“Should I Not Care About These Too?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, New International Version)

Love this! For the past couple of weeks, the Lord has had me fascinated with the Book of Jonah—a brief but powerfully dramatic four chapter book written by the prophet Jonah, nestled between two other Old Testament prophets, Obadiah and Micah. I’ve read, reread and pink highlighted various verses within the four chapters, brimming with greater excitement and understanding of our Lord’s compassion at each new reading. Certainly, most if not everyone even if they are not a Believer is familiar with what seems the central part of the story and that is Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and living in the fish’s belly for three days. Many children’s books and other published works have captured this aspect of this prophet’s seeming misfortune to spend three days (but survive) in the fish’s stinky belly. But I have learned even more and am in love with what the Lord has revealed to me and what is likely clear to you if you’ve read the four chapters.

To recap, Jonah was a prophet whom God called to preach in the ancient, historical Assyrian city of Nineveh located in Upper Mesopotamia and is today known as part of the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. In that time of 612 BC, those in Nineveh worshiped many gods and goddesses, primarily the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar , who promised love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power, to those who called upon her. The Lord seeing all of the debauchery, idolatry and sin taking place, said to Jonah in 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The people’s sin was creating a great stench before a Holy God.

Hearing the Lord’s word instructed to him, Jonah instead ran away from the LORD and headed for the far away city of Tarshish—literally to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. Who doesn’t cringe in having to give a word at times to people who are walking in sheer disobedience? How would Jonah be received in delivering this word? How are you received when delivering a hard word to someone who is rebellious? I know in times that I’ve lovingly but boldly delivered a ‘hard word’ to someone, it has been sometimes well-received with contriteness and humility by that person, and other times it has been brushed off and rejected like shewing away a pestering fly.

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Eventually we know in reading the chapters that in the process of Jonah fleeing the Lord’s instructions, he boards a ship in Joppa to sail to Tarshish. The Lord sends a great and terrible storm upon the seas in which the shipmen throw Jonah overboard (with Jonah’s permission) because they knew he was running from God and the storm came upon them because of his disobedience. The sea immediately calmed once Jonah was thrown overboard and then being scooped up by the fish. Three days later, Jonah is spit up by the great fish onto dry land and he delivers the Lord’s warning to the people of Nineveh he was to render three days ago (Chapter 3). Jonah says to them in chapter 3:4, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Verse 5 reads that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” In response to their immediate repentance, verse 10 reads that “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t they about to be destroyed by God for idol worship, all out wickedness and every kind of evil living possible? Nineveh was also Israel’s enemy. By Chapter 4:1-2, Jonah is feeling some kind of way about God’s compassionate response toward a wayward people and he tells God exactly how he is feeling.

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?”

I LOVE THIS! I imagine this scenario similar to a co-worker who has been goofing off, messing up and you can’t WAIT for them to GET IT from the boss, possibly even be fired. Or imagine you have a sibling who keeps being disobedient and you can’t WAIT for mom, dad, grandma or auntie to yank them up! And yet, with a warning, the co-worker straightens up and no punishment is brought upon them. The sibling apologizes for their behavior and no punishment comes to them, no grounding, or phone or television privileges taken away. You might be fuming as Jonah was recognizing that you’ve been living right, these people haven’t and God seems to let them off easy. This is the real reason why Jonah tried to avoid delivering God’s instruction because He knew of God’s great compassion.

I am in love with the Lord’s response to Jonah in Chapter 4:11, which speaks to how much the LORD loves us, strives with us, extends deep longsuffering (patience) with us, not desiring that any should perish: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

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I believe the God of Jonah’s time and our same God of today looks at us with that same compassionate heart. God even gave Jonah another chance to come out of HIS DISOBEDIENCE for him to deliver His instructions to the people of Nineveh! Amazing!

Today, God continues to send His People to warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction; walking in ways they think good but are not. In His great, unfathomable compassion, God sends us to pray for, warn, instruct, intercede for others in hopes they will turn to the light of Christ Jesus and be loosed from the grips of darkness.

Yes, God’s wrath will come upon those He is no longer striving with because they are unrepentant and have chosen their own paths of destruction, not desiring truth (If you read Nahum, the Lord’s anger rises again toward Nineveh promising destruction because of their partaking in wickedness). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15), which in His infinite wisdom and purposes will be a mystery to us. For those He is still reaching out to who will listen—who are blind not knowing their right from their left but hear and believe His Voice and immediately feel contrite and repent of their ways—He is compassionate.

This says so much about our God and how He has held back what could deservedly be His full wrath upon us many, many times ago. He has lived through generations upon generations of mankind’s disobedience, with more than 7 billion personalities today who may or may not choose His ways. More than 7 billion personalities who require daily patience. Could you or I extend such mercy and compassion to two or three people repeatedly, let alone more than 7 billion?

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If the 120,000 people who God had His eye and heart set on in Nineveh were so precious to Him, I know then, so are we. In sharing the Gospel, may we extend a God-like compassion and warning toward those walking in blind disobedience so they may turn away from impending destruction. May we have a heart for the harvest.

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

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Our North Carolina Experience in One Word: Obedience

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I would love to go.”

