Smorgasbord or Bread of Life: Which One Truly Satisfies?

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

His apartment walls and shelves were covered with hardly any open space to spare. Not much more room for additional photos, paintings or posters to be hung. Though organized, the shelved knick knacks and novelties collected during his various travels, religious ornaments of all sorts, altars and shrines with multiple “saints” or gods who were supposed to render health, good fortune or other, was a lot for the eye to take in. Much for the mind to digest. From Hinduism, to Kabbalah, to New Age beliefs, to a Star of David, other religions I didn’t recognize, and some Christian references, I was unsure what or which item(s) was offering this man a sure foundation and anchor in his life.

I was at this man’s apartment to accompany my friend who had a business exchange to make with this man who is a photographer. The man kindly welcomed us into his home. With great pride and enthusiasm, he explained what each saint, relic or ornament meant. He spoke of his travels, his Cuban, Jewish and Chinese heritage, his homosexual lifestyle, his exploration of religions and paths and his belief in reincarnation (who wants to come back to this world??). In his delight in telling us about his beliefs and himself, one might have come away feeling more enlightened; that a great key to answering life’s great mysteries and myriad questions had just been handed to them through this buffet, through this smörgåsbord (Swedish term for buffet) of stuff. You should be full and satisfied. But quite the opposite occurred, at least for me, because I am already satisfied. As I looked into the man’s hazel green eyes, though his speech was passionate and enthusiastic, the deadness in his eyes could not lie. The absence of true joy gave him away. Essentially, this middle-aged man had sampled and tasted everything, and had come away still hungry. Still searching. Still seeking substance and sustenance.

In his profound emptiness and trying to convince us of his happiness, I simply felt sadness and compassion toward him. He’s “been around the world and I, I, can’t find my baby” as the ’80s Lisa Stansfield song says. He’s dabbled, sampled, been around the world and still hasn’t found the real food that sustains. The emptiness could leave one asking, “What all did I eat? Shouldn’t I feel satisfied?”

Smorgasbord dinner

A smörgåsbord dinner.

 

Instead of offering us a smörgåsbord and leaving us unsatisfied, Jesus came to satisfy and sustain us. He is the Bread of Life. In John 6:25-59, Jesus tells His disciples this. Let’s look at verses 30-35:

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]”

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

As I wrote in this April 2018 blog post, “All You Can Eat,” Jesus leaves us filled, running over and more than satisfied. He is our daily bread and Bread of Life. We can feed at His table continually and the longer we stay, the more we love Him and desire more of Him. It’s okay to linger and go back for seconds. The abundance is ours if we want it. Eating of His Bread at His table is where brokenness is healed. It’s how we gather strength to be refined by and overcome life’s challenges. It’s where we are filled and able to pour into others with a fresh word to revive their downcast souls.

The man then asked me what it is that I do.  🙂 I delightfully shared with him my serving the Lord in ministry, discipling others (particularly our youth), and also my consultant work in public relations and project management. I lovingly planted seeds of truth. I immediately felt his internal defensive walls go up when I mentioned “ministry” and “Jesus Christ.” In short, he responded with “let everyone find their own path that leads to God.”

Upon conducting our business there, my friend and I hugged him and went on our way. I continue to pray for him. Though being there was not on my agenda that day, it was on God’s. I know my being there was not by chance — if only to show the love and truth of Jesus Christ.

Many people are deceived and seeking, so we as the body of Christ continue to pray for them. The enemy is diligent to confuse, deceive and co-opt. We know God’s truth when heard, received and responded to, can overcome that. We thank God for His great mercy for those He is giving time to return to Him. We pray that they respond.

I am encouraged by a dear sister in Christ whose past is similar to this man. She had traveled the world, explored and dabbled in this religion and that one. All of this and she still had emptiness. Then at age 44, she literally wore herself out “searching.” She finally came to the end of herself. Thank goodness! In that winding down, she looked up to Jesus! Her new life began! Today, at more than 30 years later, she continues to live boldly and passionately for Him. She wastes no time nor turns down any opportunity to share about the Lord! I just love her. Her testimony encourages me and hopefully you that God’s love is so great, His patience so amazing, that those who come to Him, those who are His, He will give them eternal life, they shall not perish, and they will never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-30).

