Biblical Understanding = Lives Changed

It’s a special time in SO many ways. On one hand, there are so many churches closed and will not reopen all over the world. While this happens in a typical year it is especially true in 2020. At Skyline Church, we decided to open (after clearly understanding the virus and it’s risks) and stay open. That decision has given us the opportunity to see SO many people taking incredibly important steps of faith.

In the past few weeks, we’ve baptized 99 people and even more have made first time decisions and/or recommitted their lives to Jesus. That’s one of the main reasons we can see the importance of ministering to our community by having an open church during this time. People need hope to cope! 
Thank you for continuing to invite people! As we near the the holidays, and even the 2020 Elections, we know that more than ever people are going to be looking for hope. I want to encourage you to remember that an invite can change a life. Extend an invitation to someone to church.

 If they are more comfortable watching the service in the comfort of their own home, send a link to our service (we have been incredibly encouraged by the number of decisions from people literally all over the world who tune in online). Let them know, they are not alone. They matter to God and they matter to us!

Some of the people you may be hesitating to invite, maybe people who’ve expressed doubt and uncertainty about the Gospel in the past. Understandably so, some people get hung up on certain aspects of the Bible before understanding its full context. Whether people think the Bible is confusing, a list of religious rules, contradicting, condemning, or whatever … the truth is, God IS Love and the Bible is His gift to us. In order to truly understand God’s Word, sometimes we need to do some deeper digging. That might mean …

  1. Reading the chapters before and after the chapter you’re reading to get the bigger picture
  2. Learning some basics about the original languages of the Bible; Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic
  3. Maybe God wants us to wrestle with a concept or idea with Him so that He can give us true wisdom and understanding

Every week we do ALL of that! We love to look at the Bible as a whole and give the bird’s eye view. But we also like to dive deep and help you have a clearer understanding of God’s will which helps you understand God’s purpose for YOUR life. 

We believe that God has big plans for each and every one of us. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6. 

We also recognize that the Bible wasn’t originally written in English. We value learning the Greek going to learn some Geek and Hebrew words like “Oikos.” Aside from being a great yogurt brand, Oikos is a Greek word used in the Bible meaning “household.” When reading verses like Luke 8:39, someone was told to  return to his household and described the great things done for him.” But, someone who understands the original language would understand that “Oikos” actually means MORE than your household. In Greek, Oikos means your relational network! 

That means, tell your family, neighbors, coworkers, local barista, mechanic, carpool buddies, dentist, etc. … Some of you are imagining the last awkward conversation you had with your dentist while they poked around your mouth. Understanding the original text is incredibly important. It makes understanding God much easier. 


Maybe at some point in time, you’ve put down your Bible and walked away feeling like you didn’t understand what you just read. You may have felt offended, discouraged, or even like it was pointless. I want to encourage you to not give up, but look up, in other words pray about it! 

God wants to help you understand and will work through it with you! James 1:5 reminds us that, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

More than ever, people need hope to cope! I want to encourage you to invite someone in your “Oikos” to church this Sunday. Tell them about the wonderful things God has done for you! Many people have lost their jobs. Others haven’t seen family in months. And for the first time, many will experience the holidays alone. But as we continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, we can look forward with eager anticipation for what is to come! We can rest in the fact that God gave us His book to prepare us, not scare us.

Who Are The 144,000?

There’s a lot of confusion, symbolism, and even chronology in the book of Revelation. If you’ve been in church very long, you probably haven’t heard a message on this book of the Bible. It’s a difficult subject that if not approached systematically can lead to more confusion than understanding.
Over the past couple months, I’ve been going through a series on the “End Times” called, Time Out! at Skyline Church. We’ve talked about the Signs of the end of the world which can be described as “birth pains” across the earth, contracting more frequently over time with wars, disease, and natural disasters. We’ve tackled the conversation of the Rapture, the instantaneous act of God when Christians will be “caught up” to heaven without dying. Following the Rapture is the a hellish time on earth known as the Tribulation

We’ve done some deep diving on the Tribulation and looked at a man that will rise to power during the 7-year period of Hell on Earth, the Bible calls the Antichrist. We also talked about the mark he will force everyone to take in order to be able to buy and sell. It will be a universal mark to show you “care.” It will be a mark on either the right hand or the forehead that shows you “check out” ok. 

