You Cannot Be Gentle in This Fight

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For the past three weeks, I’ve been praying on and drafting a blog post on the importance of “who you know” based on the book of Daniel. I’ve nearly completed it and was prepared to share it with you today or this weekend. But, a more immediate subject is impressed upon my spirit to address now with the Body of Christ. You can expect to receive the Daniel message sometime next week.

Kate Spade, 55. Anthony Bourdain, 61. Too many others to count. This Tuesday and now today, we are grappling with the sad and sobering news of lives lost to apparent suicide. Bad news travels fast particularly in today’s real-time news cycle at our fingertips— received on our phones, pads and various devices communicated across myriad platforms. As outside onlookers, the breaking news alerts of their deaths shocks us to our core, gives us pause and conjures up questions of “why” because we have benefited from their many gifts and talents. From a distance, we see them smiling, seemingly living well, traveling the world, basking in the fruits of their talents and enjoying life.

But by the news accounts, the external did not match the internal, what we as outsiders were not privy to seeing. We don’t know the inner turmoil they battled. Even for those closest to them, some of the “whys” remain and will remain. We lift their families, loved ones, friends and colleagues in prayer as they process these losses.

I write this article not as someone who has ever contemplated committing suicide. This will not be a data-driven article on suicide. I want to preserve that information for a more in-depth discussion we’ll have on our radio show/podcast as we relaunch our show later this summer/early fall since our hiatus last April. Some of us have been praying about various regions of the U.S. that are experiencing a significant uptick in suicides and we’ll discuss that on the show as well.

This is a message to strengthen and encourage.

I shared earlier today and through previous blog posts on overcoming anxiety and illness this year. While I experienced healing around mid-March, I underwent further attacks to my physical and mental health in late March up through early May. More returned trips to the ER for heart palpitations with heart rates that had doctors very concerned. Labs coming back showing that my body is sound, perfectly healthy and yet heart rates were off the charts. They ruled out this and that. Sent me home. The enemy, our formidable adversary, Satan, kept pounding my head with more thoughts about death, not being alive to complete the call on my life and ministry God has for me, etc., etc. I thought I was losing my mind.

As we continue in our walk with God, He extends us out further to advance His Kingdom; to be light where there is darkness. This is what I do and desire to do more of and yet, sometimes I wanted to isolate. I felt like my head was in a fog, quite simply oppression. The enemy had me running back and forth to doctors’ appointments, multiple tests were run, getting the all clear every time. These were ridiculous “errands” and not a good use of my time or resources. But this is the enemy’s plan. He can’t steal our salvation but he can sure try to steal our peace, joy, time, resources, focus, etc.

One morning, after being pounded relentlessly by the enemy, I called a dear sister in Christ who is a mighty prayer warrior. I seldom reach out to people like this but I was desperate. I knew my call to her was likely inconvenient timing because of her work schedule but I prayed that she would answer, and certainly she did. When her jovial voice answered, I shakily shared with her what I was experiencing. She immediately went into full throttle prayer. I began crying (folks who know me know I don’t do this) for what seemed like 10-15 minutes. Then, that thing just broke. It lifted. Was gone. No more. DONE. We laughed! We spoke for an hour and my spirit was lighter, my head clear and I was back! I should have reached out sooner!! I am grateful to her and the saints!

She said many great things during our conversation but certainly one statement that I have implemented and will share with you. She said, “We need to get angry.” 

I asked her, “Get angry?”

She replied, “Yes. We don’t get angry enough at what our adversary, Satan is doing. We need to get angry.”

I instantly understood what she was saying. And she was right–at least in how I had been responding to the enemy’s attacks.  I had to:

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my health (and your health too).

Get angry that Satan was trying to steal my peace (and your peace too).

Get angry that Satan was stealing my time and resources with distractions (and yours too).

FIGHT punch

Though I am a fighter, I was still being too passive. I realized that I had to be intentional because the enemy was definitely intentional about trying to derail me. I could not be gentle in this fight. And neither can you be gentle in your fight. Punch the heck out of him. Nor do we give Satan any authority. He can only operate with the authority we give him.

For those of us advancing God’s Kingdom, living daily as Ambassadors of Christ, we can expect opposition. God will often place us in direct conflict with the enemy (sift us like wheat, Luke 22:31), but I promise you, you will be stronger and spiritually mature if you keep your focus on Jesus, in whom lies our victory. Saints, we have a formidable adversary who wants to derail and destroy you by any means possible. It’s important as soldiers in God’s Army for people to see us victorious but for them also to see our battle scars. David, Job, Moses, Paul and countless saints before us experienced those battle scars in part because of their weaknesses even while advancing God’s will. If you don’t have battle scars, don’t have something to lose/gain, then you don’t have skin in the game.

