I’m pretty sure I would have been the one to lay the cornerstone for the Tower of Babel.
My Personal Tower of Babel
I didn’t always think this. In my blind pride, I used to read the story in Genesis 11 and think, “Good night moon! These people are really thickheaded!”
But here’s how I know I could have been the one to place that stone; I have thought to myself what they said out loud at Babel,
“…so that we may make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4, NIV)
I confess, I have wanted to make a name for myself.
I have craved all the glory for a job well done.
I have thirsted for all the recognition for doing “good” deeds.
I have hungered, above all else, for the love and approval of people.
Though these are broad examples, you can probably imagine some specific ways these general desires might manifest in my life or maybe even in yours.
The truth is, all of the craving and thirsting and hungering leaves me empty no matter how much I receive. And leaves me in shambles when receive none. This name for myself is a dangling carrot that is never caught, and like an addiction, always leaves me grasping for more. More glory, more approval, more…
It never satisfies.
It is exhausting.
But I know that an exhausted, unsatisfied, shamble of a life is not what Jesus means for any of us. He says he “came that they may have life, and hive it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)
Jesus says there is more.
That more is this truth:
I was not created to have a Name.
In vain, I have searched the scriptures trying to find justification of building myself a tower; for making myself a name. It isn’t there.
But, I did find a Name. It just wasn’t mine.
“My name will be great among he nations from where the sun rises to where it sets… my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 1:11, NIV)
I found God’s name.
He says His name WILL be great.
One example in particular struck me hard. Jesus calls for God the Father’s name to be glorified.
“Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:28, NIV)
I claim to be a follower of Jesus. What have I not been following Jesus in this? I’m struck with this discrepancy in my Christianity. The truth is that I have been so occupied elevating my name, that I lost sight of the only Name that is worthy elevation.
Searching the scripture, I found that everything I am and everything I do is actually for the glory of God’s name, not my own.
I am created for the glory of His Name.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV)
Not that the task of elevating His name is mine to bear with my deeds or my life. Oh no, God is not depending on my performance to make His name great. What trouble He would be in if He were to depend on me with my false tower of Babel building and other missteps!
It is freeing to worship a God who is so powerful, He needs nothing from me. He needs nothing from me, yet He offers me a place to work by His side. He is a God who gives and has no need to take.
Now that is One whose Name is worthy of glory. Not mine.
So, I have come to the point where I am earnest about tearing down the idol I’m pointlessly trying to build of making a name for myself. I’ve been asking God to change me. To crumble my personal Tower of Babel. And because He gives, God is changing my heart to not just want, but to actually crave to place God and His Name in the rightful place: glorified above all else. And I am enjoying the freedom that comes from it.
John the Baptist is an inspiring example of one who did not seek to make a name for himself. Ironically, he did in a way have a name for himself. People came to him to be baptized and forgiven of their sins. He actually had his own disciples!
Then Jesus comes on the scene.
When people around John see that those who were his disciples are leaving to become followers of Jesus, they say, “…-look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:26, NIV)
John replies, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him… He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV)
Now, instead of thinking what those at the Tower of Babel said aloud, “…so that we may make a name for ourselves…” I think I need to start thinking what John the Baptist said aloud.
“He must become more, I must become less.”
I’m trying to filter my actions and thoughts through this one question: How can I make more of Him and His Kingdom and less of me in this situation?
I am Free
With this in the front of my mind, I am free in Christ to serve Him. Free from the weight of bearing a name that I can never obtain because I was not created to bear a name. I can just be me.
I am free to be nothing because He is everything.
I am free to fail because He has already succeeded.
I am free to be rejected because He accepts me.
I am free to be me, when I recognize God for Him: Glorious.
I am realizing that this is where my cravings, thirst, and hunger for a name will be satisfied. It’s not in trying to fit into a role I was not created for. Much like pants that are too tight, I’ve been uncomfortable in my misplaced striving to make a name for myself. But in starting to live to make much of Christ who loves me and you more than His own life, I feel as though I’m slipping into my favorite jeans.It fits well.
