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About Mike Wittmer

Mike is Professor of Systematic Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has written Heaven Is a Place on Earth (Zondervan), Don’t Stop Believing (Zondervan), The Last Enemy (Discovery House Publishers),  Despite Doubt (Discovery House Publishers), and Becoming Worldly Saints (Zondervan). Mike and his wife, Julie, are too busy with three school-age children to have any hobbies, but he does make time to blog on theological topics here.

Windows

By |2021-04-16T09:06:07-04:00April 17th, 2021|

Near the foothills of the Himalayas, a visitor noticed a row of houses without windows. His guide explained that some of the villagers feared that demons might sneak into their homes while they slept, so they built impermeable walls. You could tell when a homeowner began to follow Jesus, because he put in windows to let in the light.

A similar dynamic may take place in us, though we might not see it quite that way. We live in scary, polarizing times. Satan and his demons instigate angry divisions that split families and friends. I often feel like hiding behind my walls. Jesus wants me to cut in a window.

Israel sought refuge in higher walls, but God said their security lay with Him. He reigns from heaven, and His word governs all (Isaiah 55:10–11). If Israel would return to Him, God would “have mercy on them” (v. 7) and restore them as His people to bless the world (Genesis 12:1–3). He would lift them up, ultimately leading them in triumphal parade as all creation breaks into applause. Their celebration “will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever” (Isaiah 55:13).

Sometimes walls are necessary. Walls with windows are best. They show the world that we trust God for the future. Our fears are real. Our God is greater. Windows open us to Jesus—“the light of the world” (John 8:12)—and to others who need Him.

Got Your Nose

By |2021-03-30T09:06:03-04:00March 30th, 2021|

“Why are the statues’ noses broken?” That’s the number one question visitors ask Edward Bleiberg, curator of Egyptian art at the Brooklyn Museum.

        Bleiberg can’t blame it on normal wear and tear; even two-dimensional painted figures are missing noses. He surmises that such destruction must have been intentional. Enemies meant to kill Egypt’s gods. It’s as if they were playing a game of “got your nose” with them. Invading armies broke off the noses of these idols so they couldn’t breathe.

Really? That’s all it took? With gods like this, Pharaoh should have known he was in trouble. Yes, he had an army and the allegiance of a whole nation. The Hebrews were weary slaves led by a timid fugitive named Moses. But Israel had the living God, and Pharaoh’s gods were pretenders. Ten plagues later, their imaginary lives were snuffed out.

Israel celebrated their victory with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when they ate bread without yeast for a week (Exodus 12:17; 13:7–9). Yeast symbolizes sin, and God wanted his people to remember their rescued lives belong entirely to Him.

Our Father says to idols, “Got your nose,” and to His children, “Got your life.” Serve the God who gives you breath, and rest in His loving arms.

Wearing Our Courage

By |2021-01-30T08:06:05-05:00January 30th, 2021|

Andrew lives in a country that is closed to the gospel. When I asked him how he keeps his faith a secret, he said he doesn’t. He boldly wears a button that advertises his church, and whenever he’s arrested he tells the police that “they need Jesus too.” Andrew has courage because he knows who’s on his side.

Elijah refused to be intimidated, even when the king of Israel sent fifty soldiers to arrest him (2 Kings 1:9). The prophet knew God was with him, and he called down fire that consumed the platoon. The king sent fifty more, and Elijah did it again (v. 12). The king sent fifty more, but the third platoon had heard about the others. The captain begged Elijah to spare his soldiers’ lives. They were more afraid of him than he’d ever been of them, so the angel of the Lord told Elijah it was safe to go with them (vv. 13–15).

Jesus doesn’t want us to call down fire on our enemies. When the disciples asked if they could go full Elijah (call down fire) on a Samaritan village, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:51–55). We’re living in a different time. But Jesus does want us to have the boldness of Elijah—to be ready to tell everyone about the Savior who died for them. It may seem like one person taking on fifty, but it’s actually One on fifty. Jesus provides what we need to courageously love and reach out to others.

