“What Outcomes Were You Expecting?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

Expectations checking the boxes

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah55_8-9 clouds

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

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

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

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

God bless you and stay staunch,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

The Apple Didn’t Fall Too Far

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Are you getting spun up? If you are frustrated by the things happening in our world, you are not the only one. However, you may have forgotten or have not understood the factors driving the “chaos.”

“It revolves around the Genesis story and the central fact of the marring of creation by human sin,” writes David K. Ryden in his evangelical perspectives in public policy book, Is the Good Book Good Enough? (2011, Lexington Books).

“Biblical revelation absolutely demands that evangelicals fully come to grips with the fact of a fallen world and accept the pervasive presence of sin and its consequences for all of creation; all that is in the world bears the consequences of that sinfulness, from the individual to governmental institutions and society at large,” writes Ryden.

adam-and-eve

What Does It Mean That Our World and People Are ‘Fallen’?

“But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous (other versions say “upright”), but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29, New Living Translation)


Maybe you forgot or didn’t know that we live in a fallen world. Many blame Adam and Eve for being gullible and enticed by Satan. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.  Why would your rebellion against God be any different? Yes, this began our ‘fall’ or in short, my and your rebellion against God. The fall represents estrangement from, separation from God; to be at enmity with God; to pull away from God’s will and design for our lives. It represents spiritual and moral degredation. This is in short, sin, and there are consequences to sin.

All creation is paying the price for the original sin of Adam and Eve, which continues to perpetuate lawlessness, confusion, strife, rebellion, and brokenness in our world. Christ came to restore us to a right relationship with God. Repentance and turning away from sin and turning to God to seek His will and ways through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ is how we begin that redeeming and restorative process. For a topline overview on the fall, read here.

This fact and in all that we do should draw us to recognize our own sinfulness and that of others and the limitations of justice and peace that can be acquired through human efforts. This is indeed why Christ Jesus came for our redemption. Human pursuits of justice even in our best intentions will always fall short of the measurement of what Christ will do through repentant hearts.

The Pervasiveness of Sin: From Individuals to Institutions

Don’t be fooled. Sin has found its way into every heart, every home, and every institution of society. “Sinfulness does not somehow melt away when we move from one individual to a government bureaucracy or institution,” says Ryden. “If anything, it is likely to be magnified. The corrosive effect of sinfulness amplified by power is as evident in the workings of institutions as it is individually. A healthy appreciation for the consequences of sin should generate a measure of skepticism as to what politics and government can accomplish.”

While government is an institution ordained by God to establish a well-ordered society, it is fallen, as are other institutions. It is operated by and made up of sinful humans. It is in this that Christians should have an appreciation for government while understanding that only the perfection and fullness of justice, morality, and righteousness will be attained through God’s new Kingdom coming.

Many people are seeking a “messiah” in other people or worldly institutions to fix what is happening. Then they become frustrated when the wrongdoings continue to perpetuate.

“The world’s truly inconvenient truth is the Gospel,” says Ryden. “Its narrative of creation, fall and redemption suggests that inconveniently, things are not in our control. Inconveniently, the Gospel requires us to place hope not in ourselves.” We are to place our hope in Christ Jesus, the only Messiah.

coming-kingdom-of-god

What We Can Do 

It’s good to be discontent with the status quo. But don’t get spun up in what is happening, for this world is not our home. All that is happening is fulfilling God’s purposes as we look to our eternal home with Him.

In these times of swift transitions, it is my prayer that Believers remain steady in Christ’s perfect peace (John 14:27, John 16:33) and keep our focus on Christ (Isaiah 26:3). May we continue to be transformed into Christ’s likeness and thereby share His light, love, and truth with others. Pray for rebellious hearts to be repentant and transformed by His Love. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). May we be the answer to that prayer in how He desires to use us to restore justice, morality, and righteousness.

