Why do we say "amen" at the end of prayers?

Knowing the meaning of the biblical word, "amen," encourages us to pray more, and to pray more confidently.

Christians use the word, "amen," frequently. We conclude prayers by saying amen. But do we really know what it means?

A Christian catechism is a series of questions and answers used to systematically teach about the faith. Published in 1563, the Heidelberg Catechism is one of the most famous catechisms ever written.

The final question of the Heidelberg Catechism succinctly tells  what is meant by "amen."

Heidelberg Question 129. What does that little word “Amen express”?

Answer: Amen means,

This is to be sure!

It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.

So today, you can pray, "Our Father, in heaven, be with my children, in Jesus name, amen." And when praying this, we can be more sure than God hears our prayer than that we desire this prayer. Amazing.

If you want to see one of the most encouraging and greatest uses of the word "amen" ever written, consider the benediction to the book of Jude.

24Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Would you pray at least once today? And when you do, say "amen" and mean it!

Posted on September 16, 2014 and filed under Prayer.

How can we learn to pray?

The Lord's Prayer teaches us how to pray. Think through the categories of the Lord's prayer. Then pray through those categories in your own words.

Jesus gave us a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) so that we can learn how to pray. We call it "The Lord's Prayer." While it's appropriate to recite the Lord's prayer - - it's God's Word after all - - we should not simply think of it as a prayer to chant. Rather, the Lord's prayer gives us prayer categories to work through. Think of the Lord's prayer as handrails to hold onto as we pray.

So what are those categories?

"Our Father" - Christians can address God as "Father"

"In Heaven" - God is above and over all things

"Hallowed be thy name" - We are praying that the name of Jesus would be revered

"Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" - there is so much that is messed up in the world. We are praying for Jesus to come back and make it better. We look forward to the new day when God's will to be done on earth as it is now done in heaven.

"Give us today our daily bread"  - We rely completely on God for our sustenance and health. All that we enjoy is a gift from Him. Every crust. Every slice of pizza. Every steak. Every breath.

"And forgive us our debts" - - As we said in the previous post, the gospel  or "good news" is that because of Jesus - - his sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection - - we can be forgiven by God.

"As we forgive our debtors" - - We should recognize that, even as we receive grace from God, we should extend it to others (see Matthew 18:21-35!)

"And lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from evil" - - We are weak people, prone to failure. We pray that God would protect us from those situations where we might fail.

You can watch Juan Sanchez's explanation of the Lord's Prayer below.


Posted on September 14, 2014 and filed under Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines.

How can this sobering reminder from a news anchor in Champaign encourage PF leaders?

Many of you are probably already familiar with this story. If not, take just a few minutes to watch this clip. Let's be challenged:

  • Pray for people in our community - Life can seem so routine depending on our particular season of life. But people all around us are facing life and death situations.
  • Number our days - James reminds us that our lives are a "mist" that appears for a short time and then vanishes, so he reasons:

[13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 ESV)

  • Keep things in perspective - Ultimately, it's not a big deal if the Illini (or Hawkeyes!) win. We can fun with so many areas in life. But let's don't get grumpy about those areas of life that weigh lightly on the scales of eternity.
Posted on September 14, 2014 .

What is the gospel?

First and foremost, we must be clear about the Christian gospel. The Christian gospel is the good news that even though all are born sinners, eternal life is offered through Christ.

In a previous post, we stressed the importance of growing in grace. We don't have to go forward in the Christian life strictly through our own power. So this is a good place to review why God would work in our lives at all. Asked directly, "What is the gospel?"

The word "gospel" means "good news" and the good news is that even though we are all born in rebellion against God - - and continue to rebel apart from Christ - - God sent his only Son to die on the cross so that all who believe in Him might have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The Apostle Paul explicitly reviews the good news in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

For more, see Chris Brauns's post - What do Christians Mean When They Reference the Gospel or Good News? or take 3 minutes and 50 seconds to watch Ravi Zacharias review the gospel below.

Posted on September 9, 2014 and filed under Gospel.

"Whispering" at Church is a Good Thing

Don't miss the updates and reminders at the bottom of this post - - We are praying that Central Illinois Pinnacle Forum partners will hear from God this fall and tell others about it. If we are to hear these whispers, then we must be willing to listen.

