But I’m Not Going That Way

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nationwide marches. Protests. Rallies. Sit ins. Hundreds of thousands and millions of people gathered to publicly display their positions and views this past week. As a Washington, D.C. resident, I see such demonstrations repeatedly as citizens utilize the public square to stand up against injustices. Who wouldn’t want to be where the action is? Who wouldn’t want to participate in these historical events? Who wouldn’t want a ride to one of these events if offered?

But I’m not going that way. 

I will explain.

Demonstrations, protests and rallies serve as our human efforts to right wrongs; to bring injustices to the surface and hold them accountable. It is a fight to ensure that justice is restored and maintained. It’s part of America’s fabric and that of other nations. Yet, these and all such activities only provide Band-Aids of temporary remedies and not justice eternal. Man can never even the score of what Christ alone can do. Yes, the flesh wounds are real. The injustices are real.

But I’m not going that way. I’m going this way… 

We’ve all been wounded by someone or something and some, more than others. There is no denying this. Yet, I know the Great Equalizer who binds up those wounds and restores what was lost, taken or marginalized. And even in my tenderness and compassion for those wounds, I can’t get caught up in the flesh wounds that would distract my eyes from Christ. If I did, how could I point the wounded in the direction toward healing?

As a dear sister in Christ wrote, “The ‘good’ intentions and injustices should never become the end goal in need of remedy because that measurement is less than what Christ will do. It distracts us from His Kingdom message of return, repent and make straight a path for the Lord.”

So true.

Jesus did not seek to right all of society’s wrongs but He did show love and compassion toward the suffering. He showed them the way to true healing and peace. He showed them that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  

As one who has been called by God to feed His sheep, to be a “voice against the grain,” to share His truth in love and to provide instruction and clarity where there is disillusionment, I do so by keeping my eyes on Christ.

Vida diaria en Iquique

To say, “But I’m not going that way, I’m going this way,” means that we seek to be Holy Spirit-led (listening for His voice) in all that we do rather than being pulled in the popular direction of the day. This often means that we’ll be walking in the opposite direction of the big crowds. It means that we are guided by a biblical view and spiritual eyes rather than a worldview that galvanizes people to jump on various bandwagons. It often means that few join us on that stretch of road to the Cross. It also means that sometimes my heart needs encouraging when I cry out “How long, how long, Lord?,” as I desire for more people to seek Him, to thirst after Him alone rather than the failed vehicles they chase after for their balm.

For the Believer and the unbeliever, I encourage you to look to the Cross, where Jesus bore it all and won it all for us.

As my dear sister prayed (Thank you, sis), “May we look upon Christ and identify with His cross, life, death and resurrection and the hope of the world to come. May our dependency upon the Lord be like little children and look to His ability to change hearts and provide the increase in their growth.  May we have faith and wait to see how our Father will work to bring His plan to completion! O, Lord, give us the grace to trust you beyond our senses and to look to you for everything! Let us anticipate O, Lord, the new Kingdom that You are creating and Your Sovereignty to create us anew.”

Amen!

-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.

Entering 2017: Shifted and Lifted

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Nicole D. Hayes, VATG founder (l) and Destiney Bishop, VATG Digital Media Coordinator (r).

Wow—2016 is nearly out. From devastating floods, numerous earthquakes in diverse places, race riots and heightened tensions to shocking celebrity deaths and the presidential election, the events of 2016 have kept many of us in prayer like never before. We’ve had to encourage ourselves and others.

Many people, including some Believers, have felt great despair this year. Some of you have been surviving consecutive months and years of unemployment, or overcoming health challenges or grieving the passing of loved ones. What has occurred to-date is still a fraction of the trials to come before Christ’s return.

The events of 2016 most likely took you into some uncharted and unfamiliar territory. This was the case for us this year too. Entering new territories and spaces requires us to trust God EVERY step of the way. The process can also fortify our faith.  In such times, we are reminded of Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  When we step in courage and trust in Him, it emboldens us for the next leg of the journey. Rest assured that God will show us His faithfulness.

