Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Out of control

Sometimes, life can feel like it is spiraling out of control. Compounded trouble can place extreme weight on our shoulders and before we know it, our lives have shifted from trying to actualize our vision to simply trying to figure out how to deal with the massive weight we carry from day to day. Many people have given up on thriving; it can feel overwhelming enough just to try to survive. Let me give you four strategies for getting a handle on this chaos so that you can refocus towards your pursuit of destiny:

1. Choose your battles wisely.

Only engage in battles that are worth fighting. These are the battles that will help you in the war. If winning a battle doesn't help you get closer to your destiny, it isn't worth fighting. Many times we work hard to prove a point and once proven, we find it doesn't really matter anyway. This is a waste of energy and effort. It is important for you to learn how to do what you can and it is equally important that you don't try to do what you can't. There are battles to fight (fight the good fight of faith) and there are battles that you don't have to fight (stand still and see the salvation of the Lord) - choose wisely!

2. Avoid isolation.

As I have experienced myself go through stressful situations and as I have coached others through stressful situations, it has become very clear that it can be dangerous to isolate yourself when dealing with stress. While, it sometimes feels that this is the thing to do and sometimes you don't want to burden others with your problems, the bible is clear in teaching us that we're not islands. Isolation is a breeding ground for out-of-control thoughts which lead to nonproductive actions. If you have a positive support system (church, family, friends, etc.), let your support system provide support. If you don't have a positive support system, pray for and seek a church family and/or a group of positive people doing positive things with which to spend your time.

3. Posture yourself for your future.

Develop a worldview of being future-facing. Spending too much time dwelling on your past can be counterproductive. In the same way, focusing on the stress and pain presently facing you can be a negative practice. I challenge you to always ask yourself: "What have I learned from what I've been through that could help me now?" and "How can I recover and grow from what I'm facing right now and use it to advance to my future?" Everything you're going through and everything you have gone through will develop something in you that you will need later. All things work together for the good of them who love the Lord - so, focus forward; your future will be better because of your experience.

4. In order to gain control, you must lose control.

If your situation seems out of control, perhaps that is because the wrong person has the controls (in case you're wondering, that wrong person is you). There's an incredible peace to be gained by giving your problems to God. We are instructed to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us. Your situation will remain out-of-control as long as you are trying to control it - when you give your pain, your worry, your anxiety, your stress to God, your situation will feel and become better. Let go and let God have His way!

Submitted by: Pastor Razel Jones

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Progress Report

In my school days, I remember receiving assessments in the middle of a semester to let me know how I was doing in classes. These progress reports gave an indication of what my next moves needed to be in order to achieve success in the rest of the semester. The word "progress" is defined as forward movement toward a destination. Today, it is my hope that you are making progress towards being who God says you are. Your destination (destiny) is the place your movement must be aimed towards. 

What movements have you recently made in your life? Are those movements taking you forward or backwards? Progress begins with honest self-reflection. Today, I encourage you to look over the recent moves you have made in your life and genuinely examine if your movement is taking you closer to or further away from the destination that God is calling you to. 

We all spend a lot of time hoping for progress, but oftentimes progress can seem to be elusive. Have you ever been in a season in your life where it felt like you had made no forward movement towards your destination for quite some time? 

Progress really is not as hard to attain as we sometimes make it out to be. The etymology of the word progress breaks the definition of the word down to pro (forward) and gressus (to step). It is from the Latin "progressus" which simply means to step forward. I believe many of us are often off the mark with our self examination and we mislabel ourselves as individuals who are making no progress because we have not arrived at our destiny. This is likely to be an inaccurate analysis. It is easy to lose site of the progress you have made by focusing on the distance you still have left to go towards your destination. Your progress is not about your arrival at destiny - it is about your stepping forward towards destiny. In fact, that's what the whole of salvation and right living is about - stepping forward towards destiny. It is a process of progress.

