Leading With The Need: How We Get More From Church

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com - Leading With The Need: How We Get More From Church

Why can church seem plastic and empty?

Because I come to the King’s treasury laden with debt but I pretend like I’m rich.

I only leave empty because my pride prevents me from taking advantage of the King’s debt forgiveness program.

In order to do that I have to openly declare bankruptcy.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 5:3

In James 5:16, the author writes,

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Notice that confession of our sin PRECEDES healing —the establishment of healthy function.

Very often I get nothing from church because I pretend that I have it all together.

A pastor and mentor of mine, Pearson Liddell, advised me regarding ministry, “get real as quickly as possible, otherwise you’re wasting people’s time”.

When we don’t confess our sin, we leave money (healing) on the table.

So, for me, moving forward, every church service, fellowship, Bible study will begin with this question, “Where is the sin in my life?”

And what is sin?

Missing the mark.

It’s being outside the circle of love, outside the Kingdom of God. (sin state)

The result is always that we don’t love properly. (sin action)

Leading with the confession of our sin requires humility, looking into the mirror of the perfect law of liberty, turning the sword of the Word (which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart -Hebrews 4:12) on myself (rather than against others as we so often like to do) and praying, “Lord, show me where I’m apart from You. Show me the areas where Satan sits on the throne in my life. Show me where I’m failing to love properly.”

There will always be something to confess, always an area where we can be healed, always a place where God can make us more glorious.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
— 1 John 1:8

There’s no sense in being sick, coming to the hospital and pretending that I’m OK.

I come to Christ through fellowship because I’m in need.

We should lead with our need.

I’ll start:

One of the greatest hindrances to my loving properly and to God’s glory being expressed in my life is that my regard for many things in this world have not yet descended to the level of trash.

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ”
— Philippians 3:8

I am preoccupied with my appearance and have burdened myself with debt and unnecessary things to bolster it which keeps me from fellowship and hinders me from following Jesus completely and fearlessly.

Please pray for me.

Jesus In The Midst

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com - Jesus In The Midst

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.””
—Matthew 18:20

Jesus made a promise with this condition:
If two are more gathered in My name, meaning for the purpose(s), and for the pleasure of His position / office / station (Messiah),

Then, we are granted His power.

And, He, Jesus, is in the midst.

Therefore:

1. I will seek out and connect with people who are operating according to His purpose(s).
2. And, I will expect Jesus.

He is there because He said He would be.

There, I will tune my heart to His presence, so that I may see Him, hear Him, feel Him and know Him.

To do that, I must not harden my heart by embracing this world, by accepting the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and instead become as a little child who knows nothing and look to my Father and learn of Him for everything.

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
—James 4:4

We can’t have both. We must chose where we will ultimately put our trust. A double-minded man gets nothing.

I must distrust this world -that is, divest, take my trust out of the identities the world tries to give you, out of the things the world treasures, and out of the meaning or meaninglessness the world proclaims.

“let God be true but every man a liar”
—Romans 3:4

Instead, I must, invest, put my whole trust in Christ and trust Him to define my identity, to treasure what He treasures, and to trust that His purposes are true, will not fail and is what life is all about (meaning).

Then, I will be able to see Him more clearly.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
—1 Corinthians 13:12

On a related aside, in a Christian home with a husband and wife, those are two, so there should be three. Jesus should be in every such home.

Where two or more are gathered in His name, Jesus is there in the midst.

We can do more than “know about” God.
We can know God.
We can be sense, experience and be with God!

I can see Him if I want that more than anything. (Matthew 10:37-39)
#goals #KnowGod #KnowingGod

Why I Hate This Cross

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com - Why I Hate The Starkville Cross Of Christ
Photo Courtesy Of Columbus Dispatch

Someone asked me privately why “I hate this thing” referring to the Starkville Cross of Christ as I mentioned in a previous post.

The ultimate point of that post was not the cross but how those of us in Christ can, by His grace, push past even very strongly held positions to fight toward each other in love.

