My Gratitude for a Stranger

Dr. Mike likes pugs…so here’s a pug. Photo by Nikita Telenkov on Pexels.com

 

I first became acquainted with the work of Dr. Michael S. Heiser as I searched for commentary on Leviticus in 2017.  I was a freshly-minted believer at the time with very little exposure to theology or the terminology that comes with it.  When I started to hit difficulty and questions in my solo study, I started looking for resources.

At that moment in my life, money was tight, and I couldn’t afford to go about buying commentaries at 50-80 dollars a pop.  I couldn’t be sure I would even understand what was in them, and I had no metric for discerning which among these books would be the best for my needs.  As I’ve said before, academic learning is one of my gifts, but everybody has to start at the beginning.  You learn a new language by starting with the alphabet.  You learn a new instrument by starting with scales.  Nobody can skip the beginning, and that’s where I was.

I read my Warren Weirsbe commentary from the “Be” series on Leviticus.  I went back to Leviticus multiple times and took lots of notes.  I’d learned a lot, but I had a mountain of questions, and I was at the end of what I could accomplish on my own.  I needed to find someone who was giving out answers at my level–preferably free ones.  In pursuit of that end, I began combing YouTube and iTunes for sermons or podcasts.  There wasn’t nearly as much out there as I had hoped.  One name that popped up over and over again was “The Naked Bible Podcast.”  I assumed it was a joke podcast or something irreverent, so I didn’t click on it for a while, but I remember the day I finally did.

In 2017, I lived in a remote area on a military base in Southern California, and our neighborhood was an oasis of untouched federal land smack dab in the middle of the San Diego-to-Los Angeles sprawl.  It was beautiful, and we appreciated it, but it also meant that we spent hours in the car getting back and forth from anywhere.  Anyway, I had a lot of spare time for music, sermons, audiobooks, and podcasts in my car.

And so it follows that on the day I decided to give Naked Bible a try, I was sitting in my car surrounded by gridlock traffic.  Naked Bible had a massive series on the book of Leviticus with 30-ish episodes that clocked in about an hour apiece, and they were the only podcast, at that time, who offered anything remotely like it.  To my surprise and gratification, Naked Bible is not a joke podcast.  Instead, I found myself absorbed into a very serious, clear, and unapologetically academic overview that walked through every verse and nuance of Leviticus without pretention or jargon I didn’t understand.  It was, in short, exactly the kind of content I had been hoping I would find.  That podcast series bridged the gap, and I credit it with giving me the language and confidence I needed to start getting familiar with deeper learning in the Bible.  Because of Heiser, I learned how to read theology books, how to navigate academic commentaries, how to do word studies for the Greek and Hebrew, how to consider historical and cultural context in the Bible, and why all of those things matter for a layperson.

I have never stopped admiring the work of Mike Heiser.  He is a man who loves God and the Bible.  He has dedicated his life and his considerable intellect to making biblical scholarship available to pew-sitting Christians.  Like Warren Wiersbe and Beth Moore, Michael Heiser was one of those early and formative voices I heard after becoming a believer in Jesus, and I will never feel that I have adequately expressed my gratitude to any of them.

So now we come to the point.

Dr. Mike is battling cancer and has been for quite a while.  Treatment has taken a massive physical toll, but this man is still working almost daily.  I have come to believe he must just be constitutionally incapable of not talking about the Bible because despite losing what appears to be half his body weight and suffering from fatigue and pain…he’s still getting up every day and talking about the importance of our Bible.  As long as Heiser is breathing, he will be talking about Jesus, talking about the Bible, and serving the body of Christ in his unique way.

As with anyone we know “from an online platform,” my relationship with Dr. Heiser is quite one-sided.  He doesn’t know me, and I don’t really know him, either.  When his lovely wife or those who work for him publish updates about his health and treatments, I am grateful for the information, but I’m never sure how to respond.  I don’t want to presume familiarity or impose myself, but I also don’t want to neglect giving gratitude and encouragement to this person who has given me so very much.  I don’t want to add to any burden of obligation he might feel from receiving hundreds or thousands of emails and well-wishes from those who have benefitted from his work.  I can happily send along money or type out a “thoughts and prayers” message on social media where he gets tagged, but all of that seems too small.

My solution is to just tell you about Dr. Heiser, ask you to pray for him, and hope that one day he feels up to reading some rando on the internet’s blog post about how important his work has been in the formational years of her faith life.  You can buy Dr. Mike’s books HERE.  You can listen to his podcast HERE.  I highly recommend starting with his book, The Unseen Realm or his podcast series on Leviticus.  After all, that’s where I first met Dr. Mike, and obviously…I found them both useful.

And for Mike…Thank you, Dr. Heiser.  Thank you for writing the books you have written.  Thank you for the Naked Bible Podcast.  Thank you for giving me clarity on inspiration and what a high view of scripture looks like.  Thank you for providing a deep dive on Leviticus to me when I really needed one, and thank you for giving all of that content to the masses for free.  Thank you for refusing to protect people from the Bible, and thank you for telling me that the Bible doesn’t need to be protected from me, either.  Thank you for assuring me that I can’t hurt the Bible by reading it, writing in it, wrestling with it, or asking it all of my questions.  Thank you.  You probably won’t ever understand how much your work means to people like me, but it means a lot.  It matters.  You matter.  I am grateful.

I am praying for you, and because I don’t know you personally, some of that prayer has been pretty selfish on my part.  I want you around sharing this earth with all of us for a long time.  I want you to write more books.  I want you to break down more of the Bible in long format podcasts.  I want more hours of your voice that both teaches and lulls me to sleep at 3am when the insomnia dragons start roaring.  Those desires are very me-focused rather than you-focused, but I figure confessing it is better than not.  But…I also pray that you get to have many more years in the company of your wife and children.  I pray that you are getting good pain management and that you don’t ever have more hurt than you can bear.  I pray that your family is encouraged and supported.  I pray that your treatments will restore you to health.  I pray that you never feel afraid or alone.  I pray that you know, no matter what, that your life matters a great deal to a lot of people in this world you will never meet…and I’m one of those people.

P.S.  What does the “S” stand for?
/grin

 


One thought on “My Gratitude for a Stranger

  1. My thoughts and feelings entirely, though I’ve been a believer 51 years. Cant remember how I stumbled across Mike but it changed the whole direction of my thinking and study and opened so many new doors. Believing loyalty on the basis of the DCW has been the key for me. Amen to all your sentiments here Blessings to you

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