June 2007

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A significant segment of baby boomers has spent decades yearning to play with the toys of Star Trek. Cell phones were stimulated by the passion to own a Communicator, PDA’s quench the thirst for Tricorders (or PAD’s, if you are especially into Next Gen), Tasers passibly function as phasers on stun, and we get to experience Bones’ bio-bed each time we have a CAT scan. Every Trekker knows warp drive really exists – we just have to figure it out.

But the real Holy Grail of Trekdom is the Transporter. That column of twinkling lights thoroughly captured the imagination of a generation that is traffic-bound and over-busy. How I long to be able to “beam” myself across distances instantly. Short circuit cause and effect. No need to travel … just be there.

I think baby boomer believers like myself – especially minister types like me – have a secret yen for a ministry Transporter. We know where we are, because we are very conscious of our own well-being. If we are well trained biblically, we even know where God wants us to go. The result is a prayer that we transmit to a divine Scotty, “Beam me over there, Lord.” No cause and effect. Just be there instantly.

One of the saddest facts of life for a Trekker is that there is no Transporter. It is highly unlikely that such a device could ever exist. It was not even a serious science fiction prediction, but only a cheesy special effect created to save production money. What a shame.

There is certainly no Transporter when it comes to ministry. Typically, real life ministry is cause and effect. God does not beam us or others from one condition to another. If we need to get to a different place, we have to travel there. Need to get past grief? Escape drugs? Rebuild trust? You have to travel there. Spiritual change is a time and energy consuming cause and effect business. The Lord certainly acts behind the scenes with divine power. We even get to experience that power consciously, as we do when we are regenerated and come to faith. Yet, even with being born again, what we consciously experience is not regeneration, but rather conversion – the process of changing our mind about life in repentance, so that we build a new life around faith.

Change is always experienced as a process. James says that “you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Just as you don’t get stronger muscles without a process of exercise, you don’t get stronger or more mature faith without excercising it – often in challenging situations.

There are days when I would give anything for a ministry Transporter. From one high point in life’s terrain, my Tricorder senses another high point some distance away. The Tricorder of wisdom works – that is where I need to go. I flip open my Communicator and ask the Lord to take me there. The Communicator of prayer works. God hears. God cares. God answers my godly request and procedes to take me where I need to go.

But there is no Transporter. To get to one high point from another, I have to travel through the valley in between. In order to mature and grow, faith has to be pounded, stretched, hardened and shaped. “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to discern good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) Constant use. Trained discernment.

There is no shortcut around hard-won experience, because the change we are after is not really a change in terrain, it is a change in ourselves. The Lord God does not circumvent our souls or our wills by beaming us through challenging trials, because it is our souls themselves that need to change. Rather, he travels with us through the valleys and trains us along the way.

“Gentlemen, the Transporter is out. Phasers on stun. Let’s get moving!”