Shelter in Place

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I’ve never been a bandwagon person. I like the freedom of not being hitched to things that if you give it time and sit back long enough the flawed agendas and limitations are revealed. I know that eventually, the wheels will fall off.

I realize that when life is unjust and out of control some people need something to get behind when trying to restore justice, morals and order to our disorderly world; to invigorate hope in the hearts of those who despair over what they see; an attempt to right the ship that is on the brink of sinking. Movements. Initiatives. Hashtags. Campaign themes. Black Lives Matter (an extremely progressive, un-Christian agenda, socialist leaning–I’ll need to write a separate article to unpack this properly). Make America Great Again (For who and from what period??). #MeToo. Just to name a few from a very lengthy list. I’ve worked in public relations for more than 14 years. I know a little something about how such communications strategies and tactics are supposed to help change behaviors and move the dial toward better outcomes. Some of them have really good intentions and aspirations. They simply fall short as they are often rooted in the world’s philosophy of “make it sound good as we seek to do good without God.”

Movements, initiatives, campaign themes and hashtags strive to create a unified body and voice to advance a collective response on a particular issue. Some people shelter in these spaces, certain that getting behind them, getting on board, being part of the bandwagon will indeed make the world as it should be.

As I said, I’ve never been a bandwagon person. Therefore, I have chosen to shelter in place.

The term “shelter in place” has been used more frequently and most recently as local, state and national leaders seek to mitigate the spread and devastation of  SARS-CoV-2 (I’m calling it by its actual name), or COVID-19, a novelle coronavirus that originated in 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China becoming a global pandemic. That is one way and a good way to use the term. However, for the purposes of this article, I will reference the description for “shelter in place” provided by Wikipedia: “Shelter in place is the act of seeking safety within the building one already occupies, rather than evacuating the area or seeking a community emergency shelter.”

Psalm 91-1 mountain

Let that definition sit with you for a moment.

I found the Wikipedia definition fitting–only secondary to the best one offered to us in God’s Word from Psalm 91:1-2, Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

For those of us who say we follow Christ, that we trust in the Lord, that HE is the anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6:19), we need not leave that “house” or that “shelter” to seek other shelter. He is our refuge and our fortress. We can either shelter in/abide in the Lord, shelter in His Word, which is indeed our surest security or we can get behind the lying “prophets” of such movements, initiatives and hashtags who offer a false hope. As Believers, as carriers of the gospel message, God has authorized us to tell the world what is the way to perfect justice, what is perfect peace, what is perfect and godly wisdom, what is true restoration, reconciliation and healing from brokenness and lawlessness. We don’t look to the world to define that for us.

Someday, God will make everything new. Things will be as they should. Until then, keep your hand to the plow, work while it is day, cling unswervingly to the hope you have in Christ, tell others about Him and shelter in place/abide in Him.

Love and God bless you,

Nicole

When People Cast Off Restraint

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

The stop sign. The blatant warning label. The godly counsel given. The awaiting ark of refuge from an impending flood of biblical proportions.

Bad things happen when we ignore, dismiss or rebel against sound guidance and warnings. Our rebellion creates a propensity for lawlessness, anarchy and most certainly destruction, disintegration and devastation. Sin releases a power and energy that always produces decay and most certainly, death:

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.  James 1:13-15

If such decisions and behaviors bring forth death, what then, births life?

Answer: Wisdom, obedience.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction. (New International Version) A more blatant reading from the New Living Translation reads, When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. 

Seeking godly wisdom, desiring and obeying instruction protects us from many dangers, error and sinfulness. It is a preventive work meant to keep us from straying from the path and falling into ditches. A word of wisdom can save.

Wrong Way Do Not Enter

 

 

We Must Love Truth

The passage from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12  in short, tells us that people perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved (v. 10), and for this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (v. 11-12).

During a recent bible study, our group discussed that by its nature, wickedness is restless. Wickedness is always chasing, seeking, constantly enticed by other temptations because it is disinterested in standing in the truth and pursuing righteousness.

Prophets were and are sent to warn, serving as both harbingers and intercessors — seeking to warn others of what is coming if they continue in their ways —and to pray, intercede on the behalf of others, petitioning before God to show mercy, to withhold His wrath.

I can’t imagine the frustration of the Old Testament prophets who repeatedly warned and pleaded with rebellious people to turn from their wicked ways and obey the Lord. From Moses, to Jonah, to Jeremiah, and others, their warnings were often ignored. Sometimes the people heeded the warnings when the consequences of their actions became so severe that they pleaded for God’s mercy. They would tear their clothes and put on sackcloth to show their remorse. When God in His great love and mercy relented in His wrath toward the people, they soon returned to their rebellion. This happened over and over again, as we saw with the Israelites.

To win this, we must love truth and stay with truth. When we refuse to hold to the truth, we reap every wicked thing we’re seeing in society today. Per the Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 29:18, it says, “The prophets were the instructors of the people in Divine things, standing witnesses of the truth and power of religion, teaching a higher than mere human morality. The fatal effect of the absence of such revelation of God’s will is stated to be confusion, disorder and rebellion; the people uncontrolled, fall into grievous excesses, which nothing but high principles can restrain.”

When people cast off restraint, it is not freedom they create–but captivity. Ultimately, through their rebellion and God giving them over to the wickedness they so desire, the stubborn will be destroyed.

The Path to Life

John 13:17 says, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (English Standard Version)

Satan suggests that we can have a good life without God. But can a life without God be transformed into life? God is about integration (us with Him) for us to have life and life to the full (John 10:10). Satan, is about causing disintegration, being the thief who comes to “steal and to kill and to destroy” (John 10:10).

