Category Archives: UFO

Convincing Cells to Die Could Make Us Stronger

The majority of our cells die noble deaths; they cease to be once they’re damaged beyond repair. However, some ragged cells refuse to turn out the lights, and that’s where the trouble begins.

These stubborn, damaged cells can accumulate in the body over time, and they can accelerate the aging process and cause the onset of disease. But there might be a way to put these lingerers out of their misery. Peter de Keizer, a researcher of aging at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherl

Mike’s World

A bit of a personal aside for this post. Most readers know I’m busy (that word actually doesn’t begin to describe the situation). But I sometimes get asked why I don’t do certain things. For example …  Mike, why don’t you / won’t you:

  • answer my email?
  • spend time on Facebook …  the Faithlife Groups … Google Hangouts?
  • answer comments on your YouTube Channels?
  • respond to that thing someone said about you (or that video someone made about you)?
  • review that book or video I sent you?
  • review my book manuscript?
  • read that article I sent you?
  • etc.

I used to have a disclaimer on my email address that explained why I likely won’t answer email, but I had to remove that for reasons I won’t bore you all with. I haven’t had my email disclaimer active for over a year. Consequently, I get these questions. They are all understandable and appropriate. So in lieu of the defunct disclaimer, I decided to post an explanation.

On my recent Unseen Realm trip to Arkansas someone asked this question during the Q & A: “What is your life like — what does it look like for you on a daily or weekly basis to manage your time?” My answer was that my life (in that respect) is an act of desperation (I had to laugh, but that’s what it is).  Though I enjoy almost everything I do (caveat: no prof enjoys grading), I’m doing so many things that, while lots of things get done and every day has successes, every day also feels like failure. But I don’t take it hard. There’s always tomorrow. That works since I’m in the wonderful situation of being able to do what I know I was born to do by the providence of God. I’m truly blessed. The only thing I really don’t like about my situation is that I’m not able to “do what I do” full-time and feel guilty about what falls through the cracks.

Let me try and give you an idea of the logistics. I’m not a Methodist (and Methodists will catch this reference), but I can account for every half hour of every day since that’s how I work my schedule. I know it sounds mechanical, but it isn’t. It just allows me to knock things off and shift things to other days efficiently. Like most of you, I have a FT day job that requires me to be working on employer-related tasks. What follows are the rest of the things I am supposed to be doing on a weekly basis (a couple of these items may be familiar only to newsletter subscribers):

  • spend a little time at home with my wife and kids (and yes, the pug) detached from everything else (this one and email are the most guilt-inducing)
  • grade papers and do professor stuff for two schools (distance ed, online)
  • writing a book (next non-fiction one is in process and due by the end of August; novel #3 comes after that)
  • blogging
  • answering email
  • answering comments on my blog
  • spending some time on Facebook
  • prepping for the podcast(s)
  • recording the podcast(s)
  • reading
  • re-writing content for NakedBible.org
  • putting the notes and links together for the Miqlat newsletter
  • writing scripts for Fringepop episodes
  • management tasks for my business (exists for my online presence and Amazon publishing)
  • management tasks for Miqlat
  • reviewing my languages (keeping up with grammar and vocab).
    • each week I spend a little time on Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Egyptian, Akkadian, NW Semitic dialects, and Ugaritic
    • I’ve decided to start Latin and Ethiopic this year (the latter because I want to work in Ethiopic 1 Enoch down the road)
  • scholarly research for journal articles or (way down the road) “Unseen Realm 2”
  • teaching at church (a few four-week modules each year; in one module now)
  • interviews (not weekly right now, but that will change now that Reversing Hermon is shipping)

Evenings after work give me 3-4 hours to work on the items in this list. Weekends are full tilt. I rarely watch TV, though I love having a ball game playing in the background. So every night I pick at the stuff that needs doing. About half the items on the list really do take substantial time and have deadlines (like writing, scripting, and research).

I’m thrilled to say that the following have been taken off my plate because of the generosity of donors to Miqlat (some tasks below are paid) and volunteers (named):

  • record, edit, and post Naked Bible podcast and Peeranormal podcast (without Trey, they both die)
  • edit written material for Kindle (Peter, Spencer)
  • transcribe the podcast episodes (at first, “Mr. Tudor” and now Brenda)
  • Facebook posting, bookkeeping for my business, creating the newsletter (my wife, Drenna)
  • editing podcast episodes for radio (Charles)
  • videos for the website (Shaun)
  • bookkeeping for Miqlat (Rich, now Michael)

I hope this helps shed light on why I do (or don’t do) certain things. My time is so limited I have to triage every day. For that reason I won’t watch videos sent to me, won’t vet anyone’s manuscript, don’t read anything outside peer-reviewed material, can’t engage in running conversations for days or weeks (!), and can’t chase down a research question for you (and some of those take thesis-level work). I hope you all understand.

