About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

WHICH GOD?

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, June 11, 2021

We are nearing the end of a universal war that has been in progress since before the creation of the world. It is the battle between God, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all things, and all His created beings that are capable of rational thought. The war is being fought over the souls of people on the battleground of belief. The conflict is between two belief systems. The first is that God is God and that He is loving and good. The second is that we are our own gods, and that we are better at managing our own lives to produce good.

The primary combatants are God and Satan. The battle is not over the knowledge of God’s existence; Satan and all his demons believe that God exists. The fight is about whether God is True and Good, and able to be trusted to rule in such a way that we are fully loved and accepted and fulfilled in life. Atheists and agnostics are not really striving to prove there isn’t a God, but they are seeking to prove that they themselves are god.

One of the tactics used by the enemies of God is to renounce the truth of the Gospel by discrediting all spirituality. Jean Meslier (1664-1729) served as a Catholic priest for 40 years, but after his death was discovered to have written the very first book-length philosophical essay promoting atheism.

Meslier says all religions are human inventions:

“All the laws and orders that are issued in the name and authority of God or the gods are really only human inventions… invented by shrewd and crafty politicians, afterward cultivated and multiplied by the false seducers and charlatans, then accepted blindly by the ignorant, and finally supported and authorized by the laws of the princes and rulers of the earth who used these human inventions to keep a tight rein on the community of men and do with them what they wanted.”

In contrast to that statement, the Apostle Paul states in his God-inspired letter to the churches of Galatia,  “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”(Galatians 1:11)

Paul did not invent the Gospel, nor did he receive it from men; but he personally received the Gospel from Jesus Christ. Both his message and his apostolic ministry were divinely given. Therefore, anybody who added anything to or took anything away from Paul’s Gospel was in danger of divine judgment, because that Gospel was given by Jesus Christ from heaven.

The war for truth is being fought on many battlefields in the church today. Is Jesus God? Did Jesus rise from the dead into an eternal body? Is the Bible the inspired revelation of God without error? And the list goes on. But one thing is common in all the debates and deconstruction of Biblical truth: they are all an attempt to validate man as his own god and conform God to our imaginations. The single motivation behind man’s attempt to rediscover truth is to agree with Satan that we should be gods of our own lives.

Every one of us has a choice to believe in a god – either one of our own making or the One who made us. It is a decision with eternal consequences. Choose wisely.

Pastor John  

Don’t Negotiate

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 10, 2021

From early childhood we learn how to negotiate. Unless we put a bridle on it and reign it in, negotiation will soon gallop into manipulation. I have watched this far too often in children who are given permission at an early age to debate the decisions of a parent. By the time they are teenagers they are experts at getting their way.

When it comes to the truth of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul leaves no room for negotiation. When anyone brings false teaching into the local church they are to be immediately disciplined by removing them. There is to be no leaven in the pure bread of life.

Galatians 1:8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Unfortunately, the church today seems to be embracing the reconstruction of the Gospel. I am currently reading a book written by a former member of the contemporary Christian band ZOEgirl, Alisa Childers. She describes her involvement in the movement called Progressive Christianity, and how by grace she was rescued from it. The book is entitled Another Gospel?. I recommend it to you.

The progressive movement’s agenda is not new. It starts with the deconstruction of all Gospel truth under the guise of removing any bias we have. Then the Gospel is reconstructed under the false pretense that it must fit into the parameters of our individual experiences and preferences. It is a deadly game of conforming the Gospel to man rather than conforming man to the Gospel.

Just as Alisa Childers was drawn into this movement by the persuasive words of a talented pastor, we too can be tempted to deconstruct our faith by the engaging eloquence of false teachers. They promise prosperity. They promise personal gratification. They promise a savior who separates spiritual life from the pursuit of pleasure. It is a modern revision of the ancient Gnostic philosophy which was so prevalent in the days of Christ and the Apostles.

Recently I was asked how we can learn more about these threats to the truth of the Gospel. My answer was simple. Study the truth so thoroughly that any deviation from it is immediately obvious. With our eyes fixed on Jesus with His unchangeable nature, and our minds transformed by the unchangeable truth of the Gospel,  we will not be conformed to the pattern of thinking so prevalent in the world today.

