Fully Experience Christmas

32 years ago, I was nine years-old sleeping under the Christmas tree.  The night before, my mother was sent to the hospital as we all eagerly awaited the birth of my little brother, Seth. (Happy Birthday Seth!)  We were at home awaiting the call and sure enough, news came we had a baby brother.  I will never forget being woken up by the old fashioned rotary phone ring as the sun shined through the living room window. That Christmas was particularly special because I gained a baby brother.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

My brother Seth has brought so much joy to my family.  You see, just two months before his birth my grandmother died.  It was the first Christmas I felt deep emotion experiencing firsthand life and death in such a short period of time.  My perspective as a 9-year-old boy about Christmas and who Jesus is, was forever changed.  Jesus was a baby, and yet the Savior of the world, and he wants us to Experience Christmas in a unique way this year:

Experiencing Christmas This Year…

1. Slow Down – Most of you will probably be reading this the days right before Christmas.  Whether you are traveling, staying home or are finishing up work for the work, take your foot off the gas.  Read Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus and let it sink into your soul.  As you battle traffic, last minute expectations from your boss and chaotic marketing schemes, just relax.  Take some time to write, read, reflect and remember.

2.  Embrace The Pain – We know this time of year is incredibly difficult for so many. We face Christmas this year with pain from a lost loved one, a past or pending divorce or a recent illness.  Let me tell you a secret:  It’s okay and healthy to embrace the pain.  It is the pain of life that helps us understand just how deep the love of Jesus runs.  Talk to someone, cry it out, embrace your children and receive forgiveness of a savior who came to forgive.

 3. Make A Memory – Family, friends and loved ones, this is what Christmas is about.  I still have the tag from Christmas 1983 when I received a “brand new dirt bike” from my grandparents.  No doubt you have probably been to a Christmas party or two but I am talking about intentionally making this Christmas a “wow moment” for someone.  it doesn’t have to be a gift under a tree.  Forgive, communicate, take a bold step.  Whatever it is, you probably already know what you need to do.

4. Savor The Moment –

If there is food to be eaten, taste all of it.

If there are children to be hugged, hug all of them.

If there is a spouse to be held hold them tight.

If there is a gift to be given, enjoy the smile.

If there is a sin to forgive, let it be forgotten.

There is a Savior to celebrate, worship Him with all of your heart.

Thank you for making my family rich with friends and love. It’s time to Experience Christmas.

family-2016

Josh, Summer, Lilly, Eddy, Titus, Lydia, Godfrey and William

 

Overcoming Uncertainty This Christmas

What an incredible year we have had together as the 217church family!  We baptized 20 people, made an offer on a piece of land, and completed our 7th year of ministry as 217church!  One thing is for sure, God is faithful.  But in the midst of what God is calling us to do, there will be uncertainty.  Here is a special Christmas message about overcoming uncertainty as we enter into a new year together.

(Please note: If you are viewing video on a Mobile Device you must scroll to bottom and enable “DESKTOP MODE”)

“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

Christmas Eve Service 4 PM at Sharon School in Robbinsville, NJ

Reminder: NO SERVICES CHRISTMAS DAY

Merry Christmas!

Josh

Josh Conn is the founding pastor of 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 at 10:30am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ.  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, Burlington 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

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 the Christmas

 

Josh

 

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

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

When Christmas Hurts

Let’s face it, for so many of us this Holiday season, CHRISTMAS WILL HURT.  The loss of a loved one, a divorce, a relationship broken, a bankruptcy, a job gone terribly wrong, a debilitating sickness, or maybe the worst, depression.  So many of us will not feel joyous or even optimistic as we face the reality of Christmas, but there is hope to heal.  This Christmas could define your days more than any other, but we must be wise and proceed forward even when the pain of Christmas runs deep.

Choose to face your pain and get freedom…

Despair and discouragement are real issues, what will you choose to do with them?

