Do Not Allow the Kavanaugh/Ford Effect to Become the Butterfly Effect

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Contentious. Raw emotions. Triggers. New wounds made and some old ones thought healed, now reopened. The past few weeks in our country have been among some of the most divisive experiences that I can recall recently. It’s been difficult to watch.

Newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, 53, and psychology professor and research psychologist, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, were in the hands of a very public and irresponsibly mishandled process neglected by that “wisdom that comes from above — considerate, impartial and sincere” — as described in James 3:17-18. What we painfully watched unfold for nine hours on our televisions and digital devices — a woman bravely recounting a deeply traumatic event before millions of people and a man defending his character before those same millions of viewers— has created a highly polarized nation. Presumption of innocence. Presumption of guilt. The process has pit women against men, men against women, women against women, party against party, faction against faction and has ultimately led to tribalism. The real enemy behind every division (Satan) has no prejudice against who he divides from pursuing righteousness so long as we unite in lawlessness and hate toward one another. Gasoline and matches.

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Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh (left) and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (right) give their sworn testimonies during Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate on September 27, 2018, amid sexual assault allegations made by Ford against Kavanaugh that she said occurred 36 years prior. Photo courtesy: The Stream.org

I believe that what you see depends on where you sit. What you see often depends on how you’ve had to view life through the lens of your experiences. I discussed the issue with a number of dear loved ones of faith and we saw the situation differently. The emotions and gut perspectives shared by each of us were valid as we sat in the seat of our own experiences. We were a microcosm of our larger viewing society that is now at each other’s throats. The only difference in our group was, amid our disagreement on what we were seeing, we came together in love and prayed for truth and God’s will to prevail.

Hopefully more people will carry this disposition forward.

Do not allow the Kavanaugh/Ford effect to become the Butterfly Effect. What do I mean by that? It’s a small change that causes a ripple effect that can give rise to a tidal wave we cannot come back from. An escalation of name calling, hateful and ignorant words spoken, compassion lacking, wicked thoughts acted upon, death threats made to both parties and their families, has led our society further down a path of inhumanity and even less civility. Do not allow the emotions of these present conditions to beat with such a ferocity that it takes us to conditions and consequences with one another that we cannot come back from by “changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole” as the Butterfly Effect chaos theory suggests. To where we are no longer recognizable to one another, as human being to human being, created in God’s image.

Butterfly Effect Animated

So how do we heal? In what seems like chaos and evil unhinged, do we trust God to handle all parts of it?

We need to remember that in all of the sifting, shaking and dismantling that God is reconciling all things to Himself.

In Christ’s supremacy, He is the same One Who holds all things together: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Colossians 1:15-17)

Since God is in control, our disposition is to follow His lead and to lead in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:19-20)

And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:21

America is in desperate need of a love letter from you to keep this union.

This may sound Pollyannaish to some but it is very real. God is love and His love in us truly can overcome hate. The butterfly effect is upon us. You have a choice. One bitter word spoken can cause a ripple effect of no return. Undeniably, our country needs healing on numerous levels. Will love lead you or will you be part of the chaos? Will love distinguish you in today’s “us vs. them” climate? Will you be a peacemaker with others whether their view is near or distant to yours? Will you be a voice against the grain? We have a great opportunity here to be that love letter. Can God trust you to model His love letter to others?

Heavenly Father, thank you for first loving us so that we can know how to love you and model that love to others. Remove anything in our hearts that is not of you so we may do this work to your glory. Renew a right spirit within us. Help us to be your love letter to our families, friends, colleagues, communities, nation and world. Jesus, we need you, we need your healing. Help us to be your hands, feet and mouthpiece. Prepare hearts in advance to receive your love. Help us to be both the messenger and the message. We cannot do this work without you. Thank you. We love you.

In Jesus’ Name, we pray and ask this. Amen.

Nicole

Note: We continue to remain apolitical and nonpartisan with our content and mission. The events of these past few weeks required a biblical response.

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We Are Family!

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and blessings,

Nicole

“Should I Not Care About These Too?”