Thank you Jesus! Keep praying saints. Be ready and available for those divine appointments.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15).

Nicole

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You an End Times Soldier?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

There are times in life when we’re given unsettling news or information.

Such information can leave us bewildered or worried. We may wish the news was different or would reverse course. To deal with it, we might hide our head in the sand hoping “it” goes away. For some of us, receiving unsettling news may momentarily jolt us, then sobers us up very quickly and steers us into a new mindset. It is often better to have the news so we can respond accordingly rather than being left in the dark and blindsided. It’s even better when despite the unsettling news, the outcome is good if you’ve made the right decision.

In this way, God’s Word has prepared His People for things to come in these last days. In fact, as someone said, “The Bible is more up-to-date than tomorrow’s newspaper.” So true. He has also given us our focus, mission and marching orders. In our daily commune with Him, He gives us our instructions. God is training and raising up soldiers in His Army to endure to the end.

Many of us have prayed for God’s will to be done in this perishing world — for Him to render justice to injustice; for Him to remove the corrupt and replace with the godly; that people would no longer place their confidence in idols but be wholly dependent upon Him, to soften hardened hearts to receive truth, and to fully mature and unify the Body of Christ.

We should reject any notion that this process will be neatly packaged with a pretty red bow. God is destabilizing everything to expose, dismantle and remove. He is using the situations as instruments to draw hearts to Him. This destabilization must run its course. But do not be afraid.

End Times

We’ll move in greater confidence when we break off our long-held love affair with traditional systems and institutions, expecting deliverance from them. God Almighty is our assured Deliverer.

Things will continue to destabilize with “great distress” as never seen before (Matthew 24:21). As described in Matthew 24, these are birth pains — the outcomes of a wicked and sin-wracked world, a world at enmity with God their Creator. God will not allow wickedness to go unchecked. This earth is passing away. God will create a new heaven and a new earth as told to us in Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. We are to look toward a new heaven and new earth where righteousness and God’s Kingdom will reign. He is making all things new.

Revelation 21-5

Dear victorious saint and soldier, I encourage you to run your race in obedience; to obediently and courageously walk out your calling amid whatever storms are brewing. Though the waters will be choppy, God is with you! He will get you to shore. May we have a heart for reaching the lost and desire to see this last harvest come to Christ.

We have wonderfully Good News to share with the world! That is the mission. God is extending His forever family — not failed institutions and systems. God has always been in the business of reconciling us back in right relationship with Him. Gratefully, as soldiers in His Army, we’ve been invited to co-labor with Him in this great mission field and ministry of reconciliation as Christ’s Ambassadors as Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

If you are indeed an end times soldier, patiently encourage growth with our brothers and sisters who are yet to mature into this disposition. Encourage them in faith and truth. The weak and the strong both belong to God. May we be purveyors of hope or as a dear brother in Christ says, “be hope dealers” to those who are unsteady in these times. We should expect to grow spiritually as we graduate to new levels in our calling. May our hope, joy, a deepening love for others, peace and steadiness be considered the normal disposition of God’s People in times of increasing instability— rather than a carnal default of worry.

John 16-33 mountains

Our God and Captain, King Jesus, has already overcome the world (John 16:33)! Jesus defeated Satan. In Jesus, our victory is already won and we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). May we live like we know this.

As things appear chaotic, remain mission-focused, not distracted by the peripheral or extraneous. Keep watch, be ready and keep your eye on Our trusted Captain to lead you ever so faithfully. Follow Him so closely that your focus will not allow you to become double-minded, causing you to be caught off guard and deceived. Our Lord’s return will be joyful for us who belong to Him but very dreadful for those who do not as they’ve chosen the world as their portion instead of Him. May we be found fit to be partakers of our reward and inheritance.

Though our world is in perpetual unrest, we can remain in constant rest through our relationship and confidence in Christ Jesus. With this disposition, you will indeed be an end times saint and soldier.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

Jesus, Not Politicians, Is the Author of True Liberty and Deliverance

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

There were politics in Jesus’ day as it is today.

Jesus was not a political figure, carried to and fro by the whims of the people. He said what needed to be said knowing that it would bring opposition against Him. Jesus could not have helped people then or now had he been a political figure. Unlike the promises made by politicians, Jesus did not necessarily come to remove everyone’s circumstances. What He did come to do was to change our hearts and minds about our circumstances.