3 Things to Do When Christmas Hurts

1.  Cry For Help  – This means its time to talk about it.  Some of us are very uncomfortable when it comes to talking about our pain, but failure to process our pain correctly can lead to addiction, more depression, and even extreme relational dysfunction.  Maybe its time to let someone help you?  People care, many of them just don’t know you need help.  Maybe this scripture seems counter intuitive but when you ask for help, be confident.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16

2.  Seek Out Hope –  One thing is for sure, life is short.  It seems like just yesterday, 30 years ago I was sleeping under by the Christmas tree in my house as a boy.  Time Flies!  Today will pass and tomorrow is a new day.  Before you know it the season will be new and there will come a new Hope.  Extreme hurt allows us to find out where we really put our hope.  Maybe you feel like you can’t hope, Ask God to do something deep in you so he can do something incredible through you.  Where is your hope?  Hope for the future always trumps the pain of the past.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  Psalm 42:11

3.  Get Desperate for Healing –  One of the most powerful questions Jesus ever asked was, “do you want to be healed?”  When you are at the end of your trying, this is when God usually shows up biggest.  There is no substitute for being totally healed, but it requires total dependence on Jesus.  One thing to remember about your healing: SCARS.  Scars are what remind us of where we have been and how Jesus never once left us.  Jesus has a plan for your complete spiritual, physical, relational and financial healing.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are #healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

My fear in writing this would be that it would come off as a simple formula.  There is no formula, but there is Healing.  Jesus is our #healer. I don’t know how God has in mind to heal you, but He will, he always does.

Josh

 

 

December 14th – Jesus is… #HEALER

Josh is the lead pastor 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 9:30 & 11am and Starplex Cinemas in East Windsor, NJ at 10:15.  Our new 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, don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information.

Don’t Miss Christmas

Its hard to believe but it’s here!  Christmas!  Our Christmas Eve services are in a few short hours at 6 PM at the AMC 24 in Hamilton.  Amidst everything that is happening around me as I write this, it would be quite easy to actually miss what Christmas is all about.  How is that possible?  Easy, one word:  DISTRACTIONS.


family

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

24 days of December have passed us by quickly, but there is still time to capture the heart of Christmas.  Maybe you have been working long hours, maybe you have been intentionally avoiding it, maybe you feel alone and would rather it just pass you by.  Let me encourage you… DON’T – MISS – CHRISTMAS!

4 Things You MUST Do This Christmas…

1. Anticipation  –  I remember being a little boy hardly being able to sleep in my bed.  But now, it’s deeper than a Tonka truck.  It’s that I know Jesus is with me.  God is with me.  I can sense him in the deepest parts of my heart and I am anticipating not only celebrating the day, but the day that I meet him FACE TO FACE.  It won’t be long now, the time is drawing closer.  Can you sense it?

2. Reflection  –  Look at everything God has done for you this year.  Contemplate the God of heaven leaving and coming to earth born of a virgin, living a sinless life, crucified, forgiving your sins, resurrected and now sitting at the right hand of God.  But wait, He can live in you and gives you the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s worth sitting down and reading through Luke 1 and 2.  Reflect on His story and His faithfulness.

3. Community  –  Look around at the people in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your circle of influence.  Sense that you are in this life together with them.  Thank them, love them, appreciate them.  Do something on Christmas Eve to show them you care.  You don’t have to be weird but a heartfelt expression of love and sincerity in this world is becoming more rare.  Just do it. It’s not too late.  It’s never too late to love. (sounds like a mushy 80’s song)

4. Family   I know, its been a rough year in your family.  If it has been, pick up the phone, tell them you love them, leave a message if they don’t answer.  Ask for forgiveness, tell them you want to start over.  Don’t blame, don’t make excuses.  Hug your wife or your husband, play with those little kids, (they are growing fast) Call your grandma and grandpa if you still have them.  If you feel all alone, YOU ARE ADOPTED. You understand Jesus better than anyone.  Jesus had an adopted father.  Love where God has you.

Breathe deeply, pray continually, love unconditionally

Merry Christmas

Josh

 

217church is a multi-site church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater.  Our new East Windsor Campus is meeting Sunday January 12th, 2014  10:15 am at Ethel McKnight School.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.  If you want to be in on the ground floor of a new exciting church planting environment, contact our East Windsor Campus Pastor Dan Gay at Dan@217church.com.

 

 

 

9 Ways To Get Rich This Christmas

Now that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Wacky Wednesday (I added that one myself) are over, maybe we can all begin to think clearly about Christmas, spending, riches, greed and everything that has to do with money, provision and our relationship with things.  I have news for you… “The little numbers on your credit card DO NOT define you.”

