Will You Be Found Wanting?

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Tekel (means “weighed”): You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. –Daniel 5:27, New International Version

The New Living Translation uses the words “have not measured up” and the New American Standard Bible uses the words “found deficient.”

The Gill’s Exposition commentary on Daniel 5:27 gives the meaning on ‘Tekel’:

“though art weighed in the balances: of justice and truth, in the holy righteous law of God; as gold, and jewels, and precious stones, are weighed in the scales by the goldsmith and jeweler to know the truth (the integrity) of them, weighed with great exactness, to know the worth of them… where a person’s principles, practices, are to be weighed; and it is sad where they are found light and wanting…pretending to be righteous and holy and will be found wanting of that holiness and righteousness…his works will be found wanting, and not answerable to the demands of a righteous law, and he without the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness, and so naked and speechless. The fire of the word will reveal, try, and burn up and being able to stand against it; and if these are weighed in the balances, they will be found wanting of real truth and goodness, and be but as chaff to wheat…”

Daniel 5:27 along with the commentary, references those whose works, intentions of their heart and their lifestyle has been counterfeit and unrighteous in the eyes of God.  They pursued vanities and not the truth; not the true oil to fill their lamps. Their living will be measured against God’s standards and found to be deficient. Their vain living and works absent of the righteousness of Christ will be burned up in the fire like hay or wood. The fire will test what work each has done, and if anyone’s work is burned up he will be saved but only through the fire. However, those robed in Christ’s righteousness, who have operated in the truth, will be like pure jewels and stones whose works when measured on the scales will not be deficient but of lasting, enduring, eternal substance and significance.

scales Daniel 5-27

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 also references those who build their lives on foundations other than the true foundation of Christ Jesus. In doing so, no matter their worldly accolades and achievements, they will come up short in their eternal impact.

That which we love, we seek. Many people pursue the vanities of worldly significance, ignorant and oblivious to what will truly be of significance/weight/value in the eternal. This grave and irreversible reality is sealed after they have died, have been eulogized and unable to do no more. They will be without excuse.

Paul also says “each man’s work will be burned up in the fire,” and what will remain? The nearer you draw to God in THIS LIFE, it sets your course on your role with GOD in Eternal Life. As Believers, we will not be judged for our sins but our work will be judged. What work did we do for Him? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” and to be near to Him, and to love Him. We are establishing an eternal inheritance for ourselves.

Introspection

Sometimes I am led to expand more in my writings but have not felt that leading here. The message is piercing and sobering. It calls us to take a serious account of our living thus far; to ask God to reveal to us areas where we are falling short. To seek and pursue Him with everything we have. To yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leading into truth and to follow in the right direction. We want to hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

Will your work be sustained or burn up? Will you be found wanting on the scales? Your folly will be made manifest at a time in which there are no “do overs”; the window of “redo” will have closed as you find your living and works deficient, if you are found wanting on the scales according to God’s standards.

Have you lived as God calls us–to be holy and righteous? Have you provided people with sufficiency, weight and truth? What fruit have you produced in their lives that will give them eternal weight?

-Nicole

 

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Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 2)

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters: This writing continues as Part 2 of 2  to the previous post I wrote sharing with you my present season of trial in overcoming illness and being restored to health. This has not only been a physical battle but also a spiritual battle in rejecting the enemy’s lies about my future and God’s plans for me. In this experience, God has revealed several things to me which I will share to hopefully encourage you in your current or upcoming trial. Most importantly, I’ve learned that: our God is greater than our circumstances, He is so near to us even at times if you do not perceive His presence, He goes out of His way to remind us of His faithfulness toward us and love for us…and that the devil remains and will always be a liar. I have also been encouraged by many of your “likes,” “shares” and comments on social media with regard to how the previous post blessed you. I am grateful to be used in God’s service for His Kingdom. I am also very thankful for those praying for me.

Lord, help me to see the treasure in this trial. -Joyce Meyer

In the previous post, I concluded that by God’s grace I am improving in health and yet await more concrete answers from my doctors’ appointments. In the waiting, those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

Indeed, my need to have answers was consuming too much of my focus. During a text message exchange on the subject with a dear sister in Christ, I communicated to her my frustration of not having the full picture of whatever was going on with me. She responded with scripture and Godly counsel that reframed my thinking on the matter that would steer me in a more productive direction:

“I cannot say I understand what you’re going through and it seems quite terrifying by your description. However, I see you rallying to the trial and submitting to Christ and appealing to His mercy for help. I say, ‘Amen,’ and keep fighting my sister!!! Also, I look at how God uses healing to minister to our spirits, remove fleshly strength, increase our faith and to “see” the fragility of man against God’s power, strength and provision. I think about how your dependence on Him has grown and I say ‘Amen!’ I think perhaps the focus might be provision over answers. They may come in time as you work through the medical system but focusing on that “need” keeps you distracted from what God is providing in terms of strength and resources TODAY. Follow Him so close that you are looking at the hem of His garment. Remember He fed the 5,000 and His prayer was to thank His Father for the few fish and loaves He had in hand. Thank God for what is in your hand to open the supernatural abundance that only God can give. I say this to slow down your thoughts and encourage you not to lose the precious holy ground you’ve gained through faith and trust in Him. As it says in James 1:2…“let steadfastness have its full effect”–in other words, don’t cut short your trial because the full effect is that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Lacking in nothing my sister!!! Our God is a burden bearer, our great physician and healer. His work is mighty and our requests are but a shadow of what He wants to accomplish! Be strong and courageous and keep on today with what generous provision He has blessed you with TODAY! Our God is so faithful!”

My dear sister’s words resonated with me and I’ve referred back to them often to remind myself to be grateful and thankful for what God is doing TODAY. To thank Him for the improvements today that were not experienced yesterday. I am grateful!

The Next Health Scare

It was a couple weeks later that I began a doctor-recommended fruit and vegetable juice fast. This would help give rest to my digestive system and still gain nutrients while clearing out any toxins, food allergies, etc., that were aggravating my system. To give my body a reset. For the first couple days, I struggled on the fast for I was already in a weakened state from not being able to consume much without experiencing inflammation. I stayed with dear friends who lovingly cared for me and monitored my progress while on the fast. The fast was good for me as I began to see improvements, namely my energy returning, my digestive system seemed to be settled and my nasal allergies were dissipating.

