Stop Lingering. ‘Come Out of Her, My People’

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

She has been an adulterer with all of us…

What activities in your life do you linger in that are snares to your spiritual growth?

1After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2With a mighty voice he shouted:

“Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3For all nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. 4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5for her sins have piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. – Revelation 18:1-5, New International Version

Babylon was a splendid city in ancient Mesopotamia located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers about 60 miles south of what is now Baghdad. It was a resilient, thriving and idolatrous city whose pleasures often came with a price to its occupiers. Through Daniel, King Belshazzar, who ruled in Babylon, was warned that “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.” (Daniel 5:26) True to the prophecy, Babylon and Belshazzar’s kingdom was destroyed by the Persians.

Today, “Babylon” is our sinful, wicked and hedonistic culture. It is also whatever is your personal “Babylon.” What is your personal Babylon? I don’t know. But it usually appeals to our flesh. The Holy Spirit surely will indicate areas in your life that need sanctification; activities or people that He has asked you to shed, be separated from, no longer be ensnared by, to no longer entertain the flesh.

Your “Babylon” could be anything from gorging on unhealthy foods or particular goods He has instructed you to abstain from, music, types of television shows or other forms of media and entertainment He has pricked your spirit about to no longer allow these in your life since our bodies house the Holy Spirit. It could be any form of sexual immorality, lusts of the flesh, pride of life, gossiping, ungodly associations, materialism, vanity, selfish ambition, false doctrine, false beliefs and trends, etc.

If we are truly walking and talking with the Lord, studying His Word and learning His ways, we’ll feel that “prick” in our spirit as only He can do. In His infinite wisdom, He knows that indulging Babylon is harmful to us whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or mentally. I presume that any loving parent would call their child away from harm.

In His great love for us, God does the same and we should take joy in this. We are His Children and He calls us away from such harm knowing that it corrupts even if “everybody else is doing it” (in this case, the world). The world is behaving as it should in a world heavily influenced by Satan. We are called to be set apart from the world. Not only has God set us apart from the world for His purposes, we are called to expose the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

It may even be something that doesn’t appear bad by outward appearances. For example, habitually drinking coffee, or for me it was listening to a lot of R & B music years ago, watching some TV shows. The Lord may see an activity as too consuming in your life and ask you to “put it down” to subdue the flesh. We may also be ignorant of what is our personal Babylon. Ask Him to reveal it to you.

When He says, “Come out,” don’t linger like Lot’s wife who was destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah for lingering because her heart was still joined to it. Sever ties with it. Avoid rationalizing your need to stay in Babylon, however harmless it seems in the grand scheme of things. That’s the intended delusion!

 

Babylon culture

Is there anything we would allow to hinder deepening our obedience to the Lord, whatever He asks? Is there anything not worth shedding that He asks us? He is indeed a gracious, loving and patient God who calls and prompts us, awaiting our response. He is imploring His People—you and me as members of the Body of Christ, His elect and those lost sheep yet to return to the fold—to “Come out of her,” to come out of Babylon.

I join many of you and other Believers in sensing that Jesus is preparing His Bride, preparing His Church for His return. There is a serious tenderness with an increased urgency to “come out now” and “don’t linger.” While the world will continue to engage in its affections, God has called us to separate from it. He is returning for a glorious Church without spot, wrinkle or blemish, holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).

I direct this message to you as well as to myself. Our goal is spiritual maturity, to be perfected in Christ Jesus. To be truly liberated from our clamoring flesh. We are at war with our flesh–not to make peace with it. We must be vigilant.

Sanctification is a process. You have to desire the change and it starts by renewing your mind (Romans 12:2) and setting your mind on what the Spirit desires (Romans 8:5-6). God will not change His mind about what He wants from us so we need to change ours. Come out now and don’t linger. May you be obedient and guard against any rationalization to stay in or return to it. He will help you if you trust Him and obey. He will give you the grace to do it but we must be a participant. May we directly associate obedience with our love for Him.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” -John 14:15 (New International Version)

Heavenly Father, thank you for your lovingkindness shown toward us even when we have blatantly rebelled. As your children, you know what is best for us and the purposes you have for us. May we be determined by a desire for holiness to stop lingering in a lifestyle or habit when you have said “Come out of it.” May our hearts be tendered to your voice. If we are ignorant of our personal Babylon, show us and help our obedience to leave it behind. May we press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. Thank you for wanting to free us from the affections of this world so we may experience abundant life as you’ve promised. By your leading, may we serve as light, love and truth to help free others who are ensnared by worldly culture. 

