Archives For Clint Archer

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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keep-calmIn 1988 Bobby McFerrin dropped his enormously popular hit that would become the first a capella song to summit the Billboard Top 100 chart to reach the #1 spot.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” resonated with a generation of those who identify as overstressed, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.

The lyrics, sung in an affected accent amid the bobbing and weaving of McFerrin’s own vocal gymnastics, became an anthem for the economically oppressed urbanites and a mantra for the angst-ridden collegiate coeds. Many know more stanzas of this song than of the national anthem.

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, (ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha) be happy (look at me, I’m happy)

Ooo-oo-hoo-hoo-oo hoo-hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooo Don’t worry
Woo-oo-woo-oo-woo-oo-ooo Be happy […etc. …]

The problem with this cheerful chant is that it is misleading; it posits that the opposite of worry is happiness. Let’s delve into a verse of Scripture that brings rich theological protein to this otherwise unsubstantial cotton-candy advice.

Philippians 4:5-6 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,

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Here are some practical tips I found on the net on how to be happy:

  1. Get regular exercise, be healthy. Go for a brisk walk, get health issues you are in control of sorted out and stay hydrated by drinking copious amounts of filtered water.
  2. Socialize with happy people. Studies have shown that spending time with good friends who have a positive outlook on life dramatically increases subjective reports of wellbeing and happiness.
  3. Learn a new skill. When people focus on learning a new language, craft, or sport they exhibit higher levels of happiness.
  4. Engage frequently in simple activities that bring you pleasure. The concept of “flow” is that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and happiness one experiences when doing something enjoyable and doing it well. One simple example is eating a favorite food as a treat— in moderation of course.

And here are some tips I found for caring for my dog’s wellbeing:dog-out-a-window

  1. Regularly take your dog for a brisk walk for exercise, give him lots of fresh water, and get health issues sorted out quickly.
  2. Socialize your dog by making an effort to get him out to parks where there are other dogs.
  3. Train your dog and teach him skills.
  4. Let your dog engage in activities that bring him pleasure like hanging his head out the window, and give your dog an enjoyable treat to eat—in moderation.

Of mutts and men

I’m not sure what insight is to be found in how similar and environmentally sensitive canine and human happiness is. But there is another aspect in which dogs and humans correlate. One site on K-9 police dogs said that the animal’s wellbeing is inextricable from his relationship with his handler.

If he has a kind master who provides for physical needs, expresses love and affection through touch and tone of voice, and spends time with the dog, he will be almost oblivious to any other circumstance besides what the master requires of the dog. And this total obedience is born out of the canine’s trust in his handler.

I wish the psychology websites included this in their advice on how humans can be happy.

Thankfully, Christians already know that joy stems from being in a right relationship with a loving, generous, and trustworthy Master through obedience.

One compact and clear verse that teaches this is Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

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December 26, 2016

The Day After Christmas

by Clint Archer

giftsThe Christmas truce of  Christmas Eve, 1914 was a wonderful parenthesis of respite in the animosity of what would become the bloodiest war in human history.

As reports have been collated of that mysterious peace that washed over the Western Front on that silent night, it seems it all started with well-wishing and spontaneous singing of Christmas hymns. The Germans offered their hearty a cappella rendition of Stillenacht from their muddy trenches. In good cheer, from the British side—and by some accounts even in some French trenches—hymns of praise to God resounded throughout the empty battlefields.

Captain Robert Patrick Miles of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry division wrote in a letter that was published in the Daily Mail in January 1915:

Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”

But what happened the day after Christmas? The opponents on either side of no man’s land cocked their guns and fired at each other with an aim to kill. Captain Miles, who wrote the letter above, was killed in action before New Year’s Eve.

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muddy_christmasChristmas is traditionally a time for family. And since no family tree can be completely homogenous Christians will be dining with unbelievers on Christmas Day. And sadly, some Christians I know are dreading that time.

You know the type: the believing bubble babies who were birthed into a Christian home, were either homeschooled or attended Christian school K-thru-college, and got a job in a sanitized and Christianized office where even the janitor has a fish sticker on his minivan. They get their teeth whitened by a Christian dentist and their oil changed by a Christian mechanic.

But the one time of the year they can’t escape rubbing shoulders with spiritual grime is at Christmas. Perhaps they even wish God would do some pruning of their family tree to make life neater.

Having been an unbeliever for many years I have news for that crew: your unbelieving family members are also dreading time with you. They view you as an annoying, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hypocrite.

