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September 1, 2016

What is Your Tree?

Written by Kelly Elders

When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. Genesis 2:6 Message Bible

Eve woke up every morning in total bliss. She was with the man that God had custom designed for her, surrounded by beauty with so many choices of fruits and smells and then visited by God daily. Who could ask for more?  Who wouldn’t love to wake up every morning surrounded by a beautiful garden, with the perfect man and walks with God? Yet, it would only take one conversation to change her world.

Sometimes you don’t know you are missing something until someone tells you. Growing up our dad worked for General Motors and made a decent salary but with 8 kids it didn’t always show. We all had chores, shared clothes, bedrooms and one bathroom. One day I went to a friend’s house and it was beautiful and grand. She had two closets full of clothes, a dishwasher, her own bathroom and no chores! That was it, I knew I was missing out on something better. I had never felt poor in all my life until that day. When I returned home nothing was the same. I now hated to wait for the bathroom, resented the fact I had nothing new, and hated washing the dishes. It changed my entire perspective from content to discontent in one moment. Just as Eve had access to so many trees all she could focus on was the one tree she couldn’t experience.

The Enemy tries to convince us of two things; to focus on what you don’t have and to believe that God is holding back His best.

STAY FOCUSED

Eve was surrounded by trees and the enemy came in to change her focus on the one tree she wasn’t to eat from. The enemy is using the same tricks on us and trying to convince us that we are poor. At first, Eve could see God in everything around her and with one conversation she changed her perspective. In order for the enemy to gain access to her life he had to get her to buy into a lie. The lie?

That you are poor in some area of your life and you must leave what you have and search for what is missing.

I hear so many people who break up with someone and say “What was I thinking?”, “What did I ever see in them?”. At first, everything they did was cute. You only focused on the good things and never even noticed the big nose, the crooked teeth, the little belly or the flaws and you married it. Now the things that attracted you now repel you. Now you are convinced you deserve a better husband/wife instead of working on the relationship you currently have you begin to change your focus on someone or something new. The tree that is off limits starts to look better than your own tree.

What if your tree represents your church? First you were so happy to connect and run with the vision but now you are convinced there’s a better tree out there. The enemy will try to convince us to leave the church where we are planted in order to stop our growth process. We encounter a offensive situation in church with people and think that by leaving it will keep us from ever experiencing hurt again. Instead of allowing the situation to mature us we choose to uproot and slow down the growth process. Church is full of imperfect people and it’s possible you could experience offenses, hurts and disappointments but you also experience those things on the job, in families and at school but we don’t easily walk away. Don’t allow the enemy to convince you that growth is suppose to be easy. It stretches you beyond your limits. You must forgive when your feelings are slow to catch up and persevere when you can’t see clearly ahead. Maturity requires a stretching. The only way your roots will become strong is to stay long enough for them to spread out. Before checking out ask God where you can grow though instead of just going through.

BELIEVE THAT GOD IS FOR YOU

The enemy challenged Eve to change her view of God. She knew God, walked with Him in the cool of the day and had conversations with God. The enemy convinced her she was not only missing something better but that God was holding back His very best.

Have you ever believed that God could answer your desire or need but wondered if He would? You know He has the capacity but not sure if He will. The enemy has no new tricks he is still trying to convince us that God is holding out on us. We start to doubt that He has our best interest at heart and we begin to move out into our own efforts as Sarah did with Abraham. We think God needs our help when He really needs our surrender. He created us and knows us through and through and he has designed a plan to grow us and to bless us! Be convinced that you are not forgotten, overlooked or dismissed by God. He wants you to walk in His blessings more than you do but He is also wanting both our soul (mind, will & emotions) and spirit to prosper. The trees that God has provided are everything that you have need of and it’s enough to prosper you in every area of your life. Be convinced that God wants the very best for you and His best is better that we could ever ask, think or imagine.

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August 25, 2016

The Storm

Written by Petra Rodriguez

A storm is a violent disturbance of the atmosphere, which brings strong winds, rain, thunder, snow and lightning, such as an uproar or controversy.  At times, we are stressed and we feel like we are living in a cyclone so we give up and begin to drift away.

There is an account in Acts 27 which tells of Apostle Paul and other prisoners being taken away on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean. They had not seen sunlight in fourteen days. They were in total darkness and they didn’t see any stars. Not knowing where they were, they just kept drifting with the storm.

