About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

DON’T TRUST OPINIONS

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 28, 2020

We live in a world that is seemingly driven by opinions far more often than facts. Opinions are the product of several factors. One such filter is our past experiences, through which we see and hear facts and then interpret meaning and motive.  So that I don’t get overly philosophical today, I will let those of you who want to evaluate that concept do it on your own time.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he heard the teaching of Jesus through the filter of his personal experience.  When Jesus said to him, ”Unless you are born again you cannot see the Kingdom of God,” Nicodemus had an opinion of what Jesus meant. He interpreted what Jesus said in a purely physical sense. With all of his understanding of the Old Testament Scripture, Nicodemus had been conditioned by his religious experience to interpret things from an outside in perspective. What I mean is that to Nicodemus, and possibly you, spiritual life is earned by outward activity. His opinion was that any spiritual truth must have an external application before it has any internal value.

Jesus was about to turn everything upside down. When Nicodemus heard Jesus say “born again” he heard the physical act of birth. But Jesus actually said that he must be “born from above.” Jesus went on to say that unless a person is born with water and the Spirit they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That statement has caused much confusion for people, but if we see the whole context of what Jesus is teaching, it gets easier. Jesus helps Nicodemus understand what He means by referring to his knowledge of the Old Testament. So let’s look there in Ezekiel 36:25-27.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Here’s my point. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that there is nothing he can do to make himself clean enough for the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was of the opinion that he had a moral obligation based on the law of God to physically participate in his own cleansing from sin, thereby establishing his own credentials for entrance into God’s Kingdom. Jesus flipped that opinion upside down with the truth that EVERY aspect of spiritual transformation is from above. The clean water is from God alone, not from a religious ritual like baptism.  Obedience to God’s law does not improve our standing with God, but when God puts the Holy Spirit in us through faith in Jesus Christ we become obedient children of the Father. EVERY credential for entrance into the Kingdom of God is granted by God through Jesus Christ, without any assistance from us.

You may have a differing opinion. Be careful not to trust your eternal destiny to opinion. Trust the absolute truth of what Jesus said. “Unless you are born from above you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The only valid credential you carry into eternity is faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Pastor John

STARTING OVER

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 27. 2020

“If only I could go back and start over.”

We have all probably said that, or something similar, at some point in our life. It’s especially true after a series of failures. However, it’s not likely that you have ever wanted to go back and start over from birth. If given the choice, we might start at 2 or three, but not as an infant.

When Nicodemus comes to Jesus based on his religious credentials, Jesus informs Him of a traumatic truth.

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The term “born again” instantly causes Nicodemus great concern. He literally takes it literally. But Jesus is making a spiritual truth based on the physical impossibility. While it is impossible to go back into our mother’s womb and be born again, it is equally impossible to enter the Kingdom of God on the basis of human wisdom or religious credentials.

Here is the trauma of this truth. To be born again means to release everything we have ever known or experienced, and trust Jesus alone. That’s not appealing to any of us, and were it not for the grace of God to grant us faith to believe Jesus can do it, we would never participate with what Jesus wants to do. He wants to wipe away every misconception so you can be conceived into the family of God. He wants to eliminate any prideful credentials of our own making and supply us with new credentials based on His worth, not ours. Jesus wants us to be willing to give up any sense of personal value and be born again with His value.

Many of us still wish we could start over, but we place a limit on how far back we would go. Jesus said we must be willing to go all the way back to before we knew or experienced everything, and start completely new in Him. And when we agree, he gives us a life beyond our expectations or imaginations – a life that originates in the eternal glory of God.

Pastor John

Show Me Your Credentials

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 27, 2020

On Sunday, Pastor Josh will be preaching for our first Sunday back in the building for Worship. He will be starting our study of John 3 as we continue our way through the Gospel of John. In this week’s passage, we see an individual named Nicodemus come to Jesus for an after hours meeting.

John 3:1-2 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

The conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus is the first of four conversations he is going to have with a variety of people, all who need Jesus to look deep into their soul and correct some erroneous thinking. At the end of Chapter 2, John told us that Jesus was able to see into the hearts of people and know their thoughts, motives, and secrets. Yet, with eternal grace, Jesus reaches out to meet people’s needs.

