treasure seeker

always looking below the surface

Filler August 19, 2014

Filed under: Devotional,My Life — rjfleming @ 2:56 am

A few weeks ago I mentioned a thought that came to me in the middle of the night. It’s still swirling around in my head. Here’s the thought:

“There is not enough human acceptance, affection, attention, or approval on earth to make up for your lack of an acute awareness of just how much God loves you.”

This thought reminds of the “God-shaped hole” concept. The idea that every person is born with a hole in their life that only God can fill. A longing only He can satisfy.

While I agree with that concept, I believe we need to go a little deeper.

I don’t believe having God in your life, having a personal relationship with Him through Jesus, automatically fills up that aching hole or satisfies that intense longing. I think it takes more than that.

I’m basing that statement on my own personal experience. For years–even decades–after I began my personal relationship with God, I continued to run around searching for something to fill up an aching emptiness in my life.

The sad thing is I apparently wasn’t aware of what I was doing or I’d have gone directly to God and asked Him to take care of it. Instead I looked everywhere else trying to find something or someone that could satisfy the intense longing that only the intense love of my Creator could provide.

I tried human acceptance. If only the right person or the right people would accept me, would include me, would like me . . . then I would be okay. Then I would feel like my life had purpose.

I sought human affection. If only this person would love me. If they would just want me and choose me . . . then I would feel worthy to be the person I was supposed to be.

I craved human attention. Since I wasn’t being accepted by the people I ‘needed’ to accept me and since I wasn’t being given affection by the people I ‘needed’ to choose me and love me, I unknowingly went about seeking attention from other people. I guess this was necessary in order to feel validated as a human being . . . because without attention from somebody, I felt like I was a waste of oxygen.

And when all else failed, I did whatever it took to at least gain people’s approval. I worked more than required, said yes to anything I was asked to do, and tried to anticipate other people’s needs and fulfill them before they even had a chance to take care of it themselves. Even if they didn’t approve of me, they would at least approve of my work . . . because it was excellent.

But none of it soothed the ache.

And it won’t for you either.

Without the very personal awareness of how much God loves you, the great lengths He went to in order to have a personal relationship with you, how many times He thinks about you every day, how intimately He knows you–and yet still loves you enough to die so you can live . . . until those are the thoughts that fill up your mind and until that is the knowledge that swirls through your spirit and until that is the backdrop for the life you live surrendered to Him . . .

You could possibly keep doing what I did for decades.

Use acceptance, affection, attention, and approval from other people as filler for a hole that God created in your life as His own place of residence. And there’s not enough of that filler in the entire world to even make a dent in the emptiness.

 

Owing vs. Owning August 12, 2014

Filed under: Devotional — rjfleming @ 3:17 am

A couple of weeks ago my pastor shared the testimony of a fellow pastor.

 

Years ago, this pastor moved away from his home state and planted a church in obedience to God.

 

A few years into the project, things weren’t going so well. There had been very little growth. They still had less than 100 members. It had not turned out at all the way he imagined it would or how he expected God to work it out.

 

And in the process of planting the church, this pastor had lost everything. He had lost his home. He had lost cars. He had lost everything. And he was continuing to lose.

 

One day he was praying and crying out to God about the situation.

 

He reminded God that He was the one who asked him to give up his previous life. Asked him to move his family to this particular location and plant a church. He told God that He owed him because of all he had given up, all he had lost, and all he had invested in this church plant.

 

And then God told him something.

 

God told this pastor, “I don’t owe you. I own you.”

 

And the pastor said that from then on, everything changed.

 

Wow. God’s right, you know. He does own us. He owns us because He bought us with the blood of His own Son.

 

And because He owns us, He can use us whenever and however and for whatever purposes and for however long He chooses.

 

This pastor’s conversation with God changed his attitude. I have a feeling he was reminded that he was there to do whatever work God gave him to do, and that the outcomes were up to God. At least, that’s what this story helped me remember.

