About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

Copycats

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 19, 2019

It’s not long after our birth that we begin to attempt to copy the actions of people around us. It starts with a smile. Soon the baby is making noises that imitate what the parent is doing to imitate the baby. After a while there will be hand-waving. It’s not long before emotions are able to be expressed in tantrums and thoughts are able to be expressed in words. Suddenly, before our very eyes, stands a mirror image of ourselves. We don’t always like what we see.

There is a word that connects a baby’s attempts to copy others with a Scriptural principle for our lives. It’s found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Romans 12:1-2  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

The word is in verse 2 – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. It’s a word from which a major copy machine company chose their name, and in my early days of business and church ministry it was synonymous with copiers. The word is “xerographic”, and the company was Xerox.

The definition of xerographic is this – a process for copying printed material in which the image of the original material is transferred by the action of light to an electrically charged surface to which the image attracts oppositely charged dry ink particles, which are then fused in place on paper, reproducing the original image.

Sounds complicated, but I see it as a spiritual analogy. Jesus is the original. God is the Light. My life is the electrically charged surface. The Holy Spirit is the ink. Here’s how it works.

Babies are born with both a genetic nature that will dictate some behavior, like crying when hungry, and also a blank slate where learned behaviors are added, or “copied.” Those learned behaviors will become the expression of their inherent thought process.

The same is true of newborn Christians. When we come to Christ, we are born into the family of God and are given the genetic nature of Jesus. His nature will dictate some of our behavior, like hunger for the Word of God. But other behaviors remain our choice, and we learn how to choose to express our thoughts in our words and actions. When we choose to expose our thoughts to the nature of Jesus under the light of God, the Holy Spirit duplicates His nature in us. We become a copy of the original.  We’ve been spiritually Xeroxed.

Unfortunately many of us don’t expose ourselves to the light of God. We choose to copy the world rather than Jesus. From my own experience, that doesn’t work out very well. I think you know that from your experience also. Copying the behaviors and customs of the world will lead to the same end as the world – destruction and death. But transforming our minds so that our lives become the copy of Christ brings the good and pleasing will of God for an abundant life.

Each one of us must decide who or what we will copy. We have all become the behavioral product of our choice to copy someone. If that choice has led you to become the copy of anyone but Christ, then it’s time for you to expose yourself to the transforming light of God and His truth. You can become the copy of Christ. Let the xerography begin today. Let’s copy Christ.

Pastor John

It’s All About Winning

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

It’s all about winning. Life seems to be about the experience of victory. From sports to business deals, we pursue triumph. Even when we diet, losing is really winning. We were created with an unquenchable urge to experience the “thrill of victory” and avoid the “agony of defeat.”

Now before you react negatively to this, think about it carefully. It is not wrong that we focus on winning. The Bible speaks of winning, overcoming, and victory almost 100 times.

With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies. (Psalm 60:12)

Sports are one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite metaphors of the Christian experience.

Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5)

The passion to win is not a sin. It is only wrong if we think winning defines our worth and if we believe winning in this life is the ultimate victory. An exaggerated emphasis on worldly accomplishments results in ultimate loss, not gain. If a person’s worth is measured by their win/loss percentage, then ultimately at the point of death everything is loss. Even after all our personal victories in life are counted, death still wins and none of our wins matter: UNLESS death itself can be conquered.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that death has been conquered, and everyone who comes to repentance and faith in Him will ultimately win. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he said,

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The only victory worth training for is that one. The only win worth fighting for is eternity with Jesus Christ. The only true motivation to get up after a defeat and continue fighting for the faith is the knowledge that ultimate victory is ours in Christ. Look at these incredible promises from God:

1 John 5:4 – 5 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Luke 10:19 I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Life will be filled with lots of losses. We will suffer rejection from our families and friends because of our faith in Jesus Christ. We will be criticized and even persecuted by our culture because of our stand for moral righteousness and God’s justice. We will suffer financial loss. We will experience emotional loss. There will be deaths in our families. Living life faithfully for Jesus is not easy, and we may experience very few personal victories. But Paul was a great example of how to keep our faith and live it consistently even in the face of death. He was considered dead after the stoning he suffered at Lystra, (see Acts 14:19-22) but he got back up and went right back into the city that had rejected him, putting himself in harm’s way again. Then, after visiting Derbe and winning people to Jesus Christ, he went back to Lystra again to strengthen and encourage the people to remain true to the faith. He modeled to the people how to look beyond the hardships of today to the victory that was coming when Jesus returns.

