Our North Carolina Experience in One Word: Obedience

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I would love to go.”

These five bold, transformative words were texted to me early Thursday morning, September 21, 2017, by a dear sister in Christ about a ministry trip I would take to North Carolina that next day. The trip would involve ministering at two Christian-based schools, Livingstone College and Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., which is about 50 miles north of Charlotte. The events had been planned since April at which point I asked my trusted prayer partners/prayer warriors to join me in prayer and fasting for the Lord to soften and prepare the students’ hearts to receive His Word; to prepare the way ahead of our arrival.

In the early spring, Pastor Troy Russell, Livingstone campus pastor who also invited our ministry in September 2015, asked if we’d return this year to deliver God’s Word. After much discussion with Pastor Troy, it seemed the Holy Spirit’s leading that we were to deliver a message to equip the students in building their foundation in Christ Jesus in order to successfully navigate societal trappings. This would be a build-on to Pastor Troy’s weekly bible studies held with the students on Christian fundamentals. The event would serve as a culmination to the students’ Week of Prayer events in late September. After much prayer, we decided to theme the event, “Building Your Foundation.”

Flyer Building Your Foundation 092317It was to be me and one other person traveling from Washington, D.C. to Salisbury, though the other person was unable to join due to a schedule conflict. Having previously checked flight and train schedules with none that truly fit my needs, I was resigned to make the six-hour drive by myself and to view it as quiet time with the Lord to prepare for the messages to be delivered. Upon my arrival in Salisbury, I would meet up with my other ministry partners to prepare for that Saturday’s and Sunday’s events.

The bold and transformative five words, “I would love to go,” were texted by Mrs. Connie May—a seasoned saint in her late sixties who had just returned from a 10-day train trip to our home state of Kansas to visit family. Her bags were still packed from her travels when she quickly and without hesitation responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading to join me. Surprised, as I had just mentioned our ministry event to her that morning by text and sent her the flyer, I asked if she was sure, because again, she had just returned from travel. Forgoing texting her, I called her to really see if she was sure. Her response was as firm as it was in her text message: “I would love to go.” She further added, “My bags are packed.”

Mrs. May was exercising a disposition always encouraged and welcomed by the Holy Spirit which would enable Him to move mightily from the beginning to the end of our trip: obedience. Her love for our young people coupled by an unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s instructions along with my love for our young people and obedience to yield to what the Lord was doing, granted us blessings upon blessings, favor upon favor that would take too long to record in this post.

The Anointing Flows

With a few tracks performed from his newest and 10th album,  A Musical Inspiration of Epic Proportionsby our dear brother in Christ and Christian rap artist Crucial, we presented “Building Your Foundation” on Saturday, September 23, 2017, with messages to help students build their foundation on Christ Jesus followed by a panel discussion to answer their questions on the challenges in doing so.

The core scripture came from 1 Corinthians 3:11, 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We also encouraged the Livingstone students to live as “living stones,” to be a holy priesthood as Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:4-6.

We were blessed for the opportunity and privilege to pour into students God’s truth. With a foundation built upon Christ Jesus, we can successfully weather life’s storms and remain standing. I also referenced Christ as the Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16) to any structure, where a cornerstone is subjected to much pressure and stress and able to uphold and sustain the structure built upon it. During our message, I also shared with them seven (7) things that God gives us when we build our foundation upon Him. In contrast, Satan will plant certain things that are opposite/counterfeit to what God gives if we follow Satan’s ways. I credit these “seven” teachings to what the Lord revealed to my dear brother in Christ and mentor, Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank, Freedom Squared.

Here’s what God gives contrasted with the opposite of what Satan sends:
1- Instruction (God’s Word) vs. Illusion
2- Immortality vs. Impermanence
3- Identity vs. Indistinctness
4- Invulnerability (when we’re pursuing God’s purposes) vs. Infirmity
5- Integration vs. Isolation (God integrates us into one eternal family whereas Satan isolates us)
6- Importance vs. Insignificance (The work we do for God is important whereas Satan tells us we don’t matter anyway and “what makes you so special?”)
7- Increase vs. Insufficiency

 

The students saw and understood this and could recognize the traits in their lives. Crucial added to this by speaking on God’s Word as our instruction to successfully guide us and to overcome Satan’s illusions. He also reinforced having Christ as our foundation and used the analogy of a three-legged stool to show the support we need in our discipleship: 1-Word of God, 2- Consistent Prayer, and 3- Godly Fellowship.

