Most of us heard the stories of Daniel from childhood—the handwriting on the wall, the lion’s den. What we didn’t know was that no one in history ever influenced the two most powerful empires on the earth like Daniel. And he did it as a grad student.


When we first hear about this young exile in Babylon, he is in college majoring in ancient culture, learning “the language and literature of the Babylonians” (Daniel 1:4). “They were to be trained for three years,” then they would be prepared to serve the king (v. 5). Daniel and his friends were given new names to begin the acculturation process (v. 6,7).


Then we read, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine” (v. 8). What’s his problem with creampuffs? Something inside Daniel said that eating the rich food would compromise his devotion to God. The decisions he made then impacted him the the rest of his life.


You’ve experienced it before, a quiet prompting. People are gossiping and the inner voice says, “Keep your mouth shut.” Or you find yourself watching a movie that turns raunchy, and an inner nudge tells you to leave. Those who learn to heed those messages grow into maturity. Those who muffle them as immature legalism stay immature.


The writer of Hebrews says, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn…You need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again…But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb. 5:11,12,14). Put poison in front of my granddaughter—and she’d drink it. So would those bent on silencing the inner voice. And they destroy themselves—one decision at a time.


Daniel wasn’t legalistic. He simply listened. When the official told him he was afraid to change the game plan, Daniel could have said, “You’re right. Let’s go with flow. Pass the cheesecake.”


Little things are big things—always. God chooses little people (like a Mary or Galilean no-names), little places (Bethlehem or Azusa Street), little beginnings (a seed on the uterine wall of a virgin girl), and little acts (a kind word, a phone message, a sick call on a friend). Humble people don’t overlook little words or assignments. Daniel and his friends majored in the little stuff, and they graduated Summa Cum Summa from Babylon University.


Miracles happen in the lives of humble people—one nudge at a time. If you’re asking why you don’t see bigger miracles , take a look at how you are responding to small promptings. Obedience accumulates. Those who take the Lordship of Jesus seriously are promised to be exalted.


It seems like such a little thing that Daniel did. That’s the way God works. He says that faithfulness in the very little things brings authority over ten cities. Quite an upgrade. Try obeying God in little ways. See what happens!

Fishing—Jesus Style

Failure doesn’t feel good—ever. We expected a raise—and we got laid off. We prayed for healing—and we went in for radical surgery. We studied hard—and failed!

Failure is a sometimes a necessary step toward success. Problem—failure takes courage out. That’s why Peter’s fishing incident can en-courage us who feel like failures.

Peter had spent a night fishing—with nothing to show for it. That’s the time not to ask, “How was fishing?” Peter and the others were “washing their nets” (Luke 5:2). From him we learn three truths about reversing defeats.


When Jesus finished teaching, “he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing’” (v.5a). He could have said, “It wasn’t that bad—could have been better.”

Because we’re fragile, we hedge. Peter laid it out straight: “We toiled all night (the reality) and took nothing” (the result). Nothing is not much. The word “nothing” could get stuck in the throat of a veteran fisherman. Nothing like honesty to prepare us for God’s new work. No excuses.


Peter was remarkable in his honesty—and obedient: “But at your word (remati) I will let down the nets” (v.5b). Jesus had been teaching the crowd the “word of God” (logos, v.1).

Then He decided to teach Peter, so He gave him a specific word. It wasn’t a teaching; it was a word. Peter had to make a decision about obeying. He could have said, “You don’t understand; the best time is at night.” He could have resented Christ, thinking “He should stick with preaching—I’ll stick with fishing.”

No delay—just instant obedience. Fishing was an area of strength for Peter, but he was willing to lay down his area of expertise before the real Master. The nets that had been retired were called into duty.

The experience of yesterday sometimes paralyzes faith today. We have a good memory for failure. Experience can teach us, but it can also terrify us. Then the word of Christ comes to challenge our experience.

We desperately need to hear from Christ. We have too often seen the success of another fisherman and copied it, only to discover that what worked somewhere else didn’t work with us. Why not? Because it wasn’t a word to us. The success of Peter can be attributed to one thing—obedience to Christ’s word. Nor could Peter assume that he could do it again the next time Jesus used his boat.

Peter’s response shows that he knows that he can take no credit for what just happened. He realizes he is dealing with someone who is on an altogether different level than he. He says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v.8). His words reflect the dreadful awareness that he and Jesus are different.


