How I Had Fun in 2013

fun-at-workIs having fun a sin? For years I felt that having fun as a Christian was a sin. I felt bad watching movies and sports. So I took my Bible students with me to watch them for the sake of “mission.” For a time I enjoyed playing Tetris for hours on end. I thought no one knew. But my kids remember and told me so! I felt that Christian life should be one of self-denial (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23)–my key verse for the first two decades of my Christian life in the 1980s-90s. Now I positively encourage everyone to have fun. When West Loop UBF started in 2008, my catchphrase was “Have fun serving God.”

After writing my 2014 key verse testimony, I realize that I hardly wrote any stories of what I personally did or experienced. So here are some ways I had fun in 2013.

Reading. My favorite book of the year is Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. It explains how every person should transition from a first half of life (foundation/identity–Rohr calls it a container) to the second half of life (discovery/freedom–content of the container). Though necessary, the first half of life enslaves you, while the second half of life liberates. Sadly most people, churches and countries remain stuck in the first half of life. My own Christian life was deeply entrenched in the first half (it felt like enslavement), until God “pushed” me (through life’s events) into freedom. Experientially, I “fell upward” into the hands of the Living God. I am now slowly reading John Frame’s Systematic Theology. Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling exposed the hidden idols of Pharisee-like Christian leaders (ME!). Larry Osborne’s Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret explains why churches and institutions decline. In preparation for preaching, I read several commentaries on Revelation, John’s Gospel, and now Deuteronomy. I also love the new ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, which explains how each of the 66 books of the Bible uniquely point to the gospel, such as The Gospel in Genesis.

Blogging. I wrote 60 articles for UBFriends in 2013 (62 in 2012). Blogging is an exciting and integral part of my life because I write and express myself freely, and receive feedback from others, both online and in person–sometimes passionately. My concerns about the 2013 International Conference (May) received 355 comments. I just shared my opinion. But it resulted in many UBFers being upset with me, and many exUBFers commending me. If not for UBF I would not be married (Jan), received 259 comments. I simply shared my happiest story. But many shared their painful marriage by faith stories, which I was very sorry to hear. My worst infuriation (188 comments) and Is UBF scared of grace (159 comments) made the top 10 most commented list.

Preaching. I preached 32 sermons in 2013 (38 in 2012), 16 from Revelation and 10 from John’s Gospel. This takes up most of my time each week as I read books, blogs, and sermons in my preparation to preach extemporaneously.

Enjoying life. In 2013 I have been married for 32 of the happiest years of my life. 11 West Loop couples renewed wedding vows. I enjoyed reviewing Gravity and The Hunger Games. My four children–my pride and joy–are steadfast and maturing as Christians. My three grandchildren are happy and rambunctious. Each year over the past decade, I spend time in the Philippines by preaching and teaching our leaders and college students who are thirsty for Jesus and Scripture. Gratitude, joy and thanksgiving overwhelms me almost daily as I live with awe, fear and trembling for his immeasurable and undeserved grace.

How did you have fun in 2013?


  1. “Is having fun a sin?”
    >> The short answer is no. But there is a rather deep theological pondering that needs to be had in this regard :)

    “I felt that Christian life should be one of self-denial”
    >> It should :) But we must correctly understand what self-denial means…I think you captured part of that meaning here “Have fun!” We heard a Martin Sanders sermon recently that touched on that very subject. To deny yourself may at times mean to celebrate for no reason other than life itself.

    “my catchphrase was “Have fun serving God.””
    >> If starting Westloop is your idea of fun… then count me in! Thanks for sharing this article and being so transparent. Such vulnerability is a sign of a good leader, someone who can be trusted. My issues and allegations do not apply to Westloop ubf (I hope everyone there knows that!) And I hope the reconciliation and redemption you and Westloop have found will become effervescently contagious in 2014!

  2. “Deny yourself” and “take up your cross” are two teachings that are in desparate need of being redeemed.

    To deny yourself may mean to sing in a jail cell. It may mean being joyful in a den of lions. It may mean praising God in a stable of animals. It may mean cheering on your favorite football team. Or it may mean talking to your wife. It might also mean staying in the conversation with a ministry you can’t stand to be part of…

  3. Yeah, Brian. God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Dt 4:24). But God is also a fun person, just as anyone would simply love to hang around Jesus, who is God precisely and exactly.

    The Pharisees think they represent God by acting holy, spiritual, austere and super-righteous. But they totally misrepresent God, who is also “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex 34:6-7).

    Over the last few years I denied myself in order to stop doing religious activities that I did for over 2 decades because they became tedious, boring, predictable, ritualistic, habitual, legalistic and honestly quite tiresome. It really wasn’t easy to deny myself and simply just stop wearing a tie, stop writing testimonies, stop going to prayer meetings that were not edifying or encouraging, etc, because I did them every week without fail for 27 years!

    In the lingo of Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward, I had to deny myself to stop completely the first half of life activities, so that God might help me discover the freedom and liberation of the second half of life.

  4. Brian,

    Are you having fun by having snow flakes fall on UBFriends page? It at first freaked me out, thinking that some virus had infected my PC.

    • Yes I did some maintenance today, upgraded to latest WordPress and did some backups. There is an option to turn on snow until January 4th.