 

Where has God placed you? What work has He given you to do? How is it going so far? Do you feel like God OWES you because of what you’ve given up or lost or invested? Or do you live like He OWNS you?

 

Oh. And by the way. The pastor is still at that same church. Only it now has over 15,000 members, is heavily involved in helping the people in the community, and is one of the most well-respected churches in the city.

 

Go figure.

 

Falling Up August 5, 2014

Filed under: My Book Clients,My Life — rjfleming @ 3:07 am

This is a very exciting week for me.

As you probably know, I’m a book coach and editor. I work with nonfiction authors in several genres, helping get books written and published that will change people’s lives.

Several months ago I met Connie Carey at a monthly meeting of the National Speakers Association – Georgia Chapter. She asked for my business card and contacted me soon after that meeting to discuss her book ideas.

Long story short, I was honored to work with Connie to help her choose her subject, organize her material, and then edit her book. And Thursday night I’ll be attending her book launch!

Her book is titled Falling Up: Lessons Learned on the Way Down. It’s an uplifting, inspirational book that you do not want to miss. In this book, Connie shares her journey of healing from the loss of her father to suicide. I knew Connie would do an outstanding job telling her story, but she far surpassed everything I was anticipating. You’ll want a copy of this book for yourself. But this is also a great book to share . . . especially with someone who’s been through heartache in their life.

And there’s more exciting news! Connie will be competing later this month in Malaysia at the International Speech Contest sponsored by Toastmasters, International. At the launch Thursday night I’ll get to hear the two talks she’ll be taking to Malaysia as well as the story behind her book. I think I know a little bit about that one, but I can hardly wait to hear it again!

Falling Up will be available on Amazon beginning Friday. Here’s the information on it. And you can keep up with Connie through her website at www.ConnieCarey.com.

Congratulations, Connie!!

Falling Up Front Cover

 

 

 

 

Grace July 29, 2014

Filed under: Devotional,Grace — rjfleming @ 3:28 am

Do you remember the brilliant illustration using the jar, large rocks, gravel, sand, and water? If you need a refresher, here’s Stephen Covey’s retelling of the story. It’s a great life lesson about priorities and making sure you take care of the most important ones first.

Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it.

 

Have you ever noticed how frequently songwriters and poets and authors compare grace with water? I’ve heard it compared to a river, to an ocean, to rain. Yet when I did a search of the word ‘grace’ in the Bible, I couldn’t find it compared to water anywhere. I easily could have missed it. But I did notice a few times where it talked about grace flowing and overflowing, so I guess that’s probably why it’s been compared to water so often.

And I think grace is a lot like water. Think about it.

Water is not cylindrical or octagonal or square. Water fills empty space and takes the shape of that space–no matter how odd or convoluted the space is. In the same way, the place where grace is going doesn’t have to ‘fit’ grace. Instead, grace ‘fits’ whatever space it finds that needs filling–no matter what condition that space is in.

And when water (and grace) fills a space, it covers every exposed surface, fills every gouged out hole, reaches the depths of every crack and crevice.

Grace is never-ending. You’ll never run out. You don’t have a daily quota or a lifetime limit. The grace provided to you is however much you need for your life at this precise moment. No measure. And, therefore, no comparison.

And grace flows continually into the life of every believer. It never stops flowing as long as we’re breathing.

And grace doesn’t have to be invited. It just shows up whenever it’s needed.

 

In some ways grace reminds me of the water in the illustration I mentioned.

Because no matter how well we plan our days and our lives. Even if we make sure to place all of the big, important things on our schedule first. And regardless of how much gravel (good, but not quite as important tasks) we’re able to fit between and around the large rocks. And no matter how much sand we can handle, those minute details some of us are so good (or so horrible) at tending to.

There’s still going to be emptiness that needs to be filled. We’ll still miss something. And there will still be places that nothing and no one else can reach–much less, touch and heal.

