Training Matters

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

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

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

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

4 Hints on Training

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

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

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

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

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

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



Generosity In Action

Today is a guest post by our Youth Pastor, Kevin Namur.

There is nothing like seeing the next generation in action! This past Sunday 217church spent the afternoon delivering thanksgiving baskets to families in the Bromley community, our partner neighborhood. As we went door to door delivering dinner to the families, we asked for the ages of all the children in their household in preparation for our Christmas toyland, and if we could pray with them for their greatest need. As I walked the streets with our students, I was encouraged to see how passionate they were about serving the community. Eventually we met a woman named Clairmita. She asked for prayer for healing from her chronic body pain. She invited all of us into her home and shared with us her greatest need. I watched as the students immediately joined hands with her and began to pray for healing.  It was truly beautiful to see. Not only the blessing she had experienced, but the look in the students eyes as they lit up with more energy and passion to pray for those in need. I realized more than ever, our next generation doesn’t want to be told and taught generosity, they want to experience and live it out in a tangible way. They want to see and be generosity in action.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

As I walked away from Clairmita’s house with our students, I began to ask God to remind me how we all got to a place where we felt empowered enough to enter someone’s home and pray for healing for a woman we had just met. I realized that over the last 2 years together as a youth ministry, God had walked us all through a process understanding 3 of the most powerful prayers anyone could ever pray.

3 Powerful Prayers

1. God, show me what you see

I prayed this prayer 2 years ago in my living room while praying for our HS youth ministry.  The Lord showed me a generation hungry for authenticity, ownership, and the opportunity to make a difference. We made a decision last year in our High School ministry to move to a small group centric model. Students would now meet regularly in homes and we saw them begin to open up their hearts and their bibles more than ever before. We started with the idea that we were a family. We began to pray for one another on a weekly basis and created an environment where leaders poured into our students.  Our students were hungry to see what God saw in the hearts of the youth of our community.  We began inviting more friends to be a part of our family and now our groups are multiplying. All because of a simple yet powerful prayer. “God, show me what you see.”

2. Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours

I prayed this prayer in June and He responded with this phrase, “In order to reach those that no one is reaching, you must do things that no one is doing.”  So we reached out to Urban Promise Trenton and prayed that God would create a powerful partnership between us for His glory. Urban Promise has a heart to build leadership and strong faith in Christ in the hearts of the next generation.  God responded. The students at Urban Promise have become a part of our church family and this year we’ve been caring for one another, building relationships throughout the week, and holding each other accountable more than ever. We have encountered Jesus together in a way that has made us all realize how broken His heart is to see us and others broken.

 3. Holy Spirit, give me the boldness to do your work

This is the prayer I am challenged with today. It’s the one I began to see Him answer on Sunday as I served alongside our students. We now see what God sees when we pray together and for one another. Our hearts are now breaking for those in need. Now I believe God is bringing us through a season where we are beginning to receive the boldness to do things we have never done before. We are looking forward to serving families in Trenton for our Christmas service project this year. As a ministry we are asking God to redirect us in any way He wants to ensure we continue to see what He sees, break for what He breaks for, and have the boldness to do what He calls us to do.

This should be the cry of all of our hearts as Christ followers at 217church. Especially in this season of the year where practical needs can be met so easily, I pray you would dare to adopt these 3 prayers in your daily life. Why? Because at one point the Son of God saw what His Father saw here on earth. Not only did His heart break but His body broke to save us all from sin. God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit gave Him the boldness to endure the cross. And He rose again victorious over sin so that we could have life forever with Him. He also left us with a clear calling: To do what He did and to be to this earth what He was. HOPE. Will you walk into His calling for your life by beginning to pray these 3 prayers? “God show me what you see.  Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours.  Holy Spirit, give me the boldness to do your work.”

Which of these prayers is the hardest for you and why?

Getting Over Yourself – Pride

I remember being in the band in high school, and though it may be hard to believe, I was undeniably A BAND NERD.  I had played trumpet for three years in high school and even sported the latest large wire rimmed glasses that sealed the deal for me.  Every year at the beginning of the year we would have chair tryouts.  I had taken great PRIDE the year before of being 1st chair.  There were solos, better parts and it was a prestigious thing in the band to be first chair.  After chair tryouts we were all gathered around the director’s office as he was posting the official results.  I looked at the wall and I – WAS – CRUSHED.  2nd chair.  I had gotten dethroned by someone who was younger than me and for the next three months I begrudgingly took my seat.  I was absolutely ticked and my EGO took a large hit.

Most of us have dealt with the most disgusting five letter word in the English language P-R-I-D-E.  But how do we get over ourselves?

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

So what did I fail to do?  I failed to realize that the band wasn’t about me.  This should have been obvious.  A band takes, well, multiple people playing multiple instruments to create the sound of a band.  “The whole world is comprised of other people with one minor exception, that is you.”

4 Simple Ways To Get Over Yourself

1. Practice The Me Third Principle – The me third principle is rather simple, God first, others second and me third.  If you want to see an example of humility, open the door for someone, let someone go in front of you and last but not least, choose to give someone else a better seat on your next flight.  Choose the middle seat.  If I could afford it, I would buy a first class seat then randomly choose someone on the plane to upgrade.  Wouldn’t that be fun?

