March 7, 2011

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, [saying], “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water…But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9

Get ready to have a better experience at Yosemite.

If the number of annual visitors to the national park continues on its upward trend, it just might reach the benchmark figure of 4 million for 2010 (final statistics are not in yet). Nearly half of the visitors come during June, July and August, and the most popular place they go is Yosemite Valley, where Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls are located.

The 4,000,000 mark hasn’t been reached since the mid-1990s. Back then, park officials simply closed the gates when there were too many cars. Then the park began using summer staff, mostly young people employed only for the peak summer months, to guide motorists to parking and help them find less congested areas to visit.

This year, a new $1.2 million traffic-tracking system will be introduced. Underground sensors at park gates and an extensive computer network will send out constant updates on crowded areas. Visitors can get the updates via cell phone or online. Park personnel also will be able to project traffic flow and anticipate when the number of visitors peak at certain spots, and direct people accordingly.

Oh, the crowds will still be there. It’s not like this new system will keep them away. The National Park Service doesn’t want to keep anyone out anyway; they just want to manage the crowds better. It’s all about finding balance between accessibility and environmental impact, about meeting the needs of today’s Yosemite visitors while preserving the park for generations to come.

The here-and-now versus the future: isn’t that the dilemma we face every day, sometimes every minute? We try to figure out how much money to spend for our daily requirements and wants, and how much to save for retirement. We debate enjoying dessert after dinner over how that will impact the number on the scale if we keep it up. We vascillate between doing something now or leaving it for later. The decisions we make range from inconsequential (“I’ll do the dishes in the morning”) to life-threatening (“I’m too afraid of what these symptoms mean to schedule a doctor’s appointment”).

This spills over into our spiritual life as well. Consider these phrases:

–“I believe there’s a God, but I’m not ready to get serious about religion just yet.”

–“I’m a good person, and I think God will let me into heaven when my time comes.”

–“Who really knows what will happen after I die—might as well live it up while I’m here on earth!”

–“I’m not sure all that stuff in the Bible is true—I’ll just take my chances.”

These statements—and others like them—gamble today on what will take place tomorrow. They’re indicative of an indifferent roll of the dice against an unknown future.

No, we don’t always know what tomorrow will bring, and yet we must do some planning for it today. That takes time and resources, but most of all, thought.

So let me ask you: have you prepared for your life after death? I guarantee you, it’s going to be much longer than the time you’ve had on earth. And on what or on whom are you basing your preparations?

I’ll be frank: if you’re basing eternity on fuzzy feelings and a vague hope that it will all work out well in the end, then you’re not any more prepared than the Park Service would be if it ignored its hordes of summer tourists.

Years ago, I read a saying that stuck with me: heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. In John 14, Jesus said He’s got it all ready, and even gave us directions how to get there (vs. 1-6).

He also said that hell is just as real. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 gives a vivid description—conscious existence in torment and agony, forever separated from God, with no do-over.

If you haven’t settled your eternal destiny, please do, right now. I’m not asking you to jump in blindly. Faith requires critical thinking. Study the Bible: don’t just read about it, but go to the Book itself. It can stand up to the scrutiny.

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20).

And don’t worry about crowd control. Heaven has room enough for us all.

One comment

  1. Sara Harless says:

    AMEN!!! Last week a young protestant pastor told me that it was not “ecumenical” to tell people that belief in Jesus as Savior is the only way to heaven. Another friend, also a former seminarian, explained that the more you study theology, the less sure you are about anything. At the moment I am in the midst of several life “storms.” Praise God I am Theology-poor and Scripture-rich!

Leave a Reply