Cravings are ceasing.
Thirst is quenching
Hunger is fleeing.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, NIV)
Jesus, I come to You and I place Your Name high.
In what ways do you make a name for yourself over making much of Christ?
If you can’t think of any, ask the Lord to reveal to you if you are missing anything. I am asking Him that too.
If I were at the Battle of the Alamo, I wonder what I would have done.
Have you ever pondered this? No? Let me explain why this is on my mind today.
In case you’re not from Texas or a history buff, allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes version of the battle:
Texas declared independence from Mexico.
Mexico didn’t like this.
A pivotal battle occurred at the Alamo.
The Texans fought bravely but were greatly outnumbered by the Mexicans.
The Texans lost the battle, but the bravery galvanized the other Texans.
Texas won its independence.
Here is the part that is getting me thinking today:
Legend has it that Texan General William Travis knew on the eve of the battle that the outlook was bleak. He drew a line in the sand. He asked those who were willing to stay and fight despite the certain doom to step across the line. Anyone else was welcome to slip away.
Almost every single person stepped across that line and stayed to face battle.
If I were at the Battle of the Alamo, I wonder what I would have done.
Well, the Lord put me on the earth about 116 years too late to tell for sure, but He did give me four children. And most moms know child-rearing is a battleground of sorts.
Today, that battleground found me whimpering face-first into a pile of laundry on the floor while my kiddos watched in shock and awe. Yes, friends, it was a sight to behold.
So, as my eyes moistened with tears of exasperation, wetting my newly dried t-shirts, I thought about the choice I was making. Not too long after, I “remember the Alamo” (pun intended). I thought about that line in the sand and the choice those men and some women had to make. Who were they going to choose to serve?
That word resonated. As “choices” echoed in my heart, while my children continued to stand over me in a stunned stupor, my mind shifted to Joshua’s entreaty to the Israelites,
“Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The Bible says nothing of Joshua drawing a line in the sand, but I see this as a verbal line in the sand.
If I were an Israelite listening to Joshua, I wonder what I would have done.
I am a mom in Indiana with four little ones watching mein shock and awe. (Remember what am I going to do?)
I ran to the bathroom. That’s what I do. Ah, that line in the sand. Rather than cross that line, I chose to slip away.
Not two minutes later, our middle son darted into the bathroom and placed a card with a Bible verse on the bathroom counter and darted back out. I picked up the card and read the verse. It occurs to me: Here is another line in the sand.
I have a son who believes that the power of God’s Word will pull Mommy out of this “adult temper tantrum.” What am I going to do?
This moment now, like the Alamo, is a pivotal battle.
Humbled, I make the choice.
I cross the line.
I wish I could tell you that upon being reminded that my strength comes from the Lord and His Word, Bible verses to back up this truth rushed from my memory, but they didn’t. All I could pull up was Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”
It still worked. I began to calm. I was making a deliberate choice to dwell on His Word and not on my exasperation. A choice to serve Him and be led by His Spirit; to follow His commands to love. Love is patient and kind, not exasperated.
Friends, we are all in a pivotal battle every day.
Each morning, as soon as our eyes open, we must choose that day whom we are going to serve. Are we going to serve ourselves and give in to the unstable tossing to and fro of our own wills and emotions? Or are we going to cross that line and serve the Lord, being controlled by His Spirit?
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
Then just below this he writes:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Face first in the laundry, I was gratifying the desire of my flesh. Our middle son reminded me with the Bible verse card that my strength to cross that line and serve the Lord comes from Him and His Word by His Spirit.
Tonight, convicted that I couldn’t from memory pull out God’s words to back up this truth, I found 1 Peter 4:11 to memorize:
“If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
So tomorrow before I open my eyes, I’m going to do a few things I read here. I will:
First, admit to God that I can’t serve Him without Him.
