About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

CLOSER THAN YOU THINK

LifeLink Devotions for Friday, September 16, 2022

1 Peter 2:24-25  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Dr. J. H. Jowett was a powerful preacher from England. In 1911 he became the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. Then, in 1917, he accepted the call to become the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, succeeding the famous G. Campbell Morgan. While on the ship crossing the Atlantic back to England, an officer of his boat told him that they had just passed over the spot where the Titanic went down. He contemplated all that life and wreckage beyond the power of man to recover and redeem. He thought of the great bed of the deep sea, with all its held treasure, too far down for man to reach and restore. “Too far down!” Those words stuck in his mind.

This led him to think of all the human wreckage engulfed and sunk in oceanic depths of nameless sin. He found himself speaking out loud to the ship’s officer. “Too far gone! For what? Too far down! For what? Not too far down for the love of God! Listen to this: He descended into hell, and He will descend again if you are there. “If I make my bed in hell, thou art there” (Ps. 139:8). “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). “He bore our sin” (1 Peter 2:24); then He got beneath it; down to it and beneath it; and there is no human wreckage lying in the ooze of the deepest sea of iniquity that His deep love cannot reach and redeem. What a Gospel! However far down, God’s love can get beneath it!

Jesus has already been to the depths and depravity of man’s sin. “He who knew no sin became our sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) He suffered the totality of God’s wrath against our sin. He substituted Himself for us in death. Then, with shouts of victory on His lips, God raised Him from the dead so that we might be victorious over sin as well. By His wounds we have been healed!

Friend, you are not too far down for the Savior to find you. You are not too deep in your sin for Jesus to get under you and lift you out of it. You are not so overwhelmed with guilt that His grace cannot restore you. You are not so lost that the Shepherd cannot find you.

He is looking for you right now. His arms are extended. His reach is limitless. Don’t resist the tug you feel. It is the hand of the Lord lifting you to Eternal Life. Turn to Him and embrace Him. He will forgive your sins and accept you as His own.

 Pastor John

OH WELL

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, September 15, 2022

One of my favorite newspaper comic strips is Frank and Ernest. One episode I remember shows Frank exiting a Stress Relief Class. As he approaches Ernest, he says, “We learn to take things as they come and not stress out.” Ernest responds with, “It’s an ‘Oh-Well-ness’ program.”

I believe it would benefit each of us to say “Oh well” a little more often. There’s far too much stress in our lives, and much of it is self-generated. In today’s Scripture, Peter points out to us one way in which we generate stress: we seem to suffer from a growing epidemic of “wrong-righting.”

1 Peter 2:20-23   “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Wrong-righting is the prideful pursuit of self-serving justice. It is our attempt to make sure everyone knows when we are right, and to fix it when they don’t. It’s pretty stressful having to defend oneself all the time. It’s overwhelming to take on the total responsibility for one’s own image. Wrong-righting stands opposed to Oh-Well-ness.

I suspect that our lives would be much more enjoyable if we weren’t constantly under pressure to prove ourselves. In Aesop’s fables, a traveler was entertaining some men in a tavern with an account of the wonders he had done abroad.

“I was once at Rhodes,” said he, “and the people of Rhodes, you know, are famous for jumping. Well, I completed a jump there that no other man could equal within a yard. That’s a fact, and if we were there I could bring you ten men who would prove it.”

“What need is there to go to Rhodes for witnesses?” asked one of his hearers. “Just imagine you are there now and show us your leap.”

Many who say they follow Christ have only their words to try to prove it. But true followers of Christ prove their commitment by walking in the steps of Jesus. They trust their lives, their reputations, and their image to the One who judges justly. They do not seek human justice. They wait patiently for God’s justice, and as they do, they know the life of Jesus will be revealed through patient endurance of suffering.

We have been called to such a commendable lifestyle. We have been granted the grace and the faith to graduate with honors from God’s Oh-Well-ness program. Bad stuff happens. Oh well. Friends accuse us of wrong-doing when we know we are innocent. Oh well. Bosses fire us for what someone else did. Oh well. Injustice invades our lives every day. Oh well.

Our natural tendency is to fight. Our flesh says fix it. Our pride demands protection of our reputation. Our faith says Oh well.

