Archives For Clint Archer

ropeSpiritual warfare is real. It might not make the news; but it ought to. Paul acknowledges this in Ephesians 6: 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

But the weapons of this warfare are often somewhat misunderstood. In some church circles, for example, it is commonplace to hear pastors and their people talk of “binding Satan” or “renouncing the devil’s presence” or some such display of confidence.

Here are three reasons I believe this is misguided.

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The pop icon with the most remarkable lip-to-face ratio, Mick Jagger, encapsulated the sine qua non of Ecclesiastes with the characteristic pithiness of enduring poetry: “I can’t get no [obligatory guitar lead interlude] satisfaction.” And in one of the most elastically generous half-rhymes in the Presley corpus, “A little less conversation, a little more action / All this aggravation ain’t satisfaction in me.”  I am half way through preaching Solomon’s pensive, apparently cynical magnum opus, and I’m resolute in my determination to not slit my wrists. Last night’s sermon was the mid-term review—chapter 6 of 12. Basically our emo author is waxing glumly about life, the universe, and everything and how nothing in this sunburned existence brings happiness or fulfillment.

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I doSince becoming a pastor I have had the privilege of conducting countless weddings. The first few were easy decisions: I checked my schedule and if I was available, I agreed to perform the ceremony. That’s because the first weddings I was asked to do were young, chaste, Christian couples in our church whom I knew well and I was delighted to be part of their joyful day. But then I began to receive requests from complete strangers whose situations required some more discernment than a simple, “Yup, I’m free that Saturday.”

Although we covered the theory in seminary, it wasn’t until I was in the trenches, with no professor to grade my answer, that I was faced with deciding which weddings I would consent to do and which I would not. When there were families and friendships involved, I began to realize this wasn’t theoretical, or target practice anymore; we’re playing with live ammo. And taking a stand can set off some explosive emotions.

Here’s seven scenarios I’ve encountered in ten years of doing weddings, and where I stand on saying “I do…”

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pillsIn many cities of the Western world, selecting a church can be like shopping for clothes in the defect factory store. You know you need to wear clothes, but every item you try has some spot, snag, or run that catches you eye. You simply have to settle for the one that has the most bearable flaw. Please don’t take my candor for cynicism. I’ve loved all three local churches I’ve been a member of, but was not caught off-guard by discovering their inevitable imperfections.

But what we need to realize is that some unpleasantness inherent to a healthy local church is NOT an imperfection, but a necessary attribute of faithfulness. In some pills it is the active ingredients that make it taste bitter. Here are four bitter pills that you may prefer to avoid swallowing, but should view as a sign that you’ve found a good church home. In fact if all four of these “unpleasantries” were absent it would indicate you’ve stumbled into a dangerously inept church.

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September 1, 1939 was the first day of Autumn in Europe. It was also the first day of World War II. When Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, a series of defence treaties catapulted the Allies–Britain, France, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Egypt, and later USA– into an inexorable confrontation with the Axis (Germany, Austria, Italy, and later Japan).sprouting

One visible sign that the United Kingdom was at war was that key government buildings in London were fortified with thousands of sandbags, meant to absorb enemy gunfire, and protect the walls and foundations from the percussive shock of bomb blasts. Armies were mobilized, theatres were closed, night life was put on indefinite pause, and the population of Europe nervously awaited Hitler’s next move.

And do you know what happened next? Nothing. For all of September Hitler did nothing aggressive so the Allies did nothing defensive. Perhaps Chamberlain had been right and Hitler, like an overfed dragon, was now appeased by the hearty chunk of Europe he had already consumed.

And do you know what happened in October? Nothing. Then, November, December, January, March, and April all ticked by, uneventfully (although Norwegians would rightly decry my definition of “uneventful”). Compared to what had been anticipated after the First World War, all was quiet on the Western front.

In France Edward Daladier was given near dictatorial wartime power to conscript labor, but he elected not to. Factories that could have been making ammunitions, still cranked out civilian consumer goods, food remained un-rationed, as did gasoline, ski slopes were reopened to tourists and the Cote D’Azure resorts and night clubs in Paris were soon back in full swing. French soldiers were even granted leave to go home until they were needed.

sandbags in londonIn London, well into 1940, idle soldiers were seen napping on deck chairs in Hyde Park and casually feeding the ducks. King Lear was still on show. The Times newspaper had nothing to report about the war and turned it’s attention to the return of migrating swallows and cuckoos to the British Isles.