In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us that we will indeed go through trials in this life but we will overcome those challenges in Him! He says 33- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In writing you this message, the words that the Holy Spirit has encouraged us with for today and the days ahead is to be “shifted and lifted.” We are being asked to shift our focus onto Jesus so we may operate in peace and courage and be lifted out of our human default positions of despair, doubt and fear. Praise God!

We don’t leave you without hope: This year, many of us experienced unprecedented favor and prayers answered as we pressed the throne of grace boldly in prayer, in faith and with praises lifted! We saw God move mightily and we most certainly foiled some of the enemy’s plans. God is truly moved by the faith of His People!

We pray that these words and all of God’s Word comforts and reassures you in our challenging times. One of our objectives in presenting Holy Spirit-inspired content is to equip you to remain steady in unsteady times. As the Body of Christ, we will be challenged. We will suffer trials. We will endure war wounds. But God is preparing His Church to stand in these last days. So, take heart! Our victory is secured! Remain focused, in peace and steady! The gates of hell shall not prevail. We know how the story ends! God in His precision is watching over His Word to perform it and fulfill it as told to us in Jeremiah 1:12.

2017

As we close out 2016 and prepare to enter 2017, we at Voices Against the Grain encourage you in these points as you become shifted and lifted:

  • Allow God to lead. Be divinely persuaded (that’s what faith means—the Greek word is “pistis”) that God knows the best path for you and will lead you to it if you listen to Him. Walk in courage in what God has told you.
  • Place your hope in Jesus Christ alone and His Kingdom—not the kingdoms of this world. Do not place your hope in man, in government, finances, systems, etc., for these secondary sources will surely fail you. Take hold of the hope offered to us in God and be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf (Hebrews 6:18-20). Be shifted and lifted.
  • God is equipping you to respond to and serve those crying out and seeking direction. Pray to be more attentive to these cries and seek the Holy Spirit’s instruction on how He wants you to help them. Yield to carrying out His will and not your own.
  • In serving others, take the time to “steal away” to recharge; to have your cup refilled so you are able to pour into others again.
  • Pursue more intimacy with the Lord and seek to be Holy Spirit-led in all that you do. Knowing how the Holy Spirit wants to lead you is strengthened through spending more time communing with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord also enables you to abide in His Peace.

We love serving you and serving with you! We pray God’s blessings upon you, your family, your health, your ministries and everything He has called you to put your hands to. Go in courage, His confidence and peace. Thank you for supporting us and praying for us. We are excited and prayerful for how God will use His People in 2017. May we continue to be salt and light Christians to lead the world out of darkness and to the Cross.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Love,

Nicole & Destiney

Mentoring: Relationships Require Work

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hi, All! We’re absolutely delighted to support our dear sister in Christ, Voices Against the Grain supporter and my Regent University School of Government classmate, Barbara Crymes West, in the release of her new book, Every Bump Counts: How Everyday Encounters & Relationships Can Make Eternal Impact. In her book, Barbara talks about how God is in the “everydayness” of our lives whether we realize it or not. When our hearts are aligned with His, we are a vital part of the Great Commission and showing others the love of Christ. We’ve ordered her book and look forward to reading it! We also have a copy we’d be happy to gift you (please provide your address where to mail it) if you’re interested. In the meantime, please read her article she’s shared with us on mentoring, a work near to my heart.

Thank you, love and blessings,

Nicole

 

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Barbara Crymes West, Relationships Expert, Voices Against the Grain Guest Writer

Relationships don’t create themselves. They take work and commitment. Investment is essential to have a healthy and effective relationship. Most require sacrifice to grow.

Relationships

Dallas Willard, in his work entitled, The Divine Conspiracy, offers the following:

How beautiful it is to see relationships in which asking and receiving are a joyful and loving way of life. Often we see those who cherish one another, each seriously or playfully trying to out give the other. That is how relationships should be (Williard, 234).

The key here is reciprocity. Asking and receiving, giving and taking. Of course, that seems elementary because it is so basic. But in the busyness of life, we sometimes forget that relationships don’t just happen. Relationships require commitment and investment.

