Speaking Truth with Grace

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, New International Version)

As those who have been reconciled to God through the blood and righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, saved from eternal damnation and separation from God, we have wonderfully Good News to share with the world! We who were once lost and sinking in sin and are now experiencing new life in Jesus Christ want to ensure that others who are where we once were have opportunity to receive “life and life to the full” and are no longer slaves to the devil, the thief who seeks “to steal, to kill and to destroy” as told to us in John 10:10.

As ministers of reconciliation and in our zeal to share the Gospel with a perishing world, we know that the culture is not one that runs to God but from God. We should not expect to be readily received. However, in our desire to disciple, to educate, equip and speak truth to those walking on destructive paths, we must remember to do so in love, with grace. Otherwise, we are like a clanging cymbal as described in 1 Corinthians 13:1. Can you imagine that in your ears? Quite unpleasant and will likely not have the desired effect on our listener as we hoped. We may have much knowledge and speak with great faith but without love, without grace, we are nothing, as 1 Corinthians 13:2 tells us.

A few years ago in my boldness to share and deliver the gospel with a “punch” in hopes that people would really get it, a dear brother in Christ who is one of my spiritual mentors gave me this wise counsel: “Not everyone can handle 100 CC’s of truth. Lean on the Holy Spirit for the words to say, when and how much.” Wise words.  For even if we’re chomping at the bit to pour out everything we can about the gospel, too much truth at one time can be too much and not fully absorbed, particularly for the non-believer or spiritually immature. Also, remember that you, others, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit are partners in this Kingdom work. You and I are God’s fellow workers. As described in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, “one plants, one waters, but it is only God who makes things grow.”

God bless you dear brothers and sisters in Christ as you live out the Great Commission wherever God has placed you. The world desperately needs what we have and needs to hear this wonderfully Good News. In doing so, invite the Holy Spirit into your conversations in advance to give you His words and temperament for that divine appointment—to speak the right amount of truth in love and grace—without compromising the gospel or your witness.

Here’s a great article that prepares us for how to engage in the right spirit for such encounters:

Shelter in Place

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I’ve never been a bandwagon person. I like the freedom of not being hitched to things that if you give it time and sit back long enough the flawed agendas and limitations are revealed. I know that eventually, the wheels will fall off.

I realize that when life is unjust and out of control some people need something to get behind when trying to restore justice, morals and order to our disorderly world; to invigorate hope in the hearts of those who despair over what they see; an attempt to right the ship that is on the brink of sinking. Movements. Initiatives. Hashtags. Campaign themes. Black Lives Matter (an extremely progressive, un-Christian agenda, socialist leaning–I’ll need to write a separate article to unpack this properly). Make America Great Again (For who and from what period??). #MeToo. Just to name a few from a very lengthy list. I’ve worked in public relations for more than 14 years. I know a little something about how such communications strategies and tactics are supposed to help change behaviors and move the dial toward better outcomes. Some of them have really good intentions and aspirations. They simply fall short as they are often rooted in the world’s philosophy of “make it sound good as we seek to do good without God.”

Movements, initiatives, campaign themes and hashtags strive to create a unified body and voice to advance a collective response on a particular issue. Some people shelter in these spaces, certain that getting behind them, getting on board, being part of the bandwagon will indeed make the world as it should be.

As I said, I’ve never been a bandwagon person. Therefore, I have chosen to shelter in place.

The term “shelter in place” has been used more frequently and most recently as local, state and national leaders seek to mitigate the spread and devastation of  SARS-CoV-2 (I’m calling it by its actual name), or COVID-19, a novelle coronavirus that originated in 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China becoming a global pandemic. That is one way and a good way to use the term. However, for the purposes of this article, I will reference the description for “shelter in place” provided by Wikipedia: “Shelter in place is the act of seeking safety within the building one already occupies, rather than evacuating the area or seeking a community emergency shelter.”

Psalm 91-1 mountain

Let that definition sit with you for a moment.

I found the Wikipedia definition fitting–only secondary to the best one offered to us in God’s Word from Psalm 91:1-2, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

For those of us who say we follow Christ, that we trust in the Lord, that HE is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6:19), we need not leave that “house” or that “shelter” to seek other shelter. He is our refuge and our fortress. We can either shelter in/abide in the Lord, shelter in His Word, which is indeed our surest security or we can get behind the lying “prophets” of such movements, initiatives and hashtags who offer a false hope. As Believers, as carriers of the gospel message, God has authorized us to tell the world what is the way to perfect justice, what is perfect peace, what is perfect and godly wisdom, what is true restoration, reconciliation and healing from brokenness and lawlessness. We don’t look to the world to define that for us.

Someday, God will make everything new. Things will be as they should. Until then, keep your hand to the plow, work while it is day, cling unswervingly to the hope you have in Christ, tell others about Him and shelter in place/abide in Him.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Spiritual Vigilance: What I’m Learning in This Time of COVID-19

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Do it now and do it always.

COVID-19: a novel coronavirus that surfaced in Wuhan, China at least in December 2019 as we can tell. A disruption. A disruption to life that we are all experiencing together in similar and different ways. Schools and universities closed. Many work places closed. Parents who can, are working from home and homeschooling their children. Our healthcare professionals are being deployed to the front lines to care for the sick in unprecedented ways.

