Unique Soil

Psalm 1:3- They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

A tree planted by the water is a tree that will live for many years. Why? Because the land is fertile. This land is home to thousands of species sprawling with vitality and vigor. The land’s soil is unique, as it contains silt left by the running flow of the river. It is this sediment that aids in yielding bountiful fruit for this tree. It is this sediment that deposited its nutrients to improve the tree’s mortality. It is this tree that shades when hot, feeds when hungry, and quenches our parched lips when thirsty.

This gift to draw many cannot be taken lightly. For the gift, like life can be here today and gone tomorrow. So our words, our actions, and our minds must adhere to grace and love. Only here will we be able to accept our faults and that of others, while clinging to love to remain tall and sturdy amid any storm.

#Godsway

Herbert 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. He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He is also the founder of B.T.E.P. (Bringing Together Extraordinary People), a Charlotte, N.C.-based nonprofit with a mission to unite professional athletic organizations in accordance with their neighboring counties in the Greater Charlotte area, and to improve underprivileged athletic programs and share in the duty of empowering disadvantaged youth within their communities.

Learn more about Herbert Bowen, Jr., here
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Are You a Compelling Witness?

2 Corinthians 4 8-9In these 11th-hour times, are you sounding the clarion call for people to take courage and hope in Christ Jesus? Or are you staying silent? In the face of persecution and trials, will YOU be a compelling, convincing and irrefutable witness for Christ? “Too many Christians have become passive bystanders in this spiritual warfare when they’ve had a sword in their hand the entire time. The hour is at hand for complacency to end.”-Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank, FreedomSquared.org .

Read our ministry founder’s Gospel Today article “Are You a Compelling Witness?” 

The Endless Dance

Job 30:17- At night my bones are filled with pain, which gnaws at me relentlessly. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Where does it come from? At what point will this cutting pain dissipate? Why must these pins and needles play with the muscles? For their dance has led to lack of sleep. Their dance has created spasms that have left us breathless. Their dance has rendered our schedules useless, which has kept us from completing the tasks of our day. Pain is nothing but an admonition to tell us that something is wrong. Pain is the sensor that lights up to make us cognizant that we must pay attention. Pain is the brakes that slow us down to a grinding halt. Therefore, may we revel in our thorns that have pierced our flesh, because like Paul who asked, “three different times for the Lord to take it away,” he found that His power was greatest when weak, “so that the power of Christ could work through him” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Thus, pain is crucial as it strengthens our resolve and steadies are minds.

 

#Godsway

Herbert 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. He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He is also the founder of B.T.E.P. (Bringing Together Extraordinary People), a Charlotte, N.C.-based nonprofit with a mission to unite professional athletic organizations in accordance with their neighboring counties in the Greater Charlotte area, and to improve underprivileged athletic programs and share in the duty of empowering disadvantaged youth within their communities.

Learn more about Herbert Bowen, Jr., here

 

The Sweet Smell of Victory

And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. (Daniel 3:27)

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

The men referred to in this scripture were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—friends of Daniel and servants of the Living God. When they refused to bow and worship King Nebuchadnezzar instead of the One True God, the king was enraged. The penalty for their rebellion was death by fire. King Nebuchadnezzar instructed his men to heat the fire seven times hotter than usual before throwing the three men into the pit. Surely this would quench his prideful rage and satisfy his wrathful vengeance.

The fire was so hot that the men responsible for throwing them into the blazing inferno burned to death as they approached the rim. However, something very different happened to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They fell into the fire, but they were completely untouched by it. They were not alone in the blaze. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the fire, he saw another man walking with them, and when they emerged from the fiery flames, the three men were totally unharmed!

shadrach meshach-fiery-furnance-360x513

Even when they were facing death by fire, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego never saw themselves as victims. They saw themselves as victors. They knew beyond any doubt that they were God’s and as such, they would prevail. The fire had no power on them. Even their hair and clothes were untouched. And perhaps most amazing of all, they didn’t even smell like smoke!