The path to life is WITH GOD. Otherwise, we are an enemy of God and on a path toward destruction.

As a dear brother in Christ and spiritual mentor says, “God will not obstruct us from accessing Him. However, people may choose to restrict their access.”

If you desire life and life to the full:

Don’t play with time. Don’t play with God’s mercy.

Hear. Turn. Obey.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that those who are far from you will be divinely persuaded to follow you.

In Jesus’ Name I pray and ask this,

Amen.

Nicole

Surround Yourself

Nicole D. Hayes Head shot

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain 

I will be the first to tell you that your faith in Christ will be challenged. I will be the first to encourage and implore you to surround yourself with trusted prayer partners who will lift you in prayer in your times of spiritual battle, the trials of life and spiritual conquest. Taking territory from the enemy (spiritual conquest), sharing the Gospel to advance God’s Kingdom, interceding in prayer for others or situations and living as salt and light in an immoral climate—every one of these interactions—changes lives, shifts atmospheres, bears witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and bears out eternal fruit, praise God. It also makes the enemy take notice of you. Yes, there is a cost to living out authentic faith. But don’t stop, don’t shrink back. Keep advancing. Persevere. As James 1:2-4 says, 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (New International Version)

Do not isolate during these times of spiritual battle and oppression as I have done sometimes not wanting to interrupt or upend someone else’s day by reaching out to them. Reach out to them. The body of Christ is precious and what great strength we receive, together. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (New International Version) Satan knows this is true and would rather only spar with one Believer versus several of us at one time! Truly, there is great strength in numbers.

Surround yourself with those who love you and will not coddle you—those who understand that engaging with our enemy may manifest as attacks against your health, your relationships (divisiveness, strife, jealousy, accusations, etc.), your resources, your peace, your faith, or your joy. They will pray for you to continue knowing that God is with you. That the weapon may form but it will not prosper (Isaiah 54:17). They will encourage you to persevere in your calling, knowing that none of us in Christ Jesus are strangers to this, and this too shall pass. They will remind you to call out God’s truth–often–and to immediately reject the enemy’s lies.

Surround yourself with those who are doctrinally sound but are not necessarily shaped of your same tribe (meaning they don’t talk like you, look like you, think like you, etc.) As I said the body of Christ is precious, rich in giftings and talents that are extremely glorious and beautiful as we bring together those diversities collectively to advance God’s purposes.

I am grateful for my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I am grateful for my prayer partners who I’ve sought for prayer more times than I can count. They have helped me to rally back, go through and overcome. I love how in addition to Christ being our refuge and strongtower, we can serve as a refuge to one another. We all come out more strengthened for our ‘next’! I love the body of Christ!

With 2019 soon in the rearview mirror and 2020 ahead, I am excited by what God is doing through His People. Saints, it is our time to be intrepid — not tepid. We can’t back down. As the body of Christ united, we are the tip of the spear, guided by His Hand. God is raising up a standard among His People to boldly confront and foil Satan’s plans as we pray and labor to transform hearts and cities. God has positioned us right here and now to be light in darkness. Praise God!

And don’t be discouraged: while it may seem like things are falling apart, they are also coming together. We ask God to to tear down, shake, and disturb those things in which our world has placed a false peace so they would surrender all to trust Him. The instability is necessary as we rest in Who holds all things together (Colossians 1:15-18).

And at times you will have to “encourage yourself” as the song says. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Stay Staunch,

Nicole

P.S.- If you missed some of what I’ve been blessed to do recently through the Lord’s equipping, I invite you to read my ChristianPost.com op-ed in response to D.C. Councilmembers who proposed a bill to decriminalize prostitution in our nation’s capital (that bill fortunately will not pass this year, praise God!). I also interviewed with CBN’s The 700 Club last month which has been seen worldwide via television and online platforms. All glory to God! All of this again, made possible with the help of others’ prayers. So grateful.

Have I Been Honest with You?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Have I been honest with you?

A bad hairdo. An unflattering outfit. A not-so-hot girlfriend or boyfriend. Many of us have been asked by family, friends or colleagues to offer our honest feedback to a possible look or style gone bad, or about someone questionable they are dating. Some of us are reluctant or shy away from giving such feedback in order to protect the person’s feelings (and some of us are brutally honest, lol). Unfortunately for me, the feedback in such delicate situations may not always come from my mouth before it is already written all over my face.

Honesty is a valued character trait. The answer may not always be what we want to hear though I/we appreciate being able to turn to those who we know will give us the truth regardless. Their first priority is to preserve us from facades and the tragic effects of whitewashed truth.

We are living in increasingly wicked days, in perilous times and behaviors described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. People are murderous, slanderous, lovers of themselves. They call evil “good” and good “evil.” Pleasure replaces holiness. Do what feels good. A culture of “do as thy wilt, live and let live” instead of “Thy will be done.” Compromise, fluidity, whitewashing and rejecting the truth. “Freedoms” that have people in chains. Even so, few draw the biblical connections as to why our world is in perpetual moral decay and decline. Although Satan is a defeated foe, he is indeed the prince of this world and is surely taking captives with him.

If we aren’t starting from the foundation of the fall to explain how sin entered the world and the consequences that ensued and continue today, then our reasoning is flawed. In the chaos, many will rely on their own intellect and seek solutions independent from God. Self-reliance on the surface seems noble and brave but it is a great deception. Satan wants us to think we can be our own god. But through deception and self-reliance, many will find that they’ve built their houses on sand instead of upon the solid Rock that is Jesus Christ. Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man but it’s end is the way of death.”

