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Shark attack leaves victim with unexpected souvenir

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Riley Breihan estimates the size of the shark that attacked her in knee deep water off Ponce Inlet during an interview with WESH Channel 2 (Credit: WESH)

An 11-year-old girl who survived a shark attack this week will always have a memento of the encounter.  Riley Breihan was playing in knee-deep water in Daytona, Florida last Sunday when she was bitten twice by a shark.  When doctors inspected her wounds, they found a baby shark tooth in one of the bites.  Riley is keeping the tooth as a souvenir, but doesn’t plan on returning to the water any time soon.

Shark attacks have been much in the news lately.  A 16-year-old was attacked recently off Hawaii’s Big Island; a German woman lost her arm to a shark off a beach in Maui; a man lost part of his leg to a shark in the Bahamas; a shark attacked a kayak off a California beach.  Shark attacks make the news because of their “fright factor”—you don’t see them before they attack and are at risk any time you go into the ocean.

Of course, you can always choose to stay out of the water.  Unfortunately, that only works with sharks.

Israelis are picking up government-issued gas masks in case the U.S. attacks Syria and the Assad regime retaliates against their country.  As President Obama continues making the case for taking action against Syria, some in Congress are demanding that he seek congressional approval first.  Meanwhile, the Yosemite wildfire has cost nearly $40 million so far and burned an area larger than Chicago or San Francisco.  And nine million Americans are using prescription sleeping pills, as sleep disorders are becoming more prevalent than ever before.

What fears worry you most this morning?  What sharks in the water are you afraid of?  Experts say that 60 percent of the things we fear will never take place.  That’s not entirely comforting, if it means that 40 percent will.  Our materialistic, secular culture seeks safety in financial and physical security.  How’s that working for us?

Scripture says that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).  How do we experience that “power and love and self-control” when we need it most?

Mortimer J. Adler developed the Great Books of the Western World and edited the Encyclopedia Britannica.  One of the great intellectuals of the 20th century, he became a Christian in 1984 at the age of 82.  He once told a congregation, “We have a logical, consistent faith.  In fact, I believe Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world.  But there are elements to it that can only be described as mystery.”

Faith, like any other decision, requires a commitment that transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating.  So name your fear.  Examine it in the light of Scripture and reason.  Then give it to God, asking him to “supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  Your faith will position you to receive all that his grace intends to give.

It is safe in the water only when God is your lifeguard.