Daily Devotional 3-13-18

Look and Live (Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10) 

Anthony Van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) The Brass Serpents (c. 1618-120) Oil on canvas. 205 cm x 235 cm . Prado Museum, Madrid.

Many Christians throughout the world observe a season called Lent, or the lengthening of the days, spring-forward time.[1] Some do not. Some recall the abuses of the pre-Reformation days. Others find that in following a yearly cycle from the birth of Christ all the way to His Second Coming the inevitable period of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness comes up.[2] Christians of goodwill differ on these things. However, I believe we can all concede that there is a season of ministry, rich in its application for our lives, in which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ goes into the desert to be tempted of the devil, and that he is without nourishment for 40 days and 40 nights.[3] His long journey before reaching the promised land of the empty grave is a fitting parallel to the experience of Israel in the Old Testament.[4] We should, in fact, remember this significant part of the life of Jesus for in these things he was victorious where Moses and the others failed. Yet, even in their wandering there were moments — glimpses — of beautiful promises to come. And we read about one of those today from numbers chapter 21 and we understand its fulfillment in Ephesians chapter 2. Give attention to the inerrant and the infallible word of the living God.

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So, Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So, Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.[5]

Ephesians 2:1-10

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

“The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of the Lord will endure forever.” This morning I want to bring your message on these passages that I’m calling “Look and Live.” Let us pray.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Introduction

There are remedies for many disorders. But there is no remedy for stupidity. Let me explain.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” In a similar way, I have discovered that you can provide a pathway for spiritual healing but if people do not want that healing they will remain in their misery. As an educator, I have learned that you can help a student to see how an assignment is to be accomplished, but if the graduate student does not take advantage of the resources that you have given him there is no remedy for his failure. There is a remedy for many diseases of the body if we take the medicine. But if we refuse to take the medicine and we go to the doctor and we say, “Well, Doc, I’m absolutely no better off than when I first came to see you!” And the general practitioner looks you in the eye and asks you, “My dear fellow, are you sure that you have taken the prescribed medication in the precise dosage and on the exact timetable that I gave you?” You answered the doctor, “As a matter of fact I haven’t taken any medicine. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever got the prescription filled. I guess I just figured it wouldn’t work anyway.” The physician leans back on that little rotating chair, takes off his glasses, brow now wrinkling in vexation, and replies, “Well, in that case, there is nothing I can do for you. Your illness will grow worse and left untreated I am certain that it will, at length, kill you. You will die, however, not as much from the disease, but rather from your absolutely absurd pigheadedness.”

Now, I have medication that I have to take. My wife and my son are always asking me, “Have you taken your medicine?” When I miss the medicine, I begin to feel poorly. There are times, then, when my family does not have the slightest sympathy on me and, instead, they say, “You cannot expect to fight and overcome the weakening effects of the disease without the treatment that has been given to you. Now take your medicine!” Maybe you have had that experience as well. In my experience, I have seen that men tend to be more obstinate in such matters than the “female of the species.” Or, maybe you have had the experience of the pastor writing a prescription for better spiritual health or a counselor giving you the direction that will lead to improved behavioral health: a happier life, a better marriage, or a more satisfaction in your work. Yet, like me and my medicine, perhaps, you determined that your way was better. And so, you ignored the advice, only to continue in your unhappy state.  Yes, indeed, there are remedies for many things, many diseases, many maladies, and many mental and behavioral problems. But if you persist in your defiance there can be no remedy.

