It is so important to feel like we belong somewhere. Feeling like we belong makes us more committed and helps prioritize our activities. I want Victor Valley Christian Church to be a place where each of us belongs.
There are various ways you can belong. One very important way is to belong to a Life Group. Life Groups at VVCC exist to build community within VVCC by connecting, growing and serving.
Through Life Groups we make meaningful connections with others and build trust enough to open up. It is a place to dig deeper into scripture and discover applications that are specific to our lives. It is also a safe place to experience the accountability, support and encouragement of others.
My husband and I have been a part of Life Groups for many years. They have been a place where we formed meaningful friendships. A place where we created bonds that last a lifetime. Life Groups have been a place where we have been able to care for people in the VVCC community. They have also been a place for our faith to be strengthened. We have been able to grow in our relationship with Jesus, our knowledge of the Bible and been able to assist others in their growth. Life Groups are a place to belong. It is my desire that everyone belong.
In order to belong, a commitment must be made. I have found that my relationships do not grow unless I make the commitment. The same is true for a Life Group. What kind of commitment is required in a Life Group? The first is to commit to the meeting time. Life Group needs to be a priority. It needs to be something that does not get pushed aside for something else. Relationships cannot cultivate if the time is not put into them or if other things are deemed more important.
Another is to commit to be in God’s word and open to what He is teaching you. He will use your lesson and those in your group to lead and encourage you. In return, don’t be a mere spectator. Participate in the study and the lives of those in your group. It is amazing what can happen to a group that is committed.
If you have not found a Life Group, I hope you will take advantage of this weekend's Life Group Connect Event. This will take place on Sunday, September 20th before, between and after services. This will be a great time to meet some of VVCC's Life Group leaders, and hopefully find a group and a place to belong. We want VVCC to be a place where you belong and are able to be committed and connected because you are important to us.
The In Between(s)
By Clarissa Toll
If you have been around church for any amount of time, you’ve heard about seasons.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecclesiastes 3:1
A season for birth and death
A season for planting and reaping
A season for healing
A season for building
A season for tears and laughter
A season for dancing
A season for embracing
A season for tearing down and mending
A season to be silent and to speak
There is so much to glean from these seasons. So much goodness and importance are housed within these defining portions of our lives, but what happens when they aren’t as easily defined?
What happens when you don’t know exactly which season you’re in?
These are the in between(s), as I’ve recently started calling them.
Ya know those times when a big something is ending In a short amount of time but you’re not quite there yet or you see a change not far off but you’re in a period of uncertainty? A job change, a birth of a child, the start of empty-nesting, graduating high school or college, deciding on a move… the list goes on.
Right now, I am literally in the season (summer) between graduating college and starting my big adventure into a career and my future.
The in between(s) are really hard on me, at least that's what i'm learning in this season of what feels like nothing but endings and the waiting on beginnings. I'll finish school up this coming December, "real-adult" like life will start after that, along with which will come a bunch of other big heart things to size up and settle into before the looming deadline. Its weird and uncomfortable, to be honest. I've been warring with being content, holding on, and running full speed ahead for some time now.
It’s an odd place to be in, while I may feel finished, I’m not yet done and there are still hoops to jump through. I can feel the pull to jump off and start, yet I’m in between the end and the beginning of two major chapters of my life. I don’t know the career I’ll fall into at the end of December or where I’ll be this time next year, but I’m in a-not-so definable season nonetheless.
Sure I’m building, but I’m also waiting. I’m embracing the beginning of the new, but I’m also reaping what came from the planting that is four years in college.
But y’all want to know what I’ve learned by seeking and pondering about seasons? Each season isn’t defined by one word. A lot of them are marked by these words from Ecclesiastes, but there are in between(s) to each.
It’s never wrapped up with a nice one word, easily defined bow, but even the in between(s) are just as important and chalk full with things to glean.
I’m the type of person who likes to find boarders and parameters; I like to label things and scrutinize over there definitions. But the older I get, I’ve realized the undefinable are the things we learn from the most.
