Leavell’s Update – October 2020

Dear Friends,

            The Lord has been working greatly.  We have several answers to recent prayers.  We know God is working even when we do not see things happening, but a renewed excitement comes when you see direct answers to prayer.

            First, I went to WY for meetings at Central Baptist Church where Scott Clem is pastor.  The church hosted the Northern Plains Fellowship meetings this fall.  I spoke at the church on Sunday and then for each evening of the meetings.  It was a joy to see old friends and make some new ones.  The next Sunday I went to Upton WY to be at First Baptist Church where Randy Fowler is pastor.

            Secondly, after a few years of work, I finally finished the next Bible study.  I sent it to the publisher this week.  Now we go through the process of getting it published.  It may take about six months.  We will let everyone know when it available.  I’m looking forward to hearing how the Lord uses the material.

            Thirdly, Jeneen has been having trouble with her eyes and back.  She is doing better.  Also, she has been taking her mom to doctor appointments but she has not been able to go into the assisted living to help her due to Covid19.  She really wanted to be able to go in and spend time with her mom.  Well, the Lord answered prayer as she received permission to go in this week.  We are glad that the Lord has worked it out for Jeneen to help her mom.  Please pray for her mom as she has been physically struggling lately.

            Fourthly, I will be traveling to the Kansas City area for meetings starting November 1st at Olivet Baptist Church where Bruce Anderson is pastor.  It will be a busy week as they are the home of Shawnee Mission Christian School.  I am thankful to have the privilege of speaking in some of the chapels for school too.  I will be stopping by some friends on the way to and from Kansas.  I have Sunday, the 8th open for Iowa or Nebraska.

            As you can see, we have much to thank the Lord for answered prayer.  Thank you for your prayer support.  God is working.  Jeneen and I look forward to what the Lord has for us in the coming months.  January looks busy already.  The Lord will guide us into 2021.  As we all hope and pray, may it not turn out like 2020 has so far.

            Thank you all.  May God continue to work greatly in and through all of us for His glory.

Summer Update – 2020

Dear Friends,

We have faith in our God and His promises; faith for salvation and faith for life in Christ.  Faith makes the things hoped for substantial or solidly real, even though there is no visible proof.  Yes, I have been studying and teaching on faith.  Faith is hope based on the promises of God.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

During these times with Covid-19, BLM, Antifa, and all the personal issues we each are facing, faith in the promises of God must be our steadfast hope.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  His provision for daily living is ours.  His grace will always be sufficient.  He is our all in all.

These have been difficult times in the ministry of missionary evangelism just as they have been difficult times for the churches all around the world.  God is still working His plan but it certainly means changes for all of us.  I am glad for technology that has allowed us to continue ministering.  We certainly hope to be traveling to the churches soon.  We are glad for the various types of things God has done through us over the years.  It means even when we are not traveling, we are busy every day.

Ministry –

While we have been in quarantine, we have been busy with ministry.  It has involved studying, writing, counseling, teaching, preaching, working with churches, talking with pastors, and doing whatever God puts in front of us daily.

When we are not busy in other churches, we are busy in our home church.  Several of you have mentioned that you heard me in the livestream and on Zoom.  I am thankful for the opportunities that God gives us.  In June, we were able to minister in First Baptist Church in Notus, ID.  It was good to be with these folks again.  The camps we were to be in this summer were all canceled.  We were able to do the Men’s Backpacking Camp in July.  Our home church has a camp in August that we will be able to attend.

We had 11 men in our backpacking camp in July.  The Lord was really working in the hearts of those present.  We studied the mindset of the mature believer from the book of Philippians.  It is a great study.  We did catch some fish, hike over some ridges, and checked out several lakes.  It was a good time of soul refreshing in God’s creation.

Writing Ministry –

I am still working on the Bible Study.  There is a little more to finish.  It has been encouraging to see that some of the articles I have recently written have been read by many people.  One was viewed in 20 different countries by close to 1500 people.  I want to write more articles in the coming days.

While backpacking, several of the men involved in the computer and software field challenged me to consider doing podcasts and maybe a YouTube channel with teaching and articles.  Some of them even offered to help me get started.  This could be another way of reaching people with the gospel and encouraging believers.  Please pray as we consider adding this avenue of ministry.

