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Zoo animals escaped during floods in Tbilisi, Georgia

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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People assist a hippopotamus that has been shot with a tranquilizer dart after it escaped from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Tinatin Kiguradze)

Flooding this past weekend in the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia (pronounced ‘tee-bee-ill-iss-ee’) created a tragic and chaotic environment for residents. The nation’s capital experienced massive flooding after torrential rains and winds turned the Vere, a small stream that runs through the city, into a surging river. Homes and other buildings were damaged and 12 people lost their lives with dozens more still missing.

However, the situation only became more surreal when the flood waters damaged the local zoo. It is estimated that around half of the zoo’s 600 mammals, fish, and birds escaped as a result of the flood. Many have been captured or, sadly, killed, but there are still more on the loose. While the birds and fish pose little threat and are unlikely to be found, the city is more concerned with the tigers, lions, bears, wolves, and hippopotamus that have also escaped.

For its part, the government has warned the roughly 1.1 million residents of Tbilisi to stay inside until the situation is under control. However, many are curious and have ignored those instructions. I can’t say that I blame them as it’s not every day that you see a giant hippo walking down the street or a hyena running around a university campus. But, as Paul Rimple, a Tbilisi based journalist, recently said, the danger is real and “Until someone gets mauled or killed, no one’s going to panic.”

Rimple is probably right. The allure of the unknown and the mysterious can be difficult to resist. It’s what makes people wade out into flooded streets in order to catch a glimpse of a creature they would normally only want to see from a safe distance behind a very large fence. And, from a spiritual perspective, it’s what makes us willing to test the boundaries between sin and the safe ground in our walk with God. Our fallen natures exhibit an incessant desire to see just how close we can get before we cross the line.

Ancient Israel made a habit out of walking that line with the result that the boundary blurred to the point that they no longer understood what was right and what was wrong. God sent many prophets to try and draw them back to a right relationship with himself but, more often than not, they failed to listen. Amos was one such prophet and his advice was timely not only for Israel but for us today as well: “Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed” (Amos 5:14, NLT).

God stands ready to be our advocate and, if we’ll let him, our fence between the dangerous temptations that will inevitably come our way and the safety of his will. As James warns, some of those temptations will come as a result of our own desires (James 1:13-14). These are the sins that we must take extra precaution to avoid and keep at a safe distance.
 
However, there may also be times where God’s will leads us precariously close to temptation. In that same passage, James assures us that God does not tempt us but the fact remains that when you are doing his work, the evil one and true author of temptation is not going to like it. Satan would love nothing more than for Christians to stumble in the course of doing God’s will, which is why it is all the more important that we work in God’s strength rather than our own.

What uncaged temptations are walking down the streets of your life today? Have you claimed God’s help in doing what is good and running from evil? Whether they are the result of your fallen desires or Satan’s attacks, you will never come across a temptation that you can’t beat with God’s help or one that doesn’t have the potential to beat you without that help. That truth has been proven reliable by God’s word and our experience, yet it is a lesson we tend to forget when the next enticement comes our way. Why do you need that reminder today?