And when any…let me shout it…WHEN ANY TEACHING OR TEACHER PRESENTS ANYTHING THAT IS CONTRARY TO THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST, DO NOT NEGOTIATE. CUT IT OFF AND REMOVE IT. We must stay faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John

Approved Workers

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/lifelink-devotions/id1559931973

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

There is a severe employment problem in America today. Thousands of jobs to be had but very few people willing to work. We could debate the reasons for this all day long and into the next election cycle, but at the root of the problem is the corrupt condition of people’s hearts. We feel entitled to more than we have, and we feel enabled to get more at no cost. The need for more is rooted in our pursuit of value and acceptance.

The intentionally unemployed believe that their value can be enhanced by high returns on minimal investment. They seek to please self.

The employed are tempted to seek the same returns with minimal investment. They do what is necessary to please their boss without a sincere work ethic that benefits the employer.

I believe the need to earn acceptance from people or earn value for self has a direct influence on our job performance. When we embrace God’s acceptance through Jesus Christ, we are free from the need to earn value for ourselves. When we know the value we have in Christ, we will not need to find more value by pleasing people. This is especially true in our job performance. The Bible speaks of this in two passages.

Colossians 3:22-24   “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Ephesians 6:5-8  “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

How do you do your job? That question cannot be honestly answered before we answer this one. WHY do you do your job? If you do it to earn personal value, you will fail. If you do it to gain acceptance from people, you will fail. But if you do it as a product of your value in Christ, and do it with thanksgiving in your heart to God who accepts you in Jesus, you will receive an inheritance worth infinitely more than any paycheck you receive.

We work because the Lord has been gracious to us to give us skills and strength. We work well because it is an act or worship to the Lord. We who are not seeking to please people and earn their acceptance should be the best workers our employers have ever hired. We work from strength not from weakness. We work for eternal rewards not for earthly benefits. We work to serve our employer not to serve self.

We who are in Christ should not be part of the employment problem.

Pastor John

NO MORE APPROVAL NEEDED

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Yesterday’s topic of seeking the approval of people needs more unpacking. The Apostle Paul understands that we need to know our value. We need to know that we are approved. The problem is that we seek value and approval in the wrong places. Humanity cannot provide what human nature needs. As created beings, only our Creator can supply what we need to be complete.

Paul knew that our nature seeks approval from people so we can declare ourselves to have value. But true value can only come from the approval of God through Jesus Christ. If our hearts are set on seeking the approval of people then we will always need more value. But when our hearts embrace the approval of God, we lack no value.

Paul knew that the key to running the spiritual race assigned to us by Christ is to keep our hearts firmly fixed on Christ and the coming glory of His presence. If our sense of personal worth shifts from an eternal perspective to an earthly one then we will struggle to endure the circumstances and the people of this life. But when we live in the approval of God through Jesus Christ, with our value defined by eternity, then with thanksgiving we will live to please God and not man.

Here’s how Paul describes it in one of the letters he wrote to the church at Corinth. I like the way Eugene Peterson expresses the truth of this passage in his paraphrase called The Message.

2 Corinthians 5:1-14  “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming. But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad. That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.”

God’s love has given us the value of Jesus, and granted us eternal approval. There’s no need to look anywhere else.

Pastor John

APPROVED

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, June 7, 2021

It’s very hard not to be a people-pleaser. From early childhood we learn to do and say the things that make other people happy.  We freely move between opposing viewpoints to avoid conflict and gain acceptance. We keep the peace by hiding what we really think and agreeing with the consensus around us. It is destructive behavior that produces serious consequences, including self-doubt, spiritual doubt, and distrust.

The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 1:10. He is about to confront a serious problem in the church of Jesus Christ, which will then expose certain people-pleasing leaders as false teachers. Paul knows the potential for people to be hurt and for people to reject him. He could ignore the issue and gain their approval, but that would mean being unfaithful to Christ. He verbalizes his inner debate in Galatians 1:10.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

One of the freedoms we receive as servants of Jesus Christ is the approval of God. His eternal commendation is of far greater value than any self-earned approval of people. As servants of Jesus we are free from the need to get other people to like us. We are free from earning value by gaining people’s approval. We are so confident in our spiritual identity that physical identity becomes insignificant. We are set free from constantly measuring up to other people’s standards because we are covered by the grace of God that requires no standards.

