"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

An "Audacious and Astounding" Traditional Trap

I have spent the last few days researching three various topics of interest for Christians. My research has delved into the nature of hell, the dating of the book of Revelation, and the equality of men and women.

You might be thinking to yourself, "What? Do those topics even matter?"

Yes; they do. I'll tell you why. In reverse order, your marriage, your hope for a better world, and your concept of the nature of God are all affected by your take on these three topics.

Christians who believe the Bible disagree on all three issues.

I personally see the Bible teaching that only those "in Christ" receive the gift of immortality (not every person),  only those "in Christ" are the people of God (Jews or Gentiles), and that everyone "in Christ" is a spiritual equal under the authority of Jesus Christ (there is no inherent spiritual authority of males over females).

But the purpose of this post is not to convince you of my position on any of these three biblical issues. I'd just like to make an observation after listening to hours of Christian debate.

When you hear another person say...
"The church for 20 centuries has taught (such and such).... and for you to claim that the Bible teaches something else is audacious (to me), astounding (to me), and arrogant (of you)."
.... you can expect a weak argument is forthcoming from that person.

Traditional views on difficult biblical doctrines are never necessarily wrong because they are traditional.

But traditionalists who've accepted traditional views are often surprised by other Christians who can articulate from Scripture a differing viewpoint.

As a result, traditionalists may be unprepared to defend from Scripture what they've been taught to believe.

In such situations, a traditionalist will often resort to a sudden expression of incredible surprise rather than a sound exegesis of inspired Scripture. 

You should be very unimpressed what then happens.

Our commitment is to the inspired word of God, not to the traditions of men.

We must never waiver from what we see the Scriptures to teach; even when we come under the verbal assaults of recognized church traditionalists and scholars.

"Moses wrote of Me," Jesus said in John 5:46.

Our concern should be to speak and write in such a way that people are pointed to Jesus Christ through our faithful declarations of inspired Scripture.

When the "audacious and astounding" traditional trap is sprung, know that the Truth is very possibly beginning to prevail.

The Gift of Prosperity Can Be Wrapped In Problems

There is a promise from God in Jeremiah 29:11 that is often quoted by Christians and nearly just as often misinterpreted.

God says: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Sadly, we sometimes pluck verses from their context and don't fully grasp the meaning of the text.

For example, if you claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise that God is about to change your circumstances for the better, then you have wrongly understood God's promise.

When was God's promise given? To whom was God speaking? What occurred to cause God to make this promise? When you ask and answer these questions of context, you'll discover that God is actually telling His people that He is NOT going to change their circumstances, but:
Though I may not take away your problems, I will give you the grace to bloom and prosper where I plant you.
That's the meaning of God's promise in Jeremiah 29:11.

"Bloom where you are planted" (Jeremiah 29:5) is an ancient biblical phrase that has its roots in the context God's promise to prosper His people in Jeremiah 29:11.

Let me show you.

Jeremiah was a prophet to God's people during a very difficult time. In 612 B.C. a wicked and brutal empire took control of the world. The Babylonians (sometimes called the Chaldeans in the Bible) defeated the ancient Assyrians and the Egyptians and took the stage as world conquerors.

Shortly after conquering the Assyrians, the evil Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,  launched the first of his three attacks against Jerusalem and God's people (609/608 B.C. then 597 B.C. and finally 586 B.C.)

Each successive attack during this 21-year time period was more brutal than the previous one, ending in 586 B.C. with the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the desolation of the entire city of Jerusalem.

It was during Nebuchadnezzar's first aggressive move against Jerusalem (609/608 B.C.) that Daniel, his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), and other Jewish leaders were taken captive. A decade later (597 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar came back to Jerusalem to get more Jewish artisans and craftsmen to help the Babylonian Empire build better roads, erect stronger walls, and create greater weapons. Nebuchadnezzar didn't take all the Jews into captivity.

More Jews remained in Jerusalem after 597 B.C. than were taken to Babylon as prisoners. One of those who remained in Jerusalem after 597 B.C. was the prophet, Jeremiah. The prophet began placing a yoke around his neck proclaiming to God's people that the Babylonian captivity would last "until the seventy years for Babylon have expired(Jeremiah 29:10 NAS).

In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar made his third and final advance on Jerusalem and destroyed the city and took the majority of God's people back to Babylon as captives. This is what the Bible calls "The Babylonian Exile."

Jeremiah the prophet kept telling God's people that their problems would continue until seven decades had passed. 

The seventy years of problems God's people had with the Babylonians began in 609  B.C. and would only come to an end in October 539 B.C. when the Persian King Cyrus invaded Babylon and conquered the Babylonians and freed the Jews.

Think about that for a moment. For 70 years the Jews would be subjugated by the wicked kings of Babylon.

That's a long time for God's people to be held in Babylonian captivity.

The United States war in Iraq has lasted a little over 15 years. Can you imagine having your husband, son or other loved one in Iraq without having the ability to see him or hear from him for decades?

Or reverse the role. How would you like to be a young Jewish artisan or servant in the Babylonian Empire like Daniel and his friends, only to hear in a letter from Jeremiah that your captivity will only end after Babylon's 70-year world reign comes to an end?

More than a few Jews didn't like hearing Jeremiah's proclamations of long captivity (Jeremiah 25:1-14).

One such Jew was a priest and false prophet named Hananiah. He mocked Jeremiah's prophecy (see Jeremiah 28), ripped the wooden yoke off Jeremiah's neck, and told the people that "God told me the captivity would last just two more years" (Jeremiah 28:3).

The Jews in Jerusalem began believing the false promise that God would change their circumstances soon.

It was at this time that God had Jeremiah send "a letter" to the captives in Babylon. That letter is what we know as Jeremiah 29. God knew that the false hope of a quick release from their bad circumstances would make its way to His people held captive in Babylon. So God speaks to His people through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:4-10 and declares:
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce (i.e. "bloom where you are planted").' 
Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. 
 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,' declares the Lord. For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place (Jerusalem)."
God is telling His people that - contrary to the testimony of the Jewish false prophets - the captivity will NOT be short, but their problems as prisoners of war in Babylon will go on for a full 70 years. Go ahead and bloom where you are planted. Have prosperity in the midst of your problems.

It is only after God tells His people to rest where they are (Babylon), and to pray for their wicked masters, and to be at peace in the environment that God has placed them in, that God gives His people the Jeremiah 29:11 promise:
"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope."
I'd like to ask you a question. Which prophecy inspires more hope? Is it Hananiah's false prophecy of captivity for less than two years? Or is it Jeremiah's prophecy to "bloom where you are planted" and experience a long captivity of 70 years?

False prophecies about quick changes in circumstances are much more compelling. We want God to take away our problems. But God always has a greater purpose, and His promise is that He will prosper us through our problems. 

