About Pastor John van Gorkom

Pastor John is the lead pastor of the Calvary Ministry Center in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Suffering Serves a Purpose So Rejoice!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Habakkuk 3:17 – 19 17Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.

Kids all go through the stage of asking “Why?” It’s healthy. It can also be irritating. Especially if the child is like one of my grandkids, who at two-and-a-half-year-old, drove his parents crazy. He has a mind that needs to know, and his response to every statement he hears was, “Why?” I mean EVERY statement. He did not accept “Because” as a sufficient answer. He had to hear a valid explanation.

We ask the same question of God about suffering. The fact that we are told in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” means that we must rejoice even when we suffer. “But why?” “Why are we suffering?” Why do I need to rejoice in it?”

We dealt yesterday with some of the reasons God gives us in His Word for suffering. Years ago, as I was writing on this subject, my wife called to inform me that we had water coming down the wall of the fireplace in our living room. Instant application opportunity for what I was studying. I had to go home and try to fix my roof in a rainstorm. I can’t remember if I rejoiced or not. But here are the lessons I learned.

Suffering is a test and proves the quality of our faith

  • 1 Peter 1:3 – 9 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,  5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  7These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Suffering brings the blessing of intimacy with Christ –

  • 1 Peter 4:12 – 16 12Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  13But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.  16However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 

Suffering reinforces the truth of our future reward –

  • Matthew 5:10 – 12 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Rejoice! God has a reason for the struggle you are going through, and the destination is worth the trip. In fact, the trip itself can be a blessing if you keep your heart focused on Him.

Pastor John

Passing the Test

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 16, 2018

Romans 5:3 – 5  3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  4perseverance, character; and character, hope.  5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Rejoicing when outcomes of our circumstances are positive is fairly easy for most of us. What hinders such rejoicing is the suffering we must endure until the outcome is realized. It gets hard some days to rejoice in the hope of glory when we are surrounded by hopeless gloom. The political situations of the world seem hopeless. Wars and terrorism abound, and there is no peace. The economic crunch we are experiencing seems hopeless. Rising prices and diminished supplies hurt our budgets, while 852 million people around the world go to bed hungry every night and one child dies of starvation every five seconds. The spiritual void that is growing in our society seems hopeless. Mankind continues to hope in their own ability fix everything. We are surrounded with hopeless gloom when we should be living in the hope of glory.

If hope seems to be waning in your life, and you long for it to be restored, there is a process for you. You may not like it, but it is how God has chosen to do it. When you ask for more hope, you may think you are asking for more help to resolve your current circumstances. But God knows that to produce more hope you must become more aware of the hopelessness of this life and the awesomeness of His grace to sustain you.

The process God has chosen for the restoration of hope begins with the realization that your focus has shifted from the eternal to the immediate. We expend too much time and energy on solutions to current situations, rather than in the development of character which comes by enduring them. Paul tells us that the production of hope begins with suffering, and that we should rejoice in the promise of God to bring about that outcome.

When we suffer we have two choices: seek to remove the cause of the suffering to bring immediate relief, or use the suffering to our advantage and become stronger. We must choose to trust that the long-range outcome God has designed will be more beneficial to us than the immediate relief. (Romans 8:18 says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.)

If we say we understand the sovereignty of God in all things, but seek to remove the cause of our suffering, we are really seeking to remove God. Those who demand solutions and seek the removal of all hurts and hardships are demonstrating a humanistic view of God and a weak faith in His nature and character. (A proper study of the book of Job would be beneficial to such people.) But those who submit to suffering with their hearts focused on the final outcome of glory, will be filled with hope that does not disappoint them, because God has poured out His love into them.

When we learn to accept suffering as the beginning point of hope, then we will learn perseverance, which will in turn produce character, which results in greater hope. Let me illustrate. In a few weeks school will begin, and students of all ages will be entering a new grade. I remember when I went from first grade to second grade and was scared silly because I had heard the fact that in second grade we had to start taking tests. We would be moving from the first-grade worksheets that we did together in class to the written testing of our personal knowledge of facts. I wanted out of there. This was suffering.

One day, the teacher, Miss Brown, gave us the scariest news I had ever heard: we were going to have a test on science – specifically the basics of atomic theory. Yes, I know this was second grade, but we were really advanced. I’m kidding! We just had to know some basic terms, like atom and molecule and electron and neutron. I listened hard in class as she explained all the terms to us. Then she handed out the test. I quickly filled in all the answers, thinking that if I took my time I might forget something. The next day she handed back the graded tests, and at the top was a big red “A”, with a note that said, “Great job, John!” Wow! I did it. And I had earned the approval of the teacher. My fear of passing was replaced with a hope of not only passing but of passing with honors.

