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In June, a group came from Chicago to help out at the home for needy children where my wife and I valley-of-vision-bookserve.  The leader of the group is Jim Hardman.  He has brought a group down every year for the last ten years or so, and we have become friends over that time.  Him and his group always bring gifts for the missionaries at the mission.  He told me about this little Puritan Prayer book that he had discovered, and that encouraged him in his personal devotion time.  He said he brought a copy in Spanish for our pastor.  It sounded like a book that I would quite enjoy and was somewhat disappointed that he did not have a copy for me.

Two weeks later my family and I were in Colorado, visiting my parents and my sister and her family.  I like reading about the Civil War and my sister had a few Civil War books for me.  She gave me another little book that she said her and her husband have been enjoying as well.  She had a brand new copy of The Valley of Vision for me.  The very same book that Jim Hardman had been talking about.  I started reading it and I love it.  I love the old language, but more than that I love the perspective of the Puritan writers.  Every prayer focuses not only on the goodness of God, but on the wretched, vile, state of humans, which makes the goodness of God to humans seem all the sweeter.

I like these prayers so much that I want to include excerpts of them in this blog about enjoying God.   Below is one entitled God Enjoyed.

Known, but beyond knowledge, revealed, but undervalued, my wants and welfare draw me to thee, for thou hast never said, “Seek he me in vain.”
To thee I come in my difficulties, necessities, distresses; possess me with thyself, with a spirit of grace and supplication, with a prayerful attitude of mind, with access into warmth and fellowship, so that in the ordinary concerns of life my thoughts and desires may rise up to thee.
Continue the gentleness of thy goodness towards me, and whether I wake or sleep, let thy presence go with me, thy blessing attend me.
Thy vows are ever upon me, and I praise thee, O God.

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Puritanism was a religious reform movement that arose within the Church of England in the late sixteenth century. Under siege from church and crown, it sent an offshoot in the third and fourth decades of the seventeenth century to the northern English colonies in the New World–a migration that laid the foundation for the religious, intellectual, and social order of New England. Puritanism, however, was not only a historically specific phenomenon coincident with the founding of New England; it was also a way of being in the world–a style of response to lived experience–that has reverberated through American life ever since.

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We all have times in our lives when we are really looking forward to some special event.  Maybe a wedding, the birth of a child, a graduation, promotion, or a vacation.  My youngest daughter, Kelly, will be three in June.  She is really looking forward to her birthday!  Her sister had a birthday in March, complete with cupcakes and pizza and a trip to Boing-Boing, a children’s play land in Oaxaca city, here in Mexico.  Her sister Sally received many gifts and Kelly cried because she received none.  We consoled her by telling her that her birthday was coming up, and then she would be the one receiving the gifts.  Since then, a few of her little friends have had birthdays, complete with all the trimmings and gifts, and Kelly knew that she just had to wait for her special day to arrive.  She is really looking forward to that day.  On any given day she can be heard singing “happy birthday” and eating pretend birthday cake and swinging a stick at imaginary pinatas.
How about you and me?  Is there anything that we are looking forward to that much?  According to St. Peter, there is a day coming that should excite us more than all the birthdays, holidays and vacations combined.  It’s called the “Day of the Lord”.

Peter writes about this Day in the last chapter of his second book.  This “Day of the Lord” is characterized by two things: one, the destruction of the heavens and the earth, and two, a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  I think this is what Peter was really looking forward to.  In chapter two Peter describes some nasty stuff in this present world to indicate that this place is definitely not the home of righteousness.  He writes about false prophets, false teachers, destructive heresies, denying the Lord, depraved conduct, greed, exploitation, lawlessness, unrighteousness, corrupt desires of the flesh, arrogance, blasphemy, doing harm, carousing, adulterers, seducers, sinners, lovers of the wages of wickedness, lustful desires of the flesh, slaves of depravity, and people who turn their backs on God.  What a wretched stew pot this world is.  No wonder Peter says three times that he is looking forward to the destruction of this world, and the creation of a new world which will be the home of righteousness.

