To the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs: May We Each Be the Brick

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To Pastor Frank Pomeroy, Sherri Pomeroy, the members of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and the community of Sutherland Springs, Texas:

You do not know us but we have come to know you.

From our televisions and other devices, we have watched you graciously deliver responses to reporters and media as you lean on the Lord for strength in this time of unimaginable sorrow. Our hearts have been breaking alongside you upon hearing the horrific news and details from this past Sunday’s shooting that took place in your church. We mourn with you (Romans 12:15).

We know your hearts and minds like ours seek to understand “Why” but as you stated Pastor Pomeroy, “I don’t understand but I know my God does.” Questions abound as you and your wife grapple with the death of your precious daughter Annabelle, the 26 members of your church (several of them children) and those still hospitalized and fighting to live. As you and we know, God’s ways, wisdom and purposes infinitely surpass and transcend our finite minds. As the Lord says to us in Isaiah 55:8-9, 8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The moment we learned of this horrific tragedy brought to you, your families, church family and community, we prayed for the Lord to be so near to you; that you would immediately feel enveloped in His loving arms of comfort, peace and strength. We prayed for His peace to undergird you and we trust that He will continue to so long as you lean on Him.

The Texas Catholic Sutherland Springs

(Photo courtesy: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

We stand with you. We will continue to lift you in prayer and we will remain steadfast in advancing God’s Kingdom. In what the enemy sent to cause defeat and devastation, we trust that God will be glorified. We are already seeing the love of Christ pour out and believe through your display of love, faith and forgiveness, those unbelieving of how such a disposition is possible in the face of great wickedness, will know that it is Christ who sustains you. The LORD is truly our Refuge, our Strength, our Strong Tower, our Rock.

Now, you know us. As members of the Body of Christ, may you also be able to count on us as a refuge of comfort, of peace, of love, of strength and encouragement. As a dear sister in Christ said, “May we each be the one brick in the wall” as it pertains to being a united Body of Christ, serving as a refuge to you and others.

In Christian Love and Fellowship,

The Body of Christ/Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ

To donate to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, please visit their website http://ssfb.org/ . You may also visit their Facebook page for additional donation information.

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“What Outcomes Were You Expecting?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

If God asks you, “What outcomes were you expecting?,” it can honestly deflate your spirit for a moment. Your answer may leave you feeling even more deflated.

People who ask your guidance and then choose the opposite path in which you instructed them. People who continue to make harmful choices and seem on a path to no return. Government and worldly systems that put forth the same outputs and expect different results. Sigh.

A friend shared with us that several years ago when he began working with juvenile offenders, he had great expectations for changing the lives of the troubled youth he was pouring into day after day. Some of these youth were former gang members who had committed unimaginable offenses. He was certain that his time spent with them was making an impact. Indeed it was. However, some showed no change in their heart and mindsets that led them into detention centers in the first place. To compound matters, he was a government contractor who desired to make an impact within a system that functioned at the pace of gravy and operated with the typical mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it.” It was hard to see change on any level. At the lack of expected progress, my friend cried out to God in frustration.

The Lord responded to my friend in that sure voice and said, “What outcomes were you expecting?” 

Expectations checking the boxes

Upon hearing the Lord’s question, my friend spent a couple days angry. When the Lord speaks, there is such hard truth to His Words. For me, His responses hit my gut like a brick but also give peace to my search for answers. The answer may not be what we want. The Lord’s response was in reference to mankind’s fallen nature and that God gave man the ability to choose to follow Him—or the flesh. My friend already understood this concept—yet, as Believers, when we are deep in the work in representing God’s love and truth to others, we pray great outcomes will be yielded. We pray that those who are lost and sowing to death will choose the path that leads to abundant life (John 10:10).

The Lord later spoke to my dear friend and instructed him exactly what he was to do in working with the troubled youth—a specific word that has helped him manage his expectations, run in his lane in excellence and trust that whatever seeds are planted, God will be glorified. God knows whose hearts are prepared to receive Him and His truth. God also knows those who will not receive Him, and yet, there are benefits that will come simply from our presence with those people.

My dear friend continues to work with juvenile offenders today and no longer overestimates God’s purposes. God’s purposes, as I am learning, are far different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When my friend shared with us the Lord’s response said to him, “What outcomes were you expecting?, it took my breath momentarily. It felt harsh. I felt the weight of truth in it. The Lord might as well have spoken those words to me. I’ve written on man’s fallen nature and the consequences thereby that adversely impact our society. I’ve written on that scripture in Ecclesiastes 7:29 that speaks of God creating mankind upright and how man has strayed to pursue his/her own ways.