However, as I continue to learn the sensitivities of my system, my dear friend had to drive me to the ER at 2 a.m., because of inflammation from one of the juices. My heart palpitations were faster and pounding harder than I had ever experienced and it greatly concerned me. The palpitations were likely exacerbated by my anxiousness (though I was trying to remain calm as I laid in her back seat) and also by the inflammation my body was fighting. I also had some vomiting. The ER attendants, seeing my condition, took my vitals and quickly wheeled me back to a trauma room to immediately slow down my heart rate. I didn’t even look at the monitor to the left and above my head, knowing that seeing the numbers would have made me even more nervous.

I am thankful for my dear friend for staying with me as the doctors and nurses got my system settled. Thank you God. When I tell you that I know He is with me, I can tell you for sure having gone through this process. He is indeed with me. I am thankful for my dear friend and her family as they continue to pray for my recovery. I was released from the ER later that morning and went home. I’ve since been prescribed medication to begin addressing my GI issues which has helped. Inflammation is little to no more and I’ve not had palpitations. Even with upcoming doctors’ appointments, I know though more than anything, it is my prayer time, meditating and believing on God’s Word, God’s faithfulness and healing, and the prayers of many that are restoring me to health. We are more than conquerors, my brothers and sisters! The enemy is defeated!

In encouraging words shared by another dear sister in Christ, she reminded me that “whatever God allows us to go through, we’re going to come out on the other side. The one question is, “Do you trust God?” So true. God will see us through it and if we trust Him, we will indeed come out victorious on the other side–like pure gold. There are indeed treasures wrapped in trials.

 

Treasure

What I’ve Learned in This Process to Hopefully Encourage You

  1. Humble yourself, cry out to the Lord. Acknowledge that you need His help and cannot do this by yourself. Surrender all notions of pride or self-sufficiency. At my most vulnerable times, I cried out like David, asking the Lord’s help. He has surely helped and rescued me (The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; – Psalm 34:15). Though I’ve known the Lord many years, I’ve known Him better in the fiery furnace.
  2. Don’t quit, never give up. Keep pressing. There are spiritual blessings, treasures wrapped in trials. James 1:2 assures us of this: “Let steadfastness have its full effect.” When the answers seem slow in coming or hard to understand, trust God.
  3. DEMOLISH arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and take EVERY thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, as told to us in 2 Corinthians 10:5. IMMEDIATELY, I reject any thought or attack of the enemy by responding with God’s Word, God’s promises of what God says about who He is, who I am and my future. This also means our thought life must be renewed and transformed out of the natural (Romans 12:2). 
  4. It’s not enough to read and hear God’s Word. We must also believe God’s Word and be doers/act in accordance to God’s Word as referenced in James 1:22.  I also meditate on God’s Word day and night (Joshua 1:8) and throughout the day. I believe God’s Word. I believe what I’ve read and written about. Now, it’s about holding fast to it and acting on it in every environment and situation. 
  5. Though I had God’s peace before, I am learning more what it means to abide, dwell in, rest in, be still in God’s peace. He has given us His peace (John 14:27) which is part of our inheritance. It’s already in us. We simply need to abide in it.
  6. Do not worry, do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6), do not fret (Psalm 37:1). This is especially important if you battle anxiety which really is an unproductive anticipatory response (“what if”) about your future when we already know that God is the Chief and Designer of our future. He is already IN our future and He is the One keeping you and me in all moments even when we don’t have all of the answers. I am learning to live in the “right now.”
  7. Celebrate and GIVE THANKS for what God is doing in you, for you and through you TODAY–no matter what you see, how you feel or what you hear that would seek to contradict that God is at work and bringing all things together for your good.
  8.  God loves you and me SO MUCH and in so many ways. Nothing will ever, ever, ever separate us from His love (Romans 8:37-39).
  9. I’ve learned to forgive myself. I am certain that my health issues were created by or exacerbated by my fears and anxiety. As much as I’ve been a good steward of my health over the years by eating right, exercise, etc., I was upset that I allowed something like anxiety to cause me such problems. Anxiety and worry is a sin (and I repented to God about it) as it infers that I do not trust God and who He says He is and what He will do. Yet, God knew this point in my spiritual development would come. I am still being developed, being matured and being perfected in Christ Jesus. No challenge, no change. This is a lifelong journey for each of us who are in Christ Jesus and if we remain steadfast, we will one day be made complete, made perfect, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). We will also be more of a blessing to equip and encourage others.
  10. Put aside all pride and reach out to others/allow others to help you. God truly blesses us through people as we were not designed to journey this life alone.
  11. Do not find it strange that you have come under attack by the enemy. As long as we’re Believers, we have a target on our back. Though the enemy roars like a lion, looking for someone to devour, be humble, stand firm in your faith and do not fear. Our enemy is on a short leash and will only be allowed to go so far. After you have suffered a little while, (God) will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). I encourage you to read 1 Peter 5:5-11 which is the foundation scripture in this powerful sermon, “When Anxiety Attacks” delivered by Pastor Steven Furtick. I invite you to watch it.
  12. Lastly: We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,). We are operating from and seated in a position of victory. We are not of this world. This world is not our home. We are traversing through this perishing, decaying, corrupt world as Ambassadors of Christ, each day walking more and more in the eternal land of the living and hopefully pointing the lost and deceived toward abundant life found only in Christ Jesus.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you, thank you for Your awesome, unconditional and unfailing love You have for us. Your love is beyond compare and I’m still in awe of You. I thank you for how you have cared and watched over us; how Your Presence is with us even in times when we may not feel You as strongly as in other situations. You are indeed with us. You will never leave us nor forsake us as you promised. Father, please forgive us for times we have allowed worry, fears, anxiety or Satan’s lies to overshadow and undermine Your powerful Word, Your promises. We demolish and take captive anything that is contrary to Your Word and what you have promised us. Thank you for patiently striving with us as You lovingly stand with us in the fiery furnace so we will be perfected, lacking nothing. May we stand in Your Truth and abide in your peace in the fiery furnace and at all times, not only being hearers of your Word, but also believers and doers. Shore up our faith that we may remain steadfast. Help us to persevere and encourage others to persevere so the spiritual treasures in our trials may be seen.