What’s Your Song?

By |2021-01-13T08:06:02-05:00January 13th, 2021|

Most Americans knew little about Alexander Hamilton. Until 2015, when Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his hit musical Hamilton. Now schoolchildren know Hamilton’s story by heart. They sing it to each other on the bus and at recess. He’s their favorite founding father.

God knows the power of music, and He told Moses to “write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it” (Deuteronomy 31:19). God knew that long after Moses was gone, when He had brought Israel into the Promised Land, they would rebel and worship other gods. So He told Moses, “This song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants” (v. 21).

Songs are nearly impossible to forget, so it’s wise to be selective about what we sing. Some songs are just for fun, and that’s fine, but we benefit from songs that boast in Jesus and encourage our faith. One of the ways we “[make] the most of every opportunity” is when we speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” So “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (see Ephesians 5:15–19).

Songs can be an indicator of the direction of our heart. Do the words make much of Jesus? Do we sing them whole-heartedly? What we sing will influence what we believe, so choose wisely and sing loudly. What’s your song?

Who Needs Me?

By |2020-12-26T08:06:02-05:00December 26th, 2020|

While on a red-eye flight to Washington, DC, opinion writer Arthur Brooks overheard an elderly woman whisper to her husband, “It’s not true that no one needs you anymore.” The man murmured something about wishing he were dead, and his wife replied, “Oh, stop saying that.” When the flight ended, Brooks turned around and immediately recognized the man. He was a world-famous hero. Other passengers shook his hand, and the pilot thanked him for the courage he displayed decades ago. How had this giant sunk into despair?

Elijah bravely and single-handedly defeated 450 prophets of Baal. That was the problem. He hadn’t really done it alone; God was there all along! But later, feeling all alone, he asked God to take his life.

God lifted Elijah’s spirits by bringing him into His presence and giving him new people to serve. He must go and “anoint Hazael king over Aram,” Jehu “king over Israel,” and Elisha “to succeed you as prophet” (1 Kings 19:15–16). Invigorated with renewed purpose, Elijah found and mentored his successor.

Your great victories may lie in the rearview mirror. You may feel your life has peaked, or that it never did. No matter. Look around. The battles may seem smaller, the stakes less profound, but there are still others who need you. Serve them well for Jesus’ sake, and it will count. They are your purpose—the reason you’re still here.

Who Are You Wearing?

By |2020-12-19T08:06:04-05:00December 19th, 2020|

Argentina’s women’s basketball team came to their tournament game wearing the wrong uniforms. Their navy blue jerseys were too similar to Columbia’s dark blue jerseys, and as the visiting team they should have worn white. With no time to find replacement uniforms and change, they had to forfeit the game. In the future, Argentina will surely double-check, What are we wearing?

In the time of the prophet Zechariah, God showed him a vision in which the high priest Joshua came before God wearing smelly, filthy clothes. Satan sneered and pointed. He’s disqualified! Game over! But there was time to change. God rebuked Satan and told His angel to remove Joshua’s grubby garments. He turned to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (Zechariah 3:4).

We came into this world wearing the stench of Adam’s sin, which we layer over with sin of our own. If we stay in our filthy clothes, we’ll lose the game of life. If we become disgusted with our sin and turn to Jesus, He will dress us from head to toe with Himself and His righteousness. It’s time to check, Who are we wearing?

The final stanza of the hymn “The Solid Rock” explains how we win. “When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.”

Relaxing with Purpose

By |2020-11-04T08:06:02-05:00November 4th, 2020|

Ramesh loves to tell others about Jesus. He boldly speaks with coworkers, and one weekend each month returns to his village to evangelize from house to house. His enthusiasm is contagious—especially since he’s learned the value of taking time to rest and relax.

Ramesh used to spend every weekend and most evenings proclaiming the gospel. His wife and children missed him when he was out, and they found him exhausting when he was around. He needed to make every minute and conversation count. He couldn’t enjoy games or small talk. Ramesh was wound too tight.

