The Higher Standard of Living

Living Life God's Way

DSCF0740On the day that Adam and I got married, we fell into the same routine as everyone else. We said, I do to each other, and then we started saying “I Do” to everything else. I don’t know if it’s because we had been alone so long that we wanted to give each other everything, or whether or not it was just what everyone else seemed to be doing. Perhaps since we were newlyweds at nearly 40, we felt like we had a lot of catching up to do.

With one daughter and one on the way, we exploded with material goods. We left our two bedroom condo and found a huge house in the best neighborhood. We went to Living Spaces and bought all brand new furniture to fill up this house. We had so many empty cupboards in this huge kitchen, that a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond came next. We spent the first year and a half collecting our stuff so that we could keep up with the Jones. Adam remembers a friend of his telling him that the president of a company deserves a house like that.

We had the two beautiful cars in the three car garage. We spent thousands of dollars on expensive summer trips, and dropped a small fortune our first Christmas on friends and family. We had so much stuff that we filled up that 3000 square foot home in the blink of an eye, and then stood there wondering where it had all come from. We were living self-serving lives of personal gratification. How two people so active in ministry could have gotten so far off track was a mystery I am still striving to understand.

This summer, Adam and I moved to the desert and a new church. I will confess that we hadn’t been going to church since our baby was born, and it was refreshing to be back in community and fellowship. As we settled back into the rhythm of life lived God’s way, we started to notice how far from His Will we had drifted. We looked at all the stuff we had collected in our three years of marriage and were convicted of our materialism. We both realized, that we weren’t living life God’s way at all. We had become seduced by the desires of the world.

Further, we realized that it didn’t make us any happier. During my periods of greatest financial struggle, I was just as happy as I was living in that huge overpriced dream house. Sure, it was nice, but God has something better in mind. He has a higher standard of living.

God’s idea of a higher standard of living has nothing to do with real estate, material goods, or vacations. It has very little to do with what’s under the Christmas tree each holiday season or what’s on the hangers in your closet. If you look into God’s Word you find people that have found happiness with very little. If you look at Christians around the world, you find people that are blessed with almost nothing. These people are happy and blessed because they are living according to God’s Higher Standard of Living.

Adam and I looked back over our own lives and we reflected on all the times in our lives that we were truly happy, and it was because we felt loved. We felt loved by our savior, Christ Jesus. We felt loved by our families in moments together. We felt loved by each other in moments of quiet stillness. We discovered that our relationship was best when we had the least. We found that our greatest happiness came from giving rather than owning. After that, the next steps were easy. We want God’s Higher Standard of Living for us and for our children.

So we started to implement this plan, and have started what we call “Downsizing,” even though it feels like we are moving up. We have been going through all of our stuff, and we have been trucking loads of books, clothes, and furniture to the local charitable thrift stores. We have been selling thousands of dollars of hobbies and collectibles on eBay and Amazon. We have also contacted our landlord and have asked if he would be willing to allow us out of our lease so we can leave our beautiful home with the pool in the backyard for something more modest. We have decided that instead of taking our children to visit Mickey and Donald, we will take them to visit Grandma and Grandpa. As cool as a week at a theme park might seem, a week with Grandma is always better.

Now that’s the immediate change, but it goes further than that. We don’t just want to let go of material goods, we want a different lifestyle. We also came up with a strict budget that doesn’t include any of the things that we are supposed to want, like trips to the movies or eating out. Instead we are focusing more on quality dinners sitting together as a family, and enjoying the movies we already own at home on the couch. Trust me, the popcorn will be a lot cheaper.

We have also included our children. We decided that we want them to not grow up separated by stuff, like technology. When we were kids our only escape was our imagination, and the only person that “liked” what we were up to was our siblings. We recognize that despite the difference in age, we want our girls to grow up depending on each other. We want them to get on each other’s nerves and have private stories that only they get. We realize that the best times that they will have together are the ones that we as their parents aren’t involved in. The late night whispers and secret adventures that only they know about. So, we’ve also decide that despite the size of our next house, our girls will be sharing a room. More than a room they will be sharing a childhood.

