To Infinity and Beyond

Ephesians 3:16- I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Our bodies are a thing of wonder. Unique and intricate with trillions of nerves and relays that allow us to think, be mobile and function. However, even with these physiological faculties, one still can’t account for the human spirit. This enigma eludes us scientifically, for it is something housed within our hearts, which we operate through faith. It’s our faith that empowered us years ago to take on the anguish of death, the perilous fear of helplessness and doubt, which crept into our minds from our limited resources.

Nevertheless, that was then so what is now? Well, the anguish of death has turned to joy for their legacy lives on within us. Helplessness turned to empowerment because God increased our territory and resources, to allow others to witness HIS mighty power. Thus, we are now conquerors equipped with major funding that can be utilized at any time.

#HBSr Amen

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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Finish What You Start

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.  (Philippians 1:6 MSG)

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

Can you relate to the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction you feel when you complete a project? It’s a great feeling to see the fruit of your labor and to know you persevered to see it to completion.

On the other hand, have you ever begun a project with great enthusiasm only to throw in the towel before it was time? Admittedly, this is not a great trait to possess, but it is pretty common among people from all walks of life. I know I have been guilty of leaving some things unfinished and abandoning projects in my lifetime. It is a character flaw and temptation that many people wrestle with at home, at work, or in school.

The great news is God is not flawed and He finishes every single thing He starts! He is both the Author and the Finisher of our faith. Sometimes in the craziness of life or the storms that are sent to discourage us, we begin to believe the subtle lie that God has forgotten us or our situation. We can remember His all-sufficient grace that was so real at salvation, but somehow feel as though we need to help Him finish the good work He began.

The belief that God has forgotten or failed us even for a minute couldn’t be further from the truth. God is for us, He is with us, and He is always perfecting His “project” and purpose within our lives. He will not fail or falter. He has also given us the mind of Christ and the ability through His Spirit to resist the temptation to give up. You and I are overcomers through the blood of Jesus. What we start, we can see to completion and enjoy the fruitfulness of it.

startfinish

Be encouraged today, knowing that what you start you can finish through the strength and wisdom of Christ and that the good work God has begun in you, He will finish. Nothing gives Him greater satisfaction—He delights in it!

– 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. Jill’s next book, Forgiven, Favored & Free, is available September 2015. For more information or to order her books, visit www.transcendministries.org.

Learn more about Jill Tomlinson here.

Abortion: Promote Deliverance, Not Debate

Abortion woman and infant ropeIn a society that largely pursues convenience and freedom at all costs, how should we, the Body of Christ and the Church, respond to abortion in a democratic society? Debates and protests at clinics have seldom transformed lives. Rather, Christians should do this.

Read our ministry founder’s Gospel Today article “Abortion: Promote Deliverance, Not Debate” to learn what is “this.”

You May Not Recognize Me

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For the past four to five months I’ve been in transition and transformation. Still undergoing both, joyfully and in God’s perfect peace, in spite of changes. Leaving the familiar behind and entering the unfamiliar. I’ve considered this time a luxury and privilege as I daily experience God’s unending grace, mercies and unmerited favor as He continues to shape and shed me. I began undergoing the process even before this period. Spending more time in God’s Presence, I thought I’d already shed things unnecessary and a distraction to the journey. Changes in what music I listen to. Changes in what I choose to watch on television and let enter my environment. Changes to relationships, profession and things previously familiar, mastered and comfortable.

God is shedding and shifting, and my thoughts have transformed because of. While I certainly wasn’t a conformist with society before, I am truly a stranger to it now. Simply leading a ministry named “Voices Against the Grain” pits me against a world that desires to conform with the norms. Indeed, this factor alone has placed me in some isolated spaces, but I’m good with that.

My thinking on another level is causing a separation from the familiar and the tolerable. 

Seldom are transitions cut and dry. The process can be messy and not a straight line. While the journey has presented some discomfort, I am excited and expectant for the next step. I asked God for the transition because I desire to be the highest representation of who He has called me to be. I would never become this staying in the old space. The previous space was becoming too small, too tight. Frankly, I’ve outgrown it.

