Announcing My Upcoming Book, Born Again Dirt

Do you desire to glorify God through the way you farm? Are you tired of reading books on farming that deny God as Creator? Have you ever wondered what agriculture would look like if it was based on the Bible, instead of evolution, Mother Nature, or the latest and greatest manipulative science?
Born Again Dirt is a book written for Christian farmers (or Christians that grow anything) and seeks to give them a Biblical vision for agriculture. This book contends that the way we farm is not unrelated to our relationship with God. Rather, it should be a reflection of it!  As the title of the book communicates, if you are a born again farmer, your dirt needs to be born again as well.
The primary goal of Born Again Dirt is not to convince Christians to adopt a particular farming method. Instead, the intent is to encourage them to begin a journey of seeking to glorify the Lord through applying the principles of Scripture to every aspect of their farms. This book seeks to do that by taking a helpful, though not exhaustive, look at various Biblical principles and considering examples of practical application. Topics covered include:
-Developing a Biblical, agricultural worldview.
-Designing farms as beautiful, fruitful homes.
-Managing your farm as a steward
-Honoring God’s design in farm production
-Growing crops that honor the Lord
-Marketing as ministry
-The idolatry of modern agriculture
-Farming for the lifestyle
-Starting a born again farm
-Making a living farming
Without claiming to know all the answers, Born Again Dirt seeks to encourage you in your pursuit of God-glorifying agriculture . This book is a must read for any Christian who is a full time farmer, backyard gardener, or for anyone who desires a more Biblical view of agriculture.
Lord willing, Born Again Dirt will be released sometime next month. It will be available on my upcoming website, I really am looking forward to seeing how the Lord uses this book for the encouragement of the growing number of Christian farmers.
Currently I am working on editing, and would appreciate your prayers. I only have a short time to work on it before growing season hits. Over the next few weeks I will try to give you updates and more info as I make progress. To God be the Glory.
“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

Sustainably Fruitful

How does God want us to care for his creation? How does he want us to tend our farms or gardens?

Well, if we look at Genesis, when God first gave the assignment of caring for his creation to man, and placed him in the garden, the instructions he gave him were to care for and work it. Another way to look at it is that his management was to be both sustainable and fruitful.

Sustainable refers to man’s job to protect, maintain, tend, and help supply the needs of the resources he is caring for. He is not supposed to use up or destroy the resources of creation to his own benefit. Instead, he realizes that creation doesn’t belong to him, that he is caring for it out of love for God and service to others, so he seeks to maintain and preserve creation for the benefit of those who come after.

Fruitful refers to the man’s job to fully utilize creation for increased productivity. Just as in the parable of the talents, man is not to simply preserve the ‘talents’ of creation, but he is to put them to work to produce fruit. It is part of our job to work with our hands, so that we can have to share with those in need.

In agriculture it is easiest to be either just ‘sustainable’, or just ‘fruitful’. Many times it is easier to primarily seek to preserve our resources and produce only what it takes to live. However, that is selfish because it is wasting, for the sake of our laziness, the potential fruitfulness of the land that could be used to serve other. And most of the time it is easier to seek to produce all that we can at the expense of the resources of creation. However, this is selfish because it is robbing future generations of what they need to be fruitful.

In the past, we can see that many farming methods tended to stray from Biblical, sustainable fruitfullness. In America, for instance, many of the early ‘Indians’ were very sustainable, but were not very fruitful. They just existed from one generation to the next, rarely leaving anything more to the next than they had received. And the European settlers, although Christians, tended to be very fruitful, but not very sustainable. They established a pattern of using up the land and moving west, ruining the inheritance of their descendents.

If we want to redeem our dirt, then we need to seek to farm in a way that is sustainability fruitful. Both caring for and working creation. It’s a lot easier to be either sustainable or fruitful. But, because it’s not about us, we need to purpose to be both. Sustainably fruitful is the harder path, but anything less is bad stewardship.

Chickens: God's Gift to Gardeners

For a change, in this post I want to talk about a practical example of using God’s design to redeem the land, and show how it can bring amazing results. Perhaps it might be useful to some of you.

