Easter – Resurrection Power

There are some experiences in our life that mark us for the rest of our lives. These experiences can be full of pain and anguish but can guide us to our understanding of our redemptive God. If you look at your scars they tell a story of a broken world: A physical illness, a story of abuse, a divorce, a fatherless child, an orphan, a life of poverty, a death of a close friend. If you look closely at your life, these experiences are calling out to you to see the great power of the resurrection of Jesus to set you FREE!  The moment dawn broke on that day – YOU WERE FREE!
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“…Death no longer has any power over Him,” Romans 6:9

4 Ways To Break Free This EASTER

  • Resurrection Power – Do you believe? This is the question. Belief that Jesus that has forgiven you gives you access to the resurrection power, and it is no JOKE! We see Jesus raise someone from the dead in Luke 8. But are you living like you are dead or alive? What have you given the enemy power over in your life. God wants to give you Resurrection power in EVERY area in your life. To overcome sin, addiction, failure, you now have access!
  • Invitational Lifestyle – Are you taking anyone with you? Literally, who are you bringing along with you to be your rock? Who prays for you, believes with you, cares for you? Better yet, who are you praying for, believing in and caring for? Individualism is overrated. The world says be great, Jesus says to make Him Great and then make others great. (Matthew 22:37-39)
  • Strong Theology – It’s not just that you believe the easy parts of the bible, but the framework that supports that belief matters. What we believe about God will determine what we do for him. Jesus isn’t a genie in a bottle granting wishes, but is more like a shepherd guiding us along the pathway of life. Here are 4 key ideas regarding who we believe Jesus is from 217church.
  1. Jesus is Savior – The bottom line is we are forgiven Acts 2:38, and our guilt is gone. Romans 8:1 This happened as a result of the blood that was shed on the cross for our sins.
  2. Jesus is Sanctifier – This means we have separation from Sin 1 Peter 1:15-16, and separation to God, Revelation 1:6
  3. Jesus is Healer – His healing power points everyone to him. John 9 Physical, spiritual, emotional, it’s all covered!
  4. Jesus is our Coming King – This means Jesus is coming back to Earth his appointed day to rescue us! Acts 1:11 Are you ready for His imminent return?

(You can read more in depth about these four ideas here)

  • Killer InstinctIf you are going to Break Free you have to put to death your fleshly desire. Romans 8:13 . Put to death your pride, greed, and desire for more control. You need to realize you are in a battle with your own sin nature and the world. James 1:12-18 But this is where is gets good! Remember DEATH HAS NO POWER OVER YOU

We would love to see you at our Good Friday and Easter Services this year at Sharon School in Robbinsville!

easter weekend

Josh Conn is the founding pastor of 217church, a contemporary church in Mercer County NJ.  217church meets Sundays at 10:30am at Sharon Elementary school in Robbinsville, NJ.  Visit www.217church.com for more information. or watch a weekend message here 

Do You Have The Secret Sauce?

Last summer at a BBQ event I tasted the meat and I was blown away!  I had never encountered such a perfect blend of spices and smokey flavor.  I approached the host cook and I immediately wanted to know where it came from.  The lady just looked at me and said, “If I told you what was in it I would have to kill you!”  I said, “No, really, what is in it?”  Then she began to tell me it was an old family recipe passed down for generations.  But she would – not – give – me –  the – recipe.

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“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.”  Romans 16:25

What is the Secret Sauce of Our Church?  Here, let me just share it with you…     (We are a restored family sent on mission)

#1 Spread The Vision Restored –  If you believe in something you will spread it as much as you can.  Once the life transformation through JESUS and the Gospel happens, you will do everything possible to make sure other people know!  Give it away for free!  Don’t hold it all for yourself.  We express this idea at our church through baptism.  Once you are baptized you carry the DNA understanding as an agent of transformation.  Invite others, tell others, Encourage others, you are no longer the same you are transformed!

Action:  Get Baptized Now

#2 Share Responsibility For The Work – family – When you share the responsibility for the vision it means that you get busy boldly acting out the vision.  The Gospel is expressed best through acting and being a family.  This means work! It means you have to do something.  You commit to take care of those that are hurting and you own the problems of those around you.  You become committed to making disciples and deeply investing in others and you view everyone in your community as a family.  Families take care of one another.

Actions:  Join a ministry team, invest in a small group family

#3 Serve The Ministry – sent on mission – Many people have no problem with the first two ingredients, but this one trips them up.  Imagine if you left out one key ingredient to the secret sauce.  It wouldn’t be worth tasting would it?  Here is the best way I know to express this idea.  We have to view ourselves as servants to the world we live in.  This means we never let an opportunity to serve someone pass us by.  If people are to truly come into relationship with Jesus, we have to embody what Jesus said about “not coming to be served, but to serve and give his life.” 

Action:  Serve people in your neighborhood, workplace and circle of influence now

This Easter season is an incredible opportunity to reach out and serve your neighborhoods as a family.  We will have 10 different opportunities the week of Easter through our small group families to reach out and serve.  Take this secret sauce and go flavor the world.