Being birthed from the old and into the new space, that could be messy too. Therefore, you may not recognize me. What I’ve learned is that people are uncomfortable with the “you” they don’t recognize because it is contrary to how they’ve always seen you. But in fact, we should all hope to evolve, to be transformed and transitioned, when God has planted greatness inside us that is yet to be unpackaged. Heaven forbid if the caterpillar remained unchanged and never transformed into a butterfly; never becoming a pollinator of flowers and vegetation, helping them grow and bear fruit.

Romans 12 2 gray

In the birthing into this new space, I am grateful for the midwives God has provided me along the way. Prayers and the wise counsel of select brothers and sisters in Christ have benefited me greatly. Their value is immense.

The transition and transformation doesn’t make me better than you. I’ll still have flaws. I’ll still tell you the truth, but prayerfully with more compassion and kindness. I’ll exercise greater patience toward those who drag their feet/don’t get on board as quickly as I’d prefer.

Are you in a familiar space that is becoming too tight, too confined? Do you have the same thoughts, same ideas, revert to the same patterns with the same, tired results? To truly experience the highest representation of who God has called you to be, are you willing to be transformed and transitioned—even if it means your temporary discomfort, entering the unfamiliar, shedding old thoughts, old places and some people—and becoming unrecognizable before some?

The good news: should you embrace this journey, God is there with you! God bless you.

“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.” -Romans 12:2, New International Version 

-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.

It’s All Worthless

Philippians 3:7- I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Value is held within the eyes of the beholder. Value is the quintessential essence of what every individual holds dear within their own hearts and minds. Thus, some value money, family, relationships, jobs, etc., with the utmost esteem, each carrying their own brand of significance to that person’s life.

However, what happens when these things disappoint you? What happens when the money vanishes and family squabbles take center stage to divide one another into separate factions? What happens when relationships crumble and jobs slip from our sights? What happens? The answer? We look within ourselves to find a momentary solution. Hence, my faith stays in the Lord, who gives me peace in turmoil, gain in patience, love in persistence, and security in His arms. Therefore, HE who gave me life is PRICELESS, for no rust or decay will disintegrate our Lord. Amen #HBSr

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.   

Disseminate Accordingly and Rightly

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

“I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me, God!” I suppose we have all heard that oath presented in the court of law. It is a sworn testimony that counts as evidence given by a witness who has made a commitment to telling the truth. If that witness has been found to have lied while bound by the commitment, they can and often are charged with the crime of perjury.

It is a tragedy today that when we turn on our television and radio sets there is a false gospel being preached in the world!

For there are many who distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to please man, gain popularity, and fill up their church pews! Oh, they understand that they ought to go out to the entire world and to preach the gospel. –Mark 16:15

Yet, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.       –Galatians 1:8-10

True Gospel Message of the Cross

Where is the message of  the Cross? The whole counsel of God revealing to us God’s holiness and our sinfulness. Where are the messages of Christ’s death and resurrection? His gracious and merciful forgiveness and our salvation for those of us who believe by faith! If Christ is not the center of the message, it is not a sermon!

Paul tells his understudy Timothy in our text not to get hung up on words in controversies or debates with others where the TRUTH of the Gospel is often in danger of being lost but he says to study the Word to show himself approved! Ministers ought to be workmen taking the necessary pains to present the Gospel. And what is their work? It is to rightly divide the word of truth not to invent a new gospel, but rightly to divide the Gospel that is committed to their trust. We ought to listen very CLOSELY to what is being preached! Is it glorifying self or is it glorifying Christ? Too many messages are putting an emphasis on self. It seems like this is the “me” generation. My destiny, my dreams, my goals. Where is Christ in all that?

Are we surrendered completely to him? For a Christian is a follower of Christ and Christ told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Oh that we would be like that Church in Berea! For when we receive the Word on Sunday do we go home and check out the scriptures given? For the Bible says, the Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these were so. Acts 17:11

And we know that the Word the God, that Holy Book the Bible has an imaginary but very real scarlet thread going through the scriptures pointing to Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation! For Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. –John 5:39-40

Are you hearing the true Gospel

May we rightly divide the Word of Truth! May we have the courage and the discipline to search the scriptures for Jesus’ sake! 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.