What’s Ahead?  –

We look forward to getting back on the road as soon as the Lord allows.  We would love to get back to a normal schedule and ministry in the churches.  As of now, we do not have much scheduled.  If we can, we hope to start traveling in September.  Only the Lord knows.  We have definitely been seeking His direction for the days ahead.  We must continue to live by faith in His promises.  While we are still here on the earth, He has ministry for us.  We want to be faithful in what God has for us.

Thank you all for your continued encouragement and support of the ministry God puts before us.

May God continue to work in our churches for His glory.  May He be glorified as He works in and through each of us.

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Cutting off Ears

Peter was in the garden with Jesus when the chief priest and Pharisees came to take Jesus.  Peter drew his sword, and cut off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest.  He was reacting to the challenge of the moment.  He was defending Jesus against those who would take him prisoner.  He was trying to be a help in the ministry of Jesus.  Peter had good intentions and motives, but he reacted to the situation contrary to the direction Jesus was going.

First, Jesus healed the ear of the servant then gave Peter words of instruction, rebuke, question, remembrance, and challenge.  Jesus told Peter to put away his sword.  Don’t fight.  It was God’s will that Jesus be taken and crucified.  The events of the moment were a part of God’s plan to bring salvation to mankind through Jesus Christ.  Peter’s immediate response to defend Jesus was not according to God’s plan.  There were bigger things happening.

Am I in danger of cutting off ears?  We are so bombarded by the events of today.  Life changes and challenges confront us.  When dealing with them, it is easy to strike out in quick response.  Sometimes we are right in our understanding and assessment.  But sometimes, we are like Peter, quick to respond, not fully understanding the situation, or comprehending the will or plan of God with the result of cutting off an ear here and there.

In our current situations, I wonder if we are missing what God is doing.  What if God’s will is contrary to our American culture?  Do I react to things I don’t like?  Do I strike out when it is just the ear of the servant of those God is using to work His plan?  It challenges my commitment to the will of God, whatever His plan would be.

This has led to a list of “what ifs” and my responses to them.  “What if…”  Maybe you are wrestling with these issues too.  These are simply questions to ponder.  The conclusions are thoughts at this time about the situations.  My thinking can change as we see future events and God reveals more of His plan and workings.  As I talk with other believers, I find many struggling with the same issues.  May God direct us in our actions and reactions to what is happening in the world today.  May we always be godly in our responses.

What if…

                God is preparing the world for the tribulation?

According to a literal interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, the seventieth week of Daniel is a time of judgment and tribulation.  A pretribulation view of the rapture says that the born again people alive at that time will be caught up with the Lord in the air before this judgment is meted upon the earth.  There is hope for the believer in this promise of God.

Because the judgment will be dispensed, the world must be prepared for the seven years of tribulation.  Why would believers be shocked by bad things happening as preparations are made?  Would we not expect changes in thought and values, evil getting worse, and people standing in easily observed defiance of the living God?

Yes, God is preparing the earth for the next phase of His revealed plan.

What if…

                God intends for the American culture to diminish in the coming years?

Many wrestle with whether or not the United States will be a part of God’s plan in the tribulation period.  Some say it is.  Others say it is not; therefore U.S. will be gone by the time of the rapture.  Since the Bible is not clear on the fate of the U.S., we cannot dogmatically confirm either position.  It makes no difference which position a person may take, American culture will decline along with the rest of the world in preparation for the tribulation.

Here is the struggle.  Do we fight against this decline that God is allowing?  Is it an ear we are attempting to cut off or is it standing up for God?  Of course, we do our part as citizens within this country and stand as believers for righteousness.  But is trying to keep the American culture the primary focus of the believer?  I have traveled to several foreign countries, spent time with Christians who live under various forms of government, and observed their manner of life.  I sometimes wonder if believers in the United States have substituted patriotism, American culture, and loyalty to country for true Biblical Christianity.  Do we stand for America more than we stand in the Lord?  Do we equate the two? Just asking the question will make me un-American in some people’s minds.

I love the United States.  I love living here, the freedoms we have, the righteous aspects of our culture, and the structure of our government.  Our founding fathers built this nation on Judeo-Christian values.  As we leave that value system, we see the decline of our culture.  Do we fight against leaving the values or do we stand for personal accountability before a holy God?  What has the primary focus of our hearts and minds?  Is it keeping the American dream alive or being Christ-centered, gospel-centered followers of the Lord?  If we lived in another country, under a different political structure, struggling for our life and livelihood, could we be godly?  I have seen believers living in such conditions and love their devotion, compassion, and service for the Lord, even to the point of laying their life on the line.

