Yearning for the Greater

“You don’t hire an interior decorator for a hotel room. You don’t change the carpets and drapes in a hotel room because your stay there is temporary.”- Kirk Franklin

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For those in Christ Jesus, today, every day and particularly this Holy Week, we’re gratefully reminded of the hope and freedom Christ obtained for us on the Cross at Calvary and beyond the tomb.

Mankind steeped in a fallen nature from Adam’s sin, was cursed and doomed to eternal damnation and separation from God. The deep chasm created between a holy God and our filthy hearts was bridged by Christ’s sacrifice and unconditional love for us. The punishment we deserved for our wicked thoughts and actions, he took on for us by being nailed to that old, rugged, wooden Cross. He became the curse for us (“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”- Galatians 3:13 ESV and Deuteronomy 21:23) so that none would perish who believe in Him.

We can become burdened by this world’s activities, routines and chaos that we forget that this is not our home. This is a temporary living space to prepare and shape us for our eternal home and living. As the aforementioned quote by gospel artist Kirk Franklin suggests, we’re not putting down stakes on a temporary living space to then hire interior decorators. We’re here for a purpose that transcends beyond this life into true living. This is Christ’s promise to us.

In short but powerful words, the chorus to the gospel song “Glorious Day/Living He Loved Me,” tells the full, joyous testimony: “Living He loved me. Dying He saved me. Buried, He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified me, freed me forever. One day He’s coming back, Glorious day!”

2-corinthians-4_18 girl in pic

Thank you Jesus, for paying the penalty for my sins when you were blameless. Because of you, I am free from what held me. Thank you Jesus for becoming my Greatest Hope beyond this temporary living and the challenges therein. Your Promises encourage us to look beyond our present circumstances. As I fulfill Your will for me on this temporary ground and in this temporary vessel, I maintain my focus on and yearn for the greater.

Do you yearn expectantly for the greater promise of eternity spent with Jesus and our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Or are you consumed by this world’s routines that you’ve begun decorating a hotel room here?

-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.

 

Advertisements

Are You Making the Great Escape?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Are you making the “great escape”? You may not have yet packed your bags but you’ve decided to get as far away from America’s craziness without being touched by it.

What do I mean by the “great escape”? I’m not referring to the book or movie, but to the chaos of our society. Erosion of morals and values. Erosion of economic, government, justice, law enforcement and political systems have caught many of you by surprise and outright disbelief. Rather than viewing the chaos as a continuous unraveling over decades and generations, you may view it as everything going to hell overnight. A dumpster fire on wheels, careening down the street out of control.

Baltimore riots CNN

CNN reporter talks in the crush of April 2015 protests in Baltimore, Md., that erupted over death of 25-year-old African American resident Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries to his neck and spine while in police custody. (Photo courtesy: CNN)

 

But the chaos has been a steady hatching of chickens coming home to roost. America has risen up through slavery, poverty and war; from agrarian labor to industrialization. New technologies, higher education, entrepreneurism and better wages have enabled some to fatten our bank accounts, live in decent neighborhoods and ease the work of our hands.

More of us used to help community and neighbors. But soon, our happiness became our priority and serving became an inconvenience. We moved away from personal action and invited the government to provide solutions. The anonymous (massive government and computers) began helping the anonymous (your neighbor whom the government does not know as you do). We encouraged and supported policies that liberated us from the responsibilities of our neighbor so we could pursue “getting ours” and comfortably “hold onto ours” once we got it. We didn’t want to be bothered by whoever was still “trying to get theirs.” Let government handle it.

suitcase

This began our “great escape.” This “great escape” was further emboldened by an arrogance and self-assuredness that once we got ours, we no longer needed God. In our bad times we cleaved to God. Our dependence upon Him was dire and childlike. Now that we’ve made it, we say, “I got this. What can God do for me that I can’t do?” Now that things are on fire and appear out of control, people want to escape unscathed—not realizing how their inaction has contributed to the chaos.

Some people have forgotten how to be servants. Self-interest has set in. Human selfishness ultimately, when it grows, causes communities to perish because of selfishness.

Granted, and thankfully, the aforementioned does not describe many of you reading this or those I know. But like Nehemiah, let us as a nation repent, rise, respond to the need and rebuild.

And yes: there will be a cost. There is always a cost to sacrificing our comfort for someone else’s. 

As Christians, our calling is to engage with the world, not seek escape from it. We’re called to be light in darkness. If you’re serving, thank you! If not: Be bold enough to leave the familiar and secure places to follow God’s voice to serve others. Die to self to become more like Christ. Invest in others. Where you invest, it certainly will give you a return. Christ is our world’s greatest hope and Good News. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12) and others need to see Him through you.

Yes, there is darkness in our world. Our world is a spiritual battleground with darkness and light contending for the same territory. Yet, as a dear sister in Christ reminded me, God is using these same conditions to be Light through His People.

Are you willing to be Light? Are you willing to serve or are you planning your escape to comfort?

-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.

10 Things I Shouldn’t Do But Do Anyway

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Ms. Goody Two-Shoes. Rule-follower. Frowns on those who repeatedly break the rules. From the time I invited Jesus Christ into my heart as my Savior at age 12 and even before, I’ve desired to obey Him because of my love for Him. I’ve also experienced the blessings of obedience and encourage it all the more.