Alfred Duff Cooper made his fatuous announcement to an American audience that Britain and France had, “found a new way to make war without loss of human life.”  One unpopular Cassandra was Winston Churchill, who passionately warned the Allies not to be lulled into a false sense of security.

And then, one day in May 1940, after nine months of almost no action… something ominous occurred in London: the sandbags, which had fortified the walls of government buildings, all began spontaneously to burst.

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If you are not Superman, whose vascular system is exponentially energized by photosynthesis of a yellow sun, or a Duracell Bunny, who can pummel a drum for ten hours from four AA batteries, you need to put some thought into how to charge your body.

nappingThis may seem as obvious as a gleaming golden arch, but many Christians view sanctification as merely a spiritual pursuit. We err as Plato did, drawing too sharp a distinction between spiritual wellbeing and physical succour. After all, didn’t Paul tut-tut disparagingly at treadmills and jump ropes when he pointed out that, “Bodily training profits little, while godliness profits in every way, for it holds promise for this life and the life to come” (1 Tim 4:8)?

Well, yes, if you have to choose between being eternally godly, or fighting fit, then remember that your body will one day fuel the secret subterranean lives of creatures that you now temporarily outweigh.

But most of us do not have to choose between the two. We could benefit from mastering our memory verses, while working a Stairmaster.

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Last month we named our newborn daughter Adelaide. And this is why…

In 1831 King William IV became the oldest monarch to ascend the throne of the United Kingdom and Ireland, at the ripe royal age of sixty-four. His nickname was “The Sailor King,” a sobriquet he earned through years of maritime service in the Royal Navy, but retained his reputation by ongoing effort. He drank like a sailor, swore like a sailor, and fathered ten children out of wedlock by the time he became king. He was also such a prodigal spender, and was unable to live within the financial bounds drawn for him by Parliament.

Staring down the barrel of life as a broke bachelor, William resigned himself to the idea of a marriage of convenience. In vain he scoured the fertile European social landscape for a princesses who would wed a geriatric alcoholic philanderer and to raise his children.

Several proposals were declined, but eventually, as providence would have it, there was a single German princess, twenty-seven years his junior, who was willing to try her hand at reforming the king. She would become the neck to direct Britain’s head.

Her name was Adelaide.

Queen AdelaideWell, actually her name was Adelaide Amelia Louise Theresa Caroline, her Serene Highness, the Duchess of Saxony and Princess of Saxe-Meiningen. (Incidentally, the state of Saxe-Meiningen was the first with a free press who allowed criticism of rulers; Adelaide came from assertive stock, which would prove useful being married to William.)

The couple met once—a week before the wedding. William was surprised at how amiable and positive his new queen was. Unlike her fiancé, Adelaide was known widely for being deeply religious, kind, pure, sensible with money, and most dignified.

William wrote to his eldest son, “She is doomed, poor dear young innocent creature, to be my wife.”

Adelaide soon endeared herself to her husband and her new subjects, becoming one of the most beloved and respected queens in British history. She was loved for her kindness to the poor, her modesty, and irrepressible commitment to Christ. Not only was she able to put up with William, but slowly people began to notice her sanctifying influence on the old sailor.

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What makes a conman so pernicious is his ability to conjure a convincing illusory identity based on trust. Thus the moniker, confidence man. At some point in every scam, the prey entrusts money to the predator, with full confidence that it will be returned. But occasionally the hunter’s camouflage is stripped, and he finds himself in the crosshairs of justice.

masksSelva “Silver Fox” Carmichael is Britain’s most notorious petty serial fraudster. He went from surreptitious sneak to celebrity superstar overnight, when caught trying to fleece some beloved TV personalities. The scam was quite simple. He approached two erstwhile Big Brother contestants an offered them a role in a new reality series. The couple then permitted a TV crew to follow them around for 18 hours a day, filming the type of banal, unscripted, melodramatic routine that attracts viewers like gawkers to a car wreck. Carmichael then used the footage like bait in a snare to attract a bevy of salivating investors who fronted the cash for the production of the show.

Later he would put on his saddest face when informing the actors that the network reneged on the deal, and that there was no money to pay them, as per the contract it had to be returned to the investors. His next stop was an investor meeting where he apologized for not being able to return their money, due to contractual obligations to pay the actors. After everyone fussed and fumed, he slunk out with the entire investment in his bank account.

