Archive | February, 2011

Confessing Our Sin in Prayer

28 Feb

Another aspect of prayer to be considered is confession.

Confession, defined as acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness, is vital in a Christian’s prayer life.

We confess when we miss the mark of God’s holiness. 1 John 1:9 says that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

But why does this sometimes not seem to work? We confess and are we free?  John isn’t just talking about acknowledgment of sin as confession. Confession as agreeing with God regarding our sinfulness and continuing to do the same thing is not the confession God commands. It implies repentance. It’s true repentance that breaks the chain of sin and sets us free. We are to do an about face, to turn away from sin and turn towards God.

Declared admission. Sometimes we don’t want to confess because we feel so bad about our sin.  God feels worse. It is pride not to go to Him the umpteenth million time.  We must humble ourselves each time.  At the same time, it’s not enough to realize we’ve done wrong.  Realizing our wrongs without confession leads to spiritual lethargy.  When we are aware of sin but do nothing to rid ourselves of it, we are victimized and arrested by sin to inactivity and impotence.

Psalm 66:18 speaks of cherishing sin in your heart. It is one of the many reasons we have unanswered prayer.  I’m not discussing how God answers prayer this week, but a lack of confession and repentance often means that God will not listen to our prayers. When we deliberately and knowingly choose sin over God, He does not listen when we pray.

Heartfelt recognition. We take it seriously.  He doesn’t need to know, we do…  Confession is a time when we ask God to show us what is wrong in our lives and agreeing with Him and placing it under His authority.  Sincerity coupled with action and the intent to forsake that sin.

Confession was the primary activity done in the Holy of Holies because that is what required a high priest.  Now Christ has become that and His presence is the Holy of Holies and you may enter it with confession on your own behalf as a priest and co-heir with Christ.

Confession properly done. Our effort is not actually confession unless we are sorrowful and have an emotion of regret, (we may not necessarily experience guilt though we usually do) We must agree with God about the sinfulness of the sin and its opposition to His character and person; we must turn from that sin and intend not to commit it again.

The results of unconfessed sin. Unconfessed sin dulls the conscience and extinguishes one’s desire to pursue God.  Sin causes spiritual insensitivity, then indifference and leads to blatant apathy.  God won’t powerfully use a dirty vessel.  He doesn’t need a beautiful  one, but He won’t use a dirty one. Isaiah, Daniel and Job were used mightily after confession.  (But we don’t use this as a license– David confessed his sin with Bathsheba and of murder, but never was used as much.  Some offenses’ consequences are so great that they cannot ever be fully overcome– here on earth.)

Confession in prayer leads to confidence in prayer.

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Understanding the Wisconsin Public Union Debacle

25 Feb

Understanding the Union Issue in Wisconsin: Let’s try to understand the difference between Private Unions and Public Unions, and why the State of Wisconsin public workers (and the politicians supporting them) are on the wrong side of the situation.

Let’s deal with this situation in plain English.

Question: What are “Unions?”

Question: What is the difference between so-called “public” and “private” unions?

Question: What, if anything, is problematic about unions?

Let’s begin with unions. Unions are organizations that invite (or sometimes legally require) workers to unite with other workers and union bosses to get business owners to do what they want them to do.  That is why it is called “organized labor.”  Those workers are required to pay “dues” in order to be represented— and in many states, some workers do not even have a CHOICE whether they will or won’t be a part of the union—it is sometimes required.

Union Bosses are paid by union workers’ dues and, in return, they play hardball with business leaders on a periodic basis to increase workers’ benefits and wages, and to improve their working conditions.  This is done by threatening to stop working—or by actually striking.  If a strike occurs, the hope is that either the loss of profits for the business or the anger of consumers will force the employers to yield to the union’s demands.  The result, historically, is that unions have helped their workers receive greater pay and benefits than they ever could have received without collective bargaining.  In fact, some union workers earn pay and benefits that far exceed the education of similar non-union employees. That is why, for example, the average union worker is paid and benefited more (28-34%) than the average non-union worker.

