All posts by Kevin Howell

Press Re-set on 2015

So we’re almost a third of the way through 2015, and if you live in the northeast like me, you’re thanking God that it’s finally spring after the longest, coldest winter since Washington hunkered down at Valley Forge.Press Re-set on 2015

While we can celebrate by finally wearing short-sleeves and chilling outside, it’s also time to reflect on how our year is going and if we’re living the theme or goals we proclaimed back in January.

Hopefully you’re on track to reach the goals, but even if your life has gotten off track, there’s still time. That’s right, who says starting over is relegated to the turn of the calendar? Every day is a day that never happened before—ever. Each day is a fresh start, sort of like the new year.

We don’t think of it that way because we get caught up in the routine where one day seems no different than the last. Even the start of a new week feels static.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to let a calendar dictate your progress. You can have a fresh start now. You can set new goals and a new vision starting today.

Maybe the year hasn’t gone as you hoped it would. Maybe you’ve experienced heartbreak, a setback in your health or finances, loss of a loved one, or disappointment. Maybe those goals you set at the beginning of the year appear impossible now.

Sure, the first few months of the year haven’t gotten off to a good start, but today is a new day…and so is tomorrow.

Each new day offers an abundance of possibilities. An abundance of opportunities. It’s all in how you look at it.

Sure, your circumstances may still be the same, but your mind-set and attitude can be completely different. And how you think determines how you feel.

I’ve come to realize our thoughts and decisions can determine our mood. As a friend once told me, “Being in a good mood is a choice.” Circumstances don’t control your thoughts, you do. They can influence them, but you determine how much influence they have.

So today can be different. You can start your year over today. Inject new hope, new life, and new optimism into your life.

Today is nothing like yesterday. It’s completely different. It’s your new year. So pop some Champagne, forget the past few months, and look ahead with hope and happiness. You can press re-set on 2015.

 “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” – Phil. 3:13

 

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Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

As the years go by and I get older in life and in my faith, I grow more in love with Easter.Finding the Good in Your Dark Days

The entire week leading up to it is a good time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. As much as I love the celebration — yet loathe the flamboyant suits and hats in church — of Easter, I cherish Good Friday.

Historically, that was the bad day. That was when Jesus and His followers took the loss. It was a dark day in Jerusalem 33 A.D.

When I watch movies like Passion of the Christ, it’s heartbreaking seeing the crucifixion. Even though I know what will happen Sunday, I still am hurt by my Lord taking the beating on Good Friday.

But regardless of how it looked then, that Friday was good.

The term “Good” in the title denotes pious or holy. Yet the day is good in our common English sense of the word too.

Interestingly, by definition “good” means “approved of” or “having the qualities required of a particular role.” When we think about it that is so fitting for Good Friday. As horrible as that day seemed, it was “approved of” by God. And Jesus had “the qualities required of the particular role” of enduring the cross for our sins to establish the New Covenant.

Another definition of good is “a benefit to someone.” How great of a benefit was Good Friday to us?

So Good Friday is appropriately named.

Beyond that, Good Friday reminds me of what can come from a seemingly horrible situation. In 33 A.D., there was nothing good about that day. It sucked. Peter and all the other disciples who scattered were scared and confused. Mary, Jesus’ mother, and Mary Magdalene were in unimaginable pain and grief. They would have never thought, in the middle of the chaos and horror, that that day could ever be considered good.

But it is.

Regardless of what it looked like to everyone around, God knew that the end result would be good. And in hindsight, we see how good it was. We realize how it was to our benefit.

I can look back at my life and recall some days, moments and seasons that were dark. When I was in the middle of them, I couldn’t possibly see what good could come from it.

But the same God who turned the execution of His Son into the greatest miracle ever, also turned my worst experiences into my greatest areas of growth and maturity.

Can I look back on my trials and call them good? Well, by the aforementioned definitions, yes. Obviously I had the qualities required to endure those times. And now, I can see how they benefited me.

