Month: February 2014

Unfollowers by Cooper and Cyzewski

 In 1985, when I was a grad student in Industrial Engineering at Stanford, I took a course on Organizational Death. Why do companies fail, and what lessons can we learn from them? We love success in business and in ministry, so we focus on companies and churches that succeed, trying to learn from their example. I don’t remember much from my courses from almost 30 years ago, but this one had a deep impact on me: profound lessons often come from unexpected places.

Derek Cooper  and Ed Cyzewski know this to be true, and wrote a book that just came out (2014) entitled Unfollowers: Unlikely Lessons on Faith from Those Who Doubted Jesus, which looks at some of the ignored people from the gospels: Judas, the rich, young ruler, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas and others.  What can we learn from this lot?  A lot, check out the book.

Here’s my endorsement:
Who wants to focus on the dropouts and doubters? Scripture does. And Cooper and Cyzewski follow the Bible’s example, apparently believing the radical notion that all Scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching.  They take readers into unexplored areas of the Gospels that are typically ignored, in doing so they enlighten, encourage and exhort their followers into a deeper relationship with their lord and master.  I have no doubt that readers will profit from their wisdom.

If you are intrigued, check out this excerpt from Christianity Today (March 2013), on Judas: “You’re Probably More Like Judas Than You Think“.

Derek Cooper is a colleague of mine here at Biblical Seminary. He teaches World Christian History, and Ed Cyzewski is a graduate of Biblical.  They also co-wrote Hazardous: Committed to the Cost of Following Jesus

Lincoln would be 205 today

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809.  If he weren’t assassinated and didn’t die for any other reason, he’d be 205 today. In the Old Testament, my field, people live a long time.

Most Americans are familiar with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but there is another speech inscribed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, his Second Inaugural address, given on March 4, 1865, just over a month before he died, April 15, 1865.  (See the image below of Lincoln delivering the speech, and notice who is listening intently from the balcony, John Wilkes Booth.)

The speech was obviously political but also surprisingly biblical and theological. Just as Lincoln’s life was about to end, the Civil War was almost over, and the speech reflected on divine providence in recent events, with numerous allusions to Scripture. Frederick Douglass told his president afterwards that it was “a sacred effort.”

Speaking of North and South, Lincoln observes, “Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other.”

He continues, “It may seem strange than any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces (allusion to Gen. 3:19), but let us judge not that we be not judged” (allusion to Matt. 7:1).

While speaking about justice and 250 years of “unrequited toil” piled up by slave owners’ over the course of American history, he was still able to be gracious and humble in his words, granting that God was the ultimate judge: “the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9).

Lincoln concludes, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right…allusions to Psalm 147:3 and James 1:29…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

From our perspective of long speeches and boring sermons, Lincoln’s address was shockingly short, only 701 words, about 7 minutes long.

God give us Lincoln’s wisdom, his brevity, and his ability to connect Scripture to our contemporary context to confront injustice and enslavement. 

Lincoln 2nd Inaugural and Booth

Hiking Oyster Dome, Part 2

Oyster Dome Hike Dave at sunset 4.45 pmIn Hiking Oyster Dome, Part 1, I told about my trip to Logos Bible Software in Washington state to tape two courses (1, 2, Samuel, and 1, 2 Kings). I concluded my week discussing David’s song in 2 Samuel 22 (which is the same as Psalm 18) where he praises his God for being his rock, his deliverer, and his savior. After a full week of taping, on Friday I wanted to head to the woods where I encountered God on my hike to Oyster Dome. After reaching Oyster Dome, I had 5 minutes to enjoy the spectacular view of forest, mountains, coastline, ocean, islands, clouds and sunset before heading back to my car, hoping to arrive before dark. (Review is now over.)

After going down about fifteen minutes, the path didn’t look familiar.  “I don’t remember walking across these logs.”  I had a moment of panic, thinking that I made a wrong turn.  I decided just to backtrack and find the right path.  After walking back about 10 minutes and not seeing an obvious “right path”, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake backing up.  I decided to just keep going the way I had originally gone.

