November 30, 2009

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…And so we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place… 2 Peter 1:16, 19

The National Park Service acquired a new leader this fall. Jon Jarvis is a long-time NPS employee who was most recently director of the agency’s Pacific West regional office.

In a Frommer’s travel website article, author Kurt Repanshek quotes from an email Mr. Jarvis sent out the day after he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, highlighting his priorities. The director hopes to concentrate on four areas during his tenure—strengthening the Park Service’s workforce, expanding the parks’ educational mission, improving the stewardship of resources, and making the agency relevant to today.

About the latter, Mr. Jarvis said, “There is deep concern out there that national parks will become irrelevant to a society that is disconnected from nature and history. We need to help all Americans—especially young people—discover a personal connection to their national parks…”

I couldn’t agree more. We surely do need to make sure subsequent generations value, care for and use the national parks.

But there’s another disconnect that worries me even more. That’s the one between our society and Scripture, particularly in younger generations.

The website HowStuffWorks still lists the Bible as the number one best seller of all time, as of 2007. Guess what’s in second place? Chairman Mao’s little red book. Also included in the top twenty-one tomes are the Qur’an, The Book of Mormon, The Da Vinci Code, the Harry Potter books, an Agatha Christie title and, bizarrely, The Mark of Zorro!

Many of these tomes are worthwhile reads. I enjoy a Christie mystery, and I watched Zorro on television as a young child (my mother used a lot of Old English on the Zs my brothers and I would carve on the furniture!). And there is certainly nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself with other religions and philosophies.

But the prevailing attitude I catch in today’s society is that all these other books are somehow more relevant than the Bible.

But what could be more timeless than a love letter? For that is what the Word of God is, the story of the One who not only created us, but continually reaches out to draw us closer. The chronicles of real people He includes battle problems as common today as they were long ago: fear (Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20), uncertainty (Gideon, Judges 6), sexual temptation (David, 2 Samuel 11 and 12), the search for wisdom (Solomon, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), and injustice (Joseph, Genesis 37-50), to mention just a few. And they are backed up by historical facts and records, not easily dismissed as “cleverly devised tales,” as some down through the ages would have us believe.

The great writer and Christian apologetic G. K. Chesterton, in his book What’s Wrong with the World (published in 1910—see, even back then people despaired of humanity!), wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried” (p. 48).

And that’s the disconnect in a nutshell: it’s much easier to give a mere tip of the hat to God’s stipulations on how we are to live, than to invest the time and discipline to follow them; less demanding and much more comfortable to cobble together our own system of shifting truth and values, than to abide by someone else’s unchangeable truth, no matter who He claims He is. Especially when the world doesn’t encourage you to do so.

We can’t fully appreciate and enjoy the parks unless we spend time in them, exploring their paths and learning their history. Only then can we understand their enduring relevancy.

The same is true of our relationship with God. If there’s one thing I’d like to impress upon every teen and young adult, it’s this: Scripture has stood the test of time. It’s the only path to a personal connection that’s guaranteed to last into eternity.

I’ve tried it, and I’ve never found it wanting.

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