About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

CRISIS BRINGS OPPORTUNITY

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Genesis 45:4-7   “Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Joseph’s life is an incredible story of faith. He made a difference for so many people because he was able to look beyond the immediate circumstances and trust God to be working to bring about a result that would be good for all. People who can see God at work even when all human rationale says otherwise are people who really make a difference.

In the story, Joseph was the favored son of his father Jacob, who would later be called Israel. Joseph had been born to Jacob in his old age, so he received very special attention. His brothers were jealous. They plotted to eliminate him. The plan was changed at the last minute and resulted in Joseph being sold into slavery, eventually in Egypt. While there, he proved himself a worthy leader, and was placed in charge of the household of one of Pharaoh’s officials. After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned. Then, after earning the respect of both prisoners and guards, he was overlooked for release after being promised he would be. Finally, after interpreting a dream for the Pharaoh, he was recognized as the most discerning and wise man in Egypt and placed in charge of the palace and the whole land of Egypt. All this by the time he was thirty years old.

Joseph used his wisdom to plan for the future. During times of abundance, he put away a portion of the crops and stored them in reserve for the times when there would be drought. When the famine came, countries from all over the world came to Egypt to buy grain. Meanwhile, Jacob, who thought his son Joseph was dead, sent his brothers to Egypt to get grain. Then, after that supply was exhausted, he sent them again. It was during this trip that Joseph decided to reveal himself to his brothers. Imagine the fear that must have overwhelmed their hearts and minds when they realized that the teenager they had sold into slavery now held power over their very lives. Some would call it karma; others might say that what goes around comes around. Here was Joseph’s chance to get even and even ahead.

But not Joseph. He was a man who walked by faith and not by sight. He trusted God. He saw the bigger picture. People who can see the bigger picture make a difference. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of the immediate. It’s stressful to be overwhelmed by the details. It’s only when someone comes along and reminds us of the bigger picture that we are relieved. We need people around us who can see the whole puzzle, or who at least can show us how to trust the One who created the picture.

Life is full of uncertainty right now. But then, it always has been. There’s an economic crisis causing fear. People who had done nothing wrong end up paying a high price for the bad choices of others. There’s a political crisis destroying the confidence may have in our government. There’s a spiritual crisis as our culture increasingly rejects Jesus Christ. But in these critical times, we have two choices – the same choices Joseph had. We can turn to the world for our solutions, or we can turn to the God who holds the world in His hands. Jesus holds the answers to all the everyday problems we face. We could  try to deal with our problems on our own without a belief in Jesus Christ, but there will be no permanent solutions and the end result will be failure and destruction. But with a faith in Jesus Christ that looks beyond the immediate, we realize how insignificant the financial crisis is in comparison with the big picture of God’s plan for the eternal redemption of people’s souls.

There is a lot of talk about what we are going to do to rescue America from financial collapse. As you get involved in those discussions, please make sure one thing is perfectly clear: your faith is in the plan and purpose of God and not the politics of the people. This is the time when faith is needed most, and people of faith must lead. Do not be distressed. God has this under control. His plan is being perfected. His purpose is being fulfilled. His people have been sent ahead to provide for a great deliverance, and that deliverance is spiritual, not financial. Keep your focus on Christ, and walk by faith, not sight. You will make a difference.

Pastor John

SPIRITUAL SURGERY

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Luke 5:31-32  “Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

From a physical perspective, many of us know the difference a good surgeon has made in our lives. I have had a nearly ruptured appendix removed, two hernias repaired, major sinus reconstruction, and knee surgery. None of those surgeries was pleasant, but each was necessary to restore physical health.

Today’s story of a person who made a difference comes from Inge. Inge shares that she needed surgery. Spiritual surgery. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but it was essential for spiritual health. Here’s her story.