 

That’s when grace comes. Where we fall short (no matter how hard we try), grace fills in. Sometimes our jar may look like it contains only water. Other times, not so much.

Either way, we always need grace.

Even when we’ve done our best, we still need His grace!

 

 

Life of Joseph – Part 45 – Death of Joseph July 22, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,The Life of Joseph — rjfleming @ 3:42 am

Well, today marks the end of our study of the life of Joseph. I learned so much. I can’t believe how much great business wisdom I found in these scriptures about Joseph. Not to mention the general life lessons and the lessons on forgiveness and grace that were so evident in his life.

 

I have to say that Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. I know he wasn’t perfect, but I can’t find any glaring moral failures or weaknesses. He’s steady and gracious and loyal and kind.

 

It reminds me of the saying we’ve all heard — the bad things that happen to you will either make you bitter or they’ll make you better. And it’s all your choice.

 

Joseph had some horrible things happen to him as a kid. Events he could have used as fuel for a life-long pity party. Or as excuses for doing whatever he wanted to do when faced with a moral dilemma (i.e. Potiphar’s wife).

 

I mean, he was now a nobody in a foreign country with no family around to ever know what he did there.

 

But I don’t think Joseph saw himself as a nobody. Joseph somehow held on to the hope that those dreams God had given him when he was back home did not expire when he crossed the border into Egypt. Joseph somehow believed that his brothers’ gut-wrenching betrayal was not able to destroy God’s plans for him.

 

When bad things happen to us . . . whether we helped them occur or not . . . we get to choose how they affect us. I’m not saying they’re not painful. They are and we need to process the pain and deal with it. And I’m not saying they don’t change things. They do. And some of the changes are devastating and permanent.

 

But we get to choose how they change us . . . the core of who we are. Are we going to NEVER FORGET what happened, rehash it with anyone who’ll listen, and replay it over and over in our minds? For the rest of our lives? That’s our choice. That could have been Joseph’s choice.

 

Or we can take the necessary time, and possibly get the necessary help, to process what happened and work through our emotions and choose to forgive whoever we need to forgive — including ourselves. That way we’re free to live our life and keep working toward our dreams. That was Joseph’s choice.

 

And in today’s passage, Joseph comes to the end of his life. He is now a great-grandfather. So he didn’t let what happened to him as a child stop him from creating his own family. And he still has a relationship with his brothers who betrayed him. In fact, he was still making sure they and all their families were being taken care of in Egypt.

 

And he still believes God is going to keep the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That He would come and take Abraham’s descendants back to the Promised Land.

 

And when that happened, Joseph wanted his bones taken with them and buried back home.

 

And his request was honored.

 

TRUTHS:

- We don’t have to let what happened to us as children stop us from creating our own family.

- We don’t have to let past hurts keep us from forgiving and having a healthy relationship with our family.

- We can always trust God to keep His promises.

 

APPLICATION QUESTIONS:

- How have you allowed what happened to you as a child affect your family or your family plans?

- What past hurts do you need to forgive so you can have a healthy relationship with your family?

- What promises are you still waiting on God to fulfill? Are you waiting in doubt or in faith? Expecting the worst or anticipating the best?

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Genesis 50:22-26 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

22 Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived 110 years.

23 And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children also of Machir son of Manasseh were brought up on Joseph’s knees.

24 And Joseph said to his brethren, I am going to die. But God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land to the land He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob [to give you].

25 And Joseph took an oath from the sons of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and you will carry up my bones from here.

26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

 

 

 

 

Life of Joseph – Part 44 – Teaching his Brothers July 8, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,The Life of Joseph — rjfleming @ 3:38 am

I feel like the brothers are being taught a lesson by Joseph that Joseph learned at their hands decades ago. The lesson is, “Don’t fear man–even if they have the physical power or the earthly authority to harm you. Instead trust God. Because if He allows it, He will redeem it. He will turn it around and use it for good–if we will surrender it to Him.”

