Wednesday, July 11, 2018

David's Digest: Living to Please God

A Christian is a ransomed soul:
Is 35:10 - "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
And therefore, a Christian is owned by Christ as His servant.

A good servant will do his master's will, otherwise he is a rebellious servant. Also, a Christian will not only do God's will, but do it out of love for Him (both the matter and the manner will be correct).

A servant's life is not his own, and there is never a time where the servant isn't a servant of his master.

A good servant will live to please his master. There are many verses in the Bible that talk about this. And living pleasing to God can take the form of doing things that are pleasing to Him and not doing things that are displeasing. A loving servant will not have to "give up" anything for his master, because the servant's desire is truly toward his master and not those things he would "give up" (ie. those things have no meaning to the servant in light of love to his master -- they will naturally fade because they are not of his master, so there's nothing really to "give up").

How is the time of our lives spent? Does the idea of pleasing God as His servants come across our minds during, or provide the motivation for, our daily activities?

Puritan Thomas Manton explains this excellently in his sermons on 1 John 3, which you can find here:

1 John 3:22 - "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."

Secondly, The next notion whereby the good conscience is expressed is this, 'And do those things which are pleasing in his sight.' This implieth many things.

1. That it be our design and scope to approve ourselves to God: 2 Cor. V. 9, 'Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.' This is the end that we propound to ourselves, what is your mind principally set upon? The end which you design and endeavour, the pleasing and glorifying of God, and the everlasting fruition of him, or the pleasing of your fleshly minds in the fruition of any inferior things? That is your end [purpose] which you love most, which pleases you best, and would do most for, and can least want [lack, not have]. The people of God are described to be those that 'choose the things which please him, and take hold of his covenant,' Isa. Ivi. 4. They do not live at random without an aim, nor do good by chance, but by choice. He that is false at first setting out can never hold out with God.

2. This is not only their choice, but the tenor and course of their lives. Enoch, that walked with God, is said to have this testimony, that he pleased God, Heb. xi. 5, with Gen. v. 24. The Septuagint read it, they are sincere and uniform in their obedience to him. Every day you must reckon with yourselves. Have you complied with your great end? What have I done, or what have I been doing? have I pleased or displeased God?

3. It is not in a few things, but in all: Col. i. 10, 'Walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing;' not in with one duty and out with another, for that is to please ourselves, not to please God; or to please men, not to obey our rule.

4. We must every day be more exact in our walking and care to please God, and that no offence or breach may arise between him and us: 1 Thes. iv. 1, 'As you have received of us how to walk and to please God, so you would abound therein more and more.' You never please God so much but you may please him better, and he expecteth more from you the more you are acquainted with him. One that is newly put to service is raw at first, but afterwards he groweth more handy and fit for his work; so you must first outgrow your weaknesses if you think to please God, and grow more exact in the spiritual life.

5. If there be anything more pleasing to God than another, your main care must be about those things; as, for instance, it is mighty pleasing to God that you should seek grace rather than greatness, and direction in your duty rather than worldly honour: 1 Kings iii. 10, the speech 'pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.' Surely it is more pleasing to God that we should pray from the spirit than from the flesh, not seeking great things for ourselves, but that we may have grace to discharge our duties to God.

So that in our duty we should mind the substantials of religion rather than rituals: Rom. xiv. 17, 18, 'For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; for he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men.'

That in the substantials of religion we should not leave out the duties of the second table, as faithfulness in our relations. The scripture instanceth in the duties of parents and children; of children's duty to parents: Col. iii. 20, 'For this is well-pleasing unto God.' Duties of liberality and mercy to all men : Heb. xiii. 16, 'For to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.' Not only careful of justice, but also of mercy.

Now it is a shame that, when christians hear these things are so pleasing to God, they should not set about them. Esau took his bow to seek savoury meat for his father when he desired it.

May we consider these things daily in all of our actions and activities, and may the Lord grant us the desire and ability to serve Him with all our heart, soul, body, mind and strength!

-- David

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: The Doable Off-Grid Homestead

A family in our fellowship, the Stongers, has a new book coming out today, called The Doable Off-Grid Homestead.

We hear at times from people who really would like to get away from the rat-race and live in the country, homestead, raise animals, grow food, etc., but they lament just how daunting that whole idea is, especially if they are a little older. And that is sure understandable.

But it is doable! And the Stongers take you on their journey as they have worked on building a homestead, creatively, with reduced means, and in the unfriendly (sometimes hostile!) land and weather environments of central Texas.

Homesteading with few resources does take creativity, and God blessed the Stongers with that as He has guided them in the development of a homestead, with goats, a milk cow, chickens, gardens, orchard trees, solar power, catch-water systems, etc.

