The Deception of Progress: A Harmful Illusion

“If you want to change the direction of our country, vote.”  And in doing so, what are we advancing?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (liberty).  (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

In referencing the above New Testament scripture, I’m attempting to draw the clearest line, paint-by-numbers directions for this world to obtain true freedom instead of the counterfeit freedoms they currently pursue.

Liberty: the pursuit of it underpins our democratic society. Indeed, voting is important to register your voice in how our government should operate in serving our interests and preserving our freedoms.

But when such exercises compromise or disregard God’s laws for the sake of “progress,” we’ve not grasped the unprotected turmoil we’ve therefore brought upon ourselves. We’ve grieved God and incurred His judgments.

So why are many baffled by the decay our country lies in today?

“The irony of America’s quest for happiness lies in the fact that she succeeded more obviously than any other nation in making life “comfortable,” only to run into larger incongruities of human destiny by the same achievements by which it escaped the smaller ones. Our very success in this enterprise has hastened the exposure of its final limits.” – Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Though Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary, penned this quote 64 years ago, his message still rings truth today.

America has sought greater liberties to make people “comfortable” with their immoral lifestyle choices. Ironically, in pursuing such liberty, perfect harmony is yet to be achieved.

deception-john-rizzuto

 

The irony is that the immoral have gotten the liberties they’ve pushed for, but oh, it comes with so much more. The disappointment of the “so much more” is concealed until you get the package home, unwrap it, celebrate its novelty and then realize it is bundled with unwelcomed outcomes.

The duplicitous nature of such progress masquerades itself as a solution to accommodate our self-interests—absent of critical thinking, absent of considering the future ramifications. The only advancement in this type of progress is to advance gross deception within the recipient. This is a harmful illusion. The lesson in this is be careful what you ask for. You just might get it and other things along with it you didn’t ask for. This is the trickery of ungodly progress.

How Do We Obtain Authentic Liberty? 

“Liberation is not found in escaping or manipulating what God requires of us, but it is found by embracing and being faithful to God’s ideals.”- Charles “Chuck” Colson and Nancy Pearson, How Now Shall We Live (1999)

In Niebuhr’s words, our culture has hastened the exposure of the limits of what worldly progress/liberty can bring. There are far too many deceived in these last days.

Lord Jesus, we pray that those deceived would have the veil removed to clearly see that their freedom rests in You alone. May those pursuing ungodly progress be quickened in their hearts by hearing Your Word and be led to repent and recognize that true progress rests in our obedience to You, rooted in love for You. Jesus, You alone remain our intervention and deliverance from temporal and eternal ruin. Life in You is how we transform our country and our very lives.

Are you advancing decay or true liberty through Christ Jesus? The integrity of God and His Word are impeccable. Be very clear: God will not violate His integrity nor His Word. Those who seek liberties outside of His will are grossly deceived.

Why Are We Telling You This? 

At Voices Against the Grain, we present God’s Word to: 1- bring clarity and restoration so you can navigate successfully out of and away from deception, 2- to educate and equip you in God’s truth for abundant living—so you can truly live free as God designed, 3- to encourage you, and last, 4- to love you as we’re telling you the truth. Our platform messages, primarily geared for the Believer, also serve to educate the unbeliever.

We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who are advancing God’s Kingdom alongside us and within their communities. Thank you for exposing deception with truth and transforming one heart at a time in the love of Jesus Christ, so that those transformed are empowered by the Holy Spirit to help transform others. This is progress.

-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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We’ve Come This Far By Faith

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“If one minute’s freedom had been offered to me and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it.” –Elizabeth Freeman “Mum Bett,” a Massachusetts slave who sued for her freedom and helped end slavery in that state, 1800

Sobering words. You can feel this former slave’s yearning to experience freedom, even if only for 60 seconds before being killed. Through her words, you feel her disregard for death in exchange for one minute’s freedom to escape the life she had been enslaved.