At the time of this writing, there have been 3,610,006 global cases of COVID-19 with more than 1.2 million of those cases reported in the United States. There have been 252,346 deaths with 69,079 of those deaths having occurred in the U.S. (source: Johns Hopkins University). More than 159,000 in the U.S. have recovered from the virus and more than 1.3 million globally have recovered, praise God.

I’ve been angry about it. Sad about it. Feeling helpless about it. In prayer about it. Like you, I am praying for our healthcare professionals, our first responders and frontline workers fighting against the pandemic. I am also praying for God’s mercy.

If you’ve read the bible, you likely understand that we are on a trajectory of sorrows, of greater distresses toward Jesus’ return. This pandemic is a fire drill in a sense to prepare us for more shaking to come. What we do from here is critical to enduring the race ahead.

Pray. Commune with the Lord. Pray. Fast. Study the Word. Pray. Live out the Word. Pray. Fellowship. Pray. Worship. Pray. Repeat. Obeying the Holy Spirit: always.

What we love, what we place as a high priority, what we do repeatedly tends to become a routine, a habit, a way of life; a training and disciplining. Because of such diligence and vigilance, we can better recognize what belongs in that routine and what doesn’t. We’re more apt to avoid something that would be considered a distraction or take us away from what we’re seeking to attain and maintain.

In my blog post entitled “What Does It Mean to Be ‘Fit’ (F.I.T.)?”, I write that “Our faith should be continuously maintained and developed/kept “fit” to help us persevere in courage, in the confidence of God’s promises and faithfulness. Someone told me of warriors past who would regularly maintain their shields which were made in part from leather. If the leather was not regularly maintained, the shield would crack and leave the user defenseless against oncoming arrows. Consider how important this is in our being able to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts by arming ourselves with and deploying the spiritual shield of faith as depicted in Ephesians 6:16. Our faith must be fit for the fight.”

Though the examples below outline the vigilance needed to preserve our physical health and protection, they can also serve as guidelines to encourage the spiritual vigilance we need to exercise daily.

Obedience

During this time, we’ve been given specific, basic instructions to follow to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask
  • Social distance at least six-feet apart
  • Wash your hands
  • Disinfect/wipe down surfaces

No Slacking

To let up on any one of the aforementioned instructions can be harmful or deadly. One’s laziness, carelessness, neglect or being cavalier can be weaponized against themselves, their family member(s), neighbor(s) and community.

Self-Control

In staying healthy and keeping our immunity up against illness/disease, it means adopting healthy lifestyle choices. Eating healthy, whole foods. Eliminating as much processed food and sugar (except those naturally occurring in fruit) from your diet as possible. Exercising. Getting sufficient rest. This is not the the time to gorge and abuse your body leaving your immune system vulnerable. We need to be fit for what is coming.

Stay Alert Concept

God has shown us the way to live. He has told us what is coming. He has left nothing hidden in this regard. Short of shouting from the rooftops with a cry in my spirit, I wish I could convey in words how critical our spiritual vigilance is and will be in the days to come. The stakes are high. Others are watching so they might follow. This race requires our constant vigilance–not out of fear or striving for perfection but done with a disposition of obedience and a quiet rest and trust in Christ. Do it now and do it always.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. -Philippians 3:12, New International Version

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. -Philippians 2:13, New International Version

1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will  not escape. 4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert (wide-awake, alert, having a watchfulness, vigilant) and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation for a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, New International Version

Love You, Watchful and Running With You in Christ Jesus,

Nicole

When People Cast Off Restraint

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The stop sign. The blatant warning label. The godly counsel given. The awaiting ark of refuge from an impending flood of biblical proportions.

Bad things happen when we ignore, dismiss or rebel against sound guidance and warnings. Our rebellion creates a propensity for lawlessness, anarchy and most certainly destruction, disintegration and devastation. Sin releases a power and energy that always produces decay and most certainly, death:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  James 1:13-15

If such decisions and behaviors bring forth death, what then, births life?

Answer: Wisdom, obedience.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction. (New International Version) A more blatant reading from the New Living Translation reads, When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. 

Seeking godly wisdom, desiring and obeying instruction protects us from many dangers, error and sinfulness. It is a preventive work meant to keep us from straying from the path and falling into ditches. A word of wisdom can save.

Wrong Way Do Not Enter

 

 

We Must Love Truth

The passage from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12  in short, tells us that people perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved (v. 10), and for this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (v. 11-12).

During a recent bible study, our group discussed that by its nature, wickedness is restless. Wickedness is always chasing, seeking, constantly enticed by other temptations because it is disinterested in standing in the truth and pursuing righteousness.

Prophets were and are sent to warn, serving as both harbingers and intercessors — seeking to warn others of what is coming if they continue in their ways —and to pray, intercede on the behalf of others, petitioning before God to show mercy, to withhold His wrath.

