Category Archives: The Lifestyle

Found: God’s Will

Found: God's WillMany of us have some funny ideas about what God’s will is.  Too often we’re so busy looking for it that we don’t have time to actually do it.  Other times we’re pretty sure we know exactly what God’s will is: it’s the thing we absolutely do not want to do.

Neither of these perspectives is Biblical, as Dr. John MacArthur points out in his brief but excellent book Found: God’s Will:

As believers—people in God’s family—if we do not know God’s will, what are we?  Uniformed?  No.  Searching?  No.  We are stupid.

“That’s pretty rough,” you say.  “The Bible doesn’t talk like that.”

Oh?  Try this.  “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).  Can you think of another word for unwise?  I’ll give you a hint; it starts with “s.”

Dr. MacArthur then searches Scripture to find out just what the will of God is for every believer.  The conclusion is that God wants each of us to be:

  1. Saved.
  2. Spirit-filled.
  3. Sanctified.
  4. Submissive.
  5. Suffering.

The Bible clearly teaches that every Christian should see these five S‘s in his life.

But what about the things that are a little different for each of us?  What about those daily decisions we each face?

You may be amazed at the answer the Bible provides.

Found: God’s Will is an entirely Scripture-based explanation of how a believer can know and do whatever it is he is called to do.  It’s a little book; you can read it in only a couple of hours if you have a mind to.  But it contains a message that may set you free to be what God wants you to be.

If you find understanding God’s will confusing or intimidating, please consider reading this book!

Worth It

Worth ItAnother year has come around, and a flurry of planning and New Year’s resolving has come with it.  There are so many things we’d all like to do this year:

  • We want to plan the best garden ever.
  • We want to try out new ways of keeping our animals happy, healthy, and productive.
  • We want to experiment with a crop rotation that’s bound to work.
  • We want to expand our business.

And that’s just the start!

As much as we’d like to do everything on our bucket list this year, there probably won’t be enough time for it all.  We’ll have to prioritize, which brings up a question:

How do we know that our goals are worth the effort of achieving?

Face it.  Some goals simply aren’t worth the fuss and trouble we expend on them.  Sure, the results may look good on an income statement.  We may win accolades for our efforts.  But in the long run, what difference does that make?  These things can never give us lasting satisfaction.

So how do we know if what we are doing is worth it?

Paul gives us a clue in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

…No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The only work that is worth the effort is the work that can stand the test of fire.  In other words, we must measure our work by its eternal value.

What eternally valuable work looks like will vary from person to person.  We must each report directly to God and receive our orders from Him alone.  That is the only way we can fulfill our life purpose.

So as we plan for the new year, let’s count the cost of our goals and see if they are eternally valuable.  Then we’ll know that what we are doing is worth it.

Stovetop Apples

Stovetop ApplesApples, cinnamon, brown sugar…yum!

Cooking apple slices on the stovetop is quite simple, and it’s a great way to add a little variety to your fruit options. Give this delicious side a try, tweak it to suit your taste, and see if it fits on your Christmas menu.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (2 large or 3 small) apples
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (adjust to suit your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached white flour

Directions

  1. Peel, core, quarter, and slice the apples.
  2. Combine in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
  3. Cook on medium-low heat until apples are tender and sauce is thick.
  4. Reduce heat to low until you are ready to serve.

The Simple Things

The Simple ThingsThanksgiving is just around the corner.  We’re all looking forward to spending time with the family giving thanks for our blessings.  And we certainly have a lot to be thankful for!

But while most of us probably remember to give thanks for home, family, friends, turkey, and pumpkin pie, all too often we overlook the little things, the tiny miracles God gives us to enjoy each and every day.

Pause and consider:

  • Delicate patterns of frost on fallen leaves.
  • Sweet, crisp apples from the orchard.
  • Flocks of geese calling overhead as they travel south.
  • Fluffy clouds streaked across the sky.
  • The bold beauty of a fall sunset.
  • The persistent clucking of a hen laying an egg.
  • A warm fire crackling in the fireplace.
  • Hot cocoa and coffee.
  • Clear, starry nights.
  • Rest and plenty after a season of hard work.

We take these things for granted because we see and hear them so often.  But are they not from God?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

—James 1:17

This Thanksgiving, perhaps we should make it a point to recall some of these minor miracles (if there can be such a thing as a “minor” miracle) and give credit where it is due.  These simple things make our lives richer, and if we let them bring us closer to God, we will have found wealth indeed.

Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way

Doing the Lord's Work in the Lord's WayWouldn’t you like to know that you’re doing the work of the Lord? And wouldn’t you like to be sure that you’re doing it in His way?

If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you might be interested in a sermon in two parts fittingly titled “Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way” from Dr. John MacArthur and Grace to You Ministries. Both sermons are based on 1 Corinthians 16:5–12. It’s a rather obscure passage, but it’s in there for a reason, and Dr. MacArthur draws from it an inspiring and Scripture-filled message.

It’s tempting to spill the beans and share the principles of doing God’s work God’s way, but since no one can say it quite like Dr. MacArthur, you’ll have to either read or listen to the sermons yourself. Here are the links:

If you want to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” this one’s for you. Read it or listen to it. Meditate on it. Then get about fulfilling your life purpose—God’s way.

Don’t Look Back

Don't Look BackWe all have probably made this mistake at some point in our lives.  It’s very easy to do.  But it’s also one of the most crippling things that we could do to ourselves.

We look backward.  We dwell on our past mistakes.

And, boy, have we made some mistakes, too:

  • Saying things that were more hurtful than helpful.
  • Neglecting responsibilities that we know we should have taken care of.
  • Taking our schedule into our own hands at the expense of Biblical priorities.
  • Failing to lend a hand to that person who needed us.
  • Being poor stewards of God’s blessings.
  • Just generally not loving like we should.

Yes, we asked for forgiveness, and, yes, we know that through Christ we received forgiveness.  But we just can’t seem to move on.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  When has it ever helped us?  Sure, we should learn from our past mistakes, but there’s a difference between learning and moving forward, and getting stuck somewhere back there in the past.

Think about this verse:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far does He remove our transgressions from us.

—Psalm 103:12

If God has forgiven us, why haven’t we forgiven us?  Do we have a higher standard than God?  Let’s hope not!

Perhaps this is why Paul, reflecting on the days when he was the Pharisee of Pharisees persecuting the church, concluded:

…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

—Philippians 3:13,14

Focus on self is never a healthy thing, and focusing on our past mistakes is just another way of focusing on self.  So instead of crippling ourselves with our errors, let’s choose a more positive action.  Let’s praise God for the forgiveness we have in Christ and press on toward the goal!

Getting Started: Part 4—Focus

Getting Started: Part 4—FocusDistractions abound in all areas of life.  Every day we are bombarded with ideas:

  • Things that we must do.
  • Things that we could do.
  • Things that we want to do.
  • Things that we really ought to do.
  • Things that we have to do whether we want to or not.
  • Things that we would be happy to do if we could only find the time.

How do we sort through it all?

 

Unique Purpose

Having worked through the first three tips for beginners, we’re already familiar with the idea that we each have a unique purpose, right?  Well, it is precisely this unique purpose that will help us to stay focused.

Somewhere deep down inside, most of us already have an inkling of what it is we were designed to do, or we probably wouldn’t be so fascinated with country living.  So let’s go do it.  It really is that simple.

The trouble is, we are humans, and humans tend to complicate things unnecessarily.  We set out to fulfill our respective missions and are immediately pelted with a hailstorm of other things that we could do.  Alas, there are only 24 hours in a day, and some of them have to be used to sleep.  Obviously, then, we just can’t do everything.  We’ll have to focus on something.

 

Caveat

Please do not misunderstand the meaning of the word “focus.”  It has nothing to do with being a one-dimensional person.  Most of us have more than one area of responsibility, as well as a number of interesting things we do on the side that we certainly don’t want to give up.

For everything there is a season.

—Ecclesiastes 3:1

However, hard-wired into the back of the minds of each one of us is a rough idea of the specific missions we were designed to carry out.  That’s what we need to go do.

 

Tips for Staying Focused

Some people find it helpful to write down their visions, values, goals, and/or mission statements.  Those of us who feel we can benefit from this exercise should by all means do so.  It will remind us to stay focused and will make recognizing distractions much easier.

As we clarify our purpose, we can consider questions like these:

  • If someone were to ask us why we are pursuing a country lifestyle, what would we tell them?
  • What is our mission?
  • Who are we trying to serve?
  • What are their needs?
  • How can we meet those needs?
  • How can we balance serving others with family time?
  • How can we give ourselves a little leisure to pursue other activities that we feel are important?

