“Should I Not Care About These Too?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, New International Version)

Love this! For the past couple of weeks, the Lord has had me fascinated with the Book of Jonah—a brief but powerfully dramatic four chapter book written by the prophet Jonah, nestled between two other Old Testament prophets, Obadiah and Micah. I’ve read, reread and pink highlighted various verses within the four chapters, brimming with greater excitement and understanding of our Lord’s compassion at each new reading. Certainly, most if not everyone even if they are not a Believer is familiar with what seems the central part of the story and that is Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and living in the fish’s belly for three days. Many children’s books and other published works have captured this aspect of this prophet’s seeming misfortune to spend three days (but survive) in the fish’s stinky belly. But I have learned even more and am in love with what the Lord has revealed to me and what is likely clear to you if you’ve read the four chapters.

To recap, Jonah was a prophet whom God called to preach in the ancient, historical Assyrian city of Nineveh located in Upper Mesopotamia and is today known as part of the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. In that time of 612 BC, those in Nineveh worshiped many gods and goddesses, primarily the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar , who promised love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power, to those who called upon her. The Lord seeing all of the debauchery, idolatry and sin taking place, said to Jonah in 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The people’s sin was creating a great stench before a Holy God.

Hearing the Lord’s word instructed to him, Jonah instead ran away from the LORD and headed for the far away city of Tarshish—literally to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. Who doesn’t cringe in having to give a word at times to people who are walking in sheer disobedience? How would Jonah be received in delivering this word? How are you received when delivering a hard word to someone who is rebellious? I know in times that I’ve lovingly but boldly delivered a ‘hard word’ to someone, it has been sometimes well-received with contriteness and humility by that person, and other times it has been brushed off and rejected like shewing away a pestering fly.

Jonah_Away_from_Nineveh

Eventually we know in reading the chapters that in the process of Jonah fleeing the Lord’s instructions, he boards a ship in Joppa to sail to Tarshish. The Lord sends a great and terrible storm upon the seas in which the shipmen throw Jonah overboard (with Jonah’s permission) because they knew he was running from God and the storm came upon them because of his disobedience. The sea immediately calmed once Jonah was thrown overboard and then being scooped up by the fish. Three days later, Jonah is spit up by the great fish onto dry land and he delivers the Lord’s warning to the people of Nineveh he was to render three days ago (Chapter 3). Jonah says to them in chapter 3:4, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Verse 5 reads that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” In response to their immediate repentance, verse 10 reads that “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t they about to be destroyed by God for idol worship, all out wickedness and every kind of evil living possible? Nineveh was also Israel’s enemy. By Chapter 4:1-2, Jonah is feeling some kind of way about God’s compassionate response toward a wayward people and he tells God exactly how he is feeling.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed  to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?”

I LOVE THIS! I imagine this scenario similar to a co-worker who has been goofing off, messing up and you can’t WAIT for them to GET IT from the boss, possibly even be fired. Or imagine you have a sibling who keeps being disobedient and you can’t WAIT for mom, dad, grandma or auntie to yank them up! And yet, with a warning, the co-worker straightens up and no punishment is brought upon them. The sibling apologizes for their behavior and no punishment comes to them, no grounding, or phone or television privileges taken away. You might be fuming as Jonah was recognizing that you’ve been living right, these people haven’t and God seems to let them off easy. This is the real reason why Jonah tried to avoid delivering God’s instruction because He knew of God’s great compassion.

I am in love with the Lord’s response to Jonah in Chapter 4:11, which speaks to how much the LORD loves us, strives with us, extends deep longsuffering (patience) with us, not desiring that any should perish: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

god-s-love-never-changes

I believe the God of Jonah’s time and our same God of today looks at us with that same compassionate heart. God even gave Jonah another chance to come out of HIS DISOBEDIENCE for him to deliver His instructions to the people of Nineveh! Amazing!

Today, God continues to send His People to warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction; walking in ways they think good but are not. In His great, unfathomable compassion, God sends us to pray for, warn, instruct, intercede for others in hopes they will turn to the light of Christ Jesus and be loosed from the grips of darkness.

Yes, God’s wrath will come upon those He is no longer striving with because they are unrepentant and have chosen their own paths of destruction, not desiring truth (If you read Nahum, the Lord’s anger rises again toward Nineveh promising destruction because of their partaking in wickedness). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15), which in His infinite wisdom and purposes will be a mystery to us. For those He is still reaching out to who will listen—who are blind not knowing their right from their left but hear and believe His Voice and immediately feel contrite and repent of their ways—He is compassionate.