By the way, I am very grateful to Mr. Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian for mentioning me in his blogazine issue this month. It has really boosted my readership! Welcome to all you newcomers.

For the previous several years the garden operation on our farm hasn’t been the most successful. We still were blessed with many veggies to eat and sell, but the two acres of plantable ground was far from being fully utilized. Especially since I am the primary labor.

However this year was a HUGE improvement because the Lord helped me to implement a small piece of His design early in the season.

This spring our egg operation expanded from one flock, to two. With an additional flock to move around the farm I was faced with a dilemma. Our newly cleared pasture had baby grass coming up that would be decimated by foraging chickens and our small amount of established pastured needed some serious rest. To go along with this challenge, our garden needed to be planted soon but was grown up in crabgrass and other weeds.
Then, somewhere along the way the Lord helped me to see the previously unseen, obvious solution. Put the chickens in the garden!

It was not the first time I had heard or thought of the concept (or even used it), but I had been hesitant before because our garden is further away from our buildings than seemed safe. It seemed more tempting to the critters who consider chicken meat a delicacy around here: coyotes, opossums, raccoons, hawks, owls, etc. However, I knew it would be a good way to turn the chicken’s scratching from a liability in the pasture, to an asset in the garden. So I hooked the tractor to the portable coop of one of the flocks and hauled them down there.

I parked the coop over an area of basically crabgrass sod and surrounded it with electric netting. The chickens were released, and I threw their feed out on the ground. Several weeks later the grass had all been turned into eggs and fertilizer and I had bare soil with a very even dressing of manure. I then moved them to another area, and prepared and planted the spot where they had been. This went on throughout the season and the results I saw were amazing.

In the above picture you can see some of our fall crops. Broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, and tomatoes. In this plot I first got a demonstration of the amazing impact the chickens have on the plants. This was because part of the plot was in an earlier planting of tomatoes and the chickens never got a chance to be on it. The contrast between the part where the chickens had been and where they hadn’t was astounding. See the examples below.

Broccoli plants on ground not worked by the chickens.

Broccoli plants on ground worked by the chickens.

Cabbage plants on ‘un-chickened’ dirt.

Cabbage on ‘chickened’ dirt.

Tomatoes in ‘un-redeemed dirt’.

Tomatoes in ‘redeemed’ dirt!

In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” I believe this is an excellent example of this principle being displayed in the preparation of soil for planting. And it didn’t require more work from me. It just required me caring for and working God’s creation in a way that honors His design. His wisdom is far superior than anything man can come up with. I mean, just consider a few of the benefits of utilizing the design of chickens in the garden:

-The chickens turn one of the garden’s greatest liabilities, weeds, into one of the garden’s greatest assets, fertilizer.
-Instead of having to work to clean up weeds and crop residue, the chickens do it for me and turn them into eggs, which we then eat and sell!
-Tillage is minimized to preparing a seed bed and shallow cultivation of weeds. Earthworm population has increased.
-Bug population is kept under control.
-Spoiled produce can be fed to chickens to be converted into eggs and fertilizer.
-No time spent applying manure
-No time spent cleaning out coops.
-Organic matter can be incorporated into the soil without the danger of losing nitrogen because of the manure.
-The cost of production of eggs is decreased because feed bill doubles as fertilizer bill as well!

The wisdom of the Lord is limitless, and he offers it to those of us who will ask (James 1:5). What a blessing it is to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, who instructs us in the way to walk, and grants us success. Imagine what the fruits and benefits could be as we continue to seek to redeem our dirt!

Why Does God Want us to Farm?

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There seems to be something about farming that is special. It is normally not the most lucrative occupation, and many times farmers today lose money farming. Most farmers work a ‘city’ job so they can continue to afford to farm. So why do they keep farming? Well, I believe the main reason is because they enjoy it.

I enjoy farming. I know that I would farm for free if my bills could still be met. There is something about being able to be outside, working in the dirt, watching things grow, feeding the animals, and harvesting the fruits of your labor that seems to fill an inward desire to steward the land.