Below is a scripture that changed my life so many years ago.  It really isn’t about money, but it so closely relates to how we think about what will make us incomparably rich, Jesus!  However, to think how you handle and spend money has NOTHING to do with your relationship with Jesus is pure foolishness.  They are so closely related it is scary.

credit card

“…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”  Ephesians 2:7-8

If you let me look at your financial records for one year, I could see how much you trust God, what you place your value in and in most cases how close you are to Jesus.  You might scoff at this at first, but it’s true.  Most of the following things come from a deficit in your relationship with Jesus: worry, insecurity, debt, materialism, and worst of all, loneliness and isolation. All of these things affect our relationship with Jesus.  The core issue is, we don’t think we have enough. Is Jesus enough for you?  Here are a few ways to get rich…

9 Ways To Get Rich This Christmas…

1. Receive Grace  (MOST IMPORTANT)-  You have already been given the gift of eternal life you could not afford.  This means we no longer need to have our identity in worldly wealth.  If you want to apply the following 8 ideas, let JESUS change your heart.  Without this #1, you are just dealing with symptoms.  He will make you rich beyond what any man could give you. Eternal life, forgiveness, freedom, wisdom, peace, joy. These are all yours for the taking through the Holy Spirit.  These things are not for sale, the are FREE!

2. Live on a Budget  –  Know what you owe, what you own and where it goes.  Notice I didn’t just say “get a budget,” you actually have to implement it.  If you aren’t living on a budget you are more than likely mismanaging the money God has entrusted to you.  And on top of all this, no one ever got rich spending more than they had. Proverbs 16:3- “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

3. Give First –  Before you spend a dime, GIVE!  The first item on my budget, Advancing God’s Kingdom.  We do this out of love, not legalism.  Start at 10%.  Send it on ahead.  Feed The Poor. Clothe The Unclothed.  I know, it’s counter intuitive.  But try it. God doesn’t do things your way anyway.  Get over it.  What if you took the first 10% of your income for the rest of your life and gave it away?  Do you think Jesus would provide for your needs? Most of us give out of the leftovers, not the first fruits, there is a difference.  Remember, there is no love without sacrifice.  Malachi 3:10  “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing  that there will not be room enough to store it.

4. Don’t CompareComparison will ruin you, because you will never be satisfied.  You don’t make what they make so why do you think you should have what they have?  They probably can’t afford it anyway. 

5. Work Diligently – This may seem like common sense, but you may need to get an additional job in order to make ends meet.  I meet people all the time who are “too proud” to take a job “below them”.  This is pride.  You may need to move to a smaller apartment or sell your house, or the car.  But work hard, especially if you have debt!

6. Drive the Ultimate Driving Machine – The ultimate driving machine is a car that is paid off no matter what it looks like or what chicks you are picking up with it.  Leases are a waste of money and driving a brand new car is a colossal trap.  When you drive the car off the lot, you flush $$ down the toilet.

7. Save As Much As You Can – Sometimes we can’t afford to save because we have debt.  If this is you, then get on a plan and schedule to pay off ALL your debt as soon as possible.  Live with no regrets.

8. Plastic MUST go – When you got that credit card, you never thought it would lead to this place.  So often the only way out of “that place” is to get rid of the card.  Maybe you just don’t have the discipline to have a credit card.  It’s ok, admit it and start paying with a debit card and cash. SALE is another 4-letter word for DEBT.

9.  People NOT things –  This may seem obvious, but your kids, parents, cousins, wife, siblings, whomever, doesn’t need a bunch of stuff from you to know you love them.  Jesus, my family, and my church family have all made me exceedingly rich.

This SUNDAY IS A HUGE day for our church family.  One church, two locations, three services.  East Windsor (10:15am) and Hamilton (9:30 & 11:00 am) will never be the same because of you.  Can’t wait to celebrate together!

Josh

 

217church is a multi-site church in Mercer County NJ with small groups for families in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater.  Our new East Windsor Campus is meeting Sunday December 8th 10:15 am at Ethel McKnight School and launches weekly services January 12, 2014.  If you are looking for a church in East Windsor NJ, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit www.217church.com.  If you want to be in on the ground floor of a new exciting church planting environment, contact our East Windsor Campus Pastor Dan Gay at Dan@217church.com.