This species of believer is not going to change its ways by reading a blog post. They will either mature into loving, gracious, witnesses for Christ, or they will become more entrenched in their judgmental ways until no family invites them over anymore. But if you are one, and would like to try change, here is one simple strategy to employ this Christmas to be less abrasive to unbelieving family and friends: accept that mud is muddy.

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priorityIn 2010 Argentine soccer legend, Diego Maradona, graced South Africa with his presence as the coach of their formidable World Cup squad. The advance team prepared every hotel room to Maradona’s specifications. The flurry of activity in anticipation of his arrival included making sure all the rooms that the team would occupy were painted pristine white and were equipped with six Play Station video game consuls, and—I’m not making this up—an imported, electronic toilet known as the E-bidet, complete with a heated seat, front and rear water sprayers, and an air dryer.

Not only was Maradona particular about the accommodation, but his meal requests were a tad on the extravagant side: ten hot dishes per day, twenty-four different salads at each meal, three different pasta sauces with every meal, three different desserts, a barbecue every third day, and my personal favorite: a 24/7 unlimited supply of…ice cream. And I doubt this was for the professional athletes in coach Maradona’s team.

In Luke’s Gospel we meet a lady who volunteered to host God, in human flesh, and his team of ravenous disciples. And apparently she was expecting a persnickety prima-donna, not the simple tastes of a humble servant.

Three scenes from which we can glean lessons from Martha’s misplaced priorities so that we put Jesus in his rightful place this Christmas season.

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’Tis the season to be controversial. Regrettably, Christians can be vulnerable to a form of orthorexia when it comes to celebrating or conscientiously objecting to the celebration of Christmastime.

Let’s first take a step back.

Orthorexia is when people try to eat so perfectly that they end up obsessing about their health to the detriment of their health.orthorexia

In the vegetarian—excuse me, “plant-based”—community there is wide consensus that humans should not be consuming cow-flesh. Motivation for this commitment is rooted in one of three factors, but often results in an equal-part blend of the following reasons:

  1. The undeniable health concerns (immediate improvement: watch Forks Over Knives, and/or longevity: read The China Study).
  2. The alarming environmental threats caused by cow flatulence and overgrazing (watched Cowspiracy yet?).
  3. The ethical convictions (Sir Paul McCartney’s Glass Walls stomach churning expose). Usually the motivation to go plant-based or at least plant-strong is firmly rooted in one of these factors and then blends in parts of the other two. But from that irreducible common ground the denominationalism begins its interminable divergence into branches and sub-branches of vegetarianism.

Some vegetarians who would never consume beef, pork, mutton, or poultry (notice how labels for meat distance the product from its source?) have no issue with scarfing down some shrimp and calamari with their gluten infused veggie cheese and egg burgers. Purist herbivores would label those dilettanti as pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian—the lowest rung of plant-strong compromisers. The class structure among eaters reflects their commitment to the cause. Orwell might say: “All animal products are equal, but some are more equal than others,” right?

If you really want to repent of your unorthodox omnivore ways you need to eschew all animal products and thus achieve the enlightened state of veganism. Eco-ethical vegans (as opposed to dietary vegans) will not even wear leather Birkenstocks, nor read from a calf-skin Bible. But vegans still gobble up grain and bread, with all its sticky gluten-rich glory. Gluten is a dietary gremlin that allegedly wreaks havoc with your gut flora, causing symptoms like bloating in an increasingly swelling segment of the population.

As you narrow the filter and strain out those pesky paleo-types you get the “glugan,” or gluten-free vegan. From there it goes down to fruitarians, raw whole food only (meaning no cooked veggies or supplements either), raw whole food juice only, and eventually to a diet plan that looks harrowingly similar to Gandhi’s guide to a successful hunger strike.

At this point of deprivation you are orthorexic. Your weekly meal plan looks as empty as a prisoner’s day planner. You might call it your John the Baptist Diet (not to be confused with its diametric opposite: the Typical Baptist Pastor’s Diet).

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love-buttonWhether you are for or against the sport of hunting, I’m confident you’d agree that there are certain dangers attached to the activity, especially when there are other hunters afoot. And it’s safe to assume that the risk of those dangers would be increased when visibility is diminished. It is obviously safer (for the humans) to hunt in daylight than in the fog.