God bless you and stay staunch,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

 

Is Holiness Possible Today?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Oh Nikki, stop it with that holier than thou stuff,” said mom to my then 13 or 14-year-old self. Note: mom didn’t say “stuff” but I’ve chosen a more appropriate substitute.  🙂

Mom was responding to my correction about her cussing. I was a black child, albeit raised in a household by two Christian parents, along with my brother, who found boldness (or ignorance) to correct her mother. Those of you who understand the dynamics of growing up in a black household, mom didn’t like back talk (even if we were right) and neither did/does Dad (mom passed away in 1989). But within me, I had a boldness and love for the Lord and a desire to see others love and live for the Lord as He calls us to.

I-am-the-light-of-the-world

My love for the Lord began in early childhood. My parents bought my brother and me an entire 10-volume set of illustrated bible stories. I read the stories from page to page, enjoying the illustrations, loved learning about Jesus, his ministry, his and the disciples’ interactions with others. Even reading about his crucifixion and resurrection, I may have read that more than the other stories. I loved the Lord, yet my childhood thing was to be so perfect that I wouldn’t get in trouble with mom and dad. So if I didn’t complete a chore, broke a dish, got a bad report card grade, or something else, I lied about it. I sometimes blamed the incident on my brother who had no clue that he was about to get a spanking because I lied so well. Goodness gracious. He and I can look back on it now and laugh, but at that time it was no laughing matter. My parents were grieved by my boldface lying pattern, and one day said to me, “Nikki, we want to be able to trust you. We can’t trust you.”

Those words pained me deeply. I too, wanted my parents to be able to trust me. Why did I fear being punished to the point of lying? I was truly repentant and asked the Lord’s help to stop lying, to turn from this. I didn’t want to be a liar. This was at age 12. It was then that I turned my life over to Jesus Christ, and my heart was made new. It was then that I felt a greater love for the Lord, with such a zeal to share Him and His love with others, to encourage them to walk in His truth.

Oh yes, this has long been who I am. This sudden change occurred within our household with my mom who was a Believer. But she still had her favorite curse words, liked to smoke her occasional More brand slim cigarettes, and liked to drink her occasional screwdriver. She was not delighted to hear her teen daughter’s correction. Eeeks.

Two scriptures (and certainly there are more) come to mind in writing this: 

1 Peter 1:16 (English Standard Version), since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” As one commentary reads, “The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian’s life, and by this rule, we are commanded to be holy in every way. God makes those holy who he saves.  Holiness (should be) the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, all conditions and toward all people.”

Matthew 5:6 (New International Version), Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  As I was coming more into the Lord in childhood, I genuinely had a hunger and thirst for righteousness; for a right relationship with God and others (and still do). I simply didn’t interpret it with this understanding at that time, and likely, neither did mom.

be_ye_holy_as_i_am_holy_by_whitenine-d34fske

Sooo many opportunities to sin abound in our society. Is the Bible and how God calls us to live still relevant or even possible in today’s challenging times? The answer is “Yes.” God’s Word, His character and His nature are unchanging, no matter the situation. In the next few weeks, our ministry will speak with college students who are struggling on how to navigate such societal trappings. Worse, as they seek to successfully avoid the trappings and enticements of sin, they see some members within the Body of Christ who they look up to, engaging in similar sins—the sins the students are told to avoid. Many of them are disheartened and confused by what they see. As I mentor our young people, I understand that this millenial generation truly wants to see those more mature in the Body of Christ walking the walk and not just talking it. Truly living in holiness,  yielding our flesh and spirit in obedience to God’s will. Mirroring Christ’s love and His ways.

But I’ll ask them as I am asking you: Is holiness possible today? Do you even desire holiness or understand what it is? As dear friend and co-founder of Christian think tank FreedomSquared.com, Hakim Hazim, said so well recently: “Many want God’s blessings but reject the relationship standards.” 