When I rise early in the morning the waking dawn is just breathtaking. Doing the chores is satisfying as well as great exercise. Basically what I get to do is go around and make the animals happy. Give them feed, fill their water, move their shelters, etc., and when they are happy, my job is done. My daily work on the farm is never the same and changes with the seasons. There are somewhat hard jobs, like processing chickens, setting out thousands of transplants, or working in the heat of the summer. But they don’t last forever and I can finish and move on to something else. There is always something to look forward to. Looking forward to planting the first seeds in spring. Looking forward to harvesting the first crops of summer. Looking forward to the cooler weather of fall. Looking forward to the rest and projects of winter. And the majority of the time I am at home and get to eat every meal with my family, as well as work with them. Almost every day I find myself falling more in love with farming.

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But I have begun to realize that merely farming because I enjoy it isn’t necessarily a proper primary motive for me as a Christian. And it’s not a very reliable one either. Because at times there are definitely things I don’t enjoy about farming. Like doing the chores in the rain and mud. Or finding chickens that have been killed by predators . As a Christian, my life is not all about farming. It’s all about Christ. It’s about doing what pleases the Lord who created me, loves me, and saved me. This means that my farming needs to be motivated out of a love for God, not just a love for farming.

Though there are many aspects to God’s commands, we are told that they are all summed up by one thing. Love. Love for God, and love for your neighbor. If our farms are to bring glory to God they must be motivated first and foremost by a love for God and man.

Love is such a misunderstood term today that I probably need to take a moment to give a biblical definition of love. Love is not the mushy gushy, fickle, emotional feeling that American culture tells us. Rather, God is love. Through the ultimate display of love of all time, Jesus showed us that love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that produces action on behalf of its object, even at great personal cost. “This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” It is this type of love that must motivate our farms.

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Most Born Again farmers would probably agree that love should be the motive for farming, but how many of us actually farm as if that were the case? How many Christians go into farming today because of a desire to love God and others? On other hand, how many Christians never go into farming because there are easier and better paying jobs? What does that say about our motives? Of course we all claim that it’s not about the money and that there is nothing wrong with work. But then we go and evaluate something like farming primarily based on how much money we could make rather than on how it enables us to be in a position to serve God and others. We need to repent of claiming to have God’s values, then turning around and applying the World’s values.

If farming is to be motivated by love, does the Bible explain any further what that means? In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul is writing to urge the brothers to live in order to please God. He then tells them to avoid sexual immorality and encourages them in their love for one another. He then sums up by giving what I consider an application of what love should look like in our lives.

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet live, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thess. 4:11,12)

There are four major applications I believe this verse calls us to.

1.-Godly lifestyle: To promote and support, restful, God-focused living.
2.-Stewardship: To work and care for creation.
3.-Testimony: To display the work of the Gospel.
4.-Provision: To provide for the needs of people.

Lord willing, I will talk more about these applications in later posts.

Let’s consider today, “Why do I farm?” Is it primarily from a self-centered motive or a Christ-centered motive? I find both motives in my own heart daily. May the Lord enable us to continually redeem our dirt by removing our selfishness and replacing it with Christ.

Does God Care How we Farm?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.       Romans 12:1,2

If we claim to be Born Again farmers (farmers who are redeemed by Christ and who have given their lives to God) we must ask the question, ‘Does He care how we farm?”

One of the most perplexing things I have noticed in my pursuit of God-glorifying Agriculture,or Born Again Dirt, is the lack of other Christian farmers with the same desire or vision. There are very few, if any books or resources for Christian farmers seeking to honor God with their farms. There are a few, but for the most part, the apparent general consensus in the church is that farming is spiritually neutral.

If asked, “Does God care how we farm?”, many Christians today would probably answer something like, “Of course! God wants Christian farmers to be honest, fair, do a good job, and do to others as they would want others to do to them.” However, that still leaves the question, “So how does God want Christians to farm?” In other words, we understand that we need to follow Christian morals in farming, but does it matter what design we follow? I mean, should we follow a more industrial design, or organic? Should we use compost, or 13-13-13 chemical fertilizer? Should we use genetically modified seeds, or heirloom? From my observations, many professing Christian farmers, at least in practice, basically say, “As long as we do it for the right reasons, it doesn’t really matter what design we use.”