We talked about Armageddon, what it means, and where and when it will be. Then, last week we talked about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Today, I want to focus in on a mysterious group of people who are also present after the Rapture, and make a tremendous impact for Christ during the Tribulation. 

Let’s focus on this VERY important group of people. When you read the book of Revelation, you’ll come across this group (starting in Revelation 7). They will be “Billy Graham” types on evangelistic steroids! This group is called … The 144,000. God is going to use them during the Tribulation to lead (as Revelation says) COUNTLESS people to Jesus Christ! 
If you’ve heard about this group before, it was probably at your front door with a Jehovah’s Witness. They talk about The 144,000 ALL the time. However, they misuse the term. Their Bible actually looks like ours, but they have taken A LOT of scripture out of it; especially descriptions of this mysterious group! 

This group will not be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Did you know, in 1935, Judge Rutherford (then president of The Watchtower Society, aka The Jehovah’s Witness organization), announced that the full number of Jehovah’s Witnesses had reached 144,000 and that everyone else moving forward will NOT go to Heaven, BUT will have to live on earth for eternity? THIS is biblical interpretation AT ITS WORST!

So, who are these people? It’s also important to note that The 144,000 are not “the church.” Remember that the Rapture has already happened and Christians are already in Heaven. The 144,000 will be made up of 12,000 people from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. God still has a plan for Israel. He promised it in the Old Testament and reaffirmed it in the New Testament. It was predicted in the Bible that God would scatter the Jews, but then He would regather them. Since 1948, more and more Jews have been returning home to Jerusalem. Israel’s population is increasing exponentially!  It’s another “sign” that the End of the World is approaching.   
These 144,000 people will be Jewish Christian Evangelists that will come to Jesus Christ DURING the Tribulation. They’ll come to believe in the sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. You may be wondering, how will this group come to know Jesus if all the Christians have been raptured? I have a couple of theories on this that I believe may be pretty accurate …

1. There will be a lot of Bibles left behind! 
2. There’s going to be a lot of videos, sermons, Christian books, and Christian music left behind. 
3. Here’s the BIG one! There’s going to be a lot of unsaved pastors and church members that will be left behind who hadn’t fully given their lives to Christ. And God is going to say. “I never knew you.”

UH-OH!

Imagine Pastors who have been preaching all this time and finally realize they’ve been living a lukewarm non-existent Christian life. Yet, many of their colleagues,  friends, congregation, and family were raptured in a blink of an eye. Because of THAT realization, they will then truly believe in the sacrifice, death, burial, AND resurrection of Jesus Christ and they will be on fire for Him! 

Back to our mysterious group …

The 144,000 will be like 144,000 Apostle Paul’s. CAN YOU IMAGINE? It’s hard to fathom how terrible the Tribulation will be but these guys will be persistent and powerful preachers of the Gospel. The amount of saved lives due to this group will be too many to count! Revelation 7: 9 tells us,

“… there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”

These 144,000 sealed servants will fullfill Matthew 24:14. 

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Their main goal is “… to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:10. 

COVID is not the end of the world, but it is a sign of the end of the world. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 
2 Peter 3:9

Why does The 144,000 matter to us today? 
This group, is you now! As a follower of Christ Jesus, you have the same characteristics as this group. Christians are to tell their Oikos (relational network) about the Good News. Once you’re found, you are to find others! That’s why one of our core values is “Found People Find People!”

In the coming weeks we will be talking about the Millennium, Eternity, The Judgments, Hell, and Heaven. For more on this series, teaching and clarity on the book of Revelation, join me in our Time Out series in San Diego at Skyline Church or join our digital church community by watching the series online.