The students were truly engaged and asked excellent questions which led to our delivery of the truth by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly moved upon hearts as several students asked us to pray over them. As the students approached us, I embraced them, told them, “I love you,” and genuinely meant it. God gave me a love for each student like no other, particularly having met them for the first time that day. I have said that “you have to love someone to pray for them.” As tears flowed from the students and even ourselves as we prayed, so did the anointing. We praise God for yokes and chains broken, burdens shed and things released. We know that seeds were planted and watered and those who came in chained left freed! Glory to God!

“Can We Order More Pizza?”

We enjoyed food and fellowship afterward, which allowed us to see another blessing in obedience. Our initial pizza order was enough to feed everyone lightly, but the Lord placed it upon Mrs. May’s heart that we were to order more. She texted me, “Can we order more pizza?” In my desire to be a good steward of our resources, I first balked at her question and replied that we had enough, though she asked me again. I sensed that I needed to follow the leading here and gave her the green light to order more pizza. Ready to give my credit card number again to the pizza store manager, I began to rattle off my card number and then the store manager, Jennifer, stopped me. She said, “Nicole, these five extra pizzas are on me. ”

I/we couldn’t believe it. God blessed us and blessed us ABUNDANTLY!! As students made their, second, third and fourth rounds through the boxes of pizza, we thought of how Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish; how the food was multiplied and plenty was left over!! After all of the students had their fill and some left the chapel, we had a couple whole pizzas left. We gave those remaining whole pizzas to students who truly appreciated having another free meal to take home! God is awesome and can do amazing things that exceed what we can imagine when we yield in obedience to His instructions! Praise God!

Group pic post event on 092317 Livingstone College Building Your Foundation

Physical and spirit man fed! Livingstone students join post-event with Jayson Gardner (Livingstone College assistant to Pastor Troy Russell), Crucial (black t-shirt and cap), Nicole D. Hayes (Voices Against the Grain founder in tan blazer), Mrs. Connie May with Voices Against the Grain, Sherry Russell and her husband Pastor Troy Russell (center) pictured with their daughter Tailor, at the September 23, 2017 ministry event, “Building Your Foundation.”

We also welcomed students from nearby Catawba College to the event where Catawba College student, Destiny Stone, sang her song, “Have Your Way,” which has been on our playlist since we learned of the powerful track in July. Destiny, event coordinator for Catawba College’s Black Student Union, invited me to speak during their morning services on that Sunday, September 24, 2017, where I delivered a Holy Spirit-led message on being “Dangerously Lighthearted” before a Holy God. The message was a call to holiness for God’s People and a desire to mature in Christ Jesus as His image bearers. More victory for God’s Kingdom, as several students adhered to the altar call where hearts were contrite and repentant, burdens where laid down, chains were broken and peace, freedom and joy was restored! All to the Glory of God!

A Black Eye Delivered to the Kingdom of Darkness Generates Opposition

It goes without saying that when you take territory from the enemy for God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t go unnoticed. You can expect opposition. Mrs. May and I were barely an hour into our six-hour drive back to D.C., when an issue “developed” with the rental car. The engine pan had come loose and was dragging the ground making a loud noise as the wind caught it during our highway speeds. The pan was most likely damaged and loosened by the previous driver who ran over something as we saw more evidence of this. I texted my dear sister in Christ and prayer partner about our situation and requested prayer. She replied, “On it.” I knew what that meant! She was going to rally her troops, pray, bind and dismantle the enemy’s efforts and dispatch many angels on our behalf!!   🙂

Long and short, after calls with the rental company and roadside assistance, the Lord put it on Mrs. May’s spirit to seek out a nearby service center to have them put the car on a rack to inspect and fix the issue. We located a nearby service center and the shop owner shortly got us in, mind you, a few minutes before they closed on a Sunday afternoon. He tightly secured the pan at no charge to us and though we pleaded to pay him, he refused payment. He bid us well and got us safely on the road back to D.C. While Satan attempted to steal our joy, peace and collective victory, we did not cave to it and continued to experience God’s favor in obedience!! Hallelujah!

Obedience is the Key to Our Success

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions and move beyond your imagination and perceived limitations!! This past weekend, through the obedience of those ministering, serving, yielding, praying, and fasting, we saw God show UP and show OUT in ways that I am still processing.

