Saturday, March 10, 2012


As of March 18, 2012, 
all further posts on the aBeLOG, 
hereafter renamed RaMbLeS, 
may be found on Homiletix.

With this, the 341st issue of the aBeLOG, things are going to change.

It all began five-plus years ago, when I was “fixin’” to go to Scotland for doctoral work. The aBeLOG would serve as a means to keep well-wishers and friends apprised of my goings-on and antics.

All along, however, I had wanted homiletix and the aBeLOG to be a preaching-focused endeavor, dealing with issues pertaining to homiletics and anything related to homiletics. The time has come to move in that direction.

In a few days, I’ll be switching from Google’s Blogspot, where the aBeLOG has been hosted all along, to another site. [If you come back here towards the end of this week, I’ll post a link to the new location on top.]

Also, the aBeLOG will revert to its original intention of functioning as a preaching blog.

But I’ve so gotten to love what I do here, with my whimsical devotionals on this location, that I plan to continue my weekly output. Same time, but not same place.

And same style, but new name: RaMbLeS, reflecting my meanderings both in matters geographical (BTW, this is being posted from Istanbul, the erstwhile Constantinople, where I'm investigating kebabs, whirling dervishes, and the relics of John Chrysostom) and issues theological.

I am hopeful this is an evolution for the better. Gives me more focus and provides me another venue for venting on subjects related to preaching.

I am thankful, though, that one “Thing” does not change: God.

But You, O LORD, abide forever,
And Your name to all generations.
Psalm 102:12

Time, being a creation of God who created all things, has no effect on him.

Of old You founded the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment …
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.
Psalm 102:25–27

His nature is immutable. He ever was, is, and ever will be God!

For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5

And from this love, I will never ever be separated.

For I am convinced that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38–39

His promises are everlasting. And so we live with hope unshakeable …

… looking for the blessed hope
and the appearing of the glory
of our great God and Savior,
Christ Jesus,
Titus 2:13

Indeed, God is unchanging!

Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923

See you next week, same time, … different place!

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Commission Regulation (EC) No 2257/94 of the European Union, aka the “bendy banana law,” lays down minimum quality standards for bananas. It went into effect on Jan 1, 1995.

Green bananas should be green and unripened, fit for human consumption, not rotten, clean, free of pests and pest-caused damage, free from bruising or any “foreign” smell or taste. It should be at least 14 cm long () and 2.7 cm thick (). And—get this—the regulation mandates that bananas not have an “abnormal curvature.” Hence the “bendy banana law.” I am surprised they didn’t mandate a particular color for the banana, though, truth be told, bananas do come in a variety of colors.

Popular commentary on this law has derided it as an example of needless European bureaucracy.

The “bendy banana law,” indeed! (Apparently there is also an injunction in force against overly curved cucumbers!)

But how about this most recent pontification from law-makers on the other side of the Atlantic?

Last November, EU officials concluded, after a 3-year investigation, that water does not hydrate! They failed to find evidence of this fact that has been undisputed for millennia. Water does not hydrate. So producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making that “dubious” claim, and can face two years in jail if they defy this edict.

One MEP (Member of the European Parliament) spoke for many when he declared, “This is stupidity writ large. The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true. If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

The EU is not alone in this asinine endeavor of over-intrusive law-making.

Did you know that in the US, you could be in violation of the law if you impersonated a member of the clergy?

Whoever, being in a public place, fraudulently pretends by garb or outward array to be a minister of any religion, or nun, priest, rabbi or other member of the clergy, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $500.00 or confinement in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Acts 1965, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 273, p. 381; Code 1975, §13-4-99.)

One of my favorite laws in ye olde State of Texas:

Resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring, That it adopt the Bluebonnet song as the State Flower Song. (Acts 1933, 43rd Leg., p. 930, H.C.R. No. 24.)

I’m still trying to figure out what a “State Flower Song” means.

If you had any doubts about God’s laws, though, you can rest easy.

So then, the Law is holy,
and the commandment is
holy and righteous and good.
For we know that the Law is spiritual.
I joyfully concur with the law of God
in the inner man.
Romans 7:12, 14

God’s laws are for our good, for our well-being, for our alignment to the demands of God, for our conformity to the image of Christ.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
restoring the soul. …
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey ….
In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7–8, 10–11

God’s laws? Worth keeping!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The guy was caught with his pants down. Literally.

The pilot of a Chatauqua Airlines flight from Asheville, NC, to New York City, decided it was time for a bathroom break mid-flight. That was when the problems began.

The door jammed and he couldn’t get out. There he was in tight quarters, with the plane ready to land. Desperate to get the plane that was in a holding pattern over LaGuardia down on terra firma, he began banging on the door to attract attention.

