Don’t Pet the Shark

One of the best things that happens in July is the Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week, where every program is devoted to sharks. Shark movies, shark documentaries, shows that explore how sharks react in certain situations, (and the divers demonstrate each one with live sharks….anything for ratings!) shark commercials, shark talk shows…it’s a sharkapalooza.

This year the Outer Banks was treated to a visit by the Shark Week Blimp flying overhead. Just in case you weren’t concerned enough about sharks in the water, now we have one in the sky!

I watched a show where a diver demonstrated where you can touch a shark and where you can’t. (Ummmm….just don’t touch the shark??) Our fascination with sharks fuels this entire industry. Shark attacks are on the rise. Sharks are not our natural predators, but we are increasingly getting into their habitats with disregard to our safety.

Here are a few tips from Shark Week:

If you fall off your paddle board near a shark, don’t thrash around. Stay very still (because that would feel so natural) and ease your way back on the board. Be cool. Betsy’s pro tip: to be even smarter: don’t paddle board in shark-infested water.

Don’t bring your iphone or iWatch into the water. Your electronics attract the sharks and they will approach you to ask to make a phone call or have a selfie taken with you. Betsy’s pro tip: just don’t bring your electronics in the the water, DUH.

If you encounter a shark in the wild, don’t reach out and touch it. If it comes for you anyway, touch it on the top of the snout and gently redirect it. But don’t touch it under the nose, or he will automatically open his jaws and eat you. Betsy’s pro tip: don’t pet the sharks.

Sharks have excellent hearing, but they don’t like heavy metal bands or the sound of a camera flash going off. This was scientifically proven this week. One last pro tip: next time you go surfing, invite Iron Maiden along.

Follow me for more pro tips!

Now while there are no stories in the Bible involving sharks, there is a pretty cool story about a whale and a man named Jonah. Jonah was an Israelite whom God had called to be a prophet. Jonah didn’t want to be a prophet, so he went on a sea cruise instead. God then raised a great storm to get Jonah’s attention. The sailors, realizing that Jonah’s disobedience had caused the storm, threw him overboard to try and save their ship. He was swallowed by a whale and lived for three days inside the creature, after which the fish “vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” Thankful that his life had been spared, Jonah took up his prophetic mission:

Jonah 3 New International Version (NIV)

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

So here are three lessons from Jonah:

You can run from God, but you can’t hide.

God’s call may be hard, but it may also save lives (including your own).

God is a God of second chances.

Think about that today. Where is God calling you to do something difficult? Are you running? Or maybe you are in a dark fish-belly of disobedience and you’re sick and tired of the smell. Do you need a do-over? We serve a God of second chances. You get to come out and try again, this time with the power of the Holy Spirit helping you to make it.

God’s message to us today is that he is bigger than the shark, bigger than the whale, and bigger than anything this world has thrown at us to keep us down. He is a 24/7 God who is actively working to bring us to wholeness through joyful obedience and second chances.

Rise up, people. Our deliverer is here.

Look UP! By Karen Bacon

Speaking Truth to Weakness

My Dad had a saying that I learned to reject at a young age. To set the context, my father grew up as the son of a Pennsylvania State prison guard. His family struggled mightily during the depression and its aftermath. Dad was the oldest of four and had to take responsibility for two very squirrley brothers and a much younger sister. There was trouble in the house most nights, and his father was a stern man.

And so when things would happen in the news that spoke of trouble somewhere, my father would sigh, lean back in his recliner, and say, “Well, that figures. People are basically rotten,” in his best Archie Bunker voice. I don’t know that he truly believed that, but as the son of a prison guard, I imagine he heard a lot of that growing up.

I don’t believe people are basically rotten, but I do think we are all basically weak in the face of temptation. Sometimes God raises up people to speak truth to that weakness, and it is never an easy task. Think of a time when you had to confront someone about a negative behavior or action. Most of us would rather run away than have a confrontation with someone, especially someone we love.

In our passage today, we see Jonah at the end of his trial. He has run away from God, been thrown overboard from a ship, and has suffered being regurgitated by a whale at this point. God gives him a second chance to speak truth to weakness, and this time, he is obedient to that uncomfortable task.

Jonah 3 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

2 “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”

3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.

4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

What Jonah learned is that when God speaks, people listen. If the message is the true word of God, truth prevails. Where we go wrong is when we insert ourselves, our opinions, our preferences, and our interpretations into his message. There is very little “pure word of God” to be found these days. This is why it is critical for us to read directly from Scripture every day.

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

Where is God calling you to speak truth to weakness? Is someone in jeopardy of losing their soul or their life by practicing a destructive behavior? Is someone cheating, lying, or stealing right in front of you? What is God telling you to say?

Jonah reminds us that when God gives us a directive, he also gives us the proper way to deliver it. If you are in this situation, pray hard, walk softly, and keep discerning God’s will as you speak truth to weakness. If you are confronting an addict, you know how hard this is. At some point, God may tell you its OK for you to walk away for awhile. Be sure to walk straight to your prayer closet.

In any case, always make sure you pepper your message with love as you walk toward your Nineveh. In the fullness of time, God’s word will be heard.

Shipwreck Remains