for the infinite the way I did that night, I see and feel God as action. A gentle breeze cartwheeling over soft grass, a fire-infused dust devil thundering towards me, a free fall through eternal space that is thick with darkness and is certainly not safe, but is the definition of good.

For me to allow this beautiful, dangerous God to reach into my world, I have to let go of the childish binaries and boxes in which I’ve attempted to chain Her, and be open to my child-like understanding of a vast and overwhelmingly complex array of possibilities. I have to let go and listen for that laughter, so I can find the places where She has already been.

—LESLIE

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After Forgiveness

Originaly Posted on May 25, 2013

BY BRIAN LAURITZEN

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain.

Last Thursday evening I attended Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro at Walt Disney Concert Hall. A staple of the repertoire, it is one of the most frequently performed operas in the world. In fact, of the more than 2,415 different operas that have been performed during the 2012–13 concert season, The Marriage of Figaro clocks in at #8. (Yes, they keep stats of these sorts of things.)

It’s a lovely story, taking place within the span of one day. Four briskly-paced acts are filled to the brim with love, jealousy, infidelity, scheming, disguises, mistaken identity and broken alliances. You know, typical opera fodder. In the end, the conniving catches up to everyone and the character who is the worst offender (a cheating husband, of course) implores his wife, “Forgive me!”

“I am kinder,” she declares, “I will say, ‘Yes.’”

Everyone then gathers on stage, singing about how only love can end “this day of torment of caprices and folly.” Curtain. Applause.

It’s all sort of abrupt. Three hours and 20 minutes of “torment and folly” followed by two minutes of, “Oh, hey, everything’s going to be great, guys!” (Not a direct quote from the libretto.) That’s nice and everything, but what happens the next day… three weeks later… in six months….

Does Count Almaviva—he of the wandering eyes/hands/etc.—stay true to his Countess? Do Figaro and Susannah continue to trust one another? Do they all decide to stop dressing up as one another to try to trick their supposed lovers into making a misstep?

In our haste to assist life in its imitation of art, we can be tempted to think of forgiveness as a dénouement. Frankly, it’s easier that way. We look back on the many mistakes we’ve made, claim God’s forgiveness, and revel in the fact that we got all that “bad stuff” expunged from our record.

This is a nice feeling. While God’s forgiveness does cover everything, it’s easy to simply stay there and not progress any further. We fall in love with our own stories of redemption and ultimately end up living in a past we profess to have fled.

In the opera of our lives—the opera God is writing, not Mozart—forgiveness is a beginning. It calls us to be transformed from who we once were into what God destines us to be.

Today, our message comes to us from Jesus, post-resurrection. After His seminal act of forgiveness on the cross, He appeared to the disciples and said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” He didn’t bask in the magnitude of his recent accomplishment. He simply said, “Now it’s your turn. Your story begins here.”

For Mozart, forgiveness is an instantaneous—almost illogical—resolution. In the reality of our lives, it’s a bit more complex. Mahatma Gandhi called forgiveness “the attribute of the strong.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

We may just be at the beginning of Act 1, but I believe God has a lot of exciting arias in store for us in the scenes to come.

—BRIAN

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“Why Halt Ye Between Two Opinions?”

Originaly Posted on May 17, 2013

By Andrew Froemming

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word” 1 Kings 18:21.

In this passage, God uses Elijah to challenge Israel with the message, “Why are you waiting to make a stand for God”?

Recently a friend shared a Facebook meme that chronicles a lot of major Bible characters and their issues. It went like this:

“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sarah was impatient, Elijah was depressed, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Abraham was old, and Lazarus was dead….

God dosen’t call the qualified—He qualifies the called!”

This meme got me thinking that in the Bible you really never see instances of God calling people that where qualified by worldly standards. Instead you see God calling those that seem totally unqualified and then giving them the tools to accomplish the call. Yet all too often we feel that we must wait till we have the right qualifications before we can make a stand and share what God is doing in our lives. As I reflected on this thought I wondered why God would choose to work with those in whom He has to invest so much. Then I thought maybe the answer lies in the text we often use in offering calls: “Where your treasure is there also will be your heart”.  God’s investment in each of us is a revelation that His heart is with us and that He cares about us. Our shortcomings force us to depend on a power outside of ourselves. This paradigm means that God is constantly breathing life into our souls as we look to God to fill our inadequacies.

Each of us have stories of God working through our inadequacies. These experiences are reminders to us and catalysts of faith for others because they show that God treasures us. For God so loved the world that he chose to come to this earth and invest in broken people that no one should perish but all should have eternal life. In God’s eyes it doesn’t matter that we are not perfect. In fact, if we think we are more perfect then our neighbor we create a barrier that prevents us from accepting God’s love for us. If we only use our inadequacies to compare ourselves with other people’s issues—instead of as a place for God to reveal His love—we become our own gods filling ourselves. God then gently nudges us with, “How long halt you between two opinions? If I am to be God of your life, follow Me: but it you want play god, follow yourself.”

