But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
“You are welcome at my house,” the angel said. (Judges 19:20) Was he an angel? What is it about him? Or is it Him? He threw His arms around me and kissed me. (Luke 15:20) I all but disappeared in his (His?) giant embrace.
“Tell me about yourself,” he said warmly. Why this tremendous being is interested in me, I can’t fathom.
“Well,” I started tentatively. “I feel like I’m kind of young to be here.”
“I get that a lot,” is all he said. “Where have you come from? (Job 1:7) Tell me about your life on earth.”
“I, um, I grew up in…” I spent an hour or so sharing with him all of my life story. The longer I spoke, the more I became aware of a loving quality about him. By the end of my story it seemed that his love was palpable, I could feel it exuding from him. Just then the thought entered my mind, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” (1 John 4:16)
It was Him. I was sure of that now.
After I thought I had told Him all of my life story, at the end, after the description of how I died in the car accident, that’s when he asked the big question.
“So how did you spend your time on earth?” He asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked right back. “I just told you my life story.”
“Yes, of course you did,” He didn’t react at all to my defensive tone. “You grew up, you had to work to support yourself, you had certain obligations to family and friends, you needed time for rest, you died. Your time on earth is a finite resource, I understand. Since the fall, that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s the rest of your time that I’m interested in.”
“The rest of my time?” I asked. Just then the thought “As for man, his days are like grass…” passed through my mind. (Psalm 103:15)
“Yes, the rest of your time. How did you spend it?”
“Hmmm, let’s see, on Sunday mornings I went to Your house, to church.”
“Thou hast well said.” (John 4:17 KJV) You did go to my house, to a church that teaches My word, My whole word from cover to cover. Good choice. And you were there on many Sunday mornings. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:18)
I swallowed hard. Many Sunday mornings, He had said. That was a generous way to put it, I knew. In reality I was there mostly when a close friend, who was much more devoted than I, talked me into going. I had attended church on Sunday less than half of the time.
“How else?” He asked. “How else did you spend your time?”
“Well, socializing, I said. Visiting with friends and family.”
“Ah,” He smiled widely, a great and wonderful smile. “Socializing, with a generous dose of loving people. Truly a great and wonderful use of your time – loving people.” His smile made my heart soar. I was filled with joy to the point where I thought my chest would burst. The look of pleasure on His face was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen by far. I heard the words in my mind, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6)
“And how else?”
I thought for a moment but couldn’t come up with anything else I’d done that was of, well, of any value to anyone in this place. I heard in my mind, “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”(Luke 16:15)
Suddenly without warning I heard myself saying out loud, “Watch TV.” I didn’t want to say it, I didn’t mean to say it – it just seemed to come out. And it was true. Most days I spent at least a couple of hours watching TV.
“You’ve answered well again. And what did you watch?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t have to. The expression on my face must have said it all, for nearly everything I watched had no redeeming value.
I wasn’t ready for what happened next. A look of sadness washed over His face. His face, looking like that, looking so very sad. I suddenly felt altogether unhinged – I felt sick. I averted my eyes. “Anything but,” I thought. “please, anything but that look. I don’t ever want to see that look again.” I was reminded of how I felt when I saw the look of disappointment on my best friend’s face, that day I let him down. Only this was infinitely more painful. My sorrow was so great that it hurt. The pain was so intense that I thought I would perish, but somehow I knew that that couldn’t happen here, not in this place. I was struck by how One so magnificent could look so hurt. He looked wounded. The words entered my mind, “these are the wounds I was given at the house of my friends.” (Zechariah 13:6)
Very softly, very gently, He asked, “What else, my child?”
“The computer,” I said, barely audible.
Without warning the images and sounds of every television program I had ever watched, every website I had ever visited, every song I had ever listened to, every thought I had ever had was before me. And before Him. He was showing me how I spent my time. I said, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.” (Psalm 139:1)
I don’t know how I got there but I suddenly found myself in His arms. I was sobbing with my face buried in His chest. “Mercy, mercy,” I was repeating over and over and over. “Mercy,” I thought. I was completely and utterly at His mercy. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” I thought. (Job 13:15)
Then God’s hand touched me and instantly the words came into my mind, “A hand touched me and set me trembling…” (Daniel 10:10) He wiped every tear from my eyes and gently turned my head to see Another coming. (Revelation 21:4) And when I turned I saw …someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:12, 13, 16)
“My child behold, your Champion,” God said of the Other. “My Son and My lamb.”
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)
Then my eyes were opened and I recognized him who came. (Luke 24:31) It was Jesus. I felt my heart swell because I was very afraid yet filled with joy that was almost unbearable. (Matthew 28:8)
In an instant, and without knowing how, I was walking next to my Lord. He was telling me, graciously and gently telling me, how the time God gave me on earth was one of His most precious gifts, and how I chose to use it was of the greatest importance.
“Time,” He said. “Use it well. Store up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)
Invest your time in eternity.
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And a voice said, “Come up here.” And there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
(Revelation Chapter 4)
I couldn’t help but join the chorus. But I felt a great longing for something. Something was missing.
“The elders have crowns but I don’t. Am I not permitted to have a crown?” I asked aloud.
An angel appeared next to me and said, “But you are permitted to have a crown.”
“Then give me a crown that I may lay it before my Lord.”
“But you must earn your crown,” the angel said.
“How can I earn a crown?” I asked.
“While on earth you earn the crown of life by persevering under trial or even by martyrdom,” (James 1:12) the angel said.
The angel continued, “While on earth you earn the shepherds crown by taking great care of those God has entrusted to you, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-4)
“While on earth you earn the soul winner’s crown by bringing souls to Jesus,” (1 Thessalonians 2:19) he said.
“While on earth you earn the crown of righteousness through your longing for Christ’s appearance.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
“And while on earth you earn the victor’s crown by mastering your flesh that you can move in the spirit.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
“But I have no crown,” I said with great longing, for I never before wanted anything more than to have right now what I could lay before my Lord while He sat on His throne.
“While on earth…” Was all the angel said.
There was silence between us for a few moments. Still I didn’t understand.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The angel sang the words, in such a way as to make me think he was answering my question. But still I didn’t understand.
“For His pleasure you were created,” the angel said. “But you lived for your pleasure. By His grace and His great work on the cross you are here, you’ve been saved. But you will not be counted among those with a crown.”
Of course I knew his words were true. I began to sing again in wonder at His grace and mercy toward me.
But I had nothing to lay before Him.
Photo from Inside Out