Ask Him to help me.
Then, trust that He will.
Make the conscious effort to choose to cross the line; to serve Him and not myself; and to dwell on His promises: His words I’ve memorized.
At the end of the day, I’m going to thank Him for His faithfulness.
Tell me, how do you choose to serve God each day?
What steps do you take to cross that line into His service?
How will you choose to Create a Great Day? (Again, pun intended.)
In this game, one person’s hands are held palms up. The other person holds their hands hovering above with palms down. The person with their hands below tries to slap the top of the hands of the other person by either being fast enough or by being tricky. My kids love this game!
Once, when we were playing it, I had a thought from which an impromptu lesson flowed.
It was my turn to be “the slapper.” My hands were on the bottom and I was trying to slap the tops of my son’s hands. His two brothers watched in excitement to see who would be the victor. I was bringing my hands up every few seconds, not letting much time lapse in between strikes. My son sat on the edge of his seat in full alert mode, laser-focused, soberly watching for my next move.
I was missing his hands quite a bit!
Then I changed my strategy.
I just let my hands be still. I didn’t strike. Instead, I let time pass while I calmly lay in wait. I waited until my son started to relax. He began to nervously giggle and even exclaim, “Mommy! What are you doing?”
I just smiled at him, kicking back my feet. Then I started to jerk my hands a bit, but no movements that alarmed him enough to be overly concerned. It didn’t take long for him to become used to even those jerks and so comfortable with it all that he let down his alert and relaxed his guard almost completely. When I saw that happen, with a maniacal laugh, I swooped up and SLAP!
I caught him off guard!
Laughter all around!
The Trickery of Sin
Once we settled down–and I did my victory dance–I told them the game was like the trickery of sin.
I pointed out how I frequently missed his hands when he was on high alert, watching me like a hawk and pulling his hands back often. This is like a person who practices this verse:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8
This person is watchful, looking out for the deception of sin. He pulls back from it when he sees it coming. This person also reads the Word of God so that he can discern what sin is, right from wrong, according to the Word and flee from it.
But when I changed my strategy to staying still, I pointed out that he became relaxed and let down his guard. Even when I jerked a little every so often, he got used to that movement also and let his guard continue to fall until SLAP!
This is like a person who becomes numb to the sin in their life. They let down their guard enough to let in “little sins.” Sins that they might consider unharmful. At first, the “little jerks” of the Holy Spirit stir their conscience, but eventually they become used to that stirring. They relax even further, letting in more and more sin until SLAP!
Bad things start happening and they wonder how they got to where they are. The bad things can be obvious, like going to jail or falling into different life-controlling addictions. Or perhaps the bad things are more subtle, like a dead prayer life, a lost desire to know God and read His Word, or an inability to even recognize sin anymore through justification of actions.
How Little Sins Lead to Bigger Sins
I now open up, saying that at different times in my life, I have been both of these types of people. Already fully knowing their mother is a seasoned sinner, they look unsurprised (Ha!). A good discussion followed on how little sins might cause numbing in our hearts. We talk about how little sins can lead to bigger sins, followed by a hard SLAP–either in this life or in eternity.
On a personal note, I know I need to read God’s Word more diligently. By doing so, I will be able to discern right from wrong and know Him more. I know I should memorize more scripture so that I can use it against the enemy’s lies about sin.
Since the beginning of this school year, I have started praying this verse over my children, myself, and my husband. Now I pray it over you who are reading this right now.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
To what sins have you become numb?
Do you consistently do anything contrary to God’s Word?
Do you know His Word well enough to know if you are acting contrary to His Word?
Feel free to share in the comments and we will pray with you.
If you grew up in the church at all, or even if you didn’t, you have probably heard the song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.” The song is based on Jesus’ words right after he gives his famous Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:24-27, he says this about what two people do with what he has just taught:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
That paragraph boils down to this: Life is hard. Bad things happen in this imperfect world. Choose to build your life on things you can never lose. If your life centers on things you can lose like money, or your job, or praise and affection from people, when the going gets tough it’s gonna be a rough ride.