When we stay in the storm instead of the eye of the storm where it is calm, we begin to drift, and all we see is total darkness and hopelessness. We give up traveling toward any destination.  We begin to throw our cargo over board thinking it will help us from sinking, yet we throw away the things we need because the storm seems too tough.

This is a common reaction to difficulty. When the heat is on and the pressure is unbearable, we start to throw away the things we need to survive in the storm.  We may throw away faith in God, hope, courage, peace, dreams, goals, or purpose. We may even sacrifice the values and relationships that we would not normally guard.

We say things like, I’m throwing in the towel, I’m giving up on this marriage. I’m abandoning this relationship, etc. Are you facing a storm in life? Do you feel battered, like you are going to break down, or fall apart by the banging of the waves?

Don’t give up and become anxious and afraid. Don’t give up on your dreams and goals. Don’t throw away what you need to make it through the storm- God, always being your main focus.  God is the eye of the storm. He has complete control and His love surrounds calms and our souls. Let’s not drift with the storm, throw away  our focus and trust in God, abandon ship, or lose hope. We can weather anything as long as we stay calm in the eye of the storm. It will soon pass.

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August 18, 2016

Patience Isn’t A Bad Word

Written by Lawanda Martinez

I have heard people say, don’t pray for patience as if patience is a bad word. The idea is that if we pray for patience then our patience will be tested constantly. The bible says patience is a fruit of the Spirit. How can anything the Spirit produces be bad? Fruit takes time to grow and the time needed for growing is considered waiting. Are you waiting patiently? Anytime I think of waiting, I not only think about fruit growing, I imagine waiting in a doctor’s office for an appointment. Are you in a waiting room right now? Are you being told to wait?  

I am no stranger to being told to wait. I’ve had my variety of struggles and hard times. Recently, I was homeless and displaced. I wanted to look for a place to live or settle for just any place to rent for me and my kids. I also wanted what God would have for me. When I inquired of the Lord for His direction He asked me to trust Him and to wait. I actually wanted proof in writing that He wanted me to wait. He was faithful and confirmed His word when I read a something I wrote from a message at church. The note stated “a patient waits in the waiting room.” As I began to think about my situation, I rewrote the note to state “patience waits, in the waiting room”.

I began to ponder the idea of a patient waiting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, waiting to be called. Once the patient is called, the patient is directed to a room where more waiting occurs as the patient waits to be seen by the doctor. Once seen, the patient may be referred to have tests done or obtain a prescription. Both involve more waiting.

My waiting room experience happened over the course of three months. I was living my everyday life- going to work, church, the gym, the grocery store and simultaneously I was in a waiting room, waiting. During this time the fruit of patience was developing. Through seasons of suffering the roots of patience were growing deep. As my trials continued, the fruit of patience was finally maturing. The greatest part of waiting for the fruit of patience was when I was able to taste God’s faithfulness and His blessings.   

I was in need of a place to live. I had looked for rentals and homes for sale and it only frustrated me to see homes that were not in my budget, the wrong size, or in the wrong area. There were pressing issues at work and with my sons that needed my focus, and looking for a place to live was an additional burden. A burden that God did not want me to carry. I prayed for direction and I pleaded with God for an answer. God had already answered me. He said wait.  And the revelation from the note said “patience waits, in the waiting room.” If love is patient, then love waits. If God is love, then God waits too.

During this time I had shared with my son that the Lord told me to “wait.” Later, I said, “should I be looking for a place?” and he replied to me “looking is not waiting, wait means wait.”  Again, I thought to myself what does it mean to “wait”?

I was reminded how all throughout the Bible we are told to wait on the Lord. At the doctor’s office you know at some point you will be called. Sometimes we approach the receptionist to make sure we haven’t been forgotten because we’ve been waiting for so long. Yet we really have no alternative if we want to see the doctor, except to wait. While waiting at the doctor’s office, I usually bring things to occupy my time while my main focus is listening for when my name is called. I am waiting but I am not bored. There are other things I can get done while I am sitting down, this waiting time is the perfect opportunity to rest.

I could have disobeyed God and continued looking and getting bitter; instead I obeyed. I had peace about God’s instructions to me. I stopped looking and I waited. Since the burden was lifted, I began to enjoy my situation, discovering the good and the opportunities available to me. By not having household chores or expenses to deal with, I had more time to visit family and time for myself. I made a budget, I paid off necessary debt, my credit score increased and then one day out of the blue I received an email asking me if I was still in need of a home. It was a 4-bedroom home that I now own. When escrow closed I already had equity in my home.

