Thursday, September 1, 2016

Reflections on Honduras: Part 2.

One of my favorite aspects of this Honduras campaign was experiencing it with Kim and Abby. I’ve been blessed to participate in a number of foreign and domestic campaigns/missions in my life. The majority of these were done without any of my family or close friends. One would think that doing worthy things like helping to build or paint homes,

handing out Bibles and simple evangelistic work would be satisfying enough to completely occupy your thoughts. However, so many times while away from home I would wish my family were with me. Sometimes those desires were rooted simply in wanting my loved ones to experience good things. I must confess that sometimes I would be feeling isolated and lonely on a mission trip - even if surrounded by my spiritual family. I might not have had much justification for those feelings, they just creep in. So being able to participate in a mission trip far away from home with members of my household was a joy. 

This was Kim’s 3rd time going to Honduras with this group. When Abby expressed interest
in going on her first mission trip, our family talked it over and decided that I could join them and make it a nearly complete family affair (Caleb has been on this trip twice, but was committed to a summer job in Minnesota.) I was looking forward to meeting many of the people who labor in Honduras every year that Kim had told me about, and I was interested in seeing her doing the work with which she was familiar. So many times I’m the one who becomes the “point man” for religious work in our family. This was “Kim’s work”, and seeing her in action did not disappoint!

It was gratifying to meet people who have worked with her, both Americans and Hondurans, and appreciate her talents and skills. Most (but not all) know that Kim is rather good with simple construction and building tasks. Her father can build and fix just about anything, and Kim retains a lot of that experience. Over the years she has surprised more than a few people in helping with wiring and woodwork at the Trujillo Christian School. This year one of her main tasks was assembling and wiring new ceiling fans. It is gratifying to see someone you love and respect...have their work loved and respected!

It was also cool to see Abby experience her first foreign mission effort. The idea of her
participating with her family in an effort to serve the church in Honduras is valuable from a parent’s perspective. She experienced for the first time a totally different culture, climate and language. She once again was judged by her brother’s long shadow, but she was accepted for who she is and seemed to absorb all of the lessons a trip like this provides in her work and worship experiences. I also finally got her to admit (for just an instant) that maybe taking French over Spanish in school wasn’t the right move! 

In the end, experiencing Honduras with most of my family with me was every bit as exciting as I’d hoped. We all have the common experience of at least one year in Honduras. My son says he’s hoping to return with us next year...THAT would be something!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Upon Further Review - More explanation on the Habakkuk "Violence" Sermon and Gun Comments.

This past Sunday I presented part 3 in the series of sermons on Habakkuk titled "Trusting God in an Uncertain World." This sermon centered on Habakkuk 2:12-20, which I labeled as "God Will Judge Violence."

As was stated in the sermon, we know all too well how much violence is in the headlines, politics and concerns of 2016. One of the reasons I chose this short series of sermons are the timely themes of the book of Habakkuk. The main thrust of the sermon (and the passage cited, IMO) is that God will not stand for people advancing their standing or cause by means of callously violent behaviors. The Chaldeans were known for their brutally oppressive policies, and God's promise of judgement against them would seem to be a good illustration that mirrors the preponderance of scriptures warning against violent behaviors.

But the reason for this post, frankly, is that I may have gone off the rails a little on my final point/illustration. You know, the part where I called some gun owners "sissies"! More on that specifically in a minute, but first some preaching theory 101.

Politics and current events are necessary topics on occasion in good preaching, but they have to be handled very carefully. The Bible is full of patriarchs, kings, prophets and evangelists who addressed these issues in their day. On the other hand, many of those same examples made sure to declare God's ways and leading as superior to the secular events that swirled around the nations. Perhaps some pertinent scriptures to remember are Philippians 3:20 (But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ) and 2 Timothy 2:4, (“No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”)

You just have to be careful. There is a fine line between making a spiritual point and simply using the pulpit to give your opinions. You also have to respect people's genuinely held political beliefs, even if you might strenuously object to them. It is why a competent and disciplined minister works as hard as they do on every sermon. Stand up for the truth and state your convictions if it is done to adequately illustrate God's Word...but do so with great care and consideration.

