I Think We Will Be Surprised!

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I think we will be surprised, saints! We will be surprised by who comes to Christ in these last days. It may be someone you think least receptive and most stubborn. But this is what we’ve been praying for.

Remember: like you, they were also chosen before the foundations of the earth were laid. God knew them before He formed them in their mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). In human eyes we might say they’re slow in coming out of darkness, but through God’s sovereignty and pursuit, they are right on time. They are His sheep yet to join us in the sheep pen. One fold, one Good Shepherd.

The drawing process is not a formula and remains a mystery. We don’t know how God’s efforts are culminating in a person. We don’t know how God is stirring within their hearts. It’s not for us to know for it is a work of the Holy Spirit. The beauty is when we choose to cooperate with God’s efforts. This irritates Satan because it’s evident that God is present.

Recently, I viewed powerful online testimonies of Christians who were not always walking the path of eternal life. Whether near death, outrunning the bullet from a murderous drug dealer, or drowning in feelings of despair and hopelessness, they had nothing left. They had tried everything else and were left more broken than before. They were empty. They had come to the very end of themselves. They desperately cried out and called upon our loving God. They called out to Jesus to rescue them from their hell and their hurts. They remembered the prayers of loved ones. They had heard others speak of His unconditional love and ability to restore. They thought that if Jesus is indeed the One True God, then He was the only One who could save them.

They had no vanity, no pride and zero desire to assert their rights. They knew they were sinners and undeserving of any mercy. But they desperately hoped that the rumors were true: that if they called out to Him, He would answer. He was their only hope of any chance for a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Then you will call upon me and come to pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

prisoner

Saints: Are You Laboring for the 11th Hour Harvest of God’s Elect? The Time is NOW

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. (John 4:35)

It’s almost reaping time, dear saints! The last harvest is coming in. I am seeing more inklings and evidence of this especially from those I assumed were owned by the world yet God has been lovingly pursuing them in all of their mess. For those of us already in the Body of Christ, we are not to be mad at those who come into God’s Kingdom by the skin of their teeth and receive the same reward as those who have long served the Lord.

Matthew 20:1-16 speaks about the 11th hour. God’s people were grumbling working in the vineyard because some “came to the party late” and still received the same earnings, wages as those who had worked the vineyard longer. “The last of the harvest of God’s Elect are coming in” is what God is saying to the Body of Christ. They are sealed in His Blood. His Children receive the same inheritance. We rejoice whether they’ve known Christ most of their life or at the 11th hour! What joyful fellowship we will experience for eternity with our Savior! To feast with our fellow brothers and sisters at His table!!

Harvest worker
Prepare for the harvest, saints! They are coming! From those steeped in sin and waywardness to the person of intellectual pride and stubbornness—this is what we have been praying for, Hallelujah! Pray that those who God is drawing will heed His voice and turn to Him. Pray for hearts and minds to be transformed by His Word. Keep planting seeds of love, light and truth. Be intentional. Accept those divine appointments no matter how inconvenient. Continue to be a compelling witness because you are compelled by your love for God that those seeking may know Him.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Love and 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.

Do You Have What Everyone Needs?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hello, Dear People! It is good to be writing you again. While we post daily messages on our ministry Facebook and Twitter pages, please forgive my time away from you in writing a blog post. Since our last blog post published during Holy Week, I have been finishing the culminating part of my two-year grad school journey. With assignments and a final that was due, I was on my grind! I also participated in my commencement which still seems surreal! The day absolutely exceeded my expectations enhanced by God’s blessing after blessing being poured out and fellowship with dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ who shared in the day with me.  I am thankful for everyone who has supported and encouraged me! They have been with me on this two-year journey and were excited to see me walk the stage to receive my diploma for a Master of Public Administration from Regent University. I am excited for what the Lord has planned for me as a Christian public servant. Glory to God!

Great messages were shared throughout the commencement ceremony.  One of the biggest takeaways for me was to see approximately 1,900 of my fellow Regent University classmates representing at least 123 career disciplines ready to be dispatched into their vocations near and far while sharing Christ with the world! So awesome! As one of the speakers said, “Scholarship and faith need not be separate.” I agree! By the way, “regent” means “someone who represents a king in his absence.” Though Christ is quite present, He is manifested as the hands, feet and mouthpiece through each of one of us who represent Him before others on earth.

 

Now, on to the message.

 

Do You Have What Everyone Needs?

