Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday (feeble as they may be) about Jesus’ thoughts on a painfully necessary Thursday.
One of my favorite scriptures of all time was most likely given to us on a Thursday. The words we read in John chapter 17 come directly from the prayer Jesus prayed the evening before his crucifixion. We know that took place at Passover, on the day we call Good Friday, so it stands to reason these words of our Lord were spoken on a Thursday evening.
This prayer of Christs’ is essentially made up of three parts. In the first part He prayed for Himself. In the second section He prayed for His disciples, and finally He prayed for us…for you and for me. It is the final portion I usually find so special because Jesus is literally praying for us, and expressing that the reason He was willing to go to the cross was so that He would be able to spend eternity, being one with us, in heaven, forever! When I recognize the gravity of that it is so moving. Let it hit you for a minute. Jesus loves you so very much that He can’t bear the thought of spending eternity without you. His love for you is so immense…so intense that when faced with the choice of an agonizing death or being separated from you forever…He chose the cross! There is literally no way you or I could be loved more completely.
Going back to the second portion of Jesus prayer, He prayed for His disciples. He specifically prayed that rather than them being taken out of the world alongside Himself, that they would instead be enabled by God to remain behind and through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, offer their testimony to others about The Christ. Again He was willing for their pain to necessarily be endured that we might know through their ministry His great love for us.
Today however, my thoughts are focused on the beginning of His prayer. Here Jesus prays for Himself. Verse 1 of that chapter tells us that Jesus asked for God’s help with what was coming. We read that He opened his prayer with these words. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You…” We know that this was an incredibly difficult time for Jesus. In Matthew’s account found in chapter 26 of his gospel it tells us that Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful, to the point of death. There we read that He prayed that if it was at all possible, if there were any other way to get the same result, He asked God to choose that, instead of what He knew was in store for Him. However, we read that He relented, that if there was no other way, He would submit to this one. Why? Again, He was unwilling that we be left without a way to be one with Him forever. You can read other accounts of this same prayer recorded in Mark 14 and Luke chapter 22.
Why did Jesus need encouragement so badly that Luke’s account tells us God sent an angel specifically to strengthen Him? Why would the Son of God need to pray for Himself? Because He knew that what was coming was going to hurt. Obviously He knew it would hurt physically. Jesus had likely seen crucifixions. It was the barbaric way the Romans executed those they found deserving of capital punishment. It was so brutal that the Jewish people didn’t think a dog deserved to die in that fashion. To their way of thinking it was completely inhumane. The Bible tells us Jesus was well aware that this was the painful way in which He was going to be put to death. It says that He told His disciples that the Son of man would be “lifted up” as on a cross, so that they too would know the manner in which He was going to die. Jesus knew that physically speaking the crucifixion was going to hurt, in fact, it was going to be excruciatingly painful.
Jesus also knew it was going to hurt emotionally. Just days before this prayer was being lifted to the Father, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem triumphantly. He had come in riding on the back of a colt. People had thronged to see him and to have the opportunity to wave palm branches and even pave his entrance to the city by throwing their clothes down on the road under His mount. He had received from them a welcome fit for a king! We are told that as He took that ride He looked at the city stretching out before Him and said sorrowfully, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, oh how I would have gathered and cared for you like a hen gathers and protects her chicks…but you would not have it”. As Jesus prayed that evening in the garden, I think He knew that the next day some of those same voices that had heralded His entrance with “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” would soon be following another crowd and vilely spewing the words filled with hatred, “Crucify Him…Crucify Him!”. I think Jesus was also in such distress because He knew emotionally, it was going to hurt beyond belief!
I believe Jesus also knew it was going to hurt almost unbearably, in a spiritual sense. Remember, Jesus was willing to go through all of this because He could not bear the thought of spending eternity without you. If there was any less of a payoff than that…it would not have been worth it to Him. In fact, in the final part of the prayer recorded in John 17 it tells us that He prayed these words, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…” (John 17:20-21 NKJV) Jesus proclaimed He was doing this entirely to enjoy a oneness with us. Hebrews Chapter 12 tells us that it was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross. What was the joy? Oneness with us!
