What Do You Really Think About Prayer?

Hello everybody-

I want to ask a simple question this week.

What do you really think about prayer?

I’m a firm believer that we live in line with our true beliefs; our deep down, honest to God, ACTUAL beliefs. So the question I often wrestle with is: “What do I really believe about prayer?”

   Do I truly believe it is effective? Deep down – do I think it makes no difference at all whether I pray or not? Do I truly believe my prayers are heard? Does God really care about my prayers? 

    These are great questions that actually impact my prayer life. In the end, the way you answer this major question of what you really think about prayer – will impact if you pray or not. Once you come to grips with what you truly believe; the next questions are – “what does the Bible say about prayer?” and Do I know anybody whose experience with prayer verifies what I see the Bible teaching about it?” 

   These questions have meant a great deal to my prayer journey. I’d like to invite you this week to wrestle with this issue. To consider it. What does prayer mean to you? What does it truly, deep down mean… to.. you….


Have a blessed week everybody!


Pastor Ryan

We Love Because He First Loved Us

“We love because He first loved us…”
1 John 4:19.

This verse has been haunting me over the last few months especially with my Bell’s Palsy. From the very beginning of the onset of Bell’s, I heard very loudly from the doctors that I was likely overstressed and needed to rest while I worked through this illness… I had one doctor who told me that this was my body telling me it couldn’t keep doing the things it was; that something needed to change.

Following doctors orders I went to an acupuncturist when my family was visiting Mammoth. As I lay there on the table – this woman putting needles in my face, feet, hands and head; she asked me a very powerful question: “Ryan if stress is part of the issue – which I believe it is – what is causing you stress?”
I began to talk it through with her. It felt ironic to me; this woman was clearly a Buddhist; didn’t subscribe to my faith in Jesus but she had a deep peace about her and somehow God was going to use her to minister to me. At one point in the conversation she said: “Ryan, I just think that all this pressure you put on yourself; that maybe you carry for other people – is really never going to be lightened until you learn to let other people go and realize the person whom you are really trying to receive love from is yourself. In the end, the only person who can give you love – is you.”
Upon first glance that sounded fine and all. It had some inspiration to it, something in me related to it – but then I realized that even that was empty. It’s taken years for me to grow to a place where I even like myself. Why would I be looking for love from somebody who I don’t even like or respect? I’m not eternal, I’m not powerful – I’m just a small life living in a small town in a small area of the world. And then the reality is – if loving myself was the key – I would think I’d have figured it out by now. It seems so far away… Something was missing in this. If the key is me just looking in a mirror and saying I love myself and then believing it – that seems easy enough, until I don’t do it well – then can I love myself and accept myself when I cannot love and accept that I love and accept myself?????? It’ so confusing.
Unless, I was never the person I truly needed to receive affirmation and acceptance from. I found myself on that table – a human pin cushion – saying to this young acupuncturist lady – “In my worldview – I think it’s wonderful to love ourselves – but the truth is that ability to love ourselves flows from the reality that we are deeply, truly and perfectly loved by the God who made us. That even in those moments when we are truly human – we fail – we betray – we curse – we stray – that God’s love remains.” Then these words came out of my mouth and they struck home with me: “I guess so much of the weight I carry to please others – the weight I carry to be the best doggone preacher the world has ever seen – the pressure I put on myself to be a perfect father – the pressure I place on myself to say just the right thing to people who are struggling – the pressure I feel to be Jesus even when I can’t – that pressure comes when somehow I lose touch and awareness of the fact that I am loved already; loved perfectly; loved truly and deeply…”
Man that was a huge thought. We both sat there and she said: “That is beautiful – will God love you even when you lose awareness of the fact that He loves you?” I said “Yes”. Then she said – “So I guess to the level you can embrace that truth – is the level you can release some of this weight…”
Why do I say this following up a sermon on marriage? Because we need to be reminded of it every day: WE ARE LOVED! It is this love that inspires us; it frees us; it heals us; it empowers us to love others. To love our spouses.
I’d like to invite you to take some time this week to read 1 John chapter 4:17-21. God’s love for us is hand in hand with our love for others.

Please know that you are loved right now. As a matter of fact, you’ve never been more loved than you are right now. God’s love for you has been written in His mind throughout eternity. He can be nothing towards you but loving. I hope this gives you peace today and brings you freedom. All the stuff we DO must flow from who we ARE –


Defeating Sin In Our Lives

Hello everybody, welcome to this week’s 2nd look!

