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.

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

2019 Annual Report for the Leavells

2019 Report – Leavell’s Annual Report

Dear Friends,

As we finishing living through the year of 2019, we will soon be able to look back and say that the Lord did not return yet. Maybe the Lord will return in 2020. It is always good to be looking for His return and to love His appearing.
2019 was another good ministry year with a milepost of 25 years in this ministry. After 11 years of pastoring, we started the itinerant work among the churches. Although we are not results orientated, we do look to the Lord to bring forth fruit from our labors. This year we saw much fruit. Some was in direct result of the meetings and other fruit was made know to use later. Praise the Lord for His increase. Along with meetings in churches, we ministered at camps, backpacking retreats, two men’s retreats, seminars, and various other events. We thank the Lord for putting us into the ministry.
We are eagerly anticipating the Lord’s direction in 2020. We still have some open dates and seek the Lord’s direction for meetings, seminars, and Sundays. We are praying about the possibility of a trip to India and going back to South Africa. The Lord is opening more doors. We are also working with churches looking a pastor. As the Lord gives opportunities we help as we can.
The discipleship book, “Steadfast and Stable,” continues to be used in the U.S. and other countries. I am encouraged because sales are increasing as more people find the value of the study. I continue to work on the next study. We will let you know about it as we walk through the process.
Our health continues to let us know we are getting older. We have been able to keep a good schedule and look forward to as long as the Lord gives us strength for the day. Jeneen has been doing better and has traveled more with me this year. Both of our moms have been doing okay for now. We are glad of that. Jeneen’s mom is 90 now and my mom is busy with business, church, and family. Our family is very busy with life. Tonya graduated from Boise State this month. Peter, Kade, and Philip graduate next may with their respective degrees. We praise the Lord for each of our family members.
Thank you for your friendship and encouragement throughout the year. We hope to see many of you this year and if the rapture happens, we will see you all in the air. Thank you and may God continue to work in and through you as you walk with Him.

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Christmas Greetings – 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

Dear Friends and Family,

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We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. As we head into the year 2020, we are mindful of the changes coming. God has given a good year for 2019. We have seen many people saved and believer’s lives changed. Along with much fruit has come some issues. We have friends who are been dealing with issues in health, churches, ministries, and life in general. We sorrow with those who sorrow, weep with those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, rejoice with those who rejoice; we went through many and varied emotions throughout the year.

Jeneen and I have been feeling the years of wear and tear on our bodies. We’ve been in good health for the most part, Jeneen, dealing with the issues that have plagued her for years and me, discovering worn out joints and muscles not so young any more. But we are able to continue in ministry with the Lord setting much before us.

Ministry this year has included much variety; retreats, camps, meetings, helping churches without pastors, and whatever else the Lord set before us. Jeneen has been able to travel a bit more this year than in the past few because her mom is doing better. Along with turning 90 in July, her mom’s health has been fairly good. We are thankful for her mom’s ability to do what she does and for Jeneen’s ability to be there for her in times of need. My mom is doing well, keeping busy with her many activities with family, church, and business.

Peter looks forward to graduating from BSU in May of 2020 with a Master’s degree. Tonya graduated this month and continues her graduate work in January. They have both been teaching in Boise Classical Academy while they finish their classes at Boise State. Our grandchildren, Kade and Philip are graduating high school next May too. Michelle and the kids are in Meridian with her teaching piano lessons for many students. We are always amazed at how much Scott is growing. He will be a tall boy. Joe and Rebekah are still in Phoenix with their 4 children. We were able to do a wonderful trip with them this summer. Our grandchildren keep getting taller and older. It makes us realize we must be getting older too.

Jeneen and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas as you spend time with family and friends. We are thankful for and realize more and more, the preciousness of each of you. May you see the goodness of our God as you walk with Him.

July Prayer Letter Update 2019

This morning was the end of Junior Camp at Victory Ranch in Southern California. It was a great week with several trusting Christ as Savior, along with many other decisions. I enjoy speaking in the camps. When eyes become bright showing understanding, then decisions are made, not on emotion but upon truth and conviction of the Spirit. We are seeing God work. Please continue to pray as there are two more weeks, senior high followed by junior high.

