We Have the Keys

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I incorporated the hashtags #NoTurning Back #Persevere in our social media posts. My use of the hashtags was inspired by two things: first, by the well-known hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.”  The song had been in my spirit for days for reasons not necessarily for me but more so to encourage those brothers and sisters in the body of Christ feeling the pull of the world; to encourage them to stay their Kingdom course—to persevere and run their race.

Second, my use of the #NoTurningBack hashtag was inspired by one of the young ladies I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring for nearly four years. My mentee, Bria Russ, recently experienced her “no turning back” moment that has set her on an intentional, “all in” pursuit of the Lord. She has lived many years for the Lord. Yet, over the past few months she acknowledges catering to her flesh and making choices that were leading her down a slippery slope that would ultimately take her way off course. She knew this–and so did her enemy (your and my enemy too) Satan, who encouraged her destructive choices. Anything to take another one of God’s servants off the field.

Recognizing this, she immediately turned away from her sin and discontinued the activities she was engaging.  She has fully returned to the Lord to sincerely walk in His ways. This is what repentance actually means–to turn away from sin; to change one’s mind and return to God’s direction. She has truly decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. She has “thrown off the sin that so easily entangles” so she can run her race in excellence as described in Hebrews 12:1.  Psalm 85:8 says, I will listen to what God the LORD says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants–but let them not return to folly (sin, foolishness). (NIV) Bria can attest that she has experienced greater peace in her immediate turning away from sin, distancing herself from it like it was plutonium.

Soon to be 26 years old, I am pleased by this young lady’s wisdom. I am excited about her bright future which has been made possible in part by her desire to be obedient. In obedience lies our success.

With that said, I am delighted to share her blog post below with a message titled “We Have the Keys.” Many people look for freedom, identity, joy, love, peace and security outside of God when He has promised all of these things and more to us through relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. But even God has relationship standards. Many want to either do life without God and still have all of these things or they will do life with God (maybe just a toe in) and still live however they please. The keys to our freedom, our identity, joy, love, peace, security and more rest alone in Jesus Christ. When we choose to do life without Him, we find ourselves “locked out” of His blessings.

God bless, and thank you Bria.

-Nicole

We Have the Keys 

Bria Russ cropped 032919A month ago, I found myself locked out – locked out of my own head. My head should have been a space of peace but was instead chaotic due to my own choices. As much as others wanted to help me get back in, the locks were changed because I didn’t pay my rent (in order to have a space to live you have to pay rent). I tried to climb through a window, and God reminded me the terms of our agreement.

I grew up in the church and I knew of God’s mercy. I knew that I had only made it thus far by His favor and grace. I’ve had many influential people guide me back to the church. However, I wasn’t ready to let go of things that made me “happy” and because of that I was drowning in sinner’s remorse.

 

Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I grew tired of feeling tired, sad, anxious, and depressed. I grew tired of ignoring God, my Savior, the one who’s always had my front and my back. And in one moment I decided to come to God.

God is like our landlord. He’s created an environment with plenty of amenities. He has created terms for your lease and handed you the keys. All He expects us to do in return is follow His ways and pay the rent (love Him, serve Him, give of your time). Before he evicts you from His blessings, from His protection, He gives you warnings, “Go to church… study your bible… stop cursing… stop fornicating… etc.” He knows you know the terms of your agreement. In fact He has given you the things you asked for, the desires of your heart. All you have to do is follow His rules. He already promised He won’t give us more than we can bear, so why are we always breaking the rules and cheating Him? Is it really that hard or are we taking advantage of His kindness and being negligent with our walk?

