Solid Structure or Need a Good Carpenter?

Imagine you and your realtor have found your dream home. From the exterior, it’s everything you imagined and more. However, as you open the front door, your stomach sinks. Holes in the walls, sunken floors, pet stains, falling beams, trash piled up for weeks and the smell of something rotting sends you dashing outside for fresh air. What is this foolishness?? The house looked perfect on the outside but is a hot mess on the inside.

beautiful house

Did you know that our bodies are like a house? We have an external and internal structure. But how many of us when meeting someone we consider physically attractive look beyond their features? Will we take time to learn if their outer structure is solid as their internal structure? Is their internal structure sound with integrity throughout? Most people would walk away from the house I described to you, given the interior problems. If caution is warranted before buying a dysfunctional property, how much greater caution should we exercise before engaging in physical relationships with a person whose internal structure (character) we have not inspected, nor meets our standards?

There is one such organization working to ensure teens build solid character foundations and to examine the qualities of others—before entering relationships.

This week, I met with staff members of Miami-based nonprofit, Abstinence Between Strong Teens International, Inc. Founded in 1992, ABSTI’s mission is “to empower young adults to think, leading them to focus on and improve the development of their emotional, mental, spiritual, financial and physical self.”  Since their founding, ABSTI has  empowered more than 200,000 youth and parents to have educated discussions on unintended health outcomes regarding pre-marital sex and the relation of sex to a positive self-image. Without such discussions, teens may engage in destructive behaviors, undermining the value of reserving sex for marriage.  ABSTI prepares teens in God’s design for healthy relationships, marriage and sex (yes, in that order), from a character development perspective.

To assist in this effort, Darryl Auberry, Director of Project Image (an ABSTI initiative) created the “Building My House” curriculum. The curriculum’s creative images and critical-thinking scenarios reiterate the importance of building strong relationships that lead to marriage and explores why saving sex for marriage is beneficial. In the curriculum’s introduction, Auberry notes that having lived a life turned upside down by engaging in promiscuity, leading to emptiness and brokenness, propelled him to “meet a carpenter who changed his life.” Through Jesus changing Auberry’s life, he is now positively impacting the lives of others by equipping them with critical-thinking skills for good decision-making.

ABSTI Project Image Program Director  Darryl Auberry, Youth Development Coordinator Barbara Boliere and CEO Michelle Shirley. (Nicole in peach blouse) Taken at the Baltimore Harbor Cheesecake Factory, May 29, 2013. We avoided the tempting and delicious-looking 1,000 calorie+ cheesecakes!

ABSTI Project Image Program Director Darryl Auberry, Youth Development Coordinator Barbara Boliere and CEO Michelle Shirley. (Nicole in peach blouse) Taken at the Baltimore Harbor Cheesecake Factory, May 29, 2013. We avoided the tempting and delicious-looking 1,000 calorie+ cheesecakes!

Last summer and through this January, I was privileged to work with ABSTI CEO Michelle Shirley and ABSTI Youth Development Coordinator Barbara Boliere to help promote their first annual “Restoring the Image of Purity” walkathon.  We remain encouraged by the participation of young people at the walkathon. So how does this path differ to freedoms offered by the world?

Unlike Jesus who gives us true freedom, the world in many ways offers counterfeit freedoms. Those living worldly will say, “Why can’t I have more? Does God really know what’s best for me or is He just preventing me from enjoying life?” Just the opposite! In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (life more abundantly).”

God designed us as relational beings! He created sex for procreation, our pleasure and to be united in spirit with the right spouse. God’s design expands our freedom. Engaging in sexual activity outside of God’s design, enslaves us to a slippery slope of fleshly desires, giving the enemy license to corrupt other areas of our life. A false freedom found in the beautiful home wrecked on the inside has left us with buyer’s remorse and pursuers of more counterfeit love and freedom because we haven’t pursued the true Source: Jesus.

In our push for greater worldly freedoms, Satan sets the stage for his next counterfeit scheme. We’ve been lulled into supporting more “freedoms” in this do your own thing society, only to find ourselves perplexed by our children’s outcomes because we thought it old-fashioned to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

I am pleased to support the work of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International and like organizations as they equip our young people to build solid character within themselves and seek like qualities in others before engaging in relationships as they become adults.

How solid is your internal structure?  Or the structure of those who you are most intimate? Is character and integrity at the foundation or is a “good carpenter” required to rebuild?

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Nobody Greater

Happy Wednesday, Good People. First, thank you everyone who has extended encouragement and support in words or action (ex: following our blog and tweets, joining our Facebook page). God is good! We are excited to be here on this journey with you.

Second, I share with you a portion of my devotional received this morning prepared by colleague, Brother Dracy Jenkins. It reminds me that in Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us, there is “nobody greater” :

“It is not the uniqueness of ‘Christianity’ as a system that we defend, but the uniqueness of Christ. So, because in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in his birth), then bear our sins (in his death), then conquer death (in his resurrection) and then enter his people (by his Spirit), he is uniquely able to save sinners. Nobody else has his qualifications.” -John R.W. Stott

Have a blessed day!

-Nicole

Welcome to Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Aahh…my shoulders relax, I draw a deep breath and smile. I have finally exhaled.   A project that has been shaping for months has now taken form.

For those who don’t know, my name is Nicole D. Hayes. Click on the “About” tab to learn my background and beliefs.