And now, their adventures, progressions, successes and missteps are documented in their new book. In it, they provide information about all sorts of off-grid homesteading topics, like rain harvesting, solar, land/soil, etc., and then provide practical and inexpensive ways to accomplish all of these various things, based on their own experiences, including materials lists and costs.

For example, they initially put up a fence around their main homestead environment made out of palettes, I think at least most of them being free, until such time they could put up something more permanent.

They are also planning on adding how-to video examples of these various homesteading subjects at their YouTube channel Doable Offgrid.

And even if you aren't interested in homesteading, but, say, gardening, there is a wealth of information that could be beneficial to you too.

So, I would encourage everyone to consider getting a copy of The Doable Off-Grid Homestead and adding it to your collection!

-- David

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Providence's Perpetuation Provisions: 2018's 2nd, 3rd & 4th Round of Chicks

We are very thankful for the continued perpetuation of the chickens God has graciously granted us, with 3 more hatchings this 2018!

This is group 2 -- 11 of them she hatched out! I thought it was 10 originally, but when I moved them into the summer kitchen later, to give them more room, there was a bonus one! :D

2nd Hatching of Chicks 2018

And here they are at night all tucked in with their mommy (I have this in the video as well below):

2nd Hatching of Chicks 2018 Tucked in for the Night

And here is group 3 -- 6 for this hen!

3nd Hatching of Chicks 2018

Two sad notes though...

These groups are about the same age, and now about 1/3 the size of the normal chickens. I had somewhat recently moved both groups out into our pen area under some oak trees, and one morning as I lifted the lid on the coup, there were 2 dead ones, 1 with its head and neck slicked down. Arg...that usually means a snake tried to swallow it but couldn't get it down so quit. I figure the other one just got trampled in the the commotion. So, we're down 2 from these 2 groups.

And then just last night, I found what I'm pretty sure is one of the blonde mommies from one of these groups basically dead (body completely limp but just hadn't finished dying, which it did not long after) in the main chicken tractor. Sigh. But, we are thankful to the Lord for any eggs and the hatched chicks He granted from her.

Finally, this is group 4. This one has a sad story too. She originally hatched out 9, but one died within 24 hours. Then one morning I walked in, and one was laying there dead, and one was missing. Arg...snake! Sure enough, I found it in the corner of the room with a lump in its midsection. So, I dispatched it to the compost pile. But the next morning, I walked in, and now 2 were dead, with one having its head and neck slicked down...sigh. I think they were getting in from the corner of the room as the outside siding of the summer kitchen is not complete. So, I put a cinder block inside against the corner, and that has seemed to stop the "bleeding".

Still, we are thankful for the little 4-pack of chicks God has graciously allowed us to continue to have!

4nd Hatching of Chicks 2018

And here is a video of all 3 groups:

Again, we are grateful to the Lord for the provisions of these new chicks! We always pray for the right attitude toward them, that they are not ours but His, to dispense with as He pleases, just as I believe we ourselves are. May we trust His perfect will and give thanks in all things!

-- David

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Orchard - Spring 2018

With the previous two Winters being somewhat mild weather-wise, there wasn't much activity with our fruit trees. However, this past Winter had quite a few more cold days, and I'm thinking that really made a difference, because by God's graces we've had a very nice fruit bounty this Spring!

Here's a current picture of the orchard, for which we are very thankful to the Lord:

Orchard Spring 2018

So far, God has granted plums and the first apricots produced from a couple of our apricot trees. We've been extra diligent this year in getting to the fruit before the birds do as we've had trouble with that in the past. Thanks to Sue for going out there 3 times a day! Here they are ripening:

2018 Plums & Apricots

Here's Mimi keeping guard over them....sort of. She's really just keeping cool on a hot day! :)

2018 Plums Ripening on Woodburning Stove

And here are more plums with apricots ripening:

2018 Plums & Apricots Ripening

The easiest way for us to preserve the fruit is to dry them on our solar food dehydrator. It works very well, and we are thankful for it! In the past, we have ended up leaving the plums on too long, maybe to make sure they were dry, but they end up very stiff; and so, this year with them, we've made slices in the sides, to help hopefully dry them out thoroughly without going too far. It's closer to what we do with fruit out of which we can remove the pit, like peaches:

2018 Fruit on Solar Food Dehydrator

And here is basically all of the dried fruit so far. We are very thankful to God for granting these provisions!

Orchard Spring 2018 Dried Fruit

Finally, and sadly, earlier in the year, a storm knocked over one of our bigger trees:

Fallen Fruit Tree

You can see the size of it:

Size Perspective of Fallen Fruit Tree

The inside of the trunk was almost like paper. I assume some sort of disease got to it. But, not much around here goes to waste typically, so it has become firewood for Winter time. We are thankful to the Lord for all of the fruit He has granted from this tree over time!