 

Hmm. A good question to ponder. Could it be a smile? A hug? Food? Water? Well, these are certainly excellent items to extend to everyone. Without dragging on our quiz, I’ll cut to the quick: everyone needs the Gospel.

 

Often times as Believers when we think about sharing the Gospel with others, we may immediately connect that to mean unbelievers—particularly as we live out The Great Commission commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. Yet, (and I am sure you know this) the Believer, God’s Elect, those whom God already called and are saved, need continual discipleship, encouragement, instruction, refinement and strengthening in the sharing of the Gospel as well. Since launching Voices Against the Grain in May 2013, it has been our intent to develop content to further equip the Believer in their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ and to also prick the hearts and minds of unbelievers in hopes to plant a seed or water a seed previously planted. Even in our ministry to you, we continue to be discipled.

 

Everyone needs God. Unbelievers need salvation through Jesus Christ, for He is the only way to the truth, to the Father and to eternal life (John 14:6). Believers need greater intimacy with the Lord, more encouragement and authentic fellowship to avoid being swayed by society’s counterfeit and cultural beliefs that “seem like a good thing” though they are not biblical. Society has made such spaces comfortable for Believers who try to liken God in a certain manner without understanding the true nature of our Holy God who hates sin.

 

Everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must trust and take confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to prepare and transform hearts and minds to receive. The message of the Gospel will meet hearts and minds right where they’re at. As a dear sister in Christ said, “The message of the Gospel is so anointed we need only to proclaim it! The Holy Spirit will do the work!”

 

Romans 1:16 reiterates this: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

 

The Gospel is for everyone and is truly the power of God. If we think the Gospel is unable to accomplish what the message is intended to do without compromising it, then we need to re-examine who we believe God to be.

 

The Gospel is INDEED alive—a living, active Holy Spirit-inspired Word that quickens those dead in sin to life —that removes the veil of confusion and opens eyes to truth. It revives those who have drifted from the truth, who have become weary from the race, retired in defeat. It is the only truth that redeems, restores and sets us free.

 

We see this conveyed in Ephesians 4:11-25 (English Standard Version):

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsc and teachers,d 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,e to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

The New Life

17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self,f which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Do you have what everyone needs? Do you have the Gospel? Not a candy-coated version that misrepresents the character and nature of God and gives flesh license to sin. The full, uncompromised (without requiring adjustment), Holy Spirit-inspired Gospel IS the Good News, the balm, the salve to quicken those to life who are perishing in spiritual death. It is the revival to Believers who need a refresh to continue running their race strong.
Follow Jesus
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15 ESV)

-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.

“From the Chair”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Recently, I painted my ivory-colored living room walls with a dark gray to make the white trim “pop.” I love it! The room now has a deeper feeling of serenity and modernity. As a first-time painter and with the guidance of a dear sister, I overcame my fear of messing it up and went to work (boy, was it hard work!). A great outcome in that I love the color, kept delightful cost savings by doing it myself, and added another skill.

The new gray and white color scheme also prompted a furniture change. The espresso-colored furniture that nicely complimented the former ivory walls no longer supported the gray and white modern look.

So, on a lean, good-steward budget, I began swapping out the espresso furnishings with gray and white furniture with pops of colorful accessories. Then, I came to my espresso leather chair: a chair I’ve had for several years and is still in good condition with the exception of some wear on the armrest where I’ve leaned on it while reading. Why suddenly was this chair giving me pause and sentimentality, with tears welling in my throat? Heaven forbid I had become like Archie Bunker (All in the Family) who had a terrible fit when his favorite chair was broken by his “meathead” son-in-law and had to be repaired. Why was I feeling so tied to this chair to the point that keeping it would disrupt my decor vision flow?

the chair

In asking myself this question, the Holy Spirit dropped the words “from the chair” in my spirit (not meaning like a university department chair). I inquired of Him, “From the chair? Huh?” He seldom offers me more than 1-5 words.   🙂

I looked again at my espresso leather chair in hopes to discern what the Lord was saying. Then I began to understand the root of my sentimentality for the chair…

For some time, from the chair, I have mentored young people, ministered to and prayed with others over the phone, studied God’s Word, have written these writings, knelt in fervent prayer, given thanks to God, and completed grad school homework. Seldom was the chair used for television watching or music listening but for doing the actual trench work of God’s Kingdom. It has been where I have studied, learned, applied, taught, prayed and praised. The Holy Spirit’s words “from the chair” were now resonating within. Even though I have done similar work from a former espresso desk I had, the Kingdom work conducted from the chair leaves me in awe.