Pastor, OPEN YOUR CHURCH

I want to say with a loving heart … there are a lot of pastors right now that are not opening their churches due to COVID. I want to encourage you to open your church! Almost eight months is long enough to be closed. It’s the responsibility of shepherds to take care of the flock. In California, statistically, experts are predicting 65% of California businesses will not reopen due to the Covid restrictions. These lockdowns have crushed businesses. Listen, it may very well be the same with the Church. Many churches will NOT be able to reopen. And, the longer they stay closed, the more likely their people will not return or are going elsewhere. I hate to hear when churches close. I love the local church. It is why I pastor. I have seen more life change in the local church than anywhere in the world. 

At Skyline Church, on both our local campuses in San Diego, we are seeing many people from other churches come to Skyline because their church has been closed or their church is only doing outside services (it’s been 100 degrees or more in East County San Diego over the last few weeks, come on…). We have people driving from three and four hours away just so they can get in church. While our target has never been other people from other churches, we have welcomed them with open arms and we will shepherd them if you won’t. 

Pastors, my suggestion is you stop listening and stop getting your cues from the Government and from Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley has long been seen by many church leaders as the de facto voice of the Contemporary Christian Church in America. His Catalyst leadership conferences have encouraged thousands of pastors including myself over the years. Northpoint Church in Alpharetta Georgia (Pre-Covid) was running somewhere north of 20,000 people, maybe even 30,000. 

However, his approach to Covid is off the mark. He stated early on that his church would not open until, at earliest, sometime in 2021. His church has been closed for almost 8 months. And, he stated that “an hour on Sunday shouldn’t make a difference in your Christian walk.”  His comments cut to the heart of the biblical mandate to gather together (Hebrews 10:25). Not just for gathering sake, but for encouragement, fellowship, teaching, growth, mutual edification, the list goes on. 

An hour on Sunday has made ALL the difference in my Christian walk over the years and millions of other people can testify to the same. For so many people they equate the House of God with their relationship with God.  It is a foundational piece of their faith experience every week, it makes a difference in their lives, it energizes them for the week, bottom line, IT MATTERS! It may not matter to Pastor Andy Stanley, but it matters to millions of Christians all over the world.

This is the same pastor that said in one of his messages you can “Throw away the Old Testament“… His comments and his actions reveal a path he is taking that has nothing to do with accurate biblical exegesis or biblical practice. He has lost his right, his ability, and his responsibility to care for the flock of God. And, way too many pastors are waiting for him to say it’s OK to open their church.  

Now, understand, I love pastors, I understand the struggle of leading a church. I’m not interested in dividing pastors and churches, but I do want to challenge pastors, especially in San Diego to open their churches. We will all be better for it. While I’m glad to keep receiving people from other churches, I am well aware that this is not Kingdom growth. At the end of the day, when we’re in Heaven facing our Lord, we don’t get credit for Skyline growth, but we do get credit for Kingdom growth. If more churches are open there is more opportunity for the Kingdom to grow. It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. 

I have been especially disappointed in the lack of leadership from some of the long time larger churches and pastors in the San Diego area that have national ministries. They are cowering behind the facade of a virus that has a 99.9% survival rate. I suppose since their books are selling and their TV audience is solid, their local church responsibilities are being ignored. Pastor, SHEPHERD YOUR FLOCK! 

Many pastors have said, “Well, we’ve got online church.” And I’m so glad we have our online church community, but if you’ve been watching online for almost eight months now, YOU KNOW it’s just not the same. Nothing compares to gathering in person to worship the Lord! We’ve got to get in church to worship in the house of God.

National researchers are predicting that less than half of congregations will come back when things open up again. Why? A new normal has been created, one of the reasons is because people are out of habit and have begun to believe they don’t need church. This is only exacerbated by Pastors who continue to refuse to open…they are telling their people, “You don’t need church.” Now, half the attendance might work for Andy Stanley and his church of 30,000, he’ll still have 15,000 people to come back to. But, it does not work for the vast majority of churches in America that are less than 100 people.

