Newbridge Blog

Bridges Or Towers

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I live near New York City. New York is known for many things, but among them are its skyscrapers- the Empire State Building and the new One World Trade are perhaps the most iconic, but there are dozens of others. Each year, thousands of people come from all over the world to visit New York City, and a trip up the Empire State Building or down to the World Trade Center site is always on the itinerary.

New York City, being built on a series of islands, is also home to something else: bridges. There are a few famous ones, like the Brooklyn Bridge, that even tourists know, but most of them are obscure. By one count, there are 2,027 bridges in NYC, and each day, they carry thousands of cars, trucks, trains, buses, and countless people. You don’t think much about bridges until the one you need to cross is closed, or backed up with traffic. Then everything comes to a stop. Suddenly, you realize their importance.

People come to visit towers- skyscrapers. But they cross bridges. Towers bring people to a stop- they marvel, take some photos. But then they inevitably leave. Towers are a destination. Bridges help them keep going. They facilitate the journey. Everyone remembers towers. Few people remember bridges. But arguably, in the big picture, bridges are far more important, because you can't cross the divides of life with a tower. Have you ever thought about who built the bridges that you get to cross?

There’s a lesson here. In your life, you’re a builder. You have a limited amount of time and resources, but you will invest those things building something. Some of the things you can build look a lot like towers- your portfolio, your home, your career, even your public persona, your talents, your circle, your ministry or business, or your self-image. Oftentimes, there’s nothing even wrong with this stuff- it’s good, beautiful, noble even. Like a skyscraper, people will come and marvel at it. They’ll take some pictures, take in the view, and give the builder some well-deserved props. But your life, for others, becomes a destination, rather than a thoroughfare, and inevitably, those people will eventually pack up their cameras and move onto the next thing.

If you build bridges with your life to and from other people, they will still come and go. But they’re on their way somewhere greater. They’re not leaving so much as they’re on an even bigger journey.

 I’ve faced this as a leader, pastor, and friend a LOT over the past several years. There are people I’d like to stick around and help me build my tower. They’re gifted, talented, great friends. But the real reason they’re in my life is so I can be a bridge in their life. This means pouring myself out into them, facilitating their journey, knowing that one day, they’ll finish crossing the bridge that is my life and move on. I’ve had to release them to the next stage of their life and cheer about it! It feels like a loss, but it’s really an immeasurable gain!

I recently had a good friend move away to take advantage of a great career opportunity that, ironically, came about because of another connection with an old college friend I was able to make for him. This guy has a great future in front of him! Because of some other paths that crossed and a great “God” story, my friend also met met his wife through me, as she was one of my former students when I taught college. They are writing an amazing new story together, now as a family, in this new place. My name will not appear in that story. But my life was able to be a bridge they could cross. It's my hope they'll do that for someone else, someone I could never even reach. I’m learning that this is the key to writing much bigger, better stories!

No bridge-building person wakes up in the morning and says "I'm going to go be a bridge today." But what they do is lean into all the relationships and connections that come across their paths to see how they can help people take the next step in their journey. They become catalysts. In chemistry, a catalyst is a substance that enables a reaction to take place, even though it’s not part of the reaction itself.

If you’re going to be a bridge builder rather than a tower builder, you will have to make peace with not being the epicenter, because it’s about others’ journey, not you as the destination. You have to embrace that your role, like a catalyst, is to enable something bigger to happen, even though you may not ultimately be part of it. You won’t be able to manage the outcomes in others’ lives, you’ll have to become comfortable with letting go, releasing people and relinquishing control, even allowing others to increase as you decrease.

Are you building bridges in your life, or towers? What are you currently building in your life that is helping people take the next step on their own journey?

(Image by Pedro Lastra)


What If?

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This past week at Newbridge Church, we concluded a 3-part sermon series called Overflow, which dealt with the subject of generosity. I believe it’s inescapable that we’re called to be generous people. We’re called to it because it reflects the abundant heart of God, breaks the chains of materialism and greed that exist in all of us, and helps accomplish the restorative, redemptive mission of Jesus when we invest in things that last. If you’d like to hear more, including some perspectives that maybe you hadn’t considered before, you can check out the series here.

In the final part this past Sunday, we addressed two critical ideas: Generosity shows the world what God is like. And equally important, our level of generosity with others reveals what we believe God is ACTUALLY like. Sometimes the things we claim to believe about God don’t square with the way we actually live our lives.

The truth is, most people in our country have heard the Christian message- the Gospel- in some way. Far fewer have SEEN it in the way that Christians live. And the way we live when it comes to handling our blessings- time, abilities, relationships, stuff, and yes, money- has a tremendous ability to communicate the reality of a God of abundance to a world that very often has a very different view of what God is supposedly like.

God created you and I to enjoy his creation- to enjoy his blessings. There’s nothing wrong with this. The problem shows up when we let our in-built selfish, consuming urges into the driver’s seat of our life. We become consumers rather than stewards. I believe this is a big issue for American Christians, and I know it's a struggle for me. But when we do this, we literally obscure the true reality of God for people who need to see it.

The Apostle Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy, wrote this in 1 Timothy 6:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Newbridge Church is located in one of the wealthiest areas in the wealthiest nation in the world. Even most of us who are “poor” here in the New Jersey suburbs have it pretty good, relatively speaking. We are blessed! The inevitable question becomes "How can I balance my enjoyment of the good things of God with God’s command to be generous?" So you can have “life that is truly life,” building up treasure that lasts?

What if? What if we actually took this seriously and did something about it? I think the key is finding the “both and”- places where we enjoy God’s good gifts, but keep it balanced with generosity that reflects God’s heart. There’s a philosophy from the design world called “value engineering.” The basic idea of it is innovatively finding a way to create the essentials of an experience with the minimum of expenditure, honing in on the what really matters, and freeing resources up for other things.

Let me give you a small example from my life: I love good coffee. The coffee bean is a blessing from God that I truly enjoy! I discovered that I can buy and make my own coffee that is better than the stuff I buy at my local coffeeshop. Instead of buying a latte a day, I make my own. There’s more of it, it’s better, and it’s literally half the cost of buying it at the coffee shop. In one month, that savings is literally enough to feed & educate two children in third-world countries for that month. We do that through World Vision. That’s a treasure that lasts. And I still get my coffee! What if we all figured out how this worked for us?

Maybe you can hang onto that car you were going to replace for one more year, and put the money you were going to put into a car payment into something that lasts, something that restores or brings hope. Most of our “old” cars aren’t falling apart, they’re just not the latest model. It'll probably still get you to work. Just put off that new one for a year longer. That’s like $4,000! Imagine the impact that could have in someone's life. What if?

Or maybe, instead of going out to that expensive restaurant, you could throw a backyard party for your neighbors, or some friends who are just scraping by. Same cost, same amount of time, you’re still full at the end of the night, and you have the chance to build blessing and hope into those relationships. What if?

Instead of taking your school-aged kids out to the movies one Saturday night, go out as a family to serve with New York City Relief. Our church does this every month. It’ll actually cost less, your kids will still talk about it long after the memory of the movie would have faded away, and you get to be part of a story of restoration that’s better than an Academy Award-winning drama. What if?

Let me be clear. This does require sacrifice. You'll have to intentionally quiet those selfish, consuming urges within you at some level. But this is a chance for us to value-engineer our lives: extract the most joy AND the most generosity from every day. This is a chance to get incredibly creative and have richer lives than we ever imagined, coupled with an impact that’s literally world-changing. Ask the question for yourself, in your life. What if?

Posted by Michael Hoddy with

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