Christmas: True Peace Comes By Sword

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I was the kid who would ask mom and dad 20 questions until their answers satisfied my information gaps. I was the “Why?” kid whose parents patiently entertained my questions. Today, I still ask “Who, what, when, where, why and how” to have my information gaps satisfied.

As a girl, like many little girls, I had dolls. I would usually seat them at my made up table with plates, tea cups, spoons, forks and knives. So when my Dad asked, “Nikki, what are you making for your dolls today?” I would always reply, “Eggs.” It didn’t matter what time of day he asked me — whether day or night— my response was always “Eggs.” Thank goodness as dolls, they never rolled their eyes for being fed the same meal everyday! Eeeks! Today, I still enjoy eating breakfast anytime of the day.

As we transition from childhood, into our teens, to becoming young adults and mature adults, life experiences and relationships shape us. Even as we’re shaped by experiences, there are parts of us that remain the same. It’s part of our personality. It’s how we’re wired.

Conversely, as life experiences and relationships shape us, what we used to do we may do no longer. As a kid, from the ages of nine to 12, I frequently lied to my parents to avoid getting in trouble. I had become quite skilled in constructing stories to defend a bad report card grade, hide a dish that I broke, or anything else. But it was a growing thirst and a “who, why and how” interest I had in reading bible stories about Jesus Christ that began prodding my heart. At age 12, I surrendered my life to Christ and received Him as my Lord and Savior. I stopped lying. In fact, I told the truth about EVERYTHING that I did or I saw someone else do.  🙂

I share these stories of dichotomy with you to say this: Life experiences and relationships will most certainly shape us. It is also hoped that they refine us into who we are called to be. While our personalities are part of what makes us “us,” only when we are joined and partnered in relationship with Jesus Christ can the old nature begin to fall away and be replaced with Christ’s character. We become new as told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ Jesus, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV)

When we receive Christ into our hearts, we come into opposition with what we used to do and how we used to behave as the Holy Spirit works within to give us godly affections and appetites. New joys, new hope and even new boldness for those previously shy. New life is operating in us and others begin to see it in and on us. Our personality remains but is enhanced and tempered by the new nature of Christ.

As we rejoice this season (and truly every day) in the birth of the King of kings, Lord of lords, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there is no greater relationship in which we could be partnered. Many think they are happy without God, to live life shaped by their preferred appetites and beliefs. In all likelihood they feel a “peace” with how they’ve constructed life on their own terms.

Matthew 10-34 lion and sword

But as the Scottish Christian minister and teacher Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) wrote in his highly regarded daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, “That kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level. Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.” Jesus speaks to this aspect in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Through Jesus’ gift of salvation the disobedient, the liar, the rebellious and ungodly are restored to right relationship with God. Those received by Him are no longer an enemy of God.

While many pray for peace at Christmas, we pray more importantly that the true peace of Christ rules in our hearts because He has sent His sword through the false peace in which we once trusted.

Thank you Heavenly Father for loving us so very much that you sent your only Son in the form of a babe from heaven to earth to separate us from the world’s false misconception of “peace.” By doing so, we have opportunity to experience true peace in Jesus. Dear Jesus, for those who have yet to know and receive you, we pray that you would send Your sword through their false happiness and peace; separate them unto You, Lord. Fill them with Your joy and peace that is unsurpassed. May they desire to become new creations in You, no longer with appetites for their old ways but appetites for new ways — Your ways. No longer left empty by what the world takes from us, Your coming to earth is a blessed gift and relationship that continues to fill us. Thank you. I love you. 

Merry Christmas,

Nicole

 

 

 

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We Are Family!

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Wow! What is that?” This is a question I would sometimes ask myself in meeting another Believer for the first time. Upon meeting, there seems an instant joy, love and recognition in the Spirit that we know and love the same God: Jesus Christ. There is often a great excitement felt and exchanged upon meeting as we share with one another about our personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how we have seen Him faithfully move in our lives and others’ lives, and how we see His Hand moving throughout the world. In these testimonial exchanges, there is a comfort and encouragement in hearing each others’ experiences from the simple to the supernatural; to know that we are not alone in how we have experienced God’s Presence in our lives.

While our experiences are unique, there are consistent threads of God’s proven character, faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, favor, and attention to detail over our smallest and greatest concerns woven through our testimonies. So when I say “Wow! What is that?” it is a feeling of this special affinity felt and shared among Believers. This special affinity, an inexplicable and sometimes hard to explain joy is felt that may cause us to desire to fellowship with such Believers for hours or all day long as we talk about our love for the Lord. Have you experienced this too?!

holy-spirit-fire-003

Recently, I lunched with one of the young ladies I mentor. She had moved to the DC/Virginia area from a small town in Northern California and in doing so, introduced me to her former mentor from California. Her former mentor was briefly visiting Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer events and joined us for lunch. Immediately upon she and I meeting, the connection of the Holy Spirit was felt among us. I am Black, the two of them White, and you would have sworn by seeing us together that we were family or had known each other for a very long time. We could have tarried in our fellowship all day in great joy in sharing about the Lord, but we needed to drive my mentee’s former mentor to the airport for her return flight to California.