Another point that every preacher and listener has to consider is the time factor. While opinions are varied as to how long any given sermon should be, we can all agree that you have a limited time frame to get your points across. Understanding this is crucial to a good sermon (and frankly an effective speaker overall.) You just do not have time to perfectly explain some points and ideas to an exhaustive degree. Therefore if you decide to make a strong statement about something complex and/or controversial, you'd better state it in such a way as to not leave people wondering what you are thinking. Carelessly saying whatever enters your mind leads to confusion, controversy...and sometimes unemployment! So many factors enter into this point - preparation, humility, clarity and discipline to name a few. Stated in a much more juvenile way, you have to be able to hit the mental "no" button to that inner question that is "Do I have to go there right now?"

So to the point in question: The last 5 minutes or so of last week's sermon was pondering how God's judging of violence could be applied to all of us "regular folk", and not just dictators and the world's governments throughout history. My point was that if we are not careful, we can slip into a mindset of justifying using violence to combat violence. My scripture reference was Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written "It is mine to avenge; I will repay", says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) 

And then I wandered into gun ownership.

The point I wanted to make was something like the following: There is a lunatic fringe in today's America that not only defines their citizenship by their fire arms, but embraces the idea of the quick use of violent force in more situations than most rational people would approve. While there are places and times that one could use their rights as an American citizen to protect their lives and property with a firearm (and I am one of them who has undertaken such measures), we need to make sure that violence is something that is kept as far away from our demeanor as possible.

Unfortunately, what I basically said was this: There are some people who have never been threatened by anything or anyone since the day that they walked out of their final high school P.E. class, who are still the biggest sissies in the world...scared of their own shadows whimpering "I need a gun!"

I do concede that upon reflection, I used a very flimsy illustration that I worded rather poorly. It certainly could be construed to say that Ken believes all gun owners are sissies and that having one is a sin. I do not believe either of those preceding points. I believe in responsible, competent and safe gun ownership - regardless of the forms of said firearm. I also know that there are people whose jobs and neighborhoods thrust them firmly into more dangerous surroundings, and I support fully their right to "keep and bear arms."

For clarity, I do have opinions on gun ownership that may not be shared by the majority of people who support gun rights. For what its worth - I'm not a fan of high capacities in rifles. (My completely arbitrary rule is that a law abiding citizen using a firearm for defense really doesn't have much of a rational need for more than 7 shots per mag.)  I don't see some of the slippery slope arguments concerning some expansions of background checks. I'm also not particularly a fan of "open carry." These beliefs are certainly not iron-clad, but they are where I lean at the moment.

But in a sermon, you don't have time to fine-tune your beliefs on these kinds of topics. Therefore, a wise person chooses their illustrations - and how they word those illustrations - very carefully. Hopefully my clumsy and somewhat arrogant sounding illustration did not override my main point, which was that the tendencies toward violence can be a problem for common people and not just governments, rulers and mobs. All of us are capable of having violence become a problem in our everyday lives and thinking, and we need to guard against this.

So consider this a "mea culpa" on some of my words and attitude in a sermon. I do appreciate all of the compliments I did receive about last Sunday morning's sermon, but I wanted to be transparent about a point I could have made in a better fashion. I'm sure I could do this a lot on this blog, and I'm somewhat surprised its taken me this long to write this type of post!'

And hopefully anyone reading this would know - please don't hesitate to ever ask me for clarification or explanation of something I say in a sermon, class, writing, etc. I'm a big enough boy to handle constructive criticisms, disagreements and scrutiny. I'd only ask you do so at appropriate times and with courtesy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Reflections on Honduras - Part 1

Honduras is hot. Brutally hot. Central America humid-hot. 92 degrees, around 70% relative humidity and an afternoon rain shower - every day. You can nearly set your watch to the weather this time of year.