Babylon would last as an empire for 70 years. Jeremiah knew this, for God told him (see both Jeremiah 25:1-14 and Jeremiah 29:10). That means when Jeremiah sent his letter to the Jews in Babylon in 597 B.C. the Jews still had an additional fifty-eight years of captivity left. 58 more years of captivity versus 2 more years of captivity.

Hananiah's false prophecy of problems going away quickly sounds better and makes everyone feel better. But God's promise for prosperity in Jeremiah 29:11 is about prospering in the midst of your problems because you know God has a greater purpose, and your problems are part of that purpose.

You exist for God's purposes, not your personal pleasures. And though God's purposes for our lives are always best and good for His greater purpose, they are not all the time comfortable and pleasurable for personal pleasure. Don't waste your sorrows. God is good, and He's told us to bloom where He's planted us, for His glory and for our good.

The common trap laid for us by our enemy is the one where we measure our personal prosperity by how quickly God changes our environment for the better. It would be wise for all of us to stop assessing God's favor in this manner.

God's purposes are much broader than our individual lives. That doesn't mean God doesn't care about me or you, for He does. He gave each of us His only Son.

To "bloom where you are planted," is to trust that God knows the bigger picture and is at work on a grander scale, fulfilling a greater purpose that we can't even understand right now.

So any measurement of my personal prosperity or God's favor for me must always be independent of my current circumstances. God is at work even when I can't see it.

And what God is doing is much grander, much more glorious.

One of the men who heeded Jeremiah's words to "bloom where you are planted" was the prophet, Daniel. We know that Daniel often read Jeremiah's letters while he was in Babylonian captivity (see Daniel 9:2).

Daniel listened and obeyed God's instructions in Jeremiah 29:11. He bloomed where God planted him. He prospered in the midst of problems.

Daniel built a house. He planted a garden for his produce. He prayed for the wicked kings of Babylon. He lived in peace. He was present at the king's palace during October 539 B.C. -- exactly 70 years after Babylon had become a world empire - when the hand of God wrote on the wall "Mene, mene, tekel upharsin."

That very night in October 539 B.C. God's justice was executed against the Babylonians and the Babylonian Empire came to an end.

God had led His servant Cyrus, King of Persia, to divert the Euphrates River and the Persian army crawled under the great walls of Babylon on a dry river bed and took the city as their own. God's purpose for Babylon was over.

Daniel never left Persia to go back to Jerusalem, even though Cyrus allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple and their city.

Daniel's tomb is in Susa (Iran), the ancient capital of Persia (modern Iran). Because the Persians loved Daniel's ability to "foresee the future," they deemed him the greatest "magi" of all.

The Persians revered Daniel, kept his scrolls in Persia and studied them at their universities. The magi in the east came to understand through reading Daniel's scroll (the book of Daniel), that a great King - a King above all Kings - would be born among the Jews.

Five hundred years after Daniel's death, magi from the ancient Babylonian and Persian Empire lands (i.g. "magi from the east") came to Jerusalem and asked Herod:
"Where is He who is born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2
The magi eventually sought Jesus because Daniel bloomed where he was planted.

I propose that if you find yourself in a difficult situation that God seems in no hurry to change, and if you learn like the ancient Jews to "bloom where you are planted," there will come a day when those around you will come looking for your King.

That's your greater purpose.

Note: This article is an excerpt from Wade's book Radically New.

Col. Norman A. Lamb, I'll See You Soon My Friend

Norman Lamb at Normandy, France
Today I will officiate the funeral of my long-time friend, Norman Lamb.

I first met Norman in the 1980's when I served as Chairman of the Christian Life Committee for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Norman was an Oklahoma state Senator, floor minority leader, and held the distinction of being voted "most popular Senator" by his peers.

Norman and I became friends.

Many who didn't really know him thought him sometimes bombastic and overbearing. Those of us who grew to love him understood his personality - though larger than life - was nothing in size compared to his heart.

Norman was voted by Emmanuel Enid to be on the Pastor Search Committee in 1992 to look for a new pastor. It was Norman who recommended me to his fellow committee members. I came to Enid as a direct result of my friendship with Norman. I knew little about Enid, but I knew Norman Lamb.

One of my favorite stories about Norman was an event that occurred in 1993. Our staff was in Dallas, Texas on a staff retreat, and we went to a local store to purchase gifts for our wives before coming back to Enid. We had discussed in our staff meeting that morning how it seemed everyone knew Norman Lamb. I decided to play a practical joke on my fellow pastors.

While they were looking for gifts for their wives, I went to the young lady who was at the checkout counter. "Miss, in a moment some men will be coming to the checkout counter. They are my friends. I'm going to casually mention the name Norman Lamb, and I want you to act like you know him."

The young lady looked at me and said, "You mean Norman Lamb of Enid, Oklahoma?"

The joke was on me. That young lady and her husband knew Norman Lamb and it only confirmed to me that Norman had friends all over the United States.

Norman and Son, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb
He was a colonel in the United States Army Reserves. He was an Oklahoma state senator. As a young attorney, Norman served in the Oklahoma County municipal courts. He became a prosecutor and an assistant D.A. in Garfield County.  He would later become the Oklahoma Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, appointed by Gov. Frank Keating, but would serve under several Oklahoma governors and spend more years on the Oklahoma state government cabinet (17 years) than any single person in the history of Oklahoma.

Norman loved people.

He taught the largest Sunday School class at Emmanuel for years. I can't tell you the number of times that Norman and the "Blonde Bomber" (Norman's affectionate name for his wife Belva) hosted people at their home.  I still picture Norman handing out $100 bills to strangers on Christmas Eve, watching as people fell to the curb in tears at the generosity of a complete stranger.

One day Norman picked up a man with car trouble. Norman wound up giving the man a car.

There were times my friendship with Norman hit some rocky roads. A year after I came as pastor, I led the church to change the church constitution, which tied "the sale and use of alcoholic beverages" to church discipline. I explained to the church that drunkenness was a sin according to the Bible, but not the use of alcoholic beverages. I asked them to change the standards of conduct as listed in the constitution to abstinence from drunkenness.

Norman came to my office and told me that if he'd known I was going to do that, he never would have recommended me to Emmanuel. I explained to Norman that it was my fault for not noticing this provision in the constitution, and I understood his feelings, but my conscience was bound to Scripture, not the pleasures of a friend. It rankled Norman that the church voted over 95% to change the constitution, but I think he appreciated the fact I lived by my convictions which I perceived as biblical, even if he disagreed.

By the way, Norman Lamb's grandmother was the President of the Oklahoma Temperance Movement and friends with Carrie Amelia Nation. I appreciated Norman's conviction on this issue.

