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Dare We Pray this….how dare we not?

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the day:

“I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.* 17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.* 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.*”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God
. 2 Cor. 6:16-7:1 NLT

2  But who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like strong soap, like a fire that refines metal. 3  He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver. As a metalworker refines silver and gold, so the LORD’S messenger will purify the priests, so that they will bring to the LORD the right kind of offerings. 4  Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the LORD will be pleasing to him, as they used to be in the past.
Malachi 3:2-4 (TEV)

814         Ask Jesus to grant you a Love like a purifying furnace, where your poor flesh —your poor heart—may be consumed and cleansed of all earthly miseries. Pray that it may be emptied of self and filled with him. Ask him to grant you a deep-seated aversion to all that is worldly so that you may be sustained only by Love.

There is a part of me that fears to pray as St. Josemaria suggests.

There is so much to lose, so many things I cannot see apart from myself. Yes, those things include not only what I perceive as the pleasures of life (and are not) and the miseries of my existence.

Could I deal with that radical of a change in me? Could I allow myself to be defined not by broken heart (in my case, both physically and figuratively) but spiritually as well? How can I allow God to take the scar, many of which I find a perverse pleasure in, knowing I somewhat survived them, and not just remove them, but heal the damage they have done?

St Josemaria describes it well as a furnace, for the heat and pain it will take to separate us from these things which haunt us is intense. How do I let Him remove all this, and the sin which so easily ensnares me?(and you as well)

How do I find the strength to pray this?

How dare I?

What if he doesn’t answer the prayer? What if He does?

As Malachi points out – how will we endure it?

I think St Paul has the answer, it is not found in us, but in the promises God has made to us, promises He stands behind, promises that are coming true in our lives, even if we do not see it.

It is in those promises, in His making us holy, that we find comfort and learn to trust Him. In those promises, we find the strength to work, to hear Him in a way our soul resonates with what He is doing, to nor fight against His purifying our lives.

You and I, we need this, we can’t continue to live in our brokenness, even if we have gotten used to its stench. The life that God provides, cleansed, purified, holy, is beyond our comprehension. We see it here and there, our souls thrive on it in the moments we experience it, at the communion rail, deep in lament, in the middle of serving others, As God purifies us, as He applies the heat and we cling to Him, these moments we are aware of Him grow… and we begin to desire them more.

So pray for God to refine you and purify you. Pray for me as well, and I pray we all will realize the blessing of walking with God. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3357-3360). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

He Will Refine Us! An Advent Sermon

This sermon can be heard at

He Will Do All the Good Things He Promised!

He Will Refine!

Malachi 3:1-7b


 May the blessing of God’s grace, the mercy, love and peace you should know, become more and more real as we expect the glory of His coming!

 How Can we return if we’ve never left?

In less than a month, many people will make resolutions.  My gym will probably go from the four that were there yesterday morning to fifty or so.  Diet companies will push their solutions to our weight problems, people will join 12 step programs, and perhaps a few more people will try church.

I was thinking about that, what if resolutions came out of our evaluation of our lives during advent.  For that is one of the purposes, you know, to take a inventory of our lives, of our behaviors, thoughts and deeds of the last year.

How many times did we trust in our man-made gods rather than Jesus?
How many times did we let our covetous, our jealousy, greed and desire cause us to damage relationships with those we are called to love?
How many times were we unfaithful in our thoughts or words, or in those thoughts and words damage each other, or killing others reputation by talking about them behind their back?

Could we blindly say what the people in Malachi’s day said?

“How can we return to God, if we have never gone away from Him?”

Do we deny that we need God working in our lives, not just working to bless, but working to heal, to cleanse, to refine us into the image of His Son, prior to Jesus return?

If we say we are not sinners we are liars we confessed early.  Do we mean it?

Or do we think everything is good and holy in our lives?

Do we tolerate injustice, do we practice it?