Instant stress relief. Someone else is responsible for the outcome. We have a great example of a perfect outcome – the resurrection of Jesus to glory. So forget the bad stuff. Forget your image. Don’t worry about your reputation. If you’re following in the steps of Jesus, it won’t matter what people say. And when all those people, whose opinion you’re so concerned about today, stand in front of Jesus to be judged, they’ll see you standing beside Jesus, and they’ll have to give glory to God because of how you lived your life.

Pastor John

SHOW PROPER RESPECT

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Shortly after I turned sixteen, I got a job at a local grocery store on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. I was hired originally as a bag boy. I worked hard, and went out of my way to do more than what was expected of me. I earned the respect of the storeowner, and before long, I had been promoted to stock boy. Shortly after that, I was put in charge of my own aisle. I was completely responsible for ordering and stocking breakfast cereal.

 Then came another move up the grocery ladder. I was transferred to the dairy department and made responsible for all the milk and cheese. By the time I was seventeen I was again promoted, this time to the meat department. I started out just cleaning up all the equipment, but before long, the meat manager recognized my desire to learn and the positive work ethic implanted in me by my parents, and he began teaching me how to cut up beef, pork, and chickens. Later that year we moved out of the city, but when I returned for college, I was immediately given my old job back.

 But everything about this job wasn’t always perfect. While I was in the dairy department, something happened that scared me a little, and made me mature a lot. I had gone down to the basement of the store where the cheese cooler was. I was doing inventory and ordering. I shut the door of the cooler behind me, not knowing that the latch had broken and there was no way to open the door from the inside. I was trapped inside a small walk-in cooler in the corner of the basement. It was 38 degrees and I had no jacket on. The cooler was very well insulated, which also made it soundproof. I was in that cooler for over an hour before someone finally came looking for me.

 When they found me, I was taken to the boss’s office. Even though the owner of the store had already promoted me three times for my proven work ethic, I was accused of sloughing off and finding ways to avoid work. I was docked two hours pay and given a written warning that went into my file. I did not fight. I did not defend myself. I submitted to the authority of my employer. I know I could have stood up for myself, but in all honesty, I wanted to honor God more than defend myself. Sounds a little weird for a teenager, but it’s true.

 Later that day I was called back into the boss’s office. I sat in front of his desk, and heard these words – “John, I’m sorry. I acted rashly. I went down to the basement and checked the door. It is broken. I was wrong to discipline you. Please forgive me. And thank you for the respect you have shown me as your boss.” The disciplinary letter was removed from my file, and my pay was restored.

 Two days later, I was honored with a new nickname around the store. The story of what had happened spread quickly. One of the men in the meat department shouted it out the first time as I walked past the meat counter. “Hi Preach!” I looked around to see if he might have been talking to someone else. There was no one else around. Soon everyone in the store was calling me Preach. I know I had spoken to some of them in the past about my faith. I know they all knew my dad was a pastor. But it wasn’t until my life modeled the humility of Christ that they said I was preaching.

 I’m sure that some of you are struggling with your employers right now. Some of your bosses are probably not very nice.  But rather than whine, complain, and let a bitter attitude invade your spirit, why not consider how your life can be commendable to God. 1 Peter 2:18-20   “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.” 

Keep serving faithfully. Let your life preach the truth of God’s grace as modeled by the submissive spirit of Christ. Your boss is watching. Let him see Jesus in you.

 Pastor John

FREEDOM

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

FREEDOM! That single word elicits a variety of responses from people, most often defined by the current circumstances in which they live. The Bible talks a lot about freedom, and Peter challenges us today to understand God’s perspective on how to live in freedom.

1 Peter 2:16-17   “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

First, the freedom we have in Christ because of grace can never become a cover-up for evil. The Apostle Paul said it this way – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2). Freedom is the result of the removal of restraints. It is not, however, the disregard for discipline. Far too many people think that freedom releases them from responsibility, when in fact it carries the highest regard for responsibility.

Missionary author Elisabeth Elliot said it this way: “Freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive, when in fact freedom is not at all the opposite, but the final reward, of discipline. It is to be bought with a high price, not merely claimed …. The [professional] skater and [race] horse are free to perform as they do only because they have been subjected to countless hours of grueling work, rigidly prescribed, faithfully carried out. Men are free to soar into space because they have willingly confined themselves in a tiny capsule designed and produced by highly trained scientists and craftsmen, have meticulously followed instructions and submitted themselves to rules which others defined.

