About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

Who’s Tooting Your Horn?

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

As a child I remember being told to stop tooting my own horn. I frequently attempted to solve my need for affirmation by boasting about my own accomplishments.

The phrase “don’t toot your own horn,” originated in Medieval times with the phrase “don’t blow your own trumpet.” Historically, a trumpet  fanfare would announce the arrival of royalty or important guests at an event. At times, when a comparatively insignificant guest would arrive to no fanfare, the guest would blow his own trumpet in an attempt to gain recognition.

In 1776, the phrase became common tongue in the United States when the sentence “I think modesty is highly overrated as a virtue — my motto is ‘Toot your own horn lest the same never be tooted” appeared in the Warren-Adams Letters. I actually used that phrase as justification for tooting my own horn, believing that if I didn’t blow it, my horn would never get tooted.

During His conversation with the Jews in John eight, Jesus is accused of tooting His own horn. The Jews said to Jesus, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53) Jesus had just told the people that if they kept His word they would never taste of death. The people thought Jesus was embellishing the truth of who He was.

Listen carefully to the response of Jesus.  “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…” (John 8:54)

Speaking highly of yourself does not produce the credibility or validation that is sought. However, when someone else speaks highly of you, that is commendable and credible. It feels good to be praised by others. It’s far superior to praising oneself.

On Sunday, as I quarantined myself on a tree stand and hunted deer, I sent text messages to my oldest grandson about the status of a football game. He gave me lots of details and facts because I knew he would. I commended him. Later that evening, I texted a younger grandson from another family, and asked him how the game had gone. He related all the same facts I already knew, but he didn’t know I knew them. After he was done, I commended him for being such a great fan. Then I said this. “I knew I could count on you to give me the details.” I could see the smile on his face in my mind as he said thank you.

Jesus spoke the truth. He did not ask to be honored for doing it. Jesus did not toot His own horn. However, God the Father glorified Him for speaking the truth. Can you image the fanfare Jesus received from the Father when He returned to the throne following His death, resurrection, and ascension into glory?  

We are all guilty of drawing attention to ourselves. We all, at varying decibels, blow our own trumpets and toot our own horns. We all seek recognition, and we think we can get it by announcing our accomplishments. However, the harder we blow, the less people care to know.

But when we humbly, consistently, and obediently serve God, God will blow your horn. And when God toots your trumpet, it has never been tooted better.

Pastor John

PRIORITY ONE

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 9, 2020

I seem to have a developing habit. I wake early in the morning with a song on my mind. Today these words and melody were ringing loudly at 4:00 AM.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.”

Over and over they ran, as the Holy Spirit calmed my soul and revealed the truth of those words for me. The more I gaze into the face of Jesus the less significant the things of earth become. The more I intently look into the light of His glory and grace the less bothered I am by human circumstance. The more I turn my eyes from the fading beauty of the world to the unchanging beauty of Jesus the more my priorities change to align with the eternal will of God.

As I processed all of that in my mind, I rose to open my Bible to John chapter 8 and read these words of Jesus.

Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (verse 51)

Yesterday my wife and I were notified that a lifelong friend went to be with Jesus. Our relationship with her started back in 1979 when our kids were little. She was one of my wife’s most cherished friends. She was a keeper of the words of Jesus. She has not tasted death. She is completely at peace. Her loving and caring soul is at rest in the presence of the Lord.

What an incredible promise from Jesus. If anyone, regardless of the depth of past sin, will listen to His words and obey them, they will be saved from the condemnation of death and be given eternal life. They will never see death. Oh, the physical function of this human body may cease, but the soul that dwelt in the vessel will never cease to live if that soul is saved by grace through faith in Jesus.

As I reflected on that incredible promise, I just had to sing the rest of the song.

Oh soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Through death into life everlasting
He passed and we follow Him there
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conquerors we are

His word shall not fail you, He promised
Believe Him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

The more I turn my eyes upon Jesus, the more focused I become on the things that are significant to God. I have one desire: to go to a world that is dying, and tell them of the perfect salvation found in Jesus.

Pastor John

THE GREAT PRETENDER

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, November 6, 2020

I am fascinated by the way our minds work.  I’m even more intrigued by the way the Holy Spirit directs our minds in order to teach us. This morning, after a restless night, I woke with a song on my mind. That song made me focus on a word. That word gave me insight into what Jesus said in John chapter eight. 

