About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

The Skin of Love

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 24, 2019

My body is a wonderful thing. It’s not any more wonderful than yours, but it is wonderful. It doesn’t always look wonderful, feel wonderful, or work wonderfully, but it is a wonder. There are 206 bones protected by cartilage and connected with over 600 muscles and ligaments to form a functioning skeleton. Over the top of this incredible living machine is the body’s largest organ called skin. It holds everything together and has some incredible functions. Let’s use skin as a metaphor for the spiritual characteristic of love.

Colossians 3:14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love holds together all the virtues we have been studying in Colossians 3:12-13, much like skin does on our body.

The outer layer of skin is called the epidermis, and holds everything together while protecting everything inside from damage. It resists water and dirt and is equipped with a UV protection system that is designed to keep us from getting burned. It is constantly being renewed. Every day we lose 30,000 – 40,000 skin cells that are replaced by new ones that are constantly growing. Every 2-4 weeks we have a completely renewed layer of skin cells to protect us.

When we allow God’s love to cover all the characteristics of our wonderful spiritual body, it holds them all together so that they can function properly in perfect unity. Love protects us from the dirt of the sinful world, and keeps us from getting burned by people’s actions. Love guards our entire being so that compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, and forgiveness are all able to work together to accomplish God’s purpose.

The middle layer of skin is called the dermis, and contains the nerve endings so we can touch and feel, the blood vessels which bring nutrients and oxygen to the growing cells, the oil glands which produce sebum so that your skin is waterproof, and the sweat glands which help regulate body temperature. When the oil and the sweat mix on the surface of the skin they make the skin tacky so that we can actually pick things up and accomplish work. Without both working together our skin would be very slippery and we wouldn’t accomplish much.

When love is the covering of our spiritual characteristics we fully empower compassion to work so that we can truly feel the hurts and the joys of people and reach out and touch them in kindness. Love brings us all the food we need to grow so we are constantly being renewed against the toughness of people’s actions and we are able to bear with them. When love anoints us with the oil of the Holy Spirit we are resilient to the attacks of sin. Our emotions are regulated by the water of God’s Word as it brings holy consistency to our responses. When the oil of the Holy Spirit mixes with the water of God’s Word it produces the ability to accomplish work for God’s glory.

The third layer of skin is the subcutaneous layer, made up mostly of fat, of which I have too much. It primarily functions as a shock absorber and a heating blanket.

When we get fat on love, the rest of our spiritual characteristics stay warmer and ready for action, and they are protected from the shocks of other people’s attacks on us.

As I said, our bodies are wonderful, and our spiritual bodies are equally magnificent. Love is what holds all the spiritual characteristics together in perfect unity. What is this love like? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for a description.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Now, let’s put that kind of love on as the skin of our lives, and let the world see the wonder of a spiritual body.

Pastor John

Bearing and Forgiving

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 23, 2019

It’s much easier to speak in generalities than it is in specifics. This is also true when we are being spoken to. When we listen to a sermon by a pastor or sit in a class hearing from a teacher, we would much rather have them talk in broad applications than feel like they are pointing their fingers at details. There is a self-protectionist mechanism in our human nature that keeps us from feeling blame and shame. When we hear generalities, we can feel pretty good about ourselves in general. None of us enjoys the pain of looking at specific shortcomings.

But what if we applied the same principle to our health needs? What if doctors only spoke in generalities and never gave us the specifics? How many times would you return to the doctor that said, “Overall you’re doing pretty well”? No, we want specifics. We ask for details. “What’s wrong, and how can we fix it?” “How long will it take to get better?” “How long do I have?”

In Colossians 3:12 that we studied yesterday, we are given the generalities of our Christian existence. Those 5 qualities of Christ-likeness that we are to put on as the clothing of our spiritual lives are pretty broad in their application and may have left you feeling pretty good about your condition. Today we get much more specific. Get ready – this may hurt.

Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

We are given two specific applications of Christ-like behavior in verse 13 – bear with each other and forgive each other. Now at first reading this doesn’t seem to dig too deeply. But maybe there’s some hard ground down deeper that needs to be loosened up.  Our hearts may have become hardened against the real truth of what is being said here. For example, we choose to put up with some people in our lives and exclude others. We bear with the inconsistencies of some but not all. We overlook the personality quirks of some but not others. We have decided to forgive some but not others, and that a little forgiveness for some covers a lot of unforgiveness for others. We classify people into categories of those that are worthy of forgiveness and those that are not. We have not fully put on the clothing of Christ.

The word bear in this verse has a twofold meaning: first, to hold up, as if to lift up another person who has fallen; and second, to hold oneself up and endure, no matter how many times the other person falls and needs to be held up. This is how we treat others in real community. We lift up others, and we keep lifting them up no matter how many times they fall.