Is my life characterized by walking with my God or standing for the American way of life?  Am I willing to let the United States become whatever God would want it to be as the earth is prepared for the tribulation?  These are questions which should cause us deep thought, a fervent seeking of our God and His will.  If the Lord wants you to be involved in politics and issues, praise the Lord.  If you are, as we all should be concerned and active as the Lord directs, remember, we are Christians first, our citizenship is with the Lord, we are His ambassadors, and our primary battle is a spiritual one, not flesh and blood.

Am I willing to let America decline if that is the plan of God?  If America falls, does it mean we have failed as Christians?  Remember why the tribulation has not started yet.  The Bible says in Second Peter, chapter three that the longsuffering of our Lord means salvation, not the preservation of a culture.  What is my primary focus as a believer and ambassador of the Lord?  Praise the Lord, people are still being saved.

What if…

                Mockers and scoffers laugh at and ridicule God and His followers?

Second Peter in chapter three says this is going to happen.  What will be my response?  Why would we be surprised?  Should we seek their acceptance and approval or should we simply stand in truth, speaking it in love?  Are we more concerned about what people think or about what God thinks?  These are hard questions in tough times.

What if…

                Evil people get worse?

Much is written in First and Second Timothy about the last days.  2 Timothy 3:12-14 shows that people are going to get much worse.  Deception will increase.  Believers are to continue in truth, walking with the Lord.  Knowing the plan of God from His word and knowing His promises, we live by faith, looking for His appearing while walking in His will, whatever it may be for each of us.  Don’t be surprised by people getting worse.

What if …

                Terrible times come with perversion and evil manifested in shocking ways?

God has told us this is going to happen.  First and Second Timothy speak of it along with many other passages.  Why would this surprise us?  Do we focus on their actions or do we grieve for their lost souls, seeking opportunity to share the gospel in love?

What if…

                God allows pestilence, famine, catastrophic disasters, and environmental change?

God has told us this will happen.  As He prepares the earth for the coming tribulation, we should expect increasing troubles.  As time gets closer, these things will increase.  In the face of disaster, people can be more concerned about death and are tender to hear the message of God, the good news, the gospel, which speaks of God’s provision for mankind to be saved from eternal destruction and punishment for sin.  It gives us opportunity to share the love of God.

What if…

                God’s revealed wrath against unrighteousness and ungodliness is easily seen?

Romans, chapter one speaks of the wrath of God is revealed against ungodliness and unrighteousness.  Sometimes God’s workings are easily seen.  Other times we wonder how long before His judgment will come?  Death and destruction of ungodly people should break our hearts.  People are dying without hope.  Do we sit back and watch with satisfaction that they are finally getting their just rewards or do we grieve as Jesus did over Jerusalem?  What is my response?

What if…

                Christians do not desire or listen to sound doctrine?

In Second Timothy, Paul warns Timothy that there will come times where Christians will not want sound doctrine.  Why would this surprise us when God has warned us it would happen?  Those who do not study will find themselves lacking and ashamed.  This is why good people who love the Lord follow causes and take stands contrary to the Word of God.  They are lacking in spiritual depth and maturity.  Just by me stating this would offend some.

Sound doctrine is necessary for a sound mind.  The stability God intends for the believer will increase the more we know His promises.  According to First Corinthians chapter two, the spiritual, mature believer will take the truths of God’s Word and make sound judgments based upon them.  To do that, we must know His Word.  Praise the Lord, the Holy Spirit will help us in our understanding as we study.

Being warned of God that people will not endure sound doctrine, we can each make sure we do not become one of those people.  We can be students of the Word, rightly dividing it with the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth.

What if…

                Believers get caught up in the issues of the day and lose sight of God’s purposes and work?

As Peter in the garden, I wonder how many ears I have cut off, thinking that what I was standing for or contending about was so important.  I hope with age, that I have increased in my ability to know which battles are important and which are not.  I certainly do not want to stand against God’s plan or cut off ears while God is doing something else.

It is easy to get caught up in the issue of the day because it is foremost in people’s minds.  We must seek God’s perspective on the issues and act accordingly with the fruit of the Spirit evidenced in our demeanor.  A question I ask myself is; will this matter in 50 years?  It has often been said; we can win a battle but lose the war.  We can get people to conform to right action while losing their hearts.  What is my focus, right action or right hearts?  Who is my focus?  What is the purpose of my life and the work of my day?

