How Bad Do You Want It?

I remember entering into my last semester of college.  I had a full load of 19 credits, was newly married and had 3 part-time jobs.  Needless to say, my new wife and I didn’t see much of each other, but we were determined to accomplish our goals and take the next step in our life.  My total focus was on getting that undergraduate diploma.  I had worked hard for this and was going to let NOTHING stand in the way of completing my degree, NOTHING! Let me ask you a question – How bad do you want it?



“…She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately she was healed.”  Luke 8:44
How bad do you want it?  Are you desperate enough to fight through the crowd?  What are you willing to sacrifice to get where God is taking you?  Maybe it’s a relationship that needs to be restored, a debt that needs to be paid off, or even a college degree you have been working on for years like I was.  Whatever it is, do you want it BAD, really BAD?


3 Things Desperate People Do… (Yes it’s ok to be desperate)

1. Pleading – Sometimes you have to lose your dignity in order to get where you are going.  It is at your humblest moments when you are the most vulnerable but yet have the most potential.  Ironically this is when God takes over and can get you connected with the people who will take you where you need to be.  Lose your dignity, it’ll be ok.  Ask someone for help.  How bad do you want it?

And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house.”        Luke 8:41

2. Reaching – You have to take a step.  If you stay where you are, you will, well, be right where you are (I know, that was deep)  You have to take a physical step and it will require courage.  Sometimes it is even a bold step where you will have to be stretched in every possible way.  If you want to be well, you have to pursue it like a bad habit.  Sometimes, people  don’t get where they need to be because they just don’t want it bad enough.

“…She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately she was healed.”  Luke 8:44


3. Believing – Do you really believe?  How much do you believe.  Belief isn’t something that you do with your head, it’s something you do with your heart.  You gotta know that you know it is going to happen.  You have to shut off the negative voices crying out to you from your past and even your present.  You have to lay claim to what is rightfully yours and stop making excuses.  Do you believe?  How bad do you want it?


And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.  Luke 8:48


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 for more information, or watch a weekend message here 

This is not a Game image by Chris Gilmore is licensed under CC by 2.0

Unity – Without it You’re Toast

10 Things that Accelerate Vision:  Principle #3 – Unity

Meet Mel and Pat!  Over the next 10 weeks I will be sharing one attribute every week that is proven to accelerate vision.  This week is #3 Unity.  Seven years ago when we first started 217church Mel and Pat were there.  They came from our mother church faithful and willing to do whatever was needed to plant the church.  For seven years now they have graced the entryways of 217church, with their warmth, smiles and welcoming demeanor.  They have greeted thousands of people over the past seven years.  When I found out they were leaving for North Carolina, I was sad, but have marveled at their ability to serve quietly and promote unity.

Principle #3 – We Must Serve in Unity


I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace..”  Ephesians 4:1-3

Unity requires steadfastness.  You see, I have never heard either of these amazing people complain once in seven years.  NOT ONCE.  I never heard them say something should be different. and never did I EVER feel like they had an agenda for our church.  Maybe it’s because Mel is a retired Lt. Colonel in the Army and understands loyalty at it’s deepest level.  They are faithful, loyal and the best of the best.  They understand what #UNITY means.  This Wednesday as they came to their final 217group in Bordentown, I watched as a small group family celebrated the ministry and faithfulness of a dynamic couple.  What an incredible legacy they are leaving here in New Jersey.  They remember being a part of our mother church BEFORE THEY had a building.  If we are going to go forward, purchase land, build a building and do all God desires for us to do, WE MUST HAVE UNITY!

How To Maintain Unity…

#1 No Complainers – I love it when I meet people who always just find a way to make something better instead of complain about it.  This is Mel and Pat.  I’m sure our hospitality ministry could be “better”,  but I never heard it from them.  They just MADE IT BETTER!  Next time you think about COMPLAINING about your team, COMPLEMENT someone on your team.

#2 No Doubt – You gotta believe!  They have always promoted and spoken positively about their church.  We are going in this direction together and it is certain.  There is nothing like being a part of a group of people who don’t doubt your leadership, our calling together and the possibility of what God could do.  Confidence inspires commitment and I love it when doubt is removed.  THE VISION WILL HAPPEN!  I never have doubted their belief in the vision.