So, point number one is this – don’t use freedom as a means of accomplishing your own objectives and fulfilling your own desires. Use your freedom to responsibly serve the One who gave it to you.

Second, we must respect others in our culture and in our churches. Walls of disrespect have been built between races, genders, and socio-economic groups. Here’s a story that touches on one aspect of respect. It’s told by Raleigh Washington in a 1993 article in Moody Magazine entitled Breaking Down Walls. You will discover from reading the first line of the story that Mr. Washington is a black man.

As a young teen, I worked summers for a white grocer. Albert Soud made me his unofficial butcher. One day a girl who lived with her single mom and four other kids in the apartment above us came into the store and asked for 25 cents-worth of baloney. The family was very poor, so I sliced about three times that much, wrapped it up, and wrote 25 cents on the package. When the girl took it to the cash register, Mr. Soud looked at the package and threw it on his own scale. He rolled his eyes at me, but said to the girl, “Twenty-five cents, please.”

After we closed, Mr. Soud said, “Raleigh, I work hard to try to make ends meet, and you defrauded me. I believe you were trying to help that young lady, but you helped her at my expense. Next time you want to help somebody, ask me, and I’ll respond. But don’t steal from me.”

Albert Soud was sensitive to the reason for my action, and unwilling to embarrass me in front of the girl. He’d talked to me with respect, like a father to his son. I developed a real love for that man.

So point number two is this – good intentions don’t excuse disrespect for authority. It is in that context that Peter says “Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” Freedom and respect are inter-connected. Our freedoms are not our right to disrespect others. When freedom and respect are combined, they produce a servant, and according to God’s social system, being a servant is the greatest expression of freedom.

 Pastor John

HEAVENLY CITIZENS

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 12, 2022

1 Peter 2:13-15   “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Peter issues a call to humility; to trust in the sovereign rule of God. It is an opportunity to let the world see the heart of Jesus in us. It will require sacrifice. It demands balance. Extremism has no place here. It can only be accomplished if we first understand our true citizenship.

As members of the family of God and devoted followers of Jesus Christ, we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. That grace-bestowed citizenship must captivate us and dictate all responses to all other kingdoms. This causes great tension, because the Kingdom standard of love and grace so often conflicts with the application of righteousness and justice in a sinful world. But one thought helps me resolve this tension – our hope is in the return of the King, not in the return we get on our investments in other kingdoms. Our primary purpose as citizens of heaven is to recruit more citizens, not change the culture through political action. Jesus modeled that in His life on earth. We must live as He did.

Granted, I am concerned about the political condition of our country and other countries around the world. My heart breaks for the people who suffer under tyrannical and terroristic rule. My soul cries for the millions of people who are starving because government leaders are greedy. My soul weeps violently for the millions of babies who are murdered every year because of the selfishness, sexual immorality, and pride of people. Yet my heart also mourns over the death of the doctor who provided those abortion services. All human life is precious – even those who have no regard for it.

God’s heart is more deeply affected by these things than our own. He cares. He will act. He is in control. O Lord, give us peace based on our faith in your sovereignty. Give us patience based on our confidence in your righteousness. Give us hope based on your Word and its promises. Give us love for others – especially those who reject you and rebel against you – that will model to them the love that Jesus has for them.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the balance between Christ-centered living and social action that should exist in the Christian’s life. He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war’s end.

 Bonhoeffer stated that there are three possible ways in which the church, or individual Christians, can act toward the state:

  1. It can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e. it can throw the state back on its responsibilities.
  2. It can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering of society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. “Do good to all people.”
  3. It can choose to not just bandage the victims under the wheel of government, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action and is only possible and desirable when the church sees the state fail in its function of creating law and order and bringing about the good of God.

Unfortunately, many Christians jump to step #3 and do not model a humble, submissive, and servant heart towards their government. This is wrong. It is contrary to the commands of Scripture given to us by Jesus. “Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and give to God the things that belong to God.” Paul said “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. And Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.

Good citizens of heaven make good citizens on earth. Why? Because they understand submission and sacrifice. They know what love is and how to live it. They live the life of Christ by loving others more than self. They win the culture war by influencing culture with Christ. No matter how bad it gets out there in the world, love will always conquer a multitude of sins. Let your citizenship be identified by the love of God others see in you.