These five bold, transformative words were texted to me early Thursday morning, September 21, 2017, by a dear sister in Christ about a ministry trip I would take to North Carolina that next day. The trip would involve ministering at two Christian-based schools, Livingstone College and Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., which is about 50 miles north of Charlotte. The events had been planned since April at which point I asked my trusted prayer partners/prayer warriors to join me in prayer and fasting for the Lord to soften and prepare the students’ hearts to receive His Word; to prepare the way ahead of our arrival.

In the early spring, Pastor Troy Russell, Livingstone campus pastor who also invited our ministry in September 2015, asked if we’d return this year to deliver God’s Word. After much discussion with Pastor Troy, it seemed the Holy Spirit’s leading that we were to deliver a message to equip the students in building their foundation in Christ Jesus in order to successfully navigate societal trappings. This would be a build-on to Pastor Troy’s weekly bible studies held with the students on Christian fundamentals. The event would serve as a culmination to the students’ Week of Prayer events in late September. After much prayer, we decided to theme the event, “Building Your Foundation.”

Flyer Building Your Foundation 092317It was to be me and one other person traveling from Washington, D.C. to Salisbury, though the other person was unable to join due to a schedule conflict. Having previously checked flight and train schedules with none that truly fit my needs, I was resigned to make the six-hour drive by myself and to view it as quiet time with the Lord to prepare for the messages to be delivered. Upon my arrival in Salisbury, I would meet up with my other ministry partners to prepare for that Saturday’s and Sunday’s events.

The bold and transformative five words, “I would love to go,” were texted by Mrs. Connie May—a seasoned saint in her late sixties who had just returned from a 10-day train trip to our home state of Kansas to visit family. Her bags were still packed from her travels when she quickly and without hesitation responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading to join me. Surprised, as I had just mentioned our ministry event to her that morning by text and sent her the flyer, I asked if she was sure, because again, she had just returned from travel. Forgoing texting her, I called her to really see if she was sure. Her response was as firm as it was in her text message: “I would love to go.” She further added, “My bags are packed.”

Mrs. May was exercising a disposition always encouraged and welcomed by the Holy Spirit which would enable Him to move mightily from the beginning to the end of our trip: obedience. Her love for our young people coupled by an unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s instructions along with my love for our young people and obedience to yield to what the Lord was doing, granted us blessings upon blessings, favor upon favor that would take too long to record in this post.

The Anointing Flows

With a few tracks performed from his newest and 10th album,  A Musical Inspiration of Epic Proportionsby our dear brother in Christ and Christian rap artist Crucial, we presented “Building Your Foundation” on Saturday, September 23, 2017, with messages to help students build their foundation on Christ Jesus followed by a panel discussion to answer their questions on the challenges in doing so.

The core scripture came from 1 Corinthians 3:11, 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We also encouraged the Livingstone students to live as “living stones,” to be a holy priesthood as Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:4-6.

We were blessed for the opportunity and privilege to pour into students God’s truth. With a foundation built upon Christ Jesus, we can successfully weather life’s storms and remain standing. I also referenced Christ as the Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16) to any structure, where a cornerstone is subjected to much pressure and stress and able to uphold and sustain the structure built upon it. During our message, I also shared with them seven (7) things that God gives us when we build our foundation upon Him. In contrast, Satan will plant certain things that are opposite/counterfeit to what God gives if we follow Satan’s ways. I credit these “seven” teachings to what the Lord revealed to my dear brother in Christ and mentor, Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank, Freedom Squared.

Here’s what God gives contrasted with the opposite of what Satan sends:
1- Instruction (God’s Word) vs. Illusion
2- Immortality vs. Impermanence
3- Identity vs. Indistinctness
4- Invulnerability (when we’re pursuing God’s purposes) vs. Infirmity
5- Integration vs. Isolation (God integrates us into one eternal family whereas Satan isolates us)
6- Importance vs. Insignificance (The work we do for God is important whereas Satan tells us we don’t matter anyway and “what makes you so special?”)
7- Increase vs. Insufficiency

 

The students saw and understood this and could recognize the traits in their lives. Crucial added to this by speaking on God’s Word as our instruction to successfully guide us and to overcome Satan’s illusions. He also reinforced having Christ as our foundation and used the analogy of a three-legged stool to show the support we need in our discipleship: 1-Word of God, 2- Consistent Prayer, and 3- Godly Fellowship.

The students were truly engaged and asked excellent questions which led to our delivery of the truth by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly moved upon hearts as several students asked us to pray over them. As the students approached us, I embraced them, told them, “I love you,” and genuinely meant it. God gave me a love for each student like no other, particularly having met them for the first time that day. I have said that “you have to love someone to pray for them.” As tears flowed from the students and even ourselves as we prayed, so did the anointing. We praise God for yokes and chains broken, burdens shed and things released. We know that seeds were planted and watered and those who came in chained left freed! Glory to God!

“Can We Order More Pizza?”