This says so much about our God and how He has held back what could deservedly be His full wrath upon us many, many times ago. He has lived through generations upon generations of mankind’s disobedience, with more than 7 billion personalities today who may or may not choose His ways. More than 7 billion personalities who require daily patience. Could you or I extend such mercy and compassion to two or three people repeatedly, let alone more than 7 billion?

loveofgod

If the 120,000 people who God had His eye and heart set on in Nineveh were so precious to Him, I know then, so are we. In sharing the Gospel, may we extend a God-like compassion and warning toward those walking in blind disobedience so they may turn away from impending destruction. May we have a heart for the harvest.

-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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Preacher Teacher: Compassion, Not Compromise

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Does your pastor preach that same-sex marriage is ok? Welcomes civil unions? Are they vague on whether homosexuality is a sin, as like all forms of sexual immorality? If this occurs in your church, you might pack up. There is a disturbing trend occurring among some church leadership to bend in the area of homosexuality and same-sex marriage/unions so as to not offend anyone. In a February 2014 Pew Research Center survey conducted, “62% of mainline Protestants now say they favor same-sex marriage, up from just 34% a decade earlier in 2004.”( June 2014 Pew Research Center) Truth is, if you love someone, you tell them the truth so they are no longer blinded. If God’s truth “offends” then it offends those who view God’s Word as an afront to their chosen lifestyle. God’s Word convicts and convinces us of what is righteousness and what is sin. Some ignore it to satisfy their depravities which have been stamped as “natural.” And now they’ve asked us as Believers to accept all forms of depravity as “natural” too.

So why tackle this hot seat topic today? As you sit in your Sunday morning service, I ask that you discern what those in leadership are imparting to you. Meet it with Scripture.

When I read the headline of this July 2 Black Christian News article, “Baptist Pastor Who No Longer Believes Homosexuality Is a Sin is Obama’s Guest at White House LGBT Pride Month Reception,” I said, “Whaat??”

To explain the long story short,  Danny Cortez, who leads New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., rejected his denomination’s stance on homosexuality by deciding to accept the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community without teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin. He and his 15-year-old son, Drew Cortez, who came out as gay earlier this year, received an invitation to a June 30 White House presidential reception, celebrating LGBT Pride Month. About the event, President Barack Obama said, “This tremendous progress we’ve made as a society is thanks to those of you who fought the good fight, and to Americans across the country who marched and came out and organized to secure the rights of others,” Obama said at the reception.

 

Courtesy of New Community Church

Photo Courtesy of New Heart Community Church

In a similar Christian Post article, it states that in June “New Heart split following the pastor’s decision to transform the church into a “Third Way” church.” As a “Third Way church,” the Southern Baptist congregation would “accept the LGBT community even though they may be in a relationship. We will choose to remain the body of Christ and not cast judgment,” says Cortez. Prior to arriving at this “Third Way” decision, the church reviewed their traditional views to determine if they should adopt a new position on same-sex marriage. 

 

Again, I reread this information and said, “Whaat??”

While Pastor Cortez properly nailed the “not cast judgment” part as how a Christian should view others, and while I have compassion for the conflicted feelings and confusion their son Drew must struggle with concerning his sexuality, and while I have compassion for Pastor Cortez and his wife as parents grappling with this news in a private and public manner, and while I have compassion and love for those in my life and community who consider themselves gay, AND while I mostly have a high regard for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, I’m led to expose the deception and problems that lie therein. Some would say, “Nicole, who cares. It’s not your concern.” Frankly, it would be easier for me to duck out on the issue and remain silent. Yet, silence and tolerance in order to “go along” have blended the wheat with the tare; blending the true with the false. God is separating the wheat from the tare to reveal who is who. As an Ambassador of Christ, He orders my steps to bring light and truth to deception so clarity can be restored.


What you need to know:


1. Feed Them Truth, Not Lies.
To God’s People, if we love the Lord, Jesus’ command to us: “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17)  There is a heavy accountability and responsibility for those called to lead God’s people/sheep. We don’t take, add to, or distort God’s Word for our gain or to gain favor with others. Pastor Cortez has corrupted God’s Word to earn favor and to better cope with his son’s chosen lifestyle. While twisting God’s Word to rise in the eyes of others, these faulty shepherds are aiding in deceiving those to walk in their destruction if these sheep have not studied God and His Word for themselves. Good shepherds feed sheep the truth, not lies. They shirk being ‘comfortable’ and seek to sober a decaying world. I believe God is raising up new shepherds and witnesses to succeed where faulty shepherds have failed. As for faulty leaders, “their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:3). God will handle that.

