Smorgasbord or Bread of Life: Which One Truly Satisfies?

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

His apartment walls and shelves were covered with hardly any open space to spare. Not much more room for additional photos, paintings or posters to be hung. Though organized, the shelved knick knacks and novelties collected during his various travels, religious ornaments of all sorts, altars and shrines with multiple “saints” or gods who were supposed to render health, good fortune or other, was a lot for the eye to take in. Much for the mind to digest. From Hinduism, to Kabbalah, to New Age beliefs, to a Star of David, other religions I didn’t recognize, and some Christian references, I was unsure what or which item(s) was offering this man a sure foundation and anchor in his life.

I was at this man’s apartment to accompany my friend who had a business exchange to make with this man who is a photographer. The man kindly welcomed us into his home. With great pride and enthusiasm, he explained what each saint, relic or ornament meant. He spoke of his travels, his Cuban, Jewish and Chinese heritage, his homosexual lifestyle, his exploration of religions and paths and his belief in reincarnation (who wants to come back to this world??). In his delight in telling us about his beliefs and himself, one might have come away feeling more enlightened; that a great key to answering life’s great mysteries and myriad questions had just been handed to them through this buffet, through this smörgåsbord (Swedish term for buffet) of stuff. You should be full and satisfied. But quite the opposite occurred, at least for me, because I am already satisfied. As I looked into the man’s hazel green eyes, though his speech was passionate and enthusiastic, the deadness in his eyes could not lie. The absence of true joy gave him away. Essentially, this middle-aged man had sampled and tasted everything, and had come away still hungry. Still searching. Still seeking substance and sustenance.

In his profound emptiness and trying to convince us of his happiness, I simply felt sadness and compassion toward him. He’s “been around the world and I, I, can’t find my baby” as the ’80s Lisa Stansfield song says. He’s dabbled, sampled, been around the world and still hasn’t found the real food that sustains. The emptiness could leave one asking, “What all did I eat? Shouldn’t I feel satisfied?”

Smorgasbord dinner

A smörgåsbord dinner.

 

Instead of offering us a smörgåsbord and leaving us unsatisfied, Jesus came to satisfy and sustain us. He is the Bread of Life. In John 6:25-59, Jesus tells His disciples this. Let’s look at verses 30-35:

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

As I wrote in this April 2018 blog post, “All You Can Eat,” Jesus leaves us filled, running over and more than satisfied. He is our daily bread and Bread of Life. We can feed at His table continually and the longer we stay, the more we love Him and desire more of Him. It’s okay to linger and go back for seconds. The abundance is ours if we want it. Eating of His Bread at His table is where brokenness is healed. It’s how we gather strength to be refined by and overcome life’s challenges. It’s where we are filled and able to pour into others with a fresh word to revive their downcast souls.

The man then asked me what it is that I do.  🙂 I delightfully shared with him my serving the Lord in ministry, discipling others (particularly our youth), and also my consultant work in public relations and project management. I lovingly planted seeds of truth. I immediately felt his internal defensive walls go up when I mentioned “ministry” and “Jesus Christ.” In short, he responded with “let everyone find their own path that leads to God.”

Upon conducting our business there, my friend and I hugged him and went on our way. I continue to pray for him. Though being there was not on my agenda that day, it was on God’s. I know my being there was not by chance — if only to show the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

Many people are deceived and seeking, so we as the body of Christ continue to pray for them. The enemy is diligent to confuse, deceive and co-opt. We know God’s truth when heard, received and responded to, can overcome that. We thank God for His great mercy for those He is giving time to return to Him. We pray that they respond.

I am encouraged by a dear sister in Christ whose past is similar to this man. She had traveled the world, explored and dabbled in this religion and that one. All of this and she still had emptiness. Then at age 44, she literally wore herself out “searching.” She finally came to the end of herself. Thank goodness! In that winding down, she looked up to Jesus! Her new life began! Today, at more than 30 years later, she continues to live boldly and passionately for Him. She wastes no time nor turns down any opportunity to share about the Lord! I just love her. Her testimony encourages me and hopefully you that God’s love is so great, His patience so amazing, that those who come to Him, those who are His, He will give them eternal life, they shall not perish, and they will never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-30).

Thank you Jesus! Keep praying saints. Be ready and available for those divine appointments.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15).

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

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I Thought I Was a Christian

Today, we are delighted to share with you the testimony from a young man who thought he was a Christian by trying to be a “good person.” Like many others with similar stories, he grew up in the church, believed on the surface that God existed but he did not have a true relationship with His Savior, Jesus Christ. But as he continued through college, it was becoming clear to him that he was far from living as a Christian…and the Lord was reaching out to him. Read his story below and please share if you’re led. We pray his testimony blesses you and others.

Kurt Yoder Bio Pic 0082718

Kurt Yoder, VATG Guest Blogger

If you would have asked me about five years ago how long I’d been a Christian, I would had said my whole life. You see I grew up going to church. I always had at least a surface belief that Jesus is God, and I used to think that as long as I try to be a good person, I’ll make it to heaven because I believe in Jesus. A lot of people fall into that trap, but Jesus said himself that,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Looking back, I had no desire to keep God’s commandments.

