Do You Need More of God’s Favor?

The Intriguing Message of “Annuit Coeptis”

I can’t tell you for sure whether America’s Founding Fathers were influenced by the New Age or infiltrated by the Illuminati. But some of the Latin phrases they used are pretty intriguing.

Recently I took a look at Annuit Coeptis, which is found on the Great Seal and the back of our dollar bills. This Latin phrase can be translated “He (or Providence) favors our undertakings” or “He has prospered our endeavors.”

Wow. Our Founders somehow realized they never would have succeeded without divine favor. This recognition of the need for God’s favor should be our testimony as well.

A psalm attributed to Moses reflects this passion very well:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).

Of course, there are two sides of this “favor” issue. In one sense, if we are positioned in Christ, we already have as much of God’s favor as we could ever have (Romans 8:31-32). It’s surely not a commodity we can earn.

Yet we’re also given examples in Scripture of people—including Jesus Himself—who “GREW in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Isn’t it good to know you can have MORE of God’s favor tomorrow than you have today?

So my prayer for you is that you recognize the incredible favor God offers you through your position in His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17). And then may you GROW in His wisdom, so you can experience an ever-increasing outpouring of His favor on your endeavors.

Annuit Coeptis can be the testimony of your life!

 

 

 

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Aristotle & the Art of Persuasion

Crucial lessons on raising your leadership impact

Whether you’re a preacher, a politician, an entrepreneur, or simply a haggard employee in hopes of getting a promotion, you need to understand the fine art of persuasion. We can learn a lot about this from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), who prescribed three fundamental components for effective communication and persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Aristotle’s analysis will give us insights into why many sermons fall on deaf ears, many political campaigns end in disappointment, many business proposals are rejected, and many people never land the new job they’re after. And we’ll even understand why the 2012 Presidential election turned out the way it did.

Ethos

Ethos is the root of our modern English words “ethics” and “ethical,” so it is closely associated with matters of character and conduct. But Aristotle also used this term to describe the image of a person who seeks to persuade others. Do they seem credible? Are they the kind of person we would want to be like? Are they truly an expert on the subject they are promoting?

This means that if you’re a preacher, the impact of your sermons will be undercut if people don’t believe your life is a good example of what you teach. In order to embrace your message, they first must embrace you.

This is also why many political campaigns are based largely on ad hominem (“against the man”) arguments. Instead of a providing a true response to the other candidate’s positions on the issues, an attempt is made to discredit them as a person.

In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was painted as a rich, insensitive “fat cat,” who had absolutely no understanding or concern for how 98% of the country lived. Instead of discussing inconvenient issues like the nation’s budget deficits, the Obama campaign constantly voiced the mantra that Romney just wanted to further the excessive lifestyle of his extremely wealthy friends. And the strategy worked, persuading enough people to vote for Obama or simply stay home and not vote at all.

Logos

Logos, of course, is the root of our modern words “logic” and “logical.” Although Aristotle was a big fan of using logic as a basis for persuasion, he also understood its limitations.

Logic only provides the right conclusion if the right assumptions are made. For example, if we assume the federal government has an unlimited pot of money, it may be logical to propose ever-expanding programs to care for people from cradle to grave. However, if we assume it is unsustainable to continue borrowing 40 cents of every dollar the government spends, we will arrive at an entirely different conclusion.

The other problem with logos is simply that many people don’t really care about logic. They may not admit this, but their underlying approach to decisions is “Don’t confuse me with the facts!”

This observation has profound implications:

  • If you are a preacher… you shouldn’t be surprised when many people remain unconvinced by the well-reasoned case you make for your theological positions.
  • If you are a politician…don’t assume that simple logic will convince a majority of voters to support your candidacy.
  • If you are an entrepreneur…you need to learn from Steve Jobs’ marketing technique—not just selling your product’s features, but also its “coolness” and “sex appeal.”

Pathos

If you’ve always depended on logic to persuade people, it’s crucial to add Aristotle’s third vital key: pathos. This indispensable ingredient focuses on the emotions of the person you are trying to persuade. Whether in preaching, politics, or marketing, this element must not be overlooked.

Successful influencers speak to a person’s heart as well as to their head. So the next time you hear a sermon, a political speech, or a TV ad, ask yourself this: How did the message make you FEEL? Even though the “logic” of the message may be entirely deceptive or convoluted, if it successfully engenders an emotional response, it’s likely to influence your behavior.

Pathos is often manipulative. Although marketers may appeal to altruism and self-sacrifice, they more frequently target our lower nature, seeking to influence us through fear, anger, greed, or pride. As communicators, we may not like this fact, but we can’t ignore it. Emotion is an important part of effective persuasion.

People almost never make their decisions based solely on logic. They are influenced much more by the likeability of the messenger and by the emotional reaction the message sparks. In 2008 the prevailing emotions were “hope and change” (positive feelings), but by 2012 the emotions primarily had become fear and anger (negative emotions).

