“What Outcomes Were You Expecting?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

If God asks you, “What outcomes were you expecting?,” it can honestly deflate your spirit for a moment. Your answer may leave you feeling even more deflated.

People who ask your guidance and then choose the opposite path in which you instructed them. People who continue to make harmful choices and seem on a path to no return. Government and worldly systems that put forth the same outputs and expect different results. Sigh.

A friend shared with us that several years ago when he began working with juvenile offenders, he had great expectations for changing the lives of the troubled youth he was pouring into day after day. Some of these youth were former gang members who had committed unimaginable offenses. He was certain that his time spent with them was making an impact. Indeed it was. However, some showed no change in their heart and mindsets that led them into detention centers in the first place. To compound matters, he was a government contractor who desired to make an impact within a system that functioned at the pace of gravy and operated with the typical mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it.” It was hard to see change on any level. At the lack of expected progress, my friend cried out to God in frustration.

The Lord responded to my friend in that sure voice and said, “What outcomes were you expecting?” 

Expectations checking the boxes

Upon hearing the Lord’s question, my friend spent a couple days angry. When the Lord speaks, there is such hard truth to His Words. For me, His responses hit my gut like a brick but also give peace to my search for answers. The answer may not be what we want. The Lord’s response was in reference to mankind’s fallen nature and that God gave man the ability to choose to follow Him—or the flesh. My friend already understood this concept—yet, as Believers, when we are deep in the work in representing God’s love and truth to others, we pray great outcomes will be yielded. We pray that those who are lost and sowing to death will choose the path that leads to abundant life (John 10:10).

The Lord later spoke to my dear friend and instructed him exactly what he was to do in working with the troubled youth—a specific word that has helped him manage his expectations, run in his lane in excellence and trust that whatever seeds are planted, God will be glorified. God knows whose hearts are prepared to receive Him and His truth. God also knows those who will not receive Him, and yet, there are benefits that will come simply from our presence with those people.

My dear friend continues to work with juvenile offenders today and no longer overestimates God’s purposes. God’s purposes, as I am learning, are far different than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When my friend shared with us the Lord’s response said to him, “What outcomes were you expecting?, it took my breath momentarily. It felt harsh. I felt the weight of truth in it. The Lord might as well have spoken those words to me. I’ve written on man’s fallen nature and the consequences thereby that adversely impact our society. I’ve written on that scripture in Ecclesiastes 7:29 that speaks of God creating mankind upright and how man has strayed to pursue his/her own ways.

I know all of this. In my expectation for great outcomes and hoping people will surrender ALL and choose to follow Christ Jesus, I quickly forgot that—in planting seeds or watering a seed that someone else planted—a person is still allowed to CHOOSE whether they will follow God’s will or their own will. They may ultimately choose Satan’s counterfeit paths that masquerade as truth. This has been a sorrowful thing to accept. You have probably felt the Godly sorrow in accepting this as well.

Isaiah55_8-9 clouds

“Choose you this day whom ye will serve;” (Joshua 24:15, KJV)

The freedom to choose is available to all of us. As we continue our work as Christ’s Ambassadors until our last days, some seeds will take root. Others may never. But whatever the outcomes, I am encouraged and you should be too. As we display Christ’s light and love to everyone we meet or speak to, there will be light where previously only darkness existed. God is still being glorified! And when Satan attempts to diminish our walk by trying to make us doubt our effectiveness as Christ’s servants, we should quickly dismiss Satan’s attacks with this scripture:

For God’s gifts and His call (on your life) are irrevocable.- Romans 11:29 

Praise God!! Be encouraged and trust God for the outcomes. Keep being salt, light and truth. Keep planting seeds in love. May you have peace in whatever way He chooses to use you to accomplish His purposes.

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.

 

Eat From Your Own Plate

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

You know those people or you may be one yourself. You go out to eat with your friends and you order a dish that someone else wants to sample. If you’re kind and generous (which I imagine you are), then you’re fine with sharing a few bites from your plate. Ok, so after they’ve sampled a few bites and find your food yummy to their tummy, they begin making a meal off of your plate like it’s their last supper. The meal you’re paying for is soon becoming their meal—for free.  🙂 Now, what I’ve heard some guys say (ladies we tend to be a bit more giving in this area) when this happens is, “Man, get your own plate.” Or, “Eat from your own plate.”