I’ve not always been as straightforward as I could have in conversations with unbelievers or nominal Christians. At times I’ve remained silent or simply given a nod–not agreeing with what they’re saying but understanding why they say what they say. I didn’t seize the opportunity to impart truth although I’m unsure it would have been received. At the time I chose to steer away from an argument to preserve the bridge to revisit them later.

Screen-Shot-2014-05-05-at-9.28.56-AM

Getting Right Down To It: Why Should We Care if People Receive the Truth?

Why should we care if people receive the Truth? Because someone loved us enough to tell us the truth and I am beyond grateful.

Through the Great Commission, Jesus commissions (commands) Christians to disciple others in the truth. This command is given not only to pastors and priests but to all who follow Christ. Honestly, we aren’t always hearing the straight truth delivered from the pulpit lest someone gets offended. The late pastor David Wilkerson called this “the gospel of accommodation.” We should hope the Gospel offends and agitates rather than comfort a culture that rejects life on God’s terms. There is a heavy cost to such accommodation and denying our need for a Savior to rescue us from the clutches of sin. In the world’s deceptions, Satan is robbing them of “life and life to the full.” (John 10:10) Jesus calls Satan a thief and the father of lies. Be not deceived by the so-called “freedom” that the world is peddling.

The situation is far worse than a hairdo or fashion gone bad. People are gambling with eternity and a holy and just God. I pray to be honest with those deceived not wanting them to perish as participants and victims in the lies; not wanting them to miss out on life in the fullness of God. It burdens my heart. If you’re a Believer reading this, you likely lament over the ungodliness. Our culture has removed many of the moral and biblical guardrails that would guard against it’s implosion. Thank goodness for the guardrails that remain, predominately maintained by God’s grace, His mercy, His sovereignty and His People. And yet, it feels like we “are but a whisper away” from God’s wrath as a dear sister in Christ expressed.

We know that not everyone who has been given the truth will receive and apply it, for they will only want to hear what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). We will at least have given them the opportunity to hear and respond to it.

Some dear brothers I love recently returned from a basketball tournament in New Mexico. They are much older than their opponents but they did not let the perceived threat of their opponents’ youth deter them from playing their hearts out. Before going, one of them said, “We have to leave it all on the court.”

As the Holy Spirit leads us in what to say or what to do, we have to leave it all out there. Not a word or action short of what He instructs.

If not, this is some of the plethora of deceptions that sprouts:

The Spiritual and Moral Bankruptcy of ‘Progressive’ Christianity

https://www.christianpost.com/voice/meet-desmond-precocious-child-drag-queen.html

If this writing seems heavy it’s because it is. The days are urgent and short. Saints, keep being salt and light. Keep praying. Remain steadfast and dutiful. Work while it is day for soon it will be night and we will work no longer. Accept your commission to share the gospel and disciple others. Keep making the mighty and wonderful Name of Jesus known. Keep telling folks the reason for the hope you have. Remember the joy set before you. Love and Truth wins.

Embolden us Lord,

Nicole

 

In case you missed it: In advancing God’s Kingdom in our immoral culture, read my two articles recently published with The Christian Post on physician-assisted suicide and abortion written on behalf of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abortion, Redemption and Not Another 60 Million More

 

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

I see the birth of a baby and I say, “There must be a God.”

I see the killing of more than 60 million babies and I say, “There must be a devil.”

Former Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson was complicit in more than 22,000 abortions. As the clinic director, most of her work occurred seated at her desk and not in the operating room. That is, until one day when the doctor and OR staff was short-handed. Abby was asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion. She pushed back from her desk to help and once done, she would return to her work. Upon entering the operating room, she sees an anxious female patient writhing and crying on the table. As the doctor is trying to calm her, Abby turns to the screen to see the fetus squirming and twisting to avoid the vacuum tube used for abortions. This awful, noisy, life-ending suction machine literally sucked and dismembered the baby from it’s little foot to it’s head out of the womb as a bloody blob into a tube until the womb and screen was void of any activity or life.

While the staff buzzed around in the operating room, Abby sank to the floor in disbelief, grieved and abhorred by what she had seen and participated in. She resigned nine days later on October 6, 2009. What she experienced changed her life forever. It changed mine too. Images from the movie Unplanned —like seeing large drums of fetal tissue being wheeled out of the clinic to be dumped elsewhere —will be ingrained in my memory forever. I was unprepared for Unplanned.

I have been pro-life for as long as I knew what the term meant. I’ve known that abortion does not fulfill God’s desire for the sanctity and value of human life, as He is the Creator for all life (Psalm 139:13-16, Genesis 1:26-27). “Pro-life” seemed merely a label created by groups to publicly say that we support life. But it wasn’t until seeing Unplanned (encouraged to see it by a dear high school friend) and some weeks later, hearing the raw and regretful stories shared by physicians who had previously performed abortions, that I am so strongly in support of life for the unborn.

Society is Doing the Devil’s Work

Since 1973 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, there have been more than 60 million completed abortions in the United States.

There is indeed a devil who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

Through abortion, physicians and patients have been participants and victims of deception. In the earliest years of abortion, physicians were told that the fetus was “just a blob of tissue” and many presumed this to be true. Deception is often cruel. Abortion is skillfully marketed to a woman as an on-demand solution during a pregnancy crisis in her life (mother is told by the abortion industry “we can make this go away” whether the pregnancy was not by choice in cases of rape or incest, or in cases of moral irresponsibility, or on rare occasions, the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s life–given today’s technological advances in medicine, there is rarely a medical reason that makes it necessary to do an abortion). But are those complicit in abortion the same ones who will help the woman after she regrets her decision? Are they there to help with the physical and psychological harms sometimes experienced post-abortion?