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Faithlife Study Bible Published in Hard Copy with NIV

Many of you know about the digital version of the Faithlife Study Bible. I contributed a good bit of content to it. A trimmed (for space, naturally) version of that study Bible is now available from Zondervan, editorially tailored to the NIV, the translation used in that publication.

I’m thrilled to have played a part in the creation of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible. I’m happy to help Zondervan alert this audience to its existence. My reasons are, to be honest, personal. A study Bible was one of the two items I bought early in my own journey as a new Christian (the other was a Strong’s Concordance). Both were crucial in helping me understand God’s Word as I grew as a believer.

Nearly forty years have passed since I came to the Lord. Providence led me to become a biblical scholar and gave me the blessing of being a biblical studies professor in the classroom and online. I’ve learned that there’s a lot about the Bible that people should know. My own journey in Bible knowledge has convinced me there’s one fundamental insight that, if faithfully observed, will help tremendously. It’s the best piece of advice I can give you—and an orienting point for many of the notes in the NIV Faithlife Study Bible:

Let the Bible be what it is.

That bit of advice may sound odd. But let’s unpack it a bit.

When I recommend letting the Bible be what it is, I’m suggesting that the path to real biblical understanding requires that we don’t make the Bible conform to denominational preferences. Our task as Bible students is not to filter the Bible through our traditions. That’s doing Bible study in an echo chamber and engaging Scripture from a deeply flawed assumption about its context. None of the biblical writers were members of our denominations!

Our task as Bible students is not to turn the Bible into something it isn’t. Just let it be what it is. Let me illustrate with an example (one familiar to many readers here).

Genesis 10 is known to Bible scholars as the “Table of Nations.” The chapter is a biblical explanation of what happened in the centuries after Noah and his family disembarked the ark, having survived the flood. The Table of Nations describes how the descendants of Noah’s three sons—Shem, Ham, and Japheth—repopulated the earth, forming the nations known in the rest of the Old Testament story. In terms of the unfolding narrative of Genesis, the chapter is a precursor to the Tower of Babel story (Gen. 11:1-9), where the nations were divided and dispersed by God.

There’s an obvious problem with the Table of Nations—or, for those who simply let the Bible be what it is, an obvious disconnect between the world of the biblical writers and the world we know in modern times. The Table of Nations shows no knowledge whatsoever of the geography belonging to North America, South American, Australia, China, India, and Scandinavia. The same is true of the knowledge of earth’s geography in the New Testament (cp. Acts 2). The known world in biblical times was a fraction of what it actually is.

This is no surprise if we let the Bible be what it is, and let the biblical writers be who they were. The biblical “world” is composed of seventy nations that are situated in what we now call the ancient Near East (or modern Middle East) and which are found on the land masses that surround the Mediterranean Sea. There is no hint in the Scriptures of any land mass beyond this region.

Attempts to make the Bible be something that it isn’t with respect to the true size of the world produced very unfortunate results that ought to be a lesson to us. Once Europeans achieved the ability to cross the Atlantic and circumnavigate the world, people immediately questioned where these other countries and the people who populated them came from. Most Europeans, well familiar with the Bible, presumed these peoples must have come from Adam—but how did the descendants of Noah produce these peoples?

All sorts of strange proposals were offered in answer to these questions from the 16th century onward. Those efforts in turn produced theories of race, including that non-European (non-White) races came from sub-humans or humans separate from, and inferior to, Adam. The rest is, sadly, history. Europeans believed that embracing these explanations, which are inherently flawed and racist, was necessary to preserving biblical authority. Despite their absence in the Table of Nations, the Bible had to speak to the discovery of these new lands and peoples. Such interpretive gymnastics institutionalized racial ideas that the Bible never actually endorses.

The lesson here is that it really does matter whether we are serious about interpreting the Bible in context or not. We can get into serious interpretive trouble if we don’t. If we want to pay more than lip service to the idea of interpretation in context, we must let the Bible be what it is. As one of the academic editors of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, I can say that our editorial team kept this fundamental principle of context in mind throughout our work. My hope is that Lord will use this tool—and this orienting point of interpretation—to make your Bible study all it can be.

Have a look at the NIV Faithlife Study Bible for yourself!

 

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode 150: Ezekiel 35-36

These two chapters seems intrusive. The oracles against the nations ended in Ezekiel 32, followed by the announcement of Jerusalem’s fall (ch. 33) and a transition to the future hope of Israel (ch. 34). Chapters 35-36 are an oracle against Edom (“Mount Seir”) followed by more restorative language in Chapter 36. This episode of the podcast explains why Ezekiel 35 isn’t interruptive because, for the Israelite and OT theology, the judgment of Edom was part of Israel’s restoration to her former glory. Chapter 36, more obviously about the future hope of Israel, raises important questions about eschatology. Specifically, many Bible students assume the chapter’s comments about the coming of the Spirit and restoration of God’s people to the land pertain to a future millennial kingdom. However, the NT quotes the chapter several times, at least two of which have fulfillment in the first century or the OT period itself. Ezekiel 36 therefore raises the issue of whether any element of Ezekiel 36 awaits fulfillment in the distant future—a question that is appropriate the rest of the way (Ezekiel 37-48).

