It’s The End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)

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The great theologians, REM, penned the line which I borrowed for today’s blog (you’re singing it in your head now aren’t you?). This weekend at Skyline Church we’re beginning a brand-new teaching series. We’re talking about a very relevant subject. Many people are wondering what the Bible says about the End of the World.  

Questions abound when times get confusing like the times we are currently experiencing. Lock-downs and lock-outs, businesses suffering, people suffering, and new Marshal law-like draconian measures being forced on people without any real evidence for their necessity. 

It is always in times of distress and confusion that most people wonder … IS THIS THE END. Or, at least for many Christians, we wonder if these are the signs the Bible talks about when it comes to the End Times.  

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at what the Bible says about the End of the World. Throughout history,  there have been wars, atrocities, earthquakes, famines, plagues, hurricanes and other disasters that have shaken the foundations of the earth and caused people to think about their own mortality.  

As the world engaged in the first World War people thought the world was ending. Then there was World War II. Again, people were sure this was it. Remember September 11? Everybody thought that was the beginning of the end. Since then, there have been more wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, plagues, and on and on … Whenever bad things happen, we tend think … is this it?

And this is certainly no different in our current state of affairs with a pandemic or plan-demic; however you want to view it. Riots, wars, division, and hatred are at a seemingly all time high. These certainly are ingredients that would cause any thinking person to wonder, IS THIS IT? 

We’re going to be looking at various Scriptures that speak directly to the fact that God wants His children to know about the End of the World. Maybe that’s a question that you need answered today. Is the world, as we know it, going to end some day. The answer is a resounding YES. The next obvious question is … WHEN?  

On Sunday, we’re going to start off our series in Matthew,  Chapter 24. In the evening service at 7:00PM on Sunday night, we’ll talk about Matthew 25.  I’ll help you see with clarity what the Bible says is going to happen. Not what might happen, but what IS going to happen according to Jesus Himself.  

I’m not going to give you speculation, but I’ll give you direct information from the Bible about THE END. You’ll learn overall as a big picture what that looks like, then you’ll learn the timing of the events that will eventually take place. There’s an order to what is happening, a process. I believe over the course of this series, lots of mysteries will be solved for you if you get the message each week. Each message builds on the other.  

I also want to encourage you to invite your friends, family, neighbors, etc.; those in your relational world the Bible calls your Oikos. You might simply tell them that “We are talking about what the Bible says about the End Times. I’d love to get your thoughts on it …”  A simple invite can change a life. 

Knowledge is POWER and when you get the knowledge of THE END, just like last week when I shared knowledge about the statistics of the Covid-19 virus … you can BE confident and LIVE confidently. Over the course of this series, we’ll talk about subjects like: THE TRIBULATION, ARMAGEDDON, THE RAPTURE, THE JUDGMENT, HEAVEN, We’ll talk about HELL, we’ll talk about God’s Will, and a lot of other key themes and Scriptures. 

The study of the End Times is known Theologically as ESCHATOLOGY. This word comes from the original Greek word: Eskhatos, which means “Last Things.” From time to time you’ll hear Pastors and Bible-teachers talk about Eschatology … it simply means the study of “Last Things.” 

There is a lot of speculation on what the End will look like and how it will come about. The reality is you can be confident of how it will end because the Bible has told us. It has given us instructions …

REMEMBER THIS: God didn’t speak about The End Times to SCARE us, He did it to PREPARE us. 
The first thing we need to look at is our Instruction book. If our instruction book spends time on it, we should spend time on it. If our instruction book spends a lot of time on it, it’s probably pretty important. So let’s look at …

I. HOW OFTEN THE BIBLE SPEAKS ABOUT THE END 
To give you an idea of how much God’s Word talks about this truth:  

  • 1 out of every 30 verses in the Bible mentions the subject of THE END
  • The Bible talks about End Times specifically over 329 times             
  • 23 of the 27 New Testament books mention THE END of the World.
    Some may see that and say, well it’s just a New Testament thing … NO!
  • There were 16 Old Testament Prophets and 10 of those 16 talk about this subject of THE END of the World. 

Did you know there are over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus’  first coming to earth and they were 100% accurate. Listen to the odds of this happening. Something predicted hundreds and even thousands of years before it happens and then it comes true: The odds of one person fulfilling just 8 of the more than 300 prophecies is:

  • 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000
  • 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 
  • 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus! 
    However, there are 8x more prophecies concerning His second coming. You can bet they will be 100% accurate as well. Jesus Christ is coming again. We as Christians, look forward to it.

So this is obviously one of the most often taught truths in Scripture. If God’s Word talks about it so much, why is it so misunderstood? I think if you’re going to understand this, the best place to start is with what Jesus had to say about THE END OF THE WORLD.  Jesus said the End of the World is coming, but as I’ll show you in this series, it’s not yet. But it may be really close.

FACE THE FACTS

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Let’s talk numbers. Let’s talk data. Let’s get down to the science of what is going on and draw some conclusions based on the facts. There is a lot going on with the County of San Diego and its restrictions on what people can and cannot do. We want you to know that we take this very seriously and we are constantly trying to balance the FEAR that is being spread by some of our National, State and Local officials and the verifiable FACTS about Covid.  

Currently,  the Covid mortality rate is at 0.02%, according to an Oxford study that is updated monthly.[i] Some say 0.01%. The point is that it is very low, to almost non-existent. That means you are about as likely to be killed by an errant baseball as you are Covid. And when it comes to dying from the virus, that 0.02% is only if you have significant underlying health issues, or as they are often referred to as, co-morbidities. This low death rate is even inflated as many health officials around the nation have been documenting motorcycle and car crash victims as Covid deaths.[ii] 

I want to share some statistics with you to help alleviate the fears some of you may be dealing with concerning the Covid virus. I cite every statistic I share in the endnotes so you can look up the websites and the journal articles to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. You may not agree with me, and if not, please cite your sources so I can look up the information you are basing your opinion on. 

I believe one of the things Shepherds are supposed to do, is protect the Sheep. Pastors are supposed to protect the flock God has entrusted to us. Not only are we to spiritually nurture, feed, and help grow our flock, we are supposed to fight for our flock when wolves and other predators try to attack. We are to fight off enemies we can see and enemies we cannot see.  

Sometimes, as is the case here, there is fear from something that is actually not there. It has been an enemy in the dark, something we cannot see. So, we have all scrambled not knowing where the next strike was going to come from. Yet, for 99.9% of people, the strike from this viral enemy has never and will never come. It is a straw man of an enemy to be sure. But, we have to fight the narratives out there to give people hope. We cannot sit back and just wait for the OK from the Governor as more and more lives are ruined. 1 Peter 5:2 reminds us, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you …” 

Having said that, I’d like to give you some statistics to, hopefully, alleviate some fears that are constantly and consistently being spread.  Here are some statistics to give you some clarity on what is going on. Now, for my Kansas people, I’ll be specifically giving California stats from the CDC[iii] and then I’ll give some nationwide stats. Over 270,000 people die in California every year from various causes:            
·       65,000 die from heart disease 
·       60,000 die from cancer
·       16,000 from stroke
 ·       16,000 from Alzheimer’s
·       14,000 from respiratory illness—Covid is a respiratory virus, 14,000 people every year die from respiratory issues.

We don’t shut everything down because of that every year. Yet we have 8,700 Covid (supposed Covid deaths) in CA. I say supposed because a lot of fraud is now coming out that deaths are being labeled Covid. Hospitals are getting more money from Medicare when deaths at their hospital are labeled Covid. For example, if someone dies from straight forward pneumonia the payment to the hospital is $5,000. If they die of Covid-related pneumonia it’s $13,000, and if the Covid patient is on a ventilator and dies it goes up to $39,000.[iv] Continuing with the California causes of death: 
·       10,000 from diabetes 
·       5,000 from liver disease
 ·       14,000 from various accidents
·       3 Million from alcohol (USA) 
·       250,000 from cigarettes
·       5,000 from Suicide (and that number was from 2019 before Covid, we know it’s much higher this year as NATIONWIDE suicide ideation is up 600%).[v]

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, going to religious services helps lower the incidences of suicide, “Many Americans attend various community or religious activities. Weekly attendance at religious services has been associated with a 5-fold lower suicide rate compared with those who do not attendThe effects of closing churches and community centers may further contribute to social isolation and hence suicide.” [vi]

Why? Because you’ve got to have hope to cope. Every week we hand out hope at Skyline church and many other churches do the same. Yet, health officials want to keep churches closed or force them outdoors in 95-degree heat in the middle of summer (in East County San Diego). 

 The greatest killer in our state is by medical professionals who perform abortions. 364 abortions a day in California. That means 1 in 4 pregnancies are aborted. California has more abortions than anyone else and they are taxpayer funded.  Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, has decided that anyone who lives in a state where abortion is illegal or hard to come by, they can come to California and our taxpayers will pay for the abortion.  So, a woman can have a free abortion no matter where she is from or how she got here. We, as California Taxpayers will pay for the abortion.[vii] 

Meanwhile businesses are closing and many will not open again because they have been ruined by this lockdown, and there is no help in sight for them. People in our church are losing their life savings and their lifelong dream of having a thriving business, over a virus that kills less people than a thunderstorm. 

Yet the abortion clinics remain open, the liquor stores remain open, the strip clubs remain open, the casinos remain open. And, you may have noticed, those of you here in San Diego, that according to our public health officials who report ad nauseam on the “outbreaks” that not one outbreak has been reported from those places. That is fascinating.  As we learn more about this virus, apparently the Covid virus is very virtuous and will not go near those places. You are expected to believe that. There is a clear problem here, it is one of hypocrisy and duplicity.   

There is no moral high ground with the leaders in our state who portend to have the public health in mind as these lockdowns drag on into the fifth month or 139 days since March 13 when we all heard the phrase, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” The initial issues that caused the lockdown have been rectified yet we are still locked down and locked out.  Let’s go through the short list:           
1. Ventilators. We were told we need enough ventilators. Ventilators, check.
2. Flatten the curve. Then we can resume our lives, albeit with some changes. Curve flattened,check.           
3. Surge capacity in our hospitals. We need to make sure when the virus spikes, we have surge capacity in our hospitals. Most hospitals have less people this year, year over year.[viii] Surge capacity, check.      
4. Therapies and Prophylactics. We need to make sure we can treat those who get the virus and prevent it in those who are the most vulnerable. Therapies and Prophylactics, check.           
5. Kids are vulnerable. We must keep our kids safe. Kids are not vulnerable to Covid. As a matter of fact, the flu is more dangerous for kids.[ix] 

I could keep going but you get the idea. The point is the goal posts are constantly being moved to agree with a false narrative about this virus. 

Abortion clinics, liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos are all deemed essential during this time. But the Church, and many businesses that help our community, are not. Folks, if you are not already, it’s time to wake up to what is going on. I believe the tide is turning and many, many people are waking up to what is actually going on. You are not in danger of a virus called Covid. However, you are in danger of losing your great country to a radical agenda that will stop at nothing to destroy our economy, our freedom, and our faith. 

Knowledge is power. We have the knowledge of this virus. We know how to manage it, treat it, prevent it and even cure it. Unfortunately, we grieve for those 0.02% who have lost their lives to this virus. As small of a number as that is, it still represents lives that are lost and families that have been affected. We are not heartless in understanding that.  

However, don’t believe the nonsense you are hearing from godless news outlets and social media “influencers.” Whenever anyone comes forward with scientific evidence that clearly shows the virus is not as lethal as first thought, or that as we have seen from Frontline Doctors[x], there is an actual cure, these videos, evidence and research studies are pulled down from the internet source by Google. Your Free Speech and your Freedom of Religion is being trampled on.  We need to get up, take our masks off, and speak upwhile being fed up. 

Our San Diego public health official, Dr. Wilma Wooten gave her thrice weekly update on Monday and said she was “saddened” by the outdoor service that a church had at a beach in North County and that she was intent on cracking down on churches and egregious violators. It looked like a big crowd from the video I saw, but it was certainly peaceful as people sang to the Lord and heard a message from a pastor.  

Now, as a matter of comparison, when places in the county she represents as the public health officer were burning down at the hands of thousands of protestors and rioters, who were not social distancing and were not wearing masks (save a person here and there) she remained silent on the issue of public health at protests. She never mentioned the rioters, never mentioned the protestors, and never mentioned levying fines or “cracking down” on the obvious “egregious” violations.  

The only words about the riots came from Supervisor Nathan Fletcher a few days after buildings and businesses burned in La Mesa and vandalism took place in many locations all over San Diego. Supervisor Fletcher was asked the question from a news reporter about the dual messaging or hypocrisy of allowing protests but not allowing gatherings at churches or other places. Fletcher’s response was illusory, he said, “We agree with the protestors right to gather, we just want them to do it safely …”

That same right he says he agrees with is the 1st amendment right to “peacefully gather.” Religious freedom is under that same 1st amendment right. Churches peacefully gather as a religious freedom right covered by the Constitution of the United States of America. Rioting is not to be agreed to at any time. It is not covered in the Constitution. Burning down buildings and wounding our Law Enforcement officers is not a “Peaceful Protest” and should never be agreed to by a County Supervisor or anyone else in charge.

