From my morning devotions, Charles Spurgeon speaks about citizenship:

What is meant by our being citizens in heaven? It means that we are under heaven’s government. Christ the king of heaven reigns in our hearts; our daily prayer is, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The proclamations issued from the throne of glory are freely received by us: the decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey. Then as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share heaven’s honours. The glory which belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus’ righteousness; already we have angels for our servitors, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward. We share the honours of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven. As citizens, we have common rights to all the property of heaven. Ours are its gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite; ours the azure light of the city that needs no candle nor light of the sun; ours the river of the water of life, and the twelve manner of fruits which grow on the trees planted on the banks thereof; there is nought in heaven that belongeth not to us. "Things present, or things to come," all are ours. Also as citizens of heaven we enjoy its delights. Do they there rejoice over sinners that repent-prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphant grace? We do the same. Do they cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet? Such honours as we have we cast there too. Are they charmed with his smile? It is not less sweet to us who dwell below. Do they look forward, waiting for his second advent? We also look and long for his appearing. If, then, we are thus citizens of heaven, let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity.

Being a citizen of heaven is a reminder that we, who are in Christ, live in, and are under the government of, a different kingdom. Our world is an inner realm ... an eternal world where motive, intent and meaning are important. A world where the central law is love ... for our King and for each other. As we live as citizens of the USA, or any country, it is easy to forget who we are and where our allegiance lies. We are not pawns of earthly leaders or subjects of imperfect governments. The scripture calls us a holy nation ... a kingdom of priests ... God's people. In Spurgeon's words, "let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity." Amen.

Choosing Joy

From this morning's devotional Charles Spurgeon speaks to me quoting Psalms 33:21 “Our heart shall rejoice in Him.” He goes on to say:

Blessed is the fact that Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress; although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and, like many birds, they sing best in their cages. The waves may roll over them, but their souls soon rise to the surface and see the light of God’s countenance; they have a buoyancy about them which keeps their head always above the water, and helps them to sing amid the tempest, “God is with me still.” To whom shall the glory be given? Oh! to Jesus-it is all by Jesus. Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer, but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy. He is sick and suffering, but Jesus visits him and makes his bed for him. He is dying, and the cold chilly waters of Jordan are gathering about him up to the neck, but Jesus puts His arms around him, and cries, “Fear not, beloved; to die is to be blessed; the waters of death have their fountain-head in heaven; they are not bitter, they are sweet as nectar, for they flow from the throne of God.”

I love what he says about joy. My good friend Jim told me in one of my darkest hours that I had to choose joy … I didn’t like hearing it but knew it was the truth. I believe that our spiritual enemy knows that the joy of the Lord is our strength and he fiercely battles to conquer our joy and rob of us of our strength. For one who is sad and depressed ... and I have visited those places many times ... an admonition to be joyful can be a reminder of our pain. Spurgeon this morning reminded me that Jesus is always present in our pain.

At thirty-nine years old my first wife, Ellen, had heart and kidney failure ... at the brink of her death I found myself begging God to not let her die ... I could not accept her situation or the possibility of her death. Three and a half years later after praying almost daily for her healing ... never giving up ... I found myself again faced with the possibility of her dying. Driving to work one day ... racked with the agony of thoughts of a world without Ellen … I began to pray in the Spirit. I saw a picture in my mind. In this vision I saw myself standing on a mountain looking down at a valley ... some how I knew it was the valley of the shadow of Ellen's death. As I looked into the vision I saw Jesus come to my side, take my hand, and walk with me into the valley. It was a comforting picture. God was trying to tell me that he would be with me when Ellen died and that I would be okay.

Spurgeon reminds us that even in death God is present ... in the fiery furnace God is there. For me, worship has been the key to having joy and experiencing God's presence. During those years preceding Ellen's death worship became a mode of survival for me. At times I felt afraid and alone. I remember times of solitude … singing along with worship tapes … weeping uncontrollably … pouring my heart out to the Lord … and finding joy in His presence and strength to make it one more day. In a deeper way I understood that His strength is made perfect in weakness … I have never been the same person.

Today, if you are sad and are having trouble finding joy, put yourself in a place where you can experience the presence of Jesus. You may, like me, want to sing along with a worship tape. However you do it find a way to connect with God and let Him hold your hand and walk you through your valley. King David was a man who knew the secret of finding joy in God's presence. In closing let us remember what he wrote in Psalms 16:

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.