Are Your Words Like Fresh Water?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

When I turn on the faucet, I expect water to pour out. If I plant an apple tree, I expect apples to be produced. No mystery in what is expected from either of these vessels. So, how and why then, do words of blessings, complaining, criticizing and cursing come out of the SAME mouth? Shouldn’t it be consistently one or the other (preferably blessings and words of goodwill, especially for those in the Body of Christ)?

The Bible provides several scriptures on the words produced by our tongue, and the affects thereafter. Here are at least four scriptures on the subject:

 

 

  • Proverbs 18:21- The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit (one commentary says “shall receive either good or evil according to the quality of their speeches”).
  • Matthew 12:34-37- “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35- The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36- But I can tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37- For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • James 3:6, 8- The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 8-but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
  • James 3:9-12- With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10- Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11- Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12- My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. 

 

spring water

What fruit does your speech produce in your life and in others’ lives? Does your speech speak life and light over those created in God’s image? How are your words used (or not used) when addressing challenging issues—through complaining, criticizing, cursing or with quiet trust, praise, uplifting and thanksgiving?

Our words are conditional to our heart and thoughts. For those of us in Christ Jesus who have truly yielded to His ways, the sanctification process (us being transformed and perfected into Christ’s likeness) is just that: a process. Thankfully, as we desire to be more like Him, He renews our mind and transforms our heart, and thereby, our responses to situations. For me, He is replacing my complaining/grumbling with quiet trust, praise and thanksgiving. Whether waiting for a delayed train while sweating in the smoldering heat and humidity, or extending patience to the person ahead of me who is proceeding slowly, I choose to not complain. I have more gratitude in all situations.

As he continues to transform my heart and mind, my words, my tongue will produce His desired intention of those words springing forth.  I am grateful for His merciful and patient striving with me.

We are reminded as His vessels to use our words in such ways that we “are joyful always,” and to  17-“pray continually, 18- give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

From your one mouth, may words of light, restoration, blessing and thanksgiving flow in your life and others.

Proverbs 16:24- Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

God bless 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.

 

 

 

In For the Long Game

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Patience, patience, patience. This past week I experienced a couple situations that tested my patience with others. People running much later than expected for scheduled appointments. Another didn’t have all of their stuff together. Since I asked God’s help two years ago in further developing me in the nine fruits of the Spirit (faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control; found in Galatians 5:22-23), He’s been strengthening my patience with and love toward others more than anything else. Another word the bible uses is “long-suffering” or “forbearance.”

In this development and extending the fruits of the Spirit to those I encounter, I’ve definitely noticed growth. Several things that used to shorten my patience no longer grate me. I experience calm and peace beyond what I thought possible in those situations. Yet, there are events such as those that occurred this past week that stretch me beyond the threshold of patience I’ve been exercising toward others. I mean stretched me to the point of frustration with some of God’s children. Just when I thought this area of my life was settled and accomplished, I realized that I still have more to grow.

This past week’s events on “patience” reminded me of a good word shared by a dear sister in Christ. She said, “God is doing the long game. We’re more focused on the short game because that’s all we can see.”

Whether within me, or you, or those who are seeking Christ Jesus, God is always working.  As creatures of limited scope on this side of heaven, we look for the tangibles. We need to see immediate evidence of things changing, improving, shifting, God’s Hand at work. If we don’t see those immediate changes or if the changes are gradual but not occurring at the speed we desire, we can become frustrated. But trust that God is ALWAYS working, particularly on the eternal piece.

Snail Run Near The Finish Line

As told to us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV).

As we seek God for our continued development and perfecting and as we pray for others, engage with others, plant seeds, minister to, let’s remember that God is in it for the long game. The Lord will perfect that which concerns you (and me) (Psalm 138:8)

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

I’m in for the long game. Will you endure? While you endure, will you do so in Christ’s love and patience? Will you be in for the long game? You may not see everything right now, but trust that the work is being done!

God bless 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.

