About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

Willing to Die

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 15, 2021

The question has been asked many times. “For what are you willing to die?” With brave hearts, many are willing to die for freedom. Others put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of ideologies. Still others, maybe most of us, would put our lives in danger to protect our possessions. Most, if not all of us, are willing to die for our rights.

I see a common theme in all these scenarios. Each person is motivated to be willing to die by what they love. And what we love is far too often determined by what they believe will benefit us the most. The willingness to die for any reason can easily become an outworking of selfishness.

I know, that sounds cynical. But an honest examination of our hearts and minds may reveal that our priorities and preferences are most often dictated by the premise that it must benefit us. Rarely does anyone die because they wholeheartedly saw the need of others ahead of their own. The Apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 5:7. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” I believe that soldiers and officers of the law give us perhaps the best present-day example of sacrificial service to the point of death.

As Jesus spoke to the crowds in John chapter ten He showed us the proper motivation for being to die – loving obedience to God. Three times Jesus mentions that He is willing to lay down His life for the sheep.

John 10:15-18  “…just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

And yet, dying for the sake of Christ is a possibility avoided by most followers of Christ. Why would we consider dying for our faith when we avoid even a little suffering for our faith? Our priority seems to be the preservation of life, not the sacrifice of it. We diligently seek the comforts of convenience and compromise, hoping to avoid being noticed and singled out as a radical believer in Jesus. We hide the Gospel message of man’s sin and need of a Savior behind a curtain of self-worth and inner empowerment. We avoid talking about or even taking personal responsibility for wrong because we believe the Satanic lie that it would be judgmental. Could it be that we love personal comfort more than we love Jesus?

My friends, this may sound harsh, but the reality is that we are willing to sacrifice self for a lot of personal reasons, but we avoid sacrificing self for the One who sacrificed Himself for us. May the Lord Jesus forgive us as we repent. May our lives begin right now to reflect the willingness to die for Christ.

Pastor John

Get Out of the Kennel

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Many years ago my family was blessed with the gift of a purebred Yellow Lab puppy. We chose the name Dakota Bigfoot for his registered name to celebrate our heritage and his massive paws. Dakota was the most rambunctious puppy of the litter. He could not be still, but needed to explore and investigate everything around him. And yet he longed to have people pay attention to him, so his running around brought him close enough for brief moments of snuggles.

When we got him home, I built a kennel into the workshop cabinets in the garage which I hoped would become his home during training. The first night in that cabinet, he destroyed it. When I came out to the garage in the morning he was running loose in the garage, making messes everywhere. I opened the garage door and he ran rampant around the yard and into the woods, exploring everything as quickly as was puppy possible. When he returned to me he settled into my arms as I sat on the ground. Ten seconds later he was off running again, returning frequently for a little lick-your-face time. It was obvious that his exploratory nature combined with his relational desires were powerful forces that would drive the remainder of his life.

Dakota’s nature was a picture of mine…and maybe yours. We want to explore life, yet we also want the security of relationships. But we have been deceived into believing that boundaries provide security. We have built kennels for ourselves and determined that certain explorations are off limits. Now before you misapply what I’m saying, I am NOT talking about sin. I am talking about personal choices we make based on what we believe will be best for us and accomplish our goal of personal security.

The boundaries we set for ourselves soon become bondage. This is especially true in our spiritual lives. The traditions of our religion restrict the liberties of God’s grace. The rules we establish to qualify our own value based on our obedience to them are a demonic blindness that affects us all. We have put ourselves into kennels, and every day we are seeking to destroy them because we recognize they are contrary the image of God in us.

Read carefully what Jesus said in John 10. Read His words in the context of the healing of the blind man and him being released from the bondage of legalism.

John 10:9-10  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I will always have the picture of Dakota the puppy in my mind when I think about being set free and having abundant life. No more rules to obey to earn my relationship with Jesus. No more barriers to coming in and going out and finding pastures that satisfy my soul. No more kennels stealing life from me. In Christ I am free, and will live in freedom’s abundance.

