Be The Light This Christmas

Christmas is here, ready or not!  Some of my favorite memories in life are centered around the Christmas season.  Being a child anticipating the opening of a gift, grandma and grandpa coming over for dinner, and now with my own children, being together and celebrating our greatest hope, Jesus.  There is no doubt that Christmas signals great hope and is a reminder every year of the nature of our business here on earth.  We were sent here with a mission, and the celebration of the birth of Jesus reminds us of this.  Just like the star guided the wise men that night, We are now the LIGHT of the world.

Colored Star

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 ESV

Christmas however is FULL of distractions that detract from your light.  Distraction are everywhere:  Materialism, busyness, grudges, family discord, loss and loneliness to name a few.  All these things are what we have been RESCUED FROM not what we are to be BOUND BY!  So it’s up to us as the church, the ones carrying the message of Jesus, to live Christmas not just this week, but for the rest of our time here.  Isn’t it time for us to #Bethelight?

Be Christmas Light With These 6 Words…

#1 Compassion – Jesus coming to earth was an act of compassion.  God is a compassionate God who sent his only son Jesus here for the forgiveness of our sins.  Now it is our turn:  Have compassion on someone today.

“For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.” Isaiah 49:13  #Bethelight

#2 Hospitality –  Jesus welcomes us in to His family.  No doubt there are those around you who are lonely.  Christmas is a time to invite people in to your family, your group, your life and show them how much they are valued by you.  In turn, you are literally welcoming them in to the kingdom of God.  Share a meal, enjoy food and drink together and show them they belong.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2  #Bethelight

#3 Respect – Kindness and humility go a long way to building the reputation of the church in the community.  The church’s reputation rises and falls on the attitudes and actions of those who claim to follow Christ.  ALWAYS show respect.  He is God’s son, she is God’s daughter.

 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  1 Peter 3:15  #Bethelight

#4 Inquire – It is amazing how listening to people builds your credibility.  When you are attentive to someone’s story you gain context about what God is doing in their narrative which allows you to help.  Ask a question and you may just be opening the door to someone’s eternal healing.

“let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19  #Bethelight

#5 Serve – See someone who needs something?  Just step in and act.  The church are to be people of action, leading the way in serving the community relentlessly.  Have courage and step in.  This will probably inconvenience you.

 Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”  Luke 22:26  #Bethelight

#6 Tact – Words matter, and a loose tongue (that includes social media) can diminish or destroy your light.  So the charge must be always to measure our words and say not what WE want to say but what HE wants us to say

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Proverbs 12:18  #Bethelight

May you reflect the light of CHRIST this Christmas.

 

Josh

Josh Conn is the founding pastor of 217church, a contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church meets Sundays at 9:30am & 11:00am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ.  Visit www.217church.com for more information, or watch a weekend message here.

 

4 Keys to Preparing Well

Are you ready?  This is the question we face when a new season is upon us.  I will never forget training for the Marine Corps marathon back in 2011.  Hundreds upon hundreds of miles logged, fighting through a foot injury, planning my travel, visualizing race day, and eating all the right foods. It was one of the most intense physical preparation phases I have ever been through in my life.  But one thing is for sure, when race day was upon me, whether I was ready or not, it was time to run.  Run I did, my best marathon time of my life to this day.

MCM with Adam

My brother and Adam and I, proudly with medals post marathon and a little sore.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 ESV

The last 3 miles of that race were the most pain I had been in, in my life.  I’ll never forget what happened that day I crossed the finish line.  The marine standing at the finish line placed the medal around my neck and I fell to the ground, out of joy, accomplishment, and at the same time overwhelmed with emotion.  I wept.  I ran that race with my Father in mind the whole race.  He was a Marine who fought in the vietnam war.  In a strange way while I was running, I felt connected to all the men and women who had struggled to stay alive in the midst of war.  Some made it many did not, but they all put it all on the line.  They trained endless hours, disciplined themselves at the highest level and lived and died with a purpose.  They prepared like their lives depended on it.  We MUST do the same!

The apostle Paul wrote the scripture above at the end of his life.  He had given his whole life to the Gospel and was in constant preparation.  His personal account of his life to Timothy was that he had completed his part of this race with every ounce of spiritual energy in him.  Are You Ready?  I mean, are you preparing for what God has for you next?  Life happens in seasons and no matter what season you are going into, here are some keys to preparing well for the next phase.