Josh

 

Josh is the lead pastor of 217church, a multi-site, contemporary church in Mercer County NJ planted in 2010.  We are a part of a family of churches planted in Central New Jersey including Princeton Alliance Church in Plainsboro and Element Church in North Brunswick, 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 now 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.

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.

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Easter 2013 at 217church | AMC 24 Theater Hamilton, NJ

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken in life?  Maybe it was the day you said “I do?”, or better yet the day you quit your job when you didn’t even have another one lined up?  Risk is a tricky subject because the moment we think we have life figured out, God will “shake our snow globe” and say, “If you want to truly follow me, you have to take risks!” 


“…Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  Hebrews 11:6

Following Jesus is risky business.  What we tend to do as Christ followers is look for the path of least resistance.  To follow Jesus means that we turn the other cheek, give like no one else is giving, relentlessly obey God’s commands and submit to God in every aspect of our lives.

 

Why it’s Hard To Follow Jesus 

 

1. Say Goodbye to Conventional Wisdom – Over and over again in the bible, we see the conventional wisdom of the world smashed by the wisdom of the heavens.  1 Corinthians 1 even says, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  Let’s take just one example of God’s wisdom, “Do not repay evil for evil.”  (Romans 12:17)  This is one that is probably most difficult for everyone.  The first thing I want to do when someone sins against me is sin back!  But we are to be people of peace.  Being a person of peace is an act of faith!  The wisdom of man will always lead you astray, but the wisdom of God will be a rock in your life.

2. Get Ready to Be Misunderstood – Jesus was misunderstood and lived the original “alternative lifestyle.” His disciples were ostracized and martyred for their faith and people were genuinely confused how living like Jesus was beneficial.  People will immediately think you are manipulating them and trying to get something out of them.  In reality, an authentic Christ follower serves ’till it hurts, loves when it seems impossible and forgives when it is improbable. This make absolutely no sense to the people of the world, yet there is an intrigue to the life of Jesus that CANNOT be denied.  He came to seek and save the lost and we are to carry on His mission until he returns to redeem the earth.

3. Your Critics Will Multiply– Ever been made fun of because of your crazy beliefs?  Ever been called an ultra-old fashioned conservative?  Ever felt like the world was entirely against your way of thinking?  Ever been publicly ridiculed, blogged about or secretly thrown under the bus at work or in the community?  Ever read the bible and had people stare in disbelief? Ever tried to do something in love and been refused because they didn’t like your “religion”? Ever take a stand for something that was biblical but unpopular and lose a friend and even your position and prestige? Ever been called a name publicly or privately because of your faith?  Welcome to what it means to follow Jesus and may this be your blessing:  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”  Matthew 5:10  BOOM!

4. Your Plans Have To Die – We all have desires to “be something” in life.  Whether it is to be the best mom possible or to succeed at a career, human ambition is rampant in our culture.  But in order to follow Christ, YOUR DREAMS HAVE TO DIE!  We must die to ourselves and “put to death the earthly sin nature that lives within us.” (Romans 8:13)  This is not easy, popular or catchy.  It is flat out counter-cultural & demading.  Is God calling you to give a HUGE generous gift?  Is God calling you to forgive an act that seems unforgivable?  Is God calling you to quit a job?  Is God calling you to work with the poor, the widows and orphans?  These are not “good deeds” in which we pat ourselves on the back, these are faith challenges in which we are shaped and “crucified with Christ.” (Galatians 2:20)  This Easter better not be a religious holiday with bunnies and eggs, it must be a reminder of the high demand to a lifestyle marked with RESURRECTION POWER!  Following Christ isn’t a burden, it is the HIGHEST CALLING on EARTH!

Are you ready to TAKE A RISK?  It’s time.

This Easter at 217church, will be a season of celebration!

217church Easter Schedule 
  • Good Friday Open Prayer Time- March 29th  6 PM – 9 PM @ 217church Youth Center 200 Whitehead Rd, Hamilton, NJ
  • Weekend Celebration Services- March 31st 9:30 & 11am @ AMC24 in Hamilton, NJ
  • Special Kids Party- March 31st in Theater 15 @ 9:30 & 11am

Easter Series Topics:

March 31 – Follow Jesus

April 7 – Do What God Says

April 14 – Ask For Anything

April 21 – Give Big

April 28 – Forgive

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P.S.- Know someone looking to attend a contemporary church in Mercer County, NJ  for Easter?  Take a risk and tweet, Facebook or email this blog post!  There will be a HUGE party and Easter Egg hunt for the kids and a great time of worship with other individuals and families in the surrounding Mercer County and Bucks County areas (Hamilton, Lawrenceville, East Windsor, West Windsor, Princeton, Robbinsville, Mercerville, Yardville, Yardley, Newtown, Langhorne and more!). Join us!

