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"Enjoying a Good Fire"
by Barbara Smith

I step into a grand room. It is at once breathtaking but inviting, majestic, yet familiar. Its proportions seem immeasurable: the ceiling soars heavenward; light gleaming and luminous pours in through banks of translucent windows. Breathtaking sprays of exquisite colorful flowers emphasize the lavishness of the room's interior design and complement the fine furnishings and carpets. As my eyes become accustomed to the radiance that bathes every corner, I breathe in pleasing fragrances that gladden and welcome me. Strains of music, now familiar, and now sublime, sweep over me. The warmth from a blazing fire at the far end of the room radiates welcoming comfort.

This room brims with life as crowds of people welcome newcomers and invite us to join them as they wait quietly and expectantly. Some folks I know; others I don't know, but admire; and the presence of some frankly surprises me. We exchange simple greetings in muted whispers, but no one wants to socialize. Each person's attention is fixed on listening: an animated conversation is taking place before that enormous fire at the far end of this glorious salon.

Time now recedes into enveloping glory. Whatever bewildered or disturbed me only a heartbeat ago, is blurring, fading from my memory. The truth about God enraptures my mind and my heart my being. For I have crossed over the threshold of death into Life. We strain to catch His words. His voice invites us closer and closer. His voice resonates, pervades and obscures all other voices, sensations and thought.

We who embraced the invisible Christ on earth, soon will come before the visible Christ. Those crowds ahead of me move and take what seems to be assigned places: first to the right and then to the left of His pervasive presence. Exhilaration and anticipation swell in my soul as I hear Christ clearly call the names of individuals who quickly step into His presence. As if drawn by a silken cord, I move forward knowing that shortly I will behold Him face to face.

The Lord Jesus calls someone standing only a few places ahead of me, and I watch. "Oh! I know him," I whisper as I catch a glimpse of the person approaching the Throne. His tireless kindness and zeal pointed so many to the Savior. Now he beholds the One for whom he labored. The Lord speaks. His Voice, as compelling as the sound of many waves upon the sand, is gracious, but I cannot quite discern His words.

We whisper among ourselves. Did He say, "Sit here, please" when He motioned with His right hand?

Seated now, the man seems dazed as the Lord Jesus speaks, reminding him of many events with great relish. "When was that, Lord," he asks?

The Lord Jesus responds tenderly, recounting lesson upon lesson; deed upon deed, and concluding solemnly, "When you did it for them, you did it for Me."

Now another soul responds to Christ's beckoning and steps forward. I can hear Him greet her and invite her to sit to His right. Then, He recounts a long story of little deeds of mercy and sacrifice by which she comforted many in Christ's name. She shyly admits, "I do not even remember those times, Lord."

Now my soul thrills to hear His laughter; He drops His voice and says, "Ah, but I remember, for by caring for them you cared for Me."

One by one, the Lord personally greets men and women and children with tender delight. I watch as they sit with Him for a season before the fire, which blazes up from time to time. The joy of seeing His delight is exquisite and I rejoice that this is an eternal moment.

Suddenly, a grave stillness descends upon us; the Lord calls another soul by name. A man, a prominent churchgoing man, steps forward. How will Jesus greet him? His voice reverberates throughout the hushed room. But no gentle welcome pervade His words.

He enumerates explicit offenses: the man's cold impatience and indifference with his family and friends, his contempt for Scripture, and his notorious stinginess that tried the souls of his pastor, family and neighbors. I listen in mute horror, and recall flashes of similar selfishness! That awareness that some of this man's offenses and mine are identical blisters my heart.

The man's challenge interrupts my recollection of my own transgressions. "God, when did I do that?"

The Lord's anger deliberately blazes. His rebuke pierces my heart: " When you refused to teach your family My word, even when you refused to answer your child's simple, youthful questions and when you refused to give your time and talents for My Kingdom, you refused Me!"

Christ's words jolt those who await our interviews with Him. Yet, we still press toward the luminous presence of God, unable to resist His Voice.