We enjoyed food and fellowship afterward, which allowed us to see another blessing in obedience. Our initial pizza order was enough to feed everyone lightly, but the Lord placed it upon Mrs. May’s heart that we were to order more. She texted me, “Can we order more pizza?” In my desire to be a good steward of our resources, I first balked at her question and replied that we had enough, though she asked me again. I sensed that I needed to follow the leading here and gave her the green light to order more pizza. Ready to give my credit card number again to the pizza store manager, I began to rattle off my card number and then the store manager, Jennifer, stopped me. She said, “Nicole, these five extra pizzas are on me. ”

I/we couldn’t believe it. God blessed us and blessed us ABUNDANTLY!! As students made their, second, third and fourth rounds through the boxes of pizza, we thought of how Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish; how the food was multiplied and plenty was left over!! After all of the students had their fill and some left the chapel, we had a couple whole pizzas left. We gave those remaining whole pizzas to students who truly appreciated having another free meal to take home! God is awesome and can do amazing things that exceed what we can imagine when we yield in obedience to His instructions! Praise God!

Group pic post event on 092317 Livingstone College Building Your Foundation

Physical and spirit man fed! Livingstone students join post-event with Jayson Gardner (Livingstone College assistant to Pastor Troy Russell), Crucial (black t-shirt and cap), Nicole D. Hayes (Voices Against the Grain founder in tan blazer), Mrs. Connie May with Voices Against the Grain, Sherry Russell and her husband Pastor Troy Russell (center) pictured with their daughter Tailor, at the September 23, 2017 ministry event, “Building Your Foundation.”

We also welcomed students from nearby Catawba College to the event where Catawba College student, Destiny Stone, sang her song, “Have Your Way,” which has been on our playlist since we learned of the powerful track in July. Destiny, event coordinator for Catawba College’s Black Student Union, invited me to speak during their morning services on that Sunday, September 24, 2017, where I delivered a Holy Spirit-led message on being “Dangerously Lighthearted” before a Holy God. The message was a call to holiness for God’s People and a desire to mature in Christ Jesus as His image bearers. More victory for God’s Kingdom, as several students adhered to the altar call where hearts were contrite and repentant, burdens where laid down, chains were broken and peace, freedom and joy was restored! All to the Glory of God!

A Black Eye Delivered to the Kingdom of Darkness Generates Opposition

It goes without saying that when you take territory from the enemy for God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t go unnoticed. You can expect opposition. Mrs. May and I were barely an hour into our six-hour drive back to D.C., when an issue “developed” with the rental car. The engine pan had come loose and was dragging the ground making a loud noise as the wind caught it during our highway speeds. The pan was most likely damaged and loosened by the previous driver who ran over something as we saw more evidence of this. I texted my dear sister in Christ and prayer partner about our situation and requested prayer. She replied, “On it.” I knew what that meant! She was going to rally her troops, pray, bind and dismantle the enemy’s efforts and dispatch many angels on our behalf!!   🙂

Long and short, after calls with the rental company and roadside assistance, the Lord put it on Mrs. May’s spirit to seek out a nearby service center to have them put the car on a rack to inspect and fix the issue. We located a nearby service center and the shop owner shortly got us in, mind you, a few minutes before they closed on a Sunday afternoon. He tightly secured the pan at no charge to us and though we pleaded to pay him, he refused payment. He bid us well and got us safely on the road back to D.C. While Satan attempted to steal our joy, peace and collective victory, we did not cave to it and continued to experience God’s favor in obedience!! Hallelujah!

Obedience is the Key to Our Success

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions and move beyond your imagination and perceived limitations!! This past weekend, through the obedience of those ministering, serving, yielding, praying, and fasting, we saw God show UP and show OUT in ways that I am still processing.

We thank Livingstone College and Catawba College for allowing us the opportunity to pour into their students. We remain open to future invitations. Thank you Pastor Troy Russell for your heart for your students. Thank you to the youth (Livingstone College praise team, Destiny Stone, 4GWL) who blessed us with song and worship, truly setting the atmosphere at both colleges!! Thank you Crucial, Destiny Stone and Azende King for serving on our panel discussion! Thank you Jalen for helping us with our sound equipment needs on Saturday! You were truly a blessing! Thank you to Anthony and those who helped us set up on Saturday, another blessing! Thank you to our many prayer partners who prayed, fasted and encouraged us in this effort. We all share in this collective victory for God’s Kingdom and the futures restored and preserved for these young people. We pray they will continue to seek God for His instruction to obediently walk out His call on their lives. We pray for their foundations to be built upon Christ Jesus to successfully navigate this life and to become Godly change agents in whatever environments God places them!

As my dear brother in Christ Hakim says, “Obedience is our best opportunity for success.” We have noticed that due to our obedience, open hearts and willingness to follow His will, God has placed people in our lives to help drive our efforts—without us reaching out to them. When God sees a level of obedience from us, He will entrust us with more important tasks. Those who value God’s instruction go deeper and deeper into obedience to Him. Obedience to God is always going to produce fruit.