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we have a choice in every situation. Will we see ourselves as victims to the circumstances of life and react accordingly, or will we refuse the lie and choose to believe truth instead? As children of God, we have been made victorious through Christ. When we look to Him—the fourth Man in the fire, we will diffuse the sweet fragrance of Him, instead of the stench of smoke.  The fire may get hot, but it has no lasting power on you and me as children of the Living God!

If you find yourself in a difficult, hot mess today, choose to walk as a victor and trust the fourth Man in the fire. Stay in His protective embrace. Victors aren’t victors because they have never walked through a fire. Victors are victors because they choose to walk in Truth!    

– Jill

Jill is an author, writer, speaker, and teacher. In her book, No More Lies, Jill leads others through the same journey of biblical truth that brought her freedom and wholeness. Jill and her husband, Jimmy, are the founders of Transcend Ministries—a ministry dedicated to empowering the body of Christ and making disciples worldwide through teaching, writing, and evangelism. They reside in Colorado and have four amazing children—two daughters, a son, and a son-in-law. For more information or to order her book visit www.transcendministries.org.

Learn more about Jill Tomlinson here.

Subterranean Iniquity

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. –Hebrews 4:13

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Usually when we think of the word “subterraneous” or “subterranean” we define it as something that lies or operates underneath the surface of the earth. However, this word could also be defined as something or someone that exists or operates out of sight or secretly. At times in our lives there have been subterranean iniquities a.k.a., sins that we have either failed to confess or knowingly attempted to cover up. What is sin? Summed up, it is an offense against God’s religious or moral law. It is the debased, depraved, or corrupt state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God a.k.a., in a wrong relationship with our creator. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” –James 4:13

Bishop J.C. Ryle, an 18th century Anglican preacher and prominent writer, once wrote this quote and I believe it’s still applicable today: “Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, “Show it to me.” Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, “What are you doing?”

It’s worth considering. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through-out the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.  2 Chronicles 16:91-John-19-If-We confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive

You say, “Well then! How am I supposed to have any fun!?” Friend, I know without a doubt that you can have fun in the Lord and among his people. However, the truth is your life has to be clean in order to truly experience it. There is something about the Holy Spirit that lives within the Believers of Jesus Christ that before you can experience the joy and the fun you can have in him, he first prompts you to “go and sin no more.”  He says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4   Our lives ought to be holy so that the presence of the Lord can be with us and ultimately so that we can be used for his glory and the Kingdom of God.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  –1 John 1:5-9  Forgive-Me- 1 John 1-9

Jesus stands ready to forgive and save the unbeliever. Likewise he is always ready to restore the fallen believer. Will you draw near to him? He wants you to. It’s my prayer that you do today. Amen

-Jason

Jason’s vision is for the gospel to continue to spread throughout the world and believes it is Christian’s responsibility to carry out this mission effectively. To learn more about the organization for which Jason volunteers, please visit www.HaitiChristianity.org.

Learn more about Jason M. Alexandre here.

Meet the Team: Q & A With Destiney Bishop

Savvy in social media with a passion to advance communities, lives and organizations through skilled communications strategies, we were excited to welcome Destiney Bishop as our Digital Media Coordinator in October 2014. In her role, Destiney assists in our social media engagement to uplift various conversations within the Body of Christ and to support the Voices Against the Grain mission of “advancing God’s Kingdom in a ‘do your own thing’ society.” What does Destiney enjoy doing in her spare time? What does having a relationship with God mean to her? Learn more about Destiney in the Q&A below.

Destiney Bishop, VATG Digital Media Coordinator

Destiney Bishop, Voices Against the Grain Digital Media Coordinator

Where are you from?  I am a military brat, so I would say I am from all over. I was born in Biloxi, MS, lived in Suffolk, England, and went to high school in Prince Georges County, Maryland. Since I have spent most of my life in Maryland, I usually claim PG County – Clinton to be exact!

