Reflections on Propitiation

The sacrifice of a pig in Ancient Greece, Epidromos, 5th BCE, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Depending on what Bible you read and which tradition you come from, you might or might not come across the word “propitiation.” And how often you come across it may vary. Some traditions use the word sometimes, and some traditions make the word central to their faith.

As a youth pastor, I have been thinking through how to explain the crucifixion of Christ to children in a way that is meaningful. I don’t want to just feed them platitudes, but present them with the underlying ideas in a coherent way. Usually I do this by trying to figure out a way to explain an idea without using any “Christianese” or technical terms that you have to be in the know to understand. If I can explain something in simple language, then I understand it well enough to teach it (usually).

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Your Life Is a Work of Art

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It was quite a few years ago now. A friend was describing to me an interview she had been listening to. It was about Pablo Picasso. As it turns out, he wasn’t a very good person by even a modest standard. His granddaughter wrote this about him: “He drove everyone who got near him to despair and engulfed them. No one in my family ever managed to escape from the stranglehold of this genius.”

And yet, he was a very talented artist. This raises the question – should an artist’s personal integrity have any bearing on his or her art and how we evaluate it?

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The Significance of the Incarnation

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Every year on December 25th Christians around the world celebrate the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. But what is the significance of it? What does it mean when Christian say that God incarnated as a human being?

In normal, day-to-day English, you would probably almost never come across the word “incarnation.” If you did it would be more or less synonymous with the words “embodiment” or “version,” as in “My cousin Julie is so sweet she’s basically the incarnation of kindness,” or “This is the third incarnation of the novel I’m working on.”

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A Quick Look at Psalm 109

First, go ahead and take a few minutes to read through Psalm 109. I think you will get a lot more out of this if you have it fresh in your mind.

Psalm 109 is perhaps one of the most disturbing and violent psalms in the whole Psalter. At first glance, verses 6-19 appear to an extended request from David to see the absolute denigration, pain, and destruction of his enemy along with their family members. For those of us who value Jesus’s command to “bless those who curse you,” this is a difficult psalm to accept, and not to mention a difficult psalm to pray!

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Faith is Trusting Jesus and His Work

The Doubting Thomas, Albrecht Dürer, 1510

Is it ever okay for a Christian to have doubt? Can you question and struggle with your faith and still be a good Christian?

I think there are two common ways of approaching this question that are unhelpful.

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Can You Trust the Witness of the Gospels? Craig Keener and Christobiography

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Caravaggio, 1601

This post is for those who are skeptical or curious about the historical reliability of the Gospels (as well as those who might be curious to learn a little more about me).

I’ve tried to keep it concise, readable, and interesting for anyone who had ever pondered such a question.

Personal Prelude

I’ve never been one to just take what people tell me at face value.

I don’t think it’s really that I’m a skeptic; it’s just that, to me, it seems like a lot of people haven’t really thought through the things they believe very well.

Personally, I can’t really believe people who don’t have a good reason for what they believe, and I’ve always disliked it when people give me the textbook answer rather than a conclusion that they’ve arrived at through careful study and thought.

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Reflections on Love: Four Principles from Herbert’s Love (III)

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown, 1876

This post is part of a series. Click the link for Parts 1 & 2.

Last time I introduced you to Herbert’s poem “Love (III),” and invited you into it—to meet the loving Jesus Christ who Herbert would like to introduce you to.

Here I want to draw a few principles from it about God and God’s love. These four principles don’t exhaust the treasure to be found in the poem, but they do help distill its essence.

Hopefully, in doing so, you can carry these principles into your entire life—certainly your worship and prayer life, but not only there! God wants your entire life, from waking to sleeping, to be permeated by his love.  

So here we go:

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Reflections on Love: Being Loved by God, or Love (III) by George Herbert

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown, 1876

This post is part of a series. To see Part 1, click here.

“Love (III)” is one of my favorite poems because it speaks to the heart of the matter: what does it look like to be loved by God? Composed by George Herbert in the 17th century, it is his most celebrated poem. It also concludes the main section of The Temple, the collection of Herbert’s English poems.

Here is the poem in full (it belongs to the public domain), with the spelling modernized:

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Reflections on Love: Why Does It Even Matter?

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown, 1876

This blog post started as a reflection on a poem, but it started to get pretty long. I realized I didn’t want to test everyone’s attention span, so I decided to split it up into a series that will attempt to unfold what love means for those who follow Christ.

Christians talk a lot about love. They claim that God loves them.

One early writer says that God has given Christians a new life because God’s love for them was so strong. Elsewhere, he writes that God’s love is so powerful and large that nothing can overcome or overpower it. Nothing is bigger or stronger than it (Eph 2:4-5; Rom 8:38-39).

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Running Towards the Tomb

The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection,
Eugène Burnand, 1898.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reaches the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. (You see, they didn’t yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.)

John 20:1-9


Often life seems like a tragedy—pain and suffering with no purpose, no redemption.

If not, then why do we try so hard to convince ourselves otherwise?

Wars, famines, and plagues seem less like the exception and more like the rule. Yet, these concepts are too abstract and distant for us. They happen elsewhere, to other people. Not us.

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