You Have To Be CRAZY To Follow Jesus | Church In Mercer County NJ

One thing is for sure, if you are going to really follow Jesus you have to be a little off your rocker.  I mean c’mon, you have to first believe Jesus was fully God & man and came into the world born of a a virgin.  On top of that he lived a sinless life?  Then, He actually died for all of creation to forgive sins and finally, He didn’t stay dead, but rose from the dead after his body rotted for 3 days?

I’m not going to comment, support or bash one side or the other in the Duck Dynasty fiasco but I will say this: You can’t claim follow Jesus and be mediocre or nominal.  If you think you can, you are just flat out wrong.  If you are going to follow Jesus, you have to lose a little bit of your dignity. No a lot. You have to be #CRAZY

Duck Dynasty stars 660 AP

Not totally sure, but these guys seem a little bit different…#crazy

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:12

In order to do the will of the Father you have to be #crazy.  Below are 4 evidences of a #crazy person following Jesus…

Evidences of A Person Following Jesus…

1. Crazy Love  –  Francis Chan wrote a book about this.  Actually this was the title, #crazylove. Crazy love is irrational, uncommon and at the core is a desire to recapture the essence of the true way God meant for us to treat each other.  Show me a person who practices this and they may be #CRAZY  (Read: 1 Corinthians 13)

2. Crazy Grace  –  Forgiveness, what ever happened to forgiveness?  I don’t mean the kind that you know Jesus forgave you from all your sin, everyone knows and is ready for that, c’mon!  I am talking about FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER.  Just a few weeks ago a woman at our church came up to me and said God told her to forgive her husband who had cheated on her and to take him back.  If this happens to you, you may be #CRAZY  (Read: Colossians 3:13)  My friend Rob wrote a book about this, just happened to call it #crazygrace. Go buy it.

3. Crazy Generosity  –  One thing is for sure, the world is a greedy place.  Even down to people fighting over parking spots, greed has ruined us and even our economy.  Do you give?  IF you don’t give you aren’t crazy, you are too average.  But when I see someone who gives without receiving credit, and takes as little as possible, that is a #CRAZY person (Read: Acts 4)

4. Crazy Marriage    In the science lab of following Jesus, you will find a whole experimental area devoted to marriage.  We husbands are supposed to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  Period.  Sounds simple.  Just celebrated my marriage to my #CRAZY wife of 18 years.  Husband of 1 wife, it’s what crazy people do.  This relationship has taught me more about following Jesus than anything.  (Read Ephesians 5)  (If you are single, try purity, abstinence, honor and respect.)

Let’s have a little fun:  What is the craziest thing you have ever done because of following Jesus?  Comment below, on facebook, twitter.

Be #Crazy



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  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




Four Building Blocks of Life

I remember being in high school wanting to graduate and get on with my life.  I was antsy, ready for college and wanted to spread my wings and fly.  Looking back on my life there are some things I wish I was more disciplined in as a younger person.

When I married and graduated college, I had a choice to make.  What type of life did I want to build?  Our role is to teach the Next Generation key building blocks in life.  This Sunday at 217church, we will share our vision for reaching the generation.  Our hope is they will surpass anything we have been able to accomplish!

I made a decision from the age of eighteen to Live Differently and build a life that was centered on key things my parents had taught me, and twenty years later, I am glad I made those choices.  Now I am committed to develop these building blocks in others.

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“He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”  Luke 6:48

Over these years I have watched people (including myself) make terrible mistakes in the following four areas.  I am convinced, if we can get control of the below areas, our lives will begin to look more like a disciple of Jesus.  These are benchmarks that will reflect a well built life!

