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.

What Does Holy Week Mean to You? It Means Whatever You Want it to Mean

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Palm Sunday. Passover. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Resurrection/Easter Sunday. What does Holy Week mean to you? Well, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. I’ll explain.

For many of us, Holy Week is an amplified awareness, gratefulness and reverence we carry within us DAILY, 52 weeks of the year, to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for paying for our sins when He was sinless. No other sacrifice would do. He was the final Lamb slain—once and for all. He purchased our freedom from sin, broke the chains that would hold us, and through His resurrection, we have victory over the grave (eternal life, John 3:16) and our enemy Satan.

For many of us, Holy Week brings unspeakable joy and tears as we try to comprehend the full cost and suffering paid by Jesus for us.

Cross Holy Week

For some, Holy Week is simply going through the motions of family and church traditions, culminating with wearing their best outfits, Easter egg hunts, a full-spread brunch, lunch or dinner and a nap. The following week, with Holy Week in the rear view mirror, some return to their usual perverse speech, foul thinking, empty pursuits, and thirst for worldly living—even after having been at the well of He Who provides “living waters” where we’ll never thirst again (John 4:14).

For some, something said during Holy Week or an encounter with Jesus will bring them to a full I-don’t-care-what-people-think surrender of their intellectual pride, materialism, fleshly ways, with a cry out to the Lord to say, “Jesus, I don’t want to be this way anymore. All I want is You. Cleanse me. Please restore my soul. Please, make me over.”

 

Holy Week: It means whatever you want it to mean. 

Heavenly Father, we pray for unbelievers to come to a saving knowledge of Your precious Son Jesus Christ; to realize how directionless, empty and meaningless this world and this life is without relationship with Jesus. Our purpose is found in Him! We also pray for the Body of Christ to be unified in an even greater love for Jesus, to have a thirst to know Him more and boldly unashamed to share His love with others.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving your all for all. My Redeemer, My Savior, My King. I love you. I can’t praise you enough!

-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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

 

Eat From Your Own Plate

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

You know those people or you may be one yourself. You go out to eat with your friends and you order a dish that someone else wants to sample. If you’re kind and generous (which I imagine you are), then you’re fine with sharing a few bites from your plate. Ok, so after they’ve sampled a few bites and find your food yummy to their tummy, they begin making a meal off of your plate like it’s their last supper. The meal you’re paying for is soon becoming their meal—for free.  🙂 Now, what I’ve heard some guys say (ladies we tend to be a bit more giving in this area) when this happens is, “Man, get your own plate.” Or, “Eat from your own plate.”

 

sharing-food

 

I use this analogy to encourage those who are eating from someone else’s plate of faith, joy, peace, relationship in Jesus, etc., to be sustained by eating from their own plate of food. A number of believers and unbelievers may desire the peace, strength, joy, confidence, courage and trust in the Lord they see within you or that another mature Christian embodies. Rather than tasting the Lord for themselves to “see that He is good” and taking refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8)—rather than hungering for the Lord and desiring to spend more time alone in His presence, read His Word, fast or retreat to their prayer closets—they want to feed off of your plate and attempt to sustain their journey through what you have obtained in your personal walk with the Lord. In fact, they may be eating from grandmother’s plate—and grandmother has passed on from this life. Grandmother shared godly wisdom that depicted her walk with the Lord and this person is clinging to that wisdom, reciting grandmother’s words without their own assurance of who God is.

Praise God for those whose life and walk in Christ Jesus is attractive to others! That is one of the goals in this walk: that through Christ living in us and our being transformed into His likeness, that others will see it and desire the same. But there is no shortcut to this walk. The joy, the hope, the faith, the strength, the peace and the trust in God they see in you and others comes with a cost, an investment. They want what you have but aren’t willing to do what it takes to be sustained by their own plate.

They don’t know how many hours, days, nights, months and years you’ve travailed in prayer on various matters. They don’t know how many times you’ve battled in spiritual warfare with the enemy who attacks you asleep and awake to scare or hinder you from moving forward. They don’t know how many times God has taken you to…the…edge…whether in health, resources, loss or trials and you had to truly trust Him and His promises. The battles have shown you God’s faithfulness which has developed your joy, peace, and strength.

Many people want the crown but not the cross.

If you are eating off of someone else’s plate, I encourage you to pursue a relationship with Christ Jesus for yourself so that YOU can know Him. That you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is who He says He is and that He will do what he said He will do. He will make you full. You will be able to eat from your own plate.