But now the panic really began.  I could easily be 2 hours away from my car.  I wasn’t sure where I was.  Darkness was coming quickly.  I hadn’t seen anyone for 30 minutes.  Did I mention that my cell phone was dead?

The prospect of spending the night in the mountains loomed on the horizon.  I never made it past Cub Scouts, so I wasn’t good at the whole eating nuts and berries, and starting a fire from scratch thing.  No working phone, no flashlight.  I did have a map…and a God who listens to my prayers.

I recalled 2 Samuel 22 that I had taught on that morning, particularly verse 7.

In my distress I called upon the LORD

It’s been awhile since one of my prayers has felt that urgent.  “God, get me back to my car safely.”

I hiked another 10 minutes and found a point on my map that I did recognize.  I had made a wrong turn at the base of Oyster Dome.  Now, I had a choice, 1) Go back the way I had just came, or 2) Descend using my map on an alternate route called “Max’s Shortcut.”  I decided to go with Max (and hoped that that was not where the wild things were) and option 2 since I had already tried backtracking and it didn’t work out.  I had a good trail map.

As I headed down on “Max’s Shortcut,” I thought I should start jogging if it was flat or a slight decline to save time.  It was a bit awkward with my backpack.  I felt like Gimli (not like Aragorn or Legolas).  The sweat started to pore down my face.  My green shirt smelled like a high school boys locker room.

I was making good time and this path was clearly marked. (“Thank you, Jesus.”)  I met no wild things.  I knew where I was and could follow along on my map.  Everything was great until Max’s Shortcut ran into the Larry Reed Trail.  I saw a sign from the distance and was encouraged since I had seen no humans for about an hour.  I ran up to the sign, read it and was devastated.  “Trail Closed Due to Logging Danger.”

In my distress I called upon the LORD

The sign told me to go back the way I had come, which would now take over 2 hours.  It informed me that if I were caught trespassing on this trail I could be fined.  I thought, “I’d be happy to be caught and fined.  That’s better than spending the night in a forest.  But I don’t want to be crushed by a log.”

I decided to take my chances with falling logs with Larry Reed.

At first everything was great.  (“Thank you, Jesus.”)  The trail was clearly marked and relatively flat.  I knew where I was on my map and because I kept jogging I was making great time, until I ran into a clearing where the loggers had done their business.  The path disappeared as an enormous swath of the forest had been harvested.  All that was left was a big, brown gap, with no sign of the path.  I couldn’t make it back without a path.

In my distress I called upon the LORD

 I looked down at my map and noticed that the path through this section was relatively straight, so I tried to guess where the path should reappear on the other side of the clearing to give myself a heading and then starting walking straight.  After climbing through the dirt, and rocks in the clearing, I came to the other side and found my beloved Larry Reed Trail.  (“Thank you Jesus.”)

Ten more minutes of hiking/jogging took me to the Samish Overlook.  The view was amazing, not as high as Oyster Dome, but you were closer to the ocean and had a much wider panorama.  There were people there (Civilization!) who I considered hugging, but then thought better of the idea and just said “hi”.  (Did they think I was a wild thing?)

After a brief stop to take in the view, I was back to my Gimli-esque jogging and reconnected to the Oyster Dome Trail and went down the steep switch-backs knowing that I wouldn’t spend the evening in the wilderness, I wouldn’t be crushed by falling timber, and I wouldn’t be forced to chew on tree bark for sustenance.

About 4:45, I met a serious photographer taking shots of a gorgeous sunset who I convinced to take a picture of me with my iPad.  He’d never used a iPad. (“Just press that circle.”  “I don’t think it took.”  “It probably did.” “I’ll make sure.”  He took 10 pictures.  I included 1—image #3. “It will just be a silhouette.” “That’s OK, people don’t want to see my face anyway.”)

I finally made it down to my car as it was getting dark a few minutes after 5:00, exhausted, sweaty, sore, stinky, but most significantly grateful to the God that not only delivered David the king, also delivered David the hiker.  In the future, whenever I wear my green Samuel shirt I will be reminded of my hike to Oyster Dome and this is what I’ll say:

In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears…
For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name (2 Sam. 22:7, 50).