As I experience God’s call in my life, I am asked to share what God is doing in my life. God didn’t call me because I was qualified; He qualifies me because He called me. I am still not perfect—but God has given me all I need in order to share that He loves and treasures me with anyone that will listen.

—ANDREW

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Hallelujah, Jesus!

Originaly Posted on May 10, 2013

BY BERNARDO ROJAS

As a Christian I can understand why a true believer may choose to give their testimony about being saved, but this may not always be so clear to the average bystander. I remember the first time I saw a person publicly talk about how they got saved. It was 1989 in San Antonio, T.X. and my parents had taken my older brother’s fiancée and me on a summer vacation to attend my brother’s basic training graduation from Lackland Air Force Base. His graduation was around 3:00 p.m., so my family decided to take in the local tourist sights. We visited the Alamo and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, but out of all the things we saw, none left a more mysterious impression on me than a random man publicly preaching God’s Word.

It was a sunny, busy morning in that town square full of people shopping, taking pictures and doing the kinds of things people do on vacation. In the middle of all this activity was one brave soul dressed in Sunday attire, preaching. He was wearing shiny white leather shoes and a straw fedora, which he used to fan himself as the day grew hotter. I just ignored him at first. After visiting a couple of shops and stopping for refreshments, my family circled back to the preaching man. He had a Bible in one hand and was preaching up a storm through a bullhorn in his other hand. He would read from the Bible and interject things like, “Oh Yes! Hallelujah Jesus!” As he preached he would get encouragement from random people with occasional, “Woo-hoo!” or “AMEN!” re

sponses, but for the most part everyone just continued on their way without forming a crowd to listen.

I, being the sheltered country boy that I was at that age of 13, stopped to listen. I can remember thinking to myself, “Is this man crazy, out here in the hot sun with that bullhorn? Who is he talking to?” As I stood there listening and wondering I looked to my left and saw another younger boy listening to the man give his testimony. I noticed that he was listening intently, and I decided to make a comment to him about the man being “obviously out of his mind.” I full-heartedly expected the youngster to agree with me and have an innocent little chuckle at the gentleman’s expense. Instead, the boy looked up at me and said, “No, he is not crazy. He is preaching the word of God.” Then he walked off and left me standing there by myself.

I was mesmerized at how a younger kid could have known what the man was talking about while I did not. Suddenly, I was in an awkward place, and the preaching man did not look so crazy after all; now he seemed to glow in the late morning sunlight as I scurried away to find my parents.

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In Our Own Image?

Originaly Posted on May 3, 2013

As I write this journal I’m listening to an old cassette tape I found. One of the songs, “Simply Live” by James Rainwater, goes like this:

“I placed you so high I could not reach you. I let you live in just palaces of gold. I made you so rich and so holy you couldn’t dwell within a searching soul.

You came to earth in a lonely stable. You’re were know as just a carpenter’s boy. But you ate with the weak and rejected. Saw beauty in their hearts and gave them hope.

Simply live, simply love, simply show the beauty of your simple words, your simple faith, your simple deeds, your simple grace. If I try to make it hard just remind me who you are and teach me, Lord, to simply be like you.”

This song really challenged me with a question: Have we as a Christian culture—and also me personally—made Jesus in our (my) own image? There is a popular quote circulating around among my Facebook friends that goes like this. “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do” (Anne Lamott). As I reflect on the question, comparing my actions with the teaching I find in the Bible, I can’t help but be confronted with the fact that I do in fact create God in my own image on occasion.

John 3:16–17 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal Life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” This text convicts me to my core because I don’t always want to extend grace to people.

Whether is because I feel that they have wronged me in some way or simply because they seem strange because they are so different from me. Yet Jesus came down to this world, living and dying for me so that I could have eternal life. If I take my logic of why I don’t share grace with others my god wouldn’t be big enough to save me. Thankfully I don’t serve the god of my creation.

If God does not think the same as me what does that mean for me? John 3:17 says that God didn’t send His Son into the world to condemn the world. Instead God sent his Son in to the world to extend grace to everyone so that no one would perish. God came to this earth to reconcile all of us to Him. As humans we often feel a need to segregate and put up walls between people. We can give many different reasons why we do this though in reality the reason that we put up walls is to make us feel differentiated from everyone else. God showed us a revolutionary concept with the idea that the God of the universe would extend salvation to everyone—even the very people that hurt him. The next time we start making a god in our own image by thinking that someone else is somehow different than us, let’s instead remember the unconditional love that God showed us.