Notwithstanding, I think it would be helpful to the cause of “fighting toward each other in love” to understand why I disdain this monument.

Despite a lot of responses to the post focusing on it, for me, it is not about the money or what it could have been better spent toward. That’s tertiary, at best.

But as I have written previously, I find the giant cross problematic, “not because of what it is but because of what it was erected in the absence of”.

The absence I’m referring to is love, basically.

Everything else is derivative.

It’s unfortunate that this cross was erected during one of the most divisive times in history, meanwhile:

there is no concerted effort by the Christian community here to address the schisms in the church. Sunday remains the most segregated day of the week.

there is no concerted effort by the church to address schisms in our community. We remain very divided.

and, there are a host of community challenges we, as the church, are well equipped and well resourced to address, yet no concerted effort.

We seem happy with the level of suffering around us, but erect a giant cross to symbolize Christ’s love.

Sigh.

Love is the primary thing.

And, that is what I find absent.

Building shelters, providing food banks, or erecting giant crosses will all be ultimately unprofitable without love.

As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, I can do all sorts of amazing and even extreme things like selling everything I have to feed the poor or even giving my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Christ’s love is supernatural because it’s God’s love.

That love will transform our community and us.

That love will engender the response appropriate to meet the specific need of each individual and branches properly to connect them all (to God).

It’s only something that those of us who are called by Christ can do.

Tactics ain’t gonna get it.

At the very most basic application, I can tell you that no one I love is going without anything if I can help it.

The problem is we don’t love each other.

Is there truly a God?

I believe there is.

Prove it.

Love miracuously.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #1 2023 – Fellowship With Brothers And Sisters In Christ

Do you remember when I said I was going through a rough patch a while back?

It was a season that started much earlier than the day I finally mustered the courage to admit it and ask for help.

It started around the time the 52 Weeks of Gratefulness posts stopped.

One of the first things Satan attacked was my thankfulness. There was a campaign to maximize self by emphasizing my trouble and minimizing the triumph I have in Christ.

Earlier last year, I was in a very dark place. I came to a point where after over 20 years preaching the gospel I was ready to walk away from God. Some people who have heard that thought I was overstating the case, that I was exaggerating or that I’m being dramatic. But, no. I began to doubt the very existence of God. I started questioning the reality of His person, His power and His presence based on what I thought should (or shouldn’t) be happening in my life.

There were a lot of things that led to that moment, aging loved ones, difficulty in my marriage, financial troubles, but it came to a head during a really rough summer for my business. It was worse than it had been in a long time. I was finding it difficult to cover basic expenses. It just felt like I had been struggling forever. Here I am following God, trying to honor Him, but there just doesn’t seem to be any relief or breakthrough, and for all I’ve done, I’m still a failure.

But, thanks be to God that even though I was ready to walk away, I found that I wasn’t holding on to God, God was holding on to me! His Word came to me as gentle as a whisper “Where are you?” When God asks a question, it’s not because He needs information but because He is trying to show us something. His question began a dialog called prayer where I confessed my anger, my frustration and how I just don’t feel God anymore.

God gave me one verse. He brought to remembrance one line and made it burn on my heart (this is why it is vital to get the Word in you.) That verse was Proverbs 18:1 “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.”

The idea was that part of my problem was that I was focused on myself. I had allowed a root of bitterness to spring up in me and I went into myself, crawling into the dungeon of my heart to nurse and steep in that bitterness. In doing that I had cut myself off. But God gave me a Word that prompted me to seek His face in the presence of His people.

So, I stepped out on that Word and that led to me attending the Men’s luncheon that they host at New Horizons here in Starkville, and that led to me engaging with Brian Spencer at the gym, and that led to me attending my first Man Church and that led to me developing new relationships and my wife and I started hosting a marriage ministry in our home and you know what I found? The Word of God is true! I found revival in the presence of His people.

Look, I have long considered myself a rabid introvert. I am not fond of being around people. I like being by myself, I’d rather be by myself. Being around a lot of people was torture and zapped all the strength out of me. When I’m around people for an extended amount of time, I go home and just collapse and sleep for the rest of the day because of how much it takes out of me.

