Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tear Down the Fences and Build Bridges


Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on the older brother's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?"
"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence - - an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."
The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."
The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge -- a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all -- and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.
"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build."

I recently attended a memorial for a woman who passed. That event brought together many people that had not seen each other in years. There were a group in attendance that had experienced a very painful experience involving church hurt, disappointment, and the enemy worked very hard to destroy those relationships. In the end, all had gone their separate ways and never spoke again. Those relationships had been broken in what seemed beyond any repair, or seemingly any desire to mend those broken relationships. Yet, coming together for such a somber event put a lot of things in perspective as to what is truly important in life. Relationships. It was a wonderful moment of reconnecting and hugging people we hadn't seen in a long, long time.

I am reminded of one of our past outreach events we held in a park. It was a powerful day of feeding the homeless, offering valuable handouts such as bibles and clothes, and many other things as an effort to touch the community. We also had altar calls for prayer, healing and reconciliation to impact the city. As an impromptu invitation, we asked if there were any pastors in the gathering that would come up on stage and pray for healing in the body of Christ. Little did we know (not until afterward!) that two of the pastors on stage had been involved in a very painful church split and had not spoken to each other since the event occurred. Yet, facing the crowd, pressed by the Holy Spirit, offense and brokenness yielded to their Father's desire for healing and reconciliation. They hugged one another and allowed God to move on their hearts in a moment neither had seen coming.

God builds bridges, not fences.

It absolutely breaks God's heart when His family is torn apart. Family is important, whether it is natural family or spiritual family. They are a gift from Him. I know it hurts God's heart when He gives a gift and then when things happen, people act as if that gift is no longer important, wanted or needed. The truth is, you just never know how much you really do need one another. You also have no idea of knowing how long you have with people. I've lost people and I'm sure you've lost people, too. Another dear friend just informed me today that she is battling breast cancer. I hate hearing news like that! Now, I'm not one to quit believing for the miraculous, and I always pray for healing, but the point I'm making is that we simply cannot afford to waste precious time being offended with one another. We take far too many things for granted, and many of them are people. One woman at the memorial commented that it was amazing how many people one life had touched, and had brought together through her death. She also made the comment that everyone in the room was of the same DNA. The DNA of Christ is tested through offense, but those that are truly His will want relationships healed.

Friends, I urge you not to take anyone for granted. Don't procrastinate until it takes something tragic to reunite you with long lost loved ones. Don't let things remain unsaid that need to be said. Sometimes time heals old wounds, but sometimes it just makes it that much more difficult to take a step towards reconciliation. The enemy will always want to keep relationships broken and will do all he can to keep them that way. Satan builds fences through o-f-f-e-n-c-e-s. It's time to tear down those fences and build a bridge. It's time to question those things that rise up and want to challenge the healing of relationships. Pride will always be the biggest barrier, because pride looks for ways to either avoid those situations, harbor a grudge or hold judgment over the heads of others. We must all question the things that stand in the way of reconciliation. Christ tears down the walls of offense and encourages love and forgiveness. While pride shows resistance, humility opens the door to forgiveness and restoration. The enemy is great at putting thoughts in people's minds, suggesting that others won't want to hear from you, or attempt to stir up offenses, or any number of things. He is known as the father of lies for a reason! Sometimes time has shown others things they may not have been able to see in the past and the issues that were once there are no longer a reason to stay estranged from one another. Sometimes God gives people the benefit of time so that they can understand things from a different perspective or allow people to have the desire to want relationships restored. Yet, when deep wounds have torn relationships apart, one should never just gloss over the need to reconcile the relationship properly. Even God compels us to acknowledge our guilt before Him so that our conscience can be cleansed of wrongdoing. Unless the breach is mended through genuine forgiveness, the relationship will be prone to continued misunderstanding and brokenness. The strength of any relationship comes by transparency, honesty and a dedication to guard and protect a sense of loyalty to one another. That is what covenant is all about.

Conversations will never happen if people remain afraid to take a step. God wants to heal family and other relationships. Family is a gift from God, and those that are truly from His hand will always feel like family because they know and love their Father. Trust the Lord to do what you cannot do, but I pray that you will find yourself willing to heal what has been broken while you still have the time to do so. Life is precious, and it is short. Don't let the thief continue to rob you of what could be a wonderful blessing to you. You just never know when one of those relationships or someone connected to them is a part of the missing links in God's future plans. We need one another, but the greater issue is that the world will never see Jesus in the body of Christ if we cannot love one another. Amen. Let us be about our Father's business. Build a bridge.

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