Faith Category

For matters of the heart and soul…

A Reminder…

We have been so fortunate to be able to sing at some pretty cool places, with some pretty amazing people. At our last church, Jordan was able to write and record on a project called SONGS OF THE PEOPLE. Go get it on itunes if you haven’t heard it…so good. This was one of the tunes from that record. Jordan sang it this morning in a slightly different manner than we had done it before! ha.

I was struck by the pure nature of the song done this way. It occurred to me that some may feel that there is a song that they love, but they don’t have the resources to accomplish it; the orchestrations, the production equipment, or what have you. This piece was done (and beautifully done) with full band, choir, orchestra, and praise team behind it. Here it is done with one servant strumming a guitar, singing a reminder of God’s grace.

I am one that can put man-made restrictions on my praise sometimes. Praise God! He does not put such restrictions on how we praise Him.

 

 

Prayers for my babies!

Prayers for my babies!

Guys, my babies are growing up. I cannot begin to tell you how hard that is. Of course, every mommy in the world knows the horror of this feeling. No one needs to try and explain to another mom the pain of seeing your babies developing into children/kids/middleschoolers/teenagers/ adults. Of course, there are perks to be sure. I feel like I’m going to look into all the faces of the moms on Jozlyn’s first day of school… yes, my daughter is going to school for the first time this year, and see an expression of equal parts heartbreak and elation; an inward struggle for a dominant emotion. I am thrilled to have some time to do adult things. I am excited to hopefully have conversations with “big people” who challenge my thinking and help me grow. But I am equally unnerved at the thought of my daughter being away from me for 8 hours a day. I mean, for the next 13 years of her life AT LEAST, someone else will have more time with her than I will. I will no longer be the one who has the best opportunity to develop her character, responses, intellect, and grace. That is a sobering thought.

When considering moving to NYC, of course, we THOUGHT about the day when Jozzy would go to school. We talked about the school systems and some options. We felt very strongly about putting our kids in public school. We want them to be a good influence in the community and thought it would be a great way to meet people outside the church. I still believe that. As much as I love Christian education, and believe me, I DO, I have definitely seen the effects of not allowing kids to develop a Christian worldview outside of the confines of the safe church. When we don’t expose our kids to things outside the church until we throw them out into the college world, we are begging for overwhelmed, blindsided and often times, ineffective Christians on college campuses…many of whom, leave the church once they’ve experienced this “new world”. This, of course, is not the case for everybody but is a large number. We didn’t want that for our babies.

However, when you’re in New York, that safety bubble is effectively burst! There is no “church world”. They are exposed to everything you can be exposed to simply by existing in this place, so we decided Christian school would be a great option. This is the only reason that I’m not having a nervous breakdown right now.

Jozlyn is so ready to be in school. She’s excited to go and I know she will thrive. I know every momma thinks their babies are brilliant…but mine really is…:). Maybe not “brilliant”, but she’s a very capable, smart little girl and I am excited what school will do for her. I’m excited for her to be able to be social and structured. I’m excited for her to experience new things. I’m excited to see who she will become. And I’m excited to get some one-on-one time with my little one.

The kids have coped by clinging to one another and I think the separation will help them gain some needed independence. I’m so glad they love each other, but right now, they tend to fall apart a bit when separated.

  • Pray that they will grow in comfort and confidence while here.

We are so excited about Jozzy’s school. I really want to tell you what school it is, but I’ve been on the internet too much and don’t want to say where they are going! ha. I’m that mom. But I will tell you it is an amazing place with fantastic leadership. They have shown love for our family and made us feel like our girls would be special to them, which I’m sure they do to each family, but I love them for it.

  • Pray for me as I send my big girl off for the first time.
  • Pray for logistics as we navigate how to try and get one kid to school in a completely different direction, on a completely different train than Jordan goes/takes to work and we still have one little one at home.
  • Pray that the Lord will open up opportunities for me to work.

You guys are the best! Thank you for lifting us up. We love you.

Love,

the Grizzards

What is Christlikeness??

What is Christlikeness??

How many times have we all heard the term “Christlike”? A million right? If you have been a believer trying to pursue spiritual growth, it is likely you have as well, but what does this term actually mean? What does being “like Christ” look like practically speaking? Is this characteristic even possible? Are we to pursue something that is actually not attainable to mere humans? After all, the attributes of Christ are powerful, sinless, humble, righteous, perfect, loving, and holy. I don’t know a single person who, even if they tried relentlessly could achieve this. So why would the Bible tell us to strive for something that can never actually be realized? Does it? This has been a question that the Lord has been dealing with me heavily on.

My pastor touched on this message tonight, and I loved it. Although, he would be the first to admit that this subject is far too exhaustive for one message. How can we discuss the idea of Christlikeness in one night? You can’t, but in all of my years of sitting under pretty amazing pastors, I’ve learned that the best messages are not those that pretend to give you all the answers. The best messages are those that leave you with a lot of questions; questions that you HAVE to go and wrestle with God to have answered.

I recently had someone I love very deeply warn me about the tendency I have to make my life revolve around the cerebral, particularly in my faith. He said it led to his “not really feeling anything, but doing things because he knew he should, not because he wanted to”. I tend to see things very black and white. I lead with my head and don’t understand those that feel things very deeply. In my immaturity, I looked down on the spiritual health of people who experience God differently than I do. God has wrecked me of that. I make decisions with pros and cons lists, with logic, and with a tendency toward arrogance. What killed me about this friend was that I understood this warning. I appreciated it because I know that in my flesh my faith can become all about right and wrong. It can become all about what I should DO instead of who I should BECOME. This loved one said that his life was so much better now that he is not bound by the “rigidity that comes with our faith”. The problem is, this is part of our faith. Absolutely it is.

God gave us the law in Exodus, and Jesus upheld it in His life. More than that he said,

 

 

So what is the first step to being Christlike? I believe, Scripture supports that it is obedience…and not just lawful doing what God says to do and not doing what He says not to do, but a submission to God’s authority. That means even if we disagree or don’t understand. Even if it makes absolutely no sense….like leaving the comfort of friends, family, an amazing church and going to someplace hard… obey…submit.

