“In the Beginning,” Came the End

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

In short, the earth is dying.

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

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

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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

 

Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

The Psychology of the Bad Report

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

Doom-and-gloom

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

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

All things here are but shadows, folks. Don’t get distracted. Don’t take your focus off of Jesus Christ. These things must take place as God’s Word is being fulfilled in preparation for Christ’s return. In John 16:33 Jesus reminds us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John-16-33-verse-printable

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

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

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

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

The Apple Didn’t Fall Too Far

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Are you getting spun up? If you are frustrated by the things happening in our world, you are not the only one. However, you may have forgotten or have not understood the factors driving the “chaos.”

“It revolves around the Genesis story and the central fact of the marring of creation by human sin,” writes David K. Ryden in his evangelical perspectives in public policy book, Is the Good Book Good Enough? (2011, Lexington Books).

“Biblical revelation absolutely demands that evangelicals fully come to grips with the fact of a fallen world and accept the pervasive presence of sin and its consequences for all of creation; all that is in the world bears the consequences of that sinfulness, from the individual to governmental institutions and society at large,” writes Ryden.

adam-and-eve

What Does It Mean That Our World and People Are ‘Fallen’?

“But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous (other versions say “upright”), but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29, New Living Translation)


Maybe you forgot or didn’t know that we live in a fallen world. Many blame Adam and Eve for being gullible and enticed by Satan. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.  Why would your rebellion against God be any different? Yes, this began our ‘fall’ or in short, my and your rebellion against God. The fall represents estrangement from, separation from God; to be at enmity with God; to pull away from God’s will and design for our lives. It represents spiritual and moral degredation. This is in short, sin, and there are consequences to sin.

All creation is paying the price for the original sin of Adam and Eve, which continues to perpetuate lawlessness, confusion, strife, rebellion, and brokenness in our world. Christ came to restore us to a right relationship with God. Repentance and turning away from sin and turning to God to seek His will and ways through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ is how we begin that redeeming and restorative process. For a topline overview on the fall, read here.

This fact and in all that we do should draw us to recognize our own sinfulness and that of others and the limitations of justice and peace that can be acquired through human efforts. This is indeed why Christ Jesus came for our redemption. Human pursuits of justice even in our best intentions will always fall short of the measurement of what Christ will do through repentant hearts.

The Pervasiveness of Sin: From Individuals to Institutions

Don’t be fooled. Sin has found its way into every heart, every home, and every institution of society. “Sinfulness does not somehow melt away when we move from one individual to a government bureaucracy or institution,” says Ryden. “If anything, it is likely to be magnified. The corrosive effect of sinfulness amplified by power is as evident in the workings of institutions as it is individually. A healthy appreciation for the consequences of sin should generate a measure of skepticism as to what politics and government can accomplish.”

While government is an institution ordained by God to establish a well-ordered society, it is fallen, as are other institutions. It is operated by and made up of sinful humans. It is in this that Christians should have an appreciation for government while understanding that only the perfection and fullness of justice, morality, and righteousness will be attained through God’s new Kingdom coming.

Many people are seeking a “messiah” in other people or worldly institutions to fix what is happening. Then they become frustrated when the wrongdoings continue to perpetuate.

“The world’s truly inconvenient truth is the Gospel,” says Ryden. “Its narrative of creation, fall and redemption suggests that inconveniently, things are not in our control. Inconveniently, the Gospel requires us to place hope not in ourselves.” We are to place our hope in Christ Jesus, the only Messiah.

coming-kingdom-of-god

What We Can Do 

It’s good to be discontent with the status quo. But don’t get spun up in what is happening, for this world is not our home. All that is happening is fulfilling God’s purposes as we look to our eternal home with Him.

In these times of swift transitions, it is my prayer that Believers remain steady in Christ’s perfect peace (John 14:27, John 16:33) and keep our focus on Christ (Isaiah 26:3). May we continue to be transformed into Christ’s likeness and thereby share His light, love, and truth with others. Pray for rebellious hearts to be repentant and transformed by His Love. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). May we be the answer to that prayer in how He desires to use us to restore justice, morality, and righteousness.

God bless you and stay staunch,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

Because He Offends Our Sensibilities: A Post-Election Encouragement

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

How and why did this happen??

donald-trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus. Don’t Get Distracted.

isaiah-26-3-purple

 

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

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

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

God bless you.

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Opportunities in Darkness

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Yesterday, we were delighted to return to the radio airwaves after approximately a year’s hiatus. The one-year break from producing our weekly, 1-hour radio show was needed. The time allowed each of us to sow to other ministry activities, pull away from some activities as seasons ended and draw even closer to God to seek His best for us. In addition, the time allowed us to retool a couple things. For example, after considering feedback received from some listeners and ministry team members, I decided to shorten our radio show from one hour to 30 minutes.

