But I’m Not Going That Way

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nationwide marches. Protests. Rallies. Sit ins. Hundreds of thousands and millions of people gathered to publicly display their positions and views this past week. As a Washington, D.C. resident, I see such demonstrations repeatedly as citizens utilize the public square to stand up against injustices. Who wouldn’t want to be where the action is? Who wouldn’t want to participate in these historical events? Who wouldn’t want a ride to one of these events if offered?

But I’m not going that way. 

I will explain.

Demonstrations, protests and rallies serve as our human efforts to right wrongs; to bring injustices to the surface and hold them accountable. It is a fight to ensure that justice is restored and maintained. It’s part of America’s fabric and that of other nations. Yet, these and all such activities only provide Band-Aids of temporary remedies and not justice eternal. Man can never even the score of what Christ alone can do. Yes, the flesh wounds are real. The injustices are real.

But I’m not going that way. I’m going this way… 

We’ve all been wounded by someone or something and some, more than others. There is no denying this. Yet, I know the Great Equalizer who binds up those wounds and restores what was lost, taken or marginalized. And even in my tenderness and compassion for those wounds, I can’t get caught up in the flesh wounds that would distract my eyes from Christ. If I did, how could I point the wounded in the direction toward healing?

As a dear sister in Christ wrote, “The ‘good’ intentions and injustices should never become the end goal in need of remedy because that measurement is less than what Christ will do. It distracts us from His Kingdom message of return, repent and make straight a path for the Lord.”

So true.

Jesus did not seek to right all of society’s wrongs but He did show love and compassion toward the suffering. He showed them the way to true healing and peace. He showed them that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  

As one who has been called by God to feed His sheep, to be a “voice against the grain,” to share His truth in love and to provide instruction and clarity where there is disillusionment, I do so by keeping my eyes on Christ.

Vida diaria en Iquique

To say, “But I’m not going that way, I’m going this way,” means that we seek to be Holy Spirit-led (listening for His voice) in all that we do rather than being pulled in the popular direction of the day. This often means that we’ll be walking in the opposite direction of the big crowds. It means that we are guided by a biblical view and spiritual eyes rather than a worldview that galvanizes people to jump on various bandwagons. It often means that few join us on that stretch of road to the Cross. It also means that sometimes my heart needs encouraging when I cry out “How long, how long, Lord?,” as I desire for more people to seek Him, to thirst after Him alone rather than the failed vehicles they chase after for their balm.

For the Believer and the unbeliever, I encourage you to look to the Cross, where Jesus bore it all and won it all for us.

As my dear sister prayed (Thank you, sis), “May we look upon Christ and identify with His cross, life, death and resurrection and the hope of the world to come. May our dependency upon the Lord be like little children and look to His ability to change hearts and provide the increase in their growth.  May we have faith and wait to see how our Father will work to bring His plan to completion! O, Lord, give us the grace to trust you beyond our senses and to look to you for everything! Let us anticipate O, Lord, the new Kingdom that You are creating and Your Sovereignty to create us anew.”

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.

Jesus: The Threat of Exchange and Replacement

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Jesus was a threat alive, dead, resurrected and now as He reigns. But why?

Jesus poses the threat of exchange and replacement. Exchange false beliefs and replace with clarity and truth that leads to eyes opened and life anew. Exchange comfort for discomfort among those who preferred our former deception. Exchange self-sufficiency and replace with our full dependence upon Him. Exchange our ways for His. Exchange our will for His. Exchange our desires for His. Lord, you mean you don’t want me to tell that person off—even when I’m well within my rights to do so? You want me to keep my mouth shut? Lord, you want me to follow your lead rather than moving ahead without you? Jesus says, “Follow Me and be my disciple (Luke 5:27)” —and where will that decision take us?  What will I have to give up? Who will I upset? Because choosing you will make me stand out rather than blend in with the culture. There is a cost to following Jesus.