Investment

Investing in others is truly valuable and necessary. We can’t expect a relationship to flourish and grow without it. We must invest time and concern while learning about the other person. In the process we will find common ground; sometimes more and sometimes less. All relationships are not the same.

Biblically speaking this is true as well. God commands us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). All relationships will not yield the intensity or closeness that others do. Although He loved all of His disciples, the Bible refers to John as “the one Jesus loved” (John 13:23). The good news is that when we make a significant investment in others, really get to know their hearts and minds, we are rewarded with a relationship that will give us meaning.

In the community of Christ, our relationships are very important as we all strive to fulfill our commission in Christ. As we support each other, with our feet planted squarely in the foundation of Jesus and Him crucified, we are enabled and supported to fulfill our calling, both individually and as a part of the whole. Relationships enable us to be who God has called us to be. It begins with our relationship with Him. He makes the difference.

The Good Old Days

If we look at our population of children today, the picture is far different than it was when I was growing up. And no we didn’t drive covered wagons. I felt safe in my neighborhood. My friends and I could walk a mile to the community pool and swim all day and walk home again with a mere, “Mom, we’re going to the pool. See you this afternoon.” We had no cell phones and crime rarely touched our lives. When I look back on local tragedies that were inscribed in my mind and heart, the loss of a home to fire, in which a fellow student lived, comes to mind.

Another involved a friend being struck by a car while in the crosswalk. This one actually is bigger in my memory because this girl lost a leg and the community rallied to contribute to her family through a McTake Over, to benefit her expenses. The point is that as children, we were rarely confronted with the crimes we see today that has become all too commonplace in our children’s lives, communities, and neighborhoods. Drive-by shootings and school shootings did not have a place in the lives of families back then.

Today, we have an abundance of broken homes, absent parents, and footloose kids. Most often, through no fault of their own, our kids find themselves wandering through life without adequate direction, nurturing, or guidance. Can we make a difference in the children’s lives? And if so, how? With limited funding streams and resources stretched thin everywhere, we need to tackle these issues one child at a time.

Mentoring

Mentoring has become a widely accepted practice, although many of us don’t have mentors and more of us aren’t mentors, or at least in an official sense. However, I would offer that we all lead someone and therefore we are in effect, leaders or mentors. Neither can be accomplished without relationship, investment, and reciprocity.

Mentoring is one way in which each of us can play a part. Becoming active in an organization that focuses on mentoring is one way. Could we each give to such an organization in some way? I think so. There are myriad ways to be involved. In whichever way you choose to do your part, whether through a donation of time, talent, or financial gifts, there is a place for you. On a more personal level, we can each pray for these children that are “wandering.”

Take a moment to consider any young people that you encounter in your daily movement who could use a smile, a hug, a kind word, or paper for their binder. Build a relationship with someone that has always been around but is on the fringes of your life. Bring them closer and make them feel cared for.

 

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Sacrifice

We must invest. Sometimes investment is easy and sometimes not so easy. The investment will likely involve sacrifice on our parts but OH the rewards. We have to nurture and build relationships with those we care about. Simple caring and sharing; conversation, can make all the difference in who we are, and in who they will become.

God has taught me through such a simple concept as “making time,” that the principles are the same regardless of who we are pursuing a relationship with. We must invest our time and practice the reciprocity that creates those terrific bonds of the heart that God ordained. It’s all about relationships.

Please visit BarbaraCrymesWest.com to read more of Barbara’s blogs and to purchase her book about relationships, Every Bump Counts.

Barbara Crymes West holds a Master’s Degree from Regent University in Organizational Leadership, with a concentration in Not-for-Profit and Faith-Based Organizations Management. During her studies, she discovered that “relationships” are a common and recurring thread. With this theme in mind Barbara takes her readers on a journey that finds its foundation in Christ, and is applicable whether we are at home or on the job. Barbara resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does It Matter What We Do in Private?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Behind closed doors where it’s just you, no one else. At your dining room table where conversations are shared with your nearest and dearest and not for public dissemination. The videos you watch. The music you listen to. The fetish that is private for now, but it’s growing appetite will soon put you on front street and embarrass you. The locker room conversations not meant for the board room.