 

A Good Person?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“You’re such a good person. You are so good-natured. You are humane.” If I hear these words told to me once more, I may scream. But I realize that the people speaking those words don’t know any better. They measure “goodness” by worldly standards. I haven’t killed anybody, haven’t shot anybody, didn’t curse anyone out. I must be “good.”

Yes, I was raised in a loving household, by a mom and dad who loved me and my brother dearly. Our parents taught us to be kind to others—even when we were called the “n-word” in our predominately White school district. We were taught to say “may I,” and “please” and “thank you.” We were taught not to steal because the item didn’t belong to us (though this still happened—that’s another story). We were raised in a Christian household, blessed by generations of family members whose love for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has bestowed God’s blessings and favor upon us today, as promised in Exodus 20:6

My grandma said that I was “born smiling.” Yet, in all of this “goodness,” and the compassion and kindness I show toward others today, trust and believe it’s not because I am “good.” I am still a product of being born into sin and a fallen nature. All of us are, due to mankind’s fall/Adam and Eve. Unequivocally, what you see outwardly from me is the Holy Spirit living and working moment-by-moment within me. Countless times the Holy Spirit has stopped me short of saying words that would be unkind. Countless times He has settled me with His love and peace toward others when my flesh wants to rise up and lay them out. As I wrote in this March 10, 2016 post, “10 Things I Shouldn’t Do But Do Anyway,” I am an imperfect vessel.

Transformation

I’ve purposely asked the Lord to transform me into His likeness. I daily pray that He help me extend toward others greater levels of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I give Jesus ALL of the GLORY for who I am, because of His living in me. I am not foolish in thinking that all of this has come because I am “so good.” It’s because I’ve made a deliberate choice to walk in His ways, to yield to His spirit and instruction to love others.

In fact, the Scottish Baptist evangelist Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), said “love means that there is no longer a visible habit, you have come to the place where the habit is lost, and by practice you do the thing unconsciously.” Loving others is becoming more and more for me each day, less of a habit and more a fabric of my being. Thank you, Jesus!

Those of us who daily yield our actions, words and thoughts to the Holy Spirit’s ways understand this humbling yet joyful transformation. As told in Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

It’s a blessing when we see God’s perfecting at work in our lives and others see the EVIDENCE as well. To call it anything less by saying “we are good” is to deny the greater work that has been invested in us by a loving God who values us so. If not for Him, we’d be left to our own devices. Without inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts, it’s foolish thinking to consider ourselves “good.” As a dear sister in Christ says, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

So please, do not consider me “good.” But rather, consider me being perfected daily in Christ Jesus!

-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.

 

“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.

Fresh Produce

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 (New Living Translation)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! –Galatians 5:22-23.

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

I discovered recently that gardening is no easy feat! It might even be considered by some as physical exercise. Needless to say, that after a long arduous day of pulling weeds, pouring mulch, and plowing the flower bed I was spent! However, my spirit was pleased to imagine the fresh produce that would soon be coming after planting seeds. Do we have fresh produce in our lives? Does our spirit resemble the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces mentioned above?

How can we truly say that we worship and have a relationship with God if our lives resemble our sinful desires i.e. the works of the flesh? For Jesus Christ once told us what God is like. He said, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” –John 4:24 God’s Spirit is Holy and the Bible says “but as he who called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all your conduct. Since it is written, you shall be Holy, for I am Holy.”1 Peter 1:15-16. My dear friends following the desires of your sinful nature are bondage. You’re not free if that’s your lifestyle. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”                     –Galatians 5:24 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” –Galatians 5:1

