About Pastor John van Gorkom

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

FREEDOM FROM HUMAN QUALIFICATION

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

I personally do not like the official title I have. I respect others who have similar titles and I use their title when addressing them in formal settings. For example, I do not call my doctor by his first name. I say, “Doctor.” I do the same for those in similar professions where a title has been earned. However, for myself, I have always cringed at the title “Reverend.” I do not like being called that.

There are four ways to get a title:

  1. Choose one for yourself and tell everyone to use it when addressing you.
  2. Have one chosen for you by your friends. When I was in college my “friends” gave me the title of trumpet. Look at my face and you will see why.
  3. Have a title bestowed upon you based on what you have accomplished.
  4. Have a title given to you as an act of grace from God.

The author of the book of Galatians was given the title Apostle by God. It is important for Paul to make sure his readers understand that he is not writing them based on his human qualifications, but under the authority of His divine appointment.

Galatians 1:1  “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—”

Paul says that he is not qualified to preach the Gospel and lead the church because people approved of him. He is not authorized to correct and teach because he met some human requirements for a degree. He is the authorized agent of grace because he is the recipient of grace. He is authorized to represent Jesus Christ because the Father has declared it to be so.

Today, the church of Jesus Christ places a lot of emphasis on human education and experiential equipping when considering the qualifications of a pastor. However, ultimately, it is through Jesus Christ and God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men and women are qualified for ministry. Man’s education and experience do nothing to add to the call of God, they only confirm what is already there. When human education and achievement replace Holy Spirit equipping the church of Jesus Christ is in trouble.

This applies to every Christian as well. We limit the grace of God in people’s lives by requiring human standards to be achieved before we label someone as qualified. We even do it to ourselves. We consider ourselves unqualified to serve the Lord until we have met some self-imposed standard. And the standard keeps moving because we never feel qualified to declare ourselves qualified.

The Apostle Paul said our qualification is not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Your qualification is assigned by Jesus, and the title He gives you is better than anything you could achieve for yourself. God’s love has been lavished on you so that you are called “Child of God.” And according to Colossians 1:12, you are fully qualified!

Pastor John

FREEDOM

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

FREEDOM! 

Yesterday in America we commemorated the lives of those who sacrificed their lives fighting for the freedom we have. Personally, I am grateful every day for the privilege of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But there is another freedom that far exceeds any political or social freedom. In fact, when this freedom is embraced it provides peace even when no other freedom is experienced. This freedom releases us from the bondage of condemnation and removes the chains of self-incrimination, self-valuation, and self-gratification. This freedom of which I speak is not political or social in nature. It does not originate in the mind of man. True freedom is spiritual, and is found only in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Starting this coming Sunday we will be studying the New Testament book of Galatians. It will be summer-long study of FREEDOM. Today’s challenge to you is to read the first five verses of the Apostle  Paul’s letter. Here they are.

“Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”  Galatians 1:1-5

Freedom is deliverance from bondage, and here we have the foundation of true freedom. Jesus sacrificed His life so we could be delivered from this present evil age for the glory of God. Jesus rose from the dead to guarantee eternal peace with God. May the shouts of freedom resound daily from all who believe.

Pastor John

Come and Eat

LifeLink Devotional

Friday, May 28, 2021

It’s already Friday and there is so much more to learn from the story of Jesus and the disciples following the miraculous catch of fish in John chapter twenty-one. Some of the truths will be covered on Sunday, but for today, here’s a few bullet points from this part of the story.

John 21:9-12  “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

  • It is the nature of Jesus to serve others, and He serves us from His inexhaustible supply of grace. Jesus had a charcoal fire going and was cooking bread and fish. Some of us may be puzzled with the question, “Where did he get the food?” Yet He who multiplied two fish and five small loaves of bread to feed five thousand people, and who is the Creator of all things, has no limitations on what He can provide to meet the needs of the ones He loves. But the real point is, Jesus saw the disciple’s need and met their need. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He is Grace.
  • Jesus invites us to receive the benefits of His grace. Jesus made breakfast for the weary fisherman. After a long night of futile fishing, followed by a morning miracle, Jesus calls them to come sit with Him and be refreshed. The food He cooked would refresh them, but the favor of His fellowship would have the most profound impact. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples would be forever transformed by communion with the resurrected Savior. The fish were soon forgotten. The forgiveness and fellowship of Christ never is.
  • When Christ has captured our hearts, we are invited to serve Him. “Bring some of the fish you have caught.” Jesus had provided some fish for breakfast, but He invited the disciples to bring some of the freshly caught fish to add to the meal. Remember, Jesus had given them those fish, just as He gives us all the things we need for life and godliness. Yet He invites us to serve Him with them all. The love of Christ compels us to serve Him with everything we have.
  • Christ provides miraculous strength to do whatever He commands. “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them.”  Commentators agree that the wet net and the 153 fish could have weighed as much as 300 pounds, and Peter dragged it to shore by himself. No Christ-assigned task is too great for those who obey because Christ is our strength.