What I learned through this waiting room experience was that it was impossible to wait well, until I had total confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness. I knew He had the ability to bring about a good resolution because I had a promise from God. Jeremiah 29:11 He has a plan and it is for good, to give me a future and a hope. My job was to believe God meant what He said. I had to stay in the position of waiting so that I was ready when He called my name.

God said He knows the plans He has for me and they are good. My outward situation seemed devastating, however inwardly I knew my foundation was my relationship with the Lord. I had been through hard times before and God had always seen me though. In similar past  experiences I had always waited in fear. This time there was no fear. I had grown with God to know that He was not oblivious to what was happening in my life. I knew He had the answers and I needed to trust Him. God said wait and so I said ok.  

Even though I may not know the appointed time, I know that to wait means carving out time, believing God will answer me within a specified time, and that He will help me, even after hours if necessary. God doesn’t always share how long we are required to wait. That is where faith comes in. Remember faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Having the confidence in God’s ability to bring about a good plan within His appropriate time is our responsibility. Then we will taste the sweetness of His faithfulness because we took the time to wait and we allowed patience have its perfect work in us.   

Do you find yourself in a waiting room experience? This is your chance to allow more faith to develop, as you trust in Him every minute of the waiting. Remember to put your total confidence in God’s faithfulness. Know that God has a good plan for your future (Jer 29:11). He is trustworthy. He loves you, put your hope in Him again. Even in waiting- believe God and believe His word. Jeremiah 29:11 is for you.

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August 4, 2016

More Than Enough

Written by Judy Smith

Every month as I sit to do my bills I find my faith tested. Not that I haven’t planned. I have actually become quite good at pinching pennies. Yet, there always seems to be something that comes up to throw off my carefully calculated budget. Expenses continue to go up, but my income has not. These unexpected bills make me want to throw out my careful calculations and say “forget it”! Instead, I do the math, think, and pray. At times, the situation feels impossible. How in the world are we going to pay for everything that we need to pay for? I must lay it all down and ask Jesus for help.

In Mark we see Jesus split a small quantity of fish and loaves to feed a large crowd. Mark 6:41 (NIV) says: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.” Jesus has a different kind of math. Where we see little, He sees much. Things don’t add up the way we think they should, but Jesus answers prayers and He is working all things to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Take the feeding of the five thousand. When I add up five loaves and two fish, it equals a meal for a small family. When Jesus adds up five loaves and two fish it equals a meal for a hillside of people with twelve baskets left over. How do you start out with a sack lunch and end up with a fish fry for five thousand? I don’t know, but Jesus does. Psalms 46:1 He is our refuge and strength and a very present help in times of trouble.

This is why we should trust Him with our daily lives. We should trust Him with our worries, concerns, bills, grocery lists, and doctor visits. He has ‘divine math’. When He works in our lives, miracles become everyday occurrences. Thank Jesus for what He has already done in your life, and invite His divine math into any problems you are facing today. He is Jehovah Jirah, our provider! I see it every month. You will too, as you continue to obey His word and trust Him. 

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July 21, 2016

Haters

Written by Kelly Elders

I’ve never met a person who hasn’t been disappointed, betrayed, rejected or hurt by someone or something. We will never be able to avoid these moments. So instead of living separated from people, in a constant prison of loneliness or avoidance we can learn some of the best lessons even through pain.

Be Resilient

I bought a pair of Ugg boots when I came to California and took them back home to Michigan during the winter. Even though they are furry and very warm on the inside the outside couldn’t handle the rain or snow. They had no traction for walking on ice which I learned the hard way, and the water from the snow seeped right in and ruined them. They “look” like they are made for the elements but as I discovered they are best used in sunny California when the temperature is a mere 65 degrees!

The same is true with our hearts, we can’t just look like a Christian on good days. We need to keep the elements of this world from seeping in and that includes when people intentionally or unintentionally hurt us. The enemy knows if he can get you to walk offended, rejected and unforgiving that he stops you from moving forward. If you have been dealing with the same hurt for months or even years it’s time to get moving and start forgiving. What happens to you doesn’t have to happen in you.

