Archives For Clint Archer

In the sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a diplomat. I wasn’t sure what a diplomat did, but one of them had a daughter who was in my class; her name was Calin. She spoke with an exotic accent, she got to translocate to a new country every few years, and the best part, according to her, was that her family had diplomatic immunity.

“What’s immunity?” I asked. She went on to patiently explain that immunity is like when you get a shot in your arm so you can’t get the flu. Other people can catch the disease, but you can’t, because you are now immune to it. Similarly, diplomatic immunity meant that Calin’s whole family was immune from getting into trouble of any sort.

Calin jovially boasted how her dad could do anything he wanted, break any law, park where he desired, and wouldn’t get a traffic ticket nor go to jail. You can see how this job would appeal to an eleven year old. I had found my vocation. I would happily take a shot in the arm for that superpower any day!

simpson immunity

It never occurred to me that Calin didn’t quite understand the immunity issue until one day when the teacher left the class with explicit instructions to keep quiet and keep working. Upon her return she found Calin out of her chair and chatting away to a friend. As the teacher tugged her by an ear and led her out of the classroom, the last thing I heard her say was a plaintive squeal, “But I have diplomatic immunity!”

 

Representing your country as an ambassador certainly comes with privileges, but it also brings major responsibilities. Which is a concept with which all Christians should be familiar.

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Today 52% of Britons are celebrating their week old independence from the EU while their American cousins are celebrating their own independence from Britain. Well, they are celebrating having a day off. Citizenship has varying degrees of meaning to various people. But one thing we all hate is when non-citizens pretend to be citizens. Being caught out can be embarrassing and even dangerous, as was discovered by ten illegal aliens in 2010.passports

The FBI called it Operation Ghost Stories. The mission was to detect and expose the ten Russian deep cover agents who had been living in the USA since the mid 90s.

The spies snuck in unnoticed, and using forged birth certificates they assumed American identities. They bought homes in the suburbs of New Jersey, got jobs, enrolled in universities, and started assimilating into American culture, making friends with people in the government, and even having children together to cultivate the façade of innocuous soccer moms and baseball dads.

Their assignment was to channel classified information to Moscow Center. The problem was that they weren’t very good at it.

Fifteen years into the masquerade and they were still empty-handed. They never transmitted a single shred of classified information. They just seemed to be enjoying middle class suburbia while playing spy vs spy with no real effect. Their tradecraft would later be described in a report as sloppy and amateurish.

They would write messages to each other using invisible ink. You know, like kids do. They delivered information by swapping identical briefcases with other agents on the subway. Oooh sneaky. One spy filled out a form with the following fake home address: 99 Fake Street, USA. I kid you not.

And one of them, Richard Murphy aka Vladimir Guryev, had some really bad luck.

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The reason we all remember where we were on 9/11 is because the events were undeniably dramatic, dastardly, and devastating. We knew we were witnessing something historic and horrifying. Brexit is not that.

A lot of people on Twitter are getting the words “historic” and “histrionics” confused.

EU Referendum

If/when you heard that Britain voted to exit the European Union on Friday, you would have been excused for greeting the news with a nonchalant, meh.Nobody died. No laws were broken. And nothing was lost (if you don’t count the $2,100,000,000,000 that evaporated from the world markets in a puff of panic). In one sense it was just the Brits being British and the world will keep turning. And yet, therein lies the rub. The Brits were being British instead of European, which is what got them on a sticky wicket. (If you’re not in the mood for obscure British idioms, you should stop reading).

If you’re anything like me or millions of other geographically estranged observers, far removed from the epicenter of the fray, you may have these two simple questions: Who cares, and why?

I’m not going to give you the bacon, eggs, Welsh rarebit and Earl Gray version; I’ll give you the pop-tart and black coffee version. For a more satisfying and mentally nourishing explanation of the implications for Western civilization, I refer you to Dr. Al Mohler.

What happened?