“The person who has made the biggest impact on my life is Dr. Henry Brandt, a Christian psychologist.  He was married to a good friend of mine whom I met on the mission field. When it became apparent that I was a pretty miserable Christian (and a missionary at that!), my friend Marcey invited me to stay with her and Dr. Brandt to figure out what the problem might be.  Dr. Brandt pulled no punches.  He asked me right off if I was willing to make changes in my life – because if I wasn’t, then he saw no need to waste his time or mine.  As he took me through the Scriptures, it didn’t take long for me to realize that my problem was sin.  I had been pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Always eager to say yes to anything asked of me (isn’t that what missionaries do?), I was actually saying “no” on the inside.  Outwardly I was a helpful missionary, but inside I was grumbling and complaining and not at all happy.  As a skillful surgeon, Dr. Brandt used God’s Word to reveal other areas of my life that needed changing.  It took some time, but gradually, as I acknowledged my sin and repented before God, I changed from a miserable Christian into a joyful one. He taught me what it means to “walk in the spirit” and he always said that circumstances do not create our spirit, they reveal our spirit.  So if I get mad because I have to wait in line at the grocery store, it’s not the waiting in line that makes me angry, the waiting merely reveals the anger that’s already inside of me.  He taught me that anger is only one letter away from danger and I needed to pay attention when my circumstances revealed a negative spirit in me and to deal with it right away and not let it fester.  Dr. Brandt not only taught me how to live out biblical principles, he modeled it!  He is the most Christ-like person I’ve ever met and I’ll be forever grateful for having known him. God used Dr. Brandt to teach me important lessons that have stuck with me and will enable me to be a better missionary this time around!”

You may have a need right now for some spiritual surgery. Believe it or not, God has qualified and gifted some people near you in your life to perform it. It may be your pastor, your elder, a friend, or a family member. They are qualified because God has provided them with the surgical instrument necessary to make the proper incisions. That instrument is wisdom, and God has granted it to anyone in Christ who asks for it. Don’t try to operate on yourself. The Great Physician has equipped a staff of spiritual surgeons all around you. Make an appointment with one of them and trust their diagnosis. You will find the healing you are longing for.

Pastor John

LISTEN TO REBUKE

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Sometimes encouragement and challenge come in the form of admonition or rebuke. We don’t like those times of confrontation, but they are necessary. Our attitude towards the people who have the courage to address our issues can make all the difference.

In today’s Scripture, Jesus must address a serious issue in Peter’s thinking. He does it bluntly and firmly, but not without proper foundation and teaching of Kingdom principles.

Matthew 16:22-25  “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  

In the long run, His confrontation with His disciples made a difference in their lives. He challenged them and encouraged them, even though at the time they may not have thought it very encouraging.

Here’s a story of encouragement and challenge from one of our readers named Terri, who said a former boss she had made a real difference in her life.

“In 1991 I was an executive assistant to a Corporate VP.  He and I got along well, but in all honesty, he was flakey (for lack of a better description) and had personal problems that I was unaware of at the time.  Part of my job was making him look good, so I did my best to “cover for him” when he wouldn’t make it in for an executive meeting—and I thought I was doing a good job of it.  But over the course of a couple years, I realized I had also become “flakey” – coming in when I wanted to and leaving when I wanted to.  I had no heart left in my job but continued to cruise through for the paycheck, knowing my boss would always “cover for me” as I did for him.

One afternoon he had a meeting with his boss, the Sr. VP. After the meeting he asked me to go with him into a conference room.  He told me that he had just been let go from the company.  It was no secret that his boss didn’t like him. However, I found out right then that his boss also did not like me by default.  I would be given a couple weeks at the company to search for other internal opportunities and then would also be let go.

Within 15 minutes of finishing that discussion with my boss the Sr. VP came down the hall and told me quite sternly to get up to his office.  His administrator had gone into labor 2 months earlier than expected and he let me know (in no uncertain terms) that I would fill in for her while she was gone. He told me what he had observed about me, and that he felt I was pretty much worthless, but that I was his only option until he could find a replacement.  I could look for other opportunities in the company but was told that he would never provide a reference for me.  I wanted to walk out the door and never come back, but I didn’t.  I knew I was the best at what I did and just hoped I had the opportunity to prove that. My intentions were out of spite, however. 

A month later, when I arrived at the office (yes, about ½ hour late because I thought he was scheduled for a meeting), he was sitting in his office with the HR manager and asked me to join them.  I was provided with an official warning letter that I would be terminated immediately if I failed to be on time one more morning. I signed the letter to acknowledge I understood, and the HR manager left the office.  My boss just sat there and stared at me with a serious look on his face.  The silence drove me insane, and I started trying to ramble to him about my promises of doing better. He held his hand up for me to stop talking. 