I remember reading Matthew 7:21 and it really hit me like a freight train. Jesus said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

And this, The demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons have an intellectual knowledge of God. In some ways they probably know more about God than us since they were once in his heavenly kingdom. But they do not have the type of belief that saves; saving faith that produces repentance and a longing to live godly.

I did not have saving faith growing up. To show you that, I will tell you a bit about my old self. I quit going to church in high school. To give you an idea of what kind of kid I was, at the age of 17, I started drinking every weekend. Nobody around me found that wrong – not my friends, family, or family’s friends. Everybody lived like that and once you were around that age, you start partying. People thought that was just a part of growing up. The false notion is that you’ve got to have rebellious times when you’re young, so you have something to laugh about when you’re old. By worldly standards, I was a fine kid. I got good grades, was pretty involved in extracurricular activities, and played sports. I even did some good things while I was an unbeliever. I remember specifically standing up for an outcast several times when he got made fun of. You see, I thought of myself as a pretty good person.

I thought I was a Christian

Lines from poem written by Michael P. Johnson

In college, I joined a fraternity. It was the type of stereotypical fraternity you hear about – lots of drinking and sexual immorality. Although, I was not the most immoral person in the fraternity, I was no doubt a part of that lifestyle. There were always people around me that seemed worse than me, and they made me think, “I’m a good person.” I had a friend from high school who went to college with me and did not join a fraternity. Instead, he lived in the dorms his whole time at college and tried to win people to Christ.

At the time, I thought that was a nice thing he was doing, but it wasn’t for me. We had coffee a few times. I remember he would always bring the conversation to Jesus. My thought while talking to him was always, “Why is he telling me this stuff? I believe in Jesus. I believe everything in the bible.” I don’t remember exactly what he said but looking back he knew I was lost. I made clear to him that I believed in Jesus and always had. I promised him one day I would read the bible. Just not now. I was too focused on college then.

Procrastination is what holds a lot of people in unbelief. They put off reading the bible, joining a bible study, going to church, and doing so they never come to face with the truth that they’re a sinner and need reconciliation. They fall more and more into sin and then lose the desire to know God. The governor Felix procrastinated. Paul presented him with the gospel, and Felix began to understand that God is a holy God and we are sinful people. Felix said, “I will hear you again on this matter.” He put off getting right with God. As far as we know, Felix never repented and came to faith. Procrastination damned him.

I procrastinated for a while, but God kept working on me. Shortly after college, I did start reading the bible. At the time, I thought of it as a checklist item. I have to do this once in my life. I thought of it as merely a pursuit of knowledge. I wanted to add bible knowledge to my belt. I did not know that through reading God’s word, God would reveal to me how sinful I was and would give me a new heart. Shortly after I started reading, I was seeking through the radio stations one night, and was compelled to leave the station on a station of a man giving a sermon. I never listened to talk radio at the time. If I was seeking through stations, I would listen for music. If I didn’t hear music, I would instantly keep seeking before I even heard what was being talked about. For some reason, this night I left the station where it landed and heard the man preach and continued to listen to him. I didn’t even know there were Christian radio stations. The next morning when I got in my truck, a new man was preaching. I kept listening and I’ve been listening to sermons on the radio ever since. It was through that radio preaching and my own reading that I began to receive Christ.

Since I thought I was a Christian all along, I can’t exactly tell you the moment I was converted. I can look back on a few moments and say it wasn’t then.

I remember the first time I read the book of Romans, it was like it went through one ear and out the other. I had no idea what I just read. Then, I read Romans about a year later and was in awe. I thought, holy smokes! That was incredible! So much doctrine in that one book. I remember looking back and thinking, I don’t think I had true faith the first time I read the book of Romans. You can only understand this book if you have a new heart. Unbelievers can understand things like historical and geographical things in the bible, but they can’t understand doctrine. The book of Romans is rich on doctrine. The only reason we can understand God’s word is because we have the Holy Spirit. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them. (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14)

Unbelievers cannot understand the word of God. I see that proven all the time and it breaks my heart. There are several people close to me that started reading the bible once and they said they had to quit because they just had no idea what it was saying. I couldn’t understand when I first started reading, but God convicted me of my whole sinful life and I came crawling to God to give me salvation and with that salvation he gave me understanding of his word.

Another moment that I can look back and confidently say that I wasn’t a Christian – the time I heard on a Christian radio program a man telling a woman that she can be forgiven for her sin of abortion. My thought was, “What? Abortion is murder. Murderers don’t make it to heaven.” I was confused what this man was talking about. Now I know that anybody can be forgiven. We are all sinful.

There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

I may be slightly better than a murderer, or an adulterer, or a drug addict. They’re here and I’m here. But the reality is that God is way up there at the sky. He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! He demands perfection in his holy kingdom.

We are not saved by our works. We are only saved by Christ’s works! He lived the perfect life, then died on the cross and bore our sins. He paid for an eternity’s worth of wrath for each one of us in those hours on the cross. It pains me to think how much pain Christ bore for me on that cross, not even including any others wrath that he paid for, but I’m sure glad he did.