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Shakespeare was a sonnet maestro. A sonnet, from the Italian word meaning little sound, is a structured form of poetic expression. An English sonnet has 14 lines, each one must contain 10 syllables and there are certain rules for rhyming. The point of the sonnet is to show the poet’s prowess commanding the language to conform to strict limits, while still expressing what he wants to communicate in an artistic way.tweet button

The Bard used sonnets, we use tweets. Twitter limits our expression to 140 characters. This is somewhat easier than what Shakespeare had to do, but for many loquacious youths these days, any type of limit is a challenge.

Founder, Jack Dorsey, explains,

[W]e came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.”

The brevity of the tweet is what makes it simultaneously both appealing, and potentially useless. But Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard says,

The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful.”

But just because a message is short, does not mean it is insignificant.

Horatio Spafford saw his life collapse when he heard his four daughters had drowned in a shipwreck. This news came from his wife’s poignant telegram: “Saved Alone.”

World War 2 ended with the words “Unconditional Surrender.”

My wife made my day, and my life, with two words: “I do.”

In Jonah 3 we see five (Hebrew) words that changed history for over 600,000 people, with implications that echo in our very lives today.

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When I was a really little kid a cheesy 80s horror movie hit the big screen. It was called Gremlins. The story is about a boy who finds a small, fury, odd-looking creature called a mogwai that seems as harmless as a hamster. But you discover that if this unassuming little pet stays up past midnight, and has a snack, it morphs into a grotesque, evil, brutally violent monster called a Gremlin! Like I said, it was the 80s.Mogwai

I begged my parents to let me watch it, all the kids at school were talking about it. They wisely refused. The movie was a box office hit and soon spawned merchandise like the fluffy toy version of the mogwai. As compensation for not allowing me to see the movie, they bought me this fluffy toy mogwai to add to the posse of teddy bears on my bed.

One day I was at a friend’s house for a sleep over, and his parents said we could rent a movie. We rented Gremlins. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and when I got home I was too scared to go into my room because I now knew what that harmless looking mogwai was capable of if he was fed after midnight. I had nightmares for months, and donated my toy mogwai to some unsuspecting neighbors so that it could torment other little kids and leave me alone.

The Bible talks about another insipid danger which people consider mostly harmless. But what they don’t realize is that it turns into an evil monster when it is fed after midnight. It’s called the sin of anger.

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comradesYesterday marked the 91st Comrades Marathon Race in South Africa. Since the first race in 1921 the Comrades Marathon has become one of the most famous and prestigious of all ultra-marathons. Winning the race is a coveted achievement. But there are many ways to win the Comrades Marathon.

As I discuss in The Preacher’s Payday, you can win it simply by finishing first, like Bill Rowan did in 1921 by coming in a mere minute under nine hours. You can win it five hours and 18 minutes, like David Gatebe did yesterday, setting the new record. You can win it more times than anyone else, like Bruce Fordyce did: nine times. You can even win by running against people who are not running. Yes, you can win a Wally Hayward medal if you finish in under six hours or a Bill Rowan medal if you beat his time of nine hours.

But you can also win the race by beating the real competition: pain. It is the pain and fatigue that most runners are trying to conquer, not the person in front of them. It is a challenge of body and mind, and runners are racing against themselves. And so the awards reflect this. Most races award a gold medal for 1st, silver and bronze for 2nd and 3rd, and everyone else gets a pat on the back.

But the Comrades organizers realize there is more to this race than coming first. Everyone who finishes within the twelve hour limit gets a medal. Even those who come in during the last hour, get the Vic Clapham copper medal. And as agonizing as the challenge, that medal will outlast the memory of your pain and fatigue. It is that image that the New Testament writers use to picture our awards ceremony.

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This is a talk I presented to the Sunday School teachers in our church who teach children up to grade 7. I thought I would share it with you who teach children in your church for warning and encouragement.

THE STIMULUS FOR TEACHING CHILDREN

While we believe that teaching children the gospel is primarily the function of parents, as Sunday School teachers you come alongside parents to support them in this role. In the Sunday School classroom children are taught the truths of the gospel in language that works for them over and over again until it sticks.

super powerConsider what you do as teachers in the light of Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

In Sunday School you are proclaiming Christ to children, you are warning them of the reality of judgment and hell, and teaching them with wisdom – as is appropriate to their age. This is done with the goal of presenting everyone you teach as mature in Christ.