While abortion is often presented as part of a broad access to reproductive care to champion a woman’s healthcare choices, there is important information in which the abortion industry is inordinately mute. Abortion advocates do not broadcast the physical and psychological harms women may experience who undergo an abortion. There are chances of hemorrhaging and increased risk of infection because the body is already traumatized. Possible damage to nearby organs. Suicidal thoughts, major depression and substance abuse disorders years after the abortion. A woman who has aborted a child has a 30 percent higher chance of premature births after her first abortion and a 60 percent chance after a second abortion. Who is picking up these pieces? Planned Parenthood?

We are doing the devil’s work. We can destroy our culture with abortion and attempt to obliterate an entire race of people (that’s another story, as abortions are highest among Black women, and Planned Parenthood clinics are most disproportionately located where? In our Black and brown communities. Planned Parenthood will say this is because they offer affordable family planning and reproductive healthcare options to these communities–to include abortion). Through abortion, we have managed to eliminate the talents, gifts, creations and inventions of more than 60 million would-be contributors to our society; would-be voices in government, in education, even as payees into our tax base. We will never know what we have lost in our culture through abortion. This is tragic.

unbornbaby_hdv CBN

Maybe We’re Next

The moment we allow society to question personhood is the moment you and I should know that someone someday may question ours. When life is considered arbitrary today yours may be considered arbitrary tomorrow. It’s only a matter of time and shifting criteria. From slavery, to the Holocaust, to human trafficking, to violence, to physician-assisted suicide, history has proven that the value of another’s life is subjective.

“Personhood” is often questioned by abortion/pro-choice advocates to make it more acceptable to kill a “blob” of tissue. “Oh, it’s just a blob. It’s not a person yet.” But human development from the scientific perspective is observable and a seamless process from fertilization to birth. The “blob of tissue” has a complete genetic makeup. Even Jeremiah 1:5 says, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,” establishing personhood even before conception.

As the Washington, D.C. Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, I represent the largest faith-based voice of healthcare professionals on this and other issues with the position to preserve, protect and promote life. In my role, I am grateful to partner with the faith-based and healthcare community to disciple and equip our healthcare students and healthcare professionals to serve their patients as the hands and feet of Christ; to respond to these issues biblically and ethically in an industry that wants them to compromise. I can’t imagine leaving this equipping in the hands of our immoral and self-serving society. I am grateful for those who support and pray for our ministry so we can do God’s work particularly in our nation’s capital.

Many physicians say they would leave medicine if they had to compromise their values. This creates a vacuum in care and access for the patient. If we have fewer practicing Christian OB-GYN healthcare professionals, we may have even fewer healthcare professionals who care to protect your life and mine, or lives of the unborn. We should preserve, protect and promote life at every stage.

Death should not be a desirable outcome for mom or baby. Though abortion is a choice, there are other life-honoring alternatives to be considered. People focus heavily on the challenges and overlook the rewards. Even in difficult, horrific and life-altering circumstances such as rape or incest, out of the chaos and pain, God can do beautiful work, as rape survivor Jennifer Christie shares in this July 2017 CBN News article and powerful YouTube video testimonial. Sexual assault survivors also need care and supportive resources to help them in this most fragile time. We must also continue to call out the injustice of sexual assault.

Redemption and Not Another 60 Million More

Abby Johnson was devastated by what she saw and participated in that day in the operating room. She comes home and tearfully asks her husband Doug how God could forgive her, how could she reconcile being complicit in more than 22,000 abortions? She saw no possible way forward. No possible means of forgiveness.

But there is.

In this extreme blight of the devil’s work, there is indeed a God. A good, loving, God of great compassion whose mercy does not punish us as our sins deserve. Slow to anger and abounding in love, the Lord desires to be gracious to the faithful and to those who have rebelled against Him. Redemption and restoration is available through His Son Jesus Christ, who purifies us from all sin as told in 1 John 1:7. For those redeemed to new life through Christ Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace boldly as all of our sins have already been forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

In the way forward, we pray for others to know God better and thereby know His ways. We can also speak to these issues in the public square in hopes to bring truth to those deceived. Ultimately, we pray for hearts to be made pure, no longer self-seeking and self-serving but instead readied to serve Him.

Our world is sinful and imperfect as a result of the fall. Because of, there is an ignorance and arrogance when we trust ourselves instead of God and we limit wisdom to ourselves. May we trust God’s sovereignty in all things. May we allow God the opportunity to work beautifully out of chaos and things unplanned when we fully trust Him.

One of my Catholic neighbors, an older woman, said to me “We can’t speak on this issue. We’ll be labeled ‘hateful’ and ‘intolerant’ by those who want to be their own gods.” But I encouraged her as I have others that we have every reason to speak out and to speak truth. Not another 60 million more.

We will miss waving to one of these children and receiving their smile or wave in return. We will miss their laugh and silly giggles. We will miss the opportunity to answer their questions or teach them—or to be taught by them.

All I can say is this: Not another 60 million more.

Heavenly Father, please forgive us. Thank you for your great love and mercy even as you are a Holy God who will indeed check evil. Help us to desire and seek your perfect ways to best serve you and all those created in your image.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Nicole

Will the World Force the Church to be the Church?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It may have been when New York passed the late-term abortion legislation in January. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the world from those who call themselves Christians. If we love the truth and consider God’s Word as the truth, then it would seem our view and response to issues as Christians, as the Church should be led with great clarity. And yet, headstrong opinions leading to erroneous thinking become the foundation for some Christians who forget what is the truth (you look in the mirror and then forget what you look like). They begin to mirror the world and soon don’t see what’s so wrong with the world’s thinking and approach to issues.