Cross Section of Fallen Fruit Tree

The peaches and nectarine trees have many fruit on them, and so we pray God keeps them and allows us to harvest them in due time. Interestingly, one of our newer trees has had probably 100 peaches on it, but I believe in keeping Lev 19:23-25, which says:
23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.

24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.

25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lord your God.

And, besides this being in the Bible, Puritan commentator John Gill, on the end of vs 23, says:
which was a provision partly for the benefit of fruit trees newly planted, whose fruit, when they first bear, gardeners frequently take off immediately, and do not suffer them to grow to any perfection, by which means a tree will grow stronger, and will bear more and better fruit another year; and partly for the health of man, which physical reason is given by Aben Ezra, who observes that the fruit that comes unto the third year there is no profit by it, but is hurtful; and chiefly because, as it is proper that the first fruits should be given to the Lord before any is eaten, so it is right that it should be given seasonably, and when it is brought to its perfection: three years were to be reckoned, as Jarchi and Ben Gersom say, from the time the tree was planted.
And Matthew Henry says:
3. We are hereby taught not to be over-hasty in catching at any comfort, but to be willing with patience to wait the time for the enjoyment of it, and particularly to acknowledge ourselves unworthy of the increase of the earth, our right to the fruits of which was forfeited by our first parents eating forbidden fruit, and we are restored to it only by the word of God and prayer, 1 Tim. 4:5

Now, since the priesthood is no more, some might argue the whole command has gone away, but for me, I look at it as the 4th year going away, and we still wait for after 3 years to harvest from a tree, discarding any fruit during those 3 years. Needless to say, it has been a little difficult to toss down so many, but we pray God glorifies Himself through these things.

Again, we are very thankful to the Lord for granting these provisions! May we bear much fruit, the fruit of His Spirit, by the graces He supplies to us!

-- David

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Storing Light - Update I

It's been a very long time since we did our update about our solar setup, mostly because nothing has really changed other than having to replace equipment along the way and modifying some configurations, but recently things have changed regarding it, and so we thought we'd do a little update about that...

There was a sale on solar panels we were made aware of, nice big 36V/8A ones. I decided to purchase one to be able to add to our current 3-panel system on the solar trailer. Well, the nice gents from here who went and got the panels showed up with 2 more panels...said they were ours and there were no refunds. :) Well, how very gracious and giving they were to do that for us!

And so, now we had 3 panels, and I needed to figure out what to do with them...

First, we pulled the older panels so someone else here could use them. Here is the solar trailer with the 3 smaller panels removed:

Solar Trailer with Panels Removed

And here is the platform I made a long time ago so I could turn the trailer easier so it would face the sun throughout the day; it's pretty torn up now. For probably 12 1/2 years I turned that thing nearly every was going to be nice to not have to do that anymore!

Solar Trailer Platform

I really wanted to be able to continue to turn them though to face them into the sun, especially at day end when we are using our computers and the sun was going away, and for cloudier days. And so the Lord granted I come up with the idea to attach them to palettes, and here's how I did it...

I got some 90 degree angle braces, drilled holes into the panel frames, bolted one end of the angle brace to the panel, and screwed-in the other to the palette:

Solar Panel Angle Brace to Palette

And in front, I used small angle brackets:

Solar Panel Front Bracket to Palette

All in all, it thankfully ended up being pretty solid, and they turn nicely! And now Sue can spin them too if necessary, which was a problem before with the solar trailer.

But, here we get high winds with storms, or the occasional dust devil that rolls through, so I packed the backside of the palette with cinder blocks, which has thankfully worked well so far, even in severe-level storm winds:

Cinder Blocks on Solar Panel Palette

And here is how we have them set today, facing east, south and west (right to left). Currently during normally sunny days, I'm only turning the right one, which is apparently doing most of the work as I decided to stack the charge controllers. I originally had a 150V/50A controller, to which I hooked up all 3 panels in series, not really understanding what I was doing. Well, if you know about these things, I was potentially going to see output of 75-90A, and sure enough, I fried it. And so, with a little better knowledge, we bought a 30A and 60A controller and run 2 in series to the 60A and the other panel to the 30A:

Solar Panels Configuration

Some years ago when our batteries went bad and we needed new ones, I decide to down-grade the number of battery banks we had, as I just felt there were too many banks (10) for the input we were getting. Well, now with 6 banks, and all the new input, the batteries seem to be working better than they ever have! The Lord has also graciously granted we be going on just over 6 years on these batteries, which typically have an expected life of 5, and we are very thankful, as they are very expensive.

In the end, we look at solar power and electricity as intermediate steps of becoming sustaining on our homestead, but we thank God for these provisions, and thanks again to the folks who made it possible!

-- David

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Invitation to Our Lord's Day Gatherings

If you've followed our blog at all, you might probably be aware that we have a YouTube page where we post all our videos.

