An Appeal When Love Wanes and Anger Flames

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed last Friday by Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby. Crutcher’s SUV had stalled in the middle of the road and police arrived to address the situation. Crutcher, a large black man, threw his hands up as police approached (to show he was not a threat) but was still tasered, shot and later died at the hospital. Husband. Father. Brother. Unarmed black man. Another one, again.

I was angrier than I’ve felt in some time in learning this news story yesterday. Another unarmed black man shot and killed by a white police officer. The egregious incident, captured on a police dashboard camera, shows Crutcher with his hands up. Officer Shelby is under federal investigation.

Many are angry. We’re inflamed by the injustice of it all. We’re in disbelief that another black man has been taken away from his family like this. In their anger, many have lost their love for others, particularly a number of blacks toward whites. But this response further divides us and plays right into Satan’s ploy. As more Believers grow into the image of Christ, Satan is trying to derail the light of the Church. He seeks to cause division and dissension to where unity cannot be forged. We reject that in Jesus’ Mighty Name!

In recognizing the signs of the end of the age, Matthew 24:12 (NIV) warns us:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.

This is happening now, among some Believers. 

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And Matthew 24:13 encourages us:

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

My appeal to all who read this: 

As the crises increase in frequency and intensity, when justice seems elusive and our very lives seem to be under siege, we have an even greater opportunity to display Godly character.  We should be the hands and feet of Christ, serving one another in love; to not lose our love for one another, to not allow our love to grow cold toward others. God’s love demonstrated is exactly what the world desperately needs. Those who are children of God, we are called to manifest His love to others:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:10, NIV)

As a dear sister in Christ reminded me:

Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)

My appeal to you: In our thirst for justice to be rendered, let’s maintain our love for one another. Keep your hope, Godly character and faith. Don’t become disheartened and drift away from Him but rather, draw nearer and cleave to Him more. Others need to see His Light in us! If we lose our love toward others, then sadly, we’ve drifted away from our first love: Jesus Christ.

My appeal to you: Remember how the story ends: love/good wins over evil in the end. Satan knows this too. Though he is already defeated, he hopes to make you forget your victory already won.

Lord Jesus, we need You. Our hearts are grieved again by the injustice that has occurred here. Forgive us for our words, thoughts and actions that have not displayed Your Love. Though we are angered by this situation, let it not pull us out of Godly character. Renew a right spirit within us, dear Lord. Create in us a clean heart, for You are holy and require us to be as well. Lord, may we desire to stay close to You, so we can truly be Your hands and feet to others in this sinful and perishing world. So long as we keep You, Jesus, as our first love, our love for others will not grow cold. 

Jesus, please comfort the Crutcher Family in their loss, and all those affected. We pray for the police officer involved, that she would accept responsibility for her actions; that she would seek You to transform her heart and renew her mind so she may truly love and serve others in Your way.  We pray healing for Tulsa and all communities devastated by such actions. Thank you, Jesus. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

-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.

Toplines on Trauma

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Trauma Informed Care training presented by national expert Bonnie Martin, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). The training was hosted by National Community Church here in Washington, D.C. I was joined by one of my mentees who is pursuing her Master of Social Work. Since attending the training, it’s been my intent to share with you some of what we learned.

Though I’ve been told by others that I am a good listener, compassionate and provide wise counsel, it was recommended that I attend the training to better serve the at-risk youth population the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to mentor here in D.C. Unlike the young people I’m currently mentoring who seek guidance in navigating career choices, relationship matters and their life in Christ Jesus in a morally decaying world, it is highly likely the stories I’ll hear from the at-risk population will be gut-wrenching and horrific.

The training was tremendously helpful to someone like me who is not—I repeat NOT a mental health expert. She presented a lot of information, at which my mentee and I took copious notes. Though she is a Christian, Martin framed the information primarily from a scientific perspective to depict how trauma affects the brain and how the brain attempts to heal.

While I wouldn’t dare capture for you the entire training in this blog post, I can provide you some toplines. I hope this helps to enlighten and certainly not minimize the scale and impact trauma can have on someone physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. For those of you reading this who are mental health professionals and more versed in issues on trauma, please feel free to provide additional insight.

Toplines on Trauma

What is trauma and what does it look like?