When Paul says that perseverance produces character, this is exactly what he is describing. The word character is a translation of a Greek word that means to have been tested and approved. The suffering that we are enduring is designed by God to test us. To continue with the analogy of school, when we can show that we have learned what God intended for us to learn about His love, grace, faithfulness, power, provision, or other expression of his nature and glory, He stamps us with a grade and passes us on to the next subject. That stamp of passing is the substance of the word character.

When we seek to avoid the suffering and not take the tests, we are held back and don’t advance to the next grade. Life gets more hopeless because we have not endured the tests, and we begin to believe we will never be able to pass a test again. But when we endure the test and prove that we have learned what God is teaching us, we are stamped with His approval and filled with the hope of passing all tests with honor. That production of hope will not disappoint us, because it ends with our participation in the glory of God.

So, don’t skip class today because you’re afraid of failing the test. God’s tests are not designed to produce failure, but to prove you are a success. To make sure He does that, He poured out His love into your heart through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given you, to teach you all things and bring everything you have learned about God to your remembrance. (John 14:26) God guarantees that you will pass the test! You just have to decide to take it.

Pastor John

Rejoice in the Hope of Glory

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, July 13, 2018

Romans 5:2  …we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

I want to assure you that we are still studying the book of Philippians, and the reason we are is to discover the splendor of learning how to overflow with joy. For the next few days, based on Romans 5:1-11, I would like to really dive into what it means to rejoice in the Lord. We are about to discover three truths:

  1. We rejoice in the Hope of the Glory of God, not in this world and what it offers.
  2. We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that they develop Christ’s character within us.
  3. We rejoice in our relationship with Christ.

Let’s look at number one today. If we are going to be able to rejoice in the Lord, the first thing we must do is take our eyes off our immediate needs and focus our eyes on the future glory of God that has been promised to us.

In the book of Revelation, God’s great plan for the revealing of His eternal glory is described. On three separate occasions there is rejoicing as the plan is unveiled. Here they are:

  1. In Revelation 12, Satan is cast out of heaven after a war with Michael the archangel of God. Then a loud voice is heard from heaven saying, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! There is rejoicing in the glory of God revealed in the salvation of Jesus Christ, His power and authority over sin, and the coming kingdom of God on the earth. There is also rejoicing because the true followers of Jesus overcome Satan in their lives and are willing to go to death to stand for Christ, loving Him more than their own lives.
  2. In Revelation 18, as a part of God’s judgment of sin on the earth, the world’s political, economic and religious system is destroyed. When it is, those who had been deceived by false hope of what the world’s system offered will stand and say, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you!” As God’s glory is revealed, the importance of the world’s system is destroyed. As we live in the hope of God’s glory we become less dependent upon what the world offers by way of emotional, economic, or spiritual fulfillment.
  3. In Revelation 19, after sin has been judged and destroyed, it is time for the union of Jesus Christ with His bride the church for all eternity. Now we hear a multitude of voices shouting, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” All of heaven rejoices because we have been found faithful and been kept pure, so that we can be united with Christ forever. God’s glory is revealed in the completion of the work He began in us when He saved us. He completes that work when He presents us to His Son as His bride, and we fully and eternally submit to His authority in all things. Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!

My friends, how can we resist rejoicing when we know what the future holds? There is only one possible reason we resist – our hope is fixed on this world and not on God’s glory. The challenge today is to live according to the words of this old hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

Pastor John

Reasons to Rejoice

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Romans 5:1 – 2  1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

This study on Philippians has been so timely for me, especially lately as we focus on the subject of rejoicing. So much of life right now leaves little reason for rejoicing for so many people. As a pastor, I get to live the hurts and pains of the people God brings into my life, and sometimes it is hard to rejoice. Add to that all the personal issues I have of my own, and life gets overwhelming at times. But I can praise God anyway and rejoice in the Lord because my hope is not in this world, but in Him and His coming glory! This study of Philippians has reinforced that faith.