The prophet Malachi gives a few examples of things people do, while claiming they are God’s people,

“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,”

Do we do any of these things?  Very few of us may admit to doing sorcery, but what about the other things on the list?   Are we only counting actions? What about words or even our thoughts?

John the Baptist talked of this same attitude, when he called out the crowds for there sin,

Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.

It doesn’t matter what we claim, whether we think we are God’s people because we are American, or because we vote the right way, or even because we go to church and have the right name on the church, and can say the right things when asked what we believe about the Trinity, or Communion, or how the end times will come to occur.

You see, everyone sins, that is a simple fact.  The excuse given by the people of Malachi about not wandering off from God is either done in ignorance, or in denial.

Either way, if we say we haven’t sinned, the is nothing we should expect from God, nothing to give us hope.  No wonder Malachi says,

The messenger of the covenant, (talking of the Messiah) whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?

But if we do confess, if we do acknowledge our sin, there is hope, for we can expect that which God promises.
Our hope… His patience and promise!

Remember our theme, from last week,

14 “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.
Hear again from this week,

“I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,”

God could, and some say He should destroy evil  Especially this week, as our thoughts and prayers have surrounded people, friends and friends of friends, who have been effected by evil.  Who have had to deal with grief in ways we say no one should.  Not that any grievous situation is one we welcome.

But God is patient, Peter’s epistle tells us so that none perish, but that all come to the transformation that we call repentance.

For repentance is not just feeling sorry, or confessing the sins, it is a change, of heart, of mind.

A change that is the greatest part of the promise,

The promise today – refining!

 For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.

 God will purify us, God will make us holy, God will transform us into the image of Christ.  He will burn away that dross, and make us so clean that we can offer acceptable sacrifices to God.  This idea of God refining us isn’t a simple one second change, but means He has to apply the heat in such a way that what is normal to us, is burnt away, purified away.  Scrubbed us like in the old days, as lye soap was applied to clothes, and then they were scrubbed against a washboard.

That is how sin comes to the surface, like dirt, like impurities in metal.

It is what happens to us, what God has promised.  Not just to punish us, but purify us. It is what He does to establish a holy and perfect relationship with us.  To rid us of the things which stop us from returning to Him, the sin, the desire for that which is not good and right, the resentment which stops us from knowing His peace.  Paul says he nails that sin to the cross, and it cannot be resurrected.  It is dead.  That is why we celebrate this refining, this necessary work of God in our lives.

He rids us of everything that would stop us from expecting good from God. Everything that would stop us from knowing He has come to us.  Saved us to Himself, Set us apart to Himself.

Everything that would rob from us, the peace which passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds as we dwell in and with Jesus.  AMEN!


How Do You Measure Up A Sermon on Amos 7 (Audio VIdeo and text)

How Do I Measure Up?

Amos 7:7-15

In Jesus Name

As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you desire that they free you from all that oppresses you, confident of their mercy and love!

Jesus measuring us up

The Old Testament Vision that Amos sees and describes this morning is frightening!

What would happen if the words of the Lord in verse 8 were true today?

“I will test my people (at Concordia) with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins.

Imagine the Lord Jesus showing up this morning, with the intent of comparing us against the standard, like a building inspector, trying to figure out if a building can be occupied, or should be condemned. So who is going to measure up, and who needs some demolition work done?

Anyone want to volunteer?

Al?  Tom?  Jim?

Surely someone wants to be the first to step up to Jesus, and find out if they measure up to the standard God set for us….

Hey I know, Chris, you just got back from a missionary trip, where you spent time sacrificing comfort in order to be able to teach people how to help others learn to worship God in all of His glory.  Surely you measure up…..

Or maybe I should start with…. Me.

How many of us are ready for this?  I mean the really scary part

Are we willing for God to not ignore our sins?

How do we react to the news?

As we explore this test of God, I have a few questions that will help us understand this work of God, that is promised.  This question of whether we measure up.

The first is, “How do we react to the news that God will do this?”

We see the actions of the priest at Bethel, and the King of Israel   They react to the prophet’s message with anger and fear

They will threaten and accuse him of being in it, “for the money”, that is how deeply he threatened them.