—ANDREW

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Seasons

Originaly Posted on April 29, 2013

BY BILL SALVADOR

Until my late twenties, I had not experienced the four seasons. I grew up in the tropics where there were only two seasons: hot and hotter (or wet and wetter, as others would suggest). When our family moved to this country in my mid-teens we settled down in Southern California, the land of endless summer and perpetual sunshine. Yes, I visited places with four seasons, but I had not experienced the year-to-year cycle and rhythm of changing seasons.

It was only when I moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan, for a couple years that I truly experienced the transition of one season into another and its effect on one’s psyche: the feeling of the air getting crisper as trees turn yellow, gold and red, shedding leaves to reveal their bare-branched silhouette in the fall; the anticipation of the first snow flurries and the first snowfall that marks the arrival of winter; the fresh sprouts of green and sudden bursts of color that erase the memory of slushy, dirty snow and punctuates the emergence of spring; then the shedding of multi-layered clothing, and the increasing heat and humidity that ushers in summer.

Perhaps because we do not have these natural markers of the changing seasons, I appreciate our (flexible and loose) observance of the Christian calendar or liturgical year here at this church. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Epiphany, Pentecost—these, like the events that mark the seasons in nature, provide a rhythm for our lives, and give us tools to reflect on our spiritual journeys, both individual and corporate.

That is not to say we are left out completely in observing the natural effects of the seasons here in Hollywood and Los Angeles. We do have opportunities to see nature do its thing to mark the seasons—but it may require a little extra effort. I especially look forward to “spring” Southern California style, although here, Spring may extend from February, when the rolling hills of our golden state turn green and the coastal wild flowers bloom, to March and April when a quick trip to the poppy fields in Lancaster or the high desert in Joshua Tree burst forth with the most indulgent display of colors, to July and August in the high Sierras, when the melting snow pack and glaciers create awe-inspiring vistas of lakes, pools and rivulets criss-crossing flower-studded alpine meadows.

According to the Christian calendar, this week is the Fourth Sabbath of Easter. Perhaps that is meaningful to you, perhaps not. But somewhere in California, there is spring—a time of new growth, new buds, new blooms, new nests, new life. Take time to reflect, it is not just nature that needs renewal. We, too, must be born again.

—BILL

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Am I Worth Resurrecting from the Dead?

Originaly Posted on April 23, 2013

BY MIREYA CHAFFEE

Do you ever have those cryptic thoughts about your death and how will you die? Do you fantasize about who would actually come to your funeral?

In my mind, I wonder if I’ve made any type of significant impact in someone’s life. You know, to the extent that they would be really mourning and wailing to God for my abrupt lack of existence.

Miss Tabitha [in Acts 9:36–43] was such a person. She was a disciple of such high caliber her illness and death moved people to inconsolable tears. That lady, also known as Dorcas (in the Greek) “was always doing good and helping the poor” (vs. 36). Tabitha touched so many hearts, tangibly, that some of her contemporary disciples begged Peter to come to them right away. They needed a leader among them to console them and make some sense of what was happening. Why had she been taken by death when she loved so many people, so effectively? No doubt they felt God’s love through her. Her touch was His touch, her soft embrace was His strong hold, her hand-made clothes were God’s grace clothing them.

Peter shows up with no real preparation for what God was about to ask of him. I can only imagine the devastation, chaos and wailing that was going on there for Miss Tabitha. All the widows there showed Peter the tangible ways they were helped by Tabitha’s loving actions. Tabitha helped the marginalized of her society, the un-loved of her time. She not only took risks to associate herself with them, she clothed them, with her love and her clothes.

After a quick assessment of the situation, Peter kicked everyone out of the room. Even though he was a strong leader, I think he was overwhelmed and at a loss for what to do. I think he also cried. I mean, who wouldn’t be moved to tears at seeing that type of devastation in a community? Peter is the one Christ questioned about his love for Him and His sheep. Peter was the one told to feed the sheep. Now, one of those sheep—a good one—was dead. So he fell to his knees and begged for God’s mercy. He believed that God could raise her from the dead. “Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).

Well shoot! Now do I not only wonder if there would be that kind of sorrow for my death, but my question now becomes: Is there a disciple so touched by the works of my life that he or she would fall to their knees in God’s presence and beg for my life so that I can continue “always doing good and helping the poor”?

I have also an even greater and more cryptic question: Do I have enough faith in God and can God trust me enough to give me the power to raise people from the dead, if I loved one of His disciples that much?

Peace,

Mireya

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Words of Life

Originaly Posted on April 12, 2013

This week’s Purple Journal is by Brian Lauritzen, church elder.

