Are You Making the Great Escape?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Are you making the “great escape”? You may not have yet packed your bags but you’ve decided to get as far away from America’s craziness without being touched by it.

What do I mean by the “great escape”? I’m not referring to the book or movie, but to the chaos of our society. Erosion of morals and values. Erosion of economic, government, justice, law enforcement and political systems have caught many of you by surprise and outright disbelief. Rather than viewing the chaos as a continuous unraveling over decades and generations, you may view it as everything going to hell overnight. A dumpster fire on wheels, careening down the street out of control.

Baltimore riots CNN

CNN reporter talks in the crush of April 2015 protests in Baltimore, Md., that erupted over death of 25-year-old African American resident Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries to his neck and spine while in police custody. (Photo courtesy: CNN)

 

But the chaos has been a steady hatching of chickens coming home to roost. America has risen up through slavery, poverty and war; from agrarian labor to industrialization. New technologies, higher education, entrepreneurism and better wages have enabled some to fatten our bank accounts, live in decent neighborhoods and ease the work of our hands.

More of us used to help community and neighbors. But soon, our happiness became our priority and serving became an inconvenience. We moved away from personal action and invited the government to provide solutions. The anonymous (massive government and computers) began helping the anonymous (your neighbor whom the government does not know as you do). We encouraged and supported policies that liberated us from the responsibilities of our neighbor so we could pursue “getting ours” and comfortably “hold onto ours” once we got it. We didn’t want to be bothered by whoever was still “trying to get theirs.” Let government handle it.

suitcase

This began our “great escape.” This “great escape” was further emboldened by an arrogance and self-assuredness that once we got ours, we no longer needed God. In our bad times we cleaved to God. Our dependence upon Him was dire and childlike. Now that we’ve made it, we say, “I got this. What can God do for me that I can’t do?” Now that things are on fire and appear out of control, people want to escape unscathed—not realizing how their inaction has contributed to the chaos.

Some people have forgotten how to be servants. Self-interest has set in. Human selfishness ultimately, when it grows, causes communities to perish because of selfishness.

Granted, and thankfully, the aforementioned does not describe many of you reading this or those I know. But like Nehemiah, let us as a nation repent, rise, respond to the need and rebuild.

And yes: there will be a cost. There is always a cost to sacrificing our comfort for someone else’s. 

As Christians, our calling is to engage with the world, not seek escape from it. We’re called to be light in darkness. If you’re serving, thank you! If not: Be bold enough to leave the familiar and secure places to follow God’s voice to serve others. Die to self to become more like Christ. Invest in others. Where you invest, it certainly will give you a return. Christ is our world’s greatest hope and Good News. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12) and others need to see Him through you.

Yes, there is darkness in our world. Our world is a spiritual battleground with darkness and light contending for the same territory. Yet, as a dear sister in Christ reminded me, God is using these same conditions to be Light through His People.

Are you willing to be Light? Are you willing to serve or are you planning your escape to comfort?

-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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“Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Was the Pope right about Donald Trump? Thursday became a war of words when Pope Francis, on return from a trip to Mexico, commented about immigration reform. He addressed presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal of building a wall to keep out those who’d enter the U.S. illegally. Per this CNN article, Pope Francis said:

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.

Trump immediately fired back, calling Francis’ comments “disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said in statement. Trump added that the government in Mexico, where Francis spent the past five days, has “made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope.”

Donald Trump and Pope Francis

Ding, ding! U.S. Presidential candidate and billionaire businessman Donald Trump punches back to Pope Francis’ remarks made on Thursday that question Trump’s tout of being a Christian given his push to build walls rather than bridges to keep out those who’d enter the U.S. illegally. February 18, 2016. (Photo courtesy: 2 Scoop News)

I have few words to offer on the subject. While Pope Francis may or may not have been correct in his statement, there’s a greater point that can’t be overlooked. In fact, it should serve as the guide and rule for all who proclaim to be Christians, God’s People:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)

This isn’t rocket science, nor meant to be complicated, nor does it require mathematical formulas to figure out. This goes beyond Trump’s comment that “no leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.” It goes beyond Trump confusing 2 Corinthians for “Two Corinthians.”

Simply ask: Does this person exhibit the character of Jesus in their words and deeds? Do their words promote holiness, peace and truth? Do their words build others up or tear them down? Do they wear Christianity as an ornament yet don’t daily walk it, talk it or live it?  Are their words and deeds motivated by the fruits of the Spirit:

Fruit-of-the-Spirit

Is there any question after this?

