Entering 2017: Shifted and Lifted

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Nicole D. Hayes, VATG founder (l) and Destiney Bishop, VATG Digital Media Coordinator (r).

Wow—2016 is nearly out. From devastating floods, numerous earthquakes in diverse places, race riots and heightened tensions to shocking celebrity deaths and the presidential election, the events of 2016 have kept many of us in prayer like never before. We’ve had to encourage ourselves and others.

Many people, including some Believers, have felt great despair this year. Some of you have been surviving consecutive months and years of unemployment, or overcoming health challenges or grieving the passing of loved ones. What has occurred to-date is still a fraction of the trials to come before Christ’s return.

The events of 2016 most likely took you into some uncharted and unfamiliar territory. This was the case for us this year too. Entering new territories and spaces requires us to trust God EVERY step of the way. The process can also fortify our faith.  In such times, we are reminded of Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  When we step in courage and trust in Him, it emboldens us for the next leg of the journey. Rest assured that God will show us His faithfulness.

In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us that we will indeed go through trials in this life but we will overcome those challenges in Him! He says 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.”

In writing you this message, the words that the Holy Spirit has encouraged us with for today and the days ahead is to be “shifted and lifted.” We are being asked to shift our focus onto Jesus so we may operate in peace and courage and be lifted out of our human default positions of despair, doubt and fear. Praise God!

We don’t leave you without hope: This year, many of us experienced unprecedented favor and prayers answered as we pressed the throne of grace boldly in prayer, in faith and with praises lifted! We saw God move mightily and we most certainly foiled some of the enemy’s plans. God is truly moved by the faith of His People!

We pray that these words and all of God’s Word comforts and reassures you in our challenging times. One of our objectives in presenting Holy Spirit-inspired content is to equip you to remain steady in unsteady times. As the Body of Christ, we will be challenged. We will suffer trials. We will endure war wounds. But God is preparing His Church to stand in these last days. So, take heart! Our victory is secured! Remain focused, in peace and steady! The gates of hell shall not prevail. We know how the story ends! God in His precision is watching over His Word to perform it and fulfill it as told to us in Jeremiah 1:12.

2017

As we close out 2016 and prepare to enter 2017, we at Voices Against the Grain encourage you in these points as you become shifted and lifted:

  • Allow God to lead. Be divinely persuaded (that’s what faith means—the Greek word is “pistis”) that God knows the best path for you and will lead you to it if you listen to Him. Walk in courage in what God has told you.
  • Place your hope in Jesus Christ alone and His Kingdom—not the kingdoms of this world. Do not place your hope in man, in government, finances, systems, etc., for these secondary sources will surely fail you. Take hold of the hope offered to us in God and be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf (Hebrews 6:18-20). Be shifted and lifted.
  • God is equipping you to respond to and serve those crying out and seeking direction. Pray to be more attentive to these cries and seek the Holy Spirit’s instruction on how He wants you to help them. Yield to carrying out His will and not your own.
  • In serving others, take the time to “steal away” to recharge; to have your cup refilled so you are able to pour into others again.
  • Pursue more intimacy with the Lord and seek to be Holy Spirit-led in all that you do. Knowing how the Holy Spirit wants to lead you is strengthened through spending more time communing with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord also enables you to abide in His Peace.

We love serving you and serving with you! We pray God’s blessings upon you, your family, your health, your ministries and everything He has called you to put your hands to. Go in courage, His confidence and peace. Thank you for supporting us and praying for us. We are excited and prayerful for how God will use His People in 2017. May we continue to be salt and light Christians to lead the world out of darkness and to the Cross.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Love,

Nicole & Destiney

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Is God Precise or Vague?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Is God precise or vague?

When it comes to understanding God’s character, His nature, His Word and His promises toward us, is He precise? Or is He vague?

To answer this, let’s review some scriptures, shall we?

Creation

“Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with the seed in it, according to their various kinds.” (Genesis 1:11, NIV)

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NIV)

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Noah’s Ark 

14 “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches for the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” (Genesis 6:14-16, NIV)

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:12-15)

Son of God, Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ: King of kings, Lord of lords

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

His Promises

25 “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV)

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (ex: giving resources, extending mercy, forgiveness, love, etc., it will be returned to you in the same measure from the same or different source). (Luke 6:37-38, NIV)

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth.” (Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who receive Him) (John 14:16-17a, NIV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” (John 14:2-3, NIV)

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In these few passages of scripture provided, does God’s Word appear precise or vague to you? Did your perception of God’s precision of instruction and faithfulness to His Word waver between any of the sections or specific verses? If so, you may ask yourself if you trust God to be the same in all aspects of His Word. Certainly, there are some aspects of His Word that are contingent upon our obedience, whether we exercise faith, His sovereignty and His perfect timing. Nevertheless, His Word is precise. He is trustworthy.