All, None or Some?

“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” ~ Mark 4:20

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

I have read this scripture literally hundreds of times, and I have probably heard sermons preached from Mark 4 equally as many times. However, I read it again lately and saw something fresh and new. This scripture points out that there are actually varying degrees of bearing fruit. How much fruit we bear is directly related to our ability to hear spiritually and our willingness to receive it by faith when we do hear it.

The scriptures prior to this one describe scenarios whereby the Word is sown, but then stolen, choked out, or not applied at all for various reasons including hardness, shallow roots, and cares of this world. Those are the things I have always taken away from Mark 4, but there is so much more!

I want to be a person who bears much fruit, not just a small harvest. I want people to smell the sweet aroma of the fruit and fragrance of Christ being produced in my life. I want to do more than hear the Word with my natural ears. I want to really hear what the Spirit of God is saying and I sincerely desire a 100-fold harvest on the seed of truth that is sown in my life. So, how can it happen?

How can it be fair for three different people to hear the same Word of God and one only bear a 30-fold return, another 60 fold, and yet another bears a 100 fold? Is God playing favorites here? This scripture makes it so clear that we are the ones who determine our harvest of fruit!

Mark 4-20 grapevine
Mark 4-20 cracked soil

To what degree will we believe and receive the Word? What priority will it have in every situation or new problem we face?

Will we apply it to our relationships, parenting, finances, health, careers, wants, and needs? Will we accept the Word we hear and make it ours, or will we only believe it is for someone else instead?

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ~ Romans 10:17

Jesus makes reference to having “ears to hear” throughout Mark 4. Accepting the Word in our hearts requires the ability to hear spiritually. According to Romans 10:17, this ability to hear is produced by the Word of God. As we begin to expose ourselves to the Word of God, we acquire the ability to “hear” what He is saying. The Word of God is alive and powerful. It changes things. Hard ground is softened, roots begin to grow deep, and the cares of this world grow strangely dim and insignificant. Now our hearts are ready to not only hear, but to also receive. First, we “hear” by the Word of God preparing the ground of our hearts. Then, we apply it by faith, which comes by that spiritual hearing.

Now that we have “heard” and accepted the Word, it can begin to bear fruit in our lives. We don’t have to strive or stress about it, we simply have to believe, receive, and apply what the Lord has already so graciously provided. The amount of fruit we bear will be directly proportionate to the degree to which we believe, receive, and apply the Word of God. As we purpose to do this, we will begin to see fruit in every area of our lives. I’m all in!!! Are you? EXPECT, BELIEVE, AND RECEIVE!!

– 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. Jill’s next book, Forgiven, Favored & Free, is available September 2015. For more information or to order her books, visit www.transcendministries.org.

Learn more about Jill Tomlinson here.

The Spirit vs. the Flesh: Fight On!

Today we share with you a message from guest Voices Against the Grain devotional writer, Minister Bryan Williams of Charlotte, N.C. Thank you Minister Williams for presenting a word to encourage us in our faith walk.    -Nicole

Galatians 5:16 & 17- So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (flesh). For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Romans 7:21- When I would do good, evil is always present with me. (King James Bible)

Minister Bryan Williams, VATG Guest Devotional Writer

Minister Bryan Williams, Guest Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer 

You know, there was a time when right was right and wrong was wrong. But Lord, PLEASE HAVE MERCY…how times have changed! Don’t get me wrong: doing “the right thing” is still warranted and doing “the wrong thing” will get you into trouble. But with the times in which we live, these two have been switched. It seems as if people are living as if there are NO RULES, NO REMORSE, NO MERCY, NO HONOR, NO MORALS OR VALUES AND NO FORGIVENESS.  The situation is reminiscent of the movie The Purge, where you have 24 hours to do whatever you want to do—except our 24 hours hasn’t ended.