Acts chapters 1-2 speaks of the creation of the church. Jesus rose from the dead, traveled the earth for 40 days giving his Apostles the instructions to teach, and then He ascended into the sky. After His ascension, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and when they spoke, all of those who listened understood their message. God’s instructions were meant to help us survive and those who would follow Him he provided them a safe space (the church) to thrive and lift His name.
Many times, we hear leaders in the church say things like, “We have to meet the people where they are.” True, and yet, God has given us dominion over our life and understanding; therefore, it is for us to come to him.
set of golden key rings
Earlier, I stated I was out of my mind because figuratively speaking, I didn’t pay my rent. I knew of God’s blessings, I know his terms and the things he expects of me. All he asked of me was to follow him and he would keep me. He gave me chance after chance and still I was disobedient. He has already made the biggest sacrifice for us, with the crucifixion of Jesus, so we could be saved. Our safe place is the church (fellowship). We cannot leave and reenter on our terms. We are to live as he wants us to live or we will be locked out of His blessings. The message does not and will not change. He’s looking for us to ask “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) and then do it. We have the keys to our salvation: stay in God’s house! Stay near to Him. Study your word, read your bible and practice daily.


Love,

Bria

Advertisements

The Land Already Scouted

Judges 18:5- Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

At first our belief wavered, but then we sought out council for our belief to be restored. We lived in fear, but God assured us that if we “Go in peace,” that “the lord is watching over our journey” (Judges 18:6). Therefore, we follow HIS lead, while walking within the faith to succeed. We now take another step out into this unknown domain, to trust in the Lord always as he goes ahead to scout out the rugged terrain. For two steps is what was needed to remove ourselves from the lagoon of skepticism, to begin our inhabitants in the well-spring of joy and good tidings. Hence, our lives have been placed through the kiln in order to be hardened into the mold God formed us to be. Thus, when cooled, no rain, nor intense heat will be able to crack our inner shell. Hence, the reason we approach our task with immense confidence for the Lord is our shield and with HIM our victory is imminent. 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.  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.

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)

 

Plans and Goals: Who Is Following Who?

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Welcome 2014! We’ve been waiting for you in an effort to revitalize our goals and plans delayed or denied in 2013. The New Year refuels us with hope and tenacity to achieve our goals and dreams. Like you, I feel renewed to pursue certain goals. As a Christian we must then ask ourselves:  “Who is following who?”

It’s in this question that Christians tread a path typically not chosen by the world. In fact, it is the opposite of what our human spirit wants to do, especially those of us who are very driven to achieve (I am a planner and goal-setter!). Those of the world want to create and map out their own plans, while those of us who have asked God to be the author of our lives hand the reins over to Him. Who would want to hand over such control when we’ve been given certain intelligence to figure several things out for ourselves? plans-goals-16489417

True, this goes against our logic and nature. Yet, in all of my “wisdom,” God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  He also said in Jeremiah 29:11 (one of my favorite scriptures), “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Certainly we should have goals…after we’ve dethroned ourselves and seek to be filled with His purposes for us. It’s not the other way around where we ask Him to follow behind us as we carry out our plans. Otherwise, we’re like the clay telling the sculptor what we’re going to do instead of the purpose for which we’ve been created. If we communicate with Him regularly, He’ll let us know what He desires for us to do. We can then implement an active faith toward our calling. Trust me, because you are open, willing and available, He won’t leave you out.

Lord, help me to remember: Not my will Lord, but your will. I’ve set myself apart from the world for your purposes Lord. I’d rather live out your plans for my life which exceed anything I could ever plan on my own.

While letting go isn’t always easy, I take confidence in Ephesians 3:20 which says, “now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”  

Whose plans are you following?

Few Details? Still Follow

I like to read and share devotionals from the book Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. The devotionals are rooted in scripture and presented in the perspective of Jesus speaking to you. Today’s message spoke to me. It encourages us to follow God in His calling for us, even if we’re unsure of the details. We must learn to trust His direction!

BE WILLING TO FOLLOW wherever I lead. Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace. Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough! Some of my richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith—not by sight. This doesn’t mean closing your eyes to what is all around you. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.

Follow JesusSometimes I lead you up a high mountain with only My hand to support you. The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also the more keenly you sense your separation from the world with all of its problems. This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence. Give yourself fully to these Glory-moments, awash in dazzling Light. I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into the community with others. Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among the people again.

Accompanying Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We live by faith, not by sight.” Psalm 96:6, “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.” Psalm 36:9, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” 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.”  (New International Version)