No doubt that our society and world endure what are seemingly intractable problems to solve. All around the world it’s the same song. From poverty, racism, addictions, corruption, violence and other issues, we do our best to solve and eradicate the problems. We create campaigns, marches and movements to bring awareness and arouse action. We work to inform and shape policies in hopes to break what has bound us. Yet, with these activities and more, many problems remain. In all of mankind’s intellect, reasoning and can-do spirit, we are unable to completely eradicate problems.

It is in our nature to seek answers; to solve problems. We seek to fix and make sense out of. We desire to bring justice to unjust situations. We desire to bring relief to those ailed. This is all very good.

Yet, for those in Christ Jesus, we understand that even such situations exist for God’s purposes. Purposes we may not understand but trust that God is sovereign even in times of suffering and wickedness. What was meant for evil God can make for our good.

Jesus told us that we would have trouble. It’s inescapable. As sure as we’ll face problems, Jesus also assured us of this: “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, NIV)

So how should we respond? Sit on our hands and wait for Christ’s return? No. While we should not divorce the pragmatic from the biblical in addressing issues, and while we should keep our hands to the plow (Luke 9:62) and not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), most importantly, we pray for people to invite Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit to change their heart and mind. This is where change begins. Jesus, we pray for your love and light to transform.

Yes, Lord. We need change. Without you, true change is elusive.

setting_captives_free

In desiring to help, we must prepare mindsets. This is where the fight actually begins. If mindsets are enslaved they need to be set free. A freed and renewed mind begins to write a different story other than the previous narrative of enslavement they thought they were held to. People can’t change the story until they receive new information. God has given us His Truth to lay down a better track to replace the one they’ve been playing. We have been called to set the captives free, to set free those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). Christ is the true author of liberty and deliverance. The truth will set you free (John 8:32). 

Pray for the Body of Christ to be a light wherever God has planted us; to boldly and lovingly share His Truth. Man’s version of liberty and deliverance is limited and constantly needs revising as it falls short of true freedom. The world can offer good solutions by putting its traditional applications on situations but WE, the Church carry within us the best and true solution: Jesus. Then we will indeed see chains broken.

-Nicole

 

“All You Can Eat”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

What comes to your mind when you hear or see the words “All You Can Eat”? These four words typically generate excitement among those of us who desire to get the most bang for our buck; to maximize our dollars and leave an establishment feeling greatly satisfied.

A term often associated with buffets, “All You Can Eat” restaurants excite patrons who envision multiple food stations offering a variety of cuisines in as many helpings as they can consume at a fixed price. At some buffets, you could indulge in breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert all in one sitting. A seemingly perfect match for maximizing your dollars only limited by your stomach capacity and waistband.

buffet with people.jpg

Being raised in Kansas and eating hearty foods such as mashed potatoes (yum), macaroni and cheese and meatloaf, these were also once my favorites to eat at buffets at a fixed price. Fast forward to when I located to Washington, D.C. several years ago for an internship. There was a popular buffet near my workplace that I’d visit during lunch. This place offered an even wider variety of food options from different countries and of course…mashed potatoes. Excited to see creamy mashed potatoes, I loaded a few spoonfuls onto my plate. Along with macaroni and cheese, vegetables and other items. What I had not prepared for was that at this buffet and many in the area, the food was charged by weight. Yikes. I paid a hefty $$ for that lunch. I quickly and strategically learned to adjust my portions after that experience!

Food is a familiar territory for Jesus. He fed crowds of thousands with loaves of fish and bread. After feeding the multitudes and they were satisfied, there were baskets of food left over. Jesus leaves us filled, running over and more than satisfied. We can feed at His table continually and the longer we stay, the more we love Him and desire more of Him. It’s okay to linger and go back for seconds. The abundance is ours if we want it.

basket-bread-rolls-fish-750x330

I make no apologies for wanting everything that the Lord has for me. I want to feed at His feet. I daily depend on Him for my sustenance, my spiritual nourishment. It’s where healing is reaffirmed. Where brokenness is healed. Where we gather strength to be refined by and overcome life’s challenges. It’s where we are filled and able to pour into others with a fresh word to revive their downcast souls. It’s where we experience great joy in fellowship with Him and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s where our heart and mind come closer to Christ instead of being far from Him. It’s also where we learn more of who we are in Christ Jesus. It’s where we begin to see that God’s vision for us is much wider than it is limited. It’s where we develop the confidence to grow and go into our calling; to leave the familiar to enter the unfamiliar. It’s where we receive our daily instructions.