Do you remember this blog post where we talked about Joseph’s last two years in prison? I feel like that time was a major turning point in Joseph’s life. A time when he realized that even though so many horrible things had been done to him and that beginning in his childhood God had given him dreams of the position and authority he would one day have, Joseph finally recognized in those last two years that he couldn’t make it happen–even if it was God’s will. And I believe he realized he had to let go of all the emotions that had built up over the years toward the people who had put him where he was. I believe it was then he learned the valuable lesson he’s now sharing with his brothers–and that we need to learn sooner than later in our life.

 

When the brothers fall at his feet proclaiming they’re his slaves, Joseph replies–“Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God that I can punish you?”

 

Joseph has apparently already learned that “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” He realizes that even though he has the position and the authority now to finally repay his brothers for all the horror they caused in his life–he’s not God! And it’s God’s job to repay–not man’s.

 

The brothers are focused on Joseph’s earthly power. I’m sure he could have had them locked up or executed at a moment’s notice. And the brothers knew that.

 

But Joseph’s focus was on God and how He had redeemed the situation. And Joseph wanted the brothers to understand that, too.

 

The next verse, Genesis 50:20, is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. It can be such a comfort to us when things don’t go like we think they should. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Wow! That’s a powerful verse! It can be life-changing. If we let it.

But it’s not easy.

When bad things happen to us, we can either look with our earthly eyes focused on the human aspect. “This person did this horrible thing to me. Now they have ruined my life.”

Or we can look at it through the lens of Genesis 50:20 and acknowledge that–Yes, they harmed me. And, yes, it was on purpose–they intended to harm me. It wasn’t an accident.

BUT GOD!

I love those two words. They change everything.

But God allowed them to harm me because He can use it for good. He looks at it from a different perspective. He looks at it from the perspective of how He intends to use it to push me further down the path to the good plans He has for me.

 

Just like He used Joseph’s mistreatment by his brothers to get him to Egypt, to learn the language and culture, to show his integrity to Potiphar, to be falsely accused and thrown in prison, to become known for his spiritual gift of interpreting dreams, to be liked and trusted even in prison, so he would be given Pharaoh’s servants to take care of, so he could interpret their dreams, so two years later he could be called up out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, so he could present his plan for saving the country from the famine, so he could be put in charge of the program, so Egypt and Joseph’s family could all be saved from certain death, so the chosen people of God (the nation of Israel) could survive and grow so fast that they soon outnumber the Egyptians (Exodus 1:9) . . . and so on and so on.

I love it that Joseph doesn’t berate his brothers for their lack of trust in him. Instead, he encourages them again not to be afraid of him, and reassures them that he will continue to take care of them and their families. And he spoke kindly to them and comforted them.

Joseph learned that he had a part to play in God’s story. And that anything God allowed in his life, God would use to help him play his part.

What is your part in His Story?

TRUTHS:

- Our fear of man and what he can do to us is misplaced.

- If God allows it, He has plans to redeem it.

- God’s plans are always for our eventual good.

- Our job is to comfort and encourage our brothers.

 

APPLICATION QUESTIONS:

- When was the last time I was afraid of a human and what he could do to me?

- How have I seen God redeem bad things that happened to me?

- Why can I believe that God’s plans are for my good?

- Who needs my comfort and encouragement?

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Genesis 50:19-21 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

19 And Joseph said to them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God? [Vengeance is His, not mine.]

20 As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day.

21 Now therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for and support you and your little ones. And he comforted them [imparting cheer, hope, strength] and spoke to their hearts [kindly].

 

Life of Joseph – Part 43 – Afraid of Joseph July 1, 2014

Filed under: Bible Study,Devotional,The Life of Joseph — rjfleming @ 3:32 am

Their father is dead and his half-brothers are fearful of Joseph. Apparently they had used Dad as their buffer and didn’t have their own personal relationship with him.