When we have many thriving churches in the area, everybody wins. A rising tide lifts all boats. Pastors, open your boat. If you’re concerned about the reaction of some people and you need statistics and proof in your pocket, go to my other blogs titled “Face the Facts” and “I’m Done.” Face the Facts was written a couple of months ago and the statistics are even more in favor of opening your church than they were back then. “I’m Done” was written on May 3 and is proving even more accurate with each passing month. 

We can protect the most vulnerable in our churches and open. You don’t have to open without caring for those who have underlying health conditions. You can open and care for those people. It is Both/And not Either/Or. We have a whole re-opening safely protocol list that I’d be glad to give you. If you need anything, please call our offices and we would be glad to walk you through our conversations with the County Health Department, our Do’s and Don’ts, our protocols, and our trainings. Being a pastor has always taken courage, perhaps, in this day and age, the depth of our courage is being tested.

Praying Politics

As Bible believing Christians, we believe in the importance of voting. We knooow politics-everyone-off. But the 2020 elections are quickly approaching, and as a pastor, my goal is to make sure you have the information you need to make the most informed decision you can. As Christians we can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend this is a taboo topic and ignore our responsibilities.

Skyline Church will be providing resources for those who are looking for clarity and biblical understanding of the candidates and issues during this time. To be clear, I am not looking to create division. I recognize that every political party is likely represented in God’s church all over the nation. No matter what party you identify with, we can pray for our leaders and the 2020 election. We may not have unity across our nation on a variety of topics, but surely we can have unity and agreement when it comes to the biblical mandate to pray for our political leaders. 

1 Timothy 2:1-3 says 

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. 2 Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. 3 This is the way our Savior God wants us to live” (Mes).

Notice, it says to pray “especially” for rulers and their governments… Today, I want to encourage you and lead you in some prayers as we prepare our hearts and minds to confidently vote. When Jesus said to pray…even for our enemies…(Matthew 5:44) He didn’t say it would be easy, but, as Christians, it is required. You may be on the opposite end of the issue from a candidate, you may not vote for them, but you can pray for them. Would you say these prayers along with me. 

God,
Thank you for your Word that guides us in how to live. We praise You for this resource as it reminds us in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for our governmental leaders, those in authority, and those who carry the weight of high responsibility. Your Word also gives us peace of mind to know that You are in control. We can be still and know that You are God, You are exalted among the nations and in the earth. We delight ourselves in You and have many things to be grateful for in this trying season. Most importantly, we thank You for Your Son Jesus, who paid (in full) for our sins so that we may be reunited with You.

[Take a few minutes to specifically express things you’re are thankful for.]

God, 
We ask you to have mercy on us, forgive your people, and cleanse us from sinfulness. Help us to forgive each other, and pray for one another.

 [Take a few minutes to ask God to specifically forgive your actions, the actions of others, and political actions you believe violate God’s will for His people.] 

God, 
We pray that You would bless, guide, and protect voters, government leaders, first responders, news/media outlets, and those with strong influence in our nation. 

Bless them with divine wisdom as they navigate the hurdles you know are ahead. 

Give these people discernment to know when to go against the tide, courage to stand for Your principles, and integrity to lead Your people well.
Be their Rock when others rise against them and grant them protection against what they cannot see. 

We pray that You would lead us to vote for the right candidates. You already know the outcome of this election. You are our refuge and fortress and we trust in You. We pray that whoever is elected, that they would, among other things …
Fight for the freedom and rights of Your people. Fight for the unborn. Fight for religious freedom. And unselfishly fight for our City, State, and Nation.
We pray that our faith would grow exponentially during this season. Allow our depth and understanding of Your love towards us to grow each day. 
In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Stayed tuned at SkylineChurch.org for more resources on how we can vote with our faith in mind. 

As a spiritual shepherd, I’m relentlessly dedicated to sharing God’s truth with you. At Skyline Church, I am teaching a series called Time Outthat speaks to the relevance of the book of Revelation. I’m sensitive to those who are checking out church for the first time, however this is a topic that you’re not going to hear in churches very often. When you tie this sermon series into what it going on in 2020, we can see how important the book of Revelation is, especially as we educate ourselves in preparation to vote.

