On May 24th, four local churches came together for a night of worship. I wanted to share the video of this service here on the blog. It was a powerful night of worship and praise. I love seeing churches work together and break down denominational and geographical barriers.

I'm thrilled to let you know that our friends and partners, Lightstock.com, are giving away 10 free credits to everyone who signs up using, the link below. If you haven’t already heard about Lightstock, they’re the ones who are putting an end to cheesy Christian stock photography.

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If you check out most church bulletins and most church websites, you will find plenty of cheesy photos and clipart. Lightstock is a great resource for your church for cheesy-free photos and videos. I really like the quality on their site. They are one of my partners here on my blog and I wanted to share more about their site. Keep reading to find out how you can receive 10 free credits.

The following article is from Jonathan Bailey. Co-founder @Lightstock. Board member @Renovareusa. Follow him @jonathanrbailey

5 REASONS TO SAY ‘NO’ TO CHEESY PHOTOS

Have a design project around the corner? Let me share 5 quick reasons to say ‘NO’ to cheesy photos.

1. Say no to photos that are void of creativity.

The definition of creative is: relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Unleashing the imagination to create something original is what I’m talking about. If you’re not engaging your imagination in a deep and meaningful way then don’t even bother.

2. Say no to photos that look touristy.

Composition is key. Composition means the art of putting things together. Think of yourself as a Culinary artist bringing unique ingredients together to serve up a delicious meal. Your ingredients include the subject, negative space, lighting, focal
length, etc. The quickest way to break the back of crummy-composition is to get on the ground with your camera and start start shooting. Unique vantage points always help eliminate the cheese.

3. Say no to photos that look like they were taken in the 80s.

Avoid hyper trends and fashions in your photography. Especially a really dated wardrobe from your subjects. And if you’re going to shoot something out of Biblical times, make sure the costuming actually matches the time period. You need heavy wools that are ragged and torn. Not just a white table cloth and a piece of twine. Pay attention to wardrobe.

4. Say no to photos that mix lighting.

Don’t mix! When it comes to photography there are two basic types of light: natural light (sunlight) and artificial light (flashes/studio lights). Make sure that if you’re inside you turn the lights off and take the shot next to some big windows. Or if you want artificial lights then black out the windows. This will give you a consistent look. And lastly and most important…

5. Say no to photos that show little thoughtfulness or care.

Simply put, they’re lazy. They don’t take into consideration the intelligence of the audience. Jony Ive, creative mastermind at Apple, described this principle when talking about the Apple products he designs. “We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects”, says Ive. “It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made.” Thoughtfulness and care take time and energy. When you sit down to shoot or design, think about your end-user. How does your creation add value to their life?

 

Free Stuff Alert: Here’s 10 Free Credits to Lightstock

I’m thrilled to let you know that our friends and partners, Lightstock.com, are giving away 10 free credits to everyone who signs up using, the link below. If you haven’t already heard about Lightstock, they’re the ones who are putting an end to cheesy Christian stock photography.

Click Here to Signup and Get the 10 Free Credits

If you use stock photos in your designs or blog posts then Lightstock is something you should definitely check out.

logo_wordlensWith the recent news that Google has acquired the parent company behind the app Word Lens, I finally decided to try it out. Especially now that the app is free on the app store for Android and iOS for a limited time!

Word Lens is a cool app that translates text in real time from one language to another. What makes it extremely useful is that it works without a data connection. So if you are traveling in a foreign country without cell service, you can still use the app to translate signs and menus. It’s perfect for mission trips! The best way to see how it works is by watching the video below.

I love that the app even keeps the fonts and colors the same as it translates the text. It really is amazing to use. I have this installed on my phone and I’m sure I will be annoying everyone next month on our mission trip to Nicaragua. You can search the app stores for Word Lens, or you can find the links on Quest Visual’s website.  The dictionaries must be downloaded from within the app, but currently they are free. Check it out and let me know what you think.

From their website – so pick it up for free while you can!

As a thank you to everybody who supported us on our journey, we’ve made both the app and the language packs free to download for a limited time while we transition to Google.

