“But I Don’t Feel Bad…”

nortonIt started with just a little abdominal pain. It ended with being flown via helicopter to Louisville.

On Wednesday, Martha (who at the time was 32 weeks “with child”) started complaining to me of some “cramp-like” pains that she was experiencing. She had felt cramps along the way during the pregnancy, but these just felt different from all of the others.

After a long discussion, and some second guessing (on her part), we finally loaded up into the Jeep and headed to the hospital in Mayfield, KY. While the nurses initially treated us as though it was “probably nothing but some normal cramping”, after a few moments of closer examination we could tell that they were becoming more and more concerned.

While Martha wasn’t having true contractions, she was experiencing what they termed “uterine activity” and was a couple centimeters dilated. Since the hospital where we had been receiving our care wasn’t equipped to handle an early baby, it was very quickly decided to refer us to Norton Hospital in Louisville, KY, which has an excellent NICU. They rushed Martha by helicopter to the aforementioned hospital. Let me speak from experience here; There are few feelings stranger than seeing your pregnant wife loaded into the back of a helicopter, and then watching it take off and fly away into the distance.

The good news was that everything was stabilized. The severe cramping subsided, and all seemed well. We arrived at Norton on Wednesday, March 23, and the doctor seemed optimistic that we might even go home by the weekend.

After a few doses of various medicines, I.V. drips, etc., Martha was actually starting to feel pretty good. So good, in fact, that we started to wonder why we were even at the hospital. The baby wasn’t born early; was all of the drama that took place in the previous few days really necessary?

I remember sitting at Martha’s bedside, having a conversation which went something to the tune of, “I don’t feel bad; Why are they keeping me? Do I really have to stay?”

But her feelings about the situation didn’t tell the whole story.

After a few days all of the lab results came back. One thing that was concerning was that Martha’s blood was at a higher risk of forming a blood clot. We didn’t know that before. Even more concerning were the results of the fetal fibronectin test. They were positive, which meant that Martha had (and at this writing, still has) an elevated risk of entering pre-term labor sometime in the following couple of weeks. Suddenly our stay of just a few days was turning into a few weeks.

As we were sitting side by side last night, discussing all of these things, it occurred to me how blessed we were to have everything work out they way that it has. Martha could have ignored that dull pain instead of “wimping out” and going to the hospital. We had no clue what the risk really was. Worst case scenario: We could have lost our child.

The spiritual parallel ought to be obvious.

The vast majority of people (cf. Matthew 7:13) walking around today are ignorant of the grave condition that their soul is in. Everything feels fine. If you asked them whether they are “saved,” the response would most always be “of course!” But feelings and intuition are dangerous things when it comes to salvation.

These people have terminally ill (i.e. condemned) souls, all because they don’t think that the nagging actions of their conscience are a “big deal.” They hear the truth, but sin (Hebrews 3:13) and those who teach error about salvation (Colossians 2:8, 20-23, see 1 John 4:1) fooled them into thinking that everything is really okay.

Will you take just a moment today to do an examination of yourself? Really dig deep into your heart, and lay it out alongside God’s Word. How do they compare? What are the results of the test? What is the reality of your salvation?

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB95)

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

~Daniel Howell



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Why I Love Camp

I had the privilege this past week to be a teacher at the Teen Week of West Kentucky Youth Camp. While it was the first time that I had ever set foot on the campus of WKYC, I’ll have to say that it brings back some old memories.

I grew up going to Bible camp during the summer. I first attended Backwoods Christian Camp near Linville, AL (I still have a t-shirt that says “I survived Backwoods Christian Camp!”). When I turned 13 I had the opportunity to go to Fall Creek Falls Bible Camp. I attended there every year until I graduated from high school. I even got the chance to go back there as a counselor a few years ago.

As I reflect on my camp experiences, I want to share a few reasons why I cherish those memories:

  • I made friends at Bible camp who I still know and love today. Actually, as I look back on it, I think that there are several of us who met at camp who are now preachers! I can’t help but wonder if the fellowship that we had together, and continue to have at various events throughout the brotherhood, had something to do with that.
  • Camp was a time to re-charge. We often talked about it as being a “bubble.” I was always upset when I had to go back out into the world. Despite what a teenager might think, it only takes a few hours in that kind of environment to start forgetting about the problems and temptations you experience where you come from. I always came back home with a passion to keep going until the next year! (Note: That’s why I love PTP as an adult – It’s like camp for grown-ups!).
  • The singing. ‘Nuf said.
  • Time on the waterfront. I can’t count the number of new births I saw there. The walk from the common area to the creek was a long one, but from the one from the creek back to the camp was a lot shorter.

I could probably ramble on for a while about camp, but I mention these few things for this reason: I hope you see the need to encourage your kids to go to a GOOD Bible camp if they aren’t! My memories of those weeks continue to encourage me, even today! Two words really sum it up: Life altering. In a good way.

