Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two guys named Erik

(By one guy named Erik)

Imagine how confusing it was to be named Erik and to have a roommate named Erik (also spelled with a ‘k’).

That was my life 10 years ago when I was a graduate student at the University of Georgia. My roommate (through three apartments, I might add) was Erik Benson, a doctoral student in the history department who grew up in Michigan.

Dr. Benson and his wife, Dawn, live in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Erik is a history professor at Cornerstone University (that’s him in the center of the photo if you click on the link). Dawn, who has a master's in journalism from UGA, works on the university's publications.

Benson (as I call him to avoid confusion) was in Oklahoma this weekend for a history conference at Oklahoma Baptist University. Jeanie and I met him for lunch in Bricktown. It was his first trip to Oklahoma since our wedding.

It was halftime during the Georgia-Colorado game, and Colorado (complete with its 114th-ranked offense) was up 10-0. Benson could see the TV in Chelino’s, so he gave us score updates. (Georgia just barely pulled it out at the last second and won 14-13. Whew!)

It was great having another Georgia fan around for the afternoon, and it was great hearing about Benson and Dawn’s adventures (including burning their feet at the Taj Mahal in India).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A classic case of 'man bites panda'

Here's a snippet of a story that appeared on the BBC's Web site today:


Man bites panda after zoo attack

A drunken Chinese tourist says he bit a panda who attacked him after he jumped into a zoo enclosure to "hug" the bear.

Zhang Xinyan, 35, had drunk four draught beers before deciding to enter the Beijing Zoo pen belonging to six-year-old male panda Gu Gu.

The startled Gu Gu bit both legs of his intruder, who responded by biting "the panda on its back", Mr Zhang was quoted by state media as saying.

Mr Zhang said he had not realised pandas could be violent.

He told the Beijing Morning Post that he had come to the Chinese capital "only to see the pandas".

"The seven-hour train ride was exhausting, and I drank bottles of beer when I arrived then had a nap," he added.


When asked to describe how the panda tasted, Mr. Xinyan said, "It was finger Ling-Ling good."

(I stole that joke from The Simpsons, of course — ET)

Monday, September 18, 2006

A giant casket on the side of the highway ...

(By Erik)

Yesterday I filled in for a minister in Minco, a small town about 30 minutes north of Chickasha in western Oklahoma. I taught the Sunday morning Bible class and did the sermon. I had a great time.

In case you're interested, I'm including a few of my sermon notes. I started things off by telling a little bit about the trip Jeanie and I took to Austin, Texas, recently. Click here to read a blog piece I wrote on that. The intro and conclusion of the sermon were basically the intro and conclusion of the blog piece.

A lot of these notes are sentence fragments. Apologies.


A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a missionary in Africa who told me about a ministry for children with autism and other special needs at the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ in Austin.

The ministry had just baptized a 15-year-old autistic boy, Alex, who had learned to communicate by pointing at the letters on a printed page. This kid was amazing. After he learned how to communicate, his mom found out how intelligent he really is.

• Didn’t realize the role this ministry played in giving the parents of these children a sense of hope, and much-needed time to worship the Lord — and time together.

• Also didn’t realize what an outreach it was, how kids from outside the church — outside Christianity even — came to be a part of the ministry.

• What struck me the most, though, was Alex’s mother and her reaction to her son’s condition. She explained that Alex had taught her that she can’t do everything for herself. God put Alex in her life so that she would start to get a glimpse of her own dependence on God.

Now, those who don’t believe in God would consider kids like Alex to be unfortunate, scientific anomalies. Genetic mistakes that we should learn to correct. But God uses kids like Alex to enrich the life of Brentwood Oaks and Alex himself teaches us about God’s love for us and our need for him. It’s amazing how God works through us to change the very meaning of the things around us.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

6Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

There are plenty of examples of God using the weak — or apparently weak — to shame the strong. Most of us know the story of David and Goliath, how a 9-foot giant was slain by a boy with a sling.

Most of us also know the story of Gideon, from the book of Judges. God chose Gideon to fight the Midianites, but just before the battle he reduced the size of Gideon’s army.