Adam has cut down on his work schedule and is devoting time to continuing his higher education in seminary, even if that means we have to live on less. We hope that when he finishes his Masters of Divinity that he can leave this line of work behind and move into full-time ministry. We want to be ready to go wherever we are called to go, so that we can both serve in full-time ministry.

But there’s even more than that. We want to free up our budget and our time, so that we can serve and give more. We want to create a life of financial margin, where we give on more than we live on. We don’t want to give just ten percent, we want room to give as much as we can. We want to be able to provide scholarships for kids, backpacks of school supplies, food for food banks, and so much more. We want to live on the minimum so that we can give at the maximum.

We want to live lives of testimony, where we are visibly Christians and not just because we attend church. We want to serve first, and live for ourselves second. We want to model what a life of faith looks like for our children. We want to leave this world with no material goods to will to our children but an inheritance of faith that can never be taken from them. We want to shine like the light of Christ is living inside of us.

This isn’t about us or who we are.  We aren’t judging you are calling you out for how you live.  We don’t think that we are better than anyone, because we are so far from that.  We just recognized that we were doing life wrong, and that we could do better.  I am not writing this to impress you, but to impress upon you that God has something better in mind for us.

God wants a life that is lived on purpose, intentionally with a greater goal. He calls us to live with more than just this life in mind. This isn’t about us, it’s all about Him. If we manage to reach this Higher Standard of Living, you’ll know and not because it’s written in some blog somewhere, but because you’ll see it in every aspect of who we are and who our children become.

Devotions for a Deeper Life by Oswald Chambers

A Book Review by Wendy

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From the Back of the Book: Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, remains one of the best-loved and most deeply respected theologians and writers in church history. Few authors inspire and encourage as he does, and never is this more apparent than in Devotions for a Deeper Life.

Devotions for a Deeper Life, excerpted from lesser known essays Chambers wrote in the early twentieth century, will instruct and encourage you with its accuracy and poignant reflections on the Christian life. This daily devotional dives into what it means to live out your faith in dynamic and compelling ways. More than 75 years have passed since the original publication, but the content remains relevant and deeply inspiring.

Oswald Chambers created one of the most classic and influential books in church history when he penned My Utmost for His Highest. His insights and understanding of the nature of God challenge readers to examine their faith and grow in depth and maturity. Devotions for a Deeper Life brings this message to an entirely new generation of believers and will show, once again, the timeless beauty found in the truth of Scripture.

My first impression of this book is relief.  This is a devotional that was written outside the influence of popular culture.  The author, Oswald Chambers, lived over a hundred years ago, so you get an interpretation of God’s Word outside what is currently accepted as truth.  Our current taint for a happily ever after gospel and a timid Jesus won’t be found in this devotional.

The devotional is dated, so that each day the reader can follow a prescribed reading pattern.  There is a scripture reference and then a devotional passage.  It concludes each day with a prayer thought and recommended reading within the Bible for further study.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The Story 365 Devotions

A Book Review by Wendy

_240_360_book-2080-coverBook Description:   Find your place in God’s Epic Story.

This 365 devotional shows how God weaves His plan throughout time. As you enjoy moments with Him daily, you’ll see His plan for this place and this time of your life begin to unfold.

The Story Devotional is also a wonderful companion to the bestselling Bible The Story.

Spend every day reading God’s story, and let Him be the author of your life.

A couple of things I enjoyed about this book was the flow of material in accordance with a scheduled reading plan in your Bible.  If you are reading through your Bible in a year, this book makes a good accompaniment.  I also liked the index, found at the back of the devotional, that showed you where to read more on the topic within your copy of The Story.

I have read The Story multiple times, and I have been enriched by it with each reading.  This devotional is a chronological devotional with readings from the Old Testament coming first.  With 365 devotionals, there are many days of meaningful material to meditate on and follow in prayer. Each devotional has an emphasis based on the reading.  There is a portion of scripture, followed by the devotional, and then a prayer emphasis. This book is a good resource to add to any prayer or quiet time.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Bedtime, Read and Rhyme Bible Stories

A Book Review by Wendy

_240_360_book-2073-coverBook Description:   Our God cares for us so much—His love is everywhere! If He sees one heart in need, His love will be right there.

When Jesus finds a lamb who’s lost,

He sings a happy song!

“My lamb is safe now in My arms,

Where all My sheep belong!”