In Jesus’ Name we ask and pray this.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 2)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters: This writing continues as Part 2 of 2  to the previous post I wrote sharing with you my present season of trial in overcoming illness and being restored to health. This has not only been a physical battle but also a spiritual battle in rejecting the enemy’s lies about my future and God’s plans for me. In this experience, God has revealed several things to me which I will share to hopefully encourage you in your current or upcoming trial. Most importantly, I’ve learned that: our God is greater than our circumstances, He is so near to us even at times if you do not perceive His presence, He goes out of His way to remind us of His faithfulness toward us and love for us…and that the devil remains and will always be a liar. I have also been encouraged by many of your “likes,” “shares” and comments on social media with regard to how the previous post blessed you. I am grateful to be used in God’s service for His Kingdom. I am also very thankful for those praying for me.

Lord, help me to see the treasure in this trial. -Joyce Meyer

In the previous post, I concluded that by God’s grace I am improving in health and yet await more concrete answers from my doctors’ appointments. In the waiting, those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

Indeed, my need to have answers was consuming too much of my focus. During a text message exchange on the subject with a dear sister in Christ, I communicated to her my frustration of not having the full picture of whatever was going on with me. She responded with scripture and Godly counsel that reframed my thinking on the matter that would steer me in a more productive direction:

“I cannot say I understand what you’re going through and it seems quite terrifying by your description. However, I see you rallying to the trial and submitting to Christ and appealing to His mercy for help. I say, ‘Amen,’ and keep fighting my sister!!! Also, I look at how God uses healing to minister to our spirits, remove fleshly strength, increase our faith and to “see” the fragility of man against God’s power, strength and provision. I think about how your dependence on Him has grown and I say ‘Amen!’ I think perhaps the focus might be provision over answers. They may come in time as you work through the medical system but focusing on that “need” keeps you distracted from what God is providing in terms of strength and resources TODAY. Follow Him so close that you are looking at the hem of His garment. Remember He fed the 5,000 and His prayer was to thank His Father for the few fish and loaves He had in hand. Thank God for what is in your hand to open the supernatural abundance that only God can give. I say this to slow down your thoughts and encourage you not to lose the precious holy ground you’ve gained through faith and trust in Him. As it says in James 1:2…“let steadfastness have its full effect”–in other words, don’t cut short your trial because the full effect is that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Lacking in nothing my sister!!! Our God is a burden bearer, our great physician and healer. His work is mighty and our requests are but a shadow of what He wants to accomplish! Be strong and courageous and keep on today with what generous provision He has blessed you with TODAY! Our God is so faithful!”

My dear sister’s words resonated with me and I’ve referred back to them often to remind myself to be grateful and thankful for what God is doing TODAY. To thank Him for the improvements today that were not experienced yesterday. I am grateful!

The Next Health Scare

It was a couple weeks later that I began a doctor-recommended fruit and vegetable juice fast. This would help give rest to my digestive system and still gain nutrients while clearing out any toxins, food allergies, etc., that were aggravating my system. To give my body a reset. For the first couple days, I struggled on the fast for I was already in a weakened state from not being able to consume much without experiencing inflammation. I stayed with dear friends who lovingly cared for me and monitored my progress while on the fast. The fast was good for me as I began to see improvements, namely my energy returning, my digestive system seemed to be settled and my nasal allergies were dissipating.

However, as I continue to learn the sensitivities of my system, my dear friend had to drive me to the ER at 2 a.m., because of inflammation from one of the juices. My heart palpitations were faster and pounding harder than I had ever experienced and it greatly concerned me. The palpitations were likely exacerbated by my anxiousness (though I was trying to remain calm as I laid in her back seat) and also by the inflammation my body was fighting. I also had some vomiting. The ER attendants, seeing my condition, took my vitals and quickly wheeled me back to a trauma room to immediately slow down my heart rate. I didn’t even look at the monitor to the left and above my head, knowing that seeing the numbers would have made me even more nervous.

I am thankful for my dear friend for staying with me as the doctors and nurses got my system settled. Thank you God. When I tell you that I know He is with me, I can tell you for sure having gone through this process. He is indeed with me. I am thankful for my dear friend and her family as they continue to pray for my recovery. I was released from the ER later that morning and went home. I’ve since been prescribed medication to begin addressing my GI issues which has helped. Inflammation is little to no more and I’ve not had palpitations. Even with upcoming doctors’ appointments, I know though more than anything, it is my prayer time, meditating and believing on God’s Word, God’s faithfulness and healing, and the prayers of many that are restoring me to health. We are more than conquerors, my brothers and sisters! The enemy is defeated!