I can’t imagine the frustration of the Old Testament prophets who repeatedly warned and pleaded with rebellious people to turn from their wicked ways and obey the Lord. From Moses, to Jonah, to Jeremiah, and others, their warnings were often ignored. Sometimes the people heeded the warnings when the consequences of their actions became so severe that they pleaded for God’s mercy. They would tear their clothes and put on sackcloth to show their remorse. When God in His great love and mercy relented in His wrath toward the people, they soon returned to their rebellion. This happened over and over again, as we saw with the Israelites.

To win this, we must love truth and stay with truth. When we refuse to hold to the truth, we reap every wicked thing we’re seeing in society today. Per the Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 29:18, it says, “The prophets were the instructors of the people in Divine things, standing witnesses of the truth and power of religion, teaching a higher than mere human morality. The fatal effect of the absence of such revelation of God’s will is stated to be confusion, disorder and rebellion; the people uncontrolled, fall into grievous excesses, which nothing but high principles can restrain.”

When people cast off restraint, it is not freedom they create–but captivity. Ultimately, through their rebellion and God giving them over to the wickedness they so desire, the stubborn will be destroyed.

The Path to Life

John 13:17 says, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (English Standard Version)

Satan suggests that we can have a good life without God. But can a life without God be transformed into life? God is about integration (us with Him) for us to have life and life to the full (John 10:10). Satan, is about causing disintegration, being the thief who comes to “steal and to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10).

The path to life is WITH GOD. Otherwise, we are an enemy of God and on a path toward destruction.

As a dear brother in Christ and spiritual mentor says, “God will not obstruct us from accessing Him. However, people may choose to restrict their access.”

If you desire life and life to the full:

Don’t play with time. Don’t play with God’s mercy.

Hear. Turn. Obey.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that those who are far from you will be divinely persuaded to follow you.

In Jesus’ Name I pray and ask this,

Amen.

Nicole

Surround Yourself

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain 

I will be the first to tell you that your faith in Christ will be challenged. I will be the first to encourage and implore you to surround yourself with trusted prayer partners who will lift you in prayer in your times of spiritual battle, the trials of life and spiritual conquest. Taking territory from the enemy (spiritual conquest), sharing the Gospel to advance God’s Kingdom, interceding in prayer for others or situations and living as salt and light in an immoral climate—every one of these interactions—changes lives, shifts atmospheres, bears witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and bears out eternal fruit, praise God. It also makes the enemy take notice of you. Yes, there is a cost to living out authentic faith. But don’t stop, don’t shrink back. Keep advancing. Persevere. As James 1:2-4 says, 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (New International Version)

Do not isolate during these times of spiritual battle and oppression as I have done sometimes not wanting to interrupt or upend someone else’s day by reaching out to them. Reach out to them. The body of Christ is precious and what great strength we receive, together. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (New International Version) Satan knows this is true and would rather only spar with one Believer versus several of us at one time! Truly, there is great strength in numbers.

Surround yourself with those who love you and will not coddle you—those who understand that engaging with our enemy may manifest as attacks against your health, your relationships (divisiveness, strife, jealousy, accusations, etc.), your resources, your peace, your faith, or your joy. They will pray for you to continue knowing that God is with you. That the weapon may form but it will not prosper (Isaiah 54:17). They will encourage you to persevere in your calling, knowing that none of us in Christ Jesus are strangers to this, and this too shall pass. They will remind you to call out God’s truth–often–and to immediately reject the enemy’s lies.

Surround yourself with those who are doctrinally sound but are not necessarily shaped of your same tribe (meaning they don’t talk like you, look like you, think like you, etc.) As I said the body of Christ is precious, rich in giftings and talents that are extremely glorious and beautiful as we bring together those diversities collectively to advance God’s purposes.

I am grateful for my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I am grateful for my prayer partners who I’ve sought for prayer more times than I can count. They have helped me to rally back, go through and overcome. I love how in addition to Christ being our refuge and strongtower, we can serve as a refuge to one another. We all come out more strengthened for our ‘next’! I love the body of Christ!

With 2019 soon in the rearview mirror and 2020 ahead, I am excited by what God is doing through His People. Saints, it is our time to be intrepid — not tepid. We can’t back down. As the body of Christ united, we are the tip of the spear, guided by His Hand. God is raising up a standard among His People to boldly confront and foil Satan’s plans as we pray and labor to transform hearts and cities. God has positioned us right here and now to be light in darkness. Praise God!

And don’t be discouraged: while it may seem like things are falling apart, they are also coming together. We ask God to to tear down, shake, and disturb those things in which our world has placed a false peace so they would surrender all to trust Him. The instability is necessary as we rest in Who holds all things together (Colossians 1:15-18).

And at times you will have to “encourage yourself” as the song says. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Stay Staunch,

Nicole

P.S.- If you missed some of what I’ve been blessed to do recently through the Lord’s equipping, I invite you to read my ChristianPost.com op-ed in response to D.C. Councilmembers who proposed a bill to decriminalize prostitution in our nation’s capital (that bill fortunately will not pass this year, praise God!). I also interviewed with CBN’s The 700 Club last month which has been seen worldwide via television and online platforms. All glory to God! All of this again, made possible with the help of others’ prayers. So grateful.