In 1955 the musical group The Platters released a hit song entitled THE GREAT PRETENDER. I thought about the word pretender in light of the conversation Jesus was having with people who said they believed in Him but were not listening to His words or obeying them. They were pretenders.

I also thought about the description Jesus gave of the devil in John 8, and realized that Satan is also a pretender.

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:42-44 

But here’s what really caught my attention. The devil only pretends to be able to produce other pretenders. His very nature is lying. Everything he says is a lie. There is absolutely no truth in the devil. What he says only appeals to those are also pretenders. People who accept the lies of Satan as truth are themselves pretenders. Jesus said their will is in tune with the devil’s, but on the outside they want to appear like they understand the truth. Pretenders.

Unfortunately, we all all pretend at times. We put on the appearance of spiritual truth, when our will still desires the gratification of our flesh. We are pretenders when we say we love Jesus but then choose to pursue the love of the world.  We are pretenders when we say we have the love of of Jesus in us and then choose to ridicule and belittle others because they don’t agree with us. We are pretenders when we claim to know truth when it doesn’t accurately line up with the words of Jesus. We are pretenders when we seek to make a spiritual impression on people so they won’t get close to the true condition of our heart. Pretenders.

The Church of Jesus Christ must stop pretending. We must reject all input from the Great Pretender and we must choose to only listen to the words of Truth.

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”  John 8:47 

Are you a pretender?

Pastor John

Who Is Your Father

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The desire of the heart powerfully controls our choices. The heart’s desires are controlled by the one to whom we have given control. There are only two choices: the flesh with the devil as your father, or the Holy Spirit, with God as your Father through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Many will argue that this is over-simplified, to which I respond, “Take it up with Jesus who said it first.” The people were arguing with Jesus about the identity of their spiritual father. The people claimed that being physical descendants of Abraham made God their Father. Jesus tells them how wrong they are, and it’s all based on the actions that spring from the heart.

Jesus makes it clear that the works we do in the name of religion that are motivated by a self-serving heart are proof that we do not belong to God the Father but indicate that we have the devil as our father.

John 8:39-47  They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

OUCH! No wonder the people wanted to kill Jesus. None of us wants to have the  motivations of our heart evaluated to that level. Who of us will admit right now that we tend to love self more than God? Who of us will confess that the desires of our heart are for worldly pleasure and fulfillment rather than a passionate pursuit of intimacy with Jesus? We resist such tests of our heart. We rebel at such scrutiny. And in doing so, are we proving who our father really is?

Abiding in the words of Jesus is not easy, but as we learned yesterday, it does eliminate contradictions and set us free. Maybe a second day of heart-searching is necessary. Please let the Holy Spirit finish what He started yesterday.

Pastor John van Gorkom

CONTRADICTIONS

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Contradictions bother me. A simple example would be to declare a belief in airplanes but always travel by bus. Other examples are much more serious. It is a contradiction to believe that human life bears the image of God and then support the killing of that life in the womb. It is a contradiction to believe in freedom and then support political positions that undermine the very constitution that provides for freedom and protects it. It is a contradiction to believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and then pursue the desires of the flesh as a necessary means of personal fulfillment.  

Now, as upset as some of you may be right now, think of how upset the Jewish people in Jesus’ day were when He told them that their belief system was a contradiction to truth.

As I read John chapter eight I see Jesus pointing out the contradictions of people’s belief system. Jesus addresses the contradiction of claiming belief in Him and not being free from sin. In verse 30, we are told that many believed in Him. Verse 31 says that Jesus spoke to those who had believed Him. Do you see the distinction between believing “IN” Him and believing Him? Jesus tells us the difference. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The people argue with Jesus. They declare their freedom based on being descendants of Abraham. Jesus points out the contradiction of their belief system in this critical statement.

John 8:34-38   “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

Please break this down carefully. Jesus is revealing serious contradictions in our hearts.

  • Our religious heritage means nothing if it is contradicted by a heart that pursues sin.
  • Our pursuit of sin identifies us as slaves to sin, contradicting our self-assessment that we are free.
  • Our belief that we are children of God and belong to His household is contradicted by our lack of application of God’s word to our lives.
  • Our confidence in our spiritual position is contradicted by our continual choices to sin.
  • Our claim to be children of the heavenly Father is contradicted by our choice to obey Satan as our father.