The difference between public and private unions is simple.  Private unions are those organizations that represent workers from the private (non-government) business sector.  Public unions are those which represent government workers.  The difference between the two is that private unions organize labor (workers) against private business owners (stockholders of corporations) who happen to be private citizens.

But public unions organize workers against the “public”—meaning, against the US citizenry!  In other words, public labor argues and vigorously works to force the ‘people’ (taxpayers) to pay other fellow taxpayers greater benefits and pay rates under the threat that those workers (fellow citizens) will strike (refuse to work and perform essential services) against their fellow countryman.

What is the problem with public labor unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere? Precisely this—that the government workers hold those who pay them (taxpayers) hostage by refusing to work unless often-egregious labor demands are met.  That means that unions may convince government workers that some injustice has taken place at the hands of other citizens (that they are in poor working conditions or that they are receiving poor pay or unjust benefits).  In turn, those unions organize working citizens to refuse to perform the essential duties of government that their fellow citizens have paid for (through taxes), including things like teaching our children (teacher’s unions), and performing the many other functions of government agencies and bureaus (DMV, police, fire, etc.).  Public unions are insidious because they pit Americans against Americans, and force one group of Americans (taxpayers) to pay and benefit them more “or else.”

Though I agree with the legitimacy of labor unions’ existence in the PRIVATE sector, personally I do not agree with Public Unions.  Private businesses can fight it out with union bosses and the business can either hire or fire them or meet labor demands.  But on the public side, when public workers (government employees) have the ability to collectively bargain—that means they have the ability to refuse to perform basic functions the tax-paying public has paid dearly for (through already-excessive taxes), and to hold the state or nation and its people hostage.

Finally, the greatest problem of “collective bargaining” (like in Wisconsin’s state capital turmoil today) is this: that the constant threat of all government workers walking off the job if their “collective demands” are not met creates a situation where the public (citizens) are sometimes forced to give in to even unreasonable demands—just so those basic jobs will be done (police, fire, teachers, etc.).  What has happened in MANY cases is that states have been forced to offer enormous for-life pensions, incredibly high wages (compared to other similar non-government workers’ education and experience levels), and Cadillac benefit packages THAT ARE UNSUSTAINABLE and that states (like Wisconsin and many others) simply cannot afford.

As a result, by trying to get blood from a turnip, these public unions have sometimes placed states in the position of being functionally insolvent/bankrupt, running up enormous deficits that are GENUINELY UNSUSTAINABLE.  Doing this, in my opinion, on the backs of our fellow man and jeopardizing entire state economies that could lead to complete financial collapse, is immoral.   That is why I oppose public unions.  I believe ‘private’ unions right to exist is legitimate (even though I often disagree with what they do and how they do it).  But I disagree with the existence of public sector unions. I do not think they are needed because I trust the taxpaying public to treat government employees right.  Also, it is against reason that the employee (public union worker/government employee) would make more in wages and benefits than their employer (the tax-paying American citizen).  The fact is that government workers often make more than the people paying them (their bosses/fellow citizens).

Sadly, some public union bosses have rallied employees to take advantage of the situation and make demands that are bankrupting their own states.  That is why Wisconsin is working to remove PUBLIC collective bargaining because it inevitably means uncontrollable taxes for corporations and individuals.  Those high taxes lead to hostile environments for corporations which drives away business from those states (like has happened in union-strong Detroit and Michigan)– which leads to greater unemployment in the state.  Also,  public unions hurt non-government workers by forcing them to pay more than their fair share in order to support government workers.   Ironically, simple math shows that these union-driven obligations foisted upon taxpayers are unsustainable and that financial collapse is inevitable.   The frustrating thing is that, though some public union members may know this, their union bosses have driven them into a frenzy to where the facts don’t matter, and they “want theirs,” regardless of the cost.

[I may not have time or opportunity to respond to individual remarks on this topic.  Accept my apologies if I don’t reply to your responses].

