Lift Your Eyes

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Certain responses we make to varying situations have become so overused that they have lost their significance.

“How are you?” “Fine.” But are you?

“How’s your food?” “Very good.” But is it?

“I’m really troubled and hurting?” “I will pray for you.” But will you?

Our responses to questions have become trite. They are meaningless. We should call them lies, but we justify them as polite.

In the previous five chapters of the Gospel of John, Jesus informed His disciples that they were going to experience pain and hardship as His followers. He knew they were confused. He knows they would soon be hurting. So what does He do? He prays for them.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father…”

In the face of impending personal suffering, Jesus prays for His disciples to be unified, strong, courageous, faithful, and united. He prays the same for all of us. When it seemed to the disciples like all was lost, Jesus gave them the greatest gift He could have given – the Father’s heart.

When you are faced with hardships and hurts, do what Jesus did – PRAY.

When your friends and family are suffering, do what Jesus did – PRAY FOR THEM.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

“To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! 2  Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.”  Psalm 123:1-2

Don’t let your promise to pray become meaningless.

Pastor John

REWARDS

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Last Saturday was the fishing opener in Wisconsin. It was a good opportunity to go camping with my two sons and their families. We spent the weekend at a county campground and had a wonderful time.

On Sunday I made the trip into town to preach at Calvary. I was accompanied by my wife and one of our grandchildren who had made a commitment to serve in Children’s Ministry during the worship service. I was so impressed and blessed to see my grandson give up a whole morning of fishing and fun at the campground to serve Jesus Christ. It spoke volumes about the priorities that are already established in this young man.

After the service was over, on our way back to the campground, i made a detour through a Culver’s drive through and bought him lunch and dessert. It was a teachable moment about the joy our Heavenly Father expresses to us by rewarding us for faithfulness. Our Father loves to be generous to us. I explained to him how rewards are never to be our motivation for serving, but love is what compels us. But it was obvious by his surprise at the reward that he was already choosing to serve for the right reasons. We had a great talk about our perfect loving Father in heaven who loves to bring us joy by rewarding us for humble service to Him.

Take some time today and reflect on how the Father is currently rewarding you for faithful service. Your heart will be filled with joy. That’s what the Father wants.


Pastor John

OVERCOMERS

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 29, 2021

In the 1970’s an investment company marketed their services by promoting their leader as someone who spoke with knowledge, wisdom, and authority. The theme of every television commercial was this: “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

I’m usually not at a loss for words. However, when the Word of God speaks, I listen. Jesus made a statement in John 16:33 that needs no explanation, just validation from other verses of Scripture. Let the Word of God speak…and listen to it.

Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

(John 16:33 ; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4-5; Romans 8:35-39; Galatians 1:3-5)

Now, go and overcome the world. The victory is already yours.

Pastor John

THE JOY OF PRAYER

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/THE-JOY-OF-PRAYER-evr5ht

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

It didn’t happen often, but it didn’t need to for me to learn that my brother had more pull with dad than I did. My next younger brother had a way with dad. I would see him push limits and get out of punishments, all because of his sense of humor. He had an in with our father that I didn’t. If I wanted something, I had a better chance of getting it if my brother was my mediator.

Jesus has been teaching His disciples that they could pray and ask for anything in His Name and He would do it for them. The validation for prayer is that Jesus and the Father are one, so what they ask of Jesus they receive from Jesus because He and the Father are always in agreement.

Now, to give them the full understanding of prayer, Jesus helps the disciples understand that when they pray they are talking directly to the Father and the Father is the One answering the prayer on behalf of Jesus.  

John 16:23  “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

There is much theological depth in what Jesus says. But here is a simple truth that encourages me: I no longer need a brother to help me get what I want from the Father.

Jesus is my eternal mediator based on His death and resurrection. He has redeemed me and reconciled me to God.

The Holy Spirit is my eternal Mentor. When I pray, the Holy Spirit initiates my requests so they are in agreement with Jesus.

I can make my requests directly to the Father. My requests will agree with Jesus because I ask according to the desires given to me by the Holy Spirit. The Father hears the requests through the Son who sits next to Him on the throne.  The Father answers my prayers for His own glory and the glory of His Son.

As the Father answers, the Holy Spirit fills me with joy.

It is thrilling to pray with an understanding that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in perfect agreement in accomplishing their will in my life. And when I pray in this way, I am overwhelmed with joy knowing that I am in agreement with Them.

Pastor John

Overcoming Sorrow

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/Overcoming-Sorrow-evom5l

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I had a lot of time to prepare, but it didn’t help. When the day finally came, I was overwhelmed with sorrow.

It was the summer of 1967, and my parents informed us that we had to pack all our belongings and move into a small cabin beside a lake. That part was fun, but nothing else about what was happening provided any pleasure for me. I was told we would be living in that cabin until my dad could find another job.

