About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

Faith Overcomes Insecurity

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 22, 2019

Faith overcomes fear. Faith overcomes ignorance. I wonder what faith lesson is next from the life of Moses?

Exodus 4:1-5  Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you?’” Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” A staff,” he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has appeared to you.”

Moses is still not satisfied that he is the man for the job that God has called him to, so in an attempt to avoid service he gives the Lord another excuse. In addition to claiming that he is a nobody and that he is not a theologian, he now claims that he is simply unconvincing and without any authority to prove a point to anyone. He says, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” He is afraid that people will not take him seriously. Moses has serious insecurity issues.

I’m sure we all have these same fears at times. We know what the truth is, but we don’t feel qualified to speak it. And when we do finally muster up the courage to speak, people don’t listen. We fall into a familiar trap that we are somehow responsible for other people’s decisions. We have been convinced in our hearts that sharing the truth is only profitable when it produces a positive response. Where did we get this idea that speaking the truth is only appropriate if it produces acceptance with the hearer?

I think that philosophy is the product of fear – the fear of rejection, which feeds our insecurities. Insecurity is the flip side of pride, but made of the same material. Pride keeps us from doing or saying anything that might make relational waves. This is what Moses was dealing with. These people had rejected him once. Why would he risk that rejection again? Why would any of us?

Here’s why – because we have faith in God. We cannot say that we live by faith in God and then choose not to speak it and act upon it regardless of the consequences. If we are allowing outcomes to determine our actions, then we are not truly committed to God but rather to outcomes, and that’s prideful.

God answered Moses’ concerns by teaching him 2 incredible lessons:

  1. God’s power makes the insignificant great. He turned Moses’ staff into a snake and then back into a staff again. God can take what we deem insignificant and unconvincing and make it into something alive and powerful. If he can do that with a stick, he can do that with our lives.
  2. God’s Word, when obeyed, conquers our fears. Moses ran in fear from the snake, but he obeyed God’s command to face his fears and pick up the snake by the tail. God’s Word is powerful, as 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 states, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” When we are obeying God’s Word, we are more powerful than anything we previously feared.

God has answered another excuse for not immediately participating in His plan. You are not insignificant, and you are not unworthy for my use. Insecurity leaves when we take a leap of faith. Have you used the excuse of insignificance and insecurity to avoid doing something God has called you to do? I pray that God will use the answer he gave Moses to answer your fears and give you the faith to step out in obedience and experience His authority and power.

Pastor John


Faith Overcomes Ignorance

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 21, 2019

In our current study of FAITH we are looking at the life of Moses. God was building the faith of Moses so he could overcome his fears and failures. Moses was at first not a very willing student in the school of faith. In fact, he made a lot of excuses to not do the required assignments. But with each excuse God answered graciously and provided continued opportunities for Moses to pass the class.

Yesterday we learned that the first excuse Moses gave was that he feared his previous failure had disqualified him. The second excuse Moses gives is found in today’s Scripture:

Exodus 3:13-14  Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

In other words, Moses was saying, “I can’t do it because I’m not a theologian and don’t have enough knowledge of who God is.”

Have you ever backed down from doing something God has asked you to do because you don’t feel theologically qualified? We don’t witness or teach or lead a Bible study because we are afraid we don’t have all the answers. Well, I have news for you – none of us will ever have all the answers and none of us will ever know all there is to know about any theological subject. We are all limited, so we have two options:

  1. Give up and never try, or
  2. Use what we have and let God give us more.

Unfortunately, far too many people choose option #1. They forget the promises of John 14:26 where Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. And in Luke 12:11-12 where Jesus again says, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

You see, the Holy Spirit is responsible to give us the answers at the time that we need them. We have nothing to fear. Faith overcomes our insecurities.

God gave Moses the direct answer he was supposed to give if the people questioned him: tell them, “I AM” has sent you. That answer qualifies all of us to the questions people will ask about what we believe. We believe in the Eternal, Almighty, Sovereign God.  That’s all the theology we need to go anywhere God sends us.

So if you’ve been using ignorance or insecurity as an excuse for not obeying God’s direction, confess it today and take a step of faith that says “YES!”

Just tell people what you know about Jesus.