#3 Disagreement without Disunity –  If we all agreed about everything that would be unrealistic!  Processing disagreement in God honoring, peaceful ways is the ONLY way to operate.  Our team disagrees about things all the time, but when we walk out of the room, we are one.

#4 Mutual Yielding –  No one person gets their way all the time, and learning to subject ourselves to others in ministry is powerful.  This is how the church works.  I see this on our church staff and leadership all the time.  As one body, one church, one powerful church, we are moving forward!

Come together and we will accelerate the vision!

Unstoppable Banner

Join us at 217church and our SERIES #Unstoppable, as we study through the book of Romans together.

October 30 – Unstoppable Jesus – Romans 2:17-29

For more on our NEW SEASON and Why we moved out of the Theater Click HERE 

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 for more information. or watch a weekend message here

Hamilton Township Mayor Sentenced to 38 Months…And How To Avoid ‘Stupid Moments’ As a Leader

Today was a sad day for me.  As a Pastor in the township of Hamilton, NJ I am deeply grieved by what just occurred in the Fisher Federal Courthouse in Trenton.  After the former Mayor John Bencivengo solicited $12,400 in bribes from a school district insurance broker, he was convicted of corruption and was sentenced today to 38 months in a federal prison.  Essentially, the leader of our community threw everything away.  I had the privilege to sit next to the former Mayor at several Hamilton Township events and I remember meeting him when we started 217church in 2010.  Mr. Bencivengo was cordial and I gave him the respect his office deserved. I don’t know Mr. Bencivengo personally and I’m not sure what went wrong, or when exactly he made a decision to steal money, but I do know this: Today was probably one of the saddest days of his 90 year old mother’s life, Rose Mary Bencivengo.

Former Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind,to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

 Let’s all be honest, we have all made mistakes, maybe we haven’t extorted $12,400, but we all have all done things we are not proud of.  These choices have consequences and everyone has been tempted to do something extremely irresponsible and morally questionable.  No one is above the temptation.  Whether it was last week, last month, or last year, we all fall short of perfection.  But when a leader falls off the “leadership bus” and has a “stupid moment,” it should make us all pause and take inventory of our offices, influence, our calling and our deep connection to others in the community we live in.  Hopefully we can avoid having these major “stupid moments” like the mayor, but here are 4 things to consider before having a “stupid moment.”

Definition of a Stupid Moment:  A moment in time when you think you can get away with something that you know in your heart is not only wrong, but compromises your reputation, family and your legacy.

4 Things To Do Before Having The “Stupid Moment

1. Set Up Safeguards – The best way to not have a stupid moment is to NOT put yourself in compromising situations.  There are three primary areas you need to safeguard yourself in,  what I like to call the three P’s of integrity.  These have the power to end your career, public service or ministry and damage your integrity: PRIDE, POSSESSIONS, and PLEASURE.  Our desire for more power, more stuff and our inability to stay morally pure will destroy us.  YOU MUST set up safeguards to protect yourself against even the appearance of impropriety.  For every person and leader the safeguards are different, but my practical safeguards include avoiding morally questionable situations with the opposite sex.  This may seem extreme, but I won’t go out for coffee with any woman alone in ANY circumstance.  It just isn’t worth the risk to me.  In addition, as a pastor, I don’t handle ANY money from the church.  I am not a signer on any bank accounts and if you hand me money, I will hand it back to you.  I also serve alongside a board and staff that has the ability to question decisions of mine all the time.  You have to empower people to disagree with you in order to be a good leader.

Question:  What safeguards do you need to set up, RIGHT NOW?

2.  Consider Your Own Vision – If you don’t have a compelling life vision, you are more likely to wing it in your character.  One of the things that has kept me from taking moral shortcuts is keeping my goals and calling in front of me.  Whenever there is an opportunity to cheat, (and there will be opportunities), I ask myself this question.  Will I be able to sleep tonight with a clear conscience if I do this?  If the answer is no, well, I need to move on quickly.  Trust is developed over a lifetime and then disappears in a day.  The longer you entertain the thoughts of compromise, the more likely you are to have a “stupid moment.”  If you know who you are, what you are about and what you are trying to accomplish in life, you are less likely to fall on your face in your character.  Your vision has to be so compelling that others never question what you are about.

Question:  How does your vision need to be refined to be made compelling?