As God’s Elect, we are His chosen vessels, spokespeople, shepherds and proxy authorities for teaching, exercising and upholding His Holy Word—not our own teachings or beliefs. God is the authority over His Word, which is infallible. As uncomfortable as His Word, His Truth may be in delivering and receiving, it is this very element that heals, preserves and restores—not a watered-down truth that makes us comfortable nor that which conforms to what we “think God means.” God’s Word means the same today, yesterday and forever and is not an evolving theology over time to fit the present culture.

As a dear sister in Christ pointed out, “Christ’s position is our authority from which we are seated and positioned to say what God’s Word means.” 

God has given us His authority to serve as spokespersons, teachers and proxy authorities in delivering His Word to others, imparted by the Holy Spirit.  May we do as He intends so those listening may truly reap the benefits therein.

2 Timothy 2-15

Being in regular communion with the Lord enables any of us who yield to Him regardless of education, position or titles, to see and hear in the spiritual that which cannot be revealed in the natural to communicate His Word and instructions. Those of us operating “from the chair” (our position in Christ Jesus) should not take lightly this authority and privilege. May we be studied and rest in the confidence of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit to lead us in rightly dividing and disseminating His Word to help others (2 Timothy 2:15, Luke 12:12). May we obediently follow the Holy Spirit’s instruction.

In this, we give all glory, honor and praise to God for inviting us to be co-workers with Him in this eternal work. As for the espresso leather chair contradicting my new gray and white decor: I might keep it. The work conducted “from the chair” has been and is invaluable.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Toplines on Trauma

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

A couple weeks ago, I attended a Trauma Informed Care training presented by national expert Bonnie Martin, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). The training was hosted by National Community Church here in Washington, D.C. I was joined by one of my mentees who is pursuing her Master of Social Work. Since attending the training, it’s been my intent to share with you some of what we learned.

Though I’ve been told by others that I am a good listener, compassionate and provide wise counsel, it was recommended that I attend the training to better serve the at-risk youth population the Lord has placed a burden on my heart to mentor here in D.C. Unlike the young people I’m currently mentoring who seek guidance in navigating career choices, relationship matters and their life in Christ Jesus in a morally decaying world, it is highly likely the stories I’ll hear from the at-risk population will be gut-wrenching and horrific.

The training was tremendously helpful to someone like me who is not—I repeat NOT a mental health expert. She presented a lot of information, at which my mentee and I took copious notes. Though she is a Christian, Martin framed the information primarily from a scientific perspective to depict how trauma affects the brain and how the brain attempts to heal.

While I wouldn’t dare capture for you the entire training in this blog post, I can provide you some toplines. I hope this helps to enlighten and certainly not minimize the scale and impact trauma can have on someone physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. For those of you reading this who are mental health professionals and more versed in issues on trauma, please feel free to provide additional insight.

Toplines on Trauma

What is trauma and what does it look like?

  1. Trauma (as Martin defined it): too much stress at one time for the body to handle properly; a distressing experience.
  2. Trauma can be acute (ex: earthquake) followed by subsequent aftershocks. PTSD looks at how the body and brain are responding two months after trauma. Complex post-trauma could also be trauma that is chronic (ex: some children are born into trauma, such as those born to a heroin-addicted mother, child born into food insecure home or molestation. Chronic homelessness is ongoing trauma).
  3. The brain is being altered under traumatic stress and this needs to be taken into consideration.
  4. Neuroplasticity: how the brain seeks to heal after trauma or injury and establish new neuro connections to adjust to changes in new environment.
  5. Trauma can cause memory impairment. Memories can also change, become disjointed or not make sense.
  6. Negative behaviors of acting out: Some of the behaviors that traumatized people act out is what helped them survive (lying, stealing, etc.) to cope with stresses that never should have been. While we get this, they need to be restored from this. Sexual acting out may be sign of previous sexual trauma. This is done to manage stress response.
  7. Prefrontal cortex of the brain if compromised or damaged during trauma, creates hypervigilence. The person’s ability to perceive stress in a healthy way, is gone. All events are elevated to a high stress level (ex: studying for an exam and being chased by a shark receives same stress response).
  8. A person experiencing trauma may feel unworthy of love, acceptance and carry shame.
  9. They may crave sweet, fatty food combinations. They can gain weight and this compounds the shame feelings. Diet is critical. They need hydration and healthy food. Dehydration impairs mental function.
  10. People experiencing trauma are exhausted. Difficulty getting out of bed to run their race. Weary and faint-hearted.