Four Building Blocks of Life

1. Spiritual Fervor – Are you listening to the Spirit of God?

This week I was listening to a very thorough explanation of how Jesus left with us the Holy Spirit and how He still works.  I was reminded of how much we can ignore God in our every day life because of all the distractions that get in the way.  Sometimes the Spirit tells us to do something and we are a coward, and other times we just have too many other things in our life to listen to Him.  Every major decision in life needs to be made by listening to the voice of God.  This means, we pray, read the word, write our thoughts, take sabbath, and overall learn to be in harmony with the Holy Spirit.  Your life begins with a relationship with Jesus.  Your very life depends on the Holy Spirit!

2. Relational Cooperation – Do you forgive others and keep short accounts?

This starts with your spouse, kids, parents, brother, and sisters, your nuclear family, and extends to those you work and do life with.  Bitterness and un-forgiveness will ruin your life and destroy your soul.  We need to learn to forgive those we live and do life with.  No matter how much you have been hurt, it isn’t worth holding a grudge against anyone.  Jesus forgives and we are instructed to forgive.  It doesn’t mean we enable abuse and neglect, but we always seek the path to forgiveness.  Recently after preaching on forgiveness, a woman came up to me and told me God was telling her to go to her husband who cheated on her and tell him, “she forgives him.”  My jaw dropped and I told her, “listen to God and do it, we’re here for you!”  If you fail to have this block, your moral authority crumbles away and your credibility disappears.

3. Financial Integrity Are you generous in giving?

Every Christ follower should be on the road to be what I call an “irrational giver.”  I believe this starts with giving away 10% of your income.  Not for legalism sake, but as a starting point of telling God you trust Him. When you give you emphasize He is the provider of all the resources.  We are simply managers.  I have referred to giving the first 10% as “training wheels.”  When we look FIRST at other’s needs and the advancement of the Kingdom of God, we become aligned with God’s purpose and he WILL USE US!  Selfishness and irresponsible financial management will lead to your ruin.  Our giving should be joyful, regular, and sacrificial.  Give, provide for your family, pay your taxes and always seek to ask, “how much should I give?”

4. Physical Disciplines – Are you intentional about how you treat your body?

Food, exercise, sleep and our mental health are spiritual issues.  Many people eat whatever they want, fall prey to addiction both substance and sexual, over work themselves, and fail to exercise.  This is a recipe for premature death and a toxic life.  Your body matters to God!  The bible says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  This means we should be paying attention to taking care of our physical health.  It doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon and bench press 400 pounds, but it does mean you should ask God how He wants you to take care of the body he gave to you.

Build it smart, build it steady and it will stand.

It’s going to be an INCREDIBLE weekend!



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 November 10th.  If you are looking for a church in Mercer County NJ, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit  If you want to be in on the ground floor of a new exciting church plant, contact our East Windsor Campus Pastor Justin Bronson at




5 Keys to Strategic Thinking

My five year old daughter is learning to master the art of strategic thinking.  The other day she asked me to go to Toys ‘R’ Us to get a toy.  When I told her we couldn’t today, every day after that for one week, she was relentless about asking.  She continually prodded me until, one day, she figured something out.  I am a sucker for a little girl who does the dishes.  She put all the dishes away and off we went to get a brand new $10 Hello Kitty make-up set.  (I’ll post the video later of our makeover session).

But strategic thinking isn’t just about getting what you want, it’s about aligning yourself with the ultimate strategic thinker.  His name is Jesus. Over and over again Jesus took strategic, wise steps on His way to the cross.  What He answered, how He answered, it was all a part of a larger plan to die, spend three days in the tomb, then raise from the dead and redeem us from our sin.  God’s plan is always well thought out and thorough.  Our thinking, unfortunately, is easily corrupted with wrong motivations, incorrect perspectives, and a lack of insight.  What was Jesus’ advantage?  He was able to align Himself with the Father.