-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.

Should Christians Go to War?

Evil can’t stop itself. And it must be held accountable.

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The voracity of evil happening in our day is sobering and difficult for the human mind to process. Each shooting, killing, slaying, beheading, other acts of violence and deception have hit many people like a punching bag over and over. Like the boxer pummeling his opponent in the ring, too many of us have taken hit, after hit, after hit, slumping in the corner and hoping we’ll be saved by the bell to end this brutal round of seeming defeat. Many have become numb to the pummeling at their spirits and peace, and have accepted the evil as the new normal. Regretfully, they’ve adopted a normalcy bias. Indifference has set in as the new normal is embraced and this allows evil more reign, more territory. Who is holding evil accountable? Who will stand up to evil?

In pursuit of my Master of Public Administration, this semester in my Christian Foundations of Government class, this past week we were asked “What does Christianity say about war and peace? Is it ethical for Christians to be involved in war since it could cause loss of life?” The quick answer to the second question is “Yes, Christians can be involved in war.”

No one should enjoy war or recklessly incite war. Though there are times when war is necessary to bring about justice and to preserve/restore peace. Many times in the bible we see how God, after giving multiple instructions, warnings to rebellious people and showing his mercy, he released war to stop the flow of evil to preserve the righteous who remained in that area. Moral outrage about evil is not enough to stem the spread of evil and wickedness. This is NOT the opportunity to “turn the other cheek” as noted by the advice of early Christian theologian and philosopher, Augustine. “For peace is not sought in order to the kindling of war, but war is waged in order that peace may be obtained,” per Augustine. Particularly those who are truly a menace to society, steeped in their sins and operating in a reprobate mind (unwilling to repent or seek God), otherwise we’re assisting in evil. Per Augustine, “For nothing is less prosperous than the prosperity of sinners which nourishes and strengthens the evil will.”

In what we’re seeing in our world today, we as Christians, as God’s Elect, as Ambassadors of Christ, must go to war—particularly this war.

This is not a war with guns, missiles and tanks, but a spiritual war that requires our arsenal of prayers and praise. We armor up as prayer warriors and we unite on one accord in the Body of Christ. (Note: While I am focusing on spiritual warfare, we also recognize the evil we’re seeing is God’s judgment pouring out as the world has rejected Christ. The chickens of mankind’s rebellion and wickedness have come home to roost. We will continue to see more evil until man humbles himself before God and repents. Let’s pray for that too.)

Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-18 clearly informs us the type of war we’re in, the makeup of our enemies, and how we must fight this war:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (New International Version)

Though we know Christ Jesus has already won the war and given us the victory, it doesn’t give indifferent, lazy, passive and tepid Saints the permission to only be pew warmers on Wednesdays, Saturdays or Sundays while the rest of us box our enemy on our knees day and night. We need all of God’s People to suit up, armor up in prayer; to serve as the spear on the end of the sword that will inject truth, light, love and hope into darkness.

I pray as the Body of Christ that we come into unity in this understanding. Who’s with me? What say 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.

Politeness: Our State of Emergency

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

As a Christian, have you felt pressure to cave to a world view? Are you silent at the water cooler on controversial issues, afraid to rock the boat?

If you answered “yes,” you’re not alone. Whether the church massacre in Charleston, the injustices of Ferguson, the national push for marriage equality or the identity confusion of Bruce/Caitlin Jenner, somewhere along the way, we in the Body of Christ became too polite. We allowed prayer to be removed from school. We’ve allowed folks of all backgrounds with diminished mental capacities and prejudices to carry guns. We’ve allowed people’s confusion about their identities and sexual orientation to prompt businesses, educational institutions and others to remove “female” and “male” from their vocabulary and replace with more ambiguous terms so as not to offend gender-confused populations. We’ve thought it impolite to say anything to the contrary and have resigned to a “live and let live” mentality. We’ve accepted that there are some degenerate, “bad apples” in this world who inflict horrific violence upon others.