Col. Lamb reading about Col. Vance
On another occasion in the late 1990's, I was preaching through the book of Romans. We had come to Romans 9 and I was dealing with the very difficult text on the doctrine of God's sovereign election of sinners to salvation. Norman came to my office, sat down, and said, "Wade, I think it's time you stopped preaching on the election." I explained to Norman that I had about four more messages from Romans 9. He offered that he didn't like the series in Romans, and wished I would finish the entire series quickly.

"Norman," I said, "I've got about another year and a half in the book of Romans." He told me he might not attend the services. I explained that since he was the church, everywhere he went he represented Christ, and if he chose not to attend, that was his prerogative, and I appreciated the fact he came to talk to me.

For a while, Norman taught his Sunday School class and left, not staying for church services. When I finished Romans, he was back.

And our friendship grew.

The thing I appreciate about Norman Lamb is that he didn't have to agree with you to be your friend.

In the climate in which we live, both in the church and in the political world, people are drawing lines in the sand - often helped by social media - saying, "Unless you talk like I and believe like I, unless you do everything like I do and affirm all I affirm and disavow all I disavow, we cannot be friends."

Norman Lamb never said that to anyone.

For the past 15 years, until Norman's health declined a couple of years ago, Norman and I traveled to Oklahoma University football games together.

Try walking with an Oklahoma Baptist preacher and an Oklahoma Republican politician through a throng of 90,000 people. It sometimes took us over an hour to get to our seats. We knew so many people, and Norman and I love talking with people and hearing their stories.

Wade and Norman, OU Game 2011
It was through Norman I became friends with Jakie Sandefer. We'd go to Jakie's house in Norman, Oklahoma and eat pre-game tailgate food and fellowship with all the great football players of the past as well as many of the University of Oklahoma coaches, both past, and present.

In 2013 Norman and I traveled to England and Europe. This United States Army Colonel and former Secretary of Veteran's Affairs had never been to the WWII battlefields in Europe. I took him to Normandy. We went to Churchill's Museum in London. We saw the sites.

And we met the people.

Everywhere we went we made friends. One of the leading liberal politicians in England is also named Norman Lamb. You should have seen the conversation at the House of Commons between the Lambs. One was actually a lion, the other a lamb (I bet you can guess which one).

Dinner in Paris, France, 2013
From the United States federal marshalls who rode on the plane with us, to the stewardesses, the museum archivists at St. Paul's, the American Cemetery in Normandy, and Buckingham Palace, to the limo drivers and hotel clerks, Norman A. Lamb made new friends.

Norman A. Lamb was a star football player at Enid High School and a starting quarterback for Cameron University before he broke his back his sophomore year.

He went on to become Bud Wilkinson's inside man at the athletic dorm, reporting to the legendary coach on any problems occurring in the dorm.

Norman Lamb was not a perfect man.

Nobody is.

But when Norman would lead out in prayer, it would be to "The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," for Norman understood that his salvation was tied to the Father's love, the Son's sacrifice, and the Spirit's work.

I've lost many friends to death over the past couple of years. Many close friends.

When we put Norman Lamb's body into the ground in about an hour, I will say goodbye to another very close friend.

But I look forward to the day of renewed fellowship with them all.

For death is not the end; it's only a transition to eternity.

To Norman's wife, Belva, daughters Kim and Fawn and their respective families, and to his son Todd, and Todd's family, our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Norman loved each of you and was proud of you.

Goodbye, Col. Norman A. Lamb.

I'll see you soon my friend.

The New Testament Equality of Males and Females

When I first started blogging in 2005 I was told that the most effective blogs are those that focus on one predominant theme.

Beginning in 2005 I focused like a laser beam on the unethical attempt by International Mission Board trustees to subvert the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole and impose a doctrinal standard on IMB missionaries that not only exceeded the Baptist Faith and Message, but by its very existence, breached the ethical boundaries of trusteeship and violated the constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention.

It was during 2005-2008 (the years I served as an IMB trustee) that I began to see the problems we had in the Southern Baptist Convention went far beyond the International Mission Board. Convention leadership (trustee boards) had left their sola Scriptura convictions, and out of the fear of "liberalism," became fundamentalists--demanding conformity and agreement on tertiary doctrines that had nothing to do with evangelical cooperation on the mission field.

One of those third-tier doctrines was the role and authority of women.

I saw with my own eyes the unethical, unbiblical, and godless treatment of women in the Southern Baptist Convention and I vowed to do something about it.

Do I consider the equality of men and women a first-tier evangelical doctrine?

No; but because fundamentalists among us have elevated "the female subordination of women to men" as a litmus test for evangelical orthodoxy, I now focus on their dysfunctional views of male authority and female subordination to help my fellow Bible-believing, conservative, evangelical Christian friends realize the errors being promulgated.

Female subordination to male authority is promoted by organizations such as The Council for Biblical Manhood and WomanhoodTogether for the Gospel, and The Elephant Room. Mark Driscoll once identified "the subordination of women to men" as one of the four key building blocks of his Resurgence Movement. I

I have addressed the doctrinal fallacies of the Gender Gospel elsewhere, fallacies that plague both liberal feminism and Fundamentalism. In this post, I want to give a few examples of how Bible-believing Christian families, churches, and groups move into dysfunctional, even cultish behavior if female subordination is allowed to be taught and practiced as biblical orthodoxy.

Most people are familiar with the removal of Sheri Klouda as Hebrew professor from Southwestern Theological Seminary by men who hold to female subordination and cringe at the thought of a woman teaching men Hebrew. What many men and women in conservative, evangelical churches don't realize is that there are Sheri Kloudas everywhere--gifted women who are removed from responsible Christian leadership positions and/or forbidden from speaking publicly, teaching others the Word of God, or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to men because they are women
This absurd position is totally contrary to the Gospel, anti-Christian in nature, and the opposite of the teachings of Christ and His apostles. If not stopped, it will plague Christian people with a disease of the soul that is worse than leprosy of the skin. It leads to power-hungry men seeking positions of authority and control, and an almost cultish like god complex. "I am in the image of God. My word is Law. You submit to what I say, and don't dare try to tell me what I should do."  

This anti-Christ doctrine fleshes itself out in conservative Christian homes and churches in various ways. I will give you three examples.

(1). A well-known Southern Baptist pastor recently told his congregation that he decided to move his family to a new house this year. The price of the pastor's old home ($375,000) and the price of the pastor's new home ($500,000) were appropriately not revealed to the congregation. However, they are relevant to this story because the pastor previously told his congregation that they were not to buy more expensive homes, but rather God desired them to set aside that extra money and give it to kingdom causes (i.e. the church). 
Please don't misunderstand me. I advocate freedom for all pastors and all congregations to do as the Spirit leads; even the purchase of million-dollar-homes if that is what the Spirit leads them to do. What I find incongruous is the promotion of a so-called "radical Christianity" by those are actually averse to living radically themselves. People should realize one of the prominent New Testament principles is freedom and Spirit-led living. The problem is when pastors place themselves as an authority over the lives of others to tell them how they are to live, while at the same time doing the opposite of what they advocate. It's much better to be silent on issues the Bible is silent about. 