However, I’ve also had to crucify pride and self-righteousness that have easily and unsuspectingly reared their heads when I’d previously compare what sins I hadn’t committed to what other people had done.

Prior to being saved, I lied about the smallest things to my parents to avoid punishment (ex: blaming my brother for the last bottle of soda consumed, or blaming him if something got broke). After getting saved, if my mom said something that I knew was untrue, I’d correct her. Finally, one day she said, “Nikki, stop it with that holier than thou stuff!!” (She was a Christian too)

I’ve come to understand, as the Scottish Baptist evangelist and author of My Utmost for His HighestOswald Chambers (1874-1917), said: “As long as our eyes are upon our own personal whiteness we shall never get near the reality of Redemption. Workers break down because their desire is for their own whiteness, and not for God.”

We will never be perfect. We are imperfect vessels. Yet, for those of us in relationship with Christ Jesus, we are being perfected through the righteousness of Christ. We are saved not by our record, but by Christ’s record. I don’t have to prove anything to Him. I don’t have to be perfect. He loves me regardless. He chose me for His work before I was formed in my mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5) and knew my faults. Yes, I desire to obey Him because I love Him—not to prove myself holier than thou.

Thankfully, He has chosen to use imperfect vessels like me and you to be co-workers with Him, to advance His Kingdom on this earth. We labor in this work as we continue to be sanctified/being made holy and shaped more into the image of Christ.

 

Cutie baby black girl

 

As an imperfect vessel, I share with you 10 things I shouldn’t do, but do anyway.   🙂

  1. Sometimes I eat dessert first. (My grandma’s voice repeats in my head saying, “You’ll spoil your dinner.”)
  2. Sometimes out of haste and laziness, I yank the cord from the wall rather than properly grabbing the plug from the outlet.
  3. Sometimes I wipe potato chip salt and grease on my jeans while consuming the entire bag in one sitting.
  4. Out of haste, I’ve shaved my brows instead of plucking, waxing or threading them (BAD move!).
  5. I don’t untie my tennis shoes when taking them off.
  6. I yank the one gray hair from my head that springs up occasionally (I know the tale about more gray hairs appearing if you do this. So far that hasn’t happened.).
  7. I imagine saying the words “I’m going to bust your (bleep)” if someone has done something that angers me.
  8. I still frown at people who disobey rules, particularly those that are clearly displayed.
  9. I’ve caved to cravings during a few fasts.
  10. Sometimes I stay up way too late watching 80’s TV shows (good TV!). Then end up hitting the snooze button in the morning. Ugh.

Thank goodness, He loves me anyway. Care to share your list?  Yes, this could get interesting.   🙂

-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.

 

Sometimes It’s the Way You Think

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hi People! While Satan uses fear as a tactic to hinder our progress, could he also use your deceptive ways of thinking and processing of information against you? Yes. Sometimes it’s the way you think that is hindering you. I call this ‘distorted thinking.’

For your consideration and equipping in Christ Jesus against your and my stealth (but defeated) enemy Satan, I share with you a devotional written by one of my Regent University Robertson School of Government professors, Dr. Gary Roberts. Thank you Dr. Roberts.

 

 

Godly Reasoning

1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

As servant leaders and human beings made in the image of God, one of the primary weapons that Satan uses to discourage and defeat us is fear in its various forms. However, fear is not the first weapon of choice as most people suspect. Satan uses our flawed mental information processing patterns as a weapon of deception.

For example, we all possess the tendency to accept the first reasonable cause or answer to a problem given our inherent impatience and desire to minimize time and effort. This is an example of a heuristical (mental shortcut) that subverts our reasoning and logic.

The bottom line is that we are “hardwired” to draw inaccurate and flawed conclusions from our mental analysis. In other words, we engage in both magnification and minimization of danger and risk based upon our personal circumstances and experiences.

Distorted thinking patterns cropped

If we had a painful experience at the dentist as a child, we then project a much higher probability of future dental problems than logic and experience warrants. We hence avoid the dentist increasing the probability of experiencing serious to life-threatening medical problems from decayed and infected teeth. Depending on our mood and personal experiences, we either affix positive or negative blinders. When we are discouraged and depressed, that molehill looks like a 25,000-foot mountain, and when we are inspired and optimistic, that march up the 25,000-foot mountain appears to be a jaunt up the hill.

negative-thinking-patterns-full

Man trapped in jar by his negative thoughts.

However, the greatest deception is to reason without God’s presence and power, the absence of spiritual reasoning or intelligence. With Godly reasoning, we recognize when God is ready and willing to move the mountain to the sea, and when what looks like a “jaunt in the park” becomes a time of life and death struggle in the desert.

Irrespective of which vision is accurate, the antidote to killing fear or a lukewarm complacency is the presence of the Lord granting us the strength and wisdom to face whatever circumstance with His life-giving power and protection. Reflect on the faithful promises of security in Psalm 91, and seek his wisdom!

Thank you Dr. Roberts for this equipping and encouraging message. If this message resonates in your spirit and you recognize your distorted thinking patterns, I pray right now that you would allow the Lord’s power to renew and transform your mind to His ways, to His Godly reasoning. For “you can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

God bless 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.