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Jesus posed such an incredible threat that the Romans and the religious teachers of His day wanted him killed. When he was crucified, they went to great lengths to ensure the rumors of Him being the Messiah were quickly silenced and falsified. The threat that Jesus posed to His enemies in those days remains the same today. The mere mention of His Name and His Truth inflames and offends. He turns things upside down, on their heads and then right side up. Demons flee in His Name. In His Name, there is authority—an authority that causes believing hearts to surrender and yield—and an authority that causes unbelieving hearts to resist or seek to negotiate. There is indeed something different about Jesus…and this causes unrest within the unbelieving and negotiating heart.

It has always been a heart condition. The heart wants what the heart wants—and yet, only those with true humility will be courageous to truly seek the source (Jesus) of what the heart wants. The old must die to make room for the new. Matthew 9:17, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

Arrogance and pride remain the cousins of temporal and eternal destruction. Following Christ will cost you less than choosing not to.

Heavenly Father, we pray for Your mercy and love to strive a while longer with those who are still negotiating the full surrender of their hearts to you and to Your Son, Jesus Christ. Father in hearts that seem impervious/impenetrable, we pray for them to have an unmatched encounter with Your Love. We pray for Your Love to bring them to clarity and courage to want more of You, no matter the cost. We pray for Christ to reign on the throne of their hearts and for self to kneel. Fill their hearts to overflowing, Lord, so that what they sought to negotiate and hold on to will pale in the sight of the abundant life that You give.  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.

Are You Transactional, Transformational or Both?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Happy New Year, Everyone! Per our previous message, I pray that your first weeks into 2017 have you “shifted and lifted” to remain in God’s peace as you carry out His purposes.

In this year and a half of studying various leadership styles through my Master of Public Administration courses with Regent University, I’ll reference two for this message: transactional and transformational. If I were to ask you, “Are you transactional, transformational or both?,” you may want to understand the traits that distinguish each before you respond.

business-corporate-transactional

Transactional leaders offer a reward contingent upon the work and appropriate behaviors. Both parties are cooperative in order to secure particular ends. The transactional leader is always expecting something in return—a give to get scenario.

Transformational leaders transform people to their highest good or ill (let’s focus on the good). They provide support, encouragement, coaching and mentoring. The transformational leader pays careful attention to individual followers often with a benevolent, developmental, mentoring nature, as well as intellectual stimulation. Such relationships come with increasing levels of self-sacrifice, love and respect.

Certainly, to navigate life, we have to be transactional to purchase products or services, to do business with others. However, some people remain stuck in this transactional space to preserve their self-interests, not graduating to being transformational in others’ lives. They always operate at the margin that will cost them the least amount of money, time or other resource investment. This act of self-preservation may be driven by past hurts, or someone they trusted deceived them or used them, or they’ve simply vowed to look out for Number 1 because who else is?

Oppositely, transformational leaders/transformational people, understand that there will be costs—costs that they may never see an actual return on their investment—but they are willing to invest because they trust that the outcomes will be greatly exponential. They understand that those outcomes may or may not manifest immediately but will absolutely bear fruit in the eternal.

Jesus Christ was and is transformational. As a dear brother in Christ indicated, “Jesus sought out transformative relationships with everyone who was willing to be transformed by Him.” So true. Jesus paid a great price to have such a relationship with you and me.

He exchanged His Majestic position of being the King of kings and Lord of lords to become a defenseless infant in a manger. He exchanged position to wash His apostles’ feet, as a dear sister in Christ reminded me. He exchanged His glorious crown for a crown of thorns so we could have true life. His investment in us for those who accept it is nothing short of transformational. He knew the costs. He knew He would give far more than others would give Him in return. He knew He would give and others may never receive Him. Yet, He gave anyway. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45, NIV).”

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Christ’s love operating within those who’ve asked to receive Him enables us to love and serve others beyond what is expected. Christ’s love for us fuels His love within us and fuels our actions toward others. As a dear sister in Christ says, “Christ’s love is the divine spark that fuels everything.” This is what transitions us from being simply transactional people to transformational leaders and simultaneously, servants. 

The love of Christ makes no sense to this carnal world that is counting its marbles to preserve its self-interests—in a world that is shocked when someone’s help or involvement is not driven by ulterior, self-serving motives. The love of Christ takes us beyond what we thought possible in serving others. In serving others in the love of Christ and through a biblical worldview, Christ is central in all that we do.