What Holiness Means and Why It is Possible Today 

Holiness means to be “set apart, consecrated, set apart for God’s purposes; sacred, hallowed, sanctified. Called out of darkness to reflect God’s Light to the world.” God gives us His Holy Spirit so we can live as He does. That’s why it is possible, even today, to live holy.

Is holiness possible today? You bet. It’s not only possible, it’s God’s plan for us. Be encouraged: I am living it as are others. If you’re living it, continue, as others are watching and listening. If you’re struggling, I offer this prayer:

Lord, help us through Your Holy Spirit to yield to your ways, your will for holiness and not how we interpret that to mean.  Develop within us such a love and devotion for you that drives our desire to pursue holiness no matter the situation or environment we’re facing. Though there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), let us not use that as a license to keep allowing past sins into our present.  Help us to model to this generation what a life of true joy, true freedom, true peace can look like in You. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, mercy and grace upon us. 

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.

 

We’re OUTRAGED. Now What?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Egregious. Heartbroken. Horrific. Incomprehensible. These words describe some of the feelings and thoughts that have charged many of our written and verbal communications over this past week’s unjust sentencing decision rendered by  Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky: a six-month sentence to county jail and probation for 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, a former Stanford swimmer who while drunk, raped an unconscious 23-year-old woman behind a dumpster last January. Two Swedish men bicycling near the scene (heroes) saw what was happening and pursued Turner, getting him off of her. For this egregious act, prosecutors pushed for a six-year sentence for Turner but Judge Persky reduced his sentence to six months given that he had no previous criminal history and that “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him,” according to Persky. What???

According to The Guardian and other news sources, the woman who during the sexual assault was unconscious from a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit at the time of the rape and who had no memory of the attack, said at the trial:

“You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today,” she said, reportedly directly to Turner. “I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt.” 

The woman also read aloud in the courtroom her 12-page authentically powerful, raw letter (her letter has been published with several media sites though we’ve chosen not to link to it as it may reopen wounds for others).

Mercury News

Former Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner plead not guilty Monday morning Feb. 2, 2015, in a Palo Alto, Calif., courtroom to charges related to an alleged rape on campus. Turner was represented by attorney Mike Armstrong. (Karl Mondon/Mercury News Staff)

Judge Aaron Persky

Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky has come under fire for his six-month lenient sentencing (instead of the prosecutor recommended six years) rendered against Brock Allen Turner, stating that “A prison sentence would leave a severe impact on him.” Photo courtesy NY Daily News.

In learning more about this case, you, me and the wider public have been outraged all week. In our anger and frustration about the violent act further impacted by a miscarriage of justice, we’ve expressed choice words about this situation. Even as a Christian whose mind has been renewed, unladylike words and thoughts entered my mind and were stopped short of leaving my lips by the Holy Spirit. I was outraged and I saw your messages of outrage and disbelief too.

What outrages us? 

We’re outraged by Turner’s choices and actions that inflicted unthinkable violence upon this woman. We’re outraged that the woman was asked all kind of irrelevant questions by Turner’s lawyer such as, “Are you serious with your boyfriend? Do you have a history of cheating? What were you wearing?” We’re outraged by Judge Persky’s unjust and too lenient sentencing because  a longer prison sentence would devastate Turner and his future. We’re outraged at Turner’s father writing a letter, concerned that his son was unable to eat his favorite meals because he’s so upset. What???

1 in 4. Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 college women will be raped, sexually assaulted or a victim of attempted rape in her lifetime (although we believe the numbers are higher). Forty-four percent of victims are under age 18. Eighty percent are under age 30. Every 107 seconds.

We’re outraged that in 2016, after all of the “Take Back the Night” and similar campaigns have been conducted, articles published, panel discussions held, myriad conversations, initiatives, events to educate and prevent, we’re STILL talking about sexual assault. This outrages us. We’re outraged, frustrated and heartbroken that in reading this, we know the devastation of such violence whether we’ve experienced it first hand or have comforted, listened to, cried with, ministered to or helped loved ones, friends, family members and others, in addressing it and healing from the brokenness of it.

