LUP021 – Victory Over Online Lust: Ben Lawrence, Part 2

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Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll hear in Episode 21:

  • Update: No, I’m not asking for donations. Every successful ministry has to consider finances and budgets. I’ll share how God is already providing to keep Edify Hub going, and how I foresee things working in the future.
  • Encouragement: In the conclusion of my conversation with Ben Lawrence, find out how he overcame the technical hurdles that prevented him from using accountability software in his work environment. Learn what his solution can do – as well as what it can’t.
  • Tech. Tip: I’ll share a few ideas on how you can save time replying to emails or writing other correspondence.

Resources mentioned in this episode

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There’s something different about this podcast episode, and I hope you won’t be able to figure out what it is unless I tell you.

OK. I’ll tell you. You know how the “part 2” episodes always have a little reminder of what happened in part 1? It would often take me an hour (or a few) to condense the first part of a guest’s story into the three minute and forty-four second reminder to fit the musical background that goes behind it. This week, I used that task as a job application to find someone on Upwork to edit all of my future guest conversations. From the more than two dozen applicants, I invited seven to a trial task where I paid them to condense last week’s Part 1 into a brief “Previously On” segment like the one you’ll hear in a few minutes.

Of the seven I invited, five accepted the invitation, and one of them stood out quite clearly from the rest. Without me giving any guidance on what to include or what to trim out, his submission was so close to how I would have done it, I decided to use it exactly as is. So that segment you’re about to hear is actually the work of a gentleman from Bangladesh.

From now on, we’ve worked out an agreement that Edify Hub will pay him every month to edit every recorded conversation to make sure it’s easy to listen to and fits within the time allotted for each podcast episode.

Now, you may be thinking, “That sounds expensive.”

Well, I’m beginning to understand that time is also expensive. In addition, the Lord has worked things out to provide an increase in income separate from Edify Hub that will allow me to invest more in this ministry for a while.

It used to be that when I’d want to buy something or hire some work done for Edify Hub, Lana and I would have to decide whether it was worth dipping into our savings to contribute for an additional investment in Edify Hub until we can build the tools that will keep it self-sustaining. A regular, ongoing engagement with an audio editor was almost unthinkable.

But God is gracious. Last month, my employer from my day job promised me a promotion and a raise that will take effect within the next month. Lana and I spent some time this past week revisiting our budget, where we try to give a named responsibility to every dollar that comes in. With the new numbers we had to work with, we’re able to assign responsibility for enough of that monthly income that we can now invest in regular growth for Edify Hub without having to pull from savings.

An upcoming goal is to get service and product offerings from Edify Hub mature enough that they can become financially self-sustaining. That’s a good goal for any ministry that expects to survive longer than its founder.

I had to ask myself several months ago…  If God intends that Edify Hub will never become a source of income for me, but if it will always be a side project that I’ll have to personally support through external funds, am I OK with that? And you know what? I decided I’d be OK with that.

At the same time, I believe this month’s budget changes will help tip the scales, allowing more freedom to hire work done, allowing me to focus on the things that only I can do to help Edify Hub mature to the point that it actually will be able to become self-sustaining.

We never know what to expect when God calls us to a ministry and places in our hearts a passion to see it flourish. Sometimes, He places great demands. And sometimes He pours great blessings.


Ben Lawrence, Accountable2You
Ben Lawrence, Accountable2You

Last week, I introduced Ben Lawrence, who shared his struggles with online lust, his repentance, and his difficult search for a tool that would help enforce accountability with his online activities.

By this time, Ben’s repentance was no longer shallow. This wasn’t just some internal desire to “do better” or “try harder.” He had confessed his sin to the one person he once wanted to hide it from the most – his wife. And now, he was actively seeking ways to make sure he could no longer hide his activity online.

And the steps he took to help strengthen his repentance ended up causing serious side effects with his ability to do the things he was supposed to do with his computer.

Ben is the first to tell you that the software he built, Accountable2You, does not prevent online lust. Software does not provide freedom from sin. It is only a tool. It will not offer foolproof protection. Freedom from sin comes from Jesus Christ. True repentance from sin is absolutely critical.

But software like Accountable2You can be a helpful tool. It has been for me. Try it out free for 10 days and see if it fits as an accountability tool that will help you.

And if you sign up through the link on this page, Edify Hub will earn a commission to help support the services we offer for missionaries here – without adding anything to your subscription cost. In fact, if you use the coupon code edifyhub – all one word, all lowercase – you’ll actually save money by getting your first month free – even after the ten day free trial.

I really do try not to make the Lift Up podcast a commercial for products or to raise money. My purpose is to be an encouragement and to lift you up in your ministry. I know that struggles with online lust are real, and they’re widespread throughout ministry. If you are looking for transparency in your online activities like Ben and I did, I hope you’ll check out Accountable2You and find out if it gives you what you’re looking for.

Tech. Tip

Notes and emails from faithful prayer supporters can be a real source of encouragement. When your inbox fills up with heartfelt, thoughtful correspondence from your faithful prayer warriors back home, it can really lift you up. Responding to these letters builds connections and strengthens relationships, and you probably wouldn’t mind an inbox full of such emails.

But, unless you’re particularly exceptional, when your inbox fills up, you’ll often find it more full of other kinds of comments and requests.

There’s yet another question from an elementary or middle school student doing a missionary report. He, too, asks you about the food, the weather, or your favorite thing about your country. On the one hand, you don’t want to discourage someone from an interest in missions and you feel like you have to respond. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how crafting a useful answer to such a generic question is a great investment of your ministry time.

