Alive! Inside and Out by Larry Refsland
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Outside appearances may not really tell the true story. I remember seeing an article in one of the gossip magazines entitled, “How I Shot a Bear Blindfolded.” That was the title, but the story was more along the lines of, “How that bear got to be blindfolded, I’ll never know!”
Sometimes it pays to look a little deeper than our first impressions. We’ve all seen fallen trees after a storm. Sometimes we’re surprised to see what we thought was a healthy tree broken in two by strong winds. Upon closer examination, the signs of disease and decay show why the tree couldn’t stand against the storm.
Many of us are like that tree. We look good on the outside, we seem to have our lives together; but inside we are hurting or lonely or afraid. The Bible reminds us that even though we look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart. You can’t fool God. He knows we need inner strength and peace.
For me, it’s great to know I can be real with God. I don’t have to hide anything from Him. I can openly share my feelings and frustrations with Him. I find when I tell Him how I really am doing, He comes and gives me peace and hope. As it says in Psalm 30:11, he turns my mourning into dancing, and in Isaiah 61:3, He exchanges my spirit of heaviness for a feeling of praise.
Be real with God today and let Him strengthen your inner being.
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Under Construction by Larry Refsland
It’s exciting to watch a building under construction as it takes shape. I can’t wait to see how it turns out! It’s impossible to tell from a pile of lumber what the finished product will look like or what the structure will be used for. The further along the building is, the more evident the purpose and design becomes.
Each of us is like a pile of raw building material. Jesus Christ is the master builder. He has a plan—a blueprint for our lives. The Bible teaches us that if we want the finished product to stand against the storms of life, we must build our lives on a sure foundation. That foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus told a story of a foolish man who built his house upon the sand and a wise man who built his house on the rock. He said, “When the storms came, the foolish man’s house was destroyed but the wise man’s house stood firm.”
No one escapes the storms of life. Bad things happen to all people. The question is, will your house stand? Does it have a firm foundation? As we make Christ the foundation, he puts us together as a master builder and makes us into a building he can use.
“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until He comes” (Philippians 1:6). In other words, once he’s started building you, he keeps perfecting the work throughout our entire lives. One song-writer put it like this: “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be; It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient he must be, He’s still working on me.”
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Pouring concrete for a living is hard, physical work. But there’s a lesson in the mix for all of us. I’ve been doing concrete work since the late ‘70s and have learned every good foundation has the same basic components. First, It has to be formed properly. Second, the concrete must have the right mix of ingredients. And third, it must have a durable finish. Our lives are a lot like that concrete, and I don’t mean all mixed up and permanently set!
Concrete should be poured into forms. The forms give the concrete its shape until it cures and stays there on its own. God has a given us his word, the Bible, which gives us the form for our lives. It helps to shape us into the people he wants us to be. It sets the boundaries for our lives so that we don’t run all over the place like concrete poured on the ground with no forms.
The ingredients of our lives are the experiences we go through. God knows just the right amounts of joy and pain, hardship and prosperity that we need to make us strong and steady.
The finish is the part people see. 1 Samuel 16:7 records the Lord said to Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” God is more concerned with what’s under the surface—how our lives are formed, and how strong the mix is, than with outward beauty. Even so, he still takes the time to put an appropriate finish on us. He smoothes out the rough spots and gives us shine that reflects the strength he has given us deep inside. May He continue to build you up into a solid child of God.
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Have you ever watched a skilled potter form a hunk of clay into a pot or a jar? Fascinating to watch, the potter uses his or her hands to shape and mold the clay until it becomes something useful and attractive. Around and around goes the wheel, every turn giving the potter an opportunity to make another unique feature in the raw material. It’s important for the clay to be flexible. Once it hardens, its shape can’t be changed.
Just as the clay forms in the hands of the potter, the Lord is shaping us. He is the potter; we are the clay. He is forming us into a vessel with a special purpose. Just as a potter has an end product in mind as he starts to work the clay, so God has an end product in his mind for each of us. He’s making us into something he can use. The key is to stay flexible!