Pastor John

LUST DESTROYS

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, September 9, 2022

1 Peter 2:11-12   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

I will not be popular today. I will certainly not be politically correct. In fact, there will be those who may read this who will downright despise me. But that’s the price of truth.

In today’s Scripture reading, Peter urges those who are in Christ to live as strangers in the world. He declares two general principles – first, stay away from sinful desires: and second, live good lives. I want to address the first principle today.

The New International Version quoted above says that as followers of Christ and citizens of His eternal kingdom, we are to abstain from sinful desires. The King James Version calls it lust. Most of the time, when we hear or read the word lust, we relate it to sexual immorality. But it covers a much broader spectrum of desires that emanate from our sinful hearts. To lust is to desire anything forbidden. Unfortunately, in today’s modern society, we have chosen to believe that nothing is really forbidden. If it feels good, it must be right. If it’s available, then it must be okay. After all, who declared it forbidden anyway? It must have been Someone out of touch with who we really are.

We are in a serious predicament. It’s not a new issue, but it is serious. God has been declared irrelevant, and man has been left to his own foolishness. This problem started way back in the beginning of time. The Apostle Paul reviewed the history of lust for us in Romans chapter one.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them…For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Lust is destroying mankind. I came across this word picture the other day from the pen of author Calvin Miller. It has really caused me to think.

       Unbridled lust:

             A cannibal committing suicide

                    By nibbling on himself.

Peter says that unbridled lust will war against your very soul. It will eat you alive. It will stop your spiritual growth and destroy your ministry effectiveness. Jesus told a parable about this problem. A farmer is sowing seeds. Some people are “like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

The desires for other things – lust – will choke out the word of God and make us unfruitful. Let us determine today, and every day, to bridle the lust of the flesh. We must choose to abstain from all that is forbidden by the Word of God, no matter what the world of gods says. Do not let the world decide for you what is forbidden. God has already declared it. Let us stand on His Word and be fruitful. The world may accuse us of doing wrong, but when Jesus returns, and they face the truth they have denied, they will have to confess that He is Lord and give Him glory for how we lived.

Stand strong. Be faithful. The Lord your God is with you.

Pastor John

LET YOUR LOVE SHOW

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, September 8, 2022

I’ve been doing some real hard thinking about actions and attitudes, and their effect on others. Peter addresses that issue in today’s Scripture, and over the next couple of days I want to share some practical applications of the truths presented.

1 Peter 2:11-12   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Let’s start today with some quotes from famous people that will stimulate your thinking.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain

Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach,

Faith and works should travel side by side. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again—until you can scarcely distinguish which is one and which is the other.”   William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army

“Love talked about can be easily turned aside, but love demonstrated is irresistible.”   W. Stanley Mooneyham

“For it is the will of God that with well-doing we should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”    Richard Baxter

In Conspiracy of Kindness, Steve Sjogren tells the true story of Joe Delaney and his eight-year-old son, Jared, who were playing catch in their backyard.

Jared asked, “Dad, is there a God?” Joe replied that he went to church only a few times when he was a kid; he really had no idea. Jared ran into the house. “I’ll be right back!” he yelled.

Moments later he returned with a helium balloon from the circus, a pen, and an index card. “I’m going to send God an airmail message,” Jared explained.

“Dear God,” wrote Jared, “if you are real, and you are there, send people who know you to Dad and me.” “God, I hope you’re watching,” Joe thought, as they watched the balloon and message sail away.

Two days later, Joe and Jared pulled into a car wash sponsored by Sjogren’s church. When Joe asked, “How much?” Sjogren answered, “It’s free. No strings attached. We just want to show God’s love in a practical way.”

“Are you guys Christians, the kind of Christians who believe in God?” Joe asked. Sjogren said, “Yes, we’re that kind of Christians.”

From that encounter, Steve led Joe to faith in Christ. Many people may be only one act of kindness from meeting a true Christian.

Several years ago I had 1,000 cards printed that gave our church people an opportunity to show the love of God to others by paying for their drive-through purchases at fast food restaurants. Many people used the cards. I’ve had the opportunity to meet three people who were thankful for the gift of love they received. What are you intentionally doing every day to meet people with an attitude of love so they may open their hearts to the greatest Gift they could ever receive – Jesus Christ.