So what was this excruciating spiritual pain that was coming, that needed prayer to enable Him to overcome? Jesus was fully aware that to enjoy that oneness with us, He had to take upon Himself our sin. He understood that to do that was going to mean that His Father who had been one with Him for eternity…was going to be forced to separate Himself from Him. There had never been a time when He and The Father had not been one, but if Jesus were to enrobe Himself with our sin, so that we could wear His robes of righteousness, the Father was going to be forced to turn His face away from His only Son! Just a few hours after this time of prayer, Jesus would be crying out to His Father in agony…”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?! Let that rest on you for a moment. Jesus was so desirous that we not be separated from Him that He was willing to spend the darkest, most physically, and most emotionally pain filled time of His eternal existence separated from His Father for our sakes. The one who had been with Him forever, was going to turn His back on Him, and that was the plan Jesus was asking for strength to endure…all to have an eternal oneness with you and with me.
Jesus needed prayer that Thursday because He knew that Friday would bring the worst pain imaginable…physically, emotionally and spiritually. The Bible tells us that Jesus desires that no one should perish, but that all would be saved. His prayer on that particularly difficult Thursday and His actions on an awful, and unbelievably painful Friday prove He is all in because He was willing to die for us. In response to that, anything less than being ready and willing to live for Him doesn’t even make sense! We might not have the opportunity to do that except for the resurrection power of God who raised Jesus from the grave just three days later and placed Him on the throne of highest authority in Heaven! Glory to God for the Easter morning miracle that restored our wonderful, sweet, sweet Savior to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. He deservedly sits on the throne of Heaven, and equally deserves to sit on the throne of our very lives!
So now, under the weight of His incredible love for You…normally I would tell you to go be awesome…but today I think we should all Go thank Him for being so awesome!
Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…New Normal
“New normal” is a statement that gets used a lot these days. I have to admit that I have even used it in my counseling room, though in light of this edition to my podcast, I am considering eliminating it all together from my vernacular.
Just two years ago as a result of the pandemic, we were all essentially forced to sequester ourselves in our homes as much as possible. While we were still allowed to leave to do things deemed essential, like shop, other things were deemed too dangerous and we were commanded not to leave the safety of our houses for those things, like corporate worship. It was all a part of the “New normal” we were told. It didn’t matter that for all of human history prior to that time we quarantined the sick, in our “New normal” we were going to have to enact that measure on those were perfectly healthy as well.
It wasn’t all that long ago we were still being asked to accept that when we were in public we would have to cover our faces with a mask, it was just the “New normal”. That “New normal” had so many unintended consequences. Physically, emotionally, mentally and even socially. It created enough other problems that eventually even those forcing the policy had to recognize the dangers being averted were likely not as great as the ones being caused. Thankfully, these above mentioned “New normals” have been for the most part restored to the old.
Recently I heard this same phrase being offered by the media to explain away some of the things happening in our nation. It was mentioned in regards to runaway gas prices. The pundit I was listening to was explaining that these higher prices were here to stay. Until we weaned ourselves of our need for fossil fuels and learned how to use renewable energy sources to propel our lives, we would just have to get used to the “New normal” of astronomically high prices at the pump. On that same program, the panel assembled advised that Americans should also get used to higher expenses across the board as transportation costs for goods and services continued to rise as a result of the higher cost of fuel. Their take on inflation is that higher prices are the “New normal” and we will all just have to accept and get used to it.
Morality is another area we are being asked to accept a “New normal”. When “Mostly peaceful protests” cost taxpayers and insurance companies billions of dollars from the ensuing damage, we were asked to accept it as the “New normal” of social justice. As the family structure is discarded as unimportant because marriage and fidelity are considered old fashioned, we are told to simply understand that those are personal decisions and we have no right to disagree and force our ideals on others. It’s just the “New normal”. Entire cities have even acquiesced to the stipulation that unless loss from thievery is in excess of $900.00 a robbery hasn’t even occurred. Those businesses affected by such “grand lunacy” are told not to consider it being robbed, and call the police. Rather, they should see it as “Loss of inventory” and call their insurance agent. After all, can’t we all just admit we are living in a “New normal”?
