Is there life BEFORE death?

“God, how can I make you more known?”

That’s a question I’ve been dwelling on for several days. Since March 13th, in fact. I wrote it down in my journal on that day.

Some people have told me privately that my writings each morning have helped them. That’s certainly one way I can answer the question at the top of the page. But in what other ways can I answer that question? And there are a couple of questions that accompany the main one.

Like, “Why is it that the first question I ask myself each day ISN’T that question? Why don’t I think of ways to make you more known? Why isn’t that my goal? I seem to want to make MYSELF more well-known. Why is that?”

Okay, that’s more than a couple of questions.

But as I write each day, that is a question I feel compelled to ask. Because if I write and post it somewhere, I must have the motivation of making God more known. If that’s not my motivation, then it is self-indulgent dribble. It serves no one but me. If it doesn’t make someone know God just a little bit better or a little bit more or is not redemptive, as God is redemptive, then it should be tossed into the garbage.

In fact, I need to be asking the question at the top of the page each day as I wake up and start my day. If my actions, motives, words, and behaviors don’t attempt to make God more known, and then each day has been no more than self-indulgent dribble… a waste of energy… a waste of… life.

I know that sounds harsh, and you may say, “God wants us to enjoy our life, too. What’s wrong with living life to the fullest?” My reply would be, “Who says that can’t be done by making God more known in the process? In fact, I would say that enjoying life and living life to the fullest comes from making God more known.”

In fact, I believe that Jesus words about “abundant life” in John 10:10 were all about living for God and others. I believe that the abundant, fulfilling life in which Jesus shows us is a life which channels God’s living water into the lives of everyone around them. This can happen in so many ways, whether it’s sitting by the bedside of a sick friend, feeding the hungry, adopting a child, a smile and a hug to someone who needs it, or typing words on a page. It can be loving your spouse as God intends it, or raising a godly family, or working with integrity on your job.

When Jesus said these words…

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

… He wasn’t just talking about life after death. Shane Claiborne writes about this when he says, “Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.”

Making God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, justice, hope, healing, friendship, wholeness, acceptance, victory, freedom more known brings life… true life.

So my day begins with the question: God, how can I make you more known?

Ransomed

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

I think it was one of my favorite authors, Buddy Owens, who said, when reading Scripture, read “for depth, not distance.” And when a word “pops” out at me, one of my favorite ways of doing that… of digging deeper and allowing God to whisper to me… is to look up that word in the dictionary.

As I read the verse above, the word that stood out to me was “ransom.” It’s a word that’s not heard nowadays unless I’m watching a movie or TV show involving a kidnapping or the like. So I looked up the definition:

Ran’-som (n.) a consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity. A sum of money or a price demanded and paid for the release of a prisoner.

Okay. So what? But then I let my mind wander… “Captivity”…. Jesus came to set the captives free… I know that Scripture… but set “free” from what?

It’s here that I think of what we all need to be set free from. Sin. Yes, of course. But that seems so… religious. It’s so vague. So general. So religious.

Then I think about my own life. What is at the root of all my sin? Self. Plain and simple. Self. Self-absorption. Selfishness. Self-pity. I want to do things MY way. I have my plans and my agenda. I want. I need. Self. Self is at the root of all sin, both mine and yours. It was self that caused the Original Sin. Not only the fall of Adam and Eve but the ORIGINAL original sin.

When Lucifer, God’s original worship leader, fell from grace, it was because he wanted to set himSELF up to be like God. (See Isaiah 14) And when Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation, they became convinced that God wasn’t watching out for their best interest, and they knew what was best for themSELVES. I am not so different.

I need to be set free from my self. I need to be set free from that thing inside me that thinks that God isn’t looking out for my best interests… which thinks that God can’t be trusted to take care of ALL my needs: physical, emotional, financial, sexual, relational, amd spiritual needs… I need to be set free from that thing inside me that thinks I can handle all of that myself.

But the ransom has been paid. The price has been paid. In full. Once and for all. At the Cross, Jesus paid the price for you and me. I know that, but how does that set me free? Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10). That abundant life is a life free of having to do it all myself. I don’t have to fulfill all those needs myself. God does it for me in Christ. He sets me free from mySELF by living inside of me. As I allow Him to do so, His thoughts become my thoughts. His heart becomes my heart. And from that, His ways become my ways.

It doesn’t happen overnight and at times, it seems like I take one step forward with Him, and two steps back with my SELF. But He knows how I’m made. He knows I desire to be free.

His grace carries me yet again and this one-time prisoner walks forever free.