What did Amos’s prophecy threaten?  Everything they counted on! (and everything we do as well!)

First the prophecy attacks the shrines of their ancestors.  As God measured them, what they would find is that they defined themselves.  For the Jews, this was their ancestors, they are good because they were Abraham’s descendants.

Do we ever define ourselves as good because of our heritage, because of our connections?

Then Amos says God will take on their false idols, what they count on for the future, what they place their hope in, and what they turn too when life is tough.

Today that could be our money or fame or anything else we count on when time gets tough.

The last threat is to their pride, to their arrogance, to their independence.  God will crush the idea that we are in charge of our lives.  The dynasty of Jerobaom would fall, they wouldn’t be in charge.

Amos tells them it is all worthless….

And still they try to justify themselves…

So do we, and we need to stop. For these things – How we define us, what we cling to, our idea that we are in charge warp us from being true, from measuring up.

Law – Herod’s problem

We can see this in the gospel reading, where the interaction between Herod and John is described.

for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

I think that is how we are at times, we know we need to repent of some sins, or of sin in general, but we struggle when we hear someone saying exactly what we need to hear.  It is disturbing, yet in a way, comforting.  We can’t hide any more, something has to be done. Paul knew this well.

17  But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18  I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. 19  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20  My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21  It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22  I truly delight in God’s commands, 23  but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? Romans 7:17-24 (MSG)

We need to realize this vision the prophet Amos sees of Jesus, coming to us and measuring us is like Paul’s realization that he doesn’t.

We need to realize we need God to take His perfect standard, and find out if we need to measure up…

We don’t, we need Him, we desperately need Him to ruin the things we count on instead of Him, we need Him to smash the idols we have, and we need Him to replace the person who wants to be in control of our lives, and take control Himself.

Gospel seen in the prophet

When the prophet Amos answers the high priest, there is a clue to the hope we need, if we are going to let God deliver us from us.

He says he isn’t a professional prophet, nor was he one who was trained up to be one.  He had two real jobs, and in those jobs, we see a picture of what Jesus would do…

The first is one we are well aware of, the Good Shepherd, the pastor. The One who will guide us, protect us, see us even through the valley of the shadow of death.  For He died, so that we would rise from the death of that Valley, and live forever in the presence of the Father.

The other is amazing, the caretaker of sycamore-fig trees.  What it means in Hebrews is the one who very carefully cuts open the fig, and trims that which would hinder it from becoming ripe. It is a tedious process, the worst job in the vineyard and one which requires the most skill.

That is what is amazing when you back and look at what the prophecy is about. About how Jesus carefully cuts away all that impedes our growth in our lives.

Jesus carefully cut away the things we count on to define us. As the Jews counted on their link to Abraham, so things we count on beside Jesus are trimmed away.

Jesus carefully cut away the idols, those things which we turn to when life is stressed, that we count on for when times are stressed.

And lastly, Jesus gently brings an end to our being the king of our lives, the captains of our fate.   And removing that need, the Spirit binds us to Jesus, so that even as He died, we died with Him, and were raised to a new life.

Such is the work of Jesus, carefully cutting out that which doesn’t fit the image we are to measured up again, the image we were made to reflect.  Paul tells the church in Colossae this has been fulfilled, when he says,

11  When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. Colossians 2:11 (NLT)

It is what God has planned to do all along, and in doing so, rids us of that which separates us from Him.  That’s what the cross is about.  It is what Herod couldn’t dare to hope for, or what the priest and king couldn’t bear to hear, saying it was intolerable.

That which they found intolerable is the exact reason why you and I have hope.

Because God cuts away our sin in baptism, when we died and rose with Jesus.

He reminds us the sin is cut away, as we hear, “your sins are sent away, your are forgiven”

Then He invites us to the celebration of our being in Jesus, measuring up, for He has made it work, which is why we praise Him, and thank Him for the peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!  AMEN!

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