Browsing "Exegesis"

The Mercy of Confusion

I have been co-leading a Sunday School class this semester on hermeneutics, or the interpretation of scripture. It has been a delight to read theological material again, discuss ideas in the Bible, and basically getting my mind blown weekly by our analyzation.

Last week we were diagramming Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel scene, which moves slowly inward, has a sharp turning point and then widens again. See if you can identify the shift:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

This passage is familiar to many, but we saw something new in it. In the beginning, everyone had one language and they were seeking to draw everyone together and make a name for themselves. By building a tower to reach heaven, they were trying to be in control of their future.

But the Lord came down. This is the turning point of this chiasm and story. He interrupted their work, confused the language, and scattered the workers. It seems  a shame. They had worked so hard. No doubt they had the best architects of the day for this project, but they were working for their own names, not for the Lord.

The Lord interrupted them; He saved them from themselves.There is some good that would happen if we all got together and spoke the same language, but there is a great likelihood for evil as well. Through His work and language changes, He spread the people over the whole face of the earth, created cultures, clans, traditions and rituals that would not have existed if we all spoke the same language. He prevented us from trying such a building project again. He reminds us that He is in charge.

This is the mercy of confusion. God interrupts my plans, he breaks down my tower, he confuses my language. I may be frustrated in the short-term, but I cannot see what He is protecting me from or how He is intervening to make something even more beautiful in the future. He is merciful. He is good. He intervenes even in my small building projects with grace and love. I often worry about the future, but I’m trying to reframe my thinking and realize that my current confusion, might just be the mercy of the Lord.

Aug 19, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis, Health    No Comments

Running and Asceticism

I’ve never experience the runner’s high, endorphine-flooded, goofy-this-feels-like-walking-only-faster-I-could-run-forever state of being. I feel every foot-pouding step, every muscle contraction, every oxygen-drenched breath when I run.

I run for two reasons:

1. The sense of accomplishment is addicting.

2. To tell myself, “no.”

When I completed my first 5K, I was totally pumped. Not by runner’s high endorphines, but by the sense of immense accomplishment. I started off running thirty seconds at a time and sucking air after each interval. I had just run 35 minutes without stopping. I crossed the finish line, fists in the air, thrilled at what I had just accomplished. It felt like I was walking on a cloud for weeks. Any tough problem that I encountered  seemed to soften in comparison to finishing that race. I’m addicted to accomplishment. That’s why I run.

Jingle Jungle 5K

Secondly, I run for self-discipline. It is good for me to endure through trials. It is good for me to push a little bit harder when my legs want to quit. My body wants certain things: sleep, rest, comfort, ease. Although there’s nothing wrong with those desires inherently, there are times the body and the flesh must be told, “No.”

Self-discipline is a constant training process.

There is a reason I understand much more than I did two years ago why Paul consistently talks about running and spirituality in the Bible. He entreats his readers to train, run, not run in vain, to finish the race. One of my favorite passages: Hebrews 12:1-2 reads: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Life is a marathon; we must train to run well. Even Jesus denied his bodily desires and ran the race set before Him until he crossed the finish line. He is still celebrating the completion of His race. And so am I.

Jul 8, 2013 - Exegesis, Quotes    No Comments

Music in the Key of Life

I’m no musician.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love music! But somehow my musical training and prowess stalled when I was first chair in the recorder in fourth grade. I can carry a tune okay, but I don’t enjoy singing in front of others – at least not on my own. But if you put me in a group, surrounded by the voices of the congregation, I sing loudly and I sound phenomenal! Something beautiful happens when I match the pitch of the person next to me. I hear and feel the power of the masses. I am encouraged to breathe deeply and give the tune everything I’ve got.

The power of singing in unison drowns out my vocal imperfections and highlights the notes I get right.

This is the power of community.

And that’s a beautiful thing. And the good news is that the power of community doesn’t stop with just singing ability – it extends to all areas of life. I am more compassionate at my job, a fiercer friend, and more motivated in ministry when encouraged by my community than I ever could be on my own. Others understand where you are and how hard it is to sing at times. They can give you strength to sing even when it’s hard.

Each person’s life has a song. If you think of your life as an opus, full of different movements at different times in life, our songs won’t always sound the same, but they can all be beautiful. It doesn’t matter if your current tune sounds like a playful ditty or a mournful dirge – both can be sung worshipfully. And both are more powerful with others singing alongside you. Each life is an opus which must be crafted in community and fellowship.

orlando grace church 51P2FYRR7XL 211x300 Music in the Key of Life

The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus gives a helpful picture to think about life as a grand piece of music. Mr. Holland, a high school music teacher, who dreamed of fame and fortune, is given a gift upon his retirement. Many of his students over the previous four decades return to play a composition for their beloved teacher and mentor. One of his students, Gertrude Lang, whom Mr. Holland helped decades previously to “play the sunset” honors her mentor with the following speech:

“Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. “

We match each others’ tunes. We sing together. We live in community.

Jesus, help us to sing, no matter the tune, with all our might creating an opus of worship fit for the King!