How about you?

Pastor John

One Way Door

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Most doors are designed to allow entrance and exit to a room or building. There are knobs on both sides, and traffic flows in both directions.

In the summer before my junior year of High School I went to work at Merrick’s Grocery Store on the east side of St. Paul. One of my first jobs I was trained to do was to stock the dairy case. That required me to go down the stairs to the basement where the cheese cooler was located. I was instructed multiple times to not shut the cooler door when I was inside.

Several weeks into my job, near the end of the day, I went into the cooler to carry up boxes of cheese to stock the dairy case in preparation for the next day’s business. Without thinking, as I entered the cooler, I pulled the door shut. I immediately recognized my mistake. I may have literally gasped out loud. Exit from the cooler was impossible. The long push handle on the inside of the door was gone. There was no way to release the lock. I was imprisoned in a thirty-five degree cell wearing only my work pants and a short-sleeved white shirt.

I looked around the cooler to see if there was anything I could use to push open the handle. All I saw was boxes of cheese. I was already chilled, and couldn’t imagine spending the night in the cooler. I started yelling and banging on the door. I was in an insulated cooler in the basement of the store at closing time. What hope did I have? I wanted out.

This is the context of the teaching of Jesus in John chapter ten. He had just released a man from the imprisonment of blindness. But more importantly He had released the man from the chilling cell of religious bondage. Jesus announces to everyone that He is the Door through which anyone could be released from the captivity of spiritual bondage. It was the mission He proclaimed in  Luke 4:18-19.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus tells the people that He is the Door through which anyone can be set free. You can be set free from sin. You can be set free from the bondage of religious traditions. Jesus is the door through which you can move to fullness of life.

The very interesting and powerful truth about the Door is that there is no handle on the inside. Jesus allows only one way traffic – IN. When we walk through the Door into eternal life, there is no out. Why should there be. Everything we have ever wanted is in Christ. His love is perfect so we need not seek love anywhere outside of Him. His knowledge is infinite so there is no need to seek understanding outside of Him. His power is limitless so there is no need to seek solutions outside of Him. When we walk through the Door into the eternal land of forgiveness,  we never need to search for satisfaction in any other land.

After about thirty-five minutes of yelling and banging, someone heard me. They opened the door. I walked through the open door into the warmth and freedom which I craved.

What are you craving from life? There is a Door. His name is Jesus. Walk through Him and find abundance.

Pastor John

Recognizing Counterfeits

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In February of last year a training meeting was held in Guam for the purpose of teaching business people how to quickly identify counterfeit currency. The meeting was conducted by Special Agents Joshua Fisher and James Ingram of the United States Secret Service, Guam Regional Office.

The half-day seminar began with a brief history of the security agency followed by an overview of the manufacturing process of U.S. Currency. The two agents then led an in-depth look into security features built into different currency notes. “By understanding how to identify genuine U.S. Currency, we can more easily detect counterfeit bills,” explained Special Agent James Ingram.

The Secret Service Agents passed out both counterfeit currency and genuine specimens and asked the group to spot differences between the bills. Within a few hours of training, participants quickly spotted illicit currency and identified various levels of sophistication between different counterfeit productions.

This principle of training applies to the spiritual realm as well. We are bombarded every day with counterfeits of genuine faith in Jesus Christ. Our only hope is to be so familiar with Jesus that fakes are quickly recognized.

Jesus said in John 10 that His followers are able to discern between His voice and the voices of strangers.

John 10:3-5  “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

There are three things to consider today:

  1. What voices are you listening to? We must discern the voice of Jesus and separate out all others as unnecessary.
  2. How well do you know the voice of Jesus? How familiar are you with His teaching? How intimate is your relationship with Jesus? The level of your intimacy with Jesus and your growing knowledge of Jesus will determine your level of recognition of all those who counterfeit His truth.
  3. How strong are you to resist the temptation to follow a stranger? The world is full of people with messages containing elements of truth but ultimately emphasize empowering self. Our only defense against following such strangers to the Gospel is to be grounded in the theology of the true Gospel.