How can you best help this person?

  1. Listen. If they choose to be silent instead of talk, sit with them in the silence. Don’t seek to fill the silence.
  2. By listening and not trying to “help,” you offer them a safe place to engage and build a healthy relationship. This also helps their brain establish new neuro connections.
  3. Focus on their strengths.
  4. Show up. Be present. Your presence matters.
  5. Stick to what you know. If they ask you a question and you don’t know, tell them, “I don’t know.” Do seek to connect them to the appropriate resources who can help.
  6. Ask questions to get to know them. Be interested in them. People are the assignment. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us.
  7. People who have experienced trauma tend to self-isolate. This can kill. They need community and connection.
  8. Embrace anger and grief. These are honest, raw and real emotions about pain and trauma. Bear witness to their pain. Don’t try to shut them down too soon.
  9. Understand that resiliency differs for everyone. Trauma differs for everyone and cannot be compared.
  10. Empower people. Never take their power away. “Do you want an apple or orange?” “Do you want to sit here or over there?”

 

comfortingeachother

How can you stay healthy when serving/ministering to a person who has been traumatized?

  1. Don’t be a sponge/don’t absorb others’ trauma or you will not be good for yourself or others. Instead, mirror love and resiliency, laughter, play, redemption. Mirror everything you pray for them to have. The Holy Spirit working through you and your presence will be the influence.
  2. Make sure you bounce back. If you are not bouncing back, stop and get help.

Praise Jesus Christ, who is our Savior! He is a sure help in our times. You need not think that you can save this person. Only Jesus can. Jesus knows our pain and suffering. He knows that pain and despised the shame of that pain for the joy set before him as told in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

he-refreshes-the-weary-and-the-faint

Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus, Our Savior, to bear it all for us on the Cross. In our pain, our grief, anger, a yearning to understand “why?”, He knows and sees our struggle. He hears our cries and utterances.  Because of His victory achieved on the Cross, the shame is not His or ours. Thank you Jesus for your amazing love that heals the broken places and makes all things new. We pray that those experiencing such pain would begin to lay their burdens down, so they may see the victory and joy you’ve already set before them. Refresh and renew their spirit, mind and body, Lord with your love, strength, peace and joy. In this joy, may they run their race with perseverance, seeing their victory already won. Please also strengthen those of us you’ve called to help those in pain. We thank you for inviting us to be co-workers with you in this work as they move toward healing and freedom, and prayerfully, may be equipped to help free somebody else. 

In Jesus’ Name, 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.

 

Is Holiness Possible Today?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Oh Nikki, stop it with that holier than thou stuff,” said mom to my then 13 or 14-year-old self. Note: mom didn’t say “stuff” but I’ve chosen a more appropriate substitute.  🙂

Mom was responding to my correction about her cussing. I was a black child, albeit raised in a household by two Christian parents, along with my brother, who found boldness (or ignorance) to correct her mother. Those of you who understand the dynamics of growing up in a black household, mom didn’t like back talk (even if we were right) and neither did/does Dad (mom passed away in 1989). But within me, I had a boldness and love for the Lord and a desire to see others love and live for the Lord as He calls us to.

I-am-the-light-of-the-world

My love for the Lord began in early childhood. My parents bought my brother and me an entire 10-volume set of illustrated bible stories. I read the stories from page to page, enjoying the illustrations, loved learning about Jesus, his ministry, his and the disciples’ interactions with others. Even reading about his crucifixion and resurrection, I may have read that more than the other stories. I loved the Lord, yet my childhood thing was to be so perfect that I wouldn’t get in trouble with mom and dad. So if I didn’t complete a chore, broke a dish, got a bad report card grade, or something else, I lied about it. I sometimes blamed the incident on my brother who had no clue that he was about to get a spanking because I lied so well. Goodness gracious. He and I can look back on it now and laugh, but at that time it was no laughing matter. My parents were grieved by my boldface lying pattern, and one day said to me, “Nikki, we want to be able to trust you. We can’t trust you.”

Those words pained me deeply. I too, wanted my parents to be able to trust me. Why did I fear being punished to the point of lying? I was truly repentant and asked the Lord’s help to stop lying, to turn from this. I didn’t want to be a liar. This was at age 12. It was then that I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and my heart was made new. It was then that I felt a greater love for the Lord, with such a zeal to share Him and His love with others, to encourage them to walk in His truth.