As a believer we are to walk in the Spirit, committed to God’s will.  He will lead us correctly as we walk with Him.

What if…

                Spiritual maturity is determined by wearing a mask or not wearing a mask?

I ask this question to show how easy it is for issues of the day to control our thinking and attitudes.  What if we are required to wear a mask, would we or why wouldn’t we?  I remember when I was a motorcycle rider.  A law requiring us to wear helmets was passed in our state.  The reaction was similar to the mask mandate.  Some already wore helmets while others said they never would.  I didn’t even own a helmet at the time but soon bought one.

With masks, I have seen people use the issue as a way to determine people’s spirituality.  How silly can we be?

What if…

                Christians are confronted with performance based mindsets?

Does our performance determine our spirituality or does our spirituality determine our performance?  It should be that walking in the Spirit; we live godly and righteously in this present world with the Holy Spirit leading us into the good work God sets before us.  Godliness does not come from doing the right things.  Godliness comes from walking in the Spirit and God producing righteousness through us.  This goes to our focus.  Do we focus on doing the right thing or on walking with our Lord, giving Him control of everything in our lives?

What if…

                Christians are required to have a personal, intimate, and consistent relationship with Christ?

Here is the practical conclusion of the matter.  We are to walk humbly with our God.  We are to have a personal, intimate, and consistent relationship with the Lord, committed to His will, His plans, and His purposes whatever they would be and however He would lead.  This is why Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12 is so important and is my prayer for you.  I hope and pray that I will never be cutting off any more ears.  Keep looking up for our redemption draws close.  “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

The Mark of the Beast

In my lifetime, I have heard from many sources, read articles and books, and watched movies and videos, about references to the mark of the beast. People try to identify the mark, label it, create doctrine about it, and try to build systems of economy, policy, and conspiracy with the technology of the day. During my lifetime, I can share many theories espoused as truth or defined as a definite probability concerning the identity of the mark. I want to address the issue with some logical thoughts from my years of observation and study.

First, I am not the final authority, God is the authority and He has given us His Word. The things I will say will be open to debate and further study, I am not God. What He says is not open to debate, for He has given us the truth. We study His truth and apply it to our lives, situations, and the world around us. Problems come when we try to make our conclusions equal with His truth or debate them on the same level.

Prophecy is one area where speculation and application has been stated as fact. People take the events at the moment and try to interpret them, creating scenarios with current events, which are nothing more than possibilities. Many have proven to be erroneous with the passing of time. Unfortunately this has created in people skepticism with anything to do with prophecy; some even giving up the study of God’s revealed truth concerning the future.

The mark of the beast is a recent topic with the current events of chipping, Bill Gates, and vaccines possibly embedded with microscopic chips. People are drawing conclusions. Some say they will never allow themselves to be microchipped. The debate literally rages on social media.

Can I say that the world is heading toward the end times described in the Bible? Yes, definitely. God is preparing things for the end times. But let’s not neglect truth. Can we have the mark of the beast without the beast? No, no matter what is done: chip, credit card, social security number, or anything else. Some even try to identify the beast, thus giving legitimacy to their conclusions about the mark. The beast will not be revealed until the earth is in the tribulation period. My question remains. How can we have a mark of the beast without the beast?

This is just one area of concern with the current discussions. Another problem I have is with the fear and conclusions that have been drawn from the world events. God does not give us the spirit of fear. Some people are obsessed with identifying something we cannot identify or will we even see if the pretribulation rapture is correct. So whatever marks, chips, social security number, or whatever new technology comes, it is not and will not be used as the mark of the beast until the tribulation.

Conclusions –
1. The first conclusion is that I don’t need to worry about accidently getting the mark. It will be on purpose with the beast and purpose being identified. People will know.
2. I cannot lose my salvation from a mark, chip or any other thing. Salvation is secure in Christ.
3. The pretribulation rapture position teaches I will not be in the tribulation. So why spend time worrying about the mark?
4. If the rapture is mid-tribulation or prewrath, then the beast will be known. It will not be a guessing game for those taking the mark. They will know exactly what they are doing. Again, can Christians lose their salvation?
5. If you are amillennial in your position of future events, then that part of Revelation is allegory. Therefore the mark is not literal and there is no reason to be concerned about it.