As you examine yourself, you must diagnose if your recent movement has taken you closer to destiny or not. Does that relationship take you closer to or further from destiny? Does that decision carry you in the right or wrong direction? Is that choice bringing you one step closer to or one step further away from your destiny? If you are not moving closer to destiny, there is a simple solution - just take a step forward! If you feel you're not making progress, it's crucial that you determine what you are going to do about it. 

Tonight, I spoke with one of our church leaders and I asked the question, "are you making progress?" The answer was, "some". I continued investigating and we discovered that for this leader, she would feel progressive if three things happened. One of those things was to get up earlier in the morning. She immediately set an alarm for earlier and instantaneously - BOOM! - she made progress. It was as simple as that - she took a step forward - not a sprint - not a flight; she didn't even exactly reach the destination by doing what the goal was but, she took a step forward. This is a change in how we grade ourselves; this is a change in how we measure our progress. If we assess ourselves based on the true definition of the word, "progress" rather than our idealized image of the meaning of the word, we would win more; we would be less discouraged, and make much more progress.

Finally, once you make progress, study your success. What did you do right? What worked? Once you discover the patterns of your success, apply them again and continue your success - keep progressing - keep stepping forward all the way to your destination. I heard Andy Stanley say, we typically don't study our own success. We study our failure and other people's success, but not our own success. If we would learn to pay attention to what we do right, we would perpetuate our success rather than our failure. 

Today, as you assess your progress towards destiny, I encourage you to pay attention to what is right about you, instead of only focusing on what is wrong with you. My prayer for you is that you take steps forward all the way to your destiny. Don't discount the progress you are making towards your destination. 

Philippians 3:16New Living Translation (NLT)
16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Handling the Father's business

Luke 2:49-50New King James Version (NKJV)

49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.

The past two years have been a flurry of activity for me. I enrolled in an intense MBA program hoping to gain business skills that would benefit our church as well as myself personally. After about a half a year in the program, we welcomed our first child, Kayden, to the world. In the midst of all of that, I received a promotion at work that came with more duties. In addition, I had the joy of preparing and/or performing marriages or vow renewals for around 10 couples. All in all it has been a wild ride and there have been times during the journey that I haven't been able to be fully present at Victory Life.

I just want to take this time to say, thank you for sticking with the ministry and the vision during this transitional time. I strongly feel that we are now on the verge of a great breakthrough for the ministry and the sacrifice we have all made over the past two years is about to be rewarded. 

I have come away from the program with new tools to apply to the ministry that will assist us on the business management side and will help facilitate the actualization of the vision that is set before us. 

We are going to do ministry business better. We will continue to grow in our understanding of the needs of the various market segments in our target markets and we will strengthen our activity fits and make sure that the activity fits are aligned with the vision, mission, and BHAG of the ministry. It makes many uncomfortable, but the truth of the matter is that church is business; it is the Father's business. I want to encourage those on board with the vision of Victory Life to be about the Father's business; commit to serving the Lord through the ministry in excellence and be on-point with your ministry activities. I appreciate all that each of you do to actualize the vision of Victory Life. Let's be about the Father's business together!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Baptism - what & why is it?


In just a few hours, we will have our 3rd Baptism service as a church family. August 3 at Hemlock Park in Big Rapids, in the Muskegon River at 10:45 a.m.

Why is it important? 

Baptism is an outward expression/sign of an inward truth for the believer. Baptism demonstrates to the world that you are serious about your connection to Christ. Through baptism, we connect with Christ in his life, death, burial and resurrection. The old you is left in the water as your sins were cast into the sea of forgetfulness, and the new you emerges from the water! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Baptism is defined as: 

  • a ceremonial immersion in water as an initiatory rite or sacrament of the Christian church.
  • an action of initiation, dedication, etc. 
  • a purifying experience. 

