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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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

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus: The Light of the World

Joy! Yesterday I received wonderful news from a friend who testified to the power of our God through Christ Jesus to make necessary behavior changes in their life. When God moves on your heart, you can do nothing but change and in fact become “a new creation,” as said in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Praise God! While I believe programs can also assist people in making behavioral changes, nothing matches the heart encounter one has with Christ and how he can make changes “suddenly.” Now, this friend is shining their light before others, a witness to God’s goodness and awesome power. We know Satan hates an empowered Believer because they will likely equip and empower others in the Spirit. Nevertheless, shine your light so others may be drawn to know Him.

Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you.  The post reminds us Who is the Light of the world. There is no need to remain in darkness. Walk in the light. God bless you.   -Nicole

I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Men crawl through their lives cursing the darkness, but all the while I am shining brightly. I desire each of My followers to be a Light-bearer. The Holy Spirit who lives in you can shine from your face, making Me visible to people around you. Ask My Spirit to live through you, as you wend your way through this day. Hold My hand in joyful trust, for I never leave your side. The Light of My Presence is shining upon you. Brighten up the world by reflecting who I AM.

I-am-the-light-of-the-world

Accompanying Scriptures: Exodus 3:14, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15- Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16- In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” John 8:12, When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  2 Corinthians 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (New International Version)