When is your birthday? May 5, which I also love to call #CincodeDessie

How did you come to join the Voices Against the Grain team?  I had the pleasure of working with Voices Against the Grain founder, Nicole Hayes. Nicole would tell me about the work she was doing with VATG and I became extremely interested! From there, the rest was history.  🙂

What is your favorite childhood memory? Holidays with my grandparents. I have a very large family so it was always great to be around them during holidays. Plus, each holiday my grandmothers would cook a big feast and the food was AMAZING!

As a Christian, what is your understanding of why God allows trials/temptations to come into our lives? I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we forget that God already has the answer. I believe God brings us to certain trials/temptations in order for us to trust Him. It’s easy to give up when faced with difficulty but as Christians we are reminded that God has the final say. For me, these trials/temptations are merely tests and in the end bring me closer to Him.

What do you do in your spare time? In my spare time, I like to hang out with my best friends, explore new restaurants – especially going to brunch, watch classic ’90s television shows like Martin and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, reality television and of course Netflix! I also love to sleep (one can never get enough sleep) and travel!

What is your favorite bible verse? Wow, I have soo many! Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 3:5-6, Luke 12:48.

What does having a relationship/walk with God mean to you? It’s everything to me. I was raised in the church and my grandmother always emphasized the importance of having a relationship with God. As a young Christian, I will say my walk hasn’t always been easy but I’m constantly reminded that without a relationship with Him, I am nothing. I’m certain that I wouldn’t be who I am without a relationship with Him.

What is your favorite food? I like all types of food, and my favorite food changes every day. If I had to pick, I would say BBQ and Mexican.

If you had a superpower what would it be? As a busybody who loves to travel, I would love to teleport to places.

Is there anything else we should know about you? 1) I have really odd sneezes. 2) I recently moved to NY so exploring a new city is exciting! 3) I have many sisters (and although they can be annoying at times, I love them very much).

 Learn more about Destiney Bishop here.

Baltimore: What Our Words Really Mean

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Cultural competency training.”‎ “Treat people like you want to be treated. ” “Civility.” “#BlackLivesMatter.” “Inequality.” “Injustice.” “Bad apples.” “Accountability.” “Added protections.” “Depraved-heart murder.”

These are some of the words and phrases that emerged from last week’s conversations surrounding the volatile and tragic Baltimore riots. The unjustified death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody surfaced familiar feelings of anger among Blacks and others. Another Black man was dead at the hands of police and it was uncertain if anyone would be held accountable, as seen in other cases across the country.

 

To the aforementioned familiar terms introduced in this piece…here’s what those words really mean— and their potential to drive the desired community, national and global outcomes we seek:

God’s love. Man and woman He created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God fashioned each of us. Create in me a clean, pure heart and renew a right spirit within me  (Psalm 51:10). Help me to extend to others faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Let me seek another’s highest good. To love one another as Christ loves us. (John 13:34). Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), and more…

 

Are we naive to believe that society’s morality will progress if not for a heart transformed by Christ Jesus? If this transformation doesn’t occur within each person, then we will continue to battle injustices as there will have been no transformation of the heart. Those unchanged will audaciously and ignorantly operate in their own version of “truth” thinking their version is superior to The Truth, God’s Truth.

Baltimore riots April 2015 woman faces police

Baltimore riots April 2015 raise the race conversationLofty hopes of new laws, programs and trainings will fail as some people hold onto their self-interests rather than invite Christ to be the Captain of their lives; their Lord and Savior, the resident and president of their lives. So long as humans subscribe to their wills and not the will of God, injustices (whether or not intentional, driven by self-interests and self-centeredness) will persist.

 

As someone who hopes for the hearts of mankind to change, it is not my desire to be a “Debbie downer.” I am simply sober about the realities many fear to acknowledge, even though the patterns repeat and intensify with every generation. Rather than push for another program to be created, pray for hearts to be transformed by Christ Jesus.

-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.