So you are part of the process that sees those children not only serving in the body of Christ on earth but one day standing in glory before Jesus.

Allow that thought to influence the way in which you teach.

THE SERIOUSNESS OF TEACHING CHILDREN

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Since we who teach will face a more serious judgment, we ought to contemplate this sobering warning every time we prepare and teach.

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Robert Raikes was born in Gloucester, 1736. He became a Christian as a young boy, and at the age of 21 inherited his father’s publishing business. Many boys in the UK at that time were so poor that they had to work in dangerous coal mines from as young as 4 years old. Those who were too weak or scared to work in the dark were interned in a prison-like poor house or turned to crime, as exposed by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist.

Robert RaikesRobert Raikes was challenged by Scriptures referring to children, such as Matt 10: 42 … whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Raikes believed that education was the silver bullet that would prevent children being trapped in a life of poverty and crime. He committed to teach as many children as he could how to read and write, do basic arithmetic, and about Jesus and the gospel.

The problem was that the minor miners and factory workers labored six days a week 12-16 hours a day. The only time off they had was Sunday when the mines and factories were closed. So, Raikes invented something he called “Sunday School.” Every Sunday he offered free courses in literacy and numeracy. The text book he used was the Bible.

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pinataI was 23 when I first saw one. It was a hollow, colorful, papier-mâché creature stuffed with candy, chocolates, and assorted sugary delights. They strung it up and told me to hit it. They called it a piñata.

As entertaining as this experience was for me, I suspect the real entertainment for the college students in my Bible study was witnessing a grown man attempt to rupture his first piñata. But the joke would soon be on them.

I flailed aimlessly with all the force I could muster, missing the elusive treasure trove and inadvertently losing my grip on the stick. It shot like a spear at the crowd of gawkers, and smashed into the cheekbone of a girl who was caught off-guard by the missile.

It was also the last time I ever attempted to hit a piñata. In fact, it was the last time I would wield a weapon while blindfolded.

However, if Paul had to comment on some of my early prayers, he might draw a comparison. Many Christians pray like God is a piñata, which they blindly poke with aimless prayers. Let’s allow Paul to take off our blindfolds for us with this model prayer…

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uturnEvery man feels like he’s a good driver. But there is one maneuver that is challenging to perform, even for the most skilled driver: the U-turn. Most men will avoid this humiliating admission of fallibility at all costs, leading to some lengthy and circuitous routes as we choose providence over cartography to guide us to the elusive destination.

The help-meet God gave male drivers is the GPS navigation system. It’s a cool gadget which tricks our egos into believing it’s manly to listen to a British woman tell us when and where we need to turn.

I was once driving from Napa to the San Fernando Valley, which is a straight shot on a major freeway. But I dutifully activated my GPS, just to be safe. The lady’s voice confirmed that I was getting on the correct freeway; then she kept quiet for six hours, lulling me into a false sense of security. Suddenly she piped up that it was time to take the next exit. But what GPS lady did not realize was that by now I was in a part of the city which I recognized, so her services were no longer necessary. I turned the volume off and kept driving, as captain of my car.

After about 15 minutes I no longer knew where I was. I sheepishly turned the volume back up. The lady was calmly telling me to make a U-turn. I detected a twinge of smugness in her serene imperative. I figured she was still trying to get me back to that exit, but that was way behind me now, so she obviously didn’t know what she was talking about. I ignored her and looked for the next exit, which never came. Eventually I looked carefully at the digital map and realized that the only way back was the humiliating U-turn. I obeyed every following instruction right until I heard her self-satisfied words “Arriving at destination.”

In the third chapter of Jonah 600,000 gentiles do what I should have done: the moment they are told to, they make an instant U-turn.

We can tweeze out of this narrative four examples on which we can model our repentance.

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