  1. Trauma (as Martin defined it): too much stress at one time for the body to handle properly; a distressing experience.
  2. Trauma can be acute (ex: earthquake) followed by subsequent aftershocks. PTSD looks at how the body and brain are responding two months after trauma. Complex post-trauma could also be trauma that is chronic (ex: some children are born into trauma, such as those born to a heroin-addicted mother, child born into food insecure home or molestation. Chronic homelessness is ongoing trauma).
  3. The brain is being altered under traumatic stress and this needs to be taken into consideration.
  4. Neuroplasticity: how the brain seeks to heal after trauma or injury and establish new neuro connections to adjust to changes in new environment.
  5. Trauma can cause memory impairment. Memories can also change, become disjointed or not make sense.
  6. Negative behaviors of acting out: Some of the behaviors that traumatized people act out is what helped them survive (lying, stealing, etc.) to cope with stresses that never should have been. While we get this, they need to be restored from this. Sexual acting out may be sign of previous sexual trauma. This is done to manage stress response.
  7. Prefrontal cortex of the brain if compromised or damaged during trauma, creates hypervigilence. The person’s ability to perceive stress in a healthy way, is gone. All events are elevated to a high stress level (ex: studying for an exam and being chased by a shark receives same stress response).
  8. A person experiencing trauma may feel unworthy of love, acceptance and carry shame.
  9. They may crave sweet, fatty food combinations. They can gain weight and this compounds the shame feelings. Diet is critical. They need hydration and healthy food. Dehydration impairs mental function.
  10. People experiencing trauma are exhausted. Difficulty getting out of bed to run their race. Weary and faint-hearted.

How can you best help this person?

  1. Listen. If they choose to be silent instead of talk, sit with them in the silence. Don’t seek to fill the silence.
  2. By listening and not trying to “help,” you offer them a safe place to engage and build a healthy relationship. This also helps their brain establish new neuro connections.
  3. Focus on their strengths.
  4. Show up. Be present. Your presence matters.
  5. Stick to what you know. If they ask you a question and you don’t know, tell them, “I don’t know.” Do seek to connect them to the appropriate resources who can help.
  6. Ask questions to get to know them. Be interested in them. People are the assignment. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.
  7. People who have experienced trauma tend to self-isolate. This can kill. They need community and connection.
  8. Embrace anger and grief. These are honest, raw and real emotions about pain and trauma. Bear witness to their pain. Don’t try to shut them down too soon.
  9. Understand that resiliency differs for everyone. Trauma differs for everyone and cannot be compared.
  10. Empower people. Never take their power away. “Do you want an apple or orange?” “Do you want to sit here or over there?”

 

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How can you stay healthy when serving/ministering to a person who has been traumatized?

  1. Don’t be a sponge/don’t absorb others’ trauma or you will not be good for yourself or others. Instead, mirror love and resiliency, laughter, play, redemption. Mirror everything you pray for them to have. The Holy Spirit working through you and your presence will be the influence.
  2. Make sure you bounce back. If you are not bouncing back, stop and get help.

Praise Jesus Christ, who is our Savior! He is a sure help in our times. You need not think that you can save this person. Only Jesus can. Jesus knows our pain and suffering. He knows that pain and despised the shame of that pain for the joy set before him as told in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

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Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus, Our Savior, to bear it all for us on the Cross. In our pain, our grief, anger, a yearning to understand “why?”, He knows and sees our struggle. He hears our cries and utterances.  Because of His victory achieved on the Cross, the shame is not His or ours. Thank you Jesus for your amazing love that heals the broken places and makes all things new. We pray that those experiencing such pain would begin to lay their burdens down, so they may see the victory and joy you’ve already set before them. Refresh and renew their spirit, mind and body, Lord with your love, strength, peace and joy. In this joy, may they run their race with perseverance, seeing their victory already won. Please also strengthen those of us you’ve called to help those in pain. We thank you for inviting us to be co-workers with you in this work as they move toward healing and freedom, and prayerfully, may be equipped to help free somebody else. 

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

-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.

 

The Believer’s Disposition/Posture

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

What should be the Believer’s disposition/posture at all times? What should be our posture to advance God’s Kingdom in increasingly turbulent times?