But it may have been when New York passed the late-term abortion bill in January that it felt like more of the collective Church gasped — abhorred not only by the bill’s passage but by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s celebrating and heralding the bill as “a victory for all New Yorkers.” He also encouraged the rest of the nation to follow suit.

At times I have wondered what issue or crisis would be enough to awaken and tip off the collective Church to realize that it can no longer walk hand in hand with the world; that it can no longer remain dumb, numb, indifferent or silent on evil. That the world would become so sick that to stand with it would go against our every sensibility. We were never meant to walk in step with the world. We were never meant to fit in. We were never meant to make people comfortable in their sins. As the Church, as God’s Elect, we were already told of our identity in Christ: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9, New International Version) We need not look to the world for validation. The world will never validate us. 

We are supposed to be calling others out of darkness–not joining them in it. We are to be the light, drawing them to the light.

light bulb people gathered around

I am encouraged by many of you who have been living as “living stones” as built into a spiritual house to be a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). I know many of you are living your faith authentically and without compromise and discipling others in this way as well. This latest grievance may be the very culmination of evil that forces the rest of the Church to be the Church.

As English abolitionist and politician William Wilberforce (1759-1833) wrote in his book, Real Christianity, “The true Christian knows that if he or she is to hold the favor of God above the favor of men, he or she will have to become indifferent to the dishonor and lack of esteem that might be encountered in practicing authentic faith.” You will be despised just as Jesus was despised and rejected.

If we should be indifferent about anything it is no longer caring to have more friends. May those who once tried to be friends with the world realize that the best friend the world could have is the truth: Jesus. This will certainly make you an enemy of the world and you may receive fewer dinner party invitations but give them Jesus anyway. The world may resist the truth, but love them anyway. Giving them Jesus and loving them will keep you in right relationship with your King (Jesus) and offer the world a real friend against its very real foe (Satan).

Stand in holy courage,

Nicole

“Get in the Bush”

Saints, I do not want to watch Isaac die. I share with you the following powerful message that struck my heart written by dear sister in Christ, Bambi Jenkins. “Get in the bush” was a fresh word she gave me during one of our recent conversations on a specific situation I was feeling led but reluctant to address. I encouraged her to share this message with a wider audience as I believe many of us in the body of Christ feel discomfort and may resist sharing the truth with those who may reject it because we desire to keep their company. But regardless of our discomfort, we cannot sit and watch Isaac die. We must get in the bush. Go ‘head, my sister. Deliver this message as only you can. Read on!  Blessings.  -Nicole 

 

bambi jenkinsGenesis 22:13 (NIV) Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

How many of you know that Jesus didn’t save us just for ourselves? In other words, He wants to use you.

If we don’t get in the bush, we will stand by and WATCH Isaac die.

There was a story that God had given me to explain this to one of my children. It was about a new warden of a prison. He was strange to most because of how he operated. This warden wasn’t so concerned about the prisoners being locked up. His concern was more about how he could get them to be free.

The new warden made an announcement, that for one day between the hours of 12 noon and 4 p.m., he would open every cell door as he walked through the entire prison. He told them, that any prisoner who comes and gets behind him and follows him out of the prison will be set free and their records expunged. Many speculated if this could actually be real or just a test.

The day had arrived for this to happen and at noon all the doors opened and the warden began his walk. Many of the prisoners ran out and started fighting each other. Some started grabbing as much stuff as they could steal and ran back to their cell to hide it. A lot of the gangs took this opportunity to try to kill rival gangs. Out of 500 prisoners only 13 walked behind the warden.

Most of the prisoners never even left their cells. They were making fun of the ones walking with the warden telling them that this is just a set up, a joke, and that they were being tricked. One of the guys following the warden begged his friend to come out of his cell and come with them, but he shook his head and told him “he was a fool to believe this stuff.” Others spit at and threw things at the warden and the prisoners following him, calling them “sell outs.”

…3:58 p.m. had come and before you knew it, the warden and the followers neared the exit. At 3:59 p.m., all the guards were ordered to put any prisoners who hadn’t followed the warden back into their cells. When 4:00 p.m. came, as the followers began to exit the prison, a few prisoners yelled from their cells, “Wait! I didn’t think this was real. Please let me go too.” They desperately screamed, “Just walk through again and this time I promise I’ll follow you out.”

But the doors slammed shut.

The warden then looked at the prisoners who followed him out and told them, “Just as promised, you are all free and your records have been expunged. I just have one request from you.”

They all replied, “Anything man you name it. You just got us out of there, you just set us free.”

He said, “I know this is going to sound crazy…”

“Excuse me,” one of the freed prisoners interrupted the warden, so happy that he was free, and eagerly said, “Crazy, no sir. Ask anything, I’ll do it.” The warden continued: “I want you to go back in there and tell them the same thing I told you. That by my authority, the gates will be open for two hours this time and if they follow you to the exit door where I’ll be waiting, that they will also be free.”

Gratitude suddenly changed to fear. The gentleman who was previously so eager asked the warden was he crazy. They all started to gripe and complain. One said,  “I’m free now. I don’t want to go back in there.” Another said, “They had their chance, but they didn’t care so why should I.”  A few asked the warden, “Didn’t you see them killing each other in there? Don’t you care about what happens to us? Didn’t you hear them making fun of you? What makes you think that they will listen to us if they didn’t even believe you? They are going to reject us!”

