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

You’re Too Unique to Compare

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you. I want God’s People to get this message, loud and clear.

STOP JUDGING AND EVALUATING YOURSELF, for this is not your role. Above all, stop comparing yourself with other people. This produces feelings of pride or inferiority; sometimes a mixture of both. I lead each of My children along a path that is uniquely tailor-made for him or her. Comparing is not only wrong; it is also meaningless.

Don’t look for affirmation in the wrong places: your own evaluations, or those of other people. The only source of real affirmation is My unconditional Love. Many believers perceive Me as an unpleasable Judge, angrily searching out their faults and failures. Nothing could be further from the truth! I died for your sins, so that I might clothe you in My garments of salvation. This is how I see you: radiant in my robe of righteousness. When I discipline you, it is never in anger or disgust; it is to prepare you for face-to-Face fellowship with Me throughout all eternity. Immerse yourself in My loving Presence. Be receptive to My affirmation, which flows continually from the throne of grace.

Accompanying Scriptures: Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17- For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Isaiah 61:10, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, 12- because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (New International Version).