The Hardest Words of God to Read

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The hardest words of God to read. Some people think the hardest word or words to hear from God are “no,” “wait,” “be still” or “forgive.”

While those may be tough words to hear at the time, these words struck me with great soberness:

24- Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25-They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26- Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27- In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28- Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  (Romans 1:24-28 NIV)

“God gave them over.”

One scripture commentary reads that God is “leaving them to the pollution of their nature; by withdrawing his providential restraints from them, and by giving them up to judicial hardness: through the lusts of their own hearts.”

Another commentary in that same text reads: “As they deserted God, God in turn deserted them.”

“God gave them over.” No divine intervention. Divine abandonment.

Man grieved

 

I had to let these words set in for a moment. I felt grief, sorrow. Still do. It’s perhaps the grief felt by our Heavenly Father when His children choose paths that will lead to their self-destruction, ignoring His repeated warnings and attempts to protect them against such decisions. Far worse, they were presented God’s truth and exchanged it for lies.

God is so loving, merciful and extends His grace toward us, over and over, and over, and over again. As humans we’re less forgiving toward people’s repeated rebellion.

For God, Who is so loving toward us, when He gives you over to your fleshly desires and says, “If this is what you want, here it is,” who else but God could bring you back from the brink of such destruction??

Heavy. I have to leave it here. I’m not deceived in thinking that everyone will forgo their fleshly desires to pursue Christ. But if there’s an opportunity for someone to receive life, I lift this prayer in earnestness:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your amazing love, long-suffering , grace and tender mercies extended toward us. While those of us who are secured and sealed in Christ’s righteousness and therefore face no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) as we strive to be transformed each day into Christ’s likeness, we ask your continued patience as we plant seeds and show Christ’s love among those who are choosing destructive paths. We pray for one more time, that their hearts might be prepared for true repentance to seek Your Son Jesus. We pray that sin’s grip will be broken in their lives and they will be made whole. We pray they choose abundant and eternal life instead of eternal, spiritual death. Where they’ve made You absent, we pray they make You present and tell others of your wondrous love. Thank you, Lord. Amen. 

-Nicole

To learn more about what is accelerating our nation’s decay, please read “Consequentialism in Romans,” written by our dear brother in Christ, Charles Holmes, of Christian think tank, FreedomSquared.org. Powerful piece.

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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A Critical Time to Be a Christian

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Not on our watch.” From catastrophic events to a nation pursuing everything but God, there’s no better time to raise your voice for Christ.

During Wednesday’s Voices Against the Grain radio show, we discussed the recent good news and victory of the canceled “Temple of Baal” digitally-rendered arches that were to be installed in NYC’s Times Square (in addition to London and Dubai) on Tuesday, April 19. A true victory for God’s Kingdom, of prayers answered, celebrated by the Body of Christ!

Weeks ago, many of us learned of the project underway that intended its presence on American soil. For those unfamiliar, the “Temple of Baal” was a 2,000-year-old grand structure in Palmyra, Syria erected around 32 A.D., that was highly regarded by the Syrian people. The temple was destroyed in 2015 by ISIS and there’s since been a move to rebuild this structure under the guise of an “historical learning project.” The project was a digital archaeology design team joint venture between Harvard University, Oxford University and Dubai’s Museum of the Future.lit temple replica

Why is this important? I’m getting to that. In Old Testament times, the Canaanites and others worshipped Baal, who was a demon and described by Wikipedia as “one of the seven princes of Hell with 66 legions of demons under his command.” As part of their worship of Baal, babies were sacrificed, people engaged in orgies, and other forms of sexual debauchery. So, why would WE or anyone want a structure like this built on our soil?

Upon learning of this project underway, many of us in the Body of Christ were saddened at the blatant disregard and slap in the face toward God. But we were emboldened to take this to prayer. We said, “Not on our watch.” Several in my close knit prayer fellowship came together in prayer over this which extended to the larger and collective Body of Christ, united on one front in prayer to say, “Not on our watch.” That this arch, this “historical exhibit,” this next strategy of the enemy was not coming to American soil on Tuesday, April 19th, Wednesday, April 20th or any other day of the week. Our fervent prayers were answered.

This is a critical time to be a Christian. In a world that has rejected God, acting in every way contrary to God’s Word and design, WE as Christians are and should be THE STANDARD.

Though we’re jubilant of this recent victory, this is not a license to rest on our laurels. The evil and catastrophic events of our day are like none witnessed before. Unprecedented. Many people provide their own explanations as to why this is happening but don’t identify the events as God’s judgment. America has lessened its need for God.

