Holding Nothing Back

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I’ve been told by the experts in the field that the only way to grow my outreach within the community is to tap into the power of funnel systems. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a funnel system is a method of giving away a small gift, which leads people to invest in a more significant product like a video series, which then pushes them to sign up (and pay for) the next step which is something like an in-depth course, which persuades customers to reach the final level—one-on-one coaching or consulting.

The system itself is fine, but the way it’s generally implemented makes me sick. It begins with a promise that the gift will answer all your questions and solve all your problems. What they don’t tell you is that will only happen if you follow all the way through the funnel. The idea is, within each step, they give people just enough information to whet their appetite and then promise they can find out more by signing up for the next level, which does the same thing. Only after spending hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars and jumping through a million hoops do you achieve the results you were promised.  

It’s so underhanded, but it’s prevalent these days. Why? Because people are desperate for answers to life’s toughest problems, and many deceivers prey upon those who are hurting and know they can make easy money by promising solutions. Once people are hooked, they feel they’ve already invested too much time, effort, and money to not see it through to completion, so they continue to hand over their money in hopes they will finally find the peace for which they’ve been searching. And sometimes they do find that peace, but typically, they also discover they have a new stressor in their life—financial trouble. But they need not worry. There’s someone else out there who has a funnel system to help with that.

When I was approached about setting up a funnel system in connection with some of my books, I was told I would have to rewrite the books because they gave away too much information. I didn’t hold back the good stuff. I was too honest and forthcoming, so people wouldn’t see a need to go any further or purchase any additional products from me. The ironic thing about this conversation is that they intended the comments as a criticism, not praise. I was being criticized for being too honest and giving people the information I had promised them. Talk about a messed-up world!

I told the individual I would not be rewriting my books, and if I developed videos, a course, or coaching based off the books, it would be done to help people who desired further help and information. I would not willfully withhold the “good stuff” from them simply so I could have more money in my pocket or have a greater outreach across the web. That’s not the way I roll because it’s not the way Jesus rolled. He didn’t hold back the truth. He said what needed to be said, even when it wasn’t what the crowd wanted to hear. To do anything less would have been outside His Father’s will.

Suppose Jesus was content to speak with the people for five minutes but charged a fee for every moment after that. Oh, and if you wanted healing, that was an even bigger fee. Time alone with Jesus? Better hope you have your checkbook. No, Jesus didn’t act like that. He didn’t use people’s pain and trouble as a means to fatten His money purse or spread His fame. He met them where they were and did what He could to help them.

Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear. I am not saying that a Christian worker or minister shouldn’t be paid for his or her services. God uses His people to further His work here on earth, and that includes in the financial area. It takes money to run a ministry, and that money has to come from somewhere, and I thank each of you who faithfully support this ministry each month. I couldn’t do what I do without you. The difference lies in giving money to help a cause or to purchase merchandise (like Christian books, wink, wink) and being taken advantage of by those who only offer empty promises and are continually trying to sell you the next, best thing because they know full well you’ll want it since they didn’t deliver on their promise, to begin with.

My challenge to you today is don’t hold back. Don't hold back from doing all you can do and being all you can be. Don’t hold back that smile from the coworker who is having a rough day. Don’t hold back from sending that card to the shut-in. Don’t hold back from taking time to call your parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Don’t hold back from being a witness to anyone and everyone you see. Don’t hold back from giving God your all. Whatever you do, give it your best. Hold nothing back!

Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
— Proverbs 3:27

Yes, You Matter!

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There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
— Luke 16:19-31

This is a bittersweet passage in that we are told of Lazarus passing on to Paradise and the rich man passing into hell.  It's important to understand that the rich man was not cast into hell because he was rich.  No, it was because he was trusting in those riches to get him into Paradise.  But no matter how good or how rich he was, he didn't have the key to entrance into Paradise.  He didn't know Christ.  He had not accepted the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

What I find so fascinating about this passage, however, is that the beggar is named while the rich man remains anonymous.  That's backwards from the way things are done today, isn't it?  The wealthy are known.  The names of the famous grace the covers of magazines.  Many people today are striving to make a name for themselves.  Why?  Because no one likes to go unnoticed.  Everyone likes to be recognized for who or what they are.  We all like to feel at least somewhat significant in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, if it had been left up to man to write the Bible, I believe this story would read somewhat differently.  The facts would be the same, but I think the rich man would have been named and the beggar would have been left anonymous.  Thankfully, the writing was not left to man.  Sure, God used human instruments, but He told them what to say.  He specified for Luke to name Lazarus and not the rich man.  Why?  Could it be that He wants to remind us that no one is insignificant in His eyes?  Could this passage serve as a reminder that we are all special to Him?  Could it point out that it isn't wealth or fame that makes someone "stand out" but those who have accepted Christ?

