Refrigerator Magnet Theology

refrigerator magnet
How many magnets grace the front of your refrigerator? One? Five? Twelve?

Refrigerator magnets can be silly, serious, or snarky. They can be cute, corny, or classy.

Refrigerator magnets have also generated much theology that sounds good…but isn’t.

Consider these catchy quotes:

  • God never gives us more than we can handle.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
  • We’re all God’s children.

Phrases passed down from generation to generation. Easily remembered sound bites with a whisper of biblical wisdom and a hint of Christianity…and a bucketful of error.

Let’s look at these four examples:

God never gives us more than we can handle.

This probably originated with II Corinthians 10:13:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (NIV).

As you can see, the context of this verse is temptation. God always provides a way for us to stand against temptation. But what about other life experiences? Let’s face it, most of us have experienced situations way beyond what we can handle on our own. The key in that last sentence is the phrase “on our own.”

We live in a fallen, sin-sick world. Tragedy strikes. Suffering happens. Betrayal blindsides us. Most of the time, it is indeed more than we can handle on our own.

But Christians are never “on our own.” We have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us to strengthen, guide, and give wisdom. When God allows us to experience more than we can handle ourselves, it’s an invitation to run to the One who provides what we need when we depend on Him.

 

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

This phrase probably developed in response to all the Bible verses that reference being cleansed—verses such as:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NASB).

and

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NASB).

But once again, if we examine the context, we’ll see these verses are talking about being cleansed from sin, not from physical dirt. (Although my mother may disagree!)

 

God helps those who help themselves.

This phrase does not appear anywhere in Scripture.

One of the biggest traps we can fall into spiritually is thinking that we must help ourselves before God will help us. The difference between Christianity and every other religion is that we cannot help ourselves into heaven. God has accomplished all that we need for our salvation. Consider Romans 5:6:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (NASB).

God helps the helpless!

 

We’re all God’s children.

This phrase is more wishful thinking than anything else, because John 1:12 tells us:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (NASB).

Becoming a child of God does not happen by physical birth, it happens when we receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. At that moment, we are adopted into God’s family. In case you think this verse is the only way that teaches this, consider Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (NASB).

We are all created by God for He is the One who gives physical life. Becoming a child of  God—being adopted into His family—comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s guard against believing a statement because it sounds good or because it has been passed down from generation to generation. A refrigerator magnet is not the best source for sound theology. Check it against God’s Word to know, beyond any doubt, what is truly true.


Does Our Communication Reflect Our Christian Identity?

maskWho are you?

Whoever you are, does your vocabulary reflect your identity?

Or are you masquerading as someone you’re not?

 

Lately, I’ve been hearing Christians say things such as:

  • Sending good thoughts your way.
  • What’s your sign?
  • Sending you good vibes.
  • You’re so lucky!
  • Bad karma will get him.

But what are we communicating? Does our communication reflect our Christian identity? Do these phrases convey our relationship with the sovereign God? Are we proclaiming our trust in Him or in cosmic coincidences? Do we expect good thoughts and good vibes to substitute for the Holy Spirit in accomplishing His work?

You might think I’m making a big deal about something that’s insignificant. The words may not be significant, but what they illustrate is definitely important.

If we’re not careful, the world’s philosophies and values can influence us in ways we don’t realize. The process starts slowly, with a change in the way we think about our life and circumstances. Then it moves into our words, and finally our deeds.

We let down our guard in the little things, thinking they’re not important anyway. It’s just harmless fun, isn’t it? Besides, don’t we have to relate to unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them?

As someone taught me many years ago, bad influences and habits begin with a toe-hold in our life. Then they grasp a foot-hold. And finally, the thing that started out as a little harmless fun—something we thought we could control—is now a stronghold that controls us.

I’ve often wondered why some Christians feel as though they have to fit into the world before they can share Christ with the world. The solution is not to offer a weak copy of the world. Neither is it to beat up unbelievers with a fire-and-brimstone message of hell and damnation.

The answer is to be true to who we are in Christ, while forming sincere relationships. People need to hear about the Savior. If our words are merely an imitation of what they already know, how will they learn what they don’t know?

Let’s communicate the truth in love, giving others what they need instead of what they already have.


Waiting in Hope…Even If

Waiting in Hope

Are you in God’s waiting room? Have you been praying for something, on hold for an answer, hoping for your circumstances to change?