I know all of this. In my expectation for great outcomes and hoping people will surrender ALL and choose to follow Christ Jesus, I quickly forgot that—in planting seeds or watering a seed that someone else planted—a person is still allowed to CHOOSE whether they will follow God’s will or their own will. They may ultimately choose Satan’s counterfeit paths that masquerade as truth. This has been a sorrowful thing to accept. You have probably felt the Godly sorrow in accepting this as well.

Isaiah55_8-9 clouds

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve;” (Joshua 24:15, KJV)

The freedom to choose is available to all of us. As we continue our work as Christ’s Ambassadors until our last days, some seeds will take root. Others may never. But whatever the outcomes, I am encouraged and you should be too. As we display Christ’s light and love to everyone we meet or speak to, there will be light where previously only darkness existed. God is still being glorified! And when Satan attempts to diminish our walk by trying to make us doubt our effectiveness as Christ’s servants, we should quickly dismiss Satan’s attacks with this scripture:

For God’s gifts and His call (on your life) are irrevocable.- Romans 11:29 

Praise God!! Be encouraged and trust God for the outcomes. Keep being salt, light and truth. Keep planting seeds in love. May you have peace in whatever way He chooses to use you to accomplish His purposes.

God bless you and stay staunch,

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.

 

“Be Patient on the Vision”

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” -Habakkuk 2:3 (New International Version)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Has God called you to do something—and has yet to provide you with all of the details to carry out the vision?

Furthermore, you may still be awaiting full details on the entire vision? If you can answer “yes,” then relax and smile: for you are in good company! You are not alone in this process of how God works through His People to accomplish His purposes.

In previous posts, I’ve shared with you that for the past eight months God has been transitioning me into new territory. As a long-time journalism and public relations professional, this has been my comfort zone, do-it-with-my-eyes-closed space that I’ve operated in for more than 10 years. Though I’ve used this expertise to advance His Kingdom and the good services of others, God has given me a heart for more. He has given me a burden for something that is on His heart. In this time of transition, wilderness, seeking answers, going through the threshing floor to allow my will, habits and insecurities to die, and a further refining of my character, I’ve come to understand the core of what He is now calling me to do: to mentor at-risk youth.

Excited to fulfill the call, I was ready to fully jump in. What do I do? Where do I start, Lord? Who do I talk to who can help? What’s our timeline? What resources will I need and who will they come from? For anyone who knows me, I am one who needs questions answered to understand new spaces! You may be the same.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the working world, particularly occupations that involve strategic planning, strategies, tactics, budget, goals, timelines and desired outcomes (ex: media campaigns, projects, development, sales, etc.), we’ve been molded to think this way. We need all of these details filled in sooner rather than later to roll out the plan and project. We’re usually up against the ticking clock of someone who is paying us to deliver immediate results.

But in how God works through His people, you come to understand you need to “slow your roll.” As you mature in Christ, you come to better understand God’s character and nature. You learn that God is never in a hurry and “haste” or “anxiousness” is not part of His character.

Wait for it

As I sought answers from God for next steps in how to carry out the vision and burden He has given me to mentor youth, I shared my concerns with a dear sister in Christ. The wise and timely advice she imparted to me are the same words I share to encourage you: “Be patient on the vision.” In fact, she said, “Be very patient on the vision.”

I am grateful for her advice and understand why she said this. As I remain in prayer and fasting for God to direct my steps, I am presently in the information-gathering phase. God is divinely connecting me to people who work in this new territory so I can learn more. He is presenting me with information and models that will help establish a platform and vehicle to best carry out the vision. In fact, had I dived in from my excitement on what I thought was the initial way to proceed, I would have missed the additional details and insights that have been revealed in the past few days. I would have short-changed the vision and the vision’s end recipients. The vision has taken on a design and shape that is wider than I previously saw in my earlier limited view!

He wants to do exceedingly and abundantly more through us than we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)! His thoughts and His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)!

My encouragement to you: Wait for it. Wait on the vision. Be patient on the vision. God has already prepared the process.  He will accelerate what He desires to be accelerated. Though it linger, it will certainly come with all the people, provision and resources you need to fulfill the vision. It will not delay.

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.

