Archives For Clint Archer

September 14, 2015

The Perfect Woman

by Clint Archer

Nadia 3We usually think of perfection as an ideal for which athletes aim rather than a goal anyone seriously expects to achieve. After all, nobody’s perfect. But that all changed at the Montreal Summer Olympics when a young Romanian girl achieved the impossible.

On July 18, 1976, fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci represented Romania in the gymnastics team event. Spectators watched in riveted silence as she confidently completed a mesmerizingly ambitious and astonishingly flawless routine on the uneven bars . . . until the instant her feet planted an unfaltering dismount, which generated an avalanche of applause. But the jubilation dissipated suddenly when her result appeared on the digital display: Comăneci’s brilliant performance had scored only 1.0.

In gymnastics, a panel of judges rates each performance according to its difficulty, creativity, and the technical proficiency of its execution. The highest and lowest figures are discarded and the final score represents an average of the remaining numbers. The highest number a judge can give is a perfect 10, and every judge would need to give a 10 in order for the cumulative score to be 10.

one point oBecause this is so unlikely, the electronic score board only allowed space for a single digit on the left side of the decimal point: the maximum number it could show was 9.9, which means it displayed Comăneci’s score as 1.0 instead of the perfect 10 the judges had awarded for the first time in Olympic history. An apologetic voice over the public address system explained the error and the crowd roared to ovation.

Little Nadia was—gymnastically speaking—the world’s first perfect woman.

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moon over jerusalemThe reason a bevy of justifiably smug journalists was camping on Harold Camping’s front lawn on May 21, 2011 is because yet another of the preacher-cum-radio-broadcaster’s predictions of rapture had misfired.

One would think that after his failed prediction of 1988 Camping’s popularity as an authority on date-setting would have waned. If not then, perhaps after his 1989 repeat performance. Incredibly, his credulous followers remained obdurate about Camping’s abilities to pinpoint an event the Bible says is impossible to predict. When he suddenly appeared to the salivating pack of reporters on his lawn Camping explained that his prophecy must have been fulfilled in a “spiritual” way (preterist much?) but that he foresaw the literal coming of Christ happening on October 21, the same year.

Anyhoo… The reason for this trip down memorable mishap lane, is that it’s about that time of the millennium again, so we are faced with a new date-setting phenomenon at which to furrow our brows. This time the mania for rapture takes on slightly more of a lunatic hue. I mean that fairly literally.

The “blood moon tetrad” is the latest prophecy to make the rounds on social media.

Admittedly, I can’t wax eloquent on its finer details, but as I understand it the prediction is elastically derived from the prophet Joel’s words that reoccur on Peter’s lips in his Pentecost sermon of Acts 2:20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

Obviously that verse must be referring to the blood moon tetrad. What’s that, you ask? It’s only the most rare event in the history of history. Kinda.

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Every church has its problems. There are no perfect churches. But there are some churches that are so bad that they make atheism look appealing. Anyone compiling a list of worst churches in the world would need to consider, as a top candidate, the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.westboro

Founded in 1955 the church began with promising doctrinal standards. They called themselves Christian, Biblical, Baptist, and even Calvinistic. They took a strong view on inerrancy, the need for repentance, and the Lordship of Christ. But it soon became evident that the church lacked one virtue vital for anyone who bears the name of Christ: the church has no love. I realize that’s my opinion, but let the evidence help you decide if they show love.

WBC has been officially categorized by a number of organizations as a hate group. They are most known for the abrasive slogans used when protesting homosexualty. The members picket funerals of homosexuals with signs declaring “God hates fags,” God hates you,” “God hates America,” and “You are going to hell.”

They don’t only hate homosexuals. They also vocally express hatred for Jews, Catholics, Nelson Mandela, the US Army, the Swedish, and countless politicians. And just to toss their wet blanket of prejudice over billion or so more, they host a website called GodHatesIndia(dot)com.

I’m not saying they express disagreement with these groups. I’m saying they express hate.