When September came, and school started, we were still in the cabin. It was not heated, and it was getting cold, especially at night. Then the day arrived that I was informed that we were moving in two weeks.  The next day I had to tell all my friends at school that I was leaving. I will never forget the pain of those days.

I cried myself to sleep the night before we got in the car for the long drive from Oscoda, Michigan to St. Paul, Minnesota. If not for time and a backward look at what happened later, I might never have recovered emotionally. But now, looking back, I can see the things God did in my life. And with social media, I am reconnected with many of those friends.

But when it was happening, I was so overwhelmed with sorrow that I couldn’t see anything else. I should have asked more questions about the decisions that were being made. I especially wish I would have asked the why and where questions. But sorrow clouded my judgment.

As He discusses the future with His disciples, Jesus seems a little surprised that they are not asking Him more questions about what He is telling them. He recognizes that sorrow has filled their hearts. In John sixteen Jesus says, But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”(John 16:5-6)

The sorrows of life can be overwhelming. They can limit or even eliminate our ability to see the good that God has designed to come from them.

People leaving and leaving people causes heartache that keeps us from seeing the potential for personal growth through new relationships.

Terminal illnesses overwhelm us with grief so we lose sight of the eternal healing that is ahead.

Personal failures drive us into depression and self-condemnation, keeping us from embracing the power of recovery and future success.

When we focus only on the loss we are experiencing, we are desperately sad. But when we see past the sorrow by asking the right questions, we begin to hope again, and hope brings healing.

If the disciples had only asked Jesus why He was leaving and where He was going, He would have told them. But they didn’t, and their hearts were overwhelmed with sorrow. It is not wrong to ask Jesus questions. He wants to provide you the comfort and hope you need to keep going.

Pastor John

FALLING

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/FALLING-evm8lo

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, April 26, 2021

Many years ago, when the kids were young, our family went roller skating with some good friends. We had a blast skating as fast as we could around the oval.  Some of us were even good enough to go backwards. And nobody crashed. That is until they turned the lights off and shined spotlights on a big ball in the ceiling. The ball was covered in tiny mirrors, all placed at different angles, so tiny beams of light shined all over the skating rink. Then they spun the ball.

As I skated around the circle, my best friend was behind me. My eyes were focused on the moving dots of light on the floor.  My head started spinning with the dots. It only took about fifteen seconds and I crashed to the floor. I had totally lost my sense of equilibrium. I could not stand up.  It was as if the music had stopped and all I could hear was my friend laughing hysterically.  All I could do was laugh with him as I crawled to the carpeted sitting area and sat out the rest of that song.

No one told me to keep my eyes up and not watch the spinning lights on the floor.  No one gave me the information I needed to keep me from falling.

I am so thankful that Jesus has given us the information we need to keep us from falling. The sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of John starts with these words of Jesus.

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”  John 16:1

Isn’t that amazing? Jesus has told us everything we need to know to keep us from falling?  

He told us that He’s going to prepare a place for us and will come and get us and take us there.  We have an eternal treasure waiting for us so we don’t fall into the pit of materialism. 

Jesus informed us that He would come and live inside of us in the power of the Holy Spirit. With His presence in us we won’t fall flat on our faces in despair but will have the Peace of God that passes all understanding. 

We learned from Jesus that when we abide in Him we will bear much fruit that brings glory to God. Knowing that we a producing fruit for Jesus keeps us from falling into the pothole of pity where we question our purpose for living.

Jesus also told us that His presence in our lives will keep us from being discouraged when we are misunderstood, rejected, and hated by the world. With our eyes fixed on Him we will not become disillusioned or disoriented by the world spinning around us, and we will not fall. 

Jesus does not want us to fall. His Words have given us everything we need to stay standing, even when the world around us seems to be spinning out of control.

One of my favorite Bible verse applies very well to what Jesus said.  It’s found in Jude’s little letter to us. 

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”  Jude 1:24-25

Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t focus on what’s spinning around you. Jesus won’t let you fall.

Pastor John

LEVEL AND PACKED

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/LEVEL-AND-PACKED-evg9rd

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, April 23, 2021

On Wednesday afternoon I enjoyed four hours of relaxation driving a piece of machinery. I was working to level off a sloped parking area next to my driveway so my camper could be parked there. I used the skid steer to dig into the high spots and move the dirt to the low spots while still maintaining access to the area from my driveway.  To my surprise, when I got done, it looked pretty good. It was even level.

But it’s not ready for use yet. The repositioned fill is now soft and needs to be compacted. So today I will use another piece of equipment and pack it down so it stays in place when I drive on it. For the spot to stay level, the gravel must stay in place.

Here’s a simple lesson I learned from this project. God is constantly reshaping my life so it is level. But for it to remain level, He must pack down what has been moved. He does so by going over and over and over the spots that were repaired until they don’t move anymore. He turns what was once shifting sand into solid rock.

