The One Thing God Cannot Do.

gavel-in-motion-iii    “So it shall be written; so it shall be done!”

   Who can forget those immortal words spoken by Rameses in the classic The Ten Commandments? In the movie, Rameses is in competition with Moses for the throne of Pharaoh and so after Moses builds a city for Pharaoh, a jealous Rameses vows, “’The city that he builds shall bear my name. So it shall be written. So it shall be done.’”

   In ancient cultures, people understood that when a king put a command or decree into writing, then that word would forever stand; even the king himself could not revoke it at a later date. Moreover, a decree by a king was not simply a careless word spoken in a moment of passion and then later revoked, but even if it was spoken carelessly, the king’s word would nonetheless become law and stand for all time.

   And what does this have to do with us? Just this: If you’ve ever received a word or promise from the Lord concerning your destiny, it will come to pass.

   “’God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?’” (Num. 23;19)

   In Scripture, God gives us several examples of this principle in order to prove the gravity of the point. Despite even rash words uttered by kings, those kings were not able to revoke their words at a later date – even though they might want to.

   In the book of Esther, for example, we’re told that King Xerxes gave a seven-day banquet in Susa during which the men drank “as much as they pleased”. After several days of drinking, it is probably safe to conclude that Xerxes was “much in his cups” so he decides to send for Queen Vashti for a little entertainment. Xerxes orders that the queen appear, complete with the royal crown on her head, so that he could show off her beauty to all of the men gathered. However, Queen Vashti refuses to appear (1:11-12).

   Now while commentators offer various explanations for this refusal of hers – some rather interesting – we don’t really know why she didn’t show. Some say that the order by the king included instructions for Queen Vashti to appear wearing only the crown (which, admittedly, would show off all her beauty); others say that it was a grievous breach of custom for a woman to appear before an assembly of men; and still others say that Vashti was having the equivalent of a hissy fit and refused to be treated like a mindless Barbie doll.

   I doubt the latter.

   When she doesn’t appear – whatever the reason – Xerxes is angry and demands to know what penalty the law provides for a queen who refuses to obey the king’s orders. His officials, concerned that Vashti’s example would give the wives of the kingdom permission to disrespect their own husbands, counsel the king to issue a written decree that Queen Vashti should be forever banished from the king’s presence and a new queen should be chosen. Xerxes, thinking this suggestion makes good sense, sends letters to every province in his empire proclaiming that every husband should be the ruler of his home (1:19-22). In other words, he put it in writing.

   Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that “when Xerxes’ anger cooled,” he begins to think about Vashti and the decree he had made, the implication being that he regrets his decision to banish her. Still, he cannot revoke the decree so his officials suggest a beauty pageant to find another queen (2:1-4).

   Fast forward several months after Esther is chosen to be the new queen: Haman, who hated the Jews, talks Xerxes into issuing a written decree to have them all killed on a certain date. Xerxes, not realizing that Esther is Jewish, agrees and, once again, puts his decree into writing and sends it far and wide throughout the kingdom (3:8-15). Later, once he discovers that his beloved Esther is Jewish and, along with her people, will be slaughtered, he grieves because he can’t revoke any decree that he has put into writing. In order to solve the problem, he has to issue a new decree giving the Jews permission to defend themselves (chapter 8). The king specifically tells Esther and Mordecai, “’But remember that whatever is written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can never be revoked’” (8:8).

   Revoking his Word is the one thing God cannot do.

    “’For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Is. 55:10-11).  

   Has God made you a promise concerning your future? Do not take it lightly for God does not promise what he does not fulfill.

   “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Hab. 2:3).

   Prepare for it.

  

What’s Up with “Image” Ads? How NOT to Market Your Business.

baby-with-tatoos

          Having worked at an ad agency once upon a time, I can almost tell when a television or radio ad was conceived by a bunch of people sitting around a conference table and brainstorming the pitch. Take, for example, that Laughing Cow cheese. (You know – the little, individually wrapped one-bites that cost more per mouthful than a Mercedes?)  Did you ever wonder how in the world they came up with the name “Laughing Cow”?  I don’t know for certain because I wasn’t there, but I’m willing to bet it went something like this:

            “We need a unique name – something that stands out from all the rest.”

            “Okay, then that rules out any use of ‘diary,’ ‘farm,’ or ‘cheese’ – although it is cheese. How about we focus on it being healthy?”

            “Cheese? Healthy? Are you kidding? No one in Alabama, the ‘deep-fry’ capital of the world’ would even buy that! The only thing with a higher fat content is bacon.”

