Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Concise Argument Against Holy Days

by John Brown of Haddington, excerpted from A Compendius View of Natural and Revealed Religion (Reformation Heritage Books edition, 2002).
Men cannot, without sin, appoint any holy days. 1. God has marked the weekly sabbath with peculiar honour, in his command and word. But, if men appoint holy days, they detract from its honour: And wherever holy days of men's appointment are much observed, God's weekly sabbath is much profaned, Exodus 20:8; Ezekiel 43:8. 2. God never could have abolished his own ceremonial holy days, in order that men might appoint others in their room, Colossians 2:16-23; Galatians 4:10, 11. 3. God alone can bless holy days, and render them effectual to promote holy purposes; and we have no hint in his word, that he will bless any appointed by men, Exodus 20:11. 4. By permitting, if not requiring us to labour six days of the week in our worldly employments, this commandment excludes all holy days of men's appointment, Exodus 20:8, 9. If it permit six days for our worldly labour, we ought to stand fast in that liberty with which Christ hath made us free, Galatians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 7:23; Matthew 15:9. If it require them, we ought to obey God rather than men, Acts 4:19; 5:29. -- Days of occasional fasting and thanksgiving are generally marked out by the providences of God: And the observation of them does not suppose any holiness in the day itself, Joel 1:14; 2:15; Acts 13:2; 14:23; Matthew 9:15.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


"It doesn't matter where you're going, as long as you're going the right way."

-- Daniel W. (age 5).

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Brief Sabbath Meditation.

Some thoughts on worship:

"Worship is right conceptions of the character and works of God suitably expressed. It is seeing Him, and expressing our thoughts and feelings concerning Him. It is an act of the soul. There are forms of expression used in worship, but forms and words and attitudes are not in themselves worship. That is essentially an act of the soul. We are called upon to pour out our hearts to the Lord. God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The most reverent genuflections, the divinest strains of music, and the most devotional words are nothing and worse than nothing unless the soul of the worshiper is going out to God in them. " -- Rev. W.H. McMillan, The Idea of Worship, page 11 of THE PSALMS IN WORSHIP.

Friday, December 22, 2006

From the "Did you know?" department...

Next December will mark the 100th anniversary of Xmas being legal in every State in the United States. Yes, that's right... 100 years, that's all. I remember when we stopped observing Xmas due to religious conviction (We stopped, not because we are not Christians, but because we ARE Christians), that some of our family members objected that we are rejecting this ancient practice of Christians. Some people would be shocked to know how novel their "Christianity" actually is.


Who was Against Christmas?
By Paul V.M. Flesher

Picture the following scenario. Crowds of Americans rioting in the streets. Two opposing groups shout loudly, vying to have their messages heard and heeded. The groups meet. Confrontation ensues. Fistfights break out. Church windows are smashed. What are these rioters fighting about? Christmas. One group favors celebrating Christmas, the other opposes all Christmas observances. This isn't an imaginary event, it is history. It happened in Boston on Christmas day in 1706.

In America's increasing love-affair with Christmas (both the Christian and commercial versions), we have forgotten that there was a time when much of European and American Christianity thought that Christmas should not be celebrated. In the riot described previously, the anti-Christmas group consisted largely of Congregationalists (Puritan descendants), Baptists, and Presbyterians, while the pro-Christmas group comprised mostly Anglicans (Episcopalians). The notion that Christians of any stripe should not want to celebrate Christmas is so foreign to our present concept of the holiday, that we need to review some history to understand it.

Prior to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, Roman Catholicism celebrated the "Christ Mass." It was one of many special masses and feasts of the Catholic Church celebrating key events in Jesus' life or the birthdays of saints. The three main Protestant movements that ultimately came to America had three different reactions to this situation.

First, although the Anglican Church developed a Protestant theology, it kept much of Catholic liturgy, including festivals celebrating aspects of Christ's life and the feast days of many saints. It gave special emphasis to the celebration of Christmas.

Second, after Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in 1517, special liturgical observances began to be frowned upon. The Lutherans thought that the celebrations of saints' days were too much and so cancelled them. But they still emphasized observing events in Jesus' life, and so continued with joyous Christmas festivities.

Third, the Calvinists in Switzerland banned all Christian holy days not mentioned in Scripture. That approach meant that the Sabbath was acceptable, but nothing else. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and other celebrations were to be treated as normal days with nothing special about them.

The Calvinist position came to be quite influential in Great Britain, even though it never altered the position of the Anglican Church. John Knox brought Calvinism to Scotland as Presbyterianism where Christmas was banned in 1583, while the Puritans brought Calvinism into England, where it became influential in circles both within and outside of the Anglican Church. During the Civil War in 1647, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan followers outlawed Christmas observance. It was brought back in 1660 at the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II.

From England, both sides brought their Christmas beliefs to America. The Puritans (later becoming the Congregationalists) were joined by Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists (despite their founders' pro-Christmas predilections), and Baptists on the anti-Christmas side, while the Anglicans dominated the pro-Christmas side, and were later joined by the Lutherans and the Dutch Reformed.