So what might have been the specific issue of Nicodemus? From the context of the conversation, and the initial response of Jesus, we may conclude that Nicodemus was hung up on credentials. He was a man of credentials. A member of the ruling party of Israel called the Pharisees. His very first statement to Jesus is one based on credentials. He used his own religious credentials to determine that Jesus had come from God and that God was with Him.

But wait. His religious credentials were not sufficient to take him beyond the level of all the people spoken of in John 2. They believed because they saw the signs. Here was a spiritual ruler of the Jews, and his affirmation of Jesus was solely based on the things Jesus did. That is a serious problem. Does Nicodemus not remember the work of Satan in the religious rulers of Egypt as they imitated the signs of Moses? Signs are not the basis of faith.

I wonder how many of us still seek signs as the basis of our beliefs? I wonder how often we trust our religious credentials to affirm our conclusions about matters of faith? Is it possible that experience has kept us from knowing the deeper issues of faith? I think it is not only possible but probable. Jesus longs for intimacy of relationship to be based on faith alone, not faith plus signs. It is faith alone that saves.

Don’t be like the Pharisees. Don’t trust your religious credentials to tell you who Jesus is. Trust Jesus to tell you.

Pastor John

Memorial Day

LIFELINK Devotional
Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day. I grew up in an era of respect and honor for our nation. My parents lived through World War II. My dad was in the military during that war. I was alive during the Korean War. I remember from early childhood being taught to honor and respect our nation because of the courage of those who founded this great nation. I was deeply impressed as a young boy with the price of liberty paid with the sacrifices of people. I cannot say thanks enough for such sacrifices.

Ultimate freedom, comes at the cost of a life. As you enjoy your holiday today, and as you pay tribute to all the men and women who gave their lives in to win your freedom, remember to honor er the One who made the supreme sacrifice for freedom- the freedom from death. Jesus Christ was lifted up on a cross in front of the whole world in an attempt by man to preserve freedom. What they could not see was that in His death He conquered death and provided eternal life for all who believe in Him.

Now that’s a real Memorial Day.

Pastor John

Trustworthy Faith

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 22, 2020

I have a tendency that is not necessarily good. I speak without filters far too often. One filter that doesn’t function very well is the one that controls how much personal information I share with people, especially new acquaintances. I tend to share far too much about myself too early in a relationship.

It is appropriate and commendable to have varying levels of relationship. We must learn to be very discerning about who gets to know what, and how much trust we place in them to know those things.

Jesus is our example in this. Read what the Apostle John says about Jesus after people began to follow Him.

John 2:23-25 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

There is an eternal and spiritual principle in place based on the response of Jesus to people saying they believed in Him.

Jesus knows the motive for our belief, and only trusts us with knowledge of Himself to the level that our motives are truly based on faith in Him.

The people who believed in Him were doing so because of the work He did. They were enthralled with the miraculous. Jesus didn’t entrust to them the depth of relationship that is possible if we would believe who He is rather than believe what He can do. Faith is honored by the Lord Jesus Christ if it is sufficient for us to believe in who He is.

Unfortunately for us, Jesus knows the heart of every one of us. He knows if our faith is in Him alone, or if our faith is being sustained by His activity on our behalf. John points out that Jesus did not entrust the riches of relationship with Him to those who were motivated to follow Him based on signs and benefits. He knew that those people would make false testimony about Him to others, thereby multiplying the error of faith based on personal benefits. Faith in Christ is never to be compromised by the demand for a personal benefit. Seeking signs and miraculous works compromises true faith, and Jesus does not reveal the depths of His grace and love to those who are not completely satisfied with who He is.

This may be a hard principle for you. It may be that we have not been willing to expose our faith to such scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. Very simply, are we willing to sacrifice every material and emotional benefit we think we receive from Jesus so that we may truly know the depths of His love and the power of His resurrection life in us?

That is a question worth pondering today.

Pastor John

Home Run

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 21, 2020

You have probably never heard of Daniel Norris. He was drafted into Major League Baseball in 2011 by the Toronto Blue jays. A few years later, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, my boyhood team.  On August 19, 2015, the Tigers were playing the Chicago Cubs. Because the National League Cubs were the home team, the American League Tigers had to abide by the National League rules. There would be no designated hitter for the pitcher.  Norris would pick up a bat and face the opposing pitcher for the first time in his career.