On the surface, I think this is a good thing. Women and girls absolutely should be praised for more than their looks. They are worth way more than what the eye reveals. However, the author suggests that we replace our praise about beauty with praise for skill. As I thought about it and compared this idea to what Jesus says, I realized that both of these forms of praise are sandy ground.
Consider this scenario:
Let’s pretend I have praised my daughter for how quickly she completes puzzles, or how beautifully she paints, or how accurate she is in her math work. Let’s imagine that her self-worth, in part, is built on this praise.
The rains are about to come down.
Another day she is putting together a puzzle and is having great difficulty, or she can’t get her painting to look the way she wants, or she is learning a new, challenging math concept and receives a poor grade on a test. Where does this leave her self-worth if it was built on this praise?
The floods are coming up.
The winds of her heart are blowing and that part of her self-worth on which this skill was built is torn down.
So, should we praise our daughters (and sons) for how kind they are rather than appearance or ability? For praising them for things of the heart, so to speak? Wouldn’t that be better?
Let’s say I have praised my daughter for having a kind heart. I see her being tender with a friend in need, or I see her showing compassion and empathy toward a sibling. I praise her for it, and in part, she builds her self-worth and identity on being a kind and compassionate person.
Another day there is someone for whom she feels no empathy or love. Her feelings are mostly annoyance and she acts rudely. Or perhaps she snaps at her siblings and despite her efforts, she cannot regain her composure and yells at them. Again, the floods are coming up and the winds are starting to blow.
If you stop reading here, you might think I am saying that we should not praise our children for these things laid out above.
I am not.
We need to and ought to praise our daughters (and sons) for their accomplishments and for their kind, compassionate, and beautiful hearts. I praise my children every day for these things. I even praise them for their physical beauty and handsomeness, because my goodness, they are so cute!
What I am saying is that all of this is not enough.
This praise is not worthy to build self-worth on.
All of these are sandy ground.
There must be something elsein addition to all of this.
He is the only one worthy of supporting and carrying our self-worth. Why is He worthy? Unlike beauty trends, human ideas, affection from people, and our emotions, He does not change like the shifting shadows (James 1:17) or move around like the sandy ground on the beach. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our appearance, our skills, and our emotions change too frequently and are too unstable to support something as valuable as our self-worth.
What He says doesn’t change either. Here is what God, our Rock, says in His Word about your daughter’s worth and yours too.
You are created in the image of the almighty, all-powerful, and all-loving God of the universe.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
So I will tell our daughter how beautiful she is. And in the very next sentence, with God’s help, I’ll set her worth on the Rock by reminding her that God knitted every single part of her body together. He likes her just the way she is because He made her that way and all His works are wonderful. I pray she knows that full well.
He has a plan just for you with jobs He created for only you to do and that only you can do.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
I will praise our girl for her hard work and her talents and her kind, loving heart. Then, with God’s help, I’ll set her worth on the Rock as I also tell her God knows her inside and out. He has planned certain tasks just for her, and He created characteristics in her to accomplish those tasks. The Creator knows she is the right one for these jobs.
He loves you with a beautifully fierce and unconditional affection that movies, books, songs, and other people can never replicate.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
With God’s help, I’ll place her worth on the Rock by reminding her of His unfailing love for her. I’ll do this by reading to her His words. I’ll point out His acts and displays of love in the little and big things that happen in her life. I’ll remind her that God’s love for her doesn’t change whether she fails or whether she succeeds. And when her heart is broken, while she may be sad, her worth will not be shaken because it was never wrapped up in human affection.
You are worth dying for.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I’ll be sure to tell her the Creator of the universe deems her worth dying for. That Jesus paid the price for all of the wrong she has done and will do. He paid it because He thinks she is that worthy and that valuable. He longs to spend eternity with her and have her make His home in heaven her home too. So when she messes up, like we all do, her worth won’t slide because it was not built upon being a “good person.”