In Boston, the Puritans outlawed Christmas in 1659. Although the ban was lifted in 1681 when the British government took control of the colony, an armed guard had to protect the governor on his way to church on Christmas of 1686. When the colony reverted to local control in 1689, Christmas again fell out of favor.

The objection to Christmas by Americans was two-fold. First, for Calvinist theology, it reflected the pagan character of Catholic worship. Christmas was not a biblical holiday and had not even become a Christian festival before the late 300s; it was a creation of the church, not of Christ. Second, the holiday was accompanied by extensive reveling. Celebrations were not primarily worshipful, but involved feasting, game playing, heavy drinking, shooting, and gambling. For the over-indulgers, it brought out the worst of their excesses. Since the holiday celebrated the Savior's birth, such immoral behavior was seen as sacrilegious.

During the 18th century, Christmas observance began to be more accepted. Church-goers turned their attention to purifying the holiday of its excesses, rather than rejecting it altogether. By the 1750s, even New England hymn books contained Christmas carols. By the early 1800s, Christmas was observed with an emphasis on family and children.

In 1836, Alabama became the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday. Other states followed suit; even Massachusetts legalized Christmas in 1856, almost 200 years after its ban. But the last state, Oklahoma, did not join in until 1907. So next Christmas, 2007, will be the centenary of Christmas being the first religious holiday whose celebration across the United States is sanctioned by law.

[end of article]

Monday, December 18, 2006

I kill fish and crabs

I wish I was better at fish-keeping. Our cool Catfish died today, and our little fidler crab kicked the bucket a few days ago. Our other Catfish is acting funny and one of our guppies don't look so good.

If I ever offer to keep you in a tank, it would be wise to decline.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday, dangerously close to the end of the week.

Thanks to all of those who expressed their care and concern for little Gideon, we are very appreciative. It turns out that after a series of X-rays at Hershey Medical Center, they could not find whatever it was that appeared on the X-ray at our local hospital. Hmm... whether a miraculous answer to prayer, or a medical mess-up by the doctors at our local hospital, I'm just thankful that my boy is alive and well.

I'm reminded of how fragile we humans are. As infants, we very well may be the most helpless creatures on earth. As toddlers, our disproportionately large baby heads can be cause for some treacherous moments. As we grow to walk on two feet, we... well... walk on two feet! Think about that one for a minute. Would you sit on a two-legged chair? Climb up a two-legged ladder that is not propped up against something? It is much safer to be at least a tripod, but alas, we are mere bipods, teetering on the brink of destruction with every step. And have you ever considered that every time you eat something your food is just inches away from your airway. It's amazing we don't choke on every bite. John Calvin once preached in a sermon that we would pray more, and more earnestly, if we would consider the dangers we are subject to on a daily basis. Yes, indeed. In a split second, our littlest one went from happily playing to not being able to breathe.

The next day, when Gideon returned from the hospital, we read this Psalm during family worship:

Psalm 91

1He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

3Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

4He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

5Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

6Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

7A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.


In other news: We bought some new creatures for our aquarium. We promptly killed the fidler crab, but he was neat while we had him for those two days. The snails keep climbing out of the tank and into the filter... I understood this a little better when we found the one snail doing something that appears to me to be laying eggs. Our other two fish -- another guppy and a catfish, are doing just spiffy. Or is that spiffily?

In more other news: I'm digging the DVD burner on the new 'puter. I just got done archiving about 4.5 gigabites of blues mp3's onto one DVD.

"I do not play no rock and roll, y'all. I just play da straight natchal blues. ~Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pray for Little Giddy

Tonight Gideon was sitting on the floor in the dining room, when he suddenly fell backwards -- he was pulling on something and his hand slipped, and ended up flat on his back. He must have had something in his mouth, because he started choking, the real choking, not just coughing. He was breathing sometimes, and not breathing other times, and when he could breathe, it was shallow and weezy. Back blows between the shoulder blades, and some upside down treatment made him vomit. Good, we thought. He calmed down and fell asleep for a short nap. When he woke up, he started coughing again -- one of those terrible, trying to get something out from deep inside, coughs. Rachel took him to the emergency room. They took X-rays, and whatever he swallowed is stuck in his lung. They're transferring him to Hershey Medical Center tonight to remove it. It's going to be a long night, it looks like.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Old Joe Brown

This morning I stopped in at my local tobacco shop to stock up on some stuff to burn in my pipe. Looking at the variety of pipe tobacco available, I noticed one jar labeled "Ancient Joe Brown." Now, let's go back a couple years....

My bud that says "Ahh-mun" instead of Almond, Jason, came out to visit us, maybe 2 years ago now (? remined me, would you Shoe?), and the two of us went to this same shop, and Jason bought some tobacco called "Old Joe Brown," and if I recall, J was a bit disappointed in it. Jump back to the present...

So I ask the shop owner, "Hey, didn't "Ancient Joe Brown" used to called "Old Joe Brown"? He says, "Yeah, but he got way older, ain't Joe?", looking to an old man in the shop who was just standing there smoking a pipe. The old man says, "Yep, I'm another year closer to retirement." Jocosity ensued.

Ok, there's my silly tobacco story that no one but maybe Jason will think is even slightly funny.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Every once in a while...

It's good to take a good long look in the mirror.

Tell me, do you like what you see?