2. Compassion, Not Compromise.
 It saddened me to watch the 14-min video message from Drew Cortez sharing about his struggles with homosexual desires, not wanting those feelings, his “being confused and scared of being different and it worsened as I got older.”  (View video here).  I have compassion for Drew and am praying for him. As my friend and brother-in-Christ Hakim Hazim shared, “A Christian’s walk is often challenged to show compassion and love for those who express and promote opposing views that contradict God’s Word.”  As God’s Elect and Ambassadors of Christ, we are asked to “deal gently with those who are ignorant or misguided since we ourselves are subject to weakness.” (Hebrews 5:2)  We all struggle with something and none of it is new under the sun. We may have unhealthy or unnatural desires but through Christ Jesus, we ask His help to not engage in those behaviors. Spirit and flesh battle daily. The more we desire a heart of Christ, the more we will work to put those habits underfoot. The good news as found in 1 Corinthians 10:13- “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (New International Version) While Christians are to be compassionate and loving toward others in their struggle, this doesn’t mean we compromise God’s Word so we fit in and make them more comfortable. Pastor Cortez got this twisted. 

3. God Will Not Compromise His Name, Character or His Word.
 God’s Word is forever settled. I could say, “Father please compromise so I can live the way I want.”  “Compromise” means “a settlement of differences through mutual concession.” But truth is, if God compromised who He is, His Word or His promises, it would mean our defeat. His promise of eternal life, His equipping us to walk in full victory over temptation would be rendered empty, null and void. Does a good parent compromise the safety and life of their child to cater to that child’s harmful whims? No. So it is with our Heavenly Father. God’s Word is not subject to compromise, concession or vote as is a democracy. God will not compromise His character so we may gain favor with man. Clearly, in 1 Corinthians 6:9, says “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10- nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.” Then v. 18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually, sins against his own body.”

4. Same-Sex Marriage: The New Satanic Agenda.
 Too many Christians have become accepting and comfortable with the ways of the world. So comfortable, they’ve joined the party line. It is crucial for God’s people to discern the authentic from the counterfeit. The only way we can discern truth from lie is to spend time in God’s Word, in His Presence and surround ourselves with those who also walk in and instruct His truth. Satan attempts to counterfeit everything of God, including God’s design for male and female relationships, marriage and sex (yes, in that order). The kingdoms and systems of this world (including political) are being handed over to the devil. A satanic agenda is being reflected (even through some of our church leadership) as we’ve never seen before. It is in this time that true “ride or die” Christians are being called forth to deliver godly clarity, correction, direction and instruction where confusion and deception have taken root and spread like weeds.


As our brother-in-Christ and Christian rap artist, Crucial, says in his song “Homosexuals” from his Hard Truth album:
“But man, don’t you know the devil’s been in pursuit? Deception wouldn’t be deception if it didn’t seem true.”  (Hear more on iTunes, track #11.  Thanks Crucial! Catchy beats produced by a former lesbian now sold out to Christ Jesus! We’ll invite her for a future radio show to share her story.)

Your call to action:

 

God’s Word has prepared His People to endure and empower others in these and all situations. As told in 2 Timothy 4:2-5:

2-
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3- For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4- They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5- But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (New International Version)

 

1. Pray for clarity to be restored among those deceived and that faulty leadership is removed.

2. If you’re deceived, seek truth in God’s Word.

3. Pray and remain compassionate for the Cortez Family, and others grappling with this issue and that clarity be restored to them.

 

As for President Obama, he is caught up in a system that has long been given over to the world.

About Nicole D. Hayes

Nicole D. Hayes is committed to serve as a vessel of compassion, instruction, love and truth for Jesus Christ. Born and raised in Topeka, Kan., she is a member of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.  Drawn to know Christ in her early childhood and saved at the age of 12, Nicole is a student and applier of God’s Word. She is also a successful public relations professional operating in Washington, D.C., with more than eight years experience of coordinating and delivering strategic communications and media outreach support for nonprofits and small business owners. During her career she has placed several nonprofits and small business owners in national, local and regional media spaces. She operates with a personal and business mantra of “making an investment in people.” Among many things, Nicole is also a motivational speaker. She has been invited to deliver messages to business leaders to not be misguided by the world’s view of success, to direct young people navigating through the world’s challenges, and to remind those who may have lost their way that joyfully, “God Has Not Changed His Mind About You.” Nicole’s purpose in creating “Voices Against the Grain” is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amidst confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

No More Excuses

Job 31:19-“Whenever I saw the homeless without clothes and the needy with nothing to wear…” (New Living Translation)

Herbert G. Bowen, Jr., Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert G. Bowen, Jr., Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

How would you fill in the rest of the scripture? For the next step doesn’t require words, but action. We’ve all passed, talked to, or listened to a homeless person. We’ve all had unique experiences in giving or grumbling at someone in need. “Alcohol, drugs, and laziness are the causes of their downfalls, for they use the Lord’s name to incite pity from the working masses.”

This general statement has blanketed a whole group of people, to whom we know nothing about. So why assume? Has God not blessed you in some sort of fashion? Does the “thank you” of a man resting in a sleeping bag not bring tears to your eyes? Some have resources, some don’t, but we all should have compassion. Their lives, like ours, are going through a transition that only God can fix. Hence, open your eyes and hearts to be the tool God can use to provide hope for those who need help to climb out of the trenches. Go Forth. Amen.