The second characteristic is even harder – forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. The word grievances is a Greek word meaning to have a complaint against someone whom you blame for a wrong. It’s not hard to come up with a list of people who have wronged us. Unfortunately, the list of those people we have chosen not to forgive is almost as long. Notice, however, that the responsibility to forgive is on the victim. Yes, if I know that I have wronged someone I am also responsible to go to them and seek forgiveness, but we all know that most of the time the people against whom we have complaints are not aware they have offended us. In all cases of wrong and grievance, we are to initiate all acts of forgiveness.

The word forgive is interesting, because according to Thayer’s Dictionary of Greek Words it means:

  1. to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify
    1. to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent
    2. to grant forgiveness, to pardon
    3. to give graciously, give freely, bestow
    4. graciously to restore one to another

Now that is convicting. To forgive someone means to do something pleasant to them. Forgiveness is an action. We cannot claim to have forgiven someone if we have not restored a giving relationship with them. We are to be humbly giving them compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience – all the general qualities we talked about yesterday. And we are to be treating everyone who has ever wronged us with this kind of love, just as the Lord does to us!

What a challenge it is to realize that we are held accountable to the same standard of forgiveness that Jesus modeled. Can we do it? YES! By the power of the seed, God’s DNA in us, we can. Let’s start doing it.

Pastor John

Clothing Reflects the Person

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

People are fascinated with DNA. One hundred two million people have submitted their DNA to a company to try and discover their ethnic background and attempt to find people to whom they are related. We all seem to want to know who we really are.

The Bible speaks about a spiritual DNA that makes all those who are believers in Jesus Christ brothers and sisters. It is the life of Jesus Christ that has been born in us. The Apostle John says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him.” (1 John 3:9) When sinners come to Jesus Christ for salvation, they are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In an act of re-conception, God’s seed, or spiritual DNA, becomes the genetic code of our lives. Just as a young boy grows up to physically, emotionally, and psychologically resemble his father because the father’s seed, or DNA, is in him, so we as children of God the Father have His seed in us so that we will resemble Him.

Colossians 3:12-14 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12 – 4:6 defines for us the qualities of a born again believer. The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of clothing to show us what our appearance should be when we have the life of Christ in us. Clothing is what people usually see first about us. Unfortunately, in today’s immoral society, we tend to notice the lack of clothing. We see far too much skin. But that’s also true of the average Christian: rather than being covered with the clothing of God’s choosing we are showing far too much of the flesh. When the world sees us, it should see the very nature and character of God because His seed is in us and is generating a new life.

The clothing that people should notice on us as children of God consists of the following items:

  1. Compassion – the ability to understand and relate to the hurts and needs of another person.
  2. Kindness – to employ oneself in the actions of meeting the needs of another person.
  3. Humility – to have a deep sense of one’s moral lowliness; to take no pride in one’s own abilities, but rather to give all the credit and honor to God for one’s life and accomplishments.
  4. Gentleness – to keep all power under the control of the Holy Spirit and use all abilities, whether personal or spiritual, for God’s purpose only.
  5. Patience – to persevere in God’s purpose no matter what the obstacles or objections.

Please take some quality time today to reflect on each of these characteristics of God that have been given to us in our spiritual DNA. Discover their seeds in your heart. Water them with the Word of God by looking at other references to them in the Bible.  Then let each characteristic bear fruit in your life by putting them on. Let them become a part of your normal routine of relationships and responsibilities. After all, you were born again to look that way.

Pastor John

Model Morality

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

You have probably heard the adage, “what one generation does in moderation the next will do to excess.” We’ve not only heard it, but we are living it in our culture. Tragically, we are living it within the church as well. Just ask the older members of your congregation to tell you what the moral status of the church and country was when they were young. To be sure, there was still sin, but it was an embarrassment to be caught in it. No longer is that the case. In fact, we have developed new terms for sin so that it doesn’t have the moral implications of the previous generation and so that we can reduce the guilt factor. We have even come up with genetic justifications for our behavior so that we do not feel condemned by our conscience.

How did we get into this mess? Moses knew in advance how it would happen to the Israelites, and his warnings are relevant for us today.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10  Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.

Moses warns his people, but the warnings are for us today as well:

  1. Be careful – the Hebrew word here means, “to guard by putting a hedge around”. Hedges do two things: they keep outsiders out and they keep insiders in. We are to keep ourselves inside the moral code of God by building a hedge that separates us from the immoral code of the world. “Be on your guard” and “Don’t let your guard down” would be appropriate translations of this phrase.