What does God’s word have to say about our “New normal”? Ecclesiastes 1:9 tells us; That which has been is that which will be [again], And that which has been done is that which will be done again. So there is nothing new under the sun. (Amplified Version) Yet, it seems impossible that this old world has ever been like it is today. Paul wrote however that; “…When [people] measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they lack wisdom and behave like fools”. (2 Corinthians 10:12 AMP) That statement certainly bears itself out to be true. When we rightly compare ourselves to God we have something to glorify and reflect because we have been created by Him in His image and His likeness. His righteousness gives us example of how we are to act and what we ought to do. His instruction to us shows us the correct way to interact not only with Him but also with those around us. He is loving and selfless and through relationship with Him and understanding of His word we are given opportunity to be the same toward others. However, when we begin comparing ourselves to ourselves, we see only our peers, our equals and our selfish nature drives us to discover what we deserve and how they should treat us. When you take that into consideration, men and women have been doing exactly that since the beginning of time…I guess there really isn’t anything new under the sun. But still… Should we simply accept it as the “New normal”?
This week in my regular time with the Lord I was reading in the book of 2 Timothy. In the fourth chapter of that letter from the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son Timothy, Paul instructed him, and us how to deal with “New Normals”. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 in the Amplified Version reads as follows. Preach the word [as an official messenger]; be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]; correct [those who err in doctrine or behavior], warn [those who sin], exhort and encourage [those who are growing toward spiritual maturity], with inexhaustible patience and [faithful] teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine and accurate instruction [that challenges them with God’s truth]; but wanting to have their ears tickled [with something pleasing], they will accumulate for themselves [many] teachers [one after another, chosen] to satisfy their own desires and to support the errors they hold, and will turn their ears away from the truth and will wander off into myths and man-made fictions [and will accept the unacceptable]. But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship [without flinching], do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of] your ministry.
When I read these words penned by the Apostle Paul, they almost seem to be written to the 21st century church in regards to the educational system of our day. Our schools and universities are currently seeking out teachers and professors who will validate the nonsensical thought processes that fulfill the selfish desires of mankind. Their academic stature is lent to offer legitimacy to the “New normals”.
But as for you, be clear-headed in every situation [stay calm and cool and steady], endure every hardship [without flinching], do the work of an evangelist, fulfill [the duties of] your ministry. (vs 5) Our mission is clear…continue to speak truth. Don’t shy away from it, don’t stand down from it. Most importantly however, never do it in the absence of love. Scripture is clear, correction without love will never be seen as anything but irritating. Irritating confused people is not, has never been, nor ever will be an effective way to point them to the truth. Love on the other hand is able to empathize with one who is misunderstanding, while not agreeing with their misconception. We have all at times tried to justify our own ungodliness, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone else tries to do the same.
1 Peter 3:15 encourages us as to the importance of measuring out the truth about “New normals” in a loving way. But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.
So now, taking up the ministry of lovingly offering truth about “New normals” to the lost and confused world around you…Go Be Awesome!
Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Eye Exams
The other day I was amused by a text I got from my eye doctor’s office. It said that it was time for my regular eye exam and that I should call and make an appointment to come in at my earliest convenience. What made the text amusing was that I had just been in for my regular eye exam not two months ago. The text had been sent by a computer based on some past exam date, but obviously not taking into account my most recent visit. A marketing strategy no doubt, but funny to me none the less. I probably wouldn’t have found it particularly comical, but it was the eye doctor…all they had to do was look at my records…you know…with their eyes, and they would have seen I didn’t need to make an appointment. I smiled and thought perhaps I wasn’t the one in need of an eye exam!
It got me thinking though about how often the Holy Spirit has to notify me that I need to come in for an eye exam, because He is aware that I am not “seeing” things as clearly as I ought to. I must admit that it is often more than once-a-year. Sometimes I look around at the world around me and I think to myself…”This is crazy, everything is spiraling out of control.” In those moments I realize that my observations are very nearsighted. I am considering my circumstances from a temporal point of view. I don’t like whatever I am seeing because it isn’t conducive to an outcome I desire. For instance, there are times when I see the upheaval on the world stage and grow concerned for the well-being of my children and grandchildren. When I look at the self-serving attitude of our world leaders it can cause me to have grave concerns over the possible or might I even say probable outcome. Then the Holy Spirit reminds me it is time for an eye exam.
Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus about their nearsightedness too. He reminded them of what The Spirit reminds me of and what I want to remind you of today. King Jesus is still on the throne! He is the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present King! All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. (Matthew 28:18) God is, has always been, and will forever be in control. Nothing is above Him or beyond Him and He is a good, good Father. Additionally, we are promised that the same Holy Spirit that reminds me of the necessity of an eye exam is interceding for us in prayer as we go through whatever experience is causing us difficulty in any given moment. (Romans 8:26-27)
In the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians we find in verses 17-23 what Paul wrote to encourage them in their nearsightedness that I want to encourage you with today. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Paul said that as a part of his prayer for the Ephesians he prayed regularly that they would know God better because he understood that would bring them wisdom and revelation about what was going on in the world around them. He said he also prayed that the “eyes of their hearts might be enlightened”. He was praying that they would receive corrective lenses. He wanted them to get new glasses. The same prescription that I need and that you need. What prescription is that? It’s the one that helps us see who is on the throne. Who the one is that has the greatest power and highest authority. They are the glasses that help us see that in fact no one in power on the world stage is there except that our Father, The God of all creation has placed them there, ultimately for His own purposes. Never allow the fact that God is good and we deem the leaders around us bad to lead you to the conclusion that God is not in control. God has used poor human rulers to bring about his will in his time all throughout history. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Herod, and Pilate come to mind just to name a few of those who were not for God, but were used in their places of earthly power by God to bring his plans to fruition.
Paul went on to remind the Ephesians, as well as you and I that God wants us to walk in the incomparable power that He has, the same power He used to raise Christ from the dead, the lowest of lows and then seat Him in the Heavens at His own right hand, the highest of all places. That same power that God exerted to put every world leader that ever existed, that currently exists and that ever will exist, under the authority and rule of Christ, God wants to infill you with, but you need the right glasses to see it.
So now, having understanding that you serve the greatest King of all time…ever, walk in confidence seeing the world around you for what it really is…and Go Be Awesome!
Hi, this is pastor ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…The Renewal of Spring!
Ever since I was a kid I have loved spring. I love the warm lazy days of summer. Autumn is beautiful in a very colorful kind of way. Winter…well winter is winter, not much appealing I can say about winter, but spring, spring is my favorite. Spring is when everything is new. There are new leaf buds breaking forth on the trees. The differing flowering trees seem to burst forth with new colors and fragrances each week for at least a month as if vying for my attention, and the grass awakens from its wintry slumber cropping up unevenly across my yard like a bad case of bed-head. Yes, of all the seasons, I love spring the most. No matter what the long winter has ushered into our lives, Spring is bursting forth with new promises. I think one of the things that endears this time of year to me is that it is an incredible time of renewal.
In my opinion our awesome God brings renewal to the earth every year in part to remind us regularly of our need to be diligent for His renewal in our lives as well. His word speaks of that necessary renewal and reminds us of His ability and desire to offer it to us. His love for us…all of us is so great, so intense, and so immense that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place so that we might live eternally with Him…the ultimate in renewal. Today I was thinking of some of the other places the Bible speaks of renewal.
Psalm 51:7-10 says; Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. King David wrote this Psalm after facing the sin he had committed against Bathsheba, Uriah, her husband, and God. David understood the gravity of his sin, and he also came to understand the mercy of his God. He knew that renewal could only come from God and humbly approached Him to receive it. King David also seemed to understand that forgiveness was not all he needed and asked that a steadfast spirit, or in other words one that would continuously seek righteousness would be renewed within him. We need that same steadfast spirit to be found within us.
Isaiah 40:31 is another well-known example of renewal. It reads; But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Here Isaiah is writing of the incredible, infallible strength, ability, and understanding of God. He also writes in the verses preceding this one that humans have limited amounts of those qualities. In response to these facts, he tells us that if we choose not to attempt to do things in our own abilities but rather look to God to empower us, we will experience a renewal of God’s strength being demonstrated through our lives. The Apostle Paul spoke of this same kind of renewal. He said that it is in our weaknesses that God is able to show Himself strong. In other words, it is in our weakness that God’s strength is seen in stark contrast as we are enabled by Him to do things far above our own abilities. When we find we are growing tired, we ought to recognize we are laboring in our own strength and that we need this very renewal.
Paul also wrote of a necessary renewal in Romans 12:2. There he wrote; And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Here he cautioned us that as Christ followers we are not supposed to be comfortable looking like everyone else around us. Our actions, words and even thoughts are supposed to reflect the presence of God in our lives, so much so that our minds literally become renewed. In this renewed state of mind, we will act, speak and think differently than the world at large. He mentioned in Colossians 3:9-10 that since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, that through this renewal we will begin to conform once again to the image of God and reflect Him more accurately. This is an ongoing renewal that we should be seeing greater evidence of each day.