The warden answered, “We have cameras and security. I will watching you the entire time. I know that they ignored and made fun of me but I still want them to be free. Yes, you will all be taking a huge risk by putting your life on the line. But think about it–it was the same thing I just did for you.”

Out of the 13 men only two stepped forward. One of the two men said, “How can I not go back? How can I not show others the way out? How can I not risk it all for those still imprisoned and for a warden who risked it all for me. How can I not!!”

Ezekiel 3:18  (NIV)  When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[a] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.

So many of us have been saved and set free, but we sit on the sidelines of fear, hide behind fear of rejection, fill our lives with programs, all in hopes that we look holy enough to cover up our disobedience.

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He had his reasons and concerns.

Matthew 4:19 tells us: “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

 

ram-in-a-bush

WE are the sacrifice. WE are the ram in the bush, but most bushes are empty. The harvest is ripe but the labors are few. We don’t like the idea of being uncomfortable. The idea of being rejected has made us chameleons. Blending in with the crowd, changing with every conversation as the need to fit in grows far faster than the desire to stand out for God’s glory.

Some have even taken what God has said out of context.

Hebrews 10:25 tells us to come together to encourage each other while we continue to fish. But we get comfortable right there. We would rather fish each other because there is no risk in dealing with people who already agree with you.

Also, Jesus responded to those who questioned why he was spending time with those who were considered outsiders.

Mark 2:16-17 (NASB)  When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”  And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You who are already “well,” stop fishing each other and get in the bush. I know it hurts, you keep getting pricked, and it’s so painfully uncomfortable at times. But ask yourself: Why are you living and for whom do you live?

We are quick to say, “Send me Lord I’ll go.” But when the assignment arrives we hesitate. We choose ourselves over God in our denial to be obedient to Him. We rationalize this decision to disobey by displaying our overflowing works (that we hand-picked, by the way), by believing that the assignment is just too difficult. We don’t want to fan the flames of disappointment in relationships. In other words, we don’t want to be disliked by anyone, even at the very price of their soul.

So we sit and watch numerous “Isaacs” die as we maintain our great image in the eyes of man. We watch our friends, loved ones, coworkers, and others that God brings across our path, perish and drift away into a darkness from which there is no return, because we refuse to get in the bush.

God has called you to a place of discomfort that will cause many to be saved and set free, but you must be willing to choose God over yourself. You must volunteer to serve God in the presence of pain and disappointment, while trusting that He will work everything together for your good and His glory.

Take your position child of God. Your assignment awaits you.

Isaac lived, because there was A RAM IN THE BUSH!

In Christ,

Bambi

 

 

 

Nature Abhors a Vacuum: Our Representation Matters

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear saints, it’s been a while since I’ve written you. And I’ve missed you. It hasn’t been for lack of things to say, that’s for sure. From 2018 and into the New Year, there have been plenty of issues to pray about and elevate for our discussion. It is simply that lately my schedule has been packed—and so has my head and heart—packed with prayers. Prayers for our nation and world. Thoughts about our present-day issues and what should be the biblical response. All of these items and more have been in my head amid my daily joy of leading this ministry, a healthcare ministry, mentoring young ladies and also keeping to my project management consulting work— similar to how Paul kept his trade as a tent maker while sharing the Gospel.

Among the deluge of disturbing issues, many of us were angered and grieved by the late-term abortion legislation passed in New York last month. Christian physician and public policy leaders with the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) of which I serve as their area director for Washington, D.C., and is the nation’s largest faith-based association of doctors, responded to this abhorrent legislation calling it “medically unnecessary” and “morally bankrupt.” Read the full response and press release here.

True to 2 Timothy 3:1-5, wickedness is increasing. Wickedness is boasting of itself and carrying on in plain sight. It is no longer hiding. In their confusion and rebellion, those who encourage it call evil “good” and good, “evil.” Sin is no longer hideous to them if it ever was. There is no fear or reverence for God. As British politician, philanthropist and slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833) said in his book, Real Christianity, “They have no love for holiness and no desire to acquire it.”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, New International Version)

Christian Representation Matters

Writing this blog post would be unnecessary if Christians were truly welcomed within the diverse cacophony of voices. But by our very nature as God’s elect, we’ve already been called “a peculiar people,” “a holy nation,” “a royal priesthood,” set apart for God’s purposes (1 Peter 2:9). So we should not expect to be embraced by the world but delighted when hearts are open to receive His truth and light; delighted when eyes are no longer veiled to truth; delighted when people finally come to the end of themselves and want what only God can give them.

As things continue to implode, do not be alarmed by all of the disintegration happening. It must happen and continues to signal Christ’s return. The increasing wickedness does not disrupt our call. God has placed us here as His servants and witnesses for such a time as this. The Christian voice matters. Our representation matters. The best thing we can do is to come into agreement with what God wants to accomplish for His purposes and glory in a perishing world; that more may repent and be drawn to Him in these last days.

Our voices should not be contained to church pews, the pulpit or only among those with whom we share sweet fellowship. As a dear sister in Christ said recently, “Christianity is a lifestyle,” and as such, our faith is our life. It is not compartmentalized. We live Christ’s life in us out in the open. It is an inside-outside work.

walking-to-light-in-dessert-small

Do not underestimate the power of the light of God abiding in you. While moral and societal decay and wickedness seem to be having their way, this is not so. As Christ’s vessels, the light and new life residing in us is stronger than the darkness trying to press in. Such to the degree, that the words from John 1:5 speak to the unconquerable power of such light: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (New International Version)

We have everything to gain by being His representatives. And we don’t need anyone’s permission to act as such. We have already been called to fight against the powers of darkness.

When Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” it’s a sobering reminder that our culture will fill it with something. It might as well be filled with our voices as Jesus’ representatives in the earth.

When we walk in the light and lead others in His light, our and their future is indeed bright. If we do our job well and without compromise, many will benefit and this will be reflected in our culture. We seek to disciple and equip others to respond to issues from a Christian standpoint. As my fellow brother in Christ and Christian Medical & Dental Associations Washington colleague Jonathan Imbody writes in his book, Faith Steps (Legion Publishing, 2016), “Faith steps simply means making choices in God’s direction.”

We desire to impact our culture in response to God’s direction so that others may experience what Jesus has promised, “life and life to the full.” (John 10:10)

Our representation matters. We are rich in opportunities to share Jesus, His light, love, and truth with the world. We can represent Him right where God has planted us or wherever He sends us. The world is in need and nature abhors a vacuum.

As the Lord asks in Isaiah 6:8, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?,” I hope your response will be, “Here am I. Send me!”

Embolden us Lord, that we may glorify you.

God bless you and Go in courage,

Nicole

“These Are the Results”

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

On October 27, 2018, I was invited to share a message for the third year in a row to students at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. The message I delivered was entitled “Identity Theft” on how Satan steals the identity already given to us by God. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Called the “father of lies,” Satan from the very beginning has been challenging God and His designs to fabricate a counter design. In order for us to acquiesce to Satan’s design, we’d have to change our identity. Many people are living off of a false identity to deal with traumas, abuses and brokenness. They concoct and are attracted to what the false identity offers and tells them.

The false identities are camouflaged in “courage” and “acceptance.” That’s the appeal. But they are empty promises from Satan. In confusing the truth about our identity, he sows seeds of depression, hopelessness and apprehension about our future. But here’s the Good News: Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the full! Question is, Will you volunteer to suffer? A dear sister in Christ and guest writer for Voices Against the Grain, Bambi Jenkins, shares a sobering message on this subject entitled “These Are the Results.” I implore you to read and consider what identity you are living today. If you have accepted false information, there is hope.   -Nicole

To the Broken: “These Are the Results”

bambi jenkinsI had a vision. I was driving down the street and saw a woman walking around in her home with a broken spirit. She is smart, has all types of degrees, is a peak performer at her job and holds a top position. But, in her home when no one was around, she was torn and depressed. As she walked slowly throughout her home, head hung down, she looked back over her life.

Her history was traumatic. She had been sexually abused, exposed to a lot of trauma and severely mistreated at the hands of those she trusted. Being raised in the church, she had begun to trust the Lord but soon lost her connection with Him. She turned to alternative religions and paths that opposed the Christian faith in which she was raised. Desperate to escape her pain, she created a false image of herself. At work, she was skilled, confident, and personable, but when alone at home, she was defeated, depressed with thoughts of suicide. She was confronted with the reality of her tormented past, without any viable repost. The identity she was able to portray at work, was not sufficient to sustain her destroyed self-esteem at home.

These are the results of abuse, neglect, and fear.

You see, if the devil fears anything, it is the future you and what God has planned to do through you. The enemy wants to discourage and disrupt your progress towards being who God created you to be. So Satan sows seeds of self-doubt. Seeds that can be carried throughout and impact virtually every area of your life.

Without God’s help, many will surrender their true identity in order to cope with deep-seated pain. We will put on a mask to conceal old but still-painful wounds so that people may see a more beautiful, successful and powerful person —a person that we are unable to see for ourselves, but one that we desperately create in an attempt to fit in with society. We will turn away from what God says about us and become what the world says is more acceptable.

deception-john-rizzuto

But know this beloved: God is calling us out of all the self-made tombs that we have accepted for our lives. He’s calling us out of the darkness and the very painful chains that bind and distract us. He will show us what it means to live free in Him. He will give us a new identity and the confidence to live in it as He mends our broken hearts.

Psalm 34:18 NIV The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

We can stand against pleasing our flesh, the devil and this world’s agenda, by simply trusting in who God says we are.

James 4:17 NIV Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

To the Church: “These Are the Results”

In my frustration about what is happening in some churches and with its leaders, the Lord allowed me to see and understand that if we don’t recognize the results, then we won’t understand how to fight to be free of them. The results that I’m speaking of is when leadership lacks truth, love, and order, we create church members who are simply religious, without a true relationship with Christ. This often turns nonbelievers away who don’t care to participate in what they see as hypocrisy.

We have many great leaders among us, however, too many are more concerned about their image, church rosters and/or financial success. This leads to ineffective and powerless sermons and teachings that compromises the very power, strength and saving Grace of God’s Word.

All too often the body of Christ has come under attack because of those who use the house of God as just another social club to alleviate their loneliness and boredom. But the Word of God makes it clear the role of the Church leadership:

Proverbs 27:23 NLT Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;

Jesus is calling for Christian leaders to follow Him and to speak the truth in love, without compromising it in order to avoid offending anyone. We are to put our trust in Him— not in numbers — and believe that He will provide everything that is needed. Leadership is responsible for teaching the truth as well as living it. As leaders, we have to be serious about God’s Kingdom business and not religious busy-ness.