Anyway, back to the main point.

What most people in this pastor's church are not aware of is that the pastor's new home is within ten miles of his old home. Before the move, the pastor's wife insisted that the family should not move. She had several very good and valid reasons. However, the pastor informed his wife, that as the man in the home--"the one with authority"--he would make the decision to move and overrule any objections he heard. He said moving was "the right thing" to do, and submission to his authority was "the right thing" for her to do.  So the pastor's family moved. I have withheld names, but I do hope the pastor reads this blog and realizes the dysfunctional nature of the argument he had with his wife. Multiply this by hundreds of times in conservative, evangelical homes and you get a picture of the problems created when Christian men have a warped view of their authority.

(2). Lamar Wadsworth wrote to me and told me about his mother's funeral. He wrote:

 "When my mother died, we were not allowed to have her funeral at the Southern Baptist church where she was an active member for over FIFTY years because I had asked two women to read Scripture at the service.  So the funeral had to be held at my home church, the Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville GA. My church honored my Mother like she was one of their own and gave her the homegoing celebration she deserved. The following November, on All Saints Day--without explanation or comment, my Mother's name was included on the list of members of Heritage Baptist Church who had died in the past year. Bill Leonard said we pulled off the first posthumous transfer of church membership in Baptist history."

Can you believe it? A Southern Baptist Church refuses to allow the funeral of one of the members of their church, a member who faithfully attended and gave to the church for over fifty years because the son of the woman who died wanted two women to read Scripture at his mother's funeral. Again, the church is not being named in this post, but for our purposes, we will call it Ichabod Baptist Church for the glory of God is truly gone from it.

(3).  There is a commentary on the Bible "just for women." Dorothy Patterson and Rhonda
Harrington Kelley, professors of "Women's Studies" and "Women's Ministry" at Southwestern Theological Seminary and New Orleans Theological Seminary respectively, are the two women who wrote the Bible commentary "for women."

The back cover gives the purpose of the commentary: "The Women's Evangelical Commentary is designed to equip women to face cultural issues regarding femininity and gender." This is Christianese lingo for "it will help convince all you women that you should teach only women, work only in the home, and find your identity in the man God has given you."

I had dinner with Paige and Dorothy Patterson in their home in Fort Worth a few years ago. I have never written the details about our conversation, nor will I, but what that dinner did for me was to reinforce my decision to focus on calling out the bizarre and unbiblical views of women that are being taught by our seminary Presidents, their wives, and other 'leaders' in the SBC.

If the Spirit of God leads you, women, to never work outside the home and to focus on having as many children as possible while creating a safe environment in your home for your husband and kids, then go for it! If you are led to the seminary to learn the skills of sewing clothes and folding napkins for a proper Southern home, then more power to you!

If you live your life submitting to what you perceive as "the authority" of men, particularly the husband God has given you, then fine! Just don't dare call it biblical. Call it your cultural preference. Why? Because one day when you die you will not have a man you will call your husband. One day when you die you will exercise your gifts in God-given creative work. One day when you die your entire identity will be in Christ and no other man. One day when you die you will be given a new name, a new place to live and a new purpose for eternity--all based upon who you are as a person-- equal to any man God created.

While you are on earth, I hope you find that the teachings of grace and equality in the Bible prepare you for eternity. But if your cultural preference is to find your identity in a man, then just be honest that you feel safer and more secure in the shadow of man's identity, and if equate your submission to God to that of a visible, physical man, then just be honest about what you are doing. Don't call it biblical Christianity. In fact, it's so unbiblical to the Christianity portrayed in the New Testament that it may be people who are as comfortable as you in your cultural preferences will write a Bible just for you.

Oh, wait, that's what this post is about.

May I suggest that the Bible you have from God is sufficient?

For my fundamentalist friends who've elevated the gender gospel to a primary test of Christian orthodoxy, you have forced me to focus my laser on you to help end the dysfunctional churches and homes you are creating.

(This post is a reblog of a 2012 post by Wade Burleson).

Dr. Sam Storm’s Letter to Dr. David Boren Is an Appropriate Response for Concerned Oklahomans

The removal of Kirk Humphreys as a regent for the University of Oklahoma is a very, very serious matter. Frankly, I am shocked at how silent the majority of Oklahomans have been on this issue.

A few, like my friend Dr. Sam Storms, are not being silent.

Below is a letter from Dr. Sam Storms to Dr. David Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma over the removal of Kirk Humphreys. 

The letter was published on Sam’s website and is republished here with permission. ___________________________________

Dear President Boren and the Board of Regents:

My name is Sam Storms and I serve as Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City. I am a 1973 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, as is my wife. My sister and her husband are OU grads, and so too were both my mother and father. Needless to say, we are all “Sooner born and Sooner bred and when we die we’ll be Sooner dead.”

Let me begin by congratulating you on your tremendous success in elevating the academic excellence of the University of Oklahoma to a level heretofore unattained. You have every right to be proud of this accomplishment and I applaud your continuing efforts in this regard.

However, I write this letter deeply grieved by recent actions taken by the Board of Regents regarding Kirk Humphreys. Instead of defending his freedom to articulate his beliefs on a matter of great moral significance in our society, he was vilified, abandoned, and exposed to public ridicule without so much as a word being spoken in his defense. I’m not asking that you agree with his moral convictions concerning homosexual practice but only that you extend to him the same respect and intellectual freedom that you so tenaciously protect on behalf of all others.

Mr. Humphreys is an evangelical Christian who simply articulated the view that has been traditionally embraced for 2,000 years by Christians of virtually all branches. If you have any doubts in this regard, I commend to you the book by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (B & H Academic, 2016; 402 pages). They provide extensive and irrefutable documentation that the view articulated by Kirk Humphreys is and has been the dominant opinion of Christians throughout our history.

Let me be clear that neither Mr. Humphreys nor I am even remotely suggesting that homosexuality is comparable to pedophilia. His public apology for not speaking with greater clarity on that point must be noted and is to be commended.

I am aware that Mr. Humphreys voluntarily resigned from the Board of Regents, but he would not have done so had this not been the request of you and the other Board members. What this tells me and others is that anyone can serve on the Board and at the University except evangelical Christians. It tells me that every view is permissible and should be granted freedom of expression and protection from discrimination except the view embraced by orthodox, Bible-believing Christians.