I recently did a post on David and what it means to be a man after God’s own heart. David understood this concept of obedience better than most. This is why he was given such an austere title that we all try to emulate thousands of years later.

But what about those times when we obey and we don’t get what we wanted or what we think we should? We all know the right answer….it’s all in God’s hands. But it sucks when it actually happens and often that answer is just painful when we’re in the middle of it. How do we deal with the disappointment? The best example of this is Jesus.

Remember the prayer in the Garden? Jesus prayed that God would take this cup from Him… and God didn’t. Jesus prayed for an outcome that didn’t come to pass, and that had to be disappointing, but the end of His prayer is paramount…” not my will, but thine be done”…OBEDIENCE- a submission to God’s authority; even if it’s painful…even if it costs us something. Something like comfort, position, entitlement, sex, authority, ministry, or a relationship.“ A submission to God’s authority” is the beginning to a life of Christ-likeness.

What happens when we show that kind of obedience? Go back to John 14:21

 


 

So when we obey God, He manifests Himself to us. What do we get when we obey through disappointment or pain or denial of self? We get intimacy with God. We cannot know God without understanding the HUMILITY of obedience.

But, there is something else we must strive for before we can say we are living lives striving for Christlikeness. “The greatest of these is love”. Christians have such a hard time with this. While straddling the line of grace and righteousness, some believers take a foot off of one or the other and lose their stability altogether. We MUST remain with feet planted firmly on BOTH. You do not have to relinquish your stance on righteousness to be full of grace, and you do not have to be full of judgment to be holy.

 

(Somewhat of a side note, but I feel it’s an important note: Obedience leads us to encounter God, and scripture teaches us that we CANNOT ENCOUNTER THE LIVING GOD AND REMAIN UNCHANGED (James 1:23). Anytime, someone has a genuine encounter with God, there is life change. If there is no change, there was no encounter. But this is a 

charge FOR BELIEVERS.)

Christians often use this as a club with which to bludgeon non-believers into moral and biblical obedience. It’s not going to work. Grace upon grace upon grace for those that have not yet encountered God. My mom used to say it this way, “you’ve got to expect lost people to act like lost people”, and we’ve got to stop being surprised when people who don’t believe in Jesus don’t act like Jesus… THAT’S WHAT WE’RE FOR. And crucifying them for their perceived immorality ain’t gonna do anything to advance the Kingdom. God is not surprised by the degradation. Jesus, after all, raised holy hell on those in the temple and showed mercy to the tax collectors and prostitutes. Judgement here on Earth is for believers to keep each other accountable in love. Grace, church, grace.

 

That’s the love piece, but we are to never forget the “righteous” piece…that’s the head part.

 

The law is still in effect. It is still important and still applicable. The law was the physical embodiment of God’s call to righteousness and humility for His people. He wanted them to strive for morality and to recognize that they could never attain perfection. It is because of this that we have Christ- the embodiment of the complete gospel; righteousness and love.

 

 

We cannot have just one or the other, or we do not have the faith. We can struggle with one or the other but show me a judgmental pharisee and I will show you an idolatrous pagan who worships the tool of the Bible more than the God of the Bible.

Show me a spineless, compromising heretic and I will show you someone who worships the creation of God more than the being of God. You must understand the need for both- righteousness and grace.  This, sadly, is what my friend didn’t quite understand. If you miss one, you miss God.

So what is it? What is the special formula to becoming Christlike? I believe that scripture supports the idea that to be like Christ, you must have a practicing life of obedience that leads to encountering God. This encounter compels us to a life of loving His children. “For those who love Christ, keep His commands”…and “the greatest of these is love”.

 

Would love your thoughts. Leave a comment.

 

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AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART

AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART

 

I have always loved this adage. I cannot count the number of times someone has encouraged me from a pulpit to strive to be one “after God’s own heart”. It was very often from my dad, but since he was also the preacher I always envision him saying it from behind the large, elaborately carved, wooden pulpit he used to stand behind when he was a preacher in Mississippi. To be someone after God’s heart meant to love Him before all others. To align your desires with the desires of the Father. Of course, it didn’t mean to be perfect but to understand the importance of daily strife toward Christlikeness. I wanted to live daily so that everyone could tell that I lived for the Lord. I wanted to look different than those that lived for themselves and didn’t know the love of God that impacted my whole life. I wanted to be able to discern His voice above all of the other voices of the world that called me away from things that God would desire for me…like a sheep knows the voice of his shepherd, I wanted to know my God. This was the picture of someone who was  a “man after God’s own heart.” Except that’s not what the Scripture says. Now, of course, all of these things are good things and can be found in one way or another in other scriptures… but it is not the definition given in scripture for how to be one after God’s heart.

This passage is very often quoted by those aspiring to bring motivation to their audience listening, but it is very rarely completed. An incomplete passage of scripture is very often a dangerous miscommunication. The completed passage says David “was a man after God’s own heart, for he will do ALL of my will.” Ouch. The Lord gave us the instruction manual on how to be a believer like David. He wasn’t perfect! Far from it! He basically hung out on a rooftop with binoculars so he could lurk at a naked neighbor… the guy was downright creepy. He was an adulterous, arrogant, murdering, lying, compromising, lazy, fearful, entitled aristocrat. But God could use him… because He was willing to be used. The only qualification to be a man/woman after God’s own heart was to do ALL of God’s will. Samuel was directed to David after God removed His blessing of Saul. Why did God do that?

 

Command. Just one command. He is not talking about the 10 commandments or the law. It would be impossible to keep all of the commandments for anyone….even the chosen King of Israel. There is one command that was given that was disobeyed. God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites, but Saul kept some of the spoils of the victory for himself and his people even telling Samuel of his intention to sacrifice these pagan spoils to God. But Samuel said,

 

 

You see? Saul obeyed the Lord MOSTLY… until he saw what would be beneficial to him. “This makes sense God, so I will do this and I’m sure you will bless it.” Even though he was given clear instructions from God. He did what God told him to…MOSTLY.

