Why LOVE Is Worth The Risk

Should you love?  One thing is for certain, whenever you choose to love it is a RISK.  It is actually one of the highest risk activities you can participate in.  There is a song I heard recently that said, “if love was a plane, nobody would get on.”  Unfortunately, choosing not to love hurts you more than anyone. The greatest commandments are clear, they demand everything from you, LOVE, but nevertheless, they are a risk.

Jesus commanded love, He first loved…You have #NOTHINGTOLOSE

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“Love teaches us to YIELD, it’s worth the RISK”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

All love for a Christ follower is motivated out of the the reality that Jesus loved us first. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8  Caught up in our own lives and our own selfishness and pursuit of things and idols, Jesus went to the cross and laid down his life for us as the ultimate act of love.”  Furthermore Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  To call yourself a disciple of Jesus, love IS and love DOES.  Our love first starts with Jesus and it must extend to others.  This may be the hard part, but it’s worth the risk.  We are to love enemies, friends, people whom we don’t even know.  We love more fully when we realize, we really have #nothingtolose.

2 Things You Will Have To Overcome In Order To Fully Love People –

1. Fear of Rejection  – EVEN IF EVERYONE DISOWNS YOU, JESUS WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU.  This one is a hard one.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to care deeply about what others think about me.  Most of us want to be accepted and loved, but many times we withhold love because we don’t want to get hurt.  We have all been rejected at one time or another by a person, a parent, a brother, a spouse, or maybe a coworker.  Rejection is real and it can be scarring and devastating to our emotional health.  Especially if we were rejected by a parent at a young age, this is something that can lead to a developmental love disorder.  We manipulate words, use people, and make love a corrupted usury and we hedge our bets against the hurts that can come from rejection.  A failure to trust can create a character deficiency that never fully reconciles us being transformed by Jesus.  Because we are now purchased by Jesus, we are to identify with and resemble a life transformed with the very DNA and new identity of the Holiness of the resurrected Jesus.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18   You have #NOTHINGTOLOSE

2. Fear of Sacrifice EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING IN THE END, YOU FOLLOWED JESUS!  Fear of sacrifice makes love conditional, this was never God’s intent.  In order to fully love, it can’t be about you.  You don’t love based on what you can get out of it, you love because it is who you are and how you are defined.  Selfless love is perhaps the most significant sign of someone who is choosing to follow Jesus.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “If you have not love you are a loud gong or a clanging symbol.”  This basically means you may be doing lots of stuff, a lot of activity but you are just making noise.  Fear of sacrifice means you are focusing more on your needs than the other persons.  Self preservation, self fulfillment and self centeredness are all driven by fear of losing something.  Control is an illusion and when you love sacrificially, you give control to God and others in order to manifest an evidence of a living God.   You have #NOTHINGTOLOSE

One simple question as I close… Who is God calling you to love today?  Go ahead, you have nothing to lose.

 

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One simple act of obedience can cause a #rippleeffect

Josh

 

This Sunday at 217church:

April 19 – Go Plant Seeds – The parable of the seeds

April 26 – Go Do Good – The Good Samaritan

May 3 – Go Do Right – The Wise and the Foolish Builders

 

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

 

What’s Wrong With Marriages?

Who is with me?  Marriage is hard right?  Sometimes it would just be easier to throw in the towel and give up, pack it in, try some other avenue to do life.  Many people have thought of ending their marriages over this past year.  I have watched many marriages this year of friends and acquaintances become dysfunctional, disintegrate and even end in divorce.  I have met with many of them and one of the saddest things I see is when two people give up on each other.  But you can choose differently.  Build your marriage on the foundation of Jesus.

Marriage is not a casual agreement it is a life altering covenant…

“Love…It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

 I just celebrated my 19th wedding anniversary yesterday.  The last nineteen years haven’t been all bliss.  14 moves, college degrees, masters degrees while working, paying off student loans, losing loved ones, 3 major job changes, 3 children, 3 dogs, countless diapers, parenting struggles and some sleepless nights.  Those are just a few highlights, but through it all there is one person who has loved me.  My marriage isn’t perfect and we’ve had to navigate ALL of the below dysfunctions.  My hope is that you will take these and address these with your spouse.  Have a conversation.  If you aren’t married yet, buyer beware!  Know what is in front of you and proceed carefully.

What is Wrong With Marriages?