I love you and God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Dangerously Lighthearted

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It was a 4 a.m. wake up from the Holy Spirit. Still pitch black outside and in my home, I raised up to jot down His words coming to me. Instead of a notepad and pen, I began typing the words on my smartphone as my eyes were still adjusting to the phone’s bright screen. As I received the words in my spirit, it became clear that the message was directed at church leaders, those that shepherd others (some, not all), and lastly to us as individuals being accountable for our walk with the Lord. The flow of this post will be unlike my usual writings as I strive to keep to His words which sharply and soberly began with this post’s title, “Dangerously Lighthearted”:

We serve a Holy God. Coddling and cradling people in their sins because this is where you’re at too. You want a pass for being human and to be allowed certain vices regardless of how it grieves God. You’ve relaxed and believe that you and others can ride on the coat tails of Romans 8:1 without being grieved to be led out and away from the behavior and mindset which we are encouraged to do in Romans 12:2. Yes, grace is God’s gift to us through relationship in Christ Jesus who brutally took on the full penalty of our sin due us, freeing us. Yet, we are told in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

The New Living Translation says it this way:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

This is not a suggestion but a command. Our goal is to discern and obey the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. This is a daily, deliberate decision and action pursuant to be perfected in the likeness and image of Christ.

You have become dangerously lighthearted toward those you shepherd. You have made many comfortable in their sin and ungodliness rather than imparting to them the seriousness of their condition. You don’t implore them to no longer concede to flesh and trends; to not become prey to the enemy’s snares. You are not cautioning them to monitor what content they ingest, in what conversations they participate, and the behaviors they engage. Freedom in Christ Jesus is not a pass to delight in sin when we are to pursue righteousness. We are God’s peculiar people called out from the world; to be holy, separated and set apart. Sinful pursuits become a slippery slope numbing those to call what is “evil good and what is good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Soon, they are no longer distinguishable from the world.

Don’t let the culture enculturate you by becoming dangerously lighthearted to those you have been entrusted to shepherd. There are wide roads packed with faulty shepherds. The momentary laughs at your and their sins and being excused for “having a moment” should instead make you and them grievously uncomfortable to see how you and they have offended a Holy God.

laughing-cinema

Though we are saved and freed from God’s wrath with the promise of eternal life with Him, the journey does not end there. With the old, former life behind us and raised up as new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), sanctification is the next step in being perfected in the image of Christ Jesus. This process requires shedding the old so we can be built up in the new, to mature in Christ. As God pours His character traits into us, we should reflect the same contents as the bottle. But by being dangerously lighthearted many will be permanently stalled in their spiritual development when they have been coddled instead of corrected. The clever talents of teaching and speaking will ineffectively be rear view mirror if the words do not prick a heart change in direction.

“It is far better to be plain in speech, yet walking openly and consistently with the gospel, than to be admired by thousands, and be lifted up in pride, so as to disgrace the gospel by evil tempers and unholy lives.”- Matthew Henry Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:5-15.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your mercy, Your goodness and instruction extended toward us. Forgive us for being lighthearted about that which grieves You. As leaders, shepherds and teachers, forgive us for not being grieved by that which enslaves others; to where we would coddle and not correct those sheep You have entrusted to us for fear of offending them. It is our love for You and love for others that should lead us to correct. Let us focus less on clever and talented speech or preaching and instead plainly ensure that we are delivering Your truth with Your heart, no matter who it offends so they would desire to mature and walk in your ways.

As Your children, Father, give us hearts that are aligned with Yours. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in us as David prayed to You in Psalm 51. You are faithful to forgive and cleanse us. Help us to truly see You as a Holy God and to have a full reverence and love for Who You are. Whatever You reveal in us that is not of You, may we cooperate with You to remove it and not run from Your cleansing. Wash and cleanse us from old ways of behaving and thinking. May we meditate on Your Word and commune with You to know Your ways. May we gain a deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus to reflect Him to others in every way. 

In Your Son Jesus’ Precious Name,

Amen.

-Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey: Shaping a New Narrative?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hurricane Harvey. A devastating Category 4 hurricane that hammered eastern Texas last week. Floodwaters reached unprecedented levels of approximately 50 inches as the storm lingered over the areas of Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Dickinson, Corpus Christi, Rockport and Victoria, causing catastrophic flooding. In the storm’s wake, the aftermath is heartbreaking. More than 50 lives lost and likely more as receding flood waters reveal bodies that succumbed to the storm. Waters up to street signs that contain more than eight times the allowed limit of e coli (should be 0), fecal bacteria, crocodiles, snakes, floating colonies of biting fire ants, possibility of infections, diarrhea, skin diseases; the threat of electrocution from live wires unseen, let alone the dangers of driving and being pulled under deeper waters.

These and other issues have weighed upon my and your heart this past week in praying for Texas and now portions of Louisiana. More than 37,000 homes lost, businesses destroyed, possessions no longer, thousands of people rescued and displaced are trying to live in what is their “now.” Who knows what will come next, as the living seek to bury their loved ones (How will this occur with so much under water?), what about work, school, health care needs, basic needs, etc.?

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Getty Images

 

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Photo credit: CNN.com

In all of this devastation and what will be weeks, months and likely years of recovery and rebuilding, we are witnessing profound unity. People are helping one another regardless of one’s ideologies, political affiliations and leanings, no matter who voted for who, we are seeing people of all backgrounds and races coming together. This is a stark contrast to the tragedy that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., only weeks before.

