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The Number One Predictor of Success—Ezra 7:8-10

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Ezra 4:7-23; Ezra 7:1 through 8:36

Are you getting ready to begin a new project, business, or field of study?

Would you like to know if you will be successful in that endeavor?

We all know people who have started something and quit or “seemingly” failed.

Is there one predictor of success?

Paul Graham, an essayist, programmer, and investor believes there is…

The most important predictor of new business start-up success is determination. At first we thought it might be intelligence. Everyone likes to believe that’s what makes startups succeed. It makes a better story that a company won because its founders were so smart. The PR people and reporters who spread such stories probably believe them themselves. But while it certainly helps to be smart, it’s not the deciding factor. There are plenty of people as smart as Bill Gates who achieve nothing.

In most domains, talent is overrated compared to determination—partly because it makes a better story, partly because it gives onlookers an excuse for being lazy, and partly because after a while determination starts to look like talent.

Ezra agrees with Paul Graham:

Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in August of that year.  He had arranged to leave Babylon on April 8, the first day of the new year, and he arrived at Jerusalem on August for the gracious hand of his God was on him.  This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel. —Ezra 7:8-10

How many times do we look at someone and think, “Wow, everything seems to come so easy for them!”

It’s never “easy” to be successful; easy means with little or no effort.  It certainly wasn’t easy for Ezra.

Most people in his day couldn’t read or write. The majority of the Israelites were disobeying the Law rather than obeying.

But Ezra was determined to be what God had called him to be.

If you’ve been on our journey one day or all year, you can personally attest to the difficulty of developing a habit of reading, studying, and applying God’s Word.  Compared to Ezra we have it so easy, Bibles are everywhere and study helps are in abundance, but it takes just as much determination in our day-to-day study to obey God’s Word as it did in Ezra’s day.

Friends, let’s make a choice to be an Ezra and determine to know God through His Word!

Heavenly Father, help us to determine to be a student of Your Word.  Holy Spirit, teach us how to apply it to our daily lives. Help us to live a life that preaches Your Word to others.

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  Ezra 9:1 through Ezra 10:44; Nehemiah 1:1 through 2:20

When You Ask God for Advice You Should Take It–Jeremiah 42:3-43:7

Today’s Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 42:1-44:30; Ezekiel 33:21-33

Do you ever ask someone for advice knowing that you aren’t going to take it?

Or,

Maybe you ask 5 or 6 people and take the advice that got the most votes.

Or,

Maybe you do what  Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other proud men did… you refuse the advice because it wasn’t what you wanted to do in the first place.  They wanted God to approve their plans and when He didn’t they decided to go their own way.

Then all the guerrilla leaders, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, approached  Jeremiah the prophet. They said, “Please pray to the Lord your God for us. As you can see, we are only a tiny remnant compared to what we were before.  Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go.”  –Jeremiah 42:1-3

Jeremiah prayed and ten days later the Lord answered:

‘Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you. For I am sorry about all the punishment I have had to bring upon you.  Do not fear the king of Babylon anymore,’ says the Lord. ‘For I am with you and will save you and rescue you from his power.  I will be merciful to you by making him kind, so he will let you stay here in your land.‘    —Jeremiah 42:10-12

But, it wasn’t what they wanted to hear:

When Jeremiah had finished giving this message from the Lord their God to all the people, Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the other proud men said to Jeremiah, “You lie! The Lord our God hasn’t forbidden us to go to Egypt! Baruch son of Neriah has convinced you to say this, because he wants us to stay here and be killed by the Babylonians or be carried off into exile.”  —Jeremiah 43:1-3

The people refused to obey the voice of the Lord and went to Egypt.

It’s one thing to refuse advice from family, friends, or coworkers, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you ask advice from the God of the universe and refuse to take it.

Friends, because of Jesus we don’t have to go to a prophet or priest for advice, we can hear from God ourselves.  God sent the Holy Spirit to be our counselor, but how often to we take advantage of this gift?

If we are smart, we will

  • Ask God’s advice about anything that has life-changing impact
  • Wait for Him to speak (Jeremiah waited 10 days)
  • Do what He says

Heavenly Father, it’s so easy to read about these guys and analyze and criticize but how many times have I done the same thing?  Because of Your Word, the Bible I know Your advice on many topics yet, I have either refused to read it or gone directly against it time after time. Lord, forgive me.  Holy Spirit, speak loudly!  I want to hear Your voice.  I want to take Your advice.  Make me like You Jesus!

In Your Name I pray.  Amen and Amen!

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 34:1-36:38

Is Ignorance Really Blissful?—2 Chronicles 36:15-16

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 39:11-18; Jeremiah 40:1-6; 2 Kings 25:8-21; Jeremiah 52:12-27; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Lamentations 1:1-22

My husband Harry has often said that he believes God instituted parenting so that we could understand His heart.  When we see our Heavenly Father through the lens of a parent, our parent, His Word and His ways are overflowing with love, mercy, and kindness.