No, we’re not saved by our works. Because once you put your works into the equation, you have to also put all your bad works into the equation, too. One sin cancels all your good works and is enough to condemn you forever. I now know that salvation not by being a basically good person. Salvation is by faith!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) The righteous man shall live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4) “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31)

My old self thought I had been a Christian my whole life, but there is no such thing. We all are born into sin and live a life rebellious to God. The only way we can live a life of glorifying God is if we have been born again. I thought the born again was only for really bad people – prostitutes, drug addicts. The truth is that I am just as guilty as they are. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Jesus told that to a leading Pharisee, Nicodemus. Even Nicodemus, who was surely much better than me, probably didn’t fall into that partying lifestyle, and probably went to synagogue several days a week, and prayed several hours a day, needed to be born again.

To reiterate the point,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have learned that the Christian life is much more difficult than an unbelieving life. It’s much easier to go with the ways of the world and be a man-pleaser. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Jesus received undeserved hate. He proclaimed the truth and way of salvation, and the world hated him for telling them they were deceived and living a life against God. The whole world is hostile toward the true Christian viewpoint. They’re not hostile to false Christian viewpoints, such as cheap grace – just believe in Jesus and go on living like a heathen; or the prosperity gospel – that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy and he’s going to really take care of you if you just have faith; or universalism – that God is a loving God and everybody’s going to heaven and there is no judgement for sin. God is a loving God, but he is also a just God. The world loves those false forms of Christianity, but they hate true Christianity. The Christianity that says, “All men have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” and all men need to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

I know this Christian life is tough. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Although I know this Christian life has been and will be tough, I have great joy and peace. I do because I know the price has been paid for me by Jesus on the cross and whenever I die or Jesus comes to take me home, I will have eternal life in a kingdom where there is no sin and I have no sin and I can worship my savior face to face! I can’t wait for that day! I also have great joy and peace because of Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished.” My salvation has been worked out! Victory has won over death! And I know that because I didn’t earn this salvation, I cannot lose this salvation. God freely gave me salvation, and my salvation is in his hands. No one can take this salvation away from me.

For Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) 

Kurt Yoder, 27, has been a Christian for about three years. He lives in rural western Missouri and is a member of a Southern Baptist Church. He and his wife have been married for two years, and have been blessed with a six-month old daughter.

Serving Others: Why Do You Do It?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Why do you do it? What motivates you?

Suffering is everywhere in our world. We can barely turn on our television or devices or read a newspaper, book or magazine article without being jarred by learning about someone else or another community suffering. It is worldwide and our solutions at times seem to only touch the surface. And in part, that is true.

If a key motivating factor is missing from our desire to serve, alleviate suffering and render justice, our approach and solutions will fall short.

You may be socially aware (having a sense of concern or responsibility for the problems and injustices of society), which is great. You may be even more socially aware and more “woke” than others. That’s great too. And yet, that is not enough. It falls short of God’s intentions for truly rendering aid to the needs of people beyond their physical needs and alleviating their physical, mental or emotional suffering.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives us our direction and instructions to truly make those suffering whole:

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If we are not first motivated by a love for God, and then a love for neighbor, our efforts will be surface.

As we as individuals, through our businesses, groups, organizations or ministries serve in various facets determined to make great change, we would do well to invite the key player to lead our plans: God, and a love for God. This intentional action and focus allows us to be part of the redemptive transformation for people God intends —beyond simply meeting their temporal needs.

serving man soup photo credit Green Mangos Catering

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

An excerpt from the book, A Missional Life (2013), written by 14 authors and published by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, challenges us to further discern our motivations for serving others:

“Are you motivated by a general need to do something or do you desire to see the knowledge of God’s glory cover the earth, “as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)?

How you answer that question will largely determine whether you are focused on being a disciple of Christ acting on his behalf for the good of others, or if you are merely acting and rebelling; whether you are truly missional or merely have a social conscience; whether you are living for Christ or for yourself.”

Introspection

While it is good to think about and feel compassion for the suffering happening in our world, have you done so with an eye toward Christ Jesus? With an eye to see, ears to hear and a heart attuned to catch God’s biblical vision of how He desires for you to respond as His ambassador? As His hands and feet? Are you serving for yourself or serving Him? Why do you do it? What motivates you? Are you connected to God’s eternal plan or simply your strategic plan? Are we giving them bread for their body and for their soul — food that will sustain them beyond today?

We are imperfect beings and often self-centered (sometimes unintentionally) so we need a better motivation to do what is good; a more perfect motivation to truly do work with results that will last.

Heavenly Father, help us to have the mind of Your Son Jesus Christ in all that we do, even as we seek to alleviate suffering in our world. May we serve as the hands and feet of Christ as we address the physical, emotional, mental and temporal needs of those you place in our path as well as their eternal and redemptive needs. May we offer Your bread that will truly sustain them.

In Jesus’ Name we pray and ask this,

Amen

Nicole

Sometimes We Lament

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It’s taken me more than a week to pray on and write this blog post…and it still may not hit all the right notes. Though I hope you can relate to the message’s tone and tenor. I trust that the message is one you can relate to, feeling the pang of each event in your spirit. With each event, the pangs seem to intensify.

Sometimes I lament in my spirit. I lament over the wickedness in our world and how mankind continues to grieve and offend our gracious God.