Where we have been –
On April 21st, Resurrection Sunday, we started meetings in Chewelah WA at Chewelah Baptist Church where Dan Cleghorn is pastor. It was great to be with this wonderful church family. From there, I went to Friendship Baptist Church in Thayne WY where Jay Sprecher is pastor. This is a mission church seeking to become self-supporting in the near future. They are doing well. Following the meetings in Thayne, I spoke for the WY Foundations Baptist Fellowship and NWBM regional meeting at Grace Baptist Church in Kemmerer WY where Richard Hartman is pastor. The fellowship was a joy, meeting a couple of new pastors. It was good to be with Pastor Hodgs at Grace Baptist in Rock Springs for Wednesday evening. It was a busy but blessed time.
In May, Jeneen and I went to OR and WA, visiting several churches and pastors. We were able to speak at First Baptist Church in Pasco WA and in Providence Baptist Church in the Bellingham WA area where Duane Smith is the missionary pastor. We also saw some friends along the way but were sad that we did not have more time to visit many more friends.
June started with a group from Arizona coming for a men’s retreat in the mountains of Idaho. It was a great week but with snow still in the high country, we were limited how far we could go into the wilderness. The waterfalls from the melt were beautiful sights that we do not see later in the summer. It was a different but wonderful experience going early in the summer.
I spoke at Shelley Baptist Church in Shelley ID for two different Sundays while Pastor Lovegrove was away. It was our first time to minister in this mission church. Pray for them as they seek to establish a solid work in Shelley. In between all this ministry, I was able to do a large project at our home. Praise the Lord for enabling grace.

What is ahead –
As I already shared, I have two more weeks of Camp in CA. I will be speaking at First Baptist Church in Willmington again before going home on the 5th of August. On the 12th of August, we start another week of men’s backpacking retreat. So far, there has not been interest in the week of the 19th. We will see what the Lord has for it.
In September, I will be speaking at a mission church that is graduating to self-supporting. It will be good to be in Alaska again. Also, we will be there in October for about three weeks. I have a youth retreat on the schedule in September in WA.
We are looking forward to meetings in several places during the fall. We are excited about what God is doing.

Thank you for praying. God is working. May God be glorified in and through us all as we walk with Him and serve Him.

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Photo by Randy Lavorante

I’m Married!

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“I am not sure I am married.” What a statement! People know whether they are married or not. A person may not act as though they are in a marriage relationship but once they make that commitment to someone, they have entered into a relationship, they are identified as married. People break their marriage commitments with such things as divorce, stepping out, or separating. But all along the way, they know whether or not they are married. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful wife who is committed to our relationship. Jeneen and I will be celebrating 45 years of marriage this summer.

When a person enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ, is it a permanent relationship? Can we fall in and out of it? Can we lose our relationship by some act or series of acts? If we can lose it, our relationship with Christ is never more stable than we are. This is why the Bible teaches that the security of our salvation is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He provides a complete salvation, based upon Himself and His work. He keeps us in the relationship the same way, His working and keeping of His promises to us.

Stability in our relationship with God comes from Him. He is the solid rock, a foundation which can never be destroyed, and He’s the constant who will never leave or forsake us according to His promise. Our relationship is based upon Him, bringing security, stability, and confidence that He will always be in the relationship. This gives us the ability to grow, sometimes making mistakes, stepping into sin, doing the wrong things, doing right things the wrong way or not maintaining our walk with Him. We can always come back to Him, experiencing forgiveness, cleansing, making the relationship right, clean, active in participation, and experiencing the sweetness of fellowship with Him.

Yes, it is important for us to know we are saved. We would never be committed to a relationship if we are unsure of it. If we could lose our salvation, we all would. Those who teach you can lose it do not understand the finished work of Christ, the term – justification, and the problems associated with such teachings. If a person teaches that you could lose your salvation, then they can also teach you what you must do to keep it. Losing your salvation is a doctrine of men and is often used to control people.

If you want to study further, I wrote about this subject in my study book, Steadfast and Stable. It is available through BJU Press, Amazon, and Christian Book Distributers.

It’s Easy, It’s Simple

You open the box gazing at all the pieces of your resent purchase. All you wanted was a bookcase to store your treasures of reading delight. Now you have a mess of screws, boards, nails, glue, plastic doohickeys, and finally, paperwork containing a guarantee, registration, and instructions. You spread the pieces, wondering how this is going to work. Picking up the papers, you read, “Follow these simply instructions for assembling your shelving unit.” Simple? Yeah, right.