Thousands of protestors burning down buildings and wounding our officers apparently is OK because Supervisor Fletcher agrees with their right to gather. But a church has a service on the beach and our public health officer is “saddened” by this activity and threatens reprisals. This, Dr. Wooten, is egregious. The hypocrisy has to stop and it only stops when people rise up and stop taking it.

I was told by one county official that Governor Newsom is holding potentially millions of dollars earmarked for San Diego hostage unless San Diego conforms to his mandates. He’s already withheld money from other counties that defied his orders. [xi] I understand our county leaders’ dilemma. That is much needed money for many community services that are severely underfunded at this point.

They have told me their hands are tied. I believe them. They are exasperated with the Governor. However, at some point our San Diego leaders have to say enough is enough and go against the Governor. I believe that time is NOW. If you look at the markers and triggers we must meet in order to begin to open up again, they are literally impossible to meet unless they are lowered significantly or removed entirely.[xii]

How do you beat a bully? You stand up to the bully. It is time to stand up to the bully. But, it will take everyone, grassroots, from start to finish letting your voices be heard. Be constantly and consistently inundating our representatives and health officials with a demand to open.

Our officials in San Diego have told many of us that there is nothing they can do because Newsom has so much power during this pandemic. That is not good enough. We have to march, we have to call, we have to utilize social media until it takes down the posts. And they will take down the posts if it doesn’t fit the false narrative. But the more we post the more likely some will last.

There are a few things going on that you can get involved in. Follow REOPEN.CALIFORNIA on Instagram and Facebook. There are several rallies and marches you can look into and consider being a part of. The larger these marches and rallies the more our voices will be heard. I don’t know a lot about the organization, so please do your research on who is running it and what exactly the messaging is, but at this point it looks like a solid organization that wants what’s best for Californians and our Nation.

I’m not an alarmist, but the alarm is ringing. I didn’t pull it, but I hear it, and it’s time to take action. The wolves have been ravaging the pen for too long. I personally cannot sit back and watch this happen. I am petitioning our representatives, I am on the phone, on zoom meetings with local and state officials and while there are many roadblocks at this point, there is an opening coming as more and more people rise up and stop putting up with these lockdowns.

Again, if the data showed this is a dangerous virus and I as a Shepherd was putting my flock in danger, that would be irresponsible and egregious. However, the facts are the facts and a 0.02% morbidity rate is not a reason to cause a 600% increase in suicide ideation and an 8,000% increase in suicide hotline calls.[xiii] 0.02% is not a reason to see an over 20% increase in domestic abuse worldwide[xiv] and 25% increase closer to home.[xv] Tens of thousands of drug and alcohol relapses and deaths and more and more lives are at stake the longer this lockdown continues. 

Let’s face the facts and beat the bully of fear.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Endnotes [i]https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-rates/
[ii]https://cbs12.com/news/local/man-who-died-in-motorcycle-crash-counted-as-covid-19-death-in-florida-report
[iii]https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/california/california.htm
[iv]https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/04/24/fact-check-medicare-hospitals-paid-more-covid-19-patients-coronavirus/3000638001/
[v]https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2764584
[vi] VanderWeele  TJ , Li  S , Tsai  AC , Kawachi  I .  Association between religious service attendance and lower suicide rates among US women.    JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(8):845-851. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1243
[vii]https://www.aclunc.org/blog/know-your-rights-abortion-access-california[viii]https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/hospital-ers-underwhelmed-as-coronavirus-fears-keep-patients-away-2014793/
[ix]https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html
[x] America’s Frontline Doctors transcript. https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/americas-frontline-doctors-scotus-press-conference-transcript
[xi]https://abc7.com/coalinga-atwater-merced-county-central-valley/6340709/
[xii]https://sdcounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/30b5e0fa2a5f4404b1219d8cd16b2583
[xiii]https://abc7.com/suicide-hotline-calls-coronavirus-covid19-los-angeles/6117099/
[xiv]https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-53014211/coronavirus-domestic-violence-increases-globally-during-lockdown
[xv]https://abc7.com/domestic-violence-coronavirus-stay-at-home-pandemic/6119703/

Interested or Committed?

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What are you expecting God to do in your life?

There’s a law that God has established … I call it “the law of expectation.” The fact is, we tend to get what we “expect” out of life. We often see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear, feel the way we expect to feel, and succeed at what we expect to succeed in. God says you get to choose! It’s actually “the law of faith,” because “according to your faith it will be done to you” (Matthew 9:29). 

In Luke 17:5, we see the apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith! They had no idea how difficult that would be for them. The problem with acquiring more faith is the process.  We all want more faith, but nobody likes what it takes to get there. 

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something you accept no excuses, only results.” 

–– Ken Blanchard

During this time of Covid craziness you might be wondering what God is up to in all of this. How is He going to use this for good, how in the world is my faith supposed to grow through this time? Well, that depends. Are you interested or committed to growing your faith? The next natural question is how does God increase our faith? … He tests it!

Everyday we have faith building opportunities. And, these times of quarantine, open, close, reopen, do this, don’t do that, can drive any person crazy. But, we have to be committed to seeing these problems as faith building opportunities.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize conflicts or hardships as opportunities. Instead, we let our circumstances push us away from God. I believe this time of quarantine is more than a season of conflict, hardship, and restrictions. It’s actually a faith building opportunity!

You see, faith is like a muscle. It has to be worked out, stretched, and pulled with resistance … consistently. Just like consistency is key in getting bigger and stronger muscles, consistency is key in working out your faith muscle! In fact, James 1:3-4 reminds us of this when it says “… the testing of your faith produces perseverance … so that you may be mature and complete …”

A faith that stretches is uncomfortable, but it’s also healthy! Look at your faith like a tree. It requires nurturing and ultimately we hope to produce delicious fruit. But fruits don’t arrive over night. It’s the wind, rain, and storms that challenge the tree’s roots to go deeper and stabilize the tree before the season of harvest returns. 

I want to encourage you to continue to follow Jesus and live out Colossians 2:6-7 which says, 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” 

Let the roots of your faith grow deeper throughout this time of Covid, no matter how long it lasts. If you are committed, your faith WILL become stronger. I’m confident that this time of quarantine is an opportunity that will lead you to trust God more than you ever have before. Use this time to allow your roots of faith to ‘grow’ to a whole new level.

The reason that your faith needs testing is because God wants to increase it! God is never going to say “you’ve arrived,” “there’s nothing else for you,” or “that’s all I have to teach you” … He’s always going to want us to take that next step of faith!

So let me ask you again … What are you expecting God to do in your life? Are you interested in Him working in your life or committed? Can you hang in there a little longer, lean on Him a little more, and trust Him to come through? Will you do it with an expectant heart knowing that He has promised to move according to your committed faith?

I am believing that your faith is going to grow in new ways and we’re going to come out of this season stronger than ever! I’m committed to it, and I expect it!

Close Down Again?

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You’ve probably heard the news from the Governor of California. He has issued an order to close businesses and places of worship again. The County of San Diego has a right to not adhere to this order as San Diego has proven week after week to be one of the safest counties in the United States.  However, it appears our County is deciding to follow the Governor’s order.

I want you to know that we take this very seriously as we take into consideration all factors in conjunction with public health. There are various aspects to public health. There is of course the one that has been focused on since March, the medical side of public health. However, there is also the emotional, economical, psychological, and spiritual health among others that MUST be considered when talking about public health. There is never to be a ONE SIZE FITS ALL program. What has been happening is an all out focus on one aspect of public health to the detriment of the other aspects of public health. 

While we understand the pressures our governmental leaders are under to stop the spread, we must not lose sight of the other health issues that have resulted from the various shut downs and quarantines. Indeed, the intended cure has become a massive public health problem itself.

While we must continue to protect the most vulnerable in our society, we have proven we can do that. As we have helped those who are most vulnerable throughout this pandemic, it is now time to help those who are most vulnerable economically, spiritually, psychologically and emotionally. I believe this is a both/and proposition, not an either/or. We can continue to protect the most vulnerable while opening our businesses, communities and churches. 

At Skyline Church, our goal is to strike a balance between the reality of a virus like Covid existing and the reality of the need for people to have the freedom to worship in church. We have followed all the guidelines and even gone above and beyond to make sure we are safe when we have had services. When many churches and businesses were ordered closed back in March, we knew very well our right to meet and indeed our 1st Amendment right of freedom to express our religion, but, we decided to follow our government’s recommendations to not gather, even when we had the right to. 

As restrictions were loosened we began to gather as permitted by our government. While we recognize the separation of church and state, we were being honoring of our governmental officials as required in Romans 13. While Romans 13 helps guide our consciousness during an uncertain time, we also are to be guided by Acts 5 where Peter and the other apostles were reprimanded by the government for disobeying their governmental officials and stated very clearly, “We are to obey God, rather than human beings.” 

So, this is the importance of understanding context. There are times when we most certainly should obey our governmental leaders. But, there are times when (as God leads the spiritual leaders of the church) we must pause and listen more closely for the voice of God in the midst of uncertain times. I have no doubt that Peter and the Apostles did that and came to the conclusion they came to. 

Therefore, after the Governor gave his update yesterday, we met as an Executive Team, then we met as a staff at Skyline, then we met as a Board at Skyline and I met with leaders of other churches and it is with much prayer and lots of hours of meetings that our leadership team at Skyline Church has decided that WE WILL REMAIN OPEN AS A CHURCH this weekend. 

We have gone above and beyond to make sure we have a safe and clean environment and we will continue to be safe and clean. This is the same for your kiddos. We will remain open for your kids. We are not the only ones remaining open this weekend, there is a tremendous unity among churches in San Diego and while some will close and some remain open, each church has its own good reasons for its particular decision.

I want to emphasize, if you have any concerns about this please stay home. I also want to emphasize, if you’re feeling any symptoms please stay home. Watch our online services which are the same services as we have in person. We believe those who have concerns will stay home and take part in church online and those who feel they need to be at church for their own spiritual health and well-being will be here. We trust YOU and your FREEDOM to decide what is best for you and your family.

We also believe we are contributing positively to the public health, especially the spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical health side by being out of the house and worshipping our Lord. 

Please RSVP this week at skylinechurch.org. We will also have the outside venue available under the umbrellas but it would probably be a good idea to bring your own chairs. Even going farther than that, you can stay in your car and tune your radio to 89.3 FM to take part in the service that way.
This is such an interesting time folks, but we know and have seen that God is moving and working in the midst of all that is going on. We LOVE you, we are praying for you, and we will see you SUNDAY! 

Prescription for Change

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Did you know that in a typical year about 2,000 self-help books come out on the market? Advertisers know that everybody is interested in change. The thing about self-help books and even many of the self-help podcasts out there, is that they tell you to stop doing this and start doing that, which is usually good advice, but the problem is they don’t give you the power to change.

We all have areas that we wish we could change but we’ve just been unable to do it. It may be sexual desires, drinking, spending, eating, or our moodiness to name a few. You name it, and we’ve probably tried to change it. So, why do we do what we don’t want to do? It’s an old question that the Apostle Paul asked in the book of Romans. Today, we’re going address that question by looking at three things:

  1. The Problem: Why we do what we don’t want to do
  2. God’s Promise: Getting a true understanding to overcome the problem
  3. The Prescription (Hey, I’m a Doctor, I can do that): The HOW to live in God’s promises

Join me in Romans 7:15-25: Paul writes,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

 Let’s talk brass tacks … 

  1. The Problem is that we have a sinful nature in us. What does that mean exactly? It means there’s a civil war going on in us, a war of our flesh against our spirit (Matthew 26:41). This war draws us into a cycle of starting off with good intentions, but then we fail, which leads to guilt. And then it repeats … good intentions, failure, guilt. 
  2. God’s Promise is in John 8:32 , “… the truth will set you free.” The secret to personal change is not “will power.” It’s not a pill, a new year’s resolution, a vow, it’s not even something you say or do. Personal freedom is achieved through knowledge. It’s something you know! When you know the truth, the lies you’ve come to believe are exposed and you can break free from the problems that have held you back from the change you’re looking for. 
  3. When the Prescription is taken, we can live in God’s promise and purpose for our life. Here’s the prescription, take A,B,C,D every time you want to change something about yourself.

A: Acknowledge the root of the problem. 
B: Believe Jesus can change you. 
C: Confess your struggle to another person. 
D: Dedicate yourself completely to Jesus.

Each of these steps are very important. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Acknowledge the sin today. But don’t lose yourself in a cycle of good intentions, failure, and guilt. Believe that Jesus can change you. Romans 7:24-25 says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Now, I understand, this next step can be hard, but we’re not meant to do life alone. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). When you completely dedicate yourself to Jesus Christ, you’ll experience the one and only God that keeps His promises.  

You DO have the power to change through Jesus Christ. And you can start TODAY!

ABC’s for Loyalty

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What a week! 

I’m on the road just outside San Francisco at a gathering of pastors for Convoy of Hope. This incredible ministry serves our local community and the poorest of the poor all around the world. I’m out here to learn more about them and looking into how we can partner with them in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on that!

I’m also thrilled to be with our Executive Team meeting with a group of great people in the city of Pacifica (near San Francisco) as we discuss our next campus “Skyline Pacifica.” You’ll be hearing more about that soon!

Today, I want to talk about “loyalty.” When conflict begins to heat up between those who are relationally close, it can be increasingly difficult to solve the problem. If a problem continues to go unsolved, the person you’re close to can begin to feel like an enemy.