Or maybe there are a handful of replies to your latest prayer letter, and they seem to be generic copy-and-paste messages, saying little more than “God bless you” or “We’re praying for you, brother.” Of course, you’re grateful that someone took the time to reply and make any kind of connection. At the same time, they create a feeling of an obligation to acknowledge their reply. Email may actually be the only connection you have, so a quick “Thanks for your prayers” feels way to curt. You want to use the opportunity to share more and build a real connection with a great response. But it will probably take you even more time to write a great response than they took to reply in the first place.

And you know your ministry – and your inbox – better than I do. Surely you can think of a handful of other recurring emails you get that make you wonder if they take more time than they’re worth for you to respond.
On today’s tech. tip, I’ll tell you about a few different ways you can save loads of time in responding to these recurring emails.

Free – Canned Responses for GMail

First, there’s a free option. If you use GMail like I do for your email, there’s a tool that Google makes available for just this problem. It’s called “Canned Responses”, but it’s usually hidden. You have to go turn it on.

On the GMail Web interface, click the gear icon and choose “Settings”

When you get there, you’ll see some blue links across the top – General, labels, inbox, etc. (Well, unless they changed things since I recorded this.) Towards the end of the list is “Labs” – Click that.
Search for a lab, type “canned.” You’ll find one – possibly the only one – and it’ll be named Canned responses. Click to Enable that feature, then click “Save Changes”

Create a Canned Response

Next time you get that repetitive question, instead of clicking “Reply”, start to compose a new email instead. This new email isn’t what you’ll send as your reply, bit it’s how you’ll create a canned response that you can save to use for this and future emails. Go ahead and take the time to write up the most amazing response you can put together for this kind of question in GMail’s web-based “Compose” window. Make sure you remove any automatic signature that GMail might have put in for you, and make sure you don’t have any of the original question in the compose window.

Instead of clicking “Send”, look to the right of the trash can icon in the bottom right of the compose window. You’ll see a triangle icon that opens up a menu of “More options.” Inside that menu is a new item for Canned Responses. That menu showed up when you enabled the Canned Responses lab. Hover over that menu, and you’ll see three sections: Insert, Save and Delete.

In the Save section, click New canned response, give it a name you’ll remember, and click OK.

Use a Canned Response

Now, when another one of those recurring emails arrives, go ahead and click Reply in Gmail on the web. Then, instead of trying to re-create that perfect reply from scratch yet again, click that little triangle next to the trash can, open up the “Canned Responses” menu, and click on the name of your saved response in the Insert section. That email you spent so long composing last time will instantly be added into your reply.

You can use this strategy even for brand new messages, for incomplete replies, or for customizable replies. You can insert more than one canned response into a single email to cover multiple topics. Also – if there are parts where you want to put in details about the person you’re talking to, try adding a long line of stars or dashes. After you insert your canned response, let your eyes focus on just those stars or dashes to make your canned response a little less, well, canned.

Other Text Expanders

And what if you’re not using GMail on the web? There are a couple of other paid options that I’ve heard of. The first is called TextExpander, and it’s available for Mac and iOS devices like your iPad and iPhone. With TextExpander, you create your library of common snippets and tie them to abbreviations that you’ll type into pretty much any input field in many different applications. So, you could create a text snippet containing a gracious thank you for someone who took the time to reply to a prayer letter. Associate that reply with the abbreviation typl; for “Thank You – Prayer Letter”. From then on, whenever you get a generic reply to a prayer letter, click reply in your normal mail application, type typl; and TextExpander will automatically replace typl; with your gracious thank you message.

TextExpander for Mac is $44.95. The iOS version of TextExpander, called TextExpander Touch is $4.99, and it works by replacing your normal iOS keyboard with a custom keyboard that recognizes your TextExpander shortcuts.

If you’re on Windows or an Android device, one option for you would be PhraseExpress. The Android version is free. The Windows version is free for non-commercial use. Commercial use licenses start at $44.95 for the standard edition.
If you have a mix of technologies like I do, turn on Dropbox synchronization with TextExpander. PhraseExpress for Windows can automatically convert your snippets, including many content-generation macros from TextExpander for the Mac to PhraseExpress for Windows, and back again.

Of course, I’ll have links to all of these tools in this episode’s show notes, which you can find at [—-].

A bit of a disclaimer: I haven’t used TextExpander or PhraseExpress myself. So, the links in the show notes will not be affiliate links; Edify Hub will not earn any commission from your purchases. I just know that TextExpander has been highly recommended by many highly-productive professionals to streamline their communication and correspondence. Canned Responses in GMail has worked for me so far, and TextExpander is where I plan to go when I need more than what Canned Responses gives me. In my research, PhraseExpress is the only solution I’ve found for Windows that will synchronize with TextExpander and give you full cross-device use of the same list of snippets.

So, if you want to streamline your communication and correspondence, try Canned Responses for GMail, TextExpander for the Mac or iOS, and PhraseExpress for Windows and Android.


Today, you’ve learned a few tools that you can use to streamline those replies to repetitive emails.

You’ve also heard the conclusion of our story with Ben Lawrence, founder and creator of Accountable2You. You heard what Accountable2You can do, as well as what it can’t.

Finally, you heard about how Edify Hub is hiring out some of the more repetitive work for content production so that we can focus on creating the tools and services to help missionaries.

Take Action

If you’ve been encouraged by Ben Lawrence’s story and you know somebody else or a group who may be interested in Accountable2You, why not share this episode with them.

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