Furthermore, the comfortable, cultural  Christian has allowed the intellectual elite to drive the narrative in education, government and politics, blindly sending people into “group think” ditches.  This is a time for authentic faith.

saltandlightchristians1

As a Christian, are you making your life and voice heard for Christ so others may see Him and turn from their wicked ways? Are you living, acting and speaking as salt and light? Are you setting the standard? Or is your “Chinese menu” of faith and fear of telling others God’s truth aiding in others’ blindness?

Thank you, thank you to those in the Body of Christ who are living, acting and speaking as Christ’s standard. I can’t imagine what our days would be without such light present. If you realize you need to firm up in your living as Christ’s standard, great—as there are plenty opportunities to start now! Jesus has need of you. God is using these times of darkness as OPPORTUNITIES for His PEOPLE to ENGAGE with the lost so they may see HIM through US. We are called to be SALT and LIGHT (Matthew 5:13-16), not sugar. Salt will preserve people from themselves and external evils. Light will show them the way to Christ Jesus.

I invite you to listen to “The Temple of Baal and America: A Critical Time to Be a Christian.”  (Corresponding scriptures included) SPECIAL THANK YOU: A grateful thank you to my prayer partners who provided supporting content, context, scriptures and their prayers to help frame this conversation.

Crucial VATG page image 2

Crucial, Christian rap artist, producer and speaker

Please also listen to the “hard truth” conversation we shared on 4/13 with our brother in Christ and Christian rap artist, Crucial. We discussed the impact of deception and how to compassionately engage with those blinded to the truth (Thank you, Crucial!): “Crucial Talk: A Conversation with Christian Rap Artist, Crucial.” 

Thank you and 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.

 

Sleep With the Doors Unlocked??

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Who can imagine or remember it? I’m reading a book set in 1940’s South Philadelphia in a Black, close-knit community. In that era and before, folks attended church services multiple days during the week. They were there morning, noon and night WITH ALL of their six, seven or eight children in tow. Whether a Sunday service, bible study, choir performance, bake sale, community meeting, wedding or funeral, church was THE place to be.

In that era and in my grandmother’s day as a child (she’s now 100, God bless her!), these words were spoken by her and others: “Yeah, we used to sleep with the doors unlocked.” Huh?? Furthermore, she’d say, “We also used to sleep on the porch and nobody would bother us.” My grandmother lives in Kansas (where I’m from) and not the streets of Philadelphia, and was born in Oklahoma.

In comparing the geographical and demographic differences of Philly and Kansas and thinking of that era of 1940s and before, my mind cannot firmly conceive this possibility of sleeping with doors unlocked. It sounds crazy to me—leaving your doors unlocked—at night OR during the day. Sadly, those of us who are Gen Xers or Gen Y/Millenials cannot recall such a freedom or security in our lifetime. If mom and dad had to run an errand and my brother and I were home, they’d sternly look at us and say, “Lock the doors,” and “don’t answer the door for anyone.”

We lived in a predominately White, Kansas suburban/country neighborhood and school district. Our neighborhood was pin-drop quiet at night (except for chirping crickets) and relatively quiet by day with the exception of someone mowing their lawn, or the jubilant squeals of kids racing each other up and down the road on their bikes.  Even in those carefree days, we were told to “lock up.”

Sadly, even in as much as we hope, we will never return to a time of, “sleeping with the doors unlocked.” Such a time is non-existent. What happened? As I mentioned in my opening, communities were close-knit. People knew each other’s children, knew each other’s business, rallied together on issues that adversely affected the community, made do with what they had and were joyful in it. Their fellowship and commune with God was within and throughout, permeating their lives, neighbor’s households and community. Yes, as cozy and Pollyanna-ish as this sounds, make no mistake: those days birthed injustices, violence and devastating family secrets.

Psalm 91-2 sunset

But perhaps the closer ties to God and community strengthened them to hold up and hold each other up. Now, particularly those of us living in fast-paced urban communities, we may or may not know well our neighbors and certainly don’t know the intricacies of their lives, and maybe we’re not interested. And while parents were taking all of their six or eight kids to church in those earlier eras, unless the family is in regular fellowship with the Lord, you might see their one or two children at church or the parents may simply drop them off and return home.