Death was but the doorway to victory for Paul, and it must be that for us as well. When we see it that way, the fear of worldly loss is consumed in the fire of faith that Jesus Christ has conquered the world. So be encouraged. Do not fear what the world can do to you. Do not fear the loss of worldly gain and worth. Do not fear the people who stand against you because you stand for God.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

And when you do fall down in defeat, even to the point of death, know this: God’s people, the disciples, will gather around you and encourage you so that you will get back up and go back to doing God’s work. And when one of the faithful disciples you know falls down under the weight of persecution and loss, go to them and take your stand around them so they are encouraged to get back up also. We are not in this alone. God is with us, and God’s people stand beside each other. Remain true to the faith, and let’s fight until Jesus comes and we experience final victory!

Pastor John

Memories

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Psalm 103:1-22  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Another season of deer hunting has started. God has so generously gifted me with friends who have land on which they allow me to hunt. He has graciously given me the resources for the equipment. But most importantly, He has so captured my heart that He uses the solitude of a tree stand to speak to my heart.

As I sat in a tree early one morning, I began to remember all the benefits of being a child of God. The words “forget not” captivated my mind. I thought about another passage of Scripture that talks about forgetting. It’s in Philippians 3:13 – 14 where Paul writes, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I began to think about the difference between forgetting some things and not forgetting others. I came to a simple solution – I am to forget everything that is of the flesh and not forget anything that is of the Spirit of God. But why? That was an easy answer for me – only the things of God are to our benefit.

Think back with me, if you can, to fourth grade, and try to remember what happened in your life at that time. Can you think of any special or meaningful events? You may come up with one or two, but overall you probably can’t remember much. What’s the reason we can remember some things and not others? It’s because we assign a personal value to every event of our lives. We determine its significance and importance, and within the context of that value assignment we either choose to remember it or forget it. For example, I remember only one thing about fourth grade. We moved to a new town in April of that year, and I had to start a new school with one month left in the school year. I only remember the playground, because it was there that I gave value to an event that would cause me to remember it until now. Two of my new classmates, both girls, would chase me around that playground until they caught me, and then they would give me a kiss on the cheek. I felt accepted. I determined to always remember the benefit of that event.

Every event of our lives has been recorded in the God-designed memory bank of our brain. We may not be able to recall it, but it’s there none the less. The likely reason we cannot recall it is because of the value we placed upon it when it happened. So when Paul says that he will forget everything that was behind him from his past, he is saying that he will assign it a new value – a value of “0”. Look at his words: “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7 – 8)

We each face this choice every day. What value will we assign to the things of this world, and what value will we assign to the things of God? Those things of minimal value will be forgotten. The things we treasure will be remembered.

Since fourth grade I have discovered the incredible value of being accepted by Jesus Christ. I will never forget His benefits. All that the world offers is nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. So when Satan comes and tempts me with something he says has value, I still get to determine its real value for me. I am determined to assign those things a value of “0”. I choose to assign the things of God a value of “10” on a scale of “10”. Now I can forget what is behind, and I will not forget His benefits, and press on toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.

You can do that, too.

Pastor John

God Recognizes You

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, September 16, 2019

He was just a common citizen of his community. We know nothing noteworthy that he had ever done. He was not a sports hero nor was he an entertainer. He had not attained a position of prestige as a person of public prominence. We don’t know his family history or heritage. We don’t even know his profession, yet we know clearly what he professed. He is singled out from the ordinary as a man who was righteous and devout, and lived his life under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit of God.