No season the Lord leads us through will be completely comprehended by our human abilities, so why do I (we) limit them to simple, short worldly definitions?
We catch such sweet glimpses of what He is teaching us as we walk through them, but some of these fruits we will never fully grasp this side of heaven (Ecclesiastes 8:17).
So we’re going to reap and build and tear and laugh and cry and speak and be silent in each season of our lives, possibly with one or two playing a larger role in each, but it’s all going to add up into a season.
In each, though, I pray we choose to glean and seek where the Lord is.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord. -Psalm 27:13
Where do you feel in between? Where is it you aren’t sure how to define where you stand?
Lord, our time on this earth is a constant time of change and seasons. There is mess and stability, brokenness and joy; but in it all is where we find you. As a church, I pray we recognize the seasons and the in between(s) we’re in so we can seek you and know you better in our lives. This side of heaven is full of your brush strokes of mercy, lets us glean from them Lord.
Our youth summer conferences are a time for both students and adults to grow closer to one another and God. The students are able to hear from amazing speakers that challenge them on multiple levels. As adults, the other sponsors and I get to hear from a "campus pastor" whose responsibility is to look after the adult leaders exclusively.
This year, we were challenged by the campus pastor to ask four key questions of our students. These questions are an important part of their growth and development as Christ-followers but they are also questions that each one of us must ask to grow deeper. The amazing thing is to realize all of us have asked these questions at one time or another. They are not complex but can be very revealing when asked correctly.
The first question is, "Who is God?" Simple right? Who we believe God is has a great deal to do with our spiritual development. The primary source we have for knowing about God is His Word. God uses His Word to reveal Himself to us. If we are not willing to read God's Word, then we will not have an accurate picture of God. How many times have we all heard someone make a definitive statement regarding the nature of God that was obviously incorrect? The root of such things is almost always a lack of commitment to reading God's Word.
The second question is, "Because of who God is, what has he done?" This question not only drives us to God's Word, but we can also see what God has done and is doing in our individual lives. When we see God asking Adam and Eve in the garden, "Where are you?" It's not because God is unaware, it's because he wants us to know that He is seeking a relationship with us. Furthermore, He wants us to know where we are in our relationship with Him. In John 3:16 we read that God loves us so much that it moved Him to give His only begotten Son. Timothy Keller speaks of God as being "prodigal" in nature. That His love is lavish,even reckless, in regards to His desire for a relationship with us.
The third question is, "Because of who God is and what He has done, who am I?" The word Christian means "little Christ", thus as Christians we find our identity in Him. We see from who God is and how He has pursued us that we are wanted and loved. It is God who gives us our identity.
The final question is, "Because of who God is, what He has done, and who I am, how is it that I should live my life?" The previous three questions should bring about a result that manifests itself in our lives. The motivation of asking these questions is not about behavior modification. We may be able to change our actions without transforming our hearts but what God truly seeks is that we completely establish ourselves in him.
Here's the problem. It is easy, and even culturally fashionable, to reverse these questions. This is extremely dangerous. If we start by asking, "How am I living?" Then, "Because of how I'm living, what is my identity?" We will inevitably reach the conclusion that, "Because of my established identity, I must conclude that God intended me to be this way." This is how much of our society's view of God has skewed away from a Biblical view of God. We have created a God of our own making rather than making us a people of His creation.
Let us not be unaware, this twisted world view can easily make its way into the church and our individual minds. If we are not consciously aware of where we are suppose to start, this will be the result. We MUST start with God and never ourselves.
I'd argue the most practical benefit of living in the age of technology is the tremendous access to information. At no point in the history of creation has it been so easy for people to access so much information as we now can through the internet. And while much of what is made accessible to us through the internet can be seen as a distraction at best and a temptation at worst, for the Christ follower there is also an unprecedented opportunity to discover pockets of helpful, insightful and disciple-producing content.