Murdering spirits. Shootings. Young people being slain in our streets. In our schools. In our parks. Slayings. No regard for human life. Bombings. Wars. Abortions. When will it stop? When will justice come?

Sometimes we lament.

Domestic violence. Sex trafficking. Perversion. Grown men (including men of the cloth) and women attracted to children and teens. Unnatural attractions. Rampant, horrific sexual abuse, sexual violence and harassment. Persecutions for faith. Prejudicies. Myriad injustices. A culture, society and world that is hostile toward God and seemingly bent on continuing this way.

Sometimes we lament.

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Addictions. A bondage hastening unto death.

Sometimes we lament.

Corruption and wickedness enacted, enjoyed and exposed on every level, throughout our various institutions that were designed to be trusted and lawful.

Sometimes we lament.

Satan, demons, and the wicked proclivities behind it all.

Sometimes we lament.

The ungodly thoughts that we slay in our own hearts and minds. We pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” from Psalm 51:10.

Sometimes we lament.

Recently, I felt such a grief in my spirit as I have at times before, that I expressed this to a dear sister in Christ. She too has experienced this. For those of us who love the Lord and who have prayed to know the Lord’s heart, you’ve likely felt this burden. But I trust that God’s tears are far greater.

Since when God created man, He has known what resides in man’s heart. It’s dark and ugly. Jeremiah 17:9 reads “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Ecclesiastes 7:29 reads, “This only have I found: God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.”

lamentin person bent over

Scheming. Planning. Self-seeking. Plotting how they can next satisfy their flesh, their appetites and selfish ambition. And yet, amid their plotting, our compassionate, loving and merciful God —  our God of great forbearance — awakens offenders morning, after morning, after morning, allowing them to return to their plotting. Some are aware of what pleases and displeases God but do what they want anyway, without regard for how their choices offend a holy God. Others are simply blind to the truth. Those spiritually destitute and without the Holy Spirit continue to pursue evil. They despise the truth, despise righteousness and seem all the more thrilled to ride their way to hell, drink in hand.

How long, how wide, how deep is our Savior’s love, His patience and kindness toward us?! The stench of wickedness has reached His nostrils! Creation is groaning. The earth remembers it’s slain. We’re daily witnessing the consequences of evil. Yet, God continues to strive with mankind, for now. He pursues and pursues us. His love is amazing to me. I’ve often admitted that if I were God, I would have annihilated mankind a long time ago. Fortunately, His plans are better than mine.

In ways far beyond my comprehension, God still loves. Throughout the bible, we see God’s love displayed for people amid their repeated and blatant disobedience. Many of the Old Testament prophets lamented over the people’s disobedience. Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as “the weeping prophet,” grieved that his warnings of God’s judgment pronounced to the people of Judah were constantly disregarded as they worshiped worthless idols. Stubborn and rebellious hearts. They should have all been destroyed! But in Jeremiah 5:18, Jeremiah speaks the LORD’s words that He “will not destroy them completely.” This also caused Jeremiah to grieve because he knew of the Lord’s great compassion — and that his words of warning would be looked upon foolishly by the people of Judah if the Lord withheld His wrath.

Moses often prayed for the Israelites in their disobedience as they built idols and altars to worship false gods. As I wrote in this article “Should I Not Care About These Too?” about God’s instruction to Jonah to warn the Ninevites of their impending destruction if they did not repent, Jonah became angry at the Lord for His compassion toward these wayward people.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-2,4)

Gods-Help

Today, God, in His great mercy, continues to send His People to pray for, warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction. We lament knowing that some will choose to remain blind, disobedient and will ultimately perish. However, in our lamenting, we should also be encouraged. There is power in the prayers of the lamenting  — even those said without audible words but uttered in deep groans. There is promise in our pleas. God indeed sees, hears and answers prayers. He hears His remnant crying out and petitioning on behalf of the lost. If those who are far way from Him should see the error of their ways and desire Him, He is willing to save.

Heavenly Father, thank you. I don’t understand how you love us so. Your lovingkindess is beyond comprehension. Your grace, unfathomable. Your mercies are new every morning. Even those who rejected You yesterday can become your forever sons and daughters today if they truly repent and choose Your Son Jesus. As we lament over the condition of our world, Your love, Your grace, Your victory and Your great plan of salvation out shines the backdrop of wickedness. We will boldly and lovingly continue to share the Good News hoping that others may hear and turn to You. Even against the backdrop of the darkest of times, our confidence in what You will accomplish will not be slackened. Amen.

Nicole

Are You an End Times Soldier?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

There are times in life when we’re given unsettling news or information.

Such information can leave us bewildered or worried. We may wish the news was different or would reverse course. To deal with it, we might hide our head in the sand hoping “it” goes away. For some of us, receiving unsettling news may momentarily jolt us, then sobers us up very quickly and steers us into a new mindset. It is often better to have the news so we can respond accordingly rather than being left in the dark and blindsided. It’s even better when despite the unsettling news, the outcome is good if you’ve made the right decision.

In this way, God’s Word has prepared His People for things to come in these last days. In fact, as someone said, “The Bible is more up-to-date than tomorrow’s newspaper.” So true. He has also given us our focus, mission and marching orders. In our daily commune with Him, He gives us our instructions. God is training and raising up soldiers in His Army to endure to the end.

