God Makes Bricks With a Building In Mind

One of our main emphases at Pinnacle Forum is community. We know that if we are going to transform our cultures we must be mortared into the community of our forums and local churches.

It may seem strange to you, but I talked to a brick the other day. I was out in my yard and there was a brick laying in the yard. A single brick detached from a building seemed a little off to me. No one else was around, so I just said pleasantly to the brick, "Why aren't you part of a building? Are bricks supposed to be alone."

Turns out it was one defensive brick. Things got very tense very quickly. Without any pleasantries at all, the brick shot back at me, "Hey, I don't have to be part of a building in order to be a brick. I'm fine on my own."

He had all kinds of excuses - - other bricks are hypocrites - - he didn't like the builder - - he is planning to be mortared into a building soon: stuff like that.

Of course, none of his lame answers worked. While it's true that a brick doesn't have to be in a building to be a brick, no brick was ever made to be isolated from others. Bricks are made with a building in mind.


1 Peter 2:5 uses a word picture to tell us that Christians are living stones being built into a spiritual house. If you are a Christian, then you are a "brick." God makes bricks with a building in mind. His plan is that you would be mortared together with other Christians in community - - all built up on the chief cornerstone of Jesus Christ. Christians shouldn't find themselves out in the weeds alone. Rather, they should grow together with others.

Adapted from "Why My Blog is Called 'A Brick in the Valley'" and Chris Brauns's, Bound Together: How We are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Decisions

Posted on October 26, 2014 .

"The Desert Always Feels Like a Complete Waste of Time" - Andy Stanley

In his book, Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision, Andy Stanley notices that God usually takes leaders through desert experiences. He then comments:

So what's the deal with the desert? I don't know. But I do know the time between catching a glimpse of what God wants to do through us and the time when we are led to move out often feels like a desert experience. The desert always feels like a complete waste of time. It is only when we are able to look back that our desert experiences make sense.

Posted on October 21, 2014 .

Leaders Show Themselves in a Crisis

At Pinnacle Forum our dream is to influence culture through Christ-centered leadership. Christ-centered leaders are at their best in times of crisis.

One night at dinner my family analyzed the Old Testament story of Jehosheba. The quick summary is that a murderous woman named Athaliah made it her goal to murder all the heirs to the throne. But, for brave Jehosheba she would have been successful.

Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.(2 Ki 11:1-3)."

Jehosheba was heroic. She hid her little nephew and his nurse for six years. Discovery at any time would have meant horrible death.

My family and I talked about what had to be true of Jehosheba in order for her to save the life of her baby nephew. We concluded that in a time of crisis Jehosheba combined:

  • clear thinking,

  • faithful courage,

  • and decisive action.

Our situations are rarely as dramatic as Jehosheba’s. But, you never know. Sometime soon you may find yourself in a tight spot. If you do, remember, that such moments call for courage, clear thinking, and decisive acting. Proverbs says, If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength (Prov 24:10). If you find yourself in a precarious position, whether physical or spiritual or emotional, some place that seems impossibly hard, then turn to Christ.

Think clearly,

put your faith in Christ,

and take action.

The Bible says that Christians are not of those who shrink back. We do not wilt in difficult times. We press on, persevere, move forward. Christ has given us all that we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. You can do it, however difficult it seems. This post adapted from Chris Brauns's How To Respond in a Crisis.

Posted on October 19, 2014 .

Wilberforce on Mixing in the Assemblies of Men

At Pinnacle Forum we're all about making being agents for change.

Rather than fleeing the pressures a Christian politician faced in the 18-19th century England, William Wilberforce chose to stay in politics where he could make a difference. Wilberforce was a central leader in the abolition of the slave trade.

Regarding his decision to stay in politics, Wilberforce said:

“My business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”

Or in the words of Christ:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)


Posted on October 14, 2014 .

Flash Mobs Are a Lie

Flash mobs appear to be spontaneous events apart from leadership. The reality is just the opposite. Leadership is always needed, especially with flash mobs.

There is something very appealing about flash mobs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a mall when people spontaneously began to sing “The Hallelujah Chorus” (as  below)?

Of course, it doesn't happen. Flash mobs are an illusion.

The reality of flash mobs is the opposite of how they appear. People do not move forward in concerted ways apart from leadership. You can be sure that wherever a flash mob takes place, there are one or more visionary leaders rallying people to the cause.

At Pinnacle Forum, we don't expect that people are going to suddenly burst into song and start a new outreach ministry - - or build a YMCA - - or build a church. Leaders are needed. Let's get together and sharpen one another to lead.