 

 

 

A Christmas Prayer for You

3 Years ago, 217church spent our first Christmas together.  It was an uncertain time, when we knew God wanted to use us to serve this community, but we weren’t sure exactly what it would look like.  This Christmas we have the privilege of celebrating Jesus being faithful to this community, His church, and our families. These ornaments on our tree represent God’s faithfulness through every year of our young church.  Here is my prayer for you this Christmas…

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit.”  Ephesians 4:13-16

My prayer For You Is To Remember…

1. You Have His Name – You are a part of God’s family and you bear his name.  This is no small deal as Jesus has adopted us as His own.  Because He is with us nothing separates us from Him!

2. Your Father Is Rich – Because Jesus is rich in glory, we are rich in glory as well.  We have an inheritance in Christ that is impossible to measure but he communicates it with the gift of Jesus through eternal life.

3. You Are Strong With His Spirit – Power comes from the Spirit living in you.  No matter what you face, how much you have, or how broken a relationship may be, may you depend on Him through this season.

For those of you who are local in the Central Jersey area, You are invited to join us tonight for our Christmas Eve Family Services at 6 PM at the AMC theater 13.

We love you all,

Josh, Summer, Lilly, Titus & Lydia

 

Experience Christmas

28 years ago, I was nine years-old sleeping under the Christmas tree.  The night before, my mother was sent to the hospital as we all eagerly awaited the birth of my little brother, Seth. (Happy Birthday Seth!)  We were at home awaiting the call and sure enough, news came we had a baby brother.  I will never forget being woken up by the old fashioned rotary phone ring as the sun shined through the living room window. That Christmas was particularly special because I gained a baby brother.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..”  Luke 2:11

My brother Seth has brought so much joy to my family.  You see, just two months before his birth my grandmother died.  It was the first Christmas I felt deep emotion experiencing firsthand life and death in such a short period of time.  My perspective as a 9-year-old boy about Christmas and who Jesus is was forever changed.  Jesus was a baby, and yet the Savior of the world, and he wants us to Experience Christmas in a unique way this year:

Experiencing Christmas This Year…

1. Slow Down – Most of you will probably be reading this the weekend right before Christmas.  Whether you are traveling, staying home or are finishing up work for the work, take your foot off the gas.  Read Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus and let it sink into your soul.  As you battle traffic, last minute expectations from your boss and chaotic marketing schemes, just relax.  Take some time to write, read, reflect and remember.

2.  Embrace The Pain – We know this time of year is incredibly difficult for so many. We face Christmas this year with pain from a lost loved one, a past or pending divorce or a recent illness.  Let me tell you a secret:  It’s okay and healthy to embrace the painIt is the pain of life that helps us understand just how deep the love of Jesus runs.  Talk to someone, cry it out, embrace your children and receive forgiveness of a savior who came to forgive.

 3. Make A Memory – Family, friends and loved ones, this is what Christmas is about.  I still have the tag from Christmas 1983 when I received a “brand new dirt bike” from my grandparents.  No doubt you have probably been to a Christmas party or two but I am talking about intentionally making this Christmas a “wow moment” for someone.  it doesn’t have to be a gift under a tree.  Forgive, communicate, take a bold step.  Whatever it is, you probably already know what you need to do.

4. Savor The Moment –

If there is food to be eaten, taste all of it.

If there are children to be hugged, hug all of them.

If there is a spouse to be held hold them tight.

If there is a gift to be given, enjoy the smile.

If there is a sin to forgive, let it be forgotten.

There is a Savior to celebrate, worship Him with all of your heart.

 

Thank you for making my family rich with friends and love. It’s time to Experience Christmas.

Josh, Summer, Lilly, Titus & Lydia

 

Anticipating Christmas

Waiting for a big day isn’t easy.  I remember many Christmas Eve nights trying to sleep with a sense of excitement wondering what would be under the tree waiting for me.  We would always wake up way too early Christmas morning and open our stockings as brothers.  Then came the pain, waiting for mom and dad to wake up. Then to add pain to the process, we had to open our gifts one at a time. Ugghhhh!  (Parents, please don’t torture your kids this way!)  I just wanted to rip the gifts open and start playing. Now as I have my own children, I love watching them experience the moment that I used to wait for all those Christmas mornings.  One word describes Christmas for me,  ANTICIPATION!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:11

Christmas is all about anticipating what is possible.  Jesus entered the world as a humble baby who was sent to us to restore things as they were originally intended.  He was an unlikely solution to a tremendous problem, our sin and suffering apart from God.  But now because of Jesus, we get to anticipate and prepare for what God is going to do with great joy from what he has already done.