God is your resilience and He will protect your heart like Rain-X!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

Be Forgiving

Many Christians believe God should go after the person harshly for the hurt they have caused. They want the God of Mercy when they’ve caused the hurt but the God of Judgement to those who have hurt them. Forgiveness is leaving God as the Judge and trusting Him to know what is best. When we sit back and wait for God to cause their destruction it’s silent revenge.

“Do not be happy when your enemy falls, and do not feel glad when he stumbles. The Lord will see it, he won’t like it, and he will turn his anger away from that person.” Proverbs 24: 17-19

 God did promise us this:

“You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5

We can trust God because regardless of who doesn’t like us or who doesn’t think we deserve promotion, position or blessings we know that God is the one who promotes or sets down another. He will make sure all your haters will see how merciful God is towards those He loves and restores. He will bless you in front of your haters. All you have to do is come to God’s table and allow Him to feed you, cover you and take care of all the rest.

Don’t be your own hater. You may not think you deserve to be used or blessed by God but go to the table anyways and all those wrong thoughts will be cast down when you allow God to be your Host with the Most!

Be Oily

It was in the presence of enemies that God prepared a table. That means you can sit at the table and He will cover you with oil like a welcomed guest of honor while your enemies look through the window and see all that God has done! He is actually protecting you from your enemies while you are eating in peace. Oil is used on sheep and other animals to keep flies away and in the same way God protects us from those things that pester us and cause us frustration. Our enemies are not always other people, sometimes its ourselves and sometimes it’s just life at it’s worst but notice God prepared a table during difficult times. In difficult times it’s important to sit at the table and allow His fresh oil to cover you and protect you.

You can’t hold on to much with oily hands! Disappointment, unforgiveness and bitterness will all slip out from you so stay oily!

Continue to sit at the table and enjoy His blessings.

More from Kelly Elders at her blog

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July 14, 2016

Recognizing Pride & Control

Written by Amber Lawton

Pouring fresh pressed juice into a glass bottle with a small opening, I became frustrated as I had to carefully pour to not lose any of the juice. Impatience began to kick in as I stood there holding the container in place attempting to not spill and waste any of the juice. After a few minutes of doing this I was reminded that we did have a funnel which would make this pouring process much easier. With the bottle three quarters of the way full I decided the funnel was futile, and continued to pour by hand. Of course, without fail I did end up spilling and losing some of my precious juice. Cleaning up the mess I began to regretfully think about not using the funnel. I could have rationalized the loss of a bit of juice. Seriously, it’s just juice. But I was not happy about the outcome. That mess on the counter though wasn’t just a loss of juice. The mess spoke to a bigger issue with control. Had I used the funnel I would have completed the task in less time, and not wasted an ounce of juice. Pridefully I decided I was better off without it. In the same way, when we don’t fully rely and trust God with everything in our life we cut ourselves off from His abundant resources.

When we neglect seeking God, then we are telling Him we don’t trust Him. We are essentially saying “I can deal with this better than the Creator of Heaven and Earth.”Control comes in many forms. There are times we don’t even recognize that we are trying to control a situation, person, or circumstance,in our lives until we have a mess that needs cleaning up. As a result, we have two issues to deal with: the main issue and the mess. We essentially remove the protection we would have had, had we not decided to exclude God.When we go to God we can trust and believe for a favorable outcome because He promises good to His children. In the case of the juice, it may seem like I had to exude more patience by pouring alone.In reality if I had been patient in the beginning I could have taken the time to consider ways to complete this task. I would have thought of the funnel much sooner.

Control is deceptive. We are convinced that we will know the outcome when we take charge. We believe we can handle everything if we keep our hands in the mix. However, we end up escalating the issue instead of diffusing the problem. When we take situations into our own hands we open the door for the enemy. We know the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Why do we continue to leave a way of entry for him? Like any thief the enemy is calculating. Robbers case houses to determine a pattern in the homeowner’s activity. They watch to see where they will have unseen, easy access. Experienced robbers have a well thought out plan. They have strategy for their entry, movements, timing, and exit, in hopes of plundering as much as possible. The same can be said about satan. He is waiting at the back door and watching windows to find an easy entry. He’s hoping you forget what happens when you open any area of your life to him. He’s counting on you to leave him room to have a foothold.