Now they’re afraid he might pay them back for selling him as a slave when he was a teenager. So, in their fear, they try to continue to use their dead father as a go-between. They send a message to Joseph saying that, before he died, their father said to tell Joseph to forgive them.

I personally don’t think Jacob knew the extent of what they had done to Joseph. As outspoken as he was, especially near the end of his life, I’m pretty sure the subject would have come up.

When Joseph got his half-brothers’ message, he broke down and wept. His heart was broken because his brothers still didn’t ‘get it.’ They still didn’t realize that he had forgiven them and wanted a different type of relationship with them now.

Then they came and threw themselves down at his feet and said they were his slaves.

=======

To me this is such a picture of Jesus and a lot of His followers–including me earlier in my journey.

And it is definitely a picture of religion vs. relationship.

I’m not comparing Joseph with Jesus. Joseph wasn’t perfect and he isn’t our Savior.

But Joseph understood forgiveness and grace and he offered both to his worst offenders and they didn’t know what to do with it! They didn’t now how to live in it. All they could fathom was that Joseph should be angry with them and might be appeased if they offered themselves as his slaves.

Unfortunately this still happens every day.

Somebody reaches the point where they realize they need a Savior. So they convert to Christianity or they join a church or a sect or a denomination. And then they spend their lives trying to appease or please God by continually begging for forgiveness for their past and offering themselves as His slave. God, just tell me what to do and what not to do. Give me a list of what makes you happy and I’ll do that. And give me a list of what makes you angry and I won’t do that.

And I think God is saying . . . why don’t you grab a cup of coffee and come sit with me on the porch and let’s catch up. Tell me what’s going on, what you need my help with, who you need my help loving. And then let me tell you what I have planned for you–it’s all good. I’ll share with you any course corrections that will make your journey easier. Then let me just hold you and love on you a little while–let me give you an inkling of how much I love you–let me remind you that I am for you and I am with you–all the time! Then go out from our time together and just be you! The YOU I created you to be. A one-of-a-kind original. Don’t take any checklists with you. Instead, take the love I share with you on the porch and share it with everyone whose path you cross today–starting at home.

One night this past week–actually it was in the wee hours of the morning–the following truth hit my brain and I grabbed my phone and typed it up so I wouldn’t forget it! I think it fits with today’s blog.

“There is not enough human acceptance, attention, affection, or approval on earth to make up for your lack of an acute awareness of just how much God loves YOU!”

In case no one’s told you lately, He’s CRAZY about you! And we have all of those things (acceptance, attention, affection, approval) from Him–if we’ve accepted His offer to adopt us as His child–without having to jump through any hoops to get them!

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TRUTHS:

- We have to create and maintain our own relationships–with people and with God.

- Guilt over our past will haunt us the rest of our days unless and until we seek and accept forgiveness and learn to live in grace.

- Forgiveness offered by the person we wronged isn’t enough to set us free. We have to accept their forgiveness and also forgive ourselves.

- Learning to live in the grace offered by the One we’ve wronged the most is one of the hardest things to do. But it’s not impossible.

 

APPLICATION QUESTIONS:

- What relationships do I need to create and/or maintain instead of depending on someone else?

- Whose forgiveness do I need to seek?

- Whose forgiveness do I need to accept?

- What do I need to forgive myself for?

- How well do I live in grace?

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Genesis 50:15-18 / Amplified Bible (AMP)

15 When Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Perhaps now Joseph will hate us and will pay us back for all the evil we did to him.

16 And they sent a messenger to Joseph, saying, Your father commanded before he died, saying,

17 So shall you say to Joseph: Forgive (take up and away all resentment and all claim to requital concerning), I pray you now, the trespass of your brothers and their sin, for they did evil to you. Now, we pray you, forgive the trespass of the servants of your father’s God. And Joseph wept when they spoke thus to him.

18 Then his brothers went and fell down before him, saying, See, we are your servants (your slaves)!

 

 
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