Me too!  I not only long to be free of the wickedness of this world, but the wickedness in me.  I know that if I look closely at my life, I can see elements in me, in my soul, of every thing Peter mentions, in my very being, and I hate it; I hate the struggle I face everyday against the world, my flesh, and the devil.  I hate it when I see on the news, or read in the paper’s of people being murdered, children being abused, the poor being taken advantage of.  I hate it when I see children with birth defects, when I hear of people dying of cancer, when I learn of loved ones suffering.

So what is God waiting for?  The world  of Noah was wicked, and God destroyed it by water.  Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked cities and God destroyed them by fire and brimstone.   The first century world and our world are full of evil, why doesn’t God go ahead and do it in?  Get it over with?

Peter answers that question in chapter three.  He tells his  readers that “the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  This verse, and the idea behind it, remind me of Paul and the  Corinthians.  Acts 18 tells us the story.  Paul went to Corinth and was preaching and teaching his heart out, giving his all to the people in the city, and what happens?  Verse six says that some Jews opposed Paul and became abusive.  I can just hear Paul screaming out in frustration, “That’s the thanks I get?!  I’m outta here!”    That night God speaks to him in a vision.  The Lord said, “Keep on speaking, do not be silent.  I  am with you and I have many people in this city.”  God is telling Paul to be patient, continue on with his good work, because God had “many people” that He had chosen  for  salvation in the city of Corinth.  Most of them had not heard the Good News of salvation, of God’s love and mercy.  They didn’t know that  God loved them and wanted them to be happy.

God says the same thing to His followers in this wicked world.  This is  not your home, you are just a passin’ thru.  You are strangers and aliens in a foreign land.  I know you long to go home and be with me forever in the perfect land of righteousness, but just wait a bit.  There are a lot of people that  I have chosen (Peter’s first letter is  addressed to the elect, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; 1:1,2), that are the elect, that have not yet heard the message that the  Kingdom of God is near; that it is accessible to them, and that they have received a royal invitation from the King of Kings to be a part of  it.  It is your job to get the  message out, give the invitations, spread joy and grace and compassion to all around.  And then one day, the  work will be complete, and all my followers will come home.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

One day this world as we know it will be utterly destroyed by fire, according to Peter.  A new world, the home of God and righteousness and all that is good and lovely, whole and just, peaceful and complete, will replace this bad old place, and I am really looking forward to going home.  How about you?

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Our present purpose is inseparable from God’s stated eternal purpose for us to rule the  earth forever as his children and heirs.  That is at the core of  the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s defining statement:”Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  We will glorify God and  find joy in him as we do what he has made us to do,” serve him as resurrected beings and carry out his plan for developing a Christ centered, resurrected culture in a resurrected universe.”       Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven

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Next blog – The Ruler and the Shepherd

One day God said, “You know, I think I’ll make a billion stars today.”  He didn’t have to, but he did,

billion stars 2billion stars 3

billion stars

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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God didn’t have to give us sunrises and sunsets, but He did,

sunrise sunset

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make oceans and beaches, but He did,

ocean    beach

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make the Rocky Mountains,

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The Grand Tetons,

grand tetons grand tetons2

Or the Sierras, but he did,

sierra sierra2

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to make pink roses,

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Purple bougainvilleas,

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Or birds of paradise, but he did,

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us good scents, like star jasmine, citrus blossoms, and lavender, but he did,

star jasmine citrus blossum DSC08906

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us pineapples, mangoes, and grapes, but he did,

pineapples mangoes grapes

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to give us puppies, and kittens, and goldfish, but he did,

puppies kittens goldfish

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to be born in a stable

jesus birth

And be crucified,

jesus death

And rise from the dead, but he did,

jesus resurrection

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

God gives us all good things,

So that we will glorify him by enjoying him forever.

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“Only wonder understands.”  Gregory of Nyssa

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Next blog – Waves and Lights