1.  Unwise Choices – “Love always protects” – Before you make ANY major decision regarding anything, you must make the decision TOGETHER.  Buying something?  Going somewhere?  Starting something?  Flirting?  Let me give you a word that will protect the covenant of your marriage perhaps more than anything else, COMMUNICATION.  Communication protects.  Everything you do and say affects your spouse now.  You can’t live with just yourself in mind but you must live for the well being of the other person putting THEM FIRST.  Selfish people are late, don’t communicate and think they have the “right” to certain things.  Have a big decision coming?  Find a couple who has been there and done that and ASK.  PROTECT your marriage.

2.  Unconfessed Sin“Love always trusts” – My wife and I have disagreed about almost everything: Money, division of labor, parenting styles, sex, communication, what to watch on TV, how often to clean the floors, EVERYTHING.  But I always trust when I come to her and say, “I am sorry,” she will forgive.  Some of you may be saying, wow, he must be miserable.  On the contrary, my wife is LOYAL and to have someone I can trust to confess my sins with is a true gift.  This is STILL working itself out.  You will spend the rest of your life hurting the person you love the most.  Confess it, deal with it and then find out how to STOP doing things that hurt your spouse and START doing things that help.  TRUST your sins with each other.

3.  Unrealistic Expectations  –  “Love always hopes” – This is huge!  The person you married is a person, they are human.  Don’t make them a God and don’t make them an idol.  DO NOT worship the ground they walk on, but love and respect them as a child of God.  They MUST not rule you, but must complement and comfort you.  The person you marry isn’t designed to “meet your every need.”  They are a companion who will walk with you in sickness and in health.  You celebrate with each other through the highs and you hold on to each other through the lows.  Expect to work, expect it to be difficult, but also, expect to have wins together. HOPE with each other.  Laugh, love, and live in harmony with one another.  One of my favorite things to do for Summer is to pursue her.  This means that I am constantly trying to find out what she likes.    A realistic marriage starts with a humble, sober view of yourself and your own expectations.

4.  Unraveled Commitment – “Love always perseveres” – Sometimes it happens, someone breaks the marriage one flesh covenant.  For whatever reason someone cheats outside the marriage and one or both use it as a license to divorce.  I don’t claim to understand this, I don’t want this for you but when the other person cheats, it doesn’t mean you have to give up.  Dare to dream about your future together and the pain of the present will slowly disappear.  It baffles me how we invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of the marriage covenant and then when things get tough, we give up on the same Spirit that brought us together.  Maybe your marriage story is the same of the story of Christ whom we crucified, cheated on and put to death.  but yet he takes us back as his bride.  We are a CHEATING BRIDE, but he persevered. Persevere through the pain.

This is NOT an article to judge or jeer at but is one to hopefully make you contemplate your vows and the clarity with which you live.  There is no formula for marriage, but yet a constant adjustment of how to live and love your spouse.  One last encouragement… May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.”  Romans 15:6

Josh

 

This Sunday at 217church December 21st – #Jesus is…COMING KING – Dare to Dream about the Future

 

 

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.

What Summer Really Thinks About Marriage

Today is a post by my wife Summer.  She is a pretty big deal, so you should read this…

Josh and I have been married for 18 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.  That’s 6,719 days, 1.84 decades and 129 dog years.  Now matter how you look at it, that’s a long time!  (Unless you’ve been married for 18 years, 5 months or longer, to you, we are rookies.)  Please don’t ask me what our secret is.  I don’t believe in formulas.  I loathe conferences.  Self-help books make me angry.  I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships.  But, if you were to twist my arm and demand that I tell you what works in our marriage, I would say something about maintaining the friendship, keeping a sense of humor, discovering new things together, making date night a priority, blah, blah, blah…

The Family is the backbone of our culture and it’s time for an adjustment. 

josh & Summer 2011

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”   Matthew 19:6

But, lately I’ve been asking myself that question.  What does make our marriage work?  When I look a bit deeper it seems that a theme emerges.  We live our life by a couple of cliches.  You may have heard them.  The older cliche is, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  The newer one is, “Happy wife, happy life!”  My husband likes to say, “I married up.”  My husband is my best friend.  My husband likes to take care of me.  He encourages me in my dreams.  He listens to me when I’m down.  He knows when I need some space, or when I need a hug.  He’s not perfect.  Sometimes he gives me a hug when I need to be left alone, and leaves me alone when I need a hug.  But, we work through it.