I want to invite you to come to Skyline Church in person at any of our three campuses, or to watch this series online. Share it with friends and family. And stay tuned for more resources in the next few weeks. Stay in God’s Word and stay in prayer. God bless. 

Curious About Signs of The Times?

I’m not going to get dramatic and act as if the sky is falling … but with all that’s going on in the world, many Christians are curious if these are the “signs” the Bible talks about when it describes the End Times.

According to Matthew 24:6-8, the increase in wars, natural disasters, increase in anger toward Christians and plagues/pandemics are only the first of birth pains with more to come, leading up to Christ’s return. There have been many of the aforementioned atrocities over the centuries so what is the difference today? Jesus said that as the end of the world approaches it will be like contractions of pain and discomfort before the baby arrives. The contractions become more frequent as the baby gets closer to birth. There’s a contraction (a war, natural disaster, plague, etc.) then there is a period of calm. When Covid is over, there will be a period of calm. However, it most likely won’t be for very long as we have seen these contractions becoming more and more frequent.

A simple internet search provides many details of the increase in the number of wars, natural disasters and pandemics. Anyone remember the bird flu scare? How about H1N1? I could go on, but you get the picture. All of these “birth pains” are mentioned as increasing as the end of the world nears.

As Christians, we are called to be ready for Christ’s return. We are to be anticipating the day when we will be free from all of the craziness of this world. When Jesus comes back, we don’t know, but what we do know, is when He comes it will be totally unexpected.

Right now, it may “feel” like the world is falling apart and THIS IS IT!! But let’s take a look at what Jesus says … “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat” (a lot of that isn’t happening right now with the world being quarantined and on lock down). It continues to say, “People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes,” (Matthew 24:37-39).

Others of you may be wondering, why does this matter today if the time has not yet come? Well, the parable of the Faithful Servant (Matthew 24:42-51) is a story that teaches us to take care of God’s house, God’s people, and God’s things until Christ’s return. God didn’t speak about the end times to scare us. He talks about them to prepare us. Preparation is key here. In this story, Jesus said He will come like a thief, when it is least expected. Just like a homeowner doesn’t know when a burglar will come, we too must take precautions and be diligent in caring for all that God has entrusted us with until His return. It’s important to understand the end times because we need to take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we’re investing our time. Are you preparing? Are you getting your children ready? Are you getting the generations to come ready? … Are YOU ready?

Whether or not these are “the end times,” these are YOUR end times. Whether you have another 20, 50, 80 years, or whatever it is, we know that 100 out of 100 people die. An end WILL come for all of us. Until that day we should be ready. Some people think the Lord is being slow to return, when actually 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise….He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” God wants people to understand his love, grace, and faithfulness. When the End of the World is here, that incredible patience finally comes to an end. 

You might have 1,000 questions, but perhaps the next question is, why hasn’t He come YET? The answer is, because YOU still have 8-15 people that need to know about God’s love, grace, patience, and purpose for their life. The Bible calls this group of people your Oikos. God has strategically placed these people in your life. They need hope to cope! And God wants you to invest in them in order to bring them the hope they need.

So far in our weekend teaching series on the End Times, we’ve discussed a number of relevant issues concerning both our current state of affairs and what the Bible says about the End Times.

We’ve looked at the fact that Jesus predicted these Birth Pains we are currently experiencing. We’ve looked at the Signs of the EndThe RaptureThe Tribulation, and the Antichrist. This type of teaching is known as biblical prophecy. Prophecy deals with what is going to happen in the future. Sometimes people think the Bible only deals in the past. The fact is that 27% of the entire biblical content is PROPHECY!

We’re going to discuss many more common questions about the End Times at church this weekend as we continue our journey through the book of Revelation and other Prophetic books.  Join us online, or (if you live in San Diego or Kansas) in person, to learn more about what God has to say about this topic. Because as it says in Revelation 1:3,

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Revelation 1:3

Everyone is welcome to participate in this discussion! Chime in via our online chat room or comment below and let us know your thoughts and questions. Remember, the same rule applies for comments that applies at church, “no perfect people allowed!”