God is always doing a new thing, so we need to be at the table to get our instructions! It is where feeding our faith becomes fuel to press on amid spiritual warfare. It’s also where we develop new appetites for what Jesus desires and forgo our old appetites of the world and where we break unhealthy generational appetites passed down to us. I won’t kid you: feeding at the table may cost you separation from those who are uncomfortable with your new appetite. But that’s okay. You’ll have food for them when they’re ready.

Spiritual food= sitting at Jesus’ feet and feeding at His table. When we sit at Jesus’ feet and feed from His table, we are more than satisfied. Take time. Make time. We can have as much of Jesus as our heart desires. He already paid the price for our direct access. The Lord desires a close and intimate communion with us, that we would thirst and hunger to know Him more. That we would have a singleness of heart for Him. He is there waiting for us. The food is prepared. There is no limit to your partaking and return.

Will you come to His table? It is an “All You Can Eat” invitation. #TheBreadofLife

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

Love and Blessings,

Nicole

A Fixer Who Trusts ‘The Fixer’

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Pencil erasers. White Out. Accepted tracked changes. Scotch tape. Duct tape. Super Glue. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. As imperfect human beings navigating this thing called “life,” along the way we’ve made mistakes, have had some “uh-ohs” and “oops,” typos and numerous reminders indicating that we don’t have it all together. To close these gaps in hopes to present ourselves and our situations as being “together,” we’ve created products proven most helpful for fixing things. Super Glue to help make like new that precious vase we accidentally knocked over and chipped (whoops). Duct tape for that piece or attachment that needs to hang on for a while longer so it and we can continue to function without interruption.

As a writer, proofreader and someone whose DIY home decor activities has sometimes been sheer comedy, I know a thing or two about being a “fixer.” Depending on the situation, we may feel panic when the error or incident occurs and then flooded with relief when we’re able to fix it, either through our own expertise or someone else’s expertise or created product. Whew!

repairing-glass-vase-duct-tape-bernard-katz-glass

Yet, life will place us in unprecedented situations and we scramble for solutions. “Let’s try this. Let’s try that. Maybe this here will work.” If we’re honest, our “solutions” may worsen the situation or offer no change at all, leaving us feeling flummoxed, anxious or hopeless. We’ve exhausted everything known within our finite abilities. What are we to do?

“Fix it, Jesus.”

In January, I shared with you in two blog posts a raw account of health challenges I had been facing since this past November. Having long diligence in living a healthy lifestyle, I came down with the flu and then subsequent health issues followed afterward. Several of the experiences were new to me and unnerving. The battle was physical and spiritual. In seeking deliverance from the physical symptoms the Lord assured me in that still, small voice that He would heal me. In my need to see an immediate reversal of symptoms, I would try this thing or that — but to no avail. Why didn’t I take Him at His word? The Holy Spirit told me repeatedly that He would restore me, symptom by symptom.

God desires that we come to the end of our own efforts and surrender all to Him. Eventually, I yielded. Crying out, praying. I no longer relied upon my finite expertise of trying to “fix it.” I wholly leaned on Him daily, hourly, and cast every burden upon Him (Psalm 55:22) to handle and fix in His timing. In talking with Him, I specifically told Him what I desired to see fixed.

In the passing days and weeks, the specific symptoms I prayed against were no longer. The Lord did as He said He would do. I needed to take my hands off of it and trust Him. In this process, I also spent a great deal of time in prayer, studying His Word, viewing Christian programming–just immersed. I pressed in. My mind was being renewed to trust Him even more. Anxieties about my health were being replaced with His peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Thank you Jesus!

