I Thought I Was a Christian

Today, we are delighted to share with you the testimony from a young man who thought he was a Christian by trying to be a “good person.” Like many others with similar stories, he grew up in the church, believed on the surface that God existed but he did not have a true relationship with His Savior, Jesus Christ. But as he continued through college, it was becoming clear to him that he was far from living as a Christian…and the Lord was reaching out to him. Read his story below and please share if you’re led. We pray his testimony blesses you and others.

Kurt Yoder Bio Pic 0082718

Kurt Yoder, VATG Guest Blogger

If you would have asked me about five years ago how long I’d been a Christian, I would had said my whole life. You see I grew up going to church. I always had at least a surface belief that Jesus is God, and I used to think that as long as I try to be a good person, I’ll make it to heaven because I believe in Jesus. A lot of people fall into that trap, but Jesus said himself that,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

Looking back, I had no desire to keep God’s commandments.

I remember reading Matthew 7:21 and it really hit me like a freight train. Jesus said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

And this, The demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19)

Even demons have an intellectual knowledge of God. In some ways they probably know more about God than us since they were once in his heavenly kingdom. But they do not have the type of belief that saves; saving faith that produces repentance and a longing to live godly.

I did not have saving faith growing up. To show you that, I will tell you a bit about my old self. I quit going to church in high school. To give you an idea of what kind of kid I was, at the age of 17, I started drinking every weekend. Nobody around me found that wrong – not my friends, family, or family’s friends. Everybody lived like that and once you were around that age, you start partying. People thought that was just a part of growing up. The false notion is that you’ve got to have rebellious times when you’re young, so you have something to laugh about when you’re old. By worldly standards, I was a fine kid. I got good grades, was pretty involved in extracurricular activities, and played sports. I even did some good things while I was an unbeliever. I remember specifically standing up for an outcast several times when he got made fun of. You see, I thought of myself as a pretty good person.

I thought I was a Christian

Lines from poem written by Michael P. Johnson

In college, I joined a fraternity. It was the type of stereotypical fraternity you hear about – lots of drinking and sexual immorality. Although, I was not the most immoral person in the fraternity, I was no doubt a part of that lifestyle. There were always people around me that seemed worse than me, and they made me think, “I’m a good person.” I had a friend from high school who went to college with me and did not join a fraternity. Instead, he lived in the dorms his whole time at college and tried to win people to Christ.

At the time, I thought that was a nice thing he was doing, but it wasn’t for me. We had coffee a few times. I remember he would always bring the conversation to Jesus. My thought while talking to him was always, “Why is he telling me this stuff? I believe in Jesus. I believe everything in the bible.” I don’t remember exactly what he said but looking back he knew I was lost. I made clear to him that I believed in Jesus and always had. I promised him one day I would read the bible. Just not now. I was too focused on college then.

Procrastination is what holds a lot of people in unbelief. They put off reading the bible, joining a bible study, going to church, and doing so they never come to face with the truth that they’re a sinner and need reconciliation. They fall more and more into sin and then lose the desire to know God. The governor Felix procrastinated. Paul presented him with the gospel, and Felix began to understand that God is a holy God and we are sinful people. Felix said, “I will hear you again on this matter.” He put off getting right with God. As far as we know, Felix never repented and came to faith. Procrastination damned him.

I procrastinated for a while, but God kept working on me. Shortly after college, I did start reading the bible. At the time, I thought of it as a checklist item. I have to do this once in my life. I thought of it as merely a pursuit of knowledge. I wanted to add bible knowledge to my belt. I did not know that through reading God’s word, God would reveal to me how sinful I was and would give me a new heart. Shortly after I started reading, I was seeking through the radio stations one night, and was compelled to leave the station on a station of a man giving a sermon. I never listened to talk radio at the time. If I was seeking through stations, I would listen for music. If I didn’t hear music, I would instantly keep seeking before I even heard what was being talked about. For some reason, this night I left the station where it landed and heard the man preach and continued to listen to him. I didn’t even know there were Christian radio stations. The next morning when I got in my truck, a new man was preaching. I kept listening and I’ve been listening to sermons on the radio ever since. It was through that radio preaching and my own reading that I began to receive Christ.