What you might not know though is that we also live-stream our Lord's Day fellowship times. Our prayer has always been that they might be a blessing to others perhaps in some way.

And so, we're just mentioning it in case you weren't aware, and to welcome anyone who might interested in joining us live. They are also saved on our YouTube channel so they can be viewed at a later time. The next ones are listed under the "Upcoming live streams" section.

Currently, we stream our Lord's Day sermon and singing time starting at 2:30PM Central time, and then our holy reading time at 5:00PM Central time. Our meetings are very simple and plain, and the sermons/readings given by our elders are always Christ-based, and are usually writings from teachers of the past, like Puritan writers we appreciate, and often emphasize holy living and practical aspects of Christianity.

Lord willing, we should be wrapping up a series on the application on the live of Hezekiah in the first meeting time this Lord's Day, and then we're planning on starting a new holy reading from Thomas Manton on self denial, which I've personally been through twice already and really believe it should be required study for Christians.

During our acapella singing time, we sing from the psalter we use, and from a home-made hymnal. We have the chat on at this time too in case anyone is following along in the psalter and wants to request one during the request time, and we are happy to send anyone a photocopy of our hymnal too.

Here are the two streams from this past Lord's Day, the first again from the Hezekiah series, and then the second finishing up a series on Christ's eternal existence and the dignity of His person, from Thomas Manton. We also put streams that are a part of a series in playlists:

The internet does stutter some at times, but I believe at least the audio is generally steady, and quite frankly, I'm amazed it works as well as it does, given we're out in the country connected to the tower in town wirelessly. :)

Anyway, we're not trying to sell this to anyone, but I thought we'd put this out there in case someone would like to join us during these times.

We always pray God glorifies Himself through our lives in whatever way He may, and we pray we are good witnesses for Him, grow in His graces and image each day, and that we are of benefit to others in some way!

-- David

Friday, May 25, 2018

Elvis' Venominally Fangtastic Fright!

Sadly, our buck Rocky now has a pretty bad injury on his leg, which has prevented him from performing his male-goat duties this last goat breeding round:

Our Buck Rocky

However, the group graciously allowed us to basically take over "ownership" of a buck graciously given to the group by some very nice friends of the group (all the bucks around here get used whenever needed). His name is Elvis, and he's Lamancha, which is where we've been wanting to go with our breeds, and here he is:

Our Buck Elvis

A few weeks ago, I was in the house, and I saw Sue running back with the dogs that she had just taken up to the fields to let go in a fenced area to run around for the evening. She looked like she was in a hurry, so I stepped outside to see if something was wrong.

There was......rattlesnake! It was in one of our pecan tree areas. She had already let the dogs off the leashes, and they were the ones that alerted her to it with them barking at it, but thanks to God she was able to get them leashed up again and her and them out of there.

So, I went up there with a shovel and the shot gun. The rattler was tucked in a tuft of weeds, but finally I could see it. In trying to save a shotgun shell, I lunged at it with the shovel in an attempt to maim it, but all I did was end up covering it with the shovel head. Nice. And so that was that...I aimed the shotgun, and sent him packing.

Here's brave Sue after carrying it back:

Sue Carrying the Rattlesnake

And its rattles:

Rattlesnake Rattle

Thanks to the Lord that all went well!

The next morning though, Sue had noticed Elvis was sitting in the goat shed opening, didn't get up when she came that direction, but didn't appear as if anything was wrong. It wasn't until that evening that she discovered him limping pretty badly.

And then we discovered the cause -- snake bite! The leg was swollen, you could see puncture marks, and some blood-stained fur around it. Oh no.

We wondered if it was the one we killed or another.

In researching snake bites, we read that if the goat doesn't die in a few hours, there's a good possibility it will live. Well, if he had been bit by the snake we killed, it was nearly 24 hours by then, so we were hoping and praying for the best.

Besides the external betadine, we gave him some activated charcoal in his feed, hoping that might help remove some of the toxins.

Over the first day or two, the swelling moved into his chest, and down his stomach, and on one of those days, he spent the day just sitting in the shed...we figured he just wasn't feeling very well. :)

In the following picture, you can see the bite on his swollen left leg after we had drenched it with betadine:

Our Goat Elvis with Snake Bit Leg

At this point, a couple of days into it, he had an appetite, which we figured was good.

Today, thanks to God's graces and mercies, Elvis is doing much better, and there's only a little swelling on the leg! And we haven't seen another rattlesnake since here.

Here's a video documenting a couple days into it, a few days after that, and then almost three weeks after that (the day of this blog post, about 25 days since the bite):

We are very grateful to the Lord for sparing Elvis, and for granting him the healing He did! We pray Elvis will continue to be of benefit to the community!

-- David