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.

Reparative Therapy or Repair Our Compassion?

The following topic is likened to the intensity of a powder keg few would touch with a 10-foot pole while wearing protective gear, encased in a fortified tank.  But I am not so intimidated to approach. I trust the Holy Spirit to deliver the message as He desires.

Last week, national news outlets buzzed with fervor and perhaps a hint of excitement that would finally dismantle Christians’ positions on the conversation of homosexuality and whether someone engaging in this lifestyle could ever become “straight.”

This Washington Post piece is one of many articles published featuring Alan Chambers, Exodus International president, who said God has instructed him to shut down the 37-year-old ministry that utilized reparative therapy to help persons reduce and remove feelings of same-sex attraction. In a public letter, Chambers apologized for his treatment of gays and not acting toward them in love as God would. He also said that though he gave over years ago to Christ his same-sex attraction and that he and his wife are happily married with children, he still at times experiences attraction to men.  Furthermore, in this June 21, 2013 Christian Post interview, Chambers replies to a portion of his letter by saying, “I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage, but I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek.” Chambers desires to promote “peace at all costs” and share the good news of the Gospel.

Apology letter from Alan Chambers, Exodus International president

Apology letter from Alan Chambers, Exodus International president

The news of Chambers’ decision to close Exodus International (notice I’m not calling it a ‘ministry’ as he did), gained steam as CNN’s Anderson Cooper (who has been public about his homosexuality), seemed thrilled that finally a ‘Christian’ organization has recognized they are wrong to try and change or pray for someone from being gay.

In reading the Washington Post article, it appears Chambers’ issue was not his belief that same-sex attraction is not God’s way for relationships—rather, it was Chambers lack of compassion, condemnation and brow beating of homosexuals that was the problem. This is something entirely different. My concern is that if this issue is not communicated clearly, it will only increase some homosexuals’ hate toward Christians for our prayers to help those overcome such lifestyles— and encourage the unwitting to support same-sex relationships/attractions (which is the enemy’s hope and trajectory).

Let’s be real clear here. There are a few issues within this situation requiring clarity.

1. Certainly, the techniques of reparative or conversion therapy seem questionable and inhumane. The techniques seem to do little to demonstrate the love and compassion of God. Chambers’ decision to close Exodus International was likely best as he and others within the organization need to re-evaluate God’s command to love one another and show compassion. A Christian’s walk is often challenged to show compassion and love for those who express and promote opposing views that contradict God’s Word.  As God’s Elect and Ambassadors of Christ, we are asked to “deal gently with those who are ignorant or misguided since we ourselves are subject to weakness.” (Hebrews 5:2)

Salt and Light Living

2. Don’t be fooled. While a Christian’s charge is to extend compassion along with faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control to those we encounter (family, friends, colleagues, strangers), it doesn’t mean we shy away from instructing God’s truth—even when it is unpopular.  While many images depict Jesus as a gentle lamb, He is also a brazen and bold lion. So we must be.  Christians have been called to be “salt and light,” dispersing truth in a world that would rather pursue gods and vehicles that allow more fleshly freedoms rather than pursue freedom in Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:13-16 says,13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

3.  Since the creation of time, humans have engaged in all forms of immorality. Homosexuality is only one of these forms and is not new to the scene.  Since God has made Himself known to man, people have invariably exchanged the truth for a lie (with enticements from Satan) to satisfy their flesh. Ultimately, God’s wrath against mankind has turned many over to their lusts (Romans 1:18-32).

There are a number of scriptures (James 5:16 about confessing our faults to one another to be healed to help overcome fleshly struggles) or Deuteronomy 30:19 (I set before you life and death; blessings and curses) that indicates God presents us opportunities to choose not to accept or become slaves to our dysfunctions and tendencies; to break free from negative generational cycles. Through Christ, we have opportunity to live free from bondage. Flesh will always want it’s way over the spirit. We cannot overcome such struggles in our own strength. Only in Jesus Christ can we have this victory.

All of us are subject to battles of the flesh. Reparative therapy is not a solution.  Demonstrating compassion toward those who struggle with the flesh and have not turned it over to God, is our charge. However, this doesn’t suggest as Christians show compassion, we should also support the ways of the world. God’s Word does not change to conform to the laws and votes of our society.

Today, people wait to celebrate or shake their fists at the Supreme Court’s impending rulings on Prop 8, same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Yet, yesterday, today AND tomorrow, God’s Word remains consistent in his creation of man and woman for fruitful relationships. It is Satan’s hope that Christians will unwittingly retreat from the truth in their pursuit to keep harmony among unbelievers. But we know Satan is only interested in gaining co-workers with him instead of leaving people to become co-workers of Christ.

Today’s answer to tomorrow’s challenges: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”