Archives For Clint Archer

great expectationsCharles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations, chronicles a tale of a young, poor boy, named Pip. The little guy is an apprentice blacksmith and has no hope of ever being rich on his own merit. He is fascinated by the genteel society and opulence of the upper crust. His fantasy is to one day be a gentleman himself. Then one fine day he is visited by an attorney who informs him that he has come into some serendipitous fortune of property and unimagined wealth.

Pip’s dream of being a gentleman is suddenly within reach. But he soon discovers that his great expectations of fitting into the haut monde of 19th century London will require more than just the position his money affords him.

His practice belies his origins. So, with the help of a friend, he is discipled in the arcane ways of etiquette and sophistication. He painstakingly observes and mimics the nuances of the behavior, fashion, and mannerisms of those he now considers his peers. He masters the accentuation of their speech and employs skilled tailors to create fashionable clothing that completes the metamorphosis from urchin to elite.

In the same way any of us may be suddenly declared holy and righteous by God in our position, but our speech, conduct, and attitudes will undergo incremental improvement before our practice matches our position. We call that metamorphosis sanctification.

Last week we saw the Apostle Peter laying a foundation of hope, building his argument on… four foundation stones of salvation.

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One disturbing memory of my early childhood involved a TV show I saw when I was six years old. My parents were away for the weekend, and had left me with my grandmother. She plopped me in front of the hit TV series, The A-Team. Little did she know that it was the night Murdock would be shot.

I had learned to know and love BA, Hannibal, Face, and of course Murdock. What my parents liked about the show was that while many bullets flew around in each episode, no one ever got shot.

Until that fateful night.

In the melee of some fisticuffs with random bad guys, one of them pulled out a gun and shot Murdock in the stomach. I was horrified. My grandmother tried to explain to me that he wasn’t really hurt, that it was part of the story. She first tried the tactic of convincing me it was not real blood. But it looked real to me, and Murdock seemed to think it was real. His teammates looked concerned too. He appeared to be seriously hurt.

Then she changed tactics. The comfort she then proffered was that the writers of the show knew all along that he was going to get shot, and they knew how they are going to save him. I just had to give it time and I’d see the pre-written plot unfold and work out for the good of Murdock and the A-Team in the end.Hannibal-Smith

Sure enough Murdock lived to see another season of the A-Team. I learned to take comfort in the truth that as long as the writers knew what was going to happen, they were in control, and all would work out in the end. Or as Hannibal would quip with smug satisfaction: “I love it when a plan comes together!”

That is the same tactic the Apostle Peter employs when comforting Christians of the dispersion, whose homes had been raided by Nero’s gestapo. Perhaps they had lost jobs, or even loved ones to martyrdom. His purpose was to encourage them so that they would stand firm in their faith. So, Peter lays a foundation of hope because this is the best antidote for suffering.

Over the next three Mondays we shall see four foundation stones, or building blocks, of salvation…

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transfigurationJesus invited Peter, James, and John to summit a mountain with him. He then peeled back his humanity and revealed an unprecedented, electrifying display of unveiled glory. Oh, and then he was joined by two luminaries who had been dead for centuries. And then, just when they thought this jaw-dropping experience could not possibly get any more intense, the voice of God the Father resounded with a declaration of his unreserved approval.

Naturally, the three witnesses were gobsmacked. And very much in character, a star-struck Peter blurts out exactly what would have been swimming in my dazed thoughts in a mesmerizing moment like that: I don’t want this to end. Ever. Let’s set up a tent-town and soak this experience up forever.

But then—in a flash—it’s all over.

The dazzled disciples descend from the charged mountaintop experience and, before their brains have had time to acclimatize to the sudden loss of experiential altitude, they are immediately accosted with the frightful and gritty melee of a demon possessed burn victim thrashing about in a fit, while onlookers desperately call for Jesus to intervene.

I find this scene in Matthew 17 to be an apt analogy for what it’s like coming home to ministry after a glorious, edifying, encouraging pastors’ conference.

It is an experience that is difficult to relate to anyone who hasn’t had it. But when a church sends its pastor to a conference like the Shepherds’ Conference Summit, or T4G, or Desiring God, or any well-executed gathering of pastors, it is a boon that can be a defibrillator for the pastor’s heart.

