Summary: This message continues the series on faith. It references "The Spectre of the Gun," my absolute favorite episode of the original Star Trek series.

I am a fan of the original Star Trek series. My absolute favorite episode is “The Spectre of the Gun,” which premiered in 1968, the show’s third season.

Here’s the storyline: After violating Melkotian air space, Captain Kirk and members of his crew are taken from the Enterprise and sent to die in a reenactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. You know the story. The Earps – Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil – and Doc Holiday face Ike and Billy Clanton and their Cowboys in a shootout. In real history, the lawmen live and the Cowboys die, except for Billy Clanton.

Chekov, the Enterprise’s communications officer, is Billy Clanton. Morgan Earp sees Chekov flirting with Sylvia, his “main squeeze”, and kills him. Kirk is furious with Chekov’s death but Spock reminds him that Billy Clanton does not die at the O. K. Corral. Spock reasons “There must be a way to change the outcome.”

So Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty try to figure out a way to avoid the confrontation with the Earps and Dr. Holliday at the O. K. Corral. McCoy develops a tranquilizer gas and tests it on Scotty. As Scotty breaths in the gas, it doesn’t work. But it should have. Spock understands the situation immediately.

I want you to hear the dialogue between Spock, McCoy and Captain Kirk.

Spock: Physical laws simply cannot be ignored. Existence cannot be without them. We are faced with a staggering contradiction. The tranquilizer you created should have been effective. Doctor, in your opinion, what killed Chekov?

McCoy: A piece of lead in his body.

Spock: Wrong. His mind killed him. Physical reality is consistent with universal laws. When the laws do not operate, there is no reality. All of this is unreal.

McCoy: But I examined Chekov and he’s dead.

Spock: But you made your examinations under conditions that cannot be trusted. We judge reality by the responses of our senses. Once we are convinced of the reality of a given situation, we abide by its rules. We judge the bullets to be solid, the guns to be real. Therefore, they can kill. Chekov is dead because he believed the bullets could kill him.

Kirk: If we do not allow ourselves to believe that the bullets are real, they cannot kill us!

Spock: Exactly. I know the bullets are unreal, therefore they cannot harm me.

Kirk: We must all be as certain as you are Mr. Spock in order to save our lives.

Spock: Precisely.

Kirk: But that’s not possible. There will always be some doubt.

Spock: The smallest doubt will be enough to kill you.

Remember this is a conversation about what is real and what is not real – what is true and what is not true. The tranquilizer gas should have worked but it didn’t. Spock recognizes that their current situation was not real according to “normally defined” reality.

We play a role in shaping our realities – believing what is true for us.

There are passages of scripture that give me pause each time I read them. It’s as though they draw me into a time of contemplation and self-examination. Romans 4:20 is such a verse. It’s about Abraham and his response to God’s promise that he and Sarah would have a son.

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.”

For me this passage is like an onion. Each time I read it and spend time meditating the verses, the Lord “pulls back a layer” and I see a particular word or phrase in a new light.

“He (Abraham) staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief...”

In the words “staggered not” I see a person who has had too much to drink. He’s staggering about trying to maintain his balance. He is grabbing on to anything he can so that he will “stagger not.”

But this is not what “staggered not” communicates.

The verb “stagger” is diakrino, from dia, meaning “separation” and krino, to distinguish, decide, or judge. It means “to hesitate, to waver, to doubt, or to differ.”

A person who “staggers” makes a decision or renders a mental verdict based on what he believes or doesn’t believe. He wavers or disagrees with what is presented to him.

Abraham renders a mental verdict that goes against everything he can see in the natural. Let’s go back up to verse 18. We’ll also read verse 19.

“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb.”

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