In encouraging words shared by another dear sister in Christ, she reminded me that “whatever God allows us to go through, we’re going to come out on the other side. The one question is, “Do you trust God?” So true. God will see us through it and if we trust Him, we will indeed come out victorious on the other side–like pure gold. There are indeed treasures wrapped in trials.

 

Treasure

What I’ve Learned in This Process to Hopefully Encourage You

  1. Humble yourself, cry out to the Lord. Acknowledge that you need His help and cannot do this by yourself. Surrender all notions of pride or self-sufficiency. At my most vulnerable times, I cried out like David, asking the Lord’s help. He has surely helped and rescued me (The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; – Psalm 34:15). Though I’ve known the Lord many years, I’ve known Him better in the fiery furnace.
  2. Don’t quit, never give up. Keep pressing. There are spiritual blessings, treasures wrapped in trials. James 1:2 assures us of this: “Let steadfastness have its full effect.” When the answers seem slow in coming or hard to understand, trust God.
  3. DEMOLISH arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take EVERY thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, as told to us in 2 Corinthians 10:5. IMMEDIATELY, I reject any thought or attack of the enemy by responding with God’s Word, God’s promises of what God says about who He is, who I am and my future. This also means our thought life must be renewed and transformed out of the natural (Romans 12:2). 
  4. It’s not enough to read and hear God’s Word. We must also believe God’s Word and be doers/act in accordance to God’s Word as referenced in James 1:22.  I also meditate on God’s Word day and night (Joshua 1:8) and throughout the day. I believe God’s Word. I believe what I’ve read and written about. Now, it’s about holding fast to it and acting on it in every environment and situation. 
  5. Though I had God’s peace before, I am learning more what it means to abide, dwell in, rest in, be still in God’s peace. He has given us His peace (John 14:27) which is part of our inheritance. It’s already in us. We simply need to abide in it.
  6. Do not worry, do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6), do not fret (Psalm 37:1). This is especially important if you battle anxiety which really is an unproductive anticipatory response (“what if”) about your future when we already know that God is the Chief and Designer of our future. He is already IN our future and He is the One keeping you and me in all moments even when we don’t have all of the answers. I am learning to live in the “right now.”
  7. Celebrate and GIVE THANKS for what God is doing in you, for you and through you TODAY–no matter what you see, how you feel or what you hear that would seek to contradict that God is at work and bringing all things together for your good.
  8.  God loves you and me SO MUCH and in so many ways. Nothing will ever, ever, ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39).
  9. I’ve learned to forgive myself. I am certain that my health issues were created by or exacerbated by my fears and anxiety. As much as I’ve been a good steward of my health over the years by eating right, exercise, etc., I was upset that I allowed something like anxiety to cause me such problems. Anxiety and worry is a sin (and I repented to God about it) as it infers that I do not trust God and who He says He is and what He will do. Yet, God knew this point in my spiritual development would come. I am still being developed, being matured and being perfected in Christ Jesus. No challenge, no change. This is a lifelong journey for each of us who are in Christ Jesus and if we remain steadfast, we will one day be made complete, made perfect, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). We will also be more of a blessing to equip and encourage others.
  10. Put aside all pride and reach out to others/allow others to help you. God truly blesses us through people as we were not designed to journey this life alone.
  11. Do not find it strange that you have come under attack by the enemy. As long as we’re Believers, we have a target on our back. Though the enemy roars like a lion, looking for someone to devour, be humble, stand firm in your faith and do not fear. Our enemy is on a short leash and will only be allowed to go so far. After you have suffered a little while, (God) will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). I encourage you to read 1 Peter 5:5-11 which is the foundation scripture in this powerful sermon, “When Anxiety Attacks” delivered by Pastor Steven Furtick. I invite you to watch it.
  12. Lastly: We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,). We are operating from and seated in a position of victory. We are not of this world. This world is not our home. We are traversing through this perishing, decaying, corrupt world as Ambassadors of Christ, each day walking more and more in the eternal land of the living and hopefully pointing the lost and deceived toward abundant life found only in Christ Jesus.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you, thank you for Your awesome, unconditional and unfailing love You have for us. Your love is beyond compare and I’m still in awe of You. I thank you for how you have cared and watched over us; how Your Presence is with us even in times when we may not feel You as strongly as in other situations. You are indeed with us. You will never leave us nor forsake us as you promised. Father, please forgive us for times we have allowed worry, fears, anxiety or Satan’s lies to overshadow and undermine Your powerful Word, Your promises. We demolish and take captive anything that is contrary to Your Word and what you have promised us. Thank you for patiently striving with us as You lovingly stand with us in the fiery furnace so we will be perfected, lacking nothing. May we stand in Your Truth and abide in your peace in the fiery furnace and at all times, not only being hearers of your Word, but also believers and doers. Shore up our faith that we may remain steadfast. Help us to persevere and encourage others to persevere so the spiritual treasures in our trials may be seen.