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, New International Version)

Love this! For the past couple of weeks, the Lord has had me fascinated with the Book of Jonah—a brief but powerfully dramatic four chapter book written by the prophet Jonah, nestled between two other Old Testament prophets, Obadiah and Micah. I’ve read, reread and pink highlighted various verses within the four chapters, brimming with greater excitement and understanding of our Lord’s compassion at each new reading. Certainly, most if not everyone even if they are not a Believer is familiar with what seems the central part of the story and that is Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and living in the fish’s belly for three days. Many children’s books and other published works have captured this aspect of this prophet’s seeming misfortune to spend three days (but survive) in the fish’s stinky belly. But I have learned even more and am in love with what the Lord has revealed to me and what is likely clear to you if you’ve read the four chapters.

To recap, Jonah was a prophet whom God called to preach in the ancient, historical Assyrian city of Nineveh located in Upper Mesopotamia and is today known as part of the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. In that time of 612 BC, those in Nineveh worshiped many gods and goddesses, primarily the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar , who promised love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power, to those who called upon her. The Lord seeing all of the debauchery, idolatry and sin taking place, said to Jonah in 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The people’s sin was creating a great stench before a Holy God.

Hearing the Lord’s word instructed to him, Jonah instead ran away from the LORD and headed for the far away city of Tarshish—literally to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. Who doesn’t cringe in having to give a word at times to people who are walking in sheer disobedience? How would Jonah be received in delivering this word? How are you received when delivering a hard word to someone who is rebellious? I know in times that I’ve lovingly but boldly delivered a ‘hard word’ to someone, it has been sometimes well-received with contriteness and humility by that person, and other times it has been brushed off and rejected like shewing away a pestering fly.

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Eventually we know in reading the chapters that in the process of Jonah fleeing the Lord’s instructions, he boards a ship in Joppa to sail to Tarshish. The Lord sends a great and terrible storm upon the seas in which the shipmen throw Jonah overboard (with Jonah’s permission) because they knew he was running from God and the storm came upon them because of his disobedience. The sea immediately calmed once Jonah was thrown overboard and then being scooped up by the fish. Three days later, Jonah is spit up by the great fish onto dry land and he delivers the Lord’s warning to the people of Nineveh he was to render three days ago (Chapter 3). Jonah says to them in chapter 3:4, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Verse 5 reads that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” In response to their immediate repentance, verse 10 reads that “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t they about to be destroyed by God for idol worship, all out wickedness and every kind of evil living possible? Nineveh was also Israel’s enemy. By Chapter 4:1-2, Jonah is feeling some kind of way about God’s compassionate response toward a wayward people and he tells God exactly how he is feeling.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed  to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?”

I LOVE THIS! I imagine this scenario similar to a co-worker who has been goofing off, messing up and you can’t WAIT for them to GET IT from the boss, possibly even be fired. Or imagine you have a sibling who keeps being disobedient and you can’t WAIT for mom, dad, grandma or auntie to yank them up! And yet, with a warning, the co-worker straightens up and no punishment is brought upon them. The sibling apologizes for their behavior and no punishment comes to them, no grounding, or phone or television privileges taken away. You might be fuming as Jonah was recognizing that you’ve been living right, these people haven’t and God seems to let them off easy. This is the real reason why Jonah tried to avoid delivering God’s instruction because He knew of God’s great compassion.

I am in love with the Lord’s response to Jonah in Chapter 4:11, which speaks to how much the LORD loves us, strives with us, extends deep longsuffering (patience) with us, not desiring that any should perish: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

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I believe the God of Jonah’s time and our same God of today looks at us with that same compassionate heart. God even gave Jonah another chance to come out of HIS DISOBEDIENCE for him to deliver His instructions to the people of Nineveh! Amazing!

Today, God continues to send His People to warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction; walking in ways they think good but are not. In His great, unfathomable compassion, God sends us to pray for, warn, instruct, intercede for others in hopes they will turn to the light of Christ Jesus and be loosed from the grips of darkness.

Yes, God’s wrath will come upon those He is no longer striving with because they are unrepentant and have chosen their own paths of destruction, not desiring truth (If you read Nahum, the Lord’s anger rises again toward Nineveh promising destruction because of their partaking in wickedness). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15), which in His infinite wisdom and purposes will be a mystery to us. For those He is still reaching out to who will listen—who are blind not knowing their right from their left but hear and believe His Voice and immediately feel contrite and repent of their ways—He is compassionate.

This says so much about our God and how He has held back what could deservedly be His full wrath upon us many, many times ago. He has lived through generations upon generations of mankind’s disobedience, with more than 7 billion personalities today who may or may not choose His ways. More than 7 billion personalities who require daily patience. Could you or I extend such mercy and compassion to two or three people repeatedly, let alone more than 7 billion?