Amid the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we are seeing goodness, kindness, and love in action—at least three of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23. The narrative of race that dominated in Charlottesville, a quite different narrative of love is coming forth in very challenging and life-altering circumstances. In the grief, this narrative is a welcomed relief and hope.  A hope that some day conversations about race will no longer dominate or be considered necessary. That conversations about God’s ability to show His Presence in the hearts of others, His ability to mend brokenness, the Godly words and actions of others will become our new narrative.

Hurricane Harvey police officers rescue elderly woman

Photo credit: NY Daily News

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Photo credit: Time Magazine

With such a new and inspiring narrative, what will the others have to talk about or criticize next if race relations is no longer a topic requiring fuel to keep it burning on hearts and lips? Or a pot continually stirred by media commentators or even in the pulpit?

King Jesus, thank You, thank You for showing us You in so many facets.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:45-48, NIV).

What we have seen in Houston and the surrounding region is an area of hope in the face of worldwide evil. Wickedness remains, and certainly after the immediate crises have been stabilized and addressed in Hurricane Harvey, some people may resort to their old ungodly ways. However, I do believe hearts were permanently transformed in this event by seeing the love of God on display.

In the world’s darkness, may Believers continue to be light and love. May we continue to imitate Christ and watch as some of the negative narratives fall away and are replaced with Godly ones. More is expected from the followers of Christ to allow Christ within us to reshape the narratives. May we continue to be proven as His Children to a skeptical world.

Our prayers, love and support continue to be with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We also pray blessings of health, protection and safety for those rendering aid on the ground.

-Nicole

God Speaks. Are You Obeying?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The automated Asian female-sounding voice to my wireless earphones interrupts the playing enjoyment of my streaming Gospel radio station as I take my afternoon walk. For the next five minutes, intermittently, she gives about eight or nine warnings in my ear: “Battery low.” I keep walking, enjoying the music and walk knowing full well that I want to hear the songs play in their entirety so long as the battery or “she” will allow me to. By her seventh or eighth warning, I know time is nearly up though I keep listening to the music, I keep walking. Finally, in response to my defiance she abruptly says in her flat tone, “Power off.”

Usually when she says “Power off,” I am a few minutes from returning to my desk to recharge the earphones.

A similar scenario can exist when we’re driving along and suddenly the “Check engine” light flashes on our vehicle’s dashboard. Usually when this happens, we’re not in a convenient place to stop and pop the hood or take it to a garage. Frankly, we may not have the financial means to address the issue even if we had the time. Also, what if the vehicle’s operating just fine (at least we think so)? Is there really a problem?

Sometimes we’re fortunate and it’s a minor, easily fixed issue—that is if we address it early without causing further harm. But often an engine matter is a costly matter that suggests labor + parts + other issues found= a big bill. Besides, we have things to do, places to go and people to see. So we continue to drive along with the “check engine” light glaring that once went on and then off but now stays on full-time. We may feel anxiety coupled with defiance to see how far we can go, how far we can push it before being forced to address the matter. If we remain in denial and continued defiance, it’s likely that the “check engine” issue will finally stop us at a most inconvenient time and short of our intended destination.

check-engine-light

Similarly, God calls out to us and warns of issues to address and correct. Usually for those listening, these warnings or promptings are communicated to us by the Holy Spirit. As you spend more time with God, you learn how He communicates with you. Usually to me, it’s a few words He says; short, to the point, no jibber-jabber, nothing wasted or misunderstood. It’s so clear and sharp that there’s no way I could misunderstand what He’s instructing or asking me.

God gives us an opportunity here. The promptings serve a purpose as does our vehicle’s “check engine” light. We can either choose to obey His instructions or keep walking in our own ways to see what the end will be. Most definitely, if we ignore His voice, reject His wisdom and continue in our own misdirected pursuits, we will find ourselves in an undesirable situation. Sometimes the instructions or warnings will come to us by other people who may not have full knowledge of our situation but through the Lord using them, their words reaffirm His words to us. Patiently, lovingly, repeatedly, He calls out to us…to preserve us…to guide us…

I am reminded of Isaiah 65:1-3, when the Lord says, “I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations—3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face…”

If this is you, pray to know and follow God’s ways; that God would give you a heart to walk out His ways. That your heart will not be divided by what or who to follow (Psalm 86:11). That you would have a sincere affection to obey His words. “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5, New International Version)

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

You might also read our previous post to encourage obedience, “Are You About to Circle the Israelites?”

Evil’s Answer Requires Our Steadfastness

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Charlottesville. Barcelona, Spain. Worldwide. Your community. The horrific violence of recent days has been inconceivable for many of us to comprehend how human beings can inflict such hurt and pain on fellow human beings. Men, women and children have been killed and injured without any thought given about the precious gift of life, who these dear people are and the impact of their presence in other’s lives—and the gaping hole in hearts felt when they have been taken from us, particularly by violence. I and our ministry team join you in prayer for Heather Heyer’s family, the troopers killed on that awful Saturday in Charlottesville, those injured, and those killed and injured on Thursday in Barcelona by violence. Our hearts are heavy. For the mind, the incidents are too massive to properly process as there have been multiple events occurring daily, compounding the righteous anger and grief we feel. It is hoped that we never become indifferent and numb ourselves to the loss of life in an effort to preserve our sanity. So what are we to do with all of this? I know many of you are walking strong and steady in the Lord. I write the following message for saints who need encouraging in this time.

