Friday, October 29, 2010

When was Passover?

I administer an online Life of Christ class through The Master's College DEEP Program, and recently had a student ask this question. I thought this subject would probably interest many others too.
I'm a bit confused about which day the Passover happened: Thursday or Friday of Passion week, and just want to make sure that I'm understanding it correctly. On Thursday afternoon, the disciples were sent to request the upper room, and likely the lamb was slain that day. When sundown came, it was Friday (by a Jewish understanding), and the Passover was eaten at this time (correct?)...I guess the question enters in when reading John 18:28, clearly in the midst of Jesus' trials, when John writes that the Jews did not enter Pilate's Praetorium "in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover." This makes it sound like Passover was to be eaten Friday evening (or Saturday, by the Jew's understanding).

Here was my reply:

Jesus’ disciples must have sacrificed their lamb Thursday afternoon and eaten the meal together on Thursday night. Many other Jews went to the temple on Friday afternoon and ate their meal Friday at sundown. So the Lamb of God would have died just as thousands of lambs were being slaughtered in the temple.

There have been many proposed solutions to the discrepancy between John and the Synoptic gospels, but newer research seems to show two different nights that the Jews would celebrate the Passover meal.

Robert Thomas, in his Harmony of the Gospels, explains in detail:
The Jews of Jesus’ day apparently recognized a dual method of reckoning dates. In addition to the better known system which regarded each new day as starting at sundown, the policy of some was to reckon from sunrise to sunrise. Each of these customs finds support from the OT, the former in such places as Gen. 1:5 and Ex. 12:18 and the latter in Gen. 8:22 and 1 Sam. 19:11.

The system of reckoning used by Jesus and His disciples and described by Matt., Mark, and Luke was from sunrise to sunrise. John describes the events from the perspective of a sunset-to-sunset reckoning. Indications are that the difference in systems was also a point of disagreement between the Pharisees (sunrise to sunrise) and the Sadducees (sunset to sunset).

The synoptic accounts therefore see Jesus as eating a Passover meal the evening before His crucifixion. For those who followed the sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning, the Passover lambs had been slain a few hours earlier, in the afternoon. For them the slaughter took place on the 14th of Nisan, as did the Passover meal. The 15th did not begin until the next morning, Friday, at about 6:00.

The Johannine description, however, views the events from the standpoint of the Sadducees who controlled the Temple. Jesus was crucified at the normal time of killing the Passover lambs, that is, the afternoon of Nisan 14. Nisan 14 had begun at sunset Thursday and would not end until sunset Friday. This was the normal time for the lambs to be slain, but the Temple authorities had apparently compromised with those who followed the other calendar and allowed them to slay the lambs on Thursday afternoon. This difference explains why Jesus’ accuser had not yet eaten the Passover (Jn. 18:28). They were about to do it Friday evening, Nisan 15, which began at sunset.

If the above solution is correct (and it is impossible at this point to say dogmatically that it is, but it does seem to handle all the data more effectively than other proposals), then Jesus was crucified on Nisan 15 according to the sunrise-to-sunrise reckoning and on Nisan 14 according to the sunset-to-sunset method. (appendix 10, pp. 321-22)

Peter Walker hints at this also in In the Steps of Jesus:
There are clear suggestions in John’s Gospel…that Jesus’ crucifixion took place during Nisan 14 (not 15) – around the time when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the nearby Temple.

That may be part of John’s point (Jesus, he was implying, was now the true Passover lamb). Yet it would also have made sense historically for Jesus to celebrate it 24 hours early. Conceivably this altered schedule brought Jesus into line with other Jewish groups (the Essenes or Pharisees), who may have been operating on different calendars. Yet the main reason may have been starkly practical: Jesus knew that, if he waited another 24 hours, it would be too late. He would be dead. (p. 156)

At our church’s last communion service, I preached on 1 Corinthians 5:7 and found this whole connection between Christ and Passover to be quite amazing. Down to the tiniest detail, our Lord pointed to the importance and blessing of His substitutionary death.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A major crossroads

This week, we enjoyed some great preaching, encouraging reports, and quality worship at our pastors conference and California SBC annual meeting. I always walk away from these events refreshed by the fellowship as well.

But 2010 will probably be remembered most for the newly appointed "Focus 21" Task Force. Dr. Walter Price, in his President's Address this morning, announced that we are at a major crossroads. He spoke of a huge disconnect in thinking between the older and younger generation, something like "Mars versus Venus." If something drastic does not happen soon, he warned that our convention will simply die a slow death.

