Charity: More Joy in Serving the Few or the Masses?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“The best fruit is not shaken from the tree, but picked by hand, one by one.” –Jerry McAuley (1839-1884), reformed thief and prisoner, founder, The McAuley Water Street Mission in New York City

I know the donation pleas are loading up your email inboxes and mailboxes, all for good causes. In this high season of giving or charity, the aforementioned quote by Jerry McAuley has given me pause.

Hands down, it’s wonderful that many of us give our dollars, resources and time to various organizations to help others in need. Praise God for you and the organizations who are helping to bridge the gaps. May we continue to serve…so long as we’re not placing our joy in and idolizing the numbers (ex: millions served). I’ve become dazzled by the numbers, at times.

As Mr. McAuley’s quote infers, imagine the positive impact you can have on one or a few because you’re able to spend quality time with them.  Your time and presence shows love that will last and very likely assist in shaping their character. McAuley knew full well the power of love’s one-on-one ability to transform. He was a riotous drunkard and vicious robber who was repeatedly in and out of prison, spending seven years in Sing Sing. He later heard the Gospel delivered by a volunteer missionary and was transformed by Christ’s love. Shortly after, the Lord led him to launch the McAuley Mission in New York City in 1872, where men who were drunkards, robbers and the like, came to hear the Gospel and were transformed by Christ’s love.

“Charity” as originally described in this King James Bible version of 1 Corinthians 13:13 means “love”:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).

When we love others

 

Charity also means to extend benevolence, goodwill or love toward another who is suffering or in need. With time, the word “charity” has taken on the form of campaigns and operations to reach the masses with pleas for donations in order to serve the global masses. Some of these efforts have been subcontracted out to cold edifices like the government as opposed to our one-on-one help that requires time and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Government may provide (barely) for people’s physical needs, but true philanthropy also provides for one’s spiritual needs.

By expecting the government to fill the gaps (even in broken families—an article for another day), we’ve become far more removed and far too impressed with the fallacy of mass progress. Surely if millions of people are being provided clothing and a meal, all is well, right?

An excerpt from The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky (1992, pg. 129) depicts the problem with this thinking:

‘The National Conference of Charities and Correction (which in 1917 changed its name to the National Conference of Social Work) began to include lectures on how poor housing caused crime and how governmental housing projects would help. The trend was clear: Any time the charitable emphasis moved from the person to the mass and from the souls to stones, government became the popular engine of progress.’

heart-in-handsYes, it’s impressive in marketing materials to say, “We served 10 million people last year and intend to serve an additional 5 million this year.” No one will turn down the help or berate you for being able to serve so many. Although, for those of us in Christ Jesus, as His Ambassadors, may we not idolize the numbers or the operation. May we truly be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ if it is one or two He places in our care to serve for a time. May we find even more joy in caring for the spiritual needs of the hand-picked fruit (if this is His will for you) rather than striving to shake the entire tree.

-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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Christmas: Taking Mary Moments in a Martha World

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To-do lists to check off. Errands to run.  Gifts to purchase and wrap. Decorations to hang. Volunteering. Meals to make and treats to bake. Guests to host. Church services and special events to attend. (Is there sleep somewhere in all of this?) Life is a flurry of activities but particularly so in preparation to celebrate Christmas. In truth, many of these activities are good, decent and connect us more with one another. But the downfall of living in a privileged, first world nation is that our greater efforts extended toward these activities can reduce our focus on Jesus, Our Savior and Redeemer, to third class.

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ this Christmas, how can we keep Christ front and center without allowing the season’s hustle and bustle to overshadow Him and overtake us? A New Testament story gives us the right approach.

The story of sisters Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 depicts how life’s busyness can make us vulnerable from discerning the “good” from what is “better”—even when doing God’s work and good things:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Though this story occurred before our time, does it not describe today’s times? We are still hurrying, multi-tasking, not fully living in and taking stock of the present moment.  Our minds zip ahead to what needs to be done next, tomorrow and during the week while missing the key thing!

beautiful child

Jesus and his disciples had come to visit the sisters’ home. I repeat:  Jesus was in the sisters’ home! Martha was frazzled with preparations while Mary seized the moment and sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him. What an opportunity to be in the presence of our Lord and Savior!

Can you discern what God needs you to do now—or is life distracting you? Are you partaking in good and worthy activities, yet missing the better opportunity to bask in our Savior’s Presence?

In this holy season and every day, may we deliberately take Mary moments in a Martha world. May we still and quiet ourselves against life’s busyness to sit at the Master’s feet to expectantly hear what He will say to us. In all that we do, may we seek God’s wisdom to discern the “good” from what is “better.”