David did ALL of God’s will. Now, there’s the hard part. What’s God’s will? The big picture is the same for everyone. God told us in his word “Go and make disciples”. That’s it. That’s what we as believers are called to do. Go and find an unreached people group in your own backyard or across the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus. We were created for God, but we are called to his people.

We hear the word “called” very often.

“I was called to serve as a missionary to Africa.”

“I was 3 years old when I was called to full-time ministry.”

“I’ve been called to leave this church and go do that ministry.”

We’ve heard it so often in the church that we’ve probably become very numb to this word…I know I have. It’s a weighted word that means that God has commanded an action of some sort usually for a ministry or evangelistic purpose. And often used in scripture to note those of us that are “set apart” or “called out” as believers. But often it’s used to justify a move in vocation or location. (this is not what the bible says, this is just Kayla talking..) I feel that Christians sometimes feel the need to spiritually justify everything. I was talking to a girlfriend of mine, whose husband is in ministry. Her husband had a ministerial position at a church, a very demanding one that dominated a lot of his time. He was offered a position at a different church. The pay was roughly the same, but he got more vacation time and it gave him more time with his wife and kids. When asked why they decided to move, my girlfriend would say, “it was just a great job opportunity.” Now, I’ve always loved this girl, but I seriously loved her more. It is important to note that there is nothing super spiritual about sacrificing your family for your ministry. Your family comes second to God himself, of course, but not to your church…and there is a difference. There was no need for the “churchy answer” of “ well, we just feel the Lord calling us to this church”…even though that may be true! It was a great job opportunity to allow this man to do ministry to which he was “called” in a place that allowed him to provide for his family both financially and emotionally. That word holds significant weight and if we use it sparingly, it will hold its value much better and maintain our reputations as wise prophets of the Word.

So what’s the little voice that answers the prayers of His people? That’s God’s direction to enable His calling. I am in no way saying that someone who says “I have been called” is mishearing the Lord. Just encouraging caution when using words with a heavenly weight by giving them an earthly measure. “Now that’s just semantics, Kayla! Calm down!” Yes, it is!! Words mean something and when we say them, we are teaching theology as believers to those younger in the faith than we are. And in this age of social media where catchphrases can “catch fire”… be wise.

David was by no means perfect, but he was obedient. He was obedient to do ALL of God’s will. Is that even possible? Can we do ALL of God’s will ALL the time? Yes… if not then scripture would be less than true..so how? Well, it obviously does not require a sinless life or David most certainly would not be a candidate for such a title. From what I can surmise from reading the scriptures the difference between a leader like David and a leader like Saul is that Saul may have obeyed but for his own gain (like the elder brother in the story of the prodigal). He followed God for the victories in battle that gave His kingdom security and His pride applause from his people. When God removed His favor, his people applauded another and his heart was led to envy revealing that his obedience was never to God for love of God but for love of self. David’s heart beat for what God’s heart beat for. He desired to do what God wanted him to do for the love of God and the glory of His name. He was obedient to follow the Lord’s instruction and repent when he failed Him. He recognized his humanity and submitted to God’s deity. He obeyed when spoken to and bowed to the real King of Israel. He failed, but fell on his face before a holy and worthy God. He was a man after God’s own heart that did ALL of God’s will.

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Danger in defining Worship?

Danger in defining Worship?

I was originally going to title this post What your worship pastor really wants you to know, but I am not a worship pastor, don’t speak for all worship pastors. I am married to a worship pastor, but I don’t even pretend to speak for him. So this is just the passions of a woman who loves to worship God and is heartbroken when people misunderstand what worship is for what we can more easily understand.

If you ever engage Jordan or me in conversation for more than about 10 minutes, our faith is probably going to come up. It’s just something that drives us and has become entwined with our DNA. We see this as nothing but a positive thing. It helps us have compassion, generosity, love, humility, grace, and patience… all of these attributes are not ones that come completely naturally to me, for sure. And don’t get me wrong…. we are far from perfecting these actions, but we are working on it.

One thing that has helped me is to stay intellectually motivated by a good library of books. I am proud (and shocked) to say that I have recently (very recently) become a lover of books! Why this love did not develop in high school I will never know! It would have been very helpful in getting through Oscar Wilde. I love authors like Francine Rivers, Gail McWilliams, Tim Keller, and, of course, Josh McDowell. Recently, we’ve been absolutely obsessed with a book by Zachary Neese out of Gateway called HOW TO WORSHIP A KING

We took our last team through this book, and the kind of discussion that was brought out due to its content was humbling. It’s provocative and unafraid. It dares to ask questions of our thought processes and traditions. It challenges you on what you think of when you hear the word “worship”. What worship is and isn’t. Is there danger in defining it? Is there danger in NOT defining it? Why do people care so deeply about it in our churches?

“Worship” is a very controversial concept. Whenever change is considered to the “worship”, people get very upset. Why? Why is it that the worship seems to cause so much conflict within the walls of the church? But what is meant by “changes to the worship”?  Most of the time, it’s referencing changes to the music style or atmosphere.  We have all heard “worship is a lifestyle”, but is that true? And what does it even mean? If it means, it’s anything we do with pure hearts in motives… is that biblical worship? Or something else?

Though, I know well intentioned, I hate this catchphrase. It does nothing to further our understanding of worship. It was intended to encourage believers to live a life focused on God, but what it’s become is to believe that everything you do FOR God is worship. And that is just not true…biblically. We can do a lot of great things for God. We can praise, we can serve, we can teach, we can pray, but there is an actual definition of “worship” and, I would say, that actual “worship” is something that makes a lot of believers incredibly uncomfortable and so not done often.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… leave a comment.