I can already hear the internet ask, “What do you mean he ‘takes care of you’?  Are you talking about ‘traditional roles’?  I don’t need a man to take care of me!”  I’ll tell you what I mean.  My husband loves to serve me.  He likes to surprise me with gifts and flowers when I’m not expecting it.  He does housework and enjoys spending time with the kids.  He likes to plan date night and the occasional weekend away.  He brings a cup of coffee to my bedside table every morning.  Lucky me!

I believe there are a lot of good men out there who love their women and want to see them happy.  I also believe it’s very easy for us, as women, to take advantage of that.  It’s easy for me to demand my way and be selfish.  If I really wanted something, I know he would do everything he could to try to get that thing I wanted.

But, there’s another cliche I’d like to address.  “Behind every successful man stands a strong, hardworking and wise woman.”  We live in an age where we want to empower women.  I’m all for women empowerment.  But, I hate to see men being pushed down under that same umbrella.  I see too many men lose sight of their unique contribution to this planet because their wives decide they want something different in life.

Marriage is a partnership and requires sacrifice.  This is not a new thought.  It can oftentimes clash with “I deserve to be happy.”  What is your husband’s dream?  Are you encouraging it, or discouraging it?  Are you lifting him up, or belittling him?  Are you pushing the brake pedal when he feels he needs to step on the gas?

Imagine all the sacrifices made by the First Ladies of the U.S. before they were able to call themselves that.  It takes a strong woman to support her husband in the risks he takes to put himself out there as a candidate.  It takes a hardworking woman to take care of the family while the husband has his focus on other things.  It takes a wise woman to overlook the massive criticism about her husband and the open window into their private lives.

Who was your husband when he first caught your eye?  Was he an adventurous thrill-seeker?  One who was willing to take risks?  One who had big dreams?  Did he have a desire to help others?  Who is he now?  Is he different?  Those qualities don’t go away, but they can become squelched.  He can be easily discouraged from taking a risk on a new business venture.  He can be tamed from his adventure seeking.  His dreams can become squelched.  We women have that power.  That’s the ugly side of women empowerment.

I once had a woman ask of me, “Please pray for us.  My husband needs a new job.  It needs to be within (this specific line of work), near (this specific side of town), with (this specific amount) of pay.  Because we need to be near family, and I don’t want to sell the house, and blah, blah, blah…”  Are you kidding me?  I never want to be that woman.  I never want to limit God.  I never want to justify my wants with excuses.  I never want to limit my husband.  Do you want to know what I prayed for this girl?  I prayed that God would open her heart to any possibility He might have for their family.  I prayed that God wouldn’t allow their limitations to stifle His possibilities. I prayed that I would always be open to God’s leading in our life…no matter what.  Does God want to move us across the country from Oregon to New Jersey?  Ok.  Does God want us to step out in faith and plant a church? Alright.  Does God want us to open our homes to an orphan?  I’m open.  Does God always ask me to make minor adjustments, or does He challenge me with situations that I think are outside my realm of comfort?  When I read the Bible I see a theme.  I see people being challenged beyond what they think are comfortable. I see people who have to rely completely on God, because only He could make a bad situation good.  I see people that have to depend on only Him…anticipating that only He can predict the outcome?

Don’t limit God…and don’t limit your husband.  I strongly believe that when we try to control situations, that we miss out on possibilities beyond our imaginations.

My Husband Likes 3 points, so Here’s my attempt at the three point marriage advice –

#1 Encourage Him –  Choose to focus on his strengths, and not his weaknesses.  Give him permission to be who he was created to be.  Let him know you appreciate him and value him as your life partner. 

#2 Trust Him Don’t try to control him, but trust that he’s going to do what he feels is right.  He will fail, just like you fail.  Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.  Never throw his failures back in his face, but encourage him to keep moving forward.

#3 Pray For Him  Every day.  Right now.  Pray for his health.  Pray for his mind.  Pray for your relationship.  Figure it out and make it happen.

I could probably come up with 12 more points, but I’ll just stick to three at this moment.  Just remember, in the end this is your love story.  In the end, I want to know that I married a man who lived exactly how he was suppose to live.  Every marriage is different and has its own unique set of challenges.  Embrace yours.

Summer

 

Join us at 217church for our series Live Differently…

May 11- Family Health (Mother’s Day)

May 18 – Physical Health

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 9:30 & 11am and Grace Rogers School 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.  Celebrate mother’s day with us Sunday May 11.