Does it matter what we do and say in private? Does it matter who we speak unlovingly about? For those of us living in the “free world” of America, most would say that what we do and say in the privacy of our homes or private spaces is no one’s business. But to God, it matters.

For those in relationship with Christ Jesus, our character, actions, speech and heart should mirror His in the office, the storefront, in our homes, at the dining room table. As lights on the hill (Matthew 5:14) for everyone to see, the Christ in us should not be compartmentalized or covered. He should not be excused from certain environments for flesh to have its way.

As Voices Against the Grain and those of us who no longer wish to conform to this world’s status quo AND who desire to be continually transformed into Christ’s likeness through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we can display Christ to a skeptical world. The world is dying to see if godliness is indeed possible and simultaneously seeks its impossibility. For who would give up their right to not freely exercise whatever they want to do and say?

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In my professional life of public relations, we prepare our clients with messaging and talking points to help them “stay on message” when interviewing with media or delivering public presentations. It’s hoped that these talking points communicate who the client is, what they stand for and what they hope to accomplish through their platform. Yet, away from the hot mic and cameras, what resides in their hearts may be entirely different. Thus, we’re shocked when those “differences” are recorded outside of the person’s “talking points” environment.

If you are a Christian reading this, who are you in public and in private? Do you display godly character in both environments?

As God has grown the desire in me to truly be a Christian public servant, I think often on what that means. It means that God is grooming leaders who will not reflect the current landscape of “it doesn’t matter what I do in private.” They will not have dual minds but minds solely focused on obedience to His will and ways.

Such leaders will not rationalize policies that support convenience and expediency at the risk of morality. Such leaders will exercise integrity in matters great and small, public and private. Godly character is integrated into the whole and throughout their lives. We’ve seen quite enough of the dualism. We need to see more of the principled with moral absolutes.

In serving others publicly or in private, I continue to think on Luke 16:10

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When it comes to character, the little things matter. Lord, may our living be so close to You that the talking points are no longer needed because You live daily throughout our hearts and lives. Our daily public and private living will be Christ-like and not compartmentalized. Help us Lord, to be trustworthy in character in the great and the small things so a skeptical world will be the recipients of the blessings therein. Amen.

God bless you, much love to you and trust that the transformation is worth it.

-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.

 

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.

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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.”

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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.

Are You Drinking the World’s Kool-Aid?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I always thought the deception would be harder for the enemy to pull off, but this generation has been presented with such degraded morality, that it is no stretch for people to accept such blatant blasphemies.”

 

Powerful words stated by a dear sister in Christ. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Her words were shared during our conversation in response to this June 2014 Upworthy article that recently reposted, “There Are Six Scriptures About Homosexuality in the Bible. Here’s What They Really Say,” written by Erica Williams Simon, the daughter of two ministers. Ms. Simon notes that she studies the Bible “pretty closely.” Yet, deception abounds throughout her article in her true understanding of God’s Word. More importantly, her understanding is contrary to God’s character, design and nature. I was stunned by her conclusions but more so, I was grieved by her being deceived and potentially deceiving others (Kool-Aid).

 

Certainly, there’s nothing new under the sun. I never write these posts as if there is. Every sin committed today has existed since time began. Today, there’s simply more ways to do it, greater access to participate, more support to accommodate it and more opportunities for brokenness. It’s a mess. The pitcher of Kool-Aid that was sweet has soured. It’s no laughing matter.

 

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Anything not connected to the love of God is a counterfeit freedom. Counterfeit freedom produces momentary pleasure with its participants chained in brokenness. God’s design and intention IS for us to be truly free and not enslaved by the world’s trappings. John 10:10 (KJV) says so: 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

 

Then how can a Believer know His Word, know what it’s designed to do, experience His power in their own lives and still be deceived to drink the world’s Kool-Aid? As James 1:22-24 (ESV) reads:

 

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

 

A withering devotion to the Lord, no desire for critical thinking or for the pursuit of holiness, spiritual laziness and being fickle in Godly principles has enabled deception to occur in the Body of Christ.