So, there is nothing about the mark of the beast for the believer to be concerned or worry about now. Technology will continue to grow. Can we see things getting ready for end times? Yes. Is a chip embedded in your hand the mark of the beast? No. Not till the tribulation will the mark be given that is of the beast. A Christian who receives a chip now is not going to lose their salvation. It is impossible for that to happen. For me personal, looking into the things happening in our world, the chip thing and others, is sometimes interesting. But I refuse to let my perception of or anyone else’s interpretation of world events become the determining factor for how I live. We must take the Word of God and apply it to the situations of life, a biblical world view. Right doctrine takes away panic, fear, and worry. Wrong doctrine or application of doctrine will create panic, fear, and worry. So…

You and me, God, let’s go!

Study

Trust Your Horse

Many lessons can be learned from working with horses. Growing up in Wyoming with “Horses, Hitches, and Rocky Trails,” and the riding of horses has taught me many things. Some old-time horse people will understand the reference to the book. One lesson impacting my life was to trust your horse.

Riding a horse on the trail through the mountains is a wonderful experience; with the creak of the saddle, the scent and beauty of the forest, the water tumbling over rocks in the creek bed, and the blue sky stretching upward from the ridges and mountain peaks. As you sit on top of a horse many feet above the ground, fear of falling is a concern. Fears of the horse running away with you, bucking you off, or making wrong steps as you go near a cliff must be dealt with in order to enjoy the ride. If you do not trust the horse, a ride through the mountains can be filled with anxiety. You have to learn to trust your horse.

We used to ride at night to get deep within the mountains or we would come out of the mountains late in the evening riding in the dark to the trailhead. Riding at night gave us the opportunity to enjoy daylight deep within the wilderness, far from roads and people. You have to trust your horse if you are riding in the dark. The horse can see at night. It will stay on the trail as you go through the mountains. A good horse does not need you to direct it in order to stay on course. They will follow the trail. Just sit in the saddle, loosely holding the reins. The horse will take you home.

My trust of the horse became so deep that I would tie the reins into a knot over the neck of the horse, letting go of them because there was no need to take control of the horse. I had trust in my horse. I can remember riding under the beautiful night sky so relaxed that I would be half asleep, sometimes even nodding totally asleep. I have heard many stories of cowboys sleeping in the saddle. It is not hard to do when you trust your horse.

God has set a path before each of us. When we trust Him completely and give him the reins or control, He will take us where He wants us. It’s like trusting my horse. If I didn’t trust him, I would try and control each movement. But as I learned to trust my horse, I could simply rest, knowing it would take me down the trail. In the same way, I can give God control of every area of my life with the knowledge that He will keep me on the path, carrying me along the way, enabling me to continue in faith, peace, and grace, and giving me the experience a full life in the journey. We miss out when we don’t trust the Lord enough to give Him control. We need to learn and grow in our trust of Him.

Yes. Learning to trust a horse was very instrumental in teaching me what trusting my God will look like in my life experience. Trust the Lord. He is worthy of our trust. Give Him the reins of your life and enjoy the journey.

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My Dad riding one of our favorite horses.

Frustration!

Frustrated! This one word describes the condition of many people looking at the events of today. Who do we believe? What do we believe? This morning, with a short perusal of Facebook, I saw numerous articles espousing either the pros or the cons of wearing facemasks. I opened my email to an announcement from the public information officer of our community that they have restocked their supply of masks and the masks are now available for distribution. If you wear a mask, you can safely pick up a mask from the city.

Reactions to masks vary. If you wear a mask, you are characterized as someone who is foolish, overreacting, and not trusting the Lord. If you don’t wear a mask, you are characterized as a person who is foolish, callous, and uncaring. Frustrating! This is just the mask issue. Then there is the medical side of all that is happening. Is the virus as bad as some are saying? Is it no worse than the normal flu? Is it going to spike in death rates as we start opening up society? Who knows? Frustrating! We have not even started looking into the conspiracies and slants of statistics, media, and biases. That’s even more frustrating.

A phrase from my growing up years in Wyoming comes to mind. This is not my first rodeo. In other words, it is not the first time I have felt frustration. In dealing with it, my first tendency is to simply get away from it. One humorous, outdoors writer would say that the answer to life’s problems and difficult situations is, “Let’s go fishing.” The trouble with that is; the problems we are facing will still be there when we get back from our fishing trip. We may even have problems when fishing. The fish might be wearing facemasks; at least they must have something covering their mouths, because they are not biting. Frustrating!