But now since I’ve tasted the sweet communion of being in the presence of God with other believers, since I’ve experienced Christ where two or three are gathered in His name, I’ve been going out, seeking Him out almost every day.

I’m not talking about “going to church”. I’m talking about seeking to live and function along with other members of the Body of Christ and being the church.

Thankfulness is not just something you should remember to do occasionally, thankfulness should be developed and practiced as a discipline. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thankfulness is a practical and important tactical maneuver in spiritual warfare.

So, in Week 1 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. It saved my life.

If you prayed for me, thank you. The prayers were effective.

I’m thankful. #52wog

Pictured is a regular get together with other members of a marriage ministry Melissa Luckett and I attended that was hosted by Pearson & Pepper Liddell. It was the first place we encountered authentic church.

Originally posted by Paul Luckett to Facebook here.

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52 Weeks of Gratefulness #16 – Fruitful Words From A Friend

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Fruitful Words From Josh T Taylor

In Week 16 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for a fruitful word from a friend, Josh “T” Taylor.

I want to advance the Kingdom of God.

But, how we imagine the Kingdom and what it actually is are often starkly different.

It is easy for us to be deceived by appearances, to busy ourselves with religious activities, to feel affirmed by big crowds and large projects, but all the while having done nothing for the Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-27)

I have struggled with wanting to do something “big” and feeling like I’m not doing enough… that is, until my brother, Josh “T” Taylor, shared a word that has been setting me free.

“T” and I attend a marriage ministry together. It is a small group but it is very rich.

One day, we were talking about the role our marriages play in the Kingdom by glorifying God in how we as husbands and wives reflect Christ’s love.

In that moment “T” pivoted and said something that completely shifted my view of ministry. He was sharing water that he had received elsewhere but it was particularly refreshing to me because it was filtered through his sincerity, his love for me and his applying it in his own life.

He said, “The Kingdom of God advances at the speed of relationships.”

That word immediately affirmed itself. My heart was set on fire as much by the messenger as by the message.

It was illuminating. It revealed, among many things, how I often get distracted seeking outcomes while God seeks hearts. And, we reach those hearts, not by large, flashy ministries but by Spirit-filled, sacrificial, longsuffering love for people as they come to us, which is most often one at a time.

I repent. Not my will Father, but Your will be done. (John 6:38)

This word from a friend and dear brother has been a great ministry to me. I will go forward in service to the Father, seeking to be faithful with whatever He places in my charge -one talent or five, and trust God with the rest.

Thank you “T”. I love you.

I’m grateful. #52WoG

Beware Cultural Christianity

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Unity Is Not Conformity

Cultural Christianity is the reduction of Christianity to an identity.

Cultural Christians share language, conventions, and practices around Christian themes but do not recognize the deity of Christ nor submit to His authority as evidenced by their dissimilarity to His Biblical account.

The key characteristic of Cultural Christianity is the preeminence of the group. Cultural Christians prioritize membership to the group above submission to Christ.

Being a Cultural Christian does not require regeneration, belief or any lifestyle change besides participating in group-sanctioned activities that signal their affiliation. Membership is granted on the basis of conformity to the group.

Cultural Christianity adds members largely through cultural assimilation: the often unconscious adoption of the positions and behaviors of others whose acceptance is desired. It seeks cultural belonging and influence, not the Kingdom.

Beware #CulturalChristianity

Unity Is Not Conformity

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Unity Is Not Conformity

Something that is not lost on me is how different the disciples were.

Letters attributed to Matthew, Peter and John are starkly different (yet harmonious) perspectives of the same Jesus.

A dear brother, Tim Boden, once said of the body, “It’s as if we’re all peering through a keyhole and in our sharing what we see, we get a fuller picture of Jesus.”

What sets my heart aflame is that Jesus chose these different men intentionally, purposefully and strategically! (John 15:16, 1 Corinthians 12:18)

That’s how Jesus chose you!