A sympathetic and well-intentioned passenger sitting in the front row heard the commotion and rushed over to help. The pilot yelled to the man to alert the cockpit crew to his unfortunate situation.

But the crew didn’t believe the passenger who conveyed the message. Because the passenger spoke with an accent. They didn’t react positively to this unexpected visit from a stranger speaking strange English while attempting to breach a secure area of the aircraft.

The Washington post reported that the jittery copilot—wondering why his captain’s bathroom break was taking this long—thought the accent was Middle Eastern.

He radioed air traffic control, his voice quaking. “The captain disappeared in the back, and, uh, I have someone with a thick foreign accent trying to access the cockpit.” Even after being told of his captain’s toilet woes, the co-pilot remained suspicious.

At this the controller, also spooked, advised the pilot to declare an emergency and “just get on the ground.”

Sensing potential danger, fighter planes were alerted, and FBI and Port Authority officers readied for a major terrorist situation.

Thankfully the trapped pilot finally broke out of the bathroom and got the plane on the ground.

Safe passengers. Empty-bladdered pilot. Relieved co-pilot. No terrorists. No rushed landing.

Pilot-less flying is dangerous, documented well throughout the Bible.

The first crash occurred in the Garden of Eden.

When the woman saw that
the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her,
and he ate.
Genesis 3:6

The rest, of course, is history.

Later …

In those days there was no king in Israel;
everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25

The book of Judges depicts the dire consequences of this self-piloted kind of living.

And even later …

The LORD said to Samuel,
“Listen to the voice of the people
in regard to all that they say to you,
for they have not rejected you,
but they have rejected Me
from being king over them.”
1 Samuel 8:7

They locked out God out of the cockpit. And, needless to say, they suffered the consequences in a long line of generally hopeless and incompetent rulers.

I know, O LORD, that
a man's way is not in himself,
Nor is it in a man
who walks to direct his steps.
Jeremiah 10:23

We are just not able to fly the plane on our own.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Get your Pilot on board. Let him into the cockpit.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5–6

That’s the way to give the controls to the Pilot. Fly high! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Heart Attack Grill.  Yup, that’s what it’s called.

In that notable Las Vegas culinary establishment, your meal can cross the 8,000 calorie mark. (You might remember that the recommended daily intake is between 2,000 and 2,500 of the good stuff per day.)

As if to poke the medical establishment in the eye, waitresses dressed as nurses bring the Heart Attack’s food to your table. Their logo has an EKG in the background: I suppose they guarantee your needing one pretty soon if you frequent their joint.

Here you can get a “Quadruple Bypass Burger” (shown) for $12.94 (4 slabs of beef; add 20 slices of bacon for only $3.69 more). Or if you weren’t that hungry, you could go for the $11.10 “Triple Bypass Burger” (3 chunks of beef; and for 15 slices of bacon, add $2.77). All of this smothered in Heart Attack Grill’s own special sauce. And to make it all worthwhile, throw in “Flatliner Fries,” deep fried in pure lard ($1.84).

If you are over 350 lbs. you eat free. Just make sure you read the sign at the door of one of their franchises: “Go away. If you come in this place, it’s going to kill you.”

The place is run by a former nutrition “doctor” Jon Basso. In another life, the guy used to run—get this!—a Jenny Craig weight-loss diet center. Quite a dramatic shift in career, I might say.

In one of their commercials, starring a 650-lb man, Mr. Basso adds: “I personally guarantee a stable upward progression of body weight while you're enjoying great tasting foods. Along with a cold beer and cigarette, it's a diet you can stick to for life.” The ad goes on to list the side effects of Heart Attack Grill’s glorious cuisine: sudden weight gain, increase in wardrobe size, back pain, lung cancer, tooth decay, stroke, etc. “In some cases,” they note, “death may occur.”

Well, it apparently did for one patron—or at least he came close to that terminus.

Last week, paramedics were seen wheeling out a 40-year-old man from this infamous eating house. He had been consuming a 6,000-calorie goodie (the Triple Bypass Burger) when he suffered a heart attack.

Mr Basso told Fox News: “The gentleman could barely talk. He was sweating, suffering.
'I actually felt horrible for him because the tourists were taking photos of him as if it were some type of stunt.”

Have you found honey?
Eat only what you need,
That you not have it in excess and vomit it.
Proverbs 25:16

Nope, the Bible doesn’t care for excess consumption of food. Not at all. In no uncertain terms, it decries this overdosing on food, lest one suffer its side-effects, as carefully noted by the Heart Attack Grill’s management.