This writing is not about one’s measure of faith given to us by God as referenced in Romans 12:3 and Romans 14:1-4. Some will have weak faith. Some will eat vegetables while others eat meat. God accepts the weak and the strong. They are His. This writing is to encourage more people to hunger for their own, deeper relationship with the Lord. Today’s tumultuous times and coming days require it. You will need to know God for yourself and that HE is indeed faithful.

hebrews-6-19-anchor-for-the-soul

Lord Jesus, you are our Anchor, our Delivererour Strength, our Shield, our Refuge, our Rock and our Salvation, our Peace that surpasses all understanding, our Joy, and our everything. May others be so attracted to seeing You in us that they will pursue You for themselves so they too can be made full. Amen.

Love and blessings,

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.

 

But I’m Not Going That Way

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

But I’m not going that way. 

I will explain.

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

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

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

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

So true.

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

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

Vida diaria en Iquique

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

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

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

Amen!

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Are You Transactional, Transformational or Both?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Happy New Year, Everyone! Per our previous message, I pray that your first weeks into 2017 have you “shifted and lifted” to remain in God’s peace as you carry out His purposes.

In this year and a half of studying various leadership styles through my Master of Public Administration courses with Regent University, I’ll reference two for this message: transactional and transformational. If I were to ask you, “Are you transactional, transformational or both?,” you may want to understand the traits that distinguish each before you respond.

business-corporate-transactional

Transactional leaders offer a reward contingent upon the work and appropriate behaviors. Both parties are cooperative in order to secure particular ends. The transactional leader is always expecting something in return—a give to get scenario.

Transformational leaders transform people to their highest good or ill (let’s focus on the good). They provide support, encouragement, coaching and mentoring. The transformational leader pays careful attention to individual followers often with a benevolent, developmental, mentoring nature, as well as intellectual stimulation. Such relationships come with increasing levels of self-sacrifice, love and respect.

Certainly, to navigate life, we have to be transactional to purchase products or services, to do business with others. However, some people remain stuck in this transactional space to preserve their self-interests, not graduating to being transformational in others’ lives. They always operate at the margin that will cost them the least amount of money, time or other resource investment. This act of self-preservation may be driven by past hurts, or someone they trusted deceived them or used them, or they’ve simply vowed to look out for Number 1 because who else is?

Oppositely, transformational leaders/transformational people, understand that there will be costs—costs that they may never see an actual return on their investment—but they are willing to invest because they trust that the outcomes will be greatly exponential. They understand that those outcomes may or may not manifest immediately but will absolutely bear fruit in the eternal.

Jesus Christ was and is transformational. As a dear brother in Christ indicated, “Jesus sought out transformative relationships with everyone who was willing to be transformed by Him.” So true. Jesus paid a great price to have such a relationship with you and me.

He exchanged His Majestic position of being the King of kings and Lord of lords to become a defenseless infant in a manger. He exchanged position to wash His apostles’ feet, as a dear sister in Christ reminded me. He exchanged His glorious crown for a crown of thorns so we could have true life. His investment in us for those who accept it is nothing short of transformational. He knew the costs. He knew He would give far more than others would give Him in return. He knew He would give and others may never receive Him. Yet, He gave anyway. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45, NIV).”

feet-washing

 

Christ’s love operating within those who’ve asked to receive Him enables us to love and serve others beyond what is expected. Christ’s love for us fuels His love within us and fuels our actions toward others. As a dear sister in Christ says, “Christ’s love is the divine spark that fuels everything.” This is what transitions us from being simply transactional people to transformational leaders and simultaneously, servants. 

The love of Christ makes no sense to this carnal world that is counting its marbles to preserve its self-interests—in a world that is shocked when someone’s help or involvement is not driven by ulterior, self-serving motives. The love of Christ takes us beyond what we thought possible in serving others. In serving others in the love of Christ and through a biblical worldview, Christ is central in all that we do.

So, given the descriptions provided, are you transactional, transformational or both? If you are still counting your marbles given out, ask God to search your heart to identify and remove the issues that puts self first. May you seek more of Christ’s transformative love to reside in your heart to decrease self and increase Him. As you trust Him to be your front and rear guard in all circumstances, watch Him exceed your expectations. In our transactions with others, may we also seek to be transformational.

-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

destiney_and_nicole_2-112814

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

A Misunderstood Arrival

Has something ever come and you misunderstood its purpose?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I hope you each enjoyed great and thankful moments with family, loved ones, and dear friends during this Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving, I went home to Kansas to spend time with family and dear loved ones/friends and to attend the beautiful homegoing service of my beloved 101-year-old grandmother. We have such joy and peace in celebrating her long godly life lived!