 

 

 

Overcoming Temptation

What temptations are you facing in your life right now?  This Sunday at 217church we will address how to deal with these struggles.  One of my favorite stories in scripture was when Jesus was preparing for ministry. He was accompanied by Satan himself to the desert!  Jesus endured 40 days of preparation as he was taken to His limits and tested to see if He was ready for the task that was ahead.  Jesus was preparing for 3 years of grueling arguments, persecution, humiliation, and loneliness all leading up to defining moments of His victory, death on a cross followed by His resurrection!

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“…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

Temptation happens when our desires and God’s desires for us clash.  The question is, “How do I allow God to bend my own desires and bring them in line with what he wants for me?”  This means we are working from the starting point of depravity.  There is something wrong with us.  Something terribly wrong.  Keep this in mind, just because you are a follower of Jesus, it doesn’t mean the temptations will subside; it usually means they will increase.  The beautiful part of the picture, however, is realizing your new identity and calling in Jesus.  When you give your life to Christ, you are not saying, “I’ll try harder,” but you are submitting the purpose and will of your life to Jesus.  You submit to Him, then He continues His work in you to purify you.  (Philippians 2:12) This process is called sanctification.

5 Ways To Overcome Temptation

#1 You Already Have:  This may sound trite but you have already won!  Although you struggle with sin you aren’t defined by sin.  In countless places in scripture we are told who we are in Christ.  We are “more than conquerors, over-comers  adopted as sons and daughters, purchased at a price.”  I could go on and on.  Most of us simply have not made the decision to hate sin!  It has to be that strong.  It can’t be you kind of “don’t like it”  You can’t flirt with it and dance with it.  You have to hate it!  Hate it, HATE IT!  Speak out against it!  DESPISE it!  Then and only then will it be subdued in your life.  Remember it’s not your power that overcomes, but the power that is in you through the Holy Spirit. You may need a REVOLUTION in your mind and heart and the power of Jesus is accessible to YOU!

#2  Keep Your Eyes Forward:  This means what it means. Don’t be distracted by what is on your left or right but “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:14) Sometimes we lose our integrity and focus because we are too focused on the here and now.  We want immediate gratification and satisfaction of our wants as opposed to a long term better result.  When was the last time you saw your whole life before you and evaluated your current decision based on your eternal reality?  People who overcome temptation are able to see and anticipate their eternal future and the consequences of poor decisions.

#3 Diligently Prepare:  For some of you this may sound crazy.  Just when you think you have overcome a sin, the enemy will make it somehow seem more appealing and you better be ready.  Jesus’ words “man does not live on bread alone,” (Matthew 4:4)  are some of the most profound words ever spoken.  What you can anticipate, you can defeat.  Don’t act like you were caught off guard and keep in mind, “your adversary is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 peter 5:8)  One of the ways the enemy will deceive you is to “sterilize” your view of him. Don’t doubt that He is waiting for His moment to destroy you, but take heart.

#4 Protect Yourself:  This is common sense! If you are addicted to shopping, then maybe you should stay out of the mall? Guard your eyes!  Guard your heart!  Here is a common sense protection for your marriage:  Maybe I am just too old school, but meeting one on 0ne with a member of the opposite sex, who is not your spouse, when your married, seems like a recipe for disaster in your marriage.  Protect yourself by setting up practical behavioral wisdom guidelines.  It will save you a lot of unwanted temptation.  What affair didn’t start as an innocent conversation?  Pray prayers of protection and when you feel it getting difficult move on to #5.

#5 Get Someone To Watch Your Back: Unconfessed, private sin leads to a breeding ground of detrimental behavior.  This is where the church is at it’s finest!  You, me, brothers, sisters, willing to go to battle for each other!  Give me someone to fight for and I’ll immediately have passion.  This is where we say, “NOTHING PENETRATES THE UNITY OF OUR CHURCH!”  Not on my watch!  The bible says we should “confess our sins to one another.” (James 5:16) You may be thinking it is too personal, too private and too difficult.  I would submit to you that it is more difficult to struggle with private sin than it is to share it and ask for the prayer of others.  This means you have to find someone you can be honest with.  Your relationship is not just about confessing sins, but also about sharing the victories and receiving encouragement from someone who has your best interest in mind.

You got this church!  Let the resurrection power of Jesus live in you as you persevere towards the calling Jesus has for you!  OVERCOME!