Thieves and robbers of spiritual truth abound in the world today. Take the advice of the Secret Service. Spend your time studying only the original. You can know Jesus so well that any counterfeit is quickly exposed.

Pastor John

Thieves and Robbers

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 11, 2021

Recently, through social media, I have been able to reconnect with several of my Junior High classmates from Michigan. It has been fun to see them all grown up. I wonder how many of them remember this story from eight grade.

Right after lunch we stood in the hallway outside the locked door of our next class. The teacher was late. I had a solution. I went outside, climbed into the room through an open window, and unlocked the door. I invited everyone to come inside and sit down. I assumed it would be a wonderful surprise to the teacher when he came into the room and saw that the students were prepared to learn.

He was surprised all right. He even asked the class who had let them in. I proudly raised my hand, waiting for the commendation I wanted. Instead, I was reprimanded. There, on the teacher’s desk, was a stack of exams and the answer key.  It was a surprise test for us. The teacher assumed that I had looked at the exams and the answers. I was labeled a thief of the answers. I was sent to the principal’s office.

That memory introduces the next statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. The tenth chapter is a continuation of the dialogue Jesus is having with the Jews following their excommunication from the synagogue of the healed blind man in chapter nine. Jesus uses a metaphor to teach them about the true flock of God. He begins by telling them that the sheep have only one true shepherd.

John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”

That fateful day in 1967  was the only time in my life that I sat in a principal’s office waiting for punishment to be handed out. I had attempted to lead the sheep when I was not their shepherd. I had entered into the sheepfold as a thief and a robber, even though I did not see myself as such. The expectation of honor had blinded me to the reality of my choices.

Many of the religions of the world are being led by people who are also blind. They believe they see the truth, when in reality they are only deepening the darkness of their blindness. Jesus had just stated this in John 9 when He said,  “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” The expectation of honor and glory and power and authority has turned them into thieves and robbers. And the sheep that follow them are also blind…except for those who will recognize the voice of Jesus and follow Him.

The blind man Jesus healed was in the wrong sheepfold. But when he heard the voice of Jesus he believed and came out. He was actually thrown out for not remaining blind, but he willingly and enthusiastically left to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. All who are called by the Holy Spirit of God will come out of the sheepfold and follow the Good Shepherd.

The One and Only True Shepherd of any flock (religion) is Jesus Christ. All others are thieves and robbers. If you listen you will here the voice of the Good Shepherd calling you to come out. Believe what he says. Believe who He is. Turn your back on whatever flock you are in and follow Jesus. He is the only One who can offer you eternal life.

Pastor John

Modern Pharisees

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, January 8, 2021

I believe man actually walked on the moon.

I believe UFO’s are not real.

I believe that global warming will occur in the future as a means of God’s judgement of sin in the Tribulation but not as a result of man’s abuse of the environment.

I believe that things are never as they seem on the surface.

I believe that people are determined to protect their beliefs even if they are proven wrong.

My point today is taken directly from the Bible in John chapter nine. The religious rulers of His day have their belief system attacked by an event that proves they are wrong. Yet they are determined to fight against the truth. They seek every possible option to validate their own position. They become incensed with anyone who opposes them.  They do all they can to discredit every viewpoint that does not support their own. They speak harshly to people and speak unlovingly about people. They make accusations in order to invalidate people’s statements. And in the end, when they cannot win, they simply cast people aside as irrelevant.

Wow. I think I just described the behavior of religious people today. It breaks my heart to see the Pharisees alive and well in the church today.

I challenge you to read the story in John, and focus on the words of Jesus that conclude the chapter.

John 9:39-41 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Then before you start an argument with me about any of the things above that I say I believe, let me state one more.