Jun 14, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    5 Comments

Know Why You “No”

I hate saying no.

I really stink at it. I detest feeling like I’ve let others down. I have to work myself up to near-frenzy to get the words out and I typically feel remorse about it afterward as if I’m single handedly crushing someone’s spirit through my negative reply. I struggle with this. It’s a constant battle for me not to overbook myself, feel totally overtaxed, and want to retreat from the world.

I was complaining to my mom about this feeling and she said something which totally blew my concept of saying “no” out of the water.

She quoted Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Then she went on to exegete the passage saying, “Kelly, God prepared for you good works, specific good works, and you should walk in those working at them mightily. Other works may present opportunity, and they may appear good from the outside, but if they’re not the good works that God prepared for you specifically, then they won’t be good if you say yes.”

Mind blowing truth! What beautiful freedom!

orlando grace church Graduation Kyle 055 225x300 Know Why You No

If I say “no” to everything, I’m being disobedient by failing to walk in the good works God has prepared for me. If I say “yes” to everything, I’m not being a good steward of myself! By stretching myself too thin I’m failing to give enough energy, time, and attention to the specific works which have been chosen for me. But perhaps even more frightening than that is the fact that by saying “yes” to everything I could be inadvertently usurping a work meant for another and thereby denying him of the opportunity to walk in the good works prepared for him!

I’ve found myself praying my own version of the Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity to say “no” to the works not prepared for me.
The courage to say “yes” to the works which are prepared for me.
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Jun 10, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Lessons from a Fallow Field

“For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow…” Exodus 23:10-11a

Moanings from a Fallow Field:

Dear Heavenly Farmer,

My nutrients have been spent. I’ve fed a family, clothed a village, provided for so many, given freely of all that is in me. I am tired. I am spent. Like Bilbo who could relate with this feeling when he said, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.”

But I am necessary for their well-being. How can I be expected to abide by your commandment to grow nothing for an entire year? How will they survive without my contributions, aide, expertise, and work? How can I ask for a break, even though I feel my energy growing thin?  I long to rest, to soak up the sun and the rain. I long to feel replenished, but I don’t know how. I’ve worked and provided for so long… it’s who I am. Will I still be valued if I don’t perform?

Somewhere inside of me I know that my nutrients are spent and that if I keep going I will only produce poor fruit, but the drive to produce, to perform, to do is so strong. I’ve done it for six years- I’ve been tilled, sown, and harvested. I’ve faithfully produced year after year. It is a paradigm shift to think of myself as valuable not for what I can do, but for who I am. I am valuable not first and foremost for what I can contribute, but for who I am. I am your field, Father. You call me to work and to rest. Help me to actively rest in this year of fallowness, not just to passively loaf. Help me to seek replenishment. Let my soil be filled to overflowing with nutrients not just for my own health, but so that I can provide again in the future. I am lying fallow in order to produce more fruit.

Learning the Importance of Lying Fallow,
Your Faithful Field

“Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant.” Henri Nouwen

orlando grace church San Felasco and SR 241 009 300x225 Lessons From a Fallow Field

Mar 25, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    No Comments

Before I Give Sleep to my Eyes…

“I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” Psalm 132:4-5


I’ve continued on my trek through the Psalms each month and this one caught my eye in a big way. First of all, I love sleep. I’ve had a cold last week and slept for fifteen hours – consecutively. That’s right, I went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at noon the next day. (You can be jealous.)I am a champion sleeper. If sleeping was an Olympic sport, watch out Michael Phelps, I might just dethrone you in medals earned!

So, I love sleep. I love feeling refreshed. I love starting a new day. I love to “give sleep to my eyes and slumber to my eyelids.”


So these verses caught my attention. Finding a place for the Lord is more important than sleep. If I had to guess, since this is a Psalm of Ascent (one Psalm per step was said whilst walking up the stairs to the Temple), the author of this Psalm was talking about finding a literal, earthly dwelling place for the Lord in the Temple. But I think we can apply it to our lives today. That is, “I will not sleep until I have had time to pray, read the Word, or in some way spend time with the Lord.” This application works because the Lord dwells within His Beloved, His new covenant Temple (See I Corinthians 3:16).

So I want to go to bed the right way, having enjoyed my time with Jesus, so that I can readily give sleep to my eyes, and sleep well knowing that He is in control.

Good Night!


Feb 22, 2013 - Devotional, Exegesis    1 Comment

Work vs. Toil

How do you feel about work?

Whether it be your job, vocation, career, chores, duties, or responsibilities, how do you feel about your work?

Do you love it? Is it rewarding? Would you, as my high school guidance counselor always hoped, work even without pay?

Or is it a drudgery? A necessary task to earn money? A prerequisite to leisure time?

I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately. I’m currently writing a Bible study on the Sabbath and I’m coming to understand more and more than without a proper understanding of work, one cannot have a thorough understanding of rest.