 

Are you drinking the world’s Kool-Aid? Have you knowing the truth, been persuaded by a popular idea or lifestyle to exchange the truth for a lie? If so, Father please forgive us. Help us to courageously live out Your Word, Your Word which does not change.

 

Heavenly Father, help us to deliver Your Word as You have intended—not by how we think it should be interpreted to appease our and others’ self-interests. Help us pursue holiness, being unmoved in Godly principles in a world that daily pushes the envelope to satisfy self-interests and seeks our support for doing so. Let us remain holy, set apart, called out from the world for Your purposes so we can be light in darkness, to help free the captives. 

 

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As my dear sister prayed, “God help the saints shine with the glory of Christ, who is in us and who made us for ‘such a time as this.’ May God raise up His saints in love and shock and awe victory over anything the enemy can manufacture, and help us destroy it with God’s truth and Spirit. For by Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary, You have declared in Your Word our victory is assured. Glory to you, Lord! Our hope is in You and our faith is in the true Christ and our labor is testifying to the true God, to Jesus Christ. We thank you for the honor of the labor to work in Your fields as you bring in the saints before the harvest of the unrighteous. Jesus, make us righteous and holy and worthy of the calling of our election.” 

 

There is no fitting substitute, God, for Your love, truth and freedom. There is no substitute for Your Word. Help us God to endure, to keep Your commandments and our faith in Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

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.

We’re OUTRAGED. Now What?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Egregious. Heartbroken. Horrific. Incomprehensible. These words describe some of the feelings and thoughts that have charged many of our written and verbal communications over this past week’s unjust sentencing decision rendered by  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky: a six-month sentence to county jail and probation for 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford swimmer who while drunk, raped an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster last January. Two Swedish men bicycling near the scene (heroes) saw what was happening and pursued Turner, getting him off of her. For this egregious act, prosecutors pushed for a six-year sentence for Turner but Judge Persky reduced his sentence to six months given that he had no previous criminal history and that “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” according to Persky. What???

According to The Guardian and other news sources, the woman who during the sexual assault was unconscious from a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit at the time of the rape and who had no memory of the attack, said at the trial:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said, reportedly directly to Turner. “I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” 

The woman also read aloud in the courtroom her 12-page authentically powerful, raw letter (her letter has been published with several media sites though we’ve chosen not to link to it as it may reopen wounds for others).

Mercury News

Former Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner plead not guilty Monday morning Feb. 2, 2015, in a Palo Alto, Calif., courtroom to charges related to an alleged rape on campus. Turner was represented by attorney Mike Armstrong. (Karl Mondon/Mercury News Staff)

Judge Aaron Persky

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky has come under fire for his six-month lenient sentencing (instead of the prosecutor recommended six years) rendered against Brock Allen Turner, stating that “A prison sentence would leave a severe impact on him.” Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

In learning more about this case, you, me and the wider public have been outraged all week. In our anger and frustration about the violent act further impacted by a miscarriage of justice, we’ve expressed choice words about this situation. Even as a Christian whose mind has been renewed, unladylike words and thoughts entered my mind and were stopped short of leaving my lips by the Holy Spirit. I was outraged and I saw your messages of outrage and disbelief too.

What outrages us? 

We’re outraged by Turner’s choices and actions that inflicted unthinkable violence upon this woman. We’re outraged that the woman was asked all kind of irrelevant questions by Turner’s lawyer such as, “Are you serious with your boyfriend? Do you have a history of cheating? What were you wearing?” We’re outraged by Judge Persky’s unjust and too lenient sentencing because  a longer prison sentence would devastate Turner and his future. We’re outraged at Turner’s father writing a letter, concerned that his son was unable to eat his favorite meals because he’s so upset. What???

1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds.