Oh, what a revival we’re missing because we fail to see that unity is not conformity. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) But moreover, because we do not trust the Holy Spirit.

Oh, that we would repent and believe the Spirit that Christ gives us so the Church would be revived!

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #14 – William Chapman

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For William Bill Dad Chapman

In Week 14 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for William Chapman.

What is it about us and food?

Our best moments seemed to be around breaking bread. This is the best picture I have of you because often when we’re together, we’re too busy eating for me to take pictures. And, here I’m sharing a meal with you and Tan at the Starkville Korean Church where you were a long time friend and faithful minister to that congregation.

The very first time I remember our sharing a meal together was at the men’s luncheon that meets on Thursdays at New Horizons Christian Fellowship, another place where you were also a long time friend and faithful minister. That’s where I got my first real glimpse of you and your cheeky attitude. I remember saying to you, “I solicit your counsel and give you authority to correct me,” and you snarkily replied, “I was going to do that anyway because I already have that authority.” Smart butt. That was the point that we became friends.

We’ve shared several meals since then, each time you were ministering. The first time I came to visit you in the hospital, you said “What do you have for me?” and you went on to teach how when a minister is visiting the sick, they should come either with a Word, a prayer or a song. With each visit we’d edify each other and then share a meal.

At your funeral, I learned that you did that all over the place: at the Starkville Korean Church, the Starkville Chinese Christian Church, Second Baptist Missionary Baptist Church, New Horizon’s Men’s Lunch, Mississippi State Christian Faculty Forum, teaching online Bible classes to people in China and on, and on. By God’s grace, that’s who you are: a minister and connector to the beautifully diverse, international, multi-ethnic, global body of Christ.

This brings me to our last meal together on Monday, April 4th 2022, where I also administered communion to you. You shared how you and your family were making your funeral arrangements. Your final remarks to me are etched in my soul. The first being, “I see no downside. Either Jesus will be the first face I see or that of my wife Tan. To live is Christ. To die is gain.” And, your last being, “Make sure they emphasize the importance of the diversity in the body.”

But, here you are, a white man, taking communion to your lips from my hand, a black man, as though you were receiving it from the Lord Himself.

Not once have you ever uttered, “I don’t see race.” Rather, you saw my blackness and did not consider it as a flaw but a feature of God’s design and embraced me. You did this for many others.

As I consider your last words to me, “Make sure they emphasize the importance of the diversity in the body,” and as I look around at your funeral, at those who have been born, grown and connected by your ministry, I see no need, your life has already done that. What I will do instead is endeavor to continue what you’ve done.

How fitting that we quite literally shared your last supper, a sacrament that connects us to every believer past, present and future, through the body and blood of Christ. Jesus said that “many will come from the East and West and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). What a glorious day that will be when you and I are assembled with believers from every nation, tribe and tongue (Revelations 7:9) to sup again with our Lord (Mark 14:25)!

Thank you for sharing a spiritual, cosmic, much more beautiful view of the kingdom than our natural, limited perspective allows. I’m grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #12 – Martin Coleman

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Martin Coleman (Twitter)

In Week 12 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Martin Coleman.

One Sunday after service, Marty Coleman walks up, “Hey Brother Paul. I understand you have a business that does computer work. There is someone I think you should meet.”

He then waves over a young man who seems tired and despondent. His approach toward us from across the room was slow and labored. He’s disheveled. His hair is matted to his head with gel. His clothes are wrinkled like he had just rolled out of bed with them on. His glasses are so hazed, perhaps from the gel in his hair, that I can barely see his eyes.

Though his approach seemed reluctant, when we started talking, he opened up easily enough. He’s a gamer. He knows his way around technology by having built custom and very sophisticated gaming computers. Brother Marty’s hope was that I would be able to give this young man a job.