Even God has been and is grieved by mankind’s sin, lawlessness. We can say “call it what it is” with a plethora of labels but at the core, at the root it is sin in mankind’s hearts. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God’s grief over man’s wickedness: 5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (New International Version)

Wickedness, sin is nothing new. It has been slithering around on its belly and raising its ugly head since man was created.

Yet, in all of this, God is in control. In my commune with God and prayers with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we have EVERY reason to be encouraged. Jesus won the victory for us at Calvary and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. Satan has been defeated. The wicked will be no more; they will be snuffed out and cut off (Proverbs 2:22, Proverbs 24:20, Psalm 37:9-10, etc.).

We have been given the victory. Evil seeks to discredit what God has promised to do and what He has already done. For the Body of Christ we must remember and hold fast to His Truth. We must also walk in our Godly authority to combat the darkness. We should not be afraid to walk in what Godly strength looks like while the world capitulates because they have used the wrong weapons in this warfare.

We must seek God’s face for how He would have us to respond, then be led by the Holy Spirit and forsake the wisdom of this world. If you give up on anything, give up on the world having the solution. The world does not have the answer and continues to produce vain efforts. Of all people, WE have the answer for this world: salvation in Jesus Christ. Of all people, WE will remain in peace because our minds are steadfast on the Lord Jesus because we trust Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Of all people, WE are seated in heavenly places as citizens of heaven first and foremost. Our minds should be heavenward and therefore focused on Kingdom business, not chained by the things of this world. With Jesus as our Hope and as the Anchor of our soul Who holds us firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19), WE should seek to steady the lost in this hope by sharing the Gospel. And because of God’s love shown toward us, WE will show His love to others. People are seeking refuge in these desperate times. WE of all people should be a refuge to those searching like a lit and protected city on the hill because of Christ Jesus.

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Yes, wickedness is here and increasing but only for a time. Read your bible, stay in your Word, pray and fast and fellowship with others to remind yourselves of the victory already won for us by Christ Our Savior who is coming soon. Despite Satan’s best efforts, he cannot overcome this fact.

Saints, I love you. A blessing to serve with you. Stay encouraged. We have the answer to evil. Keep your hope. Suit up for battle each day (Ephesians 6:10-17). Walk confidently in your Godly authority as a soldier in God’s Army whose mind is set on advancing God’s Kingdom and not entangled by the world (2 Timothy 2:4). Move as a soldier unafraid to speak and walk as instructed by our Commander.

Absolutely, when confronting wickedness you will face opposition from Satan. But keep fighting for the enemy has already retreated on several fronts because of the faithful prayers and fasting of many saints. Do not be reeled in and distracted by what things look like but instead, set your face like flint (determined, not confounded, confident in God, fixed) and endure until the end.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

 

Are You About to Circle the Israelites?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Exodus 16:4- Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (New International Version)

Exodus 16:16-20- This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent. 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. (New International Version)

Eeeks.

Since this past week, God has been taking me through the Israelites’ escape from 430 years of slavery in Egypt guided by the Lord’s Mighty Hand, Moses and his brother Aaron. Their journey picks up in Exodus Chapter 1 with the previous book of Genesis ending with the Israelites (the 12 tribes of Jacob) migrating to Egypt during the seven-year famine. Joseph who was Pharaoh’s second-in-command, had done well and wisely to preserve food for the region and people based on Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph correctly interpreted warning of the seven years of abundance and seven years of famine.

In Exodus 1, if you know the story, a new king emerges unaware of Joseph and his people. Joseph has since died. The Israelites have now multiplied significantly in number and the king is concerned about being overtaken by them if war breaks out. It’s at this point that he devises their enslavement to prevent their rising up.

In reading about the Israelites’ enslavement and steps taken toward their release, to their freedom, to their being encamped in the wilderness, God gives specific instructions throughout this process. From where to camp, how to proceed, to what food to eat by day and by night, how to gather and prepare the food, God is not short on details.

Their plight continues into the books of Leviticus, Numbers and beyond—a journey that was only to take 11 days that extended to 40 years!! They never never left the wilderness nor entered the Promised Land (Canaan) since much of that generation died off during their 40 years of wandering. They grumbled (complained), exhibited unbelief, worshiped other gods, and repeatedly disregarded God’s instructions. For this writing, I am focusing on their disobedience.

Joshua 5:6- For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD; the LORD swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. (English Standard Version)

Israelites Disobedience

I wonder in our walk, how many times we have ignored God’s instructions, thinking that somehow we knew “how to do it better” or “surely He doesn’t mean it for this instance.” Maybe we’ve almost circled the Israelites by spending years in disobedience. Hopefully we learn sooner than 40 years.

Even though I like to be compliant, I know of times that I thought I knew better than God and operated outside His instructions—only to find myself back where I started, maybe a bit worse off, or preserved from further missteps by His merciful grace. I sensed that in my impatience, God was having me repeat lessons until I learned patiently to follow His instructions, to shed rebellion, to trust Him implicitly, no matter how tedious, mundane or odd the instructions.