If you’re not currently at odds, just make sure you’ve got these tools of loyalty ready to go because it’s never IF you have conflict, it’s always WHEN you have conflict, you’ll want to be prepared with these habits. 
It may seem impossible to affirm a loved one with loyalty during strenuous times, but today I want to encourage you with an easy way to remember practical keys to make this possible in your life. Use the ABC’s to remember 3 ways to affirm loyalty during conflict.

  1. Accept them! Part of loyalty is accepting each others differences. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you approve of everything they do, but it means that your love for them is not dependent upon them changing.
  2. Before you seek to be understood, seek to understand. It’s easy to all the sudden start focusing on the problem and to forget the value of the relationship. Pretty soon you start seeing yourselves as enemies. Remember, they’re NOT the enemy!
  3. Cloth yourself in Compassion. Colossians 3:12, reminds us that there’s an act of putting on compassion. Compassion is really defined as love IN action. 

Implement these habits of loyalty and when the fires of conflict begin to heat up, you’ll be able extinguish the flames before you get burned.

Controlling Your Tongue

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Shut up! Is that too harsh? I think it might be appropriate for some of the stuff that flows so freely across the thumbs of the most prolific social media “influencers” and shock jocks across our nation.

Our words can bite, can’t they? James 3:2 says that “if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” Look closely at what he says … it starts with our mouths (or our thumbs as we type away on our phones)! From there, we can begin to grow and mature in EVERY way. What we say steers the direction of our lives.  We tend to move in the direction of our words. 

Let me be clear here. I’m not talking about the few buddies that you’ve known for a while and you joke around with each other from time to time. Some of that is the spice of life (unless the heart behind it is wrong). But today, I want to talk about this steering wheel of life … the tongue.
Here’s the deal, the average American will have 30 conversations per day.  In one year, you could fill 53 books that are 1,000 pages long. You’re going to spend 1/5 of your life talking!!

If you want to know where you’re headed, look at some of the recent conversations you’ve had with others and think about the self-talk you’ve had with yourself. Our words can both damage and destroy our life because that’s what has hold of life’s steering wheel. If you’re always putting yourself down you need to stop listening to yourself and start preaching to yourself the positive messages and words of affirmation that God has for you.

James 3:5-6 explains the power of our words. “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. And the tongue is a flame of fire.” Your words will reveal what is really in your heart. And even a seemingly small careless word can start a fire that becomes a raging argument inferno.

Not too long ago in 2018, California experienced its worst fire season in history. Nearly two million acres were burned across our great state. It started in February, and the last fire was put out in November. You know how it started? One spark!

Some of the arguments you’ve gotten into were caused by one spark. Only you can control the sparks that come out of your mouth. Careless words can destroy an entire life. Don’t become a verbal arsonist. If you don’t work on it, it’s going to ruin all you have!

I imagine that many of you have mastered the problem of cussing, but perhaps you haven’t mastered the problem of cutting others down. In James 3:10, James talks about how out of the same mouth come both praises and curses. This shouldn’t be the case. I want to challenge you today, to really focus on taming your tongue. What are your words revealing about you?

A good question to ask yourself is what is the source of the things that come out of your mouth? At the end of the day, as Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks…” Luke 6:45. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Sometimes people will say, “I don’t know why I said that, that’s not like me.” Actually, it’s exactly like you, because it has been bubbling up inside you for a long time. If a loose tongue is a problem for you the reality is your heart is not healthy.

You need to deal with the heart issue. Get to the root of the problem and root it out. Is it anger, bitterness, envy, hurt, or anything else? Whatever it might be it will not get better until you have a change of heart. Thankfully, God specializes in heart transplants, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” Ezekiel 36:26. Give your heart to Jesus Christ and watch him take the reins of your tongue and steer it toward peace.

Should I Speak Up?

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With all that’s going in the world, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself in some negative conversations or dealing with some negative feelings. We already know it’s the bad news that makes the headlines. Society is conditioned to focus on adversity. THAT is what gets ratings! 

Today, if you speak up, you might be condemned for speaking up. If you don’t speak up you might be vilified as not caring enough to speak up … it’s like Raiders football, there’s no winning. Ha!

The main scripture that’s going to launch us into our conversation today, is Philippians 2:14-15.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world of crooked and perverse people.”

People are constantly complaining about what’s going on in the world and Christians aren’t exempt from spreading this negativity. We’re all human, we all do it. In fact, there are several people in the Bible that were recorded complaining. But when it comes to the issue of complaining, God says He wants His people to be different. 

Now, understand, there’s a difference between complaining and speaking into a situation you disagree with. I’m not saying you just have to sit down and shut up and then you’re a good non-complaining Christian. It’s all in HOW you go about it. Complaining just spreads negativity and bad emotions, while speaking calmly and respectfully through disagreements attempts to bring solutions.

I want to share 4 types of complainers illustrated by the examples of some of our biblical heroes. See if you resonate with any of these types. It’s important to recognize where we are so we can get to where we need to be and change our complaints into solutions. I’m also going to share what these “complainers” typically say. But here’s the thing …  I don’t want you to forward this to someone you’ve heard say these phrases. Use this to reflect on your own speech. 

The 4 most common types of complainers are …

  1. The Whiner: The biblical example of the whiner was King David. The Psalms are full his complaints! Visit Pslam 73:13-14. 
    The whiner will say things like … “I don’t deserve this” or “Everybody else gets all the breaks” or “Why is everybody picking on me.”
  2. The Martyr: The biblical example of the Martyr was Moses. He felt under appreciated (Numbers 11:11-15).
     The Martyr says things like … “No one appreciates me” or (under their breath) “It wouldn’t kill anyone to say thank you once in a while.”
  3. The Cynic: The biblical example of the Cynic was King Solomon. Take a look through Ecclesiastes! 
    The Cynic says things like … “What’s the point?” … “Nothing is going to change.”
  4. The Perfectionist: Last but not least, the book of wisdom warns us of the perfectionist in Proverbs 21:19. This verse is really going to test some of you who wanted your spouse to reflect on their complaining. 
    The perfectionist will say things like … “Is that it?” or “Is that the best you can do?”

Maybe you identify with one of these complainers and that’s a great start! Proverbs 28:13, reminds us that, We cannot be successful unless we admit our mistakes. It’s only then that we get a second chance. If we’re going to begin to conquer the attitude of complaining we can’t make excuses for ourselves and make accusations of others. We must choose to be the positive change in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. 

Instead of complaining about the issues in our community, let’s serve our community.  
Instead of complaining about our government, let’s pray for our government.
Instead of complaining about baseball being postponed, let’s … well maybe we can complain a little about that? There’s only so much a person can take!!!

Bottom line is this: Complaining is a sin. It’s what kept the Israelites out of the promise land for so many years. If you’re asking yourself if you should speak up, the better question may be, WHAT are you going to say and HOW are you going to say it? Complaining will never get our communities to the promise land we all desire. Instead of complaining, choose to be the light in a dark world. And the darker our world gets, the more the light can be seen. This will keep God’s promises for you and others in sight. 

Is it okay to be angry?

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There’s a lot of anger going around these days. While the reasons to get angry are wide and varied, the release of anger needs to be in appropriate ways. Losing control of anger doesn’t help anyone. Everybody needs to know how to manage their anger because it’s not a matter of IF you get angry, it’s always a matter of WHEN. Proverbs 14:29 says it like this, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” Notice it doesn’t say people with understanding do not get angry. Rather, it says that they know how to control it. 

We need to understand that anger is a God given emotion. God wired you up in a way to get angry because sometimes anger is the most appropriate response. When something happens that shouldn’t happen, you should get angry. When someone is hurt, you should get angry. When there’s an injustice, you should get angry. As a matter a fact, if you never get angry, that’s a good indication that you don’t have much love. Sometimes anger is the most loving thing to express. BUT, we have to learn how to control it and how to use it wisely.  

All of us tend to get angry in one of two ways. We externalize it. Or, we internalize it. Both of these are inappropriate expressions of anger. 
Let me give you an illustration. When it comes to anger, you’re typically either a skunk or a turtle. It’s pretty easy to guess that a skunk is someone who’s very external. They just spray it ALL OVER the place. And then everyone around them has that sour face because it stinks. OR, maybe you’re the turtle. The turtle retreats and hides as it goes back into its shell. And then, there are those rare cases of turtles that are hiding, stuffing it all under their shell and allowing the resentment, bitterness, and all their anger build and build inside until … they explode!

We must be resolved to control this God given emotion. Don’t make excuses by saying things like, “I can’t control it” or “it just happens.” Look, this is a big deal for me too. I was born Irish. The Irish typically have two emotions, we’re either angry or asleep … But then Christ came into my life and that changed everything. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever get mad … I’m a Padres fan. But I learned how to deal with it better and better. Take a look at Proverbs 29:11. It says, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

While anger is a God given emotion, anger is a choice. We must remember that uncontrolled anger comes with a hefty cost. As we go about our week and grow in discerning this emotion, let me leave you with this verse from Ephesians 4:26 …“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The reality is, we all lose when you lose your temper. Let us be transformed by the renewing of our mind and begin to release anger appropriately.

Blessings to you in the week ahead. 

Jeremy McGarity

Defeat Discouragement

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Today I want to talk about one of the biggest hurdles in our faith. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools in keeping us from growing––not just spiritually … but economically and educationally. In fact, I don’t think there’s one area of your life that isn’t affected by this obstacle. 

Today, I want to talk about defeating discouragement.

In any race there is fatigue. No matter what you do, we ALL get tired. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. It causes us to shrink back from our duties, goals, and expectations. But if we overcome it, we can live out God’s best for us! In Acts 20:24, Luke tells us on behalf of the Apostle Paul, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Unfortunately, most people never finish their race. They get distracted. And for one reason or another, they grow old with unachieved dreams without ever realizing what God had planned for them. Often times, discouragement is the biggest deterrent in our lives. 

But that thing that discourages you, or intended to discourage you from God’s purpose for your life, doesn’t have to! Right now the state of our communities and chaos across our country can make us feel overwhelmed with discouragement and dread. 

Here are 3 ways to overcome discouragement:

  1. Ask yourself, what is slowing you down?
    Hebrews 12:1 reminds us, “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

    There are a lot of people in your life that want you to run their race for them. They’ll add so many expectations, responsibilities, and distractions that God never intended for your life. The Bible makes it clear, if you’re going to go far in this race you’ll need to remove those things!
  2. Remind yourself, why you became a Christian.
     Ephesians 2:10 promises us, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Remembering your WHY will give you determination. Remember that this whole life isn’t about you. The more we focus outwardly, the more excited we get to live out God’s purpose in our life. 
  3. Get in the Word on a daily basis!
     2 Corinthians 4:16 encourages us, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
     
    Just like your physical body gets hungry, your spirit is hungry. It’s hungry for the Word of God. To go without it for a day is like starving it. Stay encouraged by knowing what God has to say about your life and the instructions and direction he can give you every day.

Overcoming discouragement IS possible! So, let me ask you … What has God called you to do? At the end of a long lived life, will you be able to say that you endured? Will you have lived the life that you were created for?
The key to endurance is perspective. Most people in this world are living life as if all that matters is today. And that’s wrong. Today’s going to be over … TODAY! We need to live with the perspective of eternity in mind. If you’re going to avoid discouragement, you’ve got to know how to recharge yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Especially during this time!

Set yourself up for the race ahead by refueling your faith in these 3 key ways that a mentor of mine gave me as I was entering full-time ministry:

1. Divert daily
Take time each day to get quiet with the Lord. You need some time where nothing is demanded from you. Where the distractions are gone and you can be focused in silence for some time of renewal. If this is new to you, start with as little as 5 minutes. As you do this you’ll notice you want more time to do this. Add 5 minutes at a time as you build up and you’ll soon realize you don’t want to go a day without it. 

As I mentioned, 2 Corinthians 4:16 encourages us to be renewed day by day. We know that each day carries enough challenges of its own. While we do not always know what obstacles are headed our way, we can trust that the Lord does! And it is He who will navigate you through those waters. 

2. Withdraw weekly
The race ahead is going to require rest. Take a whole day each week to do something different, something fun or relaxing. Make a list of things that refuel you and choose something from this list one day each week to get your mind off of your daily grind.

3. Abandon annually
Schedule the time to get out of town and do something for an extended period of time like a week or two or more! Know what refreshes you and do something engaging and fulfilling! It takes energy to do God’s will and you need a plan for when you run out of gas. 

Discouragement can ruin a conversation, a job, a marriage, a faith, OR a life. When we talk about “the building of our faith” we’re talking about taking the first steps of change. God takes His time in growing us step by step and piece by piece. Did you know it takes a mushroom about 24 hours to be fully grown. Ha. It takes an oak tree about 100 years! A mushroom could be brushed over. Pshh! But an oak tree is immovable. It’s solid! God is interested in building oak trees of faith. He’s strengthening us through everything that He allows in our lives. Yes, even a quarantine and social unrest! 

The race of life is tough. But you CAN overcome discouragement and refuel your faith regularly with enough fuel to finish in a strong sprint. Implement these practices this week, and you’ll see discouragement leaving you and encouragement coming. Let me know how it goes!

Are You Wrestling?

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Who are you wrestling with in your life? Your spouse, your kids, an in-law, a neighbor? Or maybe you’re wrestling with your finances, a car, your job, or even your health. One thing for sure is we’re all wrestling with the restrictions and affects of this quarantine right now. 