Oh yes, this has long been who I am. This sudden change occurred within our household with my mom who was a Believer. But she still had her favorite curse words, liked to smoke her occasional More brand slim cigarettes, and liked to drink her occasional screwdriver. She was not delighted to hear her teen daughter’s correction. Eeeks.

Two scriptures (and certainly there are more) come to mind in writing this: 

1 Peter 1:16 (English Standard Version), since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” As one commentary reads, “The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian’s life, and by this rule, we are commanded to be holy in every way. God makes those holy who he saves.  Holiness (should be) the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, all conditions and toward all people.”

Matthew 5:6 (New International Version), Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  As I was coming more into the Lord in childhood, I genuinely had a hunger and thirst for righteousness; for a right relationship with God and others (and still do). I simply didn’t interpret it with this understanding at that time, and likely, neither did mom.

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Sooo many opportunities to sin abound in our society. Is the Bible and how God calls us to live still relevant or even possible in today’s challenging times? The answer is “Yes.” God’s Word, His character and His nature are unchanging, no matter the situation. In the next few weeks, our ministry will speak with college students who are struggling on how to navigate such societal trappings. Worse, as they seek to successfully avoid the trappings and enticements of sin, they see some members within the Body of Christ who they look up to, engaging in similar sins—the sins the students are told to avoid. Many of them are disheartened and confused by what they see. As I mentor our young people, I understand that this millenial generation truly wants to see those more mature in the Body of Christ walking the walk and not just talking it. Truly living in holiness,  yielding our flesh and spirit in obedience to God’s will. Mirroring Christ’s love and His ways.

But I’ll ask them as I am asking you: Is holiness possible today? Do you even desire holiness or understand what it is? As dear friend and co-founder of Christian think tank FreedomSquared.com, Hakim Hazim, said so well recently: “Many want God’s blessings but reject the relationship standards.” 

What Holiness Means and Why It is Possible Today 

Holiness means to be “set apart, consecrated, set apart for God’s purposes; sacred, hallowed, sanctified. Called out of darkness to reflect God’s Light to the world.” God gives us His Holy Spirit so we can live as He does. That’s why it is possible, even today, to live holy.

Is holiness possible today? You bet. It’s not only possible, it’s God’s plan for us. Be encouraged: I am living it as are others. If you’re living it, continue, as others are watching and listening. If you’re struggling, I offer this prayer:

Lord, help us through Your Holy Spirit to yield to your ways, your will for holiness and not how we interpret that to mean.  Develop within us such a love and devotion for you that drives our desire to pursue holiness no matter the situation or environment we’re facing. Though there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), let us not use that as a license to keep allowing past sins into our present.  Help us to model to this generation what a life of true joy, true freedom, true peace can look like in You. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, mercy and grace upon us. 

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.

 

How Do You Fight Against the Unseen World?

Today, we are blessed to share with you a message from guest Voices Against the Grain devotional writer, Minister Bryan Williams of Charlotte, N.C. Thank you Minister Williams for presenting a word to embolden us in our faith walk. -Nicole

 

Min. Bryan Williams

Minister Bryan Williams, Voices Against the Grain Guest Devotional Writer

How do you fight against the unseen world?

I just finished up a series where I was teaching teens on “The Benefits of Having a Godly Man in the Home” and “The Side Effects of Not Having One” and I must say that this study took on a life of its own. From that, the Lord impressed upon my heart to transition from that topic to talking about ‘Demons and the Unseen World’ and I felt led to share this word with you.

So how do we fight against demons and the unseen world:

 

 

1)      “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10)

If we’re going to fight against the demonic spirits in this world, then the first thing that I encourage you to be is STRONG IN THE LORD! I mean:

  1. a) Strong mentally
  2. b) Strong physically (with keeping your body healthy and in shape)
  3. c) Strong in your word, knowing and proclaiming it
  4. d) Strong in your faith
  5. e) Strong with filling up in the Holy Spirit

With all that is happening all over the world, Orlando, ISIS, planes being shot down, who our next president will be, gun control and the demonic spirit that is homosexuality, it is a must that we are and remain strong in the Lord.