How To Prepare Well…

#1 Desperately Pray – Prayer is the primary work of preparation.  This is a HUGE blind spot for most of us.  If you are going to pray you will need to plan your prayer time as well as be in constant prayer.  Whatever you are pursuing, right now, go to your calendar and plan an extra prayer time every week in order to ensure you are listening to God.  Pray when its on the calendar, when its not on the calendar and whenever you think of it.  prayer is a constant conversation.

“Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17  #Prepare 

#2 Diligently Plan –  Planning refines the strategy God gives you.  Preparation time allowed me to develop a great strategy of how I was going to train and how I was going to run the marathon.  As I was in training, I even adjusted my plan.  In our church plant six years ago, prior planning allowed me to see things I have never seen before as 217church was prepared meticulously way before we ever held a public worship service or held our first 217group.  The “lag time” allowed me valuable time to hone the gifts, strategy, philosophy and timing of what we needed as we started the church.  Also, I wasn’t ready.  In that time, God wanted to give us a gift named Lydia, our third child!  Planting a church with a pregnant wife would have been, well, CRAZY!  By the time we launched, our plan was so well prepared, we just needed God to show UP!

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3  #Prepare

#3 Discipline Yourself – Discipline teaches you to live beyond today.  There, I just said it.  I know, the word you probably did not want to here.   The dreaded D word!  Truth of the matter is, we must always be diligently preparing ourselves for what is next.  This means discipline.  We must always be rigorously choosing to take necessary steps in order to perform and be used for a higher purpose at a later date.  The reason many of us have problem with discipline is we don’t see immediate results.  If you don’t discipline yourself, the vision WILL pass you by.  Get a schedule, live with a plan, measure your hours, measure your life, make a difference.  It’s going to take discipline.  Need more proof?

1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” #Prepare

#4 Depend On Others – With others you can go further faster.  As you are preparing you will need to prioritize constantly.  As you are prioritizing, no doubt you will need to delegate certain things.  You need a team to delegate to, full of diverse people who have different strengths, in order that you can reach the final goal.  A variety of people will also help you to be able to point out blind spots in the vision and allow you to side step possible pitfalls.  Find someone who will prepare with you.

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22  #Prepare

 

Our church is in a season of Preparation – on February 7th We start our new #Relaunch series.  It’s hard to believe, but we enter into year seven of 217church this Spring!  We are calling this the “RELAUNCH” of 217church.  This means developing a relaunch team.  I want you to be on our relaunch team.  I want you to prepare with us for a new season of incredible impact through the local church.  We are doing this through a 40 day spiritual growth emphasis.  Here are some ways to be involved in this historic moment:  Join one of these Relaunch teams:

  • Small group team – making disciples that make disciples
  • Weekend team – making our church the most hospitable place in Central New Jersey
  • Worship team – leading the church into the presence of God
  • Prayer team – interceding for the church
  • Administrative team – ensuring excellence in communication
  • Ministry fair team – helping people find their place and ultimate contribution
  • Youth & Kids team – investing in the next generation

E-MAIL DOUG@217church.com to join one of these teams

Relaunch_2.125'x5

What are you preparing for?  Comment below as I would love to partner with you in prayer

Josh

 

We are officially #Relaunching @217church after 6 full years of ministry.  Our first Sunday services will be Sunday February 7, 2016  Don’t worry, we have regular weekend services leading up to this historic day for us as we prepare and build our teams!   Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

 

5 Reasons You Should Forgive

In my marriage, I don’t think we could count the number of fights we have had.  It’s not like we don’t love each other, but we are two different people who are both sinful in nature.  No matter what the dispute, one thing is for sure, forgiving my wife is always worth it, even when it hurts.  But the most powerful words you can say are, “Will you forgive me?”  
 Forgive
 
“…if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Colossians 3:13
 
Forgiving each other isn’t easy, as a matter of fact there are times when I don’t want to forgive, but in the end I am always thankful when I choose to forgive and ask forgiveness.  Jesus forgives you so you will forgive others.

