We Have the Keys

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I incorporated the hashtags #NoTurning Back #Persevere in our social media posts. My use of the hashtags was inspired by two things: first, by the well-known hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”  The song had been in my spirit for days for reasons not necessarily for me but more so to encourage those brothers and sisters in the body of Christ feeling the pull of the world; to encourage them to stay their Kingdom course—to persevere and run their race.

Second, my use of the #NoTurningBack hashtag was inspired by one of the young ladies I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring for nearly four years. My mentee, Bria Russ, recently experienced her “no turning back” moment that has set her on an intentional, “all in” pursuit of the Lord. She has lived many years for the Lord. Yet, over the past few months she acknowledges catering to her flesh and making choices that were leading her down a slippery slope that would ultimately take her way off course. She knew this–and so did her enemy (your and my enemy too) Satan, who encouraged her destructive choices. Anything to take another one of God’s servants off the field.

Recognizing this, she immediately turned away from her sin and discontinued the activities she was engaging.  She has fully returned to the Lord to sincerely walk in His ways. This is what repentance actually means–to turn away from sin; to change one’s mind and return to God’s direction. She has truly decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. She has “thrown off the sin that so easily entangles” so she can run her race in excellence as described in Hebrews 12:1.  Psalm 85:8 says, I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants–but let them not return to folly (sin, foolishness). (NIV) Bria can attest that she has experienced greater peace in her immediate turning away from sin, distancing herself from it like it was plutonium.

Soon to be 26 years old, I am pleased by this young lady’s wisdom. I am excited about her bright future which has been made possible in part by her desire to be obedient. In obedience lies our success.

With that said, I am delighted to share her blog post below with a message titled “We Have the Keys.” Many people look for freedom, identity, joy, love, peace and security outside of God when He has promised all of these things and more to us through relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. But even God has relationship standards. Many want to either do life without God and still have all of these things or they will do life with God (maybe just a toe in) and still live however they please. The keys to our freedom, our identity, joy, love, peace, security and more rest alone in Jesus Christ. When we choose to do life without Him, we find ourselves “locked out” of His blessings.

God bless, and thank you Bria.

-Nicole

We Have the Keys 

Bria Russ cropped 032919A month ago, I found myself locked out – locked out of my own head. My head should have been a space of peace but was instead chaotic due to my own choices. As much as others wanted to help me get back in, the locks were changed because I didn’t pay my rent (in order to have a space to live you have to pay rent). I tried to climb through a window, and God reminded me the terms of our agreement.

I grew up in the church and I knew of God’s mercy. I knew that I had only made it thus far by His favor and grace. I’ve had many influential people guide me back to the church. However, I wasn’t ready to let go of things that made me “happy” and because of that I was drowning in sinner’s remorse.

 

Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I grew tired of feeling tired, sad, anxious, and depressed. I grew tired of ignoring God, my Savior, the one who’s always had my front and my back. And in one moment I decided to come to God.

God is like our landlord. He’s created an environment with plenty of amenities. He has created terms for your lease and handed you the keys. All He expects us to do in return is follow His ways and pay the rent (love Him, serve Him, give of your time). Before he evicts you from His blessings, from His protection, He gives you warnings, “Go to church… study your bible… stop cursing… stop fornicating… etc.” He knows you know the terms of your agreement. In fact He has given you the things you asked for, the desires of your heart. All you have to do is follow His rules. He already promised He won’t give us more than we can bear, so why are we always breaking the rules and cheating Him? Is it really that hard or are we taking advantage of His kindness and being negligent with our walk?

Acts chapters 1-2 speaks of the creation of the church. Jesus rose from the dead, traveled the earth for 40 days giving his Apostles the instructions to teach, and then He ascended into the sky. After His ascension, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and when they spoke, all of those who listened understood their message. God’s instructions were meant to help us survive and those who would follow Him he provided them a safe space (the church) to thrive and lift His name.
Many times, we hear leaders in the church say things like, “We have to meet the people where they are.” True, and yet, God has given us dominion over our life and understanding; therefore, it is for us to come to him.
set of golden key rings
Earlier, I stated I was out of my mind because figuratively speaking, I didn’t pay my rent. I knew of God’s blessings, I know his terms and the things he expects of me. All he asked of me was to follow him and he would keep me. He gave me chance after chance and still I was disobedient. He has already made the biggest sacrifice for us, with the crucifixion of Jesus, so we could be saved. Our safe place is the church (fellowship). We cannot leave and reenter on our terms. We are to live as he wants us to live or we will be locked out of His blessings. The message does not and will not change. He’s looking for us to ask “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and then do it. We have the keys to our salvation: stay in God’s house! Stay near to Him. Study your word, read your bible and practice daily.