Though I saw her quote earlier this week during my five-hour tour of the newly opened National African American Museum of History and Culture here in Washington, D.C., her palpable words have stayed with me. In the course of my tour of the intelligently designed crown/corona-shaped museum and its four levels and basement levels, dare I say that there are many words and images that have stayed with me.

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A project 100 years in the making, the National African American Museum of History and Culture, a Smithsonian property, was built on the last available space on the National Mall grounds. Its history memorializes in artifact, imagery, film, music, written and audio messages the good, bad and ugly of America’s history in its treatment of Blacks.

I joyfully made my way through and down the top levels whose exhibits fabulously celebrate some of African Americans’ crowning achievements from opening businesses and restaurants, to the music many of us sing and dance to, sports records set and the creation of popular Black-owned magazines and newspapers telling stories from perspectives that wouldn’t have been told otherwise. I felt proud.

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The infamous gold track shoes of four-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and World Champion sprinter, Michael Johnson

The museum staff first recommended that visitors start at the basement level which contains exhibits of slavery (and Emmett Till’s casket), and then work our way up. This was purposely designed to lift us out of the earlier sorrow. But, as life would have it, there was a long line to the basement level so it was recommended that we start our tour at the top levels.

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By the time I reached the basement levels, I understood why the reverse order was preferred. Upon entering the basement level exhibits that embarked on Africans’ journey of slavery into the Americas and Europe, starting around year 1400, my jubilation sunk into anger and sorrow.

Beatings. Brutality. Men, women and children in shackles. Packed in large cargo ships with less than 2 feet of space between the next person. Forced to lie in their excrement. Some were healthy enough to survive the Transatlantic journey and some were not. Those that survived the journey, not all survived the overbearing field work. Rice crops, sugar trade, tobacco fields and other goods established the wealthy and many companies still operating in America today—built on the blood, sweat, brutality, tears and cries of despair from the millions upon millions of enslaved Africans.

In reading some of the slaves’ stories and viewing the clothes and shackles passed down to their family for me as a free person to see today, I asked, “God, where were you in their brutality? Where were you in their beatings, struggles and oppression? Children separated from their parents? Enslaved men and women who loved each other not allowed by law to marry. Treated as property, while the wicked were held in high esteem.  Lord, where were you??!”

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Slave shackles, property of 3rd U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson.

slavery

In my anger, I came upon a display that brought a wellspring of joy within my spirit.

Encased in glass was Nat Turner’s open bible and Harriet Tubman’s book of gospel hymns. Both Turner and Tubman were instrumental in bravely leading other slaves to freedom. The description beneath Tubman’s hymnal reads:

“A fiercely religious woman, Tubman spoke of visions and dreams that helped provide a moral compass throughout her life. The wear and tear on this hymnal suggests that she must have loved it and used it quite frequently.”

harriet-tubmans-hymnal

Harriet Tubman’s Hymnal

Wow. More than wow. Seeing Tubman’s hymnal and Turner’s bible stirred my spirit to recognize: Lord, You were with them! Just as You were faithfully with Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt after suffering 400 years of slavery, YOU were with those who led, bled and suffered! You are the same God then as you are today. For all Believers, You are with us today, in our struggles! You tell us to go in courage (Joshua 1:9) for you go with us! If we trust You and Your Word, You will bring us out and into freedom! Exodus! For those who trust, that means spiritual freedom in Christ Jesus. For some of you, it also means leaving the land of not enough (Egypt) to the land of more than enough (Canaan).

I could write more on my experience but truly this is a powerful takeaway for me. God is indeed with us in our struggles even when it doesn’t feel like it at times. God knows our struggles, suffering and sorrows, for He sent His only Son to be beaten, whipped, nailed to a wooden cross to die as an innocent to take on the wickedness of this world so mankind could be redeemed and reconciled in relationship with God. Christ died so that you and I could truly be free.