I pray that something in these four points is exactly what you needed today!

Pastor John

The Unbroken Net

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LifeLink Devotional

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The first time the disciples followed the fishing advice of Jesus they caught an abundance of fish. Afterward, Jesus invited them to follow Him and they would become fishers of men.

Now, after the resurrection, they follow the Lord’s advice again and the result is even more spectacular. 

“Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” John 21:4-6 

But the point of the fishing miracle is the same.  Jesus wants the disciples to be fishers of men, and when they choose to obey the results will be spectacular.

Jesus knows where all the fish are. Jesus knows when to fish.  And Jesus knows how to make sure none of the fish escape.   “So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” John 21:11 

Just think, when we obey the command of Jesus to fish for people, Jesus has prepared for us to catch them, and He will never lose any that are caught. 

After all, you were caught, and Jesus has you safely in His net…forever.

Pastor John

Too Old To Learn?

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LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

It has been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Yesterday I was called old. Therefore, I no longer need to learn new things.

Now that’s terrible logic. However, we do get stuck in our traditions and comfort zones of doing things the same way we’ve always done them. Jesus recognizes that in all of us, and He patiently and graciously repeats lessons until we learn them.

In the twenty-first chapter of John, Jesus stands on the shore while the disciples are finishing up a night of fishing about one hundred yards away. He calls out to them to see what they have caught. They answered with a simple “Nothing.” But that is about to change.

Luke describes a similar event to this at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was in a boat with Peter and asked him to go fishing. Peter said it would be futile to try to catch anything during the day, but he did as Jesus asked, and they caught an abundance of fish. Then Jesus taught them a lesson. He said, “From now on you will catch men.”

Yet here we are three years later, and Peter is back trying to catch fish. So Jesus repeats the lesson. Peter catches an abundance of fish, and when he does he is instantly overwhelmed with the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, and swims to shore to meet the Lord. So far as we know Peter never fished for fish again, but solely fished for men.

We may be tempted to ask, “Why did it take Peter so long to understand what Jesus was teaching Him?” But as soon as that question crosses our mind it is accompanied with the conviction of how many lessons we have still not learned. How many direct interventions of the power of God into our lives is it going to take for us to learn to completely trust Him and serve Him?

That’s a powerful question, and one we need to seriously contemplate. We must not move quickly back into our comfort zones. We dare not limit our learning of new things. We must not make excuses for why life is good enough the way it is. We must not arrogantly claim that we are good enough the way we are.

Jesus is patiently offering us daily opportunities to be filled with His life and join Him on His mission. Have you decided that you are not too old to be taught?

Pastor John

Don’t Quit

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LifeLink Devotional

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

On Sunday, history was made. My favorite golfer, Lefty, became the oldest golfer ever to win one of the four major tournaments. It was an exciting afternoon for me.

Twelve days before the tournament, Phil Mickelson (Lefty) tweeted this.

“I’ve failed many times in my life and career and because of this I’ve learned a lot. Instead of feeling defeated countless times, I’ve used it as fuel to drive me to work harder. So today, join me in accepting our failures. Let’s use them to motivate us to work even harder.”

Those words put his win in the PGA Championship in perspective. Don’t let failures define you. Don’t quit. Refocus and keep striving to work even harder to succeed.

And he did.

The Apostle Peter knew what failure felt like. He had denied knowing Jesus three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion. He was miserably overwhelmed with grief. So much so that even after seeing Jesus alive again, he had gone back to his father’s boats and nets on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He told several other disciples he was going fishing. He even convinced them to go with him.

John 21:2-3  Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.”

I don’t think Peter intended this to be a leisurely fishing trip. I think he intended to leave the ministry and go back to the comfort of his previous career. His failures, and the perceived failure of the mission he had joined, drove him to want to quit. He was discouraged and filled with self-doubt.

I’ve been there, and so have you. We have all experienced personal failure, and to one degree or another we have all reacted by withdrawing into ourselves. Sometimes returning to our comfort zones is the only realistic option. Maybe the pain will go away if we go back to what we know.

So we sail out onto the waters of familiarity, hoping to catch a little bit of satisfaction, even if it takes all night.