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I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch. I’ve plunged into various predicaments because I couldn’t say no. This weakness almost derailed my career path the day the US military recruiters showed up at my seminary.dress whites

They wanted military chaplains. Being a chaplain was so far away from my calling that I expected to be impervious to their pitch. But their chapel speaker, a major in the Navy in a Top Gun-esque white uniform and impressive physique, preached up a storm. He regaled us with how he got to start Bible studies on submarines off the coast of Iraq, how he would disciple pilots while jogging with them on the aircraft carrier, and how he counseled combat troops in exotic locations.

After chapel, a gaggle of awestruck students fluttered to the recruiters like moths to the flame. The recruiters in their smart uniforms all smelled so good and beamed friendly smiles. They talked of seeing the world and being all you can be. They had pictures of happy soldiers with gleaming guns repelling from helicopters like my childhood GI Joe fantasies.

I…was…mesmerized.

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Norma McCorvey passed away at age 69 on Saturday.

Her journey to notoriety began in June 1969 when she attempted to get an abortion. Her lying failed to secure legal permission, and her scheme to obtain an illegal abortion also ended unsuccessfully. She then gathered a diabolical duo of fee-hungry attorneys to gear up for a protracted legal fight. Fortuitously, the baby reached full term before the menacing lawsuit did, and in 1970 the suit was filed under the alias Jane Roe. The Dallas County DA was Henry Wade, and thus the infamous case was christened Roe v. Wade.one missing

By the time the case popped out of the Supreme Court, the law was on the side of executing unborn people, a monstrous legality that began to rapidly and incessantly devour millions of unborn babies. Legally.

The rest, as they say, is history. And a bloody one at that.

But in 1994, Norma McCorvey flipped sides. She made the acquaintance of pastor Flip Benham who ran a pro-life outfit based adjacent to the pro-choice reproductive health clinic (read: infant abattoir) where McCorvey was working.

On her outdoor smoke breaks she would engage in heated banter with the pro-lifer next door. She eventually began to see him as a caring man, and even agreed to visit his church. Within a year she publicly declared that she had converted to Christianity, and was baptized in a backyard pool on national television.
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On my first trip to America I spent some time in the state of Connecticut. As soon as I arrived my hosts sat me down and told me a story of a kid they knew who had found a tiny red bump on his upper thigh. He was embarrassed to let anyone see it and, since it didn’t hurt or itch, he didn’t tell anyone about it. Then the spot became tender and painful. But he still didn’t tell anyone. When the sore turned into a rash, he decided it was time to tell someone, but he procrastinated.

kidThe rash then subsided, and he was relieved that he hadn’t told anyone. A few days later he felt an ache in his knee. He didn’t think anything of it. Then the ache appeared in his elbow. He still didn’t tell anyone. When he broke out in a fever and chills his parents rushed him to a doctor.

The physician asked the boy specifically if he had noticed a rash, bump, or any joint pain. He now felt embarrassed about not having mentioned this to his parents earlier and so he denied having experienced any of the symptoms.

The doctor prescribed medication to suppress flu symptoms and assured him he’d be better in a few days. The boy died. The cause of death was a bacterium, borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by deer ticks, but the boy could have easily been cured with a common antibiotic had he reported the first symptom, a small red bump.

I was then informed that the disease was named after the town a stone’s throw away from us: a town called Lyme. “The moral of the story is,” my hosts grimly explained, “we don’t care where it’s located, if you see a little red bump on your body, you tell us immediately. Hiding the symptom will only make it worse.”

A relatively harmless disease can turn deadly if left untreated. And exactly the same can be said of what we think of as a relatively harmless sin, which is why the Lord wants us to regularly and speedily confess our sins and repent of them.

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ant farmAs a kid I didn’t have an X-Box or Apple Wii. I had an ant-farm. It was perched on the desk in my bedroom. I derived a simple, if voyeuristic, fascination from hours of observing these industrious creatures in their diminutive universe, bustling about their business, oblivious to my all-seeing gaze. I would ensure they always had ample nutritious sustenance to stockpile, and even the occasional sugary delight. And I vigilantly protected them from the clumsy curiosity of our dogs.

But one day they discovered a tiny crack in the plastic, and they staged an adventurous emigration into my room. I began to find ants on my desk, in my closets, under my bed.