Presently, the Black community is still under siege. There is a present-day slavery of a different sort strategized by Satan that has kept many in perpetual slavery to poverty, addiction, incarceration and violence. It’s my prayer at least for the population God has entrusted me to serve and share His Truth, to help them recognize true freedom in Christ Jesus and unshackle them from the things that enslave and entangle  (Hebrews 12:1). “To proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” (Isaiah 61:1, NIV).

I, like many DC-area residents, get caught up in the busyness of Washington life. Sometimes we take for granted the national treasures easily accessible to us; treasures that thousands travel from far away to simply get a glimpse of; to somehow capture the experience permanently by photo, video or gift shop trinket.

But I promise you, I won’t take for granted what I saw and experienced. In ways I will never know personally, the struggles of my predecessors and more importantly, their legacy of faith and resiliency, has in part enabled me to be where I am today: free.  I think on words from the hymn, “We’ve Come this Far By Faith”:

Oh, We’ve come this far by faith

Leaning on the Lord

Trusting in His holy word

He’s never failed me yet

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Can’t turn around

We’ve come this far by faith

 

-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.

Hear in 3 Minutes What Satan is Up To

counterfeitSatan has done well to deceive the world. Unfortunately many have played into his hands. They thought they were pursuing paths of happiness, greater freedoms, quicker paths to prosperity and love, only to find themselves broken, empty and enslaved. What counterfeit schemes is Satan unleashing next? How do we stop this?

Listen to our 3-minute message on how you can successfully navigate around Satan’s counterfeit schemes and walk confidently in God’s Truth.

ICYMI: Freedom from Addiction, and Sexual Justice

Never too lost to be savedAre you still believing the lies? The truth will indeed set you free. This truth reverberated in conversations held with this week’s radio show guests. On Monday, guest Chris McArdle, founder of Absolutely No Condemnation Ministries, shared his candidly transparent and powerful testimony of how Jesus Christ rescued and restored him from alcoholism’s deadly grip. Chris’s consumption of alcohol progressed from casual drinking after work to becoming necessary for daily function. One evening during a semi-conscious trip to the ER and 30 minutes from death, Chris challenged God to prove that He was real and indeed, God showed up in Chris’s life.

From there, Chris read the bible from cover to cover, tucking scriptures in his heart, believing in God’s promises. He trusted in Jeremiah 29:11, “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 hope and a future.” Today, Chris shares God’s truth, love and hope to help others struggling with substance abuse. His message is “no matter how bad your path, when you come to Christ, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). Listen to “Freedom from Addiction and No Condemnation: Chris McArdle.”  

Human_Trafficking“Are You Producing Sexual Justice or Fueling Sexual Injustice?” This was Wednesday’s conversation with guest Aszia Walker, Discipleship and Outreach Director for pureHOPE. Founded in 1983, and a Voices Against the Grain ministry partner, pureHOPE provides Christian solutions in a sexualized culture and envisions a world free from exploitation and brokenness. To counterfeit God’s beautiful and compelling story of sex, Satan continues to assail, counterfeit, disparage and distort God’s character and the things of God in hopes to deceive and destroy many. He’ll even use unwitting Christians to do it.

This conversation will equip the Body of Christ, parents, youth, mentors, faith leaders and others to live a life in Christ Jesus that advances justice and purity rather than one that contributes to injustice and impurity. On-point in her messages, Aszia said, “Sometimes the enemy can twist and pervert the image-bearing story that we are built to tell.” Listen to our important and informative conversation.

Twitter_bird_logo_2012.svgWant great nuggets from both conversations? View our Twitter feed. 

Technology: Liberator, Idol and Enemy

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Sony Pictures. “The Interview.” Hackers. Threats. North Korea. Public freedoms hindered. These few words describe our current dicey and sensitive situation. An exercise in “freedom of speech” to create and produce a movie that while containing humorous overtones, would certainly set off emotions and spur repercussions unseen given the movie’s premise: a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un—a person who needs no fuel added to his instability.