Pastor John

Faith Overcomes Fear

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

One of my favorite old hymns was entitled, “Faith Is the Victory”, and one of the lines states, “O, glorious victory, that overcomes the world.”

One aspect of the world that needs overcoming is fear. Let’s learn that faith lesson today from the story of Moses in Exodus 3:10-12. God is speaking to Moses from a burning but not burning up bush.

So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Can you imagine the fear Moses must have felt when the burning bush spoke to him? It was strange enough that a bush would be on fire in the middle of the desert, and that the bush did not burn up. But then the bush spoke. When Moses recognized the voice of God, he became afraid. His fear was based on a righteous respect for the holiness of God and a responsible review of his own ungodliness. This is the same fear Isaiah had when in a vision he saw the throne of God and fell on his face and said, “Woe is me, I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” When we compare our simple and sinful existence to the Supreme and Sinless God, we are forced to our knees in fear.

As God spoke to Moses, He reassured him and gave him an explanation of His visit. God was responding to His chosen people’s cries for help. They were in bondage in Egypt, and Moses was to be the deliverer.

Moses responded to God’s plan in the way many of us do, by doubting that we have anything to offer to the success of the plan. Moses questioned the value of his life by asking, “Who am I?”  Moses’ fear has changed. He was no longer in fear of God’s presence, but rather feared his own involvement in God’s plan. The plan was a great plan, but it was too big for Moses’ mind to comprehend. The plan had merit, but Moses doubted his own merit. The plan could work, but Moses was afraid that he would not be able to accomplish it because of his past failures and present fears.

I think we have all felt many of those same things when God asks us to be involved in His plan. God graciously understands our fears, and gives us exactly what we need to overcome them. He responded to Moses with a promise and a sign that were sufficient to conquer all of his fears.  He only had to accept it. He didn’t.

The promise was that God would be with him. The sign was that when the task was completed, everyone would be united in their worship of God. Moses didn’t really take to heart what God had just said because he proceeded to ask a series of fear-based questions, the last of which made God angry with him for his lack of faith (see Exodus 4:13-14).

Moses should have understood what God was saying: faith in Who I am is all you need to begin, and faith in My outcome is all you need to continue. What a powerful statement that we should use to evaluate our faith.

We need not live in fear of failure when we have faith in the Father. We need not doubt our abilities when we have faith in God’s probabilities. We need not refuse to risk when we have faith in God’s right to reign. He is with us. He has determined a glorious outcome. He asks us to begin the adventure. Take the step of faith without fear. God has chosen you!

Pastor John

Faith Overcomes

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

For years I had a little card on my desk that was given to me by a dear woman of God who is now with Jesus in glory. The card simply said, “God is bigger than any problem I have.”

That statement is easier to believe when the problem is not of my own making. When others falsely accuse me of things, or when circumstances of life turn ugly, I know God is bigger than all of that and He will work it all out for His glory and my growth. But when I know I am responsible for the problem because of my own weakness or lack of wisdom and poor choices, then guilt and shame tend to dim my faith in the greatness of God.

Another biblical hero of the faith had the same problem.

Exodus 2:11-15 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian.

When I know I am to blame, my natural tendency is to run and hide in a place of pity and self-condemnation, just like Moses did. If I do run to that place, the guilt can devalue my life and convince me that nothing will ever be right again. My survival instinct takes over, and I take control of the situation and try to fix it so that I can gain back my value. What a mess it all becomes, simply because I did not believe that God is bigger than ANY problem I have.

When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He called him to an incredible task that was based on God’s greatness not on Moses’ past. That’s comforting. However, it does not excuse unwise choices thinking there will be no consequences. There will be consequences for failure, but God is greater than any problem we have. No issue of our lives is so great that it can stop the purpose of God.

God told Moses that he would lead the people out of Egypt and they would worship Him at the very place of the burning bush. God gave Moses a staff to represent His power, and even though the world tried to duplicate its power, God’s power overcame it all. God met every one of Moses’ objections to being chosen as Israel’s deliverer. Moses was encouraged to place his faith in God’s greatness. Moses believed and was restored. He became the man that God spoke to face to face.