3.  Be Very Afraid, Fear and Honor Your ‘Office’ Above Yourself – There is nothing wrong with a fear and reverence for a position.  As a matter of fact, many leaders in our country have lost their sense of honor for the offices they hold.  How can you tell if you don’t honor the role? One word, ENTITLEMENT.  As we develop leaders for roles and positions in our church to benefit the community, I sniff out the evil of entitlement and squash it as fast as I can.  If you work with me and you become entitled, you may find yourself out of a job.  If you are entitled you will be lazy and lazy people make terrible public servants, entrepreneurs, police officers etc.

Question:  What do you think your job ‘owes’ you?

4. Think of Your Mom – And wife, and children, and co-workers, and constituents and the list just goes on and on.  I said at the beginning of this post, the day of sentencing was probably most difficult for Bencivengo’s mother. How do I know this?  Consider Jesus at the cross:  We know from what the bible says that His mother was at the foot of the cross weeping while they crucified Jesus.  Your actions don’t just have consequences for you, but all of your family, friends and every person you serve.  You will either redeem or reduce people’s opinion of your role and the organization you  serve by how you serve faithfully.

Question:  Is there any behavior you are participating in that is moral grey area?

I hope we can all show grace to former Mayor Bencivengo and his family.  Our job is to now heal and move on.  Hopefully the integrity and belief in our municipal, civic and corporate leaders in our township will be restored quickly.  I am saddened in my heart for what we have endured as a community, but I forgive and move on. Will you choose to forgive?  Our community will be better off if we don’t hold grudges.  If you are honest with the questions above, I am confident our township will once again be restored to honor and we will once again trust our public officials.


Pastor Josh Conn is the Pastor of 217church in Hamilton Township, NJ.  217church holds services at the AMC24 theaters in Hamilton every Sunday at 9:30 and 11:00am and is a church dedicated to serving the needs of Hamilton and surrounding mercer county communities.

3 Years of 217church – Every Story Counts

This Sunday is a HUGE day for our church.  We celebrate three years of being a church “creating environments where people can meet and follow Jesus!”  This has been our vision statement from Day 1.  Where have these three years gone?  I could tell you story after story of lives transformed because of Jesus and His tangible acts of love shown by our 217church family.  I could tell you about a single mom who was baptized at our first baptism in the Washington Crossing River and sensed new hope in Jesus.  I could tell you about a young woman who has recovered from an abusive past, discovered the grace of Jesus and is now pouring her life into young teenagers so they don’t have to endure the same struggles she endured.  I could tell you about children who have found a relationship with Jesus.  I could tell you about our Children’s and youth ministry that is ministering in places in Trenton that need to hear of Jesus.  I could tell you of business owners and entrepreneurs who are now using their influence to bring people to Jesus because of 217church.  We are a church where Every Story Counts!

“Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall.”  Nehemiah 2:17

 Here Are Some of The Ways God Has Used You

#1 141 Restored Lives – We like to say, we are the church for people who aren’t here yet.  Here is the list of 141 names of people who we have baptized into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Starting a church is a covenant building experience.  Revealing a sign of hope and love from a savior, who never leaves and always extends the hand of grace, is what we are about.  When you read their names, it’s just print on paper, but truly they are lives and families transformed.  I can’t wait for the next 141!

