Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

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This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

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This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

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There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

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Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

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

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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.

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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

 

“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?

 

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus. Don’t Get Distracted.

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

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

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

God bless you.

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

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.