We know the story now. Upon infiltrating the computer systems of Sony Pictures, the hackers released a slew of embarrassing emails to media for a public flogging of Sony leadership; 9/11-level threats were made to theaters if they carried the movie “The Interview” (was to release on Christmas Day). Sony then decided not to release the movie in theaters or any format, including Video On Demand or DVD. The situation which unfolded first quietly then quickly, tells us this: hackers have made us very aware how intimate and imminent technology has positioned us for danger and destruction.

My brief response on the subject: Technology has been our liberator; liberating us from HUGE, slow, clunky room-size computers, to large, expensive, slow and performance-limited personal computers, to faster than speed of light, chalkboard eraser-sized instruments capable of doing everything for us. Technology has liberated our time and tasks, giving us more freedom. We love such advancements so much and can’t imagine how we did life before without these instruments. We love these technological advancements to a point that we can’t be separated from them at all or not for long. Technology has become our idol. Now, we are perplexed and stunned by this liberator’s ability to quickly position us into dangerous, unseen hands. Hands, that at the click of a few keys, can turn our lives and world upside down or grind it to a halt. We’ve been lulled into supporting more freedoms only to be perplexed by the unintended outcomes. In the wrong hands, this wonderful liberator known as technology, is and will be our enemy.

First storage room computer

First storage room computer

We see what “liberation” brings when it is not anchored in the true freedom and wisdom offered through the One, True Liberator: Jesus Christ. Our desire here at Voices Against the Grain is to equip you to be a critical thinker to successfully navigate all situations, even in these unsettling times. These times demand that we establish our foundation, our guidance and wisdom on how to proceed in life through Jesus Christ, who knows all.

iphone 4s

iphone 4s

For those in relationship with Jesus Christ, we can remain steady in unsettling times because we know who holds our future and who has conquered our enemy. For Jesus tells us these comforting words in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, learn Him for yourself as your True Liberator. God bless you.

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.

A Life for God

Jeremiah 10:23- “I know LORD, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” (New Living Translation)

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Blogger

Do we know? Is it possible to comprehend the magnitude of this verse and navigate a path, without even seeing the blueprints? Is there a plan when a young girl stands desolate without hope, due to a man robbing her of her purity? Her body now appears dismembered as if painted by Salvador Dali. Her mind is now distorted and love becomes nothing more than sewage down the pipes of a commode. Her heart is now encased in ice. Physically and emotionally she is dead. Her body is no longer her own, but a corpse walking among the living. Her spirit is ready to move on, BUT GOD pulls back the curtain to reveal the light. Her eyes burn and she stumbles, but she manages to reach the door. FREEDOM is found as she takes steps forward. Friends and family rush to aid in her walk, as God never left Ana Martinez, but enabled her to tell her story. Click here to listen http://bit.ly/1jEGXXN 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.

No Condemnation Brings Radical Freedom

Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from perspective of Jesus speaking to you.

THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Me. The law of the Spirit of Life has set you FREE from the law of sin and death. Not many Christians know how to live in this radical freedom, which is their birthright. I died to set you free; live freely in Me!

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To walk along the path of freedom, you must keep your mind firmly fixed on Me. Many voices proclaim: “This is the way for you to go,” but only My voice tells you the true way. If you follow the way of the world with all its glitter and glamour, you will descend deeper and deeper into an abyss. Christian voices can also lead you astray: “Do this!” or “Don’t do that!” “Pray this way!” “Don’t pray that way!” If you listen to all those voices, you will become increasingly confused.

Be content to be a simple sheep, listening for My voice and following Me. I will lead you into restful green pastures and guide you along paths of righteousness.

Accompanying Scriptures: Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2- because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set  me free from the law of sin and death.”  Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” Psalm 23:1-3, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want; 2- He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. 3- He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (New International Version)