Category Archives: Vision

I.D. – Believe!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Do You Believe?

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Mark 16:8

The abrupt ending to the gospel of Mark implies a critical question to the reader: “Do you believe?” This singular event—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—is absolutely critical to our faith.  This is precisely how Paul defined “the Good News that saves you” (1 Corinthians 15:2-4).  If we don’t believe it then our preaching and our faith, Paul says, is “useless” (vs. 14).

We Believe!

Sunday’s service is built around this core principle: we believe that Jesus died, was buried and three days later, He rose from the dead! This is why the Shoreline church exists.  This is the reason we come together.  So, we encourage the resurrection-life  to which Jesus has called us to live.  Why?  Because WE BELIEVE!

Two videos are presented between the Lord’s Supper comments and the sermon. Here are links to Igniter Media‘s presentations:


He’s Still Risen

Belief’s Reminders

Three central reminders are important when we come together as the body of Christ: 1) The Lord’s Supper, 2) Baptism and 3) Sunday worship. All three of these markers remind us of the Gospel message: Jesus died, was buried and, after three days, arose from the dead.

We Believe! and We Remember!

I.D. – Our Salvation

April 14, 2019

Galatians 3:26-28

When someone asks for our I.D., they want to know who we are and where we live. Not just any I.D. card will do. When the police officer asks for our I.D. we don’t give him our library card! We give him our driver’s license that is issued by the government of the state in which we live.

Our spiritual I.D. centers around the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Whom we celebrate our salvation. It is the spiritual DNA of the body of Christ and it defines who we are, why we are here, and what we do.

This first of our 5-lesson series will focus upon how a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of Christ’s church. What is the core belief that draws all of us together at the Shoreline Church? 

At the conclusion of the lesson, our shepherd, Dean Wolf, will offer some comments and reflections about the lesson and what it means for our Shoreline Church family. His key text is Romans 8:9-17.

I.D. – Our Salvation


19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law,[a] I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:19-27 (NLT)

Vision is a word that expresses a sense of being goal oriented, intentional or purposeful.  In 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 the apostle Paul’s vision was to introduce people to the good news of Jesus Christ.  His strategy?  Holding on to the truths of the gospel he “became a slave to all people to bring many to Christ” (vs. 19).  He  adapted to the perspectives of those he was trying to reach.  “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (vs. 22).  From the missionary sent to a foreign land to a local church commissioned to reach their community, this principle is critical to success: sharing Jesus with others.


Israel’s history from the time of Solomon until the exiles returned from Babylon provides three important lessons for us today.  I have identified them as 1) an Ecclesiastes church, 2) a Haggai church and 3) an Ezra-Nehemiah church.   Vision plays an important role in each of these ‘churches’ and the next three articles will detail why I chose those three examples.

Vision Links

  1. The Ecclesiastes Church
  2. The Haggai Church
  3. The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

Vision 1: The Ecclesiastes Church

Vision 1: The Ecclesiastes Church

I have always believed that when king Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes he was reflecting on the lessons he had learned over the course of his life as a wise man.  Now, having reached the end of his days we find him bitter, seeing life under the sun as cyclical, not linear.  Hence, his opening words:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
   says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
   Everything is meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)

Having tried every option  in pursuit of happiness (Ecclesiastes 2) Solomon found himself wandering in circles, unable to discern a way out of his morass.  Consequently, his next generation would divide and begin a descent into confusion and turmoil that would ultimately lead to the total demise of the northern tribes of Israel and destruction and exile for the southern tribe of Judah.

Churches can find themselves following the same cyclical pattern.  Believing that they have arrived they lose the pressure to adapt and change to meet the needs of their community.  They become internally focused, keeping house, doing the same things the same ways for the same reasons.  They become cyclical in their thinking and attitudes.  Nothing changes.

In cyclical churches you can sense the hopelessness and helplessness by their insistence on maintaining status quo, keeping things the same.  New initiative ideas are  squashed with comments like “We’ve done that before”; “We can’t do it”; “We can’t afford it”; “People will leave in anger if we do that.”

They have lost a heart for the community and the contrast between them and the people of their neighborhoods becomes more polarized.  “If people want the truth they can come to us” they might say.  Thom S. Reiner calls this type of church a ‘fortress’ church. * They have lost their zeal for the world and their budgets and plans are focused upon keeping things the same.  Quite a contrast to the vision Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9.

Vision Links

  1. The Ecclesiastes Church
  2. The Haggai Church
  3. The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

*Thom S. Reiner, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: And 12 Ways To Keep Yours Alive (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), chapter 4, Digital Edition.