Check yourself right now – what hedges have you built to protect yourself from moral failure? Do you have Internet security software that eliminates all immoral websites? Do you guard yourself from the lust of the eyes in your television, movie, video, and magazine choices? Do you have a hedge built around your activities and relationships to guard your heart from the lust of the flesh? Do you guard your tongue from the expressions of the pride of life? Put those hedges in place, and be careful.

  1. Watch yourselves closely – the Hebrew expression here is “to guard with abundance of force”. It takes energy to be on guard all the time. Just think of the energy and determination it takes to be a guard outside of Buckingham Palace: always alert but never flinching. That should describe our determination to remain morally pure.
  2. Do not forget the things you have seen and do not let them slip from your heart – Here is the slippery slope of moral decay in a nutshell. First, we forget in our minds what God has done and what He requires. Second, our hearts become hardened to the truth because the mind no longer cares. Moses even warns that when the heart becomes hard, it is hard for life. This should awaken within us a sense of urgency to correct the moral decline of our current generation, or they will be lost for life.
  3. Teach them to your children – the Hebrew word here means “to ascertain by seeing”. What a challenge for us today. We are to teach by modeling the truth in how we live so that the next generation sees it in us and mimics us. I believe the greatest curse upon our current generation is the hypocrisy of the previous generation that says one thing and does the opposite. How can we have any hope for our youth when their parents and role models are justifying immorality for the sake of personal pleasure and gain? No wonder the latest social statistics are shocking to those who care about God’s morality in society. The divorce rate among Christians is now higher than among non-Christians and the percentage of teens involved in pre-marital sex and drug and alcohol use is the same in Christian and non-Christian peer groups. How heartbreaking. How sad. How convicting this should be on our generation. We must be the models and teachers of God’s ways or we will completely lose the next generation.

Moses knew that these things were vital and indispensable to the survival of the nation. They are the same indispensable truths that are vital to the survival of the church and our nation as well. May we take seriously the command of God to teach the next generation to fear God and serve Him, not just with words, but with the example of our lives.

Pastor John

Faith is Active

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 20, 2019

The time has come for the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, and that means it is time for Moses to say good-bye. His farewell address to the nation is recorded for us in the book of Deuteronomy. It is a personal challenge to obedience and faithfulness, and has much to say to us today.

In the first 3 chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses gives the people a historical review of their journey from Egypt. It would be good for you to read that review and reflect on the faithfulness and power of God. When we get to chapter 4, Moses is ready to start giving the people their instructions for successful and victorious living in their new land.

Deuteronomy 4:1, 6-8 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you…Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

His first statement is most significant – Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you…Follow them!

Simple words, yet so deep in significance. The Hebrew word used here means to do. Moses is telling the people that if they want to live they need to do what God says. Then he defines for them what real living is –

  1. To be wise and understanding
  2. To be in intimate relationship with God so He hears our prayers and answers them
  3. To model righteousness

Let’s do some personal reflection on those three areas. Are you considered wise and understanding by the people with whom you relate every day? Do they sense an extraordinary ability in you to understand the situations of life and discern the will of God in them? Do people around you come to you when they are in difficult situations because they know you are powerful in prayer and can touch and understand God’s heart? Do they see in you a consistency that reflects the holy integrity of God’s law?

All these questions can and should be able to be answered in the affirmative for every one of us, if we are following the laws of God. Unfortunately, many of us are only good listeners, but not good laborers. We hear what God says, but we fail to do it.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, in his New Testament book, wrote this – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. If we are to be people of great faith who really know how to live, then we must be doers of the Word of God. Faith is of no value without the actions that prove it. Moses knew this was the key for the Israelites to truly possess life in the new land.

When we claim to have eternal life, but the life we are living so resembles the life of a spiritually dead person, there is something drastically wrong. Moses uses the term the Lord Your God over 300 times in his farewell address. He knew that to live victoriously we must get up close and personal with God. We must be intimately in love with God, and we must conclude that true love is defined by obedience. Every aspect of our lives is to be governed and guided by God.

God is calling us to a deeper and more meaningful life, and that life begins with obedience to His Word. Won’t you begin that life today?

Pastor John

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 17, 2019

As the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, two-and-a-half of the tribes decided that they want to settle on the east side of the Jordan River and not go into the new land. They prefer the comfort of the known to the risk/reward possibilities of the unknown. Moses is willing to let that happen on one condition. Here’s the story:

Numbers 32:20-24 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this – if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for battle, and if all of you will go armed over the Jordan before the LORD until he has driven his enemies out before him – then when the land is subdued before the LORD, you may return and be free from your obligation to the LORD and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the LORD. But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.”