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Like a premature unveiling of the picture of Dorian Gray, the hideous hypocrisy that lay discreetly stashed in the attic of AshleyMadison(dot)com’s online vault was unceremoniously exposed last week. scarlet letter

This outing of 28 million male and 5 million female adulterers has made a lot of people hot under the lipstick stained collar. Furtive liaisons that “weren’t hurting anybody” have now left a swathe of casualties in their wake. And now that their trust in the sanctity of Internet privacy has been shattered, these poor philanderers and home wreckers have to grow used to the scarlet letter on their reputation, now that everybody knows who they really are. What could they have done differently to avoid getting caught?

There is only one way to not get caught in adultery: don’t commit adultery.

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

God’s observation of our lives has no blind spot.

But the Bible gives us practical wisdom on how to avoid committing adultery. Here are six suggestions from God’s word:

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There is no Workaholics Anonymous. Why would there be? Overwork isn’t a hamartia in our society’s currency-lubed, prestige based, multitasking rat race.

Gambling, pornography, cocaine, booze, and most other addictions carry a stigma of shame associated with weakness or dysfunction. But for some reason the caffeinated crew of interns at work broadcast their exhaustion with feigned self deprecating whines of “Sorry I’m so spaced today. It’s because I pulled three all-nighters and haven’t had a day off since the Blackberry was invented.”

Everyone in a cubicle thinks he’s Jack Bauer. Is it possible your job isn’t important enough to global stability to warrant the hours you put in? If that suggestion prickles your pride, then perhaps your dedication to the corporate fiefdom isn’t as noble as you make it out to be.jack_bauer_productivity

I don’t have a definition for what constitutes too much work, but we all know people whose lives are affected detrimentally by their workload. If, thanks to work, your family is disintegrating, your health is deteriorating, and time for God’s priorities (e.g. attending and serving in church) is disappearing then your schedule is unbalanced.

One of the reasons God made Sabbath for mankind is so that we will rest from our labor regularly enough to worship him devotedly, and recuperate sufficiently to sustain a long, productive, God-centered life.

And the hubris of an overstuffed day planner isn’t limited to Silicon Valley Microserfs, Wall Street moneygrubbers, or medical residents. Students, housewives, and pastors all glory in the shame of their limitless spirit being more willing than their sleep deprived flesh.

As a seminoid I loved that the strong coffee for sale in the break room was labeled “Lazarus Blend.” We sported dark rings under our puffy eyes and disheveled clothing (who has time to iron), and if someone remarked, “You look like death!” that was a compliment.


Here are five possible reasons for overworking:

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In a previous post we examined Fat Secret: The Invisible Sin of Gluttony. But that food for thought is only one serving among a smorgasbord of other gastronomical sins and dysfunctions. self control

Anorexia nervosa (voluntary starving), bulimia (self-induced vomiting), comfort eating (ice-cream therapy), and muscle dysmorphia ( or “megarexia” – a fear of being too small) are all staples in a psychologist’s handbook. Some of these may have a physical malfunction as a catalyst, but often they can be a direct result of sinful thinking.

In that case these types of “eating disorders” might more accurately be termed “disorderly eating.” The former label connotes a malady that has beset you, but the latter admits the responsibility for the problem lies with you.

I certainly don’t want to oversimplify the complex psychological and physiological factors involved with debilitating eating conditions. The body and the mind are so inextricable that one can’t just flip a “stop-it” switch to shut off a behavior without risk of physical consequences. For example, if an anorexic patient suddenly begins to eat copious quantities of solid food, they may actually die.

All I’m saying is that in cases where one’s behavior is causing health deterioration, we need to enlist the help of not only physicians, but also the counsel of godly friends to assist with applying Scripture and prayer and the guidance of the Spirit to bring about gradual change and healing.

Physical and mental conditions are sometimes actually spiritual conditions masquerading as an illness. The remedy is not just nutritional replenishment but spiritual repentance.

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Not since Little Shop of Horrors have we seen a dentist portrayed as so thoroughly villainous as was done in last week’s wanton social media feeding frenzy. Mystifyingly, in the same news cycle that exposed the trafficking of infant body parts in the US, a story about one of many poached animals in Zimbabwe received the lion’s share of media steve martin

Don’t get me wrong, hunting without the proper permit is quite dastardly indeed. I’m a cat person (and a sub-Saharan resident) so I get that news of a dead lion with a name Americans can pronounce is more newsworthy than the countless anonymous extinction-bound rhinos that are poached every year for their horns. But more newsworthy than locals selling babies’ lungs without a permit? Really?