The Believer’s Disposition (or posture):

  • Focused on Jesus, Communes with Him. (Colossians 3:2)
  • Worships the Lord in spirit and truth/whole heart (John 4:23-24, Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
  • Called, Called for God’s Work, Made Righteous Through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:9, Romans 1:6, Romans 11:29, Romans 8:30)
  • Sanctified, Holy, Set Apart for God’s Purposes. (1 Peter 1:6, 2 Corinthians 6:17)
  • Love and Goodwill toward others. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • Humility. (Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 2:3)
  • Peace. Abiding in Jesus’ perfect peace. The world doesn’t have peace. The world is putting on a good show, but it is counterfeit peace. (John 14:27, John 16:33)
  • Joy. (Galatians 5:22-23, Nehemiah 8:10)
  • Self-Control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Expectant, Rooted in Hope, Knows Who Holds Their Future. (Hebrews 10:23, Hebrews 11:1, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:24)
  • Fearlessness. We don’t shrink back from what God has called us to do. He reminds us in Joshua 1:9 to be courageous: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • Content in all situations, Gives Thanks. (Philippians 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • Forward moving, advancing God’s Kingdom, led into direct confrontation with the enemy as we take territory away from the kingdom of darkness and reclaim for God’s Kingdom. How else would you get battle experience? (Ephesians 6:10-17)
  • Authorized by God. God, who is greater than us, has authorized you to “GO” and “Conquer.” Walk in it. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Standing-Out-In-The-Crowd

  • Obedience. (John 14:15, Revelation 14:12)
  • Holy Spirit-led; divergent, dexterous; moves boldly and confidently in God’s instruction and not led or made stagnant by doctrine
  • Discernment/Wisdom. (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 3:13, Hebrews 5:14, James 3:17)
  • Rest, Confidence in God. (Hebrews 4, Isaiah 33:6, Psalm 62:5-8)
  • Clarity and Sound Mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • Unshakable Convictions. We share God’s Truth so those living outside of it can begin to bear good fruit. We wouldn’t encourage them to continue sowing lawlessness to appease them and spare our discomfort in telling them the truth. (Colossians 2:8, 2 Timothy 4:2-5)
  • Perseverance. Pressing in, not seeking comfortable spaces, understanding that suffering and struggle grows our faith. Staying the course. Finishing the race. (2 Timothy 4:7, Acts 20:24, Hebrews 12:1, Philippians 3:14)
  • Free. (2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:32, Romans 8:1)
  • Victorious! (Romans 8:31-32, Romans 8:37, John 16:33, 1 John 5:4, Joshua 10:8)

What an awesome picture of the secure Believer amid the world’s insecurity! What other characteristics would you add to this list? Your comments welcomed!

-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.

 

Is Holiness Possible Today?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Oh Nikki, stop it with that holier than thou stuff,” said mom to my then 13 or 14-year-old self. Note: mom didn’t say “stuff” but I’ve chosen a more appropriate substitute.  :-)

Mom was responding to my correction about her cussing. I was a black child, albeit raised in a household by two Christian parents, along with my brother, who found boldness (or ignorance) to correct her mother. Those of you who understand the dynamics of growing up in a black household, mom didn’t like back talk (even if we were right) and neither did/does Dad (mom passed away in 1989). But within me, I had a boldness and love for the Lord and a desire to see others love and live for the Lord as He calls us to.

I-am-the-light-of-the-world

My love for the Lord began in early childhood. My parents bought my brother and me an entire 10-volume set of illustrated bible stories. I read the stories from page to page, enjoying the illustrations, loved learning about Jesus, his ministry, his and the disciples’ interactions with others. Even reading about his crucifixion and resurrection, I may have read that more than the other stories. I loved the Lord, yet my childhood thing was to be so perfect that I wouldn’t get in trouble with mom and dad. So if I didn’t complete a chore, broke a dish, got a bad report card grade, or something else, I lied about it. I sometimes blamed the incident on my brother who had no clue that he was about to get a spanking because I lied so well. Goodness gracious. He and I can look back on it now and laugh, but at that time it was no laughing matter. My parents were grieved by my boldface lying pattern, and one day said to me, “Nikki, we want to be able to trust you. We can’t trust you.”

Those words pained me deeply. I too, wanted my parents to be able to trust me. Why did I fear being punished to the point of lying? I was truly repentant and asked the Lord’s help to stop lying, to turn from this. I didn’t want to be a liar. This was at age 12. It was then that I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and my heart was made new. It was then that I felt a greater love for the Lord, with such a zeal to share Him and His love with others, to encourage them to walk in His truth.

Oh yes, this has long been who I am. This sudden change occurred within our household with my mom who was a Believer. But she still had her favorite curse words, liked to smoke her occasional More brand slim cigarettes, and liked to drink her occasional screwdriver. She was not delighted to hear her teen daughter’s correction. Eeeks.

Two scriptures (and certainly there are more) come to mind in writing this: 

1 Peter 1:16 (English Standard Version), since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” As one commentary reads, “The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian’s life, and by this rule, we are commanded to be holy in every way. God makes those holy who he saves.  Holiness (should be) the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, all conditions and toward all people.”

