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.

 

 

 

 

Yearning for the Greater

“You don’t hire an interior decorator for a hotel room. You don’t change the carpets and drapes in a hotel room because your stay there is temporary.”- Kirk Franklin

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

For those in Christ Jesus, today, every day and particularly this Holy Week, we’re gratefully reminded of the hope and freedom Christ obtained for us on the Cross at Calvary and beyond the tomb.

Mankind steeped in a fallen nature from Adam’s sin, was cursed and doomed to eternal damnation and separation from God. The deep chasm created between a holy God and our filthy hearts was bridged by Christ’s sacrifice and unconditional love for us. The punishment we deserved for our wicked thoughts and actions, he took on for us by being nailed to that old, rugged, wooden Cross. He became the curse for us (“Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”- Galatians 3:13 ESV and Deuteronomy 21:23) so that none would perish who believe in Him.

We can become burdened by this world’s activities, routines and chaos that we forget that this is not our home. This is a temporary living space to prepare and shape us for our eternal home and living. As the aforementioned quote by gospel artist Kirk Franklin suggests, we’re not putting down stakes on a temporary living space to then hire interior decorators. We’re here for a purpose that transcends beyond this life into true living. This is Christ’s promise to us.

In short but powerful words, the chorus to the gospel song “Glorious Day/Living He Loved Me,” tells the full, joyous testimony: “Living He loved me. Dying He saved me. Buried, He carried my sins far away. Rising He justified me, freed me forever. One day He’s coming back, Glorious day!”

2-corinthians-4_18 girl in pic

Thank you Jesus, for paying the penalty for my sins when you were blameless. Because of you, I am free from what held me. Thank you Jesus for becoming my Greatest Hope beyond this temporary living and the challenges therein. Your Promises encourage us to look beyond our present circumstances. As I fulfill Your will for me on this temporary ground and in this temporary vessel, I maintain my focus on and yearn for the greater.

Do you yearn expectantly for the greater promise of eternity spent with Jesus and our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Or are you consumed by this world’s routines that you’ve begun decorating a hotel room here?

-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.

 

When Vanity is Not in Vain

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I was all flesh, that’s who I was. I was so miserable the entire time that I was ‘Vanity.’ I spent so many days and nights crying and hating who I had become…I wanted out but I didn’t know how to get out because the world sucks you in.” – Evangelist Denise Matthews, Trinity Broadcasting Network interview with Dwight Thompson, August 5, 2010

Abused as a child, crack cocaine-addicted and deeply wounded, the former 80s actress/singer/girlfriend of Prince known as “Vanity,” turned away from a deadly lifestyle in the mid-90s to experience true freedom and abundant living in Jesus Christ. Shedding the image of Vanity and everything with it, she allowed the healing and powerful love of Jesus Christ to reveal her identity and purpose in Him as Evangelist Denise Matthews. Sharing with others her testimony, trials, health scares, surgeries, and miraculous healings, she said in the above referenced interview that her life was full of joy because of her relationship in Jesus Christ.

When I like most of you, learned via social media (a tweet from her dear friend and sister in Christ, Sheila E.) of Evangelist Matthews’ passing this past Monday, February 15 at age 57, I was stunned. According to news reports, Matthews had been in declining health for some time in part due to her previous years of drug use. I’d lost track of her life but was DELIGHTED to learn that she allowed the Lord to transform her heart and mind to serve Him! DELIGHTED to learn how she spent her life telling others about Jesus! God bless her and the seeds she has sown in the hearts and spirits of others!

But who was the source of her vanity?

Jesus clearly tells us in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (New International Version) 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (New International Version)

If in reading this you doubt there’s an enemy, namely Satan, out to destroy and kill you, fine. You can remain in denial but you can’t deny the devastating effects of his work: Abuse. Addiction. Adultery. Anxiety. Brutality. Crime. Deceit. Depression. Evil-doing. False identity. Fraud. Gossiping. Greed. Hook ups. Human trafficking. Lying. Molestation. Murder. Pornography. Pride. Rape. Robbery. Self-hatred. Shame. Shootings. Stabbings. Suicidal thoughts. Terrorism. Vanity. Violence. Wickedness.

