Anniversary of the Christian Reformation

Every year about this time most of America thinks about costumes, candy, goblins, graveyards, and a host of other weird things. Although the idea of ghosts or dead people haunting the living has existed for millennia, the spooky part of Halloween might have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these ghosts, or temporarily resurrected, somewhat deteriorated beings. And in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a day to honor all saints and martyrs. This evolved into the holiday known as All Saints’ Day. The previous evening (October 31st) was known as All Hallows’ Evening, but eventually evolved into Halloween, candy, goblins, etc., and incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain.

But enough of fantasy and phantoms; let’s get back to reality.

October 31st is the anniversary of Martin Luther’s indomitable stand for Truth. Luther, named after St. Martin of Tours, was dedicated to learning truth and wanted to learn from the sages such as Aristotle, Plato, and Gabriel Biel. But two men who became his tutors (Bartholomaus Arnoldi von Usingen and Jodocus Trutvetter) taught Luther to be wary of even the great thinkers of the ages. Therefore, human philosophy and human reason became a headache for Luther because they could not give him the satisfaction in life he desired. Luther wanted to know about God, and human-kind’s greatest thinkers could tell him only of man.

This, in itself, was a headache for Luther because he had an insatiable drive to think everything through; to reason everything out. Every aspect of his faith had to be rational and understandable.

Becoming an Augustinian Monk, Luther dedicated himself to God in the best way he understood fasting, long hours of prayer, pilgrimages, confessions…Oh, so many confessions! But he remained empty within. His superior, noting Luther’s personal dissatisfaction, suggested that he become a professor of law, and in 1507 Luther was ordained into the priesthood and assigned to the University of Wittenberg to teach theology. 

Things didn’t get much better for this unfulfilled monk/priest/professor/ theologian/lawyer, and he continued to question whatever seemed to be a man-made doctrine or rule. No church doctrine was safe from Luther’s critical eye if he thought it was not supported by the Bible. Therefore, he rejected the Church’s position that good works, charity, and church traditions must supplement faith in Christ in order for us to receive eternal salvation. 

Already questioning the concept of “indulgences” (buying forgiveness for certain types of sin from the Church), Luther became angry when the Dominican monk, Johann Tetzel, began selling indulgences for the dead (supposedly releasing them from purgatory) to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. These indulgences might have been the catalyst that prompted Luther, in 1517, to write and publish his “Ninety-five Theses” for the world to read. His eighty sixth thesis was the most direct: “Why does not the Pope, whose wealth is today greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?” This caused great anxiety on the part of the Pope and the College of Cardinals.

However, not desiring to break from the Catholic Church, rather wanting to reform it from within, Luther’s desire was to know God, and to spend his life helping others know Him. Reformed theologian Charles Spurgeon said it this way: “I cannot know Jesus through another person’s acquaintance with Him. I must know Him myself; I must know Him on my own account. It will be an intelligent knowledge. I must know Him, not as the visionary dreams of Him, but as the Word [Bible] reveals Him. I must know His nature: divine and human. I must know His offices, His attributes, His works, His shame – His glory.”

Martin Luther’s battle cry was “Sola Scriptura!” (Only Scripture!), for only the Scriptures point us to Jesus Christ and reveal all we need to know for eternal life.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world [people] that He gave His only begotten son [Jesus]; so that whoever believes in Him [Jesus] will not perish [suffer or endure eternal punishment] but have everlasting life [live forever in the glorious and loving approval of almighty God].”

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This verse negates the idea that human endeavors and traditions are needed to supplement faith for salvation. The New Living Translation says it this way: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

That was what Martin Luther wanted his parishioners to hear, learn, and understand. To the end, Luther directed people to the Bible as the foundation for faith, life, and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Many books have been written about Martin Luther and the Reformation, and this brief article does not do justice to the historic event; but I hope it inspires or challenges you to study and learn more about the faith that Martin Luther fought so diligently to clarify and uphold.

Tales From the Road: Road Hazards

Carol and I enjoy traveling. We drive the speed limit, observe traffic rules and cautions, and watch out for hazards. Watching out for hazards is sometimes nerve-wracking because there are many kinds of them.

Potholes and broken sections of pavement which can destroy tires account for most of our hazards. I’ve seen one accident that was caused by a driver who swerved to miss a big hole but hit another car.