Here are a couple things that have really stood out to me when speaking with worship pastors:

  1. We want you to engage!– I know this one seems obvious, but I’ve come across some people who, I swear, seem as though worship pastors are trying to be solo artists and don’t want the congregation to be singing with them. Now, I’m sure there are some bad eggs who are in it for the wrong reason, but, trust me, most of them are not in it for the “glory and high pay”. Please don’t go to service with a critical spirit ready to tear apart the heart of the guy/girl who is doing her best to create an atmosphere conducive for the Spirit to move. If it didn’t “work” for you, check your heart before you grab the scalpel to dissect his/hers. It’s not their job to make sure you worship. It’s their job to “carry the arc” (read the book…so good)/usher in the presence.
  2. It’s not actually for you. – You’ve heard this before, but really let this sink in. This guy has considered you, has thought about how best to prepare the atmosphere with music as David did that will calm your spirit, so God can battle as little distractions as possible. But at the end of the day, corporate worship is not about or for you. The phrase “I really liked” or “hated the worship today” makes no sense. We all know what is meant, but the theology of it is flawed. You may think this is just semantics, but words matter. Words are how we carry thought and teaching to other people, namely younger believers. Words are important. Once you define “worship”, that phrase literally doesn’t make grammatical sense nor is it possible for someone else to affect your worship.
  3. Worship is not music. – I feel like someone is going to get mad at this one, but it must be said. I love music. I have sung since before I could speak. Music has always been part of my life and part of my worship, but it is not synonymous with it. I feel like this got really confused during the 90’s (maybe before but this is where my life experience has showcased it). It was with an absolutely fantastic heart that people went from calling the guy that led music in church the “music director/pastor” to the “worship pastor”. Why? Because that guy’s responsibilities shouldn’t be to just wave their hand and conduct a song but to usher in the presence of a Holy God. What he was doing held more spiritual authority than just music…it was worship. The only problem is, the only thing this guy was over was the music, so we taught the church that music and worship are the same things. They are not.

Worship in scripture was a physical posturing before a Holy God. It actually meant “to bow”. (To learn all the usages and meaning, please read the book…can not recommend it enough) Now, before someone says that that does not mean that you cannot worship in music, let me say…of course you can. But it is by no means synonymous with the word. When you can understand that your worship is not affected by the music because you can reflect on God’s character and nature no matter if there is a rock band or an organ playing, then we can stop the battle happening on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Everybody has a preference of music. My husband is trained in opera and sang in a metal band. He would sooner put on some band I refuse to name because I don’t like it enough to remember the name than my Broadway stuff. That’s just a preference of style. There can be no music at all and we can reflect on how holy God is. If you CANNOT WORSHIP due to the style played…that is a reflection of your heart, not the “worship”. No leader can affect your response to God…it is solely your choice to worship Him or not.

My husband was encouraged to write a philosophy of worship in college. We’ve spent many times in the car (when we had one) talking about it. I’m sure it will be ever changing but here’s what God has brought me to today:

 

 

 

 

I think when we are in a space to understand the awesomeness of God, we will have no choice but to fall on our face in worship.

If you are someone who has ever been frustrated at the music or the leader or been that leader, I seriously encourage you to read the book.

Love,

the Grizzards

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Freedom Into Slavery…

God can rescue you from your slavery, but what you do in your freedom is up to you.

 

I’ve heard it said that when God brings lessons in your life several times within a period of time, you’d better “lean in” right? It’s like He puts a truth on repeat to make sure we don’t miss it. Well, I was spending some time with a sweet friend of mine and we started discussing the life and death of Lazarus. We were struck by this story and concept of  “freedom into slavery” and not three days later, I was at a woman’s conference that talked about Lazarus… Ok, God. I’m listening. The story of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha is in John 11. Now, I don’t just call this the story of Lazarus because let’s be real…Lazarus didn’t have a lot to do with it. He died and then got up…that was basically his contribution to this incredible narrative. But Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, are really the focus here.

Let’s pause for a second. Am I the only one that gets really confused with all of the Marys and Johns and so on in the Word? I feel like every other chapter a different Mary is anointing Jesus with perfume, or sitting at his feet, running to the tomb, or being saved from stoning. Little did I realize that the same Mary that wept at Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair (the same woman that Jesus credited with the incredible honor of being the only one in all of Scripture that showed love to Him) also, sat at His feet while her sister, Martha, constantly cleaned their home. It is this Mary and Martha that are the center of the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus had taught them how to worship Him when He encouraged Martha to join her sister and sit at His feet. And now, Jesus was about to teach them how to live through the death of their dear brother.

Jesus had been sent word that his friend Lazarus was sick to the point of death, and yet He did not come immediately. The Word says that He remained two days longer where He was. Why? Why would Jesus not immediately hike up His toga, strap on His Birkenstocks and high tail it to Bethany to be with His friends? Or, better yet. Why not just speak the words of life and give Lazarus new health and strength through the power of His voice? Would this not give God enough glory? Why would that not be a sufficient showing of God’s power?

I think it interesting to note how the Bible wrote this,

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

The Bible says “so”. Why? “So” denotes a cause and effect. “I’m tired SO I went to bed”. Because A then B. So Jesus stalled for a reason and that reason must be what came directly before… “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus knew what would happen two days later, and He allowed it to happen out of love for this family. The death of Lazarus would be a foreshadowing of His own death, burial, and resurrection. If they would be allowed to see with their own eyes, Jesus’ power over death through Lazarus, they would be that much more prepared to accept His own resurrection and be powerful witnesses to it later. This was an incredible gift Jesus afforded his friends; to be used by God to show His power over the grave.

 

But Why did He wait two days? That seems pretty specific. Why not three days or simply “a while”? In the traditional Jewish faith, there is a belief about the afterlife. This faith regarded death with the highest degree of respect. Every Jew had to be buried and as soon after death as possible. Cremation was strictly forbidden because the soul was still believed to have a connection to the body for three days after death. It was seen to hover before continuing to the afterlife. Hmm. That’s interesting. So, by the time Jesus had arrived at the tomb, Martha told Him he’d been dead for 4 days. So, according to their belief system, his soul was gone! He was way past his expiration date! But the power of God never expires.