Father, be with those who are waiting on You and trusting You for their healing. May they be reminded of Your faithfulness in their lives and cling to that. Give them wisdom in how to proceed and also wisdom to their health care providers in how to treat them. As we wait and believe for the full manifestation of what we seek, may we thank you for what you are doing today, this very minute.

In Your Son Jesus’ Matchless and Mighty Name we ask this.

Amen

God loves you. I love you. Remain steadfast. He’s got you in the protective grip of His Hand.

-Nicole

Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 1)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  As you can surely attest, life has a way of turning on a dime, throwing us curve balls and suddenly placing us in the fiery furnace. During those “in the furnace” seasons, much is revealed about our faith, our trust in God, things God needs to shed from us and where we need to shore up our gaps to persevere and remain steadfast. This is a two-part writing I authentically share with you during a present season of trial. It’s more information than I would normally share publicly though I am led to do so in hopes to encourage and equip you to endure your current or upcoming trial. God is indeed with you.

My trial comes in the form of being extremely healthy for many years to suddenly battling and overcoming illness. I have learned and continue to glean much from this experience—particularly, where I thought I was in my faith walk, was not entirely so. Even so, God knows this and has still chosen me as His Daughter, His servant and co-laborer in His Kingdom. In my shortcomings and areas of weakness, His call on my life remains irrevocable for which I am grateful (the same applies to you too). I know for sure now more than ever that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is indeed my Strength and I am learning to fully lean on Him. This has also been a season of great vulnerability and reaching out to others for help. I am thankful for dear friends, dear prayer partners and family who have truly lifted me up in this time.

Faith: Not Where I Thought Was

In overcoming illness, I’ve had to believe what I have long read and have faithfully written about: The Word of God.

I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and life at age 12. I’ve been reading and studying God’s Word since then with a fervent desire to grow more in Him, to be more Christ-like, to truly advance His Kingdom in the earth; to encourage, equip and instruct the saints in His Word. I’m led to help the Body of Christ walk out their calling while also hoping to reach the lost and point them to true freedom in Christ Jesus. I’ve recited and stood upon scriptures more times than I can count. I am a Godly woman of faith. I have refuted Satan on numerous occasions during his attacks. Yet, it is this particular trial, testing and building up of my faith that has been unlike anything I had previously endured.

It began with contracting the flu or a virus on Thanksgiving Day 2017. I felt a tickle in my throat the night before and considered it to be my allergies. However, by midday Thanksgiving, came the onset of body aches, chills and a fever. For the next week and a half, I was laid up in bed with little to no appetite, weak, and frankly feeling like I was fading away. Just before contracting the virus, I experienced great energy, health, walked at least an hour or more six to seven days a week. I hadn’t had the flu since I was a kid. I am rarely sick. Life was zinging along well. Grad school was done and because of, there was more time to dedicate to ministry and mentoring. However, with limited energy, I was forced to reach out to others for help—something those close to me know that I rarely do. Dear friends in their generosity and thoughtfulness brought me soups, bottled water, had groceries delivered, made teas, etc. I am truly loved and cared for. God blessed me through them and in turn, I prayed that God would pour out His favor on them.

To provide some background to the situation: Prior to contracting the virus, I had begun mentoring youth at a school in the most violent, crime-ridden, impoverished part of Washington, D.C., which is southeast DC.  Of the District’s more than 650,000 residents, at least 142,000 residents call SE DC home. The area experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, drug trafficking, gang activity and unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, D.C. suffered a 54 percent increase in homicides with an estimated 75 percent of shootings committed by Black and Hispanic males ages 16 to 25. A number of youth that I’ve spoken to in SE DC have witnessed violence and because of, are unsure about their future and longevity.

In short, I had entered the enemy’s territory or as another person called it, “Devil’s County.” In addition, this past September, we ministered to students at two North Carolina colleges where strongholds were brought down and life, futures, and hope were restored. We experienced great victories at both colleges that did not go unnoticed. You can bet the enemy is displeased when you begin taking territory away from him for God’s Kingdom. You can expect spiritual opposition, spiritual warfare.