Phil Robertson, Christine Johnson, Crystal Morgan, Lynda Ferguson, Laurie Robertson, Sandy Rivera, Amanda Kline, Stephen Constantinou, Andrew Constantinou, Michelle Watson, Danny Baumann, Butch Hamilton, Josh Rivas, Jill Larsen, Melissa MacCollum, Caitlin Condit, Lisa Flores, Lily Mahaney, Liza Vargas, Jamie Vargas, Arlynet Tovar, Steven Gotthelf, Kyle Graf, Diana Garcia, Sharon Geiger, Natalya Rivera, Juan Rivera IV, Howard Anderson, Brandyn Lichtenstein, Laura Shapanus, Bill Shapanus, Alyse Canciello, Monica Quiroz, Cristiana Galang, Becca Solis, Krista Galang, Andrew Albert, Joe Corso, Lilly Conn, Titus Conn, Kathryn Nieves, Mimi Kabia, Chad Nelson, Kristi Costanzo, Keith Cline, Katie Johnson, Terri Svecz, Sean Gordon, Alex Svecz, Collin Spurgin, Matt Spurgin, Lonzetta Rush, James Rush, Jason Kingsley, Gary Jakubicki, Sally Hutchings, Josh Schmalbach, Leonard Simon, Denise Stremlo, Mike Kirk, Chrisha Kirk, Mark Forman, Kevin Cordas, Shelly Cordas, Steve Cosenza, Debbie Cosenza, Dione Springer, Gabrielle Cobb, Luis Valdivieso, Toni-Ann Rotondi, Cristina Cobb-Adams, Anthony Anglin, Jason Flintosh, Nicole Jemine, Jason Parker, Gina Sparacio, Flynt Tuller, Flynt Jr. Tuller, Jill Brown, Jay Rodriguez, Pete Ruffini, Allie Guerrero, Jaime Vargas, Patti Ann Ridgway, Lauren Velarde, Corrine Hunsher, Sonny Esteron, Derek Sander, Deb Stewart, Willie Rivera, Cindy Chavez, Jhoi Ortiz, Katie Hawver, David Robertiello, Nick Labella, Lindsay Clayton, Sandra Lupo, Devon Smith, Michael Ettinger, Pollorn Sayasack, Jessica Rivas, Tiffany Rivas, Nick D’Mauro, Jeanie Leung, Cathy Szymanski, John Baldino, Racheal Jones, Eve Green, Maria Cobena, Liz Perez, Cathy Szyanski, Kathleen Contreras, Christian Servellon, Christina Baranowski, Daniela Vinci, Naylon Larane, Adrien Ong, Racquel Smith, Brittney Blackburn, Alcmenia Dunbar, Natalia Hernandez, Santina Hernandez, Corina Hernandez, Courtney Arbitell, Joclyn Hernandez, Dania Hernandez, Miriam Hernandez, Tsunami Martinez, Johanna Martinez, Kimberly Hopkins, Linda Monforte, Maria Rodriguez, Yolanda Drislane, Kristen Moore, Janet Russell, Trevor Jones, Sixto Irizarry, Shanera Hampton, Jessica Suessegger, Sherenne Simon, Alfredo Marin.  Every Story Counts!

#2 People Finding Deep Relationships – In one of our 17 small groups that meet in 11 different townships, you will find people who are serving the community.  On any given week, we have over 250 people meeting together, caring for one another deeply.  We visit each other when in the hospital, we pray for each other, study the bible together and we take care of each other.  We even have one group who paid off a person’s credit card debt to give them a fresh start financially. (Now you are saying…”I want in!”)  Every Story Counts!

#3 Over 2 Million Dollars Worth of Generosity – In these three years over Two Million dollars has been given to the vision of 217church!  Through generous hearts you have given to church planting, the next generation fund, provided for practical needs of countless people hurting in our community, provided a place for us to meet on Sundays, sent kids to camps, provided for all our equipment and empowered our pastors and staff to live and do ministry in the community.  Your generosity is proving Every Story Counts!

#4 An Incredible Youth & Children’s Ministry – Each week 140 kids and youth hear about the love of Jesus through our dynamic 217kids and 217youth ministries.  Psalm 46:13 says, “tell the next Generation this is God.” We have taken this to heart and are serious about making the next generation our #1 priority.  We now have a partnership with Urban Promise in Trenton and are working hard to bring the Gospel of Jesus to students in Trenton through after school programs.  It’s just the beginning of seeing our influence soar.  They will write the story after we are off the scene and we are empowering them NOW!  Their Story Counts!

#5 Over 430 People Every Weekend in Worship – Every week we celebrate big and our celebrations just keep getting bigger and BIGGER!  We started planning this church in a living room with 20 people and now every week over 400 gather!  We preach the word, worship passionately, pray boldly and we make it a HUGE celebration.  We make a big deal of the Gospel of Jesus and every week over 50 people serve to make these celebrations happen.  Our 217church co-worker team is nothing short of incredible!  Week in and week out for 150+ Sundays, so many have heard about Jesus and are following him because of these celebrations proving Every Story Counts!

One Final Note:

I am humbled and privileged to serve as your pastor.  I couldn’t have scripted it better.  You are what I am proud of.  You have made my life and the life of my family richer and full of meaning. We love you all!