This is not long after the Great Recession. One of my largest clients, representing twenty-five percent of my business’s income, was a casualty of the economic downturn. I lost them to closure and many of my remaining clients cut their retainers in half. I feel personally responsible for the people that I hire. Each time I extend employment, my heart and philosophy is to provide that person a home either until they are ready to move on or, preferably, until we’ve helped them to advance in their career. I try not to hire anyone unless I feel there’s a good chance that I can provide that.

But, with the cuts, I couldn’t sustain the staff I had and was scrambling to find safe places for each of my employees to land. By the grace of God, opportunities -even better than they had with me opened up for every one of them. I was so thankful and relieved. Anyone that employs people knows that it is no small undertaking; taxes, withholding, reporting -just maintaining the revenue to make payroll is a tremendous burden. After having miracuously averted the near disaster of having to lay staff off, leaving people who are dear to me without means to provide for their families, I was perfectly content to go it alone for a while. I did not have any appetite for hiring anyone else and going through that again.

But, God.

My default position on the proposition of hiring anyone was flatly “no”. But, there was this nagging notion that this wasn’t just about hiring someone. I had a sense that this may be from God. But, I resisted it. It wasn’t anything I wanted to do. Business wasn’t great. I didn’t even know if I could really financially afford another a person but that nagging notion would not relent. I shared it with my wife who said, “If you believe this is something God is leading you to do baby, you need to be open and to trust Him.”

So, I begin to move in the direction I believed God may be leading. I start making calls. I learn that the young man is in recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction, has not long gotten out of prison and is staying with another brother from our fellowship. But, I find myself with a compassion I cannot explain and am moved to keep going. I call the brother that the young man is staying with as a character reference. He candidly and honestly reports, “He’s unreliable, he’s sleeps all day, he’s still drinking and he’s been lying about it.”

The Holy Spirit was like, “I’ll take him.”

I hired the young man that day and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

God provided and we worked together for years. We did more than work beside each other every day, we shared life. We laughed together -a lot. We studied the Bible together. We battled our demons together. We prayed together. We shared our dreams together. What was dear to him became dear to me and the other way around. To this day I can still feel his intense love for his family, especially his son. From that day it became my heart, to the extent that they will allow me, to treat his family as my own. He did the same for me.

Anyone that knows Melissa and I can attest that we are very particular about who keeps our children. They are a treasure to us. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we’d be reluctant to entrust even the Secret Service with our kids. As a result, we didn’t get out much. Observing that, this young man insisted that Melissa and I have a night to ourselves and volunteered to keep our boys. Having watched this young man grow over the years, we humbly accepted without hesitation or concern.

By the grace of God, the young man that had an addiction was transformed into one of the most diligent, devoted and trustworthy people I’ve ever known. He was among those that I can count on one hand that Melissa and I considered leaving our estate to and making responsible for the care of our children should we both die unexpectedly. He is a true and dearly beloved brother.

He would often gush about the difference I made in his life, not realizing the heavenly shift that God used him to make in mine. I have been continually praying to God to teach me to love the way He loves. God answered my prayer and taught me to love by sending me someone to love .

Moreover, he showed me other believers who did not just love in word but also in deed. They truly behaved as people of one heart and one soul, who had all things in common (Acts 2:44, 4:32). They opened their homes, they opened their hearts and treated this young man’s burdens as if they were their own. Their labor yielded a harvest of new life not only in him, but also in me, revealing to me the authentic Church in power and glory. Thank you Brother Marty for this life changing introduction. I’m eternally grateful. #52WoG

52 Weeks of Gratefulness #9 – Encouragement From A Sister

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com Thankful For Encouragement From A Sister

In Week 9 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for encouragement from a dear sister, Carrie McCarty Copeland.

For a while, I’ve been sad and discouraged –suffering silently. And, then my wife shares a message that was just sent to her by Carrie Copeland,

“Good morning, I’m praying for you and Paul today!! Whatever you two are facing God is in the midst…”

What extraordinary timing and how remarkably on the mark! I know I am not alone but it made all the difference for someone to take the time to make the truth real. Thank you sister, Carrie. This is church. I’m grateful #52WoG