There’s so much good meat in this story, but I want to focus on the actual resurrection for now. In Jewish burial custom, a body would be washed, anointed with oils and perfumes and then wrapped in burial cloth before being laid in an above ground tomb usually carved out of the side of a cliff or something. The body would be laid on a stone platform or crevice carved into the wall of the tomb. After time passed, the bones would be collected and put in “bone boxes” called ossuaries and placed with older family members further in the tomb. You’ll see this referenced several times in scripture about the collection of bones being laid to “sleep with my fathers” as they were typically family tombs. A simple shroud would cover the face and a stone rolled in front of the opening to the cave.

When Jesus arrives at the tomb, scripture says He was once again deeply moved. Actually, the wording is stronger than that. The Word says “He groaned in His spirit”. The Greek that this comes from is not a word associated with sorrow, but more anger.  It is used not to simply note an emotional feeling but a feeling that moves one to action.

I’ve seen this emotion explained a couple of ways. It is possible that He was angry at the sorrow of the people that were mourning the death of Lazarus. This theory says that Jesus was angry at their misunderstanding of the full resurrection to life that allowed Lazarus to live eternally after death. Macarthur says, “while grief is understandable, these people were acting in despair….like the pagans that have no hope.” Now, you may think, “hold on a second, a few verses later it says ‘Jesus wept’, so how could He condemn others that mourn if He only a moment later, mourns Himself??” That’s true. This is where our silly English language gets in the way (go deeper, believer…study the Word). The Greek word used for “wept” there denotes a quiet, burst of tears. This would be in direct contrast to the loud, bombastic wails of the paid, professional mourners that the family would’ve hired for the funeral. And His tears may not have been for Lazarus, but due to a grief that His people were still lost in disbelief that all that have faith in Jesus will live forever with the Father.

Another theory is that Jesus may have been angry for a different reason. Now, I have no sources for this theory…other than Scripture for support. But keep in mind, these bodies of ours were not designed for death. Death only entered the picture when we exited the garden. Think about it. When someone dies, especially “too soon”, doesn’t it feel wrong?? Doesn’t it feel unnatural? Because it is. Death is not of God. God brings life. Death is the result of sin and Jesus is the One charged with defeating it once and for all! But in this moment with Lazarus, death had, for a moment, seemed to win. And it is possible that that fact made a holy Savior angry. Just like we saw Him angry in the temple when there were moneychangers keeping the poor from experiencing God’s presence, Jesus was staring at the reason His people could not be in unity with the Father. Is it possible that the Son’s righteous anger boiled over to tears of indignation. Boiled to the point that action was required… He HAD to do something. Death would, again, be shown who really held the power.

He told people to remove the stone. He doesn’t wave His hand and have the rock obey Him. He could. All throughout His ministry, the Earth had obeyed Him (think the storm when the disciples almost wet themselves with fear). But He enlisted the help of Lazarus’ community. Martha came to Jesus and explains to Jesus that He must be mistaken. After all, Lazarus has been dead for 4 days and must be stinking by now. Remember, this is the woman who has always been very concerned about the keeping of her house. She was “Martha Biblical Stuart”. Martha would not wish to impose on those in the assembly to the unnecessary stench of a decaying body just so Jesus could say goodbye to His friend. Martha, once again, shows that she wants so badly to understand Jesus and be counted as one of His intimates, but she is so shortsighted and blinded by her humanity that she fails at times to see the Heaven in front of her. I am very often a Martha. Jesus reminds her of who He is and lifts a prayer to His Father. He then cries out in a loud voice… a voice of authority. A voice that everyone there who had come from town could hear. If Lazarus didn’t come out… if Jesus’ cry went without response, the whole town would claim that Jesus was a false prophet and would be stoned in the center of town. This was a gauntlet thrown.

Upon hearing the voice of the one that gives life, Lazarus emerged from the darkness of his death. He had been delivered from his tomb and resurrected to life… but he was still bound. His face was still covered. His body was still wrapped and he was still in bondage. Jesus had given him life, but he was not yet free from all of the effects of his death. Jesus looked at the crowd and I’m sure his sisters and said, “unbind him.” He looked at his community and said YOU go set him free. YOU wrap your arms around him and tear the cloths that covered him in death and let him walk untethered into his new life! Jesus could’ve had Lazarus walk out free. He could have given him a royal robe and signet ring if He wanted, but He chose to charge those around him with a task. Why? Why not finish the job and give Lazarus the completion of his salvation? Did He get tired? Was His power not big enough to spring for a new robe? No! Jesus wants to use His people to untangle the mess that death causes. He looks at His church and says GET INVOLVED! Get in the game! Be a part of someone’s freedom! Remove the shroud of doubt, rejection, fear, anxiety, guilt, and depression and help them into a life filled with all that God has for them!

Mary and Martha had been taught to sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. They had understood what it was to bow before their Lord. With the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus taught them how to give that love away. How to show their love in action. Jesus can deliver you from death and we, the body of Christ, help each other walk in life! This is the story of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Lazarus was but a man who Jesus loved. Mary and Martha were women that Jesus used to teach what it looks like to love Jesus and live like Him.

So what are we doing with our freedom? Are we voluntarily enchaining ourselves to the same things we had when we were in bondage? Things like disbelief, anger, gossip, slander, addiction, lust, pride, or apathy. Or will we live free of the things that kept us bound and go help our brothers to live in their freedom as well?

Truth in Art

I’ve always loved seeing how people glorify God through art…any artform. I put my daughter to bed tonight, and one of our rituals is to sing a song before bed. She asked to sing the song tonight. Then she began to sing a song she wrote. Once she was finished, she was given the praise that any mom would give her kid after such creativity, and then she said “that was my special song of praise to God” … and I melted. I DO NOT BELIEVE MUSIC IS WORSHIP (many of you are sick of hearing me say this), but I love when music is used to worship God.

Our faith is one of intellect and heart. We are told in Scripture to worship God with our whole being. Music, to me, is a beautiful outlet for that. Music brings such emotion, while lyrics tend to play to our intellect. I love what music does in my spirit. And my favorite one to listen to?? This guy!

I’ve loved that I’ve been able to hear Jordan sing praise the last few weeks. It always makes me happy. Here’s a video from church…. the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I can’t wait to hear Jozzy sing like this.