 

sharing-food

 

I use this analogy to encourage those who are eating from someone else’s plate of faith, joy, peace, relationship in Jesus, etc., to be sustained by eating from their own plate of food. A number of believers and unbelievers may desire the peace, strength, joy, confidence, courage and trust in the Lord they see within you or that another mature Christian embodies. Rather than tasting the Lord for themselves to “see that He is good” and taking refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8)—rather than hungering for the Lord and desiring to spend more time alone in His presence, read His Word, fast or retreat to their prayer closets—they want to feed off of your plate and attempt to sustain their journey through what you have obtained in your personal walk with the Lord. In fact, they may be eating from grandmother’s plate—and grandmother has passed on from this life. Grandmother shared godly wisdom that depicted her walk with the Lord and this person is clinging to that wisdom, reciting grandmother’s words without their own assurance of who God is.

Praise God for those whose life and walk in Christ Jesus is attractive to others! That is one of the goals in this walk: that through Christ living in us and our being transformed into His likeness, that others will see it and desire the same. But there is no shortcut to this walk. The joy, the hope, the faith, the strength, the peace and the trust in God they see in you and others comes with a cost, an investment. They want what you have but aren’t willing to do what it takes to be sustained by their own plate.

They don’t know how many hours, days, nights, months and years you’ve travailed in prayer on various matters. They don’t know how many times you’ve battled in spiritual warfare with the enemy who attacks you asleep and awake to scare or hinder you from moving forward. They don’t know how many times God has taken you to…the…edge…whether in health, resources, loss or trials and you had to truly trust Him and His promises. The battles have shown you God’s faithfulness which has developed your joy, peace, and strength.

Many people want the crown but not the cross.

If you are eating off of someone else’s plate, I encourage you to pursue a relationship with Christ Jesus for yourself so that YOU can know Him. That you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is who He says He is and that He will do what he said He will do. He will make you full. You will be able to eat from your own plate.

This writing is not about one’s measure of faith given to us by God as referenced in Romans 12:3 and Romans 14:1-4. Some will have weak faith. Some will eat vegetables while others eat meat. God accepts the weak and the strong. They are His. This writing is to encourage more people to hunger for their own, deeper relationship with the Lord. Today’s tumultuous times and coming days require it. You will need to know God for yourself and that HE is indeed faithful.

hebrews-6-19-anchor-for-the-soul

Lord Jesus, you are our Anchor, our Delivererour Strength, our Shield, our Refuge, our Rock and our Salvation, our Peace that surpasses all understanding, our Joy, and our everything. May others be so attracted to seeing You in us that they will pursue You for themselves so they too can be made full. Amen.

Love and blessings,

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

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

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.

 

Jesus: The Threat of Exchange and Replacement

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Jesus was a threat alive, dead, resurrected and now as He reigns. But why?

Jesus poses the threat of exchange and replacement. Exchange false beliefs and replace with clarity and truth that leads to eyes opened and life anew. Exchange comfort for discomfort among those who preferred our former deception. Exchange self-sufficiency and replace with our full dependence upon Him. Exchange our ways for His. Exchange our will for His. Exchange our desires for His. Lord, you mean you don’t want me to tell that person off—even when I’m well within my rights to do so? You want me to keep my mouth shut? Lord, you want me to follow your lead rather than moving ahead without you? Jesus says, “Follow Me and be my disciple (Luke 5:27)” —and where will that decision take us?  What will I have to give up? Who will I upset? Because choosing you will make me stand out rather than blend in with the culture. There is a cost to following Jesus.

the-cost-of-following-jesus

Jesus posed such an incredible threat that the Romans and the religious teachers of His day wanted him killed. When he was crucified, they went to great lengths to ensure the rumors of Him being the Messiah were quickly silenced and falsified. The threat that Jesus posed to His enemies in those days remains the same today. The mere mention of His Name and His Truth inflames and offends. He turns things upside down, on their heads and then right side up. Demons flee in His Name. In His Name, there is authority—an authority that causes believing hearts to surrender and yield—and an authority that causes unbelieving hearts to resist or seek to negotiate. There is indeed something different about Jesus…and this causes unrest within the unbelieving and negotiating heart.

It has always been a heart condition. The heart wants what the heart wants—and yet, only those with true humility will be courageous to truly seek the source (Jesus) of what the heart wants. The old must die to make room for the new. Matthew 9:17, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

Arrogance and pride remain the cousins of temporal and eternal destruction. Following Christ will cost you less than choosing not to.

Heavenly Father, we pray for Your mercy and love to strive a while longer with those who are still negotiating the full surrender of their hearts to you and to Your Son, Jesus Christ. Father in hearts that seem impervious/impenetrable, we pray for them to have an unmatched encounter with Your Love. We pray for Your Love to bring them to clarity and courage to want more of You, no matter the cost. We pray for Christ to reign on the throne of their hearts and for self to kneel. Fill their hearts to overflowing, Lord, so that what they sought to negotiate and hold on to will pale in the sight of the abundant life that You give.  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.