Jesus said that He gives us peace. Not peace that would come from the world or situations, but His peace. Paul encouraged Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14 to carry on in what he knew for sure. This is great advice in a time of intense frustration. What do I know for sure? There are so many varied reports on masks, the virus, whether quarantine works or is useless, political ploys or conspiracies, attempts at worldwide control in the guise of protecting people, and whether this is a manufactured or natural virus. I have opinions on each of those subjects, but then again, so do you, and I’m sure we agree on every aspect of them. Not!

What do I know for sure? God is still God. He still loves me and nothing will separate me from His love, even death itself. God is not surprised by what is happening in the world today. He is still working His plan. He has purpose in what He is doing and what He is allowing man to do. I am secure in Him. No one can change that. I know there is much more going on than any one person would ever know. I know God’s Word is still powerful. I know there are still people coming to Christ, accepting Him as their Savior.

So what does God want me to do through this? He wants me to continue to trust Him, follow Him, let Him work in me and through me, and to be faithful. He wants me to focus on truth, His truth. I wonder how many hours are spent researching the virus issues with the varying opinions. If we would spend even half that time studying what we know for sure, our thinking would be much clearer on the frustrating issues around us. Some things, we would even refuse to think about because they are just opinions, ideas, and many, even in the best thinking, are just guesstimates. I am simply going to do the next thing God puts before me to do, while trusting Him to work in and through all that is going on around me. Do I stick my head in the sand? No. I simply acknowledge the difference between those things that I know for sure and the things I do not. I don’t let the things I am unsure of be the controlling factors in my life. I act and react as the Lord leads. God is still God and He is still working His plan. I’m sure! He still loves me. I’m sure!

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These are Exciting Times – Really?

These are exciting times. Routines have changed, jobs have been lost, and families have been forced to stay within their homes with minimal interaction with others. Characterizing these times as exciting will make some wonder if I have lost my mind due to this isolation. No, my faith is increasing.

Looking at the world events, who would have put this scenario together? Maybe a science fiction author would write about it; some have. But we are living in incredible times. Changes are happening rapidly to the world economy, societal structure, political systems, and international thought.

Stepping back from my daily life and looking around, I am excited. We have the privilege of being a part of God’s plan. Just ask the questions. Why now? Why is the world of mankind reacting in such a way to this virus? Why such a shutdown of the world economy and social structures? Why such a call for world leadership to combat the virus? Can we not see that God is working His plan and things are getting closer to the prophecies put forth in His Word? We are watching and experiencing God working His plan.

Just let God work and be faithful with what He puts before you.

Some have said of this virus, “It’s the judgement of God!” I point to Romans 1:18 and ask, “When did God stop revealing His wrath against ungodliness?” Sometimes it is more obvious than other times but we still live in a world filled with evil. God’s condemnation against sin has not changed. We are thankful for His provision of salvation through Jesus Christ. But while we live, we will see death, disease, famine, evil, and corruption in the world. God’s wrath against ungodliness is clearly seen when we look.

So, taking off my mask, I entered the house. After being at the store getting a few necessary items to keep us through the next few weeks, I washed my hands. Even though I had used hand sanitizer after getting into the car before heading home, I still needed to wash to be sure. Then I took a shower after putting all my clothes in the washing machine, ready to be washed. Maybe I overreact. Maybe I don’t. I’m sure everyone has an opinion on that subject. But I must do what the Lord sets in front of me.

My wife has bronchial issues, my mom has severe respiratory problems, my mother in law has excessively damaged lungs, and of course, I don’t want to get Covid-19. My dad said after one of his strokes that during it he could not breathe for a bit. He said it was the worst pain ever and he would rather die than go through it again. My dad dealt with pain all his life and to hear him say that affected me. It is not death we fear but the process of dying. I hate seeing others go through pain.

I’m thankful for God’s salvation that there are better days ahead for the believer. While we are still here, we live in a world where the wrath of God is revealed against sin but not like it will be in the future. For the believer to die is better, going to a better country, having mortality swallowed up with the life that comes from God, corruption putting on incorruption, being with the Lord, experiencing His goodness forever and new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells, no more evil. What a day that will be! If you are not sure how to know you will be there, please contact me. I can share how God provided the way for us to not experience His wrath forever but to have forgiveness of our sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our April 2020 Update

Dear Friends,

One month ago, we were still in AZ, still traveling in ministry. That has changed with the lockdown. We made it home just as restaurants were changing their dining-in policies. Now, Jeneen and I are staying close to home, ministering using the phone, emails, messaging, and doing ministry at our home church. On Resurrection Sunday, I had the privilege of teaching an adult Sunday school class from my study at home. I certainly appreciate the technology we are being forced to learn along with many other pastors and churches are too.