About midday the first work day, ol’ Ken is wondering what exactly he has himself into. I’m working with a group of 4 “Norte Americanos”, alongside 2 Hondurans building a block and mortar home - a typical house in Honduras. The first step is making mortar, which consists of sand and concrete. Neither are cheap. Sand is homemade, as in we throw countless shovelfuls of rock against a homemade screen that separates the gravel from the sand. Fill 2 wheelbarrows of sand, dump onto the ground and add 1 bag of concrete mix and mix with water. This is your mortar, and now you are ready to stack and level blocks to make the walls of a simple home. Hard and hot work, but satisfying. 

One of the Hondurans I had the privilege to work with was Fernando. Fernando is the minister of the Buenos Aires Barrio Iglesia de Cristo. The house we are building is for a deaf and mute member of his congregation. His English is strong, and we became fast friends. I can practice my Spanish with him comfortably. In due time, we talk about ministry challenges. He admits that he often doesn’t know where to start in his home country to convince people of the truth of God’s word, His church and the Bible. He especially seems flustered at how to talk with denominational people about truth and doctrine. At one point during this conversation, he has to go off to the side to compose himself. 

Hmmmm, church work isn’t all that different from here is it?

The second Honduran is Mario. Both the Hondurans and the campaign group (who know him after the many years they’ve been going to Honduras) call him “skinny Mario.” After seeing him outwork me in every fashion for 3 days, I prefer to think of him as “Super Mario.”
Mario’s English is nowhere near Fernando’s, but he does try and Fernando interprets for him. I was the only one of the mission group that would get on Mario’s homemade scaffolding (made of whatever planks of wood we found and branches from mango trees.) I was learning fast, but it took time to do it how Mario wanted it done. I’m pretty sure I understood him to say to Fernando one time “They all do it wrong, but I like this one.” I’m going to call that a win!

One afternoon myself and Mario were the only ones working on the blocks for a time. He found out that I was a minister and was very interested in trying to ask me theological questions. I will admit some frustration that I couldn’t get as deep as his questions warranted due to the language barrier. I found out later that Mario hasn’t had an easy life. He works hard in construction, but suffers persecution because of the legal problems of an old boss in the past. You don’t want guilt-by-association with shady people in central America. Mario constantly lives life looking over his shoulder. 

While I’m not fluent in Spanish, I’m not lost speaking it either. Mario enjoyed my efforts. Eventually I told him that I have led some songs in Spanish. He said he loves to sing church songs. I asked him what was his favorite song. He thought for a second, and not being able to remember the title in English he began singing. It took me a few seconds to recognize the song, and a few more seconds to let it sink in. So in the hot Honduras sun I joined in song with a man who struggles for everything he gets, not caring if the neighbors and their cow and chickens heard us:
Count your blessings name them one by one!
Count your blessings see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings see what God has done!

This was one of those episodes in life that I will never forget. It was yet another reminder of not only being grateful for what you have - but that sometimes the things you have get in the way of things that are more important! Make no mistake...working on that house was very hard work in what I consider oppressive heat and humidity. It was worth it to work with two brothers in Christ who showed me thankfulness and desire to do God’s work. 

My prayer for Fernando is that his ministry bears fruit, and that he is able to communicate and make the difference for the Lord that he desperately wants to accomplish. My prayer for Mario is that he can find peace and safety in his life, as he serves the Lord - singing all the way. 

Lord willing, I will see them again next year and be able to converse with them more fluently in their language. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leftovers from Refuge Sermon Series (Joshua, Judges and Ruth)

