Monday, September 27, 2010

The Noise of a Fly

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional for Christian leaders by Rich Earl now available at

"I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.” John Donne

How often have we knelt to pray and before our
hearts have even entered into God’s presence we
become absorbed in some trivial earthly matter. The
phone rings, our stomach growls, we remember
something we ought to have done. As single-hearted
servants we ought to stay focused on the One to
whom we are speaking and listening, but we do not
always. In the end our faithfulness will not be
measured merely by counting up the list of tasks
performed. A measure of our faithfulness will be in
our attention to the Master Himself, in the keenness
of our listening for His Words.

Some are effective and contented contemplatives,
not I. It requires rigor and intentionality for me to
stay put and listen, and to willingly open my
stubborn heart before my Master. Wanting to be
aware and sensitive to the needs around me, I often
forget that without His detailed instructions, I'll be of
little help to those I seek to nurture. How many
more years until I learn that the earth can wait a few
moments for me to solve all its ills?

As a boy sitting in school I longed for recess
times. I would sprint out of the school doors with my
friends and run and wrestle and chase until my heart
pounded. Now I am the same in some core way. “Sit
still”, I say to myself, like that lively schoolboy
waiting for recess. Maybe I have yet to learn the pure
joy of making Him my recess- the place of heart pounding
joy. Come unto me and I will give you recess?
— Richard Earl

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is
stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
— Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The snare of a step in the right direction

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional for Christian leaders by Rich Earl now available at

I have found my time of greatest peril and temptation
is not in the hour of deepest distress, but in the hour just after a great spiritual victory. It is then that our guard must be up, and we must position ourselves to fight, for the enemy knows we may be unprepared. We must be careful as pastors not to excuse ourselves from the conviction of the Holy Spirit and working of repentance. We are just as prone to “go easy on ourselves” as anyone else. This word from JB Stoney should serve as a warning and reminder to us all.

"When the conscience is in exercise, there is great
need that it should not be checked or quieted by
partial action, or by imperfect intelligence. The
conscience of a saint is awakened by the spirit of God
to seek relief from the presence of evil around. This
is a true, healthy purpose, and most blessed if
effectively carried out according to the word of God.
The danger and consequent loss is when compromise
is entered into, when the conscience is quieted by
one step, rather than by a definite and clear escape
from a place of grievance. And thus, alas! The flesh is
spared and the spirit of God grieved, and there is
really no progress.

This often occurs in our Christian history; the
conscience has been aroused, but to meet it fully as
in the light of God’s presence would cost our nature
too much. Of course we do not reason in this plain
way with ourselves; but do we not often, perhaps
years afterwards, discover that it was really sparing
ourselves which led to our resisting the demands and
strivings of our conscience? For now, being in the
place of blessing which our conscience had long
before indicated, we see how we had deceived
ourselves, and thus had hindered our own blessing;
and all because we feared the personal trial to which
we should have been exposed in reaching it.
It is well to be warned of this device or weakness,
from which all suffer many times and in many ways –
one which I may call an effort to appease the
conscience without putting the flesh to much
sacrifice – because if we see how we have been
deceived in this subtle way, we are the more careful
to attend to our conscience, and how God is speaking
to it, and how we may quiet it at the smallest cost to
ourselves. In short, as a rule, when the conscience is
arrested or exercised, the first thought is, not what
will at all costs satisfy it according to God, but on the
contrary, how I can answer its demand without
involving myself in loss and pain.

Finally, if I make my own ease of mind or
judgment the measure of my action, instead of the
revealed will of God and the leading of the Holy
Spirit, the consequence will be that it will be more
difficult for me to be led on than for those who have
not moved at all. For at the bottom the hindrance to
me is the desire to spare myself the sacrifice; and
according as I spare myself I deprive myself, in a
hundredfold proportion, of the blessing contingent
on faithfulness; and hence they who rest satisfied
with the right step never advance in truth or
knowledge beyond a certain point."

— JB Stoney, The Refiner’s Fire Journal

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue
righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,
— 1 Timothy 6:11 (NKJV)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Among Stupid Souls

The following is entry #5 from Shepherds Balm, a new devotional for pastors by Rich Earl. Purchase copies or find out more at

What are we to do when we come across
stupid souls? Ignorant souls we can deal
with, they need knowledge; the stupid soul does not
need knowledge; the stupid soul needs to have the
word of God until he is worried by it. The difficulty
is how the worker is to get the word of God into its
right place. Jesus Christ says the stupid soul is the
one that “hears the word but does not understand it.”
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and
does not understand it, then the wicked one comes
and snatches away what was sown in his heart…”
(Matthew 13:19).