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If the 120,000 people who God had His eye and heart set on in Nineveh were so precious to Him, I know then, so are we. In sharing the Gospel, may we extend a God-like compassion and warning toward those walking in blind disobedience so they may turn away from impending destruction. May we have a heart for the harvest.

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

Hurricane Harvey: Shaping a New Narrative?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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Getty Images

 

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Photo credit: CNN.com

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

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

Hurricane Harvey police officers rescue elderly woman

Photo credit: NY Daily News

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Photo credit: Time Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Nicole

An Appeal When Love Wanes and Anger Flames

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Terence Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed last Friday by Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby. Crutcher’s SUV had stalled in the middle of the road and police arrived to address the situation. Crutcher, a large black man, threw his hands up as police approached (to show he was not a threat) but was still tasered, shot and later died at the hospital. Husband. Father. Brother. Unarmed black man. Another one, again.

I was angrier than I’ve felt in some time in learning this news story yesterday. Another unarmed black man shot and killed by a white police officer. The egregious incident, captured on a police dashboard camera, shows Crutcher with his hands up. Officer Shelby is under federal investigation.

Many are angry. We’re inflamed by the injustice of it all. We’re in disbelief that another black man has been taken away from his family like this. In their anger, many have lost their love for others, particularly a number of blacks toward whites. But this response further divides us and plays right into Satan’s ploy. As more Believers grow into the image of Christ, Satan is trying to derail the light of the Church. He seeks to cause division and dissension to where unity cannot be forged. We reject that in Jesus’ Mighty Name!

In recognizing the signs of the end of the age, Matthew 24:12 (NIV) warns us:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.

This is happening now, among some Believers. 

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And Matthew 24:13 encourages us:

but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

My appeal to all who read this: 

As the crises increase in frequency and intensity, when justice seems elusive and our very lives seem to be under siege, we have an even greater opportunity to display Godly character.  We should be the hands and feet of Christ, serving one another in love; to not lose our love for one another, to not allow our love to grow cold toward others. God’s love demonstrated is exactly what the world desperately needs. Those who are children of God, we are called to manifest His love to others:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:10, NIV)

As a dear sister in Christ reminded me:

Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (NIV)

My appeal to you: In our thirst for justice to be rendered, let’s maintain our love for one another. Keep your hope, Godly character and faith. Don’t become disheartened and drift away from Him but rather, draw nearer and cleave to Him more. Others need to see His Light in us! If we lose our love toward others, then sadly, we’ve drifted away from our first love: Jesus Christ.

My appeal to you: Remember how the story ends: love/good wins over evil in the end. Satan knows this too. Though he is already defeated, he hopes to make you forget your victory already won.

Lord Jesus, we need You. Our hearts are grieved again by the injustice that has occurred here. Forgive us for our words, thoughts and actions that have not displayed Your Love. Though we are angered by this situation, let it not pull us out of Godly character. Renew a right spirit within us, dear Lord. Create in us a clean heart, for You are holy and require us to be as well. Lord, may we desire to stay close to You, so we can truly be Your hands and feet to others in this sinful and perishing world. So long as we keep You, Jesus, as our first love, our love for others will not grow cold. 

Jesus, please comfort the Crutcher Family in their loss, and all those affected. We pray for the police officer involved, that she would accept responsibility for her actions; that she would seek You to transform her heart and renew her mind so she may truly love and serve others in Your way.  We pray healing for Tulsa and all communities devastated by such actions. Thank you, Jesus. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

-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

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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

Charity: More Joy in Serving the Few or the Masses?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“The best fruit is not shaken from the tree, but picked by hand, one by one.” –Jerry McAuley (1839-1884), reformed thief and prisoner, founder, The McAuley Water Street Mission in New York City

I know the donation pleas are loading up your email inboxes and mailboxes, all for good causes. In this high season of giving or charity, the aforementioned quote by Jerry McAuley has given me pause.

Hands down, it’s wonderful that many of us give our dollars, resources and time to various organizations to help others in need. Praise God for you and the organizations who are helping to bridge the gaps. May we continue to serve…so long as we’re not placing our joy in and idolizing the numbers (ex: millions served). I’ve become dazzled by the numbers, at times.