IT’S. NOT. EASY.
 
If you’re in a wrestling match right now … congratulations!! If you’re encountering a conflict in your life, the problem is likely deeper than you realize. YOU my friend, are wrestling with God. Let’s take a look at Genesis 25 and 32. 

Genesis 25: Here we find a man’s life that can be described in one word … conflict. To give you some background, Jacob was born fighting with his twin brother, Esau, literally came out of the womb “grasping the heel of his brother” vs 25:21-26.  Later, Jacob tricked his brother out of his inheritance (vs 29-34). To say Esau was not happy with Jacob would be an understatement. But it wasn’t long before Jacob got a taste of his own medicine! He was tricked by a man named Laban. 

After working for Laban the agreed upon seven years to marry his daughter, Rachel, Jacob was told it would cost him another seven years of labor to gain the blessing of marrying Rachel. Talk about a long engagement! After 14 years, it was time to part ways from Laban, and Jacob planned to sneak his new family out of town. The only problem was, Jacob had no where to go except back to his hometown where another problem awaited, his brother Esau.

Genesis 32:  When Esau heard that his brother was coming home, it wasn’t water under the bridge. Esau sent an army of 400 men to face Jacob.  Like many of us, Jacob was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His options were slim and none and he was facing the consequences of a lifetime of bad choices. Jacob was terrified(Genesis 32:7). And he finally surrendered and prayed to the Lord (Genesis 32:9-11).

The problems you’re facing with your spouse, career, appearance, you name it …  is only a mere symptom of a greater conflict in your life. The Bible tells us that Jacob spent the next night, literally, wrestling with God. How many of us know who is going to win that match? Like Jacob, you and I know that we’re going to wear out before God does. But did you know that God actually wants to wrestle with you? Wrestling is a contact sport. It doesn’t bother God to wrestle with you, to hear your complaints and your anger and your needs. Why? Because it means that you’re up close to Him. Your relationship is finally getting personal. For you it may sound like shouting … WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING?! Why are you doing this God?! When will this end?! etc. etc… And that’s okay! God blesses those who realize their need for Him (Matthew 5:3).

Jacob may have surrendered by turning to God, but he wasn’t ready to change his ways. He and God wrestled ALL night. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re open to having a conversation with God, but are you willing to let Him call the shots? Jacob and God wrestled to the point where God says it’s time to call it. It’s a momentous turning point for Jacob. Is he going to change his ways or not? To which Jacob responds, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Can you imagine?! Listen to the incredible passion Jacob displays here. He’s literally clinging to the Lord and refusing to let go until he get’s what he needs. He’s like a kid holding on to their dad’s ankle as the dad walks down the hall. And God does bless him and leaves him a little reminder to carry with him the rest of his life. From that all night wrestling match with God, Jacob was left with a permanent limp. A reminder that he could not run from his problems any longer. Instead of running, he needed to rely on God. 

If you’ve been a Christian very long, I can bet you have a specific limp. No, it may not be a literal walking limp, but the limp I’m referring to is a reminder that God left with you to keep you humble and to keep you reliant on Him. You came through that all night wrestling match, but you’ll never be the same, and you thank God for that. 

Though these are difficult times, it’s a great time to dig deeper in your relationship with the Lord. “Consider it all joy… when you encounter various trials”(James 1:2). Hold on until God blesses you! Ask hard questions! Wrestle it out! Seek first the Kingdom of God because I promise that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion,” (Philippians 1:6).

Welcome Drifter

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One of the questions I get most often is, How do I get close to God? And/or … how do I stay close to God? 

Today I want to talk about “drifting.” In order to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you actually have to swim against the cultural current. 

In one sense, we’re all drifters. No one lives a perfect faith journey. You’ve heard me say it many times, “No perfect people allowed here.” It’s never about perfection, it’s about progress.

So in other words … Welcome Drifter! 

Like any other relationship, your relationship with God must be maintained.  It’s a fact, relationships change.Those of you who are married know that your marriage has changed over time. Our bodies change. Our waist lines change. Even our hair line changes. Ha, it’s natural. When it comes to relationships, they’re either getting better or getting worse. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This verse is all about a fresh start. That is what being made new means! I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad God doesn’t stop at one fresh start, He offers them as much as we need them….and sometimes that’s daily!

God gives us the option of digging in and being disciplined or just “going with the flow” and drifting and living for ourselves.  The problem and the reality is that not living God’s way has a lot more consequences. Some of us have chosen to believe in Christ but are coasting in the Christian life. So here’s my question for you … where are you on the drifter to disciplined continuum? Drifter being 1 and disciplined being 10 … ask yourself where you land. 

Many Christians live their life in such a way that it requires no faith at all. Your heart is either growing warmer or colder with someone. It is the same when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.There are times we just don’t feel as close. But we must be intentional if we’re going to keep any relationship strong, especially a relationship with Christ. And, while we don’t like this word “discipline” the reality is it takes discipline to be a disciple.

Drifting away from God is a big deal. Instead of growing, somehow we started drifting. It’s okay if you don’t have an outlined plan for your growth just yet. But, you’ll need one to accelerate your growth. At our church, we have a plan and we call it Seven Steps. Without a plan, we get into a mode of just drifting with our Christianity and not letting our faith get stretched like God wants to stretch it. The first step is simple … tune in to our “Today Matters” daily devotional on our Skyline YouTube channel or check out our messages on our app or website. You’ll get practical tools to help you take that next step of faith to ensure you’re growing in your relationship with Jesus.

It’s no coincidence that the root word of discipline is disciple! Ask God today what needs to happen in your life to grow in faith. What is God saying is your next step of faith? 

Here’s to you, Mom!

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“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.” 
–– Proverbs 31:10

Proverbs 31 is a well known section of scripture that serves as a model for a virtuous woman; or busy moms really. 
 
It reads …
“She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
… She sets about her work vigorously; 
her arms are strong for her tasks. 
–– Proverbs 31:13-17

If a mom stopped reading here and didn’t read through all 31 verses, it would already be enough to wonder if she’s measuring up. But what the Bible doesn’t mention is homeschooling and standing in line at Costco with a mask on, or any of the other myriad of challenges during this quarantine, as well as all of the countless challenges moms have faced over the generations. And the Bible doesn’t have to. It’s message here was the same then as it is now … women are hard working and busy! Especially the moms in our lives. The last thing we want moms to feel when they read Proverbs 31, is guilt.

Whether your kids are grown, you’re a single mom, a mom of a special needs child, you’ve adopted, have a prodigal child, have several energetic kids, or you’re looking forward to becoming a mom … we celebrate you! Thank you for all that you do. We hope you had an amazing Mother’s Day!

Growing up, my mom woke up before dawn and worked three jobs just to try and make ends meet. I believe that kind of hard work speaks to the resilience of moms that are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their family is taken care of. That’s what moms do. They step up!

You may not be spinning wool and flax, although judging by the many cat and Raider masks I received, I think several of you ARE spinning wool and flax! Regardless of whether you are or not, you’re taking care of your family. We hope to alleviate some of that stress this upcoming Monday as our Skyline Kids Learning Center reopens. There are several new protocols being put in place to insure health and safety for you and your family. We hope that this resource will serve as a valuable asset to moms, first responders, essential workers, and those on the front lines during this quarantine. 

There are more plans in the works at this very moment as we are gearing up and preparing for the reopening of our church doors. Thank you to those who filled out our COVID-19 Survey to help us evaluate our community’s perspective. 

Stay tuned and stay strong. We’ll have more updates for you soon. And in the meantime, make sure you celebrate the moms in your life. 

God bless, 

Jeremy McGarity

As We Open Soon, How Should We Respond?

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I appreciated the response to my last post on the current situation as I researched the Covid claims. Yes, I even appreciated the voices that disagreed. That is the beauty of our Nation, we have the constitutional right to free speech and freedom of religion. And, it is important that we speak up and make sure we continue to keep our rights. So, I’m glad for those who feel free to voice their disagreement and prove how wrong they are 🙂 (settle down I’m just messing with you).

Not yet, but soon, we will launch into our “normal” lives again. There will certainly be a new normal and there are certainly people on all sides of the Covid claims. What are we to do? I think if there is one word to describe how we should respond it is the word, Grace. The reality is, everyone is different. And, so are all churches. It takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people. Your church may open later than ours, or your church may be open now! Different businesses will open at different times, either way, Grace must be extended no matter when businesses and churches open again.

Speaking of Skyline Church, we will open as soon as possible with safety parameters in place. Some people will believe that by opening at all we could be endangering lives. Others believe we should be open by now and are bowing to the Government and allowing our Constitutional rights to be stomped on. The truth is, you cannot please everyone, and trying to will drive you insane. However, we can make the wisest decision based on the most updated data and figure out a phased opening strategy that takes into account all people from all levels of fear to confidence.

One of the main issues we will all need to guard against, whether it is in our church or our community in general is division. The enemy would love nothing more than to divide us and he loves it when we drive a stake in the ground and exclude segments of our society. If we are not careful, we will be throwing stones and calling the cautious people “soft” and the confident people “reckless.” It’s no different than when Paul told the Corinthian Church, “Some will eat only vegetables, some will eat meat, don’t judge them.” Things can get ugly very quickly if we’re not careful. We must remember that God has called us to unity. That doesn’t mean we can’t have different opinions, it just means we need to understand our differences, appreciate them, and move forward understanding that we will all act differently based on our own convictions. Below, I’d like to give some Covid-19 profiles and see where you might fit. Please comment and let me know which one you are. I’d be curious to see where people are in general right now. You can also visit our website at http://www.skylinechurch.org and take the full survey.

Covid-19 Profiles

Cautious: Those who primarily stay at home, follow every aspect of the CDC guidelines and regulations and prefer to stay extra conservative about their return to “normal.”

Confident: Those who don’t and won’t wear a mask, spend greater amounts of time with people outside their home and don’t mind being around other people they may not know, they obey the law but don’t necessarily worry much about going all the way with precautions, favor opening up businesses and churches now regardless of the news, and some think this crisis has been blown way out of proportion.

Cautiously Confident: Those who find themselves doing and feeling a little bit of everything in both profiles.

Here’s the point, it’s ok to have a different profile. The temptation is to look at your profile and let your own opinion dominate your perspective. Personally, I am confident. I have done the research, I have seen the numbers, I have spoken with our local leaders and I understand where we are as the County of San Diego (and other counties for that matter) and I firmly believe it’s time to reopen. Based on the information from our County Supervisors we are at phase 4 and almost at phase 5. Phase 5 would allow San Diego to be completely open. The data shows that we are close to being at phase 5 yet we remain closed because of the Governors order. Therefore, we remain at phase 1 moving toward phase 2 tomorrow and Friday. Our Board of Supervisors have just put forward a request to the Governor that we can be independent of the State mandate and move our phasing forward. This is extremely good news. I have been working with local and state authorities to have a plan in place that other churches may want to use as well to open as soon as possible. However, I can still have a conversation with you and appreciate your viewpoint if yours is different than mine. I will never attack you for that, I hope you don’t attack me but even if you do, I’ll still have a conversation with you. You may do your research and come to a completely different conclusion than me. Again, that’s one of the great things about our country, free speech and free opinions.

Free speech and free opinions does not mean we must become divisive. We have to be careful when considering our profiles. For highly confident optimists, the tendency is to view others as much too conservative and bowing to fear and not faith– which can be true of all of us at times. Confident types tend to think, “The results of the stay at home order are now worse than the virus.”

For the cautious types, confident optimists may be seen as too relaxed and not caring about the health and well-being of others. Cautious types tend to think, what can possible be gained by opening too soon. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

No matter where you are I think it would benefit all of us to have 4 attitudes for Covid-19 recovery that will strengthen our ability to be unified as we navigate different views and approaches to opening up again.

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing. They bring hope and encouragement and see things of uncertainty as opportunities.
  2. Thank God for cautious people in my life. It keeps me sensitive to the thoughts and concerns of others and enables me to make the most prudent decisions.
  3. Watch out for Pride. Pride always demands things our own way. Pride always leads us farther away from God. Different gifts and different approaches make up the full body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12).
  4. I love people more than I love my opinion. Being in healthy relationships is a joy and a gift and it requires me to love others above myself.

The bottom line is Jesus dealt with so many different opinions and attitudes as He walked the earth and led people to salvation. One thing was constant, He always chose LOVE. In the end, this attitude should come through above all other opinions.

We may not agree on the proper timing or method to reopen, but I sure hope you know I love you, I care about you and I want what’s best for you. When the crisis winds down, there will be plenty of people who got some things right, and plenty who got some things wrong. There will be those who blew things out of proportion, and those who didn’t take things as seriously as they should have. Some will take longer to go out to restaurants, businesses and churches again while others will be in a rush (or are already there).

What will it matter, if all this social distancing ends and we are divided and socially distant again and not because of the virus, but because of our inability to accept different approaches to the Covid-19 crisis. Unity always requires Grace.

We want you to know, when we reopen we will have a place for you no matter where you are in the cautious to confident spectrum. We love you and can’t wait to see you. You matter to God and you matter to us.