Another hazard that drivers sometimes face in the deserts of Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, are sandstorms. We didn’t encounter those storms on this trip, but four years ago we got caught. The sand was blowing at 40 mph and was so thick that I couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of me. When that storm was over, the windshield needed to be replaced.

Yet other hazards crop up: animals on the roadway. Rabbits, racoons, squirrels, and other small game just get squashed, and it’s over. Dogs, deer, coyotes, and the like can present more of a challenge, but elk, cattle, and horses can prove to be fatal – for man and beast.

Another hazard we’ve seen – but haven’t been affected by – are downed trees across the roads. Nature has been acting up lately and high winds have been howling through the forests. About a mile from where we are staying, a large tree fell across the road after midnight. It was still dark, and by the time a tired driver saw the tree, he didn’t have time to hit the brake. It took over two hours for the ambulance crew to remove the body, and the highway department to remove the wreck and the tree.

But of all the hazards we face on the highways, one stands out like a sore thumb. It is a high-speed hazard called a Motorcycle!

 All over the United States we see signs reminding us about them. “Be courteous: share the road.” “Watch out for motorcycles.” “Save a life.” “Start Seeing Motorcycles.” And others.

But the more ominous problem is that many of the motorcyclists are not watching out for themselves! I hear the complaints from many RVers across the country. At medium to high speeds, motorcyclists disobey traffic rules. At high speeds, they weave in-n-out of traffic and zip past us between the lanes. The interstate freeway speed limit may be 70mph, and we may be going 65mph while most cars buzz past us doing 70-80. But many cyclists shoot past us doing 80-90 or higher!

When I want to change lanes, I turn on my signal, check my side mirrors, rear-view mirror (if I’m not pulling a trailer), and ask Carol if the way is clear. When I hear and see that all is clear, I pull over. But several times as I was about to change lanes, a motorcycle zoomed out of the distance at over 100 mph ignoring my turn signal. I would’ve been hit if I completed the lane-change, and the cyclist probably would have been dead. Complicating the problem is: if we collided, the default verdict would normally be against the driver of the car.

On one of our trips, we were driving 45 mph east on I-8 up Mission Valley in San Diego. The traffic was heavy. A motorcycle passed me at high speed on the inside shoulder between the concrete highway dividers and my car. I told Carol, “I hope he doesn’t kill himself.”

This photo is that of a different fatality.

About ten minutes later, traffic came to a crawl as the two left lanes began merging into the two right lanes. We eventually passed a damaged car, the mangled bike, and the rider’s broken body. The ambulance had not yet arrived.

There are many hazards on the highways and byways that we watch out for. But we must make sure that we don’t become the hazard.

Do you know that living according to Biblical principles can make our life safer? In Romans 13:1-5, Paul teaches us about obeying those in authority over us. That would include obeying speed limits, wouldn’t it? It includes being courteous drivers and giving others room to enter our lane without crowding them. And according to the principle in Matthew 25:40, if we show kindness to other drivers, we are showing kindness to Jesus.

We also should pray before we get out on the road. God can warn us of danger, remind us to be safe, and can protect us from unsafe drivers.

Tales From the Road: Danger Warnings

How many of you have a trailer, 5th wheel, or motor home? Perhaps I should also ask, how many of you formerly had one? You folks know there are many things to consider while living in an RV and things can go wrong.

While setting up in a campground or park, we need a level spot, or we need to use various items to level the rig. We need to connect to the proper power – 20, 30, or 50-amp service – and include a heavy-duty surge-protector in the circuit. We never know when rain and a thunderstorm will descend on us, or if other catastrophic electrical surges will hit. And as we connect to the water supply, we need to have a pressure-limiter to protect the plumbing. Believe-it-or-not, many campgrounds have high water pressure which can rupture plastic pipes.

When setting up the drain for the gray and black tanks, we need to assure that the tube cannot come loose during the draining operation. That would be a mess, especially with the black tank, and could cause a political or environmental mess. Oh yes: the gray water is from the shower, bath, and sinks. The black water is from the toilet. And when draining both tanks, we drain the black water first and let the gray water flush everything else down the drain. Of course, you want to have an attachment to rinse the tube with fresh water after you drain both tanks.