We thank Livingstone College and Catawba College for allowing us the opportunity to pour into their students. We remain open to future invitations. Thank you Pastor Troy Russell for your heart for your students. Thank you to the youth (Livingstone College praise team, Destiny Stone, 4GWL) who blessed us with song and worship, truly setting the atmosphere at both colleges!! Thank you Crucial, Destiny Stone and Azende King for serving on our panel discussion! Thank you Jalen for helping us with our sound equipment needs on Saturday! You were truly a blessing! Thank you to Anthony and those who helped us set up on Saturday, another blessing! Thank you to our many prayer partners who prayed, fasted and encouraged us in this effort. We all share in this collective victory for God’s Kingdom and the futures restored and preserved for these young people. We pray they will continue to seek God for His instruction to obediently walk out His call on their lives. We pray for their foundations to be built upon Christ Jesus to successfully navigate this life and to become Godly change agents in whatever environments God places them!

As my dear brother in Christ Hakim says, “Obedience is our best opportunity for success.” We have noticed that due to our obedience, open hearts and willingness to follow His will, God has placed people in our lives to help drive our efforts—without us reaching out to them. When God sees a level of obedience from us, He will entrust us with more important tasks. Those who value God’s instruction go deeper and deeper into obedience to Him. Obedience to God is always going to produce fruit.

I love you and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

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Hurricane Harvey: Shaping a New Narrative?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Hurricane Harvey. A devastating Category 4 hurricane that hammered eastern Texas last week. Floodwaters reached unprecedented levels of approximately 50 inches as the storm lingered over the areas of Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, Dickinson, Corpus Christi, Rockport and Victoria, causing catastrophic flooding. In the storm’s wake, the aftermath is heartbreaking. More than 50 lives lost and likely more as receding flood waters reveal bodies that succumbed to the storm. Waters up to street signs that contain more than eight times the allowed limit of e coli (should be 0), fecal bacteria, crocodiles, snakes, floating colonies of biting fire ants, possibility of infections, diarrhea, skin diseases; the threat of electrocution from live wires unseen, let alone the dangers of driving and being pulled under deeper waters.

These and other issues have weighed upon my and your heart this past week in praying for Texas and now portions of Louisiana. More than 37,000 homes lost, businesses destroyed, possessions no longer, thousands of people rescued and displaced are trying to live in what is their “now.” Who knows what will come next, as the living seek to bury their loved ones (How will this occur with so much under water?), what about work, school, health care needs, basic needs, etc.?

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Getty Images

 

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Photo credit: CNN.com

In all of this devastation and what will be weeks, months and likely years of recovery and rebuilding, we are witnessing profound unity. People are helping one another regardless of one’s ideologies, political affiliations and leanings, no matter who voted for who, we are seeing people of all backgrounds and races coming together. This is a stark contrast to the tragedy that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., only weeks before.

Amid the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, we are seeing goodness, kindness, and love in action—at least three of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23. The narrative of race that dominated in Charlottesville, a quite different narrative of love is coming forth in very challenging and life-altering circumstances. In the grief, this narrative is a welcomed relief and hope.  A hope that some day conversations about race will no longer dominate or be considered necessary. That conversations about God’s ability to show His Presence in the hearts of others, His ability to mend brokenness, the Godly words and actions of others will become our new narrative.

Hurricane Harvey police officers rescue elderly woman

Photo credit: NY Daily News

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Photo credit: Time Magazine

With such a new and inspiring narrative, what will the others have to talk about or criticize next if race relations is no longer a topic requiring fuel to keep it burning on hearts and lips? Or a pot continually stirred by media commentators or even in the pulpit?

King Jesus, thank You, thank You for showing us You in so many facets.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:45-48, NIV).

What we have seen in Houston and the surrounding region is an area of hope in the face of worldwide evil. Wickedness remains, and certainly after the immediate crises have been stabilized and addressed in Hurricane Harvey, some people may resort to their old ungodly ways. However, I do believe hearts were permanently transformed in this event by seeing the love of God on display.

In the world’s darkness, may Believers continue to be light and love. May we continue to imitate Christ and watch as some of the negative narratives fall away and are replaced with Godly ones. More is expected from the followers of Christ to allow Christ within us to reshape the narratives. May we continue to be proven as His Children to a skeptical world.

Our prayers, love and support continue to be with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We also pray blessings of health, protection and safety for those rendering aid on the ground.

-Nicole

Can We Talk?

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I have felt the Lord’s grief on my heart in receiving this message. However, in obedience to the Lord, the title and the words that follow is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart to share with you. While I have been told that I have a pastor’s heart for people, I hope I also represent God’s Heart to people. In His correction of us, He also loves us.

Can we talk for a minute?

#BlackLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter. Social justice. Mindfulness. These and other trending words have been used as a means to bring justice to injustices and peace to situations that cause us distress. These words have been used to ineffectively substitute the hope and peace of Christ Jesus to give people other “flavors” of hope, peace and justice if they do not believe in Christ. Through His Holy Spirit, the Lord has assured me of His grief on such substitutions. All of it is the wickedness of Satan in which such deceptions are nicely wrapped yet counterfeit in their outcomes.

In mankind’s arrogant attempt to do and fix this life without including Christ Jesus, we are failing to advance God’s intended relationship goal for humanity to be reconciled to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us of God’s intentions:

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

To refresh your memory, mankind became estranged from God, enemies of God through the fall of Adam and Eve. In search for better paths in their own minds, mankind has pulled away from God’s will and design. All creation is paying the price for the original sin of Adam and Eve, which continues to perpetuate lawlessness, confusion, strife, rebellion, and brokenness in our world. Christ came to restore us to a right relationship with God. Human pursuits of hope, justice and peace even in our best intentions will always fall short of the measurement of what Christ will do through repentant hearts.

As Ambassadors of Christ, as ministers of reconciliation as ascribed in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, why would we give people a counterfeit solution? A placebo? This message is not directed at everyone but the many who continue to substitute Christ Jesus with counterfeit recommendations in order to keep a good standing with friends, family, clients, or the public. Many people want their faith in Jesus to be personal but not public. In keeping face with mankind, these are the words the Holy Spirit grievously put on my heart to communicate to you:

“Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”

These seven words, “Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”,  weigh heavily on my heart. I see a grieving Father, Savior and Friend. Can you imagine sidelining a friend, moreover Our Savior? Heartbreaking. Even though I share the Gospel, I know there have been moments where I was quiet when the Holy Spirit was prompting me to speak on His behalf. I pray that you nor I would hear these words said to us by the Lord when we have come to the end of our days and are face to face with Him; for Him to replay the moments when we replaced Him with alternative recommendations in our engaging with those in search of hope, peace and justice. How devastating that we thought it better to save face with people than to obey the heart of God.

 

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Christian author and speaker Lisa Bevere, in her book Without Rival, writes: “The deceitful spirit will always tell you that there is enlightenment outside of God’s Word. That we are in a new age and God no longer means what He said.”

In people’s offering up of counterfeit solutions, she refers to Jeremiah 2:13 (New Living Translation):

My people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me―the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns (wells) that can hold no water at all!

Lord help us.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well who thirsted for drink but truly thirsted for more (a longing to be truly loved after having five husbands), that the well water she was taking from would never quench her thirst. She’d have to keep coming back. So Jesus offers to her to come to Him and drink, and never thirst again (John 4:13-14, John 7:37).

“Can we talk?” suggests a care and concern for others―not to tell them what they want to hear but what they need to hear. If you have used words to substitute or replace the hope, peace and justice of Christ Jesus with worldly wisdom, I urge you to repent. Our Lord is grieved though He loves you and for this reason has brought this loving message of correction. I am simply the messenger.

Thankfully, someone told me and you about Jesus. Praise God! May we earnestly desire to quench others’ thirst with the hope and peace of Christ Jesus and not with empty wells in which they will attempt to draw from, still thirsty and unfulfilled. As ministers of reconciliation, may we courageously, lovingly and unashamedly share the truth of Christ Jesus with others. May we desire that no one live life less than what God has promised for those who love Him. May we no longer entertain or justify moments without Christ. The ministry of reconciliation of the lost back to God IS THE MISSION. May we make no room for Christ to say to us, “Why didn’t you tell them about Me?”

Amen.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready to Make the Dead Alive?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

From this article’s title, please do not think I’ve gone rogue. I am not suggesting a séance or any other means in which some people on this side of heaven attempt to communicate or connect with those who have passed on. But I am referring to Someone Who can make even those physically dead alive and make alive those who are walking around spiritually dead: Jesus Christ.

Jesus came that we might enjoy life right now, and life to the full even before we spend our forever days with Him and our Christian brothers and sisters in heaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life; a staple, essential for life. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

From the opioid and drug addicted, to the depressed and suicidal, to the vile and violent, to the oppressed and the oppressor, to those in sexual sin, to the lost or those who call themselves Christian but have no intimate knowledge of Him, the love and mighty power of Jesus is able to make those dead, alive in Him. He is spiritual bread that brings eternal life.

