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!” 

Growing in Faith

Faith is SO important that Hebrews tells us it’s impossible to please God without it. But be encouraged because faith takes time to develop and God wants us to grow in our faith. 

The Bible is clear that planning and preparing is wise, but there will come a time when you have planned all you can, prepared all you can, and you don’t know what lies ahead. It’s in this moment that a decision has to be made. Moving forward is an act of faith.

Faith doesn’t come automatically. Faith takes time. And God is going to take you through a process. Here are five things that you can expect to encounter before you have your break through. 

  1. God gives you a dream or a goal or an idea and there’s something he wants you to do or accomplish.
  2. You have to decide if you’re going to take Him up on His plan or keep going your own way. 
  3. Once you decide to do it, there’s always a delay before the dream or goal is fulfilled. You’re in a hurry but God’s not. It’s not a no, it’s a not yet. Hang in there!
  4. Then comes the resistance. We tend to question things and give ear to doubts when things get hard or take too long.  
  5. Dead End. Congratulations––you have nowhere to look but up! You hit a dead end, you think it’s over, but this is when God’s power is really displayed.

If God has given you this dream and you’ve already gone through these stages … He’s NOT going to break His promise to you. 2 Corinthians 1:9 tells us, 

“ … we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end. Yet we believe now that we had this experience of coming to the end of our tether that we might learn to trust, not in ourselves, but in God who can raise the dead …” 

2 Corinthians 1:9

Since God can raise the dead, He can raise a dead marriage, a dead career, a dead dream! Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone! There are stories like this all over the Bible and this should anchor your soul in faith.  
So, what’s the best response to a dead end? Expecting God to act. Be confident that at the right time, God will come through and provide a breakthrough. Where God guides, He provides.

Let me give you a personal example when I needed some hope to cope … Not too long ago I made a drive out to Phoenix from San Diego. Some of you may be familiar with that drive. I was in the middle of one of those stretches of endless brown sand and blue sky, with literally nothing in sight for miles when the vente coffee I had earlier was ready for it’s next stop. But the hope I had came from a sign that read, “Rest Stop in 5 Miles.”

I WAS ABLE TO ENDURE the suffering of the moment, because the sign promised me what was ahead.

I want to encourage you, you may be suffering something for the moment, but you can be confident there are good things ahead. Have faith that the Lord will bring you through this time. You can be confident, the future holds something far better than the present. As the “sign” in Hebrews reads, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Church is ESSENTIAL

If you’ve been to any of the Skyline Church campuses, you’ve probably heard me recite our purpose statement, “Helping people find and follow Jesus seven days a week.” That’s because the pastors, staff, volunteers, and members believe that the idea of “faith” is more than a weekly check mark on our to-do lists. We believe that following Jesus isn’t just for Sunday mornings, but a transformation from old to new life that can be built upon daily. It is unequivocally essential. 

At Skyline Church, we emphasize FINDING people because Jesus did. We see it all throughout Scripture but especially in Luke 19:10 where Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save the lost.” Another phrase you may have heard around Skyline is, “NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED.” In other words, everyone is welcome! No one needs to clean up their life, put on a tie, or have it all figured out to walk through our doors. That includes you! It includes that difficult family member, co-worker, driver that cut you off yesterday, and yes, it even includes Raider fans (I really had to pray about that one). 

In Luke 15:7, Jesus says, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Found people find people. Once people are found, it’s imperative to teach them. Not every church reaches and teaches people the same way. It takes a lot of different churches to reach different kinds of people. But here, this is how we do it … SEVEN days a week! We’re relentlessly dedicated to teaching the truth in love, sharing the relevance of scripture, and passionately spreading the Good News of Jesus with others in our community. Every week we want to make sure people have hope to cope. Whether it is through our various worship services, small groups, classes, online devotionals, or providing meals, we’re here for our community. These are just a few of the reasons why Church is Essential. 

Vice vs. Virtue 
When the health mandates shut down churches but left other places open, they delineated that liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos were “essential,” but churches were not. In other words, the things that tend to be vices in our culture were OK, but the thing that teaches virtues was not. The things that could ruin your life should remain open, but the thing that could save your life was mandated closed. It was a clear Vice vs. Virtue statement. The Bible gives a stern warning to those who make these kinds of statements: 

How terrible it will be for people who call good things bad and bad things good, who think darkness is light and light is darkness …” 

Isaiah 5:20 (NCV)

I’ve written previously about the tragic and massive increase in drug and alcohol relapses, overdoses, suicides and abuses caused by the lockdown. These tragedies continue today as our Governor refuses to make the necessary changes in the health orders to allow churches to fully minister to those in need. 

