MARSHALL – Using humor, Biblical truths and visual demonstrations, Hank Hough and his four-legged champion named Prophet delivered a simple, yet powerful message about obedience to those in attendance at two worship services at Living Word Lutheran Church on Sunday morning in Marshall.
Through the creation of Kingdom Dog Ministries, Hough, a dog trainer and duck hunter from Houston, Texas, is able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through the unique use of Labrador Retrievers. After coming forward, Hough asked the congregation how they knew the black lab next to him was his dog.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” Hough said. “It’s the same way and the only way that Jesus Christ is going to know who you belong to. It’s not walking in here with a cross on. It’s not him carrying a Bible in his mouth. He’s willing to trust and obey my words.”
As a missionary dog, Hough said that Prophet Dog’s job is to go find that which is lost and bring it back to the master. But it’s not just that simple, said Hough, who admits that he didn’t necessary want to hear about Jesus Christ for many years of his life.
“I’m embarrassed to tell you that truth,” he said. “I was so far from your church parking lot that if God hadn’t sent a Prophet to find me, I wouldn’t be here.”
As a result, Hough said he knew he couldn’t just send his dog straight to the lost soul, represented by a stuffed lamb in the corner of the church. He’d have to send him down the aisle, around the corner and through the other aisle of the church.
“He can only do that if he knows the sound of my voice,” Hough said.
Emulating distractions that people face today, Hough challenged everyone to try to confuse Prophet on his mission. He made parallels between the intentional distractions and the technology-driven distractions that kids face today.
“I didn’t say listening to head-phones, the radio or TV were bad, but if that’s what you’re listening to 24 hours a day, you will not know the sound of God’s voice,” Hough said. “You will not know his word. Parents, quit letting them be entertained by high-tech and keep them in God’s word.”
God’s word is important, Hough said, because young kids especially, like Prophet, can get lost out there.
“Guess what’s going to happen to your kids when they go to college, to high schools today? They’re going to get lost,” Hough said. “He’s got to know the sound of my voice.”
Prophet repeatedly obeyed Hough despite the command or attempt to distract him from his task. After rescuing the lost sheep, Hough shared another message by asking Prophet to get one of the black and white bumpers. When the dog neared the object, Hough told him, “No.” When Prophet retreated, Hough uncovered a replica of a rattle snake that was hidden near where the bumper was thrown.
“Kids, the next time you get told, ‘no,’ maybe you’ll understand that it’s because your parents love you, care about you and know something you don’t know,” Hough said.
For teenagers frustrated about being the only person who didn’t get to attend a party or some other event, Hough offered some guidance, referencing how Prophet got off of his leash.
“Was it by being a cry baby or saying he has enough teeth to tear your hand off?” Hough said. “Is that when he got it off? No. He got the leash off the day I could trust him. If you’re tired of your mom and dad telling you ‘No, no no,’ quit pulling on the leash. Maybe they’ll set you free.”
Most parents don’t want to hold their loved ones back, Hough said. “They love you, but if they can’t trust you, they can’t set you free,” he said. “It’s just that simple. Prophet doesn’t know about alligators, rattle snakes, waterfalls, fast-moving Chevys and barb-wired fences yet.”
Hough pointed out that like parents, he could let Prophet learn the hard way, but that obedience was a much better option.
Hough said he began searching for answers when one of his grown sons forced him to see that if he didn’t see God in anything, that he would see him in nothing.
“You cannot pick and choose where God is,” Hough said. ” In an effort, almost to disprove that, I had this little puppy and I’m going ‘where would God be in that little dirt bag?’ I now go around this country using dogs, those dirt magnets, to glorify God.”
One of the things Hough said the dogs taught him was to not pretend to be somebody you’re not. Hough noted that boys will attempt to be a bad boy to fit in, while girls will cut their hair or raise their dress line based on what is in popular magazines.
“Isn’t that amazing?” he said. “You’re God’s greatest creation and you’ll pretend to be something you’re not just to impress another. But don’t go there.”
Another message Hough shared was that children mimic their parents, including their prayer habits. On the flip side, each individual, regardless of who their parents are or what their bank account holds, will be held accountable for oneself. When Prophet went to the championship and walked up to the line, the test was about him, Hough said.
“This test is about you,” Hough said. “You’re going to be judged on who you are.”
Hough encouraged people to keep their eyes on the Lord, despite continued temptations.
“It’s best of build a foundation because temptations come,” he said. “But there’s truth in the word of God. Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from reaching the gates of Heaven.”
Just like Hough would be Prophet’s savior if he were to be caught by the dogcatcher, people will be praying for the same thing on their final day.
“I know that dog’s name, I paid a price for him and I’m the only one who can step up, call his name and set him free,” Hough said. “Otherwise, he’s going to the pit. We’ll probably all be praying the same thing, that God calls our name out as one of his. Only he can set you free.”
Tom Abrahamson thought the KDM message was a good one.
“It was something different,” he said. “It was nice to break up the routine of preaching every week.”
Kate Marshall also enjoyed the experience.
“I liked it, the whole thing,” she said. “I learned that it’s not all about you, that you have to care about other people.”