'Toothpaste terrorism' at the Winter Olympics

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‘Toothpaste terrorism’ at the Winter Olympics

February 7, 2014 -

The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are continuing through February 23.  While all eyes should be on today’s opening ceremony, the world’s attention is focused instead on terrorism threats.  The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee warned Wednesday night that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes, then used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi.

Russian transportation officials have already banned liquids in airline carry-on luggage.  Now authorities in the U.S. and Europe will clamp down on toothpaste and cosmetics as well.  Such explosives have been a problem for years: a time bomb concealed in a tube of Colgate toothpaste brought down a Cuban airplane in 1976, killing 76 people.  In 1989, a five-year-old girl lost four fingers in a Kmart store when she picked up a toothpaste container which exploded.

When toothpaste can be made into bombs, what can’t be used to hurt us?  We’re not safe at home—more accidents happen there than anywhere else.  We’re not safe in our cars—more than 34,000 Americans died in their vehicles last year.  We’re not safe at work, a fact 9/11 proved.  We’re not even safe in our churches—75 deaths from attacks at faith-based organizations occurred in 2012.

In a world where terrorism makes headlines each day, where do we turn for security?

I was reading Job 4 recently and found this statement by Eliphaz to his suffering friend: “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” (v. 6).  This ancient theology is still conventional wisdom today.  Our culture embraces a transactional religion we learned from the Greeks, who sacrificed to the gods so the gods would do what the people wanted.  Many of us go to church on Sunday so God will bless us on Monday.  We give money so God will bless our money.  We start the day with a devotional time so God will bless our day.

In so doing, we have confidence in our confidence in God, faith in our faith.  But when suffering strikes, our foundation crumbles and our house of cards falls.  I believe that one reason many people turn from God when they face tragedy is that they were not really turned to him before it came.  They had faith in their faith, trusting in a religion more than a relationship.

Philosopher Dallas Willard claimed that “nothing irredeemable has happened to us or can happen to us on our way to our destiny in God’s full world.”  One way God redeems all he allows is by using suffering to turn us from ourselves to the only sure Source of hope.  Paul could testify that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  Why?  Because “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18).

When we look to our unseen God, trusting fully in him, we can say with Martin Luther, “Affliction is the best book in my library.”  What has that book taught you lately?

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