Father, be with those who are waiting on You and trusting You for their healing. May they be reminded of Your faithfulness in their lives and cling to that. Give them wisdom in how to proceed and also wisdom to their health care providers in how to treat them. As we wait and believe for the full manifestation of what we seek, may we thank you for what you are doing today, this very minute.

In Your Son Jesus’ Matchless and Mighty Name we ask this.

Amen

God loves you. I love you. Remain steadfast. He’s got you in the protective grip of His Hand.

-Nicole

Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 1)

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Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  As you can surely attest, life has a way of turning on a dime, throwing us curve balls and suddenly placing us in the fiery furnace. During those “in the furnace” seasons, much is revealed about our faith, our trust in God, things God needs to shed from us and where we need to shore up our gaps to persevere and remain steadfast. This is a two-part writing I authentically share with you during a present season of trial. It’s more information than I would normally share publicly though I am led to do so in hopes to encourage and equip you to endure your current or upcoming trial. God is indeed with you.

My trial comes in the form of being extremely healthy for many years to suddenly battling and overcoming illness. I have learned and continue to glean much from this experience—particularly, where I thought I was in my faith walk, was not entirely so. Even so, God knows this and has still chosen me as His Daughter, His servant and co-laborer in His Kingdom. In my shortcomings and areas of weakness, His call on my life remains irrevocable for which I am grateful (the same applies to you too). I know for sure now more than ever that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is indeed my Strength and I am learning to fully lean on Him. This has also been a season of great vulnerability and reaching out to others for help. I am thankful for dear friends, dear prayer partners and family who have truly lifted me up in this time.

Faith: Not Where I Thought Was

In overcoming illness, I’ve had to believe what I have long read and have faithfully written about: The Word of God.

I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and life at age 12. I’ve been reading and studying God’s Word since then with a fervent desire to grow more in Him, to be more Christ-like, to truly advance His Kingdom in the earth; to encourage, equip and instruct the saints in His Word. I’m led to help the Body of Christ walk out their calling while also hoping to reach the lost and point them to true freedom in Christ Jesus. I’ve recited and stood upon scriptures more times than I can count. I am a Godly woman of faith. I have refuted Satan on numerous occasions during his attacks. Yet, it is this particular trial, testing and building up of my faith that has been unlike anything I had previously endured.

It began with contracting the flu or a virus on Thanksgiving Day 2017. I felt a tickle in my throat the night before and considered it to be my allergies. However, by midday Thanksgiving, came the onset of body aches, chills and a fever. For the next week and a half, I was laid up in bed with little to no appetite, weak, and frankly feeling like I was fading away. Just before contracting the virus, I experienced great energy, health, walked at least an hour or more six to seven days a week. I hadn’t had the flu since I was a kid. I am rarely sick. Life was zinging along well. Grad school was done and because of, there was more time to dedicate to ministry and mentoring. However, with limited energy, I was forced to reach out to others for help—something those close to me know that I rarely do. Dear friends in their generosity and thoughtfulness brought me soups, bottled water, had groceries delivered, made teas, etc. I am truly loved and cared for. God blessed me through them and in turn, I prayed that God would pour out His favor on them.

To provide some background to the situation: Prior to contracting the virus, I had begun mentoring youth at a school in the most violent, crime-ridden, impoverished part of Washington, D.C., which is southeast DC.  Of the District’s more than 650,000 residents, at least 142,000 residents call SE DC home. The area experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, drug trafficking, gang activity and unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, D.C. suffered a 54 percent increase in homicides with an estimated 75 percent of shootings committed by Black and Hispanic males ages 16 to 25. A number of youth that I’ve spoken to in SE DC have witnessed violence and because of, are unsure about their future and longevity.

In short, I had entered the enemy’s territory or as another person called it, “Devil’s County.” In addition, this past September, we ministered to students at two North Carolina colleges where strongholds were brought down and life, futures, and hope were restored. We experienced great victories at both colleges that did not go unnoticed. You can bet the enemy is displeased when you begin taking territory away from him for God’s Kingdom. You can expect spiritual opposition, spiritual warfare.

As I began to recover from the flu/virus, I felt like I was getting back to myself. I felt great and my colleagues could see this as well. It seemed to bring relief to all of us. In this time of recovery, I had been praying and crying out to God. In those times, He assured me He would heal me step by step. True to His character, I would see improvements a bit each day. I praised God!

Then one night, I got ahead of what God had promised me and attempted to “fix” or “hurry along” an area that still needed healing. In my need to “fix it,” I worsened my situation and had to go to the ER. I spent 12 hours in the ER undergoing several blood tests, waiting on results, then underwent a PE (pulmonary embolism) DT test to rule out a blood clot due to a rapid heart rate I was experiencing. The very thought of possibly having a blood clot gave me great angst and actually made my knees buckle when the nurse went to escort me down the hallway to the room and machine where the test would be performed.

As I laid on my back (I was by myself at the ER), hands folded above my head as the doctors slowly ran me through a tube to scan my chest, heart and lungs for a blood clot, I prayed to God under my breath as I had to be very still for the test. How did I get in this situation?? I was escorted back to the ER room where many patients were waiting, or in their rooms coughing and hacking from terrible colds or the flu. The ER was packed with patients seeking treatment for whatever ailed them and I was trying to stay in peace as I sat and awaited the PE scan results. As I waited, I texted a dear sister in Christ to pray for me and she did. Praise God, after about an hour of waiting, I was told I was clear–no blood clots.

I was released and headed home. I was relieved. But this would become one of at least six late night to wee-morning hour additional trips to the ER as the rapid heart rate (tachycardia) returned, my anxiety increased about my health (not knowing exactly what was causing my health issues), and inflammation with my GI system. I was losing weight because of a loss of appetite and a sensitivity to certain foods. And at times, I was losing my focus on God’s Word and His promises as the situation held more of my attention, awake and asleep. I also had to temporarily suspend some activities and pass on a great opportunity in order to make wellness a high priority. This saddened me as I am known for being reliable and following through on my commitments. I felt like the “me” of who I’ve been known as was crumbling.

