One of the most difficult things in life to obtain is more courage. I’ll never forget one of the most courageous things I did in my life, the moment I asked my wife to marry me. It was a warm summer day and I was more nervous than I had ever felt in my life. We went for a drive on a hill in the center of Eugene, Oregon, and with the ring in my hand I pulled the car over and I couldn’t wait any longer. This would be the moment that changed us for the rest of our lives. I got down on one knee in front of my car and asked Summer to marry me. I knew she loved me, but I was still scared of that moment! Three children and eighteen years later, it was one of the best courageous decisions I have made in my life.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 ESV
But what I have always been fascinated by are the different circumstances that cause us to make courageous or cowardly decisions. In the bible Joshua had to choose how he was going to lead the people. Either he was going to lead with boldness or he was going to shrink from the task of leadership.
You may even be facing a decision RIGHT NOW that you feel will make or break you. Shrink from the moment and you will surely not receive all that is possible in your life, but seize the moment and you will begin to really live and understand the character of God. Remember, God is a courageous God and the thing he wants to protect you from is complacency. But there is a fine line between courage and carelessness. I’m not telling you to be foolish, but it’s time to TAKE A RISK and make a courageous choice in your life. Here’s why…
4 Reasons to Make A Courageous Decision
#1 Courage Deepens Your Connection With God – Courage actually creates dependency. When all you have is God, it’s amazing how close you become. When you first came into a relationship with God, you didn’t have all the answers, so what makes you think you will have the answers now? Life is often full of questions more than answers, and the unanswered questions, even in the circumstances of uncertainty, can draw us closer into dependance on God. Don’t think that by taking risks you are immediately going to get answers either. But if you decide intentionally to seek out the answer, in due time, Jesus will show you.
#2 Courage Gives You Hope - Courageous people are hopeful people. The courage it takes to cut a credit card to start getting out of debt. The courage it takes to say I’m sorry when you are obviously wrong. The courage to let go of the past and forgive others. The courage it takes to give of your finances, even when you don’t see where the rest of the money is coming from. Making courageous decisions is the gateway to hope and will make you a leader!
#3 Courage Changes Your Perspective - Courage gives you God’s vision. Making courageous decisions will cause you to see things in ways you have never seen before. I don’t want to live my life asking, “what if?” I would much rather make a few mistakes and sense the power and presence of God at work in my life. I want to be refined failure and learn to hear God’s voice. If you want a different take on life, start acting courageously.
#4 Courage Is Contagious – Your courage inspires courage! One of my desires for 217church is to create a culture of courage. Courage should always be about the greater good of the people around us. Courage is not about us! It’s about others catching the vision to start trusting God and making bold steps in their lives. This means when we see one person making bold choices, it causes us to want to make bold choices. If nothing else, seeing one courageous act can cause us to reflect on our own need for courage.
I’m not sure what you are facing today, but whatever courageous step you need to take, it’s time to Take A Risk and make it happen!
What is one way to increase your courage? Make a commitment to a 217group and start seeing God work in others lives over long periods of time. You will grow more in a group than you will on your own. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) You can learn more about our 217groups in New Jersey and Southeastern PA and get involved with one here!
Can you guess what we did today? Teaching English to the community through conversations at the Connection Cafe? Painting the sanctuary of a new church plant in Bella Vista? Kids outreach with crafts, recreation, dancing and a Bible story in El Guano? Youth event in La Vega? Sí. The Connection Cafe is off to a great start. The church plant has a fresh coat of paint. The little church in El Guano is no bigger than most bedrooms in America but the hearts of the people and the enthusiasm of the children are huge.
After dinner we experienced a severe thunderstorm that put the new roof to the test! The roof passed, the storm passed and we were off to the evening youth event. We saw a lot of damage along the way and arrived to find that the church had lost power. So picture a generation of young people worshipping at the top of their lungs to the light of a motorcycle headlight shinning through the door of the sanctuary. They know what they sing is true. “If our God is for us, then who can stand against us.” With the help of some handy guys and a generator the lights came on for the second half of the event.
The church in the Dominican is reaching their communities for Christ with the help of teams who come through Envision. We share the same passion for New Jersey that these pastors have for the Dominican. We each seek God’s direction and vision for His church in our community and expand that reach into new communities. We each believe that global partnerships will help advance the Kingdom. We pursue God passionately, serve relentlessly, care for one another deeply.
See you Sunday!