In Wednesday’s discussion topic, “What Is Going On: A Conversation,” I reviewed some of the darkest events of 2015 to present day that have sorrowed us (ex: Charleston church shooting, terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, America’s epidemic of mass shootings, etc.). All of the events, distressing, can make us ask, “What is going on??”

During our conversation, I shared Jesus’ reassuring words told to us in such times from John 16:33- “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” I also noted that though we are living in unsteady times, we can remain steady in God’s Word so we can help steady others. This also draws us closer to Him.

 

ca. 2001 --- Sky over Wheat Plants --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

While the events have been sobering and heartbreaking, I am persuaded that there are abundant OPPORTUNITIES available in such darkness. In fact, for those of us in Christ Jesus, it presents great OPPORTUNITIES for us to be LIGHT. The harvest is plentiful!

Evil hopes for our indifference, laziness, retreat to pursue comfort and a self-centered focus on me and mine. However, as the Body of Christ, we are not called to retreat but to ENGAGE and show others Christ’s love. It’s God’s mercy, His love, His grace, our prayers, actions, light, love that helps stem the tide of evil. The question is, are you willing? Jesus has need of you!

May we be reminded and encouraged by Christ’s victory obtained for us on the Cross! May we be JOYFUL that he overcame evil and this world!

To learn more, listen to “What Is Going On: A Conversation”.

God bless you,

Nicole

Unshaken and Not Stirred: A Believer’s Position in Chaos

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The words “shaken, not stirred” sprung to mind in developing this post. I’ve heard the term used by those ordering a martini, but there may be other drinks associated with that term. I have no idea.

But I use the phrase “unshaken and not stirred” in this quick post today to encourage the Body of Christ to remain steady in the horrific and sobering events happening in our communities, nation and world. We remain in prayer for those in Paris affected by this past week’s terrorist attacks. We mourn for all lives lost and affected by violence.

Evil seems unrestrained and fear is gripping those without relationship in Christ and those unsteady in Christ. Darkness looks like its winning and those who trust not in God’s Sovereignty, think he has put His “Out to Lunch” sign up, displaying an ill-regard for the chaos unfolding. But God is in control. Yes, the events are unsettling though necessary to usher in Christ’s return, per scripture. There is no other way. God’s Word has prepared us for these events and the tragedies still to come. We’ve not yet witnessed evil’s capacity.

Yet, in all of this, as Believers, we must remember OUR role: to remain steady, staunch, unmoved, fixed and not stirred by the events. We must remain faithful, being salt and light in darkness, and that by Christ’s light and peace living in us, those without Christ will see it and be drawn to know Him. As Believers, this should be our position and stance in chaos. We are to remain steady.

 

Keep calm and keep steady

Until they are completely humbled and broken, the discouraged and lost will run to all counterfeit forms of escape, solace and stability (ex: alcohol, drugs, New Age beliefs, belief in self, etc.) in which these items will fail and only offer false relief. No rest will be found in these items. Only true peace, rest and security is found in Christ Jesus.

May we remain unshaken and not stirred. May we remain in peace, joy and love. May we operate and display the rest that we have been given through our relationship in Christ Jesus. We already have the victory. On Christ the Solid Rock we stand. All other ground is sinking sand. May we be comforted by the Lord’s promise said here in John 16:33-

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

-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 Spirit vs. the Flesh: Fight On!

Today we share with you a message from guest Voices Against the Grain devotional writer, Minister Bryan Williams of Charlotte, N.C. Thank you Minister Williams for presenting a word to encourage us in our faith walk.    -Nicole

Galatians 5:16 & 17- So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (flesh). For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Romans 7:21- When I would do good, evil is always present with me. (King James Bible)

Minister Bryan Williams, VATG Guest Devotional Writer

Minister Bryan Williams, Guest Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer 

You know, there was a time when right was right and wrong was wrong. But Lord, PLEASE HAVE MERCY…how times have changed! Don’t get me wrong: doing “the right thing” is still warranted and doing “the wrong thing” will get you into trouble. But with the times in which we live, these two have been switched. It seems as if people are living as if there are NO RULES, NO REMORSE, NO MERCY, NO HONOR, NO MORALS OR VALUES AND NO FORGIVENESS.  The situation is reminiscent of the movie The Purge, where you have 24 hours to do whatever you want to do—except our 24 hours hasn’t ended.