I confess, waiting is not my favorite activity. And right now, I’m waiting for something especially critical…test results of a loved one’s cancer scan.

During this time of uncertainty, I started to wonder…is there a proper way for Christians to wait? Should we be doing something while we wait, or is waiting, well, just waiting?

For the Christian, waiting is not a passive experience. Even though this may sound contradictory, waiting is active.

Here are four things the Bible tells us to do while we wait on the Lord:

Do it with courage

Waiting takes courage. As Christians, we don’t cower in fear over what may happen. The future may be uncertain, but we belong to the One who not only knows the future, He holds it in the palm of His hand! David phrased it this way in Psalm 27:14 (ESV):

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

 

Stay in His Word

During times of waiting, we can be bombarded with advice that may sound good. It may even be what we want to hear. But if we’re not careful, we can be influenced by well-meaning advice that is not consistent with God’s Word. Use this time to soak in what God has said, both to be encouraged and to be prepared for whatever answer the Lord brings. As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 130:5-6 (ESV):

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

 

Wait in Silence

This one can be difficult for me. During our times of waiting, it’s easy for us to make our request the topic of conversation in every conversation! We whine about our pain, complain about the injustice, and throw ourselves pity parties. However, King David reminds us in Psalm 62:5 (ESV):

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our concern and ask for prayer. But it does mean that once we do, we should spend our time seeking God’s heart, growing in quiet intimacy with Him.

 

Persevere in Your Waiting

This one can also be difficult if we’re in an extended time of waiting.

During this time of waiting, do what the Lord has called you to do. Are you in ministry? Continue to serve. Are you working? Work heartily (Colossians 3:23). The prophet tells us in Hosea 12:6 (ESV):

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”

 

The answer will come. Still, it may not be the answer we want. That’s when we need to remember God is sovereign. Although our short-term circumstances might not appear so, He is always at work for our ultimate good and His eternal glory. As God’s children in Christ (John 1:12), we can rest in this assurance from the prophet Isaiah:

“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4 ESV).

 

Or, in the words of the group, Mercy Me:


A New Way to Express Kindness

kindnessKindness is a virtue most of us appreciate and many of us aspire to.

You may have heard about the practice of random acts of kindness. It supposedly began in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now there’s a new way to express kindness. Zachary Gibson started the Tiny Mailbox Project earlier this year. Gibson set a goal of 100 tiny mailboxes around Los Angeles earlier this year. But his idea has spread far beyond the city limits of LA.

The Tiny Mailbox Project provides the opportunity to be kind, one person at a time, without ever necessarily meeting the recipient of your kindness.

The concept is simple. Each mailbox contains an encouraging note along with several blank cards. The recipient takes the note, and leaves one for someone else.

In a recent interview, Gibson shared his belief that “trying to restore a little faith in humanity is a good thing.”

I confess, I don’t have much faith in humanity any more. The Bible tells us no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). Even if I didn’t believe what the Bible says, all I have to do is observe humanity in action.

Yet, just when it appears kindness has died out, it shows itself once again–this time in the midst of disaster. Hurricane Harvey is the worst weather event to hit Houston in 50 years. Still, it provided the backdrop for a massive, ongoing act of kindness on the part of furniture store owner, Jim McIngvale.

McIngvale has opened up his 2 showrooms for evacuees, without regard for his immediate profits. His daily losses are estimated at a minimum of $30,000 per day.

So what can professing Christians learn from Zachary Gibson and Jim McIngvale?

We know the Bible tells us kindness is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). This means that the more we surrender to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, the more kindness will mark our relationships.

Yet kindness has not marked our conversations and behavior very much in the area of politics or morality. Christians are known more for what we are against than what we are for. Many of us have lost the ability to stand firm for biblical values without trying to destroy those who disagree with us at the same time.

And along comes tiny mailboxes and a furniture store owner to remind us what kindness could look like if we stopped being belligerently self-righteous.

What would happen if Christians spoke the truth…in love (Ephesians 4:15)?

Or if we were so surrendered to the Holy Spirit that our “fruit” attracted those who are hungry for food that feeds the soul?

What would happen if being kind wasn’t just something we practiced with other Christians, but something we practiced regardless of the recipient?

Perhaps it’s time to find out. What do you think?


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