Who would have thought we would experience such a drastic change to our lives in such a short time? I purposely have waited to update because of the rapid changes every day. We are all going through the upheaval of life and routine. We hope and pray you are doing okay. Some say our country is overreacting while others say we are not doing enough. It is different when it hits close to home. My brother tested positive for Covid-19. His family has been sick too but thankfully, they had quarantined themselves. Our niece was pretty sick, developing pneumonia with it. She and their family are doing better now. We have heard of people dying from the virus who are extended friends. The Lord knows and our lives are in His hands. There is no better place to be, but that doesn’t mean we should be foolish with our lives, but can we go too far to protect and when do we cross that line? These are the questions so many are wrestling with these days.

How long will this last? Only the Lord knows. In the meantime, Jeneen and I have been keeping ourselves busy. We completed the process required for us to sign up for Medicare. There is one more phase to go through but as we both turn sixty five this year, we face new chapters in our lives.

MINISTRY –
We were glad to be able to go to AZ Just before the lockdown. While there we were able to stay with Joe and Rebekah. It is always a joy when we can combine ministry with seeing family. I think Grandma needed some grandchildren time, so did Grandad. We enjoy all our family.

We spent the weekends with Calvary Baptist Church in Kingman AZ. They are still searching for a pastor. The events around the world have not helped them but they are hanging in there. Please continue to pray for this wonderful church family. Also while in AZ, I was able to go to a pastor’s fellowship that met at Tri City Baptist. It was good to see many old friends, renew acquaintances and meet some new pastors. We are thankful for the opportunities God gives.

Of course, our schedule has been affected by the quarantine. We missed the men’s retreat at Grand View Camp in AZ, the Northern Plains Fellowship in WY, along with meetings in a couple of churches. We do not know how the summer will work but we do have two different camps on the schedule along with the men’s backpacking camp. Right now, the mountains seem like a good place to be away from the virus. No one should be within fifty feet of me when I am trying to cast my fly, flaying the air with my fly rod. I think they call that, fishing distancing.

WRITING –
We do look to the Lord for how He will put together life and ministry after this world situation is over. I have been able to do more writing. I should have the next Bible study done soon. I have been working on it for a long time. The editors I am using for this project have been very encouraging about the content. It is a study of the practical walk with God and what it looks like in the life of a believer. I will include the first three paragraphs from the introduction at the end of this letter. Please pray for the finishing of this project. It has taken a lifetime to get to this point.

THANK YOU –
Jeneen and I want to thank you for your prayers and continued support of what God is doing in and through our lives. You are a blessing to us. We certainly want to be a blessing to you. If there is anything we can do even though we are limited, let us know. Yes, we do have enough TP for now. Thank you for your prayers and concern.

Continue to pray as we minister. Just yesterday I had a conversation with our neighbor. He commented about me being a man of faith, opening the door for further talks about the Lord. He has never been open like that till now. God is working. Use the opportunities He gives.

May God comfort and keep you all through this time. May you experience His grace every day as He works in and through you.

Yours Friends in Christ,
Monte and Jeneen
First three paragraphs of the new Bible study introduction –

One stressful evening as a seventeen-year-old, I went running to work off my frustrations. Fourteen miles later, with stars emerging in the sky, darkness creeping across the landscape, I took a path through a large vacant lot on the outskirts of town. Weariness replaced my tensions. I sat down on the trail and gazed upon the vast expanse of the heavens, the innumerable stars, the surrounding mountain peaks outlined by the starlight. I was done, worn out, my thoughts from two hours of running finally coming to a focal point. “God, I know you are there. You’re bigger than all I see. I guess you can handle my problems and my life.”

I had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a young child. Being taught how I should live and act, I tried to be a good Christian. That night in the middle of a field, sitting on the trail, looking at the enormity of the heavens, I began seeking more than just being a Christian – I wanted to walk with God, to experience all He had for me.