God is watching over His Word to see that it is performed (fulfilled) as told in Jeremiah 1:12. In this Christmas season of hope and believing, in any areas that we doubt, may we learn to trust God and His infallible Word.

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.

 

 

 

 

Mentoring: Relationships Require Work

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hi, All! We’re absolutely delighted to support our dear sister in Christ, Voices Against the Grain supporter and my Regent University School of Government classmate, Barbara Crymes West, in the release of her new book, Every Bump Counts: How Everyday Encounters & Relationships Can Make Eternal Impact. In her book, Barbara talks about how God is in the “everydayness” of our lives whether we realize it or not. When our hearts are aligned with His, we are a vital part of the Great Commission and showing others the love of Christ. We’ve ordered her book and look forward to reading it! We also have a copy we’d be happy to gift you (please provide your address where to mail it) if you’re interested. In the meantime, please read her article she’s shared with us on mentoring, a work near to my heart.

Thank you, love and blessings,

Nicole

 

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Barbara Crymes West, Relationships Expert, Voices Against the Grain Guest Writer

Relationships don’t create themselves. They take work and commitment. Investment is essential to have a healthy and effective relationship. Most require sacrifice to grow.

Relationships

Dallas Willard, in his work entitled, The Divine Conspiracy, offers the following:

How beautiful it is to see relationships in which asking and receiving are a joyful and loving way of life. Often we see those who cherish one another, each seriously or playfully trying to out give the other. That is how relationships should be (Williard, 234).

The key here is reciprocity. Asking and receiving, giving and taking. Of course, that seems elementary because it is so basic. But in the busyness of life, we sometimes forget that relationships don’t just happen. Relationships require commitment and investment.

Investment

Investing in others is truly valuable and necessary. We can’t expect a relationship to flourish and grow without it. We must invest time and concern while learning about the other person. In the process we will find common ground; sometimes more and sometimes less. All relationships are not the same.

Biblically speaking this is true as well. God commands us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). All relationships will not yield the intensity or closeness that others do. Although He loved all of His disciples, the Bible refers to John as “the one Jesus loved” (John 13:23). The good news is that when we make a significant investment in others, really get to know their hearts and minds, we are rewarded with a relationship that will give us meaning.

In the community of Christ, our relationships are very important as we all strive to fulfill our commission in Christ. As we support each other, with our feet planted squarely in the foundation of Jesus and Him crucified, we are enabled and supported to fulfill our calling, both individually and as a part of the whole. Relationships enable us to be who God has called us to be. It begins with our relationship with Him. He makes the difference.

The Good Old Days

If we look at our population of children today, the picture is far different than it was when I was growing up. And no we didn’t drive covered wagons. I felt safe in my neighborhood. My friends and I could walk a mile to the community pool and swim all day and walk home again with a mere, “Mom, we’re going to the pool. See you this afternoon.” We had no cell phones and crime rarely touched our lives. When I look back on local tragedies that were inscribed in my mind and heart, the loss of a home to fire, in which a fellow student lived, comes to mind.

Another involved a friend being struck by a car while in the crosswalk. This one actually is bigger in my memory because this girl lost a leg and the community rallied to contribute to her family through a McTake Over, to benefit her expenses. The point is that as children, we were rarely confronted with the crimes we see today that has become all too commonplace in our children’s lives, communities, and neighborhoods. Drive-by shootings and school shootings did not have a place in the lives of families back then.

Today, we have an abundance of broken homes, absent parents, and footloose kids. Most often, through no fault of their own, our kids find themselves wandering through life without adequate direction, nurturing, or guidance. Can we make a difference in the children’s lives? And if so, how? With limited funding streams and resources stretched thin everywhere, we need to tackle these issues one child at a time.

Mentoring

Mentoring has become a widely accepted practice, although many of us don’t have mentors and more of us aren’t mentors, or at least in an official sense. However, I would offer that we all lead someone and therefore we are in effect, leaders or mentors. Neither can be accomplished without relationship, investment, and reciprocity.

Mentoring is one way in which each of us can play a part. Becoming active in an organization that focuses on mentoring is one way. Could we each give to such an organization in some way? I think so. There are myriad ways to be involved. In whichever way you choose to do your part, whether through a donation of time, talent, or financial gifts, there is a place for you. On a more personal level, we can each pray for these children that are “wandering.”

