Cake Batter Mess Up

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Any bakers in the house? Those of you who’ve mastered the science of baking, I applaud you. You understand (unlike me) that baking is an exact science and you must follow the recipe to…the…letter. Don’t omit or add anything that the recipe doesn’t call for.

Cake baking is such:  1/2 cup butter (room temperature). 1 cup white sugar. 2 eggs. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder. 1/2 cup milk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 x 9 inch pan. In medium bowl add and mix ingredients as recipe directs. Spoon batter into greased pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

If you follow the recipe to the letter, and refrain from repeatedly opening the oven door, your cake should come out beautifully. But what happens IF any ONE of the listed ingredients is not used, is substituted for something else, or creative license is applied? You got it. The cake will not turn out right. If you forget the baking powder, your cake won’t rise. Too much vigorous whisking of the batter will take the air out of your cake, making it heavy like a brick (I’ve done this, so I know). Using tableware instead of measuring spoons to measure the dry products. Again, problems.

Cake mess up

What happens when we take similar shortcuts to address societal issues? You got it. We’ll incur problems. We’ll continue to apply creative and inaccurate solutions that fall short of the desired outcome.

 

From campaigns, to governments, movements, municipalities, policymakers and frustrated publics, many of these entities have sought to apply solutions, albeit creative ones, to address and forever resolve our most pressing community, national and world issues.

Cake mess up 2

For gun violence, some recommend taking people’s guns. But if you deny someone a gun who is morally debased, they will surely use a knife, their hands or other means to inflict harm upon others. It’s not the weapon, it’s their heart, that’s flawed.

Like forgetting to add baking soda to your cake batter, solutions developed that exclude Jesus Christ from the mix, will continue to fall flat of the behaviorial transformations we desire to see in one another.

Jesus calls us to love one another. It’s His amazing love that transforms people and situations. Without inviting Jesus Christ to change one heart at a time, the millions of dollars and hours spent to advance change will fail. 

It will fail because many subscribe to the belief that people are born “good.” But in fact, there was nothing innocent about any of us when we were born. We were all born into sin, into a fallen nature.

Dr. Gary Roberts, Regent University Robertson School of Government professor, wrote:

“Our world’s spiritual and cultural economy is the aggregated product of collective decisions made by individuals, families, and social institutions. This world is in a fallen state (Romans 5:12, Ephesians 6:12), hence, it is a battleground between good, evil and human indifference. The end result is individual and collective evil and sin, errors of commission and omission, evil thoughts, words and deeds that estrange us from God, ourselves and others (Romans 6:16).”

As a dear sister in Christ said in reference to mankind’s fallen nature before a holy God, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

Putting on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit is how we overcome our self-tendencies so we can extend goodness, kindness, love, patience and peace toward others.

No shortcuts. Add Jesus Christ to the mix of our mess.

-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.

“Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits”

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Was the Pope right about Donald Trump? Thursday became a war of words when Pope Francis, on return from a trip to Mexico, commented about immigration reform. He addressed presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal of building a wall to keep out those who’d enter the U.S. illegally. Per this CNN article, Pope Francis said:

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.

Trump immediately fired back, calling Francis’ comments “disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said in statement. Trump added that the government in Mexico, where Francis spent the past five days, has “made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope.”

Donald Trump and Pope Francis

Ding, ding! U.S. Presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump punches back to Pope Francis’ remarks made on Thursday that question Trump’s tout of being a Christian given his push to build walls rather than bridges to keep out those who’d enter the U.S. illegally. February 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy: 2 Scoop News)

I have few words to offer on the subject. While Pope Francis may or may not have been correct in his statement, there’s a greater point that can’t be overlooked. In fact, it should serve as the guide and rule for all who proclaim to be Christians, God’s People:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)

This isn’t rocket science, nor meant to be complicated, nor does it require mathematical formulas to figure out. This goes beyond Trump’s comment that “no leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” It goes beyond Trump confusing 2 Corinthians for “Two Corinthians.”

Simply ask: Does this person exhibit the character of Jesus in their words and deeds? Do their words promote holiness, peace and truth? Do their words build others up or tear them down? Do they wear Christianity as an ornament yet don’t daily walk it, talk it or live it?  Are their words and deeds motivated by the fruits of the Spirit:

Fruit-of-the-Spirit

Is there any question after this?

-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.