Now, the chickens of our complacency, politeness, political correctness and silence have come home to roost. This is our state of emergency.

politeness silence

While we strive to be considerate, genteel and well-mannered toward others, forces of darkness could care less about our manners.  As described in John 10:10, our enemy intends to “steal, kill and destroy” and he doesn’t play fair. While Christ Jesus came to bring us abundant life, true freedom, love, joy, hope and peace, Satan presents counterfeit schemes that suggest people can have freedom, love and joy with quicker rewards—and without relationship with God.  The world in its ignorance, has settled for counterfeit paths that will ultimately destroy them.

Our politeness is dearly costing our communities, nation and world. Politeness has made us shrink back from territories in which we should have greater presence. Politeness has dulled our fervency and zeal required when addressing immorality. Instead of fervently sharing God’s Truth on any terms, we’ve politely embraced the world’s terms for fear of being hated.  Who else should a confused and perishing world look to lead them in the right way if not a Christian? Are we snatching anyone from the fire, as stated in Jude 23?

The mute church has created a dangerous vacuum that has positioned Christians alongside hate groups. Furthermore, the congregation returns to work on Monday virtually indistinguishable from non-believers. We are warned not to talk about politics and religion by people who are pushing their own politics and religion. It is one made of man by man and it only offers bondage and chaos. It poses as light but degrades into shades of grey and eventually darkness.

The problem is not that we don’t have spirit-filled believers attempting to respond to these issues. It’s that we have fewer Christians speaking at the water cooler to defend the faith and keep Christians in view as people who love, give and suffer. The tragedy of our silence is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be mischaracterized to where we are dangerously close to being dehumanized.

How do we revive our collective Christian voice? How do we boldly and lovingly disperse light in darkness? How do we overcome fear and indifference and render aid in our state of emergency? Love toward others must continue to guide our thoughts, words and actions—but this doesn’t mean we shirk from entering the battle, where the Holy Spirit leads us.

Per God’s words to Joshua as the newly installed leader of the Israelites after Moses’ death: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-9) Let us not be concerned about who we might offend. By sharing God’s light, we help bring clarity to confusion and hope to darkness in our fallen world.

Still want to be polite or are you ready to fight?

-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. 

What They Cannot Kill

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”                                                 – Matthew 10:26-28 (English Standard Version)

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”     –Matthew 5:4 May the eternal grace, peace, and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with the families of the 147 victims killed in a terrorist attack at Kenya’s Garissa University. Most of the victims, if not all, identified with being a Christian. God bless the souls of those university students who courageously made a conscious choice in the face of danger not to deny believing in the name of Jesus Christ.

They did not fear the terrorists with guns who could kill the body because their assurance rested in the One who already saved their souls. Maybe the words of their Savior flashed through their minds in the face of persecution and danger. For the Bible says, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 10:32-33

I pray that we ready our hearts for the persecution that will inevitably come to Christians in the United States. In some cases, it is already here! Will we be bold in the face of danger, ridicule, and rejection, standing our ground in our belief in Jesus Christ? Or will we give in for the sake of our lives here on this fallen, dying and decaying earth? “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” –Matthew 16:25

Matthew-10-32  whosoever shall confess me before men

Christians be encouraged! I know it seems grim when we look around and see the spiritual and moral decay rapidly increasing. The more sin becomes acceptable and overlooked, the more Christians will be hated.

Oh they could kill the body but never the soul! Be encouraged! For Christ said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ –John 15:18-25 Amen

About Jason M. Alexandre

Jason Melchizedek Alexandre was born in November of 1989 in Brooklyn, N.Y. His family later moved to Philadelphia, Pa., and he now resides in Limerick, Pa. In May of 2014, Jason obtained his Master of Social Work degree at Widener University. Professionally, Jason counsels persons who are homeless, parents, veterans, and others who suffer from various kinds of abuse. Although Jason’s career is Social Work, his spiritual passion is missions. Jason believes in actively answering the Great Commission call Jesus gave all Christians for the Gospel to be spread from person-to-person and nation-to-nation. Annually, Jason travels primarily to Haiti on a mission trip with Haiti Christianity Inc. Each year, Haiti Christianity, Inc., visits cities and/or villages in Haiti bringing children educational supplies, clothing, and medical supplies. They also facilitate conferences in which bible study, budgeting tips, financial planning and most importantly, evangelization takes place. Jason is currently the organization’s public relations director. Jason’s vision is for the gospel to continue to spread throughout the world and believes it is Christian’s responsibility to carry out this mission effectively. To learn more about the organization for which Jason volunteers, please visit www.HaitiChristianity.org.