 

5 Benefits of Forgiving

1. Spiritual Clarity – Show me someone who claims to be close to Jesus, and by asking one simple question I can tell if it is true or not.  Here is that question:  “Is there anyone that you need to forgive?”  If the answer is “yes”, there is a spiritual block.  We see over and over in the New Testament Jesus telling his disciples that He is a God of grace.  When asked how many times one should forgive, Jesus blew the disciples minds and answered, seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18:22) This basically means you can’t stop forgiving.  Once you stop forgiving, stick a fork in your spiritual growth.  If you are willing to forgive, God will immediately excel your growth.  If you want to be on the fast track of God’s plan for your life, learn to forgive.

2. Deeper Intimacy – Whenever Summer and I fight, the intimacy comes when we forgive.  I have joked  before, those couples who learn how to “make-up” will probably end up “making-out”. It simply means the immediate benefit is depth of relationship.  I’m NOT suggesting you let someone abuse you, but I am reminding you that if you are unwilling to forgive your spouse or anyone for that matter, your intimacy will always suffer.  When people get married, they want to love and be loved.  Most people don’t get married to be hurt, but two sinners in a relationship will always hurt each other.  Forgiveness is not an option, but a mandate from scripture for marriage!

3. Eliminate Bitterness– Where there is authentic forgiveness, bitterness cannot take root.  I have counseled countless couples that just can’t forgive.  No matter what the offense, it seems the more you choose to withhold forgiveness, the deeper the bitterness penetrates.  Since we are holistic beings, a failure to learn to forgive will affect EVERY area of your life.  Not forgiving your spouse will affect your work, your leisure and worst of all your children.  Kids are perceptive and much smarter than you think.  Even my seven-year-old daughter can perceive when mommy and daddy are not being nice to each other, even when we think we are hiding it.

4. A Worthy Example – Have you ever considered how many people are watching you and your marriage?  I’m not trying to stress you out or build the pressure, but if you claim to follow Jesus, your friends are watching to see if there is any substance to your faith.  If your religion is a punch line and a Sunday experience, you are harming the testimony of Jesus.  If there is no difference between you and your co-workers, you need to take a step back.  One of the most harmful things you can do at work is complain about your spouse.  Once you unleash the tongue to tear down your lover to others, they immediately will see through your phony facade of religion and reject your faith.  When you forgive your spouse, people around you benefit exponentially.

5. A Clear Conscience – Simply put, there is not much more satisfying than a clear conscience.   To know even though you did something wrong you asked forgiveness, is pure peace.  To know despite the hurt inflicted upon you, you forgave, IS PRICELESS!  When you forgive others it allows you to move forward with passion and integrity.  This means you have to STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!  When someone says to you, “I forgave”, and then they can’t stop talking about it, they didn’t forgive.  They are medicating with gossip.  If someone isn’t part of the problem or solution, leave them out of it.  Forgiving makes you a person of integrity and will kill your pride.

Josh

 

It’s hard to believe, but we enter into year seven of 217church this Spring!  We are calling this the “RELAUNCH” of 217church.  This means developing a relaunch team.  I want you to be on our relaunch team.  Here are some ways to be involved in this historic moment:  Join one of these Relaunch teams:

  • Small group team – making disciples that make disciples
  • Weekend team – making our church the most hospitable place in Central New Jersey
  • Worship team – leading the church into the presence of God
  • Prayer team – interceding for the church
  • Administrative team – ensuring excellence in communication
  • Ministry fair team – helping people find their place and ultimate contribution
  • Youth & Kids team – investing in the next generation

E-MAIL DOUG@217church.com to join one of these teams

Relaunch_2.125'x5

 

We are officially #Relaunching @217church after 6 full years of ministry.  Our first Sunday services will be Sunday February 7, 2016  Don’t worry, we have regular weekend services leading up to this historic day for us as we prepare and build our teams!   Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Thanksgiving: Remember These 4 Things

God has been faithful.  It’s that time of year.  It’s time to say thank you.  Not out of obligation, but out of pure gratitude.  So many people and so little time.  This past week I made the time to sit and walk through this past year remembering all the things that have happened since the last time we carved the turkey, and the list of God’s blessings are immeasurable.  No, really, I’m not just saying that.  2015 was a year of incredible provision and realization of God’s presence in my life.

give thanks

“God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9  ESV

The Gospel gives clarity and calling to an otherwise purposeless life.  Jesus called us to live a certain way in 2015 so we look back and recount his blessings.  My family said goodbye to our father and hello to three new children adopted into our family from Uganda.  Our family changed drastically this year.  One word could be used to describe this past year for me:  Culmination – As we recount this year, here are four things to remember:

4 Things To Remember This Thanksgiving…

#1 Reflect – “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)  This time will fly by.  Life is short, don’t miss the moment.  I know you know that the Holidays are a great time to take time and reflect.  Breath it all in.  Enjoy the tastes, smells, hugs, smiles, feelings, everything.  Never let too much time pass by without reflecting and recounting what God has done.    One strategy that you can use is the half day reflection.  pray, read, plan and make a list of what God has provided.