He asked me how long I thought it took to change something.  Again my nervous rambling started. He held up his hand for me to stop talking again and said, “it takes that long” and snapped his fingers.  He continued “the only thing that takes time is making the decision to change.  Once you are serious and make the decision to change, it happens like that (again, snapping his fingers).”  His gaze never left my eyes, and he was talking sincerely—a side of him I felt I’d never seen before.  It was a profound moment for me because I realized that he was absolutely right. I also realized he must think I’m worth something to even take the time to have this brief exchanged.

Instantaneously my attitude changed, which triggered a series of changes in my work life and personal life.  He and I formed one of the best working relationships I’ve ever had in my career.  Although 17 years later, he is no longer with the company, I still am and continue to grow professionally from the difference he made in my life. We still keep in touch, and I’ve had the opportunity to thank him for being someone who made a difference in my life.

Sometimes we need people who will be blunt and firm with us, especially when we understand that they are doing it for our good. If we can get past the initial defense mechanisms of pride designed to protect us from hurt, we will probably see the potential benefit of growth. We all need to listen to the truth that is being spoken rather than reacting to how it is being presented. Most people with the courage to challenge us are doing it for the right reason. Listen to them. It will make a difference.

Pastor John

ENCOURAGE AND CHALLENGE

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, May 23, 2022

As a young man I was very confused. Everything I did was an attempt to make people like me. Most of it failed miserably and had the opposite result. If you were to ask anyone from my high school graduating class what I was like, they would probably use the word “jerk” to describe me. I’m not making this up – it’s true. When I got to college, I was able to create a new persona and made it work for a while. But I was still not living out the life of Christ in me. I was trying to earn the favor of people by adapting to whatever I thought they wanted me to be. I never believed I was worth much, which was pride in a most dangerous form.

In the Spring of my freshman year of college, I got a phone call from my brother Paul. He was planning on attending the same college. He asked me if he could by my roommate for the coming year. I was overwhelmed. I think it was one of the best days of my life. My younger brother, whom I envied for his popularity and abilities, wanted to bunk with me. Of course I said yes. When we arrived at school that year, we immediately began making plans with the other guys on our dorm floor for our intramural football and basketball teams. Of course, my brother would be the quarterback, the position he played in high school. I never got to play high school football, but I played endless hours with my brother in the yard when I was younger. I knew him, and I discovered that he knew me. We became an unstoppable combination of touchdown passes.

Then basketball season came. I had played on the college freshman team, but when my brother arrived,  I decided to play intramural ball with him. At five foot eleven inches I was the tallest guy on our dorm floor, so I got appointed to play center, a position I had never played before. One of our first games was against the faculty, and the head basketball coach was on that team. He stood six foot ten and weighed at least 250. I was a mere 145 pounds. Of course, I was getting manhandled inside and we were losing the game. At halftime my brother looked at me and said, “John, we need you. You can do better. Take control of the inside and get us some rebounds.” I’ve honestly never had anyone tell me anything more personally significant in my life. I was needed. Someone believed in me. Someone trusted my abilities. It was a life-changing moment for me.

The second half was completely different. I discovered that the coach couldn’t jump very well, but I could. I discovered he was slow, and I was quick. I discovered I could exert some strength and actually move him around. I had the most fun of my life. We won the game and went on to win a lot more as well. All because one person, my brother, saw past my failures and flaws, and combined encouragement with a challenge. He made a difference in my life.

Jesus did that for Peter, too.  In John 21:16we read,  “Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

After denying Christ three times and giving up hope of ever accomplishing anything of value, he had gone back to fishing. Jesus meets him where he was and combines encouragement with challenge. He takes whatever level of love Peter is able to give Him and provides him an opportunity to use it to do something great. It was Peter’s life-changing moment.

How many people do you know who need encouragement combined with challenge? They don’t need us to point out their flaws. They don’t need to be reminded of their dysfunctions. They need someone to believe in them. How will they ever know that God believes in them if God’s people don’t? Everyone is of value to God. He died for all. He wants to save all. So find one of them today and tell them something that encourages them and gives them the courage to accept a challenge. Then, when they know you care, they will want to know why you care. That’s when you get to tell them about Jesus. It will change their life.