You speak much of “inclusion” and showing respect for all views. But apparently this only applies to those who affirm homosexual behavior as morally permissible. Your discriminatory action toward Mr. Humphreys is contrary to everything you have said and done in the past to promote academic freedom at the University. I can’t imagine what other employees of OU and especially faculty members must be thinking. I’m quite certain that they will feel the pressure to conform and will realize that any notion of academic freedom to research and give expression to what they believe is true is a myth.

And what will become of the numerous students at OU who likewise share Mr. Humphreys’ perspective? I suspect that most of them will be intimidated into silence, fearful that any expression of evangelical Christian convictions will result in their being penalized both personally and academically.

Why is Mr. Humphreys not shown the same respect that is shown to the LGBTQ community at OU? Yes, members of that community are deserving of respect, dignity, and must be given equal access to the wonderful educational resources and opportunities that OU exists to provide. Mr. Humphreys himself has voiced whole-hearted agreement with that principle. So why is he the object of exclusion and discrimination when he articulates his personal perspective? Are all evangelical Christians now to believe that their historic, long-standing, biblical convictions are no longer welcome at OU? Why is Mr. Humphreys the target of such remarkable intolerance at a University that purportedly promotes tolerance?

Your actions with regard to Mr. Humphreys indicate to me and countless others that you have capitulated to the pressure of special interest groups in our society. I had hoped that the President (and Board of Regents) of the University I have so dearly loved and supported would have more courage to defend the free speech rights of one of its Regents. By all means, say that you disagree with Mr. Humphreys. If the other Regents concur, then by all means give expression to your opinions. But please extend to him the same rights and freedom you claim for yourself.

My family has held season tickets for OU football since 1947. I, too, am a season-ticket holder. But in view of this deplorable treatment of Mr. Humphreys and suppression of the historic Christian view on human sexuality, I am compelled to cancel my participation. And I will urge others to do likewise.

I suspect that this will have little impact on your decision to grant Mr. Humphreys the same respect and honor that you so vigorously extend to those in the LGBTQ community, but my conscience will not allow me to support in any way a university that practices such inexcusable discrimination and exclusionary behavior toward evangelical Christians. Should the day come when you publicly affirm that evangelical Christians have the same rights and freedom of expression that is extended to people in the LGBTQ community, I will reconsider my actions. But until then I must remain firm in my commitment.

Cordially yours,

Sam Storms, B.A., Th.M., Ph.D.
Senior Pastor
Bridgeway Church
Oklahoma City, OK

Rock Hard Science and Psychology Practiced by Amateurs: OU and Kirk Humphreys Removal

In 1992 the United States Supreme Court issued its controversial majority opinion in the famous prayer case of Lee v. Weisman (1992).

Mr. Weisman of Rhode Island had sued Nathan Bishop Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island because he had to listen to a thoroughly secular prayer during his daughter’s graduation.

The prayer in question was so innocuous in language that it was impossible for the hearers to know if it was a Christian prayer, a Jewish prayer, or a Muslim prayer. But Mr. Weisman complained that the prayer offended him because it violated the "the establishment clause" of the First Amendment which provided that government shall not establish a religion.

A majority of the Supreme Court justices agreed with Mr. Weisman.

In the Court's majority opinion, the justices reasoned that though the prayer had no sectarian content, made no demands on any hearer, and everyone who heard it was free to ignore it, the very fact the prayer was audibly heard in the public square made it "psychological coercion.” 

According to Stanley Fish in his book. How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, the idea that audible prayers equate to psychological coercion was too much for Justice Antony Scalia.

After citing a fellow jurist’s complaint that establishment clause jurisprudence was becoming so byzantine that it was in danger of becoming a form of interior decorating, Justice Scalia fired back this zinger:
"Interior decorating is a rock-hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs."
Fast forward 25 years to 2017.
Clay Bennet hugs Kirk Humphreys

University of Oklahoma regent Kirk Humphreys was asked to step down from his position as a regent of the University of Oklahoma because of what he publicly said about homosexuality and morality.

Kirk Humphreys believes that the Bible gives the standard for what is right and wrong. And so, Kirk Humphries views homosexuality as a sin against God.

It's a given that some people will disagree with Kirk Humphreys.

What I find silly is the claim that Kirk Humphreys' words hurt people. People are saying things like:
"His words were far from respectful and hurt many people who heard them."
"Humphreys' harmful words cannot be dismissed without measurable repercussions."
"His words are filled with disgust and hatred and harm the lives of LGBT Oklahomans across the state."
Please.

We have a bunch of amateur psychologists in Oklahoma.

Words are the flowers to the root of ideas.

In a free society, one must learn how to walk in the garden of ideas. If a flower is personally odious, you must learn to ignore it and move on without attempting to pull up the root by force because it is not your garden.

The world's garden of ideas is full of flowers of differing varieties, and one person's rose may be offensive to another person's nose.

But ideas don't kill.

It is the desire to oppress or to suppress ideas which becomes the first step toward the removal of people holding to differing viewpoints

Be it fascist dictatorships on the right or brutal communist aristocracies on the left, suppression and oppression are the twin guns of control.

But a free country is free because its people are free to believe differently without fear of removal.

Universities shape future government leaders, and because our universities have lost academic freedom (e.g., "the freedom and ability to hold leadership positions while believing differently"), it will not be long before the country we love loses our freedoms.

Dr. William Banowsky, former President of OU
Less than 40 years ago Dr. William Banowsky, President of Oklahoma University refused to grant university recognition to a gay and lesbian student group at OU called the Gay Peoples' Union. Dr. Banowsky would not allow homosexual clubs to use campus facilities for meetings, receive university funds, or even be part of the official student handbook listing officially recognized sororities, fraternities, or social clubs.

Listen to what Dr. Banowsky told the students and regents of OU in 1978:
"It is my conclusion that granting official institutional license to any campus homosexual organization is not in the best interest, short-term or long-term, to the university."
Whether you agree with Dr. Banowsky or not (and I disagreed with him), within a generation the University of Oklahoma has now reversed itself completely.

Now, a Christian (Kirk Humphreys) who believes what the Bible says about homosexuality cannot serve as a regent of Oklahoma.

Why?

Because people are "hurt by Kirk Humphrey's words." 

Psychology being practiced by amateurs.

What harms all Oklahomans is the loss of freedom at the University of Oklahoma.

A person who enjoys a homosexual relationship will not like any person who expresses the belief that homosexuality is unnatural and a sin against God. But for Christians, the Bible teaches in Romans 1:26-28 and I Corinthians 6:9-10 that homosexuality is contrary to God's design and those who continue in it will "not inherit the kingdom of God." 

For homosexuals, the notion that what they enjoy is wrong in God's eyes is incompatible with their way of life and their way of thinking.