Most of us own at least one device whether it be operate on iOS or Android that is capable of offering an astronomical number of apps to make connecting to this information easier. Frustratingly, the sheer number of apps available to us often makes finding quality apps that really help Christ followers grow in their relationship with Christ a difficult or overwhelming process. That's why I thought I'd share a couple apps with you that I use on either a daily or regular basis and have proven to be immensely helpful in my growth as a Christ follower. And if you have an app that you use, that you have found helpful, I'd love for you to leave it in the comments section to share with myself and others.
Let me know if you find these helpful, as in the future I'd love to share more great apps and how they are helping me grow as a Christ follower.
The Bible App
Nothing has the power to drive growth in an individual like getting into God's Word. Not only has having the bible on my phone impacted my daily bible reading, but it has also made possible things like having the app read the Bible aloud while on a long drive, doing a quick search for that passage that's partly fuzzy in your brain to make sure it says what you think it says. In so many ways having instant access to God's Word can be a world-changer for someone committed to growing in their relationship with Jesus. My preferred Bible App is this one, both because for me it seems to be the easiest to navigate and because it offers a tremendous selection of bible translations at absolutely no cost. There's also a tablet version that has a great interlinear function which I find incredibly helpful when doing intense study. Available for iOS, Windows Phone & Android
Right Now Media App
As a church we've been excited about Right Now Media for years. We refer to it as the Netflix of Bible Study videos. Now boasting over 10,000 video bible studies available this is a great resource for anyone looking for sound teaching covering a wide range of topics. I find myself on Right Now Media at least a couple times a week watching something when I am waiting in the car to pick up one of the kids or just looking for a fresh perspective on living the christian life. Through our partnership with them, Right Now Media is available free to every attender of VVCC, if you don't have a username and password for the service, email me and we will rectify that.
Right Now Media is available at rightnowmedia.org, and they recently launched an app for iOS devices with word that an ANDROID version of the app is in the works.
People are the most important thing in the world. Their value is infinite. If we look at the cost of a human soul we see this to be true. Making the assumption that the Bible is true, we read that the God who created the universe also created human beings. These humans had an intimate relationship with God but separated themselves by choice. They chose to disobey.
Then God enacted a ridiculous plan, a plan so audacious it makes all mythological stories about heroes seem silly and trite. His plan was to send His Son to pay the price for all humanity to bring them back to an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. Humanity deserved to die, but God could not die. So the God who created the universe became a man, a man of flesh and blood.
God had been invulnerable. Nothing could have hurt Him. But now He was vulnerable. Now God could bleed. Now God could die. That was the point. That was the plan.
This person, Jesus Christ, both fully God and fully man, was killed and His blood was poured out for all humanity. The blood of God, so antithetical and strange. The blood of God, so precious and unique. The blood of an infinite loving God given for human kind. No other substance in the universe could have done this great work, only the blood of God.
Therefore, people are the most important thing in the world. Their value is infinite. The cost of a human soul is the blood of God Himself.
A Special Thank You
At the time of this writing, my wife and I just concluded an incredibly emotional week for us. During this week Tina and I began to walk a path that many parents have walked before us and many will after us. Our oldest child, Jacey, graduated from high school. Now I am not the overly sentimental type but I found myself feeling incredibly emotional leading up to, during, and after the commencement ceremony. To be honest, my feelings really caught me off guard. I fully expected my wife to be emotional. In our marriage that’s always been the way it’s gone at major family life events; she gets emotional, I am her encourager, the shoulder to cry on, the voice to assure her everything is going to be ok. That’s not how it happened this time. This time we both required encouragement, both of us were in need of that shoulder, we looked for others to tell us everything was going to be ok.
My daughter’s graduation made me appreciate the local church. Naturally, having devoted my adult, professional life to local church leadership I already possess quite the respect for the church. But this time I considered the church less as the one who participates in its leadership and more as the beneficiary of the love, community, and service contained within. In my nostalgia looking back at the past 18 years of raising my daughter I was reminded of the role the church has played in her upbringing. You see, Tina and I made the decision years ago to raise our children in the church. Church attendance was going to be the priority above all else.
