Our North Carolina Experience in One Word: Obedience

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I would love to go.”

These five bold, transformative words were texted to me early Thursday morning, September 21, 2017, by a dear sister in Christ about a ministry trip I would take to North Carolina that next day. The trip would involve ministering at two Christian-based schools, Livingstone College and Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., which is about 50 miles north of Charlotte. The events had been planned since April at which point I asked my trusted prayer partners/prayer warriors to join me in prayer and fasting for the Lord to soften and prepare the students’ hearts to receive His Word; to prepare the way ahead of our arrival.

In the early spring, Pastor Troy Russell, Livingstone campus pastor who also invited our ministry in September 2015, asked if we’d return this year to deliver God’s Word. After much discussion with Pastor Troy, it seemed the Holy Spirit’s leading that we were to deliver a message to equip the students in building their foundation in Christ Jesus in order to successfully navigate societal trappings. This would be a build-on to Pastor Troy’s weekly bible studies held with the students on Christian fundamentals. The event would serve as a culmination to the students’ Week of Prayer events in late September. After much prayer, we decided to theme the event, “Building Your Foundation.”

Flyer Building Your Foundation 092317It was to be me and one other person traveling from Washington, D.C. to Salisbury, though the other person was unable to join due to a schedule conflict. Having previously checked flight and train schedules with none that truly fit my needs, I was resigned to make the six-hour drive by myself and to view it as quiet time with the Lord to prepare for the messages to be delivered. Upon my arrival in Salisbury, I would meet up with my other ministry partners to prepare for that Saturday’s and Sunday’s events.

The bold and transformative five words, “I would love to go,” were texted by Mrs. Connie May—a seasoned saint in her late sixties who had just returned from a 10-day train trip to our home state of Kansas to visit family. Her bags were still packed from her travels when she quickly and without hesitation responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading to join me. Surprised, as I had just mentioned our ministry event to her that morning by text and sent her the flyer, I asked if she was sure, because again, she had just returned from travel. Forgoing texting her, I called her to really see if she was sure. Her response was as firm as it was in her text message: “I would love to go.” She further added, “My bags are packed.”

Mrs. May was exercising a disposition always encouraged and welcomed by the Holy Spirit which would enable Him to move mightily from the beginning to the end of our trip: obedience. Her love for our young people coupled by an unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s instructions along with my love for our young people and obedience to yield to what the Lord was doing, granted us blessings upon blessings, favor upon favor that would take too long to record in this post.

The Anointing Flows

With a few tracks performed from his newest and 10th album,  A Musical Inspiration of Epic Proportionsby our dear brother in Christ and Christian rap artist Crucial, we presented “Building Your Foundation” on Saturday, September 23, 2017, with messages to help students build their foundation on Christ Jesus followed by a panel discussion to answer their questions on the challenges in doing so.

The core scripture came from 1 Corinthians 3:11, 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We also encouraged the Livingstone students to live as “living stones,” to be a holy priesthood as Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:4-6.

We were blessed for the opportunity and privilege to pour into students God’s truth. With a foundation built upon Christ Jesus, we can successfully weather life’s storms and remain standing. I also referenced Christ as the Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16) to any structure, where a cornerstone is subjected to much pressure and stress and able to uphold and sustain the structure built upon it. During our message, I also shared with them seven (7) things that God gives us when we build our foundation upon Him. In contrast, Satan will plant certain things that are opposite/counterfeit to what God gives if we follow Satan’s ways. I credit these “seven” teachings to what the Lord revealed to my dear brother in Christ and mentor, Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank, Freedom Squared.

Here’s what God gives contrasted with the opposite of what Satan sends:
1- Instruction (God’s Word) vs. Illusion
2- Immortality vs. Impermanence
3- Identity vs. Indistinctness
4- Invulnerability (when we’re pursuing God’s purposes) vs. Infirmity
5- Integration vs. Isolation (God integrates us into one eternal family whereas Satan isolates us)
6- Importance vs. Insignificance (The work we do for God is important whereas Satan tells us we don’t matter anyway and “what makes you so special?”)
7- Increase vs. Insufficiency

 

The students saw and understood this and could recognize the traits in their lives. Crucial added to this by speaking on God’s Word as our instruction to successfully guide us and to overcome Satan’s illusions. He also reinforced having Christ as our foundation and used the analogy of a three-legged stool to show the support we need in our discipleship: 1-Word of God, 2- Consistent Prayer, and 3- Godly Fellowship.