Did he still have weakness? Yes. Did he still fail? Yes. Did God’s greatness cease to overcome all of it? NO!

God is greater than any problem Moses created. He is greater than any problem we have created as well. Don’t run and hide. Turn to God in faith and trust His purpose and power. He will overcome, and He will restore you to intimate relationship and equip you for important responsibilities.

Pastor John

God has Seen To It

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, March 18, 2019

There is one more significant lesson from the story of Abraham’s testing by God on Mount Moriah that touches me deep in my spirit. It comes from the name Abraham gives to the place of testing.

Genesis 22:13-14 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

By faith Abraham declared that God would provide Himself a lamb for the sacrifice. He then named that place THE LORD WILL PROVIDE. Abraham’s faith allowed him to look beyond the possible loss of a son to the sacrifice of God’s Son. He knew that God would see to it. So complete was Abraham’s faith that he named the place Jehovah-Jireh, which means The LORD will provide.

The Hebrew word for “provide” in this passage is the word that primarily means “see”. We can translate the verse to mean “God will see to it that there is a lamb.”

God provided a lamb as a substitute for Isaac, and He has provided a Lamb as a substitute for all of us. Think of the wonder of our salvation: God has seen to it that there is a Lamb for the sacrifice for sin. John the Baptist said about Jesus Christ – “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” God has provided a Lamb. Not only that, but He provided Himself as the Lamb. God incarnate in human flesh became the sacrificial Lamb. He has provided for our salvation. He has done it!

On that very same mountain where Abraham made his declaration of faith, the Holy of Holies in the temple was exposed to all the people when the curtain was torn at the death of Jesus Christ our Savior. God has seen to it that we have a way out of the bondage and consequences of sin. God has seen to it that we have a way into the eternal covenant of life and blessing. God has seen to it that one Gate provides for both the way out and the way in, and that Gate is His Son Jesus.

I am overwhelmed with this. It may sound simple to many, but it is deeply profound. God has provided for our salvation. Can there be any greater truth? Can there be anything more beautiful? We may be emotionally moved in our spirit by the majesty of God’s creation when we view an incredible vista from a mountaintop, but is there any mountain more deeply moving than the one upon which God provided for our salvation? Is there any human experience that can compare with the splendor of the experience of God’s forgiveness? I say a loud and emphatic “NO!”

May the LORD’s provision for our salvation never become simple or unmoving. May our desire for more knowledge of God and His Word never compromise the thrill of God’s grace and mercy. May our desire to serve and work never diminish the joy of our salvation.

If you have time, read the following Psalm, and spend some time praising Jehovah-Jireh. He has provided for our redemption.

Psalm 111

Praise the LORD.

I will extol the LORD with all my heart

in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the LORD;

they are pondered by all who delight in them.

Glorious and majestic are his deeds,

and his righteousness endures forever.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and compassionate.

He provides food for those who fear him;

he remembers his covenant forever.

He has shown his people the power of his works,

giving them the lands of other nations.

The works of his hands are faithful and just;

all his precepts are trustworthy.

They are steadfast for ever and ever,

done in faithfulness and uprightness.

He provided redemption for his people;

he ordained his covenant forever-

holy and awesome is his name.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

all who follow his precepts have good understanding.

To him belongs eternal praise.

Mature Faith

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, March 15, 2019

In our study of faith from the life of Abraham we come to a climactic event that tests his faith to the nth degree.

Genesis 22:1-3 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

Abraham is commanded by God to take the son that has already been declared the son of the covenant and sacrifice him to the Lord. When I read this story, I am overwhelmed with the emotions that I would feel, the questions that I would ask, and the rationale I would use to support my disobedience. But we read of no such emotions or questions or excuses from Abraham. His faith in God was so strong that he simply obeyed and left the outcome to God.

Follow me along a little journey for a moment. Abraham is told to go to the region of Moriah to make the sacrifice. Moriah is mentioned only one other time in Scripture, in 2 Chronicles 3:2, where we read that “Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” The place where God instructed the people to build the temple for the worship of God was the place of Abraham’s sacrifice.

It seems that God is saying that true worship is a sacrifice of anything connected to self on the altar of surrender to the will of God. This is what Paul means in Romans 12:1 when he writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”  Mature faith makes the supreme sacrifice of self as a response to God’s mercy.

