Monday, August 20, 2012

The Adventures of Beau

Beau ready to play
     Since his arrival nearly three weeks ago, Beau the puppy, has kept our house humming with activity.  Our son was unable to keep the puppy at the house he was renting so until his situation changes he asked us to look after Beau.  Having this cross between a Siberian Husky and Golden Retriever (a Goberian as they call them) has been both entertaining and exasperating all at the same time.  He is seven months old and like a toddler has lots to learn about our household.  Things like:  do not steal the laundry out of the laundry room and chew it; do not teethe on my furniture, couches or hand; do not tear up my carpets or try to dig a hole in them; and please quit barking so early in the morning!!!  At present,  the barking is the biggest issue.  He barks when locked up for the night in the company of our nearly twelve year old basset hound.  This lasts about eight minutes before he is silent for the night.  Then, around five or five thirty in the morning, he starts barking non-stop.  We usually arise at 6:00 and having an extra half hour of sleep is precious to us.  We have even resorted to ear plugs which still let in enough sound to waken us.  In fact, we even tried a nice mesh muzzle which was guaranteed to stop barking at night without hurting the dog...but five minutes after we put him to bed he had it off and chewed up.  So much for that!
     Our basset hound has taken all the changes into stride, however.  He is so laid back that we often think of him as a floor decoration that breathes.  Beau does not understand that an elder statesman like Roscoe has no desire to romp, run, bite and play.  Nevertheless, each evening Beau bites Roscoe's tail to incite him to play.  It only annoys Roscoe who will occasionally respond in mild play but mostly lets Beau know that he will soon be history if he doesn't stop bothering him.  I think for the most part they have reached an acceptance of one another for which I am grateful, and as I watch them, I thought about the simple lessons you can learn even about fellowship in the church.
Roscoe's favorite position
      Beau is like a new Christian who comes into the church with the need for growth, nurture and guidance.  Often a new believer arrives with the zeal of a mighty warrior filled with energy, ideas and excitement.  If channeled under the loving tutelage of the church family, this new saint will become a seasoned soldier of the Lord.  If left to his own devices with no interaction, teaching and training, he can be easy prey for "every wind of doctrine."  A good example of providing an environment for new believers can be found in the book of Acts.
     Peter had preached a mighty sermon on the day of Pentecost and nearly 3,000 became believers on that day.  It was imperative that they receive solid instruction in the faith so that they could grow.  In Acts 2:42 we read:  "And they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and the fellowship to the breaking of bread and the prayers."  How important it is that the new believers be devoted to learning the important doctrines of their new faith.  They spent time together discussing, worshipping and learning.  In addition, they joined in the celebration of the Lord's Supper.  All these elements were crucial to their growth.  Kenneth Hemphill, in his article, "Kingdom-Centered Churches Teach Sound Doctrine" written for "The Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention (Summer 2012) writes the following:  "I will agree that you can draw a crowd without sound doctrine, but it is impossible to grow the church without doctrinal instruction.  Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, two sociologists, looked at denominational growth in America from 1776 to 1990.  They point to the phenomenal growth of religion in America but then conclude:  'Not all denominations share in this immense rise in membership rates, and to the degree that denominations rejected traditional doctrines and ceased to make serious demands on their followers, they ceased to prosper.'  They discovered that when religious commitment was watered down, it actually lost its appeal"
     Most of us know that when we are dealing with a toddler, they need lots of watch care and guidance to keep them safe and on the right path.  We certainly have been doing our best with Beau the puppy.   Therefore, it is even more imperative that as the Body of believers we take the time to help instruct and work with new believers.  It is not the pastor's job alone.  We all must devote ourselves wherever we are in our walk to the sound teaching of the Word.
     Another thing I have noticed by watching the interaction of our two canines is that the younger dog has to learn to respect and accept the older dog's place in our home.  Roscoe, by canine standards, is an old guy who cannot move around with agility like he once did.  But.....he knows the rules of the house.  He has had experience in living and relating to the family that this new pup on the block has not had.  In considering our fellowship within the Body of Christ, we must treat not only the needs of the new Christian, but we must listen to and gain wisdom from older, seasoned Christians respecting their place in the church.  When they give a warning or share a concern, it is important to listen to them.  
     Paul wrote an instruction to the young pastor Timothy in his letter to him:  "Do not rebuke an older man but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity" ( I Timothy 5:1-2).  As a minister, Timothy was to encourage older men and women and treat them with respect.  This applies to all in a congregation of believers.  While the aging may or may not be spiritually mature, their physical maturity and life experience brings a wealth of blessing to a church that integrates young and old together in harmony.  Young people need the older generations in order to draw from them the stories of faith that will sustain them throughout their lives.  In fellowships where the youth do not come in contact with older members, there is often a disconnect and missed opportunities to learn from their elders.
       Watching God's creatures interact can teach us so many things as we study the Word of God.  Indeed, ministering to the needs of both the new believer and the older believer fall within the responsibility of the church fellowship.  We are all to participate in this ministry.  Like the sign on the back of many trucks, we need to ask:  "How's my driving" or in this case "How's our church doing in meeting the needs of fellow members?"  
     Certainly in our home, Roscoe is teaching Beau about obeying his caretakers.  There could be no more opposite type of dogs.  Roscoe the laid back hound and Beau the hyper puppy remind me of Oscar and Felix...."The Odd Couple".  However, I am grateful for Roscoe's calm response to most situations.  It balances Beau's excitability.  Now if we could only stop the early morning wake up call....we would be good here.  We are taking our time and effort to help these two creatures to learn the rules and get along.  The same is true in our churches.  We must all be willing to pitch in and help one another as we walk this earth together.  May we be committed to glorifying the Lord by building up the Body of Christ.  Soli Deo Gloria!

I welcome your thoughts as you consider this subject of church fellowship.  May this bring a blessing to you today!

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