That’s not to say our trials don’t sting. It’s not to say we should welcome them. There is no pleasure or desire in suffering. But there is growth. There is a benefit to them.

So if you are in the middle of a trying, painful and frustrating situation and you see no light, remember that thousands of years ago there was a dark and depressing day in Jerusalem that we now call Good. One day, you’ll be able to say the same about your dark day.

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Live Simply, Love Lavishly

I’ve never had a problem trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” that old saying about comparing yourself with your neighbors’ social status and material possessions. But recently I noticed I’ve been trying to keep up in another neighborhood—Twitter.Live Simply, Love Lavishly

It’s not that I’m trying to reach a benchmark for followers or get a certain amount of retweets on a post. I’ve just gotten too caught up in this trend of having a personal brand.

Personal brand has become a buzz word in recent years and everyone—whether you’re a celebrity, life coach (which everyone seems to be these days), CEO, entrepreneur, or regular employee—is being pushed to develop one.

So I’ve been a bit obsessed with my branding lately, and it’s been to the detriment of more important things in my life.

There’s nothing wrong with developing and promoting your personal brand. It’s a savvy move in today’s society. The internet gives us all a platform, so it makes sense to maximize it.

But where we go wrong I went wrong was when I focused more on my brand than on myself. I was building my reputation while ignoring my character. Prayer took a backseat to crafting my profile. Time with friends was sacrificed for time on LinkedIn.

In addition, I tumbled into the trap of comparing myself with others. How does he have so many followers? How did she get on that podcast? How come he got so many comments on his blog, it sucks?

Word of caution: The moment you start comparing yourself to others is the moment you get off track in life.

I had to slow down and reflect on what mattered most in my life. This quote from Don Miller’s latest book, Scary Close, helped put things in perspective for me:

“Our lives can pass small and unnoticed by the masses and we are no less dignified for having lived quietly…There’s something noble about doing little with your life save offering love to a person who is offering it back.”

How beautiful is that? While I was caught up trying to be heard, seen, and established, I forgot how beautiful and profound a quiet life built on love can be. I was busy branding myself when I just need to be branded with love.

At the end of our lives, we won’t be remembered for our presence on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, or influence on social media. We’ll be remembered for and by the people we loved. Again, there’s nothing wrong with building a personal brand. I’m still working on mine. But it won’t be my obsession any longer. Instead, I’m focused on living simply, but loving lavishly.

 

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How to Stay Encouraged During Life’s Storms

At some point in life, we’ll all get discouraged. Heck, at some point this week we’ll get discouraged.How to Stay Encouraged During Life's Storms

Whether life is going great for you right now or you’re in the worst year of your life, there are moments when you feel down. If you’ve sat through or listened to any number of sermons during your life, you’ve likely heard a minister say you need to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”

That’s a cool saying, I always thought, but what exactly does it mean? And how do I actually encourage myself in the Lord?

The phrase is quite vague, especially out of context, but the light bulb started to come on for me while reading about King David in 1 Samuel 30. David and his army of a few hundred men had just been rejected by the Philistine army (you’ll have to read the background as to why the heck he and his men were trying to join the Philistine army) and were returning to their camp. When they got there, the village had been raided and burned down, and their wives and families had been kidnapped.

Oh snap.

So everyone was devastated, crying, in despair, and angry. Then they turned their anger toward David. They talked about killing him (hey, somebody had to be the scapegoat). Needless to say, this was bad day for David. He was beyond discouraged. But then…

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” I Sam. 30:6

In the middle of his despair. In the middle of the worst day of his life. In the middle of destruction, David encouraged himself. He had no one to encourage him—everyone around wanted him dead—but he found a way to encourage himself.

So how’d he do it? The Bible doesn’t explain how, but theologian John Gill presents a clear explanation in his commentary that we can use to encourage ourselves in times of discouragement.