From the first day I found out I was pregnant with my first child until this very moment my desire for my children has always been to lead them to Christ and to protect them from the tough things in life.  I want to teach them every lesson I’ve learned so they don’t have to make the same mistakes.

My love for my children pales in comparison to the way our Heavenly Father loves us.  My life experience and knowledge of the world is like looking at life through a pinhole compared to the knowledge of our God, who simultaneously sees, knows, and understands the past, present, and the future.

But in the same way my children some times go their own way and do their own thing, we ignore the warnings of our Heavenly Father and choose our own way instead of following the One who divinely knows best.

Can you hear God’s parental side coming out in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16?

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion on his people and his Temple.  But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.

“Mocked these messengers of God and despised their words…”

Sometimes the only way we will learn is to be forced to live with the consequences.  This goes for all of the human race not just children.  I wonder if our God is saying to Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and maybe even the angels…

“I have provided the people of the 21st century with my guidebook to victorious living on this earth, the Bible.  I love them so much I’ve recorded my words to warn them of the pitfalls of this earthly life and to teach them how to be Jesus to the world.  But my people insult me;  they don’t even know what my Word says.  Ignorance of my Word is no excuse for disobedience.”

In last night’s message, Kraig Krempa, executive pastor at Niceville Assembly said, “What we read is how we’re supposed to live, but by-in-large the church doesn’t read the Bible.”

When we as Christians stand before God, we won’t be able to blame parents, teachers, authors or pastors for their misinterpretations or our lack of knowledge of God’s Word; it’s our responsibility to know Him through His Word.  But the mercy of the Lord is amazing; He sent the Holy Spirit to be our interpreter, IF we open the Bible and spend time with Him, He will teach us!

Ignorance certainly won’t be blissful the day we stand before our God!

Heavenly Father, Your Word is life to us! Being ignorant of Your Word is a tool that Satan has used since the Garden of Eden.  Help us to resist this enemy whose number one goal is to keep us from Knowing You.  Holy Spirit, draw us to your Word, teach us your ways, make us like You and use us for Your Glory!

In Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen!

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller


Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  Lamentations 2:1 through Lamentations 4:22

Closed on Sundays–Jeremiah 17: 21-23

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 16:1 through Jeremiah 18:23; Jeremiah 35:1-19

This is what the Lord says: Listen to my warning!

Stop carrying on your trade at Jerusalem’s gates on the Sabbath day.  Do not do your work on the Sabbath, but make it a holy day. I gave this command to your ancestors, but they did not listen or obey. They stubbornly refused to pay attention or accept my discipline. –Jeremiah 17:21-23

I love Chick-fil-A!  Their chicken salad sandwich is my favorite! But it sure is tough when I get a craving for a sandwich and some waffle fries on a Sunday afternoon and then remember, “They’re closed on Sundays.”

I grew up in the days when Sunday was a day of rest—you went to church in the morning and evening and then had a big Sunday dinner with your family—you didn’t mow the grass, clean, or do laundry. We never thought of going shopping. It was disrespectful to turn Sunday into an ordinary day.

In today’s world we try to “fit church in” the rest of our day.  Sunday is one of the most popular “eating out day’s” of the week. This makes Truett Cathy’s policy of closing his Chick-fil-A restaurants on Sunday a practice that leaves the business world and all chicken lovers asking, “Why would he do that?”

Chic-fil-A’s  “Closed-on-Sunday policy” and their company’s Corporate Purpose fit like a hand and a glove:

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.

To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

Is closing on Sunday just a personal conviction of Truett Cathy or is there a lesson we can all learn about allowing God to be Lord of our lives?

I wonder how our lives would change if we made Sunday a holy day, a day of worship and rest?

I wonder what would happen if we gave the 4th commandment, “Remember the Sabbath…” the same respect as other commandments like “have no Gods before me” and “do not murder”?

Would we…

  • Be less stressed
  • Be healthier
  • Be more prosperous
  • Have more time for friends
  • Be closer as a family
  • Be closer to God

Friends, this isn’t about some legalistic Pharisaical practice.

  • It’s about looking for ways to honor God; not finding “what is the least I can do to get to heaven.”
  • It’s about believing that the God who made us knows what’s best for us.
  • It’s about knowing, understanding and allowing Jesus to be the Lord of our lives.
  • It’s about living a life that causes others to know Him.

How is honoring God by closing on Sundays affecting Chic-fil-A’s bottom line?