Not surprising, as 2 Timothy 3:2-5 told us these things were coming:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous,rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (New International Version)

Each and every morning right after I thank the good Lord for giving me one more day, I watch the local and world news. Without fail, there is always something that makes me shake my head. For instance:

  • The attacks from ISIS abroad and local
  • Transgender lifestyles on the rise
  • Same-sex marriages steadily increasing
  • Racism spreading like wildfire
  • When those who are guilty (with video or phone proof) still walk free
  • When “the church” which should be shining its light the brightest, is hiding in the shadows or blending in with non-believers because they’ve become complacent, believing it is not their fight

Well, I beg to differ. IT IS OUR FIGHT and I encourage you my brother and my sister to:

  • FIGHT ON through what the WORLD says vs. what the WORD says
  • FIGHT ON through the storm of racism
  • FIGHT ON through the confusion of transgender and same-sex relationships
  • FIGHT ON through the depression
  • FIGHT ON through the worry
  • FIGHT ON through the anxiety attacks
  • FIGHT ON through fear and fear of failure
  • FIGHT ON through thoughts of giving up
  • FIGHT ON through the suicidal thoughts
  • FIGHT ON through the thoughts that life ain’t worth living
  • FIGHT ON through what your father said about you
  • FIGHT ON through what happened to you when you were younger
  • FIGHT ON through the loss of that job
  • FIGHT ON through what you see THE WORLD doing

The fight that we’re in is NOT physical but spiritual and now more than ever, we need every Believer to:

  • Kill our flesh daily
  • Allow the Spirit of Christ to arise within us
  • Love others as Christ asks us to and
  • FIGHT ON!

And remember that in John 16:33, Jesus reassures us with these words:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (New International Version) 

Minister Bryan Williams recognized his gift to encourage at a young age. As he grew up in church and started hearing from the Lord (in a today generation voice), he recognized that he was set apart and in 2007, he accepted his call to the ministry. Not only did he recognize his call but he learned early that his passion was for the youth. Min. Williams volunteers in the community, is part of various teen girls’ organizations and mentors teen boys in the process. Min. Williams resides in Charlotte, N.C., and is the son of Walter and Helen Williams and has one brother, Walter Williams.

Trapped!

Exodus 14:14- The Lord himself will fight for you. “Just stay calm.”  (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

The battle is already won with the Lord on your side. See, many of us look at the eye of the storm instead of the tail end. We look at the darkness swirling over our heads instead of the serene blue skies rolling in to replace, which once dimmed our light. Moreover, when the Israelites looked back they saw men ready to take them back into captivity. They saw no way out from the Egyptians as what stood in front of them was a body of water known as the Red Sea. So like them, we panic and our faith scatters like rioters in a cloud of tear gas. We can no longer see our exit, as the water inundates our eyes and our vision goes blurry.

BUT IF GOD carved out a path within the water so the Israelites might pass, why wouldn’t He do the same for us in our time of need? Therefore, may we just stay calm for our battle is already won as our antagonists are undoubtedly sleeping with the fishes. #HBSr Amen

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

Lessons from My Father

This past June, the father of our beloved VATG devotional writer Herbert Bowen, Jr., passed away. Since then, Herbert has taken time away to help his mother, siblings, family and manage his father’s business. Our team has remained in prayer for Herbert and his family. Today’s devotional is Herbert’s first return to writing since his father’s passing. We pray his message blesses you.

Philippians 2:5- You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Quibble over trivialities. Renounce the existence of an intangible God. Boil with disdain over a sudden loss or agree to avoid calamity. Advocate for the One who set you free, and paramount, simmer down to understand the reasons of certain occurrences, which will ultimately make you stronger. Thus, may we begin to capture the light edging over the horizon of a new day, to uncover items cached in the shadows of fear. For the antipode of fear is love and affection, which breeds kindness and peace. Understanding and lowering our expectations on others allows God to be creative with them as He was with us. Our molds are flawed and cracked, while HE repairs them at the sight of blemishes.

In essence, our lives are meant to be taken day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. For each experience is not meant to dissuade us from existing, but to enable our ongoing development through Christ. #HB(Sr) Amen

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