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Mike Wittmer

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.

Articles by Mike Wittmer

Paint Your Leaf

In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

Praise in the Pain

Kim Nguyen was preparing for her doctoral exams in Old Testament when she learned that she would need surgery on her eyes. She should have recovered in 2 weeks, but 6 months later she still couldn’t see. She feared that her dream of teaching the Bible was slipping away. How could she write her dissertation if she couldn’t see? How would she find work to pay back her student loans?

Pleasing God

I was thinking about some friends who are facing trials. Jake is about to lose his job because he won’t compromise his convictions. Sheryl has been unemployed and soon her government assistance will run out. Sam had surgery to fuse together two vertebrae in his spine, but now he’s feeling numbness on his right side.

With Us

When I visited the land of Israel, I was surprised by the small size of the Sea of Galilee. This was no sea, but merely a lake some 21 kilometers long and 13 kilometers wide. I could easily see across to the other side. How could a storm on this tiny body of water terrify the disciples? Talk about a tempest in a teapot! I scoffed at their fear—until I saw the size of an ancient boat.

messages made public

Hackers broke into the servers of a major US movie studio and leaked large amounts of confidential information. They released movies, scripts, salaries, and troves of salacious emails. Mortified executives quickly apologized for their racist riffs and disparaging remarks about movie stars. But the damage had been done. One celebrity, having learned she was called a “minimally talented, spoiled brat,” said she could not promote her movie because she suddenly had the chicken pox. Worse, the leaked emails left the company vulnerable to blackmail. The hackers promised to release more gossipy texts unless the studio stopped the release of a controversial new movie.

only the gospel

The outgrow never we gospel. What’s wrong with that sentence? It violates the rules of grammar and syntax. Writers may sometimes break rules for effect but if they want to be understood, they’ll never graduate beyond grammar.

What Are You Hoping For?

Most of us have things we’re hoping for in life, but what are you ultimately hoping for? Paul told Titus to “look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus2:13). Do you believe that Jesus will return to this earth? Do you want Him to come?

Know Too Much

I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.

Winning at Life

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” That quote from author Francis Chan points out the false view we can possess as we consider what success is all about. Is it found in what we own, what we’ve accomplished, or in our status? Is that really how we know that we’re winning in life? What if we’re playing the wrong game?

Where’s Your Hope?

Yesterday I received a double dose of bad news. In the span of 5 minutes, the words in two emails left me disappointed and doubting that a project I had worked on for years would come to fruition. I wanted to quit. What’s the use? I felt like going back to bed and starting the day over again.

Finding our Identity

If you imagine that enemies captured you and forced you to change your diet, your college major, and your name, which one would hurt the most? Daniel accepted his new name, Belteshazzar, even though it invoked a pagan god. He accepted his new education “in the language and literature of Babylon,” even though it meant he had to study pagan creation myths (Daniel 1:4).

the gratitude test

How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a movie that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?

two questions

Adam had eaten of the forbidden fruit and it was now time for him to face the music. God walked through the garden and “called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” (Genesis 3:9). Later, when God came to confront Cain for killing Abel, He asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). This reminds us that those who reject God are apt to wound others.

Lukewarm

By God’s grace, my family has few financial worries. We have everything we need, and most everything we want. This frightens me, because it sounds exactly like the church in Laodicea. They said, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” But Jesus replied, “And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

Related Topics

> christian living

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

Where’s Your Garden?

My friend enjoys painting, but this sensitive soul often feels guilty when she’s working in her studio. She wonders whether she should be doing something more “Christ-like” with her time. How can I be taking up my cross if I’m doing something I enjoy? Have I become too focused on the stuff of this world?

Well, That’s Just Perfect!

The seminar speaker emphasized a positive mental approach to everything. And I’m okay with that, for the most part.

> daily devotional

Fit for a King

A man known as the “king of cocaine” built an island hideaway known to the locals as the big house. It featured a marble lobby and an enormous pool ringed by palm trees. The now-deceased man’s estate included multiple waterfront dwellings where 300 guests could lodge in luxury. Gardens, boats, and a helicopter landing pad all displayed the “king’s” immense but wrongly amassed wealth.

Paint Your Leaf

In his short story “Leaf by Niggle,” J. R. R. Tolkien describes a kindhearted, perfectionistic painter who failed to complete the landscape that became his life’s work. Because he was kind, Niggle often helped his neighbors rather than work on his painting. And because he fretted over details, he only managed to paint the first leaf on the first tree. He died with apparently little to show for his life. His “one beautiful leaf” was placed in the town museum “and was noticed by a few eyes.”