 

Join us this Sunday at 9:30 or 11 am at the AMC 24 Theater in Hamilton, NJ!  We are a unique contemporary church in Central Jersey dedicated to restoring lives and rebuilding and renewing the community around us.  If you live in the Mercer County, Burlington County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA area, learn more about 217church by clicking HERE

 

The Benefits of Forgiving

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?”

“…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.

 

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 joked last week as I was preaching that, those 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, 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 four-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.

Dangerous Question: What do you need to forgive your spouse or a loved one for?  Isn’t it time you forgave?

This week at 217church, a Mercer County contemporary Christian church, we will learn from Song of Solomon how to ” Make-Up.” To read last weeks post on “Fighting Fair,” click here.

Mercer County Church Blog Home

Fighting Fair in Marriage – Part 1

I have been married for over seventeen years and there is one thing I can promise you:  You will sin against your spouse.  Many engaged couples don’t like to hear this but once you exchange rings you know it is the truth!  Just because two people love Jesus it doesn’t mean they won’t sin against each other, and there is no such thing as happily ever after.  But there is hope as you learn to YIELD to your spouse and fight fair, NOT to win.  These next two weeks we will look at 10 ways to fight fair in your marriage.

 “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.”  Song of Solomon 2:15

10 Ways To Fight Fair In Your Marriage

1. Confront with Respect – Are you afraid of confrontation?  Depending on your personality style and how you were raised, your home of origin, or difficult past experiences, you may perceive any conflict or confrontation as an emotionally crushing experience, and RUN at the first sight of confrontation.  You can change this pattern by choosing to confront with respect.  If you choose not to, this can lead to years and years of pain and eventually deep bitterness. Many of us first have to face our fear of confrontation and learn to respect.  People who don’t fight fair use words like, NEVER, ALWAYS and constantly threaten.  Cut down on the drama and show respect for your mate.  Lower your tone, use words of love and NEVER say words that devalue the character of your spouse.  After all, according to the bible, you are “one flesh.” Treat your body with respect.  According to 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casts out all fear.”  Love and respect enough and the fear of confrontation will subside.

2. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down – This sounds simple but is difficult to implement.  This means you have to communicate often.  This doesn’t mean you become religious about finding fault in your spouse, and become a constant complainer, but it does mean that you may actually learn to love the faults in your spouse.  Find time in the day to text, chat and communicate.  A little proactive communication can go a long way to stop the conflict from escalating.  If you put off the conversation too long, it will just explode later.

3. Right Time and The Right Place – Maybe you have heard the phrase, there is a time and place for everything.  This basically means, plan your times to communicate, this includes time to disagree and work things out.  Think ahead!  Many times we get in trouble because we have bad timing.  We fight hungry, we fight spontaneously, and we fight with limited time.  State exactly what is bothering you.  You have probably heard the saying, “time heals all wounds”.  This does not apply to conflicts in marriage.  Time actually can fester and open up old wounds. Remember, timing is everything.

4. Keep Short Accounts – Stick to the subject at hand. Keep it about today.  One of the common mistakes couples make is by eventually bringing up old wounds in a current conversation.  All of the sudden a disagreement about division of labor in the house turns into a one hour battle about a year ago when he said he would do something and dropped the ball.  If you can’t forgive your spouse, why should you expect Jesus to forgive you?  I didn’t say you should let someone take advantage of you, but you need to be willing to forgive.  You can tell how close you are in your relationship with Jesus by the amount of forgiveness you extend to your spouse.  When are you going to forgive her?

5. Your Spouse is Right – One of the hardest lessons to learn in marriage is perception is reality to my spouse.  Even when I don’t think I am being harsh or difficult, if my spouse perceives it, it’s true.  This is a point of humility in marriage.  Remember, you married her.  If you think he is being over-sensitive, you married him.  If you think he is difficult to talk to, you married him.  Marriage can make you more like Jesus than any other relationship I know of.  Learn to be wrong!  Swallow your pride and yield to you lover.  No matter what the argument is about–money, sex, time, work, if you want to grow in your marriage, you better start yielding.  If your spouse says you do, then it’s true. Believe your spouse.  They know you better than anyone.

This week at 217church we will learn from Song of Solomon the difficult art of negotiating and yielding to our spouse. Do you fight fair?  Learn to fight fair and your marriage will grow in intimacy and strength.  We will discover the next 5 next week.