Freedom begins with the grace of God covering every flaw in us so that we never again have to cover any flaw. With our identity secure in Jesus, we are free from earning any identity from people. With our eternal value declared by Christ, we never have to earn value from any person.  With God’s approval stamped on our lives in the blood of Jesus, we never again need to seek the approval of people.  

That’s freedom.

Pastor John

GRACE AND PEACE

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, June 3, 2021

According to my grandchildren, I’m old! I can do nothing but agree with them. Yet I count it a privilege to have lived all these years in an age of innovation. I’ve seen a lot of things change. I grew up on party line phones, transistor radios, black-and-white TV, hand-written letters, and typewriters. Now we carry all those things in our pocket on one device. I wonder what the next great innovation will be?

Many of us are enamored with new technology. We want the latest and the greatest of what’s available. We have lost the ability to be content.

Unfortunately, the disease of discontentment has invaded our spiritual lives as well. We seek out new ways to worship because we are no longer emotionally gratified by our current experience. We look for churches that are innovative and modern. We seek out teachers who stroke our egos and leave us feeling good about focusing on self-improvement. We are no longer content with the Gospel, but seek social relevance that produces political activism. And when the next innovative preacher comes along offering an exciting new take on what the Bible teaches, we dive in headfirst and immerse ourselves in whatever is being taught.

Such was the case with the people in the churches of Galatia to whom the Apostle Paul wrote. They became discontent with the Gospel and were easily swayed to follow false teachers. Grace was no longer treasured, and was replaced with the works of their own hands. Peace with God, peace of mind, and peace with others was gone, and discontent prevailed.

The whole book of Galatians is the Holy Spirit’s admonishment of those who have become discontent with the Gospel. Every inspired word is directed at turning us back to grace and peace. When we treasure grace, we will know true peace. Grace is the grounds for peace with God. Grace is the solution for peace with self. Grace is the means of peace with others.

Paul begins his address to the people of Galatia with these words: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Galatians 1:3)

Why are so many professed followers of Jesus lacking peace? Why are we so discontent? Why are we constantly seeking new innovations in church ministry and new emotional highs in worship? Why are false teachers so popular?

There is one reason why: people have their minds set on the flesh and not on the Spirit of God. In Romans 8:6 Paul says, For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Discontent is caused by seeking self rather than the Savior!

We need a revival in the church today. We need repentance from pursuing the desires of the flesh. We need humble hearts that treasure the grace of God and not the treasures of the world. Then and only then will we find peace.

It starts with me…and you. Let’s check our contentment level. Is the grace of God sufficient for our every need, and does it satisfy our every need so we are at peace?

It should. It can. It will.

Pastor John

FREEDOM FROM HUMAN QUALIFICATION

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

I personally do not like the official title I have. I respect others who have similar titles and I use their title when addressing them in formal settings. For example, I do not call my doctor by his first name. I say, “Doctor.” I do the same for those in similar professions where a title has been earned. However, for myself, I have always cringed at the title “Reverend.” I do not like being called that.

There are four ways to get a title:

  1. Choose one for yourself and tell everyone to use it when addressing you.
  2. Have one chosen for you by your friends. When I was in college my “friends” gave me the title of trumpet. Look at my face and you will see why.
  3. Have a title bestowed upon you based on what you have accomplished.
  4. Have a title given to you as an act of grace from God.

The author of the book of Galatians was given the title Apostle by God. It is important for Paul to make sure his readers understand that he is not writing them based on his human qualifications, but under the authority of His divine appointment.

Galatians 1:1  “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—”

Paul says that he is not qualified to preach the Gospel and lead the church because people approved of him. He is not authorized to correct and teach because he met some human requirements for a degree. He is the authorized agent of grace because he is the recipient of grace. He is authorized to represent Jesus Christ because the Father has declared it to be so.

Today, the church of Jesus Christ places a lot of emphasis on human education and experiential equipping when considering the qualifications of a pastor. However, ultimately, it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men and women are qualified for ministry. Man’s education and experience do nothing to add to the call of God, they only confirm what is already there. When human education and achievement replace Holy Spirit equipping the church of Jesus Christ is in trouble.

