2014: Receive the One Who Gave All

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Another blessed Christmas and New Year begins.  At this time let’s remember all that God has done for us this year and the so many that came before.

 Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Our Savior has come, He has risen, and He lives!  Christ came to bring us salvation, hope, peace, forgiveness and everlasting life.  No amount of money can buy that gift.      2 Corinthians 5:21- For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.   How amazing is that?

God loves you! He loves you! He loves us!  This Christmas Season know that He loves you in spite of all the mistakes, disappointments, heartache, grief and pain—His love for you remains.  It is not too late to cast your cares on Him. It is not too late to lay your burdens down, to receive His forgiveness, to turn from a life of sin, or to receive healing.  He is waiting to have every area of your life, yet we allow fear to grip us and it only holds us back.  What IF we gave Christ everything?  I know for me, there is so much I am holding onto and He is telling me to let it go.  How do you let go of past hurts and disappointments?  You lay them at His feet and trust that He will see you through.

As the New Year arrives, I encourage you to let go of all bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, doubt and unbelief.  Leave it behind you and move forward with an open heart and open hands ready to receive all that He has in store for you.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad,

Ana Martinez

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principals are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative isGeorgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Ana resides in Southern California with her three beautiful children and seeks daily to model this scripture from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Christ: Our Confident Hope

Romans 12:12- “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Some perceive ‘hope’ as an unfulfilled dream that will never come to fruition. Some deem patience as a 30-second endeavor, which must yield instantaneous blessings. Some view prayer as nothing more than a last resort when they feel like their world is turning upside down. “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7. Only you, LORD.

When doctors can’t cure an illness, our hope is in You, LORD. When our bodies waste away and our minds become forgetful my hope is in You, LORD. Thus, when hope reaches its end, patience of an indomitable will takes over. Patience to see a world who will choose serving others than their own desires. Patience to see shopping take a backseat to fellowship. This should be our prayer, as it is not my intention to dampen the holiday. This is a reminder that we can’t forget CHRISTmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ first and foremost, Who is our confident hope. This makes everything else secondary. God bless and Merry Christmas.

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

Christ Confuses Today’s Wisdom

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 3:19, New International Version)

Books upon books. The Internet. The Secret. Oprah Winfrey. Dr. Phil. Iyanla Vanzant. Wayne Dyer. The list runs long in resources trusted by some people who seek to understand life and life’s plans for them. Much of the information, teachings and “wisdom” presented by these popularly sought after sources gives their fans a sense of confidence for their next steps. Yet, such “wisdom” pales to the vastness and wisdom of God which far surpasses the limitations of our human intelligence. Our mental capacity is a mere blip compared to the abilities, depth, knowledge and wisdom of God, who created us. Was Oprah there when God laid Earth’s foundation or dimensions, or that of our universe? Does Iyanla Vanzant give orders to the morning or show the dawn its place?  Can Dr. Phil take you to where darkness and light dwell? Can Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, loose the cords of Orion or count the clouds? Rather than these folks, I want direction from the One who created all of this and more; One who knows me so intimately, He knows the number of hairs on my head at any given time (Luke 12:17). Such human limitation is  incapable of telling you about the plans for your life, when God who created you knows all. We’re instead asked to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33, New Living Translation)

Moreover, I am amazed in the human sources people will rest upon for their confidence, comfort, peace and joy, and disbelieve the simple yet powerful message of Christ Jesus’s birth, gift of Salvation to us and the message of the cross. To understand this message does not require a certain level of intelligence. Oh, we’ll never fully comprehend what He did for us. It simply requires faith and an open heart to receive it. Star of Bethlehem

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19, New International Version)

This Christmas season I still remain in awe at the perfect and wondrous miracle of Jesus’ birth, His death on the cross and his resurrection three days later. The exquisite and precise orchestration of each event is beyond what I can comprehend. The  mere fact that a virgin gave birth to a  baby confuses today’s wisdom. Trust me,  I value knowledge and intelligence. Yet I am confident that my greatest exercise of intelligence will pale in comparison to my simplest exercise of wisdom in saying “yes” to Him.

Myth vs Truth

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Titus 1:2- “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which Godwho does not liepromised them before the world began.” (New Living Translation)

(This is for Jason Alexandre who requested this devotional, a bro who is a symbol for the modern-day generation.)

