Suppose at the Thanksgiving Table . . .

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Praise is due to you O God in Zion (Psalm 65:1a).

Use this Norman Rockwell image to picture several generations sitting around a Thanksgiving table.

Imagine that as the turkey is set in place, a mother says to her daughter, “Thank Grandma for the turkey.”

And, then picture that the little girl sasses in response, “I am not thanking grandma.  What did the old lady ever do for me?”

How do you suppose that you would process that in your home?

It makes one cringe just to think about it.  The debt that a family owes to the matriarch is incalculable.  Such ingratitude would be despicable.

If we understand that it is wrong to not thank the matriarch of a family, how much more should we see that a failure to thank God is despicable?

Posted on November 25, 2014 .

From Montana to Mahomet! Brooks Marsh Tells His Story

Brooks Marsh of Central Illinois Pinnacle Forum

Pinnacle Forum member Brooks Marsh recently shared the story of how God led him from boyhood on a Montana ranch to running a business in Central Illinois. 

You can listen to audio from that event below. The session begins with an introduction from Tim Johnson, the executive director for the Central Illinois Chapter of Pinnacle Forum.

Posted on November 24, 2014 .

An Alternative to Being Anxious

The key to defeating anxiety is to properly identify the "replacement behavior."

Suppose that you want to get rid of some behavior in your life.  It is never enough to stop doing the wrong thing.  In order to defeat that behavior, you need to not only stop doing the wrong thing, but also start doing the right thing. 

The Apostle Paul emphasizes this principle. 

  • He tells the Ephesians, “stop lying, instead, tell the truth.” 
  • He also encourages the Ephesians, rather than being drunk, speak to one another with Psalms Hymns and spiritual songs. 
  • And, don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up. 

So, if you are going to defeat a behavior in your life.  One of the first things that you need to do is find the right alternative.  Here is one to think about this week.  The positive alternative to “worrying” is “thanksgiving.”  Paul tells the Philippians, “Don’t be anxious but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.”

If you struggle with worry and anxiety, and most of us do at one time or another, make it your goal this week to replace those thoughts with Thanksgiving.

Posted on November 23, 2014 .

Are You Willing to Sing This Song?

Many "baby-boomers" remember televised Billy Graham Crusades from our growing up years. While we might have been more apt to flip the channel to Hee Haw then watch the whole crusade, there were times when we listened to the music.

And if we did watch, then we saw George Beverly Shea singing: I'd Rather Have Jesus. Watching the below video may bring back memories of black and white television and Billy Graham Crusades.

Whether or not you remember Billy Graham Crusades, Bev Shea's song forces us to answer a question every time we watch it. "Would we rather have Christ than anything else?"

For those willing to consider eternity, there can be only one answer. We must choose Jesus rather than any title or treasure the world offers. After all, as Jesus said:

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26 ESV)

Even if you're not a great vocalist - - and most of us aren't - - watch this video by yourself and sing at least a few lines of it. It's the greatest statement we can ever make.


Posted on November 16, 2014 .

The Place of Pain

Tim Keller writes, "It is an exaggeration to say no one comes to God without pain, but not a big one."

If you are hurting, run to Christ. And we flee to Christ by opening His Word. Talking with other believers. Being in church. Praying. Crying out to God.

Posted on November 11, 2014 .

The Stationary Condition

Author Henri Amiel says, "The stationary condition is the beginning of the end."

Bill Hybels quotes this in The Power of a Whisper, page 138. If you find yourself in a stationary place spiritually, determine to get going this week!

Posted on November 4, 2014 .

Are Angels Camping Around Your House?

Scripture promises that "he angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear God.

A number of years ago, my wife and I talked to our four young children at dinner about whether or not we ought to let angels camp on our deck. It's a conversation that deserves some explanation.

Our young children knew that the Bible says that the angel of the lord encamps around those who fear God.  And, that God commands his angels concerning His people. Children need to picture concepts, so, at dinner we talked what angels camping around us  looks like. Do angels have to punch in when they are on duty?  Do angels talk with each other about who is assigned to our family? 

You may roll your eyes at such talk, but our children were young and we prayed they would absorb the reality that angels truly do watch over them.  We want them to know that one way or another, angels encamp around us. 

The trouble with our angel picture at that times was that we moved into a house where we needed a new yard.  We were surrounded by mud.  The kids wondered if angels would consider that ideal camping.  One daughter thought maybe that we could grant them permission to camp out on the deck.  As the theologian in the family, I reminded the kids that angels get their marching orders from God and not from us.  The deck is all theirs if He chooses.

Be encouraged.  If you know Christ, then God commands His angels concerning you.  Psalm 34:7 says that the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.  If you know Christ, angels pitch their tents in the yard.  Or in the words of Psalm 91:11 , God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. . . . a thousand may fall at your side, 10,000 at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

This post adapted from Chris Brauns's, Angels Camping On Our Deck.

Posted on November 2, 2014 .

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.

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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 .