So far in our study of Philippians, Paul has used the word rejoice seven times, and there is one more to come later in his letter. The overall theme of his conversation with the people of Philippi is to rejoice no matter what the circumstances. The basis for such encouragement is that our hope is not in the circumstances or the outcomes, but in the glory of God. Let’s review what he has said:

  1. Rejoice that the Gospel is being preached and that God’s purpose is being accomplished. Philippians 1:18 The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.  
  2. Rejoice that the sacrifice we make to serve Christ is producing a harvest of faith in others. Philippians 2:17-18 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
  3. Rejoice in the Lord and not in the circumstances of your life. Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Reflect on those three reasons to rejoice. Evaluate your level of praise. Spend time with the Lord seeking His perspective on life. When we begin to see things His way, there’s reason to rejoice. The Gospel is changing people’s lives. Our lives, lived according to God’s grace, are impacting others for Christ. And God is the One who reigns supreme, so even my circumstances are under His control.

Rejoice! And again I say, REJOICE!

Pastor John

 

 

REJOICE: God Is Singing!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Zephaniah 3:14 – 17  14Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 15The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Have you rejoiced in the Lord yet today? If not, you’re out of touch with what God is doing, because He is rejoicing over you! The verses above are one of my favorite passages of scripture. In it we discover the reciprocity of rejoicing. As we consider the Lord – His nature, character, and works – we are to be glad and rejoice with all our heart. As I read these verses I do not see this as a private celebration. It appears to me that the rejoicing is very public and very loud. The oppression of the enemy is public. The effects and consequences of sin are public. The Redeemer went public. The price for sin was paid in public. The celebration of freedom should be public. Shout aloud for all to hear, O Children of God! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart.

While we rejoice here on earth, there is a reciprocal rejoicing taking place in heaven. It too is public, for all the angels and saints to hear. The Lord your God, the King of Israel, has taken great delight in you. He has brought peace to your life through His love. He is rejoicing over you with singing!

Imagine the scene around the throne. Let’s try to put the limitlessness of eternity into a human moment and imagine that God is doing one thing at a time instead of managing all things together at one time. He has just looked at your life right now. He sees the decision you are struggling with. He sees the pain you are experiencing. He sees the pride you take in who you are. He sees what you have accomplished. He sees every aspect of your life. But He looks beyond all of that, pushing it aside as unimportant and irrelevant to the one thing He wants to see – your heart. There, He sees Jesus your Savior and Lord, who by the power of the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you for all eternity through your faith in His sacrifice on the cross. There, He sees your new name that He has given you, which has been written in the Lamb’s book of life. There, in your heart, He recognizes you as His child, and He begins to sing.

The attention of all of heaven is turned to the throne because God is singing. It’s a song of unrestricted joy. The song immediately stimulates participation in praise from all who hear it. The words of the verses are uniquely expressive of your life, but the chorus is identical to what is sung about all of us. In my imagination the chorus goes like this:

By my might I saved you

I have taken away your sin

The enemy’s been defeated

My life now dwells within

Your fear of harm is over

Rest quietly in my love

I delight in you with singing

Hear me rejoicing from above.

Every moment of every day, God is rejoicing over your life with singing. Stop and listen…can you hear the song? It’s important that you do, because His rejoicing is the source of our rejoicing. Join in the singing. Then the reciprocity of rejoicing will be underway – He is rejoicing over us, and we are rejoicing in Him.

Let your rejoicing be heard!

Pastor John

 

REJOICE: You are Saved!

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Psalms 35:9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.

Imagine this scene – hundreds of people are frantically swimming upstream in the Niagara River within 100 yards of the falls. Every minute dozens more are swept over the edge to their deaths. Suddenly a man appears floating through the crowd wearing a life jacket, seemingly unconcerned about what lies ahead. He is speaking to all the people who are struggling, saying “I’m saved! I’m saved!” He is hanging on to a rope attached to a net filled with life jackets, and he is trying to get others to wear one. They ignore him, calling him a fool, believing that all the life jacket will do is provide a false sense of security. Death will still happen unless you can get out of the water. So, they keep struggling to go one way while the man in the life jacket keeps floating through them, at peace with his situation and his direction.

As they approach the edge of the falls, the screams increase as people realize they are about to pass into eternity. They still hear the shouts of the man in the life jacket – “I’m saved! I’m saved!”  They cannot understand why he is at such peace with his situation, and why he is spending more time looking up than he is looking around at the danger. The crowd is having difficulty making any progress away from the edge, but he is not even resisting the flow. He is not even facing away from the falls, but is looking directly at them. They do not understand why he is not trying to escape. They are tired of fighting the current. With their backs to the falls, and their eyes on the water, they put their last bit of energy into one final attempt to swim away, but it is useless. As they pass over the edge their eyes catch a glimpse of the man in the life jacket. He has stopped just before reaching the edge, appearing to hang motionless in midair. They see a cable that has been strung from one shore to the other, just above head level, to which the man has attached a snap hook that is attached by another cable to his life jacket. If only they had looked up instead of at the danger around them they might have seen it. Suddenly they realize why he had not been concerned about the falls. He knew that the cable was there and that he would be saved because he had put on the life jacket with the safety hook. The crowd falls to their deaths fully aware that they could have been saved from it.