Pastor John

REACH OUT AND TOUCH

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, May 20, 2022

Jesus was willing to touch the untouchable. His compassion was obvious. His mercy was extensive. His grace was unending.

Matthew 8:1-3   “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”

As His followers – His disciples – Jesus has energized us with His indwelling Spirit to be the same. We will make a difference when we become Jesus to those in need. When we extend our hands to the hurting and the helpless, we are extended the hands of Jesus to them.

Here’s a testimony of the difference we can make when we reach out and touch others with the compassion of Christ. It comes from a friend named Deb.

“The people in my Small Group made a big difference in my life. When my first husband died in an accident when I was pregnant with my first child, my Small Group was a big support to me. In so many ways, they tried to fill the void left in my life. They helped me remember to get the oil changed in the car, a job my husband would have done. They had me over for dinner, they threw a surprise birthday party for me, and called if they missed me at church. After the baby was born, they offered to babysit, and they let me bring him, even though he was often fussy and noisy, to our Bible studies. And that first Christmas, they helped me set up my Christmas tree with all the trimmings. Some people in those days seemingly fell out of my life as I suppose they didn’t know what to say or do and dealing with grief made them uncomfortable. Others came closer and were an encouragement to me. Those are the ones who made a difference. They were Jesus’ hands and feet, Jesus “with skin on” in my life. They are still my dear friends to this day!”

Don’t be someone who pulls away because you are uncomfortable with or fearful of another person’s condition. Reach out and touch them. Be willing. You will make a difference.

Pastor John

CHECK INSIDE

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Prejudice is a sin. But I would be wrong to assume that none of us are prejudiced. We may not be prejudiced in certain areas, like race, but we may be prejudiced about other things – like disabilities.

Leviticus 19 :15  “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

We all need someone in our lives who will help us conquer prejudicial tendencies. People with enough courage to speak truthfully to us can make a difference. My friend Dudley Donaldson discovered such a friend, and it’s made a huge difference in his life. Here’s his story…

“My first year in the dorms at UW-Madison, I kept noticing a guy in a wheelchair in the cafeteria.  He was very small, his body contorted and hunched over.  He struggled to feed himself and depended on others to get him around from place to place.  But I noticed he always had a group of fellow students around him.  They were always laughing and talking together and this guy in the wheelchair was obviously an important part of the group.  Coming from a very sheltered home life, I felt very uncomfortable around people different from me.  This guy made me very uncomfortable, so I made it my practice to always avoid him.  I’m ashamed to admit that whenever I saw him, I would go the other way.  My second year, as I moved into my new dorm room, I noticed that the door right across the hall from me had a little handicapped symbol on it.  I thought, “Oh no.”  But it couldn’t be, could it?  It could, and it was!  That same guy in the wheelchair lived right across the hall from me!  I tried to ignore him, but it was impossible.  Impossible because he came knocking on my door, introducing himself.  His name was Bob. I soon came to learn that he loved Jesus with all his heart.  The people I always saw with him in the cafeteria were Christian friends, involved with the Navigators.  Soon I was pulled into that same group and for the first time I experienced the love of Christian friends my age.  Bob and I became very close friends.  He was truly an inspiration to me.  Everyone could see how difficult everyday life was for him.  His twisted little body was difficult to look at, even after getting to know him.  But the love of Jesus shown in his eyes and through his life.  On the back of his wheelchair he had a bumper sticker that read, “I’m eternally grateful to Jesus!”  Wow, talk about a testimony!  I always assumed Bob was content to be in that chair and accepted it as just the way it was, but one day he told me that he often had a dream where he was walking on a beach with a girl, holding her hand.  As we talked, I realized that the joy Bob expressed in his life wasn’t because he was naturally a joyful person.  It was because of his relationship with Jesus Christ.  His daily life was a horrible struggle, but still Jesus was his joy.  Bob taught me so much about “walking” with Christ.  He taught me to be eternally grateful to Jesus.  And I’m eternally grateful to God for leading me to my good friend, Bob.