In making church attendance the priority it meant that many people over the years would play incredibly important roles as our children grew up. As I reflected back on my daughter’s childhood, adolescence, and now young adulthood I could not help but become ever more emotional thinking of all those sweet saints who invested in her at key moments of her spiritual, emotional, and physical development. Yes, Tina and I raised our daughter. We put in the hard work but it was not without a wonderfully loving and supportive network of caring men and women willing to give of their time, talents, resources, and lives investing in Jacey and walking alongside Tina, me, and Jacey as she grew not only as a woman, but as a Christian.
So, to all you nursery workers who lovingly rocked Jacey and patiently introduced her to the gospel through memory verses, crafts, and coloring sheets...thank you! Your investment has paid dividends. To Tammy G., you BASECAMP MCs, teachers, and check in personnel…Tina and I are in your debt. I had the privilege of baptizing my daughter because you welcomed her and invested in her life of faith. To those who served as camp counselors and VBS volunteers, your service created priceless memories from which she draw upon for a lifetime. To all you youth workers, and Neil H. and Bryan E…my family appreciates your being there by her side, supporting us as we navigated the treacherous years of junior high and high school. You have been Christ-like examples providing a safe place for her to mature, ask difficult questions, and grapple with her faith without judging or condemning her. To those precious couples in whom Tina and I have relied and kept a close eye upon as you walked this path right before us, thank you for your allowing us into the lessons you’ve learned and sharing your hearts with utmost transparency.
Many have said that it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t really give this cliché much credence unless that village is the church. You see, Jacey is who she is today for several reasons. There are the obvious genetic and environmental reasons. She is without a doubt a product of her family of origin, but she is also the product of a host of wonderful men and women who comprise the church and who took the time to invest in her spiritual development. You will forever be a part of her spiritual legacy. You have been incredibly instrumental in the development of her faith, a faith from which I pray she never wavers. Thank you!
If you currently serve in the nursery, preschool, elementary, or youth ministries please do not lose your passion to see the children under your watch grow in their faith in Jesus. What you do on a regular basis is tiring, it can be frustrating, it is emotionally draining; but I am here to tell you, the reward is great! Please do not see what you do as a burden, time wasted, or as something you “have” to do. This is something you “get” to do. What a privilege it is to be a part of someone’s spiritual adventure. What a joy it is to see someone in whom you’ve invested much transition toward adulthood with her feet firmly planted upon God’s Word!
Perhaps, you’ve been on the fence as to whether or not you ought to get involved in one of these areas of ministry. Maybe you’re seeking that place where you can meet the Christian’s mandate to serve. Do not underestimate the importance of investing in the generation that follows.
As many of you have walked this bittersweet path before Tina and me you know what this next season of life entails. My family will learn all this soon enough. We are excited about the newness of the time. We mourn the end of what we’ve known and appreciated for so long, but welcome the challenges before us. We are so thankful that as we let our daughter go and pursue the life she desires for herself it will be with the manifold wisdom of God, a confidence in God’s Word, a strong desire to continue to serve others through the local church, and with God’s will in mind.
Thank you Victor Valley Christian Church. You’re not done. Our son has three years to go, and there are several dozen other infants, toddlers, children, and youth who need you.
Life is an Adventure
Life is constantly changing, and with every transition in life comes adventure. Growing up, I never thought of myself as an adventurer, but I have found that I can be pretty adventurous, especially when my adventures include my favorite person to take adventures with, my husband. When we were newly married, I had no problem moving to Kenya with him. 21 years ago, I was excited to leave Orange County and move to the high desert. I was more than just willing to go on a mission trip to India. I eagerly left an area of ministry I had grown comfortable in to a ministry that would provide a challenge and become a growing experience for me.