Here are some scriptures to think about concerning Baptism:

  • Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
  • Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
3 distinct methods/names to be baptized in, in each of these scriptures: 1. in the name of Jesus Christ 2. in the name of the Lord 3. in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

More importantly, many results are listed after the baptism:
  • Forgiveness of sins
  • Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • Being with the Lord/Waiting on the Lord
  • Observing the Word of the Lord
  • Dwelling with the Lord always
Some additional results include:

  • Connection with the body of Christ everywhere
  • Renewal
  • Cleansing
  • Fresh start!
We have 3 candidates who have signed up for Baptism this Sunday. Feel free to join us at the Baptism service to celebrate with these as they experience one of the greatest days of their lives!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

From I can't live without you to I can't live with you!

Hebrews 13:4a NLT

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.

Lately, I've been interacting with a lot of engaged and newly married couples. It is fun to watch the union of two people who want nothing more than to be together. In those stages, individuals seem to feel like they can't breathe without the other. Our focus can be entirely on the other person and during single life, individuals often feel like life will be incomplete if they do not get married to that person who has captured their attention and their heart.

As relationships continue, a transformation in this mindset can occur. Often, you see married couples who want nothing more than to be apart. In those stages, individuals seem to feel like the other person is smothering and suffocating them and impeding their ability to breathe. Focus seems to shift to self and during married life, individuals often feel like life will be incomplete if they do not find a way out of the marriage and away from the person who once captured their complete attention and total heart.

What a drastic change!

So, how do we avoid this transformation from feeling like you can't live without your person to feeling like you can't live with your person? Here are 3 suggestions:

1. Keep your connection. 
  • Stay connected spiritually - Pray together, read the bible together, do church life together, build each other up spiritually and encourage your person's spiritual growth. These activities keep Christ as the central focus of your marriage. Chances are much greater with the pursuit of Jesus as a shared goal in your marriage.
  • Stay connected emotionally - Share thoughts, share feelings, share reactions, comfort each other, work to bring joy to each other. Communication is essential. Communication kills conflict and communication keeps you connected, so develop strategies to ensure healthy communication in your marriage.
  • Stay connected physically - Remember when you couldn't keep your hands off of each other when it was leading to sinful activity? Now it is time to keep your hands on each other. Don't let the bedroom lose its passion; it's up to you to keep the passion in your relationship. Part of the pre-marital intrigue with sex is that you're breaking the rules... and for some reason (mostly, our sinful nature), that can feel exciting. Once you're married, you have to incorporate new ways to bring excitement into your physical connection.  
2. Build in some space.
  • Marriage doesn't mean you stop having a life; it actually can, and should, enhance both of your lives. You just have to find ways to make sure that your individual lives are helping fulfill the shared goals of your merged life. You are indeed living for your person, but part of living for that person involves some self-care and progress towards your individual goals as well. Your person won't be happy with you if you aren't happy with yourself. 
  • In marriage, you spend a lot of time together. In order to keep that time as something you both look forward to, you have to build in some time apart. Give your person something to look forward to - your person can't ever miss you if you never go away. In fact, if you never go away, your person is going to begin to dread seeing you coming. Develop a hobby - spend some time with the right friends - go after a positive pursuit that your person can support - spend some time with yourself. I always tell people, every now and then you need to take yourself on a date. If you don't like spending time with you, why would anyone else? 
3. Don't stop trying. 
  • Whatever it took to get your person, it will take double to keep your person. Make every effort to make your person's life better. If you sent flowers pre-marriage, send more flowers during marriage; if you took each other out on dates pre-marriage, do more dates during marriage; if you kept yourself looking good pre-marriage, don't start looking a mess during marriage. Successful marriages require determined effort.  
  • In marriage, there is a new golden rule - Do unto your person as they want you to do unto them! Love your person the way he/she wants to be loved. Love shifts and it takes effort to keep up with the changing demands of your spouse. What your person needs during marriage may be something totally different than what was needed before marriage. Don't get frustrated and stop trying to keep up with new needs - keep trying. You won't always succeed, but you need to always try. Discover, what Chapman calls, your love language - and, the CURRENT love language of your person. Once you discover it, speak that language to your person. Whether words, acts, gifts, time, or touch - speak their language. (For more information on Chapman's love languages and to take the love language assessment, visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com/)
Prayer: Today, I pray for the success of our marriages. Marriage is sometimes challenging and frustrating, but it is also beautiful and rewarding. Lord, help us to experience the best of marriage and to overcome the pitfalls that attempt to steal the joy of our marriages. Give us strategic ideas to make our marriages successful. Empower us to be successful in our pursuit of good and healthy marriages and help us to always glorify You through our care and love for our spouses. We ask for your help; we thank you for our opportunity; and we believe You for our success. We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.  