This is great news! Praise God for Believers who are courageously walking in this and ministering to others in truth! So why aren’t more Christians sharing the truth about Jesus being the Bread of Life? In reading this, you may realize that you are falling short in this area. Yes, there are risks involved in boldly proclaiming Jesus to a rebellious and skeptical world.

Sure, you want to be accepted by friends, family and colleagues. Yes, it’s hard to go against the popular wisdom of the day when everyone else is buying what the world is selling. Yes, sharing the biblical truth will make you appear foolish to a world that doesn’t run to God but runs from God. But would you jeopardize your faith and friendship with the Lord to be friends with the world? Will you fail the test in the end?

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To not offer the Truth is dangerous to your faith and offers no real healing to those you are serving. How sorrowful to hold the truth in your hands and yet extend a placebo to avoid any fall out you might experience. Then we wonder why people are not walking in victory. We wonder why people are further descending into spiritual death and not being resurrected to spiritual life. It’s because we’ve shown them a crutch instead of the Cross. It’s because our placebos have ushered them toward life’s coffins (dead ends) rather than a relationship with their Creator, and Jesus the Bread of Life. God placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Do not give people a placebo for that. Invite them to partake of Jesus.

Careful dear brothers and sisters that after all Christ did on the Cross to not exchange the truth for a lie to follow the father of lies (Satan). Satan’s and the world’s lies are an enslavement theology. Either you are contributing to that person’s freedom by loosing what binds them by offering them Christ Jesus—or you are adding another chain to their bondage by offering them the wisdom of this world.

Are you ready to make the dead alive? Give them the Gospel.

The Holy Spirit and His Word will guide you into all understanding and obedience. Trust the power of who God is, the Holy Spirit and His Truth to prepare hearts and minds to repent, submit and turn toward Him without your needing to offer a placebo. Trust that God is able to work through you to preserve His Promises, you and others. The Holy Spirit flows through us as the living water, bringing life to us and others to be the light of the world.

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Amen.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Think We Will Be Surprised!

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

“In the Beginning,” Came the End

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

People. Birds. Animals. Insects. Trees. Flowers. Stars. Planets. Everything God created has a life cycle. Everything created will die. While you were watching the NBA finals last night, or eating or feeding your family, hanging with your peeps or finishing your homework, someone and something else died.

I write this on the heels of Thursday’s news that President Donald Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. The accord is positioned as a voluntary agreement for countries to contribute financially and technologically to mitigate their impact in producing harmful emissions that are said to be causing Earth’s increasing temperatures. The pollution is also said to cause climate change and global warming (billion dollar words that are $$ billion dollar businesses for a number of companies and industries) in which scientists and experts say is wreaking havoc on our planet’s ecosystem, weather patterns and ultimately, humanity’s survival.

In short, the earth is dying.

Yesterday’s news announcement has troubled many at home and abroad from citizens to domestic and foreign leaders. The concerns raised are certainly valid: What will become of our and our children’s health if pollution factors are not reduced or eliminated? What will become of the United States’ ability to compete technologically and economically to lead and not fall behind in this effort? How does this decision make the United States appear before the 195 other countries who chose to participate in the Paris Climate Accord—as the U.S. joins the only other two countries (Nicaragua and Syria) that did not participate?

While many people are ranting, protesting and hugging trees about the dreaded news, I sat at my desk last night thinking about the awesomeness of our awesome God. I reflected in awe on the opening words from Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Honestly, this verse and the entire passage of Genesis 1 that describes God’s intentional, purposeful and ordered creation of Earth, night and day, sea and sky, land and vegetation, animals and human life, keeps me in arrested awe of His great work!! I cannot fathom it!! Can you? Everything He did in creating the Earth, the universe and us depicts God’s intentional and intimate design to have a relationship with us. For decades and even unto today, scientists have submitted varying creation theories on how the universe, earth and we came to be; how the earth is precisely positioned (not one degree off), exquisitely calibrated and contains the perfect elements to support life (aka, the “anthropic principle”)! How can such perfection come if not from an external and intentional Creator/Designer?

 

Earth

Like all creation, the earth and universe has been given a life cycle. The clock started ticking billions of years ago and is winding down to death. This process began with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Admittedly, I am no scientist yet I’ve learned enough to simplify the complex.  In learning about our universe, many scientists have arrived at two unmistakable laws about its creation and trajectory: 1- that something cannot come from nothing (there must be an external creator, matter cannot create itself) and second and last, 2- the law of decay (second law of thermodynamics) which implies that the universe rather than expanding in life is instead gradually dying. The universe and earth has a beginning and an end. Both will be no more.