It’s The End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)

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The great theologians, REM, penned the line which I borrowed for today’s blog (you’re singing it in your head now aren’t you?). This weekend at Skyline Church we’re beginning a brand-new teaching series. We’re talking about a very relevant subject. Many people are wondering what the Bible says about the End of the World.  

Questions abound when times get confusing like the times we are currently experiencing. Lock-downs and lock-outs, businesses suffering, people suffering, and new Marshal law-like draconian measures being forced on people without any real evidence for their necessity. 

It is always in times of distress and confusion that most people wonder … IS THIS THE END. Or, at least for many Christians, we wonder if these are the signs the Bible talks about when it comes to the End Times.  

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at what the Bible says about the End of the World. Throughout history,  there have been wars, atrocities, earthquakes, famines, plagues, hurricanes and other disasters that have shaken the foundations of the earth and caused people to think about their own mortality.  

As the world engaged in the first World War people thought the world was ending. Then there was World War II. Again, people were sure this was it. Remember September 11? Everybody thought that was the beginning of the end. Since then, there have been more wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, plagues, and on and on … Whenever bad things happen, we tend think … is this it?

And this is certainly no different in our current state of affairs with a pandemic or plan-demic; however you want to view it. Riots, wars, division, and hatred are at a seemingly all time high. These certainly are ingredients that would cause any thinking person to wonder, IS THIS IT? 

We’re going to be looking at various Scriptures that speak directly to the fact that God wants His children to know about the End of the World. Maybe that’s a question that you need answered today. Is the world, as we know it, going to end some day. The answer is a resounding YES. The next obvious question is … WHEN?  

On Sunday, we’re going to start off our series in Matthew,  Chapter 24. In the evening service at 7:00PM on Sunday night, we’ll talk about Matthew 25.  I’ll help you see with clarity what the Bible says is going to happen. Not what might happen, but what IS going to happen according to Jesus Himself.  

I’m not going to give you speculation, but I’ll give you direct information from the Bible about THE END. You’ll learn overall as a big picture what that looks like, then you’ll learn the timing of the events that will eventually take place. There’s an order to what is happening, a process. I believe over the course of this series, lots of mysteries will be solved for you if you get the message each week. Each message builds on the other.  

I also want to encourage you to invite your friends, family, neighbors, etc.; those in your relational world the Bible calls your Oikos. You might simply tell them that “We are talking about what the Bible says about the End Times. I’d love to get your thoughts on it …”  A simple invite can change a life. 

Knowledge is POWER and when you get the knowledge of THE END, just like last week when I shared knowledge about the statistics of the Covid-19 virus … you can BE confident and LIVE confidently. Over the course of this series, we’ll talk about subjects like: THE TRIBULATION, ARMAGEDDON, THE RAPTURE, THE JUDGMENT, HEAVEN, We’ll talk about HELL, we’ll talk about God’s Will, and a lot of other key themes and Scriptures. 

The study of the End Times is known Theologically as ESCHATOLOGY. This word comes from the original Greek word: Eskhatos, which means “Last Things.” From time to time you’ll hear Pastors and Bible-teachers talk about Eschatology … it simply means the study of “Last Things.” 

There is a lot of speculation on what the End will look like and how it will come about. The reality is you can be confident of how it will end because the Bible has told us. It has given us instructions …

REMEMBER THIS: God didn’t speak about The End Times to SCARE us, He did it to PREPARE us. 
The first thing we need to look at is our Instruction book. If our instruction book spends time on it, we should spend time on it. If our instruction book spends a lot of time on it, it’s probably pretty important. So let’s look at …

I. HOW OFTEN THE BIBLE SPEAKS ABOUT THE END 
To give you an idea of how much God’s Word talks about this truth:  

  • 1 out of every 30 verses in the Bible mentions the subject of THE END
  • The Bible talks about End Times specifically over 329 times             
  • 23 of the 27 New Testament books mention THE END of the World.
    Some may see that and say, well it’s just a New Testament thing … NO!
  • There were 16 Old Testament Prophets and 10 of those 16 talk about this subject of THE END of the World. 

Did you know there are over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus’  first coming to earth and they were 100% accurate. Listen to the odds of this happening. Something predicted hundreds and even thousands of years before it happens and then it comes true: The odds of one person fulfilling just 8 of the more than 300 prophecies is:

  • 1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000
  • 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 
  • 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies: Only Jesus! 
    However, there are 8x more prophecies concerning His second coming. You can bet they will be 100% accurate as well. Jesus Christ is coming again. We as Christians, look forward to it.

So this is obviously one of the most often taught truths in Scripture. If God’s Word talks about it so much, why is it so misunderstood? I think if you’re going to understand this, the best place to start is with what Jesus had to say about THE END OF THE WORLD.  Jesus said the End of the World is coming, but as I’ll show you in this series, it’s not yet. But it may be really close.

FACE THE FACTS

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Let’s talk numbers. Let’s talk data. Let’s get down to the science of what is going on and draw some conclusions based on the facts. There is a lot going on with the County of San Diego and its restrictions on what people can and cannot do. We want you to know that we take this very seriously and we are constantly trying to balance the FEAR that is being spread by some of our National, State and Local officials and the verifiable FACTS about Covid.  

Currently,  the Covid mortality rate is at 0.02%, according to an Oxford study that is updated monthly.[i] Some say 0.01%. The point is that it is very low, to almost non-existent. That means you are about as likely to be killed by an errant baseball as you are Covid. And when it comes to dying from the virus, that 0.02% is only if you have significant underlying health issues, or as they are often referred to as, co-morbidities. This low death rate is even inflated as many health officials around the nation have been documenting motorcycle and car crash victims as Covid deaths.[ii] 

I want to share some statistics with you to help alleviate the fears some of you may be dealing with concerning the Covid virus. I cite every statistic I share in the endnotes so you can look up the websites and the journal articles to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. You may not agree with me, and if not, please cite your sources so I can look up the information you are basing your opinion on. 

I believe one of the things Shepherds are supposed to do, is protect the Sheep. Pastors are supposed to protect the flock God has entrusted to us. Not only are we to spiritually nurture, feed, and help grow our flock, we are supposed to fight for our flock when wolves and other predators try to attack. We are to fight off enemies we can see and enemies we cannot see.  

Sometimes, as is the case here, there is fear from something that is actually not there. It has been an enemy in the dark, something we cannot see. So, we have all scrambled not knowing where the next strike was going to come from. Yet, for 99.9% of people, the strike from this viral enemy has never and will never come. It is a straw man of an enemy to be sure. But, we have to fight the narratives out there to give people hope. We cannot sit back and just wait for the OK from the Governor as more and more lives are ruined. 1 Peter 5:2 reminds us, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you …” 

Having said that, I’d like to give you some statistics to, hopefully, alleviate some fears that are constantly and consistently being spread.  Here are some statistics to give you some clarity on what is going on. Now, for my Kansas people, I’ll be specifically giving California stats from the CDC[iii] and then I’ll give some nationwide stats. Over 270,000 people die in California every year from various causes:            
·       65,000 die from heart disease 
·       60,000 die from cancer
·       16,000 from stroke
 ·       16,000 from Alzheimer’s
·       14,000 from respiratory illness—Covid is a respiratory virus, 14,000 people every year die from respiratory issues.

We don’t shut everything down because of that every year. Yet we have 8,700 Covid (supposed Covid deaths) in CA. I say supposed because a lot of fraud is now coming out that deaths are being labeled Covid. Hospitals are getting more money from Medicare when deaths at their hospital are labeled Covid. For example, if someone dies from straight forward pneumonia the payment to the hospital is $5,000. If they die of Covid-related pneumonia it’s $13,000, and if the Covid patient is on a ventilator and dies it goes up to $39,000.[iv] Continuing with the California causes of death: 
·       10,000 from diabetes 
·       5,000 from liver disease
 ·       14,000 from various accidents
·       3 Million from alcohol (USA) 
·       250,000 from cigarettes
·       5,000 from Suicide (and that number was from 2019 before Covid, we know it’s much higher this year as NATIONWIDE suicide ideation is up 600%).[v]

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, going to religious services helps lower the incidences of suicide, “Many Americans attend various community or religious activities. Weekly attendance at religious services has been associated with a 5-fold lower suicide rate compared with those who do not attendThe effects of closing churches and community centers may further contribute to social isolation and hence suicide.” [vi]

Why? Because you’ve got to have hope to cope. Every week we hand out hope at Skyline church and many other churches do the same. Yet, health officials want to keep churches closed or force them outdoors in 95-degree heat in the middle of summer (in East County San Diego). 

 The greatest killer in our state is by medical professionals who perform abortions. 364 abortions a day in California. That means 1 in 4 pregnancies are aborted. California has more abortions than anyone else and they are taxpayer funded.  Our Governor, Gavin Newsom, has decided that anyone who lives in a state where abortion is illegal or hard to come by, they can come to California and our taxpayers will pay for the abortion.  So, a woman can have a free abortion no matter where she is from or how she got here. We, as California Taxpayers will pay for the abortion.[vii] 

Meanwhile businesses are closing and many will not open again because they have been ruined by this lockdown, and there is no help in sight for them. People in our church are losing their life savings and their lifelong dream of having a thriving business, over a virus that kills less people than a thunderstorm. 

Yet the abortion clinics remain open, the liquor stores remain open, the strip clubs remain open, the casinos remain open. And, you may have noticed, those of you here in San Diego, that according to our public health officials who report ad nauseam on the “outbreaks” that not one outbreak has been reported from those places. That is fascinating.  As we learn more about this virus, apparently the Covid virus is very virtuous and will not go near those places. You are expected to believe that. There is a clear problem here, it is one of hypocrisy and duplicity.   

There is no moral high ground with the leaders in our state who portend to have the public health in mind as these lockdowns drag on into the fifth month or 139 days since March 13 when we all heard the phrase, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” The initial issues that caused the lockdown have been rectified yet we are still locked down and locked out.  Let’s go through the short list:           
1. Ventilators. We were told we need enough ventilators. Ventilators, check.
2. Flatten the curve. Then we can resume our lives, albeit with some changes. Curve flattened,check.           
3. Surge capacity in our hospitals. We need to make sure when the virus spikes, we have surge capacity in our hospitals. Most hospitals have less people this year, year over year.[viii] Surge capacity, check.      
4. Therapies and Prophylactics. We need to make sure we can treat those who get the virus and prevent it in those who are the most vulnerable. Therapies and Prophylactics, check.           
5. Kids are vulnerable. We must keep our kids safe. Kids are not vulnerable to Covid. As a matter of fact, the flu is more dangerous for kids.[ix] 

I could keep going but you get the idea. The point is the goal posts are constantly being moved to agree with a false narrative about this virus. 

Abortion clinics, liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos are all deemed essential during this time. But the Church, and many businesses that help our community, are not. Folks, if you are not already, it’s time to wake up to what is going on. I believe the tide is turning and many, many people are waking up to what is actually going on. You are not in danger of a virus called Covid. However, you are in danger of losing your great country to a radical agenda that will stop at nothing to destroy our economy, our freedom, and our faith. 

Knowledge is power. We have the knowledge of this virus. We know how to manage it, treat it, prevent it and even cure it. Unfortunately, we grieve for those 0.02% who have lost their lives to this virus. As small of a number as that is, it still represents lives that are lost and families that have been affected. We are not heartless in understanding that.  

However, don’t believe the nonsense you are hearing from godless news outlets and social media “influencers.” Whenever anyone comes forward with scientific evidence that clearly shows the virus is not as lethal as first thought, or that as we have seen from Frontline Doctors[x], there is an actual cure, these videos, evidence and research studies are pulled down from the internet source by Google. Your Free Speech and your Freedom of Religion is being trampled on.  We need to get up, take our masks off, and speak upwhile being fed up. 

Our San Diego public health official, Dr. Wilma Wooten gave her thrice weekly update on Monday and said she was “saddened” by the outdoor service that a church had at a beach in North County and that she was intent on cracking down on churches and egregious violators. It looked like a big crowd from the video I saw, but it was certainly peaceful as people sang to the Lord and heard a message from a pastor.  

Now, as a matter of comparison, when places in the county she represents as the public health officer were burning down at the hands of thousands of protestors and rioters, who were not social distancing and were not wearing masks (save a person here and there) she remained silent on the issue of public health at protests. She never mentioned the rioters, never mentioned the protestors, and never mentioned levying fines or “cracking down” on the obvious “egregious” violations.  

The only words about the riots came from Supervisor Nathan Fletcher a few days after buildings and businesses burned in La Mesa and vandalism took place in many locations all over San Diego. Supervisor Fletcher was asked the question from a news reporter about the dual messaging or hypocrisy of allowing protests but not allowing gatherings at churches or other places. Fletcher’s response was illusory, he said, “We agree with the protestors right to gather, we just want them to do it safely …”

That same right he says he agrees with is the 1st amendment right to “peacefully gather.” Religious freedom is under that same 1st amendment right. Churches peacefully gather as a religious freedom right covered by the Constitution of the United States of America. Rioting is not to be agreed to at any time. It is not covered in the Constitution. Burning down buildings and wounding our Law Enforcement officers is not a “Peaceful Protest” and should never be agreed to by a County Supervisor or anyone else in charge.

Thousands of protestors burning down buildings and wounding our officers apparently is OK because Supervisor Fletcher agrees with their right to gather. But a church has a service on the beach and our public health officer is “saddened” by this activity and threatens reprisals. This, Dr. Wooten, is egregious. The hypocrisy has to stop and it only stops when people rise up and stop taking it.