This Thanksgiving break, my brother, Dad and I saw the science fiction movie, Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Having been enticed by the trailer, the 93% Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating and the so-so inventory of movies available, we were pumped to see this suspenseful flick. In Arrival,  Amy Adams’ character, Louise Banks, a renowned linguistics professor, is sought out by the military to decode circular symbols used as language communicated in ink drawings by extraterrestrials that have landed in 12 countries. Banks attempts the complicated feat of communicating with the extraterrestrials (called “heptapods”) by using their symbols to inquire what are their intentions with Earth and humans. She is pushed to work expediently and accurately as the U.S. military is anxious to provide answers in order to properly respond to this potential threat. In addition, other countries are becoming anxious with the spacecrafts hovering in their air space and are planning their respective attacks—with or without the U.S. or other countries’ consent or cooperation.

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Clip of alien spacecraft hovering in Shanghai from the November 2016 science fiction film, Arrival. Photo courtesy: SCMP Pictures.

Without giving away the entire movie, what I thought was going to be a suspenseful, alien-against-human-attack and survival film was anything but. The greater importance of the film was not an alien vs. human showdown like Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds but it was the dangerously assumed and misunderstood perception about the heptapods’ arrival and their intentions. Countries throughout the United Nations were feeling threatened by their presence and were ready to draw fire, unconcerned of the consequences of worldwide war, irreparable relations and peace unrecoverable. Countries who were allies of the United States were ready to end such relations to attack an enemy—or perhaps an ally?

As I reflect on the movie’s message (you’ll have to watch to see how it ends or Google it), I think about our post-election situation that has caused many to draw fire upon one another with their words. Are we firing words upon an enemy or an ally? Has the arrival of our current situation been misunderstood only to cause further division without seeking the opportunities that are actually intended in this? Have we sought to remove communication barriers to truly understand the intentions and desires of one another’s hearts?

Star of Bethlehem

I also think of another misunderstood arrival that came over 2,000 years ago that still brings unfathomable joy to many and great agitation to others. An arrival intended to bring peace and friendship between mankind and our Heavenly Father for our redemption and reconciliation to God. Yet, Jesus was crucified because of His threat to the status quo, the intelligent leaders and rulers of those days and present day.

Dear Heavenly Father, when you sent Your Son Jesus to us more than 2,000 years ago—a baby born in a manger, a stable with smelly barn animals—as the King of kings and Lord of lords, His arrival was without question misunderstood by those unperceiving. He interrupted a world that did not want His type of disruption and sought to eliminate His threat to their comfort. They understood not the heart of His and Your intentions. Even today, many misunderstand Your loving, eternal plan for us, Father. Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NIV).”

Heavenly Father, as we rejoice each day and gather together this Christmas season to celebrate Jesus’ arrival 2,000 years ago, we pray that the veil that has kept many in their blindness will be lifted to save them that they might see and believe. Prepare hearts for Your Son’s return. Thank you for your grace, love and mercy as you continue to strive with us. In Your Son Jesus’ Precious Name, we pray.

May we seek and encourage others to seek His wisdom in all things new and coming.

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.

 

 

 

 

Because He Offends Our Sensibilities: A Post-Election Encouragement

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Note: Since launching Voices Against the Grain in 2013, we have vowed to remain nonpartisan, for we are focused on the true government that rests upon His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6-7). We’ll continue to do so even in discussing political matters.

Donald Trump. Lack of self-control. Disrespectful. Abhorrent. Insulting. His words spoken most always elicited a visceral reaction from me and many others, finding what he said to be crude and offensive. Many of us were taught to respect others; to be kind toward others. We were taught to treat others as we’d want to be treated. We were taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Absolutely, Donald Trump violated every one of these precepts. He offends our sensibilities. His words also unleashed and emboldened others whose mindsets offend our sensibilities in the worst way.

But even in this, on the night of Tuesday, November 8, 2016, into the wee hours of Wednesday, November 9, Donald Trump became America’s 45th president-elect. The votes separating the two candidates was undeniable. It was done. The world appeared like it had been turned on its head. Many commiserated in their alcoholic beverages, shed tears, stood in shock, disturbed by the outcomes. Even the experts had not predicted the polls to shift as they did.

How and why did this happen??

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Donald Trump, president-elect, yelling at a Colorado rally at fire marshall. Eeeks.