Have I Been Honest with You?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Have I been honest with you?

A bad hairdo. An unflattering outfit. A not-so-hot girlfriend or boyfriend. Many of us have been asked by family, friends or colleagues to offer our honest feedback to a possible look or style gone bad, or about someone questionable they are dating. Some of us are reluctant or shy away from giving such feedback in order to protect the person’s feelings (and some of us are brutally honest, lol). Unfortunately for me, the feedback in such delicate situations may not always come from my mouth before it is already written all over my face.

Honesty is a valued character trait. The answer may not always be what we want to hear though I/we appreciate being able to turn to those who we know will give us the truth regardless. Their first priority is to preserve us from facades and the tragic effects of whitewashed truth.

We are living in increasingly wicked days, in perilous times and behaviors described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. People are murderous, slanderous, lovers of themselves. They call evil “good” and good “evil.” Pleasure replaces holiness. Do what feels good. A culture of “do as thy wilt, live and let live” instead of “Thy will be done.” Compromise, fluidity, whitewashing and rejecting the truth. “Freedoms” that have people in chains. Even so, few draw the biblical connections as to why our world is in perpetual moral decay and decline. Although Satan is a defeated foe, he is indeed the prince of this world and is surely taking captives with him.

If we aren’t starting from the foundation of the fall to explain how sin entered the world and the consequences that ensued and continue today, then our reasoning is flawed. In the chaos, many will rely on their own intellect and seek solutions independent from God. Self-reliance on the surface seems noble and brave but it is a great deception. Satan wants us to think we can be our own god. But through deception and self-reliance, many will find that they’ve built their houses on sand instead of upon the solid Rock that is Jesus Christ. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man but it’s end is the way of death.”

I’ve not always been as straightforward as I could have in conversations with unbelievers or nominal Christians. At times I’ve remained silent or simply given a nod–not agreeing with what they’re saying but understanding why they say what they say. I didn’t seize the opportunity to impart truth although I’m unsure it would have been received. At the time I chose to steer away from an argument to preserve the bridge to revisit them later.

Screen-Shot-2014-05-05-at-9.28.56-AM

Getting Right Down To It: Why Should We Care if People Receive the Truth?

Why should we care if people receive the Truth? Because someone loved us enough to tell us the truth and I am beyond grateful.

Through the Great Commission, Jesus commissions (commands) Christians to disciple others in the truth. This command is given not only to pastors and priests but to all who follow Christ. Honestly, we aren’t always hearing the straight truth delivered from the pulpit lest someone gets offended. The late pastor David Wilkerson called this “the gospel of accommodation.” We should hope the Gospel offends and agitates rather than comfort a culture that rejects life on God’s terms. There is a heavy cost to such accommodation and denying our need for a Savior to rescue us from the clutches of sin. In the world’s deceptions, Satan is robbing them of “life and life to the full.” (John 10:10) Jesus calls Satan a thief and the father of lies. Be not deceived by the so-called “freedom” that the world is peddling.

The situation is far worse than a hairdo or fashion gone bad. People are gambling with eternity and a holy and just God. I pray to be honest with those deceived not wanting them to perish as participants and victims in the lies; not wanting them to miss out on life in the fullness of God. It burdens my heart. If you’re a Believer reading this, you likely lament over the ungodliness. Our culture has removed many of the moral and biblical guardrails that would guard against it’s implosion. Thank goodness for the guardrails that remain, predominately maintained by God’s grace, His mercy, His sovereignty and His People. And yet, it feels like we “are but a whisper away” from God’s wrath as a dear sister in Christ expressed.

We know that not everyone who has been given the truth will receive and apply it, for they will only want to hear what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). We will at least have given them the opportunity to hear and respond to it.

Some dear brothers I love recently returned from a basketball tournament in New Mexico. They are much older than their opponents but they did not let the perceived threat of their opponents’ youth deter them from playing their hearts out. Before going, one of them said, “We have to leave it all on the court.”

As the Holy Spirit leads us in what to say or what to do, we have to leave it all out there. Not a word or action short of what He instructs.

If not, this is some of the plethora of deceptions that sprouts:

The Spiritual and Moral Bankruptcy of ‘Progressive’ Christianity

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/meet-desmond-precocious-child-drag-queen.html

If this writing seems heavy it’s because it is. The days are urgent and short. Saints, keep being salt and light. Keep praying. Remain steadfast and dutiful. Work while it is day for soon it will be night and we will work no longer. Accept your commission to share the gospel and disciple others. Keep making the mighty and wonderful Name of Jesus known. Keep telling folks the reason for the hope you have. Remember the joy set before you. Love and Truth wins.

Embolden us Lord,

Nicole

 

In case you missed it: In advancing God’s Kingdom in our immoral culture, read my two articles recently published with The Christian Post on physician-assisted suicide and abortion written on behalf of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abortion, Redemption and Not Another 60 Million More

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I see the birth of a baby and I say, “There must be a God.”

I see the killing of more than 60 million babies and I say, “There must be a devil.”