 

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

Josh

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

 

 

What Makes Marriage Work?

The other day I looked around the house and asked a simple question:  What can I do to make Summer’s life easier? (Summer is my wife)  She has an evening job three or four days a week, and as I looked around the house, it wasn’t that hard. The window coverings that had been torn down by either the dog or the four year old. The to do list on my phone that said, “printer for Summer.” The clothes in the laundry room seemed to scream out, “fold me!”  I have been married for 18 years now and one thing is for sure, a wedding and a marriage are two TOTALLY different things!  Anyone can plan a wedding, but a lifetime of marriage takes an INCREDIBLE amount of diligence and commitment.  It never ceases to amaze me how a couple will spend $25,000+ on their wedding and go into debt, (that is the average amount spent on weddings in New Jersey) and then be unwilling to see a counselor that may cost them a few hundred dollars, but could save their marriage.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”   Genesis 2:24

Don’t ever forget you are one with your husband or wife.  EVERYTHING you do affects them and EVERYTHING they do affects you.  Every decision and thought you have is a thought they are having.  Marriage is the one relationship by which we understand Jesus deeper than any other relationship, because it teaches us selflessness.  But what are some keys to practically make your marriage work?

5 Keys To Make Your Marriage Work

1.  Persistent Prayer – I meet very few couples who actually pray for and with each other consistently.  I remember dating Summer we would wake up at 6:00 AM and go into the chapel on our college campus and actually pray together.  (No, we didn’t use the time to make out!) A healthy prayer life together is the launch pad to selflessly approaching your spouse.  I am constantly thinking of ways I can help Summer and prayer often leads me to these moments of discovery about her.  The most important and meaningful text I get in a day is when she types these simple words and presses send, “Praying for you today.”

2.  Consistent Communication – Man I am terrible at this one!  I have improved, but I am naturally an inconsistent, incoherent, infrequent communicator.  Even writing these words is reminding me to set a time with Summer to talk about our calendar, vacation and just things I know she would like to connect about.  Here are some tactics that may help your communication.

  • Keep it down –  As you approach difficult topics to talk about, and you will have them, keep your voice tone in a range that communicates care and concern.  I feel bad when I see couples ripping each other apart with their words in public.  If you do that in public, what are you doing in private?  Man, that must be one intense fight! 
  • Keep it tactical – There are times when Summer and I have a “staff meeting.”  This is when we talk about all the details of the schedule of the coming weeks and months.  The appointments, work schedules, evening meetings, karate classes, baseball games etc.  Intuitively, we both despise these tactical meetings, but we do them because they help us get on the same page!
  • Keep it sensual – Words can soften a moment.  I don’t think Summer ever tires of hearing, “I love you” as long as it is backed with action.  Finding creative specific ways to tell your spouse how much you are in love with them as your friend and lover will bring new life in your marriage.

3.  Physical Passion – Sex is a good thing!  Sex is a God thing!  Making time for each other in the bedroom is and can be a launch pad to deeper intimacy in marriage.  Our Song of Solomon Series at 217church is 8 weeks of what the bible says about love, sex, and marriage.  The bible has plenty to say about the refreshment and healing offered through sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.  A great book to read together is “Intimacy Ignited“.  It specifically address the issue of sexual intimacy in marriage from a biblical perspective.

4.  Regular Rest –  Marriage works when you figure out how to build in breaks and take them together.  This will vary from season to season in your married life.  If you are young and married and have no kids, you usually have no excuse to not get away together!  If you have younger kids, this is going to be a challenge for you!  Learning how to take a sabbath together is one of the most important parts of marriage.  It reunites you in every way.  I always encourage the man to take the lead in planning these times initially. Book the hotel room, the reservation, the flight, etc!  Your bride will no doubt appreciate your effort and see it as an act of love.  Three types of sabbath:

  • The Spontaneous –  Call her for lunch, swing by and pick her up, surprise her with a morning coffee date, go into work an hour later.  Whatever it is, be CREATIVE! 
  • The Routine- This is date night, card night, whatever you love to do together!  Make it a ritual and let nothing get in the way of it.  Summer and I want to be known as the couple that is always seen on dates togehter.  Remember, YOUR CHILDREN ARE LEARNING MARRIAGE from you!
  • The Feast – This is when you getaway at least for a weekend together.  Do what you love, invest in each other, read books together.  Make a memory together.  One of my favorite weekend getaways together was when we rented a cabin in October in Sunriver, Oregon.  The place was empty.  We got massages and it was like the whole resort existed for us.  It was AWESOME!  We also read a book together and dreamed about our future.  That was almost 9 years ago and we talked about what we are doing now.