 

If you are ever in Manhattan, come by and see us!

HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…

HANGING ON FOR DEAR LIFE…

Have you ever ridden on the subway system in New York? Or maybe the TUBE in London? The train is constantly stopping to allow huge numbers of people to load onto the small train to make their way to wherever their destination may be. There are usually so many people on the train that I very often lose sight of whoever I stepped on the train with as bodies have just wedged themselves between us. I remember one time, I had no idea what my stop was and my husband had been lost in the sea of what seemed like the entire population of Manhattan on our car. When I finally found a way to see just his head, I started signing to him to find out what our stop was (mind you, my husband does not know sign language and makes fun of me incessantly when I try to use it as a means of communication). I finally just yelled across the train like the foreigner I was and the entire train turned to see who the clear tourist was. #noshame.

Now, if you’re lucky enough to snatch a seat before others beat you to it, congratulations! But for those passengers who weren’t so lucky, every few feet there are these poles that people can hold onto so they don’t go flying down the center aisle as the train abruptly starts on its way again. So, as soon as someone steps on the train, the first thing they do is reach for one of these stabilizers. They GRASP onto it. Why? Because they need it. They reach for it to maintain their “uprightness”… their correct position. It is what keeps them from losing their stability. Those that fail to do so are normally found lying on the  ground, color flooding to their cheeks as they stumble back to their feet…having lost the battle between themselves and Mr. Newton.

This idea of “grasping” onto something is usually the concept that comes to mind when we see Philippians 2:6.


This passage has been used by some, to try and explain that Jesus was less than God the Father.  I know what some of you are saying, “Kayla, no one would say that.” And if you do say that, you may want to consider this a wake-up call. It could be that you’re spending too much time within the walls of your church building because many people out in the world believe that. Many believe that Jesus is not on par with an almighty god at all, but merely a good man who lived an honorable life of teaching and service. And what’s worse is that there are several “Christian” faiths that will, in fact, say just that. Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably the most famous, but in today’s age of progressive Christianity and new age philosophy, there are many that will allow any number of gods to be leveled equally with Jesus. You see, you don’t actually have to simply say that Jesus is a step below God to align with this heresy, but believing that the Son is equal to ANY other god is to align yourself with this kind of thinking…therefore, lowering Him below His rightful place of Godhood.

This is hardly a new idea. Some really hip people in skinny jeans may approach you with a “new way of thinking about Jesus” (love my fashionistas) and tell you that it is, but “there is nothing new under the sun.” The church has been dealing with this way of thinking for centuries. Why can’t we figure this thing out? Why is it so hard for us to understand? Probably because it is foreign to our minds that Jesus could fully exist in two completely different forms. We just physically cannot comprehend how he can be both of those things at the same time. How can He be fully God and fully man?? Answer- I have no idea, but scripture says He can. But the church itself has been trying to figure out how to verbalize it and understand it since the time of Constantine! (You’ve seen DaVinci code…believe nothing of what it says, but you know the reference) This was the idea that was being taught against way back then! A group of men were teaching that Jesus was less than fully God but instead was created BY God to accomplish His work. Constantine brought them all together to study the scriptures and determine the theology of the church moving forward because Constantine understood that unity of the faith was of the utmost importance… thus, the Council of Nicea…. yes, I’m a nerd, but it’s important! It’s important to understand that these men didn’t gather in order to DECIDE or CREATE this theology. Instead, their purpose was to study the scriptures, Hebrew/Greek culture, and language to UNCOVER the Bible’s original intent. In the end, they came to the conclusion that God, through His Word very clearly taught that Jesus was God in human form… even though, it was hard to reconcile to our finite minds, that God’s ability and character were infinite. And simply because we couldn’t fully understand this tenant of Jesus’ duality, didn’t mean that God couldn’t accomplish it (<- this one’s hard for a lot of people).

Although this was the Councils conclusion, there are many who disagree. Some say, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped..” is evidence that even Jesus understood that His place was below that of God the Father. After all, if you’re not grasping something, you are releasing it, so Jesus was releasing his Godhood right? But what does the rest of the passage say?

Jesus is the name that is above every name. EVERY NAME. This automatically squashes a discussion about equality with other deities. But what about equality with the Father?  “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” I am not suggesting that the Heavenly Father will bow to His Son. What I am suggesting is that Jesus’ name here is given the same respect in every realm of creation as the Father himself…absolute dominion. At the mention of his name, ALL will bow. Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.

Interesting to note that the Father has no name. He has called Himself simply I AM and although He has been given many names that describe His character, he has no name. He is simply I AM.

Let’s go back to the train. Say that I am one of the lucky ones that rushed onto the train right as the doors opened and found an empty seat. When I take that seat, I no longer need to hold onto the poles that stabilize those that are standing. Why?

You do not grasp that which you do not need.

Those passengers need the stabilization of that structure to keep them in proper standing position, but Jesus did not need to grasp His godhood to maintain proper position with God as God.

 

 

Of course, scripture says He humbled himself, but it never says He ceased to be God. Only that He took the form of a servant. What does that mean? The Greek word used there for “grasped” is harpagmos. Its original meaning is “something seized by robbery” and later came to mean “something clutched, embraced or prized”. Scripture is not saying that Jesus relinquished His godhood here, but actually that He always had it.  Never in the history of the world has anyone been arrested because they walked into their living room and walked off with their own television. Why? Because you can’t steal (harpagmos) that which is already yours. What it is saying is that He did not prioritize His fame and glory over that of God the Father’s.

One last analogy: Growing up I had a lot of friends that came over to my house often. We had a fairly large house and my parents wanted the house to be the place where all the kids liked to hang out, so it was always full of crazy teenagers jumping in the pool or playing in the game room upstairs. Some of my friends grew pretty attached to my parents as many of them came from broken homes for one reason or the other. Some of my friends even came up with pet names for my dad;  DP, Doc, Pops, and so on. But I never felt threatened by these terms of endearment. Why? Because there was no need to be possessive of something I could not lose. My dad was my dad. No matter how close anyone else got with my dad, I would always be his daughter. Not because of anything that I did, but because of who I am. I do not need to clutch to that identity or strive for it. I do not have to take it or have the ability to lose it…it is just who I am. I do not GRASP to be my dad’s kid. It is not something that can be loosened from me.