Until we bought our RV, we didn’t realize how much water evaporates in the trailer. Cooking, boiling water, making coffee, washing dishes, and cleaning ourselves all puts water in the air. But even when we don’t do any cooking, washing, etc., in the trailer, we still found heavy condensation on the windows on cold mornings. We learned that on the average, each person perspires and breathes out between three to five and a half cups of water a day. So, in humid areas, it’s beneficial to have dehumidifiers in the RV.

Hopefully your RV has an outside hose to rinse off sand and mud, so you don’t track it inside. You can use another garden hose if you have multiple faucets or use a splitter on a single faucet.

Most RVs I’ve seen use propane for cooking. When propane burns, it produces heat, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is not poisonous but can kill by displacing oxygen – it suffocates us. But when propane doesn’t burn properly, it produces heat, water, CO2, and carbon monoxide (CO). CO is absorbed into the body much more easily than oxygen and is poisonous. So, check your burners periodically, and make sure that you open windows and use the exhaust fan while cooking.

One time while toasting bread in the microwave oven, we over did it. When we opened the door, the smoke alarm exercised its sound system. In a regular house, the beeping is highly irritating. But in a trailer, it is LOUD and hurts the ears! That’s when we learned the smoke detector works.

That reminds me: once while we were washing dishes after breakfast (Carol washes and I dry), the propane sensor began screaming. That’s loud enough to wake up someone in the trailer next door! But it has to be loud in order to save lives. We discovered that while we were cleaning the stove, we lightly bumped the burner knob and turned on the propane. It wasn’t enough to cause a hiss as the propane escaped, and we don’t have an electronic ignition; but enough gas was escaping to set off the danger warning. That’s when we found out the propane sniffer works.

As I said earlier, there are many things to think about while living in an RV, and our enjoyment and satisfaction depends on our attention to detail. I’m happy to report that after our year-long trip in the RV, we arrived home safely.

But did you realize there are many things to think about while living on this huge RV called Planet Earth? Although we must learn to live safely, we’ll all die sometime, and we need to think about where we’ll go.

God has supplied us with numerous warnings to let us know when we’re in spiritual danger. We receive advice from our parents, spouse, friends, and authorities; but most of our best cautions, counsels, and admonitions are easy-to-read in the Bible. The Psalms and Proverbs are primary sources of wisdom, and our safety depends on our attention to detail. If we read the Bible daily and learn to live for and honor Jesus, He will guide us, and we’ll get to our ultimate “Home” – heaven – safely.

Bible Versions

The first time I was asked about my preferred version of the Bible, I said I preferred the KJV – the King James Version. I was in high school and had only recently been introduced to the Amplified and the New American Standard versions.

But in the past 56 years (my entire married life) I have studied out of numerous versions. When someone recently asked me the question of my preferred version, I told him, “I prefer the NCV – New Century Version. However, the KJV is the one I take with me wherever I go simply because I grew up with it and my Bible memorization came from the KJV.”

Some time ago a man told me that I was wrong for not sticking with the KJ because, he claimed, it was the only accurate Bible in the world. I tried to discuss the topic with him, but he wouldn’t consider my point of view. I finally said, “In that case, you have just presented one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world.”

Asking what it was, I responded, “If the King James Bible, published in 1611 AD (or CE), is the only real Bible, the Christian church existed for almost 1,600 years without a Bible and the Jewish Church existed for about 3,500 years without a Bible. Isn’t that amazing?”

He hadn’t thought about that. Many others haven’t thought about it, either. But neither had he thought about the fact that the KJV is only English. If the KJV were the only real Bible, no other language group in the world would have a true Bible.

With that said, people should not spend so much time creating more English versions. Instead, they should invest money to translate Bibles for the ethnic groups who have no Bible in their language.

I remember being in Bible studies when the leader asked, “How do you interpret this Scripture?” Since those studies didn’t involve linguistic experts, the question didn’t make any sense to me. The leader should have asked, “How do you apply this verse?” or “What does this verse convey to you?” or “What is the Lord saying to you through this verse?”

Two major problems most people have of interpreting Scriptures are: 1) many people, if not most, do not understand the history and culture of the Biblical era, and 2) most people do not understand many of the idioms and idiomatic phrases the original authors used. 

There are books to help us with culture and history, but idioms and idiomatic phrases trip us up. (That’s an idiomatic phrase and might be difficult for someone to understand and translate properly 500 years from now.)