Are You Transactional, Transformational or Both?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Happy New Year, Everyone! Per our previous message, I pray that your first weeks into 2017 have you “shifted and lifted” to remain in God’s peace as you carry out His purposes.

In this year and a half of studying various leadership styles through my Master of Public Administration courses with Regent University, I’ll reference two for this message: transactional and transformational. If I were to ask you, “Are you transactional, transformational or both?,” you may want to understand the traits that distinguish each before you respond.

business-corporate-transactional

Transactional leaders offer a reward contingent upon the work and appropriate behaviors. Both parties are cooperative in order to secure particular ends. The transactional leader is always expecting something in return—a give to get scenario.

Transformational leaders transform people to their highest good or ill (let’s focus on the good). They provide support, encouragement, coaching and mentoring. The transformational leader pays careful attention to individual followers often with a benevolent, developmental, mentoring nature, as well as intellectual stimulation. Such relationships come with increasing levels of self-sacrifice, love and respect.

Certainly, to navigate life, we have to be transactional to purchase products or services, to do business with others. However, some people remain stuck in this transactional space to preserve their self-interests, not graduating to being transformational in others’ lives. They always operate at the margin that will cost them the least amount of money, time or other resource investment. This act of self-preservation may be driven by past hurts, or someone they trusted deceived them or used them, or they’ve simply vowed to look out for Number 1 because who else is?

Oppositely, transformational leaders/transformational people, understand that there will be costs—costs that they may never see an actual return on their investment—but they are willing to invest because they trust that the outcomes will be greatly exponential. They understand that those outcomes may or may not manifest immediately but will absolutely bear fruit in the eternal.

Jesus Christ was and is transformational. As a dear brother in Christ indicated, “Jesus sought out transformative relationships with everyone who was willing to be transformed by Him.” So true. Jesus paid a great price to have such a relationship with you and me.

He exchanged His Majestic position of being the King of kings and Lord of lords to become a defenseless infant in a manger. He exchanged position to wash His apostles’ feet, as a dear sister in Christ reminded me. He exchanged His glorious crown for a crown of thorns so we could have true life. His investment in us for those who accept it is nothing short of transformational. He knew the costs. He knew He would give far more than others would give Him in return. He knew He would give and others may never receive Him. Yet, He gave anyway. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45, NIV).”

feet-washing

 

Christ’s love operating within those who’ve asked to receive Him enables us to love and serve others beyond what is expected. Christ’s love for us fuels His love within us and fuels our actions toward others. As a dear sister in Christ says, “Christ’s love is the divine spark that fuels everything.” This is what transitions us from being simply transactional people to transformational leaders and simultaneously, servants. 

The love of Christ makes no sense to this carnal world that is counting its marbles to preserve its self-interests—in a world that is shocked when someone’s help or involvement is not driven by ulterior, self-serving motives. The love of Christ takes us beyond what we thought possible in serving others. In serving others in the love of Christ and through a biblical worldview, Christ is central in all that we do.

So, given the descriptions provided, are you transactional, transformational or both? If you are still counting your marbles given out, ask God to search your heart to identify and remove the issues that puts self first. May you seek more of Christ’s transformative love to reside in your heart to decrease self and increase Him. As you trust Him to be your front and rear guard in all circumstances, watch Him exceed your expectations. In our transactions with others, may we also seek to be transformational.

-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.

 

 

 

 

Entering 2017: Shifted and Lifted

destiney_and_nicole_2-112814

Nicole D. Hayes, VATG founder (l) and Destiney Bishop, VATG Digital Media Coordinator (r).

Wow—2016 is nearly out. From devastating floods, numerous earthquakes in diverse places, race riots and heightened tensions to shocking celebrity deaths and the presidential election, the events of 2016 have kept many of us in prayer like never before. We’ve had to encourage ourselves and others.

Many people, including some Believers, have felt great despair this year. Some of you have been surviving consecutive months and years of unemployment, or overcoming health challenges or grieving the passing of loved ones. What has occurred to-date is still a fraction of the trials to come before Christ’s return.

The events of 2016 most likely took you into some uncharted and unfamiliar territory. This was the case for us this year too. Entering new territories and spaces requires us to trust God EVERY step of the way. The process can also fortify our faith.  In such times, we are reminded of Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”  When we step in courage and trust in Him, it emboldens us for the next leg of the journey. Rest assured that God will show us His faithfulness.