We’re outraged that in 2016, after all of the “Take Back the Night” and similar campaigns have been conducted, articles published, panel discussions held, myriad conversations, initiatives, events to educate and prevent, we’re STILL talking about sexual assault. This outrages us. We’re outraged, frustrated and heartbroken that in reading this, we know the devastation of such violence whether we’ve experienced it first hand or have comforted, listened to, cried with, ministered to or helped loved ones, friends, family members and others, in addressing it and healing from the brokenness of it.

We’re outraged. Now what? 

I ask this question as a frustrated human being over the wickedness that lies within mankind’s heart. I ask this question in understanding your anger and frustration too. Yet, the Holy Spirit challenged me to view this very differently and from a spiritual perspective.

In asking “why is this injustice (and frankly all injustices) still happening?,” here’s the rub: Frankly, we’re asking a lot of a world that is riddled with sin. We’re asking a lot of a world that is fallen, whose desires, hearts, thoughts and wills have not sought God. We’re asking a world to “get it together” as they’ve purposely chosen to fulfill carnal appetites and are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually-dispossessed. We’re asking a sinful world to “know better and do better” when they’ve divorced themselves from seeking, knowing and loving God and have no desire to love others, to be transformed in their hearts by Christ.

We’re asking a prideful and arrogant world to invite God/give God full access to all areas of their life so they may walk in His ways. People don’t want to embrace such obedience or “sacrifices” that will have God telling them “no.” And if they do invite God in, He’s only allowed to speak to them during a crisis. Otherwise, God should remain quiet and not interfere with how they desire to speak, behave, think, carry themselves, interact with, etc. (Isaiah 65:2)

While you and I may have surrendered all to Christ Jesus, others haven’t. You and I may be walking in Romans 12:1-2, but others have chosen not to: “Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2- Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

God is a Holy God of love, mercy and justice. Because God created us, man and woman, in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), we also long for justice—it’s in our very makeup. Therefore, we become outraged when justice has not occurred. Yet, many want justice without inviting God into their lives. Oh yes—we want God to rectify injustices delivered by other people (sexual assaults, shootings, fraud, etc.), yet we won’t invite Him to work with us on the injustices we inflict upon others through our derogatory speech, ungodly thoughts and actions. We say, “God fix them but leave my stuff alone.” We’ve not surrendered to Romans 12:1-2.

clean heart

No doubt some acts are more egregious, horrific and more devastating than others. But as a Holy God, He views all sin equally. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

All offenses grieve God. Until we surrender unjust actions, thoughts, speech, behavior to Christ Jesus, we’ll continue to experience injustice in this world. Without Christ, we’re left to our own devices and it becomes a slippery slope. 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.”

I’ve also asked His forgiveness in the unjust thoughts I had toward this incident. Will you give Him full access to transform you into Christ’s likeness, to help stop the further reproduction of more injustice?

Heavenly Father, I know you fully understand our anger, our outrage at the injustices carried out in this egregious situation. As Our Creator, you created us to also pursue justice. Heavenly Father, we pray for Your amazing love to heal the broken places in this young woman’s life and others affected by such actions. We pray that she and others would lay their anger, hurts, pain and shame at the foot of the Cross to receive true healing and freedom through Your Son Jesus Christ. We pray for Your justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators. Lord, please raise up more principled and wise public servants who will administer true justice and exercise greater care over those they’ve been entrusted to serve.

Heavenly Father, you are a Holy God and view all sin equally. Forgive us for the injustices we’ve inflicted against You and others by our ungodly actions, thoughts and words. Lord, may we have an understanding for how all offenses grieve You.  Lord, may we obediently desire to surrender to you our unjust words, thoughts and actions to stem the further proliferation of injustices in this world.  May those operating in justice, in Light and Love as the Body of Christ continue to do so. Thank you and we love you. 

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,

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.

 

 

 

The Hardest Words of God to Read

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The hardest words of God to read. Some people think the hardest word or words to hear from God are “no,” “wait,” “be still” or “forgive.”

While those may be tough words to hear at the time, these words struck me with great soberness:

24- Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25-They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26- Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27- In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28- Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  (Romans 1:24-28 NIV)

“God gave them over.”