Only the True Son of God can set you free to become a true child of God. Jesus declared that He is true. Jesus declared that the Father who sent Him is true. Jesus declared that everything He told us is true. In Jesus there is no contradiction. That’s called holiness, and for us it comes from reading, absorbing abiding in, and obeying the words of Jesus.

Spend today looking for contradictions in your life. Bring them all into the light of God’s Word. Pursue holiness.

Pastor John

PLEASING PEOPLE

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

I grew up in a people-pleasing family. I admit it was a little dysfunctional. I became a young man who deeply desired to fit in. I learned to quickly assess what I thought were the expectations of any individual or group and adapted to those expectations. I thought that if I could please the people around me, that I would be accepted. I worked hard to make people like me.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Want proof? Think about it from this perspective. When you develop a meaningful relationship with someone, it is based on trust. You need to know that the person you are with is consistent in their beliefs and behaviors. No one lasts long as a friend if they are always changing what they say or how they act depending on the people they are with. If someone’s desire is to be liked, they will fail at being a real friend.

Pleasing people to be accepted by them is dysfunctional. Pleasing people as an expression of your love for them is desirable. The latter is what Jesus declares about His relationship with the Father.

John 8:29  “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Let’s evaluate why we seek to please God. There are three motivations.

  1. We seek God’s approval so we adopt the behaviors that we believe will please Him.

2. We believe we have God’s approval based on our salvation, but we must work hard to keep it by pleasing Him.

3. We live in God’s approval based on our eternal relationship with Jesus, so our attitudes and actions spring from a heart of love and therefore please Him.

Which one of the above motivations defines you? Ponder this, and correct any flawed thoughts that keep you from living in the freedom and joy of number three.

Pastor John

EAT THE PUDDING

LifeLink Devotional

Monday, November 2, 2020

There is an old saying that came to my mind today. “The proof is in the pudding.” That is a shortened version of the original saying, which is, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The original version makes much more sense. The only way to know whether or not the pudding is good is to eat it. To fully judge how effective something is you need to use it for its intended purpose.

Doubters and disbelievers of Jesus were seeking proof of His identity and His mission. Jesus had consistently told them that He was the Son of God sent from the Father. He told them He was the Light of the world, and that if they believed in Him they would not walk in darkness, but would have the light of life. He had offered them living water so they would never thirst again. Jesus had presented God the Father to them, but they still did not understand. They still did not believe. They wanted more proof.

In John 8, Jesus gives the people the one proof that will validate everything He said.

John 8:28  “So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.’”

The proof that Jesus is in complete agreement with God the Father is His obedience to the mission of the cross. The proof of the love of God for sinners is the crucifixion of the Son of God on the cross. The proof that Jesus never did anything of His own accord or for His own benefit is the excruciating suffering the Son of Man endured for our sake.

What more proof do you need?

You want the shame and guilt of your sin to be removed. Jesus died for your sin so it can all be forgiven and washed away.

You want to be loved. There is no greater love than when someone gives their life to save yours.

You want security. The death of Jesus pays the eternal debt of your sin, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead grants you the security of eternal life.

You are hungry to know the meaning of life. God the Father has provided the pudding. The proof is in the eating. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Pastor John

Real or Artificial Light

LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, October 29, 2020

 As a young boy, I remember the “No! I am!” arguments with my brothers. Questions about strength, intelligence, capabilities, and skill were typically answered with the sibling rivalry response of “I am!” followed by “No! I am!”, resulting in an I am! shouting match. Children all seem to want to be identified as the best, the strongest, and the most skilled, and are quick to admit that they are.

In John 8:12, Jesus makes an “I am!” statement. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees argued with Him, and declared that His declaration was untrue. They chose not to believe that the Light they saw was the source of all Light. They denied the Deity of Jesus. They were threatened by what would happen if they believed. Rather than believe in the True Light, they chose to value artificial light – light they had created for their own benefit. Unfortunately, artificial light actually blinds us to the True Light.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  Matthew 6:22-23

John MacArthur explains it this way in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.

“The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he does not. What is thought to be light is therefore really darkness, and because of the self-deception, how great is the darkness!”