If you were with us on Sunday you may recall that the sermon was pretty heavy. We were talking about destructive sins that we should seek to avoid and eradicate from our lives.


I want to repeat something very clearly. Defeating sin in our lives – especially the ones that are of the nature discussed in Ephesians 5:3-7; is never an overnight thing. It’s a journey. We will have strong moments and weak moments. We will make mistakes but all along the way God will be with us.
The big thing for us as a church is that we not be deceived.  These sins are a big deal and yes – we need to battle against them. So how do we do this? I want to share with you three things that strengthen us for the battle with these sins… These things don’t guarantee that you’ll always defeat the sin – but I do believe these things will put you in a position of strength to wage war and achieve victory and freedom. So what are these three things?


Truth has a way of setting us free. Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” We must live in truth. In order to see victory in our lives we must be willing to be honest with ourselves, God and others. Sometimes we need to be willing to admit that we have a problem. Some of us need to admit that we ARE the problem. Some of us need to be willing to admit that the way we’ve been approaching things isn’t working and that we need help… Whatever it is – it seems to me the most important changes that lead to victory and growth always begin with honesty. Unfortunately, honesty is often the last thing we want to move towards, but if you want to see more and more strength freedom and victory in your life over these sins, it’s abundantly clear – you must be honest.

2)Strengthening relationships

We cannot get victory without strengthening relationships in our lives. There it is, plain and simple. But what is a strengthening relationship? Here’s some thoughts:
  • It is honest. Folks in these relationships are truly known – the good, the bad and the ugly. They are real with each other and therefore can support each other when they are weak.
  • It celebrates and pushes growth. A strengthening relationship is one where both parties seek to help the other be the very best version of themselves that God wants them to be. They will not settle for each other caving in.  They celebrate and push each other to grow.
  • It is simply there. Folks in a strengthening relationship are known and not alone. This is a relationship where they are doing life near each other. Their families know each other. They are journeying together.
  • It directs back to God. The chief aim in these relationships is for us to grow and deepen in our relationships with God. These friendships inspire this.
Strengthening relationships are absolutely key to finding strength, victory and freedom from the deadly sins in Ephesians 5:3-7. Without them you will fail. I’ve never seen someone succeed in this without these key relationships. The question to ask yourself is: Who fits the bill of what we described above? If you have no one currently fitting that bill – then who could fit that bill?

3)Seeking And Delighting In God.

Folks in recovery groups like to say they are putting their trust in a “higher power.” The greatest power we have is actually not our own. It is the power of God. One of the key components to victory over destructive sin in our life is actually to delight in and seek God; to have a daily relationship with Him that informs and transforms us. It involves reading the Scriptures, prayer and other spiritual disciplines. This can be very helpful for you and very healthy as well. If this is an area of weakness for you; or an area where you feel clueless and at a loss, let me invite you to seek help. There are folks in our church who have a wonderful relationship with the Lord and would be very helpful in getting you on a path with God. This relationship is something Debbi talked about on Sunday – discipleship or Jesus apprenticeship.  However you name it – the basic idea is that this is one person helping another in their relationship with God.  We all need it…


In a few months we will be discussing Ephesians 6 – the spiritual warfare section. The truest form of battle against sin and spiritual warfare – involves us putting on the armor of God. You may want to check it out. Read Ephesians 6: 10-18!


There is much more to say on this subject but these three things will put you squarely on a pathway that leads to strength victory and freedom. This week – in one of the commentaries I was reading to do research they writer said: “We don’t just fall into holiness.” That really stood out to me. We don’t just slip up; or just stumble along then all of the sudden – wham bam we’re holy! We don’t become an amazing musician because we just had a piano in our house for years and all the great intentions to learn it. At some point we need to be intentional to learn. We don’t just fall into holiness – it is a journey and it takes intention on our parts. We wage war against these sins in our lives by making intentional, even risky choices. It requires bravery but freedom requires nothing less.

Have a great week everybody
And may God strengthen you as you walk with Him and serve Him

Pastor Ryan

How would you describe someone who is “Powerfully Alive”

Hello SNC brothers and sisters!
This is our very first 2nd Look of the year as we begin our new sermon series on the book of Ephesians.

