About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

Happy Thanksgiving

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Luke 11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

Proverbs 30:7 – 9 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: 8Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

As a youngster, and still today, I think I enjoy Thanksgiving more than any holiday. I know, that sounds so secular and unspiritual, when Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and Easter the celebration of His resurrection. Yes, the significance of Christmas and Easter are supreme, but the memories of Thanksgiving still stir my heart. Maybe it’s because of my love affair with food. I think it mostly is because of my love affair with family. (Just ask my kids what I say at every family gathering.)

We have had a family tradition since I was young that before we could eat the turkey and all the other great side dishes, we each had to express a thought of thanksgiving while we sat around the table. One thing I have noticed over the years is that this has become an uncomfortable experience for most. The sentiment is just not there. We say thanks for shallow stuff, and anything deeper and “mushier” draws snickers (giggles, not candy) and moans. Spiritual stuff hardly ever gets mentioned. Why has it become so hard for us to express heartfelt thanks?

I think one of the main causes of an ungrateful heart is independence and self-dependence. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He taught them much more than just words to say: He taught them about the condition of the heart. One of the attributes of a person who prays is to be humbly dependent upon God for all things. When Jesus told the disciples to ask for their daily bread in their prayers, he was emphasizing an attitude of the heart that honors God as the provider of all things.

In the book of Proverbs there is a warning given to all who would be ungrateful and self-dependent: you may end up disowning God or dishonoring His name. Look at this carefully:

  1. If we ask God for more than just our needs and demand that we become rich, we will be tempted to trust in our riches and not in the Lord who gave them to us. Riches are not wrong, but the wise writer of this passage recognized the danger of self-dependence that could result from having too much, and he specifically asked God to not let that happen to him. His faithfulness to God was of far greater significance than the pleasures of riches.
  2. If we don’t ask God to provide for our daily needs, then we will eventually fail at providing for ourselves and turn to illegal means to maintain our lifestyle and thereby dishonor the name of God by our behavior. The author knew that if he was dependent upon God, God would be glorified by all his choices, and honoring God was of far more importance to him than his financial security or status.

So, on this Thanksgiving, no matter what you are able to eat, be thankful that God is your Provider. He knows your every need, and will never fail to provide for those who trust Him. Listen to these words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 33:14-16.

14The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” 15He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil— 16this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor John

 

Change

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Psalms 119:57 – 64 (NIV) You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law. At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Change is hard. We resist it. We like our comfort zones. They feel secure and safe. They help to eliminate stress. However, they also stifle creativity and the experience of vitality.

As I analyze my own heart, which is probably not much different from yours, I discover that resistance to change is intricately connected to pride. Admitting that my way may need to be surrendered to your way causes me to question my value. That’s foolishness, I know, but that’s how we think. Pride convinces us that we need our way or we will lose our way. Somehow, we have become slaves to the sinful deception of pride that tells us our worth is connected to our decisions and our performance. So, we miss out on opportunities for growth and vitality because we associate change with some admission of wrong on our part.

The Psalmist speaks of change in today’s passage of Scripture from the 119th Psalm. He reveals to us that there are two ways to consider changing anything in our lives. The first way is wrong; the second way is correct.

The first way is implied in his description of the second way. When he says, I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes, he is giving us the right way to consider changing. Notice the steps he takes:

  1. He determines his goal – I have sought your face with all my heart.
  2. He humbly and honestly compares his current condition with his goal – I have considered my ways.
  3. He makes the decision to change – I have turned my steps to your statutes.

It’s obvious from this passage that he had an open mind to change. He has dealt with his pride. He will not allow his personal feelings, preferences, or past experiences to stifle change. He knows that within the context of change there must be a humble willingness to consider all of his ways flawed and admit that they are wrong. It doesn’t scare him because he knows that God lifts up the humble. His open mind and humble heart allow him to set aside pride in his own way and look clearly at the face of God and choose His ways as his goal. The choice of goal is always preliminary to the choice to the choice to change. He chose God as his goal.

The wrong way to consider change is to choose self as the goal. I guarantee you that when you do, you will not change. If we decide to use our ways as the standard of measure and compare God’s ways to ours, our ways will always win. That’s because we have already determined that our goal is self-preservation, self-fulfillment, self-enhancement, or any other self-centered outcome. Within those parameters we will not change.

But if, as the Psalmist did, we consider our ways as flawed, and compare them to God’s ways, we will be open to change. Change will not and cannot occur if we have already decided that our way is best or that our value is somehow connected to our way being done. The Psalmist clearly says that he has decided to seek God’s way, and that means every one of his own ways needs to be reconsidered. And when he does that, he changes.