Disagreement is part of the world in which we live.

Learn to live with it.

The real problem at the University of Oklahoma is the suppression and oppression of differing ideas, the removal of those who believe differently than the majority, and the support of psychology practiced by amateurs.

The Ashes of the Red Heifer, Jesus, and Christmas

I want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas because Christ is the reason for this season.

Let me explain.

Any casual perusal of the Old Testament reveals that the Hebrew people worshiped God through a very elaborate sacrificial system.

There were the daily national "morning and evening sacrifices." offered by the priests on behalf of the entire Hebrew nation. There were special sacrifices on annual national "holy days" (holidays) which revolved around the seven annual Hebrew festivals. And then there were sacrifices offered by individuals during specific times of need (e.g., "leprosy") as well as after committing specific sins

But there was one special sacrifice offered by the High Priest which was not daily, nor even annual. It was offered whenever the ashes of the previous sacrifice had been depleted through cleansing ceremonies.

This special offering is called the Red Heifer sacrifice.

A heifer is a young female cow which has never given birth to a calf.  A red heifer is an anomaly. Most cows don't have a skin color that is red. The Old Testament Hebrews specifically bred red heifers for this particular sacrifice.

Instructions for the special kind of red heifer to be sacrificed are given in Numbers 19. It was to be a red heifer in the prime of its life, "without blemish," and one that "has never been yoked" (Numbers 19:2).

The red heifer was to be taken "outside the city" (Numbers 19:3). It was to be slain and then "burned with fire" (Numbers 19:5). 

Then "the ashes of the red heifer" were to be gathered (Numbers 19:9). When an Israelite "dies in his tent" (Numbers 19:14) or when a living Israelite "touches a corpse" (Numbers 19:13), the tent and/or the living Israelite were to be deemed "unclean" for seven days (Numbers 19:11). 

A small portion of the ashes of the red heifer which had been sacrificed and burned was to be mixed in a basin filled with "flowing water" (Numbers 19:17), which means water from a living source such as a river or a spring.

Then a branch of hyssop, which is an aromatic herbal plant, would be dipped into the water mixed with the ashes. The ashes of the red heifer with living water would then be sprinkled on the unclean person or tent on both the third day and the seventh day of the week after contact with death.

After this seven-day process of cleansing, the Israelite would be pronounced "clean" and allowed into the assembly and the courtyard of the Temple. 
"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). 
If this ceremony of cleansing with the ashes of the red heifer was not performed on the unclean person, the Israelite would be "defile" the Lord and be "cut off from Israel" (Numbers 19:13).

The Ashes of the Red Heifer kept the nation of Israel clean before the Lord.

It was an important sacrifice.

During the entire Old Testament as well during the time between the Testaments (e.g., the intertestamental time period), there were only nine red heifers sacrificed by the priests of Israel.

Orthodox Jews today believe the Messiah is coming to reinstate the sacrifice of the red heifer by offering the tenth red heifer for Temple worship. Orthodox Jews are already breeding heifers to obtain the unusual red heifer line in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

But I believe our Jewish friends have missed the symbolism of their own religion.

Jesus Christ is the true Red Heifer. He is the final Sacrifice.

Jesus the Anointed One "came to fulfill the Law" (Matthew 5:17-20).

The Red Heifer of the Old Covenant foreshadowed the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Jesus died "outside the city" (Hebrews 13:12). It seems quite probable that Jesus died in the exact spot the  Red Heifer was sacrificed because the High Priest could see directly into the Temple from the offering site. The centurion soldier at the crucifixion saw the curtain in the Temple torn (see Matthew 27:54).

Jesus died in the prime of His life (age 33).

Jesus was "without fault or blemish" (I Peter 1:19; John 1:47).

Jesus died that those "unclean" before God might "washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"  (I Corinthians 6:11II Corinthians 5:21).

Hyssop throughout Scripture is an emblem of faith.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

We live in a day when the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ is often mocked and ridiculed. 

But it seems to me if a person wishes to be pronounced "clean" before the Creator, then one must embrace Jesus as a gift from God (John 3:16) who fulfills the Law for us.

Jesus came to cleanse sinners (Matthew 1:21).

The Apostle Paul wrote:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). 
Paul was not ashamed of the Good News. He never would have said that had there not been some people ashamed of the gospel in his day. 

And in ours.

There is something in the Good News of Jesus Christ that causes people to shrink back in embarrassment and shame. 

What is it about Christianity that causes people to be offended?

The world isn't offended by our worship buildings.

People definitely aren't offended by the good things  Christian organizations do to help the poor.

The world, in general, isn't embarrassed by anything truly Christian, except for one thing.

Blood sacrifice.

Specifically, people seem offended by the truth that Jesus came to shed His blood for sinners, to make sinners who trust Him clean before God.

To believe that God planned from the beginning to give His Son to die, shedding His own blood for the remission of our sins, invites ridicule from others.

The Gospel is offensive.

I don't get it.

Songwriter Andre Crouch wrote a song that describes how I feel:
The blood that Jesus shed for me
Way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It reaches to the highest mountain
It flows to the lowest valley
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
It soothes my doubts and calms my fears
And it dries all my tears
The blood that gives me strength
From day to day
It will never lose its power.
Peter ignored the offense and shame that Christ's death brings and declared at Pentecost:
"This Jesus, delivered by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God ... is raised up again, putting an end to the agony of death" (Acts 2:23-24). 
The Spirit used Peter's message to bring deliverance to 3,000 people from their bondage to sin and death as Peter proclaimed the truth of Christ's sacrifice for sinners (Acts 2:41). 

But when Stephen later took this same gospel message to the religious leaders they stoned him (Acts 7). 

People in their natural state, even refined religious people, do not wish to hear about the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. 

We like our religions clean and neat. 

But the gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ died as our Red Heifer. 

God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Covenant to kill the red heifer in order to cleanse them of their defilement, but that ordinance was only a picture and foreshadowing of the Son of God whom the Father in His love for sinners sent for our cleansing (Matthew 1:21). 

The death Jesus died should have been the death we died. The fire that consumes all sin and wickedness, Jesus endured (Matthew 27:46). The death He died, He died for the cleansing and deliverance of sinners  (I Timothy 1:15).

For the prostitute. For the drug addict. For the liar. For the cheat. For the adulterer. For the prideful. For the blasphemer. For the self-righteous. For the bullies. For the selfish. For all sinners who destroy their lives with sin. For the blind who are leading the blind down the road of self-absorbed religiosity.

Jesus is the Red Heifer. 
"He (Jesus) who knew no sin, became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21
His blood will cleanse the sinner.

The blood of bulls and goats in the Old Covenant could not cleanse the sinner's conscience or put an end to sin that leads to death.