So why did the 2012 Presidential campaign turn out the way it did? I would argue that logic was on Romney’s side regarding the economy and many other issues. But the Obama campaign did a masterful job in shaping Romney’s public image (ethos) and stirring the emotions (pathos) of his base.

Republicans may bemoan the fact that emotion seems to have won over logic, yet they shouldn’t be too surprised. That’s how things ordinarily work.

What about you today? How do Aristotle’s principles of persuasion apply to the kinds of issues you face? Take some time to ponder how you can use them to influence the people you are seeking to lead.

 

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God’s ROI

God woke me up early this morning with a very challenging, yet encouraging, message on my heart: “I’m looking for a return on My investment.”

If you’ve spent any time in the business world, you are familiar with this principle. Those who invest money in a business venture don’t do so just for altruistic reasons—they expect their investment to grow and give them a return. This “Return On Investment” is commonly abbreviated ROI.

God loves us. He wants to meet our needs. He’s a generous Heavenly Father who loves to bless His children. But make no mistake about it: God is an investor.

Take another look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The master was a businessman. He distributed his resources to his three servants in differing amounts, but he expected each of them to gain a ROI.

You see, the master was an investor, and he expected his servants to understand that fact. He wanted them to be investors too, gaining an increase on what they had been given.

Let’s understand this clearly: The master didn’t want his servants merely to be CONSUMERS or HOARDERS. He expected them to be profitable INVESTORS.

Two of the three servants in this story got it right. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more” (v. 16 NLT). According to The Message, this servant “doubled his master’s investment.”  This was an impressive 100% ROI.

Sadly, the third servant was a hoarder. He wanted to play it safe, so he merely buried his allotted resources in the ground. When the master returned, this man proudly told him, “I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent” (v. 25 MSG). At least this servant hadn’t consumed everything he had been given, as some of us might have done.

But instead of being impressed, “The master was furious” (v. 26). He had expected the servant to exercise some faith, take some initiative, and gain a ROI.

I saw this principle at work when I inherited some money several years ago. Wary of the fluctuations of the stock market, my first thought was to just put the money in a savings account at the bank, where my inheritance would be safe. But my banker called me one day and confronted me on this. He pointed out that the rate of inflation was higher than the interest rate on my savings account. So my “play it safe” strategy was actually losing money every month.

God has made a huge investment in His people. He gave us His Son and, with Him, everything else we could ever need (Romans 8:32). He promises to bless us, but in turn He expects us to BE a blessing, so that His name and fame are spread throughout the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).

Perhaps you don’t have a lot of money today, but that is not the point. The third servant may have tried to excuse his hoarding by the fact that he didn’t have as much to start with as the others.

The question isn’t what you don’t have, but rather this: What are you doing with the money, time, talents, relationships, and resources you do have? As God is challenging me, let me ask you today: What has the Lord put in your hands? Whatever it may be, He wants you to use it to bless others, thereby gaining a return on His investment.

What ideas has He given you that you’ve never yet acted upon? What teachings from His Word have remained dormant in your heart, never yet implemented? What God-given dreams have you merely buried in the ground?

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2 Fake Girlfriends, 2 Different Results

Have you ever had a fake girlfriend or boyfriend…a fictional character made up to impress your friends? If so, you have something in common with Notre Dame’s star linebacker, Manti Te’o—and the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

You’ve probably heard the Manti Te’o story, which was all over the news this week. For several years he claimed to have a girlfriend he never had…or that he had online, but never actually met. Facts are still emerging about whether Manti was the victim of a hoax, a participant, or both.

All this happened when Manti Te’o was just an immature kid, 21 years old. But there will surely be consequences when NFL draft day comes on April 25. Manti’s stock already has dramatically fallen because of these revelations about his fake girlfriend.

However, while Manti is just a football player, perhaps we should be much more concerned about the story of another fabricated girlfriend. Her name is Genevieve, and she’s the “New York girlfriend” Barack Obama described in his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father. Like Manti Te’o, President Obama has had to admit that this girlfriend never actually existed. Instead, he now says, she was merely a composite or “compression” of various girls he knew in his younger days. (You can read about this in last year’s story by Dylan Byers in The Politico: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/05/obama-ny-girlfriend-was-composite-character-122272.html.)

There are only a few differences between Manti’s story and the President’s. Barack Obama was more than 10 years older when he concocted his story, and he never claimed that a hoax was played on him. He admitted that he made up the story of Genevieve, and his biographer writes that “none of this happened.”

But the other difference is simply that while Manti will no doubt experience lasting ridicule and consequences for his tall tale, President Obama will not. In fact, the public opinion poll that came out this week says his popularity is even growing.

The moral of the story? If you make up a story to enhance your resume, don’t count on getting away with it. Not everyone is so lucky.

 

 

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A Belated Apology to Bill Green

Rediscovering a Forgotten Key to Effective Leadership

Even though I haven’t seen him in over 35 years, I’ve found myself thinking about Bill Green lately. After hearing my story about Bill, see if you think I owe him an apology.