I can recount such instances even in my earlier years such as this scenario with me and my brother:

In my hurry and struggle to open the package that clearly instructed “Open Here,” I tore into the package on the opposite end, thinking that I had one-upped the creators of the product — only to find out in my disobedience I had opened the package incorrectly.

“Nik, you’re so heavy-handed,” my brother would say as we both stood with our mouths open in shock over the item that was now broken because I bypassed the instructions on how to appropriately access it. “Now look what you’ve done,” he said. Why hadn’t I learned this lesson? Why did I bypass the instructions provided by the product creator? It also begs us to ask why do we presume to know more than God our Creator and bypass His instructions? Then we immediately feel the burden of our mistake and wish we could rewind time to reverse that outcome. We’re now also grumbling because of the situation our disobedience has caused.

In life, when we bypass God’s instructions, He also presents us with the lesson again for an opportunity to obey. Praise God! But if we continue in disobedience we will be met with those consequences and possibly without God’s intervention.

Are you about to circle the Israelites by spending more time in disobedience? Could your 11-day journey turn into 40 years by your sheer disobedience?

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions. God will not leave it to you to figure things out. He will absolutely lead you (and me) if we trust Him and obey.

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For more on the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness read this Got Questions? article.

-Nicole

 

Can They Tell That You’ve Been With the Lord?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It was not an unusual day. It was a sunny weekday morning. I had just finished my daily prayer time with the Lord and headed out to my neighborhood post office to mail a package. I decided to walk, embracing the good weather before the afternoon sun would heat things up miserably.

Upon entering the post office, I saw the male, middle-aged clerk stationed behind the counter I’d seen many times before. I usually wave to him, he waves back, I slide my letters or cards into the drop box and leave. But this time I needed to mail a package. As I rounded the line, I noticed he was staring at me. I kept hoping he’d redirect his gaze elsewhere but he seemed fixed on me. Mentally, my walls were going up unsure what this was about. As I approached the counter with my package to mail, he continued to stare. He then spoke these words: “What is it about you?” Oh dear.

“Excuse me? What do you mean?” I asked him. In my head I thought, “Can’t I just pay for and mail the package?”

He replied to my question. “What is it about you? Who are you? What do you do?”

From these questions and his disposition, I could tell he was genuinely curious and not subject to pounce. Seeing this, I relaxed and kindly explained to him that I work primarily in public relations and also in ministry.

His eyes lit up. “That’s it!,” he said. “Ministry! I could tell that there was something about you. I can see it on you.”

To give you a visual, I was wearing a pink and orange paisley bandanna on my head, running pants, t-shirt and tennis shoes. No makeup. Nothing special.

His words, “I can see it on you,” hung in the air for a minute as I stood in awe of what he said which changed the dynamic of our conversation.

I asked him if he was a Believer, and he indicated he was. We continued our conversation of great, unexpected fellowship for a few minutes as I paid for my package and mailed it. What I thought was going to be an intrusive conversation that I’d have to shut down immediately, turned out to bless my heart. I understand that spirit knows spirit; that people can either see Christ’s light in us or conversely, Satan’s darkness. But I hadn’t thought of the freshness of having been in the Lord’s Presence that morning and still wearing the glow of His Presence on me as I ran errands.

I later thought of when Moses was in the Lord’s Presence on Mount Sinai as he was chiseling out the Ten Commandments and had to wear a veil upon leaving the Lord’s Presence when he returned to the people because the radiance on his face was blinding. I am not comparing myself to Moses or his experience, but it made me curious about what people might see on us.

Moses' Radiant Face

I told a dear sister in Christ about the encounter and she shared this article “Spiritual Significance of Myrrh” and how we are like the fragrance of Christ to God and others. How beautiful!

Do your words, actions and how you carry yourself tell others that you’ve been with the Lord? Can they tell that you’ve been in His Presence? Can the world see that there is something different or “peculiar” about you? Or does the world still recognize you as one of its own?

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

Can We Talk?

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I have felt the Lord’s grief on my heart in receiving this message. However, in obedience to the Lord, the title and the words that follow is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart to share with you. While I have been told that I have a pastor’s heart for people, I hope I also represent God’s Heart to people. In His correction of us, He also loves us.

Can we talk for a minute?

#BlackLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter. Social justice. Mindfulness. These and other trending words have been used as a means to bring justice to injustices and peace to situations that cause us distress. These words have been used to ineffectively substitute the hope and peace of Christ Jesus to give people other “flavors” of hope, peace and justice if they do not believe in Christ. Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord has assured me of His grief on such substitutions. All of it is the wickedness of Satan in which such deceptions are nicely wrapped yet counterfeit in their outcomes.

In mankind’s arrogant attempt to do and fix this life without including Christ Jesus, we are failing to advance God’s intended relationship goal for humanity to be reconciled to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us of God’s intentions:

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

To refresh your memory, mankind became estranged from God, enemies of God through the fall of Adam and Eve. In search for better paths in their own minds, mankind has pulled away from God’s will and design. All creation is paying the price for the original sin of Adam and Eve, which continues to perpetuate lawlessness, confusion, strife, rebellion, and brokenness in our world. Christ came to restore us to a right relationship with God. Human pursuits of hope, justice and peace even in our best intentions will always fall short of the measurement of what Christ will do through repentant hearts.