As one dear seasoned saint told me about our adversary, even when things appear chaotic everywhere: “The devil is serious about doing harm to humanity. The difference between him and many of the saints in carrying out efforts, is that he is disciplined, organized and committed.”

Saints, this is indeed spiritual warfare. As our enemy is so committed, we must be committed, disciplined and organized in our prayer life, in our walk. We should do nothing less. Our enemy won’t. We must be fit for the fight (read our blog post on what it means to be F.I.T.). We, you cannot be gentle in this fight. PUT ON your helmet of salvation to guard your thoughts. TAKE UP your shield of faith to thwart the enemy’s fiery darts coming at you. WIELD the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God so you can immediately respond to the enemy’s lies. Remember that you are already positioned in victory through Christ Jesus.

Today, I am at the best I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve undergone a six-month metamorphosis and have come out newer, stronger, more resolved and more emboldened for God’s Kingdom. What I’ve gained and learned is indescribable and has prepared me for the next level. I pray this for you too.

I shared this prayer earlier on social media, and will include it here as well. I was first praying it aloud but was led to post it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). In You, is Life! For those who seek You and trust in You, we know that You have good plans and a good future for us (Jeremiah 29:11). We come against the murderous and suicidal spirit in the earth; the thief that seeks to kill and destroy. We reject the spirit of anxiety, depression, despair and hopelessness. We reject the enemy’s lies which are ALWAYS counterfeit to the truth and Your promises. Father, we pray those battling this right now may feel and know and be settled by Your love, joy and peace. Reset their minds with thoughts of hope and peace. Help us to be a refuge to those who are hurting. Where they feel faint by this life, give them strength. May they know that they are loved by many, but most importantly, loved by You. Thank you. In the name of Jesus, we ask this. Amen.

Love and blessings to you my brothers and sisters,

Nicole

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Your Future Is Increased in Christ

I can from Philippians 4-13You’ve had multiple successes. Then you experience a big failure. Do you think your future is now diminished? Do you think God has changed His mind about you? Our ministry founder shares her story of success and failure and why your future is not bleak but INCREASED in Christ Jesus! Read “Your Future Is Increased in Christ.” 

Promotion From the Threshing Floor

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. -2 Corinthians 4:17 (New International Version)

Would you want a promotion if it meant your absolute discomfort and breaking away from the familiar?

At this moment, I’m in a stretching, transitional, deeper trusting, more in His Presence, wilderness period with the Lord. Things God did before in my life, is not what He’s doing today. He’s doing something new which requires my daily, minute-by-minute trust in Him. As God told the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19, New International Version)

Yes, I do perceive this new thing coming! I’ve perceived it for some time. I asked Him for it. I asked Him for the adventure, the journey, no matter how uncomfortable. My desire to always know the next steps, I wanted to break away from that. That’s exactly what He’s doing! UGH! I knew the temporary discomfort would increase my faith, draw me nearer to Him, further conform me into the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ, shake off whatever is not beneficial to the journey, build endurance and fearlessness, and produce fruit that I could use to further bless and equip the Body of Christ. I’m preparing for promotion/progress in God.

Yesterday, I came across notes I wrote in late May while watching Joel Olsteen’s program. The subject is on the threshing floor. A threshing floor is a hard, level surface in which grain is threshed/beaten so the edible parts of the grain are separated from the chaff, or the worthless part of the grain. The threshing floor was/is usually located outdoors and exposed to wind to blow away the chaff.

Here are the notes I jotted then, forgot about and upon finding, are an encouragement. Hopefully, the words will encourage you to view life’s threshing floor as a necessary process in your promotion/progress:

“The threshing floor…God will use to separate me from what is limiting me. It was never designed to be permanent. There is a great harvest in front of me. Don’t let the enemy take what belongs to me.  All of us go through these ‘threshing floor’ experiences because God is preparing me for the good opportunities ahead. I’ll have a greater confidence in God because of. The threshing floor is not defeating me…it is promoting me. The bumps in the road are not random. God will use the situation to refine me. Will come out more refined. Less chaff, more wheat. The threshing floor is where things die so new things can be birthed and live! God has to close a door to open a new door. God, cut me back so I can bear much fruit. Pruning in the uncomfortable times so I can bloom to new growth.”

farmer+hand+threshing

Praise! This is why I have joy in the journey because I am expectant; I believe in the vision.

I know right now there are several of you on life’s threshing floor. Certainly, Satan will seek to convince  you that God has abandoned you or is punishing you. Don’t believe the lies. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us that, “For the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Jeremiah 29:11 assures His People that God’s plans are to “prosper us, not to harm us; to give us hope and a future.” Some people, because of their love for you, would rather pull you off of the threshing floor to ease your discomfort. I say, let’s go through it!

If you find yourself on the threshing floor, it is for your PROMOTION not destruction. Stay strong, have joy in the journey and get ready to bear more fruit! 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.