How would you describe someone who is “Powerfully Alive?

That is the question that has haunted me for some time. If you know anything about me you know I’m not satisfied with merely being alive; I want something else. I’m inspired by people who have that “something else” about them. Ephesians paints a picture of individual and church life that is powerfully alive. This is the kind of living that brings life; healing and inspires a world around us to sit up and take notice.

How would you describe someone who is “Powerfully Alive?

 Below I’ve written a list of some things that come to mind when I hear the phrase powerfully alive:

  • Transformation-personal and community (Christianity can be exciting when we look at how we are changed in light of knowing Christ. A church that encounters Christ and follows His leading can find that they not only are changed personally-but they are a big force for change in their community.)
  • We see more and more evidence of the fruits of God’s Spirit in our lives and in our church: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.
  • We see God empowering us to serve in awesome and exciting ways!
  • More freedom from the sin that so easily entangles.
  • Our relationships find more healing and more substance to them.
  • Living with eternal purpose and meaning.

These are just some of the things that seem to be evidence of being powerfully alive. I’m sure I missed some-but what’s interesting is how many of these things Ephesians addresses in one way or another. The first part of the book really deals with Who Jesus is and our identity IN HIM! So much begins with our identity in Christ.

So…How would you describe someone who is “powerfully alive?” Take some time this week and think about this. Maybe God wants you to discover more of this powerful living as you discover life in Him.

I pray your new year will be full of great adventures and discoveries. You are loved by God and by me. Have a wonderful week!
Pastor Ryan

Barrier Busters

Overcoming The Barriers
This last weekend we looked at the 4 barriers that often stand in the way between us and accepting/following Jesus. Here they are:
1) Inflexibility
2) Misunderstanding
3) Arrogance
4) Defensiveness or other emotional reasons.

These are not easy barriers to overcome and the reality is – we do a great disservice to simply tell someone: “Get over it.” Each one of these issues has no easy fix. Let me expand this a little bit. In the issue of “inflexibility”: We not only have to realize we are being inflexible (which takes a long time for me… 🙂 ), but we also then need to become willing to flex; and then understand how to flex; and then actually choose to flex… There are alot of steps to overcoming inflexibility and this is not just unique to this barrier. Each of them have challenges. So how do we overcome barriers?
I’m going to give you three crucial barrier busters… This doesn’t guarantee breaking barriers will be easy – but I’ve seen these be very effective in doing so… Here they are:

3 Barrier Busters
— Prayer:
David prays: “Search me oh God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in your way everlasting.” I recently read an article about prayer where the author gave a super helpful metaphor. They wrote that often times we view prayer like a boat a hundred yards off shore. The boat is lashed to shore by a rope tied to a tree on land. Prayer; the way we often view it; is like us being in the boat, pulling on the rope forcing the land to come to us. But of course that is silly and incorrect. When we pray we don’t force the land to us but rather the pull the rope and the boat comes closer to shore. Prayer doesn’t bring God closer to our heart and desires; rather it brings us closer to God’s heart and desires.
There is a temptation to view prayer as a game, or some kind of optional thing in the Christian life – when in reality it is absolutely essential to us as Christians. The barriers in our hearts are often unremovable without prayer. The broken things are unfixable. It may all begin with David’s prayer. “Oh Lord search me for those barriers and lead me in your way everlasting!!!”

— Look For The Next Step:
Sometimes when we think of our journey with God – we think of a huge treasure map. God leads us to different destinations and each turn in the road leads us to who we ultimately become. This is true… BUT… God rarely if ever gives us the map. He only tends to give us the next step to take. When we come across a barrier in our life with God – we need only look to the next step. We don’t have all the answers or resurces to defeat this thing right now – we only have the next step to take. Maybe the next step is simply to admit we don’t have things all figured out – or to admit we need help – or to admit that this behavior is destructive. Maybe the next step is a specific behavior – or a course direction change in our life… God rarely gives us the whole game plan. He usually only gives us the next step.