I hope that Soldier Creek members enjoyed walking through these books as much as I enjoyed presenting these sermons. I sometimes wonder if they really are much of an aid to the LTC kids in their activities, but I like to think that maybe something "sticks". Here are some thoughts, facts and FYI material that I chose not to take the time to cover much in the Refuge series.
  • Did you know that an earthquake caused the Jordan River to dry up, allowing the Israelites to cross over? I remember reading on the web the first stories about the area where scholars believe the nation crossed the river in Canaan was prone to earthquakes and temporary shifts in the river. A basic explanation is given in this article. So yes, it is fascinating that in an area where the river historically had temporary natural dams God caused an earthquake that provided a normal, but timely, dry ground crossing of the river!
  •    “So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth.” (Joshua 5:3, ESV)  The name of that city literally means "hill of foreskins". Remember that the number of Israelite men may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Yikes!
  • The request of the tribes of Rueben, Gad and Manasseh to stay on the other side of the Jordan, outside of the promised land is astounding to me (Joshua chapter 22.) To arrive at the Jordan and decide that's where they would prefer to stay, outside of the land God led them to through the wilderness, shows very clearly what was coming in the days of the Judges. Its also an example of  "instant gratification", as the tribes saw that it was good grazing land before they even set foot in the land "flowing with milk and honey." We might even speculate that they weren't convinced they would ever be safe in the land that God said He would help them conquer. They were right, the land was never fully subdued due to the people becoming weary of driving out the inhabitants. However, the trans-Jordanian tribes quickly fell away from God. 
  • I love the details of Gideon. His own family basically renames him "Baal will deal with our idiot son" (more accurately, Jerubbaal in Judges 6:32.) In the dream of the Midianite that Gideon overheard, a "barley roll" would be the worst kind of bread possible - basically a poor man's bread. When they understood the bread to represent Gideon, it tells you a lot of what they assumed of him! That said, the next day Gideon does indeed go on a roll!!!
  • Ever notice how much of a problem pride is in Judges, and the rest of the Bible for that matter? The unspoken weakness of many of the Judges and the Israelites was simple pride/arrogance. Gideon was humble enough to reject being made a king, but arrogant enough to think that having 70 sons through concubines and making a graven image to serve God was somehow not going to be a problem (Judges 8:22-35.) Abimelech and Samson are case studies in self-destruction via prideful sin. Several Judges had to deal with cities and tribes that opposed them because they weren't asked to join in a battle against an oppressor, leading to civil wars within the nation. I wonder how many innocent people in time have lost their lives or possessions due to the arrogance of a leader?
  • Samson disobeys and breaks every single tenant of the Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6.) 
  • The book of Judges presents a condition of Israel as really depressing after Samson. God will still work through a nation and people, but He will allow it to sleep in the bed it makes!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Family Devotional Resources

Several weeks back, I presented a sermon titled "Spiritual Parenting" in which I went over several things I felt we really needed to be doing with our kids as Christian parents. It was a rather hard-hitting sermon based on the examples of how Joshua commanded that the children who crossed over to the promised land be taught all of the law - and how the next generation's failure to know God revealed that Joshua's command went un-heeded.

I prayed and obsessed over that sermon a lot more than usual! I even asked some elders and deacons to pray for that sermon. Any time you go into a lesson suggesting that some people in the audience aren't parenting to their fullest potential, you'd better have some good material and facts to back up your opinion.

Among the most important points were the following statements - "A good spiritual parent opens the Bible with their children in the home on a consistent basis. If we are not engaging and reading God's Word with our children in the home, we are failing and we are not a good spiritual parent."

Also - "A good spiritual parent has open discussion with their children concerning their spiritual hopes, dreams and goals. If we are not discussing spiritual development, teaching and growth - we are failing."

Fortunately, the lesson appeared to be well-received and many of you gave me positive feedback. I did get some requests concerning how exactly to begin to have family Bible study, and what are some good resources. After some research, I am going to present 4 very good study aids that I feel like almost any parent of even an elementary knowledge of the scriptures could use in Bible study with their kids. These books that I will highlight today can be found at Mardel Book stores, and at online book sellers. I chose these 4 as a starting point for Bible study, and they are probably going to be very easy to find for a few years.


This is an excellent addition to anyone's library. It is less devotional guide than it is a Bible resource. Lots of pictures, charts, and background information about the Bible. Widely available, this would be a good starting off point to learn about different concepts of Biblical books, history, archaeology, etc. The Holman Handbook even comes in a variety of sizes, with a handy version that can easily be carried along with your normal paper Bible. 


A true devotional book containing 365 lessons made up of a scripture for the day, devotional thoughts and a suggested prayer for that day's thoughts. Yes, it is steeped heavily in the "Duck Dynasty" show's characters. The devotional thoughts are good, and they are fine Church of Christ folks. Nothing controversial, just good spiritual thoughts. Notice you can get it in pink or green camo. 