Let your actions speak loudly for Jesus.

Pastor John

IN CHRIST YOU ARE WORTHY

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

1 Peter 2:10   “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

I must spend one more day on this verse. Something deeply troubles me about the attitude of the “average” Christian in our world today. It troubles me most because it tends to be true of me. There is an epidemic disease from which most of us suffer. I call it deservism. I know that’s not an official word, but it is an official problem.

Peter establishes an inseparable relationship between grace and praise. After declaring that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God, he tells us that those truths will produce praise in our lives. Then, so that we might fully comprehend His incredible grace, he reminds us to consider our condition prior to being chosen. We were not a people. We were without mercy. In other words, we were worthless.

Some will cry foul at this point. How dare I state that anyone is worthless? But the truth is, without Christ, we are.

Yesterday I used an illustration of being chosen for a sports team. The illustration falls apart at this point. You see, when a sports coach or captain chooses players for his team, he does so based on a person’s abilities and performance. In contrast, when I stand in line before God, I have nothing to offer. All my past performance is as filthy rags, says the prophet Isaiah. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” We are not chosen by God based upon our abilities or past performance. We are chosen completely as an act of His sovereign will and by His grace and mercy.

In his mercy God chose not to give us what we deserve – the punishment of our sin. By His grace, He gave us a gift we could never earn – eternal life. But we have decided we are deserving people. Our western civilization has corrupted God’s grace. We have been told that everyone has worth. Pride has infiltrated our basic belief system so that our salvation, while we claim it is free, is really something God owes us. Our pride, manifested in the disease of deservism, has destroyed our ability to praise.

Here’s a simple test. Think about the last gift you received. How truly grateful were you? How long did it take you say thank-you? How enthusiastic were you about the gift? Think now – was there any level of deservism that kept you from being as appreciative as you should have been?

Even the slightest sense of deservism will destroy a thankful heart. Deservism delivers a death blow to praise. We deserve nothing from God, and it is only by His mercy that He chose those who by their very nature stood opposed to Him.

I found the words to a song by Curtis Stephan. Read the words carefully. Then ask God for healing from the disease of deservism. When we confess that we are unworthy, we will become the people of praise that God has called us to be when He chose us.

Though I’m not worthy to see your precious face

      I bow before thee pour out your holy grace

For you alone can wash my sin

      And cleanse my soul so deep within.

Heal me, wash me in your mercy

      Mend these broken pieces of my heart

Love me though I am not worthy

      Cleanse my soul and make me whole again

Only say the word and I shall be healed.

      Though I’m not worthy in your grace I long to stand

And bow before thee, stretch out your healing hand

      For you alone can purify and heal these wounds so deep inside.

Though I’m not worthy to feel your love, oh Lord

      I bow before thee, my Savior be adored.

For you alone break hardened hearts

      And bid old bitterness depart.

Pastor John

I CHOOSE YOU

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

1 Peter 2:9-10   “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Conjunctions. They are an important part of language. Conjunctions are words that connect thoughts and ideas. Sometimes they are comparative, as in the case of the word “also”. Sometimes they highlight a contrast, like “however” and “but”. Peter starts today’s Scripture with a contrasting conjunction. What he is about to say is to be considered as opposing what he just said. He has just stated that the Living Stone of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block to those choose not to believe.

But – there it is, the contrasting conjunction – those who believe in the Living Stone have a different destiny: one chosen by Christ Himself. He will not stumble because he belongs to God.

In the early 1800’s, Pastor John Keble, after whom Keble College in Oxford, England is named, wrote this poem –  

           Look in, and see Christ’s chosen saint

In triumph wear his Christ-like chain;

           No fear lest he should swerve or faint;

                His life is Christ, his death is gain.

When I was a little boy, I hated standing in line while a boy much bigger and more athletic than I served as the captain of a team to which He would choose players. I hated it because I knew that my skinny, scrawny body would not appeal to him as a potential team member. I had been the last one chosen too many times, but I kept getting in that line. I wanted to be chosen. I wanted my name to be called.

Even though it really hurt to be called last, I learned that once I was on the team, I was able to improve my skills by playing the game. I would go wherever the captain said and do my best. Soon, I wasn’t the last one being called.