We are all guilty of considering God’s ways in light of our comfort zones. That’s why we resist change. But when we consider our ways in the light of God’s face, we change. The Apostle Paul said it this way – whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…and we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory. The veil of pride needs to be taken away by the Spirit of God so we can see the face of God. When that happens, we will be changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory.

Don’t let change scare you, especially when change results in our lives becoming better mirrors of God’s glory. Get out of your comfort zone. Conquer your pride. God wants to change you, and that kind of change is always good.

Pastor John

 

The Promise-Keeper

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Psalms 119:49 – 56  Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. The arrogant mock me without restraint, but I do not turn from your law. I remember your ancient laws, O LORD, and I find comfort in them. Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law. Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge. In the night I remember your name, O LORD, and I will keep your law. This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.

In exactly one month, I will celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the day a woman named Denise accepted an engagement offer from me and promised to love me for the rest of our lives together. In a dark corner of an off-limits supper club in North Dakota (you’ll have to ask her about that story) with left over supper spilled all over my suit, I took her hand and asked her to be my wife. It wasn’t a fancy proposal, or super creative like so many are today, but it wasn’t intended to be about the circumstances or the surroundings – it was about the promise.

Promises are made to be kept. No matter how old the promise, the promise-maker must be able to be trusted to keep it. Otherwise it was never really a promise. Promises are the foundation of relationships. Promises give us hope. Promises provide strength. Promises give comfort.

We have a Promise-Giver who can be trusted to fulfill every word He has ever spoken. No promise ever spoken by God during the 6,000-year history of mankind has ever been broken. God has never spoken an idle or insignificant word. History has proven God’s promises to be true.

The Psalmist understood the promissory nature of God when he wrote today’s passage from Psalm 119. He found hope in God’s word. He found comfort in God’s promises. He was made strong enough to endure indignation and suffering by the application and practice of God’s promises. Wherever life took him he was able to sing with joy because of the promises of God.

It is interesting to note that the Psalmist found that God’s promises brought him comfort in his sufferings, not deliverance from them. Maybe today you are experiencing some form of suffering from which you long to be delivered. But God has not promised life without pain. He has promised strength to endure the pain. God has not promised life without hardship or hurt. He has promised unending love from above. God has not promised life free from suffering. He has promised faith that alleviates all fear. That reminds me of a great old Gospel song…

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

No matter what the problem or pain in your life, this would be the time to go to your Bible and read the promises of God again. In fact, right now, the Holy Spirit is bringing some of them to your mind – the ones He knows need to be applied to your life for this circumstance.

For me it’s Isaiah 41:10 and 13 which say, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

God will lead you to the promises you need right now if you will quiet your heart and listen to Him.

Pastor John

Spiritual Survivor

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 20, 2017

Psalms 119:41 – 48  May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.

In the second season of the TV show “Survivor”, one of the castaways was a 24-year-old youth ministries major from Seattle Pacific University. With 15 others marooned on a deserted island in Malaysia, Dirk Been wanted to be the lone survivor and winner of one million dollars. The “lone” part was the problem.

According to a Campus Life article in January of 2001, Dirk began to feel like an outsider early on in the auditions to be a contestant. “When I was in LA being interviewed for the show, I didn’t hide the fact that I was a Christian,” Dirk says. “When I added that I was still a virgin, they gave me some funny looks.” Dirk’s confidence and sexual innocence were intriguing to the show’s producers.

When advised that each contestant could bring one “luxury” item to the remote island in the South China Sea, Dirk took his Bible. “I couldn’t imagine not having my quiet time with the Lord for a single day, let alone 39,” he said. When Dirk explained to his tribe why he’d chosen his particular “luxury item,” he was made fun of on national television. In fact, the retired Navy Seal said the pages of the Bible would make good toilet paper—he could think of no other reason for bringing a Bible on a deserted island.

Dirk couldn’t help but wonder if his Bible readings would get him voted off the island. He faced the temptation to put the Word aside—at least until after the Survivor experience. But as a committed Christian, Dirk knew faith didn’t work that way. He couldn’t just stop doing what he’d always done, even for just a few days, and then pick it up again later. So he continued to read his Bible, and he made it a regular habit to pray for his fellow “survivors.” He also looked for opportunities to talk with others in his tribe about his beliefs. And he knew he needed to show his faith by simply pulling his own weight, by doing his best in competitions, and by just being a decent guy.