After two years as President, Walter has done his best to listen to the younger generation and get a conversation going, but his only solution at the end of his term is to put this in the hands of the Lord and appoint a task force to take a deeper look under the hood of our convention. The task force has been asked to bring a progress report to the 2011 convention in Freemont, and a Final Report to the 2012 convention meeting again in Clovis.

I'm humbled to have been appointed to this task force, and pray God will use our research to bring a more gospel-centered, Bible-driven, prayer-empowered, glory-motivated focus to our convention for the 21st century.

11/2/10 Update: Here's the full version of the recommendation:

That the California Southern Baptist Convention, meeting October 26-27, 2010, in Clovis, CA, authorize the current President of the California Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Focus 21 Task Force charged to bring a progress report to the California Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Fremont, CA, October 25-26, 2011, concerning how California Southern Baptists can more efficiently and effectively focus our efforts for the glory of God in fulfillment of the Great Commission; and, to request the next President of the California Southern Baptist Convention to extend the work of this committee for a second year to bring it’s final report and any recommendations to the California Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Clovis, CA, October 23-24, 2012.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why attend the CSBC annual meeting?

10/11/13 Update: This post is about a past CSBC event. Although my reasons for attending are still relevant, the dates and location vary each year. 

This year's annual meeting of the California Southern Baptist Convention is coming up on October 25-27 at Clovis Hills Community Church. But many young pastors are wondering, "Why bother attending? Why would I add another business meeting to my busy schedule? How can I justify the travel expenses?" These are sincere questions, and they need to be answered.

Young pastors need to know what goes on at these meetings, and why it's worth attending. Here are five reasons I can think of...
  1. Preaching. The pastors conference is scheduled to coincide each year with the annual meeting. This is your chance to get away, sit with your wife, and have your soul refreshed with some good expository preaching. I must admit, I haven't always been impressed with the conference themes and preachers. But it seems to be improving each year. Jeff Mooney did a fantastic job as president last year improving the quality of this event, and Bret Capranica has put together another great program this year. We can expect more of the same from Chris Morgan, who will be serving as president in 2011. During the annual meeting, we also have the privilege of hearing sermons from the Executive Director, the currently elected President, and one guest preacher.
  2. Fellowship. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Pastors need time with one another for encouragement and edification. One of the key benefits of the annual meeting is precious time together with other pastors, sharing prayer requests, exchanging ideas, and forging new partnerships. Spare moments in the exhibit halls and around the meal table are priceless times of fellowship.
  3. Missions. Missions is the main reason we partner together as Southern Baptists. International missions. Church planting. Disaster relief. These are the great goals of our Cooperative Program. The annual meeting gives us a chance to hear how God has been at work over the last year and how we can participate more effectively in the year ahead. In 2010, we're in store for a special treat on Tuesday night, when dozens of new IMB missionaries will be commissioned to full time missions work.
  4. Books. I've heard through the grapevine that several free books will be given away at this year's pastors conference. Look for quality titles from Crossway, Lifeway, and Desiring God. Plus, the Lifeway bookstore is on the premises to let you browse and buy some other great items.
  5. Organization. Though less exciting, this is still an important reason. Every organization must have a structure and way of conducting business. "All things must be done properly and in an orderly manner" (1 Cor. 14:40). Just as staff meetings and congregational meetings are a necessity in the local church, so our state has to conduct business somehow to approve its budget and appoint leaders. We should be thankful for the transparency of these meetings and a chance to participate. Thankfully, the business items and reports have been streamlined over the past couple of years, cutting down on the tedium.

Walter Price has called for a “new normal” in our convention, and he needs our support if there is to be any long-term change. The time is now. Let's help make a difference for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel in California.

Below are some of the highlights of this year's pastors conference and annual meeting, or you can click here to view the full program for the annual meeting.