Now I see a woman, directly ahead of me, who is also a regular churchgoer. I know her, too. I considered her smart, successful and good company, but the Lord does not motion for her to sit. The Lord is speaking quietly, but He is not praising the panache that appealed to me; He is listing grievances against her. This polished and talented woman, whom I admired, begins to tremble. I, too, tremble as His voice grows grave and continues: "When you screamed at Me, when you slapped Me, when you belittled Me, when you denied Me . . . "

What? Again, His charges against her derelictions terrify me: I did the same things!

"Lord," she lamented, "When did I slap or belittle You? When did I deny You?"

Again His voice boomed like the swell of approaching thunder: "When you struck your children, when you humiliated husband, and neglected your parents, You did it unto Me."

My being begins to shake and I lower my eyes in shame. I remember now that this moment has been coming since eternity past. This place has a name -- and this gathering has a purpose! Did I truly believe that God would not mark my lapses, if He marked each good deed that others did, and each offense that others committed? (Matthew 35:31- 46)

I had underlined the passages in my Bible that foreshadowed this moment, never imagining what this moment would be like when it happened:

"But when the Son of Man comes . . . He will sit on His glorious throne . . . He will separate them from one another . . ." (Matthew 25:31-32)

"Separate? Oh! . . ." Trembling, yet unable to turn from Him, I know I must also witness the separation which He is deliberately completing.

Now, I understand the wonder and the shock of those whom He welcomed and those whom He expelled. Neither those who served Him on earth nor those who ignored Him in mortal life had clearly recognized Christ as the object of their service or scorn. So, both asked: "Lord, when did we see You . . . ?"

Now, the reality of the awful destination of some who preceded me bursts upon my soul. For those who have disregarded or despised His salvation, this is the final exclusion. His judgment resounds: . . . " Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:38-46) As this dreadful truth engulfs me, I am unable to turn from that majestic voice.

I feel as if hot tears of shame will consume me. For I remember my own blind and willful acts that neglected Christ's hunger and thirst, His loneliness and nakedness; His sickness and imprisonment. I, too, am without excuse, for I did what Christ had just condemned. (Ro. 2: 1-13)

When I step into His presence, what is my hope? When my heart is open before Him, what is my defense when He can judge my every motive? What deeds of goodness and mercy can atone when He has tallied all my crimes?

Hearing the offenses of others, I painfully recall my own words; I reluctantly see the coldness of my own heart, and remember with remorse the abominations of my own sins. Why should He allow me to stay in this room?

"Heaven is where I see my Savior's face," I tell myself, urgently trying to recollect a simple child's chorus. Then, words from Scripture flame up with meaning and comfort in my soul: "For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14) Now I grasp that the privilege of looking into His eyes means I will learn what my crimes cost Him. "And according to the Law . . . without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Heb 9:22)

Suddenly I know what standing upon the sure foundation means: " Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43)

My name - I hear my name! (Rev 2:17, 20:15)

Now I see clearly: He is just as I imagined He would look. (Isaiah 30:20) His fragrance cheers my agitated heart. (2 Cor. 2:14, Eph. 5:2) His hand that beckons me to draw near is rough, like a carpenter's. And scarred, like my Savior's. (Isa 49:16, John 20:28)I behold His face; his brow bears the remembrance of an earthly crown. ( Matthew 27:29) When I look up into His eyes, I see both the sorrow and delight.

Tenderly He wipes away my tears, explaining words that were once a shadow of the truth I now behold. ". . . And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins. . . ." (I Jn 2:1-2)

Comforted and quieted, I feel the undefiled, light, crisp and fresh linen dropping over my head and shoulders. It is my crimson garment of sin now washed white and pure in the Blood of Christ. And together, the Lord Jesus and I stand before the blazing fire where . . . each man's work will become evident. (1 Cor. 3:11-15)


Taken from:
Growing Up Homeschooling,
(or learning what we wanted the kids to take to heart)

Due Summer, 1998
Pre-publication order from:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012
$8.95 plus 3.00 postage (Maryland residents add 5% MD sales tax)


© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)




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