#2 Respect –  “Honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12)  There will no doubt be those you come in contact with who deserve your respect and honor.  Respect is a form of Thanksgiving.  A basic character formation requirement for being a disciple of Jesus is learning to respect and honor your family.  It’s why Thanksgiving can be so hard.  Show restraint and humility.  Arguing with a family member over a silly thing will create tension, not peace

#3 Repair – “Forgiving one another.”  (Colossians 3:13)  There is probably someone you will come in contact with over this weekend that deserves your forgiveness.  I know its hard, but it is worth it.  Don’t go to the grave with grievances, go with grace.  Bitterness only destroys your own heart.

#4 Repeat – “As for me and my house.”  (Joshua 24:15)  Remember the goodness of God through the traditions in your home.  As you do them, you proclaim who is the Lord of the house.  Traditions and repetition create familiarity and safety.  They connect the generations to each other.  Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.  Share the stories, dream the dreams and lean into all God has for you.

Finally, I just want to thank you church for being the church.  My church family.  You are amazing and incredible.  Here is a short video message I recorded for you.  I love you all and am so thankful God placed you in my life.  From the 8 of us in the Conn house to you, HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

 

Josh

It’s hard to believe, but we enter into year seven of 217church this Spring!  We are calling this the “RELAUNCH” of 217church.  This means developing a relaunch team.  I want you to be on our relaunch team.  Here are some ways to be involved in this historic moment:  Join one of these Relaunch teams:

  • Small group team – making disciples that make disciples
  • Weekend team – making our church the most hospitable place in Central New Jersey
  • Worship team – leading the church into the presence of God
  • Prayer team – interceding for the church
  • Administrative team – ensuring excellence in communication
  • Ministry fair team – helping people find their place and ultimate contribution
  • Youth & Kids team – investing in the next generation

E-MAIL DOUG@217church.com to join one of these teams

Relaunch_2.125'x5

 

We are officially #Relaunching @217church after 6 full years of ministry.  Our first Sunday services will be Sunday February 7, 2016  Don’t worry, we have regular weekend services leading up to this historic day for us as we prepare and build our teams!   Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Waiting? Here’s How To Wait

Waiting – man it’s hard.  When you have been waiting for something for years it tests you.  In 2005 we were waiting to plant a church.  We didn’t know how it would happen, we just kept believing it would.  5 years later it finally happened and 217church was born.  No matter what you are waiting for, there are some things that just make sense to do.

watch

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3 ESV

Those first four years of seeing no action was painful.  Uncertainty was a friend we didn’t want to keep.  There was a time when I asked the question, “God, did I hear you right?”  Have you ever been there?  Waiting is perhaps the most difficult thing to do, especially if you are a “let’s go” person like me!  I remember days and nights of frustration and confusion, feeling like I was at the end of my rope.  Patience may be a virtue, but not one that I am good at.  So let me ask you, “What are you waiting for?

How To Wait For The Vision…

#1 Pray Continually – Prayer cultivates dependance on God.  Great, just what you wanted to hear.  Since God’s timing usually isn’t my timing, I’m supposed to pray?  What for?  I mean, can’t God just be on our timeline for once?  Praying through the vision helped me to see “why not now.”  There were circumstances that needed to change, skills I needed to sharpen and experience that needed to gain for God to make me ready.  Whenever you get impatient, discipline yourself to pray.  Then pray some more…and some more.  Wait for it…

