Friday, August 28, 2009


By Bill Colburn

The doc said he had good news and not so good news - depending on my perspective. What?
Several years ago I had to endure a series of unflattering medical tests related to a health issue. The doc suspected something was awry in my head - something folks have been suggesting to me since I was a kid - and strongly suggested an MRI. I was game.

Well, the good news was that the suspected problem, the one that had initiated the need for an MRI, turned out not to exist. However, while in my head, something was discovered they hadn't anticipated. Funny how one thing often unexpectedly leads to another. Is this providence at work?

My brain scan revealed a growth on the very narrow, but quite important 'stalk' that held the pea-sized pituitary gland at the base of my brain. It seemed that this growth was or would begin to compress the passage of some very important substances, hormones to be more specific, essential to the well being of the rest of my body - and, in consequence, my mind.

Ok, doc, I spent four years as a pre-med student. I think I catch the drift of all this. So what is the prognosis?

"Well", he said, " we are going to keep a close eye on this for awhile. We aren’t going to make any interventions - yet. We'll need to take another MRI in a year. Meanwhile, we suspect that you may experience some changes over the next few months. Let‘s just see how this plays out. Don‘t worry."

"Like what kind of changes", I asked, already suspecting his embarrassing answer. "Am I going to become a girl?"

"Well, you may gradually take on more female attributes. Absence of facial hair, alterations in your voice , a new bump here, another symmetrical bump there, etc. If you look at it rightly, this can really be a fun, novel journey - especially as an Adventist pastor in a conference that doesn't hire women as preachers!"

Funny, doc. Where’d he get his medical license from any ways. Smile.

What came to my perennially twisted mind was an episode of Star Trek. I was about to be assimilated by forces beyond my control. All resistance would be futile - unless, of course, there would be some professional outside intervention. But, maybe I'd enjoy this assimilation.

So, what’s this have to do with the church? The fact is, in my opinion, that we have all been unwittingly and unimaginably assimilated, through our nature, into a way of being in this world that shows no mercy. Resistance is futile. The real issue is that we refuse to admit the obvious.

We tend to want to think we are better than others. We exalt our choice of culture, religion, politics, education, and even our race, gender, and age as the evidence that we are not like everyone else. Kind of like the Pharisees and Sadducees of biblical times. Yet all these notions - including Christianity as a religion - are merely superficialities. There are no differences in our human ‘essence‘. Our religious traditions are merely a parody of godliness. Our constructs effectively divert us from the truth, sucking us deeper into denial. We are addicted to that which has cruelly assimilated us. There is no escape.

No amount of healthy eating, working out at the gym, higher educational degrees, political correctness, immaculate pedigree, cultural niceties, or religious profession will bring release. We have all - without exception - been fully assimilated into Babylon, or as Jeremiah so pejoratively stated, we have ‘become women!’ (Jer. 50:37). Sorry ladies. Just quoting the word here.

Our help comes from the Lord, wrote the psalmist (Ps 121). God must take the initiative in our deliverance - we cannot, wrote Paul (Rom 3). We need a new birth, a new nature. We need to hear the very voice of the Father and make our confession like Peter, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16). This alone, though, is not a one time deliverance. How quickly the ‘rock’ Peter was sucked back into the quicksand 'Borg' of his birth nature.

Within our natural assimilated selves we 'see' only as man sees. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we exalt our 'seeing' as divine right. Yet, Jesus called all that evil and adulterous. All our pretensions to glory are self-deceptions, small box thinking, mere variations of the same old Hollywood scripts. Being the depository of the oracles of God has never sufficiently nauseated the 'Borg' to spew us out. We aren’t that special.

Adventism today is again, (still?), wrestling with this reality. We've existed within our bubble of self-righteousness long enough to nauseate ourselves. We are, functionally, no different that the child of Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, or even atheism. All that we practice and preach and
traditionally cherish is being exposed for what it really has always been - meaningless, even dangerous, non-sense apart from the indwelling power of the living God. We have been deceived by our own cleverness. We remain assimilated. We need help. Divine intervention or all that we are as a community of faith is without purpose.

Only when we confess that we are an evil and adulterous generation can we begin the twelve-steps that lead to genuine serenity. Will we have the humility necessary to grasp the hand of the Almighty and allow him to push the reset button on Adventist Christianity or will we continue to trust in ourselves?


  1. Bill,
    I like your usually humble and insightful blogs and the questions they raise. Now, I want to ask a question of my own. YOu seem to be following the mode of thought "we are all wicked" and "I am like a worm" sort of thinking.
    I do have trouble with this, yet I believe and experience a close relationship with Jesus. I see many around me that suffer from addictions, genetic predispositions, depression, etc. Yet I believe they are not "worms" and their problem is thinking they are. I think Jesus died for them and has covered their sins and they accept Him.
    When I read the Bible about wickedness, in all cases it talks about uncaring pride inferred as the worst, and then usually gives a list of such things as witchcraft, adultery, stealing, etc.
    Yes, we all sin but I can't help believing in degrees of sin. Give it up, I want to say, we are never going to be perfect in this world, and our imperfections for the majority of "good-hearted" people are self-inflicting and guilt-producing.
    The only kind of perfection the people of God will have is their choice to love others as themselves--reflecting Jesus.
    Why do pastors want to feed our inferiority complexes, guilt, and hopelessness? The heartless will never believe it anyway.
    Now there is a corporate image of arrogance that churches tolerate and encourage. I suppose that is what you mean. I don't know the answer to this as we can only choose to have ourselves changed through the Holy Spirit. We have good leaders and self-seeking ones. What can we do as persons to change that? How do you reach a proud man (and they are usually men)? They don't listen.

  2. "How do you reach a proud man (and they are usually men)?" I object! I am a man and I'm not proud. I will pretend I didn't hear a woman say that.

    More seriously, we are seeing the crumbling of an empire. America is falling apart all around us. The disintegration will not end until a Christian America with teeth rise up from the rubble.

    So, what Ellamae is asking about is an important issue. If we don't learn the answers now we will not have a part in the large work ahead, the Latter Rain.

    Can we really trust in Jesus? Is He really working in our behalf? Is that or will that trust translate into victory over self? Will the final product of the law and consequences to disobedience result in what Paul said it would--charity out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and unpretentious faith?

    In a world of decadence and the decay of anything worth living for, purity, faith and a conscience will sound inviting to some disheartened ones. It sounds inviting to me. That's what I want to offer people. Jesus in that context.