There are a couple sorts of whispering that take place at church and both kinds are positive.

The first kind of whispering is what we will call "traditional whispering." Traditional whispering takes place when one person feels the need to remind another to turn off his cell phone. Rather than waving a phone to remind him or her, or worse yet, calling down the row - - the best course of action is to whisper something clear and concise such as: "Don't forget to turn off your phone."

Ideally, you remind the person to turn off his phone prior to it actually ringing. Timely whispers are appreciated.

But the second sort of whispering is when we are prompted by the Spirit. It can happen at church - - or away from church. At church, it might be when we are singing - - or hearing the Word preached - - or even talking with someone  - - and the Holy Spirit brings the Word to mind - - -and we are prompted to take some course of action in response to the Word. It could be any one of a million things:

  • To volunteer
  • Or start a ministry
  • Or take a missions trip
  • Or to go home and study what is really happening with Ebola
  • Or to ask forgiveness
  • Or to call a friend and encourage him or her

Whispering is quiet - - by definition. We have to be willing to listen.

We can ignore it when someone is whispering a reminder about our phones. Do so and we run the risk of being a distraction during worship. But if we ignore the other sort of whispering - - - the kind where the Holy Spirit is prompting us - - then we might miss a great opportunity to be used by Christ to be a part of the greatest vision ever.

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If our system is working correctly, then all Pinnacle Forum members should be receiving this via email on Monday morning at 5:00 AM. Bear with us if it takes a time or two to iron out the wrinkles. If you have questions about the emails, you can contact Chris Brauns.

As a part of our ministry this Fall, we are offering Pinnacle Forum partners a subscription to Right Now Media Ministries. This will make thousands of resources available to you - - including our fall 2014 curriculum,

You should have already received an invitation to Right Now Ministries. But if you have not, or you encounter any problems, again feel free to contact Chris Brauns.

If you did not yet read and watch this post - - be reminded to Grow in Grace. It will encourage your hearts.

Posted on September 7, 2014 .

Grow in Grace

Remember - - our relationship with God is a gift based on God's amazing grace. We don't have to earn God's favor.

At Pinnacle Forum, one of our main goals is to challenge one another to grow. That's a good thing! But as we do so,  let's remember we are not trying to earn God's favor. Our relationship with God is a gift received by faith. It's not something we have to earn.

Grace is sometimes defined as:

God's

Riches

At

Christ's

Expense

Christ paid the price. God gives it freely to all who believe.

Yet, any time Christians challenge one another to grow, we run the risk of implying that we have to work for God's favor. This is not biblical. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Notice Paul's words - - "so that no one may boast" - -  if we were saved by works - - by our own effort - - we would end up boasting about it. But we are saved only by what Christ accomplished.

Some may counter. Well, "we are saved by grace. But we grow by effort." This is still wrong. Paul says in Titus 2:11-12 that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say "no" to ungodliness.

This doesn't mean we don't try. We still work at growing. But we do so knowing that God's grace will fill our sails and carry us forward in his power.

For more on this topic, read Chris Brauns's post Is Growing as a Christian a Result of Our Effort or God's Grace?

Or be encouraged by watching Alistair Begg's reminder that because of Christ, all the sins of Christians are forgiven.

Posted on September 2, 2014 .

Fall 2014 at Pinnacle Forum of Central Illinois

Central Illinois Pinnacle Forum is pleased to announce that beginning in the Fall of 2014 we are partnering with Right Now Media Ministries. This means we will all be able to watch the video sessions on the Internet throughout the week whenever our individual schedules allow. Additionally, thousands of other resources are available at Right Now Media. Everyone who is signed up for a forum will receive an email invitation for Right Now Media ministries.

One of the most exciting parts of the Christian life is sensing and knowing the direction that God gives His followers. But many of us aren't sure how we can be confident that we really are hearing from God. This Fall at Pinnacle Forum in Central Illinois, we will study the book written by Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond. Together we will learn:

  • How we can be sure we are hearing from God
  • And we will challenge each other to have the guts to respond.

Which is to say, we will continue to challenge one another with the Four "E" Strategy of Pinnacle Forum to execute, engage, equip, and encourage.

If you watch the below preview video, you will know why we are so excited about our Pinnacle Forum Study for the Fall of 2014.

Posted on August 12, 2014 .