#2 Plan Diligently –  Planning refines the strategy God gives you.  I am eternally thankful for the “lag” time in my life between getting the vision and implementing the vision.  217church was prepared meticulously way before we ever held a public worship service or held our first 217group.  It allowed me valuable time to hone the gifts, strategy, philosophy and timing of what we needed as we started the church.  It wasn’t just about me, but I wasn’t ready.  In that time, God wanted to give us a gift named Lydia!  Planting a church with a pregnant wife would have been, well, CRAZY!  God also wanted me to wait so I could have the right team to plant with me, to reach the people we were supposed to meet.  By the time we launched, our plan was so well prepared, we just needed God to show UP!  Wait for it…

#3 Prepare Your Heart – God wants you develop your character deeper than you think you can go.  This is a HUGE blind spot for most of us.  We think we are ready and we have the message and so we go.  Show me someone who has learned the art of being content in waiting for God, and I will show you a person with character.  God cares more about you than what you can do for Him.  As a matter of fact, God doesn’t need you to fulfill his vision.  He chooses if you will be used and it’s not up to you, but HIM.  Wait for it…

#4 Persevere Through Disappointment – Your disappointments may be God appointments.  At the beginning I thought I had it figured out and ready to go and there were some disappointments.  Not only did we want to plant sooner, but some people we thought were going to come with us to start the church said no to us.  There were some tough days of uncertainty and confusion, but God allowed us to get to where we are now.  Wait for it…

It’s hard to believe, but we enter into year seven of 217church this Spring!  We are calling this the “RELAUNCH” of 217church.  This means developing a relaunch team.  I want you to be on our relaunch team.  Here are some ways to be involved in this historic moment:  Join one of these Relaunch teams:

  • Small group team – making disciples that make disciples
  • Weekend team – making our church the most hospitable place in Central New Jersey
  • Worship team – leading the church into the presence of God
  • Prayer team – interceding for the church
  • Administrative team – ensuring excellence in communication
  • Ministry fair team – helping people find their place and ultimate contribution
  • Youth & Kids team – investing in the next generation

E-MAIL DOUG@217church.com to join one of these teams

Relaunch_2.125'x5

Waiting is tough, but you are being developed, God hasn’t forgotten about you!

Josh

 

We are officially #Relaunching @217church after 6 full years of ministry.  Our first Sunday services will be Sunday February 7, 2016  Don’t worry, we have regular weekend services leading up to this historic day for us as we prepare and build our teams!   Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Words Matter – Be An Encourager

Ever wish you could have your words back?  We all have.  I’ve always said, “I am the sum total of what others have poured into me.”  I think you are too.  We have all regretted things we have said, but those moments have been fewer lately.  If you look back at your story, you are more than likely where you are because someone believed in you and ENCOURAGED YOU!  I’ll never forget the moment though.  The moment an unnamed person told me I shouldn’t preach and he didn’t think I had the capability.  He discouraged, disheartened and doubted the call I genuinely felt on my life.  Then a year later, I’ll never forget meeting Pastor Larry.  He believed in me.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  He saw in me passion and love for the Gospel.  On June 23, 1996, I preached my first sermon and Pastor Larry was there all the way cheering me on.   I’m glad I listened to Larry and not that other guy.

words regret

“..May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus..”  Romans 15:5

Show me someone who has someone encouraging him and I will show you someone about to do incredible things for God’s kingdom.  Later, there was a large men’s gathering of over 35,000 men called Promise Keepers at Autzen stadium and Larry happened to be the leader for over 2,000 volunteers.  He asked me to lead 400+ ushers and to help oversee all of them.  I never doubted that Pastor Larry believed in me.  It was clear from day 1.  He let me come to church board meetings, feel the stress of what it was like being a pastor, and he let me “cut my ministry teeth.”  But what held it all together?  ENCOURAGEMENT.  Pastor Larry believed in me so much that as he was leaving the church for another ministry 2 years later, he introduced me to a friend of his from seminary who was a pastor. His name was Randy.  So I went to work for him, and you know what, he believed in me too.

4 Ways To Be An Encourager

#1 Just Pick Someone:  You just have to choose who!  Who can you walk alongside of?  Years ago I had a revelation while talking with Michael, who was discipling and pouring into me at the time.  I felt like God said He wanted me to spend my life be an encourager of the vision He gives people.  So I said yes.  So now, my mission is to find people’s God giving calling and empower it through ENCOURAGEMENT.  If you want to have more friends, ENCOURAGE.  If you want to gain God’s perspective, ENCOURAGE.  You can always tell if someone is living for their own benefit, because they withhold blessing and ENCOURAGEMENT of other people.  Simply pray and choose.  Chances are, the people you are supposed to encourage are right in front of you!