Having my life stomped on is not fun. But God isn’t really stomping. He’s pressing into place the things necessary to give me a solid foundation upon which to park the other aspects of my life. But if the foundation isn’t secure, everything I park there will become unlevel and unstable. So I embrace the Holy Spirit’s leveling off of truth and packing it into my life.

Sometimes I make it hard for Him because I like the high spots I’ve built. I resist letting them be torn down. But He is faithful, and patiently, inch by inch, cuts away the surface and exposes solid rock. He is improving me and making me more useful.

Now, every time I see an earth mover, whether it be a small skid steer or a massive digger, I will think of how the Lord is shaping and leveling my life to form a firm foundation of truth.

Pastor John

Idolatry

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/Idolatry-eve2s9

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, April 22, 2021

We are all fixers. We all believe, to varying degrees, that we have the answers. We seek to influence people with our understanding because we believe our way is the best way. We take public stands on issues and become vocal about the correctness of our views, even to the point of condemning the views of others. We invest massive amounts of intellectual energy into proving our positions. There is a deep need in all of us to validate ourselves, and we do it by making sure that others know we are right. In essence, we have declared ourselves to be God.

The prophet Hosea in the Old Testament spoke to this very issue. It was during an historical period in Israel when the nation was deeply distressed. They were spiritually and morally bankrupt. Four kings had been assassinated by their successors. Sin was rampant, and people had turned to worshipping false gods. Yet Hosea told the people that restoration was possible if the people would repent and turn back to God.

In Hosea’s final message to the people, he reminds us of the biggest idol we all have. It is the hardest idol to tear down. It is the idol of trusting ourselves. Here are God’s words to His people.

Hosea 14:3  “…we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.”

Recently I had the opportunity to help someone recognize this idol in their own life. He made it clear that he could not accept a gift from anyone. Anything of lasting value in his life had to be done by the work of his own hands. I praise God that he recognized this as an idol that kept him from the gift of salvation, and he repented.

Then I wondered, for myself and for all of you, what works of our hands do we still worshipped as a god?

Have your political views and activism become the way you validate yourself? Then they are your god.

Has your career become the way you earn acceptance with others and declare yourself good? Then it is your god.

Are your financial resources and your possessions the way you measure success? Then they are your god.

Is your pursuit of pleasure the way you compensate for your sense of worthlessness? Then it is your god.

Do you seek to control every aspect of your life because you are the master of your own destiny? Then you are your own god.

It’s no wonder our nation is decaying. The people who make up the nation have replaced the One True God with the work of their own hands. So long as we believe that we can fix it, we will continue to decay and eventually die. Our only hope is that each of us repents of our idolatry and returns to God through Jesus Christ.

No longer will we call the works of our hands our god. We repent of self-fulfillment, self-validation, self-acceptance, and self-worth. No longer will they be our gods. And when we repent, God will restore. He says, “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.”  (Hosea 14:4)

Pastor John

BREATH OF LIFE

https://anchor.fm/pastor-john-van-gorkom/episodes/BREATH-OF-LIFE-evbbfn

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

It was the scariest thing I ever did. I had visions of being a champion, but ended up gasping for breath and nearly drowning.

It all happened at Trout Lake Bible Camp in Minnesota when I was a freshman in High School. The music director for the week had issued a challenge. As a professional singer he could hold his breath for a long time. He proved it by diving off the large raft in the deep water and swimming under water toward shore. Then he posted a flag where he had surfaced for air. He would award five dollars to any camper who could pass his flag.

I took the challenge. I knew I could beat it. In fact, I practiced two times and beat it both times. Then came the official race. The music director stood on the dock near his flag, and I swam out to the raft. After a short rest, I started my deep breathing exercises. When I was ready, I took a large breath and dove in.

I was doing very well until I realized I had drifted left too far and came up against another large raft that was halfway to my goal. I made a decision. A very poor decision. I saw that the support braces were sufficiently high off the bottom of the lake to allow me to swim underneath, so I did. After two more strokes I came to the raft’s center braces. There was less clearance. The lake was getting shallower. I went under again. But when I got to the final braces, there was not enough room for me to exit. I was trapped.

I turned around and went back the way I came. I made it under the center braces. When I got to the deep end braces my lungs were pounding. I wondered if I would pass out. As I struggled upward, and my head broke the surface I expelled all the built-up carbon dioxide from my lungs and gasped for a breath of air. I was alive. Then, over to my right, I heard the music director shout, “Nice try, John.”

I never told him what happened. I asked for another chance and he refused. I was heartbroken. But I was glad to be alive.

I will never forget the feeling of desperately needing a breath of air. Every part of my being was focused on getting it. When it was finally available to me, I expelled everything I could that kept me from taking in what I needed.

What would our lives be like if that’s how we pursued the filling of the Holy Spirit?

Pastor John