In Christ, sin and its consequences have been abolished. In Christ, we are spiritually healed from all sin’s disabilities. In Christ, the inside is made holy, so the outside is acceptable. Hallelujah! Bob is living proof. Dudley now understands. Prejudice is being conquered.

We must guard against making decisions about people until we know who they are on the inside. We can all be thankful Jesus did that with us.

Pastor John

HUGS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

When our children were little, we did something at the conclusion of their conflict with a sibling – and they hated it. We made them hug each other. But we knew that while forced affection during times of animosity is repulsive, it’s also healing. 

One of the churches the Apostle Paul planted was filled with dissention and animosity. It is the church that Paul wrote to the most. We have two of at least four letters he wrote in our New Testament. It was the church at Corinth. After addressing each of their issues, Paul concludes his letter with this phrase – Greet one another with a holy kiss. 

1 Corinthians 16:19-20  “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

Forced affection. No conflict was to ever destroy the unity of brotherly love and affection. No personal disputes were to ever overwhelm the reality of acceptance in the Body of Christ. No disagreement was to ever become more important than the spirit of a person. Caring for people is always more important than caring about issues.

We live in a world that is filled with people longing for acceptance and significance. To quote Gary Chapman, “Their love tanks are empty.” Something so simple as a hug can begin the filling process. Here’s a story from a devotional reader who shares that a hug made a difference in her life.

“Even at 8 or 9 years of age, I knew this woman was different and I respected and admired her.  She was my third grade teacher, Esther Lindgren.  She began every school day by reading to us from the Bible!!!  Even in 1964 this was not a common practice.  She stood out in our small community as a very caring and loving woman of God.  Later in my teen years this lady had a major impact in my salvation, and with such a small and seemingly insignificant action.  I knew she was a woman that had a strong faith, but it was her smile and hugs that brought me that last step into Jesus’ arms.  I was searching and I went to her church.  Every time that she saw me, she would grab me and hug me and say, “I’m so glad that you are here today!”  I felt so loved.  Somebody cared. I wanted what she had.  What a simple thing that we all can do!  On this side of heaven we can never know how all those seemingly insignificant actions and words will affect someone. God can use anything and anyone.”

That young girl grew up to be my wife, and is now filling the love tanks of countless people. She’s making a difference in others because someone made a difference in hers. And she’s not the only one who’s been impacted by honest and sincere gestures of love and acceptance. A former member of our church who moved away many years ago, Marian, writes this,

“I want to thank the Pastoral staff and church family of Calvary Baptist Church of Eau Claire, WI for being the first to show me what true acceptance into the body of believers really meant by fostering a  “walking into a hug” fellowship. I got a lot of hugs! I love and appreciate you both. You…have made a profound impact on my life. The church family accepted me and loved me (hat included) as I was. I didn’t have to conform to fit in. You as a church used what I had to offer and made me feel loved and wanted and part of the family. Do you know how rare that is? I do! In my previous 55 years, Calvary was the first to do it.”

I love what Marian said about having a “walking into a hug” fellowship. What a great word picture. Unfortunately for her, and for many others, it took her a long time to discover it. How many people do we meet every day who are longing – craving – for fellowship that feels like walking into a hug. We who have walked into the eternal hug of Jesus are the ones who have hugs to share. Even if you must force it for now, learn to put aside your personal agenda, anxiety, and animosity, and show the affection of Jesus to someone longing for acceptance. Let the love of Christ dwell richly in you and love each other deeply with a sincere love. Greet one another with a holy kiss (HUG).

Pastor John

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

It was late in the summer of 1977. Our first child was only seven weeks old. I had moved my small family from North Dakota to Iowa to take a new position in management with my company. We immediately got involved in a wonderful church in town. The pastor happened to be a lifelong acquaintance of my mother. After attending for several weeks, Pastor Garl Brand, whom our daughter would later call “Pastor Grandpa”, invited me to his office. He said something to me that changed the direction of my life. He said that God had impressed upon his heart that I was in the wrong profession. My business experience would be useful in the future, but that I was called to be a pastor and I needed to get back on track. He committed to training me in all the aspects of church life and pastoral responsibility. As a result, two years later, I began a bi-vocational ministry to two small churches in South Dakota that eventually led to full time ministry here in Wisconsin. Garl made a difference in my life.

