A Commitment to Obey (Daniel 6: 5 – 28)

It’s easy to rationalize making choices to please ourselves or others, but the wise choice is always God’s will. We’ll all encounter times when we
feel pressured to act outside of God’s will. Perhaps the boss tells us to act dishonestly, or a friend pressures us to join in sinful behavior. Maybe a family member urges us to lie on his or her behalf. Saying no could bring rejection or even the end of a valuable relationship. On the other hand, going along with the situation would break God’s commands and compromise our Christian witness.

Daniel found himself in such a predicament when officials of King Darius set a trap for him…prohibiting him from worshipping his God and only
worshipping King Darius (Dan. 6:7). Daniel courageously “went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem and prayed to his God” (v. 10). As a punishment for disobeying the king, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions. The next morning, King Darius was relieved that Daniel had been protected, and decreed that all his subjects “must fear and reverence” the God of Daniel. (v. 26).

What is our responsibility when we are tempted to compromise our Christian witness? Our responsibility is to trust and obey the Lord. Daniel’s
faithfulness resulted in royal favor and honor to God (v. 26). This lesson might also be a reminder of how the obedience of our Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ led to the cross, God’s glorification and our salvation. When we obey, the consequences may vary, but two things are always the same: Our obedience glorifies and pleases our Heavenly Father.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

A Season of Surrender

This coming Wednesday, February 22nd, Christians around the world (especially Catholics), will begin a sacred period of sacrifice and surrender, called “Lent”. The sacrifices made during Lent are two-fold: (a) reflective of the 40 days of fasting that Jesus did in the wilderness immediately
after His Baptism, and (b) in honor of the price that Christ paid on Calvary.

With the backdrop of the cross, many Christians make a decision to sacrifice something… perhaps meat, or bread or even their favorite treat for 40 days, ending on Resurrection Day. Even though, there is no scripture to justify “Lent”, there is plenty of Word to justify personal sacrifice and surrender to God’s Holy will and way in our lives.

In Romans 12: 1, we are reminded of the type of sacrifice that God requires: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is (by the way) only your reasonable service”. Luke 9: 23 “If anyone would come after me, let him (first) deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” This is the level of surrender that honors God…nothing less!

So, my Brothers and Sisters, if you have an area in your life, that you have not fully surrendered to God as you approach Lent, I beseech you to surrender your all to Him who gave His all for you!


Pastor R. Mario Howell

Celebrating Black History Month | “Our Inherent Worth Is Within”

“But we have this treasure in earthen containers, so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9

When Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9 about “this treasure in earthen vessels” he’s telling the church in Corinth that their value and their strength is found within, not because of their humanity, but because of the presence of the living God in them. So, because God lives and dwells within, any person who is afflicted on every side is not crushed; any person who finds himself perplexed does not despair; any person who finds himself persecuted is not abandoned; and any person who is struck down is never destroyed.

These experiences are common to those of us who are of African descent. But, we can take heart, that we as a people, have not been crushed, nor abandoned nor destroyed, because we have within our earthen vessels a treasure. We have within our earthen vessels a hope. We have within our earthen vessels Black joy…a God-given joy that wells up regardless of circumstance. Within our earthen vessels, we have the very presence of God. We have Black gold. Our vessels are earthen, but the God who dwells inside of us individually and collectively is a treasure that gives us value, joy, strength, and hope.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

Communion: A Powerful Symbol of Remembrance

Read Mark 14: 12-26. What makes a gift good or memorable? It definitely has to be thought through. It more than likely came at a high cost, either financially or in time spent. It has to meet a specific need or desire to have the intended impact. Every time we think about that gift, it brings back the joy we felt and reminds us of the sacrifice the giver made for us.

No gift can out measure the weight, importance, and sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the cross. When we celebrate communion, or the Lord’s Supper, we remember the gift of salvation Jesus gave each one of us.

In Mark 14:24, Jesus explains that this meal was about to mark the start of a new covenant between God and His people. Before Jesus’ death, generations of Jews sacrificed animals at the temple to pay for their sin. Jesus’ sacrifice paid the penalty for sin once and for all, and that’s why we celebrate communion today.

When we take communion, it symbolizes the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. The wine and the bread in communion represent the blood and body of Jesus that was poured out and broken as a sacrifice for our gift of salvation.

Just like some gifts will always remind us of where we were when we received them, communion reminds us of where we were when we met Jesus.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

Lessons The Storms of Life Can Teach Us

We’ve seen some massive rainstorms over the last month with more in the forecast. Rain and wind brought down trees and rendered homes and businesses without power. Houses floated like toys in a river and precious lives were lost.

Regardless of how spiritual we are, none of us want to go through a storm. Not just rain and windstorms, but storms in our finances, storms in our jobs, and storms in our families. If only the days could be all sunshine and clear skies. Those are the kinds of days we pray for. The truth is:…storms are vital for our growth. God uses difficulty not only to reveal Himself, but to shape us to become more like Christ. It’s not just that storms teach. It’s that there are lessons we can only understand in a storm.

Three Lessons the Storms of Life Can Teach Us.
1-Storms can teach us to be grateful and look for God’s goodness even when circumstances are hard. Phil 4: 11-13.
2-Storms can teach us real joy in the midst of our trials, not after they have been resolved. Phil 4: 4.
3-Storms can teach us real peace…peace that transcends all understanding. Phil 4: 7.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

Pray For Your Pastor!