When we read Numbers chapter 21 we read about Israel and the judgment of God upon them for their much complaining.[6] There was an infestation of serpents. The serpents bit the people and they were dying. Men and women, boys and girls, all suffering from the toxic venom of snakes. But in a strange, paradoxical remedy, God instructs Moses to fashion a bronze serpent upon a pole. Now, this is the paradox because they are to look at the image of the venomous serpent, the very thing that is killing them, and that is the thing that will bring healing to them.[7] This is a remarkable insight given to the children of Israel as to how God saves. Almighty God saves sinful man in a way that so confounds the mind of man that there is no other possibility but to say: it is God and God alone who saves completely. He saves to the utmost. He does not share his glory and the remedy of our sickness but uses the most extraordinary means. He uses a “prescription” that would seem foolish to Man. Yet, the divinely wrought method is the only cure for the disease of the soul.  You and I know that the means that he uses is the gospel. That’s what this passage is about. As we consider Ephesians chapter 2, let us do so by keeping Numbers chapter 21 in close sight.

Like the Numbers chapter 21 account of the People who were bitten by serpents, St. Paul, too, demonstrates to the Ephesians the reality of sin’s lethal presence. In this, God has provided a way to look and live.

How are we to look upon this sin condition that we all have? We are to look in at least four directions to be healed.

1. To look and live, God calls us to look back.  (vv. 1,2)

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—”

Just as Moses called the people to recognize that their sins were the cause of the judgment of the fiery serpents, so, the apostle Paul calls the Ephesians to remember their former way of life. We cannot begin to imagine the debauchery, the public wickedness, the religious apostasy, and the horrid penalties in the flesh for such deviant practices.[8] Yet, if we are to look and live, like the Ephesians, like the Israelites in the desert, we must recognize that our state it is one of displeasing God and heaping upon ourselves the venomous consequences of our sins.

I came across the preaching of a very popular minister — I say that he is a minister, but I do not know anything about his credentials (“no man takes this honor unto himself”). This happened at the urging of one of my students.  The student felt that this unnamed preacher was not preaching “Christ and Him crucified.” Now, I am always very careful about such an undertaking. I have enough mistakes of my own to ever be criticizing another preacher. And if they’re not against us there for us. I learned what, apparently, millions of book–buyers and television viewers knew before me: this clergyman has become very popular  by telling us we can have our best life now. Upon further examination of the body of his work, I found that there is very little else declared. I suspect that I am missing something. Thus, sadly, if one preaches nothing but “all this and heaven, too” one’s message becomes like a painting without shadows. And a painting without shadows is unrealistic. And to speak of the good news without telling the bad news is not only unrealistic but is downright Un faithful.. The “bad news” withheld is the Israelite’s problem in Numbers 21: the people are bitten by deadly serpents. They are dying in the desert. And you have a prophet who comes to them and say “it’s okay. It’s all right. You’re going to be all right. God loves you and will certainly not leave you in this condition. Your better days are before you! Think posively about yourself!” But he fails to address the cancerous reality: without remedy you will die. And the precious and extraordinarily expensive antidote to this dreaded disease is completely unattainable by organic or synthetic means. The disease is that is taking the lives, the souls, of billions of people, all of whom die from the disease of sin, and some of whom die with last words, “Is this my best life now? Then, what awaits me on the other side?”

We cannot know the good news until we come face-to-face with the bad news. And the bad news is that we have fallen short of the glory of God and that we are in sin. The bite of the serpent is the fall of mankind. The virus of disobedience is passed down from one generation to another so that we are born in the state and we must be born again if we are to live. No good physician or nurse would begin treating without first assessing and diagnosing. This is the case with the apostle Paul. In the assessment of their sins leads him to the diagnosis that they were, in fact, dead in their trespasses and in their sins.

Until you confess that you were dead in your trespasses and sins you cannot be alive in Christ. Jesus Christ said that we must die to ourselves in order to live to him. Have you come face-to-face with the deadly venom of rebellion running through your spiritual veins? Do you believe that there is a way for your healing apart from God? Today is the day to recognize the existence of the otherwise incurable virus that you have, the virus of original sin.