Thinking 10-6

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13

Strategic thinking is all about preparing your mind, but that isn’t easy.  Got a Problem? Here are 5 keys to help you become a more strategic thinker:

5 Keys To Strategic Thinking

1. Find A Place – Do you have a place to talk to God?

Many times, people don’t think strategically because they simply fail to plan the time to think things out!  They wing it, shoot from the hip and end up making all kinds of errors in execution.  If you are going to think something out, you need to get away!  I often schedule time to think about the issues I am facing.  I go away on a long walk down a trail, carry a voice recorder and a small notebook with a pencil and put my phone on silent!  Then I listen to God.  When was the last time you did this?

2. Gather Your Information Do you have all the information necessary?

Do you have the CORRECT information?  Do you have a plan for your financial health? Your spiritual health?  What about your marriage or even your physical health?  In order to make good decisions you have to have all the information necessary to go forward.  There is nothing worse then having a distorted view of current reality when you are trying to make progress.  This is especially true if you are having a conflict with someone.  Unreliable information just leads to more hurt!

3.  Shut off the Distractions – Are there times when you are unreachable?

The more responsibility you have, the more you have to prioritize being unreachable.  If you aren’t unreachable at times, you will become unbearable.  Sooner or later all the stress from always being ‘on’ and never having time to process, will wear on you and the people around you.  If you think you can burn both ends of the candle, the wick will catch up to you.  GET AWAY FROM DISTRACTIONS!  This means, the phone, the TV, The Internet, annoying people, ANYTHING that leads you to an unclear focus.

4. Begin With The End What is the big picture?

Are you clear about what the end needs to be?  If not, you have a vision problem.  Start by asking God to make the vision clear, then ask for a strategy.  A person with a clear vision and a proven strategy is a dangerous man!  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

5. Get the Input of Others Are you relying on just one perspective?

Say this slowly out loud, “I – NEED – HELP!” Good!  Now that we have that settled, realize the input of others will almost always lead you to a better decision and a clearer pathway.  This is because people see things differently than you.  If you are in an organization, get someone with outside perspective to help you see what you don’t see.

You got this!  Now get thinking!



217church is a multisite 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 will meet at Grace Rogers School beginning October 13.  If you are looking for a church in Mercer County NJ, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services in Hamilton at 9:30 or 11 am! Visit

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!

What’s Your Dream?

Stare into this man’s eyes long enough and he will inspire you to believe in something much bigger than yourself.  This week, we celebrate his birthday and his selfless work for ALL marginalized people.  Born in Atlanta in 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King was in the prime of his life and impact when he was murdered on the balcony of a hotel at the young age of 39.  He transformed the landscape of our country.  We should not seek to idolize King, but we should learn from him a lesson that has eternal ramifications.  Make your DREAM worth it.

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”  Joel 2:28

Dreaming is dangerous as well as powerful.  When you dream you not only take a risk, but you will probably alienate people.  Some of us don’t feel like we can dream anymore, but THERE IS HOPE.  Dreaming isn’t just for the young, it is for everyone.  Let this post cause you to listen for a new dream from Jesus himself.

Getting a Dream Worth Dreaming

1. Ask What Breaks God’s Heart?  Dreaming starts with the Gospel of Jesus, not a self-help book.  The reason Jesus came to a broken world was not to leave us where we are, but to bring His kingdom here in all its fullness.  The good news is he chooses to use us through listening to HIS dream.  He is coming back for us.  But before he does that, there is work to do and dreams to fulfill.  To find out what breaks God’s heart, here are a few simple things I am learning to do:

  • Seek scripture – What has God already told us to do that we don’t have to really think about or question?  I remember 7 years ago sitting on my back deck reading this scripture from Isaiah 61:1:  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”  This is as clear as it gets.  You never have to ask Jesus if it’s okay if you visit a prison.  It’s right there in black and white!
  • Observe culture – Look around and see how people are suffering.  It doesn’t have to be food and clothing, but it should be a problem that needs addressing.  Teen suicide, slavery, teen pregnancy, child abuse, domestic violence, the fatherless, sex trafficking, education, special needs children, mental illness.  There is no excuse not to have a dream and if you aren’t helping others, you aren’t living a God-dream.