We’re outraged. Now what? 

I ask this question as a frustrated human being over the wickedness that lies within mankind’s heart. I ask this question in understanding your anger and frustration too. Yet, the Holy Spirit challenged me to view this very differently and from a spiritual perspective.

In asking “why is this injustice (and frankly all injustices) still happening?,” here’s the rub: Frankly, we’re asking a lot of a world that is riddled with sin. We’re asking a lot of a world that is fallen, whose desires, hearts, thoughts and wills have not sought God. We’re asking a world to “get it together” as they’ve purposely chosen to fulfill carnal appetites and are spiritually bankrupt and spiritually-dispossessed. We’re asking a sinful world to “know better and do better” when they’ve divorced themselves from seeking, knowing and loving God and have no desire to love others, to be transformed in their hearts by Christ.

We’re asking a prideful and arrogant world to invite God/give God full access to all areas of their life so they may walk in His ways. People don’t want to embrace such obedience or “sacrifices” that will have God telling them “no.” And if they do invite God in, He’s only allowed to speak to them during a crisis. Otherwise, God should remain quiet and not interfere with how they desire to speak, behave, think, carry themselves, interact with, etc. (Isaiah 65:2)

While you and I may have surrendered all to Christ Jesus, others haven’t. You and I may be walking in Romans 12:1-2, but others have chosen not to: “Therefore, I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2- Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (New International Version)

God is a Holy God of love, mercy and justice. Because God created us, man and woman, in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), we also long for justice—it’s in our very makeup. Therefore, we become outraged when justice has not occurred. Yet, many want justice without inviting God into their lives. Oh yes—we want God to rectify injustices delivered by other people (sexual assaults, shootings, fraud, etc.), yet we won’t invite Him to work with us on the injustices we inflict upon others through our derogatory speech, ungodly thoughts and actions. We say, “God fix them but leave my stuff alone.” We’ve not surrendered to Romans 12:1-2.

clean heart

No doubt some acts are more egregious, horrific and more devastating than others. But as a Holy God, He views all sin equally. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

All offenses grieve God. Until we surrender unjust actions, thoughts, speech, behavior to Christ Jesus, we’ll continue to experience injustice in this world. Without Christ, we’re left to our own devices and it becomes a slippery slope. Without inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts, it’s foolish thinking to consider ourselves “good.” As a dear sister in Christ says, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

I’ve also asked His forgiveness in the unjust thoughts I had toward this incident. Will you give Him full access to transform you into Christ’s likeness, to help stop the further reproduction of more injustice?

Heavenly Father, I know you fully understand our anger, our outrage at the injustices carried out in this egregious situation. As Our Creator, you created us to also pursue justice. Heavenly Father, we pray for Your amazing love to heal the broken places in this young woman’s life and others affected by such actions. We pray that she and others would lay their anger, hurts, pain and shame at the foot of the Cross to receive true healing and freedom through Your Son Jesus Christ. We pray for Your justice to be rendered. We pray healing for victims and perpetrators. Lord, please raise up more principled and wise public servants who will administer true justice and exercise greater care over those they’ve been entrusted to serve.

Heavenly Father, you are a Holy God and view all sin equally. Forgive us for the injustices we’ve inflicted against You and others by our ungodly actions, thoughts and words. Lord, may we have an understanding for how all offenses grieve You.  Lord, may we obediently desire to surrender to you our unjust words, thoughts and actions to stem the further proliferation of injustices in this world.  May those operating in justice, in Light and Love as the Body of Christ continue to do so. Thank you and we love you. 

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior,

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 Good Person?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“You’re such a good person. You are so good-natured. You are humane.” If I hear these words told to me once more, I may scream. But I realize that the people speaking those words don’t know any better. They measure “goodness” by worldly standards. I haven’t killed anybody, haven’t shot anybody, didn’t curse anyone out. I must be “good.”