-Daniel Howell

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Some Images Worthy of Your Examination; They Could Help Save Your Life

I tend to get what my mother used to call “hair-brained ideas.” Maybe this is one of them.
The following is a compilation of images, screenshots actually, from my Bible software. I’m a Logos 4 user on PC, and the search functions are quite powerful. So powerful, in fact, that not only will it search for words that I enter into the search bar, but it will also find words like the once I enter. It’s a very thorough search of the Bible.

Here’s where the first half of my “hair-brained” idea comes in: Since the search is so powerful, surely it can find some phrases for me that I’ve yet to be able to find in the Bible. Why would I want to find these phrases? Well, they are phrases and ideologies which people base their concept of salvation on. Obviously, that makes finding them important.

Now here’s the second half: I think most people will immediately agree that if it isn’t in the Bible,” then we don’t need to be saying it or using it doctrinally, no matter what. That’s not a controversial statement (to most) is it? Of course not. Will you agree, then, and go on this journey with me?


Good! Let’s go!

Let’s start here:

Nope… nothing. How about we change the wording a little, and try this one:

Hmmm… still nothing. Okay, what about this:

Well… looks like none of those words are ever grouped together in any verse, even if we substitute a few. Alright, let’s move on – what about this:

AH! A result! But wait… it’s not about salvation. It’s about an attempt to unify the Kingdom of Israel under David’s reign. That won’t help. What about this version:

Nothing. But then again, some theological designations don’t appear in the Bible that way (i.e., “age of accountability”). Well, what if we try an example text of said prayer:

That doesn’t help. What about a couple more options:

Nope. That phrase isn’t in there. How about this adjustment:

Still nada. Well, what is in this book about salvation?

Ah results! What about this:

Alas, more results! One more try:

Yep. I like results. I’m sure you do too. And I’m also sure that if you agreed with our initial decision to not use doctrinally anything not found in the Bible (and made it to the end of this post) you can only come to one conclusion from this little experiment – it’s baptism (along with repentance and confession) that saves!

If you like results, and especially the ultimate result (i.e., going to Heaven), then you’d better pay attention to this little exercise. No sinner’s prayer, catchy phrase, or even only a penitent heart is enough. Obedience to the teachings of Christ is what God demands (cf. 2 John 9). What will you do now?

I’d love to talk to you more about this. My email is mdanielhowell@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11a, NKJV)



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Review Night

About three months ago, we started using the Engraving Heavenly Truths program for our Bible class curriculum. I’m not sure how much you know about the system, but in short, you journey through the Bible eight times in four years, looking at it from a different perspective each time.
At the end of each quarter, the last Wednesday night is a “review night.” Last night was our first chance to try this out. We assembled all of the kids in the auditorium, grouped them by their class

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What I Believe about Worship (and Why)

Stop and think for a moment about all the things that God has done for you.
I don’t think any of us are starving. None of us are naked. None of us walked to worship services this week (unless it was by choice). We all left and ate a wonderful lunch. Then we might even have taken a nap in the comfort of our home.

Beyond those things, those of us who have obeyed the Gospel had that nap in peace knowing that God has forgiven us of our sins, through Christ’s blood (cf. Revelation 1.5)

While considering God’s salvation, the Psalmist penned these words: Continue reading


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Why It’s Important for EVERYONE to Take Good Bible Notes…

Ever heard someone say something about the Bible that just feels wrong, but you can’t figure out why?

I have this very thing happen to me occasionally. Maybe in a conversation with another person I’ll have something I believe challenged, and maybe even with what appears to be a plausible argument. But deep down in my heart I know what they are saying can’t be right. Still, at the moment all I have to go on is a feeling—which is simply not enough for me.

So while feeling conflicted, I ask myself, “Why do I feel the way I do?”

Well, here’s the neat thing about studying any subject, especially the Bible: The more of it you take in, the more it guides your conscience—your heart. The reason you feel like something is wrong is because maybe there is something you studied several years ago that has become a part of your existence. You may not be able to immediately recall what it is, or verbalize it intelligently, but it’s there, embedded in your mind. That’s how God’s Word helps keep us from sinning (cf. Psalm 119:11). We may not necessarily be able to quote book, chapter, and verse concerning a particular sin, but we “know it’s in there!”

What solves the feeling problem for me? Reviewing my notes. I have pretty extensive notes in the forms of sermons, Bible classes, snippets with insights or quotes, web clippings, Kindle highlights, and other documents that I have collected in my Evernote account (amounting to nearly 6,000 notes at this writing).

When I get that feeling, I’m easily able to go back to my Evernote account and search for words, verses, or tags which might answer my question. Nine times out of ten I find some article I read, sermon I preached, or insight I recorded which explains why I feel the way I do. Were it not for taking good notes, I might wander around with that mysterious “unsettled” feeling, instead of being able to review exactly what I was thinking when I made the decision about what I believe on that certain subject.

My encouragement to you: Take good notes. Create a Bible note binder, or integrate the Bullet Journal into your Bible study. Evernote is an excellent choice for this. Whatever you do, write (or type) your notes! Save clippings of articles. Mark the pages of the books you read with sticky notes. Do something to remember. You may not appreciate it at the time, and it may even seem tedious. But I guarantee that when the day comes that a question rattles you, or your beliefs are shaken a little, you’ll definitely appreciate having those notes to consult.