The list goes on. Can anything good come from this? With a life redeemed and restored through relationship in Jesus Christ, yielded to the Holy Spirit, the answer is 100% “yes.” Evangelist Matthews’ life proves this.

Evangelist Denise Matthews

“The world sucks you in.”  Evangelist Denise Matthews, formerly “Vanity”

The years the enemy stole from Evangelist Matthews to do his bidding, God restored to her. He added life to her days and years. The tools the enemy used in an attempt to destroy her, God turned around for her good  (Romans 8:28). Having turned her life over to Christ, the Lord made it so that her years as “Vanity” were not in vain. 

What Matthews said in her aforementioned quote is true: the world does suck you in, if you let it. I’ve heard more people tell me that “sin will take you further than you want to go.”

Make no mistake: There is a persistent satanic agenda at work to counterfeit the “freedoms” people desperately seek. As Satan sets the stage for his next counterfeit scheme, it is of paramount importance that God’s truth is boldly and lovingly presented to awaken people from their slumber into confusion and deception; to bring clarity that enables them to navigate successfully around the counterfeit schemes so they may equip and empower others in Jesus Christ.

For the family and friends of Evangelist Denise Matthews, we at Voices Against the Grain pray that God’s comfort and peace steadies you and rests in your hearts. We join you in celebrating the fruit produced by Evangelist Matthews through her life in Jesus—fruit that will bear out now and into eternity.

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.

No Belief

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him– John 12:36-37 (English Standard Version)

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

In the preceding verses, here we find Jesus explaining to the crowds and his disciples why he must die. Die? Yes, this was the one that many saw perform miracles in healing the sick, driving out evil spirits from tormented souls, and even raising the dead! But Jesus knew their hearts. He knew people viewed him merely as a miracle worker but didn’t believe on him as Savior of their souls.

That sounds like some of us today. Oh, we know God as the one who blesses and works miracles for us but do we know him as Savior? When we get on our knees to pray, are we merely asking him for more and more material things and neglecting to thank for him for the salvation of our souls? Do we truly believe in our hearts? The fact of the reality is a lot of us believe in Jesus Christ, the God-man, for what he CAN do for us but NOT for what he DID do for us which is die on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day defeating the power of death and offering to us eternal life for those who believe in him.

We would be wise to mirror the faith of the father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed from an evil spirit. The Bible says this man said, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”-Mark 9:22-24 This attitude the man demonstrated is one of trust and confidence in Jesus even for his faith!

Ephesians 2-8, 9For By Grace You have been Saved through faith

For faith is not something that we can obtain on our own but it is a gift from God. For the Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.         –Ephesians 2:8-9

Yet, it concerns my soul for those who believe but refuse to admit it publicly for fear of rejection or ridicule from people. Oh they would be more concerned about God’s eternal acceptance than the temporary approval of their peers.

May they remember Jesus Christ’s truthful warning: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” –Matthew 10:32-33 For a time is coming and indeed it is here now where many people will be deceived more and more by the evil one Satan. Hearts will be hardened and more people will not believe. Friend, I pray with all the love in my heart that you believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul.

For the Bible says, “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” –2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 Amen

About Jason M. Alexandre

Jason Melchizedek Alexandre was born in November of 1989 in Brooklyn, N.Y. His family later moved to Philadelphia, Pa., and he now resides in Limerick, Pa. In May of 2014, Jason obtained his Master of Social Work degree at Widener University. Professionally, Jason counsels persons who are homeless, parents, veterans, and others who suffer from various kinds of abuse. Although Jason’s career is Social Work, his spiritual passion is missions. Jason believes in actively answering the Great Commission call Jesus gave all Christians for the Gospel to be spread from person-to-person and nation-to-nation. Annually, Jason travels primarily to Haiti on a mission trip with Haiti Christianity Inc. Each year, Haiti Christianity, Inc., visits cities and/or villages in Haiti bringing children educational supplies, clothing, and medical supplies. They also facilitate conferences in which bible study, budgeting tips, financial planning and most importantly, evangelization takes place. Jason is currently the organization’s public relations director. Jason’s vision is for the gospel to continue to spread throughout the world and believes it is Christian’s responsibility to carry out this mission effectively. To learn more about the organization for which Jason volunteers, please visit www.HaitiChristianity.org.