You might think that your pastor should always be full of faith, spiritually strong, invincible, healthy, and secure. After all, he is the one assigned by God to watch over your soul. Although the pastor is called to be holy, he is still a mortal being, tasked with the weight of leadership. He desires and needs the congregation’s prayers, support, encouragement, and respect.

As the pastor of the Antioch Church Family for over 27 years, I can say that I am one of the most blessed spiritual leaders in the Bay Area. I lead a wonderful congregation who follows me as I follow Christ; who prays for me when illness strikes my body; who bands together and cries out to God when I feel weak or discouraged. I am grateful for leaders who step up to the plate and take responsibility when needed. I am also grateful for all of you who remain prayerful and faithful during the medical trial that I am facing. I’m grateful that God is extending His grace to
me in my deepest distress. I’m like the prophet, Hezekiah. After God told him to get his house in order, he turned his face to the wall and prayed…God restored him and added years to his life.

My Prayer: Oh, Father of Mercy and Grace: Strengthen me physically and emotionally when I feel weak. Encourage my heart when I feel disheartened. Renew and strengthen me and help me to rest in You. I trust you for my complete healing. Isaiah 35:3, 1 Thess 5:14, Matt 11:28.

In Jesus Name, Amen


Pastor R. Mario Howell

The Wonderful Counselor

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9: 6

Who do you turn to for counseling, advice and help with life’s decisions and problems? A well-train professional counselor could be an option, and could help you to sort through your issues and often help to resolve them. A good counselor will listen carefully, seek to understand your dilemma, ask good questions, and give good advice.

Why not include a Counselor who already knows everything about you, your history, and your circumstance; someone who is all-wise, all-knowing, all-caring and all-powerful?

Earthly counselors play an important role in our lives, but the Wonderful Counselor, Jesus Christ, is far superior.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

Shine God’s Light In The Midst of Holiday Stress

Life can be stressful at this time of the year. A lot of this stress can come from our families. This past week, families gathered for Thanksgiving, and over the coming weeks, families will be getting together to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. With these celebrations and related preparation, come pressure…be it pressure to deliver the perfect holiday meal, or pressure to get along with difficult relatives.

This year, I encourage you to celebrate differently. Start by being present in the moment, worshiping, loving and praising our Lord for His sacrifice and His unfailing love. And, all the while, share His joy. Because God doesn’t just call us to “manage” stressful situations, but also to shine His light through them. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father
which is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16

Here are some ways to shine God’s light (not your light) during holiday stress:

  1. Recite Scripture. Even in our busiest moments, we can control our thoughts—so why not recite and fill your mind with Word: 1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ….”.
  2. Pray. Let’s breathe this year. Just the simple act of finding a quiet place to inhale and exhale. Then spend a few moments in prayer with Jesus. This can refocus our thoughts and get us back on track.
  3. Bible Journaling. Bible journaling is a faith-focused activity that can bring adults and kids to the table to focus on God’s Word.
  4. Share the Love “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35.) It’s time to show (not say) love, grace and mercy to our families. Let them know they are loved and open your heart to forgive and forget.

All in all, let’s prepare our hearts this holiday season to remain focused on the celebration of our Lord. Let’s ask God to help us shine His light through all the stress that comes with holiday celebrations and to glorify Him in all our ways in the coming weeks and throughout our lives.


Pastor R. Mario Howell

A Season of Gratefulness

Are You Grateful, or Just Thankful? This time of the year causes me to reflect on moments, things, and people for whom I am “thankful”; or shall I say, for whom I am “grateful”. We frequently hear those two terms used interchangeably, but the meanings are quite different. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, thankful means being “conscious or aware of benefits received” and grateful is being “appreciative of benefits received.” It is an emotion that flows from the heart and always results in an action.

When Jesus healed the ten lepers all of them were thankful, but only one of them showed his appreciation with an attitude of gratitude. (Luke 17: 10—19) “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him… Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

I wonder how many of us are truly grateful to God for His many blessings, and how do we act upon what we have received from God with genuine acts of gratitude?

“…rejoice in all of the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.” Deuteronomy 26:11


Pastor R. Mario Howell

The Power of Praise and Worship

Did you know that your praise is a powerful weapon that can open doors, close doors, break chains, and even bring healing and hope!? “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” 2 Corinthians 10:4.

There is a war going on against an unseen enemy. Satan, will stop at nothing to bring you down! He wants you to live defeated. That’s why God has given us weapons: two of which are Praise and Worship. Praise is the offering of thanksgiving, an act of worship through song, exaltation and thanksgiving. Psalm 21: 13 praises God both for who He is and for His great power: “Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might.”

Worship is a spiritual attitude of reverence. It comes from within and must be done“ in spirit and in truth”. “The time has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” John 4:23-24.

Worship is a deeper form of praise. Everyone can praise God, but not everyone can truly worship. When you worship, your whole being is involved: your mind, body, and spirit. You get personal with God as you move from the outer court (of God’s presence) to the Holy of Holies where you physically or spiritual bow in His presence. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise…thankful,…blessing His name.” Psalm 100


Pastor R. Mario Howell