— Get Grounded, In God’s…..
The biggest challenge for me, when it comes to following God beyond my barriers – has been repeatedly; I mistrust Him. Deep down, I don’t think He actually knows or wants what is best for me. I still trust myself more than Him. For some of us we need to get grounded in God’s wisdom; or His love for us; or His power. We need to be reminded that no matter what happens, His way is best for us. That requires that we are grounded in what the Word of God has told us about Him. When I feel uncomfortable in life; like God has abandoned me; I need to be reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples that say: “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age…” When I am feeling shame; I need to be reminded of God’s great love for me. When it seems that God is calling me to humble myself; I need to be reminded of 1 Peter 5:5-6 that says:
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Sometimes the greatest barriers in our life – can be overcome simply by being strengthened by the promises and truth of God in our lives…

As we, as Christians, journey with God; we will encounter barriers; hindrances; walls that push us away from Him and His leading in our lives. I pray God will bless you this week and if you encounter one of these barriers; I pray these three barrier busters will help you mightily.

May God bless you all.
Pastor Ryan

The Gospel says it All

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1
Something happens to me quite often. I forget. I lose sight of the gospel. There’s a danger to this. Without the good news of Jesus Christ, Christianity becomes another religion. We create rules and try to please God on our own efforts. And we’re never really sure if things are ok between us and God. There is no security . . .

When a church loses the gospel it runs the risk of becoming the temple all over again. A leafy fig tree that advertises to everybody that we have what the world needs – But when you get close you find there is no fruit. We appear to be thriving but we are fruitless . . .

We must build this church upon the gospel. At the end of this week’s service, I shared a song that beautifully teaches the gospel. Click here if you would like to hear it again.

Have a wonderful week everybody!
Pastor Ryan

Life Beyond Survival

Hi folks-

It has begun!!!  Our series on The Sermon On The Mount is officially here! I cannot tell you how excited I am to study this beautiful sermon with you all.

Please remember – The Sermon On The Mount is not just some teaching by Jesus on how we can be good humans. It’s a radical re-formation of how we think and how we view life. It’s a majestic portrait of the life we have always been meant to live and yet – as humans it is simply not possible to live this on our own. We need God to develop this sermon in our minds and hearts – to change us from the inside out.

For this week’s 2nd Look – I’d like to invite you to check out this youtube link of a live version of a song many of us know well. It is an earnest prayer for God to change us from the inside out – that He would transform our characters – and the way we see things. I have been praying God would start some really exciting things at our church as a result of the changes He does in our minds and hearts as we study The Sermon On The Mount!!!  Enjoy the song everybody and may it be your prayer this week!

Pastor Ryan

Project Blessing Testimonies from 2011

Project Blessing

We were so blessed by flowers, meals, babysitting, kind words and emails of encouragement. This project really was used by God to make Sunland our home. It felt like home before but now even more so. Thank you for giving of yourselves to create a home here for us. It's strange to say-but blessing the school was a blessing to me. I learned how to surrender to the Lord. How He would want to do things-designing things-rally people to help-and not to move forward on how I thought would be best. Also watching how the Lord brought furniture, funds, hands that know how to restore, paint and sew together. I loved watching this church come and bless the teachers! His love is continually felt in that place.

–Alyssa Low

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to share the Lord's faithfulness with many in doctor's offices, business people, people calling on the phone (even telemarketers) and to see God's hand at work as a result of those who have prayed for my needs.                                                                     –Frankie Paslay


Pastor Duke has been a blessing with all his insight and practical examples, and his humor. Jeff Smith and the worship team are a blessing. Jeff is so into the music; gives his heart and soul. The music brings me to tears at times.


I help Ginger Clayton with her doctor appointments and medications. I also help in a small way with the loves and fishes ministry.


Being closer to family in Lodi and my mom is doing better.


I had to wait most of the year but I got a good job close to home, interesting program, good and talented people and I work within a maturing and gracious environment, how blessed am I. During this year I was blessed by a core group pf friends, who kept me inspired and blessed me with their support. How blessed I've been to have a such loving friends, and a number of people in the church showed me support and encouragement.


New job for my husband and a new house for my family.


  • I received food from a friend.
  • I helped lead a friend to Christ. Last month she accepted Christ as her Savior.
  • I shared food with a neighbor.
  • I gave my Starbucks card to a homeless man. He was sooo thankful!

My friends have blessed me. Kathy Storie has spent so much time with me helping me with my photo projects at home. Giving her time to me has helped me get organized.                             -Kristin Durkin

  • Over this past year God has blessed me by having my schedule allow me to minister to a family friend who is widowed. I can see how happy it makes her to see me. Just to know someone cares for her and prays for her. In turn that blesses me.
  • My brother and his prayer blessed me.
  • My wife and boys for their thoughtfulness toward me bless me.
  • Blessed by my mom's prayers for our family.