A current example of translating idiomatic phrases is the following. Mark 14:38, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” was translated into Russian by an American, then retranslated into English by a Russian. The result was “The Vodka is strong, but the meat is rotting.” Both non-Christian translators tried to be literally correct, but they missed the intent.

Some of the problems generated today are by many church leaders and Bible scholars who normally filter the Bible text through their own cultural background. But the only proper way of understanding Scripture is through the context of the original writers who wrote the Bible.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (professor of Jewish Studies for Christians in Tel Aviv, Israel) said in his book, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, “The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers – the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible. Yet there is a pervasive tendency in the believing Church to filter the Bible through creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences.”

That’s why we need Bible scholars, pastors, and teachers who have studied the culture and language of the Bible times to help us.

No matter how we cut it (idiomatically speaking), it is dynamically important that we read the Bible. Study it. Apply the truths and morals to your life. Honor the Lord Jesus Christ by the way you live. Studying the Bible will help you do that.

Happy Trails to You

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were my all-time favorite television friends. The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Robin Hood were in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place.

After each weekly adventure, Roy and Dale (riding their horses, Trigger and Buttercup) sang in beautiful harmony, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again; Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then. Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather. Happy trails to you, ‘til we meet again.” Then after a short commercial, an exciting portion of the William Tell Overture introduced the Lone Ranger as his horse, Silver, reared and pawed the air.

Those are happy and care-free memories of the early decades of our lives. But the following is about a trip we took only four years ago, and I’m going to tell about it as though it were a current event.


In these, our latter decades, Carol and I are setting out to create new memories by traveling the country in a trailer.

When we pulled out of our driveway to begin this month-long trek, the song Happy Trails came to mind, and, as the song intoned, Saturday was cloudy and rainy.  But we didn’t care about the clouds because we were together; and our singing produced sunny weather – at least inside the car.

I’ve been driving cars since I was fifteen years old, and I’ve driven 28-foot U-Haul or Penske trucks no less than fourteen times across the western USA as we changed residences. But pulling a trailer is different, and many of you know what I mean. As I drive at 60-65 mph, the air pressure from the18-wheelers and pickups pulling big 5th-wheel rigs passing me going 70-80 mph creates a little excitement. And I change lanes as few times as possible!

I suppose I’ll get accustomed to it, but so far driving is the hard part. Setting up for the campsite or getting ready to hit the road has already become an easy routine. But the best part is walking around the campsite and meeting people.

The retired US Army colonel next to us was adjusting the water purification system to his double-axle Greyhound-bus-size motorhome as Carol and I walked up to him. Jim was an instant friend. He easily stopped what he was doing and gave me some pointers that a newcomer to RVing needs to know: “Make sure you check the air pressure in the tires.” After thanking him for serving our country, we continued down the trail to meet other friends.

But guess what? It seems that every time I learn something new, I need to buy something new. That’s when Carol and I get our heads together, assess the limited space we have, and decide what we NEED versus what we merely WANT.

When Colonel Jim pulled out the next morning, I saluted, and he gave me a friendly blast from the horn of his mobile condominium. “Happy Trails to you, Jim.”

When I pulled my studio-apartment sized trailer out the following morning, I went to the Shell station to add air to the tires. Do you know how difficult it is to turn around in a gas-station parking lot? I won’t tell you how many times I went back-and-forth before I got it right, but it was embarrassing when a man finally said, “Let me move my truck so you don’t hit it.”

Backing straight is easy, but backing and turning? I have a lot to learn. Pray for me – I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

This new phase of life is similar to what is involved when a person becomes a Christian and wants to serve the Lord. There is a lot to learn, and it reminds me of a Sunday evening church service in Quincy, Massachusetts back in 1962. Megan, calling herself a street-lady, confessed that she lived a raunchy life. After tearfully repenting for a life of sin and professing Jesus Christ as her Savior, Megan happily announced, “I’m glad I finally come to Jesus. I’ll have a hell-of-a-time serving Him!”

We didn’t judge Megan for that. She didn’t mean anything bad by that statement. She was excited to become a follower of Jesus, but it takes a while to learn a new way of living and a new way of talking.

Like backing straight, it is easy to stop what we call the major sins. But like backing and turning, changing a lifestyle takes some effort and training; and it’s our job to help them along the way.