Today we begin a devotional series about people who made a difference. I’m sure we all have stories of people who made a difference in our lives. I would love to hear yours. In fact, over the next few weeks, we are going to be looking at people who made a difference. If you send me your story of someone who made a difference in your life, maybe I’ll use it in one of these devotionals.

As we start, let me remind you that you are a person who can make a difference in someone’s life. In the little book of Philemon in the New Testament, Paul makes a difference in the life of a slave named Onesimus who had stolen from his master, Philemon, and then run away. Somehow, by God’s grace, Onesimus met Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome. Paul shared Christ with him, and Onesimus became a repentant follower of Jesus. Onesimus had gone from being useless to his former master, to being useful both to Paul and Philemon. Paul made a difference in his life.

Philemon 1:10-11  “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.”

There are questions that plague many of us. “What difference does my life make?” “What use am I in the world?” “Would anything be appreciably different if I were not here?” I’m sure we have all thought about such things from time to time. I found something written by Keith Robinson, who says,

“There is an old saying about putting your hand in a pail of water and withdrawing it: the hole that remains is how much you will be missed when you are gone! I am not pessimistic, depressed, or tired of living, but in reality, I have to recognize that my life has not made much of an impact on the world, certainly nothing like I had intended when I was 18 years old. But I am encouraged by the fact that human worth is not measured only in terms of fame, fortune, and sociopolitical influence. Perhaps the greatest measure of our value is how much we are needed by some other human being. The once useless Onesimus became ‘useful’ to Paul and to Philemon. When the final books are balanced and closed, the greatest tribute anyone could receive would be: They were useful! Someone needed them! And what greater ambition could a person entertain than to be needed, to be useful. If there is someone who needs my love, if there is someone who looks forward to my presence, even if I can be nothing much more than just the object to someone’s love, then I am not worthless. My life is not in vain. My existence is not futile. I may not be much, but I can love someone and make them feel needed. I can be the object of someone else’s love and thus fill their needs and mine. No one is useless unless they give up on life and love.

 Your life does make a difference. God planned it that way. You will have an impact on someone today whether you recognize it or not. Whether that impact will be negative or positive is up to you, but your life will make a difference.  

Pastor John

PEACE AND LOVE WITH FAITH

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ephesians 6:23-24  “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the church at Ephesus with a standard benediction, but I believe that even things that seem standard have divine importance for our lives. In fact, I find several very important truths in the closing two verses. Here are a couple of thought stimulators for your day.

First, I see a distinction between verse 23 and 24. Verse 23 challenges us in our attitudes and behaviors towards those within the body of Christ. Verse 24 challenges us with our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23 is about the horizontal life we live, and verse 24 is about the vertical life we live. The life we live with others is to be lived as a product of the love we have for Jesus.  

It is an old and maybe overused analogy, but it is still very true – input determines output. Garbage in – garbage out. “Bad company corrupts good character,” says Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. But when we input the peace and love of God into our lives, that’s what will flow out of us towards others.

Second, we are to be personally characterized by two attributes – peace and love. Paul sends peace to the brothers. Remember, he is in prison while he writes this. The people of the church are worried about him. They are deeply impacted by his condition because as members of the same body they hurt when he hurts. Paul understands the depth of personal emotions when people are connected at the heart of Jesus. He knows they are hurting for him, so he says, “Peace to you.” He wants them to rest and be quiet in the truth that God is in control. He doesn’t want his current circumstances to contribute to their conflict, but rather to be a connecting point of confidence in Christ. He wants them to be one with each other.  

Then Paul says he wants us to have love with faith. Rather than separate these two into separate characteristics, I want to suggest that Paul may have had something else in mind. One simple possibility is that he was referring to love being the natural outflow of our faith. But there’s more. The source of our love with faith is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. How did they model love with faith for us? Well, if we take the primary meaning of faith to be the moral conviction of truth, then it doesn’t apply to God. He does not have faith – He is the object of our faith. Jesus does not have a moral conviction of truth, He is the truth. But there is a secondary meaning to the word faith – constancy. It is that meaning that describes the nature and character of God. He is faithful. He is consistent. His love was carried to its completion on the cross of Christ. His love never fails.