Vision 2: The Haggai Church

Vision 2: The Haggai Church

The northern tribe of Israel had been decimated and taken away, never to return from Assyria.  Then came the time of judgment for the southern kingdom of Judah.  Now Babylon laid siege to the city of Jerusalem until it fell,  totally destroyed.  Its residents were either killed or taken away and the survivors would remain in captivity for 70 years.  All of these events had been foretold by the prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah over the years as the people of Israel continued to descend into greater degrees of rebellion against God.

The book of Ezra begins 70 years after the exile began with the first of three waves returning from Babylon as granted by king Cyrus (Ezra 1).  They began, first of all, by reconstructing the altar so the sacrifices to God could begin once again (Ezra 3:1-6).  Then they began collecting materials and initiating the laying of the foundation for the temple (Ezra 3:7-13).

Of course, once God’s people begin coming together to do great things they know that they will meet opposition and difficulties.  So, Ezra 4 details the opposition research project that Israel’s western neighbors began.  The final result of their complaint against the Jews was “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill” (vs. 24).  No counter-letters of protest (king Cyrus himself had given them permission!), no resistance, no push back.  They just stopped.


God’s vision, given to the prophet Haggai, among others, was straightforward: “Get back to work!” (Ezra 5:1-2; Haggai 1; my paraphrase).  After giving up their vision of rebuilding the temple, God asked them a question:  “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4).

Overwhelmed by opposition and choosing not to fight the builders had simply stopped working on the temple and started fixing up their own houses.  I have often wondered if some of the collected materials dedicated to the temple construction had been taken to make paneling, adding insult to injury.  God makes it clear that this lackadaisical attitude toward the vision of rebuilding the temple is the reason why they had been personally unfruitful.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”


The ‘church’ that Haggai encountered was one where the people had concluded that the temple could not be rebuilt.  Sure, it would have been nice and we can remember when it’s splendor was known all around the world  (Ezra 3:10-14).  But, it will be too hard.  Let’s just go home and take care of our own stuff.  We just got back from exile.  We don’t have the heart to face these challengers.

Conflict has a way of causing us to pause.  Difficulties often require that we take a moment to consider our options.  Sometimes the risks can seem so overwhelming that we just give up.  It is a sentiment that is not so much stated in words; it has more to do with actions.  The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is great for others to do and it would be nice if we could obey Jesus’ command to “Go!” but….we’ve got our own things to take care of, first.

And so, we get cynical and it is easy to write off the task ahead because it’s too hard.  It will upset people.  It works for them over there but it won’t work for us here.  I’ve got better things to do with my time and money.  I’ll just mind my own business.   Sentences begin with “I need….” or “I have so much debt that….” or “I can’t….” or, the most defeatist statement of all, “I won’t….”

In the end, the effects of the Ecclesiastes and the Haggai churches look very similar.


The cure is simple but almost impossible when churches get to this point.  A Haggai has to come along and help people recall their mission and vision so the Lord can do great things in their midst.  For Haggai, the people and the priests became convicted and they chose to “obey the voice of the Lord” (Haggai 1:12).  “The Lord is with you” Haggai declared,

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God…. (Haggai 1:14).

Vision Links

  1. The Ecclesiastes Church
  2. The Haggai Church
  3. The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

Vision 3: The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

Vision 3: The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

Ezra and Nehemiah represent the second and third wave of return from the exile in Babylon.  Each of them came back to Jerusalem with a clear vision for what they had to do.  Many of the exiles with Ezra were the priests and Levites and their mission was to re-establish the priesthood at the temple in Jerusalem.

At the head of the third wave of returning exiles was Nehemiah whose vision was also clear: rebuild the wall.  Each wave encountered conflict and incredible challenges to divert them from their respective missions.  But, they did it!

One of my favorite books about this time in Israel’s history is written by Charles R.  Swindoll and it is entitled Hand Me Another Brick.*  The stress upon repentance and prayer, planning and vision, servanthood and leadership in the life and times of Ezra and Nehemiah is inspirational.

The appeal for vision from this perspective is simple because everyone knows how important it is to have one.  We also know the price to be paid when there is no vision.  The researcher, George Barna, suggested that one definition of vision is foresight with insight based on hindsight.**


God, give us Your vision that we might obey and become visionary in Your service to our neighbors, families and friends and to the furthest reaches of the world!  Make us like the great apostle Paul who became all things to all men so that he might give everyone an opportunity to see Jesus!  Give us the boldness and conviction of Ezra and Nehemiah that You might be lifted up to encourage us to fulfill Your will.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Vision Links

  1. The Ecclesiastes Church
  2. The Haggai Church
  3. The Ezra-Nehemiah Church

*Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick, Rev. Ed., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990).

**George Barna, The Power of Vision, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1992).