As I began to recover from the flu/virus, I felt like I was getting back to myself. I felt great and my colleagues could see this as well. It seemed to bring relief to all of us. In this time of recovery, I had been praying and crying out to God. In those times, He assured me He would heal me step by step. True to His character, I would see improvements a bit each day. I praised God!

Then one night, I got ahead of what God had promised me and attempted to “fix” or “hurry along” an area that still needed healing. In my need to “fix it,” I worsened my situation and had to go to the ER. I spent 12 hours in the ER undergoing several blood tests, waiting on results, then underwent a PE (pulmonary embolism) DT test to rule out a blood clot due to a rapid heart rate I was experiencing. The very thought of possibly having a blood clot gave me great angst and actually made my knees buckle when the nurse went to escort me down the hallway to the room and machine where the test would be performed.

As I laid on my back (I was by myself at the ER), hands folded above my head as the doctors slowly ran me through a tube to scan my chest, heart and lungs for a blood clot, I prayed to God under my breath as I had to be very still for the test. How did I get in this situation?? I was escorted back to the ER room where many patients were waiting, or in their rooms coughing and hacking from terrible colds or the flu. The ER was packed with patients seeking treatment for whatever ailed them and I was trying to stay in peace as I sat and awaited the PE scan results. As I waited, I texted a dear sister in Christ to pray for me and she did. Praise God, after about an hour of waiting, I was told I was clear–no blood clots.

I was released and headed home. I was relieved. But this would become one of at least six late night to wee-morning hour additional trips to the ER as the rapid heart rate (tachycardia) returned, my anxiety increased about my health (not knowing exactly what was causing my health issues), and inflammation with my GI system. I was losing weight because of a loss of appetite and a sensitivity to certain foods. And at times, I was losing my focus on God’s Word and His promises as the situation held more of my attention, awake and asleep. I also had to temporarily suspend some activities and pass on a great opportunity in order to make wellness a high priority. This saddened me as I am known for being reliable and following through on my commitments. I felt like the “me” of who I’ve been known as was crumbling.

I cried out to God like a child. As they say, “The struggle was real.” From bent knees to curled up fetal position, I was crying out for the Lord’s mercy and help. The battle was revealing to me areas where I needed to shore up my faith. I was battling the enemy’s onslaught of attacks on my thoughts, lies about my future and God’s plans for me. I began meditating on God’s Word “day and night” as written in Joshua 1:8, reading scriptures on healing, scriptures to cast my cares/burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22), to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6), to stay in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27), and to look to the One who bore our infirmities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  My bible is marked up and highlighted, flagged and dogeared; His Word tucked in my heart. Yet in this trial, was I believing what I had read and had written about? I’ve written a number of blog posts using these very scriptures. 

Bible Psalms

In this time, I was beginning to understand some of the root causes of my anxiety other than the enemy’s attacks. I’m only a few years older than my mother was when she passed at the young age of 40 in 1989 from colon cancer when my brother and I were teens.  She had been healthy as far as we knew and her diagnosis that year before hit my dad and our family like a freight train. We felt blindsided. In all of our praying, she still passed and I felt like her life was cut short. Today, I know that such things are God’s business and His ways are not our ways. Even in understanding this, the enemy would send thoughts that my life would be cut short. The thoughts seemed to come one after the other, like fiery darts that I would thwart with the shield of faith, yet some of those lies found their way in the chink of my armor and would ruminate in my mind far too long. I also spoke with others about this to release it.

I am growing more to trust God in the process of healing and trusting in His promises. This means forgoing my need to “fix” situations my way and rather to be Holy Spirit-led in how He would have me to approach issues. I am also rejecting the anxious and fearful thoughts that have waged war on my body, recovery and confidence in God’s Word. I am also so very grateful for my prayer partners who have undergone and some still going through their own seasons of illness and have encouraged me with their words and prayers. This process has also given me a deeper compassion and sensitivity for those battling illnesses and a greater connection in praying for them.

In the course of this battle with days of progress and setbacks, I still don’t have solid answers as to what is causing my health issues. By God’s grace and prayers, I am improving. I am awaiting my next doctors’ appointments to learn more. During a good portion of this process, my need to understand “why” and “what” was becoming too much of my focus. Yes, it is good to seek answers so we can learn more how God would have us to address the situation, but those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

-Nicole

NEXT: Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About” as I share excellent Godly counsel received from a dear sister in Christ that reframed my thinking, who I learned to forgive, what God has shown me in this process…and the next health scare.