Former Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson was complicit in more than 22,000 abortions. As the clinic director, most of her work occurred seated at her desk and not in the operating room. That is, until one day when the doctor and OR staff was short-handed. Abby was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. She pushed back from her desk to help and once done, she would return to her work. Upon entering the operating room, she sees an anxious female patient writhing and crying on the table. As the doctor is trying to calm her, Abby turns to the screen to see the fetus squirming and twisting to avoid the vacuum tube used for abortions. This awful, noisy, life-ending suction machine literally sucked and dismembered the baby from it’s little foot to it’s head out of the womb as a bloody blob into a tube until the womb and screen was void of any activity or life.

While the staff buzzed around in the operating room, Abby sank to the floor in disbelief, grieved and abhorred by what she had seen and participated in. She resigned nine days later on October 6, 2009. What she experienced changed her life forever. It changed mine too. Images from the movie Unplanned —like seeing large drums of fetal tissue being wheeled out of the clinic to be dumped elsewhere —will be ingrained in my memory forever. I was unprepared for Unplanned.

I have been pro-life for as long as I knew what the term meant. I’ve known that abortion does not fulfill God’s desire for the sanctity and value of human life, as He is the Creator for all life (Psalm 139:13-16, Genesis 1:26-27). “Pro-life” seemed merely a label created by groups to publicly say that we support life. But it wasn’t until seeing Unplanned (encouraged to see it by a dear high school friend) and some weeks later, hearing the raw and regretful stories shared by physicians who had previously performed abortions, that I am so strongly in support of life for the unborn.

Society is Doing the Devil’s Work

Since 1973 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, there have been more than 60 million completed abortions in the United States.

There is indeed a devil who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

Through abortion, physicians and patients have been participants and victims of deception. In the earliest years of abortion, physicians were told that the fetus was “just a blob of tissue” and many presumed this to be true. Deception is often cruel. Abortion is skillfully marketed to a woman as an on-demand solution during a pregnancy crisis in her life (mother is told by the abortion industry “we can make this go away” whether the pregnancy was not by choice in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of moral irresponsibility, or on rare occasions, the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life–given today’s technological advances in medicine, there is rarely a medical reason that makes it necessary to do an abortion). But are those complicit in abortion the same ones who will help the woman after she regrets her decision? Are they there to help with the physical and psychological harms sometimes experienced post-abortion?

While abortion is often presented as part of a broad access to reproductive care to champion a woman’s healthcare choices, there is important information in which the abortion industry is inordinately mute. Abortion advocates do not broadcast the physical and psychological harms women may experience who undergo an abortion. There are chances of hemorrhaging and increased risk of infection because the body is already traumatized. Possible damage to nearby organs. Suicidal thoughts, major depression and substance abuse disorders years after the abortion. A woman who has aborted a child has a 30 percent higher chance of premature births after her first abortion and a 60 percent chance after a second abortion. Who is picking up these pieces? Planned Parenthood?

We are doing the devil’s work. We can destroy our culture with abortion and attempt to obliterate an entire race of people (that’s another story, as abortions are highest among Black women, and Planned Parenthood clinics are most disproportionately located where? In our Black and brown communities. Planned Parenthood will say this is because they offer affordable family planning and reproductive healthcare options to these communities–to include abortion). Through abortion, we have managed to eliminate the talents, gifts, creations and inventions of more than 60 million would-be contributors to our society; would-be voices in government, in education, even as payees into our tax base. We will never know what we have lost in our culture through abortion. This is tragic.

unbornbaby_hdv CBN

Maybe We’re Next

The moment we allow society to question personhood is the moment you and I should know that someone someday may question ours. When life is considered arbitrary today yours may be considered arbitrary tomorrow. It’s only a matter of time and shifting criteria. From slavery, to the Holocaust, to human trafficking, to violence, to physician-assisted suicide, history has proven that the value of another’s life is subjective.

“Personhood” is often questioned by abortion/pro-choice advocates to make it more acceptable to kill a “blob” of tissue. “Oh, it’s just a blob. It’s not a person yet.” But human development from the scientific perspective is observable and a seamless process from fertilization to birth. The “blob of tissue” has a complete genetic makeup. Even Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,” establishing personhood even before conception.

As the Washington, D.C. Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, I represent the largest faith-based voice of healthcare professionals on this and other issues with the position to preserve, protect and promote life. In my role, I am grateful to partner with the faith-based and healthcare community to disciple and equip our healthcare students and healthcare professionals to serve their patients as the hands and feet of Christ; to respond to these issues biblically and ethically in an industry that wants them to compromise. I can’t imagine leaving this equipping in the hands of our immoral and self-serving society. I am grateful for those who support and pray for our ministry so we can do God’s work particularly in our nation’s capital.

Many physicians say they would leave medicine if they had to compromise their values. This creates a vacuum in care and access for the patient. If we have fewer practicing Christian OB-GYN healthcare professionals, we may have even fewer healthcare professionals who care to protect your life and mine, or lives of the unborn. We should preserve, protect and promote life at every stage.