My faith was being greatly tested and fortified. I was also becoming a greater warrior against our enemy who consistently attacked my thoughts. I got my head back through truly putting on the helmet of salvation as instructed in Ephesians 6:17 (read this article, “What Is the Helmet of Salvation?”). I learned to immediately reject Satan’s attacks and lies by countering them with God’s Word and what I knew to be true; demolishing arguments and taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is critical. We must do this immediately as it ceases the enemy’s ability to continue in this. Trusted prayer partners joined me and stood with me in believing for my health and recovery. For their prayers, fasting and encouragement, I am so grateful.

My recovery and healing also involved obedience in practical steps I was led to take. This included identifying food allergies that were causing inflammation, juicing and eating more of a Mediterranean diet and winding down earlier for bed.

In follow up doctors’ appointments, I am pleased to report that all is “normal.” I am healthy. I have sat in quiet awe and gratitude of how good and faithful is our God. This process transformed me to love and know Him deeper. I abide in His Word and am even more emboldened to equip and encourage others in Christ Jesus.

Introspection 

“We will all encounter challenges causing us to think that God’s promises for us will “die on the vine,” says my dear brother in Christ, Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank FreedomSquared.org. But Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) As my dear brother further shared:

“God is the great Resolver— but not before He brings us to and through those moments that will further define our walk with Him and shape us. In every challenge, God expects us to overcome it or be transformed by it. God gives strength to saints to overcome the situation and continue on — OR, He gives us the strength to be transformed by the situation and continue on. Transformation allows us to change our approach. There are things that we’re required to lay down or cast off in order to move forward (see Hebrews 12:1-2). What we have been transformed by before becomes yesterday’s manna. We now become transformed by a new mindset.”

God is a Healer. He is our Deliverer. He is a Restorer. And if we trust Him, He is indeed THE Fixer. He will fix it while He is transforming us. He is fixing our feet to be “surefooted like that of a deer, enabling us to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19), to surmount the rugged places of life with great confidence and faith in our Almighty God.

My love to you and God bless you as you trust and believe God in your situation. Jesus will work it out  (listen to this)!

Nicole

 

Will You Be Found Wanting?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Tekel (means “weighed”): You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. –Daniel 5:27, New International Version

The New Living Translation uses the words “have not measured up” and the New American Standard Bible uses the words “found deficient.”

The Gill’s Exposition commentary on Daniel 5:27 gives the meaning on ‘Tekel’:

“though art weighed in the balances: of justice and truth, in the holy righteous law of God; as gold, and jewels, and precious stones, are weighed in the scales by the goldsmith and jeweler to know the truth (the integrity) of them, weighed with great exactness, to know the worth of them… where a person’s principles, practices, are to be weighed; and it is sad where they are found light and wanting…pretending to be righteous and holy and will be found wanting of that holiness and righteousness…his works will be found wanting, and not answerable to the demands of a righteous law, and he without the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness, and so naked and speechless. The fire of the word will reveal, try, and burn up and being able to stand against it; and if these are weighed in the balances, they will be found wanting of real truth and goodness, and be but as chaff to wheat…”

Daniel 5:27 along with the commentary, references those whose works, intentions of their heart and their lifestyle has been counterfeit and unrighteous in the eyes of God.  They pursued vanities and not the truth; not the true oil to fill their lamps. Their living will be measured against God’s standards and found to be deficient. Their vain living and works absent of the righteousness of Christ will be burned up in the fire like hay or wood. The fire will test what work each has done, and if anyone’s work is burned up he will be saved but only through the fire. However, those robed in Christ’s righteousness, who have operated in the truth, will be like pure jewels and stones whose works when measured on the scales will not be deficient but of lasting, enduring, eternal substance and significance.

scales Daniel 5-27

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 also references those who build their lives on foundations other than the true foundation of Christ Jesus. In doing so, no matter their worldly accolades and achievements, they will come up short in their eternal impact.

That which we love, we seek. Many people pursue the vanities of worldly significance, ignorant and oblivious to what will truly be of significance/weight/value in the eternal. This grave and irreversible reality is sealed after they have died, have been eulogized and unable to do no more. They will be without excuse.

Paul also says “each man’s work will be revealed by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13),” and what will remain? The nearer you draw to God in THIS LIFE, it sets your course on your role with GOD in Eternal Life. As Believers, we will not be judged for our sins but our work will be judged. What work did we do for Him? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” and to be near to Him, and to love Him. We are establishing an eternal inheritance for ourselves.