The title pretty much sums it up. A Bible study consisting of a passage of scripture and thoughts for each day of the year. Each lesson is written by teens, guy or girl specific. These books I reviewed were leather bound, but can be purchased as hard back as well. Very, very good devotional book to use with your children. For what its worth - I purchased this one to have our devotionals with Abby in mind. 


A devotional book based on the writings, wisdom and thoughts of Max Lucado. These Bible studies are not teen specific, but easy enough to understand and appreciate by just about anyone. Very easy to pick up and jump right into a discussion of spiritual truth. 

I'm certainly not going to say I read every single word of these 4 books. But the time that I did take to examine them make me confident that they are excellent places to start. That's what it takes to engage your family with God's word...a good start. Its similar to the old saying about exercise: What's the best workout to lose weight, get in shape and feel good? The one you will do. You don't absolutely have to have a study aid. You can pick up the Bible, gather your family around and go somewhere good. These are suggestions for busy families who want the easiest way possible to jump start their family devos. 

By all means, find something that works for you. Make it a priority. Have a set time every day (or most days of the week) to have a devotional. They can be as short as 10 minutes, or go as long as the discussion lasts. My prayer is that you and your family will grow in wisdom and knowledge because you took the time to make contemplating God's word outside of the church assembly a priority. 

I'd love to know if you have some Bible study/devotional tools that you use. Let me know in the comments section. For that matter, I'd love any kind of comment to know if anyone is reading my blog!

P.S. - May I make one little plea about purchasing these books? If you do, patronize a book store. Mardels and other stores are invaluable in that you can physically see the book and scan through it. They need your support, and we need to be able to have first-hand impressions of books. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

No, really...I DO still have a blog?

Blogs fall somewhere between the realms of "cool tool" and "vanity wanna-be writers". 

One of the reasons I haven't been able to sustain any kind of momentum on this blog is trying to realistically move from the latter to the former. 

Blogs are kind of a 2000's thing, as in the first decade of the 2000's. I remember when all of the cool kids had a well written blog, or maybe I should say just a blog. Social media took over, and kind of made the blog a rather arduous task if all you were seeking was simply an online forum to speak your mind. Now if you are going to spend precious time and creative energy, you better have something good to write and you better write it well. 

I think I at least now have a direction and theory in order to come back to blogging. 

Most of the content up to this point was largely comprised of religious articles I did for a now-defunct Piedmont newspaper. (I guess that means I can include myself among the many who helped drive a newspaper into the ground.) While my intentions (read:vanity) was to keep writing compelling material, I never really had the focus nor the purpose to do it much until now. 

I'm going to use this space to primarily be a "spillover" for my sermons and classes. My first thought is that I'm going to use this spot to put in leftover thoughts, facts, ideas and reflections from Sunday sermons and Wednesday night Bible classes. Trust me, every single sermon and class has something in my notes or brain that just somehow doesn't make it out of my mouth. This happens due to time constraints, an idea that simply didn't explode into relevance or I was distracted by a kid picking his nose. Sometimes I will mention a resource, web page or something that I recommend during a sermon...this is where I will post links or elaborate on those things.

Another use of this blog is what I mentioned in my last post over...a...year...ago. I will talk about congregational life, happenings and in's-and-out's. Think of it as a running commentary of all things Solider Creek. This might get interesting. I might get a little testy, or perhaps display my slants and opinions for everyone to see. We'll see how risky I get with these posts. That said - it is important to issue the little disclaimer that sometimes gets preachers fired.

All opinions on this blog are mine alone, and not necessarily reflective of the leadership or official positions of the Soldier Creek church of Christ.