2)      “We have to put on the WHOLE  armor” (Ephesians 6:11)

The Word teaches us that we need the WHOLE armor (and not some or one) but the WHOLE ARMOR to fight against what is constantly before us. One of the main weapons that we need to make sure is sharp is ‘the sword of the spirit,’ which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Now what I’m about to mention is not one of the weapons but I believe it flows along with having the armor on. Verse 18 in Ephesians 6 talks about ‘praying in the Spirit’ and in order to fight against spiritual wickedness, we must be praying IN THE SPIRIT, BY THE SPIRIT, THROUGH THE SPIRIT AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. Not only that, verse 19 of Ephesians 6 talks about speaking boldly. My brothers and my sisters, stand boldly on the Word of God and tell those who are lost about His love, His forgiveness, His grace and mercy and never leave out that He’s coming back (Matthew 24:36).

 

Armor of God

3)      “Recognize that our fight is NOT with flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12)

During this fast, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that our battle is NOT with people (or flesh) but our battle is against unseen spiritual wickedness that is all around us. It’s not the people but what it’s trying to possess, control and persuade people to do the very opposite of what Christ has instructed us. Don’t engage in arguments with non believers and the rebellious. Stand firm on the Word and do what #4 below says in calling out the spirits.

4)      “We must call out those spirits” (Mark 9:25)

Instead of engaging in meaningless arguments (about the truth) with people who are being rebellious, while giving them “a soft answer that turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), speak to the spirit within them and call them out. You who carry the cross, you who carry the name Jesus in your spirit and in your heart, you who display the image of God, with the power of His might, call the evil spirits out.

5)      “Understand that only some things comes through FASTING & PRAYING” (Mark 9:29)

I encourage the Body of Christ that not only do we need more praying in the spirit but I encourage you to proclaim a fast for you, your household and your church. I so appreciate those who are on their knees and face but I encourage those (under the sound of my text voice) to fast and pray in the spirit. I hear in the spirit that some walls need to come down, some doors need to be opened, some family members need to be healed, set free and delivered. I believe that God’s order, plan and commands need to be re-established, that the Men of God need to reclaim our Dominion and that fasting and praying is needed and so necessary for a time such as this.

6)      “We must display God’s love through the image of God through us” (Acts 4:13)

Food for thought: If I were to see you Monday through Saturday night and if I never spoke to you, could I tell you were a Christian? Would I want to know God based off your actions? Would I be able to see Christ through you (outside of church)? I lift this up because, now more than ever, lost people don’t just need to hear a sermon but they need to see one as well. How else are the lost going to turn toward Christ unless they see God’s love and compassion displayed through us? Christ is calling us (the children of light) into dark places so that His light can shine and expose what’s been hidden in the dark but trying to overpower the light.

 

Minister Bryan Williams, who says “I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody about somebody, who can save anybody,” recognized his gift to encourage at a young age. As he grew up in church and started hearing from the Lord (in a today generation voice), he recognized that he was set apart and in 2007, he accepted his call to the ministry. Not only did he recognize his call but he learned early that his passion was for the youth. Min. Williams volunteers in the community, is part of various teen girls’ organizations and mentors teen boys in the process. Min. Williams resides in Charlotte, N.C., and is the son of Walter and Helen Williams and has one brother, Walter Williams.

 

 

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.

 

Subterranean Iniquity

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. –Hebrews 4:13

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Usually when we think of the word “subterraneous” or “subterranean” we define it as something that lies or operates underneath the surface of the earth. However, this word could also be defined as something or someone that exists or operates out of sight or secretly. At times in our lives there have been subterranean iniquities a.k.a., sins that we have either failed to confess or knowingly attempted to cover up. What is sin? Summed up, it is an offense against God’s religious or moral law. It is the debased, depraved, or corrupt state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God a.k.a., in a wrong relationship with our creator. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” –James 4:13

Bishop J.C. Ryle, an 18th century Anglican preacher and prominent writer, once wrote this quote and I believe it’s still applicable today: “Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, “Show it to me.” Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, “What are you doing?”

It’s worth considering. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through-out the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.  2 Chronicles 16:91-John-19-If-We confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive

You say, “Well then! How am I supposed to have any fun!?” Friend, I know without a doubt that you can have fun in the Lord and among his people. However, the truth is your life has to be clean in order to truly experience it. There is something about the Holy Spirit that lives within the Believers of Jesus Christ that before you can experience the joy and the fun you can have in him, he first prompts you to “go and sin no more.”  He says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4   Our lives ought to be holy so that the presence of the Lord can be with us and ultimately so that we can be used for his glory and the Kingdom of God.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  –1 John 1:5-9  Forgive-Me- 1 John 1-9

Jesus stands ready to forgive and save the unbeliever. Likewise he is always ready to restore the fallen believer. Will you draw near to him? He wants you to. It’s my prayer that you do today. 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.