Matthew 5:6 (New International Version), Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  As I was coming more into the Lord in childhood, I genuinely had a hunger and thirst for righteousness; for a right relationship with God and others (and still do). I simply didn’t interpret it with this understanding at that time, and likely, neither did mom.

be_ye_holy_as_i_am_holy_by_whitenine-d34fske

Sooo many opportunities to sin abound in our society. Is the Bible and how God calls us to live still relevant or even possible in today’s challenging times? The answer is “Yes.” God’s Word, His character and His nature are unchanging, no matter the situation. In the next few weeks, our ministry will speak with college students who are struggling on how to navigate such societal trappings. Worse, as they seek to successfully avoid the trappings and enticements of sin, they see some members within the Body of Christ who they look up to, engaging in similar sins—the sins the students are told to avoid. Many of them are disheartened and confused by what they see. As I mentor our young people, I understand that this millenial generation truly wants to see those more mature in the Body of Christ walking the walk and not just talking it. Truly living in holiness,  yielding our flesh and spirit in obedience to God’s will. Mirroring Christ’s love and His ways.

But I’ll ask them as I am asking you: Is holiness possible today? Do you even desire holiness or understand what it is? As dear friend and co-founder of Christian think tank FreedomSquared.com, Hakim Hazim, said so well recently: “Many want God’s blessings but reject the relationship standards.” 

What Holiness Means and Why It is Possible Today 

Holiness means to be “set apart, consecrated, set apart for God’s purposes; sacred, hallowed, sanctified. Called out of darkness to reflect God’s Light to the world.” God gives us His Holy Spirit so we can live as He does. That’s why it is possible, even today, to live holy.

Is holiness possible today? You bet. It’s not only possible, it’s God’s plan for us. Be encouraged: I am living it as are others. If you’re living it, continue, as others are watching and listening. If you’re struggling, I offer this prayer:

Lord, help us through Your Holy Spirit to yield to your ways, your will for holiness and not how we interpret that to mean.  Develop within us such a love and devotion for you that drives our desire to pursue holiness no matter the situation or environment we’re facing. Though there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), let us not use that as a license to keep allowing past sins into our present.  Help us to model to this generation what a life of true joy, true freedom, true peace can look like in You. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, mercy and grace upon us. 

Amen.

-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.

 

Are You Drinking the World’s Kool-Aid?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I always thought the deception would be harder for the enemy to pull off, but this generation has been presented with such degraded morality, that it is no stretch for people to accept such blatant blasphemies.”

 

Powerful words stated by a dear sister in Christ. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Her words were shared during our conversation in response to this June 2014 Upworthy article that recently reposted, “There Are Six Scriptures About Homosexuality in the Bible. Here’s What They Really Say,” written by Erica Williams Simon, the daughter of two ministers. Ms. Simon notes that she studies the Bible “pretty closely.” Yet, deception abounds throughout her article in her true understanding of God’s Word. More importantly, her understanding is contrary to God’s character, design and nature. I was stunned by her conclusions but more so, I was grieved by her being deceived and potentially deceiving others (Kool-Aid).

 

Certainly, there’s nothing new under the sun. I never write these posts as if there is. Every sin committed today has existed since time began. Today, there’s simply more ways to do it, greater access to participate, more support to accommodate it and more opportunities for brokenness. It’s a mess. The pitcher of Kool-Aid that was sweet has soured. It’s no laughing matter.

 

kool-aid_featured
Anything not connected to the love of God is a counterfeit freedom. Counterfeit freedom produces momentary pleasure with its participants chained in brokenness. God’s design and intention IS for us to be truly free and not enslaved by the world’s trappings. John 10:10 (KJV) says so: 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

 

Then how can a Believer know His Word, know what it’s designed to do, experience His power in their own lives and still be deceived to drink the world’s Kool-Aid? As James 1:22-24 (ESV) reads:

 

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

 

A withering devotion to the Lord, no desire for critical thinking or for the pursuit of holiness, spiritual laziness and being fickle in Godly principles has enabled deception to occur in the Body of Christ.

 

Are you drinking the world’s Kool-Aid? Have you knowing the truth, been persuaded by a popular idea or lifestyle to exchange the truth for a lie? If so, Father please forgive us. Help us to courageously live out Your Word, Your Word which does not change.

 

Heavenly Father, help us to deliver Your Word as You have intended—not by how we think it should be interpreted to appease our and others’ self-interests. Help us pursue holiness, being unmoved in Godly principles in a world that daily pushes the envelope to satisfy self-interests and seeks our support for doing so. Let us remain holy, set apart, called out from the world for Your purposes so we can be light in darkness, to help free the captives. 