So many little ways Project Blessing took a hold of my life. Buying coffee for a friend; helping my kids with homework; telling a co-worker they are loved. Thank you for having the reminder of blessing. I also have a blessing given by a prayer accountability partner through the project.


  • I have been blessed by the love and support of some very special friends.
  • It always touches me to help others and I enjoyed doing a small part in the Sunland Elementary Teacher Lounge.
  • I also love being able to help less fortunate by sharing some of what God has blessed us with.

–Bonnie Pearson

God has blessed me with faith to stay the course over the last couple of years while there was doubt in our home! Now he has brought us here!


I am blessed to have Larry Hodges in my life, and I have become a better person.                  –Debbie Ruiz


  • Thankful that I didn't lose my Bible- it was found at church.
  • Thankful to be surrounded by Christian friends.
  • Thankful I have people that love me.
  • Thankful for family.
  • Thankful that I have two jobs.
  • Thankful for a loving husband.
  • Thankful for our health.

–Jennifer Knopp

God has used Lindsey's death in an amazing way. We have been totally blessed by the stories of lives being touched and changed, and the closeness of our church. If you want a story or two just call.

    -The Woodward Family

I volunteer teaching music at the World Impact School one day a week. The students are really enthusiastic and the staff is very appreciative of what I do. This year I had a lot of students asking for piano lessons. I now have a waiting list there and the students are doing well. The only downside to all this is the drive to L.A.

-Sue VanHeijzen

  • My son made me proud by using the guidance given to home and committing. He now has a job and waiting to be sent for Army Basic training in April.
  • My daughter continues to try hard.

I met a wonderful family; I help with their kids. Pick them up from school and stuff. I prayed for my pain to go away and it did!

                                                                                              –Teri Rangel

I'm so happy that I came to this church; I hope in the future I learn more English. Everyone here is very friendly and Pastor Duke is helping to take me to Los Angeles every Sunday. I am sure God blesses this church.                                                                                                                              –Pablo Martinez


I have been able to help out in my family with teenagers with prayer, notes, cards, calls and love to spread the word of the Lord and I pray they are blessed. Mostly I feel blessed to have Jesus by my side.


I have been blessed in finding this church and meeting some wonderful people. The prayers I have received have already brought many positive changes in my life. Thank You!


My Grandmother has been a blessing to me because I feel lucky to have this time with her. 3 years ago she was diagnosed with colon cancer and it has spread, and now it is terminal. I am glad to have her here.                                                                                              –Rebeca Hill


The unexpected blessing of my job allowing me to recycle old instruments that were otherwise going to be trashed, there is a financial blessing from this. Just being a blessing to other people.                                                             –Patrick Hill


God has brought many blessings these past few years while we struggle. Miracles through: love, help, family, neighbors, church, bible study, co-workers and even strangers.                            –Penny Blackwell


Sunland Neighborhood Church has been a blessing to my son Wesley and my family. The church's spiritual leaders and members have helped us all with our spiritual growth.                –The Deaver Family


I have a co-worker who is very fearful of her neighbors and activities in her neighborhood. I have given her many Joyce Meyers tapes on conquering fear and prayed with her. She constantly thanks me for helping her re-direct her thoughts to God's purpose for her life.


Debbi Fullington is a blessing to me. She set her alarm on her cell phone and she prays for me everyday at 7:00. She has been such an encouragement to me when I was diagnosed with a lung problem. Thank You! Thank You!                                                                                                                   –Sheri Wood


God has given me a job I love and has blessed me with awesome co-workers including one is a Christian.            –Mylene Grossnickle


Friday nights we take Helene (Charlie's step-mom) out to dinner, stay and visit with her for a few hours, since she no longer can drive and help her do things around the house.                  -Charlie & Twilia Perry


New job for my husband and a new house for my family.

God is Present – An exploration of the Book of Exodus

exodus1.jpegCongratulations!  It is a season of New Year's resolutions and new beginnings.  What a perfect time to begin a new Sunday morning sermon series!  What will we be looking at?
The book of Exodus!
Ahem… The book of Exodus?
Yes!  The book of Exodus!
Well… that sounds interesting…. Why Exodus?  Read more…