Josh & Summer Lilly, Titus & Lydia


Join in The HUGE CELEBRATION This Weekend…

1) Two Huge Weekend Celebrations 9:30am & 11am at the AMC 24

2) Our 3rd anniversary party at our Youth Center at 3pm. (yes it’s 2/17 day!)

3) Finally, end the day with an evening baptism with our sister church, Element Church at Princeton Alliance Church.

This is going to be AWESOME!

My Prayer For You This Week

This morning, as I was thinking and praying through the first three weeks of our Song of Solomon Series my heart exploded for our 217church family. I know we are each experiencing this series on love, sex, and marriage from a different perspective and I know it isn’t easy.  As a matter of fact, for some of us, it is taking great courage to come and hear about these topics.  I know it hurts.  As much as I know it’s needed, I know it hurts.  I am humbled you are letting me walk through this series with you.  As I was praying this morning, I wanted to share some things I feel God is speaking to different groups of you and let you know how I am praying for all of you today.



How I Am Praying For You

#1 If You Are Divorced – My prayer is that you would sense the deep love and acceptance from Jesus, who in his last moments on the cross, chose a thief to be with him in eternity.  You are never beyond God’s grace and he forgives you.  You have asked forgiveness before in sincerity, and it is finished.  The guilt you feel is not from God.  May you rebuke the enemy as he accuses you and realize the power and confidence you have through Jesus.  “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26.   Although your spouse is not there, Jesus heals.  He heals!  If you are raising children, may you parent them with grace and understanding as you answer their difficult questions and have the joy of raising a Godly child parenting them well.

#2 If You Are Single – My prayer is you would know that Jesus is with you.  He knows what it is like to be lonely and ostracized.  He understands your pain of wanting something and having to wait.  May you never sell out and settle for second best.  Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Jesus understands your feelings and your body belongs to God.  May you raise the standard in your expectations of a future spouse who will love you like you deserve to be loved.  If you are living together with someone who is not your spouse, may you be awakened in your error and may you receive grace from God and move out because you are a person of principle and a child of God.

#3 If You Are Married – My prayer is where there is healing needed you would understand and receive it.  For you who have struggled in your physical intimacy, may you be restored in your marriage.  May your covenant be renewed and may you return to and embrace the wife or the husband of your youth.  Where there has been cheating, may there be restoration, where there has been resentment and bitterness, may you receive peace, forgiveness and oneness with your spouse.  God believes in your marriage. It’s worth it, NEVER GIVE UP! “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6 

#4 If You Have Been Sexually Abused – The person who abused you stole from you and had no right to, but I pray you will forgive them.  There is healing and there is a pathway forward. Understand no one can ever steal the grace Jesus gives to you and He has the power to restore your mind and the way you think about your body. Know your body belongs to God, He values you and he loves you.

#5 If You Are In An Unhealthy Relationship – My prayer is you find your identity in Christ and not in another person.  May you stop trying to fill the gap in your life with other people and may you turn to Jesus.  May you be a person of courage and break up with that man, woman, boy or girl who is not God’s best for you.  May you be built up by those around you who would encourage you and pour into you more than they take from you.

#6 If You Are a High Schooler or Middle Schooler – Maybe you feel you have blown it and have already made a bad choice.  My prayer is you would know that no boy or girl defines your worth.  Jesus already defined your worth when he died on the cross and claimed everything about you as HIS!  This includes your body.  It belongs to God.  May everything you choose to do with it be a worship to God.  May you live Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

#7 You’ve Remained Pure Sexually – You have been given a gift.  May you remain steadfast in your commitment to your future spouse.  May you find the wife or husband that God has for you in his due time.  May you prepare for your wedding day by drawing close to God and learning to serve, sacrifice and live the Gospel everyday.  May you be blessed with a lifelong covenant help mate that you will serve and draw close to who will show you what it means to be like Jesus.

I love you all and want to remind you about our March 24th Vow Renewal Weekend.  We will be celebrating the marriage covenant and how God will remain faithful to us in our marriages.