The problem I see with that opinion is that designs are not meaningless. Every design is intended to accomplish something, and behind that design is a purpose. Every design is designed for something.

This something, or purpose, gives a spiritual bias to the farming design. Why? Because everyone’s goals and purposes are the result of what they worship. So we can’t say that as long as our purposes are good, then our designs don’t matter because they could be designs that contradict or interfere with our purposes. It’s like saying that if you want to go ice-skating it doesn’t matter what design of shoe you wear, or if you are golfing it doesn’t matter if you use a driver to putt with or a putter to drive with!

As Christians, because we worship God we are to do everything for His glory. That is the purpose of our farming. So our farm design should be based upon and influenced by our worship of God.

God cares about how we farm because agriculture, like anything we do in life, is an act of worship. We were created by God to worship, and He demands that worship. He wants our farms to reflect the fact that we have given our hearts to him, acknowledging Him as the owner and creator of all. He desires that we purposely seek to find out how we can worship him in the way we farm because if we don’t, we will fall into idolatry. Because of sin, our natural tendency is to farm in such a way that it reflects a worship of creation, instead of the Creator.

In order to properly worship God through agriculture, we need to recognize that we don’t own our farms, He does. Of course, most of us believe that, but do we act upon it? Do we realize that it means we don’t have the right to do whatever we want to with our farms? Do we realize that if we treat our farms like they belong to us, making decisions according to our own plans and purposes, that we are acting like thieves? In order to properly worship God though our farming, we need to repent of carelessly using His property for our own means, in our own means, and seek to discover and implement His plan for our farms. Only then can we expect His blessing.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.       Deuteronomy 30:15-18

The Biblical Beginnings of Agriculture

(The article I planned to post this week isn’t finished yet, so I decided to share some thoughts I had written some time ago about the Biblical origins of farming. I pray that they contain some truths that might be helpful.)
When God created mankind, he described for them their mission on the earth. They were told to be fruitful, to multiply and fill the earth, to subdue the earth, and the rule over the creatures of the earth. God gave man the responsibility of having dominion. He was not just another one of God’s creatures. Man was the image of God, His representative on earth. As God’s image bearer and representative, man was to reflect the glory of the creator by his Godly Dominion over the creation.
It seems to me that the garden of Eden was a training ground for man, showing him how he was to have dominion over the earth. This dominion was not to be one of the exploit and ruin of creation for the sake of man, but rather one of beauty, fruitfulness, and care. This dominion was one of stewardship; the delegated care and fruitful management of that which belongs to another. The creation should benefit from the hand of man.
Man was created to work the ground, and the ground was designed to be worked by man. Genesis 2:4,5 says “When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground . . .” (emphasis mine). Many people would have us believe that nature is in its perfect and best state as wilderness, and any intrusion by man is a blight on the landscape. However, although the ‘unsubdued’ parts of nature were declared ‘good’ by God at the end of the creation week, the man and his role to work and care for the earth was also declared good. Wilderness is good, but its design and intent was that it should be improved by man’s proper management. Isaiah 45:18 declares, “For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited,” (emphasis mine).
Obviously, the application of dominion was not limited exclusively to farming and working the ground itself. Other means of dominion by proper fishing, construction, metalworking, woodworking, and other crafts are practiced by Godly men in scripture, including the Lord Jesus himself. But scripture seems to indicate that agriculture should be one of the foundational and primary applications of man’s dominion, rather than one of the rarest like we see today.

Redeeming the Dirt: What in the world does that mean?