Finally, I will reserve the right to also treat this blog as my social-media-on-steroids spot. Expanded thoughts on anything and everything...such as the following quick shots:
  • ANDY'S FROZEN CUSTARD IS COMING TO OKC!!!!  And even more exciting, its first OKC location is being built at NW Expressway and Macarthur. Andy's is a Springfield, Missouri institution. Probably most of you who go to Branson even semi-regularly know about Andy's on the strip. It is one of the best frozen custard places I've ever known. I've loved frozen custard from my childhood of going to Ted Drewes, the St. Louis institution for frozen custard. Andy's is awfully good, with quality custard and more ways to make a concrete/sundae/shake than you can imagine! Particularly exciting to me is how close it is to my favorite bike trails connecting Lakes Hefner and Overholser. (Go HERE for more about frozen custard,) And yes, I'm aware that Freddy's has frozen custard. Mediocre at best - Freddy's makes much better burgers and hotdogs than any of their frozen offerings. 
  • This is the year, THIS IS THE YEAR that I achieve my long sought after goal of a 100 mile ride. Kim and I are working out and in the best shape of our adult lives, and that is going to help me get 'er done. That "Richter Gran Fondo" can be planned to go right by Andy's!
  • This also might be the year, sadly, that the road to the World Series doesn't run through St. Louis. Give up on the STL at your own risk, but my beloved Cardinals might have some holes.
That's all for now. My next post will contain some suggested books for having Bible study/devotionals with your family, as suggested in one of my sermons a few weeks back. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hey, Wait...I Still Have a Blog!

(NOTE: I am going to attempt to put at least one post every week or so concerning week-to-week happenings in the congregation. Think of it as a commentary of sorts about things going on at Soldier Creek. I might clarify some things that are going on concerning projects and happenings, or I might just offer some thoughts on congregational life. Hope you enjoy! I hope to come up with a spiffy title for this hoped-for regular entry.)

The renovation project has been an odyssey, to put it lightly.

I will admit that things like codes and building permits are far away from anything resembling an expertise of mine. I've never been a minister anywhere in my career that involved any kind of construction while I was there. I will confess that this process has made the thought of being somewhere that would want to build a new church building nowhere near as exciting as I would have assumed once upon a time.

So when Tom sent word via text last week that the building permit was finally approved, I replied to him that I could faintly hear the Hallelujah chorus echoing in my office! As most of us know, this has been a prolonged give-and-take with the city of Piedmont to get our remodel approved. It would be fair to say that it has been perplexing at times as to why it took so long. Sometimes Tom and Dave would say these things were predictable, other times they seemed puzzled too. I believe that we as a congregation owe Tom Squires a big debt of gratitude for his work and dedication for years on this project. Dave Osborn also deserves a lot of love for adding his experience and help to Tom. These guys had to endure numerous delays not of their own doing, but have successfully delivered up a feasible and workable upgrade to our facility.

Needless to say, many of us are ready to start swinging hammers and knocking things down to get the project started! Much will be revealed soon concerning preparations, work days and many other changes that none of us can probably even predict at this earliest stage of the remodel. We are going to have to do some creative thinking now, however, concerning how the remodel is going to affect some activities.

  1. We are scheduled to host a youth rally on Sunday, April 19th. I’m frankly not sure we can pull this off if the remodel has begun in earnest by that time.
  2. Friend Day on April 26th might be kind of iffy as well. It might be fun, though, to still have friends come and see a congregation that is putting work and creative thought into its place of worship.
  3. Depending on how long it will actually take to completely finish the auditorium, it might come very close to when we usually have Vacation Bible School. Same thought process as above in having members of the community see our progress, but presents challenges as well.
  4. Last, and certainly not least, the temporary transfer of all worship activities to the fellowship hall.

So get excited, but also be ready to contribute some flexibility and planning concerning activities at the building the next several months..

QUICK HITS:  The Teachers Appreciation fellowship meal was a big hit! Really nice goodie bags for all of our Bible class teachers. Big shout-out to the Wandels, Wolkes and anyone else who was involved (feel free to list anyone I might have missed in a comment to this post)...Sorry again for the confusion this past Sunday night which resulted in evening services being cancelled. With that night being our usual “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” night (which Cathy was not able to plan due to travel), everything kind of got jumbled with our evening worship. Having cancelled so many activities the previous few weeks because of weather didn’t help matters either.