When Vanity is Not in Vain

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I was all flesh, that’s who I was. I was so miserable the entire time that I was ‘Vanity.’ I spent so many days and nights crying and hating who I had become…I wanted out but I didn’t know how to get out because the world sucks you in.” – Evangelist Denise Matthews, Trinity Broadcasting Network interview with Dwight Thompson, August 5, 2010

Abused as a child, crack cocaine-addicted and deeply wounded, the former 80s actress/singer/girlfriend of Prince known as “Vanity,” turned away from a deadly lifestyle in the mid-90s to experience true freedom and abundant living in Jesus Christ. Shedding the image of Vanity and everything with it, she allowed the healing and powerful love of Jesus Christ to reveal her identity and purpose in Him as Evangelist Denise Matthews. Sharing with others her testimony, trials, health scares, surgeries, and miraculous healings, she said in the above referenced interview that her life was full of joy because of her relationship in Jesus Christ.

When I like most of you, learned via social media (a tweet from her dear friend and sister in Christ, Sheila E.) of Evangelist Matthews’ passing this past Monday, February 15 at age 57, I was stunned. According to news reports, Matthews had been in declining health for some time in part due to her previous years of drug use. I’d lost track of her life but was DELIGHTED to learn that she allowed the Lord to transform her heart and mind to serve Him! DELIGHTED to learn how she spent her life telling others about Jesus! God bless her and the seeds she has sown in the hearts and spirits of others!

But who was the source of her vanity?

Jesus clearly tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (New International Version) 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (New International Version)

If in reading this you doubt there’s an enemy, namely Satan, out to destroy and kill you, fine. You can remain in denial but you can’t deny the devastating effects of his work: Abuse. Addiction. Adultery. Anxiety. Brutality. Crime. Deceit. Depression. Evil-doing. False identity. Fraud. Gossiping. Greed. Hook ups. Human trafficking. Lying. Molestation. Murder. Pornography. Pride. Rape. Robbery. Self-hatred. Shame. Shootings. Stabbings. Suicidal thoughts. Terrorism. Vanity. Violence. Wickedness.

The list goes on. Can anything good come from this? With a life redeemed and restored through relationship in Jesus Christ, yielded to the Holy Spirit, the answer is 100% “yes.” Evangelist Matthews’ life proves this.

Evangelist Denise Matthews

“The world sucks you in.”  Evangelist Denise Matthews, formerly “Vanity”

The years the enemy stole from Evangelist Matthews to do his bidding, God restored to her. He added life to her days and years. The tools the enemy used in an attempt to destroy her, God turned around for her good  (Romans 8:28). Having turned her life over to Christ, the Lord made it so that her years as “Vanity” were not in vain. 

What Matthews said in her aforementioned quote is true: the world does suck you in, if you let it. I’ve heard more people tell me that “sin will take you further than you want to go.”

Make no mistake: There is a persistent satanic agenda at work to counterfeit the “freedoms” people desperately seek. As Satan sets the stage for his next counterfeit scheme, it is of paramount importance that God’s truth is boldly and lovingly presented to awaken people from their slumber into confusion and deception; to bring clarity that enables them to navigate successfully around the counterfeit schemes so they may equip and empower others in Jesus Christ.

For the family and friends of Evangelist Denise Matthews, we at Voices Against the Grain pray that God’s comfort and peace steadies you and rests in your hearts. We join you in celebrating the fruit produced by Evangelist Matthews through her life in Jesus—fruit that will bear out now and into eternity.

Blessings,

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.

Thank You Jason!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”- Isaiah 52:7 (New International Version)

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, our devotional writer Jason Alexandre shared with me and our team that the Lord had been leading him to serve in other areas and no longer with Voices Against the Grain. We support Jason in this move and continue to pray that the Lord guide his steps in wisdom.

For two years, Jason has blessed me, our team and you our readers with Holy Spirit-led messages. Messages like “Root and Fruits,” encouraging us to be rooted in Christ to truly produce fruit, and “The Best Counselor” on the great counsel and peace we have in Christ Jesus, day and night. Still in his 20s, I marvel at his spiritual maturity in understanding God’s Word and his desire to walk it, talk it, live it and rightly divide it in imparting truth to others. We are grateful for his equipping messages that encourage our spiritual growth as we navigate life. We thank him for always biblically and truthfully sharing the Good News of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We’re proud of his boldness in sharing God’s Word, even when it reprimands those receiving it.

Thank you Jason! You have truly blessed us. We pray God’s continued blessings upon you, your wife Porsché and your new ministry, particularly your desire to reach our young people. Grateful that we can call you friend and a brother in Christ. Know that you and your messages are always welcome at Voices Against the Grain.

Jason Alexandre photo

Jason M. Alexandre

Blessings,

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.

 

Why Do We Fast and Pray?

 

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Why should we fast and pray—individually and corporately? The quick answer: Fasting helps us get into God’s will. Prayer helps us to hear what God wants.  This benefits us individually and corporately to discern how God wants us to move in the various populations and territories we occupy.