God Will Be God Without Requiring Our Understanding

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9 (New International Version)

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Shock. Anger. Despair. We hurt. We grieve. Tragedies, injustices and lives taken by illnesses of any kind leave many of us asking God, “Why?” and “Where were you?!” We’re perplexed by how a loving God who is all knowing, all seeing, and everywhere can allow such events as the June 17 massacre of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church members of Charleston, S.C., participating in bible study, to perish on His watch.

The aforementioned words captured in Isaiah 55:8-9 give us the answer. It’s not the answer our natural mind desires or is able to reconcile. Tragedies that befall wrongdoers are easier to reconcile in our minds because we inherently believe justice was rendered. But what solace can be found in the death(s) of those who selflessly serve others? Those who love and trust others? Those who gather for bible study on a Wednesday night, welcoming members and strangers alike?

Answer: God is and always will be sovereign (in control, giving allowance for situations to occur). We weren’t there when God hung the stars in the sky, or when He formed the Earth’s foundations and positioned our planet in perfect distance from the sun. In our limited abilities, intellect and understanding we are in no position to dictate what God should and shouldn’t do. In Romans 11:33 the apostle Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:33, 34).

Good and evil are always at war in this fallen world. Evil is on an uptick and is not taking a backseat. God works through Believers, unbelievers and events to bring light to darkness. To accomplish His purposes, God will be God without requiring our understanding. What IS required of us if we so choose: to have faith in Who He is, faith in His good plans for us, to believe that He is drawing people and transforming hearts even in tragedies, trust His love for us, believe His promise to always be with us and to believe in the One He sent in Who we are to place our hope: His Son Jesus Christ.

A Charleston community member comforts a man mourning news learned of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church members shot and killed during bible study on Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Photo courtesy: Associated Press

A Charleston community member comforts a man mourning news learned of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church members shot and killed during bible study on Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Photo courtesy: Associated Press

We will encounter troubles in this life. To seek solace in this world will not garner peace that lasts. In Christ Jesus alone will we find true peace, as He tells us in John 16:33- “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.”

Those who have passed on have run their race in victory. The Voices Against the Grain ministry team unites in spirit with our brothers and sisters in Christ and others to extend prayers of comfort, hope and love to the family members of those killed, to the members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Charleston, S.C., community.

-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. 

Why You Can’t Figure Out God

“No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.” — Charles H. Spurgeon

Minister Dracy Jenkins, Devotional Writer

Minister Dracy Jenkins, Devotional Writer

Isaiah 55:8-9 (New Living Translation) 8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

No matter how hard we try or desire to, we will never be able to figure God out. Oh, we can come to know Him better and better each day, but trying to figure out what He’s going to do and how He’s going to do it, is an enormous waste of time and energy. At least in my humble opinion.

It’s just as simple as you create the best work of art that you can imagine. You love it and so do many people who see it. But one day, you decide to put it in a security vault to protect it. Or you decide to donate it to a museum or auction it off for charity.

My point is, it is YOU who are deciding what to do with your work of art, not the art itself. To ask or expect the art to determine its fate sounds ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as it is for us to figure out God or try to tell Him what He can or cannot do with us.

Yes, we are God’s work of art and He has given us the ability to choose. Even so, it’s useless or futile to believe that we can figure God out or control His actions. The things that He has revealed to us about Himself, are the things we need to hold on to. He loves us. He wants us with Him for all eternity. He provides and has provided for us to be free from the evil one and sin. He has revealed what He cares to reveal to us about Himself and our future, according to His Will, not ours. He is our Heavenly Father and our God, if we so choose.

Today, I encourage us all to simply know that the Creator of All, has our lives securely in His hands. Even when we try to pull away, He holds on tighter and tighter. He places us where He needs us, according to His Will for our lives and for our created purpose.

Rest assured that if you have chosen His Son as your personal Lord and Savior, then, there is no need to figure out what God is doing. For what He is doing is making you and I ready to be clothed in His righteousness, to take our place in His eternal presence.

Heavenly Father we thank you today for creating us, loving us and fulfilling our created purpose in your kingdom. Forgive us for those times of fear and doubt and endless questioning of “why this” and “how comes.” Please continue to help us simply say, “yes Lord” and “thank you.” Be with us today as always and open our eyes even more to see all of who you are to us. This we pray and ask in Jesus name, Amen.

Minister Dracy
After God’s Own Heart Ministries
Luke 4:18-19 …to bring Good News…