Christmas: True Peace Comes By Sword

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I was the kid who would ask mom and dad 20 questions until their answers satisfied my information gaps. I was the “Why?” kid whose parents patiently entertained my questions. Today, I still ask “Who, what, when, where, why and how” to have my information gaps satisfied.

As a girl, like many little girls, I had dolls. I would usually seat them at my made up table with plates, tea cups, spoons, forks and knives. So when my Dad asked, “Nikki, what are you making for your dolls today?” I would always reply, “Eggs.” It didn’t matter what time of day he asked me — whether day or night— my response was always “Eggs.” Thank goodness as dolls, they never rolled their eyes for being fed the same meal everyday! Eeeks! Today, I still enjoy eating breakfast anytime of the day.

As we transition from childhood, into our teens, to becoming young adults and mature adults, life experiences and relationships shape us. Even as we’re shaped by experiences, there are parts of us that remain the same. It’s part of our personality. It’s how we’re wired.

Conversely, as life experiences and relationships shape us, what we used to do we may do no longer. As a kid, from the ages of nine to 12, I frequently lied to my parents to avoid getting in trouble. I had become quite skilled in constructing stories to defend a bad report card grade, hide a dish that I broke, or anything else. But it was a growing thirst and a “who, why and how” interest I had in reading bible stories about Jesus Christ that began prodding my heart. At age 12, I surrendered my life to Christ and received Him as my Lord and Savior. I stopped lying. In fact, I told the truth about EVERYTHING that I did or I saw someone else do.  🙂

I share these stories of dichotomy with you to say this: Life experiences and relationships will most certainly shape us. It is also hoped that they refine us into who we are called to be. While our personalities are part of what makes us “us,” only when we are joined and partnered in relationship with Jesus Christ can the old nature begin to fall away and be replaced with Christ’s character. We become new as told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ Jesus, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV)

When we receive Christ into our hearts, we come into opposition with what we used to do and how we used to behave as the Holy Spirit works within to give us godly affections and appetites. New joys, new hope and even new boldness for those previously shy. New life is operating in us and others begin to see it in and on us. Our personality remains but is enhanced and tempered by the new nature of Christ.

As we rejoice this season (and truly every day) in the birth of the King of kings, Lord of lords, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there is no greater relationship in which we could be partnered. Many think they are happy without God, to live life shaped by their preferred appetites and beliefs. In all likelihood they feel a “peace” with how they’ve constructed life on their own terms.

Matthew 10-34 lion and sword

But as the Scottish Christian minister and teacher Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) wrote in his highly regarded daily devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, “That kind of happiness and peace is on a wrong level. Jesus Christ came to send a sword through every peace that is not based on a personal relationship to Himself.” Jesus speaks to this aspect in Matthew 10:34, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Through Jesus’ gift of salvation the disobedient, the liar, the rebellious and ungodly are restored to right relationship with God. Those received by Him are no longer an enemy of God.

While many pray for peace at Christmas, we pray more importantly that the true peace of Christ rules in our hearts because He has sent His sword through the false peace in which we once trusted.

Thank you Heavenly Father for loving us so very much that you sent your only Son in the form of a babe from heaven to earth to separate us from the world’s false misconception of “peace.” By doing so, we have opportunity to experience true peace in Jesus. Dear Jesus, for those who have yet to know and receive you, we pray that you would send Your sword through their false happiness and peace; separate them unto You, Lord. Fill them with Your joy and peace that is unsurpassed. May they desire to become new creations in You, no longer with appetites for their old ways but appetites for new ways — Your ways. No longer left empty by what the world takes from us, Your coming to earth is a blessed gift and relationship that continues to fill us. Thank you. I love you. 

Merry Christmas,

Nicole

 

 

 

We Are Family!

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Wow! What is that?” This is a question I would sometimes ask myself in meeting another Believer for the first time. Upon meeting, there seems an instant joy, love and recognition in the Spirit that we know and love the same God: Jesus Christ. There is often a great excitement felt and exchanged upon meeting as we share with one another about our personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how we have seen Him faithfully move in our lives and others’ lives, and how we see His Hand moving throughout the world. In these testimonial exchanges, there is a comfort and encouragement in hearing each others’ experiences from the simple to the supernatural; to know that we are not alone in how we have experienced God’s Presence in our lives.

While our experiences are unique, there are consistent threads of God’s proven character, faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, favor, and attention to detail over our smallest and greatest concerns woven through our testimonies. So when I say “Wow! What is that?” it is a feeling of this special affinity felt and shared among Believers. This special affinity, an inexplicable and sometimes hard to explain joy is felt that may cause us to desire to fellowship with such Believers for hours or all day long as we talk about our love for the Lord. Have you experienced this too?!