Running was one way of coping and thinking. I must have been quite upset that evening, because before that time I had never run fourteen miles. The experience of that night began a journey of learning about, walking with, and growing in my relationship with God. A drive arose in my soul and has never been satisfied. I want more. I want all God has for me. How does God and life work together? Over time, I found that we simply need to walk with God, living in His will, which produces contentment in life, with anticipation of all the Lord has for each day. God is building our lives as we walk with and depend upon Him. This study is about how we experience God after we are saved.

My Rapidly Changing World

Coronavirus! Daily we are experiencing changes in routines and schedules. A short trip to the store has now become an epic challenge often with discouraging results. People are avoiding other people. Anyone who would cough is now looked upon with great disdain, no matter the reason for the cough. Our lives are being impacted in ways we have never seen. We are forced to change our plans, prepare for isolation, washing our hands longer and more than ever before, and wait for the impending possibilities of doom to our lives. Minutes, even seconds bring new challenges and changes, rather than the days, months, and years. Our lives are being pushed and pulled to conform to the latest news and policies. By the time I finish writing this article, situations will have changed. What is our reaction to all of this?

Some will deny the existence of a crisis. Some will say we are being over-protective. Others will carry the situations to the extreme doom and gloom possible. All sorts of conspiracies are being bantered and propagated as fact and are seeking a following. No matter our feelings, our lives are being impacted.

I do not know what is ahead. I cannot say how much our lives will be impacted. I am not sure how this will turn out in the future. I dare say that we may never see “normal” again. I don’t know.

I do know who holds our future in His hands. I can only rest in the Lord, His promises, grace, comfort, and peace. No matter what happens and how life changes, nothing will separate me from His love. I know we live in a sinful world and sin has been judged by a righteous God otherwise He is not righteous. But in the bad, God has brought us good. We can be saved from the judgment by trusting Christ as our Savior because He has paid the penalty for all who will come to Him. God has brought good for us out of bad. I trust Him in the situations of life we now live that He will do the same thing. He will bring good out of this bad. People will turn to the Lord who would never have considered Him before the crisis. The amount of prayer will increase. God will bring good out of bad.

With so much unknown, I just rest in my God and experience His peace in the midst of the turmoil. I realize the limits of my ability to control life. I have to accept that and rest in God’s promises. It doesn’t mean that I don’t prepare for what may come. It doesn’t mean I am careless with my life. It does mean that no matter how much I seek to insulate myself from all the possibilities of problems, I have to rest in my all-knowing, all powerful, loving, and caring God. No matter how much we try, we can never totally control all the events and happenings of our lives. We must rest in the Lord.

We will not find rest in the circumstances of our lives, in the possibilities of doom and gloom. We will find it in the Lord. If you do not know Him in an intimate, personal relationship, you can. As for me, I will use a balanced approach to my future, preparing for life in the coming days as far as I am able, but I will trust my future to the one who holds my life in His hands. I am going to be with Him forever, experiencing His good with the bad of this world left behind.

Study

I’m Fine, Except for the Bad Parts

“I’m fine, except for the bad parts, but we all have them; it’s just, how we deal with them.” This phrase has opened many conversations. I use it when people ask me how I am doing. “I’m fine except for the bad parts.” Most people are not interested in the bad parts of life when they ask how we are. They are simply being kind. But when I quickly add that we all have things in life that we are struggling to overcome, people often identify with the phrase; whatever the issue may be for them. We all have problems of one type or another.

Responding the way I do to the question “How are you?” often causes people to stop and think for a moment. It is almost as if you can see the wheels turning in their mind. Their thoughts turn to the issues they are dealing with at the moment. The person may even share some things they are going through, allowing for a longer and deeper conversation. In other words, people open up.

As we interact with people around us in social settings, how often do we think of them being in difficult situations? Most people have problems that they only let their inner circle of friends know and some don’t even tell them. If issues and problems are so prevalent, why not acknowledge them? Oh, there is the other side of it too. Some people never stop talking about their problems or issues. It is said of them that they enjoy bad health or having problems.

Of course we do not want to be complainers or encourage others to be. But how can we help someone if we do not know about their needs and how can someone help us if we never tell anyone we are hurting? I am reminded of a situation where a family was on the verge of destruction but no one knew it. They had never shared that there was a problem. My statement, I’m fine except for the bad parts has opened the door for some of these things to be shared.

Finding a pathway into people’s lives is never easy. This is just one of many ways the Lord has given me to deeper than just, “I’m fine.” What are some of the ways you use? I hope we are all searching for ways to connect with those around us. We want to share the love of God to those around us.

Study