5.  Selfless Serving – I have never met a couple who made it who gave fifty/fifty!  If you are reading this and are single and want your marriage to work, you better be all in 100%!  This means you get to do stuff that you don’t necessarily want to do, but you learn to love it because you will do anything for your spouse.  The bible actually says that husbands are supposed to lay down our lives for our wife!  That is pretty intense!  Try this one today men:  Take the thing she knows you “don’t like to do” and just do it!  I guarantee her response will be positive.  But don’t do it for the response, do it because she is more valuable to you than anything.  Likewise, the same goes for women.  Pick something that he absolutely loves and serve him in that way.

Josh

 

Josh is the lead pastor of 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ planted in 2010.  217church is a family with small groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that meets Sundays in the Hamilton AMC24 Theater 9:30 & 11am and Grace Rogers School 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, Hamilton NJ, Mercer County, Middlesex County or Bucks County, PA, don’t miss our weekend services. Visit www.217church.com for more information.

 

 

 

Hope For Your Family

I remember visiting my grandparent’s house every day after school growing up.  My brothers and I would walk to their house and we would get to spend a couple hours there before my father would come and pick us up.  Some of my earliest and favorite memories are of those times with my grandfather.  We would sit and talk about life and just be together.  I will never forget when I would walk in that house, with its old creaky screen door, he would always be there to listen to me.  As I was reflecting back this week on my family and the four generations I have known, my family is where it is today because of the covenant of the marriage relationship.  My parents, the link for me to my grandparents,  have been married for 43 years and counting.  They are still relying on Jesus for hope for their marriage, the backbone of any family. There is great hope for our families because of the covenant of marriage.

The covenant of marriage links generations together from old to young

How Do We Build Strong Families?  Choices.

Life is full of choices, actually endless choices.  What to wear, what to eat, where to live, what profession to embark upon, etc. What are the key choices that give hope to you and your family?

1.  Choose Jesus – Jesus must be at the center of your life if he is going to be at the center of your family.  Everyday you have the ability to choose or reject Jesus in your life.  It’s not just about if you say you believe in Jesus, but what do you live?  Who do you live?  How do you live?

  • Your words – One of the easiest ways to see if you serve Jesus is to evaluate the words you use.  Do you spend more time building each other up or tearing each other down?
  • Your actions – Do people serve you more, or do you spend more time serving others.  If your own interests are always put above the interests of others, you may have a problem.

Action:  Spend time getting to know Jesus today

2.  Choose Your Spouse – Your marriage is the most important relationship on earth you will have.   Some of us have made that choice already and some of us are about to, but regardless, today you can make the right choice!  Choose how you love.  Unfortunately for many of us, we had bad models of marriage and love.  Maybe you didn’t have a dad that loved you, or you never had a family to call your own.  It’s okay. through Jesus, we have the ability to start a new family tree!  It starts today! Choose someone who models the following:

  • Unconditional love- The more you are with someone, the more ideally you learn to love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.  Jesus sets an example for us through the unconditional love of the sacrifice of Himself on the cross.
  • A servant’s heart – There isn’t anything much worse than being around someone who always is demanding things.  If you can find a man or a woman who serves diligently and rigorously, you have 90% of the battle won.

Action:  Pray with or for your future spouse everyday

3.  Choose Your Church Family – God gave us the church to build each other up and encourage us along the difficult road of life.  The church is about relationships and together we celebrate weddings and baby dedications.  We weep with those who weep and celebrate great joy in the successes of others.  Every week we worship together and eat together.  We serve the community with all our heart and energy.  The church may be the single biggest untapped resource in the world today.  As a matter of fact, I can say that with confidence.

Action:  Get in A small group (e-mail dan@217church.com)

My Conclusion Begin with the end in mind.  Some day I want to hold my grandchild’s hand because by God’s grace he has given us the hope of the world, Jesus.  Then someday, Jesus will hold my hand.  We choose to honor the covenant of marriage and the church is here for our benefit.  Let’s be the church that stands for the family.

Josh

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

  • January 27 – The Date (A frank and honest look at dating in our culture)
  • February 3 – The Wedding (Examining what a healthy sexual relationship looks like)