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Recently, I lunched with one of the young ladies I mentor. She had moved to the DC/Virginia area from a small town in Northern California and in doing so, introduced me to her former mentor from California. Her former mentor was briefly visiting Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer events and joined us for lunch. Immediately upon she and I meeting, the connection of the Holy Spirit was felt among us. I am Black, the two of them White, and you would have sworn by seeing us together that we were family or had known each other for a very long time. We could have tarried in our fellowship all day in great joy in sharing about the Lord, but we needed to drive my mentee’s former mentor to the airport for her return flight to California.

I am grateful that God knit us together as brothers and sisters in His eternal family—not always through natural blood as in our born family, but more importantly through the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is through His Blood shed as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and our belief in His Name and Who He is (Galatians 3:26), that we are indeed brothers and sisters in God’s eternal, multi-ethnic family! How extravagant! As the popular 1979 R&B Sister Sledge song says, “We Are Family.” People ask, “Could we be that close?” I say through Christ Jesus, “Yes, indeed!” As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This special connection and joy is perhaps felt more deeply among those who have developed a daily and growing intimacy with the Lord. There’s so much to share in our daily experiences when you have journeyed with Jesus for several years—when the more time you spend with Him, the more you see Him show up in your day. I have truly enjoyed great conversations and fellowship with my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! I love them so much! I thank God for gifting us a foretaste of what we will experience eternally one day.

My dear brothers and sisters: It’s hoped that the outward display of our joy, love and sweet fellowship with Jesus—and with those who are not our natural brothers and sisters but our brothers and sisters through new life secured in Jesus Christ—will make curious those who say, “Wow! What is that?” Whether Believers who desire to deepen their intimacy with the Lord or those seeking to know the Lord, may our Christian fellowship be a witness of the amazing love in Christ flowing through His People. May the rivers of living water that flow in us by the Holy Spirit also pour into others so they may experience the Lord. And as we await Christ’s return, may what we hope for continue to be what we live for.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, New International Version)

Love and blessings,

Nicole

We Must Be Vigilant

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New International Version)

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New Living Translation)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13, International Standard Version)

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6, English Standard Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12, New International Version)

There is nothing passive about the above referenced scriptures. Everything about these scriptures gives the image of a Believer who is alert, who is watchful (sober) or in the Greek context “nepho”; someone who abstains from wine or beverages (anything) that would dull their senses or distract them. The scriptures suggest that the Believer would not be caught off guard or caught slumbering but ready to offend whatever comes.

Imagine your disposition, how keen your senses if you knew that an enemy was lurking outside your door to kill you and yours. The enemy is looking for any breach, crack or gap to gain access and entry into your home, your mind, or your heart. How would you protect yourself? Your family?

If from reading these scriptures you still have an imagery of Satan as a red, pitch fork-carrying caricature with horns and tail who passively pursues you, then you have underestimated your enemy. The enemy is intentionally prowling around, looking for that easy access, that one moment of someone letting down their guard. Where will you compromise and make concessions? Like a prowling lion, your enemy seeks to pick off the weakest sheep from the flock for its prey.

Your enemy plants thoughts that become plots. Your enemy could care less about you, how old or young you are. Your enemy kills 17-month-old babies and pregnant women. He is a murderer, capable of unimaginable horror. He inspires actions, text messages and graphic images that result in careers, marriages and lives destroyed. He plants lies in your mind to make you distrust God and thereby take matters into your own hands. He intently seeks to impose fear upon you, to make you cower and submit to defeat.

Many view the follower of Jesus Christ as passive. Though we desire to be obedient to God, meek, kind and loving toward others, this does not mean we let down our guard. We are ever-discerning, we are wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), we are guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), we put on our spiritual armor daily to guard against the wiles of the devil and thwart his fiery darts. We also war against him in prayer, praise and through speaking scripture back to him.

Remember even Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness, the enemy relentlessly tempting him while He fasted. Jesus rebuked and responded to Satan with scripture and authority. We must do the same. In response to this Matthew 4:11 says, Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (New International Version)

Armor of God

This message is that of a team huddle or a war room strategy for the saints.

We must be vigilant. As wickedness increases, I am telling you, the Body of Christ, to gird your loins. Guard against appeasing worldly culture, for you will soon begin to look like it and it will always take you further than you wanted to go. We are called to be holy; sanctified for God’s purposes and set apart from the world.