I watched a video on a pretty popular blog aimed at millennials to gain understanding and perspective on how young people are being targeted. The video was of a “modern” witch explaining magic. By all accounts this video was created to make witchcraft appear harmless. In the beginning of the video was exactly what is wrong with control. When asked why she was a witch, the young lady responded: “I don’t want to wait for God to answer my prayers. That’s why I’m a witch. It’s a way for me to effect change in my life, but isn’t necessarily a belief in a higher power that I’m devoted to that I pray to.” She didn’t want to wait on God. She wanted change in her life without devotion. This is the problem with trying to maintain control. This is the very reason we should steer clear of control, and instead commit our devotion to God. Control can be seen in possessiveness, dominance, and manipulation. All are considered forms of witchcraft. You may consider yourself to be very devoted to God, but I would dare ask how devoted are you if you can’t hand over everything to Him?

In my twenties I purchased a book from a famous book club that was described as enlightening in the way we see God and purpose. I watched as many Christians gave great reviews and esteemed this book as highly motivating in drawing them closer to God. As I read the book I was disturbed to find many principles that had nothing to do with God but continuously led back to self. Ego was the greatest factor in this book.The author encouraged readers to discover ‘the god within’ them. Masked with spirituality, and dripping with a hint of new age appeal, this book was teaching pride. The more I read the more I could see how control and pride go hand in hand. The book was teaching how to gain control of the now by seeking inward. Matthew 6:34 says: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We are to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first. Before we settle on a plan, we should desire to consider God’s will and purpose. After all, every day ‘has enough trouble’. Proverbs 3:5­7 says: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding& in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes&fear the Lord and shun evil.” The scripture says to trust with all of our heart. When we lean on our own understanding we are missing key elements that only God could know and see. He may not reveal everything to us, but he will steer us clear of danger and crooked paths. Trust is the opposite of maintained control. When we are wise in our own eyes we are prideful. Yet, the fear of the Lord is what prompts us to fully trust Him and stay away from evil of any manner.

Today, be willing to open up to God about where you are in the area of control. Share with Him all your fears, or disappointments. Allow Him to release you from this bondage so you can walk freely on the straight path He places before you.

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June 30, 2016

Purpose

Written by Petra Rodriguez

Purpose, is the reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists.  In the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, one of his catching quotes that grabs readers’ attention is “What On earth Am I Here For?”  Sometimes we may feel as if there is something missing or more that we should be doing, but we don’t exactly know what. 

In his book some of those titles are 1) You are not an accident 2) The reason for everything 3) What drives your life.  God knew exactly what He was doing, when He purposely, intentionally created each of us individually. Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. You are a masterpiece! Your parents may have not planned you, but He did. Each of us was given different talents, gifts, and abilities.  This difference is no accident. You are unique, one of a kind! A masterpiece! You were not meant to be, look, act, and sound just like everyone else. 

These attributes are not meant to be kept for oneself and for selfish reasons. They were given to us to pay it forward, to benefit and help others and for others to benefit and help us….share it.  What drives you; what moves you: Everyone’s life is driven by something, guided, controlled, and directed. What’s your driving force: materialism, approval, fear, anger, guilt?  Is it love, trust, hope, giving, helping, and joy?

Knowing your purpose is a key to gaining meaning to your life.  The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose! I’ve come to realize that purpose is LOVE….created intentionally to be loved and to love. These are some of the words that come to my mind when pondering the word purpose; loved, accepted, forgiven, significance, wanted, hope, prosperous, ability, favor, eternity, joy, breakthrough, victory, family, job, and life.

Consider those things in our lives that are put there that make no sense at the time, but eventually prepare us for that purpose in our lives.  Believe you’re here for a reason and that your purpose is greater.

“Your life has purpose. Your story is important. Your dreams count. Your voice matters. You were born to make a difference and an impact.” Genius Quotes

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso

REFLECTION

Think about the purpose in your life, sit and imagine how you were purposely made to come into existence, God planned it! Wow!  You have great significance in this life!

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June 23, 2016

Yielded Under Pressure

Written by Amber Lawton

Some of my fondest memories of creative discovery can be found in the latter portion of adolescence. Taking pictures of friends, then watching the film develop in the dark room of photography. Choosing color swatches, and learning how to “open up a room” for my project for interior design class. Even writing for a creative writing class in preparation of open mic night. Although, I didn’t quite look forward to the actual performance aspect. With each class a new process of creating, staying affixed to my own creative vision, while attempting to find satisfaction in completion, not perfection.