I am grateful that God knit us together as brothers and sisters in His eternal family—not always through natural blood as in our born family, but more importantly through the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is through His Blood shed as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and our belief in His Name and Who He is (Galatians 3:26), that we are indeed brothers and sisters in God’s eternal, multi-ethnic family! How extravagant! As the popular 1979 R&B Sister Sledge song says, “We Are Family.” People ask, “Could we be that close?” I say through Christ Jesus, “Yes, indeed!” As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This special connection and joy is perhaps felt more deeply among those who have developed a daily and growing intimacy with the Lord. There’s so much to share in our daily experiences when you have journeyed with Jesus for several years—when the more time you spend with Him, the more you see Him show up in your day. I have truly enjoyed great conversations and fellowship with my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! I love them so much! I thank God for gifting us a foretaste of what we will experience eternally one day.

My dear brothers and sisters: It’s hoped that the outward display of our joy, love and sweet fellowship with Jesus—and with those who are not our natural brothers and sisters but our brothers and sisters through new life secured in Jesus Christ—will make curious those who say, “Wow! What is that?” Whether Believers who desire to deepen their intimacy with the Lord or those seeking to know the Lord, may our Christian fellowship be a witness of the amazing love in Christ flowing through His People. May the rivers of living water that flow in us by the Holy Spirit also pour into others so they may experience the Lord. And as we await Christ’s return, may what we hope for continue to be what we live for.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, New International Version)

Love and blessings,

Nicole

We Must Be Vigilant

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New International Version)

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New Living Translation)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13, International Standard Version)

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6, English Standard Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12, New International Version)

There is nothing passive about the above referenced scriptures. Everything about these scriptures gives the image of a Believer who is alert, who is watchful (sober) or in the Greek context “nepho”; someone who abstains from wine or beverages (anything) that would dull their senses or distract them. The scriptures suggest that the Believer would not be caught off guard or caught slumbering but ready to offend whatever comes.

Imagine your disposition, how keen your senses if you knew that an enemy was lurking outside your door to kill you and yours. The enemy is looking for any breach, crack or gap to gain access and entry into your home, your mind, or your heart. How would you protect yourself? Your family?

If from reading these scriptures you still have an imagery of Satan as a red, pitch fork-carrying caricature with horns and tail who passively pursues you, then you have underestimated your enemy. The enemy is intentionally prowling around, looking for that easy access, that one moment of someone letting down their guard. Where will you compromise and make concessions? Like a prowling lion, your enemy seeks to pick off the weakest sheep from the flock for its prey.

Your enemy plants thoughts that become plots. Your enemy could care less about you, how old or young you are. Your enemy kills 17-month-old babies and pregnant women. He is a murderer, capable of unimaginable horror. He inspires actions, text messages and graphic images that result in careers, marriages and lives destroyed. He plants lies in your mind to make you distrust God and thereby take matters into your own hands. He intently seeks to impose fear upon you, to make you cower and submit to defeat.

Many view the follower of Jesus Christ as passive. Though we desire to be obedient to God, meek, kind and loving toward others, this does not mean we let down our guard. We are ever-discerning, we are wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), we are guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), we put on our spiritual armor daily to guard against the wiles of the devil and thwart his fiery darts. We also war against him in prayer, praise and through speaking scripture back to him.

Remember even Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness, the enemy relentlessly tempting him while He fasted. Jesus rebuked and responded to Satan with scripture and authority. We must do the same. In response to this Matthew 4:11 says, Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (New International Version)

Armor of God

This message is that of a team huddle or a war room strategy for the saints.

We must be vigilant. As wickedness increases, I am telling you, the Body of Christ, to gird your loins. Guard against appeasing worldly culture, for you will soon begin to look like it and it will always take you further than you wanted to go. We are called to be holy; sanctified for God’s purposes and set apart from the world.

Be alert, sober and be prepared to stand against every onslaught, deception and temptation. Do not be caught off guard. Do not be caught slumbering. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting to seize any opportunity that you find it okay to welcome that errant thought, embrace laziness, or slack in your spiritual growth. He’s looking for that chink in your armor, your area of weakness that will prevent your success.

Be alert and stay alert. Stay vigilant. That means step up your prayer life. Pray with authority and unshakable faith. Put on your spiritual armor before you begin your day (Ephesians 6:13-17). Meditate on God’s Word day and night so you may be successful (Joshua 1:8) and also know how to call up God’s Word at any moment to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means sealing up breaches in your behavior, character, emotions, lifestyle and thought life that would give the enemy the opportunity to ensnare you. This means giving Godly counsel to others you see as prey for the enemy due to destructive choices they are making. This means telling the devil in your Godly authority, “You are not welcome here.”

Love and blessings,

Nicole

For more on this, read our article “The Believer’s Disposition/Posture.”