Amazon-Smile

I recently started using Amazon Smile to support one of my favorite charities, Because We Care Ministries. I do a lot of shopping at Amazon since I have a Prime account with free 2-day shipping on most items. It’s an easy way to help support mission work in Nicaragua.  Here is how Amazon Describes it

What is AmazonSmile?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

When you go to smile.amazon.com and login with your Amazon account, you can choose from almost one million different charities. I chose Because We Care Ministries in Roanoke, Virginia, a great missions organization that we partner with to do mission work in Nicaragua.  They receive 0.5% of the purchase price from every eligible AmazonSmile purchase I make.  That may not sound like a lot, but if many people set it up, it can make a huge difference in the mission field.

After you set everything up, you do need to remember to shop at smile.amazon.com instead of the normal www.amazon.com. I installed a Google Chrome browser extension called SmileAlways that automatically redirects me to the smile page. Try it out! I love finding ways to support more mission work.

 

I have cut back on the number of posts here on the blog over the past year. It has been an intentional decision based on the time I have available after pastoring a church and spending time with my family. God has been teaching me about the importance and power of relationships in our lives. I think we are at an important crossroads in our culture today. We can hide behind our mobile devices and forget we have been blessed to truly live life to the fullest.

We must find a balance between virtual and real life. Let’s put down our devices and look up. Let’s make time to strengthen and build relationships. And let’s not forget that God has placed us here to live in community with others, encouraging each other as we worship and learn together. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

We just finished our latest sermon series called Foundations at Cornerstone. Our goal was to focus on basic foundational truths that every believer should know and understand. Sometimes, it’s good to just focus on the basics. I have been surprised throughout the series at the positive response from our mature believers. I think pastors tend to forget that many people struggle with doubt and confusion about what they believe.

We focused this series on questions that people have about their faith. 

  • Can I trust the Bible?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • Why is the resurrection important? (Easter Message)
  • What is our responsibility?

I created the graphics for this series using simple stock graphics and iMovie. It was quick, but I hope it shows what you can do with simple tools and a limited budget. Here is the opening video for the series.

I love hearing stories of growth and life change, and God moved throughout this series.

  • One person shared how much our church has helped him overcome his addiction. His comment was that he has never experienced people who truly care about him
  • One person shared how they were fearful of messing up and losing their salvation. When they understood what it truly means to have faith in Christ, they were set free from worry and fear of messing up
  • Multiple people trusted Christ for salvation
  • Two people who had a previous conflict reconciled and asked forgiveness

Each week I hear stories like these. It never gets old seeing God work miracles in our church!

This was also posted on the Cornerstone website


At our First Wednesday Service last week, our focus was on family worship and discipleship. I shared several resources to help you lead your family. Here are just a few of the resources we recommend.

Rightnow Media

Rightnow Media is a great website that gives Cornerstone attenders access to over 3500 video Bible studies and children’s videos.   To signup, please go to www.mycornerstone.org/rightnow to request your login information (if you do not attend Cornerstone, please contact your church about signing up for this great service).  Once you are registered with the site, you can access it here. Not only do they have great videos for your children to watch, they also offer great Bible studies on topics like parenting and marriage.

It Starts at Home Bible Study

This is one of the video Bible Studies available through Rightnow Media.  Here is the description for the study

Who is shaping what your kids believe?

In these busy, hectic days we take our kids to sports practices, games, music lessons, school tutoring and other activities to give our children the best opportunities for success. But what if we’re missing the chance to teach them what matters most?

Our children can grow up smart, athletic, popular and polite but lack a vibrant relationship with Christ. The few hours they spend in church each week can be helpful, but it cannot nurture a faith in our kids that will withstand the trials that are on the horizon. Church alone cannot teach them, we must start at home. But many parents feel ill equipped to develop the faith of their children.

In these six sessions, we will explore biblical and tangible ways that parents—couples, single parents, blended families and grandparents—can build a legacy of faith for their children. Each session includes interviews with everyday parents talking about their own doubts, fears and desires. Gary Thomas, Matt Chandler, and Kurt and Olivia Bruner provide powerful teaching that will help you give your kids what they need to build a solid framework for lifelong faith.

Click here to access the study through Rightnow Media and watch the introductory video

Click here to access more resources through the website for the series

YouVersion for Kids

The same Bible app that is available for adults is also available for children. Check out www.bible.com/kids to find out more information about this interactive mobile app for children.