In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us that we will indeed go through trials in this life but we will overcome those challenges in Him! He says 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.”

In writing you this message, the words that the Holy Spirit has encouraged us with for today and the days ahead is to be “shifted and lifted.” We are being asked to shift our focus onto Jesus so we may operate in peace and courage and be lifted out of our human default positions of despair, doubt and fear. Praise God!

We don’t leave you without hope: This year, many of us experienced unprecedented favor and prayers answered as we pressed the throne of grace boldly in prayer, in faith and with praises lifted! We saw God move mightily and we most certainly foiled some of the enemy’s plans. God is truly moved by the faith of His People!

We pray that these words and all of God’s Word comforts and reassures you in our challenging times. One of our objectives in presenting Holy Spirit-inspired content is to equip you to remain steady in unsteady times. As the Body of Christ, we will be challenged. We will suffer trials. We will endure war wounds. But God is preparing His Church to stand in these last days. So, take heart! Our victory is secured! Remain focused, in peace and steady! The gates of hell shall not prevail. We know how the story ends! God in His precision is watching over His Word to perform it and fulfill it as told to us in Jeremiah 1:12.

2017

As we close out 2016 and prepare to enter 2017, we at Voices Against the Grain encourage you in these points as you become shifted and lifted:

  • Allow God to lead. Be divinely persuaded (that’s what faith means—the Greek word is “pistis”) that God knows the best path for you and will lead you to it if you listen to Him. Walk in courage in what God has told you.
  • Place your hope in Jesus Christ alone and His Kingdom—not the kingdoms of this world. Do not place your hope in man, in government, finances, systems, etc., for these secondary sources will surely fail you. Take hold of the hope offered to us in God and be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf (Hebrews 6:18-20). Be shifted and lifted.
  • God is equipping you to respond to and serve those crying out and seeking direction. Pray to be more attentive to these cries and seek the Holy Spirit’s instruction on how He wants you to help them. Yield to carrying out His will and not your own.
  • In serving others, take the time to “steal away” to recharge; to have your cup refilled so you are able to pour into others again.
  • Pursue more intimacy with the Lord and seek to be Holy Spirit-led in all that you do. Knowing how the Holy Spirit wants to lead you is strengthened through spending more time communing with the Lord. Spending time with the Lord also enables you to abide in His Peace.

We love serving you and serving with you! We pray God’s blessings upon you, your family, your health, your ministries and everything He has called you to put your hands to. Go in courage, His confidence and peace. Thank you for supporting us and praying for us. We are excited and prayerful for how God will use His People in 2017. May we continue to be salt and light Christians to lead the world out of darkness and to the Cross.

God bless you and Happy New Year!

Love,

Nicole & Destiney

Is God Precise or Vague?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Is God precise or vague?

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

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

Creation

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

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

noahs-ark

Noah’s Ark 

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

birth-of-christ

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

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

Merry Christmas!

-Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

 

 

 

A Misunderstood Arrival

Has something ever come and you misunderstood its purpose?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I hope you each enjoyed great and thankful moments with family, loved ones, and dear friends during this Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving, I went home to Kansas to spend time with family and dear loved ones/friends and to attend the beautiful homegoing service of my beloved 101-year-old grandmother. We have such joy and peace in celebrating her long godly life lived!

This Thanksgiving break, my brother, Dad and I saw the science fiction movie, Arrival, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. Having been enticed by the trailer, the 93% Rotten Tomatoes critics’ rating and the so-so inventory of movies available, we were pumped to see this suspenseful flick. In Arrival,  Amy Adams’ character, Louise Banks, a renowned linguistics professor, is sought out by the military to decode circular symbols used as language communicated in ink drawings by extraterrestrials that have landed in 12 countries. Banks attempts the complicated feat of communicating with the extraterrestrials (called “heptapods”) by using their symbols to inquire what are their intentions with Earth and humans. She is pushed to work expediently and accurately as the U.S. military is anxious to provide answers in order to properly respond to this potential threat. In addition, other countries are becoming anxious with the spacecrafts hovering in their air space and are planning their respective attacks—with or without the U.S. or other countries’ consent or cooperation.

arrival-image

Clip of alien spacecraft hovering in Shanghai from the November 2016 science fiction film, Arrival. Photo courtesy: SCMP Pictures.