The students were truly engaged and asked excellent questions which led to our delivery of the truth by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly moved upon hearts as several students asked us to pray over them. As the students approached us, I embraced them, told them, “I love you,” and genuinely meant it. God gave me a love for each student like no other, particularly having met them for the first time that day. I have said that “you have to love someone to pray for them.” As tears flowed from the students and even ourselves as we prayed, so did the anointing. We praise God for yokes and chains broken, burdens shed and things released. We know that seeds were planted and watered and those who came in chained left freed! Glory to God!

“Can We Order More Pizza?”

We enjoyed food and fellowship afterward, which allowed us to see another blessing in obedience. Our initial pizza order was enough to feed everyone lightly, but the Lord placed it upon Mrs. May’s heart that we were to order more. She texted me, “Can we order more pizza?” In my desire to be a good steward of our resources, I first balked at her question and replied that we had enough, though she asked me again. I sensed that I needed to follow the leading here and gave her the green light to order more pizza. Ready to give my credit card number again to the pizza store manager, I began to rattle off my card number and then the store manager, Jennifer, stopped me. She said, “Nicole, these five extra pizzas are on me. ”

I/we couldn’t believe it. God blessed us and blessed us ABUNDANTLY!! As students made their, second, third and fourth rounds through the boxes of pizza, we thought of how Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish; how the food was multiplied and plenty was left over!! After all of the students had their fill and some left the chapel, we had a couple whole pizzas left. We gave those remaining whole pizzas to students who truly appreciated having another free meal to take home! God is awesome and can do amazing things that exceed what we can imagine when we yield in obedience to His instructions! Praise God!

Group pic post event on 092317 Livingstone College Building Your Foundation

Physical and spirit man fed! Livingstone students join post-event with Jayson Gardner (Livingstone College assistant to Pastor Troy Russell), Crucial (black t-shirt and cap), Nicole D. Hayes (Voices Against the Grain founder in tan blazer), Mrs. Connie May with Voices Against the Grain, Sherry Russell and her husband Pastor Troy Russell (center) pictured with their daughter Tailor, at the September 23, 2017 ministry event, “Building Your Foundation.”

We also welcomed students from nearby Catawba College to the event where Catawba College student, Destiny Stone, sang her song, “Have Your Way,” which has been on our playlist since we learned of the powerful track in July. Destiny, event coordinator for Catawba College’s Black Student Union, invited me to speak during their morning services on that Sunday, September 24, 2017, where I delivered a Holy Spirit-led message on being “Dangerously Lighthearted” before a Holy God. The message was a call to holiness for God’s People and a desire to mature in Christ Jesus as His image bearers. More victory for God’s Kingdom, as several students adhered to the altar call where hearts were contrite and repentant, burdens where laid down, chains were broken and peace, freedom and joy was restored! All to the Glory of God!

A Black Eye Delivered to the Kingdom of Darkness Generates Opposition

It goes without saying that when you take territory from the enemy for God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t go unnoticed. You can expect opposition. Mrs. May and I were barely an hour into our six-hour drive back to D.C., when an issue “developed” with the rental car. The engine pan had come loose and was dragging the ground making a loud noise as the wind caught it during our highway speeds. The pan was most likely damaged and loosened by the previous driver who ran over something as we saw more evidence of this. I texted my dear sister in Christ and prayer partner about our situation and requested prayer. She replied, “On it.” I knew what that meant! She was going to rally her troops, pray, bind and dismantle the enemy’s efforts and dispatch many angels on our behalf!!   🙂

Long and short, after calls with the rental company and roadside assistance, the Lord put it on Mrs. May’s spirit to seek out a nearby service center to have them put the car on a rack to inspect and fix the issue. We located a nearby service center and the shop owner shortly got us in, mind you, a few minutes before they closed on a Sunday afternoon. He tightly secured the pan at no charge to us and though we pleaded to pay him, he refused payment. He bid us well and got us safely on the road back to D.C. While Satan attempted to steal our joy, peace and collective victory, we did not cave to it and continued to experience God’s favor in obedience!! Hallelujah!