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Boundaries in Ministry

The following is a manuscript from a chapel talk I gave at Southeast last September. I had meant to share it on the blog, but never did. While it’s geared toward preachers, I think there are points of it that can apply to everyone. 


Chainlink_fence_no_background_FotorMy dad likes to tell the story about how when I was a newborn, they placed me in the bassinet in the nursery at the hospital, and I pushed myself all around the little bed until I rubbed my nose raw. I came home with a scab on the tip of my nose. My mom says that it was strange the day it fell off—she said it was like getting a new child!

My dad jokes that I was busy moving then, and I’ve been going a hundred miles an hour ever since. I guess to a certain degree that is true. I love being busy, and I can always find something productive to do to fill time. I’m never bored.

At the same time that very aspect of my personality has sometimes been a hindrance. It’s easy for me to get too much on my plate, or to get my priorities out of line. It’s not just a matter of inconvenience—keeping priorities out of line can lead to disaster, both professionally, and with family, too.

So in today’s chapel talk, I want to share with you some things that I have learned along the way—some of them by experience, and some of them having been related to me by older, wise preachers—which have helped me avoid burnout, and stay on track.

First, when it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest. One of the best pieces of advice that I think I’ve ever heard concerning a preacher managing his time and energy comes from my dad, and he heard it harped on by the late brother Wendell Winkler while he was getting his degree at Faulkner.

He said, “There are three parts to a day: morning, afternoon, and evening. You need to work for two of them, whichever ones you choose. But you can’t work all three.”

When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest. Don’t dawdle around and waste time. Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). You and I only have a limited amount of time in which to do our work, so when it’s time to work, do it.

At the same time, don’t discount the necessity of rest. God made our bodies to need physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual recharging. Just think of it this way—rest is just a much a part of work as the work itself. Solomon wrote, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet” (Ecc. 5:12). Likewise, a man who isn’t mentally sharp, is emotionally drained, physically tired, or spiritually bankrupt can’t be much of a servant for the kingdom of God. So, when it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest.

Second, learn to be okay with setting boundaries. One of the biggest issues that I’ve personally had is with saying no. I want to do everything than I can for the cause of Christ, but if I’m not careful, I can have so many things going on that I do none of them well. After all, I’m not the whole body—I’m just a part of it (cf. 1 Cor. 12).

I’ve actually gotten a bit better at this, but it’s something with which I still struggle. So here are some things that help me, which might help you:

Learn to be okay with saying “no.” Ministers tend to have a “people pleasing” streak in them. If we aren’t careful, this personality trait can become a serious stumbling block, as it can keep us from getting things done that really do need to be done.

Don’t let others control your time. Jesus didn’t. Look at Mark 1:35-39. After having just had an amazing evening healing sick people from all over Capernaum, Jesus arose early in the morning to go and pray in a solitary place. But people were looking for him. They wanted to see him. When Peter finally finds Jesus, he says to him, “Everyone is looking for you!” What’s implied is that Peter thinks Jesus ought to go and see these people. But notice Jesus’ response: “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” Jesus didn’t let others rule his time, and divert him from the importance of his mission.

This is especially applicable in my case (and brother Jacob’s). Being between the work here at the school, and the work that I do with the church in Sweetwater, no one here truly knows what’s going on in my life, and no one there truly knows what’s happening with my life here, either. The only two persons who know what is actually going on in my life, and the priorities that I have are me and God. I have to keep that perspective, and so do you.

Practically speaking, boundaries doesn’t just mean saying “no,” or not letting others control my time. Sometimes it means letting a phone call go to voicemail. Sometimes it means answering an email later. Sometimes it means putting a project on the back burner. Sometimes it may even mean disappointing, or angering people who don’t understand. But you have to create boundaries. This is vitally important for the third thing I want to mention.

Third, learn to minister to your family and friends first. Ministry can seduce a man into ignoring or sacrificing the people to whom he is closest under the guise of offering his body as a “living sacrifice” (cf. Rom. 12:1). This is never what God had in mind, nor is it God’s way of doing things.

My dad and I have never had a “lovey dovey huggy” relationship. But I love him, and I know he loves me, and I’m one of the most important people in his life. I know this, because for years of baseball games, football practices and games, band practices and competitions, he was never too busy to be there. That spoke volumes to me then, and I treasure that now that I understand it even better from the perspective of a father.

Likewise, he once told me that even if he lost his work in the small congregation where I had the joy of spending my entire childhood, he would have taken another job besides preaching so that we could graduate from the school where we started. That means so much more to me now than it even did then. My sister and I were important.

Ministry doesn’t give you an excuse to be an absentee husband, father and friend—if anything, it ought to give you the motivation to be the best. Remember Paul’s requirements for God’s ideal men (a.k.a. elders)? One of them is that he must be one who rules his own household well, and then Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:5 this parenthetical statement: “for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” Let that sink in.

When it’s time to work, work. When it’s time to rest, rest. Be okay with setting boundaries. Minister to your family and friends first.

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