But the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary does this and so much more. 

This is the reason for celebration this Christmas season.
 "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The message of the early apostles of Christ was clear:
"No one is justified by the Law before God, for 'the righteous person will live by faith.' The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'the one who practices the Law will live (and die) by the commandments.' But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:12-14). 
The early Hebrew Christians had been steeped in their 'ancestral traditions' of animal sacrifice (Galatians 1:14). 

After the resurrection of Christ, God's people were no longer required to offer the sacrifices.

 Animal sacrifice is over. 

The Righteous Judge had fulfilled the Law for us in His Son. God did not lay aside the Law of sin and death, but rather He fulfilled it in Jesus Christ so "He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

The message of blood sacrifice is the message of Christmas.

Jesus came to die. 

Christ's sacrifice brings an at-one-moment (atonement) between sinners and God. The Creator is good to sinners, but it is only because of Jesus' death and the sinners' faith in Christ. 

Jesus is the fulfillment of the red heifer sacrifice, and it is His blood that cleanses us. And it is this message of blood sacrifice which offends so many, but it is the only message that gives hope to the defiled. 

When you join your family in worship this Christmas weekend, you will not be bringing a lamb to be sacrificed, because God has provided the Lamb.

You will not be bringing a red heifer to the altar, for God has given the Red Heifer. 

You will not be shedding blood with your own hands, for God has shed His own blood for us. 

Turn your eye of faith toward the shed blood of Jesus Christ and believe what He has accomplished for sinners. Our conscience is cleansed because we rest in Christ. 

The promise of God's goodness for eternity is ours because we approach God through the merits and sacrifice of His Son. We rejoice in the Father's love because He gave us His Son. Jesus Christ has come, Jesus Christ has died, and Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. 

This is the message of Christmas. 

It may offend some, but the truth of this message draws from us our worship of God. It may be ridiculed by some, but it is adored by us. It may cause some shame, but we echo the words of the Apostle Paul:
 "We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes."

Did God Command Joshua to Kill the Canaanites?

Richard Dawkins is a well-known atheist from England. Twenty years ago he said, "I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate."

Dawkins believes that there is no God and takes particular aim at the God of the Bible in his best-selling book The God Delusion. He writes the following:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pesilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
I'll save you the time of having to look up Dawkins' fancy words by succinctly summarizing what he's saying:
"The Old Testament God is a fictional psychopath who delights in hurting, torturing and killing people."
No wonder Richard Dawkins is an atheist. If I believed that's how the Bible reveals God, I'd be an atheist too.

Dawkins and other atheists like to ask the question: "How could a loving God tell Joshua and the Israelites to kill the Canaanites?"  Sadly, even some modern Christian evangelicals ask similar questions.

To many people, the revelation of God's character in the Old Testament is unpalatable, unlikeable, and ultimately unbelievable, not to mention inconsistent with the revelation of Jesus' character in the New Testament.

I want to show you in this post why anyone who says the God of the Old Testament is not a God of love is flat out wrong.

God in the Bible

The Bible tells us God is love (I John 4:8). God doesn't have love; He is love.

God is also immutable (Malachi 3:6). He doesn't change. God is love during the past Old Testament days, these present New Covenant days, and during any future ages that may come.

Everyone delights in reading about the ethics and love of Jesus in the New Testament. But many forget that "in Jesus, all the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwelt" (Colossians 2:9).

When you look at Jesus, you're beholding the invisible and immortal God (John 14:9). "If you've seen Me," Jesus said, "you've seen the Father."

God is the invisible, immortal, and transcendent Creator. That means you'd never see or comprehend God, except when God "condescends" to our level of understanding.

This condescension of God is what theologians call The Incarnation.

God became flesh.

Chili-con-carne is "chili with meat." The Incarnation is the invisible, immortal and transcendent God "putting on meat" or flesh.

God came as a Man.

When Jesus angrily destroyed the money tables of the businessmen who were robbing the poor in His house (the Temple), it was a loving act of God's judgment (see Mark 11:11-19). When Jesus damned a fig tree that was not bearing fruit so that it immediately died, it was a loving act of God's judgment (Matthew 21:18-22). Fig trees are designed by God to bear figs.

God will destroy something when the destruction produces something better, like a better world.

That old barn you tore down, why did you destroy it? Answer: To put something better in its place. When you took your dog to the vet, why did you make the difficult decision to "put the dog down"? Because your dog was cancer-ridden.

The context of an act of destruction is everything.

The wicked are destroyed in fulfillment of God's righteous determination to destroy evil.

God is love.

God displays His love for those He created in His image by "waiting" for their repentance of sin.  But if repentance is not forthcoming, God destroys the unrepentant as a loving act on behalf of His Creation.

This is what happened at the Flood.

Noah proclaimed for decades that God's judgment of destruction was imminent because of the rampant wickedness throughout the world.

But the people did not believe Noah.

So the wicked eventually perished in Noah's day,  even though they'd been warned of God's judgment (II Peter 2:5).

Interestingly, God left the door of the Ark open seven days with Noah's family already inside. One can't help but think that anyone who repented of their sins and stepped into the Ark would have been saved from the coming destruction (see Genesis 7:1-4).

But nobody stepped through that door.

Christ Is the Door

Jesus said, "I am the door; whoever enters in by me shall be saved" (John 10:9).

Just as in the days of Noah when God showed patience, mercy, and love to the wicked people of the world, God displayed love, grace, and mercy to the Canaanite people in Joshua's day before He ultimately destroyed them because of their wickedness and unrepentance.

It cannot be said enough that when God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites it had nothing to do with race, religion, or land

God's command to destroy the Canaanites had everything to do with the wickedness of the Canaanites.

The Canaanites were descendants of Noah’s grandson Canaan.  The term "Canaanites" is used broadly in Scripture to refer to all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, including the Hivites, Girgashites, Jebusites, Amorites, Hittites, and Perizzites (see Judges 1:9–10).

The biblical representation of Canaanite activities is always negative. Whether it was their rampant sexual immorality in the worship of their fertility god Dagon, or their practice of sacrificing their children in burnt offerings to their god Baal or their sun god Chemosh, or their deep and abiding evil behaviors toward others who lived around them, the Canaanite people deserved to be destroyed for the world to be a better place.
"For the wages of  sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
God waited for 400 years for the Canaanites to repent of their sins.

The Canaanites knew the truth. They descended from Noah, the preacher of righteousness. They had heard with their own ears of God and His power. But they rejected God. They loved their sins and rejected the loving Creator who called them to leave their sins (Joshua 5:1). 

Again, God waited for the Canaanites to repent. For centuries, God waited. 

