Our Authors

View All
Mike Wittmer

Mike Wittmer

Mike currently is Professor of Systematic Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and serves as the pastor of Cedar Springs Baptist Church in Michigan. 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.

Articles by Mike Wittmer

Investing in Others

When a corporation offered one thousand frequent flier miles for every ten purchases of one of their foods, one man realized their cheapest product was individual cups of chocolate pudding. He bought more than twelve thousand. For $3,000 (US), he received gold status and a lifetime supply of air miles for himself and his family. He also donated the pudding to charity, which netted him an $800 tax write-off. Genius!

Jesus told a controversial parable about a cunning manager who, as he was being fired, reduced what debtors owed his master. The man knew he could rely on their help later for the favor he was doing them now. Jesus wasn’t praising the manager’s unethical business practice, but He knew we could learn from his ingenuity. Jesus said we should shrewdly “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). As “the pudding guy” turned twenty-five cent desserts into flights, so we may use our “worldly wealth” to gain “true riches” (v. 11).

What are these riches? Jesus said, “give to the poor” and you will “provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” Our investment doesn’t earn, but it does affirm our salvation, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:32–34).

Love Like Mom

Juanita told her nephew about growing up during the Great Depression. Her poor family only had apples to eat, plus whatever wild game her dad might provide. Whenever he bagged a squirrel for dinner, her mom would say, “Give me that squirrel head. That’s all I want to eat. It’s the best piece of meat.” Years later Juanita realized there wasn’t any meat on a squirrel’s head. Her mom didn’t eat it. She only pretended it was a delicacy “so us kids could get more to eat and we wouldn’t worry about her.”

As we celebrate Mother’s Day tomorrow, may we also recount stories of our mothers’ devotion. We thank God for them, and strive to love more like them.

Paul served the Thessalonian church “as a nursing mother cares for her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). He loved fiercely, fighting through “strong opposition” to tell them about Jesus and to share his own life with them (vv. 2, 8). He “worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while [he] preached the gospel of God to [them]” (v. 9). Just like Mom.

Few can resist a mother’s love, and Paul modestly said his efforts were “not without results” (v. 1). We can’t control how others respond, but we can choose to show up, day after day, to serve them in a sacrificial way. Mom would be proud, and so will our heavenly Father.

Father of Lies

Victor slowly became addicted to pornography. Many of his friends looked at porn, and he fell into it because he was bored. But now he understands how it crushed his wife, and he’s vowed to put safeguards in his life so he will never look at it again. Yet he fears it’s too late. Can his marriage be saved? Will he ever be free and fully forgiven?

Our enemy the devil presents temptation as if it’s no big deal. Everyone’s doing it. What’s the harm? But the moment we catch on to his scheme, he switches gears. It’s too late! You’ve gone too far! You’re hopeless now!

The enemy will say whatever it takes to destroy us as we engage in spiritual warfare. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

If the devil is a liar, then we should never listen to him. Not when he says our sin is no big deal, and not when he says we’re beyond hope. May Jesus help us dismiss the evil one’s words and listen to Him instead. We rest our hearts on His promise: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (vv. 31–32).

Spiritual Diagnosis

Chemotherapy reduced the tumor in my father-in-law’s pancreas, until it didn’t. As the tumor began to grow again, he was left with a life-and-death decision. He asked his doctor, “Should I take more of this chemo or try something else, perhaps a different drug or radiation?” 

The people of Judah had a similar life-and-death question. Weary from war and famine, God’s people wondered whether their problem was too much idolatry or not enough. They concluded they should offer more sacrifices to a false god and see if she would protect and prosper them (Jeremiah 44:17).

Jeremiah said they had wildly misdiagnosed their situation. Their problem wasn’t a lack of commitment to idols; their problem was that they had them. They told the prophet, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord!” (v. 16). Jeremiah replied, “Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him or followed his law or his decrees or his stipulations, this disaster has come upon you” (v. 23).

Like Judah, we may be tempted to double down on sinful choices that have landed us in trouble. Relationship problems? We can be more aloof. Financial issues? We’ll spend our way to happiness. Pushed aside? We’ll be equally ruthless. But the idols that contributed to our problems can’t save us. Only Jesus can carry us through our troubles as we turn to Him.

Little Foxes

A pilot couldn’t fit his tea into the cupholder so he set it on the center console. When the plane hit turbulence the drink spilled onto the control panel, shutting off an engine. The flight was diverted and landed safely, but when it happened again to a crew from a different airline two months later, the manufacturer realized there was a problem. The plane cost US$300 million, but its cupholders were too small. This seemingly small oversight led to some harrowing moments.