Bedtime Read and Rhyme Bible Stories offers more than 90 stories from the Old and New Testaments told in delightful, rhyming verse, along with Bedtime Prayers that help young readers grasp and apply each message.

Tuck in your child with rhyming reminders of God’s great love!

The first thing I noticed about this book was the beautiful imagery and colors on the front cover.  When you open the book the colors and pictures continue to bless you on every page.  This is a beautiful book.  The print is a little small for new readers, but perfect for sharing between a parent and their child.  Every story comes with a short prayer to conclude the story.

I loved the rhyming quality and the way that the story is encapsulated within the prose.  There is also a good balance between the Old Testament and the New Testament stories. A large portion of the New Testament stories are the teachings of Jesus, which are broken down into bite-size lessons.  The ribbon allows for the reader to easily mark their place to continue the following night.

I would recommend this book to any parent of a young child.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The Daniel Code: Living out Truth in a Culture That is Losing its Way

A Book Review by Wendy

_240_360_book-2071-coverFrom the Back of the Book: How can we learn to be effective culture warriors?

We live in dangerous times. Not only does violence stalk us in the form of terrorism and crime, but our culture itself is crumbling. Our society tolerates and even praises what would once have been barely spoken of. If we stand up we are branded as intolerant, the term today’s culture considers the inexcusable offense. If we don’t speak up, people won’t know biblical truth. How is a Christian to respond?

Inspired by the story of Daniel in the Old Testament, bestselling author O.S. Hawkins shows how we can engage our broken culture with integrity. Daniel was a young man who “wrote the book” on how to survive in a pagan, permissive, and perverse culture. His value system was challenged at every turn.

Daniel steps off the pages of scripture and into our modern culture today to reveal some timeless principles—a sort of “Daniel Code”—that enable you to not simply exist in our culture but to engage it and survive it as well. You will discover that the same God that ensured Daniel’s victories is here for you today.

This book is a nice read, and I easily flew through the first 100 pages without hesitation.  It is also a book that is relevant to the shifting cultural opinions of Christians.  When I read through this book it resonates with wisdom taken directly from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.  The author, O.S. Hawkins uses scripture to show us a course through our current situation, and does not elaborate from personal experience to the extent of corrupting that wisdom.

If I had a complaint, it would be the lack of real world application.  It is great to say that we should be persistent or constant, but without real world examples, you are left feeling motivated without a source to act. I understand that it would leave this book feeling like a single-issue topic, or selecting some biblical offenses and elevating them above others, it just would have been nice to see how it is done in the modern context.

I enjoyed this book so much, I intend to purchase the other books written by Mr. Hawkins, the Jesus Code, the James Code and the Joshua Code as well as considering some preacher resources he has prepared.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

NIV Bible for Teen Guys

A Book Review by Wendy

_225_350_book-2030-coverFrom the Back of the Book: Created with teen guys in mind, this Bible is designed to help you navigate everyday life. Throughout, a years’ worth of readings touch on the topics that matter – from dealing with family and school to making big decisions and figuring out what the future might are. And highlighted promises of God and profiles of men from the Bible provide insight into how God’s Word applies to you today.

Filled with honest discussions about what it means to be a man of God, as well as wisdom on specific challenges the world throws your way, the NIV Bible for Teen Guys is your source for growing stronger in all areas of your life, while also growing stronger in your faith.

FEATURES:

  • Daily readings for teen guys by popular Christian male authors – Mark Batterson, Kyle Idleman, Mark Hall, Max Lucado and more…
  • Character Profiles of men in the Bible
  • Book Introductions for each book of the Bible
  • A Concordance to help find specific verses
  • The complete text of the bestselling New International Version (NIV) of the Bible

I was extremely pleased with the study Bible features that are not always included with a teen Bible.  This one had solid introductions with each book that covered themes and context for a greater understanding during study.  It also included an index and a concordance for looking up areas of interest or query.

As a mother of girls, I never considered the responsibility of trying to raise a kingdom-minded young man.  This Bible seems to be written to help serve that purpose.  The resources provided with this Bible are specifically geared towards meeting the questions and needs of a young man.  I would definitely recommend this Bible, and I plan on gifting it to a young man serving in ministry at our local church.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < > : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”