For the first time ever at storied Wrigley Field in Chicago, and American League pitcher would hit a home run during a regular season game. What a moment that must have been for him. First time batting in the Major Leagues and he hits a home run. By the way, in case you think that’s rare, a homerun has been hit by a player in their first at-bat 118 times since 1895.

After John tells us the story of the first miracle of Jesus, which declared His glory to the world, John tells us about the first mission of Jesus. After taking a couple of days rest with his disciples, probably to let things settle down a little bit after His miracle, Jesus heads to Jerusalem for the Passover. His first stop is the Temple – God’s house of worship.

What would Jesus do in His first public appearance after revealing the glory of God? In my opinion, He hit a home run. In John’s narrative of the life of Christ, the mission of Jesus is revealed more than in any other Gospel. His mission was to set us free from the bondage and corruption of sin, and to provide life and light for us through faith alone. Jesus began that mission in the one place where the corruption of sin is the most horrific – the religious establishment of the day.

John 2:14-16 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

The first miracle of Jesus was to fill empty religious ritual with heavenly power and blessing. The first message of Jesus declares His mission to restore true worship to the church, and true worship is not found in ritual but in relationship.

When the disciples see what Jesus does, things begin to click for them. An Old Testament Scripture comes to their mind from Psalm 69:9 – “For zeal for your house has consumed me…” Suddenly the disciples are connecting their understanding of Scripture to the Living Word of God. And in that first connection, they see the passion of Jesus for the purity of His people and His church.

When someone hits a home run in baseball, it is said that they touched all the bases. Jesus certainly touched all the bases. Religious ritual is empty and unfulfilling.  Religious ritual leads to corruption. Jesus has come to restore right relationship with God through faith alone.

What does Jesus need to drive out of our lives so we can truly worship Him? Do you have any bases Jesus is not allowed to touch?

Pastor John

Water Into Wine

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

My first trip to India three years ago was quite an experience, especially at mealtime. I fell in love with the food, but I’m still not a fan of how you have to eat it. Indian people use their fingers to mix the rice with the meat and vegetables, forming them into a small ball that they would then place in their mouth. I have two problems with that. First, I can’t eat rice because of the excessive carbohydrates that cause blood sugar levels to rise.  Without rice, there was no way to control the flowage of meat sauce through my fingers. Second, My OCD level doesn’t allow my fingers to feel dirty long enough to eat more than one mouthful at a time. I had to ask the people serving me for utensils. I just couldn’t eat that kind of food with my fingers.

At the end of the meal, the server would bring out small bowls of lemon water and a clean towel for each person. Each guest would wash their fingers so they would be clean again. It was not until the purification was done that the meal was over and we could leave to do more ministry.

The Jews had similar rules for purification. I was actually in several ancient cities in Israel where homes had built in purification baths. The Jews made sure nothing ever defiled them and disqualified them from serving God. They had designated jars and basins that only carried clean water for washing and purification.

There were six such jars at the home where Jesus attended a wedding. We read the story in John 2.

John 2:6-7 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

Each jar held twenty to thirty gallons of water. They were empty because they had been used for washing everyone’s hands and feet prior to the wedding beginning. Jesus told the servants to fill them with water. Then He instructed them to dip some of the water out and present it to the wedding host. When the host tasted it, He was amazed at the quality of wine that was now in the jars. Jesus had performed His first miracle.

The symbolism is significant. Man’s means of self-purification will now be replaced with God’s richest blessings. Wine is worth far more than water. Wine symbolizes the wealth of heaven. Wine represents the abundance of God’s blessing. Jesus, in this one miraculous act, pleads with us to leave the rituals of religion and receive the righteousness of God.

Religion cannot purify from sin. Rituals require more rituals. Jesus will fill the empty vessel of your life with the riches of eternal life. Religion cannot do that. Only Jesus can.

Renounce the rituals you have trusted to provide righteousness for your life. Receive the righteousness of God by trusting Jesus Christ for your forgiveness and eternal life. Your jar will be filled with wine.

Pastor John