So, given the descriptions provided, are you transactional, transformational or both? If you are still counting your marbles given out, ask God to search your heart to identify and remove the issues that puts self first. May you seek more of Christ’s transformative love to reside in your heart to decrease self and increase Him. As you trust Him to be your front and rear guard in all circumstances, watch Him exceed your expectations. In our transactions with others, may we also seek to be transformational.

-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.

 

 

 

 

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

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?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

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.

 

 

 

 

Because He Offends Our Sensibilities: A Post-Election Encouragement

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Note: Since launching Voices Against the Grain in 2013, we have vowed to remain nonpartisan, for we are focused on the true government that rests upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6-7). We’ll continue to do so even in discussing political matters.

Donald Trump. Lack of self-control. Disrespectful. Abhorrent. Insulting. His words spoken most always elicited a visceral reaction from me and many others, finding what he said to be crude and offensive. Many of us were taught to respect others; to be kind toward others. We were taught to treat others as we’d want to be treated. We were taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Absolutely, Donald Trump violated every one of these precepts. He offends our sensibilities. His words also unleashed and emboldened others whose mindsets offend our sensibilities in the worst way.

But even in this, on the night of Tuesday, November 8, 2016, into the wee hours of Wednesday, November 9, Donald Trump became America’s 45th president-elect. The votes separating the two candidates was undeniable. It was done. The world appeared like it had been turned on its head. Many commiserated in their alcoholic beverages, shed tears, stood in shock, disturbed by the outcomes. Even the experts had not predicted the polls to shift as they did.

How and why did this happen??

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Donald Trump, president-elect, yelling at a Colorado rally at fire marshall. Eeeks.

Let’s start here. While many were focused on being “on the right side of history” by voting for a woman to become president, while many were wanting to see more “progress,” other voices that have been dismissed, said, “Enough.” Some of those voices are decent, intelligent and loving men and women. They’d risk their lives for you. Some of those voices are not white nationalists, not racist nor sexist. They recoiled at the two candidate choices presented and might have wanted a woman president but not that woman. Some of those voices are black and brown. Some of those voices are deeply grieved when inequality continues to proliferate. Some of those voices were also tired of the establishment. The bought media. Elitism. The status quo. Immorality.

A nation that once said, “In God We Trust,” set forth legislation and behaviors that disregarded God. What came afterward was so wrong, so much and so fast with more to come. Some of those voices fervently prayed for an intervention, in whatever way God fashioned it. People were kneeled and prostrate, hearts pouring out. And when there’s prayer for an intervention…look out. Will it be a prick, a tap on the shoulder or a full out “oops, upside your head”?

Do you know who else offends our sensibilities? God. GOD offends our sensibilities when things happen that we can’t make sense of. God offends our sensibilities when we keep eating the cake that’s killing us and He decides to finally remove the plate from our gluttonous faces to save us from ourselves. God offends our sensibilities when IN His love for us, He removes His grace and sends judgment—like a parent whose child continues to rebel. Throughout the Bible and throughout our lives (for those paying attention), we’ve seen God move in ways that confused us, that made us uncomfortable, that angered us, that caused us to think He was out of His mind or no longer with us.

Fact is, God is not interested in our comfort. This election outcome didn’t just happen on November 8. This extends far before and beyond. Whether it is God’s judgment or His protection, I’m not to say. What I know is that His Hand is Sovereign in all situations. Since last year, I called this entire election a dumpster fire careening down the street out of control—or was it? Was society turned on its head by this election outcome—or is God getting us in position to be turned right side up? To usher in His Kingdom? God works best in our discomfort. 

God WILL OFFEND our sensibilities to do what He needs to do. He will absolutely upset our plans. We may not like it or love it. We may not understand it. But to this, I say, “Lord, have your way. Have thine own way.”

I absolutely understand those distraught by this presidential election outcome. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Cling not to broken, worldly thought patterns.