Many of us have prayed for God’s will to be done in this perishing world — for Him to render justice to injustice; for Him to remove the corrupt and replace with the godly; that people would no longer place their confidence in idols but be wholly dependent upon Him, to soften hardened hearts to receive truth, and to fully mature and unify the Body of Christ.

We should reject any notion that this process will be neatly packaged with a pretty red bow. God is destabilizing everything to expose, dismantle and remove. He is using the situations as instruments to draw hearts to Him. This destabilization must run its course. But do not be afraid.

End Times

We’ll move in greater confidence when we break off our long-held love affair with traditional systems and institutions, expecting deliverance from them. God Almighty is our assured Deliverer.

Things will continue to destabilize with “great distress” as never seen before (Matthew 24:21). As described in Matthew 24, these are birth pains — the outcomes of a wicked and sin-wracked world, a world at enmity with God their Creator. God will not allow wickedness to go unchecked. This earth is passing away. God will create a new heaven and a new earth as told to us in Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. We are to look toward a new heaven and new earth where righteousness and God’s Kingdom will reign. He is making all things new.

Revelation 21-5

Dear victorious saint and soldier, I encourage you to run your race in obedience; to obediently and courageously walk out your calling amid whatever storms are brewing. Though the waters will be choppy, God is with you! He will get you to shore. May we have a heart for reaching the lost and desire to see this last harvest come to Christ.

We have wonderfully Good News to share with the world! That is the mission. God is extending His forever family — not failed institutions and systems. God has always been in the business of reconciling us back in right relationship with Him. Gratefully, as soldiers in His Army, we’ve been invited to co-labor with Him in this great mission field and ministry of reconciliation as Christ’s Ambassadors as Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

If you are indeed an end times soldier, patiently encourage growth with our brothers and sisters who are yet to mature into this disposition. Encourage them in faith and truth. The weak and the strong both belong to God. May we be purveyors of hope or as a dear brother in Christ says, “be hope dealers” to those who are unsteady in these times. We should expect to grow spiritually as we graduate to new levels in our calling. May our hope, joy, a deepening love for others, peace and steadiness be considered the normal disposition of God’s People in times of increasing instability— rather than a carnal default of worry.

John 16-33 mountains

Our God and Captain, King Jesus, has already overcome the world (John 16:33)! Jesus defeated Satan. In Jesus, our victory is already won and we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). May we live like we know this.

As things appear chaotic, remain mission-focused, not distracted by the peripheral or extraneous. Keep watch, be ready and keep your eye on Our trusted Captain to lead you ever so faithfully. Follow Him so closely that your focus will not allow you to become double-minded, causing you to be caught off guard and deceived. Our Lord’s return will be joyful for us who belong to Him but very dreadful for those who do not as they’ve chosen the world as their portion instead of Him. May we be found fit to be partakers of our reward and inheritance.

Though our world is in perpetual unrest, we can remain in constant rest through our relationship and confidence in Christ Jesus. With this disposition, you will indeed be an end times saint and soldier.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Grateful in the Wait

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Does it seem like everyone is being blessed except you? You’ve been faithful, obedient to what God asks, yet some of your requests presented to Him appear delayed with no Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA). Living in a “microwave generation,” we want everything NOW.

Like you, I am waiting on God for some answers also. As I wait, I have asked, “Lord, where are you at on this? When are you going to release me from this situation?” Silence.

I write this message to minister to you and me. How can we remain grateful and joyful in the wait and not become depressed about requests God hasn’t yet answered? Here are five tips:

    1. Time is a Trainer. For those of us who’ve journeyed with the Lord for a while, we’ve come to learn that time is a trainer. Time develops our faith and trust in God and His holy Word. We’ve learned that He is not bound by time and therefore, can’t be rushed by our anxiousness. Time trains us to shed attitudes and behaviors that are not of Him so we can be more in alignment with His will. Time trains us to develop our muscle and weight in character, integrity, credibility, competency, perseverance, love, patience, and other traits that can’t be acquired overnight. Time trains us to victoriously run the race, equipped to address life’s opportunities and challenges. I’ve experienced this development in my journey and review it with joy!

Grateful in waiting 1

2. God Prepares a Place for Prepared People. As stated in tip #1, time is a great agent to develop character traits and skills necessary for us to move into and occupy that next level. Would you want to enter that role without the necessary preparation and refinement? Not if you want to operate in a spirit of excellence. As God prepares you to occupy that new level, He is also lining up the people, provision and resources to sustain you in your new role. God is excellent and will not do things half-baked. Allow Him to properly prepare you to step into your prepared position.

3. Remain Faithful and Avoid the Shortcuts. As we wait, we’re subject to complaining and may consider other options. Satan will present you with shortcuts that promise to deliver quicker answers and rewards rather than waiting on God. Don’t take the bait. The enemy’s counterfeit offers have convinced many to accept and adapt to less than fulfilling plans and outcomes. Remain faithful in what God has asked you to do. Remain grateful for how He is preparing you in the process. You won’t be disappointed when the promotion comes.