This morning during prayer time we prayed for God’s blessing on the Cafe and for the vision that God has provided. We prayed for the people who would come and that conversations would begin to bridge the spiritual gap and restore lives in this community. We prayed that long-awaited roofing supplies would arrive so that the patio, where the Envision interns live, would be protected from the intense sun. We prayed for this evening’s youth outreach in Villa Tapia and for open doors to extend the invitation to the kids in that neighborhood.
After breakfast, while the painting team continued working on the sanctuary of the new church plant, the ESL team continued the ministry at the Connection Cafe. Among the many guests at the Cafe this morning was a young man named Yarlyn who wants to learn English so that he can get a job to help support his family. It came up in conversation that he believes in God. When asked where he goes to church, his response was, “I do not go to church. There are so many churches and I do not know which one teaches truth.” He’s seeking truth. Through a God-given vision for an ESL Cafe, he will find it. Among the words he wrote down to study at home was the word “truth” and the street address of the church that is responsible for the Cafe.
We ate lunch on the patio next to a pile of long-awaited roofing materials. Then we returned to the town of Villa Tapia to invite the local youth to the event this evening. We thought we were going door to door. But instead we went classroom to classroom in the local high school. We literally walked into a high school classroom and invited kids to church! Would this ever happen at a school in the US? The expression of God’s church is different from town to town and from nation to nation. If we are to reach the next generation we must be willing to do whatever it takes. In the US our approach is classmate to classmate. But in the Dominican God has not been limited in the schools. So his church can walk right in.
The Alliance Church in Villa Tapia is planting a new church in the next town of Salcido, and their location is not yet known. We accompanied the pastor through the town, praying for the people. He shared with us his vision and passion for reaching the children of that town and the women who are ignored by this community. We visited several potential sights and prayed for God’s blessing in the town of Salcido. God is doing a new work here.
Our evening concluded with the youth in Villa Tapia. We left it all in that sanctuary. Our praise, our testimonies, the last of our energy for the day, poured out so that God can use it for whatever he pleases. Pray for the people of the Dominican Republic, for pastors with fresh vision for their communities, for those who are serving here alongside the churches through Envision and for the short-term teams who come to bring long-term change.
This morning after prayer and breakfast the team split up to serve in two locations. Some went to the Connection Cafe. The Cafe is gaining popularity in the neighborhood even since its grand opening on Monday. Today’s guests included two brothers ages 11 and 13. They go to school in the afternoon each day. To practice their English their mother sent them to the Cafe before school today. The pastor’s wife from the church which sponsors the Cafe, the retired pharmacist from Monday, and several other people we met earlier this week all returned for more English conversations. We met several new individuals who are excited to return regularly. Many of our conversations ended with, “See you tomorrow.”
The name of the church that sponsors the Cafe is Iglesia Alianza Cristiana. One year ago, IAC planted a church ten minutes away in the town of Bella Vista. While part of the team was focused on the mission of the Cafe, the rest of the team went to the church plant to paint the sanctuary. A fresh coat of paint will provide an inviting environment where people can meet and follow Jesus.
After lunch our bus driver, Willie, took us to his home town of Villa Tapia. Today is Willie’s birthday! What a great day for him to bring VBS to the children of his own neighborhood. Popcorn, cotton candy and a bounce house were the “icing on the cake” after a round of music, crafts and Bible time. You may have read on Facebook that one of our teacher/translators woke up without a voice this morning. God is doing his work of healing in her, and while he does, the team continues to flex and adjust their approach doing Bible time with all 70 kids at once. The 217global team is an amazing group.
Today’s most impressive sighting… Six people on one motorcycle going too fast to catch a picture. You just have to believe us.
Guest post by Kelly Kohr, small groups and weekend administrator at 217church
The other week, as I was finishing some planning for 217church’s fast approaching trip to the Dominican Republic, Josh asked me if I’d be interested in writing a guest blog for him. I hesitated until he said the topic of having a heart for the world. Oh! Well of course! That’ll actually be fun!
In my short 22 years of life, I’ve gone on what I would consider to be a good handful of mission trips. It was on one of the first trips, when I was only 15, God broke my heart for people around the world and He showed me the desperate need for Jesus that remains the same no matter what continent or country you may be in. I can still remember sitting in a dark, one bedroom apartment in hot and humid Mexico, hearing a mother cry as she prayed to Jesus for the healing of her son, who sat wheelchair bound next to her. She was desperate for a change and for hope. Before we left her that day, she found peace in a God who loves her and she found a hope for eternity, not just the days and circumstances immediately before her. This is why we should have a heart for the world.