Luke 2:25-27  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple…

Simeon reminds us all that no one is obscure or insignificant to God. God recognizes us, and rewards faithfulness with public and eternal acclaim. But we must not let the reward be our motivation or it will never come. Seeking personal gain is contradictory to righteous and devout living.

Simeon was living daily in the hope that each day would be THE day that the Lord would fulfill His promise to him. The word devout means to take well. In other words, it means to believe what has been promised and then live according to that promise. For Simeon it meant that every step of every day was directed by his belief that he was being led closer to the realization of what God had told him. Imagine waking every morning and having every thought, every idea, and every plan completely immersed in the hope of what God has promised. That was the devout life of Simeon. That is the life I desire.

On this specific day, Simeon knew the Holy Spirit was directing him to go to the temple. He obeyed. He would have missed everything promised if he had not listened and obeyed. But he did listen, and he did obey, because he truly believed what God had said. And because he believed, he saw the Savior!

Simeon’s life is now eternally on display as an example of how God recognizes and rewards righteous people; people who live not for self but devoutly believe the Word of the Lord. In one step of obedience Simeon went from obscure to obvious; from insignificant to illustrious.

He saw the Savior. He held the Savior in his arms. He spoke God’s truth about the Savior. He blessed the parents with a preparatory prophecy about God’s purpose for the Savior’s pain, and their own. He played a pivotal role in the declaration of God’s redemptive plan for all people.

No one is obscure or insignificant to God. Take time today to be still and listen. Simeon’s God knows you. The Savior defines your worth. He is waiting for you to believe what He is saying to you. He is longing for you to act upon it so He can declare your significance publicly and rejoice over you with song!

Pastor John

Public Obedience

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, September 13, 2019

Acts 16:31-34  And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

It was six years ago today that I had breakfast with a post-graduate student who is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Brought up in a works and sacraments based religious system, she had discovered the truth of faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation. It happened through a connection with fellow students involved in a faith-based campus ministry.

The reason we were meeting was to discuss baptism – true biblical baptism by immersion as a public testimony to one’s saving faith in Jesus Christ. As I listened intently to her testimony of faith, I interrupted her as I wiped tears of joy from my eyes. I asked her why she had not been baptized sooner. Her simple reply revealed something to me that I want to address today. She said, “Because it was never taught as a part of my discipleship training.”

As we talked more the joy of what God was doing in her life now overcame my initial reaction to what she said. But as the hours went by after the meeting, it began to weigh on my heart. Why would we in the so-called “modern” church age de-emphasize the fundamental command of Jesus for all disciples to be baptized? What do we believe He meant when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you?” How can we teach them to observe all the commands of Jesus when we ignore the first command of discipleship that He gave?

Throughout the New Testament, without changing the truth of salvation by faith alone, people who were saved were baptized, and it happened as soon after their salvation as possible. Let’s be very clear – baptism does not and cannot save anyone from their sin, at any age. But let’s also be clear about this truth – baptism is a command of God to be celebrated and experienced as a part of the salvation experience, and disobedience limits the potential for the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, just as any disobedience to God will do.

I believe that the church has de-emphasized the importance of baptism as a result of cultural pressure to be more accepting of everyone’s personally selected belief system. Someone, in some religious system long ago, decided that baptism either wasn’t important or it was wrongly granted the status of being a means of receiving the grace of forgiveness. As well-intentioned people continued to live public lives of faith, personal experience was elevated to a place of priority over the command of Jesus. The church began to accept lifestyle of faith rather than obedience as “normal”.

As this young woman and I talked, I could literally see the joy bubbling over from her heart as she considered the thrill of public obedience to Christ. She was so thankful that I had addressed this issue with her. She enthusiastically agreed to be baptized at the next opportunity, and that it had to take place in the river like Jesus.

So, on the last Sunday of September in 2013,  she was baptized in the Chippewa River. It was cold. She was excited. I was thrilled. She chose obedience to Christ by being publicly baptized by immersion as a testimony of her saving faith in Jesus Christ. I chose obedience by baptizing her as a part of her discipleship.

Have you considered this joyous step of obedience?