4. Suffering: God’s Instrument to Mature and Propel Us into Our Destiny. From challenging employers, to dwindling resources, illness or persecution, our perfection will not begin until we undergo affliction. God will use suffering and trials as instruments to spiritually mature us to become more like Christ and to propel us into our destiny. Suffering produces qualities within us that would otherwise remain dormant. We must expect it, go through it and not consider it strange. “Great spirituality came out of the suffering of Paul, Stephen and others. So it will be with God’s People today. These are the authentic outcomes of the Christian faith,” says Hakim Hazim, author and co-founder of Christian think tank Freedom Squared.

5. No Good Thing Will He Withhold. Satan will try to convince you that “God has forgotten about you.” This is a lie. Psalm 31:19 says, “How abundant are the good things you have stored up for those who fear you that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” God delights in blessing you! “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11)

God’s ETA is always on time, never late. He is not limited by our circumstances or rushed by our anxiousness. Remain grateful and joyful in the wait. He will exceed your expectations and greatest imaginations (Ephesians 3:20).

God bless you,

Nicole

(Article originally published on November 21, 2014 on GospelToday.com. Site no longer exists.)

Battered, Burned and Still Held Together: Visiting the Museum of the Bible

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Living in Washington, D.C. as I have for the past 12 years, I never want to take for granted the ease of access I have to visit our national treasures, monuments and museums —treasures that people travel thousands of miles to see and cross off their bucket lists.

With life and addressing other priorities, I had not yet had opportunity to visit the Museum of the Bible which opened this past November 2017. I truly desired to and finally did so this past July 4th weekend.

Upon clearing security and entering the museum, not to be irreverent but I felt like a kid in a candy store! You encounter families and individuals who are just as excited as you to learn about the Bible’s global impact and influence. Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” greets you on the marble wall before beginning your tour. Throughout the museum’s six floors of exploration and admiration, you will see how this Psalm held true in the quotes given by abolitionists, ministers, members of Congress and government and other influentials who share how the Word of God shaped their lives, decisions and work.

Museum of the Bible introduction

I took great joy in reading about God’s people positioned throughout time who spoke His Word boldly and unabashedly to stir hearts and spirits. There were times in America’s and the world’s history–times of George Whitfield, an American Anglican priest in the 1740s during America’s “Great Awakening–and Charles Spurgeon, an English Baptist preacher in the mid-1800s–where people would crowd streets, churches and theaters, pressing their way to hear the Gospel, thirsty to receive the Good News. They were receptive to a word of encouragement, instruction or rebuke–to be awoken from their slumber of indifference. No candy-coated messages that so proliferate today to comfortably keep people in a spiritual slumber of indifference. As Whitfield said, “I love those that thunder out the word…the Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out if it.” (1739). Reading these words excited me and reminded me of another passionate “preacher”/abolitionist, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), who pulled no punches when writing his book Real Christianity, whereupon he called for Christians to forgo cultural Christianity and truly pursue authentic faith. I wrote about it here.

During my three-hour visit (you will need more time than this; I plan to return to finish), I saw several captivating exhibits: a pile of blackened, still-held-together bibles burned by those who rejected the truth. Many scrolls–some in pristine condition, and others tattered and worn to pieces by weathering and water – were written in various languages telling of His Word. Hundreds of bibles passed down through the generations with clasps and jeweled covers or worn leather, still held together. I imagined the journey each of these precious books traveled to reach us today. I imagined what storms those books endured and how those words of hope sustained its readers in their times of trial.

Museum of the Bible bible

I could go on! However, I will keep this post brief as I do not want to spoil your visit! I hope you are able to visit the Museum of the Bible–it is a “must do” for your bucket list.

What I can say for certain: the Word of God is sure and it endures. I looked at those burned, blackened, worn bibles, still holding together, through it all. People reading those words likely felt beat up by life, beat up like the book that was yet giving them life and holding them together. In every situation we encounter, God’s Word will indeed serve as a “lamp unto our feet and light unto our path” if we seek and trust Him.

Even in these present troubling times, and in times before, and in trials to come, you can rest assured: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8

Love and blessings,

Nicole

View more photos from my Museum of the Bible visit published on our Voices Against the Grain Facebook page (posted July 9, 2018). To visit the Museum of the Bible, view their website to order your timed tickets. General adult admission/requested donation is $15 and $10 for children ages 12 and under.

Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

Immigrant children separation 1

This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

Immigrant children separation 6

This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

Immigration-Detention

There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

Immigration child separation 7 we belong

Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

Who You Know: Favor and Consequence

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

You’ve heard the statement said that “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

Possessing knowledge of something and/or having connections to help resolve situations or to advance efforts are beneficial. More often than not, it’s in the “who we know” that delivers our immediate help. This is the case as we’ll see displayed in Daniel 2 and throughout the book of Daniel’s 12 chapters.

Who Daniel knows — the living God — proves to be his blessing to others by correctly interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. This relationship granted Daniel and the other “wise men” in Babylon a pardon on their lives for the king was going to “cut into pieces” the magicians, sorcerers, and wise men who had promised to interpret his dream and had failed. Through his relationship, commune with and prayer to God, God provided Daniel the dream’s meaning. Because of this, Daniel was given favor with King Nebuchadnezzar and was promoted to a high position, making him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and lavished with many gifts. In addition, “at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.” (Daniel 2:49)

Who Daniel knew not only gained him favor, promotion and spared his life, it also saved others’ lives and gave his closest and godliest wise men promotion and favor with the king.