Not surprising, as 2 Timothy 3:2-5 told us these things were coming:

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous,rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (New International Version)

Each and every morning right after I thank the good Lord for giving me one more day, I watch the local and world news. Without fail, there is always something that makes me shake my head. For instance:

  • The attacks from ISIS abroad and local
  • Transgender lifestyles on the rise
  • Same-sex marriages steadily increasing
  • Racism spreading like wildfire
  • When those who are guilty (with video or phone proof) still walk free
  • When “the church” which should be shining its light the brightest, is hiding in the shadows or blending in with non-believers because they’ve become complacent, believing it is not their fight

Well, I beg to differ. IT IS OUR FIGHT and I encourage you my brother and my sister to:

  • FIGHT ON through what the WORLD says vs. what the WORD says
  • FIGHT ON through the storm of racism
  • FIGHT ON through the confusion of transgender and same-sex relationships
  • FIGHT ON through the depression
  • FIGHT ON through the worry
  • FIGHT ON through the anxiety attacks
  • FIGHT ON through fear and fear of failure
  • FIGHT ON through thoughts of giving up
  • FIGHT ON through the suicidal thoughts
  • FIGHT ON through the thoughts that life ain’t worth living
  • FIGHT ON through what your father said about you
  • FIGHT ON through what happened to you when you were younger
  • FIGHT ON through the loss of that job
  • FIGHT ON through what you see THE WORLD doing

The fight that we’re in is NOT physical but spiritual and now more than ever, we need every Believer to:

  • Kill our flesh daily
  • Allow the Spirit of Christ to arise within us
  • Love others as Christ asks us to and
  • FIGHT ON!

And remember that in John 16:33, Jesus reassures us with these words:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (New International Version) 

Minister Bryan Williams recognized his gift to encourage at a young age. As he grew up in church and started hearing from the Lord (in a today generation voice), he recognized that he was set apart and in 2007, he accepted his call to the ministry. Not only did he recognize his call but he learned early that his passion was for the youth. Min. Williams volunteers in the community, is part of various teen girls’ organizations and mentors teen boys in the process. Min. Williams resides in Charlotte, N.C., and is the son of Walter and Helen Williams and has one brother, Walter Williams.

God Will Be God Without Requiring Our Understanding

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9 (New International Version)

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Shock. Anger. Despair. We hurt. We grieve. Tragedies, injustices and lives taken by illnesses of any kind leave many of us asking God, “Why?” and “Where were you?!” We’re perplexed by how a loving God who is all knowing, all seeing, and everywhere can allow such events as the June 17 massacre of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church members of Charleston, S.C., participating in bible study, to perish on His watch.

The aforementioned words captured in Isaiah 55:8-9 give us the answer. It’s not the answer our natural mind desires or is able to reconcile. Tragedies that befall wrongdoers are easier to reconcile in our minds because we inherently believe justice was rendered. But what solace can be found in the death(s) of those who selflessly serve others? Those who love and trust others? Those who gather for bible study on a Wednesday night, welcoming members and strangers alike?

Answer: God is and always will be sovereign (in control, giving allowance for situations to occur). We weren’t there when God hung the stars in the sky, or when He formed the Earth’s foundations and positioned our planet in perfect distance from the sun. In our limited abilities, intellect and understanding we are in no position to dictate what God should and shouldn’t do. In Romans 11:33 the apostle Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Romans 11:33, 34).

Good and evil are always at war in this fallen world. Evil is on an uptick and is not taking a backseat. God works through Believers, unbelievers and events to bring light to darkness. To accomplish His purposes, God will be God without requiring our understanding. What IS required of us if we so choose: to have faith in Who He is, faith in His good plans for us, to believe that He is drawing people and transforming hearts even in tragedies, trust His love for us, believe His promise to always be with us and to believe in the One He sent in Who we are to place our hope: His Son Jesus Christ.

A Charleston community member comforts a man mourning news learned of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church members shot and killed during bible study on Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Photo courtesy: Associated Press

A Charleston community member comforts a man mourning news learned of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church members shot and killed during bible study on Wednesday night, June 17, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Photo courtesy: Associated Press

We will encounter troubles in this life. To seek solace in this world will not garner peace that lasts. In Christ Jesus alone will we find true peace, as He tells us in John 16:33- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Those who have passed on have run their race in victory. The Voices Against the Grain ministry team unites in spirit with our brothers and sisters in Christ and others to extend prayers of comfort, hope and love to the family members of those killed, to the members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Charleston, S.C., community.

-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. 

Technology: Liberator, Idol and Enemy

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Sony Pictures. “The Interview.” Hackers. Threats. North Korea. Public freedoms hindered. These few words describe our current dicey and sensitive situation. An exercise in “freedom of speech” to create and produce a movie that while containing humorous overtones, would certainly set off emotions and spur repercussions unseen given the movie’s premise: a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un—a person who needs no fuel added to his instability.

We know the story now. Upon infiltrating the computer systems of Sony Pictures, the hackers released a slew of embarrassing emails to media for a public flogging of Sony leadership; 9/11-level threats were made to theaters if they carried the movie “The Interview” (was to release on Christmas Day). Sony then decided not to release the movie in theaters or any format, including Video On Demand or DVD. The situation which unfolded first quietly then quickly, tells us this: hackers have made us very aware how intimate and imminent technology has positioned us for danger and destruction.