According to Dirk, the hardest aspect of being stranded was having no one around who shared his beliefs. “The other members of the Tagi and Pagong tribes couldn’t understand where I was coming from.” Confronted by the rising tensions of tribal politics, and insufficient food and sleep, he said, “I didn’t have someone I could really open up to and pray with. The spiritual isolation was tortuous.”

Dirk didn’t win the million. He wasn’t even portrayed very positively on the show. He admits to making some mistakes that he’s ashamed of because they contradicted his faith. But since being voted off the island, the other castaways have admitted that Dirk reminds them of the guy everyone wanted to be friends with in high school. Dirk’s infectious and positive attitude has overshadowed that which was depicted on the television program. Today Dirk lives here in Wisconsin and continues to travel and speak to today’s youth about his faith in Jesus Christ.

What a powerful example of today’s passage from Psalm 119. Here was a man who answered with the love of God those who taunted Him. He put his hope in God’s Word and God’s outcomes, and did not succumb to the temptation to fit into the group by conforming to their behaviors. He walked about in true freedom because he delighted in the commands of God. He loved the Word of God more than he loved the feeling of acceptance he could have temporarily experienced by denying it. He may have been voted off the island and banned from their presence, but he knew he would never be voted out of God’s presence. He was and still is a true spiritual survivor.

When we reach the end of our survivor experience as a castaway on the island we call “earth”, we will stand before God’s tribal council and give an account of how we lived. May we each be able to declare that we loved God’s Word more than life itself, and we were bold and courageous enough to share it with others, even those who taunted us.

Pastor John

Nothing but Leaves

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 17, 2017

Psalms 119:33 – 40 (NIV) Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness.

It’s an old story, I know, but it must be told to introduce the subject matter for today. Once there was a man who loved wealth. Everything he did was intentionally designed to increase his wealth. His wealth was used to create more wealth and to provide himself with every luxury and pleasure he desired. In his will, he specifically stated that upon his death all of his wealth was to be buried with him in the form of gold. His request was granted. When judgment day arrived and his turn came to stand before the great throne of God in heaven, he marched in proudly carrying his gold as a display of his worth. In one single statement God puts his entire life into perspective when He asks, “Why have you brought me pavement?”

Each day when I read the passage of Scripture that we will study together, I ask the Lord to direct my eyes to the one key word or phrase that He wants me to see. Today my eyes were drawn directly to the words “selfish gain”. I stopped and thought for several agonizing moments about the things in my life that I do for selfish gain. Then the Holy Spirit directed my attention to the very next phrase, “turn my eyes away from worthless things”, and I was slammed. Everything that I pursue on this earth for my own gain according to my own desires is worthless from an eternal perspective. As one poet put it – “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Immediately my thoughts were directed to an old song that my mom and dad used to sing. It’s called Nothing But Leaves, and its words remind me that there are two worthy pursuits for my life that are of eternal value – glorifying Christ by bearing the fruit of the Spirit in my life and serving God in His redemptive purpose in the harvest field of souls.

All other pursuits of life are worthless compared to these two God-given purposes. These two things alone have been granted eternal value by God. Every pursuit of my life must come under one or both of these headings or it is to be called selfish gain and worthless. Even relaxation or recreation are to be intentional times of refreshment to gain strength to accomplish God’s purpose and not my own. As the Psalmist says, it is only according to God’s Word that life will be preserved.

May the Holy Spirit speak to you through the words of the song as He spoke to my heart.

The Master is seeking a harvest
In lives He’s redeemed by His blood;
He seeks for the fruit of the Spirit,
And works that will glorify God.

He looks for His likeness reflected
In lives that are yielded and true;
He’s looking for zeal in the winning
Of souls He’s entrusted to you.

He’s yearning for someone to carry
The life-giving word far and near;
He’s waiting for hearts that are willing,
For ears that are open to hear.

Chorus:

Nothing but leaves for the Master,
Oh, how His loving heart grieves,
When instead of the fruit He is seeking,
We offer Him nothing but leaves.

–Mrs. H. S. Lehman, 1924

Pastor John

Defined By Lies

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Psalms 119:25 – 32  I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Every day we are bombarded with truth alternatives. That’s the politically correct term for LIES. We don’t use that word very much anymore. We certainly don’t recognize them when they come to us disguised as fun, philosophy, or fantasy. Most significant are the lies we believe about who we are, or who we are not. “You’re not good enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not talented enough. You’re not…” All Lies! Those declarations of the Enemy are all designed to deceive us and distract us from the truth of what God has declared about us. Satan’s success rate is staggering.