Parenting is another adventure we embarked on together almost 23 years ago and I honestly did not know what an adventure that would be! I can honestly say it has been the best adventure of my life. It is also the adventure that I have struggled the most in adjusting to the natural transitions. I loved being a mom to little ones. I enjoyed being involved in their schools and classrooms through elementary school. I was honored to be an ear to bend and a safe place for my girls to turn to during their difficult Junior High days. I watched with anticipation to see where they would go to college and what paths they young lives would take. My daily prayer that they would keep Jesus first and foremost in their lives.
I was unprepared for the mixed emotions I would feel when they were ready to actually step out on the paths that were laid out before them. I was excited for their adventures, yet struggled with the knowledge that those adventures would be THEIR adventures. I had to let them go, let them experience all that lay before them. The fun. The difficult. The exciting.
My daughter's are adults now. My husband and I did our best raising them to be independent and strong women. A mama’s heart takes a little time to catch up to that reality, and I think mine is just now finally catching up. I am learning to step back and trust that Darin and I parented the best we could, confident that God has them and always will. I am so excited to see how he will use them.
As I think about all this, I'm reminded that this is the time of year when many parents must deal with transition. Their little ones getting ready to start Kindergarten. Others moving on to Junior High or High School. Some are getting ready to send their “babies” out into the world. Each is a milestone to be celebrated but still a difficult transition. Enjoy and cherish all the transitions. Having made your journey, my advice is to continue to pray for your children and trust that God “has them”!
Watch as they begin their adventures. Be their cheerleaders. Be their safe places. Be their prayer warriors. You may find it is the best adventure you ever had.
Redemption in the Curse
By Dave Bateman
There’s something evil about weeds. They serve no purpose. You can’t eat them. They don’t have pretty flowers. Absolutely no redeeming value. They are a curse from God, seriously. Genesis 3 tells about the fall of mankind. All three participants in the fall received a consequence (or curse) from God. After God is done with the serpent and Eve He said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.”
I don’t get my food from the 3/4 acre lot I live on, but I am familiar with painful toil and weeds. Most Saturdays I am either pulling weeds out of the gravel or hula hoeing them. In fact I have a certain muscle in my back that I refer to as my hula hoe muscle and I know I’m finished for the day once it seizes up.
The task is overwhelming. To manually weed such a large lot takes so much time and makes me feel small. Friends don’t understand why on Earth I do it. They tell me to hire someone, drag it with a tractor, or invest in some Round up. What they don’t understand is weeding is my Gethsemane. It’s where I go to meet with God.
Most of the time He is quiet and lets me work, but every so often He will speak to me. He will bring to my mind people to pray for and help me sort through problems. I don’t hear a voice, but I know in the stillness, the quiet of the wind, He is telling me He loves me and He is with me.
The work and the sweat pushes out the angst and keeps me humble. I connect with the dust from which I came and to which I will return. It doesn’t make sense how something so horrible can be beautiful and redemptive, but that’s how God works.
As I write this on a Saturday, it’s time again for me to go. God is calling me outside, to the weeds, the wind, and Himself.
By Tammy Grebel
I make prayer harder than it needs to be. Sometimes it can be a struggle and it can be intimidating. It can seem like a waste of time when I don’t get the answers I want. My prayers are often times selfish, and at times highlight my insecure faith. Prayer does not always come naturally, and I think we all, at times, struggle with it.
There are times in which I have full, long conversations with God. Other times they are more like quick little “text messages”. And other times, I have had what I call Concerts of Prayer. This is where my prayer continues off and on throughout the day.
A lot of times my prayers would start as a “laundry list”; just rattling off what I think I need, with no real conviction or feeling. “God please help me….” “Please be with…..” “Grant me…..” It was generally about me. The dictionary defines prayer as communion, and act of worship. When my prayers are about me, it is most definitely not an act of worship.