In fact, Jesus tells us this in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

In all of the chaos, expert data and opinions, news of the day, God says words we can be sure of: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), and to “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). This is the same God who says, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7)

With the aforementioned verses, do we have any reason whatsoever to be fearful about news, the coming events or the trajectory of our planet in its winding down? He is God, the Great “I AM” who knows the number of hairs on your head or hairs that were once there  🙂 . He is the God who hung the stars in their place, who causes day and night to greet you, who promises to be your refuge; to protect you and rescue you as told to us in Psalm 91.

Will you take comfort and rest in the intentionality of God’s faithfulness and care for you, even as things are dying, in perceived chaos and decay? If you’ve read the Book of Revelation, you know worse is to come. But even still, has He taken care of you?

I am reminded of a hard and fast promise I learned about God when I was a little girl along with my friends. You may have learned it too. We sang about it and even had gestures to accompany the words:

“He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got you and me brother in His hands, He’s got you and me brother in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He’s got you and me sister in His hands, He’s got you and me sister in His hands, He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

A simple truth that should comfort His Children today, tomorrow and even when our beginning becomes the end. The worries and concerns of our day are reserved for those whose confidence is placed in and built upon the idols of data, experts, systems, intellectual pride, news stories and bandwagons. The news reports are devastating for those who have made earth their home rather than those of us who are focused on our eternal home in Christ Jesus. Christians are well to acknowledge good science that accurately tells the exquisite story of God’s creation. In that creation and science, we are indeed called to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with and entrusted to us (we have not done this very well). But it doesn’t mean we elevate the science above God.

To those of you who already walk in the understanding of Whose report to believe and trust in, praise God! You are indeed fit for the fight! For those needing their concerns and fears allayed/put at ease, know that He’s got you and He’s always had you. You will not be snatched from His Hands (John 10:28). He has the whole world in His Hands. And we are reminded in scripture of more Good News: But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Amen!

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

The Psychology of the Bad Report

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The train is coming. But do not purchase a ticket. I repeat: Do NOT purchase a ticket. DO NOT get on board.

The “train” being referenced here is that of our vicious 24-hour news cycle. A daily, hourly, by-the-minute news cycle that dutifully feeds us a steady diet of anxiety forecast with doom and gloom. The present and future concerns, daily news bombshells, rumors of wars, conspiracies, scandals; reports of nefarious activity, violence, leadership incompetence, instability, health scares, epidemics, scarcity, lack, insufficiency, aka “bad reports,” can be like a run away train barreling down the tracks of our mind taking us away from a foundation we know to be certain. Some Believers are giving greater credence to the bad reports than to the promises of God. In this case, our minds have left the confidence (aka, “station”) of the perfect peace that Jesus gifted to us in John 14:27 and we have boarded a train operated by a conductor whose destination is either Doom or Gloom. This is the psychology of the bad report.

Doom-and-gloom

Yes, I have been disheartened by some of the recent news headlines. I have had a heavy heart at times, grieved by the state of the world. However, it has not shifted me out of God’s peace. I have kept my focus on Him. I take God at His Word to “keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). What we focus on is the direction in which our mind goes. We are also to take every thought captive that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and make it obedient to Christ, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5.

God loves us so much! In His great love for us He desires that we abide in His peace rather than allowing Satan and circumstances to have open season on our minds, peace, and joy. But we have to place our confidence in Him.

All things here are but shadows, folks. Don’t get distracted. Don’t take your focus off of Jesus Christ. These things must take place as God’s Word is being fulfilled in preparation for Christ’s return. In John 16:33 Jesus reminds us: “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.”

John-16-33-verse-printable

I wish this promise alone would secure the anxious hearts of some Believers. If we can’t take Christ at His Word, then wherein lies our hope?? Without such hope we are indeed on the train tracks to “doom and gloom.” We will react out of fear, never maturing to a mind renewed and stabilized in Christ Jesus. Do not allow your mind to become your bible. Rather, consult God’s Word for truth, for what He says about your future and your life to navigate the terrain. 

God does not want us to get spun up by the issues of the day or of this world. Do not allow the enemy’s psychology of bad reports and giants in the land to steer you away from the eternal focus.

My dear brothers and sisters, in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). This and all of God’s promises should be on the hearts, minds and lips of every Believer as we encourage one another and non-believers. Be encouraged! We carry within us the Good News and the means to not have our hope cannibalized by the bad reports.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Do You Have What Everyone Needs?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

 

Now, on to the message.

 

Do You Have What Everyone Needs?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

The New Life

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

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

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

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

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.