The woman whose life was changed, changed mine as well. Through a prayer walk with no expectations, God showed up. It was through that encounter and an incredible number of other experiences through the week that God showed me the vast passion he has for the world. He took me out of my comfort zone and empowered me through it all. God’s heart is that all would come to know him, and one day, every knee will bow before him (Phil. 2:10). And it is our calling to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, telling people of the Father as we go and “make disciples of every nation” (Mt 28:19).
3 Reasons we should have a heart for the world:
It’s not all about you – We are culturally bombarded with the ideas that it’s our comfort, our desires and our choices that matter the most. Jesus has called us to go against the grain of culture and lay ourselves aside for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of others. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). If Jesus gave his life, his breathe, his future for the sake of others, shouldn’t we at least lay aside our comforts and plans? Let Christ’s love compel you.
You’ve been blessed – Whether you are considered “rich” or not, you are undeniably blessed. But, this isn’t about money. I’ve met homeless men in Malaysia who have a joy that puts me to shame because of the hope they’ve found in Jesus Christ. If we follow and believe in the God of the Bible, a Holy King who gave his son to die in our place, the Creator of the universe who has made a future for us beyond this life, we have been blessed. And we have something to share. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4). No matter what we’ve been through or are going through, God has given us a choice to take the blessings he’s given us and bless others with that. Be a witness of what Jesus has done. “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We are one family – Just as Jesus has called us all to share the blessings of our lives across the street and around the world, we are a part of a family of believers who are here to encourage and build each other up as we do so. Paul is one of the most famous missionaries, traveling from church to church, imparting the wisdom and gospel of Christ. As he went, his heart was to edify and build up his brothers in Christ. Even in his letters, Paul shared of his hope for time spent with the local churches, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11-12). As 217church begins a new partnership with the local churches in the Dominican Republic, it is my prayer that we can encourage one another, building our faith in the One who is worth it all.
Do you have a heart for the world? Let God show you His heart for the world and the ways He is calling you to share the blessings and gifts He’s given you.
Photo courtesy of dillonwithwife.blogspot.com
Learning from yesterday’s experience in the Connection Cafe, changes were made today to allow even more conversations. The written placement test was replaced with an oral Q&A session. By asking simple questions about our guests, we got to know not only how much English each person understood but we were also able to get to know a little about their story. Why did they want to learn English? Where do they live and work? Do they have family nearby? How often would they like to come to practice English? Relationships are being developed and even today we saw some of the same faces that came yesterday.
After lunch we returned to the town of Moca for day two of the VBS program. Just as the children finished school we began music time and they danced and sang, smiled and laughed. More games and snacks and age-appropriate teaching by three of the team members. In craft time the kids decorated little boxes stuffed with God’s promises. Little reminders of how much God loves them. Little faces we’ll never forget.
Again this evening we were blessed to hear the testimonies of two of our own team members. We are getting to know each other well – even as their stories are translated from one language to another. There is nothing more powerful than seeing Christ alive in the hearts of the next generation. This evening’s youth service was a powerful reminder of that fact. Christ is moving in the hearts of the youth in the Dominican.
The evening concluded with a special Dominican dish before leaving town. Mofongo!
Wow! What a day!
Thanks for all the prayers that you’ve been sending up! It’s been an awesome trip so far!
Here in Santiago, DR, we are working with Rick and Tammie Romano who have been missionaries here for the past year and a half. We’ve been asked to be a part of three ministries, Connections Cafe, VBS for kids, and a youth outreach program.
This morning, the Connections Cafe opened its doors for the first time! Connections Cafe is a new ministry of the National Church in Santiago, DR to help their community learn English. People from the neighborhood are invited to enjoy coffee and pastries while practicing their English with native speakers. Through the cafe, the church wants to build relationships within the neighborhoods. And Envision partners along with the National Church in their endeavor.
Among the people who came out for the first day was a 70 year-old retired pharmacist. He used to know a lot of English, and is adept at reading and writing this second language. However, due to recent open heart surgery, a loss or hearing, and not having anyone to practice English with, his verbal skill has started to decline. He’s now excited to speak English again.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is an opportunity for us to minister to kids in two different locations in four days. At our first location today in Moca we had a great turnout! 70 kids came out and heard the story about David and Saul. They learned the difference between David and Saul’s heart, that David became God’s friend through prayer, and how he became a man after God’s own heart. The kids enjoyed games, snacks, sang fun songs and made a bracelet that depicts God’s story of salvation.
But wait, there’s more. This evening after dinner we assisted with a worship service to the youth of Moca. Two of our team members shared their stories with the crowd and Marco Garcia brought a message from God’s word in his native language. We are blessed to have several Spanish speaking teammates who can converse with the community on their own and provide translation for the rest of our connections. A highlight of the evening was worshipping in two languages at once. It paints a small picture of how the global church will worship one day in heaven.
