Archive | March, 2013
Growing in the Word podcast: Easter Sunday 2013

Growing in the Word podcast: Easter Sunday 2013

Easter service with Immanuel Baptist Church from Raley Chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University on March 31, 2013.  “The Resurrection: The Affirmation and Exclamation of Truth.”  1 Corinthiasd 15:14-19

Is Easter A Pagan Holiday?

Is Easter A Pagan Holiday?

The-Joy-Of-Easter-1Every year around Easter my inbox starts to get flooded with questions germane to the holiday.  I have noticed that each year there is typically a “soup du jour” question that is most popular within our culture.  For example, a few years ago the questions were all related to whether or not the remains of Jesus had been discovered in an ossuary (burial box).  And, no, such a discovery was not made.  This year I am receiving a number of questions and observing quite a bit of traffic on the Internet and social media as to whether or not Easter is actually a pagan holiday.

Before I address that question, let me make it clear that the biblical accounts crucial to Christianity (e.g. the virgin birth, death on a cross, and resurrection of Jesus) in no way are metaphorical products from supposed earlier, pagan religions.  I recently read a piece in the British paper The Guardian that claims Christianity is nothing more than symbolic imagery borrowed from paganism.  The death of Jesus comes from a Sumerian goddess who hung naked on a stake and was raised from the underworld; the virgin birth relates to a belief in the ancient Cybele Cult, etc.  However, the evidence reveals such a perspective to be nothing more than presumptive conjecture.  To say that Christian holidays are actually pagan holidays in a way that means Christianity is actually an offshoot of paganism is not correct and furthermore is not even honest.  The death and resurrection of Jesus are documented by eyewitness accounts in ancient texts that withstand the scrutiny of credibility far better than any other ancient text of that time.

With that understood let me return to the question: Does Easter have roots in a pagan holiday?  Research the topic and you will find a wide divergence of opinion even in conservative, evangelical circles.  Many believe that the term “Easter” comes from the early Anglo-Saxon word “Eostre” which was used for both the name of a goddess who represented fertility and the arrival of spring as well the name for the month of April.  When the first Christian missionaries arrived on the British Isles they simply took the pre-existing pagan holidays and attempted to “Christianize” them (incidentally the same thing was done with Christmas and the holiday for the pagan god Saturnalia on Dec. 25).  Personally, I don’t find fault with the approach of these missionaries.  They arrived and saw everyone worshipping a pagan deity on a certain day and thought of a way to get people to worship the one, true God on that day instead.  This undermines the notion that Christian tenets arose form paganism.  No, early Christians wanted to supplant the worship of false gods with worship for the true God.  Over the centuries, this is exactly what happened.  The celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection overtook Eostre in popularity, although the name stuck as “Easter.”

However, there are many that believe the connection of Easter to the pagan goddess Eostre is overstated.  The Venerable Bede, a seventh century monk thought to be the first English church historian, connected the celebration of Easter with the holiday for Eostre.  However, some scholars argue that Bede’s findings were flawed, perhaps due to confusion of etymology of the terms, and no other ancient historians make the same connection of Easter to Eostre.  Rather, they argue that the term “Easter” is related to the name of the month of April, “Eastre” (West Saxon) or “Eostre” (Northumbrian), rather than directly connected to the pagan goddess (even though they concede that the name of the month probably, but not certainly, derived from the name of the goddess).  In addition, these scholars note that the term “Easter” is only used in English and other Germanic languages while the remainder of the world uses some derivative of the term “Pascha,” which derives from the Hebrew word for “Passover.”

So, what should Christians make of all this?   The most important thing is what has already been mentioned.  Even if the term “Easter” derives from pagan roots, that in no way implies Christianity is a highly evolved product of paganism.  If Christmas and Easter do in fact share the same dates/terms with pagan traditions, it is only due to early Christians trying to “redeem” these pagan observances to lead people to worship the one, true God of the Bible.  I find it interesting that many people want to cry foul that “Easter” is a pagan term and thus must have pagan inferences.  The reality is that we use terms that have their origins in paganism everyday and yet never make associations to occultic religions.  For example, Sunday in the Roman calendar was for the worship of the sun. January comes from the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and doorways.  The reality is that hundreds of millions of Christians use “Easter,” and have done so for centuries, with the meaning of “the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus” not to celebrate a pagan goddess of fertility.

Let me close this post by quoting Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll who addressed this issue in an article that appeared in the Washington Post.  “Some Christians, rather than celebrate the fact that a day that was once devoted to the celebration of a pagan god and is now devoted to Jesus, wish to be the conscience police and go around telling everyone how they should stop having fun and celebrating because of the day’s origins. If someone has a conscience issue with celebrating the holiday, they should abstain, but to rail against kids eating candy and having fun sounds more like the religious types who murdered Jesus than the kids who hung out with him…  When it comes to cultural issues like this, we as Christians should view them through a simple rubric: reject, receive, or redeem? In this case, the early missionaries to the British Isles sought to redeem Easter rather than reject it or simply receive it. As a result, it became one of the centers of Christianity for many centuries and Eostre the goddess was all but forgotten.”