Based on the size of the flocks and herds that they captured in the conquest of the Midianites, this was obviously a productive land for raising sheep and cattle. These two-and-a-half tribes looked at their present situation and decided that what they had right now was the best they could ever hope for, and asked for permission to make this territory their land.

When they were confronted with the possibility that fear had overtaken them and that they were about to refuse God’s promise as their fathers had 40 years earlier, they proved their commitment to the nation and to God by volunteering to send their fighting men with the rest of the nation’s army to go and conquer Canaan. Not only that, they volunteered to be the front lines of the army. They wholeheartedly committed themselves to accomplishing God’s purpose for the sake of the whole nation.

I see two lessons for us:

  1. Maybe in your church you have trouble seeing the benefit to moving ahead by faith, and would like to stay right where you are until there is more sure evidence of God’s provision and plan. It may not be wrong for you to stay where you are, but don’t block the way for others who want to move ahead.
  2. I see a significant lesson about sin and its consequences. These 2 ½ tribes made a commitment, and Moses warned them that if they fell back on that commitment it would be sin, and they would not get away with it. You may be sure that your sin will find you out. All sin has consequences, and all sin must be answered for, whether in this life or when we stand before God in person.

We have all done things that we hope will never be exposed. We have lied and lusted, cheated and coveted, hurt and hated. We have committed spiritual adultery by worshipping the gods of money, friendships, social status and power.  If others only knew what we have really done they would be shocked, and the fortified city of our self-righteous life would be destroyed. We would be left with nothing.

I call on the church of Jesus Christ to become people of integrity, living holy lives honoring to God, knowing that every sin will be exposed before His holy throne. Yes, the consequence of death for sin has been removed for those who are saved, but the consequence of shame has not been removed. And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:28) When He returns, our lives will be reviewed in their entirety, and we will suffer loss for those things that did not honor God. All decisions and actions done from self-serving motives will be exposed and burned, and all rewards we had hoped for in those times will be lost. Read carefully these words from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Take to heart the warning of Moses, and the next time you are tempted to sin, remember – you won’t get away with it.

Pastor John

Put Sin to Death

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Moses had one more thing to do before he died and turn over the leadership of Israel to Joshua. In direct obedience to the command of God, Moses was to send an army to destroy the Midianite people who had attempted to subvert the nation through sexual immorality and idol worship. Under the guidance of Balaam, the Midianites sent their women to seduce the men of Israel and lead them to their places of worship of Baal. God punished the men of Israel, some 24,000 of them, with death, and the nation was purified. But God’s judgment of sin was not done.

Numbers 31:1-6  The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites and to carry out the LORD’S vengeance on them. Send into battle a thousand men from each of the tribes of Israel.” So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. Moses sent them into battle, a thousand from each tribe, along with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, who took with him articles from the sanctuary and the trumpets for signaling.

Moses chose an army of twelve thousand men, one thousand from each tribe, and under God’s authority they wiped out the Midianite army. When the war was over, they had destroyed every Midianite male and every female old enough to engage in sexual activity. Only the young girls were saved and made slaves of the Israelites. The plunder they took amounted to 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys, and 32,000 female slaves. These figures give an indication of the size of the Midianite nation, and yet 12,000 Israelite soldiers defeated them easily without losing one soldier’s life. Not one! God was their Commander-in-Chief and their Protector.

There are two eternal principles of God’s justice to learn from this story. First, God’s justice against sin begins in the lives of the people who have been called to be holy and have been given an inheritance with the saints in glory. We know from experience that this is true. You and I have experienced the discipline of God for sins we have committed. Hebrews 12:5-7 reminds us that a loving Father will always correct His children.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

Second, God will also punish the source of the sin and destroy it. His justice against sin will be complete and it will be utterly destroyed. Just as He destroyed the Midianites for being the source of seduction for the Israelites, so He will also one day destroy the source of seduction into sin for all of us who are now His chosen people.  Even though for now it appears that evil is flourishing, there is a day coming when the price for sin will be paid, and that price is death. (Read Psalms 7, 9, & 11)

The good news is that through Jesus Christ we are delivered from the power of seduction today. We do not have to wait until the Day of Judgment to be free from the seduction of sin. The indwelling Presence of Jesus Christ in our lives has already accomplished that victory for us. The influence of the world is still powerful, but “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) “We have been set free from the power of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) Through the love of Jesus Christ we have “been made more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)

In preparation for their entrance into the Promised Land, the Israelites were told to destroy all sin and sinful people so that the land of promise would be a holy place in which to dwell. You and I are living today in the Promised Land of God’s presence through Jesus Christ, and all the power of sin has been destroyed by His death on the cross. Let’s live in that victory every moment of every day by putting sin to death.

Pastor John