The favor bestowed was temporary for in chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar builds an image of gold, 90 feet high and nine feet wide in the province of Babylon. He issued a decree ordering everyone to worship the image or be killed. Others did, but Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not. They were committed to honor, worship and serve the Lord God. The magicians whose lives were saved by Daniel, now saw an opportunity to have Daniel’s men destroyed. The magicians went to King Nebuchadnezzar and told him that Daniel’s men would not worship the golden image. This infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar and he summoned them into his presence.

Despite the king’s threats, the men remained committed to serving the Lord and would not worship the golden image. Well, you know how this part of the story goes. Infuriated by their refusal to worship the golden image, King Nebuchadnezzar orders Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be tied up and thrown into a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual (Daniel 3:19-20). In this process, the men were committed to serving God whether He delivered them or not.

You know the story. The furnace’s heat was so intense that it killed the soldiers who escorted them. God joined His godly servants in the fiery furnace. They were unbound, unharmed and didn’t smell of smoke. Upon witnessing this, King Nebuchadnezzar saw how mighty the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and decreed that no one say anything against their God or they would be “cut into pieces.” (Daniel 3:28-29). He further said, “for no other god can save in this way.” The men were once again promoted by the king in the province of Babylon.

 

Daniel-3-the-Fiery-Furnace

How amazing is that?! Because of the Who that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew it brought them to be recipients of opposition yet also great favor and promotion. There’s no one like our God! None!

Daniel goes on to interpret more of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. By chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar now acknowledges the work and miracles of the Most High God. He once again calls upon Daniel to interpret a disturbing dream he had, for all of the sorcerers, diviners and magicians had failed to do so, once again. He knew that he could trust Daniel to give a correct interpretation. But more importantly, he trusted Who was Daniel’s source of information/revelation.

In verses Daniel 4:34-36, King Nebuchadnezzar by this time is praising “the Most High God,” (this is after he lost his mind and throne for seven years, and then God restored him, per the dream) and says, “I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation (v. 34).” By verse 37, King Nebuchadnezzar says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

This is powerful. Look at this transformation undergone by King Nebuchadnezzar! An arrogant king is humbled. Who would have thought this possible in the earlier part of his and Daniel’s relationship? What I love about this entire journey of Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar is this:

  1. Daniel never apologizes for or compromises who he knows (God) to someone who did not initially believe in his God.
  2. WHO Daniel knows (God) is both a blessing (he and his men were promoted multiple times by the king, and he was able to spare the lives of the other false diviners) AND a consequence (Daniel’s men were thrown into the fiery furnace for not worshiping the golden image). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not compromise their relationship with God and were committed to Him, whether He delivered them or not.
  3. Through the CHARACTER and faithfulness of God and Daniel, Daniel became endeared by King Nebuchadnezzar and through that, King Nebuchadnezzar came to see the true God.
  4. Daniel’s intimacy with His God paved the way for King Nebuchadnezzar to experience God personally and glorify God in his life.

As Believers, we do not have to compromise God when engaging with others who do not believe. We have what the world needs. The relationship we have with God and His faithfulness toward us will speak volumes with many who will place us in trusted positions because of what they see God doing through us, even if they themselves choose not to seek Him. Because of Who we know, we will be able to bless others to see the goodness of God where others have failed. Through Him, we will have greater influence to govern, to lead and to provide counsel on some of our world’s most challenging issues. We will be given access that will puzzle others who will say, “How did you get that?”

Let’s be real: there are some folks where just your association with them is always a consequence and no good can come from it! 😦 There will always be consequence and discomfort in knowing the Lord. Daniel’s story shows us that and if you’ve lived for God more than one day, you know this too. However, Daniel shows us that there is an abundance of blessings beyond what we can imagine (even hearts changed for eternity) in following Him, unabashedly. Never compromise and never discount what your influence is doing now and for eternity. Never discount that God is at work. #Harvest

Nicole

 

 

 

You Cannot Be Gentle in This Fight

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For the past three weeks, I’ve been praying on and drafting a blog post on the importance of “who you know” based on the book of Daniel. I’ve nearly completed it and was prepared to share it with you today or this weekend. But, a more immediate subject is impressed upon my spirit to address now with the Body of Christ. You can expect to receive the Daniel message sometime next week.

Kate Spade, 55. Anthony Bourdain, 61. Too many others to count. This Tuesday and now today, we are grappling with the sad and sobering news of lives lost to apparent suicide. Bad news travels fast particularly in today’s real-time news cycle at our fingertips— received on our phones, pads and various devices communicated across myriad platforms. As outside onlookers, the breaking news alerts of their deaths shocks us to our core, gives us pause and conjures up questions of “why” because we have benefited from their many gifts and talents. From a distance, we see them smiling, seemingly living well, traveling the world, basking in the fruits of their talents and enjoying life.

But by the news accounts, the external did not match the internal, what we as outsiders were not privy to seeing. We don’t know the inner turmoil they battled. Even for those closest to them, some of the “whys” remain and will remain. We lift their families, loved ones, friends and colleagues in prayer as they process these losses.