The class that posed the greatest challenge, yet holds the fondest memories, was ceramics. Kicking the wheel trying to control the speed while trying to form something out of a mound of nothing was not as seductive as the movie Ghost made you think. The process was messy. There was a bit of science to the art. You have to keep your clay moist enough to be moldable, but not so moist that it becomes sludge. The slightest pull or push could drastically change the shape of what was to be a bowl into a warped plate.

As I remember the intricacies of forming a mug, vase, or bowl, there is one step to the process that is rarely mentioned, but significant. The very first step is ‘wedging’ the clay. Before clay is every ready for the wheel the potter must wedge the clay. Wedging involves rolling the clay while applying the right amount of pressure. Cup, roll, press. Similar to a baker kneading dough, the potter cups the clay, and continues until they have repeated this process between 75-100 times.

When done correctly wedging mixes the clay, removes moisture and air bubbles, and aligns the molecules in the clay to be workable and conducive to making vessels. When done incorrectly wedging can cause air bubbles to be added to the clay instead of being removed. Air bubbles will not affect your creation at this stage of the process. However, they can prove to be detrimental at the final stages. The wrong level of moisture, or air that cannot escape, will cause an explosion in the oven (kiln) while the vessel is in the final stage of cooking. Of course there are those who have their own theories of explosion and wedging, but roll with me here. This is the process I learned, and has significance to what I am about to share.

Just imagine, you’ve taken the time to press and press on clay. You throw the clay, shaping and forming your desired vessel, only to place it in the oven and have it crack or explode! Unlike other art forms, explosion leaves nothing salvageable. What’s worse is the potential loss of other vessels in the oven simply because one exploded.

“Do I ask God to remove the pressure… or teach me how to endure pressure?”

 

 We are halfway through 2016 and I can’t help but reflect on all that has occurred. The months have passed so quickly. I’ve had to face unexpected pressure, deal with emotions, all in the hopes of becoming a more stable, and balanced person. In other words, I need to get over myself, and just plain grow up. Don’t get me wrong; the life I have lived to this point has matured me…to a degree. But I went into 2016 willing to recognize that there are hurts from my past that have deeply wounded me and affected the lenses from which I view life. So why was the pressure unexpected? Because I thought that if I handed my hurt, deep hurt, over to God that miraculously my vision would be clear and I would see better. Well it turns out that maturing is more of process.

My deepest desire is to be a willing vessel yielded unto him. My willingness does not determine when or how I could be used. In being completely yielded I have to hand myself over as a lump of clay recognizing there are imperfections He must take out of me first.

Yielded by definition means to give way to pressure. Being yielded to Him means being teachable, learning from mistakes. Being yielded means submitting myself to Him, and those He has placed in my life that have wisdom in areas I need understanding. Being yielded means being pliable, learning how to “go with the flow”, and trust He is in control. Willingness is absolutely great but limits your ability to be used if you are not completely yielded to His will. After all, water doesn’t flow freely from a vessel with a warped lip.

 In Jeremiah 18 God sends Jeremiah to the potter’s house where he watches the potter make a pot. When the pot is not to the potter’s liking he begins again with the same clay in order to make a pot that pleased him. In verses 6-7 God speaks to Jeremiah and says: “O people of Israel, can I not do with you as this potmaker has done?” says the Lord. “Like the clay in the pot-maker’s hand, so are you in My hand, O people of Israel.”

 As I read this passage I couldn’t help but think of the preparation the clay went through prior to being on the wheel. I began to revisit memories of unpleasant circumstances that led to the hurt I was dealing with. Most I had dealt with. A few I had not – air bubbles. As the air bubbles began to rise to the surface I had to make a decision.

 I chose to learn how to endure. I knew that the pressure being applied could only be from Him. That the more pressure I felt, the more I could see just what he wanted to heal and correct in me. Like the clay I had to take the pressure He was applying in order for my molecules to be in proper alignment. I had to see that I couldn’t become the vessel he wants without persevering under pressure.

There are many times we attribute what looks to be a negative circumstance to the enemy. Still, there are plenty of times where the Lord will use these circumstances to reveal the condition of our heart. James 1:2-4 says we should be glad when our faith is tested, because through the testing of our faith we learn how to persevere. I recently watched a video and the speaker said we may not have been able to control everything in our life, but we must become accountable for how we deal with what’s happened. This hit home for me because much of what I have been spending time on in the last month has been learning how to correctly think. Yes, I still struggle with extreme thinking at times. But if I didn’t stay the course under pressure I would have never discovered the error in thinking patterns or sought help. I am clay.