Finally, today I want to look at one more scripture of renewal. In his letter to Titus Paul wrote that this necessary renewal is nothing we can accomplish on our own. Nothing can renew itself. Just as it is only by the power of God that the earth goes through this time of renewal each year, it is no different for us. Renewal can only come through an outside source of power. Nothing is capable of self-renewal and we are no different. Even a plant creating and dropping its own seed must be sustained by earth, sun, and rain, none of which the plant has any power to control. We also need an outside source of power to experience the renewal we so desperately need. Titus 3:4-7 expresses this wonderfully. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His Mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
So now, enjoying the process of renewal in your own life and giving all glory and praise to God for making it possible…Go Be Awesome!
Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Turning the tables.
Have you ever been stuck? I have. I am so glad that winter seems to be losing its icy grip on the landscape. Last weekend it seemingly made a last ditch effort to hang on…but I think by in large, it’s over, at least for another year. When I was a teenager I was living in the frozen tundra that is otherwise known as the greater Buffalo, NY area. Snow would sweep in sometime around Halloween, definitely by Thanksgiving, and would swirl with consistency until Easter was on the horizon. It made for slick snowy roads and high snowbanks that seemed more like concrete than the white powder that had been piled to construct them. As a teenager, and with all of the foresight teenagers have, my limited driving and thinking skills left me stranded atop more than one snowbank alongside the road I was supposed to be traveling upon. When that happens you are what is commonly known as…stuck. You can’t go forward; you can’t back up. The car’s tires are held up off of the road’s surface by the snow trapped under the vehicle and you are well…stuck. You aren’t going anywhere because you are held captive by the snowbank. Speaking from experience, there isn’t much to do during your captivity except rethink every poor decision that got you there. Until you retrieve the shovel that hopefully is contained in the trunk and start shoveling there is nothing to do but have a good old fashioned pity party.
Sometimes people get stuck without a snowbank within a thousand miles. They get stuck and seemingly can’t get any traction. The poor decisions that got them stuck in the first place are now holding them captive running around and around in their minds pushing away any positive thoughts that dare to try to make an entrance. They fixate on past missteps and ruminate on poor choices. They play over and over the scenarios that got them where they are in that moment…stuck. They are held completely captive by the messaging and can’t seem to get anywhere. We call that particular snowbank…negative self-talk, and it can be very deep!
The Bible gives us the answer to this problem. 2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to “Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ”. Whenever you realize your thoughts of regret, disappointment, frustration or anything else have been holding you captive, it’s time to turn the tables and take those thoughts captive…and as this scripture instructs…make them obedient to Christ! In other words, you get to be the captor instead of the captive…everything can change. Turning the tables isn’t possible though unless we have the necessary tools to do it. Just like I needed to keep that shovel in the trunk back in my teenage years to free me from the snowbanks, we have to keep the necessary tools handy to free us from negative self-talk.
When you want to battle piled up snow, you need a good shovel. When you need to battle piled up lies, you need to know the truth. Memorizing God’s word and the things it has to say about who we are in Christ can make a huge difference when we are trying to extract ourselves from the embankments of defeatist thoughts piled up and placed in our path by our spiritual enemy. Allow me to recommend a few of my favorite “shovels” tailor made for regaining traction.
• Shovel full of truth #1 – I am a child of God – John 1:12 – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
• Shovel full of truth #2 – I am forgiven – Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
• Shovel full of truth #3 – I am one of Jesus’ friends – John 15:1 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
• Shovel full of truth #4 – I am made in the image and likeness of my Heavenly Father – Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
• Shovel full of truth #5 – I am created by God and made new in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
• Shovel full of truth #6 – God made me just the way He did…on purpose! – Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
• Shovel full of truth #7 – This world is not my home, I am a citizen of Heaven – Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
• Finally, shovel full of truth #8 – I am not a victim…Jesus makes me a victor! – Romans 8:37 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Don’t let those negative deceiving thoughts hold you captive any longer. Turn the tables. Instead, take captive those malicious thoughts impressed upon you by the devil and make them obedient to your loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Allow the truth to give you the traction you need and set you free…and watch that snowbank get smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.
So now, turning the tables and shoveling out with the truth of God’s word…Go be Awesome!
Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…What’s The Difference?