 

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As my dear sister prayed, “God help the saints shine with the glory of Christ, who is in us and who made us for ‘such a time as this.’ May God raise up His saints in love and shock and awe victory over anything the enemy can manufacture, and help us destroy it with God’s truth and Spirit. For by Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, You have declared in Your Word our victory is assured. Glory to you, Lord! Our hope is in You and our faith is in the true Christ and our labor is testifying to the true God, to Jesus Christ. We thank you for the honor of the labor to work in Your fields as you bring in the saints before the harvest of the unrighteous. Jesus, make us righteous and holy and worthy of the calling of our election.” 

 

There is no fitting substitute, God, for Your love, truth and freedom. There is no substitute for Your Word. Help us God to endure, to keep Your commandments and our faith in Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

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.

Are Your Words Like Fresh Water?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to pour out. If I plant an apple tree, I expect apples to be produced. No mystery in what is expected from either of these vessels. So, how and why then, do words of blessings, complaining, criticizing and cursing come out of the SAME mouth? Shouldn’t it be consistently one or the other (preferably blessings and words of goodwill, especially for those in the Body of Christ)?

The Bible provides several scriptures on the words produced by our tongue, and the affects thereafter. Here are at least four scriptures on the subject:

 

 

  • Proverbs 18:21- The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (one commentary says “shall receive either good or evil according to the quality of their speeches”).
  • Matthew 12:34-37- “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35- The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36- But I can tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37- For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • James 3:6, 8- The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 8-but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
  • James 3:9-12- With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10- Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11- Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12- My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 

 

spring water

What fruit does your speech produce in your life and in others’ lives? Does your speech speak life and light over those created in God’s image? How are your words used (or not used) when addressing challenging issues—through complaining, criticizing, cursing or with quiet trust, praise, uplifting and thanksgiving?

Our words are conditional to our heart and thoughts. For those of us in Christ Jesus who have truly yielded to His ways, the sanctification process (us being transformed and perfected into Christ’s likeness) is just that: a process. Thankfully, as we desire to be more like Him, He renews our mind and transforms our heart, and thereby, our responses to situations. For me, He is replacing my complaining/grumbling with quiet trust, praise and thanksgiving. Whether waiting for a delayed train while sweating in the smoldering heat and humidity, or extending patience to the person ahead of me who is proceeding slowly, I choose to not complain. I have more gratitude in all situations.

As he continues to transform my heart and mind, my words, my tongue will produce His desired intention of those words springing forth.  I am grateful for His merciful and patient striving with me.

We are reminded as His vessels to use our words in such ways that we “are joyful always,” and to  17-“pray continually, 18- give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

From your one mouth, may words of light, restoration, blessing and thanksgiving flow in your life and others.

Proverbs 16:24- Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

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.

 

 

 

What Time is It? Our Greatest Opportunity

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

This week…there have been few words to be offered other than those spoken to comfort, encourage others and commune with God in prayer. We continue to pray for the families affected. All of us have been affected one way or another by the back-to-back traumas. Our hearts are grieved. The successive acts of violence committed against Black men and White police officers has left us heartbroken, angry and in search for answers. Many have asked, “When is this going to stop??!”

Sadly, we’ve yet to witness evil’s capacity. Yet, the times should indicate to Believers and unbelievers that the answer to “when is this going to stop” is beyond the implementation of traditional, temporary, external solutions. This indeed and always has required us to surrender our human arrogance to offer up Band-Aid solutions to curtail evil’s appetite with counterfeit solutions only to dismiss the true answer, which is Jesus Christ.

Dallas police makeshfit memorial

Michael O’ Mahoney, a former police officer, places his patch on a makeshift memorial at the Dallas police headquarters on July 8, 2016. Photo courtesy: AP

So what time is it? 

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to remain vigilant in prayer and fasting. It is our greatest opportunity to display unity and true freedom to a world that is fractured, broken and seeking life and healing to no avail. It is our greatest opportunity to be salt, light and truth when people offer textbook solutions and seek not the heart of God for answers.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to stop being led by others who aren’t plugged into the Vine, who aren’t yielding to the Holy Spirit, who aren’t in their prayer closets, and to walk in the instructions the Holy Spirit gives us on how to push back the darkness.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to become unshackled from false doctrine and legalism and be transformed by Christ in our thinking so we can move with clarity, unhindered. As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to boldly and confidently move in our callings where God has placed us, particularly to challenge broken, traditional processes and systems that continue to churn out temporary remedies in our communities.