#2 See The Positive:  I have had enough people tell me in my life what I don’t do well.  How about you?  I remember a teacher who never acknowledged anything I did right, but always found the error in my writings.  If I want to start a fight in my marriage, all I have to do is complain or criticize my wife, STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!  (That was for me).  When you look at people, do you see what is wrong with them?  Anyone can do that!  How about becoming a catalyst for change through positive reinforcement.  Maybe your father and mother always discouraged.  It’s time for you to forgive and redeem the generational sin and dysfunction in your family.

#3 Use The Scriptures:  One of my best practices is using scripture to encourage people.  I first will ask the question, who needs to be ENCOURAGED?  Then, I will ask God to give me a scripture that will edify them and build them up.  Finally, I write the scripture in a card with an uplifting note and either mail it or hand deliver it to them.  I do this with my kids from time to time.  If card writing isn’t your thing, then verbalize your heart for people.  SAY IT!  Words bring life.  Becoming an ENCOURAGER will deepen your prayer life and cause you to love people more and see the beauty of the diversity of His people.

#4 Remove The Splinter:  I want to be careful how I say this, but some people are like poison to your soul.  They constantly are criticizing and demeaning you.  They are down and are looking to bring you down with them.  You need to remove them from your life as much as possible.  This doesn’t mean you never have people who admonish you and set you straight, and I’m not talking about getting a bunch of people who will just tell you what you want to hear.  You know the difference.  There are people who are not good for you.  They constantly gossip, demean, slander, always talk about other people to you and it likely means they talk about you to other people.  Just – say – goodbye.  (And I’m NOT talking about your spouse, that is another post).  You will immediately feel freed to encourage once you “remove the splinter.”

This week at 217church we look at “Faith and Words”  An ENCOURAGING church WILL GROW, and we are seeing it happen.  People will come in droves to hear the word and know Jesus loves and forgives!  The #1 reason people say they come back to 217church is because we are a friendly, encouraging church!  We actually care about the needs of people and I love this!  The future for our young church is bright!  Keep ENCOURAGING!

Josh

Extraordinary Faith

We are officially #Relaunching @217church after 6 full years of ministry.  Our first Sunday services will be Sunday February 7, 2016  Don’t worry, we have regular weekend services leading up to this historic day for us as we prepare and build our teams!   Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

How to Know WHEN To Take a Faith Step

Faith is a tricky thing.  I’ll never forget packing up to move to New Jersey from the west coast.  We had faith we were doing the right thing, but in the back of my mind, I remember watching that last box going on the moving truck thinking, “Are we doing the right thing?”  Having faith is commanded, commended and at the same time, we must not be foolish because of our faith.  Realize this, having faith will make us appear foolish but there is a line and a tension we have to manage.  Here are some ways to manage the tension.

Sometimes you know that you know you need a change, TAKE THE STEP.

sand footsteps

“Never try and explain God until you have obeyed him.  The only part of God we understand is the part we have obeyed.”  Oswald Chambers

 

How To Know When To Take a Faith Step

1.  Read Your Bible – 

God is speaking to you, period.  The question is, “are you listening?”  Many times we want to do things for the wrong motivations.  The bible is good at pointing out our character inconsistencies and allowing us to see ourselves like God sees us.  Motivation matters to God and He sees our hearts.

2.  Confirmation From Others –

I don’t mean from everyone, but from a few trusted advisors.  I usually will listen to my critics but I will trust those who are my cheerleaders.  If my trusted advisors say, “I am a fool,” well, I probably should back off.  If you are making the decision alone, You are probably about to blow it.