So, what’s work?

work in progress

First of all, work was not designed to be evil, a punishment, or a drudgery. To put it another way, there was work before sin entered the world. Read this nugget of truth from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery:

“The first image of human work in the Bible stresses its perfection. Work existed in the time of human innocence in paradise, as the Protestant Reformers never tired of pointing out. The notion of work as part of God’s perfect design for human life is captured in the majestic simplicity of Genesis 2:15, ‘the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it’ (RSV). Here human work is shown to have worth and dignity as a service to God and as something that gives purpose to human life. Work is here a creation ordinance, a God-appointed necessity for human life…[W]ork does not originate with the Fall, as is often and erroneously claimed. The Fall neither cancels God’s command to work not does it introduce work into the world. What is new is work as a curse and as toil–something that must be accomplished against the hostility of the environment.” (Ryken, et al. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, InterVarsity Press Academic, Downers Grove, IL, 1998, p. 966).

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery


There is a difference between work and toil. Work is good! It is an act of worship. It was designed to be good. But now we live in a marred world. We experience toil. Our work is not fulfilling. It is full of the thorns and thistles of inefficiency and disillusionment. The crops don’t harvest what we’d wish. Those people don’t return my phone calls. The house never stays cleaned. We live in a cycle of toil. But that is not the way it was meant to be.

Therefore, know the difference and seek to work, worshipfully and whole-heartedly, and not to toil, tirelessly and tediously!

Feb 10, 2013 - Exegesis    3 Comments

I like big BUTS and I cannot lie…

Catchy title, eh?

I really do. I love BUTS. Changes in attitude and direction. They’re important. It is helpful to recall where I’ve been and where I’m headed now.

The Bible is full of big BUTS (snicker if you must, then note the one T.) The phrase, “But God…” is one of my all time favorites. It is common throughout scripture, particularly in the Psalms where  authors often spend the first half of the poem rehearsing the terrible predicament in which they find themselves, but then, suddenly, they remember the Lord.

Phrases such as: But the Lord is at work. But God hears my cries. But God is good. But God cares for His Beloved, etc are common in the scriptures. So common that sometimes we overlook them.

Here’s just one example from Psalm 73: “My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Those two words: small in size, large in meaning.

Those words are powerful breaking through the darkness like a beam of light. They shine hope.

Light and trees


When I am surrounded by troubles and trials, when my friends have left and my enemies increase, when I think no one hears my cries or sees my grief, I can cry out, “BUT GOD! sees, hears, rescues, strengthens, and loves me!” As my friend often reminds me when I get in a cycle of stress or doubt, “You have a father who loves you and watches out for you.”

It’s true. I like BIG BUTS and I cannot lie!

Feb 8, 2013 - Exegesis    1 Comment

Psalm 4

I’ve been camped out in the Psalms lately.

Feeling the emotions. Soaking in the goodness. Quenching my soul.

In the midst of life’s trials, the Psalms are my salve. They remind me that someone else understands. That someone has been through uncertainty, discomfort, and grief.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about today:

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

David writes this from experience. He’s been through loss, abandonment, and war. He knows the anxiety of feeling unsafe at nearly every turn. He was the smallest of his brothers, underestimated, and under utilized. He was blessed by the Lord, but this fact did not ease his troubles. He was pursued by Saul, forced to hide in caves, running for his life.

He lived perpetually in peril.

And yet he can still pen these words.

There is hope for me!


Jan 21, 2013 - Exegesis, My Story    3 Comments

Justice and God

Ever since I attended Passion last year, my ears have pricked up when I hear the word “justice.” I heard about the atrocities in the world in real and all too near ways. Passion focused on the plight of 27 million men, women, and children in the world who are currently in slavery.  There is evil. There is oppression. There is injustice.

Slavery Still Exists

Lately, I’ve been reading through the Psalms. The book of varied emotions and burdened heart cries. Psalm 10:17-18 reads: “O LORD, you hear the desires of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”

I love, first of all, the confidence that the author of this Psalm gives in the Lord’s actions. Not “you may,” or “please do this,” or “hopefully.” The writer continually says, “You will…” with no qualms or hesitation. The author can make these unequivocal statements because he knows the Lord’s character. Yes, God is love. All love. The definition of love. And He is also just. The very definition of just!

Second, the phrase “incline your ear.” It’s beautiful. I picture a parent stooping down, leaning in, attentively listening to his child’s cries. Tenderly wiping tears and reassuring his little one that there is hope.

I also see the phrase “do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.” These are a synecdoche (a part representing something larger), that is, God isn’t only interested in doing justice for the fatherless, but also the motherless, and the poor, and the disabled, and the slave. He is interested in justice for those who are disenfranchised.

Here’s what many miss though — God cares for people in all kinds of oppression. He cares for the 27 million in slavery in the world today, of course our minds jump there easily. But He also cares for the billions in spiritual bondage to sin! These people need a savior from a deeper and deadlier kind of slavery. But herein lies the beauty of the gospel – for God is both JUST and THE JUSTIFIER (Romans 3:26). God must punish sin, there is no excusing it. Therefore, He provided a way for the sin to be punished and the sinner to be saved.

The way is Jesus.

The ultimate end to slavery.

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