A Call for Authentic Faith

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“The descent is easy.”- Virgil

I read a lot. Thanks to my mom, I’ve loved reading since I was a kid. Mom enrolled me and my brother in a book club where we’d excitedly wait to receive the new reads we ordered each month. As an avid reader today, I am also selective in what I read and what I feed my spirit. Two years ago, a great book passed my litmus test and was added to my collection.

Sometimes you read a book and from the first page the author’s words grip you. Their words resonate with you so much that you are nodding your head all the way through. You might even highlight certain text that you want to remember. You might even say as I did in reading this book, “He (or she) is speaking my language!”

Real Christianity, written by English abolitionist and politician, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), is the book I am referencing. Wilberforce and his book’s message were instrumental in stopping the slave trade in England. In his book’s introduction, Wilberforce pens an “author’s apology” telling the reader that because he is not a theologian he may not be taken seriously but that his message is nonetheless important, truthful and worth strong consideration. After he apologizes, he writes this:

“Enough apologies and justifications; let me get on with the task at hand. Here is what I am going to attempt to accomplish in writing this book. I’m not going to attempt to either convince skeptics or answer the questions unbelievers seem to ask, but rather point out some of the problems with the beliefs and actions of those who already claim to be Christians. I’d like to attempt to contrast what we see in the lives of many, perhaps most, who make this claim with what I understand the Bible teaches about what it means to believe in Christ. I am disturbed when I see the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess…

…Life as we know it, with all of its ups and downs, will soon be over. We will all give an account to God of how we have lived. Because of this fact, I’m not going to pull any punches in what I write. I hope you will seriously consider what is contained in these pages. If what I write seems too rigid or austere, I would only ask that you check what I have to say against what the Bible teaches. That is the only opinion that counts. If you accept the authority of the Bible, I assume you will agree.” – William Wilberforce, Real Christianity, 1797

Real Christianity book cover

Wilberforce’s words written more than 200 years ago are “speaking my language” today. Wilberforce anchors his message in the infallible, unchanging and often offensive Word of God. His straightforward writing from the book’s start to finish makes no apologies for upholding God’s Word as the standard by which we should live, particularly those of us who proclaim to follow Jesus. In his day, Wilberforce was disheartened by a climate that was gradually abandoning authentic faith and embracing something far easier to swallow; something that would allow people to live how they wanted to live and make themselves more likable to others: cultural Christianity.

Cultural Christianity is a watering down of God’s Word and relationship standards to make it more palpable to those who want to do what they want to do anyway. In watering down the truth, we strip the Word of its power to truly heal and restore people, communities, our nation, world and situations. This action is akin to using a placebo to treat an illness instead of the medication prescribed by your doctor. You allow the illness to fester and worsen. Either you want to be healed or you don’t. Wilberforce said it well:

“Nominal or superficial Christianity does not have the ability to create such outcomes (that overcome any social, economic or racial barriers). (Societal) and political decay can thrive under cultural Christianity but authentic faith will bring it to a sudden halt.”

As society was pursuing greater degrees of progress, Wilberforce saw more people wavering in their convictions. Trust and believe that today, we are reaping those decisions made then.

As the Roman poet Virgil wrote in his popular work the Aeneid, “The descent is easy.” In essence, the seemingly “little” and “insignificant” compromises we make become even easier to do so the next time, and harder to ascend back up to truth. If we decide to be “all in” then we’ll never be satisfied with living as a halfway Christian, making the descent into cultural Christianity and candy-coated messages less likely.

In leading Voices Against the Grain, to boldly advance God’s Kingdom in a ‘do your own thing’ society, I too, pull no punches. I desire to deliver God’s Word just as it is — not adding to or taking away from it. Like Wilberforce and many others who share/teach God’s Word, I am not seminary trained. However, I have gained much knowledge revealed through the Holy Spirit and spending significant time communing with the Lord. God has also placed great and studied spiritual teachers in my life who have aided in my further understanding, teaching and administering of His Word.

Introspection and Call for Authentic Faith

Many of you reading this are living out authentic faith in a time when unbelief, strange teachings and “live and let live” ideals are preferred. Thank you! You have no idea the amount of moral, political and social decay and injustices that have been stopped simply by your prayers and commitment to truly share the Gospel, unfiltered. Yet, God desires that the entire Body of Christ exercises authentic faith— not only some. When we gradually fall in with societal trends, we are accelerating society’s decay. In Matthew 5:13-16, we are described as “salt” and “light.” Salt preserves and light shines a path out of darkness. Neither occurs when we compromise the truth.

Where are you on the spectrum of truth? If you are a Christian, do you see truth from the view of our God who “changes not” (Malachi 3:6)? As a Christian, are there areas where you’re likely to compromise and if so, why? 

