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The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known, but least understood and least followed, of all the teachings of Jesus. It is challenging and yet refreshing. We all are called to live differently from the world around us. As citizens of the Kingdom, we represent the King. That means our conduct, our character, and our heart should be different. This week at Cornerstone, I will be starting a 12-week series on The Sermon on the Mount.

I tried to find good graphics for the series, but I couldn’t find what I wanted. I finally decided to make my own. I got design inspiration from a church in Winston-Salem, and then came up with a title and video opener for our series. I’m calling the series Flipped, because Jesus uses this sermon to turn everything upside down. Here’s our opening video.

If you want to find out how I created the video, keep reading.

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Along with many other bloggers, I was disappointed when Google announced the end of their Google Reader service. I have used Google Reader for years to keep up with church and technology news from around the internet. So, I decided to check out Google Reader alternatives. Almost every article I read pointed me to a service called Feedly. I’ve been using it for the past week and I love it, so I wanted to share about how you can make the switch.

First, read their blog post about how to migrate to Feedly. Second, sign up for their service. It will automatically import your Google Reader Subscriptions.  And finally, you can switch to the Titles View if you want it to appear more like Google Reader. Feedly also has great mobile apps for your phone or iPad. The best part is that Feedly will continue working after Google shuts down Google Reader.

After a week of using it, I can honestly say that I like it better than Google Reader. Sometimes, it takes a surprise to move us out of a rut and try something new. That’s true in technology and in faith. Feedly is fast, and their iPhone and iPad apps work great. The ability to quickly swipe through posts is a real time saver. Their user-interface is also clean, sleek, and contemporary.

If you want to stay connected to FaithEngineer and you aren’t currently using Google Reader, you can subscribe to my RSS Feed using Feedly or you can even subscribe to my posts by Email

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Water Sunday 2013

March 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

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For the last two years, our church has partnered with Water Missions International to participate in Water Sunday. It has been a great opportunity to bring awareness to a global crisis. Throughout this past year I have been inspired by one of our Cornerstone Kids. Mia was troubled last year as she heard about the lack of clean water. So she decided to do something about it. Here is a video of her story.

Water Missions International is doing a great job around the world. They understand the roots of poverty and they use community development and involvement to solve the problem. If you are a pastor, I would encourage you to consider holding a Water Sunday at your church.

 “What if the American Church came together and said ‘We want to end this crisis?’” Water Sunday is an initiative of Water Missions International, inspiring a movement within The Church to respond to the global water crisis. Together, we can be the solution. Water Sunday is the start.

Every day is a disaster, as nearly 884 million people lack access to safe water, and nearly 2.6 billion people do not have adequate sanitation.Since 2001, Water Missions International has responded to the world’s largest natural disasters and daily tackles the world’s single biggest cause of illness – lack of safe water and adequate sanitation (U.N. Report, 2005) by providing safe water to more than two million people in 49 countries.

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I’m excited about a new miniseries premiering on the History Channel this weekend. Christians have long complained about the content of movies and tv, and we now have the opportunity to show our support to a series based on the Bible.

The Bible is a ten-hour, five-week, miniseries created and produced by husband and wife team, Roma Downey (Touched By an Angel) and Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, Shark Tank, Celebrity Apprentice). Beginning on March 3, 2013, for two hours each Sunday night, viewers will see some of the best-known stories from the Bible, from Noah’s Ark and the Exodus to Jesus’ birth & the disciples. The final episode of The Bible TV miniseries will air on Easter Sunday and will feature the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Visit http://thebibleminiseries.com for more information

I have watched several movie clips, and read multiple reviews from pastors. My hope and prayer is that this series will bring the Bible to life in a new and exciting way, and that it will encourage people to open up God’s Word. The producers have stated “As with any dramatization, some stories and timelines were altered to create a moving story that fit the 10 hour time frame.” However, they have also consulted numerous pastors and Christian leaders to ensure that the message of the Bible remains intact. I plan on setting my DVR since I am typically busy on Sunday nights, but I’m really looking forward to this movie event. Help spread the word, and use this as a discussion starter with your friends and colleagues.

