Jacob Cohen (J.C.) Bates and his wife, Shira, waited for me in their BMW outside San Francisco International Airport in the passenger arrival zone. I noticed J.C. packed on twenty extra pounds to his five-foot seven-inch frame, but it did not detract from his rugged good looks. Shira stood a couple of inches taller than him, but the difference seemed even greater because of her model-like figure. Both were Messianic believers and servants of Yeshua the Messiah.
“Shalom, Jane,” said J.C., jumping out of the car and greeting me with a hug and a kiss. “Here, let me put your suitcase in the trunk.”
“Thanks and shalom to you, J.C.,” I said, handing him my black suitcase.
“Even though this may not be the best of times for you,” said Shira, standing outside the BMW’s passenger door, and also hugging and kissing me, “I was so excited to see you again that I went out and spent J.C.’s money on this new black sweater. But as usual, you win the fashion prize with your blond hair, Levi jacket, and khaki slacks. You look fabulous.”
Her gracious words should have reddened my face, but instead, I broke down and wept. Shira hugged me even tighter.
“God will turn your mourning into dancing,” she whispered.
“I sure hope so.”
“Let’s keep moving,” shouted a TSA agent, walking toward J.C.’s car. He pointed at us with a black baton to emphasize his point.
We obeyed and took off for their home.
If you have ever wondered what type of home three million dollars would purchase in San Francisco, J.C. and Shira’s condo on the fourth floor of a prestigious address in Nob Hill would be the answer. Twenty-three hundred square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, hardwood floors, gourmet kitchen, dining room, large family room, and captivating views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge through floor to ceiling windows. The furniture and decorations looked like they had been selected by a top Bay area interior decorator.
Shira served a tossed salad with grilled chicken for dinner, but I only moved the food around on my plate without eating much. As soon as possible, I excused myself and headed for the guest bedroom. There I unpacked, hung up my clothes in the closet, and sat down on the bed without changing out of my traveling clothes. Somehow, I closed my eyes and dozed off.
Then, I had a terrifying vision.
In it, I stood before the Judgment Seat of Christ. I wasn’t alone because hundreds of other believers stood there in numerous rows, waiting for the Judge − Jesus − to appear in front of us. I watched Him off to my left walking down my row with a torch in His right hand. He stopped in front of each believer, looked down, and lit piles of what looked like grass and sticks at the feet of each person with His torch. The piles burst into flames. Then, the piles quickly burnt out to reveal gold, silver, precious stones, or nothing but scorch marks on the ground. Those who had precious metals and stones bowed down and worshipped the Lord. Those who had scorch marks wailed and screamed like they were in hell, even though they were in heaven.
I looked down at my feet and saw a puny pile. I knew this small heap represented all of my works done on earth for the Lord. Not much for a whole lifetime, I thought. A holy fear enveloped me.
I turned and looked at the person next to me and realized it was a successful Christian businessman, whom I greatly admired. He was an elder at Jedidiah Smith Community Church, Sunday School teacher, weekend street evangelist, and well-known benefactor. The newspapers were always reporting on his philanthropy and works.
I watched Judge Jesus bend over and light the businessman’s pile with His torch. The pile quickly burnt out to reveal nothing but scorch marks on the ground. The businessman fell to the ground and wailed at the top of his lungs. His screams echoed through my mind.
Oh no, I thought. If this businessman’s life did not please the Lord, how will mine be any better?
The Lord stood in front of me.
I looked into His eyes and knew His love was not on trial, but mine was at that moment. He bent over, ready to touch my puny pile with His torch.
“Lord, give me a second chance,” I pleaded.
He looked at me without straightening up. His torch remained close to my pile. “And what would you do differently?”
“I will serve you night and day without complaining. If need be, I will crawl across San Francisco on streets filled with broken glass to be Your ambassador. I will gladly carry cups of cold water to people and minister to them as Your servant.”
He straightened up and looked me squarely in the eyes. His love melted every hindrance in my heart. “Remember to do your works to please Me, not to please others like the businessman did during his life. He received his reward on earth. Go and be My servant.”
I woke up and immediately slipped off the bed onto my knees. I worshipped the Judge, King, and Lover of my soul − my Lord Jesus.
(Continued in Part 10…if you’re interested, the full series to date may be seen here.)