I was told by one county official that Governor Newsom is holding potentially millions of dollars earmarked for San Diego hostage unless San Diego conforms to his mandates. He’s already withheld money from other counties that defied his orders. [xi] I understand our county leaders’ dilemma. That is much needed money for many community services that are severely underfunded at this point.

They have told me their hands are tied. I believe them. They are exasperated with the Governor. However, at some point our San Diego leaders have to say enough is enough and go against the Governor. I believe that time is NOW. If you look at the markers and triggers we must meet in order to begin to open up again, they are literally impossible to meet unless they are lowered significantly or removed entirely.[xii]

How do you beat a bully? You stand up to the bully. It is time to stand up to the bully. But, it will take everyone, grassroots, from start to finish letting your voices be heard. Be constantly and consistently inundating our representatives and health officials with a demand to open.

Our officials in San Diego have told many of us that there is nothing they can do because Newsom has so much power during this pandemic. That is not good enough. We have to march, we have to call, we have to utilize social media until it takes down the posts. And they will take down the posts if it doesn’t fit the false narrative. But the more we post the more likely some will last.

There are a few things going on that you can get involved in. Follow REOPEN.CALIFORNIA on Instagram and Facebook. There are several rallies and marches you can look into and consider being a part of. The larger these marches and rallies the more our voices will be heard. I don’t know a lot about the organization, so please do your research on who is running it and what exactly the messaging is, but at this point it looks like a solid organization that wants what’s best for Californians and our Nation.

I’m not an alarmist, but the alarm is ringing. I didn’t pull it, but I hear it, and it’s time to take action. The wolves have been ravaging the pen for too long. I personally cannot sit back and watch this happen. I am petitioning our representatives, I am on the phone, on zoom meetings with local and state officials and while there are many roadblocks at this point, there is an opening coming as more and more people rise up and stop putting up with these lockdowns.

Again, if the data showed this is a dangerous virus and I as a Shepherd was putting my flock in danger, that would be irresponsible and egregious. However, the facts are the facts and a 0.02% morbidity rate is not a reason to cause a 600% increase in suicide ideation and an 8,000% increase in suicide hotline calls.[xiii] 0.02% is not a reason to see an over 20% increase in domestic abuse worldwide[xiv] and 25% increase closer to home.[xv] Tens of thousands of drug and alcohol relapses and deaths and more and more lives are at stake the longer this lockdown continues. 

Let’s face the facts and beat the bully of fear.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Endnotes [i]https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-rates/
[ii]https://cbs12.com/news/local/man-who-died-in-motorcycle-crash-counted-as-covid-19-death-in-florida-report
[iii]https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/california/california.htm
[iv]https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/04/24/fact-check-medicare-hospitals-paid-more-covid-19-patients-coronavirus/3000638001/
[v]https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2764584
[vi] VanderWeele  TJ , Li  S , Tsai  AC , Kawachi  I .  Association between religious service attendance and lower suicide rates among US women.    JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(8):845-851. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1243
[vii]https://www.aclunc.org/blog/know-your-rights-abortion-access-california[viii]https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/hospital-ers-underwhelmed-as-coronavirus-fears-keep-patients-away-2014793/
[ix]https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html
[x] America’s Frontline Doctors transcript. https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/americas-frontline-doctors-scotus-press-conference-transcript
[xi]https://abc7.com/coalinga-atwater-merced-county-central-valley/6340709/
[xii]https://sdcounty.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/30b5e0fa2a5f4404b1219d8cd16b2583
[xiii]https://abc7.com/suicide-hotline-calls-coronavirus-covid19-los-angeles/6117099/
[xiv]https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-53014211/coronavirus-domestic-violence-increases-globally-during-lockdown
[xv]https://abc7.com/domestic-violence-coronavirus-stay-at-home-pandemic/6119703/

Interested or Committed?

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What are you expecting God to do in your life?

There’s a law that God has established … I call it “the law of expectation.” The fact is, we tend to get what we “expect” out of life. We often see what we expect to see, hear what we expect to hear, feel the way we expect to feel, and succeed at what we expect to succeed in. God says you get to choose! It’s actually “the law of faith,” because “according to your faith it will be done to you” (Matthew 9:29). 

In Luke 17:5, we see the apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith! They had no idea how difficult that would be for them. The problem with acquiring more faith is the process.  We all want more faith, but nobody likes what it takes to get there. 

“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something you accept no excuses, only results.” 

–– Ken Blanchard

During this time of Covid craziness you might be wondering what God is up to in all of this. How is He going to use this for good, how in the world is my faith supposed to grow through this time? Well, that depends. Are you interested or committed to growing your faith? The next natural question is how does God increase our faith? … He tests it!

Everyday we have faith building opportunities. And, these times of quarantine, open, close, reopen, do this, don’t do that, can drive any person crazy. But, we have to be committed to seeing these problems as faith building opportunities.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize conflicts or hardships as opportunities. Instead, we let our circumstances push us away from God. I believe this time of quarantine is more than a season of conflict, hardship, and restrictions. It’s actually a faith building opportunity!

You see, faith is like a muscle. It has to be worked out, stretched, and pulled with resistance … consistently. Just like consistency is key in getting bigger and stronger muscles, consistency is key in working out your faith muscle! In fact, James 1:3-4 reminds us of this when it says “… the testing of your faith produces perseverance … so that you may be mature and complete …”

A faith that stretches is uncomfortable, but it’s also healthy! Look at your faith like a tree. It requires nurturing and ultimately we hope to produce delicious fruit. But fruits don’t arrive over night. It’s the wind, rain, and storms that challenge the tree’s roots to go deeper and stabilize the tree before the season of harvest returns. 

I want to encourage you to continue to follow Jesus and live out Colossians 2:6-7 which says, 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” 

Let the roots of your faith grow deeper throughout this time of Covid, no matter how long it lasts. If you are committed, your faith WILL become stronger. I’m confident that this time of quarantine is an opportunity that will lead you to trust God more than you ever have before. Use this time to allow your roots of faith to ‘grow’ to a whole new level.

The reason that your faith needs testing is because God wants to increase it! God is never going to say “you’ve arrived,” “there’s nothing else for you,” or “that’s all I have to teach you” … He’s always going to want us to take that next step of faith!

So let me ask you again … What are you expecting God to do in your life? Are you interested in Him working in your life or committed? Can you hang in there a little longer, lean on Him a little more, and trust Him to come through? Will you do it with an expectant heart knowing that He has promised to move according to your committed faith?

I am believing that your faith is going to grow in new ways and we’re going to come out of this season stronger than ever! I’m committed to it, and I expect it!

Close Down Again?

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You’ve probably heard the news from the Governor of California. He has issued an order to close businesses and places of worship again. The County of San Diego has a right to not adhere to this order as San Diego has proven week after week to be one of the safest counties in the United States.  However, it appears our County is deciding to follow the Governor’s order.

I want you to know that we take this very seriously as we take into consideration all factors in conjunction with public health. There are various aspects to public health. There is of course the one that has been focused on since March, the medical side of public health. However, there is also the emotional, economical, psychological, and spiritual health among others that MUST be considered when talking about public health. There is never to be a ONE SIZE FITS ALL program. What has been happening is an all out focus on one aspect of public health to the detriment of the other aspects of public health. 

While we understand the pressures our governmental leaders are under to stop the spread, we must not lose sight of the other health issues that have resulted from the various shut downs and quarantines. Indeed, the intended cure has become a massive public health problem itself.

While we must continue to protect the most vulnerable in our society, we have proven we can do that. As we have helped those who are most vulnerable throughout this pandemic, it is now time to help those who are most vulnerable economically, spiritually, psychologically and emotionally. I believe this is a both/and proposition, not an either/or. We can continue to protect the most vulnerable while opening our businesses, communities and churches. 

At Skyline Church, our goal is to strike a balance between the reality of a virus like Covid existing and the reality of the need for people to have the freedom to worship in church. We have followed all the guidelines and even gone above and beyond to make sure we are safe when we have had services. When many churches and businesses were ordered closed back in March, we knew very well our right to meet and indeed our 1st Amendment right of freedom to express our religion, but, we decided to follow our government’s recommendations to not gather, even when we had the right to. 

As restrictions were loosened we began to gather as permitted by our government. While we recognize the separation of church and state, we were being honoring of our governmental officials as required in Romans 13. While Romans 13 helps guide our consciousness during an uncertain time, we also are to be guided by Acts 5 where Peter and the other apostles were reprimanded by the government for disobeying their governmental officials and stated very clearly, “We are to obey God, rather than human beings.” 

So, this is the importance of understanding context. There are times when we most certainly should obey our governmental leaders. But, there are times when (as God leads the spiritual leaders of the church) we must pause and listen more closely for the voice of God in the midst of uncertain times. I have no doubt that Peter and the Apostles did that and came to the conclusion they came to. 

Therefore, after the Governor gave his update yesterday, we met as an Executive Team, then we met as a staff at Skyline, then we met as a Board at Skyline and I met with leaders of other churches and it is with much prayer and lots of hours of meetings that our leadership team at Skyline Church has decided that WE WILL REMAIN OPEN AS A CHURCH this weekend. 

We have gone above and beyond to make sure we have a safe and clean environment and we will continue to be safe and clean. This is the same for your kiddos. We will remain open for your kids. We are not the only ones remaining open this weekend, there is a tremendous unity among churches in San Diego and while some will close and some remain open, each church has its own good reasons for its particular decision.

I want to emphasize, if you have any concerns about this please stay home. I also want to emphasize, if you’re feeling any symptoms please stay home. Watch our online services which are the same services as we have in person. We believe those who have concerns will stay home and take part in church online and those who feel they need to be at church for their own spiritual health and well-being will be here. We trust YOU and your FREEDOM to decide what is best for you and your family.

We also believe we are contributing positively to the public health, especially the spiritual, emotional, mental, and even physical health side by being out of the house and worshipping our Lord. 

Please RSVP this week at skylinechurch.org. We will also have the outside venue available under the umbrellas but it would probably be a good idea to bring your own chairs. Even going farther than that, you can stay in your car and tune your radio to 89.3 FM to take part in the service that way.
This is such an interesting time folks, but we know and have seen that God is moving and working in the midst of all that is going on. We LOVE you, we are praying for you, and we will see you SUNDAY! 

Prescription for Change

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Did you know that in a typical year about 2,000 self-help books come out on the market? Advertisers know that everybody is interested in change. The thing about self-help books and even many of the self-help podcasts out there, is that they tell you to stop doing this and start doing that, which is usually good advice, but the problem is they don’t give you the power to change.

We all have areas that we wish we could change but we’ve just been unable to do it. It may be sexual desires, drinking, spending, eating, or our moodiness to name a few. You name it, and we’ve probably tried to change it. So, why do we do what we don’t want to do? It’s an old question that the Apostle Paul asked in the book of Romans. Today, we’re going address that question by looking at three things:

  1. The Problem: Why we do what we don’t want to do
  2. God’s Promise: Getting a true understanding to overcome the problem
  3. The Prescription (Hey, I’m a Doctor, I can do that): The HOW to live in God’s promises

Join me in Romans 7:15-25: Paul writes,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

 Let’s talk brass tacks … 

  1. The Problem is that we have a sinful nature in us. What does that mean exactly? It means there’s a civil war going on in us, a war of our flesh against our spirit (Matthew 26:41). This war draws us into a cycle of starting off with good intentions, but then we fail, which leads to guilt. And then it repeats … good intentions, failure, guilt. 
  2. God’s Promise is in John 8:32 , “… the truth will set you free.” The secret to personal change is not “will power.” It’s not a pill, a new year’s resolution, a vow, it’s not even something you say or do. Personal freedom is achieved through knowledge. It’s something you know! When you know the truth, the lies you’ve come to believe are exposed and you can break free from the problems that have held you back from the change you’re looking for. 
  3. When the Prescription is taken, we can live in God’s promise and purpose for our life. Here’s the prescription, take A,B,C,D every time you want to change something about yourself.

A: Acknowledge the root of the problem. 
B: Believe Jesus can change you. 
C: Confess your struggle to another person. 
D: Dedicate yourself completely to Jesus.

Each of these steps are very important. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Acknowledge the sin today. But don’t lose yourself in a cycle of good intentions, failure, and guilt. Believe that Jesus can change you. Romans 7:24-25 says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Now, I understand, this next step can be hard, but we’re not meant to do life alone. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). When you completely dedicate yourself to Jesus Christ, you’ll experience the one and only God that keeps His promises.  

You DO have the power to change through Jesus Christ. And you can start TODAY!

ABC’s for Loyalty

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What a week! 

I’m on the road just outside San Francisco at a gathering of pastors for Convoy of Hope. This incredible ministry serves our local community and the poorest of the poor all around the world. I’m out here to learn more about them and looking into how we can partner with them in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on that!

I’m also thrilled to be with our Executive Team meeting with a group of great people in the city of Pacifica (near San Francisco) as we discuss our next campus “Skyline Pacifica.” You’ll be hearing more about that soon!

Today, I want to talk about “loyalty.” When conflict begins to heat up between those who are relationally close, it can be increasingly difficult to solve the problem. If a problem continues to go unsolved, the person you’re close to can begin to feel like an enemy.