Introspection

Sometimes I am led to expand more in my writings but have not felt that leading here. The message is piercing and sobering. It calls us to take a serious account of our living thus far; to ask God to reveal to us areas where we are falling short. To seek and pursue Him with everything we have. To yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leading into truth and to follow in the right direction. We want to hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

Will your work be sustained or burn up? Will you be found wanting on the scales? Your folly will be made manifest at a time in which there are no “do overs”; the window of “redo” will have closed as you find your living and works deficient, if you are found wanting on the scales according to God’s standards.

Have you lived as God calls us–to be holy and righteous? Have you provided people with sufficiency, weight and truth? What fruit have you produced in their lives that will give them eternal weight?

-Nicole

 

Can They Tell That You’ve Been With the Lord?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It was not an unusual day. It was a sunny weekday morning. I had just finished my daily prayer time with the Lord and headed out to my neighborhood post office to mail a package. I decided to walk, embracing the good weather before the afternoon sun would heat things up miserably.

Upon entering the post office, I saw the male, middle-aged clerk stationed behind the counter I’d seen many times before. I usually wave to him, he waves back, I slide my letters or cards into the drop box and leave. But this time I needed to mail a package. As I rounded the line, I noticed he was staring at me. I kept hoping he’d redirect his gaze elsewhere but he seemed fixed on me. Mentally, my walls were going up unsure what this was about. As I approached the counter with my package to mail, he continued to stare. He then spoke these words: “What is it about you?” Oh dear.

“Excuse me? What do you mean?” I asked him. In my head I thought, “Can’t I just pay for and mail the package?”

He replied to my question. “What is it about you? Who are you? What do you do?”

From these questions and his disposition, I could tell he was genuinely curious and not subject to pounce. Seeing this, I relaxed and kindly explained to him that I work primarily in public relations and also in ministry.

His eyes lit up. “That’s it!,” he said. “Ministry! I could tell that there was something about you. I can see it on you.”

To give you a visual, I was wearing a pink and orange paisley bandanna on my head, running pants, t-shirt and tennis shoes. No makeup. Nothing special.

His words, “I can see it on you,” hung in the air for a minute as I stood in awe of what he said which changed the dynamic of our conversation.

I asked him if he was a Believer, and he indicated he was. We continued our conversation of great, unexpected fellowship for a few minutes as I paid for my package and mailed it. What I thought was going to be an intrusive conversation that I’d have to shut down immediately, turned out to bless my heart. I understand that spirit knows spirit; that people can either see Christ’s light in us or conversely, Satan’s darkness. But I hadn’t thought of the freshness of having been in the Lord’s Presence that morning and still wearing the glow of His Presence on me as I ran errands.

I later thought of when Moses was in the Lord’s Presence on Mount Sinai as he was chiseling out the Ten Commandments and had to wear a veil upon leaving the Lord’s Presence when he returned to the people because the radiance on his face was blinding. I am not comparing myself to Moses or his experience, but it made me curious about what people might see on us.

Moses' Radiant Face

I told a dear sister in Christ about the encounter and she shared this article “Spiritual Significance of Myrrh” and how we are like the fragrance of Christ to God and others. How beautiful!

Do your words, actions and how you carry yourself tell others that you’ve been with the Lord? Can they tell that you’ve been in His Presence? Can the world see that there is something different or “peculiar” about you? Or does the world still recognize you as one of its own?

-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.

 

 

Is God Precise or Vague?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Is God precise or vague?

When it comes to understanding God’s character, His nature, His Word and His promises toward us, is He precise? Or is He vague?

To answer this, let’s review some scriptures, shall we?

Creation

“Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with the seed in it, according to their various kinds.” (Genesis 1:11, NIV)

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22, NIV)

noahs-ark

Noah’s Ark 

14 “So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches for the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” (Genesis 6:14-16, NIV)

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:12-15)

Son of God, Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ: King of kings, Lord of lords

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV)

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

His Promises

25 “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25, NIV)

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (ex: giving resources, extending mercy, forgiveness, love, etc., it will be returned to you in the same measure from the same or different source). (Luke 6:37-38, NIV)

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth.” (Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who receive Him) (John 14:16-17a, NIV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33, NIV)

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.” (John 14:2-3, NIV)

birth-of-christ

In these few passages of scripture provided, does God’s Word appear precise or vague to you? Did your perception of God’s precision of instruction and faithfulness to His Word waver between any of the sections or specific verses? If so, you may ask yourself if you trust God to be the same in all aspects of His Word. Certainly, there are some aspects of His Word that are contingent upon our obedience, whether we exercise faith, His sovereignty and His perfect timing. Nevertheless, His Word is precise. He is trustworthy.

