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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Christmas: Taking Mary Moments in a Martha World

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To-do lists to check off. Errands to run.  Gifts to purchase and wrap. Decorations to hang. Volunteering. Meals to make and treats to bake. Guests to host. Church services and special events to attend. (Is there sleep somewhere in all of this?) Life is a flurry of activities but particularly so in preparation to celebrate Christmas. In truth, many of these activities are good, decent and connect us more with one another. But the downfall of living in a privileged, first world nation is that our greater efforts extended toward these activities can reduce our focus on Jesus, Our Savior and Redeemer, to third class.

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ this Christmas, how can we keep Christ front and center without allowing the season’s hustle and bustle to overshadow Him and overtake us? A New Testament story gives us the right approach.

The story of sisters Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 depicts how life’s busyness can make us vulnerable from discerning the “good” from what is “better”—even when doing God’s work and good things:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Though this story occurred before our time, does it not describe today’s times? We are still hurrying, multi-tasking, not fully living in and taking stock of the present moment.  Our minds zip ahead to what needs to be done next, tomorrow and during the week while missing the key thing!

beautiful child

Jesus and his disciples had come to visit the sisters’ home. I repeat:  Jesus was in the sisters’ home! Martha was frazzled with preparations while Mary seized the moment and sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to Him. What an opportunity to be in the presence of our Lord and Savior!

Can you discern what God needs you to do now—or is life distracting you? Are you partaking in good and worthy activities, yet missing the better opportunity to bask in our Savior’s Presence?

In this holy season and every day, may we deliberately take Mary moments in a Martha world. May we still and quiet ourselves against life’s busyness to sit at the Master’s feet to expectantly hear what He will say to us. In all that we do, may we seek God’s wisdom to discern the “good” from what is “better.”

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.

Christmas Interrupted Brings Unexpected Blessings

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories was spent in the hospital. My father is a pastor and on that particular Christmas Day, he received a phone call asking if he would visit a terminally ill patient. Sure enough, my parents packed us girls in the car and we were on our way. My older sister and I spent much of the day in the hospital cafeteria waiting for our parents. Surprisingly, we did not have a bad attitude in waiting. We knew our parents were called to ministry and understood the importance of them doing the Lord’s work. When we left, it was far too late for us to drive home and ask my mother to make Christmas dinner since the hospital was well over an hour away from our house. My father, like any good man, decided to hunt for food for his family. We eagerly drove around the snowy Detroit streets looking for open restaurants.

As you might have guessed, everything was closed except for a Chinese restaurant. That is where we would enjoy our Christmas dinner. As the only family in the restaurant, all we could do was laugh as we slurped our hot won ton soup. God is good. It wasn’t how we planned our day but somehow we felt more together that Christmas than any other. Sometimes breaking tradition to be a blessing to someone else becomes a hidden blessing for you.

Merry Christmas dear brothers and sisters. May this Christmas be filled with new traditions of serving Him. After all, it’s His birthday, so let’s do His will.Star of Bethlehem

Luke 2:1-14 (KJV) 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men.

-Ana

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principles are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

2014: Receive the One Who Gave All

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Ana Martinez, Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Another blessed Christmas and New Year begins.  At this time let’s remember all that God has done for us this year and the so many that came before.

 Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Our Savior has come, He has risen, and He lives!  Christ came to bring us salvation, hope, peace, forgiveness and everlasting life.  No amount of money can buy that gift.      2 Corinthians 5:21- For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.   How amazing is that?

God loves you! He loves you! He loves us!  This Christmas Season know that He loves you in spite of all the mistakes, disappointments, heartache, grief and pain—His love for you remains.  It is not too late to cast your cares on Him. It is not too late to lay your burdens down, to receive His forgiveness, to turn from a life of sin, or to receive healing.  He is waiting to have every area of your life, yet we allow fear to grip us and it only holds us back.  What IF we gave Christ everything?  I know for me, there is so much I am holding onto and He is telling me to let it go.  How do you let go of past hurts and disappointments?  You lay them at His feet and trust that He will see you through.

As the New Year arrives, I encourage you to let go of all bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, doubt and unbelief.  Leave it behind you and move forward with an open heart and open hands ready to receive all that He has in store for you.

Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad,

Ana Martinez

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principals are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative isGeorgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Ana resides in Southern California with her three beautiful children and seeks daily to model this scripture from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Christ: Our Confident Hope

Romans 12:12- “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Some perceive ‘hope’ as an unfulfilled dream that will never come to fruition. Some deem patience as a 30-second endeavor, which must yield instantaneous blessings. Some view prayer as nothing more than a last resort when they feel like their world is turning upside down. “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7. Only you, LORD.

When doctors can’t cure an illness, our hope is in You, LORD. When our bodies waste away and our minds become forgetful my hope is in You, LORD. Thus, when hope reaches its end, patience of an indomitable will takes over. Patience to see a world who will choose serving others than their own desires. Patience to see shopping take a backseat to fellowship. This should be our prayer, as it is not my intention to dampen the holiday. This is a reminder that we can’t forget CHRISTmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ first and foremost, Who is our confident hope. This makes everything else secondary. God bless and Merry Christmas.

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.