So what was the real test of Abraham’s faith? I think the answer is simple but so very difficult to live. God wanted to know if Abraham’s faith was in God Himself or in the promises God have given him. This is a HUGE issue for all of us. Faith in God must not be confused with faith in what God can do.

Years ago, the music group The Imperials sang a song called Because of Who You Are. The lyrics state that our faith stands not in what God can do but in the very nature of God Himself. That message has been restated by the group Casting Crowns in their song lyrics “Not because of who I am, but because of what you’ve done; not because of what I’ve done, but because of Who You are.”

Paul does not state in Romans 12:1 that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices in view of God’s promises, or in view of God’s actions, but rather in view of God’s mercy, which is His nature.  Our faith is mature when we trust God’s nature and character. Not His promises, nor His actions, but His Being!

Let me illustrate. When you fly in an airplane, in what do you place your trust? My faith is not in the safety record of the airline, or the sobriety of the pilot, or the pleasantness of the flight attendant: my faith is in the airplane itself. I cannot choose which parts of the airplane to trust, I must trust the whole plane. In fact, I saw a cartoon recently that said, “Did you know that an airplane is made up of 150,00 parts that by themselves cannot fly?” I must trust the complete plane. That is a very simple example of what our faith in God must be like.

We all fight this kind of faith. We allow emotions, questions, and excuses to interfere with absolute dependence upon God. We have settled for an immature faith that trusts God’s promises or depends upon God’s actions, when God wants us to totally trust Him for Who He is. I hope you can see the distinction, and I trust that the Holy Spirit is creating a passion in your heart for that kind of relationship with the Father.

Pastor John

Grace for the Faithless

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In case anyone is wondering, today I am 2/3 as old as Abraham was when Sarah became pregnant…and NO!, that is not the faith lesson for me today. But I also don’t ever want to respond to the Lord’s voice the way Sarah did.

When the Lord had visited Abraham prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah He told him that he would have a son within a year. Sarah had overheard that conversation from the tent, and she had laughed in disbelief that something so absurd could really happen. Not only did she laugh, but when confronted with her disbelief she lied about it because she was afraid. Imagine what kind of faithless fear is necessary to lie to the face of the Lord. Instead of being humble and asking for the faith necessary to believe what she had been told, she lied because she was afraid of what would happen to her for her unbelief. Had she not considered that if there was punishment for unbelief there would also be punishment for lying? But in defense of Sarah, we probably would have responded the same way because the fear of self-loss blinds us to the consequences of future actions and we only see the need for self-protection.

Here we are several chapters later, and the time has come for Isaac to be born.

Genesis 21:1-5 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

The story of Isaac’s birth begins with a most incredible statement about the character of God – Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. The original Hebrew says, The Lord visited Sarah…

I see in this statement the incredible nature of God’s grace. Sarah’s response to the news of a son was sinful. The Bible mentions nothing about a confession and apology from her. The LORD visited her and was gracious to her. He fulfilled His promise without her understanding or cooperation.

I wonder how many promises of God are being fulfilled in our lives simply because of the grace of God, without any cooperation on our part. In fact, I would go a giant step beyond that and suggest that all the promises of God are fulfilled because of His grace, and that nothing we receive from Him is earned or deserved. According to human standards of relationship, Sarah had certainly lost the right to have a promise fulfilled. But not according to God’s standards. God deals with us by grace, not by grudges: by mercy, not merit.

I want to burst out in praise as I consider all the times I have walked by sight for selfish reasons, and yet God continues to fulfill His promises. Every day I wake up is a gracious visit from God with life. Every event of every day is a gracious visit from God with direction, guidance, and wisdom. Every improvement in my life is a gracious visit from God who is finishing the work He started in me. Every blessing in my life is a gracious visit from God who has promised every spiritual blessing from on high. Every test and trial is a gracious visit from God to make my faith stronger. None of these things is earned: all these things are God’s gracious visits to me.

May we begin to see every day as a celebration of God’s grace for each one of us. He is visiting us, and He is fulfilling His promise. That is reason to rejoice!

Pastor John