Yes, I was raised in a loving household, by a mom and dad who loved me and my brother dearly. Our parents taught us to be kind to others—even when we were called the “n-word” in our predominately White school district. We were taught to say “may I,” and “please” and “thank you.” We were taught not to steal because the item didn’t belong to us (though this still happened—that’s another story). We were raised in a Christian household, blessed by generations of family members whose love for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has bestowed God’s blessings and favor upon us today, as promised in Exodus 20:6

My grandma said that I was “born smiling.” Yet, in all of this “goodness,” and the compassion and kindness I show toward others today, trust and believe it’s not because I am “good.” I am still a product of being born into sin and a fallen nature. All of us are, due to mankind’s fall/Adam and Eve. Unequivocally, what you see outwardly from me is the Holy Spirit living and working moment-by-moment within me. Countless times the Holy Spirit has stopped me short of saying words that would be unkind. Countless times He has settled me with His love and peace toward others when my flesh wants to rise up and lay them out. As I wrote in this March 10, 2016 post, “10 Things I Shouldn’t Do But Do Anyway,” I am an imperfect vessel.

Transformation

I’ve purposely asked the Lord to transform me into His likeness. I daily pray that He help me extend toward others greater levels of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I give Jesus ALL of the GLORY for who I am, because of His living in me. I am not foolish in thinking that all of this has come because I am “so good.” It’s because I’ve made a deliberate choice to walk in His ways, to yield to His spirit and instruction to love others.

In fact, the Scottish Baptist evangelist Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), said “love means that there is no longer a visible habit, you have come to the place where the habit is lost, and by practice you do the thing unconsciously.” Loving others is becoming more and more for me each day, less of a habit and more a fabric of my being. Thank you, Jesus!

Those of us who daily yield our actions, words and thoughts to the Holy Spirit’s ways understand this humbling yet joyful transformation. As told in Philippians 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

It’s a blessing when we see God’s perfecting at work in our lives and others see the EVIDENCE as well. To call it anything less by saying “we are good” is to deny the greater work that has been invested in us by a loving God who values us so. If not for Him, we’d be left to our own devices. Without inviting the Holy Spirit into our hearts, it’s foolish thinking to consider ourselves “good.” As a dear sister in Christ says, “We underestimate our sin. We underestimate who we are.”

So please, do not consider me “good.” But rather, consider me being perfected daily in Christ Jesus!

-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.

 

Subterranean Iniquity

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. –Hebrews 4:13

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Usually when we think of the word “subterraneous” or “subterranean” we define it as something that lies or operates underneath the surface of the earth. However, this word could also be defined as something or someone that exists or operates out of sight or secretly. At times in our lives there have been subterranean iniquities a.k.a., sins that we have either failed to confess or knowingly attempted to cover up. What is sin? Summed up, it is an offense against God’s religious or moral law. It is the debased, depraved, or corrupt state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God a.k.a., in a wrong relationship with our creator. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” –James 4:13

Bishop J.C. Ryle, an 18th century Anglican preacher and prominent writer, once wrote this quote and I believe it’s still applicable today: “Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing you would not like God to hear. Write nothing you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, “Show it to me.” Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, “What are you doing?”

It’s worth considering. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through-out the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.  2 Chronicles 16:91-John-19-If-We confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive

You say, “Well then! How am I supposed to have any fun!?” Friend, I know without a doubt that you can have fun in the Lord and among his people. However, the truth is your life has to be clean in order to truly experience it. There is something about the Holy Spirit that lives within the Believers of Jesus Christ that before you can experience the joy and the fun you can have in him, he first prompts you to “go and sin no more.”  He says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 37:4   Our lives ought to be holy so that the presence of the Lord can be with us and ultimately so that we can be used for his glory and the Kingdom of God.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  –1 John 1:5-9  Forgive-Me- 1 John 1-9

Jesus stands ready to forgive and save the unbeliever. Likewise he is always ready to restore the fallen believer. Will you draw near to him? He wants you to. It’s my prayer that you do today. Amen

-Jason

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.