I cried out to God like a child. As they say, “The struggle was real.” From bent knees to curled up fetal position, I was crying out for the Lord’s mercy and help. The battle was revealing to me areas where I needed to shore up my faith. I was battling the enemy’s onslaught of attacks on my thoughts, lies about my future and God’s plans for me. I began meditating on God’s Word “day and night” as written in Joshua 1:8, reading scriptures on healing, scriptures to cast my cares/burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22), to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6), to stay in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27), and to look to the One who bore our infirmities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  My bible is marked up and highlighted, flagged and dogeared; His Word tucked in my heart. Yet in this trial, was I believing what I had read and had written about? I’ve written a number of blog posts using these very scriptures. 

Bible Psalms

In this time, I was beginning to understand some of the root causes of my anxiety other than the enemy’s attacks. I’m only a few years older than my mother was when she passed at the young age of 40 in 1989 from colon cancer when my brother and I were teens.  She had been healthy as far as we knew and her diagnosis that year before hit my dad and our family like a freight train. We felt blindsided. In all of our praying, she still passed and I felt like her life was cut short. Today, I know that such things are God’s business and His ways are not our ways. Even in understanding this, the enemy would send thoughts that my life would be cut short. The thoughts seemed to come one after the other, like fiery darts that I would thwart with the shield of faith, yet some of those lies found their way in the chink of my armor and would ruminate in my mind far too long. I also spoke with others about this to release it.

I am growing more to trust God in the process of healing and trusting in His promises. This means forgoing my need to “fix” situations my way and rather to be Holy Spirit-led in how He would have me to approach issues. I am also rejecting the anxious and fearful thoughts that have waged war on my body, recovery and confidence in God’s Word. I am also so very grateful for my prayer partners who have undergone and some still going through their own seasons of illness and have encouraged me with their words and prayers. This process has also given me a deeper compassion and sensitivity for those battling illnesses and a greater connection in praying for them.

In the course of this battle with days of progress and setbacks, I still don’t have solid answers as to what is causing my health issues. By God’s grace and prayers, I am improving. I am awaiting my next doctors’ appointments to learn more. During a good portion of this process, my need to understand “why” and “what” was becoming too much of my focus. Yes, it is good to seek answers so we can learn more how God would have us to address the situation, but those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

-Nicole

NEXT: Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About” as I share excellent Godly counsel received from a dear sister in Christ that reframed my thinking, who I learned to forgive, what God has shown me in this process…and the next health scare.

We Are Family!

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Wow! What is that?” This is a question I would sometimes ask myself in meeting another Believer for the first time. Upon meeting, there seems an instant joy, love and recognition in the Spirit that we know and love the same God: Jesus Christ. There is often a great excitement felt and exchanged upon meeting as we share with one another about our personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how we have seen Him faithfully move in our lives and others’ lives, and how we see His Hand moving throughout the world. In these testimonial exchanges, there is a comfort and encouragement in hearing each others’ experiences from the simple to the supernatural; to know that we are not alone in how we have experienced God’s Presence in our lives.

While our experiences are unique, there are consistent threads of God’s proven character, faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, favor, and attention to detail over our smallest and greatest concerns woven through our testimonies. So when I say “Wow! What is that?” it is a feeling of this special affinity felt and shared among Believers. This special affinity, an inexplicable and sometimes hard to explain joy is felt that may cause us to desire to fellowship with such Believers for hours or all day long as we talk about our love for the Lord. Have you experienced this too?!

holy-spirit-fire-003

Recently, I lunched with one of the young ladies I mentor. She had moved to the DC/Virginia area from a small town in Northern California and in doing so, introduced me to her former mentor from California. Her former mentor was briefly visiting Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer events and joined us for lunch. Immediately upon she and I meeting, the connection of the Holy Spirit was felt among us. I am Black, the two of them White, and you would have sworn by seeing us together that we were family or had known each other for a very long time. We could have tarried in our fellowship all day in great joy in sharing about the Lord, but we needed to drive my mentee’s former mentor to the airport for her return flight to California.

I am grateful that God knit us together as brothers and sisters in His eternal family—not always through natural blood as in our born family, but more importantly through the Blood of Jesus Christ. It is through His Blood shed as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) and our belief in His Name and Who He is (Galatians 3:26), that we are indeed brothers and sisters in God’s eternal, multi-ethnic family! How extravagant! As the popular 1979 R&B Sister Sledge song says, “We Are Family.” People ask, “Could we be that close?” I say through Christ Jesus, “Yes, indeed!” As Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This special connection and joy is perhaps felt more deeply among those who have developed a daily and growing intimacy with the Lord. There’s so much to share in our daily experiences when you have journeyed with Jesus for several years—when the more time you spend with Him, the more you see Him show up in your day. I have truly enjoyed great conversations and fellowship with my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! I love them so much! I thank God for gifting us a foretaste of what we will experience eternally one day.

My dear brothers and sisters: It’s hoped that the outward display of our joy, love and sweet fellowship with Jesus—and with those who are not our natural brothers and sisters but our brothers and sisters through new life secured in Jesus Christ—will make curious those who say, “Wow! What is that?” Whether Believers who desire to deepen their intimacy with the Lord or those seeking to know the Lord, may our Christian fellowship be a witness of the amazing love in Christ flowing through His People. May the rivers of living water that flow in us by the Holy Spirit also pour into others so they may experience the Lord. And as we await Christ’s return, may what we hope for continue to be what we live for.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, New International Version)

Love and blessings,

Nicole

We Must Be Vigilant

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armor of God

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

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

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

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

Love and blessings,

Nicole

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

 

“You Have Not Spoken the Truth About Me”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

No, not of me. This is not about me. But perhaps along life’s journey, you’ve spoken incorrectly or you have not spoken the truth about our loving God. With recent disasters and tragedies it is plausible to behave so particularly if our maturity in, intimacy with and revelation about God is lacking.