            “He’s right. Why do you think they only wrap one bite at a time?”

            “And with all that wrapping, we can’t even tag it as convenient.”

            “That’s for dang sure!”

            “So what image are they trying to sell?”

            “Well, it tastes good.”

            “What cheese doesn’t? What else you got?”

            “How about the whole comfort food thing? It makes you happy!”

            “That might work, but how are we going to sell ‘happy’?” (Smirk.) “It’s not like we can hire a laughing cow!”

            Silence.

            “Why not??”

            “That’s perfect!”

            “I know just where we can get one…!”

            And the rest is advertising history. But let me ask you this: If you’ve ever bought that cheese, was it because the cow was laughing?

            I thought not.

            The thing about “image” advertising is that the client and agency want you to focus more on how the product or service makes you feel than on the selling points of the products themselves. And one of the biggest markets for this? Women. See, according to image, women don’t make decisions with their heads; it’s all emotion. So if Madison Ave. can just make women “feel” good about a product, they’ll buy it. They don’t care how much it costs, how long it lasts, or whether it even works! And don’t worry about their husbands; they’ll buy anything their wives tell them to buy…

            Don’t believe me?

            It all started a couple of decades ago with “The Softer Side of Sears” campaign. That’s us women, by the way – apparently, we’re soft (in the head). That ad campaign began to sell “man” things for Sears like refrigerators, mowers, and Craftsman tools. How? Showing women cuddling with their families around the new fridge or tossing a ball with the fam on the freshly-cut lawn or – you get the pic. You’ve seen it enough.

            And then there are the kidlets. I see them in the dumbest ads. One of the early TV ads was the baby placed inside of a Michelin tire (picture an inner tube). “Because so much is riding on your tires.” Remember? The subliminal message: You don’t care about your kids if you don’t buy Michelin tires.

            Since that ad, it’s gotten even more ridiculous. Do you ever wonder how stupid they think we are? (Never doubt that Madison Avenue thinks we’re stupid.) Take a certain insurance company, for instance. Have you seen the ad where there are two moms, each needing an estimate for a damaged car? One mom is an idiot wreck, her three boys running madly around the inside the car mechanic’s dark garage while she pulls her hair out trying to keep them from running under the jacked car? One of them is even missing? Meantime, the other mom is standing serenely in the sunshine, clinging to her two well-behaved children, Statue of Liberty positioned conveniently in the background. The point is that this mom is soooo busy caring for her two well-behaved children that she can’t possibly make it to a garage to get an estimate, so she has to pick an insurance company that does it for her. News flash, mom: You probably don’t want the insurance company picking the garage and getting the estimate for you. Of course you don’t think of that – you’re too busy hugging the kids. Or chasing them around the garage. Here’s another news flash for both you moms: All five of those kids are school aged – which means they’re tied up for seven hours a day, five days a week, ten months of the year. And neither one of you can find time to get to a garage without them??

           Sigh.

          Frankly, the only time I want to see kids in an ad is if someone’s selling diapers, Cheerios or there’s a sale at Toys R Us.

          But the best of the worst are the Subaru ads. They show all kinds of gooey family scenes with lots of kids included and the tagline, “Love – it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” Can I just say – I don’t care. I want to know what really makes a Subaru: the brakes, the engine, the speakers – any details would be great. I’d also like to know the price range. I’m not particularly interested in some teenage actress playing somebody’s kid learning to drive. Sorry. To prove my point, I’ve taken my very own poll on that campaign:

Question: Has anyone ever bought a Subaru because love is what makes a Subaru? No? Me either.

           Last but not least – all of the places that “treat you like family”. Am I supposed to pick a car dealership or a dentist or a restaurant because they “treat me like family”? What’s that even mean?? Do I get a free root canal? Are they going to take me to dinner? Pay for the kids’ college? In addition, I don’t care whether it’s a family business or whether it’s been around since the Civil War; that doesn’t guarantee a good product, service or price.

          Maybe you could just focus on the product, service or price?           

          If you’re marketing your business – whatever it might be – may I simply suggest that you stay away from image campaigns that say nothing about your business? Here’s the image those project to any thinking person: Consumers are stupid and easily manipulated. We’re not. So just give us the facts. What do you do or sell? How good are you or your products? What’s the bottom line? That’s all we want to know – despite what the pricey experts are telling you. Want a really original concept? Forget the kids, forget the sappy emotions, forget the “we’re-all-family” routine.

          Just tell the truth.