Hiking Oyster Dome

Dave and Josh Burdick Logos Sign 1.17.2014 2

Recently, I was in Bellingham, Washington taping two courses for Logos Bible Software. For the sake of video consistency while taping each course, I needed to wear the same shirt. Monday through Wednesday morning I wore my red shirt for 1, 2 Kings. Then Wednedsay afternoon through Friday I wore my green shirt for 1, 2 Samuel (as modeled in front of Logos wall with Josh Burdick). My green shirt particularly was getting a bit ripe as the week progressed. By the end of Friday, the shirt would become more pungent.

I concluded my final lecture on Friday morning in Samuel looking at 2 Samuel 22, David’s song of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance, which also happens to be virtually identical to Psalm 18.

And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
3 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.
4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
5 “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;
6 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
7 “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears…
50 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
51 Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever (2 Sam. 22:1-7, 51).

YHWH is David’s “rock” (sela‘ appears five times in the psalm; 22:2, 3, 32, 47 (2)) and his “savior” (forms of “save,” “savior,” “salvation” are scattered throughout the psalm; 22:3, 28, 36, 42, 47, 51).  David’s calls (22:4, 7(2)) and YHWH answers, which then leads David to praise his God (22:4, 47, 50).  Because of many instances of deliverance given to David over his enemies (Goliath, Saul, the Philistines, Absalom to name a few), he will praise his God for his steadfast love.  David speaks of himself as the anointed, but the conclusion to this psalm also points forward to about 1000 years, to David’s most important offspring, the one who brought salvation not just to David, but to the whole world, the anointed one, Jesus.

A few hours after concluding the taping of my 1, 2 Samuel course by speaking about this psalm, I, like David, had an opportunity to praise my God for an instance of deliverance.

After spending my days in the studio, and my evening reviewing my notes for the next day, I needed some time in the wild, so on Friday afternoon I decided to go for a hike.  I drove my rental about 20 minutes south away from Bellingham on Highway 11 down the scenic Chuckanut Drive, and parked at the Pacific NW Trailhead.  The helpful people at the tourist information booth that morning had told me it should take 3-5 hours to hike up to Oyster Dome.  The path would be extremely steep (1900 foot gain), but the view would be worth it, which sounded like the perfect way to unwind from a busy week.

I started my hike at 2:00, a bit late, particularly considering the fact that the sun goes down about 4:30, but I figured I’d go for an hour or so, then turn around and come back.  No worries.

The path was steep, so the coat came off, and the green shirt became even more pungent.  Fortunately, there was no one around to appreciate my aroma (but I never saw any wildlife…).

It was great to be outside, walking among the towering pine trees, enjoying God’s creation.

About 45 minutes up, I had the opportunity to go to the Samish Overlook to my right (15 more minutes), or go straight all the way up to Oyster Dome (45 more minutes).  As I was debating at the intersection of the two paths, leaning toward the shorter hike to the overlook, a group of three hikers came down the path from Oyster Dome.  I told them about my predicament.  They said “Definitely go up to Oyster Dome. It’s worth it.”  I thought, OK, I’ll have the Oysters then. (I should chosen the Overlook.)

The trail became less steep, but also more rough, crossing creeks, waterfalls and slippery rocks.  In my haste, I fell down a couple of times, which doesn’t usually happen to me on hikes.  Also, as the sun got lower in the sky, the thickness of the woods made it more difficult to see.  The path also was less obvious, but I passed groups of people every 15 minutes or so, which made it seem safer.

About 3:25 I finally made it to the top, the three hikers were right, it was spectacular.  Forests, mountains, coastline, ocean, islands, clouds and approaching sunset (image #2)…wait, sunset, that’s not a good thing, I still have 90 minutes of hiking to go.  But if I go quickly down I should be able to make it back to my car by about 4:45, right as its getting dark.

I spent about 5 minutes enjoying the view, then I headed back down the path.

That’s when the troubles began, but I’ll save those for Part 2

Oyster Dome View Sun No Dave 3.30