As Believers, it is our greatest opportunity to share with those who are crying out for answers and relief; to joyfully and lovingly share Who is our Greatest Hope, and not be afraid of offending someone or seek to be politically correct.

So again, what time is it?

To the Believer, there should be no question as to “what time it is.” Everything is telling us “what time it is.” Question is, how will you respond with this insight? Should you choose to move as Light against the darkness and as described in the aforementioned paragraphs, you will certainly be met with opposition. But even so, do you dare to use this greatest opportunity to allow God to show you all that He is and all that you are in Him?

light of the world

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)

Praying for bold warriors. Prayers for vigilance in the Body of Christ. Prayers for the Body of Christ to continue to be salt, light and truth in a world that pursues other methods for solutions rather than pursuing God. Prayers for those seeking answers in these dark times to find Jesus Christ, Who is our Answer and Greatest Hope.

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.

 

How Do You Fight Against the Unseen World?

Today, we are blessed to share with you a message from guest Voices Against the Grain devotional writer, Minister Bryan Williams of Charlotte, N.C. Thank you Minister Williams for presenting a word to embolden us in our faith walk. -Nicole

 

Min. Bryan Williams

Minister Bryan Williams, Voices Against the Grain Guest Devotional Writer

How do you fight against the unseen world?

I just finished up a series where I was teaching teens on “The Benefits of Having a Godly Man in the Home” and “The Side Effects of Not Having One” and I must say that this study took on a life of its own. From that, the Lord impressed upon my heart to transition from that topic to talking about ‘Demons and the Unseen World’ and I felt led to share this word with you.

So how do we fight against demons and the unseen world:

 

 

1)      “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10)

If we’re going to fight against the demonic spirits in this world, then the first thing that I encourage you to be is STRONG IN THE LORD! I mean:

  1. a) Strong mentally
  2. b) Strong physically (with keeping your body healthy and in shape)
  3. c) Strong in your word, knowing and proclaiming it
  4. d) Strong in your faith
  5. e) Strong with filling up in the Holy Spirit

With all that is happening all over the world, Orlando, ISIS, planes being shot down, who our next president will be, gun control and the demonic spirit that is homosexuality, it is a must that we are and remain strong in the Lord.

2)      “We have to put on the WHOLE  armor” (Ephesians 6:11)

The Word teaches us that we need the WHOLE armor (and not some or one) but the WHOLE ARMOR to fight against what is constantly before us. One of the main weapons that we need to make sure is sharp is ‘the sword of the spirit,’ which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Now what I’m about to mention is not one of the weapons but I believe it flows along with having the armor on. Verse 18 in Ephesians 6 talks about ‘praying in the Spirit’ and in order to fight against spiritual wickedness, we must be praying IN THE SPIRIT, BY THE SPIRIT, THROUGH THE SPIRIT AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. Not only that, verse 19 of Ephesians 6 talks about speaking boldly. My brothers and my sisters, stand boldly on the Word of God and tell those who are lost about His love, His forgiveness, His grace and mercy and never leave out that He’s coming back (Matthew 24:36).

 

Armor of God

3)      “Recognize that our fight is NOT with flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12)

During this fast, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that our battle is NOT with people (or flesh) but our battle is against unseen spiritual wickedness that is all around us. It’s not the people but what it’s trying to possess, control and persuade people to do the very opposite of what Christ has instructed us. Don’t engage in arguments with non believers and the rebellious. Stand firm on the Word and do what #4 below says in calling out the spirits.

4)      “We must call out those spirits” (Mark 9:25)

Instead of engaging in meaningless arguments (about the truth) with people who are being rebellious, while giving them “a soft answer that turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), speak to the spirit within them and call them out. You who carry the cross, you who carry the name Jesus in your spirit and in your heart, you who display the image of God, with the power of His might, call the evil spirits out.

5)      “Understand that only some things comes through FASTING & PRAYING” (Mark 9:29)

I encourage the Body of Christ that not only do we need more praying in the spirit but I encourage you to proclaim a fast for you, your household and your church. I so appreciate those who are on their knees and face but I encourage those (under the sound of my text voice) to fast and pray in the spirit. I hear in the spirit that some walls need to come down, some doors need to be opened, some family members need to be healed, set free and delivered. I believe that God’s order, plan and commands need to be re-established, that the Men of God need to reclaim our Dominion and that fasting and praying is needed and so necessary for a time such as this.