Physical Intimacy and Marriage

In the beginning of the bible we see the first man, Adam.  God noticed something about him that to this day every man has to be thankful for, “it was not good for the man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18.  Being alone meant there was a part of him that was missing.  So God intervened.  He stepped in and did something for the man.  He put him to sleep because God deeply cared about him.  Then, you know the story, he fashioned out of the man something beautiful, unique, and obviously attractive and special to the man.  He created a WOMAN!  (All the husbands said, “Thank you Jesus”)  But Satan came in and immediately tried to destroy their covenant with God and their love for each other.  Because of original sin, so many couples struggle with their physical intimacy.  If you find yourself in a place as a husband and a wife where your sexual intimacy is struggling or non-existent, there is hope. 

“Marriage exists to make you holy before it exists to make you happy

Marriage is not designed for you to get everything you want, but to learn how to not get everything you want.  This goes totally against the narcissism we see in our sexualized culture. This post is designed to deepen your intimacy with your spouse, as well as give you hope for your physical intimacy with your spouse.  Some of you have given up on this area of your relationship, some of you are in a downward spiral, and still others are just really confused about sex and the different opportunities and challenges you may face. I know I have many single readers and I hope this will be an eye opener as to what physical intimacy in marriage might look like.  Let me encourage you by giving you three benefits we see in the book of Song of Solomon to deepen your sex life.  These are meant to encourage you as you learn to be a lover that serves your spouse.  My prayer for you is that God will intervene in a powerful way and use sex in your marriage to strengthen you in three powerful ways.

Three Benefits of Married Sex

1.  Provides Rest – The PLACE of rest is extremely important.  In Song of Solomon 1:14 there is a place referred to called Engedi.  “My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.” David hid at this safe place from Saul when he threatened his very life.  When life is pursuing you and you feel like you can’t go on, find a place for love with your spouse and experience rest.  The world moves at a frenetic pace, yet intimacy was never meant to be on a “to-do list.”  When you are with your lover, it is to be a holy time set aside for you to experience each other in a way that benefits each other.  This always must be done in a way that serves the other.  This means that selfishness has no place in the bedroom or in any of your love-making sessions.  It is hard to find a place of rest if your spouse is demanding your bodyWhat does the place of Engedi look like for you?  This may seem like common sense but here are some suggestions to fashion a safe-place for physical intimacy between you and your spouse.

  • A lock on the door –  Got kids?  Well there you goIf you don’t have a lock then, men, drag yourself down to the hardware store and figure it out.
  • A relaxing environment-  Get rid of the clutter, ditch the bedroom TV and put away the pictures of your mother.  Replace all that with some sensuous things that calm and sooth you.  Music, soft blankets, softer lighting and scented candles are all things that can enhance your bedroom.  Maybe you should invest in some new bedroom sheets?  Whatever it is you do, be intentional about creating a restful place for your loving.

2.  Provides Refuge – The EMOTIONS of life can be draining and leave you asking the question, is there any end in sight?  Physical intimacy was created by God to provide a man and a woman a balance in their emotional health.  This is why Proverbs 5:18 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth“.  That sounds pretty desirable to me.  Physical intimacy can heal and literally recharge your emotional batteries.  As a matter of fact, we know that one of  the top reasons couples get divorced is because of a lack of physical intimacy.  Where there is a withholding or a bitterness, there will be emotional strain.  This is NO excuse for getting a divorce, but an opportunity if you are willing to put in the hard work to experience the restoration power of the Gospel of Jesus in marriage in an incredibly powerful way.  Restoring physical intimacy in marriage may be the most difficult thing you have ever done, but take heart and remain true to your marriage vows.  God will honor you!  In a world that demands, demands, demands, physical intimacy can bring us a safe place of refuge where we learn to love and serve sacrificially, even in the bedroom.  Appreciation and unconditional acceptance should be marks of a refuge environment.