Death should not be a desirable outcome for mom or baby. Though abortion is a choice, there are other life-honoring alternatives to be considered. People focus heavily on the challenges and overlook the rewards. Even in difficult, horrific and life-altering circumstances such as rape or incest, out of the chaos and pain, God can do beautiful work, as rape survivor Jennifer Christie shares in this July 2017 CBN News article and powerful YouTube video testimonial. Sexual assault survivors also need care and supportive resources to help them in this most fragile time. We must also continue to call out the injustice of sexual assault.

Redemption and Not Another 60 Million More

Abby Johnson was devastated by what she saw and participated in that day in the operating room. She comes home and tearfully asks her husband Doug how God could forgive her, how could she reconcile being complicit in more than 22,000 abortions? She saw no possible way forward. No possible means of forgiveness.

But there is.

In this extreme blight of the devil’s work, there is indeed a God. A good, loving, God of great compassion whose mercy does not punish us as our sins deserve. Slow to anger and abounding in love, the Lord desires to be gracious to the faithful and to those who have rebelled against Him. Redemption and restoration is available through His Son Jesus Christ, who purifies us from all sin as told in 1 John 1:7. For those redeemed to new life through Christ Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace boldly as all of our sins have already been forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

In the way forward, we pray for others to know God better and thereby know His ways. We can also speak to these issues in the public square in hopes to bring truth to those deceived. Ultimately, we pray for hearts to be made pure, no longer self-seeking and self-serving but instead readied to serve Him.

Our world is sinful and imperfect as a result of the fall. Because of, there is an ignorance and arrogance when we trust ourselves instead of God and we limit wisdom to ourselves. May we trust God’s sovereignty in all things. May we allow God the opportunity to work beautifully out of chaos and things unplanned when we fully trust Him.

One of my Catholic neighbors, an older woman, said to me “We can’t speak on this issue. We’ll be labeled ‘hateful’ and ‘intolerant’ by those who want to be their own gods.” But I encouraged her as I have others that we have every reason to speak out and to speak truth. Not another 60 million more.

We will miss waving to one of these children and receiving their smile or wave in return. We will miss their laugh and silly giggles. We will miss the opportunity to answer their questions or teach them—or to be taught by them.

All I can say is this: Not another 60 million more.

Heavenly Father, please forgive us. Thank you for your great love and mercy even as you are a Holy God who will indeed check evil. Help us to desire and seek your perfect ways to best serve you and all those created in your image.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Nicole

Will the World Force the Church to be the Church?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It may have been when New York passed the late-term abortion legislation in January. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the world from those who call themselves Christians. If we love the truth and consider God’s Word as the truth, then it would seem our view and response to issues as Christians, as the Church should be led with great clarity. And yet, headstrong opinions leading to erroneous thinking become the foundation for some Christians who forget what is the truth (you look in the mirror and then forget what you look like). They begin to mirror the world and soon don’t see what’s so wrong with the world’s thinking and approach to issues.

But it may have been when New York passed the late-term abortion bill in January that it felt like more of the collective Church gasped — abhorred not only by the bill’s passage but by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s celebrating and heralding the bill as “a victory for all New Yorkers.” He also encouraged the rest of the nation to follow suit.

At times I have wondered what issue or crisis would be enough to awaken and tip off the collective Church to realize that it can no longer walk hand in hand with the world; that it can no longer remain dumb, numb, indifferent or silent on evil. That the world would become so sick that to stand with it would go against our every sensibility. We were never meant to walk in step with the world. We were never meant to fit in. We were never meant to make people comfortable in their sins. As the Church, as God’s Elect, we were already told of our identity in Christ: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, New International Version) We need not look to the world for validation. The world will never validate us. 

We are supposed to be calling others out of darkness–not joining them in it. We are to be the light, drawing them to the light.

light bulb people gathered around

I am encouraged by many of you who have been living as “living stones” as built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). I know many of you are living your faith authentically and without compromise and discipling others in this way as well. This latest grievance may be the very culmination of evil that forces the rest of the Church to be the Church.

As English abolitionist and politician William Wilberforce (1759-1833) wrote in his book, Real Christianity, “The true Christian knows that if he or she is to hold the favor of God above the favor of men, he or she will have to become indifferent to the dishonor and lack of esteem that might be encountered in practicing authentic faith.” You will be despised just as Jesus was despised and rejected.

If we should be indifferent about anything it is no longer caring to have more friends. May those who once tried to be friends with the world realize that the best friend the world could have is the truth: Jesus. This will certainly make you an enemy of the world and you may receive fewer dinner party invitations but give them Jesus anyway. The world may resist the truth, but love them anyway. Giving them Jesus and loving them will keep you in right relationship with your King (Jesus) and offer the world a real friend against its very real foe (Satan).

Stand in holy courage,

Nicole

We Have the Keys

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I incorporated the hashtags #NoTurning Back #Persevere in our social media posts. My use of the hashtags was inspired by two things: first, by the well-known hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”  The song had been in my spirit for days for reasons not necessarily for me but more so to encourage those brothers and sisters in the body of Christ feeling the pull of the world; to encourage them to stay their Kingdom course—to persevere and run their race.