Small details can wreck the grandest plans, so the man in the Song of Songs urges his lover to catch “the little foxes that ruin the vineyards” of their love (2:15). He’d seen foxes climb over walls and dig out vines in search of grapes. They were hard to catch as they darted into the vineyard then melted back into the night. But they must not be ignored.

What threatens your closest relationships? It may not be large offenses. It might be the little foxes, a small comment here or a slight there that digs at the root of your love. Minor offenses add up, and what once was a blossoming friendship or passionate marriage might be in danger of dying.

May God help us catch the little foxes! Let’s ask for and grant forgiveness as needed and nourish our vineyards in the soil of ordinary acts of thoughtfulness as God provides what we need.

All Creatures Great and Small

Michelle Grant trained a baby beaver named Timber to return to the wild. When she took him for swims in a pond, he’d come back to her kayak to snuggle and rub noses. One morning Timber didn’t return. Michelle scoured the pond for six hours before giving up. Weeks later she found a beaver skull. Assuming it was Timber, she began to cry.

My soul ached for Michelle and Timber. I told myself, “Snap out of it. He’s just a large, aquatic rodent.” But the truth is I cared—and so does God. His love reaches high to the heavens and down to the smallest creature, part of the creation He calls us to steward well (Genesis 1:28). He preserves “both people and animals” (Psalm 36:5–6), providing “food for the cattle and for the young ravens” (Psalm 147:9).

One day Michelle was kayaking in a neighbor’s pond and surprise, there was Timber! He’d found a beaver family and was helping them raise two kits. He surfaced beside Michelle’s kayak. She smiled, “You look well. You have a beautiful family.” He cooed, splashed his tail, and swam to his new mom.

I love happy endings, especially my own! Jesus promised that as His Father feeds the birds, so He will supply whatever we need (Matthew 6:25–26). Not one sparrow falls “to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29–31).

Love Your Loved Ones

Amos was an overbearing extrovert and Danny was a loner wracked with self-doubt. Somehow these eccentric geniuses became best friends. They spent a decade laughing and learning together. One day their work would receive a Nobel Prize. But Danny tired of Amos’s self-centered ways and told him they were no longer friends.

Three days later, Amos called with terrible news. Doctors had found cancer and given him six months to live. Danny’s heart broke. “We’re friends,” he said, “whatever you think we are.”

Paul was a hard-nosed visionary and Barnabas a soft-hearted encourager. The Spirit put them together and sent them on a missionary journey (Acts 13:2–3). They preached and started churches, until their disagreement over Mark’s desertion. Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance. Paul said he could no longer be trusted. So they split up (15:36–41).

Paul eventually forgave Mark. He closed three letters with greetings from or commendations for him (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24). We don’t know what happened with Barnabas. Did he live long enough to be reconciled with Paul in this life? I hope so.

Whatever your situation today, try to reach out to those with whom you may have had a falling out. Now is the time to show and tell them how much you love them.

Lift

During our tour of an aircraft carrier, a jet fighter pilot explained that planes need a 56-kilometer per hour wind to take off on such a short runway. To reach this steady breeze, the captain turns his ship into the wind. “Shouldn’t the wind come from the planes’ back?” I asked. The pilot answered, “No. The jets must fly into the wind. That’s the only way to achieve lift.”

God called Joshua to lead His people into the “winds” that awaited them in the Promised Land. Joshua required two things. Internally, he needed to “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7); and externally, he needed challenges. This included the daily task of leading thousands of Israelites, facing walled cities (6:1–5), Achan’s theft (7:16–26), demoralizing defeats (7:3–5), and continual battles (ch. 10–11).

The wind that blew in Joshua’s face would lift his life as long as his thrust came from God’s instructions. God said he must “be careful to obey all the law . . . do not turn from it to the right or to the left . . . meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (1:7–8).

Are you resolved to follow God’s ways, no matter what? Then look for challenges. Fly boldly into the wind, and see your spirit soar.

This Is Grace

Les Miserablés begins with paroled convict Jean Valjean stealing a priest’s silver. He’s caught, and he expects to be returned to the mines. But the priest shocks everyone when he claims he’d given the silver to Valjean. After the police leave, he turns to the thief, “You belong no longer to evil, but to good.”

Such extravagant love points to the love that flowed from the fountain from which all grace comes. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told his audience that less than two months before, in that very city, they had crucified Jesus. The crowd was crushed and asked what they must do. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Jesus had endured the punishment they deserved. Now their penalty would be forgiven if they put their faith in Him.

Oh, the irony of grace! The people could only be forgiven because of Christ’s death—a death they were responsible for. How gracious and powerful is God! He has used humanity’s greatest sin to accomplish our salvation! If God has already done this with the sin of crucifying Jesus, we may assume there’s nothing He can’t turn into something good. Trust the One who “in all things . . . works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).