In that book which is
My memory . . .
On the first page
That is the chapter
when I first met you
Appear the words . . .
Here begins a new life
Dante Alighieri, from La Vita Nuova (1295)

Growing up, I never had a video game system. My family only finally got a computer when I was in seventh or eighth grade. But my cousins had a Nintendo—the original Nintendo Entertainment System. When our family would visit, I spent as much time as I possibly could playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Duck Hunt, and Rad Racer.

They even had a Bible game, so we could play Nintendo on Sabbath. It was called Exodus: Journey to the Promised Land. You were Moses and your objective was not to kill your enemies but convert them. The Word of God was your ammunition. You would shoot it out of Moses’ staff: it looked like a giant W and when it hit people, they would turn from angry to nice. You could use the Authority of God to “power-up” your ammo. Holy Oil would protect Moses from certain obstacles and New Sandals allowed him to walk through the Mud of Bondage. Bonus Manna if you were able to burst “Hardened Hearts.”

I grew up in a part of the country where people would often introduce themselves with both their name and when they got saved. It was all rather precious. “Hi, I’m Betty Lou and I got saved in March, 1994,” as if salvation was something you picked up on Aisle 17 at Wal-Mart.

Today, we’re going to hear about a different kind of conversion. One that, in the moment, must have seemed completely unnecessary. Saul of Tarsus was not only a good churchgoer, he was a leader—one of the top Pharisees of his time. He worked tirelessly to preserve the doctrine of the religious establishment, which he thought was being threatened by a small group of progressives. (Sound familiar?)

So zealous was Saul in defending the religious order, that he became blinded to the fact that the message was changing…evolving…growing…becoming more inclusive (i.e. not just for the Jews anymore). It took an appearance from Jesus himself to literally blind Saul, so that his eyes could be opened.

Later, Saul/Paul would write, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:14)

Holding fast to tradition is our natural human response. This is true in many realms: in business, in the arts, in science and in religion. When we discover tactics or ideas that work in a given moment or for a given situation, we cling to them perhaps far beyond their usefulness and well into obsolescence. What we require, then, along life’s path are multiple conver- sions. As God continues to reveal new truths, our lives become a multi-volume set of books with many first chapters, all of which read, “Here begins a new life.”

Grace and peace,

Brian Lauritzen

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Reworking our Frameworks

Originaly Posted on April 5, 2013

As the Hollywood Adventist Church enters a time of transition without a lead pastor, we’re changing the Pastor’s Journal to instead be a place where many different voices in the congregation can share. Welcome to the first entry in the Purple Journal.

BY ANDREW FROEMMING, CHURCH ADMINISTRATOR

This world is a funny place! For all the happy times we have, we often feel insecure when change comes. In the Bible we find many stories of people dealing with insecurities. Around this time of year as Christians we focus on the resurrection and what that means for us. It is important to remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection gave us the gift of salvation. Looking at the story of the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion from the perspective of those closest to Jesus we can’t help but sympathize with them.

The disciples, like most Jewish people of their day, expected the Messiah to come and defeat the enemies of the Jewish nation, setting up His earthly kingdom. They had traveled with Jesus for three years, giving up everything to follow Him. As they listened to Jesus, they constantly tried to fit what He told them into the framework of their existing religious mindset. When Jesus said things that they could not reconcile with their understanding of Christ’s mission they just let the words bounce off them or in some cases they tried to correct Jesus.

On Palm Sunday, Jesus asked several of his disciples to go to the city of Bethphage, untie a donkey and bring it to Him. This gave Jesus’ disciples an emotional high. Could it be true that Jesus would finally do what they had waited for after so long? I imagine that the disciples where fantasizing about this new world that Jesus was now ushering in. Once the disciples reached the end of the day without Jesus proclaiming Himself king, I am sure they were disappointed. But by now they were used to Jesus being non-conventional, so they just let it bounce off them and they continued on with their life.

Fast forward to Thursday: the disciples have just celebrated the Passover meal with Jesus. At the meal Jesus said some pretty strange things: He said something about His body being the bread… and His blood being the wine…. Then they sang a song and walked to the Mount of Olives. Mathew 26:31–32 says,

Then Jesus said to them “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd.’ But after I am raised up I will go before you to Galilee.”

Even now the disciples just did not get what Jesus was trying to tell them. The Gospel of Mathew even goes on to say that Peter tried to correct Jesus. All the disciples knew was that Jesus’ words sounded scary and it made them feel insecure.

I think that we are a lot like the disciples some times. We have this religious framework that we are constantly trying to fit what we hear into. The story of the disciples during Easter is about the death of their old religious framework that prevented them from understanding what Jesus shared with them. The open tomb—both then and now—is a catalyst for re-imagining. This process of re-imagining is not easy, as we can see with the framework-stretching expeiences of the disciples that long Easter weekend. In the end, though, this prepares us to better share the good news.

—ANDREW

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