Pastor John

Please Come Back!

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, September 12, 2019

I’m sure it was just a fluke back then, because today things are quite different.

Six years ago, during a sermon about the joyous and glorious return of Jesus Christ to gather His true church to their eternal reward, I emotionally and enthusiastically read these verses…

Revelation 22:7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon…”

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Then I energetically said something like, “Friends, JESUS IS COMING BACK!”

Silence ensued.

Really? Silence from the very people that Jesus is coming to get? At the time I was a little shocked. I think it showed. I said it again. “JESUS IS COMING BACK!” This time the response was enthusiastic.  However, it made me wonder how many times in my own life I need to be reminded to not get so focused on the issues of life and to be visibly joyful about the return of Jesus Christ.

Earlier in that same worship service we had sung a couple of songs, one of which was the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” In that song we sang these words –

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.”

It only took 15 minutes between singing those words and hearing it preached for us to turn our eyes, ears, and hearts back to things that forced our silence rather than things that fueled our praise.

I know that there are many days that I have my eyes, my heart, and my desires firmly fixed on the things of earth. It happens so much that I must ask myself the question “Is the return of Jesus what I really want?”

Let’s see –

  • More sin versus no sin. That’s one vote for His return.
  • More financial stress versus streets of crystal-clear gold and a mansion made by the hands of God just for me. Another vote for Jesus to come back.
  • More emotional stress from loneliness, rejection, and the pursuit of self-worth versus seeing the face of Jesus while His arms of love wrap around me and the only tears ever will be tears of joy. So far the return of Jesus is pitching a shut-out.
  • More issues with health versus an eternally perfect body. This is getting embarrassing. Earthly things are growing strangely dim.

I could go on, but we all get the point. The Spirit of God says “Come.” The Bride of Christ – His church – is supposed to say “Come.” Everyone who is longing for satisfaction in this life is to realize that earthly things cannot satisfy and invite Jesus to come. I am to consider the coming of Jesus to be more important to me than any other upcoming event in my life.

Is it what we really want? Well as for me, YES!!!

Pastor John

OOPS!

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Daniel 5:27  You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting;

Don’t use a screwdriver as a hammer.

Don’t use a knife as a screwdriver.

These are just two of the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. To be honest, there were many times that both substitutes worked, which only fueled my pride. It was that pride that eventually led to a time when the substitutes failed and the project ended badly. I’ve said “OOPS!” too many times.

Everything that has been made has an intended purpose. Granted, some things are multi-functional, but that was intended by the designer. When we use things for purposes that were not built into the original design, we can get into serious trouble.

That’s what happened to King Belshazzar in Daniel chapter five. Belshazzar was the son of King Nebuchadnezzar, whom God had humbled. His son knew what had happened. Yet Belshazzar rejected the work of God in His life and became proud – so proud that during a showy celebration he ordered that all the vessels of gold and silver from the temple in Jerusalem be brought out and used as common serving and drinking utensils at the banquet. In his pride and desire to show off his wealth and power, the king chose to take things that were designed solely for the Lord’s work and use them for personal gain.

Immediately God responded. His hand wrote something on the wall that no one could read except Daniel. Here’s Daniel’s perspective on what happened.

And you, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”   Daniel 5:22-28

“OOPS!”

That night Belshazzar died, and Cryus became King. All because of pride, which always precedes a fall.

“OOPS!” I’ve used some of the Lord’s things for personal gain.

“OOPS!” I’ve taken money from my tithes and offerings to pay bills or buy new things.

“OOPS!” I’ve not followed through on pledges and commitments because my pride saw ways to use those resources for myself.

“OOPS!” I’ve lost the use of some things because God has immediately responded and taken them away to get my attention fixed back on Him alone.

“OOPS!” My heart has been weighed in the balances and been found wanting. What a horrible condition. Oh how I never want that statement to be true of me again.

Today, dear Lord, I commit myself again to your Holy Spirit’s correction to create in me a humble heart, so that all you have given me will be used for its intended purpose to serve you and not me!

Pastor John