2. Give Generously –  It’s hard to remain prideful when you give with no strings attached.  The way to combat prideful giving is to give and ask for nothing in return.  Tell NO ONE!  Once you share it, immediately you will feel pride well up in you and you just wasted your money.  Your humility was snatched up by your evil ego.

3. Laugh At Yourself Regularly I often become the butt of my own jokes because I know I am a goof ball who has no business doing what I am doing.  I have no business being married to my amazingly gorgeous, hot wife. I work with amazing people who for some reason choose to work for me.  (By the way, you choose your boss). And I can be the quirkiest person around.  STOP taking yourself so seriously, calm down, relax, and laugh at yourself.

4. Be Willing To Be Forgotten – This means in every instance pass along the credit.  I believe we are the sum total of what people pour into us.  Teachers, coaches, parents, brothers, classmates:  There is no way I got here alone, and you didn’t either.  I think what the world needs is more people with a sober view of themselves and their accomplishments.

One more thing, here is the warning:  Once you think you are humble, you become prideful.  Just because you do the above you won’t necessarily shake the “pride virus.”  Humility takes a life-time of depending on Jesus and self managing.

You weren’t born as Superman, so get over yourself!


Question:  What is the most difficult situation you have had to show humility in?

P.S. If you know of anyone who has a specific need from Hurricane Sandy, please contact Tim 732-306-9074.

Life’s About People NOT Stuff

Continue to bring non-perishable foods, toiletries, blankets, and baby care items for Hurricane Sandy victims to 217church.  Sunday Services – 10 am & 11:30 am

Watching the church in action is a beautiful thing.  This past week, a team from 217church and Element church had the privilege of serving someone we didn’t even know.  A group of us took a trip to Union beach, NJ where the scene was disastrous.  The house we were gutting had been overcome by three feet of ocean water and everything on the first floor had to be thrown away.  The back yard was littered with garbage. Washers, dryers, refrigerators, furniture, insulation and countless amounts of drywall, all ended up in a pile in front of the house.  At one point I had to just stop, go outside and take a deep breath because it was too much for me to handle.  As I looked towards the ocean, I observed countless houses like this one, needing to be cleaned up.  The task seemed so overwhelming. These are real people who lost virtually everything. But this family had EACH OTHER.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ..”  Galatians 6:2

As I stood and stared at the stuff on this curb it hit me.  All this stuff at one point was new.  Brand spanking new.  The beautiful stainless steel refrigerator, the oak desk, the big screen TV.  It all at one point was brought home with pride.  It got me thinking about the process we go through in our love affair with STUFF

5 stages of stuff

1. Ambition – It all starts here with our stuff.  Desire! We get a job, we like a girl, we give her a ring.  We have all these plans and desires and it usually involves big money and lots of stuff.  A first home, a new car and a retirement account.  These are all things we want to have and think we need. It is touted as the “American Dream” and I think one of my jobs is to pry people’s hand off of this dream and show them God’s dream.  But ambition is a powerful thing.

2. Acquisition –  You have all heard of shopper’s high.  I have had it before and you know the feeling.  When you first buy something it usually feels amazing.  I’ll never forget opening the door to our first house.  It was brand new construction, built to our specifications and it was ours.  It even had a garage, which leads to the next phase.

3.  Accumulation I recently spent a day cleaning out my garage and found stuff I had forgotten about and stuff I don’t even remember how we obtained it.  Accumulation is a dirty word because we can look around and think that we have something.  We might even start to think we are a really big deal.  But if we don’t have Jesus we don’t have anything.  There is a false sense of security in owning a home, having power- even having a car.  As most of us experienced in the Northeast this week:  If the power goes out, our house becomes a very cold place. Empty.  On top of that, if we don’t have power, our gadgets don’t even work.  Listen, people matter more than stuff! You are taking none of it with you when you die.

4. Admiration – We look around and pat ourselves on the back and feel proud of our accomplishment.  We even admire certain people in their pursuit of accumulation.  Some of us become bitter and jealous because “all those rich people out there are greedy.” For a little while after we have accumulated much, we actually think we need more.  We want to be like them. There is a venom injected in the life of our culture that whispers, “we need more”  and most of us believe it.  This, by the way is why we don’t give more, we actually think we need more.

5. Apathy – Eventually, and this could take a lifetime, we get apathetic about our stuff.  Most of us after getting to the end of our life will not say, “I wish I would have had more stuff.”  We will most likely think, “I wish I would have given more away, and I wish I wouldn’t have worried about it so much!”  We will wish we would have spent more time with those we love.

During this time when we see so much need, let’s become apathetic NOW about our stuff.  If someone has a need, let’s not hesitate to give to help.  Let’s help people rebuild and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Your stuff doesn’t matter and does not define you.  Let’s take care of one another.

Can’t wait to be the church this weekend!


P.S. If you know of anyone who has a specific need from Hurricane Sandy, please contact Tim 732-306-9074.