As a lump of clay I give in to the wedging, understanding the initial process of perfecting is not only for my good, but for others around me. As a lump of clay on the table I trust the potter’s hands to prepare me for the wheel and fire. As a lump of clay on His wheel I yield to the pulling up and tearing down. I mold to the shape He is forming me into. A vessel He is pleased with that will withstand the added pressure in the fire in order to be used. 

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June 17, 2016

Recharge

Written by Kelly Elders

One day after an event I walked into the parking garage and the car next to me had it’s hood up with a woman holding battery cables. We all know what that means, car trouble. The woman couldn’t start her car and needed someone to help recharge her battery. I lifted my hood and we charged her battery. She thanked me and we went our separate ways. On my way home I stopped to have lunch with friends and as I parked my car my battery light went on. Here I was helping someone with their battery and all the while my battery was in trouble.The next day I couldn’t start my car and had to replace the battery.

Leading on Empty

Sometimes we are helping and giving to the people around us and yet we are living depleted lives. When we stay on the side of giving and never stop to receive we will begin to feel overwhelmed and even frustrated with people, church and ministry.  Living on empty will cause you to move from church to church or position to position trying to find out where you feel fulfilled. Fulfillment comes from our relationship with Christ not from our position in church. Serving is all about others not ourselves. It’s not to make us feel better by making us feel accepted, forgiven or righteous. All those things are found in Christ alone. We serve because He invites us to share in His work on this earth. It’s an honor to be able to function as His hands, His voice, His heart and His feet. He wants to use us immeasurably and also keep us filled.

Who wants to help people succeed, grow and walk into their destiny if they themselves are not experiencing all of those things too?

When you have faith for yourself to win in life, it’s much easier to help someone else live by their faith. I wouldn’t want a trainer at the gym to train me if they had a muffin top and a donut in their hand. You can only take people as far as you have been so as you grow you can then propel others forward.

If you have been in the church long enough you have heard people say they can no longer serve because they’re just burned out! “Burned out” people are people who serve on low or empty. The easiest place to hide your emptiness is while you are serving. If you stop attending church people assume you are in a bad place or feeling defeated but how about all those people who volunteer every Sunday on empty. No one notices you are actually starving and serving at the same time. Soon you can deceive yourself into believing you are no longer hungry and instead revert to become hangry.

Hangry vs. Hungry

Have you ever met someone who gets hangry? They are angry cause they’re hungry. They can’t make a decision or they become easily frustrated because they haven’t eaten. This drives me crazy! I want to keep an emergency slice of bread in my purse for people like this. I can’t understand how someone can let themselves get to this point when they have every ability to grab a snack instead of attack. Yet many Christians are so hungry they become hangry. They respond to people out of their hunger and hurt others with their words and all because they choose to live on empty.

God has made Himself available to us for our every need through His Holy Spirit and through His Word. He longs to fill us and wants us not only full but running over. Jesus tells a parable in Luke of a story of a man who prepared a banquet table and everyone he invited had an excuse as to why they couldn’t attend. One man couldn’t attend because he bought a field, another just bought oxen and another just became married. People are still using the same excuses for not sitting at His table. They are working too much, consumed with all the material wealth or their relationships and have no time for Him. Jesus continues to tell the story of how the man sent his servant out to call anyone willing to come. God is filling those who hunger after Him and He is sending out those who love being filled while filling others!

The better you are, the better the quality of what you have to give.

Filled People

Filled people spill over onto others. Have you ever met someone who can’t hold in a secret? They have to release it or they feel they will explode. We need to feel that welling up to want to tell others what God has done in our lives. We should have stories of how good He has been to us and how grateful we are for His goodness. These stories should spill out of us. When we live with hearts of gratitude we notice even the small things that God does on our behalf. We notice and thank Him for the perfect parking spot, the short line at the grocery store, keeping you from an accident and every good thing that happens, each time He intervenes or protects.

Today, choose to focus on the good things and continue to fill yourself with His Word, last Sundays message, a podcast and just conversations with God and as you are consistent you will feel the infilling happen each day. As David Katina said, “Good, better, best, don’t let it rest till the good is better and the better is best.” 

More from Kelly Elders at her blog.   

