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

What Being The Prodigal Son Taught Me About Being Made Perfect In Love

Paul Luckett | Brainflurry.com What Being The Prodigal Son Taught Me About Being Perfected In Love

As I was studying for an upcoming marriage ministry that Melissa and I are a part of, the lesson converged in a beautiful and unexpected way with my meditations on home and I hope it blesses you the way it blessed me.

Our marriage ministry class is going through a workbook called Husband & Wives (I highly recommend it) and we’re on the chapter about love. In it I came across 1 John 4:18 that says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

It prompted the question, “What is the fear that this verse is referring to and what does it mean by torment?” Before I had completely formed the thought, I already knew in my heart what it meant. I am familiar with that torment.

It’s the torment of failing so miserably, being so broken, that no matter how you try, you’re utterly unable to fix it or to do anything that makes you worthy of acceptance. It’s the fear of rejection, of being abandoned and stranded, having no way home, it’s the terror of being alone.

And, that led me to understand what it meant to be “made perfect in love”. You know who was made perfect in love?

The Prodigal Son.

I know because I am the Prodigal Son. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32 take note that the son was loved by the father in such a way that “when he came to himself” (v17) he had reason to believe that he could return home. And, just as importantly, he also knew he could not return home and continue to live however he wanted -he had to repent (v18).

The son acknowledging his sin and assuming a posture of humility in his heart, began the trip home. He was on the way, but while “he was still a great way off” and before he could get out the apology he had been practicing, the father ran to him and embraced him. The son repented and asked to return home, not as a son, but as any other stranger whom his father might hire as a servant. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” (v23)

Rather than treat him as the prodigal and wayward son that he was, the father gave the son his best and restored him to what the father had always seen the son as: a prince. What amazing grace! It was as that moment, that what the son had only considered as a possibility before (maybe my father will accept me), he now knew irrevocably. It was then that the son was perfected in love because he knew that his acceptance was sure, because it was not based on his goodness but on the goodness of his father.

Hallelujah.

But, there’s more.

The father had another son. And as my mentor and spiritual father Pastor Gregory Jones would wisely point out, the lesson is as much about the second son as the first. The elder son who had remained home and who had been obedient was enraged at hearing of his father’s reception of his wanton and wasteful younger brother. But, “[the] father came out and pleaded with him”(v28) saying to the older son, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” (v31-32)

The lesson of the elder brother is this: you can “stay” in the house, do things that look right and be just as wayward in your heart as the prodigal son who “left”. To be perfected, we must have more than a mere association with the Father and more than works done out of rote obligation (Matthew 5:20). We have to know the Father (this is what Jesus came to teach us -John 14:6-7, John 17:1-4) and we must have the Father’s heart (when we believe Jesus, this is what He gives us -John 3).

To be made perfect in love is being assured of our acceptance in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6) because we know the goodness of the Father. Such love transforms us and gives us a heart to love the way he loves, not the world’s love that allows and approves of wrongdoing, but love that perfects, builds up and is gracious while affirming good and resisting evil. When we love the way He loves we become as He is and…

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgement; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” -1 John 4:17-19

Whatever your proximity to God, no matter how far you think you’ve gotten, getting home takes only one step because God has been unceasingly moving towards you, His heart for you has never changed, before the beginning He made up His mind about you to love you. His love letter to us, the Bible, says that everyone who comes to Him, He will “by no means” turn away (John 6:37). And, the Way is Jesus who will teach us of the father’s goodness, give us the father’s heart, build us up into a spiritual home for others on this journey and perfect our love.

I’m a witness.

#perfectourlove

52 Weeks Of Gratefulness #35 – Pearson and Pepper Liddell

Liddells and Lucketts

In Week 35 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Pearson and Pepper Liddell.

“Melissa and I are calling to see what divorce lawyers you would recommend. We want to end this as quickly and amicably as possible.”

This picture was taken less than 24 hours after that call.

The call was made to Pearson and Pepper Liddell, a couple who hosted a Christian marriage ministry that Melissa and I had been a part of for the last five years. During their ministry, they urged each couple to commit to a pact: to take divorce off the table. I was always reluctant to do so because I had a line in the sand. There were things I felt I deserved. There were certain things I wasn’t going to tolerate. There was only so much I was going to endure. I was only willing to go so far.

“Can you meet with us?”, they replied. Early the next morning they drove 4 hours from Georgia to meet with Melissa and I in a location they prepared at New Horizon’s Church in Starkville, Mississippi.

They labored with us in prayer and in the Word for almost 8 hours. It took that long, mostly because I’m pretty familiar with the Bible and was craftily twisting scripture to justify my position. Pearson was definitely no novice, but most importantly, while I was in the flesh, he was in the Spirit and said to me, “The problem with your logic and interpretation of scripture is that it’s built on the basis of what you want. But what does God want?”

Check.

Grasping at this point, I retort, “He wants my peace -1 Corinthians 7:15.”

Pearson and Pepper jointly replied, “Does God want that more than He wants to redeem and sanctify your wife and children through the ark of His holy institution? More than He want’s to make Himself known through your ministry to your wife as Christ’s to the church? If peace is primary, what about Jesus’ peace, that of His only begotten Son?”

Check and mate.

The fact that was indisputable is Christ’s purpose from before creation is redemptive. He came to seek and save that which was lost -Luke 19:10. That is what God wants. This is the ministry that Jesus took upon Himself and He was obedient to death, even the humiliating death of the cross -Philippians 2:8. From the beginning, God instituted marriage to point to Christ with His redemptive purpose in view.

I had been led astray by a focus on my own selfish purposes and desires. Pearson and Pepper were the shepherds that led us to repentance and back to the heart of the Father.

They reminded me that marriage is not mine for my pleasure and purposes. Marriage is God’s, made for His purpose and I am humbly just a minister in it. Marriage is a great and wonderful mystery and, as with most things, when done His way results in outcomes that far exceed anything I could even hope to achieve.

You can’t tell at first glance, but if you look closely at the picture, you can see the tint of red in all of our eyes from crying. This is what has characterized our walk with the Liddell’s. They don’t play church. We deal with real life. They are transparent about their own struggles and are therefore able to help us with ours. We confess our sins to one another and are healed together. God’s grace toward us through the Liddell’s has tremendously blessed us, our children and people we didn’t even know that God was using our marriage to reach.

I have since taken divorce off the table, for any reason, come what may. Christ gave it all so that we may have the true riches and pleasure of being one together with God in Him. The Liddell’s through word and deed have demonstrated that, when done right, marriage is a model of that.

I’m grateful. #52WoG

Originally posted to Facebook on August 27, 2021.