I remember one morning when I received a call from someone who was staggering under the weight of lies. There was no hope in her voice – only despair. Without minimizing the reality of physiological conditions, this was primarily a spiritual issue. It was the multiplied effect of believing lies.

Knowing that this will potentially cause some of you to doubt my compassion and understanding, which would be a lie, I will state this – psychological illness is the result of believing a lie. Somewhere in everyone’s past we chose to believe something about ourselves that was contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Today we are the product of those lies.

In today’s portion of Psalm 119, the author recognized the dangers of deceit during a time of despair. He was laid low in the dust. His only hope was the truth of God’s Word. His soul was weary with sorrow, and his only strength could be found in God’s Word. He recognized that his condition was caused by being deceived and he prayed to God to be made aware of those lies and to be delivered from them. His freedom was guaranteed when he chose the path of truth.

What a powerful section of verses this is. It is so appropriate for so many of us today who are suffering under the weight of sadness, sorrow, depression and despair. Our deliverance is as close as admitting the lies that have caused the condition, which ironically places our deliverance as far from us as possible. Why? Because we deny that what we believe about ourselves is a lie. We are afraid to call them lies, aren’t we? Satan’s deceit is delusional. Our pride does not permit us to believe that we have been duped. We do everything we can to protect our self-image, including calling lies truth. We will not admit that who we are and how we have lived is based on a lie. That would make us out to be liars. Our pride is too strong for that to happen.

But our pride is not stronger than the grace of God. Hallelujah! God’s grace accepts liars and transforms them into people created in the true image of His Son Jesus. God’s truth brings freedom from lies. God’s truth removes all guilt and shame. God’s truth strengthens the weary and gives hope to the hopeless. But it is your choice what you decide to call truth. Just remember – labeling a lie as truth doesn’t make it true, just as calling a dog a cat doesn’t change it into a cat. It’s still a dog, and lies labeled as truth will dog you all of your life.

There are two courses of action you can pursue. Modern psychology says to go back in your life and discover the lie, then deal with it. This is not necessarily God’s course. God says to discover the truth from His word, and He will reveal the lies and conquer them. Satan is lying to you again if you believe you must go back and relive the lies. That only keeps the lie alive and provides the opportunity to falsely identify all or part of it as truth. Jesus wants you to know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

So grab your Bibles today, sit down in a quiet spot, and read the book of Ephesians. If possible, use the NIV. As you read, circle every occurrence of the word “BE”. Then carefully read the truth of what God intends you to be. Choose to accept God’s definition of who you are, and you will be set free.

Pastor John

Good Soldiers

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 14, 2017

Psalms 119:17 – 24 Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt, for I keep your statutes. Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

Three old soldiers were reminiscing down at the VA hospital. They ran out of tales about themselves, so they began bragging about their ancestors.

“When my great-grandfather was 13 he was the drummer boy at Shiloh,” one of them proudly declared.

“That’s nothin’,” said the next. “Mine was with Custer at Little Big Horn.”

The 3rd vet humbly admitted that he was the only soldier in his family, but said, “If my great-grandfather were alive today he’d be the most famous person in the world.”

“Why? What did he do?” asked his friends.

“Nothin’. But he’d be 165 years old.”

For what will you be remembered? I thought about that question as I read this section of the 119th Psalm. God’s Spirit immediately directed me to think about the characteristics of a Godly soldier that are evidenced by the author.

  1. Confidence in God’s complete control of lifeDo good to your servant, and I will live. The outcomes of life are totally in the hands of God, and we can either choose to trust Him and find good or follow our own path and suffer.
  2. Commitment to God’s commandsOpen my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. There is a deep desire to know all that we can know about God and His purpose, and then to participate with Him obediently.
  3. Contentment during conflictThough rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. In the midst of any battle, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Years ago, I met such a soldier of Christ. He lived in complete confidence of God’s control of His life and he experienced God’s goodness. He was committed to God’s commands and was consumed with knowing His Savior completely so he could live for him continually. But most of all, he was content! From his early days of ministry as a missionary on the Native American reservations to his last days of suffering with cancer, he was content! His relationship with his Lord brought Him peace. His love for the Lord brought him joy. His knowledge of the Lord gave him comfort.

Even though I couldn’t tell him those things before he died, he has already heard them from the lips of his Savior. He was the kind of man I want to be. The way I remember Wally is the way I want to be remembered. I have a long way to go, but I press on towards that prize that is mine in Christ Jesus.

How will you be remembered?

Pastor John