Second, my use of the #NoTurningBack hashtag was inspired by one of the young ladies I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring for nearly four years. My mentee, Bria Russ, recently experienced her “no turning back” moment that has set her on an intentional, “all in” pursuit of the Lord. She has lived many years for the Lord. Yet, over the past few months she acknowledges catering to her flesh and making choices that were leading her down a slippery slope that would ultimately take her way off course. She knew this–and so did her enemy (your and my enemy too) Satan, who encouraged her destructive choices. Anything to take another one of God’s servants off the field.

Recognizing this, she immediately turned away from her sin and discontinued the activities she was engaging.  She has fully returned to the Lord to sincerely walk in His ways. This is what repentance actually means–to turn away from sin; to change one’s mind and return to God’s direction. She has truly decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. She has “thrown off the sin that so easily entangles” so she can run her race in excellence as described in Hebrews 12:1.  Psalm 85:8 says, I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants–but let them not return to folly (sin, foolishness). (NIV) Bria can attest that she has experienced greater peace in her immediate turning away from sin, distancing herself from it like it was plutonium.

Soon to be 26 years old, I am pleased by this young lady’s wisdom. I am excited about her bright future which has been made possible in part by her desire to be obedient. In obedience lies our success.

With that said, I am delighted to share her blog post below with a message titled “We Have the Keys.” Many people look for freedom, identity, joy, love, peace and security outside of God when He has promised all of these things and more to us through relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. But even God has relationship standards. Many want to either do life without God and still have all of these things or they will do life with God (maybe just a toe in) and still live however they please. The keys to our freedom, our identity, joy, love, peace, security and more rest alone in Jesus Christ. When we choose to do life without Him, we find ourselves “locked out” of His blessings.

God bless, and thank you Bria.

-Nicole

We Have the Keys 

Bria Russ cropped 032919A month ago, I found myself locked out – locked out of my own head. My head should have been a space of peace but was instead chaotic due to my own choices. As much as others wanted to help me get back in, the locks were changed because I didn’t pay my rent (in order to have a space to live you have to pay rent). I tried to climb through a window, and God reminded me the terms of our agreement.

I grew up in the church and I knew of God’s mercy. I knew that I had only made it thus far by His favor and grace. I’ve had many influential people guide me back to the church. However, I wasn’t ready to let go of things that made me “happy” and because of that I was drowning in sinner’s remorse.

 

Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I grew tired of feeling tired, sad, anxious, and depressed. I grew tired of ignoring God, my Savior, the one who’s always had my front and my back. And in one moment I decided to come to God.

God is like our landlord. He’s created an environment with plenty of amenities. He has created terms for your lease and handed you the keys. All He expects us to do in return is follow His ways and pay the rent (love Him, serve Him, give of your time). Before he evicts you from His blessings, from His protection, He gives you warnings, “Go to church… study your bible… stop cursing… stop fornicating… etc.” He knows you know the terms of your agreement. In fact He has given you the things you asked for, the desires of your heart. All you have to do is follow His rules. He already promised He won’t give us more than we can bear, so why are we always breaking the rules and cheating Him? Is it really that hard or are we taking advantage of His kindness and being negligent with our walk?

Acts chapters 1-2 speaks of the creation of the church. Jesus rose from the dead, traveled the earth for 40 days giving his Apostles the instructions to teach, and then He ascended into the sky. After His ascension, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and when they spoke, all of those who listened understood their message. God’s instructions were meant to help us survive and those who would follow Him he provided them a safe space (the church) to thrive and lift His name.
Many times, we hear leaders in the church say things like, “We have to meet the people where they are.” True, and yet, God has given us dominion over our life and understanding; therefore, it is for us to come to him.
set of golden key rings
Earlier, I stated I was out of my mind because figuratively speaking, I didn’t pay my rent. I knew of God’s blessings, I know his terms and the things he expects of me. All he asked of me was to follow him and he would keep me. He gave me chance after chance and still I was disobedient. He has already made the biggest sacrifice for us, with the crucifixion of Jesus, so we could be saved. Our safe place is the church (fellowship). We cannot leave and reenter on our terms. We are to live as he wants us to live or we will be locked out of His blessings. The message does not and will not change. He’s looking for us to ask “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and then do it. We have the keys to our salvation: stay in God’s house! Stay near to Him. Study your word, read your bible and practice daily.


Love,

Bria

“Get in the Bush”

Saints, I do not want to watch Isaac die. I share with you the following powerful message that struck my heart written by dear sister in Christ, Bambi Jenkins. “Get in the bush” was a fresh word she gave me during one of our recent conversations on a specific situation I was feeling led but reluctant to address. I encouraged her to share this message with a wider audience as I believe many of us in the body of Christ feel discomfort and may resist sharing the truth with those who may reject it because we desire to keep their company. But regardless of our discomfort, we cannot sit and watch Isaac die. We must get in the bush. Go ‘head, my sister. Deliver this message as only you can. Read on!  Blessings.  -Nicole 

 

bambi jenkinsGenesis 22:13 (NIV) Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

How many of you know that Jesus didn’t save us just for ourselves? In other words, He wants to use you.

If we don’t get in the bush, we will stand by and WATCH Isaac die.