3.  Provides Refreshment – Sexual intimacy can offer you and your spouse a refreshment that is like no other relationship on earth.  God designed it that way.  Remember, it was not good for man to be alone, so refreshment is part of God’s plan for your married life.  One thing for those of you who are anticipating marriage:  Not every time you experience physical intimacy with your spouse is going to be a cloud nine experience, but they all can be refreshing!  Here are a few different types of sexual interactions that might help you be realistic going forward in your sexual intimacy:

  • The snack –  This is just what it sounds like.  It isn’t long and drawn out, but it has been referred to as a “quickie.”  (Wow, I can’t believe I just said that on my blog).  It is well, quick.  You won’t always have time to put on a big production, nor does ‘it’ have to be a big production.  But passion can flow between a husband and wife powerfully in a snack. You get it?  I thought so, enough said.
  • The meal – You get the analogy by now right?  This is just what it sounds like.  When you have a little more time, a place that you have set aside together, and you are both ready, you can share a meal together.
  • The feast – This feast my happen at different milestones in your relationship, birthdays, anniversaries or maybe no reason at all, just to plan a feast together.  Feasts are usually less frequent.  Just a heads up though for guys especially: You know how at Thanksgiving all the food is served at the table and it’s all “hot”?  IT TAKES A LOT OF PLANNING.  It is more like an orchestra production and less like a solo recording.  Catch my drift?  If you expect to have a feast every time you have sex, you will most likely be disappointed.  A lot of planning and diligent care to the DETAILS will communicate love and acceptance towards your spouse.

I know this is not an easy topic to talk about, and as a pastor, I know that some people don’t think I should be talking this honest and open.  But if we let the culture, and not the bible educate us and our children about sex, we are being ripped off!  God planned sex for us inside of the covenant of marriage for one man and one woman for one lifetime.  Let’s do it right!

If you feel like there is no hope, remember, a healthy marriage relationship will be built on forgiveness. Let this verse encourage you: 

“…forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13


Join us for our Song of Solomon series this week, THE MARRIAGE “When Boy Meets Girl” Series this Sunday at the AMC 24 in Hamilton, NJ 9:30am & 11:00am:

  • February 10 – The Marriage (What it means to be a servant lover)

To watch last weeks message at 217church about “The Wedding” Click Here



A Budget Strategy

Just this last week, it happened. As my family was pulling into a restaurant to have a nice Christmas break lunch, I heard a terrible grinding noise.  I HATE CAR REPAIRS!  I tried to shut it out of my mind, and after we had our lunch I took the car down to my local shop to see what was the matter.  It wasn’t pretty.  The whole ordeal ended up costing us around $700 in total repairs.  It was a Budget Busting Moment.

Are you holding on to your money, or is your money holding on to you?

Handling money is a big responsibility, and how you handle money can make or break your character.  The reason it is such a critical issue is because for most of us, money is a part of our every day life.  We interact with it more than almost any other one single thing.  But there is a way to handle it that brings glory to God, and there is contentment when we realize our money is really not our money, it belongs to God.  So how should we manage it?  The dreadful B wordBUDGET – TELL YOUR MONEY WHAT TO DO!

The Building Blocks of a Budget…

1. Give First – No matter how much you make, everyone can give something.  Some people want to argue about how much to give and when to give, but the essential building block of having a financial life that exudes maturity is to give first.  If you never give, what you are saying is “I am selfish”.  So many people in our community are generous with their time, energy and yes, MONEYIf you want to have a Fresh Start in Your Finances,  GIVE – SOMETHING – NOW.  It doesn’t matter to whom or where, just let God transform your heart and become a giver.  When you give, you reveal something about yourself. “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21.

Here is one reason you need to be a giver…

  • One Fall day right before thanksgiving in 1982, I was seven years old and I remember a family from our church showing up with boxes.  At first I didn’t know what they were for, but when I looked inside the boxes there was food.  It was much needed food for our family of 5 at the time.  It was because of people in our church who GAVE that our family was able to eat on Thanksgiving.  When you GIVE, you are proving you believe in Jesus to provide for your needs, and the needs of people in your community.

Question: What is holding you back from giving?

2. Save – Did you know that the United States has one of the lowest savings rate of any developed country?  This is a sad state of affairs for our country, but as Christ followers we can be counter cultural and set an example of SAVING rather than example of DEBT.   “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” Proverbs 21:20.  Most of the time, the reason we don’t save is because we are so busy paying interest on credit card debt.  Before you save, pay OFF your credit card debt.

Question: Do you have a get out of debt plan?

3. Essential Spending – You know what goes into this piece, but never has it been easier to pay bills!  In our essential spending block is the gas bill, the mortgage, the water bill, insurance and it is entirely automated.  I write maybe two checks a month and at the beginning of the month, on one spreadsheet I have listed where ALL of my essential spending is going.  1 Timothy 6 says, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Question: How content are you?