I am overwhelmed by the knowledge that God chose me and then called me. He made me somebody when I was nobody. He gave me a place to belong and an identity when I had neither. Oswald Chambers said, “‘I have chosen you.’ Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God, but that he has got you. Why is God at work in me, bending, breaking, moulding, doing just as he chooses? For one purpose only—that he may be able to say, ‘This is my man, my woman.’” Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

I like that – God wants to say about me, “This is my man.” Peter says that my response to being chosen is, “This is my God.” We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God for one primary purpose of God – to declare His praises. Unfortunately, in the church today, most people live as though they’re frozen not chosen. I would suggest that those who act frozen don’t comprehend the magnitude of being chosen. 

God’s people still offer the most basic and best proof of God. A changed life is still the best testimony of God’s power. Divine love reflected in a Christian heart which accepts, forgives and loves the unlovable is still the best witness of the nature of God. Hope that will not die is still the best proof of eternal life. Faith which cannot be shaken even in the face of death is still the best demonstration of the immutability of God’s promises.

We who have been granted the privilege of partaking in the divine nature, are the witnesses, the demonstration, the proof of the divine presence in the world. Books and lessons and sermons and reason may have their place, but the real test is in the lives of God’s chosen people. If that proof is not clear and constant, everything else is just hearsay.

You have been chosen. Live like a chosen child of God.

Pastor John

STEPPING OR STUMBLING

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, September 5, 2022

Pastor Fred Musser tells an interesting story in The Tabernacle. He writes, “A few days before I left home to prepare for the ministry, my gray-haired pastor, Rev. Temple, told me this story.” 

“When my son was small, we often walked together out through the fields and neighboring pasture behind the parsonage. At first, the little fellow would hold onto my little finger, but he found that when he stepped into a hoof-print or stumbled over something, his grip would fail and down he’d go in the dust or snow. Not giving it much thought, my mind on other matters, I’d stop, and he’d get up, brush himself off, and grab my little finger again, gripping a little harder this time.

“Needless to say, this occurred frequently until one day as he was brushing himself off, he looked at me and said, ‘Daddy?’ I replied, ‘Yes, Son, what is it?’ He said, ‘I think if you would hold my hand, I wouldn’t fall.’

“Pastor Temple then turned to me and with a tear in his eye he said, “You know, he still stumbled many times after that, but he never hit the ground. Now, as you walk with God, don’t try to hold on to Him, let Him hold on to you. You may stumble but He’ll never let you fall.”

1 Peter 2:6-8  “ For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.”

The one who trusts in the Living Stone, the chosen and precious Cornerstone, will never fall. They will never be embarrassed or ashamed. Our strength may fail, and we may stumble, but we will never fall because His strength cannot fail. It all depends upon whether you’re trying to hold on to Him, or if you’ve trusted Him to hold on to you. Those who trust in their own strength and works to hold on to God will find themselves flat on their faces. Those who by faith allow God to hold on to them will walk and never grow weary.

The interesting thing about stones is that they can be either a stepping stone or a stumbling block. Christ, as the Living Stone, is both. He is the Stepping Stone to God for those who believe. He is the stumbling block for those who do not believe.

One stone. Different effects on people. Those who by faith alone trust in Christ for their salvation will stand on the Rock and be exalted in eternity. Those who try to earn their way into eternity by their works will trip over the Rock and fall to their doom. It is the grace of God in Christ that becomes the stumbling block for most, while for us it becomes the rock of our salvation.

Free gifts are a stumbling stone to people. Many years ago, my wife and I stood for 45 minutes in the parking lot of a tourist attraction trying to give away tickets that we couldn’t use. Each ticket was worth $18.00. Dozens of people walked by and would not extend a hand to receive the free gift. Some just ignored us. Others asked, “What’s the catch?”  All of them refused the gift, went inside the attraction, and purchased their own tickets. Finally, one couple decided to take advantage of the offer.

What a perfect example of how the free gift of salvation is rejected by so many because they will not believe it is truly free. How sad!

But even after we receive the free gift, we often stumble because we are prone to be prone. We tend to take back into our own control what we claimed to have given to Christ. We trust ourselves rather than trust Him. We choose to grab God’s little finger and hang on with all our strength, when we could just let God grab our hand with all His strength. The first step is a scary one, because it requires us to let go. But you can trust God. He is your Living Stone.

Pastor John