When God called Abraham as His own and promised him the land of Canaan, God told Abraham he and his descendants would have to wait to take possession of the land of Canaan "because the sin of the Canaanites is not yet complete" (Genesis 15:6). 

Destruction was coming to the Canaanites like destruction came to the wicked in the days of Noah, but God waited... and He waited. 

"God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11) declares the Old Testament Scriptures.

But just as a judge without any pleasure sentences a criminal to capital punishment in our day, so the Judge of the Universe decided to destroy the Canaanites in Joshua's day. 

The time had come for the Canaanites to experience the natural consequences for their unrepentant sins.

The time had come for God to destroy the Canaanites. 

Again, sometimes the most loving thing God can do is to destroy the wicked. 

God used the army of Israel to implement the just sentence of Canaanite destruction. Joshua was the instrument of destruction for the Canaanites, but God was the Author of the just sentence of destruction for the Canaanites.

God said to Joshua:
 “I brought you into the land of the Canaanites…and the Canaanites fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you” (Joshua 24:8).
There are some Christians who struggle with the portrayal of God in the Old Testament as it relates to the ethics and love of Jesus in the New Testament.

But Jesus tells us exactly the same thing about the final end of the wicked that God told Joshua about the final end of the Canaanites. What will happen to the wicked at the end of days is exactly what happened to the Canaanites in Joshua's day. 
"Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28), 
Those are the loving words of  Jesus.

Listen to Jesus again:
"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear My voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:27-30)
Again, those are the loving words of Jesus. This judgment of the wicked in the resurrection is very similar to the judgment of God in the land of Canaan. There is no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but for the love of His world, God will destroy the unrepentant sinner.

One day the wicked will be raised from the dead to give a detailed account of their sins to Christ. This should terrify the wicked (2 Corinthians 5:11), but just as in the days of Noah and in the days of Joshua, the idea of coming judgment is something to scoff, not something to ponder.

Christ will judge the resurrected wicked for their sins and ultimately sentence each of them to die what the Bible calls "the second death" (Revelation 20:12-15).

The unrepentant at the Judgment will perish with "everlasting destruction" (II Thessalonians 1:9). The Apostle Paul calls it everlasting destruction because there will be no reversal of it through resurrection, as was true of the destruction at the first death.

It is to save sinners from this the punishment of eternal destruction that God in His great love sent His Son.
"For God so loved this world, that He gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have life throughout the ages to come" (John 3:16). 
That's real love.
"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8)
And it is through the repentance of our sins and faith in Person and work of Jesus Christ that we are given by God the priceless gift of immortal life (I Corinthians 15:53-55).

But the unrepentant wicked who die without faith in God's grace through His Son will not be recipients of this stunning gift of immortal life throughout the ages to come. They've never repented of their sins and they've never opened their hearts, minds, and lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The prophet Malachi describes the Day of Judgment in the last chapter of the Old Testament:
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 4:1-3). 
I'm not sure why Christians have a problem with the Bible saying God commanded the destruction of the Canaanites in Joshua's day.  Jesus says the same destruction will occur to all the resurrected wicked on Judgment Day.

The Good News is that anyone who has repented of their sins and embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord will hear God say:
“Your sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17.
The Scriptures Teach Neither Universal Salvation Nor Universal Immortality 

In a reaction to the unbiblical teaching that God eternally torments the wicked rather than destroys them, some Christians have taken to the false teaching of universal salvation. 

Some of these hopeful universalists are friends of mine. 

I've written about Paul Young's hopeful universalism

I've written about C.S. Lewis and George McDonald and their vivid writings on the same subject. 

Now comes an entirely new crop of intelligent evangelicals who write with the belief that God will ultimately save everyone to enjoy His love for the ages to come. 

These modern evangelicals love Jesus. But some, like Pastor Brian Zahnd who recently wrote Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, seem to embrace their idealized philosophies more than they do the inspired Scriptures. 

Pastor Zahn writes that "the depictions of God in the OT" should be subordinate to the "revelation of God seen in Jesus."

That's the Pastor's philosophy that drives the theme of his book. 

Pastor Zahn believes that God’s wrath in the Old Testament is but a mere metaphor and does not really point to a real and tangible anger from God toward sinners.

The Old Testament, Pastor Zahn writes,  presents God as capricious, malevolent, and vengeful, say these modern evangelicals, a very similar view to that of atheist Richard Dawkins. 

While appreciating my hopeful universalist friends who long to exalt the love of God to the world, I can't accept their philosophy that the God of the Old Testament is not the Jesus of the New Testament.

He is. 

I believe the reason Pastor Zahn and others fight the philosophical battle of pitting wrath against love and the Old Testament God against the New Testament Jesus is because they've never questioned their acceptance of the false and prevalent non-biblical teaching that the wicked are inherently immortal and live forever. 

Christian universalists believe (contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible) that the wicked can never not exist. Because of this, they choose to believe God will one day deliver the unrepentant wicked from their torments by convincing them at some point during the eternal ages of His unconditional love. 

Hopeful universal salvation is much more palatable to these philosophical evangelicals than the false teaching that the wicked will be tormented by God forever and ever for their sins. 

The Bible does nowhere portray the wicked as living forever. 

The wicked perish (Psalm 37:20). 

Pastor Zahn and other evangelicals have reacted to the ancient and false Greek philosophy of inherent immortality by adopting a modern western philosophy that God's love will ultimately rescue everyone, even those who die in a state of unrepentance. This universalism flatly contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture that the wicked will be eternally destroyed.

Pastor Zahn's book does not grapple with the specific biblical texts that state God destroys the wicked (like Psalm 94:23) because, in Pastor Zahn's mind, the wicked are immortal and can't be destroyed.

Though I admire the passion to exalt God's love among my Christian universalist friends, I cannot accept their philosophy.

I too have a passion to exalt the love of God and salvation in Jesus Christ, but my foundation of truth is in the Bible, and not philosophy.

The Bible teaches me that the wicked will perish.

But a loving God has sent us His Son, so that sinners like me, by faith in Christ and repentance of sins, might live forever! (Romans 1:17).

That is indeed Good News.

So, "Did God command Joshua to kill the Canaanites?"

Yes.

And their destruction is a picture of the Day of Judgment when those resurrected from the dead by the power of Christ will give an account for their sins and afterward experience the same destruction of death, but this time for eternity (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

I once had someone say to me, "everlasting destruction" is "a cup of hope" compared to everlasting and eternal torment.

I responded.
"Any man who calls everlasting destruction a cup of hope is unfamiliar with the rich blessings of eternal life." 
May we always be people who see "the glory of God" in the face of Jesus Christ, who passionately exalt the love of God by sharing the gospel of grace to a fallen world, and who adhere to the inspired and infallible Word of God rather than the errant and misleading philosophies of men.