Banished Words

Each year Lake Superior State University in the US publishes a list of words they believe should be banished because they’re so annoying. Topping their list in 2013 was selfie, a term that received more nominations than any other. Other contenders included twerking, hashtag, and twittersphere. This list of words is a reminder that language is always changing and can persuade, impress, or annoy us.

> ethics

rotten fruit

There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

judgment of justice

An acquaintance of mine, who is highly intelligent and has a philosophical bent, also carries antipathy toward God and religion. He enjoys being provocative, recently quoting the second-century philosopher Epicurus who said: “There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men.”

if My people

I was speaking with three friends about the lamentable condition of our country. They mentioned the continued practice of abortion, the rise of homosexual marriage, and the debt crisis. One friend cited 2 Chronicles 7:14, and said that our nation’s problems will only be solved when our country turns to God. I said that would be difficult to pull off, as our nation believes in the separation of church and state. We cannot compel Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists to worship Yahweh. Nor would we want to. Life goes badly—both for those inside and outside the church—whenever Christianity becomes the religion of the state.

> faith

Loving God, Loving Others

While watching the orbit of Uranus, astronomers noticed that the planet didn’t seem to orbit as expected, almost as if there was another unknown planet nearby whose gravity was pulling Uranus toward it. Using mathematics, the scientists were able to compute both the position and the mass of this unknown object and then observed it for the first time in 1846: the previously unknown planet Neptune. Math allowed them to identify Neptune before they could even see it!

Shine Brightly

Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.

Lottie’s Legacy

The legacy of Lottie Moon lives on more than a hundred years after her death. Originally from the US, she traveled to China as a missionary and later established the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which has raised more than $1.5 billion (US) for missions since 1888. Many received salvation in Jesus during her years of ministry, but she endured difficult circumstances in the process. She suffered discrimination as a single woman and also faced illness, famine, and war. Lottie remained resolute, however, as she continued to share the good news and urged others to do the same.

> health

Real Rest

During the long, harsh Alaskan winter, Denali National Park rangers rely on teams of sled dogs to help them patrol the vast, snowy wilderness. Dogsled patrols can last up to 6 weeks, and the dogs are always raring to go.

sweet sleep

Recent research concluded that Americans are among the world’s worst when it comes to sleep deprivation. The published statistics reveal: The US (along with France and Taiwan) ranks among the top three most sleep-deprived nations in the world. Indians (54 percent), Americans (49 percent), and Singaporeans (43 percent) reported not getting enough rest due to being too worried or stressed out. Most sleep-deprived Americans (66 percent), however, can’t sleep because they’re anxious about finances and paying their bills.

Your Body

I like to write out my thoughts before I type them. But when I use an old pen that rolls roughly across the paper, my thoughts thump along in fits and starts. When I can’t squeeze the ink out, I can’t squeeze the words out, and I quickly toss the pen aside for a better one. A free-flowing pen opens my mind, and the words often come pouring out as fast as I can write them.

> relationships

Prejudice by Association

The sound of her name made me recoil. I knew the strong testimony of the well-known speaker and had no justifiable reason to avoid her podcasts. My disgust had nothing to do with her or the worthy cause she represented. I’d been hurt by someone who idolized her, so my prejudice came because of her association with that individual.

Discerning Truth

In the Shakespearean play Othello, the main bad guy is named Iago. He pretends to be Othello’s closest friend, offering counsel and advice, but all the while he’s plotting his friend’s downfall behind the scenes. The play is carefully constructed so that it’s impossible for even the audience to grasp the underhanded deceit of Iago until the very last scene. He’s plausible right up until the end, and if his part is acted well, the audience will often gasp when his true nature is finally revealed, for the character’s deception is convincingly hidden by his words and actions.

What’s Your Fragrance?

A colleague approached me in front of some coworkers and asked, “So what’s your attitude, as a Christian, to euthanasia?” Everyone stopped their conversation and all eyes were on me. I spent 20 minutes not in debate, but trying to share the aroma of Christ with those who didn’t know Him: His love, compassion, unchanging character, and absolute righteousness. As I shared about Jesus and His love, I prayed that my coworkers would get a whiff of the character of God—not the erudite arguments of a theologian.

> Topic of the Day

> touch-your-world