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June 9, 2016

Slow Down

Written by Amber Lawton

Three weeks. I had three weeks. Truthfully I had way more time to complete my homework, but I kept finding myself stuck. When you’re a (former) perfectionistic, approval-seeking, analyzer like myself you would think I would utilize the time I had to my advantage. Instead my penchant for procrastination kicked in. Combine this with the greatest gift known to woman, multitasking, and I thrive in the excitement of finishing.

Like many of my peers I have found ways to accomplish multiple tasks in my day at the same time. I’ve read what the experts have to say about the ill effects of multitasking; split attention, less effective, and mediocre results. But who knows better than me how I get things done?   Forget the fact that this homework is for a class at church intended to increase my spiritual growth, and teach me how to walk in my God given authority. Nevermind the fact that if I finish these assignments I will probably find a greater peace in my life. In the time given to me I allowed anxiety set in: ‘what if I don’t pass?’ ‘I need to find a job.’ ‘What am I going to do if I run out of money?’ ‘I promised I would help.’… and on, and on, and on.

This pattern is not new to me. Over the course of my many years of employment I found myself committed to too many projects. Deadlines looming over my head I would agree to help others with their work knowing I had not completed my own projects. At times I took work home, and spent even less time in what should have been the highest priority – my relationship with God. Reading my bible became reading a scripture in a devotional when I could. Prayer became quick thank yous in the shower, and a blessing over meals. The most time I could commit to with the Lord was in my car during the morning commute. I’ll be honest those were not always the finest moments as I tried to pray, or worship, only to be cut off and cussing. That’s right. Road rage was in full effect. So I essentially stuck to listening to Christian radio hoping whatever message I was listening to would sink in. Yet, my thoughts never quite lined up with what I was listening to as they quickly went to the day’s tasks, or bills, or whatever else was a concern for that day. Instead of living a Christ-centered life my life looked more like a pie chart with Christ being the smallest piece of the pie.

In this new season of my life I didn’t expect to have to revisit how I prioritize my time with God. Still, I found that with holding off this homework came a slow depreciation of my time with Him. The busier I got, the more worried I became. Then there was the self-defeating thought that said “just a little bit of time with God is better than none.” That’s right this is a self-defeating thought because if I find my peace, hope, joy, love,  freedom, and ultimately myself, in Him why would He be at the bottom of my priorities? Contrary to what you may have heard alone time with God isn’t meant to be a shadow to your list of to-do’s.

I wish I could tell you that I heard some gentle message of Mary & Martha that caused me to want to sit at the Father’s feet. No, quite the opposite. I was attempting to do a low priority task because it was less challenging, and didn’t push me spiritually. That’s right I was avoiding the change I needed. Because after all, once you know better, you do better, right? I was sitting at my computer when the Holy Spirit said very clearly “One thing at a time. You need to do one thing at a time. Prioritize. What is priority?” I immediately felt convicted because the very thing I needed to do first was the thing I put off for last. The assignments I procrastinated to complete were directly connected to my assignment in the Earth. How could I possibly attempt to do anything related to purpose if I couldn’t draw closer to the one who gave me that purpose in the first place?

I recently heard John Bevere teach that ‘it was the good of the tree that Eve was drawn to when she was deceived. The tree we know as good and evil. Eve was enticed by the good because she thought it would make her more like God. Much like Eve, many Christians are deceived by the good of a thing, not noticing the compromise it brings to their lives.’ How applicable this statement is to my very circumstances. Essentially I could have said “I shouldn’t be convicted, because after all it’s not like I don’t spend any time with God. And hey all the things I’m distracted with are for Him for the most part anyway.” But what is the value of  a sacrifice when you are giving up a calculated measure that doesn’t mean much in the first place? How much are you changed or even becoming intimate with your Father when you are more consumed with projects, tasks, money, and things?

Mark 4:19 (NLV) says: “But the cares of this life let thorns come up. A love for riches and always wanting other things let thorns grow. These things do not give the Word room to grow so it does not give grain.” This scripture says ‘other things’ which is broad when you think about it. Things can be your career, your house, children, or education. Things could be physically tangible items. Things could be tasks or projects. Think about things. What ‘other things’ are growing up like a thorn in your life and choking the seeds of the word? Hard questions, I know. But I had to ask this of myself as well. If I intend to be a doer of His word I must do more than hear His word. In order to know Him I must know His word. In order to draw closer to Him I must be diligent, and whole-hearted in my pursuit. I must sit still, prioritize, and take one thing at a time.   

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