Monday, Oct. 25
6:45 p.m. – Music - Jeff Mooney
7:00 p.m. – The Local Church, Preaching, and Our Mission – Roger Spradlin
7:45 p.m. – The Painful Side of Local Church Ministry – Jeff Iorg
8:40 p.m. – Upholding God’s Truth in Our Churches, Extending God’s Truth in Our World – A Conversation – Jeff Iorg, Roger Spradlin, Stephen Jones; Chris Morgan; Walter Price officiating

Tuesday, Oct. 26
8:45 a.m. Welcome/Music
9:05 a.m. – The Local Church & Effective Pastoral Ministry - Stephen Jones
9:55 a.m. – God’s Glory and the Local Church – Chris Morgan
10:45 a.m. – The Local Church and Finances – a Ministry Resource for Pastors – Jim Rickard
11:00 a.m. – The Local Church and Leadership Development – Jeff Iorg
1:15 p.m. - Annual Meeting begins
1:45 p.m. - "Declare His Glory Among the Nations" Theme Interpretation by Johnny Mendez
4:00 p.m. - Annual Sermon by Matt Spradlin
4:45 p.m. - Disaster Relief dinner
6:30 p.m. - IMB Commisssioning Service

Wednesday, Oct. 27
8:45 a.m. - Welcome/Music
9:10 a.m. - Executive Director's Message
10:45 a.m. - President's Message
12:00 p.m. - Close in Prayer

Free childcare with great crafts and activities is available for kids in grade school and under, so there's really no reason not to come. For more information on childcare and housing, click here.

Hope to see you in Clovis in a couple weeks!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rethinking our evangelism

A couple years ago, I first blogged about our mission statement at First Southern Baptist: "to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people by reaching and teaching everyone." It's inspired by the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), and sums up what Christ has commanded the church to do until His return.

I think all of us at First Southern would agree we’re stronger on the teaching side of this paradigm than on the reaching side. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A church first needs to grow spiritually on the inside before it can reach out effectively to others. By the grace of God, we have matured in doctrine, in love, and in leadership. During this time, we have even seen a few people come to Christ and grow in faith, but honestly, our evangelism still has much room for improvement.

At our annual deacon retreat a couple weeks ago, we agreed that it's time for us to become more prayerful and purposeful in our evangelism. We really need to move further beyond the four walls of our church. We've hosted some good events, but too often, we are still being reactive rather than proactive. God occasionally throws a fish into our boat, but we are doing very little fishing of our own -- very little engaging of the culture around us.

There's no doubt about it. This is a challenging mission field. Consider these statistics: There are 27,000 residents in the immediate Yucca Valley / Joshua Tree community. Yet only 20% of these would say “my faith is really important to me." Even fewer (15%) consider it “important to attend religious services.” This is pretty representative of California as a whole. Yet how much of our church's outreach strategy and style of ‘doing ministry’ is targeting that 15% versus the other 85% who don’t even consider their faith important, and couldn’t care less about attending our worship service?

According to Chuck Williams from Gideons International, who recently gave a presentation at our church, there are 100,000 people in our basin, but only 6% of these are attending church (and how many of those are truly evangelical?). I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say only 1 out of 20 (5%) in our community is saved. Jesus did say “the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it” (Mt. 7:13), but this is no excuse for idleness in our evangelism.

So, how do we begin to break down this massive amount of lost people and create an evangelism strategy that is bold yet dependent on the supernatural, regenerative work of God? One thing that we discussed at our deacon retreat is the idea of moving more toward regional home Bible Studies. Something offered on a weeknight that would be a "first contact" with unbelievers. It would be a place where Christians could invite their unchurched friends and where the gospel could be discussed in a relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere. Plus, we would have the benefit of meeting regionally, which means we could host them in Palm Springs or Twentynine Palms, or anywhere in between where our church folks are talking with unsaved friends and co-workers, and want to invite them to a local evangelistic event. We're not exactly sure what this will look like in the months ahead, but we're looking very seriously at the Christianity Explored materials as our springboard.

Most importantly, we realize that just adding more evangelistic "programs" to our church calendar is not the solution. Programs and events are often very costly and labor intensive, and somewhat artificial, requiring people to come to us on "our terms." Instead, we need to incorporate evangelism into the very warp and woof of our ministry. We need to cultivate a burden for the lost and a confidence in sharing the gospel within the heart of every member of our church. We need to begin viewing ourselves as missionaries, and training our people to take the gospel to the people God has placed in their immediate circle of influence.

Father, forgive us for the many times we have failed You in our evangelism. We are weak and inadequate to save the lost. But we believe the Gospel is the power of God which leads to salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). And just as you had many elect in Corinth, we believe you have "many people in this city" (Acts 18:10). Bless our efforts as we try to become more purposeful in our evangelism in the year ahead.

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