4 Ways To Anticipate Christmas

1. Reflect – Christmas signals the end of our calendar year.  What did God do for you this year? How did he show Himself faithful to you and your family?  Did this past year go as you thought?  For many of us, Christmas brings up many hurts and pain from the past.  Separation from family as well as loved ones we have lost to death, makes Christmas a difficult time for many.  Take time, slow down and reflect on God’s faithfulness to you. He came all the way from heaven to show you how much he loves you.  Reflect on this truth.

2.  Encourage – If there was ever a time in the year when it is culturally acceptable for people who don’t normally encourage to encourage, it is Christmas.  You may even say, “I am just not like that and I don’t express my feelings well.”  NOW IS THE TIME! Did someone encourage you this year?  Who needs to be encouraged? Write them a letter, have them over for a meal, and verbally express your love and appreciation for them.  Do the people around you know how much you appreciate and love them?  The writer of Proverbs says, “Words of encouragement are like drops of honey, sweet to the soul and health to the body.”  This is particularly true for your family and those you work with.

 3. Celebrate – Never pass up the opportunity to celebrate something God has done in your life.  If you feel like this year was a total failure or bomb, celebrate the joy and successes of others.  If you are discouraged, don’t separate yourself from others or compare your situation to their life.  Be willing to celebrate with others what God has done for them.  Glory more in the successes of others than in your own success.  In Hebrew culture, weeks upon weeks were set aside in the calendar to celebrate with feasting and partying.  Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate a coming of a savior through His humble birth.

4. Initiate – For some of us it is difficult to initiate new vision.  The reasons vary for us, but the simple truth is, where there is no vision the people perish.  The same is true for your life.  You may even be asking, how to I initiate a new vision?   Here is a simple process that I follow that I learned from some respected people in my own life.

  • Get Away – This means time away from your normal processes.  Recently I had a whole day that I focused on what God would say to me.  I read scripture, and was alleviated of every other responsibility for the day by my incredible staff team.  I had such a burden to be with God and listen, I had to cancel my plans for the day.  Sometimes it’s planned and some times it’s urgent and you just know you MUST GET AWAY! Rearrange things, get a babysitter, cancel a meeting, whatever it takes!  You have to separate yourself from responsibilities so you can hear God.
  • Gather Your Resources – A bible, pen, and other tools you need.  My computer has huge volumes of commentaries and study materials that help me listen.  Know what you need and take it with you, grab it and go!
  • Evaluate Your Heart Condition – Take some time and seek God regarding the condition of your attitude, life and actions.  For me recently, God had to speak to me about pride and humility.  It is one of the most dangerous sins for pastors, leaders, men, women, essentially everyone.  This led me to a short compelling vision statement for my life and leadership.  I needed to clarify that vision and see that God was encouraging me to become a humble servant, willing to do anything to advance his Kingdom.
  • Motivate From Scripture – For me, when God gives me a phrase or a vision, it is deeply rooted in scripture.  The scripture God showed me that day was Philippians 2:4  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider other better than yourselves.”  This is called an “anchor verse.”
  • Activate The Principles –  Whenever you have a new vision and an anchor verse, you then need some practical action steps from that revelation.  When God gives you a vision it comes with practical steps.  Sometimes it takes you a while to figure it out, but for this one it was easy for me:  My two simple actions from this day with Jesus were: #1 Listen completely and understand before speaking. I noticed that I like to speak first because I think I always have the right answers. #2 Serve when no one is looking and tell no one about it.  (You can determine for yourself if I just broke that one because I told you I serve when no one is looking, but I didn’t tell you what I did so ha!)  I need to do things that no one EVER knows about.  If everyone always has to know all the great things I do, then I have a pride problem.

Christmas is coming and the end of the year is at hand.  I am anticipating greater things will happen in my life, my family, my church than have ever happened before.

What are you anticipating about Christmas?

Josh