Listening in Prayer

21 Feb

One of the least known elements of prayer is that of listening.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 tells us to “let our words be few”, not to be quick with our mouths of hasty in our hearts. Because God is Lord and King, we are to listen to His Words before seeking to promote our own interests or petitioning for our needs. As Jesus commands His disciples not to pray with useless repetition and meaningless words, we are also to listen first.

Listening is another aspect of the receiving end of our dialogue with God. It is different than waiting, which is preparing for God’s coming and letting Him love you. It is different from meditation, which is pondering spiritual themes and asking God to illuminate them for you.

Listening is to seek to hear God speaking to You, to allow Him to apply Scripture to your life, to allow Him to give you an insight about life issues, and to seek to see what He has laid upon your heart

The person who doesn’t learn to listen is the person who doesn’t really have a clear direction in his life about what God wants him to do and doesn’t pursue aggressive things for God. When we listen, we will hear God’s words, hear His directions, and we can act in obedience to Him.

Worship as Prayer

15 Feb

Worship isn’t just corporate, it is personal. The choir is meant to lead the congregation in worship, not to perform for them. They direct us.  The choir was placed earlier in the loft, but usually stays behind the pulpit (primarily since the Reformation), in order for the larger congregation to see how to respond and, when the special is going on, to participate vicariously through the expressions and feelings of the singers.

Corporate worship is enhanced by personal worship through the week. Singing is a great part of that because sometimes we cannot express the depths of our souls any other way but through song.  That’s why God gave it to us.  Our souls include our minds, wills and emotions.  We can choose to worship God and use our minds to that effect, but sometimes even great truths cannot find their fullest expression in our persons until we express our devotion to our Lord through song.  Remember that the Psalms were simply Israel’s Hymnal.

Songs are many times praise. Remember that God inhabits the praise of His people, and songs of praise to the Lord often are a wonderful weapon against depression, spiritual defeat, fatigue,  and other Satanic devices. Keneniah led the singers of Israel in their assault on Jericho.  It was the singers and not the worldly weapons that caused the walls to fall.  Our weapons are not the same as the world, but are strong to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10).

Personal worship through song enhances our relationship with God. Praise and worship of God can take place through song and through prayer, so personal song can be a form of prayer as well. We can pray through music, when we cannot express our thoughts and emotions in another way.

Petitioning God in Prayer

7 Feb

Petitioning is an additional aspect of prayer that we can consider and practice. Praise and confession are foundational in prayer, but petitioning is also an important piece of praying to our God and Father.

What is petition? Asking God for one’s own behalf.  Technically, only yourself– not your family or anyone else falls into this category. It’s significant that petition falls after many other topics in prayer.

Asking is symbol of our desire, yet sometimes He won’t give that which we want or need until we ask for it. As James 4:2 says, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” God may still answer with a ‘no’ or ask us to wait or tell us ‘later,’ be He cannot answer if we don’t pray and we don’t ask.

Petition is not unbiblical or necessarily selfish. We do rely and depend on God and for that reason, we must ask Him for that which we need. As Jabez cries out in 1 Chronicles 9, who asked with sincerity for God to protect Him. We have but one Father and He must grant our provision. Petition is a confession of our helplessness, reliance, and desperation. When we ask with wrong motives, God does not grant our selfish requests (James 4:1-3).

It is spiritually healthy to take a need apart, piece by piece, during prayer.  Analyze it from every angle and express it as a petition. The more specific and complete a petition is, the more faith is generated when the prayer is answered. Specific prayers are also good because you know when they are answered (Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:23).  Don’t escape the spiritual tension by asking vaguely and then wondering if your prayers were answered.  Sometimes we ask vaguely because we’re so afraid they won’t be answered and that indicts someone– God or ourselves.

Asking God with faith and with pure motives for ourselves is not selfishness, but is trusting God with all of our needs and with our future.

Prayer begins with praising God for who He is and what He’s done. We must also confess and repent of sin, as unconfessed sin hinders our petitions for ourselves. Waiting for God and watching for His work are also vital to making our own petitions. We must look for where God is working in the world already before making a request for ourselves.