Archives For Clint Archer

corks with datesAs every sommelier worth his saltine crackers knows: good wine comes from tortured grapes. It is a dusty secret Californian vintners accidentally unearthed that the more the grape has to struggle for survival, the higher the quality of wine that can be gleaned.

Thus, arid and gravelly mountainsides are good for nothing, horticulturally speaking, save for some masochistic grapes, notably the Bordeaux varietals. Grapes harvested after a season of longsuffering produce a vintage that insiders will dub “a good year.”

This phenomenon is not an idiosyncrasy of oenology alone, but of theology as well.

If I ask you what makes a good year in your life, you may reply with one or more of these generic blessings: physical health, career promotion, relational fulfillment, financial prosperity (or at least solvency). But you’d be wrong.

Well, you would be half-wrong. A good year is whatever improves our sanctification, i.e. what makes us more like Christ, draws us closer to God, and increases our usefulness in giving God glory.

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December 29, 2014

Your Tombstone This Year

by Clint Archer

A sagacious life-coach would urge us all to occasionally zoom out and put our lives in perspective. A written assignment might include, “What would you want the epitaph on your tombstone to say?” A percipient piece of advice for looking ahead. But there is a far less lugubrious genus of tombstone on the market that commemorates accomplishments as they occur. And the best part: you don’t need to die to get one!

deal toyIn 1931 the DuPont corporation developed a material called Lucite, a type of tough glass used for fighter plane windshields. Half a generation later the corporate world annexed the material to fashion paper-weight sized trophies as mementos that mark milestones and reward deal makers for a noteworthy coup. Lehman Brothers apparently employed a full time tombstone designer at $85k per annum to keep the offerings fresh (that was before a real tombstone was raised over its belly-up corpse).

The diminutive size of the Lucite tombstone (or “deal toy”) matches its import—as your gravestone will encompass the impression your lifespan left, these translucent trinkets announce lesser accomplishments, but can still act as little goal markers for which to strive throughout life.

The epitaph visualization is intended to calibrate our lives for the inevitability of eternity. I am a sucker for this type of long-range planning. When Jesse Johnson was my roommate in seminary, he discovered (read: pried in my stuff and stole…) my planning tools; he still teases me about the timeline that has targets and goals for every year from age one (acquire teeth) to age one hundred (remember to pull rip cord while skydiving). Yes, some of those were penned in retrospectively, and the future milestones are all in pencil as per Proverbs 16:9.

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Christmas 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.bride in the mud

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 annoying, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou hypocrites.

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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If you had to ask me at age five what my favorite Bible story was, I’d have easily chosen the account of the Little Drummer Boy.

drumWhat’s not to love? A young, impoverished vagabond (no parents are mentioned) follows the Magi to a cozy stable, only to discover that he is the only one who arrives without a gift to bring—at least not one fit for a king. But wait, he has something just as valuable as gold and frankincense: he has his talent. With Mary’s nod of permission and jazz-loving livestock keeping time, he plays his little heart out to an appreciative baby Jesus who smiled at him… he and his drum.

I resonated with the kid’s desire to please God, and empathized with the feeling of inadequacy to do so as well as others, which is why I warmed to the idea that God didn’t expect me to be great, wise, rich, or from the Orient, he just wanted me to do what I could to the best of my ability and for his glory. I can do that!

You can imagine my disillusionment when I discovered (at an age I’m not comfortable admitting here) that the whole narrative was purely apocryphal.

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starbucks xmas 1It isn’t wrong to have a fern on my porch or a cactus in my office (chosen for its resilience to neglect, a prerequisite for any plant life under my supervision). But apparently having a fir tree, imitation or genuine, is considered by some to be morally repugnant; though only in December.

I’m not going to launch a crusade to promote the observance of Christmas with all its tiresome trappings and requisite redundancies; what I am going to do is call for some reasonableness by those believers who vociferously object to their brothers and sisters in Christ enjoying seasonal festivities.

First, let us just concede that Christians do not have to celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas…or Easter, or Pentecost, or St Ledger’s Day, or MLK’s birthday, or Sabbath (Col 2:16), or Thursdays (named for the Nordic god of thunder).

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December 1, 2014

Why the Home Team?

by Clint Archer

People who know me well chuckle when they hear that I’ve written a book “about sports.” I am the least competent participant in any sport they’ve seen me attempt. But The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family is not about sports; it’s about the one-flesh union of a biblical marriage as it affects unity of the whole family.

The content is culled, not from my experience, but my inexperience.

As a young pastor I was forced to rely entirely on Scripture in order to provide guidance to people who had been married for longer than I had been alive, and who had kids older than me.