It was built upon the rock.
And the wise woman builds her worth upon the Rock.
What other ways can we teach our daughters to build their self-worth on the Rock?
My children were bickering a lot last week so I told them a story and I thought I’d share it with you…
The Tale of the Brave Villager and his Sword
Once upon a time, there lived a brave young man. He lived in a kingdom ruled by a kind, wise, and loving king. For the most part, the people were happy and lived good lives except for one thing…there was a dragon!
The king’s heart grieved deeply for his people under the tyranny of the dragon. However, being a good king, he did not leave his people defenseless. He gave each of them a sword.
No Ordinary Sword
These swords were no ordinary swords; they had in them the power of the king: the ability to defeat the dragon.
Villagers could choose what to do with their swords. Some kept their swords on the shelf, collecting dust. Some would get their swords out occasionally practicing one or two swings. This gave them some comfort for the moment, or gave them something to do with their friends, but they quickly became busy with other things and put their swords back on the shelf. However, some villagers chose differently. The brave young man was one of these people.
He loved his sword, because he knew it was a present to him directly from the king. He cherished it and studied every move against the dragon he could find. His sword did not collect dust or become dull because he sharpened it daily.
The Dragon’s Terror and Destruction
One day, the dragon came roaring from his cave and sat on the roof of a villager whose sword was covered in dust. The dragon breathed fire on the home and the villagers inside ran to their neighbor’s house as theirs was destroyed.
The dragon moved to another house where the sword inside was only used occasionally for comfort. When the dragon breathed fire on their home, the villagers ran for their sword. But they did not know how to use it effectively against the dragon and so their home was also destroyed.
Finally, the dragon came to the home of the brave young man. The young man did not need to search for his sword because he carried it with him always. However, his fright at seeing the dragon made him forget all about the sword and his home began to burn.
But because the sword had the power of the king in it, the young man could, in a way, feel it tugging at his hand. Sensing this, he remembered his sword. Skillfully he unsheathed the sword, pointing it directly at the dragon on his roof.
The dragon, seeing the sword with the power of the king in it pointed directly at him, fled in terror and the young man’s house was saved.
The Moral of the Story
My oldest son, knowing by now that most of my stories have a moral, asked, “All right, Mom…so what’s that about?”
I told them the story describes me at different points in my Christian life.
I then asked, “Do we have a sword?”
They replied, “Yes, the Bible.”
I asked, “Do we have an enemy like the dragon in the story?”
They answered, “Yes.”
Do I Use My Sword?
In the past, I’ve been like the villagers whose swords became dusty. I rarely read my Bible. While I owned one, I didn’t see the point in reading it and I had some unsettling times because of it.
Sometimes, I confessed, I have been like the villagers who only occasionally used their sword. I have used the Bible only for comfort, reading a Psalm or two here or there. Or I have read my Bible because it was “the thing to do” in some circles and church and Bible study was merely a social event and what “should be done.”
Then I told them at some point, I became like the young man. I recognized the power God has put in His Word, the Bible, and I read it often. The more I read it, the more I came to love it and the more I wanted to memorize it so that I could always have it with me.
However, I again confessed that sometimes in the heat of the moment, when I struggle within myself or against the enemy, I forget about my sword and do not use it. I told my children that I am asking God to help me learn in increasing ways to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit, reminding me to pull out my sword and point it directly at whatever situation I am in. (For another time I learned about using the Word from my son, read here.)
Sharpening the Sword
I then brought the lesson back to them and their bickering. I reminded them of the verse we had been “sharpening our swords” with by memorizing.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
I asked them if any of them had used that verse to combat the bickering going on in the house. They got my point and half-smiled, half gave me the “good grief, mom” look I usually get with these stories.
Which villager are you in the story right now?
How is your life affected by which villager you are?