 

P.S.- Know someone looking to attend a church in Mercer County, NJ for Easter?  Take a risk and tweet, Facebook or email this blog post! 

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.

 

3 Years of 217church – Every Story Counts

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

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

 Here Are Some of The Ways God Has Used You

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

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

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

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

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

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


One Final Note:

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

Josh & Summer Lilly, Titus & Lydia

 

Join in The HUGE CELEBRATION This Weekend…

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

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

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

This is going to be AWESOME!

My Prayer For You This Week

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

 

 

How I Am Praying For You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Physical Intimacy and Marriage

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

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

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

Three Benefits of Married Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How’s Your Health?

I woke up Wednesday and there it was.  The feeling none of us enjoys but all of us are familiar with, I had the first signs of a COLD.  My Health was on the decline. I HATE BEING SICK.  I got up went downstairs and looked for anything and everything I knew to do to stop this thing dead in its tracks.  I ate a banana, an apple, drank some water and then attacked the vitamin cupboard.  Physical health is NEVER something to take lightly, but why is it that so many of us treat our bodies as a dumping ground for garbage food and then are surprised when we get sick?

An apple a day keeps the free radicals away.

God cares about our bodies.  He is the giver of life who enables every beat of our heart and breath in our lungs.  Life is a gift and a privilege from Him and he expects us to do something good with what we have been given.  The bible says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? ” (1 Corinthians 6:15) This means that our bodies are connected to the very Spirit of the living God through the power of Jesus.  So what should we be doing with our bodies to keep them healthy, glorifying God?

Three Principles of Physical Health…

1. Management Principle –  God expects me to manage my body.   Let’s talk about food.  It’s up to you, and what you put in now you will reap later in your physical health. Food is the gateway to our feelings and emotions.  One reason so many people feel like garbage is because they put garbage in their bodies.  Let me just give you one:  High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS.  This stuff is basically poison for you and it’s in soda and too many other things! Don’t even get me started on diet soda, it isn’t any better.  Did you know that one soda a day is equal to twenty pounds of extra weight over the course of a year?  We are the gatekeepers of our body and that starts with controlling our mouths, what we put in.   

Here are some reasons you need to manage your body well according to the CDC Website

  • In 2008, over 616,000 people died of heart disease. Heart disease caused almost 25% of deaths, almost one in every four in the United States.  The primary cause of heart disease is bad diet.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2008 were in men.
  • Every year, about 785,000 Americans have their first heart attack. Another 470,000 who have already had one or more heart attacks have another attack.
  • In 2010, coronary heart disease alone was projected to cost the United States $108.9 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

Question: What is one habit you need to start & stop to limit this risk in your own life?

2. Ownership Principle – My body is God’s property.  So many people find comfort in food, and that is not a bad thing!  God gives us everything for our enjoyment, but he owns us.  Addiction, compulsion and inactivity are huge problems in our culture.  What about you?  Let me ask you three simple questions to see if you really are living under the ownership principle.

  • Do you exercise?  I am not talking about being a marathon runner or an Olympic athlete.  I am just talking about regular exercise four times, a week 20-30 minutes a session.  I am not talking about a gym membership either.  Walk, jog, play basketball, but just do something that gets your blood pumping to stay healthy.
  •  Do you limit the free radical four?  Alcohol, caffeine, sugar and sugar substitutes, and cholesterol?  in excess, these will KILL YOU!  Eliminating these for most people feels unrealistic and out of reach, but limiting them is a very reasonable goal.
  • When was the last time you saw your doctor?  Don’t wait to see him until your body breaks down.  Make your physician a regular part of your physical health plan.  You need to know your blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat numbers etc.  These are not scary numbers, these are essential pieces of information if you are going to honor the ownership principle.

Question: What is your motivation to take a risk and try one of the above in the new year?  Maybe it’s because you want to see your grand children graduate from college!

3. Eternity Principle – My body will be resurrected after I die. The bible promises us that we get a new body in 1 Corinthians 6:14,  “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” This is a pretty amazing thing as we struggle forward with our current bodies.  Do you have a nagging ache or a pain?  Maybe you have a terminal illness? God is not leaving us here with these bodies, but he will resurrect them as a new flawless spiritual body!  We don’t know exactly what they will look and feel like, but we do know that Revelation says we won’t hunger, thirst, or have any tears in our eyes.  This should propel us forward to complete the mission of God, anticipating all that he has for us in our life after our physical death, for those who believe and trust in Jesus!

Question: When was the last time you thought about the future body you are going to receive as a NEW gift from God?

It’s time for a FRESH START IN YOUR HEALTH!  Take care of that hot body of yours!

I Would love to see you at 217church at 9:30 & 11 am at AMC 24 theaters in Hamilton, NJ as we explore this truth further this Sunday.

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

Josh

 

A Christmas Prayer for You

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

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

My prayer For You Is To Remember…

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

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

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

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

We love you all,

Josh, Summer, Lilly, Titus & Lydia