I believe Paul is telling us to have that kind of love – love that is constant and consistent. Love that does not waver with circumstances. Love that doesn’t demand response. Love that proves our faith. This is critical as we witness to the grace of God. If we say that we know the truth, and our faith is in the One True God who never changes, and that love is the product of our faith, the love will be consistently seen in us. If the product of faith doesn’t validate the faith, then the faith is of no value.

Paul concludes his letter with one more challenge – to love the Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. The word undying means incorruptible and perpetual. It’s how we are to love Christ, and how we are to love one another. As I get older I realize how love gets stronger. I love the Lord more than ever, and it’s the deepest and darkest trials that strengthen it the most, because I get to experience the faithfulness of His love for me. I love my wife more than ever, and it’s the grace I get from her every day that makes me love her more.

My friends, there is no stronger anchor to hold you in the hurricanes of life than the love of God. There is no more secure place to ride out the storms of life than in the grip of God. Love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. His grace will be sufficient for you every day.

Pastor John

TRUE FRIENDSHIP

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, May 13, 2022

We got the first call at around 7:30 in the morning. I was already at the office when Denise called me. Our son Josh was on his way home from work to take his wife Brittany to the hospital. It was the day of the birth of our sixth grandchild. (We now have eleven.) All day long we checked in for updates, and when the time was getting close, we went up to the hospital to wait for the big moment. Twelve hours after the first phone call Josh came out to the waiting room with a picture and announced that he had another son. His name is Liam Chandler, and all eight pounds twelve ounces of him are perfect.

As we waited at the hospital, one of Brittany’s best friends, who is also a nurse and also pregnant, became the messenger of news during the delivery process. That’s kind of interesting when I think of it, because it makes her the “soon to deliver delivery delivery person”. Anyway, each time there was a development in the delivery, she would depart the delivery room and deliver the news to us. She became our conduit of connection to our children. She told us how Brittany was doing, how Josh was doing, and how much time was left. She was such an encouragement to us. She was such a servant.

Ephesians 6:21-22  “Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.” 

Tychicus was such a person. Paul calls him a dear brother and faithful servant. Tychicus had accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey, and delivered two of his letters to churches – this one to Ephesus and the letter to the Colossians. But he was much more than a delivery man. Tychicus was the personal representative of Paul to the people of the churches. When Tychicus spoke, he shared more than information – he shared the heart of Paul. When Tychicus spoke, people became emotionally attached to Paul because he was so deeply connected to Paul.

Paul told the people at Ephesus that when Tychicus shared everything that was going on in Paul’s life, they would know not only what he was doing but also how he was. In fact, Paul said the very purpose he was sending Tychicus was so that the people would know how he was. This is so important. True friendship and intimacy is based on intimate knowledge of a person not on just the knowledge of what they are doing. Most of our conversations with people are pretty shallow and focus on activity. Deep relationships focus on the heart, and relationships like that are the most meaningful and fulfilling.

The reason I emphasized the word know in the last paragraph is because it is the key to the whole point I am making. Jesus used the same word when He described His relationship with us in John 15:5 – “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Twice he uses the word in this verse. Once to describe the lack of knowledge of a servant, and once to describe the depth of knowledge of a friend. The contrast is significant. The servant doesn’t even know the master’s business, but the friend has had everything revealed to Him. We are the friends of Jesus, and everything that He learned from the Father has been made known to us. Not just through the passing on of information, but through the experience of the life of Christ. In the prayer of Jesus in John 17, Jesus says, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” WOW! The same love that God has for His Son is found in us because the Son lives in us. Hallelujah!

It’s not the knowledge of what someone is doing that determines the depth of friendship, it’s the experience of who the person is. That’s what Tychicus brought to the people at Ephesus – the experience of Paul’s life. That’s what Brittany’s friend brought to us at the hospital 12 years ago. That’s what each one of us has the opportunity to do with others. It’s what true fellowship in the body of Christ is all about. So ask yourself, “Am I that kind of a friend, or am I just a delivery person?” Delivery people, in the scope of relationship information, are usually called gossips. Friends bring others into the experience of the people they love and encourage them. Let’s choose to be friends like Tychicus.

Pastor  John