Since I thought I was a Christian all along, I can’t exactly tell you the moment I was converted. I can look back on a few moments and say it wasn’t then.

I remember the first time I read the book of Romans, it was like it went through one ear and out the other. I had no idea what I just read. Then, I read Romans about a year later and was in awe. I thought, holy smokes! That was incredible! So much doctrine in that one book. I remember looking back and thinking, I don’t think I had true faith the first time I read the book of Romans. You can only understand this book if you have a new heart. Unbelievers can understand things like historical and geographical things in the bible, but they can’t understand doctrine. The book of Romans is rich on doctrine. The only reason we can understand God’s word is because we have the Holy Spirit. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God… But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them. (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14)

Unbelievers cannot understand the word of God. I see that proven all the time and it breaks my heart. There are several people close to me that started reading the bible once and they said they had to quit because they just had no idea what it was saying. I couldn’t understand when I first started reading, but God convicted me of my whole sinful life and I came crawling to God to give me salvation and with that salvation he gave me understanding of his word.

Another moment that I can look back and confidently say that I wasn’t a Christian – the time I heard on a Christian radio program a man telling a woman that she can be forgiven for her sin of abortion. My thought was, “What? Abortion is murder. Murderers don’t make it to heaven.” I was confused what this man was talking about. Now I know that anybody can be forgiven. We are all sinful.

There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, there is not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

I may be slightly better than a murderer, or an adulterer, or a drug addict. They’re here and I’m here. But the reality is that God is way up there at the sky. He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! He demands perfection in his holy kingdom.

We are not saved by our works. We are only saved by Christ’s works! He lived the perfect life, then died on the cross and bore our sins. He paid for an eternity’s worth of wrath for each one of us in those hours on the cross. It pains me to think how much pain Christ bore for me on that cross, not even including any others wrath that he paid for, but I’m sure glad he did.

No, we’re not saved by our works. Because once you put your works into the equation, you have to also put all your bad works into the equation, too. One sin cancels all your good works and is enough to condemn you forever. I now know that salvation not by being a basically good person. Salvation is by faith!

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) The righteous man shall live by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4) “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:30-31)

My old self thought I had been a Christian my whole life, but there is no such thing. We all are born into sin and live a life rebellious to God. The only way we can live a life of glorifying God is if we have been born again. I thought the born again was only for really bad people – prostitutes, drug addicts. The truth is that I am just as guilty as they are. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

Jesus told that to a leading Pharisee, Nicodemus. Even Nicodemus, who was surely much better than me, probably didn’t fall into that partying lifestyle, and probably went to synagogue several days a week, and prayed several hours a day, needed to be born again.

To reiterate the point,

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have learned that the Christian life is much more difficult than an unbelieving life. It’s much easier to go with the ways of the world and be a man-pleaser. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

Jesus received undeserved hate. He proclaimed the truth and way of salvation, and the world hated him for telling them they were deceived and living a life against God. The whole world is hostile toward the true Christian viewpoint. They’re not hostile to false Christian viewpoints, such as cheap grace – just believe in Jesus and go on living like a heathen; or the prosperity gospel – that God wants to make you healthy and wealthy and he’s going to really take care of you if you just have faith; or universalism – that God is a loving God and everybody’s going to heaven and there is no judgement for sin. God is a loving God, but he is also a just God. The world loves those false forms of Christianity, but they hate true Christianity. The Christianity that says, “All men have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God,” and all men need to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ, for “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

I know this Christian life is tough. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Although I know this Christian life has been and will be tough, I have great joy and peace. I do because I know the price has been paid for me by Jesus on the cross and whenever I die or Jesus comes to take me home, I will have eternal life in a kingdom where there is no sin and I have no sin and I can worship my savior face to face! I can’t wait for that day! I also have great joy and peace because of Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished.” My salvation has been worked out! Victory has won over death! And I know that because I didn’t earn this salvation, I cannot lose this salvation. God freely gave me salvation, and my salvation is in his hands. No one can take this salvation away from me.

For Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) 

Kurt Yoder, 27, has been a Christian for about three years. He lives in rural western Missouri and is a member of a Southern Baptist Church. He and his wife have been married for two years, and have been blessed with a six-month old daughter.

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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.