The actual origin of the name Easter is still unknown, but people have speculated since the eighth-century that the name could have originated with Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility.
Here is some of the evidence built for this case.
The word Eastre is derived from the ancient word for spring.
The Greek month that corresponds with April is dedicated to Eastre.
A springtime festival, which was held in her honor, was celebrated utilizing a rabbit, which represents fertility.
Colored eggs, which represent the bright colors of spring and sunlight, were also commonplace during this festival.
Learn more about the resurrection celebration here.
Things are different in Canada. No offense to Canadians, of course. Recently I was engaged in a lively debate about the topic of homosexuality and politics with a dear Canadian friend while I was there for a speaking engagement. Obviously, Canadian law has gone much further than U.S. law when it comes to the legitimization of homosexuality. Canada's speech codes and laws on marriage are far more liberal than ours. And, from an outsider's perspective, Canadians are not as engaged in the political battle surrounding these issues as we are in the United States. In fact, many of my Canadian friends, this one included, give me a very hard time about ministering to people struggling with same-sex attraction and being active and outspoken on political and social issues that encompass homosexuality.
During lunch, my friend asked my views on "covenant friendships". I'd never heard that term, but quickly realized she was referring to sexless committed relationships between members of the same gender. I immediately called them sinful. She was shocked. So was I. Apparently, we don't share what I consider to be fairly cut and dry biblical position on this issue. So I asked her to give me a first hand account of such a relationship that she saw as healthy. She went on to share the story of a Christian lesbian who believes that homosexual behavior is sinful, but holds no hope of ever experiencing heterosexuality. The thought of living a single life was too much for her to bear and so she developed a committed non-sexual relationship with another woman. They held a commitment ceremony, bought a house together, combined their finances and are trying to live happily ever after. They live in separate bedrooms, but in every other sense of the word, they are partners. "What's wrong with that?" my friend asked. Everything.
Talk about selling God short in the "I will supply all of your needs" category. What about abstaining from all appearances of evil? How about fleeing from temptation? Two same-sex attracted women getting married and pledging their lifelong love and devotion to one another, with or without sex, is called homosexuality. How can we say anything less? There is no such thing as diet homosexuality. If I was going to go as far as these two women have I would just go all the way. It isn't only the sex that makes homosexuality sinful, it is choosing to live outside of God's best. He did not create two men or two women to meet the needs of one another in a spousal capacity. Loneliness isn't grounds for trying to meet your own needs outside of His will, sexually or otherwise.
The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind. God promised Abram that he would have a son and that his descendents would be as plentiful as the stars. Abraham expected that God was going to give he and Sarah an heir. By age 86, Abraham and Sarah still had no children or prospects of any. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. Abraham did so and she conceived and later bore him a son that they named Ishmael. This wasn't God's plan for them or the heir He had promised and they quickly knew it. Fourteen years later, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, God fulfilled His promise and gave them Isaac. I don't know how much you know about world history and how Abraham and Sarah's choices affect us today, but the turmoil that exists in the Middle East - the turmoil that has always existed there - is directly linked to a war between Isaac, the heir God promised, and Ishmael, the product of Abraham and Sarah's impatience.
Our impatience with God and our inability to allow Him to work things out in our lives can lead us to sin. I see the relationship between the two women that I related above as a counterfeit to the intimacy that only God can give and bring through another person. Like Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." Filling the hole in our hearts with anything other than God's best will make our hearts sick. Whether we call them civil unions, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage or covenant friendships, the truth of the matter is that these unions are less than the Creator's creative intent for His creation.
So as the Prop 8 debate in California reheats once again, I am reminded that God's plan for marriage transcends our human interpretation of fairness and affection.
Marriage is His idea. It is a reflection of Jesus, the Groom and the church - His bride.
It goes to the core of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Repackaging or redefining it in the political or social realm will not change the truth, but we are foolish to try.
Alan Chambers is the President of Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. www.exodus.to
Find out how Darwin's 'The Origin of Species' changed the world
As the scientific community prepares to celebrate Charles Darwin's 200th birthday on February 12, prominent Christian apologists and theologians say that besides the Bible no other book shook the world more than Darwin's The Origin of Species.
It was published 150 years ago, on Nov. 24, 1859. At that time, scientists believed the universe had been intelligently designed by a divine creator.
But Darwin's theory that life evolved through random mutation and natural selection over millions of years flipped the predominant worldview upside down.
"Darwin's theory had the impact of changing the basis of Western Civilization from a Judeo-Christian perspective to a secular-humanist perspective," says Norman Geisler, who for 50 years has been a professor of apologetics. "The culture was based on belief in God and God's moral law, and Darwin undermined that and gave us a culture that is literally without God or any absolute moral law."
Darwin borrowed a phrase from economist Herbert Spencer, "survival of the fittest." That concept, Geisler says, led to social Darwinism and eugenics, movements that advocated breeding better humans through racial purity, forced sterilization and weeding out "defectives."
These ideas were later adopted by Adolph Hitler, resulting in the Holocaust.