But to the Saints/Believers/the Body of Christ, I implore you not to be frightened by this outcome. Instead, be JOYFUL that God is moving! More people have come together in prayer. More are in praise and worship! More are seeking God for hearts to change and saying, “Lord, let that change start with me.” More love, more kindness. More of God’s People are emboldened to fight the good fight on their knees while wielding the sword of His Word in their hands.

This is also game time! Suit up, Saints! We’ve rehearsed for game day many, many times, now. We’ve been in training for game day. We know His Word. We trust in God’s Promises to deliver and keep the righteous in perfect peace. We know He has not given us a spirit of fear. We already know that the gates of hell shall not prevail. We know that His Presence goes with us wherever we go and he says, “Be not afraid. Be strong.” He already told us that He has “overcome the world (John 16:33).” We know how the story ends, folks!! While many of you are resting in this truth, some of you are afraid and dismayed. Come on, folks! Such situations do NOT change how the story ends! Through Jesus Christ, we win in the end! No man, no woman, no system, no campaign can bring about such victory. This victory has already been won through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Focus. Don’t Get Distracted.

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Remember our world is fallen, perishing. In dire need of a Savior. For those firmly rooted in Christ Jesus, we are to view all situations through His eyes. We are to glorify God whether the situation is good or bad; to our liking or not to our liking. A spiritual mind is a mind stayed on Jesus. A spiritual mind is indeed sober about situations—and is yet, slightly detached from the world. We handle elation and devastation the same way: fixed, unmoved, abiding in peace, joyful.

Don’t let any circumstance remove your focus from Almighty God, the Great I AM. God will indeed offend our sensibilities to shake things up, to disrupt harmful patterns, to expose corruption and injustices so justice and integrity can be restored, to awaken the sleeping, to move us to abandon worldly wisdom and trust in Him only, to grow us, to strengthen us and to draw hearts closer to Him; to bring us to the end of ourselves so that HE is all that remains in us. Such disruption is good and necessary. Our greatest success rests in Him and our obedience to His process. Focus less on Trump and see what God is doing in this very moment. I am excited to see how God will move. The nations are the LORD’s and He desires that we seek Him (Acts 17:26-27).

Pray for our leaders and for their hearts to be pliable in God’s Hands to do His will as noted in Proverbs 21:1. Lord, continue to use Your People as Ambassadors of Your light, love and truth in these times.

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.

Does It Matter What We Do in Private?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Behind closed doors where it’s just you, no one else. At your dining room table where conversations are shared with your nearest and dearest and not for public dissemination. The videos you watch. The music you listen to. The fetish that is private for now, but it’s growing appetite will soon put you on front street and embarrass you. The locker room conversations not meant for the board room.

Does it matter what we do and say in private? Does it matter who we speak unlovingly about? For those of us living in the “free world” of America, most would say that what we do and say in the privacy of our homes or private spaces is no one’s business. But to God, it matters.

For those in relationship with Christ Jesus, our character, actions, speech and heart should mirror His in the office, the storefront, in our homes, at the dining room table. As lights on the hill (Matthew 5:14) for everyone to see, the Christ in us should not be compartmentalized or covered. He should not be excused from certain environments for flesh to have its way.

As Voices Against the Grain and those of us who no longer wish to conform to this world’s status quo AND who desire to be continually transformed into Christ’s likeness through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we can display Christ to a skeptical world. The world is dying to see if godliness is indeed possible and simultaneously seeks its impossibility. For who would give up their right to not freely exercise whatever they want to do and say?

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In my professional life of public relations, we prepare our clients with messaging and talking points to help them “stay on message” when interviewing with media or delivering public presentations. It’s hoped that these talking points communicate who the client is, what they stand for and what they hope to accomplish through their platform. Yet, away from the hot mic and cameras, what resides in their hearts may be entirely different. Thus, we’re shocked when those “differences” are recorded outside of the person’s “talking points” environment.

If you are a Christian reading this, who are you in public and in private? Do you display godly character in both environments?

As God has grown the desire in me to truly be a Christian public servant, I think often on what that means. It means that God is grooming leaders who will not reflect the current landscape of “it doesn’t matter what I do in private.” They will not have dual minds but minds solely focused on obedience to His will and ways.