This exercise can help us sort through the distractions and remember what it is we were supposed to be doing in the first place.  How much or how little to write down, however, is a question each one of us will answer a bit differently.  Some of us just need a list of broad priorities, while others do better with a specific checklist of goals.  We may need to be prepared to experiment a little until we find an approach that works for us.

Just remember that the writing assignment isn’t the ultimate goal, but rather a tool to help us reach the goal.  We could write mission statements until our hands got tired and still be distracted—by mission statements!

 

Time to Act

Once we’ve written down what we need to help us stay focused, it’s time to move on.  Of course, we can always refer back to our written priorities or goals, but we must not allow them to become yet another distraction.  Vision is pointless without action.

Life is short.  Let’s get busy!

 

Helpful Resources

Found: God’s WillFound: God's Will
Still a little confused about God’s plan for your life?  The answer is simpler than you think.  Read our full review.

Building a Sustainable Business
Task Three of this outstanding free eBook walks you through the process of developing a vision, writing a mission statement, and setting goals.  Helpful worksheets are included.

 

Complete Series

Getting Started: Complete SeriesGetting Started

 

Getting Started: Part 3—Persevere

Getting Started: Part 3—PersevereCountry living is exciting.  Every day is a new adventure.  The opportunities to learn and challenge yourself never end.  Freedom, family life, peace and quiet—aren’t these things we all crave?

However, forewarned is forearmed, so here it comes:

Sooner or later you are going to become tired of the whole thing.  You will feel overwhelmed, overburdened, and burned out.

You may or may not be able to believe it right now while you are still running on adrenaline.  However, you are guaranteed to feel discouraged eventually, and it could be because of any number of things.

It could be:

  • The wearing battle with pests and predators.
  • A catastrophic weather event.
  • The inevitable learning curve.
  • Long hours with little reward.
  • A tough struggle to break even.
  • Slow sales at the farm store.
  • Criticism from city-dwelling friends.
  • Murphy’s Law in action.
  • A touch of boredom for no apparent reason at all.

 

A Word of Encouragement

Whatever form it takes, discouragement is bound to come, so prepare yourself.  God has given you a purpose to fulfill.  Fulfill it!  Let nothing stop you from pursuing the mission you have been assigned.  Do not look to the left hand or to the right, but straight ahead at the path laid out for you.  Make a commitment right now not to throw in the towel, however tempting it may seem.  You do not stand alone.

And to those of you who have already reached the dry spell, take heart!  It will pass.  Again, remember that you are not struggling on alone.  There’s no telling what miracles can be brought to pass through hardship.  The only way to find out is to carry on.

 

Dealing With the Dry Spell

Meanwhile:

  • Take some time to remember why you wanted to live the country way in the first place.
  • Re-read an inspiring book.
  • Count your blessings.
  • Pray for the strength to go on.
  • Talk things over with someone close to you.
  • Research your particular problem and come up with a plan of attack.
  • Take a little time off.
  • Revisit your vision.

This list of suggestions could go on.  Only you know what will work in your particular case.  The point is to regroup so that you’re ready to carry on with renewed courage.

 

Carry On

Country living is not easy.  Disasters will happen, and it seems to be a maxim of life that everyone must grapple with burnout sooner or later.  But if you are going to fulfill your unique purpose, you must carry on anyway.  You can’t quit when the adrenaline runs out.  You must discipline yourself to work through it.

Only those who persevere will realize their vision.

 

Next Week: Part 4 – Focus

 

Complete Series

Getting Started: Complete SeriesGetting Started

 

Getting Started: Part 2—Think For Yourself

Getting Started: Part 2—Think For YourselfIt can be very tempting to align ourselves with an ideology or movement, can’t it?  Usually we’re attracted to a particular way of thinking because there’s something in it that speaks to our deepest beliefs and values, or because it just makes too much sense.

There’s nothing at all wrong with taking an interest in the different ideas and philosophies out there.  The difficulty only arises when we adhere to one man-made (read, “imperfect”) ideology to the exclusion of all others.

When God created us, He gave each one of us a unique purpose to fulfill.  The purpose for one person is not quite like the purpose He established for any other person, just as you and I are not quite like anyone else.  We will be hard-pressed to fulfill the roles He had in mind for us if we adopt someone else’s mission and values.  Once we tie ourselves to an ideological bandwagon, how can we be sure that it’s going to go in the same direction that we were designed to go?