2. Ask What Breaks Your Heart? – Certain people are drawn to certain causes for a variety of different reasons, but if you are willing to ask God to break your heart for something, watch out!  A dream and a vision is coming that you will carry for the rest of your life that will drive you to wake up in the morning as well as keep you up at night.  How do you know what your heart breaks for?

  • Look at your scarsYou will minister most out of the pain in your life.  Maybe it is something you endured 10 years ago, but in season, God wants to redeem that pain to progress!  I have seen over and over again people who have been through excruciating pain and suffering, turn it around to benefit others.  DON’T WASTE YOUR SUFFERING!
  • Look at your skills  God gifts you to use your talents to increase the care and compassion to a hurting world.  If you are gifted at something, start now in using that gift to minister to those who are heartbroken.
  • Deal with what scares you – Fears often turn into huge areas of impact and great ministry.  Do you think MLK was never afraid of what might happen to him?  I think not.  He was no doubt at one point a bit afraid of his dream, and I wonder how long it took him to get over his own fear.  My wife and I are adopting from Uganda in the next 18 months, and it took us a while to activate our faith in God’s dream simply because of fear. 

3. Ask Where Is The Greatest Need? – If you have to have an event or a feel good moment to activate a dream, let these words be your permission to receive the dream God has for youSee the need and seize the moment!  I want you to pick one thing and just DO SOMETHING!  You need to realize that no dream is too small.  It doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing for the rest of your life, but if you are willing to be faithful with a little, God will expand your influence and give you a dream worth dying for.

My Conclusion This is room for more like Martin Luther King Jr.  I believe there is a generation rising up that will activate God-sized dreams and usher in great hope for a hopeless generation.

Let these words from Martin Luther King Jr’s last speech inspire your dreams…

“And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will.  And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over.  And I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight.  I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…

May your dream be inspired by the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus for the Lord is coming.



P.S. I would love to have you join me, as I will be speaking at the Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Thursday, January 17th at 7 PM at Faith Baptist Church in Hamilton.  Directions Here


Vision and Teamwork

ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN baptisms down, nine thousand nine hundred and eighty-five to go!  Yes, you heard it straight from me.  Our BIG MONSTER VISION is to reach 10,000 people for Jesus and to help them become fully devoted to Jesus! I believe it can happen and I believe it will happen.  This is the role of vision casters.  BELIEVE!  Last Sunday we baptized twenty-five more people, more than we ever have in one day and it’s just getting started.

217church’s 100th baptism

After the first leadership vision meeting of 217church in August of 2009, progress began to happen very quickly.  We prayed, planned and personally invited people to be on the team.  We set out on a vision to “create environments where people could meet and follow Jesus.” We set out on a mission to Restore people to Jesus by pursuing God passionately, Rebuild the church through caring for one another deeply, and Renew the community through serving relentlessly.   We realized almost instantly that everything depended on God and we needed Him to supply us with a strong team that works together.  Our team lives with the reality of this verse in mind.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners…” (Mark 2:17 ESV)

If God is going to use us to Extend this ministry farther and faster than we could ever imagine we MUST have an incredibly strong team!  If we are going to reach those who are ‘sick’, our team needs to grow even more healthy.  What are some qualities of strong team members?