Chick-fil-A restaurants often generate more business per square foot in six days than many other quick-service restaurants produce in seven. Chick-fil-A generated more than $3.2 billion dollars in sales in 2009, and the chain has enjoyed sales gains for 42 consecutive years (every year since the first Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in 1967). Cathy credits “blessings from the Lord” for the great success the company has enjoyed and he remains as committed as ever to maintaining the Closed-on-Sunday policy. “I feel it’s the best business decision I ever made,” says Cathy.  (Chick-fil-A’s Closed on Sunday policy)

We can never out-give God.  When we honor him with our time, talent, and treasure we will be blessed.

Heavenly Father, show us how to honor you on Your day and every day.  Help us to make our lives a testimony to your holiness!

In Jesus Name.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 49:1-33; 2 Kings 24:5-7; 2 Chronicles 36:6-8; 2 Kings 24:8-9; 2 Chronicles 36:9; Jeremiah 22:24 through Jeremiah 23:32

Do You Want the Faith To Say, “But Even if He Doesn’t?” –Daniel 3:18

Today’s Scripture Reading: Daniel 2:1-3:30; Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

I’ve heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace since I was a little girl.  I was always amazed they could come out of that furnace without being burned and their clothes still in tact.

Can you imagine witnessing this with you own eyes?

Now days I think I’m just as amazed at the faith of the three Hebrews as the miracle.  I’m not that naïve little girl anymore.  I know what it takes to walk through fires of life.  I know how many times I’ve failed.  The faith of these three young boys must have made our Heavenly Father so proud:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  –Daniel 3:16-18

Let’s bring this down to where we live:

But Even if He Doesn’t…

  • Give me the perfect job
  • Match me with the mate of my dreams
  • Make me rich and famous
  • Heal my body
  • Give me children
  • Restore my marriage
  • Take the pain away
  • Heal my loved one
  • Allow me to live happily ever after
  • Rescue me from the pain and torture inflicted upon me by others

…Even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.

Friends, these are not easy words to say.  If you’ve ever had something happen in your life that doesn’t make sense, you know the degree of faith these young men had.

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If I were facing the fiery furnace could I say with the three Hebrews, but even if He doesn’t? 

I pray so.  Our God is worthy of that kind of trust.

Heavenly Father, help us to wake up each morning a give you our desires, plans, hopes, and dreams but help us to add these words to the end of our prayers…

Lord, but even if you don’t, I will continue to love and serve You with my whole heart.

Forgive us when we fail You.  Make us more like You Jesus!

In Your Name we pray.  Amen and Amen!

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller

 

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 8:4-11:23

It’s Getting Easier to Be Successful–Daniel 1:20

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 19:1 through Jeremiah 20:18; Daniel 1:1-21

Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. –Daniel 1:20

Is it important for you to do your best?

Here’s what Paul Pearsall, best-selling author says in his book “The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need” (Basic Books, 2005).

“Stop trying to live up to your full potential. You probably don’t have much more potential than you’re showing right now, and striving for more will only cause disappointment.”

This attitude has taken today’s culture by storm.  I’m not endorsing the “Win at all costs” mentality; I’m talking about the “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23 NIV) way of thinking.

Last year I went to my granddaughter’s field day.  I went there expecting to see little kids competing for the first place ribbon—not in today’s world; ‘it’ll make the kids who don’t get first place feel bad, so everyone gets the same ribbon’.  Boo—hiss!!!  We’re creating a culture of mediocrity…

But–

There is a silver lining to this sad state…

It’s getting easier to be successful—strive to be a person who pursues personal excellence and you’ll stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Friends, going through life with a goal of just getting by is not biblical!  In today’s reading we met four guys who didn’t hold to Dr. Pearsall’s way of thinking–Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abendnego.

Here are the first things we learn about these guys:

  • Young
  • From Judah’s royal family
  • Strong
  • Healthy
  • Good-looking
  • Well-versed in every branch of learning
  • Gifted with knowledge and good judgment
  • Suited to serve

Yes, you’re right, few of us are born with all these attributes. I know, it seems it would  be easy to live a life of excellence with all this going for you, but just think about a few of our most “rich, famous, and beautiful.” Would you describe them as living a life of excellence?

So what set Daniel and his three amigos apart from the rest?

  • Determination
    • But Daniel was determined not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8)
  • Discipline
    • The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens (Daniel 1:5) but Daniel and his friends asked for a diet of vegetables and water (Daniel 1:12)

In today’s world people who are disciplined are seen as boring and rigid.

We want to have what the determined and discipline people have, but we don’t want to do what the determined and discipline people do.

God used Daniel’s life of excellence to win over the greatest ruler of the greatest nation at that time in history.  Don’t buy into the lie that living a life of determination and discipline  is legalistic and old-school.  It’s the most exciting and fulfilling way to live, and you just might change the world!

No, we’re not perfect, but with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’re 10 times more capable to win the race!

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. —Philippians 3:12-14

Dare to be a Daniel!

