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Let me begin by saying that this is not a statement about any athletic team or school mascot. It is
actually a verse of scripture, Philippians 3:2. As a youngster, probably in middle elementary grades, I
remember marking this in my Bible. I had no clue as to what it was talking about, but I was fascinated
by the fact that the Bible said, “Beware of the dogs.” The truth is these dogs that the Apostle Paul
was referring to were people who would do evil, mess you up, lead you astray and harm you. They could
have been people who were religious leaders or they could have been people who were in or around the
church who did not care about the Lord or His church, but cared about themselves.
Why in the world would Paul call them dogs? Well, you have to understand that in the first century dogs
were far less domesticated and were oftentimes just packs of hounds that would roam the streets finding
scraps and garbage wherever they could. They would harm folks who would try to bother them. They could
be mean and vicious, but without a doubt the Apostle Paul had run into some people like that.
I must confess that through the years I have run into a few of the descendants of the ones that Paul met
and, like dogs tend to be, they were either barking or growling about something. As you may know, there
are hundreds of breeds of dogs. There are different sizes, shapes, length of hair and even dispositions.
In this verse of scripture, Paul says, “Beware of the dogs.” He was sending out a warning to the people
in the church. The word, beware, means literally to take note of and mark them. While I cannot name all
of the dogs that may show up in and around the church or at your home, it might be good just to mention a
few of these dogs.
There is the quiet, crouching and stalking dog. This dog is not always noticed and may
not appear to be
vicious until he suddenly and shockingly almost rips your leg off. But do not be mistaken, this dog is
dangerous, and can do real damage to the congregation. One night I was making a visit, and as I got out
of my car and was walking up toward the porch there was not a sound anywhere around. It appeared that
the people were at home, but I hardly even thought about a dog being there. Crouched beside a post and
almost hidden on the porch was this medium sized dog. As I stepped up on the porch, he did not growl
but he was ferocious. He did not bite me because I jumped straight up, six feet in the air. It was a
new Olympic record. When I came down he still did not get me, but it took me several weeks to get over
the heart attack that he gave me.
I say that facetiously because I did not have a heart attack. But I can promise you this; my heart was
racing umpteen beats beyond its norm. When this kind of dog comes to church, he is not there to be
helpful, supportive or encouraging. He will just quietly, almost in stealth fashion, move about waiting
for an opportunity to bite.
Another dog that I have observed on occasion is the constant barker. This is the dog
that barks about
everything. A cat goes across the yard and he barks. A leaf falls out of the tree, a door squeaks, a
car honks, a siren blows or some people just meander by the house on the sidewalk and he barks and barks.
He is not really a bad dog. And though you may not be aware of it, he has been known to come to church.
He can be young, old, affectionate and even somewhat loyal, but mark it down he is going to bark.
He may bark about the giving being down or about giving too much to some particular ministry or work.
He barks about the choir, the kids making noise in the service, people not being faithful in attendance
or about the kinds of people that have started coming to the church. He will bark because the pastor
has been there too long. At other times, he will bark because the pastor did not stay long enough.
The temperature, the music and the length of the sermon will all set him off. It is probably good
to remember that some dogs go bear hunting and others just bark at the moon.
Another dog that you may encounter is an unusual breed of dog that I call the growling tail
Now get this picture! There are some dogs that will come running up to you with their teeth showing
and growling. At the same time their tail is wagging as though they were welcoming their master home
after he has been away for a while.
It is hard to know if this dog is extremely vicious or wonderfully hospitable. His exposed teeth say
one thing and his wagging tail announces another. Although this is not your normal run of the kennel
dog, you no doubt will run into some of these creatures sometime. The best thing that I can tell you
is just to be thoughtfully cautious. They may not bite you at all. Their tail may be telling the truth
and their face just happened to be squinched up with their teeth showing. On the other hand, you could
end up without a hand and learn later that his tail was disconnected from his angry brain. So approach
One last dog that you may run into is the loving, lazy lap dog. Many people love this kind of dog
because they seem to be good, quiet companions. They do not fuss or frolic, but a pack of thieves
could be coming into the house and at best they may raise their head and look at them. They are not
particularly good in a crisis. They would not announce that there was a problem in or outside of the
house. They spend most of their lives just waiting to eat and drink when you provide it for them.
Occasionally, they will look around. But if dogs are the recipients of any spiritual gifts, theirs is
just sitting down and doing nothing. They may be pretty dogs and may even be expensive dogs, but
they do very little and contribute very little other than occasionally smiling at you.
Now if by chance you run into this dog in your own church, you may encourage them and prod them a
little bit to be more active. But do not expect them to be real responsive to anything or to any
program at any time. Do not be discouraged that their response to whatever is going on in the Kingdom
of God is little more than a yawn or an occasional scratch for a flea.
Of course, there are many other types of dogs that may show up and be a part of the circle of our
lives. Some are very dangerous and others just seem to be passing by. Now before you get your
binoculars out and start surveying your church or somebody else’s church to see what kind of dogs
may show up, it might be more important to take a glance in the mirror and ask, “Well, what kind of
dog am I?” It would not hurt to ask the Lord to help you see clearly your own actions and attitudes.