The title comes from words spoken by God in Job 42:7 which reads 7After the LORD said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Termanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (New International Version) In verses 3 to 6 of Chapter 42, Job says this to the Lord which leads up to the Lord’s response in verse 7:

3“You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ (After repeating the Lord’s words, Job continues) Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’ 5My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

In reading Job’s responses in verses 3 to 6, I can feel his contriteness and humility. In his contriteness and in reading the previous chapters leading up to chapter 42, I also sense Job’s awe of how big, how great, how wise beyond our finite understanding is our God. Job realized that he could never even begin to govern God’s affairs — and neither can we.

In witnessing others’ trials whether illness, troubled relationships, financial hardships or injustices inflicted upon them, how many times have we blamed God? More confounding is the people who blame God who don’t even believe in God. Either He is blamed for not existing or He is blamed for existing and not doing something to intervene in that person’s unfortunate situation. Either way, God is depicted as mean, distant, disinterested and falling down on His job (negligent). The infamous words, “How could such a loving God allow such evil or allow such bad things to happen?” spring from the lips of finite beings who can barely begin to comprehend the wisdom of God as he tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9:

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Seeing all the suffering and loss that Job endured from losing his children, cattle, property, and his body covered with painful sores, Job’s wife said that he should “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) for keeping his integrity and faith in God. To her remark, Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) Job’s friends who the Lord references in Job 42:7 had taken the appearance of things as God’s wrath unhinged upon Job. Have you thought this as well when viewing another’s suffering or trials? Have you spoken incorrectly or untruthfully about God?

Certainly, we do not wish harm, illness, devastation, loss, injustices, or violence upon anyone. Yet, when things occur we seek to understand why God would allow such incidents. Particularly if the person has lived an honorable and faithful life to the Lord such as God’s servant Job.

Job 42-5 Now my eye sees you

What did Job do to bring these hardships upon himself? What acts was Job guilty of to justify these sucker punches from God, leaving him defenseless? Well, we understand from reading Job 1 and 2, Satan asks God’s permission to attack the Lord’s “blameless and upright servant” confident that after he was through, Job would surely curse God. But Job did not. In fact, it was in this trouble that Job’s contriteness and awe afforded him an even greater revelation about God—something not possible without undergoing the trial. Job seems to reference this aspect in verse 5 when he says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

The LORD also blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first (Job 42:12).

God is good. He is love, He is kindness. His mercy endures forever. Yet in all this, we are the least equipped to understand all of God’s ways by which He chooses to display His mercy, refine us, purify us, or reveal Himself more deeply to us for His purposes. In my journey with Him, I have come to understand this more and more.

Heavenly Father, please forgive us for moments of rash judgments made about You in our frustration, hurts, disappointment or suffering. Forgive us for when we have spoken or thought incorrectly or untruthfully about You. You who laid the earth’s foundations, who marked off its dimensions, who has given orders to the morning and shown the dawn its place, who knows where light and darkness dwells and can show them to their respective places—Your works are too wonderful for our comprehension. Your wisdom and knowledge of such things compels us to withdraw our accusatory finger pointing and draws us to repentance. Your Presence in all things is beyond our comprehension.

You are God and God alone. For this reason, we remain thankful that You are the Designer of our lives and whatever situations we face. Mature us and may we make every effort to draw nearer to You and persevere to grow in knowledge of You as we trust Your Divine providence. And we know that in all things You work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose—however You choose for this to look. All to Your Glory.

Thank you for loving us and extending us grace in our shortcomings. In Jesus’s Name we pray,

Amen. 

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.

 

To the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs: May We Each Be the Brick

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

To Pastor Frank Pomeroy, Sherri Pomeroy, the members of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, and the community of Sutherland Springs, Texas:

You do not know us but we have come to know you.

From our televisions and other devices, we have watched you graciously deliver responses to reporters and media as you lean on the Lord for strength in this time of unimaginable sorrow. Our hearts have been breaking alongside you upon hearing the horrific news and details from this past Sunday’s shooting that took place in your church. We mourn with you (Romans 12:15).

We know your hearts and minds like ours seek to understand “Why” but as you stated Pastor Pomeroy, “I don’t understand but I know my God does.” Questions abound as you and your wife grapple with the death of your precious daughter Annabelle, the 26 members of your church (several of them children) and those still hospitalized and fighting to live. As you and we know, God’s ways, wisdom and purposes infinitely surpass and transcend our finite minds. As the Lord says to us in Isaiah 55:8-9, 8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The moment we learned of this horrific tragedy brought to you, your families, church family and community, we prayed for the Lord to be so near to you; that you would immediately feel enveloped in His loving arms of comfort, peace and strength. We prayed for His peace to undergird you and we trust that He will continue to so long as you lean on Him.

The Texas Catholic Sutherland Springs

(Photo courtesy: Courtney Sacco/Caller-Times)

We stand with you. We will continue to lift you in prayer and we will remain steadfast in advancing God’s Kingdom. In what the enemy sent to cause defeat and devastation, we trust that God will be glorified. We are already seeing the love of Christ pour out and believe through your display of love, faith and forgiveness, those unbelieving of how such a disposition is possible in the face of great wickedness, will know that it is Christ who sustains you. The LORD is truly our Refuge, our Strength, our Strong Tower, our Rock.

Now, you know us. As members of the Body of Christ, may you also be able to count on us as a refuge of comfort, of peace, of love, of strength and encouragement. As a dear sister in Christ said, “May we each be the one brick in the wall” as it pertains to being a united Body of Christ, serving as a refuge to you and others.

In Christian Love and Fellowship,

The Body of Christ/Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ

To donate to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, please visit their website http://ssfb.org/ . You may also visit their Facebook page for additional donation information.

Does Anyone “Sleep on It” Anymore?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11, New International Version) A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man holds it back. (English Standard Version)

Much can be said on this particular verse. A recent conversation with my elderly Christian neighbor as she and I discussed world events, words said and decisions made helped to spur this writing. Her wisdom shared during our conversation came from a seasoned position of forging peace rather than strife throughout her years of raising children, grandchildren and dealing with co-workers.