Obedience is the Key to Our Success

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions and move beyond your imagination and perceived limitations!! This past weekend, through the obedience of those ministering, serving, yielding, praying, and fasting, we saw God show UP and show OUT in ways that I am still processing.

We thank Livingstone College and Catawba College for allowing us the opportunity to pour into their students. We remain open to future invitations. Thank you Pastor Troy Russell for your heart for your students. Thank you to the youth (Livingstone College praise team, Destiny Stone, 4GWL) who blessed us with song and worship, truly setting the atmosphere at both colleges!! Thank you Crucial, Destiny Stone and Azende King for serving on our panel discussion! Thank you Jalen for helping us with our sound equipment needs on Saturday! You were truly a blessing! Thank you to Anthony and those who helped us set up on Saturday, another blessing! Thank you to our many prayer partners who prayed, fasted and encouraged us in this effort. We all share in this collective victory for God’s Kingdom and the futures restored and preserved for these young people. We pray they will continue to seek God for His instruction to obediently walk out His call on their lives. We pray for their foundations to be built upon Christ Jesus to successfully navigate this life and to become Godly change agents in whatever environments God places them!

As my dear brother in Christ Hakim says, “Obedience is our best opportunity for success.” We have noticed that due to our obedience, open hearts and willingness to follow His will, God has placed people in our lives to help drive our efforts—without us reaching out to them. When God sees a level of obedience from us, He will entrust us with more important tasks. Those who value God’s instruction go deeper and deeper into obedience to Him. Obedience to God is always going to produce fruit.

I love 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.

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Dangerously Lighthearted

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It was a 4 a.m. wake up from the Holy Spirit. Still pitch black outside and in my home, I raised up to jot down His words coming to me. Instead of a notepad and pen, I began typing the words on my smartphone as my eyes were still adjusting to the phone’s bright screen. As I received the words in my spirit, it became clear that the message was directed at church leaders, those that shepherd others (some, not all), and lastly to us as individuals being accountable for our walk with the Lord. The flow of this post will be unlike my usual writings as I strive to keep to His words which sharply and soberly began with this post’s title, “Dangerously Lighthearted”:

We serve a Holy God. Coddling and cradling people in their sins because this is where you’re at too. You want a pass for being human and to be allowed certain vices regardless of how it grieves God. You’ve relaxed and believe that you and others can ride on the coat tails of Romans 8:1 without being grieved to be led out and away from the behavior and mindset which we are encouraged to do in Romans 12:2. Yes, grace is God’s gift to us through relationship in Christ Jesus who brutally took on the full penalty of our sin due us, freeing us. Yet, we are told in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

The New Living Translation says it this way:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

This is not a suggestion but a command. Our goal is to discern and obey the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. This is a daily, deliberate decision and action pursuant to be perfected in the likeness and image of Christ.

You have become dangerously lighthearted toward those you shepherd. You have made many comfortable in their sin and ungodliness rather than imparting to them the seriousness of their condition. You don’t implore them to no longer concede to flesh and trends; to not become prey to the enemy’s snares. You are not cautioning them to monitor what content they ingest, in what conversations they participate, and the behaviors they engage. Freedom in Christ Jesus is not a pass to delight in sin when we are to pursue righteousness. We are God’s peculiar people called out from the world; to be holy, separated and set apart. Sinful pursuits become a slippery slope numbing those to call what is “evil good and what is good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Soon, they are no longer distinguishable from the world.

Don’t let the culture enculturate you by becoming dangerously lighthearted to those you have been entrusted to shepherd. There are wide roads packed with faulty shepherds. The momentary laughs at your and their sins and being excused for “having a moment” should instead make you and them grievously uncomfortable to see how you and they have offended a Holy God.

laughing-cinema

Though we are saved and freed from God’s wrath with the promise of eternal life with Him, the journey does not end there. With the old, former life behind us and raised up as new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), sanctification is the next step in being perfected in the image of Christ Jesus. This process requires shedding the old so we can be built up in the new, to mature in Christ. As God pours His character traits into us, we should reflect the same contents as the bottle. But by being dangerously lighthearted many will be permanently stalled in their spiritual development when they have been coddled instead of corrected. The clever talents of teaching and speaking will ineffectively be rear view mirror if the words do not prick a heart change in direction.