If you’re not currently at odds, just make sure you’ve got these tools of loyalty ready to go because it’s never IF you have conflict, it’s always WHEN you have conflict, you’ll want to be prepared with these habits. 
It may seem impossible to affirm a loved one with loyalty during strenuous times, but today I want to encourage you with an easy way to remember practical keys to make this possible in your life. Use the ABC’s to remember 3 ways to affirm loyalty during conflict.

  1. Accept them! Part of loyalty is accepting each others differences. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you approve of everything they do, but it means that your love for them is not dependent upon them changing.
  2. Before you seek to be understood, seek to understand. It’s easy to all the sudden start focusing on the problem and to forget the value of the relationship. Pretty soon you start seeing yourselves as enemies. Remember, they’re NOT the enemy!
  3. Cloth yourself in Compassion. Colossians 3:12, reminds us that there’s an act of putting on compassion. Compassion is really defined as love IN action. 

Implement these habits of loyalty and when the fires of conflict begin to heat up, you’ll be able extinguish the flames before you get burned.

Controlling Your Tongue

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Shut up! Is that too harsh? I think it might be appropriate for some of the stuff that flows so freely across the thumbs of the most prolific social media “influencers” and shock jocks across our nation.

Our words can bite, can’t they? James 3:2 says that “if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” Look closely at what he says … it starts with our mouths (or our thumbs as we type away on our phones)! From there, we can begin to grow and mature in EVERY way. What we say steers the direction of our lives.  We tend to move in the direction of our words. 

Let me be clear here. I’m not talking about the few buddies that you’ve known for a while and you joke around with each other from time to time. Some of that is the spice of life (unless the heart behind it is wrong). But today, I want to talk about this steering wheel of life … the tongue.
Here’s the deal, the average American will have 30 conversations per day.  In one year, you could fill 53 books that are 1,000 pages long. You’re going to spend 1/5 of your life talking!!

If you want to know where you’re headed, look at some of the recent conversations you’ve had with others and think about the self-talk you’ve had with yourself. Our words can both damage and destroy our life because that’s what has hold of life’s steering wheel. If you’re always putting yourself down you need to stop listening to yourself and start preaching to yourself the positive messages and words of affirmation that God has for you.

James 3:5-6 explains the power of our words. “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. And the tongue is a flame of fire.” Your words will reveal what is really in your heart. And even a seemingly small careless word can start a fire that becomes a raging argument inferno.

Not too long ago in 2018, California experienced its worst fire season in history. Nearly two million acres were burned across our great state. It started in February, and the last fire was put out in November. You know how it started? One spark!

Some of the arguments you’ve gotten into were caused by one spark. Only you can control the sparks that come out of your mouth. Careless words can destroy an entire life. Don’t become a verbal arsonist. If you don’t work on it, it’s going to ruin all you have!

I imagine that many of you have mastered the problem of cussing, but perhaps you haven’t mastered the problem of cutting others down. In James 3:10, James talks about how out of the same mouth come both praises and curses. This shouldn’t be the case. I want to challenge you today, to really focus on taming your tongue. What are your words revealing about you?

A good question to ask yourself is what is the source of the things that come out of your mouth? At the end of the day, as Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks…” Luke 6:45. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Sometimes people will say, “I don’t know why I said that, that’s not like me.” Actually, it’s exactly like you, because it has been bubbling up inside you for a long time. If a loose tongue is a problem for you the reality is your heart is not healthy.

You need to deal with the heart issue. Get to the root of the problem and root it out. Is it anger, bitterness, envy, hurt, or anything else? Whatever it might be it will not get better until you have a change of heart. Thankfully, God specializes in heart transplants, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” Ezekiel 36:26. Give your heart to Jesus Christ and watch him take the reins of your tongue and steer it toward peace.

Should I Speak Up?

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With all that’s going in the world, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself in some negative conversations or dealing with some negative feelings. We already know it’s the bad news that makes the headlines. Society is conditioned to focus on adversity. THAT is what gets ratings! 

Today, if you speak up, you might be condemned for speaking up. If you don’t speak up you might be vilified as not caring enough to speak up … it’s like Raiders football, there’s no winning. Ha!

The main scripture that’s going to launch us into our conversation today, is Philippians 2:14-15.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world of crooked and perverse people.”

People are constantly complaining about what’s going on in the world and Christians aren’t exempt from spreading this negativity. We’re all human, we all do it. In fact, there are several people in the Bible that were recorded complaining. But when it comes to the issue of complaining, God says He wants His people to be different. 

Now, understand, there’s a difference between complaining and speaking into a situation you disagree with. I’m not saying you just have to sit down and shut up and then you’re a good non-complaining Christian. It’s all in HOW you go about it. Complaining just spreads negativity and bad emotions, while speaking calmly and respectfully through disagreements attempts to bring solutions.

I want to share 4 types of complainers illustrated by the examples of some of our biblical heroes. See if you resonate with any of these types. It’s important to recognize where we are so we can get to where we need to be and change our complaints into solutions. I’m also going to share what these “complainers” typically say. But here’s the thing …  I don’t want you to forward this to someone you’ve heard say these phrases. Use this to reflect on your own speech. 

The 4 most common types of complainers are …

  1. The Whiner: The biblical example of the whiner was King David. The Psalms are full his complaints! Visit Pslam 73:13-14. 
    The whiner will say things like … “I don’t deserve this” or “Everybody else gets all the breaks” or “Why is everybody picking on me.”
  2. The Martyr: The biblical example of the Martyr was Moses. He felt under appreciated (Numbers 11:11-15).
     The Martyr says things like … “No one appreciates me” or (under their breath) “It wouldn’t kill anyone to say thank you once in a while.”
  3. The Cynic: The biblical example of the Cynic was King Solomon. Take a look through Ecclesiastes! 
    The Cynic says things like … “What’s the point?” … “Nothing is going to change.”
  4. The Perfectionist: Last but not least, the book of wisdom warns us of the perfectionist in Proverbs 21:19. This verse is really going to test some of you who wanted your spouse to reflect on their complaining. 
    The perfectionist will say things like … “Is that it?” or “Is that the best you can do?”

Maybe you identify with one of these complainers and that’s a great start! Proverbs 28:13, reminds us that, We cannot be successful unless we admit our mistakes. It’s only then that we get a second chance. If we’re going to begin to conquer the attitude of complaining we can’t make excuses for ourselves and make accusations of others. We must choose to be the positive change in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. 

Instead of complaining about the issues in our community, let’s serve our community.  
Instead of complaining about our government, let’s pray for our government.
Instead of complaining about baseball being postponed, let’s … well maybe we can complain a little about that? There’s only so much a person can take!!!

Bottom line is this: Complaining is a sin. It’s what kept the Israelites out of the promise land for so many years. If you’re asking yourself if you should speak up, the better question may be, WHAT are you going to say and HOW are you going to say it? Complaining will never get our communities to the promise land we all desire. Instead of complaining, choose to be the light in a dark world. And the darker our world gets, the more the light can be seen. This will keep God’s promises for you and others in sight. 

Is it okay to be angry?

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There’s a lot of anger going around these days. While the reasons to get angry are wide and varied, the release of anger needs to be in appropriate ways. Losing control of anger doesn’t help anyone. Everybody needs to know how to manage their anger because it’s not a matter of IF you get angry, it’s always a matter of WHEN. Proverbs 14:29 says it like this, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” Notice it doesn’t say people with understanding do not get angry. Rather, it says that they know how to control it. 

We need to understand that anger is a God given emotion. God wired you up in a way to get angry because sometimes anger is the most appropriate response. When something happens that shouldn’t happen, you should get angry. When someone is hurt, you should get angry. When there’s an injustice, you should get angry. As a matter a fact, if you never get angry, that’s a good indication that you don’t have much love. Sometimes anger is the most loving thing to express. BUT, we have to learn how to control it and how to use it wisely.  

All of us tend to get angry in one of two ways. We externalize it. Or, we internalize it. Both of these are inappropriate expressions of anger. 
Let me give you an illustration. When it comes to anger, you’re typically either a skunk or a turtle. It’s pretty easy to guess that a skunk is someone who’s very external. They just spray it ALL OVER the place. And then everyone around them has that sour face because it stinks. OR, maybe you’re the turtle. The turtle retreats and hides as it goes back into its shell. And then, there are those rare cases of turtles that are hiding, stuffing it all under their shell and allowing the resentment, bitterness, and all their anger build and build inside until … they explode!

We must be resolved to control this God given emotion. Don’t make excuses by saying things like, “I can’t control it” or “it just happens.” Look, this is a big deal for me too. I was born Irish. The Irish typically have two emotions, we’re either angry or asleep … But then Christ came into my life and that changed everything. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever get mad … I’m a Padres fan. But I learned how to deal with it better and better. Take a look at Proverbs 29:11. It says, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

While anger is a God given emotion, anger is a choice. We must remember that uncontrolled anger comes with a hefty cost. As we go about our week and grow in discerning this emotion, let me leave you with this verse from Ephesians 4:26 …“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” The reality is, we all lose when you lose your temper. Let us be transformed by the renewing of our mind and begin to release anger appropriately.

Blessings to you in the week ahead. 

Jeremy McGarity

Defeat Discouragement

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Today I want to talk about one of the biggest hurdles in our faith. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools in keeping us from growing––not just spiritually … but economically and educationally. In fact, I don’t think there’s one area of your life that isn’t affected by this obstacle. 

Today, I want to talk about defeating discouragement.

In any race there is fatigue. No matter what you do, we ALL get tired. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. It causes us to shrink back from our duties, goals, and expectations. But if we overcome it, we can live out God’s best for us! In Acts 20:24, Luke tells us on behalf of the Apostle Paul, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Unfortunately, most people never finish their race. They get distracted. And for one reason or another, they grow old with unachieved dreams without ever realizing what God had planned for them. Often times, discouragement is the biggest deterrent in our lives. 

But that thing that discourages you, or intended to discourage you from God’s purpose for your life, doesn’t have to! Right now the state of our communities and chaos across our country can make us feel overwhelmed with discouragement and dread. 

Here are 3 ways to overcome discouragement:

  1. Ask yourself, what is slowing you down?
    Hebrews 12:1 reminds us, “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

    There are a lot of people in your life that want you to run their race for them. They’ll add so many expectations, responsibilities, and distractions that God never intended for your life. The Bible makes it clear, if you’re going to go far in this race you’ll need to remove those things!
  2. Remind yourself, why you became a Christian.
     Ephesians 2:10 promises us, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

    Remembering your WHY will give you determination. Remember that this whole life isn’t about you. The more we focus outwardly, the more excited we get to live out God’s purpose in our life. 
  3. Get in the Word on a daily basis!
     2 Corinthians 4:16 encourages us, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”
     
    Just like your physical body gets hungry, your spirit is hungry. It’s hungry for the Word of God. To go without it for a day is like starving it. Stay encouraged by knowing what God has to say about your life and the instructions and direction he can give you every day.

Overcoming discouragement IS possible! So, let me ask you … What has God called you to do? At the end of a long lived life, will you be able to say that you endured? Will you have lived the life that you were created for?
The key to endurance is perspective. Most people in this world are living life as if all that matters is today. And that’s wrong. Today’s going to be over … TODAY! We need to live with the perspective of eternity in mind. If you’re going to avoid discouragement, you’ve got to know how to recharge yourself spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Especially during this time!

Set yourself up for the race ahead by refueling your faith in these 3 key ways that a mentor of mine gave me as I was entering full-time ministry:

1. Divert daily
Take time each day to get quiet with the Lord. You need some time where nothing is demanded from you. Where the distractions are gone and you can be focused in silence for some time of renewal. If this is new to you, start with as little as 5 minutes. As you do this you’ll notice you want more time to do this. Add 5 minutes at a time as you build up and you’ll soon realize you don’t want to go a day without it. 

As I mentioned, 2 Corinthians 4:16 encourages us to be renewed day by day. We know that each day carries enough challenges of its own. While we do not always know what obstacles are headed our way, we can trust that the Lord does! And it is He who will navigate you through those waters. 

2. Withdraw weekly
The race ahead is going to require rest. Take a whole day each week to do something different, something fun or relaxing. Make a list of things that refuel you and choose something from this list one day each week to get your mind off of your daily grind.

3. Abandon annually
Schedule the time to get out of town and do something for an extended period of time like a week or two or more! Know what refreshes you and do something engaging and fulfilling! It takes energy to do God’s will and you need a plan for when you run out of gas. 

Discouragement can ruin a conversation, a job, a marriage, a faith, OR a life. When we talk about “the building of our faith” we’re talking about taking the first steps of change. God takes His time in growing us step by step and piece by piece. Did you know it takes a mushroom about 24 hours to be fully grown. Ha. It takes an oak tree about 100 years! A mushroom could be brushed over. Pshh! But an oak tree is immovable. It’s solid! God is interested in building oak trees of faith. He’s strengthening us through everything that He allows in our lives. Yes, even a quarantine and social unrest! 

The race of life is tough. But you CAN overcome discouragement and refuel your faith regularly with enough fuel to finish in a strong sprint. Implement these practices this week, and you’ll see discouragement leaving you and encouragement coming. Let me know how it goes!

Are You Wrestling?