Judges 7: 1-7

1 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.

2 The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' " So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." 6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place."

God uses small things. Here we have a specific case of God saying, “This is why I’m doing this — so no man can boast.”

The fact that we all rely on God for our being is emphasized throughout Scripture, including the book of Romans.

Romans 9:20-21

20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "[h] 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

I used to think that these verses meant that God meant some of us for greatness and some of us for common things — some of us to be ministers for churches with thousands of members and others of us to be the people who show up every Sunday and unlock the building and fill the communion cups. (My father-in-law does that, by the way).

But if you look at the context, that’s not really the point Paul is making in his letter to the Romans. Right after verse 21 he talks about “the objects of his wrath” that are “prepared for destruction.” So the “common” objects here may refer to those who don’t follow God. I don’t think that God considers any of his followers to be “common” people — even if the world does. There is no “common purpose” in the church.

Look at the life of Stephen if you want proof of this. Stephen is described as a great man of faith, but when we first hear about him in Acts he’s chosen for what seems like a very “common” purpose

Acts 6: 1-6

1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The next time we hear from Stephen, he’s arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. He makes a stirring speech about Jesus, and it costs him his life.

Acts 7:54-60

54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56"Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

I’ve always imagined the Sanhedrin talking amongst themselves while Stephen is telling them about Jesus so boldly and asking, “Who is this guy, anyway? Is he the leader of this sect of Christ followers?”

“No, I think he runs the church’s food pantry for the widows.”

Sometimes God transforms the very roles and labels that we give each other.

The reason Stephen was willing to die was that he realized the transforming power of God — and how through his Son, God transformed the very meaning of death itself.

A friend recently told me about a conversation he had while riding in a car with a coworker on I-35. They passed the giant cross next to Life Church. The coworker, who isn't a Christian, said (trying to irritate my friend, no doubt) "What would people think if I built a giant casket right next to it?"

That’s what that is! Way to go! You got the point!

The Romans never intended for the cross to be sold in every Wal-Mart in America. It was never intended to be a symbol of hope. It was a symbol of cruel torture. But Jesus transformed the meaning of the Cross.

He transformed the meaning of death itself.

1 Corinthians 15: 54-57

54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."[g] _ 55"Where, O death, is your victory? _ Where, O death, is your sting?"[h] 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It constantly amazes me how God can change the meaning of our lives.

• A weak boy with rocks and sling becomes king of great empire.

• A tiny army beats the odds and defeats a huge foe while barely firing a shot.

• The administrator of a church pantry becomes a martyr whose death ignites a wave of persecution. That martyr becomes a symbol of faith, and is the spark that ignites a worldwide phenomenon.

• A Roman instrument of torture becomes a worldwide symbol of hope

• A small church in Minco, Oklahoma, becomes a beacon of hope for an entire community.

• And a boy who science considers a genetic miscalculation teaches an entire congregation about overcoming adversity and the power of belief.

1 Corinthians 15:58

58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Another Saturday, another shutout

(By Erik)

How ‘bout them Dawgs!

The Georgia Bulldogs rolled to an easy 34-0 rout of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Blazers just a few minutes ago. It was the Dawgs second-straight shutout. They beat the accursed Steve Spurrier and the Gamcocks 18-0 at South Carolina last week. (Steve subsequently made himself all the more accursed by using profanity to insult his own team in the press conference after the game. The man has absolutely no class.)

It’s the first two-game shutout since our 1980 national championship season. (Not that I’m making a prediction or anything. We’ve got a freshman quarterback and a LOT of tough opponents to play!)


Friday, September 15, 2006

This takes me back!

1978 Kenner toys Star Wars commercial

(By Erik)

As you can guess, I had most of these. (The radio-controlled R2-D2 went off the market quickly, if memory serves. It didn't work very well.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Dawgs done good

(By Erik)

My Georgia Bulldogs shut our Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks 18-0 tonight. Not a pretty game — we threw three interceptions — but we got the job done.

How bout them Dawgs! We're 2-0 in a rebuilding year.