My brief response on the subject: Technology has been our liberator; liberating us from HUGE, slow, clunky room-size computers, to large, expensive, slow and performance-limited personal computers, to faster than speed of light, chalkboard eraser-sized instruments capable of doing everything for us. Technology has liberated our time and tasks, giving us more freedom. We love such advancements so much and can’t imagine how we did life before without these instruments. We love these technological advancements to a point that we can’t be separated from them at all or not for long. Technology has become our idol. Now, we are perplexed and stunned by this liberator’s ability to quickly position us into dangerous, unseen hands. Hands, that at the click of a few keys, can turn our lives and world upside down or grind it to a halt. We’ve been lulled into supporting more freedoms only to be perplexed by the unintended outcomes. In the wrong hands, this wonderful liberator known as technology, is and will be our enemy.

First storage room computer

First storage room computer

We see what “liberation” brings when it is not anchored in the true freedom and wisdom offered through the One, True Liberator: Jesus Christ. Our desire here at Voices Against the Grain is to equip you to be a critical thinker to successfully navigate all situations, even in these unsettling times. These times demand that we establish our foundation, our guidance and wisdom on how to proceed in life through Jesus Christ, who knows all.

iphone 4s

iphone 4s

For those in relationship with Jesus Christ, we can remain steady in unsettling times because we know who holds our future and who has conquered our enemy. For Jesus tells us these comforting words in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, learn Him for yourself as your True Liberator. God bless you.

About Nicole D. Hayes

Nicole D. Hayes is committed to serve as a vessel of compassion, instruction, love and truth for Jesus Christ. Born and raised in Topeka, Kan., she is a member of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.  Drawn to know Christ in her early childhood and saved at the age of 12, Nicole is a student and applier of God’s Word. She is also a successful public relations professional operating in Washington, D.C., with more than eight years experience of coordinating and delivering strategic communications and media outreach support for nonprofits and small business owners. During her career she has placed several nonprofits and small business owners in national, local and regional media spaces. She operates with a personal and business mantra of “making an investment in people.” Among many things, Nicole is also a motivational speaker. She has been invited to deliver messages to business leaders to not be misguided by the world’s view of success, to direct young people navigating through the world’s challenges, and to remind those who may have lost their way that joyfully, “God Has Not Changed His Mind About You.” Nicole’s purpose in creating “Voices Against the Grain” is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amidst confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Normalcy Bias or Great Expectation? Your View

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Rose-colored glasses. All is well with the world. ARE YOU KIDDING? Even some of the most skeptical realize something is amiss. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright bluntly stated, “The world is a mess.” So do you approach life with a normalcy bias or with a great expectation?

THE NORMALCY BIAS 

According to Wikipedia, “the normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster.” 

In short, you will consider our times to be normal and not strange. And for that reason, when time is up you’ll be caught flat-footed, without a life preserver, and without hope. Like the frog sitting comfortably in a slow-boiling pot, you’ll be finished. Done. normal

Today, we are in the 11th hour. What’s the 11th hour? It means “time’s almost up.” “Gather everyone before the doors close.” “Last call.” Read Matthew 24 in its entirety. In short, Jesus fortells the signs of the end of this age. Matthew 24:3-8 reads: 

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us,when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

And verse 29: “The stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”  

Zephaniah 1:14-15, 18 further warns:  “The great day of the Lord is near–near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter… That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish… In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.”

ready or notAt that point:

  • God’s wrath will not be to discipline those who denied Him
  • It’s not the unbeliever’s chance to invite His Son Jesus Christ into their life
  • This is not God’s opportunity to improve a person or lead them to holiness
  • Time has passed; He will no longer strive with man

A GREAT EXPECTATION…As the Sky is Falling

For the Believer whose hope, joy, life, peace and eternity rests in Jesus Christ:

  • We have nothing to fear about the coming events
  • God’s people will be in the midst of the battle and judgment, but He will equip us
  • As the “sky is falling” He has given us His Spirit of peace
  • We must continue to plant seeds, leave the Holy Spirit to harvest those last few souls
  • We will be sorrowed by the tragic times, yet will have a great expectation and joy!
  • We know these strange times indicate the expected and soon return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Those in Christ Jesus have assurance in these critical times, for He said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (New International Version)

Have no delusions but clarity about what is coming down the pike. It’s your choice and your chance. Tomorrow will not be the same “normalcy” as today. Time is drawing near. If you don’t have the answers to get out of your mess or can’t rescue your own future, Jesus is the answer. Express that you need Him, acknowledge that He died and rose again for you so that you will have victory, and ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit to serve as your guide along the way.

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.