Thinking of “sleeping with the doors unlocked,” I look fondly on those who experienced that security. For those of us who never experienced it and frankly never will, can we ever abide in a daily peace, comfort or security that will keep us steady and unnerved in these progressively evil days? For those reading this who are of that “sleep with the doors unlocked” generation, can you ever have peace and security again? Joyfully, yes.

The key is: trusting in God’s Word, His Promises and remaining in daily, regular commune with Him to where His Peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), carries and steadies us. Praise God!

I invite you to read Psalm 91 on God’s promises made toward those who trust in Him when fear threatens your security and peace.

May you trust in the Lord to keep you and cover you and may we share His Peace with others,

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.

 

Opportunities in Darkness

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Yesterday, we were delighted to return to the radio airwaves after approximately a year’s hiatus. The one-year break from producing our weekly, 1-hour radio show was needed. The time allowed each of us to sow to other ministry activities, pull away from some activities as seasons ended and draw even closer to God to seek His best for us. In addition, the time allowed us to retool a couple things. For example, after considering feedback received from some listeners and ministry team members, I decided to shorten our radio show from one hour to 30 minutes.

In Wednesday’s discussion topic, “What Is Going On: A Conversation,” I reviewed some of the darkest events of 2015 to present day that have sorrowed us (ex: Charleston church shooting, terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, America’s epidemic of mass shootings, etc.). All of the events, distressing, can make us ask, “What is going on??”

During our conversation, I shared Jesus’ reassuring words told to us in such times from John 16:33- “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” I also noted that though we are living in unsteady times, we can remain steady in God’s Word so we can help steady others. This also draws us closer to Him.

 

ca. 2001 --- Sky over Wheat Plants --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

While the events have been sobering and heartbreaking, I am persuaded that there are abundant OPPORTUNITIES available in such darkness. In fact, for those of us in Christ Jesus, it presents great OPPORTUNITIES for us to be LIGHT. The harvest is plentiful!

Evil hopes for our indifference, laziness, retreat to pursue comfort and a self-centered focus on me and mine. However, as the Body of Christ, we are not called to retreat but to ENGAGE and show others Christ’s love. It’s God’s mercy, His love, His grace, our prayers, actions, light, love that helps stem the tide of evil. The question is, are you willing? Jesus has need of you!

May we be reminded and encouraged by Christ’s victory obtained for us on the Cross! May we be JOYFUL that he overcame evil and this world!

To learn more, listen to “What Is Going On: A Conversation”.

God bless you,

Nicole

Who Gonna Check Me, Boo?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

If you’re familiar and reading this post’s headline, then you probably remember this infamous line delivered by “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” co-star, Sheree Whitfield.

This line has been repeated by men and women alike, complete with all the head and neck rolling!  😉

Although Sheree said this during a dispute with her event planner, I’m using the “Who gonna check me, boo?” reference differently.

This recommendation is directed particularly to my single men and women. For us singles, it’s imperative that we’re surrounded by good, trusted godly advisers who we can go to for wise counsel. As single people, we may not have someone at home to pull our coattail to question us or caution us or say “wait a minute” on a decision or action we’re about to make. Someone who will tell us that we’re out of order.

As singles, society views us as independent. We pay our bills, run our household, run errands, cook, clean, and complete many tasks often without the assistance of a helper. Truly, if we don’t do it, it’s not likely to get done. And who could tell you that you’re doing it wrong? “Who gonna check me, boo?”

This mindset can cause us to move ahead of or outside of God’s will for us. We may not even consult God on small matters, thinking we’ve got it covered. Though in all things (and you may do this already—this is not a beat down, simply a reminder), we should seek God’s direction first. Psalm 119:105 tells us that, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (NIV).” In all of our ways we should seek him. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight (NIV).”

Proverbs 15-22 plans succeed with advisers

In addition to seeking wisdom, waiting and hearing from the Lord, ask God to place godly people in your life to provide wise instruction. People who will say, “steer clear of that person” or “get more information” or “wait, don’t leave that spot yet,” or simply “wait.”

It’s an early sign to a derailed path to roll your neck and arrogantly say, “Who gonna check me, boo?” From pursuing your calling, to career opportunities, dating, purchasing property, and other: if you truly desire to pursue the path God has for you, willing to deny what you think you want in exchange for His best, I pray the blessings of godly counsel in your life. If you are already living this and experiencing the fruits of such counsel, I commend you. I have truly benefited from the wise, godly instruction of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Iron sharpens iron (Psalm 27:17 NIV). 

(This message also applies to those in new relationship with Christ Jesus)

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.