Now, if the apostle Paul had gone no further than this, we would be left “dead in our trespasses and sins.” But there’s more. For to be healed, like the Israelites, we must not only look back but there is something else:

2. To look and live, God calls us to look around.  (V. 3)

“Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

The apostle Paul doubles down on the condition of sin in the world. Not only do individuals have the sin but if they will open their eyes and look around they will see the evidence of human defiance in others. The world is a very beautiful place created by God. But we must recognize that in the fall of mankind all of creation was infected by the fall. This is the teaching of St. Paul in Romans chapter 8 when he says that creation itself is groaning for the redemption that is in the return of Jesus Christ and a new heaven and a new earth. Look around: look around and you will see not only sin but the effects of sin all over the world. You will also see men and women scrambling in the desert, as it were, seeking to find all kind of remedies to take care of the poisonous and ruinous condition. But there is nothing to do. There is no remedy within their grasp. And this is critical for the believer to understand. We will not find our fulfillment from the world around us but from Almighty God within us as we receive him by faith.

There was a time in my own life when I sought to find a remedy for the loneliness and the isolation and the desperate anguish of the soul. I looked around to find it an art. I remember seeing the artwork of Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956): colors thrown against the canvas, splattered, futile, random, without form, and, certainly, without purpose (except to reflect what the artist must have felt). I believe that the modernist painter might have depicted my soul quite accurately, but he had absolutely no remedy in his artwork.[9] I remember studying the work of Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – Jul 29, 1890) with omnivorous interest. I still consider his work to be among the finest.[10] Yet this great Impressionist also reflected the anguish of his soul and the anguish in the desperate condition of the plane, ordinary folk that he saw in the Dutch villages. There is a rich layered beauty to it. But there is a sadness that betrays the swirling, bright primary colors. The paint does not cheer, it churns. It is angst on fire in the heavens.[11] There is no remedy. I looked around and also to find an answer in music. I very much appreciated the music of folk artists like Neil Young, Jackson Brown, and others. But I found that their music, as creative and even his beautiful as it was, in the case of music such as Dan Fogelberg, there was a desolation there. There were no answers. There were only echoes of the hollowed soul I shared with them. I remember sitting alone in a barracks in San Angelo, Texas, listening to folk music (by eight-track tape, mind you), and thinking to myself, “How can I know the God that is there? How can I return to the God that my Aunt Eva taught me when I was a child?” Maybe someone reading this can relate to the deep, spiritual torment that I felt.

Look around and you will not find the answers to the problems you face in this popular culture that the apostle Paul calls “this present evil age.”[12] You will find many reflections of your problems, you might even see suggestions of how you can manage the problem, or perhaps you can even solve the problem yourself. But look closer to see: mankind is able to send fantastic machines through the solar system, sending back unimaginable photographs of other worlds, and, yet, he is unable to travel across the living room define peace with his wife or his children. He is unable to find peace within himself.

And so, there is a third way that the Apostle Paul says that we must look and live.

3. To look and live, God calls us look up. (4–9)

But[ God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I’ve heard it said that the two most remarkable words in Ephesians chapter 2 are in this portion: “But God…” Almighty God is the great interventionist. That is the power of those two words, “But God . . .” This is God who is the emergency surgeon. He saves us when no one else can save us when nothing else can save us. And Jesus Christ is the mortal soul’s vision of a white knight come to save us. All of the superheroes and all of the Savior figures in literature are but longings of the human heart for that one who will write the wrong, defeat the enemy, heal the disease, and grant everlasting life, defeating the grim, perennial enemy called Death.[13]

St. Paul tells the Ephesians to look up. And why? Because there is seated in the heavenly realm is our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is not only resurrected from the dead and has ascended into the heavenly, but he has taken his place — he has been coroneted as the Sovereign King of the Universe — and there is life in his blood to testify on our behalf. He is our Advocate. Look up and see that the very thing that seeks to destroy you is the very thing that saves you. Look up and see the God-Man on the cross. Look up and see the One who is the Almighty God in human flesh. Look up and see God in the flesh being crucified by the very people that he created. Look up and listen as he says, “Father forgive them they know not what they do.” Yes, we have had to look down at our condition, but now we must look upto our condition redemption. We must always look up to know that we have a Savior who will forgive our sins. He will forgive your sin today. If you will but look to him by faith you will experience the cleansing and the total healing that takes away shame, that takes away mental anguish, that takes away spiritual darkness, and that purges the poisonous venom of original sin. Look up today and live.