*This post adapted from Flash Mobs are an Illusion by Chris Brauns.

Posted on October 12, 2014 .

Andy Stanley: One, Not Everyone

Consider saying these words: "I can't help everyone, but today I'm going to do for one person what I wish I could do for everyone."

The needs of the world are beyond comprehension:

  • 16.7 million American children suffering from hunger
  • 47 million refugees worldwide

Not to mention Ebola . . . or ISIS . . . or hurting people in East St. Louis or Champaign. There is an ocean of need out there.

Andy Stanley reminds us that when we see and consider the great needs in the world we can be so overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all that we end up doing nothing. Stanley encourages us that we don't have to do everything for everyone. Instead, we should do for one person what we wish we could do for everyone.

At Pinnacle Forum, we are praying for leaders who hear the whisper of God and do for one what they wish they could do for everyone:

  • You can't feed every homeless people every day. Maybe feed one today.
  • You can't encourage every Pinnacle Forum partner in quite the same way - - but maybe today is the time when you call a partner and say, "I got down on my knees and prayed for you by name today."
  • You can't call every old friend today - - but is there one old friend you could call and encourage one old friend.

Let's don't be so overwhelmed by the needs in our world that we do nothing. Let's do for one person what we wish you could do for everyone.

In the below video Andy Stanley explains this point in greater detail. This is a longer clip than we normally share. But it's well worth watching. Otherwise, just repeat the line, "Today I'm going to do for one person what I wish I could do for everyone." (For a better quality version, you can click through to Northpoint's web site).

Posted on October 5, 2014 .

Don't Let Failure Give Way to Failure

Everyone falls down. The "righteous" difference is a matter of getting back up.

Perhaps there is an area of your life where determined to do better. You prayed that you would have victory. And, yet you find yourself continuing to stumble. So, you are tempted to just say, “Oh forget it.” I will never be able to get a handle on this.

If that is where you are at, then hear this verse from Proverbs 24:16:

For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.(Pr 24:16).

The verse does not say that the righteous never stumble or fall. No, the difference is that even though a righteous many may stumble seven times, he still gets up again.

If you are a Christian you do not need to let failure give way to failure. The book of Lamentations tells us that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. So, even if you have stumbled seven times, get up again. Find a mature Christian who will keep you accountable. Get help in finding victory.

As C.S. Lewis encouraged:

No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us, it is the very sign of his presence.” C.S. Lewis quoted in Garland, David E. Colossians/Philemon The NIV Application Commentary, ed. Terry Muck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

Don’t let failure give way to failure. Get up off the ground and press forward for Christ’s glory and your joy. Have the same attitude as Paul when he said:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.(Php 3:12-14)."

*This posted adapted from a previous post by Chris Brauns.

Posted on September 28, 2014 .

Colson on Circumstances and Character

“Our character is determined not by our circumstances but by our reaction to those circumstances.” Chuck Colson

For a New York Times article about Chuck Colson - - the Watergate felon who became a great Christian leader, see here.

Posted on September 23, 2014 .

To Change the World - - We Don't Need John Wayne

Cultural change is not initiated by "Lone Rangers." Rather, networks of leaders must band together. For Pinnacle Forum, this means it is especially critical that we make forum meetings a priority. Prepare for your small groups. Pray. Be there.

In his important book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, James Davison Hunter argues that we have been too individualistic in our understanding of how cultural change is led. Hunter insists that it is not so much heroes who change culture, but rather networks of heroes. He wrote that we need:

Overlapping networks of leaders and overlapping resources, all operating in the center or peak institutions--in common purpose. These are the practical dynamics of world changing. These are the conditions under which ideas finally have consequences.

Baby Boomers must acknowledge that Hunter's emphasis on networks runs counter to the rugged individualism we were immersed in growing up. Whether it was Matt Dillon keeping Dodge City clean, Marcus Welby solving a medical problem, or John Wayne calling someone "pilgrim," the entertainment industry set forth a vision of lone heroes. Local church pastors have often done the same thing -- representing the senior pastor as an ecclesiastical John Wayne. . .

But that's not how life works. The Lord Jesus Christ began with twelve disciples. And remember how he chose them:

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,  and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16 ESV)

Only God changes the world. And he doesn't use "lone rangers" - - but rather networks of people who are praying and working together.

When was the last time you, and a few others, got down on your knees and prayed that God would raise up a network of leaders who would band together?

Posted on September 21, 2014 .

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.


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:






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 .