Check in throughout the week for daily updates from the Dominican Republic.
Who wouldn’t want to live debt free, have the ability to provide for basic needs, be an extravagant giver and understand the power of saving? Not many people I know would say, ‘I want to live with a mountain of debt.’ Yet the average household lives with $8,000 in debt, saves less than 1% of income and gives away less than 3%! What is wrong with us? What should real financial health look like?
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV)
I recently finished gathering all my financial records and completing my taxes. My taxes are complicated so I hire someone to assemble them and complete them for me. At the end of the process, she gives me the report and I pour over it. It is a great opportunity to reflect on God’s blessings. I review the year and see how much I owe. I see how much I paid in interest on my house and how much I gave. It’s all there and I use tax time to do a heart check on what I value. I review the year and how I spent all the money that was entrusted to me. Am I content with what God gave to me to manage? Taxes are very revealing, the numbers don’t lie! So what is our responsibility when it comes to money? Here are a few principles to get you started…
Know what you OWE - This is a non-negotiable! If you are in denial about what you owe, you will never be able to go forward on solid ground with a plan to get out of debt. It may be discouraging, but you can either pay now or pay later. Keep this verse in mind and let it motivate you as you gather your records. “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7 ESV)
Know what you OWN- Do you own cars, jewelry, antiques, a house, any retirement funds? To go forward you need to know what you own. This will help you to understand what you might need to sell in order to get out of debt.
Know where it is GOING- You must get on a budget! A budget is just planned spending, it’s a God-inspired plan of how he wants you to spend money. Do you ask God where you should give, save and spend? The monthly inflow and out-flow of how you spend money IS A SPIRITUAL ISSUE.
Financial health is not an option, its a requirement of those who want to follow Jesus! The big target on the wall is writing a LIFE TRANSFORMATION VISION for your Financial Health…
In Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28-29
How can you live more healthy spiritually, financially, physically and in your family? I believe is starts with a heart change and then a commitment to a 217group. You will grow more in a group than you will on your own. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) You can learn more about our 217groups in New Jersey and Southeastern PA and get involved with one here!
Handling money is an acquired skill that can bring great satisfaction or great destruction and pain throughout your life. It’s not about how much money you have, but how you handle it that counts. No doubt by now, you have heard about retirement. Maybe you think are almost there, maybe it seems far, far away. I woke up yesterday and realized my oldest daughter leaves for college in just over six years. A sobering truth. Here is the tension: If you neglect to save anything, you burden others. You are a fool. (Proverbs 21:20) If you accumulate too much you depend of money instead of God. You are a fool. (Luke 12:20) Money can ruin your heart, even when you don’t think it is happening.
“…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
So how do we achieve this balance in this life? Let me make one thing clear, THE GOAL IS NOT TO RETIRE! The goal Jesus has for you is to be absolutely spent accomplishing his mission. If you have breath, you are on mission. If you die rich, you missed the boat. If you die broke, you get it. Achieving financial health has more to do with your habits and less to do with “how much.”
How To Get Financially Healthy…
- Get Rid of Laziness – The person who doesn’t want to work costs everyone else money. Get a job! It doesn’t matter what kind of job, just get one. Then keep it for a while. One of the most valuable things parents can give their kids is WORK ETHIC. If your kids are mooching off you, STOP THE MOOCH! This means you have to initiate tough love. This means you are going to have to work hard. I live in the Northeast next to the financial capital of the world, New York City. I can promise you this: If you don’t work hard you will not be financially prosperous. Hard work may not make you incredibly rich, but it will make you credible!
- Get Rid of Entitlement – No one owes you anything! Not even your parents, especially if you are in college. If you expect a handout, you have a problem. I said nothing about helping those who are having trouble make ends meet, but when you expect a “freebie”, then you have a character problem. If you enable this behavior, you have a character problem. These first two ideas live and feed off each other.
- Get Rid of Greed – The more money you get, the more you tend to spend, and the more you spend the more you want! You can unsubscribe, delete, complain or get mad at that statement, but that is pretty much a basic human condition. How do I know this? The average American household has over $8,000 in unsecured credit card debt. You want more and I know it! So do I! But I must work to battle against my own evil desire to have and accumulate more stuff. There is hope to temper the sin of always wanting more possessions, but it will take a lot of hard work and a lifetime to control. It is NEVER good for anyone to get everything they want, nor is it healthy. This doesn’t mean you have to live in poverty, but if your identity is in a symbol on your car, your street address, or the size of your house you have a greed problem. I don’t want greed to have any influence in your life. You probably have “enough” already.