In fact, God warns his people that such a focus on food and the stomach are earthly and temporal and not directed towards God.

Food is for the stomach
and the stomach is for food,
but God will do away with both of them.
Yet the body is not for immorality,
but for the Lord ….
1 Corinthians 6:13

Instead God would have us attend to things that come out of the body, not to what goes in.

Do you not understand that everything
that goes into the mouth
passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?
But the things that proceed
out of the mouth come from the heart,
and those defile the man.
… evil thoughts, murders, adultery,
sexual immorality,thefts, false witness, slander.
Matthew 15:17–19

Oh, and the motto of the restaurant? “Taste Worth Dying For!”

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Bird strikes? OK. Engine problems? Of course. Security threat? Absolutely! I’d gladly be delayed and/or have to return to the airport rather than fly with these potentially dangerous problems. There have been a few odd reasons for delays other than the above and acts of God and inclement weather and the like.

A few weeks ago, a cat got loose in the cockpit; Ripples, the offending feline forced passengers to deplane—a 4-hour delay. Or take the case of a two-hour  delay because of a frozen toilet. Another time, aflight attendant knocked out cold when a carry-on fell out of the overhead bin. Several hours lost.

But the reason that kept Qantas flight 825 from the skies the other day was none of these.

En route from Darwin to Brisbane, Australia, a poopy diaper was the culprit.

Yup, a diaper. A dirty “bomb” of sorts.

It all began with …. Well, we know how it began. Soon passengers complained of a strange odor. Apparently, in such odd-odor situations, Qantas procedures call for an immediate landing. So it did. At Mt. Isa (pop. 18,000), midway between Darwin and Brisbane.

The diaper drama was quickly solved by removing the offensive item from the for’ard toilet. But getting the passengers off the plane didn’t turn out to be that easy.

You see, Mt. Isa airport is not set up to handle the large aircraft (Boeing 767) that was Qantas 825. So after landing, the 161 passengers had to be taken off the aircraft by—get this!—a forklift. Five at a time. It took two hours, just to deplane.

A statement from Qantas:  “Very embarrassing for us all at [Qantas], but, better safe than sorry.” Better safe than stinky. Yes, it was the butt of many jokes. (Ahem!)

(An even more notorious incident occurred in 2010 when an Air Canada Jazz flight was delayed; a passenger had to be removed because his body odor was so “brutal.”)

Ooh, that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh, that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Lynyrd Skynyrd, That Smell, 1977

At any rate, this smelly business matters. After all—and apparently this was the crew’s concern—it could have been leaking sewage that could have threatened the plane’s sophisticated electronics.

We’ve been hardwired to run from dirty smells. Bad smells = danger.

A sinful life smells awful to God.

For my sins overwhelm me;
As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds stink, festering,
Because of my folly.
Psalm 38:4–5


A righteous man hates falsehood,
But a wicked man acts in stinking disgrace.
Proverbs 13:5

Our worship of anything but God is abominable to him.

… they have forsaken Me
and have burned incense to other gods
that they might provoke Me to anger
with all the work of their hands,
2 Kings 22:17

On the other hand, a life modeled in Christ is a sweet aroma.

Therefore be imitators of God,
as beloved children;
and walk in love,
just as Christ also loved you
and gave Himself up for us,
an offering and a sacrifice to God
as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1–2

May the aroma spread!

But thanks be to God,
who … manifests through us
the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him
in every place.
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved.
2 Corinthians 2:14–15

Even the prayers of his people are as incense to God.

… golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:8

Be a perfume to God!

Sunday, February 05, 2012


The other day, I had a patient, a dear old lady who’s been in our practice for a long time.

Her presenting complaints were a rash on the fingers of her left hand.

But things were not what they seemed. To her, this was a dreadful condition. It was staph. It was flesh-eating bacteria. It was every conceivable dreadful, horrific, affliction one could imagine. She was going to lose her fingers, she thought. And her hand. Then her arm. She was almost in panic.

I took one look at the rash and pronounced my verdict in 15 seconds flat: a form of hand eczema.

She didn’t believe it. You see, she had been reading her stuff off the internet.

There is a name for this condition: cyberchondria!

We see more and more of this. Patients who come in to see physicians, after already having self-diagnosed their ailment. Via the internet.

Now, of course, there’s lots of good stuff on the web. But there’s probably more bad stuff out there than good. Multiplying patients’ worries and snowballing their anxieties. Cyberchondria: “an unfounded anxiety concerning one's wellness brought on by visiting health and medical websites.”