In reading Proverbs 29:11, the words described will likely bring someone or several people to mind. Today’s social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have provided space for those who are quick-tempered, lack restraint, short on self-control and Godly wisdom to reveal all of their mind all of the time. Trust me, nobody wants to partake in all of that undressing to see all the caverns of someone’s unrestrained mind. The Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 29:11 reads, “A fool uttereth all his mind; his spirit, his anger. A fool pours out all his wrath, restrained by no consideration.” It then references a wise maxim that says, “Command your temper, lest it command you.”

We have all seen the damage and feeding frenzy of what 140 unrestrained characters or less can do in a 24/7 media cycle. We’ve seen how one social media post, without measure and restraint exercised by audiences, can create a thread that is vicious and worse than a street beat down—even among those considered friends and family. Before tweets, posts, emails, text messages and decisions are driven by emotions, does anyone “sleep on it” anymore?

I present this subject to encourage the Body of Christ to reflect wisdom, Christ’s love and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Galatians 5:22-23 at all times. Our various platforms are favorable to rapid fire and thoughtless responses in which our 24/7 media cycle delights and thirsts to expose and exacerbate such foolishness.

However, WE have an opportunity to display Godly wisdom to an unrestrained world. In a season where division is increasingly being stirred on every side and within every group and demographic, we have an opportunity to bring calm and reason that puts those agitated at rest. In fact, before they speak further or engage in abrupt, unwise actions, we have the opportunity to offer them the wise counsel of “Why don’t you sleep on it.” It’s an opportunity to pivot; to be circumspect, to use good judgment.

Sleep on it

 

Speaking from experience, I have found great peace in “sleeping on it” before responding to someone or something that has frustrated me. I have found that the words I thought so important to say were often unnecessary and would not bring the situation to a better place.

Sometimes no words were necessary or if a response was required, the tone was one of love. The night’s sleep coupled with prayer and giving myself time to yield to the Holy Spirit made all the difference. Even in some conversations where I had every right to refute what the person was saying, I’ve literally sensed the Holy Spirit purse my lips together to say “Be quiet.” Or, even when I had sound counsel to give someone the Holy Spirit knows when that person is or is not ready to receive that instruction. He has said to me in that still, small, steady voice, “Not now.” In wisdom and obedience, I hold my tongue or I refrain from hitting “SEND” on that email or text message.

So, what is the remedy to preserve ourselves and others in moments when emotions run high and division is at the door?

Pray for self-control. Pray to exercise the nine fruits of the Spirit of faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, joy, kindness, love, patience, peace and self-control toward everyone in whatever space you engage with them. Obediently yield to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to “be quiet” or “sleep on it.”

Numerous scriptures throughout the Bible show us the blessings and precious fruits of wisdom: Blessed are those who find wisdom, who gain understanding (Proverbs 3:13). We’re encouraged to ask for it, to seek it: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). 

Many consider quick words to be a great strength. But quick words have been known to sink relationships and torch careers. But a word not spoken in haste is truly great wisdom with the possibility to preserve people and outcomes.

Love and blessings,

Nicole

 

 

“Should I Not Care About These Too?”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

11But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11, New International Version)

Love this! For the past couple of weeks, the Lord has had me fascinated with the Book of Jonah—a brief but powerfully dramatic four chapter book written by the prophet Jonah, nestled between two other Old Testament prophets, Obadiah and Micah. I’ve read, reread and pink highlighted various verses within the four chapters, brimming with greater excitement and understanding of our Lord’s compassion at each new reading. Certainly, most if not everyone even if they are not a Believer is familiar with what seems the central part of the story and that is Jonah being swallowed by a great fish and living in the fish’s belly for three days. Many children’s books and other published works have captured this aspect of this prophet’s seeming misfortune to spend three days (but survive) in the fish’s stinky belly. But I have learned even more and am in love with what the Lord has revealed to me and what is likely clear to you if you’ve read the four chapters.

To recap, Jonah was a prophet whom God called to preach in the ancient, historical Assyrian city of Nineveh located in Upper Mesopotamia and is today known as part of the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq. In that time of 612 BC, those in Nineveh worshiped many gods and goddesses, primarily the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar , who promised love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, combat, and political power, to those who called upon her. The Lord seeing all of the debauchery, idolatry and sin taking place, said to Jonah in 1:2, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  The people’s sin was creating a great stench before a Holy God.

Hearing the Lord’s word instructed to him, Jonah instead ran away from the LORD and headed for the far away city of Tarshish—literally to get as far away from Nineveh as possible. Who doesn’t cringe in having to give a word at times to people who are walking in sheer disobedience? How would Jonah be received in delivering this word? How are you received when delivering a hard word to someone who is rebellious? I know in times that I’ve lovingly but boldly delivered a ‘hard word’ to someone, it has been sometimes well-received with contriteness and humility by that person, and other times it has been brushed off and rejected like shewing away a pestering fly.

Jonah_Away_from_Nineveh

Eventually we know in reading the chapters that in the process of Jonah fleeing the Lord’s instructions, he boards a ship in Joppa to sail to Tarshish. The Lord sends a great and terrible storm upon the seas in which the shipmen throw Jonah overboard (with Jonah’s permission) because they knew he was running from God and the storm came upon them because of his disobedience. The sea immediately calmed once Jonah was thrown overboard and then being scooped up by the fish. Three days later, Jonah is spit up by the great fish onto dry land and he delivers the Lord’s warning to the people of Nineveh he was to render three days ago (Chapter 3). Jonah says to them in chapter 3:4, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Verse 5 reads that “The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least put on sackcloth.” In response to their immediate repentance, verse 10 reads that “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Wait a minute. Weren’t they about to be destroyed by God for idol worship, all out wickedness and every kind of evil living possible? Nineveh was also Israel’s enemy. By Chapter 4:1-2, Jonah is feeling some kind of way about God’s compassionate response toward a wayward people and he tells God exactly how he is feeling.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed  to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?”

