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

No Shades of Gray: White or Black

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Those of the world would love it if God’s people agreed with their deviant ways so we could stay “cool.” However, God’s Word is very clear—no shades of gray. His Word is white and black. No compromise. 

We at Voices Against the Grain LOVE the song “No Gray” by Christian recording artist Jonathan McReynolds. Read the lyrics below. Listen to it here.  Thank you to Ana Martinez for sharing his music with us. We will certainly invite Mr. McReynolds as a future guest on our radio show!

Now I know wrote this song for somebody

Cause I figure at some point in everybody’s life
We just feel like

Verse 1
Lord I’m split in two
Part of me loves the world
And the other loves You
So what do I do
I wanna be saved
But I got to stay cool too
And no I’m not a fool
I know eventually I’m gonna have to choose
And really I don’t wanna lose
My ticket into heaven
And a chance to be used by You

Chorus

And if it’s You I’m after
Then I can’t serve two masters
And before something happens
I got to turn it all around
Because I know
I can’t just have my cake and eat it too
Cause it’s real easy to stay on the fence and still do you
And it’d be cool if we could love the Lord and still go do our thing
But see it doesn’t work like that
I got to be white or black

Oh ooohh

Verse 2
Lord I’ve realized
when it comes to sin
You just don’t compromise
It’s a matter of death and life
Be weak and do wrong
Or be strong and do right
And I don’t wanna keep going to church
Singing about how much You’re worth
And then continue doing my dirt
Living as if I didn’t care if You’re hurt

And if it’s God that I’m after
Then I can’t serve two masters
And before something happens
I gotta turn it all around
Because you know
You can’t just have your cake and eat it too
Cause it’s real easy to stay on the fence and still do You
And it’d be cool if we could love the Lord and still go do our thing
See it doesn’t work like that
You got to be white or black

Bridge
We saint’s got to
Get it together
Just got to
Get it together

And if it’s God we’re after
We got to pick one master
And before something happens
We better turn it all around
Because you know
You can’t just have your cake and eat it too
Cause it’s really easy to stay on the fence and still do you
And it’d be cool if we could love the Lord and still go do our thing
See it doesn’t work like that
You got to be white or black

Cause it don’t work like that
You gotta pick white or black…