When it comes to fasting and prayer, the misstep some people make is trying to draw God’s focus to their desires without seeking to hear and learn where God is focused. It’s human nature for us to desire comfortable lives and to want that comfort right now. Some people view fasting and prayer as tools to “help God out.” They use it as an opportunity to dictate to God what He should do. In fact, as the late evangelist David Wilkerson said, “We know too much about what we want and too little about what God wants.” In prayer we need to ask God, “What is it that you want from me?”

In truth, even in our diligence in prayer, we’ve all experienced what seems like delayed answers. When we read Daniel 10, we see that Daniel has been fasting and praying for 21 days with no response to his prayer. The angel Michael comes to Daniel and explains that his prayer was heard initially. The delayed response was due to spiritual opposition with the prince of the Persian kingdom that resisted him for 21 days. In essence, Michael was battling demons on Daniel’s behalf.

The same occurs for us, particularly when we’re fasting and praying.  We are likely to encounter spiritual warfare.  It’s important that daily we put on our spiritual armor, as instructed in Ephesians 6:10-17. “For our war is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (v. 12) Our engagement in such warfare makes the enemy take notice.  Sometimes our situations require an extended period of fasting and prayer to break the enemy’s strategies to keep us oppressed. It also engages angels to war on our behalf.

Woman-praying

For individual and corporate prayer and fasting, the greatest gain is that we come to learn the heart of God. If we truly desire to know God’s will for us, we will seek to know what God wants from us. He will certainly answer. As we seek to accomplish 2016 goals, let one of those be that we examine our prayers and become concerned about the things of God, and less focused on what we need. Ultimately, our goal is to decrease self so Christ can increase. When flesh is subdued, He will do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Do you seek to know God’s will for you? Are you prepared to go the distance in God by first seeking to know what He desires, above your desires? Fast and pray.

-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.

 

Palin’s Principles Will Punk Us

Unthinking people have exchanged godliness for what is politically expedient and to our detriment.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (English Standard Version) 

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The political process has interested me since I was a teen. I’ve fervently discussed the issues of the day with family members, peers and colleagues and watched to see which candidate(s) aligned closest with my values. The process still holds my interest today, albeit differently.

When I launched Voices Against the Grain in May 2013, I vowed to remain nonpartisan. In our ministry communications, I have vowed to not promote my political leanings or views. This is due in part that while policies have their place in our society, our best solution and hope rests in Christ Jesus alone. Additionally, I desire for Voices Against the Grain to help advance Christ’s love and truth among Believers and non-believers without sowing discord through contentious political arguments.

However, since our country’s engagement last summer in these 2016 U.S. presidential elections and the review of candidates, I shake my head at what I’ve seen and heard. This election has an abundance of foolishness, double-talk and berating of one another that signals how far we’ve strayed from what is right. If not for Christ’s grace and mercy holding back his full wrath of our destruction and the remnant of His People who are advancing His Kingdom in the darkest places to share His Truth, I wonder if we’d exist this very moment.

As an example of our straying, I share a moment that made me snap my neck and raise my brow like  “watchu talkin’ ’bout Willis?”

This morning, ahead of the evening’s Iowa caucuses, Today show anchor Savannah Guthrie asked former Alaska Governor and political commentator Sarah Palin about her endorsement of U.S. presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump. Guthrie noted that Palin has “a lot of credibility with evangelical voters.” She asked Palin if Trump is the “godly candidate that evangelicals are looking for.”

Palin replied: “I hope voters aren’t trying to find the most Christiany (is that a word??), godliest candidate out there, because who are we to judge one another’s level of faith or Christian quotient, if you will. Hopefully people are looking for he who has that record of success that proves he’s going to be able to get the job done for us, finally.” 

I never would have spoken or written so directly on the elections, but Palin’s by-golly-gee answer to Guthrie’s serious question has warranted my response.

 

Sarah Palin Today Show Feb 1 2016

Former Alaska Governor and political commentator Sarah Palin, responds to Today show anchors Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer on Monday about her endorsement of Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump. February 1, 2016. (Photo courtesy of NBC, Today Show)

If it’s simply a matter of electing a competent person to fill the office of the President, then that can be done.  But are we solely interested in the person completing the task, or more importantly, their character, integrity, judgment and wisdom deployed to complete those tasks?

As Believers, if we’re committed to restoring God’s moral authority, God’s truth and justice, and civility to our country’s fiber, than we should be more prayerful as to who receives our vote. The consequences of dismissing such standards have eroded the foundation of our government, communities, neighborhoods and workplaces. We indeed need more Christian public servants who have decreased their wills in order to advance God’s will to serve the public good. We don’t need another person bent on doing their own thing, not guided by what is godly, what is right or wrong. If not a godly person to lead our country, then who??

Palin’s principles and others alike, will prevent such an opportunity of godliness in this particular political space. Palin’s principles will only further promote ungodliness. If we accept such principles, we’ll once again be punked.

-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.