Merry Christmas!

-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.

Developing Faith

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. –Romans 10:17 (English Standard Version)

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Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Terrorist attacks, rumors of war and crime seemingly showing no signs to decrease. We join hands in protest but to no lasting avail. We pray for peace and it comes but after a little while then chaos breaks out again in our nations and communities. As we should, we hope for better days. Yet, how can lasting faith develop? How can we gain a better understanding of the world in which we live and in the things in which we hear and see?

Truth is, evil will continue. Sin will not cease. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. -Romans 10:17 Have we forgotten that great commission? To “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

That gospel that heals the sin-sick soul. The gospel that points to Jesus Christ as the answer to ALL of life. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? –Romans 10:12

All those who profess the name of Christ are called to a decided course of life. A course that continuously heralds a bold confession of Christ and his truth before their fellowmen. The world needs a developing faith! The fear of terrorism, particularly in America, is at an all-time high since 9/11. Why is that?

 

Romans 10-17 faith comes from hearing

All that we hear and see is in line with scripture and there is more opportunity than ever before for the ways of God to be made known. You recall that the apostle Paul said “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” 2 Timothy 3:1 Read the following verses later on but let me suggest that there are a number of professing Christians who have forgotten the unchangeable and undeniable power of scripture! Beware of a form of godliness, professing Christianity yet enjoying a close friendship with the world and its systems (2 Timothy 3:5). It would seem that scripture Christ-centered preaching has become a lost art. We want that which only makes us feel good.

Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor when he was asked to assess the general state of preaching today he said this:

“I think it has become far more folksy, and there is now a tendency, I think, more than ever, to make it a kind of Sunday Chamber of Commerce exercise — motivational speaking, which has its place but is not the Gospel. It becomes a kind of opium, if opium is a stimulant, for people, which gives them often a false notion of what life is all about. I think much of contemporary preaching does not prepare people for the inevitable crises of life. When we talk constantly about prosperity, well, life is not constantly prosperity. It has adversity and difficulties, and if one is trained, conditioned to see only the bright side of things, then one is not prepared for living in this world.”

He then was asked, “Do congregations want to hear that message, though?” His reply was, “Of course, people want to hear it because candy is a very pleasant thing. My daughter lives out in Harbor City, [California]. When she was a little girl, I suppose we could have fed her candy morning, noon, and night, and she would have taken it morning, noon — and enjoyed it. Soon she would have had no teeth, and soon we would have had no daughter, I think because candy is wonderful. I love it, but one needs in one’s diet more than candy.”

Today, more than ever we need teaching and preaching that is not candy-coated. The world needs to be prepared for the things to come and Scripture—truth, plainly and correctly taught, has a marvelous aptness to awaken the conscience, and touch the heart. Only then will we have a developing faith, banked on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word. Amen

-Jason

Jason’s vision is for the gospel to continue to spread throughout the world and believes it is a 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.

Root and Fruits

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Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” –James 2:14-17

The preachers of time past used to say that “many souls are going to hell in a hand basket, but you are going to heaven all by yourself.” That could be interpreted as a sharp rebuke to Christians who know the truth and have found the truth yet are too caught up in themselves to share the truth by way of a spoken word and added example of action.

They are comfortable with what seems like the American ideology of not wanting to be bothered with anyone but instead, preferring to advance oneself by way of striving to increase their financial and material prosperity. This way of thinking demonstrates selfishness and a lack of concern for the material, but more importantly, spiritual welfare of others. “I think evangelicals need a social conscience about the people who are least defended and most vulnerable in the society. If Christianity is not that, forget about it.” – Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor

Root and fruit

Are we simply persons who merely identify as Christians but have not yet exercised our faith through good works? Are you unable to produce fruit because you have taken no root? You recall that the Savior said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”-John 15:5 The truth is that mere profession of the gospel, without works, is not faith.

There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works for gospel purposes and from gospel motives. I question in my heart a professed Christian who is not grieved by the dark spiritual condition of one who has not yet found Jesus. And I wonder how much time has that professed Christian spent with Jesus himself? For time spent with Jesus brings about a supernatural transformation within the heart and true believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart.  A heart that then goes out of his or her way to alleviate the distress of a needy person.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.-1 John 3:17-18

It is for Jesus’ sake that we choose to clothe our enemy, choose to feed our sister and choose to give to our brother. That is the grace of God in which we stand, having root to produce fruits.

There is no in between of these truths. We cannot and must not simply keep our faith to ourselves neglecting to live it out by good works. Live to God which will obligate us out of love to do everything for him and to him. That is my prayer for the world today that we would take root in Christ and produce that kind of fruit that brings about eternal consequences in the lives of others. 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.