Discipline From a Loving Father

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.–Hebrews 12:5-7 (New International Version)

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Son? Daughter? “I disciplined you because I love you. I don’t want to see you harmed in the future and I don’t want you to hurt yourself so it was best that I correct you now.” A loving parent might utter these words after disciplining their child. It’s not easy for a loving parent to discipline a child, but it is necessary. Parenting is a great responsibility the Lord gives to parents to guide and nurture their children.

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult for loving parents with good intentions to discipline their children. These days, if a child is disciplined physically as opposed to verbally, that parent may be questioned by authorities for child abuse. Yet, God originally intended for children to be disciplined even if it meant, physically. For the Bible says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” – Proverbs 13:24

Lack of discipline might raise the question of whether a parent truly loves their child because it shows a lack of concern for the character development of their children.Father disciplining son

Parents have years of experiential wisdom in living that in disciplining their child today it will help avert the possibility for future disaster. So it is with God who has infinite wisdom. Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal savior, through God’s great pleasure and will have now been adopted as sons and daughters of God. –Ephesians 1:5

Some thought that when they became Christians that hard times would never come again. They questioned God’s love in times of suffering and confusion, whether through sin or not their fault. Yet, remember that God loves you. No discipline seems pleasant at the time. However, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 Those he loves, he rebukes and disciplines. – Revelation 3:19

I don’t know what you’re going through friend, but I do know you are a child of a loving Father who knows you and your future completely. Jesus Christ knows your plight and shares in it with you. For the Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”– Jeremiah 29:11 (New Living Translation) Amen

About Jason M. Alexandre

Jason Melchizedek Alexandre was born in November of 1989 in Brooklyn, N.Y. His family later moved to Philadelphia, Pa., and he now resides in Limerick, Pa. In May of 2014, Jason obtained his Master of Social Work degree at Widener University. Professionally, Jason counsels persons who are homeless, parents, veterans, and others who suffer from various kinds of abuse. Although Jason’s career is Social Work, his spiritual passion is missions. Jason believes in actively answering the Great Commission call Jesus gave all Christians for the Gospel to be spread from person-to-person and nation-to-nation. Annually, Jason travels primarily to Haiti on a mission trip with Haiti Christianity Inc. Each year, Haiti Christianity, Inc., visits cities and/or villages in Haiti bringing children educational supplies, clothing, and medical supplies. They also facilitate conferences in which bible study, budgeting tips, financial planning and most importantly, evangelization takes place. Jason is currently the organization’s public relations director. 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.

Do We Lift Up and Encourage or Tear Down and Destroy?

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

My heart sank to hear of actor Robin Williams’s death. This man brought so many of us laughter and joy. It saddens me to know that the happiness he so freely gave was the happiness he in turn so desired. Depression is real and plagues many. The Book of Psalms is filled with desperate pleas for help—and God’s ability to comfort us. We daily look to God to fill our empty spaces—and He does. I know there have been times in my life when I looked to man to fill the void yet man cannot. I began to ask myself how many people are on the brink of giving up.  Many like Williams probably can mask their hurt and pain very well. I know I can.

I remember a time when I was really struggling while on a business trip in Charlotte, N.C. I felt alone, rejected and extremely stressed out. I had to stop by the bank to cash a check. I went through the drive thru and after my transaction was complete the teller sent the money back to me in an envelope. On it she wrote, “It was so nice to see you today Ana. Have a great day.” I almost started to cry because her kind hello was just what I needed at that specific time.  The Lord also sent my fellow writer/friend the next day to take me out to lunch after church.  For me, the fellowship we shared was so uplifting at a very desperate time in my life. I praise God that they were tender to His voice and showed me kindness. How many people do you pass on a daily basis? Do you recognize that some of these people could really be struggling? Maybe a co-worker, boss, bank teller, server, roommate, etc. Are you lifting up and encouraging daily? Or tearing down and destroying? If you are reading this and are struggling yourself I encourage you to hold on dear friend.

God has big plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11), if only you call on His name and surrender all that holds you back from Him, He will show Himself faithful.

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want 2- He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3- He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4- Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5- Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6- Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (King James Version)

-Ana

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principles are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative is Georgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Faith to Trust God’s Plans

“I don’t see the big picture. I don’t have a clue. But I know God does. I’m going to declare that, even if I don’t feel it right now.” — Steven Curtis Chapman, Christian singer-songwriter

 

Jeremiah 29:11NIV  11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 
Jeremiah 29:11NASB 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope
 
Jeremiah 29:11ASV 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.
 
Minister Dracy Jenkins, Devotional Writer

Minister Dracy Jenkins, Devotional Writer

Absolutely one of my favorite scriptures to stand on when I am struggling with making a decision or when my well-laid plans have come up empty.  It’s interesting that no matter how it’s translated, a few things stand out to me:

 
1. God knows!  I don’t, but God does.  I am so thankful that He does.  So what does He know?  His thoughts and His plans for me/us.