I LOVE THIS! I imagine this scenario similar to a co-worker who has been goofing off, messing up and you can’t WAIT for them to GET IT from the boss, possibly even be fired. Or imagine you have a sibling who keeps being disobedient and you can’t WAIT for mom, dad, grandma or auntie to yank them up! And yet, with a warning, the co-worker straightens up and no punishment is brought upon them. The sibling apologizes for their behavior and no punishment comes to them, no grounding, or phone or television privileges taken away. You might be fuming as Jonah was recognizing that you’ve been living right, these people haven’t and God seems to let them off easy. This is the real reason why Jonah tried to avoid delivering God’s instruction because He knew of God’s great compassion.

I am in love with the Lord’s response to Jonah in Chapter 4:11, which speaks to how much the LORD loves us, strives with us, extends deep longsuffering (patience) with us, not desiring that any should perish: “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

god-s-love-never-changes

I believe the God of Jonah’s time and our same God of today looks at us with that same compassionate heart. God even gave Jonah another chance to come out of HIS DISOBEDIENCE for him to deliver His instructions to the people of Nineveh! Amazing!

Today, God continues to send His People to warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction; walking in ways they think good but are not. In His great, unfathomable compassion, God sends us to pray for, warn, instruct, intercede for others in hopes they will turn to the light of Christ Jesus and be loosed from the grips of darkness.

Yes, God’s wrath will come upon those He is no longer striving with because they are unrepentant and have chosen their own paths of destruction, not desiring truth (If you read Nahum, the Lord’s anger rises again toward Nineveh promising destruction because of their partaking in wickedness). God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Romans 9:15), which in His infinite wisdom and purposes will be a mystery to us. For those He is still reaching out to who will listen—who are blind not knowing their right from their left but hear and believe His Voice and immediately feel contrite and repent of their ways—He is compassionate.

This says so much about our God and how He has held back what could deservedly be His full wrath upon us many, many times ago. He has lived through generations upon generations of mankind’s disobedience, with more than 7 billion personalities today who may or may not choose His ways. More than 7 billion personalities who require daily patience. Could you or I extend such mercy and compassion to two or three people repeatedly, let alone more than 7 billion?

loveofgod

If the 120,000 people who God had His eye and heart set on in Nineveh were so precious to Him, I know then, so are we. In sharing the Gospel, may we extend a God-like compassion and warning toward those walking in blind disobedience so they may turn away from impending destruction. May we have a heart for the harvest.

-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.

Our North Carolina Experience in One Word: Obedience

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“I would love to go.”

These five bold, transformative words were texted to me early Thursday morning, September 21, 2017, by a dear sister in Christ about a ministry trip I would take to North Carolina that next day. The trip would involve ministering at two Christian-based schools, Livingstone College and Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., which is about 50 miles north of Charlotte. The events had been planned since April at which point I asked my trusted prayer partners/prayer warriors to join me in prayer and fasting for the Lord to soften and prepare the students’ hearts to receive His Word; to prepare the way ahead of our arrival.

In the early spring, Pastor Troy Russell, Livingstone campus pastor who also invited our ministry in September 2015, asked if we’d return this year to deliver God’s Word. After much discussion with Pastor Troy, it seemed the Holy Spirit’s leading that we were to deliver a message to equip the students in building their foundation in Christ Jesus in order to successfully navigate societal trappings. This would be a build-on to Pastor Troy’s weekly bible studies held with the students on Christian fundamentals. The event would serve as a culmination to the students’ Week of Prayer events in late September. After much prayer, we decided to theme the event, “Building Your Foundation.”

Flyer Building Your Foundation 092317It was to be me and one other person traveling from Washington, D.C. to Salisbury, though the other person was unable to join due to a schedule conflict. Having previously checked flight and train schedules with none that truly fit my needs, I was resigned to make the six-hour drive by myself and to view it as quiet time with the Lord to prepare for the messages to be delivered. Upon my arrival in Salisbury, I would meet up with my other ministry partners to prepare for that Saturday’s and Sunday’s events.

The bold and transformative five words, “I would love to go,” were texted by Mrs. Connie May—a seasoned saint in her late sixties who had just returned from a 10-day train trip to our home state of Kansas to visit family. Her bags were still packed from her travels when she quickly and without hesitation responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading to join me. Surprised, as I had just mentioned our ministry event to her that morning by text and sent her the flyer, I asked if she was sure, because again, she had just returned from travel. Forgoing texting her, I called her to really see if she was sure. Her response was as firm as it was in her text message: “I would love to go.” She further added, “My bags are packed.”

Mrs. May was exercising a disposition always encouraged and welcomed by the Holy Spirit which would enable Him to move mightily from the beginning to the end of our trip: obedience. Her love for our young people coupled by an unquestioning obedience to the Lord’s instructions along with my love for our young people and obedience to yield to what the Lord was doing, granted us blessings upon blessings, favor upon favor that would take too long to record in this post.

The Anointing Flows

With a few tracks performed from his newest and 10th album,  A Musical Inspiration of Epic Proportionsby our dear brother in Christ and Christian rap artist Crucial, we presented “Building Your Foundation” on Saturday, September 23, 2017, with messages to help students build their foundation on Christ Jesus followed by a panel discussion to answer their questions on the challenges in doing so.

The core scripture came from 1 Corinthians 3:11, 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We also encouraged the Livingstone students to live as “living stones,” to be a holy priesthood as Peter describes in 1 Peter 2:4-6.

We were blessed for the opportunity and privilege to pour into students God’s truth. With a foundation built upon Christ Jesus, we can successfully weather life’s storms and remain standing. I also referenced Christ as the Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16) to any structure, where a cornerstone is subjected to much pressure and stress and able to uphold and sustain the structure built upon it. During our message, I also shared with them seven (7) things that God gives us when we build our foundation upon Him. In contrast, Satan will plant certain things that are opposite/counterfeit to what God gives if we follow Satan’s ways. I credit these “seven” teachings to what the Lord revealed to my dear brother in Christ and mentor, Hakim Hazim, co-founder of Christian think tank, Freedom Squared.