Compare this somewhat over-zealous adherence to ideologies and movements with the situation in the early Corinthian church as described in 1 Corinthians 3.  Basically, the Corinthians were parading about in bandwagons labeled “Followers of Paul,” “Followers of Apollos,” “Followers of Cephas,” etc.  Far from being flattered by the loyalty of his adherents, Paul condemned their folly and recommended a new perspective:

So then let no one boast in men.  For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you.

—1 Corinthians 3:21–22

How freeing!  All things are ours.  Not just the things pertaining to any particular philosophy, whether it’s about financial independence, environmental sustainability, or just simple living.  All things!

With such a wide sphere in which to move, why not make use of it?  Let’s:

  • Make ourselves familiar with as many of the hows and whys of country living as we can.
  • Scrutinize the validity, usefulness, and suitability of each different opinion to our own situations.
  • Compare each new idea with our convictions to see what fits and what doesn’t.
  • Adopt the best, and only the best, from each philosophy.

In the end, we each will have pieced together the information we need to carry out our own unique purpose.

 

Next week: Part 3 – Persevere

 

Complete Series

Getting Started: Complete SeriesGetting Started

 

Getting Started: Part 1—Live Debt Free

Are you new to country living?  Just starting out or maybe taking a deep breath before making the jump?  Never fear!  Over the next four weeks you’ll find tips to make your country living adventure a success.

 

Getting Started: Part 1—Live Debt FreeAmerica has long been known as a free nation, but most Americans have gradually grown accustomed to slavery in a variety of forms.  Debt is one of the most common.  Perhaps that is because as a society we want what we want when we want it—and when we want it is usually NOW!  We never pause to think about the long-term blessings we are imperiling in our haste to achieve short-term gratification.

Romans 13:8 commands:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other….

This pretty much precludes taking on debt.  But do not view this command as a hindrance.  As with all Biblical injunctions, it is actually in our best interest to keep it.

Proverbs 22:7 notes:

The borrower is the slave of the lender.

How true!  And yet how often overlooked!

Think about it.  Any lender has some level of control over your money.  To pay him back, you must forfeit some part of your income.  But this is not all.  If you owe money, you are under an obligation to pay it back.  That means that you must manage your time in a way that fulfills your obligation, even if it means taking a job you didn’t necessarily want.  Even your life is now under your creditor’s control!

 

Case Study

Those of you who are familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books may remember Pa’s experience with debt from On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Anxious to move out of a dugout and into a real house, Pa planted some wheat, hurried off to town, and returned home with machine-sawn lumber, glass windows, and a new stove.

“But the wheat’s hardly up yet!” Ma said.

“That’s all right,” Pa told her.  “They let me have the lumber, and we’ll pay for it when we sell the wheat.”

Fast-forward to harvest time.  Pa declared that he had never seen such a wheat crop.  There was only a week to go before it would be ready to bring in.  Suddenly, the sun was blocked out by a cloud…a cloud of grasshoppers!  In only a short time, the wheat field was utterly devastated.

In order to pay his debt, Pa made his way east, walking three hundred miles to find a job harvesting someone else’s wheat instead of staying home to provide for his own family.  He had sacrificed his freedom for a new house.  Furthermore, his wife and children had to shift for themselves until his return that winter.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Freedom is a gift from God, too precious to be sacrificed lightly.  Before you take on any debt, seriously consider these questions:

  • Am I taking on debt to reach a lasting goal or to gratify a temporary desire?
  • Is it possible to commit to working and saving for this thing I want to purchase?
  • What are the pros and cons of saving up until I can buy it outright?
  • Do I have the self-discipline necessary to avoid falling into a debt lifestyle?
  • Is the return I will make on my investment worth the extra money I will pay in interest?
  • What plans will I need to make to pay off my debt and regain the full use of my resources?
  • Do I have sufficient cash reserves to handle a large, unforeseen expense?
  • Am I positive that, regardless of what happens, I will always be able to meet my obligations?
  • What is my fallback plan in case of financial difficulty?

True, by living debt free you may have to settle for less acreage and an older tractor at first, but at least all your resources will belong to you until you can save for something better.  Your time and money will be your own with which to pursue your vision and fulfill your life’s purpose.

 

Next week: Part 2 – Think For Yourself

 

Complete Series

Getting Started: Complete SeriesGetting Started