4. Non-Essential Spending – There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying money after you have taken care of the above three items.  As a matter of fact, God actually encourages it!  There were entire weeks in Hebrew culture set aside on the calendar for feasting and partying!  Unfortunately, many of us have upside down budgets.  We impulsively get what we want first, and if there is anything left over, we might give.

Question: What is a way you can enjoy what you have more?

It’s time for a FRESH START IN YOUR LIFE!  Happy Budgeting!

217church meets 9:30 & 11 am at AMC 24 in Hamilton, NJ

  • January 6 – Fresh Start in Your Finances
  • January 13 – Fresh Start in Your Health
  • January 20 – Fresh Start in Your Faith


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


Training Matters

Every day after high school, I would jog down to the track and get the days training schedule from my track coach, Mr. Graves.  He always knew what I needed and helped me to be a better, more disciplined runner.  As a freshman starting high school track, there was so much excitement and vigor around doing the exact workout he wanted us to do.  But about two weeks into the season, as the miles began to pile up along with the sore muscles, I wasn’t as enthusiastic.  I was a 14-year-old undersized boy dragging myself to the track every day.  It was painful, and to be honest there were some days I not only didn’t want to train, I wanted to quit.  I began to wonder if this whole “track” thing was for me.   This Sunday at 217church we will discover some key truths about what TRAINING has to do with us being a church on mission.

Proud of my kids as they finished their first ever race!

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”  1 Corinthians 9:25

Training is tough work.  It isn’t glamorous putting in all those miles when no one is looking and your race is sometimes months away.  But one thing we forget: God is preparing us for what is next, even when we don’t feel like it matters.  Trust me, It all matters!  In every difficult situation and every phase that seems harder and harder, God is constantly teaching and training us.  Here are some hints to train smarter in every area of your life:

4 Hints on Training

1. Be Realistic – Most of us think we can do more than we actually can.  In our spiritual lives, reaching the goals Jesus wants us to achieve has to do with us being realistic about our training.  As we enter into the new year, be realistic about what you can achieve and what you can handle.  God will not give you more than you can handle and remember not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to.

2.  Have a Long Term View – In a world of instant gratification, it’s those who see the future race while they train that excel the most. I have seen so many people, marriages, athletes, small group leaders, pastors, friends, and co-workers burn out and flame out because of a lack of long term perspective.  The more I can connect today’s activity to the vision of the big picture, the more meaningful the training becomes.  This means that you have to pace yourself. Perspective will lead to better training.

 3. Get A Good Plan – Once you have a long term perspective, you need a training plan.  Sure some of the things you will learn will be on “accident”, but intentionality matters when it comes to personal growth.  Identify key areas of your life where you want to grow, then ask what is one action that will lead me to the end vision.  A good plan keeps you on track, encourages you along the way and provides confidence and enthusiasm.  This also allows you to trust God’s voice.  If God gives you the plan to execute and you see results, it helps you to trust him more.  By the way, if He changes the plan mid stream, it doesn’t mean you were “wrong,” it means that now you are at a different place in your training and He wants you to go further!  Once my track coach saw I had mastered certain runs, he changed it up and this allowed me to run faster!

4. Execute with Accountability – Training alone is NEVER as good as training with a coach.  Once you have a plan, YOU MUST SHARE IT!  If you think you are better alone, you have a pride problem.  If you think your ideas are the best, you have a trust problem.  Still not a believer?  Here is why accountability makes you better:

  • You’ll Feel A Sense of Urgency – If you have the habit of training with someone, you are less likely to sleep in on your workout partner.  The easiest way for me to go on a run is to take someone with me.
  • You’ll Want Others To Succeed– When I actively train with someone, I find myself wanting them to finish strong as well!  It’s not about me beating them, but helping them.  It is harder to feel tired and sorry for yourself when you are helping someone else succeed in their plan.
  • You’ll Finish Stronger – When you are at the end of your training, others can push you when you don’t think you have energy left.  Trust me!  There is usually more left than you think there is.

Now let me leave you with this thought:  I was far from the best athlete on my track team, but I will say this.  There weren’t very many people who out-trained me.  My philosophy was train hard and the results will come.  Training hard may not lead to a championship but it will lead to character and respect.  As you live on mission this week, Train hard or go home!  I believe in you church!