I must say if I had nothing else to preach this would be enough. For we have seen that if we look behind us we will see that we were sinners. If we look around us we will see that the world itself is in sin and has no remedy to offer us for the darkness in our souls. But if we look up we will see a Savior on a cross and a Christ on the throne. Oh, that you and I would only look upon this sinless Lamb of God by faith and receive him as God and Savior. To believe is to receive the life-giving grace that eradicates the old sin. Trusting in this resurrected and reigning Christ makes you fit for eternity. Yes, that would be enough. But this passage is an amazing passage that goes far beyond speaking of eternal life and speaks of abundant life is well. Jesus Christ said, ” I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). And this is our final direction:

4. To look and live, God calls us to Look forward. (v. 10)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God calls us to see that when we receive the spiritual healing for our souls we begin to enjoy purpose for our lives. The apostle Paul is telling them that before time begin, Almighty God it already made you a unique individual. As you look behind, look around, and then look up, you are saved, and you are made to walk in that way that God had prepared for you. In a real way, then, we must say that Jesus Christ makes us more human. We were able to examine ourselves and to say, “I seem to have been made by God in this way.” We can say, “God has placed me in this unique situation with these unique gifts or with this special training and education. I must walk in this way. I must bloom where I’ve been planted.” This is why I called the ministry that I founded, “faith for living.” The faith that Jesus Christ brings is not only a faith for dying. It is a faith for living. He changes your life. He gives you a new purpose. Your humanity and your personhood flourishes under the Golden sunlight emanating from the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s plan for you. You look no further than your own life and to see how God has made you, take note of those areas in which you have exiled, chart the ways in which you have contributed the best. Then, as a child of God, sharpened that sword. Fine tune that instrument. Prepare yourself to walk into the future with God. To be heavenly-minded is not a waste, my beloved. It is an essential posture for living a sacrificial life for others here and now.[14]

Some of you have been confused about your place in the world. That’s normal. It’s normal because we are in the desert. We’ve been bitten by venomous snakes. We look around us and the others are in the same shape. But let us only continue to look up. Let us continue to look at Christ on the cross of Christ on the throne that we may be sustained in our healing. In Him, you will find the pathway forward. In Jesus Christ alone, you will know your calling, you will find your place in the sun, you will know the smile of God, the wind of the Spirit blowing like a fresh breeze into your face. You will say, “At last, I know why I am here. I am here to glorify God in . . . the way He has made me. I will walk in His steps who has gone before me.”[15]

Conclusion

What a remarkable couplet of sacred readings today: Numbers 21:4-9; and Ephesians 2:1-10. Together they have demonstrated to us the glorious truth that we can look up and live: by looking back in confessing our sin, by looking around to see that the world is in the same condition and has either no answers or bad answers to our inconsolable condition; then we have seen that the remedy is to look up and live. Look up and see the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and receive him into your life. Then, St. Paul shows us that we can go forward. We can move toward the promised land and eternal life, but we can also move toward being the people God made us to be. These passages are nothing less than absolutely life-transforming.

One of the challenges of this text is that it is just too good to be true. Yet, in the amazing method of salvation, God defies Man and glorifies Himself. I recall a young lady who had lived the life of a prostitute.[16] She had come to Jesus Christ. She had to look back. She had to look around. But, she began to look up. She believed. But she could not look forward. I counseled her from the Scriptures. I showed her that God had not created her for sin, but for a purpose. And she could walk in it. She told me about how as a child she had always been encouraged by her teachers in her studies. She was a gifted student, a conscientious person, who cared for others. I learned that her life had taken a turn due to the pain of abuse. I believe that the devil wanted her to look around and see that she had no choice but live like the world, to make her living off of the base urges unchecked by the Law of God. In doing so she nearly lost her life. But, as a new creature in Christ, she began to see that the old things were passed, behold all things had become new. And this young lady returned to college, in her mid-thirties, and she became a nurse. She was one of the most dedicated nurses one could imagine. She learned that to look up to Christ is to look forward to a new life.