I BELIEVE JESUS IS GOD, AND THAT HE DIED ON THE CROSS FOR MY SIN, AND ROSE FROM THE DEAD TO GRANT ETERNAL LIFE TO ME BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN HIM.

That’s the only belief I care to defend.

Pastor John

Work in the Light

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, January 7, 2020

I do not like doing any work in the dark. I prefer to work on a project with plenty of light. I want to be able to clearly see every detail of what needs to be done. There are very few jobs that can be accomplished in the dark. Perhaps the study of darkness is the only one.

Therefore, I own more flashlights than the average person. There are four in the bedroom alone. There are at least four in the camper. I have one in each vehicle, plus an additional work light in the car that I drive the most. I have two small flashlights in my hunting bag, plus a large spotlight for tracking game. There are additional small flashlights at strategic locations throughout the house. I have rechargeable lights and a large supply of batteries for the ones that aren’t. Whatever job I need to do, the first thing I do is grab a flashlight.

Light reveals what cannot be seen in the darkness. Light is necessary to repair the problems hidden by the darkness.  But light does not do the repair. The repair must be done by someone skilled who uses the light to guide the work being done. Light alone does not solve a problem. There must be a worker who is committed to accomplishing the task.

This is the principle taught by Jesus in John 9:4-5.

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Mankind is walking in darkness. They are avoiding the Light because they love their deeds done in the darkness. They are terrified of allowing their deeds to be exposed by the Light. But unless they come into the Light they will eternally dwell in darkness. Sinners need the Light to expose their sin so it can be removed and they can live in the Light of God’s glory.

That’s where you and I come in. Jesus is the Light of the world. When we repent of our sin, Jesus comes in the Person of the Holy Spirit and dwells in us. We are called to be the Light of the world and the workers who do the work of God. The work of God is to shine the Light of His glory into the darkness of sin so that sinners can be rescued from eternal darkness.

You have the Light in you if you have been saved from your sin by Jesus. So long as you are still in this world, it is day. You have the glorious privilege of being a worker doing the works of God. The Light is on. Get to work.

Pastor John

Limited Comfort

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, January 6, 2020

In my observations of those much younger than I it is obvious that teenagers have not changed over the generations in their relationship to parents. There is a core belief that parents know nothing about what the teen really wants or needs. Teens seem to believe that people in authority only serve as obstacles to their freedom.

But before we are too hard on them we need to expand our observations to those who are older. We who claim to have grown up and are now mature may not recognize the residual affects of our teenage philosophy. We have an expectation of comfort. We have almost perfected a philosophy of entitlement to only good outcomes. We are too often governed by the law of immediate benefit.

The reality of the entitlement philosophy is revealed when things go wrong and don’t turn out the way we wanted them to. Trouble and tragedy reveal our true placement of trust. Our attempts to avoid pain and suffering and provide solutions that result in our comfort reveal some serious issues of faith. The greatest issue we have is a small view of God’s sovereignty. The need to ensure comfort creates limits on the experience we could have with the God of all comfort.  To think that we can somehow provide greater comfort for ourselves than God can is to belittle God and exalt self.

In John chapter nine, Jesus explains to His disciples that the lifelong suffering of a blind man was pre-determined by God as a way of revealing the glory of Jesus Christ to the world. I am humbled by the memories of all the ways I may have missed seeing the glory of God because I “fixed” a problem God intended to use to display His mighty power.

God intends to reveal Himself to us. He wants us to see and understand His attributes. Biblical commentator Matthew Henry says it this way. “God wants us to see his justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities; his ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction. God intends in us to show himself, to declare his glory, to make himself to be taken notice of. How contentedly may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!”

That last sentence is worth pondering. We may be content in the loss of our comforts because we are certain that in the end God’s glory will be revealed.