As Ambassadors of Christ, as ministers of reconciliation as ascribed in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, why would we give people a counterfeit solution? A placebo? This message is not directed at everyone but the many who continue to substitute Christ Jesus with counterfeit recommendations in order to keep a good standing with friends, family, clients, or the public. Many people want their faith in Jesus to be personal but not public. In keeping face with mankind, these are the words the Holy Spirit grievously put on my heart to communicate to you:

“Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”

These seven words, “Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”,  weigh heavily on my heart. I see a grieving Father, Savior and Friend. Can you imagine sidelining a friend, moreover Our Savior? Heartbreaking. Even though I share the Gospel, I know there have been moments where I was quiet when the Holy Spirit was prompting me to speak on His behalf. I pray that you nor I would hear these words said to us by the Lord when we have come to the end of our days and are face to face with Him; for Him to replay the moments when we replaced Him with alternative recommendations in our engaging with those in search of hope, peace and justice. How devastating that we thought it better to save face with people than to obey the heart of God.

 

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Christian author and speaker Lisa Bevere, in her book Without Rival, writes: “The deceitful spirit will always tell you that there is enlightenment outside of God’s Word. That we are in a new age and God no longer means what He said.”

In people’s offering up of counterfeit solutions, she refers to Jeremiah 2:13 (New Living Translation):

My people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me―the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns (wells) that can hold no water at all!

Lord help us.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for drink but truly thirsted for more (a longing to be truly loved after having five husbands), that the well water she was taking from would never quench her thirst. She’d have to keep coming back. So Jesus offers to her to come to Him and drink, and never thirst again (John 4:13-14, John 7:37).

“Can we talk?” suggests a care and concern for others―not to tell them what they want to hear but what they need to hear. If you have used words to substitute or replace the hope, peace and justice of Christ Jesus with worldly wisdom, I urge you to repent. Our Lord is grieved though He loves you and for this reason has brought this loving message of correction. I am simply the messenger.

Thankfully, someone told me and you about Jesus. Praise God! May we earnestly desire to quench others’ thirst with the hope and peace of Christ Jesus and not with empty wells in which they will attempt to draw from, still thirsty and unfulfilled. As ministers of reconciliation, may we courageously, lovingly and unashamedly share the truth of Christ Jesus with others. May we desire that no one live life less than what God has promised for those who love Him. May we no longer entertain or justify moments without Christ. The ministry of reconciliation of the lost back to God IS THE MISSION. May we make no room for Christ to say to us, “Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”

Amen.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready to Make the Dead Alive?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

From this article’s title, please do not think I’ve gone rogue. I am not suggesting a séance or any other means in which some people on this side of heaven attempt to communicate or connect with those who have passed on. But I am referring to Someone Who can make even those physically dead alive and make alive those who are walking around spiritually dead: Jesus Christ.

Jesus came that we might enjoy life right now, and life to the full even before we spend our forever days with Him and our Christian brothers and sisters in heaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life; a staple, essential for life. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

From the opioid and drug addicted, to the depressed and suicidal, to the vile and violent, to the oppressed and the oppressor, to those in sexual sin, to the lost or those who call themselves Christian but have no intimate knowledge of Him, the love and mighty power of Jesus is able to make those dead, alive in Him. He is spiritual bread that brings eternal life.

This is great news! Praise God for Believers who are courageously walking in this and ministering to others in truth! So why aren’t more Christians sharing the truth about Jesus being the Bread of Life? In reading this, you may realize that you are falling short in this area. Yes, there are risks involved in boldly proclaiming Jesus to a rebellious and skeptical world.

Sure, you want to be accepted by friends, family and colleagues. Yes, it’s hard to go against the popular wisdom of the day when everyone else is buying what the world is selling. Yes, sharing the biblical truth will make you appear foolish to a world that doesn’t run to God but runs from God. But would you jeopardize your faith and friendship with the Lord to be friends with the world? Will you fail the test in the end?

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To not offer the Truth is dangerous to your faith and offers no real healing to those you are serving. How sorrowful to hold the truth in your hands and yet extend a placebo to avoid any fall out you might experience. Then we wonder why people are not walking in victory. We wonder why people are further descending into spiritual death and not being resurrected to spiritual life. It’s because we’ve shown them a crutch instead of the Cross. It’s because our placebos have ushered them toward life’s coffins (dead ends) rather than a relationship with their Creator, and Jesus the Bread of Life. God placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not give people a placebo for that. Invite them to partake of Jesus.

Careful dear brothers and sisters that after all Christ did on the Cross to not exchange the truth for a lie to follow the father of lies (Satan). Satan’s and the world’s lies are an enslavement theology. Either you are contributing to that person’s freedom by loosing what binds them by offering them Christ Jesus—or you are adding another chain to their bondage by offering them the wisdom of this world.

Are you ready to make the dead alive? Give them the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit and His Word will guide you into all understanding and obedience. Trust the power of who God is, the Holy Spirit and His Truth to prepare hearts and minds to repent, submit and turn toward Him without your needing to offer a placebo. Trust that God is able to work through you to preserve His Promises, you and others. The Holy Spirit flows through us as the living water, bringing life to us and others to be the light of the world.

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Amen.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.