  • Chemistry – On our team, certain stuff just doesn’t fly. Let’s face it, we don’t all fit every team.  We have a very diverse team but we have to all be pulling in the same direction.  We are always looking for people to lead small groups, excel in the gifts of hospitality, attention to detail and be exceptional in their work ethic.  We already have a great team, but maybe it’s time for you to step up and maximize your gift.
  • Hunger – We are looking for people who are not content with the status quo but want something more excellent.  People who are desperate for a change will always outperform the complacent and mediocre.  You can’t replace hunger and passion and you can’t make someone want to excel.  We are looking for people who don’t make excuses because it is a “volunteer role” but know there is a higher standard.
  • Initiative – When Jesus called Matthew in Mark 2, he saw something in a passionate tax collector.  I believe some of our best future leaders have yet to come to know Jesus!  They are pursuing other things and they haven’t come to Jesus yet.  They haven’t realized their ultimate calling in the world…but they are about to!  Some incredible initiators are about to experience transformation.
  • Character – This means when no one is watching, we are the same person as when a spotlight is shining on us. We are looking for people who are devouring God’s word not out of obligation or legalism, but out of a passion to find out what Jesus says about this life and how we should live it.  When Jesus says it, we do it.  Going in to this commitment we realize that it won’t be easy and the world won’t accept us.  But it’s not about pleasing people, it’s about pleasing Jesus.

I love 217church and I love the passion you continue to exhibit!  This week is vision week and we will let it all hang out!  Let’s celebrate and believe big for the future because we need Jesus and our community desperately needs Jesus.  After all if we can accomplish the vision on our own, it isn’t a God given vision.

Expectation is in the air,


It’s Been Out Of Control

One thing is for sure, 217church knows how to PARTY!  On June 3, 2012 we are going to have our BIGGEST CELEBRATION WEEKEND EVER! Two rockin’ worship services 10 am & 11:30 am followed by a HUGE Party with lunch and Baptisms at 1:00pm at 329 Edgebrook Rd in Robbinsville. (Here is a map to the party)  It’s milestones like this in the life of a church you don’t want to miss! If you miss this, it’s your fault!

One More Restored

“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control….” (Hebrews 2:8 ESV)

When we are OUT of control and he is IN control, this is the sweet spot of following Jesus.  It isn’t always comfortable and most of the time it isn’t easy, but truly following Jesus and subjecting ourselves to Him gives us a fully restored life.  This is what we celebrate!  What has been out of CONTROL??

  • Your Enthusiasm – Every week in the theater, on facebook, in small groups at community events you have been 100% behind the vision.  When you put your and effort into following Jesus it allows him to move freely in your life!  This has been so encouraging and it has made “Live Differently” by far our deepest impacting series ever.
  • Your Initiative – When it comes to your health and your discipline, so many of you have lost weight, are making better health and diet choices, and are exercising!  You are glorifying God with your bodies and this is an act of worship!  Romans 12:1
  • Your Giving- One small group, when they found out a need of a woman in the community, pulled together and gave $250 in groceries.  As a church we gave over $11,000 to single moms struggling to make ends meet.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.  You are a church that gets it.  Giving is a heart condition and the transformation is literally happening among us.

I love being out of control. There is nothing quite like depending on God!  The next 3 weeks will be incredible together and I can’t wait!

  • May 27th – The Restored Life
  • June 3 – Live Differently Celebration
  • June 10th – Vision Weekend

Let’s do this!




Family Rules

I love being a part of a church family.  Growth = Health.  Yesterday I got to hold our newest addition to our church family, little Mason Rivera!  This was a special occasion for us as it is our very first 217church staff baby! There is nothing quite like holding a newborn baby as they are so fragile, dependent, light and not to mention extremely cute.  It made me reflect on what makes our church a family.  I was thinking back on all the amazing moments I have shared with Jay and Sandy, the proud parents.  Almost two years ago I had the privilege of baptizing Sandy and then a few months later doing Jay and Sandy’s wedding ceremony and eventually hiring Sandy on to our staff.  When we planted 217church, we envisioned thousands of people getting restored in their relationship with Jesus, and now it is becoming a reality.  We now even have 3 people we baptized that are a part of our church staff! “What makes us a family?”

Mason and me

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers….” (1 John 3:16 ESV)

The word “brother” alone shows up over 800 times in the bible, and this is just one family term!  I believe God wants to teach us to how to love through our relationship with our church family and our biological family. What does this look like for us?  What should some of the Rules be for our biological family and our church family?