What is a myth? A myth is defined by an invented story or idea. A myth creates a mirage fueled by secret desires we wish to fulfill, but can’t attain. A myth is what Ponce de Leon (an explorer who founded Florida) looked for when he searched for the fountain of youth. A myth is a sighting of the Loch Ness monster.

Thus, what is truth? Truth is the rainbow after a torrential rain. Truth is the rising and setting of the sun. Truth is the bridge God built so we might cross over to have eternal life. Truth is God. So, when walking the line of myth and truth, ask yourself, what am I longing for? Does this world fulfill my desire for significance? Ten times out of 10 it won’t, and there our confidence will be restored in God’s promises. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

 

Not Everybody’s Doin’ It

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

During this Wednesday’s Voices Against the Grain radio show, we had a candid conversation on “Sexual Abstinence: Understanding Who You Are and Whose You Are.”  Music was brought to my ears regarding our teens and sex: Despite what it looks like, not everybody’s doin’ it. Not everybody is “droppin’ it like it’s hot.” Praise God! I am pleased! As shared during the show by Michelle Shirley, CEO of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International (ABSTI), a Miami-based nonprofit founded in 1992 by Althea McMillan, more teens are rethinking having sex before marriage as they witness increasingly negative consequences experienced in their peers’ lives who engage in premarital sex (ex: teen pregnancy, STDs, emotional and mental immaturity and unpreparedness to handle sex, etc.). And this is one of the goals of ABSTI: to get our young people to THINK, to be critical thinkers in all situations, to develop healthy image of self and healthy relationships and marriages.

Another one of their goals is character development. Shirley, who has her bachelors in business administration and masters in health administration, excelled in school but called herself “an educated fool” when she was engaging in behaviors that were not only outside of God’s will but that were also wrecking her reputation/character. God has since restored her and wow, does she have a ministry!

Michelle Shirley, CEO of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International

Michelle Shirley, CEO of Abstinence Between Strong Teens International

During our interview she said, “Your mind and your abilities can take you as far as you want to go. But it is your CHARACTER that will have to sustain you while you are there.” Absolutely. We’ve seen the sharp fall of many public figures who have risen to the top of success only to be brought down by self-produced character indiscretions.  How do we protect our character? Through good decision-making and a strong foundation of standards that brings you to the people and opportunities you want in your life and steers you away from the people and situations you don’t want in your life.

We all fall short of perfection. Thankfully, those who love God and are called according to His purposes, are renewed daily by His mercies, by His love. However, it doesn’t mean we keep repeating the same mistakes. We seek to live holy and according to His Word. On the issue of protecting your character, your body from sexual immorality, God’s Word says much on these and other matters to help us successfully navigate in a world that encourages us to “operate by how you feel.” You can’t buy character. You must  develop, maintain and protect it.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20. 18- Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19- Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20- you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (New International Version)

Proverbs 22:1.  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (New International Version)

Protect your body, your character and your value. You are a diamond!!  We protect what we value. Thank you Michelle, for sharing your testimony and great information with us! We support you in your ministry.

Click here to listen to full interview with Michelle Shirley. I enjoyed our conversation! To learn more about ABSTI, request their “Build My House” curriculum or to invite them to speak at your church, organization or school, visit www.abstinc.com .

Christmas Post Office Push: Show Love

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Like many people during this time of year, it was a must that I venture to the post office.  I needed stamps to mail my Christmas greeting cards. Guessing by the packed post office lobby, so was everyone else.  We all stood there patiently waiting in the long single line, mixed with other patrons looking to send out packages.  Suddenly a glimmer of hope: the clerks opened a register for stamp purchase only. I quietly thought to myself, “This is it; only one person in front of me now.” Like everyone else, I was in a hurry.  You would have thought they were giving away a million dollars, the way everyone darted for the line.  People began cutting in front of others, who had been patiently waiting longer than them.  This all got me wondering about how Jesus sees us, especially this time of year.  I read in a Christmas book before, “If I have a perfect house and give the perfect gift but do not show love to my family what good is it?”