At first I was compassionate and patient. Scooping up each escapee and whisking it back to the comfort of the well-stocked farm. Until one day I got tired of having a nation of ungrateful tenants that were constantly rebelling. So I picked up the whole contraption and tossed it into the garbage on the street, cast from my presence.

I suppose it’s this type of petulance in my character that makes me appreciate God’s patience with me. But the scene of that ant-farm rebellion is also a picture of another species of recalcitrant rebels who are puny in comparison to the one who provides their sustenance and safety.

Let’s see, in four scenes of Psalm 2, what God thinks of humans who rage against being subject to his rule…

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old school immigrationSo, I have never done this before, but I just received an e-mail from a friend who is a politician in the USA, and I punched out a quick reply that I thought I’d post here for your comment to help me think through the issue of refugees, immigrants (legal & illegal).
Disclaimer: I am not American, but am married to one and father of four of them, so I have a keen interest in what happens on the other side of the pond. Naturally, I am removed from all the nuances of the debate, which is why I’m hoping your comments can help elucidate the issue for me.
Another disclaimer: I typed this out 20 mins before the blog went live, so it hasn’t even been proofread by my editor!

Hi Clint,

Have you blogged on the U.S. refugee crisis? If not, are you able to share your thoughts? I’m conflicted on role of church in U.S. versus role of government in this situation. Generally supportive of recent measures to limit refugees based on national security. But empathetic to arguments on the other side. Thoughts?
My reply…

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trump tower protestWith President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration behind him a dilemma faces those who marched on Trump Tower waving signs that declared “NOT MY PRESIDENT.” They can either submit to the reality ushered in by the inauguration day—that Donald Trump is now POTUS—or they can ignore reality and keep protesting.

If they remain at Trump Tower they will look rather pathetic since their target has now moved to his new, blanched digs. If they do show up at the White House it will prove that in some begrudging respect those who aver that he is not their president tacitly concur that he is in fact the president of their country.

At least they have the security blanket of term limits for consolation.

This cognitive dissonance will thrive in the afterglow of the Oxford Dictionary’s party to unveil its word-of-the-year: “post-truth” (which is actually two words, but ignoring that fact is the epitome of post-truth, which makes the choice even edgier).

The same existential crisis loomed heavy over the Jews of Jesus’ day. Here was a man who claimed to be the King of the Jews, the fulfillment of the prophecies that he would rule in power and justice and liberate his people. But he was submissive to authority, happy to pay taxes to Caesar, not looking for any trouble with the Roman oppressors, and generally not very regal in his behavior. He might be their king, but he was not yet the king of their country. Some Jews rejected him outright as “not my king” and others were devoted followers, acknowledging him as their king, and eagerly awaiting the day his kingdom arrived.

So did the kingdom of God come when Jesus came?

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R.C. Chapman was a well-heeled young gentleman living in 19th Century England, and he had a lot going for him. He was born with the proverbial silver spoon dangling from his mouth, he excelled at his elite school, and he established a law practice at a prodigious age. The cherry on top of that generous dollop of smiling providence was a small fortune he inherited at age twenty-three. Naturally, it could be assumed that the young man was set for life and would settle into a comfortable life of ease and merriment. But that prognosis would overlook the dramatic effect sanctification has on true Christians.

At age twenty Chapman was born again. Before his thirtieth birthday he calmly and deliberately veered off the promising professional path onto the sparse road less travelled, to become the pastor of a small church in Barnstaple, Devon. He also invested his considerable wealth directly into the work of that ministry, leaving himself with nothing beyond a modest home and bare necessities.RC_Chapman

Chapman had a remarkable trust in God’s provision and a gushing generosity. A story is told how that once he travelled to preach at a conference and gave away all his travel money at the conference, leaving him no ticket to get back. He was paid an honorarium but by the time he got to the train station he had given that away to a needy soul he encountered. His companion asked how he intended to pay for the train. Chapman replied confidently, “To whom does the money belong, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

At the station a man disembarking the arriving train recognized Chapman and hurried over to him and handed him a five-pound note, saying, “I have had this in my pocket for some time, and am glad I met you.” The man left and after a moment Chapman playfully asked his companion, “To whom does the money belong?

Some would call R.C. Chapman presumptuous.

But let me ask you this: Do think it is more Christlike to presume that God will provide… or to fret and worry that he won’t?

It’s easier to preach on some texts than to live them! One such passage is Philippians 4:6-7.

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