Other fishermen would not have recommended what Peter did. It didn’t make good sense. God makes obedient children look good. Moving by revelation is safer than moving by reason. Catching the wind of the Spirit beats working for God.

Religion does funny things for people. It makes them strive, struggle, and work for a God who is not easy to please. Jesus is. He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Stay close.


Mordecai didn’t father Esther. But when Esther’s parents died, he assumed responsibility for his cousin. He was no doubt significantly older, so she was able to see him in a father role.

When Esther, “lovely in form and features” (2:7), was taken into the king’s harem, Mordecai did not stop fathering. “Every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how Esther was and what was happening to her” (v. 11). What a great “dad.”

Here’s a young woman brought into the citadel in Susa, the capitol of Persia, without her natural parents and far from home. He assumed responsibility for her well-being. “Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so” (2:10). Way to go, Mordecai. Way to obey, Esther.

Imagine if fathers took the same careful watch over their sons and daughters. We just dealt with the problem of pornography. We just gave teen girls the protection they have always needed, so they won’t find their love outside the home. We just gave kids a good reason not to smoke, drink or use.

And because they enjoy a healthy relationship with Dad, they like being with him. We just created a natural curfew, and kids obey it, because they have no reason for staying out late. They just found out who they are, so they don’t have to go looking for themselves with those who cross the lines and don’t need God.

As the story thickened at the citadel, Esther “continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up” (2:20). He raised this girl, and she didn’t graduate out of needing his guidance, even as a woman in the court. What wisdom he carried. He could not have known that God would use his faithfulness to save the Jewish people from extermination and exalt this Jew to a place of prominence in a Gentile court.

The strongest words Mordecai spoke to Esther related to risking her life. He urged her to “go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people,” (4:8) the focus of a sinister plot. She replied that “for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that the person be put to death” (v. 11).

Mordecai didn’t buy her reason: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape? For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.” And then the question quoted thousands of times for people walking into their God-appointed destiny: “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:13,14).

These words gripped her heart. She responded that the Jews in Susa should gather and fast for her. She and her maids would also, and then she would go before the king. And then the words, equally time-tested: “If I perish, I perish” (v. 16).

She didn’t. The king received her, and she was used to save her people. How important for young people to have a father like Mordecai, if not a physical father a spiritual one. In the last days, these kinds of relationships will increase, lifting the curse upon an un-fathered generation and bringing revival in a troubled land (Malachi 4:5,6).

“He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found!” So the word goes out to the older generation to see your important mentoring role in these last days! We need more “parents” like Uncle Mordecai.


Listen to this: “…a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).  What a revival in the early church, touching even orthodox Jewish priests. It says that they became “obedient to the faith.” Faith is not meant to be known—it is meant to be obeyed. Inherent in the Gospel of grace is obedience—once you know it, you do it.

Not to do is not to know. Or as a friend of mine says, “We behave our beliefs.” Paul called it “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). For the apostles, to believe is to obey. They are siblings, and they always hang together. In fact, they are sometimes used interchangeably.

The children of Israel never made it out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews identified their disobedience as unbelief. At the core of a failure to obey is a failure to believe.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…” Either we put our trust in God and demonstrate it with an obedient heart or we trust in lesser gods (like ourselves or others or money) and we disobey.

“To whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief” (Heb. 4:18,19).  He goes on to say that “we who have believed enter that rest” (4:3). Obedience demonstrates a believing heart. Disobedience detects a heart unwilling to trust.

Obedience is never presented as optional in the Scriptures. God does not suggest—He commands. Those who understand grace take His commands as invitations to trust the God who is at work within us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). He told the Thessalonians, “Faithful is He who called you, and He will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).

So it is more a matter of God doing it in me than me making it happen. But if it doesn’t happen, it’s my fault, not God’s. My part is to surrender to His ability and trust Him for the outcome as I step out in bold obedience. I will not be let off the hook if indifference or laziness keeps me from my God-appointed assignment, as the passive investor sadly demonstrates. (Matthew 25:26).

Jesus told His followers that making disciples was “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). If we asked Jesus whether obedience was optional or not, what would He say? As the brother of Jesus wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” Is dead faith saving faith? I doubt it. For John the Beloved, a disobedient Christian is an oxymoron.

Get over the crazy hurdle that talking about the commands of God or the necessity of obedience puts people under the law. We either read the Bible to be informed—or transformed. I’m choosing the latter. How about you?