3.  Depend On Prayer and Fasting –

If you are making a big decision and haven’t prayed AND FASTED (yes that means food deprivation) about it, STOP HERE!  Skip a meal, find a corner or a tree, or wherever it is you go to meet with GOD, and plant yourself there for a half day, a couple of hours, maybe a weekend.  Listen, not that you need it, but I AM GIVING YOU PERMISSION TO SKIP CHURCH SUNDAY AND FAST ALL DAY TO HEAR CLEARLY FROM GOD.  (Nehemiah 1)

4.  Be Faithful WHERE YOU ARE –

THIS MEANS OBEDIENCE TO WHAT HE ALREADY HAS TOLD YOU TO DO.  If you can’t serve and be content where you are, what makes you think you will be joyful somewhere else?  Discontentment does not necessarily mean you need a faith step, it means you might need a kick in the pants to do what you know to do now. Circumstances must not dictate all our emotions.  Learn to self manage and just be faithful where God has you now, with the little things.  This is all He asks.  Many times kicking a door down for your future will not work out well for you. If you ARE being faithful, maybe he has prepared you for the next phase?  GO FOR IT!

5.  Sometimes No Decision is the Best Decision –

If there is really no need for a big faith step, than staying where you are is probably the right thing to do.  I have seen so many times people force a decision, when a final decision WASN’T NEEDED.  Remember, delayed does not mean denied and God’s timing usually isn’t our timing.  In the bible, Joseph learned this while waiting for his imprisonment to end.

6.  You May Never Know  –

Sorry to leave you with this as the final word, but you may never know, “what would have happened if?”  That thinking will paralyze you.  Why do you have to know?  Let God be in control.  Be ever perceiving his voice, and slow down your decision making process.  Slow and steady.  It seems to me God is never in a rush, and you won’t surprise HIM, but you may be surprised by HIM.

You’ve got this – now listen to the Spirit and start or stop where appropriate.

Josh

 

This Sunday at 217church our New Series –  Extraordinary Faith “Faith & Action”  (The book of James 2:13-18)

 

Extraordinary Faith

 

 

Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Temptation – You Gotta Fight!

We’ve all been tempted and we all have our weak moments.  But one thing is for sure, when we are tempted, we have some choices to make and usually we make them pretty fast.  Many times temptations come at times when we least expect it, and if we are not careful, we can get ourselves in a whole mess of trouble in just a short moment.

A life time of character can be destroyed at a moment’s weakness. 

william-gloves-e1442667731968

Fight the good fight of the faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

Yes, God is a God of peace, but when it comes to temptation you will have to #FIGHT!  If you choose not to, you will lose every time.  So put on the gloves, cue the intro music, here is how to get your Ronda Rousey on! (figuratively speaking)

How To FIGHT When You Are Tempted

1.  Train Incessantly – 

The best way to be ready for the fight is train for the fight.  That means you gotta train, daily.  Constantly!  Be rigorous about your spiritual routine and unrelenting in your discipline.  If it is true that your enemy “prowls around like a lion ready to devour you”(1 Peter 5:8), then you better be ready to FIGHT when the temptation comes.  Be ready.

2.  RUN (Flee) – 

Sometimes the best way to fight is to leave the situation.  Stop the conversation, turn off the computer, run from the situation, get outta that mall!  Flee, run, Get the HECK OUTTA THERE!  You gotta get outta there! Your future depends on it. (1 Timothy 6:11)

3.  Depend On Jesus –

What is it about us that makes us depend on our own strength when there is the power of Jesus at work within us?  He gives us everything we need to live a life of victory.  “We are more than conquerors, we are overcomers!”  (Romans 8:37) Part of the reason we give in is because we haven’t given it up!  Your dependance that is.

4.  Speak Against It –

Open your mouth, “Not on My WATCH!”  Look, you’ve worked too hard and it’s taken blood, sweat, and tears to get to where you are.  So speak up, literally!  Many temptations comes when we are alone when no one else is watching.  We make foolish decisions based on pleasure, pride and possessions.  Just simply open your mouth, and speak out loud against the enemy who is trying to work in you.  Jesus spoke against the demonic forces, so should we.

5.  Think Ahead –

Many times we put ourselves in compromising situations because we have thought, “that would never happen to me.”  What you are capable of is incomprehensible, so BE CAREFUL.  Don’t underestimate the cunningness of the enemy or the evil brewing in your own heart.  Don’t be naive, protect yourself from compromising situations and you may have already won the fight.

You’ve got this – train, run, depend, speak and think!