How many have, indeed, looked to Christ for their healing? Yet, you cannot. You are blinded by pain, disillusionment, or a thousand other stinging ointments that obscure your spiritual sight. You are like the stricken Israelites. You have been bitten by the viper of sin and shame. Your spiritual legs are paralyzed by the venomous fear running through you. You are dying in the scorching wilderness sand. The residual venom running through your soul’s arteries constricts. You can’t move. You cannot breathe. But today, the truth sets you free. Today, you see that God created you for good works and for you to walk in them. Today, you not only receive your remedy. You receive your promise: Get up and walk; walk with Jesus Christ as your Guide and Your Friend, into a new future that God has created for you, a glorious future, a future with no end. Look up. Look up and live.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bibliography

Adam, Adolf. The Liturgical Year: Its History & Its Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy. Liturgical Press, 1990.

Barber, J., and C. Overoorde. Art to the Glory of God. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010. https://books.google.com/books?id=enZMAwAAQBAJ.

Baugh, Steven M. “Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42, no. 3 (1999): 443.

Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 2007.

Bible, Holy. “English Standard Version (2001).” Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, n.d.

Brinks, C. L. “‘Great Is Artemis of the Ephesians’: Acts 19: 23-41 in Light of Goddess Worship in Ephesus.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 71, no. 4 (2009): 776–94.

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Vol. 17. New World Library, 2008.

Day, John. Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Vol. 265. A&C Black, 2002.

Detweiler, Robert. “Christ and the Christ Figure in American Fiction.” The Christian Scholar, 1964, 111–24.

Frayer-Griggs, Daniel. “The Beasts at Ephesus and the Cult of Artemis.” Harvard Theological Review 106, no. 4 (2013): 459–77.

Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy, Edouard Manet, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Diebenkorn, James Hayward, Robert Irwin, Andy Warhol, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Vincent van Gogh. Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual Arts, 1986-1993. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Gray, George Buchanan. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers. Vol. 4. Scribner, 1903.

Gross, B. Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. InterVarsity Press, 2012. https://books.google.com/books?id=c24uDwAAQBAJ.

Hendricks, Bill. The Person Called You: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life. Moody Publishers, 2014.

Joines, Karen Randolp. “The Bronze Serpent in the Israelite Cult.” Journal of Biblical Literature 87, no. 3 (1968): 245–56. https://doi.org/10.2307/3263536.

Kropp, Andreas JM. “Anatomy of a Phoenician Goddess: The Tyche of Berytus and Her Acolytes.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 24 (2011): 389–407.

Lee, T.C. “Van Gogh’s Vision Digitalis Intoxication?” Jama 245 (1981): 727–29.

Lewis, C. S., and Macmillan Company. Mere Christianity: With a New Introduction, of the Three Books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality. Macmillan, 1960. https://books.google.com/books?id=rKH9jwEACAAJ.

Oster, Richard. A Bibliography of Ancient Ephesus. Scarecrow Press, 1987.

Oster, Richard E. Ephesus as a Religious Center under the Principate, I: Paganism before Constantine. Walter De Gruyter, 1990.

Talley, Thomas J. The Origins of the Liturgical Year. Pueblo Publishing Company, 1991.

Vischer, L. Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present. W.B. Eerdmans, 2003. https://books.google.com/books?id=49U8FUw_laQC.

Yandek, Amy C. Pagan Roman Religious Acculturation? An Inquiry into the Domestic Cult at Karanis, Ephesos, and Dura-Europos: The First to Fifth Centuries CE. Temple University, 2013.