Most people like things simple in their lives. The remote, computer programs, the tax codes make us declare, “Why can’t they just make it simple?” It is the goal of those writing instructions for products to make them understandable and simple. We sometimes wonder about the objective of the IRS.

God knows how to make things easy for us. He made the gospel so simple that even a child can understand. We are all sinners. God has provided deliverance from the condemnation of our sin by offering a complete salvation. Some people understand the message and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. We are given the great gift of eternal life through Christ.

It sounds simple and it is. But the sin debt had to be paid and salvation delivered to mankind by God. The forgiveness of sins is not easily given. It cost our Savior much. He died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later. We come by faith believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and receive the free gift.

The gospel is simple. Realize that the simplicity comes from the Lord who has made it so. After we are saved and begin studying the Bible, we see the multifaceted complexity of salvation. Continuing to grow in our understanding, we become amazed how something so complex can be so simple. Remember, even a child can understand the simplicity of the gospel. Only God could make it so. To Him be the glory forever.

He Is Mistaken

My dad was testifying in a court case. He told his perspective of what had happened. After he finished, the lawyer asked him why his story was different than the other person’s involved in the case. My dad said that the other man was mistaken. The lawyer then asked, “Why would you say he is mistaken?” My dad looked at him and plainly said, “Because I don’t want to call him a liar.” This took the wind out of the sails of the lawyer and the case against my dad was dismissed.

I remember sitting in the courtroom hearing my dad. I could not help but laugh. Dad had a way with pointing out the obvious. Even the lawyer was trying to stifle a chuckle. I know the judge laughed.

In ministry, I have found two situations where I would use the same language as my dad. One is when a missionary is presenting his desired ministry somewhere in the West or Alaska. A few will use the phrase that there is no gospel preaching church in the area where they want to go. I travel the West and Alaska. I know of churches that preach the gospel in the communities the missionary is describing. To hear them say there is none makes me cringe. Either they have not researched the area or they missed something. They are mistaken when they say there is no gospel preaching churches in the community.

Another situation is when a pastoral candidate is being interviewed by a church. The prospective candidate is asked whether or not he agrees with the doctrinal statement of the church. Some have said yes.  Later the church sees the new pastor leading them away from their articles of faith. I would say that the pastoral candidate did not do his homework. He must not have read the Articles or thought it was not a big enough difference to express. If there is any difference at all, the pastor is mistaken when he says he agrees with their doctrinal statement. This has caused many church problems.

I do not want to give excuses for such practices. I would say they are mistaken. The reason I would say that is the same as my dad’s.

All Bible Studies Teach Doctrine

“I am a part of a Bible study. We do not study doctrine because it is too controversial.” I have heard this from many people. When someone says this, it is an indicator they do not understand the truth of God’s Word. They are in danger of accepting doctrine without even knowing it. Every time we study the Bible, we are getting doctrine.

If all Scripture is profitable for doctrine then all Bible studies are getting it. Bible studies who try to avoid doctrine are teaching it anyway. Otherwise, it would not be a Bible study. Therein is the danger. You are getting doctrine every time you study the Scriptures. The key for all studies is to rightly handle the Word of God.

So if you are a part of a Bible study, have your eyes wide open. They are teaching doctrine even if they say they are not. Recognize what is being taught. We should rightly divide the Word. It is important we teach and receive sound doctrine.

Jeneen’s Tribute

Billy Graham went to be with Lord this week.  I know people who were saved during his crusades in the 1950’s.  They were godly Christians who walked with the Lord after receiving Christ as Savior.  Jeneen had the privilege of being at a crusade when she was only seven.  That would put it around 1962.  She wrote these words for a Facebook post today.  They are such good thoughts, I wanted to share them.

“Jeneen- a thought: I know some say Billy Graham was controversial in some areas as he grew older. But as a child, when I went to a Billy Graham crusade when I was 7 in Fresno CA, I remember clearly his words of salvation. That was who he use to be, a pure and simple speaker of the Word , that even a child could understand it. He spread the gospel to everyone so that they would understand their need of salvation and a relationship in Christ. God used him because he cared about souls and even if he felt inadequate, he asked the Lord to help him speak where ever, when ever and who ever God had for him. He was a simple man who loved God.
I will miss him. It feels like an era has left our country. But he is in a better country now. Oh, the glorious reunion he is experiencing, and to know what he preached was real and true. Because what he sees now is Christ face to face.
RIP Billy Graham. Have a wonderful eternity.”