Teenagers have a hard time seeing beyond the immediate. They don’t believe that the discomforts of their boundaries are actually producing good in their lives. I suspect that many adults still suffer from that philosophy of distrust. Maybe today we will discover the joy of embracing suffering so that we may know the fullness of Christ’s resurrection power in us. (Philippians 3:8-11)

Pastor John

Patience

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, January 5, 2020

I am by nature impulsive. With tongue in cheek I blame my dad. His mantra while I was growing up was “DO IT NOW!” I don’t think he envisioned the outcome that is my reality.

There are too many areas of my life where I am impatient. It negatively affects most things I do. Projects don’t turn out as well as they could because I didn’t carefully consider every possibility. In the past I would create my Christmas list for the family and then end up buying things on the list before Christmas, ruining their gift to me. When an idea comes into my head, it is hard for me to resist taking immediate action. It even hurts my golf game. Why do in three shots what I might be able to accomplish in two? SPLASH!

But where impatience shows up the most is when it conflicts with the plan of God. Why wait for God’s timing when I may be able to influence the outcome more quickly.

Pause for a second and consider the deep motivation of such an impatient philosophy. Two things come to my mind. First, I don’t really trust God’s outcome. Second, I really want some recognition.

In John 9 there is an amazing story that begins with Jesus seeing a man who has been blind from birth. We are not told how old he is, but he is old enough to be recognized by the residents of the city as a beggar trying to survive. The disciples are curious as to why this man is blind.

Pause again and consider how often we place a priority on knowing the why of our circumstances. What really motivates that need? It comes to my mind that the need to know the why is rooted in a need to assign responsibility. We want to explain the circumstances of life in human terms so that they make sense to our finite minds.

Now read how Jesus answered.

John 9:3 “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Here are some lessons I am learning from this statement of Jesus.

  • Our impatience contradicts our trust in God.
  • Our impatience is in direct conflict with God’s purpose, which is to reveal His glory.
  • Our impatience requires understandable explanations when God’s ways are not comprehensible to us.
  • Our impatience demands immediate resolutions which may not fully reveal the work and power of God.
  • Our impatience seeks human resolutions that limit the spiritual impact of God’s work.

Read the rest of the story. When this man’s vision was restored, it was far more than just his sight that weas restored. He got to see Jesus, and the absolute priority of his life was to declare Jesus to others.

Embrace what you are going through right now. God is preparing to do a mighty work which will open your eyes to His glory. Now, be patient and wait for it.

Pastor John

New Normal

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, January 4, 2021

Two days ago our house was filled with anticipation. The family had gathered to celebrate Christmas. It was a week later than normal, but we’ve come to expect that things will not be normal.

Each family arrived with boxes and bins packed with presents that had been carefully selected to express love and fulfill a dream. There were gifts for our five dollar exchange game we play. There were gifts for the grandchild name exchange. There were gifts from Grandpa and Grandma for each the children and grandchildren. There were gifts from the children to us.

After lunch, as we prepared for the giving of gifts, my mind started reviewing my on-line wish list. I wondered what I would receive. It was obvious from their responses to seeing their gift that others had done the same. Shouts of “It’s just what I wanted” were normal.

My gifts were not normal. My expectations were exceeded. My family went above and beyond the list to touch my heart. The gifts I received spoke love to me. They were not just gifts from a list, but gifts that showed me they knew me.

As we sat down for our Christmas dinner that evening, I could not control my emotions. I walked out of the kitchen as the family proceeded through the buffet line. I needed a moment to have a little joy-induced cry. I thought of all the threats to normal life that surround us, and I praised God and my Savior Jesus Christ that He is our Stronghold. He is our Defender. He is the Lover of our souls. There is nothing normal about Him, and yet everything about Him produces the perfect normal.

We are all filled with anticipation that life may someday be normal again. But my need for that dream to be fulfilled is fading. It is being replaced with a new normal.  I have discovered that the perceived benefits of normal in the past cannot be compared to the eternal benefits of living solely within the context of God’s gifts. As I observed my family on Saturday, I was convinced that while nothing in the world seems normal, the sharing of love is the normal I want.

Pastor John