Endnotes

[1] See, e.g., Talley, The Origins of the Liturgical Year. Adam, The Liturgical Year: Its History & Its Meaning After the Reform of the Liturgy.

[2] See, e.g., Vischer, Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present, 399.

[3] I like the way Gross puts it when he writes of “inhabiting the Church Year . . .” See Gross, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, 10.

[4] “In light of the allusions to the OT behind the various elements of this narrative, the point of the entire narrative is clear: unlike the Israelites who failed in the wilderness, Jesus is the faithful son of God.” Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 286.

[5] Unless otherwise noted, the Scriptures quoted in this paper are Bible, “English Standard Version..(2001).”

[6] Gray, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers, 4:54.

[7]  In addition to the paradox of a cure provided in the image of the disease — that is, the fiery serpents — there is the matter of Canaanite idolatry with bronze serpents and calves. Could it be that God is saying that since the sojourning Israelites have murmured against his provision in favor of desiring to return to unbelieving societies which worship such inanimate things, he will demonstrate, in familiar but sarcastic wonder, that he can use all things for his own glory; and that the gods themselves are but wood and metal, incapable of quenching their desires and healing their lives except for His divine intervention? For further research on this fascinating background material, consider Joines, “The Bronze Serpent in the Israelite Cult,” 248.

[8] There is a wealth of research on the subject. A sample of the research that I consulted, includes, Brinks, “‘ Great Is Artemis of the Ephesians’: Acts 19: 23-41in Light of Goddess Worship in Ephesus”; Oster, A Bibliography of Ancient Ephesus; Kropp, “Anatomy of a Phoenician Goddess: The Tyche of Berytus and Her Acolytes”; Baugh, “Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal”; Oster, Ephesus as a Religious Center under the Principate, I: Paganism before Constantine; Yandek, Pagan Roman Religious Acculturation? An Inquiry into the Domestic Cult at Karanis, Ephesos, and Dura-Europos: The First to Fifth Centuries CE; Frayer-Griggs, “The Beasts at Ephesus and the Cult of Artemis”; Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan; Oster, Ephesus as a Religious Center under the Principate, I: Paganism before Constantine. For a study on contrarian views of erotic ritual in Ephesus, see Baugh, “Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal.”

[9]  I greatly appreciate (and am convicted and I trust corrected by) the words of John Barber who wrote, “but the future of art will continue to be in question if Christians remain little more than art critics. Art also calls for our positive contribution — something that requires much study and thoughtful reflection. However, the church of today is not doing enough to offer the serious reflection upon the nature of art and its role within the Christian community.” Barber and Overoorde, Art to the Glory of God, 2.

[10] Consider this collection of essays that includes an assessment of van Gogh: Gilbert-Rolfe et al., Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual Arts, 1986-1993.

[11] Did van Gogh have a disease caused by primitive medical practices? Was the swirling, thick color a reaction or an outworking of this disease? “Van Gogh may have been under the influence of digitalis intoxication and its side effects: xanthopsia and coronas.” See the fascinating article in JAMA: T.C. Lee, “Van Gogh’s Vision Digitalis Intoxication?”

[12] “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4 ESV).

[13] I have gleaned much from the Hero’s Journey in Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. See, also, a more focused study on the study of the Christ figure in American literature in Detweiler, “Christ and the Christ Figure in American Fiction.”

[14] I am thinking about the oft-used quote by C.S. Lewis about the benefits of being heavenly-minded. See Lewis and Company, Mere Christianity: With a New Introduction, of the Three Books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behaviour, and Beyond Personality, 118.

[15] I like to refer inquirers on this subject to the fine book by my friend, Bill Hendricks of the Giftedness Center in Dallas, Texas and his fine book: Hendricks, The Person Called You.

[16] I have altered some of the facts of this pastoral case in my career to protect the person’s identity.