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13,14
Since I have sort of coined a new term, “redeeming the dirt”, I thought I should take this post to further explore and explain my intended meaning.
By redeeming the dirt I mean the process or journey of seeking to bring glory to God through our agriculture.
As Christians, we are most familiar with the word ‘redeem’ as it relates to what Christ has done for us. Christ has redeemed (or saved, ransomed, liberated, rescued) us from our sin through his death on the cross in our place.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”       Titus 2:11-14
Now, by redeeming the dirt I am not implying that we can in any way redeem agriculture in the same way that Christ has redeemed us. Obviously we don’t pay the penalty for agriculture to save it from sin. That’s ridiculous. However, what we can and should do as Christians is seek to apply the redemption of Christ to every area of our lives, including agriculture. We do this by seeking to be obedient in those areas. By allowing the law of Christ to root out wickedness and disobedience, and plant seeds of righteousness and obedience.
See, before we were saved we were slaves to sin (John 8:34). This sin extended to every area of our lives which, again, includes agriculture. This sin resulted in wickedness and unfruitfulness. However, when we repented and believed the gospel, God applied the redemption of Christ to our lives and saved us from our sin. Now we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, or in other words, to be obedient to his commands. This obedience results in fruitfulness and God’s blessing. So, in a sense, we as Christians can (and should) redeem our dirt from the curse of our sin by seeking the blessing of the Lord through our obedience. And this obedience, this fruit, is what brings Glory to God.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  John 15:8

So how exactly does this impact our farming? How exactly do we redeem our dirt? Well, here are three things I think we should be doing to help us bring God greater glory through increased obedience:
1. Farm for the Right Reasons
       If we recognize that God created us and owns us, then we should naturally look to Him for the intended purposes of farming. It doesn’t matter how good our production methods are or how productive our farms are if we are doing it for the wrong reasons. Our heart motives must come from God. These reasons are what give us our testimony and set us apart from other farmers.
2. Learn from the Master Farmer
       When we recognize that God is the source of all knowledge, then we should naturally look to him for the wisdom for how to farm. It wouldn’t bring glory to God if we understood his purposes for our farm, then said, “Got it! We’ll get right on it and come up with some way to get it done.” That’s arrogance on our part. We should be looking for him to teach us how to farm.
3. Trust in God’s Power
       When we recognize that God is the source of all power, then we naturally look to him for the power to make our farms successful. Even though we may be properly motivated and use God’s wisdom, we still can’t make our farms successful. We can’t make plants grow or control the weather or even have the strength to get out and work sometimes. Only God can control his creation and give us strength. Our job is to be faithful and leave the results of our work up to him.
Basically, before Christ saved us, our farms were based on the motives, methods, and muscles of man. Redeemed dirt, however, (or born again dirt, as I like to call it) should be based on God’s motives, methods, and muscles. This will result in obedient, God-glorifying agriculture.
We should realize, especially as farmers, that fruit does not appear overnight (except maybe in the case of okra). The sanctification and redemption of our hearts and our farms is a process that depends on the grace of God. Our job is not to figure out how we can do it all today in our own strength. That frustrates me so often. I have found that God wants me to rely on him to lead me step by step.
Here is some practical advice for beginning to redeem your dirt tomorrow:
-Start the day by dedicating it to the Lord, as well as your farm and the days work. Ask him to change your heart and give you the proper motive of love for everything you do. Ask him to give you wisdom for accomplishing your work. Repent of pride, and acknowledge that you can’t please him with your farm apart from his strength. Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.
-Throughout the day, make it a habit of going to the Lord for wisdom for every decision you have to make. From, “Where should I plant the carrots?”, to “Where should I sell my produce?”
-Ask the Lord for help in everything you do. He can give you the strength when you get tired. He can show you better ways to feed the chickens. Don’t think that you can do anything on your own.
-Focus on being faithful. Leave the results up to God. Neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes it grow.
-Begin to read your Bible as a farming manual. Keep notes of what God teaches you. Although the Bible is not a detailed manual that provides us with all the details we need to know about agriculture, it does provide an understanding of those details that we wouldn’t be able to have without it.
On this blog I hope to help us consider in more detail exactly how God calls us to be obedient in our farming. I want to see Born Again Farmers around the world begin a journey of seeking to glorify God though their farms. I want to see the whole Church rise up and take back agriculture for the Kingdom of God by not only farming, but also by being willing to support Godly farming. I believe this will result in not only the spread of the Gospel of Christ, but also in the most successful farms the world has ever known. Let’s redeem the dirt!