To this day, the rich man remains anonymous.  Until we reach Heaven, we'll never know the man's name.  But we will always know Lazarus, the name of the lowly beggar.

Perhaps you're going through a time where you're wondering if anything you say or do really matters.  It matters to God.  You may be going through a spell where you feel lost, alone and insignificant.  Never fear; the eyes of Heaven are watching.  No deed goes unnoticed.  No tear is missed.  No cry is unheard.  God loves you, and He knows your name.  Never forget that!

A New Perspective

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I knew, without a doubt, that our recent trip to the UK would have a great impact on my life.  I didn't realize, however, what an impact it would have on my perspective on the life of a missionary.  I thought I knew what mission work was all about and what the life of a missionary entailed, but nothing could have prepared me for the truth of the matter.  It wasn't until spending time with those on a foreign field that I realized just how much I take for granted.

First off, many missionaries have little to no access to the many comforts of home.  Simple things like a favorite cereal or candy bar are not available on their mission field.  That may not seem like a big deal, but when we presented our care package of Fruit Loops, various candy, Mr. Goodbar, Goldfish crackers and the like to the missionary family hosting us during our stay, one might have thought we presented them with gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The giddy smiles as the teenage boys tore into packages was enough to bring a tear to my eye.  And, at one point, I feared we may be facing WW3 when a Mr. Goodbar went MIA.  (In case you're wondering, that incident did not involve the children.  LOL!)  On a serious note, we have access to so many wonderful things, and so often we forget how truly blessed we are.  Sometimes, it's the little things in life that bring a smile to our lips. Not only do we take these things for granted, but we forget about those who do not have access to such wonders.  I mean, seriously, who wants to live in a land without Mr. Goodbar and Goldfish crackers?

Second, I realized just how lonely the mission field can be.  Yes, there are people surrounding the missionaries, but the majority of those people are either unsaved or babes in Christ.  The missionaries have so few people to whom they can relax with, be themselves with, and lean on for support.  Everyone relies on them.  Everyone expects them to be there at their beck and call.  Everyone shares their burdens, seeks their advice, requires their aid, etc.  And the missionaries are glad to do it, but they're also tired and weary.  There's a whole lot of sowing going on and not much reaping, which is greatly disappointing.  But with whom can they share their burdens?  With whom can they discuss their difficulties or disappointments?  Spending time with various missionary families during our stay helped me to understand just how much they cherish time spent with fellow believers who don't want or need anything from them.  And it was such a privilege to see the difference a few hours or days of sweet fellowship could have in the lives of these who have left everything behind to reach the lost.

Lastly, I realized how remiss we've been in caring for our missionaries.  Remember that care package we took over?  Would you believe it was the first one those missionaries had ever received, and they've been on the field for twenty years?  I was embarrassed and ashamed when I heard that.  I also came to understand how difficult it is for them to keep up with the changes within their supporting churches because very few ever bother to write and update them.  Oddly enough, we expect our missionaries to send letters each month, keeping us informed of their "progress" on the field, but we don't return the courtesy.  Churches change pastors, reconsider their positions and sometimes even close their doors without ever sending out a notice to the missionaries.  True, some missionaries are able to keep track through social media, but not all of them have that luxury.

Honestly, my heart has been so convicted over the past week or two after seeing firsthand how difficult the mission field can be.  Sure, I give my money to missions each week, but sadly, that's about it.  I don't read their letters like I should.  While I do pray for them, I fear they're often lumped together in one generic group, as in "Lord, please bless the missionaries around the world."  I thought I was doing enough by supporting the work financially, but now I understand that I need to do more.  I want to do more.  I want to bring about more smiles and be more of an encouragement to those who have given up so much to answer the Lord's call.  What if a single care package or letter from home had such an impact that a missionary on the verge of giving up found the strength to keep going?  Wouldn't that be worth a few moments of our time?

Obviously, I'm not telling you what you should do in regards to missions around the world.  That's not my place.  But I did feel the need to explain to you what I experienced firsthand because these are things that most missionaries will not speak of.  Instead, they suffer in silence, doing all they can to keep the faith in a dark and lonely world.  And now that I know, I cannot sit idly by.  My heart is broken and convicted, and I am praying about exactly what the Lord would have me do.  The Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron, and I'm ready to be a part of that process in regards to our missionaries.  How about you?

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
— Ecclesiastes 4:9-12