One scripture commentary reads that God is “leaving them to the pollution of their nature; by withdrawing his providential restraints from them, and by giving them up to judicial hardness: through the lusts of their own hearts.”

Another commentary in that same text reads: “As they deserted God, God in turn deserted them.”

“God gave them over.” No divine intervention. Divine abandonment.

Man grieved

 

I had to let these words set in for a moment. I felt grief, sorrow. Still do. It’s perhaps the grief felt by our Heavenly Father when His children choose paths that will lead to their self-destruction, ignoring His repeated warnings and attempts to protect them against such decisions. Far worse, they were presented God’s truth and exchanged it for lies.

God is so loving, merciful and extends His grace toward us, over and over, and over, and over again. As humans we’re less forgiving toward people’s repeated rebellion.

For God, Who is so loving toward us, when He gives you over to your fleshly desires and says, “If this is what you want, here it is,” who else but God could bring you back from the brink of such destruction??

Heavy. I have to leave it here. I’m not deceived in thinking that everyone will forgo their fleshly desires to pursue Christ. But if there’s an opportunity for someone to receive life, I lift this prayer in earnestness:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for your amazing love, long-suffering , grace and tender mercies extended toward us. While those of us who are secured and sealed in Christ’s righteousness and therefore face no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) as we strive to be transformed each day into Christ’s likeness, we ask your continued patience as we plant seeds and show Christ’s love among those who are choosing destructive paths. We pray for one more time, that their hearts might be prepared for true repentance to seek Your Son Jesus. We pray that sin’s grip will be broken in their lives and they will be made whole. We pray they choose abundant and eternal life instead of eternal, spiritual death. Where they’ve made You absent, we pray they make You present and tell others of your wondrous love. Thank you, Lord. Amen. 

-Nicole

To learn more about what is accelerating our nation’s decay, please read “Consequentialism in Romans,” written by our dear brother in Christ, Charles Holmes, of Christian think tank, FreedomSquared.org. Powerful piece.

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.

 

Sleep With the Doors Unlocked??

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Who can imagine or remember it? I’m reading a book set in 1940’s South Philadelphia in a Black, close-knit community. In that era and before, folks attended church services multiple days during the week. They were there morning, noon and night WITH ALL of their six, seven or eight children in tow. Whether a Sunday service, bible study, choir performance, bake sale, community meeting, wedding or funeral, church was THE place to be.

In that era and in my grandmother’s day as a child (she’s now 100, God bless her!), these words were spoken by her and others: “Yeah, we used to sleep with the doors unlocked.” Huh?? Furthermore, she’d say, “We also used to sleep on the porch and nobody would bother us.” My grandmother lives in Kansas (where I’m from) and not the streets of Philadelphia, and was born in Oklahoma.

In comparing the geographical and demographic differences of Philly and Kansas and thinking of that era of 1940s and before, my mind cannot firmly conceive this possibility of sleeping with doors unlocked. It sounds crazy to me—leaving your doors unlocked—at night OR during the day. Sadly, those of us who are Gen Xers or Gen Y/Millenials cannot recall such a freedom or security in our lifetime. If mom and dad had to run an errand and my brother and I were home, they’d sternly look at us and say, “Lock the doors,” and “don’t answer the door for anyone.”

We lived in a predominately White, Kansas suburban/country neighborhood and school district. Our neighborhood was pin-drop quiet at night (except for chirping crickets) and relatively quiet by day with the exception of someone mowing their lawn, or the jubilant squeals of kids racing each other up and down the road on their bikes.  Even in those carefree days, we were told to “lock up.”

Sadly, even in as much as we hope, we will never return to a time of, “sleeping with the doors unlocked.” Such a time is non-existent. What happened? As I mentioned in my opening, communities were close-knit. People knew each other’s children, knew each other’s business, rallied together on issues that adversely affected the community, made do with what they had and were joyful in it. Their fellowship and commune with God was within and throughout, permeating their lives, neighbor’s households and community. Yes, as cozy and Pollyanna-ish as this sounds, make no mistake: those days birthed injustices, violence and devastating family secrets.