Every day we have to float through the same waters as everyone else, heading toward the same destination of death. But we have been given the life jacket of faith and the hook of hope in the glory of God. Many of us have chosen to completely rest in that faith and hope, and live in peace with our circumstances. Every day we float down the river, spending most of our time trying to hand out life jackets to those who do not have one.

But others with life jackets appear to be fighting the current, the waves, and the rocks just like those who do not have one. Their eyes are focused on their immediate circumstances and they are expending all their energy seeking to avoid the dangers that are around them and the pain they might cause. They have no time to tell others that they are saved because they are so intent on using their life jacket to gain an edge on others. They have lost the ability to rejoice in their salvation because they have replaced their hope in the glory of God with a desire for personal safety and security. They have forgotten about the hook on their life jacket and believe the jacket’s only purpose is to give them an advantage while they are in the river.

I admit there are elements of this analogy that don’t completely work, but I think you get my drift. Our hope is in the glory of God. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, the Life Preserver. Even though we must float through the river of life, we do not need to fight it. We do not need to spend our time fighting the current and checking for rocks. We simply need to rest in the saving power of the Life Preserver, and rejoice that we are saved. The Psalmist said it this way in Psalms 91:9 – 16…

“If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Therefore, spend every day in the river as a rescuer. Let it be known that you are saved, and start making the Life Preserver available to others. You’re not going to go over the falls. You will be brought safely to the other shore. Quit fighting the waves and the current, and rejoice in your salvation. Others are looking for what you have.

Pastor John

REJOICE: You are Loved

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, July 9, 2018

Psalms 31:7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love…

 Years ago, in preparation for an outreach we did to the local neighborhood around our church, I wrote a small Gospel pamphlet to be given out. The title of the pamphlet is, God won’t love you any more if you go to church!”  When I first read that statement I thought exactly what you are probably thinking – Why won’t God love me any longer if I go to church? But that is not the intended reading. The point of the pamphlet is to show people that God’s love cannot be earned by our actions. God won’t love us more than He already does just because we work to impress Him. And God won’t love us any less because we occasionally fail.

I am amazed every day at how much I still must learn about God’s love for me. My consistent needs to be approved, valued, and loved, indicate clearly how much I still don’t fully grasp the awesome wonder of God’s love for me. Too much effort and energy is spent in trying to impress people. Too much disappointment is experienced when we don’t get the desired responses. Too much hurt is caused by our actions motivated by our frustrations. Then, after the damage has been done, we defend ourselves for fear of losing more value in our own eyes. If only we understood the value we have in God’s eyes and the unconditional love He has for us. We have forgotten how to say, “That’s OK, God loves me anyway!”

Do not think for one instant that I’m saying we can use God’s love as a license for bad behavior. I am convinced, however, that we get so wrapped up in the value system of this life that we forget to rejoice in the unfailing love of the Lord. We get discouraged and even depressed because we are not receiving love from people, and that puts a stop to rejoicing in God’s love for us. We know He understands our weaknesses and our shortcomings. He sees our sin. Yet, He loves us completely. So much so that He even disciplines us when we get out of line.

I’m not sure I fully grasp the significance of that concept yet, but let me try to illustrate it. As a parent, and now a grandparent, I have been guilty of discipline and correction that was designed for my benefit and not the child’s. I have attempted to correct behaviors that have irritated and frustrated me, but may not have been necessarily wrong for the child. But God never works that way in our lives. Every corrective measure is designed for our best. Every circumstance of your life right now is designed by God to shape you into a complete person capable of experiencing the totality of God’s love.

So rejoice! You are loved! Even though some of the circumstances of your life right now hang over your head like a dark cloud – Rejoice! The rain will make the grass grow and the flowers bloom. And even if the lightning bolts send you running for cover, remember the promise of Psalms 5:11 – 12…

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.  

And if it seems like God is no longer there at all, and that the only rejoicing you hear is coming from your enemies, then read this Psalm daily until you can rejoice in your salvation:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

Pastor John