This is a call for authentic faith. We can’t walk the fence between pleasing God and pleasing the world. The compromise is never worth hindering someone’s true liberation found only in Christ Jesus. We should trust that God is big enough to overcome opposition. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up (exalted) from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32). The attraction of the cross of Christ and the matchless love of God will prove to be the mightiest revelation to draw those far away near to Christ, those with whom you may fear sharing truth.

John 12-32 I if I be lifted up

We share truth (Jesus) because we love God and we love people. We desire for those who will to become beneficiaries of truth, no longer slaves to deception but freely living as intimate co-workers with God. We desire that no one lives less than the abundant life Jesus promised. This can only be acquired through sharing and living authentic faith.

Can you be counted on to never compromise the truth (Jesus)? Will you live “all in” and not halfway? Pray for courage. Pray to grow in deeper love with the Lord that gives way to your unwavering obedience to Him.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”- John 8:32

-Nicole

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When Are the Numbers Enough?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

By the numbers:

  • Seven shootings within 48 hours this week, in the same communities.
  • Three murdered as a result of those shootings.
  • As of this time last year, Washington, D.C., had 44 homicides, compared to 47 homicides at present time (May 19, 2016), according to Metropolitan Police Department crime data.
  • D.C.’s homicide totals for 2015 was 162 people murdered.

As a D.C. resident, I remember being abhorred last year by the almost daily news casts reporting of another murder in the District. Today, unfortunately, it seems the problem is increasing.

What’s worse: this week’s shootings occurred in broad daylight, averaging between the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Schools would be letting out around 3 p.m., and as Natalie Williams, Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairperson for Southeast D.C.’s Ward 8 told NBC4 this week, “It’s a shame that we have kids who are getting out of school right now, and when they come up all they are familiar with is these yellow tapes.”

Williams also said that “people are afraid to simply live,” given the increased violence. Community meeting after community meeting, neighborhood rallies and an increased police presence in these high-crime communities has not done much to stop the violence or quell residents’ fears for their own personal safety.

In fact, shootings that typically occur during the wee morning hours of 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., are now happening in broad daylight. A full disregard for human life and no concern for the many who will be impacted by the loss of life, whether family member, friend, student passing by yellow tape, residents or the news viewer. The collateral damage has reverberating effects.

crime scene tape

Why do I write about this?  Because even as gut-wrenching and sobering as the numbers are (at least to me), when will the numbers be enough to move more people, particularly Christians, to make resolving this issue a priority?

I ask this, as a burden the Lord has placed on my heart in mentoring D.C. youth, many who between the ages of 15-24 are either perpetrators of or victims of violent crime. I spoke this week with the executive director of a Southeast D.C. youth mentoring faith-based organization. The FBO has been active in its immediate community since its founding in 1995. The FBO has a number of business, community, individual and nonprofit stakeholders who support its work. Yet, even in all of this, I asked the executive director, “Where are the gaps? Why an increase in crime and not a decrease in this area, particularly as it pertains to youth?”

His response to me was simple and sadly, something I already knew:

“Many people have not made the youth a priority. We need more caring people and more caring institutions to care about the issues and put egos aside.”

I will also add that Christ is our only hope in transforming hearts, homes, neighborhoods and communities. A number of folks in the Body of Christ hesitate to share about Christ, concerned that they may offend someone rather than make way for their spiritual healing.

Outside of it being the seat of federal government and its highly flocked to and visited monuments, museums, other tourist attractions, and its four and five-star restaurants, Washington, D.C. suffers the same societal ills as other urban cities rife with crime and violence. Many of Washington, D.C.’s neighborhoods that are low-income, have high rates of homelessness and underserved in resources also see an influx of drug trafficking, thefts, home invasions, spikes in violence, gang activity, etc.

Washington DC skyline

D.C. is a wellspring for many churches, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, community based organizations and interest groups who set up shop in the nation’s capital to provide programs and services to address such social ills within the city and nationwide.

So why do the problems persist? While evil will always be with us until Christ’s return, it requires that the Body of Christ truly be engaged in their God-given callings, standing as the standard in the communities and domains God has called them to. Some will say, “We need more money, more resources to do this work” (God will provide).

But in fact, we need more hearts to stand as salt, light and truth to stem the tide of decay. It requires us to prioritize such matters and to be INTERESTED. The Lord has led me to write and speak recently on the need for many more in the Body of Christ to be INTERESTED and to serve where they are placed. As told to us in Matthew 9:37, The harvest (the opportunities) is plentiful but the workers are few. 

When will the numbers be enough for you? Where has God given you a burden to serve in the things that break His heart? 

If you’re already walking in this and serving in obedience in the lane God has called you to, THANK YOU. If you have sat on the sidelines hoping the problems will simply go away, or you hope someone else will step in or you’re praying that Jesus will soon return to snatch you out of this chaos, please rethink your position.