A yoke is a wooden bar that allowed two (or more) draft animals to be coupled (yoked) so that they might effectively work together. The Bible frequently uses the word ‘yoke’ metaphorically to refer to work or bondage. However, it could also be associated with divine judgment. Sin was the reoccuring cause of Jerusalem miseries and the complaint they made toward God of their calamities. “He wove my sins into ropes to hitch me to a yoke of captivity. The Lord sapped my strength and turned me over to my enemies; I am helpless in their hands.                    – Lamentations 1:14 “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.” –Proverbs 5:22-23

fruit of the spirit

When we live in the flesh, i.e. by our sinful nature, we invite death into our lives, primarily spiritually. We are rendered useless to give God glory not yoked for service, but for penance, tied neck and heels together. I’m so glad there is a yoke we can put on! It is one that is eternal! One that gives our souls rest! For Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world said to us, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” –Matthew 11:29-30

Stick to Jesus! Cling to him! He will produce in your heart and in your spirit that fresh produce that can fellowship with God and with His People as we wait to be led into the Kingdom of God. Amen

-Jason

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.

Learn more about Jason M. Alexandre here.

Lord, Establish the Work of Our Hands

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17, New International Version)

Happy New Year!

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

To ask God to “establish the work of our hands,” it means we pray that He will bless and prosper the work in which we’re engaged. In advancing the work God has called us to, we can expect great joys. We will also encounter challenges—external and internal. If we’re unsure how to conquer those challenges, we’ll continue to miss our next level. The following tips will help you acknowledge your progress made last year and provide strategies to bring fruitfulness in 2015.

1. Overcome the Siege.  You are winning in some areas of your calling and in other areas, your activity has been hindered. The issue: you might be under siege. Say what? A siege is designed to interfere with you receiving instruction, to cause confusion and to hinder your forward movement. A siege will cut off your instinct to move forward so you remain stuck.  A siege is not always produced by external enemy forces. It can also stem from our negative thoughts. A “siege mentality” will suggest that “you can’t do it” or “how do you know if God is really in this?” Satan may remind you of your past failures or shortcomings to infer that you don’t deserve what you’re seeking. As instructed in 2 Corinthians 10:5, we must, “take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” To overcome a siege mentality, you must counter the negative thoughts with God’s Word and move forward.

2. Uncover Your Blind Spots. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken or aren’t willing to acknowledge. Blind spots refer to aspects of ourselves we’re not aware of but is observed by others. An example of a blind spot could be engaging in different relationships with the same negative results. Everyone has blind spots and some of us are more self-aware than others. With unaddressed blind spots, you will continue to miss the mark. Uncover the blind spots with a teachable spirit (rather than narcissism). Ask God for courage to help you make the necessary course corrections.

3. Quit What Isn’t Producing Fruit. The word ‘quit’ isn’t a bad word, according to Amos Johnson, Jr., PhD, founder of the God Idea Lab and his ministry, Church for Entrepreneurs.  “You need to quit some things to gain the success God has for you,” says Johnson on his recent God Idea Lab podcast. He further says, “When you quit something that is no longer producing fruit it opens up margins in your life to pursue what God has or you.”  In our work with the Lord, He desires that we bear fruit (John 15:1-8). He will cut off branches that aren’t bearing fruit and prune other areas to grow even more fruitful. Our close relationship with Christ Jesus is necessary for this process to occur. Spend time in His presence to discern what items He desires you remove and pursue. (Amos was our October 2014 radio show guest as we discussed “Starting and Doing Business God’s Way.”)© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporation

4. Lay the Fundamental Bricks. Two years ago, I asked God to help me better exercise the nine fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Each morning I prayed the Lord help me extend to others greater levels of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control, regardless of the situation. These were the fundamental bricks I knew God was leading me to lay upon my spiritual foundation. Developing these fundamentals at a deeper level is essential as my ministry, service to and engagement with others enlarges. God may be asking you to lay down fundamental bricks to progress in your 2015 journey.

5. Applaud the Growth You’ve Made. Reflecting on Tip #4, I praise God for the growth He’s enabled me to experience in these areas! While the prayer for development began two years ago, I’ve noticed tangible and consistent growth in the past eight months. Others have witnessed the growth in me as well (particularly patience).

What growth have you made up to now? Celebrate it and praise God for the progress made! This progress will position you to successfully carry out the work God has established for you in 2015 and beyond.

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 amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.