As Mr. McAuley’s quote infers, imagine the positive impact you can have on one or a few because you’re able to spend quality time with them.  Your time and presence shows love that will last and very likely assist in shaping their character. McAuley knew full well the power of love’s one-on-one ability to transform. He was a riotous drunkard and vicious robber who was repeatedly in and out of prison, spending seven years in Sing Sing. He later heard the Gospel delivered by a volunteer missionary and was transformed by Christ’s love. Shortly after, the Lord led him to launch the McAuley Mission in New York City in 1872, where men who were drunkards, robbers and the like, came to hear the Gospel and were transformed by Christ’s love.

“Charity” as originally described in this King James Bible version of 1 Corinthians 13:13 means “love”:

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).

When we love others

 

Charity also means to extend benevolence, goodwill or love toward another who is suffering or in need. With time, the word “charity” has taken on the form of campaigns and operations to reach the masses with pleas for donations in order to serve the global masses. Some of these efforts have been subcontracted out to cold edifices like the government as opposed to our one-on-one help that requires time and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Government may provide (barely) for people’s physical needs, but true philanthropy also provides for one’s spiritual needs.

By expecting the government to fill the gaps (even in broken families—an article for another day), we’ve become far more removed and far too impressed with the fallacy of mass progress. Surely if millions of people are being provided clothing and a meal, all is well, right?

An excerpt from The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky (1992, pg. 129) depicts the problem with this thinking:

‘The National Conference of Charities and Correction (which in 1917 changed its name to the National Conference of Social Work) began to include lectures on how poor housing caused crime and how governmental housing projects would help. The trend was clear: Any time the charitable emphasis moved from the person to the mass and from the souls to stones, government became the popular engine of progress.’

heart-in-handsYes, it’s impressive in marketing materials to say, “We served 10 million people last year and intend to serve an additional 5 million this year.” No one will turn down the help or berate you for being able to serve so many. Although, for those of us in Christ Jesus, as His Ambassadors, may we not idolize the numbers or the operation. May we truly be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ if it is one or two He places in our care to serve for a time. May we find even more joy in caring for the spiritual needs of the hand-picked fruit (if this is His will for you) rather than striving to shake the entire tree.

-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.

Love Unrequited

Proverbs 5:18- Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (New Living Translation)


Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

It is by the decree of the modern world that marriage is becoming a foreign concept. It is by the decree of the modern world that fear swells up within our throats. It is by the decree of the modern world that marriages are to be as rare as a comet shooting across the midnight sky. Hence, we love, but can’t commit. We arrange, but the plans get delayed. We recoil, but find ourselves with the inability to create warmth. Thus, WE men in the modern world must not be frightened. For how many years will go by before that young lady receives the gift of your true love, which is sacrificial. Ladies, in the modern world, do not be frightened. For you do not have to give yourselves up to keep a man’s attention, because the attention should be captivated by your Spirit. Thus, let us look within our hearts to GIVE rather than to TAKE, it is then that the Lord’s design, will certainly take shape. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

 

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the pureHOPE advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management.

Rx for Life: Avoid Foolishness, Show Love, Instruct Truth and Stay the Course

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

I LOVE how God’s Word speaks to all situations—those things passed, present or to come. His Word is a “lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word prepares us so we may remain faithful, loving, steady and empowered among those who are ungodly and those who prefer to chase mirages.  2 Timothy: I love this God-inspired letter written by Paul from prison to encourage his dear friend and apprentice, Timothy. Paul’s letter would equip Timothy to pick up the mantle and carry out the mission, long after Paul’s death. His letter instructed him to resist the foolishness of false teachers and stay the course. CourseStay.250w.tn

Paul’s letter/God’s Word written more than 2,000 years ago, continues to guide my life, the lives of my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and our respective callings/ministries—very much so here at Voices Against the Grain.  From the Message Bible (love the “give it to us real” verbiage used), here’s 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Timothy 4: a prescription on how to stay the course in this life. 

2 Timothy 3

The Message (MSG)

Difficult Times Ahead

1-5 Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

6-9 These are the kind of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes of unstable and needy women and take advantage of them; women who, depressed by their sinfulness, take up with every new religious fad that calls itself “truth.” They get exploited every time and never really learn. These men are like those old Egyptian frauds Jannes and Jambres, who challenged Moses. They were rejects from the faith, twisted in their thinking, defying truth itself. But nothing will come of these latest impostors. Everyone will see through them, just as people saw through that Egyptian hoax.

2 Timothy 4

The Message (MSG)

1-2 I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

3-5 You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food—catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But you—keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.