Be alert, sober and be prepared to stand against every onslaught, deception and temptation. Do not be caught off guard. Do not be caught slumbering. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting to seize any opportunity that you find it okay to welcome that errant thought, embrace laziness, or slack in your spiritual growth. He’s looking for that chink in your armor, your area of weakness that will prevent your success.

Be alert and stay alert. Stay vigilant. That means step up your prayer life. Pray with authority and unshakable faith. Put on your spiritual armor before you begin your day (Ephesians 6:13-17). Meditate on God’s Word day and night so you may be successful (Joshua 1:8) and also know how to call up God’s Word at any moment to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means sealing up breaches in your behavior, character, emotions, lifestyle and thought life that would give the enemy the opportunity to ensnare you. This means giving Godly counsel to others you see as prey for the enemy due to destructive choices they are making. This means telling the devil in your Godly authority, “You are not welcome here.”

Love and blessings,

Nicole

For more on this, read our article “The Believer’s Disposition/Posture.”

 

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

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

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

The Texas Catholic Sutherland Springs

(Photo courtesy: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

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

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

In Christian Love and Fellowship,

The Body of Christ/Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ

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

Does Anyone “Sleep on It” Anymore?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11, New International Version) A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man holds it back. (English Standard Version)

Much can be said on this particular verse. A recent conversation with my elderly Christian neighbor as she and I discussed world events, words said and decisions made helped to spur this writing. Her wisdom shared during our conversation came from a seasoned position of forging peace rather than strife throughout her years of raising children, grandchildren and dealing with co-workers.

In reading Proverbs 29:11, the words described will likely bring someone or several people to mind. Today’s social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have provided space for those who are quick-tempered, lack restraint, short on self-control and Godly wisdom to reveal all of their mind all of the time. Trust me, nobody wants to partake in all of that undressing to see all the caverns of someone’s unrestrained mind. The Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 29:11 reads, “A fool uttereth all his mind; his spirit, his anger. A fool pours out all his wrath, restrained by no consideration.” It then references a wise maxim that says, “Command your temper, lest it command you.”

We have all seen the damage and feeding frenzy of what 140 unrestrained characters or less can do in a 24/7 media cycle. We’ve seen how one social media post, without measure and restraint exercised by audiences, can create a thread that is vicious and worse than a street beat down—even among those considered friends and family. Before tweets, posts, emails, text messages and decisions are driven by emotions, does anyone “sleep on it” anymore?

I present this subject to encourage the Body of Christ to reflect wisdom, Christ’s love and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23 at all times. Our various platforms are favorable to rapid fire and thoughtless responses in which our 24/7 media cycle delights and thirsts to expose and exacerbate such foolishness.

However, WE have an opportunity to display Godly wisdom to an unrestrained world. In a season where division is increasingly being stirred on every side and within every group and demographic, we have an opportunity to bring calm and reason that puts those agitated at rest. In fact, before they speak further or engage in abrupt, unwise actions, we have the opportunity to offer them the wise counsel of “Why don’t you sleep on it.” It’s an opportunity to pivot; to be circumspect, to use good judgment.

Sleep on it

 

Speaking from experience, I have found great peace in “sleeping on it” before responding to someone or something that has frustrated me. I have found that the words I thought so important to say were often unnecessary and would not bring the situation to a better place.

Sometimes no words were necessary or if a response was required, the tone was one of love. The night’s sleep coupled with prayer and giving myself time to yield to the Holy Spirit made all the difference. Even in some conversations where I had every right to refute what the person was saying, I’ve literally sensed the Holy Spirit purse my lips together to say “Be quiet.” Or, even when I had sound counsel to give someone the Holy Spirit knows when that person is or is not ready to receive that instruction. He has said to me in that still, small, steady voice, “Not now.” In wisdom and obedience, I hold my tongue or I refrain from hitting “SEND” on that email or text message.

So, what is the remedy to preserve ourselves and others in moments when emotions run high and division is at the door?

Pray for self-control. Pray to exercise the nine fruits of the Spirit of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control toward everyone in whatever space you engage with them. Obediently yield to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to “be quiet” or “sleep on it.”

Numerous scriptures throughout the Bible show us the blessings and precious fruits of wisdom: Blessed are those who find wisdom, who gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13). We’re encouraged to ask for it, to seek it: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). 

Many consider quick words to be a great strength. But quick words have been known to sink relationships and torch careers. But a word not spoken in haste is truly great wisdom with the possibility to preserve people and outcomes.

Love and blessings,

Nicole

 

 

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.

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

 

Hurricane Harvey Cnn

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

hurricane-harvey-harris-county time magazine

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