LISTEN: Meanwhile, I invite you to listen to our short message on “Interesting or Interested?”

THANK YOU to many of you who because you ARE INTERESTED and believe in what God has called our ministry to do, you have contributed to our “Bring Godliness to D.C. and Society” campaign. You are helping in our work to reach the lost with truth.

Heavenly Father, help us to always be INTERESTED in and make a priority of what you’ve placed in our hearts to do. Lord, I pray we desire to be obedient to what you’ve called us to do and not deviate from or short change it for the lesser things of this world. As Christians, we need to spend more time being interested in others.  As a dear brother in Christ said, “When God gives us a burden for something, we need to look in the mirror. More often, WE are the answer to prayer.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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.

 

A Critical Time to Be a Christian

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Not on our watch.” From catastrophic events to a nation pursuing everything but God, there’s no better time to raise your voice for Christ.

During Wednesday’s Voices Against the Grain radio show, we discussed the recent good news and victory of the canceled “Temple of Baal” digitally-rendered arches that were to be installed in NYC’s Times Square (in addition to London and Dubai) on Tuesday, April 19. A true victory for God’s Kingdom, of prayers answered, celebrated by the Body of Christ!

Weeks ago, many of us learned of the project underway that intended its presence on American soil. For those unfamiliar, the “Temple of Baal” was a 2,000-year-old grand structure in Palmyra, Syria erected around 32 A.D., that was highly regarded by the Syrian people. The temple was destroyed in 2015 by ISIS and there’s since been a move to rebuild this structure under the guise of an “historical learning project.” The project was a digital archaeology design team joint venture between Harvard University, Oxford University and Dubai’s Museum of the Future.lit temple replica

Why is this important? I’m getting to that. In Old Testament times, the Canaanites and others worshipped Baal, who was a demon and described by Wikipedia as “one of the seven princes of Hell with 66 legions of demons under his command.” As part of their worship of Baal, babies were sacrificed, people engaged in orgies, and other forms of sexual debauchery. So, why would WE or anyone want a structure like this built on our soil?

Upon learning of this project underway, many of us in the Body of Christ were saddened at the blatant disregard and slap in the face toward God. But we were emboldened to take this to prayer. We said, “Not on our watch.” Several in my close knit prayer fellowship came together in prayer over this which extended to the larger and collective Body of Christ, united on one front in prayer to say, “Not on our watch.” That this arch, this “historical exhibit,” this next strategy of the enemy was not coming to American soil on Tuesday, April 19th, Wednesday, April 20th or any other day of the week. Our fervent prayers were answered.

This is a critical time to be a Christian. In a world that has rejected God, acting in every way contrary to God’s Word and design, WE as Christians are and should be THE STANDARD.

Though we’re jubilant of this recent victory, this is not a license to rest on our laurels. The evil and catastrophic events of our day are like none witnessed before. Unprecedented. Many people provide their own explanations as to why this is happening but don’t identify the events as God’s judgment. America has lessened its need for God.

Furthermore, the comfortable, cultural  Christian has allowed the intellectual elite to drive the narrative in education, government and politics, blindly sending people into “group think” ditches.  This is a time for authentic faith.

saltandlightchristians1

As a Christian, are you making your life and voice heard for Christ so others may see Him and turn from their wicked ways? Are you living, acting and speaking as salt and light? Are you setting the standard? Or is your “Chinese menu” of faith and fear of telling others God’s truth aiding in others’ blindness?

Thank you, thank you to those in the Body of Christ who are living, acting and speaking as Christ’s standard. I can’t imagine what our days would be without such light present. If you realize you need to firm up in your living as Christ’s standard, great—as there are plenty opportunities to start now! Jesus has need of you. God is using these times of darkness as OPPORTUNITIES for His PEOPLE to ENGAGE with the lost so they may see HIM through US. We are called to be SALT and LIGHT (Matthew 5:13-16), not sugar. Salt will preserve people from themselves and external evils. Light will show them the way to Christ Jesus.

I invite you to listen to “The Temple of Baal and America: A Critical Time to Be a Christian.”  (Corresponding scriptures included) SPECIAL THANK YOU: A grateful thank you to my prayer partners who provided supporting content, context, scriptures and their prayers to help frame this conversation.

Crucial VATG page image 2

Crucial, Christian rap artist, producer and speaker

Please also listen to the “hard truth” conversation we shared on 4/13 with our brother in Christ and Christian rap artist, Crucial. We discussed the impact of deception and how to compassionately engage with those blinded to the truth (Thank you, Crucial!): “Crucial Talk: A Conversation with Christian Rap Artist, Crucial.” 

Thank you and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.