Oh-oh, a cloud just burst, and the heavens are emptying their resources. I’ll go for now and close windows. Happy Trails to you.


In 1736, William Pitt’s family bought a tract of land from the Iroquois tribe, and soon over a hundred families of Scotch Irish descent, who had left Northern Ireland to escape English persecution, settled in what is now Pennsylvania.

Samuel Gettys built a tavern in 1761, and his son James plotted a town on the land surrounding the tavern. Giving this town the family name, it became known as Gettysburg. By the way, a tavern back then was an inn or a motel with a restaurant.

By 1860, ten roads led into Gettysburg, which had grown to a town of 2,400 people, and several thriving industries were situated in the area including carriage manufacturing, shoemakers, tanneries, merchants, banks and taverns. This quiet little town would be the focal point for two armies in late June of 1863 and would thrust Gettysburg into the forefront of American History.

My family visited Gettysburg for the first time in September of 1996. Driving into town on highway 116, we checked into the motel (not a tavern) and asked the receptionist, “Where’s the battlefield?”

“You came into town on one of the two roads that missed the action, but the museum is four blocks down the road on the right.” We ate dinner but went to the museum the next day.

As we entered the Gettysburg Museum, a poster caught my eye. It said, “The Civil War – Why? The Civil War was the culmination of many antagonisms between the North and the South. These clashes, increasingly more intense over a half century, were social, political and economic.”

One of the curators of the museum said, “The causes or reasons for the war are like a puzzle. In this case, some puzzle-pieces are large, and some are small. Slavery was a large piece, but still, only one piece.”

But how did the puzzle-piece called “Gettysburg” become part of the picture?

Up to 1863, most of the fighting had been in the south – primarily, in Virginia. So General Robert E. Lee decided to take the war up north where the South thought it belonged. After all, the South called the war, “the War of Northern Aggression.”

Lee’s goal was to attack Harrisburg, or Philadelphia – a big target. Gettysburg was merely a path to the target. But Union and Confederate scouts spotted each other, and the battle seemed to develop piece-meal. Southern General Lee advised his generals not to fight there, and northern General Meade wasn’t aware a battle was about to erupt. But it seemed to be inevitable.

Northern troops were pushed back the first day. The South nearly won the second day, but the North held their positions. The third day, July 3, was the day of decision. I’m sure you’ve heard of Pickett’s Charge. It is said that General Lee told General Longstreet, “Tomorrow is July 4, our day of independence. Tomorrow, we win our independence again.”

As Lee unfolded his plan to march across a three-quarter-mile open cornfield, Longstreet told Lee, “General, no 12,000 men ever born can cross this mile-wide field and win.” But Lee was in charge and ordered Pickett and 12,000 men to cross the 4,000-foot open field.

Longstreet was correct.

Approximately 51,000 men – North and South – were killed, wounded, or missing in that 3-day brutal conflict. It was probably General Lee’s greatest miscalculation. Lee should have known better because just six months earlier at Fredericksburg, Virginia, the tables were turned. The South had the high ground and defeated the Northern forces as Union troops tried to cross only a half-mile of open field.

We drove around and across the Battleground, we walked that open field, we climbed Little Round Top, we saw a good number of the 1,400 monuments, we read the battle descriptions, and we read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Tears came to our eyes as we read about all the Americans who died or were mortally wounded.

You see, this is Our Country! This is Our Battlefield! What was done here, the lives lost here, the Presidential Speech here – it’s all part of our heritage. It is all part of who we are.

Southern Generals Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Pettigrew, Ewell, Hill, and Armistead, as well as Northern Generals Buford, Reynolds, Meade, Howard, Warren, Hancock, and Colonel Chamberlain – and all the others – are our countrymen. Every one of them fought for freedom. They all fought for what they thought was right.

The United States of America wasn’t the only nation that had problems. Every nation that I’ve read about has had serious internal strife sometime in their history because people use human philosophy and knowledge to govern themselves instead of using wisdom offered by God. People are still doing that they think is right instead of going to the Bible to find out what is right. Proverbs 19:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” That’s why irrational laws will continue passing and hatred, killing, and war will continue until Jesus returns.

Therefore, I encourage you to live to honor God every day of your life. My prayer is Proverbs 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”

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