I used to have a sign in my office that said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Remembering that we are the clay means we don’t resist the shaping process God is taking us through. The clay doesn’t ask the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” We, as human clay, simply trust God, the Potter, to lovingly shape our lives. When we resist him, we are hardened and inflexible. We are saying, “We know better than the Potter.”
I encourage you to yield to the Potter’s hand today. Everyday is like a turn of the Potter’s wheel. He has a plan and purpose for you. It is a better plan than we could possibly attain on our own. Without him, you are just a lump of clay. With him, you become a one-of-a-kind vessel with purpose and strength.
Have you patched a bicycle inner tube lately? I remember getting my flat bicycle tires fixed as a kid. The repairman used “vulcanization”. This was way before Star Trek, so it had nothing to do with Dr. Spock. It was a process of attaching a rubber patch on the inner tube using glue and friction. He had this tool that resembled a spur that he ran back and forth over the patch to create friction and to completely secure the patch to the tube. If he skipped the friction, the chance of that patch holding for long wasn’t very good. The point is, that every strong bond has to have a little friction.
The same thing is true in our relationships. Whether it’s with your marriage, your work, or your kids, there’s going to be friction. The friction, or conflict, can either serve to create a stronger bond, or it can ruin them. It all depends on using the right “vulcanization” process.
Becoming skilled at resolving conflict is harder than learning to fix a flat, but the process is similar. First, identify the problem and focus on that. A tire may be in excellent condition otherwise. It’s just a small hole in one spot that’s causing the tire to go flat. Don’t try to fix places that are still in good shape!
Next, examine the extent of the damage and make sure the patch is adequate. A big conflict is going to take a larger patch and more effort to resolve than a small one. It may be helpful to get someone involved that knows how to fix flats. Sometimes, doing it on your own can just make it worse.
Remember, friction can be good. The bonds you form that become strongest are usually the result of some friction, not the lack of it. May all your relationships be airtight today!
One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. Some may think the movie is kind of corny, but the movie has a lot of good lines and it has a neat message of love conquering all. My favorite scene is when the main character, the Man in Black, has a swordfight with Inigo Montoya. Inigo is so confident of his own swordsmanship, he has predetermined to fight the Man in Black left-handed just to make the fight more of a contest. However, the Man in Black is an excellent fencer himself and tells Inigo, “You know I’m beating you.”
“Yes, I know,” says Inigo.
“Then why are you smiling?” asks the Man in Black.
“Because,” he replies, “I know something you do not know.”
“What’s that?” asks the Man in Black.
“I am not left-handed!” he declares. And then he switches hands to continue the duel with his better hand. Of course, the Man in Black was also fighting with his left hand and announced he was not left-handed either!
We also can have this inner confidence in the midst of adversity in our lives. When the enemy presses in and mounts his attack against our health, or finances or relationships, we can have an inner joy that says, “I know something you do not know! I have strength you can not beat!”
It is written in Philippians 4:13, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Christ gives us the inner strength and peace to fight on and win. He is our secret weapon. We need not go through the battle of life depending only on our own strength. That would be like sword fighting with your weaker hand. Go to the one who has promised to be your shield and defender, your strong right hand. And then you can smile in the face of adversity as you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you and protect you and give you victory!
Tune Up Your Life!
Our hope is that you will find encouragement from the brief but thoughtful (and sometimes humorous) musings of Pastor Larry.
Take East of Backus on Hwy 87 to Cass County 49. Take 49 to Shortcut Rd and then left on 8th St NE to church.
You can also type in 812 8th St NE in Pine River, MN into your GPS, but if your GPS steers you differently, we recommend following the directions above.
Join Us Every Sunday
Interactive Bible Course – 2:00 pm
Fellowship and the Good News – 3:00 pm
For immediate requests, please contact Pastor Larry or Patti Refsland at 218-348-2202.