There was a story that God had given me to explain this to one of my children. It was about a new warden of a prison. He was strange to most because of how he operated. This warden wasn’t so concerned about the prisoners being locked up. His concern was more about how he could get them to be free.

The new warden made an announcement, that for one day between the hours of 12 noon and 4 p.m., he would open every cell door as he walked through the entire prison. He told them, that any prisoner who comes and gets behind him and follows him out of the prison will be set free and their records expunged. Many speculated if this could actually be real or just a test.

The day had arrived for this to happen and at noon all the doors opened and the warden began his walk. Many of the prisoners ran out and started fighting each other. Some started grabbing as much stuff as they could steal and ran back to their cell to hide it. A lot of the gangs took this opportunity to try to kill rival gangs. Out of 500 prisoners only 13 walked behind the warden.

Most of the prisoners never even left their cells. They were making fun of the ones walking with the warden telling them that this is just a set up, a joke, and that they were being tricked. One of the guys following the warden begged his friend to come out of his cell and come with them, but he shook his head and told him “he was a fool to believe this stuff.” Others spit at and threw things at the warden and the prisoners following him, calling them “sell outs.”

…3:58 p.m. had come and before you knew it, the warden and the followers neared the exit. At 3:59 p.m., all the guards were ordered to put any prisoners who hadn’t followed the warden back into their cells. When 4:00 p.m. came, as the followers began to exit the prison, a few prisoners yelled from their cells, “Wait! I didn’t think this was real. Please let me go too.” They desperately screamed, “Just walk through again and this time I promise I’ll follow you out.”

But the doors slammed shut.

The warden then looked at the prisoners who followed him out and told them, “Just as promised, you are all free and your records have been expunged. I just have one request from you.”

They all replied, “Anything man you name it. You just got us out of there, you just set us free.”

He said, “I know this is going to sound crazy…”

“Excuse me,” one of the freed prisoners interrupted the warden, so happy that he was free, and eagerly said, “Crazy, no sir. Ask anything, I’ll do it.” The warden continued: “I want you to go back in there and tell them the same thing I told you. That by my authority, the gates will be open for two hours this time and if they follow you to the exit door where I’ll be waiting, that they will also be free.”

Gratitude suddenly changed to fear. The gentleman who was previously so eager asked the warden was he crazy. They all started to gripe and complain. One said,  “I’m free now. I don’t want to go back in there.” Another said, “They had their chance, but they didn’t care so why should I.”  A few asked the warden, “Didn’t you see them killing each other in there? Don’t you care about what happens to us? Didn’t you hear them making fun of you? What makes you think that they will listen to us if they didn’t even believe you? They are going to reject us!”

The warden answered, “We have cameras and security. I will watching you the entire time. I know that they ignored and made fun of me but I still want them to be free. Yes, you will all be taking a huge risk by putting your life on the line. But think about it–it was the same thing I just did for you.”

Out of the 13 men only two stepped forward. One of the two men said, “How can I not go back? How can I not show others the way out? How can I not risk it all for those still imprisoned and for a warden who risked it all for me. How can I not!!”

Ezekiel 3:18  (NIV)  When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.

So many of us have been saved and set free, but we sit on the sidelines of fear, hide behind fear of rejection, fill our lives with programs, all in hopes that we look holy enough to cover up our disobedience.

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He had his reasons and concerns.

Matthew 4:19 tells us: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

 

ram-in-a-bush

WE are the sacrifice. WE are the ram in the bush, but most bushes are empty. The harvest is ripe but the labors are few. We don’t like the idea of being uncomfortable. The idea of being rejected has made us chameleons. Blending in with the crowd, changing with every conversation as the need to fit in grows far faster than the desire to stand out for God’s glory.

Some have even taken what God has said out of context.

Hebrews 10:25 tells us to come together to encourage each other while we continue to fish. But we get comfortable right there. We would rather fish each other because there is no risk in dealing with people who already agree with you.

Also, Jesus responded to those who questioned why he was spending time with those who were considered outsiders.

Mark 2:16-17 (NASB)  When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”  And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You who are already “well,” stop fishing each other and get in the bush. I know it hurts, you keep getting pricked, and it’s so painfully uncomfortable at times. But ask yourself: Why are you living and for whom do you live?

We are quick to say, “Send me Lord I’ll go.” But when the assignment arrives we hesitate. We choose ourselves over God in our denial to be obedient to Him. We rationalize this decision to disobey by displaying our overflowing works (that we hand-picked, by the way), by believing that the assignment is just too difficult. We don’t want to fan the flames of disappointment in relationships. In other words, we don’t want to be disliked by anyone, even at the very price of their soul.

So we sit and watch numerous “Isaacs” die as we maintain our great image in the eyes of man. We watch our friends, loved ones, coworkers, and others that God brings across our path, perish and drift away into a darkness from which there is no return, because we refuse to get in the bush.

God has called you to a place of discomfort that will cause many to be saved and set free, but you must be willing to choose God over yourself. You must volunteer to serve God in the presence of pain and disappointment, while trusting that He will work everything together for your good and His glory.

Take your position child of God. Your assignment awaits you.

Isaac lived, because there was A RAM IN THE BUSH!

In Christ,

Bambi