So the question we must all deal with is this: What sources of artificial light do you value enough that they replace Jesus as the source of all Light for your life? Money? Work performance? Marriage? Children? The accomplishments of your kids? Recreation? Your political views? The list could go on for a while. The point is that each one of us has an area in our lives, or more than one, that we use to add value to our life because we do not truly believe that Jesus is enough. When asked who is the true source of light for our life, we respond to Christ’s “I am!” by claiming “I am!”. We literally argue with Jesus because we prefer artificial light.

My friends, think deeply about this. Consider all the artificial light sources that exist in your life because you have chosen to believe that they bring value that Jesus cannot. Then repent by turning off every artificial light switch, and let the eternal Light of God shine in you through Jesus Christ our Lord. You will never be in the dark again.

Pastor John

Stay Behind the Light

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Hopefully I will be able to get out to the woods this weekend to start my fall deer hunting season. When I go, I will be prepared with everything I need for a successful hunt. Of all the things I will carry, none is more important to me than my flashlight. I carry three of them. One I wear on my hat so my hands are free when needed. One is a small light with a zoom lens so I can pinpoint spots without shining a wide beam. The third light is a compact rechargeable spotlight that lights up the entire woods. Each light has a unique application, but the basic function of all three is the same – they dispel the darkness so I can see where I’m going and what I’m doing.

When I enter the woods early in the morning, I use the small light to simply light the trail to my tree stand. When I’m getting settled in the tree stand, the headlamp allows me to use both hands to get everything situated. If God blesses me with a deer, and it gets dark at the end of the day, the spotlight assists me in finding my bounty. But there’s one thing each light has in common. It must be out in front of me to do its job. When the light gets behind me, my ability to see is greatly diminished. I cast big shadows on what I want to see when I get in the way of the light.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Many times I can’t see what God wants me to see because I get ahead of Jesus. In order for the Light of the world to keep me out of the darkness, He must be in front of me and I must be following Him.

I often think I know the way, and I run ahead of where the Light is shining. I begin to cast big shadows on the path and I end up tripping and falling. If only I had stayed behind the Light I would have seen what was on the path and avoided it. But instead I find myself lying face down in the dark. When I get up, I must turn around to see the Light again. He hasn’t moved. He’s waiting, and I can clearly see the path in front of me leading back to Him because He’s still shining on me. When I get there, He brushes off the dirt and invites me to follow Him.

Is your path covered in shadows? They are probably your own. Quick, before you trip and fall, turn around. Repent. Walk towards the Light. Jesus is waiting to forgive you for going your own way, and give you sufficient Light to go His way.

Pastor John

Telling the Truth

LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Here’s a tough question to start your Tuesday…”Can everything you say about yourself be validated as truth by a reputable witness?”

As Jesus spoke about being the Light of the world, the Pharisees sought to renounce Him. According to the Old Testament law, no testimony could be considered true unless it was corroborated by at least one other witness.

Deuteronomy 19:15  “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

The Pharisees publicly renounced as a lie what Jesus said about Himself. But Jesus responded that His statements are true for two reasons:

  1. Because His eternal nature as God would not allow Him to lie. John 8:14  Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going…”
  2. Because there is another witness to validate His statements. John 8:18  “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Jesus had previously offered even more witnesses to the truth He declared about Himself. Let’s go back to John 5.

John 5:31-37  “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth… But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me.”

Jesus validated His testimony by providing credible witnesses. Everything Jesus said about Himself is true.

Now, back to our through-provoking question for the day. ”Can everything you say about yourself be validated as truth by a reputable witness?” It really is an “OUCH!” question. I can remember far too many times that I attempted to make myself out to be someone other than I was. It NEVER ended well. Lies don’t EVER end well.

So why do we keep doing it? I think Jesus answered that for us when He said, “…for I know where I came from and where I am going…” The foundation for always telling the truth is to understand your identity and be satisfied with it.  Lies about yourself are the expression of insecurity rooted in an identity crisis.

Jesus knew who He was. Therefore, everything He said about Himself was the truth. He had no desire to be someone else. He had no need to improve His personal worth by earning the approval of people. Jesus was constantly the expression of His eternal nature.

How about you? Are you committed to being the consistent expression of the eternal nature of Christ in you? He is your identity. You have no need to lie to make yourself better than you already are. You have no need to earn the approval of people because you are eternally approved by God in Christ Jesus.

Let everything you say about yourself be validated by the testimony of Christ in you.

Pastor John