He was awakened to his imbalance by the honest words of his wife, the counsel of friends, and seemingly unimportant passages of Scripture. Proverbs 30 mentions trivial things, such as ants, roosters, and locusts. It marvels how “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (v. 28).

Ramesh wondered how something so mundane made it into the Bible. Observing lizards required significant down time. Someone saw a lizard darting around the palace and thought that’s interesting, and paused to watch some more. Perhaps God included it in His Word to remind us to balance work with rest. We need hours to daydream about lizards, catch one with our kids, and simply relax with family and friends. May God give us wisdom to know when to work, serve, and relax!

Who’s It For?

By |2020-10-28T09:06:05-04:00October 28th, 2020|

The picture made me laugh out loud. Crowds had lined a Mexican avenue, waving flags and throwing confetti as they waited for the pope. Down the middle of the street strolled a stray puppy, appearing to grin as if the cheering was entirely for him. Yes! Every dog should have its day, and it should look like this.

It’s cute when a puppy “steals the show,” but hijacking another’s praise can destroy us. David knew this, and he refused to drink the water his mighty warriors had risked their lives to get. He had wistfully said it would be great if someone would fetch a drink from the well in Bethlehem. Three of his soldiers took him literally. They broke through enemy lines, drew the water, and carried it back. David was overwhelmed by their devotion, and he had to pass it on. He refused to drink the water, but “poured it out before the Lord” as a drink offering (v. 16).

How we respond to praise and honor says a lot about us. When praise is directed toward others, especially God, stay out of the way. The parade is not for us. When the honor is directed toward us, thank the person and then amplify that praise by giving all the glory to Jesus. The “water” is not for us either. Give thanks, then pour it out before the Lord.

Never Enough

By |2020-09-28T12:10:34-04:00September 28th, 2020|

Frank Borman commanded the first space mission that circled the moon. He wasn’t impressed. The trip took two days both ways. Frank got motion sickness and threw up. He said being weightless was cool—for thirty seconds. Then he got used to it. Up close he found the moon drab and pockmarked with craters. His crew took pictures of the gray wasteland, then became bored.

Frank went where no one had gone before. It wasn’t enough. If he quickly tired of an experience that was out of this world, perhaps we should lower our expectations for what lies in this one. The teacher of Ecclesiastes observed that no earthly experience delivers ultimate joy. “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (1:8). We may feel moments of ecstasy, but our elation soon wears off and we seek the next thrill.

Frank had one exhilarating moment, when he saw the earth rise from the darkness behind the moon. Like a blue and white swirled marble, our world sparkled in the sun’s light. Similarly, our truest joy comes from the Son shining on us. Jesus is our life, the only ultimate source of meaning, love, and beauty. Our deepest satisfaction comes from out of this world. Our problem? We can go all the way to the moon, yet still not go far enough.

 

How Did I Get Here?

By |2020-08-28T15:11:28-04:00August 24th, 2020|

Tiffani awoke in the pitch-black darkness of an Air Canada jet. Still belted into her seat, she had slept while the other passengers exited and the plane was parked. Why didn’t anyone wake her? How did she get here? She shook the cobwebs from her brain and tried to remember.

Have you found yourself in a place you never expected? You’re too young to have this disease, and there’s no cure. Your last review was excellent; why is your position being eliminated? You were enjoying the best years of your marriage. Now you’re starting over, as a single parent with a part-time job.

How did I get here? Job asked as “he sat among the ashes” (Job 2:8). He lost his children, his wealth, and his health, in no time flat. He couldn’t have guessed how he got here; he just knew he had to remember.

Job remembered his Creator and how good He had been. He told his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (v. 10). Job remembered he could count on this good God to be faithful. So he lamented. He screamed at the heavens. And he mourned in hope, “I know that my redeemer lives,” and that “in my flesh I will see God” (19:25–27). Job remembered how the story began, and how it ends, so he clung to hope.

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