"People don't realize the Nazis developed shower stalls that were gas chambers for gassing handicapped children," says John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank in Seattle. "They did this explicitly for eugenics' reasons."
After World War II and the forced sterilizations of tens of thousands of Americans, the term "eugenics" gained a negative reputation. But it re-emerged in the 1950s with proponents of birth control who coined the phrase "freedom of choice."
Says West: "So you find a big component of early efforts to legalize abortion from the eugenics movement for whom survival of the fittest was a key part of their ideology."
Despite decades of evolutionary teaching in the schools, polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans believe creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools and more than 50 percent believe God created humans in their present form. Another 30 percent believe God guided the process of evolution.
Nevertheless, most textbook writers and university science professors are atheistic evolutionists, and evidence for intelligent design, young earth and old earth creationism and theistic evolution is rarely presented to students.
"I think the way to understand evolution is that it is a worldview," says John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas.
"It's a way of thinking that impacts everything we see in our society today. It seems like all the various '-isms' that have devastated our society go back to evolution for their foundational principles."
If there is a teenager in your home, you see something every day that others may miss: The battle for their hearts is real and the battle is here. The culture's impact even on Christian homes is undeniable.
The questions screaming in a parent's mind are: "What in the world do I do? How can I protect, help and arm my kids?"
During the last few years, you may have heard other Christian leaders talking about the battle for this young generation. Now let's talk about some specific tools you can use to win the war for your children.
It's a wonderful fact that children will occasionally disobey their parents for the express purpose of testing just how much they can get away with. This is a game I call "Challenge the Chief," and it can be played with surprising skill—even by very young kids.
If you have children at home, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. You have clearly and emphatically told your little girl, "Don't touch the lamp," only to turn around a moment later to see her flashing you an impish grin as her hand grasps the forbidden object. Or perhaps you've instructed your son to clean up his messy room or eat his vegetables, and he responds by setting his jaw, folding his arms and essentially saying, "Make me!"
Virtually every parent, the world over, has been issued an ultimatum of this nature at one time or another! But when moms and dads ignore this kind of challenge, something changes in the parent-child relationship. For a particularly strong-willed boy or girl, that early test of parental leadership can grow into a full-blown case of rebellion during the tumultuous days of adolescence.
An anonymous historian or political thinker once charted the progression of the world's greatest civilizations from their birth to the zenith of their power and then to their demise. The pattern he discovered includes eight critical steps: (1) From bondage to eminent spiritual faith; (2) from spiritual faith to great courage; (3) from courage to liberty; (4) from liberty to abundance; (5) from abundance to complacency; (6) from complacency to apathy; (7) from apathy to dependence; and (8) from dependence back to bondage.
In my opinion, America is now at step seven. We are dependent on foreign oil to keep our economy from crashing, and 70 percent of that oil is coming from foreign countries that want to see America fall. America is no longer a producing nation; we have become a consuming nation.
Our jobs have been sent to foreign countries. Labels on clothing that used to read "Made in America" now read "Made in China," "Made in Korea," "Made in Vietnam," or "Made in ..." some other nation.
In addition, America is swimming in debt. The trade imbalance has put billions of American dollars in the hands of the Chinese government, and China is using our money to buy up American companies. You don't have to be an economic scientist to discern what the negative results of this trend will be.
In the area of trade, America is dependent on China's continuing to use the U.S. dollar as the currency of exchange rather than the euro. If China ever dumped the U.S. dollar, our economy would crash.
My wife, Diana, and I have traveled to Europe and the Middle East many times since the 1970s, and until two years ago the American dollar was a welcomed currency. Recently the desired form of exchange has been the euro. The dollar is losing its influence.
Not only that, but America, instead of being the superpower it once was, is in a precarious position related to other countries that are antagonistic toward us. Russia, China and Iran-an axis of evil since the early '90s-are united against America and Israel. Recently the Russians pledged to sell long-range bombers to Iran to retaliate against Israel.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made enormous strides in 2008 toward his goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. The Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran now has 3,800 uranium enrichment centrifuges in full-time operation. Most of these centrifuges have been upgraded to modern, more effective models, and some estimates predict that Iran will have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in less than one year.
In 2008 Ahmadinejad also continued to threaten Israel, calling for that nation to be utterly destroyed. When Israel was celebrating its 60th birthday, he declared: "Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken. Today the reason for the Zionist regime's existence is questioned, and this regime is on its way to annihilation."
While Iran was making progress in its race for nuclear weapons in 2008, America and the international community did little to stop it. The United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement on economic sanctions against Iran, and the Congress of the United States also failed to impose new economic sanctions on Iran before it left for its winter recess.
Not long ago Russia invaded the neighboring nation of Georgia and stationed troops there, fully intending to control the oil flowing through it. Look on a world map-the road from Russia through Georgia leads straight to Israel.
America, it's time for us to wake up! We are in a war for our survival. But there are four ways we as a nation can stop what is happening in the Middle East without firing a shot:
Divest our stocks from private and public pension portfolios that are attached to Iran
Drill for oil in the United States so we are able to end our addiction to foreign oil
Vote for the development of effective anti-missile defenses
Develop and deploy a comprehensive effort to assist the Iranian people in liberating themselves from their country's theocratic dictatorship.