And yet, I found the Bible was all I needed to provide help to marriages and family situations I encountered. And it’s all based on the family functioning as a team.

Here is a video I did for Shepherd’s Press Publishers, explaining a bit more about the book….

I have mentioned previously how my wife helped me to man-up and start to lead our family worship times. It was embarrassing that I needed the help, but like with the lady in our GPS unit, I’ve learned not to argue with the voice of reason.

Let me issue this vital disclaimer: I am no expert. I seriously have little to no idea what I’m doing. We haven’t been at this for years, but for the past few months it’s been pretty consistent. And our kids love family worship. They ask for it. That can’t be bad, right?

Also, we’ve only test-run this on tiny tots. My kids are 4.5, 2.5, and newborn (he’s just there as eye-candy, and so the other two remember to pray for the baby).

We’ve been at it for about 6 months.

So here is what we do, which may be of some help…

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Pop quiz: How many days was Jesus in the tomb?watchmaking

a) One and a half

b) Two

c) Three or

d) This is a trick question so I will first read the article and then decide.

Your average “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” contestant would pick “three days final answer” without blinking. Everyone knows Jesus rose on the third day. But that’s not the question. How many days was he actually in the grave? The answer is one and a half days. Or three, depending on if you are a modern Swiss watchmaker or a 1st century Jewish gospel writer.

Put on your Swiss horologist cap for a moment: Jesus died on Good Friday at about 3pm (see Luke 23:44, which calls the time of death at the ninth hour after sunrise). Joseph of Arimathea lays him in the tomb before sundown, and the women interrupt their plans to embalm the body because the Sabbath begins at dusk on Friday. These ladies arrive at the empty tomb at the crack of dawn on Easter Sunday. So that makes for about thirty-six hours or so that Jesus was in the tomb.

An echt Swiss engineer would balk at guesstimating, but if you and I were to round “thirty-six or so hours” off to how many days, we’d probably settle for “a day and a half” or at most “two days.” Right?

Now, let’s say our watchmaker has his quiet time in Matthew 12 before bedtime. He wouldn’t have a good night’s rest after reading Jesus predict, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”(Matt 12:40).

Let’s just fess up: Jesus was not in the tomb three days and three nights. So what gives?

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November 10, 2014

When to smile and nod

by Clint Archer

A ministry mentor of mine once told me that when you dress to run a marathon, you tie your laces as tight as you can, knowing that they will loosen over time.

lacesHe likened graduating seminary to launching out of the blocks in a footrace. It is understandable that my theological views and ministry strategies would be in particularly crisp focus and decisions would seem starkly black and white with no cumbersome gradation of grey to complicate matters. But as my ministry marathon progressed and the hills and troughs of pastoral work undulated beneath my stride, I would eventually get used to enduring short term discomfort in my theological positions for the long term prize of a mature flock.

This is a difficult lesson for rearing young bucks to learn. We know the truth, we love the truth, and we went into ministry because we want to share that truth with those who don’t know it yet. The question is whether there is God-honoring wisdom in waiting to prove the truth.

When is the time to smile and nod in a theological or ministerial discussion, and when is it time to stand your ground and fight for truth?

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In sympathetic resonance with last weeks’ posts on the Reformation, the Cripplegate bloggers will this week be sharing the testimonies of our own personal reformations. I have the privilege of running the first leg of this relay race.

 

Clint Profile 2I grew up Catholic. My parents instilled in me solid, biblical behavioral standards and morals. We went to mass regularly, I attended catechism classes and wore an understated St Christopher pendant around my neck (for protection against car accidents).

Thanks to this upbringing I knew that I was a sinner, that Jesus was the Savior of the world, and that he died for my sins, and that reading the Bible was better than reading comic books.

And yet I had no personal relationship with Jesus. I found it very difficult to grasp what the New Testament was saying, and the Old Testament was little more than a rambling, opaque prequel to the Christmas story. I cheated on lent days and, like Bill Clinton, only confessed when I had to. I put all my faith in my baptism and relative goodness compared to Hitler, atheists, and the stroppy “bad apple” latch-key kids in my school. I figured “If I am going to Hell, there are a lot of people going to Hell.”

Then, in college, I crashed a campus Bible study because a girl I liked said she’d be there. (She didn’t pitch). We met in the copious University of Pretoria chapel, about six students in total. The pastor was an American missionary who draped a sheet over the statue of Mary before preaching a 45 minute expository sermon from Ephesians 2. I was hooked. He preached with such certainty and clarity that it felt like the word of God was relevant to my own life in every way.

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