Isn’t that so true? We can all become wrapped up in the Idea of Christmas and really miss the point.  Jesus is not concerned with how perfect your house is decorated, or if you mailed your greetings cards on time.  He is more concerned with your inward condition.  Are you showing His love to those around you? Even at the post office?  If we take a minute and stop rushing we might see that there are people hurting and many in need of a Savior. So I challenge you to take a moment and ask Jesus what He wants from you this year, for His birthday!

Luke 2: 13-14

13– And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14- “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principals are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative isGeorgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Ana resides in Southern California with her three beautiful children and seeks daily to model this scripture from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Go Out On a Limb with Him

Got a dream? Got faith? Promise, He’s got you, and its out on the limb where your purpose manifests.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, New International Version). Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from perspective of Jesus speaking to you.

BE WILLING to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.

why not go out on a limb

Let Me lead you step by step through this day. If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid. Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of your journey together. As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go.

Accompanying Scriptures: Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” John 12:26, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (New International Version)

Love, Obedience and Not Judgment

Pride is one of those seven deadly sins that sneaks up on us. We think ourselves better than others if we don’t do this or don’t do that sin. We cast judgment upon others without knowing their story, or first extending compassion. Even those of us who strive daily to live holy and obedient to God’s Word fall short in one area or another. We should first seek to understand, and show love. Then instruct truth.  But before we can instruct God’s truth with others who are walking in darkness, remember: Without relationship with Christ, we have no witness and people cannot receive from us.

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Luke 13:2- “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered?” (New Living Translation)

“Your sin is greater than mine, therefore what could you teach me?”

How many of us have uttered this phrase, or have at least thought it? In some fashion we all have had indignant attitudes toward individuals or their experiences, which we believed below our standing of living. This verse refers to sinners, but we have plenty of categories of comparisons, such as money, morality, and so on… In my case, I work to not cast a leering eye, a point of confession to become accountable for my actions. Who is next? For God isn’t interested in keepers of the law, or hypocrites. His blood shed for you and me cast out the law, so that we might have eternal life. Hence, no one is perfect, but we all should strive to live obedient to God’s word. He seeks those who desire to live holy. Here we will grow. There we will flourish. Only then will community of supporters populate, which will spread the glory of Christ. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

Searching for Real Love

Award-winning R&B songstress Mary J. Blige (my girl!) produced her 9os hit “Real Love” that became an anthem for many in search of ‘real love.’ With the chorus, “I’m searchin’ for a a real love, someone who sets my heart free, real love!” And subsequent lyrics, “So I try my best and pray to God he’d send me someone real, to caress me and to guide me toward a love my heart can feel…” You know the rest!

What is ‘real love’? Our first exposure to real love was when God sent US His Son Jesus Christ to Earth to become flesh and die for our sins, so we would be saved from eternal death and separation from God, with our flawed selves. This is agape love; an unconditional love; a love we don’t deserve.

Though there are other forms of love (friend love, family love, parent-child love, love for community, eros/romantic love), real love in any form should consist of these attributes as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 4- “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5- or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6- It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7- Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Read today’s post below written by Voices Against the Grain guest blogger, Herbert Bowen, Jr., on the subject of romantic love. In today’s microwave generation lead by “anything goes,” many people want a quick love and want it NOW, usually for selfish reasons and with multiple partners. In our search for real love, how are we demonstrating love toward others? Many want the world’s version of romantic love and  forgo  expressing the love Christ asks us to give. We should model after Christ our love (in any form) toward others. Laying this foundation first helps build the right kind of love required for romantic and non-romantic relationships.

-Nicole

Song of Songs 8:6-7- “Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love nor can rivers drown it.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Love is to be treasured. For if love is awakened before its time, we will expend a lifetime of energy seeking what we once had. Love is to be saved. We as a culture have fallen victim to the fads of desensitization. We have lost the meaning of companionship to indulge in every desire. We have lost the meaning of love. Romantic love is monogamous. A concept that will probably fall on deaf ears, but is the only way to live our lives the way God intended. Men and women are too quick to rush into the bedroom, too quick to fulfill their lusts only to be in search for a new fix the next night. How does it feel, because for every immediate gratification there are eons of misery and regret. Love is Christ.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love each other because he loved us first.” In essence, His sacrifice is love incarnate. So before jumping in blindly with another individual, seek out the meaning of true love, as it may save you precious time. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.