  • A Spirit of Adoption- We have said we are the “church for people who aren’t here yet,” and you are proving it every week!  The way you invite, accept and love people in, is life giving.  When people join your 217group or show up on a Sunday for the first time, you live the vision of being a church where people are rebuilt into their God given identity as the church.  Summer and I are seeking to adopt a child.  Maybe you can’t adopt a child but your family can have a spirit of adoption.
  • A Spirit of Cooperation – in my family, more gets done if we all yield to one another and pull in the same direction!  We have to be unified.  Inevitably when we try to cooperate we experience conflict. No doubt, you have come into some type of conflict with a brother, father, sister or mother.  During times of conflict we find out what our relationships are really made of, but how we handle the conflict matters just as much as the conflict itself.  Healthy Conflict = Healthy Family and the same goes for the church.
  • A Spirit of Encouragement- Never underestimate the power of an encouraging word.  I am constantly using words like beautiful, handsome, princess, mighty man of God, and genius in my house. I recently saw someone at 217church on Sunday give another person a hug and I wondered if that hug was the only form of encouragement that person received that week.  Encouragement literally makes us more courageous to believe in God’s dream for our lives.  It is the catalyst for our health.
  • A Spirit of Celebration- Never pass up an opportunity to celebrate!  Other pastors ask me, “why do you make such a big deal of your church anniversaries, events, baptisms? You guys are way over the top!”  My response is “Exactly!”  Should we not be absolutely jacked and excited about every victory God gives us?  The enemy wants us to get complacent and bored.  Not us.

On that note we are going to have a HUGE LIVE DIFFERENTLY party June 3!   This will be our largest celebration EVER!  We will celebrate our 100th baptism, your incredible generosity, the debt you have paid off, the weight lost, new healthy habits, but most of GOD’S TRANSFORMATIONAL WORK in our hearts.  Then Sunday June 10th, we share the vision for the next phase of the church!  Let’s keep going and be encouraged through this…

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 3:12

You are a part of something incredible!  Keep on running towards what God is calling you to!

Thanks for being my family,



Lose That Weight!

Over 100 people took the weight challenge last Sunday at 217church!  We are counting up all the pounds we lost and then we are going to have a HUGE party June 3 to celebrate what God has done!  Did you know that more people will die from heart disease this year than any other cause? Why? We eat a lot of junk! The truth of the matter is most of us treat our bodies like a human dumping ground as opposed to a temple of the Holy Spirit. We “calorie up” with sugar saturated drinks, eat way to much fast food, and exercise for some of us consists of going for a run…from the couch to the refrigerator. This is not God’s best for us. God cares about our bodies and he wants us to take care of what He has given to us. Tired of those extra few pounds you are carrying around?  Sick of low energy days and unhealthy habits?  Do you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure?  Have you had enough?  It’s time for a heart change, a literal one! It’s time to ask God, “What do you want me to do with my body?”

What does Physical health look like for us?

“whoever loves discipline loves knowledge…” (Proverbs 12:1 ESV)

Most of us eat what we want, when we want and we use the argument, “it’s my body, so I will do what I want with it.” This is not true, it’s a lie from the culture.  It’s not your body, your body belongs to God and he desires for you to use it to glorify Him.  Discipline can create a marvelous dependance on God as long as your motivations are correct.  but most of us struggle with the nasty ‘D’ word, DISCIPLINE. Here are a few things that helped me as I have started new habits and increased my own discipline factor.