Jesus did not need to GRASP for equality with God because He already possessed it. It was not something He needed to hold tight to or fight to maintain. He was not afraid of finding Himself on the proverbial train floor because He didn’t hold tightly to the subway poles. He is equal in His nature by who He is not what He does. You do not grasp what you do not need.

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Our trip to Houston with our “forever people”

Recently, it seems our life is consumed with seemingly sad things. I find it hard to make it through the day without counting down every “last”… the last night in our house, the last days at school, our last times leading worship with our team, the last birthday Jozzy will have in Texas, the last time I’ll drive my car my dad gave me in college. It feels impossible to keep my mind from wandering to the goodbyes I have to make to things that I love here. Of course, the hardest goodbyes are the people. It helps tremendously that we get to come back, but a sting of the finality of it all still lingers. The people are what make this move the hardest. We love the people in our lives.

Luckily, we know that so many of “our people” here are “forever people”. Now, I know we’ve all been through moves and said, “yeah but we’re gonna stay in touch. They’re going to be in my life forever” only to never share so much as a 5 minute FaceTime call again. Sad as it is, it is the reality we’ve all lived. However, sometimes God gives you “forever people”. They are a special blessing for sure.

This past weekend we got to see some of those people in our lives. Of course, one of those groups were my sister and her family, so that feels like cheating, but she is definitely a “forever people”, so she makes in the category regardless of blood loyalty!

We had not nearly as much time as we would’ve liked to have spent in Houston this weekend, but a quick trip would have to do. We spent one evening with my sister and her family including all four of her kids.. my nieces and only nephews (until baby boy Powell arrives!) were awesome as always! Its so cool to see them grow. Sis was preparing for two birthday parties this weekend as well, so we tried to be as non invasive as possible while basking in our late night conversations. My sister is going through quite the spiritual crucible right now, and man is it amazing to watch!

We had just enough time to grab lunch before we had to go. So, being the good christians we are, we were only allowed to go to one place. We loaded up the kids and headed to Chik-fil-a. Conversation was great and I had to say goodbye. I had my LAST meal with my sister while we were both Texans. We drove to Houston for the LAST time from Dallas. I made my LAST quick, fairly spontaneous, 4 hour trek to see them…. you see how pathetic I get?? Once, we gave hugs and said goodbye, it was time to get onto the next “last”.

We pulled into the driveway and Jozlyn barely got her seatbelt fully unbuckled

before jumping out of her seat to go ring the doorbell. The Hufty’s are “forever people”. They have been our solace for a few years now and this would be the LAST time we could just pop over to Houston to have our traditional game night.

When they lived in Dallas, we would put the girls to bed and play until 2 in the morning and then throw the kids back in the car and head home. Now, to “pop” over to see them requires suitcases, toothbrushes, ziplock baggies and my label maker (I label my kids outfits… am I the only one?). And that’s just to come to Houston! Now, in New York it requires plane tickets and the kids passports!

 

Sometimes it just HITS YOU…how much your life is going to change. How vastly different your whole world will look. How many “lasts” do I even have? We are getting seriously close to the day when we will hop on an elevator and open the door to a new home.

We are eternally grateful for all of the people here that have loved on us. And we are eternally grateful for our “forever people”.

What New York has taught me in the first 7 days!!

I’ve always joked that I have no soul. I think it’s been my way of apologizing to the world for my innate instinct to be void of emotions when any normal human being would be a blubbering idiot or giddy or whatever the situation may have called for. It is something that the Lord has been working with me on, but I’ve got a long way to go.

The only time my mercy meter would really register any activity growing up was during those commercials for poverty stricken children in 3rd world countries. Praise God I didn’t have access to my families bank accounts because I would’ve absolutely bankrupted my dad. I literally had to change the channel. For some reason, I was able to muster up compassion for people I didn’t know who were in desperate need, but when it came to people within my sphere of influence…. well, I wasn’t exactly a soft place to land, unfortunately.

Fast forward all these years later and my family has just moved to a city where I come across incredible need every 20 feet. And I don’t have a remote that works on real life. I can’t change the channel. Now, anybody who has lived here will let newcomers know that this overwhelming sense will fade and you will soon be able to walk by with the learned and perfected gift of ignoring or even overlooking. This may sound cruel, but it is, in fact, a necessity of life in an urban city. But one I have not mastered.

This past week, my husband has indulged me. I have not yet learned the art of neglecting the need. Please understand me. I don’t mean to sound condescending. I recognize that the need is so much more evident to my eyes. I am fully aware of that, but I’ve decided to just live in that. I understand that there are people who are not ACTUALLY needy that are out there and people who are surrounded by it have a much better radar for those situations.

We took the girls to the park and so bought a couple extra baked goods to divvy out as we saw people in need. We gave away a pillow and blanket we were throwing away and talked about how to approach the need in the future without bankrupting our already tight budget.

I am not saying this to make it sound like I do all of this sacrificial work for the needy! I am saying it for accountability and encouragement. This fervor may wane. I pray it doesn’t, but it may and I will need to be reminded to SEE people; not to wonder about HOW they got in this mess and blame them for their situation. My job is to love them now.

Jesus always met a need… a physical need of the people He ministered to. I want to learn to be aware of needs around me. I want to teach my girls to see need around them and to be a soft place for people to land. A source of compassion and love.

The census of 2016 shows that since 2010, people are moving to the city in rates of about 60,400 per year. The homeless population in 2017 is just under 62,000 people. What if every new resident of the city allowed themselves to feel the compassion that innately wells up in us when we first come to see the need? People tend to suppress it. I feel like it makes us feel more like a genuine resident. But we need to prioritize looking like residents of the Kingdom, and the mayor is commanding us to approach the needy head on…not pass them by. What if every new resident chose not to suppress compassion?