God is watching over His Word to see that it is performed (fulfilled) as told in Jeremiah 1:12. In this Christmas season of hope and believing, in any areas that we doubt, may we learn to trust God and His infallible Word.

Merry Christmas!

-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 Deception of Progress: A Harmful Illusion

“If you want to change the direction of our country, vote.”  And in doing so, what are we advancing?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (liberty).  (2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

In referencing the above New Testament scripture, I’m attempting to draw the clearest line, paint-by-numbers directions for this world to obtain true freedom instead of the counterfeit freedoms they currently pursue.

Liberty: the pursuit of it underpins our democratic society. Indeed, voting is important to register your voice in how our government should operate in serving our interests and preserving our freedoms.

But when such exercises compromise or disregard God’s laws for the sake of “progress,” we’ve not grasped the unprotected turmoil we’ve therefore brought upon ourselves. We’ve grieved God and incurred His judgments.

So why are many baffled by the decay our country lies in today?

“The irony of America’s quest for happiness lies in the fact that she succeeded more obviously than any other nation in making life “comfortable,” only to run into larger incongruities of human destiny by the same achievements by which it escaped the smaller ones. Our very success in this enterprise has hastened the exposure of its final limits.” – Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Though Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian, ethicist, commentator on politics and public affairs, and professor at Union Theological Seminary, penned this quote 64 years ago, his message still rings truth today.

America has sought greater liberties to make people “comfortable” with their immoral lifestyle choices. Ironically, in pursuing such liberty, perfect harmony is yet to be achieved.

deception-john-rizzuto

 

The irony is that the immoral have gotten the liberties they’ve pushed for, but oh, it comes with so much more. The disappointment of the “so much more” is concealed until you get the package home, unwrap it, celebrate its novelty and then realize it is bundled with unwelcomed outcomes.

The duplicitous nature of such progress masquerades itself as a solution to accommodate our self-interests—absent of critical thinking, absent of considering the future ramifications. The only advancement in this type of progress is to advance gross deception within the recipient. This is a harmful illusion. The lesson in this is be careful what you ask for. You just might get it and other things along with it you didn’t ask for. This is the trickery of ungodly progress.

How Do We Obtain Authentic Liberty? 

“Liberation is not found in escaping or manipulating what God requires of us, but it is found by embracing and being faithful to God’s ideals.”- Charles “Chuck” Colson and Nancy Pearson, How Now Shall We Live (1999)

In Niebuhr’s words, our culture has hastened the exposure of the limits of what worldly progress/liberty can bring. There are far too many deceived in these last days.

Lord Jesus, we pray that those deceived would have the veil removed to clearly see that their freedom rests in You alone. May those pursuing ungodly progress be quickened in their hearts by hearing Your Word and be led to repent and recognize that true progress rests in our obedience to You, rooted in love for You. Jesus, You alone remain our intervention and deliverance from temporal and eternal ruin. Life in You is how we transform our country and our very lives.

Are you advancing decay or true liberty through Christ Jesus? The integrity of God and His Word are impeccable. Be very clear: God will not violate His integrity nor His Word. Those who seek liberties outside of His will are grossly deceived.

Why Are We Telling You This? 

At Voices Against the Grain, we present God’s Word to: 1- bring clarity and restoration so you can navigate successfully out of and away from deception, 2- to educate and equip you in God’s truth for abundant living—so you can truly live free as God designed, 3- to encourage you, and last, 4- to love you as we’re telling you the truth. Our platform messages, primarily geared for the Believer, also serve to educate the unbeliever.

We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who are advancing God’s Kingdom alongside us and within their communities. Thank you for exposing deception with truth and transforming one heart at a time in the love of Jesus Christ, so that those transformed are empowered by the Holy Spirit to help transform others. This is progress.

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

“Be Patient on the Vision”

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

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait for it

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

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

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

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

God bless you!

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.