While the mandates have changed slightly, and limited attendance is now “allowed” these mandates are a blatant disregard for the centrality and essentiality of the church in the life of our culture. Many people need church, millions of people across our great country attend church every weekend, and even every day. The connections made to the Word of God and to the family of God, the practical help received and the hope that is given infuses energy to, at a minimum, get through another week. For the vast majority of church goers, it is indeed ESSENTIAL.

Hypocrisy 
These facts are completely lost on Governor Newsom whose self-interest is put before his constituents. Instead of serving those in the state he leads, he is causing great harm to those he has sworn to serve. His hypocrisy continues to be revealed on a seemingly daily basis. After announcing in May that he would be taking a pay cut of 10% and leading the way as all state workers would be taking that cut, he did NOT take a pay cut and received his regular pay while all the state workers took the actual pay cut.[1] When he was called out for not taking the cut, his spokesperson said it was an “oversight.”  

Another “oversight” has to do with the wineries Newsom owns or is a shareholder in. While his wineries remain open, he has mandated that other wineries be closed.[2]At least one quality a leader must have is credibility. Credibility includes integrity which means a leader should be void of hypocrisy. Governor Newsom has lost his credibility.  

Governing officials are called “Public Servants” and they are sworn in to among other things lead the way in sacrificially serving the public good. I think Governor Newsom believes the Public should serve him. The point being, these supposed Public Servants[3] act as though they are above the rest of us. They can continue to live their lives the way they want, free from all restrictions, while the foolish peasants obey and get in line. These mandates are especially frustrating in light of the actual Covid numbers. 

The Reality of Covid Deaths
Newsom has said he is doing what is best for California. We are expected to believe this. Just like we are expected to believe the numbers of Covid cases and just like we are expected believe the number of deaths because of Covid and on and on … When will people realize this is not about safety?

Take a look at the latest CDC charts[4] and you’ll notice that deaths from Covid-19 are actually 6% of the total number of deaths that are being reported as Covid deaths. So, currently we are being told that Covid has caused 174,470 deaths in the United States. Yet, when you dig into the actual numbers on the CDC website you see they have listed that over 94% of those people had approximately 3 other significant health conditions or “co-morbidities.” 

The actual number of deaths caused by Covid is 6% of 174,470 or 10,468. While every death is tragic and we grieve for those families that lost loved ones, this is in NO WAY anywhere near the average number of flu deaths or many other causes of deaths I’ve written about before. According to the CDC, there is NO PANDEMIC. Yet, we’ve shut down our Nation, State, Businesses, Schools, Churches, and Communities and many more people have died from these shutdowns compared to Covid. 

Church is essential, people’s businesses are essential, putting food on the table is essential, schools being open for our kid’s health, well-being and education are essential. Enough is enough, we need to open up fully. Let’s pick up the pieces, hold those responsible for this huge mistake, accountable, and get our lives moving forward.   

Nothing to Fear
You truly have nothing to fear.If you are a fearful person or concerned about the virus and you just don’t believe the actual numbers, by all means wear a mask, you’re welcome at Skyline Church. We won’t judge anyone on the basis of a mask or social distancing or anything else. My job is to shepherd the flock God has given me. That means pointing out darkness and showing the light. Darkness continues to be perpetrated throughout these last six months. Fear mongering continues until people refuse to listen. How many times does theboy have tocry wolf before we ignore that cry? So far, for six months we’ve heard “wolf” folks, there is no wolf. There will continue to be cries of “wolf” from our California Governor and officials, but you can be assured there is no wolf. 

This does not mean there is not some kind of virus called Covid that if it is contrasted by a compromised immune system it could be harmful. If you have a compromised immune system or significant underlying health issues, it is NOT a death sentence, but you should take precautions, not just because of Covid but because of your health in general. The point being, you should do this during flu season too. If your health is compromised, by all means, be cautious. But, that doesn’t mean everyone in the world should wear a mask and social distance from now on and forever.  

Conclusion
What do we do, where do we go from here? I suggest you live your life in freedom and in freedom from fear. Memorize verses like this that speak directly to our current time:

“Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked.” 

Proverbs 3:25

“For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.” 

Psalm 91:3

 “Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you.” 

Psalm 91:6-7

 Put your confidence in the Lord, not in falsified statistics, fear mongering, or in cries of a wolf at the door. Pray that this disaster will be behind us shortly and those who would lead our great state would put the interest of the people ahead of their own. For this is Essential.   

footnotes 

[1]https://nypost.com/2020/08/21/ca-gov-newsom-didnt-take-pay-cut-after-cutting-workers-wages/
[2]http://sjvsun.com/california/sour-grapes-emerge-as-most-calif-wineries-close-while-newsoms-winery-remains-open/
[3]https://www.foxnews.com/us/pelosi-caught-getting-hair-done-at-coronavirus-shuttered-sf-salon
[4]https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm#Comorbidities