Today I would like to consider two words in the English language. Prefer and Defer. These two words rhyme, and carry much the same meaning…so what’s the difference? Besides spelling, the biggest difference I can come up with, and it’s an important distinction, is…motive.
If you go to the dictionary and look these words up, you will see what I am talking about. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word defer as; to submit to another’s wishes, opinion or governance. On the other hand, the same source defines the word prefer as; to like better, or to give priority to someone or something. So, to defer means to let someone else exercise authority in a situation. It is in fact choosing someone else over self but only because there is reason to offer that level of respect. We defer to someone when we decide they know more about a subject than we do, or they have more experience in a particular field than we might, or perhaps simply because they are bigger or more powerful in some way. I used to defer to my father because He was bigger than I was, and I didn’t desire to have that fact proven in a way I wasn’t going to like. To prefer someone however comes from a different motive altogether. We prefer that which we like more or most. For example, when my wife and I get ice cream I almost always get peanut butter swirl because I prefer it over the other options. I don’t choose that flavor because I am afraid of what will happen if I don’t, I choose it because I like it more than all the others.
We can allow someone else to have their way under either of these two principles. We can allow someone else to make decisions because for some reason we feel we should or must defer, or we can allow them to make choices that affect us because we prefer them over ourselves. Again it all boils down to motive. I have fourteen grandchildren. I could make my point if I only had one…but I like to brag about the fact there are fourteen of them. Over the years, I have played many games with my grandchildren. Some of them enjoy racing with me in the back yard. No matter what the case may be, I generally let them win, or make choices whenever possible. Why? I could just say that is what a good papa does, but there is more to it than that. This particular papa is incredibly competitive. In fact, I like to win at just about anything that can be turned into a competition. But when it comes to those grandkids I like something much more than winning…watching them win! Is it because I am afraid of what will happen if they don’t win? Not at all. I do not defer to them, I prefer them. I like seeing them win or choose more than I like to win or choose. I take my joy in the situation from experiencing their joy. What’s the difference? Motive. We defer out of fear, we prefer out of love.
Romans 12:10 gives us the most clear-cut example of this being scriptural. It says; Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. Paul says here that as a result of love, we should prefer one another. Sometimes I like to look at the reverse truth of a thing. That truth here would translate as follows: when we choose to prefer another person over ourselves that is an act of love.
Paul also wrote in Philippians 2:1-4Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (NIV) In this admonition, Paul is quite clear that preferring one another, or in his words, looking not to your own interests, but to the interests of others, is a result of several important conditions. First, being a Christ follower should make us want to prefer others. Second, the experience of Christ’s love toward us should make us desirous to prefer others. Third if we enjoy the privilege of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit it should motivate us to want to put others above ourselves. He said that if we have any tenderness or compassion it should drive us to prefer. Finally, he says that a heart of humility…which Jesus definitely encourages us to have…will choose to value others above self.
One might ask, if I prefer others, won’t that give them an open opportunity to run me over and make me their doormat? If I spend my time, resources and efforts to put others needs above my own, who is going to make sure I have what I need? I often hear these concerns or some variation of them in my counseling room. They are valid questions, and there are valid answers. Godly wisdom, which is the counsel found in God’s word in places like the scriptures above is governed by spiritual principles. Often they will not make sense to our human intelligence, sometimes they fly directly in the face of conventional worldly wisdom, and so they raise such questions. The spiritual principle that applies here however is that when I prefer my wife or children or grandchildren or anyone else for that matter, they no longer have to look out to see that their needs are being met, because I am busy meeting them. This frees them to be able to look to see what I might need. Are there selfish people who will take advantage of such a situation? Of course, but they are most often in the minority and not the majority. Even in these times however, spiritual principles respond. Jesus said that when we prefer someone over ourselves, and meet some need they have, He considers it as if we did that thing directly for Him, and He will see that we are cared for in the final analysis. Matthew 25:31-40 is a portion of scripture where Jesus is describing what Judgement day will be like. There it is recorded that He said; “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
This scripture is the guarantee that we cannot prefer someone else over ourselves and have it go unnoticed. Even if we must endure being ‘run over’ in the moment, if we are acting out of love and humility, and choosing to prefer others because we have been preferred by Jesus…in the end, we will be exalted.
So now, choosing to let someone else choose, not out of deference and fear, but out of preference motivated by love…go be awesome!