“It is far better to be plain in speech, yet walking openly and consistently with the gospel, than to be admired by thousands, and be lifted up in pride, so as to disgrace the gospel by evil tempers and unholy lives.”- Matthew Henry Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:5-15.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Your mercy, Your goodness and instruction extended toward us. Forgive us for being lighthearted about that which grieves You. As leaders, shepherds and teachers, forgive us for not being grieved by that which enslaves others; to where we would coddle and not correct those sheep You have entrusted to us for fear of offending them. It is our love for You and love for others that should lead us to correct. Let us focus less on clever and talented speech or preaching and instead plainly ensure that we are delivering Your truth with Your heart, no matter who it offends so they would desire to mature and walk in your ways.

As Your children, Father, give us hearts that are aligned with Yours. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in us as David prayed to You in Psalm 51. You are faithful to forgive and cleanse us. Help us to truly see You as a Holy God and to have a full reverence and love for Who You are. Whatever You reveal in us that is not of You, may we cooperate with You to remove it and not run from Your cleansing. Wash and cleanse us from old ways of behaving and thinking. May we meditate on Your Word and commune with You to know Your ways. May we gain a deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus to reflect Him to others in every way. 

In Your Son Jesus’ Precious Name,

Amen.

-Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Harvey: Shaping a New Narrative?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hurricane Harvey. A devastating Category 4 hurricane that hammered eastern Texas last week. Floodwaters reached unprecedented levels of approximately 50 inches as the storm lingered over the areas of Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Dickinson, Corpus Christi, Rockport and Victoria, causing catastrophic flooding. In the storm’s wake, the aftermath is heartbreaking. More than 50 lives lost and likely more as receding flood waters reveal bodies that succumbed to the storm. Waters up to street signs that contain more than eight times the allowed limit of e coli (should be 0), fecal bacteria, crocodiles, snakes, floating colonies of biting fire ants, possibility of infections, diarrhea, skin diseases; the threat of electrocution from live wires unseen, let alone the dangers of driving and being pulled under deeper waters.

These and other issues have weighed upon my and your heart this past week in praying for Texas and now portions of Louisiana. More than 37,000 homes lost, businesses destroyed, possessions no longer, thousands of people rescued and displaced are trying to live in what is their “now.” Who knows what will come next, as the living seek to bury their loved ones (How will this occur with so much under water?), what about work, school, health care needs, basic needs, etc.?

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Getty Images

 

Hurricane Harvey Cnn

Photo credit: CNN.com

In all of this devastation and what will be weeks, months and likely years of recovery and rebuilding, we are witnessing profound unity. People are helping one another regardless of one’s ideologies, political affiliations and leanings, no matter who voted for who, we are seeing people of all backgrounds and races coming together. This is a stark contrast to the tragedy that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., only weeks before.

Amid the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we are seeing goodness, kindness, and love in action—at least three of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23. The narrative of race that dominated in Charlottesville, a quite different narrative of love is coming forth in very challenging and life-altering circumstances. In the grief, this narrative is a welcomed relief and hope.  A hope that some day conversations about race will no longer dominate or be considered necessary. That conversations about God’s ability to show His Presence in the hearts of others, His ability to mend brokenness, the Godly words and actions of others will become our new narrative.

Hurricane Harvey police officers rescue elderly woman

Photo credit: NY Daily News

hurricane-harvey-harris-county time magazine

Photo credit: Time Magazine

With such a new and inspiring narrative, what will the others have to talk about or criticize next if race relations is no longer a topic requiring fuel to keep it burning on hearts and lips? Or a pot continually stirred by media commentators or even in the pulpit?

King Jesus, thank You, thank You for showing us You in so many facets.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:45-48, NIV).

What we have seen in Houston and the surrounding region is an area of hope in the face of worldwide evil. Wickedness remains, and certainly after the immediate crises have been stabilized and addressed in Hurricane Harvey, some people may resort to their old ungodly ways. However, I do believe hearts were permanently transformed in this event by seeing the love of God on display.

In the world’s darkness, may Believers continue to be light and love. May we continue to imitate Christ and watch as some of the negative narratives fall away and are replaced with Godly ones. More is expected from the followers of Christ to allow Christ within us to reshape the narratives. May we continue to be proven as His Children to a skeptical world.

Our prayers, love and support continue to be with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We also pray blessings of health, protection and safety for those rendering aid on the ground.

-Nicole