  • Be Honest With Yourself- That means we have to address the brutal facts.  You can’t get to where you want to go unless you are honest with where you are.  Know these 5 numbers.  Your weight, waist, blood pressure, blood sugar, & cholesterol.  Get a good doctor to help and monitor these vitals and prevent disease!
  • Don’t Compare – Nothing will discourage you more if you try and compare yourself to other people.  Some people are gifted to be vegans.  Some people are genetically predisposed to be thin.  Stop worrying about everyone else and what the magazine adds tell you to be and seek God for his plan for your health and nutrition.  What worked for someone else may not necessarily work for you.  Seek God!
  • Take it Slow- One mistake we usually make is we pull the plug and make drastic changes all at once.  Then we fail miserably and pile on the guilt later and claim, “we tried.”  Unfortunately, most of us want instant results and instant gratification.  It didn’t take you a week to gain that extra fifty pounds or have high blood pressure so it is going to take more than a week to remedy the problem.
  • You Need A Buddy – Seriously, don’t even try and change a major habit on your own.  You need the support and accountability of a friend who will let you succeed and sometimes fail without piling on the guilt.  You need someone who you can model your health after and someone who will celebrate with you.  Isolation = failure.

Treating our bodies well is not an option, its a requirement of those who want to follow Jesus!  The big target on the wall is writing a LIFE TRANSFORMATION VISION for your Physical Health.  You should be doing this in your small group this week. Pray, then write the God inspired vision He has given to you, then make it happen!

I urge you therefore brothers in view of God’s mercy to present your bodies a living sacrifice, this is your spiritual act of worship.”        Romans 12:1-2

You are a part of something incredible!  Credit Cards are being cut up, debt is being paid off, people are giving at levels that we have never seen before at 217church!  Are you maximizing your life for the advancement of the message of Jesus?  This Sunday is about nutrition and exercise!  Post your workouts here and be encouraged!

I have to admit, this is really fun!



In Your Face!

When the works of God go on display like the church has demonstrated this past week, it is pretty much IN YOUR FACE!  It is undeniable power!  Simple acts done with humility which people can’t ignore.  Yes, humility ends up IN YOUR FACE!  In your face is not showy, cocky or arrogant, but is extraordinary courage and generosity only explained through the love of Christ.

When 22 single moms get hand delivered gifts of $500 from the deepest love of a caring church, it is IN YOUR FACE.  When families start stepping up and tithing to advance the work of the local church, It is IN YOUR FACE.  When hearts are transformed you can only sit in amazement, It is IN YOUR FACE.  This is what this week has been like for me.  I have received so many e-mails of thanks from people who have received loving gifts.  I have heard stories of people taking the first steps in financial health through cutting up credit cards, and even a video from a small group of a man ready to change the course of his financial future.  Look, when people in small groups start chopping up their credit cards, it’s pretty much IN YOUR FACE.  I am so pumped about what God is doing and how he is using this series and I want to hear your IN YOUR FACE STORY!  e-mail them to me at  Did you pass up a sale?  Cut off your cable?  Sell your car with that payment you can’t afford? Or maybe you and your fiance are trading that extravagant wedding you were planning for an extravagant marriage that will start DEBT FREE!

Have you missed itBeen checked out for a while? Here are some things God has done so far in just 3 short weeks of LIVE DIFFERENTLY:  Remember, “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you everything”

  • 78 heart transformations on Easter Sunday – In our largest weekend ever, people stood on resurrection Sunday and started living in the resurrection power.
  • 23 small groups have formed with over 250 people meeting every week in homes building 217church strong through deep relationships.
  • The Tithe Challenge – Over 70 families have stepped up and said, we are ready to tithe and take our financial health to the next level. What about you?
  • The Debt Challenge – Countless people are accepting the challenge to cut up credit cards and adopt a plan to get out of debt, PERMANENTLY!

Let me leave you with this short story in an e-mail I received from a single mother:

“As always, I am amazed by my Lords timing.  I have had a lot of trouble with my car lately and finally had to put out the money to get it fixed last week. Because my budget is very tight, I had to use our grocery shopping money as well as the electric bill money to fix the car.  Because of the wonderful timing and generosity of 217church, I will be able to feed my family and get some other necessities this week.”

You are a remarkable group of people,

This Sunday, Let’s get physically healthy!