Josh

 

This Sunday at 217church our New Series –  Extraordinary Faith “Faith & Temptation.”  (The book of James 1:13-18)

Extraordinary Faith

Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Faith – What My Kids Are Teaching Me

These 6 are each unique and pretty amazing.  Three of them are biological and three are adopted, (I know, it looks rather obvious), but each one of them has had to step out in faith over the last year in BIG ways.  They have each trusted us as their parents, gone to new schools, and even traveled from Uganda to live with us.  With newness comes uncertainty, a prime opportunity to build faith.  Faith isn’t something you see, it is something you trust, and these guys are learning to build their faith in major ways.  We are learning to be a family full of faith.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. 

family photo

“And without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

When we moved from Oregon nine years ago, planted 217church in 2009, and adopted three children, our prayer was that our faith would increase and their faith would increase more.  The thing we have tried do as parents is instill a lifestyle of faith.   We have tried to set the example and be models, but little did we know, they have taught us just as much as we have taught them about faith.

Faith – Here is What My Kids Are Teaching Me

1.  It’s Ok, it’s Ok – (In the words of Godfrey)

Look, if you are going to trust, everything isn’t going to be perfect.  You will probably even have a little fear.  They have overcame so many fears in the last 4 months.  As long as we have each other, our faith can increase.  Trust going to be tested as they have even learned a new language, but they have taught me to just relax and trust.  Everything is going to be ok.

2.  Believe the Best – 

When you go to school, trust that it will be a good experience.  When you get stared at, it’s just because they don’t understand.  When you don’t know what food is in front of of you, give it a try, it won’t kill you.  When your parents tell you it will be fun, try and have as much fun as you can.  Take responsibility for your thoughts and it will affect your day in a positive way.

3.  You Only Need Enough For Today –

Today’s provision is enough.  Every time we sit down for a meal we thank God.  When someone asks excessive questions about food (it’s an adoption thing) or doesn’t think there will be enough, we remind them in the last 120 days together we haven’t missed a dinner yet.  That’s a 100% provision rate.  Believe for tomorrow but you just need to trust for today.  Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

4.   Let Me Surprise You-

We have worked so hard to accomplish some things with our children.  Eventually progress happens.  Sometimes it takes a very long time, but progress doesn’t happen on our schedule it’s on God’s timeline.  Most of the time progress is unexpected.  All of the sudden, without warning, there it is.  A hug, a connection, an I love you, a result you have been hoping for, a challenge overcome. Sweet victory.

Josh

 

This Sunday at 217church our Fall kickoff New Series –  Extraordinary Faith “Faith & Tests.”  (The book of James)

Extraordinary Faith

Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Work Is Good – Period

I’ve never understood people who don’t want to work at all.  I remember my first day of working a job.  I was 14 years old, nervous as can be but excited to step up and start being a man, getting a pay check.  I bussed tables at a local restaurant. I’ll never forget the rush of putting on the uniform getting trained, and getting some stuff done!  (Did I say getting a paycheck?)

Work has been turned from a curse to a blessing, all because of Jesus.  #Provision

bread work

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  Colossians 3:23

Now, I fully understand you may not be working in your dream job right now, you may be feeling stress, and you may be wishing you were paid more money, but Having a J-O-B is what grown ups do.  It is a blessing from God.  Work is the provision of the simple things.

4 Reasons Work is Good – Really Good

1.  Work Gives Us Relationships – 

Think of all the people at work who are your friends.  (Now if you don’t have any friends at work, that may be saying something about you)  These people were put there so you could build relationship with them.  You are not there on accident

2.  Work Provides For Our Needs – 

Did you eat this morning?  Do you live under a roof? It’s simple really.  The person who started the business you work for, is providing for your needs.  You ate today because of them.  That is something to be grateful for.  Excessive work is evil, just the right amount is perfect.

3.  Work Is Our Mission Field –

The people you work with, need to know Jesus, Period.

4.  Work Keeps Us Busy –

Since when has being busy been a bad thing?  People complain about being busy all the time.  Having a job keeps you out of trouble!

So be thankful for your boss, honor him or her, thank him.  Remember you know who you work for.

Josh

(By The Way – if you don’t have a job and want one, we would love to pray for you in person this Sunday)

This Sunday at 217church – “Restore prayer and worship service – Work and Rest.”

 

Join us at 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 10:00am and Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ at 11:00.  Our new Robbinsville/East Windsor Campus meets every Sunday.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Lawrenceville NJ, Ewing NJ, Robbinsville NJ, Hightstown NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, we would love to have you join us.  Don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here