This applies to every Christian as well. We limit the grace of God in people’s lives by requiring human standards to be achieved before we label someone as qualified. We even do it to ourselves. We consider ourselves unqualified to serve the Lord until we have met some self-imposed standard. And the standard keeps moving because we never feel qualified to declare ourselves qualified.

The Apostle Paul said our qualification is not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Your qualification is assigned by Jesus, and the title He gives you is better than anything you could achieve for yourself. God’s love has been lavished on you so that you are called “Child of God.” And according to Colossians 1:12, you are fully qualified!

Pastor John

FREEDOM

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

FREEDOM! 

Yesterday in America we commemorated the lives of those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the freedom we have. Personally, I am grateful every day for the privilege of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But there is another freedom that far exceeds any political or social freedom. In fact, when this freedom is embraced it provides peace even when no other freedom is experienced. This freedom releases us from the bondage of condemnation and removes the chains of self-incrimination, self-valuation, and self-gratification. This freedom of which I speak is not political or social in nature. It does not originate in the mind of man. True freedom is spiritual, and is found only in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Starting this coming Sunday we will be studying the New Testament book of Galatians. It will be summer-long study of FREEDOM. Today’s challenge to you is to read the first five verses of the Apostle  Paul’s letter. Here they are.

“Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”  Galatians 1:1-5

Freedom is deliverance from bondage, and here we have the foundation of true freedom. Jesus sacrificed His life so we could be delivered from this present evil age for the glory of God. Jesus rose from the dead to guarantee eternal peace with God. May the shouts of freedom resound daily from all who believe.

Pastor John

Come and Eat

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 28, 2021

It’s already Friday and there is so much more to learn from the story of Jesus and the disciples following the miraculous catch of fish in John chapter twenty-one. Some of the truths will be covered on Sunday, but for today, here’s a few bullet points from this part of the story.

John 21:9-12  “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

  • It is the nature of Jesus to serve others, and He serves us from His inexhaustible supply of grace. Jesus had a charcoal fire going and was cooking bread and fish. Some of us may be puzzled with the question, “Where did he get the food?” Yet He who multiplied two fish and five small loaves of bread to feed five thousand people, and who is the Creator of all things, has no limitations on what He can provide to meet the needs of the ones He loves. But the real point is, Jesus saw the disciple’s need and met their need. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He is Grace.
  • Jesus invites us to receive the benefits of His grace. Jesus made breakfast for the weary fisherman. After a long night of futile fishing, followed by a morning miracle, Jesus calls them to come sit with Him and be refreshed. The food He cooked would refresh them, but the favor of His fellowship would have the most profound impact. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples would be forever transformed by communion with the resurrected Savior. The fish were soon forgotten. The forgiveness and fellowship of Christ never is.
  • When Christ has captured our hearts, we are invited to serve Him. “Bring some of the fish you have caught.” Jesus had provided some fish for breakfast, but He invited the disciples to bring some of the freshly caught fish to add to the meal. Remember, Jesus had given them those fish, just as He gives us all the things we need for life and godliness. Yet He invites us to serve Him with them all. The love of Christ compels us to serve Him with everything we have.
  • Christ provides miraculous strength to do whatever He commands. “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them.”  Commentators agree that the wet net and the 153 fish could have weighed as much as 300 pounds, and Peter dragged it to shore by himself. No Christ-assigned task is too great for those who obey because Christ is our strength.

I pray that something in these four points is exactly what you needed today!

Pastor John

The Unbroken Net

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The first time the disciples followed the fishing advice of Jesus they caught an abundance of fish. Afterward, Jesus invited them to follow Him and they would become fishers of men.

Now, after the resurrection, they follow the Lord’s advice again and the result is even more spectacular. 

“Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” John 21:4-6 

But the point of the fishing miracle is the same.  Jesus wants the disciples to be fishers of men, and when they choose to obey the results will be spectacular.

Jesus knows where all the fish are. Jesus knows when to fish.  And Jesus knows how to make sure none of the fish escape.   “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:11 

Just think, when we obey the command of Jesus to fish for people, Jesus has prepared for us to catch them, and He will never lose any that are caught. 

After all, you were caught, and Jesus has you safely in His net…forever.

Pastor John