Contributed by: Pastor Razel Jones

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Language of Leaders

The Language of Leaders:

For all leaders going after success, check your progress against these important leadership steps towards actualizing any vision:

1. Know your vision. 
  • Where are you going? What are you doing? What problem are you solving? What need are you meeting? 
2. Develop a strategy to accomplish the vision. 
  • How are you getting there? How are you doing it? How are you solving it? How are you meeting the need?
3. Get buy-in into vision and strategy.
  • Find out who is with you - not just who is there, but who is down for the cause. 
  • Who wants to go where you're going - do what you're doing - solve what you're solving and meet the need you're meeting? 
4. Get to know your team.
  • What talents, skills, and strengths do the people surrounding your vision bring to the table? What does each individual specialize in? What can you ask her to do that will end in success? What shouldn't you ask him to do so that he does not fail?
  • Show them the real you so that they will open up and show you the real them. Authenticity is comfortable around authenticity - realness respects realness. 
5. Learn what motivates yourself and your team and provide the motivation.
  • What is it that makes you want to keep moving forward? Feed that to yourself. 
  • What is it that makes your individual team members want to keep moving forward? Feed that to your team.
6. Strategically align your team's individual talents with your corporate strategy. 
  • How can what your team members specialize in help get your vision where it is trying to go? 
7. Celebrate small victories.
  • What went well? 
  • When a piece of the vision takes shape, make it a big deal. 
  • When an individual successfully applies their talents to the strategy, make it a big deal.
8. Measure progress and give feedback balanced with grace & truth. 
  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we keep doing?
  • What should we stop doing?
9. Correct issues and keep it moving. 
  • What is the poison trying to attack your strategy? Remove it.
  • What is the bottleneck? What's making progress come slowly? Open it up. 
  • Have tough conversations. 
  • Make sure that leaders are leading - if they're not, correct them or remove them.
  • Find the root cause of the issue - ask "why" repeatedly to get to the root cause of the issue.
10. Never give up - actualize your vision!  
  • Success isn't easy or everyone would have it. 
  • Work hard, then put in hard work. 
  • When you want to stop, start.
  • Quit quitting - stop stopping - give up on giving up - do not not do!
  • Keep going until you see in your reality what you saw in your mind. 

Contributed by: Pastor Razel Jones

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stop sinking and start floating.

I am enjoying the summer. In addition to trips to the beach, a lot of grilled food, and sun on a regular basis, one of the highlights of my summer has been taking my one and a half year old daughter to her weekly swimming lessons.

Disclaimer: I am a preacher and EVERYTHING becomes a potential sermon. 

So, while in the water, her teacher gave her the first water toy to play with and it floated on top of the water. Her assignment was to put her face towards the toy and blow bubbles while getting the toy. Then, the second water toy was distributed - it was about the same size, but this one did not float on top of the water - it sank towards the bottom of the water and her assignment was to submerge her whole face in and try to go get the sinking toy. 

It made me think - why do some of the toys float and some of the toys sink? 

Weight: The simple assumption to make involves the weight of the toys.The heavier the toy, the more likely it is to sink - seems logical, right? But, the weight alone can't be the only factor. After all, I weigh much more than the rubber shark my daughter was playing with, and I am able to float in the water instead of sinking like the toy. So, the answer is not weight. So, there have to be other factors.  