Ironically, it wasn’t the investors who sued him, it was the forlorn would-be actress. Her lawyer, Amir Saleem, recognized some of the details of the story his client told me to be telltale traces of the craft of a scam artist. Saleem successfully sued Carmichael for the amount owed plus damages, and in the process tore off his mask exposing him as The Silver Fox. Carmichael was arrested for criminal charges. But here’s the rub…he too recognized in Saleem’s methods traces of his craft. He tipped off his lawyers who dug a little deeper into the legal credentials of Amir Saleem who had defeated them in open court.

They were astonished to learn that not only was the law practice Saleem worked a fake, but his law degrees had been forged too. Amir Saleem too, was a serial fraudster. The two rival conmen were the undoing of each other. I love the irony that the case in which Saleem was unmasked as a fraud was the case he brought against a fellow conman.

You can’t write this kind of drama; not even for a fake reality TV show. But it goes to show that you can fool most people most of the time, but not all people all the time.

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brideLinda Lou Taylor only got married once…for love.

It was in 1957. Linda was sixteen and she married 31 year old George Scott, whom she loved deeply. The marriage lasted seven years, ending in a regrettable divorce. After that Linda gave up on the idea of marrying for love, and instead began to marry, it seems, for sport. She wed and divorced with a dizzying frequency.

She tied the slip-knot in rapid succession, collecting a string of ex-husbands form all walks of life, including a plumber, a preacher, a bartender, a musician. To add valuable rare items to her collection of erstwhile hubbies, she married a one-eyed convict, two homeless guys, and two gay men.

She creatively upped her matrimonial stats by “committing” to one fellow, Jack Gourly, on three separate occasions. Her shortest marriage lasted a mere 36 hours.  It seems her goal was to immortalize her hubby-hobby with a dubious entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most married woman.”

She accomplished this notoriety by wedding Mr. Glynn Wolfe in her 23rd wedding. The marriage was unabashedly performed solely for the publicity of getting into Guinness. You may ask yourself, what kind of man would marry a woman just to help her get into a record book? Good question. The motive was hardly difficult to discern, as that wedding happened to secure for 87 year old Mr Wolfe his own record as “most married man,” when Linda became his 29th bride.

He died a year later, and Linda, age 63, has been single for ten years now, but she told a journalist that she’s on the prowl for husband #24.

Personally, I rankle at the recurring spectacle of those who degrade the sanctity of marriage with such reckless abandon. But it does remind me of another far-fetched story of serial marriages. One that was not trying to mock the sanctity of marriage, but rather to mock—of all things— the doctrine resurrection.

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April 14, 2014

Facts on Tax

by Clint Archer

capone

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Brooklyn New York in 1899. He was one of nine children of an Italian barber. By all accounts Al Capone was a naughty kid. He was expelled from his Catholic school at age fourteen for punching a nun in the face. He then joined a gang. At age nineteen married his pregnant girlfriend (to make an honest woman out of her?) and in search of gainful employment moved to gangsters paradise: Chicago. To describe his career as gainful would be to describe the ocean as moist.

Capone wrested control a vast racketeering syndicate that generated $100 million a year, mostly by smuggling voluminous quantities of booze past the Prohibition police, and then having ladies (the type not hired primarily for their education or personality) serve said liquor to other authorities in his lucrative speakeasy empire.

Al Capone’s crimes were legion. The checkered list includes:

-Bootlegging, i.e. smuggling and selling alcohol.

-Bribery, blackmail, extortion, intimidation, assault & battery, i.e. making people an offer they couldn’t refuse.

-Racketeering, i.e. a catch-all description of the vicissitudinous world of organized crime.

-Conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and when he got it right—murder.

And yet he was never arrested for any of it! He was so legally wriggly, so resiliently rich, and so perniciously powerful that he simply buried any accusation; often literally. Witnesses mysteriously developed amnesia, or decided to try walking on water in concrete shoes. Cops clumsily misplaced evidence, though in the search for it fortuitously stumbled upon loads of extra cash they had forgotten they had. Judges made technical errors on arrest warrants, which put a debilitating cramp in the long arm of the law.

But all that was before the incorruptible agent Elliot Ness and his cohort of Untouchables got on the case.

Evade This

In 1931, Ness co-ordinated the arrested of the slippery kingpin, and charged him with the one crime Capone considered so small (in comparison with his murders and bootlegging operations), that he hadn’t even bothered to cover his tracks: the crime of tax evasion.

Capone had been making $100 million a year illegally, but the only thing they could prove for certain was that he didn’t pay taxes on those earnings. Capone was convicted of three counts of tax evasion and two counts of failing to file tax returns. This was enough for the courts to put him away for eleven years.

Christians who know their Bibles are already aware that there is only one person who takes death and taxes more seriously than the government, and that is God.

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