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Who are you wrestling with in your life? Your spouse, your kids, an in-law, a neighbor? Or maybe you’re wrestling with your finances, a car, your job, or even your health. One thing for sure is we’re all wrestling with the restrictions and affects of this quarantine right now. 

IT’S. NOT. EASY.
 
If you’re in a wrestling match right now … congratulations!! If you’re encountering a conflict in your life, the problem is likely deeper than you realize. YOU my friend, are wrestling with God. Let’s take a look at Genesis 25 and 32. 

Genesis 25: Here we find a man’s life that can be described in one word … conflict. To give you some background, Jacob was born fighting with his twin brother, Esau, literally came out of the womb “grasping the heel of his brother” vs 25:21-26.  Later, Jacob tricked his brother out of his inheritance (vs 29-34). To say Esau was not happy with Jacob would be an understatement. But it wasn’t long before Jacob got a taste of his own medicine! He was tricked by a man named Laban. 

After working for Laban the agreed upon seven years to marry his daughter, Rachel, Jacob was told it would cost him another seven years of labor to gain the blessing of marrying Rachel. Talk about a long engagement! After 14 years, it was time to part ways from Laban, and Jacob planned to sneak his new family out of town. The only problem was, Jacob had no where to go except back to his hometown where another problem awaited, his brother Esau.

Genesis 32:  When Esau heard that his brother was coming home, it wasn’t water under the bridge. Esau sent an army of 400 men to face Jacob.  Like many of us, Jacob was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His options were slim and none and he was facing the consequences of a lifetime of bad choices. Jacob was terrified(Genesis 32:7). And he finally surrendered and prayed to the Lord (Genesis 32:9-11).

The problems you’re facing with your spouse, career, appearance, you name it …  is only a mere symptom of a greater conflict in your life. The Bible tells us that Jacob spent the next night, literally, wrestling with God. How many of us know who is going to win that match? Like Jacob, you and I know that we’re going to wear out before God does. But did you know that God actually wants to wrestle with you? Wrestling is a contact sport. It doesn’t bother God to wrestle with you, to hear your complaints and your anger and your needs. Why? Because it means that you’re up close to Him. Your relationship is finally getting personal. For you it may sound like shouting … WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING?! Why are you doing this God?! When will this end?! etc. etc… And that’s okay! God blesses those who realize their need for Him (Matthew 5:3).

Jacob may have surrendered by turning to God, but he wasn’t ready to change his ways. He and God wrestled ALL night. Maybe you’re in the same boat. Maybe you’re open to having a conversation with God, but are you willing to let Him call the shots? Jacob and God wrestled to the point where God says it’s time to call it. It’s a momentous turning point for Jacob. Is he going to change his ways or not? To which Jacob responds, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Can you imagine?! Listen to the incredible passion Jacob displays here. He’s literally clinging to the Lord and refusing to let go until he get’s what he needs. He’s like a kid holding on to their dad’s ankle as the dad walks down the hall. And God does bless him and leaves him a little reminder to carry with him the rest of his life. From that all night wrestling match with God, Jacob was left with a permanent limp. A reminder that he could not run from his problems any longer. Instead of running, he needed to rely on God. 

If you’ve been a Christian very long, I can bet you have a specific limp. No, it may not be a literal walking limp, but the limp I’m referring to is a reminder that God left with you to keep you humble and to keep you reliant on Him. You came through that all night wrestling match, but you’ll never be the same, and you thank God for that. 

Though these are difficult times, it’s a great time to dig deeper in your relationship with the Lord. “Consider it all joy… when you encounter various trials”(James 1:2). Hold on until God blesses you! Ask hard questions! Wrestle it out! Seek first the Kingdom of God because I promise that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion,” (Philippians 1:6).

Welcome Drifter

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One of the questions I get most often is, How do I get close to God? And/or … how do I stay close to God? 

Today I want to talk about “drifting.” In order to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, you actually have to swim against the cultural current. 

In one sense, we’re all drifters. No one lives a perfect faith journey. You’ve heard me say it many times, “No perfect people allowed here.” It’s never about perfection, it’s about progress.

So in other words … Welcome Drifter! 

Like any other relationship, your relationship with God must be maintained.  It’s a fact, relationships change.Those of you who are married know that your marriage has changed over time. Our bodies change. Our waist lines change. Even our hair line changes. Ha, it’s natural. When it comes to relationships, they’re either getting better or getting worse. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” This verse is all about a fresh start. That is what being made new means! I don’t know about you, but I sure am glad God doesn’t stop at one fresh start, He offers them as much as we need them….and sometimes that’s daily!

God gives us the option of digging in and being disciplined or just “going with the flow” and drifting and living for ourselves.  The problem and the reality is that not living God’s way has a lot more consequences. Some of us have chosen to believe in Christ but are coasting in the Christian life. So here’s my question for you … where are you on the drifter to disciplined continuum? Drifter being 1 and disciplined being 10 … ask yourself where you land. 

Many Christians live their life in such a way that it requires no faith at all. Your heart is either growing warmer or colder with someone. It is the same when it comes to our relationship with Jesus.There are times we just don’t feel as close. But we must be intentional if we’re going to keep any relationship strong, especially a relationship with Christ. And, while we don’t like this word “discipline” the reality is it takes discipline to be a disciple.

Drifting away from God is a big deal. Instead of growing, somehow we started drifting. It’s okay if you don’t have an outlined plan for your growth just yet. But, you’ll need one to accelerate your growth. At our church, we have a plan and we call it Seven Steps. Without a plan, we get into a mode of just drifting with our Christianity and not letting our faith get stretched like God wants to stretch it. The first step is simple … tune in to our “Today Matters” daily devotional on our Skyline YouTube channel or check out our messages on our app or website. You’ll get practical tools to help you take that next step of faith to ensure you’re growing in your relationship with Jesus.

It’s no coincidence that the root word of discipline is disciple! Ask God today what needs to happen in your life to grow in faith. What is God saying is your next step of faith? 

Here’s to you, Mom!

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“A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.” 
–– Proverbs 31:10

Proverbs 31 is a well known section of scripture that serves as a model for a virtuous woman; or busy moms really. 
 
It reads …
“She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
… She sets about her work vigorously; 
her arms are strong for her tasks. 
–– Proverbs 31:13-17

If a mom stopped reading here and didn’t read through all 31 verses, it would already be enough to wonder if she’s measuring up. But what the Bible doesn’t mention is homeschooling and standing in line at Costco with a mask on, or any of the other myriad of challenges during this quarantine, as well as all of the countless challenges moms have faced over the generations. And the Bible doesn’t have to. It’s message here was the same then as it is now … women are hard working and busy! Especially the moms in our lives. The last thing we want moms to feel when they read Proverbs 31, is guilt.

Whether your kids are grown, you’re a single mom, a mom of a special needs child, you’ve adopted, have a prodigal child, have several energetic kids, or you’re looking forward to becoming a mom … we celebrate you! Thank you for all that you do. We hope you had an amazing Mother’s Day!

Growing up, my mom woke up before dawn and worked three jobs just to try and make ends meet. I believe that kind of hard work speaks to the resilience of moms that are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure their family is taken care of. That’s what moms do. They step up!

You may not be spinning wool and flax, although judging by the many cat and Raider masks I received, I think several of you ARE spinning wool and flax! Regardless of whether you are or not, you’re taking care of your family. We hope to alleviate some of that stress this upcoming Monday as our Skyline Kids Learning Center reopens. There are several new protocols being put in place to insure health and safety for you and your family. We hope that this resource will serve as a valuable asset to moms, first responders, essential workers, and those on the front lines during this quarantine. 

There are more plans in the works at this very moment as we are gearing up and preparing for the reopening of our church doors. Thank you to those who filled out our COVID-19 Survey to help us evaluate our community’s perspective. 

Stay tuned and stay strong. We’ll have more updates for you soon. And in the meantime, make sure you celebrate the moms in your life. 

God bless, 

Jeremy McGarity

As We Open Soon, How Should We Respond?

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I appreciated the response to my last post on the current situation as I researched the Covid claims. Yes, I even appreciated the voices that disagreed. That is the beauty of our Nation, we have the constitutional right to free speech and freedom of religion. And, it is important that we speak up and make sure we continue to keep our rights. So, I’m glad for those who feel free to voice their disagreement and prove how wrong they are 🙂 (settle down I’m just messing with you).

Not yet, but soon, we will launch into our “normal” lives again. There will certainly be a new normal and there are certainly people on all sides of the Covid claims. What are we to do? I think if there is one word to describe how we should respond it is the word, Grace. The reality is, everyone is different. And, so are all churches. It takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people. Your church may open later than ours, or your church may be open now! Different businesses will open at different times, either way, Grace must be extended no matter when businesses and churches open again.

Speaking of Skyline Church, we will open as soon as possible with safety parameters in place. Some people will believe that by opening at all we could be endangering lives. Others believe we should be open by now and are bowing to the Government and allowing our Constitutional rights to be stomped on. The truth is, you cannot please everyone, and trying to will drive you insane. However, we can make the wisest decision based on the most updated data and figure out a phased opening strategy that takes into account all people from all levels of fear to confidence.

One of the main issues we will all need to guard against, whether it is in our church or our community in general is division. The enemy would love nothing more than to divide us and he loves it when we drive a stake in the ground and exclude segments of our society. If we are not careful, we will be throwing stones and calling the cautious people “soft” and the confident people “reckless.” It’s no different than when Paul told the Corinthian Church, “Some will eat only vegetables, some will eat meat, don’t judge them.” Things can get ugly very quickly if we’re not careful. We must remember that God has called us to unity. That doesn’t mean we can’t have different opinions, it just means we need to understand our differences, appreciate them, and move forward understanding that we will all act differently based on our own convictions. Below, I’d like to give some Covid-19 profiles and see where you might fit. Please comment and let me know which one you are. I’d be curious to see where people are in general right now. You can also visit our website at http://www.skylinechurch.org and take the full survey.

Covid-19 Profiles

Cautious: Those who primarily stay at home, follow every aspect of the CDC guidelines and regulations and prefer to stay extra conservative about their return to “normal.”

Confident: Those who don’t and won’t wear a mask, spend greater amounts of time with people outside their home and don’t mind being around other people they may not know, they obey the law but don’t necessarily worry much about going all the way with precautions, favor opening up businesses and churches now regardless of the news, and some think this crisis has been blown way out of proportion.

Cautiously Confident: Those who find themselves doing and feeling a little bit of everything in both profiles.

Here’s the point, it’s ok to have a different profile. The temptation is to look at your profile and let your own opinion dominate your perspective. Personally, I am confident. I have done the research, I have seen the numbers, I have spoken with our local leaders and I understand where we are as the County of San Diego (and other counties for that matter) and I firmly believe it’s time to reopen. Based on the information from our County Supervisors we are at phase 4 and almost at phase 5. Phase 5 would allow San Diego to be completely open. The data shows that we are close to being at phase 5 yet we remain closed because of the Governors order. Therefore, we remain at phase 1 moving toward phase 2 tomorrow and Friday. Our Board of Supervisors have just put forward a request to the Governor that we can be independent of the State mandate and move our phasing forward. This is extremely good news. I have been working with local and state authorities to have a plan in place that other churches may want to use as well to open as soon as possible. However, I can still have a conversation with you and appreciate your viewpoint if yours is different than mine. I will never attack you for that, I hope you don’t attack me but even if you do, I’ll still have a conversation with you. You may do your research and come to a completely different conclusion than me. Again, that’s one of the great things about our country, free speech and free opinions.

Free speech and free opinions does not mean we must become divisive. We have to be careful when considering our profiles. For highly confident optimists, the tendency is to view others as much too conservative and bowing to fear and not faith– which can be true of all of us at times. Confident types tend to think, “The results of the stay at home order are now worse than the virus.”

For the cautious types, confident optimists may be seen as too relaxed and not caring about the health and well-being of others. Cautious types tend to think, what can possible be gained by opening too soon. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

No matter where you are I think it would benefit all of us to have 4 attitudes for Covid-19 recovery that will strengthen our ability to be unified as we navigate different views and approaches to opening up again.

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing. They bring hope and encouragement and see things of uncertainty as opportunities.
  2. Thank God for cautious people in my life. It keeps me sensitive to the thoughts and concerns of others and enables me to make the most prudent decisions.
  3. Watch out for Pride. Pride always demands things our own way. Pride always leads us farther away from God. Different gifts and different approaches make up the full body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12).
  4. I love people more than I love my opinion. Being in healthy relationships is a joy and a gift and it requires me to love others above myself.

The bottom line is Jesus dealt with so many different opinions and attitudes as He walked the earth and led people to salvation. One thing was constant, He always chose LOVE. In the end, this attitude should come through above all other opinions.

We may not agree on the proper timing or method to reopen, but I sure hope you know I love you, I care about you and I want what’s best for you. When the crisis winds down, there will be plenty of people who got some things right, and plenty who got some things wrong. There will be those who blew things out of proportion, and those who didn’t take things as seriously as they should have. Some will take longer to go out to restaurants, businesses and churches again while others will be in a rush (or are already there).

What will it matter, if all this social distancing ends and we are divided and socially distant again and not because of the virus, but because of our inability to accept different approaches to the Covid-19 crisis. Unity always requires Grace.

We want you to know, when we reopen we will have a place for you no matter where you are in the cautious to confident spectrum. We love you and can’t wait to see you. You matter to God and you matter to us.