The episode is now live.

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Flashback Friday: Drinking alcohol actually makes your face more attractive.

As we’ve previously reported, beer goggles are a real phenomenon. Well, according to this study, drinking doesn’t just make other people more attractive–it also makes you more attractive. Here, researchers asked (sober) participants to look at photos of people who had been drinking and rank their attractiveness. Turns out that drinking a moderate amount (equivalent to two small glasses of wine) made people more attractive, whereas doubling that amount made them less attractive. The authors

Weapons Physicist Posts Declassified Nuclear Test Videos to YouTube

A trove of footage from early U.S. nuclear weapons tests has just been declassified and uploaded to YouTube.

The film release was part of a project headed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapons physicist Greg Spriggs which aimed to digitize and preserve thousands of films documenting the nation’s nuclear history. The endeavor required an all-hands-on deck approach from archivists, film experts and software engineers, but the team says that this digitized database is alre

The Unseen Realm and the Mission of the Cross (the Church): A Common but Significant Question

This may be controversial in terms of the illustration I’ll use to, but I find the illustration has explanatory power. I think our real problem isn’t how darkness has adapted, but how believers have changed (i.e., their thinking). I’ll try and explain. I just posted this over on the Faithlife Group for Lexham Press. It’s off-the-cuff in many respects since it’s forum material, but it seemed worth posting here as well.


 

I was asked a few weeks ago in Arkansas how the material of the Unseen Realm helps us with our mission as Christians. I’ve been asked that many times. I told the lady who asked about this that I didn’t see ANY institution being the answer to the world’s problems — not government, not the institutional church, nor institutional Christian ministries. The answer is CHRISTIANS. If we honestly had a vision for who we are, by God’s providential design (imager-members of God’s family-council, participating with him and his unseen imagers in advancing the kingdom (releasing the lost from the lies their spiritual overlords have told them — human and non-human), the world we change. It’s winning hearts and minds through sacrifice — like the apostles did. It’s really BELIEVING that this world isn’t our home and then acting like it. It’s taking risks and letting providence guide us, believing that what we do is part of an intelligent plan that we cannot see, but that God is rolling out — person to person.

My controversial illustration was ISIS. Every member of ISIS is single-minded. They are the Borg, for Star Trek fans. Their first thought every day is advancing their agenda. Their last thought every night is what they’ll do tomorrow to advance their agenda. Their vision of what they want the world to be never goes away, never changes, is always the center. Any individual interest is secondary.

How many Christians really think and live like that when it comes to the kingdom of God?  Not enough.

THAT mindset, motivated by the love of Christ, belief in the reality of our hereafter destiny, and confidence that God will use any service of ours to further his end, is, in my view, how spiritual warfare ought to get done, and how it was done in the first century or so. The vision was CONSUMING. Our vision of the kingdom (at least in the West it seems) is peripheral. We don’t see the vision, and so we can’t believe in it, and so we lack power — we fail to assert the power that is already there over darkness, to convince people by our words and actions and sacrificial sharing of our resources and time that the lord of the dead (Satan) is powerless over those in Christ (so let’s act like this life isn’t our real life), that the gospel can heal the self-destructive things we do (something “accelerated” by the Watchers / fallen sons of God in Jewish and earliest church theology), and that the authority of the gods of the nations, put in place by Yahweh as a punishment at Babel has been revoked — and the nations (Gentiles) are now being called back (commanded to return) to the family of God through the seed (Christ) of Yahweh’s inheritance – Israel (cf. Deut 32:8-9; Gen 12:1-3; Paul in Acts 17, and the range of passages where Paul — for some reason! — links the resurrection to the defeat of those fallen gods). Believers in the first century BELIEVED these things, and those things changed the way we live. We don’t believe we have cosmic role to play because we don’t believe in the cosmic arena in which the game is being played. We have lots of sincere Christians who are, basically, believing skeptics. And that affects how they think about their own lives, which in turn affects their vision.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. It’s about vision and abandonment to that vision. Doing what you do every day, no matter how small, to move the mission toward its goal, one person at a time, and believing God incorporates such obedience into his end game. 13 men had that in the first century, and they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). We have the same truth and the same Spirit, but we lack the person-to-person, day-to-day obsession with being salt and light in the way that ISIS wants what it wants (and I for one believe they aren’t acting alone — they are part of what is ultimately a spiritual war).

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Phosphorus Is Vital for Life, and We’re Running Low

All life needs phosphorus and agricultural yields are improved when phosphorus is added to growing plants and the diet of livestock. Consequently, it is used globally as a fertilizer – and plays an important role in meeting the world’s food requirements.

In order for us to add it, however, we first need to extract it from a concentrated form – and the supply comes almost exclusively from phosphate mines in Morocco (with far smaller quantities coming from China, the US, Jordan and South Af