Love,

Bria

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Are You About to Circle the Israelites?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Exodus 16:4- Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (New International Version)

Exodus 16:16-20- This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent. 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. (New International Version)

Eeeks.

Since this past week, God has been taking me through the Israelites’ escape from 430 years of slavery in Egypt guided by the Lord’s Mighty Hand, Moses and his brother Aaron. Their journey picks up in Exodus Chapter 1 with the previous book of Genesis ending with the Israelites (the 12 tribes of Jacob) migrating to Egypt during the seven-year famine. Joseph who was Pharaoh’s second-in-command, had done well and wisely to preserve food for the region and people based on Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph correctly interpreted warning of the seven years of abundance and seven years of famine.

In Exodus 1, if you know the story, a new king emerges unaware of Joseph and his people. Joseph has since died. The Israelites have now multiplied significantly in number and the king is concerned about being overtaken by them if war breaks out. It’s at this point that he devises their enslavement to prevent their rising up.

In reading about the Israelites’ enslavement and steps taken toward their release, to their freedom, to their being encamped in the wilderness, God gives specific instructions throughout this process. From where to camp, how to proceed, to what food to eat by day and by night, how to gather and prepare the food, God is not short on details.

Their plight continues into the books of Leviticus, Numbers and beyond—a journey that was only to take 11 days that extended to 40 years!! They never never left the wilderness nor entered the Promised Land (Canaan) since much of that generation died off during their 40 years of wandering. They grumbled (complained), exhibited unbelief, worshiped other gods, and repeatedly disregarded God’s instructions. For this writing, I am focusing on their disobedience.

Joshua 5:6- For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD; the LORD swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. (English Standard Version)

Israelites Disobedience

I wonder in our walk, how many times we have ignored God’s instructions, thinking that somehow we knew “how to do it better” or “surely He doesn’t mean it for this instance.” Maybe we’ve almost circled the Israelites by spending years in disobedience. Hopefully we learn sooner than 40 years.

Even though I like to be compliant, I know of times that I thought I knew better than God and operated outside His instructions—only to find myself back where I started, maybe a bit worse off, or preserved from further missteps by His merciful grace. I sensed that in my impatience, God was having me repeat lessons until I learned patiently to follow His instructions, to shed rebellion, to trust Him implicitly, no matter how tedious, mundane or odd the instructions.

I can recount such instances even in my earlier years such as this scenario with me and my brother:

In my hurry and struggle to open the package that clearly instructed “Open Here,” I tore into the package on the opposite end, thinking that I had one-upped the creators of the product — only to find out in my disobedience I had opened the package incorrectly.

“Nik, you’re so heavy-handed,” my brother would say as we both stood with our mouths open in shock over the item that was now broken because I bypassed the instructions on how to appropriately access it. “Now look what you’ve done,” he said. Why hadn’t I learned this lesson? Why did I bypass the instructions provided by the product creator? It also begs us to ask why do we presume to know more than God our Creator and bypass His instructions? Then we immediately feel the burden of our mistake and wish we could rewind time to reverse that outcome. We’re now also grumbling because of the situation our disobedience has caused.

In life, when we bypass God’s instructions, He also presents us with the lesson again for an opportunity to obey. Praise God! But if we continue in disobedience we will be met with those consequences and possibly without God’s intervention.

Are you about to circle the Israelites by spending more time in disobedience? Could your 11-day journey turn into 40 years by your sheer disobedience?

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions. God will not leave it to you to figure things out. He will absolutely lead you (and me) if we trust Him and obey.

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For more on the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness read this Got Questions? article.

-Nicole