Here’s what God gives contrasted with the opposite of what Satan sends:
1- Instruction (God’s Word) vs. Illusion
2- Immortality vs. Impermanence
3- Identity vs. Indistinctness
4- Invulnerability (when we’re pursuing God’s purposes) vs. Infirmity
5- Integration vs. Isolation (God integrates us into one eternal family whereas Satan isolates us)
6- Importance vs. Insignificance (The work we do for God is important whereas Satan tells us we don’t matter anyway and “what makes you so special?”)
7- Increase vs. Insufficiency

 

The students saw and understood this and could recognize the traits in their lives. Crucial added to this by speaking on God’s Word as our instruction to successfully guide us and to overcome Satan’s illusions. He also reinforced having Christ as our foundation and used the analogy of a three-legged stool to show the support we need in our discipleship: 1-Word of God, 2- Consistent Prayer, and 3- Godly Fellowship.

The students were truly engaged and asked excellent questions which led to our delivery of the truth by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly moved upon hearts as several students asked us to pray over them. As the students approached us, I embraced them, told them, “I love you,” and genuinely meant it. God gave me a love for each student like no other, particularly having met them for the first time that day. I have said that “you have to love someone to pray for them.” As tears flowed from the students and even ourselves as we prayed, so did the anointing. We praise God for yokes and chains broken, burdens shed and things released. We know that seeds were planted and watered and those who came in chained left freed! Glory to God!

“Can We Order More Pizza?”

We enjoyed food and fellowship afterward, which allowed us to see another blessing in obedience. Our initial pizza order was enough to feed everyone lightly, but the Lord placed it upon Mrs. May’s heart that we were to order more. She texted me, “Can we order more pizza?” In my desire to be a good steward of our resources, I first balked at her question and replied that we had enough, though she asked me again. I sensed that I needed to follow the leading here and gave her the green light to order more pizza. Ready to give my credit card number again to the pizza store manager, I began to rattle off my card number and then the store manager, Jennifer, stopped me. She said, “Nicole, these five extra pizzas are on me. ”

I/we couldn’t believe it. God blessed us and blessed us ABUNDANTLY!! As students made their, second, third and fourth rounds through the boxes of pizza, we thought of how Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish; how the food was multiplied and plenty was left over!! After all of the students had their fill and some left the chapel, we had a couple whole pizzas left. We gave those remaining whole pizzas to students who truly appreciated having another free meal to take home! God is awesome and can do amazing things that exceed what we can imagine when we yield in obedience to His instructions! Praise God!

Group pic post event on 092317 Livingstone College Building Your Foundation

Physical and spirit man fed! Livingstone students join post-event with Jayson Gardner (Livingstone College assistant to Pastor Troy Russell), Crucial (black t-shirt and cap), Nicole D. Hayes (Voices Against the Grain founder in tan blazer), Mrs. Connie May with Voices Against the Grain, Sherry Russell and her husband Pastor Troy Russell (center) pictured with their daughter Tailor, at the September 23, 2017 ministry event, “Building Your Foundation.”

We also welcomed students from nearby Catawba College to the event where Catawba College student, Destiny Stone, sang her song, “Have Your Way,” which has been on our playlist since we learned of the powerful track in July. Destiny, event coordinator for Catawba College’s Black Student Union, invited me to speak during their morning services on that Sunday, September 24, 2017, where I delivered a Holy Spirit-led message on being “Dangerously Lighthearted” before a Holy God. The message was a call to holiness for God’s People and a desire to mature in Christ Jesus as His image bearers. More victory for God’s Kingdom, as several students adhered to the altar call where hearts were contrite and repentant, burdens where laid down, chains were broken and peace, freedom and joy was restored! All to the Glory of God!

A Black Eye Delivered to the Kingdom of Darkness Generates Opposition

It goes without saying that when you take territory from the enemy for God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t go unnoticed. You can expect opposition. Mrs. May and I were barely an hour into our six-hour drive back to D.C., when an issue “developed” with the rental car. The engine pan had come loose and was dragging the ground making a loud noise as the wind caught it during our highway speeds. The pan was most likely damaged and loosened by the previous driver who ran over something as we saw more evidence of this. I texted my dear sister in Christ and prayer partner about our situation and requested prayer. She replied, “On it.” I knew what that meant! She was going to rally her troops, pray, bind and dismantle the enemy’s efforts and dispatch many angels on our behalf!!   🙂

Long and short, after calls with the rental company and roadside assistance, the Lord put it on Mrs. May’s spirit to seek out a nearby service center to have them put the car on a rack to inspect and fix the issue. We located a nearby service center and the shop owner shortly got us in, mind you, a few minutes before they closed on a Sunday afternoon. He tightly secured the pan at no charge to us and though we pleaded to pay him, he refused payment. He bid us well and got us safely on the road back to D.C. While Satan attempted to steal our joy, peace and collective victory, we did not cave to it and continued to experience God’s favor in obedience!! Hallelujah!

Obedience is the Key to Our Success

There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions and move beyond your imagination and perceived limitations!! This past weekend, through the obedience of those ministering, serving, yielding, praying, and fasting, we saw God show UP and show OUT in ways that I am still processing.

We thank Livingstone College and Catawba College for allowing us the opportunity to pour into their students. We remain open to future invitations. Thank you Pastor Troy Russell for your heart for your students. Thank you to the youth (Livingstone College praise team, Destiny Stone, 4GWL) who blessed us with song and worship, truly setting the atmosphere at both colleges!! Thank you Crucial, Destiny Stone and Azende King for serving on our panel discussion! Thank you Jalen for helping us with our sound equipment needs on Saturday! You were truly a blessing! Thank you to Anthony and those who helped us set up on Saturday, another blessing! Thank you to our many prayer partners who prayed, fasted and encouraged us in this effort. We all share in this collective victory for God’s Kingdom and the futures restored and preserved for these young people. We pray they will continue to seek God for His instruction to obediently walk out His call on their lives. We pray for their foundations to be built upon Christ Jesus to successfully navigate this life and to become Godly change agents in whatever environments God places them!

As my dear brother in Christ Hakim says, “Obedience is our best opportunity for success.” We have noticed that due to our obedience, open hearts and willingness to follow His will, God has placed people in our lives to help drive our efforts—without us reaching out to them. When God sees a level of obedience from us, He will entrust us with more important tasks. Those who value God’s instruction go deeper and deeper into obedience to Him. Obedience to God is always going to produce fruit.

I love you and God bless you,

Nicole

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

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.