Our dog had puppies. Five adorable, food consuming, poop producing puppies. This was not a planned pregnancy (our pooch was not even a year old when she lost her innocence to a rag-tag scoundrel of a dog that lived across the street). No, this is not a post about puppies having puppies (although I highly recommend spaying your pet). Nor is this a PSA for birth control (although I will be writing about a 'barrier' method of sorts). This is a post about what I learned in building a kennel for the dog and pups. I wanted an area large enough for all the pups to run and play (until we found good owners for them) and big enough for momma, a highly active Australian shepherd-miniature collie mix, to exercise while I was away at work. The most cost effective way of doing this was to build a fenced in area that measured approximately 20' x 20'.
Now I must admit, I don't have the foggiest idea about how to build a fence. But it can't be too hard, right? Just sink some posts in the ground and wrap some fencing material around them and 'Voila!' you have a fence. Fortunately for me, one of the deacons in my congregation is a fence-builder by trade, and when he saw my fence posts sticking haphazardly out of the ground he offered his services to help. When he came over I learned some very important principles on building a fence that can be applied to our walk with Christ, and I thought it would be good to share these fence-building principles with my readers.
Principle 1: Start with the Corners
The first thing we did was set the corner-posts of the fence. My deacon friend, Pete, took great care in sinking them to a proper depth, making sure they were level, square and plum. He then set them in cement, and once the cement cured, he tamped the dirt in around the post. Pete explained to me that a fence's strength comes from the corner-posts. They act as the 'foundation' of the fence. They keep the lines true and level. They determine where the other posts will be set and how flush the fence will set against them. If you don't set the corners correctly, the fence will not be as strong or effective.
What are your corner-posts? What are the things you give primary attention to in your life? If your corner-posts aren't strong enough to handle the stresses of your life, then your defenses won't hold up when the storms of life blow. There are many different things people rely on for strength, but most of them aren't sunk deep enough, or not cemented down, or they aren't square with the rest of their lives. Things like wealth, politics, pleasure, patriotism and even family are things we try to build our lives on, and while they offer varying levels of strength and security, they all prove to be too weak and too temporary to be adequate. Wealth can be squandered or lost. A politician's language is usually whatever is expedient at the time. Pleasure is fleeting and always leaves us wanting more. Patriotism, while noble in it's intentions, has yet to find an earthly country that lasts forever. And while we love, honor and protect our family, there is nothing that can wound us more deeply or bring us to our knees quicker than a family member.
There is only one corner-post, or 'cornerstone' that we can trust to be strong enough to withstand and endure everything that life can throw at it. In fact this cornerstone is often rejected by men, but God has made it 'the' cornerstone (see I Pet. 2:7-8) for His kingdom (the Church) and His people (Christians.) Jesus said those who built their lives on it would never fall in the midst of storms (see Matt. 7:24-25). What is this cornerstone? Actually the question should be 'who' is this cornerstone? He is Jesus. Only Jesus is capable of serving all the purposes of a corner-post. He can make sure the rest of our lives are straight and true. He can determine where we sink in the other 'posts' of our lives (things like how we use wealth, politics, pleasure and family). He is strong enough to withstand any and every assault that prevails against us. In short, only Jesus is adequate to serve as the corner-post of our lives.
Principle #2: A Fence's Weakest point is the Gate
As Pete continued to set posts, he took great care in measuring and re-measuring the opening for the gate. He made sure the gate-posts were sunk to the same depth. He took great care in reinforcing them in concrete and keeping them level so the gate would hang properly. Why all the extra-attention to this part of the fence? Because just as the corner-posts are the strength of a fence, the gate is it's weakest point. Because the gate moves it is more prone to be dug under, left open, or coming unlatched. If it is not hung true, it may not close tight enough to latch securely. The gate determines what enters and what leaves. It is vital that the gate be hung securely and fits snugly into place, or else you might as well not have the gate up in the first place.
You might be expecting me to ask what is your weakest area. You might expect me to equate that with your 'gate.' Instead, I want to encourage you as to who should be the 'gate' to your heart. He can keep the predators out and the good things protected. Again, He is Jesus. I take great comfort in Jesus' words when He says, 'I am the sheep-gate' (John 10:7ff.). The weakest point of the Christian's fence is Jesus! Our weakest defense is the God of the universe! It is little wonder that Paul writes in Romans 8, "If God be for us, who can be against us!"
Principle #3: A Fence Depends on Unity for Strength
As Pete finished setting the posts he gave some pointers on how to put up the actual fencing material. He told us how to stretch and anchor it securely to the corners and how all the posts will be strengthened by stapling the fence to each individual post. He encouraged us to run planks along the top and bottom, making the entire fence one, cohesive unit instead of four individual walls, independent of each other.
How united is your worldview with that of Christ? Do you manage your finances according to the principles Jesus outlined in His teachings? Do you interact with your family the way Jesus encourages you to? Have you subjected every area, or fence post, of your life to the teachings, or fencing material, of Jesus? If you haven't then you have some weak points that need to be addressed before they are infiltrated by the enemy.
Principle#4: A Fence Serves Two Purposes
Purpose 1: Keep Things Out
The reason I built the kennel was to keep out other dogs and predators. By keeping those things out I can ensure the safety and health of momma and her puppies. By making sure the fence is strong and secure, I can rest at ease knowing that hungry mongrels aren't stealing food or territorial males aren't mauling pups. If your life's fence is not strong, you will be prone to attacks. Satan will exploit every opening and every weak-point. He will invade every gap and attack every breach. Only a strong fence, with the proper corner posts will withstand such an attack.
Purpose 2: Keep Things In
It doesn't matter how strong your fence is if you let the wrong things inside. I could build the Fort Knox of dog kennels, but if I allow a predator inside the fence, the damage will be the same as if I had never put one up in the first place. Rather, I must take great care of what I place inside my fence in order to protect those things that are dear to me.
What do you let inside your fence? Do you let friends who have a negative influence on your life inside? Do you allow anti-Christian philosophies to take residence inside the fence of your heart? The most dangerous attacks are those that originate within the stronghold. We can claim Jesus as our cornerstone, but if we don't allow Him to guard the gate also, we can be destroyed from the inside-out and our fence will fail us.
I must give thanks to Pete, my fence-building friend. Not only did he build us an outstanding dog kennel, he is a reminder of how God can use any profession to remind us of the truths of scripture, and I know he lives his life according to the principles of the fence. Won't you do the same?