Learn more about Jason M. Alexandre here.

New Life in a Fallen World

And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.” (Genesis 3:17)

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Jason M. Alexandre, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

If you are reading this message today then pause, thank God that you are alive. Thank him for the many blessings that came to you in the past and will come to you today as well in the future. But in our aliveness today there will most likely be many work related things we must do. Every day we awake, our minds, bodies and hearts are strained in some way as we work to make a living. Life was not always such a struggle but when Adam disobeyed God, sin entered into the world. Sin causes disharmony. Sin is a violation against God and can also be against others. It comes in different forms and can only inflict harm in one way or another. There is no good in it. Creation is now altered because of humankind rebellion towards their creator. We now feel the consequences of that original sin going on internal and externally.

Some blame God and say, “Well then, what’s the point of living? I might as well die!” That seems like a hopeless and depressing statement to say. A person who has lost faith in God or one who has not quite realized the ramifications of a relationship without Jesus Christ might question their meaning in life. In fact, historically, that has always been one of humankind’s greatest questions: Why am I here? What is my meaning in life? Well, although life seems to be difficult it is still a remarkable and beautiful experience. For the believer who trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal savior, you have hope, a new life, and purpose.

The Bible makes a striking comparison between Adam and Jesus describing how each man’s individual act determined the fate of the world. “But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15). There was not only a physical death that occurred through Adam’s disobedience but a spiritual one as well.

The relationship between humankind and God was severed because of sin. The truth is, it’s not that God nor longer wanted an intimate relationship with man. In fact he desires to intimately love man. Man is the only creation in which God can truly relate. However, the relationship between God and man was separated because of sin. God cannot esteem sin. It’s not in his character to do so. It’s impossible for him to accept sin. For the Bible says, “your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you cannot look on wickedness with favor.” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Throughout the Old Testament we see humankind making blood sacrifices after another to repair the damaged relationship in order to continue to commune with God. But a final blood sacrifice came to settle humankind’s relationship with the father. Every time I hear the gospel, it brings a big smile to my face. Inwardly, my heart gets excited and I feel a deep joy in my spirit. The gospel really is good news! “Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” (Romans 5:18).

May we remember and focus our relationship with Jesus Christ who points us back to the Father. Our sins are now forgiven past, present and future. “So then, since we have a great high priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”(Hebrews 4:14-16) Amen

-Jason M. Alexandre

 

About Jason M. Alexandre

Jason Melchizedek Alexandre was born on November 29, 1989 in Brooklyn, New York. However, at two years old he and his family moved to Philadelphia, PA. Later, Jason moved to Limerick, PA where he now resides. Jason is currently working toward obtaining his Master of Social Work degree at Widener University. 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 nation to nation. On a yearly basis, Jason primarily goes to Haiti on a mission trip with Haiti Christianity Inc. Each year Haiti Christianity visits different cities and/or villages in Haiti bringing children educational supplies, clothes, and medical supplies. They also facilitate conferences in which bible study, budgeting tips, financial planning and most importantly evangelization takes place.  Jason is currently their public relations director. Jason’s vision is for the gospel to continue to be spread throughout the world and believes it is Christian’s responsibility to carry out this mission effectively.

 

 

 

Love, Obedience and Not Judgment

Pride is one of those seven deadly sins that sneaks up on us. We think ourselves better than others if we don’t do this or don’t do that sin. We cast judgment upon others without knowing their story, or first extending compassion. Even those of us who strive daily to live holy and obedient to God’s Word fall short in one area or another. We should first seek to understand, and show love. Then instruct truth.  But before we can instruct God’s truth with others who are walking in darkness, remember: Without relationship with Christ, we have no witness and people cannot receive from us.

Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Guest Blogger

Luke 13:2- “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered?” (New Living Translation)

“Your sin is greater than mine, therefore what could you teach me?”

How many of us have uttered this phrase, or have at least thought it? In some fashion we all have had indignant attitudes toward individuals or their experiences, which we believed below our standing of living. This verse refers to sinners, but we have plenty of categories of comparisons, such as money, morality, and so on… In my case, I work to not cast a leering eye, a point of confession to become accountable for my actions. Who is next? For God isn’t interested in keepers of the law, or hypocrites. His blood shed for you and me cast out the law, so that we might have eternal life. Hence, no one is perfect, but we all should strive to live obedient to God’s word. He seeks those who desire to live holy. Here we will grow. There we will flourish. Only then will community of supporters populate, which will spread the glory of Christ. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 24, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.

Seven Bitter Fruits of Sin

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Nicole D. Hayes, Creator of Voices Against the Grain

Hi Dear Friends. I am delighted to share with you the following LifeKEYS devotional written by Pastor Colin Smith sent by dear friend and sister in Christ, Rachel Hart.  Pastor Smith created LifeKEYS as a tool to “unlock the Bible and help persons to experience more than just information, but a life-changing transformation through Jesus Christ.” Pastor Smith’s devotional below, is short, to the point and unquestionable in meaning. Please read “The Seven Bitter Fruits of Sin.”  Thank you Rachel for allowing me to share this message with others. -Nicole

 

By Pastor Colin Smith

 

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan… 2 Thessalonians 2:9                                                  Bitter rotten fruit

If sin is the secret activity of Satan at work in the soul, what does it produce in a person’s life?

1. Deceptionwith all wicked deception… (2 Thessalonians 2:10)

Evil deceives; that is its nature. Where you find sin attractive, that is where Satan deceives.

2. Perishingfor those who are perishing. (2:10)

For those outside of Jesus Christ there is an unraveling of life that is going on, a taking down, a becoming less. By nature we are perishing.

3. Refusingbecause they refused to love the truth… (2:10)

The greatest barrier to faith lies not in the doubts of the mind, but in the desires of the heart.

4. PleasureAll… who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2:12)

“Had pleasure in unrighteousness” explains why they “did not believe.” Where the heart loves wickedness, the mind cannot embrace the truth.

5. Delusiontherefore God sends them a strong delusion… (2:11)

When a person keeps resisting Christ and pushing him away, God eventually gives him or her over to what he or she desires.

6. (False) Beliefso that they may believe what is false. (2:11)

When a man feels that he is his own God, his own law, and that he stands on his own goodness, you know he has swallowed the lie.

7. Condemnation

All [will] be condemned who did not believe the truth… (2:12)

This is why we need a Savior, and why we rejoice in these words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(Romans 8:1)!

A Life Worth Living

Herbert G. Bowen, VATG Guest Blogger

Herbert G. Bowen, VATG Guest Blogger

Psalm 119:71

My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.

This verse should be coupled with Psalm 119:7 as it says, “As I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should!” The pairing of the verses provides an action and a reaction. The action is witnessed through our suffering, which produces enduring characteristics like patience, perseverance, and character (Romans 5:3-5). Our suffering leads us back to God (reaction), while our eyes affix themselves on the path He set before us. Now we learn that fulfilling our own desires doesn’t glorify God, but degrades us. Therefore, may we cast out the notion that sin is acceptable, for our time on Earth is borrowed and we only have one life to live it right. So let us evade the evil found at night and run toward the fulfillment found in the light.  For wrongdoing bears little opposition; but righteous living finds many enemies, though stays favorable in God’s sight. Amen

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C.  At his current age of 23, Herbert is the youngest board member on the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Leadership Council, where he serves to lessen the costs of tuition for African American students. Moreover, Herbert serves on the PureHope advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.

Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management. He provides business expertise to help others start their businesses.