Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Intentional Christianity—Do You Seek to Please the Lord?

Remember being a kid and wanting to do something special to please your parents? Bringing them breakfast in bed; cleaning the yard, house, or car. Making a gift or doing a drama. I recall choreographing dances for my father and mother, using their favorite records. I'd spend hours perfecting my dance.

Kids want to please their parents and show their love. Their actions are intentional in these occasions. I know I wanted to delight my father and mother, and of course show off my dancing skills.

My two granddaughters, Mia and Aalillyah, recently drew me pictures—certainly Picasso's in the making. They presented their master pieces to me with gleaming eyes and big smiles, which grew as they saw my pleasure in their scribblings; and even more so, as I posted them on the wall. They were pleased that I was pleased. Joy describes that moment.

When I’ve read, “ . . . find out what pleases the Lord,” (Ephesians 5:10) it felt like a mystery I had to solve. Like looking for hidden treasure or playing hide and seek—find out, seek it, and look for what pleases the Almighty God. As I meditated on this facet, I could not imagine that God meant for this “finding” to be a mystery to us.

We only have to admire the world around us, or study the anatomy of our bodies to know that God is an intentional God. His creation is a testimony to his desire to bring pleasure and provide aesthetic surroundings for us to enjoy. Therefore, it seems to me, out of God’s character—as a Father, to say, Hey you . . . go find out what pleases me, without giving us some sort of direction. And I say this because God the Father formed us to be relational with  with him and each other. That was intentional on his part.

Early in our Christian faith, certain disciplines are impressed upon us like:

  • Reading our Bible
  • Going to Church
  • Tithing
  • Doing good
  • Praying
These "disciplines" can become rules, which become legalistic guardians of our heart. Our inner world falls apart because we did not . . . ! This can build a sense of not measuring up. There is nothing wrong with these disciplines; however, when they become the “we have to” or else we'll fall short—they become a form of religiosity, instead of living in freedom. We then are over taken by a:

  • Guilty heart
  • Fearful heart
  • Striving heart
For sure, this state of being focuses our mind and heart elsewhere and become tools in the enemy's hand—who wants to rob us of enjoying all that God desires for us. Guilt, striving, and being fearful blocks us from being intentional of finding out what pleases him. These emotions choke love, our inspiration, our creativity, and approaching our Father with a child like faith—we lose sight of desiring to make him smile.

How do we go about discovering what pleases the Lord? First we must let go of fear, guilt and striving to earn God's pleasure. Then we must think outside of our Christian "must do box."

As I meditated on this subject, I decided that what pleases the Lord is broader and deeper than the disciplines we do because that is what we've been taught or have always done.

In my thirties, I had a surgery, which kept me so drained I could not read my Bible, go to church, or even pray for six long weeks—everything felt like such a chore and took so much energy. Guilt crept in my heart as I felt I was not doing-that-which-I’m-supposed-to-do. It was then that God taught me the lesson that he loves and takes pleasure in me, because I am created in his image. It’s not what I do or do not do, as it relates to Christian disciplines; but who I am in him through his Son Jesus.

So what pleases the Lord? What is acceptable in his sight? Here are a few references I found:
  • Praying for everyone, including those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-4; see also Proverbs 15:8).
    • The purpose of this, is so that we well live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
  • Praising God’s name in song and glorifying him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:29).
    • This pleases the Lord more than sacrifices.
  • Faith that God exists and that he will reward those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
    • It’s impossible to please God without faith.
  • Giving gifts to missionaries (Philippians 4:18-19).
    • Paul told the Philippians that their gifts were “fragrant offerings, and a acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
  • Looking after orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27).
    • Keeping one self from being polluted by the world.
  • Children are to obey their parents in everything (Colossians 3:20).
    • Of course, we know that “everything” would not be "anything" that is unlawful.
Also when Paul and Timothy spoke to the Corinthians they told them that, “ . . . we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” (2 Corinthians 5:9). In other words, in life or in the afterlife, their goal was to please God their Father. Their goal was motivated not by duty but by love.

In my study, I did not find God praising those who had a perfect church attendance, a steady tithing record, a bible reading regiment or those filled with scholarly knowledge. On the contrary, I discovered what pleases the Lord is not a mystery—it’s intentional Christianity. Sure, God is pleased when we fellowship and spend time in his word and prayer but what he deems particularly acceptable is when we do the stuff that really matters most in life, and not out of duty but out of a heart of affection toward him and our fellow man.

This includes caring for the destitute, the widows and orphans, praising God and having a thankful heart, having faith in God’s existence, keeping one self from the pollution of the world, giving to missionaries, praying for everyone, and for children—obeying their parents, and this all comes out of a heart, which loves God.

Solomon said, “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, . . .” (Ecclesiastes 2: 26a).

I hope to be more intentional in pleasing my Father in heaven, that I may receive wisdom, knowledge and happiness in this life and I hope you will join me.

Our Father,
Help us to intentionally seek to do those things in life, which brings pleasure to your heart. Not looking after our own needs but looking after the needs of others. Let our spirit be guided by our affections toward you and a desire to make you smile.
In Jesus Name, Amen!

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