 

 

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-17-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-17-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from March 17th, 2013.  “Rejoicing in the Storms.” 1 Peter 1:6-12

He Makes All Things New: How God Will Consummate the Age

He Makes All Things New: How God Will Consummate the Age

cloudsAt the end of time, God will consummate all He created to its final glory. The things that were tarnished by our sin, God will restore. Some things will be taken away and other things will be made new. This is the final goal of history. Rev. 21:5 states, “And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” What encouraging news for those who are in Christ! Below are side-by-side examples of how God will consummate the age.

Gen. 1:1- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Rev. 21:1- “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…”

 

Gen. 1:16- “God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day…”

Rev. 21:23- “And the city has no need of the sun, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

 

Gen. 1:5- “God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.

Rev. 22:5- “There will no longer be any night…”

 

Gen. 1:10- “God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas.”

Rev. 21:1- “And there is no longer any sea.”

 

Gen. 3:14-19- The curse is announced

Rev. 22:3- “There will no longer be any curse…”

 

Gen. 3:16-19- Sorrow and pain begin

Rev. 21:4- “There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

 

Gen. 3:19- “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Rev. 21:4- “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death…”

 

Gen. 3:24- “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Rev. 22:14- “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life…”

 

What an amazing thing to see these Scripture passages in comparison! May we live our lives today with eternity as our focus.

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-10-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-10-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from March 10th, 2013. “The Cure for Homesickness.” 1 Peter 1:3-5.

Announcement Made in Church March 2-3, 2013

This month marks the fifth anniversary of our move to 45th Street.   As you know, our church has experienced a great deal of growth, both spiritually and numerically, in the past five years.  In just the past few months, our church has received numerous recognitions for growth and missions involvement.  I say none of that to boast, but as I have previously mentioned, these recognitions are, in light of our increasingly secular culture, just reminders that we need to do even better.

So, how do we accomplish that?  All of you know that the attendance of our church is outpacing the size of our facilities.  Some may wonder or argue that we don’t need to grow any larger.  My response is that I am totally committed to helping our church first and foremost grow deeper.  At the same time, I am committed to accommodating our church growing larger in order for more people to hear the Word of God taught in truth and come to faith in Christ- even if it means I have to preach ten times each weekend!  In this world of rising secularism and pluralism, I believe it is the will of God for us to be committed to this endeavor.

Thus, we need a plan and action for the immediate and long-term future.  In the long term, we need to carefully pray as to whether or not it is God’s will for us to build another building, what exactly we need to build, do we possibly consider satellite campuses, and whatever we do be good stewards in the process.  Honestly, this is years away.  Before we ever consider another major project, I believe we should retire the debt we have for our current building.  I am asking you today to be faithful with your tithe to support the ministry and missions of our church as well as make a commitment to move all of those Bibles in the display in the foyer and continue to give until our debt is eliminated.  This is an important part of our church moving forward in making an impact for God’s kingdom.

As for the present, we need to do something that will allow for more growth.  We presently have four worship services: one on Sat. night and three on Sun. morning.  The 9:30 and 11:00 Sunday worship services are very full.  In fact, recently we had some people sitting on the floor at 9:30 with both overflows open.  Yes, we have space in the Sat. night service, but for whatever reason, we have had difficulty seeing large crowds come to that service.  However, we believe the Sat. service is reaching a unique need, such as people who work on Sundays, etc. and we want to keep it as an option.  Our only other alternative is to add another service to make room particularly in the 9:30 service.  What I am proposing today is that we consider an additional service to start at 12:30 on Sunday that will be a contemporary music style just like 9:30.  I am asking for at least 100 people in the 9:30 service and 100 people in the 11:00 service to commit to attend this 12:30 service (or the Sat. night service).  Please see this request not as a matter of convenience, but of sacrifice.  If we free up seats and parking spaces in these worship services it will allow for people to be here to hear the Word who are not here yet.

Having said that, we do not want to disrupt families or our ministry to college students and youth with this possible new service.  We are simply asking you to pray about the possibility of attending a 12:30 service.  Also, I understand if you attend the 11:00 service and shift to the 12:30 service you would most likely attend the 11:00 Sunday School, but could still go to 9:30 Sunday School, serve in the children’s department or just hang out, and then go to 12:30 worship- confusing I know!

If we can get this commitment for a 12:30 service, this will allow space for growth in all of our worship services and may even allow us, at least at the start, to close the overflows and allow people to sit in the center section which helps people better focus on worship and listening to the message. So, I am asking you to prayerfully consider if you would be willing to make this change and help our church accommodate more growth.  Next Sunday, we will put a form in the bulletin to measure the response of those willing to attend at 12:30.

These are very exciting days at IBC.  Every week, I get a message from someone who shares a testimony of what God is doing in their life and how He is transforming them.  That is what it’s all about!  Let’s continue to be faithful and committed to God and His church!

 

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-3-13

Growing in the Word podcast: 3-3-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from March 3rd, 2013.  “Chosen Aliens” 1 Peter 1:1-2