Take a moment to consider any young people that you encounter in your daily movement who could use a smile, a hug, a kind word, or paper for their binder. Build a relationship with someone that has always been around but is on the fringes of your life. Bring them closer and make them feel cared for.

 

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Sacrifice

We must invest. Sometimes investment is easy and sometimes not so easy. The investment will likely involve sacrifice on our parts but OH the rewards. We have to nurture and build relationships with those we care about. Simple caring and sharing; conversation, can make all the difference in who we are, and in who they will become.

God has taught me through such a simple concept as “making time,” that the principles are the same regardless of who we are pursuing a relationship with. We must invest our time and practice the reciprocity that creates those terrific bonds of the heart that God ordained. It’s all about relationships.

Please visit BarbaraCrymesWest.com to read more of Barbara’s blogs and to purchase her book about relationships, Every Bump Counts.

Barbara Crymes West holds a Master’s Degree from Regent University in Organizational Leadership, with a concentration in Not-for-Profit and Faith-Based Organizations Management. During her studies, she discovered that “relationships” are a common and recurring thread. With this theme in mind Barbara takes her readers on a journey that finds its foundation in Christ, and is applicable whether we are at home or on the job. Barbara resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Misunderstood Arrival

Has something ever come and you misunderstood its purpose?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I hope you each enjoyed great and thankful moments with family, loved ones, and dear friends during this Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving, I went home to Kansas to spend time with family and dear loved ones/friends and to attend the beautiful homegoing service of my beloved 101-year-old grandmother. We have such joy and peace in celebrating her long godly life lived!

This Thanksgiving break, my brother, Dad and I saw the science fiction movie, Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Having been enticed by the trailer, the 93% Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating and the so-so inventory of movies available, we were pumped to see this suspenseful flick. In Arrival,  Amy Adams’ character, Louise Banks, a renowned linguistics professor, is sought out by the military to decode circular symbols used as language communicated in ink drawings by extraterrestrials that have landed in 12 countries. Banks attempts the complicated feat of communicating with the extraterrestrials (called “heptapods”) by using their symbols to inquire what are their intentions with Earth and humans. She is pushed to work expediently and accurately as the U.S. military is anxious to provide answers in order to properly respond to this potential threat. In addition, other countries are becoming anxious with the spacecrafts hovering in their air space and are planning their respective attacks—with or without the U.S. or other countries’ consent or cooperation.

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Clip of alien spacecraft hovering in Shanghai from the November 2016 science fiction film, Arrival. Photo courtesy: SCMP Pictures.

Without giving away the entire movie, what I thought was going to be a suspenseful, alien-against-human-attack and survival film was anything but. The greater importance of the film was not an alien vs. human showdown like Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds but it was the dangerously assumed and misunderstood perception about the heptapods’ arrival and their intentions. Countries throughout the United Nations were feeling threatened by their presence and were ready to draw fire, unconcerned of the consequences of worldwide war, irreparable relations and peace unrecoverable. Countries who were allies of the United States were ready to end such relations to attack an enemy—or perhaps an ally?

As I reflect on the movie’s message (you’ll have to watch to see how it ends or Google it), I think about our post-election situation that has caused many to draw fire upon one another with their words. Are we firing words upon an enemy or an ally? Has the arrival of our current situation been misunderstood only to cause further division without seeking the opportunities that are actually intended in this? Have we sought to remove communication barriers to truly understand the intentions and desires of one another’s hearts?

Star of Bethlehem

I also think of another misunderstood arrival that came over 2,000 years ago that still brings unfathomable joy to many and great agitation to others. An arrival intended to bring peace and friendship between mankind and our Heavenly Father for our redemption and reconciliation to God. Yet, Jesus was crucified because of His threat to the status quo, the intelligent leaders and rulers of those days and present day.

Dear Heavenly Father, when you sent Your Son Jesus to us more than 2,000 years ago—a baby born in a manger, a stable with smelly barn animals—as the King of kings and Lord of lords, His arrival was without question misunderstood by those unperceiving. He interrupted a world that did not want His type of disruption and sought to eliminate His threat to their comfort. They understood not the heart of His and Your intentions. Even today, many misunderstand Your loving, eternal plan for us, Father. Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NIV).”

Heavenly Father, as we rejoice each day and gather together this Christmas season to celebrate Jesus’ arrival 2,000 years ago, we pray that the veil that has kept many in their blindness will be lifted to save them that they might see and believe. Prepare hearts for Your Son’s return. Thank you for your grace, love and mercy as you continue to strive with us. In Your Son Jesus’ Precious Name, we pray.

May we seek and encourage others to seek His wisdom in all things new and coming.

Amen.

-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.