Incidentally, paying to shoot lions is not only legal in Zimbabwe, but actively encouraged by its tourism authorities. The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog was bred specifically to hunt lions (Rhodesia is Zimbabwe’s maiden name). And so, if the paperwork had been in order no one would have batted an eyelid or typed a tweet. Odd.

This is a good week for our theology and zoology to intersect. It behooves us to recap what we know about God’s view of animals.

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This material is adapted from the chapter “That Makes Cents: How To Raise Funds for STM Trips” in my book Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions: Long-Term Impact.

lego hebrew slavesAs the Short-Term Missions (STM) co-ordinator at Grace Community Church, thoughtful questions about raising funds got posed to me frequently.

One young man was in turmoil about our requirement that he send out support letters. He was a fairly new believer, with only a few Christian friends. His whole family were not Christian. None of his school or work friends were believers. He wanted to use the trip as an opportunity to talk to his family and friends about Christ.

He wanted to tell them what it was he would be doing on the trip and why he was driven to do this. His hope was that they would be challenged to consider their own lives, and to see how his formerly selfish existence was being transformed by the gospel—his priorities, his vacation time, his interests had been altered by an encounter with Christ.

So, what’s the problem? Why the turmoil? Because someone had told him that God didn’t want him to use money from unbelievers to do God’s work.

On the other hand, someone else had pointed out to him that God commanded Moses and the fleeing Israelites to “plunder the Egyptians” from whom they were escaping. God funded the nation of Israel’s journey with livestock, gold, jewels, and other valuables belonging to pagans. And the houses they were to occupy in the Promised Land had been built and furnished and developed by the pagan Canaanites.

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“If you want to convict a congregation, preach on prayer.” This is what we were taught in seminary and what I’ve experienced in my own life.

There are countless reasons why our prayer lives become anaemic. But the one factor that haunts us like no other in this crazy busy world is perceived lack of time. I say “perceived” because we have the same twenty-four hours that every prayer warrior has, and that all our forefathers had. And yet William Wilberforce confessed in the late 1700’s,

This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body. I suspect that I have been allotting habitually too little time to private devotion and religious meditation, Scripture reading, etc. Hence I am lean and cold and hard. I had better allot two hours or an hour and half daily…[For] All may be done through prayer, mighty prayer.”

And if we’re honest, the real paucity of time for prayer is self-imposed (and selfie-imposed), as John Piper sagely warns:

One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”

In this post I’d like to offer a beginning therapy to help rehabilitate your prayer life. This is a five minute template of prayer, with a five simple segments, each of which can easily be filled with one minute of prayer. And then the idea is that you increase the time you spend on each segment; twelve minutes per segment fills an hour.cactus

This suggestion is meant to help Christians who are already convinced of the need to pray, who perhaps pray sporadically throughout the day, but would like a more structured plan on which to build.

If you feel that you are too busy for five minutes a day to start this exercise then you are simply too busy for what God created you to do. Rework your priorities (you’ve spent some precious minutes reading this blog post already; I’d be happy if this was your last time on our blog if it meant more prayer to God for whom we maintain this site).

I call it the CACTIS method, and that’s not because I misspelled a plant that can thrive in desperately dry conditions (though that metaphor does seem apropos). It’s a variation on the common ACTS plan.

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Sgt Charles Daniels, a NYPD police officer, got an unusual call in the early morning of August 7, 1974. Someone had spotted a man standing on a wire suspended between the two tallest buildings in the world, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. He ascended to the tower roof by elevator, which took several minutes. In his words, this is what he saw:

I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire….And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle….He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again….Unbelievable really….Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”

PetitPhilippe Petit, a petite Frenchman, had planned this illegal 45 minute stunt for six years, including taking aerial photos of the towers being built, studying the swaying of the towers, and designing a 200kg cable and a 25kg balancing pole that he would need to traverse the 61m gap. When asked why he risked his life he replied, “When I see three oranges, I juggle. When I see two towers I walk.” Fair enough.

Amazingly all charges were dropped and he was even asked to autograph the roof beam from which he had stepped onto the cable.

The only balancing act that I can think of that deserves more attention is the tightrope Christians need to navigate in their daily walk to Christlikeness: the balance of our responsibility and God’s sovereignty in sanctification.

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