Psalm 91-2 sunset

But perhaps the closer ties to God and community strengthened them to hold up and hold each other up. Now, particularly those of us living in fast-paced urban communities, we may or may not know well our neighbors and certainly don’t know the intricacies of their lives, and maybe we’re not interested. And while parents were taking all of their six or eight kids to church in those earlier eras, unless the family is in regular fellowship with the Lord, you might see their one or two children at church or the parents may simply drop them off and return home.

Thinking of “sleeping with the doors unlocked,” I look fondly on those who experienced that security. For those of us who never experienced it and frankly never will, can we ever abide in a daily peace, comfort or security that will keep us steady and unnerved in these progressively evil days? For those reading this who are of that “sleep with the doors unlocked” generation, can you ever have peace and security again? Joyfully, yes.

The key is: trusting in God’s Word, His Promises and remaining in daily, regular commune with Him to where His Peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), carries and steadies us. Praise God!

I invite you to read Psalm 91 on God’s promises made toward those who trust in Him when fear threatens your security and peace.

May you trust in the Lord to keep you and cover you and may we share His Peace with others,

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.

 

Cake Batter Mess Up

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Any bakers in the house? Those of you who’ve mastered the science of baking, I applaud you. You understand (unlike me) that baking is an exact science and you must follow the recipe to…the…letter. Don’t omit or add anything that the recipe doesn’t call for.

Cake baking is such:  1/2 cup butter (room temperature). 1 cup white sugar. 2 eggs. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour. 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder. 1/2 cup milk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 x 9 inch pan. In medium bowl add and mix ingredients as recipe directs. Spoon batter into greased pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

If you follow the recipe to the letter, and refrain from repeatedly opening the oven door, your cake should come out beautifully. But what happens IF any ONE of the listed ingredients is not used, is substituted for something else, or creative license is applied? You got it. The cake will not turn out right. If you forget the baking powder, your cake won’t rise. Too much vigorous whisking of the batter will take the air out of your cake, making it heavy like a brick (I’ve done this, so I know). Using tableware instead of measuring spoons to measure the dry products. Again, problems.

Cake mess up

What happens when we take similar shortcuts to address societal issues? You got it. We’ll incur problems. We’ll continue to apply creative and inaccurate solutions that fall short of the desired outcome.

 

From campaigns, to governments, movements, municipalities, policymakers and frustrated publics, many of these entities have sought to apply solutions, albeit creative ones, to address and forever resolve our most pressing community, national and world issues.

Cake mess up 2

For gun violence, some recommend taking people’s guns. But if you deny someone a gun who is morally debased, they will surely use a knife, their hands or other means to inflict harm upon others. It’s not the weapon, it’s their heart, that’s flawed.

Like forgetting to add baking soda to your cake batter, solutions developed that exclude Jesus Christ from the mix, will continue to fall flat of the behaviorial transformations we desire to see in one another.

Jesus calls us to love one another. It’s His amazing love that transforms people and situations. Without inviting Jesus Christ to change one heart at a time, the millions of dollars and hours spent to advance change will fail. 

It will fail because many subscribe to the belief that people are born “good.” But in fact, there was nothing innocent about any of us when we were born. We were all born into sin, into a fallen nature.

Dr. Gary Roberts, Regent University Robertson School of Government professor, wrote:

“Our world’s spiritual and cultural economy is the aggregated product of collective decisions made by individuals, families, and social institutions. This world is in a fallen state (Romans 5:12, Ephesians 6:12), hence, it is a battleground between good, evil and human indifference. The end result is individual and collective evil and sin, errors of commission and omission, evil thoughts, words and deeds that estrange us from God, ourselves and others (Romans 6:16).”

As a dear sister in Christ said in reference to mankind’s fallen nature before a holy God, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

Putting on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and yielding our lives to the Holy Spirit is how we overcome our self-tendencies so we can extend goodness, kindness, love, patience and peace toward others.

No shortcuts. Add Jesus Christ to the mix of our mess.

-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.