New City Catechism

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The New City Catechism is a way to teach faith and doctrine to children and adults through the use of questions and answers. There are 52 question and answers that are taught through videos, commentaries, and even songs. This is a great way to spend time together as a family going deeper in your faith.  You can access it online or through an iPad app.

Today many churches and Christian organizations publish “statements of faith” that outline their beliefs. But in the past it was expected that documents of this nature would be so biblically rich and carefully crafted that they would be memorized and used for Christian growth and training. They were written in the form of questions and answers, and were called catechisms (from the Greek katechein which means “to teach orally or to instruct by word of mouth”). The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 and Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms of 1648 are among the best known, and they serve as the doctrinal standards of many churches in the world today.

Next Steps to Grow in Your Faith

Finally, our church has a detailed plan to help you grow in your faith. We encourage you to work through this as a family. Click here to read more and complete a personal Spiritual Growth Plan for both you and your family

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I finished reading a pre-release copy of Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed a few weeks ago. I’ve always enjoyed listening to Noble preach, and I have been able to visit NewSpring on several occasions for conferences. This book really caught my interest because of where I’m at in ministry and life. I really liked that Perry is open and honest with his personal struggles. He shares about his battle with depression and anxiety.   He shares from numerous Bible stories, like the story of Daniel. From Daniel he shares the theme of the book about our focus in life.

This theme runs through the entire book: what gets our attention will ultimately determine our direction. If we are obsessed with stressful circumstances, we will constantly be overwhelmed. But if we are obsessed with Christ, we will overcome.

In Christ we can overcome any situation, no matter how out of control things seem or how overwhelmed we may feel. Typically, we try to find a way out of stressful situations, instead of trying to find Jesus in the midst of our situation.  As Christians, I think we know this, but we tend to be distracted by our problems. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. Noble has the unique gift of challenging you in your faith while being humorous at the same time.

 

For me personally, this was a timely book. As a pastor, I am in a season of life where our church is growing. However, our staffing and leadership is still developing and growing to handle the increase. The expectations and demands of leadership do feel overwhelming at times, and I am growing physically and mentally tired. This book, in addition to several more I have recently read, have led me on a journey to simplify and to recharge. Our society rewards busyness and action, yet the Bible commands us to slow down and rest.

I highly recommend this book to people who are struggling with the circumstances of life. Noble continually points us back to Jesus as our hope and strength. Read through the following highlights to get a better understanding of the book.

My Highlights

  • Are you willing to settle for being overwhelmed by circumstances forever, or do you want to step up and overcome what is robbing you of joy and life?
  • Change begins with a decision: overwhelmed or overcome?
  • As crazy as it may seem, the best way to conquer feeling overwhelmed is to take our eyes off what’s consuming us and get a bigger picture of what’s really important.
  • God is bigger than any difficult circumstances we face, any struggles we experience, any mistakes that threaten to define us. We embrace our true identity when we stop identifying ourselves by our slavery and start identifying ourselves with our Savior.
  • When we’re feeling overwhelmed – whether as a result of our own sin or simply from living in a fallen world, church is exactly the place we need to go for healing, not the place to hide out in camouflage, pretend we’re perfect, or leave because we don’t feel we measure up to the people around us.
  • Church shouldn’t be the place we run from when we’re feeling overwhelmed; it should be the place we run to. After all, church is the place where Jesus meets us and changes us into who we need to be.
  • My prayer for you is that no matter what you’re going through, you will experience hope. God can and will walk with you through this, but you must have the courage to admit you have a problem, accept help, and then ask God to reveal what’s broken inside of you.
  • The devil doesn’t want to make you bad; he wants to make you busy. Because if he can make you busy, then eventually he can make you bad. Busyness always keeps us from recognizing Jesus.
  • Most anxiety and stress in our lives can be traced back to a point where we decided we were going to take control rather than believe that God is in control.
  • The weight that is pressing down on you doesn’t have to define you, because no matter what you’re facing right now … Jesus is greater than your biggest doubt. Jesus is greater than your deepest regret. Jesus is greater than your impossible situation. Jesus is greater than your most overwhelming circumstances.

Disclosure: I received a free digital pre-release copy to review. See my full disclosure policy here

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