Honorable hunters adhere to a code: they don’t use laser scopes, for example, as this can cause the animal to freeze in a proverbial “deer-in-the-headlights” fashion, which is frowned upon as unsporting—as if binocular vision, opposable thumbs, and access to a firearm doesn’t make fairness a moot point anyway.

As fundamental as visibility is to hunting, in Texas (of course) even the blind are permitted to use guns. Visually impaired hunters, however, are only permitted to pull the trigger when accompanied by a surrogate sighted guide who peers over their shoulder and gives the all clear.

A hunting blind is a structure used to mask the scent and visibility of the hunter from his prey. But blind hunting inverts the logic of that effort, rendering the prey impossible to spot while the hunter is exposed. It wouldn’t be illegal to hunt wearing a blindfold; it would just be obtuse.

And yet in a similarly obtuse way, Christians who seek for a spouse online are willingly impairing their ability to discern.

From time to time a millennial congregant will ask—on behalf of a friend, of course—if it is biblically permissible for Christians to subscribe to online dating sites. I explain that although the concordance at the back of a study Bible doesn’t have the words “online” or “eHarmony” listed, the word of God is still as relevant today as it was for forlorn singles in the Ancient Near East, such as Adam, Isaac, and the 200 Benjamite bachelors of Judges 21.

One possible misstep when scouring the Bible for advice on spouse-seeking, is to view narrative descriptions as patterns to emulate. I hope it’s incontestable that neither waiting for God to supernaturally create a bride from your rib as Adam did, nor the kidnapping plot of the Benjamites, are intended to be normative for Christian singles.

The truth is that God’s word deliberately leaves great liberty in the area of match-making. But just because a method may be permissible does not mean it is wise. “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable.”

So, in honor of Cyber Monday, here are some essential factors in romantic matches that online dating robs you of:

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November 21, 2016

Proof of Love

by Clint Archer

Private First Class John Eddington held his newborn daughter, Margret, in his arms shortly before he was deployed to liberate Europe from the Nazi occupation. The year was 1944. Before his departure he composed a poignant three page letter expressing his intense love for baby Peggy, as he called her.love-letter

Almost immediately upon arriving in Italy, PFC Eddington was killed in action.

His wife kept the precious letter in a box in the attic for the day Peggy would be old enough to read it for herself. But as time passed Mrs. Eddington forgot about the existence of the letter, and almost never mentioned her late husband. Consequently, Peggy grew up never knowing how much her father loved her.

But in 2014, someone rummaging through Peggy’s late mother’s possessions discovered the box containing a letter addressed to “My Darling Daughter.” The letter was delivered to its rightful recipient. When Peggy, now seventy years old, read the letter she learned for the first time what had been in her father’s heart when he got news that he was leaving for the war. He assured her that she would always be on his mind.

“I love you so much,” John had written. “Your mother and daddy … are going to give you everything we can. We will always give you all the love we have.” He concluded with the words: “I love you with all my heart and soul forever and forever. Your loving daddy.”

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On 7 November, 2007, Trevor Arnold was piloting a Boeing 737 from Cape Town to Johannesburg when it experienced some technical difficulty a few seconds after takeoff. To be exact, its right engine fell off.

engine-offMr. Arnold recalled from his training at flight school that it was a bad sign when engines start falling off your plane.

His job was simple: land the plane. But if it was just the engine that was gone, that would have been a relatively good day for Mr. Arnold.

During the incident, the aircraft also lost most of its hydraulics, meaning that brakes and steering were virtually non-existent. But that’s not all. The whole incident took place in stormy weather with dangerously strong crosswinds. The outcome? Arnold maintained his composure, harnessed his training and instincts, and successfully landed the Boeing without anyone on board sustaining any injuries.

Many people refused to fly with that airline again but I booked my next flight on that airline with great confidence. This was the only airline that I knew for certain had pilots who could handle a plane in freak, catastrophic conditions. I know all pilots have to go through training and simulations, and all claim to be able to handle emergencies. But the only person in the world I know for a fact can do it, is Trevor Arnold.

Why? Because only Trevor Arnold’s skills have been proven in real life.

Most passengers have no idea how well qualified their pilots are until their skill is proven in a trial by fire. And that’s what the Apostle Peter said about Christians. No one knows their faith is genuine until that faith has been exposed to intense conditions and shown to be true under fire.

Last week we looked at the grand design behind fiery trials; this week we examine the results of trials.

THREE RESULTS FIERY TRIALS HAVE ON OUR FAITH…

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