Unity After Hurricane Sandy

Bring non-perishable foods, toiletries, blankets, shoes, baby care items, work gloves for Hurricane Sandy victims to 217church.  Sunday Services – 10 am & 11:30am

What we need most during this time of uncertainty and struggle is UNITY.  I have heard stories of you, the church, taking each other in during power outages, providing for each other’s basic needs, and meeting neighbors throughout your community building relationships.  Sometimes it takes a disaster to make the church shine.  When things are at their worst, the church should be at it’s best.  SO… what’s our “Game Plan” now?

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”  1 Thess 5:11

Two ways to show unity…

1. Bromley Neighborhood Community Day, Saturday, November 3rd 9am-2pm  –   We will be having a KIDS FESTIVAL with games, a bounce castle, hot dogs and burgers, pop corn machine and a time to throw a party for our friends in Bromley.  We will also be HELPING CLEAN UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD AFTER THE STORM.  Bring rakes, gloves, blowers, chainsaws, extra big bags, and your trucks and meet us at Farmingdale Park at 9AM.  I don’t believe in coincidences! This event has been on the schedule for weeks now, and it could not have come at a more opportune time.  It’s an INCREDIBLE WAY to kickoff this series by DOING what you KNOW before you study it! E-mail for more info on this event.

2. Sunday Worship at the AMC 24 –  As we kick off our “Game Plan” series, I could not be more proud of you as a church.  This series is all about living on mission together with our small groups.  We have 22 small groups that will be using the “Tangible Kingdom Primer” that goes along with the Sunday message.  We are selling them for $10 at the Next Level Center every Sunday. WE WANT EVERYONE TO GET IN A GROUP THIS HOLIDAY SEASON and experience the unity of the church. E-mail to get in a group.  Here are the essential components of the series:

#1 A weekend message with a focused topic

#2 A corresponding 217group lesson from the book: “Tangible Kingdom Primer”                                                                                          

#3 A daily study from the book “Tangible Kingdom Primer”    (Please Note: Every Individual needs their own book)

Here are the weekend topics…

  • Nov 4      The Game Plan
  • Nov 11     Intentionality
  • Nov 18     Humility
  • Nov 25     Teamwork
  • Dec 2     Responsibility
  • Dec 9     Belonging
  • Dec 16     Training
  • Dec 23     Mastering Your Position

Let’s encourage one another and make this Sunday an incredible show of unity from our community!

Don’t forget to wear your favorite team jersey! I can’t wait to see us grow together as a church!


P.S. If you know of anyone who needs a warm place to stay the night, the 217church youth center is open as a temporary shelter, contact Tim 732-306-9074

P.P.S. don’t forget to push your clocks back one hour Saturday night! DST ends!

What’s Your Game Plan?

Today is my son’s 10th birthday!  I’ll never forget the moment Titus breathed his first breath at 5:58 PM.  It was a new start to a new life for us and we were scrambling to figure out how we would now parent 2 kids!  After all, raising kids is an art, not a science.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time and we realized quickly we needed a Game Plan for how to raise this little guy!  If there is one thing I want for my kids, it’s for them to be Disciple Makers!  Jesus wants the same for us.

“…that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28

What does it look like to be a Disciple Maker?  This is the Game Plan God has for us and it’s time for us to discover it together…

Three Ways to get ALL IN the Game Plan Series…

#1 Bromley Clean Up Day – On Saturday November 3rd from 9am – 2 pm, we will be joining with other Hamilton township residents to help make part of Hamilton shine a little more.  We will be cleaning up the neighborhood and doing various projects.  In addition, we will host a kids festival in the park with games and fun activities.  Come and meet some neighbors and discover part of your Game Plan.

#2  Game Plan Sunday is November 4th – Wear your favorite team Jersey and get ready to engage in 8 essential Life Skills on how to “Live on Mission” for Jesus.  Making Disciples is a tough task. Are you up to it? Every Sunday at 10 & 11:30 am we will explore a new part of the Game Plan.

  • Nov 4      The Game Plan
  • Nov 11     Intentionality
  • Nov 18     Humility
  • Nov 25     Teamwork
  • Dec 2     Responsibility
  • Dec 9     Belonging
  • Dec 16     Training
  • Dec 23     Mastering Your Position

#3  Join A Small Group – If we are going to “Live on Mission”, we have to learn to do it in community not in isolation.  New groups will be forming and we want you to be a part of a Game Plan small group.  We have 21 groups in 10 different townships.  We believe and active and serving small group is where our faith goes from ideas to practice.  Here is how the vision of the church gets accomplished through groups…

  • People getting Restored in their relationship with Jesus, getting baptized and “Pursuing God Passionately.” We see a change in the eternal destiny of people in our community.
  • People actively Rebuilding the church one life at a time through “Caring for One Another Deeply.” We see our church giving purpose and meaning through belonging to a mission bigger than any of us can even fathom.
  • The church Renewing the community through Serving Relentlessly.” We see those who feel abandoned, alone and helpless, gaining dignity, experiencing love, and being empowered through having their basic needs met.

Having the right Game Plan is a matter of success or failure.

Let’s discover the Plan and make it happen!