Bill Green can best be described as a Bible geek. With thick glasses, unkempt hair, and woefully out-of-style clothes, you might picture him as resembling George McFly in the “Back to the Future” movies.

But Bill really knew the Bible, and I’ve never to this day met anyone as committed to one-on-one discipleship.

I had given my heart to Christ as a senior in high school, and I met Bill just a year or two later. He offered to come to my college dorm and disciple me, and at first I happily agreed. I was hungry to know more of God’s Word, and he was eager to teach anyone who would listen.

Sadly, it turned out that Bill and I only got together for our Bible studies three different times. I remember these distinctly, and I can still recite the three specific teachings. In many ways, they became a valuable part of my spiritual foundation, and I also was deeply impacted by Bill’s incredible passion for teaching the Bible to new believers like me.

So why didn’t Bill and I continue to get together? If I gained so much in only three sessions, just think what a Bible genius I could have been if I had hung in there for several years.

However, I soon decided I was “too busy” to continue being discipled by Bill Green.

Although I’m sure I could have learned more great information from Bill, that’s not the full story. You see, discipleship is not just a matter of passing along Bible facts from one person to another. Jesus puts it in nutshell in Luke 6:40 when He says that every disciple will become like his teacher.

The bottom line was that, even though I admired Bill Green’s knowledge of the Bible, I didn’t want to become like him in his personality, demeanor, and attitudes.

I admit that some of this was simply being turned off by his geekiness and his George McFly grooming style and wardrobe. (Can you imagine how your friends would react if George McFly came to visit you regularly at your college dorm?)

But my brief experience in discipleship with Bill Green also served as a warning that Bible knowledge is only one component of the discipleship process. As the apostle Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up”  (1 Corinthians 8:1 NIV). Although I was attracted by Bill’s Bible knowledge, I was very turned off by his life.

So if you’re frustrated today in your attempts to win lost people to Christ or lead believers into a deeper relationship with Him, remember this one indispensable key: People must want what you have. If they don’t want to be like you, you’re wasting your time in trying to get them to respond to your message.

I still feel bad that I wasn’t able to overlook Bill’s social awkwardness and dorky appearance. I could have learned a lot from him.

Yet there’s a hidden leadership principle tucked away in God’s instruction about those who would serve as priests in Old Testament days (Leviticus 21:18). Those who had a mutilated or disfigured face couldn’t serve as leaders. Translating this over to the New Testament, the issue isn’t about outward appearance at all. Rather, it’s about accurately reflecting the image of Christ, which requires much more than just communicating Bible factoids.

If you pride yourself on astute communication of Bible knowledge to your would-be followers, remember this leadership key from Paul: Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 MSG). People have to be attracted as much by your LIFE as they’re attracted to your message.

 

 

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The Parable of the Too-Short Bed

I once inherited a bed that was too short. Ordinarily, it’s not a big problem if you have a short bed, because you can always dangle your feet over the edge. But this bed came with a troublesome railing that prevented me from exceeding its length.

So every night I huddled in an uncomfortable, contorted position, unable to fully stretch out or extend myself. This wasn’t quite a fetal position, but it had pretty much the same effect.

I wonder if I might be a few inches taller today if it hadn’t been for my years spent on that too-short bed.

But it turns out I’m not the only one who has faced such an experience. The prophet Isaiah describes exactly this condition: “You will be like the person in the proverb, who tries to sleep in a bed too short to stretch out on, with a blanket too narrow to wrap himself in” (28:20 GNT).

If you’ve been feeling restless lately, this may be the reason. Perhaps you’re trying to fit into a place you’ve inherited from someone else—a “bed” that is too small for you. Or maybe you’ve been like the frustrated baby who simply has outgrown his once-perfect crib. Or perhaps the doctrinal “blanket” that once kept you so cozy is now too narrow to cover your expanding insights.

You are not alone in your restlessness. But you can’t stay in that kind of bed…or try to cover yourself with that kind of blanket.

One day a group of men from Elisha’s prophetic team came and complained to him: The place where we live is too small! Give us permission to go to the Jordan and cut down some trees, so that we can build a place to live (2 Kings 6:1-2 GNT).

“One day” these men finally realized something that must have been simmering inside them for a long time. Their growth and fruitfulness were being confined by the place they had inherited. It once had been a wonderful and comfortable place for them. But now they had outgrown it, and they realized it was time to branch out and build a place of their own.

It’s interesting that these spiritual men felt they had to ask PERMISSION from Elisha before setting out on their new endeavor. Do you feel you need to get someone else’s permission before you can fulfill your calling in the Lord? If so, don’t delay!

As this story progresses, we see that these men had the wisdom to take Elisha with them on their journey to expand their territory, as Jabez likewise had done (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Instead of rejecting their original place of covering, they were honoring it.

What is your story today? Have you outgrown a situation where you once thrived?

Take time to assess the bed you’ve been sleeping on…the blanket you’ve been wrapping yourself in…and the place where you’ve been dwelling. If you’ve been tossing and turning, cramped in a near-fetal position, it may be time for a change.

 

 

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