But in the morning, after a futile night of fishing for favor, Jesus shows up. Jesus will always show up. No matter how fragile you are, Jesus gives strength. No matter how discouraged you are, Jesus gives hope. No matter how empty your nets, Jesus will fill them. Just because you messed up and feel unusable doesn’t mean Jesus won’t love you. Just because you failed doesn’t mean Jesus will fail you. Just because you give up doesn’t mean Jesus ever gives up on you.

So today, join me in accepting our failures. But before we simply motivate ourselves to work even harder, let’s embrace the forgiveness of Jesus, and let His love motivate us.

Pastor John

Jesus Reveals Himself

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LifeLink Devotional

Monday, May 24, 2021

Here we are in our last week of the study of the Gospel of John. For the past 17 months we have gleaned life-transforming truths from the life of Jesus. This week will be hard for me as we bring this study to a close, but I am excited about what this 21st chapter teaches us.  I must confess that the story of Christ and Peter is one of the most personally impactful stories in all of Scripture.

When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not return to the same body He was assigned for His incarnation. He did not return to the space/time limitations of this physical world. He rose in His eternal, incorruptible, and immortal body. It was significantly different enough from His previous body that He wasn’t even recognized by those who knew Him best.

Jesus chose how to reveal Himself to people in ways that would be most meaningful to them. When He revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene she thought He was a gardener. When He appeared in the locked room occupied by the disciples, they needed to see His hands, feet, and side to identify Him by His scars. When two disciples were joined by a third man for a walk and discussed the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, they didn’t even know it was Him until He broke bread with them.

Now, Jesus stands on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and prepares to reveal Himself to His disciples again.

John 21:1  After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.

Before we get into the story, I want to share a profound truth with you from this verse: Jesus chooses how to reveal Himself to us because He knows how best to strengthen our faith.

Think about that for a while today. Jesus customizes His approach to each of us so that we have the greatest opportunity to grab onto Him and understand His truth. His Word becomes alive in us as Jesus reveals Himself to us through the circumstances of life. And everyone’s experiences are different.

But we must be careful. The experience is not the truth. Jesus is the truth, but He uses our experiences to reveal Himself to us. And what He reveals will ALWAYS be what His Holy Word, the Bible, has already revealed. But let’s face it, we all learn differently. Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus chooses how to reveal Himself to us in ways we can understand?

Look around today. Jesus is working in everything that happens to reveal Himself to you.

Pastor John

Lift Your Eyes

LifeLink Devotional

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Certain responses we make to varying situations have become so overused that they have lost their significance.

“How are you?” “Fine.” But are you?

“How’s your food?” “Very good.” But is it?

“I’m really troubled and hurting?” “I will pray for you.” But will you?

Our responses to questions have become trite. They are meaningless. We should call them lies, but we justify them as polite.

In the previous five chapters of the Gospel of John, Jesus informed His disciples that they were going to experience pain and hardship as His followers. He knew they were confused. He knows they would soon be hurting. So what does He do? He prays for them.

John 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father…”

In the face of impending personal suffering, Jesus prays for His disciples to be unified, strong, courageous, faithful, and united. He prays the same for all of us. When it seemed to the disciples like all was lost, Jesus gave them the greatest gift He could have given – the Father’s heart.

When you are faced with hardships and hurts, do what Jesus did – PRAY.

When your friends and family are suffering, do what Jesus did – PRAY FOR THEM.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

“To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! 2  Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.”  Psalm 123:1-2

Don’t let your promise to pray become meaningless.

Pastor John

REWARDS

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Last Saturday was the fishing opener in Wisconsin. It was a good opportunity to go camping with my two sons and their families. We spent the weekend at a county campground and had a wonderful time.

On Sunday I made the trip into town to preach at Calvary. I was accompanied by my wife and one of our grandchildren who had made a commitment to serve in Children’s Ministry during the worship service. I was so impressed and blessed to see my grandson give up a whole morning of fishing and fun at the campground to serve Jesus Christ. It spoke volumes about the priorities that are already established in this young man.

After the service was over, on our way back to the campground, i made a detour through a Culver’s drive through and bought him lunch and dessert. It was a teachable moment about the joy our Heavenly Father expresses to us by rewarding us for faithfulness. Our Father loves to be generous to us. I explained to him how rewards are never to be our motivation for serving, but love is what compels us. But it was obvious by his surprise at the reward that he was already choosing to serve for the right reasons. We had a great talk about our perfect loving Father in heaven who loves to bring us joy by rewarding us for humble service to Him.

Take some time today and reflect on how the Father is currently rewarding you for faithful service. Your heart will be filled with joy. That’s what the Father wants.


Pastor John