6)      “We must display God’s love through the image of God through us” (Acts 4:13)

Food for thought: If I were to see you Monday through Saturday night and if I never spoke to you, could I tell you were a Christian? Would I want to know God based off your actions? Would I be able to see Christ through you (outside of church)? I lift this up because, now more than ever, lost people don’t just need to hear a sermon but they need to see one as well. How else are the lost going to turn toward Christ unless they see God’s love and compassion displayed through us? Christ is calling us (the children of light) into dark places so that His light can shine and expose what’s been hidden in the dark but trying to overpower the light.

 

Minister Bryan Williams, who says “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody about somebody, who can save anybody,” recognized his gift to encourage at a young age. As he grew up in church and started hearing from the Lord (in a today generation voice), he recognized that he was set apart and in 2007, he accepted his call to the ministry. Not only did he recognize his call but he learned early that his passion was for the youth. Min. Williams volunteers in the community, is part of various teen girls’ organizations and mentors teen boys in the process. Min. Williams resides in Charlotte, N.C., and is the son of Walter and Helen Williams and has one brother, Walter Williams.

 

 

We’re OUTRAGED. Now What?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Egregious. Heartbroken. Horrific. Incomprehensible. These words describe some of the feelings and thoughts that have charged many of our written and verbal communications over this past week’s unjust sentencing decision rendered by  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky: a six-month sentence to county jail and probation for 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford swimmer who while drunk, raped an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster last January. Two Swedish men bicycling near the scene (heroes) saw what was happening and pursued Turner, getting him off of her. For this egregious act, prosecutors pushed for a six-year sentence for Turner but Judge Persky reduced his sentence to six months given that he had no previous criminal history and that “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” according to Persky. What???

According to The Guardian and other news sources, the woman who during the sexual assault was unconscious from a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit at the time of the rape and who had no memory of the attack, said at the trial:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said, reportedly directly to Turner. “I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” 

The woman also read aloud in the courtroom her 12-page authentically powerful, raw letter (her letter has been published with several media sites though we’ve chosen not to link to it as it may reopen wounds for others).

Mercury News

Former Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner plead not guilty Monday morning Feb. 2, 2015, in a Palo Alto, Calif., courtroom to charges related to an alleged rape on campus. Turner was represented by attorney Mike Armstrong. (Karl Mondon/Mercury News Staff)

Judge Aaron Persky

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky has come under fire for his six-month lenient sentencing (instead of the prosecutor recommended six years) rendered against Brock Allen Turner, stating that “A prison sentence would leave a severe impact on him.” Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

In learning more about this case, you, me and the wider public have been outraged all week. In our anger and frustration about the violent act further impacted by a miscarriage of justice, we’ve expressed choice words about this situation. Even as a Christian whose mind has been renewed, unladylike words and thoughts entered my mind and were stopped short of leaving my lips by the Holy Spirit. I was outraged and I saw your messages of outrage and disbelief too.

What outrages us? 

We’re outraged by Turner’s choices and actions that inflicted unthinkable violence upon this woman. We’re outraged that the woman was asked all kind of irrelevant questions by Turner’s lawyer such as, “Are you serious with your boyfriend? Do you have a history of cheating? What were you wearing?” We’re outraged by Judge Persky’s unjust and too lenient sentencing because  a longer prison sentence would devastate Turner and his future. We’re outraged at Turner’s father writing a letter, concerned that his son was unable to eat his favorite meals because he’s so upset. What???

1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds.

We’re outraged that in 2016, after all of the “Take Back the Night” and similar campaigns have been conducted, articles published, panel discussions held, myriad conversations, initiatives, events to educate and prevent, we’re STILL talking about sexual assault. This outrages us. We’re outraged, frustrated and heartbroken that in reading this, we know the devastation of such violence whether we’ve experienced it first hand or have comforted, listened to, cried with, ministered to or helped loved ones, friends, family members and others, in addressing it and healing from the brokenness of it.

We’re outraged. Now what? 

I ask this question as a frustrated human being over the wickedness that lies within mankind’s heart. I ask this question in understanding your anger and frustration too. Yet, the Holy Spirit challenged me to view this very differently and from a spiritual perspective.

In asking “why is this injustice (and frankly all injustices) still happening?,” here’s the rub: Frankly, we’re asking a lot of a world that is riddled with sin. We’re asking a lot of a world that is fallen, whose desires, hearts, thoughts and wills have not sought God. We’re asking a world to “get it together” as they’ve purposely chosen to fulfill carnal appetites and are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually-dispossessed. We’re asking a sinful world to “know better and do better” when they’ve divorced themselves from seeking, knowing and loving God and have no desire to love others, to be transformed in their hearts by Christ.