What is “Voices Against the Grain”?

“Voices Against the Grain” is a blog and weekly online radio show (show starts Wednesday, September 4!) daringly designed for audiences to learn and share how to advance God’s Kingdom in a “do your own thing,” consensus society. We challenge the status quo. We do not conform to the norm. We will feature conversations from everyday people to celebrities and other figures who are operating in obedience to God’s Word in a challenging world. These special voices are thankfully “too bold to leave His work in their lives untold.” In a world of unrelenting changes, there is One whose Word, whose promises, and whose authority remains unchanged:  Jesus Christ.bold_t1

How Did the Project Start?

I spent months quietly gaining clarity and discernment from the Holy Spirit on how He would have me to serve as a vessel to distribute light, salt and truth into this confused and dark world. I wrote notes on what He was pouring into my spirit, still uncertain of the platform or vehicle in which to deliver “this” effort.  Since May 2012, God has placed me in spaces to deliver bold messages. While sometimes uncomfortable, it has become 100% freeing.  To straddle and shape-shift more than three decades of living between the politically correct and sharing God’s truth for me is exhausting, brings feelings of constraint and forces tweaked messages for various audiences to keep everyone smiling and at ease. I’ve lived for God since age 12, increasingly so—but not in every space can you speak openly about “God” or “Jesus Christ.”

God has continued to “push me out front,” as a mouthpiece for Him, increasing my boldness. I could ask, “Why me?,” though I know He has equipped and authorized me for this position. It was during a mid-March 2013 conversation in my dentist’s chair that something definitive clicked in my spirit to inform and shape the contours of “this.” My dentist (who is Christian), she and I spoke sadly about various celebrities and media that have negatively influenced our way of interacting with one another. How does one successfully navigate in a society that packages and perpetuates various deceptions to make people “feel good”? And what if you don’t support the world’s deceptions? Will you be considered to lack morals to do what is good for all mankind?  If you’re not part of the “get along gang,” will you be viewed as inharmonious to the collective impulses of society? Hmm…maybe we’re onto something here.

My dentist ultimately desired to see a platform created for people whose daily living honors God so others would know and be encouraged that such role models exist. That they need not turn to worldly celebrities whose lifestyles suggests freedom but are actually warped and wrapped by untold bondages. My dentist asked me, “How can we be a voice to inform those people who truly want to live free and not feel they must conform to society’s values?”

Therefore, I introduce to you, “Voices Against the Grain.”

Why is a Platform like “Voices Against the Grain” Necessary? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As my dear friend Hakim would say, “Because you need to know.” God has made His Word known to us, for those willing to hear. He desires we know these things about life so not to be fearful or surprised—but to be prepared, respond accordingly and remain in peace while doing so. As Jesus said in John 16:33 (New International Version): “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Key Objectives for “Voices Against the Grain” Blog and Radio Show:

  • To Bring Clarity and Restoration from Deception.  God’s Word is a sword that will cut to the deepest places, bringing undeniable truth to those willing to receive it and to those seeking healing and true freedom, true love and true peace.  His Word blows away the fog so ultimately, confusion is removed and clarity and restoration can occur.
  • To Educate and Equip. We share God’s truth for abundant living to help you successfully navigate in an ever-changing world with a God who is forever constant. God’s Word is not subject to consensus or vote, as in democratic societies.
  • To Encourage. Through stories shared by other believers, we encourage others to know they are not in this struggle alone—and with God, we are never alone.
  • To Love in Truth.  We are committed to showing love while sharing the truth; our intent is not to disparage anyone—only to disparage Satan and his counterfeit schemes. This is not to say the truth won’t hurt and won’t punch you. It may. How much truth can you take? We will love you in the process. He has loved us in truth and we extend the same to you.

Curious what we will discuss? Seeking truth amidst confusion?  We’ll discuss hot topics such as (but not limited to):

  • God’s design for relationships, marriage and sex
  • Relationship Identifiers: Fruit-bearers or extractors?
  • U.S. and world policies that will enslave
  • Successful business leaders who don’t cut corners
  • Waiting on God in a “need it now” world
  • Unraveling false belief systems
  • Helping young people thrive with God in a confused world
  • Religion and Doctrine vs. Relationship with God
  • “Yellow Pages Christianity”
  • What is God doing today
  • Understanding the enemy’s strategies
  • “Can I just be a ‘good’ person?”
  • Being a lamp on the hill in a world controlled by darkness
  • Navigating through politically correct systems and workplaces
  • Enjoying real peace, and more

I invite you to read our blog. Visit the “Radio Show” tab and listen starting Wednesday, September 4! Our “Bold Voices” tab will direct you to the testimonies from our featured bloggers and show guests. Their candid stories will inspire and reassure you we all have a bold journey to walk out and can do so triumphantly with God. Not all of us started with God. Some thought they were happily living the world’s promises until the world left them ‘wrecked’ and empty. God restored them. Now knowing the truth, they boldly press forward. They are lampstands on a hill lighting the way for others trapped in confusion and darkness.

We’re excited you’re here. Please also tell us what topics you want to learn about.  Thank you and welcome to “Voices Against the Grain,” where we are “too bold to leave His work untold.” We look forward to interacting with you. Thank you to everyone who has prayed for and supported me in this effort.

 Blessings,

 Nicole