- Get Rid of Credit - Credit card debt isn’t about your income, but how you manage your income! Could you go thirty days without using a credit card? What if by the beginning of 2015 we all paid off our credit card debt. In order to have the confidence to stop using credit, you will need a BUDGET. A budget is simply planned spending when you tell your money where to go, and how to work for you. borrowing from your future will cost your future. The bank loves you because you are their slave. Slavery exists today, and we have made it legal. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
- Get Rid of Some Stuff - The more you hold on to your money, the more it gets a grip on your heart. If you want to take a first step in getting financially healthy, you have to learn to GIVE. Otherwise, you will be a prisoner to your money. Still don’t believe me? Want to take a BIG RISK in your heart management? Take something you have had for a long time, that you value deeply, that has monetary value, and GIVE IT AWAY! When you die, it won’t be yours anyway. Don’t just give away your junk! Don’t think about it too much. JUST GIVE. IF you think you will give when you have more, you won’t. The more you have, the more difficult it is to part with your money.
Exploring our heart connection with money is both difficult and character building. Our community of 217church is learning to be more giving to the mission of the church in the community and this week is all about GIVING BIG. If you want to grow spiritually, you have to be a giver.
God wants you to be a giver, no doubt about it!
Don’t miss this Sunday…
217church is a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ serving singles and families in the following townships in Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Allentown, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Hightstown, Chestertown, Bordentown, Monroe, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!).
When it came to prayer, I have to admit, I never used to think I was very good at it. It always seemed difficult for me and I always struggled with thinking prayer was for those really spiritual people who were obviously more in tune with God than I was. I locked the idea of prayer up in a group study or a public worship service. Especially during extended times of prayer, the distraction and seeming competition of, “who can pray the most holy prayer” really began to annoy me. But then I discovered something; God didn’t care how holy I sounded or how many really cool theological terms I used while I prayed. He just wanted me to OPEN MY MOUTH! Preferably in PRIVATE.
- Getting desperate enough to pray is right where God wants us. He wants to teach us to open our mouths. In the car, walking the dog, sitting alone in a coffee shop, in a park, in a chair on my deck. It doesn’t matter where I am, prayer could happen at a moment’s notice. As a church this is an incredibly important week for us because we are going to rediscover as a church that prayer is a primary work of the people of God and He wants us to talk to Him.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13
Here are some simple benefits of Praying Bold Prayers…
- Character – God wants to restore us to him through building our character. Continual prayer builds character. So many times we only pray when we need something. Isn’t it annoying when the only time you hear from someone is if they need something from you? That is called manipulation and usury. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more my character deepens and increases. How you pray determines your character. How you pray defines your relationship with God. If you only approach God when you “need” Him, God is not your God, he is the last resort to bail you out. He is your “genie in a bottle” OPEN YOUR MOUTH OFTEN, He will never grow tired of hearing your voice. Your character depends on it.
- Confidence - Can we just keep prayer simple for a change? Here it is: Tell God what you think, how much you love Him and ask Him what to do. The next time you are tempted to do a “performance prayer” slap yourself and remind yourself God wants you to come to Him as you are. You can approach Jesus with confidence boldly! It’s not about your vocabulary but your VOICE! OPEN YOUR MOUTH. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.“ Hebrews 4:16
- Clarity- Without the voice of God you will operate on the “best guess” system. You will be lost, always living in the FOG of the next decision . You will look to others first, yield to popular opinion and then most often take the path of least resistance. Jesus gives clarity and always is true to the Bible as the source of clarity. In Jesus’ own words, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4 OPEN YOUR MOUTH AFTER you have closed it long enough to LISTEN to Him!
So what does this mean for our community? This Sunday will be unlike any other gathering we have ever experienced at 217church. We will have the opportunity to boldly approach Him through the power of Jesus as a community in unity and ask for some pretty deep stuff. Physical and emotional healing will happen this Sunday.
Our church is heading into a season of praying some desperate prayers! We have so many decisions to make and God’s vision is getting clearer and clearer for us every day. Jesus loves this community more than we can possibly understand and we are on a mission to show people Jesus. Something BIG is about to happen and it starts inside your heart. God wants to do something deep in you so he can do something HUGE through you.
Don’t miss this Sunday…
Don’t be shy, OPEN YOUR MOUTH!
217church is a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ serving singles and families in the following townships in Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Allentown, Trenton, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Hightstown, Chesterton, Bordentown, Monroe, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!).