When-Helping-HurtsAt church, we have been struggling with how to best help those in crisis in our own community. Since we are a downtown church in an area with a high level of poverty, we receive many requests for assistance from individuals and families. So many people are struggling to pay their bills. High electric rates coupled with high unemployment levels lead to despair and hopelessness. The requests have been increasing, so we are slowing down to see if we are truly helping those in need or hurting them by how we handle benevolence and assistance.

One of my missionary friends suggested this book to me last year, and this seemed like the perfect time to read it. We ordered several copies of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself for those on our benevolence team, and we plan on discussing this over the next few weeks. This is a great book on how we do local relief and international missions. It highlighted many of the things we are doing right, and it definitely shows areas where we need improvement.

The basis of the book is determining the appropriate response for those in crisis. The author shares “A helpful first step in thinking about working with the poor in any context is to discern whether the situation calls for relief, rehabilitation, or development.” The book then works through the Biblical basis for each, and gives practical advice and training on how to do each effectively. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to make a difference with people in need. It is not a call to do less or spend less, but the book challenges us to do the hard work of rehabilitation and development. Honestly, this is not easy. It is messy, and it is hard work. But if we truly want to help people who are in need, we cannot hurt them by helping them.

This book also spends a considerable amount of time talking about short-term mission trips. It encouraged me to see that much of the work we are doing oversees is truly helping. In Nicaragua, we are working on training pastors who minister to their own communities, and we have helped with a model farm that trains people in how they can provide for their families. This type of development is needed, and my hope is that this book will encourage people to do more for missions, not less.

Have you ever done anything to hurt poor people? Most of you would probably answer no to this question, but the reality is that you may have done considerable harm to poor people in the very process of trying to help them. The federal government made this mistake for decades. Well-intentioned welfare programs penalized work, undermined families, and created dependence. The government hurt the very people it was trying to help. Unfortunately, the same is true for many Christian ministries today. By focusing on symptoms rather than on the underlying disease, we are often hurting the very people we are trying to help. Surprisingly, we are also hurting ourselves in the process. As followers of Jesus Christ, we simply must do better. (from the foreword by Dr. John Perkins)
But this book does not stall in the sphere of the theological and theoretical. It moves wonderfully from timeless truth to contemporary application. As you read, you won’t just learn about problems in the world; you will discover how poverty in the world can actually be addressed. … For all of these reasons (and more), this book is virtually required reading for everyone in our church who is intentionally engaging the poor here and around the world. I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone who is passionate about spreading and showing the love of Christ to the “least of these.” (from the foreword by David Platt)

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We are currently in the middle of a five week series on marriage at Cornerstone. Over the 17+ years that Jennifer and I have been married, we have found that reading books together has really strengthened and helped our marriage. We’ve read quite a few and I wanted to share the ones that stand out in my memory. There are several newer books on marriage that I want to read, so hopefully we will continue to grow and learn as read together.

What books have made a difference in your marriage? Leave a comment and give me suggestions on what to read next!

So true. I would love to see a little more creativity in worship music today.

Waiting on a New Mail App

February 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

2013-02-09 22.10.19I’m waiting to start using a new Mail app that looks promising. The Mailbox app works with Gmail on your iPhone to help keep your email box organized and uncluttered. The app uses quick gestures to archive, delete, or postpone viewing the email until a later date. I’m a little OCD when it comes to keeping my emails organized, so this app really caught my attention. I’ve been using the Gmail app from Google, but it looks slow and old-fashioned compared to this. This app approaches a problem that most of us struggle with, keeping our inbox cleared out so we find, reply, and act on the emails that are important. I’m always fighting to get to Inbox Zero, and this app will really help.

Now for the frustrating part. You have to get in line and wait before you can start using it. They are using a reservation system to slowly roll out invitations for the app. You can see from the image, I still have some time to wait. This is how they describe the app.

We redesigned the inbox to make email light, fast, and mobile-friendly. Quickly swipe messages to your archive or trash. Scan an entire conversation at once with chat-like organization. Snooze emails until later with the tap of a button.

It’s a whole new inbox.

The best way to understand it is to see it in action. I’ll let you know how it truly works once I get to the front of the line.

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