When the Church Gets All OT on You


Can’t stop thinking about this…

Whenever Church leaders talk about how great it is to be a follower of Jesus, does it ever bother you that they always go back to the Old Testament for props for their teachings and sermons?

In the Old Testament, the reward in this life for faithfulness included the following:


Material prosperity

Freedom from want

Large families

Respect from the community

Long life

But then in the New Testament, something else enters that idyllic picture and seems to replace it. The reward in this life for faithfulness in the New Testament:


Separation from family

More persecution


"The Crucifixion of St. Peter" by Ventura SalimbeniAmid all those sermons on all the great stuff you’ll now get from claiming OT promises, no one seems to talk about the hallmarks of NT faithfulness and what its rewards now look like.

My son and I are reading through the entire NT together, and that thread of persecution for following Jesus is simply unmistakable. Not only this, but Jesus Himself states that much of what was thought to be the hallmark of Old Testament faithfulness and reward would look different in the Kingdom of God that Jesus was instituing and that expectations should change. Something larger was now here, and it eclipsed what was thought to be the be all and end all of faithfulness and reward.

We don’t talk about that though.

What if instead of thinking about the OT reward of long life and material prosperity we instead thought of the blessing of having our head lopped off at age 30 by people who hated us and our Christ?

What does that do to “counting the cost”? Can any of us who have bought into the OT reward mentality truly accept the NT reward reality? Or do we keep retreating to a place that lessens the likelihood that we should ever receive a genuine NT reward—the only kind that truly matters.

Because, hey, someone once called me a bad name on my Christian blog, and I felt all persecuted.  🙁

Your Best Dog-Licked-Sores Life Now


“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
—Luke 16:19-31

What do you wanna bet that this passage is never preached by Joel Osteen, Rod Parsley, Ken Copeland, Paula White, or anyone else like them?

Wicked, Wicked, Wicked, Wicked…Righteous


House of the wicked?The local community newspaper listed eight foreclosures in the last week, all residences. That’s just in one week.

I had a hard time reading that and not getting misty-eyed. Eight families, no home.

At that rate, we’ll have 416 foreclosures in 2009 in my locality. Frankly, given the trend of things around here, I’m thinking the real number will tally somewhere closer to 700.

I wish it were zero.

The dread of losing one’s home runs high in most people. In America, it’s the ultimate failure, the financial, social, moral, and intellectual  scarlet letter.

The Bible, in one of its more inscrutable verses, says this:

What the wicked dreads will come upon him, but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
—Proverbs 10:24

When I first started writing Cerulean Sanctum, I got a lot of emails from people with the gist of  “Who do you think you are,  some kind of spiritual brainiac with all the answers?” The letters didn’t last, though. I think enough truth came out in postings here that people realized that I don’t have all the answers, not even remotely.

I don’t know what to do with a verse like the one above. In the case of the righteous of the Old Covenant, one could argue that their end goals were earthly prosperity and a continuing lineage. Time and again, the Old Testament’s discussion of the payout for the righteous takes those two forms. You can’t ignore them.

The New Covenant changes it, at least as I see it, so that Christ is the goal for the righteous.

But it’s not the payout for the righteous that perplexes me, but the wicked’s. The wicked’s jagged little pill bothers me because their end is the same in both the Old and New Testaments. What they dread is what they receive.

So I struggle with this. Not because the wicked should not reap what they sow, but because the Bible seems to make it clear that people will see the practical outcomes of wickedness. They will be clearly visible. We will know who is wicked and who is righteous by what happens to them, not only in the life to come, but in life right now.

Which brings me back to Proverbs 10:24.

I think about those eight foreclosures in my locality, and I apply Proverbs 10:24. Those people who lost their homes received what they dreaded. The verse says it is the wicked who receive what they dread, not the righteous.

Therefore, it would appear that every one of those people who lost their homes to foreclosure were wicked. They could not be righteous.

So I struggle with that. I wonder if Proverbs 10:24 and dozens of verses that say the same essential thing elsewhere in the Scripture are proof-textable clarifications of who is wicked and who is righteous.

Then we come to the following passage and the water murks even more:

When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
—Acts 28:3-5

The thought of the local people: Paul is wicked because of the misfortune that befell him. They seem to be referencing Proverbs 10:24 here.

How does this all fit with the dozens of OT passages that say that the wicked receive misfortune, while the righteous receive good? Hyperbole? Positive thinking? Rainbows and unicorns? Did the New Covenant wipe all those verses away?

So much for being a spiritual brainiac…

Any wise folks out there with some sage wisdom with regards to this topic? Please share. I think that many people in the days to come will be struggling with this same issue and will need to hear godly words.