I write this article not as someone who has ever contemplated committing suicide. This will not be a data-driven article on suicide. I want to preserve that information for a more in-depth discussion we’ll have on our radio show/podcast as we relaunch our show later this summer/early fall since our hiatus last April. Some of us have been praying about various regions of the U.S. that are experiencing a significant uptick in suicides and we’ll discuss that on the show as well.

This is a message to strengthen and encourage.

I shared earlier today and through previous blog posts on overcoming anxiety and illness this year. While I experienced healing around mid-March, I underwent further attacks to my physical and mental health in late March up through early May. More returned trips to the ER for heart palpitations with heart rates that had doctors very concerned. Labs coming back showing that my body is sound, perfectly healthy and yet heart rates were off the charts. They ruled out this and that. Sent me home. The enemy, our formidable adversary, Satan, kept pounding my head with more thoughts about death, not being alive to complete the call on my life and ministry God has for me, etc., etc. I thought I was losing my mind.

As we continue in our walk with God, He extends us out further to advance His Kingdom; to be light where there is darkness. This is what I do and desire to do more of and yet, sometimes I wanted to isolate. I felt like my head was in a fog, quite simply oppression. The enemy had me running back and forth to doctors’ appointments, multiple tests were run, getting the all clear every time. These were ridiculous “errands” and not a good use of my time or resources. But this is the enemy’s plan. He can’t steal our salvation but he can sure try to steal our peace, joy, time, resources, focus, etc.

One morning, after being pounded relentlessly by the enemy, I called a dear sister in Christ who is a mighty prayer warrior. I seldom reach out to people like this but I was desperate. I knew my call to her was likely inconvenient timing because of her work schedule but I prayed that she would answer, and certainly she did. When her jovial voice answered, I shakily shared with her what I was experiencing. She immediately went into full throttle prayer. I began crying (folks who know me know I don’t do this) for what seemed like 10-15 minutes. Then, that thing just broke. It lifted. Was gone. No more. DONE. We laughed! We spoke for an hour and my spirit was lighter, my head clear and I was back! I should have reached out sooner!! I am grateful to her and the saints!

She said many great things during our conversation but certainly one statement that I have implemented and will share with you. She said, “We need to get angry.” 

I asked her, “Get angry?”

She replied, “Yes. We don’t get angry enough at what our adversary, Satan is doing. We need to get angry.”

I instantly understood what she was saying. And she was right–at least in how I had been responding to the enemy’s attacks.  I had to:

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my health (and your health too).

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my peace (and your peace too).

Get angry that Satan was stealing my time and resources with distractions (and yours too).

FIGHT punch

Though I am a fighter, I was still being too passive. I realized that I had to be intentional because the enemy was definitely intentional about trying to derail me. I could not be gentle in this fight. And neither can you be gentle in your fight. Punch the heck out of him. Nor do we give Satan any authority. He can only operate with the authority we give him.

For those of us advancing God’s Kingdom, living daily as Ambassadors of Christ, we can expect opposition. God will often place us in direct conflict with the enemy (sift us like wheat, Luke 22:31), but I promise you, you will be stronger and spiritually mature if you keep your focus on Jesus, in whom lies our victory. Saints, we have a formidable adversary who wants to derail and destroy you by any means possible. It’s important as soldiers in God’s Army for people to see us victorious but for them also to see our battle scars. David, Job, Moses, Paul and countless saints before us experienced those battle scars in part because of their weaknesses even while advancing God’s will. If you don’t have battle scars, don’t have something to lose/gain, then you don’t have skin in the game.

As one dear seasoned saint told me about our adversary, even when things appear chaotic everywhere: “The devil is serious about doing harm to humanity. The difference between him and many of the saints in carrying out efforts, is that he is disciplined, organized and committed.”

Saints, this is indeed spiritual warfare. As our enemy is so committed, we must be committed, disciplined and organized in our prayer life, in our walk. We should do nothing less. Our enemy won’t. We must be fit for the fight (read our blog post on what it means to be F.I.T.). We, you cannot be gentle in this fight. PUT ON your helmet of salvation to guard your thoughts. TAKE UP your shield of faith to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts coming at you. WIELD the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God so you can immediately respond to the enemy’s lies. Remember that you are already positioned in victory through Christ Jesus.

Today, I am at the best I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve undergone a six-month metamorphosis and have come out newer, stronger, more resolved and more emboldened for God’s Kingdom. What I’ve gained and learned is indescribable and has prepared me for the next level. I pray this for you too.

I shared this prayer earlier on social media, and will include it here as well. I was first praying it aloud but was led to post it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). In You, is Life! For those who seek You and trust in You, we know that You have good plans and a good future for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We come against the murderous and suicidal spirit in the earth; the thief that seeks to kill and destroy. We reject the spirit of anxiety, depression, despair and hopelessness. We reject the enemy’s lies which are ALWAYS counterfeit to the truth and Your promises. Father, we pray those battling this right now may feel and know and be settled by Your love, joy and peace. Reset their minds with thoughts of hope and peace. Help us to be a refuge to those who are hurting. Where they feel faint by this life, give them strength. May they know that they are loved by many, but most importantly, loved by You. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, we ask this. Amen.

Love and blessings to you my brothers and sisters,

Nicole