We’re asking a prideful and arrogant world to invite God/give God full access to all areas of their life so they may walk in His ways. People don’t want to embrace such obedience or “sacrifices” that will have God telling them “no.” And if they do invite God in, He’s only allowed to speak to them during a crisis. Otherwise, God should remain quiet and not interfere with how they desire to speak, behave, think, carry themselves, interact with, etc. (Isaiah 65:2)

While you and I may have surrendered all to Christ Jesus, others haven’t. You and I may be walking in Romans 12:1-2, but others have chosen not to: “Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2- Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

God is a Holy God of love, mercy and justice. Because God created us, man and woman, in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), we also long for justice—it’s in our very makeup. Therefore, we become outraged when justice has not occurred. Yet, many want justice without inviting God into their lives. Oh yes—we want God to rectify injustices delivered by other people (sexual assaults, shootings, fraud, etc.), yet we won’t invite Him to work with us on the injustices we inflict upon others through our derogatory speech, ungodly thoughts and actions. We say, “God fix them but leave my stuff alone.” We’ve not surrendered to Romans 12:1-2.

clean heart

No doubt some acts are more egregious, horrific and more devastating than others. But as a Holy God, He views all sin equally. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

All offenses grieve God. Until we surrender unjust actions, thoughts, speech, behavior to Christ Jesus, we’ll continue to experience injustice in this world. Without Christ, we’re left to our own devices and it becomes a slippery slope. Without inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts, it’s foolish thinking to consider ourselves “good.” As a dear sister in Christ says, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

I’ve also asked His forgiveness in the unjust thoughts I had toward this incident. Will you give Him full access to transform you into Christ’s likeness, to help stop the further reproduction of more injustice?

Heavenly Father, I know you fully understand our anger, our outrage at the injustices carried out in this egregious situation. As Our Creator, you created us to also pursue justice. Heavenly Father, we pray for Your amazing love to heal the broken places in this young woman’s life and others affected by such actions. We pray that she and others would lay their anger, hurts, pain and shame at the foot of the Cross to receive true healing and freedom through Your Son Jesus Christ. We pray for Your justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators. Lord, please raise up more principled and wise public servants who will administer true justice and exercise greater care over those they’ve been entrusted to serve.

Heavenly Father, you are a Holy God and view all sin equally. Forgive us for the injustices we’ve inflicted against You and others by our ungodly actions, thoughts and words. Lord, may we have an understanding for how all offenses grieve You.  Lord, may we obediently desire to surrender to you our unjust words, thoughts and actions to stem the further proliferation of injustices in this world.  May those operating in justice, in Light and Love as the Body of Christ continue to do so. Thank you and we love you. 

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,

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.

 

 

 

In For the Long Game

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Patience, patience, patience. This past week I experienced a couple situations that tested my patience with others. People running much later than expected for scheduled appointments. Another didn’t have all of their stuff together. Since I asked God’s help two years ago in further developing me in the nine fruits of the Spirit (faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control; found in Galatians 5:22-23), He’s been strengthening my patience with and love toward others more than anything else. Another word the bible uses is “long-suffering” or “forbearance.”

In this development and extending the fruits of the Spirit to those I encounter, I’ve definitely noticed growth. Several things that used to shorten my patience no longer grate me. I experience calm and peace beyond what I thought possible in those situations. Yet, there are events such as those that occurred this past week that stretch me beyond the threshold of patience I’ve been exercising toward others. I mean stretched me to the point of frustration with some of God’s children. Just when I thought this area of my life was settled and accomplished, I realized that I still have more to grow.

This past week’s events on “patience” reminded me of a good word shared by a dear sister in Christ. She said, “God is doing the long game. We’re more focused on the short game because that’s all we can see.”

Whether within me, or you, or those who are seeking Christ Jesus, God is always working.  As creatures of limited scope on this side of heaven, we look for the tangibles. We need to see immediate evidence of things changing, improving, shifting, God’s Hand at work. If we don’t see those immediate changes or if the changes are gradual but not occurring at the speed we desire, we can become frustrated. But trust that God is ALWAYS working, particularly on the eternal piece.

Snail Run Near The Finish Line

As told to us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).

As we seek God for our continued development and perfecting and as we pray for others, engage with others, plant seeds, minister to, let’s remember that God is in it for the long game. The Lord will perfect that which concerns you (and me) (Psalm 138:8)

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

I’m in for the long game. Will you endure? While you endure, will you do so in Christ’s love and patience? Will you be in for the long game? You may not see everything right now, but trust that the work is being done!

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.