Without giving away the entire movie, what I thought was going to be a suspenseful, alien-against-human-attack and survival film was anything but. The greater importance of the film was not an alien vs. human showdown like Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds but it was the dangerously assumed and misunderstood perception about the heptapods’ arrival and their intentions. Countries throughout the United Nations were feeling threatened by their presence and were ready to draw fire, unconcerned of the consequences of worldwide war, irreparable relations and peace unrecoverable. Countries who were allies of the United States were ready to end such relations to attack an enemy—or perhaps an ally?

As I reflect on the movie’s message (you’ll have to watch to see how it ends or Google it), I think about our post-election situation that has caused many to draw fire upon one another with their words. Are we firing words upon an enemy or an ally? Has the arrival of our current situation been misunderstood only to cause further division without seeking the opportunities that are actually intended in this? Have we sought to remove communication barriers to truly understand the intentions and desires of one another’s hearts?

Star of Bethlehem

I also think of another misunderstood arrival that came over 2,000 years ago that still brings unfathomable joy to many and great agitation to others. An arrival intended to bring peace and friendship between mankind and our Heavenly Father for our redemption and reconciliation to God. Yet, Jesus was crucified because of His threat to the status quo, the intelligent leaders and rulers of those days and present day.

Dear Heavenly Father, when you sent Your Son Jesus to us more than 2,000 years ago—a baby born in a manger, a stable with smelly barn animals—as the King of kings and Lord of lords, His arrival was without question misunderstood by those unperceiving. He interrupted a world that did not want His type of disruption and sought to eliminate His threat to their comfort. They understood not the heart of His and Your intentions. Even today, many misunderstand Your loving, eternal plan for us, Father. Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NIV).”

Heavenly Father, as we rejoice each day and gather together this Christmas season to celebrate Jesus’ arrival 2,000 years ago, we pray that the veil that has kept many in their blindness will be lifted to save them that they might see and believe. Prepare hearts for Your Son’s return. Thank you for your grace, love and mercy as you continue to strive with us. In Your Son Jesus’ Precious Name, we pray.

May we seek and encourage others to seek His wisdom in all things new and coming.

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.

 

 

 

 

Because He Offends Our Sensibilities: A Post-Election Encouragement

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

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.

Does It Matter What We Do in Private?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Behind closed doors where it’s just you, no one else. At your dining room table where conversations are shared with your nearest and dearest and not for public dissemination. The videos you watch. The music you listen to. The fetish that is private for now, but it’s growing appetite will soon put you on front street and embarrass you. The locker room conversations not meant for the board room.

Does it matter what we do and say in private? Does it matter who we speak unlovingly about? For those of us living in the “free world” of America, most would say that what we do and say in the privacy of our homes or private spaces is no one’s business. But to God, it matters.

For those in relationship with Christ Jesus, our character, actions, speech and heart should mirror His in the office, the storefront, in our homes, at the dining room table. As lights on the hill (Matthew 5:14) for everyone to see, the Christ in us should not be compartmentalized or covered. He should not be excused from certain environments for flesh to have its way.

As Voices Against the Grain and those of us who no longer wish to conform to this world’s status quo AND who desire to be continually transformed into Christ’s likeness through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we can display Christ to a skeptical world. The world is dying to see if godliness is indeed possible and simultaneously seeks its impossibility. For who would give up their right to not freely exercise whatever they want to do and say?

lightbasket

In my professional life of public relations, we prepare our clients with messaging and talking points to help them “stay on message” when interviewing with media or delivering public presentations. It’s hoped that these talking points communicate who the client is, what they stand for and what they hope to accomplish through their platform. Yet, away from the hot mic and cameras, what resides in their hearts may be entirely different. Thus, we’re shocked when those “differences” are recorded outside of the person’s “talking points” environment.

If you are a Christian reading this, who are you in public and in private? Do you display godly character in both environments?

As God has grown the desire in me to truly be a Christian public servant, I think often on what that means. It means that God is grooming leaders who will not reflect the current landscape of “it doesn’t matter what I do in private.” They will not have dual minds but minds solely focused on obedience to His will and ways.

Such leaders will not rationalize policies that support convenience and expediency at the risk of morality. Such leaders will exercise integrity in matters great and small, public and private. Godly character is integrated into the whole and throughout their lives. We’ve seen quite enough of the dualism. We need to see more of the principled with moral absolutes.

In serving others publicly or in private, I continue to think on Luke 16:10

luke-16-10

When it comes to character, the little things matter. Lord, may our living be so close to You that the talking points are no longer needed because You live daily throughout our hearts and lives. Our daily public and private living will be Christ-like and not compartmentalized. Help us Lord, to be trustworthy in character in the great and the small things so a skeptical world will be the recipients of the blessings therein. Amen.

God bless you, much love to you and trust that the transformation is worth it.

-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.