Your Life in Christ Helps Another

Luke 15:7- Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (English Standard Version)

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Have we got it wrong? Many of us miss the big picture as we go about our daily lives.  There are many misconceptions like, “I am a Christian. I got it all right and everyone else has it wrong.” Yet the truth is, God is the ONLY one who has it all right.  We can’t begin to understand nor comprehend His great and marvelous ways. We only know the half of it.  It is Christ in us at work cleaning out all the junk and debris, for we all fall short and are in need of mercy and grace. Your life is not your own and if you are living a righteous life, that is wonderful.  However, now you are called to speak the gospel and live it out so others too may be saved. We are not to cast the sinner to the side. We are to set an example, a standard, speak truth and offer unconditional love in hopes to draw them unto the Lord.

So I ask you: Who in your life can you extend a helping hand to? You might be wondering what does that question have to do with the message. It has everything to do with it.  Helping those who are struggling is what it is all about, showing mercy, compassion, and love as Christ has shown for you. It can be as simple as buying a cup of coffee and saying “Jesus loves you.”

-Ana

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principles are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative is Georgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.

Invitation of God’s Elect

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

(Because the topic of God’s love and election is complex, we will revisit this in a follow up post)

Imagine receiving an elegant, white shiny envelope, hand-delivered by courier. You flip the envelope over to read your name written to suggest this invitation is elite. You open the nicely sealed envelope and see the gold foil lining, and pull out the card which reads in gold gilded text, “By Invitation Only.”  Reading the invitation’s event details, you are in awe—uncertain what you did or who thought so highly to invite you to such an elite event. The shocking fact is this: You didn’t do anything to deserve it.

Such is the invitation from God extended to us through Jesus when He died on the cross for you and me, so that we may be freed from the weight of sin and death and live freely and eternally with Him.  God loves all and desires all would seek Him. Ultimately, many will not choose Him. God chooses those with willing ears and open hearts to receive Him for this invitation. God called me in my early childhood, drawing me to lay it all down for Him at age 12. I’ve been following Him since. So why doesn’t everyone hear this call?

by invitation only

In the simplest answer, some things are a mystery and left to God. This concept is complex for even the most mature believer in Christ to fully grasp. A person’s unbelief/rejection of Christ, unrepentant nature or hardened heart can certainly lead to this. British Christian theologian, J.I. Packer wrote an article,  Election: God Chooses His Own that perhaps offers one of the clearest explanations of this concept that I’ve been able to understand. In the article, Packer begins:

“The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Romans 8:32).”

Romans 9:15-16, God says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 

Fact is, God loves all and it is God who saves. God seeks the earth to and fro examining the hearts of those for who will follow Him. “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1).  THIS is why Christians will forever, gratefully celebrate (sometimes with tears of joy as we remember our lives before and now) the goodness and love of God! But for His grace and mercy, “he saved a wretch like you and me.”

This very notion of God choosing who He wants to follow Him confuses some people. Isn’t the invitation open to everyone? Doesn’t God want to save everyone? What then is the Christian’s duty if God already knows who He will and won’t choose?

God knows people’s true hearts and intentions. We don’t.  As Christians, we are asked to be a loving and willing vessel of His light and love to others. It is not for us to judge or question who is/who isn’t “savable.”

Our role as Christians (appropriately worded by my dear friend Rachel) is “we are laboring to harvest the elect.”  This is a great way to view our calling as opposed to “working to save souls.” That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to be willing to plant the seed and allow the Holy Spirit to draw those intended. Wow. Paints the picture a little differently, doesn’t it?

If He is drawing you, listen.  Turn to  Him.  Answer His call. This invitation, for which I am grateful to have received and accepted and did not deserve,  is given by His grace.