Does God hold a man culpable for being stupid
spiritually? He certainly does. Every case of stupidity
recorded in the Bible is punished by God. How can I
get the word of God into a stupid soul?
Read 1 Samuel 15, and see how Samuel dealt
with Saul. It’s the commandment of God, “why did
you not obey that?” Take the apostle Paul, the very
same thing: “Oh foolish Galatians who hath
bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?”
And our Lord’s own words: “Oh foolish man, and
slow of heart to believe after all that the prophets
have spoken!”

This is the time, Christian worker when you must
use the word until you get it wedged in somehow in
that stupid soul, until it rankles and worries its way
to the soul’s salvation or destruction, and there was
never a class that will drive a worker closer to God
than the stupid soul, they will tax every bit of
patience and endurance you have. They always
pretend to want to do something – “ever learning,
and never able to come to the knowledge of the
truth” – why? They would not obey the word they
heard, that is the beginning.

You remember Samuel asked Saul if he had
fulfilled the word of God with regard to the
Amalekites, and Saul said he had: “Blessed be thou
the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the
Lord.” And Samuel said, “What meaneth then this
bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of
the oxen which I hear?” It’s pretending that is the
first characteristic of the stupid soul.

When God gives you a word for a soul who is
stupid, keep at it. This is the time when you have to
keep using the verse God gives you for a soul: every
time you meet him, every time you write to him,
every time you talk to him. The only way you will
stir up that one out of his stupidity is by driving
home the word of God, and presently you will see
that stupid soul saved from perdition, if it has not
gone as far away from God as Saul, and as far away as
many a stupid soul will go for lack of faithful

When the Word of God has begun its piercing
even to the dividing of soul and spirit, it will have its
wonder-working way and heal and re-create and
dissipate the stupidity.
— Oswald Chambers, Workmen of God, pp. 71-79

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” — Matthew 17:17 (NKJV)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Losing the mystery

This is entry #29 from Shepherds Balm, a new devotional for pastors written by Rich Earl. Read more and order copies at

The ministry is one of the most perilous of
professions. The devil hates the Spirit-filled
minister with an intensity second only to that which
he feels for Christ Himself. The source of this hatred
is not difficult to discover. An effective, Christlike
minister is a constant embarrassment to the devil, a
threat to his dominion, a rebuttal of his best
arguments and a dogged reminder of his coming
overthrow. No wonder he hates him.

Satan knows that the downfall of a prophet of
God is a strategic victory for him, so he rests not day
or night devising hidden snares and deadfalls for the
ministry. Perhaps a better figure would be the poison
dart that only paralyzes its victim, for I think that
Satan has little interest in killing the preacher
outright. An ineffective, half-alive minister is a better
advertisement for hell than a good man dead. So the
preacher's dangers are likely to be spiritual rather
than physical, though sometimes the enemy works
through bodily weaknesses to get to the preacher's

There are indeed some very real dangers of the
grosser sort which the minister must guard against,
such as love of money and women; but the deadliest
perils are far more subtle than these. So let's
concentrate on them.

There is, for one, the danger that the minister
shall come to think of himself as belonging to a
privileged class…Seeing whose name he bears, the
unconscious acceptance of belonging to a privileged
class is particularly incongruous for the minister.
Christ came to give, to serve, to sacrifice and to die,
and said to His disciples, “As my Father hath sent me,
even so send I you.” The preacher is a servant of the
Lord and of the people. He is in great moral peril
when he forgets this.

Another danger is that he may develop a perfunctory
spirit in the performance of the work of the
Lord. Familiarity may breed contempt even at the
very altar of God. How frightful a thing it is for the
preacher when he becomes accustomed to his work,
when his sense of wonder departs, when he gets used
to the unusual, when he loses his solemn fear in the
presence of the High and Holy One; when, to put it
bluntly, he gets a little bored with God and heavenly

If anyone should doubt that this can happen let
him read the Old Testament and see how the priests
of Jehovah sometimes lost their sense of divine
mystery and became profane even as they performed
their holy duties. And church history reveals that this
tendency toward perfunctoriness did not die with the
passing of the Old Testament order. Secular priests
and pastors who keep the doors of God's house for
bread are still among us. Satan will see to it that they
are, for they do the cause of God more injury than a
whole army of atheists would do.
— AW Tozer, God Tells the man who cares, pp. 76-77

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’” So Aaron held his peace. — Leviticus 10:1-3(KJV)