 

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Daniel 2:1 through Daniel 3:30; Jeremiah 7:1 through Jeremiah 8:3

What’s Being Sung Over You?—Zephaniah 3:17

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Zephaniah 2:8 – 3:20; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27; 2 Kings 23:29-30; Jeremiah 47:1-48:47

Think back over the last couple of days; what has gone into your senses?

  • What conversations, opinions, and gossip have you listened to?
  • What movies, videos, T.V. programs and 24 hour news shows have you watched?
  • What books and magazines have you read?
  • What music and radio programs have you listened to?

Do you ever feel bogged down by the overwhelming amount of “stuff” that’s going into your spirit through multi-media throughout the day?

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I so tired?  All I’ve done is watch T.V., surf the internet, and listen to music.”

We live in a wonderful time.  Information is everywhere!  If I have a question about anything—I type it into the search box on my computer and voila—I have an answer.

If all this information is so wonderful why am I so mentally tired?

Jesus said in Matthew 6: 22-23

Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

I know this is an over-used cliché but I truly believe the mental exhaustion, lack of motivation, and spiritual darkness that many of us experience is the “garbage in, garbage out” syndrome that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 6:23-23.

In Zephaniah 3:17, our Heavenly Father shows us what the flip-side of the “garbage in, garbage” out syndrome looks like:

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Can you picture this verse?

Your Heavenly Father is living among you, saving you from the “stuff” that’s sucking the life out of you.  It makes Him happy to be with you.  You are free from stress because the Lord has calmed ALL your fears.  The God of the Universe is singing happy songs over you 24/7.

If God is living among you (and He is), would He enjoy the things you watch, hear, talk about and do on a daily basis?

Are you unwittingly causing your emotional exhaustion, sadness, and spiritual darkness by not being a wise steward of your senses?

If you need things to change—YOU may have to change!

 

Your Heavenly Father is singing life, joy, and peace over you.

Are you drowning out His songs of love with the noise of the world?

Lord, sing over me today!

 

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  2 Chronicles  36:1-4; 2 Kings 23:31-37; 2 Chronicles 36:5; Jeremiah 22:1-23; Jeremiah 26:1-24; 2 Kings 24:1-4; Jeremiah 25:1-14

Eight Things More Important Than Fasting—Isaiah 58:4

Today’s Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 58:1 through Isaiah 63:14

What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?  This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. –Isaiah 58:4

What was the point of Israel fasting?  God certainly wasn’t impressed with them.

Here’s how they looked in God’s eyes: (58:1-2)

  • They acted so pious
    • They come to the temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me
    • They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God
    • They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me

In Isaiah’s day, many times fasting was seen as a way to twist God’s arm to get him to answer their prayers.  Somehow the Israelites thought God could only see their actions and not their hearts:

‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed?  We have been very hard on ourselves and you don’t even notice it!’ ( 58:2)

 Have you ever stopped something, started something, or changed something to twist God’s arm?

Then after a few days of “not getting the results you were looking for” you revert back to the same old you…

I wonder if God thinks the same thing about us that he thought about the Israelites:

Is this what you call fasting?  Do you really think this will please the Lord? ( 58:5)

Are there things more important than fasting?

Yes…

Isaiah lists those for us:

  1. Free those who are wrongly imprisoned
  2. Lighten the burden of those who work for you
  3. Let the oppressed go free
  4. Remove the chains that bind people
  5. Share your food with the hungry
  6. Give shelter to the homeless
  7. Give clothes to those who need them
  8. Do not hide from relatives who need your help
God wants our  lives to reflect his nature and his heart ( 58:6-7):
Wow!  It would be easier to skip a meal or two…it would be easier to throw some money at those needs than getting our hands dirty.

Our heavenly Father expects a heart change.  When we become a Christian he wants us to be like him; to weep for what he weeps for, to reach out to those he wants to reach.

 

And if we “fast” like he wants us to, then we can expect (58:8-9):

  • Our salvation to come like the dawn
  • Our wounds to quickly heal
  • Our godliness to lead us forward
  • The Glory of the Lord to protect you from behind
  • God to answer you, “yes, I’m here” when you call

 

Fasting is an important spiritual discipline.  Jesus led by example and fasted 40 days before he faced the devil’s temptation (Matthew 4:2).  Jesus gave us instructions for fasting (Matthew 6:16).

 

But fasting is not about changing God’s mind; it’s about changing our hearts—helping us to look at a situation like God sees it.

 

Fasting is not just about food.  Giving up anything we are dependent on and distracted by can be an amazing way to draw closer to God and to hear his voice more clearly.

 

What good is fasting?

If your desire is to be closer to God, it’s a life-changing discipline.

If you want to twist God’s arm to get your way, you probably are wasting your time.

 

Thanking God for you today!

 

© 2012 Dianne Guthmuller

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 63:15 through Isaiah 66:24; 2 Kings 20:20-21; 2 Chronicles 32:32-33

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