 

2. God says/declares!  Hallelujah!  When God speaks, it is so, it is done!  You can take what He says to the bank, to the boardroom, to the doctor, to the courtroom.  You can especially take what God says or declares to the most important place of all…the mirror. (I’ll let that one sink in for a minute.)

 

3. God’s thoughts/plans for me/us is for our good and NOT for our harm.   Let me repeat the last part…NOT FOR OUR HARM.

 

4. So then, what does it mean when bad things happen to us? When our plans don’t turn out the way we wanted them to?  What it simply means is that points 1, 2 and 3 are STILL in effect!  Our circumstances, our plans, our situations does not change the facts that God knows, God has said and declared and that His thoughts and plans are for our good…period!  Now the final point from this scripture:

 

5. Everything God has done and is doing is to give us hope for the future. The future that He has prepared for us.  To be with Him for all eternity.

 

No the journey is not smooth and laid out with roses and a sweet smell.  I have not read in God’s Word where He has said or declared that it would be. But His Word is filled with a hope and a love that tells us that He longs for us to love Him, to trust Him and to depend solely upon Him.
 
I don’t know what tomorrow may bring. I may be told that my job has been eliminated and my services are no longer needed. The doctor may tell me that the pain I have in my body means that I have only a few days left to live. No matter what bad news may come, it will never change the fact that God is bigger and greater than anything we will face in life. It will not change the fact that God is the creator of all and He alone is in Charge! He sits on the throne of glory and Christ is at His right hand.
 
We can make all the plans we want, and believe me I have made many. But if they do not line up with what our Heavenly Father has put into place, we will never achieve the fullness of life that God has prepared for us.  Now here’s the final piece of the puzzle for you this morning. WE must decide if what God has planned for us is satisfactory.  Is it okay that what God thinks is good for us, is acceptable?  Isn’t that absolutely crazy when you think about us deciding if what God wants for us is acceptable? ( Lord, please forgive me for my foolish thinking.)

 

Here’s a thought to consider and maybe for us to declare today: Lord, I want to know your ways and will for my life above all else. And then, to have the faith to walk in the way you desire for me. 
 
I like quoting Jeremiah 29:11.  But if you go down to verse 13, you will understand the key to God’s declaration.
 
Jeremiah 29:13NKJV 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
 
It is easy to place our plans in front of God and beg and/or demand that He approves them.  But if there is one thing I have come to learn in my limited time here is that it’s not about my plans.  It’s not about what I want.  It’s solely about what God has ordained, through His Word and Will for me.
 
Yes, I/we have been allowed to choose which plans to go after.  Ours or God’s.  Think about it and choose wisely.
 
Thank you Lord. You have been there for us, even when we have not realized it. You know our coming and our going and you have prepared the perfect path for us to travel. We thank you that when we get off this path, the Holy Spirit guides us back to it. We desire, want and need so much. Help us to realize that all we need is You. Let the light of your love shine in and through us today. We sing praises of your goodness and mercy today. Thank you Lord for everything. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Have a very blessed day and weekend, knowing that God will always be there when you call.

 

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

Stay Close for He Knows Your Path

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

YOU ARE MY BELOVED CHILD. I chose you before the foundation of the world, to walk with Me along paths designed uniquely for you. Concentrate on keeping in step with Me, instead of trying to anticipate My plans for you. If you trust that My plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, you can relax and enjoy the present moment.

Your hope and your future are rooted in heaven, where eternal ecstasy awaits you. Nothing can rob you of your inheritance of  unimaginable riches and well-being. Sometimes I grant you glimpses of your glorious future, to encourage you and spur you on. But your main focus should be staying close to Me. I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.

proverbs-16-9

 

Accompanying Scriptures: Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:13-14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14- who is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (New International Version)

 

Stop Trying to Make it Go Your Way

Don’t get caught up in your present problems. This life is temporary and surely passing away.  Too many of us are trying to fix things our way, and God says “you’re in my way. I got this.” Focus on Him whose peace is perfect and who told you, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Our confidence in Him gives us confidence for our future.  Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you.

I, THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, am with you and for you. What more could you need? When you feel some lack, it is because you are not connecting with Me at a deep level. I offer abundant Life; your part is to trust Me, refusing to worry about anything.

stop_sign_page

It is not so much adverse events that make you anxious as it is your thoughts about those events. Your mind engages in efforts to take control of a situation, to bring about the result you desire. Your thoughts close in on the problem like ravenous wolves. Determined to make things go your way, you forget that I AM in charge of your life. The only remedy is to switch your focus from the problem to My Presence. 

Stop all your striving and watch to see what I will do. I AM the LORD!

Accompanying Scriptures: Romans 8:31-32, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32- He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Micah 7:7, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (New International Version)