Design: The way the objects are made has to affect the flotation ability. Density is absolutely a factor affecting the ability to float. Science teaches us that if objects have dense, closely-packed together molecules they tend to sink, while loosely packed molecules have less density and tend to float. Another design consideration is if there is air inside the object, it is more likely to float. Upon further thought though, if it were only a matter of design, there would be no need to have my daughter in lessons - she would just float and swim based on design alone. I have seen a lot of people in the water who are full of air and have the same design that I have, but they tend to sink rather than float. Therefore, design affects the ability, but the answer has to be more than just design.  

Faith: It's not weight and it's more than design. I've been told that any human is designed to be able to swim, but what keeps us from swimming is fear. In order to float, a person must believe that they can and get rid of their fear of drowning. Once relaxed, we're less dense and we naturally float; but, in order to relax, we must believe in our ability to float.

Matthew 14:28-31New King James Version 
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Today, someone reading this is facing some situations that look intimidating. You have to make a decision - will I jump into it or will I run from it - will I have fear or will I have faith - will I sink or will I float? You are designed by the Master craftsman; you are designed to float - not to sink. Psalm 139:14 declares that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. We serve a God who always causes us to triumph. Even when it looks like we're losing, there's some winning that's going to come out of it. So, I say to you today: 

1. Trust your designer - God crafted you. 
2. Trust your design - you have skills talents and abilities that are unstoppable.
3. Relax - enjoy the float. 

Floating is relaxing, but in order to enjoy the relaxing, you have to relax. Today, I challenge you to let go of your doubt; let go of your worry; let go of situations that are beyond your control. All of those things cause you to feel like you're sinking and even drowning. Let it go and enjoy the float!

Pastor Razel Jones

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Take the test!

Multiple choice: Select the answer that best describes your reality.

A. Things will never get better.
B. It could be worse.

A. You might as well give up.
B. You have no choice but to keep going.

A. God will never remember you.
B. God will never leave you. 

A. My way always works.
B. God's way always works.

A. I do all things well. 
B. God does all things well. 

A. It's all about me. 
B. It's all about Jesus.  

A. I treat myself better than anyone else treats me.
B. He treats me better than I treat myself. 

A. I should complain. 
B. I should praise. 

This is the simplest test you could take - all the answers are the same. Yet and still, we often choose the wrong answer. Today, I want to challenge you to choose to B who God says you are - victorious, more than a conquerer - an overcomer! Hold on to what you know - don't let go!

Contributed by: Pastor Razel Jones

Monday, August 26, 2013

Not so random acts of kindness

August has been an incredible month! Our focus has been on outreach and on impacting our neighbors close by and around the world. Whether visiting the local nursing home to spend some time with residents, giving an encouraging word and sharing songs or sending ties to South Africa, or Rock(ing) the Block - providing school supplies, food, fun, inflatables, worship bands and more to our community free of charge, or giving away money to the community, we have enjoyed being a blessing to our neighbors with not-so-random acts of kindness! We are blessed to be a blessing and I'm so blessed to be surrounded by people who are willing to take church outside of the 4 walls! The Overcomers of Victory Life Christian Ministries are amazing - they don't flinch at the challenges presented to them and they give 100% to make sure that God is pleased and that the Victory Life vision is actualized! Now, we move into September - what has impacted you during Outreach month and how do you plan to continue the not-so-random acts of kindness in your own life?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Flow

Summer Flow has been great so far! Summer Flow is May-August and it is: One Hour, One Season, One Word – Summer Flow, One at 1!

I have enjoyed the variety of ways service has been opened: spoken word, dance, song, focused prayer. God has certainly been blessing us in the area of the Word. It's amazing how much can happen in one hour - it doesn't take God a long time to flow and He has shown that this summer.  

I'm excited about the upcoming series from Deacon Jessica Robinson in July. Jessica is indeed a phenomenal speaker and challenges us all with God-inspired interpretations of the Word of God. We are in for a treat - don't miss Summer Flow - July!