These measures could bring dramatic results that would help prevent both World War III and the continuing decline of America. But if we don't act now, we may find ourselves the victims in the next global conflict rather than the victors.
Tomatoes, however, are the richest source of lycopene, and cooked tomato products, such as tomato paste, spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce, provide much higher amounts of the phytonutrient compared with fresh tomatoes or tomato juice.
Spaghetti sauce also contains olive oil, an added benefit that makes this particular food product an extremely good choice as a source of lycopene. That's because the oil assists in the body's absorption of the nutrient.
Many studies have shown a correlation between a high consumption of tomato products and a decreased incidence of prostate cancer. A diet rich in lycopene derived from tomato-based products can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by approximately 40 percent.
When you accept Christ into your life, you slowly come to realize that forces are now at work beyond your control. There is a mixed emotion of fear (of losing control), relief (that your problems are now in God’s hands) and curiosity (at how things will play out) that can create a hyper-introspection beyond anything we have experienced before, but could it lead to an unhealthy level of introspection and self-absorption? I’ve noticed creeping into many Christian’s lives (including mine) a level of narcissism about prayer and God’s works that has raised a few flags.
This came to my attention partly by way of my agnostic friends. Every so often one of them asks me to say a prayer for a relative who is sick. It takes a lot for them to ask this and the request is usually serious, and for some reason they think I alone have God’s phone number. I feel mixed emotions when I receive these requests. I’m sad at their pain but joyful at the same time that a piece of their armor has rusted and fallen off. When I contrast these requests with Christian prayer requests that I receive regularly it drives the point home about how self-centered we, in the Christian community, can sometimes become.
It might sound like a cliché, but parenting e toughest jobs on Earth. After about 20 years of on-the-job training, we begin to figure out what it is all about. By then it's time to let go and pretend we don't care any more.
Added to these difficulties are our own personal problems, which can include marital conflict or divorce, physical illnesses, financial pressures and the other cares of living. Our unmet needs, such as those experienced by single parents, can also lead us into behavior that will later seem terribly foolish.
Do I sound as though I'm whining here? I hope not. I'm simply attempting to articulate the challenges that can accompany parenthood and the particular discomfort that occurs for parents of strong-willed children when they begin to feel they have botched the assignment. (The parents of compliant children may not fully understand this emotional reaction, although there is usually enough related stress to affect everybody.)
Despite the discouraging moments, it is my firm conviction that bearing and raising children is worth everything it costs us. Along with the difficulties come the greatest joys and rewards life has to offer.
How could that be true? How can the very thing that brings us anxiety and stress be the source of such happiness and fulfillment? There is an obvious contradiction here that bears consideration.
Christian writer and apologist C.S. Lewis tried to express the indescribable pain that he experienced when he lost his wife to cancer. He would not have been so devastated by her passing, he said, if he had not allowed himself to love her with all his heart.
In the movie Shadowlands, based on this period of Lewis' life, he wondered if it would have been better never to have loved at all, and thereby to have avoided the risk of losing the woman he adored. It would certainly have been “safer” to live in a fortress, protecting himself from disappointment and grief by remaining emotionally detached and uncaring.
Lewis considered these responses to sorrow and decided that in the end, love is worth the risk. This is the way he penned his conclusion:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries ... lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
“But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable ... The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell!” Then Lewis added this concluding thought: “Why love if losing hurts so much? We love to know that we are not alone.”
Doesn't this insight speak eloquently of the pain associated with parenthood? It certainly does to me. This is what bearing and raising children comes down to. Loving those we have borne is risky business, but it is a venture that brings great joy and happiness. Even though there are often trials and tears associated with the challenge, it is a noble journey.
We as parents are given the privilege of taking the raw materials that comprise a brand-new human being and then molding him or her day by day into a mature, disciplined, productive and God-fearing adult who will live with us in eternity. Doing that job right, despite its setbacks and disappointments, is surely one of the greatest achievements of our lives.
In his Bringing Up Boys Parenting Videos, Dr. Dobson shares principles for raising boys from his decades of expertise. This self-directed program includes four DVDs and an accompanying workbook that will equip parents and youth leaders to steer the boys they care about toward confident, responsible manhood.
To request your copy visit family.org/resources.
Dr. James Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family (Colorado Springs, CO 80995; or www.family.org). Material is excerpted from The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide and Bringing Up Boys, both published by Tyndale House.
Controlled by militant Muslims, the place of Jesus' birth is a danger zone for Christians today. But Arab believers say the gospel continues to be preached there.
Rami Ayyad was closing up at the Bible Society in Gaza where he worked when armed men whisked him into a car and sped away. For hours, Ayyad's whereabouts were unknown. Pauline, his wife and the mother of their three children-the last still in utero-finally got through to him on his cell phone.
He wasn't able to say much, and she could tell something was wrong. It turned out to be the couple's last conversation.