1 Timothy 3:2 NIV 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.

Many church members have relinquished the responsibility of their relationship with the Lord and knowing His word, giving this work totally over to the church. This has resulted in fickleness, inadequate power, ineffectual prayer, and instability. Hebrews 10:25 encourages the gathering together of saints but that is not where it stops. Christians, we are to study daily as well as teach those in our care the word of God. No one can eat once a week and be sustained. As with Christians, we must continue to feast on the word of God every day. When we neglect to read and meditate on the word of God, this weakens our spirits and allows the flesh to take control.

Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.

We must be willing to look in the mirror and get real with ourselves. We have to allow God to penetrate those painful areas that we’ve attempted to hide and hold back. We need to understand that anything that we hold on to, is the very thing that the enemy will use to target and distract us. Obedience must become non-negotiable to us. Children of God, I encourage you to get to know God for yourselves. Pray for those in authority. Lift each other and live God’s truth before everyone.

Jesus is calling for nonbelievers to put their trust in Him alone and to yield their lives to Him based on His love and truth. He loves you so much that He died for you. I can agree that there are those in the church who seem to be living different lives from what they profess. There will be many who profess to know Him. This can be disappointing and discouraging but nevertheless, God’s word is still true.

Titus 1: 16 NIV 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Also, please understand that there are many who aren’t playing with God but are simply struggling in different areas and could be in the process of change. Don’t run from God because of them. Run to Him because of Jesus. We are all in need of God’s strength to stand. I’m praying that you will come to know Him for yourselves.

Altar Call to Alter Your Path

These are the results, but it’s not the end. There is hope.

i surrender all

Do you desire the real thing? To no longer live a facade? Will you volunteer to shed your robe of comfort in exchange for pain — on purpose? Are you ready to be someone who no longer wants just a surface relationship, who runs to the throne of grace to surrender all to God?

My prayers are with you.

Your sister in Christ,

Bambi

When You Understand Your Position, Beneficial Decisions Will Follow

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Might you go through some unnecessary experiences based on a decision made in desperation? Yes indeed. All of us can immediately recall a decision made in haste that we had to pay for. As a dear friend and mentor says, “The most expensive thing you will own are your decisions.” Such a situation was experienced by one man who lost a great deal over a bowl of red lentil soup.

Recently, and as always, I was enjoying sweet fellowship with a dear sister in Christ as we shared about our Christmas fellowship with family and friends, reflected on this year’s triumphs and challenges and how the Lord has been with us in all of it. She also shared with me new revelations learned in her study on Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Great revelations she shared about their story I may communicate in a future blog post, but it is on my heart to remind you of something that came forth as she and I spoke.

If you know the story (see Genesis 25-33), Esau was born first and then Jacob. We read the account of their birth in Genesis 25:24-28 (NIV):

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau (or Edom, which means “red”). 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob (which means “grasps the heel, he deceives”). Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. 27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Now comes the crux of the story for this particular message:

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew (it was red lentils)! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die (at that time there was a famine in the land),” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

Red lentil soup

 

 

??? Hold up (emphasized with a “No he didn’t” neck twist). I love lentil soup and make a good one too. Esau gave up his birthright and all the blessings that come with that for some red lentil soup?? It had been a while since I’d read the story so when I reread this my mind was boggled. Puzzled, I said, “What was he thinking??” I then felt compassion for Esau, recognizing that in those times when you are really hungry (notice that he said “famished”) you don’t always think clearly or rationally. You may act in haste or in desperation as Esau did — and lose far more than you ever intended. Your decision made in haste, in weakness, without recognizing what you already possess, what you already have, what is your position, may take you through some unnecessary experiences.

I thought, “Couldn’t somebody have given Esau some nuts to take the edge off his hunger so he could think clearer??”

But this was not simply a decision based on Esau’s thinking compromised by hunger. Esau did not value or appreciate what he had as the firstborn son (verse 34 says, “So Esau despised his birthright.”). In dismissing what he had, he did not internalize the weight of what he already had and in not understanding, he was shortsighted. But the impact of his decision was long-term (read further in Genesis). Now, his brother Jacob fully understood the worth and value and of Esau’s birthright and what came with it. Jacob was very upfront with Esau in asking what he wanted. We later read in Genesis 27 that Jacob gets blessings from his father Isaac that would have belonged to Esau, through a deception.

As one reading this, you were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). The world will sell you many things contrary and counterfeit to your identity, but there is only one truth to base yourself on. For those in Christ Jesus, we are seated with Christ Jesus in heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). We are the head and not the tail. Through Christ Jesus, we have already been made victorious. Through Christ Jesus, we are already rich. We have a glorious inheritance. Nothing the world offers can compare. Do not accept or fall prey to the temporary and fleeting pleasures that the world is selling. What is offered may appease temporarily but will surely pass as a bowl of lentil soup. Do not exchange your position to gratify a craving or in attempt to remedy a situation.

Understand what you already have. Understand your position. When you understand your position, you will better understand your value and the value of your position. You know what you will and won’t allow into your life, you know what you will and won’t pursue. When you know your position, beneficial decisions will follow.

Heavenly Father, thank you for telling us in Your Word who we are. We are greatly positioned. Thank you Lord! Thank you Father for your love, grace and mercy shown toward us when we’ve made hasty decisions. You can work even these situations out for our good. We pray for those who have exchanged their birthright and all that comes with it for something far less, something so sinister as to leave them empty handed. In Your Word you tell us that Satan comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. May those things stolen from us be restored. The only way we understand who we are is to know who You are.  If we have accepted something less, something counterfeit, please help us to see it and bring us back to the right position so we may live life to the full with nothing missing as you’ve promised. In Jesus’ Name we ask this. Amen. 

Love and blessings to you in the New Year,

Nicole