Let’s start here. While many were focused on being “on the right side of history” by voting for a woman to become president, while many were wanting to see more “progress,” other voices that have been dismissed, said, “Enough.” Some of those voices are decent, intelligent and loving men and women. They’d risk their lives for you. Some of those voices are not white nationalists, not racist nor sexist. They recoiled at the two candidate choices presented and might have wanted a woman president but not that woman. Some of those voices are black and brown. Some of those voices are deeply grieved when inequality continues to proliferate. Some of those voices were also tired of the establishment. The bought media. Elitism. The status quo. Immorality.

A nation that once said, “In God We Trust,” set forth legislation and behaviors that disregarded God. What came afterward was so wrong, so much and so fast with more to come. Some of those voices fervently prayed for an intervention, in whatever way God fashioned it. People were kneeled and prostrate, hearts pouring out. And when there’s prayer for an intervention…look out. Will it be a prick, a tap on the shoulder or a full out “oops, upside your head”?

Do you know who else offends our sensibilities? God. GOD offends our sensibilities when things happen that we can’t make sense of. God offends our sensibilities when we keep eating the cake that’s killing us and He decides to finally remove the plate from our gluttonous faces to save us from ourselves. God offends our sensibilities when IN His love for us, He removes His grace and sends judgment—like a parent whose child continues to rebel. Throughout the Bible and throughout our lives (for those paying attention), we’ve seen God move in ways that confused us, that made us uncomfortable, that angered us, that caused us to think He was out of His mind or no longer with us.

Fact is, God is not interested in our comfort. This election outcome didn’t just happen on November 8. This extends far before and beyond. Whether it is God’s judgment or His protection, I’m not to say. What I know is that His Hand is Sovereign in all situations. Since last year, I called this entire election a dumpster fire careening down the street out of control—or was it? Was society turned on its head by this election outcome—or is God getting us in position to be turned right side up? To usher in His Kingdom? God works best in our discomfort. 

God WILL OFFEND our sensibilities to do what He needs to do. He will absolutely upset our plans. We may not like it or love it. We may not understand it. But to this, I say, “Lord, have your way. Have thine own way.”

I absolutely understand those distraught by this presidential election outcome. God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Cling not to broken, worldly thought patterns.

But to the Saints/Believers/the Body of Christ, I implore you not to be frightened by this outcome. Instead, be JOYFUL that God is moving! More people have come together in prayer. More are in praise and worship! More are seeking God for hearts to change and saying, “Lord, let that change start with me.” More love, more kindness. More of God’s People are emboldened to fight the good fight on their knees while wielding the sword of His Word in their hands.

This is also game time! Suit up, Saints! We’ve rehearsed for game day many, many times, now. We’ve been in training for game day. We know His Word. We trust in God’s Promises to deliver and keep the righteous in perfect peace. We know He has not given us a spirit of fear. We already know that the gates of hell shall not prevail. We know that His Presence goes with us wherever we go and he says, “Be not afraid. Be strong.” He already told us that He has “overcome the world (John 16:33).” We know how the story ends, folks!! While many of you are resting in this truth, some of you are afraid and dismayed. Come on, folks! Such situations do NOT change how the story ends! Through Jesus Christ, we win in the end! No man, no woman, no system, no campaign can bring about such victory. This victory has already been won through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Focus. Don’t Get Distracted.

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Remember our world is fallen, perishing. In dire need of a Savior. For those firmly rooted in Christ Jesus, we are to view all situations through His eyes. We are to glorify God whether the situation is good or bad; to our liking or not to our liking. A spiritual mind is a mind stayed on Jesus. A spiritual mind is indeed sober about situations—and is yet, slightly detached from the world. We handle elation and devastation the same way: fixed, unmoved, abiding in peace, joyful.

Don’t let any circumstance remove your focus from Almighty God, the Great I AM. God will indeed offend our sensibilities to shake things up, to disrupt harmful patterns, to expose corruption and injustices so justice and integrity can be restored, to awaken the sleeping, to move us to abandon worldly wisdom and trust in Him only, to grow us, to strengthen us and to draw hearts closer to Him; to bring us to the end of ourselves so that HE is all that remains in us. Such disruption is good and necessary. Our greatest success rests in Him and our obedience to His process. Focus less on Trump and see what God is doing in this very moment. I am excited to see how God will move. The nations are the LORD’s and He desires that we seek Him (Acts 17:26-27).

Pray for our leaders and for their hearts to be pliable in God’s Hands to do His will as noted in Proverbs 21:1. Lord, continue to use Your People as Ambassadors of Your light, love and truth in these times.

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.