Are You a “Profess”-ional?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Are you good at what you do? Most likely, you’ll answer “yes” to this question, particularly if you consider yourself a professional. Professional…the word in itself indicates a level of expertise beyond amateur. It suggests years of study, investment, implementation, tweaking, marketing and perhaps instructing others. It’s what helps you “bring home the bacon.” It’s the reason you have a LinkedIn page, business cards, résumé, website, storefront, etc., so others can know what skills you offer. It’s the reason you attend certain networking events to connect with other professionals in your field and similar fields. Whether you’re a professional dancer, driver, event planner, photographer, singer, writer or occupy another profession, you are good at displaying what you do.

Professionals

But for all that we’ve assumed the word “professional” to mean and imply, what if we’ve only viewed it from a worldly context and not a spiritual context?

During a recent bible study I participated, we discussed the word “professional” and its origin. Per Merriam-Webster, “profession” is defined as “relating to a job that requires special education, training or skill” or “participating in for gain or livelihood.” Yet the etymology, or origin of “profession” comes from the root word “profess.” It means to “declare openly.” In the Latin, “profess,” “profession” and “to call” has been combined to create “professional.”

As Believers, we are to publicly profess God’s call on our lives. This is our “profession.” People have likened “professional” to careers, but it originally meant our calling in the Kingdom of God. A beautiful tapestry that God has created in giving you and me a purpose! God told the prophet Jeremiah, who was preordained to declare the word of the Lord, that “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). 

jeremiah 1;5 white

God has created you to boldly, unapologetically, unabashedly and confidently walk in your calling. God has intentionally created, elected, equipped, glorified, justified, predestined (Romans 8:30) and qualified you for your calling. The enemy and this world seeks to derail it and cause you to question it. Your gifts (Proverbs 18:16) and passions are part of your calling. Indeed, you are a called professional and you are good at what you’ve been called to do. If you are still seeking to understand your calling, ask God to reveal it to 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.

 

“Fix it Jesus” or Jesus, Fix Us?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To whomever this applies, I’m getting in your behind today. God is God all by himself and doesn’t need me to defend Him. Though in response to this morning’s New York Daily News front page/full page headline “God Isn’t Fixing This,” and those who support it concerning Wednesday’s horrific shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 17 lives were taken and 14 victims injured: What part do you want God to fix?

Do you want Him to fix those who murder with guns or those who murder daily with their words and thoughts? Many of you think and speak unkindly and unlovingly toward others because of the darkness rooted in your heart. Yet, because you don’t physically shoot people, that is considered ok. God fixes hearts willing to turn to Him who realize they need help. God doesn’t fix gun laws—He fixes people. God seeks to advance Laws of the Spirit so you may truly live freely and abundantly in Him, set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Yet you’ve chosen to live apart from Him, carelessly and irreverently.

God Isn't Fixing This NY Daily News

We want the offenders to surrender their weapons. But are you likewise willing to surrender your tongue, your words, and your actions that are used like weapons to cause offense? To the perpetrators of violence we say, “Fix it Jesus!” But shouldn’t we ask Jesus to fix us?

We curse the driver who doesn’t yield to us on the road, yet, we won’t yield our hearts or ways to God’s ways because we want to do things our way. Thinking of the rude driver, we shout in our cars, “Fix it Jesus!” with no regard of how we responded to the situation. Shouldn’t He fix you too?

You curse and misuse the Name of Jesus in your conversations, ignorant of the uncomparable power, love, blessings, restoration, healing, salvation, and joy in His Name. Yet, you want Him to “fix it” and not fix you.

Bottom line: The evil we’re witnessing in our world is horrific. We want the violence to cease and be replaced with peace. But this doesn’t come by more gun control or harsher sentences or more police brutality. It starts with allowing the peace of Jesus Christ to reign in our hearts. Allowing the peace of Christ to flow in your words and in your thoughts. You are in no position to dictate to God what He should do to bring about the healing in hearts that are corrupted. You can’t even determine your next heartbeat—but He can. Often it seems the darkest and tragic times bring the hardened and stubborn to their knees in full surrender to Him. God will not force Himself on us. He will not force us to love Him. For what kind of love is forced love? We must choose to love Him. Until then, we have unsurrendered hearts and the chaos ensues.

“For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:21)

At Voices Against the Grain, we continue to lift in prayer those affected by violence everywhere. We pray for healing in hearts. We believe that hearts yielded to Christ Jesus can help transform situations.

-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.