HE TOOK IT ALL PATIENTLY

Grieving the loss of his own loved ones and being surrounded by a mob of angry soldiers, Gill says David “took it all patiently and exercised his faith in God.” David didn’t freak out. He didn’t react in anger, fear, or desperation. He kept a level head. He was patient. When it seems like hell is breaking loose in our lives, we’re tempted to react in unhealthy ways like speaking negatively, using depressants, venting on Facebook/Twitter, or taking out our frustration on others. The first step to encouraging ourselves in the Lord is to take the hits patiently. This in itself is an act of faith in God (because for most of us, being patient is a miracle).

HE TRUSTED IN THE POWER & PROVIDENCE OF GOD

David trusted in God’s power, knowing the Lord was able to pull him and his men out of their despair, and in God’s providence—His divine guidance and care. We need to remind ourselves that God is greater than our problems and circumstances, and even when we feel alone, His providence is keeping us.

HE REMEMBERED GOD’S PROMISES & HIS FAITHFULNESS

David had been already seen God work in ridiculous ways in his life. He knew God’s promises and experienced His faithfulness to them. In our lives, we’ve seen God’s promises fulfilled—in big and small ways. We encourage ourselves by remembering what God said and knowing He’s faithful in every single promise.

HE RECALLED THE GRACE, MERCY & GOODNESS HE EXPERIENCED

Finally, David recalled the lavish grace, mercy, and goodness of God. Above all else, he remembered that God is good AND He had been good to him. Likewise, we must remember that God has been good to us. Like, ridiculously good. Why, when we need Him most, would He pull back?

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, you see David prayed to God, pursued the scoundrels that burned down their village, killed them all, and rescued everyone’s family—happy ending. I’m sure our stories will be less dramatic. But hopefully, like me, you have a better understanding of what it means to encourage yourself in the Lord.

If we take a lesson from David and we encourage ourselves in the Lord during a dark moment, depression, debt, sickness, or any situation, we’ll not only get through it all, but we’ll come out of it stronger in God, and with a heck of a testimony.

Be encouraged my friends.

 

 

 

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When Life is Hard, We Don’t Need Answers

Life is hard sometimes.

Sometimes it’s trying.When Life is Hard, We Don't Need Answers

Sometimes it’s confusing.

Sometimes it’s depressing.

Sometimes it’s all of the above.

During those times, when life is unstable and uncertain, we search for answers. For many of us, we go to the Bible. Heck, even people who aren’t Christians often turn to the scriptures for answers.

The beautiful thing about the Word is it provides what we need at the right time, not necessarily what we want or expect.

The Bible is not a book of answers.

It’s not a go-to guide for quick solutions to life’s troubles, though we want it to be sometimes. It’s a narrative of God and His people, and from it we learn of His goodness, His grace, His love, and His power. In it we find peace, comfort, and strength.

It’s not full of answers, but it points us to the answer—Him.

When we experience a death of a loved one, we may want answers to why his/her life was taken. But knowing why someone died is not what we need or truly want. We want comfort. We want healing. And God, through His Word and Spirit, provides that.

Several years ago, I was in the midst of the worst year of my life. It was one of the lowest points I’d ever been emotionally. I felt alone, confused, and depressed. I needed something to hold on to and it was Psalm 27:13:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

That scripture gave me hope. It kept me believing that I would see the goodness of the Lord. It didn’t specify what the goodness of the Lord was, nor when it would manifest. David, the writer of the Psalm, didn’t say he saw the goodness of the Lord. He simply said that by believing he would see goodness, he was encouraged. He knew the trouble wouldn’t last forever.

That scripture didn’t give me an answer. It didn’t give me a three-step solution to solve my problem. It simply showed the words and faith of someone who went through something much worse than I did and how, inspired by God, he got through it. It gave me hope.

Hope was exactly what I needed.

God’s Word is indeed powerful. But it doesn’t give quick fixes and simple solutions to our troubles. It doesn’t necessarily change our situation, but it does change us. It takes our focus off our problem and puts it on to God. Because ultimately, we don’t need answers, we just need to trust Him.

What scripture has gotten you through a difficult time? Is there a verse you often turn to in trouble? I’d love to read your comments below.

 

 

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