Where Do You Live?

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36, English Standard Version)

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

When someone asks you, “Where do you live?,” your response would be framed based on whether or not you and that person share the same region, state, city, neighborhood or community. We respond giving them a physical or geographic reference. Such reference offers the person more context about us and our life to give them a better picture (or assumption) about us.

But for this message, we are citizens of heaven as Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20-21. We are of another kingdom, a kingdom not of this world as Jesus tells us in the aforementioned John 18:36. We are foreigners traversing this earth in these earthly bodies until we are called to our eternal home. While in these earthly bodies as citizens of heaven, we strive to live out kingdom principles while engaging with earthly culture, institutions, kingdoms and systems. It is our goal to engage with the culture as we undertake The Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20) but not to become ensnared by the culture; to be in it but not of it.

Where Do You Live?

No doubt, we have seen the uprising and clinging to of the “kingdoms” we’ve established–our institutions, strongly held ideologies, opinions, tentpoles, insecurities, fears and zero-sum viewpoints. These “kingdoms” quite often conflict with God’s Kingdom. It’s unclear how clinging to any of these reaches others. I am sure the Lord finds it all infantile. If we are truly living out the Gospel, we should be extended out of tribalism.

In his book on racial reconciliation, One: Healing the Racial Divide (September 2020), Pastor Dennis Rouse addresses our society’s racial and political divide. Rouse challenges readers to examine these issues in the light of Scripture, calling the Church to build a “kingdom culture” that transcends biases, preferences, and even political loyalties, and instead fosters unity and healing in the body of Christ. I enjoyed his book and recommend it for your reading. He articulates the sadness and lament I feel given the past year or more’s racial and political division within the body of Christ: “A person’s level of disappointment is the difference between expectation and realization.” While I am not “pollyannish,” admittedly, I have had higher expectations about the Church’s spiritual maturity–not recognizing the reality of where we actually are.

We are praying for the Church to become one; to be fully matured, lacking nothing. I am and you are right to be expectant and hopeful of the Church’s true unity through diversity and oneness in a time of division. It will happen! Christ will make sure that His Bride is ready and found without spot, without wrinkle and without blemish. It will happen by His Word and by His work!

Therefore:

Are we willing to surrender any and all of these “kingdoms” we’ve constructed in order to extend ourselves to the other? Can we forgo these kingdoms, can we forgo spoiling for a debate, will we deny ourselves the right to be right and be ready to lose whatever we might lose, so we aren’t ensnared by the culture? Will we deny ourselves for God’s Kingdom? Where do you live?

When Jesus walked the earth, He was always extending Himself to “those people” aka, anyone who wasn’t like Him, aka, us, the “whosoevers”! Does where you live wall you off from others who do not agree with you? Will we pull up the tent stakes and welcome others? Would we move heaven and earth to do so? Rouse says, “Loving “the other” is what real Christians do…or it’s at least what real Christians genuinely want to do. And they will move heaven and earth to make it happen.” Where do you live?

Knowing what we know about ourselves and where we live any given day between earthly kingdoms and God’s Kingdom, knowing that we are daily being sanctified to look more like Christ to one day be perfected, Lord, we need Your grace. Thank you, Lord, for taking the time to shape us, to strive with us. That you love us too much to leave us unfinished; that you will grow us out of our insecurities; that you will perfect us.

While I like every song performed by gospel artist Jonathan McReynolds, his newly released song, Grace, is ever becoming my favorite. Sharing it with you as we think on the gift of God’s grace, how much we need it and how lost we would be without it. With the immeasurable grace and love God has shown us, may we as brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Church, extend such grace and love that confuses the world.

Love and blessings,

Nicole

I Think We Will Be Surprised!

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I think we will be surprised, saints! We will be surprised by who comes to Christ in these last days. It may be someone you think least receptive and most stubborn. But this is what we’ve been praying for.

Remember: like you, they were also chosen before the foundations of the earth were laid. God knew them before He formed them in their mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). In human eyes we might say they’re slow in coming out of darkness, but through God’s sovereignty and pursuit, they are right on time. They are His sheep yet to join us in the sheep pen. One fold, one Good Shepherd.

The drawing process is not a formula and remains a mystery. We don’t know how God’s efforts are culminating in a person. We don’t know how God is stirring within their hearts. It’s not for us to know for it is a work of the Holy Spirit. The beauty is when we choose to cooperate with God’s efforts. This irritates Satan because it’s evident that God is present.

Recently, I viewed powerful online testimonies of Christians who were not always walking the path of eternal life. Whether near death, outrunning the bullet from a murderous drug dealer, or drowning in feelings of despair and hopelessness, they had nothing left. They had tried everything else and were left more broken than before. They were empty. They had come to the very end of themselves. They desperately cried out and called upon our loving God. They called out to Jesus to rescue them from their hell and their hurts. They remembered the prayers of loved ones. They had heard others speak of His unconditional love and ability to restore. They thought that if Jesus is indeed the One True God, then He was the only One who could save them.

They had no vanity, no pride and zero desire to assert their rights. They knew they were sinners and undeserving of any mercy. But they desperately hoped that the rumors were true: that if they called out to Him, He would answer. He was their only hope of any chance for a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Then you will call upon me and come to pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

prisoner

Saints: Are You Laboring for the 11th Hour Harvest of God’s Elect? The Time is NOW

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (John 4:35)

It’s almost reaping time, dear saints! The last harvest is coming in. I am seeing more inklings and evidence of this especially from those I assumed were owned by the world yet God has been lovingly pursuing them in all of their mess. For those of us already in the Body of Christ, we are not to be mad at those who come into God’s Kingdom by the skin of their teeth and receive the same reward as those who have long served the Lord.

Matthew 20:1-16 speaks about the 11th hour. God’s people were grumbling working in the vineyard because some “came to the party late” and still received the same earnings, wages as those who had worked the vineyard longer. “The last of the harvest of God’s Elect are coming in” is what God is saying to the Body of Christ. They are sealed in His Blood. His Children receive the same inheritance. We rejoice whether they’ve known Christ most of their life or at the 11th hour! What joyful fellowship we will experience for eternity with our Savior! To feast with our fellow brothers and sisters at His table!!

Harvest worker
Prepare for the harvest, saints! They are coming! From those steeped in sin and waywardness to the person of intellectual pride and stubbornness—this is what we have been praying for, Hallelujah! Pray that those who God is drawing will heed His voice and turn to Him. Pray for hearts and minds to be transformed by His Word. Keep planting seeds of love, light and truth. Be intentional. Accept those divine appointments no matter how inconvenient. Continue to be a compelling witness because you are compelled by your love for God that those seeking may know Him.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.