There are various examples of prayer in the Bible. Jesus shows us the way to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. It is like he knew prayer would not be easy for us. The Lord’s Prayer is not flowery or eloquent. It just speaks. It was a very heartfelt prayer from Jesus, as he knew his future….the cross. That is what I take away…a heartfelt conversation with God. Prayer then becomes wanting to be obedient to Him, knowing that, just as I listened to my children and was patient with them, He is the same, if not more so with me.
God wants us to seek Him. To commune with Him. He longs to be with us and included in our thoughts. He wants to talk with us during the good times and the bad. He even wants us to commune with him when we don’t really have much to say. Many times our most broken and messy prayers are also our best. They turn out to be our most heartfelt prayers. CS Lewis says:
I have a notion that what seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best…
For these, perhaps, being nearly all, will come from a deeper level than feeling.
- CS Lewis, from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
Many times my prayers are a cry to believe that God really does “have it” and that I can give up control and let Him. My prayers and time with God has evolved. It has taken deliberate time, uncomfortableness, self-realization and giving up control. My God loves me. He wants me to be real with Him. He knows my heart already, he just wants me to talk to him about it. He wants me to include him. I just have to open the door to my heart and mind and let him. He doesn’t want me making it harder than it needs to be.
By Neil Harris
Technical Arts Pastor
“It’s not the measles.”
I’ve uttered those two phrases a lot lately.
About a month ago my skin started breaking out. At first, it didn’t seem all that serious, and I thought it was allergies. Throughout my adult life I’d become used to breaking out at the first sign of the weather changing. I thought nothing of it. But when a few days passed and things didn’t clear up, I started to wonder what was going on: chicken pox, mumps, shingles, eczema, dermatitis, someone rubbing poison ivy all over me while I slept… everything was in the realm of possibility and googling “itch skin bumps” didn’t do much to set my mind at ease.
All that time that I didn't have a name to put to what I was experiencing, I did my best to keep my distance from people, primarily because--although I didn’t think it was anything infectious--I absolutely didn’t want anyone else to have to experience what I was experiencing; but I also really didn’t enjoy answering the inevitable “What’s wrong with You?”s, with a sheepish “I don’t know.” For that brief time, a little bit of separation was prudent.
So when the doctor was able to put a name to my affliction, that name happens be Psoriasis, (you’re welcome to google it… at your own risk) there was relief, mixed with fear, mixed with hope, mixed with despair and a mountain of feeling that it is difficult to pin down with words. In that mix was one seemingly innocent, recurring idea kept creeping back to my mind, even as I dismissed it: withdraw.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed it happen far too often, people facing serious struggles and challenges (marital problems, struggles with their kids, a difficult medical diagnosis) withdrawing from family, friends, and the church, choosing instead self-imposed isolation. And I can say with certainty for the first time in my life I felt that pull. Really strong.
I didn’t want to have to explain countless times why my whole body was covered in blotches of bright red sores or why flakes of skin were kicking up off of me like the cloud of dirt that followed Pigpen in the old PEANUT’S comic. It sounded so much easier and more convenient to busy myself behind the scenes on Sunday mornings, to make up excuses to miss Life Group, to use my condition and the associated discomfort as justification to not be around or available in the office.
As I indulged those flirtations, allowing them to play out in my mind, I was struck by this simple truth: withdrawal is a short-sighted fix that creates larger wounds than it heals. Withdrawal is a temptation from the pits of hell and isolation is its fruit. Isolation is right where the Devil would have us live—cutoff from the encouragement, support and love of others that we so desperately need—especially when facing life’s most difficult challenges.
I’m certain we are all either currently facing challenges or that we will face challenges in the relatively near future. Your struggle will likely be different from mine, neither greater nor less significant, just different. If in the midst of that struggle you’re tempted to pull away and withdraw—don’t. In particular, don’t allow yourself to be drawn away from the church. I get that it can be difficult. That it can be uncomfortable. But the community of believers that God has woven you into exists to encourage, support, and care for you… let them.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.