I am not suggesting that there would be no homeless, but I am suggesting that we would look more like our Maker. I am suggesting that we would encourage a community of compassion and I am suggesting that people would feel differently in themselves.

I have never understood the stereotype given to many New Yorkers of being rude. I have rarely experienced a rude New Yorker. Their kindness looks and sounds a little different than it does in the south, but the sentiment is the same.

I have been lost on the subway and they have helped. I have had a malfunctioning metro card and they’ve given me a free swipe. They’ve seen me struggle with a stroller and two kids and missed a train to help me up the stairs! They have told me when I dropped something. The wait staff at restaurants have always been kind and courteous. People have even walked by…total strangers and made passing jokes or casual conversation. It’s far from the stereotype of everyone being on their phone and refusing to acknowledge another person’s existence.

That being said, they are usually focused and on task. They don’t like people who talk or walk slowly and they don’t do superfluous conversation at least in passing…which I love. But the moms I meet on the playground are helpful to give me information on child rearing in the city and let me know when Jozlyn has run off (again). These people are awesome and genuine. What you see is what you get. I love it.

I’ve been warned of its dangers and many of those dangers are very real. My brother had his iPhone swiped from his back pocket while he was up here (tip- don’t leave your iPhone or wallet in your back pocket..ever). But some of the fears I had were from movies from the 80’s when Central Park was a den of thieves. If you are coming to New York now, please know that there are legitimate things to be aware of, but don’t live in fear here. There are a lot of good people around

Yes, this is the city that never sleeps, but when I came as a tourist, I felt like I had to see this amazing, one of a kind place in such a short time that I would cram a month’s worth of activities in a weeks time frame. Well, of course, it felt like a whirlwind! But Dallas would too if I said I had to go to the Houston Rodeo, the Ft. Worth Stockyards, a Cowboys game at the Star,  Six Flags and see a show in all three cities in a period of three days!

We have intentionally been taking the mornings to spend with the girls doing things they would like; parks, candy stores, toy stores, train rides, but not with an agenda (or with a packed one anyway…moms got to have some sort of soft plan). Just relaxing days of family time and you know what? The city is kind of peaceful. Yes, peaceful!

It’s like there is so much noise and stimuli that it all becomes this sea of white noise and that “city hum” just becomes the soundtrack to your day. Maybe it’s because I sleep with white noise, but the horns, and construction, and cries of the guys trying to get you to book a bike ride or carriage through Central Park has become this amalgamated, layered track by which my girls and I get to live. It’s on repeat and I love it.

 

I remember walking through my house after we sold it. It was empty and desolate and I was having a rough time of it. Y’all may remember my post about how much of an emotional wreck I was. I was so nervous that my kids would be missing out on things in Texas.

The truth is…. they don’t care! Kids at my girls’ ages need to know one thing; Mommy and Daddy are here. Their world hinges on us…that’s it. My girls could not care less about what they don’t have that they used to (of course, they miss their friends and their grandparents… we facetime often). When Kendall gets a little overwhelmed about all the change, she doesn’t whine and ask for her old swing set or favorite past time she used to enjoy. She looks up at me with those big gray eyes and deep, gorgeous dimple that she inherited from her daddy and says “hold you?” She just needs to know that Mommy is still here and I’ve got her. I don’t know about you, but that’ll preach. She just lifts her hands to her mom (one of the pictures I always remember when I reach my hands up in worship to my Heavenly Father). No matter the chaos, the safety of a loving parent’s arms is the calm in the midst of confusion. Then when she has regained her confidence, she’s off again…. happy and loving this new adventure.

We have the most amazing friends…seriously; Carson and Rachel, Janean and Jonathan, Josie and Jordan, Nikki and Tanner, Nicole and Zac, and so many more! And we miss them dearly. But we were not on the ground for 3 hours before my phone was hit up with messages of people I hadn’t spoken to in years, but they are here and wanted to connect. You have no idea how much that can mean to a newcomer trying to figure out how to create a new normal for her babies.

It is amazing how, no matter how long or short you’ve known someone if you are believers, many times there is an awesome chemistry and familial spirit that is just THERE. There is such sweet comfort and love that has been given to us from who would be complete strangers other than the fact that we are all part of the family of God.

a shot of our new church home.

This kind of goes without saying, but this place is awesome. There is something amazing to do all the time…and usually for free! My kids have been on technology WAY less this past week. Yes, I acknowledge that it’s been only a week, but I’m hopeful this trend is here to stay. They’ve just been too preoccupied with everything to do. And since I can’t just sit at home and send them to the game room, I’ve been more engaged with my kids making me a more intentional parent than I’ve been in the past.

 

Yes, to everyone that said that before we came… you were right. Congratulations! ha. It’s just hard with kids. Without kids? It’s amazing, but these little mini me’s just complicate things in the most amazing, exhausting, miraculous way ever.

It’s hard not having a washer/dryer in the building, let alone apartment. It’s hard hand washing dishes. It’s hard keeping things spotless for fear of mice. It’s hard trying to get the girls used to sharing a room. It’s hard taking a stroller and two kids up and down a subway platform. It’s hard not having a functional kitchen. It’s hard sharing a bathroom. It’s hard trying to memorize where all the elevators are. It’s hard figuring out where to eat when you don’t recognize any restaurants. It’s hard starting over. It’s hard not having my parents here. It’s just hard.

But you know what? It’s worth it. It is absolutely worth it. Not the city…the people… the call. For all the “hard” that there is, there is only One “good” that matters, and I cannot wait to see what He has in store for New York. I cannot wait to see how He will use Jordan and my girls. I cannot wait to conquer those “hards”. It is worth it.

 

I look forward to learning so much more as we move forward. Please subscribe if you want to stay informed on how you can pray for us and what we’re up to. We love you guys.

Love, the Grizzards

I'm Kayla. Mom of two, wife of one and new New York transplant. We're a family of four fumbling our way through our new normal in Manhattan! We're excited to learn as we go... we can't mess this up too bad, right? :)

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