Such leaders will not rationalize policies that support convenience and expediency at the risk of morality. Such leaders will exercise integrity in matters great and small, public and private. Godly character is integrated into the whole and throughout their lives. We’ve seen quite enough of the dualism. We need to see more of the principled with moral absolutes.

In serving others publicly or in private, I continue to think on Luke 16:10

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When it comes to character, the little things matter. Lord, may our living be so close to You that the talking points are no longer needed because You live daily throughout our hearts and lives. Our daily public and private living will be Christ-like and not compartmentalized. Help us Lord, to be trustworthy in character in the great and the small things so a skeptical world will be the recipients of the blessings therein. Amen.

God bless you, much love to you and trust that the transformation is worth it.

-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.

 

The Deception of Progress: A Harmful Illusion

“If you want to change the direction of our country, vote.”  And in doing so, what are we advancing?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (liberty).  (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

In referencing the above New Testament scripture, I’m attempting to draw the clearest line, paint-by-numbers directions for this world to obtain true freedom instead of the counterfeit freedoms they currently pursue.

Liberty: the pursuit of it underpins our democratic society. Indeed, voting is important to register your voice in how our government should operate in serving our interests and preserving our freedoms.

But when such exercises compromise or disregard God’s laws for the sake of “progress,” we’ve not grasped the unprotected turmoil we’ve therefore brought upon ourselves. We’ve grieved God and incurred His judgments.

So why are many baffled by the decay our country lies in today?

“The irony of America’s quest for happiness lies in the fact that she succeeded more obviously than any other nation in making life “comfortable,” only to run into larger incongruities of human destiny by the same achievements by which it escaped the smaller ones. Our very success in this enterprise has hastened the exposure of its final limits.” – Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Though Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary, penned this quote 64 years ago, his message still rings truth today.

America has sought greater liberties to make people “comfortable” with their immoral lifestyle choices. Ironically, in pursuing such liberty, perfect harmony is yet to be achieved.

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The irony is that the immoral have gotten the liberties they’ve pushed for, but oh, it comes with so much more. The disappointment of the “so much more” is concealed until you get the package home, unwrap it, celebrate its novelty and then realize it is bundled with unwelcomed outcomes.

The duplicitous nature of such progress masquerades itself as a solution to accommodate our self-interests—absent of critical thinking, absent of considering the future ramifications. The only advancement in this type of progress is to advance gross deception within the recipient. This is a harmful illusion. The lesson in this is be careful what you ask for. You just might get it and other things along with it you didn’t ask for. This is the trickery of ungodly progress.

How Do We Obtain Authentic Liberty? 

“Liberation is not found in escaping or manipulating what God requires of us, but it is found by embracing and being faithful to God’s ideals.”- Charles “Chuck” Colson and Nancy Pearson, How Now Shall We Live (1999)

In Niebuhr’s words, our culture has hastened the exposure of the limits of what worldly progress/liberty can bring. There are far too many deceived in these last days.

Lord Jesus, we pray that those deceived would have the veil removed to clearly see that their freedom rests in You alone. May those pursuing ungodly progress be quickened in their hearts by hearing Your Word and be led to repent and recognize that true progress rests in our obedience to You, rooted in love for You. Jesus, You alone remain our intervention and deliverance from temporal and eternal ruin. Life in You is how we transform our country and our very lives.

Are you advancing decay or true liberty through Christ Jesus? The integrity of God and His Word are impeccable. Be very clear: God will not violate His integrity nor His Word. Those who seek liberties outside of His will are grossly deceived.

Why Are We Telling You This? 

At Voices Against the Grain, we present God’s Word to: 1- bring clarity and restoration so you can navigate successfully out of and away from deception, 2- to educate and equip you in God’s truth for abundant living—so you can truly live free as God designed, 3- to encourage you, and last, 4- to love you as we’re telling you the truth. Our platform messages, primarily geared for the Believer, also serve to educate the unbeliever.

We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who are advancing God’s Kingdom alongside us and within their communities. Thank you for exposing deception with truth and transforming one heart at a time in the love of Jesus Christ, so that those transformed are empowered by the Holy Spirit to help transform others. This is progress.

-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.