We Must Be Vigilant

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New International Version)

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8, New Living Translation)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed. (1 Peter 1:13, International Standard Version)

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6, English Standard Version)

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:10-12, New International Version)

There is nothing passive about the above referenced scriptures. Everything about these scriptures gives the image of a Believer who is alert, who is watchful (sober) or in the Greek context “nepho”; someone who abstains from wine or beverages (anything) that would dull their senses or distract them. The scriptures suggest that the Believer would not be caught off guard or caught slumbering but ready to offend whatever comes.

Imagine your disposition, how keen your senses if you knew that an enemy was lurking outside your door to kill you and yours. The enemy is looking for any breach, crack or gap to gain access and entry into your home, your mind, or your heart. How would you protect yourself? Your family?

If from reading these scriptures you still have an imagery of Satan as a red, pitch fork-carrying caricature with horns and tail who passively pursues you, then you have underestimated your enemy. The enemy is intentionally prowling around, looking for that easy access, that one moment of someone letting down their guard. Where will you compromise and make concessions? Like a prowling lion, your enemy seeks to pick off the weakest sheep from the flock for its prey.

Your enemy plants thoughts that become plots. Your enemy could care less about you, how old or young you are. Your enemy kills 17-month-old babies and pregnant women. He is a murderer, capable of unimaginable horror. He inspires actions, text messages and graphic images that result in careers, marriages and lives destroyed. He plants lies in your mind to make you distrust God and thereby take matters into your own hands. He intently seeks to impose fear upon you, to make you cower and submit to defeat.

Many view the follower of Jesus Christ as passive. Though we desire to be obedient to God, meek, kind and loving toward others, this does not mean we let down our guard. We are ever-discerning, we are wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), we are guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), we put on our spiritual armor daily to guard against the wiles of the devil and thwart his fiery darts. We also war against him in prayer, praise and through speaking scripture back to him.

Remember even Jesus was tested by Satan in the wilderness, the enemy relentlessly tempting him while He fasted. Jesus rebuked and responded to Satan with scripture and authority. We must do the same. In response to this Matthew 4:11 says, Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (New International Version)

Armor of God

This message is that of a team huddle or a war room strategy for the saints.

We must be vigilant. As wickedness increases, I am telling you, the Body of Christ, to gird your loins. Guard against appeasing worldly culture, for you will soon begin to look like it and it will always take you further than you wanted to go. We are called to be holy; sanctified for God’s purposes and set apart from the world.

Be alert, sober and be prepared to stand against every onslaught, deception and temptation. Do not be caught off guard. Do not be caught slumbering. Your enemy, the devil, is waiting to seize any opportunity that you find it okay to welcome that errant thought, embrace laziness, or slack in your spiritual growth. He’s looking for that chink in your armor, your area of weakness that will prevent your success.

Be alert and stay alert. Stay vigilant. That means step up your prayer life. Pray with authority and unshakable faith. Put on your spiritual armor before you begin your day (Ephesians 6:13-17). Meditate on God’s Word day and night so you may be successful (Joshua 1:8) and also know how to call up God’s Word at any moment to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means sealing up breaches in your behavior, character, emotions, lifestyle and thought life that would give the enemy the opportunity to ensnare you. This means giving Godly counsel to others you see as prey for the enemy due to destructive choices they are making. This means telling the devil in your Godly authority, “You are not welcome here.”

Love and blessings,

Nicole

For more on this, read our article “The Believer’s Disposition/Posture.”

 

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An Appeal When Love Wanes and Anger Flames

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

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. 

ice-heart

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.

Guarding Your Heart God’s Way

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

Have you ever felt the sting of rejection or the cut of thoughtless or unkind words? Maybe you have been taken for granted, or even lied about by others. These and other offenses, when taken into the heart become wounds.  A wound left unattended becomes bitterness. Bitterness and unforgiveness produce cynicism, criticism, anger, depression, a hard heart and a life cluttered with bad fruit in almost every area.

I don’t know a single person who has not dealt with offense at some point in life. Offenses cause pain, and pain triggers our “natural” defense mechanisms to kick in. We tend to “put up walls” to make the pain stop and prevent it from happening again. This might seem to be the only way to guard our hearts, it isn’t God’s way.

So, what does it mean to “guard your heart” God’s way?

1. Recognize the real enemy. Jesus clearly told us that troubles would come to us in this life. Troubles usually bring with them a temptation to be offended at another person, God, or yourself. The real enemy is Satan, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Although people are oftentimes (usually unknowingly) used by Satan, the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Although we “feel” things in the physical realm, the battle is altogether spiritual.

2. Live from truth. Being able to quickly recognize and cast down the lies of the enemy about yourself, God, and others will keep your heart safe. Satan sends forth his lies in an attempt to get you to step into his snare of offense. He is the master weaver of webs of deception. Knowing the truth of God’s Word will keep you out of snares of offense and keep your heart healthy.

heart locked

3. Give up your right to be right. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. What matters is the health of your soul. Holding on to offense while you are waiting for an apology that may never come or for someone else to see they are wrong, is prideful stubbornness and it will not result in the joy-filled life Jesus paid for you to have.

4. Release wounds, offenses, and hurts of every kind to Jesus. This is an act of faith, not feelings. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). There is nothing heavier to carry through this life than a wounded, bitter soul. Regardless of how long you have carried it, it is never too late to give it to Jesus and receive His sweet rest instead. As often as you are offended, lay the offense at the feet of King Jesus and let your heart remain tender and free.

Next time you feel the temptation to be offended, remember it is not your burden to carry. Let the Lord be your Avenger. Keep your heart at peace by refusing to live in offense. Make a choice by faith to give it to Jesus. It is a spiritual decision. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel any pain, it simply means God’s peace is greater. It’s wise to deal with offense on the front end when it is a little seed than it is to wait until it is a full grown weed choking the life out of everything else in the garden of your soul.

-Jill

A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Jill Tomlinson understands how tolerating toxic emotions and believing lies from Satan can change the entire course of your life. In her book, No More Lies, Jill leads others through the same journey of biblical truth that brought her freedom and wholeness. This book is not only for victims of sexual abuse. It is for anyone who has ever dealt with bitterness, fear, shame, rejection, failure, or feelings of unworthiness just to name a few. With transparency and candor, Jill addresses a myriad of issues that keep men, women, and young people in emotional shackles. Her passion is to see lives beautifully restored by the grace and truth of God and to see God’s children walking in true and lasting victory. She believes every single person was born with divine purpose and she loves to empower others to walk confidently into their unique Kingdom destiny!

Jill is an author, writer, speaker, and teacher. Jill and her husband, Jimmy, are the founders of Transcend Ministries – a ministry dedicated to empowering the body of Christ and making disciples worldwide through teaching, writing, and evangelism. They reside in Colorado and have four amazing children – two daughters, a son, and a son-in-law.

For more information or to order her book visit www.transcendministries.org.