James 1:21

Rank Growth (2014) (18″ x 14″)
collage on canvas board
In this passage James describes quite a different garden through his imagery: “Therefore rid yourself of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” (NRSV)
My wife and I have learned from sad experience that a plot of land must first be thoroughly weeded before introducing new plants. Otherwise, the weeds will grow up around them and be difficult to remove by spraying or digging up without also damaging the desirable growth.

The Song of Solomon

Garden of Delight (2014) (18″ x 14″)
collage on canvas board
All of the characters in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) are present in this canvas. Surprisingly, there are some parallels to the Garden of Eden, including (besides the similar settings) a loving couple, the presence of God, an evil force (the little foxes that spoil the grapes) and guards–not angelic this time but city officials who figure in the lovers’ dreams.

The Garden of Eden

A Momentary Eden (2014) (18″ x 14″)
collage on canvas board
I recently completed three canvases featuring gardens in the Bible. The first of these, of course, concerned the Garden of Eden. This was only a momentary Eden, however, to which mankind will never return. The new heaven and earth are not pictured as a garden, as Jacques Ellul has perceptively pointed out; the future is instead portrayed as a city even though many of the themes found in the early chapters of Genesis are repeated in the Book of Revelation.

Balaam: Numbers 22-24

Two Asses (2005) (18″ x 15″)
collage and acrylic on canvas
The Old Testament contains another story in which money and religious power come together. In this case, the prophet Balaam who already has supposed religious gifts, as opposed to the story of Simon Magus.  The enemies of Israel approach Balaam to pray to God against that nation, but Balaam is compelled to bless them instead.  Again, the moral is that God’s favor cannot be purchased.

Acts 8

The Power Called Great (2005) (24″ x 18″)
collage and acrylic on canvas
When Paul and his companions travel through Gentile territory, they encounter several people claiming to have supernatural powers. Simon Magus is a rare example of one of them who is convinced of the truth of the Gospel after hearing Philip speak and seeing miracles being performed. However, it is the power that the apostles have that really impresses Simon, and he steps over the line when he offers to purchase that ability from them.
This is a troubling story because it reminds us of Jesus’ words that not all who call themselves Christians are so in reality.  As Peter tells Simon Magus, “your heart is not right before God” and “you are still in…the chains of wickedness.”

Acts 16

Jailbreak (2005) (9″ x 11″ x 1.5″)
collage and wax in shadow box
The apostles seemed to have spent a lot of time in prison, but managed to witness even there. In this case, Paul and Silas were thrown into jail at the request of some men who owned a slave girl who could divine the future. Paul exorcised the spirit out of her and thereby ruined a profitable business for her owners. Economic gain is just one of the underlying motives for persecution of Christians today.

Acts 2

Peter Stood Up (2005) (12″ x 16″)
collage on canvas
Reading the early speeches of Peter in the Book of Acts, such as the one he delivered on the Day of Pentacost, it is easy to get the idea that he is merely laying a guilt trip on the crowd for being responsible for the death of Jesus. However, the gist of the whole speech makes it clear that it is just one of several techniques Peter uses in order to try to save them. To look at someone laying on a real guilt trip, just read Stephen’s speech a little later in Acts.

Matthew 6:19-21

Moth and Rust (2014) (14″ x 14″)
collage on canvas
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises his audience not to rely on material possessions that are subject to decay of one sort or another, but instead build up heavenly treasures. Interestingly, his brother James, whose epistle is almost a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, states that these same rotten and rusted possessions will be used as evidence against the rich at the Last Judgment. This is probably because these material goods should not have been hoarded, but could have been used to help others, thus purchasing the “pearl of great price” that Jesus speaks about elsewhere (and is shown in the center of the above collage).

Jael

Partial Portrait: Jael (2014) (6″ x 6″)
acrylic on canvas
That muscular arm actually belongs to a woman, named Jael. Her daring deed is recorded in Judges 4. She lured the enemy general Sisera into her tent and drove a tent peg into his head with a hammer. All in all, it was not a good day for Sisera since he was fleeing for his life at the time after his army had been defeated through the help of another woman, Deborah.  Never underestimate the power of the “weaker” sex.

Sodom and Gomorrah

Departure (2006) (36″ x 24″)
mixed media
The aftermath of the disaster at Sodom and Gomorrah is pictured here surrounded by images from the similarly destroyed cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.