Seventy-two percent of Americans use online searches for information on everything from car repairs to growing bonsai. (It was 52% in 2002.) It is particularly high for those scouring the web for health-related information—80%. And almost all of them conclude—rightly or wrongly—that they have a serious medical malady. Their fingers are falling off!

Self-diagnosis often doesn’t work. We have far too many blind spots, to few good sources of self-help information.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 12:15

Of course, one shouldn’t be chastised for taking responsibility for one’s health, so this self-diagnosing is not altogether a bad thing. Researching conditions on reputable websites may actually be helpful, a positive step for patients to understand their condition and be proactive about its care and cure. Educated patients, I find, are the best patients to have.

But cyberchondria can be quite a problem. All my education and expertise avails for nothing. They want this test and that. An MRI and a PET scan. Right away.

Then I have to use my charm (OK, OK, you don’t have to say it) and my counseling skills to convince cyberchondriacs I know what I’m talking about and that they don’t need extensive testing to rule out flesh-eating bacteria when it’s only eczema. Trust me!

And, surprisingly, some of them do!

The rest embark on the search for a physician who will concur with their self-diagnosis, consuming everyone’s time, valuable resources, and energy.

For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine;
but wanting to have their ears tickled,
they will accumulate for themselves teachers
in accordance to their own desires,
and will turn away their ears from the truth
and will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3–4

Sounds like he knew a cyberchondriac or two!

In the Christian life it works the other way: we are easily misled, thinking we are OK, when we actually are not.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands
take heed that he does not fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12

So being accountable is important. We need to listen to those who know us well—parents, teachers, mentors, spouses, friends, elders, …

Remember those who led you,
who spoke the word of God to you.
Obey your leaders and submit,
for they keep watch over your souls.
Hebrews 13:7, 17

No more self-diagnosis!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Everybody wants to leave a legacy. Especially public servants.

One-time sheriff of Arapahoe, CO, Patrick J. Sullivan, Jr., is no exception to that desire.

Nationally renowned law-enforcement legend who served as sheriff of aforementioned county from 1984 to 2002. Served six terms. Named “Sheriff of the Year” in 1991 by the National Sheriff Association. In 1995, President Bill Clinton named Sullivan as a member of the National Commission on Crime Prevention and Control. In a 1995 White House press release, the sheriff is said to have been a consultant to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime. Served on two advisory councils affiliated with the Department of Justice. The 68-year-old bloke was known as “Hollywood Pat.” Apparently, once, in 1989, the guy sped his jeep into the line of a fire to rescue a wounded deputy, and then roared back through a fence in a bold escape captured live on TV! Even as recently as 2008, he was an active participant in state and local  methamphetamine policy-making task forces that provided recommendations to the Colorado state legislature on how best to deal with the surge in meth-related crime.

What a legacy!

Now retired for nine years, Sullivan was serving as director of safety and security for Cherry Creek School District, in Colorado.

Until a couple of months ago.

In a sting operation the erstwhile lawman was arrested on suspicion of trafficking methamphetamines—yup, the same drug he fought so vigorously against—in exchange for sex. He was arrested by the South Metro Drug Task Force and faces felony charges. He is held on a $500,000 bond.

Former Arapahoe County District Attorney Jim Peters, who worked with Sullivan, told the Denver Post that he allegations against Sullivan were “totally out of character.” “He was completely ethical, upright and honest,” Peters said. “He just oozed honesty and integrity. He was an outstanding sheriff.”

“Was.” Gone is the legacy.

“I was saddened by the allegations and very disappointed,” said Grayson Robinson, the current Arapahoe County sheriff. He confessed this was “the most shocking thing I've ever been involved with.”

Oh, but wait. Pat Sullivan did leave a legacy. For himself.

In an incredible twist of fate, Mr. Sullivan is now cooling his heels at—guess where?—The Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility, once named in his honor!

All that good work, now undone! All that exemplary service, in tatters.

And it’s easy for us to ruin our legacies too.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action,
keep sober in spirit,
fix your hope completely on the grace
to be brought to you
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
As obedient children,
do not be conformed to the former lusts
which were yours in your ignorance,
but like the Holy One who called you,
be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
because it is written,
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13–16

Let’s live soberly and fearfully. For the consequences may be severe.

If you address as Father the One
who impartially judges
according to each one's work,
conduct yourselves in fear
during the time of your stay on earth;
1 Peter 1:17

No, not eternal consequences, for we …

… were not redeemed
with perishable things
like silver or gold …,
but with precious blood,
as of a lamb unblemished and spotless,
the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 1:18–19

But still consequences for ourselves, our families, our churches, our society.

Be sober. And leave a legacy.

(There is no word yet from the City Commissioner whether there are plans to rename the jail.)